MockOut’s Never Too Early 2018 NFL Mock Draft
NFL mock draft season is back!
Just kidding. As you know, there’s no such thing as “draft season” because we prepare for the draft 365 days a year. There’s a reason the most popular articles the day after the 2017 NFL Draft were the “Way Too Early 2018 NFL Mock Draft” predictions that experts put out.
But why? What’s the point of speculating now?
Because, as I’ve said before, there’s more to making a mock draft than just what you know. It’s also when you know it. It’s why we offer contests with early lock dates.
But it’s also a tool. Just like MFL10 games are fun on their own, but also operate as a tool to study changing ADPs… so too are early mock drafts important to chart the rise and fall of draft prospects. Which bandwagons do you expect to become bloated by next April, and which ones will empty out before the season ends?
Why do we do this?
We can’t NOT do it.
The worst thing about the 2017 NFL Draft ending was that all the countless possibilities turned into certainties. The best thing about the 2017 NFL Draft ending is that brand new possibilities opened up, in the form of the 2018 NFL Draft.
One last note… draft order. I know from experience that this is the thing that gets a mock drafter into far more trouble at this time of year than the picks he makes. So if you care to know, click to see how I arrived at the draft order, which is currently being used as MockOut’s official draft order.
Have the guts to make your own mock, but still need the app to create it and enter contests? Problem solved.
Enough talk. Let’s get mocking.
via SF 1. Sam Darnold, QB USC
While I’m not ready to write this in ink yet (unlike Garrett, who was a sure thing for the entire season and offseason) I feel confident now that Darnold is the best QB in this class. He stands tall in the pocket and moves through his progressions, and fits the ball where only his receivers can get it. I see a lot of Luck in this kid, and I think whoever picks first next year will see the same. And of course there’s very little competitive advantage to predicting any trades beyond the first pick this early in the process, but I did so because I think on the off-chance that the Jets don’t end up with the first overall pick… they’ll do whatever it takes to trade up for it.
2. Derwin James, S Florida State
If James can fully recover from his knee injury, I expect him to be the first or second defensive player off the board. His ceiling is a bigger Jamal Adams, with range. Because it is Cleveland selecting here, and because I’m not exactly sure how the pass rushers are going to shake out yet, I’ll give them the defensive back.
via NYJ 3. Josh Allen, QB Wyoming
I could be wrong here, but I think Josh Allen would have to do a LOT to overtake Darnold as the top QB prospect. If they perform anywhere near each other next season, Darnold will get the nod, as the level of competition he will face is quite different from what Allen will see in Wyoming. And I still think Darnold has the better season. That said… Allen has a cannon, makes throws nobody else can make, has good mobility, and if he can cut down on his mental mistakes, can be a true franchise QB.
4. Harold Landry, OLB Boston College
Right now Landry is my favorite pass rusher in the class. He penetrates quicker and stronger than pretty much any other edge defender, and does it with much more weight than some other top pass rushers in the class. He has great flexibility to bend around the corner, and always finishes with a pop. I don’t think pass rusher is the Rams greatest need, but it is a need, and he is a special player, so I believe they should take him before an offensive tackle.
5. Tarvarus McFadden, CB Florida State
While there is some debate right now over who will be the better CB prospect, McFadden or Fitzpatrick from Alabama, I think by the time the season ends that debate will be pretty settled. He is longer, faster, and plays with an feistiness that gets teammates hyped. I could see Chicago going with Fitzpatrick if they wanted a CB/Safety hybrid instead of a straight up shut-down corner (and they could use some safety help, believe) but McFadden is the better player in my book, and I send him to Chicago.
6. Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
Just as I predicted Fournette to Jacksonville in my very first mock draft (then spent every subsequent mock convincing myself that is not going to happen) watch me predict Jackson to the Jags this year, then spend the next ten months wrongly convincing myself it won’t happen. Here’s why I see this as a perfect match. First off, I don’t think Bortles will crash and burn, but I also think he will need to be replaced. Even at his best, his style is not that of a guy who can support or play alongside a strong running game. Jackson, on the other hand, wouldn’t support what the Jags want to do on the ground… he would complete it. With that defense and now Fournette, JAX wants to be a team that runs on you all day to keep the ball away. Lamar and Leonard in the same backfield is a terrifying prospect, and I believe he will show this season that his passing skills, while not elite, have been underappreciated.
