With the NFL Combine and much of the “Free Agency Frenzy” now behind us, it is firmly NFL Draft Season or #DraftSZN – according to how the kids stylize it these days... In my 1.0 version of the mock draft I did not include trades, but now that we have a far better understanding of the prospects – largely due to the combine – and of team needs – largely due to players being traded, cut, or newly signed – the gloves are off. Below you will see my best hypothesis on how the 2018 NFL Draft will unfold; trades included this time.

1: Cleveland Browns | Sam Darnold | QB | USC |

Cleveland has been looking for their signal calling savior since, well, forever… Darnold’s size, arm, instincts, and leadership make him the top quarterback in this class – a position that didn’t change even after the combine – which makes him a no brainer pick for the forever-suffering Browns. Don’t let draft community fatigue throw you off about Darnold’s ability and worthiness as the number one overall pick, as we have seen the same thing happen year in and year out.  Joey Bosa, Jameis Winston, and Jadeveon Clowney, are names that come to mind, and we saw how they all turned out…

A couple of more things I want to add here...

With all of the talk about Penn State running back Saquon Barkley going number one to Cleveland, I feel it necessary to address how stupid that would be... Cleveland has been looking for a franchise quarterback since the Reagan administration; they literally haven’t had a good QB since Bernie Kosar. Considering this is a class with a handful of legitimate franchise quarterbacks in it, the Browns, through their number one overall pick, are gifted with the opportunity to choose their favorite and likely the most talented of the bunch. Many are arguing that Barkley is the best player in the draft and that he is too good to pass on, and while that may be true, the only scenario that trumps taking the best player is when you have a chance to get your franchise quarterback.

“But they have the fourth overall pick too! They can just take Barkley and then take the best of the remaining QB’s at four!”

Here’s why that’s wrong:

1) When picking a quarterback, you have to go get one rather than let one fall into your lap. This player is going to define your franchise for the next decade and a half – God willing – so you can’t just let fate take over and hope that the teams above you will skip on your favorite guy. It’s not just about getting a talent at quarterback; his makeup, personality, and the narrative that follows him will too become your franchise image for years to come.

2) As I said, teams go and get quarterbacks. We have seen time and again, especially over the last few years, that teams are willing to move heaven and earth to get their guy. Last year alone the Bears moved up a spot for Mitchell Trubisky, the Texans moved up 13 spots for Deshaun Watson, and the Chiefs moved up a whopping 17 spots for Patrick Mahomes. Dollars to doughnuts, if the Browns take a running back number one, teams are going to offer all of King Midas’ gold to move up and get a shot at the top quarterbacks before the Browns pick again at four. The Jets and Bills have already made moves to get closer to the top, while rumors are heating up that the Giants would be willing to move out for the right deal too. As it stands now, the Jets, Bills, and Cardinals will all be looking to get a franchise signal caller in this draft, so they will be legitimate trade up candidates regardless if the Browns go QB at one or not. Let’s also not forget that the Giants are still in the market for one as well. With all of that being said, of the four or so franchise signal callers that exist in this draft, right off the bat the Browns are likely to see two of them disappear before they even get a chance to pick at four.

3) The Browns assuming that they could take a running back – the deepest and most talented position group in the draft mind you – and wait on their quarterback until they pick again at four would be oh so poetically Browns. Time and again they have punted on taking franchise signal callers… Kellen Winslow over Ben Roethlisberger, Braylon Edwards over Aaron Rodgers, Brandon Weeden (28 year old rookie) over Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins, Johnny Manziel (known drug and alcohol problems) over Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo, traded out instead of taking Carson Wentz or Jimmy Garoppolo, etc. The list goes on I’m sure, but this is just to name a few…

While long winded, my ultimate point is that the Browns can’t afford to pass on a quarterback with the first overall pick; the stakes are just too high.

