It’s somehow already mock draft season. That happened fast. For all we like to hear about the NFL not being that exciting, from people who mostly like to complain about things that are fun, the end of the NFL season was superb. The 2018 NFL playoffs were thrilling and Super Bowl LII was a top-five Super Bowl ever, and that’s with me tamping down the hyperbole.
Now draft season is about to be off the charts, thanks to a combination of quarterbacks we’ve never seen before. That’s not to say this it’s the best quarterback class of all time — 1983 and 2004 would like a word — but the depth at the position and the controversy surrounding that depth is just stunning.
In any given year, Sam Darnold could, by virtue of his turnover problems, his age, the school he attended, his prospect status and more, be the most controversial quarterback in the draft, with people fawning over him and others trying to tear him down.
At best, Darnold is the fifth most controversial quarterback in this class. We know these guys are going to go early, but good luck figuring out exactly what order they’re going to go in.
One guarantee from these mocks and for every single “winners/losers” from draft weekend: The Browns will come out on top, with people praising their performance on draft day. That’s the benefit of having two top-four picks. In this case, they get Darnold and Saquon Barkley, two guys who play high-profile positions and can make an impact right away. It will draw praise.
You know what’s most surprising about this early mock draft? It doesn’t look that different from. Either that means the prospects all had a great year, or we’re just not remotely deep enough into draft season yet. It could be both. See you every Tuesday.
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, USC: There will be a lot of debate about the quarterback position and who new general manager John Dorsey wants to take with the top pick, but Darnold right now offers the best combination of highest floor plus highest ceiling out of all the available prospects. At some point I’ll get cute and give Cleveland a non-QB at No. 1 but not out of the gate.
2. New York Giants
Jake Rosen, QB, UCLA: The Giants have a quarterback in Eli Manning but still need one for the long haul and Rosen fills that role, with the bonus of having a personality that fits in well with the Big Apple.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State: The Eagles just won the Super Bowl on the heels of pass rushing and now the Colts need to try and do the same, except they don’t really have any pass rush! Fortunately they have a quarterback and there is a pass rusher sitting there for them.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Texans)
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: This feels high for Dorsey taking a running back, but you add a young quarterback with a stud RB like Barkley, throw them behind that offensive line, and all of a sudden you’re cooking with gas.
5. Denver Broncos
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: The Broncos spent too much time with Mayfield this offseason for there not to be fire with the smoke. At the very least they definitely need a quarterback since Paxton Lynch does not appear to be the answer and John Elway needs to secure the future at the position. With Kirk Cousins in play here, we’ll give the Broncos Mayfield for now.
6. New York Jets
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame: It’s uncanny how this draft, loaded with quarterbacks, lined up with teams who need a quarterback at the top of the draft. The Jets were a LOCK for a QB before the season began and now might see four of them off the board before they pick.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama: The Bucs’ offense was a problem last season but they still need help on the defensive side of things, and an instant-impact player like Fitzpatrick, extremely versatile in the secondary, would help immediately.
8. Chicago Bears
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: Are we down on Ridley? It feels like people are down on Ridley. He doesn’t have the eye-popping stats you might want, but he has enough size and speed to work in just about any system.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Derwin James, DB, Florida State: The 49ers focused on defense last year, then landed Jimmy Garoppolo via trade with New England. So more defense here, especially with a super versatile player like James who can move all over the field.
10. Oakland Raiders
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia: This is a perfect fit in terms of need and player, but I almost feel confident Smith won’t make it this far by the time the draft actually rolls around. He’s a future superstar and despite the position being less valuable, it’s easy to imagine him going higher. Still, the Raiders would love to land him here.
11. Miami Dolphins
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: It’s not hard to imagine Adam Gase seeing the potential in Allen and thinking he could harness it after a full year of sitting on the bench behind Ryan Tannehill. If Gase sprinkled his QB dust on the highly talented Allen and it worked he would be a monster.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
Connor Williams, OT, Texas: The Bengals drafted some tackles (Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher) but the offensive line was still a problem. Drafting Williams gives them some flexibility and upside at the position.
13. Washington Redskins
14. Green Bay Packers
15. Arizona Cardinals
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: This might be too low for McGlinchey, who is capable of sliding in and making an impact. The Cards still have the whole “we don’t have a quarterback under contract” situation going for them, but they can’t reach in the first if no one is there.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU: Another year, another wide receiver for the Ravens in the first round. Mike Wallace is a free agent and they have Jeremy Maclin, but they need an infusion of youth at the position if they want to help Joe Flacco.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
18. Seattle Seahawks
Vita Vea, DT, Washington: There’s honestly no telling where the Seahawks go with this first-round pick. They’re going to see Sheldon Richardson hit free agency and need to get deeper and better on the defensive line. Vea is a big body who can help the defense.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Arden Key, DE, LSU: A talented but troubled defensive end for a pass-rush needy defense? This sounds familiar. The Cowboys aren’t afraid to take chances on players in the draft and Key has a ton of upside.
20. Detroit Lions
21. Buffalo Bills
Billy Price, OL, Ohio State: The Bills are losing Eric Wood to retirement, which means they need to find some help to replenish the offensive line. Fortunately they can feel comfortable grabbing the top rated center on the board here.
22. Buffalo Bills from Chiefs
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: And why not grab a quarterback too?? Jackson is a controversial prospect, but I can’t see him falling out of the first round given his talent. The Bills can’t give him starter snaps in his first year unless something goes wrong, but they can develop him for the long haul.
23. Los Angeles Rams
24. Carolina Panthers
Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia: The Panthers inked Matt Kalil to a big contract but could be losing guard Andrew Norwell in free agency and need more depth and talent on the offensive line. Wynn is a beast who could potentially slide inside early on.
25. Tennessee Titans
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville: The Titans have the offensive talent to compete immediately, but need to beef up their defensive talent, and adding another cornerback to pair with Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson would give them some legitimate depth in the defensive backfield.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan: Dontari Poe is a free agent this offseason, so it’s possible the Falcons are looking to add depth and talent on the defensive line by the time the draft rolls around. This would be a steal this late in the draft.
27. New Orleans Saints
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State: Sean Payton has not been afraid to invest early assets in offensive pieces, and assuming they reload with Drew Brees, adding another pass catcher could help in a big way.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ronald Jones, RB, USC: This would be a shock to the system, but it would also give them a pair of talented backs for the long haul, assuming that Le’Veon Bell ultimately does not sign a long-term deal (this is presuming a franchise tag).
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State: Jacksonville has a storied history of disaster with wideouts in the first round (and a noted issue with OK State guys recently), but Blake Bortles (or whoever) needs help, especially if Allen Robinson ends up walking in free agency.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Kolten Miller, OL, UCLA: The Vikings improved their offensive line in the offseason prior to 2017 via free agency and it paid dividends, but it was still not a great unit. Drafting and developing some guys on the line is critical.
31. New England Patriots
Taven Bryan, DL, Florida: The last time the Pats took a dip in the first-round Florida defensive lineman pool, it didn’t work out so well, but explosion is explosion and they need help on defense in a bad way.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA: The Eagles have made a point of drafting depth at the defensive line, so it would hardly be surprising if they decided to invest more assets in the position, especially with Chris Long not secured for the long haul.