The NFL draft isn’t until April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas, but it’s never too early to take a look at how things could play out in the first round.
Last year in my final Mock Draft, I correctly projected 26 of the 32 players that would be selected in the first round, with four going to the designated team I projected.
My picks are based on observations, team needs, scouting services and various NFL sources.
WHAT CHANGED?: Bob McManaman’s first edition NFL mock draft
1. Cleveland Browns (0-16): RB Saquon Barkley, 5-11, 223, Penn State
Comment: Pick change. Originally, I had them taking USC quarterback Josh Darnold. That was before the Browns started floating things out there about perhaps going the free-agent route for a new starting QB. They’d have to do a great job at convincing someone like Kirk Cousins to be their guy, but then again, they could grab a quarterback three picks later with the No.4 pick. By taking Barkley No.1, they are assured of grabbing a Marshall Faulk-type of impact player, which will only help whoever it is they start at QB. It also guarantees them of being able to nab one of the top four quarterbacks in this draft with their next pick.
2. New York Giants (3-13): QB Josh Rosen, 6-4, 210, UCLA
Comment: No change. This almost feels like a lock. The Giants will stick with Eli Manning for at least another year and let Rosen develop behind him, unless things get ugly again like they did last year. Either way, they’ve got their next quarterback of the future – unless someone makes the Giants one hell of an offer to move up to No.2. Doubt that happens, but you just never know.
CARDINALS QUARTERBACK OF FUTURE: Potential QB options for Arizona
3. Indianapolis Colts (4-14): DE Bradley Chubb, 6-4, 275, North Carolina State
Comment: Pick change. Previously, the pick here was Barkley. But this choice works out just as stellar for the Colts, who in this scenario, get what most scouts seem to feel is the best overall player available in the draft. I’ve only watched highlights of Chubb, but he looks like the real deal, and the Colts should be absolutely thrilled if they land him.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Texans): QB Baker Mayfield, 6-1, 218, Oklahoma
Comment: Pick change. It’s still a former Sooner, but instead of Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown, it’s Mayfield, whom I previously had going one spot lower to the Broncos. With Cleveland’s pick of Barkley, however, the Browns get their quarterback and are looking like draft-day champions at this point. This is, of course, assuming they haven’t added a QB through free agency or a trade.
RELATED: Baker Mayfield to Cardinals?
5. Denver Broncos (5-11): G Quenton Nelson, 6-5, 329, Notre Dame
Comment: Pick change. As noted, the previous pick here was Mayfield, but the Broncos appear to be all-in on trying to lure Cousins to Denver and if they succeed, nabbing the best offensive lineman in the draft would only help sweeten the signing. The Broncos could stand to strengthen their interior, and Nelson is rated as the third-best overall talent on the board. If they don’t nail down Cousins, then drafting a quarterback here makes sense. It’s not a gimme, though. In fact, don’t be surprised if the Broncos solicit offers to move out of the No.5 pick. Could the Cardinals be trade partners here?
6. New York Jets (5-11): QB Sam Darnold, 6-4, 225, USC
Comment: Pick change. It’s still a quarterback, but something is telling me Louisville’s Lamar Jackson isn’t going to get the love that I have for him and that he’ll fall far – perhaps even out of the first round. Personally, I like him a heck of a lot more than Darnold. I’d take Wyoming QB Josh Allen here before Darnold, too. But that’s irrelevant. The Jets would be better served grabbing the best available player here and not reach for a QB, but unless they can lure Cousins, which might also be a reach, Darnold might just end up being the pick.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11): S Minkah Fitzpatrick, 6-1, 201, Alabama
Comment: Pick change. I had them taking North Carolina State’s Chubb with this pick, but Fitzpatrick is trending incredibly high and as I mentioned in my initial Mock Draft, he’ll likely end up as a Top 10 pick. He gives the Bucs some flexibility in that he can play multiple positions in the secondary. His skills set is off the charts.
8. Chicago Bears (5-11): WR Calvin Ridley, 6-1, 190, Alabama
Comment: No change. I’m not completely sold on Ridley yet, but it’s an intriguing pick and gives young quarterback Mitch Trubisky a target who can create all kinds if mismatches. If Chicago goes strictly “best player available” here, it will be on defense and picking this high in the draft, there will be plenty of stud defensive backs, edge rushers and linebackers available.
*9. Oakland Raiders (6-10): LB Roquan Smith, 6-1, 225, Georgia
Comment: No change. I can see the Raiders going cornerback here – Iowa’s Josh Jackson or Ohio State’s Denzel Ward – but in Smith, they get a leader of their defense who will help whip things into shape. He’s a legitimate Top 5 pick in my opinion and Oakland would be lucky to have him.
