Draft season is in full swing and Saturday morningís blockbuster trade between the Colts and Jets completely alters the outlook for the first round in April. This is a first-round mock where I took the liberty of adding in another trade into the top five picks in what will be a quarterback-heavy start to the upcoming draft.
1. Cleveland Browns: QB: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The move to go get Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo doesnít change that the Browns need to spend their first pick on a quarterback for the future. What it does change is that they donít need to get a guy whoíll be ready to start Week 1. Darnold is more of a project than Josh Rosen in my mind, but thereís more out there linking him to the Browns than there is with Rosen at this stage. The USC product could have been the No.1 overall pick were he eligible a year ago. Darnold had some struggles this past year, which loosened his grip on being the top pick, but the film still shows a future franchise quarterback.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Jonathan Stewart signing does nothing for me (or the Giants, really), so why wouldnít the Giants take the best player in the draft if theyíre already planning to stick with Eli for 2018 and possibly longer? The term ďgenerational talentĒ gets thrown around a bit too much, but it fits for Barkley, who has the build of a Ricky Williams with the speed and shiftiness of a much smaller and faster back. Heíll be a difference maker from Day 1 that alters the offense and will give the Giants the best run game theyíve had since the 2008 season. Although, after seeing what the Colts got for Pick 3 on Saturday, Iím sure theyíll listen to what either Denver or Buffalo have to say...
3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (Via trade with IND: Nos. 6, 37, 49 in 2018, Second-round pick in 2019)
The trade market for picks is already heating up with Indianapolis trading back with the Jets on Saturday morning. The consensus feeling is that this will be for a quarterback, but which one? Baker Mayfield makes plenty of sense here, but I give the lean to Rosen. Obviously the Jetsí moves to re-sign Josh McCown and sign Teddy Bridgewater limit the need to throw Rosen to the wolves immediately. Still, neither of those guys represent long-term solutions for the Jets. Trading up so aggressively to the No.3 spot also suggests that Rosen wonít be on the ďmental repsĒ regimen like a certain quarterback they took a couple years ago...Whoever the Jets draft here will get their chance to see playing time as a rookie.
4. Projected trade Buffalo Bills: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (Picks traded: Nos 12 and 22 overall in 2018)
The Bills have been building to this. Pick flipping with Cincinnati earlier in March gave them the equity to make a move like this and get into the top five. Cleveland already got their quarterback of the future with the first pick and will be cool with turning No.4 into a pair of later first rounders. Mayfield is the choice here; heís the best quarterback available and heís a perfect fit in Buffalo.
5.Denver Bronco: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The quarterback musical chairs ends with Denver missing out on the top three quarterbacks, but Iím still convinced they still take a signal caller at five. Full Disclosure, I do not view Allen as either a top four quarterback in this class nor as a top-five pick; however, reading the tea leaves over the past few months makes it difficult to project a precipitous slide for him. Allen got rave reviews at the Senior Bowl. He got rave reviews at the NFL Combine and will immediately have one of the strongest arms in the NFL upon his arrival. The Case Keenum signing gives a guy like Allen time to develop, which he needs more than any of the other first-round prospects. Keenumís not the long-term answer, hence the two year deal.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Weíre entering Andrew Luckís seventh season and offensive line is still a massive issue for Indianapolis. Well, going after the best offensive linemen in this draft (and arguably in years) seems like a good start in fixing that. Jack Mewhortís contract expired this offseason and heís struggled to stay healthy as it is. Jeremy Vujnovic is a liability at guard as well, so turning a weakness into a strength on the left side of the line with just one pick would be a solid outcome after the trade down.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, DB, Florida State
The Bucs benefit from the quarterback craze and have the best defensive player in the draft fall into their laps at seven. James (6-1 ĺ, 215) is big and rangy for a defensive back and has the skill set to stick almost anywhere in the secondary. And for the ďheís a safety and youíre not allowed to take a safety this high cuz I said soĒ crowd, people also thought Jalen Ramsey was a safety two years ago. James has the tools to play anywhere in the defensive backfield at a high level and he should be the first defensive player off the board.
8. Chicago Bears: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Bears have reloaded on offense this offseason, so defense should be the focus in the draft and namely the secondary. Chicagoís boundary corner pairing of Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara is fine, but corners are clearly becoming premium assets and Ward would be a strong addition. For instance, Baltimore already had Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr locked in at its corners before going after Marlon Humphrey in the first round a year ago. Ward may lack ideal size but he makes up for it with elite athleticism and rare coverage skills.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, MLB, Georgia
It might be too early to cut bait on Reuben Foster entirely, but itís never too early to start thinking ahead. Middle linebacker isnít the premium position it once was, but Smith is a more talented prospect than Foster was coming out of Alabama with none of the medical or off-field red flags. The Butkus Award winner is still just 20 and truly broke out as a junior with 137 total tackles, showing unique instincts to go with blistering sideline-to-sideline speed thatíll be able to contribute immediately.
