Way-too-early 2018 NFL Mock Draft: In loaded QB draft, top passers go 1-2-3

It's never too early to start looking ahead, and that's exactly what we're doing with our first 2018 NFL mock draft of the "new" NFL year. Let's be upfront here: This is an exercise in futility because there is a lot of college football to be played and a lot of scrutiny that is going to fall on a draft class that could feature some exceptional quarterbacks.

Sam Darnold , Josh Rosen and Josh Allen will be put under the microscope this coming year, particularly after we saw the 2017 NFL Draft feature three quarterbacks taken in the first round, each the result of a pretty expensive draft-day trade.

The prospects in next year's draft are considered to have substantially higher upside and there are plenty of teams who still need quarterbacks.

We'll use the order provided by reverse engineering SportsLine's projected win totals for the 2017 season. (Don't you dare find me on the Internet and complain about your team's pick number. That's not the point of this exercise.)

But I'm going to intervene a little here: The model actually projects the Los Angeles Rams to win the fewest games (four) and the Bears the third-fewest games (five). I'm sliding them to fourth and fifth in the draft order, because if either of those teams was up top right now we would see a massive trade take place. And that's a little wild, even for my tastes. Plus, Super Bowl odds released by Bookmaker.eu have the Browns, 49ers and Jets as the teams with the worst odds, so it's a fair compromise.

And the result is the top three teams in the draft pulling the trigger on a quarterback, giving us the first trio of quarterbacks up top since 1999 when Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith were taken. Yet another reminder that it's never a guarantee when you're drafting a quarterback.

Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @WillBrinson.

1. Cleveland Browns

Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California Trojans : The Browns drafted DeShone Kizer with a second-round pick (No. 52) in the 2017 NFL Draft, but if Darnold has a 2017 season like the second of half of 2016, the Browns won't hesitate to draft him. He turns 20 this summer.  

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Sam Darnold is the early favorite to be the No. 1 pick in 2018. USATSI

2. San Francisco 49ers

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming Cowboys : The 49ers did not solve their quarterback quandary in the 2017 draft. The question is whether they will have signed Kirk Cousins in free agency. For now we're giving them a quarterback.

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Scouts see some John Elway in Josh Allen.  USATSI


3.  New York Jets

Josh Rosen , QB, UCLA Bruins : For the first time since 1999, three quarterbacks are drafted with the first three picks. This is a pretty unlikely outcome, because someone with a quarterback will be worse than one of these teams or one of these quarterbacks will struggle, but right now if these three teams had top picks, they would take these guys in this order or close to it.

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Josh Rosen is right in the mix among the top QBs for the 2018 draft. USATSI


4. Los Angeles Rams

Arden Key , LB, LSU Tigers : An 11-sack season has folks expecting big things out of Key in Ed Orgeron's defense this year. Long and athletic, he can rush standing up or with his hand in the ground. Wade Phillips would have fun with this guy. 

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Another draft, another LSU defender in the top five. USATSI

5.  Chicago Bears

Calvin Ridley , WR, Alabama Crimson Tide : The Bears invested big in Mitchell Trubisky in the 2017 NFL Draft and the next year should be about building around him. That starts with a talented wideout in Ridley, who should explode this year without ArDarius Stewart and O.J. Howard on the roster.

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It's Calvin Ridley's time to shine at Alabama. USATSI


6.  Los Angeles Chargers

Derwin James , S, Florida State Seminoles : There are some concerns about the meniscus tear James suffered last year, but if he'd played the whole season he would be in consideration for the top spot here given what he did as a freshman. He can play all over the secondary and is dominant against the run.

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Derwin James looks like the top DB in next year's class. USATSI


7.  Miami Dolphins  

Malik Jefferson , LB, Texas Longhorns : Former Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year is moving back to outside linebacker after he struggled some during the 2016 season. He still managed nine total sacks the last two years, and if he explodes his draft stock could skyrocket. 

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Malik Jefferson will give some team in the top 10 of the draft an edge.  USATSI


8.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers   

Christian Wilkins , DT, Clemson Tigers : Perhaps best known for being very, ahem, handsy, Wilkins is a versatile force on Clemson's defensive line who racked up 3.5 sacks and nine passes defensed last year while also catching a touchdown. 

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Christian Wilkins continues the Clemson parade of first-round picks. USATSI

9.  Detroit Lions  

Christian Kirk , WR, Texas A&M: Smaller (5-foot-11) receiver with lethal speed and joystick moves. He saw his total yardage stats drop last year (1,009 to 928) as Josh Reynolds really exploded, but his catches (80 to 83) and touchdowns (7 to 9) went up.

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Christian Kirk is a home-run hitter. USATSI

10.  Jacksonville Jaguars

Mike McGlinchey , OL, Notre Dame Fighting Irish : This pick is still up in the air depending on what Blake Bortles does, but for now we'll assume Doug Marrone fixes him and the Jaguars go in a different direction. A big Catholic offensive lineman feels like a Coughlin pick.

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Mike McGlinchey looks like the draft's top tackle. USATSI

11.  Buffalo Bills

Bradley Chubb , DE, NC State Wolfpack : This is a projection, but Chubb has superstar written all over him. He's playing in a defense that should be improved and he can really get after the passer. 


