Continuing on with my 2018 NFL mock draft in the first round:

12.  Denver (via trade with Buffalo) : Vita Vea, DT, Washington.  I think that Denver’s greatest need is size and talent on the defensive line.  After trading down with Buffalo, because of Buffalo’s needs at quarterback, the Bronco’s get the most dominating defensive presence of the draft in Vita Vea.  Vea is a beast at 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighing in at nearly 350 lbs..  His athleticism and speed off the ball is shocking for a guy his size.  He will immediately command to be double-teamed, allowing all-pro linebackers Von Miller and Brandon Marshall to be free, rushing the passer, or in pursuit, making plays.  May need to drop pounds playing in the mile-high city, but will have an instant impact as a rotational player on Denver’s defensive line.

13.  Washington Redskins : Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia.  Washington will be disappointed Vea is off the board to help fix the Redskins 32nd ranked rushing defense.  But this is the perfect landing spot for Smith, who is considered the best inside linebacker in the draft.  It’s Smith’s speed and coverage skills of tight ends and running backs that makes him so valuable here.  Washington’s defensive talent is everywhere but inside at linebacker, where he will help plug holes that divisional running backs seem to own.  He will be very useful covering the likes of running back Ezekiel Elliot of the Cowboys, tight end Zach Ertz of the Eagles and whomever the Giants draft at running back to pair with tight end Evan Engram.  He will have an instant impact for the Redskins and their run defense.

14.  Green Bay Packers : Marcus Davenport, DE, UT-S.A..  The consensus is that the Packers will draft a defensive end.  It’s hard to argue with that logic, when head coach Mike McCarthy has openly complained about how much the Packers missed the aging Julius Peppers last year.  The Packers went cheap and didn’t bring back Peppers, who went back to Carolina for a slight raise.  And then there’s the fact that currently, the Packers have no one to play right defensive end for them.  Davenport, who dominated Conference USA, is a perfect fit for Green Bay’s hometown feel and community.  After a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, word is that Davenport wasn’t very comfortable with all of the attention he suddenly received.  He is regarded as the second best defensive pass rusher after Bradley Chubb.  Having seen him play in the Senior Bowl, I think Bears fans can expect to see A LOT of Davenport chasing down Mitchell Trubisky for years to come. 

15.  Arizona Cardinals : Lamar Jackson, qb, Louisville.  Action Jackson finally comes off the board.  This pick was tough to forecast because the Cardinals have so many needs.  Their top needs appear to be at defensive end, cornerback and wide receiver.  But the signing of two journeymen quarterbacks in Sam Bradford and former Bear Mike Glennon to short term contracts, leads me to believe they will draft their qb of the future.  That man is former Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, who is probably the most electric player in the draft.  He falls to this spot because he has a slight frame, and because he is a running type of quarterback, the fear is that he won’t hold up in the NFL.  But if you watch his tape from college, he was more than willing to take on tacklers and never got seriously hurt being physical.  I think he’s stronger than other people think.  Micheal Vick himself said Jackson is “5 times the player I was.”  Good enough for me.  Jackson will ride the bench for a while.  There will be opportunities for him to play on 2 point conversions and wildcat plays, but his playing time will come later in the season or next.  When he does play, look out, he will be the NFC version of Deshaun Watson.

16.  Baltimore Ravens : Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame.  I originally would’ve liked the Bears to trade down from the #8 pick, and get back picks lost in the Trubisky trade.  Having traded back I would’ve tried to draft McGlinchey and fix most of the Bears offensive line problems in one swoop.  Problem is, the Bears pick at #8 doesn’t hold enough value for teams looking to move up or down in the draft.  Most of the teams outside of the top 5 will be looking for the best player available, because they have enough needs to fill, and a properly valued player expected to be at their draft position.  That’s why the Bears will pick Tremaine Edmunds at #8 and get other needs later.  Same story for the Ravens.  They will take McGlinchey now and address other needs later.  The #16 pick is a great spot to take the top left tackle in college football though.  The left tackle is supposed to be a foundational piece of any team and you usually have to be in the top 10 to get one of high quality.  The Bears in several trips to the top 10 haven’t successfully taken a left tackle since Hall of Famer Jimbo Covert in 1983.  He was one of the key players on offense for the Bears Super Bowl champion of 1985.  Point is, you have to have a foundation type tackle to have sustained winning in the NFL.  Hopefully the Bears will come to this realization sooner than later.  I’m predicting the Ravens will.

17.  Los Angeles Chargers : Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama.  With a run defense rated next to last in the league at 31st, the Chargers get a steal by drafting Payne here at 17.  All Payne did at the combine is get his 315 pounds moving at 4.91 in the forty yard dash.  That speed is comparable to the Chargers 285 pound all-pro defensive end Joey Bosa, who ran that same number 2 years ago at the combine and was selected with the 3rd overall pick in that draft.  Bosa has become an all-pro defensive end for the Chargers, who could line up Payne right next to him on the same line.  Sudden Impact!  Things will go from bad to worse for the rest of the AFC West offense’s if the surging Chargers land Payne!

