The 2018 NFL Draft begins with the first round selections this Thursday, April 26. Before the choices are announced, check out The Rambler‘s projections in our mock draft.
#1. Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold
Josh Allen’s insanely high ceiling is tempting here, but the Browns go with the more polished prospect who offers elite athleticism, arm strength, and promising long-term starting potential.
#2. New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley
Although new GM Dave Gettleman has a chance to snag his potential franchise QB, he’ll grab the cleanest running back prospect since Adrian Peterson to pair with Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and an improved offensive line. Many in his camp still believe Eli Manning has multiple years left in the tank, and adding such a dynamic playmaker to the backfield will only work towards extending his career…and the Giants’ playoff hopes.
#3. New York Jets: QB Josh Allen
The Jets land the player with arguably the highest ceiling in the entire draft. Allen combines ridiculous arm strength, unique athleticism, rare physical tools, and an impressive pre-draft performance to be the centerpiece of the New York rebuild under center.
#4. Cleveland Browns: S/CB Minkah Fitzpatrick
The Browns could be a candidate to trade down here, but if not, Fitzpatrick would be a great fit. The Alabama product projects as a safety in the NFL but can also play the slot as a corner. He’s tough against the run and versatile enough with great ball skills to be a valuable piece to Cleveland’s secondary.
#5. Denver Broncos: CB Josh Jackson
After losing Aquib Talib, the Broncos could look to replace him with another potential shutdown outside corner in Iowa’s Josh Jackson. The theme of dominant defense continues in Denver.
#6. Indianapolis Colts: ILB Roquan Smith
The Colts are in a spot where they may need to trade down and maximize the number of contributors they can get out of this draft. They need a cornerback, wide receiver, and running back, but don’t want to reach. They’ll settle for the best linebacker in the class here who has the potential to be one of the most solid in the game.
#7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: SS Derwin James
Safety is an area of need for the Bucs, so this works out. James is a freak athlete with great versatility and although inconsistent in coverage this season at Florida State, he offers great potential to make an impact in many different facets of a defense.
#8. Chicago Bears: G Quenton Nelson
Nelson can really make an impact on an offense…even if he is just a guard. The Bears recently cut Josh Sitton loose as a cap casualty and Nelson has immediate All-Pro potential right out of the gate as Sitton’s replacement. Not to mention, young quarterback Mitch Trubisky probably wouldn’t mind this selection either.
#9. San Francisco 49ers: LB Tremaine Edmunds
Edmunds has a rare skill set for his size. He can play anywhere along the second line of a defense in any scheme. He has all the physical tools to be a force in San Francisco. In addition, rising star Reuben Foster’s future remains unclear with multiple off-field concerns.
#10. Oakland Raiders: CB Denzel Ward
Pairing Bradley Chubb with Khalil Mack is tough to pass up here, but Jon Gruden will address the need at cornerback with the best slot corner in the draft. Ward offers elite speed, quickness, and athleticism and should be able to become an immediate contributor.
#11. Miami Dolphins: DT Maurice Hurst
The Dolphins have a glaring need at DT after Ndamukong Suh’s release, so they address that here with the selection of Hurst. After falling off draft boards after a heart condition became public of his, Hurst was recently cleared and will regain his status as an elite DT prospect. He isn’t flashy, but he has a knack for getting in opposing backfields.
#12. Buffalo Bills: QB Baker Mayfield
If this scenario works out, the Bills have their choice between Rosen and Mayfield. Obviously, they roll the dice with Mayfield, as he is a better fit for young, fiery head coach Sean McDermott. Baker was also the best collegiate quarterback of the pack. He has off-the-charts accuracy, and teams loved his attitude during pre-draft interviews.
#13. Washington Redskins: DE Bradley Chubb
I’ve yet to see Chubb drop this far in any mock drafts, but it’s just the way the draft fell. Teams typically tend to attack their areas of need before looking at surplus talent, and that’s exactly what happens here. Chubb would be a perfect fit in Gruden’s 3-4 defense at end who can rush the passer and collect tackles for a loss with the best of them.
#14. Green Bay Packers: ILB Leighton Vander Esch
Vander Esch is flying up draft boards. He is intriguing due to his athleticism and coverage ability at the linebacker position. If he keeps climbing up the charts of scouts, this could be great value and a nice infusion of youth at the position for the Packers.
#15. Arizona Cardinals: QB Josh Rosen
With no cornerbacks to select without really reaching, the Cardinals will make a future investment by taking arguably the most-ready quarterback in the entire draft. Rosen has the potential to be the best of the bunch with an unfair mind for the game and an instinctual feel for the pocket.
#16. Baltimore Ravens: C Billy Price
The Ravens have almost no immediate needs…except center. This may be a reach, but Price has been compared to Pat Elflein of Minnesota (who also played center at Ohio State) and he made an enormous impact on the Minnesota line. Even coming off surgery, Price looks to be a sure thing along the interior of that offensive line.
