We are a little less than a month away from the 2018 NFL Draft. First round action is scheduled for Thursday, April 26th at 8:00 EST. Rounds 2-3 will follow on Friday with rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
Trying to project how it will unfold is no easy task and near impossible to get right. A big part of that is all the trades that take place on draft day. I’ve studied the offseason moves and picked players that fit both the schemes and needs of each team.
2018 NFL Mock Draft First Round Predictions & Projections
2017: 0-16 (4th AFC North)
The Browns have two of the top four picks in the draft. The question isn’t whether or not Cleveland will use one of the picks on a quarterback. It’s which one will they take and will they use the No. 1 pick or wait and hope their guy is still available at No. 4. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, who many believe is the best overall talent in the draft is the only other option. They have to feel like there’s a good chance he will still be there at No.4, so I think they take their pick of the best signal caller. I believe that to be USC’s Sam Darnold, who would likely use 2018 as a red-shirt behind veteran Tyrod Taylor, much like the Chiefs did last year with Patrick Mahomes.
New York Giants
2017: 3-13 (4th NFC East)
There’s plenty of speculation on whether or not the Giants will be the ones using this pick. I believe if the price is right, New York would be more than willing to trade this pick. With that said, there’s also the possibility that they keep the pick and use it to draft a future replacement for Eli Manning. Either way, I think we are going to see a quarterback taken here and I believe that will be UCLA’s Josh Rosen. The Giants could also go for a more win-now selection and give their running game a much needed boost by taking Barkley.
New York Jets
2017: 5-11 (4th AFC East)
The Jets traded up from No. 6 with the Colts to this spot and there’s little doubt that they will use it on a quarterback. The two best options available with Darnold and Rosen off the board are Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. I could see them going either way, but I think Allen is the better overall prospect, as he has the arm strength you can’t teach and I feel is a bit underrated after not putting up great numbers in his junior season. A lot of that had to do with Wyoming having to replace their top 3 receivers. This would be a big step in the right direction to getting the Jets back to be contenders in the AFC.
2016: 0-16 (4th AFC North)
This is a dream scenario for Cleveland if Barkley is still on the board. Cleveland gets the signal-caller of the future with the No. 1 overall pick and one of the elite playmakers in Barkley, who I think is the type of player that could take the Browns from 0-16 into a legit playoff contender.
2017: 5-11 (4th AFC West)
Denver has been linked to Mayfield and it wouldn’t come as a shock if they went that route with this selection. However, they did sign Case Keenum to be their new starter and are no longer in a spot where they have to take a signal caller here. Offensive line is also a major need for the Broncos, even after the team landed tackle Jared Veldheer in a recent trade. I have them taking Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who is the best offensive line prospect in this class. You rarely see guards rated high enough to be taken this early, but that’s how special a player Nelson is. He’s good enough to step in and start right away and be a All-Pro caliber player for the next decade.
2017: 4-12 (4th AFC South)
The Colts swapped the No. 3 pick with the Jets for this pick, as well as New York’s two second round selections (picks No. 37 and No. 49), as well as the Jets second rounder next year. Though made perfect sense, as Indy already has a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. Now they have the ammunition to really make some improvements, as they have quite a few holes to fill. I don’t see how the Colts could pass up on the best pure pass rusher in this class in Bradley Chubb, who some would argue might be the second best overall prospect in this entire class.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2017: 5-11 (4th NFC South)
Tampa Bay had the league’s worst pass defense this past season and it would come as a huge surprise if they don’t use this pick on improving their secondary. With most of the teams picking before them targeting quarterbacks, the Bucs figure to have their pick on taking the best safety or corner on the board. That puts Ohio State’s Denzel Ward in play here, but I think they have a hard time passing up on Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick, who played both corner and safety for the Crimson Tide.
2017: 5-11 (4th NFC North)
Chicago did a nice job improving their offense in free agency, adding the likes of wide outs Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, as well as tight end Trey Burton. I think they would consider taking Nelson to beef up the offensive line if he was available, but with him off the board I think they go defense. While they have a couple of capable corners in Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller, they could use an upgrade at the position. I think they do just that and grab the best corner in the draft in Ward.
San Francisco 49ers
2017: 6-10 (4th NFC West)
San Francisco appears to have struck gold with the trade that landed them Jimmy Garoppolo and could certainly use some playmakers on offense to get the most out of their new signal caller. However, Barkley is the only running back worthy of a pick here and he’s not going to make it this far. I also think it’s too early to reach on a wide out. I think they instead look to improve their defense and address their need for playmakers with their other picks. San Francisco could use help in the secondary and might target someone like Florida State’s Derwin James. There’s also a need at linebacker with the uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster after his latest arrest (domestic violence). I think that’s the direction they go and they can solidify that spot with Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds.
2017: 6-10 (3rd AFC West)
The Raiders desperately want to improve their defensive front and should be able to do just that with this pick. There’s two players who I think are worth a selection here and that’s Washington’s Vita Vea and Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne. I have Vea rated slightly higher than Payne, so that’s why I’m going with him here.
