2018 NFL Draft 1.0: Thanksgiving Edition

11 Weeks into the NFL Season, the NFL Playoff Picture is beginning to take shape, as well as those who’ll be sitting atop the 2018 NFL Draft. While the Cleveland Browns do still have a 1 in 19 quintillion chance of making the playoffs according to FiveThirtyEight, odds are, Cleveland will be picking No. 1 for the second-straight year. This year’s NFL Draft class might not be the strongest, but there are certainly some good prospects at the top. So without further ado, and as it’s never too early for a Mock Draft, here’s my 2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Thanksgiving Edition.

(All Offensive, Defensive and line rankings come via Football Outsiders DVOA)

  1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. DeShone Kizer hasn’t proven himself to be the Browns’ quarterback of the future, and unless that changes over the next six games, Cleveland will once again be looking for a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. Mechanically, Rosen is the best QB prospect in the 2018 draft and throws a pretty deep ball that’d look perfect in a Browns’ uniform.
  2.  San Francisco 49ers: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St. Having found their quarterback at the trade deadline in Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers now need to surround him with some weapons. Carlos Hyde is a free agent, and odds are, San Francisco won’t be bringing him back. Instead, the 49ers can draft one of the most dynamic players in college football, both as a running back and a receiver.
  3. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, USC. Eli Manning is hitting the twilight of his career, and it’s doubtful 2017 3rd Rounder Davis Webb is the answer behind him. The Giants have so many needs, but with a Top 3 pick, they need to look towards the future and find their QB for life after Eli, taking Darnold here.
  4. Denver Broncos: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame. The Broncos might be inclined to take a quarterback here, especially if either Darnold or Rosen is still on the board. But if not, Denver must improve an offensive line that ranks among the worst in football. Guards aren’t usually valued this high, but Nelson is one of the best to come out of college in years.
  5. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State. Defensive woes continue to plague a Colts team that hasn’t ranked in the top half of the NFL in Defensive DVOA since 2015. Whether it’s a talented pass rusher like Chubb or a defensive back, Indianapolis will look to improve their defense throughout the 2018 NFL Draft.
  6. Chicago Bears: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. The Bears defense has improved year-after-year under John Fox and Vic Fangio, but their secondary could still use some help, especially with Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller set to hit free agency after this season. Fitzpatrick is versatile enough to play corner or safety and may be the best defensive back to come out of college since Jalen Ramsey in 2016.
  7. Los Angeles ChargersDa’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. With Philip Rivers going on 36, so don’t be surprised if the Chargers use this pick to find their quarterback of the future. If not though, Los Angeles needs to solidify the interior of their defensive line. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are terrific on the outside, but on the interior, the Chargers rank No. 27 in the NFL against the run.
  8. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams, OT, Texas. The Bengals have whiffed on too many offensive linemen in the past, and after losing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler to free agency, Cincinnati has to address a line that ranks in the bottom third of the NFL against both the pass and run.
  9. Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. Carlos Palmer may retire after the season, and even if he doesn’t, the Cardinals need a quarterback anyways. Similar to Pat Mahomes last year, Allen isn’t NFL ready, but his tools will make him one of the most enticing quarterbacks in this year’s draft class.
  10. Oakland Raiders: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. The Raiders haven’t lived up to their billing as a Super Bowl contender, and instead, have struggled with the worst defense in the NFL. Oakland needs help on the backend and at linebacker, and drafting a Nick Saban-coached linebacker certainly couldn’t hurt.
  11. Cleveland Browns (via Houston): Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. Isaiah Crowell is a free agent after the 2017 season, and after signing just a one-year deal as a restricted free agent, there’s a good chance he plays elsewhere in 2018. But a rookie quarterback’s going to need some weapons, and who better to pair him with than a bruising runner in Guice.
  12. New York JetsBaker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. The Jets have played themselves out of the top of the NFL Draft, but thankfully for Jets fans, another quarterback has emerged from the pack. Mayfield may not have the prototypical size for an NFL QB, but he has just about everything else scouts look for. This isn’t another Johnny Manziel, Mayfield has all the tools to succeed at the next level.
  13. Washington: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. If Kirk Cousins leaves via free agency, chances are Washington will be looking for a QB here. If not though, Washington could use another WR or two. Terrelle Pryor’s been a bust and won’t re-sign. Ridley would give Cousins a WR1 to pair with Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder.
  14. Miami Dolphins: Roquon Smith, ILB, Georgia. Miami’s defense has been a mess this season, currently ranked No. 31 in the NFL, and their linebackers, led by Kiko Alonso, have especially struggled. The Dolphins could look for an upgrade both via free agency and via the draft, selecting the talent Georgia-product in Smith here.
  15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Arden Key, DE, LSU. Tampa Bay hasn’t had the breakout season many were predicting, rather, Jameis Winston has struggled with injuries and the Buccaneers defense hasn’t been able to find its groove. Tampa’s pass rush has been especially been a problem, and there’s a good chance they’ll look to add an edge rusher like Key in the 2018 NFL Draft.
