Three days away from the 2018 NFL Draft, and I couldn’t be more excited for Thursday. It’s like the week leading up to Christmas, you have no idea what you’re going to get but you know whatever it is, it’s going to be awesome. In the next coming days I will have three different mock drafts coming out — a mock draft representing what I would do if I was the general manager for all 32 NFL teams, one that will depict what I think will happen on Thursday and the last being what I think will happen on Thursday without trades. Let’s start out with Blake Pace putting on the GM cap, here’s what I would do if I was in charge of each NFL organization.
Pick No. 1 | The Cleveland Browns select Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
While the entire world seems to be split between Sam Darnold and Josh Allen, you’ll know from following my work I value Darnold as the fifth-best quarterback in this draft class. Having Tyrod Taylor serves as a bridge quarterback to Allen, who in my opinion needs a season on the bench — much like Pat Mahommes from last year’s draft. The Browns finally get their guy at quarterback and can rid themselves of the curse that’s haunted them for decades.
Pick No. 2 | The New York Giants select Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
In my eyes, the Giants are still in a position to win now. While they could go quarterback to build for the future, Saquon Barkley is a generational talent at the position and can operate perfectly behind a poor offensive line in New York, much like he did at Penn State. With Barkley, the Giants have two of the best offensive weapons in football with him and Odell Beckham Jr. — they’ll essentially be playing 11 on nine next season as they try and get back into the playoffs.
Pick No. 3 | The New York Jets select Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Don’t get mixed up with what you may hear, the Jets traded to get to No. 3 for a quarterback. Josh Rosen is my No. 2 quarterback in this class, and I think he has the perfect personality and charisma for playing in a major media market. Scouts and members of the media continue to worry about his personality as hindering his performance in the pros, but some of the cockiest quarterbacks in the league are also the greatest. The Jets get their franchise quarterback at No. 3 and propel their young core closer to the postseason.
Pick No. 4 | The Cleveland Browns select Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
With their quarterback for the future locked up with Josh Allen, getting an EDGE rusher to go opposite of Myles Garrett will not only be one of the most dominant combinations years from now, but will be a top combo from day one. The Browns are still looking for help in the secondary, depth at linebacker and more stability on the offensive line, but those are positions that can be filled with one of their other plethora of picks. Getting Bradley Chubb with Allen lands them my No. 1 quarterback and my No. 3 overall prospect. Not a bad day for the Browns if you ask me.
Pick No. 5 | The Denver Broncos select Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The worst-kept secret in this first round, the Denver Broncos land “their guy” at pick No. 5. They’ve been closely connected to Ward the past week, and while I think there are several directions they could go with this pick, trading away Aqib Talib opens things right up for him to make an impact from day one. I think the Broncos will strongly entertain trading back (I am allowing trades in this mock) but in the end decide against it out of fear that Ward won’t be available in the 10-15 range.
Pick No. 6 | The Buffalo Bills select Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Trade: The Indianapolis Colts trade pick No. 6 for pick No. 12 and pick No. 22
We’ve got a trade! The Buffalo Bills, out of fear their franchise quarterback will be available at pick 12, trade their 12th and 22nd picks in the first round to switch spots with Indianapolis — a team currently looking for quantity over quality. I find it hard to believe that A.J. McCarron is the guy for Buffalo and I know for sure that Nathan Peterman isn’t as well, so they take the weather-tested QB from Oklahoma. Baker is the most accurate thrower in this draft and his ability to work on the run will keep a similar identity to the offense that was run through Tyrod Taylor. Plus, I just think Bills Mafia and Mayfield is a match made in heaven.
Pick No. 7 | The Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Tampa needs to work toward building a running game, something that hasn’t existed in years for the Buccaneers. A porous offensive line has combined with little talent at the running back position, so there needs to be changes up front to make the offense more dynamic and to lessen the pressure placed on the young shoulders of Jameis Winston. Quenton Nelson, the second best player in this draft, can be a 10-year plus starter in the NFL and has All-Pro potential. Get him into the Bucs starting lineup and you’re taking the first step in a new and bright direction.
Pick No. 8 | The Chicago Bears select Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
When new coaching staffs approach their first draft as a unit, I take into consideration where they came from, what positions were fruitful in their previous regimes and the importance to cary over that same success. This is a theory you’ll see several times throughout this draft. Nick Fangio, defensive coordinator, thrived as the DC with the 49ers from 2011-2014. Who was possibly the most dominant linebacker in the NFL during that timeframe? None other than Patrick Willis. Tremaine Edmunds resembles Willis to a tee, and for a team that should feel comfortable in the trenches, at the skill positions and at safety, getting them their heir to Brian Urlacher‘s throne will be perfect for the city of Chicago.