2017: 6-10 (3rd AFC East)
I know there’s a good chance that Mayfield doesn’t make it this far, but if the Broncos don’t take him at No. 5 none of the teams 6-10 are looking to take a quarterback. I know the Dolphins have Ryan Tanehill, but rumors are the team is losing faith in him being the long-term solution. If Miami is in fact ready to move on from Tanehill, they will have a hard time passing up on last year’s Heisman winner.
2017: 9-7 (2nd AFC East)
I think the Bills are the biggest player in terms of putting together the pieces to trade up and get one of the top quarterbacks, as they also have the No. 22 pick in the first round, which they acquired in last year’s trade with Kansas City. However, I’m not about to start predicting trades, so I got Buffalo filling a huge void at linebacker (lost Preston Brown in free agency) by taking Georgia’s Roquan Smith, who I think is a special player and likely wouldn’t still be available if not for an injury that has some teams thinking twice about investing in him with a Top 10 pick.
2017: 7-9 (3rd NFC East)
You could argue that a big reason the Redskins ranked dead last in the league in run defense last year had a lot to do with 2017 first round pick Jonathan Allen only playing 5 games. It’s not easy using a first round pick on the same position in back-to-back years, but I think this is a rare exception to that. Washington needs more than just getting Allen back from injury to make legit strides against the run. I believe pairing him with the likes of Payne from Alabama could turn their biggest weakness into a strength.
Green Bay Packers
2017: 7-9 (3rd NFC North)
Green Bay’s top two corners last year were Damarious Randall and Davon House. Randall was shipped to Cleveland in the trade for DeShone Kizer and House is still on the market. While they will get back last year’s top pick in Kevin King and recently added in veteran Tramon Williams, there’s still a glaring hole at corner that needs to be addressed. Louisville’s Jaire Alexander has been rising up draft boards and I think he’s an ideal fit or the Packers. Pass rusher is also an option and it wouldn’t shock me if Green Bay tried to replace Jordy Nelson with one of the top receiver prospects.
2017: 8-8 (3rd NFC West)
While most mock drafts will have James off the board by now, there’s going to be some big names that fall a bit, especially with all the quarterbacks being taken early on. No team would be happier to see James slip in the draft than the Cardinals, who have a glaring need at safety after losing Tyrann Mathieu. If James isn’t available, look for Arizona to target one of the top offensive linemen available or maybe even roll the dice on Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
2017: 9-7 (2nd AFC North)
I’ve seen several mocks with the Ravens taking a defensive player and while it wouldn’t surprise me given how much this franchise values that side of the ball, I think Baltimore’s biggest needs are on the offensive side of the ball. They could use help on the offensive line, but where they really need to improve is at wide receiver. That’s why I have them taking the best wide out on my board in Alabama’s Calvin Ridley.
Los Angeles Chargers
2017: 9-7 (2nd AFC West)
While the Chargers aren’t in horrible shape on the defensive side of the ball, they could really benefit from an upgrade at nose tackle, linebacker and safety. With the top guys gone at both defensive tackle and safety, I think they look to improve at linebacker. Boise State’s Leighton Vander Esch has went from a 2nd round sleeper to a likely Top 25 pick and I think he would go a long way in helping LA improve against the run, which is one area they really struggled in last year.
2017: 9-7 (2nd NFC West)
The Seahawks surprised a lot of people when they parted ways with veteran corner Richard Sherman. One of the reasons they were willing to let Sherman walk is they struck gold with last year’s 3rd round pick in Shaquill Griffin. They still need to find a starter opposite of him and they can do just that with Iowa’s Joshua Jackson, who not only fits their mold of big corners, but also has great ball skills. You could argue that offensive line is a bigger need here, but that’s been the case for years now and they keep ignoring it. If they do go that direction, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchy would be in play.
2017: 9-7 (2nd NFC East)
You could argue that one of the reasons Dallas didn’t make a bigger push in resigning middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens was they feel that Jaylon Smith is ready to take over as an every-down player. However, the uncertainty with Smith and Sean Lee’s inability to stay on the field make linebacker a need for the Cowboys. Alabama’s Rashaan Evans could really take this defense to the next level. He could replace Hitchens inside or step in and start on the strong side opposite of Lee.
2017: 9-7 (2nd NFC North)
Detroit needs to improve their pass rush. The only player they have that can put consistent pressure on the quarterback is Ezekiel Ansah and he led the team with just 12 sacks a season ago. While the Lions could also look to improve up front on the defensive line or at safety, i think getting a pass rusher is their top priority. The best player on the board to fill that need is UTSA’s Marcus Davenport. He’s been rising up draft boards and could end up being a still if he’s still available.
2017: 7-9 (3rd AFC North)
Cincinnati acquired Cordy Glenn in a recent trade with the Bills to be their new left tackle, as the team all but has given up on Cedric Ogbuehi. While they could make due with Jake Fisher at right tackle, I think the Bengals could do better. Notre Dame’s McGlinchey would really go a long way in turning a weakness into a strength and with Andy Dalton at quarterback the offensive line needs to be great for Cincinnati to be a true threat offensively.
