17 Apr Stromme The Way: 2018 NFL Mock Draft
By: Mike Stromme – @Stromme_93
It’s that time of year! Let’s speculate and prognosticate who will employ the creme of the crop of this year’s graduating class.
The following mock draft will consist of what I believe each team WILL DO; not what I think they SHOULD do. All I’m trying to do, is get in the complex minds of 32 NFL front offices. And honestly, that’s all of us in the media can do; speculate and prognosticate.
Anyways, without further adieu, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock…
1)Cleveland Browns, QB Josh Allen:
Personally, this isn’t the direction I would take the revamped Cleveland Browns franchise, but industry speculation is that the Browns like the upside of the tall gunslinger out of Wyoming.
Of the top-flight QBs expected to go in the first round, Allen has the biggest upside, he can throw an 80-yard bomb with the flick of a wrist and his 6′-5″, 240 LB frame certainly isn’t a detriment. It also helps that his potential OC, Todd Haley, has experience with QBs with that type of stature.
Drafting Allen does, however, some with some liability. Even in the Mountain West, his ability to pick up blitzes was suspect at best; and a career 56.2 % completion percentage also leaves much to be desired. Needless to sa
y, he’s a bit of a project. But, that might not be terrible for a team that signed Tyrod Taylor this offseason. Allen wouldn’t need to be the Week 1 starter in 2018. While having the number one overall red-shirt a year isn’t ideal, it could be a positive
in this case.
Personally, I would have the Browns go Barkley-Chubb at one and four, turning their abundance of draft picks into a third-first round pick later in the draft. But, this team needs a franchise QB more than just about any franchise in the NFL given their history of futility at the position. I recognise the risk of not snagging their guy in the top four, the chance of a mid-to-late run on the QB position in the first round is there. But, having an elite RB like Barkley and an elite pass rusher such as Bradley Chubb to partner up with Myles Garrett isn’t a terrible look for a rebuilding franchise either.
But at the end of the day, I understand where the Allen love comes from. The Cleveland Browns aren’t messing around this year.
2) New York Giants, QB Josh Rosen:
There’s a 50/50 shot that the G-Men go with Saquon Barkley in this spot, being a generational talent and whatnot. But, my gut tells me that Eli Manning will be the Kurt Warner to a young Josh Rosen in 2018.
Listen, Eli Manning has really shown his age the last few season; there’s no denying that fact. In today’s salary-cap era, the way good teams get better is to use the discount of a young QB and pay the players around him. It’s how the Seahawks were able to sustain success, it’s how the Rams were able to build the roster they put together this offseason, and it’s how the Giants are going to be able to afford Odell Beckham Jr. (trust me, he’s not going anywhere).
The Giants were 11-5 two seasons ago. As a whole, I don’t believe this is a bad roster; sometimes injuries take their toll. A potential franchise QB who’s only real detriment is that he’s “too smart” isn’t a bad way to get back into the playoffs.
3) New York Jets, QB Sam Darnold:
While Josh McCown proved to be more than competent for a Jets’ team that was projected to go 0-16 by many so-called “experts”, a franchise doesn’t give up what the Jets’ gave up to move up in the draft to not grab a QB.
Much like the other two QBs taken ahead of him in this mock, Darnold will have to impress in camp in order to be the Week 1 starter. The team re-signed the 38-year-old McCown for one more year, there’s no need to rush the former USC Trojan.
While Darnold might not have the upside of some of the other QBs in the draft, the floor is much less of a risk. He’ll do just fine in The Big Apple. Besides, the “last USC QB taken by the Jets'” narrative is pretty lazy anyways.
4) Cleveland Browns, RB Saquon Barkley:
Boom! There he goes!
The Browns have no other choice here. They need Barkley here. He’s on the Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley, Leonard Fournette level of RB. This would essentially complete the Browns’ offensive rebuild.
Despite not winning a game a season ago, the Browns ran for 4.5 YPC as a unit in 2017 with the likes of Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. No disrespect to those two, but they don’t have nearly the upside Barkley has.