#17. Los Angeles Chargers: DT Vita Vea
Although safety is the position in most need of an upgrade, the value Vea brings is just too much to pass on. The Chargers struggled against the run last year and Brandon Mebane is only getting older. Mix the massive Vea into the fold doing what he does best—stuff the run—and Los Angeles is slowly building a dominant defense.
#18. Seattle Seahawks: DE Marcus Davenport
Despite the loss of Richard Sherman and the massive hole at cornerback, Seattle just can’t pass on the elite talent level of Davenport. Plenty of cornerbacks will be available later, so the Seahawks can focus on replacing Cliff Avril (as it is not known if he will be returning) and Michael Bennett at defensive end with one of the most athletic players in the entire draft.
#19. Dallas Cowboys: WR Courtland Sutton
Although he struggled at the Senior Bowl penetrating off the line of scrimmage and creating separation from faster corners, Sutton has allegedly bounced back in workouts. He has terrific size and 50/50 ball skills to evolve into a legitimate #1 receiver in the NFL. With a little time to develop, he could pay huge dividends for the Cowboys in the future.
#20. Detroit Lions: G Will Hernandez
The Lions have a huge need at left guard and can get a handle on that quickly with the powerful Hernandez. He has dominated at each stage of his collegiate career, including his pre-draft workouts. He has All-Pro potential as a mauler in the run game in the NFL.
#21. Cincinnati Bengals: C James Daniels
Even after acquiring Cordy Glenn from Buffalo and moving down in the draft, the interior of the Cincinnati offensive line still needs work. Daniels is the highest rising center on scouts’ radar and looks to be a nice addition to the Bengals’ line.
#22. Buffalo Bills: ILB Rashaan Evans
With the Bills’ second first round pick, they can grab the second best true middle linebacker in the draft. Evans has Pro Bowl potential and can bring an instant winning culture to the team. He is a balanced linebacker who can do everything he needs to succeed at the next level.
#23. New England Patriots: T Kolton Miller
Miller may very well be the cleanest pass blocker in the draft. The Patriots are in dire need of a new blindside blocker for Tom Brady after Nate Solder signed with the Giants. Miller can step in and be a day one starter at the most important position on the offensive line.
#24. Carolina Panthers: CB Mike Hughes
Pass rusher could be an option here with Julius Peppers’ career winding down, but there is too much of a need at cornerback. James Bradberry is a nice piece on the outside, and Hughes is a tough, press coverage corner who has major potential in Ron Rivera’s defense.
#25. Tennessee Titans: DE Sam Hubbard
With a complete roster, the Titans can really just go for the best fit. Hubbard can play as a 3-4 end as well as in a 4-3 scheme if need be. He’s solid against the run and was also productive rushing the passer in college. Hubbard can be a valuable rotation player.
#26. Atlanta Falcons: DT Da’Ron Payne
Payne is extremely athletic for the DT position. He was a stud on the Alabama national championship team and a consistent force on the defensive line. He is capable of both rushing the passer and stopping the run.
#27. New Orleans Saints: CB Jaire Alexander
The Saints are another team that is in pretty good shape right now. They could look at a potential long term replacement for Drew Brees, but instead they opt to upgrade their secondary even more to keep their championship window open.
#28. Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Mason Rudolph
Rudolph would be the first quarterback drafted behind Ben Roethlisberger that Pittsburgh fans seriously believe could secede the throne. Rudolph was a stud at Oklahoma State and has great size and natural ability. He could definitely be an above average starting NFL quarterback in the future and is a nice investment made by Pittsburgh.
#29. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Lamar Jackson
Although a value pick like Isaiah Wynn could definitely be in play, the talent of Jackson is just to intriguing to pass on here. Jackson has the potential to be the most dangerous quarterback of his generation. The former Heisman Trophy winner has unreal agility, speed, quickness, and twitchiness for his position, but will need to learn from the sidelines first. He has all the tools to be a wild success, it’s just about surrounding him with the proper coaching staff and giving him enough time before throwing him into the fire.
#30. Minnesota Vikings: G Isaiah Wynn
No sooner does he come off the board. The Vikings will turn to the ultra versatile (and also extremely productive) Wynn to play guard and help to keep their new QB protected. Wynn played tackle in college and is more than capable of doing the same in the NFL. Some scouts have gone as far as saying he is a future All-Pro guard. The Vikings hope that’s the kind of return they get.
#31. New England Patriots: DT/DE Taven Bryan
The Patriots have room to take a risk here. Bryan didn’t produce gaudy numbers at Florida, but he does carry with him J.J. Watt comparisons. That can’t go unnoticed. Although he lacks the explosiveness and quickness of Watt, he is a versatile, athletic piece who can be moved along the interior of that defensive front.
#32. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Calvin Ridley
This would be a dream come true for the Eagles. Ridley is a very unspectacular prospect who lacks elite athleticism. However, he has the best hands in the draft and is far and away the best route runner. He wouldn’t be pressured to produce huge numbers from the word go, and could play to his own strengths.
Alex Welz is a former senior-editor-in-chief of The Rambler as a member of the Cathedral Prep Class of 2018.