Josh Rosen seemingly would rather land anywhere but Cleveland and isn’t clearly a better prospect than Sam Darnold. Both are tremendously talented but might need some time before they mature into franchise quarterbacks in the NFL.
In that case, let’s assume the Browns pick Darnold with thoughts of him as their unquestioned starter by 2019. If the Giants pass on Rosen at No. 2, he could sink a little … and wind up in Denver with John Elway’s Broncos.
The wild card for me early is the Colts. Do they fortify their offensive line or go with Saquon Barkley? Maybe they would even look into a cornerback like Minkah Fitzpatrick?
Below is the current draft order, which could feature some alterations after pick No. 24.
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. I still think the Browns will add a quarterback in free agency and wouldn’t be surprised if that guy is Alex Smith. Darnold’s excellent skill set could be harnessed in his first year in the NFL and learning from Smith would be ideal for him and the future of the Browns organization.
2. New York Giants
Connor Williams, OT Texas. GM Dave Gettleman gave quite a vote of confidence to Eli Manning, and the former was a part of the Giants organization a good chunk of Eli’s prime, so it’s not as if he’s not tied to the quarterback. Williams is coming off an injury but had outstanding tape in 2016 at the left tackle spot.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. The offensive line is probably a bigger priority right now, and the Colts can address that in free agency. With Barkley, they get a fun, elite-level skill-position player to take pressure off Andrew Luck in his return from the sidelines.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Texans)
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma. A mammoth offensive lineman with premier blocking skills and improving pass-protecting sets, Brown is the perfect player to be groomed for the left tackle position behind Joe Thomas.
5. Denver Broncos
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. There’s a chance the Broncos trade up a few spots to secure Rosen, but in this mock without trades, they land him at No. 5, which isn’t far-fetched anyway, especially if he gets past the Giants at No. 2. Rosen has been an alpha quarterback since high school, something John Elway knows a lot about.
6. New York Jets
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. Mayfield doesn’t come without controversy, from his off-field mishap to his on-field celebrations. The truth is that he was an super-efficient passer at Oklahoma and has moxie that’ll be fun for fans in New York City.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. I’ll be surprised if it’s not a pass-rusher or cornerback here for the Buccaneers, and while Minkah Fitzpatrick is appealing, Chubb’s ready to be a star immediately in the NFL and will significantly help the back-end players in Tampa.
8. Chicago Bears
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. The nightmare with Kevin White doesn’t stop the Bears from picking Sutton here, a 6-foot-4 wideout with open-field elusiveness and jump-ball dominance. Mitchell Trubisky gets the top receiver he needs.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. The Jimmy Garoppolo era is ready to take off for a full season in San Francisco, and with Nelson, the 49ers get the blocker with the most impressive collegiate film in the 2018 class. He’ll help the run game and limit pressure up the middle on Jimmy G.
10. Oakland Raiders
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Derrick Brooks was a key cog in Gruden’s legendary Buccaneers defense, and while Smith has a long way to go before reaching Brooks-level status, he brings a Brooks-like combination of speed and power at the inside linebacker spot.
11. Miami Dolphins
Derwin James, S, Florida State. The Dolphins are shifting to a secondary with athleticism and length. Xavien Howard came into his own down the stretch, and Cordrea Tankersley looks like a capable No. 2 cornerback. At safety, Reshad Jones is underrated but he’ll be 30 next month. James is a do-everything safety prospect.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. McGlinchey is ready to pave lanes for the run game in the NFL right now, and with some coaching, he can be a serviceable pass-blocker. Cincinnati’s defense is playoff-caliber, it just needs to control the line of scrimmage on offense like it did early in the Andy Dalton era.
13. Washington Redskins
Taven Bryan, DL, Florida. Bryan is likely to be a draft riser after what should be a strong showing at the combine. With the amount of sub-packages featured up front in today’s NFL, a player who’s comfortable getting to the quarterback from any spot on the line is very valuable.