2: New York Giants | Josh Rosen | QB | UCLA |

The Giants new regime can say all they want about how they aren’t rebuilding right now and that they believe that Eli Manning has at least a few good years left in him, but the fact of the matter is that when you are picking this high with an ever-aging quarterback, you have to take his successor – especially in a class as loaded at the position as this one is. As for the selection, Josh Rosen is one of the rare quarterback prospects that I felt could be an NFL starter coming straight out of high school; yes you read that right. His footwork is graceful, on a level reminiscent of Andrew Luck and Jared Goff, while his mechanics under center make him appear as though he was born with a football in his hands. He has good pacing and tempo in the pocket, a strong and accurate arm, and he spins a tight spiral – The kid is just natural at all things quarterbacking. Ultimately, when provided with a clean pocket he will make the right decision and an accurate throw 10-out-of-10 times. For me, two things hold him back from being the top overall pick… 1) The fact that he can get a little skittish when the pocket gets messy, and 2) his noted injury history. For these reasons, Rosen will luckily be gifted with the opportunity to sit for awhile, reset his body to 100-percent, and learn behind a future Hall of Famer in Eli Manning. Manning – a player who has never been injured in his career – can bestow upon Rosen some wisdom on remaining healthy over the course of an NFL season, while he may also be able to teach him a thing or two about improving his decision making when the play goes off script. To sum it up, there are plenty of other options in play for the Giants here that will make their team better, i.e. Bradley Chubb, Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson, etc. but ultimately taking Rosen – or the quarterback they like the best – will transform their franchise for the next decade at minimum. When you are picking this high and are on the brink of a rebuild, quarterback trumps all other positions.

3: New York Jets (via Colts) | Baker Mayfield | QB | Oklahoma |

After moving up from 6th to 3rd, it’s no secret that the Jets are looking for a quarterback. It’s now just a matter of which one falls to them and which one they like best. While Josh Allen is the guy who some scouts and front offices are drooling over due to his rare athleticism, build, and arm strength combination, he’s far from a finished prospect. Baker Mayfield on the other hand -- say what you will about his small stature and big bravado -- shows the traits that can immediately translate to the NFL. With the Jets coaching staff and front office both clearly on the hot seat this season, they don’t have the time to hold Josh Allen’s hand while he receives a culture shock at the NFL level. Mayfield is ready to play and win now, and between you and me I think he’ll end up being the better player long term too.   

4: Buffalo Bills (From Browns, via Texans) | Josh Allen | QB | Wyoming |

TRADE PREDICTION: Bills acquire 4th overall pick; Browns acquire 12th, 22nd, and 56th overall picks

While I just took a crap all over Josh Allen’s NFL future, in this section I will give you the other side of the story, one that can make him successful...

In Buffalo, due to the strong winds and temperature coming off the lake, a well-built and strong armed quarterback is necessary for success. Not only does Allen possess a massive frame with a cannon arm, he also is accustomed to cold weather games, playing his four years of college ball in Wyoming. While I previously mentioned that he, of this talented class of quarterbacks, is the one who absolutely won’t be ready to start from day one, luckily with the Bills he will be gifted with the opportunity to sit behind the recently signed A.J. McCarron.  

With all of that being said about the player, for those interested in the particulars of the hypothetical trade made here, listen up… It is no secret that the Bills plan on moving further up in the draft, possessing multiple first rounders and no franchise quarterback. Sure they over paid a bit here, but in order to get the Browns to move out of the coveted four spot, they would need to be blown away by a potential deal. The Bills made that happen here and that is what you have to do to get yourself a franchise quarterback.

5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Saquon Barkley | RB | Penn State |

TRADE PREDICTION: Buccaneers acquire 5th overall pick; Broncos acquire 7th, 102nd overall picks, and 2019 2nd Rounder

Based off of his tape and how he blew up the Combine last month, it should come as no surprise to see Barkley come off the board as the first non-quarterback taken. For Tampa, he will slot right in as the day one, do-it-all, starting running back – a player whose natural talent and potential production will vastly relieve the stress currently resting on the shoulders of quarterback Jameis Winston.