10.Oakland Raiders: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
The Raiders need a complement to Khalil Mack on the other side of the line and Chubb can certainly bring that. Hyper-athletic with good length, Chubb has the tools to be live in opponentsí backfield the way that Mack does. Chubb had 25.0 tackles for loss as a senior at North Carolina State, proving to be arguably the most disruptive force in the ACC. He needs to add some polish to his pass rush repertoire, but Chubb has the athleticism and motor to be an impact player at the next level.
11. Miami Dolphins: Maurice Hurst, DL, Michigan
Hurstís stock is in limbo right now after being detected with a heart condition at the NFL Combine. There is historical precedent for a player being detected for a heart condition at the combine only to be cleared after going to the medical recheck before the draft (Star Lotulelei). If Hurstís path mirrors Lotuleleiís and he gets the green light at the recheck, he might not have to wait until pick 11 to hear his name called. Hurst, though undersized for the position, is a disruptive force on the interior that can get to the passer at a great clip for someone at his position with 9.5 sacks over his final two seasons. For context, Hurst is Pro Football Focusí No.3 overall prospect and itís hard to find many flaws in his game. That said, with the medical concerns, I have Hurst sliding just outside the top-10 for right now.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo): Vita Vea, DL, Washington
Danny Shelton is gone and the Brownsí defensive interior is shaky at best. The Browns need to get someone to put alongside Myles Garrett, and who better than Vea, who is arguably the best defensive tackle prospect in the class. His presence will also allow the Browns athletic linebacking corps to fly around thanks to Vea eating space and occupying blockers. There will be a scheme adjustment for Vea coming to a 4-3 defense from a 3-4 scheme at Washington, but heís versatile enough to make the transition.
13. Washington Redskins: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa:
With Kendall Fuller traded and Bashaud Breeland gone, the Redskins desperately need some corner help. Fortunately, the way this draft has fallen has set them up with some quality options at pick 13, and Jackson is a steal at this spot. Jackson (6-1, 192) has ideal height for a boundary corner and heís a ballhawk that defensed an FBS-best 26 passes in 2017. He and Josh Norman would make for a fine cornerback pairing in D.C.
14. Green Bay Packers: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
Itís general manager Brian Gutekunstís first draft as the Packersí GM and itís already been an unusually noisy offseason with Green Bay making some splash moves that included the release of longtime star Jordy Nelson. If the start of free agency was so different from what was the norm under Ted Thompson, what can we expect in the draft? Harold Landry here makes a ton of sense. Heís arguably the best player on the board here, he fills a need as an athletic pass rusher for a defense that didnít generate consistent pressure in 2017.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Arizona is in the rough position of being in rebuild mode while also picking from a middle-of-the-pack position. However, that position will still allow the Cardinals to go get their quarterback of the future in Jackson, who is as talented as any quarterback in this class. Arizona wonít need to start him immediately following the signing of Sam Bradford (and Mike Glennon, I guess), but this is an organization desperately in need of a leader for its new chapter and Jackson should be the guy if heís available at 15.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
This would be Baltimoreís second Notre Dame tackle taken in the first round in the last three years. The first one worked out pretty well with Ronnie Stanley anchoring the left side of the line. Yes, Baltimore just re-upped with James Hurst, but he played almost all of his snaps at left guard, according to Pro Football Focus, so right tackle is still an issue that needs addressing with Austin Howard gone. McGlinchey played his last two seasons at Notre Dame at left tackle but started out as the bookend opposite Stanley. He lacks the top-end athleticism to stick at left tackle at this level, but McGlinchey is a hulking presence at 6-foot-8 and 309 pounds that can create a dominant combination on the right side of the line alongside Marshal Yanda. Receiver, particularly Calvin Ridley, has been a popular projection at this spot, but this receiver class is short on top-end talent and long on depth, so Baltimore will likely circle back and address that position on Day 2 instead of spending its first rounder on a wideout.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Trumaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The idea of Edmunds going in the top-10 makes me uneasy, but at 17 heís a tremendous value. Just 19 years old with a Create-A-Player Frame at 6-4 Ĺ ď and 253 pounds, Edmunds is a raw slab of potential. In watching his film, I felt that Edmunds didnít have the instinctiveness to reliably diagnose plays and get to his run fits as a middle linebacker, but a move to an OLB/EDGE spot could turn him into a Pro Bowler. A player of his age with those type of measurables to back up his strong production (14.0 TFL, 5.5 Sacks, 3 FF in 2017) warrants a first-round selection, and if things go right, an Anthony Barr career arc could be in play. He likely fits better in a 3-4 scheme, but Edmunds at 17 is too good for a team like the Chargers, who donít have a ton of needs, to pass up.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
So, uh, the Seahawks look a little different now, huh? The rebuild is on in full force in Seattle, so while the Seahawks arenít getting their next Richard Sherman here with their first pick, theyíre getting a solid piece to help solidify what has been one of the leakiest offensive lines in all of football in recent years. Wynn played left tackle at Georgia and truly blossomed in his senior season with five total pressures allowed according to PFF. Heís expected to move inside to guard by all accounts, but Wynn is still the type of player that carries the classic ďplug-and-playĒ label. Seattle has a lot of needs coming into April and starting out with a reliable offensive lineman is a smart maneuver.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Finally, the first receiver comes off the board. Dallasí roster construction is an interesting one; the Cowboys are set at quarterback, running back, and along the offensive line, but their receivers beyond Dez Bryant are, well, average at best. Terrance Williamsí four-year deal that kicked in in 2017 is already looking regrettable and Dez Bryant will turn 30 during the season. Ridley, at the very least, can challenge for the No. 2 role at receiver and take some of the pressure off Bryant. The Alabama product is the crispest route runner in the class and can provide an outside threat in the intermediate passing game. Even if Ridley has something of a capped ceiling a la Marqise Lee or even Laveranues Coles (h/t Mockdraftable for the comparison assist), thatís still a productive player that can produce in any offense.
