The 2018 NFL Draft is Thursday night, and as always, it promises to be full of excitement. With a number of quality quarterbacks, plus exciting skill players, there'll be no shortage of intrigue. Below is how we think the first round could shake out.
1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Allen, Quarterback, Wyoming
Allen is able to make big throws in the pocket and while scrambling to the right. His mobility makes him the best choice for the Browns.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State
Expect the Giants to look for a quarterback via trade or in the later rounds. Barkley is the most talented running back in this year’s draft, and is definitely not a player worth passing up. He would fulfill the Giants’ needs at that position. If Barkley is drafted by the Giants, he would become an immediate starter.
3. New York Jets: Sam Darnold, Quarterback, USC
Although the Jets brought in Teddy Bridgewater in free agency, they are still in the market for a quarterback. At this point, Darnold is the best quarterback available.
4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, Defensive End, N.C. State
It has been an entire NFL season since the Browns won a game, and they are expected to use their two picks in the top five to add lots of talent to their squad. If they paired Bradley Chubb with last year’s number one overall pick, Myles Garrett, their pass rush would be very scary for opposing quarterbacks
5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma
Mayfield is the quarterback John Elway and Denver needs. They dealt Trevor Siemian away to Minnesota and haven’t given Paxton Lynch much of an opportunity to prove himself. Case Keenum was a hero last season in Minnesota, but it is unclear whether or not he will make a big impact for the Broncos. Although Mayfield is considered a bit undersized, Denver has expressed interest in him and would be making the right choice by taking him with the fifth pick.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame
The Colts offensive line gave up the most sacks in the NFL (56) and the sixth-most quarterback hits (113). With Andrew Luck returning from injury, they will need to do a very good job in protecting him. Quenton Nelson is the best offensive lineman in the draft, and could be part of the solution in pass protection.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Defensive Back, Alabama
Tampa Bay allowed 4,306 receiving yards last year, the second most, which is far too many for a team looking to make the playoffs. Vernon Hargreaves III, a 2016 first round pick, struggled last season at corner, and the team hopes for improvement for 2018. Pairing him with Fitzpatrick, who made 171 tackles, nine interceptions, and two forced fumbles in his three year collegiate career at Alabama, would help the team have more success on defense.
8. Chicago Bears: Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State
Ward showed off his talents in the three years he played for Urban Meyer at Ohio State, and could be a big part of the Bears’ young, up and coming team.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, Linebacker, Virginia Tech
After acquiring Jimmy Garoppolo from New England, the 49ers offense was stellar. Now, the team needs to focus on defense as they plan to make a big push for the playoffs this season. Edmunds is the right choice for the 49ers linebacker corps that recently added Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith and ex-Charger Korey Toomer. Last season for the Hokies, Edmunds made 108 tackles as well as 5.5 sacks.
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia
Oakland lost Malcolm Smith to free agency, and there is uncertainty as to whether or not NaVorro Bowman will be returning to the team. Smith played well as he helped Georgia make it to the National Championship game. He would be an instant contributor to the Raiders.
11. Miami Dolphins: Vita Vea, Defensive Tackle, Washington
Ndamukong Suh was released by Miami, leaving a big missing piece on the Dolphins’ defensive line. Replacing him with Vita Vea, a big defensive presence, is the right choice.
12. Buffalo Bills: Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA
It would be disappointing to see Rosen fall out of the top ten, but it is very possible. In the beginning of March, the Bills traded away starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and Rosen could be a quality addition if he fell to Buffalo. Rosen would likely have to battle for the starting spot between him and Nathan Peterman, though, who enters his second year.
13. Washington Redskins: Derwin James, Safety, Florida State
James could potentially be a top ten pick based on the need for defensive backs by some of the teams. However, he would have the most opportunity in Washington. The team is a bit weak in defensive backs right now, especially with Su’a Cravens traded to Denver, veteran DeAngelo Hall mulling retirement, and Bashaud Breeland reportedly not returning to the team next season. Washington does have Deshazor Everett and D.J. Swearinger returning, but James could add depth and become an immediate starter.
14. Green Bay Packers: Marcus Davenport, Defensive End, Texas-San Antonio
Like Bradley Chubb, Marcus Davenport brings a lot to the table as a defensive end. Green Bay lacks defensive firepower, so it would be smart to add a pass rusher.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver, Alabama
Similar to the New York Giants, the Cardinals may not look to pick a quarterback in the first round based on the opportunity to select a better player. For now, they have Sam Bradford on a one year deal. They lost a valuable asset in John Brown to free agency and veteran Larry Fitzgerald is nearing the end of his career, so adding Calvin Ridley would be a wise choice for the present and future.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, Tackle, Notre Dame
The Ravens’ pass protection was not bad last season, even without their talented right guard, Marshal Yanda, but there’s always room for improvement. McGlinchey is no stranger to talented offensive lines, as he played alongside Notre Dame teammate and likely top ten pick Quenton Nelson. Free agency allowed the team to add depth to the offensive line, but taking McGlinchey would be a good choice when thinking about the team’s future.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Leighton Vander Esch, Linebacker, Boise State
Vander Esch is a player who has gradually worked his way up the draft board. The Chargers continue to try to bring in talent, and Vander Esch fits on the team.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Josh Jackson, Cornerback, Iowa
The Seahawks are very weak at cornerback, especially with the release of longtime star Richard Sherman in early March. The team did select Shaquill Griffin from Central Florida in the third round last year, and can pair him with Iowa’s Jackson. Jackson hasn’t received as much attention as other defensive backs in the draft such as Denzel Ward from Ohio State or Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama, but he still has lots of talent.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver, SMU
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was apparently the only head coach to attend Sutton’s SMU pro day, and the Cowboys have expressed interest in the receiver. Taking Sutton to replace recently released Dez Bryant makes sense.
