It is easy to be skeptical of the significance of the NFL Combine. The players are not in pads, and some of the drills can be difficult to associate with how it translates to the football field. While it is possible to overvalue the Combine, the week in Indianapolis can add another piece to the puzzle for teams when trying to get a full picture of each prospect.
All eyes will be on the quarterbacks, and what drills the top signal callers will participate in. Sam Darnold is not expected to throw, and while his decision will be met with controversy, it is hard to imagine it moving him down draft boards. Josh Rosen, who is also competing for the top spot, will be looking to wow teams in the interview rooms, as some have questioned whether he is mature enough to lead an NFL team. Lamar Jackson, Mason Rudolph and Baker Mayfield are all players who could benefit from a strong performance in Indy.
Jackson is battling some NFL teams who view him more as a wide receiver than a quarterback. Both Jackson and Mayfield have a chance to go in the first round.
Here’s a look at my latest NFL mock draft heading into the Combine.
NFL Mock Draft 2018: Top 10 Picks
No. 1 Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold, USC
Darnold has consistently been number one in my mock drafts. Every quarterback has warts, but Darnold looks to be the closest to being the complete package. He needs to cut down on his turnovers, and he isn’t as polished as past No. 1 quarterbacks. For all of his deficiencies, Darnold has the least amount of question marks of this quarterback class.
The Browns have a lot of draft capital, and this could be the draft that finally turns the franchise around. One interesting note from Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller on the star power in the new Browns front office.
Scot McCloughan has been praised by those in the media, fans and even fellow scouts as one of the best in the business…That marriage [with the Redskins] ended last spring amid reports that McCloughan had had multiple alcoholism relapses in his two years as Washington’s general manager.
Now McCloughan is working with the Cleveland Browns as a consultant for the 2018 draft. Perhaps it’s a toe-in-the-water test to see if he can handle the pressures of scouting before Cleveland offers him a larger role. Whatever it is, for at least the next few months, the Browns have one of the most talented group of scouts in the NFL all in one room.
McCloughan joins general manager John Dorsey, assistant general manager Eliot Wolf, co-vice presidents of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith and Andrew Berry and director of college scouting Bobby Vega to form an Avengers-like scouting department. If this group can’t fix the Browns, no one can.
No. 2 New York Giants: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Rosen is one of a few players who needs to win the interview room more than the on-field drills. The Giants drafting a quarterback does not prohibit the team from keeping Eli Manning as the starter. It is not every year most teams have a top-three pick, and the franchise needs to consider the future as much as the team’s immediate needs. The Giants would be wise to draft the best quarterback on their board, with a plan to develop him into their starting quarterback of the future.
No. 3 Indianapolis Colts: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State
Chubb may be the most impressive defender in this draft class coming off the edge. I had an opportunity to speak with him at the ESPN College Football media night, and Chubb is going to impress teams in Indianapolis in the interview room. Watch his tape against Florida State, and you will see why he has a good chance to be a top-five pick. The Colts have a lot of holes, and would be wise to improve their offensive line. Chubb’s talent is too much to pass up here.
No. 4 Cleveland Browns: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
The Browns would be wise not to overthink these first two picks. I like the combination of taking a quarterback with their first pick, and hoping Barkley is still on the board at four. Barkley has a good chance to own the Combine thanks to his freakish athletic ability. Barkley already has the boxes checked for his on-field ability, and is the complete package with his versatility in the both the run and pass game. If I was a Browns fan, I would be thrilled to leave the first round with Barkley and Darnold.
No. 5 Denver Broncos: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Josh Allen could be in play here, but there’s a good chance the Broncos sign a quarterback in free agency. Nelson is a player that many analysts feel is the safest player in the draft. If Denver does not improve their offensive line, it does not matter who they have playing quarterback. Denver’s coaching staff did get a close look at Allen and Mayfield during Senior Bowl week. What happens in free agency will have a big impact on what the Broncos do with this pick.
No. 6 New York Jets: OT Connor Williams, Texas
Like the Broncos, expect the Jets to be active in free agency. New York is also in the market for a veteran quarterback, and this pick is assuming they find a signal caller in free agency. If not, they will likely be choosing between Allen and Mayfield at No. 6. Regardless of who ends up being their quarterback, the Jets need to continue to improve their protection for their QB1.
No. 7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S Derwin James, Florida State
Tampa stays inside the state with James, as the Bucs look to improve their defense. For some reason, James was going in the mid-to-late first round in many mock drafts a few months ago, but he has always been a top 10 talent. Like former FSU star Jalen Ramsey, James has potential to play at both corner and safety in the future.
No. 8 Chicago Bears: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Josh Jackson is going to be battling Ohio State’s Denzel Ward to be the first cornerback off the board. Don’t be surprised if the Bears look at wide receiver here, but could opt to wait until the second round given the debate on the top end of this wide receiver class. Adding another young offensive lineman to help protect Mitch Trubisky is another option here for Chicago.
No. 9 San Francisco 49ers: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
While I have Courtland Sutton as my top-rated wide receiver, Ridley seems to have the lead right now with a couple months left in the draft process. With San Francisco locking up their quarterback for the next decade in Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers need to get a legit WR1 for Garoppolo to throw to. The wide receiver battle over the final two months of the pre-draft process will be one of the most interesting positions to watch, with no clear leaders in the position group.
No. 10 Oakland Raiders: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
What direction will the Raiders go under new head coach Jon Gruden? Given the team’s defensive needs, the former QB Camp guru could opt to start his regime on the defensive side of the ball. Gruden explained in his opening press conferece how his experience in the broadcast booth should help him as a coach.
“I’ve had a chance to study different offenses, different defenses, and the chance to get into personnel more,” Gruden told Raiders.com. “I think I’m more big picture now than what I was in the past, but I still want to be very detailed in terms of how we play offense. I still want to be very involved with how we move the football. I have had some unique and beneficial opportunities as a broadcaster.”
NFL Mock Draft: Picks 11-32
Here’s a look at the rest of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
|No. 11 Miami Dolphins||QB Josh Allen, Wyoming|
|No. 12 Cincinnati Bengals||LB Roquan Smith, Georgia|
|No. 13 Washington Redskins||LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech|
|No. 14 Green Bay Packers||S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama|
|No. 15 Arizona Cardinals||QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma|
|No. 16 Baltimore Ravens||WR Courtland Sutton, SMU|
|No. 17 L.A. Chargers||OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame|
|No. 18 Seattle Seahawks||RB Derrius Guice, LSU|
|No. 19 Dallas Cowboys||DT Vita Vea, Washington|
|No. 20 Detroit Lions||DE Harold Landry, Boston College|
|No. 21 Buffalo Bills||DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama|
|No. 22 Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs)||DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA|
|No. 23 L.A. Rams||OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma|
|No. 24 Carolina Panthers||LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama|
|No. 25 Tennessee Titans||DE Arden Key, LSU|
|No. 26 Atlanta Falcons||G Isaiah Wynn, Georgia|
|No. 27 New Orleans Saints||WR Christian Kirk, TAMU|
|No. 28 Pittsburgh Steelers||CB Mike Hughes, UCF|
|No. 29 Jacksonville Jaguars||TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota St.|
|No. 30 Minnesota Vikings||DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan|
|No. 31 New England Patriots||S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama|
|No. 32 Philadelphia Eagles||CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado|