MockOut’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft: Version 3
This 2018 NFL mock draft has been a long time coming, and for that I apologize. I wanted more. More information on the top draft prospects. More information on NFL team needs and draft order! Most importantly… more time to actually make my mock draft more than just a collection of top-rated prospects filling team needs.
A mock draft should tell a story. If I predict a draft day trade this early in the offseason process, it’s not necessarily because I think “this is exactly what will happen!” It’s because every mock draft tells a story, and by predicting such a trade, I am weaving a tale about team needs, about front office strategies, about a player’s draft stock, about how I envision the rest of the NFL season playing out. About all of it.
So gather round, children. It’s storytellin’ time.
And I’ve got a yarn to spin.
As always, if you don’t have the app yet, go get it. It’s the smoothest, simplest way to create your own mock draft and enter it into contests against others. And you know contests are already open for the 2018 NFL Draft!
Keep checking in on the app as well, because we are finishing up development on some major updates, which will be coming soon.
via CLE 1. Josh Rosen, QB UCLA
Sam Darnold. Will he or won’t he? I believe, as soon as the Browns are locked in as the top pick, Darnold decides to stay in school. I think if any other team gets this first pick, he declares, but not Cleveland. And the Browns just don’t feel like a good fit for Rosen, a player whose passion for the game has (rightfully or wrongfully, I will let you decide) come into question. All that said, he is still going to be the top QB prospect of the year, and I imagine a team will pay handsomely to jump the Giants and come up to draft him.
The Chargers are strangers in their own home, regularly filling their stadiums with hordes of the opposing teams’ fans. Josh Rosen can change all that. They need a talented QB to replace Rivers and they need the local boy to get some pewter blue butts in those seats. I know his personality will turn many off, but Rivers’ did as well and that’s turned out fairly well for the Chargers. I think hRosen is uniquely mature and honest, and capable of being a great team leader at the pro level. He’ll go first if Darnold doesn’t declare, and I expect a team to pay to move up for him.
2. Connor Williams, OT Texas
Most everyone will have Barkley mocked here, but I just don’t see Shanahan as one to draft a RB in the first round. His father liked to be known as someone who could plug any old RB into his system and enjoy success, and based on the kind of draft capital Kyle’s past teams have spent on the position, I don’t think they go in that direction here. Instead I think they take the best OT prospect to come out in a few years.
Returning from his knee injury last week and turning in a dominant performance, Connor Williams put to rest any fears that he might finish the season hobbled. The Texas run game was a totally different beast with him on the field, and I imagine Shanahan would drool at the prospect of establishing a running game behind the big man. He already has a QB, so if any teams are feeling needy, I could see the 49ers moving back, but if they stay put, expect them to go Williams, who will almost certainly be a top-5 lock, and a number 1 overall pick consideration on draft day.
3. Bradley Chubb, DE NC State
I think all of New York will erupt when the Giants pass on taking a QB with their first pick, and instead go with the nasty edge rusher from North Carolina. I think if Rosen were available, the Giants would pounce. But he’s not, and I don’t see them turning the franchise over to Mayfield or Jackson. The Giants have won two trophies based almost exclusively on the mighty power of their pass rush. Those days are long gone, as they are now tied for the fewest sacks in the league. Chubb is not anywhere near the same caliber of athletic marvel that Myles Garrett is, but he is still a very deserving top-5 talent who can speed past or plow through opposing tackles. He has great bend, can set the edge against the run, and has no major holes in his game. He is a safe pick who will make an instant impact on a newly toothless defense.
4. Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
Pick number 4 is where the top running backs seem to get drafted nowadays, and this feels like the right pick for a team who’s struggled to draft well lately. Take the sure thing. Obviously the Broncos problems begin with the QB position, but this is a John Elway-helmed franchise here. When he wanted a new QB he went out and bought Manning. He wants a QB again, and I would be shocked if he did so via the draft, after swinging and missing on Osweiler and Lynch (results still TBD, but not encouraging) in the recent past.
The Broncos should bring in a solid veteran to captain the ship, and have enough cap space to avoid shopping in the bargain bin. Cutting C.J. Anderson would save the team an additional $4.5m and open up the door for their offensive centerpiece to step in and do what he does. I’m not going to go into full details on what I think of Barkley right now, but I believe his combination of speed, agility, and balance are elite. He’s not the nastiest runner on the field, but not every running back has to initiate contact, and those who don’t can often enjoy longer careers.
via IND 5. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Alabama
This is less about predicting a trade now, and more about matching a player to a team that desperately needs him, and also finding a way to put him in the top-5, which is where I think Minkah ends up being selected. I thought he would finish the season ranked behind Derwin James, but he’s played much better than I expected, and is the kind of game changer a defense like the Bucs needs. Considering the sorry state of the Bucs’ defensive backfield and the gulf between Fitzpatrick and the rest of the DB class (which is usually the number one indicator for trades… players at the end of a positional tier) I think a trade like this would make sense.
Also, I just have to address their “eat some W’s” situation. Did you see that? Did you see the faces of his teammates? They were dying inside. I don’t want to predict this, because it is such a longshot, but I would not be totally shocked if the Bucs decided to trade Winston this offseason, while his value is still relatively high.
6. Christian Wilkins, DT Clemson
Maybe it’s just me (and maybe just because picking against the Bears is what lost me my suicide pool this season) but I think the Bears are a better team, with a better core in place, than their record reflects. They have some great pieces, and now it’s about filling out the roster. Of course they have needs at WR (and possibly OT) more than on the defensive side of things, where they are relatively solid, but I don’t love any of the offensive prospects enough to justify their passing up on the best player available here.
My love for Wilkins is well-documented. He is strong enough to play stout against the run on the inside, and quick enough to step in at DE (even for 4-3 teams!) when needed. He is a high-motor, fast, strong mainstay on the line regardless of down and distance. And he opens up opportunities for players around him, as shown by Ferrell’s fantastic season. It’s not a great need, but it is a great pick for a Bears team on the rise.
Side note: I expect them to add one or two starting caliber WRs in the offseason, considering they will have a ton of cap room (after clearing Glennon from their books…)
via LAC 7. Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma
They have to try again. It feels like they keep drafting QBs, over and over, and keep missing… but they have to keep trying. Here’s why I think they take Mayfield over Lamar, who I like a lot more. Culture. Seriously, why are the Browns losing right now? Why are they always losing? Their D is middle of the road against the pass and elite against the run. Their O-line is really good. Running backs are good. Receivers have left a lot to be desired, but they aren’t going to single-handedly decide the fate of a team.
It’s QB and it’s culture, and it’s been this way for a while now. Kizer has natural talent, but he doesn’t OWN his team. Kessler, McCown, Hogan, RG3, Manziel… none of these guys could get his team to play up to their potential. None of them OWNED the team. Say whatever you want of Baker, but he OWNS his team. From what I have personally seen of Mayfield so far, I would not be taking him here… but I think he wears Browns orange next season.
8. Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame
I really liked the Bengals draft last year, grabbing my top-rated RB and two of my favorite DEs in rounds 2 through 4. I thought they would take an O-lineman in the first round last year, but they ended up going WR instead. And their season has predictably suffered for it. Without very many other glaring holes on the roster, I think they grab the top-rated remaining OT prospect here. McGlinchey is a clear upgrade for any run game. Early in the season he was exposed by quick pass rushers, but he’s cleaned up his game (against some top talent, even) as the season’s gone on, and without a clear challenger, I think he is next in the pecking order after Connor Williams.
9. Denzel Ward, CB Ohio State
I expect a lot of mock draft experts to give the Cardinals a QB. But I see a Cardinals team in fine shape salary cap-wise, and they should be able to afford a capable free agent QB. They won’t need to reach for a QB in the first. What they will need is someone who can catch the ball, and I strongly considered Courtland Sutton (who is an alpha WR in the mold of Boldin and Michael Floyd.) But I don’t think the talent at WR is there at this spot in the draft, and instead take the top rated CB (assuming Fitzpatrick is a Safety) in Ward. This pass defense is having real problems with any WR not covered by Patrick Peterson, and Ward should help lock down both perimeters, allowing the Cards to pin their ears back and send rushers at the QB more often. It’s not a sexy pick, but it should pay immediate dividends.
via OAK 10. Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
You know who doesn’t have any cap space to try and chase a veteran QB? Jacksonville. But they do have draft capital, and without very many needs across their roster, I think they would be wise to move up for the last of the top-tier QBs. They can easily justify the move up. I’ve matched Lamar with the Jaguars in each of my first two mock drafts, and I’m not about to stop now. This is also a great landing spot for Lamar. He is on a run-first team (how does a defensive coordinator plan to stop both Fournette and Lamar on the ground?) with talented pass catchers (once A-Rob comes back and DeDe gets acclimated to the pro game, watch out) and not the biggest shoes in the world to fill, replacing Blake Bortles.
via HOU 11. Josh Jackson, CB Iowa
Alright Browns fans, you got your QB with your first pick of the round. What now? Sandra, I’m waiting…
I think the smart pick here is Josh Jackson, the dominant man-cover corner who is locking and picking off everything that comes across his side of the field. He doesn’t have Lattimore-level athleticism, which could place him below Ward in the final CB pecking order, but his production against the pass and willingness to help out against the run have been awesome this season. The Browns could also take Guice or field some calls here for any team who wants to stop Nelson’s slide, but teams don’t typically trade up for Guards, so I’ll just let them stay here and fill a position of need with a player who is really coming into his own.
12. Quenton Nelson, OG Notre Dame
They’re tanking! They’ll get the number 1 pick for sure! Well well well. Looks like we were all wrong about this Jets team, and how bad they really are. Instead of sucking properly, which would allow them a shot at one of the top QBs, they played too well and are now picking outside the top-10. What a totally Jets thing to do! The gentleman in me wanted to let Lamar Jackson fall into their laps, but that doesn’t feel like something they deserve. Instead I give them the much-hyped Guard out of Notre Dame to help keep Kirk Cousins clean for the foreseeable future.
You heard that right. COusins in NY. The Jets have the second most cap space next season, and there’s no way Cousins plays in Washington again. Unless… the Skins wouldn’t tag him again, would they? Paying him $34 million for next season? They couldn’t. Could they?
13. Vita Vea, DT Washington
No, they won’t. They’ll bring in a free agent as well, since they are out of range for a first round franchise passer. Instead the Skins take a player I am incredibly high on to act as the anchor of their D-line. Vea should rocket up draft boards as team scouts see the kind of athleticism he has for such a huge man, and the kind of havoc he wreaks on opposing offensive lines. Lining him up next to Jonathan Allen could give the Skins a dominant duo for years to come, and turn the D-line into a major strength, which will be necessary going up against the offensive lines of the Cowboys and the Eagles at least 4 times a year.
14. Derrius Guice, RB LSU
I don’t believe the Dolphins are in love with Tannehill, but I think given where they are selecting in the draft, and given their relative lack of cap space for next season, they ride him out again in 2018. So what do they do to fix this team? Well, I think they were at their best when they were riding Ajayi, who they inexplicably traded to the Eagles. They should not roll into the season with Drake and Williams as their starters at the position, and with Guice here for them, talent meets need. Before his injury, people were talking about Guice as being on the same level as Saquon. I don’t believe he is that good, but he is an excellent runner. Despite weighing 10-15 pounds less than Barkley, he finishes his runs with much more power than the Penn State star. He’s a mean dude, who makes a defense pay. Plenty enough speed. A great player to build an offense around.
via TB 15. Derwin James, S Florida State
Malik Hooker was starting to really look the part, before getting injured, proving to be the supremely athletic and rangy Free Safety scouts saw in college. But what if the Colts struck gold twice? Derwin James is another Safety who looked like an athletic marvel at the position until injury derailed his season. He would be the Strong Safety of this duo, able to defend the pass but perfectly eager to drop down into the box and act as a hammer at the line of scrimmage. With James and Hooker manning the back end of this defense, the Colts could look to emulate the Seahawks and build their D from the back end, up.
16. Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama
I believe I gave Dallas a WR in 90% of my mock drafts from last season, so let’s just keep that theme going here. They need better receivers. Dez hasn’t been able to get the separation he used to, and isn’t coming down with contested catches. He doesn’t look special any more. Dak will also be losing his number two target in the receiving game sometime soon, when Witten finally decides to hang them up. They need youth out wide, and Ridley should be a good get for them. I was very low on him coming into the season, and have actually been pleasantly surprised by what he’s shown this season. As you can see by my mocking him at 16, I still don’t think he is a special talent. But he’s played better than I thought he would, and so I’ll be keeping him here in the middle of the round for this mock.
17. Harold Landry, DE Boston College
You know who hasn’t been impressing me? Harold Landry. I thought he was going to destroy and eat the dust from all offensive linemen who got in his way this year. Instead, he’s been good-not-great. I need to watch some more tape from him to see why this is (double teams might be the culprit) but his production is undeniably down. Which is a shame, because he has all the tools you want from a prototypical 4-3 DE. The speed, the bend, the motor. All of it. I still think a team takes him in the middle of the round, and that he becomes a force on the outside, but until I get some answers about why he hasn’t been the terror I wanted him to be, I’m keeping him out of the top-10.
18. James Washington, WR Oklahoma State
Green Bay is a tough team to figure out. They are so different when Rodgers is in the lineup, which will be the case next season. In trying to give them a player in a mock draft, we have to look at their roster and at the available talent. Looking at their roster, their 3 most expensive players are Rodgers, Jordy, and Cobb. Looking at their free agents, they could lose Davante Adams and Jeff Janis next season. Combine that with my top-rated WR prospect being available here, and I think they aim to keep Rodgers well-stocked for the remainder of his career. Washington is a terrific route runner, savvy in the open field, and wins seemingly every contested catch with his amazing hands. He is solid in every aspect of the game, even if he doesn’t have all-world speed or size. He put the tools he has to amazing use, and he can be lethal if paired with Aaron Rodgers. I’m thinking of the old Manning-Wayne combo for the next generation of football fans.
via SEA 19. Josh Allen, QB Wyoming
Josh Allen is kind of a mix of Roethlisberger, Cutler, and Manning. He has the best of Roethlisberger’s size and movement skills, the best of Cutler’s arm strength, and the worst of Eli’s decision making. Josh Allen doesn’t seem to be very good at deciding when and where to throw the football on a consistent basis. That said, he has some amazing physical tools (I know, that dreaded term) that some coach will feel can translate to Dan Marino-like upside if he lands in the right situation with the right players and coach surrounding him. I’m not sure Pittsburgh is that situation, but I bet there are many within the organization who will push for the team to find out. Roeth is not long for this league, and I don’t think Landry Jones or Josh Dobbs are the long-term answer. There are plenty worse QBs Allen could learn from for a year or two than Big Ben… and the Steelers might have to jump past the Ravens to grab him.
20. Clelin Ferrell, DE Clemson
Detroit is a pretty good team all around. They have a lot of young pieces in place for the offense to continue to hum along for a few more seasons as-is (especially along the offensive line) but their defense could use some upgrades. Getting pressure on the QB should be the team’s primary goal, and Ferrell sure does get there in a hurry. He’s shown some very good burst and closing speed for such a long defender, and is probably athletic enough to add some weight to his frame and not lose any of his pass rush magic.
21. Courtland Sutton, WR SMU
The Ravens defense has been pretty great this season, but man does that offense stink. They need a new QB, they need receivers, they need a RB… they need to blow the whole thing up and start from scratch. Since the top QBs are gone, and none of the remaining linemen or RBs really separate themselves from each other, they grab the top WR on many big boards, Courtland Sutton. He is big and strong and should test well at the combine, but what really attracts me to his game is his physicality. I’ve said this since last season, but he really reminds me of a bigger, faster version of Anquan Boldin. A lot like Piere Garcon. The WR who will force opposing defenses to respect his size, not only down the field, but also as a blocker in the running game.
22. Maurice Hurst, DT Michigan
Getting further along into the 20’s, teams have fewer glaring holes to fill. This is the more fun part of a mock draft for me, because the matches are less obvious, and you can get more creative. That creativity is where I pulled this Hurst-to-Tennessee match from, and I think I really like it! Their offense appears set as-is for some time. On defense, they’ve been great against the run this year, and not bad against the pass. I think if they could add some interior pass rush to this already-talented group, it would introduce a new element that they’ve been lacking. This is what Hurst brings. I don’t know how this guy has played so well at DT considering his size limitations, but he sure has. He might play 3-4 DE on running downs and push inside on passing downs at the next level, or maybe he’ll just take over for Sylvester in the middle of the D. Either way, his knifing style should be a nice change of pace for the Titans D-line.
23. Isaiah Oliver, CB Colorado
Despite their mediocre showing so far this season, the Falcons have a very complete team. Their offense doesn’t really have any glaring weakness at any level (though OG is a consideration) and they don’t really have any needs on defense. That said, I don’t like matching players to teams based solely on need, so I’m not going to mock them a Guard. Instead we’ll go with the best player available to them, and give them the long Cornerback from Colorado, Isaiah Oliver. He offers length that Trufant just doesn’t have, and the ability to man up against speedy receivers or against jump ball artists. It is a bit of a luxury pick, but when your roster is fairly complete, you just lean back and enjoy it.
24. Malik Jefferson, OLB Texas
Jefferson has improved to become a tackling machine this season! I loved him before the season started, and I love him now. He can turn and run with TEs or RBs, and he is fast enough to become a pass rush threat at the next level. He reminds me of a faster K.J. Wright, which is just about the highest compliment I can pay a Linebacker. So why do I have him so low? Because LBs who don’t rush the Quarterback have quietly become devalued. I loved Jarrad Davis and Zach Cunningham last season (not to mention Reuben Foster) and all were drafted far later than I thought they should have gone. Even the best linebackers are now being drafted after players who specialize in splash plays (sacks) and that’s a shame. Great for the Rams though, to add the ball-seeking missile to their defense.
via KC 25. Rashaan Evans, ILB Alabama
I’m going to stick with defense here for the Bills, both because of available talent and because I believe the Bills can tend to a lot of their offensive deficiencies in free agency. The best player available in my mock is the rocket of a linebacker who’s really stepped up into Reuben Foster’s old role. He has good size, instincts, and especially speed to handle any of the linebacker positions in a 4-3 defense, but will probably be best utilized in the middle. If the Bills leave the first round with Landry and Evans added to their front-7, they could be a defensive force for years to come.
via JAX 26. Arden Key, OLB LSU
There was a lot of debate over whether the weight Key was reported to have added would hinder his on-field performance. I think the answer is pretty clear. Even dating back to last year, I was no great Arden Key fan. But the first half of this season was horrible, and the second half has been just lukewarm. It’s almost as if it takes time to adjust to having a totally different body than you had just months before! I still think Key has some skills, and think he can go in the first round if he can show that he is learning to move with that extra weight. But Oakland is tied with the Giants for least amount of sacks in the league, and they will need someone to help turn things around. Key is a high-risk, high-reward lotto ticket that is worth buying this late in the round.
27. Orlando Brown, OT Oklahoma
The Panthers did not take McCaffrey number 8 overall last year so he could limp to 3 yards per carry. It’s not that he isn’t talented! He is a dynamic weapon catching the ball. It’s just that his O-line is getting no push off the snap. There’s been no room. No running lanes. This is what the mammoth Orlando Brown can offer the Panthers, in a hurry. He’s been instrumental in allowing the Oklahoma RBs to get to almost 6 yards per rush, and at 340 pounds, he’s not terrible against speed rushers in the passing game either.
28. Da’Ron Payne, DT Alabama
The Vikings are pretty good at everything, and are getting their QB back in the near future. They could still use an upgrade at tackle, but it’s not a dire situation. Instead, they replace the player who (according to reports) might never play for them again, Sharrif Floyd. There are some mocks that fill the biggest need with the best available player at that position, and there are some that look at trying to turn a strength into a dominant force. I’m of the latter group, as I think it’s closer to how front offices actually operate. The Vikings defense is really good. I think Bringing the Payne can make it even better.
via PIT 29. Chukwuma Okorafor, OT Western Michigan
But sometimes one just has to use common sense. The Seahawks must, once again, focus on improving their offensive line. That said, I don’t think they will just take the top rated OT. They never draft strictly for need, and next year won’t be any different. But I think the Seahawks specifically are going to be very high on Okorafor, and think his stock might enjoy a rise similar to that of Garrett Bolles last season. He is large and super athletic, has experience playing both sides, and considering his late start in football, is only scratching his potential as a franchise tackle. These are the guys Carroll and company drool over. Instead of focusing on the holes in his game (which any OT available this late in the round will have) the Hawks will opt to focus on what he might someday become.
30. Will Grier, QB West Virginia
Brees is another year older, and a free agent. The Saints have already initiated phase 1 of the Post-Brees era, by basing their offense around a dominant running game. The next step is to find his successor, and I think a player like Will Grier would fit in well here. He has some accuracy issues, but seems to make the right decisions most of the time, and faces pocket pressure like a guy who’s played for far longer than he has. He still has a lot to work on. He might not start in year 1. And that’s okay. He can learn from Brees for one or two years, then step in and be the steady general who supports the running game they’ve built there. They won’t need a savior.
31. Ronnie Harrison, S Alabama
I don’t like Harrison very much as a prospect. I also didn’t like Eddie Jackson last year, and he’s doing pretty alright by himself in Chicago. You know who else I famously hated in the pre-draft process? Landon Collins. I think all this adds up to my not knowing what the hell I’m talking about when it comes to scouting Safeties. I’ll own it, and work to improve on it. But the Pats need some real help in their back end, and Harrison has been firmly planted in the first round of 95% of mock drafts so far, so this makes sense as a pairing for me.I’ve always hated Pat Chung (hey, at least I got that one right!) and think Harrison can be an upgrade for them at the position.
32. Roquan Smith, ILB Georgia
The Eagles can really go in any direction here (and I won’t be surprised when 80% of mock draft experts give them a WR) but I think it will come down to grabbing the player who might have the biggest impact on every single play, and that would be Smith. It was really a toss up for me between Roquan Smith and Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, as they are pretty similar players. I just think Smith has shown a bit more pop, more explosiveness, than Baker. He’s played up to his talent level on a more consistent basis, has been more productive on the stat sheet, and more of a buzzing presence around the ball even through traffic.
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: Ben Queen, USA TODAY Sports