7. Malik Jefferson, OLB Texas
Malik Jefferson actually reminds me a lot of Zach Cunningham, who I believe should have been drafted a lot earlier than the second round this year. He is very long, very fast, and even without much buildup seems to just explode into ball carriers. In case you couldn’t tell, I really really like him, and think he cold go much higher than this if he has the kind of season for Texas that I am expecting. He fits nicely in Buffalo as an all-around linebacker who can stop the ball carrier, rush the passer, or drop back into coverage with ease.
8. Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame
The Chargers did a lot in last year’s draft to solidify the interior of their O-line, but they still have holes on the outside. Okung will be an upgrade for them, but not a solution, and they are still starting Barksdale on the right. Bringing in McGlinchey could transform this line from a pretty decent unit into one of the best in the league, and if Gordon keeps his form, they would boast an unstoppable running game. McGlinchey was easily my top ranked tackle for last year’s draft- which shocked me into disbelief when he decided not to declare- and while this year’s class is not nearly as bad as last year’s, I still have him at the top.
9. Christian Wilkins, DT Clemson
There is a LOT of hype right now about Christian Wilkins, and I don’t know if he is good enough to support it. Some are saying he (and another player who I shall not name yet, because I have not had him selected in my mock yet) are the two best defensive players in the country. Here’s my problem with that declaration- unless you are a monster like Suh, it is very difficult to sustain that kind of defensive dominance from the interior of the line. Double teams are easier to execute on DTs, game plans can be stretched out to avoid the middle of the line, and FBs or RBs can be deployed to chip in and help. I’m not saying Wilkins isn’t good (he is very good) I’m just saying he might not have the statistical impact this season that would catapult him into top-5 consideration. He would be a great addition to a team looking for interior penetration, and the Lions would love just that, recording the second fewest sacks in the league last season.
10. Connor Williams, OT Texas
I am not high at all on the Bengals this season, and the big reason why is that offensive line. As I said in my article detailing how I came to decide on the draft order, you don’t lose the two best players from an O-line that didn’t play well last season anyway, and expect to have any offensive success. Sending OTs to the Bengals in 2018 NFL mock drafts will be just as common as mocking OTs to the Broncos was in all those 2017 NFL mock drafts.
11. Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
This is a tough one for me. I think Barkley is just as good of a RB prospect than Fournette in 2017 and Elliott in 2016, if not better. I considered sending him to Buffalo at pick 7 and Detroit at pick 9, but the depth at RB should be really great in next year’s draft, whereas there is a steep decline after Wilkins at DT and Jefferson at OLB. I actually think Barkley’s best comp (so far… I obviously haven’t done my annual deep dive at RB yet) is Elliott, in that he does everything really well, but isn’t a track star. The vision and balance and power and agility are all there, and even though I loved the Perine selection (and because I am always wrong about the RBs the Redskins draft) I think Washington will look for their own 3-down bell cow in the NFC East.
12. Bradley Chubb, DE NC State
I believe the second best pass rusher in this class is Bradley Chubb, the big man from NC State. Probably the best pure 4-3 end in the class (with the potential to use his power inside on passing downs) Chubb is a great piece for a team running a 4-3 that struggles to get pressure on the QB without blitzing. Miami wasn’t great at generating pressure on the QB last season, but they did draft Charles Harris to help solve that problem in last year’s draft. This pick is more a testament to Chubb’s talent (I love it) Cameron Wake’s age (how much longer can he dominate?) and the fact that I didn’t really love Harris coming out of last year’s draft, and don’t think he’ll have a huge impact in year 1.
13. Arden Key, DE LSU
Here we are. Arden Key. I bet everyone just assumed I had forgotten about him. Quite the contrary… I just haven’t seen in him what everyone else sees in him. Key is the player many are describing as the best defensive player in the country (alongside Wilkins) but what I see is a very undersized pass rush specialist who doesn’t have the power to even take QBs down cleanly, much less big RBs. Yes, he is very fast and yes he has great instincts and athleticism to get to the QB in a hurry, but once he’s there he has to use all his body weight to try and drag him down. What happens when a 335-pound tackle gets a good strong push on his 235-pound frame? Key is very lanky, which makes for a big target for blockers, and doesn’t allow him the kind of compact power needed to dominate at the next level. I think his game is very similar to Leonard Floyd’s, but I don’t think he will go as early in the draft as Floyd, probably lasting until the early teens.
14. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB Alabama
It’s pretty tough selecting for the Titans, as they have so many new exciting pieces that it’s hard to gauge where their holes will be. Instead of filling a hole, I wanted to just give them the best player left on my board, which is Minkah. He has the positional flexibility that a team like the Titans would covet, and is the kind of player that can turn a defense from good to great. I am guessing he will play more of a safety role for them early, then transition to corner if he shows well in that regard.
