Will the expected early run on quarterbacks include Josh Rosen?
Hard as it is to believe, we’re just one week away from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell strolling onto the stage and announcing the latest set of future NFL stars. With draft boards mostly set, it’s silent running around the league as teams cross their T’s and dot their I’s as they get ready for a franchise-shaping three days in Arlington, Texas.
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 on April 26.
1. Cleveland Browns — Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Josh Allen chatter is just that, chatter. Darnold (above, right) remains the top-rated signal-caller on everybody’s board and the Browns finally land their quarterback of the future as a result.
2. New York Giants — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Giants’ brain trust doesn’t overthink things and grabs the player many consider to be the most talented in the draft. It’s a clear sign that the team is going to try and win now and picking a player that could torment their NFC East rival in their own stadium is just an added bonus.
3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis) — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Playing Allen won’t be a pressing issue given some of the players on the roster but if there’s one front office to fall in love with a strong-armed QB who has accuracy issues, it’s the Jets.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston) — Bradley Chubb, DL, NC State
Paring Chubb with Myles Garrett is a dream scenario for a team that still must improve defensively if they want any hope of getting out of the AFC North basement. General manager John Dorsey will be hailed a hero if he can get a quarterback and the best defensive player in the 2018 draft.
5. Denver Broncos — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Lots of folks around the league have changed their tune about Mayfield (right) and the Broncos figure to be the ones that have no qualms about taking the Heisman winner and making him the eventual face of the franchise.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets) — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
With Josh Rosen still on the board, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Colts try to auction this pick off and pick up more assets given the state of their roster. If they stay put though, the selection of Nelson to protect Andrew Luck continues to make the most sense.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
It’s no secret that the Bucs need to juice their pass rush given the quarterbacks they face twice a year in the division and Davenport has a chance to be a star at doing just that.
8. Chicago Bears — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Most of this draft for the Bears will focus on upgrading the talent around Mitchell Trubisky but the team will run up to the podium to select Edmunds, who is just scratching the surface of what he can do given how young and athletic the former Hokie star is.
9. San Francisco 49ers — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
With Reuben Foster’s status going forward in the air, the team will have no issues drafting Smith to be their guy in the middle of the defense. Not only can he cover sideline-to-sideline but he will check off the boxes off the field as well.
10. Oakland Raiders — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Don’t be shocked if the Raiders listen to offers, especially if Josh Rosen remains on the board. But if they stick it out here, Fitzpatrick (right) is just the kind of guy who can be a playmaker in the secondary and help improve Oakland’s dreadful defense.
11. Miami Dolphins — Vita Vea, DL, Washington
They’ll think about a quarterback in this spot but subbing in a younger, just as talented player at a lower salary in Ndamukong Suh’s old spot isn’t the worst of situations for the Dolphins to find themselves in.
12. Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati) — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Everybody will be penciling in Josh Rosen here but the Bills wind up zigging when everybody thinks they’re going to zag. McGlinchey will start right away on the right side before eventually taking over Cordy Glenn’s old spot.
13. Washington Redskins — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Washington has no qualms about Ward sliding a bit early in the draft as he’s a top-five talent who will be able to jump in right away. He’s super smooth in coverage but has a chance to be a top-notch guy opposite Josh Norman.
14. Green Bay Packers — Derwin James, DB, Florida State
New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine needs more help at corner than safety but James is going to play a lot of snaps as a rookie and should move freely all over the Packers’ defense. He tremendous value at this spot and just the kind of locker room presence that Green Bay needs on this side of the ball too.
15. Arizona Cardinals — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Everybody will be discussing the “slide” that Rosen takes but he’s one of the best pure passers in this class and will have the Cardinals running to the podium to turn in their card. The young signal-caller will be able to learn the game from Sam Bradford and take over if he gets hurt this season.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk is never the name mentioned when people talk about the first wide receiver off the board but he’s a great fit in Baltimore as an early starter in the slot and somebody who won’t need long to get up to speed in the NFL. The team could move back and still be able to land the versatile Aggie but it certainly seems like GM Ozzie Newsome will make his last first-rounder count.
