Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Saquon Barkley and other prospects are expected to be top picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, which will be held April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas. But which teams will pick them?
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Browns desperately need a franchise quarterback, but after trading for Tyrod Taylor to be their short-term guy, there’s no pressure to rush a rookie into Week 1 action (which happened last year with DeShone Kizer). Sam Darnold has some gunslinger to his game and sometimes forces unnecessary passes, but he has the size, arm, pocket presence and toughness that teams want. Previous picks: Darnold (1.0, 2.0, 3.0).
2. Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Giants have plenty of options, whether it’s a quarterback, running back, lineman, pass-rusher or trade down. If they fall in love with one of the top quarterbacks here, they’ll be very hard-pressed to pass on Eli Manning’s eventual successor. But in listening to GM Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur’s comments, they may not be ready to look that far ahead. Saquon Barkley was the talk of the Combine with a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and 29 reps on the bench press, among other eye-catching results. On tape, the 6-foot, 233-pounder shows rare elusiveness and every-down ability as a runner, pass-catcher and returner. He’d immediately become the Giants’ best running back since Tiki Barber. Previous picks: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (1.0, 2.0); Bradley Chubb, Edge rusher, North Carolina State (3.0).
3. Jets (via Colts): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Look back at the last two drafts, and you’ll see a trend: More teams are trading up to ensure they get “their guy” at quarterback. The Rams (Jared Goff), Eagles (Carson Wentz) and Broncos (Paxton Lynch) moved up in 2016, and the Bears (Mitchell Trubisky), Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes) and Texans (Deshaun Watson) did so last year. So it’s no surprise that even after signing Teddy Bridgewater and bringing back Josh McCown, the quarterback-needy Jets followed suit this year, sending three second-rounders to Indy to jump three spots and get in better position to take whoever they deem as “their guy.” Baker Mayfield has the athleticism and playmaking ability to match his Heisman-winning production. He has drawn criticism for off-field antics, and at 6-0 5/8, he’s on the short side for a quarterback. But teams have taken chances on shorter quarterbacks — Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, for instance. Previous picks: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (1.0); Mayfield (2.0); Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (3.0).
4. Browns (via Texans): Bradley Chubb, Edge rusher, North Carolina State
After drafting their quarterback at No. 1, the Browns turn to the defense and get another pass-rusher to line up opposite Myles Garrett, last year’s No. 1 overall pick. Bradley Chubb has great size at 6-4 3/8, 269 pounds, and he was a consistent producer for the Wolfpack with 20 sacks and 44 tackles for loss in the last two seasons. Previous picks: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0).
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Case Keenum’s two-year deal is more like a one-year deal with an opt-out, so the Broncos still could try to find their quarterback here. Josh Rosen has an incredible arm and a knack for pulling off comebacks but also a lengthy injury history (including two concussions last season). Previous picks: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (1.0, 3.0, 4.0); Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming (2.0).
6. Indianapolis Colts (via Jets): Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Colts’ offensive line has a few cornerstones — Anthony Castonzo, Ryan Kelly and Jack Mewhort — but they still need to do a much better job of protecting Andrew Luck. Quenton Nelson is the best offensive line prospect in this class. He has ideal size at 6-5, 325 pounds and is dominant in run blocking and pass protection. He also plays with a mean streak and pancakes defenders with his sheer power. Previous picks: Nelson (3.0)
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
No team allowed more yards per game through the air than Tampa Bay (260.6). Minkah Fitzpatrick was listed as a strong safety on Alabama’s depth chart, but he played all over the Crimson Tide’s secondary and even saw some time at linebacker. He’s excellent in both coverage and run support, has an ideal mix of technique and athleticism and can provide an immediate boost at any position. Previous picks: Fitzpatrick (1.0, 2.0, 3.0).
8. Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
After signing receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, the Bears now focus on finding another pass-rusher alongside Leonard Floyd and newly-signed Aaron Lynch. Tremaine Edmunds will be 19 years old on draft day, but he has excellent size (6-4 1/2, 253) and raw athleticism (4.54 40, 19 bench press reps, 9-9 broad jump). He primarily played inside for the Hokies but has the physical talent to make the switch to edge rusher to start his career. Previous picks: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU (1.0); Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame (2.0); Edmunds (3.0).
9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Reuben Foster, one of the 49ers’ first-round picks last year, is facing felony domestic violence charges. GM John Lynch said Foster’s future depends on what is uncovered during the legal process, so the 49ers may want to find his potential replacement in the draft. Roquan Smith was the leader of Georgia’s defense and is the one of the best off-ball linebackers in this class. He’s a do-it-all player with excellent sideline-to-sideline range, instincts, power and tackling ability. Previous picks: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame (1.0), Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State (2.0); Harold Landry, Edge rusher, Boston College (3.0, 4.0).
10. Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Raiders released Sean Smith and David Amerson and let T.J. Carrie leave in free agency, leaving little depth behind 2017 first-rounder Gareon Conley and free-agent signee Rashaan Melvin. They could pick one of Conley’s former Ohio State teammates to fix that. Denzel Ward plays bigger than his size (5-10 7/8, 183 pounds) and has excellent speed (4.32 40) and technique. Previous picks: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia (1.0, 2.0); Ward (3.0).
11. Miami Dolphins: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Dolphins wasted little time upgrading their defense after trading for Rams pass-rusher Robert Quinn, but they need help at defensive tackle after cutting Ndamukong Suh. Vita Vea is the top run-stopping tackle in this class, thanks to his 6-4, 347-pound frame and great strength. He’s not quite the pass-rusher that Suh was, but he could be a much-needed brick wall in run defense. Previous picks: Connor Williams, OT, Texas (1.0); Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech (2.0); Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia (3.0, 4.0).
12. Buffalo Bills (via Bengals): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Bills’ climb up the draft order – and search for a franchise quarterback – has begun. In this scenario, one of the top passers falls to them. Josh Allen has ideal measurables for a quarterback — he’s big (6-4 7/8, 237) with a strong arm and athleticism (4.75 40, 6.90 three-cone). He’s very raw, however, and struggled against Power Five schools (50.0 completion percentage, one touchdown, eight interceptions in three games) and owns just a career 56.2 completion percentage. He might need to sit and learn behind newly-signed A.J. McCarron for a season. Previous picks: Allen (3.0)
13. Washington Redskins: Derwin James, S, Florida State
Safety isn’t the biggest need for Washington, but secondary help always is useful – especially when it’s a player of Derwin James’ caliber. James can play all over the secondary, including cornerback, safety and in the box. James looks to be fully healed from a torn meniscus that cost him almost all of his 2016 season, and his athleticism could be a huge boost for Washington’s secondary. Previous picks: James (1.0, 2.0); Vita Vea, DT, Washington (3.0, 4.0).
14. Green Bay Packers: Harold Landry, Edge rusher, Boston College
Clay Matthews will turn 32 in May, so Green Bay needs some youth at outside linebacker. Harold Landry was a very disruptive player at Boston College and owns the single-season school record for sacks in 2016 (16 1/2). He’s quick off the snap and bends the edge well. Previous picks: Arden Key, Edge rusher, LSU (1.0), Landry (2.0); Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa (3.0), Derwin James, S, Florida State (4.0).
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The Cardinals signed Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, but neither is the long-term answer at quarterback. Lamar Jackson is an electric dual threat who has passed for 7,032 yards and rushed for 3,014 in two seasons. The former Heisman winner improved as a passer last season, staying in the pocket and going through his progressions. He still has a way to go to truly become a polished passer, but maybe quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich could help him further unlock his potential. Previous picks: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming (1.0); Jackson (2.0); Derwin James, S, Florida State (3.0).
16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Ravens inked a pair of veteran free-agent receivers in Michael Crabtree and John Brown, but they still need more options for Joe Flacco. Ozzie Newsome seems to have an affinity for Alabama players — he has taken four in the last six years, including two last year and two in the first round (2014, 2017). Former Crimson Tide wideout Calvin Ridley will be 23 on draft day – an advanced age for a prospect – but he has great speed (4.43 40), runs very clean routes and brings in the ball with soft hands. Previous picks: Ridley (1.0, 2.0, 3.0).
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Chargers had the NFL’s second-worst rush defense, allowing 131.1 yards per game. Alabama has churned out several quality defensive linemen in recent seasons, with Da’Ron Payne the latest. At 6-2 1/2, 311 pounds, Payne is a big run-clogger with some pass-rush skills as well. He could eat up blockers and free up Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram in passing situations. Previous picks: Vita Vea, DT, Washington (1.0, 2.0); Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama (3.0); Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama (4.0).
18. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport, Edge rusher, UTSA
The Seahawks’ once-stout defense is in rebuild mode after the team traded Michael Bennett to the Eagles and cut Richard Sherman. They can address the loss of Bennett by taking Marcus Davenport, a raw pass-rusher with a high upside. Davenport has excellent size at 6-5 3/4, 264 pounds and had a great showing at the Combine (4.58 40, 22 bench press reps, 10-4 broad jump). While he could have been more consistent on tape, he has the measurables to be a force off the edge. Previous picks: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU (1.0, 2.0); Davenport (3.0).
19. Dallas Cowboys: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Dez Bryant is gone, so it’s replacement time. Courtland Sutton, like Bryant, has great size (6-3 3/8, 218) which he uses to outmuscle defenders at the catch point. He also has great speed and agility but needs to refine his route running. Previous picks: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (1.0); Sutton (2.0, 3.0), Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State (4.0).
20. Detroit Lions: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
The Lions had the NFL’s worst rushing offense in 2017 with just 76.3 yards per game. They signed LeGarrette Blount but could use another big-play back to complement the hard-running Blount and pass-catching Theo Riddick. Sony Michel is a versatile back with the power, speed and pass-catching ability. Previous picks: Harold Landry, Edge rusher, Boston College (1.0); Marcus Davenport, Edge rusher, UTSA (2.0); Derrius Guice, RB, LSU (3.0, 4.0).
