NFL Mock Draft 2018: 1st-Round Projections and Storylines for Top Prospects

David McCracken@crackemcFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2018

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, tosses a football during Penn State Pro Day in State College, Pa., Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Barkley did not participate in the drills. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

With the 2018 NFL draft on April 26, the rumor mill is heating up as speculations regarding the top prospects of this year's draft class can become too much for football fans to handle.

The draft is an exciting time for fans and franchises, but it's also nerve-wracking. After all, each first-round pick has an expectation to start right away and be the savior of their franchise. But as we've seen so often, that doesn't always pan out.

When it comes to drafting players, there's no exact science to it—a lot of luck is involved. And the same can be said about making mock drafts.

Many teams throw out smoke screens to hide what their real draft plans are, so we do our best to wade through all the rumors to get down to brass tax. 

Here are some storylines to watch for this month's upcoming draft:


2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

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

3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

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

5. Denver Broncos: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

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

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama

8. Chicago Bears: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

11. Miami Dolphins: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma 

12. Buffalo Bills (via Cincinnati Bengals): Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

13. Washington Redskins: Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State

14. Green Bay Packers: Vita Vea, DT, Washington 

15. Arizona Cardinals: Derwin James, S, Florida State

16. Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

18. Seattle Seahawks: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

20. Detroit Lions: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College

21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo Bills): Will Hernandez, G, UTEP

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

23. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams): Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

24. Carolina Panthers: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida 

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

26. Atlanta Falcons: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma

27. New Orleans Saints: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

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

30. Minnesota Vikings: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

31. New England Patriots: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville


Storylines to Watch

Will the Patriots draft a successor to Tom Brady?

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 30: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals directs the offense against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field on December 30, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Bulldogs won 31-27. (Pho
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Tom Brady is not an ageless wonder, no matter how hard he tries to keep his body in football shape all year long. The fact of the matter is that Brady, who turns 41 in August, is in the twilight of his career, and after trading away Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, there isn't an heir under center for the Patriots.

But this year's draft could change things as there are some young signal-callers who could step up and take over for arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.

One name to watch could be Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph, who might fall out of the first round completely.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

#OKState QB Mason Rudolph will have a top 30 visit with the #Bills this weekend, source said. Buffalo picks 12 and 22. He’s also met with or had workouts for the #Chargers, #Saints, #Giants, #Steelers, #Patriots, and #Bengals. It’s been quiet but very active.

Rudolph is projected here to be selected at No. 22 by the Buffalo Bills, but that's just out of necessity for the Bills since they don't have a starting quarterback. Buffalo could wait until the later rounds to pick up a quarterback, allowing the Patriots to take Rudolph at No. 31.

Another projected first-round quarterback is Lamar Jackson, whose draft stock could either be very high or very low. 

The Baltimore Ravens would be wise to take Jackson at No. 16, but the Patriots have shown a lot of interest in the former Heisman Trophy winner as of late. They might trade up to draft Jackson or pray that he falls in their lap later in the draft.

Lamar Jackson @Lj_era8

The🐐 Spoke 😈 https://t.co/Woo9c2IMH2

Both are possibilities, and we all know the Patriots aren't afraid to make some trades on draft day. 


Saquon Barkley-to-Giants a Done Deal?

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 02: Penn State running back Saquon Barkley runs the 40-yard dash during the 2018 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 2, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Putting a lot of stock into what you see on social media can backfire, but seeing pictures of the Penn State running back wearing New York Giants merchandise in a barber shop seems to be a dead giveaway.

Dov Kleiman @NFL_DovKleiman

Top prospect RB Saquon Barkley was photographed with #Giants gear on exactly 2 weeks before the #NFL Draft. The Giants are picking at number 2 overall and Barkley is a top 5 talent. https://t.co/uYVqgDyRHO

If this was a smoke screen by the Giants, well played. Instead of drafting Josh Rosen out of UCLA, it appears as though the Giants are looking to grab their running back of the future at No. 2, and it'd be difficult to argue against that selection.

Barkley is a special talent out of the backfield with his ability to run, cut and catch the ball. He's a weapon that the Giants need to make a leap into contention after a dismal 2017 campaign and would be a building block for the future.

While it's still possible that Barkley might not even be on the draft board with the Browns picking No. 1, the Giants have a good chance that the draft's best running back is available at No. 2.