*10. San Francisco 49ers: CB Joshua Jackson, 6-1, 192, Iowa
Comment: Pick change. The 49ers are taking steps in the right direction to push for the playoffs, but they need help on the back end of their defense – and perhaps at linebacker – to get there. They can’t go wrong with Jackson or Denzel Ward, if they go cornerback. If it’s a linebacker and Georgia’s Smith is off the board, the pick here could be Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds.
11. Miami Dolphins (6-10): CB Denzel Ward, 6-0, 191, Ohio State
Comment: Pick change. I had them taking an edge rusher here, but it’s starting to feel like the Dolphins will address the back end of their defense and Ward projects as one of the top two cornerbacks available in this draft. He would feel a real area of need. If Jackson is still available, he’ll be the pick over Ward.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9): OT Mike McGlinchey, 6-8, 312, Notre Dame
Comment: No change. I still think the Bengals will select an offensive lineman here, assuming they don’t trade out of this spot. They could go with Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown or Texas tackle Connor Williams, but I like McGlinchey better at this point. If they go defense, the pick could be just about anyone and the next player I have going in the draft is one of them.
13. Washington Redskins (7-9): S Derwin James, 6-3, 211, Florida State
Comment: Again, no change, although I can see Washington going with a linebacker here such as Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds or a defensive tackle such as Washington’s Vita Vea. James, however, also makes a lot of sense and in terms of sheer athleticism and potential, he might not only the best player available, but one of the top two or three players in this entire draft on either side of the ball.
14. Green Bay Packers (7-9): ILB Tremaine Edmunds, 6-5, 236, Virginia Tech
Comment: Pick change. It’s still a linebacker, but now it’s Edmunds, who has been generating a ton of buzz lately, instead of LSU’s Arden Key. Edmunds projects as the second best inside linebacker in the draft and let’s face it, it’s not like the Packers haven’t been in need of someone to stabilize the middle of their defense.
Comment: No change. I love this pick and I hope it comes to light. It won’t happen, of course, if Allen has already been selected or if the Cardinals are able to land Cousins or invest heavily in one of the many free-agent quarterbacks coming on the market. Allen is a Ben Roethlisberger-type who just needs to refine a few things, but all the tools are there. If they feel they’ve already addressed their QB situation prior to the draft, they could go wide receiver, cornerback or offensive line with this pick. If they go with a “bridge” QB on a short-term contract, the Cardinals might trade up for one of the top QBs available, including Allen.
16. Baltimore Ravens (9-7): OT Orlando Brown, 6-8, 360, Oklahoma
Comment: Pick change. Previously, I had them going wide receiver here and as much as I like SMU’s 6-foot-4 Courtland Sutton, it might be a reach to select him this high. What the Ravens really need on offense is some line help up front. Brown, whose father starred as a lineman for the Ravens, could step in and start at right tackle immediately. This feels like a perfect fit.
17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7): OT Connor Williams, 6-6, 320, Texas
Comment: No change. As I noted in my initial Mock Draft, it almost seems like a foregone conclusion in my opinion that the Chargers will go offensive tackle here. Other Mock Drafts might be projecting defensive tackles or linebackers here, but I’m staying with my gut and that means sticking with Williams. He had a knee issue last season, but he still projects as an NFL anchor at tackle.
18. Seattle Seahawks (9-7): DE/OLB Arden Key, 6-6, 238, LSU
Comment: Pick change. Previously, I had Seattle going with a defensive back at this spot, but with questions concerning the futures of both Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, I could see the Seahawks going with an edge rusher here and Key would be a solid pick. Besides, Josh Jackson is long gone in this version.
19. Dallas Cowboys (9-7): WR Courtland Sutton, 6-4, 215, SMU
Comment: Pick change. It’s so hard to gauge the Cowboys this year. I’m hearing all kinds of things and can’t tell if where there is smoke there is fire or if it’s all just a smokescreen. Things should become a little clearer after the scouting combine, but until then, I’ll say it’s still a receiver but now it’s Sutton instead of Oklahoma’s James Washington.
20. Detroit Lions (9-7): DE Marcus Davenport, 6-6, 255, UTSA
Comment: Pick change. I had them going offense here, but the Lions have to address their pass rush and give Ezekiel Ansah some help. Davenport is one of the more intriguing players in this draft and comes loaded with potential and hype. We’ll see if he lives up to it at the combine. If he does, the Lions should gobble him up – if he’s still available. He could be a top 12 pick. Washington DT Vita Vea is another option.
PREVIOUS MOCK DRAFTS: Quarterback options for Cardinals
21. Buffalo Bills (9-7): QB Mason Rudolph, 6-5, 230, Oklahoma State
Comment: Pick change. This all depends on whether or not the Bills find a quarterback in free agency or a trade and specifically, who that QB is. If they end up with a retread type, Rudolph makes sense. Fair or not, Buffalo probably needs to move on from Tyrod Taylor. Rudolph will be able to play in this league and just needs a little time to develop and adjust.
22. Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs): DT Vita Vea, 6-5, 344, Washington
Comment: No change. They might be tempted to take a wide receiver with one of these two picks, but if Vea is still on the board – and that’s a big “if” – the Bills would be foolish to pass on him. He moves like a cat for his size and can be the quintessential disruptor up front to a defense that ranked 29th against the run.
NFL MOCK DRAFT: Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver a first round pick in 2018 NFL draft?
23. Los Angeles Rams (11-5): CB Isaiah Oliver, 6-1, 190, Colorado
Comment: Pick change. Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was the choice in my initial Mock Draft, but as previously noted the Rams will be eyeing cornerbacks and Oliver projects as the third-best one available overall, depending on variables. Auburn’s Carlton Davis will also be in the mix here.
24. Carolina Panthers (11-5): WR James Washington, 6-0, 205, Oklahoma
Comment: Pick change. It’s still a wide receiver, but now it’s Washington rather than Memphis standout Anthony Miller, who had to pull out of the Senior Bowl because of a leg injury. Carolina may opt for offensive line help with this pick and address the receiver position in the second or third round, but Washington projects as an almost-certain, first-round talent and he will immediately help protect Cam Newton because of his great hands and ability to get open.
25. Tennessee Titans (9-7): G Will Hernandez, 6-3, 330, UTEP
Comment: Pick change. Instead of a safety, I’m now projecting the Titans to grab an interior offensive lineman and the hunch is it’s either Hernandez, who had a wonderful week at the Senior Bowl, or Ohio State’s Billy Price, who can play both guard and center. Safety is still an option here, as is an edge rusher and possibly, a tight end.
26. Atlanta Falcons (9-7): DT Maurice Hurst, 6-2, 282, Michigan
Comment: Pick change. All signs point to the Falcons targeting a defensive player here, especially someone who can make a difference at the line of scrimmage. Previously, the pick was Oklahoma edge defender Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, but I’m hearing Atlanta is more interested in beefing up its interior wall and Hurst grades out as one of the draft’s best defensive tackles overall. Rated almost as highly is Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne, who would do nicely.
27. New Orleans Saints (11-5): ILB Rashaan Evans, 6-3, 234, Alabama
Comment: Pick change. It’s still an inside linebacker, but now it’s Evans instead of Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, whom I now have going No.14 to the Packers. New Orleans has made great strides with its defense and a player such as Evans will only reinforce those efforts.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3): CB Carlton Davis, 6-1, 203, Auburn
Comment: Pick change. Pittsburgh would probably nab Evans in a heartbeat if he was available given their need at inside linebacker, but now that he’s off the board, I can see them addressing their issues in the secondary and grabbing Davis, who can step in and play right away. Previously, I had them going with a tight end here, but I think they can rely on what they already have there in Jesse James and Vance McDonald. Will the Steelers draft a quarterback? Yes, but I doubt it’s in the first round, unless they’re ready to roll the dice on Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, whom I happen to like a lot.
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29. Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6): TE Mark Andrews, 6-5, 253, Oklahoma
Comment: Pick change. It’s still a pass catcher, but instead of Oklahoma State wide receiver Marcell Ateman, it’s the best tight end in the draft, whom I previously had going right before them to the Steelers. The Jaguars are sticking with Blake Bortles for at least another year at quarterback, but don’t be surprised if they select a QB here. Lamar Jackson, perhaps?
30. Minnesota Vikings (13-3): OT Kolton Miller, 6-8, 310, UCLA
Comment: Pick change. Since I have UTEP guard Will Hernandez now going to the Titans at pick No.25, I’ll say the Vikings stay offensive line here and pluck UCLA’s Miller, who projects as a mid- to late first-round pick. Don’t be surprised if the Vikings go defense, here, however. They could target an interior lineman or look for depth at linebacker and the secondary.
31. New England Patriots (13-3): LB Malik Jefferson, 6-3, 238, Texas
Comment: Pick change. Previously, the pick was Alabama’s Rashaan Evans, but now that he’s off the board, the Patriots can get a solid edge defender in Jefferson. New England likely will address its cornerback situation through free agency – or a trade – and there is also the real possibility of looking for another tight end should Rob Gronkowski actually decide to retire. Oh yeah, and there’s this other little thing called quarterback, unless the Patriots believe Tom Brady can play forever. Expect the Patriots to be wheeling and dealing as usual during the draft.
32. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3): DT Da’Ron Payne, 6-2, 308, Alabama
Comment: Pick change. Previously, the pick here was Kolton Miller. Now, the Eagles get one of the draft’s best defensive tackles in Payne, which should make their defense that much better. Florida’s Taven Bryan is another option up front. Philadelphia will also be targeting help on its offensive line, particularly at the tackle positions.
*–Position to be decided by a coin flip at the scouting combine.
NEXT ROUND: Levi Wallace goes from walk-on to second round NFL draft pick?
Reach McManaman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Wednesday night between 7-9 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.