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Way-too-early 2018 NFL mock draft 1.0

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Ravens land a huge wide receiver

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my first mock draft for the 2018 NFL draft. With just under a year until Roger Goodell announces the opening of the draft, the mock draft world will learn a lot about the talent pool that will enter the NFL. In the summer of 2017, the 2018 draft appears to be a near opposite of 2017. 2018 is absolutely loaded with offensive players, most notably quarterbacks, but isn’t as deep on the defensive side of the ball.

With no draft order set for 2018, I have predicted the entire NFL season to make my own order. Check out the below table for the details.

NFL 2017

AFC North AFC East AFC South AFC West NFC North NFC East NFC South NFC West AFC Playoffs: Wild Card Round Divisional Round AFC Championship NFC Playoffs: Wild Card Round Divisional Round NFC Championship Super Bowl 52:
AFC North AFC East AFC South AFC West NFC North NFC East NFC South NFC West AFC Playoffs: Wild Card Round Divisional Round AFC Championship NFC Playoffs: Wild Card Round Divisional Round NFC Championship Super Bowl 52:
Steelers (3) Patriots (1) Titans (4) Raiders (2) Packers (2) Giants (3) Falcons (1) Seahawks (4) Chiefs (5) over Titans (4) Patriots (1) over Ravens (6) Patriots (1) over Raiders (2) Seahawks (4) over Cowboys (5) Falcons (1) over Seahawks (4) Packers (2) over Falcons (1) Patriots over Packers
Ravens (6) Dolphins Texans Chiefs (5) Vikings Cowboys (5) Buccaneers (6) Cardinals Ravens (6) over Steelers (3) Raiders (2) over Chiefs (5) Giants (3) over Buccaneers (6) Packers (2) over Giants (3)
Bengals Bills Colts Broncos Lions Redskins Panthers Rams
Browns Jets Jaguars Chargers Bears Eagles Saints 49ers

This mock does not have any trades, each team will have one pick. Without further adieu, the New York Jets are now on the clock...

1) New York Jets: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With a 2018 draft crop that has the deepest quarterbacks class in years, the New York Jets have set themselves up in position to tank for the first overall pick. This will set up the Jets to take the best of a talented group of quarterbacks. That player is Sam Darnold of USC. Darnold emerged as a superstar for the Trojans as soon as he was given the starting job, taking USC from a struggling team under Max Browne, all the way to winning the Rose Bowl. Darnold has immense potential, and is the most talented quarterback in this year’s draft. He will be the future in New York.

2) Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

NCAA Football: UNLV at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns took DeShone Kizer in the 2017 draft. Kizer, while talented, is not the long term answer for the Browns. Rosen is a much more polished passer, and is more pro-ready than Kizer. Kizer, despite his potential, will be a significant project for the Browns, while Rosen is already a much better player. Rosen could finally be the quarterback for the Browns to build around.

3) San Francisco 49ers: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

NCAA Football: Poinsettia Bowl-Brigham Young vs Wyoming Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a list of the quarterbacks currently on the 49ers depth chart: Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullins. Two of those players are rookies selected in the mid to late rounds, and the other two are quarterbacks who do not have the talent level to be more than a backups. It’s clear that the 49ers need a quarterback. Josh Allen is the best remaining one on the board. Hailing form a small school like Wyoming, many may not have heard of Allen, but like Carson Wentz, this small-school quarterback has real NFL ability. Allen has a big arm and some mobility if necessary. Like the two previous quarterbacks selected, Allen could provide an under talented team with a player to build to around.

4) Chicago Bears: Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

NCAA Football: Lambeau Field College Classic-Louisiana State vs Wisconsin Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears traded up in last year’s draft to select Mitchell Trubisky, and no matter how he plays, the Bears will not be selecting another quarterback in the first round of the 2018 draft. The Bears have the potential to add one of the best defensive players in the draft in Arden Key to add to a unit that has been abysmal. Leonard Floyd is the best player on the Bears defense, and is a player that the team should build around. Adding Key would provide Floyd with a pass rushing partner on the other side of the line. It would be a duo that could be hard to stop.

