By Jeff Risdon
The final projection of picks for the first three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. Commentary will be brief. Note that these reflect choices I think the teams might make in the given situations and do not reflect the choices I would make. The “what I would do mock” published last week.
Also note that after the first 15 or so picks I’m much more interested in matching player to draft slot than I am player to team.
As I said in the “20 bold predictions” piece, I think every sixth round pick gets traded and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see over 33 percent of all picks dealt from who holds them heading into the draft weekend.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC. If it’s not Darnold, it will be Baker Mayfield and not Josh Allen. That’s the list.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. I’ve grown more confident in this guess over the last few days. The pick is more likely to be dealt than the Giants taking a quarterback. That’s my take and I’m sticking to it.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. If Darnold is available here, he’s the pick. I don’t buy the Josh Allen or Josh Rosen talk. Mayfield has been linked to the Jets by so many, and this is not a franchise that has hidden its draft intentions well lately. If both Darnold and Mayfield are gone, enjoy Josh Allen here.
4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, North Carolina State. I’m more confident of what the Browns do at No. 4 than I am No. 1. It’s either Chubb or the pick is traded.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. Quite confident this slot is Rosen’s, but will it be the Broncos taking him or another team (Bills, Cardinals) trading up? I’d bet on the trade. If the Broncos pick, my speculation is they take Quenton Nelson.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. I had Denzel Ward here but Smith has a chance to be more special and the Colts LBs are a lot needier than their young secondary.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame. The Bucs add the best player in the draft to help Jameis be all that he can be. Sleeper pick: Marcus Davenport.
8. Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. Edmunds to Chicago was one of the popular gleaning from the Combine. I keep circling back to it, though the Mike McGlinchey talk certainly makes sense too. I believe they sprint to the podium if Nelson is available. I don’t buy the Minkah or Derwin chatter.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Derwin James, S, Florida State. James won the coin flip over Minkah Fitzpatrick and I approve, as I believe James is a higher-end prospect to help the 49ers secondary.
10. Oakland Raiders: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. Another pick I’ve believed in for some time and circled back to after dalliances with other concepts (Denzel Ward, Minkah Fitzpatrick). One particular person I (mostly) trust told me in late March “this is the easiest lock in the entire draft.”
11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. Versatile playmaker who can play free safety or slot corner in a defense that needs help in a lot of places. I can see Lamar Jackson being the pick here too.
12. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. I think they trade up to get the boom/bust wunderkind but I’m not monkeying with the order to project trades.
13. Washington: Vita Vea, DT, Washington. One well-placed source insists the pick will be Vea. Another insists it will be Derrius Guice. Neither will surprise me, nor would DaRon Payne.
14. Green Bay Packers: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College. I had Leighton Vander Esch here as the hot connection coming out of the Combine, but recent events led me to switch to Landry, a more proven pass rusher. I strongly believe it will be one or the other.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. They very well might have to trade up to land him, but I like the concept of Jackson heading to Arizona.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, Texas-San Antonio. Davenport is the latest successor to Terrell Suggs and another player/team match emanating from the Combine.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. This is how variable this draft will be: I legitimately had Ward going to the Colts at No. 6 and that could absolutely happen, but I can also see the undersized Ward falling this far and nobody really blinks.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia. Rather than recreating the Legion of Boom with a CB like Josh Jackson, I buy into the school of thought that the Seahawks will finally take Russell Wilson’s protection seriously. Wynn would be their best tackle, but he’s a much better guard prospect.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. An off-ball linebacker with potential to become a pass rusher, Vander Esch is one of draft season’s biggest winners. Dallas reinforces the defense. I know many think they go WR here, but I’m sticking with the D.
20. Detroit Lions: DaRon Payne, DT, Alabama. As I’m a Lions fan I’ll elaborate the pick here. My somewhat educated belief is that Harold Landry is Plan A, Marcus Davenport is Plan B, Payne or Bama teammate Rashaan Evans are Plan C. I think Payne has pass-rushing upside that will intrigue the Lions, and pass rush is far and away their biggest self-identified need. I will be quite surprised if the pick is not one of the four players I mentioned here. Offensive guard is more likely than RB should they deviate from the pass rush.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas. I am matching player and team here, but I think it will be latter, as if this is what the Bengals want they know they can wait (but not too long) to get Ragnow or James Daniels or Billy Price. Good spot to make a deal with someone coming up to snatch an offensive tackle or wide receiver. Sleeper pick: Lamar Jackson if he’s still on the board.
22. Buffalo Bills: Billy Price, C, Ohio State. Presuming they haven’t traded the pick, the Bills must address the growing holes on the interior OL. Price has an injury availability concern for his rookie season but is a higher-end prospect than any other center in this class.
23. New England Patriots: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. Smart, rangy and versatile. Sounds like a Patriot, and they need some reinforcements all over the defense.
24. Carolina Panthers: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. A feisty playmaker who would be more highly regarded if not for an injury-plagued 2017. The Panthers are a tough team to place but they can always use corners. Donte Jackson was strongly considered here.