12. Indianapolis  Indianapolis Colts  

Minkah Fitzpatrick , CB, Alabama: The Colts poured resources into the defense during this last draft and offseason as a whole. They will probably keep doing it. Fitzpatrick finished 2016 with six picks and comes from the cornerback factory that is Alabama. 

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Minkah Fitzpatrick is another CB off the Bama assembly line. USATSI

13. Philadelphia  Philadelphia Eagles   

Saquon Barkley , RB, Penn State Nittany Lions : The Eagles invested in Donnel Pumphrey during this draft, but now they're interested in getting a workhorse. Barkley rushed for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns last year. 


14.  New Orleans Saints    

Tyquan Lewis , DE, Ohio State Buckeyes : The Saints didn't bother really addressing defense (they almost didn't even take Marshon Lattimore ) but double dip here on the Buckeye defensive train to grab a guy with 16 sacks the last two years. 

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Tyquan Lewis is the next great defensive prospect from Ohio State. USATSI


15.  Denver Broncos  

Vita Vea , DL, Washington Huskies : With Denver going after Garett Bolles this year it's possible they feel comfortable with the offensive line by next season. So here they get a massive human with the ability to improve their run defense. 


16.  Washington Redskins

Mason Rudolph , QB, Oklahoma State Cowboys : A mobile enough quarterback with a big arm, Rudolph will get questioned for playing against Big 12 defenses, allowing him to throw to a lot of open receivers. But the Redskins might be in a bad spot when it comes to the quarterback position and might be willing to dabble here. 

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Mason Rudolph is the fourth QB off the board. USATSI

17.  New York Giants

Connor Williams, OL, Texas: The Giants didn't think it was very important to upgrade the offensive line during the 2017 draft, and if they end up with the 17th pick, they're going to wish they had. Born and raised in Texas, Williams is big, strong and can drive people off the ball. He would help Eli Manning immediately.


18.  Tennessee Titans

Courtland Sutton , WR, Southern Methodist Mustangs : The Titans spent an early pick on Corey Davis in 2017's draft, but adding another top-flight receiving option will only make Marcus Mariota more dangerous. Sutton put up 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore and there is an impressive history of wide receivers coming out of offenses coordinated by Chad Morris. 


19.  Oakland Raiders

Cameron Smith , LB, USC: Capable of piling up tackles (160 plus in his first two years with the Trojans), Smith is also a ballhawk for his size and generated three interceptions as a true freshman in 2015. He recorded four passes defensed last year, too. 

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Cameron Smith is a tackling machine. USATSI


20.  Arizona Cardinals

Luke Falk , QB, Washington State Cougars : Our fifth quarterback of the draft! The Cardinals were a candidate to draft a quarterback early and whether or not Carson Palmer is coming back for 2017, they're going to need to plan for the future.    


21.  Cincinnati Bengals

Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State: Slightly down year for Hubbard after a monster freshman season, but it was just the sack numbers that dipped. Don't be stunned if he comes out with a huge year and makes 21 look like a joke. 


22. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans )

Tarvarus McFadden , CB, Florida State: McFadden slid into the Seminoles secondary as a starter in his sophomore season and casually recorded eight interceptions. This would be a tremendous haul for Cleveland. 

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Tarvarus McFadden is the second Florida State DB to go in Round 1. USATI


23. Minnesota Vikings

Da'Ron Payne, DL, Alabama: They could be looking to improve the interior of their defensive line next year and Payne would be a plug-and-play starter.


24. Carolina Panthers

James Washington , WR, Oklahoma State: The Kelvin Benjamin weight rumors are very concerning right now in Charlotte, and it could ultimately lead the Panthers to try and find some additional help at the wideout position. 


25.  Green Bay Packers

Quenton Nelson , OL, Notre Dame: The Packers beef up their interior protection of Aaron Rodgers by adding the second lineman off the board for the Irish in the first round. 


26. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs )

Quin Blanding , S, Virginia Cavaliers : Highly productive player for the last three years who has six interceptions and 356 tackles in his career with the Cavaliers. 


27.  Dallas Cowboys  

Josh Sweat , DE, Florida State: An incredibly active player who can do a ton in the pass rushing game, Sweat is an explosive athlete who would help this defense get after the passer.


28. Atlanta Falcons

Ronnie Harrison , S, Alabama: Just another hard-hitting human being to add to this Falcons defense, which is not-so-slowly becoming a really scary unit. 


29.  Baltimore Ravens  

Mitch Hyatt , OL, Clemson: With Ronnie Stanley already securing the left side of the offensive line, Ozzie Newsome grabs another offensive lineman to protect Joe Flacco. 


30.  Pittsburgh Steelers

Clelin Ferrell , DL, Clemson: The Steelers like to draft pass rushers early and this would fit, although if the redshirt sophomore makes the same jump he made last year (zero to six sacks) then he won't be available here. 


31.  Seattle Seahawks

Orlando Brown , OL, Oklahoma Sooners : Since the Seahawks didn't improve their offensive line in the 2017 NFL Draft, we'll give them a mammoth offensive lineman in the first round here. Good chance they trade out, too. 


32. New England Patriots

Porter Gustin , LB, USC: The Patriots will probably trade out of this pick (I can see the future!) but in the event they stay here, it wouldn't be surprising to see them get a highly productive linebacker, who had 68 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2016.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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