2018 NFL Mock Draft- Updated: Friday, March 9th
Now days from the start of NFL Free Agency, free-agency moves next week will clearly impact how teams approach the NFL Draft next month. In other words, a lot of what is projected in this mock draft will potentially look much different in the next (and future) update(s).
The top-ranked free-agent prize based on consensus 2018 NFL free-agency rankings is quarterback Kirk Cousins.
While he will have plenty of suitors, the Vikings and Broncos could make the most sense as two teams with strong defenses that are missing strong quarterback play. Technically, the Vikings had excellent quarterback play from Case Keenum last season, but he, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater are all unrestricted free agents.
Meanwhile, the Jets and/or Browns could be willing to break the bank for Cousins as well.
With that said, here is a look at how the 2018 NFL Draft could play out:
1. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Loaded with draft picks and salary-cap space, new general manager John Dorsey has tremendous flexibility in how he will approach both free agency and the draft. Per spotrac, the Browns are the only team in the league with greater than $100 million in available salary-cap space. In addition, they have 10 picks in the first five rounds alone including two in the top four and four in the top 35.
In the past two decades since professional football returned to Cleveland in 1999, the Browns have started 28 different quarterbacks including DeShone Kizer, a second-round pick last season. The presence of a strong running back is one way to take pressure off a young quarterback and Penn State's Saquon Barkley has the tools to develop into the league's best -- early in his career.
More than anything, however, getting the quarterback decision right is the most important thing for this franchise. They can't continue to whiff like they have with previous first-rounders -- Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden, Brady Quinn, etc. While he has a long delivery and he needs to take better care of the football, Darnold has the prototypical tools to develop into a franchise-changing quarterback.
2. New York Giants (Draft History): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Clearly on the back end of his career, Eli Manning seems to have the commitment of new general manager Dave Gettleman going into the 2018 season. As much as Manning's play may have regressed, a poor offensive line, lack of a running game and injuries to the team's top receivers all contribute to the struggles. Given that the Giants won't pick this high often, Manning's heir apparent could be in play here as well.
Given that, Barkley is widely-viewed as the best player in this year's draft class. An athletic freak at 230 pounds, Barkley put on a display at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month -- 4.40 forty, 29 bench press reps, 41-inch vertical, etc. -- and racked up 3,801 yards from scrimmage and 43 touchdowns in his past two seasons at Penn State.
Unlike most teams that typically pick this high, the Giants have a talented roster that won 11 games just two seasons ago. Adding a dynamic playmaker like Barkley along with making tweaks elsewhere, specifically the offensive line, the Giants could bounce back into playoff contention. Regardless of thoughts about running backs being devalued, Gettleman is only one year removed from using a high pick (eighth overall) on Christian McCaffrey with the Panthers.
3. Indianapolis Colts (Draft History): Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Far from a lock after how last season played out, Andrew Luck (shoulder) being under center in Week 1 is the most reasonable assumption at this point. (Assumption being the operative word.) Meanwhile, the last-minute acquisition of Jacoby Brissett last offseason provided the Colts with a competent backup, at a minimum. In other words, Indianapolis may be the only team in the top six to not be considering a quarterback.
Ideally for the Colts, both the Browns and Giants would kick off the draft with back-to-back quarterback selections. Assuming Barkley is off the board, however, Chubb is the most logical choice. Even if Barkley were still on the board, I think Chubb could still be the choice.
Not only is it difficult to find elite pass-rushers like Chubb, it would fill one of the team's biggest needs. Only the Buccaneers (22) had fewer sacks than the Colts (25) in 2017. With a non-stop motor and impressive measurables, Chubb had double-digit sacks and 20-plus tackles for loss in back-to-back seasons.
4. (Via HOU) Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
With the versatility and experience to play anywhere in the defensive backfield, Fitzpatrick had nine interceptions -- including four returned for scores -- over his three seasons in Tuscaloosa. For a team with one win over two seasons, his leadership and work ethic would be huge assets in the locker room as well.
“Minkah does it as well as anybody I’ve ever coached, in terms of how he works every day, how he finishes plays, his conditioning level, just phenomenal,” Saban said. “Pays attention to detail. It’s important to him. Makes sure he knows what to do.
“A lot of players that are good players I’ve heard them say ‘I’m saving it for the game.’ Every one of those players, and all those teams that I’ve been on that the players say that, none of them are worth a sh*t. He doesn’t do that. He works every day to get better.
“I hope we have more and more players who work like him, because when you have players that do that, you usually have a pretty good team. He sets a great example and we’re excited to be able to utilize him in a lot of different ways.”
