Chris Ransom follow @DraftUtopia Last Updated: November 9, 2017 with updates every Thursday leading up to Draft Day.
Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
- This will be the last week I use projected records for my 2018 NFL Mock Draft. Next week we will start using the official NFL Draft order with each team having played through their bye weeks.
- I'm now projecting the Cleveland Browns to go 0-16 mainly due to the Joe Thomas injury even though their home game against the Ravens is probably their best shot to win plus this quarterback situation in Cleveland needs to be upgraded in 2018. I'm also removing Sam Darnold from our mock draft.
- Tony Mario told me last Saturday after the Notre Dame game that he expected Darnold to go back to school. Last monday, Benjamin Allbright who recently became COO of Cover 32, broke news that he expected Sam Darnold to go back to school. Allbright is a must follow on Twitter plus other sites like Bleacher Report and College Football Talk a subsidiary of Mike Florio's Pro Football Talk which is a subsidiary of NBC Sports also validated what Allbright stated on nine days ago on Monday afternoon.
- I don't like the idea of taking a quarterback with 10 interceptions number one overall and with this many media outlets reporting the most recent news on Sam, I strongly believe Darnold goes back to USC to improve his dire 2017 play at quarterback to get his degree in Communications at USC. Peyton Manning could have gone first overall in 1997, but went back to Tennessee for the same reason.
- I've been stating since May that he was a boom or bust prospect that could be a Ryan Leaf waste of a pick if he declared this year or a Peyton Manning type of prospect if he continues to develop at mature while working towards his degree. Darnold took the first big step by earning team captain this season.
- Now Darnold has to grow even more next season since the 2017 campaign for USC looks like a lost season even though USC could still get a New Years Eve Bowl game if they manage to win the PAC 12 because if Notre Dame and USC win out from this point Notre Dame would make the playoff and USC would probably get placed in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl or something. It's too early to say where USC would end up bowl wise. Darnold not being in the 2018 NFL Draft seems crystal clear now thanks to the news Allbright broke. I'm glad Darnold is making this decision, and kudos to Sam for deciding to lay low about it for now during the 2017 NCAA Football Season.
- Where does this leave a Browns team that is on pace to potentially go go 0-16 after starting 0-14 before obtaining their only win on Christmas Eve in 2016? I think Cleveland is going to use this pick on a quarterback now. DeShone Kizer was involved in multiple incidents including the nightclub scene where he was accused of snorting coke by TMZ and the video that surfaced of him buying 540 condoms. Clearly Kizer hasn't shown the maturity you want in a quarterback and one quarterback who has that maturity is Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield who is now my front runner to win the 2017 Heisman Trophy head to Cleveland after two terrible games by Saquon Barkley.
- Baker Mayfield may be undersized at 6-1 220 lbs. He's more along the lines of Drew Brees than Johnny Manziel and has a better arm then Brees did when he came out of Purdue.
- Baker Mayfield dominated 2015 with 3,700 passing yards, 36 passing touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a 68.1 completion percentage in 2015. Baker Mayfield had 3,965 passing yards, 40 passing touchdowns, 8 interceptions, and a 71.0 completion percentage in 2016. So far in 2017, Mayfield has 3,559 passing yards, 31 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions, and a 71.2 completion percentage. Mayfield is on pace to become the first quarterback with back-to-back seasons with a completion percentage of 71 percent or higher since Andrew Luck.
- Mayfield has shown how consistent he's been from a production standpoint. Cleveland's plan should be to take Baker at 1, take the best player on the board at 9, and use their 4 day 2 picks with their 3 second rounders and 1 third rounder to maximize Baker's chances to succeed since all of the receivers and running backs are huge reaches at 9.
- DeShone Kizer may be able to throw the ball far. His accuracy is completely inconsistent plus he never had a 3,000 yard season at Notre Dame. Baker on the hand may have transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma, but Baker has posted three consecutive seasons with over 3,000 passing yards along with the fact that Kizer has been the worst rookie starter since Jimmy Clausen so I have no problem with Mayfield to Cleveland at 1 since he can play under center and anyone who knocks Mayfield for other than being to short from a height standpoint clearly doesn't see how special Mayfield can be at the next level.