The Browns could, very well, take Barkley at one, and grab their QB at four as well. But, I really believe that the two New York franchises will be taking their QBs ahead of this pick anyways.
Landry, Gordon, Coleman, Njoku, Barkley/Hyde/Johnson and Allen/Taylor. Not a bad look, if you ask me!
5) Denver Broncos, G Quenton Nelson:
While I wouldn’t rule-out a Baker Mayfield selection here, I believe that this is a team still thinks they can contend with a few minor tweaks.
Denver gave Case Keenum $36 million over two years last month after losing out on Kirk Cousins. And, that might be enough for this team to think they can grab a guard, that many believe is one of the most NFL-ready prospects in the draft, and still compete in 2018.
The O-Line has been a glaring hole for the Broncos for a few years now. Nelson would be a major get for a team that gave up 52 sacks in 2017; only the Texans and Colts gave up more.
6) Indianapolis Colts, DE Bradley Chubb:
For a team that projects to transition from a 3-4 to a 4-3 under newly-hired DC Matt Eberfus, grabbing an elite DE like Chubb is an excellent start.
This franchise has been one of the softest defensive units in the league for much too long. With Chubb being regarded as one of the best defensive players in the draft, he’s a hell of a start to a crucial 2018 draft for the Colts.
Chubb had back-to-back 10 sack seasons in his junior/senior years at NC State. The Colts haven’t had much of a pass rush since father-time caught up with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
The Colts have plenty of holes, but taking Chubb would be a tremendous start.
7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, S Derwin James:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have two glaring holes, both at RB and in the secondary. The team allowed more passing yards than anyone else in 2017 and ran for a mere 3.7 YPC last season.
While the likes of Darrius Guice and Mikah Fitzpatrick will be tempting for the Bucs’ front office, I believe the team will go with the local boy. James, an All-American at Florida St., and five-star recuit coming out of Haines City High School in Haines City, Florida; a short drive from Tampa.
8) Chicago Bears, WR Calvin Ridley:
Hiring an offensive-minded HC in Matt Nagy suggests that this is the direction the front-office wants to go.
Believe it or not, the Bears had a surprisingly scrappy defense a year ago. They’re running game took a tremendous step forward, and while Trubisky wasn’t perfect by any stretch, he was competent in 2017; his second full-season as a starting QB since high school.
The Bears did their best in free agency to surround young Mitchy with some targets: adding Allen Robinson, Taylor (don’t call me Peter) Gabriel and Trey Burton. Giving Trubisky as many weapons as possible just seems like the smart thing to do.
Why not take the best wideout available?
9) San Francisco 49ers, ILB Tremaine Edmunds:
Here are the last seven first round picks of the San Francisco 49ers, dating back to 2013:
Solomon Thomas, DE
Rueben Foster, ILB
DeForrest Buckner, DE
Josh Garnett, G
Arik Armstead, DT
Jimmie Ward, S
Eric Reid, S
See a pattern?
Yes, I’m aware that GM John Lynch is only responsible for the two selected a season ago (Thomas and Foster). But, I don’t see the two-time All Pro safety straying from this pattern.
While Foster’s off-the-field issues could be a bigger issue in the future, having the top ILB in the 2018 class could be a deadly force up the middle. Much like the MLB duo we saw just under a decade ago, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Rebuilding this defense from the DL-out just seems like the pattern Lynch and co. seem to be taking.
Although Calvin Ridley would look mighty fine in a Kyle Shanahan offense, I don’t see him lasting this long.
10) Oakland Raiders, DT Da’ron Payne:
While I think Minkah Fitzpatrick and Vita Vea might be in consideration, I believe Jon Gruden and company will gravitate towards the DT out of Alabama.
While the Raider pass defense was rather leaky a season ago, this is year-one of Gruden’s ten-year deal. He’s going to do things his way, and I think he’ll want who best represents his “Warren Sapp”.
