Note: I don’t project trades in my mock drafts. That's unfortunate, because as I’ve written on Twitter, I expect Thursday night to be a wild, raucous affair filled with plenty of those. So hold onto your hat!
1. Cleveland Browns – QB Sam Darnold (USC)
Throughout the process, Josh Allen has been linked to this pick. Perhaps I’m making a mistake by trusting the new Cleveland brass, but I just have a hard time believing that they would be so brazen with a franchise-altering draft slot. Darnold’s ceiling is in the same vicinity, but his floor is quite a bit higher, as are his odds of hitting that ceiling. Baker Mayfield’s name has also been linked to this pick recently, but that rumor strikes me as typical Draft Day smokescreen flotsam.
2. New York Giants – RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
If I were the Giants, I’d take a quarterback (specifically Josh Rosen, who’s drawn favorable comparisons to Eli Manning). If I didn’t go that direction, I think I’d take Bradley Chubb, who would fill a bigger need. But it appears that the Giants prefer Barkley. I can’t argue too much with that—he’s a generational talent, and my No. 2 overall prospect. That said, it's entirely possible that the Giants have settled on a quarterback (Josh Rosen?) and floated Saquon's name as a smokescreen. Per reports, ownership wants Barkley and everybody else in the building wants a quarterback. Bosses typically win those types of arguments.
Editor's Note: With the 2018 draft here, fantasy football season has begun. Compete in a live best ball draft! It's season long but with no management. Just set it and forget it! Once you're done drafting, that’s it - no trades or waivers - you don’t even have to set your lineup. Your best players get automatically selected and you'll get the best score, every week. For a limited time, DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers a FREE entry into a real money draft and a Money-Back Guarantee up to $100! Here's the link
3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts) – QB Josh Rosen (UCLA)
Reports have the Jets zeroing in on Baker Mayfield or Josh Rosen. Mayfield was long rumoed to be the pick. But Bovada currently lists Rosen as a slight favorite to go in this spot, and Peter King recently audibled to Rosen in his own mock. I’m going to follow the steam—and common sense, as I see it—on this one. Rosen is my No. 1 overall player.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans) – DE Bradley Chubb (NC State)
From everything I hear, the Browns will take Saquon Barkley if he’s here. Since he’s not, they opt for a pretty good fallback option. Chubb and Myles Garrett could in short order become one of the NFL’s scariest edge rushing duos.
5. Denver Broncos - QB Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
Whether they make this pick for themselves or trade down with a team like the Bills, it feels right that three quarterbacks will be going in the top-five. If he were to go to the Broncos, Mayfield would be given the shot to sit for at least a year behind Case Keenum. I’ve also heard that the Broncos may be targeting a trade down where they could fortify their interior line. So instead of using this pick on, say, Quenton Nelson, they could add a small handful of additional picks, move back (perhaps even twice), and grab, say, UTEP’s Will Hernandez in the second half of Round 1.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets) – LB Roquan Smith (Georgia)
Tony Pauline has reported for some time that the Colts like Smith. This one totally passes the smell test. Smith is a top-three player in this class (to me), and he fills a big need.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – S Derwin James (Florida State)
The Bucs have been linked to James throughout the process. That’s no surprise. The secondary represents Tampa Bay’s most glaring need, and James, a local product, is arguably the class’ best defensive back. Tampa Bay will have an interesting decision on their hands if both James and Quenton Nelson are available, as they are in this scenario.
8. Chicago Bears – G Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame)
The Bears’ top need is probably guard, so how perfect would it be to pair the best guard prospect I’ve ever evaluated with his college OL coach Harry Hiestand, now the Bears’ OL coach? If Nelson is gone, perhaps they’ll audible to Ohio State CB Denzel Ward.
9. San Francisco 49ers – LB Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech)
No doubt the 49ers would be beside themselves if Roquan Smith fell to them. But Edmunds is one heck of a consolation prize. He has arguably the highest ceiling of any defender in this class.
10. Oakland Raiders – T Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame)
If McGlinchey is available and the Raiders pass on him, many around the industry will be stunned. McGlinchey-to-Oakland has become one of the surest top-10 bets in a draft that’s more difficult to predict than any I’ve covered since I started working the NFL Draft for Rotoworld five years ago.
11. Miami Dolphins – QB Josh Allen (Wyoming)
Mike Mayock has said Derwin James would be a “sprint to the podium” pick for the Dolphins if he’s still available. But as it stands in this exercise, James is off the board and Allen has unexpectedly fallen. My colleague Evan Silva has made the point that Allen could be in for a short Draft Day slide relative to initial projections like Blaine Gabbert once upon a time. I tend to agree that that’s very much in play—but am I allowing my tepid evaluation of Allen color my ability to accurately predict where he’ll land on Thursday night?
12. Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati Bengals) – QB Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
The Bills likely won’t be picking in this slot on Thursday night—they’re expected to trade up—but if the board falls something like I’ve predicted above, standing pat would be the right move (I’ve advocated that they do so—unless they have a shot at Josh Rosen by getting up to No. 8 or so). The Bills simply have too many roster holes to fill to comfortably trade a stockpile of picks to move into the top-five. Regardless, this is a match made in heaven.
The Bills get a potential transcendent talent at No. 15 and Lamar Jackson lands on a franchise that can sink all of its resources into developing his tantalizing skillset. I’d love for L-Jax to get the opportunity to follow the Patrick Mahomes developmental tract—learning for a year before taking over the starting role—but I don’t think taking over a starting gig in October is going to ruin his career. He’s so gifted athletically that he’ll absolutely be playable in Year 1 if you design your offense around him, a must in this case for such a unique prospect (I’d love to see him running a lot of RPO early on). To me, getting Lamar Jackson outside of the top-10 is grand larceny. I see him as a top-five overall talent. I don’t think it’s out of the question that he ends up as a top-10 pick on Draft Day. But that’ll all depend on how the top-5 plays out. If four quarterbacks go in the top five, I think you’ll see Lamar Jackson picked in the top-10, almost assuredly via a team trading up.
13. Washington Redskins – DT Vita Vea (Washington)
14. Green Bay Packers – CB Joshua Jackson (Iowa)
The Packers badly, badly need a cornerback. As such, this would be a best-case scenario, having both Denzel Ward and Jackson to choose from at the No. 14 overall pick. Jackson’s ball skills are some of the best I’ve seen from a DB entering the league over the past five years.
15. Arizona Cardinals – CB Denzel Ward (Ohio State)
The Cardinals desperately need a quarterback, and I think there’s a really strong chance that they come out of Thursday night with one. But they’ll probably need to trade up to secure one of the top five signal-callers. Consider this projection a hedge. If the Cardinals were somehow boxed out of securing a QB, Ward would represent the best option from a blended need/value perspective. But if Arizona is indeed able to trade up, the team that moves back ostensibly would also be motivated to drop Ward’s mini-slide down the board.
16. Baltimore Ravens – S Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
Ozzie Newsome is famous for picking the best player on his board and also for fetishizing Alabama prospects. So how perfect would it be if Minkah Fitzpatrick fell into his lap? The Ravens have bigger needs than safety, but that type of thing has never stopped Newsome before. There are three other Crimson Tide prospects to keep an eye on here: WR Calvin Ridley, DT Da’Ron Payne and LB Rashaan Evans. With receiver being such a big need, the local kid, Maryland’s D.J. Moore, is also very much in play.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – LB Rashaan Evans (Alabama)
The Chargers need an inside linebacker. They’re sitting pretty in this slot, because they very well may have their choice between Evans and Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch. I’ve heard they’re internally high on Evans, so that scuttlebutt is going to act as my tiebreaker here.
18. Seattle Seahawks – DE Marcus Davenport (UTSA)
The Seahawks have multiple needs, and I assume they’ll go best available at one of those positions if they aren’t able to trade down (they badly, badly want to trade down). For me, Harold Landry would be the best available prospect here, but the NFL loves Davenport, a raw, boom-or-bust size/speed guy.
