2018 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Stock Watch for Hyped Prospects

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2018

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 14:  D.J. Moore #1 of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Northwestern Wildcats on October 14, 2017 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images)
G Fiume/Getty Images

We're headed down the final stretch toward the 2018 draft. Thursday will change lives for incoming rookie prospects and potentially brighten outlooks for all 32 teams.

As front office executives shift the final pieces on their draft boards, the reports, hype and smokescreens keep coming through the rumor mill. Some prospects come off favorably and others must overcome obstacles to push into first-round consideration. 

For one linebacker, it's been one continuous pat on the back as a prospect with good measurables and high potential. What's his ceiling going into the draft period?

At the same position, another prospect could slip into Day 2 due to conditioning concerns. Will his talent overcome late questions about a neck issue?

The wide receiver group could produce a dark horse as the top pick among the pass-catchers. Without an undeniable favorite, we could see a late-rising player sneak into the top 32. 

What's the latest on stock reports for hyped prospects? Before digging into the chatter, take a look at an updated first-round mock.

              

2018 NFL Mock Draft 1st-Round Projections

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC 

2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

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

5. Denver Broncos: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

*6. Buffalo Bills (from New York Jets via Indianapolis): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

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

8. Chicago Bears: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia 

9. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

10. Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

11. Miami Dolphins: Derwin James, S, Florida State 

*12. Indianapolis Colts (from Cincinnati Bengals via Buffalo): Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

13. Washington Redskins: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

14. Green Bay Packers: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

18. Seattle Seahawks: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

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

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

21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo Bills): James Daniels, C, Iowa

22. Buffalo Bills: Connor Williams, OL, Texas

23. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams): Harold Landry, DE/LB, Boston College

24. Carolina Panthers: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA

25. Tennessee Titans: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia

26. Atlanta Falcons: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

27. New Orleans Saints: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Reid, S, Stanford

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

30. Minnesota Vikings: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

31. New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

*Indicates a trade projection                 

                 

Stock Up: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, VA - SEPTEMBER 17: Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds #49 of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts following a defensive stop against the Boston College Eagles in the second half at Lane Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Blacksburg, Virginia. Virginia Tech
Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

Taking a look at the mock drafts floating around the internet, in some cases the Tremaine Edmunds hype train has put the Virginia Tech linebacker ahead of Georgia's Roquan Smith as the top prospect at the position.

The 19-year-old has garnered serious consideration as a top-10 pick in discussion circles. The excitement about what Edmunds could become in the league makes him an intriguing player to watch during the selection process. 

The Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders all have needs to varying degrees at linebacker. Though, Smith out of Georgia, should and will likely come off the board before Edmunds. 

The team that chooses the Virginia Tech product will acquire a linebacker who can fill multiple spots on the back end of the front seven. He finished his junior season with 108 tackles, 16 resulting in a loss and 5.5 sacks.

         

Stock Down: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 04: Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (LB38) is seen during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March , 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

In recent days, reports have emerged about Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch's neck condition. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic relayed the word from NFL Network's Mike Mayock:

ESPN's Chris Mortensen added context to the medical concerns for Vander Esch:

Early in the draft process, the Boise State product could've easily been slotted to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 28 or the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 29. Now, it's even more inconclusive as front offices weigh his potential neck issue. 

Vander Esch's fall gives rise to Alabama's Rashaan Evans who could list as the third-best inside linebacker behind Smith and Edmunds on team draft boards. 

Conditioning issues aside, Vander Esch's junior film shows a defender who's been gifted with instincts as a linebacker and the ability to pull back into coverage on passing downs. He racked up 141 tackles, four sacks, five passes defensed and picked off two throws in his only year as a starter at Boise State.

         

Stock Up: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 7:  D.J. Moore #1 of the Maryland Terrapins attempts to catch a pass against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on October 7, 2017 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

As a late riser in the draft process, wideout D.J. Moore could find his way into the first round. According to MMQB's Albert Breer, multiple teams rank the Maryland product higher than Alabama's Calvin Ridley.

The wide receiver group doesn't have a consensus No. 1 prospect, which creates more room for subjectivity among teams evaluating the incoming crop. Ridley will come into the league as the most recognizable name, but he's not a lock to go first among the pass-catchers. 

Moore checked in at 6'0", 210 pounds compared to Ridley's 6'0", 189 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. The rookies will have access to state-of-the-art facilities on the professional level, but the size difference certainly makes a difference for those who may criticize the Alabama product for his stature.

In his junior campaign at Maryland, Moore caught 80 passes for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns as the clear-cut No. 1 option in the passing attack. He also finished with 100-plus yards against tough competition, which included Texas, Northwestern and Penn State. 

Moore has drawn comparisons to Minnesota Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs, who also spent three years at Maryland.

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