2018 NFL Mock Draft by Jesse S. - 2.24
Published at 2/24/2018 9:00:51 AM
This first draft will be the "fun" edition where I mock different trades that I think would work out well for all sides. I use the NFL Draft Trade Value chart for the trades and keep them fair based upon the points each team gives and receives. I also bring in other factors such as positional need and potential free agent fallout.
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Before getting into the picks themselves, here are the pre-draft stipulations that occur in this particular mock draft scenario:
1) The Jets are able to land QB Kirk Cousins in free agency (explained during their pick)
2) The Browns arrange a trade of picks with the Seahawks well in advance of the draft; Cleveland would give picks #35, #65, and #101 (a total of 939 value points) for Seattle's #18 (worth 900 value points). Cleveland is willing to give up more in draft value to secure a third first round pick in the early going (March) and plan accordingly. The Seahawks love to do trades like this, and without 2nd and 3rd round picks from the Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown trades, recouping the top picks in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round makes a ton of sense.
3) When it comes to picks, the Browns have enough quantity, but they’re still seeking quality, so a trade-up from #18 to #8 makes sense. This could happen in advance of the draft or on draft day. The Bears, who are not likely to satisfy their needs at WR in free agency, would be much wiser anticipatorily trading down into the mid-first. Based on value alone, a WR prospect should not go top-15 in this draft. Moving down ten spots to #18 is a sweet deal for Chicago considering that they get Cleveland’s prized #33 overall pick in the deal. Chicago’s #8 and #105 (a total of 1,484 value points) for Cleveland’s #18, #33, and #175 (a total of 1,501 value points) makes for a fairly even deal. Once again, the Browns are willing to sacrifice a slight bit of draft value to persuade their trade partner.
By the time the draft rolls around, here would be the changes in draft order within the top 4 rounds:
8) Cleveland Browns (from Chicago Bears)
18) Chicago Bears (from Seattle Seahawks through Cleveland Browns)
33) Chicago Bears (from Cleveland Browns)
35) Seattle Seahawks (from Cleveland Browns)
65) Seattle Seahawks (from Cleveland Browns)
101) Seattle Seahawks (from Cleveland Browns)
105) Cleveland Browns (from Chicago Bears)
Alright, let’s get this draft started!
Although the Browns add A.J. McCarron in free agency, the QB position isn’t answered, and a top-10 draft pick should be devoted to the position. However, should it be the #1 overall pick? Many, including Walt and Charlie, don’t seem to think so.
Meanwhile, if Denver strikes out on Kirk Cousins, I don’t think John Elway will look to add a middling starter via free agency after the middling QBs the Broncos have trotted out for the last few seasons. Sure, some of the free agent QBs available would be an upgrade over the Siemian/Osweiler/Lynch enigma, but that isn’t saying much. Rather, if Elway is confident in his ability to build the rest of the team all while surrendering what it takes to move up to #1, it makes sense to make the move to draft who might well be the best QB in this class, Sam Darnold.
The chances of Darnold being available at #5 are slim. Not only are the Giants a marked threat to take him at #2, but other teams could be jockeying to move up for a QB, and the Browns could be fielding multiple offers. Denver’s #5 and #40 (2,200 total value points) pull the Broncos within 800 value points of equaling the value of Cleveland’s #1 pick. Dealing their 2019 first rounder to Cleveland makes up for that difference. The Browns obtained slightly more moving down from #2 to #8 in the Carson Wentz trade, but they’re nonetheless happy to do business here, as they regain a pick at the top of the 2nd round all while maintaining three top-ten picks.
For the Broncos, Darnold is in place, the QB quandary should be finally answered, and it’s time to move on to building the rest of the team in rounds 3-7.
I have trouble believing the Giants won’t use this opportunity in the top 5 to select the quarterback of their choosing, unless they are not comfortable with the quarterback that Denver doesn’t take.
Quarterbacks going #1 and #2 gives the Colts pick value in a trade down, and a team needing a QB could make a significant offer to move up to #3 if they are concerned that Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield would go imminently. Are the top non-QB’s in this draft worth the No. 3 pick more so than Allen or Mayfield? Absolutely! But that is not how the NFL works, and the recent successes of massive trade-ups (Jared Goff and Carson Wentz) or significant trade-ups (DeSean Watson and Patrick Mahomes) will likely be persuading teams to do the same and finally answer major sports’ most important position. I see the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns as threats to move up here. There’s a rumor on this site about a Bills trade-up whereby #21, #22, #55 and possibly Cordy Glenn go to the Colts for the 3rd overall selection, but I don’t think that’s enough value for Indianapolis. Rather, the Colts could find the package of Cleveland’s #8 (from Chicago, see above) and Denver’s 2019 first more appealing. A chance to stay in the top-10 and draft a premier player all while remaining patient with a new regime and setting themselves up well for the future? That makes much more sense than the Bills package, which would doesn’t meet the value of the #3 pick.
