Pre-combine 2018 Mock draft
Published at 2/25/2018 4:13:35 AM
Formerly known as "bball37" on this site and the forums, I've decided to publish this mock draft under my actual name, mostly because the Gmail I used to log on to this site got hacked. Anyways, for this mock draft, I'm pretty much believing every free agent will leave their current team this offseason, but not taking into consideration where they might go. So essentially, they're disappearing. That obviously isn't realistic, but it's makes doing a mock draft in February easier.
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When the draft comes around in April, I fully expect Saquon Barkley to NOT be picked first overall by the Browns. However, I don't feel comfortable enough with a "QB -> Browns" pick just yet. In three picks, you'll see exactly the QB I expect the Browns to take, but it certainly doesn't make sense to take him at #1 overall.
For what it's worth, I think Barkley is the best, and most well-rounded running back to come out of college since Darren McFadden. Hopefully he turns out like Ezekiel Elliott and not Trent Richardson, two top-five RB's who have certainly taken different paths.
I actually don't feel too confident about this pick either, to be honest. It would make sense to find the future franchise QB for the Giants at #2 overall, but having Eli Manning under contract (a fairly cap-friendly contract at that) for the next two years, drafting Davis Webb in the third round last year, and hiring Dave Gettleman as GM point toward other directions.
When Gettleman took the reigns for the Carolina Panthers, he immediately spent his first two draft choices on defensive tackles, fixing the team's most glaring weakness. The Giants have a similar weakness at linebacker, but this is too early for Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds.
As out of fashion as it's been to take a running back in the top-five the last decade, it's been doubly bad for offensive guards, with Brandon Scherff, Robert Gallery, and Leonard Davis being the only offensive guards taken this early since the turn of the millennium. Quentin Nelson has to hope to impress like the first name on that list, not the other two, if he wants to be taken this high; however, the Colts' weakness on the interior offensive line so stark it might just happen.
Nelson is a better prospect than everybody in this class, save for maybe Barkley, and even that's questionable. I'm not sure I can find a single weakness in his game.
This is the QB I expect the Browns to take in April, and it may even be at #1 overall if necessary. New Browns GM John Dorsey hired former Redskins and 49ers executive Scot McCloughan to run the team's pre-draft process, and McCloughan hasn't shied away from his fondness for Heisman winner Baker Mayfield.
I don't view the Oklahoma QB as a first round prospect, but he'll probably go in the top-15 due to the overwhelming need for a franchise QB nearly half the teams in the NFL have.
He was the best QB at the Senior Bowl by far, but Josh Allen could be the second from that exhibition to go in April if the Browns opt for Mayfield. Allen is the prototypical big armed passer with plus mobility and decent leadership skills. The big negative on Allen is his accuracy, which is very teachable, especially when your GM is John Elway.
The Broncos could certainly chase one of the impending free agents, most likely Kirk Cousins or A.J. McCarron, but could also opt for a QB in the first round. Heck, they could even end up doing both.
Many NFL teams are very concerned about Josh Rosen's personality in terms of both fitting into a NFL locker room, as well as his penchant for ragging on the current president (which I personally have no problem with). He could end up being the first QB off the board, due to his talent level, which is arguably the best in this class, but he'll have to impress scouts the next couple months.
I think New York could either be a perfect fit for Rosen, or the worst possible fit for him, depending on his attitude and work ethic once he's in the big leagues.
Many people have Bradley Chubb cemented into the third overall pick for the Colts, but I think he's a much better fit in a 4-3 defense, and as an inside pass rusher on passing downs. The Buccaneers are still looking for a long-term replacement to Simeon Rice, despite Rice leaving Tampa 12 years ago (yeah, the Bucs have had horrible luck with defensive ends).
Depending on how well Chubb tests at the combine, I could fully expect him to be the first defensive player off the board. If he fails to impress, he'll still likely be a top-10 pick.
The only player other than Chubb with a legitimate shot at being called the best defensive prospect in the draft, Minkah Fitzpatrick could be a conundrum for NFL teams, but in a good way. His athleticism favors the cornerback position, but his size favors safety. He could be the next in a line of guys like Tyrann Mathieu, Tyvon Branch and Obi Melifonwu who just moves around the field all game covering the opposing team's best pass catcher, no matter how big or fast.
If the SEC championship and the CFB playoff games were the only benchmark for getting drafted, Roquan Smith would be the first overall pick. However, it may be a bit of a surprise to her him this high even with his stellar performances.
The Reuben Foster experiment was a masterpiece on the field, but a massive dumpster fire off it. He may not have a second season in San Francisco if this continues.
Not the most expected pick, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Raiders target a receiver early if they can't find some receiving help in free agency. Michael Crabtree isn't getting any younger, and Amari Cooper hasn't impressed lately as he did early in his career.
I think the Raiders would actually prefer Courtland Sutton if he can run a fast 40, but Ridley is the safer pick, and could be a reliable outside option against the AFC West's cornerbacks, which just happen to be some of the best in the game.
No player has risen as much as Tremaine Edmunds since the end of the college season. His athleticism, size and pass rushing prowess has scouts buzzing. The downside to Edmunds might be his positional fit, which is questionable until the combine numbers come in. I think he would fit though in the Dolphins defense, which already has a few steady tacklers at the linebacker position, but lacks pass rushers at the position.
Here's the first real reach of the draft, with the Bengals taking a ring first round prospect in the top-15. Without any question, the Bengals must take an offensive lineman with their first pick, and likely their second pick in the draft. Both Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher are complete busts, and neither Andre Smith nor Eric Winston are any kind of solution at the position.
Connor Williams is an intriguing prospect, lacking a bit of weight and strength at the moment, but is athletic enough to survive at left tackle. Scouts are very divided on him, but his ceiling is higher than the other tackles in this draft, and the Bengals certainly need it.
With Bruce Allen in control of player personnel, the Redskins have taken a nose dive in the NFC East standings, and look to be continuing that trend by trading their best cornerback for 33-year-old Alex Smith, with a grand total of two playoff wins in his 12 year career.
Nevertheless, with Allen in control, look to see the Redskins ignore the secondary in the first round and opt for the best Alabama player on the board. The Redskins have plucked numerous players from the Crimson Tide in recent years, and Da'Ron Payne could be the next.
The Redskins deciding not to address their biggest need in the first round lets Joshua Jackson fall right into the Packers' lap. Despite drafting Kevin King in the second round last year, the Packers are still looking for a top cornerback, as their secondary was torched numerous times last year. Only one current Packer cornerback, Damarious Randall, is of starting quality.
Jackson was the most dynamic defensive back in college football this past season, with 8 interceptions; almost as many as the entire Packers team had last season.
As a former Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson has a tough legacy to live up to. And as a Black quarterback, it's an even tougher road to climb. Many NFL executives and scouts believe Jackson should just transition now into a wide receiver or running back and get a head-start on the road he'll eventually have to travel on.
I disagree with this sentiment and think Jackson may have the traits to survive as a QB in the NFL. One team that probably would take any QB with a functioning arm is the Arizona Cardinals, with a whopping 0 QB's under contract at the moment.
Few interior offensive linemen get picked in the top-20 on a yearly basis, but this draft may defy that logic, as there are six centers or guards in the top-30 of my big board, and too many teams needy in that department. Ohio State's Billy Price is the consensus top ranked center and would fill the biggest need on the Baltimore offensive line.
Price can also play guard if preferred, the position he played as a junior, considering none of the Ravens' options at that position, other than Marshall Yanda, are worth their weight in salt.