Pick No. 9 | The San Fansisco 49ers select Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
While I wouldn’t be surprised if the 49ers addressed their offensive line with a slender tackle like Mike McGlinchy, they have to address the issue with Reuben Foster. If he’s on the team or not, I’d be scared to move forward without a backup plan. While this limits them from addressing the o-line or secondary with this pick, it ensure they’ll have someone manning the middle of their defense.
Pick No. 10 | The Oakland Raiders select Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Unfortunately for the Raiders, my top two picks for them got nabbed up right before they got the chance in Edmunds and Smith. Both would’ve been solid plugs for years to come in the center of the defensive unit. Fortunate for them, however, that one of the best non-QB prospects falls all the way to No. 10. While the Raiders have gone heavy in the secondary the past few years, Fitzpatrick is a day one starter and ballhawk for whoever gets him. He can fill in at the corner position from the start, or even slide to safety to replace the aging Reggie Nelson.
Pick No. 11 | The Miami Dolphins select Vita Vea, DL, Washington
This pick was handed into the commissioner the day Ndamukong Suh was traded to the Rams. They can’t go linebacker with Edmunds and Smith off the board, and the secondary looked a lot better with some younger players coming on the scene. Vea is a plug in the middle of the defensive line and can grow into the star that he’ll be replacing next season, and will maintain the success that Miami’s had in the front four for years.
Pick No. 12 | The Indianapolis Colts select Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
The master of trades is at it again, as Chris Ballard now owns five top-50 picks. With their first selection on Day One, the Colts grab my sleeper of the draft — Marcus Davenport. You don’t find football players that are 6-foot-6-inches and run a sub-4.6 in the forty. Again, think on my philosophy I mentioned from pick No. 8 — who was the most dominant forces during Matt Eberflus’ time on the defensive staff of the Dallas Cowboys? DeMarcus Ware, who measures up nearly identical to Davenport and a guy who also played at a small school. Don’t be shocked if he’s the best pass-rusher in this class.
Pick No. 13 | The New England Patriots select Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Trade: The Washington Redskins trade pick No. 13 for pick No. 23 and pick No. 43
Now this is where things get fun. New England doesn’t like to waste their time throwing smoke screens to other teams — if they visit with a guy, there’s a good chance the Patriots want him. While they have several needs across the board, the Patriots need to look at the future just as much as they do the present. The Patriots are always ahead of the 8-ball and they know the true value of Lamar Jackson in a run-pass option offense. I also know everyone is tired of the theory to play Jackson at receiver, but they may be able to utilize him at that position while Brady finishes his career under center. Jackson is yearning for the chance to prove doubters wrong, he’ll get the perfect chance in New England.
Pick No. 14 | The Green Bay Packers select Mike McGlinchy, OT, Notre Dame
Please protect the most talented quarterback of all time. Aaron Rodgers is set to return to football this season and he needs fortification up front. McGlinchy is my favorite tackle prospect of this class and he’ll be a plug immediately at right tackle, replacing the struggling Bryan Bulaga.
Pick No. 15 | The Arizona Cardinals select Sam Darnold, QB, USC
In my draft as the GM, the Cardinals end up with what many are calling the best quarterback in this year’s class. While I don’t view him that highly, Darnold is a starting quarterback in the NFL and will be welcomed with open arms in Arizona, keeping him new his home state of California. A winning personality and motivation to succeed, Darnold will do everything in his power to establish a winning culture alongside David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and a winning defense.
Pick No. 16 | The Baltimore Ravens select Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
The Ravens could address the running back position, depth on the offensive line or even a backup quarterback to groom for the future. Given where they’re picking, however, I think they go out and get the EDGE rusher with the highest potential in this class AND their eventual replacement to Terrell Suggs.
Pick No. 17 | The Los Angeles Chargers select Derwin James, DB, Florida State
The Chargers have failed to find the answer at safety ever since Eric Weddle departed to Baltimore, however they finally find their replacement with the falling Derwin James. While I think he won’t last to 17 on Thursday, the Chargers would be lucky to get this pick.
Pick No. 18 | The Seattle Seahawks select Mike Hughs, CB, UCF
After trading away or cutting several key positions from their roster, the Seahawks are full of holes on this roster. They need help on the o-line, they need a running back and they need to eventually find an heir to Kam Chancellor as well. In the end, based off talent available at No. 18, they go with my second favorite corner in the class in Mike Hughes. He fits the Seattle scheme, has amazing potential and will serve as a replacement to the departed Richard Sherman.
Pick No. 19 | The Dallas Cowboys select D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
I understand everyone and their grandmothers wants Calvin Ridley to the Cowboys, but he’s not a top-2 receiver in this class through my eyes. D.J. Moore has unbelievable talent, we just never got to see it because of how awful Maryland’s quarterback play was. After cutting Dez Bryant, they have to address receiver in round one. Moore would be perfect in the Dallas offense full of budding stars.
