Mike Tagliere’s Final NFL Mock Draft 2018 – Three Rounds
It’s finally that time of the year. Where every mock draft done before this one doesn’t matter. This is the one that we’ll be judged on, as the NFL Draft will be taking place later this week. Rumors have flown, trades have been made, and names have been called. It all ends this Thursday when we find out who your favorite team selects when it really matters.
While paying attention to all the hot topics leading up to the draft, I’ve had to keep a level head about everything. It’s easy to drown in rumors and let them influence your mock in ways that you never imagined. After all, this is the time where we tell you what we think the teams will do, not what we’d do ourselves. There are definitely names who’ll be selected in the first-round that I didn’t have in my two-round mock just two months ago. When you hear a lot of buzz surrounding a player’s name, whether it be good or bad, you can’t ignore it. With all that being said, here’s my final mock for the 2018 NFL Draft, with projected trades included.
(Note: I went back and edited the mock based on the news that Maurice Hurst was dropping due to medical concerns and that the Browns were not going to be willing to trade out of the No. 4 pick in the draft. I included new notes for all the changes made.)
1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold (QB – USC)
With all the rumors flying around, it’s hard to avoid putting Josh Allen here, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t think that even the Browns could screw this up that bad. Darnold has just as high of a ceiling as Allen does, even if he isn’t polished just yet. The acquisition of Tyrod Taylor narrowed this down to two picks for me (Allen and Darnold), with the better quarterback winning the battle. The year that Darnold would get behind Taylor will be invaluable, as he only played two years of college ball.
2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley (RB – Penn State)
It’s not what I would do, but with all the rumors surrounding the Giants wanting a Hall of Fame player with the No. 2 pick, Barkley is the best prospect in the class, even if his position is of less significance.
3. New York Jets – Baker Mayfield (QB – Oklahoma)
This has been the pick for the Jets in my mocks ever since the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor. He’s going to be loved in New York media and has the personality to deal with all that comes with it. The Jets likely traded up to this pick with the intention of signing one of Mayfield, Sam Darnold, or Josh Rosen. Fortunately for them, they get the best quarterback in the class. While I fully expect Josh McCown to start Week 1, Mayfield will be called upon sooner rather than later.
4. Cleveland Browns – Bradley Chubb (DE/OLB – NC State)
Rumor now has it that the Browns are not trading out of the No. 4 pick, so we have to give them the best player available, right? I mean, they have to know it’ll be Barkley or Chubb here for them with the Jets taking a quarterback, so there’s not too many scenarios to think about. It’s not a massive need, but the Browns still have three picks in the second-round.
5. Buffalo Bills (Traded from the Broncos) – Josh Allen (QB – Wyoming)
The Bills do wind-up moving up in the draft and acquire the No. 5 overall pick in exchange for their No. 12 and 22 picks in this draft. All the rumors about Allen potentially going No. 1 have to have some legitimacy, so slotting him here to the Bills makes sense. It’s not the pick I’d make, but they’re shooting for the stars and hoping that they can help him increase his accuracy with his cannon for an arm. He also has a little Cam Newton to his game, which Sean McDermott obviously saw first-hand in his time with the Panthers. It seems inevitable that the Bills move up into the top-five of the draft. Another possibility is that the Bills include LeSean McCoy in a trade to avoid losing both first-round picks, as the Broncos need a running back.
6. Indianapolis Colts – Denzel Ward (CB – Ohio State)
There are a lot of directions the Colts could go with this pick and if they can trade back, I wouldn’t be shocked if they implore those options. If someone wants a franchise quarterback, Josh Rosen is still on the board. If only there wasn’t hatred between the Colts and Patriots, because there could be a trade here. Either way, the Colts desperately need cornerbacks (not just one) as their starters are slated to be Quincy Wilson, Kenny Moore, and Nate Hairston. The combination of Ward and last year’s first-round pick Malik Hooker make for a solid foundation in the secondary.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quenton Nelson (OG – Notre Dame)
This is a pick I came around on in my last mock draft, as the Bucs have simply invested too much into their offense to not see it pay dividends. They haven’t been able to establish a run-game due to a weak interior of the offensive line, something Nelson would help turn around. The only other positions that would make sense are outside linebacker or cornerback, so it’s possible they buy into the Tremaine Edmunds hype-train. There doesn’t seem to be a cornerback who is worthy of this spot in the draft, as Ward went one pick before them. If he’s on the board at No. 7, I’d fully expect them to draft him.
8. Chicago Bears – Roquan Smith (LB – Georgia)
When I started this mock, I originally had Tremaine Edmunds to the Bears because he matches the profile that GM Ryan Pace has done with both Leonard Floyd and Kevin White as high-upside prospects. It’s also important to remember that Pace might be on the hot seat if the team doesn’t start winning. Most believe he’s tied to Mitch Trubisky, and while that’s true, he’s also tied to the win-loss record which sits at 14-34 right now. He can no longer afford to take shots on high-upside prospects that might pay off in a few years. Because of that, he takes the plug-and-play linebacker Smith here. He can play inside or outside and can move sideline-to-sideline. This pick should make Bears fans happy.
