Contributors: Jarreau Brown, Miriam Ludlow, Bryant Knox, Tim Kearny, Sebastian Pycior, Garrett Thornton, Lindsay Brandon, Brendan McMannis.
1 – Cleveland
Sam Darnold – QB – USC
The quarterback position has to be addressed with one of their two picks. Darnold is viewed by many as the best available at the position, but he’s not the most polished QB out of the bunch. Luckily, Tyrod Taylor allows him to sit and learn for a year and smooth over some of the turnover problems. Hue Jackson has bought out the best in QB’s during previous stops in Oakland with Carson Palmer and Cincinnati with Andy Dalton. It’d be nice to see the trend continue with Darnold.
2 – New York Giants
Josh Rosen – QB – UCLA
The Giants smokescreen that they won’t take a quarterback is doing two things. It makes them look incredibly silly and it does nothing to increase the value of the pick that they own. The Giants have to take a quarterback. Eli Manning is 37 years old and father time is undefeated. If you’re going to pay Odell Beckham a Brinks truck load of money, might as well have your quarterback on a rookie deal.
3 – New York Jets from Indianapolis
Josh Allen – QB – Wyoming
The New York Jets traded up to this spot to ensure they land a franchise quarterback. Sam Darnold won’t be available, so the pick comes down to Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Although all three show tremendous upside, it’s Allen who wins out in this situation. As Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller wrote in March: “Allen is an impressive prospect with a 6’5″, 237-pound frame and the best arm many scouts (myself included) have ever seen, but he also completed just 56.2 percent of his passes over the last two seasons at Wyoming.” Allen isn’t a sure thing, but he may be the surest of any QB behind Darnold. This is an easy choice for the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS—especially if the Giants take Rosen at No. 2.
4 – Cleveland from Houston
Saqon Barkley – RB – Penn State
Barkley is the best prospect in the draft. He’s a three down do it all back that can help in the return game. The Brown lock in there two building blocks for the future on offense. Don’t overthink this Cleveland.
5 – Denver
Denzel Ward – CB – Ohio State
With Case Keenum now helming the offense of the Broncos (still waiting for Minnesota to explain this), the team will count on their new golden boy to deliver the goods to veteran receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius. CJ Anderson can likely put up another 1000+ rushing yards this year. The Broncos should be looking to solidify its defensive backs with the departure of Aqib Talib to the Rams. Even though Chris Harris Jr. was arguably more productive than Talib last season on the other side, the Broncos could use another star CB, and Denzel Ward may very well be that man. For now, fellow Buckeye Bradley Roby (who only started four games last season) has moved up the depth chart, but Ward’s incredible footwork and speed (not to mention the fact he’s been compared to Chris Harris, Jr.) could soon make him a starter giving quarterback opponents a hell of a time with his demonstrated ability to read slants and drives in front of the route and the fact that he only allowed 32 percent of completions over the last two years (source: NFL.com).
6 – Indianapolis from New York Jets
Quenton Nelson – OG – Notre Dame
This was a pretty easy pick right here. Bradley Chubb was a great option but the amount of times I have seen the words Hall of Famer and future All Pro when scouts talk about Nelson make him a plug and play guy with a low floor and a high ceiling. Pass rushers are a little risky and when you are a team with Andrew Luck and not much else else. You need people to keep him upright so he can make plays.
Nelson is a good run and pass blocker. He has a strong base and has shown the ability to overwhelm opponents physically. Combine that with surprisingly quick feet for a man his size, and you have yourself a lineman to anchor your line.
7 – Tampa Bay
Bradley Chubb – DE – NC State
Bradley Chubb does to opposing linemen what Thor’s Hammer does to lukewarm butter. He’s the ultimate no brainer in this draft but he’ll drop if the teams ahead of the Buccaneers go nuts for quarterbacks. Forget size, brutal physicality, or speed. Chubb is arguably the most intelligent, confident, and dangerous players in this draft, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are desperate for some serious juice up front. Could you imagine Chubb trying to steal one of Matt Ryan’s, Cam Newton’s, or Drew Brees’ towels just to taunt? Lordy.
