The Deep Route Draft Notebook features takes on the latest draft discussions and reports on players and teams ahead the 2018 NFL Draft. Unless stated otherwise, all stats are accumulated using Pro/College Football Reference, ESPN, or 4for4.com.
THINGS I KNOW
I know I am beyond excited for this year’s draft. I’ll get to what makes this draft especially unique in a bit, but let me start by saying this: The mock draft in this article is based on what I’ve heard, not based on what I think each team should do. I will throw in some opinion, but I’m mainly just trying to project the entire first round of the draft. The odds of anyone getting all 32 picks correctly is nearly impossible. I came relatively close in 2015 when I got 13 picks right, and I use the term ‘relatively’ very loosely. You can see my stats here. Anyway, this year’s draft is particularly special for a couple reasons, which you’ll find out based on a few factors. Basically it’s just so exciting and suspenseful…which makes it the worst time to get my wisdom teeth out. Unfortunately, my jam-packed schedule forced my hand with getting them out this weekend. At least I was able to schedule the procedure the morning after the first round so I could be fully focused. While I don’t know how I’ll hold up for the second or third days, I’ve been reassured that I will be conscious to still scream internally at my TV. So what does this mean? Sorry, but it’ll be a few days before I can do anything but sit on my couch, which includes writing post-draft articles. I can promise you though that all that stuff will follow in the next few weeks, including my favorite and least favorite picks, potential fantasy studs and more. Before I get to my 2018 Official Terrible Mock Draft, though, a few thoughts…
I know the Day 2 wide receivers could potentially be better than the Day 1 wide receivers. As of now, I’d say those ‘Day 2 WRs’ mainly consist of Dante Pettis, Anthony Miller, D.J. Chark, DaeSean Hamilton, Michael Gallup and James Washington. This means the ‘Day 1 WRs’ would be Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Courtland Sutton and D.J. Moore. Obviously, this is just based on rumors and projections. I could realistically see any of the Day 1 wide receivers falling to Day 2 (I wouldn’t agree if Ridley or Moore fell but it is possible) but only Miller seems like a potential first-rounder (and he should be). Why am I so high on the seemingly lower-ranked guys than the guys projected to be picked higher? For starters, the four Day 1 guys I just named all have flaws. Kirk’s surprising lack of athleticism and Sutton’s separation issues are primary cons associated with each player. In my opinion, Ridley could be the best of the bunch though his size (6-1, 190 pounds) has reportedly turned some teams off, for some absurd reason. Moore is also a well-rounded player but his route running skills need work. As for the potential Day 2 guys, they have similar issues but their general upside is enormous. My favorite prospects include Miller and Hamilton. Both are talented, elusive receivers with great route running skills and athletic traits. If you want to read more about my self-proclaimed position of expertise, click on the player’s names to read more in-depth reports: D.J Moore, DaeSean Hamilton, D.J. Chark, Cedrick Wilson, Equanimeous St. Brown, Michael Gallup
I know there will be many, many trades in the first round. I’d go as far to say that this year’s number of trades exceeds last year’s number of trades. To put it in perspective, last year there were six trades made on the night of the first round. That doesn’t even include the three deals made prior to the actual draft. In all, that’s 12 total first-round picks that swapped teams. This year, there have already been five trades that affected the current draft order, and I expect that number to increase on draft day. The main reason is that it seems like more and more teams could potentially trade down. Out of the top ten alone, the only two teams who definitely won’t trade their pick are the Browns (first is safe, not fourth) and the Jets, and even those non-deals aren’t carved in stone. Right now I know the Bills are definitely trying to move up, and I’d bet the Cardinals and Dolphins have looked deeply into the idea too. There are more teams looking to trade down then up, though. The Seahawks desperately want their second and third round picks and will almost certainly look to acquire those picks in a trade back.
