It's finally here. I can no longer delay the inevitable. Mock me now, mock me later, and mock me forever.
Here is my one and only 2018 first-round mock draft. Invariably I will already want to change a pick or two by the time you read this, and especially by the start of the draft, but, alas, it's time to rock and roll.
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It took some doing, but I did manage to sneak all six of the top quarterbacks into the first round, and I wouldn't be surprised in the least if "only" four end up going in this round. I have things getting very interesting at the end of Round 1, but that's hardly a lock to be the case. There are a handful of trades, and frankly I believe one or two more are possible. There are no shortage of teams looking to move down, I'm just not sure how many give real value to move up, especially outside of the top 10.
So here it is. Have at it.
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1. Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. … Or Sam Darnold. GMs I speak to around the league and particularly picking in the top 10 could see it either way. I'm going with a gut here and that new GM John Dorsey ends up with the same evaluation that his analytics-heavy predecessors were coming to: Mayfield is the best QB prospect in the draft. But Darnold wouldn't surprise me at all.
2. New York Giants
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. If Darnold is still on the board he has to be considered, though I have never got the sense through this entire process that Giants ownership was truly open to a reboot, and they seem committed to propping Eli Manning up any way possible. Bradley Chubb is under heavy consideration, too, but I suspect they add arguably the best player in the draft and an elite back to aid their aging quarterback.
3. New York Jets (from IND)
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. … or Mayfield. They are very high on both quarterbacks and at various parts in this process I got the sense Darnold was their top-rated guy. It has been clear since Kirk Cousins picked the Vikings that the Jets were all in on a QB. That became more clear when they moved from No. 6 to No. 3 and they end up getting one of the two passers they truly coveted.
4. Cleveland Browns (from HOU)
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. This is a true hot spot for a trade, especially with the Broncos and Colts very open for business with the next two picks. And Dorsey will listen to everything, but in the end I don't think anyone pays the premium it would take to get him to move off the premier defensive player in the draft.
5. Buffalo Bills (DEN trade)
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. They did some late work on Rosen, doubling back with people who know him well, going over his personality and how to reach him and connect with him. He is the most pro ready -- and he'll play from Day 1 in Buffalo. GM Brandon Beane didn't make all these trades not to make sure he gets a top passer.
6. Arizona Cardinals (IND trade)
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. They love him. They can't risk seeing if he gets all the way to No. 15, and they mortgage a future first-round pick, plus a bunch of draft capital this year, to land their quarterback of the future -- or quarterback of Week 6, because Sam Bradford ain't making it through half a season, let alone a full one.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Derwin James, S, Florida State. I've been hearing this one from GMs and agents in the know for over a week. Sometimes it's an elaborate smokescreen, and sometimes it's just the pick. I'm going with the latter. Offensive guard Quenton Nelson would make a lot of sense, even with the Bucs adding a bunch of interior offensive linemen in recent years, and I'd prefer Minkah Fitzpatrick myself, but I believe this is the pick.
8. Chicago Bears
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. This is the absolute lowest he goes. Too many great evaluators have thrown around the term "future Hall of Famer" with me for him not to go top 10, even if he is a guard. If the Colts keep their pick, then I see him off the board there.
9. San Francisco 49ers
10. Oakland Raiders
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. At age 19 he has immense potential and a freakish body to continue growing into. Jon Gruden must add impact guys to his starting seven as the Raiders re-recruit Khalil Mack. They are very enamored with DT Vita Vea, who I believe is the pick if Edmunds and Smith are already gone.
11. Miami Dolphins
Vita Vea, DT, Washington. They gutted the top end of their roster, walking away from guys like Ndamukong Suh and Mike Pouncey. They need to replenish and fill some gaping holes and Vea is seen as a guy who could be special. They did a lot of late work on corners Denzel Ward and Jaire Alexander as well, so I wouldn't rule out a defensive back here.
12. Denver Broncos (BUF trade)
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. There has been much made of his medicals recently, but I don't see him getting past the Cowboys and Steelers in the first round and Denver has been high on him a long time and the run on the top linebackers in the draft continues here.
13. Washington Redskins
Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. I've gone back and forth on this a ton, with DT Taven Bryan and Fitzpatrick, and my pick here is various permutations of this mock. In the end I think the Redskins go with a run stuffer given their inability to stop the run. Also, this could be a spot with the first real shocker of this draft -- I've heard whispers of a running back and with Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen calling the shots, that wouldn't be out of character, but I can't fathom it actually happening.
