2018 NFL Mock Draft: Mike Tanier's Final Predictions

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterApril 24, 2018

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Mike Tanier's Final Predictions

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    Chris Knight/Associated Press

    The following 2018 NFL mock draft contains analysis, speculation, informed opinion, guesswork, a few stabs at humor, some obvious picks, some surprising picks, one or two pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey picks, risers, fallers, reaches, sleepers and trades.

    Yes, trades! We peer into the crystal ball and make some teams wheel and deal in the first round. Because if you're going to guess, guess like there's no tomorrow. So stay on your toes, scrollers: Your favorite team may not be where you expect it to be!

    This may be the toughest first round to predict in my 16 years of draft coverage. Good luck sorting through five top quarterbacks with no consensus about who ranks where; great guards but not-so-great tackles; confusion at wide receiver; and old-fashioned running backs like Saquon Barkley trying to find their place in a Moneyball world. It all makes the first round nearly impossible to prognosticate.

    But let's have some fun trying. We may even learn a thing or two along the way.

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    It all comes down to two choices for the Browns:

    • Sam Darnold: The safe, obvious selection who can make the team competitive quickly and turn the page on a decade-plus history of regrettable cutesy-poo quarterback solutions.
    • Josh Allen: The regrettable cutesy-poo quarterback solution with a tiny probability of eventually becoming John Elway and a much higher probability of landing the Browns right back at the top of the draft board in three years.

    With just hours until the draft, we're estimating a 70-30 lean toward Darnold.

    Followers of The First Unified Church of Sashi Brown, Scholar and Martyr (aka Sashifarians) will cluck their tongues if the Browns select Allen, because taking a quarterback with a 56.2 percent collegiate completion rate (but a magnificent arm!) would be the ultimate desecration of the Moneyball temple.

    Sorry, true believers: If Sashi were still in charge, he would have found fault with all of these quarterbacks and instead traded down for more picks.

2. New York Giants: Bradley Chubb, Edge-Rusher, NC State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Chubb represents a young, relatively inexpensive, high-upside, minimal-baggage replacement for Jason Pierre-Paul, whom the Giants traded to the Buccaneers in March for a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick swap.

    Saquon Barkley is getting a lot of buzz for this pick, and he would be a crowd-pleasing alternative. An offense with Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram could help Eli Manning turn back the clock for a year or two. But running backs 80 percent as good as Barkley will be available on Day 3. Pass-rushers within a mile of Chubb's potential will be gone by the local news on Thursday night.

    If the Browns draft Allen, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman's phone will melt as teams try to trade up for Darnold. He could deal this pick. Or, you know, draft Darnold to eventually (soon) replace Eli.

    The Giants' offensive line still stinks, and the best guard prospect since Larry Allen is available, so Quenton Nelson is a slim possibility here as well.

3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    This is a match made in heaven.

    The team that traded three second-round picks to guarantee itself a shot at the third-best quarterback on the board, which is a little like trying to ace the SATs by crossing out one obviously incorrect answer to each question and then blindly guessing, meets the quarterback most likely to wind up on the back page of a tabloid for mooning the Patriots' sideline or something.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Kidding and squandered second-round picks aside, the Jets had a fairly productive offseason. Mayfield is the most game-ready quarterback in this class, and concerns about his personality a) are overblown and b) a possible blessing, because it takes a little edginess to make it Manhattan.

    This would be a great selection. We were just picking on the Jets because, you know, they're the Jets.

4. Buffalo Bills (via CLE): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    If Bradley Chubb is still available here, the Browns would nab him and build a lethal pass rush around him and Myles Garrett. 

    But since the Giants took Chubb second, let's have the Browns trade down with a quarterback-needy team that has a pair of first-round picks as bartering ammunition.

    The Bills are following the innovative new AFC East strategy for toppling the Patriots: Trade all of your best players for draft picks, trade all of the draft picks for one high draft pick, select a quarterback and then discover what happens when you surround a rookie quarterback with randos because you traded all of your good players and draft picks. It's foolproof, right? See the Jets for another example of how this works. (The Dolphins don't use strategies).