I am in no way, shape, or form comparing Payne to Warren Sapp, I just simply believe he is the most talented DT that would best fit a 4-3 Tampa-2 defense, given Vita Vea’s occasional use as an outside rusher, he’ll be a better fit for a 3-4 in my opinion.
11) Miami Dolphins, OLB Roquan Smith:
The Miami LB unit was a glaring hole for a decent portion, if not all, of 2017. The team had to use names of yesteryear, such as Lawrence Timmons, Rey Maualuga and former Saints first-round pick Stephone Anthony after 2017 second-round pick Raekwon McMillan tore his ACL in the team’s first preseason game of the year.
Well, the weakness could potentially turn into a strength with the addition of Smith, a talented outside linebacker out of Georgia that has done nothing but improve since his senior year of high school, according to scouts. Pro Football Focus’ top LB in the 2018 draft could be the next, great Dolphins LB. Smith would join McMillan and veteran LB Kiko Alonso.
While Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a fit here, the Dolphins are known to be linked to free agent safety Kenny Vaccaro.
12) Buffalo Bills, QB Baker Mayfield:
Another team that paid a pretty penny to move up nine spots in the draft, the Buffalo Bills shipped G Cordy Glenn to to the Cincinnati Bengals in early March in order to be in this position.
In today’s day and age, NFL teams aren’t typically this aggressive moving up the draft board, unless they’re taking “their guy” at QB. With three of the six first-round QBs off the board, Baker Mayfield makes sense for a team that let the competent-yet-boring Tyrod Taylor walk this offseason.
Despite his “off-the-field” (or in this case, on-the-sidelines issues ), Mayfield is a gifted QB, both mentally and physically. Ignore the way-too-lazy Johnny Manziel comparisons, Baker Mayfield is the competitor Bills Mafia wouldn’t think twice about jumping through a flaming folding table for. Hell, they may just do that at various draft viewing parties across Western New York (and Southern Ontario) if he’s picked.
The Bills reportedly might not be content picking at 12 either, they may move-up again according to the team’s website.
13) Washington Redskins, NT Vita Vea:
A match made in Heaven.
Big Vita would be a sight for sore eyes on this Redskins defense, which gave up more rushing yards than any other defensive unit in the NFL a season ago. To say that Vea would be an upgrade in Greg Manusky’s 3-4 defence over a 31-year-old Ziggy Hood is a major understatement.
The team took Johnathan Allen out of Alabama last year. It just makes sense to add to a defensive line that was just putrid a year ago.
14) Green Bay Packers, S Minkah Fitzpatrick:
The Green Bay Packers looked downright awful seemingly seconds after Anthony Barr drove Aaron Rodgers’ shoulder into the turf in Minneapolis last October. The injury exposed many flaws this team had from a personnel perspective.
My belief is, that this Packer defence has some talent on the back-end, but Dom Caper’s out-dated scheme just wasn’t cutting it for the Cheese Heads. The team parted-ways with Capers, and brought in Mike Pettine.
While many remember Pettine from his days as the HC of the Johnny Manziel-led Cleveland Browns. His best work came as Rex Ryan’s DC with the New York Jets; a defensive unit that was tops in the league during the back-end of the 2000’s/early portion of this decade.
The theory behind that defense was to have constant pressure from the front-seven, with elite DBs Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis making up for some deficiencies in scheme.
While I’m not saying Fitzpatrick can be Revis, he and potential teammate and former Nick Saban-coached HaHa Clinton-Dix ,certainly have the ability to cover-up those gaps in the field when Pettine brings the house.
The team shipped Demarious Randall to the Browns for a reason, to change the guard in the secondary. Both Fitzpatrick or Denzel Ward would be an excellent fit at Lambeau Field, but I’ll roll with Minkah here.
15) Arizona Cardinals, CB Denzel Ward:
One of the most talented players still on the board can learn from one of the most talented DBs in the game, Patrick Peterson.
The Cardinals finished 8-8 last season without a QB, or one of the game’s best RBs for all but the first quarter of the first game of the season, this team still has tons of talent.