14. Green Bay Packers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. They would be all over this. Arguably the best defensive back in the draft falls to them in the middle of the first round. I'm not sure he gets there in real life, but in this exercise he did and it's a no-brainer to grab him.
15. Indianapolis Colts (ARI trade)
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Chris Ballard needs to build a defense and once he couldn't land Chubb he loads up on a future first rounder and more second-round picks and still ends up with the top corner in the draft.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. They need pass rush desperately, among other things. Ozzie Newsome will go big in his final first-round selection, just not Lamar Jackson big, although they've thought plenty about grabbing a QB here. It's too high for a WR or TE in their estimation and I think they take his tremendous potential upside over a safer pick like right tackle Mike McGlinchey.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. This could very well be a defensive tackle if Payne or Bryan are on the board, but this offensive line still needs work and grabbing a plug-and-play right tackle from a program this front office knows well (Notre Dame) just feels right to me.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. They really, really, really want to trade down, but I just don't see a match in the end. Not sure who is coming up. Atlanta for Bryan? Saints for a tight end like Hayden Hurst? Anyone for a QB? So with their secondary getting revamped they grab a top corner here and end up getting their additional Day 2 picks by trading Earl Thomas on Friday.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida. They like some receivers plenty and they just cut Dez Bryant, but I believe their sincere hope is to land Courtland Sutton on Day 2. David Irving could face NFL discipline, the defense is short on impact guys, and this kid could become a pocket collapser from the inside. (The lowest Bryan goes is the Falcons at 26.)
20. Detroit Lions
Will Hernandez, G, UTEP. Some might think this is a tad high, but the Lions have a big hole at guard and he would fill it perfectly. With the defensive tackles and linebackers fairly picked through, I'm going Hernandez, while Rashaan Evans or Harold Landry would also make a lot of sense.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from BUF)
Frank Ragnow, G/C, Arkansas. I've been saying for weeks: He was a first-round lock, the first center off the board and a guy teams coveted despite almost no attention coming his way until draft week. Cincy is all about fixing that offensive line.
22. Denver Broncos (BUF trade)
Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia. The run on offensive linemen continues and Denver's offensive line has been a problem for years. This kid can maul and is an instant starter. A corner like Josh Jackson would make sense for them, too, or Landry.
23. New England Patriots (from LAR)
Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA. And that run of offensive linemen ends here, with the Pats getting their replacement for Nate Solder. He could end up being the best tackle in this draft. Pats have been all over him for weeks.
24. Carolina Panthers
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. At times I thought there might not be a WR going in the first round, but the Panthers grab one they believe can contribute big as a rookie. They've done a lot of work on defensive backs, like Justin Reid, but my hunch is Ridley being here would make them very happy.
25. Tennessee Titans
Harold Landry, DE, Boston College. Pass rush is always in demand and while his 2017 film was not good, there is enough he did in 2016 to end his slide here. Brian Orakpo is getting up there and Derrick Morgan, too, and see them going OLB rather than an ILB like Evans.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina. He gets dinged some for being 25 years old, but Atlanta is trying to win rightnow, and with the offensive and defensive linemen carved through they grab a player the rival Saints very well might have taken with the very next pick.
27. New Orleans Saints
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. Maybe they decide to sign a veteran like Dez Bryant to round out their receiving corps, and take a TE like Dallas Goedert here. Maybe they grab Lamar Jackson for the future. But many teams believe Moore is the best pass catcher in the draft.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama. I am less than certain he actually makes it to this point, but this would be a no-brainer. If Vander Esch is still here that could be a toss-up. If both backers are gone then don't rule out a safety like Reid or Terrell Edmunds.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
James Daniels, G/C, Iowa. The Jags are eager to bolster their interior offensive line and this is a natural fit getting a center who is smart and tough.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. This roster doesn't have a ton of holes, but adding a potential starting corner would make sense, especially with a lot of the offensive linemen they'd like already off the board. I've heard the Colts and Chiefs among teams who could be trading back into this round around here as well.
31. New England Patriots
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. They love this kid and have the will and brain power to build an offense around him over time. Once he gets past the Cardinals and Ravens in the middle of this round there aren't a lot of natural landing spots, but if the Pats don't trade out of this pick then Jackson will most definitely warrant heavy consideration.
32. Los Angeles Chargers (PHI trade)
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. The quarterback inspires strong feelings for better or worse, but the Chargers (and Steelers and Giants among others) think pretty highly of him. The Eagles would love to trade down and land some Day 2 picks -- and by getting the QB in the first round you can control him an extra season with the fifth-year option. Chargers could use a splash and after going safe at 17, maybe they go bold here.