It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas has come and gone faster than the kids would like, but now it’s time for us adults to kick back and enjoy some stellar football we have waiting for us.
Aside from the NFL Playoffs which are set to kickoff in just a couple more weeks, College Football Bowl season is in full swing. We’ve had some decent games take place thus far with some top notch prospects on display, but the best is yet to come.
On New Year’s Day we’re spoiled with both College Football Playoff semifinal matchups as Clemson and Alabama will faceoff for the third consecutive year while Baker Mayfield looks to lead his team to a victory against the SEC Champions and quite possibly the best defense he’s ever faced.
With all this early year football, it’s only natural we discuss the NFL Draft. The playoff picture is just about set as teams prepare for the postseason, and the rest of the other 20 teams set their sights on improvement through free agency and the NFL Draft.
This is my first 2018 NFL Mock Draft of the season so I hope you enjoy. And to everyone, Happy New Year! May you and your family have a blessed year.
*Draft order based on ESPN FPI & my playoff predictions
NYG: 1.1, 4th RD pick (f/ CAR)
CLE: 1.2, 2.34, CB Eli Apple
1. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (f/ CLE)
Don’t spend too much time looking at the details of this trade, but instead try to wrap your head around the basis of it. For the second time in the past 14 years, the Giants trade up to the #1 overall pick to take their next franchise QB. Last time of course it being for Eli Manning, and now this time for a quarterback many have compared to Eli himself.
The off-field rumors and concerns have been swirling around Josh Rosen, especially after he missed Tuesday’s Cactus Bowl due to a concussion. Whether you love him or hate him, Josh Rosen is the undisputed QB1 in this draft and by far the most polished.
Whether or not Josh Rosen actually wants to play in Cleveland based on his recent comments, this trade could be a win-win for both parties. The Browns only drop one spot while gaining a high-end 2nd round pick plus a project CB with some upside who has seemingly worn out his welcome in New York. While the Giants pay a hefty price, they lockup their QB of the future and won’t have to miss a beat searching for their successor to Eli.
2. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (f/ NYG) Even with the top QB off the board, the Browns still have a plethora of options to roll with after trading down. Ultimately in this scenario, I believe Saquon Barkley would be the pick. The Browns have tremendous flexibility as they sit with another pick in the hole from the #2 slot, plus a handful of Day 2 draft picks. Likely to be #1 on most big boards, the Browns elect to go with Barkley instead of Rosen as they attain another early 2nd round pick in the process. The jury is still out on DeShone Kizer. If he fails to show progression next year, at least now you have an elite playmaker out of the backfield to help ease the rookie’s transition in 2019 (*cough* Justin Herbert *cough*). 3. Indianapolis Colts: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama The Colts sit in prime position here. They have the entire defensive crop to choose from, along with a couple OL studs on the board. Plus, I’m sure they’d be working the phones and get thrown some persuasive packages in this spot. So what does the team who gave up the most sacks and ranked 2nd worst in defensive sacks do here at #3? With Chris Ballard in town, I would expect them to play their board, if they don’t move this pick. The Colts have holes throughout the roster, and especially on the defensive side of the ball, so it only makes sense to go with the best player available. While they drafted standout rookie Malik Hooker at #15 this past year, there is still room on that defense for Minkah Fitzpatrick to make an impact. For starters, this pair would instantly be a top 5 safety duo in the league, and would have the potential to be the best we’ve seen in recent history. The unsung beauty of Fitzpatrick to Indy is that he can wear a variety of hats. You could put him at any spot in the secondary, up in the box as a dime LB or even off the edge and he’ll make an impact at any spot. 4. Cleveland Browns: Connor Williams, OT, Texas (f/ HOU) Just like teams have to find their QB of the future, they also have to do so with their franchise tackle. Perhaps the lone bright spot of Browns football over the last decade has been the consistent, sturdy, elite play from Joe Thomas. While he still has at least a couple more years of serviceable play left, the Browns could use an upgrade at right tackle after beefing up the interior this past offseason. Once Thomas is ready to hang up the cleats, Williams will fulfill his role on the offense. With a young QB under center whether it’s Kizer or another young draft pick, the Browns need to assure their stout offensive line stays intact. Not only that, Williams’ elite run blocking ability will serve as a useful tool for rookie tailback Saquon Barkley. Connor Williams suffered a torn MCL midseason, but he returned after missing seven games and closed the season strong, although he decided to sit out the bowl game. Williams is likely the only franchise level tackle you’ll find in this class, and the Browns are sure to scoop him up. 5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, North Carolina State The Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently rank dead last in sacks, barely averaging over two per game. How do you fix that issue? Go out and draft the TFL leader in the Power 5. Over the past two seasons, Chubb has accumulated 44 tackles for loss and 20 sacks. He would immediately provide the needed boost off the edge for Tampa Bay. While I think a guy like Rashaan Evans would provide more upside and versatility here, Chubb is an established leader with all the production in the world. A pure plug and play which is just what this playoff aspiring team could use. 6. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma While Denver’s defense may not be as prestigious as it once was, the glaring weakness on this team remains QB. You would have to think that Mr. John Elway is fed up with the foundation of his QB room. Elway finished as the Heisman runner up back in 1982, now 35 years later he drafts the Heisman winner to ignite his offense. Mayfield is the epitome of a winner and a leader. The Broncos have lacked spark under center even since before their Super Bowl run a couple years back. Mayfield answers a lot of questions marks for Denver’s offense, and immediately makes them relevant in the AFC West. Mayfield vs. Mahomes twice a year? Sign me up. 7. New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB, USC Back during Week 5, it was a typical #Pac12AfterDark game as Mike Leach and the #21 WSU Cougars upset #8 USC up in Pullman. While the Trojans suffered their first loss of the year, the Sam Darnold frenzy was in full effect as we saw fans hoisting their custom Sam Darnold, New York Jets jersey. It hasn’t quite been the predicted path for either side during the next couple months up to now. The Jets have actually been a decent football team at times this season, and are now down to the 7th pick, as many thought they were locks for the #1 overall pick coming into the year. As for Darnold, he has been up and down this season, albeit leading USC to a Pac-12 title. It remains to be seen whether or not Darnold intends to enter the 2018 NFL Draft, but until he makes the decision to stay in school, I really like this fit. Darnold could work very well under offensive coordinator John Morton, one of the hottest assistants in the game right now. Darnold still has tons of work to do, but the highs and upside should land him inside the top 10. With his youth, athleticism and ability off platform, Darnold carries tremendous upside, especially in this system. New York’s plan at the QB position is still smoky. Obviously Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg aren’t the answer, but it’s hard to tell if they’d be willing to spend a top 10 pick on a QB with the way their team is currently built.
CIN: 1.8 SF: 1.10, 4th RD pick 8. Cincinnati Bengals: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame (f/ SF) If you want to talk “can’t miss” prospects, Quenton Nelson is the poster child. With the worry that the 49ers would pick their guy, the Bengals throw a 4th round pick out there in order to secure their top target as the top 10 winds down. Why the Bengals let both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler walk in the same offseason will forever be an anomaly, or perhaps no one wants to willingly play for the Bengals when there’s a market out there. Whatever the case may be, there is some serious patching needed on their offensive line. While they could use a franchise tackle, they won’t complain with Nelson. The Bengals are one of only three teams in the NFL to average 3.5 yards or less per rush. Nelson would instantly boost the talent on that front and could be the key cog in opening running lanes for Joe Mixon, as well as providing steady pass blocking. 9. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama One of the most common mock draft tandems seems to be Calvin Ridley to the Chicago Bears, and I can certainly dig it. I can just picture Trubisky hitting Ridley on a slant in the 2nd level, and Ridley weaves his way 50 yards to the end zone. Ridley can make an impact in every level of the field. Whether he’s hauling in a deep catch, or taking a catch and run to the house, Ridley is a pure weapon. Perhaps the best route runner in the class, Ridley is precise with his cuts and has the breakaway speed to match his lethal agility. While there still lies hope in Cameron Meredith’s ability to develop into a WR1, Ridley can serve as your team’s #1 or #2 option in the passing game and carve out a productive role with his versatility and skillset. 10. San Francisco 49ers: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado (f/ CIN) Last year we saw them drop from #2 to #3 so the Bears could trade up for Mitchell Trubisky, now this year we see them drop a couple spots so the Bengals can trade up for Quenton Nelson, while the 49ers continue to add draft capital. There are a variety of routes John Lynch and the 49ers can go here. Do they get their WR1 of the future? Maybe take a flier on Derrius Guice? Or do they continue to solidify that defense? After spending 1st round picks on the front 7 over the last three consecutive years, they now address secondary in the top 10. We all know Lynch is a guy who values defensive backs. The 49ers have a bottom 5 pass defense in the NFC and are aching for a pure CB1. While they’ve gotten some development from guys like Ahkello Witherspoon and Dontae Johnson, they need that guy to play lockdown. Isaiah Oliver is currently my CB1, and I get the sense more will catch on later in the process as it’s currently a cramped CB class. Oliver is solid all around with no glaring flaws. An elite athlete with size and length, fitting the mold of what they look for in San Fran. He has the bloodlines to go along with everything else as his father played in the NFL and was a world class decathlete.
