Christmas is almost here. I can barely sleep. The NFL Draft is less than 24 hours away. For a hobbyist, I have put in an absurd amount of draft research in this year, so I feel compelled to write my useless insights down.
This particular draft class isn’t the strongest, but it may be the most intriguing. Up to six quarterbacks may be selected in the first round, including a possible four in the top five picks, and that only constitutes a part of the intrigue. We also have one team that owns two top four picks, which is basically unprecedented, and that team has been feeding the media smokescreen after smokescreen about what they’re going to do. We also have several teams with multiple first round picks, priming the pump for drastic trade ups. This could be a first round for the ages.
This mock will be what I think the teams will do, not what I would do. If it were up to me, Baker Mayfield would be the #1 overall pick without question. I also will be exploring trades in this mock and doing dynasty analysis for the offensive players.
1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold / QB / USC
Darnold has been the leading candidate for the Browns since the beginning of the process, and although Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen are reportedly still in consideration, I think this decision has been made for a while.
Dynasty Analysis: The Browns might be the best landing spot for any QB’s long term value. Tyrod Taylor will likely start at least half the season, but once Darnold takes the reigns he will be walking into a situation with weapons galore (Landry, Gordon, Coleman, Njoku) and an offensive coordinator (Todd Haley) that has had significant success in the passing game for numerous teams. Darnold isn’t my favorite QB prospect but this landing spot makes him a solid mid-first round rookie pick in Superflex formats.
2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley / RB / Penn State
It is my firm belief that when you need a QB (the Giants do), a good prospect is available (several are), and you have the opportunity to take one, you need to do it. You will likely not be drafting this high again soon, and the price to move up to get a QB is enormous. Even if you don’t like any of the prospects (the Giants reportedly only like Darnold), use your leverage to trade down and fleece a QB-needy team for a boatload of picks. All signs are pointing to Barkley, however. The Giants have not been shy about their love for him or the value they place on the RB position. GM Dave Gettleman took a far inferior RB prospect in the top 10 just last year. Barkley is a phenomenal prospect, and his receiving ability makes him worthy of a top 10 selection, but I don’t think this would be the right decision for the Giants.
Dynasty Analysis: Barkley is the 1.01 pick no matter where he goes, but I’m not sure the Giants are the best spot for his value. They have a below average offensive line and plenty of other weapons that will demand targets. Regardless, he’s going to be fantastic, Pat Shurmur is going to use him well, and he’ll be a fantasy superstar from day one.
3. New York Jets – Baker Mayfield / QB / Oklahoma
The Jets traded three second rounders to move from 6 to 3 in what seemed like a foolish overpay at the time. Now that we see other QB-needy teams sitting anxiously with multiple firsts, and several more reportedly hoping to trade up for a top QB, this trade doesn’t look so bad in hindsight. The Jets make up for their Christian Hackenberg mistake and take the opposite type of prospect in Mayfield, an absurdly efficient and accurate passer who has succeeded and won at every level. This will be fun.
Dynasty Analysis: I’d compare this situation to the Bears last year. The Jets don’t have a ton of offensive pieces right now, and in trading away three second round picks they have probably lost the ability to get them for this year, but I still don’t mind the landing spot. OC Jeremy Bates reportedly loves Mayfield and will design a creative offense to play to his strengths. Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater will more than likely open the year as the starter, but Mayfield will take over at some point. New York will likely surround him with weapons next offseason. I would take him as the first QB off the board, just after the top 3 or 4 RB’s in Superflex.
4. Cleveland Browns – Bradley Chubb / EDGE / NC State
The Browns are apparently still exploring trades for this pick as I type this. If they could get picks 12, 53, and next year’s first from Buffalo I would absolutely take that trade, but I assume Buffalo will be very reluctant to part with their 2019 first knowing they will most likely be starting a rookie QB. If I can’t get that ’19 first, and I can’t get a huge cache of other picks, then I stay here and make this pick, which I think Cleveland does. Cleveland just needs safe players at premium positions, which Chubb is. Putting him across from Myles Garrett would be a nasty combo for years to come.
5. TRADE – Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen / QB / Wyoming (from Denver)
Buffalo trades pick 12 and 22 to Denver for pick 5.
These two teams have been in opposite situations in the past few weeks. Denver GM John Elway has been openly asking to trade out of this spot, while Buffalo has been gathering assets to make this trade up, yet denying that they will definitively do so. I think Denver would be smart to trade out here, for several reasons. First, they just made a two year investment in Case Keenum. We don’t know if he’s the answer, but he’s young enough that I would hold out for one season to see if he is before investing heavily in his replacement. Second, they have whiffed on so many picks in the last few years that their elite players are all aging or gone now. This roster needs a serious rebuild, which means lots of picks. And third, they have a lot of leverage to get a sweet deal with several top QB prospects still on the board.
As for the Bills, they have been linked to Josh Allen throughout the process. They obviously want to trade up (and should) but I don’t think Josh Allen should be the pick. It should be Josh Rosen. Allen is the type of low percentage prospect that will get the entire front office and coaching staff fired. Bills fans should be scared to death of this move.