5) Los Angeles Rams: Derwin James, S, Florida State

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Florida State Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

James struggled with injuries in the 2016-17 college football season, but his impressive freshman season was enough to put him among the best overall players in this year’s draft. James will get a chance in 2017 to prove to NFL scouts why he belongs in the top five, and I believe that he will take advantage of the opportunity. The Rams need help in the secondary, and they will be running to the podium given the chance to select a player of James’ caliber.

6) Jacksonville Jaguars: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Texas v California Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Blake Bortles is continuing to prove that he is not the savior that many expected him to be for the Jaguars. However, with the top three quarterbacks off the board, and the rest of the class not necessarily possessing top-10 talent, the Jaguars will go with the top offensive lineman in the draft: Connor Williams. Williams was a consensus All-American in 2016, and is a pre-season All-Ameican in 2017. In addition, Williams is on the 2017 Maxwell Award watch list, the Maxwell is awarded to the best player in college football. Williams will help to provide stability on a poor offensive line, helping to provide the framework for whomever plays quarterback long term.

7) Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Syracuse v Clemson Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images

The Chargers lack a strong presence up front, and Wilkins would change that. While a quarterback could make sense here given that Philip Rivers is nearing the end of his career, there isn’t one available that is worthy of the seventh overall pick. Wilkins is one of the best interiors players to hit the NFL draft in a couple of years, and he will provide an anchor for the Chargers defense for years to come.

8) New Orleans Saints: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama

SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Big shocker: a defensive player to the Saints. New Orleans drafted Marshon Lattimore with the 11th overall pick in 2017, a surprise as the Ohio State product and top corner in the draft was not expected to fall that far. However, Lattimore alone is not enough to fix the Saints secondary. In 2018, the Saints will again select the top cornerback, and that is Minkah Fitzpatrick of Alabama. Fitzpatrick has experience playing both cornerback and safety, he filled in for safety Eddie Jackson when he went down with a season ending injury. No matter what position he was playing, however, Fitzpatrick excelled at shutting down opposing offenses. His versatility makes him intriguing for the Saints, who need talent on the back end of the defense.

9) Buffalo Bills: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley Chubb may very well be the best defensive player in college football that you have never heard of. Despite playing at an ACC school, Chubb has not gotten that national recognition that he deserves. That is set to change in the coming months as Chubb will be talked about as a surefire top-15 pick in the 2018 draft. Chubb is one of the most dominant edge rushers in college football, using his incredible combination of size, strength and speed. Chubb has 18 career sacks, nine in 2015 and nine in 2016. Shaq Lawson has potential for the Bills, but Jerry Hughes has never been better than just above average. The Bills could use a truly dominant pass rusher, and Chubb has the potential to be that.

10) Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

This is a very simple pick. The Bengals lost star offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth in free agency to the Rams. In addition, guard Kevin Zeitler signed with the Browns. Thus, the Bengals are in desperate need of an offensive lineman. The best lineman remaining is Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame. McGlinchey is an excellent run blocker, but has improvements to be made when pass blocking. However, McGlinchey has great size (6’8”, 310 lb.) great ability, and should be able to solidify himself as a top-15 pick this coming season.

11) Philadelphia Eagles: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Saquon Barkley may very well be the best player in the whole draft. However, with three quarterback needy teams at the top, and the remainder of the top-10 not having a need at running back, Barkley falls into the Eagles lap at the 11th pick. The Eagles do have a hole at running back, and adding Barkely gives the team the dynamic runner it needs behind Carson Wentz. If Alshon Jeffery re-signs with the Eagles after his one-year deal expires, then a trio of Wentz, Jeffery and Barkley could dominate NFC East defenses for years to come. On top of that, how cool of a story would it be for a Penn State player to be a star running back for the Philadelphia Eagles?

