2018 Mock Draft: Redskins play it safe, Ravens pick fan favorite

(Photos, Associated Press)

The NFL Draft is upon us.

The pro days are over, the 40s have been run and the tape has been meticulously evaluated, reevaluated and then evaluated again. Now, like Ed Reed in Cleveland, it's time to make some picks. Below is my first and only mock of the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. It is a mix of predictions and prescriptions and for the first time ever, I feel confident enough to included a trade. Enjoy!

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, Quarterback, USC

I’ve been envisioning Darnold in a Browns’ jersey since his heroic 2017 Rose Bowl performance. I see shades of Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger in Darnold’s game. He’s the best signal caller of this class and one Cleveland cannot afford to pass on.

2. New York Giants: Bradley Chubb, Defensive End, NC State

The G-men have always been at their best behind a deadly pass rush and the departure of Jason Pierre-Paul puts them in the market. Chubb is what you get when designing a sack artist in a lab. He has the ideal height, weight, speed combination and the production (10 sacks, 26 tackles for loss in 2017) to back it up.

3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma

Baker takes the Big Apple. The former walk-on did not let his size stop him from winning the Heisman Trophy and it won’t stop him from being a franchise QB. The Johnny Manziel comparisons are greatly exaggerated. Mayfield is a football guy. He is a gamer and accurate passer (back-to-back years with completion percentage of 70) who is confident he can turn around a struggling franchise.

4. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State

The argument could be made for an elite defender here but there is a reason talent evaluators are in love with the Nittany Lions’ second ranked all-time leading rusher. Barkley is a big-play bell-cow who could be even more dangerous in the suddenly talent-laden offense assembled on the shores of Lake Erie. His presence could shift the balance of power in the AFC North.

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA

John Elway has watched his elite defense go unrewarded while trying to win games alongside Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Enter Rosen, the signal caller with fundamentals so sound he makes great throws look routine. Almost every top QB has been compared to Elway in order to link them to the Broncos this draft season. An opinionated and super gifted passer coming out of California? Where have we seen that before?

6. TRADE: Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, Quarterback, Wyoming

If there is one thing I am certain of in this draft, it is that Buffalo will be jumping up from 12 to get in on the quarterback action. Colts general manager Chris Ballard happily complies in this scenario. The scouting community is enamored with Allen’s arm and prototype size (6' 5" and 237 pounds) but, as a starter, he has never had a completion percentage in the 60s, dating all the way back to high school.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State

The Bucs ranked dead last in the league in pass defense in 2017. They struggled so much that even with the NFL’s ninth best offense, they could only manage to win five games. Ward is a fast, explosive and hard-hitting corner, the latest product of the “DB U” currently residing in Columbus.

8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame

The Windy City needs to be all about giving quarterback Mitchell Trubisky everything he needs to thrive. They spent big money on wide receiver Allen Robinson to help get a return on their investment and picking Nelson helps them protect that investment. Nelson has a tendency to block with a Butkus-like attitude and the connection with his former college coach Harry Hiestand makes too much sense.

9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, Linebacker, Virginia Tech

A playmaking linebacker was a need for the Niners even before the Reuben Foster incident. General manager John Lynch says Foster will be cut if it is proven he hit a woman. Edmunds has the most upside of any defender in this draft, standing at 6’ 5” with 4.5 speed and the ability to hit, cover, rush the passer and lineup all over the field. Oh, and he’s only 19.

10. Oakland Raiders: Derwin James, Safety, Florida State

Speaking of Lynch, that is who Jon Gruden hopes he is getting with his first NFL draft pick since 2008. James is touted as one of the class’s premier leaders, dripping with talent and versatility. He was on the watch lists for both the Thorpe and Bednarik awards for college football’s best defensive back and best overall defender, respectively. He could upgrade every level of the defense for the Silver and Black.

11. Miami Dolphins: Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia

Smith was seemingly everywhere on the field in 2017, finishing with an obscene 137 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. That included 24 combined tackles during the College Football Playoff. The ex-Bulldog becomes the hard-hitting trend-setter in Miami now that Ndamukong Suh is gone.