9. San Francisco 49ers – Tremaine Edmunds (LB – Virginia Tech)
I’ve flip-flopped the picks between the 49ers and Bears, as they’re both linebacker-needy teams, but the combination of Jon Lynch and Kyle Shanahan can take a bit longer to develop a player, hence the reason they snag Edmunds here. If the Bears take Edmunds, they could very well select Roquan Smith, as they not only had a linebacker need a couple weeks ago, but they might have an even bigger one now. Last year’s second-round pick Rueben Foster is facing three felony charges and could very well be cut from the roster. Edmunds has the highest ceiling of any linebacker on the board, so snagging him here makes plenty of sense for them.
10. New England Patriots (Traded from the Raiders) – Josh Rosen (QB – UCLA)
After watching Rosen tumble down the draft board, the Patriots decide to pounce in front of the Dolphins to snag Rosen. They trade both of their first-round picks (No. 23 and 31) and a third-round pick (No. 95) to the Raiders in exchange for the No. 10 pick. After giving Jimmy Garoppolo away for nothing last year, the Patriots need a backup plan to Tom Brady. Rosen is the ideal candidate for the job, even if he has the ability to start right away. Sitting and learning from Brady for a year could do wonders for his career outlook.
11. Miami Dolphins – Vita Vea (DT – Washington)
With news coming out that Maurice Hurst is dropping down draft boards due to his medical concerns, Vea is the clear-cut No. 1 tackle on the board, so the Dolphins snag a difference-maker to slide into Ndamukong Suh‘s old place on the defensive line.
12. Denver Broncos (Traded from the Bills) – Josh Jackson (CB – Iowa)
There’s been rumors that Jackson can go as early as No. 10 and as late as the end of the first-round, as it all depends on who the Broncos have highest on their board. Trading back again might now be a bad option, as they can likely snag a top-three cornerback with a pick in the 20-25 range. That’s hard to predict, so they snag a cornerback to replace Aqib Talib.
13. Washington Redskins – Da’Ron Payne (DT – Alabama)
Panic sets in as the Redskins watched Vita Vea selected in front of them, the pick they were planning on all along. Rather than wait to see who is there in the second-round, they have to reach a little bit to snag Payne, the last of the “big three” interior lineman. Payne visited with them last week and he would help contribute immediately alongside his former teammate Jonathan Allen. The Redskins run-defense that plays against the Cowboys and Eagles twice a year cannot afford to take any chances up the middle of the field.
14. Green Bay Packers – Derwin James (S – Florida State)
The Packers already have their free safety spot solidified with Haha Clinton-Dix, so Minkah Fitzpatrick doesn’t offer as much as someone like James. He’ll play strong safety for them and can even help out as a nickel cornerback if they need him to. With last year’s first-round pick Kevin King returning from injury, Clinton-Dix, and James in the secondary, the Packers suddenly don’t look so bad in the back-end. Some believe James will go before this pick because his talent is top-10 in the class.
15. Arizona Cardinals – Minkah Fitzpatrick (S – Alabama)
Who would’ve thought that Fitzpatrick would fall this far? He’s one of the names that has lost steam throughout the draft process, as some feel like he’s never going to be a truly elite player, but a solid one. The Cardinals see the opportunity to pair him with Budda Baker and Patrick Peterson in the secondary and get all giddy inside. While they did pick up 34-year-old Antoine Bethea‘s contract option, they can cut him after the 2018 season with just a $1.2 million cap hit. With the Cardinals paying Sam Bradford as much as they did, it shouldn’t be a foregone conclusion that they draft a quarterback with this pick.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Calvin Ridley (WR – Alabama)
Apparently this is the area of the draft where Alabama players come off the board fast and furious. After Dez Bryant was released, the Ravens were a team reportedly showing a lot of interest, which tells you they still aren’t happy with their receiving corps. They have plenty of holes on their team to fill, but it’s not often you can get the No. 1 wide receiver in the draft with the No. 16 pick. Ridley wouldn’t have dropped this far without all the negative press about his measurables, but the Ravens should be happy he did.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Rashaan Evans (LB – Alabama)
I’ve had the Chargers selecting a defensive tackle here the entire offseason, but with the “big three” coming off the board prior to pick No. 17, they look to fill a void at inside linebacker. It would appear that Leighton Vander Esch also fits in the conversation, but looking at the Chargers recent history makes him unlikely, as each of their last seven first-round picks have been from power conferences. Evans fits the description and is the next linebacker on my board.
18. Seattle Seahawks – Marcus Davenport (DE – UTSA)
The Seahawks have been known for their ruthless defense under Pete Carroll, though they’ve lost a lot of their luster over the last year. Davenport would bring back that vibe with his ferocious attack of quarterbacks. His 4.58-second 40-yard dash was the second-fastest among all defensive lineman at the Combine, and he doesn’t let it go to waste once he gets to the quarterback as he’s the last person you want to see coming after you. This pick should make the loss of Michael Bennett feel a bit better.
19. Dallas Cowboys – Courtland Sutton (WR – Southern Methodist)
I mentioned this pick two weeks ago in my last mock draft, as the Bryant rumors were to strong not to have some substance. Sutton is the closest thing you’ll find to a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver build in this draft and even though there are a few concerns, he’s likely worth the risk at this point. You aren’t going to go into the season with Allen Hurns and 36-year-old Jason Witten (he’s just not the player he was a few years ago) as your top two receiving options, so it all comes down to who the Cowboys view as the best receivers in the class.
