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2018 NFL Mock Draft: First-Round Predictions (two weeks out edition)

College football QB Sam Darnold

College football QB Sam Darnold

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Months in the making, we’re finally on to the home stretch of draft season and it won’t be long before NFL franchises will have the makeup of their roster pretty much set for the 2018 season. While there are a few trades left to be made, a handful of minor free agent signings to get done and a little bit of last minute prep work on this draft class to finish up, many boards are set and waiting to turn in the card is all that’s left for teams to do.

Taking into account everything from roster needs to injuries to free agent signings, here’s a look at how picks 1-32* in the first round could play out at AT&T Stadium from April 26-28.

1. Cleveland Browns — Sam Darnold, QB, USC

There’s a ton of Josh Allen talk around the league but Cleveland is not going to overthink this one as new general manager John Dorsey does his job and lands a franchise signal-caller for the Browns for the first time in ages. Darnold is the top guy in this draft and just like the last USC QB to go No. 1 overall, he’ll get to sit behind a veteran for a full season before being handed the reigns.

2. New York Giants — Bradley Chubb, DL, NC State

New general manager Dave Gettleman loves to make the unconventional pick and does so once again to land himself on the back page of all the New York papers with this selection. Though strong consideration will be given to Saquon Barkley (above, right) or finding an Eli Manning successor, the top defensive player on everybody’s board ends up going here.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis) — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The season started with Jets fans saying “Suck for Sam” but they wind up with the other quarterback from L.A. by grabbing Rosen, the most gifted passer available in this class. He won’t be pressed into service given the other QBs on the depth chart but he’ll wind up playing early in New York.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston) — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

There will be discussions about trading back out of this pick to gather yet more draft capital but Dorsey and the Cleveland brain trust know this is their moment in the draft to grab building blocks. Barkley is not only the highest rated player available but he’s an electric talent that can also help out their new quarterback.

5. Denver Broncos — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

The team signed a shorter, relatively mobile quarterback in free agency who was a record-setter in college after being overlooked coming out of high school. The Broncos will follow the same script by drafting a shorter, relatively mobile quarterback who was a record-setter in college and overlooked coming out of high school to be the franchise guy long-term too.

Oklahoma Sooners QB Baker Mayfield

6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets) — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

The Colts could go any number of ways with this pick given how inactive they’ve been in free agency but will have no qualms landing one of the best interior offensive linemen to come out of college in a maybe a decade. Keeping Andrew Luck in the starting lineup is still a top priority for the franchise and this pick goes a long ways in doing that.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Don’t be surprised if the Bucs consider moving up to grab Saquon Barkley on draft night but they probably won’t fret about staying put and landing the best corner in the draft to really help solidify their secondary for the next few years.

8. Chicago Bears — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Finding a running mate for Leonard Floyd is going to be a priority for the front office and Edmunds is the most athletic linebacker prospect to come through the draft in a while.

9. San Francisco 49ers — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

Adding Richard Sherman in free agency was a solid move to help out on the back end but drafting Fitzpatrick also brings in a plug-and-play guy at nickel while also giving the team a long-term starter at both corner and safety. Given what the division-rival Rams are doing on offense, this is a bit of a counter move to matchup too.

10. Oakland Raiders — Derwin James, DB, Florida State

Jon Gruden has done a lengthy evaluation of his roster and knows he needs to get better on the defensive side of the ball. James is a special talent that gives the team a hard-hitter who can line up all over the field in a role similar to the one Tyrann Mathieu plays.

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11. Miami Dolphins — Vita Vea, DL, Washington

Ndamukong Suh is off to the left coast and the Dolphins will be on the hunt for somebody that can occupy opposing offenses’ attention in the middle. Enter Vea, who is freakishly athletic for somebody his size and is a perfect replacement for the team’s departed star.

12. Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati) — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

No quarterback prospect has been debated more than Allen, who certainly has accuracy issues but also possesses the highest upside of any signal-caller available. His attitude will earn him some fans in Western New York even if the early start could be a little rough as the Bills’ franchise guy.

13. Washington Redskins — Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

The team did add Orlando Scandrick to help shore up the secondary but he’s 31, coming off an injury and on a short-term contract. Alexander gives the team another aggressive corner who can hold his own on the outside and develop nicely opposite Josh Norman.

14. Green Bay Packers — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

Jackson ticks off a lot of boxes for a corner but most importantly is a ball hawk who always seems to be creating a turnover. While the team may look to replace Jordy Nelson with this pick, there’s not a wide receiver that will be rated higher on their board than the Hawkeye DB.

15. Arizona Cardinals — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Larry Fitzgerald needs an heir apparent and Ridley would make perfect sense to be that guy for Arizona. He’ll be able to easily break the lineup early on and, between his route-running and big-play ability, quickly become a favorite target for Sam Bradford.

