2018 NFL Mock Draft: Breaking Down Best Possible Fits for Every 1st-Round Team

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 26, 2018

Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold (14) passes against Stanford during the second half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The 2018 NFL draft is finally happening.

Well, the first round of it, anyway. Come 8 p.m. ET on Thursday evening, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will stroll across the stage inside the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium, surely be greeted by a chorus of boos, and officially put the Cleveland Browns on the clock.

As soon as Goodell announces the first selection, mock-draft speculation will morph into post-pick analysis.

But we're not quite at that point yet, so let's do one more practice run of pairing teams with ideal-fitting prospects, then spotlight three high-profile potential picks.


2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

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

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

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

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

6. Indianapolis Colts (from Jets): Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State

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

9. San Francisco 49ers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

11. Miami Dolphins: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

12. Buffalo Bills (from Bengals): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

13. Washington Redskins: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

14. Green Bay Packers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

15. Arizona Cardinals: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

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

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

18. Seattle Seahawks: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP

19. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

20. Detroit Lions: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Bills): Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

22. Buffalo Bills (from Chiefs): Kolton Miller, T, UCLA

23. New England Patriots (from Rams): Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

24. Carolina Panthers: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

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

26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

27. New Orleans Saints: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Reid, S, Stanford

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

31. New England Patriots: James Daniels, C/G, Iowa

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia


Fits for Top Three Picks

Sam Darnold to the Cleveland Browns

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 29: Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans throws against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half of the 82nd Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic between USC and Ohio State at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo b
Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Browns don't need a day-one starter at quarterback with the serviceable Tyrod Taylor atop the depth chart. That buys them enough time to wait on the 20-year-old Sam Darnold's development, which he needs after coughing up 22 interceptions and 14 lost fumbles over the past two seasons.

Long term, though, Darnold offers the best combination of potential and safety. He totaled passing 57 touchdowns and completed 64.9 percent of his attempts during his two seasons as the Trojans signal-caller.

"Darnold has the size that teams covet, the arm strength to attack every level of the field, the escapability to get outside the pocket and keep plays alive and, most importantly, the ability to throw with anticipation and accuracy, even in the face of pressure," Danny Kelly wrote for The Ringer.

There aren't questions about Darnold's height like there are with Baker Mayfield. There aren't anemic accuracy rates like there are with Josh Allen.

While the Browns could conceivably talk themselves into taking any one of the three, Darnold looks like the best option to snap this franchise out of its long quarterback funk.


Saquon Barkley to the New York Giants

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Passing on a quarterback shouldn't be easy when Eli Manning is 37 years old and coming off a forgettable 19-touchdown, 13-interception season.

But Saquon Barkley's elite skills make this a no-brainer.

"I'm talking 6'0", 233 pounds, he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. He's special," NFL Network's Mike Mayock wrote. "He makes it easier for Eli Manning, and he buys some time to develop that offensive line. I think he's the best player in the draft."

Barkley was a bell cow at Penn State, where he averaged at least 5.5 yards per carry each of his three seasons. He rushed for 43 touchdowns, added eight more scoring grabs and even found the end zone on a couple of kickoff returns.

Some people might think No. 2 is too early to take a running back in today's NFL. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman doesn't sound like one of them.

"I think that the devaluing of the running back is really a myth," Gettleman said, per Giants.com. "If you have a great running back, he immediately makes your quarterback better, your offensive line better and your passing game [better]."

Last season, the Giants rushing attack ranked 26th in yards per game (96.8) and tied for 28th in touchdowns (six). Drafting Barkley allows New York to both fill a need and grab the best prospect in this class.


Baker Mayfield to the New York Jets

Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The Jets traded up to take a quarterback. The question is which one, and you can follow the tea leaves to Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen or Josh Rosen.

But the quarterback pool will narrow before the Jets make their pick, and their net might not be as wide as some believe.

"There are people inside the Jets organization who love Mayfield, and there are others who love Rosen," Brian Costello of the New York Post wrote. "If Darnold is off the board, the Jets are believed to be choosing between those two."

Other than size—which lessens in importance as the NFL game grows more comfortable with less conventional approaches—where's the advantage Rosen has on Mayfield?

Mayfield outperformed Rosen in passing yards (4,627 to 3,756), completion percentage (70.5 to 62.6), touchdowns (43 to 26) and interceptions (six to 10). Mayfield's Sooners doubled up the Bruins in wins (12 to six), and Mayfield captured the 2017 Heisman Trophy.

Mayfield should be the Jets' pick and their quarterback for a long time.


Statistics used courtesy of Sports-Reference.com and NFL.com.