Saquon Barkley put on a show in Indianapolis. Is he now Cleveland's choice at No. 1?
The 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books and draft boards far and wide are being readjusted as a result of some of the incredible (and not so incredible) performances in Indianapolis. There’s just one phase left in the process with the Pro Day circuit upcoming but it’s safe to say that teams are starting to zero in on guys they like and guys they don’t.
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
Josh Allen was great at the Combine and has a ton of momentum right now but new Cleveland general manager John Dorsey is still going to go with the consensus top quarterback in the draft. While there may be some that say you should grab the best player in Saquon Barkley and think QB at No. 2, the Browns can’t miss on a prospect at the most important position.
2. New York Giants — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
No team will field more trade offers for a pick than the Giants will for this one, no matter if others are looking for a QB or Barkley. While some may clamor for the front office to grab a replacement for Eli Manning, this still seems like a team in win-now mode and grabbing the Penn State star lines up with that.
3. Indianapolis Colts — Bradley Chubb, DL, NC State
Everybody else in the AFC South has a quality pass rush and the Colts can address their needs off the edge by picking the best defensive lineman in the draft. While protecting Andrew Luck is going to be a priority in this draft, so is grabbing the best player available for a team that needs all the help they can get on defense.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston) — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Combining Fitzpatrick (right) with last year’s first-rounder in Jabrill Peppers is a heck of a defensive combo to build around. Offensive lineman Quenton Nelson may get a look in this spot given how high of a grade he gets but another top-notch defender who is so versatile is hard to pass up.
5. Denver Broncos — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
It appears that John Elway is going to address the quarterback position through free agency which means there are a number of options in the top five of the draft. Nelson seems like a perfect fit in Denver and should instantly boost the run game as a rookie starter.
6. New York Jets — Marcus Davenport, DL, UTSA
The team just released Muhammad Wilkerson so there’s obviously a need along the defensive line. The Jets are a player in the free agent quarterback market but even if they swing and miss, the upside of Davenport is there and he could be a Day 1 starter opposite Leonard Williams.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Derwin James, DB, Florida State
Yes corner is a bit of a bigger need but T.J. Ward seems like he’s moving on and James is so versatile he can play all over the field for the Bucs’ defense. Adding another in-state product in the first round is nice for jersey sales but general manager Jason Licht simply sees James as the best player to pick.
8. Chicago Bears — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Mike McGlinchey and Calvin Ridley probably get looks here but the team can address both spots through free agency. Even if the Bears re-sign Kyle Fuller, finding a running mate on the opposite side is a priority and Ward is just the type of aggressive corner that would fit in well in the Windy City.
9. San Francisco 49ers* — Vita Vea, DL, Washington
This may be the most active team in free agency given the cap space and the 49ers can land several impact players at corner or offensive line that way. They love them some Pac-12 defensive linemen and Vea is freakish with how he moves for his size. He can boost the pass rush from there and form a nice tandem up front with DeFroest Buckner.
10. Oakland Raiders — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Jon Gruden probably can’t believe his luck to get a guy like Edmunds (right) with the 10th pick given how big he is and how athletic he is. The Raiders love guys who test well and the thing about the Edmunds is he’s only just beginning to scratch the surface of what he can do given how young he is.
11. Miami Dolphins — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Maybe Rosen starts to slip or maybe Miami goes up and gets him but the UCLA quarterback seems like he’d be a perfect fit in Adam Gase’s offense and he doesn’t hamper the team’s ability to win in the short term or over the long haul. Don’t buy into all the off-the-field chatter surrounding Rosen, as he has the chance to be the best signal-caller in this class.
12. Cincinnati Bengals — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The aging Bengals linebacking corps needs some upgrades and Smith is just the kind of sideline-to-sideline player who could have an impact early on. The free agency crop at this spot is a little weak so the Georgia star would be a great selection at this spot and be an instant leader in the locker room too.
13. Washington Redskins — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
After making the big Alex Smith trade, finding him some weapons is going to be a top priority this offseason in Washington. Even if the Redskins add through free agency, Ridley is too good of a talent to pass up here as WR1 in this draft.
14. Green Bay Packers — DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
Moore (right) has been a fast riser in the draft process and seems like he could be an ideal fit in Green Bay as Aaron Rodgers’ new go-to guy. He should be able to line up all over and the front office will like his ability to play on special teams and make an impact there too.
15. Arizona Cardinals — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Mayfield has a chance to be the Week 1 starter for the Cardinals given their options on the roster and especially so if they strike out in landing a big fish on the free agency market. He can learn how to be a pro player from Larry Fitzgerald and keep the team in the mix of a very tough division. The Heisman winner’s competitiveness will play very well in the desert for the new staff.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Joe Flacco era seems like it’s on its last legs and Ozzie Newsome would love nothing more than to transition out as general manager by finding the next quarterback for the franchise. Allen probably can’t play right away, which isn’t that big of an issue for the Ravens but he could take over a year or two down the road, in addition to pushing Flacco in 2018. Allen’s arm and athleticism is made for a division like the AFC North too.