12) Carolina Panthers: Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama vs Clemson Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers would really like to keep Cam Newton upright, but they have not taken many steps to improve their poor offensive line. The Panthers desperately need a reliable tackle, and Mitch Hyatt of Clemson can be just that. In his two years at Clemson so far, Hyatt has allowed just two sacks. He is a reliable blocker, which is exactly want the Panthers need to keep Cam Newton on his feet. Hyatt’s calling card is his run blocking however, which will be key in opening up holes for Christian McCaffrey.

13) Miami Dolphins: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

NCAA Football: Florida at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Miami has good pieces on offense, but the team needs help on defense, mainly in the secondary. Byron Maxwell was good for the Dolphins in 2016, but he needs a reliable corner opposite him. McFadden can be just that. The Florida State product has excellent ball skills, he had eight interceptions and seven pass breakups in 2016. McFadden also has great size, standing at 6’2”.

14) Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

NCAA Football:  Florida at Louisiana State Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Ameer Abdullah has not made an impact at running back in Detroit, it’s time for the Lions to make a change at the position. Derrius Guice is the best remaining running back on the board. Guice was a back up to Leonard Fournette over the course of his career, but when given the opportunity, Guice was extremely productive for the Tigers. In 2017, Guice gets a chance to start and prove why he belongs this high up in the draft. According to Pro Football Focus, Guice was one of the top ten most elusive backs in the nation. Guice seemed to run harder and with more energy than Founette did at LSU, and he should be able to transform a Lions offense that is a reliable running back short of being really good.

15) Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The end is near for Larry Fitzgerald. The future Hall of Famer will not be playing in the NFL for much longer. Thus, it’s time for the Cardinals to find Fitzgerald’s replacement. Calvin Ridley can be that guy. Ridley has good speed, a well developed route tree, consistently finds the end zone, and is willing to run block. He has all the makings of a number one receiver.

16) Washington Redskins: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

NCAA Football: Heisman Trophy Presentation Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Redskins have an interesting scenario coming into the 2018 draft. Quarterback Kirk Cousins will yet again play under the franchise tag, but he may very well be out of Washington after the 2017 season, as the franchise tag for a third straight year would be too expensive for the Redskins. I believe that Cousins will end up leaving the team, leaving Washington in need of a quarterback. Enter Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman trophy winner. The Redskins have a recent history with running quarterbacks, namely Robert Griffin III, but Jackson is different. Jackson has the same running ability that Griffin III possessed, but the Louisville quarterback’s arm is exceptional. Jackson’s combination of a cannon for an arm, and electric running ability remind me a lot of Michael Vick. Jackson will need to add some weight if he wants to have any staying power in the NFL however.

17) Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Texas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts have a similar situation to the Panthers: they have a star franchise quarterback, but don’t have an offensive line capable of protecting him. Based on Pro Football Focus’ grading system, only one of the Colts five lineman are above average, while two are graded as poor. The worst grade of the bunch is Denzelle Good, a guard. Luckily for the Colts, one of the drafts best guards is still available when they are on the clock. Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame is a perfect fit.

18) Houston Texans: Jaire Alexandre, CB, Louisville

Louisville v Clemson Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Texans finished the 2016 regular season ranked number one in total defense. However, the secondary lost its top player, A.J. Bouye, in free agency. Jaire Alexander of Louisville has the potential to fill that void. Alexander isn’t the biggest, standing at just 5’11”, but his ball skills are among the best in the nation. In 2016, Alexander had five interceptions and nine pass breakups. In his career, Alexander has had six interceptions and 11 passes defended. In addition, Alexander received an 88.3 grade from Pro Football Focus. Alexander will look to improve on his impressive 2016 season this coming fall. On the Texans, Alexander provides playmaking ability on the outside or in the slot, wherever the team needs him to be.

19) Denver Broncos: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Portland State v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Vita Vea is a big man, weighing 344 pounds and standing at 6’5”. Vea can make an impact against the run, finishing 2016 as the 22nd best interior defensive lineman in run stop percentage, per Pro Football Focus. However, Vea’s biggest impact comes when rushing the quarterback. Vea had the sixth best pass rush productivity, and the second best snaps/bullrush pressure per Pro Football Focus. The Denver Broncos do not have much of a presence on the interior of its defensive line, Vea would quickly change that.

