NFL Mock Draft 2018: Saquon Barkley on the Rise

Getty
Saquon Barkley is likely to be one of the top players selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.

There is a reason certain teams end up with a high draft pick year after year, and the Browns reinforced why they have been one of those teams with the way they handled the trade deadline. According to Cincinnati.com, the Browns and Bengals agreed to a trade for quarterback A.J. McCarron, but the Browns failed to send in the paperwork in time for the deal to be approved.

NFL insider Benjamin Albright reported there is a growing disconnect between the Browns coaching staff and front office. Anonymous members of the coaching staff complained to Albright the front office was not putting in the necessary work to improve their franchise. There is also a growing frustration by the coaching staff around the quarterback situation in Cleveland.

Keep in mind, the Browns traded picks that could have been Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson, which Browns fans would happily take either at this point. Despite years of high draft picks, the Browns appear to be no closer to finding their franchise quarterback than they were when they started the rebuilding process.

It should come as no shock that top prospects are leery of being drafted by the Browns. Albright reported Darnold is leaning towards returning to USC, while MMQB’s Albert Breer reported Darnold will wait to see who is picking at the top of the draft before making a decision. Breer noted Darnold could opt to stay at USC if the Browns have the top pick.

While the Browns botched the trade deadline, the 49ers made a move that could solidify the quarterback position by trading for Jimmy Garoppolo. The move likely takes San Francisco out of the running for a top quarterback in next year’s draft, and could have been made a priority by the lack of consistency the 2018 quarterback class has shown this season. It was just one of several trades made that likely will impact the 2018 draft in a trade deadline that looked closer to the NBA than the typically sleepy NFL trade deadline.

Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @JonDAdams, or in the comments section with your NFL draft questions. The order for the mock draft is based on the NFL standings heading into Week 9.

Here’s a look at my latest post-trade deadline NFL mock draft.


No. 1 Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold, USC

After spending the off-season as the NFL darling, Darnold has been picked apart this season with his propensity to throw interceptions, as well as USC failing to live up to their title contender expectations. If you look at Darnold’s numbers, they are down from his stellar 2016 campaign. Darnold’s completion percentage has dropped from 67 percent to 62 percent, and heading into Week 10 his 10 interceptions were already more than he threw a season ago.

When you put on Darnold’s tape, there is still plenty to like, as I looked back at his performances against Notre Dame and Washington State. Darnold thrives with short to intermediate passing plays, and can find a rhythm when USC has been able to methodically move down the field. As several NFL draft analysts have noted, Darnold often looks more comfortable throwing on the run than inside the pocket.

Darnold is able to escape defenders, often turning a potential loss into positive yards on a quarterback run. As Darnold has shown at USC, he is more than capable of utilizing RPO (run-pass option) plays to the team’s advantage.

Darnold has plenty to work on as the NFL has concerns over his elongated throwing motion, and Darnold must continue to improve his accuracy. For all his warts, the positives far outweigh the negatives, and by the time the draft process is finished it is easy to envision Darnold as the first quarterback off the board.


No. 2 San Francisco 49ers: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Barkley’s physical strength has become legendary with the viral videos of squats and power cleans. At a Penn State event, Barkley ran a 4.3 in the 40, and benched 225 pounds 30 times which would both be amazing marks if he can replicate them at the NFL Combine.

Barkley combines his shiftiness with elite level speed to be the best running back in college football. Barkley’s running style is in the mode of Barry Sanders and Warrick Dunn with the way he can shift his body then run forward. Barkley loves to bounce runs outside, and NFL teams will be looking to see how he performs inside the tackles. With the way he can catch passes out of the backfield, Barkley is the complete package.

Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette are proving elite running backs are worthy of a high draft pick. Barkley is the same caliber running back, and is likely a top five pick in the 2018 draft.

