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NFL Mock Draft

Lucas details his predictions for the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft–complete with trades and pictures provided by Jayshaun Jones.

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(written 2/26/18)

The Super Bowl has come and gone, and for many that means that the NFL rumor mill enters its’ peak intensity as free agency and the draft loom. While the Kansas City Chiefs don’t currently have a first round pick as of the writing of this mock, it’s important to recognize the standing of many other teams in the league that have an effect on the team closest to Abilene, as well as for the Broncos.

F I R S T   R O U N D

Pick 1 – Cleveland Browns – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The first pick in the draft is no surprise. Rosen is by far the most impressive candidate 2018 has to offer at the quarterback position. While his outspoken attitude might turn off public relations-minded general managers, his skill set is very impressive. His accuracy over the middle and knowledge of the game are very impressive, and he wields an arm that is reminiscent to me of Drew Brees’. Cleveland has been openly considering Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, however, and Rosen has stated his wish to play for the Giants, which makes this pick a near toss-up.

Pick 2 – New York Giants – Sam Darnold, QB, USC

How long has it been since the #1 and #2 picks have come from schools in the same city? Regardless of his questioned ability, Darnold’s performance in last year’s Rose Bowl against Penn State made many a GM fall in love. New GM Dave Gettleman is faced with a quandary at quarterback, and his name is Eli Manning. Eli is set to turn 38 soon, the dead zone for quarterbacks, and backup Davis Webb doesn’t seem like the greatest choice to lead Big Blue into the future. Even if it is over drafting, I can see the Giants swinging early on Darnold. Only time can tell if his performance last year was the exception or the rule.

Pick 3 – Indianapolis Colts – Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama

Indianapolis’ two starting cornerbacks are bad. Real bad. Bad and/or old. Who’s the stud? Pierre Desir? Darius Butler? Where’s Vontae Davis? This is a secondary that desperately needs help. Lucky for them, the best SEC defensive back since Eric Berry fell to pick 3. Fitzpatrick can play man, zone, press, chess–just about anything asked of him from a defensive standpoint. He’s got size, speed, and skills–and youth. Colts swing on a fantastic player here.

Pick 4 – Buffalo Bills (from Cleveland Browns) – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

It’s a QB frenzy! And it isn’t even that stellar of a class! Huzzah! Buffalo has been clear in it’s search for a quarterback, and Tyrod Taylor is apparently not it. Despite leading the Bills to a playoff appearance, the 30-year-old QB was once benched for Nate Peterman–who proceeded to throw many, many interceptions. Whatever the case in Buffalo may be, it’s fair to say they don’t want Tyrod. The Heisman winner, despite obvious character issues, has risen considerably up draft boards following an excellent season and a fantastic Senior Bowl. The Browns aren’t in need of anything, really, except for an entirely new team under a probable new head coach, so they’ll take Buffalo’s two first rounders and other picks and wait for good players to fall to them.

Artist’s rendition of Mayfield as a Buffalo Bill.

Pick 5 – Denver Broncos – Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame

Denver banked on Mayfield being here. They had him at the Senior Bowl, they scouted him heavily; Elway wanted #6 in Orange Crush. But the Bills saw that and jumped. So they go to priority #2 (or if they make the mistake of signing Kirk Cousins), which is offensive line. The Broncos struggled heavily protecting the triumvirate of Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler, and Trevor Siemian. Most of that was outside, but the inside is a mess, too. Nelson played fantastically for the Irish last year, and will continue to play well wherever he plays this year. That includes his spot on the line, as I can see him playing just about anywhere.

Pick 6 -New York Jets – Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

I don’t normally make free agent predictions, but it would make a lot of sense for the Jets to sign one of the QBs from Minnesota or Nick Foles, and then spend a pick on a higher-end player in the first round. They could target a second-round prospect like Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph, then. So with that, the Jets fire on another defensive player whose fall is the benefit of a run on QBs–Bradley Chubb. Chubb is very similar to Myles Garrett–just slightly less world-beating. He has awesome technique, is strong, comes from a strong conference in the ACC, and can play different techniques on the DL. He’s got a nose for the pocket and knows how to get there. This pick instantly makes New York better.

Pick 7 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Saquon Barkley, HB, Penn State

Barkley is insane. He’s the strongest running back in years. He’s stupid fast. He’s impossible to bring down. He’s got incredible field vision. He can catch. You like Le’Veon Bell? He’s Le’Veon Bell. Tampa Bay needs a running back, among other things. But this incredible talent is too good to pass up.

Pick 8 – Chicago Bears – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Trubisky needs some help. He doesn’t have much on the ends of offense, and new head coach Matt Nagy will look to change that. Ridley has been dominating competition at Alabama, something that’s not exactly too easy to do in the SEC. He’s basically a second version of Atlanta’s Julio Jones. With the ball in his hands, he becomes a speedy guy who is hard to take down. With great size, speed, and hands, it’s no wonder he goes inside the ten.

Calvin Ridley catches a pass versus Chattanooga.

Pick 9 – Baltimore Ravens (from Oakland Raiders) – Derwin James, S, Florida State

The Raiders are in terrible need of a linebacker, and both Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds are available. The only move that makes sense is to…trade down and get more picks. Baltimore had been vocal before the Super Bowl that they would be content with picking QB Josh Allen if he fell to their pick at #16. However, they are in more of a need of safety than they realize, given Eric Weddle’s age, and FSU’s James looks to pop out to certain teams if he has an awesome combine. Early on in the season, James was considered for the Heisman trophy. His play eventually downgraded to that of no-longer-Heisman-worthy, but Future-All-Pro level is still in play for the young man from Tallahassee.

Pick 10 – San Francisco 49ers – Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Williams had been fantastic for the Longhorns this season, providing a clean pocket for Shane Buechele/Sam Ehlinger in coach Tom Herman’s first year. Similarly, upcoming second-year 9er Kyle Shanahan will look for a piece to bolster his offensive line and help protect Jimmy Garoppolo and (if he’s resigned) Carlos Hyde.

Pick 11 – Miami Dolphins – Arden Key, EDGE, Louisiana State

Key shocked the world with a fantastic sophomore season last year for the Bayou Tigers. He’s quick and agile, but will need a strong combine to catapult him into the higher end of the first round. Given last year’s swing and miss on Charles Harris, Miami is still very much in need of somebody–anybody–to play outside linebacker. Adam Gase hopes Key is the guy.

Pick 12 – Cincinnati Bengals – Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia

The Bengals are in an odd spot. They need an offensive lineman, but they won’t want to reach for Orlando Brown or Kolton Miller this early in the first round. It’s possible they trade out of this spot entirely, and load up on more picks to take a flier on somebody later on in the first and/or second rounds. However, it’s a criminal move that Smith lasts this long in any mock, and Cincy notes this and snags up the greatest available talent. Smith is a plug and play guy, so drafting him means the Jungle can move on from any number of linebackers they don’t want anymore and reload that position.

Roquan Smith, Georgia #3, makes a tackle on an Alabama offensive player in the College Football National Championship.

Pick 13 – Washington Redskins – Marcus Davenport, EDGE, Texas-San Antonio

Davenport is a monster. He’s 6’7″, blew past players in CUSA competition, and had a stellar Senior Bowl. He looks to have a stellar combine, too, and NFL teams will fall in love with his intangibles. Washington was arguably the worst team against the run last year, and taking somebody in Davenport definitely seems to fill that need. However, Davenport is considered a slightly less talented version of the Chiefs’ Tanoh Kpassagnon, who earned little playing time in his first season. This might be another failed move in a mistake-laden offseason for the Washington Native Peoples of America.

Pick 14 -Green Bay Packers – Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

Andrews is the best tight end prospect I have ever seen. He can block. He can catch. He’s fast. He’s tall. He’s the closest to Rob Gronkowski this draft or any draft in the next three years will get. Green Bay struggled without a designated strong tight end this year, as Aaron Rodgers and later Brett Hundley missed that dump-off or deep threat option Jared Cook offered. Andrews will immediately improve Green Bay’s offense and give them another shot at a Super Bowl with a healthy Aaron Rodgers.

Pick 15 – Arizona Cardinals – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Allen is not a good prospect. Yes, he has a Mahomes-esque arm. Yes, he has Rodgers-like mobility. But he isn’t Aaron Rodgers. He isn’t Patrick Mahomes. He’s not even Blaine Gabbert. He scored 16 total touchdowns against competition last year–in the Mountain West. The Bruce Arians-less Cardinals here take a three- or four-year building project to sit behind a Sam Bradford or a Nick Foles.

Pick 16 – Oakland Raiders (from Baltimore Ravens) – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

I must admit I had heard nearly nothing about Edmunds until the offseason started. A thumper, Edmunds excels in plugging up holes created by those Los Angeles and Kansas City offensive lines and gives Jon Gruden an excuse to do what he does best: worry about the offense. Taking Melvin Gordon and Kareem Hunt out of the game effectively makes Phillip Rivers and Pat Mahomes one-dimensional, and the Raiders’ secondary will take that chance.

Pick 17 – Los Angeles Chargers – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

Some picks make too much sense. The only thing really stopping the Bolts from making a run at the AFC West and the Super Bowl–other than injuries to pivotal players–is the lack of depth on the defensive line. There’s Brandon Mebane and… that’s it. Their linebackers are fine, and Philon pairs nice with Jerry Attoachu. Someone to pair with/replace Brandon Mebane up the middle instantly makes San Diego…er, Los Angeles a better team.

Pick 18 – Seattle Seahawks – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

Another pick that makes too much sense. It’s not much of a secret that the Seahawks are shopping Richard Sherman. The 30-year-old former all-pro seems to have fallen out of favor with the Legion of Boom. On top of that, injury concerns with both Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas III leave free agency concerns elsewhere than cornerback. Of course, lineman could also be in play here, as Seattle’s notoriously bad offensive line has reached meme status. Jackson proved to be one of the best corners in the B1G; a long, lanky corner who excels in zone coverage.

Pick 19 – Dallas Cowboys – Vita Vea, NT, Washington

Vea is a large man (346 lbs, 6’5″). Jerry Jones wants big guys (“war daddies“). Plugging up holes for the Huskies, a strong combine for Vea may take him out of reach of the ‘Boys. But grabbing someone who can play for two or three downs a series to help stop Jay Ajayi and Legarrette Blount will help Dallas get back into contention.

Vita Vea, 50, was a strong presence up the middle for the Washington Huskies.

Pick 20 – Detroit Lions – Derrius Guice, HB, LSU

How long has it been since the Lions had a true superstar at running back? Jahvid Best? Barry Sanders? The deal is, Ameer Abdullah isn’t getting it done in Motor City, and the offense has become one-dimensional for it. Matt Patricia may implement a new offense with his new coordinator, so having a designated home run hitter at running back–someone like Guice who has both size and speed–could help ease play callers from calling on number 9 every play.

Derrius Guice, LSU 5, stiff arms a Texas A&M defender.

Pick 21 – Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills) – Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

The Browns now have four first round picks. It’s entirely possible they trade at least one of these away, but for the sake of the mock, I’ll have them using both to grab a some helpers. Brown helped keep Baker Mayfield off of the seat of his pants this season, allowing for a postseason run that was thwarted by the Georgia Bulldogs. He’s tall, long, and smart, and is built very well (6’8″, 345). Plus, his name might be familiar to a few in Cleveland.

Pick 22 – Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills) – Taven Bryan, DL, Florida

Bryan reminds me a lot of J.J. Watt. He’s a homegrown boy, from Casper, Wyoming. At 6’4″, 290 lbs, he also provides a weird option for the Browns–play him inside with Danny Shelton, or put him on the other side of Myles Garrett? It doesn’t matter; he’s succeeded everywhere he’s played for the Gators, and he’ll easily transition to the NFL in Cleveland.

Pick 23 – Los Angeles Rams – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Jared Goff needs protection, and Andrew Whitworth is set to turn 37 by the start of the next season. McGlinchey could theoretically play outside, though McVay could also slot him inside to play at guard. If the Rams want to make a longer run in the playoffs, they need to do two things: re-sign Aaron Donald, and help Jared Goff. They do one of these two things in this pick.

Pick 24 – Carolina Panthers – Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist

Cam Newton seriously missed having the big body of Kelvin Benjamin to throw to. The 6’4″ receiver was sent to the Bills halfway through the season. The Bills ended up in the playoffs, and the Panthers… didn’t. Mainly due to a lack of offense, which is surprising considering the young secondary. Sutton, equally big as Benjamin, fills the mistake management made in throwing away Benjamin to Buffalo.

Pick 25 – Tennessee Titans – Billy Price, G, Ohio State

Tennessee has done an excellent job providing Marcus Mariota with weapons in past drafts. They’ve also gained good offensive line help. While Quentin Spain looks to be one of the top-tier guards in the NFL, there is still a hole in the other two inside spots. Price has played both center and guard for the Buckeyes, like Pat Elflein before him, so it’ll definitely be a good pick here to take Price and settle the interior line for another six or seven years.

