2018 NFL Mock Draft 5.0: The Penultimate Mock

In just a few weeks, Roger Goodell will stride to the podium at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and ushered by a chorus of boos, open the 2018 NFL Draft. With the No. 1 overall pick, John Dorsey and the Cleveland Browns will select a quarterback and then the intrigue begins. Will the Giants stick with Eli Manning, or draft their quarterback of the future? Will Buffalo trade up for a quarterback? Which prospect will take a stunning tumble? So, without further ado, here is my 2018 NFL Mock Draft 5.0: The Penultimate Mock

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

  1. Cleveland BrownsJosh Allen, QB, Wyoming. Cleveland is taking a quarterback, even after trading for Tyrod Taylor and signing Drew Stanton in free agency. The question, at this point, is which one? Will John Dorsey and co. go with the potential of Josh Allen, the more-NFL ready Josh Rosen or the top prospect in Sam Darnold? Allen has started to become the hot-name at No. 1, and the Browns can sit and develop him for a year while Taylor takes the starting reigns in Cleveland.
  2. New York GiantsSam Darnold, QB, USC. Eli Manning is not the quarterback he used to be. And while the Giants do have other needs across their offensive and defensive lines and at running back, if Cleveland passes on Darnold, the Giants won’t hesitate to take him. With Manning under center for at least another season, the Giants can sit Darnold for a year and develop into their franchise QB.
  3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis)Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. After missing out on Kirk Cousins in free agency, the Jets traded up with the Colts to draft a QB. 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, here selecting between Mayfield and Josh Rosen. With teams reportedly scared of Rosen’s “off-field concerns,” especially in a media-crazed city like New York, the Jets opt for Mayfield over Rosen here.
  4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston)Saquon Barley, RB, Penn State. With just one of the top four remaining quarterbacks available, the Browns’ phone lines will be buzzing with phone calls from Buffalo, Arizona and Denver all looking to trade up. But drafting Barkley, arguably the best prospect in the draft, and the most dynamic running back to come out since Adrian Peterson in 2007, might be too much for Dorsey and co. to pass up, even after adding Carlos Hyde in free agency.
  5. Denver BroncosJosh Rosen, QB, UCLA. Signing Case Keenum in free agency shouldn’t 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 and would make up for Elway’s previous NFL-draft misses, including former first-round QB Paxton Lynch.
  6. Indianapolis Colts (via New York Jets)Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. Chubb was almost a lock to the Colts the No. 3 selection before Indianapolis traded down with the Jets. Indianapolis hasn’t had a defense ranked in the top half of the NFL in Defensive DVOA since 2015 and finished No. 32 against the pass this past season. The Colts desperately need to improve their pass rush, one that finished with just 25.0 sacks, the second-fewest in the NFL. Chubb, who tallied 10.0 sacks this past season, is exactly the type of pass rusher the Colts need.
  7. Tampa Bay BuccaneersQuenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame. Tampa Bay has reportedly zeroed in on a trio of prospects: Nelson, Chubb and Barkley, one of which they hope will be available with their selection. Tampa Bay’s offensive line ranked No. 16 in the NFL in both run and pass block, and if the Buccaneers want to keep Jameis Winston upright and contend in the NFC South, a mauler like Nelson would certainly go a long way to improving Winston’s protection.
  8. Chicago BearsMinkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. With Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers all in the NFC North, a mediocre pass defense, like the Bears’ 14th-ranked defense last season, is a recipe for a disaster. Though they re-signed both Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, neither has the talent that Fitzpatrick could add to the Bears’ defense, with the ability to play all across the Bears’ secondary, whether it be at corner, in the slot or as a free or strong safety.
  9. San Francisco 49ersTremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech. Reuben Foster was terrific in his rookie season with the 49ers, but with injury and character concerns still looming over Foster, and little talent surrounding him at linebacker, the 49ers need to improve their linebacking core. Edmunds would give San Francisco a whole lot of athleticism off the edge, with 10.0 sacks and 30.5 tackles for a loss over the past two seasons, helping improve a defense that ranked No. 25 in the NFL last year.
  10. Oakland RaidersDenzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. A popular preseason Super Bowl pick, the Raiders faltered in large part due to a defense that was one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, and a run defense that wasn’t too much better. Oakland’s 2017 first-rounder, Gareon Conley, should be healthy, but Jon Gruden and co. need another corner to pencil in alongside him. Who better than Conley’s former teammate in Ward, who racked up 15 passes defended with the Buckeyes in 2017.
