The 2018 NFL Draft is quickly approaching, and teams are making moves to better situate themselves for success. The Jets and Colts swapped first round picks, which shakes up this entire draft. Also, what are the Browns going to do? How about the Giants? Who will the Jets land at three? Let’s see how it all shakes out in the 6.0 version of Nick’s Picks.
1. CLE: Sam Darnold, QB, USC: I have been back-and-forth on what the Browns are going to do, but I suspect the Browns will take Darnold. Why? Tyrod Taylor is going to be the starter for maybe a season or two. So, why take Darnold? The issue with Darnold is accuracy, and Taylor has underrated accuracy. So, best case scenario, Taylor teaches Darnold how to be a better decision maker and it will be Darnold’s team after that. Tyrod Taylor will be the first successful bridge quarterback.
2. NYG: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Truth be told, no one knows what is going to happen with this pick. However, adding Barkley makes the Giants a dynamic offense. Yes, Eli Manning is getting old and is not great, but Davis Webb is still an option and Barkley could be a generational talent.
3. NYJ (IND): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: The Jets are a mess, but they are still salvageable. Rosen brings a lick of intellect to this roster, so this could be a good, long term solution for this forever-struggling franchise.
4. CLE (HOU): Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: Cleveland needs to do three things in this draft: (1) Find their franchise quarterback; (2) Find a lockdown corner; and (3) draft some Ohio State players. I have been vouching the last few seasons that the Browns should invest in some local players to attract fans and to also create some Ohio pride in their locker room. Do it, Cleveland. Do it.
5. DEN: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame: Denver seems to be actually investing in Case Keenum, so there’s little chance they take a quarterback. However, they still need to work on this offensive line. Nelson has been called a future Hall of Famer by scouts–that is not usually said about anyone. John Elway knows the importance of getting this right.
6. IND (NYJ): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama: Many people believe that Indy will take Bradley Chubb, but I disagree. The Colts need a versatile defender, especially one in the secondary. New defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has experience working with another versatile defensive back in Byron Jones when he coached in Dallas. Fitzpatrick is essentially Byron Jones but with better football acumen.
7. TB: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State: Some will call this the steal of the draft–I disagree. Chubb is great, but there are some Pro Bowl caliber players in this draft. There are also some decent quarterback prospects, too. Chubb will slip, but he is definitely a top ten pick.
8. CHI: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia: This is a coin flip; the Bears could take Tremaine Edmunds, but the Bears drafting Leonard Floyd a few years ago shows they like players from Georgia. Smith is an instinctive player who has some grit, which is perfect for the Windy City.
9. SF: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: I have a sneaky suspicion that there will be a trade at this pick, but since I do not predict trades, I have the 49ers taking Ridley. Jimmy Garoppolo needs some more weapons to ensure his progression. Ask any QB who was able to evolve with a number one target–it helps.
10. OAK: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama: Jon Gruden wants big, fast football players. Payne just screams R-A-I-D-E-R. He will be a good defensive tackle for this new regime.
11. MIA: Derwin James, S, Florida State: I have had this mocked for a while, and I am confident it will happen. James is rangy and has good football IQ. He can be a great compliment to Reshad Jones.
12. BUF (CIN): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Let me say it one more time: BUFFALO BAKER. Let that sink in. It takes a special quarterback to play in Buffalo, and I think Mayfield will be embraced as a Bill.
13. WAS: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech: Last season, Washington got a steal in selecting Jonathan Allen. In this year’s draft, they will get yet another steal on the defensive side. Edmunds is a freak athlete and is well-loved by the SFE team. Washington will be able to continue to build this emerging defense.
14. GB: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama: The Packers look like they won’t resign Morgan Burnett. So, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will need to have a partner-in-crime for the future. The Packers are a team that traditionally like to build via the draft, so it is imperative that they get this pick right.
15. AZ: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: The Cardinals signed Sam Bradford to a one year deal, but his degenerative knee issue does not make him a viable option for the future. At this point in his career, Bradford is more a mentor than an option as a franchise QB. Allen will need some time to learn, and Bradford is a good pairing for Allen’s development.