San Francisco 49ers: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
- The 49ers have scouted three quarterbacks extensively dating back to the end of the 2017 NFL Draft for this year. Those guys are Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen who grew up a huge 49ers fan. San Francisco has plans to extend Garoppolo plus I think the huge reason they made this trade was because none of John Lynch's scouts were sold on Darnold, Rosen, or Allen.
- If Garoppolo gets extended Saquon Barkley is the obvious slam dunk selection at 2. Barkley dominated most of the year. He's coming off back-to-back bad games against Ohio State and Michigan State. Barkley was held to under 70 rushing yards for the third week in a row, but got two rushing touchdowns on Rutgers, the school Barkley originally committed to before de-committing and enrolling into Penn State. If the Browns pass on Barkley for Mayfield at 1 then the 49ers could get Barkley at 2 because the only other realistic options are trading down or taking Bradley Chubb here since Aaron Lynch and Elvis Dumervil are both Free Agents at 4-3 right end.
New York Giants: Mike McGlinchey, LT, Notre Dame
- In this mock, the Giants get a left tackle at 3. I considered Josh Rosen here, but they got Davis Webb and they can develop him. Getting a left tackle now is the far greater need.
- New York is picking at 3 because Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall are both on injured reserve plus Sterling Shepard is injured too. Eli's receiving core is depleted at the moment so the Giants move into my top 5 now since not having your #1 or #2 target ofr the rest of the year is going to force the Giants to step up defensively. Paul Perkins is also injured at running back.
Chicago Bears: Arden Key, 3-4 ROLB, LSU
- Chicago gets Arden Key to pair with Leonard Floyd. Key is the best player available and makes total sense for the Bears.
- Arden Key has 3.5 sacks in his past two games and is starting to play like the top 5 pass rusher everyone expected him to be at the beginning of the year. Having two sacks on 2019 first round pick Greg Little who is a highly coveted left tackle at Ole Miss really helped Key redeem his top 5 status. Key did get off to a rough start and he may end up being a bust, but he's not moving out of my top 5 since I believe he will run a 4.43 40-time like he did at LSU's Spring Day which would be the fastest 40-time by an EDGE player since Kearse ran the 40 coming out of Florida. That's why Key is remaining in my top 5 until the NFL Combine regardless of how many sacks he gets this year since he has speed you just can't coach.
- Arden Key also known as "The Tiger" has the best nickname for an EDGE player since Kearse "The Freak" so the Kearse comparisons seem perfectly reasonable at this point. This guy went up against SEC left tackles as a true freshman which is why he's so lethal after being a five star recruit in High School.
- The 6-6 231 lb right end had 21 solo tackles, 20 assisted tackles, 9 quarterback hurries, 6.5 tackles for a loss, and 5 sacks in 2015. Key had 14.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks in 2016. Key put on more muscle than I expected him to and is now at 265 lbs. He's struggled in 2017 since dealing with his injury early in the year, but is playing at a high level once again in 2017 with 4 sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss in 2017.
Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, LG, Notre Dame
- Indianapolis gets a left guard to replace Jack Mewhort who is a Free Agent after this season. Mewhort is also a Free Agent in 2018. Quenton Nelson is a blue chip left guard that provides stability in between Anthony Costanzo the teams left tackle and Ryan Kelly the teams center. You'd also have Le'Raven Clark at right guard and Joe Haeg at right tackle.
- This will be a strong pass rusher draft so Indianapolis can get their pass rushers on day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Nelson is such a premier left guard that I actually compared him to Mike Munchak. You can't fault the Colts for drafting him at 5 to make their running game with Marlon Mack even deadlier down the road.
