Previous mock drafts: Jan. 22 | Feb. 6 | Feb. 26 | March 7 | March 19
1. Cleveland Browns
Moon: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
No team has butchered QB selections more than Cleveland, going back to Tim Couch instead of Donovan McNabb No. 1 overall in 1999, continuing to passings on Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Pat Mahomes, Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson in the span of just the last two years. Browns have scouted Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen each in three different targeted evaluations, including predraft visits. The deliberations will be intense and the Browns hope they’re getting Carson Palmer and not Matt Leinart. Allen or Mayfield here would not surprise at all, and Mayfield buzz picked up in the closing week.
JJ: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Browns seem to be sending out plenty of smoke signals as to who they’ll take with the first overall pick, but it’ll be a quarterback. I’ve had Sam Darnold here since January, but will finish with this: Allen’s sky-high ceiling is too much for the Browns to pass up. Of course, his low floor means he could be the next in a long line of quarterbacks to bust with the Browns, and would look even worse if any of Darnold/Mayfield/Rosen wind up being good.
2. New York Giants
Moon: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The far-and-away top rusher in this draft lit up the Scouting Combine. With Jets apparently trading up for QB adding to pressure on that group, Giants go for running mate to assist Eli Manning and get a windfall with Barkley.
JJ: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Even with Darnold still on the board, the Dave Gettleman sticks to his guns and takes Barkley. We’ve seen a running back taken in the first four picks in each of the last two drafts (Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette), so taking one this high isn’t totally unprecedented — especially if there’s a consensus in the Giants’ draft room that Barkley is the best player in this draft.
3. New York Jets
Moon: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The truly intriguing team in the top 10. Trading up from No. 6 says Jets, even with Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown signed, are targeting a QB and want to get ahead of at least one Browns pick. A surprise could be coming but teams don’t mortgage their draft typically for less than a QB. The guess is which one but Jets making a move to ensure more than just a leftover. Drills and interviews will strike teams differently. Measurables may not be ideal (6-1) but they weren’t for Russell Wilson either. Mayfield made all the throws and has the benefit of coming from a big-time program.
JJ: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Browns and Giants make things easy for the Jets, who don’t need much discussion to take Darnold. I’m with Moon that Mayfield would be the pick here if Darnold isn’t on the board, though.
4. Cleveland Browns
Moon: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
The first big jolt of the ’18 draft. Expect the Browns to trade out of here with Buffalo lurking and in quest of a franchise QB. But Bears aren’t the only team wanting to better protect a franchise QB and the Browns struck gold with tackle Joe Thomas at No. 3 in 2007. Hall of Fame guard John Hannah went No. 4 and Nelson is rated as one of two overall best in ’18 draft. While in Kansas City, GM John Dorsey went offensive line No. 1 overall in 2013 (T Eric Fisher) and second round in 2015 (G Mitch Morse).
JJ: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, N.C. State
With Barkley off the board, the Browns take the second-best player in this year’s draft in Chubb. Pairing him with Myles Garrett presents a tantalizing long-term future for Cleveland’s pass rush.
5. Denver Broncos
Moon: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
QB run continues. Denver and John Elway have fouled up the QB spot ever since Peyton Manning retired and badly need a QB hit. Evaluations (theirs and those of teams right above them) will determine which one falls to Broncos after they lost out to Minnesota for Kirk Cousins.
JJ: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
If Denver stays at No. 5, the debate comes down to Mayfield or Josh Rosen. The Broncos coached Mayfield in the Senior Bowl back in January, and that tips him over Rosen. Either way, in this scenario, there will still be one of the top four quarterbacks on the board when picks No. 6-8 are on the clock, leading to the potential for the Colts, Bucs or Bears to trade down with, most likely, the Buffalo Bills.
6. Indianapolis Colts
Moon: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, N.C. State
Trading down and still getting their guy is the early leader for ’18 draft move for Indy, where defense is such a priority for the Colts and its new coaching staff. Frank Reich likely can work Andrew Luck into something and a franchise pass rusher raises everything on that side of the football. The wild card here is Quenton Nelson; if he drops and Indy goes for there, Chubb could the surprise drop within reach of the Bears.
JJ: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Quenton Nelson and Roquan Smith could very well be in play for the Colts here, but they go with Ward in the hopes he could make an impact similar to that of Marshon Lattimore a year ago.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Moon: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
The top DB in the draft, left there by QB-mania. If the scramble 1-6 leaves Nelson or Chubb, Bucs should expect their phones to start ring with trade overtures.
JJ: Derwin James, S, Florida State
James profiles as a plug-and-play safety who can make an immediate impact, so Tampa Bay goes with him over Minkah Fitzpatrick, who while talented doesn’t have a set position yet.
8. Chicago Bears
Moon: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Who’s still on The Board already will factor in huge here. Nelson? Chubb? Fitzpatrick? All are among the Bears’ Elite Eight graded worth No. 8, and GM Ryan Pace has amply demonstrated his flexibility and comfort with high-end deals, trading up in each of his past two first rounds and down in his past two second rounds.
Suspiciously perhaps, Pace offered public praise for Edmunds, which might well have been just a touch of misdirection; Bears didn’t have known Edmunds special evaluations like a visit or private workout, which they did for Chubb, Fitzpatrick, Nelson, Georgia’s Roquan Smith, whom many evaluators grade above Edmunds. But Edmunds gets a late nod here over Smith based on upside/ceiling in what is suddenly an extremely interesting spot amid the Great ’18 QB Craze.
