2018 NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Post-Free Agency Edition

The first dominoes of the 2018 NFL offseason have fallen. Kirk Cousins is headed to Minneapolis, Case Keenum is a Bronco, Tyrod Taylor is a Cleveland Brown and the New York Jets have traded up three spots to the No. 3 overall selection. And that’s just the quarterbacks. The NFL offseason is underway and with it, the 2018 NFL Draft is coming into the picture, just over a month away from Roger Goodell taking the stand. So, without further ado, here is my 2018 NFL Mock Draft 4.0: Post-Free Agency Edition

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

  1. Cleveland BrownsSam Darnold, QB, USC. The Browns may have traded for and anointed Tyrod Taylor their starting quarterback, but that doesn’t mean they still won’t use the first overall pick on a QB. As Taylor’s under contract for just one more season, the Browns can use him as a stop-gap, allowing Darnold or whomever they draft, a year to sit and develop. The Browns have to be considering all four of the top QBs here, but at the moment, Darnold is reportedly the favorite.
  2. New York GiantsSaquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. Should the Giants take a QB? Probably, but more and more, it’s looking like Dave Gettleman will stick with Eli Manning for at least another year or two. So instead, the Giants could continue to beef up their offensive line after signing Nate Soldier or improve a rushing attack that ranked No. 29 in the NFL and hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2012. As guard’s a tough position to take this high, so Barkley’s the selection here.
  3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis)Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. After missing out on Kirk Cousins, the Jets traded up with the Indianapolis Colts with one goal in mind, to draft a quarterback. Sitting at No. 6, the Jets could have missed out on all of the top QBs. At No. 3, at least two of the top four will still be available. Allen has all the intangibles and physical traits teams want, and while he’ll need to improve his accuracy, the Jets can give him time while Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater start.
  4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston)Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. With Arizona, Buffalo, Denver and even potentially Miami looking for a QB, the Browns should have a number of suitors if they want to trade down. If they don’t, Cleveland must improve a defense that ranked No. 27 in the NFL against the pass. What better way to improve their pass rush and pass defense then pairing Garrett with Chubb, giving the Browns one of the most fearsome pass-rushing duos in the league.
  5. Denver BroncosJosh Rosen, QB, UCLA. Signing Case Keenum isn’t going to stop the Broncos from drafting a quarterback. John Elway needs to find the Broncos’ quarterback of the future, and with the Jets trading up, it only becomes more pressing. With picture-perfect mechanics and a beauty of a deep-ball, Rosen is the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year’s class that should supplant Keenum as Denver’s starting QB by the Broncos’ bye week.
  6. Indianapolis Colts (via New York Jets)Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. Before the Colts traded down, you could almost pencil in Bradley Chubb as Indianapolis’ selection. But with Chubb off the board, the Colts must look elsewhere to improve the NFL’s worst pass defense in 2017. And while Indianapolis did draft a free safety in Malik Hooker last season, Fitzpatrick is versatile enough to play anywhere in the Colts secondary and would provide a massive upgrade as well.
  7. Tampa Bay BuccaneersDerwin James, SS, Florida State. Right behind the Colts, the Buccaneers had the second-worst pass defense in the NFL, due to a combination of poor secondary play and a lackluster pass rush. And with T.J. Ward unlikely to be re-signed, Tampa could certainly use a safety like Derwin James. Though he struggled to begin the season coming off a torn ACL, once fully-health, James hit his stride, with 84 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss and 11 passes defended.
  8. Chicago BearsQuenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame. After signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in free agency, the Bears must turn their attention to Mitch Trubisky’s protection, and an offensive line that ranked 28th in run blocking and 23rd in pass blocking last year. If Trubisky is going to take the next step in year two, Chicago must improve his protection, especially with Kyle Long potentially on his way out of the Windy City over the next two years.
  9. San Francisco 49ersDenzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. The 49ers signed Richard Sherman, but at 29-years-old and coming off an Achilles tear, who knows how much and for how long San Francisco can count on him. And either way, the 49ers still need to improve a pass defense that ranked No. 28 in the NFL last season. While just 5’10”, Ward has everything else needed to succeed at corner in the NFL, and it certainly won’t hurt to play under Sherman’s tutelage either.
  10. Oakland RaidersRoquan Smith, ILB, Georgia. The Raiders’ defense ranked 20th in the NFL last season and is in need of upgrades at all three linebacker positions. So if Smith is available when the Raiders are on the clock, you can almost pencil him in as Oakland’s selection. Smith made plays all over the field for Georgia and would provide a massive upgrade to Oakland’s linebacking core.