11. Oakland Raiders: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
I think it’s safe to say Marshawn Lynch won’t be in the NFL next season, and even if he did return to Oakland, what’s stopping them from drafting a player like Derrius Guice? The Raiders have struggled to consistently move the ball this season, and while most of the blame can be thrown on Derek Carr’s regression, a non-existent running game can be attributed as well.
While Barkley and Guice aren’t quite 1A/1B like they were entering the year, I believe their drop off in talent isn’t much at all. In fact, if you’re looking for that bell cow back who can handle 25 carries a game, Guice should be your guy.
The addition of Guice to Oakland’s offense would take pressure off Carr and open a lot through the air as defenses will have to force their focus on the threat of Guice out of the backfield. Guice has elite contact balance and you’ll always see him driving forward for extra yardage. A spectacular athlete with a complete game. I could see him having an Ezekiel Elliott-esque impact with that supporting cast in Oakland.
12. Miami Dolphins: Rashaan Evans, DE/LB, Alabama
If there was one thing this defense was missing this season, aside from their starting QB, it was any sense of passion or pride on defense. Problem solved. You won’t find any player in all of college football with the combination of vicious demeanor and gifted athleticism that is Rashaan Evans.
Evans is currently the #2 player on my overall big board, although it’s still hard to tell where his actual stock is currently at. At the end of the day I think he’s a surefire 1st round pick with top 10 potential if he blows up the Combine as I anticipate, and plays well in the CFB Playoff.
For Miami, Evans would wear a variety of hats. On passing downs you can utilize his elite blitzing skills, or have him come off the edge with his advanced technique and devastating athleticism and bend. Otherwise you can have him play any role in the LB corps. Evans is a pure dog and provides much needed scrappiness to this defense.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
Depending on whether Bruce Arians returns next season, I could potentially see this pick being Josh Allen. Until we get more credence on where Allen’s stock currently sits, I’m not buying him as a 1st round prospect. Another guy I thought about here was Derwin James, but the Cardinals already have Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker, so I turned to the offensive side of the ball.
A lot of people are going to catch on to Auden Tate over the offseason. He put up a productive year despite the loss of his starting QB Deondre Francois in the season opener against Alabama. He concluded his college career with a 3 TD performance in FSU’s bowl game as he showcased his ability to dominate and take games over.
Tate is a true 6’5” and possesses rare body control with locked-in concentration. With that size comes an elite catch radius and lanky, long arms. Despite his tall stature, Tate is a good athlete, although he’s not going to be burning defenses over the top. Still, he has perhaps the highest ceiling of any WR in this class.
With Larry Fitzgerald looking towards retirement, the Cardinals will immediately have their new WR1 in the young and talented Auden Tate.
14. Washington Redskins: Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Redskins sit in a weird spot here. Kirk Cousins is returning to DC, right? Until he signs elsewhere, we’ll assume Cousins is Washington’s QB in 2018, and on another franchise tag, right?
