The guesswork will soon be over and we will finally know what team these prospects will be playing for. With that said, here is my very best guess as to what will happen on Thursday night.
Before I reveal my picks (assuming you didn’t just scroll by this introduction), I wanted to graciously thank you for following along with my 2018 NFL Draft coverage. It’s been an incredible journey that started last May analyzing these prospects and I hope you’ve enjoyed my content. If you have not already, please check out my 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Portfolio. I think you will find it to be a valuable resource to reference while you watch the Draft.
Without further ado:
1.Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
There is much debate surrounding the top passer in this year’s draft, but I believe the NFL sees Darnold as the cream of the crop. He has a sharp ability to diagnose coverage and throw the football with anticipation. While he needs considerable mechanical improvements to become a more consistently accurate passer, his ceiling is incredible given his mental makeup and intangibles. With Taylor in place as the bridge quarterback, Darnold can use 2018 to develop before taking over the offense.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Not only is Barkley a dynamic runner with a rare blend of size, speed, power and elusive traits, but he’s an exceptional leader with the type of culture-changing football character needed in the Giants’ rebuild.
With the long-term answer at quarterback likely to come later in the draft or in subsequent years, bringing that QB into the fray with a stable rushing attack led by Barkley would ease the transition.Barkley has the upside to become one of the most productive backs in terms of scrimmage yards in the NFL. He provides a multifaceted skill set.
While I believe New York should snatch a quarterback with this pick, I keep hearing that it is enamored with Barkley.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Mayfield is a perfect fit for Jeremy Bates system and is the type of locker room presence the current Jets’ regime prefers to complement last year’s top pick Jamal Adams. New York makes a splash and secures its leader for the next decade.
4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
While the Browns could trade back with a QB-needy team, I believe Dorsey’s dream scenario to take Darnold at 1 and Chubb at 4. With Chubb available, he builds a dynamic pass rushing trio of Chubb, Myles Garrett and Emanuel Ogbah.
5. TRADE Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Make no mistake about it, Allen is a project but GM Brandon Beane and Co. have set out on a mission to secure Buffalo’s quarterback of the future and I fear they will not mesh with Josh Rosen’s personality. Beane’s career will be defined on if Allen’s elite physical traits can develop into an NFL passer.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Improving the infrastructure around Andrew Luck and protecting him must be a high priority for the Colts and Nelson is a blue-chip talent. Nelson has the upside to become the best offensive lineman in the NFL and franchise pillar moving forward.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State
Tampa Bay needs more playmakers on defense and James versatility, ball skills, athleticism, size and physicality is exactly what the defense needs. A tenure-defining season lies ahead for head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht to fix the defense and James would be a wise investment.
8. Chicago Bears: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Chicago has done well to improve the weapons around last year’s top pick Mitchell Trubisky and now it’s time to solidify the offensive line. McGlinchey is arguably the best offensive tackle in the class and offers the versatility to play both on the left and right side.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Whether it’s the off-field issues for Reuben Foster, returning from injury for Malcolm Smith or the shaky performances so far from Eli Harold, question marks surround all three of the 49ers current projected linebackers. Smith is a speedy and physical linebacker with exceptional processing skills.
10. Oakland Raiders: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Starting left tackle Donald Penn is 35 and coming off a foot injury while projected right tackle Vadal Alexander is a huge liability. Miller needs some technical work but he’s a nasty run blocker with exceptional athletic ability and ideal length.
11. Miami Dolphins: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Nobody likes a big splash quite like Mike Tannenbaum and Rosen certainly does that. Pairing Rosen’s skill set with Adam Gase puts Miami’s offense in good hands moving forward. Current starter Ryan Tannehill is on the wrong side of 30, coming off a knee injury and is quite expensive.
12. TRADE Denver Broncos: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Ward is in play for Denver at No. 5 if they do not trade back. If he’s available at No. 12 in a trade back then I expect Denver to sprint to the podium.
13. Washington Redskins: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Washington has to become more stout up front.
Playing on an excellent Washington Huskies unit, Vea has played multiple positions along the defensive line but projects as a pure one-technique in the NFL. His size and strength allows him to take on double teams and control the line of scrimmage.
From a size and power perspective, Vea would fit well clogging up running lanes in the middle of the Redskins defense.
14. Green Bay Packers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Josh Jackson, Harold Landry and Leighton Vander Esch are all in play for Green Bay but Edmunds is too good to pass on if he slides. Green Bay has historically preferred prototypes and Edmunds fits perfectly.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
With Carson Palmer retired and no previous effort to secure his long-term successor, the Cardinals have a glaring hole at the most important position in the game. Jackson is as dynamic a passer as anyone who has ever entered the league, with rare ability to make plays with his feet. He pairs his skills as a runner with a live arm that is capable of hitting any throw required in the NFL. With that said, he does have mechanical flaws that lead to inconsistent ball placement and must improve his deep accuracy and consistency with out-breaking patterns.