    Head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane want a traditional pocket passer with a rifle arm, and quarterback prospects don't come more rifle-armed, traditional and pockety than Allen. As a bonus, Allen has experience completing 56.2 percent of his passes while playing with a substandard supporting cast.

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    OMG. This is such a stupid pick. The Broncos already signed Case Keenum.

    JOHN ELWAY: Fool! No. 187 of the 1000 precepts that I ask you to observe is to never presume to know the mind of Elway.

    But Josh Rosen has, you know, issues.

    ELWAY: Fool! My legend dates back to the 1980s. I was an unsavory lad back in the day, an insouciant whelp who forced a trade to accommodate my wishes. I can craft this Rosen fellow into a legendary weapon like myself.

    But common sense dictates that the Broncos draft Saquon Barkley, or an offensive lineman like Quenton Nelson.

    ELWAY: Fool! A Super Bowl cannot be won by common sense. It's the inevitable result of a singular genius like mine. There must always be two quarterbacks: the gunslinger and the thirsty try-hard, the Elway and the Kubiak, the Siemian and the Lynch, and now the Keenum and the Rosen in an eternal fiery crucible.

    Will you at least entertain the possibility of trading down if some team wants Rosen with this pick?

    ELWAY: Hmm, let me rub my bristly imaginary beard. Trading down? Splendid idea. Glad I thought of it. A team with two first-round picks that's in need of a future franchise quarterback would suit my purposes. The Patriots, perhaps? 'Tis just a matter of calling them and matching my franchise-building brilliance with theirs. Perhaps they will trade for Rosen and I will make the extra selections with my usual drafting acumen.

    But...your draft record is really, really...

    ELWAY: Silence, fool!

6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The acquisition of a short stack of second-round picks from the Jets in exchange for sliding from third to sixth on the draft board was the best move the Colts made this offseason.

    Then again, it was practically the only move they made in the offseason.

    They spent the last two months making that trade, holding their breath while Andrew Luck lobbed football-shaped feather pillows andchecks transaction wiresigning Ryan Grant and Eric Ebron. Meh.

    Nelson projects as a perennial Pro Bowler at guard. He'll instantly set the tone for the Colts' running game. And once Luck graduates to throwing big-boy footballs again, he'll be able to safely step up in the pocket knowing Nelson has obliterated an interior defender.

    Let's juice up the Colts' draft board by adding Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes with the 36th pick (their own), edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo from Oklahoma with the 37th (Jets pick) and powerful Georgia runner Nick Chubb to team with speedy Marlon Mack with the 49th pick (also from the Jets, via Seattle).

    Nice haul. It's almost enough to make Colts fans forget an otherwise forgettable free-agency period.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    There is zero chance that Barkley slips beyond this point.

    The Bucs have a Barkley-shaped hole on their depth chart. Teaming Barkley with Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate creates an offense so potent that Dirk Koetter could use the "Ask Madden" play-caller and the Bucs would still score 31 points a game.

    While Bucs fans dream about how much better Sundays would be if the team replaced Koetter with the "Ask Madden" play-caller, we should point out that if Barkley is gone, Nelson can significantly upgrade the interior line. The Bucs could then grab some committee backs on Day 3.

    The offseason acquisitions of Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry were brilliant moves, as the Bucs had little chance of landing Bradley Chubb and other edge-rushers would be a reach here. The Bucs aren't getting much offseason attention, but they are poised to turn things around quickly.

8. Chicago Bears: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Bears are the team everyone thinks the 49ers will be.

    While much of the NFL is in the throes of Jimmy Garoppomania and anticipates a quick rise to contention in San Francisco, the Bears have built an exciting new coaching staff and added explosive offensive weapons like Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel. The rest of the roster was already structurally sound, and Mitchell Trubisky flashed potential in the rare moments John Fox let him attempt a forward pass.

