Projecting The Entire First Round Of The 2018 NFL Draft - Playoff Edition

The 2018 NFL Draft is positioning itself  destined to be the most QB-loaded NFL Draft since the famed "quarterback class of 1983" draft that saw the likes of hall-of-famers Dan Marino, John Elway (more on him below) and Jim Kelly being drafted. A half-dozen hurlers got chosen in the first round that season, and this draft has a chance to come close to that, or at least match the five quarterbacks chosen in the opening round of the 1999 draft.  Keep reading to see how many quarterbacks we project being selected in the first round of this year's draft (hint: more than five).

Taking a wider view of the 2018 draft, over the course of the weekend of April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, a number of teams will have the unique opportunity to rebuild themselves, including the suddenly promising Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers and the even hopelessly hapless Cleveland Browns, all possessing a plethora of picks to potentially infuse their respective franchises with a surge of much needed talent on both sides of the ball.

Of course, this mock is prior to NFL free agency and the draft combine, and it isn't even the "final order" of drafting to be determined by playoff results. Rather, this mock is designed to take a look at each franchise's current needs--whether it be teams that fared terribly (hello Browns again), just missed the playoffs (L.A. Chargers), or those who are playing in January and want to add necessary elements to make their respective team even more dangerous next year and beyond. To add more depth to this edition of the mock, we've thrown in bonus 2nd Round pick predictions as well, to more deeply address each team's needs to improve.


Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone in their right mind believes Cleveland will take a QB, but which one should tit be? The mechanically superior but socially divisive Josh Rosen has repeatedly expressed his desire to not be chosen by the Browns per SB Nation. Then there's the intrigue over Josh Allen potentially being "Carson Wentz reincarnated" to new Browns GM John Dorsey.

In the end, it might come down to Allen versus Darnold more so than Rosen, from the Browns perspective.

Darnold, who officially declared he was entering this year's draft on January 3--the same day as Rosen--has as much potential as any of the quarterbacks in this year's draft, and an SI poll of NFL scouts in October had Darnold as the favorite. Darnold struggled this year with a USC team that was overrated from the get-go, so the view on his talent translating to the pros should not diminish.


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This pick is contingent on many factors--will the Giants move on from Eli, now that they've moved on from the coach who benched him, Ben McAdoo? While the Giants may be going forward with Eli in 2018, seeing as he turned 37 this past January 3, how long will that be? How often will the Giants have a draft choice this high? It seems logical to choose Eli's eventual successor and groom him to take over in 2019.  With that in mind, the Giants will go with Josh Rosen, whose arm and vision should translate smoothly to the pro game.

There's also the distinct possibility the Giants could do what we suggested the Browns might, and use this choice to acquire more picks. Either way, we're going with the Giants selecting the highly skilled Josh Rosen, who is poised and cerebral enough to handle the position and the pressures of New York.


Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts have so many needs on both sides of the ball, including to protect their long-term investment of quarterback Andrew Luck. Yet they could pair Luck with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley to form a dynamic duo for the next several years. Every NFL squad is looking for their own "Le'Veon Bell" and there's no denying Barkley's ability to catch the football. Barkley is certainly a rare talent who was absolutely dominant in the Fiesta Bowl in late December against Washington.

He runs a 4.3/40--yet is physically dominant enough to move defenders.

As tempting as it is to take an offensive lineman to protect the often fragile Luck, the Colts can't pass up on a talent like Barkley as they seek to assemble a new "Triplets" to rival Manning-James-Harrison of the early 2000's.


Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Before you mock the Texans for surrendering what is going to be the number four pick overall, recall Houston did use it to obtain Deshaun Watson, who injuries aside, looks to have great potential moving forward. The Browns continue their full-scale rebuild, and as they got their QB in Darnold, with number four they go for arguably the most impactful defensive player--and perhaps the best overall baller--in the entire draft in Alabama's dynamic Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Browns have to hit on all their picks here after going 0-16, and Fitzpatrick is the safest pick here.