- Anthony Costanzo has surrendered 6 sacks in 10 games of the 2017 NFL Season after allowing 6.5 sacks in 16 starts last year. Costanzo hasn't allowed a sack in the last two games heading into the Colts' bye week. Costanzo may get cut to save more cap space and if he does do not be surprised if Chukwuma Okorafor the Western Michigan left tackle comes off the board here. He played well against Clowney so he's safe for now and he gets a reliable left guard next to him in Nelson.
Los Angeles Chargers: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
- The Chargers get the successor to Philip Rivers here. Lamar Jackson has jumped Josh Rosen as my second best quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. He's worth taking as the sixth overall pick. Los Angeles will own a tiebreaker over the Cardinals and Jets if all three of these teams go 5-11 so the Chargers don't have the luxury to pass on Lamar if they want the successor to Rivers.
Arizona Cardinals: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
- Arizona is going to need a quarterback in 2018. Getting Josh Rosen at 7 here is a great deal. Many still consider Rosen the best quarterback in the draft. While I felt that way for the past few weeks, I feel Baker Mayfield has done enough to surpass him at the moment as well as Lamar Jackson.
New York Jets: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
- None of the quarterbacks are on the board for the Jets at 8 even after McCown's bad week. I don't see the Jets taking a quarterback in 2018 unless Rosen or Lamar dropped to 8. I am giving the Jets Minkah Fitzpatrick at 8 since he's teh best non quarterback on the board.
- At the same time, Buster Skryne got penalized way too much versus Miami and I think the Jets would give McCown an extension if he keeps playing well. That's why the Jets go with the best player available rather than addresss a huge need during the draft by taking the quarterback. I would probably give New York a C+ grade if they did this in real life, but from a team and business standpoint as far as Sport Management goes I can see the Jets front office passing on a quarterback for Minkah Fitzpatrick especially if most scouts view him as the best overall player on the board at this point because Skryne needs to go. Personally, I see the Jets keeping McCown if Darnold goes back unless the front office decides to fire Todd Bowles because new regimes mean new quarterbacks.
- Most scouts believe Minkah Fitzpatrick is a top 5 prospect and he provides great value at 8. Minkah is basically a bigger version of Skyrne who has way more versatility, plays more aggressive, gets penalized less. He upgrades your only weakness in that backfield giving the Jets a lethal secondary that can surpass the Patriots in that division down the road if they keep developing their safety tandem.
Cleveland Browns: Derwin James, FS, Florida State
- Holton Hill is better than any receiver in this draft. He's no longer guaranteed to get drafted ahead of any receiver with him being suspended for the rest of the 2017 season. Derwin James is the best player on the board. Cleveland is either going to trade this pick at 9 or take Derwin James if they get no offers. Also I don't project trades in mock drafts.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, RE, North Carolina State
- Tampa Bay gets a new 4-3 right end to anchor their pass rush with the tenth pick. Bradley Chubb is a no brainer at 10. He belongs in the top 5. I could honestly see San Francisco pass on Saquon Barkley and take Bradley Chubb instead at 2 if Barkley continues to struggle down the stretch while Chubb continues to dominate. Right now I'm still penciling in Tampa Bay as the ideal team to draft Chubb here at 10.
- Bradley Chubb had 21 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, and 7 quarterback hurries in 2016 making him an ideal defensive end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 6-4 275 lbs. Chubb can rush the quarterback or stop the run. The 6-4 270 lb defensive end lined up at 4-3 right end, 4-3 left end, and 4-3 defensive tackle.
- He took on left tackles, left guards, centers, right guards, and right tackles. He took on any type of offensive lineman and would sacrifice his pass rushing to get to the quarterback by taking on the entire interior offensive line which opened up things for the rest of the defensive line at North Carolina State.
- Chubb has already exceeded his play from 2016 with 21.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, and 10 quarterback hurries in 2017. The stat sheet didn't give him a quarterback hurry on North Carolina's first interception versus Boston College, but I watched the tape and Chubb hurried the quarterback on that play so he has 10 quarterback hurries even if the stat sheet says he only has 9.
