2018 NFL mock draft


Courtesy of @NFL on Twitter

As the NFL Draft approaches, Darnold could very well be Cleveland's next top pick.

Jake Novack, Writing Editor

There seem to be three constants in this world: death, taxes and the Browns’ need for football talent. And on April 26, the Browns will take their next shot at a player who can help bring the team to relevance with two top five draft picks. However, 31 other NFL franchises also look to the draft as their source for new talent. With many high-profile quarterbacks prime for selection, this year’s draft should be one to remember. Here are my predictions for the top 10 picks of this year’s NFL Draft.

#1–Cleveland Browns–Sam Darnold, USC, QB

Leading up to this draft, Darnold has looked like the consummate pro. In 2017, Darnold led the Pac-12 conference in passing yards with 4,143 and had a solid 8.6 yards per completion. Darnold’s offseason workouts also are sources for optimism. Although he elected not to throw at the 2018 NFL Combine, his USC pro day workout was the stuff of legend: in pouring rain and in front of Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, Darnold fired off accurate pass after accurate pass. With Jackson confirming that whichever quarterback Cleveland drafts will sit behind new acquisition Tyrod Taylor for the 2018 season, Darnold has time to grow into the role of savior of Cleveland football.

#2–New York Giants–Josh Allen, Wyoming, QB

After a lackluster 2017 campaign, and with an aging Eli Manning under center, now is the time for the G-Men to get their QB for the future. In Allen, the Giants would have a true cannon–the Wyoming QB was launching 60-yard bombs at the Combine without breaking a sweat. What makes Allen available at the second pick, however, is his less-than-stellar stats. In 2017, he carried only a 56.3 completion percentage, not exactly elite for a prospect already playing in the mid-level Mountain West conference. But with new coach Pat Shurmur in tow, Allen can blossom into a dynamic counterpart to Odell Beckham Jr.

#3–New York Jets–Josh Rosen, UCLA, QB

New York’s other team is also in need of a signal caller for the future. After failed QB experiments in Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, Rosen could give the Jets stability. Standing at 6 feet 4 inches and weighing in at 226 pounds, Rosen has intangibles that bode well for immediate success. There are red flags: Rosen’s arm strength doesn’t match that of Darnold or Allen, and he has a stretch of injuries. However, what makes Rosen an attractive prospect is his accuracy. According to NFL.com, Rosen completed 63 percent of his passes when blitzed last year, which means that he won’t be thrown off by playoff-caliber pass-rush packages from division rivals Jacksonville and New England. Rosen could be the “field general” that the Jets need to open up the other facets of their offense.

#4–Cleveland Browns–Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State, DE

After getting the Houston Texans’ first-rounder in a draft day trade a year ago, the Browns are in prime position to take the best non-QB in the 2018 Draft. Although Penn State wunderkind Saquon Barkley deserves a thorough look, Chubb is Cleveland’s best long-term bet. Adding Chubb to a defensive end rotation that includes Emmanuel Ogbah and top 2017 selection Myles Garrett would give defensive coordinator Gregg Williams never-before-seen depth at a key position. In fact, ESPN pundit Louis Riddick claimed that Chubb is a better prospect than  Garrett. Although this is a pretty bold claim, Chubb’s numbers don’t lie. Finishing with 10 sacks in the past two seasons and leading the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in tackles for loss in 2017, Chubb is a nightmare for offenses.

#5–Denver Broncos–Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, QB

With the Broncos, there’s a tale of two teams. On defense, Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller leads a unit that ranked third in the NFL with 290 yards allowed per game. On the other end of the ball, the Broncos split quarterback duties between Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, and neither of them had a total quarterback rating (QBR) above 73.3. In 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Mayfield, the Broncos would have a QB that oozes bravado (see his antics against Kansas last season). Mayfield has drawn comparisons to Browns bust Johnny Manziel for his lack of sportsmanship and overall petty nature, but Mayfield has something that Manziel never could muster: insane efficiency. Mayfield produced 43 touchdowns compared to a meager six interceptions in 2017, which contributed to a bonkers 198.9 quarterback rating. Although his 6-foot-1-inch frame could hamper his play, look out for John Elway to take a gamble on a player that could take Denver’s offense back to prominence.

#6–Indianapolis Colts–Saquon Barkley, Penn State, RB

Without Andrew Luck, the Colts offense was grinded to a halt. Indy’s offense was second to last in offensive yards per game in 2017, and is in desperate need of a spark from a position player. The moment Barkley stepped on the field for the Nittany Lions, he lit the turf on fire. Barkley ran for over 1,000 yards his freshman year, and in 2017, he was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. With Barkley, the Colts passing game will be under less pressure, and Luck can return to elite form.

#7–Tampa Bay Buccaneers–Denzel Ward, Ohio State, CB

The Bucs were dead last in the NFL with over 260 pass yards allowed per game in 2017. Ward was an All-American cover corner in 2017, finishing with a remarkable 15 pass breakups. This is a match made in heaven. In a division that has two of the last three NFL MVP winners at quarterback (Cam Newton and Matt Ryan), Ward can bolster a depleted Tampa Bay secondary.

#8–Chicago Bears–Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame, G

Having made their big splash by surprisingly trading up to take Mitchell Trubisky in 2017, the Bears now need to solidify talent around him. After losing Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton in free agency, Chicago needs to shore up the interior of its offensive line. Nelson should do the trick: at 6 feet 5 inches and 329 pounds, he won’t let many defensive tackles will get a lick on Trubisky.

#9–San Francisco 49ers–Vita Vea, Washington, DT

Vita Vea is a physical specimen. At 6-foot-4 inches and 347 pounds, Vea is a load inside, yet is deceptively quick. His 5.11 second 40 yard dash time is noticeably faster than Danny Shelton, another Washington defensive tackle who was drafted twelfth overall by the Browns in the 2015 NFL Draft. San Fran should snag Vea to boost a rushing defense that was 22nd in the league last season.

#10–Oakland Raiders–Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech, LB

Following Navorro Bowman’s departure, the Raiders need an inside linebacker to compliment edge rusher Khalil Mack. 2017 first-team All-ACC selection Edmunds has the potential to be very productive for a very long time. Compared to Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher on NFL.com, Edmunds is a nightmare for a ball carrier. Last season, as a junior for Tech, he led the team in tackles with 109 and produced a whopping 14 tackles for loss. He also chipped in five and a half sacks, proving that he’s effective for more than just run defense. Jon Gruden’s Raiders squad needs the same swagger it had when it made the playoffs in 2016, and Edmunds’ versatility would go a long way in building a high-octane unit.