49ers GM John Lynch played on the Bucs teams that enjoyed success with Dunn and Mike Alstott providing a potent rushing attack. Barkley could be one


No. 3 New York Giants: T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

Even Eli Manning himself has alluded to the challenges of the current Giants offensive line. The Giants could opt to draft their quarterback of the future, but my guess is they try to give Manning one more shot, and the Giants need to solidify the offensive line for that to happen.

Walter Football noted McGlinchey likely would have been the top tackle selected in the 2017 draft had he declared. Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams will also be in the conversation to be the top tackle selected in 2018, but McGlinchey does not have some of the injury concerns Williams has been battling.


No. 4 Indianapolis Colts: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State

Chubb is a bad man who combines a lightning-quick first step with an array of moves to be one of the top defensive prospects in the draft. Chubb has no problem defending the run, but really shines in rushing the passer. He plays with an edge, and at times can push the limits when hitting the quarterback.

Chubb will give an NFL team versatility with the ability to stand up on the defensive line as well as put his hand in the dirt. During the draft evaluation process, teams will want to see his ability to drop into coverage, but where Chubb will make his money is getting to the quarterback. If you want to see Chubb at his best, put on the tape against Florida State as Chubb dominates from start to finish as his seven tackles and two sacks show. Chubb is on pace to average about a sack per contest.


No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College

Tampa Bay went heavy on offense this past off-season drafting tight end O.J. Howard and signing wide receiver DeSean Jackson among others. The resources have not paid off in the way the Tampa Bay front office expected as the offense has not been the explosive unit many expected it to be. Based on what the Bucs did last summer, fans can expect them to look towards defense in the draft.

Landry gives the Bucs another pass rusher, who offers position versatility to whatever NFL team selects him. With his quick first step, Landry consistently gets to the quarterback, but he has no problem dropping back in coverage. The Bucs have more talent than their record shows, so it is hard to know exactly how to fix things. Landry is a top 10 talent, and the NFL continues to place a high value on pass rushers.


No. 6 Los Angeles Chargers: T Connor Williams, Texas

No one knows when the Chargers will start to look for their quarterback of the future. At 35, Rivers still has a few more good seasons left in him, so it is hard to imagine the Chargers using a top pick in 2018 on a quarterback. The Chargers had unfortunate luck with pre-season injuries, but the Chargers could continue to benefit from improving their offensive line even when they are back to full strength.

Williams suffered a torn meniscus along with a sprained MCL and ACL in the Texas-USC game. It remains to be seen whether the injuries will impact his draft stock. Williams has six months to recover, but his recovery could impact his ability to participate in some of the pre-draft workouts.


No. 7 Oakland Raiders: DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson

Clemson uses Wilkins as a chess piece all over the defensive line, and an NFL defensive coordinator is likely to do the same. For a player listed at 300 pounds, Wilkins is surprisingly nimble and quick for a defensive tackle. There’s lots of reason the Raiders are under-performing this season, but a lot of their problems starts with defense.

The Raiders ranks 23rd in points allowed as the defense is giving up 23.8 points a game, and 26th in total yards with the Raiders allowing 356.9 yards a game. Oakland is giving up 120 rushing yards a game (ranked 22nd), and a player like Wilkins could help stop the bleeding on the defensive line.

Oakland could really use more elite pass rushers, and are likely to have interest in a couple of the EDGE rushers we have being selected earlier.


No. 8 Chicago Bears: EDGE Arden Key, LSU

The Bears need help in a lot of different areas, but could opt to bolster their defense with another edge rusher. Key along with Leonard Floyd would give the Bears a lot of versatility and firepower coming off the edge. Key holds the single-season record for sacks at LSU with his 12 sacks in 2017, an impressive stat considering the talented defensive players that have come through Baton Rouge.

Key has long been an NFL prospect, but questions surround what teams can expect from him. At times he looks winded and out of shape this season. Can NFL teams afford the risk on Key with a top ten selection?


No. 9 Denver Broncos: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU

Heading into Week 9, a Broncos receiver had not caught a touchdown pass in nearly two months. Demaryius Thomas has gone 13 games without catching a touchdown, as the Denver offense has struggled to put points on the board. The Broncos wide receivers should not get all the blame for Denver’s lack of success, but the Broncos could use more offensive firepower.

