The NFL Draft is one of the most difficult, yet entertaining events to try and predict in all of professional sports. Experts and analysts are always claiming that their insiders have certain information on where players are going to go, but it usually always ends up being just speculation. While guys like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay may have a better idea of each player's draft stock, the truth is nobody has any idea of where a player will get drafted except for the people in each teams draft war room.
Drafting in the NFL is like playing poker, you never want to show anybody your hand before all the bets are final. Each draft their are selections that absolutely floor us and leave fanbases scratching their heads or sending angry tweets to their favorite teams accounts. This list is an attempt to make the shocking, less shocking by predicting it months in advance. Consider these like sleeper picks (or steals) because although it might not be approved by the experts, these picks could still be highly fortunate for their respective teams.
Scattered in this list are also five selections that are so clear and obvious that we might as well get them out of the way. Would any of these selections surprise you? If not, please feel free to leave your shocking predictions in the comment section.
15 Surprise: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Take Derrius Guice 7th Overall
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team that has tip-toed on the borderline of playoff caliber and mediocrity. Last season they began to trend back towards the side of mediocrity as their offense became inept and their defense was often overmatched. While the Buccaneers would be wise to go defense with this pick, they will likely pick an offensive player due to their head coaches offensive background.
Surrounding Jameis Winston with more skilled players is not a bad idea, but the Buccaneers would certainly be reaching by selecting Derrius Guice out of LSU in the top-10. Guice is commonly listed as the second best running back prospect behind Saquon Barkley and could develop into a strong starting running back in the NFL. With the ongoing Doug Martin drama, the Buccaneers draft their running back of the future with Guice.
14 Surprising: New York Jets Take Lamar Jackson 6th Overall
Will the New York Jets ever figure out their quarterback situation? The Jets have not had a true franchise quarterback in over a decade, including their most infamous QB bust, Mark "butt-fumble" Sanchez. The Jets have been selecting quarterbacks in almost every draft since it seems like and none of them have worked out.
The 2018 NFL Draft is stocked full of quarterbacks with starting potential and many of these big names will continue to rise up draft boards as we get closer to the draft. One of those names will be Lamar Jackson. Jackson has the athleticism and talent to blow away the competition at the scouting combine and pro-days. This will be enough for the Jets brass to overlook his flaws and reach for him way too high at no.6. This is like Mitchell Trubisky 2.0.
13 Obvious: Sam Darnold 1st Overall To The Browns
The Cleveland Browns have the #1 and #4 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft and will absolutely use one of the picks on a quarterback. Although this draft class is stocked with good quarterback prospects, the Browns will have to use the #1 overall pick in the draft on a QB in order to ensure that they get the guy they want, as many other teams are also searching for a future signal caller.
While many experts are claiming that Josh Allen will wow scouts and general managers in the pre-draft workouts, it will be hard for anybody to dethrone Sam Darnold as the #1 pick in the draft. The Browns will become enamored with Darnold and his natural talent both with his arm and with his legs. His skillset fits exactly what the Browns need being in the AFC North and playing cold games most of the year. If Darnold can reign in his turnovers just a little bit, he could be the franchise quarterback the Browns have been so desperately looking for.
12 Surprising: Dallas Cowboys Nab Christian Kirk 19th Overall
For some reason, not many common NFL fans know much about or have even heard of Christian Kirk out of Texas A&M. Kirk is a tad undersized for the NFL, but he makes up for it with speed, quickness, and great eye-hand coordination. During his time at Texas A&M, he racked up nearly 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns receiving. Kirk is also one of the most explosive return men in the NCAA.
The Dallas Cowboys could use help on defense but with their Dez Bryant situation unclear, it would be beneficial for them to draft a stud like Kirk in the first round. This would allow the Cowboys to either have a succession plan to replace Bryant, or he could pair with Bryant to form a dynamic duo to help open up the field for Ezekiel Elliott.
