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The NFL draft never goes according to plan, nor should anyone expect it to.
The 2018 event in Arlington, Texas, is only 10 days away, and nothing is certain. The lying season is in full swing, and multiple options are available for every franchise.
The Cleveland Browns aren’t locked into any specific course due to the availability of several talented quarterback prospects, specifically Wyoming’s Josh Allen and USC’s Sam Darnold. Every other team’s decision will be a byproduct of the cascading effect started by the Browns’ stranglehold of the top four overall.
The tea leaves must be read to better understand who each organization prefers based on visits, private workouts and overall interest throughout the predraft process.
Trades weren’t considered to avoid an innumerable amount of possibilities.
When all is said and done, teams will have selected six quarterbacks, Penn State’s Saquon Barkly won’t be counted among the top five picks and only one wide receiver will have heard his named called in Bleacher Report’s latest first-round mock draft.
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The Cleveland Browns don’t have any other choice but to select a quarterback with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Well, technically, they do. However, the organization can’t pass on the opportunity to choose its preferred candidate from a strong quarterback class.
USC’s Sam Darnold is the preferred choice of 17 different teams, according to NFL Network’s Charley Casserly. Cleveland’s decision boils down to Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen.
Darnold is further advanced as an anticipatory thrower and overall playmaker. His high-end throws in difficult situations are much better, while Allen still struggles with pre- and post-snap reads, decision-making and pocket presence.
The 20-year-old nicknamed “Flatline” has the perfect mentality to lead a franchise.
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The 2018 NFL draft truly begins with the second overall pick since the Cleveland Browns are destined to select a quarterback with the top choice. The New York Giants have plenty of options.
General manager Dave Gettleman can take one of three paths. The second pick could serve as the first round’s fulcrum point in a trade-down scenario allowing another team to select its preferred signal-caller. The Giants could choose Eli Manning’s heir apparent. Or, a team in win-now mode selects its highest rated player.
According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Giants came away “extremely impressed” by North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb during his official visit. Chubb can replace Jason Pierre-Paul in the lineup.
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The New York Jets spent the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft to select LSU’s Jamal Adams. The safety’s value increased due to his leadership skills. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield can be a similar catalyst on offense.
The undersized quarterback operates with a massive chip on his shoulder and an infectious attitude.
“If I want to be a franchise guy, there are certain things I can’t do,” Mayfield said at the combine, per Ethan Greenberg of the Jets official site. “But I’m still going to be competitive and passionate. That’s what has gotten me to this point and I talk about it. And I’m upfront about it.”
These qualities only add to the fact he’s the class’ most accurate and efficient quarterback.
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The Cleveland Browns secondary is far from complete even after the additions of Damarious Randall, T.J. Carrie, E.J. Gaines and Terrance Mitchell. The unit still lacks a true cover corner.
Penn State’s Saquon Barkley seems to be the logical choice at No. 4, but the Browns already have Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson with a chance to select a talented running back later in the process.
The speed (4.33 40-yard dash), fluidity and coverage skills that Ohio State’s Denzel Ward presents can’t be had later in the draft. Ward gives the Browns a cornerback who can turn and run with any NFL receiver.
Darnold and Ward address two of the NFL’s four cornerstone positions, and the Browns still have three second-round selections.
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The Denver Broncos must be wary of teams jumping in front of them to a select a quarterback. A legitimate possibility exists where four quarterbacks are chosen among the first four selections. This will leave the Broncos out in the cold if they want to draft their future face of the franchise.
In this scenario, UCLA’s Josh Rosen is available and the obvious choice. Case Keenum is the team’s short-term starter after he signed a two-year contract in free agency. The 30-year-old isn’t the team’s answer at quarterback, though.
Rosen is this year’s most polished prospect. The Chosen One is a fundamentally sound passer with more experience in pro-style concepts than anyone in this class. He’s a natural.
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The Indianapolis Colts appear to have two obvious options with the sixth overall pick: Take one of the top two overall talents in Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, or trade down again.
Both of those moves make sense yet overlook another possibility in former Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
First, the running back and interior linemen classes are loaded, and the Colts could land very good prospects at each position later in the process. Second, general manager Chris Ballard worked in the Chicago Bears scouting department as the organization built a defense around Brian Urlacher (No. 9 overall in 2000). Third, new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is a Rod Marinelli disciple, and the middle linebacker is crucial to his system’s success.
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Penn State’s Saquon Barkley may be the most talented prospect in this year’s class regardless of position. Unfortunately for him, position value matters. Furthermore, the incoming running back group is stacked.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ patience is rewarded with Barkley sliding to the seventh overall pick.
Barkley adds to Tampa Bay’s already potent offense featuring quarterback Jameis Winston, tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard and wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.
The Buccaneers finished 27th overall last season in rushing offense (90.6 yards per game) and yards per carry (3.7). Plus, Barkley is a weapon in the passing game. Fellow running back Charles Sims, who managed 35 receptions last season, remains a free agent.
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The Quenton Nelson-Harry Hiestand relationship could and should continue with the Chicago Bears.
“He’s developed me into the player I am today,” Nelson said of the former Notre Dame and current Bears O-line coach at the combine, per 670 The Score’s Chris Emma. “It would be awesome to continue that development.”
The organization opened itself up to this possibility when it released veteran left guard Josh Sitton. Nelson can slide into the spot with the potential to provide Pro Bowl and All-Pro performances for the next decade.
The previous statement may seem hyperbolic, but Nelson is legitimately the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson. The Notre Dame product is tremendous at the point of attack, a solid technician and reliable pass protector.
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The San Francisco 49ers continue to stockpile collegiate defensive ends after selecting one in the first round of the previous three drafts. But Harold Landry’s skill set is different compared to Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas.
Landry is a pure edge-rusher and arguably the best in the class due to his quickness, flexibility and ability to bend the edge.
The defensive end amassed 21.5 sacks the last two seasons with an FBS-leading 16.5 during the 2016 campaign. Landry only played in nine game as a senior due to an ankle injury.
The 49ers tied for 26th overall in 2017 with 30 sacks before letting Aaron Lynch leave in free agency and not picking up Elvis Dumervil’s option.
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Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey is the only offensive tackle in this year’s class worthy of a first-round selection. The All-American’s draft value could far exceed expectations considering the dearth of talent compared to overall demand.
McGlinchey isn’t in the same class as recent tackle prospects, yet he has the requisite size (6’8″, 312 lbs), length and technique teams prefer.
The Oakland Raiders are not positioned well to protect Derek Carr for an extended period. Donald Penn turns 35 years old later this month. Meanwhile, right tackle is wide open even after signing Breno Giacomini, who allowed constant pressure on Houston Texans quarterbacks last season.
McGlinchey can start his career at right tackle before taking over for Penn.
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Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is “smitten” with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, according to The MMQB’s Albert Breer. While QB may be on the organization’s radar, the team isn’t in position to select the coach’s favorite target.
As such, the Dolphins can concentrate on finding a quarterback for their defense.
According to the Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson, “The Dolphins view linebacker as a bigger need than defensive tackle” and have been “impressed” by Roquan Smith’s all-around skills.
The reigning Butkus Award winner is an instinctive defender with sideline-to-sideline range and coverage skills. Smith led the 2017 Georgia Bulldogs with 13