While there is a learning curve ahead for Jackson, he can lead a tough-to-defend NFL offense if he is allowed to be himself. Jackson would give the offense a new identity and Arizona a chance to become relevant in the NFC. The Cardinals have to make strides to catch up with Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco in its own division — that starts with getting the quarterback position right.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
GM Ozzie Newsome likes to dip into the Alabama talent pool and the slide for Fitzpatrick ends here. While he doesn’t fill a glaring need for Baltimore, he’s too good of a value to pass up. Newsome has a knack for draft day steals like this.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The Chargers struggled against the run last year and need more impact from its interior defensive lineman to maximize the standout play of EDGE defenders Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bryan is an athletic, powerful and disruptive presence that could make LA’s defensive line among the best in the NFL.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
With the departures of Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson, the Seahawks defensive identity is shifting. Regardless of its new direction, having an arsenal of pass rushers is a high priority and Landry is the best speed rusher in the draft.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The Cowboy’s like Vander Esch a lot and he becomes a reality for them on account of the early offensive tackle picks that resulted in the slide of Tremaine Edmunds. I don’t think Dallas passes on LVE if he is available at No. 19.
20. Detroit Lions: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
Ansah is in a contract year and Anthony Zettel is better served as a rotational player. There is short- and long-term concerns here and Detroit likes Davenport… a lot.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
The Bengals offensive line overhaul continues with the addition of Ragnow who is a powerful, athletic, technically refined and experienced blocker that can instantly fortify the front five with versatility to play guard or center.
22. TRADE Denver Broncos: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
If Denver trades back from No. 5 as I project them to, its dream pairing is Ward and Hernandez. Hernandez’s former head coach at UTEP, Sean Kugler, is now Denver’s offensive line coach making this an obvious connection.
23. New England Patriots: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The loss of Nate Solder in free agency leaves a massive hole at left tackle. While he is in need of technical development, White is a strong run blocker with a nasty mean streak and exceptional athletic ability to grow as a pass blocker.
24. Carolina Panthers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
With seven interceptions and 18 passes defended, Jackson had an outstanding year for the Hawkeyes this season and can immediately step in and challenge to start opposite of James Bradberry. Pairing his ball skills with a 6-foot-1 and 192-pound frame, Jackson has the makings of a starting outside cornerback at the next level.
25. Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The second level of Tennessee’s defense needs playmakers to complement its stars in Jurrell Casey and Kevin Byard. Evans can step in and provide the Titans with an athletic and physical presence. Jayon Brown has potential alongside Wesley Woodyard but he needs to be challenge. As it stands, Will Compton may have a considerable role on this defense and he is more of a reserve player. Evans is a versatile playmaker that Mike Vrabel will love.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
There is a glaring hole next to Grady Jarrett up front and Payne has the size and athletic ability to step right in.
In the mold of former Crimson Tide defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson and Jarran Reed, Payne is a technically refined and stout run defender. With terrific hand usage and a powerful base, Payne consistently anchors against the run and isn’t easily moved off his spot.
While he isn’t guilty of making frequent splash plays, his ability to man his gap(s) creates opportunities for his teammates to attack cleanly downhill and fill windows. Payne flashed a pass rushing skill set in last year’s college football playoffs.
27. New Orleans Saints: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Penn State’s all-time leader in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns for a tight end, Gesicki followed up his stellar career with a dominant showing at the Senior Bowl and historically great athletic testing numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine. He can be the x-factor piece New Orleans hoped Coby Fleenor would become.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Reid, S, Stanford
With the ideal linebacker options off the board, Pittsburgh can turn its attention to fixing its problems at safety. Reid is an athletic, physical and intelligent defensive back with interchangeable upside.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson are no longer in the fray, leaving a need for playmakers in the passing game. While Isaiah Wynn is a possibility, Jacksonville has its pick of the litter at wide receiver.
Maryland was down to its third option at quarterback in 2017 but that didn’t stop Moore from becoming the only wide receiver in the Big Ten to eclipse the 1,000 receiving yard mark, which is a testament to his playmaking ability.
30. Minnesota Vikings: James Daniels, C, Iowa
Daniels is a physical and athletic interior blocker with the outstanding Iowa offensive line pedigree. His ability to win in space and reach landmarks is rare on the move which is complemented by his power components. Pairing him with rookie standout Pat Elflein will solidify Minnesota’s offensive line after years of it being a weakness.
31: New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Alexander has the ball skills, athletic ability and pattern matching skills to be a shutdown corner and become the perfect complement to Stephon Gilmore.
32: Philadelphia Eagles: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Guice is too tantalizing of a playmaker for the Eagles to let slip by them at the end of the first round. He can make a dominant rushing attack even better.
Don’t Forget: My 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Portfolio is now available! It is sold in conjunction with Kyle Crabbs’ 2018 NFL Draft Prospectus for $20. That’s 2 Draft Guides; a total of 600 full scouting reports from Kyle and I.
I have several exciting enhancements for this years publication which are detailed here and gives you more information on what you can expect from the Portfolio.