This top-five talent with excellent size at 6'1", 203, has the potential to change an entire defensive backfield as Richard Sherman did in Seattle, and he can man both the safety and cover corner positions.


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The key to prognosticating this pick is whether or not Broncos GM John Elway decides to go with a veteran QB like Kirk Cousins or drafts a potential superstar in Allen, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs a solid 233. Allen injured his shoulder this past season, yet still posted an impressive 124.0 passing efficiency rating playing for the Wyoming Cowboys. Though Allen is not strictly limited to the pocket to be effective; in the Idaho Famous Potato Bowl--with Elway in attendance--Allen dodged and weaved in throwing a TD pass for the Cowboys. On the very next possession, Allen hung in the pocket and hurled a bomb TD, showing he can do it all.

Allen needs to improve his accuracy, but he offers so much that he's even projected to be the number one overall pick in some mocks. The Broncos need stability at QB, and Allen could offer just that.


Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

While you could argue the Jets did too well this season and squandered what should be a higher drafting position, you have to credit New York for displaying integrity and trying to win every game--despite having no realistic title shot--or even playoff--aspirations. If the Jets do go QB with this top-10 pick, either way they seem likely to land a Heisman trophy winner, Lamar Jackson (2016) or Baker Mayfield (2017). Jackson is the smarter choice than Mayfield, who has the potential to be a Russell Wilson--or Johnny Manziel--type.  While Mayfield is dynamic, he lacks height and per Walter Football, one NFL scout said he has "terrible feet."

That's certainly not the case with Jackson, who can run with the best of them.

Jackson's biggest issue is accuracy, however, more precise passing can be improved through training and drills, but you can't do that with natural gifts like speed.

Despite Jackson's shaky performance in TaxSlayer Bowl, he possesses too many tools for the Jets to pass on, and both N.Y. teams get bright shiny new QBs to unwrap for the 2018 season.


Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay needs to seriously improve their pass rush, as the entire team only mustered a pitiful 22 sacks for the entire 2017 season.  That's why selecting the premiere pass rusher in the country in North Carolina State's Bradley Chubb is the Bucs' destiny.  Chubb made 25 tackles for a loss in 2017, one signifier of his dominance. Per Walter Football, another defining factor that sets Chubb apart from other talented edge rushers is his passion and attitude; he seems primed to make an impact for the Bucs during his rookie season. He's also excellent versus the run game, so there's not too much more to ask from a difference-making defender. There may be temptation to take an offensive player to help Winston out, but a better defense would also help the young QB.


Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago needs to add offensive weapons around quarterback Mitchell "Mr. Biscuit" Trubisky as he enters his first full season at QB for "da Bears." They could add a talented tackle for protection, but the Bears could find that an impacting wide receiver could become a dynamic duo with Trubisky in the same way Big Ben and Antonio Brown have become in Pittsburgh. The Bears will have their pick of receivers and while there are a few gems, there aren't any like this.

SMU's Courtland Sutton may have the most potential of any wideout in this draft. 

Sutton's physical style--he loves to block--will also play well in the gritty Windy City and he's athletically gifted as well, offering both size (6'4", 216 lbs) and speed (4.51/40). New Bears coach Matt Nagy will definitely want a go-to target at WR.


Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It was a "bad news/good news" second half for the San Francisco 49ers as they sank in draft position due to winning meaningless games after they had long since been eliminated from the playoff picture. Of course those wins were due to the emergence of "Jimmy G" (Garappolo), acquired by the 49ers via trade with the New England Patriots. Jimmy G flashed a glimpse of what he's capable of by winning all five of his regular season starts at the end of 2017. By acquiring Garappolo for a second-rounder, the Niners already have had a fantastic draft, but time to make it better and bolster Jimmy's protection.

Selecting Notre Dame's Nelson, who can neutralize opposing defenders both on passing and the run game, will go a long way towards establishing a dominant line for S.F. to eventually construct an unstoppable offense.


