Part of what makes the NFL so appealing is it’s unpredictability. The same thing can be said in relation to asking what makes Bill Belichick so great.
So whenever the Patriots make a big time move in any capacity, the default reaction is that they pulled a fast one on whatever team they were dealing with. In this case, that can maybe be said, but the blockbuster move that sent Brandin Cooks to the city of Angels for a first rounder lined up well with a lot of the themes this offseason.
Mainly, that the Pats are trying to rebuild and that the Rams are going for it while they still have Jared Goff on the cheap. It’s smart for New England because, well, they’re New England.
But it’s smart for the Rams because it seems to indicate that Les Snead recognizes the market inefficiency that Philadelphia took advantage of to win a Super Bowl: Having a high level quarterback on a rookie contract.
Howie Roseman got himself a ring by smartly building a big time roster around Goff’s career counterpart in Carson Wentz, and all signs point to Snead now attempting that with Goff. We’ll see how all that works for them, but in the meantime, there’s still a draft to play out before 2018 can really get under way in the NFL. Let’s take a look at how Snead’s most recent gamble can affect the first round:
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Lock it up. Darnold may not be the best or most physically gifted of 2018’s quarterback crop, but his resume and unflappable demeanor make him the hero Cleveland needs right now.
2. New York Giants: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
I’ve said it before, and I’ll stick with it: the Giants have to jump at the opportunity to set their franchise up long term here. Allen is super raw, but some time behind Eli Manning will give him time to develop, and his cool and calm nature are perfect for the bright lights of the big Apple.
3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Why? Why? Why? The Jets need a franchise quarterback as well, that’s why. The presence of Josh McCown is a good thing for Rosen, who will enter the Jets locker room presumably battling fellow millennial Teddy Bridgewater for the number 2 QB position. This gives him some time out of the spotlight to get his bearings and adjust to a tough situation (and media market).
4. TRADE: Buffalo Bills (via CLE): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Bills are reportedly “trying like hell” to move up for a franchise quarterback, and with the ammo that they have, this or a move with the Giants seems likely. They reportedly love Allen, but with him gone, they’d likely settle for Mayfield to learn behind A.J. McCarron. Unfortunately for them, “settling” in this draft means having to jump up in front of Denver who are probably also in the market for a young passer.
5. Denver Broncos: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
This is a tough spot for John Elway whose feeling the heat to get a long term answer at quarterback. With the top four guys gone, Barkley takes a ton of pressure off of his short term answer in Keenum, and makes a second or later round pick at QB a possibility. When getting the draft’s best offensive player is a “tough spot” for you, things may not be so bad after all.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame
The Colts have a choice between Nelson and Bradley Chubb, and while they certainly need defensive help, Andrew Luck (provided he’s healthy) is the priority here. Nelson will start right away and help Luck get back on track just by keeping him upright.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
This a “sprint to the podium” scenario for Tampa Bay. They’ll be rooting hard for this to play out so they can get their hands on either Nelson and Chubb and start to build up their front lines as they desperately need help along both of them.
8. Chicago Bears: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
The Bears have some solid young talent in their defensive backfield but throwing Fitzpatrick into the mix gives them more versatility and helps to sure up the side of the ball that needs more help.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Niners seem set up to compete in 2018, but Reuben Foster is no sure thing to be their future at linebacker. If he is? Great, Edmunds provides a good tandem at the position. If not, he’s a good replacement.
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
This is a pretty frequent mock pick for the Raiders, which is surprising given that Smith is a perfect modern linebacker rather than an ideal one from 1998.
11. Miami Dolphins: Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State
The Dolphins are a weird team when it comes to the draft due to their many needs, including quarterback. With the top 4 passers gone, they decide to roll with Ryan Tannehill and take the best pure corner in the class in Ward.
12. Cleveland Browns (Via BUF): Derwin James, DB, Florida State
After trading back, John Dorsey lands one of the draft’s best players in while acquiring more picks and landing his franchise quarterback. A solid first few picks for him in Cleveland to say the least.
13. Washington Redskins: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
The Redskins are in a strange spot picking 13th with a (new) franchise quarterback in place, and decide to build up the defense to help him out. Davenport could learn a lot from Ryan Kerrigan and provide a nice youthful presence alongside Preston Smith and Jonathan Allen.
