This offseason has been nothing short of chaotic. I like to wait until free agency has kicked off before revealing my first mock draft of the season. Good thing I did, because things have radically changed. Lets just look at the draft order first.
Two massive trades have completely shaken things up. The Buffalo Bills jumped into the Top 15 with a swap deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, then the New York Jets jumped up into the Top 3 to presumably land their future franchise quarterback.
That’s just for offseason moves affecting the draft. Through free agency we’ve seen the Seattle Seahawks completely blow up the Legion of Boom, the Vikings let three starting quarterbacks leave and gave another quarterback a fully guaranteed contract — the first of it’s kind.
Now after all that, lets try and sort things out in regards to their effects on April 26th. Here’s our first voyage into mock draft season…
1.) Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Browns are in the driver’s seat (we’ll get into that more at No. 4). But to kickoff the draft the Browns get their choice of quarterback. There’s still a ways to go, but it seems that this is Darnold’s spot to lose.
2.) New York Giants: Saquan Barkley, RB, Penn St.
This is an early turning point in the draft. Given what the Giants have done so far in the offseason (signing Nate Solder and trading for Alex Ogletree) it looks like the team is looking to make one last Super Bowl run with Eli Manning. But with a rare Top Five pick, the organization has an opportunity to land another franchise quarterback to succeed Manning. At this moment, I see them continuing to build a team to win now.
3.) New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Jets bundled a bevy of second-round picks to move up just three spots. That is a clear sign they are looking to draft a quarterback. For this mock draft I see them landing Rosen.
4.) Cleveland Browns: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
This is where the Browns are really in the driver’s seat. If two quarterbacks are off the board by the fourth pick, the Browns can expect a lot of phone calls from teams looking to trade up. Why? The Broncos are hunting for a franchise quarterback as well, which means the Browns can request a very rich trade package from teams looking to jump ahead of Denver. I don’t project trades in mock drafts, so if the Browns stay I think Fitzpatrick is their man. Look at the impact Jalen Ramsey has had in Jacksonville. Fitzpatrick is a similar caliber player.
5.) Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Broncos are lucky in this scenario and Allen drops right into GM John Elway’s hands. With Case Keenum now on the team, will have a year to develop Allen.
6.) Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, OLB, NC State
GM Chris Ballard continues to show an impressive acumen. He drops three spots, picks up three second-round picks, and lands the player they would have selected at three overall. That is how you rebuild a team.
7.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St.
The Buccaneers had the worst pass defense in the league last year and they play in a division where they face off against Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees twice a year each. The Bucs have to address that problem quickly. Ward is the player to do it.
8.) Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
This is a dream come true for the Bears. If Nelson falls to Chicago, they will be over the moon. You traded up to take Mitch Trubisky last year. Now you have to protect him. Nelson has all the makings of a ten year starter.
9.) San Francisco 49ers: Derwin James, S, Florida St.
The Niners have struggled to properly address their secondary over the past few years. Bringing in veteran Richard Sherman was a start, now they have to address the safety position. GM John Lynch knows what a good safety looks like and James fits the bill.
10.) Oakland Raiders: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
New head coach Jon Gruden has said linebacker Bruce Irvin will move back to his more familiar defensive end position. That opens yet another spot on a thin linebacking corps. Edmunds, is a physical freak and the type of throwback player Gruden is after.
11.) Miami Dolphins: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
This is an interesting spot. They could look at a quarterback, but overall I think Smith is the better option in this mock draft. Head coach Adam Gase is looking for leadership. Smith fills a need and brings loads of leadership.
12.) Buffalo Bills: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Bills traded up from the 21st overall pick in a swap deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. In this mock draft, the Bills get lucky and land Mayfield, but in reality they will most likely have to trade up into the Top 10 to select their quarterback.
13.) Washington Redskins: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Redskins finished last in rush defense in 2017. That can’t stand. They landed a quality building block last year in Jonathan Allen, but injuries are a concern there and there isn’t much depth outside of him. Payne, gives them another prospect to clog the rushing lanes.
14.) Green Bay Packers: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
The Green Bay secondary needs a serious renovation. Davon House isn’t the answer, they traded away Damarious Randall, and Kevin King missed time with injury. Alexander, is a playmaker who can provide some juice to the lagging cornerback position.
15.) Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Cardinals have been in the hunt for a quarterback since last year’s draft. They could reach for Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph. They could pull off a major trade and jump into the Top 10, but if they’re stuck here Ridley is their man. They need help and an heir to Larry Fitzgerald at the wide receiver position.
