MockOut’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Combine version 1
Expect the Most QB-Heavy Top-10 Draft Picks Ever
There have never been more than 3 QBs drafted in the top-10 of any draft, but the 2018 NFL Draft has up to 5 QBs that could be drafted in first 10 picks. Mock drafts will be in total disarray! The combination of QB-needy teams picking early, with a particularly stacked QB draft class, is the reason we will see a run on the position like never before. And much like the draft class that produced Eli, Rivers, and Roeth, the 2018 NFL Draft class will redefine the face of the NFL for the next decade.
It’s a good year to be a draft fan, and a great year to be making a mock draft.
If you read my article, pleading for the Browns to draft 2 QBs in the top-5, I don’t want you to think this mock draft is walking back my argument. In fact, I feel stronger than ever that it would be the right decision. But even though I firmly believe it’s what they should do in the 2018 NFL Draft, I have to accept that it is almost certainly not what they will do.
This mock draft is a prediction. Not a prescription. If you are going to win a mock draft contest, the only way to do it is by having the most accurate mock draft… not by being right about which players will succeed and which will fail in the NFL.
So download the MockOut app today to enter mock draft contests for the 2018 NFL Draft and the 2018 NBA Draft. We now offer Private Contests, making it easy to compete against just your friends, who can enter their own mock drafts! Draft day is so much better with some skin in the game, so make it happen.
You’ll notice a lot of the picks are the same from my previous mock draft. This is to be expected, as not too much changed with the Senior Bowl. Only a few players had their stock rise or fall. But now that the draft order is set, we need to get a lay of the land before the combine changes everything.
2018 NFL Mock Draft: Pre-Combine version 1
1. Sam Darnold, QB USC
The first pick is, for me, pretty straightforward. Darnold has the tools, character, and drive to become a franchise QB. I think he is neck-and-neck with Rosen to be the top QB in the draft, but since Rosen’s made it clear that he would rather play for the “right team” than be the first pick, that would send up a red flag for me. Not against Rosen. I think it’s smart. But everyone pretty much knows “the right team” is code for “not the Browns” and so Rosen makes the pick for them.
2. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The more I think about this pick, the less confident I am in it. I definitely think Rosen goes 1 or 2. But I am not sure the Giants are that far from being a serious contender, and I don’t think they are in rebuild mode right now. That said, it could be a while before the Giants pick this high again, and an elite QB is just waiting there for them. They’ve already crushed Eli’s spirit by benching him for Geno. They’ve ruined something beautiful. There’s no reason for them to try and salvage it at the expense of the future of their franchise.
via IND 3. Josh Allen, QB Wyoming
I expect the top-10 of the 2018 NFL Draft to be incredibly trade heavy this year, and Arizona kicks it off by bringing in their QB of the future. NOT their QB of the present. That would be Sam Bradford, who is exactly the kind of safe, Alex Smithian addition that whoever drafts Josh Allen will need to bring in as a bridge/competition. The Cards need to think about the future of the position, and decide to give up a bunch of picks (at least their second this year and their first next year) to bring in the strong arm.
via CLE 4. Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
The cost for the Raiders to move up would probably only be a 2nd this year and a 3rd next year. For the move, they get the best RB prospect the draft has seen in the past decade or more. I know the Browns have a hole at RB as well, and Barkley would be a great fit, but there are some QB-needy teams immediately behind them and a couple really good players should fall to them at 10. Also, the depth at RB in this year’s class is amazing, which will make the Browns feel even better moving down. With that, and with the potential that Barkley can have running behind the mighty Raiders O-line, this deal really is a win-win.
via DEN 5. Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma
I think Denver will be off the QB market well before the draft begins, and will pull a totally predictable trade with the Bills, who will cut Tyrod in the offseason. Of all the offensive systems and supporting casts in the NFL, I actually think Buffalo would be near the top of the list for Mayfield. Run-heavy, play action, and quick intermediate passes. The Bills will also need to bring in a deep threat later in the draft or through free agency, but for now I think this is a pretty good situation for Mayfield to step in and start on day 1.
6. Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
Doesn’t it just feel like the Jets are going to do something cool at the QB position this year? Even with McCown playing well last year the Jets were never a threat, and so this is the year they switch things up. There will be a QB battle between free agent QB Tyrod Taylor and rookie QB Lamar Jackson. They can tailor the offense to fit both player’s skills well, which will serve both players. Let the best man win. I believe both QBs are underrated passers, and could easily see either of them taking a rebuilding Jets team to the playoffs in 2018.
