MockOut’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft: Darnold Declares Edition
Sam Darnold Declares and Instantly Becomes the Top-QB Prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft
It’s becoming more and more clear that the 2018 NFL Draft will be defined by the decisions made by the QB-needy teams at the top of the draft; for the NFL teams, for the QB prospects, and of course, for the NFL mock drafts. I thought I had a read on this class and where the top draft prospects might land, and then look at what happens…
Sam Darnold declares for the 2018 NFL Draft.
A swing and a miss for me. I’m sure it will be the last miss of the offseason for me, so go ahead and get ready for a mock draft that is 100% accurate. Very few of these picks are what I would do as a GM… I’m just a reporter, telling you how it’s going to be. Use this roadmap to guide your future mock drafts in any mock draft contest you enter, and maybe send a little tip my way when you win.
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Let’s get into it.
2018 NFL Mock Draft: Sam Darnold Declares
1. Sam Darnold, QB USC
Darnold probably would have been the QB1 in last year’s draft ahead of Trubisky, and I expect him to be the QB1 in this year’s draft as well. Need, value, and positional importance align for the draft’s top pick. I am sure a QB-needy team would be willing to offer the Browns a bounty for this pick. They couldn’t allow it to happen again… could they?
2. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Just behind (or maybe for some teams, ahead of) Darnold is Rosen. The Giants are in great need of a QB, and probably won’t have as disastrous a season as they had last year (putting them in position to take an elite QB) again, so they set themselves up at the position for the next decade by drafting their franchise QB #2 overall.
via IND 3. Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma
Here’s where things get weird. I wanted to give the Colts Chubb or Barkley, as they are two fantastic draft prospects at clear positions of need. But the Colts have a lot of holes, and the depth of RB is amazing in this year’s draft class. If they stand pat, I think the Colts take the pass rusher, but I think there are a lot of teams that will be clamoring for a QB, and I think Washington will make an aggressive move up to get a player who feels like a uniquely Snyder-type pick. Note, I fully expect Cousins to run as fast as he can away from Washington next season.
4. Bradley Chubb, DE NC State
The Browns benefit from Washington’s QB desperation, taking the draft’s top pass rusher prospect to pair with 2017’s top draft pick, Myles Garrett, potentially creating the best young pass rush duo in the NFL. Opposing offenses will need two elite Tackles (a luxury basically no team has) in order to slow the Cleveland pass rush.
5. Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
I went with Barkley in my previous mock draft, and I’m sticking with the pick. Whether it’s Cousins or Keenum or Alex Smith, I expect Elway to come into 2018 with a veteran QB under center, as he’s shown a lack of ability to identify and develop talent through the draft. If that is the case, the Broncos will bring in the physical marvel from Penn State and build their offense around him and his unreal talent.
via NYJ 6. Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
Arizona currently has 0 QBs on the roster. Even if they do bring in a veteran in the offseason, they will still need to draft and develop a QB prospect for the future. I’ve got them making the big move up to get Jackson. He doesn’t fit the typical Arizona prototype for a QB (tall, thick, pocket passer) but Arians is gone, and it’s time for Arizona to establish a new offensive identity around DJ and Lamar.
7. Marcus Davenport, DE UTSA
The Bucs are in a weird spot here, having two elite options fall into their laps, in Davenport and Fitzpatrick. I would really be happy with either pick. I imagine Davenport will put on a clinic at the combine, and given that pass rushers are typically in higher demand and drafted earlier than safeties, I’ll give them the Defensive End here in this mock draft.
8. Connor Williams, OT Texas
The Bears need a WR so badly. But the value isn’t there. They also need help on the edges of the O-line, and Connor Williams is so far beyond other options at Tackle that they gladly grab him here and wait to get a WR until the second day of the draft.
9. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Alabama
This will forever be known as the year the 49ers turned it all around. From landing Shanahan, taking advantage of the Pats’ power struggles to steal Garoppolo, and now lucking into possibly the best player in the draft because of the rush on QBs, the 49ers are going to go into 2018 feeling pretty great about their future. They will be the chic sleeper pick for 90% of the NFL experts out there.