25. Tennessee Titans: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. This is another pick where I’m more matching player with slot than team, as the Titans have a hefty investment at CB with Malcolm Butler in FA and Adoree Jackson in the first round last year. Jackson is a bigger corner and could fit, however. His size and production dictate NFL teams will covet his services early on, even if it’s not the Titans in this slot.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida. Bryan thrives on disrupting up the gut with a lightning first step. The Falcons don’t really have that kind of player. This is one of the more popular consensus mock draft picks…for a reason.
27. New Orleans Saints: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. The first wideout goes to a team that can use a complement to Michael Thomas. Moore thrives on short-range targets and running after the catch.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Reid, S, Stanford. One of the smartest guys in the draft, and he also happens to be quite productive at a position where the Steelers sorely need help.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina. Overaged but capable of doing anything and everything the Jaguars will ask of him as a tight end, Hurst was the consensus choice of the four Jacksonville “insiders” I asked.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP. Hernandez is blessed with epic strength and a nasty disposition in using it as a blocker. He moves well for a guy built like a refrigerator, too. The Vikings keep efforting to reinforce the offensive line.
31. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA. One of the best athletes in the draft regardless of position, Miller needs technical refinement but has the length and upside teams will covet.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. Not the biggest need for the Super Bowl champs, but too tempting of a talent to turn away. Guice falls in the draft more for the glut of RB talent than any potential issues he allegedly (and unfoundedly) brings to the table.
1 (33). Cleveland Browns: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
2 (34). New York Giants: James Daniels, C, Iowa
3 (35). Cleveland Browns: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
4 (36). Indianapolis Colts: Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
5 (37). Indianapolis Colts: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
6 (38). Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
7 (39). Chicago Bears: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
8 (40). Denver Broncos: Mo Hurst, DT, Michigan
9 (41). Oakland Raiders: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
10 (42). Miami Dolphins: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
11 (43). New England Patriots: Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
12 (44). Washington Redskins: Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
13 (45). Green Bay Packers: Austin Corbett, OG, Nevada
14 (46). Cincinnati Bengals: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
15 (47). Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
16 (48). Los Angeles Chargers: Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Valley State
17 (49). Indianapolis Colts: Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
18 (50). Dallas Cowboys: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
19 (51). Detroit Lions: Tyrell Crosby, OT/OG, Oregon
20 (52). Baltimore Ravens: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
21 (53). Buffalo Bills: Ronald Jones, RB, USC
22 (54). Kansas City Chiefs: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
23 (55). Carolina Panthers: Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
24 (56). Buffalo Bills: Lorenzo Carter, EDGE, Georgia
25 (57). Tennessee Titans: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
26 (58). Atlanta Falcons: Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest
27 (59). San Francisco 49ers: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
28 (60). Pittsburgh Steelers: Fred Warner, LB, BYU
29 (61). Jacksonville Jaguars: Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
30 (62). Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
31 (63). New England Patriots: Uchenna Nwosu, EDGE, USC
32 (64). Cleveland Browns: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
1 (65). Buffalo Bills: Josh Sweat, EDGE, Florida State
2 (66). New York Giants: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
3 (67). Indianapolis Colts: Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Ohio State
4 (68). Houston Texans: Chuks Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
5 (69). New York Giants: DaShawn Hand, EDGE, Alabama
6 (70). San Francisco 49ers: Tarvarius Moore, S, Southern Miss
7 (71). Denver Broncos: Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech
8 (72). New York Jets: Martinas Rankin, OT/C, Mississippi State
9 (73). Miami Dolphins: P.J. Hall, DT, Sam Houston State
10 (74). San Francisco 49ers: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
11 (75). Oakland Raiders: Harrison Phillips, DE, Stanford
12 (76). Green Bay Packers: Isaac Yiadom, CB, Boston College
13 (77). Cincinnati Bengals: Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
14 (78). Kansas City Chiefs: Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF
15 (79). Arizona Cardinals: Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State
16 (80). Houston Texans: Holton Hill, CB, Texas
17 (81). Dallas Cowboys: Kyzir White, S, West Virginia
18 (82). Detroit Lions: Tyquan Lewis, EDGE, Ohio State
19 (83). Baltimore Ravens: Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State
20 (84). Los Angeles Chargers: Luke Falk, QB, Washington State
21 (85). Carolina Panthers: Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa
22 (86). Kansas City Chiefs: Rahsaan Gaulden, S, Tennessee
23 (87). Los Angeles Rams: Oren Burks, LB, Vanderbilt
24 (88). Carolina Panthers: Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU
25 (89). Tennessee Titans: John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
26 (90). Atlanta Falcons: DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State
27 (91). New Orleans Saints: Bilal Nichols, DT, Delaware
28 (92). Pittsburgh Steelers: Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
29 (93). Jacksonville Jaguars: Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
30 (94). Minnesota Vikings: Braden Smith, OG, Auburn
31 (95). New England Patriots: Kemoko Turay, EDGE, Rutgers
32 (96). Buffalo Bills: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
33 (97). Arizona Cardinals: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE, Oklahoma
34 (98). Houston Texans: Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
35 (99). Denver Broncos: Genard Avery, LB, Memphis
36 (100). Cincinnati Bengals: Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech