The NFL Draft is just six days away. Joe Malfa has put together a full 1st round mock draft every week over the last month. This is his fourth of five mocks during #DraftSzn, with the fifth set to publish on the morning of the draft.
1) Cleveland Browns — QB Sam Darnold, USC (Previous pick: Josh Allen)
I said last week that I would probably revert back to Darnold after buying into the Allen buzz, and here it is. The leaking of the Allen reports could have been an attempt at a smokescreen but the Browns are picking first — what good is a smokescreen? Because of that, I think there is legitimate interest in Allen, but I can’t see the Browns taking that big of a risk. Darnold is QB1. Mayfield and Rosen are more polished, but Darnold has the most potential, the highest ceiling, and still a relatively high floor.
2) New York Giants — RB Saquon Barkley (Previous pick: Sam Darnold)
ESPN analyst Todd McShay, on a conference call, says he believes it is "inevitable" that Saquon Barkley will be a New York Giant.
— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) April 18, 2018
Dave Gettleman talks about wanting “gold jacket” guys, and that’s what Barkley is. Taking a running back 2nd overall is not great value by draft standards considering how interchangeable they are, but getting a great one changes a franchise. Look at what Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott, and Leonard Fournette have done for their respective teams in recent years. Look back at how Adrian Peterson single-handedly carried the Vikings to the playoffs…twice (2012 and 2015). Barkley is that type of all-world prospect.
3) New York Jets — QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Previous pick: No change)
Mayfield to the Jets seems to be the only pick in the entire draft that the media unanimously agrees upon based on what they are hearing from their sources. The unanimity paradoxically makes me skeptical about the pick because it could signal a smokescreen, but I just have to roll with the old “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” cliche on this one.
4) Cleveland Browns — DE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State (Previous pick: Saquon Barkley)
I think there’s a good chance the Browns at least attempt to trade out of this pick with a team looking to come up and grab a quarterback. Trading with a team like the Bills, for example, would give them two first round picks (plus a lot more) to address their needs in the secondary and on the offensive line. With that being said, picture Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb on opposite ends of the defensive line for the better part of the next decade. I don’t know if they can pass on that opportunity.
5) Denver Broncos — QB Josh Rosen, UCLA (Previous pick: Quenton Nelson)
There hasn’t been a lot of buzz about Elway taking a quarterback and he said the pick is for sale, but I’m going to try to call his bluff here. Rosen could very well be the pick in this slot to a different team if Elway is indeed looking to trade back, but I have a hunch he really has his eye on a quarterback knowing Case Keenum is not the long-term answer. Elway may be drawn to the polish and natural throwing ability of a quarterback like Rosen. I think we may get some more clarity on the Broncos intentions over the next week, but for now they are a tough team to read. Because they have Keenum in place, they could go best player available, trade back, or select the quarterback of the future anyway — nothing is off the table.
6) Indianapolis Colts — OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (Previous pick: Bradley Chubb)
It is going to come down to Chubb or Nelson in this slot for the Colts, and the fact that one is off the board already makes this an easy call. Take the best offensive line prospect to enter the draft this millennium to protect an oft-injured quarterback who has never had a good offensive line.
7) TRADE — Buffalo Bills — QB Josh Allen, Wyoming (Previous pick: Trade is the same, but last time the pick was Josh Rosen)
Denzel Ward is still on the board and the Bucs could use a shutdown corner, but these two teams would be ideal trade partners. The Bills seem destined to trade up. The Bucs could use the extra picks, and this package would include both of the Bills’ 1st round picks (12th and 22nd overall) and both of their 2nd round picks at the very least. The Bills get a quarterback to mold while he sits behind AJ McCarron.
8) Chicago Bears — LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech (Previous pick: Denzel Ward)
The Bears have done a good job building up the offense, but it’s time to shift the focus to the defense. It starts with selecting the freak that is Tremaine Edmunds. I think Roquan Smith is the better linebacker, especially when it comes to polish and the ability to immediately lead a defense, but Edmunds is a better prospect. His athleticism is off the charts and he is just 19-years-old. He can develop into something scary.
9) San Francisco 49ers — LB Roquan Smith, Georgia (Previous pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick)
I haven’t budged from my pick of Fitzpatrick to the Niners through the first month of my mock draft series, but the recent developments in the Reuben Foster case have changed my mind. Given the domestic violence allegations against Foster, which carry an 11-year prison sentence if he is convicted, I think John Lynch will already look to replace him. The defense was significantly better with him on the field last season, showcasing the importance of that position in Robert Saleh’s defense. If everything works out for Foster there’s nothing wrong with having two stud linebackers, but drafting Smith protects against the Foster situation going south.
