Putting together an NFL mock draft isn’t that much different from filling out a March Madness bracket – you’re inevitably going to be wrong. And often.
But it wouldn’t be draft season without a mock, so we did our best to predict who will go where when Roger Goodell announces the picks on Thursday night (04:00 GST Friday morning).
Make sure to check out the top storylines as well to be fully prepared for the festivities.
1. Cleveland Browns – Josh Allen, quarterback, Wyoming
It’s almost a certainty that the Browns will take a quarterback with one of their top picks and indications have been it will be Allen, who has all the physical tools to succeed.
2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State
They could go quarterback, but the Giants may believe Eli Manning has something left in the tank. The top running back on the board would give Manning even more firepower to work with.
3. New York Jets – Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC
Arguably the best quarterback prospect in the class, Darnold is a prototypical pocket passer who can make all the throws. The Jets will finally have a quarterback of the future to build around.
4. Cleveland Browns – Bradley Chubb, defensive end, N.C. State
After securing a quarterback with the first pick, why not grab the best pass rusher in the draft and pair him with last year’s top pick, Myles Garrett, to form a deadly duo on the edge?
5. Denver Broncos – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Denver could trade this pick to a team desperate to move up for a quarterback, but if they stay here then Rosen makes a lot of sense to back-up Case Keenum now before taking over.
6. Indianapolis Colts – Roquan Smith, linebacker, Georgia
Another potential trade partner, the Colts are set at quarterback with Luck, so they may move down to gather assets. Otherwise, Smith would be an ideal pick to bolster a lacklustre linebacking unit.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Denzel Ward, cornerback, Ohio State
The defensive back has speed and size to be a mainstay in Tampa Bay’s secondary for years to come. And with the quarterback and receiver talent in the NFC South, the Buccaneers will need it.
8. Chicago Bears – Quenton Nelson, offensive guard, Notre Dame
Nelson has a link to new Bears line coach Harry Hiestand, who coached him at Notre Dame. If the guard is still available when Chicago picks, it would be a surprise if his name isn’t called.
9. San Francisco 49ers – Tremaine Edmunds, linebacker, Virginia Tech
Last year’s second-round pick, Reuben Foster, may not even be on the team due to his legal woes, but even so the 49ers are in need of a linebacker and Edmunds is worth developing.
10. Oakland Raiders – Minkah Fitzpatrick, safety, Alabama
A do-it-all defensive back is just what the Raiders need. Jon Gruden can use the versatile Fitzpatrick all around the field, from safety to cornerback to the slot and even in the box.
11. Miami Dolphins – Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma
Ryan Tannehill isn’t worth giving up on just yet, but by grabbing Mayfield, the Dolphins would be able to patiently groom a quarterback to be the eventual successor, maybe in a year or two.
12. Buffalo Bills – Mason Rudolph, quarterback, Oklahoma State
Everyone expects Buffalo to move up into top-five range to select one of the top quarterbacks, but there’s every chance they stay put and wait for a less-heralded guy to fall in their lap, like Rudolph.
13. Washington – Vita Vea, defensive tackle, Washington
This far into the draft, the interior lineman is a good value pick for Washington, who will slot him into the rotation right away and use him, at the very least, on early downs.
14. Green Bay Packers – Josh Jackson, cornerback, Iowa
Jackson didn’t jump off the page at the combine, but the rangy cornerback made plays on a consistent basis at Iowa and the Packers are in need of someone to strengthen their secondary.
15. Arizona Cardinals – Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville
If they don’t trade up and Jackson is still on the board at 15, Arizona will have a hard time passing up the dynamic quarterback, whose athleticism next to David Johnson would be lethal.
16. Baltimore Ravens – D.J. Moore, wide receiver, Maryland
The Ravens have already improved their wide receiver group this offseason, but they’re still in need of more talented pass catchers and Moore gets the slight edge on Calvin Ridley here.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Mike McGlinchey, offensive tackle, Notre Dame
McGlinchey could go much sooner than this, or fall into the back of the first round. But he would fill a need for the Chargers who haven’t had the most efficient running game of late.
18. Seattle Seahawks – Marcus Davenport, defensive end, Texas-San Antonio
This isn’t the same ferocious Seahawks defence from years past, so someone like Davenport would replenish some of the edge and pass rushing that exited with Michael Bennett’s departure.
19. Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Alabama
Dez Bryant is gone, leaving a sizeable hole in the passing game. In Ridley, the Cowboys would get a downfield target for Dak Prescott who can quickly turn into a number one receiver.
20. Detroit Lions – Harold Landry, defensive end, Boston College
What better type of player to fit Matt Patricia’s defence than the versatile Landry? The Boston College product can line up as both an edge rusher and at outside linebacker, giving Patricia options.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – James Daniels, centre, Iowa
It’s no secret Cincinnati will target offensive linemen as they’re in the midst of giving the position a facelift. Daniels is the top centre in the draft and should be a solid building block.
