2018 NFL Mock Draft: Six QBs land in top 20, but only two are top-five picks
Teams like the 49ers, Rams and Bears might not be looking for QBs if they land in the top five
The quarterback class of 2018 is supposed to be one of the best in recent memory, and the new wave of signal callers is coming just in the nick of time. While several teams are still looking for answers at the position (hello, Jets), others that have enjoyed stellar quarterback play throughout the years will have an eye on the future of the position come 2018.
Those realities combine to place a whopping six quarterbacks in the top 20 of my first mock draft for 2018. And once teams get into draft mode during next offseason, it wouldn't surprise to see teams jockeying for position via trade to land their preferred targets. That's great news for the teams at the top of the draft who might not be interested in landing a quarterback, as a trade down could set a premium pipeline of draft talent up for those teams for years to come.
For the actual draft order, we're using SportsLine's projected win totals to set teams in their slots. All teams are listed with their 2016 records.
1. Cleveland Browns (1-15)
Sam Darnold, QB, USC: The Browns seem good enough (or not quite as bad as usual) to avoid the No. 1 pick for a second straight year, and if DeShone Kizer impresses as a rookie, they may be in the enviable position of looking to trade out of the top five in a QB-rich draft that should feature plenty of teams looking to move up. But if Kizer isn't the answer and the Browns are stuck at No. 1, Darnold seems like the safest bet to finally give them a franchise quarterback to be excited about.
2. San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Count me among those that expect Kirk Cousins to join Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco after the 2017 season. If that happens, the 49ers will be poised to trade down and continue working to rebuild their roster with a ton of draft capital. If they stay in the top five, grabbing a top-rated offensive tackle to pair with Joe Staley, who himself is 32, makes a lot of sense.
3. New York Jets (5-11)
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: The biggest lock of the 2018 NFL Draft this far out is that the Jets will finish with a top-five pick and finally find themselves a quarterback of the future worth the title. Rosen is probably a better bet for immediate success than Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, and we know whoever the Jets take is going to start in Week 1 of 2018.
4. Los Angeles Rams (4-12)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama: The Rams stand to lose Trumaine Johnson after back-to-back seasons playing under the franchise tag, and I expect the secondary to continue to be a priority for new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Sean McVay will get enough out of Jared Goff in 2017 to prevent pulling the plug and looking at drafting another quarterback early.
5. Chicago Bears (3-13)
Connor Williams, OT, Texas: The Bears have one of the best collections of interior linemen in the league, but they still lack talent on the ends of their offensive line. With new face of the franchise Mitchell Trubisky likely starting by no later than Week 1 of 2018, improving pass protection on the outside will be critical to offensive success. Williams is excellent in that regard and would be a huge find for the Bears.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: The Chargers would be ecstatic to see a blue-chip passer on the board when they're up, as Philip Rivers is 35 years old and may end up worn down after a year of commuting to L.A. The best case scenario would have Rivers still under center in 2018 as Allen learns the ropes before the Wyoming signal-caller takes over in 2019, when moving on from Rivers would save the Chargers $16 million on the cap.
7. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Arden Key, DE, LSU: The Dolphins landed some pass rush help in the 2017 draft in the form of Charles Harris, but who says they'll be done looking for impact pass rushers by the time the 2018 draft rolls around? Cameron Wake, 35, could see his play fall off at any time, and the Dolphins don't have much depth behind the wily veteran and the fresh-faced rookie. Key could be part of a three-headed rotation if Wake is still effective in 2018 while giving Miami a great pair of bookends long-term.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: The Buccaneers have been building quite the offense around former No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston, but one thing they lack heading into 2017 is an established rushing threat. Barkley will likely emerge as the best back of the 2018 class, and if he reaches his potential this season, it could be the third draft in a row we see a running back taken in the top five overall.
9. Detroit Lions (9-7)
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: The top priority for the Lions will be making sure Matthew Stafford and Ezekiel Ansah aren't going anywhere; after all, they only have one franchise tag they can use. Provided both are under contract for 2018, the Lions will likely look to draft an impact defender. Wilkins, who will be ready to start immediately, can take over for Haloti Ngata (free agent in 2018) inside next to 2016 second-round pick A'Shawn Robinson and give the Lions a ferocious defensive line.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
Luke Falk, QB, Washington State: Unless Blake Bortles reaches new heights in 2017, the Jaguars are going to be in the market for a quarterback next offseason. Falk likely isn't going to light up the combine or individual workouts, but he'll have the experience and intangibles worth selecting in the first round anyway. If the Jaguars fall in the 8-15 range of the draft, look for them to engineer a move up for one of the blue-chip passers.