Here’s the trick at #3 then for Cleveland: the Browns may be trading up for Josh Allen, but crazily enough, they don’t have to take him here! In this scenario, they are already holding the 4th and 5th overall selections, meaning that a move up from #8 to #3 would give them a historic three consecutive picks in the top 5. If the Browns want to pay a different player more with the #3 draft slot, boost AJ McCarron’s confidence slightly and wait till #5 to draft Allen, they could do so. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll put Allen here, but if the Browns make these deals, they can have whatever three players they like in whatever order they please.
John Dorsey struck gold before his tenure with the Chiefs ended by nabbing RB Kareem Hunt in the third round in 2017. Some say Dorsey & co. wouldn’t be inclined to take a RB this high and instead would rather test their evaluating skills later in Day 2, but if the Browns have control of picks 3, 4, and 5, taking what is possibly a generational talent in Saquon Barkley might be too alluring of a prospect to pass up. Especially when considering that the Browns current weapons don’t offer the necessary help that AJ McCarron and Josh Allen will need to be successful, it’s apparent that Barkley would make for a great selection at #4.
After addressing QB and RB, the Browns can then turn their attention to defense. They can choose between the best two defensive players in the draft, DE Bradley Chubb and DB Minkah Fitzpatrick. The question here is, which one? Fitzpatrick certainly fills more of a need, but if the Browns put even a fraction of their $110 million in cap space to use in free agency, they could be players for some of the top defensive backs available, including LaMarcus Joyner and Malcolm Butler. I suspect the Browns will add Joyner with a big deal and secure the free safety position. They could even bring Joyner’s Rams teammate Trumaine Johnson over on a deal to play cornerback, or ideally, they’d bring in both Joyner and Butler.
Free agency will ultimately determine which defensive player Cleveland would target here, but I suspect that they’ll want to create a truly fearsome pass rush with Bradley Chubb across from Myles Garrett. Emmanuel Ogbah could be a rotational end, and the starting secondary comprised of two free agent signings, Jason McCourty as the #2 corner, Derrick Kindred at SS, and Brien Boddy-Calhoun at nickel back may look significantly improved thanks to the pass rush in front of them. Should the Browns somehow not manage to snag a top defense back (or two) in free agency, Minkah Fitzpatrick likely becomes the favorite with this pick.
Whichever team obtains Kirk Cousins in free agency will be sitting pretty come draft day, as the first round then becomes a place for that team to address other areas. Perhaps the Jets, with Cousins, become a trade-down candidate for a QB needy team such as Arizona or Buffalo, but it may be possible that Baker Mayfield has to wait a while more to hear his name called, particularly if Case Keenum and Tyrod Taylor are on deck for those aforementioned two teams.
Even still, the Jets could find a trade partner here. The Colts, sitting at #8 in this mock, would be interested in moving up 2 spots to secure the sensational offensive guard Quenton Nelson before Tampa Bay can land the Notre Dame product.
The decision then falls on the Jets: in a draft wherein the first tier of premier non-quarterbacks seems to end after Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Quenton Nelson, is moving back two spots to #8 really worth it? I think the Jets would be more inclined to select one of those premier talents here. I initially thought about Minkah Fitzpatrick filling the Jets dire need at CB, but after thinking again, if New York lands Kirk Cousins, I think they would be inclined to protect their investment with Quenton Nelson. Offensive line is not a point of strength for the Jets by any means, and Nelson could make a marked difference replacing James Carpenter.
The Buccaneers have a decent chance of one of the three elite non-skill-position prospects (Chubb, Nelson, and Fitzpatrick) falling to them, and if only one does, it should not take long for them to hand in their draft card. With Chubb and Nelson off the board, this pick is essentially a no-brainer, as Fitzpatrick would bring immediate improvement to Tampa Bay's struggling defense.
(From Chicago Through Cleveland and Indianapolis)
The players (Chubb, Fitzpatrick, Nelson) going at #’s 5, 6, and 7 in this mock would truly leave the Colts heartbroken if they are unable to trade up from #8, the pick they acquired in the aforementioned trade-down with the Browns, who acquired this pick from the Bears. Thus, if the Colts had already discussed a trade with the Buffalo Bills at No. 3, they could hit re-dial and gauge Buffalo’s interest in moving up for a QB here. Just because the Bills are paying Tyrod Taylor’s bonus before free agency starts does not mean that they won’t eventually trade their QB to another team, perhaps the Arizona Cardinals. Even with Taylor still on the roster, I could see the Bills moving up for Baker Mayfield for the right price. Pick #8 is considerably less expensive than pick #3, so even if the QB flurry dies down for awhile, I don’t think the Bills will risk Mayfield slipping away any longer, especially if a potential trade partner is already familiar with the terms of a deal.
