2018 NFL Mock Draft: Who Is Falling Down Boards in Latest 1st-Round Update?
We're about a fortnight out now.
With the 2018 NFL draft finally on the horizon, mock drafts are less of a lark and we might actually have a chance to get a pick or two right.
Of course, we're still battling smoke screens and blind spots, and with plenty of mystery near the top of the draft, we still may look partly foolish two weeks from Thursday. But it does seem as though we might have a feel for who might rise and who might slide in Round 1 come April 26 in Arlington, Texas.
Let's mock the draft (complete with a big trade projection near the top) with 16 days to spare, focusing on those who—for a wide variety of reasons not always related to falling stock—might drop further than expected.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, Quarterback
The quarterback-starved Cleveland Browns have been speculatively linked to most of the top quarterback prospects, but USC product Sam Darnold has certainly been connected to Cleveland more than anyone else.
That doesn't mean Darnold will land with the Browns, but it's also not a coincidence. You know that whole thing about smoke and fire.
Darnold isn't a Day 1 NFL starter, but he can make every throw, has size and mobility, has a habit of coming up big in key moments and has a squeaky-clean reputation on and off the field. His turnover rate was high last year, but he's still only 20 and the Browns can afford to wait for him to work on that part of his game. He's accurate and poised enough to fix it.
The Browns could surprise us here, but Darnold makes the most sense for a team that knows Tyrod Taylor isn't the long-term answer and should appreciate having its pick of the litter.
2. Buffalo Bills (via Trade): Josh Rosen, Quarterback
The Buffalo Bills appear as though they're set on moving up to draft a quarterback to replace the departed Tyrod Taylor.
Buffalo already traded away left tackle Cordy Glenn in order to jump up nine spots, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported last week that Bills general manager Brandon Beane could be willing to make more deals in order to keep climbing.
Beane and New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman have history together, so I can see the two coming to an agreement that lands Buffalo in the No. 2 spot and gives the Giants both of the Bills' first-round picks (Nos. 12 and 22).
And if that happens, watch for Beane to pick polished former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who has fewer red flags than Baker Mayfield (small, messy footwork) or Josh Allen (mediocre numbers at Wyoming).
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, Quarterback
There's no way the New York Jets traded away three second-round picks to move up three spots in order to take somebody who doesn't throw footballs. Gang Green didn't invest in a long-term deal for a potential franchise quarterback in free agency and appears to be set to take one of the top four quarterback prospects in that No. 3 spot.
Left with a choice between Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen, the Jets would have to decide between a highly accomplished, deadly accurate four-year starter in the Big 12 and an NFL Scouting Combine superstar with an underwhelming resume coming out of the Mountain West Conference.
The Jets are unpredictable, but this should be a no-brainer. Mayfield is the far less risky choice.
4. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, Running Back
In addition to needing a quarterback, the Browns simply need good players. And running back Saquon Barkley might be the best player in this draft class. With Darnold already in the stable, if Barkley isn't selected second or third and the Browns don't trade down, it'd be shocking if they took anyone but the Penn State product.
Barkley is big, fast, explosive, instinctive, smart, physical and highly accomplished. He's ready to make an impact immediately like Ezekiel Elliott or Leonard Fournette.
The Browns do love collecting draft picks, but new general manager John Dorsey's approach to free agency indicates the team is looking to become competitive right away. If that's the strategy and Barkley is available, they won't likely trade down for more picks this time.
5. Denver Broncos: Quenton Nelson, Guard
The Denver Broncos invested heavily in quarterback Case Keenum last month, so using a top-five pick on one would be silly. They could trade this selection to a team that needs a quarterback, especially if any of the top four signal-callers are still available, but here's the issue: the next five picks belong to teams that don't need a quarterback.
So if the pick isn't in high demand and the Broncos stand pat, they'd be smart to draft somebody who could help Keenum right away. Nobody in this draft is a quarterback's best friend as much as Notre Dame product Quenton Nelson, who might be the best interior offensive line prospect we've seen in years.
It's not a flashy pick, but have you seen what this dude does to defensive players (No. 56)? He's a tremendous pass- and run-blocker and has the ability to step in right away and turn the tide for an entire offensive line.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, Defensive End
This is an easy decision for the Indianapolis Colts, who desperately need somebody to lead their new-look defense. North Carolina State product Bradley Chubb is the best defensive player in this draft, and the Colts definitely need pass-rushing help after registering an AFC-low 25 sacks in 2017.
