I think the Jets/Colts trade has given the Browns got a lot of clarity about how to tag-team their picks. If the Giants were eyeing a non-quarterback like Saquon Barkley or Quenton Nelson, they would have taken the Jets' three second-round picks to move down to No. 6, as no team would turn down a haul like that unless it was costing them what they viewed as a franchise quarterback. The Jets obviously would want to go as high as they could, so it isn't unreasonable to think that the Giants turned down the trade. That indicates a quarterback will go to both New York teams. Cleveland can take the quarterback of its choice at No. 1 while having some confidence that Barkley will make it to pick No. 4. Allen fits both what general manager John Dorsey looks for in a quarterback and Todd Haley's quarterback-friendly offense. Allen has a ton of similarities to Haley's former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
WalterFootball.com was first to report that Allen would enter the 2018 NFL Draft, and he announced his declaration after Wyoming's bowl game. At the Senior Bowl, Allen displayed his big skill set with size, toughness, athleticism and a strong arm. In college, there were plays where he looked like a young Ben Roethlisberger, but then there were other plays where he showed bad decision-making and inaccuracy. Allen is a definite work in progress who will need some developmental time. In 2017, Allen completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,812 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He notched five rushing touchdowns as well.
Allen's completion percentage and interception total from 2016 provide evidence for the developmental assessment, too. He completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions that season. The 6-foot-4, 237-pound Allen has a great skill set with tons of upside. He also has drawn good reviews for his character and work ethic.
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The Giants should grab their heir apparent to Eli Manning. Manning is a shell of his former self, and New York would be making a terrible decision not to take a potential franchise quarterback when it has a chance. It is reasonable to assume that the Giants followed the Browns' lead and turned down the trade that the Colts took from the Jets. A team would only really turn down a package of picks that size if that was going to cost it a franchise quarterback. Then, the Giants traded away Jason Pierre-Paul. Actions speak louder than words, and I don't think the Giants would trade a good edge rusher if they were trying to reload and win once more with Manning. To me, these actions say the Giants are going to take a quarterback and have him sit behind Manning for a year or two before taking over the offense. I think Dave Gettleman is a no-nonsense kind of guy and will be more comfortable with Darnold than Josh Rosen. Additionally, there has been a lot of media hype that Darnold is the Giants' preferred quarterback.
Darnold (6-3, 221) is an accurate passer without an elite skill set, but he has developed good anticipation, feel and timing. Darnold is a rhythm thrower who would fit best in a West Coast system to maximize his ability to throw accurately in the short to intermediate part of the field. He also can throw accurately on the run. Routinely, Darnold can use his feet to buy time while keeping his eyes downfield and delivering accurate passes while under pressure. In every game at USC, Darnold would make some impressive throws that were very rare for a college quarterback.
In 2017, Darnold completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He did have problems with interceptions and fumbles in his final collegiate season. A general manager, who scouted Darnold in person during 2017, told me that they like the "it factor" that Darnold displays. That general manager thinks there's nothing wrong with Darnold's throwing motion or arm strength, and that Darnold has some similarities to Philip Rivers. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
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Based off talking with sources with the Jets, two years ago, I had New York taking Christian Hackenberg and, last year based of talking to those sources, I had the Jets passing on a quarterback. They are being very tight-lipped, as one could expect. I thought that Josh Allen was their preferred guy after speaking with Jets staff at the all-star games. But a lot changes during the pre-draft process. With Allen off the board, I've heard the Jets have the quarterbacks rated Sam Darold and then Baker Mayfield. The team would be happy with either one. I think Mayfield's love of football and drive to be great is giving him an edge over Josh Rosen.
Team sources told me that Mayfield did well in his interviews at the combine and that they liked how he threw the ball in his field work there. His teammates raved about him as well. Mayfield (6-0, 216) is a gritty gunslinger who has an "it factor" to his game. He doesn't have elite arm strength, but his arm is good enough to make the throws required in the NFL. One of Mayfield's most impressive strengths as a passer is being able to locate the ball well and throw receivers open. He is very good with his timing and trajectory on passes to hit receivers on the run and set them up for lots of yards after the catch. Mayfield is very skilled to loft in touch passes downfield and throws a very catchable ball. He has excellent mobility to dodge sacks, escape pressure and extend plays with his feet, plus he throws well on the run.
