2018 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Latest Predictions with 1 Month Remaining
It's uncommon to sit down in late March with a new mock draft on the agenda and have news to react to. Normally, I'd tell you about how pro days and private workouts are affecting the top players' stocks, but the New York Jets' trade with the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants' decision to deal veteran pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul heavily influenced this mock draft.
And that's not all. For the first time in years, I'm breaking a personal rule: This features a Round 1 trade.
Given what has been the wildest offseason in memory, it's only fitting that this mock draft would get a little off the wall. Let's go!
1. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: QB Sam Darnold, USC
Previous Selection: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
The only surprise will be if this isn't the pick. Dating back to the combine, this is the noise the entire NFL has been hearing. It helps cement matters that Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was photographed sitting with Darnold's parents at his USC pro day.
Darnold fits the mold of what the Browns need at the position—he's smart, accurate, tough and has a lightning-fast release. He's also steady enough in terms of personality to handle being the new savior of Cleveland football.
2. New York Giants
The Pick: EDGE Bradley Chubb, NC State
Previous Selection: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
The draft's first surprise has the New York Giants passing on quarterbacks, all-world running back Saquon Barkley and elite offensive guard Quenton Nelson to land the class's best pass-rusher.
Chubb is an ideal weak-side linebacker fit in the Giants' new 3-4 scheme. Pairing him with Olivier Vernon would give new head coach Pat Shurmur a stud defensive duo. That might also help give quarterback Eli Manning a little bigger window to win a third ring before retiring.
3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis)
The Pick: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Previous Selection: DE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State (Colts' pick)
The New York Jets made the trade up to No. 3 overall to secure a franchise quarterback, and in this scenario, they get lucky the Giants passed on a quarterback. Now, general manager Mike Maccagnan gets to pick his guy.
My belief has been throughout this process that the Jets covet Josh Allen. I reported back in November sources at Wyoming told me no team has done more work on Allen than the Jets. He's a big (6'5", 233 lbs), athletic, strong-armed quarterback with the ideal tools to run offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates' scheme.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston)
The Pick: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Previous Selection: QB Sam Darnold, USC
There will be plenty of speculation that the Cleveland Browns could trade out of this spot on draft day and let a team such as Buffalo or even the Broncos move up to get a quarterback. That's not how I have it going. Not with Barkley on the board.
He might be walking into a crowded backfield with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson, but the Browns have no one like this dude. Barkley is a rare prospect with the speed, strength, versatility and big-play ability to change the offense. Pairing him and Darnold for the future is too good to be true.
5. Denver Broncos
The Pick: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Previous Selection: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
The Denver Broncos hold tight at pick No. 5 and still get a quarterback they've been linked to throughout the process. Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield lands in an ideal situation where he can learn behind veteran Case Keenum and then take the job in 2019.
Mayfield is a fiery prospect with an exciting track record on the field but a personality off it that might rub teams the wrong way. Broncos president John Elway probably cares more about getting back to his winning ways. Mayfield can help him get there.
6. Buffalo Bills (from Indianapolis Via NYJ)
The Pick: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Previous Selection: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State (Jets' Pick)
Here's something you won't see in many of my past mock drafts: a predicted trade. But the Buffalo Bills can't sit at pick Nos. 12 and 22 and hope a quarterback falls. General manager Brandon Beane has already made one move up (trading Cordy Glenn and pick No. 21 for No. 12) and should know he has to move again.
Rosen is the prettiest passer of this loaded quarterback group, but there are injury concerns after he took a beating at UCLA and got banged up in each of the last three seasons. If he's protected and allowed to play from the pocket, Rosen has a chance to be a Matt Ryan-type quarterback.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Previous Selection: Same
A quick look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' depth chart tells you all you need to know about this secondary and how important it is that general manager Jason Licht finds a starting safety. Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick is the ideal fit given not only his football IQ and versatility, but also his leadership and character.
Fitzpatrick is a defensive eraser. Alabama moved him from corner to safety to a nickel spot throughout his career, and he flourished in each. The Buccaneers would likely identify him as a plug-and-play starter at strong safety. Given how productive he was in that role for the Crimson Tide, he could have a Jamal Adams-type of rookie season.
8. Chicago Bears
The Pick: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Previous Selection: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
The Chicago Bears reunite new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand with his former stud pupil, Nelson, while solidifying the middle of an offense that suddenly looks potent.
