2018 NFL Mock Draft: Three trades, six QB selections rock first round

If recent rumors of the Browns considering Baker Mayfield as the No. 1 overall pick were any indication, the NFL Draft needs to happen now, for all of our sakes. Thankfully we’re less than 48 hours away from the Browns selecting Sam Darnold. Not Mayfield, not Josh Allen, but Darnold. I believe the USC quarterback was the Browns’ top choice all along.

Darnold’s Pac-12 rival, UCLA QB Josh Rosen, has had enough of the pre-draft hype as well. He barked at his skeptics, essentially stating that Darnold, Mayfield and others may be more lauded, but that he’ll be the best QB in the draft when all is said and done.

We won’t know which of these prospects will have the better career anytime soon, but we will know which teams they’ll be on to start their careers. Here’s my projection:

1. Sam Darnold – QB, USC – Cleveland Browns

Browns opt for most analyst’s top signal caller over the the talented Allen.

2. Saquon Barkley – RB, Penn State – New York Giants

I’m not going to hedge my bets, but the Giants may draft Barkley, Quenton Nelson, Bradley Chubb or trade this pick to the quarterback-needy Bills. Instead, GM David Gettleman opts for possibly the draft’s best prospect, and will instead look for offensive lineman in rounds 2 and 3.

3. Baker Mayfield – QB, Oklahoma – New York Jets 

Up until recently I had Rosen slotted here for the Jets, who gave up some picks to the Colts to slide up to No. 3. But the interest in Mayfield is apparently very real. Broadway Baker?

4. Bradley Chubb – DE, NC State – Cleveland Browns

Browns opt to hold onto this pick and take the best player available in Chubb. Matching him with Myles Garrett, last year’s No. 1 overall pick, may prove to be a lethal pass rushing combo for years to come.

5. TRADE: Josh Allen – QB, Wyoming – Buffalo Bills

The Bills move up in a trade with the Broncos to snag Allen. If Denver stays put Allen is a possible fit out in Mile High as well, but the Bills offer a deal they can’t refuse for their future franchise quarterback.

6. Quenton Nelson – G, Notre Dame – Indianapolis Colts

GM Chris Ballard will at least entertain someone like Denzel Ward or Roquan Smith to shore up the Colts’ terrible defense, but with Andrew Luck slated to return after missing an entire season due to injury, it’d be wise to select the top offensive line prospect in the draft.

7. Derwin James – S, Florida State – Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

Buccaneers go with the draft’s top safety to improve their secondary.

8. Denzel Ward – CB, Ohio State – Chicago Bears

After adding Allen Robinson and Trey Burton to a young, steadily-improving offense, the Bears will look to improve their defense.

9. Roquan Smith – LB, Georgia – San Francisco 49ers

Considering Reuben Foster’s situation, the 49ers will go linebacker in the first round for the second year in a row under the defensive-minded GM John Lynch. If they believe Foster is salvageable, than maybe a wide receiver here for Jimmy Garoppolo.

10. Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB, Alabama – Oakland Raiders 

The Raiders snag the versatile Fitzpatrick to help with a defense that desperately needs talent.

11. Josh Rosen – QB, UCLA – Miami Dolphins

It’s not quite the fall that Aaron Rodgers endured during the 2005 draft, but Rosen to the Dolphins is slightly unexpected. Instead of moving up for a quarterback the Dolphins get what I think may the be the draft’s best in Rosen.

12. FROM BILLS: Tremaine Edwards – LB, Virginia Tech – Denver Broncos 

With a need at linebacker the Broncos trade back for two picks in the first round, getting their guy here in the long and athletic Edwards.

13. Vita Vea – DT, Washington – Washington 

Although he hasn’t officially been named GM, Doug Williams is running the show in Washington. Yesterday he told the media “they’ll take the best player available.” Cliche, I know. But I think they actually stay true that and go with Vea here.

14. Marcus Davenport – DE, UTSA – Green Bay Packers

Packers take the best player available to add to their defense.

15. Mike McGlinchey – OT, Notre Dame – Arizona Cardinals 

The Cardinals surprise many by passing on a quarterback for McGlinchey, who moves up the draft board.