The Eagles are in a similar situation, too. The Colts are the likeliest of the teams to move down as new GM Chris Ballard has shown his affinity for draft picks lately. That trade with the Jets gave the Colts three second round picks, two of which are in this year’s draft. The Broncos could too, as John Elway proclaimed the fifth pick was for sale. Sorry to break it to anyone banking on Denver trading their pick, but all picks are theoretically for sale. Every good GM will always listen to offers. Elway was likely stirring the pot with his statement, but by no means does it imply that the Broncos will ship their pick. News of a team “listening to offers” is like the weatherman saying there will be weather today; it’s just a foregone conclusion. I will say that due to the recent uptick in trades throughout the NFL this offseason, we could see that trend reflected in the first round on Thursday night. For my money’s worth, mark off the Colts, Seahawks and Eagles as teams that will trade down and the Bills and Cardinals as teams that will move up. Keep an eye out for teams that don’t currently have a first round pick to go up and possibly recoup one. That is the Chiefs, Texans and Rams, the latter two of which don’t pick until the third round. There’s no doubt about it: The 2018 Draft will look more like a Draft Day sequel than any other recent draft.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know anything. Ok, not anything, but I am more uncertain than usual this year. The reports have been scattered this draft season, seemingly more than ever. Just three days before the draft, it was shocking how little was known about the Browns’ plans at #1. There were legit rumors about the Browns taking Josh Allen first, followed by reports not counting out Baker Mayfield just yet. Let me remind you that this time last year, reports about the Browns taking Mitchell Trubisky with the first pick were spreading like wildfire. It is a legitimate toss up as to what each top ten team (with the exception of the Browns, Jets and maybe the Giants) will do with their first round pick. Luckily, in my Official Terrible Mock Draft, I also included other potential options for each team. Needless to say, the options are plentiful. I based all my thoughts and projections off of countless hours of research with my nose crammed into my laptop. I used various sources that I deemed credible (also through research) and spent literally all of my free time the past two days making this mock. With that said, ladies and gentleman, I give to you my 2018 Official Terrible Mock Draft!
Warning: The following draft will in no way correspond with Thursday night’s actual selections because, let’s be real, it won’t. I can’t see into the future, but if I could, I’d use my lottery winnings to buy the Dolphins and return them to glory!
I am not buying the Josh Allen/Baker Mayfield hype train. Darnold has been the consensus for so long and, again, the Trubisky rumors were on fire at this time last year. I know that before Scot McCloughan was hired as John Dorsey’s right-hand man, McCloughan openly admitted that Mayfield was the best quarterback in the class. I also know that Dorsey went on-air and said hand size is important. Among the three quarterbacks, Allen’s hands are biggest. He’s also experienced the brutal weather in Wyoming that he could likely face in Cleveland. Another interesting tidbit: a third-round pick is a lot to give up for a quarterback (Tyrod Taylor). It seems like the Browns’ supposed plans to make Taylor the starter is legit, hence the increased likelihood Cleveland drafts a project like Allen. Despite all this evidence, I still stand with my pick although I can see the logic behind any of these quarterbacks. Darnold is the safer pick, both on and off the field, and I would bet that the Browns know that but again, they are the Browns.
Dave Gettleman said he wants a future Hall-of-Famer, and he gets one here. Bradley Chubb is a slight possibility, and so is a quarterback. However, that just puts more pressure on Eli Manning and I think Gettleman would rather win now, especially since he noted the potential mistake of taking a quarterback so early. This team hasn’t had a reliable running back since Tiki Barber, and a special talent like Barkley could take the load off of Manning.
This is a connection I’ve heard for a while and I’m pretty confident about it. I hear there is a late internal push for Rosen and some discussion about Allen. I’d be shocked if this was Allen because of their recent failure with Christian Hackenberg. Not much to say on this one, but if Mayfield is gone, I’d say Darnold and Rosen would be next in that order.
4. Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
The trade rumors start picking up here but I don’t think Cleveland will like any of the potential offers. They want a future first-round pick, but desperate teams like the Bills or Cardinals are likely clinging to their 2019 first-rounders. At this point, Quenton Nelson would be a great pick but his positional value could push him down the board. Instead, the Browns are intrigued by a Chubb-Myles Garrett combo.
