The 2018 NFL Draft has been littered with offseason rumors and smokescreens since the Philadelphia Eagles captured their first ever Super Bowl. At this stage, there seems to be a new rumor every hour, diluting any new information without questioning validity to it.
This year’s draft has been one of the hardest to pinpoint for many teams’ interest. An argument can be made for a quarterback selection for half the NFL. The wide receiver, edge rusher and tackle groups are all thin, leaving many franchises with a best player available strategy heading into Thursday night.
Below is my final mock draft. As per usual, I don't mock trades or select who I think should go at each position. This mock is strictly based off extensive research and talent evaluation along with my own hunch.
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold doesn’t come out as polished and pro-ready as Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning — few are these days — and the way he ended his college career could scare teams off from selecting him so highly.
However, there’s enough tape to show Darnold’s ability to beat teams throwing inside and outside the pocket. He’s not perfect. He needs time to slow the game down and read the field effectively, but there’s no denying his arm strength, accuracy and toughness. He’s not a guaranteed prospect — no quarterbacks are in this draft — but he’s a hardworking, humble leader who was beloved by coaches and teammates.
It’s tempting to take Josh Allen here, especially with the physical tools and arm talent Allen possesses. But for a franchise like the Browns, who have an extraordinarily bad draft history, it makes sense to select the safest quarterback on the board. Turnovers aside, Darnold throws a pretty ball and utilizes sound mechanics which makes him the best fit for the Browns moving forward.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
There’s no question the Giants have been one of the most difficult teams to figure out. Highlights of the Giants’ offseason includes Odell Beckham Jr.’s drama, trading Jason Pierre Paul and cutting Brandon Marshall. Do they want a quarterback for the future? Do they want to replace JPP with Bradley Chubb? Do they want Saquon Barkley to be the next star in New York? Or is this all a smoke screen for another team to bite on a trade and bail them out of the decision?
Assuming the recent reports of the Giants’ high interest in Barkley are true, a star will be born in New York. Anytime a running back weighs 233 pounds and runs a 4.4 40-time, the team who selects him will likely be rewarded. Combine his physical makeup with excellent balance, vision and cutting ability, and that team will have found a rare talent. The Giants won’t pass up on an opportunity to be that team. Give Eli Manning one last shot to make a run with Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and now Barkley, and the Giants may have something special on offense.
3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
There’s a lot of chatter about Baker Mayfield here, but there may be a bit of gamesmanship going on. Mayfield has always been a candidate to be selected by the Jets, and while many around the NFL believe the Jets are debating between Mayfield and Rosen, the Jets were blown away by Rosen, according to the New York Post’s Brian Costello.
The Jets were very impressed with Rosen’s intelligence, and Rosen is viewed as the most ready quarterback in the entire draft. While Mayfield offers a lot of talent and swagger, his antics would be heavily criticized in a difficult market like New York. If things went wrong, Mayfield’s fire wouldn’t be received well from a fan base with little patience or forgiveness. Additionally, Rosen offers more size and natural arm talent than Mayfield, despite Mayfield’s superior playmaking ability and accuracy.
Rosen has all the tools to be a top-10 quarterback in the NFL with arguably the best touch a ball out of anyone in the draft. However, he must stay healthy and learn how to escape the pocket to extend plays. If he can learn to make mechanical adjustments under pressure instead of trusting his arm too much, then he’ll thrive under the pressure of the New York media too.
4. Cleveland Browns
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Cleveland would be ecstatic to get arguably the second best player in the draft at No. 4. Chubb would be a fantastic addition to Cleveland’s already formidable edge rushing attack of Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah. That’s a scary trio that could take over the division as early as this season.
Chubb is a 6-foot-4, 260-pound beast who can beat you with speed, strength, tenacity and excellent pass-rushing abilities. Despite his explosive physical attributes, he’s not completely polished yet and struggles a bit with consistent pad level. His hands are violent and can throw linemen aside like rag dolls, but plays a bit stiff against the more athletic tackles because his body is unbalanced. He’ll need to be coached to bend his knees more consistently at the point of attack, and not get caught on blocks in run defense. However, anything less than a highly successful career for Chubb would be surprising.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Barring a trade-back scenario, the Broncos would run to the podium to Select Mayfield. Mayfield has the ability to sling it all over the yard and beat a defense with his legs when he has to, making him a deadly dual threat. His arm isn’t as natural as Allen’s or Rosen’s, but his accuracy and decision making are among the best in the draft.