10. Vita Vea, DT Washington
The Raiders defense is a confounding mess. Outside of Khalil Mack, they have no difference makers at any level. Vea has the size to absorb multiple blockers and clear a path for linebackers, and the speed to blow through the line and attack the backfield himself. The Raiders will begin the Gruden era building from the inside out.
11. Quenton Nelson, G Notre Dame
There’s not much to say about this pairing, other than it is completely obvious. This is as chalky as a pick gets. The Dolphins Guards are very bad, Nelson is considered one of the best Guard prospects of the last decade, and there aren’t many glaring holes at more important positions. If he lasts to the Dolphins draft pick, lock it in.
12. Christian Wilkins, DT Clemson
Who better to replace Geno Atkins than a new DT who exemplifies the Atkins prototype? Wilkins is a good strong DT who also has the get off and speed of a DE, playing edge at times for Clemson. He is a very disruptive DT who can affect both the run and passing game.
via WAS 13. Derrius Guice, RB LSU
The Colts have received the message from ownership: draft a RB early. Assuming they do the wise thing and sell the #3 pick to the highest bidder (picking up a 2nd, future 1st, and more in the process) they can still draft a RB early (which I wouldn’t do, considering the insane depth at the position in this year’s draft class) and fill other holes on their roster with the extra draft picks they acquire in the deal.
14. Tremaine Edmunds, OLB VA Tech
Edmunds feels like the Hasaan Reddick of the 2018 NFL Draft, and should go in the same range. Athletic and instinctive, Edmunds fits the speed and style sought after in modern NFL defenders. I could definitely see Green Bay going WR with this pick, but they seem to like to draft for that position in the 2nd round.
via ARI 15. Joshua Jackson, CB Iowa
I consider the Jets the most likely landing spot for Kirk Cousins, so they will not need to worry about trying to draft a QB in the first round. They also could try and upgrade the WR corps, but I don’t think any of the WRs at this point are worth passing on the size and ballhawking skills Joshua Jackson would bring to this exciting, young defensive backfield.
16. James Washington, WR Oklahoma State
With Baltimore, the first WR comes off the board. Considering Wallace, Maclin, and Perriman could all be off the roster next year, bringing in the most pro ready prospect is more important than drafting for ceiling. I gave the nod to Washington over Ridley due to his ability to vertically stretch a defense, pairing well with Flacco’s strength as a passer.
17. Josh Allen, QB Wyoming
I think Josh Allen is the most difficult QB prospect to scout in the past 5 years. His college production, even against lesser competition, points to a mega bust. I’ll wait until I get into my full QB scouting report to get into Allen the player, so for now I’ll just discuss Allen’s draft stock. Rumors are flying that there is no way the Browns pass on him at pick 1. I’m not buying it. Yet. I have to mock him to a team with an established veteran he can learn behind for a year or two, as the team assesses whether or not he is the long-term answer. I’ll allow a team in the teens to take that risk, but not a top-10 team, and definitely not the Browns with the first pick. Not yet.
via SEA 18. Denzel Ward, CB Ohio State
Death. Taxes. Seattle trading back as many times as they can so they can recoup some draft capital lost in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. These are things I am sure of. The most logical trade for this point in the draft is with a team with an extra Day 2 pick who has a need at a position where a player has surprisingly dropped. Ward is considered by many to be the top CB in the class, and with Malcolm Butler probably moving on this offseason, the Pats will have a hole across from Gilmore.
19. Maurice Hurst, DT Michigan
Ridley could be the pick here, as the Cowboys have zero difference makers at WR (including Dez, at this point in his career) but they really need to generate some pressure from their D-line as well, and Hurst is a fantastic DT prospect who can help in that regard.This is like the defensive version of the Travis Frederick pick, which was panned at the time. Solid. Safe. Smart.
20. Clelin Ferrell, DE Clemson
The Lions are another team who has to find a way to get more heat from their front 4 on defense. Rather than going from the inside out, the Lions offer Ansah a bookend pass rusher to attack from the other side. The offense is working well, so adding to the defense should be the Lions’ top draft priority.
21. Tim Settle, DT VA Tech
The run on D-linemen continues as the Bills work toward finding a replacement for Kyle Williams and doing whatever they can to become more stout against the run. Settle is a big, bad man, and will be very helpful in dominating the trenches during those frigid December games.
22. Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama
Here Buffalo fills their biggest need with a prospect who is actually a decent value. Ridley will probably be mocked much earlier than this in most mock drafts, but I don’t see Ridley as an exceptional draft prospect. He is a solid player who can step in and start right away, which is what Buffalo needs. He offers a solid, immediate floor, rather than the promise of a high ceiling.
23. Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame
A lot of mock drafts have McGlinchey going much higher than this, but I am just not very excited about him as a prospect either. If I liked him more, I would certainly send him to Cincy at 12, who has a huge need at the position. He might end up being an above average starter in the league, or he might end up being a turnstyle for the speedy DEs that reside in the NFC West. But he will probably be seen as worth a shot at this point in the draft.
24. Harold Landry, DE Boston College
I love Landry. If it were up to me, I would have him drafted in the top-15. But I am getting the feeling from other mock draft experts that I am alone in my Landry love. Like Zach Cunningham and O.J. Howard, who I thought should have gone early in the first round last year, I think I will probably overrate Landry all offseason. So I’ll try and be reasonable about him, having him fall down to Carolina, who could really use a pure 4-3 DE to replace their aging edge rushers.
25. Taven Bryan, DT Florida
Though Bryan played a lot of DT at Florida, I think he will probably play more 3-4 DE at the next level, and should end up being my top-rated draft prospect at the position. Tennessee needs to improve all along the defense, so starting up front with a player whose stock should steadily rise during the offseason is a good idea.
26. Dallas Goedert, TE South Dakota State
There are two prospects that I absolutely love for Jacksonville, and both players are available in this version of my mock draft. I want for Goedert over Orlando Brown (the other possibility) because I think there might be better depth at OT this year than there is at TE, and Goedert could have an Evan Engram-like impact on this offense.
27. Ronnie Harrison, S Alabama
There are not very many holes on the Falcons roster, so they have the luxury of taking the player who best exemplifies the kind of team they want to be. They have speed and aggression on the D-line, speed and aggression at Linebacker, and now bring in a draft prospect who can partner with Keanu Neal to form an imposing duo at Safety.
28. Billy Price, G Ohio State
The Saints have made a dramatic change to their offensive identity this season, with amazing success. With this pick, they will continue their transition to a run-first team by addressing their biggest weakness on the O-line; the disappointing play from Unger at Center. Price can play anywhere along the interior, offering positional flexibility to go along with his stability. The less they ask of Brees, the longer he should be able to play, so I don’t think they need to burn a first rounder on his replacement just yet.
29. Rashaan Evans, ILB Alabama
I have a feeling I will move Evans higher than this as the offseason goes on, but for now, I am going to learn from last year’s (Reuben Foster) mistake and have Evans land in the same range. I think they are similar players stylistically, though Evans isn’t quite on the same level as Foster. Pittsburgh will love to add a force like him in the middle of their new-look defense.
30. Roquan Smith, ILB Georgia
The Eagles are another team without any glaring holes on their roster. I think they look to go the Falcons route of adding speed at all levels of the defense rather than addressing holes, and bringing in Roquan is an exciting way to get the process started. Last year’s pick of Barnett was more of a floor pick, and taking Smith here is all about his ceiling.
31. Orlando Brown, OT Oklahoma
Orlando Brown feels like Andre Smith 2.0, and he seems to have the same strengths and weaknesses. Great, mauling run blocker, but perhaps too big and slow to handle speed rushers at the NFL level. He will be drafted by a team that wants to assert themselves on the ground, and Minnesota fits the bill. I was wrong about Cam Robinson being a useless pass blocker, and if I am wrong about Orlando Brown as well, this could be a major get for an already-dominant team.
via SEA, via NE 32. Mason Rudolph, QB Oklahoma State
Seattle gets to move down again, picking up multiple Day 2 picks in the process. The Bills will need to grab a QB at some point in the draft, not feeling confident enough in Tyrod (or Peterman) to stand pat for 2018. Instead, they jump back into round 1 to draft a QB (which would give them a year 5 option) who is the best of the second-tier options, which makes a lot of sense for a team who will soon need to rebuild their entire offense.
photo: Kelvin Kuo, USA TODAY Sports