Movie quote of the day:
“What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? Virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient … highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.”
– Dom Cobb, “Inception” (2010)
I don’t care if the NFL draft is over a week old at this point, I’m still on a high from draft week and I’m not willing to give it up just yet. I promise though, this will be my last post regarding the NFL draft for awhile. Anyway, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s draft. Let’s take an early look at what the first round might look like in almost a year from now. The draft order was determined by latest Super Bowl LII odds from OddsShark.com.
1. Cleveland Browns – QB Sam Darnold, USC
6’4″ 225 pounds
Next year could be the year that Cleveland finally finds its quarterback. The early look indicates that next year’s quarterback class is going to be pretty good. Darnold had a phenomenal year last season at USC after stepping in as the starter when the Trojans started the season 1-2. During the 10 games he was the starter, he had a completion percentage of 67.8, and he threw for 2,950 yards, 29 touchdowns, and had a passer rating of 163.9. USC also went 9-1 and won the Rose Bowl with Darnold as the starter. If he has another season like that, he should easily be the top quarterback – and player – in next year’s draft.
2. San Francisco 49ers – QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
6’4″ 210 pounds
San Francisco signed two quarterbacks this offseason – and drafted another in the third round – but the 49ers are still far from set at quarterback. Rosen has question marks off-the-field surrounding his character. However, I don’t think it’s anything too serious or different from other college students – at least nothing on Johnny Manziel’s level. I still think he has the makings of a superstar. He was named the starter for UCLA as a true freshman and has posted excellent numbers in college – 5,585 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, and just 14 interceptions in 19 career starts. If he can bounce back from his shoulder injury last season and get more accurate, he could be a threat to Sam Darnold as the best quarterback in this class.
3. New York Jets – QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
6’5″ 222 pounds
The Jets are almost as desperate for a quarterback as Cleveland. Seriously, they haven’t had a consistently decent one probably since Chad Pennington. Allen picked up a lot of traction a few months ago before he elected to return to Wyoming for 2017. NFL scouts really like his game – there’s been chatter to go ahead and book him as the No. 1 pick in the draft next year. I was impressed with his tape, but I’m not ready to call him the best quarterback in this class just yet. He really needs to improve his accuracy and stop throwing interceptions. If he can do that, he will definitely become the Carson Wentz of this class.
4. Los Angeles Rams – T Connor Williams, Texas
6’6″ 288 pounds
It’s hard to tell just yet if Jared Goff is the guy or not for the Rams. In order to help with Goff’s development though, the Rams have to give him better protection. Williams is considered the top offensive tackle in this class – giving up just one sack in his first two seasons as the left tackle for Texas. The offensive line for the Rams is below average and Williams would be an immediate improvement. He should be able to protect Goff’s blind side, and give Todd Gurley some big holes to run through.
5. Chicago Bears – DL Christian Wilkins, Clemson
6’4″ 310 pounds
Chicago had one of the worst run defenses in the league last year (No. 27), and will have six players slated to be free agents on the defensive line after this year. If Wilkins is available, I think it’d be wise for the Bears to take him since they didn’t address the position in the draft last week. Wilkins is a complete defensive lineman – 13 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last year in his first season as a starter at Clemson – and should only get better.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars – LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
6’3″ 238 pounds
Jacksonville had an average run defense last season – and since Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith will be free agents after this year – and I think Jacksonville will have to address the position. There’s a lot of good running backs in the AFC South division, and the Jaguars have to get better in that category if they have any hopes of competing in the division and making the postseason for the first time since 2007. Jefferson is a really good player that could step in and start right away for Jacksonville. He’s tallied 121 total tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and nine sacks in his two years at Texas.
7. Buffalo Bills – WR Deon Cain, Clemson
6’1″ 210 pounds
If Sammy Watkins doesn’t have a big year this season, I wouldn’t expect Buffalo to re-sign him since the front office just turned down the fifth-year option on his contract. If that happens, that would leave an opening at wide receiver for the Bills. I like the Zay Jones pick last weekend, but I don’t see him as a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL. Cain had a big year for Clemson last season – 38 receptions for 724 yards and nine touchdowns – and he should assert himself as the No. 1 wide receiver not only in the Tigers’ offense after the departure of Mike Williams, but also in this class.
8. Los Angeles Chargers – S Derwin James, Florida State
6’2″ 211 pounds
I said this entire offseason that the Chargers needed to find a safety to improve the back end of their defense – ranking in the bottom half of the league in passing yards per attempt. However, they didn’t draft one until the fourth and fifth rounds last week. If the Chargers want to compete in the AFC West division, they’re going to need to get a playmaker at safety. James is the type of player the Chargers need. He plays free safety at Florida State – which is the position that they really need to fill the most.