As it stands, the current coaching staff and front office are in a win or go home situation, which more realistically means that if they don’t make the playoffs in 2018, they will likely be fired. When your back is against the wall, you have to do all you can to survive; think of how Dallas took Zeke when their staff was on notice after the 2015 season, or how the Jaguars took Leonard Fournette last season… Leapfrogging the Colts and snagging the best playmaker in the draft is just about the best possible thing Tampa can do in order to ensure an uptick in wins in 2018. Luckily for them the cost wasn’t too steep to move up two spots.

6: Indianapolis Colts (via Jets) | Bradley Chubb | DE | N.C. State |

There’s a lot of great running backs, a lot of great receivers, and a lot of great corners in this draft. You know what there is only one “great” of in this class? Pass rusher. Because of this, Chubb is the rather obvious pick here for a team that has not one, not two, but three picks in the second round. If they want, the Colts can add any or all of the three aforementioned positions with those subsequent selections, while they can also package a few of them to get into the back end of the first round in hopes of grabbing one of the top guards still likely to be available. A lot of options here for a team looking to reload talent in a hurry.  

7: Denver Broncos | Quenton Nelson | OG | Notre Dame |

TRADE PREDICTION: Broncos acquire 7th, 102nd overall picks, and 2019 2nd Rounder; Buccaneers acquire 5th overall pick

It’s always nice when a team is able to get the best player in the draft seven picks later than they should. Nelson is massive (6-foot-5, 330 lbs.), mean, talented, and technical. He’s drawn comparisons to Cowboys Hall of Famer Larry Allen, and while that expectation is quite lofty, I honestly would be shocked if he wasn’t a perennial All-Pro and starting in his rookie year. He’s the can’t miss prospect in this draft, which is great for any team, but particularly great for a Broncos team that needs some serious interior offensive line help. As for the trade back, the deal made sense for them once the top four QB’s flew off the board right before their eyes. Case Keenum will get them by for the next few years, while they can use their extra 2019 second round pick to perhaps move up and get their QB of the future in next year’s draft.

8: Dallas Cowboys | Derwin James | S | Florida State |

TRADE PREDICTION: Cowboys acquire 8th overall pick; Bears acquire 19th, 50th overall picks, and 2019 3rd rounder

With the Bears adding Allen Robinson in free agency, wide receiver no longer appears to be as big of a need, while their top target Quenton Nelson just came off the board a pick earlier. With no clear pick to make here, it would make sense for the Bears to trade back.

That’s where the Cowboys come in – a team desperately looking to add a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball… Derwin James is a transcendent box safety, drawing comparisons to Kam Chancellor and Eric Berry. While the Cowboys are young and upcoming in the secondary, adding James will not complicate things, but instead will only further their collective progression. To put it simply, plug James in at strong safety and let the rest figure itself out. In this selection, Byron Jones can easily move back to corner – his most natural position – while Chido Awuzie, Xavier Woods, or a combination of both of them can plug in and rotate at free safety.

9: San Francisco 49ers | Minkah Fitzpatrick | DB | Alabama |

It’s surprising to see arguably the draft’s best defender fall this far, but the Niners and their fanbase won’t be complaining if it ends up actually being the case. As it stands, San Francisco has holes in a few areas of their defensive backfield, particularly at safety and in the slot, which coincidentally happens to be the two specialties of one Minkah Fitzpatrick. While I believe that he has the talent to eventually lead a career as a traditional outside corner, the Niners would be wise to use his incredibly versatile skill-set as both a defensive weapon and as a means to fill multiple maladies with one roster spot. An excellent value pick right here.

10: Oakland Raiders | Denzel Ward | CB | Ohio State |

While I love what Minkah can do in the secondary, in terms of pure cornerback play in this draft, the discussion begins and ends with Denzel Ward. Yes, he is slightly undersized according to the ideal prototype for the position, but his testing numbers were legendary at the Combine, while his tape shows a rare ability to mirror receivers in and out of every break. Sure, the Raiders have many needs, of which include linebacker in particular, but instead here they decided to play the board BPA and managed to fill a more premium position in the process. From day one, Ward will be an immediate upgrade over whatever corners that the Raiders currently have on their roster.

