As NFL coaches, general managers and personnel descend on Indianapolis, a look at where the top 10 picks stand before draft preparations begin in earnest…
1. Cleveland Browns
JJ: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
No change here, with the Browns taking the top quarterback out there. But this could very well shift after the combine if Darnold doesn’t impress, while someone like Josh Rosen or Josh Allen does.
Moon: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Combine performances and interviews can change draft stocks but for now, Darnold hasn’t lost his spot. Browns failed to restart their franchise with a QB in ’17. Darnold has flaws and has been a turnover risk, but Browns can’t be picky at 0-16.
2. New York Giants
JJ: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
If it looks like I’m going back and forth on this…it’s because I am. The combine should provide some more clarity as to whether Allen’s accuracy issues at Wyoming were the product of the players around him or if that’s an issue that could drop his draft stock. Either way, his raw talent makes him a good fit for a Giants team that can give him a year to develop behind Eli Manning.
Moon: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Giants need a succession plan after Eli, who may want to follow Brady and Brees in the longevity dream but recent overall Giants results and coaching change foreshadows other changes.
3. Indianapolis Colts
JJ: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Sticking with an offensive mind in Frank Reich after getting burned by Josh McDaniels seems to keep the Colts on track to draft an offensive player — and they go with the best one available in this draft to, they hope, pair with a healthy Andrew Luck.
Moon: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
The consensus top pass rusher, a position that always goes early. GM Chris Ballard will want to give his new coach a jump start and a pass rusher on the fast Lucas Oil turf is a must for NFL’s 31st sack ‘D’ corps. Too high to take a flyer on LSU’s Arden Key with his concerns.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston)
JJ: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is the very best defensive back in this class, and it’s between him and N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb to fight it out to be the best defensive player this year. We’ll say the Browns go with Fitzpatrick a year after drafting defensive end Myles Garrett with the first overall pick.
Moon: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
Letting Joe Haden go hurt in more ways than one and Browns need a shutdown force in division with elite defenses, all except for the Browns’ (7 INT).
5. Denver Broncos
JJ: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Since I’m slotting Allen at No. 2, I’m moving Rosen down to No. 5, presumably after Denver makes a run at Kirk Cousins but doesn’t land him. The Broncos need help on their offensive line, but No. 5 may be too high to draft a guard (even if it’s Quenton Nelson) or one of this year’s top tackles (Texas’ Connor Williams, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown).
Moon: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
May be the most over-hyped, boom-or-bust prospect in the draft. Baker Mayfield may scramble the top five, but Denver needs a QB hit and evaluations will determine which one.
6. New York Jets
JJ: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
Free agency will be a major factor in deciphering in what direction the Broncos and Jets will go. I’m sticking with my earlier prediction of Cousins landing in New York, opening up the Jets to take the best edge rusher in this class.
Moon: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
RB’s were devalued a few years ago. Not now, with 6 of top 8 rushers in playoffs, the need for a run game is back in vogue.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
JJ: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Ward’s 5-foot-11 stature may not fit the profile of a top 10 cornerback, but has a certain savviness for the position about him to pair with outstanding athleticism. The Buccaneers, like the Bears, have plenty of cap space to spend this offseason and need a refresh at cornerback, but we’ll say they sign a veteran and then pair him with Ward.
Moon: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Ward was a backfield mate of Marshon Lattimore and consistently solid. Bucs haven’t gone DL at No. 1 in 5 years and want to remain elite up front but Ward projects as day-one starter.
8. Chicago Bears
JJ: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Is No. 8 still too high for a guard? Maybe, but heading into the Combine, there’s not a clear-cut No. 2 pass rusher behind Chubb, and No. 8 may similarly be too high to draft Calvin Ridley, Courtland Sutton or one of the other top wideouts this year. So the Bears, having just released Josh Sitton, go younger and replace him with a guy who could be an instant Pro Bowler after reuniting with Harry Hiestand. This pick is subject to change depending on what happens in Indianapolis this week, and is also based on the thought the Bears will address cornerback via free agency. Trading down out of this spot — especially with Mayfield still on the board — would still very much be an option here, too.
Moon: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Va Tech
If there’s a trade-down scenario for G Quenton Nelson, Bears would seriously consider. If Barkley somehow slips, look for a surprise Bears strike at RB and then trade Jordan Howard.
But the need after releasing Pernell McPhee is for rush-LB and those are too rare and too expensive in free agency. Edmunds has length for 3-4 OLB or possible ILB when Bears go nickel.
9. San Francisco 49ers
JJ: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
For now, Ridley looks like the best receiver in this draft class, though that could change by the end of the week. Whoever the No. 1 receiver is this year would seem likely to go to the 49ers — unless the Bears take him first — to pair with Jimmy Garoppolo and that hype train of an offense.
Moon: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Smith 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.
10. Oakland Raiders
JJ: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Expect the super-athletic 6-foot-5, 250 pound Edmunds to be a star at the Combine, and he very well could be in play for the Bears at No. 8. He has the versatility to play any linebacker position, but considering who NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared him to — that would be Brian Urlacher — perhaps his best fit is as an inside linebacker to anchor a team’s defense for years.
Moon: Vita Vae, DT, Washington
Ridley would fit Raiders’ tradition for impact passing offense if he lasts this long, and Raiders very likely to go offense to muscle up for Jon Gruden’s program and support Derek Carr. But Gruden’s Oakland and Tampa Bay teams were stout on defense.