20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, Running Back, LSU
Guice has proven to be the second best running back in this year’s draft, behind Saquon Barkley, of course. The running game is lagging behind, making it a position of need. Detroit added veteran LeGarrette Blount in free agency, but may want to look to add another, younger running back. So far, 2015 second round pick Ameer Abdullah hasn’t played to his full potential, so Guice could be a good addition to the running back corps.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Frank Ragnow, Center, Arkansas
The Bengals will likely look for protection for Andy Dalton in the first round. Starting center Russell Bodine left for Buffalo in free agency, and among the best center prospects this year is Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow. If the Bengals were to pick a center, they would likely choose between Ragnow or James Daniels from Iowa. Ragnow has the size to be a starter in the NFL and is able to locate his second block target easily.
22. Buffalo Bills: Da’Ron Payne, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
The Bills allowed the fourth-most rushing yards per game last season, only ahead of the Bengals, Chargers, and Redskins. Their defensive line has struggled since they traded away Marcell Dareus last October. Payne put up 53 tackles for the Crimson Tide last season, and was even utilized as a receiver on one play against Clemson in which he caught a one-yard touchdown pass.
23. New England Patriots: Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Louisville
It is clear that the Patriots will look to pick Tom Brady’s backup and future replacement. Many projections have Jackson as a mid-first to early-second round pick, and the Patriots have been tied to the Louisville quarterback multiple times. He would fit Josh McDaniels’s offense and is a better prospect than Mason Rudolph, Luke Falk or Kyle Lauletta.
24. Carolina Panthers: Will Hernandez, Guard, UTEP
The Panthers lost Andrew Norwell, one of their most talented offensive linemen, to free agency this year, which left a major hole at at guard. Carolina shouldn’t look anywhere else if Hernandez is still available at pick 24, as he would be a great replacement for Norwell. In fact, the UTEP Miners only allowed about 1.5 sacks per game when Hernandez was on the team. His talents would be great in protecting Cam Newton and blocking for second-year running back Christian McCaffrey.
25. Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
Tennessee lost linebacker Avery Williamson in free agency, and signed former Redskin linebacker Will Compton. The team has made moves at many other positions, but has had little focus on the linebacker/EDGE. In four seasons at Boston College, EDGE rusher Harold Landry made 158 tackles and 25 sacks, with 16.5 of those sacks coming junior year. The Titans would be smart to bring Landry in, as it would add a great asset to their defense.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Bryan was a big part of the Florida defense last year, making 37 tackles and four sacks. Meanwhile, the Falcons lost two of their veteran playmakers on the defensive line this offseason, losing Adrian Clayborn to the Patriots and Dontari Poe to the Panthers. Bryan could be another young addition to the Atlanta defense, seeing as though the Falcons has picked a defender with each of their last three first round picks (Vic Beasley in 2015, Keanu Neal in 2016, and Takkarist McKinley in 2017).
27. New Orleans Saints: Hayden Hurst, Tight End, South Carolina
At 24, Hurst is older than most prospects in the upcoming draft. In 2012, he was drafted into the MLB and played as a pitcher in the minor leagues, before moving on to South Carolina to play football for the Gamecocks. He is among the best in a talented class of tight ends that includes Dallas Goedert from South Dakota State and Mike Gesicki from Penn State. New Orleans’ offense hasn’t been the same since they traded Jimmy Graham away, and Hurst has the pass catching ability to become a new threat to opposing defenses.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, Linebacker, Alabama
With Ryan Shazier still working back from his injury, adding an impact linebacker like Evans would be smart. He would instantly improve the defenses' pass rush and tackling.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: D.J. Moore, Wide Receiver, Maryland
Moore would be a quality addition to an already young and talented Jaguars offense and receiving corps. The Jaguars were without star receiver Allen Robinson for the entirety of the season, and still made it to the AFC Championship game. Robinson left Jacksonville to play with Mitch Trubisky and the Bears in free agency, so adding Moore as his replacement could help the team have more assets.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, Guard, Georgia
It is unclear whether Wynn will go earlier in the first round or even fall to the second, but the Vikings seem to be the best fit for him. Minnesota brought in Kirk Cousins and need to ensure that he stays protected if the team wants to make a playoff bid for the second straight year.
31. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, Tackle, UCLA
The Patriots lost Nate Solder to free agency, a very valuable asset and Tom Brady’s longtime blind-side protector. If Miller is still available at pick 31, he would be a great addition to a young Patriots' offensive line.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Sony Michel, Running Back, Georgia
Michel split time with fellow running back Nick Chubb at Georgia and still is one of the best at his position in the draft. The defending Super Bowl champs lost LeGarrette Blount to the Lions in free agency, and Michel could be a nice replacement. He would be added to a running back corps that includes veteran Darren Sproles who is coming off an injury, as well as Jay Ajayi whom they acquired midseason from Miami.
Photographs (from top): Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Joe Robbins/Getty Images; Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images; Joe Robbins/Getty Images; G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images