11: Miami Dolphins | Roquan Smith | LB | Georgia |

Smith is the best linebacker in the draft and he will immediately join the Dolphins as a plug and play starter in an area of need. With Smith likely to be slotted at his natural weakside linebacker position, Kiko Alsono will be gifted the opportunity to move over to the middle, his natural position, while Raekwon McMillan can shift from Mike to Sam on the strongside, also his best suited role. If you aren’t getting the point here, getting Smith will not only give the Dolphins an excellent player, but his arrival will also transform their defense to allow other players to revert back to their natural positions. A true home run selection here.

12: Cleveland Browns (from Bills, via Bengals)  | Tremaine Edmunds | LB | Virginia Tech |

TRADE PREDICTION: Browns acquire 12th, 22nd, and 56th overall picks; Bills acquire 4th and 64th overall picks

After taking a quarterback at number one, the Browns are truly gifted with the opportunity to play the board BPA (best player available) for the remainder of the draft. In this scenario, they traded out of their fourth overall pick, giving them an even bigger haul of early selections, counting to six total picks in the first 56!

Based off of what is left on the board here, Edmunds is clearly the best player available. Built in the mold of Jamie Collins – a player whom he would join along the Browns linebacking corps – Edmunds possesses a twitched up and versatile skill-set. He’s still rather raw, but based off of his natural gifts and skills, Edmunds will soon serve as a mismatch wherever he is lined up across the defensive front seven. As for where he’ll fit in the Browns defense in particular, any of the three linebacker spots would be my guess, while he can also provide edge pressure on situational passing downs. A high ceiling pick for Cleveand here.

13: Washington Redskins | Vita Vea | NT | Washington |

The Redskins really suffered in the run game this past season, making it clear rather early on that they need an upgrade along their defensive line. Pound for pound, Vea is probably the most talented athlete in the entire draft, as he can do at 350 lbs what some struggle to do at 250. He’s explosive, twitchy, and instinctual, which is how he beats offensive linemen, while his sheer size is what helps him clog up the middle when asked to do so. He will plug and play as the nose in this Redskins 3-4 base, however if needed he has the talent to play at the five-technique as well.

14: Green Bay Packers | Josh Jackson | CB | Iowa |

Jackson has scouts rather split. On the one hand he provided incredible ball production last season with a nation leading 26 pass breakups and eight interceptions. On the other hand he was a one year wonder and on tape displayed no willingness to contribute in the run game. Ultimately his production, size, and upside will get him into the top-15 of this draft, giving the Packers a talented player at a position of need.

15: Arizona Cardinals | Lamar Jackson | QB | Louisville |

With four quarterbacks leading off this draft, the Cardinals are backed into a corner. Here they pull the trigger on one of the most controversial players in the draft – not Josh Allen, but Lamar Jackson. On the field, I personally see a clone of Michael Vick in Jackson, which, say what you want, will make him a successful NFL quarterback for years to come. The combination of Jackson under center and the returning of David Johnson in the backfield will bring the Cardinals immediately back to relevance in the playoff picture next season.

16: Baltimore Ravens | Calvin Ridley | WR | Alabama |

The Ravens are desperate for receiver help and in Ridley they get the best the draft has to offer. He isn’t the biggest, strongest, or even the fastest, but he is explosive, sudden, and runs the full NFL route tree at an extremely high level. I liken him to a Davante Adams type in that they measured and tested almost exactly the same at the NFL Combine, while they also both are incredibly versatile for the position – can play inside or outside, have possession, deep threat, and red zone traits, etc.

17: Los Angeles Chargers | Da’Ron Payne | DT | Alabama |

The Chargers could go in a few directions here, but with the franchise quarterbacks off the board, they decided to instead play the first round BPA. Payne is not only the best player available, but he also fills a huge need for the Bolts interior defensive line. The book on Payne is that he’s first and foremost… Disruptive. He’s blessed with a rare combination of size, instincts, and athleticism for the position and because of that, he always commands a double-team. His ability to eat up blockers inside will free up their already elite edge rushers in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa to see more frequent 1v1’s on the outside. This is a pick that will make the Chargers immediately better.  