  11. Miami DolphinsRoquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Whether it’s a defensive tackle to replace Ndamukong Suh, a No. 1 corner, or a linebacker, Miami has to improve a defense that ranked No. 29 in the NFL. While Raekwon McMillan is coming back from an injury, Kiko Alonso was among the worst linebackers in football last season and Lawrence Timmons was let go as a free agent. Smith, who made plays all over the field for the Bulldogs, would be a suitable replacement.
  12. Buffalo Bills (via Cincinnati)Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. With five picks in the Top 65, Buffalo has the ammunition to trade up for a quarterback. The question is though, will they find a willing partner in the Top 5 or 10? If they don’t, Buffalo might be forced to settle for one of the next tier QBs, as AJ McCarron is nothing more than a stopgap. Opinions are all over the place on Jackson, but one thing’s for sure, he’s is a terrific playmaker, and that alone should translate to the NFL.
  13. WashingtonDerwin James, SS, Florida StateWith Su’a Cravens off to Denver, and Kendall Fuller traded to Kansas City for Alex Smith, Washington suddenly has a number of holes in a pass defense that ranked No. 6 in the NFL last season. DJ Swearinger was terrific at free safety for Washington but with Deshazor Everett’s struggles at strong safety, James would provide a massive upgrade, both against the pass and against the run. James would be an easy selection if he slips this far.
  14. Green Bay PackersJosh Jackson, CB, Iowa. Green Bay’s pass defense ranked No. 26 in the NFL last season, and even though Green Bay signed Tramon Williams and drafted CB Kevin King last season, the Packers still need help in their secondary. Jackson has the size, speed and athleticism NFL teams covet in corners, and would slide in right alongside King and Williams helping the Packers better defend against the top QBs of the NFC and NFC North.
  15. Arizona CardinalsConnor Williams, OT, Texas. Arizona seems intent on trying to compete with Sam Bradford under center, and if they’re going to do so, they need to shore up their offensive line. Carson Palmer was among the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL last season, as the Cardinals’ offensive line ranked 17th in run blocking and 25th in pass blocking. Whether he plays tackle or moves inside to guard, Williams will be an upgrade, improving Bradford’s protection.
  16. Baltimore RavensCalvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. The Ravens passing attack was among the worst in football last season, ranking No. 26 in the NFL. If Baltimore wants to compete with Pittsburgh in the AFC North, Joe Flacco is going to need some improved weaponry. Neither Michael Crabtree nor John Brown, both of whom the Ravens signed in free agency, is a long-term solution, whereas Ridley, a tremendous route-runner, could be. And the Alabama connection with Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome doesn’t hurt either.
  17. Los Angeles ChargersVita Vea, DT, Washington. With a run defense that ranked 27th in the NFL last season, the Chargers might sprint to the podium if both Vea and Crimson Tide DT Da’Ron Payne are available. The Chargers allowed 131.4 rushing yards per game last season, something the 6’5” 350 lbs. defensive tackle could help change. A former high school running back, Vea would combine with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to give opposing offensive lines all sorts of nightmares.
  18. Seattle SeahawksMike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. Seattle must improve an offensive line that has consistently ranked at the bottom of the NFL. With the Seahawks’ defense expected to take a step back with the departures of Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, protecting Russell Wilson and improving their offensive line becomes even more of a priority if the Seahawks want to compete in the NFC West. Solidifying both tackle spots by drafting McGlinchey would be a start.
  19. Dallas CowboysRashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. The Cowboys have to address their linebacking core this offseason. Sean Lee, when healthy, is one of the best linebackers in the NFL, but he has missed 13 games over the past four years. Jaylon Smith struggled in his return from a gruesome injury suffered in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago, and Anthony Hitchens signed with Kansas City in free agency. Dallas can’t continue to count on Lee and needs to add some depth and talent at LB.
  20. Detroit LionsDa’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. The Lions would be thrilled if Payne is still available with the No. 20 selection. Detroit must address a run defense that ranked No. 28 in the NFL last season, allowing opponents to rush for an average 112.5 yards per game and 18 TDs. After franchise tagging Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit can beef up the interior of their defense with the addition of the 6’2” 308 lb. Payne.