8 – Chicago
Tremaine Edmunds – LB – Virginia Tech
The Bears probably have greater needs on the offensive and defensive lines, not to mention at wide receiver, but the talent upside is too high to ignore. Edmunds projects as a pro bowl linebacker and there was no comparable talent in terms of team needs.
9 – San Francisco
Derwin James – S – Florida State
The SF 49ers focus should continue to be on building a defense. By bringing Derwin James – Florida State Seminoles – as their pick, not only will they meet the needs and perhaps close the gap, but they will bring a physical presence on the field. At 6’3″, 215 pounds, James is the perfect defensive wall the SF 49ers need. But it doesn’t stop there. James is also a fast runner and while some may find him to be a duplicate to current talent within the team, is hard to make a true argument against him as you can’t never have enough defense and speed in football!
10 – Oakland
Josh Jackson – CB – Iowa
The Raiders seem to always display such promise at the beginning of each season, and then somehow, it ends just as bad as Mark Davis’ haircut. Frankly, the team needs a lot of help on its defense. No offense to Darrius Hillary, but Jackson is built to start. In reading his prospect grade, the scouts just think he’s the dreamiest. My favorite is “lauded for positive attitude and strong work ethic,” but there is plenty to choose from. In all seriousness, now that Carr has (hopefully) a productive Jordy Nelson and Amari Cooper, and if Marshawn, well, shows up, then this team could be a playoff contender if it can just bridge the gap with last year’s defense. Even though the word is Oakland’s been eyeing ILB Roquan Smith, he might go earlier in the draft. Jackson is no consolation though; he could start producing turnovers immediately.
11 – Miami
Baker Mayfield – QB – Oklahoma
If I’m the Miami Dolphins, I’m putting pressure on Ryan Tannehill, like, yesterday. And here’s the thing about Baker Mayfield: He’s a gamble, and he’s sooo worth that gamble—especially if you already have someone in Tannehill who can step in and play a competent brand of football. Obviously, “a competent brand of football” isn’t what you strive for at the game’s most important position, but as far as Plan Bs go, that’s not bad. Mayfield may come in and be brilliant; he may “antics” himself out of the league, as we’ve seen from similarly polarizing players in recent years. Either way, the Dolphins should be willing to take this risk considering Tannehill has led them to the Mediocre Land many times…and not much further up to this point.
12 – Buffalo from Cincinnati
Lamar Jackson – QB – Louisville
The Buffalo Bulls are in great position in this draft to risk it all on a future quarterback/face of the franchise early and take a safer pick later on. That’s the luxury that comes with trading up, and then trading back into the bottom-third. With this pick, Buffalo takes a guy who is 100 percent, absolutely NOT a wide receiver. Let’s get rid of the thought immediately that Lamar Jackson is a wideout/slot threat. Please leave any racist preconceived notions aside about athletic, dual-threat college quarterbacks converting to wideout aside here. Jackson is a quarterback, and he’s going to be a quarterback for the Bills.
13 – Washington
Roquan Smith – LB – Georgia
When the draft rolls around in two weeks, Smith will likely be a top 10 pick. He has the rare combination of instinct and aggressiveness. Smith will anchor a defense in the NFL for a decade and will be a Pro Bowler. If the Redskins can snag a guy with that potential at #13, they could win the first round.
14 – Green Bay
Minkah Fitzpatrick – S – Alabama
This was a no brainer. The fact that Fitzpatrick fell to 14 was a huge surprise to me. Green Bay gets a much needed safety with great college coaching and outstanding upside.
15 – Arizona
Calvin Ridley – WR – Alabama
While the 49ers continue to build their defensive wall, the Arizona Cardinals are in desperate need of a wide receiver. Let’s just say it out-loud, Larry Fitzgerald is getting old! The Cardinals need to revive an aging depleted receiving core and the guy to fill the position is Calvin Ridley – Alabama – a great route runner with good hands and speed!
