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Pre-Free Agency Mock Draft

The NFL Combine is about to kick off. NFL Free Agency is two weeks away. Guys, it’s the most wonderful time of the year (unless you’re an Eagles fan, for obvious reasons). Mock Draft season is upon us and over here at NFL Girl UK we’ve done the maths, read the history, and stared into our mystic balls to decipher which NFL prospect is getting picked in the first round of the NFL Draft.

There are no mock trades in this draft. They will come later. Doing a mock before free agency is always difficult as team needs are likely to change depending on who is signed where (*ahem, Kirk Cousins, ahem*). The NFL combine is also still to take place, in deep positional classes (e.g. wide receiver, corner) this can’t come soon enough to help separate prospects into ranked tiers. Thank you to Ben, Duncan, George, and Johnny for getting involved.

  1. Cleveland Browns / @joshcallan23 / Sam Darnold, QB, USC

New General Manager John Dorsey has to find the Cleveland Browns their franchise quarterback. The Browns take the QB with the best overall traits in the 2018 class. Darnold will be one of the youngest players in the draft (he will be 20 years old on draft night) and ideally he would sit for a year to develop. He won’t be afforded that opportunity in Cleveland, he will have to learn on the job, but Darnold’s overall skillset should see him be the first name called out on Draft Night.

2. New York Giants / @benrolfe15 / Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Trading is not an option in this mock but if it was I would try and trade down. Outside of receiver and maybe tight end I feel like the New York Giants need a whole new offence so trying to get more talent especially on that offensive line would be my goal here. I am also not completely sold on Rosen but I think he has the talent to be good if treated properly. A year under Manning seems like the right treatment and I think out of him and Mayfield, Rosen handles a year holding a clipboard better.

3. Indianapolis Colts / @DuncanJTerry / Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Barkley and Chubb are still available but the Indianapolis Colts have needs all over. They haven’t had a good offensive line in years. If they want to score points they need their QB on their feet. If they want Andrew Luck to complete his career rather than retire early with a serious injury, they have to protect him. Nelson is set to be a superstar.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans) / @geosomerville / Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

With the Cleveland Browns choosing a rookie over a free agency QB, Hugh Jackson will need to rely on the help of a sound running game. Barkley, in a scenario not unlike Elliott and Prescott at Dallas can provide that out ball. Barkley is also the best athlete in the draft, so the Browns get themselves a QB and arguably the player with the best engine in the draft with their first two picks.

5. Denver Broncos / @cumbleton / Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

I’m presuming that the Denver Broncos address the QB position through free agency here but they’ll also want to get their franchise quarterback in place for the first time since Peyton Manning. They will love Mayfield’s ability to process, extend plays and throw with accuracy and the leadership of the guy is without doubt. Could he kick start Denver’s resurgence?

6. New York Jets / @benrolfe15 / Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

The New York Jets have tried adding talent elsewhere in the past and just trying to get by with whatever QB that presents himself. I think they need to change that and Josh Allen is rated as high as 2nd by some at the position coming into the draft.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers / @DuncanJTerry / Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were tough, they have a shopping list of needs such as end, running back, and corner back, yet Barkley is off the board and I don’t fancy Ward or Jackson this early in the draft, Fitzpatrick could be a great fit but Bradley Chubb is too bright a talent to leave available. Should be a difference maker for the Bucs.

8. Chicago Bears / @joshcallan23 / Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

The Chicago Bears add a defensive leader and swiss-armky knife to their secondary. Still not sure what Minkah’s best position is, the Bears have a more pressing need at corner rather than safety so I would like to project him here. Given the amount of nickel being played in the NFL, Minkah won’t have any issues getting on the field as a rookie.

9. San Francisco 49ers / @geosomerville / Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Jimmy Garoppolo needs targets and at Wide Receiver, Calvin Ridley from Alabama has proven himself to be the best wide receiver available in the draft. If Garoppolo needs targets, this is a no brainer for the San Francisco 49ers.

10. Oakland Raiders / @cumbleton / Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

A team that many expected to push for the playoffs last season, the Oakland Raiders disappointed in most aspects. Nowhere was this more obvious than at cornerback where they allowed big play after big play. John Gruden may look to get his guys in place to put his stamp on the team but for me corner is the first area that must be addressed and with Fitzpatrick gone I’m giving them Ohio State star Denzel Ward. Ward is physical at the line of scrimmage in press situations but where he really excels is coming back to the ball in man or zone coverage. A ball hawking corner, OSU cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told reporters that Ward was a “gifted player” and should immediately upgrade the Raiders defence, especially if they also address the position in free agency.

11. Miami Dolphins / @joshcallan23 / Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

The Miami Dolphins go best player available here and instantly upgrade their linebacker corps. I would love to project offensive line help here but I’m not sure the value is there. In Smith the Dolphins get one of the best players in the 2018 draft who will add athleticism and range to their linebacker group. Smith could prove to be an excellent coverage linebacker.

