NFL 1st Round Mock Draft
Several of MSB’s college football and NFL writers (myself, Jesse Balasus, and Jeremy Train) have compiled a mock draft for the 1st Round of the 2018 NFL Draft, which will take place this Thursday, April 26. Our selections were based on the teams that currently hold the picks, as we decided against making mock trades. It is also important to note that we made selections for what we believe the teams will actually do, not necessarily based on what we would personally like to see or what we would do if we were in the GM chair. In the event that an MSB writer has previously done a draft profile on one of the prospects, clicking on the prospect’s name will link to that profile article. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
1st Overall – Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold – QB – USC
Darnold feels like the safest bet to be a solid potential franchise quarterback out of the many quarterbacks in this year’s class. He’s generally very accurate, particularly in the middle of the field. He performed above average when under pressure, and has shown glimpses of mobility as well. The biggest red flag here is his uncanny ability to turn the ball over. His tapes from this past season show plenty of poor decisions that cost USC big time. If he can get his decision-making on track, he’ll be the franchise player that Cleveland needs.
2nd Overall – New York Giants – Saquon Barkley – RB – Penn State
Yes, Eli Manning only has a couple years left in the tank, and the Giants could draft his successor here, but Barkley is arguably the best talent in the entire draft class. A strong run game paired with receiving threats of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram could take a ton of pressure off of Manning’s shoulders and attract big name free agents in the future. Not to mention, somebody will have to step in the limelight if Beckham leaves anytime soon.
3rd Overall – New York Jets (from IND) – Josh Rosen – QB – UCLA
The Jets traded up, so it would only make sense that they take another shot at drafting a franchise quarterback. Josh Rosen is very strong in the short and intermediate passing game, and had one of the highest adjusted completion percentages when under pressure last season. He’s also shown solid ability to throw in tight windows. His major downside is his lack of ability to throw the deep ball, but that’s something that can ideally be worked on and progressed once he arrives in the NFL.
4th Overall – Cleveland Browns (from HOU) – Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB – Alabama
Simply put, Minkah is a playmaker. He’s phenomenal at not surrendering any passes deep downfield. He’s versatile in his ability to line up in different defensive back positions effectively. He has great size and athleticism, along with the ability to be effective in the run-stopping game. While he only had one interception last season, and didn’t see many snaps on the perimeter, which is where defensive backs are generally most valuable, it’s hard to argue against him being successful wherever he goes.
5th Overall – Denver Broncos – Quentin Nelson – G Notre Dame
You could make the argument that the Broncos would be selecting the best player in the draft class with this pick. Nelson was PFF’s highest graded guard this year by a mile. He’s phenomenal in both pass and run blocking. He’s aggressive, athletic, physical, and just flat out powerful. All of the “weaknesses” that analysts nitpick are relatively minor. He would help to immensely bolster a weak and injury-prone Denver offensive line. If you asked me to pick one player in this draft class who would be my best bet to end up in the NFL Hall of Fame, Nelson’s my guy.
6th Overall – Indianapolis Colts (from NYJ) – Bradley Chubb – EDGE – NC State
Chubb is a beast on the defensive line. He’s immensely strong in run-stopping, and has an amazing level of explosiveness, particularly for a 270 pound kid. He has phenomenal pass rush ability both off the edge and inside, giving him some positional versatility on the line. He struggled a bit when facing Notre Dame, the best o-line he saw, only getting three pressures, but that shouldn’t stop people from drafting him high. He’s big, he’s powerful, and we’re going to hear his name a lot next year pressuring the quarterback.
7th Overall – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derwin James – S – Florida
Nothing goes together like the Buccaneers and drafting the best prospect from the state of Florida. The Bucs have a decent offense with Jameis’ progression and Mike Evans’ hands. Tampa Bay ranked in the bottom third of the league last year in total defense, in part because of the aging secondary. Derwin James would be a great compliment to the duo of Chris Conte and Brent Grimes, the two perennial stars in the Bucs’ defensive backfield.
8th Overall – Chicago Bears – Tremaine Edmunds – LB – Virginia Tech
The Bears have a storied history of linebackers in Urlacher, Singletary, etc. We’re by no means saying that Edmunds would be as good as their legends, but he has the tools to conceivably get there. Chicago has a whole bunch of question marks in their linebacking corps, including a lot of unknowns. This is the year that this roster needs to make a push to postseason relevancy or else fans will be calling for heads to roll, and Edmunds can help them achieve that.
9th Overall – San Francisco 49ers – Calvin Ridley – WR – Alabama
The 49ers seem to have their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo, so it’s time for them to invest in an exciting target for him. Ridley brings a great mix of speed and route-running ability to the field. He’s a deep threat as much as he is a threat in the short game and out of the slot. He has some room to improve with his hands and his build, but he looks like a wide receiver destined for success in the NFL, who would complement Marquise Goodwin and an aging Pierre Garcon well.
10th Overall – Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith – OLB – Georgia
Oakland needs to focus on the defense this year if they want to take the next step. Adding the versatile Roquan Smith would be the perfect compliment to a defensive front seven that is already anchored by all-pro Khalil Mack. Smith was a leader on the Georgia team that took Bama to OT. He aided in holding the very good Crimson Tide offense to just 20 regulation points on the biggest stage imaginable, and he’ll transfer these skills nicely to the NFL.
11th Overall – Miami Dolphins – Baker Mayfield – QB – Oklahoma
Many would argue that Baker is the best quarterback in this draft class on the field, and a lot of the stats tend to agree, but it’s his off-field behavior that makes him a little bit of a risky pick (especially for a city like Miami), as teams are reminded of what happened with Johnny Manziel just a few short years ago. The Dolphins, however, are in no position to be picky. Current quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler are nothing to get excited about, and if Mayfield can get his act together, he has the potential to be a huge star.
12th Overall – Buffalo Bills (from CIN) – Josh Allen – QB – Wyoming
We’ve seen the tapes. We know that Josh Allen undoubtedly has the strongest arm of any quarterback in this draft class. The question is whether or not he’ll be able to control that powerful weapon. Allen had a history in college of struggling against opponents in Power 5 conferences, throwing interceptions galore, and the NFL won’t be any easier. Unfortunately for Buffalo, who’s desperately in need of a quarterback after trading Tyrod Taylor, may not have any other choice but to take a chance on him, unless they decide to trade up.
13th Overall – Washington Redskins – Vita Vea – DT – Washington
Washington has had problems in their defensive front for what seems like forever now. One of their biggest holes has been the rush ever since the departure of Brian Orakpo a few years ago. Vita Vea brings a large presence that he hopes can take on blockers and stuff offenses inside. A good comp would be Brandon Williams of the Ravens due to his size and athleticism. He played in NY6 bowls each of the past two years, going to show that he has what it takes to play in the national spotlight that will be on him in the nation’s capital.
14th Overall – Green Bay Packers – Denzel Ward – CB – Ohio State
Green Bay’s secondary has been their biggest weakness for years now. Yes, they drafted one of the best names in history, Ha-Ha Clinton Dix back in 2014, but they also lost safety Morgan Burnett this free agency. Currently their starting cornerbacks are Kevin King and Tramon Williams. King was a second round pick last year, and Williams is an 11 year undrafted journeyman. Ward will easily bring talent to this secondary by starting the season as their number one corner.
15th Overall – Arizona Cardinals – Christian Kirk – WR – Texas A&M
With the loss of John Brown, the Cardinals could use some depth at wide receiver, and a smaller, quick receiver like Kirk would completement Larry Fitzgerald well. He has amazing ability out of the slot, not letting the role limit him to just a small part of the field. He also has value in special teams as a punt returner, with six career return touchdowns in college. His big play ability should serve him well in the NFL.
16th Overall – Baltimore Ravens – Courtland Sutton – WR – SMU
The Ravens may have added John Brown and Michael Crabtree to bolster a previously abysmal group of receivers, but they still need a long term solution at the position, which Courtland Sutton provides. His pure size and athleticism allow him to be a threat all over the field, particularly in deep routes. He makes 50/50 contested balls seem more like 80/20 balls, as he overpowers defensive backs. He’s not the crispest route runner in the draft class, but he more than makes up for it with the rest of his play.
17th Overall – Los Angeles Chargers – Da’ron Payne – DT – Alabama
Payne was already on people’s’ radars all season, but shot up the draft board after a dominant game in the National Championship, in which he was PFF’s highest graded player. He has a high tackle radius, particularly out of the nose tackle alignment, but can play anywhere between the tackles effectively. He’s solid on first contact against the o-line, which makes him a true force in the run-stop. He’s not the most exciting pass rusher, but his all around game makes him NFL-ready, and combined with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram in LA, he’ll help create one of the scarier defensive lines in football.
18th Overall – Seattle Seahawks – Mike McGlinchey – OT – Notre Dame
McGlinchey has the look of a strong offensive lineman. He’s solidly built, athletic, and strong. He was one of the best run blockers in the country, and was good in pass protection, though it certainly wasn’t his forte out of the two, as he struggled with some inconsistent play. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to the NFL, facing stronger bull rushes than he’s ever seen before, but he’s a day one starter, particularly on a Seattle offensive line that struggled last season to say the least.
19th Overall – Dallas Cowboys – James Washington – WR – Oklahoma State
With Dez Bryant’s departure, the Cowboys could undoubtedly use some serious help at receiver, and Washington looks to be able to fill that hole. He led the nation in yards on deep passes last season, and was 2nd in the country in yards per route run. He’s speedy, and has been phenomenal at beating corners downfield. He’s not necessarily a star outside of the deep ball, lacking some versatility, but if you know what you’re good at, run with it, and he most certainly does.
20th Overall – Detroit Lions – Sony Michel – RB – Georgia
The Lions need a running back and need one badly. Matt Stafford has played in 125 career games and has had a 100 yard rusher in only 7 of them, with the last one coming from Reggie Bush in November of 2013. With Stafford being 6-1 in those games, the tape shows he plays even better when the running game steps up. Yes, they have Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, and recently picked up LeGarrette Blount, but Michel has potential to be a day one starter. Michel ran for 1227 yards and 16 touchdowns while splitting carries with Nick Chubb.
21st Overall – Cincinnati Bengals (from BUF) – Connor Williams – OG – Texas
Williams didn’t have the strongest 2017 season, but that won’t stop him from getting first round looks, deservedly so, particularly after a really strong 2016. He’s phenomenal in run blocking, and in 2016, only allowed four hurries all season in the pass game. He’s had some issues with injuries that contributed to his step back in 2017, but he’s still a large, dominant offensive lineman who should has no problem being successful in the NFL, particularly with a Cincinnati offensive line that has allowed 80 sacks in the last two seasons combined.
22nd Overall – Buffalo Bills (from KC) – Michael Gallup – WR – Colorado State
Gallup is one of the more interesting receivers in this draft. On paper, he’s a jack of all trades. He has speed to get downfield and make deep catches, although the deep ball isn’t his strongest area, while having solid route running abilities that make him a threat in the short and intermediate game. He also gained the third most yards off of screen passes out of all FBS receivers. Gallup struggles a bit in the blocking side of the game, but despite that, he’s a solid all-around player, and the Bills could use someone with his versatility.
23rd Overall – New England Patriots (from LAR) – Josh Jackson – CB – Iowa
The Patriots lost quite a bit of talent this offseason, with Malcolm Butler arguably being their top loss. Yes, they did bring in Stephon Gilmore last year and signed Devin Mccourty this year, but drafting the 6’1 Jackson would bolster the Patriots’ secondary for years. Projected as an instant starter, Jackson might be a backup in the beginning of the season, but learning under two dominant corners in Gillmore and Mccourty will be a nightmare for AFC offenses.
24th Overall – Carolina Panthers – Taven Bryan – DT – Florida
Bryan is as explosive as any defensive lineman in this draft class. He has an amazing first step, which allows him to gain an early edge on the offensive line. He was phenomenal in both outside pressures and bull rush pressures. Bryan, however, leaves a lot to be desired in the run-stop, and his numbers, particularly his lack of sacks despite his solid ability to pressure, are slightly concerning. He’s a little bit of a developmental project, but he has the stuff to be a future elite talent. He’ll be a potential long term solution to help bolster a Panthers roster that has some weaknesses at defensive end.