20) Minnesota Vikings: Da’Shawn Hand, DT, Alabama

CFP National Championship Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Vikings play a 4-3 defense, meaning that they have two interior defense lineman in their base defense. Linval Joseph has been productive on the defense line, but he needs a partner to produce as well. Da’Shawn Hand can provide that boost on the interior of what is already a very talented Vikings defense. Hand has been overshadowed on the Alabama defensive line by players like Jonathan Allen over the course of his career. Despite this, Hand has amassed eight sacks, seven QB hits, 17 hurries and 22 stops over the course of his career in a Crimson Tide uniform. In 2017, Hand will get the chance to lead the Alabama defensive line, and emerge as a star.

21) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Orlando Brown Jr., T, Oklahoma

Oklahoma v TCU Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Buccaneers have the makings of a playoff team after their impressive 2017 draft. Additional offensive weapons and a talented defense could finally get this team over the hump. But the biggest need this team has is on the offensive line. Orlando Brown is an absolute mountain of a man, and he could be the piece that puts this Buccaneers team in a position to make an impact in the playoffs. Brown stands at 6’8” and weighs 360 pounds. Brown received an 86.8 grade from Pro Football Focus in 2016. He had the fifth best pass blocking efficiency among all offensive tackle, and he was rarely beaten by edge rushers. Brown will help stabilize what is an inconsistent Tampa Bay offensive line.

22) Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College

NCAA Football: Florida State at Boston College Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Harold Landry emerged as a superstar in the 2016 college football season, totaling 18 sacks, seven QB hits, 44 hurries and 36 stops. According to Pro Football Focus, Landry recorded a pressure every 8.1 snaps, the best rate in the draft class. The Titans are a team largely on the upswing, I have them winning the AFC South this coming season. However, what this team lacks is a dominant pass rusher. Landry could develop into that type of a player for the Titans. This team improved its secondary in the 2017 offseason, and after adding a pass rusher that can dominate opposing offensive lines, the Titans will have the look of a real contender.

23) Dallas Cowboys: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

NCAA Football: Alabama at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Another member of the talented Alabama defense comes off the board. In first two years at Alabama, Harrison has 100 total tackles, four interceptions, one sack, 13 passes defended and two fumble recoveries. The Cowboys secondary needs help in the worst way. Cornerbacks Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr as well as safety Barry Church all left in free agency. The Cowboys drafted two talented rookie corners in the 2017 draft, and in the first round of the 2018 draft, they will look for a safety to replace Church. Ronnie Harrison falls into Jerry Jones’ lap in this mock draft, and the Cowboys select the Alabama safety.

24) Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

NCAA Football: Texas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers lost Lawrence Timmons to the Miami Dolphins in the 2017 offseason, leaving a hole in the linebacking corps of the Steelers defense. Adding a linebacker like Jefferson could be the solution in the middle of the defense. Jefferson has been on a bad Texas defense throughout his career, but don’t let that fool you, he is a talented linebacker. The Longhorn is explosive, getting into the backfield in the blink of an eye, bringing running backs to the turf, or sometimes even sacking the quarterback. In his two years at Texas, Jefferson has eight career sacks, six QB hits, 19 hurries, 93 tackles, 60 stops and two passes defended.

25) Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In my analysis prior to the 2017 draft, I wrote on and on about Corey Davis. I still am upset that he did not fall down to the Ravens. Courtland Sutton in 2018 may be what Davis was for me in 2017. Sutton has 1,241 receiving yards in the 2016 season, earning a 88.0 grade from Pro Football Focus. Sutton is huge, standing at 6’3”. He uses his size to make contested catches. The SMU product has excellent ball skills, and very reliable hands, hauling in 76 receptions last year. Sutton had the second most receptions of over 20 yards in the nation last season. Mike Wallace will be a free agent after the 2017 season, and the Ravens don’t have much reliable depth at the receiver position. Sutton and Breshad Perriman could form the long term future of the Ravens receiving corps.

