I don’t remember ever being so confused before a draft.
It used to be — back when men were men and beat writers smoked four packs a day — that we’d have some sort of idea at least how the top five would go. We’d have a few surprises but they’d be minor. This year, the Cleveland Browns could blow everything up by taking the quarterback nobody thinks they should. If that happens, the Giants could take another quarterback, then the Jets another and, who knows what could happen with the fourth pick?
The only thing we do know is to expect the unexpected. Everything is on the table. Here’s how I think it might play out, Warning: I didn’t spend too much time on it.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
I think Darnold has been the guy for months, but the NFL wants them to keep everyone guessing up until draft day.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St.
Pretty much every old school scout says Barkley is the best player in the draft. The Giants are run by an old school scout. I think they’d take Darnold if he were available but aren’t enamored with the rest of the quarterbacks.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
This has been the buzz for about a month. In my opinion, Mayfield is the best quarterback in the draft this year and they’ll sell him as the second coming of Broadway Joe.
4. Cleveland Browns: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St.
The first big surprise, I guess, but their interest in Ward was rumored a couple of months ago before everything went quiet. Ward really is a top-level cornerback prospect and those guys tend to go very high.
5. Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb, Edge, NC State
Chubb is going to be a good player from Day One. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a premier pass rusher, but I do think he’s going to be terrific against the run and at least adequate at taking down quarterbacks. Don’t be surprised if the Bears moved up to this spot if the draft falls this way.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
There is a lot of buzz about Roquan Smith being the pick here, but I think that’s Chris Ballard intentionally leaking information. I think Nelson is their guy but they don’t want to risk a team moving ahead of them to take him. They have to protect Andrew Luck at some point, right?
7. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
I think this is the first prime trade-up spot for teams. The Bills can move from 12 to 7 without giving up their second first round pick. The other teams possibly pondering a quarterback would have a hard time getting the ammunition to move much higher than this.
8. Miami Dolphins: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The latest buzz has been that the Dolphins are going to sit tight and let the draft fall to them. I think that’s BS. They’re scared the Patriots are going to move here so Adam Gase calls his buddy Ryan Pace and offers a good package to go up.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Smith is an elite-level talent and the 49ers have issues with the linebacker they spent a first round pick on last year.
10. Oakland Raiders: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
(Jon Gruden voice): I tell ya what man, the Oakland Raiders have a franchise quarterback that they need make sure they protect or they won’t have a franchise quarterback for long.
11. Chicago Bears: Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
Going by my big board from a week ago, Derwin James would be the pick, but I’ve grown a little hesitant on that for various reasons. The next guy down my list fits a position of need and has a really high ceiling. Could be a perfect complement to Leonard Floyd.
12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida St.
The connection here has been made quite often throughout the process. They tried TJ Ward last year and it didn’t work. James is a younger version.
13. Washington Redskins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Fitzpatrick can play a number of positions and gives Washington a high end player in the back of their defense.
14. Green Bay Packers: Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
Cornerback is their biggest need, but I don’t see how they could pass up on Landry up here. (Mostly because he’s my favorite player in this draft.)
15. Arizona Cardinals: Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia
They need to do whatever they can to keep Sam Bradford upright. Or they need to draft his replacement.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Both of their offensive coordinators have had success with mobile quarterbacks in the West Coast system before. I think Jackson is an easy fit and I think he’s their starter before Week 17.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma St.
And here’s the sixth quarterback to go in the first round. The Chargers need buzz after falling behind the Rams in the battle for LA’s heart.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
They let Mike Bennett go and aren’t going to get anything from the defensive lineman they drafted high in the second round last year. Payne makes sense.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Ridley’s biggest strength is his ability go get open, which fits perfectly with Dak Prescott, who didn’t get along with Dez Bryant because the veteran couldn’t get open.
20. Detroit Lions: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, V. Tech
Their new head coach gets a versatile toy. He could go much higher, but I have a feeling NFL teams aren’t comfortable with his instincts as an inside linebacker. The Lions will move him all over the field.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams, OL, Texas
Williams is a very interesting player. He’ll probably be a guard in the NFL, but the Bengals could put him at tackle.
22. Buffalo Bills: James Daniels, C, Iowa
The Bills lost their three best offensive linemen in the offseason.
23. New England Patriots: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Double B grabs one of his buddy Nick Saban’s best players.
24. Carolina Panthers: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
Hernandez is kind of a mauler, but athletic. A good fit for Norv Turner’s system.
25. Tennessee Titans: Leighton Vander Esch, Boise St.
I would really like LVE if I wasn’t convinced he was Shea McClellin 2.0.
26. Atlanta Falcons: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
They need to add some speed to their offense after losing Turbo to the Bears.
27. New Orleans Saints: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota
They made a push for Jimmy Graham, so I think TE is a real strong possibility here.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
I’m not sure how I ended up with Jackson dropping this far.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
They lost a pretty good receiver to the Bears and need someone with a big catch radius for Blake Bortles.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Frank Ragnow, OL, Arkansas
I think he’d play guard for the Vikings. They really need to make sure the interior of their line is in good shape because their high-priced QB crumbles under pressure.
31. New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
He’s probably going higher, but I forgot about him. I pretty much just forgot about cornerbacks after Ward. I’m ashamed.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Taven Bryan, DL, Florida
They pretty much just always add guys who get after the quarterback, so here’s another.