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In 2015, College Football Metrics joined forces with preeminent draft forecaster Xavier Cromartie to produce mock drafts and top 100 prospect boards for entry into The Huddle Report’s exclusive, experts-only NFL Draft contests. Xavier starts to posts mocks and boards in January and continues up to the draft in April. Our three-year average score in the Mock Draft Contest is 40.67. Our three-year average score in the Top 100 Contest is 86.0. In 2017, we won the contest, and we smashed the all-time record of 88 points when we scored 91.
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2018 Mock Draft 1st-round (6.0)
1. Cleveland Browns-QB Baker Mayfield
I've said it for a while now, and reports are starting to verify: the NFL will like Mayfield better than the media. The Jets and Patriots are both reportedly interested. They won't get the chance. If Cleveland butchers this, and I don't think they will, I believe the Bills will sell the farm to get him at #2. Both Dorsey and Hugh Jackson have drafted 6'1” QB's before (Aaron Murray and Cody Kessler), Mayfield is mobile, the most accurate, and the best leader. Cleveland needs an identity and some fire. Mayfield brings that in spades. The only other option is Darnold. This won't be Josh Allen.
2. (projected trade) Buffalo Bills-QB Sam Darnold
The Giants apparently finally realized it might be smart to at least fake interest in the top QB's. I've heard reports that the only QB they like is Darnold, but do they like him more than Barkley? A trade back also seems quite likely here as the mad scramble is on for the quarterbacks. The Bills, Broncos, Cardinals, Dolphins, Chargers, and now even the Patriots (allegedly) are all scrambling to trade up for their preferred signal caller. I think the Bills will have to trade up once more before getting to 2 because Gettleman wants a shot at an elite player. If the Bills get the 6th pick from the Colts that might be close enough to induce the Giants to move down.
3. New York Jets-QB Josh Rosen
I'm now hearing that the Jets originally traded up with Rosen, Darnold, and Allen all rated similarly which is why they were seemingly ok with possibly walking away with their third choice, but apparently Mayfield has entered the conversation and has plenty of fans in the Jet's building. He may even be the favorite. I still don't think he gets that far. If the choice is between Allen and Rosen I think the Jets finally forgo their “draft the guy with the big arm” strategy. Maccagnan can crow afterwards about how he got the best value, the most pro-ready guy at #3.
4. Cleveland Browns-EDGE Bradley Chubb
This pick highly depends on what happens with the Giants at #2. If someone comes up for a QB then both Chubb and Barkley will be available for the Browns at #4. Cleveland fans will howl if Dorsey passes on Barkley, but what's harder to find: a good RB or a good pass rusher?
5. Denver Broncos-RB Saquon Barkley
For weeks I've had a QB to Denver even though I said in an earlier mock that Elway didn't want a rookie QB. The thinking was that he thinks this team is ready to contend for a Superbowl with Keenum, but Rosen or one of the other QB's could develop on the bench. But what if Elway is gun-shy about drafting a QB after his past failures? What if Josh Allen is the only one available of the Big 4 and he looks and plays too much like Paxton Lynch? What if the “best player in the draft” is available at #5? Elway is going to snatch him up and claim he's a genius.
6. New York Giants-OG Quenton Nelson
The feeling I'm getting is the Giants like Barkley and Nelson. If they stay at 2 they'll take Barkley. But I think the preference for Gettleman might be to drop down a couple spots, pick up some extra selections, help out his buddies Beane and McDermott in Buffalo, and draft a big man for his offensive line.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-S Derwin James
The Bucs have some very obvious needs and coincidentally there are several players available that fit those exact spots. Davenport would fill the EDGE need, but he would be a reach here. Nelson is a popular pick to solidify the line, but as I've pointed out guards rarely go this high even if they are considered elite. Nelson could be one to break the mold though. The Bucs also could use a corner, but the top one available is Ward and he's short. Derwin James is my pick here because he can fill the strong safety spot next to Justin Evans, he can roll down into the slot, cover athletic tight ends, blitz off the edge, or even play linebacker if needed. His versatility, size, and athleticism make him an ideal pick at #7.
8. Arizona Cardinals-QB Josh Allen
Surprise! I've heard rumors that the Cardinals are infatuated with Locker...I mean Allen, and if he slips down the board due to accuracy issues (and the fact that he's terrible) the Cardinals seem like the team most likely to pounce. They would have to get in front of the Dolphins at 11, but the rival 49'ers will never trade with them and the Raiders are only one spot ahead of Miami. That's cutting it too close for a guy you think is a franchise QB.
9. San Francisco 49'ers-LB Tremaine Edmunds
It's no secret that the Niners need linebacker help. If only they would have listened to RC last year about Reuben Foster... They'll be lucky if the Bears trade down or pass on Edmunds as he would fit perfectly in their defense too.