18.  Seattle Seahawks : Sony Michel, rb, Georgia.  With the top defensive line prospects off the board and my belief that Seattle will go for cornerback in the 2nd round.  The Seahawks pick another weapon to pair with their explosive quarterback Russel Wilson.  Michel (pron. mi-shell) is one of the best pass catching running backs in the draft.  He didn’t have a great 40 time at the combine, but played extremely well against the top competition of the SEC.  He will have an instant impact playing alongside Wilson, Tyler Lockett, and Doug Baldwin.  Michel can score from anywhere on the field.  That’s a lot of speed as the Seahawks transition to being a more offensive team like New Orleans.

19.  Dallas Cowboys : Calvin Ridley, wr, Alabama.  Jerry Jones just can’t help himself.  He runs the Cowboys like friends of mine manage their fantasy teams.  Spends money like a fool and cuts players where he already has problems.  The Cowboys are a leaking ship and poor Jerry is scrambling to fill his holes, and this is before he has to pay Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot.  So he cut Dez Bryant to save a few bucks and sign his rookie class, where he will draft Bryant’s replacement in Calvin Ridley.  Ridley doesn’t represent the top 5 in size or speed at his position and will be drafted because of name recognition and college pedigree.  That won’t get you much in the NFL but 800 yards and maybe 6 touchdowns.  In the long run Ridley will be a disappointment, the Cowboys should draft linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, the Mountain West player of the year.

20.  Detroit Lions : Leighton Vander Esch, Ilb, Boise St..  Vander Esch falls instead to Detroit which is probably a better fit for him.  At 6 foot 4 inches tall and 240 pounds he is ideally suited to play next to stolen, former Bear, Christian Jones, a free agent signing by Detroit.  I imagine Vander Esch and Jones will wreak havoc in a complex defensive scheme masterminded by former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.  Patricia, owner of three Super Bowl rings, is now the head coach in Detroit, and that is bad news for Bears fans and Matt Nagy.

I refer to Mr. Patricia as “The Master Tactician”, meaning he, being responsible for coordinating 3 championships, has to be regarded among the best defensive minds in football.  His best attribute is being able to make adjustments as games are going on.  This skill was critical in all of the Patriots Super Bowl victories and was even evident in the most recent loss.  The Patriots haven’t had the benefit of drafting in the early 20’s of any first round in nearly 20 years.   The Patriots have made up for that talent deficit in the last decade, by coaching their asses off and making the right deals at the right time.  With former Patriots assistant GM Bob Quinn and Patricia in charge, they are going to make things very difficult for the rest of the NFC North division.

By comparison under Ryan Pace the Bears have drafted 7th, 9th and 2nd, giving up 4 extra picks to move up a total of 3 spots in the last two drafts, and getting worse each year.

21.  Cincinnati Bengals : James Daniels, C, Iowa.  Cincinnati fixed their left tackle problem and traded down to this spot in the draft in a trade with Buffalo.  They acquired Cordy Glenn from the Bills to be their new starting left tackle and with this pick, select the best true center in the draft in James Daniels.  Daniels played against top competition in the Big 10 for three years, starting as a freshman.  Daniels is noted for his strength at the point of attack and quick burst into his stance.  Not overly athletic, Daniels is a safe pick at this spot for the Bengals, who would pass up Billy Price the best center in the nation, from Ohio State, who hurt his pectoral muscle at the combine.  The Bengals would also consider Isaiah Wynn from Georgia and Austin Corbett from Nevada, who are undersized tackles, and have never played center, their projected NFL position.  Daniels can step in and start on day one, where his classmates would need time to develop.  Instant impact, starts on day one as the Bengals have rebuilt their line in one off-season.

22.  Buffalo : Will Hernandez, G, UT-El Paso.  Hernandez is a mauler and was the best offensive lineman at the Senior bowl, even if he did look a little slow.  I project Buffalo to retain this pick after trading the #12 pick to Denver (along with #53 and a 3rd round pick next year).  At the Combine, which took place a month after the Senior bowl, Hernandez looked a little leaner and faster.  At 327 pounds Hernandez ran the forty in 5.15, good enough for 8th best at the combine and did 37 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, 2 more than top lineman Quenton Nelson.  If Bears trade down he would look real good in navy, orange and white.

Attention fantasy players, as I project it though, he will be a road grader of a blocker for LeSean McCoy.  Impact sudden, he would start immediately at left guard.  Buffalo could make the playoffs a 2nd straight year by pairing Hernandez with a left tackle in the 2nd round.

But that’s for a later article.  Thanks for reading. What do you think of the first two parts of this mock draft?  Let me hear from you.  The rest of the 1st round will be published later this week.