It's draft week! After the long journey here I'm going to take my final guess at predicting who the teams picking ahead of the Eagles will select on Thursday night. I won't have any trades in this mock draft, but I expect there to be a lot of movement before the Eagles are on the clock with the 32nd pick.
1. Cleveland Browns - QB Josh Allen (Wyoming)
Early reports said this pick would come down to Josh Allen or Sam Darnold. Some reports out of Cleveland as late as last Friday said it will come down to Allen or Baker Mayfield. Others have said that general manager John Dorsey hasn't told anyone and won't tell anyone in the building what his plans are until draft day.
The owners brought Dorsey in to call the shots, and when you look at his background when selecting players on the first and second days of the draft (including quarterback Patrick Mahomes, defensive lineman Tanoh Kpassagnon, edge rusher Dee Ford, defensive lineman Chris Jones, cornerback KeiVarae Russell, etc.), it's clear that he is willing to take a player with more natural talent over a player with more honed skill. Factor that in with his selection of Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher over what many people considered to be the "safer" selection in Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel back in 2013, and you see he doesn't have an issue with smaller-school players at the top of the draft.
The Browns are steadfast in saying Tyrod Taylor will be the starting quarterback this fall and have not backed down from that. This pick could, and should, be Sam Darnold (and there's still the outside shot for Mayfield) but there's too much smoke for me to think Allen isn't the pick.
2. New York Giants - QB Sam Darnold (USC)
If Allen goes No. 1, then Sam Darnold will be the pick at No. 2.
Whether or not it's the Giants making the pick remains to be seen, but here's what we know. General Manager Dave Gettleman has never traded down in the first round of the draft (to be fair, he's never been in a situation quite like this one). Gettleman also wants to acquire an All-Pro-caliber player in this draft, and has said that he does not feel pressure to select a quarterback at this point in time. There has already been an opportunity to trade down (assuming they talked at all with the cross-town New York Jets before they moved up to No. 3 a month ago), and we have to believe that there's been plenty of talk to move out of that spot since that point.
I still find it very hard to believe that they will stay put and select a non-quarterback in this spot, passing up what should be a heavy haul of draft picks in the process. My gut feeling is that the Giants trade down, but if they do stay put, I think the pick is Darnold (who will be just 21 years old when the season starts) as their quarterback of the future.
3. New York Jets - QB Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
The Jets didn't trade up to this spot for a non-quarterback, and I truly believe that the apple of their eye is Mayfield, someone who is almost entirely the polar opposite of former second-round pick Christian Hackenberg, who this regime selected just two years ago. This is a pick that most analysts believe is set in concrete as we inch closer to draft day, so it's entirely possible that a team that covets Mayfield (perhaps the Denver Broncos?) could move ahead of them to snatch him from their grasp. If that happens, I think they'll happily settle for Sam Darnold.
4. Cleveland Browns - EP Bradley Chubb (N.C. State)
I have some minor questions about Chubb's overall upside because I don't think that he's the level of prospect that, say, Myles Garrett, Von Miller, or Khalil Mack were coming out of college. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the player, and think he's going to be a very good pass rusher, but I'm not sure he's going to be the type of disruptor who will change offensive game plans on a weekly basis.
Thankfully, he won't need to be that for the Browns, who have Garrett on the other side. Former second-round pick Emmanuel Ogbah makes for a better fit on the inside on passing downs. Remember that this regime did not select Ogbah out of Oklahoma State, so we do not know how they feel about him overall. If the Browns don't decide to trade out (which I think they could and should do), I think Chubb is the pick and they will have one of the best pass rushing pairs in the league for a long time.
5. Denver Broncos - RB Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
In this scenario, I'm assuming that Denver does not end up with one of the quarterbacks it coached at the Senior Bowl in January (Allen and, particularly, Mayfield). Two weeks ago, I would've then assumed that the pick would be Quenton Nelson, whom they would slide in next to last year's first-round pick Garret Bolles to form the left side of their offensive line for the next decade.
