An NFL mock draft is an exercise in familiarizing yourself with prospects who could fill a need for whatever team it is you’re rooting for.
With the current collective bargaining agreement controlling rookie wages, it’s become more imperative than ever to make the most of each and every draft, and that’s fueling the year-round interest. The 2018 NFL Draft is more than eight months away, but every team’s scouting department is putting in the legwork now to identify difference-makers in April and May.
The Class of 2018 has some extraordinary talent, particularly at quarterback, where as many as five quarterbacks could wind up getting early first-round looks. So let’s take a look at who might be lucky enough to land a franchise-changing player next spring.
Note: Draft order is determined by DVOA projections from FootballOutsiders.com.
2018 NFL mock draft (9-8-17)
No. 1: New York Jets — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Quarterback has been a massive problem for the New York Jets and Josh Rosen’s stock is back on the rise after missing six games in 2016 due to injury thanks to an incredible comeback win over Texas A&M in Week 1.
No. 2: Cleveland Browns — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
Two quarterbacks playing at rival schools in Los Angeles go No. 1 and No. 2 in the same draft? It looks like a strong possibility.
No. 3: San Francisco 49ers — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
Josh Allen has the most to prove of either of these three quarterbacks, but he’s got the biggest arm and, thus, the most upside. This would be the first time since 1999 that three quarterbacks were taken to start the draft.
No. 4: Buffalo Bills — Arden Key (Edge, LSU)
If LeSean McCoy is moved, then Saquon Barkley would make sense here, but until that happens, you can imagine the Buffalo Bills get Sean McDermott a defensive weapon.
No. 5: Jacksonville Jaguars — Trey Adams (OT, Washington)
Whether it’s Blake Bortles under center or somebody else, the Jacksonville Jaguars simply have to start protecting their quarterbacks.
No. 6: Cleveland Browns via Houston Texans — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
The Houston Texans pick they scored at the 2017 NFL Draft turns into a gold mine and the Cleveland Browns get their franchise quarterback and a dazzling playmaker to go with him. Could a haul like this finally turn them around?
No. 7: New Orleans Saints — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
The New Orleans Saints defense is beginning to come around after adding Sheldon Rankins and Marshon Lattimore in the last two drafts. The addition of Derwin James continues that transformation and gives them a dynamic playmaker in the secondary.
No. 8: Miami Dolphins — Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB, Alabama)
Minkah Fitzpatrick’s ability to play corner or safety means he can help the Miami Dolphins’ secondary in a number of ways.
No. 9: Indianapolis Colts — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
The Indianapolis Colts defense has been far too leaky for far too long. Da’Ron Payne gives them a plug they can rely on.
No. 10: Denver Broncos — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
If Trevor Siemian can’t hack it, the Denver Broncos have to be in the market for a quarterback somehow in 2018. This would certainly turn a lot of heads.
No. 11: Chicago Bears — Mike McGlinchey (OT, Notre Dame)
After adding Mitchell Trubisky at the 2017 NFL Draft, now they’ve got to make sure that he’s well-protected with a nimble big man who can play either tackle spot.
No. 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Dorance Armstrong (DE, Kansas)
You can never go wrong with speed and power off the edge.
No. 13: Minnesota Vikings — Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M)
The Minnesota Vikings have to get Sam Bradford a capable playmaker and Christian Kirk is electric with the ball in his hands as a receiver, runner and return man.
No. 14: Los Angeles Chargers — Iman Marshall (CB, USC)
The Los Angeles Chargers have to start gearing their offense toward stopping the high-flying Oakland Raiders and the local kid can help.
No. 15: Washington Redskins — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
Whether Kirk Cousins stays or goes, Jay Gruden’s offense is at its best when there’s a multitude of playmakers in the passing game. Calvin Ridley might be the smoothest route runner to come from Alabama in recent memory, and that’s saying something when you consider Amari Cooper and Julio Jones.
No. 16: Cincinnati Bengals — Connor Williams (OT, Texas)
Up until this point, starting right tackle Jake Fisher has been used about as much as a blocking tight end as a tackle. If Fisher doesn’t pan out in the starting lineup, Connor Williams steps in.
No. 17: Detroit Lions — Andrew Brown (DL, Virginia)
Haloti Ngata is still productive, but how long until he begins feeling the effects of old age?
No. 18: Los Angeles Rams — Equanimeous St. Brown (WR, Notre Dame)
If Jared Goff is going to have any chance at success in Los Angeles, he needs a reliable No. 1 wide receiver. So, unless Sammy Watkins has a career revival, the Los Angeles Rams need to go receiver here.
No. 19: Carolina Panthers — Tarvarus McFadden (CB, Florida State)
The Carolina Panthers threw a handful of 2016 draft picks at their Josh Norman problem, but to replace that kind of talent you’ve got to make a first-round investment. Enter Tarvarus McFadden.
No. 20: Arizona Cardinals — Mason Rudolph (QB, Oklahoma State)
If Allen falters, Mason Rudolph could be the next in line to surge into Top 10 territory. For now, he makes for an interesting project for Bruce Arians with Carson Palmer on his way out.
No. 21: Tennessee Titans — Harold Landry (Edge, Boston College)
If he puts up the numbers (16.5 sacks) he did last year, he might not be around this long. But the Tennessee Titans surely won’t hesitate to grab him if he is.
No. 22: Atlanta Falcons — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
The Atlanta Falcons have entirely reworked their defense under Dan Quinn, but the addition of Christian Wilkins would make an already formidable front four downright terrifying.
No. 23: Baltimore Ravens — Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
The Baltimore Ravens have been at their best when they have a strong running game to compliment their defense.
No. 24: Philadelphia Eagles — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
Carson Wentz deserves a big, potentially explosive target in the passing game.
No. 25: Buffalo Bills via Kansas City Chiefs — Deon Cain (WR, Clemson)
Even if Zay Jones pans out, he and Jordan Matthews in the passing game by themselves aren’t going to cut it. The Bills need an influx of playmakers and it starts with Deon Cain.
No. 26: New York Giants — Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
The New York Giants have been throwing a handful of backs at their problems in the running game for years, but Royce Freeman is the sort of back they can lean on 20-25 times a game.
No. 27: Oakland Raiders — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Jack Del Rio employs multiple fronts defensively and Derrick Nnadi can fit just about any of them.
No. 28: Dallas Cowboys — Bradley Chubb (DE, N.C. State)
Bradley Chubb and Taco Charlton have similar length and bulk on the outside and they’d make for a pretty imposing pair of defensive ends with the Dallas Cowboys.
No. 29: Green Bay Packers — Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas)
The Green Bay Packers have used Clay Matthews both as a pass rusher and an inside linebacker in recent years and Malik Jefferson could provide similar versatility.
No. 30: Pittsburgh Steelers — Micah Kiser (LB, Virginia)
Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers have expressed confidence in Vince Williams as a starter but, if it doesn’t show on the field in 2017, Micah Kiser solves the problem.
No. 31: Seattle Seahawks — Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State)
The Seattle Seahawks might have cemented their status as the best defense in football with the acquisition of Sheldon Richardson. If they manage to land a talent like Tyquan Lewis, that could mean they’re even scarier in 2018.
No. 32: New England Patriots — Jaire Alexander (CB, Louisville)
With Malcolm Butler likely to hit the road, Jaire Alexander could win a starting role out of the gates.