5. Denver Broncos (Draft History): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Even though the Broncos used a first-round pick on Paxton Lynch a couple of drafts ago, the long-term answer does not appear to be on the team's roster. If the Broncos land Kirk Cousins in free agency, Rosen (obviously) won't be the pick. If they don't address quarterback in free agency, John Elway could consider either Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield, both of whom were coached by the Broncos at the Senior Bowl. If they sign Cousins or even Case Keenum, this pick would most likely be Notre Dame's Quinton Nelson. Lots of ifs.
MORE: Consensus 2018 NFL Free Agent Rankings
6. New York Jets (Draft History): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Jets used a 2016 second-round pick on Christian Hackenberg, who has yet to play a snap, and a 2015 fourth-round pick on Bryce Petty, who has a career 4:10 TD-INT ratio in seven starts and 10 games. Neither is the long-term answer for a franchise that could possibly bring back Josh McCown, who would be an excellent bridge quarterback for Allen. With elite prototypical traits, no quarterback has more upside than Allen.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History): Quentin Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
While it may not be the flashiest pick, the Bucs get outstanding value with a safe, blue-chip prospect like Nelson to take over for Kevin Pamphile, their starting left guard last season and impending free agent. Even if they re-sign Pamphile, Nelson has All-Pro potential and would be an instant upgrade either way.
8. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
In my previous mock, Nelson fell one more spot to the Bears to be reunited with collegiate offensive line coach, who joined the Bears staff this offseason. Another position to consider is wide receiver, but I'm not that any receiver in this year's draft class justifies a top-eight selection. Ward is an extremely athletic cornerback as evidenced by his combine-best 4.32 forty and delivers big hits despite his size (see below).
Denzel Ward - 5-11 180— Luke (@__Neutralizer) January 15, 2018
Mark Andrews - 6-5 254 pic.twitter.com/F9lUPQ1VWM
The Bears used their transition tag on Kyle Fuller, which keeps him in Chicago for (at least) one more year. But the starter opposite him, Prince Amukamara, is due to become an unrestricted free agent. That said, you can never have too many cornerbacks.
9. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Edmunds is the son of Ferrell Edmunds, a two-time Pro Bowler, and brother of Terrell Edmunds, safety prospect in this year's draft class. With a rare blend of size, length and athleticism and just 19 years old, Tremaine has the versatility to play both inside and outside and the potential is enormous.
10. Oakland Raiders (Draft History): Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The most common player mocked to the Raiders (Raiders Mock Draft Database), Smith became Georgia's first-ever winner of the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top collegiate linebacker. With sideline-to-sideline range, Smith is a three-down linebacker that led the Dawgs with 137 tackles including 14 for loss and 6.5 sacks this past season.
Here are the rest of our Round 1 selections:
|1.11||Miami Dolphins||Derwin James, S, Florida State Seminoles|
|1.12||Cincinnati Bengals||Connor Williams, OT, Texas Longhorns|
|1.13||Washington Redskins||Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA|
|1.14||Green Bay Packers||Mike Hughes, CB, UCF Knights|
|1.15||Arizona Cardinals||Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma Sooners|
|1.16||Baltimore Ravens||Vita Vea, DT, Washington Huskies|
|1.17||Los Angeles Chargers||Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame Fighting Irish|
|1.18||Seattle Seahawks||Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP Miners|
|1.19||Dallas Cowboys||Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama Crimson Tide|
|1.20||Detroit Lions||Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College Eagles|
|1.21||Buffalo Bills||Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama Crimson Tide|
|1.22||Buffalo Bills||Taven Bryan, DT, Florida Gators|
|1.23||Los Angeles Rams||Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa Hawkeyes|
|1.24||Carolina Panthers||Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide|
|1.25||Tennessee Titans||Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia Bulldogs|
|1.26||Atlanta Falcons||Maurice Hurst, DL, Michigan Wolverines|
|1.27||New Orleans Saints||James Daniels, C, Iowa Hawkeyes|
|1.28||Pittsburgh Steelers||Leighton Vander Esch, OLB, Boise State Broncos|
|1.29||Jacksonville Jaguars||Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville Cardinals|
|1.30||Minnesota Vikings||Billy Price, G/C, Ohio State Buckeyes|
|1.31||New England Patriots||Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State Buckeyes|
|1.32||Philadelphia Eagles||Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville Cardinals|
- For more mocks, check out our NFL Mock Draft Database.
- Consensus NFL Free Agent Rankings
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