I teamed up with my good buddy Christian from NFL Updates Express for a first round mock draft as well as a focus on draft targets for our favorite teams. I had the odd selections, starting with Cleveland, and Christian had evens. Each of us provided analysis for our own selections.
1. Cleveland Browns- Sam Darnold, USC, Quarterback– Cleveland takes its quarterback of the future in USC product Sam Darnold. Darnold will get a year to develop under Tyrod Taylor and comes in with the right mentality to turn the team’s culture around.
2. New York Giants- Saquon Barkley, Penn State, Running Back- Things could change quickly if Saquon is selected #1 but with the Giants not in real contention at the moment, the new GM Dave Gettleman takes the best player available and starts off the new era with Big Blue with a “once-in-a-generation” type talent with Barkley falling to #2.
3. New York Jets- Josh Rosen, UCLA, Quarterback– New York traded up to get a quarterback, and with this pick they select the loudmouthed Rosen to be their Broadway Josh. Rosen will watch from Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater in Year 1, then (possibly) emerge as their quarterback for the future.
4. Cleveland Browns- Bradley Chubb, NC State, Defensive End- Best. Player. Available. Need I say more. The Browns need all the talent they can get. Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb? I wouldn’t wanna be Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, or Andy Dalton right now.
5. Denver Broncos- Josh Allen, Wyoming, Quarterback– Denver did add former Viking Case Keenum in free agency and drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round a couple years ago, but John Elway would love a true quarterback for the future. Allen brings a rocket arm (watch his 80-yard throw during his pro day for evidence) and is no stranger to the Midwest.
6- Buffalo Bills (Projected Trade w Indianapolis Colts)- Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, Quarterback- The Bills need a quarterback bad, unless they are ok with Nathan Peterman and his record-breaking performance against Los Angeles last year in his first start (5 INT’s). Mayfield might not be the guy that the Bills are looking for here, as Allen or Darnold would be a better fit. However, Sean McDermott has seen mobile quarterbacks live in Carolina with Cam Newton and in Buffalo with Tyrod Taylor. The Mayfield Era begins in Orchard Park, NY.
7- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame, Offensive Guard– Tampa Bay picks both their biggest need and the best overall player on the board with Quenton Nelson. Quarterback Jameis Winston is sure to appreciate this pick.
8- Chicago Bears- Denzel Ward, Ohio State, Cornerback- The Bears could choose linebacker here but the temptation of having an elite duo of cornerbacks like they did with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings could intrigue GM Ryan Pace to pull the trigger on Ward. Chicago’s secondary is shaping up to be pretty nice with a solid rookie performance from Eddie Jackson and with Kyle Fuller already in the fold, the Monsters of the Midway could make some noise this fall.
9- San Francisco 49ers- Calvin Ridley, Alabama, Wide Receiver– Jimmy Garoppolo needs some toys and Calvin Ridley could be his top target for the next 10 years. The 49ers top need is receiver and Ridley fits the bill as a playmaker.
10. Oakland Raiders– Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech, Linebacker- The best linebacker in the draft finds his way to the Black Hole to fill a big need for Oakland.
11. Miami Dolphins– Roquan Smith, Georgia, Linebacker– Quarterback is a need here, but with the top four quarterbacks off the board, the Dolphins work on their defense with Roquan Smith. If quarterback Ryan Tannehill leaves/is cut, the Fins will be able to get their guy, not the fifth quarterback on the board.
12. Indianapolis Colts (Projected Trade w/ Buffalo Bills)– Vita Vea, Washington, Defensive Tackle- The Colts need defensive talent. When the Dolphins skip over Vita as a possible Suh replacement, Indy wastes no time to get a staple on the defensive line here. With their trade with the Bills, they get two first rounders and a luxury pick to select two great studs in the first round.
13. Washington Redskins– Derrius Guice, LSU, Running Back- A bit of a surprise pick, but Guice gives the Redskins the playmaker they sorely lack. Watching coach Jay Gruden fit Guice into the Skins’ offense will make the Redskins interesting to watch.
14. Green Bay Packers- Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama, Defensive Back- Fitzpatrick at 14? There’s not much more that needs to be said here. Green Bay turns in their card to the podium in record time and get a big staple to their secondary.