18: Seattle Seahawks | Derrius Guice | RB | LSU |

With Russell Wilson last year accounting for over 85-percent of the offensive production, it is time that Seattle changes their philosophy – they are no longer a team built around defense. Considering that, it is time for the Seahawks to start building around their franchise quarterback. While they could use some improvements along the offensive line – even after a few free agent additions this offseason – at this selection, I could absolutely envision them pulling the trigger on a running back who is not only NFL ready, but is also drawing some serious Marshawn Lynch comparisons. Love the player and love the fit here.

19: Chicago Bears | Isaiah Wynn | OG | Georgia |

TRADE PREDICTION: Bears acquire 19th, 50th overall picks, and 2019 3rd rounder; Cowboys acquire 8th overall pick

The Bears number one draft need is interior offensive line help, and after Quenton Nelson came off the board just one pick prior to theirs earlier in the round, they decided to move out of the slot. At 19, the Bears still managed to get the second best guard in the draft and they accomplished this feat while picking up an extra second and third rounder in the process. I would call that quite an accomplishment for the Windy City club.

20: Detroit Lions | Marcus Davenport | Edge | UTSA |

With the Lions slated to move to a base 3-4 defense this upcoming season after the hiring of Matt Patricia as their new head coach, a twitched up edge rusher becomes a must for their roster. Davenport not only is one of the most athletically gifted and raw talents in this draft, but he also possesses the versatile skill-set to play either off the ball or with his hand in the dirt – a necessary trait to function on the edge in a Patricia-run defense.  

21: Cincinnati Bengals (via Bills) | James Daniels | C | Iowa |

After getting a cornerstone left tackle in Cordy Glenn that landed them this 21st overall pick, the Bengals may just be a top young center away from overhauling their offensive line. Daniels proved at the Combine to be the best center in the draft, as he displayed not only elite athleticism in the testing numbers, but also flawless technique in the positional drills. Oh, and his tape is pretty darn good too… His plug and play ability in the middle will be just what the doctor ordered for Cincinnati in the first round.

22: Cleveland Browns (from Bills via Chiefs) | Mike McGlinchey | OT | Notre Dame |

TRADE PREDICTION: Browns acquire 12th, 22nd, and 56th overall picks; Bills acquire 4th and 64th overall picks

As I have beat to death over the last few years… Once you take a young quarterback, the next step is to build around him. McGlinchey is arguably the best tackle prospect in the draft and considering the fact that the Browns managed to get him with their third selection in the first round, I would say they made out like bandits. Expect McGlinchey to start at either tackle spot right off the bat in his rookie season.

So to recap for Cleveland in this first round: 1st overall – Sam Darnold (best quarterback); 12th overall – Tremaine Edmunds (arguably best linebacker); 22nd overall – Mike McGlinchey (arguably best offensive tackle).

This scenario would transform them immediately.

23: Los Angeles Rams | Lorenzo Carter | Edge | Georgia |

I know it’s surprising to see Carter come off the board ahead of names like Harold Landry and Sam Hubbard, but particularly based off of his eye popping Combine numbers and potential fit in Wade Phillips’ defensive scheme, I thought this selection made the most sense for the Rams here. Carter not only is an athletic freak (6-foot-5 | 250 lbs. | 4.46 40-time) and twitched up edge presence, but he’s also an ascending prospect with the proven skill-set to play both in space and as a screamer bending the corner. With the way that Wade Phillips likes to use his outside linebackers in his 3-4 hybrid scheme, Carter seems to be the perfect fit amongst an otherwise underwhelming linebacking corps.

24: Carolina Panthers | Sam Hubbard | DE | Ohio State |

The Panthers need to get younger and more explosive off the edge. Luckily for them, Sam Hubbard has a relentless motor that knows no off switch. He’s likely not a double-digit sack guy every season, but his motor, alongside Kawann Short, and opposite Julius Peppers, should vastly improve the team’s overall pass rush, almost instantly.