10. Oakland Raiders-NT Vita Vea
The Raiders could use basically any position on the defense as they were awful last year. They spent several picks in the secondary though, so I have to imagine this year will be focused on the front seven. They would love to see Edmunds here, but I highly doubt he gets past both Chicago and San Francisco if they keep their pick. Roquan Smith makes a lot of sense here as the Raiders are desperate for LB's, but would you rather have the undersized Smith or the freakishly athletic monster Vea? Me too.
11. Miami Dolphins-OT Mike McGlinchey
The Dolphins are trying to “change their culture.” They didn't like how the team quit late in the season, especially in a loss to Buffalo. Everyone is confused about their offseason moves because they lost a lot of talent, but the decision makers are far more interested in character right now. So while linebacker and defensive tackle are bigger immediate needs, the team is without a doubt looking to move on from right tackle Ju'Waun James next year. If the free agent talent market hadn't been so barren they would have traded him to the Broncos. Here they can pick up his replacement in McGlinchey who is easily the best tackle available and a real high character player.
12. Indianapolis Colts-CB Denzel Ward
I already discussed the Colts quite a bit in their old spot at 6 so I won't rehash that here. Needless to say they need multiple new players at nearly every spot on their roster. They may be the least talented team top to bottom in the entire league. After trading down to this spot they have their choice of talented players that make sense. Davenport would be a sensible choice, but I'm going with a new #1 corner after they lost Rashaan Melvin to the Raiders. Quincy Wilson can protest all he wants.
13. Washington Redskins-NT Da'Ron Payne
NT is the most obvious position to mock to the Redskins whether its Payne or Vea. Their run defense was absolutely atrocious last year. I've also heard talk that they would like to trade down, but with all the QB's going so fast that doesn't seem as likely now. Fitzpatrick and Derrius Guice are other possible targets.
14. Green Bay Packers-WR Calvin Ridley
I see lots of corners and safeties being mocked to the Packers and for good reason. Their secondary was awful again last year. However they have lots of young guys that they hope to see develop in year two, and I heard even before the release of Jordy Nelson that they were interested in receiver and linebacker help. I'm not sure if they would go for another smaller receiver when they already have Cobb, but Ridley is a whole different style of player and Cobb is likely gone next season anyways.
15. Chicago Bears-LB Leighton Vander Esch
Chicago fixed their offense in free agency, so now they can turn their attention to defense. They really need linebackers, both edge rushers and an inside upgrade. If they stand pat at 8 and Nelson is already gone I expect Edmunds is a likely pick.
16. Baltimore Ravens-RB Derrius Guice
Ozzie Newsome intimated that if the Ravens stayed at #16 they could surprise a lot of people by doing something completely different in the 1st round this year. They've drafted most positions early the last few years, except for for two positions: QB and RB. There's been speculation they could draft a quarterback this year, but they can't get out from under Flacco's contract until 2020. The only RB they've drafted earlier than the 4th round since Ray Rice was Bernard Pierce way back in 2012. Guice has been compared to Marshawn Lynch both in terms of style, ability, and character. Perhaps the Ravens want to get back to their identity of great defense and a power running game like they had with Jamaal Lewis in the early 2000's.
17. Los Angeles Chargers-S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Every year a few players fall out of the top 10 to many people's surprise. I'm hearing Fitzpatrick could be that guy this year. Alabama players are routinely overrated by the media, and many teams feel he just isn't an explosive enough athlete to justify a top 10 pick. The Chargers would be thrilled to land him at 17 though, as they are looking for either a DT or S. Both top DT's are gone here, so safety it is.
18. Seattle Seahawks-CB Jaire Alexander
I really expect the Seahawks to trade down from here and quite possibly out of the 1st round entirely. For now I'll give them Alexander, a SPARQ star that also happens to be a really good cover corner. Their secondary wasn't nearly as dominant even before the loss of Richard Sherman.
19. Dallas Cowboys-LB Roquan Smith
Dallas still needs new receivers. Thompson and Hurns are nice complimentary pieces, but they aren't true #1's. Unfortunately even if they release Dez after the draft they are still paying too many receivers to realistically draft one. They've certainly done their homework on the top guys though so maybe it's still a possibility. I'd love to see Sutton here. In this scenario though Roquan Smith is available and could slot into the outside position next to Sean Lee.
20. Detroit Lions-EDGE Marcus Davenport
The Lions need to improve their defense, specifically their defensive line. I have to imagine this pick is either a tackle or edge rusher. Taven Bryan and Davenport make the most sense, but edge rushers are harder to find, especially ones with freakish size and speed like Davenport.