19. Dallas Cowboys – LB Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State)
D.J. Moore is another name to keep an eye on here. But the Cowboys have been heavily linked to Vander Esch recently—with one report claiming they see him as another Brian Urlacher—and they need a linebacker almost as badly as they need a receiver. If Vander Esch is here, he provides slightly better value than Moore in this slot. Plus, the receiver crop, while thin at the top, is chock full of quality Day 2 options. Grab your linebacker here, and zero in the on the receiver next time you’re on the clock.
20. Detroit Lions – DT Da’Ron Payne (Alabama)
Again, I would prefer Landry here, but my prerogative isn’t calling the shots. The Lions need help all over on defense, and Payne fits the mold of the type of Pats prospect that new HC Matt Patricia used to great effect in his old post. Plus, Peter King, Albert Breer and Josh Norris all have Detroit taking Payne. I’m happy to tag along behind that trio.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills) - C James Daniels (Iowa)
The Bengals prioritized revamping its offensive line this offseason, and that work isn’t over yet. Even with the trade for Cordy Glenn, you could argue that the Bengals could ideally use either two or three other new starters along the offensive line. Daniels, the class’ best center and a fabulous athlete, would fit in nicely as the team’s pivot for the next decade.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs) - T Kolton Miller (UCLA)
After taking care of the quarterback position, the Bills desperately need help at WR and OL. They can wait on a receiver until Day 2. Miller represents a boom-or-bust swing at acquiring a long-term left tackle.
23. New England Patriots (from Los Angeles Rams) - CB Jaire Alexander (Louisville)
If the Pats don’t move up for a quarterback, I expect them to address the offensive line and defense with their two picks. Alexander, one of the class’ three-best corners, would be an outstanding value here.
24. Carolina Panthers – C/G Frank Ragnow (Arkansas)
A pick that would make my colleague Josh Norris’ heart burst with joy. Carolina needs a cornerback and a replacement for Andrew Norwell along the interior line. I like the corner depth in this class more than I like the iOL depth. Perhaps the Panthers view it the same and defer the corner need to Day 2.
25. Tennessee Titans – DE Harold Landry (Boston College)
The Titans badly need an edge rusher. I hear they love Florida State DE Josh Sweat, and Sam Hubbard would also be a natural fit to join HC Mike Vrabel, a fellow Buckeye. However, if Landry falls to this spot, you don’t have a choice if you’re Tennessee. You thank the football gods and turn that card in with his name on it.
26. Atlanta Falcons - DT Taven Bryan (Florida)
In need of a DT, WR and G, the Falcons are in a really good spot here, as immediate starting options at each position figure to be available. If Bryan is still around, they may not have a choice but to go in that direction. Keeping Isaiah Wynn in-state would be another tremendous pick.
27. New Orleans Saints - WR D.J. Moore (Maryland)
If the board falls similarly to the way I have it, the Saints may have their pick of every receiver and tight end in this class. Penn State TE Mike Gesicki has been heavily linked to this pick recently, so don’t be surprised if the Saints audible in that direction either.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - S Justin Reid (Stanford)
29. Jacksonville Jaguars - WR Courtland Sutton (SMU)
30. Minnesota Vikings - G Isaiah Wynn (Georgia)
Having Wynn fall to No. 30 would be an absolute coup for the Purple. The Vikings need help along the OL, at DT and at CB. The interior line is the biggest of those needs, and Wynn is a dynamic iOL prospect. I rank him as the class’ No. 10 overall player. Will Hernandez, Connor Williams and Mike Hughes are three other options. One other thing: The Vikings’ fourth-biggest need is a tight end to eventually take over for Kyle Rudolph, and they reportedly like Dallas Goedert. I see Goedert as a Round 2 prospect, but don’t be surprised if Minnesota goes in that direction.
31. New England Patriots - T Connor Williams (Texas)
After finding nice value in CB Jaire Alexander with their first pick, the Patriots turn around and take the best offensive linemen left on the board.
32. Philadelphia Eagles - CB Mike Hughes (UCF)
It’s so secret that the Eagles want to trade down to accumulate more picks. Whether they do or not, Hughes would be in play for this slot. He’s my best available player left, for one. For two, the Eagles need both a corner and a return man. Consider this some slick two-for-one shopping.