If Denver eventually begins the Paxton Lynch era, what better way than to give him a legit No. 1 receiver. At 6’4″ and 216 pounds, Sutton is the kind of receiver NFL teams covet. Sutton reminds me of another receiver that plays in Dallas, Dez Bryant.

It is no surprise Sutton is a massive red zone target, but when you watch the tape you see SMU utilizes him in a variety of ways. Sutton catches screen passes that allows him to get out in space, which is not common for a receiver of his size. Sutton’s ability to break tackles makes him just as valuable in short yardage situations as he is in the red zone.


No. 10 Detroit Lions: RB Derrius Guice, LSU

Could the Lions be willing to move on from the Ameer Abdullah era? Abdullah is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry, and has largely been a disappointment in his first three NFL seasons.

The Lions rank 28th in rushing yards per game with 82.1 yards, and desperately need a boost for their rushing attack. Guice is not getting the attention Barkley has received this season, but is a very versatile back that has a good chance to hear his name called early in April’s draft. Guice can be used in a variety of ways as he can be seen running jet sweeps along with more traditional runs between the tackles.

There will be questions about Guice’s ability to endure an NFL season at just 5’11” and 212 pounds. There’s no question Guice has all the talent needed to be an NFL running back.


No. 11 Washington Redskins: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA

If you want to understand the dilemma of Josh Rosen, put on the UCLA-Texas A&M tape where the Bruins trailed by 34 points after almost three quarters of uninspired play. Fast forward to less than a minute remaining in the game, and Rosen has engineered one of the most impressive college football comebacks in history.

As Texas A&M struggles to lineup inside the 10 yard line, Rosen proceeds to pull off a fake spike in Dan Marino fashion then throws a perfect fade for the game-winning touchdown. In that fourth quarter, Rosen has enough swagger for the entire team as the Bruins shock the Aggies with a victory.

If this was the Rosen we saw the majority of the time, there would be no doubt he would be the top pick in the draft. Rosen’s scouting report is much more complicated, full of questions about his durability, and ability to lead a team. Of all the quarterback prospects, Rosen is the quarterback you would pick out of a lineup. The five-star recruit was the number one high school quarterback, and entered college with enormous talent along with expectations.

There is a lot to like about Rosen, who has a quick release, an ability to throw the deep ball and shows a propensity for hitting receivers in stride on timing routes. My biggest concern for Rosen is his decision making and awareness when pressured. There’s enough questions on tape for NFL teams to bring all kinds of blitzes when Rosen enters the league. How an NFL team views Rosen depends a lot on what they want to see. The talent and arm strength likely means Rosen won’t be waiting long to hear his name called if he enters the 2018 draft.

For the past year, it has appeared the Redskins and Kirk Cousins were on a path to break up after this season. Rosen would allow Washington to go in a new direction under center.


NFL Mock Draft 2018: Picks 12-32

PICK PLAYER
12. Cleveland Browns (via Texans) WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
13. Arizona Cardinals QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
14. Cincinnati Bengals OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
15. New York Jets QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
16. Baltimore Ravens S/CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
17. Green Bay Packers S Derwin James, Florida State
18. Jacksonville Jaguars LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
19. Tennessee Titans LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
20. Miami Dolphins RB Damien Harris, Alabama
21. Atlanta Falcons WR James Washington, Oklahoma State
22. Dallas Cowboys LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
23. Carolina Panthers WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
24. Buffalo Bills CB Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
25. New Orleans Saints EDGE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
26. L.A. Rams CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
27. Seattle Seahawks DT Maurice Hunt, Michigan
28. Minnesota Vikings S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
29. Pittsburgh Steelers TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
30. Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs) DE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
31. New England Patriots EDGE Dorance Armstrong, Kansas
32. Philadelphia Eagles T Orlando Brown, Oklahoma

Loading ...