The polished defensive end had 20 sacks and 44 tackles for loss the last two years in the ACC, which should enable him to start from the get-go in the Colts' new 4-3 defense.
If the Colts don't trade down and Nelson and Barkley aren't on the board, Chubb is the obvious choice.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, Safety
It's a toss-up whether Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick is the top defensive back prospect, but James is bigger, just as fast, more physical and maybe even more versatile. The former Florida State safety could wind up going off the board first, especially considering the Tamp Bay Buccaneers have visited with him.
Tampa Bay drafted Justin Evans in Round 2 last year and re-signed Chris Conte and Keith Tandy in the offseason, but James is good enough to start ahead of any of those guys after registering 5.5 sacks and three interceptions during his time at FSU.
It wouldn't be a surprise if they picked Fitzpatrick or even traded down with a team looking for a quarterback, but if they stay put, the Bucs just might go with the fast and physical James.
8. Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edmunds, Linebacker
A priority for the rebuilding Chicago Bears is continuing to fill out their front seven, and former Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds would be a superb fit in Vic Fangio's defense.
He's big, fast, athletic and versatile, and he has the ability to step in opposite third-year outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and make an impact immediately after recording 202 tackles in his last two seasons in the ACC.
Edmunds' stock has been rising throughout the draft process, though, so the Bears might find themselves hoping he falls to them. If he does and Barkley and Nelson are gone, Chicago would be smart to take Edmunds over Roquan Smith (injury and size concerns) or Marcus Davenport (much more raw).
9. San Francisco 49ers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive Back
The San Francisco 49ers could be looking for someone to support new franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but No. 9 is too early to take a pass-catcher or an offensive lineman not named Nelson. They could trade down, but a team loaded with talent up front on defense could also use a young ace in the defensive backfield, so it's not too early to take sliding cornerback/safety prospect Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick is probably one of the five most talented players in this draft class but is a victim of circumstances until this point because there isn't a great fit in the top eight. He could slide a lot more than this if San Francisco trades down with a quarterback-needy team or decides it wants the much faster Denzel Ward.
But it would be hard to pass on a defensive back who earned both the Bednarik and Thorpe Awards in 2017 and recorded eight interceptions and four defensive touchdowns in the two preceding years.
Fitzpatrick could start right away as a nickel corner and has a ceiling that could allow him to eventually outshine starters Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon or chip in at safety.
10. Oakland Raiders: Vita Vea, Defensive Tackle
The Oakland Raiders have been seeking help in the defensive interior for decades—maybe even centuries. Without more talent inside, they haven't been able to get the most out of elite edge-rusher Khalil Mack, whose sack total has declined in back-to-back seasons. It'd be hard for Oakland to pass on run-stuffing former Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea in the No. 10 spot.
The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and Morris Trophy winner spent much of the last three years dominating double-teams in that conference, and his presence would create matchup nightmares for opposing offenses trying to deal with Mack and Bruce Irvin outside.
Vea is a safe, sensible pick because you know he's going to at least become a strong space-eater up front, but he also has a high ceiling as a potential three-down defensive tackle with pass-rushing chops if he can be freed up by those on the edge.
It's tough to tell where the Raiders will go with Jon Gruden's first pick, but Vea makes the most sense.
11. Miami Dolphins: Josh Allen, Quarterback
Four quarterbacks have never been selected in the top 10, and following a free-agent-quarterback feast it's hard to see that happening this year. Darnold, Rosen, Mayfield and Allen are all potential No. 1 overall picks, but one is likely to drop in a draft that also includes potential superstars like Barkley, Nelson and Chubb.
My money's on Allen, who completed just 56 percent of his passes during his two years as a starter in a second-rate conference.
As I noted last month in a deeper dive on Allen's potential draft slide, SB Nation's Morgan Moriarty compared Allen's stats from his final season at Wyoming to those posted by quarterbacks drafted in the first round in the last 10 years and found that only Jake Locker had a lower completion percentage; only Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Ryan had lower passer ratings.
Allen is too much of a wild card to be drafted much earlier, but his measurables and potential will make it hard for the Miami Dolphins to pass. They don't seem satisfied with Ryan Tannehill as the long-term answer and could be willing to take the time to groom the somewhat raw Wyoming product.
12. New York Giants (via Trade): Marcus Davenport, EDGE
The New York Giants posted the third-lowest sack total (27) in the NFL last season and then traded defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay in March, so they'll undoubtedly be looking for pass-rushing help in the draft. It's entirely possible they go with Chubb with their No. 2 overall selection, but if they swap picks with the Bills, there's a good chance the draft's second-best pass-rusher will still be available at the No. 12 spot.