Not only is Mayfield arguably the best passer with a clean pocket, but he thrives under pressure too. According to Pro Football Focus, Mayfield was annually ranked No. 1 in passer rating under pressure out of qualified college quarterbacks since 2015. With one of the quickest releases in the draft, Mayfield excels at throwing receivers open and can thrive in an offense built around airing it out. He feasts off defenses using timing, trajectory and anticipation to fit balls into windows that don’t seem available. The sky is the limit if Mayfield lets his play do the talking, rather than expressing it by grabbing his junk or planting a flag on the opponent’s logo — even if it does make for good entertainment.
Denver has been linked to Mayfield since the draft process began, and while they signed free agent Case Keenum as the present QB, Mayfield can sit, learn and develop as the QB of the future.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets)
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Offensive line has been a problem for Indianpolis for years. So much so, their franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, has missed 28 games from injury because of the line’s ineptitude. Nelson can step in and become an immediate starter who can transform the line from a weakness into a strength, protecting Luck once he returns. It’s not a sexy pick at No. 6, but it’s the most necessary for the Colts.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
James was one of the winners of the combine and re-established his top-10 stock after his pedestrian season with FSU. Is he a safety or a cornerback? Who cares. Similar to the Jaguars situation with Jalen Ramsey, the Bucs need secondary help and will draft the best football player available. Put him on the field, let him blossom and figure out what position he plays later. Tampa Bay already has a rangy safety in Justin Evans, and pairing him with James, who is a versatile freak athlete that can roam around the box and also play deep, allows the Bucs to form weaponize secondary in multiple ways.
Another possibility here is Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Bears have a desperate need at linebacker after releasing Jerrell Freeman and constantly losing Danny Trevathan to injury (he’s missed 11 games in two years). Edmunds gives them tremendous athleticism, coverage and playmaking ability who fits well in the middle, outside and even on the edge. A weapon for Mitchell Trubisky is tempting here, but it would be hard to justify Calvin Ridley — or any remaining offensive prospect — this highly.
Edmunds, 19, is just scratching the surface with his potential, and could develop into a special player if he continues to learn the schematic side of football.
9. San Fransisco 49ers
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The 49ers are a prime trade-back candidate, but without mocking trades, Ward at No. 9 would be a steal for San Fransisco. The 49ers can bring in Ward to compete for the starting outside cornerback opposite of Richard Sherman -- who can also mentor the young corner.
Ward is an explosive athlete who plays the game with lightning quickness and footwork. His loose and fluid hips allow him to backpedal and quick twitch react to change of direction. Ward is balanced, disciplined and sticky in coverage, and he dissects the field before the QB makes the throw.
Ward must play more physical in press coverage, and his lack of size may limit him in run support -- or tackling overall.
10. Oakland Raiders
Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
One could argue Roquan Smith is the pick here, but Fitzpatrick is dynamic defensive back who offers the most versatility out of anyone in the draft. His nine career interceptions shows his ball-hawking ability, and his four touchdowns validates his playmaking ability. It’s very difficult to step in and make a huge contribution as a rookie defensive back, but Fitzpatrick is well polished and in a good position to make an impact right away. His strong tackling ability, polished technique and playmaking ability will attract the Raiders to plug him in and play him to boost a rather mediocre secondary.
11. Miami Dolphins
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Dolphins would’ve loved James, Fitzpatrick, Nelson or Edmunds here, but will delightfully take Smith. Smith is an alpha male who can be the hunter the Dolphins have sorely missed on defense. A strong, technically sound athlete who is one of the best hitters in the draft. Smith’s ability to play sideline to sideline (4.51 40-time) can blanket running backs by cutting off outside angles to escape. You’ll rarely catch Smith making any wasted movements when dissecting plays.
A combination of Raekwon McMillan and Smith could form one of the most bruising duos in the NFL.
12. Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati Bengals)
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The dream scenario for the Bills comes true, as Allen falls to No. 12. Allen’s prototypical size combined with elite arm strength can give the Bills a passing game they haven’t had since Drew Bledsoe. There isn’t a long-distance throw that he can’t make, nor a part of the field that he can’t attack. When he sets his feet and uses sound mechanics, his release is quick enough to fire darts under pressure. He throws on the run at an elite level, and shows above-average athleticism when scrambling and escaping pressure. Despite occasional flashes of touch, Allen relies heavily on his fastball which has gotten him in trouble. He can see the field and make reads, but he doesn’t always trust his eyes and instead trusts his arm. When he has time, he steps up in the pocket and delivers dimes. When he’s under pressure, his decision making, accuracy and vision all become very spotty.
Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Redskins ranked dead last in run defense, allowing over 134 yards per game. Washington desperately needs defensive line help, and Vea can immediately provide that. As one of the strongest players in the entire draft, Vita Vea can become an enforcer on Washington’s defense. As a 1-technique or nose tackle depending on what defense he’s placed in, Vea can clog lanes and shut down the opposing running game. There won’t be many 1-techs who come along that possess the rare strength and quickness Vea has, and the former Washington Husky should be a highly productive defensive tackle at the next level.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Packers still need help defensively, but Aaron Rodgers has masked any offensive deficiencies for too long. It’s time to give him a new toy that can open up the offense. Ridley is a quick athlete who creates separation naturally by using tight cuts and terrific footwork. His hands aren’t elite, but they’re plenty good enough to snatch contested catches in the NFL. His straight line speed (4.35 40-time) shows he can take the top off a defense, but he lacks explosion that previously hyped Alabama receivers possess. Even if he’s a highly effective possession receiver moving forward, it’s still an upgrade to the receiving corps in Green Bay.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
As the most explosive dual threat quarterback to come out of college football since Michael Vick, Jackson offers exceptional arm strength and scrambling ability. The odd part about Jackson’s game is his inconsistent accuracy on short throws. Jackson has the tendency to awkwardly release the ball as if he’s aiming it, rather than throwing it. However, his release works greatly on intermediate to deep throws. It’s an enigma that will have to be coached and polished, but it shouldn’t hurt his chances at blossoming as a thrower. The former Cardinal also has elite athleticism and rare running ability that won’t be found in many quarterbacks.
While there are questions about if Jackson can become a natural pocket passer, his vision and patience is vastly underrated. Jackson is a quarterback who will read through his progressions before taking off to run, and always keeps his eyes downfield while hanging in the pocket. He must learn to recognize defenses earlier, and go through his progressions quicker to avoid an attempt at a play that isn’t there. However, with all the tools in the world, Jackson’s potential is limitless if he’s used in a system created for his skill set.
16. Baltimore Ravens
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome loves Alabama players, but Joe Flacco desperately needs weapons. Rashaan Evans makes a lot of sense for Baltimore’s defense, but Moore has shined in a class that is otherwise dull. Moore is a menace in space and is nearly unstoppable in short yard gains. He doesn’t have elite size (6-foot, 210 pounds) or length, but his strength allows him to absorb contact and gain extra yards after the catch. The former Maryland WR can beat defenses over the top with speed, and has spectacular hands that make highlight reel catches on 50-50 balls. His quickness, athleticism and smooth route running make him a nightmare in the slot, and his physicality allows him to compete with bigger corners who play on the outside.
As an overlooked, under hyped complete package, Moore has a chance to be the best wide receiver in the class.
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Chargers allowed a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry last season. Evans can bring stability to a shaky linebacking core in L.A. As a rangy, versatile linebacker, he was effective all over the field at Alabama. Evans was aligned off the ball as the middle linebacker, stood up outside at the strong side and weak side and also put his hand in the ground as a pass-rusher. Evans is one of the fastest linebackers in the draft, and brings ferocity as a hitter too. He was mainly used for defending the run, and wasn’t often assigned in coverage. Instead, he was used primarily as a pass rusher (15 career sacks) and a QB spy. It remains to be seen how effective he can be in coverage, but he’s athletic enough to be a three-down linebacker at the next level. He needs to improve reaction time, but his deadly speed and effort will never be questioned. Evans can play just about any of the linebacking positions in a 4-3 defense.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UT-San Antonio
Since Michael Bennett was traded to the Eagles and Cliff Avril’s future still in doubt, the Seahawks are forced to select an edge rusher with the 18th pick. Fortunately for Seattle, a highly coveted prospect falls into their lap. Despite Davenport being raw as a prospect, he’s big (6-6, 264), strong and fast. His explosive speed-to-power distribution can be deadly when used with consistent pad level, and his high motor never quits until he reaches his target. Davenport can have an impact without acting as a pass rusher by dissecting plays, batting balls and setting the edge in run defense.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Isaiah Wynn, OT/G, Georgia
If you ask Cowboys fans, most will tell you no other position ruined more games for them than the offensive line -- which is shocking after all the praise it got two years ago.