20. Detroit Lions: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Just like the Seahawksí chronic offensive line needs, the Lions just canít seem to get it right at running back. Itís fair to argue that Derrius Guice and Nick Chubb should be going ahead of Michel, but Michel fits better in the Detroit offense. Detroit ran it just 37.04 percent of the time last year, which ranked 31st in the league. With that, a running back in the Lionsí system needs the ability to contribute as a runner and as a pass-catcher that can also help in pass protection; Michel fits the bill on all three fronts. He averaged 7.9 yards per carry on 156 carries as a senior to go with 16 rushing touchdowns and he had two seasons with at least 20 receptions out of the Georgia backfield during his collegiate career. The Theo Riddick/Ameer Abdullah combo isnít going to get the Lions over the hump.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams, OT/OG, Texas
The Bengals just traded for Cordy Glenn to solidify the left tackle spot, but this is a team that still needs help up front. Looking at Williamsí tape, Iím not sold that heís the surefire All-Pro left tackle that he was billed as coming into the year. He was dinged up in 2017 and didnít look like the player that dominated Big 12 competition in 2016. Iím projecting an early move to guard for Williams, who checked in with short arms (33Ē) for a tackle. He does need to add weight after checking in at 296 at the combine, but I get the sense that he showed up light to aid some of his athletic testing. In any case, Williams would be a solid first round addition to a roster that doesnít have a ton of holes elsewhere (other than the red-headed elephant in the room...but we wonít talk about that).
22. Cleveland Browns: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Is this a redundant pick that shows how the Brownsí new regime really feels about Jabrill Peppers? Yes. It might seem insane to have Fitzpatrick fall this far, too, but heís likely headed towards being a nickel corner, so the idea of him going at four isnít the lock itís perceived to be, either. Furthermore, Fitzpatrick doesnít have prototypical size for the defensive backfield and outside of his 40-yard dash (4.46), he didnít test as an elite athlete. This isnít me saying Fitzpatrick is a bad player or will be a bad pro, but projecting him as a lock in the top five or even top 10 seems lofty based on positional value and fit.
23. Los Angeles Rams: Arden Key, EDGE, LSU
The Rams could go a lot of different directions here seeing as they have an incredible young core on offense along with the best defensive player in the NFL up front. And they just went ahead and acquired two of the best corners in the game. Wide receiver was definitely a consideration here with Sammy Watkins signing with the Chiefs, and players like Marylandís D.J. Moore or SMUís Courtland Sutton would be interesting additions, but Iíll go with Key here. Full disclosure, Iím a bit of a recruiting nut, so Iíve been familiar with Key for a while and have long felt that he can be the next big thing at the next level. Things went awry for Key after his First-Team All-SEC sophomore season (injuries, off-field issues) which is why he wonít be a Top 5 pick, but Key landing in a Wade Phillips defense would be a serendipitous end to a trying year. Linebacker is one of the few weak spots on the Rams, and while theyíll need to do something else to address Alec Ogletreeís departure, the instant pass rush boost that Key can bring would be too much to pass on here.
