NFL Draft Bible Director of College Football Justen Gammel unveils his first 2018 NFL Mock Draft of the season. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for more NFL Draft hot takes @gamscout
Mock Drafts are meant to be fun. Let’s not forget that. I’m not trying to be right with this, I’m more trying to introduce new names who could rise up and also present certain scenarios that could take place. So far this season, there’s really no consensus top pass rushers, so I threw in some of the guys who I’ve personally studied and been super impressed with. Is the top pick a quarterback? Pass rusher? Offensive tackle? How about none of the above. The number one overall pick might seem unlikely right now but try arguing against why it shouldn’t be this player and I think it may be tougher than you think. The only player I really didn’t include on purpose in this mock is Washington left tackle Trey Adams, as his season ending injury has prompted sources to say that he’s extremely likely to return to school. Also, the order of this mock is using SportsLines win total predictions as of October 18th. Enjoy.
- Cleveland Browns – Saquon Barkley, RB – Penn State
The last running back to be selected first overall was also from Penn State in Ki-Jana Carter in 1995. Barkley is too rare of a pure running talent and playmaker for this club to pass up. He can do things other humans simply cannot and will force defenses to legitimately gameplan around the Browns run game. This will also be a huge help for second year signal caller Deshone Kizer.
- San Francisco 49ers – Josh Rosen, QB – UCLA
Rosen’s ceiling is somewhere between Jameis Winston and Andrew Luck. Combine his natural physical gifts with the extremely advanced subtleties and nuances to his game and you have a blue chip prospect on your hands. Rosen will remind Kyle Shanahan of Matt Ryan, only stronger and better. He’ll excel in this offense and turn the Niners into a playoff team.
- New York Giants – Chukwuma Okorafor, OT – Western Michigan
A natural knee bender and blindside protector, Okorafor has the feet to mirror speed rushers and the size/strength combination to anchor against power rushers. He’ll shoot up boards come draft time and although the state of the Giants front office is entirely a mystery, whoever ends up in charge should opt to improve the offensive line.
- Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb, DE – NC State
The kid can play with his hand in the dirt or out of the two point stance. His first step isn’t elite, but it’s more than enough. His violent and veteran-esque hand usage is what wins him the corner and he also has the power and bend to threaten any offensive tackle when he pins his ears back. The Colts need a three down edge defender and while this may be a little high for Chubb, it’ll be worth it with the impact he can make.
- Chicago – Auden Tate, WR – Florida State
Tate is the perfect blend of size, body control and athleticism. He won’t run in the 4.4’s but he’s plenty fast enough to make cornerbacks have to open their stride, leaving them vulnerable to back shoulder balls and contested catches (Tate’s specialty). Strong hands, size and a nasty attitude when going over the middle make him the prototype possession wideout. He can become a true X receiver in year one with his immense talent.
- LA Chargers – Quenton Nelson, OG – Notre Dame
I know the Chargers spent picks last year on guards but they can’t be serious enough about improving their line and protecting the aging Rivers. Nelson is a huge earth mover with the athleticism to fit in any scheme. Top ten is not out of the question for this Irishman.
- Oakland – Connor Williams, OT/OG – Texas
The season ending injury is a bad look for Williams but he should be ready for the pre-draft process allowing teams to see his mean streak and physical talent. I’m unsure if he has the length to play tackle but at the very least, he can wind up being an elite guard. The Raiders need youth on their offensive live and Williams gives them a jolt of energy and attitude.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Da’Ron Payne, DT – Alabama
Chris Baker isn’t bad, but he’s 30 and realistically can be upgraded. Enter Payne, an absolute freak show of an athlete and run stopper. He fits any scheme and has huge upside as a pass rusher. This may be one of the best interior defensive line prospects in a decade. Tampa Bay can’t afford to pass on him.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Minkah Fitzpatrick, S – Alabama
Remember Eric Berry? This might be the closest thing you’ll see to him. Fitzpatrick plays at an elite level in every facet of the game. He plays cornerback, safety, linebacker, nickel and hell, he might even clean your house and walk your dog if you ask him to. There’s absolutely nothing he cannot do. His tackling ability is second to none and he has instincts in deep coverage that you rarely see from a guy that’s been tasked with so many different responsibilities. It would actually shock me if he lasted until pick nine on draft day.
- Dallas – Michael Gallup, WR – Colorado State
Raise your hand if you think a guy from the Mountain West conference can be the second wideout taken. No one? Didn’t think so. Gallup has size at six feet two inches and he also has amazing suddenness and vertical speed. His ability after the catch really sets him apart from the rest as well. He resembles Calvin Ridley from Alabama the way he uses his loose lower half to set up defenders and burst in and out of his breaks. Thing is, he’s quite a bit thicker and is also taller than Ridley. Dallas needs someone like this for Dak. Combine Gallup and Dez and watch defenses struggle deciding who to double.
- New York Jets – Josh Allen, QB – Wyoming
Allen might struggle at Wyoming but keep in mind that he’s also playing alongside guys who were recently just mediocre high school players in bad football states. That should say something. Allen operates a pro style offense and utilizes real dropbacks, timing and footwork. He has the strongest arm I’ve ever seen and is a very creative passer who can anticipate and drop dimes when given any help. The Jets can’t overthink this pick.
- Arizona – Sam Darnold, QB – USC
Darnold isn’t perfect and really struggles getting off his first read. He also has a funky windup delivery and awkward, terrible footwork a lot of the time. But he’s a gamer with a gunslinger mentality and excels driving the ball to the intermediate levels as well as deep. Arians probably would have no qualms about this pick and could even choose to redshirt him behind Palmer for a year.
- Baltimore – Derwin James, S – Florida State
Eric Weddle is washed and Tony Jefferson is best up around the line of scrimmage. Derwin James is likely more of a guy who shouldn’t be left deep but he’s such a rare blend of size, speed and physicality that Ozzie Newsome will just take him and try to make it work. If you’ve seen James play, can you really blame him?
- Cleveland Browns (from Houston) – Denzel Ward, CB – Ohio State
Ward is speedy as hell, plays a sticky, annoying style in coverage and is a marvelously fluid and quick athlete. The Browns need shutdown corners and Ward can really become one. He also won’t be a liability in the tackling department, which’ll keep defensive coordinator Gregg Williams happy.
- Tennessee Titans – Christian Wilkins, DT – Clemson
Wilkins could play end in a three man front or inside in a four man. His balance, strength and bend on the interior is literally unblockable for most human being football players to block. He’d be a steal here and could end up a franchise building block for this Titan defense.
- Detroit Lions – Deon Cain, WR – Clemson
Two Tigers in a row here. Stafford is the guy long term for the Lions and he has arguably the strongest arm in football. Problem is, he really doesn’t have a guy who can stretch the field for him. Tate is consistent and Golladay will be a great player but Stafford needs someone who can burn defenses with simple posts and nine routes. Cain can straight up run and he can also deliver big plays after the catch. This would add an element to the Lions offense they’ve really been missing.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Mike McGlinchey, OT – Notre Dame
If it were me, I’d start over at quarterback with Lamar Jackson and dump Bortles but I doubt the Jags’ front office will have the balls to move on from a guy that they spent the third overall pick on. McGlinchey isn’t perfect but he’s got height and length, in addition to quick feet to play tackle. He’s oddly better in the run game than he is in pass protection, where he’ll have technical lapses and stop his feet at times. However, his athletic upside is reminiscent of former first overall pick out of Central Michigan Eric Fisher.
- Miami Dolphins – Billy Price, OG – Ohio State
The Dolphins offensive line is a low key mess. It’s guards haven’t been good and need to be upgraded in order for Jay Ajayi to be effective. Price is versatile on the interior and is strong and efficient with his hands. He seals run lanes and holds up well at the point of attack, making him an ideal selection here for the Dolphins. It’s not a sexy pick but it’s a necessary one.
- Denver Broncos – Rashaan Evans, LB – Alabama
Evans is maybe my favorite player in the entire class. You just don’t see athletes like this often. He runs like Jaylon Smith at Notre Dame but hits like Brian Urlacher used to. He can play any linebacker spot in any scheme and can scream off the edge in the pass rush game. Todd Davis and Corey Nelson are serviceable for Denver but Evans, alongside Brandon Marshall would be too perfect of a pairing and would help the Broncos with their issues covering tight ends and running backs.
- Washington Redskins – Damon Arnette, CB – Ohio State
Just a redshirt sophomore, Arnette is a supremely talented cover man and football player. One of the best “click and close” defenders in the country who excels in off man coverage with his loose hips and natural instincts. Add in the fact that he finishes plays with the violence and tenacity of a linebacker and you have a complete shutdown cornerback.
- Atlanta Falcons – DJ Chark, WR – LSU
Chark is a bit upright at times but overall he plays the wideout position with natural route running ability and ball tracking skills. What sets him apart though? Well, he’s six feet two inches tall and might run a legitimate 4.3 forty-yard dash. He eats cushions so quickly that you almost feel bad for the guys covering him. Julio Jones can’t carry the load in Atlanta all by himself, so bringing in Chark to giver Matt Ryan other options could do wonders for this offense.
- Buffalo Bills – Lamar Jackson, QB – Louisville
Tyrod’s time is done. He’s great at running around and hoping plays break down before lobbing up deep shots but Jackson is a far more dynamic athlete with a stronger, more natural passing arm. His pocket presence and ability to deliver from said pocket has and will continue to improve. He’s the new face of the Bills franchise, which will electrify not only the fan base but the guys in the locker room as well.
