As the 2017 regular season came to an end, the first 20 picks of the NFL Draft are set in stone (Picks 9 and 10 will be determined by a coin flip). While all good things come to an end, football Christmas (NFL Draft) is upon us, and boy is it exciting. Today I bring you a first round mock draft for all the teams whose draft order is already set. Picks 21-32 will be added as eliminations happen.
1.) Cleveland Browns | Sam Darnold | Quarterback | USC
After the much anticipated decision, we found out Wednesday that USC’s QB Sam Darnold would declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Darnold is by no means a NFL ready quarterback, but his ceiling is really high. Darnold has shown the ability to be a very successful college QB, but also raised plenty of questions after his most recent season at USC. Cleveland will get a guy here that can develop, and hopefully end their struggle at finding a franchise quarterback.
This draft falls horribly for the New York Giants in my opinion. Their biggest need is offensive tackle, but there’s not a tackle in this class that warrants the #2 overall pick. Their second biggest need is still quarterback, even after Dave Gettleman’s comments. Rosen has a big arm and has shown signs of being deadly accurate. If Rosen can improve on some of his decision making, he could have a bright future in the big apple.
Colts spent big money bringing in Johnathan Hankins and Jabaal Sheard. Bradley Chubb would fit in nicely with the two and would add another scary piece to the Colts defense. Chubb is a well rounded defensive end that can produce rushing the passer, but be a difference maker in the run game as well. The Colts defense isn’t pretty, but the addition of Chubb would be an instant upgrade over Margus Hunt.
Cleveland is in need of playmakers on offense. After taking Sam Darnold with the #1 overall pick, what better way to take the pressure off a rookie quarterback than with an elite talent at running back. Saquon Barkley is on par with Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott as far as my running back evaluations go, Cleveland would be silly to allow a talent of Barkley’s caliber to get away from them.
John Elway is in desperate need of a franchise quarterback. His experiments with Trevor Sieman, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler have been bad, and that’s putting it nicely. Baker Mayfield has the arm talent and mental makeup to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL, more importantly he’s a winner, something Elway desperately wants and needs.
How crazy would it be to see four quarterbacks taken in the top six picks? I think it’s very possible with how many teams are desperate for a quarterback and how many first round QB’s we’ll have heading into April. Lamar Jackson is a playmaker, with his legs and his arm. Over the last few seasons, Jackson has made significant improvements as a passer in and out of the pocket. The ceiling is sky high for the three year starter at Louisville.
7.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Denzel Ward | Cornerback | Ohio State
The Buccaneers have holes all over their defense. They could go edge rusher or cornerback here, but I think the value with Denzel Ward at seventh overall is too good to pass up. Ward is a little undersized at 5-foot-10, but plays much bigger and has tremendous ball skills for his size. Ward is my CB1 heading into the Senior Bowl, and I have a hard time seeing that change.
The Bears defense is a piece or two away from taking them from good to great. Arden Key has loads of potential and reminds me of their best pass rusher now in Leonard Floyd. Key is a freaky athlete that uses his long arms and explosiveness to win around the edge. The LSU Junior uses his hands to free himself up from blockers then his speed to close on quarterbacks. Arden Key would be a intriguing piece to add to the young, but very talented Chicago defense.
The 49ers offensive line has two cornerstone tackles in Joe Staley and Trent Brown. Their interior line is a big question mark though. Grabbing the most talented offensive lineman in recent years at #9 overall is an absolute steal for the 49ers. If that hasn’t won you over, protecting Jimmy Garoppolo should. The 49ers could certainly target an offensive weapon here, but they may take that route via free agency.
The Raiders have a new defensive minded coach, getting a young playmaking linebacker in to help in both run and pass defense would be a great addition to a defense that lacks talent outside of Khalil Mack. Roquan Smith is an explosive athlete that can play sideline to sideline, play great in coverage, and is a talented blitzer as well. Smith instantly upgrades the Raiders defense.