Nelson is one of the two or three best players in the draft regardless of positional value. He's massive (6'5", 329 lbs) but moves like a smaller guard. He's tough, physical, agile and can open up running lanes that will make head coach Matt Nagy's offense tick. Selecting a guard in the top 10 might not be exciting, but Nelson has the tools of an immediate blue chip starter.
9. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
Previous Selection: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The San Francisco 49ers just missed out on Nelson, who would've been an amazing fit in the offense, but still land one of the best athletes and most promising players in the class.
Tremaine Edmunds is just 19 years old and already looks like an immediate NFL starter. At 6'4 ½" and 253 pounds, he doesn't look like a teenager and doesn't play like one either. Edmunds is a versatile asset on defense, and given Reuben Foster's off-field issues, he would also provide insurance in case the Niners lose last year's first-rounder for an extended time. And should they get on the field together? Watch out.
10. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
Previous Selection: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith has been a popular pick for the Oakland Raiders in mocks, but after I've looked at the board and talked to team sources, Ohio State's Denzel Ward gets mentioned the most.
Ward is the draft's best cornerback, and even after using a first-rounder on Gareon Conley last year, the Raiders still need help at the position. Ward's toughness, speed and instincts would make him an ideal fit opposite Conley, his former Ohio State teammate.
11. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
Previous Selection: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
The Miami Dolphins are a hard team to peg in mock drafts. They're out of range for a quarterback (despite sources telling me they are interested in them) and have added a pass-rusher in Robert Quinn. So what's left?
Linebacker speed is still an area of need, and it matches up well with the board. Georgia's Smith is a plug-and-play stack linebacker and will give the Dolphins an upgraded run defense from day one. A trio of Smith, Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso might not be the NFL's best, but it'll help when the team's tasked with facing Tom Brady twice a season.
12. Indianapolis Colts (from Buffalo Via Cincinnati)
The Pick: EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
Previous Selection: OT Connor Williams, Texas (Bengals' pick)
After trading back, again, the Indianapolis Colts will gain pick Nos. 12, 22 and 96 in this hypothetical deal with the Buffalo Bills in exchange for the No. 6 spot. By trading back, general manager Chris Ballard gets more draft capital to continue a massive roster overhaul.
At No. 12, Ballard and Co. still get a top-notch player who fills a huge need. Marcus Davenport is raw, coming from tiny Texas-San Antonio. But he showed during the season, at the Senior Bowl and the combine that he's the type of athletic rarity who can make the needed improvements to make an early NFL impact.
The Pick: DL Vita Vea, Washington
Previous Selection: S Derwin James, Florida State
Washington has been aggressive this offseason in adding quarterback Alex Smith, wide receiver Paul Richardson and cornerback Orlando Scandrick to a roster that still needs a decent bit of work. At pick No. 13, we could see another running back come off the board. But after looking at last year's draft class and talking to sources, I wouldn't be surprised if they go back to the defensive line.
Vita Vea is a giant at 6'4", 347 pounds but is much more than just a big anchor in the middle of the line. Vea has movement skills, is an expert at splitting double-teams and can get into the backfield to make plays against the pass. He might be a two-and-a-half-down player, but he'll wreck things on those downs.
14. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Previous Selection: EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
An offseason of change has the Green Bay Packers looking like a new team heading into the draft. But that new team still has holes to fill at pass-rusher, wide receiver and cornerback.
Iowa's Josh Jackson didn't help his cause with a 4.56-second 40-yard-dash at the combine, but his play shows a cornerback with ball skills, technique and toughness. He's a natural fit in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's scheme, and he and Kevin King give them one heck of a young cornerback duo.
15. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: CB Mike Hughes, UCF
Previous Selection: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Tyrann Mathieu has gone to Houston, and the Arizona Cardinals are transitioning to a new defense under head coach Steve Wilks. But he will need a cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson who can match up and excel in man coverage. That's where Mike Hughes comes in.
Hughes is fast, instinctive and incredibly fluid as a 5'10", 189-pound corner. And don't let his size fool you—he's physical at the line of scrimmage and not afraid to hit in the run game.
The Cardinals have a need at quarterback, but at No. 15 overall, it would be a massive reach to select one of the remaining passers.
16. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Previous Selection: Same
Here's one that seems to show up in every mock draft I do. Calvin Ridley makes too much sense for the Baltimore Ravens. Even if you ignore the obvious Alabama connections to general manager and Crimson Tide alum Ozzie Newsome, Ridley still fills the team's most obvious need: receiver.