2017: 9-7 (2nd AFC East)
Who knows if the Bills will still have this pick or if they will use it as trade bait. I have them taking a difference maker on defense with their first pick at No. 12 and now I have them improving on offense with one of the more underrated players in the first round in SMU wide out Cortland Sutton.
Los Angeles Rams
2017: 11-5 (1st NFC West)
Head coach Sean McVay gets a lot of the credit for the Rams drastic improvements last year on the offensive side of the ball and rightfully so. The veteran additions of left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan were equally important to their turnaround. While guard isn’t a glaring need, I think Will Hernandez out of UTEP could really take that offensive line to the next level. His ability to create big holes in the running game would make Todd Gurley and that LA offense that much more harder to stop.
2017: 11-5 (2nd NFC South)
Carolina figures to be in the market for a wide receiver, as they need to find a way to get some more weapons for Cam Newton. However, I feel there’s a bigger need for the Panthers on the other side of the ball in the secondary. While the Panthers pass defense improved in 2017, they still ranked in the bottom half of the league. They also traded away one of the better corners in Daryl Worley. Mike Hughes out of UCF could really go a long way in improving that unit and I think that’s the direction they go. The could also look to target a safety, such as Stanford’s Justin Reid, who is rising quickly up draft boards.
2017: 9-7 (2nd AFC South)
Tennessee has plenty of holes to fill, but I feel their biggest need is to get younger and more production at outside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme. Starters Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are both free agents next year and neither was all that great last season (combined for just 14.5 sacks). I think this is the ideal spot to take a gamble on someone like Boston College’s Harold Landry, who I think is flying under the radar. Landry was considered a potential Top 10 pick after recording 16.5 sacks with the Eagles in 2016.
2017: 10-6 (3rd NFC South)
Atlanta has made it a priority to get younger and more athletic on the defensive side of the ball over the past few seasons and have really done a nice job to this point. However, they still need to get better in the trenches, which is why I have them taking Florida’s Taven Bryan, who is a Top 10 talent that didn’t quite play up to his potential with the Gators.
New Orleans Saints
2017: 11-5 (1st NFC South)
I think a lot of people thought the Saints could just plug in any tight end and he would put up big numbers in that offense. That hasn’t been the case and I think it’s time they put the Coby Fleener experiment to rest. Chances are you haven’t heard of South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert, but many feel he’s the clear-cut best prospect at the position and I couldn’t agree more. Goedert isn’t just a big guy who can catch passes, he’s a rare two-way player at the position that can also lineup and be a factor blocking in the running game.
2017: 13-3 (1st AFC North)
It’s anyone’s guess what team is going to take a shot on Lamar Jackson in the first, but I feel pretty confident that someone is going to gamble on the former Heisman winner. While Ben Roethlisberger is still around, he’s been flirting with retirement for a few years now and it’s time for Pittsburgh to look to the future.
2017: 10-6 (1st AFC South)
The Jaguars are pretty well set on the defensive side of the ball for the foreseeable future, so there focus here has to be on improving their offense. The once promising duo of Allen Robison and Allen Hurns is no longer around and while the team has some nice pieces at the position, they lack a true No. 1 wideout. Enter Maryland’s D.J. Moore, who could be a difference maker for this team from Day 1. Moore rank a 4.42 40 and that speed will have him going in the 1st round.
2017: 13-3 (1st NFC North)
The Vikings don’t have a ton of holes, but they could serve to improve their offensive line. Iowa’s James Daniels is the top rated center in this class, but also has the ability to play guard. He’s got the ability to turn a good offensive line in Minnesota to one of the best in all of football.
New England Patriots
2017: 13-3 (1st AFC East)
Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to trying to figuring out who Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be targeting at the end of the first round. New England views players differently than a lot of other teams. They seem to value character and versatility more than a lot of other teams and will reach for a player they like. With that said, it’s hard to believe the Pats won’t be looking to improve an offensive line that lost starting left tackle Nate Solder and backup tackle Cameron Fleming. I think Texas’ Connor Williams would be a good fit here, as he’s got a high ceiling and is being a bit undervalued after missing most of last season with a knee injury.
2017: 13-3 (1st NFC East)
Few teams got more out of the tight end position than the defending Super Bowl champs. Zach Ertz led the team with 74 receptions and while he’s still around, they lost both Trey Burton and Brent Celek. There’s all kinds directions the Eagles could go with the final pick in the first round, but if they value tight end like I think they do, South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst would be a great fit for Carson Wentz and that offense.
You won’t see many of the NFL win totals adjust after the draft no matter who a team takes. Rookies just rarely have that big of an impact.
Sometimes the early NFL odds that have been released will change and you can use that information to update the expected win total of a team and take advantage of your win total wagers.
I think it’s important for handicappers to have a full grasp of the team needs of each franchise so they can better prepare for the season. I go through each team thoroughly so my premium and free NFL picks are top notch once the season starts.
The draft and free agency are the two ways teams fill gaps, if they do then you would think they would be improved. Teams that don’t help themselves likely will remain in the basement of their divisions.
For more draft coverage check out the MockDraft database at DCProSportsReport.com.