2018 NFL Mock Draft- Updated: Tuesday, Feb. 21st
We are still a week or two away from the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine and more than two months away from the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia.
Even so, I will take a look ahead to the 2018 NFL Draft today.
For simplicity's sake, the 2018 NFL Draft order used below is based on this year's draft. In future iterations, we will use the inverse of our NFL power rankings.
More than anything, the goal of this mock draft is to highlight some players and some possible fits, but this will clearly look so different in future versions of this mock draft.
With all of that said, here is my early projection of how Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft could play out:
1. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Sam Darnold, QB, USC
It appears to be a lock that the Browns will use their No. 1 overall pick in 2017 to select Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, the consensus top player available in this year's draft. Provided they don't trade for Jimmy Garoppolo or draft a signal-caller with their other first-round pick, selecting a potential franchise quarterback like Darnold would make sense next year if the Browns are once again in this spot.
Not only is the 2018 quarterback class widely viewed as being more talented than this year's crop of quarterbacks, Darnold has the potential to be the best of the group. With prototypical physical tools and outstanding poise and leadership, the redshirt freshman engineered a come-from-behind victory over Penn State in Rose Bowl as he threw for 453 yards and five scores.
2. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU
Based on my 2017 NFL Mock Draft (as of 2/17), Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers will get their franchise quarterback in UNC's Mitch Trubisky. There is some uncertainty with Key, who has recently taken a leave of absence for personal reasons, but he's an explosive edge rusher that set the school's single-season sack record (12) as a true sophomore in 2016.
3. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Jay Cutler era is likely to end soon and both backup-caliber quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are due to become unrestricted free agents. In previous versions of my 2017 mock, I've had the Bears select Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer. It's unlikely that they pass on a signal-caller once again if they don't address the position long term this year.
Perhaps the Bears go with another Josh (UCLA's Rosen) at quarterback, but Allen has great size (6-5, 222) and plays in a pro-style offense although he is a bit raw. One AFC Exec told MMQB's Albert Breer, "He’s a big ol’ kid with a big arm, and he’s pretty athletic too. We gotta learn more about him, but the tools are there." Coincidentally, Allen plays for Craig Bohl, who recruited Carson Wentz to North Dakota State.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Derwin James, S, Florida State
With Tashaun Gipson signed to a free-agent deal before last season, the Jags may go in a different direction here. That said, James is a freakish talent that warrants a top-five selection and one ACC coach said the following of James before the start of last season: "Derwin James is flat scary good. He could probably start at all 11 positions. He’s one of those freaky guys who might be better than Ramsey when it’s all said and done."
5. Los Angeles Rams (Draft History): Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Rams could certainly use more weapons for or help protecting Jared Goff and I strongly considered slotting Christian Kirk or Calvin Ridley to them. But defensive back could be a need as well. Trumaine Johnson is a free agent this year, Lamarcus Joyner is a free agent next year and E.J. Gaines graded out as the 107th-best of 112 qualified cornerbacks last season. With experience at both cornerback and safety, the 6-foot-1 Fitzpatrick led the SEC with six interceptions as a sophomore.
6. New York Jets (Draft History): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Perhaps the Jets will address their need at quarterback in 2017 with only two unproven quarterbacks -- Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg -- on the roster. Considering they used a second-round pick on Hackenberg last season, it's possibly the franchise waits another year before investing a high draft pick in the position. Expected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft even before stepping foot on campus, Rosen's 2016 season was cut short by a shoulder injury and he will now have his third offensive coordinator in as many seasons. But if Rosen's still available here, it would be difficult for the Jets to pass on him.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (Draft History): Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Left tackle King Dunlap has played in only 19 of 32 games over the past two seasons and will turn 33 years old at the beginning of the 2018 NFL season. While the team's offensive line seems to be in perpetual need of an upgrade, McGlinchey would be a first step in upgrading it.
8. Carolina Panthers (Draft History): Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
One of the most explosive receivers in college football, Kirk (5-11, 200) has 80-plus catches and 900-plus yards in each of his first two seasons in College Station. In addition, Kirk has averaged 22.25 yards per punt return with five returned for scores over the past two seasons. Meanwhile, WR/PR/KR Ted Ginn Jr. is a free agent heading into the 2017 season.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (Draft History): Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
While his sophomore season (71/776/7) was a disappointment at least compared to expectations and his freshman production (89/1,045/7), Ridley has elite speed, hands and route-running ability to develop into a true No. 1 receiver at the next level. If Tyler Eifert could stay healthy, the Bengals would have one of the best trios of pass-catchers with A.J. Green, Ridley and Eifert for years to come.
10. Buffalo Bills (Draft History): Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
Originally committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame and a high school safety, Hubbard is a freakish athlete that closed the season strong. Per PFF, Hubbard had seven total pressures and 12 defensive stops in the team's final three games. If he builds upon that momentum in 2017, Hubbard could become a top-10 pick in 2018.
11. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
The Saints can score and surrender points in a hurry and could use reinforcements on all three levels of their defense. Jefferson is a freak athlete that has run a sub-4.4 forty. While he became "too high on [him]self" during the season, Jefferson closed the season strong and will look to carry forward that momentum into 2017.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (Draft History): Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
Of the 112 qualified cornerbacks, Philadelphia's starters Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills graded out as 92nd and 112th at the position in 2016 (via PFF). Meanwhile, Carroll and Dwayne Gratz are free agents this spring. A former five-star recruit, the 6-foot-2 McFadden tied West Virginia's Rasul Douglas for the national lead in passes intercepted (eight).
13. Arizona Cardinals (Draft History): Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Carson Palmer will be back for at least one more season, but it's very possible that it's his last. While his production was at times video game-esque, Jackson threw for 3,543 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 1,571 yards and another 21 scores. There are some concerns (slight frame, accuracy, etc.) for the Heisman Trophy winner, but his upside is undeniable.
14. Indianapolis Colts (Draft History): Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State
Lewis was the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year last season and it's almost as if the Buckeyes have too many pass-rushers -- if that were even possible -- with Hubbard and Nick Bosa also on the roster. That said, Lewis will help fill one of the team's biggest holes as they have five outside linebackers set to become free agents (or retire) including Erik Walden, who led the team with 11.0 sacks.
15. Minnesota Vikings (Draft History): Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
The biggest 2017 offseason need for the Vikings is the offensive line. Five different offensive tackles saw at least 100 snaps including three that will be free agents -- Matt Kalil, Jake Long and Andre Smith Jr. The First-Team All-ACC selection last season, Hyatt has started all of his 30 games for the Tigers.
16. Baltimore Ravens (Draft History): Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
All three of the starters along Baltimore's defensive line -- Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan and Lawrence Guy -- are slated to become free agents in either 2017 or 2018, although a long-term deal with Williams appears likely. Adding a versatile lineman like Wilkins could make sense for the Ravens in 2018.
- Continue to picks 17-32 in our 2018 NFL Mock Draft
- Our 2017 NFL Mock Draft
- For more mocks, check out our NFL Mock Draft Database.
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