Sources say Mayfield can have issues reading defenses, and his field vision needs to improve. He can struggle to throw the ball in tight windows when being forced to operate out of the pocket. One big area of focus for Mayfield is his footwork as he gets happy feet in the pocket. One college scouting director told me that Mayfield's feet are terrible and will need a lot of development there for the NFL. An NFC general manager said they have concerns about how Mayfield will perform when teams force him to stay in the pocket. They also have concerns that Mayfield beat up on a lot of weak Big XII defenses and feel there is the chance that he gets exposed against NFL defenses. Evaluators who had seen Mayfield in person had estimated him to be around 5-foot-11 or 6-foot, but he measured out at the combine as 6-foot-1. While there have been some successful short quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, they are the exceptions to the norm for quarterbacks who are below 6-foot-2.
Mayfield completed 71 percent of his passes in 2017 for 4,627 yards with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also had five rushing touchdowns and one receiving. In 2016, Mayfield completed 71 percent of his passes for 3,965 yards with 40 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He picked up six rushing touchdowns as well.
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I think Cleveland has made a lot of wise decisions in the trades, and with the players and coaches that the team has added this offseason. Landing the best player in the 2018 NFL Draft with the fourth-overall pick would be the cherry on top to an excellent offseason for the Browns. Hiring John Dorsey, Alonzo Highsmith and Eliot Wolf to run this franchise were wise moves by the Haslams.
Barkley is the best player in the 2018 NFL Draft, regardless of position. He is an elite running back prospect in the same mold of Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, and better than Ezekiel Elliott. All three of those backs turned their teams from picking in the top 10 to playing in the postseason within the first three years of their careers, if not as rookies. Thus, I think Barkley could help turn the Browns into a playoff competitor as soon as this fall.
The 6-foot, 233-pounder has devastating first-step quickness to hit the hole and accelerate downfield. Along with great speed, Barkley has tremendous balance, vision, cutting ability, elusiveness and power. He also is a receiving threat who presents mismatch problems for a defense in the passing attack, and is a good blocker. In the NFL, Barkley should be a devastating play-maker and three-down starter. He also put on a tremendous show at the combine, displaying amazing speed in the 40-yard dash along with explosion in the jumps, strength in the bench press, and solid interviews.
Barkley averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2017 for 1,271 yards with 18 touchdowns. The junior made 54 catches for 632 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2016 for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also made 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley was very impressive as a freshman in 2015 when he averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,076 yards with seven touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 161 yards and a score. Barkley was very impressive, running for 194 yards on 26 carries against an Ohio State defense loaded with NFL talent.
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Denver landed Case Keenum rather than Kirk Cousins at quarterback this offseason. While there will be a question of whether Keenum is the quarterback of the future for the Broncos, they can use this selection on one of the 2018 NFL Draft's best talents and shore up their offensive line in one go. Nelson would re-establish Denver's rushing attack and help Garett Bolles protect its veteran signal-caller.
Nelson was exceptional throughout 2017, dominating opponents on a weekly basis. He has superb strength to blast open holes and is a true road-grader as a run blocker. As a pass protector, Nelson is very athletic with balance, agility, and quickness to shut down pass-rushers. Some league sources say that Nelson is the highest graded guard they've ever scouted, and that includes the likes of Logan Mankins and David DeCastro.
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Nelson was dominant in 2016 as well, showing strength at the point of attack to open holes in the ground game and athleticism in pass protection. That year, teams sources told me that Nelson was receiving first-round grades prior to him deciding to return for his senior season. One general manager told me in fall 2017 that they have Nelson as clearly the best guard prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. They have Nelson as a top-five prospect at any position.
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The Colts successfully traded down with the Jets, picking up an impressive amount of value. I had Indianapolis taking Chubb back at No. 3, and that choice still makes sense at No. 6 since Saquon Barkley went off the board already. The Colts need an edge defender who can be the building block for their defense and a potential franchise defensive player. Chubb could fit that for Indianapolis.
Chubb totaled 73 tackles with 25 for a loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and two passes batted in 2017. He was awesome against Florida State, making some huge plays to lead N.C. State to a road upset with two sacks, a forced fumble and seven tackles. Chubb dominated the competition in 2017, playing like a top-10 pick.