Dynasty Analysis: I’m obviously very low on Josh Allen as a prospect and the Bills are the worst place for any QB to go. They have no receiving talent and have been losing offensive linemen left and right this offseason. I wouldn’t consider him until the late second round in Superflex and wouldn’t even touch him in standard formats.
6. Indianapolis Colts – Roquan Smith / LB / Georgia
I struggled more with this pick than any other. Although they have the worst roster in the NFL, Indy has put themselves in a fantastic spot after acquiring three second round picks from the Jets and still being in position to nab a blue chip player. I think they would like to trade down again, but any teams looking to trade up for a specific QB are going to be afraid of their guy going at #5 and will want to deal into that pick. If that happens, then i think the price for #6 goes down and the Colts stay here and pick.
To me this pick comes down to Quenton Nelson or Roquan Smith, both top five players in the draft. The pressure will be on GM Chris Ballard to pick Nelson to protect oft-injured superstar QB Andrew Luck, but i think the Colts need a tackle much more than a guard, and Ballard will opt to continue his defensive rebuild he started last year. Off-ball linebackers haven’t typically been valued this highly, but I think the value of three down linebackers that can cover well is going to skyrocket in the near future. When the Saquon Barkleys of the world are dusting slow linebackers for 6 catches a game, you’re going to wish you had a heat seeking missile like Roquan Smith on your team.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derwin James / S / Florida State
Nelson is the only other option here, but I believe the Bucs are smitten with James. As they should be. They need a big, athletic DB that can cover the giant WRs of the NFC South.
8. Chicago Bears – Quenton Nelson / G / Notre Dame
The likely #1 player on the Bears board falls to them in a perfect match of need and value. All of Robert Mays’ wishes have come true.
Fantasy Analysis: The Bears offense has been trending upward all season, and this pick would crank the excitement up to 11. Both Mitch Trubisky and Jordan Howard’s stock would rise. Nelson is the best run blocker most scouts have ever seen.
9. TRADE – Denver Broncos – Denzel Ward / CB / Ohio State
Denver trades 1.12 and 3.07 for 1.09
San Francisco GM John Lynch has 12 “pro bowl players on his board”. He has said he wants to move around and has repeatedly shown he will move down if he has multiple players he likes on the board. Elway covets Ward, and badly needs an Aqib Talib replacement. This is a win-win for both teams.
10. Oakland Raiders – Mike McGlinchey / OT / Notre Dame
The Raiders desperately need an OT, and McGlinchey is the best one available. Kolton Miller has been rumored here but I just can’t imagine the Raiders would make that type of leap in the top 10.
11. Miami Dolphins – Josh Rosen / QB / UCLA
I have no idea if Miami wants to take a QB or if they like Rosen, but if a top QB prospect falls into your lap while your starter is coming off of two consecutive ACL tears, it would make sense to take the QB.
Dynasty Analysis: The Dolphins have had a bizarre offseason and I’m not sure they know what their plan is. I don’t think this front office will be around next year. The weapons here are below average and the QB competition isn’t ideal. I like Rosen more than Darnold as a prospect but would take Darnold before him if these were the landing spots. Mid to late first round picks in superflex.
12. TRADE San Francisco 49ers – Tremaine Edmunds / LB / Virginia Tech (From Denver from Buffalo)
The Reuben Foster case took an interesting turn today with his girlfriend recanting her allegations. Regardless, The Niners could definitely use a LB and Edmunds is too good to pass up here.
13. Washington Redskins – Minkah Fitzpatrick / DB / Alabama
I think the R-Words are fully expecting Vita Vea to be the pick here but are cautiously optimistic that Fitzpatrick will be available. In this case he is. After losing slot CB Kendall Fuller in the Alex Smith trade, Fitzpatrick will fill an immediate need.
14. Green Bay Packers – Harold Landry / EDGE / Boston College
The Packers are reportedly very interested in trading up and i would not be surprised at all if they did. Denzel Ward seems to be their target, but they’ll have to fight with Denver for him. If they stay put, Landry fills an immediate and long term need at edge rusher.
15. Arizona Cardinals – Lamar Jackson / QB / Louisville
There are reports that Arizona is trying to trade up for a QB. They probably don’t have the ammunition, but if Jackson is going to be available here, why sell the farm? Jackson and David Johnson would form one of the most exciting offensive backfields in the NFL.
Dynasty Analysis: Jackson is one of those guys that could flop as an NFL QB and still be a useful fantasy asset for a couple years. His incredible rushing ability will make him valuable no matter how this experiment turns out, and if he goes in the mid first round, I think he will be given enough slack to develop into a franchise QB. I would take him in the late first in superflex formats, and probably earlier than any other QB in standard (late 2nd).
16. Baltimore Ravens – Calvin Ridley / WR / Alabama
Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome loves Alabama players and has a big need at WR. They’ve acquired a bunch of receivers this offseason but none of them are the long term answer. This is the obvious pick, although Ridley may be a bit of a reach here.
