NFL Mock Draft 2018: Full 1st-Round Projections for Nation's Top Prospects

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 02: Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson in action during the 2018 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

What seemed like a predictable free agency for the NFL thanks to the transparent legal-tampering period turned into a league-altering week with major implications for the upcoming 2018 NFL draft.

Much of what fans knew about the NFL has changed. For example, Tyrann Mathieu left the Arizona Cardinals and joined the Houston Texans on Friday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Another good example would be Kirk Cousins, who finally freed himself from the Washington Redskins and joined up with the Minnesota Vikings, on paper making what was already a Super Bowl contender even stronger.

The ripple effect on the draft from the free-agency splash is huge, so let's rework a mock draft to see how the process unfolds.

             

2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

2. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

3. Indianapolis Colts: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

6. New York Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State

8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

9. San Francisco 49ers: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

12. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

13. Washington Redskins: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

14. Green Bay Packers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

15. Arizona Cardinals: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

16. Baltimore Ravens: Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

18. Seattle Seahawks: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

19. Dallas Cowboys: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State 

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

23. Los Angeles Rams: Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State

24. Carolina Panthers: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

25. Tennessee Titans: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

27. New Orleans Saints: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

31. New England Patriots: Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma 

                 

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns had a gigantic chunk of fans' attention already considering they own two picks in the top five this year.

Cleveland wanted to seize more of the spotlight, though, and became one of the more successful teams of the offseason to date. They traded for Tyrod Taylor, Damarious Randall and Jarvis Landry and then turned around in free agency and signed Chris Smith, Chris Hubbard and Carlos Hyde.

It's a huge influx of talent for a team with a slew of draft picks and gives them some flexibility at the top of the draft. In the scenario above, the Browns use the Hyde reasoning as a bad excuse to avoid taking Saquon Barkley at No. 1, instead opting for the draft's top edge-rusher, Bradley Chubb, to pair with Myles Garrett.

At No. 4, it's all about quarterback.

There, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield seems like the obvious choice. While a risk at 6'1" and 215 pounds because of his size and style of offense, it's tough to ignore a guy who threw for 43 touchdowns while completing 70.5 percent of his passes in 2017.

He's saying the right things about going to a team that hasn't won lately too, according to ESPN.com's Jake Trotter: "But then at the same time, if I went to a franchise that hasn't done well recently, I'd love to be the one to turn it around if I get the chance to do so."

The first round is about upside, and Mayfield might boast more than any quarterback in the class. He's the ideal NFL quarterback given his ability to make plays with his feet and hit throws in tight windows. Cleveland is a good spot too, because he doesn't have to start right away thanks to Taylor's arrival.

                 

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

The Denver Broncos turned a few heads when they went out and targeted former Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum without showing much of an apparent interest in Cousins. 

Keenum seems like a risk of sorts because he's had one breakout season, and it came with the Vikings while executing what was a friendly offense. If the Broncos can replicate it, their problems under center are solved.

There's a big difference between talking about it and making it happen, though.  

In reality, Denver knows it isn't wise to throw everything it has behind one guy, so grooming someone like Josh Rosen while waiting to see whether Keenum works out is a good idea. 

Rosen, 6'4" and 226 pounds, isn't the guy with the most upside at the position this year. Fittingly enough, he's more in a Keenum mold in that he will have to take what defenses give him. But that didn't stop him from turning heads at UCLA's pro day recently. 

"I thought he threw the ball beautifully," NFL Network's MikeMayock said, according to NFL.com's Chase Goodbread. "By the way, not a surprise. The most natural thrower in the draft. Clear feet. Clear vision. He's beautiful. His issue is going to be, in my opinion, durability and the ability to survive in the NFL pocket."

Denver has other needs but is one of the rare teams in the NFL still fancying itself as a quarterback away from competing for the playoffs and more. Rosen doesn't immediately affect that, but he gives the team a potential franchise passer to build around if Keenum doesn't work out.

                 

8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The Chicago Bears are one of free agency's biggest winners to date. 

These Bears matched an offer sheet Friday to keep standout cornerback Kyle Fuller, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and signed wideout Taylor Gabriel, tight end Trey Burton and wideout Allen Robinson.

With a potential franchise passer in place in Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears can use a top-10 pick to keep building up the roster around him.

And offensive linemen are getting paid huge money this year in free agency. ESPN's Field Yates pointed to a developmental problem at the position throughout the league:

The evolution of college offenses and less practice time at the pro level have no doubt made it harder to groom the guys up front.

Which is why the Bears take Quenton Nelson in the mock above.

Nelson is the surest thing in the draft, a 6'5", 329-pound bully who has "at least a few teams" ranking him as the top prospect overall on their boards, per Rapoport. For good reason. Nelson isn't just a physical force—on film, he's got incredible awareness in moving around and picking up defenders, either while getting downfield or standing in pass protection.

This would be an instant-starter pick for the Bears to go alongside their strong free-agent class and another step in the right direction for a rebuild on the upswing.

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