- Tampa Bay's 14 sacks are now at thirty. The thing to reflect on is that 6 of those 14 sacks came against a New York Jets team that needs upgrades at both offensive tackle spots. They are only averaging 1 sack per game if you count last weeks game as a mulligan. Drafting a game changer like Bradley Chubb here at 10 changes the state of their defensive line and improves their ability to generate sacks starting in 2018.
Miami Dolphins: Beau Benzschwael, RG, Wisconsin
- Miami gets a right guard. The 6-6 317 lb Beau Benzschawel has excellent tape and could be a riser in similar fashion that Ryan Ramczyk was. Beau Benzschawel played tight end and defensive end in High School. He played right tackle at Wisconsin before converting to right guard where he has dominated the last two years on tape. Benzschwael has done enough to convince that he has the potential to develop into Wisconsin's first right guard to get drafted in the first round since Kevin Zeitler. Miami is in the market for a guard and I think Benzschwael has a chance to become the highest paid guard in the NFL down the road like Zeitler. There is no question he has the highest ceiling after Quenton Nelson after studying his tape closely.
Cincinnati Bengals: Chukwuma Okorafor, LT, Western Michigan
- Cincinnati had needs at left tackle, free safety, and tight end heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. Chukwuma Okorafor is once again my number two ranked offensive tackle with Trey Adams on injured reserve and Connor Williams injured as well. You can also make a case for Orlando Brown here, but I'll give the Bengals Okorafor at 12 in the wake of these injuries.
Denver Broncos: Holton Hill, CB, Texas
- Denver needs a new quarterback. Mason Rudolph's tape versus Oklahoma convinced me he's a second rounder since he also struggled versus TCU. With no quarterbacks or right tackles worth drafting, you'd think 3-4 middle linebacker would be the position to draft. Josiah Ray made an awesome point about how the Broncos never take middle linebackers early.
- At this point Denver will either draft Da'Ron Payne or Holton Hill here. I like Christian Wilkins at defensive tackle more than Payne so I'll play devils advocate and give Denver Holton Hill since he's the best player on the board, plus Elway looked past Shane Ray's off the field concerns. I think Elway realizes that these concerns may be overblown if Holton Hill declares because Marcus Peters had the same issues coming out of Washington, but has been clean in the NFL with the Chiefs, so he may get a younger corner to replace Talib since cutting Talib this offseason saves Denver $11-million compared to the $8-million it would save Denver if they kept him on the roster until 2019.
- Holton Hill is a 6-3 200 lb cornerback who finished this season with 6 deflections for pass breakups, 2 interceptions, and 3 defensive touchdowns. He also kept James Washington and Allen Lazard in check which were probably the two toughest receivers he'd face all season so that's reason enough for me to keep him in the top 16.
- Holton Hill is a field cornerback in the NFL and someone that can replace Talib right away. Think Trumaine Johnson from a size standpoint and Marcus Peters from a coverage standpoint with similar overblown off the field concerns that Peters had. Peters was drafted eighteenth overall back in 2015. With Hill, I don't think the concerns are as sever as Peters concerns were from an off the field standpoint and for that reason I think Hill gets drafted slightly earlier and Denver seems like a good fit if they release Talib at the end of the year who finally got picked apart by Carson Wentz.
Buffalo Bills: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
- Buffalo drafts the best defensive tackle on the board at 14. Christian Wilkins is still my top ranked defensive tackle even though a lot of experts have moved Da'Ron Payne ahead of him now. Buffalo needs a replacement to Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams who will be a Free Agent after this season.
Baltimore Ravens: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
- Baltimore gets a running back here because Woodhead has durability concerns along with the fact that Kenneth Dixon cannot be trusted. Ozzie Newsome may see Jamal Lewis with Love.
Detroit Lions: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
- Detroit may need a replacement to Haloti Ngata. Da'Ron Payne is the best defensive tackle on the board. Vita Vea may be a first rounder, but it's pretty evident after watching him get bullied on some plays by Stanford center Jesse Burkett that he's not in the same ball park as Wilkins or Payne.
Previous Pick: Vita Vea, DT, Washington