11 Surprising: Los Angeles Rams select Nick Chubb At No.23
The Los Angeles Rams have gone from a team that was consistently picking in the top-10 of the NFL draft each season, to a team that now looks primed to compete for division titles for the next decade. Their team has been carefully constructed to avoid having any major weaknesses and thus they are now able to adopt the best player available style in upcoming drafts.
Selecting a running back in the first round, however, would still be considered a shocking move by the Rams because they already have MVP candidate Todd Gurley as their starting running back. But by drafting Nick Chubb, who like Gurley played his collegiate ball at the University of Georgia, it gives the Rams an ultimate one-two punch in the backfield and takes pressure off Goff and the passing game. Plus, it provides the Rams with security in case of a major injury to Gurley (if you don't think this is important, look at the Arizona Cardinals' season after losing David Johnson in week 1).
10 Obvious: Saquon Barkley 2nd Overall To The Giants
Saquon Barkley is the best player available in this draft class. Although the Giants will need to start developing a succession plan for the post-Eli Manning years, it will have to wait because they cannot afford to skip on Barkley. Over the past decade, the NFL has shifted into a pass-dominant offensive league and the running back position has fallen off a bit because of this.
But 2017 was officially the year that running backs reasserted their place in the NFL, and this was done without perhaps the best running back in the league, David Johnson, playing all year. Rookie running backs like Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara completely dominated from Week 1 on. Todd Gurley made a case for MVP in 2017. The running back position is back with a vengeance and because of this, Saquon Barkley will be off the board at #2.
9 Shocking: The Colts select Mike McGlinchey 3rd Overall
There is something about the Indianapolis Colts that just seems off these days. It's something about their team without Andrew Luck last season that gives off this feeling of instability throughout the entire organization. What is the deal with Andrew Luck anyway? He has been away from the game for over a full year, will he ever play again?
The Colts better hope so or else they might have to draft a quarterback at #3 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. But for purposes of this article we will believe their front-office reports and go forward assuming that Luck will return in 2018. If that is the case, the Colts need to give him better protection and a good place to start would be by drafting Mike McGlinchey #3 overall, even if it means leaving stud pass rusher Bradley Chubb on the board.
8 Obvious: Baker Mayfield to the Arizona Cardinals
It's apparent that the Arizona Cardinals need a young quarterback to develop as the future face of the franchise and Baker Mayfield looks like a clear fit for where the Cardinals are drafting at #15 overall. Mayfield has on and off the field concerns that the Cardinals must heavily parse through before making this decision, but the Heisman Trophy winner certainly has the talent to play in the NFL.
The Cardinals will also sign a veteran bridge quarterback this offseason to likely be the starter for 2018 before handing the reigns off to Mayfield. Will Mayfield's size affect his ability in the NFL? Or will he be the second coming of Drew Brees, who some scouts compare him to? Only time will tell, but one certainty is the Cardinals making a run at Baker Mayfield in the 2018 NFL Draft.
7 Surprising: Bradley Chubb falls to the Bears at no.8
As just mentioned above, Bradley Chubb will suffer a fall in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he will still remain a top 10 pick. Nearly every expert's mock drafts right now are showing the Colts drafting Bradley Chubb but, as mentioned above, that's not going to happen. The Browns could select him at #4, but it's the Browns and I'm positive they will screw that up somehow, plus they just drafted Myles Garrett at the same position last year.
Chubb is the real deal and is by far the best pass rushing prospect in this draft class. Teams are always on the lookout for a great pass rusher and the Bears would be more than willing to capitalize on Chubb's slight fall down draft boards. The early run on offense in this draft is going to allow many teams to get great steals on the defensive side of the ball. Chubb is the first of those steals here.
6 Surprising: Detroit Lions Take Rashaad Penny at no.20
Many of you are probably asking yourself, "Who is Rashaad Penny?" Well he was the NCAA's leading rusher last season with 2,248 yards and 28 total touchdowns for San Diego State University. Penny is a big, fast, and elusive back that is capable of immediately being a 3-down back in the NFL. He believes that he can be next season's Kareem Hunt and who can doubt it him at this point?
