NFL Mock Draft 2018: Projections for Top Prospects in Unpredictable 1st Round

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2018

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

A common assumption this time of year is NFL teams are finalizing draft boards and fans are getting a better idea of where those boards stand and what their teams might do. 

Only one of those statements is true in 2018. 

The truth is, most outside of NFL front offices don't know what teams are thinking, and this year's draft period has lived up to the "smokescreen season" moniker. Disinformation flies each way as teams and agents try to make sure they position themselves for the situation they want. 

All players can do is keep grinding through the pro days and meets with teams, and all fans can do is grit their teeth and wait.

Here's a mock draft based on one possible scenario perhaps ready to unfold. 

       

2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

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

3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

5. Denver Broncos: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

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

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

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

9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

10. Oakland Raiders: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

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: Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia

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: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

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: James Daniels, OL, Iowa

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma 

         

1. Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

What is to say the Cleveland Browns won't take the quarterback with the rarest set of skills in the draft? Especially when the team with the first pick happens to hold two in the first round? 

It doesn't get more intriguing than Mayfield, a 6'1" and 215-pound prospect with solid accuracy and the ability to extend plays with his feet. He's prototypical to the budding trend of offenses sweeping the league right now. 

Mentioning production here doesn't hurt, either. Last year alone he completed 70.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 4,627 yards and 43 touchdowns against six interceptions, making it two seasons in a row he completed north of 70 percent of his passes. 

This is also the Browns we're talking about, a team with pretty unique ideas when it comes to the quarterback position, as Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor pointed out: 

Don't forget the failed AJ McCarron trade. 

That isn't to say Mayfield would be a bad pick—but the Browns have a habit of doing what most wouldn't expect at the most important position of all. 

Going with a prospect boasting gigantic upside who doesn't have to start right away and still getting an elite prospect a few picks later seems like a big win regardless. 

       

5. Denver Broncos: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

One of the wilder tales on the path to the draft pertains to Lamar Jackson.

Whispers that never made sense about a position change aside, Jackson has faced adversity on his way to the NFL because he isn't being repped by an official agent. This, predictably, is being used as a negative out there on the information circuit. 

But the reality is NFL teams already have droves of film on Jackson and have seen him at a few different places, not to mention all the reference material they can pull from the people surrounding him over the years. 

Hence someone like New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton doing nothing but singing his praises: 

And why not? Jackson isn't a scrambling quarterback, but he's elite in an almost Michael Vick sense when he takes off. He has accuracy issues, but it's hard to ignore when a guy throws for 3,660 yards and 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on a 59.1 percent completion clip while also rushing for 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns. 

Jackson will need some time, which is why a locale like Denver makes some sense. Those Broncos have a stopgap with Case Keenum but wouldn't have any problems installing an offense that plays to Jackson's strength, keeping him on the move in the pocket and feeding him simpler throws while sprinkling in some designed runs. 

With rare traits and upside the name of the game in the first round, seeing Jackson change the narrative about him by coming off the board here wouldn't be too shocking. 

          

20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

Another somewhat-shocking possibility ready to unfold in Round 1 is more than one running back coming off the board. 

Running backs were viewed as dead in the water a few years ago, with the workhorse back a thing of the past in favor of committees. Then talents like Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley and others hit the scene and changed the way we think about the position again. 

Next up is Saquon Barkley, though Derrius Guice isn't as far behind as some might think. 

Guice is a bully of a running back who comes in at 5'10" and 212 pounds. He's compared to Marshawn Lynch by NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, who wrote the following: "While Guice has some elusiveness and long speed, much of his success comes from his furious running style and ability to create yardage after contact."

There's an argument suggesting Guice's production slowed in 2017 compared to the year prior, but either way, he ran for north of 1,250 yards, a 5.0 average and 11 touchdowns in each of his two seasons as the primary back—and backs slowing down to preserve their bodies the closer they get to a draft is an emerging trend. 

A team like the Detroit Lions will have a hard time ignoring a potential every-down back, even after the addition of LeGarrette Blount. The Ameer Abdullah experiment has been a bust, so going with a Guice-Blount sledgehammer attack wouldn't be a bad idea. That or Guice doesn't see a major rotation as a rookie before taking over later. 

Either way, the Lions need to do a better job supporting Matthew Stafford, and a talent like Guice certainly checks the box. 

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