17. Los Angeles Chargers — Connor Williams, OL, Texas
18. Seattle Seahawks — Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Offensive line help and further re-tooling the Legion of Boom are on the to-do list but Pete Carroll can’t resist making Guice the new Beast Mode in Seattle. He has no problem grinding out yards and putting the rushing load on his back and he can do plenty of damage behind a mediocre line just like his new quarterback.
19. Dallas Cowboys — Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
Some falling offensive linemen may be of interest to Jerry Jones but adding one of the most athletic defensive tackles in the draft will be hard to pass up. We all know Payne will be fine against the run but he has a chance to really boost his pass-rushing skills alongside Demarcus Lawrence.
20. Detroit Lions — Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Tagging Ezekiel Ansah probably doesn’t completely rule out the Lions grabbing a pass rusher here but Michel could be the bell-cow back that the team has been searching years for. He can stay on the field all three downs and would be a great complement to Matthew Stafford in the backfield.
21. Buffalo Bills — Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Alexander had a great Combine and has proven that when he’s fully healthy, he’s one of the best corners available. It might be hard to keep E.J. Gaines in free agency but landing Alexander will give Buffalo a heck of a young combo at corner with him and Tre’Davious White.
22. Buffalo Bills — Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
This pick could be traded if the Bills want to move up (or back to add more picks) but if they stay put, Landry (right) could be a great option to help boost the pass rush. He looked a lot faster and more athletic than expected at the Combine and could use that performance to land in the first round on a defense that will need him to contribute right away.
23. Los Angeles Rams — Arden Key, EDGE, LSU
Key has the greatest upside of any edge rusher in this draft class and Wade Phillips is one of the coaches who can maximize his talent and really develop him. With Robert Quinn traded to Miami, the Rams need to replace some of his production and Key could be part of that equation.
24. Carolina Panthers — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Jackson didn’t have a great Combine but a potential fall in the draft would benefit the Panthers, where his toughness and ball-hawking ability would fit in well. He could play very early on and his flexibility in playing a number of different techniques will be a great asset in Ron Rivera’s defense.
25. Tennessee Titans — Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The front office in Nashville has to start turning over the team’s linebacking corps and Vander Esch could be a perfect fit in the middle of Dean Pees’ defense and seems like the kind of player Mike Vrabel wouldn’t mind making his first draft pick. Vander Esch is athletic enough to drop into coverage with little issue, smart enough to run the defense and is great against the run.
26. Atlanta Falcons — D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
The Falcons’ moves in free agency will have a big impact on where the team goes with their first-round pick but Chark checks a lot of boxes after blazing a 4.34 40 at the Combine at 6-foot-3. The wideout will instantly be better just by getting out of LSU’s limited offensive system and catching passes from Matt Ryan, plus he could put up better numbers than any rookie with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu demanding the attention of opposing defenses.
27. New Orleans Saints — Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
After re-signing Drew Brees, one of the top priorities for the Saints this offseason is figuring out the tight end position. They could address this through free agency but that money could be spent on an edge rusher while using the first-rounder on Hurst, who is plug-and-play at the position and fits the offense in New Orleans.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The team won’t have much cap room to address their defensive needs and if the Steelers do use it on that side of the ball that would probably go to shoring up the secondary. Evans is just the type of guy who fits the culture of the team and could have an early impact no matter where the versatile player lines up.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars — Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Adding Kirk would likely be a replacement for one or both of Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson but could be a long-term upgrade for a team that is built to win right now in the AFC. Kirk will fit in well as yet another first-rounder who has outstanding athleticism and is super physical too.
30. Minnesota Vikings — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
If the team spends big for a quarterback in free agency, the Vikings will need to address their offensive line in order to protect them. McGlinchey could fill either tackle spot and is polished enough to be a Week 1 starter and a good fit in the division.
31. New England Patriots — Isaiah Oliver, DB, Colorado
Malcolm Butler might as well been sent to Siberia in the Super Bowl and will leave a vacant cornerback spot. Enter Oliver, who has the tools to develop into a top-flight defender for Bill Belichick and is just the kind of smart and athletic player the team looks for in the draft.
32. Philadelphia Eagles — Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Can you imagine the boos when the Eagles make this pick at AT&T Stadium? Gesicki put on a show at the Combine and has seen his stock take off as perhaps the top pass catcher at the position. He would be a nice complement to Zach Ertz in two-tight end sets (which the team uses a lot) and his receiving ability should take some of the sting out of a re-tooled receiving corps. Finding a linebacker is a priority but the team might not have a high enough grade on one at this spot and could trade back too.
*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.