20. Detroit Lions – Harold Landry (DE/OLB – Boston College)
Landry’s versatility helps the Lions, as they could use help at both outside linebacker and the edge, both positions that Landry can play. He’s undersized for an edge at just 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds but should do well as an outside linebacker in the Lions hybrid defense that’ll show both 3-4 and 4-3 concepts. It’s easy to connect these dots, too, as Boston College’s defensive line coach has joined the Lions new coaching staff under Matt Patricia.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Bills) – Mike McGlinchey (OT – Notre Dame)
It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see McGlinchey taken before this point and possibly the Browns at No. 12 from their trade-back with the Bills, but the Bengals take the player they would’ve taken with their original No. 12 pick. Adding McGlinchey with offseason acquisition Cordy Glenn give the Bengals stability at both tackle positions that were a mess last year. McGlinchey can play either right or left tackle, so expect the Bengals to start him on the right side of the line. Recent failures of offensive tackles in the draft have teams extremely skittish, and it works out for the Bengals here.
22. Denver Broncos (Traded from the Bills) – Connor Williams (OT – Texas)
Right tackle is definitely a need for the Broncos, as is a left guard. Fortunately, Williams might be able to help them at either position. Some view him best-suited as a guard, while others think he may be best at right tackle. Whatever the case, the Broncos have said they want their offensive line solidified and moving back to No. 22 still allows them to get a top-two tackle in the draft.
23. Oakland Raiders (Traded from the Patriots) – Leighton Vander Esch (LB – Boise State)
When trading back from pick No. 10 to No. 23, the Raiders thought there was a good chance that either Vander Esch or Rashaan Evans would be there for them. Vander Esch seems to have the grinder mentality that new head coach Jon Gruden loves, and he’s also a prospect who’s been garnering a ton of praise in the weeks leading up to the draft. Vander Esch will walk in and start immediately at inside linebacker, as the Raiders have still yet to re-sign Navorro Bowman. Their linebacking corps would consist of Vander Esch, Tahir Whitehead, Khalil Mack, and Bruce Irvin.
24. Carolina Panthers – Derrius Guice (RB – LSU)
While it may not seem wise to use two first-round picks on running backs in back-to-back seasons, the Panthers need to highlight their game where it hurts opponents most. Jonathan Stewart quietly had 206 touches last year despite Christian McCaffrey‘s presence, so the team obviously values that role, yet they did nothing to address it in free agency. Putting Guice on the field with Cam Newton and McCaffrey would create some problems for opposing defenses. Think of it the way their divisional rival used Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in 2017.
25. Tennessee Titans – Will Hernandez (OG – UTEP)
We saw the Titans offense at their best when their offensive line was dominating the trenches in 2016. They took a slight step back in 2017, but the only position lacking talent is at left guard, which is exactly where Hernandez plays. He’ll immediately give a boost to the run-game, as he’s a mauler who gets plenty of push with his near-350-pound frame. While they’d love to snag a linebacker here, the top ones are off the board.
26. Atlanta Falcons – D.J. Moore (WR – Maryland)
After learning that Vegas’ over/under on wide receivers taken in the first-round is at 4.5, I needed to get another receiver into the first-round because they usually aren’t that far off in Vegas. The total still comes in as under, but Moore has been rocketing up draft boards after his impressive Combine performance. He’s also the ideal fit opposite Julio Jones, while Mohamed Sanu stays inside and mans the slot.
27. New Orleans Saints – Mike Gesicki (TE – Penn State)
After what was the best Combine that some have ever seen, Gesicki moved to the top of the tight end conversation. Along with his blazing speed, Gesicki has a 41.5-inch vertical to go along with his 34 1/8-inch arms and 10 1/4-inch hands, all of which are in the upper echelon for his position. The Saints could use help at tight end and they brought in Ben Watson who can help mentor him through the first season. Gesicki would give Drew Brees the massive red zone target that he hasn’t had since they traded away Jimmy Graham. It was rumored they were trying to acquire Graham back in free agency, which does tell us that they miss the big presence. The additions they made to the defense in free agency allow them to make this pick.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mason Rudolph (QB – Oklahoma State)
I asked this last mock draft: Do you think the Steelers are going to be a contender as long as Ben Roethlisberger is the starter? I do, though we don’t know exactly how long that will be. Because of that, you have to think – how many opportunities will they have to draft a franchise quarterback without trading up? Landing someone with the potential of Rudolph at No. 28 is huge and I don’t expect the Steelers to pass on him. This pick would allow them to give Roethlisberger the Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers treatment, though it’s unlikely Rudolph pans out the way Rodgers did (the GOAT – yep, I said it).
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Lamar Jackson (QB – Louisville)
So many people have wanted this pick to happen, as it’s really fun to imagine Jackson and Leonard Fournette in the same backfield. The Jaguars don’t have many holes to fill, which makes this pick a wildcard, but they need to create some competition if Blake Bortles regresses back to the quarterback he was in 2016. Outside linebacker could be considered a need for them, though it’s tough to advocate them reaching for one with this pick.
30. Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn (OG – Georgia)
The former tackle lasts longer than most think he does, as it’s been rumored that offensive guards will fall in this draft due to the depth at the position. But still, the Vikings need to protect their fully-guaranteed asset (Kirk Cousins), so investing a late first-round pick is more than worth it. The ceiling is there with Wynn as a former tackle, because his size is better suited as a guard, and now he’s got help on both sides. With the defense that they’ve built in Minnesota, they can spend some equity on the offense.
31. Oakland Raiders (Traded from the Patriots) – Dallas Goedert (TE – South Dakota State)
Not knowing if he’d last until their pick in the second-round, the Raiders snag another tight end as Jon Gruden plans to run a lot of 2TE sets, and it doesn’t help that they released Clive Walford. Goedert is a great long-term plan for a team that doesn’t want to count on Jared Cook and Lee Smith every week. His lack of competition in college is definitely a concern, but his size/speed combo combined with his basketball background make him an intriguing target at one of the growing positions in the NFL.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – Jaire Alexander (CB – Louisville)
Being the Super Bowl champs, you don’t have many holes on your roster. Some Eagles fans have come after me about them drafting a cornerback, but it’s one of their weakest positions, especially when you start talking about depth. While Jalen Mills played better, he’s not starter-material against good wide receivers. Yes, they drafted Sidney Jones last year, but he’s recovering from a torn Achilles, which could compromise some of his ability. After losing Patrick Robinson in free agency and then cutting newly-acquired Daryl Worley due to a legal issue, they have some holes to fill. While linebacker is another need, there’s not one left on the board who deserves to be taken in the first-round. Alexander should be able to play on the perimeter or out of the slot, depending on Jones’ health. There’s also a rumor that the Eagles may trade out of this pick.
1. Cleveland Browns – Kolton Miller (OT – UCLA)
Staying at No. 4 turns out okay for the Browns, as they were hoping one of their top-three tackles would be here. Miller is on the board after the Patriots traded up, as they would likely select him with one of their two picks in the first. The Browns need a replacement for Joe Thomas, so Miller will be asked to make an impact immediately.
2. New York Giants – Austin Corbett (OG – Nevada)
The Giants brought Corbett in for a private workout recently, fueling the reason for the Barkley pick in the first-round, as they need to block for him and whatever quarterback is under center. If he’s the highest-rated guard on their board, it’s likely he comes off the board here.
3. Cleveland Browns (from Texans) – Tim Settle (DT – Virginia Tech)
A plugger up the middle, Settle should do just fine taking Danny Shelton‘s place. He’ll be in between Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb, so his life should be easier than expected, too.
4. Indianapolis Colts – Sony Michel (RB – Georgia)
With the Colts being so quiet in free agency with a lot of running backs available, you have to think they’re eyeing someone in the draft. Michel is not only a three-down back, but he is likely the best pass-blocker in the draft. Keeping Andrew Luck upright is a massive priority.
5. Indianapolis Colts (from Jets) – Michael Gallup (WR – Colorado State)
After going defense in each of the last two first-rounds, the Colts decide to spend a little equity on the skill-position players. Gallup is the perfect compliment to T.Y. Hilton and gives Andrew Luck the possession receiver Donte Moncrief was supposed to be.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Hughes (CB – UCF)
While the idea of drafting a running back right here makes sense, they cannot simply ignore their defense in the first two rounds of the draft. Their secondary has been atrocious over the last few years and Hughes could help provide some relief opposite Brent Grimes, who re-signed a one-year deal with the team. They really need Vernon Hargreaves to step-up and he kind of did when he moved into the slot. Playing in a division with Julio Jones and Michael Thomas, they need firepower in their secondary.
7. Chicago Bears – Lorenzo Carter (OLB/DE – Georgia)
This might be a dream scenario for me, though some might say that getting Roquan Smith in the first filled the Bears linebacker needs. Putting Carter opposite Leonard Floyd with Roquan and Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker would be scary. I think there’s a good chance Carter goes prior to this pick, though.
8. Denver Broncos – Ronald Jones (RB – USC)
After moving back, the Broncos filled a few of their voids and they do it again here. After cutting C.J. Anderson last week, they have a void to fill that Devontae Booker already proved he couldn’t handle. They’re taking a running back in this draft – it’s just a matter of when.
9. Oakland Raiders – Christian Kirk (WR – Texas A&M)
The Raiders aren’t going to expect Jordy Nelson to play much longer and it’s been no secret that they’ve been meeting with receivers, including Kirk who is a borderline first-rounder. He would slide right in between Amari Cooper and Nelson.
10. Miami Dolphins – Darius Leonard (LB – SC State)
There is a clear need at multiple linebacker positions, so the Dolphins need to take the highest ranked one on their board. Leonard gives them flexibility as he can play both inside and outside linebacker, though he’s likely best-suited on the outside. He’s someone who most aren’t projecting until the third-round, but I clearly believe he goes higher.
11. New England Patriots (from 49ers) – Tyrell Crosby (OT – Oregon)
After trading up to get Josh Rosen, the Patriots need to snag their Nate Solder replacement here. Crosby may not be ready to slide right in and start immediately, but he’s the best tackle on their board.
12. Washington Redskins – Isaiah Oliver (CB – Colorado)
After landing their nose tackle in the first-round, the Redskins continue to build up the defense. After losing both Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller this offseason, cornerback is a major need. Oliver is a big, physical cornerback who would play on the perimeter opposite Josh Norman.
13. Green Bay Packers – James Washington (WR – Oklahoma State)
After snagging Derwin James in the first, the Packers look for their Jordy Nelson replacement and find the perfect one in Washington. He’s the best deep-ball tracker in the draft and shows a natural ability of catching the ball over his shoulder. While yes, Aaron Rodgers makes everyone around him better, the Packers need to give him some playmakers sometimes. Washington works well with Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, as they all have their strengths. With cornerback thinning out more than they’d like, the Packers snag one of the best wide receivers in the draft.