17. Los Angeles Chargers — Connor Williams, OL, Texas
The team is still going to try and squeak out a few more years from Philip Rivers and solidifying the offensive line is the biggest step to that end. Williams has a bit of a nasty streak to him and seems like a nice fit at right tackle for the Bolts before he eventually takes over for Russell Okung.
18. Seattle Seahawks — Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
With the team likely to release its top 2017 pick, Malik McDowell, finding somebody who can be a difference-maker in the trenches is even more pressing than it was after free agency. Payne isn’t quite a polished pass rusher but he’s a terrific run stuffer who can add that other part of his game under this staff’s tutelage.
19. Dallas Cowboys — Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
This might be a record for shortest trip a prospect has to take from his college to the draft to his future team. Sutton (right) will fill Dez Bryant’s old shoes and learn to grow with Dak Prescott as part of the team’s newest set of triplets.
20. Detroit Lions — Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The Lions have been searching for a consistent tailback in the backfield since Barry Sanders left and the former LSU star packs a punch between the tackles and will love to embrace the ethos of Detroit.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo) — Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The team is going to fully re-tool the linebacking corps soon and Vander Esch will be the first step toward getting a young and talented building block to that end.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City) — Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
He’s not ready right away but Jackson does have the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback based on what the former Heisman winner showed off in college. He’ll be able to sit in Buffalo for a while and could mesh well with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who has recent experience bringing along young and mobile QBs.
23. New England Patriots (from Los Angeles Rams) — Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
That Lamar Jackson talk is moot, even if it was a wild rumor. Instead Bill Belichick shores up his roster with somebody who he’ll love in Alexander, an instinctive corner who can play just about wherever is asked depending on the coverage. If a team is going maximize the former Cardinal corner’s talent, it will be this one.
24. Carolina Panthers — James Daniels, OL, Iowa
It will be tempting to snag a corner with this pick but the value of Daniels is too hard to ignore. He’ll step into the departed Andrew Norwell’s shoes before eventually being the guy to replace Ryan Kalil at his more natural position at center.
25. Tennessee Titans — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Since the team hired a linebacker as head coach, drafting one in the first round should be no problem. Evans could slot inside or out and help make up for the loss of Avery Williamson before eventually becoming the long-term replacement for one of the aging veterans on the roster.
26. Atlanta Falcons — Taven Bryan, DL, Florida
It’s a deep draft among interior defensive linemen but Bryan is just a tailor-made fit for Dan Quinn that the former Florida coach has no issue sprinting to turn in the card for this Gator.
27. New Orleans Saints — Harold Landry, DL, Boston College
Boosting the pass rush is one of the priorities this offseason and the Saints need to do that while also keeping this youth movement going. Landry (right) should be able to have an impact early on and keep the team’s recent draft success rolling.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers — Josh Jackson, DB, Iowa
Mike Tomlin is a defensive backs coach at heart and knows that Jackson has rare anticipation and ball skills that will instantly be able to help out a secondary that needs a lot more talent.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
There’s no super pressing need so grabbing the best player available is a welcome move when that player is somebody of Ridley’s skill set to add to a growing collection of impressive pass catchers already on the roster.
30. Minnesota Vikings — Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
The team needs a big upgrade in the middle of the line to help protect new QB Kirk Cousins as well as create lanes for Dalvin Cook and others. Hernandez is a perfect fit and brings the right kind of attitude in the run game to make an instant impact.
31. New England Patriots — Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
The team won’t mind trading back a few spots to the next day but to say offensive line is a pressing issue is a Belichickian understatement. Miller has the size and athleticism to start right away but that’s not saying much for the team after the departure of Nate Solder.
32. Philadelphia Eagles — Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Adding another playmaker at tight end isn’t pressing but the team won’t mind Hurst landing in their lap to close the first round. His age might put off a few teams but that’s no issue for the defending champs as they look to keep their window open the next few years.
*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.