Everybody’s doing it, a mock draft that is. I’ve finally reached that point in the off season where it’s time to mock, pretend I’m not just the Bears GM, but everyone’s. I have always wanted to compete against the so-called experts and get into general managers heads to figure out the who’s, what’s, and why’s that go into each pick. Before each pick I am doing background research into every team and what I believe is their most pressing need.
I will break the first round into three sections of about 11 teams for each article. I will mock based on the current draft order, and inform you when I would expect a trade during the draft in the final week of April. There will be commentary in between some picks to give a perspective on how I predict things will shake out as the night progresses. I will offer reasons for every pick and rate the impact of that pick for every team for that season.
With quarterbacks and other offensive players the impact may not be as sudden, as a top defensive player put into the right team with the right situation. My mock draft also carries the caveat that, in regard to quarterbacks, where I slot a player is more of a prediction of where that player will go. The best player isn’t always what that team needs and quarterbacks are often not the best players on their teams.
1. Cleveland Browns : Josh Allen, qb, Wyoming. He has all the physical tools to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. The only glaring weaknesses are his footwork which has hampered his accuracy in college, and not being quick enough in his decision making process. That the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor to be a bridge quarterback is not insignificant. Taylor may prove to be good enough to get the Browns to sniff the playoffs next year, and into the postseason the year after. Allen may not be called upon to start for two seasons, but like Aaron Rodgers, he will be worth the wait when he does start. The Browns will be patient, Allen’s impact will be minimal in his first season.
2. New York Giants : Bradley Chubb, de, N.C. State. The Giants will try to trade down out of this slot, unsuccessfully. They will be asking a kings ransom of Buffalo, who needs a quarterback to develop. The Giants will be happy to stay in the # 2 slot to draft the top defensive player of the year and possibly the best pass rusher in over a decade. This is why they traded Jason Pierre-Paul and a 4th round pick to Tampa Bay, for a 3rd round pick and a better 4th round pick. The Giants get younger at defensive end by drafting Chubb, pick up a top 100 pick and move up in the 4th round.
They are asking for both of Buffalo’s 1st round picks at 12 and 22, and will not get them. Chubb has an immediate impact and should be in the defensive rookie of the year conversation.
That the Giants don’t select a quarterback because they drafted Davis Webb in the 3rd round last year, immediately sends the draft into a frenzy.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, qb, Oklahoma. The Jets traded up to this spot with Indianapolis and gave up a similar ransom, to what the Bears gave up to draft Mitchell Trubisky a year earlier. The Jets moved from 5th to 3rd to make sure they were going to get one of the quarterbacks they desired. I believe that player is Mayfield, the reigning Heisman trophy winner. His career completion % is near 70 %. Even though he is on the short side at 6 foot 1 inch, he measures up to future hall-of-famer Drew Brees in almost every way. People say he is a natural born leader and their fans will love him. He is the top rated quarterback in this class and will elevate the team around him. Unlike Allen, Mayfield will get game time during the 2018 season. He will be brought in at the end of games in mop up duty until the Jets are eliminated from the playoffs, then it’s Baker-time!
The fact that Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen are still on the board sets off a flurry of phone calls to Cleveland and Denver.
4. Cleveland Browns : Quenton Nelson, guard, Notre Dame. The Browns kept this pick because they thought Bradley Chubb would be here. They try at the last minute to trade out but get no offers to their liking. They select Nelson, considered the best guard in 30 years. They may play Nelson at left tackle where he would be a perfect replacement for Joe Thomas who just retired. Remember the Browns have 3 more picks in the next 60. Nelson steps right in at left tackle and quickly becomes one of the leagues best lineman. Sudden impact.
5. Buffalo Bills: Josh Rosen, qb, UCLA. Buffalo finds a trade partner in John Elway, who is stockpiling picks at a mad pace. Elway signed quarterback Case Keenum and has two developmental quarterbacks already. Denver gets Buffalo’s 12th pick and the 53rd pick in round 2, plus a 3rd round pick next year, so that Buffalo can move up from 12 to select Rosen the most polished quarterback in the draft. In this deal Buffalo keeps the 23rd pick later in the first round. Denver/Elway now has 5 picks from 12-99. Buffalo gets it’s quarterback of the future, where he will ride the bench in year one behind free agent A.J. McCarron from Cincinnati. Patience pays off for Buffalo, in waiting to see how the draft starts out before making it’s deal. Rosen will be brought along like Mayfield and will see the field when there is an opportunity. Buffalo made the playoffs a year ago and will be hoping for a return engagement. Possible sudden impact.
