1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC. He didn’t throw in Indy, but that’s just a minor blemish on Darnold’s resume. He still presents what many believe is the highest combination of upside and ability to make players around him better. I don’t buy any position but quarterback here, and they’re not trading the pick.
2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. The Giants don’t expect to be picking this high again, and the chance to land Eli Manning’s successor with such a high-end prospect has to be a strong consideration. Hard to look past Barkley and what he could do for the overall offense too, however.
3. Indianapolis Colts: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. It’s fitting that the man who was arguably the biggest winner in Lucas Oil Stadium last weekend goes to the RB-needy Colts. Many times it’s a challenge to sell fans on the prospect of taking a RB so high. In this case, it seems most Colts fans would be thrilled not to have to trade up from No. 3 to land Barkley.
4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, Edge, North Carolina State. Adding Chubb might seem surprising, given the massive investment in the very impressive Myles Garrett a year ago. The Wolfpack star brings the Browns a trio of versatile edges which can create mismatches and stress the opposing offense from all angles.
5. Denver Broncos: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. The presumption is the Broncos will find their QB in free agency. Bolstering the line in front of (Case Keenum? Teddy Bridgewater?) and helping the run game makes sense. Nelson is no worse than the second-best prospect in this draft regardless of position, so getting him at five is definite value.
6. New York Jets: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. A lottery ticket of epic proportions, Allen impressed in Indy both on the workout track and the interview rooms. His physical traits tantalize. Will the Jets succumb to his charms, or will they learn from their failed dalliance with the similar Christian Hackenberg? In this scenario, they bite the apple.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. He’s only 19 and offers the physical potential to play either off-ball or develop into an edge rusher. His flashes on game tape are electrifying and tantalizing for a coaching staff with both creativity and patience. I have to think the Bucs will pounce on Chubb or Nelson if either is available.
8. Chicago Bears: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. This would reunite Fitzpatrick with former Bama running mate Eddie Jackson and give the Bears a strong foundation on the back of the defense. Tagging Kyle Fuller throws a curve here, but Fitzpatrick’s versatility allows for a lot of talented pieces to fit together.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Derwin James, S, Florida State. Half of the Niners secondary is hitting free agency, but even if Eric Reid comes back, the team can still use an impact talent like James, one of the Combine’s biggest winners.
10. Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Two players at the same position from the same school in back-to-back first rounds might be a stretch, but Ohio State cornerbacks tend to be worth the risk. Ward’s blazing work over the weekend solidified him as a top-15 talent.
11. Miami Dolphins: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. Mayfield is such a wild card projection. He could go much higher, he could slide well past here. This time the Dolphins take the plunge and draft the dynamic QB to revitalize the moribund offense.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. There might not be an easier need to identify than OL for the Bengals. While this is high for McGlinchey (or any OT), desperation often leads to riskier picks, and he’s a high-floor player with ability to start on either side right away.
13. Washington: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. This pick wouldn’t look so high if Alexander wasn’t hurt during 2017. The Combine standout is a playmaker who does not lack confidence. Washington must replace Fuller and Breeland and this is a good start.
14. Green Bay Packers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. This projection comes straight out of Indy, as the Packers new regime didn’t conceal its strong admiration of Vander Esch, who has high-end potential as both an inside backer but also as a possible switch to edge rusher.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Vita Vea, DT, Washington. In this scenario the Cardinals miss out on the perceived top tier QBs, so the alternative course is to bolster the defensive line with the freaky athletic Vea, who can play all over the line at 345 pounds.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. The strong Combine performance elevates Sutton to the top of the WR chart, and the WR-desperate Ravens bite hard on the affable Mustang widebody.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Smith is an outstanding prospect at a position that the NFL simply doesn’t value all that highly. The Chargers land another impressive piece to a strong defensive front as a result.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College. The (somewhat) surprising trade of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril’s likely retirement leaves a huge hole at pass rusher. Enter Landry, an accomplished rusher who can play either standing up or with a hand in the dirt and wreak havoc.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA. All the physical attributes are there for Davenport, which he proved in Indy. Now it’s a matter of getting his football acumen, which remains pedantic, up to speed. The Cowboys have never been shy about taking chances on athletic projects and Davenport has a chance to be a great one in time.
