2018 NFL Mock Draft: Jets find their QB, but it's not the one you think
Last year's Heisman winner adds electricity Gang Green needs at the quarterback position
Lamar Jackson was a stud against Purdue on opening weekend, and not just in the video-game type of way. The Louisville quarterback was much more willing to stay in the pocket than what he showed last year. Also, he threw with accuracy and was rarely late getting the football to his targets.
The Jets clearly need a quarterback, and not just any quarterback. They need someone who'll invigorate the franchise and its fan base, a player that'll freak out defensive coordinators.
That's Jackson. Sure, he needs to continue to show pocket-passing improvement, but if he does, he'll rocket up draft boards as fast as he changes directions.
1. Cleveland Browns (1-15)
Derwin James, S, Florida State. The Browns have been able to fill needs at a variety of a positions at the outset of the Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta era in Cleveland. Though they nabbed safety Jabrill Peppers with their second first-round pick in 2017, that doesn't stop them from picking James, a player who many will have as the most complete prospect in the 2018 class. James is young, quick to recognize plays, and has the athleticism to make impact plays all over the field.
2. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State. Kyle Shanahan has had multiple first-hand looks at the incredible impact a true No. 1 wideout can have on an offense. He was the Texans offensive coordinator in 2008 and 2009 during the prime of Andre Johnson's career. He spent time in 2014 with Josh Gordon. And he called plays for an offense that featured Julio Jones in Atlanta. Washington probably isn't the prospect Jones was, but his combination of good size and tremendous speed is rare.
Previous pick: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
3. New York Jets (5-11)
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. From Mark Sanchez to Geno Smith to Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets' recent starters have all lacked dynamic ability, and were short on excitement. They weren't game-changers. Jackson is.
Previous pick: OT Mike McGlinchey
4. Los Angeles Rams (4-12)
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. The Rams are likely to lose Trumaine Johnson in free agency next year, so they look to find his replacement on the boundary. No, Ward isn't imposing physically at 5-foot-10 and slightly under 200 pounds, but he's a twitchy cornerback with the ability to cover outside and in the slot. He had five pass breakups and an interception against Indiana and should find himself around the football often in 2017. Wade Phillips will see some Chris Harris Jr. in Ward.
Previous pick: Derwin James, S, Ohio State
5. Chicago Bears (3-13)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama. Bolstering the pass-rush will be a priority for the Bears as long as Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford remain in the division. But strengthening the secondary is also a necessity. Fitzpatrick is a long, lean, aggressive, and well-schooled defender who'll be ready to face off against alpha wideouts in the NFL right away.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. Some may question Rudolph's arm strength. I don't. Or at least I haven't seen reason to yet. He's a refined pocket passer who's been super-productive in Oklahoma State's pass-heavy offense for a while now. He has 51 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions in his career, including 31 scores to just four picks dating back to the start of 2016. Rudolph's the perfect prospect to learn from Philip Rivers early in his career.
7. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State. Miami spent a third-round pick on Cordrea Tankersley, a talented cornerback from Clemson. That doesn't preclude the Dolphins from going corner in Round 1 in 2018. McFadden is a ball-hawking defensive back with solid cover skills. He had a sound but quiet evening against Alabama last Saturday.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame. The Buccaneers really like Ali Marpet, but he's bumped inside to center. Tampa Bay's guard spots need work, and Nelson will likely be the best guard prospect in the 2018 class. He's a bit further ahead as a run-blocker than he is in pass-protection, which is the only real negative about his game at this point. Nelson is a people-mover on the interior.
Previous pick: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
9. Detroit Lions (9-7)
Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State. Ziggy Ansah is back for the Lions -- fantastic news for Jim Caldwell's crew. The defensive spot needs to be addressed with the future in mind though. Lewis got out to an awesome start against Indiana with two sacks. He's technically "defending" his Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year award this season.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. Jaguars fans in DUUUUUVVAAAALLL would be ecstatic if the commissioner calls Darnold's name with the Jaguars on the clock. The Blake Bortles Experiment has blown up in Jacksonville's face, and the franchise is in need of new direction at the game's most important position. Darnold is young but supremely gifted. Even if he isn't as good this season as he was last year, he should be an early first-rounder.
Previous pick: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
11. Buffalo Bills (7-9)
Arden Key, DE, LSU. Key went into this college football season at and is dealing with injury now. He needs to gain some weight to play defensive end on a three-down basis in the NFL. Key currently possesses a freakish get-off and long limbs. Buffalo has Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson on the edge, yet depth behind those two is desperately needed. The addition of Key is huge for the Bills defense that typically utilizes four-man rushes.
Previous pick: WR Courtland Sutton
12. Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. Indianapolis' secondary needs work. Landing free safety Malik Hooker in the 2017 draft was excellent, and in this scenario, the Colts complement him with another interception-machine. The 5-foot-11 Alexander reeled in five picks in 2016 and should make an assortment of plays this season.
Previous pick: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
13. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. This is simply too exquisite of a match to change at this juncture. For the Eagles, it's all about building a quality atmosphere around Carson Wentz. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith are now out wide. When LeGarrette Blount's contract expires after this season, Philadelphia will be in the market for a feature back. Look no further than the Nittany Lions' do-it-all runner.
Previous pick: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
14. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State. Here's the deal -- Ohio State is going to sack a boatload of quarterbacks this season. More than you think. Lewis is a sturdy defensive end capable of playing three downs. Hubbard is more explosive and wraps the edge with more speed. He's flying under the radar right now but will rise up draft boards throughout the season and don't be surprised if he tests well at the combine. He'll be a welcomed addition in New Orleans as the bookend outside rusher to Cam Jordan.