11. Buffalo Bills (7-9)
Da'Shawn Hand, DT, Alabama: New coach Sean McDermott (along with new GM Brandon Beane) enjoyed wave after wave of talent coming into the Carolina defensive line via the draft, and with Kyle Williams heading into free agency in 2018 and Marcell Dareus a potential cap casualty after 2018, when the Bills would save more than $10 million on the cap, or 2019, Hand guarantees the Bills defensive line won't go lacking for talent anytime soon.
12. Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State: The Colts are set to lose Vontae Davis to free agency in 2018, and if that happens they'll have a pretty lean depth chart outside of 2017 second-rounder Quincy Wilson, who isn't likely to develop into a No. 1 corner. McFadden has the potential to be just that, as he has ideal size and a nose for the ball. A breakout 2017 season could get McFadden into the top-five overall discussion.
13. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas: The Eagles could be in the market to add to their skill-position talent depending on how things shake out in 2017, but one place they'll definitely need help in the 2018 offseason is at linebacker, where Nigel Bradham and his off-field issues will be a free agent, as will key backup Najee Goode. Jefferson is a run-and-chase weapon at the linebacker spot who would go a long way toward strengthening the team's defensive front seven.
14. New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Derwin James, S, Florida State: James would be a steal this late for a Saints team that needs playmakers on defense. Kenny Vaccaro is a free agent after the 2017 season, and pairing James with Vonn Bell would give the Saints a nice tandem on the back end for the foreseeable future. James might be a better fit at free safety, but Bell excelled in run defense last year while struggling in coverage, meaning he might be better playing closer to the line anyway.
15. Denver Broncos (9-7)
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: The Broncos will need to starting thinking about the future of their passing game next offseason, as the team could save more than $10 million by cutting ties with Emmanuel Sanders, already 30, during the 2019 offseason. Ridley, who would start his career as the team's third receiver, could be a threat at every level of the field and would guarantee that Paxton Lynch (or whoever is starting) doesn't have to lock onto Demaryius Thomas in the passing game.
16. Washington Redskins (8-7-1)
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: Unless the Redskins reverse course and start treating Kirk Cousins like a franchise quarterback, they'll be in the market for a long-term option next offseason. Rudolph has a big arm that teams could fall in love with during the predraft process, and he figures to be in the first-round mix after the bigger talents are off the board.
17. New York Giants (11-5)
Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson: Hyatt might not have the measurables teams are looking for in an offensive tackle, but he acquitted himself well as a freshman manning left tackle for Clemson and continued his quality play last year. If he puts another good year on tape, he'll be impossible to keep out the first round, no matter his size. The Giants could lose guard Justin Pugh next offseason anyway, so the opportunity will be there for Hyatt to dominate inside if his size doesn't play at tackle.
18. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
Josh Sweat, OLB, Florida State: Sweat has the skill-set to break out in 2017, and if he does he could be a highly-coveted pass rusher in the 2018 draft. He gives Tennessee a nice third rusher behind Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, and he'll be able to take over if one or both leave as free agents in 2019.
19. Oakland Raiders (12-4)
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: Guice could be neck and neck with Barkley for top rusher in the draft, and it's possible we see both go in the top 10 in the 2018 draft. If he's somehow available when Oakland picks, he's an easy selection to be their new franchise back. Even if Marshawn Lynch recaptures some of the magic of his Seattle days, the Raiders have to be thinking long-term in terms of finding a replacement.
20. Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1)
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Jackson could be the biggest wild-card of the 2018 draft heading into this season, as personnel departments may be unwilling to stake their futures to a guy some consider unlikely to develop into an NFL-caliber quarterback. But let Bruce Arians at the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and his upside has a great chance of being unlocked. In the 20s, gambling on Jackson's talent makes sense.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1)
Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State: It's possible that Cincinnati's new-look offensive line plays well in 2017 despite losing two key members this offseason, but more likely the Bengals will be on the hunt for offensive line talent next offseason. Rankin has experience at left tackle but is expected to kick inside this season, and if he continues to play well, it should improve his stock even more. Either way, he has the size to stick outside at the NFL level.
