This Way Too Early Mock Draft features the Top 10 selections of the 2018 NFL Draft before the 2018 NCAAF National Championship has been played, prior to the underclassmen declaration deadline, NFL Free Agency, and a host of events that shape the draft process. But never mind that. Draft season is a year round under-taking and it’s time to speculate to our heart’s content.
- Cleveland Browns – QB Sam Darnold USC – Hue Jackson has apparently finessed and politicked his way to a third year in Cleveland but GM John Dorsey will likely put his stamp on this team with a quarterback selection at the top of the 2018 NFL Draft even if he adds a veteran like Alex Smith to the quarterback meeting room. Josh Rosen of UCLA has planted the seed that he would rather not play for the Browns so Cleveland opts for the talented albeit unpolished Sam Darnold from USC. Between the USC ties (Hue Jackson was the offensive coordinator at USC from 1997-2000) and the big arm that Jackson covets Darnold becomes the latest in a long line of 1st round picks for the Browns at the position.
- New York Giants – QB Josh Rosen UCLA – Perhaps the most polished of the signal callers in the 2018 class, he comes with a number of personality/temperament questions as well. New GM Dave Gettleman and “enter name of head coach” feel comfortable enough after the interview process and individual workouts to select the future face of the franchise in Rosen. If all goes according to plan Rosen will serve as an under-study to Eli Manning in 2018 and assume control of the offense in 2019.
- Indianapolis Colts – DE Bradley Chubb North Carolina St. – The Colts must improve along the line of scrimmage (an ongoing sentiment) on either side of the ball so it would come as no surprise if Indy selected an offensive tackle. However, in a fairly deep class of pass rushers, there is one that stands above all and that is Bradley Chubb. Chubb may not rack up huge sack totals immediately but with excellent technique, hand usage, and a relentless motor it’s only a matter of time.
- Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans) – OT Mike McGlinchey Notre Dame – I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if Saquon Barkley was selected here but I’m not convinced that John Dorsey would take a running back on Day 1 of the draft in a deep class at the position. Instead, he selects Joe Thomas’ replacement in Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey manned left tackle for arguably the best offensive line in the country at Notre Dame. Keep in mind Dorsey’s first pick as GM of the Kansas City Chiefs was OT Eric Fisher back in 2013… McGlinchey looks like a better prospect.
- Denver Broncos – QB Josh Allen Wyoming – I would wager the Broncos opt for a veteran like Kirk Cousins rather than select another “project” not unlike Paxton Lynch; but in the event they are looking for a starting quarterback come Day 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft I imagine they will succumb to the “toolsy” allure of Josh Allen. Not a fan of this pick and the tape concerns me substantially but John Elway’s hubris and the occasional flash of brilliance Allen displays manages to get him selected Top 5.
- New York Jets – QB Baker Mayfield Oklahoma – This pick could very well turn out to be 2016 Heisman Trophy winner QB Lamar Jackson of Louisville. However, the Jets brass falls in love with the “larger than life” personality and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield effectively winning the press conference in New York. Mayfield’s competitiveness should serve him well in a tough market. If he can harness his emotions and commit to being a student of the game, he has the tenacity and ability to overcome concerns regarding his height and at times unorthodox play style.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB Saquon Barkley Penn St. – The Bucs could stand to improve their pass protection and pass defense so they could go in any number of directions with a great deal of talent on the board considering so many quarterbacks were selected early. However, GM Jason Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter opt to provide QB Jameis Winston with Nittany Lion dynamo Saquon Barkley. Barkley takes pressure off of Winston, shortens the game, and renders RB Doug Martin an after-thought as a new dimension of explosiveness is added to the Buccaneers offense.
Chicago Bears – CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick Alabama – The Bears need to upgrade their receiving corps desperately but with Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara set to become unrestricted free agents and Minkah Fitzpatrick still on the board, Chicago is compelled to select the versatile defensive back out of Alabama. The Bears appear to be set at safety with Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson so Fitzpatrick slides into the starting lineup as a cornerback and mans the slot when the Packers, Lions, and Vikings opt for “11” personnel.
- San Francisco 49ers – OG Quenton Nelson Notre Dame – The 49ers need to protect Jimmy Garoppolo and improve their running game. To do so they waste no time in selecting Quenton Nelson who in my opinion is one of the 2 or 3 best players in this draft based on my early evaluation of this class’ prospects. Nelson is technically sound and nasty. Regardless of the scheme he’s a plug and play starter with a high floor and immense ceiling.
Oakland Raiders – ILB Roquan Smith Georgia – The Raiders must improve their defensive talent overall. Jon Gruden likes his veterans so I think Oakland retains Navorro Bowman but that doesn’t dissuade them from selecting the 2017 Butkus Award winner out of Georgia, Roquan Smith. Smith immediately upgrades the Raiders run and pass defense as he offers the contemporary sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability coveted in today’s game. I anticipate that he will begin his career on the weak-side and then slide inside once Bowman moves on.
Note: The order of the 9th and 10th draft selections will be determined by coin flip.