Some of these are based on conversations I’ve had with various draft insiders, beat writers and people I trust. Some of these are hedged guesses based on interviews and social media posts from others. Some of these are based on nothing more than random thoughts I had while blasting the latest Avatar album too loudly on a long car drive.
1. We’ll start at the top. Sam Darnold will be the No. 1 overall pick to the Cleveland Browns. To some that is indeed a very bold take.
2. The first trade executed on draft night will involve the No. 4 pick, also involving the Browns. Cleveland will trade the pick to the Buffalo Bills for a cadre of picks including the No. 12 pick and Cleveland’s own pick at 65, which the Browns previously sent to Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor. The Bills will take Wyoming QB Josh Allen.
3. The first defensive player selected will be Ohio State CB Denzel Ward, who winds up with old Buckeye teammate Malik Hooker in Indianapolis.
4. Josh Rosen falls out of the top-8 overall picks, and the Arizona Cardinals maneuver up to stop his fall with a trade to snatch the UCLA quarterback.
5. My official 2018 NFL Draft crush is Fort Hays State DT Nathan Shepherd. He compares somewhere on the Ndamukong Suh/Leonard Williams spectrum to me, though not as polished as either coming out. When the Detroit Lions pass on taking him at No. 51 overall, I will angrily throw something across whatever room I’m in. He won’t last five picks past that point.
6. I’m a #MACtion guy, so I predict the first MAC player drafted will be Western Michigan OT Chuks Okorafor, sometime in the early part of the third round. Only five other MAC guys will be drafted—WMU CB/RS Darius Phillips, Toledo QB Logan Woodside and EDGE Ola Adeniyi, Ohio LB Quentin Poling and CMU TE Tyler Conklin, all in the 6th or 7th rounds.
7. Two players who unexpectedly fall out of the first round: Washington DT Vita Vea and Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn. Michigan DT Mo Hurst could be a third.
8. Louisville OT Geron Christian will be on Mel Kiper’s “top 5 available” talents for two full rounds. Given where Mel has him ranked, it probably should be even longer.
9. The prop bet on Lamar Jackson and over/under draft slot of 17.5 is intriguing but bet the under; NFL teams are polarized on the Louisville quarterback, but I know of at least two who have him ranked higher than Josh Allen, who will be a top-5 pick. It would not surprise me if Jackson winds up being selected before Rosen.
10. The first player drafted who was not at the Combine will be Sam Houston State DT P.J. Hall. He’s also one of “my guys” in this class. Hall will be one of the first five players selected on Day Three.
11. Two current NFL players who will be traded on draft weekend: Lions RB Ameer Abdullah and Broncos QB Paxton Lynch. It’d be really cool if they got traded for one another, but that won’t happen. Despite ample speculation, Earl Thomas will remain in Seattle and Nick Foles sticks in Philadelphia.
12. Texas punter Michael Dickson will be drafted before the end of the 4th round.
12. This year’s Davis Webb/Tom Savage/Gerod Holliman, the player unexpectedly projected late in the process by many pundits to crash the first round but winds up falling into at least the third round (much closer to where they belong) will be Georgia EDGE Lorenzo Carter. I wanted to use UCLA OT Kolton Miller as the guy here, but I’ll be (quite pleasantly) surprised if he’s not a top 30 overall pick.
13. All the hoopla about this being an amazing running back class will be validated, but perhaps not in the way you might expect. Saquon Barkley will go very high, but there will not be another RB drafted before the 20s. Here’s the kicker---Derrius Guice will not be the second RB taken. That will be Sony Michel from Georgia. Day Two will feature a glut of running backs.
14. Despite monstrous and enthusiastic attendance in Dallas, the draft will continue its vagabond tour around the NFL landscape. While it won’t be announced officially until after the ’18 draft concludes, word will leak out that the 2019 edition will be in Canton, Ohio.
15. The most unexpected player to go undrafted will be LSU EDGE Arden Key, who was a top-20 overall fixture in preseason mock drafts.
16. With the unusual amount of uncertainty for so many picks in this draft, no pundit will have more than eight of the 32 first-round picks properly slotted and no more than 26 of the 32 first-round players correctly tabbed. My prediction for my own stats in my final mock (coming Wednesday afternoon!) are four and 24, respectively. I expect to hit my yearly goal of 77 of the first 100 players drafted included that highly in my mock draft. Last year was the first time in eight years I missed that mark.
17. The first wide receiver selected will be D.J Moore from Maryland. He will not be drafted until the 20s, and there will be just four WRs (Moore, Calvin Ridley, Courtland Sutton, Christian Kirk in that order) taken in the draft’s first two days.
18. The loudest ovation at the draft will come when Saquon Barkley gets drafted, followed by Shaquem Griffin’s selection near the end of Friday night. Cowboys fans will not like their first-round selection, as is their wont. Some of the loudest boos in draft history came when Dallas took Zack Martin instead of Johnny Manziel back in 2014. Martin has been Pro Bowler in every season of his career.
19. Every sixth-round pick will be traded at least once. One of them will be traded away from a team and then eventually reacquired by said team, likely pick 205 going back to the Cleveland Browns. It currently belongs to Washington after being dealt by the Browns to the Patriots. The Browns will take Tulane CB Parry Nickerson.
20. Mr. Irrelevant, the final pick of the draft, will be Grand Valley State TE Nick Keizer. He’ll stick on the Falcons practice squad as a rookie, too.