Former UTSA stand-up rusher Marcus Davenport recorded 8.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss his senior season and has the size (6'5", 264 lbs) and speed to become a top-notch contributor on the edge.
Davenport is a little raw, but the Giants could work him in as a rotational player right away because he's also a decent run defender.
13. Washington Redskins: Denzel Ward, Cornerback
With Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland both gone, the Washington Redskins will likely be in on either Denzel Ward or Minkah Fitzpatrick if either drops to No. 13.
There's a better chance the speedy Ward slides, just because he could be too small to match up with some of the game's biggest receivers. Still, the Ohio State product allowed just 35 completions on 100 targets during his three seasons with the Buckeyes (two as a starter), according to Pro Football Focus, and he recorded 15 passes defensed in 2017 alone.
He's only 5'10", 191 pounds and lacks physicality, but he makes up for a lot of that with his resume, his athleticism and his coverage skills.
Ward has the ability to replace Fuller in the slot immediately, but his ceiling is a lot higher.
14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, Cornerback
Opposing quarterbacks posted a 102.0 passer rating against the Green Bay Packers in 2017. Only the Cleveland Browns (102.2) fared worse, as the Packers intercepted just 11 passes while giving up a completion percentage of 67.8, third-highest in the NFL.
That's why former Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson makes a lot of sense for Green Bay at No. 14.
Jackson intercepted eight passes in 13 games in his first and only season as a starter with the Hawkeyes, returning a pair of those picks for touchdowns. He earned the highest Pro Football Focus CB grade in the country thanks to 17 pass breakups, 15 defensive stops and a 31.4 opponent passer rating.
It wouldn't be shocking if the 49ers or Redskins drafted Jackson over Fitzpatrick or Ward, but potential concerns about Jackson's speed and/or his lack of experience could cause them to pass.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Mike McGlinchey, Offensive Tackle
The Arizona Cardinals might be forced to put all of their eggs in Sam Bradford's basket, at least for the 2018 season. And if that's the case, they'll want to do everything in their power to protect their expensive, talented but fragile starting quarterback.
So if they have a chance to add the best offensive tackle in this draft class in the No. 15 spot, they probably won't pass. Mike McGlinchey is a big, athletic, technically sound tackle with experience on the left and right side, and after three years as a starter at Notre Dame, he's probably ready to start at right tackle as a rookie in Arizona.
McGlinchey could have some trouble with speed-rushers early in his career, but he's a strong run-blocker who would probably be an immediate upgrade over Andre Smith.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver
In this scenario, the Baltimore Ravens will have their pick of wide receivers at No. 16 spot. And while the majority of pundits have Calvin Ridley ranked first among receivers, Sutton might actually be the better prospect.
That's not just because his SMU statistics dwarfed Ridley's at Alabama, because obviously the former encountered weaker opposing defenses. Sutton is also only slightly slower than Ridley despite having three more inches and 29 pounds on him. He has a far bigger catch radius and is more physical while less prone to drops.
Don't be surprised if the Ravens opt for the bigger, more reliable possession receiver over the speedster, even if Ridley's a remarkable route-runner coming out of the SEC.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Roquan Smith, Linebacker
Former Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith might be rangy, instinctive, versatile and durable with playmaking ability, but he's also extremely small (6'1", 236 lbs). That doesn't mean he can't become another Telvin Smith or Deion Jones, but it does mean teams could decide he isn't worth a top-end first-round pick.
It doesn't help that despite displaying that durability at Georgia, Smith was medically red-flagged by several teams at the combine, according to DraftAnalyst.com's Tony Pauline (via Hogs Haven).
A draft flush with strong defensive players could cause a small linebacker with limited pass-rushing ability to slide. Still, he won't likely fall past the Los Angeles Chargers, who would be thrilled to plug in the strong run defender behind Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Isaiah Wynn, Offensive Lineman
The Seattle Seahawks love versatile offensive linemen and are still in desperate need of help at both guard and tackle. Georgia product Isaiah Wynn has experience at both positions and possesses the kind of mean streak Seattle could use in front of the often ill-protected Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks could be tempted to select a receiver like Ridley or a running back like Derrius Guice here, but Germain Ifedi and Ethan Pocic could both be busts, and D.J. Fluker isn't a great option at guard.
It'd be hard to pass on an NFL-ready guard who excels as both a run- and pass-blocker, so Wynn makes too much sense if he falls to them.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Da'Ron Payne, Defensive Tackle
Ridley is also a prime candidate to go to the Dallas Cowboys in the No. 19 spot, but we'll keep that slide going because there's still a good chance Dez Bryant sticks around in Dallas while Allen Hurns is also on board.