14. Green Bay Packers
Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma. With Jordy Nelson nearing the end of his career, the Packers could use more offensive weaponry for the return of Aaron Rodgers. Andrews is a matchup nightmare at 6-foot-5 with impressive athletic gifts after the catch.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA. The Cardinals are another team that could be in the veteran quarterback market, and even if they don’t find their sure-fire starter in free agency, they go the best-player-available route here with Miller, a pro-ready pass blocker with high upside due to his athletic talents.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama. Ozzie Newsome again dips into the pool of prospects at his alma mater to find Fitzpatrick, an ultra-versatile back-seven player with refined blitzing capabilities, length to cover big receivers, and the physical talents to range from the deep middle to the sideline. He and Marlon Humphrey are reunited in Baltimore.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson. The Chargers plan ahead to improve the middle of their defense with Wilkins, a wide block-eater who can also disengage to make impact tackles against the run and occasionally get after the quarterback.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa. The Seahawks need to rebuild parts of their famed defense, and Jackson is the type of long, tenacious cornerback who’d fit wonderfully as an eventual replacement for Richard Sherman.
19. Dallas Cowboys
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State. The Cowboys go with speed on the outside in Round 1 with Washington. Dez Bryant needs someone like his fellow Oklahoma State alum to draw double coverage away from him. Washington’s presence will benefit Dak Prescott too.
20. Detroit Lions
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. The Lions stay close to home with the Michigan product. Hurst could’ve entered the 2017 draft, and he probably would’ve gotten picked in one of the first three rounds. Instead, he stayed in school and fine-tuned his game. He’ll star in Detroit right away.
21. Buffalo Bills
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. Rudolph checks the experience and production boxes Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane like, and they don’t have to trade up to get him. He’ll have to learn the footwork that’s needed when taking snaps from under center, but he’s a pocket quarterback first who refined his game in his last season in Stillwater.
22. Buffalo Bills from Chiefs
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. Davenport has all the tools to be a consistent havoc-wreaker off the edge, and Buffalo needs to bolster it’s pass-rush. The University of Texas at San Antonio product isn’t very raw, either. In college, he displayed a wide variety of counter moves to get to the quarterback, and he’s a long, twitchy athlete.
23. Los Angeles Rams
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. With Trumaine Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman due to hit free agency, Los Angeles bolsters its secondary with a smaller but productive cornerback in Ward. He thrived in the spotlight in Columbus after the departures of Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley in 2017.
24. Carolina Panthers
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. Ridley is probably the best wideout when it comes to creating separation in the entire class, and that skill is precisely what Carolina needs for Cam Newton to not be forced into a plethora of tight-window throws each game.
25. Tennessee Titans
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB, Oklahoma. Okoronkwo atones for his lack of size with explosiveness, bend, and active hands around the corner. He’ll be a multi-role player for Dick Lebeau and can be an efficient pass rusher instantly.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. The old-school ways of Tom Coughlin lead him in Allen’s direction, and with a stout defense in Jacksonville, the Wyoming product won’t have to be a franchise savior right away for the Jaguars.
27. Atlanta Falcons
Vita Vea, DT, Washington. Vea can play high at times, yet that’s really his only flaw as a prospect. He’s NFL strong, uses his hands extraordinarily well and is essentially immovable at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds.
28. New Orleans Saints
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. Edmunds is the type of linebacker the Saints needs, as he can play all three second-level positions and has plenty of untapped potential due to the athletic talents he possesses at his size.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado. I’ve made this connection before, and it probably won’t be the last time. Oliver is a burner on the outside who flashed plus ball skills during his illustrious career at Colorado. He’d help to round out a Pittsburgh defense that’s on the rise.
30. Philadelphia Eagles
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. This is a best-player-available pick for the Eagles, a team without many roster holes. Guice might be better between the tackles than Barkley. He has serious No. 1 running back ability.
31. New England Patriots
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas. Jefferson needs to be coached up on next-level linebacker skills like block-shedding and recognizing routes in coverage. He’s a supremely talented athlete and can be a useful A-gap blitzer at around 240 pounds.
32. Minnesota Vikings
Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan. The Vikings got remarkable play from Case Keenum in 2017, and he was a marvel drifting away from pressure in the pocket. To help improve the blocking up front, Minnesota takes Okorafor, an athletic offensive tackle who’s equally as good in pass protection as he is road grading for the run.