14. Cincinnati Bengals – Frank Ragnow (C – Arkansas)
The offensive line rebuild continues here with the addition of Ragnow, who happens to be the No. 1 center on my board. The additions of Ragnow, Cordy Glenn, and Mike McGlinchey turn the future of the offensive line around and can allows them to focus on defense in the coming rounds. I wouldn’t be shocked if he came off the board before this point in the draft because he’s a top-30 player, but looking at the needs of teams, he falls to the Bengals.
15. Arizona Cardinals – James Daniels (C – Iowa)
The Cardinals have quite a few needs and it just so happens that they are landing the best player available on the board at some of those positions. Some say Daniels goes inside the first-round, and though that’s possible, some big names would have to slide. I think this is the prime area for the centers to come off the board.
16. Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Reid (S – Stanford)
News broke a few weeks ago that the reason the Chargers hadn’t re-signed Tre Boston was because they view him as a strong safety, rather than the free safety position he played last year. Reid is best-suited as a free safety, so the Chargers continue to build their defense. Another possibility here is Taven Bryan, who has fallen further than expected in this mock.
17. Indianapolis Colts (from Jets) – Malik Jefferson (LB – Texas)
Some may have wondered why the Colts passed on linebacker in the early-second, though it’s because they felt they could land Jefferson here, but not Michel or Gallup. Jefferson has some inconsistencies to his game, but there’s plenty of upside.
18. Dallas Cowboys – Taven Bryan (DT – Florida)
While most don’t see him falling this far, Bryan does have his limitations. His size is the biggest concern and what bumps him out of the first-round for me. The Cowboys are pleasantly surprised to see him here, but are looking for a potential replacement for Maliek Collins, who has been below-average in his first two seasons with the team. They should consider Maurice Hurst, too, though we have no idea who has crossed him off their draft boards. The other position of interest for the Cowboys here should be outside linebacker.
19. Detroit Lions – Billy Price (OG/C – Ohio State)
It appears that some teams are moving Price up draft boards after hearing about his successful pectoral surgery and that he’s expected to be ready by training camp. The Lions are another team that should consider Maurice Hurst, as they actually met with him in the draft process, but offensive lineman are a necessity for a team that wants to be able to run the ball. Price gives them a bit of flexibility up front.
20. Baltimore Ravens – Hayden Hurst (TE – South Carolina)
The Ravens continue to replenish their stable of pass-catchers, as Hurst is likely the most pro-ready among all tight ends. He’s going to be 25 years old this year, but the Ravens have taken a few young tight ends who had “potential” but didn’t work out. They very well could go with an outside linebacker here, but Hurst is the best player available and the linebackers available are in a separate tier.
21. Buffalo Bills – Sam Hubbard (OLB/DE – Ohio State)
While the Bills have plenty of needs on the offensive side of the ball (particularly the offensive line), they need help at linebacker. Hubbard is considered by some to be a borderline first-round pick, so the Bills feel lucky to get him here.
22. Kansas City Chiefs – Kemoko Turay (OLB/DE – Rutgers)
After expanding their offensive playmakers, the Chiefs need to rebuild their defense. Turay is considered a high-upside prospect who I’d consider to be a solid prospect with no glaring weaknesses. To walk in and play opposite Justin Houston would help, too, as he’s one of the better veteran linebackers in the game. The Chiefs need a playmaker on defense with this pick, so cornerback wouldn’t surprise me, either.
23. Carolina Panthers – Orlando Brown (OT – Oklahoma)
After his hugely disappointing Combine performance, Brown slid down draft boards rather quickly. I was never a believer in him, so the Combine didn’t do too much for me, though it obviously didn’t help. The Panthers have filled a few voids on defense through free agency, so it allows them to take a shot on a potential starting left tackle, as the Matt Kalil experiment didn’t exactly work out. Kalil’s contract is gross and it’s going to be impossible to justify cutting him with all the dead money, but they can’t just ignore the problem at one of the most important positions. They could have Brown waiting in the wings, working on honing his skills through practice until they feel he’s ready.
24. Buffalo Bills (from Rams) – Braden Smith (OG – Auburn)
After losing Eric Wood, Richie Incognito, and Cordy Glenn this offseason, the rebuild begins with Smith. He’s simply the best offensive lineman on the board and they can’t afford to wait any longer.
25. Tennessee Titans – Ronnie Harrison (S – Alabama)
The linebackers dried up more than the Titans thought, so they shift their focus to the safety position, as Johnathan Cyprien has been disappointing to this point in his career. They signed him to a four-year contract last offseason, but he played poorly in 2017. They could release him after 2018 with just a $1.5 million cap hit, so it’s not a position they’ll avoid in the draft. The Titans have fewer holes on their team than most realize, so they can go in multiple directions. I just can’t see them reaching on a middle linebacker here with those left on the board, so they snag Harrison.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Maurice Hurst (DT – Michigan)
The slide ends for Hurst, who has been rumored to be “crossed off” draft boards by multiple teams due to his heart condition that had him sent home from the Combine. While Michigan and Harvard doctors cleared him, there’s clearly some confusion here. A team like the Falcons who don’t have many major holes and a championship-caliber team can afford to take the risk at a position of need. If he’s able to play for the next few years, this would be a pick for the ages.