15. Arizona Cardinals– Lamar Jackson, Louisville, Quarterback– The Cardinals get their potential quarterback for the future, who will get a year to learn under Sam Bradford. Imagine Jackson and David Johnson in a backfield.
16. Baltimore Ravens- Orlando Brown, Oklahoma, Offensive Tackle- Keep Flacco off the turf and let Alex Collins run wild. How will this happen? An O-lineman of course. Of course the Ravens could try and add another playmaker here at wide receiver but with the addition of Michael Crabtree and John Brown, they’ll most likely look elsewhere in the opening round of the draft.
17. Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, Florida State, Safety- James is a top-10 talent who slipped all the way to 17, where Los Angeles is more than happy to pick him up. James gives the Chargers the centerfield playmaker they’ve lacked since losing Eric Weddle.
18. Seattle Seahawks– Will Hernandez, UTEP, Offensive Guard- There’s no way to say it nicely but Seattle has an atrocious offensive line. If they ever want to witness another 1,000 yard running back at CenturyLink Field again, improvement is a must. Beast Mode isn’t coming back but solid line play will help Wilson stay upright and help Chris Carson and CJ Prosise next year run for more yards. Will Hernandez is an excellent pick here!
19. Dallas Cowboys– Christian Kirk, Texas A&M, Wide Receiver- Defense is a major need, but the Cowboys go offense with local product Christian Kirk. With Prescott, Elliott, and Kirk as the Dallas Big Three, the Cowboys’ offense will be one of the best in the league.
20. Detroit Lions- Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State, Linebacker- With a big need at linebacker and a name like this, it’s a no brainer. All jokes aside, this is a great value pick that could turn into a valuable player with a division that has to shut down running backs Jordan Howard, Dalvin Cook, and Jamaal Williams.
21. Cincinnati Bengals- Rashaan Evans, Alabama, Linebacker- A value and need pick, Rashaan Evans gives the aging Bengals a boost in the linebacking corps.
22. Indianapolis Colts (Projected Trade w/ Buffalo Bills)- D.J. Moore, Maryland, Wide Receiver- With the loss of Donte Moncrief, the Colts pick up an all-around dynamic receiver who reminds me of another Maryland receiver in Stefon Diggs.
23. New England Patriots- Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame, Offensive Tackle- The Pats go tackle to address the loss of longtime Pro Bowler Nate Solder with the first of their two opening round picks.
24. Carolina Panthers- Jaire Alexander, Louisville, Cornerback- Carolina gets an elite corner to match up with James Bradberry in the secondary. Alexander is a ball hawk with some swag in his step like former Panthers CB Josh Norman. He will help slow down some of the NFC South’s best wideouts.
25. Tennessee Titans– Marcus Davenport, UT-San Antonio, Defensive End- The Titans could go a variety of ways, but Marcus Davenport along with Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey would give Tennessee a top-notch pass rush.
26. Atlanta Falcons- Josh Jackson, Iowa, Cornerback- Excellent value pick here. Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Ted Ginn Jr, DeSean Jackson, Greg Olsen, and Devin Funchess are all in the NFC South so a corner may be a good idea…just maybe.
27. New Orleans Saints– Hayden Hurst, South Carolina, Tight End– Drew Brees gets his next Jimmy Graham as the Saints take the top tight end on the board.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers- Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, Quarterback- Ben Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger…or healthier. Taking a quarterback of the future in Rudolph, who has already drawn Big Ben comparisons, can help keep Pittsburgh in contention for years to come with an already loaded roster. The talent is there. Now finish the deal!
29. Jacksonville Jaguars– Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame, Wide Receiver– Remember the name Equanimeous, because he’s gonna be a star in the NFL. He’s the NFL’s version of Lonzo Ball and addresses a dire need in Jacksonville. Watch this happen.
30. Minnesota Vikings– Isaiah Oliver, Colorado, Cornerback- Xavier Rhodes, Isaiah Oliver, Andrew Sendejo, and Harrison Smith? Good luck against Minnesota next year. Easy pick for a very underrated pick here.
31. New England Patriots– Da’Ron Payne, Alabama, Defensive Tackle- New England addresses the other side of the line of scrimmage by taking Da’Ron Payne, a stellar value pick and a strong fit in the Patriot defense.
32. Philadelphia Eagles– Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State, Tight End– With Super Bowl hero Trey Burton leaving via free agency to the Windy City and the ceremonious release of veteran Brent Celek, the Eagles pick up another potential stud at the TE position in Dallas Goedert.