16 – Baltimore
Rashaan Evans – LB – Alabama
There aren’t many safer picks in the NFL draft since the Nick Saban era other than a linebacker from Alabama. Ozzie Newsome’s affinity for Alabama players as an alumnus is blatant, and Evans fills a need where the Ravens are considered having average talent. He offers the ability to plan multiple backer positions, but the biggest question mark his his ability to stay healthy.
17 – Los Angeles Chargers
Mike McGlinchey – OT – Notre Dame
Against all odds, the team that nobody from San Diego likes anymore that moved to a city that didn’t need (or want) just narrowly missed the playoffs at 9-7. Even though a development quarterback is likely needed with Rivers’ eventual retirement, he threw for over 4,500 yards last season and still has to feed his 63 children, so he’s going nowhere for now. The Chargers do need to beef up their interior defensive line, but they also need to be prepared to back up their veteran OTs, former Seahawk Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale. That is where 6’7” [!!!] 312 lb. Mike McGlinchey comes in. McGlinchey’s college football photo looks like he is the nicest possible man that could also eat you for breakfast. He’s terrifyingly versatile (as a former tight end), and will only get stronger as he trains at the NFL level (one of his “weaknesses” is listed as “needs more mass on his frame” – I mean, c’mon). [Source: NFL.com]. McGlinchey will likely be a great asset to any team that drafts him; the Chargers should take advantage of this opportunity.
18 – Seattle
Darrius Guice – RB – LSU
As far as the Seahawks, its no secret Seattle has been missing a powerful runner since the departure of Marshawn Lynch. With that said, there is no more explosive power runner than Darrius Guice. This will give the Seahawks a very needed top tier running back.
19 – Dallas
Will Hernandez – OG – UTEP
The Cowboys kind of sit in no-mans-land of the first round. They are going to miss out on the game-changing talent at the top of the first round and have to settle for a second tiered prospect. I would give the Cowboys more than an 80% chance of moving their first round pick, either up or down. They want to make a splash with the draft in their stadium. If they keep #19, Hernandez would slide in as their starting left guard Week One and help solidify that intimidating offensive line.
20 – Detroit
Taven Bryan – DL – Florida
Championships are won at the line. Just look at what happened to the Patriots in 2007. Just before the Super Bowl, they lose their starting center, pro bowler Dan Koppen and suddenly Michael Strahan is feasting. The lions could have a great line by adding Bryan.
21 – Cincinnati from Buffalo
Da’Ron Payne – DT – Alabama
The Bengals continue to add youth on their defensive line with Payne after taking two defensive ends in last year’s draft. Payne plays the run well and is a hell raiser in pass rush situation with his ability to push the middle of the pocket. He’ll be a great successor to Geno Atkins if they choose to let him walk as a free agent next year.
22 – Buffalo from Kansas City
Courtland Sutton – WR – SMU
Remember that thing we said earlier about the Bills being able to play it safe here? Well, we’re half taking that back. A stud wide receiver at No. 22 isn’t a sure thing, but getting Jackson as many weapons as possible is crucial. Kelvin Benjamin has the potential to re-break out this upcoming season, but getting him (and Jackson) some help in Courtland Sutton will be key for a team that was just 31st in total receptions last year, not to mention 31st in total receiving yards and 27th in receiving touchdowns.
23 – New England from Los Angeles Rams
Mike Hughes – CB – UCF
Out of all the storylines that popped up in this past Super Bowl, the Malcolm Butler saga was the one that came the most out of left field. (Well, that and Kevin Hart’s belligerent attempt at making it onstage with the Eagles as they accepted their hardware.) With Butler gone to the Tennessee Titans, there’s a gap to fill. They didn’t need him in the Super Bowl? Fine. The scoreboard might say otherwise, but okay. But now they have a gap that will go on for an entire season if they do nothing. Enter: Mike Hughes, a late-first-rounder who will probably win a Super Bowl MVP in the next three years because #Pats.