10) Oakland Raiders — CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State (Previous pick: Roquan Smith)
The Raiders need a corner and the draft’s top shutdown corner fell into their laps. They would run the card up to the stand. Ward would rejoin Ohio State teammate and 2017 Raiders’ first round pick, cornerback Gareon Conley.
11) Miami Dolphins — DL Vita Vea, Washington (Previous pick: Tremaine Edmunds)
The Dolphins are a sneaky candidate to trade up for a quarterback, but I think they will stay put and address a major defensive need. The departure of Ndamukong Suh left a big whole on the defense — literally and figuratively. Vea fixes that.
12) TRADE –Tampa Bay Buccaneers — S Derwin James, Florida State (Previous pick: No change)
The Bucs’ Achilles’ heel is its secondary. The trade with the Bills will allow them to address a need at both safety and corner in the first round. They get the safety here, and James has what it takes to be a perennial pro-bowler.
13) Washington Redskins — DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Previous pick: Vita Vea)
Fitzpatrick will take the most notable tumble of the 1st round. He is the 6th player on my big board and I think he can be a star in the NFL, but based on the way the board breaks he may fall a bit. The Redskins get a steal at 13 to address a major need in the secondary.
14) Green Bay Packers — EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College (Previous pick: Marcus Davenport)
Fitzpatrick to the Niners and Davenport to the Packers were two of the picks that remained unchanged in versions 1.0 through 3.0 of my mocks, but they both change in this one. Landry is starting to draw more buzz (deservedly so) and he would be a perfect fit in Green Bay. I maintain my assertion that he could have been a top-five pick if not for missing a chunk of his senior season with an ankle injury.
15) Arizona Cardinals — WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama (Previous pick: Jaire Alexander)
Cardinals 2017 leaders in coverage snaps at cornerback:
1. Pat Peterson (returning)
2. Tyrann Mathieu (HOU)
3. Tramon Williams (GB)
4. Justin Bethel (ATL)
5. Tyvon Branch (FA)
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) April 16, 2018
Mike Clay perfectly illustrates the issues the Cards have at cornerback, but I think it would be wiser to grab the receiver in the 1st round and the corner in the 2nd round given the player pool at both positions. Ridley projects as a Jeremy Maclin type of player at the next level in the sense that he won’t be flashy or put up gaudy numbers, but he’ll get the job done. I don’t think he will ever be a dominant WR1, but he can be a top of the line WR2 — a low-end Batman but a high-end Robin. Arizona probably does not want to head into the season with Chad Williams, JJ Nelson, and Brice Butler second through fourth on the depth chart behind Larry Fitzgerald.
16) Baltimore Ravens — OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame (Previous pick: Harold Landry)
This is the highest I have mocked McGlinchey so far, but he is the draft’s best tackle and fills a major need on the right side for the Ravens. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was the Ravens’ 1st round selection in 2016, the season after he and McGlinchey formed one of the nation’s most formidable tackle tandems at Notre Dame. Reuniting them in Baltimore would be a great move to shore up the line.
17) Los Angeles Chargers — DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama (Previous pick: No change)
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are giving offensive lines issues from the outside, but they need a complement on the interior. Payne has the strength, athleticism and motor to be a three-down run stuffer and pass rusher from the inside of the line.
18) Seattle Seahawks — OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia (Previous pick: No change)
The Seahawks took steps towards improving the offensive line last season, but there is more work to be done. The “Legion of Boom” is no more and there are holes in the defensive front, but the voids on the offensive line need to be filled first since this team now clearly revolves around Russell Wilson. Wynn has the tools to start immediately and he can play either guard or tackle.
19) Dallas Cowboys — WR D.J. Moore, Maryland (Previous pick: Rashaan Evans)
The Cowboys need another receiver with Dez Bryant out of the picture, but I do not think they should try to find another receiver in his mold. They need a guy like Moore — someone who has the strength and quickness to feast underneath and in the middle of the field. Bryant’s production went down with Dak Prescott because the passing attack changed from mostly downfield throws with Tony Romo to a steady diet of short and intermediate throws. This makes Moore a much better fit than someone in the Bryant mold (like Courtland Sutton).
20) Detroit Lions — EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA (Previous pick: James Daniels)
The Lions need someone to get after the passer opposite Ziggy Ansah. This is the first time I have had Davenport fall this far, and the Lions would pounce on him if he does.