7. Bradley Chubb, DE NC State
The Bucs were probably hoping that either Chubb or Fitzpatrick would fall to them, but thanks to the run on QBs, they are in position to choose between the two. There are so many holes on this roster, I could even see them considering Williams or Nelson here, but ultimately, the pick is going to be Chubb. If you can’t get after the QB, your defense will get torched all day long. The Bucs had the fewest sacks in the league last year, and will immediately get to solving that problem with this year’s best pass rusher. After QB, it’s hard to argue that any other position is more valuable than an edge pass rusher.
8. Connor Williams, OT Texas
Offensive Tackles go early in drafts, especially when finding good options is becoming harder and harder. I think they will run as fast as Tarik Cohen up to the podium with their Connor Williams card if he is still on the board for their pick. The Bears are pretty good on the defensive side of the ball, but need to assert themselves more on offense. Williams is a monster in the ground game, and can quickly kick it out wide in pass protection. He is my top Tackle to come out in the draft in the past few years.
9. Tremaine Edmunds, OLB VA Tech
The 49ers are building something special. The 49ers can add another level of speed and power and excitement to an already-ascendant defense, and could look to form an updated version of the Willis-Bowman wrecking crew, now with Foster-Edmunds. The 49ers have many needs at skill positions on offense, but there is no WR worthy of a pick at this point, and they can wait to draft a RB thanks to the amazing depth at the position. Edmunds will have the biggest impact on this defense in the short- and long-term.
via OAK 10. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Alabama
Again, I firmly believe the Browns should stay put with this pick, and draft the best QB at number 4 overall. But they won’t. I think the Browns will probably hope that Connor Williams falls to them as an instant Joe Thomas replacement… but Fitzpatrick is quite the consolation prize, and one who they probably would have considered at pick 4. The Browns are in desperate need of a CB to replace Taylor, and a FS to push Peppers to his more natural SS position (or to the bench, since Kindred showed well at SS) and Fitzpatrick allows the versatility to do either or both, depending on situation.
11. Quenton Nelson, G Notre Dame
Unless I have some other team grab Nelson earlier than this, I cannot imagine I will mock any other player to the Dolphins up through draft day. It is the perfect combination of need and value, and this pick is as close to a gimme as you will get for any mock draft contest this year. It is 2018’s version of the Fournette to Jacksonville pick from last year. Just take the points and don’t overthink it.
12. Rashaan Evans, ILB Alabama
I might take a little heat for this one, not because people don’t like Evans or because it’s not a position of need for Cincy, but because I didn’t send them Roquan. Did you know Roquan weighs only 225, which is less than RB and teammate Nick Chubb? Care to guess how many 225-pound LBs have been drafted in the first round in the last decade? Zero. Evans has 10 pounds on Roquan, is almost as fast, is just as instinctive, and is a much more natural fit in the middle of a defense, where I think the Bengals need it most.
13. Vita Vea, DT Washington
The Redskins never should have let Chris Baker get away, and his replacement in the middle of the defense, Ziggy Hood, was pretty awful last year. Enter Vita Vea, a powerful DT with surprising athleticism, who heads a good class of first round interior D-line talent. Having their QB situation addressed early in the offseason was a (surprisingly) smart move for the Redskins, who now do not need to spend a ton of future draft capital trying to move up for a rookie. They can build the team the right way, and in this mock, it all starts front and center.
via GB 14. Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame
The Chargers are another team who should expect to make more noise next year than they did last season, as they will finally get contributions from last year’s top two picks, Mike Williams and Forest Lamp. Their defense is already very solid, so I think continuing to address the line, and specifically their gaping hole at RT, would be the way the Chargers go. I am afraid McGlinchey will only be a league-average tackle at the next level, but O-linemen are pretty hard to project from college to the pros. At this point he’s worth a shot, and worth trading ahead of the Colts to make sure they land their guy.
via ARI 15. Marcus Davenport, DE UTSA
The draft couldn’t have fallen any better for the Colts, who are in desperate need of an impact pass rusher on the edge, and who would have probably drafted Chubb if they had stayed put. Instead they gather a great amount of draft capital from the Cardinals and draft Davenport, who has just as much raw talent as Chubb, if not his array of pass rush moves and technique. Yet. He is raw and has a lot to learn, but teams will fall in love with his upside.