24 – Carolina
James Washington – WR – Oklahoma State
James Washington doesn’t have commanding height, but his skill-set will allow him to thrive in a receiving corps alongside Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen. Think of Washington as a Pierre Garçon cutout, or an eco friendly version of Anquan Boldin. The Biletnikoff Award winner is also a monster in the middle of the field, a benefit to the Air Coryell offense espoused by Norv Turner, the new Panthers’ offensive coordinator. The Panthers could go offensive line here, but Turner’s offense is quicker, predetermined, and usually desperate for skill players.
25 – Tennessee
Harold Landry – LB – Boston College
The top pass rushers were off the board at this point, but Harold Landry has the potential to be just as good as the guys taken before him. Landry has a terrific first step and beat a lot of opponents in college by just running around them. He won’t be able to do that in the NFL but he has such good physical skills that you can see his potential.
He only had five sacks last year while dealing with injuries; this was down from the 16.5 sacks he posted his junior year when he was considered a possible top five pick. I went with Landry over the more obvious need for a linebacker because I think there is good linebacker depth in this draft and pass rushers are a franchise cornerstone, so the Titans go Landry at 18.
26 – Atlanta
Vita Vea – DT – Washington
Vita Vea is done terrorizing the PAC-12 and is ready to give running backs fits in the NFL. He has a great first move, and it allows him to handle large offensive lineman and double teams. Vea’s also known for his endurance, as he keeps the pressure on opposing offenses consistently throughout the game. Dan Quinn’s 4-3 under defense depends on stout and hungry nose tackles, and Vea’s bullish nature will help set the Falcon’s edge rushers free.
27 – New Orleans
Mark Andrews – TE – Oklahoma
The Saints are a team on the verge of making a splash next year with sights on the Super Bowl, so look for them to pick up a ready-to-play skill player. Mark Andrews got a ton of reps in a high profile Oklahoma Sooner offense, and was particularly impressive on out routes, showing off his ability to juke, stiff-arm, and sometimes hurdle defenders in the open field. His run blocking skills are lacking, but that’s not important in the Saints’ highflying offense. Drew Brees will finally get his threat over the middle he’s been desperate for since Jimmy Graham left.
28 – Pittsburgh
Malik Jefferson – LB – Texas
Jefferson has the speed and versatility that’s perfect for the Steelers scheme. He comes in as a MLB so he could fill a need with Shazier presumably out for the year. Many evaluators question if he has the instinct to play MLB in the NFL, but that’s where his versatility gives him additional value here. He’s a great blitzer, which gives him a chance to earn time as an OLB pass rusher in their 3-4 scheme.
29 – Jacksonville
Isaiah Wynn – OL – Georgia
The Jacksonville Jaguars need help at tackle and even though Isaiah Wynn is being projected as a guard in the NFL, I think he has a chance to play tackle. He went up against SEC defenses at Georgia and won more battles than he lost. I think he can compete at tackle at the professional level, even with his shorter stature.
The Jags pick Wynn over the tackle prospects available because he has been one of the most consistent linemen eligible for the draft this year. Wynn describes himself as a “relentless finisher,” and he was a second team All-American at left tackle in 2017. He can make a big impact for a team that needs help on the o-line.
30 – Minnesota
Kolton Miller – OT – UCLA
Just as before, winning at the line of scrimmage. This time though, it’s to take care of the Vikings woeful running game. Kolton has the size to project as a top lineman, and has pretty good value at pick 30.
31 – New England
Sam Hubbard – DE – Ohio State
This is a more traditional Patriots pick. Sam Hubbard out of Ohio State is built to be in New England under Bill Belichick and Co. Odds are, NFL GMs will get ahead of this and snag him up before he ends up in the lap of the Pats IRL, but the 6’5-plus”, 270-pound edge rusher posted the best three-cone time of any player at his position at the combine, per Miller. This isn’t a sexy choice, but it’s an easy one.
32 – Philadelphia
Leighton Vander Esch – LB – Boise State
The Super Bowl champions sit at the #32 pick and hope that a first round talent falls to them. This is a valuable draft position, and likely one to be traded. The reason that teams covet this pick is because it is the last pick of the draft with the 5th year option attached to the contract. If the Eagles stay put, they would love a talent like Vander Esch to be available. Vander Esch is a great story, from 8-man football in high school to a first round draft pick.