  11. Miami DolphinsVita Vea, DT, Washington. With Ndamukong Suh’s release, the Dolphins have a gaping hole along their defensive line. Not only that but with Suh’s release, a Dolphins’ defense that ranked No. 29 in the NFL last season isn’t getting any better. A three-down lineman, Vea, who’s drawn comparisons to Haloti Ngata and Dontari Poe, would be the perfect Suh-replacement.
  12. Buffalo Bills (via Cincinnati)Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. With two firsts, two seconds and two third-round picks, the Bills have the ammo to trade up into the Top 5 to take a quarterback. However, with plenty of other QB-needy teams and the Jets having already trading into the Top 5, the price will be exorbitantly high. Either way, whether the Bills are picking at No. 12 and 21 or No. 4, odds are the Bills will select their quarterback of the future, and Mayfield can certainly be that guy.
  13. WashingtonDa’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. While Washington had one of the better pass defenses in the NFL last season, ranking No. 6 in the NFL, their run defense was among the worst in football, ranking 29th. Yes, injuries ravaged Washington’s defensive line, including 2017 first round pick Jonathan Allen, but Washington still needs to get stouter up front. Adding the 6’2” 308 lb. Payne will do just that.
  14. Green Bay PackersJosh Jackson, CB, Iowa. The Packers pass defense ranked No. 26 in the NFL last season, and then they traded one of their two starting corners in Damarious Randall. Even though Green Bay drafted CB Kevin King last season, the Packers still need to add another starter alongside him. Jackson has the size, speed and athleticism NFL teams covet in corners, and would slot right alongside King.
  15. Arizona CardinalsConnor Williams, OT, Texas. Things aren’t looking too bright in Arizona. Both the offense and defense are aging, and neither Sam Bradford nor Mike Glennon is the long-term solution at QB. And unless the Cardinals want to mortgage the future, they don’t have enough picks to beat any Buffalo offer to jump into the Top 5 to take a QB. Instead, Arizona can begin to get younger and inject some youth into an aging roster. A mediocre offensive line which struggled to protect Carson Palmer over the past few seasons would be a good place to start.
  16. Baltimore RavensHarold Landry, DE, Boston College. Terrelle Suggs accounted for more than 25 percent of Baltimore’s sacks last season. But at some point, the 35-year-old’s production is going to wane, and the Ravens need to plan for life after Terrelle Suggs. Drafting Landry, who tallied 25.0 sacks over four seasons at Boston College, would not only give the Ravens some much-needed pass rushing depth, it’d also give them a replacement-in-waiting for Suggs’ eventual retirement.
  17. Los Angeles ChargersMaurice Hurst, DT, Michigan.The AFC West is there for the taking, but if the Chargers are going to make a run at a division title, they have to shore up their run defense. The Chargers allowed 131.4 rushing yards per game last season, with the 27th ranked run defense in the NFL. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa give the Chargers two top-flight pass rushers, but Los Angeles must improve the interior of their defensive line and can do so by selecting Hurst here.
  18. Seattle SeahawksMike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. As the Seahawks’ defense is expected to take a step back with Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman’s departures, it becomes even more important for Seattle to protect its franchise QB in Russell Wilson, as Seattle’s offense will need to step up. To do so, the Seahawks must improve an offensive line that consistently ranks at the bottom of the NFL. Solidifying both tackle spots with McGlinchey and Duane Brown would be a start.
  19. Dallas CowboysTremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech. After tagging DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys can turn their attention to their linebacking core. With a defense that ranked No. 18 against the pass and No. 21 against the run, the Cowboys need to add some depth and talent, especially at LB. Not only that but Dallas cannot always count on the oft-injured Sean Lee. If Edmunds if available, the Cowboys won’t hesitate to add to athletic and versatile outside linebacker.
  20. Detroit LionsMarcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. Though the Lions franchise tagged Ezekiel Ansah, they still could use another pass rusher to go along with him. Detroit’s defensive line ranked No. 25 against the run and No. 22 against the pass last season, while its defense finished the year as one of the worst in the NFL. After adding a corner and two linebackers in free agency, Detroit can add an athletic freak in Davenport, who recorded 8.5 sacks and 17.5 TFLs last year with UTSA.
  21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo)Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. Cincinnati’s defense has been slowly slipping these past few seasons, dropping from the No. 9-ranked defense in 2015, to the 27th-best in 2017. And with Vontaze Burfict facing yet another suspension, if the Bengals want to continue to compete in the AFC North, they need to shore up their defense, specifically their front seven. Though Cincinnati signed former Bills’ linebacker Preston Brown, it’s just a one-year deal and more talent is needed at the position.