21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Bills): Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
The Bengals added Cordy Glenn in their trade down with the Bills. Glenn likely will play left tackle, but the Bengals still need help along the interior line. Will Hernandez started the season as a relatively unknown guard from UTEP, but the 327-pounder has impressed ever since the Senior Bowl and risen up draft boards. He’s a big, powerful lineman with the strength to open up running lanes and the footwork to keep interior pass-rushers at bay. Previous picks: Connor Williams, T/G, Texas (3.0, 4.0).
22. Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs): D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
The Bills need a No. 2 receiver opposite Kelvin Benjamin, who has one year left on his deal. D.J. Moore shot up draft boards after a strong Combine showing. The 6-foot, 210-pounder is a solid deep threat with a great mix of speed, hands and explosiveness off the snap. Previous picks: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas (1.0); Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama (2.0); Moore (3.0).
23. New England Patriots (via Rams): Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Longtime left tackle Nate Solder signed with the Giants in free agency, and 2017 third-rounder Antonio Garcia missed his entire rookie season with blood clots in his lungs. Luckily for the Patriots, their trade with Los Angeles puts them in better position to get a plug-and-play lineman. Mike McGlinchey has started at left tackle for Notre Dame the last two seasons, but he also has experience on the right side and can play either spot in the pros. He has excellent size at 6-7 7/8, 309 pounds, and he’s technically sound in both run and pass blocking.
24. Carolina Panthers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Panthers need secondary help, especially in a division with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston. Josh Jackson had an FBS-best eight interceptions last season to go with 18 passes defensed. He’s still a little raw technique-wise, having started just one season for the Hawkeyes. Previous picks: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M (1.0); James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (2.0); Will Hernandez, G, UTEP (3.0, 4.0).
25. Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Avery Williamson left for the Jets, and Wesley Woodyard will be 32. Rashaan Evans started his Alabama career as a pass-rusher (also a position of need) before sliding inside last season. He has the speed to get from sideline to sideline as well as to get after the quarterback. He’s also tough and physical enough downhill to stop the run. Previous picks: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State (1.0); Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa (2.0); Arden Key, Edge rusher, LSU (3.0, 4.0).
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The Falcons lack much depth on the defensive line. Taven Bryan is incredibly raw technique-wise and is still developing his instincts, but he has excellent upfield burst and explosiveness. He’s a quintessential Dan Quinn type of player and would be a disruptive presence alongside Grady Jarrett. Previous picks: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford (1.0, 2.0); Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan (3.0, 4.0).
27. New Orleans Saints: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
The Saints are loaded on offense, but ever since they traded Jimmy Graham three years ago, they have lacked an impact tight end who can create mismatches. Mike Gesicki was solid at Penn State with 105 career catches for 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he blew up at the Combine with one of the top showings at his position in recent memory. He could be a useful target at all depths of the field for Drew Brees. Previous picks: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma (1.0, 2.0); Gesicki (3.0).
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Even before Ryan Shazier’s likely career-ending spine injury, the Steelers needed more athleticism in the heart of their defense. Now, an inside linebacker becomes their top priority. Leighton Vander Esch entered the first-round mix after a strong Combine. He started one season at Boise State, but his blend of size and athleticism makes him a great replacement for Shazier. Previous picks: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama (1.0); Vander Esch (2.0, 3.0); Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa (4.0).
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Connor Williams, T/G, Texas
The Jaguars signed Andrew Norwell, but they could use additional help along the offensive line, particularly on the right side. Connor Williams played tackle at Texas, but his 33-inch arms could make him a better fit at guard in the NFL. Williams missed most of his junior season with a sprained MCL and PCL, but he was impressive in his sophomore season and is solid against the pass and the run. Previous picks: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State (1.0); Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State (2.0); Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (3.0); Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU (4.0).
30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
The Vikings’ offensive line took a step forward in 2017, but they still have work to do to make the unit better. Isaiah Wynn played left tackle at Georgia but is projected to slide inside in the pros. He has the power to open up holes in the running game, the athleticism to block on the move and the quick feet to keep interior pass-rushers at bay. Previous picks: Billy Price, OG/C, Ohio State (1.0); Connor Williams, OT/OG, Texas (2.0); Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (3.0).
31. New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Malcolm Butler left for Tennessee. The Patriots traded for Jason McCourty from the Browns, but they still could use more depth in the secondary. At 5-10 1/4, 196 pounds, Jaire Alexander is small for a cornerback, but what he lacks in size he makes up for with his great technique, agility and tenacious ball skills. He can play in the slot against quicker receivers or against bigger receivers on the outside. A sneaky possibility here could be quarterback, in preparation for Tom Brady’s eventual retirement – the fifth-year option for first-rounders means the Patriots would have an extra year to develop a replacement. Previous picks: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado (1.0, 2.0); Alexander (3.0).
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Jason Peters tore his ACL and MCL in late October, and even though the Eagles signed him to a three-year extension in June, he’ll be 36 to start the season. Orlando Brown is the son of Orlando “Zeus” Brown, the late former Browns and Ravens lineman. Just like his dad, Brown is a mammoth 6-7 7/8, 345 pounds. He tumbled down draft boards after a rough Combine, but his tape is solid. The question is, which Brown will teams get? Previous picks: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (1.0); Brown (2.0); Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma (3.0).