25th Overall – Tennessee Titans – Maurice Hurst – DT- Michigan
The Titans are going all in on revamping their defense this offseason, bringing in former NFL linebacker Mike Vrabel as Head Coach and former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees to the same position. With all the focus on defense, it’s likely they bring in Michigan former captain and stud defensive tackle, Maurice Hurst. According to Pro Football Focus, Hurst is the top non quarterback player in the draft and is the highest ranked interior lineman ever. His recently discovered heart condition will cause him to drop a bit, although he’s been cleared. Don’t be surprised if Hurst makes the Pro Bowl by his second season.
26th Overall – Atlanta Falcons – Marcus Davenport – DE – UTSA
The Atlanta Falcons have some depth at defensive end and after selecting Takkarist McKinley in the first round last year, drafting Davenport might sound repetitive. The Falcons will certainly be drafting the best player available, but they’ll be in conversation for top defense with the young edge rushing duo lining up with already young stars Deion Jones and Vic Beasley. Davenport had 17.5 tackles for loss last season, 8.5 of which were sacks. Atlanta usually plays high scoring barn burners, and adding Davenport would potentially make those games easier to win.
27th Overall – New Orleans Saints – Dallas Goedert – TE – South Dakota State
The Saints are in dire need of a tight end. They went all in to try and lure former Saint, Jimmy Graham, back to New Orleans but ultimately failed. Yes, they currently have Coby Fleener, but inserting the two time FCS All-American Goedert, one of the top tight ends in the draft, into that already stacked offense can make the Saints have arguably the top offense in the league and a perennial Super Bowl contender as long as Drew Brees is under center.
28th Overall – Pittsburgh Steelers – Leighton Vander Esch – ILB – Boise State
The Steelers are in quite a predicament. With star linebacker, Ryan Shazier already out for the entire 2018 season, and possibly for his career, it would be smart for Pittsburgh to draft his replacement just in case. Vander Esch, a 6’4, 256 lbs stud out of Boise State would be a perfect fit alongside Bud Dupree and even Shazier if he can play again. One of the best coverage linebackers in this year’s draft, Vander Esch would be a monster covering opposing tight ends in the middle of the field. Plus, Leighton Vander Esch is the kind of name a steelworking yinzer would have.
29th Overall – Jacksonville Jaguars – Mike Gesicki – TE – Penn State
Simply put, Mike Gesicki is an athletic freak of nature. At 6’5, 247 lbs, Gesicki had the fastest 40 yard dash among tight ends at 4.54 seconds and was tied for the highest vertical jump amon all combine participants at a whopping 41.5 inches. There’s videos all over the internet of Gesicki dunking a basketball, and although these athletic traits would make every coach and GM salivate, he’s not as dominant as he looks. Gesicki’s major downside is his blocking skills. Yes, tight ends are lining up out on the slot more than ever, but they are not wide receivers for a reason. To be successful in the NFL, you have to be at least decent blocking edge rushers.
30th Overall – Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn – G – Georgia
Wynn had a great 2017 in both run and pass protection. He went the entire 2017 season with only allowing three hurries on the quarterback, and personally gave up only four sacks in his last three seasons. He’s extremely consistent, and we saw some great talent from him in one-on-ones at the Senior Bowl, where he only lost two reps. He’s not the strongest or the biggest tackle, but his level of play makes up for it. He’ll fit well in a Minnesota line that could use some extra help protecting their new quarterback.
31st Overall – New England Patriots – Kolton Miller – OT – UCLA
Miller had a strong 2017, where he showed himself to be one of the premiere pass protectors in college football. He did an impeccable job of picking up blitzes in particular, only personally allowing two sacks of Rosen last season at UCLA. He also only had two penalties all season, which shows a solid level of discipline. His downside is his lack of strength, which could be exploited by stronger defensive lines in the NFL, but he should be a successful player, particularly if he bulks up.
32nd Overall – Philadelphia Eagles – Mike Hughes – CB – UCF
Hughes had a phenomenal season at UCF last year after transferring in from JuCo. He didn’t allow a single touchdown in coverage all year, and had four interceptions and nine passes broken up. He didn’t give up a pass longer than 21 yards all season. He also has great speed, which has allowed him to be a force in the kick and punt return games as well. He has some size issues and has had some behavioral problems in the past, but he looks ready to be a big star, and would pair well with the young talent at DB in Philly.
Stayed tuned for additional coverage from MSB throughout the week as we cover the draft live from Arlington, Texas.