    At No. 8, the Bears can thus draft the best available player, and there are a lot of great players available after all of the quarterback jockeying. Fitzpatrick gives defensive coordinator Vic Fangio a mix-and-match weapon to deepen an already solid secondary. Fitzpatrick can blitz off the edge, cover the big slot targets Bryce Callahan cannot handle, provide injury insurance for Prince Amukamara and generally upgrade the athleticism factor on the Bears defense.

    Watch out for this team. It's flying under your radar.

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

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Many draft boards rank Tremaine Edmunds ahead of Smith based on the former's youth and athletic upside. There's a chance that Edwards will be available here and that the 49ers will draft him instead of Smith.

    But the Niners didn't sign Richard Sherman and crash a money bus into Jimmy Garoppolo's garage because they are thinking about long-term upside. For the 49ers, the future is soon, as in as soon as the Rams set their own locker room on fire and lock themselves inside.

    Smith is one of the safest picks in this draft. He has All-Pro upside, but his downside is as a capable three-down starter who plays for eight to 10 years and maybe makes some Pro Bowls. What you see is what you get, and it's good.

    Smith is also far more NFL-ready than Edwards. And the Niners likely will need ready-to-play linebackers sooner rather than later.

10. Oakland Raiders: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Jon Gruden's Smashing Pumpkins Reunion Tour is underway!

    The coaching staff of old cronies has been assembled. Modern analytics have been rejected, because the Raiders love the warm sound of those old tube amplifiers. And the roster has been buttressed with veterans like Jordy Nelson, Doug Martin, Shareece Wright, Leon Hall and others, the football equivalent of backing a tight four-piece rock unit with a philharmonic so the graybeards will dig it. Let's relive the '90s, yo!

    The Raiders may have stressed quantity over quality with their additions, but they did address needs in the secondary and elsewhere. Vea is a best-player-available selection who fits the old Bill Parcells "planet theory" of prioritizing giant defensive tackles who can move. Best player available and the planet theory? That's double-deluxe old-school!

    Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther enjoyed success in Cincinnati when Domata Peko and Geno Atkins formed the core of the Bengals defense. Vea is like Atkins in Peko's body. Guenther will find plenty for him to do in the middle of the line while Gruden is swapping out all of the GPS trackers for medicine balls.

11. Miami Dolphins: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    The Dolphins have a Swiss cheese depth chart because they released or traded away many of their best players in the name of improving their "team culture." They are older, slower and less talented now, but at least they'll say "Yes, sir!" really loud when coaches give instructions.

    The Dolphins are also "sweepers" in this segment of the first round. They're stuck behind a series of teams likely to take a best-available-athlete approach on defense, which will force them to pick among the leftovers. Vea, Smith and Fitzpatrick are possibilities if they drop, and Edmunds remains in play. But the Dolphins have only one good cornerback right now and need at least three, so let's give them Ward, the best cornerback in this class and a safe plug-and-play prospect at a high-leverage position.

    There's also talk that the Dolphins will ignore other needs and trade up for a quarterback, because all of the AFC East wannabes have deluded themselves into thinking they can develop quarterbacks with no other offensive talent. But really, the Dolphins have already done enough self-sabotage for one offseason.

12. New England Patriots (via CLE): Derwin James, S, Florida State

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    STEVEN CANNON/Associated Press

    Wait, how did the Patriots get here?

    Well, this used to be the Bengals' pick, but they traded it to the Bills for Cordy Glenn early in the offseason. We speculated earlier in this mock that the Bills would trade it to the Browns. Now we're anticipating that Bill Belichick will read the draft board, spot a rare talent slipping through the cracks and trade his two first-round picks to move up. Makes sense, right?

    The Patriots secondary is full of 30-year-olds and guys who got exposed as a step too slow in Super Bowl 52. James is an athletic marvel who could eventually replace Devin McCourty as a traditional deep safety. In the meantime, he can supplant Patrick Chung and Co. in the versatile slot safety role.