As both a guard and tackle at Georgia, Wynn is a well-rounded lineman who will be very successful in both power and zone blocking offenses. His raw power is demonstrated by his nearly immovable base and strong hands that blanket defenders. Wynn also has underrated athleticism that can compete with edge rushers/outside linebackers. The former Bulldog has excellent awareness and picks up disguised blitzes, stunts and twists from the defense.
Wynn is a bit undersized as a tackle, and his technique needs a bit of polishing, but his versatility allows him to both play inside and outside effectively — as evident in the Senior Bowl. His footwork lacks a bit of quickness and his kick-slide is a bit jagged in pass protection, but he’s dominant as a run blocker and could step in right away as the starting left guard for Dallas.
20. Detroit Lions
Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
What better way for new head coach Matt Patricia than to select a former top-10 defensive prospect? There is none. Landry didn’t have the same year in 2017 as he did in ‘16, but he still has a knack for pass rushing. What mustn’t be forgotten is his high motor and elite first step that allows him to shoot out of a cannon as the ball is snapped. The agility and bend he gets around the edge is terrific, as he uses a variety of effective moves to beat opposing linemen.
Landry will need polishing, as he struggles to convert speed to power at times, and also fails to make an impact when defending the run. Occasionally, he’ll get swallowed by towering linemen who push him into the pile and slow him down by closing space.
21. Cincinatti Bengals
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Payne is close behind Vea in terms of skillset. However, more consistency from Vea and mere flashes from Payne is the difference in where both will be selected. Payne shows the physical attributes and athleticism to be a 3-tech or a 3-4 defensive end. With the limited pass rushing opportunities, he flashed a remarkable first step off the snap to shred his way through protection. Payne has underrated explosion and closing speed that can become a weapon for a defense. Despite his knack for pass-rushing, Alabama played him strictly as a true nose tackle for whatever reason. It’s hard to question Alabama’s championship strategy by putting Payne as a most tackle, but he looked extraordinarily quicker when rushing the B-gap. He showed quintessential techniques with hand placement, arm extension and lower body drive that lead to near sacks or tackles for loss.
22. Buffalo Bills
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Bills hit a home run on Tre’Davious White in the first round last season but cornerback remains a need for this team. Buffalo could use a short-term option in the slot and a long-term option to replace Vontae Davis, who is on a one-year contract.
Jackson (6-1, 196) isn’t an elite athlete but he is a smart, instinctive defensive back who acts as a ballhawk in zone coverage. The lengthy cornerback does an outstanding job of baiting the QB into poor decisions, before making a quick break on the throw and picking it off. Jackson is elite at tracking the ball, turning his head and locating the ball at the last second to make a play. While his hips are fluid, he sometimes opens them up too early instead of using a backpedal technique to keep his eyes on both the QB and his assignment.
Jackson struggles with technique in press-man coverage. His footwork is choppy, and he struggled with smaller, quicker receivers who fake or break in and out of routes. He also must allow the route to develop more before taking an overzealous stab at dissecting the play.
Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
With the departure of Nate Solder, the Patriots need fresh legs to take over the left tackle spot. Miller has been compared to Solder with size (6-9, 309) and long arms that can matchup with lengthy edge rushers. Miller also offers rare athleticism for a tackle, which shows he should be able to handle the new-aged speed rushers coming off the edge.
Regardless, Bill Belichick will make it work. However, don’t count out the possibility of New England trading up and making a splash for a QB, either.
Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Hurst is one of the few tight ends in this draft who can catch like a receiver and commits to blocking like a lineman. Hurst has great hands combined with smooth athleticism in the open field. He’s not a freak athlete, but he’s shown ability to make defenders miss and gain extra yardage. As one of the tougher tight ends in the draft, Hurst plays like his hair is on fire once he gets the ball, lowering his shoulder and absorbing contact with a smile on his face.
A lineman would’ve made sense here, but Greg Olsen’s shelf life is unknown after coming off an injured campaign last season. The 33 year old is also entering the final year of his contract.
25. Tennessee Titans
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Vander Esch has the size (6-4, 256) and athleticism to effectively play any linebacker position at the next level. What stands out most is his quick twitch ability to read a play and hunt down his target laterally. His range extends from sideline to sideline, and his coverage skills are among the best out of the linebacker class. Vander Esch even shows high productivity as an edge rusher or a blitzer
Despite having sound technique as a tackler, he isn’t much of a thumper yet. Additionally, there were occasions where he struggled to get off blocks, swallowed by linemen when defending the run. His alarming medical may have hurt his stock and must be cleared for longterm punishment if he’s to be a first-round pick.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Hurst has an explosive first step who plays with great leverage and power. He plays with a high motor and rarely loses technique when battling. Hurst has also shown versaitility by playing nose tackle in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts, as well as 3-technique and 5-technique. His combination of strength, athleticism and quickness are off the charts for an interior lineman with his frame. Hurst simply lives in the backfield.