  21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo)Billy Price, OG/C, Ohio State. For a team that runs up-the-middle as often as the Bengals do (54% of the time), Cincinnati has a very shaky offensive line. The Bengals’ offensive line ranked 24th in pass blocking and 20th in run blocking, and while they traded for Cordy Glenn to shore up one of their tackle spots, more help is needed on the interior. Russell Bodine signed with the Bills in free agency, and Price would be a suitable, and versatile replacement.
  22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City): Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida. After losing E.J. Gaines to the Browns, the Bills signed both Vontae Davis and Phillip Gaines, but neither is on a long-term deal. Buffalo’s pass defense ranked No. 12 in the NFL last season, but without a sure-fire corner opposite Tre’Davious White, it could take a step back next season. Hughes has his share of character concerns, but with 4 INTs and 11 passes defended for the National Champion-Knights, he’d make a terrific pairing with White in the Bills’ secondary.
  23. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams)Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. The Patriots defense was atrociously bad last season, ranking 21st against the pass and 30th against the run. Losing Dont’a Hightower to a season-ending injury didn’t help, but New England still needs all sorts of help defensively. After trading for former Browns’ DT Danny Shelton, the Patriots can continue to shore up their front seven with Vander Esch, who tallied 141 total tackles for the Broncos in 2017.
  24. Carolina PanthersIsaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia. Cam Newton’s protection has ranked near the bottom of the NFL each of the past few seasons, with Carolina’s pass blocking finishing No. 19 in the NFL in 2017. If the Panthers want to compete in a division with two of the best teams in the NFC, their offensive line play has to improve. And with Andrew Norwell, arguably Carolina’s best lineman, headed to the Jaguars, an offensive guard jumps to the top of the Panthers’ list of needs.
  25. Tennessee TitansHarold Landry, DE, Boston College. The Titans added Malcolm Butler in free agency to help shore up a pass defense that ranked No. 24 in the NFL last season. And although Tennessee was one of the better teams in the NFL at getting to the quarterback, both Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are hitting contract years. The Titans could certainly use some depth, especially with Orakpo turning 32 in July, and Landry, who tallied 25.0 sacks over three seasons at Boston College, would be the perfect replacement-in-waiting.
  26. Atlanta FalconsMaurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. Dontari Poe signed with the Falcons’ NFC South-division rival leaving a hole in the middle of Atlanta’s front seven. The Falcons defense, ranked No. 19 in the NFL, wasn’t too stout up the middle previously and losing Poe certainly won’t help. Atlanta has been linked to plenty of the draft’s top DTs, and Hurst can slide right in as Poe’s replacement.
  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 in Goedert, who averaged 15.4 yards per catch this past season with the Jackrabbits.
  28. Pittsburgh SteelersDerrius Guice, RB, LSU. Le’Veon Bell’s days in Black and Gold may be numbered. While the Steelers’ franchise tagged their star running back, Bell wants a massive contract, and it doesn’t look like the Steelers are going to give it to him. The Steelers have to prepare for life without Le’Veon Bell if they want to keep their offense at the top of the NFL, and Guice would be a perfect replacement.
  29. Jacksonville JaguarsCourtland Sutton, WR, SMU. As the Jaguars were only able to retain Marqise Lee, with Allen Robinson headed to the Windy City and Allen Hurns cut and off to Dallas, Jacksonville is in need of another receiver. Sutton averaged 16.0 yards per catch and caught 12 TDs this past season at SMU, is a deep-ball receiver in a similar mold to Robinson who could slide right in alongside Lee.
  30. Minnesota VikingsWill Hernandez, OG, UTEP. Drafting Pat Elflein last year helped the Vikings begin to shore up the interior of their offensive line, but there’s still more work to be done. The Vikings must improve Kirk Cousins’ protection and with Joe Berger’s retirement, guard becomes a big need for the Vikings, especially with Nick Easton on just a one-year tender.
  31. New England PatriotsKolton Miller, OT, UCLA. The Patriots pass protection has slipped a bit the past couple of the seasons, and with Nate Solder off to New York, the Patriots need to keep Tom Brady upright and find his replacement. Miller, who compares well to the former Patriot OT Solder, could slide in at either tackle position and help keep Brady’s pocket clean as he continues to dominate past 40.
  32. Philadelphia EaglesD.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. Coming off a Super Bowl victory with one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, the Eagles don’t have a whole lot of needs. And while Philadelphia replaced Torrey Smith with Mike Wallace in free agency, they could still use more depth and talent at receiver. With three different QBs at Maryland in 2017, Moore still caught 80 passes for 1,033 yards and could step right in on the Eagles depth chart behind Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor.

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