2018 NFL mock draft: How the explosion of trades is changing things

Teams are making moves and that’s changing how the draft will play out

Everything about the 2018 NFL draft is going to change with the start of free agency this week.

We’ve already seen a series of moves that have changed some of the picks. The Browns went crazy. The 49ers added a rival. The Bills dumped their starting quarterback. The Rams keep adding cornerbacks. The Panthers got a speedy wide receiver.

It’s been an opening act of sorts that has started to change the outlook of the draft. With that in mind, here’s this week’s mock draft:

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California

The Browns actually did something smart by trading a third-round pick for Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. After Kirk Cousins, and maybe Case Keenum, he was the best veteran quarterback who was changing teams this offseason. But getting him shouldn’t stop Cleveland from taking a quarterback in the first round.

2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

If the Giants miss out on guard Andrew Norwell in free agency, this could end up being Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson. A player like Barkley could help fix one of the NFL’s worst offenses.

3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State

The Colts are rebuilding their defense this offseason, so why not start with the draft’s best defensive end prospect? Chubb is a sure thing prospect who gives the Colts a player to build around up front.

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

What the Browns do this week will determine a lot about the fourth pick in the draft. Cleveland is already acquiring Damarious Randall from Green Bay. If they sign a top defensive back like Trumaine Johnson, it opens things up for the Browns. They could choose to trade down or take Nelson and try him at tackle.

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Broncos personnel head John Elway has a thing for quarterbacks like Allen. He’s shown as much after taking Brock Osweiler in the second round in 2012 and Paxton Lynch in the first round in 2016. You’d think Elway would’ve learned, but we’ll soon find out if he still loves big, athletic project quarterbacks. Maybe he sees himself in these type of players.

6. New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Rosen would be the best-case scenario for the Jets because he’s arguably the most pro-ready of the quarterback prospects this year. He could step into the starting line up straight away and fix a passing offense that finished 24th in the league in yards and 25th in touchdowns.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State

A season ago the Buccaneers used a second-round pick on free safety Justin Evans, and a player like James would pair nicely with him. James is a player who can do a little bit of everything for the Buccaneers, including rushing the passer and covering tight ends.

8. Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Bears General Manager Ryan Pace has shown he’s willing to take high-upside athletes in the draft, and Edmunds fits that description perfectly.

9. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

The only reason Nelson could slip this far — and there’s an outside shot he could — is because of positional value. If he was a tackle, he’d be a top five lock. But as a guard, his value is diminished slightly.

10. Oakland Raiders: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

With Edmunds and James off the board, the Raiders would likely be choosing between Vea and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. Vea is the draft’s premier run stopper and fits one of Oakland’s big offseason needs.

11. Miami Dolphins: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Since the NFL Scouting Combine ended, this has become a popular choice. The ultra-accurate Mayfield would be a nice fit in Miami’s offense where Ryan Tannehill is no longer a sure thing.

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

The Bengals should be elated if Smith is still available when they pick. Along with offensive line, the team’s biggest need this offseason is at middle linebacker. Smith can fill that role and quickly become the leader of Cincinnati’s defense.

13. Washington: Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

Although Vea would be the preference, Payne would fit in Washington as well. And make no mistake, Washington is targeting the line and will have Muhammad Wilkerson in this week for a visit.

14. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

After shipping Damarious Randall off to Cleveland, the Packers could be looking for a cornerback in this year’s draft. The only chance that one comes in the first round is if Ward happens to drop this far.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Cardinals are expected to sign a veteran quarterback to start at least a season. Whether or not that means they take a quarterback in the first round is up for debate. Do you take a player like Jackson in the first round, or take someone like Mason Rudolph to develop?