22. Buffalo Bills – Will Hernandez, offensive guard, UTEP
After losing Eric Wood, Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn this offseason, Buffalo’s offensive line is in serious need of a tune-up. Enter Hernandez, who can be a mauler in the running game right away.
23. New England Patriots – Rashaan Evans, linebacker, Alabama
Bill Belichick could go a number of ways in the draft and none would be all that surprising. This may be the most conventional move, but a smart one nonetheless as they need young talent at linebacker.
24. Carolina Panthers – Jaire Alexander, cornerback, Louisville
They could trade up to secure one of the top wide receivers, but if that doesn’t work out, cornerback is next on the list and with Alexander, they’ll get a speedy and athletic playmaker.
25. Tennessee Titans – Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State
If Landry or Evans don’t fall to Tennessee, Vander Esch should be an appealing option to new coach Mike Vrabel, who was a three-down linebacker himself during his heyday.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Taven Bryan, defensive tackle, Florida
Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe left in free agency, which opens the door for Bryan to come in, fill a positional need and contribute right away as a factor in passing situations.
27. New Orleans Saints – Mike Gesicki, tight end, Penn State
If there’s one place on the offence where the Saints need help, it’s at tight end, which has been wildly inconsistent since the days of Jimmy Graham. Gesicki can bring back some of that athleticism.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Hughes, cornerback, Central Florida
He’s not the fastest cornerback, but Hughes holds up well in coverage and continues to creep up draft boards. Pittsburgh could use another fresh face in the back end of their defence.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Courtland Sutton, wide receiver, SMU
Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns left a lot of receptions behind, which is why the Jaguars should strongly consider Sutton, who can give them a big body on the outside and in the red zone.
30. Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn, offensive guard, Georgia
The Vikings may not have any glaring weaknesses, but they can certainly improve their guard group and Wynn has all the tools to be a physical presence in the ground game.
31. New England Patriots – Kolton Miller, offensive tackle, UCLA
The Patriots would be fortunate to see Miller fall into their laps and would likely jump at the opportunity to fortify their line and provide Tom Brady with more protection.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – Connor Williams, offensive tackle, Texas
The Super Bowl champions could snag Williams to pad their offensive line and provide insurance for the aging Jason Peters. Or they could easily trade this pick. Either way, it’s good to be the king.
If baseball is America’s pastime then, at this time of year, the NFL Draft is its day job.
Draft time isn’t just for the professionals. Amateur ‘scouts’ from across the country spend hundreds of hours poring over college games, combine results – the NFL’s version of a meat market – and even interviews in order to put a number or a grade on a kid a fresh out of college.
Draftniks get into virtual fisticuffs on social media over whether such and such has the ‘measurables’, the ‘tape’ or if they simply love the game of football enough to put it all together in the big league.
Bearing in mind these are young men barely out of their teenage years – it can get downright creepy at times.
This is not just an exercise for the nerdiest corners of the web, though. More Americans watch – and boo – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell read out 32 names on a podium over the course of four hours than tune in for the last round of the Masters.
So if you want to know what all the fuss is about, and find yourself at a loose end at approximately 04:00 GST on Friday morning, this year’s first round is shaping up to be more compelling than most.
Hoping the Browns go Mayfield at 1 so this clip goes down in the annals of the NFL draft.— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) April 24, 2018
“Hue, what was your first impression of Baker Mayfield?”
“Well, I have a great story about that...” pic.twitter.com/VoX9e3U4b6
All eyes on Cleveland
The Cleveland Browns’ record over the last two years reads an atrocious one win, 31 defeats. They hold picks No1 and No4 in a quarterback-stacked draft. And John Dorsey, the Browns’ general manager, is known for keeping his cards superglued to his chest. Desperation and deviousness are a potent mix.
Unlike recent years, when the top pick of the draft was known to everyone and their mother before the curtains were raised, it’s been hard to cut through the chatter coming out of Cleveland.
Some like them taking Wyoming’s Josh Allen, who sorely lacks for accuracy but is easy to fall in love with thanks to his mortar of an arm. Others like ‘high-ceiling’ USC signal-caller Sam Darnold. Then there’s analytics company Pro Football Focus’ darling Baker Mayfield from Texas Tech, and arguably the most talented of the lot, UCLA’s Josh Rosen – but who some claim has a personality defect.
Pick your favourite flavour. But quarterbacks are gold dust, not ice cream, and many QB-starved teams will trade the farm and the clothes they are wearing if they fall in love with just one of them.
What does this mean? Expect at least two big trades on the night.
One reason why the Browns have kept everyone guessing is that some team may hand over that farm if they believe they will take the quarterback they are besotted with at No1. And if they don’t go for a passer first up then the New York Giants’ phones, at No2, will be ringing off the hook.