Pick No. 20 | The Detroit Lions select Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Who’s the new head coach of the Detroit Lions? Matt Patricia wants his second shutdown corner to go alongside Darius Slay, and Alexander fits the New England mantra that Patricia will look to breed in Detroit. Jaire is a physical corner who is always making plays on the ball, he’ll fortify the Lions’ secondary.
Pick No. 21 | The Cincinnati Bengals select Taven Bryan, DL, Florida
With skill players set all around the field, the Bengals need to take the approach of building in the trenches. Bryan, shockingly enough, has the ability to play inside at defensive tackle or slide out to defensive end. He’ll be a menace in stopping the run game and will be another hidden gem laced across this Bengals’ roster.
Pick No. 22 | The Indianapolis Colts select Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
After addressing the d-line with their first pick at No. 12, the Colts come back on the offensive line with Kolton Miller. My second-ranked offensive tackle, Miller will help continue the movement of youthful, consistent play on an improving Indy offensive line.
Pick No. 23 | The Washington Redskins select Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
The Washington Redskins are rumored to be interested in trading back in the draft this Thursday, and once Vita Vea was picked up by the Dolphins two picks ahead of their initial pick, they had no reason to stay at No. 13. Getting a top-3 talent on the interior defensive line while adding capital in the second round helps them add a key player and add more depth in day two. Da’Ron will join former teammate Jonathan Allen on the inside and have the makings of a strong tackle duo.
Pick No. 24 | The Carolina Panthers select Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
After losing Andrew Norwell to the Jaguars just over a month ago, they find his replacement with Will Hernandez, one of the most aggressive blockers I’ve seen in the past few years. The running game faltered a little in Christian McCaffrey‘s rookie season, but I believe getting a big body on the interior offensive line will build to more success in the running game, relieving pressure off the arms and legs of Cam Newton and keeping him protected as well.
Pick No. 25 | The Tennessee Titans select Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Who’s Mike Vrabel in this draft? An All-Pro linebacker from the New England Patriots, there are similar measurements to Vander Esch and Vrabel. The linebacking core of Tennessee is continuing to get older, so getting Vander Esch at pick No. 25 adds depth for now and lays a foundation for the future.
Pick No. 26 | The Atlanta Falcons select Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
An aggressive corner and one of the more slept on prospects in this first round finds a home with the Atlanta Falcons. Bob Quinn needs his strong, mean corners to run his Seattle-based defense and Davis has the makings of a strong No. 2 and potential No. 1 corner at the next level.
Pick No. 27 | The New Orleans Saints select Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
After flirting in free agency with a reuniting of Jimmy Graham, the Saints go out and get their next dominant receiving tight end. I do think Hayden Hurst is a better overall prospect — definitely a much better blocker — but I think the Saints will take preference to Goedert’s receiving ability over the total game you get from Hurst.
Pick No. 28 | The Pittsburgh Steelers select Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Steelers biggest position of need was a bright spot in year’s past, that was, until the unfortunate injury to linebacker Ryan Shazier. Rashaan Evans fell in my draft a little, which will be a huge pickup for the Steelers in the middle of their field should this happen on Thursday.
Pick No. 29 | The Jacksonville Jaguars select Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
For a team that is virtually flawless up and down the roster — aside from the quarterback position — the Jaguars can add a guy to a position that is the most banged up in all of football. Offensive line depth is crucial for postseason success and Wynn can begin as a filler before replacing either aging guards a few years down the road.
Pick No. 30 | The Minnesota Vikings select James Daniels, C, Iowa
Daniels played center in college, but he might just be a top guard in this class as well. I think the Vikings take him as a guard and he serves a similar role that Wynn would in Minnesota. The Vikings took a step back as the season progressed when their o-line got banged up, and I think their moves they made in free agency added necessary depth to the defensive line. Daniels will continue to grow in Minnesota and will eventually find himself as a starting guard or center with the unit.
Pick No. 31 | The New England Patriots select Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The best part of the New England trade with Washington is that they get to keep pick No. 31, where they go address the offensive line with Connor Williams. This unit was beat up all season, and after losing Nate Solder to the Giants in free agency, they get Williams to slide into the starting rotation and build for the future.
Pick No. 32 | The Philadelphia Eagles select D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
My favorite receiver to watch in this class finds a home with the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, who need to add some depth at the receiver position. Like the Jaguars and Saints, the Eagles don’t have a huge glaring needs, so they can spend their first round pick adding the best player available and fortify a unit that traded away Torrey Smith. Chark is a deep-ball threat and will look wonderful catching balls from Carson Wentz in this high-octane offense.