21. Cincinnati Bengals-OG Will Hernandez
The Bengals greatly helped their offensive line by trading for Cordy Glenn, but they still need a handful of new starters to make some actual lanes for Joe Mixon. After letting Russell Bodine walk in free agency the Bengals will have to draft a new guard or center. Billy Price could be an option in round 2 because of his injury or the Bengals could grab Daniels here, but Hernandez is likely to be rated higher on most boards.
22. (projected trade) New York Giants-DT Taven Bryan
The Giants would pick up this selection as part of the Bills moving up to #2. They already got their big man for the offensive side of the ball. Now they can get one for the defensive side. Taven Bryan would fit perfectly as a disruptive 3-4 defensive end in Bettcher's new look defense.
23. New England Patriots-QB Lamar Jackson
Rumors have gone around that the Patriots want to trade up for a QB. While they almost undoubtedly are looking into it, I expect the cost would be prohibitive to actually making a move. The Patriots have too many other positions that could use a talent influx. That said, if a QB like Jackson or Rudolph were just sitting there then they likely would pull the trigger. I actually don't think Lamar will be here come draft night, but I don't know where else to put him at the moment. He actually fits surprisingly well with the Patriots if you dig into it. He ran the same style offense at Louisville, Belichick is friends with Petrino, and Bill and Josh McDaniels have experimented with mobile QB's recently (Garoppolo, Brissett, and Tebow)
24. Carolina Panthers-CB Mike Hughes
The Panthers have two big needs, WR and secondary. The secondary class is much better though, so I suspect the Panthers go for either Mike Hughes at corner or one of the safeties like Justin Reid, Ronnie Harrison or Terrell Edmunds. There are still several very good safeties available in free agency though, so perhaps they will sign one to replace Kurt Coleman and draft a corner.
25. Tennessee Titans-EDGE Harold Landry
The Titans don't really have any glaring weaknesses left after they signed Benny Logan. Edge rusher depth after Morgan and Orakpo is likely their top need so I'll give them Harold Landry here. He's a much better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker than as a 4-3 defensive end. I've heard conflicting reports on Landry with some saying he's a day 2 pick and some saying that the media was too low on him.
26. Atlanta Falcons-CB Josh Jackson
Taven Bryan is settling in as the pick of choice for most people here, and I totally get that. The Falcons have already expressed interest in the defensive tackle class. But if Bryan is gone, and I suspect he will be, do they go for a different one or wait until round two? I suspect they wait. This DT class is deep. Instead they can pick up a long, athletic corner with excellent ball skills to pair with Trufant.
27. New Orleans Saints-WR Courtland Sutton
The Saints have filled most of their needs in free agency and they didn't have a whole lot to begin with. A number two receiver, a depth pass rusher, or guard perhaps. They can afford to go best player available. Or they can grab a QB to develop behind Brees for a year or two. We've expected it for years. The problem for the Saints is everyone else will expect it too. I'm not sure Rudolph will even be available here, but if he is he'll be considered. I'm going to give the Saints Sutton for now because I expect the Bears to resign Cameron Meredith and the Saints very much need another WR to pair with Michael Thomas.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers-QB Mason Rudolph
The Steelers were looking for two things this offseason: a fast linebacker to help in coverage and a safety that can cover Gronk. They signed Morgan Burnett from the Packers so the biggest need left is linebacker. I think they are head over heels for Vander Esch, but they'll have to trade up if they want him. I mentioned I'm not convinced Rudolph will be available this late, but I'll stick him here for now. The Steelers are in win-now mode, but if a franchise QB falls in their lap they aren't going to turn it down.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars-LB Rashaan Evans
Jacksonville signed Andrew Norwell to solidify the interior offensive line. They could still use a tackle, but there aren't any of value at this point. They should trade up for Rudolph, but you can bet the front office won't after they have foolishly supported Bortles all this time. They will sink for it. Posluszny retired so maybe they get another linebacker for depth? This pick could be just about anything including a trade up or down. Sam Hubbard would make sense to replace Fowler in a year or two.
30. Minnesota Vikings-CB Carlton Davis
Minnesota has two real areas they need to address, guard and corner. The best guards are gone here though, so I'm slotting in the fifth corner of round one. Davis isn't considered one of the best three corners, but he's in the next tier discussion and should be an early second round pick if he doesn't quite make it to the first.
31. New England Patriots-OT Kolton Miller
Belichick is back so we have a decent idea how this could go. A trade is quite likely, either up or down, and any Ohio State and Alabama players will get preferential treatment. Picking Miller to the Patriots is lazy thinking honestly. It's too easy a comparison to say he's a Solder clone, but I'm going to leave it for now until I get more information on what the Patriots are thinking.
32. Philadelphia Eagles-DJ Moore
Philly can go with whatever they like here. This is very likely a trade down though. If they don't then perhaps they take a flier on the athletic riser from Maryland. Moore seems very similar to Torrey Smith from a skillset perspective so it could make a lot of sense.
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