2018 NFL Mock Draft: Giants start new era at quarterback with USC star Sam Darnold
A few years away from starring in the NFL, Darnold has extraordinary tools for a 20-year-old QB
After starting the season 0-4, the Los Angeles Chargers have won five of their past six and find themselves one game out of the AFC West lead heading into the holiday season.
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the premier edge-rushing duo in football, have been integral to L.A. putting the clamps down on the opposition. The offense has gotten a boost from its underrated pass-catching quartet of Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams. Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates have kept defenses honest down the middle of the field, too.
Recently the Chargers haven't shied away from adding to a strength -- see: outside pass-rushers and pass-catchers -- instead of simply filling a need in the draft (and free agency). Therefore, to shake things up in this mock, I'll make the vast majority of the picks with the idea that the team would be acquiring more talent to an already steady position on its roster.
There will still be a variety of movement here, but as we head into December, I'm now using the official draft order.
1. Cleveland Browns
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. OK, so the Browns aren't particularly "strong" at the quarterback position, but they did just pick DeShone Kizer in Round 2 in 2017, and he's shown some signs of improvement over the past two weeks... with Corey Coleman back in the lineup, imagine that. Regardless of that, the Browns grab Rosen here, arguably one of the most fundamentally sound quarterback prospects to enter the league over the past two seasons.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Reuben Foster and Smith could become Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman 2.0. The two youngsters won't necessarily be Willis and Bowman immediately, but the natural talent and refined skills will be similar between those linebacker duos. With the addition of Smith, the 49ers will have one of best -- and probably most underrated -- defensive front sevens in the NFC.
3. New York Giants
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. Another pick that's not really "adding to a strength," as Eli Manning has been benched for Geno Smith. Wooo boy. It'd be best if Darnold, who has rare gifts that need to be cultivated, was handed the keys to the franchise in 2019. But he may need to be the face of the franchise right away.
4. Denver Broncos
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. Imagine the Broncos with another outside rusher. Goodness. Chubb and Von Miller would stack up with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram as the most dynamic edge-rushing partnership in football. Chubb can anchor the left side of the Broncos defensive front while Von destroys the other side of the opposition's backfield.
5. Indianapolis Colts
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson. With Henry Anderson, Johnathan Hankins and even Joey Mbu, the Colts are stout in the middle of their defensive front. With Wilkins, they could be dominant. Wilkins can play end in Indianapolis' 3-4 and man the nose tackle position to engulf blocks to free up his teammates. He leaves a little to be desired as a pass-rusher but thrives against the run and is already NFL strong.
6. Chicago Bears
Derwin James, S, Florida State. Adrian Amos has experienced a breakout season in Chicago, and with Derwin James as his safety-mate, the Bears will have two "erasers" at the back end of their defense ... useful against Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and the Vikings, wouldn't you say? James' presence will have a positive impact on Chicago's run defense too.
7. Cleveland Browns from Texans
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. With Hurst, Danny Shelton, and Larry Ogunjobi, the Browns would have a rock-solid defensive tackle group to complement Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah on the outside. Hurst is somewhere between Grady Jarrett and Geno Atkins, and Cleveland could use more push up the middle on defense.
8. New York Jets
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. Robby Anderson, from undrafted free-agent out of Temple to the Jets' No. 1 wideout in one year. Hats off to him. Behind Anderson sits the underrated Jermaine Kearse and sneaky slot wideout Jeremy Kerley along with some youngsters like rookie Chad Hansen and Charone Peake. Yes, wide receiver is near the bottom of the Jets future needs. Therefore, to follow the theme of his mock, they add another weapon for [insert quarterback of your choice] to throw to in 2018 and beyond. Sutton is a rebounder on the perimeter. If that sentence was written to explain basketball, it'd be a little confusing.
9. Miami Dolphins
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB, Oklahoma. With Cameron Wake, Andre Branch, and Charles Harris, the Dolphins should be happy with their contingent of outside pass-rushers. Let's throw Okoronkwo in the mix and see what he can do as a secondary outside edge-rusher after being the defender opponents gameplanned to stop during his time at Oklahoma.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Arden Key, DE, LSU. Can't go with a strength here -- which would be pass-catchers -- because the Buccaneers are already loaded at that position and have an immense need along their defensive live. In 2016, Key looked like the next Myles Garrett. An injury-riddled 2017 -- which did feature a stretch of scary good play -- pushes him to the No. 10 spot in the draft.
11. Los Angeles Chargers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama. The Chargers defensive backfield is actually pretty ridiculous, and it's just now getting the credit it deserves -- Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, Desmond King, Jahleel Addae, and Tre Boston have all been outstanding this season, and 2015 first-round pick Jason Verrett is on IR again. Fitzpatrick would help to make the Chargers essentially impenetrable through the air.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
Taven Bryan, DL, Florida. Geno Atkins is still an elite defensive tackle, and although Carl Lawson probably won't win it, he should be a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Then you consider Carlos Dunlap, Jordan Willis, and Ryan Glasgow, and you realize Cincinnati's stout up front. That doesn't stop the Bengals from picking Bryan, who I believe is the most versatile defensive linemen in this class.
13. Arizona Cardinals
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State. Washington is a Bruce Arians prospect all day. He's fast in a straight line, consistently productive down the field and can make catches outside his body frame with decent regularity. Larry Fitzgerald is signed through 2018 and Arizona has gotten quality contribution from guys like Jaron Brown, John Brown, and recently, Ricky Seals-Jones, so it doesn't really have a glaring need for receiver right now, but Washington would certainly add a fun element to the Cardinals offense.