12. TRADE: Indianapolis Colts: Harold Landry, Defensive End, Boston College

The 2018 draft class is said to be short on elite pass rushers but Landry is one of a few who falls into that category. Landry was a one-man wrecking crew during his 2016 season, racking up 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Injuries led to a more human five-sack output in 2017. In their glory days, Indianapolis won with an elite signal caller and devastating pass rush. Can Landry be the Dwight Freeney to Andrew Luck’s Peyton Manning?

13. Washington Redskins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Alabama

The greatest complaint most Redskins fans had with the Alex Smith trade was the loss of Kendall Fuller, one of the preeminent slot corners in the league who many felt was just entering his prime. Not only is Fitzpatrick a playmaking safety who had a six-interception season and four career pick-sixes, he has been lauded for his ability to lineup as a slot corner. He could form quite the duo with veteran D.J. Swearinger.

14. Green Bay Packers: Marcus Davenport, Linebacker/Defensive End, University of Texas-San Antonio

Aaron Rodgers is still top dog but the rest of the NFC North has somewhat closed the gap in the QB arms’ race with the additions of Trubisky and Kirk Cousins. The Green Bay defense would be greatly aided by the raw but freakishly equipped Davenport. A 6’6,” 264-pound frame with 4.58 speed is quite the ball of clay for any NFL defensive coordinator.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Louisville

The dazzling Jackson remains a Cardinal and heads out to the desert to inject their quarterback room and franchise with youth and potential. New Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks got a firsthand look at the kind of havoc a mobile, strong-armed passer can wreak during his time with the Carolina Panthers. Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon just need to last long enough to give Jackson time to develop before he debuts his Michael Vick-like game.

16. Baltimore Ravens: D.J. Moore, Wide Receiver, Maryland

Ozzie Newsome and company won’t let Moore get away like they did with fellow Terp Stefon Diggs. Moore’s strong hands, size, versatility, potential and playing style give him the nod over Calvin Ridley. Baltimore spent this offseason adding solid receiving options in Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead. But ultimately they are all Robins. Moore has the tools to be Batman.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike McGlinchey, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame

Philip Rivers still has multiple good years of football left in the tank...if provided the proper protection. McGlinchey has been dubbed the safe and technically sound option in a tackle class full of question marks. McGlinchey is projected to be a right tackle in the league but has the ability to line up on the blind side.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Derrius Guice, Running Back, LSU

Pete Carroll’s recipe for success in the Northwest has been to play elite defense and field a smash-mouth running game. The defense is currently in transition and the Hawks are still looking for the heir-apparent to Marshawn Lynch. Well look no further. Guice is a powerful and explosive runner who can be a threat in the passing game. The gap between him and Barkley is not all that wide.

19 Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver, Alabama

Dez Bryant has left the building. But even with him, the aerial attack for America’s Team was ranked behind Cleveland in 2017. Ridley is older for a draft prospect but his polished game, particularly his route-running ability, should hopefully help him make an early impact for quarterback Dak Prescott.

20. Detroit Lions: Vita Vea, Defensive Tackle, Washington

Haloti Ngata has left for Philadelphia so who better to replace him than the PAC 12 prospect drawing Ngata comparisons? Vea is a mountain of a man at 6’ 4” and 347 pounds but was athletic enough to cover punts in college. The five sacks that went with his 39 tackles last year demonstrate his coveted ability to generate an interior pass rush.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Will Hernandez, Guard, UTEP

The Bengals are loaded at the skill positions but lacked the offensive line to truly make the most of them last season. Hernandez locks defenders down in pass pro, is a piledriver in the run game and is athletic enough to seek out poor unfortunate DBs at the second level. He also reportedly plays with a mean streak that fits right in with the AFC North.

22. Indianapolis Colts: Connor Williams, Offensive Tackle/Guard, Texas

And the run on guards is on! A disappointing 2017 and 33” arms shifted Williams from his perch as an elite tackle prospect to a high ceiling guard noted for his run blocking. No matter where he plugs in, his job is simple: keep Luck in one piece.

23. New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, Cornerback, Louisville

Following the breakup with Malcolm Butler, Bill Belichick gets a potential upgrade with Alexander. His frame is slight but he is a defensive playmaker with good short area quickness, elite speed and ball skills. Sticking with the relationship metaphor, Alexander is the smart, funny and attractive person everyone dreads seeing their ex with.

24. Carolina Panthers: Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver, SMU