2018 NFL Mock Draft: Bills trade up to grab Baker Mayfield, six QBs go in first round
Buffalo moves up to the No. 5 pick to land their franchise quarterback
A lot will happen between now and the 2018 NFL Draft. Whether it's a blockbuster trade or a huge offseason signing, teams with gaping holes currently at quarterback will have some clarity about the position in the coming weeks. That means Kirk Cousins will be somewhere other than Washington, AJ McCarron will almost certainly move on from Cincinnati and the Vikings and Eagles will have decided whether Case Keenum (who could be franchised) and Nick Foles' (who could be traded) miraculous seasons warrant keeping them around for another season.
Whatever happens, the bottom line remains the same: in the NFL, you're only as good as your quarterback. It's why the Texans signed Brock Osweiler to a $72 million deal two offseasons ago, and it's why the Bears gave Mike Glennon a three-year deal last year. Neither player worked out -- which just about everyone predicted -- but desperate times, as they say.
So expect those clubs that have languished without a franchise passer to be bold as the draft approaches. Two years ago, the Eagles traded up to take Carson Wentz. Last year, the Texans did the same to get Deshaun Watson. Wentz was a legit MVP candidate until he suffered a knee injury in mid-December. And Watson, in six starts, had thrown for 1,699 yards with 19 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 103.0 passer rating until a knee injury sidelined him in early November.
This is where we point out that the Browns passed on both quarterbacks, and proceeded to go 1-31 since 2016. Which is why they're taking a QB in the first round this year -- even if they sign a veteran -- the only question is when.
Meanwhile, a team that made the playoffs for the first time since 1999 in spite of their quarterback, should use the draft to address that pressing need. The Bills, who were so unimpressed with Tyrod Taylor last season that they benched him for unproven rookie Nathan Peterman in Week 11 only to reinsert Taylor back into the lineup at halftime after Peterson threw five interceptions, are officially in the market for a franchise passer, and they'll use one of their two first-round picks to land him. (And for our purposes here, we have the Bills trading the No. 21 pick in 2018 plus a future first-round pick to Denver for the right to move up to the fifth-overall pick.)
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. The Browns, who were reportedly trying to trade for Alex Smith before the Redskins landed him, could make a run at McCarron in the coming weeks. Whatever happens, new general manager John Dorsey is still drafting a quarterback. And with Darnold widely considered the best of the bunch, he makes perfect sense here.
2. New York Giants
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. Rosen has terrific mechanics and completed 63 percent of his passes last season even though he was victimized by 31 drops. He has struggled to stay healthy, but with 37-year-old Eli Manning entering his 15th season, the Giants are in the market for his replacement -- and it's unlikely they'll have the second-overall pick again anytime soon.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. If Andrew Luck isn't 100 percent -- and no one seems to know when he will be -- Barkley can be for Jacoby Brissett what Ezekiel Elliott was for Dak Prescott in 2016: The world's most dynamic security blanket. The Colts have myriad needs on both sides of the ball but don't forget, the Cowboys were 4-12 the season before Elliott and Prescott arrived and promptly went 13-3.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Texans)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. A year after taking Jabrill Peppers in the first round, the Browns get one of the draft's best defensive backs with the No. 4 pick. In a league built on the passing game, you can never have enough quality players in the secondary.
5. Buffalo Bills (mock trade from DEN)
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. Mayfield isn't your prototypical NFL quarterback. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, and with a demeanor that can sometimes rub people the wrong way, he has drawn comparisons to Johnny Manziel. Mayfield is understandably bothered by this, but the Oklahoma star can play. And in Buffalo he could be the final piece to the puzzle for a team that made the playoffs in January for the first time since the 1999 season.
6. New York Jets
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. The Jets ranked near the bottom of the NFL when it came to generating a pass rush, and Chubb is too good to pass up here. Yes, there are bigger concerns at quarterback but the team could address those needs in free agency.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. The Bucs' offensive line was replacement-level in both running and passing situations and Nelson will bolster the interior, and in the process makes life easier for Jameis Winston, who is coming off a disappointing 2017 season.
8. Chicago Bears
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. The Bears' leading receiver last season was Kendall Wright, who had 59 catches for 614 yards. Yes, Kevin White and Cameron Meredith will return, but you can never have too many big-play options for second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. The 49ers' pass defense was among the worst in the league, and San Francisco's defensive backs were the weakest link on a weak unit. Ward isn't the biggest cornerback in the draft but he can cover, skills that are hard to come by in the NFL.
10. Oakland Raiders
11. Miami Dolphins
12. Cincinnati Bengals
Connor Williams, OT, Texas. Cincinnati's offensive line wasn't even replacement level last season, and Williams would provide a much-needed upgrade, not only making life easier for Andy Dalton but for Joe Mixon too.
13. Washington Redskins
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. With Zach Brown possibly becoming a free agent, Smith would be a faster, younger, cheaper alternative. If the Redskins can re-sign Brown and pair him with Smith, all the better.
14. Green Bay Packers
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. The Packers addressed the secondary early in the draft last year, and Jackson will join Kevin King in giving Green Bay one of the longest, most athletic cornerbacks in the NFL.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. If this feels like a stretch it's because it probably is. But unless the Cardinals are willing to move up in Round 1 Jackson may be the only first-round talent left on the board. The team could also address the need in free agency, or choose to bolster other needs with this pick, like the offensive line.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. Just like the Browns are perpetually looking for a quarterback, the Ravens are annually in search of a game-changing wide receiver. They're hoping Sutton, who is a huge downfield target, is that player.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Derwin James, S, Florida State. Yes, the Chargers drafted two defensive backs a year ago; they were late-rounders and not nearly the talent that James is. Plus, in today's NFL you can never have too many competent defensive backs. James is solid against both the run and the pass and will make an already good defense better.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma. The Seahawks could have gone in any number of directions with this pick -- cornerback and defensive line among them -- but making an honest effort to protect Russell Wilson seems like the prudent move given that he spent much of the 2017 season running for his life.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. Davenport parlays a big Senior Bowl week into a strong draft-day showing and the University of Texas-San Antonio standout brings his pass-rushing skills to Dallas. He had 21.5 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss during his four-year college career, and he would join a defense that ranked 15th in sacks a season ago with 36.
20. Detroit Lions
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. At 6-foot-2 and 283 pounds, Hurst may be undersized, but his unbelievable quickness more than makes up for it. He'll be an integral piece to new coach Matt Patricia's defense.
21. Denver Broncos (mock trade from BUF)
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. The Broncos traded out of their top-five pick and move down to take an offensive lineman to protect whichever quarterback (Hi, Kirk Cousins!) they land in free agency.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Chiefs)
23. Los Angeles Rams
24. Carolina Panthers
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State. Devin Funchess was the Panthers' leading receiver last season, followed by a running back (Christian McCaffrey) and a player they traded after eight games (Kelvin Benjamin). Put another way: Cam Newton needs another downfield weapon and Washington could be it.
25. Tennessee Titans
Billy Price, OL, Ohio State. The Titans' offensive line was middle-of-the-road in pass protection but ranked in the bottom third in run blocking. Price, who can play guard or center, would upgrade the interior, which would be welcome news for both Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. The Falcons could lose four defensive linemen -- including Dontari Poe -- in free agency and if Payne is still on the board they'll give serious consideration to grabbing him.
27. New Orleans Saints
Harold Landry, DE, Boston College. Landry isn't a finished product but he can get after the quarterback from Day 1. He'll be a welcome addition to a much-improved Saints defense that logged 42 sacks last season.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama. Evans could be off the board by the time the Steelers go on the clock but he would fit perfectly in Pittsburgh. Ryan Shazier suffered a serious spinal injury last season and he was the glue that held the Steelers' defense together.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Mason Rudolph, QB. Could six quarterbacks go in Round 1? If it happens, the Jags could be in the market for Blake Bortles's replacement. Yes, he earned the right to be the starting quarterback in 2018 but there are no guarantees beyond that. If he regresses next season the Jags will have Rudolph waiting in the wings.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Will Hernandez, OL, UTEP. The Vikings need help at tackle but Hernandez is too good to pass up here, and he'll bolster the interior line of a unit that was replacement level in the running game last season.
31. New England Patriots
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE, Oklahoma. The Super Bowl proved that the Patriots desperately need pass rushers and cover cornerbacks. With Okoronkwo still on the board, New England addresses the pass-rushing deficiencies and will circle back to those secondary needs in later rounds.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Ronald Jones, RB, USC. With LeGarrette Blount and Darren Sproles headed for free agency, Jones would add some much-needed depth. That said, Jay Ajayi and Super Bowl hero Corey Clement return (along with Wendell Smallwood) but as Blount proved in 2017, you can never have too many talented backs in a game where injuries can derail a season.
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