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Adam Cole's 2018 NFL Mock Draft - 1.0 (03/20/18)
Published at 3/26/2018 2:32:14 AM

First time in awhile. Let's shake off the rust. Some opinions are more fleshed out than others and -- as always -- no trades. Rate, comment, or share if you like.

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Round 1

1. Browns: Josh Allen, Quarterback, Wyoming

Before the Jets swapped round one picks with Indianapolis, Cleveland was in prime position to upgrade its offense in two facets by selecting Saquon Barkley No. 1 overall and a quarterback at No. 4, but now it's highly unlikely they don't select their quarterback at No. 1.

Considering Dorsey's draft history, Allen’s likely the quarterback in this draft going to Cleveland. His size, raw arm strength, and untapped potential are akin to Kansas City's Pat Mahomes, who Dorsey -- Chiefs GM at the time -- traded up to No. 10 overall to get.

The plan for Allen would be a rather common one in today's league; Have him sit behind the new acquired Tyrod Taylor for a year or two, coach out the kinks in his game and refine him for the league, and put a high-ceiling product in the QB1 spot.

2. Giants: Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State

It makes too much sense to select Eli Manning’s successor here, but with Barkley on the board, New York has the opportunity to add a perennial talent to its offense.

Barkley's the best prospect in this class and could be argued as one of the best in the last ten years, maybe even in draft history. His presence in any offense will be immediately felt and having his talents in the backfield next season is enough to stave off finding Manning's replacement for another year.

3. Jets: Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA

In my opinion, the Jets are in no position to select a quarterback. However, after trading into the top three, it'd be silly to think they don't go with a quarterback at this point.

If there's any quarterback who could handle the stress of turning around a dismantled franchise, it's Rosen. He's got all the physical traits of a top tier quarterback prospect, but his mentality and demeanor about football and life show a person who's clearly grounded in who he is. That kind of mental composure is enough to lead a locker room and turn the luck of a franchise.

4. Browns: Quenton Nelson, Offensive Guard, Notre Dame

Perhaps the biggest move that hasn’t been talked about in Cleveland’s offseason is the retirement of future Hall-of-Fame left tackle Joe Thomas. With his departure, Cleveland will either have Shon Coleman take the starting spot, or shift Joel Bitonio. Point being, the Browns will have one less HOF-caliber lineman on the field next season, and the selection of Nelson would not only add some needed depth, but continue the trend of great linemen in Cleveland.

He's a technically sound interior lineman with a mean streak while run blocking. Although he hasn't hit his full potential in pass protection, Nelson's length and size lend themselves to him becoming an NFL-caliber pass protector and with time and work, he could even move to a tackle spot.

5. Broncos: Sam Darnold, Quarterback, USC

The Broncos started their offseason with a big acquisition, signing Case Keenum to a two year, $36 million dollar deal. It fills a glaring need for Denver, but even after signing the former journeyman who went 11-3 in his 14 starts a season ago, it still makes sense for them to go with Darnold at No. 5. Keenum will be 31 when his contract and expires, and on top of that, Denver can either bring in Darnold to compete immediately or sit behind Keenum and develop for a year or two.

Things like Darnold's throwing mechanics and turnover concerns last season have led to some skepticism, but it's possible that with enough work, those things could be worked out.

6. Colts: Bradley Chubb, Defensive End, N.C. State

Even after sliding down three spots, the Colts will still land Chubb. He's the best pass rusher in the class and his blend of size and explosion has garnered a lot of comparison to a fellow alumnus of the Wolfpack, Mario Williams. Chubb's presence will be needed, as Indianapolis had the second lowest sack total in the NFL a season ago.

7. Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Alabama

The absence of Vernon Hargreaves III for more than half of last season led Tampa's secondary into a dissent. They finished as one of the worst coverage units in the league, allowing the most passing yards and second most completions in 2017. Having Hargreaves healthy in 2018 will provide a boost, but bringing in Fitzpatrick gives Tampa a lot more flexibility against the pass.

Fitzpatrick started his college career a slot corner, but after making a transition to safety his sophomore year, he found even greater success. As a free safety, he's a stout defender in coverage, but he's even more fun to watch against the run because he plays it so aggressively. With the return of Hargreaves III and the signing of former Buccaneer Brent Grimes to a one year deal, throwing Fitzpatrick into the mix makes this year's and last year's Tampa secondary two entirely different units.

8. Bears: Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver, Alabama

Chicago's offense was one of the worst in the NFL last year, but with Matt Nagy and Mark Helfrich running this offense -- an offense which has added Allen Robinson and Trey Burton this offseason -- it's clear the Bears want to turn things around in 2018.

The addition of another weapon to the offensive arsenal Chicago has built makes a lot of sense here. When Nagy was running Kansas City's offense last season, things began to slow down about halfway through the season because there was a sense of predictability from the Chiefs; It was either going to Hunt, Hill, or Kelce.

Having Robinson, Burton, and Tarik Cohen as the premier tools in the passing game is an incredible start, but throwing Ridley into the mix gives them not only a young talent, but another dimension of unpredictability. His speed at the college level blended well with the fact that he ran a full route tree and he was able to average over 10 yards a catch every season.
His ability to separate in the open field is also a big part of his skill set, but he'll need to add some bulk to his frame moving forward if he wants to compete against press corners. Currently, Ridley's skill set fits a fast-paced, college-based offense that Nagy and Helfrich will run with the Bears.

9. 49ers: Prospect not selected

The Niners' need for a cornerback is significant even after signing Richard Sherman, so having Denzel Ward on the board here is tantalizing, but selecting Edmunds could do a lot more for this team. Edmunds is built like 3-4 outer linebacker and is capable of also playing inner linebacker. And while Robert Saleh's defense is a base 4-3 scheme, it has a lot of sets which blend both the 4-3 and 3-4 base, looking a lot like the defense Seattle's run under Dan Quinn and Gus Bradley.

Having Edmunds also allows San Francisco some form of insurance if Reuben Foster doesn't bounce back from his character issues, but regardless, Edmunds provides a pass rushing attack from almost any linebacker position and considering the Niners finished with the sixth-least sacks in the NFL last season, his selection implies an automatic production boost.

10. Raiders: Roquan Smith, Outside Linebacker, Georgia

The addition of Smith is the best, most sensible option for Oakland. The Raider defense has been in dire need of a middle linebacker for a couple of years.

While a little undersized, Smith's incredibly fast and explosive in his abilities and also flashes incredible instincts. Throwing him into a front seven with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin makes this team that much more explosive when stopping the run and adds another capable passer rusher who can come at quarterback from the interior.

11. Dolphins: Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State

The addition of Ward gives The Phins a high value selection. His speed and athleticism make him the kind of cornerback who can stop offenses from taking the top off of coverage. This pick isn't incredibly flashy or exciting but Ward's potential is understated and he could provide Miami and standout cornerback for a long while.

12. Bills: Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma

By swapping first round picks with Cincinnati, Buffalo made it clear it wants one of the top four quarterbacks in this class. Having any of the four would benefit this team, but I think it’s most likely it’ll be Mayfield.

I enjoy what Mayfield brings to a team a lot. His play making abilities are by and far at the top of the class, but I think his size and character concerns will cause him to fall into the middle of the first round, allowing Buffalo, potentially even Miami at No. 11, to select him.

13. Redskins: Derrius Guice, Running Back, LSU

The Washington offense will look very different next year, but before Washington can even think about how to evolve its offense in the post-Kirk Cousins era, it needs to put more weapons around new QB1 Alex Smith.

Guice is the second best running back in this class and after battling a knee injury all of last season, his draft stock has slid a bit. However, even with limited playing time, Guice put up similar numbers to his sophomore campaign during his junior year.

When healthy, he's an aggressive, downhill runner who catches a second wind once he finds space. He also does a great job of bursting through initial contact and finding the hole -- sometimes seam -- between the tackles. A pretty traditional running back, Guice is someone who would boost the Washington running game.

14. Packers: Joshua Jackson, Cornerback, Iowa

After trading Damarious Randall to Cleveland, Green Bay is in need of a CB1 for a secondary that allowed the tenth-most passing yards a season ago. Adding Jackson to the Green Bay secondary gives the Packers an absolute ballhawk to pair with standout safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Jackson led the NCAA in interceptions a season ago and he also had 27 passes defended. That kind of production shows an invaluable instinct to fly to the ball.

15. Cardinals: Isaiah Oliver, Cornerback, Colorado

Even after brining in Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, I'm still not convinced Arizona has found their quarterback of the future, but reaching for Mason Rudolph or even Lamar Jackson here is questionable to say the least.

With a defensive mind in Steve Wilks becoming head coach, he’ll likely want to implement his own pieces on defense and considering the need in the secondary, Oliver could be a nice pickup.

Oliver's name is one that either finds itself in mid-first round consideration or floating somewhere in the second round. His length is probably the most likable thing about him as a prospect. It allows him to press and slow down opposing receivers and it also gives him a huge radius to shut down plays, however, he still has a lot of potential to grow into.

16. Ravens: Leighton Vander Esch, Inside Linebacker, Boise State

C.J. Mosley has proven himself capable of being a standout in the middle of the Ravens defense, however, the second interior linebacker spot in that defense needs a dire upgrade. With players like Rashaan Evans and Malik Jefferson on the board, selecting Vander Esch might be a little head-scratching, but he's got quite the blend of tools.

For starters, his 6'4", 256 lbs. frame -- and 33 7/8" arms -- as well as his combine performance -- 4.65 40-yard dash, 20 reps on bench -- show an incredible physical makeup.

His tape also shows an aggressive defender. He closes on ball carriers with speed and can deliver jarring hits, but he's also flashed speed on tape by picking up tight ends, sometimes slot receivers, in coverage. One con to Vander Esch is his inexperience. He's only played one full season as a starter in 11-man football, but with that, it's very likely he hasn't reached his full potential.


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