The NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 26 and the Cleveland Browns are on the clock with the chance to take a franchise quarterback.
It’s mock draft season.
The Cleveland Browns hold the first and fourth picks in the 2018 NFL Draft and should be in a position to draft a franchise quarterback and another starter as they try to win a single game this year. Between those picks are the Giants and Jets who are both in the market for a quarterback and this year’s class features a handful of prospects who carry first round grades.
My mock draft doesn’t feature any trades but you can expect a team like the Buffalo Bills to consider moving up for one of the quarterbacks with their two first round picks as ammunition.
I have five quarterbacks going in the first round but it’s the defensive players that are dominating the first round. In total, I have five of the first six picks being offensive players but only 12 come off the board in the first round. That means I have 20 defensive players going in the first round.
Schmidt NFL Mock Draft 1.0
1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold, QB, USC
I think Darnold is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. The Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor in the offseason which could allow for Darnold to sit much of his rookie year which would be beneficial for him to smooth out his game.
2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley, RB, NYG
The Giants could go quarterback here and find the successor to Eli Manning, but I don’t think they’re ready to usher him out-of-town. Instead, they get the best player in the draft with Barkley.
3. New York Jets – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen is going to be perfect in New York. The Jets need a face of the franchise and a long-term option at quarterback. Rosen represents both.
4. Cleveland Browns – Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
Chubb is the best defender in the draft and gives the Browns a bookend to pair with last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Myles Garrett to give the team a pair of talented pass rushers.
5. Denver Broncos – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Broncos signed Case Keenum in free agency but Allen represents a nice long-term option and should fit in well after playing at Wyoming. John Elway has bungled the quarterback position outside of signing Peyton Manning and this pick comes with some risks but the presence of Keenum means Allen won’t be rushed into playing before he’s ready.
6. Indianapolis Colts – Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Colts have needed to improve the offensive line for years. Their inability to do so resulted in Andrew Luck having his body broken to the point he’s still not quite healthy. Picking Nelson, the best guard since Steve Hutchinson, will go a long way toward keeping Luck upright.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Tampa Bay had the worst pass defense last year and could go with a safety like Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick but I’m giving them the top corner in Denzel Ward. Vernon Hargreaves hasn’t looked like a first rounder and Brent Grimes is closer to 40 than he is 30.
8. Chicago Bears – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Bears see two players they would have loved to draft get picked right before them. This could be a trade down situation in real life, but for this mock, we’ll give them the linebacker with the most upside. Only 19, Edmunds has freakish athleticism and the potential to line up inside and outside.
9. San Francisco 49ers – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
I list Fitzpatrick as a defensive back because he can play safety, nickel corner and corner. The 49ers could go with a pass rusher like Marcus Davenport here because they need sacks, but Fitzpatrick is the better overall player.
10. Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Smith is the most instinctual linebacker since Luke Kuechly and while he’s a tad undersized brings all the speed, athleticism and intangibles to the position. In the spread NFL, Smith can be the new prototype for the position.
11. Miami Dolphins – Derwin James, S, Florida State
James is a physical marvel who looks like he could be a first round pick at multiple positions. As a safety, he has the build to be a better version of Kam Chancellor. Miami could go quarterback here but think they’re not ready to give up on Ryan Tannehill just yet.
12. Buffalo Bills – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Last year’s Heisman winner heads to Buffalo. This could be a trade up situation for Buffalo who owns two first round picks, but in this scenario, the board fell their way so they can keep both picks to begin reloading the roster.
13. Washington Redskins – Vita Vea, NT, Washington
Washington couldn’t stop the run last year. Enter the 350-pound dancing bear that is Vita Vea who can be a run stuffer in the middle of the line and help free up last year’s No. 1 pick, Jonathan Allen to beat man blocking.
14. Green Bay Packers – Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
The Packers really need help in the secondary and they get an immediate starter in Mike Hughes. He came alive last year for the undefeated Knights and while a little unproven, has all the tools to be successful. He’ll also help provide a lift in the return game as a punt returner
15. Arizona Cardinals – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
I don’t think the Cardinals take a quarterback here, although I expect them to take one in the later rounds. After signing Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon in free agency, they need someone besides Larry Fitzgerald to throw the ball to. Enter Ridley, the top receiver in the class.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
This is a great value for the Ravens who get Davenport, who could have gone in the top 10, to provide a young and promising edge rusher. Terrell Suggs is winding out his Hall of Fame career so Davenport can soak up a few pass rushing tricks of the trade from him before he retires.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Payne is one of my favorite players in the draft and will be a huge help for the Chargers run defense that was among the worst in the NFL last year. Payne is a great run-stuffer and has the tools to be an above-average pass rusher from the interior of the line.
18. Seattle Seahawks – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Seahawks could go offensive line with this pick but with no player graded that high at this point, they turn to Josh Jackson who led the nation with eight interceptions last year at Iowa. He’ll fill the massive void left by Richard Sherman.
19. Dallas Cowboys – Maurice Hurts, DT, Michigan
The Cowboys could go with a wide receiver like Christian Kirk or D.J. Moore, but they’ll wait with Mo Hurst on the board. Diagnosed with a heart condition at the combine, he was eventually cleared to participate in Michigan’s pro day. He’s the type of upfield presence Dallas needs in the middle of the defensive line.
20. Detroit Lions – Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
Detroit needs another defensive end to complement Ezekiel Ansah who was franchised in the offseason. Landry had a monster 2016 season before falling off in 2017 but the upside is there and a better value than a running back or tight end in this spot.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
This is a surprise. Andy Dalton isn’t lighting the world on fire and after losing AJ McCarron in free agency, the Bengals need another quarterback. They have more pressing needs along the offensive line but I think the lure to have Jackson in Cincinnati, which is basically, Louisville North, will be too attractive to pass up.
22. Buffalo Bills – Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
The Bills got their quarterback earlier and now they get a big body to protect their investment. Hernandez is a plug-and-play starter who is the strongest lineman in the class and will replace the retired Richie Incognito.
23. New England Patriots – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Alexander has been a steady riser since the combine and he’ll fit in nicely in New England. After the Patriots lost Malcolm Butler in free agency, Alexander should step right in and be a starter and a future No. 1 lockdown corner.
24. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
When you play in a division with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston, you need to have a deep and talented secondary. Adding Oliver gives the Panthers a corner who can match up against Michael Thomas, Julio Jones and Mike Evans.
25. Tennessee Titans – Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State
The Titans would love to add a pass rusher here, but with those options slim, they go with Vander Esch who can provide a blitzing element from the inside linebacker position. He’ll replace Avery Williamson in the defense as a Day 1 starter. One of the most productive players in college last year at Boise State.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The Falcons need help at defensive tackle after the departure of Dontari Poe and get great value with Taven Bryan. He didn’t have a lot of production at Florida but he had flashes where he took over games and was overwhelming the guards and centers tasked with blocking him.
27. New Orleans Saints – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The former baseball player is the best tight end in the draft. The Saints offense is one of the best in the league but can be upgraded at the tight end position where Coby Fleener was a dud after signing a big deal in free agency. After the Saints struck out trying to bring Jimmy Graham back to the Big Easy, the Saints get Hurst to provide another weapon for Drew Brees.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Rashaan Evans, OLB, Alabama
Evans was a big producer and leader at Alabama, winning a pair of national titles. The Steelers can use Evans to help replace Ryan Shazier who is lost for the season and maybe forever. Evans can rush from the edge or line up in the middle.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
Moore would instantly become the Jaguars best receiver. After losing Allen Robinson to the Bears, the Jags reload with Moore who set a program record with 80 receptions last year with the Terps and who set the combine on fire with a 4.42 time in the 40.
30. Minnesota Vikings – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Vikings invested heavily in quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency and need to protect him. Mike Zimmer’s team is loaded defensively, but they can never have too many good offensive linemen. McGlinchey can play left tackle but I think he has the potential to be a really good right tackle. Iowa center James Daniels could make sense here too if they think he can play guard.
31. New England Patriots – Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The Patriots lost Nate Solder in free agency and replace him with Connor Williams who looked like a potential top-10 pick earlier in his career at Texas. Injury and inconsistent play knocked him down to the bottom of the first round, but Bill Belichick and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia will have him playing like he did early at Texas.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The Eagles could go in a number of directions here, including tight end where Dallas Goedert would be a nice replacement for Trey Burton. However, the value is just too much to pass up on Guice. He easily could have been a top-20 pick. Pairing Guice with Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement gives the Eagles a loaded rotation of backs.