2018 NFL mock draft: The QB supply may not fit the demand
If a player like USC’s Sam Darnold doesn’t go pro, the first round could get thrown into chaos.
With the college football regular season coming to a close, juniors and redshirt sophomores are weighing whether or not to enter the 2018 NFL draft.
No player will be monitored by NFL teams more closely than Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Darnold is leaning toward returning to USC.
Let’s assume in this week’s mock draft that Darnold — who plenty think is the draft’s top quarterback — is going back for another year of college. That means the supply of quarterbacks in the first round might not fit the demand.
That’s the idea in this week’s mock draft, where four quarterbacks go in the first 32 picks.
As always, the pick positions are based on the latest NFL draft order.
1. Cleveland Browns – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
With Jim Mora out at UCLA, chances are even greater that Rosen is as well. DeShone Kizer continues to be wildly inconsistent for the Browns, so drafting a quarterback at No. 1 shouldn’t be surprising. The twist here could be the Browns pursuing AJ McCarron in free agency.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Just how good is Barkley? “So far he’s the best player I’ve seen on tape,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said of Barkley on the Rich Eisen Show recently. “He’s got more upside both on and off the field than Zeke Elliott.” Considering what Dallas is with and without Elliott, taking Barkley second overall could be worth it.
3. New York Giants – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Without Darnold, the Giants simply move down to the next quarterback up. Jackson had statistically a better season than his Heisman Trophy sophomore year. As a prospect, he’s gotten much better at making plays in the pocket.
4. Denver Broncos – Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Some think the Broncos should take a quarterback in the first round next year, but I think John Elway gives Paxton Lynch a real shot. Adding Williams to bookend with Garett Bolles could help set the line for Denver.
5. Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Chubb is as much of a plug-and-play prospect as there is in the 2018 draft. The Colts need to get better rushing the quarterback, and Chubb is the draft’s best rusher.
6. Chicago Bears – Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU
Although the Bears are in the top 10 in the NFL in sacks, interior defensive lineman Akiem Hicks leads the team with seven. Leonard Floyd has been inconsistent creating pressure from the edge, and Key could help there.
7. New York Jets – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Oh, the insanity of Mayfield on the Jets. Chaos can be fun, and that’s what this would be. There seems to be little gray area in the opinion of Mayfield. Because of that, I do think he’ll project all over the place in the first round.
8. Miami Dolphins – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
It’s tempting to give Miami Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama to help fix the secondary, but the offensive line is a mess. McGlinchey could help fix a broken group that’s low on talent.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
The Buccaneers will probably go into the offseason process needing help on the offensive and defensive lines, and in the secondary. Of those three, Fitzpatrick by far grades out as the best player here.
10. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans) – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Cleveland’s wide receiver play this season has been atrocious. Ridley is the best wide receiver in the draft. It seems like a natural move, even if the Browns do have Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon. They’re just too unreliable.
11. Los Angeles Chargers – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
This is your regular reminder that NFL decision makers will probably like Allen more than fans do. Getting to sit behind Philip Rivers for at least a season could be especially beneficial for the Wyoming quarterback.
12. Cincinnati Bengals – Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
The Bengals’ need to use more high draft capital on offensive linemen could lead to them rushing on a player like Brown. He’s a good player but a tier below Williams and McGlinchey.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
This is where not having Darnold in the draft could really be a hindrance. Picking in this range is purgatory for a team like Arizona. If there’s not a quarterback, the Cardinals could turn to the secondary where they’ve needed a strong second to Patrick Peterson. That’s Davis, who is a physical man-cover corner with length.
14. Oakland Raiders – Derwin James, S, Florida State
James is still the hardest player to place high in the draft. If he happens to slip like this, the Raiders could snag him to help fix a problematic secondary.
15. Dallas Cowboys – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Without Sean Lee, the defense for the Cowboys is seriously hindered. Unfortunately, he just can’t stay healthy, so Dallas needs to find either a replacement or a player who can slot into the system. Smith is a natural fit, and he would bolster the pass coverage.
16. Washington – Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Nelson, at worst, will grade out as one of the 10 best players in the 2018 draft. For Washington he can work immediately as the team’s starting left guard.
17. Green Bay Packers – Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College
Is the problem in Green Bay the secondary or the pass rush? If it’s the pass rush, it would be hard to pass on Landry, a speedy edge-rusher with athleticism.
18. Baltimore Ravens – Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Ravens have arguably the worst pass offense in the NFL, and former first-round pick Breshad Perriman has been a bust. Sutton profiles as a No. 1 receiver thanks to his size and playmaking ability.
19. Detroit Lions – Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The pick here was going to be a Clemson player. Whether it’s Ferrell, fellow end Austin Bryant or defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, they all make sense in Detroit. Ferrell uses his length and power to create pressure, and he’s a good run-stopper.
20. Seattle Seahawks – Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
In the actual draft I expect the Seahawks to move off this pick to try and get back in the second and third rounds. But if they hold here, the best offensive lineman available should be the pick.
21. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs) – Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
The Bills could be another victim of Darnold returning to school. If there isn’t a first-round quarterback who has value, the Bills could start fixing a run defense that has fallen apart since Marcell Dareus was traded.
22. Buffalo Bills – Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Preston Brown is a free agent at the end of the season, and the Bills could be in the market for linebacker help even if he’s brought back. Jefferson is finally living up to his blue-chip potential for Texas, and he’s seen his draft stock rise as the season has progressed.
23. Tennessee Titans – Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
Both Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo have only a season left on their contracts, so Tennessee could be in the market for a pass rusher of the future this offseason. Hubbard is in the same mold as Morgan and Orakpo and is an incredible athlete for an end.
24. Jacksonville Jaguars – Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
Although the preference here would be a quarterback, Jacksonville isn’t in a position to draft one in the first round. With that in mind, the Jaguars could look to bring in a tight end to either help Blake Bortles or a free agent veteran. If so, Andrews is the top tight end in the draft and in the mold of Jason Witten.
25. Atlanta Falcons – Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Atlanta could use some help up front on defense, and not only is Hurst a good scheme fit, but he’s a solid value in the back of the first round.
26. Los Angeles Rams – Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Rams, the NFL’s best story in 2017, are in a unique draft position after having top 10 picks for several years. Even in the back of the first round, Los Angeles can find a starting-quality player at cornerback. Jackson has had an incredible season at Iowa with five interceptions and 17 pass breakups.
27. Carolina Panthers – DeShon Elliott, S, Texas
Carolina could target the secondary this offseason, whether it’s at cornerback or safety. The more you watch Elliott, the harder it is to find real flaws in his game. A Thorpe Award finalist this year, he’s an excellent all-around player who can drop in coverage or come up and help stop the run.
28. New Orleans Saints – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Had Evans not been hit with injuries this season, he’d probably be more highly thought of as an NFL prospect. He can come down and shed blocks to stop the run and has good enough athleticism to drop in coverage.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Through almost two seasons as a pro, Artie Burns has been up and down for the Steelers. Pittsburgh could be in a position in April to address cornerback again, and Ward would be a great fit.
30. Minnesota Vikings – Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Vikings are one of the league’s worst run-stopping teams, and a big body defensive tackle like Vea could help there immediately. At a meal shy of 350 pounds, Vea excels at taking up blockers, which frees up linebackers to make a play.
31. New England Patriots – Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama
There’s not a lot of flash in Averett’s game, but he’s been a solid and dependable starter at Alabama the last two seasons. He’d be factor for New England straight away.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Carson Wentz has been having an MVP-type season for the Eagles this year and could still use a top-end wide receiver. Washington is a big play speed receiver who can break it open any time he touches the ball.