    The Patriots could also leap up for Edmunds, Fitzpatrick or Ward if they are here. Or even Josh Rosen or Lamar Jackson. Remember: The Patriots never do the obvious or draft for immediate need.

    Don't worry, Browns fans: All of this trading will pay off eventually. (When have you ever heard that before?)

13. Washington Redskins: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Poor Skins fans: You wanted James, didn't you? Well, you just got Belichick'd. Vea would be a worthy consolation prize, but he's gone, too.

    So, here's a sexy player at a need position to make it up to you. Guice's ability to create yards after contact will make the offensive line look better and create play-action opportunities for Alex Smith.

    Here are some other possibilities aside from Guice, James and Vea:

    Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edwards: Edwards has about a 20 percent chance of being drafted by everybody.

    Centers Billy Price (Ohio State) or James Daniels (Iowa): The middle of Washington's line is a bit of a mess right now.

    Edge-Rushers Marcus Davenport (UTSA) or Harold Landry (Boston College): Good players, but Washington's need on the edge isn't as critical as it looks on paper.

    Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson: Think the front office has figured out that their quarterback is 33 years old and his backup is 31? Nah, the Redskins don't do that "quarterback of the future" stuff.

14. Green Bay Packers: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    With Ted Thompson elevated from general manager to shaman and transferred from an office at team headquarters to a steam lodge at the far edge of some Wisconsin lake, the Packers are less likely to draft to the music of the spheres this year, instead addressing positions of need by selecting traditional, high-profile prospects.

    McGlinchey is the safest pick in a weak tackle class. He's also a natural fit as a replacement at right tackle for Bryan Bulaga, a 29-year-old who is on the mend from ACL surgery.

    Since the Packers signed Jimmy Graham at tight end, both offensive tackles have to be ready to run-block and pass-protect with absolutely no support. McGlinchey's steadiness and mistake-free style will be assets.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Jackson is the ideal Quarterback of the Future: a maximum-upside player with flaws that are easy to identify and correct (he has the footwork of a newborn fawn). Jackson can practice and absorb wisdom until Sam Bradford suffers a major injury and Mike Glennon once again proves he's a human turnover machine. That takes us into late September, when Jackson still won't be ready to dominate the league, but he should be good enough.

    The following teams could throw a monkey wrench into the Cardinals' plan to sit tight and wait for a quarterback to fall to them:

    • The Giants, by drafting a quarterback or trading with someone who will.
    • The Redskins and Dolphins, who keep painting themselves into quarterback corners.
    • The Patriots, Chargers and Saints, none of whom are quiet about wanting to dip into the quarterback-of-the-future market.
    • The Ravens, who eventually will realize this glorious Joe Flacco era is just too pure to last forever.

    So, maybe the Cardinals shouldn't just sit here and wait for Jackson to fall into their lap. However it happens, the top five quarterbacks should be off the board by this pick.

16. Baltimore Ravens: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

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    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Happy Eventual Retirement Party, Ozzie Newsome! We got you the perfect gift: Calvin Ridley, an Alabama guy who fills a position of need.

    OZZIE NEWSOME: I don't want one of those. Get me D.J. Moore.

    What? But Ozzie: Roll Tide, big-play ability, Roll Tide, rare quickness and athleticism, Roll Tide ...

    OZZIE NEWSOME: You guys know that I have only drafted five Alabama players since 2010, right? I can find talent at other programs. And I think Moore is the best receiver on the board. He's more complete than Ridley, is just as explosive and has untapped potential because he played in an even more run-heavy, passing-challenged offense. He'll fit perfectly in our revamped receiving corps with Michael Crabtree and John Brown.

    Sorry we got you something so stereotypical, Ozzie. And we didn't even get you any third-round supplemental picks this year. Hope you can make do with just our regular second- and third-rounders.

    OZZIE NEWSOME: They're perfect, guys. Can't wait to use them on Da'Shawn Hand and Bradley Bozeman. Roll Tide!