Penny was originally scouted as being a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick, but his name will continue to creep up draft boards over the next few months. The Detroit Lions will be ready and willing to snatch up this extreme playmaker in the first round come May. Penny will be the Lions starting running back by week 4 of the 2018 NFL season and will add an element to the Lions offense that they have never had with Matt Stafford as their quarterback.
5 Obvious: Josh Rosen Solves Denver's QB Problem At at no.5
The Broncos are a quarterback away from being contenders in the AFC again and general manager, John Elway, will do everything he can to find the right signal caller in Denver. If the Broncos can't find a way to sign Kirk Cousins this offseason, they will certainly take their chances on Josh Rosen if he falls to them at #5 in the Draft. It's crazy to think the Broncos are picking so high in the draft, given how talented their roster is.
With a championship caliber defense and a decent offensive line, Josh Rosen could become a smash hit in Denver. He has the bravado and the arm strength to become a fan favorite almost instantly. The one thing Rosen must work on is adding more muscle to his frame so that he is better prepared to take hits from NFL sized linebackers. This would be an ideal fit for both sides.
4 Surprising: The L.A. Chargers will draft a kicker in the 3rd round
I really wanted to say that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would draft a kicker early in this years draft, after they suffered through some of the worst place kicking performances of last year. But the Buccaneers also know the perils of drafting a kicker high in the draft all too well after they traded up into the second round to draft Roberto Aguayo out of Florida State. Aguayo was cut after one season and is now struggling to stay in the NFL.
But every draft a team ends up falling for the trap of drafting a place kicker in the first few rounds and this year that team is the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers are in need of a kicker and will be willing to take a look at Daniel Carlson out of Auburn in the third round. It will be risky, it will be shocking, and odds are that it will not work out in the long run. Sorry Bolts!
3 Surprising: The Patriots Will Draft Mason Rudolph
Tom Brady is still performing at an elite level and has said that he wants to continue playing until he is 45 years old. Whether that is actually plausible is up for debate, but it's almost certain that he will continue to be the leader of the Patriots for the next couple of seasons. But the Patriots like to have a succession place in plan. Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett were both drafted to possibly replace Brady one day, but obviously Brady outlived both of their opportunities.
With both of those guys out, Bill Belichick (or whoever his successor is) will want to draft another young quarterback to groom into his next TB12. Mason Rudolph has many of the same physical traits as Tom Brady and also shares that same killer instinct mentality. Can Tom Brady outlast another young quarterback as the quarterback of the Patriots? Only time will tell.
2 Obvious: Denzel Ward to 49ers
If Calvin Ridley is available at this selection, I would expect the San Francisco 49ers to make a move for him but I do believe that Ridley will be off the board by this pick. The top two cornerbacks in this draft, Denzel Ward and Josh Jackson, are going to be competing for the rights to be first corner drafted in 2018 all spring leading up to the draft. But Denzel Ward has that flash factor that will wow teams like the 49ers.
In a division that features two of the best cornerbacks in the game already (Patrick Peterson on Arizona, and Richard Sherman in Seattle) the 49ers will bring in their own young star to the fray. Ward isn't as tall as other corners available, but he has elite athleticism and ball-hawking skills. Adding Ward to the strong defense the 49ers have been building through the draft the past few years, it will be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks in 2018.
1 Surprising: The Jaguars Will Select Kyle Lauletta In The First Round
This would truly been shocking. Nobody knew who Kyle Lauletta was before the Senior Bowl and many of you reading this probably still have no idea who he is. Lauletta is a Senior quarterback out of small-school Richmond University that stayed under the radar before absolutely torching opponents in the 2018 Senior Bowl. He was rated as a late round, developmental draft pick before the Senior Bowl, but now many scouts are suggesting that he could move up into the second day of the draft. I'm saying he moves all the way up into day one.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have made boneheaded decisions in the past and this could be the one that either extends or quickly closes their championship window. Something just feels like the Jaguars brass will become so enamored with Lauletta's accuracy and timing after having to deal with the inconsistencies of Blake Bortles the past few years. This pick is shocking, but it has sneaky good potential as well.