With the NFL Draft less than a month away, it’s time for Impact to take its first crack at predicting what will happen in the first round on April 26. Who will go No. 1? Who will fall into the second round? Who will make trades? Michael Downes’ mock draft 1.0 has all the answers.
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Despite trading with the Buffalo Bills for Tyrod Taylor, the Browns are in dire need of a quarterback. Coming to Cleveland in the past was a bad thing, but with a young team, a plethora of weapons and no rush to start, Darnold will thrive.
2. Buffalo Bills (via New York Giants)
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Buffalo will ship its two first-round picks and a third-rounder to their in-state neighbor Giants to move up to the No. 2 spot. After shipping last year’s starter to Cleveland, entering the year with AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman, the Bills Mafia will be ecstatic welcoming the farm boy with a cannon for an arm to Buffalo.
3. New York Jets
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
At No. 3, the Jets would be elated to see their No. 1 prospect sitting there for the taking. With Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown on the roster, Rosen won’t be thrust into the starting spot, giving him some much-needed time to develop into a solid starting QB in 2019.
4. Cleveland Browns
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Barkley is easily the best prospect in the draft, but due to drafting “needs”, he falls to the No. 4 spot. He will split time with Duke Johnson Jr. and Carlos Hyde but could be the best of the three. The Browns use their two top-four for picks to get the last pieces for their new and improved offense.
5. Denver Broncos
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Despite the signing of Case Keenum, the Broncos set themselves up for the future with the cool, confident Mayfield. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner will have a great shot at securing the starting spot by the end of the season.
6. Indianapolis Colts
Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
After five straight offensive picks, the Colts flip the script and nab the best defensive player in the draft. Chubb is an instant starter and the game changer that Indianapolis’ defense is missing.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Tampa Bay snags the most versatile defensive player the draft has to offer. With holes at both cornerback and safety, Fitzpatrick can play both, filling two spots with one player. Doesn’t get much smarter than that.
8. Chicago Bears
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
After cutting ties with former All-Pro guard Josh Sitton, the Bears are drooling over Nelson, who’s arguably the second-best prospect in the draft. This monster of a man will fit great in The Windy City as a Monster of the Midway.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Derwin James, S, Florida State
The young guns out in San Francisco land an elite athlete to patrol the secondary. James’ combine shot him way up draft boards and he’s a solid pick for the 49ers.
10. Oakland Raiders
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
There’s something about the way Smith plays that makes him a perfect fit for the Raiders. He carries himself with a quiet confidence but is an animal on the gridiron. Gruden finds himself an elite grinder and gives Khalil Mack some help.
11. Miami Dolphins
Vita Vea, DT, Washington
With the departure of Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins are in need of a big-bodied player to eat up blocks in the middle. No better fit than the 347-pound Vea. The big man will wreak havoc in the run game.
12. New York Giants (via Buffalo Bills)
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Dropping ten spots, the Giants still land a great player. At 19-years-old, Edmunds upside is ridiculous and brings some structure to the shaky Giants linebacking corps.
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Washington gets some much needed secondary help. Pairing Ward with Josh Norman will make it nearly impossible for opposing wide receivers to have any major impact on the game.
14. Green Bay Packers
Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
The Packers land a solid pass rusher and a big body to open things up for linebackers Nick Perry and Clay Matthews. Throw Mike Daniels in the mix and the Packers front seven is starting to look scary.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The fifth and final quarterback of the first round goes to Arizona. With Carson Palmer freshly-retired and the unreliable duo of Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon under center, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will have a realistic chance of seeing some playing time in 2018.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Ravens seemed to be in every free agent wide receiver sweepstakes but only walked away with the aging Michael Crabtree. Ridley is a perfect for Baltimore’s offense and will be a crutch for Joe Flacco to lean on.
17.Los Angeles Chargers
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Chargers land their left tackle of the future to protect the old man Phillip Rivers and whoever is brought in to replace him. McGlinchey was a rock at Notre Dame and will be much of the same in the NFL.
Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
One of, if not thee, worst offensive lines in the NFL, the Seahawks are going to need help to handle the one-two punch of Donald and Suh in LA. Wynn’s not the complete answer but helps out tremendously.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Cowboys’ defensive coordinator loves athletic defensive linemen and will have a field day with Bryan. He won’t be a full-time starter but will have a solid amount of rotational reps.
20. Detroit Lions
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
With new head coach Matt Patricia mainly using sub packages, Detroit needs a manimal of a human being to be a defensive tackle in a 4-3 formation and athletic enough to be effective at defensive end in a 3-4. There’s not a better pick than Payne. The former Crimson Tide will be Patricia’s favorite tool in the shed. He will compliment both Ezekiel Ansah and former Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
The Bengals land themselves a mauler with Hernandez. His hands are small and his arms are short, but he’s strong enough to dominate just about anyone.
22. New York Giants (via Buffalo Bills)
Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
After passing up a chance to land Chubb, the Giants will gladly take Landry as a consolation pick. The Boston College standout will do a good job of filling the pass rush void left by Jason Pierre-Paul.
23. New England Patriots
Connor Williams, OT, Texas
In return for wideout Brandin Cooks, the Patriots find their rock to replace Nate Solder, who signed a massive deal with the Giants. Tom Brady, on the cusp of being 41-years-old, will have a sense of comfort with Williams on his blindside.
24. Carolina Panthers
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Panthers haven’t quite rebounded from losing Norman, but Jackson is a step in the right direction. With eight interceptions in 2017, Jackson will have quarterbacks second guessing throwing his way.
25. Tennessee Titans
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
One of those storied “high motor” players, Vander Esch is exactly what the Titans need patrolling the middle of the field. The jack-of-all-trades linebacker is able to stop the run sideline-to-sideline and be a force in coverage.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
After losing big man Dontari Poe, Atlanta drafts Hurst to be that monster in the middle. A heart condition found at the combine is a bit worrisome, but his film makes him too good to pass up.
27. New Orleans Saints
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
Had the Saints been able to reunite Jimmy Graham and Drew Brees this would be a much different pick, but Brees needs a big target in the red zone. Who better than the 6-foot-5 Goedert?
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Steelers are on the lookout for a player to fill in for Ryan Shazier, who is unable to play after suffering a spine injury last season. Evans fits the mold to be the next big-named linebacker to lead the Steel Curtain.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Blake Bortles is going to need some help after losing Allen squared: Robinson went to Chicago and Hurns is on his way to Dallas, leaving Marqise Lee behind. Sutton’s the big-bodied receiver that Bortles needs.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
The Vikings have a $91 million investment that they want to keep upright in Kirk Cousins. In order to do that, Minnesota needs a rock solid offensive line. Rieff has the blindside locked up, but the right side needs help. Miller’s the guy.
31. New England Patriots
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
New England is in dire need of a cornerback after losing Malcolm Butler in free agency and Alexander is a good fit for Bill Belichick’s system. After missing a majority of the 2017 season, the ball-hawking corner will be a big addition to the Patriots secondary.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Probably the player that helped himself the most at the Combine, Gesicki showed everyone that he’s a first-round pick. Trey Burton and Brent Celek are no longer with the team, leaving behind Zach Ertz as the lone ranger. This duo is too athletic for any core of linebackers to cover.
Impact will have mock draft 2.0 and extensive coverage of the 2018 NFL Draft on impact89fm.org/sports.