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

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Edmunds could go as high as fourth, and he's a possible selection for at least a half-dozen other teams before the Chargers.

    If he's gone, the Chargers will take the best player available for their interior run defense: Vea, James, Smith, Da'Ron Payne or Leighton Vander Esch. There's also a slim chance that they grab Lamar Jackson or any of the other quarterbacks who slip.

    Edmunds' top characteristics are his age (he's only 19) and his athletic potential (he's some sort of X-Man). But for every team that sees a 19-year old prospect and projects how great he will be at 23, there's at least one other team that sees itself dealing with that prospect's growing pains so he can sign his second contract elsewhere at age 23. Football is not baseball, and prospects who are still learning the gamelike Edmunds, whose instincts in pass coverage are rudimentaryend up inactive on Sundays, not in Double-A ball.

    As such, Edmunds may slip further than the speculators think. But he won't slip past the Chargers.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

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    Michael Thomas/Associated Press

    The Seahawks aren't rebuilding. They're prebuilding.

    With veterans leaving in droves and no second- or third-round picks, they're in the rubble-removal stage that precedes the fun of rebuilding. This is the year when the bills come due for their recent Super Bowl runs. It isn't likely to be pretty.

    A prebuilding team with a shortage of high-round picks can either swing for the fences or just grab a good player to firm up a position of need while sorting out priorities elsewhere. Williams is that good, need-position player who can stabilize the offensive line in the wake of line coach/saboteur Tom Cable's departure. 

    The Seahawks have a swing-for-the-fences draft history, and many mocks have them addressing their defense with this pick. But if the Seahawks are being honest with themselves about prebuilding, they won't try to outsmart themselves.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Remember when the Cowboys went 13-3 two years ago and couldn't stop congratulating themselves for building a great offensive line and "discovering" Dak Prescott? One year later, they're fresh off a 9-7 season and are heading in the wrong direction.

    Dez Bryant's departure leaves the Cowboys with one of the NFL's weakest receiving corps, and their defensive line is thin. Oh, and they lack both the cap space and draft capital to make needed upgrades.

    So, Jerry Jones needs to maximize his bang for the buck here. And Jerrah loves: a) players with big workout numbers; and b) prospects who make him feel smart for nabbing them. Ridley's a burner, and Jerrah can pat himself on the back for getting a playmaker who slipped through the cracks.

    NFL Network's Ian Rapoport has reported the Cowboys have shown serious interest in SMU receiver Courtland Sutton, who likewise meets the Jerrah Criteria. He'll be plan B if the Ravens draft Ridley like the Cowboys probably expect them to.

20. Detroit Lions: Marcus Davenport, Edge-Rusher, UTSA

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Over the last three seasons, Ziggy Ansah has totaled 28.5 sacks, while Devin Taylor (now with the Giants) totaled 11.5. No other Lions defender notched more than 8.0.

    An edge-rusher to bookend with Ansah is a critical need, and Davenport is a bit like the young Ansah: raw, but almost preternaturally gifted.

    Davenport may be drafted much earlier due to the edge-rusher shortage. Boston College's Harold Landry is also a possibility here, as is Derrius Guice if he slips and the Lions decide to address their other obvious need.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    On paper, the Bengals offensive line currently makes the Seahawks offensive line look like the Hogs.

    Unlike the Seahawks in past years, however, the Bengals appear willing to break the downward spiral of denial at the position. They traded for Cordy Glenn to firm up one tackle position, added Bobby Hart to create competition at the otheryou know you're in bad shape when you turn to the Giants for tackle helpand are stable enough at other positions to saturation-draft offensive linemen for three days.

    Hernandez would be the top guard in a draft class that didn't include the Unstoppable Juggernaut (Quenton Nelson), and right tackle isn't out of the question for him.

    Georgia guard Isaiah Wynn and centers James Daniels of Iowa and Billy Price of Ohio State are also in play for this pick.