27. San Francisco 49ers (from Saints) – Rashaad Penny (RB – San Diego State)
Some may be thinking, “why would they draft a running back when they just signed Jerick McKinnon for a ton of money?” Well, because McKinnon isn’t a guy who is going to carry the ball 15-plus times per game. Think about Kyle Shanahan’s offense and how well it worked with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in Atlanta. Penny comps to Carlos Hyde and would be the perfect thunder to McKinnon’s lightning.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jesse Bates (S – Wake Forest)
Bates is a name that the Steelers have apparently been keeping tabs on and didn’t try to hide that while head coach Mike Tomlin attended his Pro Day. After releasing Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden this offseason, the Steelers have a need at safety. They did sign Morgan Burnett to play strong safety, but the free safety spot is open for competition. They really need a linebacker but don’t love any of the ones remaining at this point.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Mark Andrews (TE – Oklahoma)
Sure, the Jaguars went out and snagged Austin Seferian-Jenkins in free agency, but a two-year deal is hardly a commitment. In fact, that’s about the time it takes to develop a rookie tight end, though Andrews can contribute as a pass-catcher right away. There’ve been rumors about the Jaguars looking at wide receivers, but by snagging Andrews, they kind of solve two positions in one; just don’t expect him to be much of a blocker.
30. Minnesota Vikings – Holton Hill (CB – Texas)
Provided Hill can answer for the off-the-field questions that got him suspended while at Texas, he should be taken inside the top three rounds. I’d make the argument that he’s a top-three cornerback in this draft class as a big, physical guy who is a great tackler. The Vikings need to prepare for life without Terence Newman, who is still unsigned, and it doesn’t help that 2016’s second-round pick Mackensie Alexander was recently called-out by head coach Mike Zimmer. Sticking Hill opposite Xavier Rhodes and moving Trae Waynes to the slot might be the best thing for them. At the very least, he gives them depth in a QB-heavy division.
31. New England Patriots – Josh Sweat (DE/OLB – Florida State)
If not for the concerns surrounding Sweat’s knee that was dislocated back in high school, he’d be in the first-round conversation. Sweat has similar concerns to the ones that Jay Ajayi had coming out of school in that some teams believe one contract is all you’ll get. Well, the Patriots need help with their pass-rush now and have a clear window to work with, so Sweat is the ideal pick for them.
32. Cleveland Browns (from Eagles) – Quin Blanding (S – Virginia)
The Browns have already filled their essential needs, so now they take a backup plan in case the Damarious Randall to free safety thing doesn’t work out. Blanding can play both safety positions, so it gives them flexibility, but Jabril Peppers needs to move back to strong safety regardless of what happens. The Browns should debate a running back here with Ronald Jones still on the board, as Duke Johnson has just one year left on his contract.
1. Buffalo Bills (from Browns) – Jerome Baker (LB – Ohio State)
There are some believers out there in Baker as a second-round pick, and while I’m not a fan of him as a prospect, it’s unrealistic to think he slips much further. The Bills have needs at both linebacker positions, so they need to take the best one available on their board, as they have a large gap in between this pick and their compensatory one at the end of this round.
2. New York Giants – Chad Thomas (DE/OLB – Miami)
They attacked the offensive line and running back positions, but what about replacing Jason Pierre-Paul? Thomas is one of my favorite mid-round picks and could fit in very nicely with the hybrid defense the Giants are planning to run.
3. Indianapolis Colts – Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (OLB/DE – Oklahoma)
After getting some toys for their offense, the Colts go back to the defensive side of the ball. Okoronkwo has experience at linebacker and edge, so he offers some versatility to a team with a lot of holes to fill.
4. Houston Texans – Brian O’Neill (OT – Pittsburgh)
Welcome to the draft, Texans. It’s brutal to finish as poorly as they did in 2017 and not have any picks in the first two rounds, but here we are. Fortunately for them, O’Neill is considered a raw prospect at the position, but one who could develop into a star. He’s a former tight end turned offensive tackle, so he’s still learning the position, though he’s shown promise. The Texans need to shoot for the sky here because their offensive line is among the worst in the league.
5. New York Giants (from Buccaneers) – Dorance Armstrong (OLB/DE – Kansas)
After selecting Thomas a few picks ago, some may be questioning this pick, but the Giants need to address the position heavily with the change in defensive scheme. They are apparently going to be a hybrid 4-3 and 3-4, meaning they’ll need players with flexibility. Armstrong does have the ability to play edge as well, so he gives them just that. Cornerback is another area where the Giants could go, though plenty of them have come off the board.
6. San Francisco 49ers (from Bears) – Harrison Phillips (DT – Stanford)
After snagging a linebacker in the first-round, the 49ers look to continue building their front-seven. Phillips is considered somewhat undersized for a tackle and could be overwhelmed if asked to do too much, but sticking him alongside DeForest Buckner, he wouldn’t see many double teams. His strength at the Combine was apparent while throwing up 42 reps on the bench press. He’d help make their run-defense better immediately.
7. Denver Broncos – Josey Jewell (LB – Iowa)
It’s a trend in my mock that linebackers are going before anticipated, and the Broncos are a team who was meeting with tons of linebackers in the draft process. He can play both linebacker positions, as the Broncos look to get younger over the middle of the field.