26) Seattle Seahawks: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

NCAA Football: SEC Media Days Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks offensive line has a lot of question marks. The team had spent draft picks to try to improve that unit, but the previous draft picks have not made a large impact. Seattle will try it again in 2018 with the selection of Rankin. Rankin stands at 6-5 and weighs 307 pounds. According to WalterFootball.com, the NFL Draft Advisory Committee rated Rankin as a second round pick if he had declared in 2017. He will be able to improve his standing for the 2018 draft, and could finally be the solution for the Seattle Seahawks offensive line that has struggled for the past couple of seasons.

27) Kansas City Chiefs: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The Chiefs released their top receiver, Jeremy Maclin, in the 2017 offseason. Thus, the team could be in the market for a receiver in the 2018 draft. The wide receiver class in the 2018 draft is very deep, and James Washington is the next in line to come off the board. Washington has two 1,000 yard seasons in his career, and was the leader among wide receivers in deep pass yards according to Pro Football Focus. Washington knows how to find the end zone, with 25 touchdowns in his career at Oklahoma State. Pro Football Focus gave Washington an 85.5 grade for his 2016 season.

28) New York Giants: Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama

CFP National Championship Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It’s no mystery that the Giants need a running back. If Bo Scarbrough is on the board when the Giants come on the clock, they will be running to the podium. Scarbrough emerged as one of the nation’s best running backs last season, and he will look to improve on that in 2017. Scarbrough reminds me a lot of LeGarrette Blount, a hard nosed runner that is unafraid to run right through defenders. The Crimson Tide runner was the second most elusive running back according to Pro Football Focus. With a powerful runner behind an electric receiver corps and a lockdown defense, the Giants look like Super Bowl contenders.

29) Atlanta Falcons: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons blew a 25 point lead with just over 17 minutes to go in the Super Bowl. It’s a phrase that has become a meme, but it showed that the Falcons secondary could use reinforcements. Pro Football Focus graded the Falcons as one of the top five secondaries in the NFL, however, the unit needs depth. Denzel Ward of Ohio State provides exactly that. He is a little small (5’10”), but he has blazing speed. His footwork has also been good in limited action. With Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley both out of the picture at Ohio State, Ward will get a chance to prove himself.

30) Oakland Raiders: Cameron Smith, LB, USC

NCAA Football: Utah at Southern California Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Smith burst on to the scene as a freshman in the 2015 season, and the USC Trojan played well again in 2016. For his career, Smith has totaled 124 tackles, 12 QB hurries, 73 stops, three interceptions and three passes defended. Based on Pro Football Focus’ grading system, there are not many holes on the Oakland roster, however, inside linebacker is not position of strength. Adding the talented USC linebacker would be a step to remedy that.

31) Green Bay Packers: Iman Marshall, CB, USC

Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - USC v Penn State Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Packers secondary has suffered a number of injuries over the past few seasons. Healthy or not, the unit has been largely unreliable over recent years. It may be what has kept Aaron Rodgers from winning more Super Bowls. Marshall is a former five star recruit that has played in the shadow of Adoree’ Jackson during the course of his career as a Trojan. With Jackson off to the NFL, Marshall now gets his chance to shine. Despite being overshadowed by Jackson, Marshall has put up really good career numbers: six interceptions, 12 passes defended and 91 tackles. Marshall is a very reliable tackler, and has good coverage ability, but in order to assure himself of a first round selection, the Trojan corner will need to work on his discipline, as well as refine his technique. If he can do that, then the Packers would be very happy to see Marshall still on the board at the 31st pick.

32) New England Patriots: Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots barely have any holes on their roster, that’s why I’ve picked them to repeat as Super Bowl champions (*barfs*). What a team can never have too many of is pass rushers. Enter Clelin Ferrel. Ferrell redshirted during his freshman year (2015), but he made a huge impact once he took the field in 2016. In his career to this point (just one year), Ferrel has amassed six sacks, 12 QB hits, 21 hurries and 25 stops. The Patriots snag Ferrell with the last pick in the first round to add depth to their defensive front.