22. Cleveland Browns (via BUF): Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    This is the Bills' pick on the real board, but we made the Browns trade down twice in this mock. Now, it's finally time for them to reap the rewards of three years of compounded draft interest. (The first pick overall doesn't count; they got that one just by being the Browns).

    Up first: Miller, a dependable left tackle. Don't call him Joe Thomas' replacement, because no one can replace Thomas. But someone has to replace Thomas, and Miller is the best choice.

    Try not to think about how the NFL's self-proclaimed master economists had a Hall of Fame left tackle (an exceedingly precious commodity) for the final two seasons of his career and didn't bother to develop a quarterback during that window. We're keeping things Browns-positive, remember?

23. Cleveland Browns (via NE): Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

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    Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

    More Browns! We had the Patriots trade up earlier to select Derwin James. That leaves the Browns free to use this pick on an extra piece for what's turning into a formidable front seven.

    Vander Esch is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft. He's an old-school thumper with range who should excel in Gregg Williams' defense, assuming Williams decides to dial in and actually coach this year.

    Joe Schobert and Vanden Esch will give the Browns a pair of linebackers capable of playing the run and dropping into coverage. Put them behind a defensive line spearheaded by Myles Garrett, and good things are bound to happen. And we aren't even done with the Browns' first-round picks yet.

24. Carolina Panthers: Harold Landry, Edge-Rusher, Boston College

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Panthers have quietly gotten old at a number of positions since their run to Super Bowl 50.

    Thomas Davis is now 35 and is facing a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. Greg Olsen is 33 and has a seat in a broadcast booth already picked out. Ryan Kalil is 33, but the Panthers have committed to an all-Kalil offensive line, no matter how little sense it makes. And Julius Peppers is 38, but the Panthers are keeping him around because he is still effective and no one tells better Jake Delhomme stories.

    Landry's a great value at this stage in the draft. He'd be a perfect fit in the Panthers system and a worthy padawan for Peppers.

    There's a good chance Lanrdry won't slip this far. If the Panthers cannot land an edge-rusher, look for them to address tight end or center instead. (Ohio State's Billy Price is a perfect fit.)

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

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Titans have a pretty stacked roster with few obvious needs. There are lots of young players at various positions who have not yet reached their potential because the team ran 1950s Texas high school systems on both sides of the ball last year.

    Since it's hard to identify the Titans' needs, let's give new coach Mike Vrabel something he wants: a stout run defender with upside who should thrive in a hybrid defense. No defensive-minded coach has ever turned one of those down.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Approximately 99.99997 percent of all mock drafts have the Falcons opting for a 3-tech tackle. And while we love being edgy and going against the grain, it's hard to argue with the fact that defensive tackle is the team's second-most critical need (they still employ Captain Predictable at offensive coordinator), the rest of the Falcons roster is solid and 3-tech talent is relatively plentiful this season.

    Hurst and Florida's Taven Bryan are the best fits for the Falcons. Both are lightning-quick penetrators with upside who will look great next to Grady Jackson. Hurst is more explosive and has a tenacious streak that Falcons head coach Dan Quinn will love. Bryan is more versatile and will be a worthy consolation prize if Hurst comes off the board earlier.

    The Falcons could also blow our minds here. Imagine SMU's Courtland Sutton on the same field as Julio Jones. Amazing, isn't it? Now imagine Steve Sarkisian calling the same play at the goal line every single week, despite having Sutton and Jones on the field. Sorry to ruin the fantasy for you.

27. New Orleans Saints: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Just as most mock drafters agree the Falcons will draft a 3-tech tackle, most believe the Saints will draft a tight end. It may not be accuratethe Saints are thin at a lot of positions and added Benjamin Watson to firm up the positionbut we haven't picked a tight end yet, so let's just go with it. 

    Hayden Hurst (South Carolina) and Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State) rank above Gesicki on many draft boards. The former is a 24-year-old H-back who will slip into the middle rounds. Goedert has tremendous upside, but he's a project player, and the Saints are a piece or two away from the Super Bowl.

