NFL Mock Draft: Post CFB Regular Season
With the conclusion of the regular season in this 2017/18 college football campaign, we are beginning to see a clearer picture of which players will continue their careers at the next level, specifically those who have the potential to be first round picks in next year’s NFL Draft in Dallas. As the NFL season grows closer to the playoffs as well, team scouts and personnel from around the league are assessing the prospects at the positions that need improvement and are searching for the next generation of talent that could make their teams better in the future.
1. Cleveland Browns - QB Sam Darnold, USC
The Cleveland Browns have a long history of drafting quarterbacks early on in the draft and finding little success with their selectione. Despite the risk that comes with drafting a quarterback early in the first round, Sam Darnold is the most likely pick. Darnold entered this season as the clear-cut top player in this draft, but after a season filled with interceptions and questionable decision making, critics around the football community have become more skeptical of Darnold’s potential in the league. Even though Darnold has underwhelmed this season, he has the potential to be a franchise quarterback for a franchise in major need of a fresh face under center.
2. San Francisco 49ers - RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Barkley didn’t live up to the sky-high standards that were bestowed on him before the season, but he is still undoubtedly the top running back in this year’s draft and may very well be the most NFL-ready prospect the NCAA has to offer. Scouts consistently rave about Barkley’s combination of speed and size and with Carlos Hyde set to hit free agency this summer, the 49ers could explore drafting an exciting player like Barkley.
3. New York Giants - QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Although Darnold may be the most polished quarterback in the draft, Josh Rosen may be the best long term solution. As Eli Manning ages and a disappointing season that was full of high hopes winds down, the Giants front office should start the rebuilding process around a talented signal caller like Rosen. The Giants are in major need of support on the offensive line as well, but selecting a quarterback early on would be a major win in the eyes of Giants fans.
4. Denver Broncos - QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
The Denver Broncos entered this season with tremendous expectations based off of their defense, featuring stars such as Aqib Talib and Von Miller. However, a quarterback carousel has caused the Broncos to struggle to get production from their offensive playmakers. With a dynamic receiving duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, there is an obvious expectation of big plays. With poor showings from Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, the Broncos have yet to find their quarterback of the future. Josh Allen may not be the most proven quarterback in this draft, but at this point he is the best available at the position. There’s an outside chance they look at the safety position since the secondary has been exposed without T.J. Ward, but quarterback is the bigger need.
5. Indianapolis Colts - OT Connor Williams, Texas
The rebuilding process that began after the conclusion of the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis filled many roles in the Colts’ offense, but failed to improve on the offensive line. With Andrew Luck likely to return from injury at some point, more protection up front is essential for the team’s success moving forward. Williams’ consistency should help give Luck time in the pocket to be the sensational passer that we know he can be.
6. Chicago Bears - WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
After the departure of Alshon Jeffery, the Bears have struggled to find a new top target at receiver. Mitchell Trubisky has shown flashes of potential, but without a star receiver in his arsenal, his production has been mediocre and opposing defenses are able to stack the box against Jordan Howard. Adding Ridley’s combination of blazing speed and sensational skill could help Chicago’s offense grow.
7. Arizona Cardinals - CB Joshua Jackson, Iowa
Arizona’s biggest necessity right now is a new quarterback, but Bruce Arians has worked with some of the NFL’s finest at the position and seems to be very particular about who runs his offense. If any of the quarterbacks already listed drop to the Cardinals’ pick, then they may select a new signal caller. However, for the purposes of this mock draft, we will focus on the second biggest vacancy: cornerback. Arizona could use another defensive back to compliment Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker and would quickly become one of the league’s finest with the addition of Jackson. The Cardinals have many other needs on both sides of the ball, but passing on a player with phenomenal skills and potential like Jackson would be a big mistake.
8. New York Jets - QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Even though the team projected to pick right before them is in need of a new quarterback, they may be better served looking elsewhere. The New York Jets on the other hand are in a different situation. With a QB room consisting of the aging Josh McCown and two unproven players in Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, the Jets must take a quarterback early on in the draft. Baker Mayfield brings a level of versatility and athleticism to the field that is exciting to watch and is usually very successful. He has drawn comparisons to former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, but those similarities have been shown off the field as well in situations that range from resisting arrest to making obscene hand gestures to opponents on the sideline. Taking Mayfield is a gamble, but it is a gamble that the Jets may have to take.
9. Cincinnati Bengals - OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Cincinnati’s offense has been decent after starting the season with an eight quarter touchdown drought, but more strength is needed up front to give QB Andy Dalton more time in the pocket. At 6-foot-5 and 330 lbs., Nelson provides a presence that is extremely difficult for Cincinnati’s brass to pass on.
10. Oakland Raiders - CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Raiders may go down as the biggest disappointment of this 2017/18 NFL season when it’s all said and done, but they are still full of young talent on both sides of the ball. Oakland selected Gareon Conley from Ohio State last year, but he hasn’t taken the field in his young career. Even if he did play, they still need another corner to hold down the dangerous wideouts in the AFC West. The Raiders’ front office should look no further than Conley’s alma mater Ohio State to find Denzel Ward. This season, Ward has showed NFL Scouts his spectacular coverage ability, high football IQ and speed that makes up for his smaller frame. Adding Ward would fill a glaring hole in Oakland’s defense.
11. Cleveland Browns (VIA Houston) - CB Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
12. Miami Dolphins - S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - RB Derrius Guice, Louisiana State
14. Buffalo Bills - QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
15. Washington Redskins - DE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
16. Los Angeles Chargers - DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
17. Green Bay Packers - CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
18. Dallas Cowboys - DE Harold Landry, Boston College
19. Detroit Lions - DE Arden Key, Louisiana State
20. Tennessee Titans - DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
21. Jacksonville Jaguars - QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
22. Baltimore Ravens - WR Courtland Sutton, Southern Methodist
23. Seattle Seahawks - OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
24. Buffalo Bills (VIA KC) - LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
25. Atlanta Falcons - S Derwin James, Florida State
26. New Orleans Saints - LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
27. Carolina Panthers - OG Billy Price, Ohio State
28. Los Angeles Rams - S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
29. Minnesota Vikings - DE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
30. Pittsburgh Steelers - LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
31. Philadelphia Eagles - WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
32. New England Patriots - OG Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
Jordan Kalfon is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.