Dynasty Analysis: Ridley has been a player that has been falling down boards and although the Ravens invest a lot of draft capitol into him here, the landing spot does him no favors. I see him as a late first round pick in standard and possibly early second in superflex.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Vita Vea / DT / Washington
The Chargers have exceptional edge rushers but are still susceptible up the middle. Vea will change that.
18. Seattle Seahawks – Josh Jackson / CB / Iowa
With a ton of newfound holes and very few picks to show for it, I fully expect Seattle to trade down here. If they don’t, they have to find a replacement for Richard Sherman. Jackson is a tall, long ballhawk. Sounds like a good fit to me.
19. Dallas Cowboys – Leighton Vander Esch / LB / Boise State
Dallas has had good success with Boise State players in the past and has a big need at LB. Sean Lee is getting old and is injury prone, Jaylon Smith is unproven, and there’s not much behind them. The defense completely falls apart whenever Lee gets hurt. LVE is incredibly athletic and the Cowboys reportedly view him as a similar prospect to Brian Urlacher coming out.
20. Detroit Lions – Marcus Davenport / EDGE / UTSA
The Lions don’t have much behind Ziggy Ansah, and he’s a free agent after this year. Davenport is a similar prospect to Ansah, in that he’s raw yet super athletic and from a small-ish school. If he makes it past Seattle at 18, this should be where he lands.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Frank Ragnow / OL / Arkansas
The Bengals have suffered through many years of terrible center play and change that with one of Pro Football Focus’s highest graded players.
Dynasty Analysis: Cincy continues to remake their terrible offensive line. The arrow is pointing up for Joe Mixon and Andy Dalton, the latter of which is one of my favorite sleepers and cheap superflex QBs.
22. TRADE – Denver Broncos – Will Hernandez / OL / UTEP (From Buffalo)
Denver passes on the road grading offensive linemen in Quenton Nelson at pick 5, but grabs one here at 22. Ward and Hernandez is an ideal haul for Elway and co. If the Bills do stay here and pick, Hernandez could be the guy for them too.
23. New England Patriots – Kolton Miller / OT / UCLA
There is some buzz that Miller could go as high as pick 10 to Oakland, but I think they eventually opt for the safer prospect in McGlinchey. Miller is an insane athlete that the Patriots could feel like they could mold into a stud left tackle. He profiles similarly to the recently departed Nate Solder.
Dynasty Analysis: Miller is a very raw prospect and could take time to be a starter, let alone a good player. I wouldn’t be too pumped about this if I was a Tom Brady owner.
24. Carolina Panthers – DJ Moore / WR / Maryland
The Panthers have never really given Cam Newton the appropriate WR corps, and that should be the primary focus here. They have shown a lot of interest in Moore, and if they do decide to go the WR route, I think he will be the pick. They also have major needs at CB and interior OL, and I would not be surprised if those are the picks here.
Dynasty Analysis: I think that this is probably a better landing spot than Ridley in Baltimore, and would value Moore over Ridley. He would be my first WR on my board.
25. Tennessee Titans – Rashaan Evans / LB / Alabama
Tennessee has a major need at linebacker and young pass rushing talent. Evans fills both of those needs. If he isn’t the pick, I could see a reach for Ohio State edge rusher Sam Hubbard. The Titans have few needs but the ones they do don’t correspond with the value on the board at this point in the draft.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Taven Bryan / DT / Florida
The Falcons value hyper-athletic and explosive defensive players and that’s exactly what Bryan is. They also have one gaping need on the roster, and that’s defensive tackle. It’s a match made in heaven.
27. New Orleans Saints – Da’Ron Payne / DT / Alabama
The Saints could opt to reach for their only major need here (tight end), but I don’t have any idea which prospect they would like. I think they follow BPA and take a major disruptor in Payne.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jessie Bates / S / Wake Forest
The Steelers top priority has to be replacing Ryan Shazier at the LB position, but they will likely have to trade up to do that. Other than that, they could go a myriad of ways, including replacing Le’Veon Bell. I predict that they will see 2018 as a Super Bowl window year, and opt to fill a need with Bates.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Isaiah Wynn / OL / Georgia
The Jags get a steal and fill a need with Wynn. He gives them flexibility and can play right guard or fill in for right tackle Jeremy Parnell in the future.
Dynasty Analysis: The Jags continue to show that they’re committed to a hard nose running game. This is good news for Leonard Fournette.
30. Minnesota Vikings – James Daniels / OL / Iowa
The Vikings don’t have many needs, but improving the interior of the offensive line is probably the most pressing one. Daniels provides versatility that the Vikings covet.
Dynasty Analysis: This probably doesn’t have much impact other than to raise the floor of the Minnesota running game. One injury won’t tank them.
31. New England Patriots – Jaire Alexander / CB / Louisville
The Pats get an absolute steal and Malcolm Butler replacement in Alexander.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – Mike Hughes / CB / UCF
Philly has one of the most loaded rosters I’ve ever seen. They truly have no needs. Hughes should fill in at the slot corner position as they make another run at a Super Bowl. I would not be surprised to see Derrius Guice go here in a BPA pick.
Note: Michigan DL Maurice Hurst is a top 10 player in this class but word is that a possible heart condition will scare teams out of taking him in the first. I think he goes in the early second.