Whatever the case may be for the ‘Skins under center heading into the draft, a player like Derwin James would be hard to resist. You don’t see athletes like him everyday, and ones who can play all over the field and fill a variety of slots the way James can.
The ‘Skins are probably in need of more depth along the defensive line, but they’ll take their chances on one of the players with the most upside in the class. Their safety situation was up and down this past season, although they have a promising young guy in Montae Nicholson to pair with James.
15. Green Bay Packers: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
The Haason Reddick of this year’s draft, we see Marcus Davenport skyrocket into the 1st round of the NFL Draft, and inside the top 15 at that. Davenport isn’t quite the player that Reddick is. Instead, Davenport possesses elite length coming off the edge with the athleticism to match.
Set to play in this year’s Senior Bowl, it shouldn’t be too long after when we start talking about Davenport as a slam dunk 1st round prospect. He has the ability to take games over and sky high potential at the next level.
16. Los Angeles Chargers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Chargers weren’t alone in watching Marshon Lattimore take over the league as he terrorized opposing QBs on his way to likely Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The Chargers still have a top tier tandem in Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett, but Ward will likely be that trendy corner come April.
I’ve dubbed Ward as the best man corner in the class. He’s a sticky technician with smooth hip fluidity and top notch movement skills. Ward has a published 40 time of 4.31–if he runs anywhere close he’ll cement his case as a 1st round prospect. The Chargers get a corner with lockdown ability from the slot or outside, just don’t expect much production on the stat sheet.
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17. Buffalo Bills: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia I’m no fortune teller, but something tells me Sean McDermott is going to make it his offseason priority to draft Roquan Smith. Luckily, he has the ammunition to pull off such a move. Standing pat at #17, McDermott’s defense inherits a skillset reminiscent of his former All Pro MLB from Carolina in Luke Kuechly. How most teams treat their QB position is how McDermott values the MLB of his defense. Smith is your traditional 4-3 MIKE. A stout run defender with elite mental processing skills. If you want to watch perhaps the most dominant individual game tape from this past season, log on to Draft Breakdown and check out Smith against Notre Dame from this past season. 18. Detroit Lions: Vita Vea, DL, Washington Getting thinner and thinner on the interior this season have been the Detroit Lions, and it’s forced them to resort in trotting Akeem Spence out as part of the starting unit. A’Shawn Robinson has shown some flashes, but the Lions need that tone setter up front, and that’s exactly what Vita Vea would provide. At a monstrous 6’4”/340, Vea possess surprising athleticism and movement skills, being a former high school running back. It’s only natural that he has drawn Haloti Ngata comparisons, and I would even attest that his ceiling is as high. Vea is a rare freak who can clog running lanes along the line, eat a lot of space, or even force penetration and rush the passer.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
With the recent miscommunication between Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant, you know the Cowboys are going to be in the market to take advantage of this unique WR class, but that can wait.
Jaire Alexander is going to be a star in this league, so it’s only fitting that he would rep that logo on his helmet. Alexander plays the game with the ultimate feel on the field. He makes everything he does look effortlessly smooth.
This is a corner with Marcus Peters potential. Alexander has been a pure ball hawk at the college level while playing lockdown most of the time as well. He’ll give the Cowboys the corner with swagger they’ve been lacking on that defense. Adding Alexander with that young corps featuring Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie is an efficient rebuild in the backend by Dallas.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
This just strikes me as a match made in heaven, assuming Seattle continues to bypass offensive line. On the real, the once famous “Legion of Boom” is now roughly 35% of what it used to be. Earl Thomas could be on his way to Dallas, while Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman dealt with injuries as they get up there in age.
Joshua Jackson led the FBS with 8 interceptions this past season as he capped off his season with a late INT in the Pinstripe Bowl. A converted WR, Jackson didn’t play CB until his redshirt freshman season at Iowa. While still learning proper technique and the nuances of the position, Jackson is the definition of a ballhawk, and the type of player who will bring back LOB’s credibility.
21. Tennessee Titans: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
Despite their 1st round investment in Adoree’ Jackson this past year, the Titans will enter the offseason with their biggest need likely at corner. With the recent run on corners, the Titans sit in a spot where they probably should’ve traded up to snag a guy like Ward, but now they sit in an optimal spot to beef up their front 7.
Both Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo have been good this year for the Titans, although you know they’re getting up there in age. It’s time for the Titans to find some youth coming off the edge, and an eventual starter. Clelin Ferrell is a lengthy, athletic, powerful force, and the next in a long line of Clemson defensive linemen drafted in the 1st round.
Ferrell is in that similar mold to former Tiger and 2016 2nd round pick for the Titans, Kevin Dodd. However, Ferrell is much more nimble, athletic and just more of an uncontainable presence.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
I’ll preface by saying I’m not as high on Courtland Sutton than most. However, after recently going through some of his 2017 tape, I like him more than I did coming into the season, although I still wouldn’t spend anything more than a 3rd round pick on him.
Despite my personal belief, Sutton is a WR1 in the eye of the public, and perhaps even the NFL. He has added more meat on his thighs this year and has seemingly added more burst as well. He’s not your traditional big-bodied receiver. While he can go up and make the contested grabs, I wouldn’t call it his hallmark.
Sutton has the balanced skillset, size, athleticism and production to likely find himself in the 1st round. The Ravens are desperate for a big play threat, and Sutton could fill that role. Sutton seems like an Ozzie Newsome type pick looking at both on and off the field, assuming Newsome can overlook his school.
23. Atlanta Falcons: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama Last year around draft day there was buzz the Falcons would look to draft a safety early in the draft, but that obviously never came to fruition, until this year at least. The Falcons have a nice duo in Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, but you could make the case Ronnie Harrison is the best player available. Currently slated as my SAF2 behind Fitzpatrick, Harrison is a guy I feel has difference maker potential at the next level. He’s a big, long, rangy safety in that Kam Chancellor mold. You’ll see him up in the box making plays against the run, or using his closing speed and length as he defends passes in coverage. Harrison would open up a lot of possibilities in the backend for Atlanta. He seems like the perfect guy to round out this trio along with Neal and Allen. Dan Quinn now has tons of flexibility at the safety position, and a bit of everything at his disposal to employ. 24. Los Angeles Rams: Taven Bryan, DL, Florida The Rams will more than likely be in the market for a corner with Trumaine Johnson expected to hit free agency. However, there just isn’t a fit, scheme or value wise I see at this spot. Thus, they take a high upside guy in Taven Bryan. Bryan flashes Ndamukong Suh-esque highs, but just needs to add more consistency to his game. When he’s on his game, Bryan plays with punishing hand usage and a tremendous first step. A disruptive force probably better suited at 3-tech in a 4-3 scheme, but he has the versatility to work the edges in LA’s scheme. If Bryan can work up to his potential, he can form one of the most deadly duos in the league opposite Aaron Donald. 25. Buffalo Bills: Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson (f/ KC) Earlier McDermott got his Luke Kuechly for the Buffalo defense, and now he gets his Kawann Short. Buffalo’s defense declined tremendously following their sudden trade away of Marcell Dareus. Christian Wilkins is another high character guy, which McDermott covets, who can be thrown right into 3-tech and rush the passer. Often playing out of position at Clemson, we didn’t get a full sample size of what Wilkins is capable of in a strict pass rushing role. He has the length, size and athleticism to be a force in Buffalo’s front. He’s one of those players who didn’t really scratch the surface in college, although he has been productive, but broke out onto a new level within a couple years in the NFL.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
You don’t have Jacksonville, without Jackson, right? Alright, this may be a little idealistic here, as I’ve said numerous times my dream fit in this year’s NFL Draft is Lamar Jackson to Jacksonville. Blake Bortles went on a tear in recent weeks but then regressed in Week 16. The point remaining, his play fluctuates too much on a week-to-week basis.
Enter Lamar Jackson. Sure, he is not without his flaws, but what QB prospect isn’t? Jackson is a world class athlete and a threat no matter the situation as long as the ball is in his hands. The fact that he’s made major strides this season as a passer is more than encouraging, and going way overlooked as the “Lamar is a WR” peasants remain on the loose.
If I’m a QB needy team, ready to win, picking towards the end of the 1st round, you’re darn skippy I’m taking a chance on Lamar Jackson. If we’re ever going to see another Michael Vick, that guy is Lamar Jackson. Him in Jacksonville would be so much fun, I need it.
27. Carolina Panthers: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
The Panthers are desperate for weapons in the passing game, even with the emergence of Christian McCaffrey in the 2nd half of the season. The Biletnikoff Award winner is perhaps the best contested pass catcher in the class. He bailed out Mason Rudolph dozens of times during their careers in Stillwater, and now Washington will look to do so for Cam Newton in Carolina.
If there’s a WR in this class who can take advantage of Newton’s arm strength, Washington is that guy. He won’t blow you away with his athleticism or route running, but his prominence as a deep threat and a guy who can win 1-on-1 battles will be his hallmark during his career.
28. Philadelphia Eagles: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Last year we saw offensive linemen hibernate on the board as we didn’t hear many called in the 1st round, and we get some of that this year as well with 20 straight picks going by before another linemen is drafted.
While the Eagles seem to be content with Lane Johnson at right tackle, Mike McGlinchey is too great of a value here to pass on. I say this because McGlinchey is a pure right tackle in the NFL, and this pick would force Johnson to shift to the blindside when Jason Peters decides to hang up the cleats.
McGlinchey is your traditional, longtime starting offensive tackle at Notre Dame who has always been high on the draft radar. While he has shown flaws handling speed rushers, his run defense makes up for it and the role at right tackle should mask some of his deficiencies.
29. New Orleans Saints: Billy Price, C, Ohio State
We saw the Saints round out the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft by taking a Big Ten offensive linemen, and now they follow suit this year and draft one of the safest prospects in the draft.
Billy Price is this year’s Pat Elflein, and I think the league will take note of what Elflein has accomplished this season and make a guy like Price a higher priority. The Saints have always placed importance in their offensive line, so they draft a Price and plug him in at center for the next decade.
Coming off a loss in the NFC Championship, they’re in prime position to compete in the 2018 season, so they get a sturdy piece in Billy Price who can help right off the bat.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma
This was a tricky pick to project. You have Josh Allen sitting on the board, but are the Steelers willing to throw all their chips on the table for him? Or do they want to ride out perhaps what is Ben’s final season and get a piece who can contribute now?
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is an interesting prospect. He’ll be considered a tad undersized and perhaps even a tweener, but he’s nothing short of a baller. His abilities were on full display in Week 2 against Ohio State where he led a stymying OU defense. Ogbo offers flexibility in Pittsburgh’s scheme as you can utilize him as a run and chase inside backer, or get him off the edge rushing the passer.
31. Minnesota Vikings: Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
This just seems like a match made in heaven to me. The Vikings have gotten steady play from Tom Johnson, but they could use an upgrade at 3-tech. Da’Ron Payne will only be 20 years old on draft day and he has all the potential in the world.
A devastating first step with tremendous burst and pocket collapsing ability, Payne could be the missing piece up front that Minnesota has been searching for following Sharif Floyd’s health issues. Payne would reap the benefits playing alongside your traditional 1-tech in Linval Joseph. Joseph eats blockers while Payne wreaks havoc on opposing QBs.
You just want to see Payne play with more consistent effort, and you know Mike Zimmer will be the coach to get everything out of his players.
32. New England Patriots: Shaun Dion-Hamilton, LB, Alabama
The Patriots haven’t drafted an offensive player in the 1st round since 2011, and actually haven’t drafted a player in the 1st round since 2015. Thus I think they’re a huge trade target right here as a team like San Francisco looks to trade back up into the 1st round.
While he has missed an extended period due to a fractured kneecap, Shan Dion-Hamilton remains one of my top linebackers in this draft. Assuming medicals checkout for him, he could be in this late 1st round range.
Following Evans and Smith, I would say Dion-Hamilton is in a tier of his own as my LB3 in this class. He plays stout run defense with tremendous instincts and closing ability, but also displays superb athleticism back in coverage. A complete linebacker who would succeed in New England, as former Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower has.