14. Green Bay Packers: Leighton Vander Esch
The Packers wouldn’t surprise me with literally any pick except for quarterback here. Last year without Aaron Rodgers really exposed the weakness of their roster, and one way to strengthen it would be to bolster the front seven with the quick rising Vander Esch.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Cardinals are another team that could explore a quarterback in the first round, but with the way things fall here, getting the draft’s best receiver to help Sam Bradford (and whoever replaces him when he’s hurt) makes a good deal of sense.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
With Ridley gone the Ravens could go just about anywhere on offense here, including quarterback, but I have them making a big time investment in Joe Flacco. 2018 is probably the last time he’ll enter the season as an undisputed starter if he doesn’t improve, so adding the draft’s best talent at a position he loves to throw to will help ensure he does.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The Chargers face a serious crossroads here. Their roster almost always seems to scream contender but during the season, they can never get out of their own way. In order to start competing with the Rams in that market they’ll need to add more juice than just about any position player can provide. Jackson will give that to them down the road once he eventually replaces Phillip Rivers.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Richard Sherman is gone, leaving a vacancy at the alpha dog corner position. Jackson can provide that for the Seahawks who have tacitly acknowledged a youth rebuild of their once great secondary.
19. Dallas Cowboys: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
This is a higher spot than Moore is typically mocked, but it’s easy to forget how much the league values explosive young receivers. This especially makes sense for a franchise that needs youth at the position, and always wants to add some excitement to perpetually remain in the headlines.
20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The Lions could go defense here with some good options still on the board, but Guice could finally give them the big time running back they’ve been looking for since the beginning of Matthew Stafford’s career (or the end of Barry Sanders’).
21. Cincinnati Bengals (Via BUF): Isaiah Wynn, Guard, Georgia
The Bengals showed by trading back to this spot and acquiring Cordy Glenn that they’re serious about getting Andy Dalton some protection. Wynn could slide in next to Glenn and help provide even more of that.
22. Cleveland Browns (via BUF): Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Joe Thomas left a first-ballot-hall-of-famer sized hole in his place when he retired and Williams would have some big shoes to fill. Regardless, this investment makes sense to protect Darnold or Tyrod Taylor moving forward and is good value at 22.
23. New England Patriots (via LAR): Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The Pats move up to pick an explosive and powerful second option at tight end. Whether Rob Gronkowski is playing football or starring in a “Naked Gun” reboot in the near future, this would be a great pickup for a team that would know how to maximize Hurst’s exceptional abilities at the position.
24. Carolina Panthers: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Panthers need to protect Cam Newton much better than they did last year as evidenced by their playoff loss to New Orleans. McGlinchey is arguably the best pure tackle in the draft and would give Carolina a legit starter.
25. Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Titans have made some big time additions this offseason and Evans would maybe be the biggest of them all. If he fell this far, Mike Vrabel wouldn’t hesitate to grab the future leader of his defense.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
The Falcons have enough youth and speed on defense to have a highly ranked unit, and Landry falling to them could help push them to an even higher level. Him and Vic Beasley would be scary together.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
The Saints brought back Ben Watson, but that’s a short term solution for an important position in their offense. He would be a great mentor to Goedert though, who has legit pass catching potential.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Pittsburgh’s defense was nowhere to be found at certain points last season, the most obvious disappearance coming against Jacksonville in the playoffs. They’re set offensively, so Payne would give them some more presence in the middle on D.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Hernandez, Guard, UTEP
The Jags only actual need might be at quarterback, but it seems that Blake Bortles is still going to be the guy in 2018. If that’s their plan, then giving him more time to throw and Leonard Fournette more room to run should be a priority. Hernandez is a fantastic guard that can give them both.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
The Vikings just gave Kirk Cousins a flaming boat load of money (mascot pun), and are clearly all in on this as a Super Bowl window. Cousins hasn’t done anything to convince people that he elevates talent around him, but with the right system and protection, he can do more than just get the job done. The Vikings’ line situation is a little dicey currently so shoring that up will be important to get the most out of their big investment at quarterback.
31. New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, DB, Louisville
With their two first round picks, the Pats get a flashy skill player and a top tier defensive back from a big school. That goes against their typical strategy of trading back to select safeties and long snappers from Rutgers, but as was stated earlier, this is a bit of a rebuild for them, and they can’t afford to get cute. Alexander would a nice replacement for Malcolm Butler.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The Eagles are so strong at every position that this is a tough pick to make. I have them settling on Kirk to replace Torrey Smith as their rotational speed receiver, but don’t be surprised to see them go any number of different directions.