16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Ridley seems like an obvious choice for the Ravens if he’s still on the board when they pick at No. 16. He’s a dependable pass catcher who gets open with his route running and craftiness.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

The Chargers need to target both the offensive and defensive line this offseason, either in free agency or the draft. Defensive line has much more depth both in the draft and free agency, so the Chargers could look to go after an offensive lineman in the first round. McGlinchey can play on the right side in Los Angeles and replace Joe Barksdale.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Williams is the type of offensive lineman who could thrive in Seattle. He could play guard or tackle for the Seahawks and help fortify a line that will need to be better since the team is now being fully built around quarterback Russell Wilson.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

There may be more high-rated defensive tackles available, but Bryan fits perfectly in the Cowboys’ scheme. They like defensive tackles who can split gaps and get into the backfield, and that is Bryan’s specialty. Michigan’s Maurice Hurst fits the mold as well, but a heart condition discovered at the combine could knock him a little.

20. Detroit Lions: James Daniels, C, Iowa

If Bryan were here, or if the questions about Hurst didn’t exist, this pick would be an interior defensive lineman. Instead, the choice is Daniels. The Lions want to build from the middle out on both sides of the ball, and they need a center. Although Graham Glasgow could move there, he’s fine at guard. The athletic Daniels is a technically sound blocker who will help bolster Detroit’s run game.

21. Buffalo Bills: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford

The Bills could be aggressive on draft night to package their surplus of draft picks to get a quarterback, though getting inside the top five will be challenging. If they stick back with their two picks in the 20s, they could continue a run on defensive linemen with Phillips. He can boost the team’s run defense and give them a player who can line up at a few different spots.

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida

Cornerbacks are popular picks for the Bills, but it’s hard to pick which one fits the best. Hughes is an aggressive press corner who may remind some of former corner Stephon Gilmore when he was coming out of South Carolina.

23. Los Angeles Rams: Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College

After acquiring Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Sam Shields, so much for thinking the Rams will target a cornerback wit this pick. Instead, the Rams’ top need now is arguably edge rusher. Landry is a speed demon off the edge, and at the least can replicate the type of play they got from Robert Quinn.

24. Carolina Panthers: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

Alexander may not be a size/length cornerback, he can hold his own on the outside thanks to his toughness, football smarts and athleticism. The Panthers need to add talent to the secondary, and that also includes a safety. Unless they really love someone like Jessie Bates III of Wake Forest, they should take advantage of the quality corner depth in the first round.

25. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA

I’m not quite as high on Davenport as others, but he’s certainly a first-round pick. Tennessee’s biggest pre-free agency need is pass rusher, and Davenport would be a good system fit. He’s at his best when he can stand up and use power to create pressure.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

Hurst’s heart condition could cause him to slide a little bit, but he should still find himself in the first round. He would give the Falcons another interior defensive lineman who can create pressure and shoot gaps.

27. New Orleans Saints: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

It seems like Goedert was tailor-made for the Saints. He’s an athletic pass catching tight end, and this is about where his draft range should begin.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

If Goedert is a perfect fit for the Saints at No. 27, the same can be said about Vander Esch to Pittsburgh at No. 28. He’s a fast and agile linebacker who can play on the middle. He needs to get a little stronger to handle the riggers of the NFL.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP

Hernandez has aced the offseason, starring at the Senior Bowl and then did well for himself at the combine. For the Jaguars, he’s a perfect fit. Jacksonville is ready to win right now, and Hernandez is the type of prospect who can slot directly into a starting lineup.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

Speaking of offensive linemen who can step directly into an NFL starting lineup as a rookie, Wynn is another one of those type of players. His versatility should be attractive for the Vikings. Wynn is at his best at guard, but showed last season that he’s comfortable playing left tackle.

31. New England Patriots: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

By adding Danny Shelton, the Patriots no longer need to hope one of the defensive line prospects slides to the back of the first round. Instead, they can take the best available cornerback. Davis can start opposite Gilmore, and give New England a pair of shutdown corners.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

Maybe the people are right. Nothing elicited more feedback than slotting Brown in the teens in last week’s mock draft. But as bad of a combine as Brown had, he still has plenty of good tape as a blind side protector. While he may drop out of the first round completely, tackles can get overdrafted.

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