9. Detroit Lions – RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
5’11” 225 pounds
Barkley is probably going to end up being the most talented running back in this class, which is why I’m not sure he’s going to fall this far. However, if he does, Detroit has to take him because the Lions have ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in rush offense since 1998 – which was Barry Sanders’ last year in Detroit. The Lions have to take some pressure off Matt Stafford. Barkley is a complete running back that has no problem running between the tackles or catching the ball out of the backfield – 1,898 total yards and 22 touchdowns last season.
10. Philadelphia Eagles – RB Derrius Guice, LSU
5’11” 220 pounds
Ryan Mathews is likely going to get cut before the regular season rolls around, and this is Darren Sproles’ last year under contract in Philadelphia. The Eagles are likely going to be in need of a running back after this year. I like Wendell Smallwood and Donnel Pumphrey, but I don’t think either are going to be anything other than third-down running backs. Guice performed very well when Leonard Fournette got hurt last year – managing to run for 1,387 yards, 7.6 yards per carry, and nine touchdowns. Now that he’s going to get his chance to be the starter this year, I expect him to only improve.
11. Washington Redskins – DL Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama
6’4″ 280 pounds
Washington took a step in the right direction to improve its defense by drafting Jonathan Allen in the first round last week. However, there’s still a lot of work to do for the Redskins on the defensive line. They’re going to need more than Allen to make plays. Hand hasn’t played much in Tuscaloosa – just 24 games in three years – mostly because he’s been buried on the depth chart, but he still managed to play in 10 games last year and recorded 21 tackles. Since he’s likely going to start this season, I expect Hand to have a breakout year.
12. Miami Dolphins – T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
6’7″ 310 pounds
The sack numbers finally started to go down in Miami last season. Ryan Tannehill was sacked just 29 times in 13 games – he was sacked 184 times in his first four years. So, this pick is more of a backup plan in case Laremy Tunsil doesn’t work out at left tackle, and because Ja’Wuan James will be a free agent soon. The Dolphins are only going to go as far as Tannehill can take them, and the way they do that is if they keep him upright. McGlinchey was going to be one of the top offensive tackles in the draft this year until he decided to stay at Notre Dame. He’s likely still going to be one of the top offensive tackles next year.
13. Cincinnati Bengals – LB Jerome Baker, Ohio State
6’1″ 225 pounds
I was fine with Cincinnati drafting offense with three of its first five picks last week, but I don’t think the Bengals can afford to pass on top defensive players again next year. Cincinnati’s linebackers are average at best outside of Vontaze Burfict – who has a history of suspensions. The Bengals have to find some new playmakers. Baker broke onto the scene last year for Ohio State as he tallied 83 total tackles – and that was while Raekwon McMillan was also a starter. With McMillan gone, I expect Baker’s production to only increase.
14. Baltimore Ravens – WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
6’1″ 188 pounds
Baltimore didn’t draft a single wide receiver last week – which was one of the team’s biggest needs. I get it, Ozzie Newsome has had a hard time drafting wide receivers, but I don’t think Mike Wallace or Breshad Perriman are going to cut it. The Ravens need to get Joe Flacco more pass catchers on the perimeter, and I think Ridley is the type of player they need. He’s a versatile wide receiver with speed that can line up anywhere. With Ridley, that would allow Baltimore to get a lot more creative offensively.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – T Mitch Hyatt, Clemson
6’5″ 295 pounds
I went back and forth on this pick. Tampa Bay doesn’t have an immediate need for an offensive tackle, but outside of Donovan Smith, there’s not a lot of depth at that position for the Buccaneers. Plus, Smith’s contract will be up after 2018. Tampa Bay is going to have to prepare in case he leaves. This is the draft to do it too, because it looks like this draft with be a very deep offensive tackle class. Hyatt is an impressive player. He started at left tackle for Clemson as a true freshman and has progressed each year – including making the first-team All-ACC team last year.
16. Tennessee Titans – CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
6’1″ 203 pounds
Adoree’ Jackson gives Tennessee a needed body at outside cornerback, but like I said last week, I don’t think he’ll be anything other than a slot cornerback in the NFL. The Titans need to find a future No. 1 cornerback quickly. Fitzpatrick had a huge year for Alabama last season – 66 tackles and six interceptions. He’s got the size that is coveted out of cornerbacks in today’s league, and he’s a ballhawk. Fitzpatrick would be an upgrade and an early starter in Tennessee’s secondary.