Ward will help Cardinal fans forget about the loss of The Honey Badger in a big way, big addition to an already talented secondary. Which, is necessary when facing Russell Wilson, Jared Goff and Jimmy Garappolo each twice a season.
16) Baltimore Ravens, QB Lamar Jackson:
The Ravens, who have one of the oldest rosters in the NFL, are one year away from a rebuild in my eyes. Just look at this roster: Joe Flacco, Michael Crabtree, Terrell Suggs, Brandon Carr, Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle and Marshal Yanda are all key contributors for this team, all of which are either 30-years-old, approaching 30 or older than 30.
While I still believe that 2018 won’t be the year the Ravens begin the youth movement, 2019 will definitely be a transition year for the purple birds. And, if that’s the case, why not grab the QB of the future a year early and let him adapt to the pro-level, and work his way up the depth chart?
Baltimore natives Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports and Jeff Zubric of The Baltimore Sun don’t think a QB at 16 isn’t totally out of the picture for the Ravens. Also, why else would a team sign Robert Griffin III as the team’s only legitimate backup behind a QB, who has had health concerns over the past few years, going into the draft?
Could it be to mentor a young, electric mobile QB?
I’m just saying…
17) Los Angeles Chargers, DT Taven Bryan:
The Los Angeles Chargers were one of the hottest teams in football following their 0-4 start to the season, finishing the year 9-7.
Honestly, I this team isn’t quite ready to pony-up a 1st round pick for a Phillip Rivers understudy; that’s more of a 2019 job. You have Melvin Gordon at RB, depth at WR, Hunter Henry is coming into his own at TE, Rivers was the least-sacked QB in football (sacked just 18 total times), and the defense gave-up around 17 points per game.
This year’s Chargers’ team could, very well, take on a bit of a “project” in the first round of this year’s draft. And, that project could very well be the son of a Navy SEAL, Taven Bryan out of Florida.
Bryan, who has incredible drive, work ethic and athletic ability, could be a stalwart for Gus Bradley’s 4-3 defense in the near future. The only knock on him, is “football IQ” according to NFL scouts. A high-upside pick makes sense for the Chargers this year.
18) Seattle Seahawks, G Will Hernandez:
While the Seahawks could go MANY different directions with this pick, offensive line help should be their first priority.
The Seahawks DID NOT HAVE A SINGLE RB RUSH FOR MORE THAN 250 YARDS LAST SEASON. Russell Wilson was not only sacked 43 times in 2017; he was the TEAM’S LEADING RUSHER with 586 yards on the ground. Wilson’s mobility probably saved the number of sacks from climbing.
While Darrius Guice is a sexy option for the Seahawks at 18, there’s absolutely no point in taking a young RB this highly when he simply won’t have anywhere to go behind a putrid offensive line. Will Hernandez, a four-year senior out of UTEP, grades as the best run-stopper not named Quenton Nelson in this year’s class.
Don’t think that the Seahawks’ need help on the offensive line? Just go back and watch what Wade Phillips’ defensive line was able to the Seahawks in Week 15 last season. Not only were they dominated, they were downright embarrassed.
19) Dallas Cowboys, G Isaiah Wynn:
Everybody and their mother knows what the bread and butter of this Dallas Cowboys’ team is: ground and pound!
After finishing 2016 as the number one seed in the NFC, the Cowboys disappointed in a large way last season. Much of that can be blamed on the on-again-off-again suspension saga of Ezekiel Elliott, but some of that can be blamed on the health (or lack their of) from All-Pro T Tyron Smith; who had been dealing with a bulging disc in his back since early in training camp last season.
The once-great Dallas o-line also missed G Ronald Leary to the Denver Broncos via free agency the offseason before, and couldn’t adequately fill the void.
Isaiah Wynn not only kept a clean pocket for freshman Jake Fromm in Georgia, he has been proven to play many positions on that Bulldogs’ line during his four-years at Athens.
While cutting Dez Bryant left a void at WR, I don’t think that’s the direction Jerry Jones wants to go in the first round. I think he wants to make that Cowboy O-Line great again, and that starts and ends with Wynn.
20) Detroit Lions, RB Derrius Guice:
The last Detroit Lion to rush for 100+ yards in a game was… Reggie Bush in 2013. The last Lions’ RB to rush for 1,000 in a single season was… Reggie Bush in 2013.
If you’re the Lions, you kind of have to take Derrius Guice at this point, don’t you?
Despite his back-to-back Super Bowl rings, I just don’t think LeGarrette Blount will be enough to appease this long-suffering fan base. And let’s face it, Ameer Abdullah would have been something already if he were anything more than a change-of-pace back. The whole 11 carries for 43 yards with a long rush of 32 from Abdullah just isn’t cute anymore, the Lions need help!
21) Cincinnati Bengals, OLB Rashaan Evans:
Yet another plug-and-play LB out of Alabama.
Evans is one of the more talented players still on the board and will be a major asset to a Bengals LB unit that is questionable from a talent standpoint outside of Vontaze Burfict; and we all know Burfict’s story from a “staying out of trouble and not getting suspended” perspective.
Leighton Vander Esch out of Boise St., Harold Landry out of Boston College could also be options here.
22) Buffalo Bills, T Mike McGlinchey:
The Bills moved Cordy Glenn in order to move up to pick number 12, and Richie Incognito just retired. If the Bills go QB at 12 (or wherever else they go QB), some help on the O-Line is a must. The senior out of Notre Dame would be a nice addition to a rebuilding Buffalo fat-guy unit.
23) New England Patroits, DE/OLB Harold Landry:
While it might be tempting for the Patriots to go out and grab Tom Brady’s next understudy with this selection. I don’t think it will happen at 23.
The Patroits have 3 of the next 21 picks (including this one) and the only two teams that could possibly draft a QB during that time might be New Orleans or Pittsburgh, and they’re in the same situation the Patriots are. If the Pats pass on Mason Rudolph at 23, I don’t think it’s the end of the world.
Drafting a legitimate pass rusher with this pick just makes more sense. Landry, who played college ball in the area at Boston College, adds a level of versatility needed on a Bill Belichick defense.
Crazy Bill can put him on the edge, at the Sam, or a combination of both. Belichick’s defensive scheme can change on a week’s notice and Landry brings the versatility needed to adapt.
24) Carolina Panthers, LB Leighton Vander Esch:
The run of linebackers continues!
Vander Esch, an old-school, “wrap him up” type of linebacker can learn a ton playing alongside Luke Kuechly. Also, veteran LB Thomas Davis is not only suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season, he’s also 34-years-old!
The narrative writes itself with this potential selection.
25) Tennessee Titans, CB Carlton Davis:
At the end of the 2015 season, the Tennessee Titans had one of the worst RB units in the NFL. The next offseason, they made that a point of emphasis by not only signing free agent RB DeMarco Murray, but by drafting Derrick Henry early in the second round.
One of the major flaws of this Titans defense in 2017 was the secondary, more specifically; the CBs. While S Kevin Byard was voted into his first ever Pro Bowl after accumulating a league-high 8 INTs, the team as a whole ranked 26th in total passing yards allowed.
The team went out and signed Malcolm Butler in free agency and drafted speedster Adoree Jackson out of USC in the first round a year ago. I think they double-down on addressing that need with some size/physicality in the form of 6′-1″, 203 LB CB Carlton Davis out of Auburn.
26) Atlanta Falcons, DT Maurice Hurst:
Last season, the Atlanta Falcons started ten of eleven home-grown players on defense. The only exception, DT Dontari Poe, a free agent addition from the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Falcons let Poe walk in free agency, only to see him sign with divisional rivals, the Carolina Panthers.
There’s a vacancy on this Dan Quinn defence for one more drafted and developed talent. And, I believe that’s DT Maurice Hurst out of Michigan.
27) New Orleans Saints, TE Mike Gesicki:
The New Orleans Saints took a tremendous step forward defensively last season, so I don’t think they’ll be looking to add there.