While that's still possible, I'm going to go with a hunch that they go with Barkley in this slot. The team just released respected veteran C.J. Anderson last week and while they clearly like the upside of some of their young runners on the roster, Barkley is a different beast. The Broncos have sniffed around all of the top quarterbacks, but I don't think they go with Josh Rosen here. Keep an eye on a linebacker in Day 2 or early Day 3 for this team as well.
6. Indianapolis Colts - CB Denzel Ward (Ohio State)
All reports are that the Colts would love to trade back again in the first round to acquire more picks as general manager Chris Ballard tries to rebuild what has become one of the worst rosters in the NFL. If they are in this spot and can't trade out, I think they go with the most impactful player and most valuable player available, and in this scenario, I think that is cornerback Denzel Ward.
The team selected Ward's teammate, Malik Hooker, in the first round a year ago (and the temptation to add Derwin James to pair with Hooker is certainly intriguing), and they go back to the Ohio State well again. Linebacker is a huge need, and they will likely add two players at that spot by the end of Day 2 but I think Ward gives them a shutdown option opposite former second-round pick Quincy Wilson, who does not have Ward's upside. Roquan Smith is the other player who I think is a very distinct possibility.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - SS Derwin James (Florida State)
Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht loves players with high upside, and there aren't many prospects in this class with higher upside than Derwin James.
One of the most glaring needs for the Bucs right now is at strong safety, and he should slide in perfectly opposite last year's second-round pick Justin Evans and become a difference-maker at the second and third levels of the field. If Barkley were here, I think he could be the pick, but in this scenario, he is off the board, and I would have certainly considered Denzel Ward had he not just been plucked with the previous pick. I expect this team to take a running back on the second day of the draft, and keep an eye out on the offensive line as well for them in Rounds 2 or 3.
8. Chicago Bears - G Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame)
The Bears declined to pick up the option on veteran guard Josh Sitton, and they hired Notre Dame's offensive line coach earlier this offseason. This is a marriage made in heaven, as Nelson steps in and brings an added attitude to a power run team and helps provide Mitchell Trubisky with a cleaner pocket for the foreseeable future. This is a great pick for Matt Nagy and the Bears, and while there are other needs in the defensive front seven that could be addressed here, I think Nelson is too good to pass up. If the Bears are able to trade down, I'd look at one of the linebackers (Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds), safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, or even wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who I think would make a ton of sense to pair with their young quarterback.
9. San Francisco 49ers - LB Roquan Smith (Georgia)
San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is a linebacker coach by trade and they could really use a boost at the weakside linebacker spot next to last year's first-round pick Reuben Foster (who has his own issues away from the field). Smith is an aggressive, athletic player with sideline-to-sideline speed who will greatly benefit from the disruptive defensive front already in place out in San Francisco.
Four other players make a ton of sense here for the 49ers, and three of them come from Alabama. Nose tackle Da'Ron Payne would fit in beautifully ahead of aging veteran Earl Mitchell and fits the kind of relentless nature they want on defense. Minkah Fitzpatrick, who they've spent a lot of time with this offseason, which they did last year with Solomon Thomas and Foster before taking them in the first round, can step in at safety (where they have two starters heading into the final year of their contracts).
On the other side of the ball, Calvin Ridley would be a beautiful addition to a receiving corps that hasn't been tinkered with much this offseason but could greatly benefit from a player of his caliber. Ridley's ability to create yards after the catch and attack downfield would fit in well with Kyle Shanahan. One more sleeper selection here would be pass rusher Harold Landry, and the 49ers have been sniffing around a majority of the big-name pass rushers in this class, so expect to see them take one relatively early on.
10. Oakland Raiders - WR Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
Jon Gruden loves adding offensive players via the draft, and he said earlier this spring at the NFL Annual Meeting that the team wasn't quite done yet with adding wide receivers after the addition of Jordy Nelson in free agency.
Ridley would join Nelson and Amari Cooper as one of the more impressive receiver trios in football, giving Derek Carr plenty of toys to play with across the width of the field. Offensive tackle is absolutely a possibility here, whether that's Mike McGlinchey or Kolton Miller. Pass rusher Harold Landry - with Mario Edwards, Armonty Bryant, and Tank Carradine all set to hit the open market along with Khalil Mack next spring - is also a sensible option here for the Raiders.
11. Miami Dolphins - QB Josh Rosen (UCLA)
There was a big name falling down the draft back in 2016 and it became the big story of the first round, and it was the Miami Dolphins that ended the slide by taking tackle Laremy Tunsil. The situation repeats itself here with the selection of Josh Rosen, who fills a big need for Adam Gase and company.
Ryan Tannehill's durability is a question mark and both backup quarterbacks are heading into contract years with the franchise. I expect a team like New England, Buffalo, or Arizona to trade up ahead of Miami to secure the services of Rosen (or another quarterback in the top 10), so let's talk about backup plans. If Roquan Smith were to fall here, I think he would be the biggest non-quarterback name in consideration for the team. I'd expect Tremaine Edmunds to get the call with Smith off the board. Expect the Dolphins to absolutely address the tight end position on the second day of the draft, likely in the second round with a player like Dallas Goedert from North Dakota State.
12. Buffalo Bills - EP Harold Landry (Boston College)
Full disclosure, I 100 percent believe the Bills will trade up to get one of these quarterbacks. I'll be shocked if they don't. Since I'm not doing trades in this scenario, however, they have to go in a different direction. Linebacker is a big need for this team, but I'm not sure any of the players at this point make sense for the Bills (if it's anyone, I think it's Leighton Vander Esch). Instead, however, I go with Harold Landry, who fits the mold of the "fastballs" that Sean McDermott worked with under Andy Reid in Philadelphia and gives them teeth to their pass rush. Don't discount the idea of a trade back if the Bills can not trade up.
13. Washington Redskins - NT Vita Vea (Washington)
From Washington state to the nation's capital, Vita Vea plugs a big hole in the interior of the defensive line for Jay Gruden's team. An extremely powerful man-child who simply overpowered people on Saturdays, Vea will need to clean some things up from a technique standpoint but the fit makes a lot of sense for a group coached by Jim Tomsula. Personally, I prefer Alabama's Da'Ron Payne in this slot, but I think Vea is the way they'll lean. If he's not the pick here, there has been a ton of buzz (both in the media and otherwise) surrounding the Redskins and running back Derrius Guice.
If they don't take a runner here, expect them to take one in the second round. Washington has also spent a lot of time investigating mid-round offensive linemen, so keep an eye on that for later in the draft. They also appear to have a pretty big hole in the secondary at outside cornerback but have not (based off reports) met with any of the big-name cover corners in this draft.
14. Green Bay Packers - DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
I could've gone a number of ways on this one, and this will almost certainly be a defensive player here at 14. I nearly pulled the trigger on Tremaine Edmunds because he's the kind of physical freak show that gets coaches like defensive coordinator Mike Pettine excited because of his size and speed. Edmunds' versatility would play well in Pettine's multiple-front scheme and the Packers need more talent at linebacker. Jaire Alexander is probably the best pure cover corner left, but he's on the smaller side and Green Bay tends to trend more toward bigger corners (though he has the swagger that Pettine loves). That's where Fitzpatrick comes into play.
In his first year, I expect he'll be listed as a cornerback who can travel into the slot when needed against bigger inside receivers. Remember that Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix is a free agent in 2019. If the Packers decide not to bring back their starting free safety, Fitzpatrick could slide back and be a long-time starter there as well. The Packers value character and versatility, and Minkah brings both to the table.