25: Tennessee Titans | Harold Landry | Edge | Boston College |

And the run on edge players continues… With new head coach Mike Vrabel coming in, he is going to want to add talent and depth to this underwhelming Titans pass rush. Landry – the most accomplished pass rusher in the draft – has the speed and edge bending ability that will perfectly compliment the power and persistence of Brian Orakpo on the opposite side.  

26: Atlanta Falcons | Taven Bryan | DT | Florida |

The departure of Dontari Poe has left a rather big hole at defensive tackle for the Falcons. In Bryan, Atlanta will be getting a raw, yet disruptive force, who has drawn some favorable comparisons to J.J. Watt, Cam Jordan, and Fletcher Cox. For the Falcons, Bryan would slot in as the three-tech, while Grady Jarrett would kick back over to the nose/1-tech spot – his most natural position.

27: New Orleans Saints | Mike Gesicki | TE | Penn State |

I could argue that no player improved their stock more at the NFL Combine than Gesicki. He posted legendary testing numbers and ran circles around the rest of his position group in the on-field drills, oh and did I mention that he has some pretty kick ass tape to boot? In any event, I think he did more than enough to warrant himself a first round selection. For a guy who is drawing plenty of Jimmy Graham comparisons, I feel that his landing spot in New Orleans might just be a match made in heaven.

As it stands, the Saints current starting tight end is Josh Hill


Gesicki should have no problem working his way into the starting uint quickly, which in this offense would make him an immediate fantasy factor.

28: Pittsburgh Steelers | Leighton Vander Esch | LB | Boise State |

It’s no secret that the future of Ryan Shazier’s football career is up in the air at the moment. Considering that, as sad as it is to come to terms with, linebacker has to be the number one draft priority for the Steelers this offseason. Evans is not only the best linebacker still available, but his common pro comparison to Lawrence Timmons makes him a perfect plug and play fit in this Steelers base defense.

29: Jacksonville Jaguars | Connor Williams | OL | Texas |

Tight end could still certainly be the pick here, but after adding a few in free agency, I expect that the Jags would take the best player left on the board while filling a need. Williams – a left tackle in college – as a rookie will at worst serve as a versatile depth offensive lineman for Jacksonville. Ultimately though, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pushed A.J. Cann for the starting right guard spot out of camp, while his future may end up as being a franchise left tackle and the best one to come out of this draft. For a team that seemingly has everything, this is a great value pick for the Jags.

30: Minnesota Vikings | Will Hernandez | OG | UTEP |

Truth be told, the Vikings don’t have many holes. With a gun to my head I would say that they could use the most help in shoring up their offensive line, especially after shelling out all of that cash to Kirk Cousins, which makes Hernandez the most logical pick here. A snow plow in the run game, Hernandez can take his 350 lbs. frame and start from day one at left guard over the well below-average Nick Easton who received a measly 41.5 rating according to Pro Football Focus.

31: New England Patriots | Jaire Alexander | CB | Louisville |

If 373 passing yards allowed to a backup quarterback in the Super Bowl wasn’t enough of a wakeup call, I don’t know what is… The Pats need some serious help in the secondary. This is especially true when considering the fact that they lost former Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler this offseason as well. In Alexander the Patriots get themselves a former track star who not only blew up the Combine, but also has some kick ass tape to go along with the eye popping testing numbers.

32: Philadelphia Eagles | Mike Hughes | CB | Central Florida |

The deteriorating health and ever-advancing age of left tackle Jason Peters makes an offensive lineman Philly’s number one draft need this offseason, but with most of the day one starters already off the board, they turn their attention to their second most important need – the secondary.  While the Eagles have some good players on the back end – some of whom have been drafted rather highly in recent years – during this past Super Bowl, it was pretty clear that they still need more help in that area (allowed Tom Brady to pass for 505 yards and three touchdowns). In Hughes the Eagles get a raw, inexperienced corner, but one who has excellent traits in both the pass and run game. The Eagles have enough guys who can start over Hughes in the meantime while he learns the nuances of the NFL game, but if nothing else, his prowess as a return man will still provide the Super Bowl champs an immediate impact from their first round selection.