2018 NFL Mock Draft: Broncos take Baker Mayfield, Jets pass on a quarterback
The Broncos might have tipped their hand as to which player they're targeting at No. 5
It's no secret that the Broncos need to do something to fix their quarterback position this offseason. Winners of Super Bowl 50, the Broncos have fallen to top-five-pick status in just two short years.
While the team has certainly been scouting college quarterbacks all season, a recent report could be a hint as to the player they could be zeroing in on with their first-round pick.
Of course, it's still on Mayfield to impress in this opportunity to work closely with the Broncos' coaching staff, but at this point it makes sense to pair the Heisman-winning Oklahoma quarterback with John Elway's team in Denver.
Below is the current draft order, which could feature some alterations after pick No. 28.
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. The former general manager in Cleveland put off committing to a franchise quarterback for two years and ultimately paid for it with his job. Don't expect the new front office to make the same mistake. In a class loaded with several potential long-term starters at the most critical position in football, I fully expect the Browns to use their top pick on their quarterback of choice rather than risk missing out on their guy by targeting him at No. 4. I'm making Darnold the favorite for that honor right now.
2. New York Giants
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. The Giants shouldn't expect to be picking in the top five often, so it's incumbent on the new regime to find Eli Manning's successor in this draft even if the veteran is brought back for another go-round. Giants fans will either fall in love with the UCLA quarterback or hate him with a passion, but he has the talent to be a success in the NFL on the field. If the new front office thinks Rosen will completely buy in, there should be no hesitation in making him the pick.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. Barkley is likely the top talent in the draft this year and a decent bet to go No. 1 overall despite the position he plays. The Colts will be looking for a new bell-cow back despite there being no proof that Frank Gore isn't a warlock who has defeated the slow march of time, and if Barkley is there at No. 3, he could be the top name on the board for the Colts. It wouldn't be too shocking to see them go pass-rusher or offensive lineman either.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Texans)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS, Alabama. I'm listing Fitzpatrick as a free safety, but expect the team that drafts him to go the Jalen Ramsey route and try him at cornerback first. At either position, he feels like a lock for the top five based on his versatility and the importance of having elite talents in the secondary in today's game. If the Browns come out of the first round with a potential franchise QB and Fitzpatrick, they'll have "won" the draft.
5. Denver Broncos
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. I had Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson in this spot last week, but with the Broncos asking to work with Mayfield as referenced above, it makes too much sense to plug him in here. It's on Mayfield to alleviate any character concerns suitors may have, but if the Broncos come out of the Senior Bowl feeling like they have a handle on the Heisman winner and they like what they see, he shouldn't fall out of the top five.
6. New York Jets
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. Logic dictates that the Jets should take a quarterback here, but this is a franchise that loves spending first-round picks on defensive players. In fact, the last offensive player they drafted in the first round was Mark Sanchez way back in 2009. I think the best-case scenario for this front office is for Fitzpatrick to drop to No. 6, but if he doesn't, Jackson makes for a nice consolation prize after leading the nation in interceptions this past season.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. The Buccaneers could go one of a few ways with this pick, nabbing Barkley if he makes it out of the top six or fortifying the offensive line by finally upgrading over Donovan Smith. But when you're looking at both value and need, Chubb is the perfect fit at No. 7. He's a dominant edge-rusher that gives high effort on nearly every play. With 10 sacks and more than 20 tackles for loss in each of his last two seasons for NC State, he's the perfect guy to come in and take the Bucs defense to another level.
8. Chicago Bears
Arden Key, DE/LB, LSU. The Bears can save more than $11.5 million on their cap by parting ways with both Pernell McPhee and Willie Young, and going that route while using this pick on an elite talent like Key makes sense if they're confident his off-field red flags won't be an issue. The premier pass-rusher dealt with injuries himself in 2017, but he's impressed against top SEC talent and should be a constant sack threat in the NFL if he can stay on the field.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. The 49ers would be getting a steal if Nelson lasts until the ninth pick, as he's one of the few blue-chip prospects in this draft with a relatively high floor. There just isn't an appetite to use a premium pick at the top of the draft on a guard, but Nelson is one of the few to come along in recent years worth a top-10 pick after dominating virtually anyone who lined up across from him in college.
