The NFL Draft isn’t until May but we are starting to learn more about the prospects for the 2018 class. Some quick overviews include a loaded quarterback group and weak tight ends class. The information process is just getting underway as this mock draft does not represent my opinion on who each team should take just yet. The Mock Draft simply projects who I think that specific team could possibly target based on a few factors including scheme and prior draft history. Without further ado, Def Pen presents your 2018 NFL Mock Draft version 1.0.
1.) New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold is the best quarterback prospect in 2018. Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg, and Bryce Petty clearly aren’t the answer. Darnold is a franchise quarterback from day one and the Jets savior. How good can Darnold become? Think Aaron Rodgers type of ceiling.
2.) Indianapolis Colts: Arden Key, OLB, LSU
Key is a 6-foot-3, 240-pound pass rusher who is a lightning rod who can get after the quarterback. Key led LSU with 12.5 sacks last year which broke the school record. The Colts need two things; to get Andrew Luck healthy and to recreate that Dwight Freeney/ Robert Mathis type of pass rusher. Key gives them a pass rusher with that kind of upside.
3.) Cincinnati Bengals: Derwin James, S, Florida State
James is a demon in the back end for Florida State that comes with position versatility. James can play safety, corner, linebacker, or even blitz in sub packages. Injuries are a bit of a red flag but there’s no questioning his pure athleticism.
4.) San Francisco 49ers: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen gets to stay close to home as the 49ers are in need of their franchise quarterback. Rosen is the most polished pure passer in the entire class. Kyle Shanahan will love Rosen as a former tennis player rolling out in those play-action bootlegs. Rosen’s the real deal and is ready to lead a franchise like the 49ers.
5.) Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, HB, Penn State
The Browns are always tough to gauge. Given the fact that Cleveland missed on Trent Richardson, Cleveland may pass on Barkley. Then again, Barkley is the most complete back in the class who can factor in the run and pass game.
6.) Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Ridley is a spitting image of Amari Cooper who can have the same kind of impact. The Bears missed on Kevin White and have no real targets on offense. Chicago has to bank on their current quarterback group for at least one more year making Ridley a logical target.
7.) Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen’s pure arm talent makes him a great fit for the harsh winters in Buffalo. Allen could be a Ben Roethlisberger type of quarterback if all goes well. It’s just that no one knows for sure what we’re getting out of Allen. Buffalo is a clear quarterback destination regardless of who’s on the board.
8.) New Orleans Saints: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College
Defensive struggles have plagued the Saints for many years. Landry gives the Saints that pure pass rusher that the Saints need. With Marcus Williams and Marshon Lattimore being selected in 2016, New Orleans will likely target the front seven to upgrade.
9.) New York Giants: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart have been disasters at tackle for the Giants. New York needs offensive line help in the worst way and the only reason why they project to be a bottom tier team. Connor Williams is a bookend left tackle for the next 10 years. Keeping Eli Manning upright has to be the top priority this upcoming offseason.
10.) Los Angeles Chargers: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
The Chargers are another team that needs offensive line help. After taking Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney, selecting Brown gives the Chargers that perfect fit at either tackle spot. Brown is a house and should project as an All-Pro at the next level.
11.) Houston Texans: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
Fitzpatrick reminds me a lot of Tyrann Mathieu. Fitzpatrick can play safety and corner and constantly finds his way to the football. Fitzpatrick had 8 interceptions his first two years at Bama and makes big plays in the special teams game as well.
12.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Jacksonville has been adamant on building a running game. This leads me to believe they may be open to taking a quarterback like Lamar Jackson who can run pretty well himself. Jackson isn’t a great pure pocket passer but is a terrific athlete and Jacksonville clearly needs an upgrade over Blake Bortles.
13.) Los Angeles Rams: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Getting Jared Goff more help has been the Rams motive for the past two years. After signing Andrew Whitworth last offseason, look for the Rams to possibly target interior offensive lineman. Nelson is a good one from Notre Dame where the program has a solid track record of producing NFL starters. Zack Martin of the Cowboys is an example of that.
14.) Arizona Cardinals: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Calais Cambell is no longer with the red birds so let’s draft a replacement. Mo Hurst is part of that dynamic front seven with Michigan. Hurst commands a double team and will solidify the run defense. He also plays with great pad level and pushes the pocket.
15.) Washington Redskins: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Wilkins plays along one of the best defensive lines in the country with Clemson. Wilkins is a high sack production defensive tackle. Washington hasn’t had a dynamic defensive tackle in a long time. Remember when they missed on Albert Haynesworth? Wilkins could be a difference maker.