15. Christian Kirk, WR Texas A&M
Whether you think Jeffery will be huge this season or a huge bust, he is only a one-year rental at this point. Even so he isn’t the quickest guy on the field. Ditto Jordan Matthews, a player they’ve seemed to want to replace every year since drafting him. Enter Kirk, an electric athlete and a bully for the ball, despite his sub-6 foot frame. Kirk is the kind of player I love, and I would not be at all surprised if I end up moving him higher and higher until he becomes a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
16. Mason Rudolph, QB Oklahoma State
I am going with conventional wisdom here. And yes, even in June, there is conventional wisdom on some player-team matches. Rudolph checks all the statistical boxes you would need to get a first round grade, and his physical profile screams Cardinals. He’s a big strong pocket passer with big production, who would benefit from a year sitting behind a veteran. If this isn’t Palmer’s final year starting for the Cards then next year is, and I think he would be the type of player who would be happy to extend his career a year to help transition the team to a QB of the future.
17. Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama
Another consensus pick here, this is one I am less certain of (mostly because I think Ridley’s stock could easily drop to the second round or beyond) than the Rudolph pick. He’s pretty skinny for the position, and doesn’t feel to me like the kind of receiver who can take over a game. That is fine for now, because Alabama’s passing game is going to play second fiddle to Scarborough the run game, but I’m not sure that will be enough to make him a top selection in April. For now he stays here, because I think he does bring some value to an offense, and I think that despite the Maclin signing, the Ravens will still be in need of some talented youth next offseason.
18. Mitch Hyatt, OT Clemson
I think Hyatt will be a major climber as the college season progresses and draft scouts see the kind of athleticism and heat he can bring to the tackle position. If he adds a little weight this year while maintaining his movement skills, he should be just a hair below McGlinchey and Williams as a top tackle prospect. I’m not going to waste much digital ink here talking about why the Vikings might want to draft a tackle. I think you know.
19. Quenton Nelson, G Notre Dame
Nelson is a bad, bad dude, and will definitely be the first Guard off the board. He is a punishing, athletic, technical player with strength and speed on the inside. He is just a perfect Guard prospect. Unfortunately, there have been other perfect Guard prospects (Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack come to mind) who didn’t quite pan out. I don’t know if it’s just more difficult to scout a Guard or what, but I won’t let that scare me away from mocking a nasty blocker to a team who could definitely use the help on the interior.
via KC 20. Derrius Guice, RB LSU
The second of two picks for Buffalo (sent over in the 2017 trade with Kansas City) is the reason why I didn’t have the Bills select Barkley with their first pick. Guice is a monster. Some consider him even stronger with the ball in his hands than Fournette. The only RB the Bills will have with any real game experience is Shady, and he is going to be a year older next season (and will be touching the ball a LOT this year) so drafting a hammer like Guice to inherit the lead back duties and run behind that O-line will be dream for this Bills team. You’ll also notice I did not have the Bills selecting a QB with either pick. I personally think Tyrod is a good QB, and hope that the Bills will come to the same conclusion over the course of the season.
21. Sam Hubbard, DE Ohio State
Hubbard is another strong 4-3 DE who should have a good season and stick firmly in the first round discussion all season long. He doesn’t have the repertoire of moves or the great bend of a dominant DE, but he plays with real power, and his bull rush can collapse a pocket against the pass or the run. Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers are both over-30 DEs that will need to be upgraded next season, so expect this to be a popular pairing for months to come.
22. Josh Rosen, QB UCLA
I am not a Davis Webb believer. Maybe the Giants are, and maybe they’ll see a third round pick as too valuable a price to have paid for a player they will give up on after just one season… but they couldn’t have known a player like Josh Rosen would fall to them in this year’s draft, and they do have to know that Eli’s time is coming to a close. The depth of this year’s QB class allows them to get a player that many consider a top-5 prospect right now, without having to have a terrible season and ending up with the terrible record required to draft one. I do think Rosen is a step below the big-3 at the position (he has a bit of a Joey Harrington feel, right?) but he is talented enough for the Giants to grab as their QB of the future here.
23. Cameron Smith, ILB USC
I cannot fault the Colts for passing on the LB position in last year’s draft (they had to take Hooker when he dropped, and had to take Wilson when he dropped) but that doesn’t mean there’s not still a great big hole in the middle of their defense. Smith can fill that hole. He is not too high on very many draft boards right now, but watch for his athleticism and leadership to show well this year, and for his name to slowly rise up the ranks as the season progresses.
