We are officially past the 2017-2018 season as the Eagles finished the year with a Super Bowl victory. It’s time to start looking ahead to the 2018-2019 season as we are officially in NFL Draft mode! With the Senior Bowl concluding, Scouting Combine around the corner, and free agency looming, it is the calm before the storm of off-season drama. It all concludes with the NFL Draft on April 26 through April 28th. Let’s dive in to Mock Draft 1.0 and see where every team’s thought process may be heading into NFL Draft season.
#1 Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold (QB) USC
The Cleveland Browns will be a fascinating team to watch leading up to the NFL Draft. They know Kizer is not the future and will look again to gaining another young quarterback to be the future of the franchise. I do think John Dorsey makes sure he has a stop-gap quarterback for the next season along with getting his future leader at quarterback. I also think John Dorsey knows that he will be firing Hue Jackson after the season and will be getting his choice at head coach. A very similar situation to what the Colts did this year with Ballard, Pagano, and McDaniels. Ballard spent the year researching his next head coach while Pagano was coaching during the season. They get their choice of who they believe will be the highest ceiling at quarterback while he is groomed for at least half of his first season under a veteran quarterback on the depth chart. I think Dorsey takes a quarterback in the mold with the success he has had with the two franchises he has worked with at Green Bay and Kansas City Chiefs. He was part of the front office that won a Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers at Green Bay and brought in Alex Smith to Kansas City to create a playoff contender. Both of those quarterbacks are known for their athletic ability and making plays outside the pocket. With this in mind, I think they take Sam Darnold at #1 overall. He fits the mold of an athletic player that has a knack to for making plays with his athletic ability. Chase Daniel, A.J. McCarron, Tyrod Taylor, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater are names to watch as veteran quarterback options to have as stop-gaps for the upcoming season.
#2 New York Giants – Saquon Barkley (RB) Penn State
The Giants sit at the spot in the Draft where it becomes interesting. They have Eli (who is on his last leg of his career), just hired Pat Shurmur as their new head coach, and draft Davis Webb in the 3rd round of last year’s Draft. Will Pat Shurmur want to have a season with Davis Webb learning the offense and not take a quarterback high in this Draft? Will he quickly decide that Davis Webb is not the future and want to take a guy early to groom for the heir apparent to Eli? Will the decision be made by new GM David Gettleman that the Giants can be a playoff team next year with a decent offensive line, strong running game, and getting an impact player at #2 overall? In the last two years, running backs have been taken in the Top 5 and their teams have made the playoffs. Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette have been game changers for their franchises. I think the Giants see Barkley as the spark for a last playoff run with Eli’s last few remaining years, and the foundation for their next quarterback already having Barkley a workhorse of their offensive attack.
#3 Indianapolis Colts – **** Colts trade the #3 overall pick to the Arizona Cardinals for the #15 overall pick and other picks ****
The Colts are in a great spot in this year’s Draft due to what they need and what they will have available. They do sit at an ideal trade down spot, especially if the Giants choose Barkley leaving top quarterbacks still on the board (Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen). There are too many teams with quarterback needs to not want to trade up to this spot. The Colts need more youthful talent on the roster and would gladly trade down and gain extra picks. I don’t think they stay and they trade down with either the Jets, Cardinals, or Bills…..
#3 Arizona Cardinals – Josh Rosen (QB) UCLA
The Cardinals are in full rebuild mode as Carson Palmer has officially retired, and they are starting with a new head coach and no clear direction at quarterback. They will be in hot pursuit of their franchise quarterback in this Draft. They have gone to older veterans under Bruce Arians, but with a young coach with the reins moving forward in Steve Wilks, they need to go with a young option and try to build through him. Josh Rosen is the best fit for new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. He likes pure passers that can make solid decisions at the line of scrimmage and make quality throws from the pocket. Rosen is the most ready to run an NFL offense and makes the most sense for the Cardinals if they traded up to this #3 overall position to find their franchise quarterback.
#4 Cleveland Browns – Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB) Alabama
Fitzpatrick would immediately be the best defensive back on the Cleveland Browns’ roster. John Dorsey got the Browns’ GM job by being a “football guy” and his ability to find solid football players. Fitzpatrick can play all over the field and his versatility can help transform the Browns’ defense into being an upcoming and coming group. They have plenty of young talent with Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Joe Schobert, but Fitzpatrick would add much needed talent in the back end of the defense.
#5 Denver Broncos – Quenton Nelson (OL) Notre Dame
I feel the Broncos will be the highest bidder for the services of Kirk Cousins this offseason. John Elway has a way of convincing quarterbacks to come play for him in Denver. This would take quarterback off the board. As they sit on the board at #5, they can take bids for a team that possibly may want to get ahead of the Jets for a quarterback. They need to secure their investment in Cousins and make sure they have a solid running game in the interior. Nelson fixes both of those issues is an all-pro type of player in year one for the Broncos. Easily the best offensive lineman in this class. If he wasn’t an interior lineman, he would be going in the Top 3 without question as an offensive tackle. He is a future all-pro at guard and will be an anchor to the offensive line for a long time.
#6 New York Jets – Josh Allen (QB) Wyoming
The Jets had a stronger season than some thought was possible. This lead to extensions for their head coach Todd Bowles, and their GM Mike Maccagnan. They also elevated Jeremy Bates to offensive coordinator. They likely re-sign Josh McCown as a veteran presence in the QB room and possible starter next season. They need another quarterback they can be the future of the franchise. Josh Allen showed flashes during the Senior Bowl that he is an athletic passer and has the natural talent to play the quarterback position in the NFL. A year under Josh McCown and learning an NFL offense would be a great situation for Allen.
#7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bradley Chubb (EDGE) NC State
The Buccaneers could go a lot of different ways in the Draft and sit at a good position to get a top tier player at several positions. If the board shapes up like this, they would be thrilled to add a quality pass rusher to their roster in Bradley Chubb. He is a alpha-dog on defense and has not-stop radar for the ball. He was a captain for the NC State football team for a reason as he established the attitude on defense. The Buccaneers need someone off the edge that can set the tone for the pass rush.
#8 Chicago Bears – Calvin Ridley (WR) Alabama
The biggest issue facing this offense for the future is not having any speed at wide receiver to stretch the defense. If new head coach Matt Nagy wants a solid running game, he needs a player at wide receiver that the defense has to worry about getting beat by over the top or across the middle keeping safeties and linebacker from crowding the line of scrimmage. Ridley is a dynamic playmaker with smooth quickness off the break and in open field. He is an ideal receiver in this new West Coast & Spread offense that Nagy will bring to Chicago.