- New Orleans Saints – Cece Jefferson, DE – Florida
Jefferson isn’t well known yet but the more scouts study him, the more buzz his name will have attached to it. He’s a powerful, energetic edge rusher who sets the edge with purpose but also possesses a lightning first step and raw, natural power. He has so many tools in his toolbox and beats tackles in so many different ways. The Saints secondary has improved but now the guys up front have to do their part. Jefferson can harass and hurry quarterbacks for years to come.
- Seattle Seahawks – Tarvarus McFadden, CB – Florida State
If you could draw up the perfect cornerback for the cover three scheme this defense runs, it’d be McFadden. Length, instincts and ball skills set him apart and in this system that allows corners to face the quarterback and use their vision to freelance and roam when necessary, he’d fit like a glove. It doesn’t get easier than this.
- Green Bay Packers – Calvin Ridley, WR – Alabama
Ridley might be older than the average college junior but he’s also a more gifted and better wide receiver too. Often referred to as “The Human Torch,” he can electrify an offense by exploding past cornerbacks and third level defenders. Appearing at about six feet tall, he’s got adequate size and leaping ability to be an above the rim threat when necessary. Dynamic is an adjective that just doesn’t do his game justice but I don’t think Aaron Rodgers cares about what words we use to describe him as he’ll just be happy to get a three level playmaker to help open up this sometimes stagnant offense.
- LA Rams – Jabari Zuniga, DE – Florida
Zuniga is another unknown Gator at the current moment, but he’s likely to generate some serious hype throughout the pre-draft process. In 2016, he was mostly just a speed rusher but this season he’s added some power and nuance to his game. He still may be a one trick pony for the time being since his new stuff isn’t consistent yet but his one trick is pretty good. In 12 games last year, he had eight and a half tackles for loss and five sacks. In five games this season, he already has five and a half tackles for loss and two and a half sacks. His first step is elite and his natural dip and bend around the corner can’t be taught. With the status of Robert Quinn in question, the Rams need to secure a new right defensive end.
- Carolina Panthers – Clelin Ferrell, DE – Clemson
Ferrell is a big, destructive run stopper who also flashes nasty pass rush ability. He needs to work on his pad level and his approach to the pass rush game but his functional strength and movement ability make him an intriguing prospect that fits what the Panthers look for.
- Minnesota Vikings – Vita Vea, DT – Washington
Linval Joseph is an amazing interior defender, but he’s not getting any younger. Vea is a dancing bear who possesses the power of Zeus in his hands and lower body. The biggest knock on him is inconsistency but he could overcome that and become one of the best defensive tackles in the league. His natural balance and fluidity combined with his power and feel for the game are rare and if motivated, he could start to take over games.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Roquan Smith, LB – Georgia
Vince Williams is slow and a liability in coverage and Shazier hasn’t had the best luck staying healthy. Smith is a lot like Shazier though in the sense that he’s a lightning bolt when he reads the flow and shoots downhill to strike a ball carrier. Speed and physicality are what make him special and the Steelers would be wise to add this kid to their young and energetic unit.
- New England Patriots – Lorenzo Carter, DE – Georgia
What a difference Kirby Smart can make. Carter was so raw last year, I wasn’t sure he could turn into anything that could be taken seriously. This year though, he’s wrecking shop. He’s shown impressive get off and bend, as well as a rip move and the occasional club-chop. The athletic traits have always been there but now he’s learning how to use those traits and it’s about to make him a top pick in the NFL Draft.
- Philadelphia Eagles – Ronald Jones III, RB – USC
The Eagles will get Darby back at corner and they have Mills, Douglas and Sidney Jones who should be ready to go next year. What do they really need? How about a phenom running back who fits in their zone (and occasionally power) scheme. Jones added muscle this year but retained all the balance and speed that made him so special. With Jones, any carry can go to the house which keeps defenders honest with their angles and approach. However, he also isn’t hesitant to run straight through anyone standing in his way, making him a tough player to bring down and gameplan for. Wentz will be happy about this pick.
- Buffalo Bills (from KC) – Davin Bellamy, DE – Georgia
Another wildly, gifted pass rushing prototype from Athens. Bellamy really burst onto the scene this year and has turned in some impressive performances against top competition. Sounds cliché but this is another guy with superb get off skills and natural bend around the corner. Unlike his teammate Carter, Bellamy is a little more natural in the pass rush aspect of the game. He can read the tackle, react quickly and alter his approach to his pass rush. He leverages the edge well and splits his guy in half, making it tough for tackles to get their hands on him. when it’s all said and done, he could go a lot higher than this.
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