16. Roquan Smith, ILB Georgia
All my Roquan bashing earlier didn’t address the main thing one should know about him… he is a really good football player. I think the hype has gotten a bit out of hand, and everyone is totally ignoring his size limitations when they put him in the top-10 on their big boards. But I think he is a totally reasonable pick midway through the round, especially for a team like the Ravens who would love to utilize his speed and intensity as a sideline-to-sideline player, and a better Suggs replacement than Tim Williams promises to be.
via LAC 17. James Washington, WR Oklahoma State
The Packers are a really difficult team to mock for. I want to give them a pass rushing OLB, but unless Roquan falls to them, the value isn’t there until the second round. So I have them take the first WR off the board, and the player who I think is not only the best in the class, but would be best for this team. Washington has the athleticism and RAC ability Green Bay likes, and can step right in and contribute as the Packers plan for life without Jordy.
via SEA 18. Denzel Ward, CB Ohio State
As referenced earlier in the mock, the Browns have a big hole at both FS and CB. I had them grab Fitzpatrick with their first pick, and now they move up for the consensus top-CB in the draft to fill the other hole. With these two selections, their weakness in the defensive backfield is immediately an exciting position of strength and potential. And all it would cost to move up for this pick would be their second round pick and the second rounder (63 or 64) they got from Philadelphia in the Carson Wentz deal.
19. Maurice Hurst, DT Michigan
Scouts seem to be torn on Hurst, some considering him a solid first round talent, and others considering him an elite first round talent. But all do seem to agree he is definitely a first-rounder, and offers great interior pass rush potential at the next level. Many will look at the Cowboys and try and force a WR in here in their mocks (they are in really bad shape at the position) but the value isn’t there, as I just don’t think Ridley is a special prospect. But Dallas also needs D-line help in the worst way, and bringing in Hurst would go a long way toward matching up with the big bruisers on the interior of the Eagles O-line.
20. Joshua Jackson, CB Iowa
I hadn’t heard anything about Jackson during the preseason, and then he goes out and locks down everything in sight, and takes the ball away whenever he wants it. He had himself an amazing and unexpected (for me) season, and with his length, will most likely have inserted himself into the first round conversation. While he probably won’t set the world on fire at the combine (I expect his stock to drop shortly after) I don’t think he’ll struggle and drop as badly as fellow Iowa alum Desmond King did. King turned out alright for the Chargers, and I expect Jackson to step in across from Slay and be a good-to-great starter in Detroit.
via BUF 21. Sony Michel, RB Georgia
I’m sure you guessed it when I had Denver dropping so many spots in the draft, but I fully expect them to enter 2018 with Kirk Cousins as their starting QB. They can still develop Paxton Lynch behind him, if they believe they can hone his raw tools. So with their first pick, they bring in a player I think will surprise many (now) but not for long, Sony Michel. What he brings to an offense is everything Denver lacks. Explosiveness. Unreal athleticism and agility. Almost perfect balance. His floor in this offense is as an elite passing down back, and his ceiling is a top-5 RB in the league.
via BUF 22. Orlando Brown, OT Oklahoma
And in the very next pick they peg the man charged to keep Cousins clean and break open holes for the rookie RB, in the mammoth Orlando Brown. Being so gigantic, Brown is naturally going to struggle against speed rushers like Khalil Mack… but everyone struggles against Mack. Brown’s strengths actually match up well with Bosa and Houston, and he can grow to be an above average OT in the NFL. Expect the Broncos to continue focusing on fixing the offense rather than maintaining the defense during the offseason. Entering the season with Cousins, Michel, and Brown on offense will lead many to declare Denver the winners of the offseason.
23. Billy Price, C Ohio State
The Rams are going to have to replace some CB talent on their roster at some point, but here in the first I think they are going to focus on building their O-line up, considering Sullivan is a year older in the middle and Brown had a real hard time of it at RG. Billy Price is the perfect fit for this offense, as he is more than capable at Guard, but will eventually step in as the anchor of the O-line at his more natural Center position. Everything I’ve read points to him having impeccable character and the ability to step in as a Day 1 starter.
24. Harold Landry, DE Boston College
The Panthers have needed a 4-3 DE seemingly forever, and they finally grab one in the first round that I think is more than worthy of their pick. I love Landry’s raw talent. I was expecting much more out of him last season, and he didn’t really produce. Part of this is surely due to his being targeted with double-teams, but you still want to see better production out of a first round player. I still think his athleticism and bend around the corner rivals Bradley Chubb… it’s just a matter of putting it all together and bagging those sacks.
25. Taven Bryan, DT Florida
I have to come right out and say it, I do not think Bryan is going to fall this far. He is just too good not to go in the middle of the round. But I can’t find a better landing spot for him before now. Somebody’s got to fall, and in this mock it’s got to be Bryan. He can be an elite 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT, great at suppressing outside runs on early downs and bringing heat from the inside on passing downs. The Titans still need to work on their defensive backfield, but Bryan is the premiere 3-4 DE in the class, and too good a value to pass up.