10. Oakland Raiders
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Even though offensive guru Jon Gruden is in town, the Raiders should be targeting best defender available with this pick. The Raiders can save $14.5 million by cutting Sean Smith and David Amerson in the offseason, and if they can get T.J. Carrie re-signed after his standout year, having him, 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley and the speedy Ward at the cornerback position instantly makes the Raiders younger, cheaper and flat-out better at an area of need.
11. Miami Dolphins
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. The Dolphins defense struggled at the second level last year, and adding Smith would give them a boost both in run defense, where Lawrence Timmons struggled, and pass defense, where Kiko Alonso graded out terribly. Smith would step in immediately on the weak side, pushing Alonso back to the middle, while playing on all three downs and making plays all over the field.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. The Bengals have to come out of this draft with a better plan for their offensive line after the disaster of 2017, and McGlinchey is a great step in the right direction. He has proven himself against some of the country's best edge-rushers during his Notre Dame career, and he'll improve both the pass- and run-blocking for a team that desperately needs it. This would be a great spot for the Bengals to trade down as well and pick up multiple picks to address the line.
13. Washington Redskins
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. Will the Redskins get Kirk Cousins signed to a long-term deal? It's hard to imagine something finally giving way after years of stalled negotiations. The team can get by with franchise-tagging him one more time but they need a plan going forward if it's not going to be Cousins. Allen needs some work before he can step onto an NFL field, but his upside is tantalizing enough for a team that can redshirt him for a year to grab him.
14. Green Bay Packers
Derwin James, SS, Florida State. The Packers drafted Josh Jones in the second round in 2017 to take over for Morgan Burnett after the latter left in free agency, but Jones didn't put enough on tape to just be handed the job this offseason. Considering the great value the Packers get with James here, relegating Jones to a reserve role long term makes sense. James should be a great fit as an in-the-box safety to complement Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the Packers' defensive backfield.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. It's possible the Cardinals could have their QB of the future locked up before the draft, but if they decline to hand a big-money contract to someone in free agency, they should be positioned to grab someone in the second-tier of signal-callers this year after just missing out on the top three names in the last draft. Jackson seems to be a polarizing prospect that could come off the board in a wide rage of possibilities, but if no one ahead of this spot falls in love with the former Heisman winner, I think this could be his floor.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. Ozzie Newsome obviously loves to grab Alabama prospects in the draft, and here's a guy that also fills a major need for the team. Ridley is so much more than his pedestrian college stats suggest, and while teams will give him a pass for his production in that offense, he'll need to show the ability to bulk up a bit if he wants to jump into the top half of the first round. By placing him here, I think he'll check that box for teams just fine.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Vita Vea, DT, Washington. The Chargers have a pair of beasts on the edge to rush the passer, but too many times this year they were done in by the run, giving up a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry as six opponents topped 150 rushing yards against them this season. Vea, a massive presence in the middle of a defensive line, will go a long way toward fixing that deficiency, while also providing enough quickness to penetrate into the backfield on some third downs.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. The thing to know about the Seahawks' first-round pick is that they currently don't have any picks on Day 2, so it makes the most sense for them to look to trade down a bit and pick up a second- or third-round pick to help address potential needs on the offensive line, defensive line and secondary. If they do deal down, Davenport should be a prime target to address a need at defensive end if Michael Bennett isn't brought back, which he seems to expect. That is, if someone earlier than here doesn't fall in love with the big edge rusher first.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. One year after drafting Taco Charlton to improve the defensive line, the Cowboys go back to the well to add one of the best defensive tackles in this draft class. Payne showed in the College Football Playoff how dominant he can be, and he'll be a huge boost for the Cowboys' rush defense while also having the ability to get pressure on the quarterback in passing situations.
20. Detroit Lions
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. The Lions go local with this pick and take a defensive tackle who had 31 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in his final three years at Michigan. Hurst doesn't have the size that teams are generally looking for in an interior defensive lineman, but his quickness more than makes up for that deficiency and makes him in particular a great threat rushing the passer on third downs.