In my mind, this is where the draft really trails off. Anything could happen here. The Broncos could take Barkley, Chubb or Quenton Nelson. I can’t see them bypassing one of those talents for a defensive back, despite their need for one. They’d love Chubb but he’s gone and would love Nelson… but they can’t refuse the offer from the Bills. Originally I had them staying here but I bet John Elway believes he can fill holes with the Bills two first round picks (12,22) and a future 2nd. No way the Bills send their future first. Elway just signed Case Keenum to a big deal, and while he’s disappointed by Paxton Lynch, I don’t think he’s ready to give up on the former first-round quarterback. As for the Bills, who now would own this pick, I would clamor for Rosen. He fits the Bills’ desire for a pocket-passer, but I expect Rosen to slide a little like many reports expect him to. Instead, the Bills take a guy who is used to the Buffalo weather (this is more important than you think, apparently). I’d hate this pick as a Bills fan, but hey, it’s just what I’m hearing.
It’s no secret that the Cards need a quarterback and they avoid mortgaging their future by sending the 15th, 47th (2nd), 254th (7th) and a 2019 second-round pick to the Colts (Cardinals also covet their 2019 first-rounder.) The Colts want to move down, but if they stay I think they’d easily take Quenton Nelson and would also love Roquan Smith. Another flurry of picks is to sweet for Chris Ballard to refuse as the Cardinals get their franchise quarterback. (I would love this pick.)
Like I said, there’s so many options. I’d laugh if they passed over Nelson but apparently they’re infatuated with James. Considering their history with Florida State players and a front office potentially on the hot seat, they take a flashy player with the traits to play all of the defense. I wouldn’t be shocked if they traded down here, especially if a quarterback fell to them. If not James, then Fitzpatrick would be a legit possibility, though they’d do backflips if Barkley or Chubb fell here.
Talk about a match made in heaven. Nelson’s former offensive line coach in college now works for the Bears, who would love to protect Trubisky and their young running backs. If Nelson isn’t here, the Bears could snatch up Smith in an instant, but Tremaine Edmunds will likely draw serious consideration. Smith fits their defense better, though. They could also look for secondary help in Fitzpatrick or James.
If I was picking, I’d take Smith in a heartbeat, but I’m not. Apparently, the team covets Edmunds over Smith. With the recent Reuben Foster situation now seemingly resolved, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Niners traded down or took a defensive back. Denzel Ward could come into play, though I feel the team is satisfied with their current corners and would up for a bigger, more versatile player in Fitzpatrick or James. As for my pick, why would they fall in love Edmunds over Smith? My guess is Edmunds’ physical traits and edge-rushing ability, which are things Smith lacks in.
You read that write. It’s a new era in Green Bay, who reportedly love Ward. He also fills a major need and would be worth the 14th, 76th (3rd) and 172nd (5th) picks sent to Oakland. Why does Oakland do this deal? First, GM Reggie McKenzie is a Green Bay disciple who would favor this deal over the Colts attempt at moving up from their new spot at 15. Second, the Raiders want more picks and would be confident they can get their target at 14. Two weeks ago, I’d say this is crazy but now I believe it to be a real possibility.
Hear that noise? That is every Dolphins employee and fan screaming with joy. I’m shocked as well. Two things could ruin this: the 49ers take Smith, who is the better prospect in my opinion, or the Colts trade back up from 15 to take Smith, a player they value highly. Mark my words, Dolfans. If the team stays here (and you never know with this regime), this pick will either be Smith, Edmunds or Vita Vea, in that order. No quarterback, no running back. They are open about their need for a linebacker and would be surprised to have one fall here. They could move up or down to take one, or stay put and take Vea, who I’ve confidently said would be the pick here for weeks. As with all picks, things change, surprises happen and sometimes, trends of mediocrity are bunked. That’s what happens here.
This is a good Plan B for the Broncos. Some speculate Fitzpatrick could be the pick at five, but I expect him to slide down the draft tonight. His versatility would fit seamlessly into the Broncos secondary and would be an immediate candidate for Rookie of the Year. Defensive line is a possibility, as well.
Another draft, another run on Bama players. I see this team choosing one of the following, in order of likelihood: Fitzpatrick, Payne, Vea. Interestingly enough, I was certain they’d favor Vea but after digging a little more, I think they could reach for Payne. Of course, taking Vea here would not be a shock. I’d give it 60-40 odds in Payne’s favor.
It all works out for Oakland, who gets the guy they would have reached for at ten. My confidence level on this selection is pretty high, even if they stayed put. Fitzpatrick, James, Ward, Smith and Edmunds would be considered at ten, too. Even Vea is an option. Basically, I wasn’t getting a good read on this pick until as of late. Now, I’m 100 percent sure of it! (Kidding, I’m never 100 percent sure on anything in the draft, and neither should you be.)