    Gesicki has the receiving chops of a slot receiver, the leaping ability to do Jimmy Graham stuff at the goal line and just enough blocking ability to avoid inspiring Jimmy Graham comparisons on running plays. Assuming the Saints go in this directionand remember, we all agreed to assume thisGesicki is the best choice.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    It's the Steelers, folks. They always draft either an edge-rusher or a linebacker in the first round.

    All of the best edge-rushers are gone. Evans can replace injured inside linebacker Ryan Shazier, and he's a good fit as a thumper in the tradition of defenders like James Farrior.

    There's no reason to waste too much more speculation on the Steelers, who have essentially maintained the same draft strategy since the days when we threw away vinyl records to purchase CDs, as opposed to vice versa.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Wide receiver and cornerback are popular picks for the Jaguars among rival mock drafters. But the Jaguars want to be identified by their power running game.

    They added Andrew Norwell to shore up one guard position. Wynn can push to replace A.J. Cann at the other guard position, giving the Jaguars one of the best interior lines in the league.

    Look at it this way: If the Jaguars draft a receiver like Courtland Sutton, there's still the problem of Blake Bortles getting the ball to his receivers. (That late-season hot streak didn't make him Aaron Rodgers, folks.) If the Jaguars draft a slot corner to further solidify their defense, they run the risk of losing games 13-10 if their offense hits a dry spell.

    But if the Jaguars draft Wynn, they can just run Leonard Fournette between the tackles 55 times per game. Bortles can throw two play-action bombs per game over the devastated defense, Jalen Ramsey and Co. can clamp down on opponents without additional manpower and executive vice president Tom Coughlin can nod approvingly at a team that reminds him of the good ol' days.

30. New England Patriots (via MIN): Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

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    Daryl Wilson/Associated Press

    Dear Vikings fans,

    What happened was: The Vikings sat tight, thinking they could get an offensive line upgrade with this pick. But Hernandez, Miller and Ward all flew off the board over the last 10 selections, so the Vikings decided to trade down.

    Then Bill Belichick called and was like, "Hey, Rob Gronkowski is being all weird, and we want to draft his eventual replacement, who will also cause matchup nightmares in two-tight-end sets while Gronk is still on board. We'll give you both of our second-round picks." And Vikings GM Rick Spielman was all, "Fine, whatevs," and he made a deal with the devil.

    So, the Patriots have found a whole new way to torture the AFC East. But the Vikings get to grab Nevada's Austin Corbett and TCU's Joseph Noteboom on Day 2 since they don't have any other glaring needs, and signing Kirk Cousins for roughly a zillion dollars but failing to protect him would be incredibly dumb.

31. Cleveland Browns (via NE): Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    In summary, we have mocked four first-rounders to the Browns with the help of some reasonable trade speculation: a quarterback of the future, a dependable left tackle, a prospect on the rise at linebacker and now Jackson, one of the best cornerbacks in the class. And the Browns still have a bunch of extra picks on Day 2.

    This was all made possible not just because of Sashi Brown's two years of intervention-level hoarding, but because John Dorsey actually spent some money and draft capital to grab players like Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde, T.J. Carrie and Damarious Randall. The Browns don't need to draft for need, and the prospects they do select will be inserted into a functional roster, not thrown down a well of hope and speculation.

    It's all looking pretty good now. And it will look better when the Browns start adding depth on Day 2.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: James Daniels, C, Iowa

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Jason Kelce's absurd Mummer rant on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art during the Super Bowl parade may have been the most inspiring moment in the history of Philly sports. It was certainly one of the most Philly moments in the history of Philly sports.

    But...did Kelce look like a guy eager to play five more years in the NFL during the parade and speech? Or did he look more like someone ready to host an Eagles postgame show from some saloon on Passyunk Avenue?

    Thought so.

    Daniels will be ready to start quickly. He's a smooth pass protector who will help keep Carson Wentz upright for the next decade so Kelce doesn't have to.