Pick 26 – Atlanta Falcons – James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

The former NFC Champions might be looking to replace Taylor Gabriel this offseason, and the smaller, quicker James Washington from Okie State looks like a prime candidate to replace him after a great Senior Bowl. He’ll work out well at the combine, and providing he does well in the catching drills, he may shed the label of “system receiver” and make a mark in the NFC South with his speed and route running skills.

James Washington, 28, is off to the races against Baylor.

Pick 27 – New Orleans Saints – Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

The Saints have continually had a problem at inside linebacker, and though they selected Alex Anzalone in last year’s draft, Jefferson has displayed a fantastic ability to not only plug running lanes but defend the pass as well. He will settle in quickly in New Orleans, where he projects to be an immediate starter in whatever defense they play.

Pick 28 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Trading for Joe Haden from the Browns was more of a stopgap for the Steelers, and while taking somebody here to replace aging Ben Roethlisberger is definitely in play, an ailing secondary is harming the team in the now. Ward played phenomenally in Columbus, and he looks to play phenomenally in Pittsburgh as well as Big Ben gets a secondary that will let him and the Killer B’s continue their rampaging offense without having to worry about a weak secondary on their defense. I mean, how else did they get beat by the Jags twice?

Pick 29 – Jacksonville Jaguars – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Jackson is an enigma to me. On one hand, he looks to be the second coming of Michael Vick. On the other, there seems to be some underlying thing screaming out in scouts’ brains that he isn’t as good as the tape and stats say he is. Even with me, I can’t help but feel like he might struggle in an NFL offense. Bortles is the QB of the now for the Jaguars, but it’s a good idea for Doug Marrone to take Jackson anyway, if only to force an elevation of play from Bortles while he still has him. He’s tall, fast, and has a strong arm. He only needs to get bigger.

Pick 30 – Minnesota Vikings – Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

Protecting Josh Rosen this season was Kolton Miller, a 6’8″, 311 pound monster of an offensive tackle. He’s quick and strong, and though most would love to kick him inside for the thought of having a 6’8″ guard, he will most likely beef up and play on the outside. His tape is outstanding, with his only real downfall coming in his Cactus Bowl game against Kansas State where he was playing under a different quarterback. Expect him to play immediately for the Vikings.

Pick 31 – New England Patriots – Dorance Johnson, Jr., EDGE, Kansas

Kansas has a knack for producing great players who, for some reason, can’t produce at college. Kansas went 1-11 in 2017, losing every conference game under hot seat coach Dave Beatty, but none of that was Armstrong’s fault. He’s tall, standing at a proud 6’5″ and 250 pounds. He’s the prototypical defensive end, but his production suffered from literally being the best player on Kansas’ team and very easily being singled out. Playing on an NFL team will help him be a solid contributor, especially with Bill Belichick’s Pats, who always take a flier in the first and somehow always end up with production. He may not be needed now, but a combination of Trey Flowers and Dorance Armstrong could be terrifying for offensive lines in the AFC East for a long time to come.

Armstrong, 2, looks to tackle Iowa State’s David Montgomery, 32.

Pick 32 – Philadelphia Eagles – Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

UCF, your 2018 National College Football Champions (kinda), isn’t a far stretch for first round talent. The team went a perfect 13-0 this season, and part of that was due to the dominance of cornerback Mike Hughes. Hughes has good size at 5’11”, and was fast enough to deal with athletic receivers in Conference USA. The lack of dynamic receivers in CUSA will hold him back, however–at least until the combine, where I expect he will perform well enough to catch the eyes of Doug Pederson.

E X T R A     P I C K

Pick 54 – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Derrick Johnson being released is most likely the catalyst in a long string of veterans being trimmed from Kansas City’s roster. While Ramik Wilson and Reggie Ragland will be valuable for the linebacker core, Ragland will not be a 4-down defender. He’s more of a thumper. Vander Esch, on the contrast, is more similar to a midline backer who can play coverage and plug holes. At 6’4″, 250 lbs, and an estimated 4.6 40-meter dash, he’s a fantastic athlete. Andy Reid likes to take chances on smart, freaky athletes. Vander Esch might end up in the same conversation as Derrick Johnson one day–but as of right now, it’s speculation.

Artist’s rendition of Vander Esch as a Chief.

In all, this year’s draft continues to change–the Combine begins in March.

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