17. Arizona Cardinals – CB Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
6’2″ 198 pounds
I really like the decision by Arizona to draft Budda Baker, but Baker is likely going to only play safety and slot cornerback. The Cardinals could still use an outside cornerback to pair with Patrick Peterson. McFadden played every game last year for Florida State as a sophomore and had a monster year – tallying eight interceptions. He has excellent coverage skills, but he has to get more physical against the run because he only had 19 total tackles last year. If he can get better in that area, he could become the top cornerback in this class.
18. Indianapolis Colts – DL Vita Vea, Washington
6’5″ 332 pounds
I thought Indianapolis really improved its defense through the draft by selecting Malik Hooker, Quincy Wilson, Tarell Basham, and Anthony Walker. However, the defensive line is still a problem for the Colts. They have to get better at stopping the run if they want to frequently win the AFC South division. Vea is the exact player that Indianapolis needs. He had 39 tackles and five sacks last season at Washington. With his big body, Vea is going to be able to plug up holes and make a lot of plays at the line of scrimmage – which is what the Colts desperately need.
19. New Orleans Saints – Edge Josh Sweat, Florida State
6’5″ 250 pounds
When you play in a division with Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston, and Cam Newton, your defense has to be able to get pressure on the quarterback – and New Orleans ranked No. 27 last year in sack defense. Like I said last week, I didn’t like that New Orleans didn’t take an edge rusher until the third round this year. The Saints have to get another edge rusher on their defensive line to help keep the attention off of Cam Jordan. Sweat makes an impact in both the passing and running game – recording 16.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in his first two years at Florida State. He should be able to make an early impact for the Saints.
20. Minnesota Vikings – T Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
6’8″ 360 pounds
Minnesota had one of the worst offensive lines in the league in 2016. The Vikings had the worst rushing offense in the NFL (3.2 yards per carry), and the unit gave up 37 sacks. Football games are won and lost in the trenches, so it’s obvious that Minnesota has to improve its offensive line if the Vikings want to take the next step as a team. It’s hard to tell where Brown is going to play in the NFL. He has the size – almost too much size – to play guard, but he’s clearly athletic enough to be an offensive tackle since he plays the position in the Big 12 – which is known for its blitz-happy defenses and good edge rushers. Regardless of where he plays, Minnesota needs him.
21. Carolina Panthers – S Marcus Allen, Penn State
6’2″ 202 pounds
Allen is the best player available and fills a need for Carolina. The Panthers had the No. 29 pass defense last year. They’ve made some moves to improve the defensive line and have drafted four cornerbacks the last two years – which is why I think the biggest need right now for Carolina’s defense is safety. Mike Adams and Kurt Coleman aren’t long-term solutions and Carolina has to make upgrades or else get torched in the pass-happy NFC. I think Allen is more of a strong safety – totaling 249 tackles and zero interceptions in three years at Penn State – but he’d still be an improvement.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City) – QB Luke Falk, Washington State
6’4″ 203 pounds
This is probably a bit of a reach, but I’m not sure that Buffalo can go another season with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. He’s been the starter for two years now – we know what he is and it’s average. If the Bills want to contend with New England and Miami in the AFC East division, they have to get a better quarterback. I have a feeling that people will know Falk’s name after this season and he’ll become a first-round pick. He’s put up fantastic numbers in his three years at Washington State – 68.8 completion percentage, 10,888 passing yards, and 89 touchdowns.
23. New York Giants – T Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State
6’5″ 300 pounds
It’s really bothering me that the Giants aren’t getting Eli Manning enough help on the offensive line. Even though Manning was only sacked 21 times last year, don’t let it distract you from the fact that this is still a very subpar offensive line for the Giants. Manning takes a beating almost every game, and he has to constantly rush his throws – which is part of the reason why his interception numbers are always so high. Also, the Giants haven’t had a good rushing offense since 2010. Like I said before, it looks like this is the draft for the Giants to find an adequate left tackle to protect Manning and to help get the run game going, and Rankin is the best one available at this point.
24. Denver Broncos – DL Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State
6’3″ 280 pounds
Am I the only one that thought that Denver’s defense wasn’t nearly as good last year as it was in 2015 when the Broncos won the Super Bowl? I think part of that was because the Broncos lost Malik Jackson, and they struggled to find his replacement. Denver’s defensive line isn’t terrible, but the Broncos could use an upgrade at defensive end because Jared Crick, Derek Wolfe, and Domata Peko are more role players instead of playmakers. Jones didn’t play a full season for Ohio State last year, but still managed to rack up 51 total tackles. I think he’s bound to have a big year this season.