20. Detroit Lions: DaRon Payne, DT, Alabama. A more athletic version of his Alabama predecessor, and current Lions starter, A’Shawn Robinson, Payne can team with his fellow Crimson Tide DT to control the tackle box. Payne has more upside as a pass rusher, something the Lions desperately need.
21. Buffalo Bills: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP. An absolute mauler in both run and pass protection, Hernandez was consistently brought up in first-round context by NFL folks at the Combine. The Bills can use him right away.
22. Buffalo Bills: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State. Perhaps the biggest winner coming out of the Combine, Gesicki is a premium receiving option who can create mismatches for whomever winds up being the QB in Buffalo.
23. Los Angeles Rams: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. Evans can play inside or outside LB and has the range to do just about anything DC Wade Philips asks of him. The Alec Ogletree trade creates a bigger need for LB here than expected.
24. Carolina Panthers: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama. Just what the veterinarian ordered for the Panthers—a downhill safety with sharp teeth and strong paws. Because Carolina has LBs that can cover, Harrison’s relative weakness there is covered.
25. Tennessee Titans: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado. Another player who I have been repeatedly informed the NFL likes a lot more than the draft media (myself included) believes, Oliver brings length and attitude to a Titans secondary which can use both.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia. Wynn has the ability to play either guard position and has experience at tackle too. His best spot is right guard in a scheme which asks him to move and sustain blocks. With Andy Levitre’s recent “pay cut or else” maneuver, the Falcons need a future at the position and the local product fits well.
27. New Orleans Saints: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF. Twitchy and capable of playing inside or outside, Hughes is a nice fit to join the emerging young Saints secondary.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. Running back to Pittsburgh? It’s predicated on no long-term deal for LeVeon Bell and on Guice being surprisingly available this late in the draft.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. Probably lower than you’ll see Ridley in most contemporary mocks, but I got the distinct impression most NFL types see him as a No. 2 receiver, not a No. 1. Blake Bortles seemed fine without having a true No. 1 so the fit here seems fortuitous.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Donte Jackson, CB, LSU. The fastest man at the Combine has better game tape than advertised and high upside. His reactions and closing speed can be lethal, and the Vikings have the luxury of not needing him to be great right away.
31. New England Patriots: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State. The player I hear Goedert most often compared to is Gronk, and with the Pats star mulling an acting career, it makes sense for New England to bring in his eventual successor. Goedert is great at making the spectacular catch and isn’t a bad blocker.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. As long as his heart issue check out fine, Hurst belongs in the first round. The Eagles can use him up front, where he can play base end or attack-dog DT. Praying his heart issue is no big deal.
33. Browns: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
34. Giants: Connor Williams, OL, Texas
35. Browns: Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State
36. Colts: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
37. Jets: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
38. Buccaneers: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
39. Bears: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
40. Broncos: Justin Reid, S, Stanford
41. Raiders: Rasheem Green, Edge, USC
42. Dolphins: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
43. Patriots: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
44. Washington: Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest
45. Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
46. Bengals: James Daniels, C, Iowa
47. Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
48. Chargers: Sam Hubbard, Edge, Ohio State
49. Jets: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
50. Cowboys: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
51. Lions: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
52. Ravens: Austin Corbett, G, Nevada
53. Bills: Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF
54. Chiefs: Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State
55. Bills: Ronald Jones, RB, USC
56. Panthers: B.J. Hill, DT, North Carolina State
57. Titans: Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State
58. Falcons: DaShawn Hand, DE, Alabama
59. 49ers: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
60. Steelers: Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
61. Jaguars: Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
62. Vikings: Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon
63. Patriots: Andrew Brown, DT, Virginia
64. Browns: Tony Brown, CB, Alabama