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16. Baltimore Ravens — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith falls a bit but he lands in a terrific spot as the Ravens can not only maximize his talent but turn him into a regular Pro Bowl player. His instincts will serve him well in the AFC North and the team will have quite the tandem between him and C.J. Mosley.

17. Los Angeles Chargers — Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

We all know about the Chargers’ pass rush off the edge but they could stand to get younger on the interior of the line while also becoming more stout against the run. Enter Payne, who is a terrific talent who can become part of the rotation early before eventually winding up as a starter on the league’s best front.

18. Seattle Seahawks — Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

It’s full on rebuild mode in the Pacific Northwest and the Seahawks have a bunch of needs to fill in the draft. Guice finally provides the team a bell-cow back they haven’t had since Beast Mode was in the backfield while also being able to take some of the load off Russell Wilson’s shoulders.

19. Dallas Cowboys — Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

Jerry Jones would like nothing more than to get people talking with the draft at AT&T Stadium and this is the kind of selection that would do that as the team starts to plan for life after Jason Witten. Hurst would be a great target to grow up with Dak Prescott as part of the team’s new core on offense and can jump into the starting lineup quite early on.

20. Detroit Lions — Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA

The Lions can’t believe their luck in landing Davenport this late in the first round but the raw edge rusher is a perfect fit in the Motor City with his, well, motor. He would be great opposite franchise-tagged Ziggy Ansah or some insurance in case the team doesn’t bring him back after this year as the UTSA product has just as good an upside.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo) — Will Hernandez, OL, UTEP

It isn’t quite a complete re-tooling of the offensive line between this pick and the addition of Cordy Glenn but it’s close. Hernandez is such a mauler in the run game and is tailored for the kind of football that the team wants to play in this division.

22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City) — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

Lots of folks could probably see this pick happening from miles away given the needs the Bills have to get younger and more athletic at linebacker. Evans could slot in just about everywhere for the team as a rookie and really is a big upgrade given his ability to go sideline-to-sideline.

23. New England Patriots (from Los Angeles Rams) — Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

The team did add Jason McCourty via trade but the Rams need to continue to get younger in the secondary if they’re to get back over the hump and hoist another Lombardi. Hughes is somebody who should be able to start fairly early on and will be valued for his ability to play press on the outside as well as being able to slide inside when needed.

24. Carolina Panthers — Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

To say the Panthers have a need at corner is an understatement given the way their depth chart looks now but Oliver would be a steal this late in the first as well as a rookie starter for the team. He checks off all the boxes for size, speed and length and seems like Ron Rivera’s type of guy when it comes to tackling too.

25. Tennessee Titans — James Daniels, OC/OG, Iowa

The Titans may flip a coin between Daniels and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch but the center will likely be graded a bit higher. He can start from Week 1 in the middle to provide an upgrade over Ben Jones or wind up at one of the guard spots to help protect Marcus Mariota.

26. Atlanta Falcons — Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

Out goes Dontari Poe, in comes another athletic interior lineman who can really help boost a pass rush in Bryan. Teams might be a little scared off by the inconsistency he showed in college but Dan Quinn will be able to maximize the former Gator’s talent.

27. New Orleans Saints — Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Sean Payton is going to love what he can do with Kirk in the lineup as he’s ready to contribute right away in New Orleans and provide a great complement to Michael Thomas. Given the way he runs routes, he’ll quickly be a favorite for Drew Brees in what could be the top offense in the league next season.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers — Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

The team may well have to move up in order to ensure they land the athletic linebacker but he is nevertheless a great fit for a team that needs to get to continue to re-tool the middle of their defense. The Steelers may give some thought to drafting a running back given how things have gone with Le’Veon Bell but this is a much better marriage of need with highest graded player.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars — Connor Williams, OL, Texas

The addition of Andrew Norwell helped things up front and this pick could too as Williams should be able to displace Jeremy Parnell and start at right tackle as a rookie. The former Longhorn brings the right kind of attitude to the game that matches what Jacksonville is trying to do and he’s athletic enough to make a mark in both the run game and in protecting Blake Bortles.

30. Minnesota Vikings — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

After investing all that money into Kirk Cousins, the team needs to make an equal commitment to protecting him by upgrading the offensive line. McGlinchey may eventually take over at left tackle but he’s a starter right away on the right side and would fit in well to the Vikings scheme.

31. New England Patriots — Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College

Bill Belichick already added Adrian Clayborn this offseason but he knows that there’s still work to be done in adding more pass rushers. Landry will be able to maximize his talent in New England and chase after all the young quarterbacks in the division for years to come.

32. Philadelphia Eagles — Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

The Super Bowl champs have a stacked roster but can still find some value with the final pick in the first round by finding a nice No. 2 to pair with Zach Ertz and give Carson Wentz/Nick Foles another great option at tight end.

*San Francisco won the coin toss with Oakland and will pick ninth. The Raiders have the 10th pick.

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.