With the 2018 NFL Draft only a few weeks away, team needs are as clear as they will ever be after the flurry of veteran trades and free agent signings.
Teams still in search of help at quarterback, running back and along the interior of the lines will find this year’s crop loaded with help. Last year’s record classes at edge rusher and safety, on the other hand, have left those positions relatively barren.
The Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills, each owning five of the first 65 picks of the draft, are in prime position to be big winners. The Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots are also projected to fill key needs over all 100 picks scheduled for Rounds 1-3.
–1. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: Trading for veteran Tyrod Taylor gives the Browns a legitimate starter to play immediately while providing the franchise time to develop its future at the position. Allen would perceived as a gamble over more polished passers, but GM John Dorsey and the scouts on his staff have historically made bold draft-day decisions. Further, no quarterback in this class better fits head coach Hue Jackson’s vertical offense or the challenges of a cold-weather environment. Allen’s 56.2 career completion percentage is worrisome but is not much lower than the numbers put up by former top three picks Matt Ryan (59.9) and Matthew Stafford (57.1) in college.
–2. NEW YORK GIANTS: Sam Darnold, QB, USC: When healthy, the Giants boast a more talented roster than most of the others picking in the top five, making general manager Dave Gettleman’s decision with this pick a fascinating one. He may very opt for the immediate help that edge rusher Bradley Chubb or running back Saquon Barkley would provide. The trade of Jason Pierre-Paul and willingness to at least listen to offers for Odell Beckham Jr., however, signal that Gettleman is building for the future. Darnold (or another young quarterback) to groom behind 37-year old Eli Manning would give head coach Pat Shurmur an ideal foundation to continue New York’s transition, with a trade down to another QB-needy club (Buffalo?) also a strong possibility.
–3. NEW YORK JETS: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: Signing veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater provide the Jets options but considering their recent history — Mark Sanchez and Chad Pennington are the only quarterbacks to start the equivalent of two full seasons for the Jets since the turn of the century — GM Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles know full well how critical it is to find the right quarterback. Rosen is the most polished passer in this draft but his durability concerns require his future NFL team to have other starting-caliber options.
–4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (from HOUSTON TEXANS): Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State:
While the Browns’ quarterback woes have earned plenty of attention, their need for a pass rusher opposite last year’s No. 1 overall selection Myles Garrett is also a significant cause for concern. Garrett struggled with various injuries last season but still managed seven sacks, nearly double that of any other member of Cleveland’s defense. Chubb is a proven playmaker who enters the NFL with even better technique and consistency than the freakishly athletic Garrett, giving aggressive defensive coordinator Gregg Williams the tandem to terrorize opponents.
–5. DENVER BRONCOS: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State:
John Elway did not win his first Super Bowl as a player until the Broncos complemented his brilliant passing with Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis. With Case Keenum signed to start at quarterback and the top three young prospects at that position off the board, Elway may choose to add more horsepower to the Broncos’ stable of runners, a relatively pedestrian including former starters C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker, as well as second-year pro De’Angelo Henderson. Barkley could excel against the wide-open run defenses of the AFC West.
–6. INDIANPOLIS COLTS: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: The Colts’ decision to trade back is perhaps the best indication yet that the club is satisfied with Andrew Luck’s recovery. Acquiring three second-round picks (including the Jets’ 2019 selection) to move down three spots and still have arguably the best player in the entire draft available? That’s a huge win for the Colts, who could use Nelson’s size, athleticism and nastiness inside.
–7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: href=”http://www.draftscout.com/members/ratings/profile.php?pyid=1002656″ rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Derwin James, SS, Florida State:
The Bucs overhauled their defensive line to create more of a pass rush, but the secondary still could use an infusion of playmakers. Plugging in a versatile athlete like James into a deep patrol tasked with handling divisional weapons like Devontae Freeman (Falcons), Alvin Kamara (Saints) and Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) makes sense.
–8. CHICAGO BEARS: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech: It is perhaps appropriate that Bears’ legendary middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was voted into Canton this year as Chicago could find itself in position to add a similar physical specimen in the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Edmunds, a freakish athlete, who at just 19-years-old is still just scratching the surface of his potential.
–9. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama: Fitzpatrick possesses an ideal blend of instincts, athleticism and size, which helped him line up wherever Nick Saban most needed him on a game by game basis at Alabama. Few will appreciate that versatility more than former Tampa Bay Pro Bowl safety (and current 49ers GM) John Lynch. Pairing Fitzpatrick with Richard Sherman … suddenly, San Francisco might boast the most formidable secondary in the NFC West.
–10. OAKLAND RAIDERS: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: Despite boasting a terrific 1-2 set of edge rushers in Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, the Raiders featured one of the league’s leakiest secondaries in 2017 and finished with an NFL-low five interceptions. Ward is a true cover corner, blanketing receivers due to his exceptional quickness and speed.
–11. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Vita Vea, DT, Washington:
The release of costly defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh provided the Dolphins with cap relief but left the roster weak at defensive tackle. Vea offers a similarly freakish combination of size, power and athleticism as Suh but comes at a much cheaper price.
–12. BUFFALO BILLS Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: The Bills’ trade of starting left tackle Cordy Glenn to the Bengals is a thinly veiled plan to be in better position to take advantage of the talent in this year’s quarterback class with another trade into the top five possible, if not likely. After working with Tyrod Taylor and Cam Newton, defensive-minded head coach Sean McDermott might be more comfortable than most with a dual-threat quarterback like Mayfield operating the offense. Despite signing AJ McCarron in the offseason, the Bills have shown plenty of interest in this year’s top quarterbacks, including Mayfield, who was scheduled for a two-day visit April 9-10 at the team facility.
–13. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia: Following the splashy trade for Alex Smith, Washington might turn its attention to adding a quarterback on defense. Smith, the 2017 Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker, lacks ideal bulk but his speed to the flanks and in coverage makes him perfectly suited to today’s pass-happy NFL.
–14. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College: With an aging roster that still ranks among the best in the NFC, new general manager Brian Gutekunst may be looking to make a splash with his first selection. Landry’s numbers plummeted in 2017 after ranking among national leaders in sacks, tackles for loss and fumbles as a junior but his burst and bend off the edge is unparalleled in this class — attributes that Gutekunst may find appealing with Clay Matthews Jr. and Nick Perry each struggling with durability concerns.
–15. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: From a style perspective, Jackson could not be more different than Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, the two cement-footed veteran signal-callers the Cardinals signed in the offseason. That is all the more reason why Jackson might make sense in Arizona, especially given that new head coach Steve Wilks and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy come with a lot of experience working with athletic quarterbacks.
–16. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: Despite using multiple draft picks and investing in free agents, the Ravens’ receiving corps essentially remains a black hole for production with Baltimore ranking last (and by a significant margin) with just 5.7 yards per passing attempt in 2017. Filling a position of need with one last pick from his alma mater might be the perfect send-off for retiring general manager Ozzie Newsome.
–17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama: Veteran nose guard Brandon Mebane was a solid signing, but his best days are behind him. The Chargers — who ranked last in the league in 2017 by allowing 4.9 yards per carry — would likely jump at the chance to fortify the middle with the powerful (and aptly named) Payne.
–18. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: The Seahawks already spent their second- and third-round picks of the 2018 draft, landing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (Jets) and offensive tackle Duane Brown (Texans) in trades, leaving general manager John Schneider with essentially two choices here — either trade back to recoup picks or directly address the club’s anemic running game. The 5-foot-11, 218-pound Guice possesses the combination of burst, balance through contact and toughness Seattle has lacked since Marshawn Lynch left town.
–19. DALLAS COWBOYS: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan: Hurst’s draft stock was in flux after medical tests at the Combine indicated an abnormality with his heart, although he was later cleared to resume football activities. It should be noted that a similar test did not keep the Carolina Panthers from making then-Utah defensive Star Lotulelei the 14th overall pick five years ago. The Cowboys have shown a willingness to gamble on medical red flags in the past and could see as the perfect interior complement to explosive edge rusher Demarcus Lawrence.
–20. DETROIT LIONS: James Daniels, C, Iowa: With starting center Travis Swanson off to the Jets, the Lions could look to the draft for a replacement. Daniels possesses rare quickness and length for an interior offensive lineman, projecting as a Day One starter.
–21. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Marcus Davenport, DE, UT-San Antonio: Last year’s selection of speedy wideout John Ross proved yet again that the Bengals are more willing than most to gamble on athletic upside. While still quite raw, few offer more intriguing potential than Davenport, a 6-6, 264-pounder with 4.58 speed who could go earlier than many expect due to his own upside, as well as the relative lack of top-end edge rushers in this year’s draft.
–22. BUFFALO BILLS: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia: The Bills gained draft capital by trading away Cordy Glenn but do not currently appear to have the players on the roster to handle losing its best blocker. Like Glenn, Wynn stood out at left tackle at Georgia but has the build some feel is better suited for guard.