However, when Jimmy Graham was available in free agency, a reunion with the Saints was reportedly very much in-play.
Mike Gesicki could be the next best thing. The 6′-5″, 247 LB tight end out of Penn St. ran a 4.54 40-yard, jumped a 41.5 inch vertical, hasn’t dropped a pass in two years, was a state slam-dunk contest winner in the state of New Jersey during his senior year of high school.
Need I say more?!
28) Pittsburgh Steelers, S Justin Reid:
Listen, Ben isn’t retiring this season, or next season. Hell, the Rooney family is even reportedly open to signing him to an extension. They’ll find a way to keep Le’Veon Bell as well and business is BOOMING for Antonio Brown. That trio isn’t being altered in any way, shape or form.
One glaring hole for the Steelers’ team might be at FS, where they currently have sophomore DB Sean Davis filling the vacancy left by Mike Mitchell this offseason. Davis, a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, type of defender probably won’t cut it for this defense.
Enter ball-hawking safety Justin Reid out of Stanford. Reid, brother of former 49ers’ safety Eric Reid. He’s a cerebral defender with plus-athletic ability and a nose for the football. He accumulated 5 INTs for Stanford during his final season in Cardinal red, and would be a much-welcomed addition to the black and yellow.
29) Jacksonville Jaguars, S Ronnie Harrison:
While my gut feeling is that Sacksonville will trade-up to snag LB Leighton Vander Esch to replace the recently-retired Paul Posluszny. But, if the opportunity isn’t there, they’ll have no problem “settling” for S Ronnie Harrison.
Harrison, yet another hard-nose defender out of Alabama, is one of those safeties that just wants to make the big play. Whether that’s an interception or a big hit, he just has a nose for the spotlight. Harrison would push veteran S Barry Church for playing time and eventually, make a nasty secondary that much nastier.
30) Minnesota Vikings, C James Daniels:
The Vikings addressed their need at QB in free agency when they gave Kirk Cousins a fully-guaranteed, $86 million deal over three years in March. The team retained every member of their top-flight defense, Adam Theilen and Stephon Diggs took a big leap forward this season and the team gets their top pick from a year ago, RB Dalvin Cook, back after he tore his ACL last season. The only loss this team sustained was RB Jerick McKinnon, and he likely wouldn’t have been a starter anyways.
The only Achilles’ Heel of this roster might be the center position, where 2017 third-round pick, Pat Elflein struggled a season ago. Whether that was injury-related remains to be seen.
However, a franchise such as the Vikings really can’t go wrong with depth in the middle of the offensive line. James Daniels out of Iowa just makes sense at this pick.
31) New England Patriots, QB Mason Rudolph:
Hey! There it is!
Did you really think the Patriots would begin OTAs with Chef Hoyer-dee as the only QB on their roster not-named TB12?!
32) Philadelphia Eagles, CB Mike Hughes:
Let’s see here… The Eagles are deep EVERYWHERE!
QB: Carson Wentz/Nick Foles
HB: Jay Ajayi/Corey Clements
WR: Alshon Jeffery/Nelson Agholor/Mike Wallace
TE: Zach Ertz/Richard Rodgers
OL: Jason Peters/Stefan Wisnewski/Jason Kelce/Brandon Brooks/Lane Johnson
DE: Brandon Graham/Michael Bennett/Derek Barnett/Chris Long
DT: Fletcher Cox/Timmy Jurnigan/Haloti Ngata
LB: Mychal Kendricks/Nigel Bradham/Jordan Hicks
S: Rodney McLeod/Malcolm Jenkins
CB: Ronald Darby/Jalen Mills
So, why not feed into the underdog narrative ONE MORE TIME and grab one of the key-cogs on the self-proclaimed NATIONAL CHAMPS in Mike Hughes?! An undersized, but tough CB out of UCF!
Look me straight in the face and tell me that the rough and rowdy Philly faithful wouldn’t love this guy?!