Throw in the Jets and Denver too and a quarterback could be in play in the first five picks. Watch for Miami, Buffalo and Arizona to muscle their way in. Either way, Dorsey’s going to have some fun.
The QB who would be king
If you’re falling asleep – or waking up – in time for the bottom half of the draft, what the New England Patriots decide to do may give you a timely slap around the chops.
There have been reports that Brady’s personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, is increasingly not welcome in New England and that TB12 himself is sick of taking less money than the superstar amount he deserves.
Belichick, it is claimed, is still raw over being forced to trade Brady’s heir apparent Jimmy Garoppolo by Kraft.
The Patriots are Tom Brady's franchise and Brady is making sure Bill Belichick knows that pic.twitter.com/E8DUiOBS5g— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) April 18, 2018
It means a disgruntled Brady, at 41, has no would-be successor on the roster. That’s all about to change over the course of the weekend.
What makes the situation all the more intriguing is that the Patriots hold pick No23, after trading Brandin Cooks to the Rams, as well as No31.
That they’ll package both picks and make a massive jump seems unlikely given the many gaping non-QB holes they have to fill. But if the right QB falls, they could well go and get the man who will be Brady’s replacement.
The name to look out for? Louisville’s Heisman Trophy winning signal caller Lamar Jackson in what would represent a future seismic shift for the Pats’ offence.
His ability in the pocket is under question though underappreciated by some. He is without doubt, however, an electrifying runner with shades of Michael Vick, the most unique quarterback of his generation.
From Brady and Belichick to Jackson and Bill’s protege Josh McDaniels? Set that alarm …
Dez Bryant may not be the dynamic wide receiver he once was, but he remains a weapon that could help an offence, particularly inside the red zone.
After being released by the Dallas Cowboys, where he was a franchise cornerstone for so long, Bryant will be a sought-after playmaker in the open market.
Here are four teams Bryant could sign with for next season.
Any conversation on where Bryant will land has to start in the NFC East. That’s not baseless speculation either, that’s based on words straight from the man’s own mouth as Bryant reportedly said “I’ll see you guys twice this year” on his way out of Dallas’ building.
Looking at the Cowboys’ three divisional foes, it becomes clear that Washington would make the most sense for Bryant, considering their cap space far exceeds what the New York Giants or Philadelphia Eagles have to offer.
The Giants are especially out of the race because they’ll likely have to hand Odell Beckham Jr a monster contract, which would make Bryant not just a luxury, but one they would be priced out of.
Philadelphia could certainly use Bryant after losing Torrey Smith and Trey Burton, and they could offer the wideout a chance to stick it to Dallas by contending for a Super Bowl. But the Eagles rank second-to-last in the league in cap space, according to Over the Cap, which would make this a difficult fit, money-wise.
Washington already possess a number of receiving weapons in Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson, as well as the newly-signed Paul Richardson, but they could choose to bolster the group and give Alex Smith more to work with, especially near the end zone.
The Ravens have been committed to overhauling their receiving corps after giving Joe Flacco a relatively weak unit to work with last season.
They already signed Michael Crabtree away from Oakland and added former Arizona speedster John Brown. The addition of Bryant would fit nicely with Crabtree on the opposite sideline and give Baltimore a pair of receivers who can go up and fight for the ball.
As far as cap space, Baltimore have $10.7m to work with, which should be enough to work out a contract.
Four teams that some believe could show varying levels of interest in free-agent WR Dez Bryant:— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 14, 2018
*Arizona - Issue is little money left.
*Baltimore - Room even with Michael Crabtree.
*Buffalo - Wouldn’t be NFC East, but AFC East.
*Green Bay - A replacement for Jordy Nelson.
After a promising finish to last season with Jimmy Garoppolo under centre, the 49ers appear to building great things for the long-haul. It may not be a win-now situation for Bryant, but it’s certainly an up-and-coming team that could contend sooner than expected.
San Francisco have oodles of cap space to play around with ($47m) and need a receiver of Bryant’s ilk, size and ability to be a red zone threat for Garoppolo.
Pierre Garcon is still a sure-handed possession receiver and Marquise Goodwin has his strengths as a downfield threat, but no one on the 49ers roster right now can put as much pressure on opposing secondaries as Bryant is capable of.
They’ve been moving on from players left and right to save money, so turning around and handing a decent chunk to an aging veteran like Bryant may not make the most sense, even with $9.3m available in cap space.
However, the Seahawks are in need of some size in the receiving corps after losing Jimmy Graham and Richardson, and Bryant would slide in well as a primary target for Russell Wilson alongside Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.
Plus, Pete Carroll has never been hesitant to add star names or big personalities to his locker room, trusting the culture he has established.