You can bet Indy is pissed they couldn’t move back up for Smith. Why move down in the first place, then? Well, I hear they are very high on one of the most underrated prospects in the entire class: Harold Landry. His Von Miller comparison are appropriate. Ballard favors guys in the trenches, yet I can’t see any offensive lineman worth taking here. This could be a phenomenal pick, especially when you consider the potential picks the Colts acquire from this move down.
Whaaaaaaat? That’s how I felt when it hit me how perfect this pick is. GM Ozzie Newsome has drafted only four skill players in the first round since 2002. They could go offensive line, notably tackle, but just invested loads of cash on James Hurst. Also, John Harbaugh and crew have proven to be very good at adjusting the offense to their players’ skill-sets. Just look at what Alex Collins did last season. Heck, look at the entire roster and tell me how they compete for a playoff spot every year. You’ll rarely see me take a direct quote, but Bucky Brooks’ logic says it all: “Remember, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and assistant head coach Greg Roman have experience nurturing athletic quarterbacks into dynamic playmakers (see: Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Colin Kaepernick)…” It also helps Jackson that the Ravens could use a quarterback with Flacco’s recent struggles and injury history. This is a surprisingly fantastic match and one that the Ravens have prepared for.
Apparently the Chargers are looking for help at the defensive tackle spot and at linebacker. I can see Payne (if he drops) as the likely pick, but he’s gone. Honestly, I could easily swap Payne and Vea in this mock and be comfortable with it (as comfortable as I can be when predicting a draft, I guess). Taven Bryan is a sleeper option here, too. I also think Raashan Evans and Leighton Vander Esch will be strongly considered here. This pick can really go many ways, and while I might kick myself for not officially writing Evans’ name, I’ll stick with Vea.
This is the most confidence I have in any selection of the first round. Bryan to Atlanta makes sense on so many levels. The constant reports, the team’s positional need, Dan Quinn’s affection for high risk/reward Florida players… It’s just a matter of when the Falcons take him. I know Seattle wants to recoup some later picks, and I did correctly predict the Falcons-Seahawks trade in last year’s draft. I’m guessing Atlanta would ship the 26th, 58th (2nd) and 244th (7th) picks to move up and take their guy. I would be surprised if the Falcons passed on Bryan, but I’d understand if they took Payne or Maurice Hurst instead. They can wait for a guard or third receiver.
Opinion is split on LVE. I heard a few teams have moved him down boards due to injury concerns. On the other hand, Dallas’ love for the versatile linebacker is well-known. Could it be a smokescreen? Of course it could. Evans could be taken here, too. However, Dallas needs a receiver badly, but I think they (and the other teams) will recognize the depth of this class and wait to pounce on their guy. If they did go with a wide receiver, Cortland Sutton, Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore are guys to watch.
Knowing Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, I’d bet heavily on a defensive player here, especially a lineman. Here’s what how I see their board ranked: They have Payne, Landry and Davenport as their top realistic options. In this scenario, the latter is the only one left. Ironically, his pro comparison is Ezekiel Ansah, who might not last another season in Detroit. Sorry Lions fans, you’ll have to wait longer for a running back.
This will go three ways: Ragnow, James Daniels or Billy Price. The chance for each pick are Ragnow/69, Daniels/29, Price/1 or Other/1. This is the second most confidence I have in any selection. It also helps a massive team weakness. I don’t know what else to say than you better start buying your Ragnow jerseys now!
In the hypothetical trade with the Bills, the Broncos now sit in an interesting situation. They could take a wide receiver, which I feel would be a sneakily smart move. However, I just feel it could be an offensive lineman. Say the Bills keep this pick (which is also possible whether they trade up or not), then a linebacker or center are the likely picks. Personally, I’d go Isaiah Wynn but Daniels is a great pick here, too. This was another pick where I couldn’t get much research off of, so I threw a little opinion in there.
No, they’re not taking a quarterback here. I think they know how significant the drop-off is in quarterback talent and how barren their left tackle spot looks after Nate Solder left. Ironically, that’s Miller’s common pro comparison. Let’s be real, though. There is no team harder to project than the Patriots. This could be a massive surprise, but the numbers back up this projected pick. Since 2007, Belichick’s eight first-round picks were all defense except for when he took Nate Solder. I think Evans is a real possibility here but in the end I can see their affection for Miller winning out. (Does Belichick even feel affection?)