  16. Dallas Cowboys: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson. With DeMarcus Lawrence and Taco Charlton, the Cowboys have found some pass rush, but they’re still lacking on the defensive interior, with the No. 30 rush defense in the NFL. Wilkins not only will help solidify Dallas’ run defense, but he’ll also further improve the Cowboys’ pass rush, with 9.5 sacks over three years at Clemson.
  17. Buffalo Bills: Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas. It’s not Tyrod Taylor’s fault the Bills’ defense ranks No. 22 in the NFL. The Bills could select a quarterback here if they Taylor isn’t in their future plans, but they also need to improve a run defense that ranks No. 31 in the NFL, either up the middle or with a linebacker like Jefferson.
  18. Green Bay Packers: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College. Injuries have decimated the Packers, knocking a sure-fire Super Bowl contender out of the playoff hunt. If everyone’s healthy in 2018, Green Bay will be right in the thick of things so it couldn’t hurt just to take the best defensive player available while also improving a middling pass rush.
  19. Seattle Seahawks: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. Russell Wilson can only work his magic outside the pocket for so long. At some point, Seattle needs to improve an offensive line that consistently ranks at the bottom of the NFL. McGlinchey has some question marks to answer at the next level, but Seattle so desperately needs lineman, that he’s an upgrade no matter what.
  20. Detroit Lions: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP. The Lions are paying Matthew Stafford too much to not protect him. Detroit’s offensive line ranks in the bottom third of the NFL in pass blocking and last in run blocking. Shoring up the middle of their offensive line, especially at guard, will be a priority for the Lions this offseason.
  21. Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. Outside of Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace, there’s not a lot for Joe Flacco to work with, offensively, in Baltimore. Breshard Perriman’s looking like a bust, and while Ozzie Newsome may be tempted to avoid another first-round wide receiver, Sutton and his deep-ball skills are too tempting to pass up here.
  22. Tennessee Titans: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. The Titans revamped secondary isn’t performing as well as Tennessee might have hoped. Adoree Jackson isn’t looking like a first-round corner, Logan Ryan’s taken a step back from New England and Jason McCourty is still looking like a top-flight corner in Cleveland after being released. With the No. 26 pass defense in the NFL, Tennessee might draft another corner in the first round this year, even in a much weaker draft class.
  23. Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst, DT, MichiganThough the Falcons signed Dontari Poe, Atlanta’s defense still ranks in the bottom third of the NFL against the run, and Poe signed for just one season. Grady Jarrett’s been terrific alongside Poe, but Atlanta will need a new run-stopper if/when Poe leaves for a payday elsewhere.
  24. Los Angeles Rams: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State. The Rams are a stud corner away from being a top-flight defense in the NFL. Once a projected Top-10 pick, McFadden has been sliding a bit as of late, but paired with Trumaine Johnson, he’s certainly talented enough to develop into the top-flight corner the Rams need.
  25. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City): Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. Do the Bills find their quarterback of the future with this selection? Taylor doesn’t seem to be a favorite of the Bills’ front office, and Nathan Peterman didn’t show anything in his one half of play. Opinions on Lamar Jackson will be all over the place, but one thing is for sure: he’s a terrific playmaker, and that should translate to the next level.
  26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M. Blake Bortles isn’t the Jaguars quarterback of the future, but Jacksonville’s has played themselves into the playoffs and out of the race for the top QBs this season. With Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson both impending free agents, Jacksonville could find themselves another target for whoever is under center next season here.
  27. Carolina Panthers: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma. The Panthers are yet another team that could shore up the protection in front of their quarterback. Carolina’s offensive line ranks No. 17 in pass blocking and No. 26 in run blocking, and an upgrade at either tackle position is needed.
  28. Minnesota Vikings: Derwin James, S, Florida State. Minnesota’s in a position where they can take the best player available, unless all three quarterbacks walk this offseason, and adding James could take the Vikings’ defense to a whole new level. James has seen his draft stock fall after being among the Top 10 heading into the season, but he’s still a terrific, first-round talent.
  29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn. The Steelers’ defense has rebounded after a poor-showing in 2016 but still could use some talent at corner. There’s no guarantee Joe Haden can stay healthy, and Artie Burns has had his struggles as well. Adding another lanky corner to the mix would help.
  30. New Orleans Saints: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. New Orleans’ defense has been a revelation this season, ranking No. 8 in the NFL through 10 games. Marshon Lattimore has been terrific, but the Saints could another corner to pair alongside him. Even since his 3 INT game against Ohio State, Jackson’s been soaring up draft boards and should find his way into the first round.
  31. New England Patriots: Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson. The Patriots defense has been atrocious this season, ranking No. 29 against the run and pass. New England needs help just about everywhere and adding Bryant, who has 7.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss this season, would give them pass rush they sorely need.
  32. Philadelphia Eagles: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State. With 35-year-old OT Jason Peters’ injury history, Philadelphia may look to find his future replacement via the draft. Peters and Lane Johnson form a terrific due at the tackle positions for the Eagles, but it’s questionable how long Philadelphia can continue to count on Peters after tearing both his ACL and MCL a few weeks ago.

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