15. Arizona Cardinals - OT Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame)
There's been buzz about the Cardinals and quarterback Josh Allen, but that looks like a longshot at this point unless he is the quarterback who drops out of the first five picks. The Cardinals have done a ton of work on the defensive side of the ball during the pre-draft process, and rightfully so, but this roster needs a lot of help and an injection of youth on the other side of the ball, particularly up front. Mike McGlinchey is not a perfect prospect, but he can play either tackle spot and should step in and start immediately. Keep an eye on local kid Christian Kirk (perhaps a target in the second round), and a heavy focus on the front seven in the next stages of the draft.
16. Baltimore Ravens - LB Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech)
This team could go in a number of directions. Wide receiver is certainly a need, and if Calvin Ridley were on the board I think he'd be the pick for a wide variety of reasons. I was very close to putting James Daniels' name on the card thanks to his intelligence and versatility, two traits they like in Baltimore up front, but I'm not sure he fits the profile of the Ravens' current unit up front (where they all seem to be larger road graders in the trenches). They've reportedly met with Derrius Guice and that would make a ton of sense as well. However, this defense loves fast, versatile, athletic players who can fill a number of roles in the front seven. Tremaine Edmunds may not fit the "speed, toughness, and instincts" profile that Ozzie Newsome covets at the linebacker spot (which is the one thing that gives me pause here), but his upside may be too good to pass up on at this point in the draft.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - T Kolton Miller (UCLA)
This team desperately needs help on the interior defensive line, but in this class, I think they can (and likely will) wait until Day 2 to address that need. The chance for a Lamar Jackson selection here is real, but this is a team that has a big hole at both tackle spots that they've been putting Band-Aids on for a long time now. Kolton Miller is a player who is generating a ton of buzz late in the process, and the fact of the matter is that there aren't many players at his size with his feet walking on planet Earth. If they do decide to go with a defensive tackle, I really like Payne in this spot or even Michigan's Maurice Hurst.
18. Seattle Seahawks - CB Carlton Davis (Auburn)
I was very, very close to having this selection be Derrius Guice from LSU, who I think is the perfect mold for what Pete Carroll wants in his lead runner, and I think it's very, very possible that this is where he ends up. When it's all said and done though, they've gone with mid-round guys over the last few years, and there are other backs in this class who they can wait on to fill that role. You can't say the same for outside cornerback in this class, and Carlton Davis is tailor-made for this scheme. With his length, physicality, and ability to win at the line of scrimmage, Carroll has someone who can step in and play at a high level in Richard Sherman's stead from Day 1. Other players of interest, outside of Guice, include Christian Kirk (the team needs help on the outside at receiver) as well as Marcus Davenport (pass rush help is an area of concern as well).
19. Dallas Cowboys - LB Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State)
The need at receiver is real. The Cowboys have done plenty of work on the top receivers in this class, but they may be able to snag one (Courtland Sutton) with their second-round pick. Dallas has poked around some of the top linemen in this class as well, but there's not one available at this stage who would make sense for them (outside of James Daniels, who is a bit lighter than the players they typically go for). The Cowboys need a lot of help on defense, however. DeMarcus Lawrence is playing on the franchise tag and is set to hit the open market in 2019, while last year's first-round pick Taco Charlton is unproven, and the previous year's second-round pick Randy Gregory is still a major question mark. Byron Jones' move to cornerback opens up a gap at the safety spot.
Defensive tackle, particularly a nose tackle is certainly a possibility, but it's been a long time since Jerry Jones has invested in that position high in the draft. The team lost Anthony Hitchens in free agency, Jaylon Smith is not entrenched, and Sean Lee always seems to be one hit away, so Vander Esch may be the best way to go. There have been reports going back to January regarding the team's interest in the star from Idaho.