16.) Baltimore Ravens: James Daniels, C, Iowa
When John Urschel abruptly retired before last season the Ravens were left scrambling at the center position. Then Ryan Jensen emerged as a stalwart and solidified the offensive line. Now, the Ravens are back in the hunt for a pivot as Jensen signed with Tampa Bay. Daniels would be a safe, sound selection.
17.) LA Chargers: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Bolts got run all over last season, boasting the second worst run defense in the league. The entire front seven needs some work, so what better way to start addressing the problem than addressing the line? Veta is a mountain of a man and continue the youth movement along the defensive front.
18.) Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
Davenport is a freak, plain and simple. The talent is there to be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks, but it will take some time to get there. Davenport is raw, but has all the tools to develop into a classic Seahawk edge rusher.
19.) Dallas Cowboys: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The Cowboys haven’t addressed a single need in free agency outside of issuing the franchise tag to DeMarcus Lawrence, which means Dallas has a lot of areas to address via the draft. Dallas believes they have a franchise quarterback in Dak Prescott. He is already well protected, now it’s time to get Dak some weapons in his arsenal.
20.) Detroit Lions: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
Outside of Darius Slay and Glover Quin the Lions are pretty scant in the secondary. They drafted Teez Tabor in the second round last year, but they need more help. Hughes, is a potential lock down corner.
21.) Cincinnati Bengals: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Is this a reach? Probably, but that’s why we deliver three to four mock drafts every year. For where the Bengals are drafting this isn’t the most outrageous reach. Hayden, is arguably the best tight end this year, and veteran Tyler Eifert has failed to stay healthy.
22.) Buffalo Bills: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Buffalo lost veteran Preston Brown via free agency. He played 99.2% of the snaps last year and racked up 144 tackles. That’s a lot of production to cover. Lucky for them, they land Evans.
23.) LA Rams: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College
The Rams have already traded away Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree. Then there is Connor Barwin who is currently out there on the free agency market. They need a pass rusher and Landry could be the man. He led the country with 16.5 sacks two years ago.
24.) Carolina Panthers: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
When Andrew Norwell signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he left a massive hole for the Panthers to fix. Cam Newton gets battered enough as is, the Panthers can’t wait around. Hernandez is a road grader who can help both Newton and last year’s first-round pick Christian McCaffrey.
25.) Tennessee Titans: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise St.
The linebacking corps was already an area the Titans needed to address and then they lost Avery Williamson to free agency. Vander Esch was a one year starter in Boise, but what a year it was. Vander Esch racked up 141 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss. If he can prove it wasn’t a fluke, he could add a lot to Tennessee.
26.) Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Atlanta’s strength is their fast flowing defense. With young stars like Grady Jarrett, Tak McKinley, Vic Beasley, Deion Jones, and Keanu Neal adding Bryan to the mix would make things even more interesting. He’s a bit undersized, but has the raw strength and explosion to be special.
27.) New Orleans Saints: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota St.
Like the Bengals and their tight end, this is probably a reach. But for how this mock draft has shaken out, Goedert is the best bang for the Saints’ buck. The Saints were trying hard to reconnect with Jimmy Graham on the free agency market, but things didn’t work out. Getting production from the tight end position is a high priority and Goedert, though from a small school, could be the man to make it happen.
28.) Pittsburgh Steelers: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
After running back Le’Veon Bell got the franchise tag for the second straight year, it seems like the relationship may be beyond repair at this point. With an aging franchise quarterback, it’s probably best to rebuild the running game as soon as possible.
29.) Jacksonville Jaguars: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Jaguars allowed veteran Allen Robinson leave via free agency. While the Jaguars did resign Marqise Lee and brought in Donte Moncrief, you can never have enough weapons for your quarterback and Sutton supplies Blake Bortles with a big target.
30.) Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
The Vikings boasted the best defense in the NFL last year. It’s important they keep it that way. Age is starting to creep up along the interior defensive line, so injecting some youth would be smart. Phillips and his relentless motor would be a good fit.
31.) New England Patriots: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
If Williams dropped to the Patriots it would be a dream come true. New England got crushed via free agency and left tackle Nate Solder was among those who left. Williams, if healthy, could be a starter from Day One.
32.) Philadelphia Eagles: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Super Bowl champion Eagles go with an offensive tackle. Future Hall-of-Famer Jason Peters ended the season on IR and is nearing 40 years of age. Molding McGlinchey to be Peters’ heir wouldn’t be the worst thing.