16. Mike Gesicki – TE, Penn State – Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have added three wide receivers in free agency, meaning tight end is now their biggest need. Baltimore continues to supply more weapons for Joe Flacco by adding the athletic Gesicki.

17. Leighton Vander Esch – LB, Boise State – Los Angeles Chargers

Chargers roll with the potential of Vander Esch over the ready-right-now Rashaan Evans.

18. Josh Jackson – CB, Louisville – Seattle Seahawks 

The current Seahawks regime traditionally looks for bigger cornerbacks. Although Jackson is more average size than huge (6-foot, 196 pounds), he’s more lenghty than Jaire Alexander and Mike Hughes. They re-tool their secondary post-Legion-of-Boom instead of trading back.

19. Rashaan Evans – LB, Alabama – Dallas Cowboys 

Even with an apparent need at wide receiver, the Cowboys go linebacker here. Evans, a perfect new-age linebacker has the range and athleticism to help defend running backs in the passing game. That’s something they’ll need versus the Eagles.

20. TRADE: Lamar Jackson – QB, Louisville – New England Patriots

With Evans gone and the Cardinals, Ravens and Chargers passing on Jackson, the Patriots hop the Bengals to ensure them of the electrifying Louisville quarterback. Bill Belichick’s friends over in Detroit (GM Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia) are willing to deal with their old club, knowing their guy will be available at No. 23.

In this scenario the Patriots don’t have to give up too much to get Tom Brady’s successor, retaining their remaining three top 64 picks to infuse talent to a roster that needs re-tooling for another Super Bowl run. Jackson will be fine with sitting on the bench for a year or two, learning behind Tom Brady and from Josh McDaniels.

21. Will Hernandez – G, UTEP – Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals will look for a quarterback in later rounds as they rebuild their offensive line.

22. FROM BILLS: Derrius Guice – RB, LSU – Denver Broncos 

Offensive line or linebacker may fit here, but that’s not John Elway’s style. He goes flashy to upgrade a position who lost it’s starter, C.J. Anderson.

23. FROM PATRIOTS: Harold Landry – DE/LB, Boston College – Detroit Lions

Lions trade back and draft their edge rusher. Patricia will want a defensive player with his first pick.

24.  D.J. Moore – WR, Maryland – Carolina Panthers 

Panthers desperately need a wide receiver. Cam Newton can no longer survive with the lumbering Devin Funchess as his No. 1 outside option. Plus, Greg Olsen’s career is nearing it’s end. They snag the pass catcher here later in the first round.

25. Taven Bryan – DT, Florida – Tennessee Titans 

Titans add to their defense, which looks to improve under defensive-minded, new head coach Mike Vrabel.

26. Calvin Ridley – WR, Alabama – Atlanta Falcons 

Ridley falls a bit to Atlanta, who adds a wide receiver regardless of whether or not Julio Jones’ social media cleansing means anything to his future with the Falcons.

27. Dallas Goedert – TE, South Dakota State – New Orleans Saints 

After missing out on a Jimmy Graham reunion the Saints go with Goedert here.

28. Ronnie Harrison – S, Alabama – Pittsburgh Steelers

In an attempt to finally cover Rob Gronkowski to knock off the Patriots in the AFC, the Steelers go with a safety here. Harrison has size and speed and would be a great addition to the Steelers secondary.

29. Courtland Sutton – WR, SMU – Jacksonville Jaguars

After losing Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, the Jaguars have a glaring need at wide receiver. Sutton brings size to the fold to help in the red zone.

30. Connor Williams – T, Texas – Minnesota Vikings

Most are in agreement on the Vikings adding to their offensive line here. It’s virtually Super Bowl or bust for them. They have no glaring needs.

31. TRADE: Mason Rudolph – QB, Oklahoma State – Arizona Cardinals

After passing on Lamar Jackson for the top tackle prospect, the Cardinals jump 16 spots up to trade with the Patriots – the team that drafted Jackson earlier. In New England, Belichick stockpiles picks for this year and next.

32. Sony Michel – RB, Georgia – Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles ride with the electrifying Michel as opposed to trading back.

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