6. Indianapolis Colts : Saquon Barkley, rb, Penn State. Arguably the best player in the draft. Has all the tools, but it’s his speed on the fast track in Indianapolis that will be sudden. He will be running away from people, especially as a receiver. Will remind people of Hall-of-famer Marshall Faulk. Greatest impact will be in fantasy leagues where he will soon be a top 10 player. Indianapolis needs help across multiple positions that they plan to address with 4 picks in the next 61. Growth for the Colts will depend on quarterback Andrew Luck’s shoulder, which caused him to miss the entire 2017 season.
Darnold stays on the board, as defensive stars get chosen by teams with quarterbacks already in place.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers : Derwin James, safety, Florida State. This off-season Tampa Bay invested heavily into their defensive line to upgrade their pass rush. They acquired half of Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia’s defensive line in free agency, and traded for Jason Pierre-Paul from the Giants. Now they are ready to stock the back half of their defensive unit by drafting ball hawking safety Derwin James. James is probably the 2nd best defender in the draft and will have an immediate, sudden impact as a nickle corner as well. Will remind a lot of people of Ronnie Lott and quickly becomes an all-pro.
8. Chicago Bears : Tremaine Edmunds, lb, Virginia Tech. At 6 foot 5 inches tall, 253 lbs. and runs a 4.5 in the 40 yard dash, Edmunds is the kind of physical freak that general manager Ryan Pace loves. Pace needs to resist the temptation to go after offensive players for his new head coach and draft the 19 year-old Edmunds. He is going to be a future superstar and the Bears are in the right place at the right time for a change. There is no way to screw this up, except for trading out of this pick. Pace better not, and just take the guy who will become the divisions most dominant defensive force. Reminds me of Lawrence Taylor. Play him anywhere and the Bears will succeed…eventually. The most sudden of impacts, so athletic its’ crazy. He’s 19 and has an NFL body already.
9. San Francisco 49er’s : Denzel Ward, cornerback, Ohio State. Ward is a little on the short side but is faster than most receivers he will cover. The 49er’s are thin at cornerback, which is why they signed Richard Sherman from Seattle, off of two achilles injuries in the last 3 seasons. Drafting Ward allows the 49er’s to play Sherman over the slot receiver, tight end, or in the nickle coverage packages. The 49er’s will be tempted to take a receiver, but Wards value here at this spot is too good to pass up. Instant impact for the rapidly improving 49er’s.
10. Oakland Raiders : Minkah Fitzpatrick, def. back, Alabama. The selection of Fitzpatrick is done to shore up the Raiders struggling 26th ranked pass defense from a year ago. Fitzpatrick can play safety or cornerback, but is most notably a ball hawk where ever he plays. His talent and love for the game is too good for the Raiders to pass him by. With his speed and ability to return interceptions for touchdowns, it wouldn’t be surprising for new head coach Jon Gruden to also put Minkah on the offensive side for a couple of plays or utilize him as a kick returner. Fitzpatrick will remind a lot of people of Ed Reed, the Baltimore Ravens HOF safety. Reed was famous for leading the NFL in all-time interception return yards. Sudden impact, possible defensive rookie of the year.
11. Miami Dolphins : Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC. It’s appropriate that Darnold falls to the Dolphins, who need an insurance policy for oft injured quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Head coach Adam Gase is known as a quarterback whisperer who got the most out of Jay Cutler, late in his career. Darnold is a Cutler clone, with a better attitude. This pick also ensures that Gase will be in Miami long term, to mold his new project and team to his liking. As the quarterback with the sketchiest talent/future in my opinion, falling to Miami is really a godsend for Darnold. The other quarterbacks in this draft should be so lucky to fall into the lap of a bright young head coach who is fully in charge of a destination franchise like Miami.