14. Oakland Raiders
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. I am here for at least one season of Marshawn Lynch and Saquon Barkley in the same backfield. Make it happen, Reggie. In this situation, the Raiders GM does make it happen, and Oakland gives help to Derek Carr by way of a more reliable running game. Barkley "fully" takes over the Lynch after the 2018 season.
15. Dallas Cowboys
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma. La'El Collins hasn't been a steady force for the Cowboys. Not at all. Therefore, despite having Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Travis Frederick, three perennial All-Pros, on its offensive line, Dallas snags the ginormous left tackle from Oklahoma. With his run-blocking prowess, he'll pave the way for a variety of strongside runs from his right tackle spot for Zeke Elliott for many years.
16. Washington Redskins
Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State. The Redskins used a first-round pick on Johnathan Allen in the 2017 draft after the consensus top 10 pick fell into the teens amid medical concerns. They reload the defensive line with Nnadi, a space-eating run-stuffer who's been a steady producer for Florida State in his four-year career in Tallahassee.
17. Green Bay Packers
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis. Davante Adams will likely see a hefty second contract this offseason, and Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson don't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. So, like they did when they picked Cobb during a time when they seemingly had no space in their receiver room, the Packers take Miller, a feisty wideout with an enticing combination of speed, quickness, and strong hands.
18. Buffalo Bills
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. A LeSean McCoy and Derrius Guice backfield? HELLO. Guice has some McCoy to his game but is a more powerful runner who'd provide Buffalo with a serious "backup" who'd ultimately take over as the feature back in 2019. This would be an electric thunder and lightning tandem.
19. Detroit Lions
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. T.J. Lang has been a people-mover for the Lions at right guard, and Taylor Decker, when healthy, has star potential at left tackle. The Lions aren't really in dire need for more offensive line help, therefore, following this mock's protocol, they pick Nelson, the cleanest offensive lineman in the class, a destroyer of worlds on the interior.
20. Seattle Seahawks
T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin. Bobby Wagner has challenged Luke Kuechly as the game's best off-ball linebacker, and he has made a compelling case to earn that title this season. To give him a young running mate, the Seahawks select Edwards, a smart, polished inside linebacker who, like Wagner, has no problem sinking into coverage to make plays.
21. Baltimore Ravens
Vita Vea, DT, Washington. Ozzie Newsome has always emphasized the defensive line, and the Ravens are still ferocious in the trenches. Vea is the second-best defensive tackle in the class in terms of being effective against both the run and pass. At 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, the Huskies star has light feet and uses his powerful hands to beat offensive linemen.
22. Buffalo Bills from Chiefs
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado. Tre'Davious White is in the mix for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and when healthy, E.J. Gaines has played well on the boundary. With Oliver, the speedster with impressive ball skills, Buffalo's retooled secondary would be super stingy.
23. Atlanta Falcons
Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. Atlanta has a myriad of defensive line talent, and Payne would help the team's run defense instantly, as he's probably the strongest, most refined run-stopper in the class. At 6-foot-2, and around 310 pounds, Payne can play anywhere along the Falcons front four.
24. Carolina Panthers
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford. Stanford's 2016 backfield reunited. Love has more feature back qualities than Christian McCaffrey -- sorry, Run CMC faithful -- and can step in as Jonathan Stewart's replacement in the Panthers run-heavy offense. Love will bring a big-play element to Carolina's ground game.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson. The Jaguars' obsession with defensive linemen continues with the selection of Ferrell, a raw but talented defensive end with long limbs and springy athleticism. He'd enter an environment conducive to success learning from the likes of Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, and Dante Fowler.
26. Tennessee Titans
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Tennessee has plenty of unheralded secondary members -- Kevin Byard, Logan Ryan, and Brice McCain have enjoyed productive seasons in 2017. To add to that group, the Titans take the small but fierce Ward, a versatile cornerback who can play inside or on the perimeter.
27. Los Angeles Rams
Connor Williams, OT, Texas. The free-agent acquisition of Andrew Whitworth has worked wonders for the Rams offense this season, and Los Angeles continues to construct its offensive line with Williams. He can start at right tackle then move over to his more natural position when Whitworth calls it quits. Williams is only 20 years old but played like a top 5 pick in 2016.
28. New Orleans Saints
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. Marshon Lattimore stepped into the NFL and immediately became one of the league's most impressive cornerbacks. Ken Crawley has been a fine No. 2 cornerback and P.J. Williams has lived up to his potential in his third professional campaign. With Alexander, another sub 6-foot-0 cornerback with keen awareness and twitchy athleticism -- New Orleans would have the best young secondary in football.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers
Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford. Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt have been key cogs in Pittsburgh's defensive resurgence. Phillips is a old-school Steelers type of defender, just like Heyward and Tuitt. He's a gritty grinder on the inside who possesses a heavy anchor against double teams and can remove blocks with lead pipes for arms.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. With Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the Vikings are all set at wide receiver. So what do they do here? Draft another pass-catcher. Ridley is a silky smooth route-runner who will significantly benefit whoever is throwing passes in Minnesota next season.
31. New England Patriots
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. You know where the Patriots are strongest? Yeah, at quarterback. Tom Brady's is still the best player in the NFL, and Brian Hoyer is probably one of football's best backups. Therefore, Bill Belichick drafts a quarterback of course. With Rudolph, New England gets an experienced, ultra-productive pocket passer who might be the heir apparent to Brady. Sound familiar?
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma. He's not getting a ton of pub, but Zach Ertz is probably the third-best pass-catching tight end in the NFL after Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce. Therefore, let's end this special-themed mock with the premier pass-catching tight end in the 2018 draft class for the Eagles.
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