Sam Darnold QB- There is some talk that the Browns might take Barkley with this pick because their GM has been in love with him since high school, but the fan base would revolt if the Browns choose something other than their franchise quarterback here. I don’t agree with it, as all of the top-ranked QB prospects carry risks unbefitting of a number one overall pick, but this is the reality of the situation. Josh Rosen has the cleanest mechanics, accuracy and decision making of the QBs, but he has voiced his preference not to play for Cleveland. Josh Allen has all the earmarks of another Jake Locker and Sam Darnold’s turnover ratio and decision making was ludicrous last season. It would be one thing if he didn’t have a running game to support him and was forced to “gunslinger” his way to some points, but he had adequate run support and decent receiving options. Still, scouts see his inaccuracy and turnovers and continue to anoint him as having “the highest ceiling” of the quarterbacks. To give them credit, he is the only one of the top QBs that consistently finished with a completion percentage over 63%. The two most important college stats for predicting NFL success are 1) whether their completion percentage is over 60%; and 2)whether they started 3 years or more. Darnold has one of those locked down.
Bradley Chubb DE- Numerous mocks have Barkley goin number two as well, but with the depth that the RB position has in this draft, it is unlikely. When the Jets traded for the 3rd overall pick, they doubtlessly inquired with the Giants for the 2nd pick beforehand, and were told no. That means the Giants have targeted someone for this pick at a position that requires a premium pick to fill. Considering the Giants just traded Jason Pierre Paul, it would make sense for them to pick up the best pass rusher and edge-setter in the draft. He is not as sudden as you’d like but he has the length, size and strength to be their defensive cornerstone.
Josh Rosen QB -I wouldn’t be surprised if the jets went for Allen here, since drafting the next Jake Locker seems like a typical jets-type move. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and mock the cleanest quarterback of the draft to the jets. Rosen has the arm strength to cut through the cold winter winds. Scouts have found that his teammates at UCLA did not like him, but that brashness will play well in the big apple. Rosen finished with completion percentages of 59.3 and 62.6 in his final two years at UCLA. That is a positive trend, and breaking through the 60% barrier is good to see.
4. Bills- via trade with Browns.
Josh Allen QB – The retirement of Joe Thomas leaves a gaping hole at LT to protect the Brown’s new QB, but this is too early for any of the tackles of this draft. The Browns have to know that their team has 11 holes, not 2, and that picking up an extra 2nd and 3rd rounder would be in their best interest. This trade would make sense for the Browns, and the Bills, who now find themselves without a starting quarterback after trading Tyrod Tailor. The cold winter winds in Buffalo require a big arm and there is only one trait we know about Allen, it is that he can throw a football through a brick wall. I don’t like Allen because his completion percentage in college was consistently around 56%. Historically, that does not convert to a successful NFL quarterback. However, books like “Moneyball” were not written because pro-sports GMs were good decision makers.
Saquan Barkley RB – With the signing of Case Keenum, the Broncos are out of the QB hunt. C.J. Anderson was traded for turning in such pedestrian performances at RB. Barkley is, by all reports, this year’s Zeke Elliott.
Quentin Nelson G – The colts have failed to provide protection for Andrew Luck, and it has cost them dearly. Whether or not Luck plays this year, I think the Colts finally, reluctantly, invest in their offensive line. With Nelson, they get the best offensive lineman in the draft. Analysts are loathe to invest high picks in guards, but ask the Cowboys what Zack Martin has done for their offense.
Minkah Fitzpatrick CB/S – Fitzpatrick is widely regarded as the best defensive back in the draft, and he has the flexibility to upgrade the Bucs at the corner and safety positions. His combine performance confirmed good, though not exceptional athleticism, which he pairs with good technique.
Mike McGlinchey OT – The bears need an offensive tackle to protect Mitch Trubisky. Personally, I think Connor Williams is a better overall prospect, but the scouts seem put off by his injury plagued junior campaign. McGlinchey has the length and decent athleticism needed for the position.
Denzel Ward CB – GM John Lynch is a former safety, and knows the value of a dominating defense from his days in Tampa. Denzel Ward is the best cover corner in the game, and ran a 4.32 at the combine.
Roquan Smith ILB – Smith was all over the field for the Bulldogs and his 4.51 at the combine simply confirmed his playing speed. He uses his hands well to shed blocks and plays with instinct. At 236 pounds, he is lighter than the old model of a middle linebacker, but size is no longer required for today’s NFL ILB. A defense with Smith and Mack at the second level leaves little room for error in opposing offensive lines.
Vita Vea DT – Do not confuse the 347 pound defensive tackle from Washington with a 2-down nosetackle. His 42 reps at the combine show all the strength of a NT, but his film shows the kind of penetrating quickness that gives him occasional use as a pass rusher. He had twelve sacks over his last two seasons in college in a conference known for the kind of short passing attacks that make sacks difficult to compile. Dumping Suh was a clear signal that Miami is in the DT search.
12. Browns via Trade With Bills
Kolton Miller LT – This is a guy I think is better served in the 2nd round. However, he is 6’9 and put on a dazzling show at the combine. After losing future hall of famer Joe Thomas, the Browns have a gaping hole in the offensive line. Miller’s measurable and combine will likely have scouts ignoring his film, which show him playing with a high pad level and often unable to overpower smaller DL.
13. Cowboys via trade with Redskins
Calvin Ridley WR – In my previous mock, I had Ridley going to the Packers at 14, because Rogers is at his best when he has a skilled and disciplined rout-runner. I think the Cowboys recognize that Ridley would be a perfect fit at 14, and they will need to trade up to get him. They also have to know that Moore will likely not get past Baltimore at 16. The Cowboys have signed several WR this year, including Allen Hurns, but they do not have a top-dog at WR. One could argue that the cowboys WR corps is the neediest in the NFL. Jerry has been disciplined in the draft the past few seasons, allowing the board to fall to him, but he is still a magpie at heart. He likes to collect shiny things, and a stud WR is one of the shiniest things you can have in the NFL. I would rather get a LT that can fill in for Smith and swing to RT when Smith is healthy (allowing La’el Collins to spin back down to his natural position of LG), but the pickup of OT Flowers in the offseason probably means they are not looking to fill that position in round 1.
Josh Jackson CB – With Ridley off the board, one would think the Packers would try to shore up the offensive line. However, that front office has shown a Colts-like penchant for scrimping on the offensive line and hoping that their QB’s escapability and quick release will keep him alive. In this mock, I have them going with that same MO and taking Jackson to shore up their CB sitaution. Jackson has length and ball skills and finished his last season leading the nation in interceptions on his way to All-American honors. When contemplating first round CBs, the general rule is to pay attention to tape that shows someone making plays on the ball. Though his 4.56 time is not blazing, it is plenty fast when combined with his 6-foot frame and physical cover style.
Baker Mayfield QB – Baker Manziel, err, Johnny Mayfield…..err. I would not choose to build my team around him, but someone will. The cardinals signed Sam Bradford, but he has the body of a china-doll and they must know that. Mayfield does not have a big arm, but the Cardinals play indoors so there aren’t any winds requiring a cannon. Having said that, Mayfield is the only QB of the top QBs, who started 3 years and never posted a completion percentage below 60%. In fact, his percentages (64, 68, 70, 70) predict good things. That has to be tempered by the systems he worked in (Texas Tech and OU), which produce many wide-open completions. Completion percentages normally determine whether a college QB can 1) recognize an “NFL-open” receiver (open by two steps or less); and 2) hit that receiver. That is more difficult to extrapolate from systems like Tech and OU.
WR D.J. Moore – The ravens need WRs almost as badly as the Cowboys. They need someone with the speed (4.42) to maximize Joe Flacco’s big arm, and Moore is the next best option to Ridley.
Tremane Edwards LB – Edwards is the best fit between need and draft value. At 6’3, 254, with a 4.54 time in the 40, he is a physical freak that flashes all over the film. Most prospect rankings have him higher than this, but LB is one of those positions that tend to drop.
Will Hernandez OG – Hernandez is a mauler, pure and simple. They would like to get their quarterback of the future, but that won’t be available here. They could consider drafting Connor Williams, since they have a hole at LT and he could conceivably spin down to OG if he is unable to play LT. However, the Seahawks were at their best when their power running game was churning, and Hernandez blows holes open.
Marcus Davenport – The Redskins have holes at NT and RB, but neither of those correlate with this draft position. Derwin James is a great value here, but their defensive backfield looks stacked, but for the FS position. I think they go with Marcus Davenport here. His 6’6 frame and 4.54 speed would play well as an outside LB in that 3-4 scheme. They only got 16 total sacks from those two positions last year and the 3-4 defense needs more production than that.
Harold Landry DE – This is not a need pick, though the Lions could do well with pairing a DE with Ansah. This is pure value, where Landry is probably the second-best pure DE in the draft.
21. Bengals Rashaan Evans LB – He is your consummate Alabama linebacker, dishing out hits and taking proper angles. He plays inside-out the way you would expect a Nick Saban backer to play. The Bengals have a need at LB, and this fills it nicely.
Courtland Sutton WR – The Bills traded away Watkins before 2017 and then lost leading receivers Deonte Thompson and Jordan Matthews in free agency. This offense is going to be anemic without a receiving option and Sutton’s big body means that he does not necessarily have to be open in order to get a reception. If they take a QB in the first round, he has to have some sort of outlet to dump the ball when the pass rush comes, or he will get killed early. Sutton used his height to achieve impressive statistical production at SMU, and ran adequately well at the combine.
23. Patriots – via trade from Rams
Connor Williams WR – This is your prototypical Patriots move if it happens. They trade an underproductive player (Cooks) for a first round pick, and then turn that pick into a top-10 player at a need position because they analyzed his film better than the rest of the NFL. William’s draft drop is inexplicable considering his production and tape when healthy, and the Patriots lost both OT in free agency. Patriots pulled a similar move, drafting Malcolm Brown from the same university (UT) in 2015.
Derwin James WR – James is one of the top DB in the draft, and the Panthers’ vaunted defense has not been the same since losing Josh Norman.
D.J. Chark WR – That offense, good lord that offense. They are in dire need of skill position contributors, especially in the passing game. They are in need of an inside linebacker, tight end, guard and safety. However, those positions do not offer any first round value. I would see the Titans trading out of this spot, but for purposes of this draft they stick. Chark lit up the combine and probably would have flashed that speed more frequently in college had LSU’s QB situation not been an utter disaster.
Daron Payne DT – He’s 311 pounds, ran a 4.95 forty, and was the interior playmaker for Nick Saban. That’s all you need to know. Interior DT is the Falcons’ greatest need.
Mark Andrews TE – Can he block? No. Is he a dynamic pass catching tight end? Yes. Drew Brees’ huge extension shows a dedication to make one last good push with him. That means getting him all the weapons he can ask for. His RB and WR situation is healthy, but Colby Fleener is Colby Fleener.
Lamar Jackson QB – The Ben Rothlisboerger days are coming to a close. Jackson has an above average arm and electric athleticism. The Steelers offense doesn’t require quick defense dissection, so concerns regarding his NFL readiness are not as accentuated there. He interviewed well at the combine and performed well on play recall. You don’t get franchise QBs this late in the first round, but the Steelers may be looking to catch lightning in a bottle and hope that his Heisman Trophy and winning pedigree make him the next Deshaun Watson. Whenever I see a black quarterback labeled with the “not accurate” tag, I normally look at it with skepticism. After all, Deshaun Watson was given the same tag (his percentages in college were at 67% and above) as well as Dak Prescott (62%, 58%, 61%, 60%). Unlike those two, Jackson never broke the 60% barrier. That isn’t a death knell, but the Steelers have to know that they are taking a risk.
James Washington WR – Their QB needs all the help he can get. Allen Hurns signed with the Cowboys and Robinson left via FA as well, creating the need for a playmaking WR. All Washington did in college was get separation and produce. This could also be Mike Gesicki, since the Jaguars have lost TE depth in the offseason. Gesicki is a good rout runner, and utilized his 4.54 speed along with his 6’5 frame to gain separation on DBs.
Orlando Brown OT – I know. We haven’t seen a performance as bad as the one Brown put up at the combine since Ben Affleck in Daredevil. He is a Mammoth, though. He has gigantic arms, and I do not care what his bench numbers were, he can move any DE in the NFL. Brown would work well at RT for the Vikings.
Mike Hughes CB – For whatever reason, Butler is out in NE and the Patriots showed during the Superbowl they did not have an adequate replacement for him. Hughes is not great at anything, but was above average in all testing categories at the combine. He is a quick twitch, projection based project. However, if there is one team that can coach up anyone, it is the patriots.
Arden Key DE – Character concerns cause him to drop from the top of the first round, though most scouts see a natural pass rusher. At 6’5 260, he has the size you want in a DE.