It should be illegal for Minkah Fitzpatrick to be around for the 11th overall pick, but with all the quarterbacks taken in the top 10, it’s going to to push talented position players down. The Dolphin should be jumping for joy if they can land Fitzpatrick here. Safety is NOT a desperate need for Miami, they actually have two good ones in TJ McDonald and Reshad Jones, but they can’t possibly pass up a player of Fitzpatrick’s caliber here. Fitzpatrick can play free safety, strong safety, or corner and do all three at an extremely high level.
The Cincinnati Bengals offensive line play was down right horrible in 2017. Connor Williams had the potential to be a difference maker in the run game and in pass protection. Williams 2016 tape was some of the better OT tape I’ve evaluated in recent years, his 2017 tape which involved him being injured for most of the season was rather underwhelming. Cincinnati would be drafting Williams #12 overall hoping he can return to his 2016 form.
The Washington Redskins have one big playmaker in the secondary in Josh Norman, they would be glad to add another to their secondary. James is an ultra athletic safety that has a extremely high ceiling. At worst Derwin James can start taking some snaps away from DJ Swearinger. At best he could really start to sew up the back end of the Washington secondary, especially if they can get Su’a Cravens back from the reserved/retired list.
The Green Bay defense has been a huge disappointment for the last few seasons. With Clay Mathews aging, the Packers need to find a new rusher to get after the quarterback. Harold Landry is that guy. In 2016, Landry was one of the best pass rushers in the country, in 2017, he battled injuries and struggled to regain his ’16 form. Landry would have a few years to develop behind Mathews and Nick Perry than eventually would take over as the Packers leading pass rusher.
15.) Arizona Cardinals | Josh Allen | Wyoming | Senior
With Carson Palmer freshly retired, the Cardinals have no real answer at the quarterback position. Josh Allen is a player that will get drafted in the first round solely off of traits. Allen has a cannon for an arm and has shown signs of being a very accurate quarterback. While Allen might be the least pro ready of the group right now, his ceiling is up there with Darnold and Rosen.
The Ravens are in need of a playmaker on offense, with Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace listed as the teams top two WR’s, getting some youth and talent in that room should be top priority come draft day. Kirk is a playmaker that can play in the slot, boundary, and even make plays for you on special teams. Christian Kirk would give the Ravens a big play threat, but also a guy that can help move the chains consistently.
17.) Los Angeles Chargers | Christian Wilkins | Defensive Tackle | Clemson
The Chargers are in a position at #17 overall where they need to be certain to take the best player available. Clemson’s Christian Wilkins is just that. Wilkins would beef up the strong Chargers front seven even more. Wilkins has the ability to play both the nose and the under tackle and would add yet another pass rushing threat to match with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
The Seattle Seahawks running back carrousel was one Russell Wilson didn’t appreciate. Not only would Derrius Guice take some heat off of Wilson has a playmaker, he would also help out in pass protection and as a receiver as well. Guice is a powerful runner with great explosion and ability to get a lot of yards after contact.
The Cowboys should be thrilled if Calvin Ridley is still available at 19th overall. Ridley is exactly what the Cowboys offense needs to compliment Dez Bryant and be a short to immediate yardage target for Dak Prescott. Ridley is known for his route running and his ability to separate. The Alabama Junior would be a great option to help get the Cowboys offense back to 2016 form.
20.) Detroit Lions | Josh Jackson | Cornerback | Iowa
The Detroit Lions have a great CB1 in Darius Slay, but behind him are plenty of question marks. The Lions spent their second round pick last year on Jalen Tabor, but he struggled to even get on the field in his rookie year. Josh Jackson is a sticky boundary corner who has great ball skills and is physical defending the run. The Lions would finally have an adequate corner to pair with Darius Slay.
The final 12 picks will be done as the eliminations happen in the NFL playoffs. Let me know below what you think of your teams pick!