12. Cincinnati Bengals / @benrolfe15 / Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

I feel like there are so many ways the Cincinnati Bengals need to go. However, the biggest difference maker on this team is AJ Green and getting him the ball has to be a key. Upgrading the offensive line gives Andy Dalton the best chance of doing that.

13. Washington Redskins / @DuncanJTerry / Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

The Washington Redskins graze their knees falling as they speed to the podium to draft this guy. An absolute athlete whether he is rushing the passer or in coverage. Ryan Kerrigan has had to wait 7 years but he finally gets some help in the linebacker corps.

14. Green Bay Packers / @geosomverville / Lorenzo Carter, OLB, Georgia

Despite the Packers struggling for depth at OLB last season, it is entirely possible the Green Bay Packers thinks about moving Clay Matthews on to free up cap space. While a controversial pick for the first round, Carter adopted an aggression in his final year at Georgia that NFL scouts said was absent in previous seasons. A five star recruit who is equally at home in a 3-4 or 4-3 system, Carter could be a future Hall of Famer at Lambeau.

15. Arizona Cardinals / @cumbleton / Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Perhaps the most physically gifted prospect in the draft, Jackson had an impressive 2016 season which lead to him winning the Heisman Trophy. Many experts thought he was even better in 2017 and he has been compared to former Falcon and Eagles star Michael Vick.  Despite this he’s dividing expert opinion over whether he’ll be a star, with some even suggesting he should move to wide receiver. At pick 15 he represents great value and trades the Louisville Cardinals for the Arizona Cardinals, fulfilling an area of need. He has the arm strength to make Larry Fitzgerald his new best friend and will benefit from running back David Johnson returning from injury and removing the need for him to throw every down.

16. Baltimore Ravens / @joshcallan23 / Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Projecting wide receivers before the NFL combine is a difficult exercise in itself, but the Baltimore Ravens need help in that position so they’ve selected one of the top prospects at the position in Courtland Sutton. With a 6-foot-4, 218 pound frame Sutton could become a contested catch specialist and give QB Joe Flacco a much needed consistent downfield option.

17. Los Angeles Chargers / @benrolfe15 / Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

A QB here would have been a real consideration but not with the remaining options. Instead I think the Los Angeles Chargers should build a solid offensive line to prolong Rivers career and set a base for the next QB to be drafted.

18. Seattle Seahawks / @DuncanJTerry / Billy Price, OL, Ohio State

It was a really tough choice for the Seattle Seahawks pick, Vita Vea and Da’ron Payne we’re still available, Derwin James seems like the logical replacement for Kam Chancellor. It’s Billy Price for me though, I’m drafting him as a guard and a replacement for Luke Joeckel. He is on far too much money for the value he represents. Seattle have always had a challenge on the offensive line and with a new coach and young players with lots of potential, they have the chance to grow as a unit and at least be ‘ok’ going forward.

19. Dallas Cowboys / @geosomerville / Vita Vea, DT, Washington

The Dallas Cowboys are really in need of a disruptive defensive tackle. Vea out of Washington is an incredible talent who can bring a very effective interior pass rush presence to Dallas. Vea has the potential to be a game changer for the Cowboys.

20. Detroit Lions / @cumbleton / Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

Anyone who has watched the Detroit Lions play any time in the last decade will have noticed one thing, the lack of a consistent running back. This has been the case since Barry Sanders retired and the Lions look to LSU star Darius Guice to rectify this. Guice is a hard running back with good vision who can catch passes if needed. He has exceptional footwork and possesses home run ability. His production dropped in 2017 but he still posted 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns on 237 carries (18 receptions, 124 yards, two touchdowns receiving).

21. Buffalo Bills / @joshcallan23 / Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

The Buffalo Bills select their franchise quarterback of the future, hopefully. The Bills will be a candidate to trade up in the NFL Draft – unfortunately trades aren’t allowed in this exercise so the Bills have to take the best available quarterback on the board. Rudolph fits the supposed desired skillset for a Bills quarterback, a traditional pocket passer who demonstrated consistency at the college level, whether this relates to the NFL game will remain to be seen.

22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs) / @benrolfe15 / Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

By backing up a QB with a big DT the Buffalo Bills have set their defence around preventing the run and have replaced Marcel Dareus.

23. Los Angeles Rams / @DuncanJTerry / Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

Things are about to get quite expensive for the Los Angeles Rams, cap space will be at a premium and that’s before Goff and Gurley get their contracts. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson has been franchise tagged for 2 years in a row and this season safety Lemarcus Joyner is a likely candidate. The Rams could use some new elite talent in the secondary.

24. Carolina Panthers / @geosomerville / Equanimeous St Brown, WR, Notre Dame

Having traded Kelvin Benjamin the Carolina Panthers are in need of assistance at Wide Receiver. St Brown, he of the unusual first name, has been touted as an NFL quarterback’s dream. At 6’5” his height and catch radius make it very hard for defenders to beat him to the ball. The perfect target for Cam?

25. Tennessee Titans / @cumbleton / Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSC

Watching the Senior Bowl Davenport stood out at times. He had to overcame two lackluster days of Senior Bowl practices to show he could his potential but was unstoppable late in the week. What scouts had seen from him all year also showed up when it became game time. He recorded a half sack and scored a TD on a fumble recovery. Although his performance wasn’t always flashy, the North team had to account for him consistently. He should set the edge well and has good scheme diversity and is an aggressive tackler who will make an impact on a Tennessee Titans defence that often failed to hit the mark in 2017.

26. Atlanta Falcons / @joshcallan23 / Taven Bryan, DL, Florida

The Atlanta Falcons possess one of the most talent-rich rosters in the NFL and their defensive line just got better with the selection of Taven Bryan. Bryan has immense upside; his best trait currently is his athletic ability, if he can develop the nuisances of defensive line play then the Falcons have got a steal in the 2018 draft.

27. New Orleans Saints / @benrolfe15 / Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

Let’s get a centre piece for this New Orleans Saints defence to work around. The offence has the ability but the defence needs to strengthen and Evans offers that.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers / @DuncanJTerry / Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State

A good fit for the Pittsburgh Steelers with his energy and commitment to the tackle. The Steelers had a need at ILB even before the terrible injury to Ryan Shazier. There are some high value picks already having success on the Steelers defence but the offence is really set right now with a strong line, Bell (who will be re-signed), Brown and now Smith-Schuster.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars / @geosomerville / Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

In 2017 the Jacksonville Jaguars had very little depth at tight end and in Hurst, the Jags would get the best TE in the draft. Another weapon to help Blake Bortles, on the assumption Bortles stays, means this pick has the potential to elevate the Jaguars beyond last years very successful season.

30. Minnesota Vikings / @cumbleton / Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia

What the Eagles were able to do to the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs was in part due to the Vikings interior offensive line. The Vikings can take advantage of an early run on quarterbacks and grab a player that could play guard or tackle in the NFL. He’s athletic and blocks well in both the pass and the run. Although he’s not as tall as some teams may like he should fit the bill here with his aggressive play.

31. New England Patriots / @benrolfe15 / Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

I actually don’t think corner is the biggest need on this defence but the New England Patriots do need a corner with Malcom Butler on his way out and Jackson is better value than any of the pass rushers available here.

32. Philadelphia Eagles / @cumbleton / Josey Jewell, ILB, Iowa

With the final pick in the first round the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles can afford to pick for need as they have 20 of 22 starters returning. The main area of concern for me is linebacker. Jordan Hicks has proven a great player when healthy and Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendicks both had good years but behind that there’s no depth to speak of. Picking Iowa’s Josey Jewell may not be a house hold name yet but his impressive play in the middle of the field would give the Eagles options from day one. Deceptively athletic, he will be a plug and play piece in the middle for Philly and whilst not the most headline making pick he will get on the field early and often.


That closes out our first mock draft of the off-season. I was keen to get something out before free agency as these draft selections might also provide an insight into the free agency needs of NFL teams. That does also mean that these projections are likely to change, I’d be shocked if six quarterbacks are taken in the first round – I expect that number to reduce as free agent QBs are signed. The most surprising omission in this first round mock draft is Florida State’s safety Derwin James – typically NFL GMs are averse to spending first round picks on the safety position but given James’ comparison to Kam Chancellor, and the successes of Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker in 2017, I would expect James to hear his name called out in the first round of the NFL Draft. The most surprising inclusion was the Carolina Panthers selecting Equanimeous St Brown – evaluating wide receivers before the NFL Combine is a difficult task, and St Brown does have a fantastic natural frame to work with in the NFL, but I’m not sure the Panthers select a wide receiver of similar style to Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess.

The highest reach in this mock draft for me is the Green Bay Packers selecting OLB Lorenzo Carter, the Packers do have an outside pass rush need and Carter could develop into an NFL starter, but unless he dominates the Combine then Carter shouldn’t expect to hear his name called until Day Two of the NFL Draft. In terms of a prospect falling, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could pull a hamstring when running to the podium to select Bradley Chubb. The Buccaneers are desperate for help rushing the passer and Chubb landing in Tampa would solve a lot of their issues. My favourite pick: Derrius Guice to the Detroit Lions. Guice could be the first Lions running back to top 100 rushing yards in a game since Reggie Bush in November 2013.

That’s all for now folks, thank you for following along. Be sure to keep an eye out for more 2018 NFL Draft coverage here on the blog.

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