16. BAL: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU: Yes, Baltimore signed Michael Crabtree, but he obviously isn’t the long-term option. This is Ozzie Newsome’s last draft as a Baltimore Raven, and he’s been infamous for not being able to select a good receiver. So, perhaps Newsome can retire at ease knowing Sutton can break his streak.
17. LAC: Vita Vea, DT, Washington: You heard it here first: the Chargers are on the upswing. Their defense is looking better each year, but they need to find an anchor in the middle of the defensive line. Corey Liuget is nothing special and Brandon Mebane is old, so Vea is the best option at this point.
18. SEA: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa: With Richard Sherman off to San Francisco, the Seahawks need a lockdown number one cornerback. Jackson is the best available at this stage of the draft, so this could definitely be the pick.
19. DAL: Donte Jackson, CB, LSU: The Cowboys are another team who like to build their team via the draft. Last year, they invested considerably in the corner position, by drafting Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Personally, I don’t think either of those two can be a number one corner. With Orlando Scandrick going to Washington, Donte Jackson looks to be the pick.
20. DET: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: I have had this mocked for a while, since the Lions desperately need a running back. Yes, they signed LeGarrette Blount, but he’s 31 and a rotational player. Give Matthew Stafford a running back for once.
21. CIN (BUF): Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: The Bengals will praise the heavens that McGlinchey is still available at this pick. Yes, they got Cordy Glenn from the Bills, but his health is a question mark. So, Cincinnati gets a solid tackle from Notre Dame.
22. BUF (KC): James Daniels, C, Iowa: Eric Wood unfortunately had to retire this offseason, so Buffalo is in need of a center. If the Bills select Mayfield, it is important that they get him a competent center for years to come.
23. LAR: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA: A lot of people don’t realize this, but the Rams don’t have a designated pass rusher. Of course, Aaron Donald is an absolute monster, but having an edge rusher is critical for long term success.
24. CAR: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma: Brown has become infamous for his terrible combine performance, but as the saying goes: the tape doesn’t lie. Brown is an absolute wall who is good both in pass protection and the run game. Newton would love to get more protection, and at 6’8″ and 345 pounds, he can get the job done.
25. TEN: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama: Avery “Average” Williamson is off to the Jets, so there’s a void at the middle linebacker position. New head coach and former linebacker Mike Vrabel will like what he sees from Evans.
26. ATL: Billy Price, G, Ohio State: Atlanta’s offensive line is average, so ensuring the guard position is important. Devonta Freeman just got a lot of money, so they must ensure that he can succeed with good protection.
27. NO: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina: The Coby Fleener experiment didn’t work out. Drew Brees needs a new red zone target, and Hurst is the best option available at this point.
28. PIT: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Big Ben’s time in Pittsburgh is limited, and looking for a future signal caller is important for long term success. Jackson can learn more of the pro style concepts from Roethlisberger. This gives Jackson the best chance for success.
29. JAX: Connor Williams, OT, Texas: To ensure Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette have continued success, they must build up their offensive line. Williams is a solid blocker and can compete with Cam Robinson for the left tackle spot.
30. MIN: Arden Key, DE, LSU: The Vikings have some nice pieces in their front seven, but the more the merrier, right? Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter are a dynamic duo, but Griffen is older and Key can play some linebacker. This is the right move for a Super Bowl favourite Vikings team.
31. NE: Justin Reid, S, Stanford: Why not take an edge rusher? Well, there aren’t any edge players worthy of this pick, and Reid just screams the “Patriot Way”. They have Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty, but they are both old and in need of replacing.
32. PHI: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP: The Super Bowl LII champs look to bolster their offensive line. Philly’s offensive line saw some injuries last year, so ensuring they have a competitive roster is important for future success.
Tune in on April 23 for the seven round mock draft–the final version of Nick’s Picks for the 2018 NFL Draft.