Even after adding veteran Michael Crabtree and the explosive but oft-injured John Brown, the Ravens' wide receiver depth chart is bare and lacking in long-term answers. Ridley's smooth route running and natural ability as a catcher will make him a perfect possession-style receiver to pair with Brown's deep speed in the short to intermediate game.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
The Pick: OT Connor Williams, Texas
Previous Selection: OT Kolton Miller, UCLA
The first offensive tackle comes off the board at pick No. 17, and he's an excellent fit and value for the Los Angeles Chargers. An aggressive 2017 draft and the signing of Mike Pouncey has the line in good shape for this year, but the future needs addressing, and Williams can be that left tackle of the present and long-term plan.
He did struggle at times this past season and missed half the year with a knee injury, but he's a fluid athlete with all the tools to be a left tackle. He's also reworked his body and mechanics over the last two years, which should immediately benefit him.
18. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: S Derwin James, Florida State
Previous Selection: DL Vita Vea, Washington
What do you do when Kam Chancellor's career might be over? You find a prospect who's like his younger brother.
Derwin James is a physical, athletic, smart safety prospect who has lined up all over the Florida State defense and is tailor-made for a role like Chancellor's in Seattle. He'll also bring that toughness and intensity to a secondary that looks completely different.
The Seahawks could address the offensive line with this selection, but James also ranks as the best player left on the board.
19. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Previous Selection: OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
Defense, defense, defense. That's how the Cowboys' draft board should read with a wide receiver and offensive guard sprinkled in along the way. With pick No. 19 overall, Jerry Jones and Co. can address a number of positions, but I keep hearing they're connected to linebacker.
Rashaan Evans can do it all—NFL clubs have asked him to play outside linebacker or edge-rusher. In Dallas, he's a natural to replace departed free agent Anthony Hitchens and adds youth and speed to a defense that's being rebuilt well through the draft.
20. Detroit Lions
The Pick: EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
Previous Selection: DL Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
An ankle injury affected Harold Landry's 2017, which likely pushed him down the board slightly. But the Detroit Lions are still getting a dynamic pass-rusher who ranked as the draft's top senior on my summer big board.
Landry can stand up or put his hand in the dirt to get after the quarterback. In head coach Matt Patricia's scheme, we could see him move all around the defensive formation to find a pass-rushing matchup and exploit the offensive line.
With Detroit's pairing of Landry and Ziggy Ansah and an improved linebacker corps, suddenly the defense looks solid.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo)
The Pick: OL James Daniels, Iowa
Previous Selection: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU (Bills' pick)
The Cincinnati Bengals already pulled off a trade for Cordy Glenn—and slid back to pick No. 21 to do it—but still face an offseason with major needs across the offensive line. With Glenn penciled in at left tackle, the front office should look to the inside for help.
Iowa's James Daniels is a smooth mover at either center or guard and is an ideal player to kick out linebackers in the run game or keep pace with fast, athletic interior pass-rushers. In Cincinnati, he would be an immediate upgrade at either guard spot or center as the Bengals look to retool the line again.
22. Indianapolis Colts (from Buffalo Via Kansas City)
The Pick: RB Derrius Guice, LSU
Previous Selection: OL James Daniels, Iowa (Bills' pick)
As part of the predicted trade for pick No. 6 overall, the Indianapolis Colts add this selection and get the workhorse running back they can plug in right behind Andrew Luck in Week 1.
One of my philosophies is that a good running back makes the quarterback's life easier, and that's exactly what the physical, punishing, mean Guice would be as Luck gets back onto the field this season. The best way to take pressure off Luck is to give him a bell-cow back.
23. Los Angeles Rams
The Pick: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Previous Selection: EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
Out goes Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants for picks, and in comes one of my favorite players in the entire draft. Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch is a modern linebacker with the coverage, blitz and run defense skills to get right onto the field even though he left college as a junior.
The Los Angeles Rams are getting young but don't have to sacrifice production or playmaking by adding Vander Esch. After he tore apart offenses last season, it's easy to envision a smooth NFL transition where he's the perfect athlete to attack the now-popular spread concepts that are making things fun on offense.
24. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
Previous Selection: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
The first order of business for returning general manager Marty Hurney in this draft should be fixing the mess his predecessor, Dave Gettleman, left at cornerback. Even considering how badly the team needs upgrades on the offensive line and at wide receiver, the secondary should get a look first.
Louisville's Jaire Alexander might not fit the size profile for some teams at 5'10 ¼" and 196 pounds, and he was banged up in 2017 with hand and leg injuries, but he's a physical player at the line of scrimmage and in coverage. Alexander can match up with taller receivers thanks to his speed and instincts. His tool set would make him the Panthers' best cornerback right away.
25. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: EDGE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
Previous Selection: LB Leighton Vander Esch
Maybe it's too easy to connect new head coach Mike Vrabel and his Ohio State roots to Sam Hubbard, but the former Buckeye would be a great fit in this defense. He's also a good value at pick No. 25 overall.
Hubbard was a rock-solid right defensive end for Ohio State and tested well at the combine. Well enough, at 6'5 ⅜” and 270 pounds, to post the best three-cone time (6.84 seconds) of any edge-rusher. With his size, agility, strength and football IQ, it's easy to see his being a building block for Vrabel in Tennessee.
26. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
Previous Selection: OG Billy Price, Ohio State
I hate to break this news to you, Atlanta Falcons fans, but Brandon Fusco is not good and Andy Levitre is on the wrong side of his career. The need at offensive guard should be the team's top draft priority.
Wynn, a left tackle at Georgia, has the ideal athleticism and instincts to kick down to right guard in a move similar to the one Zack Martin made when he left Notre Dame for the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. Wynn (6'2 ⅜", 313 lbs) doesn't have Martin's size, but he is an excellent mover and will top out at a Pro Bowl level.
27. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
Previous Selection: EDGE Arden Key, LSU
The New Orleans Saints have a legitimate Super Bowl window at the end of Drew Brees' career. The best way to take advantage of that after nailing the 2017 draft is to get him a weapon for the middle of the field and up the seam.
Hayden Hurst might get knocked for being an older prospect (25 at the start of the season) after playing minor league baseball for two seasons before playing college football, but he's a stud. Hurst has the best combination of traits, as a pass-catcher and blocker, to get onto the field right away. In New Orleans, he'll open up the entire offense for Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Co.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
Previous Selection: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Ryan Shazier's devastating injury made the existing need at inside linebacker even bigger. Even with the signing of Jon Bostic, the Steelers need to get better and faster in the middle of the defense. And with the offense pretty much set, the front office can use this offseason to keep building the defense.
Jefferson is a bit of a project, but his raw athleticism can't be overlooked. If the Steelers are comfortable that his production and diagnosing skills can improve in the NFL with a better crew around him, then Jefferson is a match for the Steelers' style.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Previous Selection: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
The Jacksonville Jaguars struck gold when they found Cam Robinson out of Alabama at pick No. 34 in last year's draft and can fix the other side of the line with pick No. 29 in this class.
Mike McGlinchey projects as a high-level right tackle, similar in many ways to Tennessee's Jack Conklin. By drafting a bookend partner for Robinson, the Jaguars front office guarantees at least three more seasons of inexpensive tackle play. That's a great way to set up the financial freedom to continue improving the roster.
30. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: OG Billy Price, Ohio State
Previous Selection: DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Just call this Ohio State north. After drafting center Pat Elflein in the third round last year, the Minnesota Vikings can now select the guy who took his job and also played next to him in previous seasons.
Price excelled at center in 2017, but in Minnesota he'd go back to playing guard and can be a dominant force there. Lining up these two maulers side by side and handing the ball off the Dalvin Cook makes this offense potent. Add in that Kirk Cousins needs interior pass protection, and suddenly the prospect of getting Price looks good.
31. New England Patriots
The Pick: OT Kolton Miller, UCLA
Previous Selection: EDGE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
Nate Solder's decision to sign with the New York Giants made it clear the New England Patriots need to address the tackle spot early in this draft. Even with Antonio Garcia coming in from last year's third round, a starter to protect Tom Brady's blind side has to be a priority.
Miller is a late riser on my board but a player with a solid late-first-round grade. He's big (6'8 ⅝", 309 lbs) but moves well and plays with a bend that allows him to get leverage on much shorter pass-rushers. There are holes to his game—that's why he's available here—but Miller is the best of the remaining tackles and fills a major need.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
Previous Selection: OG Will Hernandez, UTEP
It's not easy making a pick for the Philadelphia Eagles—not after the job executive vice president Howie Roseman has done building the roster. You can go position by position and struggle to find a clear need. Even those weak areas have a young player ready to step in.
Because of that, the Eagles might be in a prime position to trade out of this pick on draft night. In this mock draft, it makes them a perfect "best player available" team. And that player is Ronnie Harrison. The physical safety from Alabama might not challenge for a starting job in his rookie year, but he'd be a dynamite third safety and can eventually become a starter.