21. Buffalo Bills
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. The Bills are a prime candidate to trade up to nab the quarterback they want, but if they instead stand pat and let the draft come to them, Edmunds makes a whole lot of sense for Sean McDermott, who is used to having stud linebackers after coming to Buffalo from Carolina. Edmunds has the speed to cover the field and is a weapon rushing the passer as well after racking up 30.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in his final two years at Virginia Tech.
22. Buffalo Bills from Chiefs
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. I think it's possible the Bills pass on taking a quarterback here if they don't trade up for a particular target, especially if they can add another stud like Da'Ron Payne to the defense. But with the players left on the board here, Rudolph makes the most sense to me as a potential franchise passer for a team that desperately needs one. I'm a Tyrod Taylor fan, but the Bills apparently aren't based on how they've handled him, so expect them to bring in some outside talent at the position.
23. Los Angeles Rams
Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn. With Trumaine Johnson heading to free agency unless the Rams can work out a long-term deal, cornerback should be a need for the team heading into the draft. Davis brings similar size to Johnson at the position, and if he runs well at the combine, he could end up much higher than this when all is said and done.
24. Carolina Panthers
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. The Panthers cut ties with one tall receiver when they shipped Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills, and now they replace him with the 6-foot-4 Sutton, who should go much higher than this if he tests well during the combine. Sutton put together back-to-back seasons of 1,000 yards and 10 TDs, and he scored 32 times in all in his three seasons with the Mustangs. He'll give Cam Newton a great replacement for Benjamin in the offense.
25. Tennessee Titans
Taven Bryan, DE, Florida. Jurrell Casey is one of the league's premier 3-4 defensive ends, but he could lose DaQuan Jones as a linemate due to free agency. Enter Bryan, who has drawn some lofty J.J. Watt comparisons. Don't expect him to reach Watt's level -- that's nearly impossible for anyone -- but Bryan should be an excellent fit as Casey's running mate.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado. The Falcons will likely be hoping a top defensive tackle falls to them at No. 26, particularly if they can get a massive run defender like Vita Vea or Da'Ron Payne. With both off the board, they pivot to grabbing Oliver, a corner with good size and speed who would combine with Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford to give the Falcons a great trio of cover guys while also serving as insurance in case either of the team's top two corners become too expensive to keep down the road.
27. New Orleans Saints
Malik Jefferson, OLB, Texas. The Saints should be happy with the play of Manti Te'o in the middle, but they need to surround him with more talent at the position. Enter Jefferson, a top recruit coming out of high school who has the sideline-to-sideline speed to stick on the weakside and play all three downs for the Saints on their young, rising defense.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama. The inside linebacker position tragically became one of need when Ryan Shazier suffered a catastrophic injury against the Bengals during a Monday night game. While Shazier focuses on his health, the team must find an answer inside. That could come in the form of Evans, a versatile linebacker who can cover in the passing game but take on blockers while attacking the running back as well.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Connor Williams, OT, Texas. The Jaguars would be wise to bring in a potential franchise left tackle after watching Cam Robinson struggle at the position this year, and Williams could fit the bill. Some analysts think he's a lock for the top 10, while others can't imagine him being taken in the first round. In the end, his potential on the blind side is too great for the Jaguars to pass on.
30. Philadelphia Eagles
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma. It's not a lock that Jason Peters is the same player after suffering an ACL and MCL tear in 2017, which is a major injury for any player not to mention a guy who will be 36 when the 2018 season begins. Whether Peters returns or not, the Eagles should be thinking long-term about the tackle spot, and that means drafting a quality right-tackle prospect like Brown, who would be a great value late in the first round, and shifting Lane Johnson to the left side.
31. New England Patriots
Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College. Bill Belichick, here's your new Jamie Collins. While Landry is nowhere near the run defender as Collins, he would give the Patriots a boost in getting after the quarterback, which they showed is a concern by bringing in linebacker James Harrison late in the season. Landry can give them that type of player regularly moving forward and should be an excellent chess piece for the Genius.
32. Minnesota Vikings
Billy Price, G, Ohio State. Assuming the Vikings figure out what to do with their free-agent quarterbacks heading into the draft, Price would be a great target for them as a potential replacement for Joe Berger inside. Price would be one of the better starting centers in the league, so the Vikings have the option of sticking him at the pivot immediately and having Pat Elflein compete at a guard spot.
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