16.) Minnesota Vikings: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Vikings offensive line needs a lot of work, to say the least. McGlinchey is part of a great offensive line with Notre Dame. After losing Ryan Khalil in free agency, the Vikings are in serious need of a new tackle. With Dalvin Cook in-house, the Vikings need to pursue offensive line help.
17.) Carolina Panthers: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
Ever since Josh Norman left town, the Panthers are in dire need of a number one corner. McFadden has those traits with big-time ball production for the Seminoles. McFadden fits that mold as a tall corner with really long arms. Florida State has a bevy of talented defensive backs to watch in the coming years.
18.) Miami Dolphins: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
What if the Dolphins took a one-gap penetrator to pair with Ndamukong Suh? Vea can be exactly that as Suh hasn’t had a quality running mate. The Phins tried to do that with Jordan Phillips but to no avail. Vea is a pure nose tackle and can be scheme versatile.
19.) Philadelphia Eagles: Derrius Guice, HB, LSU
Guice gives the Eagles that dynamic running back they have been looking for. Guice has the talent of his LSU predecessor Leonard Fourntte. LeGarrette Blount is washed up, Donnell Pumphrey was never the answer, and Darren Sproles is better suited for work in the passing game. The big question is whether Doug Pederson will ever run the football enough for Guice to be the pick.
20.) Tennessee Titans: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
Harrison is part of an electric safety duo with Minkah Fitzpatrick. Harrison links closely to Landon Collins as a big, physical safety that can also cover. Dick LeBeau has been searching for his Troy Polamalu in Tennessee and Harrison could be a potential possibility.
21.) Dallas Cowboys: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Imagine how good this Cowboys linebacker group could be with Sean Lee and Jaylen Smith. Jefferson could be plugged right in Rod Marinelli’s defense with the speed to play that Tampa 2 system. Jefferson has natural pass rush ability and moves really well in space.
22.) Baltimore Ravens: Ronald Jones, HB, USC
Jones gives the Ravens a true number one running back. The Terrance West, Buck Allen show is a band-aid at this point. With Jones, he can do everything in the run and pass game. He also might have the best pure speed of any back in this class.
23.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
Noah Spence needs a running mate and Hubbard could be that guy. The former safety turned linebacker, turned defensive end, is a force for a talented Buckeyes. Hubbard has a great first step quickness and finds his way to the quarterback more often than not.
24.) Seattle Seahawks: Mitchell Hyatt, OT, Clemson
Dear Seattle, Please find a way to acquire some offensive lineman! With a loaded roster in place, offensive line help is the one thing missing from putting this team back in the Super Bowl. Hyatt could be the guy as he’s been Clemson’s left tackle for quite some time.
25.) Detroit Lions: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk fits the Lions offense really well who reminds me of Kenaan Allen. Kirk could wind up being a really good route runner and great compliment to Golden Tate. The Lions have some nightmares of drafting receivers in the first round, but Kirk is the real deal.
26.) Green Bay Packers: Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
Everyone misses B.J. Raji in Green Bay. Let’s try to recreate him. Nnadi gives the Packers another stout defensive lineman. With Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels rolling, Nnadi could be the missing piece.
27.) Denver Broncos: Billy Price, C, Ohio State
Price has the ability to play guard and center which should be something the Broncos covet. Denver invested in Garett Bolles with a first round pick this past year. Price could be something Denver pulls the trigger on. Price has been a starter since his freshman year.
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
After Lawrence Timmons signed with the Dolphins this past offseason, the Steelers could be in the market for a middle linebacker. Ryan Shazier is great but he needs a running mate. With T.J. Watt looking like a future force, Edmunds could be the pick. Edmunds fits that mold as a tackling machine that the Steelers could select.
29.) Atlanta Falcons: M.J. Stewart, CB, North Carolina
The Falcons currently rely on Brian Poole, an undrafted player, to be their starter. Desmond Trufant is great, but the team could be in the market for another corner as you can never have enough. Stewart is one of many players who could make a name for himself this year.
30.) New England Patriots: Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
Florida State is loaded and Sweat wrecks havoc off the edge. New England currently has zero pass rush. Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins used to provide that aspect. Sweat is a sack machine and is a position of need.
31.) Oakland Raiders: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Mario Williams was the last NC State pass rusher to go in the first round. Chubb could be just as good. Khalil Mack has to be tired of facing double teams every single game. Chubb has been a fast riser and looks like a first-round pass rusher.
32.) Kansas City Chiefs: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Speed kills. Imagine what the Chiefs offense could look like with gunslinger Pat Mahomes if he develops properly? Tyreek Hill is a burner and is similar to what Sutton brings to the table.