Since NFL free agency started last week, there is now a more clear indication of what team’s will need to address in this year’s NFL draft. Many experts do plenty of different mock drafts months before the event, but I am just going to keep it simple and predict what is going to happen in the top 10 of this year’s draft, about a month prior to the draft in Dallas, Texas.
- Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, Quarterback USC
Prior to NFL free agency, there were many rumors going around that the Browns may use their first overall pick to take Penn State’s star running back, Saquon Barkley. However, the Browns addressed their running back void by signing free agent, Carlos Hyde to a 3 year deal. So with that void closed, I believe the Browns will use their first overall pick to get a long term solution and quarterback and it will be Sam Darnold from USC.
Even though Darnold had his turnover issues last season as he was towards the top of the FBS with a total of 25 turnovers (13 INT and 12 fumbles), I think he is the safest choice at quarterback at #1 in this year’s draft. He has the size and ability to be a solid NFL quarterback as he is 6 foot 4 and weighs 220. He also moves around pretty well and is an accurate passer as he has completed at least 63 percent of his passes and has thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in each of his two years in college. Darnold’s signature game in college was a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State in his first year where he threw for 453 yards and 5 touchdowns in that game.
Turnovers were certainly an issue for Darnold during the 2017 season, but plenty of great NFL quarterbacks have had turnover issues in college and were able to be successful in the NFL, so I think the Browns will take that risk and take Darnold with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
- New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, Running Back Penn State
Ever since Tiki Barber retired following the 2006 season, the Giants have never seemed to have a consistent running back behind Quarterback, Eli Manning but I think that will change when the Giants select one of the greatest running back prospects in recent memory entering the NFL Draft.
Barkley had a great showing at the combine a few weeks ago as he recorded a 4.40 40 yard dash and a 41 inch vertical. His stats in college were off the charts as he ran for at least 1,000 yards and averaged at least 5.5 yards per carry in all three of his collegiate seasons, also rushing for 18 touchdowns in both 2016 and 2017.
The Giants seem content with at least another year or two with the 37 year old Eli Manning under center, have star wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr. returning from a fractured ankle which sidelined him for most of the 2017 season, and have revamped their offensive line in free agency by signing a few veteran free agents, headlined by Nate Solder coming over from the New England Patriots. So the Giants offense is really just missing a solid consistent running back and Barkley could be their answer.
3 New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, Quarterback Oklahoma
Sure the New York Jets signed two veteran quarterbacks in free agency by resigning the 39 year old journeyman, Josh McCown and the 25 year old, Teddy Bridgewater from the Minnesota Vikings. But the Jets made a statement that they are most likely going to be taking a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft as they made a trade with the Indianapolis Colts to move up three spots in this year’s draft.
With this pick, I believe they will take the reigning Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield over UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. The thing that separates Mayfield from the other two is that he seems to have the energy and confidence to succeed in a big market city such as New York.
Many experts around the NFL seem to be criticizing Mayfield for his size as he is only 6 foot 1 and only weighs 209, but Drew Brees and Russell Wilson are both undersized quarterbacks and they have each won a Super Bowl in the NFL with possibly more to come. He is also a smart decision maker as 119 touchdowns along with just 21 interceptions in his three year collegiate career with Oklahoma. So I think the Jets will not look too much into Mayfield’s size and select the better of the three quarterbacks remaining at the third pick, which is Baker Mayfield.
4 Cleveland Browns: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive Back, Alabama
After taking their potential long term quarterback solution with the first overall pick, I believe that the Browns will take the best defensive player coming out of this year’s draft with the fourth pick by taking Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick is a dual threat defensive back as he can play both cornerback and safety, making him very versatile which can be beneficial for any NFL defense. He had at least 45 total tackles in each of his three collegiate seasons, nine career interceptions and two forced fumbles.
He also has two College National Championships under his belt as he was a huge part of the Alabama defense which won National Titles in 2015 and 2017. The Browns haven’t had a dominant anchor in their secondary for years, but I believe that Fitzpatrick could be that solution.
5 Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, Quarterback UCLA
The Broncos have secured their short-term quarterback in free agency by signing the 30 year old journeyman, Case Keenum to a two year deal, but should also find their long term answer under center with the 5th overall pick in this year’s draft. With Darnold and Mayfield off the board, I think Rosen is the next best option.
At 6 foot 4 and 218 pounds, Rosen had his fair share of success during a three year tenure at UCLA. Rosen only appeared in six games during his sophomore year due to injuries, but in each of his two full seasons at UCLA, he has completed at least 60% of his passes, threw for at least 23 touchdowns, and had less than 12 interceptions.
So he certainly has the size and smarts to potentially be a solid NFL quarterback and the Broncos will secure him with the 5th overall pick and make him the quarterback of the future in Denver.
6 Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, Defensive End NC State
Ever since Dwight Freeney’s departure from Indianapolis after the 2012 season, the Colts have severely lacked a reliable defensive line, and I think they will address that by taking Chubb with the 6th pick. Since the Colts drafted quarterback Andrew Luck in 2012, the Colts have never given him a solid defense behind him and it is time the Colts improve on that.
At 6 foot 4, 275 pounds, Chubb is a beast up front as he had 10 sacks in each of his past two seasons along with at least 21 tackles for losses, and recorded more than 55 total tackles in each of his past three seasons.
So Chubb has proven consistently throughout his past three seasons in college that he can be very consistent and disruptive, which will lead him to getting selected sixth overall by the Colts as they look to rebuild their defense.
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quenton Nelson, Offensive Guard Notre Dame
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team that has the potential to have a lethal offense with former first overall pick, Jameis Winston under center and star wide receiver Mike Evans, but their below average offensive line has held them back from getting to the next level offensively.
They will address this by taking Nelson out of Notre Dame who is huge standing at 6 foot 5, 330 pounds and moves good for his size. Many experts are saying that Nelson is the “safest pick” in this year’s draft and I believe he will land to the offensive line desperate Buccaneers, giving Winston the potential to have a great 2018 season.
8 Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver Alabama
With Mitch Trubisky entering his second season as an NFL quarterback for the Bears and a solid 1-2 punch at running back with Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, the Bears need to get some depth at wide receiver. Sure they signed Allen Robinson in free agency, but he is a huge risk coming off of an ACL tear last season and having a 1-2 receiver core of Robinson and Ridley could look great in Chicago for years to come.
Ridley is a smaller receiver as he is only 6 foot 1 but has explosive speed, recording a 4.43 40 yard dash. So Ridley has some great potential and Alabama has done a nice job developing wide receivers in recent years who are stars in the NFL now, mostly mentioned Julio Jones and Amari Cooper. So the Bears will take Ridley with the 8th overall pick to make their offense more explosive for years to come.
9 San Francisco 49ers: Trade with the Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills select Josh Allen, Quarterback Wyoming
It is no secret that the Bills are desperate for a quarterback entering 2018 and I think they will trade up with the 49ers to get their guy. With Darnold, Rosen, and Mayfield off the board, that leaves Josh Allen as the best available quarterback and he will go to Buffalo.
Allen probably has better arm strength than any other quarterback prospect entering this year’s draft as he has tremendous ability to get the ball downfield. However, he doesn’t seem ranked as high as the other three big name quarterbacks entering this draft because he played in a much weaker conference and had some accuracy issues.
In 25 games throughout his last two seasons at Wyoming, Allen has thrown a total of 5,015 yards and had 44 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. But Allen’s main concern is his accuracy as he could never finish a season with a completion percentage over 60 while playing in the Mountain West Conference.
Allen seems to have the highest ceiling due to his arm strength and lowest floor due to this lack of accuracy, but this is certainly a chance the Bills need to make as they have not had a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly back in the 1980s.
10 Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward, Cornerback Ohio State
One thing that really held the Oakland Raiders back in 2017 was their below average secondary, and Denzel Ward could make an immediate impact there. The Raiders have had a solid defensive front the past few years, headlined by Khalil Mack but their secondary has certainly struggled throughout the years and revamping that secondary could make Oakland one of the most elite defenses in football.
Ward ran a 4.32 40 yard dash, had a 39 inch vertical, and a 136 inch broad jump at the combine, so Ward is very quickly becoming one of the top defensive prospects coming into this year’s draft. Ward had a drastic leap from sophomore year to junior year as he went from 23 to 37 total tackles, and from 0 to 2 interceptions. So Ward has rapidly emerged the past couple years and can help make an immediate impact for the Raiders.