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What's old is new again, as Jon Gruden is officially taking over the Raiders for a second run. Even though "Chucky" is associated with offense, during all his years doing color commentary on "Monday Night Football", Gruden has witnessed the importance of defense. And the Raiders have several needs on D, starting with insider linebacker. If Georgia's Roquan Smith's profile wasn't already high enough, he took it to another level in the Rose Bowl instant classic this past January 1, with one clutch play after another in leading Georgia to a stunning comeback versus Oklahoma. First, he drove back wide receiver Jordan Smallwood to keep Oklahoma from getting a first down in the first OT, and then tackled runner Rodney Anderson for a loss in the second OT, eventually won by Georgia.

You could just see Smith making similar clutch plays in the postseason in the same manner with Gruden exhorting him on all the way.


John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Another mediocre Dolphins campaign. Since Dan Marino retired, this largely irrelevant franchise continues to struggle for identity, a valuable commodity in the NFL, for identity more often than not translates into successful execution. Look at the New England Patriots for a perfect example, they have an identity as a dominant team that always finds a way to win and that's what they do. The Dolphins do not and perhaps drafting LSU's outstanding edge rusher Arden Key may go some ways to establishing an identity of win-at-all-costs toughness. Key is a raw talent that's going to be hard to pass up on. While some may question his football enthusiasm, there's no denying his lightning speed rushing passers off the edge. Adding him to a Dolphins linebacking corps in serious need of speed will help matters.


Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Marvin Lewis is baaaaaaaaaaaaack. Looks like the Bengals are sticking with Lewis as coach and possibly Andy Dalton at QB (he's signed through 2020 with a contract that's a good value for a team that prides itself on frugality). So it makes sense for Cincy to shore up their subpar offensive line.  With so many other teams taking QBs, that means there will be quality players available. Notre Dame's McGlinchey is that rare offensive tackle that can run block as well as he can pass block. With an offensive line that featured the aforementioned Quenton Nelson and McGlinchey, it's a wonder Notre Dame didn't score a TD on every drive this past season. The Bengals' offense took a step back after losing Andrew Whitworth in free agency and re-shoring their tackle spot is the way to go.


Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously whether or not the D.C. franchise retains Kirk Cousins behind center could determine their draft direction, for the purposes of this mock draft, if the very top quarterbacks are already gone, then look to Washington to address their issues at safety by selecting the mega-talented Derwin James, who is a stellar strong safety but can also serve as a large cover corner or even a roaming linebacker. While at Florida State, James was described as "freakish" (in a good way) by NFL scouts, and the 6-foot-3, 215 pound "chiseled wonder" projects as a future star.

Here's an interesting thought: with the QB class being so deep, would Washington ever entertain the thought of trading up for a QB again after the RG3 debacle back in 2012?


Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

In the Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers era, Packers fans are not used to having their team miss the playoffs, but they had to endure such cruel fate this past season as Green Bay is January-free for the first time since the 2008 season. In a crucial must win game versus the Panthers in Week 15, with the emotional return of Aaron Rodgers following his collarbone injury, the Packers defense laid another egg surrendering 31 points to the Panthers. In the end, even with Rodgers, the Pack still couldn't win, and this underscored the Pack's need for defensive help.

Cornerback is Green Bay's prime need, so the Pack will take the first true cover corner in this draft with Jackson from Iowa. Fortifying the defense through the draft also makes sense as the Packers are rebuilding their D from the ground-up with the ousting of D-coordinator Dom Capers at season's end. Jackson offers as much good size as any corner in this draft at 6'1" and his three INT game against upscale Ohio State showed his ability to make the big play in the big game.


Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

It's a new era for the Cards, with the retirement of coach Bruce Arians on New Years Eve followed by the retirement of quarterback Carson Palmer on January 2. Even for the confines of the Arizona desert, that's a lot of retirees per square inch. Since true success in the NFL is generally predicated on quality quarterback play, we see the Redbirds going with the best available pocket passer left, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph.

Even before Palmer made it official that he was done, back in November, Revenge of the Bird suggested Rudolph indeed could be the Cardinals choice to succeed Palmer. And after Rudolph's stellar performance in the recent Camping World Bowl, he looked like a very capable NFL quarterback.


Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After the Ravens recover from their shocking season ending loss on New Year's Eve, they'll have the entire offseason to address the deficiencies that put them in the position to be upset by the Bengals and have their playoff slot snatched from their very grasp. After seeing the offense in 2017, it's clear the Ravens' number-one need is receiver and if the mega-talented Ridley from Alabama is still available this deep into the draft, the Ravens would be highly tempted to pick him.  Ridley had 935 receiving yards for Alabama in 2017 and a clutch red-zone catch in the Tide's victory over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl to emphasize his ability to make big plays when they count.  Ridley could be a difference-maker that could return the Ravens to next January's postseason.


Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Is Stub Hub Stadium destined to become the new "House of Payne?" Too many close losses cost a very talented team a shot at the playoffs, so they must analyze and determine what players in the draft could turn those tight contests into victories next season. The Chargers were near the bottom of the NFL when it came to stopping the run, which is something considering they finished number three overall in total defense, yet were only one of three teams to allow over 2,000 yards rushing by the opposition.

Alabama's Da'Ron Payne is a superior run stopper on the interior and should instantly upgrade L.A's run-stopping capabilities. Payne's time in Alabama with defensive mastermind Nick Saban means Da'Ron is well versed in multiple defensive line "techniques," meaning he can line up in different positions offering D-line versatility. Da'ron displayed some of that versatility by intercepting a pass in the Sugar Bowl in 'Bama's Sugar Bowl win over Clemson. Payne also showed he has a bit of "Fridge Perry" in him when he caught a TD pass in Alabama's convincing victory.


Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks passing game behind Russell Wilson is most impressive, but Seattle needs  a serious upgrade in the run game, as they only amassed four touchdowns on the ground and a 4.0 rush per average in 2017. A more productive run game will make Wilson all the more dangerous and return the Seahawks to the playoffs in January 2019. ESPN's Todd McShay suggested the Seahawks draft LSU's Derrius Guice, and seeing as he is the second best back in this draft after Barkley, Seattle would be wise to add such a weapon in the second half of the first round. A solid running game could have gotten the Seahawks into the postseason, and a back like Guice can be that difference maker next season when it counts.


Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback and linebacker are the Boys' biggest holes heading into the 2018 draft, and the stats back that up, seeing as Dallas allowed 28 touchdown passes for the 2017 season and only snagged 10 interceptions. 

Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Denzel Ward, who many mocks have going prior to #19, would be a great value pick for Dallas, and help them win games next year by cutting down on those TD passes. Ward unofficially declared for the draft when he took himself out of the Cotton Bowl; not that the Buckeyes much needed him in their 24-7 dismantling of the aforementioned Sam Darnold and the USC Trojans. The Cowboys let several pieces of their defensive backfield walk last offseason and this is the offseason where they'll have to fill those holes back up.


Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions would love a shot at Guice, given the ineptitude of their running game over the last several years, but they also have to improve their middle-of-the-road defense.  Per Lions Wire, defensive line is precisely the direction Detroit should be heading come draft day. Sporting a name that sounds like a health supplement sold at a GNC store, Vea (vay-ah) is a dominant interior defensive lineman that can stuff the run or shut down the pass. Rare speed for someone his size, Vea was a running back in high school, a testament to his versatility. Most teams avoid running it his way, freeing him up to make plays. Vea displayed his talents in the recent Fiesta Bowl as his Washington Huskies battled the aforementioned (and already drafted) Saquon Barkley's Penn State squad.


Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills have all the "luck'--the year they snag two first-round draft picks, both are in playoff spots so they're lower than could be, and the Bills have plenty of holes despite making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Still, as mentioned, all the QB's means there are more quality players available that normally would not be, such as Clemson's Clelin Ferrell, who should enable the Bills to apply more QB pressure, as they only generated a measly 27 sacks in 2017. Some scouts credit Ferrell, as creating plays for other Clemson players by his constant applying pressure on the opposing quarterback, who often ran into Ferrell's teammates. In other words, Ferrell makes the players around him even better.


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With their second selection of the first round, the Bills gamble on the reigning Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield. Is Mayfield the next Russell Wilson or Drew Brees, or is he closer to Tim Tebow or Johnny Manziel? Maybe somewhere in between, and hopefully closer to the Seahawks' Super Bowl champion or the Saints' eventual hall of famer as far as the Bills are concerned. There are few quarterbacks--or football players at any position--that play with Mayfield's energy and passion, as Baker seems to never be at rest, like a perpetual motion machine, however theoretically impossible.

With a second pick in this round, Mayfield is more than worth a risk for a team with QB questions like the Bills before another team snatches him up.

The Bills selection here makes Baker the record-tying sixth quarterback chosen in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. We'll see how these set of QB's eventually stack up versus the legendary Class of '83.


Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The once woeful Los Angeles Rams won an astonishing seven more games in 2017 than the previous year (their first back in the City of Angels). They also went from being the lowest scoring offense to the highest scoring unit. The team now brims with such an overflow of talent that they can be more selective than desperate when making this late first-round pick. However, cornerback is a priority for the Rams heading into 2018 with the team potentially losing Trumaine Johnson.

LSU's Donte Jackson flashes the kind of speed at a 4.45/40 that will enable him to cover lightning fast NFC West receivers like Marquise Goodwin of the 49ers and J.J. Nelson of the Cardinals. Wade Phillips needs to have a little more reliability in his secondary to run the defense he wants to.


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After seeing Newton getting let down by his receivers in the Panthers' opening round playoff loss, you might think the top need may be receiver. But Newton first and foremost needs better protection. Seems like the Panthers would be thrilled to land the talented and dominant Orlando Brown of Oklahoma at number 24, as offensive line is a definite need for the Cats. Several outlets agree and likewise project Carolina selecting Brown, who protected the blindside of the just-drafted Baker Mayfield for three seasons in Norman. Brown, who was the Big-12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 345 pounds, and would provide massive protection for Cam Newton, who isn't getting any younger, and will be 29 when the 2018 NFL season starts.


Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

With the Titans, we begin assessing the draft needs of those teams that actually made the playoffs this season, so it's a matter of what players can help these teams ascend to the next level next season. Per Titan Sized, edge is clearly the Titans biggest draft need and University of Texas-San Antonio's Davenport's stock is rising among NFL sources, which sometimes results in a player being chosen perhaps a bit higher than he should have been before he "rose" in perceived value. Davenport may prove to be one of those players.  However, Marcus' physical attributes of 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds with long arms make him highly intriguing.  CBS Sports recently profiled Davenport, who has flown relatively under the radar due to playing for the obscure UTSA, but there is no denying his quickness off the ball and his speed-to-power conversion, meaning he gets to the quarterback quick and, when he arrives, makes it count with a good hit.


Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons' greatest need is on the defensive line, and while some mocks have the Falcons going with the smaller but more consistent Maurice Hurst of Michigan, we see the Falcons gambling with the way, way upside of Florida's Taven Bryan, who has drawn numerous comparisons to NFL superstar J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans. The baby-faced Bryan is large enough to stop the run, strong enough to counter double-teams, long enough to shut down passing lanes and quick enough to catch running backs. The Falcons defense could reach a new dominant level if Bryan realizes his full potential. They've already taken enormous strides this season, but to ensure the unit remains dominant, they'll have to add depth to their front seven.


Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Watching up-and-down quarterback Jameis Winston of Tampa Bay burn the playoff-bound Saints for the game winning TD in the last game of the season on New Year's Eve underscored the need for the Saints to improve at cover corner.  The Saints' secondary even got burned by Cam Newton on numerous occasions in the wild card round.

Auburn's Carlton Davis offers ideal height (6-foot-1) and length and excels at press coverage. 

Davis plays a physical game, a necessity when squaring off versus teams like the Atlanta Falcons and running back Devonta Freeman, who often must be tackled by the corner since he breaks free of the front-seven. Davis compiled over 100 solo tackles during his three seasons at Auburn, and the Saints defense can take the next step with a cover corner like Carlton Davis.


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the tragic spinal injury to Ryan Shazier during the season, the Steelers have to soberly and logically consider a replacement should Shazier next play again. Though if anyone can come back after such an injury, it's Shazier. Still the Steelers might be seeking depth inside. And the biggest priority when it comes to the Steel Curtain in 2018 is improving the tackling. As successful a season as the 2017 Steelers had, their woeful-at-times tackling cost their D plenty of big plays and it almost cost the team several victories, although their prolific offense was able to pull them out.

That's why the Steelers will look long at Texas' Malik Jefferson. Tackling is Jackson's specialty to be sure, as he was in on 110 tackles in 12 games for the Longhorns. Malik's also got some flash. He signed with Lil Wayne's Sports Agency this January.


Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Seeing the Jaguars slotted to choose so low is indeed a revelation and a testament to their rebound season that saw them capture the AFC South with a top-notch defense. Whether or not the Jaguars go in the 2018 season with Blake Bortles behind center, they need to fortify the offensive line. UCLA's Kolton Miller did a superb job protecting Josh Rosen from opposing Pac-12 pass rushers the last three years, displaying excellent balance for his size moving back or forward. Kolton has one of those modern names that were made up out of thin air--unless you argue that it's a respelling of "Colton"--which translates into..."Charcoal Town," which sounds more like the title of a Bruce Springsteen album.

Anyway, Miller should rise above all that with his 6-foot-8 and 310 pound frame that is well suited for a long career protecting Bortles..or whoever is taking snaps for Jacksonville next season.


Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive tackle is the way the Eagles should go, what with the season-ending injury to Jason Peters, leaving it difficult to determine if he'll ever be the same. Not to mention the fact he was due for free agency and a possible big payday if he left Philly. Either way, the Eagles will have a nice selection of tackles to choose from, and the projection here is that they go with Western Michigan's Chukwuma Okorafor. His first name Chukwuma means "God knows" in the Nigerian language of Igbo.

As far as his NFL destiny goes, in this Eagles mock draft, Okorafor has "all the traits" the Eagles could want from an offensive lineman, having played both left and right tackle for Western Michigan.


Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

What do you get for the team that has everything? The Vikings' roster is loaded, though a lot of their talent is due for free agency, which means Minnesota won't be able to keep them all, which means replacements will be necessary. At the bottom of the first round, there are several directions they can go in, but obtaining the highly regarded Billy Price of the Ohio State Buckeyes with pick number 30 would be quite the value. We project the Vikings going with the versatile Price, who can also play guard. The Vikings will get Dalvin Cook back next year and are expected to bring back Case Keenum, so having a steady center who can also shift to guard is a safe bet.


Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots--and NFL's--supreme schemer Bill Belichick and his defensive coordinator Matt Patricia have patched together the Pats' D best they could, but it's obvious that the overall speed and talent of the Patriots front seven requires upgrades. Back in November, ESPN graded the Pats front-7 as an "F," and while they have certainly improved heading into the postseason sporting the NFL's best overall record, some fresh talent is necessary to ensure continued defensive success in 2018.

A solid pick for Bill Belichick would be to draft Clemson's Austin Bryant, an edge defender who can play both the pass and run.  Bryant had an impressive 7.5 sacks for the Tigers in 2017 with 14.5 total tackles for a loss and can create turnovers.

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Projecting The Entire First Round Of The 2018 NFL Draft - Playoff Edition