Instead, the Cowboys could be unable to resist former Alabama interior defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne, who could team up inside with David Irving right away in order to perfectly complement rushers DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Taco Charlton.
Dallas already has several promising young pieces in the secondary and on the edge, and Payne might also be the best player available here.
20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, Running Back
The time has come for the Detroit Lions to draft a running back in the first round.
The Lions had the worst running game in the league in terms of both yards per game (76.3) and yards per attempt (3.4) last season, as it became apparent that 2015 second-round pick Ameer Abdullah isn't the answer in the backfield.
Detroit hasn't picked a running back in Round 1 since taking Jahvid Best 30th overall in 2010 and hasn't selected a back in the top 20 since drafting Barry Sanders third overall in 1989, but they've met with former LSU stud Derrius Guice, so they may take him in this spot.
Guice flashed his excellent vision while averaging 7.6 yards per carry when he was fully healthy in 2016, and he followed that up with a strong 2017 campaign despite playing through knee and ankle injuries. He could make life a hell of a lot easier on Matthew Stafford.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Will Hernandez, Guard
The Cincinnati Bengals running game averaged just 3.6 yards per rush while the offensive line ranked in the bottom 10 in terms of adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate at Football Outsiders in 2017. That offense simply has to gain balance, and former UTEP guard Will Hernandez could be the solution at No. 21.
The 348-pound run-blocker is also strong in pass protection and a bully regardless of his assignment, and after several strong predraft showings would have a chance to start in place of the mediocre Trey Hopkins right off the bat.
The Bengals would love to land Wynn, but they'd also be happy with Hernandez.
22. New York Giants (via Trade): Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver
Nothing against Calvin Ridley, but Courtland Sutton is simply a bigger, more reliable target. If the SMU product goes off the board first, it's possible Ridley could find himself sliding in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Remember, three wide receivers—Corey Davis (No. 5), Mike Williams (7) and John Ross (9)—were drafted in the top 10 last year, and all three disappointed as rookies. Teams could think twice before going that route this year, and Ridley is not a perfect prospect. He's only 6'0", skinny, prone to drops and mental lapses and didn't test well at the combine.
Still, he has lightning play speed and a chance to become a playmaker right away after three years starting at Alabama; landing him as a quasi steal with their second first-round pick could enable the Giants to move on from Odell Beckham Jr.
23. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, Offensive Tackle
The New England Patriots will probably trade this pick, especially because there's a chance they can get any of the draft's offensive tackles not named McGlinchey a little later in the first round. But if they remain at No. 23, look for them to replace the departed Nate Solder with a prospect who looks and feels a lot like him.
Tall, athletic UCLA product Kolton Miller did an exceptional job protecting Josh Rosen's blind side while earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2017, and he appears to be polished enough to block for Tom Brady as a rookie.
He's certainly got a higher ceiling than current left tackle options LaAdrian Waddle and Antonio Garcia.
24. Carolina Panthers: Harold Landry, Defensive End
Some might consider Harold Landry dropping to the No. 24 spot to be a slide, but most would also agree he's at best the third-ranked pass-rusher in a class that includes Bradley Chubb and Marcus Davenport. So projections are all over the board for Landry, but it wouldn't be surprising if he landed with the Carolina Panthers just inside the top 25.
The explosive defensive end out of Boston College would be a great fit in Carolina, especially because he still might need some time to perfect his game and the Panthers would be able to use him as a situational rusher behind 38-year-old Julius Peppers and 30-year-old Mario Addison. He can be groomed by them while working with studs Kawann Short, Dontari Poe and fellow Boston College alum Luke Kuechly.
With all of the top guards and corners off the board, Carolina opts for a defensive end.
25. Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans, Linebacker
The Tennessee Titans probably would have been all over Landry, but if he goes to Carolina or somewhere higher, the Titans could instead look to replace the departed Avery Williamson with Alabama product Rashaan Evans, who might be the most versatile linebacker prospect in this class.
The polished run defender has the speed and size to play in multiple spots at the next level and is a strong pass-rusher coming off a six-sack senior season. There are concerns about his durability, but the Titans have built themselves up pretty much everywhere else, and no receiving or pass-rusher options have as much talent as Evans.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, Defensive Tackle
The Atlanta Falcons don't have a lot of major needs, but with veterans Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn gone, they could use some help for Grady Jarrett and Takkarist McKinley up front. However, as a result of those guys' presence, they also don't need a savior to play a huge role in 2018.
