2018 top 10 NFL Draft Selections
Speaking candidly, posting a mock draft is simply sharing your assumptions with others. No one truly knows how the first round will shake out, which players GMs favor or look down upon, etc. It is a guessing game. Additionally, it is near impossible to predict trades, which will have a cascading effect upon the remainder of selections.
For those who aren’t familiar with the upcoming draft, class, there are a few factors which make it somewhat unique. The quarterback position has been the focal point and discussed ad nauseum for nearly three years - and rightfully so. Depending upon one’s viewpoint there are four or five first-round selections available, all of which hold the key to altering a franchise for a decade or more. Fans knows that teams will go out of their way to overspend at the position, sometimes to the detriment of future seasons. The “hit” rate is mediocre at best – for every Peyton Manning there is a Ryan Leaf. History says that this year will be no different.
There are a number of top-tier running backs as well, highlighted by Saquon Barkely of Penn State. Most “experts” feel that at least three or four players will be selected within the first two rounds. Unlike the last few seasons, the class of OT/OG is considered to be relatively weak, and not worth trading up for, with the exception of Quenton Nelson from Notre Dame. Wide receiver is also curiously thin, which is likely to have teams like the Dallas Cowboys or New Orleans Saints reaching for athletes.
On the defensive side, the 2018 crop is very deep at both cornerback and linebacker, with a few edge rushers and safeties also breaking into the top 15-20 players.
I’ll preface sharing my thoughts by stating the following: though I wouldn’t consider myself a college football expert (like my colleague John Laub), I’ve been studying the top 30 prospects since the season ended and feel like I have a pretty firm grasp upon what teams are considering, based upon news and notes. With that said, below is my best guess on how I imagine the top 10 selections of the 2018 draft going this year. Enjoy!
(1) Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB (USC): I’ve read plenty of theories about the Browns selecting Josh Allen first overall instead, but I can’t imagine them turning down the most polished signal caller in the draft. Darnold doesn’t have the arm strength of Allen, but he has proven himself against elite competition, and is a much more accurate passer. Turnovers have been a problem for him in the past, but he is an unquestioned leader in the locker room with few character concerns.
(2) New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB (Penn State): Since inheriting the GM position, Dave Gettleman has been brutally honest about his thoughts on Barkley, considering him such an elite-level talent that “even my mother could scout this guy”. The lone knock on Barkley is his lack of patience letting holes develop, but his freakish athleticism and moves in open space more than make up for an occasional oversight in vision. The Giants have stated that they believe Eli Manning has two or three years left, and feel that Davis Webb hasn’t been given a fair chance to demonstrate his ability yet. The Giants have stated that drafting a QB this year isn’t a priority for them, and have also been turning down trade offers thusfar at the second spot. Whether they opt to stay there or trade down a few spots for a team in need of a QB remains to be seen. In my eyes, this is the true starting point for the draft.
(3) New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB (Oklahoma): The Jets gave up quite a haul to secure this spot from the Indianapolis Colts, and is clearly looking to draft their quarterback of the future (despite signing Teddy Bridgewater in the offseason). They need a quarterback who will learn quickly and be the face of their franchise for the next decade – someone who also will generate headlines in the New York media. Mayfield does carry with him a number of character concerns, but no one can deny his passion for the game and talent. His accuracy is elite, and his 36:7 TD:INT ratio is nothing to sneeze at either. Don’t discount his ability to scramble or generate yardage with his legs, either.
(4) Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE (N.C. State): I can see the Browns fielding plenty of offers at this point for teams who are interested in Josh Allen, but unless they are truly blown away by something, I can’t see a deal occurring. Chubb is a freak athlete with a high motor who doesn’t take plays off, and can generate pressure in the backfield while also having enough speed to tackle on the outside. Pairing him with Myles Garrett would present plenty of problems for the remainder of AFC North teams, who would have to choose which player to double-team. The Browns could also consider using this selection to shore up their offensive line, but I think that they would opt to make this move instead, even after Joe Thomas announced his retirement in the offseason.
(5) Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB (Wyoming): I’m not fully confident that the Broncos won’t trade out of this pick, as there are a number of QB-needy teams that will pay up to grab the selection of either Allen or Rosen, should they fall. John Elway has also come out and publicly stated that this pick was up for grabs, and for other teams to call him if they were interested. The Buffalo Bills may move up at this point to grab a quarterback considering their stockpile of picks, which in case I can see them selecting Josh Rosen instead. Regardless, Allen has the highest ceiling and lowest floor of the upper-echelon of quarterback in the draft this year. His physical skills are incredible, but the level of competition which he competed against coupled with his questionable accuracy are major red flags. Like Elway, he is an intimidating figure with a cannon for an arm. The similarities may be too hard to pass up.
(6) Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, OG (Notre Dame): After watching the majority of Nelson’s snaps, one thing is immediately clear – he is one of the best interior lineman to come out of college in recent history. He can run or pass block, and his ability to keep Andrew Luck upright in the pocket can’t be understated. The team needs to protect Luck, who has taken more than his fair share of hits in his short career. This is a plug-and-play pick from Day One.
(7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S (Alabama): The Bucs have plenty of holes to address on defense, but safety seems the direst, considering the number of big plays that they have let up recently. Fitzpatrick brings an immediate physical presence that the team hasn’t had since John Lynch - an enforcer and sure tackler capable of making clutch plays. Fitzpatrick can also play cornerback in a pinch if necessary, and that sort of versatility makes him the selection for me over Denzel Ward.
(8) Chicago Bears: Denzel Ward, CB (Ohio State): Hey, I didn’t say that Ward would fall far. Joining Kyle Fuller in the secondary would present opponents with a very scary duo, and perhaps combat the offensive nature of the rest of the division. I can’t see the Bears reaching for a wide receiver here, even though they are lacking at the position with just Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel on the roster. The Bears need to bring back their identity of being a run-first team with a physical defense. Ward isn’t as physically imposing as other cornerbacks in this draft, but his 4.32 40-yard dash speed will allow him to blanket wide receivers in the division.
(9) San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, ILB (Virginia Tech): In the scheme of things Edmunds is considered a very raw player with immense upside, similar to a Jason Pierre-Paul. A physical specimen, Edmunds ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at 6’5, 253 lbs. – truly insane numbers. Additionally, Edmunds is just 19 years old, and is truly a “ball of clay” in the eyes of many coaches. How they will mold him is up to them. Edmunds physical characteristics allow him to be an absolute terror on the outside of defenses, capable of harassing the quarterback or hunting down running backs with ease. As a junior he registered 109 tackles and was a Butkus award finalist. Simply put, Edmunds would immediately upgrade any defense.
(10) Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, OLB (Georgia): Having seen plenty of Smith in person living just 45 minutes outside of Athens, I can tell you this – Smith is absolutely relentless when it comes to each and every play. When he makes a tackle, the play immediately stops. There is no extra yardage granted, ever. He is constantly in the backfield, and will make a multitude of tackles for a loss. Smith is a surefire tackler in the open field, and unlike other contemporaries, opts to secure the player rather than fight for a lower-percentage fumble. Once Smith has his arms on a player, he will immediately stop them in their tracks. Pairing him with Khalil Mack will present a very, very difficult tandem for other teams to run on.