24. Carolina Panthers: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
No, the Torrey Smith addition doesnít fix Carolinaís woes at receiver. Smith is a field-stretching complement opposite Devin Funchess, but Moore is the kind of complete receiver that helps round out the receiving corps. Moore (6-0, 210) turned in a dominant combine with a 4.42 40-yard dash to go with elite scores in the shuttle, vertical jump, and broad jump to show he has the athleticism to succeed at the next level. He also accounted for an absurd 53 percent of Marylandís receiving yards as a junior and led the Big Ten in receiving despite playing with a fourth-string quarterback. Moore isnít the burner that Smith is, nor is he the prototypical red zone threat (though he is good in that area), but he can do it all and would be a welcome addition to a Panther offense that needs more weapons. And yes, I am aware that Curtis Samuel existsÖ
25. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
The Titansí offense is set and the defense was retooled in free agency, but thereís still room for improvement as far as pass rush is concerned. Davenport might not be the cleanest fit into a 3-4 scheme, but new head coach Mike Vrabel is innovative and, with time, would be able to figure out the optimal way to use the 6-5 ĺ, 264-pounder. Davenport is long and fast with decent lower body strength, but heís still a project coming from a small school. Fortunately, the Titans wouldnít need him to be a Week 1 starter.
26. Atlanta Falcons: DaíRon Payne, DT, Alabama
Atlanta shored up its interior offensive line in free agency, so going after interior defensive line is the next thing on the checklist following Dontari Poeís departure. This may be seen as a reach, but Payne can dominate from the one-technique spot and showed to be plenty athletic at the combine. Heís not as big as the 346-pound Poe, although that doesnít stop him from playing the role of space-eater with ease. A combination of Payne and Grady Jarrett in the middle of the Falcons front would be one of the best young pairings in the league.
27. New Orleans Saints: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
This might be another reach or a luxury pick when some would want the Saints to beef up its defensive front next to Sheldon Rankins, but Andrews would give Sean Payton another unique piece in his offense. To be clear, Andrews isnít the type of tight end thatís going to help a whole lot as an in-line blocker (at least right away), but there are some similarities between what Evan Engram does in New York and what Andrews can do for the Saints. If there was one thing the Saints were missing on offense last year it was a reliable seam target. Andrews (6-5, 256) was a consistent producer at Oklahoma from the time he stepped on campus and posted 62 catches for 958 yards and eight touchdowns on 91 targets in 2017. Again, Andrews is a luxury pick, but itís a luxury pick that could help make the Saints offense unstoppable.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
This makes too much sense at this stage of the mock. The Steelers desperately need inside linebacker help with Ryan Shazier out for at least the 2018 season and Vander Esch is the best one left on the board. Vander Esch (6-4, 256) has great athleticism for the position.
That athleticism makes him a candidate to at least try to pick up on the responsibilities that have generally been left up to Shazier. Heís not as fast as Shazier, but Vander Esch is a sure tackler with the ability to find the ball thatís necessary for a successful middle linebacker.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
Middle linebacker couldíve been a consideration here, but with Vander Esch off the board, there really isnít a viable option at this stage. Enter Chark, whoís been rising up draft boards since his electric performance all week at the Senior Bowl. He solidified himself as an early pick when he followed that up with an elite combine that included a 4.34 40-yard dash (tops among WR) along with a 40-inch vertical and a 129-inch broad jump. A 6-3 receiver with great athleticism that can jump out of the gym playing for Jacksonville? Sounds familiar, but that guyís suiting up for the Bears. Iím not saying Chark is the next Allen Robinson, but heís got the frame and the same tools that could make him a future No.1 receiver on a team littered with No.2 and No.3 types out wide.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
The Vikings are in Super Bowl-or-Bust mode after addressing the teamís one real weakness -- quarterback -- in free agency by inking Kirk Cousins to a lucrative deal. This isnít a glamour pick, but itíll serve to help protect the Vikingsí most valuable asset. Hernandez is an immovable object in the middle of the line at 327 pounds with a great anchor. I could also see Minnesota moving off this pick if any of the teams picking early in the second want to trade back into the first.
31. New England Patriots: Martinas Rankin, LT, Mississippi State
Tackle is arguably the biggest need for New England now that Nate Solder is protecting Eli Manningís blindside in New York. Rankin is a bit off the beaten path when it comes to some of the other tackles in this class, with the likes of Orlando Brown, Tyrell Crosby, and others still available. Rankin lacks the prototypical size of a left tackle at 6-foot-4 ⅜ and 308 pounds, but he makes up for it with a strong set and good punch in pass protection along with a nasty streak that plays well in the run game. Running back is also a need for New England, so any of Derrius Guice, Ronald Jones, or Nick Chubb would be possibilities here, but for now Iím hedging that New England goes with a tackle in the first. Predicting what Belichick will do in the draft, always a good idea, right?
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
What do you get for the team that has everything? The Eagles are so loaded everywhere that it was tough to think of an angle for them here. Cornerback fits the bill though with few proven commodities left beyond Ronald Darby with Patrick Robinson gone. Alexander isnít a ďbigĒ corner at 5-foot-11, 192, but he has great coverage skills with elite athleticism to match. The rich get richer by getting the top cornerback on the board to end the first round.