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2018 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Predictions (post-Senior Bowl edition)

Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold

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While the world has been focused on the lead in to Super Bowl LII, the rest of the league has been firmly zeroed in on the upcoming NFL draft with the conclusion of the Senior Bowl down in Mobile, Alabama. It won’t be long before the calendar says it’s time to head to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine either and things seem to be settling down on the coaching news front as teams far and wide get everything settled for draft season to truly enter the next phase.

Taking into account everything from team needs to potential free agent signings, here’s a look at how picks 1-32 could play out at AT&T Stadium this spring.

1. Cleveland Browns — Sam Darnold, QB, USC

GM John Dorsey will thoroughly evaluate every quarterback in the draft before settling in on Darnold, who has all the tools to be a Pro Bowler at the position. With the team likely bringing in a veteran at the position, the USC product will have plenty of time to learn from Hue Jackson as a rookie in a manner not unlike the last Trojan to go No. 1 in Carson Palmer.

2. New York Giants — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Picking this high offers the Giants a rare opportunity to draft a QB of the future but the front office makes the decision that this team can still win now. That includes drafting the highest-graded offensive player available in Barkley (above, right), who is a dynamic threat out of the backfield and ticks off all the boxes you’re looking for when you want to boost the run game as well as the pass game.

3. Indianapolis Colts — Bradley Chubb, DL, NC State

With enough quarterbacks still on the board, chances are high that the new Colts brain trust pulls a Bill Belichick and trades back to add more picks. If Indy stays put though, it’s going to be hard to pass up the best defensive player in the draft in Chubb, who will help provide a pass rush to a team that desperately needs one and provide a young building block in the trenches for the team.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston) — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

The Browns go with the best player left on their board and that just so happens to be Fitzpatrick, a jack-of-all-trades who could fill a spot at safety next to last year’s first-rounder in Jabrill Peppers or slot in at corner, becoming especially dangerous as the team’s option in the nickel against pass-happy offenses.

5. Denver Broncos — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

John Elway and the Broncos coaching staff got a long look at Mayfield (right) as his coach at the Senior Bowl and are probably pretty comfortable with everything about the Heisman Trophy winner on and off the field as a result. He can jump in right away as a starter and his toughness will win over a lot of fans early on in the Mile High City.

Oklahoma Sooners QB Baker Mayfield

6. New York Jets — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The Jets may entertain trading up in order to ensure they can get a signal-caller the caliber of Rosen, as he can be a day one starter for the team and the face of the franchise in short order. He will have no issues handling the New York media spotlight and can keep the team’s momentum going after a better than expected 2017 campaign.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Davenport, DL, UTSA

It’s an understatement to say that the Bucs need an edge rusher and they find one in one of the draft’s biggest risers in Davenport. Though he’s a small-school kid who will have to transition to playing with his hand in the ground more, he has everything you look for in terms of height/weight/speed and tremendous upside. Being mentored by Gerald McCoy will be a big plus for Davenport landing in Tampa too.

8. Chicago Bears — Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State

The team can find Mitchell Trubisky some weapons at wide receiver through free agency and in later rounds but finding a corner to replace one (or both) of Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller is pressing. Ward doesn’t have the height that some may want but he’s aggressive and does an excellent job in both press and off coverage. He’ll slide in and earn playing time early, possibly as a rookie starter in Chicago.