For twenty-eight teams the NFL season is over. So many goals not achieved. So many hopes unfulfilled. There is nothing now but the pending weeks of off-season speculation.
So, there is no time like the present to start thinking about the 2018 NFL Draft. For these teams the order is essentially set (pending a few tie breakers). Now we have a clear — well, clearer anyway — picture of what to expect come draft day. Here’s how I see things playing out as of now.
1.) Cleveland Browns – Saquon Barkley
The Browns could go is so many directions here. Quarterback is an obvious need, (considering how Hue Jackson handled DeShone Kizer in 2017) so that is a route they could take here. However, there are rumors that new GM John Dorsey is not impressed with top-rated QB Josh Rosen. If this is the case they might feel like they can wait until the fourth overall pick to address quarterback, especially considering that both teams that pick after them here would love to get their hands on a guy like Saquon Barkley and don’t necessarily need a QB.
2.) New York Giants – Josh Rosen
With Eli Manning nearing the end of his career, I see the Giants making a long-term investment in the top QB in this class. They would love to get Barkley if he were available, but that’s not the case here. Offensive line is also a strong possibility considering how bad they’ve been in the trenches. With drafting Rosen, here it doesn’t force him into the starting lineup right away and allows him a little more time to adjust to the NFL and a new playbook. It also allows the offensive line, which I’m sure will be full of new starters next year, to grow and gel together to provide better protection for the young QB.
3.) Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb
The Colts are another team that could go in a lot of directions. They obviously need to fix the offensive line to help protect Andrew Luck, who has taken a beating over the last couple years. However, when you draft this high I’m a believer in taking the best player available when it lines up with a need. For the Colts that need is pass rusher and that player is Bradley Chubb. After investing a lot of draft resources into the defense last year, I expect that trend to continue this year. Chubb is a well-rounded player who can cause problems for the quarterback and make an impact against the run. That’s huge for a division that has the most dynamic running quarterbacks in the NFL.
4.) Cleveland Browns (via Houston) – Lamar Jackson
Could you imagine the potential explosiveness with Saquon Barkley and Lamar Jackson together? While I’m not sure Jackson is the best quarterback left on the board, the Browns need to develop multiple ways to win. Jackson has shown he can make NFL throws and would be able to utilize the outside weapons Cleveland already has. What he can do as a runner would bring a new dimension to this offense and would be a huge boost to the running game. I’ll sacrifice some ability as a passer here for what Jackson can do on the ground.
5.) Denver Broncos – Sam Darnold
The Broncos desperately need a quarterback. Lucky for them a really good one is still on the board. Sam Darnold can make all the throws, and if the Broncos are able to live with a few growing pains he should be able to start next year. He does have a problem with turning the ball over, occasionally trying to force a play that isn’t there. However, the good outweighs the bad with the big plays he can make. Where he really shines is under pressure, showing the ability to escape the pocket and keep his eyes down field. He’d be a big upgrade to any of the failed experiments that Denver has tried at quarterback over the last few years.
6.) New York Jets – Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield is just what a team like the Jets need. His big personality and passion on the field could breath some life into a fan base that’s had nothing to be excited about for a long time. Mayfield doesn’t have the biggest arm in the world, but he makes up for that with great accuracy and football intelligence. He also has the athleticism to pick up yards with his feet when the situation calls for it. He can be the exciting, emotional leader of this young Jets team as they continue on with their rebuilding process.
7.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quenton Nelson
Quenton Nelson might be the best pure football player in this class. Sadly, guards don’t get the love the deserve come draft day. Even still, I can’t let this elite offensive talent fall any further than this. Nelson is everything you want in an interior lineman; smart, strong, quick, aggressive, and polished. He can fit any system and do anything you could ask of him as a run blocker or pass protector. That’s great news for a Buccaneers team that desperately needs to build in their trenches. This will help them build a much-needed rushing attack and protect their young star quarterback, Jameis Winston. Were the top pass rusher still on the board here, they would probably go in that direction, but since that’s not the case the Bucs will have to settle for my number two overall rated player.
8.) Chicago Bears – Calvin Ridley
Last year the Bears traded up to draft Mitchell Trubisky as their franchise quarterback. This year they need to get him some weapons to throw to. Calvin Ridley is my top-rated receiver in this class and can play outside and in the slot. He’s so quick and sudden with his routes that he should have no trouble creating separation at the next level. He also has the speed to be that big play threat the Bears need. This pick is a no-brainer to me. Chicago can’t go into the year with the no-name group of pass catchers they had this year.
9.) Oakland Raiders* – Minkah Fitzpatrick
Minkah Fitzpatrick brings so much to the table as a cornerback. He’s got all the athleticism, physicality, and ball skills you’d want in a CB. He is also very versatile having lined up all over the defense during his time at Alabama. This pick would give the Raiders a pair of young talented corners who they could build a defense around.
10.) San Francisco 49ers* – Roquan Smith
Linebacker might not be the biggest need on the 49ers, but weak side linebacker could be improved and that’s where the best player on the board is. Adding Roquan Smith to a front seven that already includes Reuben Foster and Solomon Thomas makes that a very scary unit, which is still extremely young and controllable. That gives the 49ers a real identity on defense and allows Kyle Shanahan to then turn his focus to the offense, where I believe he’ll maximize whatever talent he has.
11.) Miami Dolphins – Rashaan Evans
This feels like a match made in heaven for the Dolphins. They need a linebacker and a potential star at that position is still on the board. Rashaan Evans is a physical middle linebacker with decent range. He’s also very good rushing the passer on a blitz. While I think he’s a better fit in a 3-4, I don’t see any reason he can’t play in a 4-3. My only concern is that the Dolphins don’t utilize his full skill-set because he’s much more than a run stuffer. Great value here on a stud prospect that fits a big need.
12.) Cincinnati Bengals – Connor Williams
There is a lot to like about the Bengals offense, particularly with the play-makers they have. Unfortunately they don’t have the blocking to really take advantage of them like they could. Connor Williams is a very good left tackle who is capable of stepping in next year and protecting Andy Dalton’s blind side. A fairly well-rounded and polished player, but could still improve some technical things. Regardless, he’s a good addition to the team and an upgrade in the trenches.
13.) Green Bay Packers* – Isaiah Oliver
The Packers, as always, need help on defense. They could go pass rusher here, but I’m not convinced that’s where the value is at this point. Instead they take a CB to improve an up and coming secondary. After drafting Kevin King last year the Pack can really turn that unit into a strength by adding to it again here. Isaiah Oliver has good size and tools, just like King. He also has the ball skill and coverage ability to come in and be the number one corner on the team.
14.) Washington Redskins* – Derrius Guice
The gap between Saquan Barkley and Derrius Guice isn’t as big as you think. Guice is a very physical and imposing runner who also has the big play ability to make things happen. A complete three down back who would give Washington an offensive identity, which they’ll need if Kirk Cousins leaves in the off-season. He’s a huge upgrade to what they already have at the position, and he’ll be able to do a lot of damage with the offensive line they have in place there.
15.) Arizona Cardinals – Vita Vea
The Cardinals do a lot of things well. However, the one thing I think they really need is more strength on their defensive line. Enter Vita Vea. This guy is a huge, powerful nose tackle who will instantly improve the run defense. He also brings some pass rush ability, so don’t think he’s just a one-dimensional space eater. This would be a great addition to an already young and talented defense.
16.) Baltimore Ravens – Auden Tate
The Ravens offense stinks. The passing game stinks. The running game stinks. Really there is very little to like. So there’s really no bad pick here as long as it’s a skill player. Auden Tate is a big-body receiver who is a legitimate red zone threat. Joe Flacco doesn’t even have to play well, he can just throw it up to this guy. I don’t think Tate is a game-altering deep threat, but he has the tools to be a true number one receiver in the NFL. He alone won’t save the Ravens offense, but he’s a great starting point moving forward.
17.) Los Angeles Chargers – Orlando Brown, Jr.
After investing in a pair of excellent guards in last year’s draft, the Chargers need to continue building that offensive line into a strength. Orlando Brown, Jr. is a massive man with surprising quickness to protect the edge. He’s a franchise left tackle and will be key in helping Philip Rivers stay healthy as he approaches the end of his career, and would be big part of helping develop whatever QB takes over when Rivers is gone.
18.) Seattle Seahawks – Denzel Ward
The “Legion of Boom” is getting older and it’s time to start thinking about the next generation. Denzel Ward has great coverage and ball skills. He’s a little small at just 5’10, so he doesn’t fit their normal mold, but he’s got the talent to warrant them breaking that trend. He also has the quickness to play in the slot initially and add to this already talented defensive unit. He’s a pick for the present and for the future.
19.) Dallas Cowboys* – Mo Hurst
The Cowboys are going back to the well and drafting a Michigan defensive lineman in the first round for the second year in a row. This one being even better than the one they got last year. Mo Hurst shows elite burst off the snap and can be incredibly disruptive. Now when I say elite, I’m talking the best-of-the-best that the NFL has to offer. He could still develop some pass rush moves, but this elite skill combined with good strength at the point of attack makes Hurst a great pick for the Cowboys developing defensive line.
20.) Detroit Lions* – Taven Bryan
Taven Bryan is explosive and athletic. He move very well for a guy who is nearly 6’5 and 300 lbs and can be very disruptive against the run and pass. Despite not having eye popping numbers in college, Bryan has the ability to throw blockers off of him and make plays. I have little doubt that his best football is still ahead of him.
21.) Buffalo Bills – Da’Ron Payne
Da’Ron Payne’s stock has never been higher after having the game of his career in the national championship. His burst combined with several impressive pass rush moves make him a very disruptive three technique for the NFL level. With Buffalo’s DT group needing and injection of youth and talent this feels like a natural fit for the Bills.
22.) Buffalo Bills (via KC) – Josh Allen
It doesn’t seem like the Bills are sold on Tyrod Taylor as the long-term answer at quarterback (let’s not forget the infamous Nathan Peterman game). So it makes sense that the Bills would invest in the pro-style quarterback they want who has more upside than anyone in this class. This is a great landing spot for Josh Allen. He can sit behind Taylor next year while he improves his mechanics and be ready to take the reigns as franchise QB after next season.
23.) Los Angeles Rams – Joshua Jackson
The Rams came out of no where in 2017 and fielded one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. Now they need to keep building the defense to match it. Joshua Jackson has the size and ball skills to be a top-notch corner in the league. With Trumaine Johnson likely leaving in free agency, the Rams need to rebuild that secondary quickly. Johnson can step in next season and be an instant starter in L.A.
24.) Carolina Panthers – Anthony Miller
The Panther recent playoff loss made it clear that Cam Newton needs more help at receiver. With the mid-season trade of Kelvin Benjamin, it seems like Carolina wants to move away from the big-body targets. Anthony Miller looks as fast, or faster, than any wide receiver in this class. He will provide a big time deep threat to compliment Newton’s big arm.
25.) Tennessee Titans – Derwin James
The Titans are a strange team. They have a lot of talent on offense, but aren’t nearly as explosive as you’d expect. I believe that will work itself out as Marcus Mariota has a full off-season to get his mind right. So that leads me to the Titans pass defense. They could certainly use a pass rusher, but I don’t have any valued this high to justify the pick. Derwin James would be a great fit with this team. He gives them a SS of the future to pair with All-Pro Kevin Byard, and he should make an instant impact on coverage.
26.) Atlanta Falcons – Billy Price
Billy Price is agile and powerful. His hand usage is very good and his all-around technique is very polished. Price can play in any system and do everything Atlanta could ask of him. He can start anywhere on the Falcons interior offensive line and instantly make an impact at the NFL level.
27.) New Orleans Saints – Mark Andrews
If you couldn’t tell by their great success this season, the Saints don’t have a ton of glaring needs. Their best move might be preparing for life without Drew Brees. Drafting a big body TE like Mark Andrews will help give the offense an additional weapon and red zone threat in the short term, while developing a young tight end for whoever the Saints QB of the future will eventually be.
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers – Marcus Allen
Marcus Allen plays very fast and physical. He’s a factor against the run and loves contact. He has the athletic tools to hold up in coverage, although he needs a little refining in terms of getting his head turned around when the ball is in the air. This is the kind of addition that will ensure the Steelers don’t get run over when they absolutely need to stop opposing running backs.
29.) Jacksonville Jaguars – Courtland Sutton
The Jags desperately need to improve their offense. And because there are no quarterbacks on my board that justify this pick, a play-maker seems like a natural fit here. Jacksonville could be losing their top wide receiver, Allen Robinson, as a free agent as well as a few others. I’m not sure who will be throwing the passes for the Jaguars next year, but I do know they’ll need some play-makers to take some pressure off of that fantastic defense. Courtland Sutton is just the guy to fill that role.
30.) Philadelphia Eagles – Jamarco Jones
The Eagles need a young offensive tackle to help protect Carson Wentz for the next decade. They can’t afford to lose him like they did this season. So with Jason Peters nearing the end of his career, Jamarco Jones can come in and be a natural replacement. Jones moves extremely well for a man his size and should have no trouble keeping Wentz on his feet.
31.) New England Patriots – Harold Landry
In terms of pure pass rush ability, Harold Landry is as good as anyone in this class. He’s the speed rusher that every team wishes they had with the ability to quickly get around the edge. He has a lot to prove in other areas of his game, but he’d be an immediate help pressuring the quarterback. Landry is a natural 3-4 outside linebacker and he looks athletic enough to do anything the Pats could ask of him.
32.) Minnesota Vikings – Mike McGlinchey
I’m not totally sure if Mike McGlinchey is a tackle or a guard, but I do know he will help the Vikes offensive line. He is a powerful and can drive defenders back when squared up on them. He’s also fluid enough to get to the second level with solid footwork. McGlinchey might not be an exciting splash pick, but he has a high floor and fills a need for a team that is very strong from top to bottom.