Focus on Teams
- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma- The Ravens seem to bleed offensive line talent every offseason, failing to retain their top homegrown talent year after year. Brown, the best tackle in the draft, would team up with Ronnie Stanley to give Baltimore two potential Pro Bowlers as bookends of the offensive line.
- DJ Moore, WR, Maryland- He may not last until the second round, but the last time the Ravens selected a receiver from Maryland in the second round, it worked out pretty well with Torrey Smith. Moore addresses the Ravens’ greatest need and would be a spectacular pick.
- Shaquem Griffin, LB, Central Florida– Griffin, who plays with one hand, is the player everyone will root for in this draft. He would boost the Ravens’ aging pass rush and provide another playmaker in the stellar Baltimore defense.
- Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State- Along with the wide receivers, the Ravens’ tight ends will impress no one. Adding Mike Gesicki would give Joe Flacco, who has loved previous targets Todd Heap and Dennis Pitta, a new favorite target.
- Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida– Last year, the Ravens made a surprising first round pick with Marlon Humphrey. You can never have too many good corners, and if Mike Hughes falls to the mid-rounds, he would make a great Raven.
- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M– Dez Bryant is no longer the All Pro talent he once was, and the problem with Dallas is that they rely on him as a number one receiver. For Dak Prescott to thrive, he’ll need a great receiver, and the addition of Kirk would clear up space for Ezekiel Elliott to work and take the pressure off the other receivers.
- Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State– Defense is a huge issue in Big D and Sam Hubbard could be a Day 1 starter for the Cowboys. With Hubbard and Pro Bowl pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, Dallas could strike some fear into opposing offenses.
- Marcus Allen, S, Penn State- Perhaps the Cowboys’ greatest need is the secondary and Marcus Allen should still be available in Round 2. If the Cowboys are gonna be able to stop Carson Wentz next season, they’ll have to beef up that secondary.
- Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU– If the Cowboys don’t get Christian Kirk or opt to go defense in round 1, another in-state product, Courtland Sutton, would be a strong fall-back option. This guy could be a Pro Bowl-level talent in years to come.
- Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn– He probably won’t last until the mid-rounds, but Carlton Davis would be another Day 1 difference maker on the Cowboys’ defense.
- Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
With cornerback Daryl Worley being traded to the Eagles to acquire Torrey Smith, the Panthers need another CB to go with James Bradberry for Carolina. Captain Munnerlyn regressed last year, Kevon Seymour was below average, and Corn Elder is coming off a major injury in his rookie season. Isaiah Oliver may be the best corner in the draft not named Denzel Ward. He has length and has the ability with his long arms to deflect deep balls and make impact plays.
- Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
The Panthers have a pretty solid running back core headlined by Christian McCaffrey. Cameron Artis-Payne and Fozzy Whittaker have been on the team the last few years to back up recently released starter Jonathan Stewart so maybe Artis-Payne or Whittaker will be given a chance. However, Michel can bring in a new dimension of speed and power to an offense that is one of the few “run-first” offenses in the league. McCaffrey, Michel, Artis-Payne, Whittaker, and Newton? Sign me up!
- Jessie Bates III, S, Wake Forest
Kurt Coleman was cut in the offseason so it is clear the Panthers are in need of a safety. Justin Reid could be a fit in the first round but if not, the local product from Wake could make some waves in a Panthers uniform. He can play special teams as he can return kicks for touchdowns and also be a Pro Bowl safety one day. If Bates falls to Carolina in the second round, it would be foolish not to take a flier on this talented stud.
- Will Hernandez, G, Texas-El Paso
All-Pro guard Andrew Norwell left free agency so a guard here would negate that loss. With a team looking to run the football effectively, it makes sense to draft Norwell’s successor and keep Newton and McCaffrey off the turf.
- Chad Thomas, DE, Miami
The Panthers strong suit in the last couple of seasons has been their defensive line with Kawann Short, Dontari Poe, and Mario Addison leading the way this year. DE Julius Peppers final season is most likely 2018 so a defensive end to supplant Peppers in a later round would be nice. They have Daeshon Hall who suffered a season-ending injury so he is a question mark. Thomas would be a rotational player until next season but it’s good to look to the future.