8. New York Jets – Martinas Rankin (OT/OG/C – Mississippi State)
This pick works for the Jets for multiple reasons. One, they need to start working on protecting their franchise quarterback. Two, they have quite a few holes on the offensive line and Rankin offers versatility, as some believe he’ll work best as a center instead of the tackle position he played in college. Wesley Johnson has been brutal in relief of Nick Mangold, so Rankin would likely move to center immediately. Another player to consider in this spot is Arden Key, as the Jets could use help on the edge.
9. Miami Dolphins – Ian Thomas (TE – Indiana)
It’s no secret that the Dolphins have been scouting tight ends, as they currently have A.J. Derby and MarQueis Gray atop the depth chart. Unfortunately, they had other needs that were a bit more important, but they get their guy in Thomas, who has what’s considered to be a high-ceiling. He’s a bit raw with just 11 games under his belt over the last two years while at Indiana.
10. Tennessee Titans (TRADED from 49ers) – Micah Kizer (ILB – Virginia)
After taking a look at who’s left on the board, the Titans decide they cannot stay put at the end of this round and hope Kizer falls to them. They trade away their third-round pick in this draft (No. 89) and fourth-round selections in both 2018 and 2019 to move up to this spot. Kizer will be asked to fill the shoes of Avery Williamson at inside linebacker.
11. Oakland Raiders – Jamarco Jones (OT – Ohio State)
The Raiders need to fill a hole on the right side of the line, and although Jones projects as a left tackle, he should be able to start on the right side while Donald Penn mans the blindside. Let’s not pretend that Penn is going to play forever, either, as he turns 35 years old this week. If the Raiders want to run the ball, they’ll want their offensive line to have some depth.
12. Green Bay Packers – Anthony Averett (CB – Alabama)
The NFC North is shaping up to be a very competitive division with tons of quarterbacks and wide receivers to fear. Because of that, the Packers need to add to their cornerback talent. Right after it seemed that Damarious Randall started making strides, he was traded away, leaving Kevin King as the only surefire starter on the team. Averett isn’t going to be a lockdown cornerback at the next level, but he is better than what they currently have on the roster. He may not be the highest on their board, but cornerback is definitely an area of concern.
13. Cincinnati Bengals – Mike White (QB – Western Kentucky)
The Bengals decide that they don’t want to “wait and see” if the Cardinals take a quarterback in two picks, so they snag White to be the backup to Andy Dalton after losing A.J. McCarron this offseason.
14. Kansas City Chiefs (from Redskins) – Derrick Nnadi (DT – Florida State)
After losing Bennie Logan in free agency, the Chiefs have a need at nose tackle. While yes, they signed Xavier Williams from the Cardinals, he’s never been a full-time player. Nnadi is a bit undersized for a nose tackle, but his strength is something that shows up on film. At the very least, they need a backup plan to Williams. Cornerback is another position of need, but Nnadi is the last of the tackles they wanted to consider.
15. Arizona Cardinals – Equanimeous St. Brown (WR – Notre Dame)
There are quite a few needs for the Cardinals, but they cannot continue to avoid the wide receiver position. With both John Brown and Jaron Brown leaving via free agency, the Cardinals need to add a perimeter wide receiver. St. Brown has one of the highest ceilings in this draft despite his mediocre stats from last year while playing with a less-than-ideal quarterback situation. He would give them a big target to play opposite Chad Williams and/or J.J. Nelson.
16. Houston Texans (from Seahawks) – Carlton Davis (CB – Auburn)
If you watched the Texans secondary last year, you know why they make this pick. Sure, the front-seven getting healthy will help, but they need a cornerback. Davis is the big-bodied perimeter cornerback teams covet.
17. Dallas Cowboys – Dorian O’Daniel (OLB – Clemson)
Some are suggesting that O’Daniel will fall further than this, but I’d consider him a great pick in this range. He’s explosive, has great instincts, and can tackle very well. His size is limited, but his contributions to special teams will be coveted by teams as well. This would be a phenomenal pick for the Cowboys to help replace Anthony Hitchens.
18. Detroit Lions – Nick Chubb (RB – Georgia)
Some will be thinking to themselves that there’s no way Chubb falls out of the first two rounds, but it’s very possible with a lot of the first- and second-down work being taken around the league. Even the Lions have LeGarrette Blount for the time-being, but they cannot pass on their long-term solution in Chubb. He would pair perfectly with Theo Riddick, while I think the Lions would trade away Ameer Abdullah.
19. Baltimore Ravens – Arden Key (OLB/DE – LSU)
This is much further than Key was supposed to fall, but his off-the-field concerns are very real. He’d be behind Terrell Suggs and Matthew Judon, but having good depth at edge rusher is hardly a bad thing. He’s just too talented for the Ravens to pass up here as they start to strengthen their defense after selecting offensive players in the first two rounds.
20. Los Angeles Chargers – TeGray Scales (LB – Indiana)
The Chargers add Scales to provide some depth that was exposed last year when Denzel Perryman was forced to miss time. Scales has some growing to do but has the football intelligence to develop into a starter in the league. On a young, upcoming defense, Scales would have the opportunity to hone his skills at the right pace.
