With the Super Bowl concluding last week, many football fans have slipped into a slight depression as there is a mere 190 (but who’s counting?) days until college football kicks off again. However, the one thing that will be able to keep us fans going is the excitement, fanfare and endless speculation about the upcoming NFL draft. Here is a brief mock draft of the first five picks in the 2018 NFL draft:
Pick 1: Cleveland Browns, Sam Darnold, QB, University of Southern California
We all know the Browns struggle with the quarterback position, but the true despair of the Browns past two decades is staggering. Over the last 17 years, the Browns have had 26 different players start at the quarterback position and only one (Tim Couch in 1999) has managed to complete the whole season.
Desperate for some consistency at the most important position in football, and with no time and/or resources to develop a “project” quarterback after the Deshone Kizer disaster of last season, the Browns will take the most NFL ready quarterback in the draft. Darnold offers the most intangibles of any prospect and despite a tendency for too many turnovers, Darnold still has a high ceiling and definitely has a higher floor than Josh Rosen and certainly is safer than wild card Josh Allen.
Pick 2: New York Giants, Josh Rosen, QB, University of California, Los Angeles
Last season was a full on dumpster fire for the Giants. Picked second in ESPN’s preseason power rankings, the Giants imploded and finished 2-14 and lost a coach in the process. Despite Eli Manning’s struggles over the last several seasons, he likely still has a couple more serviceable seasons as an NFL quarterback. Because of this, the Giants have more flexibility to develop a slightly less league-ready quarterback to be his successor. Rosen has the capability to hit some throws that make you say wow, he has great arm strength and throws a great spiral.
However, with these incredible showcases of talent come equal cases of bad interceptions and poor decisions. The Giants need a quarterback to take them past the Manning era. A successful nurturing of Rosen until he is ready to play the NFL level could pay big dividends for New York.
Pick 3: Indianapolis Colts, Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS, Alabama
Another team with an exceptionally weird season last year, the Colts are a team in a strange position. Once one of the most promising teams in the league with burgeoning star Andrew Luck at the helm, injuries not only put the season in doubt but also Luck’s career.
However, with quite a lot of money locked up in Luck, it doesn’t make much sense for the Colts to invest this high a pick in another quarterback. A defensive anchor like Fitzpatrick seems far more likely. Fitzpatrick plays every aspect of the safety position well, has great instincts and can defend against the run just as much as he can hit and play man coverage.
He is a safe pick that should be the cornerstone of their secondary for years to come, the Colts decide to let it ride with Luck and hope he can be the same quarterback he was before his injuries.
Pick 4: Arizona Cardinals (via trade with the Cleveland Browns), Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
With Cleveland already getting their play caller of the future, they can sell the fourth pick at a high value to a team that needs a quarterback. The Cardinals fit this profile perfectly. After Carson Palmer retired this season, the Cardinals suddenly need a quarterback. The Cardinals are capable of being a great team; they went 13-3 two years ago. However, two years of injuries at the quarterback position as well as others dampened their elevation into perennial contender. Baker Mayfield is almost as NFL-ready as Sam Darnold and has shown tremendous talent and abilities. Some are concerned about his attitude, but with good coaching and strong veteran leadership, this shouldn’t be a problem. In need of a quarterback who can come in and make a difference right away, the Cardinals trade up to take Mayfield.
Pick 5: Denver Broncos, Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Despite certainly needing a quarterback at some point in this draft, with Darnold, Rosen and Mayfield all gone, the Broncos decide to take the best available talent in Chubb. Chubb plays for all 4 quarters and wears down offensive lines in his quest to get to the quarterback. With the thin air already causing stamina problems for opposing offenses in Denver, Chubb has the capability to be a true game-changer. By wreaking havoc on opposing lines and breaking down the opponents’ passing game, Chubb can single-handedly change teams’ gameplans. With the Broncos’ strong tradition on the defensive side of the ball, Chubb seems like an easy decision for John Elway and the team.