Pre-Combine NFL Mock Draft

Have at it NFL Draft fans, the first Mock Draft of the year is here. Five quarterbacks come off the board, including the 1st and 2nd overall picks. The opening round has a run on defenders, and will leave a lot of talent for day 2. Disagree with a pick? Think Matt messed up? Let him know on Twitter, @Matt_LaPan.

1) Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen – QB – UCLA

The Browns could, and probably should give 2017 2nd Round pick DeShone Kizer more of a chance as the team’s starter, but with the repeated in-and-out nature of his job last year, it feels like Hue Jackson is in favor of starting again at quarterback.

They get their run at whatever quarterback they want, and Rosen is the pick. Rosen has solid footwork and a strong arm that will help him fir the ball into tight NFL windows. With a decent group of weapons in Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, David Njoku and Duke Johnson, Rosen has at least some of the support he needs to be successful. Is he a perfect prospect? No. He is the right player for the Browns to build around, though.

2) New York Giants: Sam Darnold – QB – USC

The Eli Manning era is very clearly winding down, and the Giants need to find his replacement sooner rather than later. After their down year, they are able to land their next QB in Darnold. The strong-armed quarterback will have all the weapons he needs, but the Giants will have to focus on offensive line throughout the rest of the draft to protect him.

3) Indianapolis Colts: Orlando Brown – OT – Oklahoma

If Andrew Luck is healthy, the Colts will need to make an effort to keep him that way. They have had offensive line issues throughout Luck’s career, and landing him a mauler of a left tackle like Brown will be a big upgrade. Brown can do it all, and moves extremely well for a man of his size. No need to get cute here for Indy, Brown is the right pick.

4) Cleveland Browns (Via Houston Texans): Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB – Alabama

The Browns could go offense here and help their #1 pick in Josh Rosen. They go defense, however, and get a play-making defensive back that can play cornerback or safety. Fitzpatrick projects by many to be a free safety in the NFL, but he has the coverage stills to play cornerback as well. He could be a defensive weapon, adding to a young, aggressive defense that has a desperate need for playmakers.

5) Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield – QB – Oklahoma

The collection of Paxton Lynch, Trevor Semian and Brock Osweiler were a disaster at quarterback for the Broncos in 2017. They need to get a quarterback in order to get the team back on the winning track – Baker Mayfield is the right man for that job. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is the right quarterback for the Broncos offense, showing good mobility and ability to throw on the run. This will help with many of the boot-action passes, getting players such as Emmanuel Sanders back to peak form. Mayfield is not the biggest, not the fastest and not a perfect quarterback, but his skill set fits the Broncos well and should help get Denver back to its winning ways.

6) New York Jets: Saquon Barkley – RB – Penn State

The Jets have not seen much success on offense the past few years, and they end up having the top offensive playmaker in the draft fall to them in Barkley. He is tough enough to run between the tackles, fast enough to get to the edge and is tremendous out of the backfield. Barkley instantly elevates the Jets offense, even in the absence of a real quarterback. With Rosen, Darnold and Mayfield off the board, it makes sense to throw as much money at Kirk Cousins as the Jets can, giving him a marquee running back and setting the Jets up for some success.

7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb – EDGE – NC State

It is hard to pass on the #1 player in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the Buccaneers won’t. They need to post the edge pressure and will get a big boost with Chubb. He has big, strong and quick off the edge with a decent stable of rush moves and a great motor. He can also bump inside for sub rushing situations and will help set the edge in the run game.

8) Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley – WR – Alabama

The Bears need to get someone to stretch the field. If they want to have their investment in Mitchell Trubisky work out, they have to get him weapons. Calvin Ridley is a player who runs good routes and has tremendous play speed. He will be able to get open with consistency, and should change how the Chicago offense runs.

9) San Francisco 49ers: Courtland Sutton – WR – SMU

With the acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers need to go get him a big, reliable outside weapon. That is a perfect way to explain Sutton. He is big, has a massive catch radius and some of the best hands in the draft. He would slot in as the top receiver on the 49ers, and would become a favorite for Garoppolo’s strong arm.

10) Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith – LB – Georgia

The Raiders are missing a true playmaker in the middle of their defense. There is not a better player for that in this draft than Smith. He is a true sideline-to-sideline player with great speed, play recognition and a ton of power. He can cover backs, and he makes a lot of plays in the backfield. He would become the stalwart in the middle of the Oakland defense that has been missing in the past few years.

11) Miami Dolphins: Quenton Nelson – OG – Notre Dame

The Dolphins will be getting Ryan Tannehill back, and need to give him a comfortable pocket to throw from (if they want him to succeed). Nelson is a mauler. He is a mean, physical blocker who dominates in both the run and pass games. He is a top-5 player in the entire draft, and will bring a physical edge to the Miami offense.

12) Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams – OT – Texas

The Bengals had troubles protecting Andy Dalton throughout the 2017 campaign, and if Marvin Lewis wants to see his two-year extension through he will want to fix that. Williams is a big, nasty blocker who sets a good anchor against opposing pass rushers. He should bring some youth and talent to the embattled Bengals tackle position.

13) Washington Redskins: Derwin James – DB – Florida State

With Alex Smith in the fold, the Washington Redskins can focus on fixing their defense. They get an athletic, hard-hitting safety in James that is an impact player in both the run and pass game. He has the speed to get anywhere on the field, and the smarts to be in the right position.

14) Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward – CB – Ohio State

The Green Bay Packers finished with a bottom-10 pass defense that did not force a lot of turnovers. The wise move would be to go after a play-making corner that can solidify the pass defense and get the ball back to Aaron Rodgers and the offense.Ward lacks ideal NFL size, but his play and awareness make up for it. He is consistently in position and gets his hands up at the right time to knock the ball away. Packers fans hope that Ward can bring the same success as Marshon Lattimore, a former teammate who thrived as the defensive rookie of the year in New Orleans.

15) Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson – QB – Louisville

The Arizona Cardinals are not afraid to make surprise picks, and they surprise a few by landing their next quarterback in Lamar Jackson. They go with the polar opposite of the retiring Carson Palmer with the ultra athletic former Heisman Trophy winner to start the next phase of the franchise.

Jackson still has some strides to make as a passer, but he has improved greatly in recent years. His footwork is a work in progress, but he still has a strong arm and has moments of great quarterback play. His overall game makes him worth the pick, and could elevate the Cardinals after a down year.

16) Baltimore Ravens: Derrius Guice – RB – LSU

The collection of running backs used by the Baltimore Ravens in 2017 just won’t cut it going forward. They need to be more dynamic and more explosive. Enter Derrius Guice. He is big, strong, fast and a threat to take it the distance on every play. He can slam it between the tackles with power, or get to the edge and break big runs. He uses his blocks well and knows when to cut back or when to put a shoulder down and power forward. He would be a massive upgrade for the Ravens.

17) Los Angeles Chargers: Rashaan Evans – LB – Alabama

The Los Angeles Chargers were in so many close games that could have gone the other way if they had a play maker in the front seven. Their defense was good, but lacked the stalwart inside linebacker. Rashaan Evans fixes that problem. He is a dominant linebacker with sideline to sideline ability. He is one of the most sure tacklers in college football last season, and will bring a toughness back to the Chargers front seven.

18) Seattle Seahawks: Jaire Alexander – DB – Louisville

Physical, aggressive, confident play maker. Sounds like the blueprint for a Seattle Seahawks cornerback, doesn’t it? That is why Alexander is the perfect fit to join the Seattle defense. He is a perfect for the press-man system and can be a great compliment across from Richard Sherman.

19) Dallas Cowboys: Maurice Hurst – DL – Michigan

Nobody can watch the Dallas Cowboys and think they do not need an upgrade along the interior of the defensive line. There is just no punch against the run or the pass inside. They get a dominant rusher and solid run stuffer in Maurice Hurst. He can play on all three downs and be a dominant force. This will allow for the Cowboys edge players to face fewer double teams and be more effective. Hurst to the Cowboys might be the best fit in the entire draft.

20) Detroit Lions: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo – EDGE – Oklahoma

The Detroit Lions are going to have to open their wallets in order to retain Ziggy Ansah. If they lose him, they are in desperate need of an edge rusher – if they retain him, it would make sense for new coach Matt Patricia to get him some help on the opposite side.

Okoronkwo has a good build and a relentless motor. He strikes well with his hands and bends the edge quite well. He has enough speed to run plays down from behind, and would benefit from being across from a dominant rusher.

21) Buffalo Bills: Harold Landry – EDGE – Boston College

The Buffalo Bills could package their 21 and 22 picks to move up and try to get a quarterback (Lamar Jackson?), but if they stand pat they have an opportunity to get a pass rusher that is flying under the radar in Landry. The former Boston College Eagle does not flash prototypical size (6-3, 250 pounds) but has a great first step and explodes past opposing tackles. He also shows good bend and great awareness – keeping himself in his lane rather than flying past the quarterback.

There are injury concerns, and the Combine will be important to see where multiple injuries that hampered his final season stand. If healthy, Landry immediately steps in as a strong pass rusher and a great value pick at 21.

22) Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs) – Josh Allen – QB – Wyoming

Yes, the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs with Tyrod Taylor and Nathan Peterman at quarterback. No, that is not a sustainable option for Sean McDermott. They can revamp the entire offense by adding the strong-armed signal caller in Allen. He has the athleticism to evade defenders, but a much better pocket presence and arm strength than Taylor. This is a big gamble, but the right gamble for the future in Buffalo.

23) Los Angeles Rams: Josh Jackson – CB – Iowa

It is very likely that the Rams will be losing Truman Johnson this offseason to a massive contract. They need to fill the talent hole at corner, and getting a tough, quick corner to play man coverage will help. That is the calling card of Jackson. The Rams won’t need to think long when they are on the clock, Jackson is the right fit.

24) Carolina Panthers: Anthony Miller – WR – Memphis

Nobody will be happier than Cam Newton to hear this selection. Miller is not the biggest or fastest, but he competes for every ball and simply gets open and catches nearly everything. He creates separation and tracks the ball well, snatching it away from his body and hauling it in. Newton needs “his guy” – Miller is the perfect fit.

25) Tennessee Titans: Da’Ron Payne – DL – Alabama

The Tennessee Titans have a strong defensive front, but it is aging and could use some added punch. Payne will bring an element of pass rush while being a stout run defender. He explodes out of his stance, but can come out a bit high at times. He has shown more than his share of dominance, and should be a difference maker as soon as he steps in.

26) Atlanta Falcons: Vita Vea – DL – Washington

The Atlanta Falcons were not a bad team against the run in 2017, but they could easily improve and help their young linebackers make even more plays. Take the best runs stuffer in the NFL Draft and that becomes a reality. Via is a dominant player against the run, drawing consistent double teams and standing his ground. He does a great job shedding blocks and making plays in the backfield, as well. This will Dontari Poe and Grady Jarrett to attack more, and Deion Jones to stay clean from interior linemen. Via feels like a no-brainer for Atlanta.

27) New Orleans Saints: Mark Andrews – TE – Oklahoma

Do the New Orleans Saints really need more offensive weapons? Not really, but adding Andrews helps compliment the current weapons they have. He is a big, strong, athletic tight end that has all the skills to dominate the middle of the field. His prowess in the pass game will prevent teams from putting a safety over Michael Thomas, and will allow Alvin Kamara to see more second linebackers in coverage. It might not be the biggest need, but it is a great fit.

28) Pittsburgh Steelers: Arden Key – EDGE – LSU

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has slowly been building over the past few years, but still need that consistent pass rush punch across from TJ Watt. That could be Key, who flashes elite athleticism off the edge, but has major questions in the consistency department. If he pans out, this is a home run for Pittsburgh. If they miss, they still have a good team but could still be that one piece short.

29) Jacksonville Jaguars: James Washington – WR – Oklahoma State

If the Jacksonville Jaguars had a consistent weapon for Blake Bortles to target in the playoffs, we could be talking about their first trip to the Super Bowl. They did not, and we are not so getting a dynamic playmaker like Washington makes all the sense in the world.

Washington does not have the ideal size of an outside receiver, but great speed and strong route running ability. He creates separation all over the field and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. He can be “the guy” and will help elevate Bortles, or whoever is at quarterback for Jacksonville in 2018.

30) Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn – OG – Georgia

The Vikings have questions at quarterback, but whoever ends up under center needs a little revamp up front. Adding a former offensive tackle that is bumping inside should do the trick. Wynn is a strong, stout player who moves well and flashes dominance. He can handle interior rushers (he did patrol the edge) and gets forward with road-grating strength and technique.

31) New England Patriots: Chukwuma Okorafor – OL – Central Michigan

The New England Patriots are coming off a Super Bowl loss and could be losing their left tackle in Nate Solder – who is due for free agency (though whispers say he could retire). The need is there for a left tackle, especially if Tony Garcia isn’t ready for the start of camp. Enter Okorafor, a small school tackle that combines power with agility and smarts. He knows his limitations, and plays to his strengths – especially when pushing speed rushers past the quarterback rather than trying to body them. He plays well in both the run and pass game, and is exactly the type of tackle Bill Belichick targets in the draft.

32) Philadelphia Eagles: Tremaine Edmunds – LB – Virginia Tech

The defending Super Bowl champs don’t have a lot of holes to fill, but getting a dynamic linebacker would be a big boost. Edmunds broke the mold at linebacker, showing size, length, athleticism and smarts. He just knows where to be and gets there in a hurry. He can rush the passer or be strong against the run. He can completely change how the Eagles deploy their linebackers.