Previous pick: DE Tyquan Lewis
15. Denver Broncos (9-7)
Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma. Regardless of who's playing quarterback for the Broncos next season, that man will need a reliable, seam-stretching tight end. Andrews is a smooth mover for 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds and is in line to have an enormous season in Oklahoma's wide-open offense this year.
Previous pick: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
16. Washington Redskins (8-7-1)
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson. Dealing with the stout Cowboys and Eagles offensive lines four times a year is reason enough to use back-to-back first-round picks on defensive linemen. It can be argued that Wilkins may better suited for a one-gap 4-3, but he has the size at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds to play anywhere in a base 3-4, and his pass-rushing skills are, let's say, useful.
Previous pick: Cameron Smith, LB, USC
17. New York Giants (11-5)
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. No offensive tackle who needs polish this time around for the Giants. McGlinchey will almost assuredly be the most pro-ready offensive lineman in the 2018 class and he can immediately slide into the left tackle position for New York. He's a tall, pass-protection specialist who'll fit right in.
Previous pick: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
18. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State. Another selection too logical to tweak. Chubb is massive at 6-foot-4 and 275 with an always-churning motor and heavy hands. Dick Lebeau will enjoy Chubb's talent into his defense in Nashville. Chubb was held in check against South Carolina but has many impactful games ahead of him.
Previous pick: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
19. Oakland Raiders (12-4)
Shaun Dion Hamilton, LB, Alabama. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie is an advocate of acquiring springy and speedy players, and that's exactly what Hamilton is. He returned from a torn ACL with a bang against Florida State, totaling 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Alabama linebackers always thrive in Nick Saban's scheme playing behind the Crimson Tide's two-gapping defensive line.
Previous pick: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
20. Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1)
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. Bruce Arians would probably lean toward Josh Allen. I could understand the Cardinals ultimately deciding on Rosen. He's not in need of as much coaching and can still push the football down the field with relative ease. No, he doesn't have Allen's arm, but that's fine.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1)
Billy Price, C/OG, Ohio State. Russell Bodine has struggled at Cincinnati's offensive line pivot for a few years now. The Bengals have question marks at right guard too. Price can play either position and would bring an AFC North-style nastiness up front.
Previous pick: Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson
22. Cleveland Browns (1-15) from Texans
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. The Browns head into this pick with strong, best-player-available intentions. Sutton is a big-bodied, high-pointing master who gives Cleveland size at the position, something it doesn't current have. The SMU product will likely put on a show at the combine as well.
Previous pick: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
23. Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Oklahoma. In Brown, the Vikings see Phil Loadholt 2.0. While the latter's career was cut short due to injury, he was one of the best -- and most underrated - right tackles in the NFL in his prime. Brown's an experienced pass-protector with ridiculous size at 6-foot-7 and 340 pounds. He can play either tackle spot.
Previous pick: Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
24. Carolina Panthers (6-10)
Deon Cain, WR, Clemson. How about some receiving help for Cam Newton? Yes, Carolina has an affinity for power forward wideouts recently but with Cain they get a Ted Ginn-like field-stretcher. Newton's at his best when he can use his huge arm to consistently threaten defenses with deep shots. Cain currently averaged 18.5 yards per catch in his collegiate career.
25. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. Green Bay's seemingly had a ridiculous receiving corps forever -- they add to it with the elusive Crimson Tide product. Playing with Jalen Hurts, Ridley isn't bound to have 65 receptions, 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, but no one can question his tremendous body control and no-nonsense route running.
Previous pick: Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
26. Buffalo Bills (7-9) from Chiefs
Quin Blanding, S, Virginia. Blanding, a former five-star high school recruit, is the complete package at safety. While he predominantly mans center field with impressive speed and range to the sidelines, he's not simply a free safety. He's logged 115-plus tackles in each of his first three years with the Cavaliers. Sean McDermott will move Blanding around and even use him as a weakside linebacker at times.
27. Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State. Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is a 4-3 proponent, and he'll love plugging in Nnadi in one of the two middle spots to let him attack up the field. Nnadi can anchor against double teams and has the ability to make plays in the backfield quickly. The Cowboys need an influx of defensive line talent.
Previous pick: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
28. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan. With Okorafor, the Falcons get an instant pass-blocking upgrade from Jake Matthews. The Western Michigan blindside protector has some Tyron Smith to him. Thomas Dimitroff, Scott Pioli and Co. simply can't pass up that type of talent. Protecting Matt Ryan is still a top priority.
Previous pick: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
29. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. Ozzie Newsome has been one of the NFL's finest GMs for a long time, and this selection may not represent the best value. However, Guice alters games, and Baltimore has had its fair share of ground-game issues since the days of Ray Rice. Guice creates some outstanding running back matchups in the division against Le'Veon Bell.
Previous pick: Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Adonis Alexander, CB, Virginia Tech. The Steelers signed Joe Haden as a bridge at the cornerback position. He'll have to piece together a tremendous season to see the second (and third) years of his deal. Alexander is a large and comfortable covering big receivers on the boundary. Physically, he'll match up well with A.J. Green.
Previous pick: Micah Kiser, ILB, Virginia
31. Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Deontay Burnett, WR, USC. Pete Carroll stays true to the time he spent in the Pac-12 with the skilled Burnett to play next to Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. Clearly the Seahawks don't have a height threshold at the receiver position. Burnett had seven receiving touchdowns a season ago and started the 2017 campaign with seven grabs and 142 yards against Colorado.
Previous pick: Trey Adams, OT, Washington
32. New England Patriots (14-2)
The clear-cut need in New England is at the defensive end spot. Ejiofor is somewhat underrated at this juncture. That will change. He had 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 in 2016. In the opener this season, the Wake Forest edge-rusher had three tackles behind the line and one quarterback takedown.
Previous pick: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
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