2018 NFL Mock Draft: Early Offseason Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2018

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (26) against Washington during the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Now that the confetti has stopped falling in Philadelphia to celebrate the Eagles winning their first Super Bowl title, the focus for all 32 teams has turned toward the 2018 NFL draft. 

There are less than three weeks until the start of the scouting combine and over two months remaining before the draft begins, leaving a wide gap between what is assumed will happen right now and what will happen on April 26. 

Free agency will also play a role in what teams do in the draft, so this is a still-early snapshot for how each franchise should approach this year's incoming rookie class as they try to reshape their roster to reach the top of the mountain next season. 

          

2018 NFL Mock Draft

  • 1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
  • 2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
  • 3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
  • 4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
  • 5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
  • 6. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
  • 7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
  • 8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
  • 9.* San Francisco 49ers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
  • 10.* Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
  • 11. Miami Dolphins: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
  • 12. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
  • 13. Washington Redskins: Derwin James, S, Florida State
  • 14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
  • 15. Arizona Cardinals: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
  • 16. Baltimore Ravens: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
  • 17. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
  • 18. Seattle Seahawks: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
  • 19. Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
  • 20. Detroit Lions: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
  • 21. Buffalo Bills: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
  • 22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
  • 23. Los Angeles Rams: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
  • 24. Carolina Panthers: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
  • 25. Tennessee Titans: Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Ohio State
  • 26. Atlanta Falcons: Da'Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
  • 27. New Orleans Saints: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
  • 28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
  • 29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Arden Key, EDGE, LSU
  • 30. Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
  • 31. New England Patriots: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
  • 32. Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

       *Nos. 9 and 10 will be decided by a coin toss.

          

The Best Fit: Saquon Barkley, RB (Projected No. 4 to Cleveland)

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

While the main focus for the Cleveland Browns will be on the No. 1 overall pick, the more interesting choice comes three picks later. 

Barring some surprise trade or free-agent signing, it doesn't seem likely that Cleveland will go any other direction than quarterback with that first choice. 

The easiest way to develop a young quarterback is surround him with playmakers. The Browns already have Josh Gordon—assuming he's able to avoid troubleat wide receiver to dominate on the outside. 

Saquon Barkley is the best offensive playmaker in this draft class because of all the ways he can dominate a game. The Penn State star is a running back, receiver and kickoff returner who racked up 2,329 total yards 23 total touchdowns in 2017. 

NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah has compared Barkley to Adrian Peterson: "He's the best RB prospect I've seen since [Peterson]. Peterson's power and violence is on another level, but Barkley's combination of lateral quickness, top speed and elusiveness is off the charts."

If Barkley was only a running back, the Browns should think hard about addressing their many other areas of need—offensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback. He's so much more than just a one-dimensional offensive player to make him the perfect fit for what this franchise desperately needs after an 0-16 season.

          

The Wild Card: Josh Allen, QB (Projected No. 5 to Denver)

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

This comes with a significant caveat because Kirk Cousins can become a free agent who would be a perfect fit to answer the Denver Broncos' issues at quarterback. 

Since it's impossible to predict what will happen in free agency, we are left with what each roster looks like right now. 

In some ways, Josh Allen shares a similar pre-draft overview with Paxton Lynch before he was drafted by the Broncos in 2016. They are long-term projects with high ceilings who can flame out spectacularly if they don't hit. 

Lynch already appears to be a bust after the Broncos turned to Brock Osweiler and Trevor Siemian at various points last season when their offense was a mess.

He did deal with shoulder injuries last season that likely played a role in his limited playing time, but there's been no indication Denver thinks of the 23-year-old as a significant part of their future. 

Allen entered the 2017 season with a great deal of hype as a potential top-10 pick. He struggled throughout his junior year at Wyoming, finishing with just 1,812 yards, 16 touchdowns and a 56.3 completion percentage. 

Mile High Sports Radio's Benjamin Allbright offered this take on Allen as a draft prospect:

NFL.com's Bucky Brooks highlighted Allen's raw tools after evaluating his performance against Central Michigan in the Potato Bowl:

"Allen checks off all of the boxes as a 6-foot-5, 240-pound (school measurements) flamethrower with exceptional movement skills and a live arm. He is arguably the most talented passer in college football when it comes to his ability to throw with zip, velocity, touch, and range from a stationary position or on the move. There isn't a throw in the book that he can't make and that unlimited range makes him an offensive coordinator's dream at the position."

However, Brooks compared Allen to a "more dynamic version of Blake Bortles."

Even though the Jacksonville Jaguars nearly went to the Super Bowl this year with Bortles at quarterback, he's not the player any incoming rookie quarterback wants to be compared to. 

Allen could end up being the best version of Bortles—the one Jacksonville thought it was getting when it drafted him No. 3 overall in 2014—but that gap is so wide.

Any front office betting its future on Allen has to be prepared for a long development process. 

           

The Sleeper: Arden Key, EDGE (Projected No. 29 to Jacksonville)

BATON ROUGE, LA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Arden Key #49 of the LSU Tigers defends during a game at Tiger Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

In some ways, Arden Key is the defensive-player version of Allen. He entered the 2017 with tremendous hype as a potential No. 1 overall pick. 

Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports had the LSU star ranked No. 1 on his preseason big board last June:

"At 6-foot-6 and just over 230 pounds, Key has plenty of room to grow into his gigantic frame. Even at sub-240 pounds in 2016, the Tigers sophomore had 55 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 11 sacks after a freshman All-American season in 2015. If he adds some weight to his and builds on his first two seasons at LSU, Key is a prime candidate to go No. 1 overall."

Injuries knocked Key off course last season. He only appeared in eight games, leading to him posting career-lows in tackles for loss (5.5) and sacks (four).

After having finger surgery in November, Key didn't play in LSU's 21-17 Citrus Bowl loss against Notre Dame on Jan. 1. 

Because of those injury concerns, Key's stock has taken a significant hit. B/R NFL draft analyst Matt Miller has him ranked as the No. 30 prospect on his latest big board.

Teams will have to go through Key's medical report during the evaluation process to determine where he slots in this class. Assuming his finger and knee are healthy, though, he will be one of the best bargains in this class because of the size and speed he displayed before injuries knocked him off course. 

The Jaguars don't necessarily need another pass-rusher after finishing second in the NFL with 55 sacks last season, but the back of the first round is a perfect time for a team to search for the best value instead of trying to reach to fill a need.   

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