The 6-foot-4, 269-pound Chubb has scheme flexibility and was a tough defender for the Wolfpack. He has good quickness for a big defensive end and has shown the ability to get off blocks with his strength and hand usage. Chubb has developed some variety in pass-rushing moves and looks like an asset as a future three-down starter in the NFL. In 2016, he totaled 58 tackles with 22 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one pass batted. As a sophomore in 2015, Chubb collected 5.5 sacks.
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Tampa Bay needs four quarterbacks to go in the top six. If that happens, the Bucs should have Bradley Chubb or Quenton Nelson fall to them. If either gets to pick No. 7, I believe that would be the direction the Buccaneers would go. I know the Bucs love Nelson, and they would be ecstatic if he got to their pick. I think Nelson is their preferred realistic pick because Saquon Barkley is not falling past the Browns at No. 4 or the Broncos at No. 5. If Nelson and Chubb are off the board, I think Tampa Bay would turn to the defensive backfield. Safety has been a weakness for years for Tampa Bay, and that could easily change with this pick. James could form a talented tandem with Justin Evans. I think the Bucs like James more than Minkah Fitzpatrick.
James totaled 72 tackles with 11 passes batted and two interceptions in 2017. While he didn't put together flawless performances against Alabama and N.C. State during the season, they were impressive overall. James was healthy and able to display his great instincts and rare combination of great size, speed, physicality and versatility. He played dime linebacker, nickel corner, free safety and strong safety, basically doing everything a coach could ask of him. The one steady problem James displayed in 2017 was he could have some limitations in man coverage and being a free safety deep downfield, but he still is a tremendous strong safety with versatility.
James totaled 11 tackles and an interception through two games in 2016 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. He had been playing well for Florida State. Entering that season, there was a lot of hype that James was an elite player and perhaps the best defensive player in college football. As a freshman in 2015, he had a strong debut with 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles, but zero interceptions.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder has a great athletic skill set with tremendous speed, instincts, and strength to hit. He shows the ability to do everything an NFL safety is needed to do. James is fast and long with coverage skills in the deep middle of the field. He also is strong enough to be the eighth man in the box and tackle.
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Chicago finishes off its front seven with Edmunds. The Bears could use more talent across from Leonard Floyd. Aaron Lynch was signed, but he's more of a rotational backup. Edmunds could play inside and outside linebacker as he is a great fit in Vic Fangio's defense.
Edmunds totaled 109 tackles with three forced fumbles, 5.5 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss and two passes batted in 2017. Edmunds recorded 106 tackles with 18.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes broken up, one forced fumble and one interception that season.
In pass coverage, Edmunds (6-4, 253) is very well suited to today's NFL. As a professional he could be an asset as a linebacker weapon to neutralize receiving threat tight ends in man to man coverage. He was very good in zone coverage for Virginia Tech last two seasons. Edmunds is comfortable in space and uses his excellent closing speed to hunt down ball carriers. In zone coverage Edmunds is skilled to pick up receivers coming into his area and keeping them from getting open. He also is a dangerous blitzer and closes ground in an instant.
Edmunds is an excellent run defender. He has good instincts and is quick to read his keys. With quick reactionary skills, he is always around the ball. Add that in with his explosive speed and athleticism, Edmunds covers a ton of ground with a lot of tackles for a loss or near the line of scrimmage. He is a skilled defender at producing a lot of good down-and-distance situations for his defense. Edmunds gave Virginia Tech a lot of second-and-8s, third-and-7s, and consistently put his defense in good position.
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I've heard that the 49ers love Minkah Fitzpatrick. If it weren't for Reuben Foster's uncertain future in the NFL, Fitzpatrick would probably be the pick for San Francisco. However, Foster's NFL career could be over, which would leave the 49ers with a huge hole at linebacker. Roquan Smith is a great scheme fit for San Francisco, and he probably reminds John Lynch of his former teammate Derrick Brooks. I've heard that the 49ers are leaning toward Smith over Fitzpatrick, but it's very close and could break the other way.
From the start of the 2017 season, Smith (6-1, 236) impressed scouting sources with his great play. They compared him to the Falcons' recent second-day picks of the LSU duo of Deion Jones and Duke Riley, except they say that Smith is better than either Jones or Riley. These sources feel Smith is more on a par with Lavonte David coming out of Nebraska. There is no doubt that Smith is a fast and physical linebacker who flies around the field. He is an excellent run defender with speed and athleticism to cover in the passing game.