Former Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan might fit that bill.
Bryan needs some time to work on his technique and develop his instincts, but he's an extremely athletic 6'4", 291-pounder with pass-rushing chops from the inside. And he'd also be in the right hands under the tutelage of Dan Quinn's coaching staff.
27. New Orleans Saints: Mason Rudolph, Quarterback
Future Hall of Fame New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is 39 years old. He also has the highest qualified completion percentage in the history of the NFL. If the Saints are going to draft somebody with the hope he'll become Brees' successor, they're likely going to target a quarterback who is accurate and makes good decisions.
With all due respect to highly touted second-tier (fringe first-tier?) quarterback prospect Lamar Jackson, he isn't that type of player.
Instead, New Orleans might be ready to roll the first-round dice on a more typical pocket passer in Mason Rudolph, who completed 65 percent of his passes and averaged 10.0 yards per attempt during a massive senior season at Oklahoma State.
Rudolph isn't athletic and might need some time coming from a spread offense in college, but his height (6'5") makes up for that to an extent, and the Saints won't likely need him for a year or two anyway.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Lamar Jackson, Quarterback
Few would be surprised if Lamar Jackson lasted this long, but the real drop comes among the quarterback class. The Patriots or Saints may not want to spend a first-round pick on a quarterback with abysmal footwork who completed only 57.0 percent of his passes in three years in the ACC. One of those two could take Mason Rudolph instead, leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers to take the sixth quarterback of Round 1.
Because Ben Roethlisberger is a little younger than Brady or Brees, the Steelers could have more time to groom Jackson in their offense, which might explain why they have shown plenty of interest and were well-represented at Louisville's pro day.
The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner certainly has one of the most enticing skill sets in this draft class, and he might be worth a late-first-round gamble for a Steelers team that would seem to be a good fit for the athletic Jackson.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: D.J. Moore, Wide Receiver
After parting ways with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns in March, the Jacksonville Jaguars would probably love to have the ability to choose between wide receiver prospects D.J. Moore and Christian Kirk here. And while they could go either way, Moore is bigger, faster and more athletic. That probably gives him a better chance to one day become a force outside, rather than just in the slot.
Watching Moore on tape, you also get the feeling the Maryland product can do more to help up-and-down Jags quarterback Blake Bortles than Kirk, who was less of a safety valve with a smaller catch radius at Texas A&M.
Moore also improved each year at Maryland and appears to have a higher ceiling, so watch for him to be Jacksonville's pick if he's still on the board here.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Billy Price, Guard
An argument could be made that the Minnesota Vikings should take a cornerback in the No. 30 spot, since Terence Newman is 39 and unsigned. But Minnesota should be fine at corner with youngsters Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander supporting star Xavier Rhodes.
Instead, Minnesota's focus should be on bolstering the interior offensive line following Joe Berger's retirement. And while in a perfect world they'd have a shot at Wynn or Hernandez, Ohio State product Billy Price isn't a bad consolation prize this late in Round 1.
The physical, aggressive and technically sound Price looks as though he's ready to contribute as an NFL starter at guard or center right away, which is scary considering he didn't jump from defense to offense until his redshirt freshman season at Ohio State.
He'd probably be better right away than veteran free-agent addition Tom Compton, and it'd be fun to see him line up next to college teammate Pat Elflein.
31. New England Patriots: Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker
Bill Belichick can't have enough weapons in the front seven, and you know he'd love to get his hands on the smart, instinctive, big, versatile and rangy Leighton Vander Esch at the bottom of Round 1.
The 6'4", 256-pound former Boise State linebacker is coming off a 141-tackle, four-sack 2017 season in which he forced four fumbles. He isn't a finished product and has just one year of college starting experience under his belt, but he'd complement or even work as an insurance policy for veteran Pro Bowler Dont'a Hightower.
If Vander Esch is available here, Belichick might not take long to turn in the draft card.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Hughes, Cornerback
The Philadelphia Eagles traded for third-year third-round cornerback Daryl Worley and have high hopes for 2017 second-round corner Sidney Jones, but a team that has holes elsewhere could use another body with playmaking ability in the secondary after the loss of exceptional veteran slot corner Patrick Robinson.
Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Rasul Douglas also have their issues. So the Eagles could draft former Central Florida corner Mike Hughes with the final pick in Round 1; he's tough and physical and could climb the ladder quickly in the slot or outside.
And at the very least, he could make a difference right away as a return man.