After months of endless speculation, false rumors, needless criticisms, and way too many mock drafts and predictions, the 2018 NFL Draft finally came and went. On Thursday, the Browns got the party started by taking quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall and on Saturday, the Redskins closed up shop by taking SMU wide receiver Trey Quinn with the final pick of the draft.
Despite those months spent on predictions, mocks, and analysis, not much went according to plan. The Browns were supposed to take Sam Darnold or Josh Allen -- two prototypical NFL quarterbacks -- not a hybrid quarterback. The Giants weren't supposed to stay put at No. 2 and then take Saquon Barkley. Bradley Chubb wasn't supposed to slip past the Browns at No. 4. Derwin James wasn't supposed to be still on the board at the halfway point of the first round. And so on ... Per usual, the 2018 NFL Draft didn't unfold the way we all thought it would.
With that in mind, let's look back at the 10 biggest surprises from the 2018 NFL Draft. We begin with the Browns' decision to take Mayfield at the top of the draft and then we'll continue along in chronological order.
1. Baker Mayfield goes No. 1 to Browns
It wasn't until the day of the draft thatin the race to become the first-overall pick. We all knew the Browns would take a quarterback with the pick. But for nearly the entire draft process, the consensus seemed to be that the pick would either be the strong-armed Josh Allen or the safer prospect Sam Darnold. Allen, with that God-given arm of his, has the tallest ceiling among the quarterbacks who compose the Big Four. But Darnold was regarded as the safest choice. Browns general manager John Dorsey and coach Hue Jackson both , which should've boded well for Allen, whose hands are the biggest among those in the Big Four.
Instead, they chose a 6-foot quarterback withand the smallest hands of the Big Four. It might not have been the biggest surprise of the draft -- we'll get to bigger surprises soon -- but it was the most impactful surprise, because it changed the complexion of the draft.
That doesn't make it a bad move. Among many in the NFL community -- Pro Football Focus, most notably -- Mayfield was the top quarterback in this year's draft. Former general manager Scot McCloughan, who is working as a consultant for the Browns, Mayfield just won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma after a season that saw him complete 70.5 percent of his passes for 4,627 yards, 43 touchdowns, and six interceptions. He's really good!
But it was still surprising to see a quarterback of Mayfield's mold -- mobile, short, athletic -- go ahead of the traditional type of quarterbacks. Again, that doesn't make it a bad pick. But it was still surprising to say the least.
2. Giants take Saquon Barkley without listening to offers
The Giants followed up the Browns' big surprise with a surprise of their own. Despite Eli Manning's age (37), despite their three-win 2017 season, and despite the presence of three elite quarterback prospects on the board, the
It's not just the fact they took a running back that high in the draft. It's also that
"Basically, once Cleveland took Baker, I told our guys, 'Don't even waste your time. We're taking Saquon and we're going to run,'" Gettleman told ESPN.
None of this is intended to be a knock on Barkley, who is a generational running back prospect. It's just that (1) taking a running back that high in the draft when you have a clear need for a new franchise quarterback and (2) taking that running back without listening to trade offers from quarterback-desperate teams is borderline insane. To add insult to injury, the Giants then watched the Jets take
Again, Barkley might end up becoming the league's best running back. But the Giants absolutely deserve to be scrutinized for their selection of him that high in the draft.
3. Browns select Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb
The surprises at the top of the first round didn't stop there. After the Jets went the expected route by taking Darnold, the Browns were back on the clock again at No. 4. All along, everyone thought the Browns would take NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb -- arguably the best prospect in the draft -- if he was still sitting there at No. 4 to pair him with last year's top-overall pick, Myles Garrett. Instead, the Browns opted to take the best cornerback in the draft, Ohio State's Denzel Ward.
Ward's a top talent and he'll bolster the Browns' secondary, but this was a move that no one saw coming. It ended up working out well for the Broncos, who landed Chubb at No. 5.
4. Josh Rosen slides out of the top five
And that meant that UCLA's Josh Rosen, one of the top quarterback prospects in the country since his freshman year, slipped out of the top five completely. All along, it was reported that Rosen -- -- was the most likely quarterback in the Big Four to experience a fall, but nobody expected him to fall this far.
He nearly dropped out of the top-10. Rosen watched as Mayfield went No. 1, Darnold went No. 3, and. He was forced to wait until No. 10 when
Rosen, maybe the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft,
"I thought I should've been picked at 1, 2 or 3," Rosen said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN. "I dropped, and I was pissed. I was really, really angry. I wasn't really showing it. I was trying to keep calm, cool, composed. But I thought I was going to get picked, and I thought I was going to have to put on a face and try and fake happiness. But for some reason, right when I got that call, that's not what happened. I got really happy and really motivated."
The Cardinals certainly won't mind. They just got their future franchise quarterback because the other quarterback-needy teams ahead of them overlooked a top prospect.
5. Raiders draft Kolton Miller instead of a defensive player
It's beenfor Jon Gruden. It continued in the first round on Thursday when instead of addressing the defense.
Miller's a fine prospect, but getting him at No. 15 might not have been the best value, especially considering just how dire their defensive situation is. A year ago, the Raiders ranked 29th in defensive DVOA. It was especially surprising given that top defensive talent was still available at No. 15.
Which brings us to ...
6. Derwin James tumbles to No. 17
Derwin James, a safety out of Florida State, might have had the most surprising first-round fall. He placed and second on Chris Trapasso's. He's not just a safety. He can line up and guard receivers in the slot. He can get after the quarterback. And he's a thumper in the run game.
He does it all:
Chargers first-round pick Derwin James said his favorite NBA team is "LeBron James."— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 28, 2018
So, it was especially surprising to watch defensive-desperate teams like the Buccaneers, Raiders, Dolphins, 49ers, and so on pass on him. The Chargers certainly didn't mind. They eagerly scooped him up with the No. 17 pick, which means that James fell all the way to the second half of the first round.
James' fall was the most surprising in the entire draft and as a result, he might just be the most valuable pick too.
7. Seahawks take Rashaad Penny at No. 27
The Seahawks spent the entire offseason gutting their roster. In the aftermath, their roster contains more holes than we're used to. So, that's why it came as a surprise to watch the Seahawks -- after a trade down, which definitely wasn't a surprise -- use their first draft pick on running back Rashaad Penny.
This is less about Penny and more about positional value. The Seahawks had so many needs -- offensive line, defensive line, and cornerback to name three -- and opted to draft a running back even when history has repeatedly shown us that teams can get starting-caliber running back in the mid-to-late rounds. With players like defensive tackle Taven Bryan, and cornerbacks Mike Hughes and Joshua Jackson still on the board, taking a running back here was a puzzling move.
8. The fall of Harold Landry, Joshua Jackson, Derrius Guice
Three prospects many deemed as first-round picks surprisingly dropped to the second round.
Boston College's Harold Landry was often regarded as the third-best pass rusher behind Chubb (No. 5 to the Broncos) and Marcus Davenport (No. 14 to the Saints). The height of his powers were on full display in 2016, when he racked up 16.5 sacks. Some health concerns exist, but Landry's ceiling should've made him a first-round pick. Instead, he dropped all the way to the Titans at No. 41.
Meanwhile, Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson was projected by many to be the Packers' target in the first round. Instead, the Packers took Jaire Alexander, a cornerback out of Louisville. Jackson, who snagged eight interceptions last season, was forced to wait until pick No. 45.
The unsurprising part: He got picked by the Packers, who got their predicted first-round guy in the second round. The surprising part: Three cornerbacks got picked ahead of him.
Finally, we come to the curious case of LSU's Derrius Guice, who entered the draft as the consensus second-best running back behind Barkley, but ended up becoming the seventh running back off the boardIt's During the draft, some troubling rumors emerged.
"He was described to me as high-maintenance, as immature, someone who did not handle his emotions well," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported shortly before Guice was drafted. "I'm told there were also a couple off-the-field incidences at LSU that were unreported."
NFL Network's Mike Mayock added: "[Guice] is a first-round talent. He had several issues meeting with teams, missed some flights, [they] didn't like his attitude. ... [He] fired his agent ... and it was a tumultuous offseason for this young man. ... There is another investigation out there that could be potentially embarrassing for the kid and the team that drafts him. ... That's why he's sliding right now."
But the Redskins defended him after they took him.
"We got to know Derrius quite well. He's quite the character," Washington coach Jay Gruden said, per ESPN.com. "He's got a great personality, loves football and is going to be a great competitor for this football team. We know that. We felt like he fit in just fine. Love his talent. At the end of the day it's all about the skill set he has."
9. Mason Rudolph drops to No. 76
Entering the draft, many (me) thought that as many as six quarterbacks could go in the first round.
We (I) were (was) so wrong.
The Ravens' decision to trade up to No. 32 to draft Lamar Jackson, who was the fifth quarterback taken in the first round, made us all look a bit better. But the fact remains that many (me) predicted Rudolph would also be off the board in the first round. Instead, Rudolph dropped all the way to the Steelers at pick No. 76 (third round).
It's still a great landing spot for Rudolph, who will get a chance to learn from Ben Roethlisberger for a few seasons. And hey, if Roethlisberger walks away earlier than expected then Rudolph will get a chance to play alongside Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell.
10. Maurice Hurst's fall
Unlike all of the players listed above, Maurice Hurst's slide didn't end in early-to-mid rounds. Hurst, one of the best defensive tackle prospects in the draft based on football alone,(No. 140).
His fall occured because of . Obviously, a heart condition is a serious issue, but it's still surprising to see him fall this far given just how unstoppable he was at Michigan. Pro Football Focus named him their third best prospect in the entire draft. Over this final two college seasons, Hurst racked up 24.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks. Unlike a lot of defensive tackles, he can attack the passer while also being dominant in run defense.
A sample of his work:
OK, let's get back to some Maurice Hurst fun.— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) March 27, 2018
Most disruptive interior defensive lineman in college football over the last three years on a snap-for-snap basis
No.73 with the quick pressure and hit on the QB pic.twitter.com/XzmpkgUyGl
Hurst:— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) March 27, 2018
Get-off, pad level, finish.
Top run defense grade in the nation among interior DLine in 2017 pic.twitter.com/xQGNVKtvXN
Hurst's fall might've been the biggest in the entire draft. But he might also end up being the biggest steal of the draft if his heart condition doesn't affect his ability to play.
Mo Hurst on his heart situation: “I don’t see it being a problem at all.”— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) April 28, 2018
And a fifth-round pick is worth the risk for the defensive-needy Raiders.