25. Cleveland Browns (from Houston) – WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
6’4″ 215 pounds
What better way to make new Cleveland quarterback Sam Darnold happy than by giving him a big-body outside wide receiver to throw to? Sutton has put up great numbers the last two years at SMU – 125 receptions, 2,108 yards, 17 yards per reception, and 19 touchdowns. I love the idea of the Browns having Sutton and Corey Coleman on the perimeter, and David Njoku to make plays down the seam. It’s all about matchups in the NFL, and having Sutton, Coleman, and Njoku in the same passing offense could become a matchup nightmare in Cleveland – as weird as that sounds.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Cameron Smith, USC
6’2″ 245 pounds
After losing Lawrence Timmons during free agency, I really felt like Pittsburgh had to find his replacement through the draft. However, the Steelers didn’t draft an inside linebacker until the seventh round. I like Ryan Shazier, but he’s had problems staying healthy since he entered the league. Smith has shown to be a very good linebacker during his time at USC. He has a nose for the football and is also good in coverage. Just the type of player that Pittsburgh needs to improve its run defense.
27. Oakland Raiders – LB Azeem Victor, Washington
6’3″ 230 pounds
Oakland was another team that I felt like had to make an upgrade at linebacker. The Raiders ranked in the bottom half of the league in run defense, but they didn’t take one until the fifth round. Since this was such a deep defensive draft class, I feel like Marquel Lee could develop into a decent player – but it’s just hard to tell right now. Victor has played in just 21 games in his last two years at Washington, but still managed to have 163 total tackles during that span. He would probably be able to start day one for Oakland at middle linebacker.
28. Atlanta Falcons – G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
6’5″ 329 pounds
Outside of tight end, I think Atlanta’s biggest hole offensively is the interior of its offensive line – especially at right guard. I’m not sure if Wes Schweitzer is good enough, and I won’t be shocked if fourth-round pick Sean Harlow competes for the starting job. For now, I think the Falcons could use an upgrade at the position, and bring in some more talent to that position battle. Nelson is likely going to be a three-year starter at Notre Dame after this season, and was even considered the top offensive guard in last year’s draft class before he decided to return to South Bend. An honor he’ll likely carry again after this season.
29. Seattle Seahawks – CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
5’11” 188 pounds
I don’t care what the numbers say, I don’t think Seattle’s defense is nearly as good as it was three or five years ago. The Seahawks have struggled to find a second cornerback to pair with Richard Sherman ever since Byron Maxwell left two years ago. Part of what made those Seattle defenses so good a few years ago was because the “Legion of Boom” secondary was formidable. Alexander can help Seattle get back to that level. He was impressive last year at Louisville as a sophomore – 39 total tackles, five interceptions, and nine pass deflections.
30. Green Bay Packers – Edge Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss
6’3″ 225 pounds
Green Bay needs as much defensive help as possible right now. Clay Matthews is going to turn 31 this year, and he hasn’t recorded double-digit sacks in a season since 2014 – to be fair, some of that is because he’s been injured and played out of position. However, if Matthews has another down year, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Packers cut him. If they do, they’ll have need of an edge rusher. Haynes really needs to add some size this offseason, but he certainly has the ability to rush the passer and make plays in the run game. In his three years at Ole Miss, he’s tallied 127 tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss, and 24.5 sacks.
31. Dallas Cowboys – S Armani Watts, Texas A&M
5’11” 200 pounds
Dallas lost a lot of starters from a defense that was below average last year, including both safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox. The Cowboys addressed some of their needs early in the draft, but they didn’t take a safety until the sixth round. I expect Byron Jones to fill in nicely as the new starting free safety, but Dallas will likely need to find a new strong safety after this season. Even though Watts is excellent in coverage and plays free safety at Texas A&M, he has 237 total tackles in his three collegiate seasons. He clearly has no problem with being physical and stopping the run – which is why I think he could make the transition to strong safety.
32. New England Patriots – Edge Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
6’4″ 275 pounds
New England had one of the best defenses in the league last season despite not having a dominant edge rusher on its roster. The Patriots tried to fix that this offseason by trading for Kony Ealy and drafting two more edge rushers. However, I still don’t think their work is done. Let’s be honest, Ealy is nothing more than a rotational player – having never recorded more than five sacks in a NFL season. Plus, he’ll be a free agent after this season, and it’s hard to determine how good the new draft picks will be right now. I won’t be surprised if New England is looking for another edge rusher after this season. I think Chubb is primed to make a huge rise up the draft boards this season. He’s been a starter for N.C. State the last two years and has totaled 31.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks during that span.
Teams without a 2018 first-round pick:
Kansas City Chiefs
Thanks for reading
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