21. Carolina Panthers (from Bills) – Dante Pettis (WR – Washington)
This was a landing spot I mentioned in my Scouting Profile on Pettis, saying that he not only gives them a field-stretcher, but someone who can be used on special teams as a return man. The Panthers ranked dead-last in return yards last year and picked up Torrey Smith as a stop-gap receiver. Their depth chart isn’t very pretty when it comes to receivers, so Pettis would serve multiple purposes.
22. Kansas City Chiefs – Donte Jackson (CB – LSU)
While I’m not a fan of his game, it’s a foregone conclusion that Jackson goes inside the top three rounds of the draft. The Chiefs desperately need help at cornerback, so they’ll likely be taking the highest one on their board right here. I’d argue that M.J. Stewart or Nick Nelson might be a better pick, though.
23. Los Angeles Rams – Uchenna Nwosu (OLB/DE – USC)
The Rams make their first pick of the draft and continue to add to their stout defense that’s received an overhaul this offseason. Nwosu possesses solid athletic traits that the Rams seem to fall in love with. Surrounded by playmakers, Nwosu would walk into a perfect situation.
24. Carolina Panthers – Duke Ejiofor (DE – Wake Forest)
While it was tempting to give them a wide receiver here, they’ve invested enough in the offense and there’s not a cornerback who is higher than Ejiofor on their board. He gives their front-seven some youth, as 38-year-old Julius Peppers re-signed just a one-year deal this offseason.
25. San Francisco 49ers (TRADED from the Titans) – Anthony Miller (WR – Memphis)
There were plenty of fans upset that the 49ers didn’t get a wide receiver this offseason, but Miller should make them happy. When on the field, he’s a playmaker, though his fractured foot is the reason he falls here in the draft.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Wyatt Teller (OG – Virginia Tech)
Over the last few years, the Falcons have done a tremendous job building their offensive line, though a right guard is still needed. Teller may not have the crazy physical traits that Quenton Nelson does, but he’s got the attitude needed to play the position.
27. New Orleans Saints – Fred Warner (OLB – BYU)
The Saints don’t have many holes anymore, though outside linebacker is one of them. They met with several linebackers during the draft process and Warner was one of them who got a private workout.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Christian Sam (LB – Arizona State)
It’s no secret that the Steelers need a linebacker, so they take the top one on their board here. Sam’s play-speed is quicker than his Combine showed, leading some to think he’ll drop further than this, though he should be able to walk in and help contribute to a linebacking corps that needs some serious help outside of last year’s draft pick T.J. Watt.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Desmond Harrison (OT – West Georgia)
If you’re looking for lightning in a bottle, you’ll find it in Harrison. He’s the type of player that people don’t want to line-up across from as he’s got a serious mean-streak. The Jaguars are in a position to take on players who present some risk and Harrison’s risk is that he may not be able to add much more weight to his frame, though it didn’t stop him from gaining almost 20 pounds from the Senior Bowl to the Combine. Did I mention that it didn’t hurt his testing at all? He’s one of my favorite picks in the middle rounds.
30. Minnesota Vikings – Da’Shawn Hand (DE/DT – Alabama)
There are some off-the-field concerns with Hand, though he’s extremely versatile on the field, as he can play on the edge or slip inside if you need him to. Given the loss of multiple defensive lineman in the offseason, the landing spot makes plenty of sense. The Vikings are a team that’s playing for a championship now and coming from Alabama’s seemingly pro-ready defense is a massive plus for them.
31. Oakland Raiders (TRADED from the Patriots) – M.J. Stewart (CB – North Carolina)
Don’t think that the Raiders are going to simply abandon the cornerback position because of the signings they made in free agency, as Stewart slotted alongside Rashaan Melvin and Gareon Conley wouldn’t sound so bad.
32. Buffalo Bills (from Eagles) – Mike McCray (ILB – Michigan)
For a team that made the playoffs, the Bills have a lot of holes to fill. The middle linebacker position isn’t one you want to avoid, especially when you have Julian Stanford slated to be a starter after losing Preston Brown in free agency. You have to assume they try to snag another one in free agency after the draft, but taking McCray here gives them some upside.
Arizona Cardinals (Compensatory Pick) – Shaquem Griffin (OLB – Central Florida)
The Cardinals could use both inside and outside linebacker depth, so Griffin makes his way into Day 2 of the draft. After seeing him blow up the NFL Combine, teams can’t help but take notice. He may never be a top talent in this league, but at the end of the third-round, his upside is worth it.
Houston Texans (Compensatory Pick) – Chukwuma Okorafor (OT – Western Michigan)
After taking the project tackle in Brian O’Neill at the start of this round, the Texans snag another tackle to help protect Deshaun Watson. His size is appealing and he may be more pro-ready than O’Neill, though he was inconsistent on film. The Texans need to invest some picks on their offensive line.
Denver Broncos (Compensatory Pick) – Deon Cain (WR – Clemson)
The Broncos have filled many holes at this point with their trade-down with the Bills, but they still need to prepare for life without Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who are both likely to be cap casualties next offseason. Cain and Carlos Henderson wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Cincinnati Bengals (Compensatory Pick) – DaeSean Hamilton (WR – Penn State)
The Bengals have been doing a ton of research on wide receivers in this portion of the draft, including Hamilton and Antonio Callaway. While Callaway was someone I was going to put here, his recent failed drug test will drop him into Day 3 at the very least. While I think there are other needs the Bengals should fill, they are clearly interested in wide receivers around this pick.