Another pick where there are numerous possibilities. Wide receiver, defensive back and offensive lineman are all in play. So why Jackson? The depth in cornerback is starting to drop off and he fits the type of player the tam covets at the position. This is where I could easily see a receiver go, too. I would take Ridley or Moore over Jackson, who are all studs by the way. Again, I’m going with my sources and slotting Jackson in here. Besides, it seems likelier that they’d rather wait for a WR than a CB.
Originally, I had the Browns trading up here for an offensive lineman. It is extremely possible that the Titans move down here, but I have Evans among their list of desired prospects. Other candidates could be Vander Esch, Justin Reid or even a surprise like Sam Hubbard.
26. Seahawks (Trade with Falcons): Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
This is the guy they wanted all along, though Seattle would rather have additional picks to fill their various holes. His speed and length fits what the team likes at that position and would be a starter from day one. This pick could also be an edge rusher or a receiver. I know they need a running back (and so do they) but they’d wisely choose to wait for one in the later rounds.
This team is so talented. Other than tight end, I wouldn’t be shocked if this pick was an edge rusher or receiver. Goedert is exactly what the team wants: a big, athletic, vertical receiving option who can block. Hayden Hurst was considered here, too. Personally, though, a combination of Michael Thomas and D.J. Moore would be lethal. In the case that Harold Landry falls, I’d bet his drop would stop at New Orleans. Linebackers wouldn’t surprise me here, either.
Just stop with the nonsense talk of drafting a receiver or running back here. That’s the team’s two best and deepest positions! I’ll bet my life they won’t take a quarterback, either. (Okay, maybe not my life, but you get my level of certainty.) I’m fairly confident this pick will either be a linebacker or safety. I’ll say the latter due to the lack of linebackers left. I’ve heard Reid linked here often, as well as Jessie Bates and Ronnie Harrison. A tight end would surprise me but it also would fill a hole in the offense. I know Armchair Scout Rob Paul would love this pick.
My gut screams wide receiver here, but everything else points to a tight end. Sure, they signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins but when has he been reliable? Hurst is also a very good blocker and would help aid the team’s run-focused attack. I can see Goedert and Hurst flip-flopping in this mock. As for receivers, the Jags did so well with so little last year that I think they’re content with joining in on the waiting game.
They know they need a running back and theoretically ship the 38th (2), 255th (7) and the 2019 future third-round picks to the Vikings. The Vikings have thrived on trading down and with no glaring holes, this move makes sense. If they opt to stay, interior linemen like Will Hernandez or Billy Price are potential candidates. As for the Bucs, another questionable move by a front office I clearly have little faith in. I just think that Guice is a great bell-cow runner but not a do-it-all receiving threat, therefore his upside is capped. I’d prefer Sony Michel but his injury history could cause him to drop.
At this point, I can feel my body shutting down. I would totally say receiver (Ridley would be my guess), but that’s so anti-Belichick. Here’s another defender for New England, one who has been linked to the team and could be a sleeper to crash the first-round.
As my fingers begin to go numb, I fight through the pain to tell you that the bottom-half of this draft will get blown up. The Eagles are desperate for a trade down and reunite with their former trade partners to secure the 35th (2nd) and the 114th (4th) picks in exchange for the last pick for the first round and the 116th (6th) pick. Alexander has been rumored to fall due to injury concerns but there is some love for the smaller, feisty cornerback in the league.
Other teams: The Chiefs also like Carter, but they don’t pick until 54. Keep an eye out for a cornerback or defensive lineman, the former which would fill a gaping hole. The Texans have a longer wait (68) but could use that pick on a offensive lineman or tight end. If I were them, I’d consider another receiver, too. Finally, the Rams will be doing nothing for a long time, barring a trade. Their 87th overall pick could be used on a lineman or a linebacker. Out of the three teams, the likeliest to move up is Kansas City. Okay, I’m done. Contact me below to tell me how stupid I am. I won’t respond until 8 PM, though, as I will be sleeping. Happy Draft Day!