  22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City): Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. As the Panthers’ defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott built his defense around two terrific linebackers in Luke Kechley and Thomas Davis. The Bills’ linebackers, especially after losing Preston Brown, really pale in comparison. The Bills’ defense really didn’t improve all that much in year one under McDermott, and if they’re going to take the next step in year two, Buffalo must add a linebacker or two.
  23. Los Angeles RamsCalvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. After trading for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and franchising LaMarcus Joyner, the Rams can turn their attention to their offensive in the draft. Sammy Watkins signed with the Chiefs, and with Tavon Austin potentially on his way out as well, the Rams could use another wideout to complement Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. If Calvin Ridley is still available with the 23rd pick, the terrific route-runner would certainly fit the bill.
  24. Carolina PanthersIsaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia. Cam Newton’s protection has consistently ranked near the bottom of the NFL the past few seasons, with Carolina’s pass blocking finishing No. 19 in the NFL in 2017. And with Andrew Norwell, arguably Carolina’s best offensive lineman, headed to the Jaguars, an offensive guard jumps to the top of the Panthers’ list of needs.
  25. Tennessee TitansBilly Price, OG/C, Ohio State. Inconsistent play along the interior of the Titans’ offensive line plagued Tennessee all season, with the main culprits being Ben Jones, Josh Kline and Quinton Spain. And though both Kline and Spain were re-signed, the Titans could use an upgrade at either center or guard, or at the very least, some depth with nobody behind Jones on the roster.
  26. Atlanta FalconsHarrison Phillips, DT, Stanford. With Dontari Poe’s headed to the Panthers and Adrian Clayborn to the Patriots, the Falcons need to add to a defensive line that wasn’t that impressive in the first place. Grady Jarrett is a stud, but Atlanta needs an upgrade alongside him to improve a run defense that ranked No. 20 in the NFL this season. Phillips, with his 7.5 sacks and 17.0 tackles for a loss last season, was one of the more impressive run defenders in all of college football.
  27. New Orleans SaintsDallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State. Drafting Marcus Lattimore helped revamp the Saints defense, but offensively, outside of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara, Drew Brees doesn’t have another sure-fire target. New Orleans hasn’t been able to replace Jimmy Graham since trading him to Seattle, and after missing out on Graham in free agency, the Saints find their tight end here.
  28. Pittsburgh SteelersMalik Jefferson, LB, Texas. Hopefully, Ryan Shazier can recover from his horrific injury, but chances are, Shazier will never play again. When Shazier went down, the Steelers defense suffered a massive drop-off, and Pittsburgh must improve a run defense that ranked No. 18 in the NFL. Jefferson has the athletic talent that Pittsburgh can mold into their next great linebacker.
  29. Jacksonville JaguarsCourtland Sutton, WR, SMU. While it looks like the Jaguars are sticking with Blake Bortles, I wouldn’t count out Lamar Jackson here just yet. However, with Allen Robinson leaving via free agency, and Allen Hurns cut, the Jaguars need to add another receiver. Sutton, a deep-ball receiver in a similar mold to Robinson, could slide right in alongside Marqise Lee and Donte Moncrief.
  30. Minnesota VikingsWill Hernandez, OG, UTEP. Having secured the prize of free agency, Kirk Cousins, the Vikings can turn their attention to other needs. While Pat Elflein helped shore up the Vikings’ center position, neither of Minnesota’s two guards, both of whom are free agents, excelled as the offensive line finished in the middle of the pack in both run and pass blocking. The Vikings must protect Cousins, and Hernandez will provide immediate help.
  31. New England PatriotsJaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. The Patriots defense ranked No. 22 in the NFL last season and was absolutely shredded by Nick Foles in the Super Bowl. Malcolm Butler is out, and while New England traded for Jason McCourty, he’s in the final year of his contract and will turn 31 before the start of the 2018 season. Bill Belichick needs to restock the Patriots’ secondary if he wants to get back to the Super Bowl, and Alexander will add some youth and quickness.
  32. Philadelphia EaglesDerrius Guice, RB, LSU. Coming off a Super Bowl victory, the Eagles don’t have a whole lot of pressing needs. But with LeGarrette Blount headed to Detroit, Darren Sproles coming back from injury and Jay Ajayi in the final year of his rookie contract, Philadelphia could look to add a running back. And with Guice, arguably a Top 20 talent, still available, this selection is a no-brainer. Guice, a punishing runner who averaged 6.5 yards per carry over three seasons at LSU, would be the most talented Eagles’ running back since LeSean McCoy.

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