20. Detroit Lions - DT Da'Ron Payne (Alabama)
The Lions could really use added pass rush, making Marcus Davenport a really intriguing possibility. Maurice Hurst offers a little more juice as a pass rusher, and the local prospect would make a ton of sense here, but reading the media tea leaves it feels like he may fall farther than people expect. Derrius Guice would give this team the kind of running threat they haven't had in what seems like forever. I'm going with Payne here, however, because this team needs help up front and he's got scheme versatility to fit in well with Matt Patricia's multiple fronts. General Manager Bob Quinn dipped into the Crimson Tide pool in his first year on the job with A'Shawn Robinson, who has turned into a very reliable run stuffer for them, but Payne has higher pass rush potential. Keep an eye on a potential move-up for a player like Harold Landry in this scenario. If not, I think they'll be players for Josh Sweat or Arden Key on the second day of the draft.
21. Cincinnati Bengals - QB Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
The Bengals improved their offensive line by moving down to this spot, acquiring Buffalo left tackle Cordy Glenn back in March. I was EXTREMELY close to adding to that group with a player like Frank Ragnow (we know that Marvin Lewis has a thing for talented players from the SEC) and, more likely, James Daniels from Iowa. Daniels is extremely athletic and would fit in extremely well with the Bengals under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
However, Cincinnati brought in Lamar Jackson for a visit very late in the pre-draft process (something they've done with recent first-round picks John Ross and William Jackson). He, too, would fit in with Lazor, and he wouldn't have to play immediately with Andy Dalton still in the picture. The Bengals organization is in need for some positive PR as well, and what better way to generate buzz about your team than to select one of the most electrifying players in college football as a future building block? I almost took Daniels here, but in the end, I think they may go with Jackson. Expect a guard or center in the second round (where the value is still strong) and this team should be investing heavily in the defensive front seven in this draft as well.
22. Buffalo Bills - OL James Daniels (Iowa)
Buffalo absolutely needs to address the offensive line in this draft. The team traded away Cordy Glenn and lost both Richie Incognito and Eric Wood to retirement, so the entire left side needs to be replaced. I was very close to selecting Frank Ragnow here, as he fits more of the mold of what Buffalo already has at the position as a bigger, more physical player in the run game. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll got to see him up close last year in what was Ragnow's best game against his former team, the Alabama Crimson Tide. There's a lot to like about Ragnow, but I think Daniels is just a better player. Daboll comes from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, and the relationship between Belichick and Daniels' college coach, Kirk Ferentz, is clear as well (and if Daniels didn't go off the board here, he would've been taken next by New England).
23. New England Patriots - OL Isaiah Wynn (Georgia)
Bill Belichick values versatility across the board in his players. Wynn has legitimate starting experience at both left tackle (where the team lost Nate Solder in free agency and has a young player returning from a severe medical issue in Antonio Garcia) and left guard (where Joe Thuney was a starter for them but could look to be replaced and offers swing versatility himself). Would a young linebacker like Rashaan Evans make sense here? Definitely. There are a bunch of corners who make sense as well, but they should have options at that position later in this round as well. Wynn may be the best player on the board and comes at a position of need.
24. Carolina Panthers - WR D.J. Moore (Maryland)
The Panthers need help on the perimeter on both sides of the ball, and they've put in a ton of work on Moore. With a player like Devin Funchess on one side, it only makes sense to have a player like the junior Terp on the other. Other options I considered were Christian Kirk (the Panthers have appeared to do much more work on Moore), cornerbacks Josh Jackson and Jaire Alexander (who the team has also met with), as well as safety Justin Reid (the team released Kurt Coleman and desperately needs help on the back end. In the end, I think Moore is the best of the group and gives Cam Newton a reliable target on the outside. The team has also flirted with a number of first- and second-day offensive linemen, so keep an eye out for that as a sleeper position as well.
25. Tennessee Titans - EP Marcus Davenport (Texas-San Antonio)
Davenport has plus size and athleticism. He's a bit of a project when compared to some of the other top names in the defensive front, but this is a very thin group of pass rushers and there's a pretty significant drop-off after the first handful of players. The Titans can't guarantee that there'd be a viable option at the position for them in the second round. Tennessee has also been spending a ton of time working on the big-name receivers in the draft this year (despite selecting Corey Davis in the top 10 last April), worked out the top safety prospects (so keep an eye on that spot if Davenport isn't available here), and looks like they'll be in the market for a Day 3 quarterback.