22. Cleveland Browns (1-15) from Houston Texans
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State: The Browns found a franchise edge rusher in 2017 in the form of Myles Garrett, their No. 1 overall pick. Chubb is a well-rounded edge defender who plays well against the run while being a force rushing the passer. He could very well be long off the board by this part of the draft, but I'm not so sure the Texans are a good team heading into 2017, and the Browns could end up with two top-10 selections in this draft when all is said and done.
23. Minnesota Vikings (8-8)
Dre'Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State: The Vikings suffered a big blow when Sharrif Floyd was diagnosed with a potentially career-ending knee injury. If his outlook isn't any better by the time the 2018 draft rolls around, replacing him on the interior of the defensive line must be a priority. Jones could be in for a big season while surrounded by talent on the Ohio State defensive line.
24. Carolina Panthers (6-10)
Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State: The defensive line has been a priority for the Panthers in recent memory, and while a change in the front office could lead to an organizational shift in draft approach, Hubbard is a well-rounded edge talent who could be a fit in their edge rotation if Julius Peppers is one-and-done in Carolina.
25. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Vita Vea, NT, Washington: The Packers lack a reliable nose on the defensive line, and with Letroy Guion dealing with off-field issues this offseason, the team will likely be on the lookout to strengthen the position next offseason. Vea is a massive presence inside who will go a long way to anchoring the team's run defense.
26. Buffalo Bills (7-9) from Kansas City Chiefs
Deon Cain, WR, Clemson: Wide receiver was a position of need heading into this past offseason for the Bills, and while they spent a second-round pick on Zay Jones, they still have little depth to speak of. The position could take an even bigger hit if Sammy Watkins departs after the team failed to exercise his 2018 option. Cain has the deep speed to complement Jones' possession skills, and even if he goes earlier than this, the solid group of receivers in the back half of the first round should make this a position to target here for the Bills.
27. Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
Marcus Allen, S, Penn State: The Cowboys overhauled their secondary this offseason, but one spot that doesn't have a clear answer is strong safety, where Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier are trying to make their claim. Allen is a liability in coverage but a monster hitter who could be a difference-maker in the box. If he simply can't stick in the deep field due to his coverage skills, the Cowboys could try and transition him to linebacker a la Deone Buccanon.
28. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame: Andy Levitre had a nice bounceback season last year, but his price tag could make him a 2018 cap casualty if he doesn't continue to play at a high level. The Falcons are looking for an answer at the other guard spot this preseason. If either spot needs upgrading, taking the leap on Nelson, the draft's best interior line prospect, would be a great way to assure the Falcons' line remains a strength.
29. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU: I'd be shocked to see the Ravens picking this low considering how snakebit they've been this offseason, and you can bet Ozzie Newsome will be looking to nab the best value on the board wherever he ends up. Sutton, who is an excellent route-runner, could be an option in the top half of the first round by the time we get to the draft, as he has about as much talent as any receiver in this class.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)
Cameron Smith, ILB, USC: The Steelers said goodbye to long-time inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons this past offseason, and while Vince Williams will get the chance to prove he deseves the starting gig next to Ryan Shazier, Smith gives the team a backup plan in case Williams is ineffective or if either he or Shazier, both free agents after 2018, leave in free agency.
31. Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
Trey Adams, OL, Washington: While many consider the offensive line the big weakness for the Seahawks, they have done little to address the issue in recent offseasons, instead directing their attention elsewhere. If they wind up with a pick this low, they could decide to invest in a player with potential to play left tackle. Adams might not be able to stick on the blind side, but he'd be a fine addition inside for a line that needs an injection of talent.
32. New England Patriots (14-2)
Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State: The Patriots lost Rob Ninkovich over the weekend, so even if 2017 third-round pick Derek Rivers turns into a solid pass-rushing option, the team should still be on the lookout for defensive-end talent for the present and future. Evaluations on Lewis are all over the map, but if anyone can get the most out of him, it's Bill Belichick.
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