26. Tim Settle, DT VA Tech
I admit, DT is a position I just love watching, and I can be guilty of pushing them higher up my draft boards than most experts. My overall draft crushes always seem to include a DT (Donald, Richardson, and Rankins in the recent past) and this year a big crush of mine is Tim Settle. He is a do-it-all DT, with insane burst to get upfield considering his size (330+ pounds) but also the kind of strength to anchor a defense. He can play as NT in a 3-4 or penetrate a gap in a 4-3, and if the Falcons let Poe walk this offseason, would be an amazing long-term solution at DT.
27. Malik Jefferson, OLB Texas
There always seems to be one LB I like more than everyone else, and this year it looks to be Jefferson. I think Jefferson has the talent to be a top-10 pick, but I’ve learned that if an OLB doesn’t have insane pass rush potential, they will always fall lower than I think they should. So it will probably be for Jefferson. But that should allow him to land in a great situation, stepping in and starting right away for a defense on the upswing.
28. Derwin James, S Florida State
I think the Steelers are another very likely landing spot for Jefferson, as they are in need of an athletic LB to replace Shazier. But since he went the pick before, they instead focus their attention on replacing Sean Davis in the back end of their defense with the athletic James. He has all the physical gifts in the world to become an All Pro box safety, but needs to stay healthy and cut down on his mental lapses. Eventually the Steelers will need to find a Big Ben replacement (and if Bell walks in free agency, I can see them grabbing RJ2 here) but for now, they focus on re-establishing their defensive identity.
29. Isaiah Wynn, G Georgia
There is a good amount of Guard talent with round 1-2 potential in this year’s draft, and that should play well with the Jaguars, who will want to double-down on their offensive identity of punching teams in the mouth. Wynn was an elite talent on the O-line all year long, and simply dominated at the Senior Bowl. There’s a great chance he doesn’t last this long. But if he does, he is exactly the kind of player Jacksonville will want to add to their Band of Bullies.
30. Will Hernandez, G UTEP
Another big riser at the Senior Bowl was Guard Will Hernandez, who was described as the Supreme Alpha of the Senior Bowl. The Vikings defense is in a great position to succeed for years, and their skill positions are in great hands as well (and I am firmly in the Keenum+Bridgewater is good enough camp) so addressing the team’s biggest need with a good value at the position is an easy decision. It ain’t sexy, but neither was drafting Elflein last year, and that is working out nicely.
31. Jaire Alexander, CB Louisville
Why was Malcolm Butler on the sidelines? What was that? I guess for the purposes of this mock, it doesn’t matter, since he was a free agent. It does (along with Nick Foles’ Super Bowl MVP-caliber game) point to the bigger fact that the Pats need to add talent at CB. While there are a lot of good options here, I am going to go with the CB that feels the most Patriotish to me, Jaire Alexander. He has that chip on his shoulder, and if he falls this far, the only reason would be because he isn’t the longest CB prospect in the world. But he can man-cover, he can tackle, he’s aggressive, and as long as he can stay healthy, he will be a solid playmaker at the next level. You know… as long as he doesn’t just watch from the sidelines.
32. Arden Key, OLB LSU
Graham’s forced fumble turned the tide of the Super Bowl, and again illustrated the importance of having a ton of capable pass rushers. Arden Key is a player I was low on when everyone else had him as a top-5 prospect, because I didn’t think he’d be able to add the kind of weight he wanted while keeping his explosive speed. I think my fears were confirmed, as his production dramatically dipped and he struggled with small injuries throughout the season. That said, I don’t hate him as a prospect. I think he has some very intriguing traits that can be molded into a very special skill set. His ceiling is very high, but his floor is scary low. With the last pick in the round, and for a team with very few holes to fill, he is probably worth the risk.
via CLE 33. Derrius Guice, RB LSU
I’m sorry, but I just can’t end a mock draft at pick 32 when I’ve got Seattle picking at 33. Last year’s presumptive starters, Rawls and Lacy, will almost certainly both be gone this season. Their third down back (Prosise) can’t stay healthy, and their surprising rookie from last year is coming off a broken leg. They essentially have to start over at the position, which is a weird situation for a team who would prefer to lead the league in rushing attempts every year. Guice fits the physical profile of a Seahawks RB, but more importantly, he has the mentality the Seahawks look for in a RB. As a wise man once said, the Hawks want somebody who can “Run through a motherfucker’s face. Then you don’t have to worry about him no more.” Guice is their guy.