Smith amassed 137 tackles with 6.5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and two passes batted in 2017. In 2016, he led Georgia in tackles with 95. Smith also had five tackles for a loss, one pass batted and two forced fumbles that season.
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The Raiders have needs all over their defense, but offensive tackle is also a huge issue. I think this pick comes down to Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Mike McGlinchey. Edmunds is off the board in this mock, and he probably will go on Thursday before Oakland picks. The Raiders like Fitzpatrick, but they re-signed Reggie Nelson and added Marcus Gilchrist after using a first-round pick on Karl Joseph and a second-round pick on the massively disappointing Obi Melifonwu. Thus, I think they opt to use valuable resources on another position. Left tackle Donald Penn is aging and injured, while right tackle is a position that needs to be upgraded. McGlinchey is a safe pick who can protect Oakland's investment in Derek Carr.
McGlinchey blocked well for Notre Dame overall in 2017, less a few rough plays versus Miami and Georgia. The 6-foot-7, 309-pounder is a tough run blocker and was part of a good Notre Dame line for years. The senior has good enough feet and athletic ability to get depth in his kick slide and cut off speed rushers. As a run blocker, he can get movement at the point of attack. McGlinchey flashes heavy hands to push defenders out of their gaps and open holes for his back. He also has a nice ability to bend at the knee, and that in combination with his feet, keeps him from having to reach after edge rushers. McGlinchey uses his strength to sustain blocks and has developed good hand placement. His performance over 2017 and 2016 protecting Notre Dame's quarterbacks is evidence that he is a future starting left tackle in the NFL and a first-round pick.
McGlinchey was very impressive at left tackle for the Fighting Irish in 2016. He looked natural in pass protection, and one wouldn't have thought that he wasn't playing the position before that season. In 2015, McGlinchey showed well as a right tackle and displayed a more physical style of play than former Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley. The main area that McGlinchey really needed to improve was his repeated problem with false starts as a junior. McGlinchey seemed to fix that as a senior.
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I think Miami wants Tremaine Edmunds and Roquan Smith, but both of them could easily be gone by the time the organization is on the clock. The Dolphins could move up with Chicago to get one of those linebackers. If Miami stays at No. 11, Vea could be a fit as a replacement for Ndamunkong Suh. Jordan Phillips is also entering the last year of his contract. Even if he's re-signed, the Dolphins will need a trio to rotate with Vea, Phillips and Davon Godchaux.
Vea recorded 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks and four passes batted in 2017. The 6-foot-4, 337-pounder was a load at the point of attack for Washington in 2016, too. He totaled 39 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one force fumble and two passes batted on the season. Vea has a serious combination of size, length, strength, and quickness at the point of attack. He is a heavy nose tackle who is a rock against the run and can occasionally collapse the pocket in the pass rush. For the NFL, Vea also has the height and length to play end in a 3-4 defense as well as nose tackle.
I think Buffalo would move up for Rosen. Somewhere in the No. 5-7 selections, the Bills will find a trading partner to get their quarterback.
WalterFootball.com was first to report that Rosen would enter the 2018 NFL Draft, and he made his public announcement in the first week of January. In 2017, Rosen completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,717 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The junior was up-and-down over the season with highs and lows, including at least one concussion. He had a legendary performance in UCLA's 2017 season opener versus Texas A&M, leading one of the greatest comeback wins in college football history, turning a 44-10 third-quarter deficit into a 45-44 win.
Of the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, Rosen has the best mechanics and is the most natural pocket passer. He throws a tremendous ball and can really spin it with his powerful arm. Rosen's tight spiral helps him to get his passes through tight windows and beat good coverage. The 6-foot-4, 226-pounder has serious arm talent with field vision and pocket presence. Rosen has well-documented concerns with his intangibles. Team sources told me Rosen made efforts to be a better teammate over the last year and half and showed progress there. Some general managers have told me about their concerns about Rosen being a partier, so he will need to ease some doubts during his pre-draft interviews and visits. There also are durability concerns with Rosen, who missed seven contests over the past two seasons and was knocked out of a few games as well.
Rosen had an impressive debut as a freshman in 2015, completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,670 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. As a sophomore, he completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,915 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games before suffering a season-ending injury.
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The Redskins could go a few directions with this pick. While it is widely known that they want Vita Vea, he's off the board. Washington needs a run stuffer to pair with Jonathan Allen and cause disruption at the line of scrimmage. Reuniting Payne with Allen could be a tough tandem that is a great consolation prize for missing out on Vea.
Payne dominated at the point of attack in 2017, stuffing runs while showcasing his freakish speed and athleticism. On the year, he totaled 53 tackles, two half-sacks, three passes batted, an interception and a touchdown reception. I heard general managers and scouts raving about Payne all season.
Scouts were already raving about Payne's potential in the preseason. He was the Crimson Tide's best defensive lineman in 2017, following Jonathan Allen's moving on to the NFL. Payne (6-2, 311) is a run plugger with a lot of potential to grow. When given the opportunity to rush the passer in 2016 and 2017, Payne was impressive, and sources have said that he helped set up sacks for numerous Alabama defenders, including Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson and Rashaan Evans, over the previous two seasons.
Sources tell me the Packers could target an edge defender or wide receiver help in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. If there isn't a good option available at one of those positions, they would think of going with the best player available. Davenport would upgrade the Packers' run defense, edge rush, and the athleticism of their front seven.
Davenport (6-5, 264) possesses an excellent skill set with speed and agility. He has length and athleticism to play on the edge in the NFL, but needs to learn more pass-rushing moves. In 2017, Davenport notched 55 tackles with 17.5 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, four passes batted and three forced fumbles. He totaled 6.5 sacks as a junior after notching four as a sophomore.
Edge defenders with length, quickness and athleticism are always in demand, so Davenport could go in the first round in a weak year at defensive end. Scouts from multiple teams have told me that Davenport is a good player and impressed them in 2017, but they thought the top 16 is too high for him. They think the back half of Round 1 is possible.
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I'm not confident that Arizona values Lamar Jackson this high, and none of the other four first-round quarterbacks have made it to this pick. The Cardinals could definitely trade up for a signal-caller, but if they stay at No. 15 and none of the quarterbacks they like get to them, I think they could address the defensive line or secondary. Marcus Davenport would make sense, but he just went off the board. Hence, here's a corner to pair with Patrick Peterson.
Some team sources are very high on Ward (5-10, 183) and think he is one of the best defensive prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. The one concern shared across the league is Ward's height as he checked in just below 5-foot-11 at the combine. For the NFL, Ward has good speed, athleticism, ball skills, and quick feet to run the route to prevent separation. He times his reaches well and shows nice instincts to play the eyes and hands of receivers. To go along with his cover skills, Ward is generally a disciplined player and is not a gambler. Ward looks like a future starter and could have No. 1-corner potential in the NFL if he can overcome his size limitations.
Ward recorded 37 tackles with 15 passes broken up and two interceptions in 2017. While primarily a backup in 2016, Ward totaled 23 tackles with nice passes broken up.
The Ravens have shown interest in Jackson, and Joe Flacco has struggled over the past few seasons. I think Ozzie Newsome likes the idea of setting up Baltimore for the long term at the most important position on the field. The Ravens have signed Robert Griffin III this offseason as well. With Flacco and Griffin, Baltimore has time to work with and develop Jackson. I think the signs point to the Ravens being open to changing their offensive philosophy and going to a dual-threat quarterback.
In 2017, Jackson completed 59 percent of his passes for 3,660 yards with 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also averaged 6.9 yards per carry on the ground on his way to 1,443 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. One general manager told me they think Jackson could be deserving of going high in the first round because he's a taller and better version of Michael Vick. In speaking to multiple league sources including a few general managers, they think Jackson is being undervalued right now, similar to Deshaun Watson a year ago.
Jackson has a great athletic skill set, including a powerful arm that can make all throws the NFL requires and some rare passes. While his tremendous running ability gets a lot of attention, Jackson is better passing from the pocket than he is given credit for. Jackson can take some shots and deliver good passes in the face of the rush. He also handled Bobby Petrino's scheme well. Jackson can be inconsistent with his accuracy, and he needs to add weight to his frame for the NFL. He also needs to develop maturity in his leadership skills as he can be of one of the guys too much.
Jackson (6-2, 216) set college football on fire in 2016 while winning the Heisman Trophy. He was a massive point-producer for the Cardinals. Jackson completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the year. He also ran for 21 touchdowns and 1,571 yards while averaging six yards per carry.
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