Mock Drafts, when you think about it, are what get us through the first months of the offseason. It combines NFL Draft prospects, team needs and trade rumors into one conversation. We see them change week after week with the latest buzz around the league, and they keep us hooked until Draft Day.
Once teams start selecting their new players, just about every single Mock Draft ends up being way wrong. Heck, even the most recognized experts get it wrong. It's just a very difficult thing to "predict."
However, that won't keep us die-hard football fans from giving it our best shot every year.
I present to you my first Mock Draft of the year. Before we begin, here's two important notes. 1) The following is a simulation assuming that Kirk Cousins ends up being a Minnesota Viking. 2) I really don't think the top 10 order will stay the same once Draft Day arrives, but I didn't want to flood this edition with a lot of mock trades. Even still, I did include only one.
Enjoy, and don't forget to share your thoughts with me in the comments section below or tweet me @PepoR99!
1. Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold, USC
Since the 2018 NFL Draft's best prospect Saquon Barkley killed the Combine, many have the Browns taking the franchise-changing running back with the first overall pick. Even still, I don't see Cleveland taking the risk of Sam Darnold not being there at 4.
This time, they won't pass on a potential franchise QB. There are a few good quarterbacks in this class, but Darnold's play-making ability make him the best of the bunch. Browns' fans should be happy with this pick.
2. New York Giants: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
I won't be surprised if the Giants think about the future and draft a quarterback right here, but if they believe Eli Manning still has some years left, then get him a running back like Saquon Barkley and watch him take a lot of the pressure off his shoulders.
The offensive line will remain a need, but Barkley is not a prospect you can easily pass on, even less if you have a RB need. This guy will make the Giants' offense a scary one.
3. Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
Bradley Chubb is this class' best defensive prospect and the Colts need to upgrade their pass rush. Some have even compared him to Myles Garrett, although he isn't as athletic. With the Colts switching to a 4-3 defense, taking Chubb makes the most sense.
Quenton Nelson is an absolute beast, but this class is loaded with OL, so I don't see them taking him over Chubb at 3. If they trade down, however, I see them taking the Notre Dame product.
4. New York Jets (Via Mock Trade): QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
There are many possible trades which could alter the way the Top 5 looks like come Draft Day. In this case, the Jets missed out on Kirk Cousins during Free Agency and taking the risk losing their guy to another QB-needy team won't be something they want to go through.
The Browns will be confident with a trade down here, knowing the Jets and the Broncos will be looking for a new signal-caller.
The pick could very well be Josh Allen, but the Jets may be more confident with starting Rosen from week 1.
5. Denver Broncos: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Josh Allen has one hell of an arm and John Elway will be very comfortable with taking him at 5. Maybe the Broncos pair him up with Case Keenum to give the rookie some time to polish a thing or two. The Broncos can't afford to pass on a quarterback with this pick though.
Denver still has a talented roster and a new leader might be what they need to get back in the game.
6. Cleveland Browns: S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
The same guy they would've taken at four, Fitzpatrick provides the Browns' with a pro-ready safety and a defensive leader they so desperately need. Don't look now, but the Browns are building a very solid team.
Adding a play-maker like Minkah in the secondary is a no-brainer.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
The Buccaneers need a ton of help in the defense but despite defensive backs like Derwin James and Denzel Ward being available, they opt to take one of the best players in the Draft. If it wasn't for the QBs, Nelson would be a top 5 pick.
The Bucs don't miss the opportunity of stealing Nelson with the seventh pick.
8. Chicago Bears: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
Even after transition tagging CB Kyle Fuller, the Bears' secondary needs depth. Adding Denzel Ward to the team will take the Bears' DBs to another level. Mitchell Trubisky needs weapons on his offense, but they'll bet on Day 2 to add a WR.
At this point, Ward could be the best player available, and Chicago shouldn't think about it.
9. San Francisco 49ers: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia
Before hearing about Reuben Foster's incident, linebacker was already a need for the 49ers. Now with even more uncertainty, I simply don't see them passing on arguably the best linebacker of the Draft. Edmunds goes to San Francisco and Jimmy Garoppolo waits for a new weapon.
10. Oakland Raiders: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The Raiders had a very disappointing season in 2017 and with many needs in their defense, the Raiders opt for a linebacker who'll step in and be a locker room leader from day 1.
If the Raiders and the 49ers both take a LB, it'll be interesting to see the results since these picks were defined by a coin toss.
11. Miami Dolphins: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Ryan Tannehill is decent at best, but he clearly isn't the answer for the Dolphins. I can see Miami or another team trading up to get Mayfield in the top 10. A lot of people question Baker's height and "cockiness," but don't be surprised when he makes teams regret passing on him. The kid can play.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: OT Connor Williams, Texas
The Bengals need desperate help all across the offensive line. Connor Williams is a prospect who not many people like, but he's still a pretty good prospect for any NFL team that's looking for a tackle or a guard.
Cincinnati is looking for both.
13. Washington Redskins: S Derwin James, Florida State
The Redskins need help in their front-seven, but Derwin James is a great prospect and it'll be hard to pass on him. He can start all across the secondary and could be used as a chess piece to give other team's headaches.
14. Green Bay Packers: EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
Davenport comes from a small school, but his talent will be enough to make him a top 15 pick. His performance in the Senior Bowl and in the Combine sky-rocketed his draft stock and confirmed just how athletic he is.
The Packers will be lucky to have him.
15. Arizona Cardinals: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Will Arizona reach for Lamar Jackson? Being desperate for a QB, it could definitely happen.
However, they also need help in the offensive line and with the lack for quality offensive tackles in the draft and in free agency, they'll take advantage of McGlinchey being there at 15.
16. Baltimore Ravens: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Ridley didn't put up impressive numbers at the Combine, but tape doesn't lie. He's the best WR in the Draft and will be able to shine in the NFL. Joe Flacco needs offensive weapons and the Alabama product will provide Baltimore with a lot of production.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: DT Vita Vea, Washington
Vita Vea at 17 is great value. The Chargers can continue to build their defensive front with yet another young talent. They already have a great set of edge rushers, if they're able to plug-in Vea in the middle, opposing offensive lines will have a hard time dealing with the Chargers' front.
18. Seattle Seahawks: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
The Seahawks need offensive line once again. However, Josh Jackson is a ball-hawking defender who could fit very well in Seattle. With Richard Sherman expected to be released, this would make a lot of sense.
They'll be able to find offensive line help later in the Draft.
19. Dallas Cowboys: EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Taco Charlton a year ago and they just franchised tag DeMarcus Lawrence... but if Harold Landry is available at 19, with guys like Vita Vea and Calvin Ridley gone... the Cowboys might want to steal their future RDE with this pick.
Besides, it's too early to know if D-Law will be on the roster past 2018. The Cowboys take advantage of a WR and OG deep class and wait until later to attend some of their most pressing needs.
Harold Landry, one of the best edge rushers from this class, will be a huge steal at this point of the Draft. Some say he's too small and that this front office won't be interested in him, but his size is actually similar to Takkarist McKinley's, a player that the Cowboys wanted a year ago.
20. Detroit Lions: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
The Lions are ready to roll with their new head coach Matt Patricia. After retaining Ezekiel Ansah, they'll add even more talent to their defense. Davis is a good linebacker, but Rashaan Evans will help take that defense to the next level.
21. Buffalo Bills: DT Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
The Bills are one of the teams who could trade up to get a QB earlier in the Draft, especially with two picks in the first round. If they decide to stay put, DT will be a position they'll take a look at with Da'Ron Payne or even Maurice Hurst being available.
22. Buffalo Bills: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
For some, this might be a reach. If they can't fix their QB situation in free agency, though, I see the Bills taking Lamar Jackson and investing in him to be their future quarterback. He might need to polish a lot of things before the season, but Jackson has the potential to shine as a pro.
23. Los Angeles Rams: C James Daniels, Iowa
The Rams have been active this offseason adding some serious talent across its secondary. Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have solidified an already powerful Wade Phillips' defense, and this time the Rams opt for one of the best OL in the Draft.
James Daniels is a guy who could get to the Pro Bowl in his rookie season at center.
24. Carolina Panthers: OG Will Hernandez, UTEP
Maybe Isaiah Wynn goes before Will Hernandez, but I like Hernandez' playing style and it should help the Panthers' ability to run the football. The Panthers could also draft a WR like James Washington, Christian Kirk or DJ Moore here, but they go for the OL upgrade to help both running and passing game.
25. Tennessee Titans: CB Mike Hughes, UCF
Mike Hughes was an excellent player for the legitimate 2017 National Champions (I kid, I kid) and his tape will make sure teams don't pass on him in the first round. Some have Hughes gone in the top 15, but I like other cornerbacks like Josh Jackson over him.
Either way, the Titans still have a need for a true CB1 and Mike Hughes could be their guy.
26. Atlanta Falcons: OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
The Falcons will consider WR at this point. Even though Julio Jones is one of the NFL's finest, he would certainly appreciate some help to get that offense going. However, the running game could improve as well, so they go with the safe pick and draft Isaiah Wynn.
If the board falls this way, three OGs would be taken in Day 1. This could lead to an early run for other available guards later.
27. New Orleans Saints: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota St.
If somehow, one of the top quarterbacks falls all the way to 27, the Saints should be considering taking Drew Brees' heir to the throne. Either way, they must address the offense. Although they might add a WR here, they could also take TE Dallas Goedert, who is arguably the best at his position this year.
Goedert didn't face top competition during his career, but he definitely has the talent to be a starter in the NFL and make an impact right away.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Unfortunately, the Steelers need an inside LB. With the injury of Ryan Shazier, they need someone to come in and fill in his spot for the defense. With Rashaan Evans already gone, Leighton Vander Esch would make the most sense for the Steelers.
Vander Esch helped his stock in the Combine, and with his versatility, the Steelers can play him in any inside linebacker spot they want.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State
A wide receiver would also make sense for the Jaguars, but a tight end is more of a need for them. Dede Westbrook, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee (who is set to become a FA but could easily return to the Jaguars) could keep WR from being a priority over a guy like Mike Gesicki who could provide Blake Bortles with a best friend and go-to target.
30. Minnesota Vikings: CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
As I mentioned earlier, I have the Vikings landing Kirk Cousins in free agency. With him, they're one of the early Super Bowl favorites. Their defense is amazing, but they should be concerned about Terrance Newman's future.
They could add Isaiah Oliver from Colorado to add depth and a potential starter to their defense.
31. New England Patriots: EDGE Arden Key, LSU
The New England Patriots remain a contender as always, and adding an edge rusher like Key will take their defense to another level. Their defense always finds a way to make things work, but they need a pass rusher.
Between injuries and him leaving the team last spring, Arden Key's draft stock may have taken a hit. But the truth is he's one of the best prospects in this Draft and maybe even a top-10 talent. The Patriots steal him at 31.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: RB Derrius Guice, LSU
Despite adding Jay Ajayi last season, the Eagles could still look for a running back in the first round. Derrius Guice would provide great value if available at the end of the round here. Guice would give this offense a very solid running attack, making the Super Bowl champions' offense even more dangerous.
I could also see them add another starting wide receiver, especially with so many available.
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
A week ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked out to the stage at AT&T Stadium to announce the Dallas Cowboys first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, a large portion of Cowboys Nation was not pretty happy about the player America's Team had drafted in the first day of the Draft.
Boise State's Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has become one of the main debates among Cowboys fans right now and will continue to be one at least until the season starts. Some are fine with the decision the front office made and some simply don't view Vander Esch as a first round talent.
Naturally, taking Leighton in the first round has been widely compared to the team's last first round pick: Taco Charlton.
Both of these selections resulted in fans all around the world complaining and criticizing the selections since they both seemed like a reach, arguing that they could've gotten better players at other positions.
But fans shouldn't be so quick to compare the Charlton and Vander Esch selections, because they really aren't that similar. Sure, most of the media and Draft fans didn't consider any of these players worthy of a first round pick, but that doesn't mean both players were ranked similarly in the Cowboys' draft board.
Defensive End Taco Charlton, despite showing some very promising flashes towards the end of the year, wasn't able to become a starter at any point during his rookie season. Hopefully he develops into one next season. But when you're talking about first-round picks, being a solid starter at the end of the season at the latest is a very usual expectation.
Possibly what made the Taco pick hurt even more, is the fact that the front office didn't even consider him a first-round talent. Although he was drafted to wear the Star with the 28th overall pick, he wasn't their guy.
The #Cowboys had three first-round grades on DEs, but Taco Charlton wasn't one of them.
With Leighton Vander Esch, the same can't be said. The Cowboys knew he was their guy and that they were going to take him, regardless of the situation. For many weeks we wondered about just every scenario the team might face when they were on the clock.
What if DE Harold Landry is available? What if Calvin Ridley is still on the board? What if Derwin James slides, would they trade up?
For the front office, there was quite a lot of talent to choose from at 19 (not to mention James did slide out of the top 15), but they still took Leighton Vander Esch, even with Landry and Ridley on the board. We might disagree with the pick. We might not think the Boise State's product should've been taken so early. That's completely fine.
But Cowboys Nation should be happy knowing that this was the guy they wanted all along. Maybe if Derwin James hadn't been drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 17th pick, Dallas would have still taken Vander Esch.
"If the Cowboys traded up a few spots in the first round, I believe it would have been to ensure they got Vander Esch, not get James or Edmunds." Dane Brugler on the Cowboys' approach to the Draft.
For now, it's time to root for the Dallas Cowboys' new rookie. Vander Esch will provide a special factor to this defense and has the potential to become a very good starter down the road. Playing side by side with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith will certainly help his development and turn him into an impact player soon.
At the end of the day, it takes years to properly evaluate how a draft pick turned out in the NFL. There are first round players who turn out to be complete busts just like there are sixth or seventh round players that go on to become superstars in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys did a hell of a job addressing their needs throughout the Draft this year and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this year's draft picks. Leighton Vander Esch is without a doubt, one of them.
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