Hurst must polish his pass rushing ability, as he’s a bit of a one-trick pony. The lack of redirection or secondary moves will get him in trouble against All-Pro linemen. The medical concerns drop him a bit in the first-round, despite being cleared by a doctor. Otherwise, this is a great fit for both Hurst and Atlanta.
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
Goedert is a pass-catching phenom who can give Drew Brees a playmaker at tight end — something he hasn’t had since Jimmy Graham. Goedert wins battles with natural separation ability and physicality, and also runs very clean routes to beat quicker defenders. His soft hands are among the best in the draft, leaving him with an elite ceiling as a pass catching weapon in the NFL. As a fluid athlete with vision, Goedert tracks the ball like a wide receiver and can haul in spectacular catches, and is no stranger to athletic body adjustment grabs. He’ll also gain yardage after the catch using strength, speed and physicality to break arm tackles, comparably to the elite tight end talents in the NFL. Questions will arise about the lack of competition he faced at South Dakota State, but you can’t deny his gifted abilities no matter what school he played for.
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Running back must be addressed at some point in the draft, but the last time we saw the Steelers play, they gave up 45 points at home to Blake Bortles and the Jags. That’s simply unacceptable and not the classic Steelers identity we’re used to. The Steelers need to select Alexander here in order to shore up a mediocre secondary. Pittsburgh will be pleasantly surprised to see Alexander drop to No. 28, but the ballhawking corner can mirror any challenge thrown his way. There won’t be many receivers who can out-muscle the former Cardinal, nor outrun him (4.38 40-time). He’s the best in the draft at baiting a QB into a throw that shouldn’t be made, and undercutting the route to intercept the pass. Alexander also does an excellent job of turning his head in time and locating the ball without being flagged for interference. His instincts, footwork, sunken hips and quickness gives him smooth man-to-man coverage ability that translates well against the more explosive athletes.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
It’s not the pick the Jags would’ve hoped for, but to fills a need. Hernandez brings toughness and tenacity to an inconsistent o-line. Leonard Fournette is bonafide stud, and Hernandez can help pave open gaps for Fournette to exploit. Hernandez needs to polish his pass protection, but he’s an excellent run blocker who finishes opponents into the dirt.
Tight end Mike Gesicki is a possibility here too, but his blocking concerns push him out of the first round.
Frank Ragnow, C/G, Arkansas
Minnesota’s biggest need is interior line. Ragnow can play either center or guard to beef up the Vikings’ offensive line. Ragnow’s 6-foot-5 frame and exceptional length is a huge bonus for the Vikings as they look for Joe Berger’s replacement at right guard. Ragnow won’t capture any headlines for his performances, but his physicality and technique creates a wall on the interior line for Dalvin Cook to feast off of. Ragnow also offers strong pass protection that can buy time for Kirk Cousins to operate in the pocket.
31. New England Patriots
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
With Jackson off the board to Arizona and all first-round linebackers taken, the Patriots are forced to pick the BPA which is Bryan.
Despite the addition of Danny Shelton last month, the Patriots are still in need of defensive tackle help. While Shelton and Malcom Brown have pending fifth-year options that will have to be addressed, neither are contenders for extensions. Brown has been serviceable but is he just another rotational guy? Shelton is still a complete wild-card at this point in his career. Beyond Shelton & Brown, the team’s depth doesn't scare many opponents. Bryan can immediately upgrade the pass rushing attack, as he has the quickest first step in the draft. Bryan’s very undeveloped but the moments of greatness he flashed shows how much of a terror he can be if he’s coached well. The Pats need defensive line help, and Belichick can bring the best out of Bryan.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Another possibility for Gesicki here, but with the departure of LeGarrette Blount, the medical ticking time-bomb Jay Ajayi and lack of workhorse backs on the roster, the Eagles take Guice to fill the void.
His ability to read the lanes and make sharp cuts to adjust to defenses is what makes him so dangerous in the trenches. Guice uses quick footwork and athleticism to gash defenses with subtle cutbacks, and absorbs contact by running over second-level tacklers. He isn’t much of a receiving threat, but he can do the bare minimum to beat defenses if need be. As a small truck who thrives off physicality, Guice can pick up where Blount left off for Philadelphia.