26. Atlanta Falcons - DT Taven Bryan (Florida)
The Falcons selected a high-motor pass rusher with a quick first step last year in Takk McKinley, and I think they do something similar in this year's draft with the selection of Bryan. The junior defensive tackle wasn't as productive as he would've liked to have been, but he's the first man off the ball almost all of the time, can disrupt plays in the backfield, and would look great next to Grady Jarrett (who is entering a contract year). That defensive line all of a sudden looks like one of the best young groups in the league. Maurice Hurst is a better player, but with vague reports of him apparently slipping in this draft, Bryan makes the most sense.
If they decide to go for another position, the Falcons have been sniffing around a lot of the top corners with slot versatility (so think Jaire Alexander and Mike Hughes here), as well as all of the big-name linebackers in this draft (Rashaan Evans would make sense next to Deion Jones). On Day 2, I think this team selects a running back with Tevin Coleman entering a contract year.
27. New Orleans Saints - LB Rashaan Evans (Alabama)
The Saints have a lot of young talent on defense, but one position where they could really use more of that is at linebacker, where they plugged some veterans in this year with moderate success. Evans could be a Day 1 starter at MIKE for Sean Payton. This team needs a jump start at tight end, but are one of these players (Hayden Hurst, Mike Gesicki, or Dallas Goedert) worth a Top 30 pick? Another disruptor on the defensive line would make sense as well.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - CB Josh Jackson (Iowa)
The Steelers would have loved to add a young linebacker like Evans into the mix, but with him off the board, they have to address the secondary, whether it's at corner or at safety. Jackson is an instinctive player with exceptional ball skills. With the ability to fit in all of Mike Tomlin's coverage schemes, I think he'd be the best fit on the outside. If the Steelers want someone with more inside-out versatility, Jaire Alexander may be the better fit for the club. The possibility certainly exists that they go with Derrius Guice as well, with Le'Veon Bell's contract status up in the air beyond the 2018 season.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars - WR Christian Kirk (Texas A&M)
This is a tough call. The Jaguars lost Allen Hurns and have three receivers (including newly signed Donte Moncrief) entering contract seasons this fall, and I think Kirk offers the position versatility, vertical speed, special teams value, and overall edge in the slot that this team can use. Courtland Sutton fits as well because they don't have a receiver that's really built like him, so he'd give Blake Bortles a big target on the outside. Had the team not given cornerback D.J. Hayden as nice a deal as they did this offseason I would have happily slotted them a corner like Jaire Alexander here. A tough, road-grading offensive lineman who can play at guard would definitely fit the bill as well, so my runner-up for the Kirk pick would be Arkansas' Frank Ragnow.
30. Minnesota Vikings - OL Frank Ragnow (Arkansas)
Ragnow has gained a lot of buzz in the media over the last couple of weeks, and for good reason. He's got NFL size, a road grader's mentality, and has the positional versatility to play either guard spot as well as center. The Vikings don't need him to play the latter, but he can definitely fill in at guard and start as a rookie. Other options as well include Maurice Hurst from Michigan to help bolster the interior of that defensive line. A safety like Jessie Bates also makes a lot of sense, and he fits what Mike Zimmer usually looks for in terms of body type in his centerfielders.
31. New England Patriots - CB Mike Hughes (Central Florida)
Bill Belichick doesn't draft anyone who can't tackle. That's not an issue for Hughes, who plays as edgy as any defensive back in this draft. He's got position versatility, can play special teams, and has the ability to play close to the line of scrimmage as well as off a bit in softer coverage. Hughes may not be as physically gifted as Jaire Alexander, but he brings a bit more physicality, which Belichick wants on the back end. Ronnie Harrison from Alabama makes a ton of sense for the Patriots in this spot, as does fellow safety Justin Reid from Stanford (who would be my runner-up for the team).
32. Philadelphia Eagles - ???