We’re through the evaluation process of the Senior Bowl, and the combine (Feb. 27-March 5) is on deck. The picture for the 2018 NFL draft is becoming clearer, though we still have to get through free agency — and the Kirk Cousinssweepstakes — before we have a better idea of what all 32 teams need.
Since my first mock draft in mid-January, we’ve seen the Eagles win the Super Bowl, Alex Smith traded to Washington and all of the vacant head-coaching openings filled. So, yeah, there are quite a few changes in my new projection of Picks 1-32, which you can read below:
A few reminders before I get started:
My new Big Board and position rankings can be found here. Let’s dig in to Mock Draft 2.0:
Quick links: First-round draft order | McShay’s Mock 2.0 | Kiper’s Mock 1.0
*Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
I’m sticking with Allen here. The only way I see the Browns not ending up with a quarterback at No. 1 is if they sign Kirk Cousins, which is going to cost them around $100 million in guarantees. Then they could trade down with a quarterback-needy team to pick up more talent — and remember, they have the No. 4 pick, too. Allen had a strong week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, improving every day. The NFL statistical comp I make to Allen: Matthew Stafford, who completed 57.1 percent of his passes in 39 games at Georgia and still went No. 1 overall. And Stafford had better talent around him.
*Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Do the Giants take a quarterback or the best prospect available? They don’t have quite as many needs as the Browns, and they won 11 games two seasons ago. New York has some talent. I went with Josh Rosen in Mock Draft 1.0, but Barkley is the top-ranked player on my Big Board. If the Giants can add Barkley to a group that includes Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, that would be rare skill-position talent. Barkley is more than a great runner — he is a stellar receiver (he caught 54 passes in 2017) and pass-blocker. Eli Manning should be more efficient with these weapons around him, and the Giants can use another year of evaluation to figure out whether 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb is the heir apparent.
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
No change with the Colts, who don’t need a quarterback and can grab the draft’s best pass-rusher. They ranked 31st in the NFL in sacks (25) last season. Chubb had 46.5 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. New defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus came over from Dallas, where Rod Marinelli and the Cowboys ran a 4-3 defense. Chubb is a great fit in a 4-3 as an edge rusher.
*Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
With Saquon Barkley off the board, Cleveland can fill a huge need at cornerback with the pick it acquired in the Texans’ trade up for Deshaun Watson last year. And yes, that’s where Fitzpatrick would fit with the Browns. I said in my Mock Draft 1.0 that he is the top cornerback and safety in this draft. Fitzpatrick is a big-time playmaker as a deep safety, outside corner and in the slot — he really has it all. He is a defensive coordinator’s dream.
*Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Darnold has a high ceiling, but ball security issues in 2017 — his 22 turnovers were tied for most in the FBS — raised questions. When he’s on his game, he looks like the No. 1 overall pick. Can he show consistency? I expect Denver to be part of the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, and it could look to defense here if it lands the top free-agent quarterback. The Broncos might look very different in 2018, especially if Aqib Talib and Demaryius Thomas are released. They would have needs at several positions, including corner, safety, receiver and running back.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
This is another team I expect to be in on Kirk Cousins; the Jets have to add a quarterback this offseason. Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg aren’t long-term answers. So why Mayfield over Josh Rosen here? It’s close. Mayfield is one of the best leaders in this class, and there are still questions about Rosen’s ability to galvanize a team. Rosen has a higher ceiling, but Mayfield is ready to start in the NFL right now. I like Rosen as a pure passer, but there are also concerns about his injury history — he missed half of the 2016 season after having shoulder surgery. Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, put up huge numbers for the Sooners and measured at 6-foot at the Senior Bowl. If the Jets get Cousins, cornerback is their top need.
*Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Nelson moved up to No. 4 on my latest Big Board, and there’s no question he’s the favorite to be the first offensive lineman off the board in April. He’s a plug-and-play starter who dominates defenders and can get to the second level. Tampa Bay had one of the league’s worst running games in 2017 — it averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. Nelson would be an instant upgrade.
*Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Edmunds is a tremendous athlete. He could play inside or outside linebacker in the Bears’ 3-4, and it’s that versatility and athleticism that has scouts drooling. I expect him to put up huge numbers at the combine. Edmunds had 109 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2017, and he does a good job covering pass-catchers out of the backfield. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, Edmunds doesn’t look like a traditional middle linebacker, but he’s such a physical specimen that you can’t rule it out. And the Bears just released Jerrell Freeman. Chicago could also be in the market for an offensive tackle or wide receiver here.
*Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
No change for the 49ers here, as Ward would give them a true No. 1 cornerback on top of a super talented front seven. Ward is polished, though he’s not huge (5-10, 191) like 6-2 Ahkello Witherspoon, San Francisco’s third-round pick last year. Ward had two interceptions and 15 pass breakups in 2017, and he plays the ball well and has good instincts.
*Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia
This match makes too much sense, so I’m sticking with it. Smith could be the centerpiece of Jon Gruden’s defense, playing inside linebacker. He had 137 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season, and he was a force in the College Football Playoff, making plays from sideline to sideline.
*Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
If Rosen drops to No. 11, Miami has to pounce. This is a pick for the best player available. Ryan Tannehill is coming off a torn ACL that caused him to miss all of the 2017 season, and the Dolphins could part ways with him next year. Jay Cutler is a free agent. This quarterback situation isn’t resolved. Rosen is the most polished quarterback in this class when he’s at his best, and he has rare arm talent. But he was inconsistent in 2017 and dealt with a serious shoulder injury in 2016. His medical reports and interviews with teams at the combine will be extremely important. Miami could also target an offensive tackle or pass-rusher.
*Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
This is a deep group of offensive tackles, and our first one is off the board at No. 12. Miller is a pure left tackle with a 6-8 frame and great feet. He reminds me of Patriots left tackle Nate Solder (a free agent). Last offseason, the Bengals let longtime left tackle Andrew Whitworth walk, and former first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi took his spot. Whitworth had an All-Pro season with the Rams, but Ogbuehi struggled. He might be better with a move inside to guard. Picking Miller here gives Cincinnati an upgrade, though he needs to get stronger.
*Vita Vea, DT, Washington
We could probably scratch off quarterback here after Washington traded for Alex Smith and signed him to a new deal. The next position I have on my Redskins needs list is nose tackle, and Vea and Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne are the best in the class. Washington ranked last in the league in 2017 in run defense, allowing 134.1 yards per game. The 6-4, 346-pound Vea is a freakish talent who is more than a run-stopper. He has rare quickness for a player of his size and can play all three downs.
Marcus Davenport, DE, UT San Antonio
Davenport was my pick for Green Bay in Mock Draft 1.0, and I don’t see a reason to change. There really aren’t many top-tier edge rushers in this class for the second half of the first round, and there’s a drop-off after Davenport. He had an OK week at the Senior Bowl but didn’t dominate. That was expected, however, as he’s a raw, quick-twitch athlete with a 6-6 frame who lacks pass-rushing moves. Those should come in time, and he would get to learn the craft from Clay Matthews in Green Bay.
*Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
I love this fit for both sides. Take a look at the Cardinals’ depth chart from the end of the season. Larry Fitzgerald will be 35 when the 2018 season begins. John Brown and Jaron Brown are free agents. They need a No. 2 receiver. Ridley is far and away the best wideout in this draft class, and getting him at No. 15 is good value. He had 19 career touchdown catches with inconsistent quarterback play. Arizona also needs a quarterback, of course, but I think new coach Steve Wilks & Co. are more likely to go the veteran route. But watch out for the Cardinals if one of the top four QBs falls.
*Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
I’m giving the Ravens a right tackle again, just swapping the prospect. Brown is a pure mauler and plug-and-play guy over incumbent Austin Howard. At 6-8, 345, Brown will need to lose a little bit of weight, but he was stellar protecting Baker Mayfield‘s blind side at Oklahoma. Baltimore could be in position to snag the top center in this class — Iowa’s James Daniels is No. 1 on my board — if it loses Ryan Jensen in free agency.
*Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
As I wrote in my Mock Draft 1.0, stopping the run has to be a priority for the Chargers in 2018. Their 4.9 yards per rushing attempt allowed ranked last in the league. Los Angeles has two young star edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but it has to improve on the interior. Payne popped in the College Football Playoff and even had an interception and touchdown catch in the semifinal win over Clemson. The 6-2, 319-pound Payne had only three career sacks, but he consistently beat his man, even if it didn’t show up on the stat sheet.
*Derwin James, S, Florida State
There are questions all over the Seattle defense — will Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, Sheldon Richardson and Richard Sherman be back? — and the future of the aging Legion of Boom is up in the air. James could be a new member. He looked like a top-five pick as a freshman at Florida State in 2015, missed the entire 2016 season with a knee injury, then didn’t return as the same player in 2017. But he’s still extremely talented. Medical reports and testing at the combine will be important for James. Scouts are keeping an eye on how he runs and what he shows in the agility drills.
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
I almost went with a tight end here, as South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst reminds me of a young Jason Witten, who can’t play forever. But middle linebacker is another need, especially if Dallas can’t retain free agent Anthony Hitchens, and Evans could play there or be insurance for Sean Lee, who will be 32 when the 2018 season begins and has struggled with injuries in his career. Evans had 15 sacks at Alabama and is a threat as a pass-rusher on third down. He’s smart and battle-tested after playing under Nick Saban. I really like this pick for the Cowboys.
*Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
This is a spot to watch for a rising pass-rusher, but Detroit would be thrilled with the No. 2 running back on the board. Guice is a true every-down back, which Matthew Stafford has never had in his career. Ameer Abdullah averaged only 3.3 yards per carry in 2017, while Theo Riddick is more of a versatile pass-catcher. Guice had 26 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons, and he looked every bit as good for the Tigers as Leonard Fournette did in 2016. I also like the fit for USC running back Ronald Jones II and Detroit, so he’s another option as the second back to be drafted.
*Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
With back-to-back picks here, could the Bills try to package these and move up for a quarterback? It would take both picks — and more — to get into the top 10. Hughes fills a big need opposite 2017 first-round pick Tre’Davious White, and he’s a great punt and kick returner, too. He had three touchdown returns last season. After playing at North Carolina in 2015 and a junior college in 2016, Hughes doesn’t have a ton of experience, but he emerged as a shutdown corner and important player for the Knights in 2017.
*James Daniels, C/G, Iowa
Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is a perfect fit in the Bills’ 4-3 — and my top-ranked 4-3 tackle — but the retirement of Eric Wood opens up a void at center in Buffalo, and the Bills could get the top prospect at a real position of need. Daniels is No. 1 on my board there. At 6-4, 296, he can move his feet and get to the second level as a true athlete. He is perfect as an anchor for today’s NFL. I wouldn’t be shocked if two centers went in the first round. Ohio State’s Billy Price is the other one.
*Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Los Angeles has decisions to make on free-agent cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman and safety/corner Lamarcus Joyner, and it isn’t likely to keep them all. Cornerback is a clear need for the Rams. Jackson burst onto the scene with eight interceptions in 2017, including three in an upset win over Ohio State. The big question about Jackson is true speed — he needs to run well at the combine to stay in the first-round discussion. He could also help out on punt returns.
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
When Cam Newton was league MVP in 2015, he had a deep threat in Ted Ginn Jr. who could take the top off defenses. Ginn had 10 touchdowns and averaged almost 17 yards per catch. Washington could be that guy for the Panthers. He averaged 19.8 yards per catch and had 39 touchdowns at Oklahoma State. He is great after the catch. At 5-11, 210, Washington is undersized, but he was one of the best receivers at the Senior Bowl. He consistently beat defenders in one-on-ones, just like I saw on his college tape.
*Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
Tennessee is expected to part ways with DeMarco Murray, which means Derrick Henry becomes the primary back. New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur spent time with the Falcons (2015-16) and Rams (2017), who both used their backs a lot in the passing game, and Jones could be a complementary back who helps there. He caught only 14 passes last season, but he has a lot of tools with which to work and has a lot of talent after the catch. I also thought about center or guard here, as the Titans need to upgrade the interior of their line.
Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
Wynn is another prospect who helped himself at the Senior Bowl. He was one of the best offensive linemen there, and he neutralized pass-rushers on almost every one-on-one rep. Wynn played guard and tackle for the Bulldogs, but at 6-2, 308, scouts see him as a guard at the next level. By picking Wynn, Atlanta could upgrade on Wes Schweitzer on the right side or move on from Andy Levitre on the left side. Defensive tackle and receiver are other positions to watch with this pick, depending on what happens in free agency.
*Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
I mentioned Hurst at pick No. 19, and he’s trending toward being a Day 1 pick and the first tight end off the board. He’s a well-rounded tight end who didn’t get a ton of targets in the South Carolina offense. One thing to note: Because Hurst spent a couple of years playing minor league baseball, he will be 25 when he plays his first NFL game. That shouldn’t be a demerit, however, as he has the tools to be a premier tight end in the league. New Orleans brought in Coby Fleener in 2016 to try to replace the production of Jimmy Graham, but that didn’t work out and the Saints could release him this offseason. Drew Breesneeds a No. 1 tight end.
*Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Vander Esch is a name I continue to hear for the end of the first round. I expect him to put up strong numbers at the combine. At 6-4, 240, he has the versatility to play outside linebacker, but I think his best fit is as an inside ‘backer in a 3-4. He’s a physical run-stopper who can defend tight ends and running backs — he had three interceptions in 2017. Inside linebacker is an obvious need for the Steelers, who will have to replace Ryan Shazier. This is also a spot where I could see a team trading up to grab Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who I think will be the fifth QB off the board.
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
I’m giving the Jags a different tight end here after going with Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews in my Mock Draft 1.0. Former first-round pick Marcedes Lewis has had a great career, but he’s turning 34 this year and isn’t much of a receiving threat. I have compared Goedert to Todd Heap and Zach Ertz, two guys who can catch passes and also block. Goedert has a tremendous catch radius at 6-4, 260. He suffered a hamstring injury at the first Senior Bowl practice but should be fine to work out at the combine.
*Geron Christian, OT, Louisville
This tackle class is fluid. I could see five or six picked on Day 1. I’m anticipating Christian to get a lot of buzz at the combine. He’s going to be a riser after he shows his athleticism in drills. Christian started 39 straight games for the Cardinals, including every game as a freshman. He has great feet and a big 6-6 frame. With Mike Remmers likely staying at guard in 2018 and beyond, the Vikings have a hole at right tackle. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Texas’ Connor Williams are other tackles to keep an eye on.
*Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
Jackson is another prospect I expect will rise at the combine. He might be the fastest player in this class. He has elite speed and physical talent, and he could help out as a returner. Jackson is only 5-11, 180, but he has a similar build to that of 2017 first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson. We know the Patriots love to trade down, so this is a spot to watch for a team trying to get Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Patriots also need a pass-rusher, and Boston College’s Harold Landry or Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter could be under consideration.
*Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The Super Bowl champs are built to contend for years to come, and they don’t have many immediate needs. I thought about tackle here, as veteran left tackle Jason Peters is coming off a torn ACL and MCL. But former fifth-round pick Halapoulivaati Vaitai showed promise down the stretch, and the offensive line as a whole played really well in the playoffs. The Eagles might part ways with Torrey Smith this offseason, which means a receiver at the end of the first round makes sense. At 5-11, Kirk isn’t a big target, but he can be a weapon in the slot and in the return game. UCLA’s Jordan Lasley is a receiver who could rise into the Day 1 discussion, too.