21) Cincinnati Bengals — OG Will Hernandez, UTEP (Previous pick: No change)
Hernandez’s strength and nastiness are his best attributes, but he also has quick feet and does a good job of pulling around the edge. He could make an immediate impact as a starter on a team in need of a guard.
22) TRADE –Tampa Bay Buccaneers –CB Josh Jackson, Iowa (Previous pick: No change)
Derwin James fixes the issue at safety and Josh Jackson plugs the hole at corner. The Bucs could have held their ground at seven and went with the draft’s top corner in Denzel Ward. Instead, they come away with the draft’s second best safety and second best corner — both of whom have perennial Pro-Bowl potential.
23) New England Patriots — LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama (Previous pick: Mike McGlinchey)
Left tackle needs to be a priority for the Patriots, but they can address that at 31. Evans will not make it that far, and New England needs a boost at linebacker. Bill Belichick has hit on an Alabama linebacker before in Dont’a Hightower (coincidentally drafted in 2012 — the last time New England had two picks in the 1st round). Evans would be a good complement to Hightower over the next couple of seasons before replacing him as the dominant force on this defense.
24) Carolina Panthers — CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville (Previous pick: D.J. Moore)
Moore may be the ideal pick, but the Cowboys already got to him. Carolina’s next priority should be a corner, and Alexander is arguably the best in this draft after Ward. I personally think it’s Jackson, but you can’t go wrong with Alexander either.
25) Tennessee Titans — EDGE Leighton Vander Esch (Previous pick: No change)
The Titans have improved steadily since drafting Marcus Mariota, and developing a pass rush is the next area in which they need to improve. Vander Esch needs to be polished up a bit, but the raw talent and instincts are there. New head coach Mike Vrabel could have some fun molding this prospect.
26) Atlanta Falcons — DT Taven Bryan, Florida (Previous pick: No change)
The Falcons’ championship window is still open, but holes need to be filled in the middle of both the offensive and defensive lines. Worry about the interior of the offensive line later in what is a deep draft at that position. Get Bryan to fill the void left by Dontari Poe right here.
27) New Orleans Saints — TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State (Previous pick: No change)
There are not many holes on this Saints roster, but tight end is one of them. Drew Brees loves his tight ends, but Josh Hill and Benjamin Watson won’t cut it. They tried bringing back Jimmy Graham, but he opted to sign with Green Bay. Gesicki would immediately take on a prominent role in this offense. Forcing defenses to focus on him on the inside would open things up for their talented receiving corps on the outside.
28) Pittsburgh Steelers — S Justin Reid, Stanford (Previous pick: No change)
Reid could be this year’s Marcus Maye. He will be overshadowed by the draft’s top two safeties — Fitzpatrick and James in this case, Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker last year — but he may provide better production as a rookie. He also does a good job of coming up to stop the run, which is something the Steelers struggled with after Ryan Shazier went down.
29) Jacksonville Jaguars — WR Courtland Sutton, SMU (Previous pick: Connor Williams)
The Jaguars lost both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns this offseason. They lack that big-bodied, number one type of receiver, and that is what Sutton can be. I view him as a boom or bust prospect, but there is a lot to like in a receiver that has drawn comparisons to Julio Jones. He is not nearly as polished as Jones was, but he has star-potential.
30) Minnesota Vikings — OC/OG Billy Price, Ohio State (Previous pick: No change)
It is hard to find a hole in this Vikings roster. Interior offensive line is the only one I could find, and it is an important one to plug given the money invested in Kirk Cousins. Price will go back to guard, where he played prior to switching to center at Ohio State. He made the switch to center his senior year in the aftermath of now Vikings’ center Pat Elflein’s graduation, so the two could be reunited up in Minnesota.
31) New England Patriots — OT Kolton Miller, UCLA (Previous pick: Jaire Alexander)
Left tackle has always been a position Belichick has had under control, but the departure of Nate Solder leaves a gaping hole on Tom Brady’s blind side. Josh Rosen’s blind side protecter at UCLA would be a solid choice at 31. They could also trade out of the first round as they so often have.
32) Philadelphia Eagles — RB Derrius Guice, LSU (Previous pick: No change)
The Eagles do not have any major needs, but depth at corner and running back should be addressed. Pairing Guice with Jay Ajayi could be lethal considering the respect opposing defenses have to give to the passing game. Whatever they decide, the Eagles are sitting pretty. Any pick they make could be considered a luxury pick that just adds depth to an already loaded roster.
Photo Credit: NFL.com