24. Derrick Nnadi, DT Florida State
The Broncos have Peko, but Nnadi could be something special. He is going to be a polarizing prospect (like Malik McDowell or Nkemdiche before him) because he can disappear at times, and flat-out dominate at other times. Some team in the bottom half of the draft will take a chance on his upside, and I think Denver will be that team.
25. Martez Ivey, G Florida
Many people (myself included) expected Atlanta to take a Guard in last year’s draft, so I’ll start that speculation for the 2018 NFL Draft as well. Ivey is a solid prospect, strong and athletic and mostly mistake-free, who can help shore up a hole better than he can dominate. Atlanta will take a step back this season, offensively, and I think giving their RBs bigger lanes and Ryan more time will be an offseason priority for a team who feels they are still very much contenders.
26. Luke Falk, QB Washington State
Maybe I am buying too much into the Will He or Won’t He hype of Roethlisberger’s retirement threats. Maybe. But I believe the rest of the scouting community is slow to catch Luke Falk Fever. I love this guy. His composure and accuracy are unbelievable. I think he will be a very very good QB in the league for many years. Will he be knocked for the offensive system he is playing in? Sure. Does he have a rocket for an arm? No. But he has everything else you would want in a leader and a franchise QB, and I think whoever leaves the draft with Falk as their QB will be a franchise in good hands for many years.
via HOU 27. Vita Vea, DT Washington
There is a very real chance that he will not last this long- he has even more strength than you would expect, and his speed is very impressive for a 330+ pound man- but if he does, the Browns would snatch him up immediately. The only reason I don’t have him going earlier (like, say, to the Colts) is because many of the teams in front of Cleveland are already very set at the position. They still could take Vea just because he is so good. Like, potentially top-10 good. But for now, the Browns get a steal, and an anchor in the middle of their line.
28. Jaire Alexander, CB Louisville
Green Bay grabbed Kevin King with the first pick in the second round last year, but they were not one CB away from having a good pass defense last season. Alexander is also a totally different kind of CB than King- smaller and shiftier (which says a lot, because King tested as *shifty*.) But Green Bay is without very many holes, and teams are going to have to pass against them to keep up with Rodgers, so grabbing a talented CB to bring depth to the position group will come in handy.
29. Courtland Sutton, WR SMU
Without too many holes on their roster, the Raiders get to go with BPA, and in this mock it’s Sutton. I think he is an Anquan Boldin-type (meaning really good! just not too fast) that could bring fantastic depth to a position group for the Raiders, and would allow them to keep Crabtree in the slot full-time, where he would be best utilized. Their three-wide sets would be fearsome for now, and he protects the team in the case of injury, or Crabtree becoming ineffective with age.
30. James Washington, WR Oklahoma State
Washington isn’t as big as Sutton, but brings the speed, which Dallas could really use in an outside receiver to compliment Dez. I still don’t even know (without looking it up) who is the other outside receiver there in Dallas. Is it still Williams? Did they bring someone else in? They need a true threat on the outside to take pressure off Dez and to force safeties back away from the box, which would open things up for Zeke. Washington to Dallas is more about what he would offer the other stars there, rather than what I expect him to accomplish himself.
31. Nick Chubb, RB Georgia
Maybe Seattle won’t need a RB next season. Maybe Lacy is the answer. Maybe Rawls comes back strong from injury. Maybe Prosise displays a three-down skill set. But maybe none of those things happen, and a player who is the prototypical Carroll back is available to them in the first round. The Seahawks prioritize the RB position, drafting Christine Michael in the second round even when Lynch was still in his prime and taking Prosise in the third even when Rawls showed that he could be a beast. Chubb is a powerful back, falls exactly into the height and weight range Seattle demands of its RBs, and brings the tenacity that this team requires of its workhorse RB, and is always looking to build their offensive identity around.
32. Da’Ron Payne, DT Alabama
A lot of people have Payne ranked higher than I do, expecting him to just come in and be as good as Jonathan Allen as he fills his role at Alabama. I don’t think he is on Allen’s level, and could see him drop to more of the Jarran Reed-range of the draft. For now I will send him to NE, whose DTs could use a bit more depth (seriously, does this team have any needs?) and I’ll wait until the season starts to see if he deserves to be a first rounder, or if he struggles to live up to his own hype.
You can track changes to my mock draft, as well as other mock drafts from around the web, at WalterFootball’s NFL Mock Draft Database.
photo: Jason Getz, USA TODAY Sports