In this case, Buffalo can give up considerably less. It’s possible to get the deal done of moving up from #21 to #8 by using both second round selections that the Bills have, but if the Colts insist on getting #21 and #22, Buffalo would be entitled to some compensation to even out the trade. In this scenario, Indianapolis sends #8, #67, and #177 (1,675.2 total value points) for Buffalo’s #21, #22, and #96 (1,696 total value points). The Bills, with Mayfield, the two second round picks they entered into the draft with, and a high 3rd round selection, are sitting pretty.
The top defensive back not named Minkah Fitzpatrick makes a ton of sense here for San Francisco. Sure, answering questions at the skill positions and at the offensive guard position would benefit the Jimmy Garrapollo-led offense, but everyone knows the 9’ers new QB-savior can handle his own if the team chooses to address the defense in Round 1. San Francisco desperately needs a cover corner like Ward.
Sometimes 4-3 teams can get away with average middle linebackers who can, by virtue of the position, be in place to make a lot of tackles and be fairly effective. Well, the Raiders haven’t even been able to trot out average players at the position for years now, and it’s showed. Tremaine Edwards can fly all over the field and massively upgrade Oakland’s second level.
It’s hard to look at the Miami Dolphins roster and believe that they are not selecting in the top 10. The Dolphins could find themselves in a pickle of having many needs, few, if any, trade-down partners, and few players that fill a position of need and provide value. This pick seems like a wild-card in the draft. Maybe Jarvis Landry gets traded; maybe the Dolphins surprise with a move for a QB. If the Dolphins pick here, it could come down to Josh Jackson and Roquan Smith, both of whom would fill positions of need. I’ll lean slightly toward Jackson here, as he plays a more valuable position.
It’s not like the Bengals are opposed to using high picks on the offensive line (see Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher). The problem is, neither has panned out, particularly Ogbuehi. This offense will continue to be stuck in the mud unless Cincinnati addresses the position, and with a shaky free agent crop at offensive tackle, the Bengals would be wise to invest up front with Connor Williams.
If Josh Jackson makes it to #13, I think he’ll be the pick to start across from Josh Norman, given the departure of Kendall Fuller in the Alex Smith trade. I thought about opting for a slight surprise here in Calvin Ridley; although Jamison Crowder has emerged in the slot and Josh Doctson looks like a promising No. 2 WR, Alex Smith could use a more respectable target, particularly given that Jordan Reed is a near lock to miss several games due to injury each season. However, given that there is not only more need but also more value at the defensive tackle position at this juncture, Vita Vea makes sense. Teaming Jonathan Allen with Vea should help Washington climb back to respectability on defense.
Ideally, Green Bay would be selecting a top pass-rushing outside linebacker here, allowing Clay Matthews to move to the inside and replace Jake Ryan as the starter. However, Ro’Quan Smith should be an excellent addition into the middle of the defense, and figures to fit perfectly into new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s attacking 3-4.
The Cardinals would be wise to not move heaven and earth for a quarterback, as they are certainly not a quarterback away from contending. This team has been on the decline for two years and needs help in several areas, particularly after the cuts they are expected to make before free agency. Arizona could address the offensive tackle position, middle linebacker, defensive line, or even wide receiver with this pick. The Cardinals seem to be the most likely team to lose out on both Kirk Cousins AND the top wave of QB’s in the draft, meaning that we could see another veteran (Case Keenum, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, etc.) manning the position for Arizona next season. I don’t think anyone would have a problem if, after releasing Jareed Veldheer, Arizona replaced their right tackle with Orlando Brown and worked to assure a clean pocket for whenever they find their QB of the future.
Given all their needs, however, I think the Cardinals could find a trade partner and target the best player available later on in the teens. The Chicago Bears, sitting at #18 after their aforementioned trade with Cleveland, don’t risk losing Calvin Ridley to the Ravens. Chicago sends #18 and #33 to Arizona for #15 and #47, making an exactly even swap in trade value (1,480 points for 1,480 points).
Ridley would immediately step in as Chicago's #1 WR, and after all is said and done, Chicago effectively moves from #8 to #15 and is able to add a mid-second rounder while still drafting the top WR. Not bad.
Although offensive line and wide receiver needs are more pressing for the Ravens, we’ve seen Baltimore reject need for the best player available in the past, and the argument can certainly be made that player here is Marcus Davenport. Besides, if not for Terrell Suggs’ astounding longevity, the Ravens would have serious pass-rushing issues at the outside linebacker position. Davenport isn’t the big-school player that the Ravens typically target, but he could just end up being the steal of the first round and a phenomenal talent. There will certainly be teams looking to trade up to this spot for either Davenport or an offensive tackle, but in typical Ravens fashion, Baltimore stands pat.
Nothing Baltimore does this offseason can significantly improve their stagnant offense, so in Ozzie Newsome’s final draft at GM, Davenport may well prove to be a pick that redeems the longtime Ravens GM’s legacy.