A handful of the Bears’ targeted players will still be on the board, making a trade down very attractive. Their evaluation ratings are key; Pace won’t and shouldn’t go all-in based solely on need. Retaining Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller for big $$ takes CB need way down, and someone may be hungry to trade up for Ohio State CB Denzel Ward. If there’s a trade scenario to land G Quenton Nelson, Bears would seriously consider help in the form of Nelson if available for a questionable interior O-line to protect QB Mitch Trubisky. But Pace scored big in ’16 round two with Cody Whitehair, saw while in New Orleans what lower-round OL picks, top coaching and a quarterback could do.
Edmunds has size over Smith, and his production was solid over the past two seasons. Bears D-coordinator Vic Fangio won’t be making the pick, but Fangio has favored bigger OLB’s (Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Pernell McPhee), while having elite results from smaller ILB’s (Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis).
All that said, Bears may not have a shot at Edmunds if San Francisco, which had private workouts with both Edmunds and Smith, makes a move up for Edmunds. But the combination of grade, need, position value and the rest say Edmunds to the Bears.
[More from Moon on why the Bears should draft Edmunds]
JJ: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
So the Bears get to their pick with Smith, Nelson, Fitzpatrick and Tremaine Edmunds still on the board, along with Rosen, presenting the possibility for a trade-down. This would present a number of factors for Ryan Pace to evaluate:
— Edmunds has the kind of off-the-charts physical traits Pace has targeted in previous drafts (Kevin White, Leonard Floyd), and could provide help to the Bears’ outside linebacker corps. But he’s more of a projection at this point, although that’s not necessarily a deterrent for Pace.
— What about Fitzpatrick? He’s super-talented and his football intelligence and work ethic are well-regarded among draft circles. But is he a safety? Is he a cornerback? Do the Bears actually need either position? Unless the Bears were to view him as an absolute lock as the best player available at No. 8, he won’t be the guy.
— Smith could start from Day 1 next to Danny Trevathan and give the Bears an excellent inside linebacker tandem. While his ceiling may not be as high as Edmunds, he’s drawn comparisons to Patrick Willis, the former San Francisco 49ers linebacker who thrived in Vic Fangio’s defense. But these are all defensive guys. So that leads us to…
— Nelson, who would fit with the Bears’ 2018 strategy of surrounding Mitch Trubisky with the best possible cast of supporting players. An interior offensive line of Nelson, Cody Whitehair and Kyle Long should be an effective blockade of inside pressure; the added benefit of Nelson is he immediately helps the inside zone running game in Matt Nagy’s offense. Pairing him with Harry Hiestand, his offensive line coach at Notre Dame, is a slam dunk for a guy who already looks like a slam dunk prospect. As someone at Notre Dame put it: Don’t overthink this, and take the guy who will be an All-Pro for years to come.
[More from JJ on why the Bears should draft Nelson]
9. San Francisco 49ers
Moon: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Assuming Bears don’t grab Smith, he is a hedge against Ruben Foster injury and deepening character issues. Calvin Ridley may be too good to pass up as complement to QB Jimmy Garoppolo but Ridley didn’t really sweep through his evaluations.
JJ: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
With Smith still on the board, the 49ers don’t have to put much thought into the guy they’ll draft. It’s unlikely Smith makes it beyond the No. 9 pick.
10. Oakland Raiders
Moon: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Ward was a backfield mate of Marshon Lattimore and consistently solid. Jon Gruden will want help on offense for Derek Carr, Ridley will be tempting, but Ward projects as day-one starter.
JJ: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Raiders could go for Fitzpatrick here with a “best player available” strategy, but drafting Edmunds and developing him into a star just in time for the move to Las Vegas sounds like a pretty nice path for Reggie McKenzie and Jon Gruden to take.
11. Miami Dolphins
Moon: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
JJ: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
12. Buffalo Bills
Moon: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
JJ: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
13. Washington Redskins
Moon: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
JJ: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
14. Green Bay Packers
Moon: Derwin James, S, Florida State
JJ: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
15. Arizona Cardinals
Moon: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UT-San Antonio
JJ: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
16. Baltimore Ravens
Moon: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
JJ: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Moon: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
JJ: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
18. Seattle Seahawks
Moon: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
JJ: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
19. Dallas Cowboys
Moon: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
JJ: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
20. Detroit Lions
Moon: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
JJ: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Moon: Billy Price, C, Ohio State
JJ: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
22. Buffalo Bills
Moon: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
JJ: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
23. New England Patriots
Moon: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
JJ: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
24. Carolina Panthers
Moon: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
JJ: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
25. Tennessee Titans
Moon: Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Ohio State
JJ: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
26. Atlanta Falcons
Moon: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
JJ: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
27. New Orleans Saints
Moon: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
JJ: James Daniels, OG/C, Iowa
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Moon: Justin Reid, S, Stanford
JJ: Justin Reid, S, Stanford
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Moon: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
JJ: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
30. Minnesota Vikings
Moon: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
JJ: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
31. New England Patriots
Moon: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
JJ: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UT-San Antonio
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Moon: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
JJ: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State