2018 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Rising Impact Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 7, 2018

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen warms up at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

The closer it gets to the 2018 NFL draft, the harder it is to change a prospect's stock.

With most impact free agents off the board and pro days wrapping up, both the draft boards and prospect rankings should be as solid as ever. But there's still been some movement of late, leaving a select few players in a much more favorable light than they were earlier in the process.

After running through a one-round mock, we'll examine three of this class' players on the rise.

                        

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Round 1

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

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

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

6. Indianapolis Colts (via New York Jets): Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

8. Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

9. San Francisco 49ers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

11. Miami Dolphins: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

12. Buffalo Bills: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

13. Washington Redskins: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

14. Green Bay Packers: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

15. Arizona Cardinals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James, S, Florida State

18. Seattle Seahawks: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

19. Dallas Cowboys: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

20. Detroit Lions: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo Bills): Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

23. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams): Kolton Miller, T, UCLA

24. Carolina Panthers: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

25. Tennessee Titans: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

26. Atlanta Falcons: James Daniels, C/G, Iowa

27. New Orleans Saints: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson LB, Texas

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

31. New England Patriots: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

                        

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 2:  Quarterback Josh Allen #17 of the Wyoming Cowboys warms up before the match-up against the Iowa Hawkeyes, on September 2, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.  (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

There was always going to be a spot near the top of the draft board for Josh Allen. In fact, when Bleacher Report's Matt Miller laid out his early mock for 2018 last May, he had Allen going second overall.

But Wyoming's signal-caller had an uneven 2017 season. He only passed for 1,812 yards and 16 touchdowns in 11 games, hitting just 56.3 percent of his passes.

When Miller put together his post-combine mock in early March, Allen was down to fifth.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and Allen's combination of elite size, arm strength and mobility have seemingly locked him into a top-three selection.

Miller has Allen third in his March 26 iteration. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have Allen even higher, pegging him first and second, respectively.

There might be more polished quarterback prospects in this class, but Allen could lead the pack in upside. And he might have helped himself as much as anyone at the combine.

"[Scouts] wanted to see improved lower body mechanics and better ball placement. That's exactly what Allen gave them," Steven Ruiz wrote for USA Today.

                 

Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 01:  Jaire Alexander #10 of the Louisville Cardinals reacts after intercepting the ball during the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverso
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Back in February, Kiper put out his second projections of the mock draft season. Jaire Alexander was nowhere to be found on the first-round board.

But an April update suddenly had Alexander 15th overall for both Kiper and McShay. Alexander saw a similar spike from Miller, going from 40th in early March to 24th by the end of the month.

Alexander is undersized for certain schemes at 5'10" and 196 pounds. He was also limited to only six games as a junior in 2017 while battling hand and leg injuries.

None of that helped his stock. But some eye-opening numbers at the combine sure did.

"He ran 4.38 [40-yard dash], one of the fastest times among the cornerback group," CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso noted. "He also had a 35-inch vertical. Solid. His agility-drill times were bonkers. In the short shuttle…3.98. In the three-cone...6.71. Those are first-round cornerback—maybe even top 10—numbers, and he has the film to match."

Alexander is more physical than his size suggests, and he's both light and smooth on his feet. His speed, instincts and athleticism all justify his recent climb.

                             

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Derrius Guice #5 of the LSU Tigers celebrates after a touchdown run against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. Notre Dame won 21-17. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Although a fringe first-rounder here, Derrius Guice could be plagued by a lack of running back-needy teams selecting in the second half. But Miller has Leonard Fournette's former backfield mate trending up, pushing Guice from 34th to 22nd over the last month.

The 224-pound bruiser helped himself with a 4.49-second time in the 40-yard dash, then he warned all evaluators he won't forget those who look past him.

"If you don't draft me, I'm going to give your defense hell," Guice said, per MLive.com's Kyle Meinke.

Guice didn't have an eye-popping 2017 season—he was only healthy for a part of it—as his rushing yards (1,251), average (5.3) and touchdowns (11) all fell from the previous year. But he still produced career marks of 6.5 yards per carry and 32 touchdowns from scrimmage over three years with the Tigers.

Trapasso sees Guice as a Marshawn Lynch clone, which speaks to the violent nature of Guice's rushing style. But there's more athleticism than that label suggests—he returned kicks for two years at LSU—plus the recognition to spot where creases will open and the quickness to hurry through them.

                  

Statistics used courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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