–23. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (via RAMS): Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Proving that there is more than one way to make his future Hall of Fame quarterback happy, Bill Belichick nabs a massive, long-armed left tackle to take the place of Nate Solder (who is now with the Giants) with the selection picked up in the Brandin Cooks.
–24. CAROLINA PANTHERS: Connor Williams, OT, Texas: If there is a silver lining for Panthers fans upset with the loss of guard Andrew Norwell it is that there should be several quality replacements via this pick. Williams, a coordinated, powerful blocker, played tackle at Texas but projects as a guard for some clubs due to his 33-inch arms.
–25. TENNESSEE TITANS: Rashaan Evans, OLB, Alabama: The Titans could see Evans as a plug and play starter and ideal match with Wesley Woodyard after losing inside linebacker Avery Williamson to the Jets in the offseason. Evans is the classic ‘Bama ‘backer, athletic, tough and well-coached.
–26. ATLANTA FALCONS: Taven Bryan, DL, Florida:
The Falcons boast one of the better young defensive tackles in the game in Grady Jarrett but have little besides him on the roster. Jarrett’s ability to disrupt from the interior would be that much more effective with a complementary threat like Bryan, whose raw talent likely would intrigue Dan Quinn, a former defensive line coach at Florida.
–27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State: Second-year wideout Michael Thomas emerged as one of the league’s best last season but adding another talented pass-catcher to this offense could make the Saints virtually impossible to defend. While not quite as big as former star Jimmy Graham (who considered re-signing in New Orleans before inking with Green Bay), Gesicki possesses a similar ability to attack the seam.
–28. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State: The frightening spinal injury to star Ryan Shazier could force the Steelers to strongly consider investing an early pick at inside linebacker. Some will criticize Vander Esch as a one-year wonder at Boise State, but the same criticism also followed standout rookie T.J. Watt at Wisconsin. Like Watt, Vander Esch has the motor Steelers fans will love, as well as the length, athleticism and playmaking ability to earn a first-round selection.
–29. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland: Moving on from Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, Julian Thomas and Marcedes Lewis means that pass-catcher jobs in Jacksonville are literally up for grabs. Built more like a running back than a traditional receiver at 6-0, 210 pounds, Moore could be the perfect slant and screen game weapon to penalize defenses loading the box against the run.
–30. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Will Hernandez, OG, Texas-El Paso: The retirement of longtime starting right guard Joe Berger further muddies the offensive line charged with protecting splashy free agent signee Kirk Cousins. Powerful, competitive and durable at a position of concern, Hernandez would be a quality addition to a roster built for a Super Bowl run.
–31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa: With Malcolm Butler now in Tennessee, Bill Belichick will be on the lookout for another playmaking cornerback with Jackson — who led the country with eight interceptions in 2017 — a logical candidate for the perimeter.
–32. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama: The Super Bowl champs boast one of the more complete rosters in the NFL but could use an intimidator in the back end. Harrison remains better against the run than the pass at this point, but he could be afforded a “redshirt” year with veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod already in place in Philadelphia.
- CLEVELAND BROWNS: Ronald Jones II, RB, USC — Carlos Hyde was signed to be the hammer, but he’ll be more effective with a game-breaker like Jones complementing him.
- NEW YORK GIANTS: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville — Providing insurance against another Eli Apple meltdown with a first-round talent just makes too much sense for a team building for the future.
- CLEVELAND BROWNS (via HOUSTON): Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon — The Browns must fill the huge hole at left tackle due to the retirement of Joe Thomas.
- INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida — Hughes brings ball-skills and tenacity to a Colts’ secondary lacking in both.
- INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (via NEW YORK JETS): Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State — Hubbard isn’t the flashiest edge rusher in this class but he is the kind of reliable defender Indianapolis needs to turn around this defense.
- TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia — None of the three running backs currently on Tampa’s roster are starting caliber.
- CHICAGO BEARS: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA – If Mitchell Trubisky is to take the next step in his second season, he’ll need better protection and weapons to work with.
- DENVER BRONCOS: Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU — If the Broncos opt to go any other direction other than a young quarterback at No. 5 overall, it could signal that Elway and Co. are looking for immediate impact potential.
- OAKLAND RAIDERS: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford — The Raiders must address their leaky middle but won’t have to look far for the best blue collar run-stuffer in the draft.
- MIAMI DOLPHINS: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU — Trading away Jarvis Landry means the Dolphins need to find another reliable set of hands.
- NEW ENGLAND (via SAN FRANCISCO): Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M – There are not many receivers in this class with Cooks’ straight-line speed but Kirk would provide big play potential in the underneath game.
- WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn — Like the Bucs, the Redskins will almost surely address their pedestrian running back corps with a headliner on Day Two.
- GREEN BAY PACKERS: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado — When scoring (and giving up) as many points as the Packers, consistently adding long, playmaking corners is always a priority.
- CINCINNATI BENGALS: Billy Price, C/OG, Ohio State — Last year’s starting center Russell Bodine is no longer on the roster and Price would be a terrific value at this point in the draft.
- ARIZONA CARDINALS: DJ Chark, WR, LSU — A perfect complementary speed threat (and willing blocker) to help the Cardinals re-establish their offense.
- LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Rasheem Green, DL, USC — The Chargers finished tied for dead last in run defense a year ago. Expect heavy investments in the front seven.
- INDIANAPOLS COLTS (via JETS, SEAHAWKS): Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia — The best way to ensure that Andrew Luck succeeds in his comeback would be to protect him with a legitimate bell cow runner.
- DALLAS COWBOYS: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma — Jason Witten can’t last forever.
- DETROIT LIONS: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn — Long and physical, Davis would provide the Lions with the stopper in the secondary it has been lacking.
- BALTIMORE RAVENS: Justin Reid, FS, Stanford — Eric Weddle isn’t going to last forever.
- BUFFALO BILLS: Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State — A star at the Senior Bowl, the Canadian-born Shepherd has the size, power and versatility that could intrigue defensive-minded head coach Sean McDermott.
- KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama — With Marcus Peters no longer on the roster, the Chiefs must find pro-ready help for the secondary.
- CAROLINA PANTHERS: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State — Adding a vertical threat like Washington to the Panthers’ offense should open up things in the short and intermediate levels for last year’s top picks Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel.
- BUFFALO BILLS (via RAMS): Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State — Trading away Cordy Glenn opens up a huge hole at tackle. The similarly-built Rankin could help fill it.
- TENNESSEE TITANS: Austin Corbett, OG, Nevada — The Titans already boast one of the NFL’s better young lines but adding a versatile tough guy like Corbett could make the glue that much stronger.
- ATLANTA FALCONS: Donte Jackson, CB, LSU — Sheer speed is always a top priority when matching up against the weapons at receiver in the NFC South.
- SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (via SAINTS): Dante Pettis, WR, Washington — Finding a reliable flanker to serve as Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target will be a draft-day priority and few offer more consistent hands and routes than UW’s Pettis.
- PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State — The Steelers are looking hard at young quarterbacks to groom behind Ben Roethlisberger and may see Rudolph’s accuracy on deep passes as the perfect fit.
- JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina — Adding a seam threat like Hurst to pair with veteran free agent Austin Seferian-Jenkins would make it that much tougher on defenses trying to slow down Leonard Fournette and Co.
- MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan — The Vikings prioritize size along the line of scrimmage and might be intrigued by the 6-6, 320 pound Okorafor’s versatility and upside.
- NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State — Regardless of Rob Gronkowski’s plans, the Patriots will want to find another seam threat to keep their offense running smoothly.
- CLEVELAND BROWNS (via EAGLES): Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame — Josh Gordon is clearly the go-to option in Hue Jackson’s deep vertical game but the Browns would be wise to add a similarly built backup option to maintain continuity.
- BUFFALO BILLS (via BROWNS): Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
- NEW YORK GIANTS: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
- INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Jerome Baker, OLB, Ohio State
- HOUSTON TEXANS: Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
- NEW YORK GIANTS (via BUCCANEERS): Kemoko Turay, DE/OLB, Rutgers
- SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (via BEARS): Micah Kiser, ILB, Virginia
- DENVER BRONCOS: Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky
- NEW YORK JETS: Uchenna Nwosu, OLB, USC
- MIAMI DOLPHINS: Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama
- SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
- OAKLAND RAIDERS: Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
- GREEN BAY PACKERS: Rashaan Gaulden, CB/S, Tennessee
- CINCINNATI BENGALS: Malik Jefferson, ILB, Texas
- KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (via REDSKINS): Frank Ragnow, C/OG, Arkansas
- ARIZONA CARDINALS: Jessie Bates III, FS, Wake Forest
- HOUSTON TEXANS (via SEAHAWKS): Tim Settle, NG, Virginia Tech
- DALLAS COWBOYS: Josey Jewell, ILB, Iowa
- DETROIT LIONS: Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
- BALTIMORE RAVENS: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB/DE, Oklahoma
- LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
- CAROLINA PANTHERS (via BILLS): Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
- KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
- LOS ANGELES RAMS: Nyheim Hines, RB, North Carolina State
- CAROLINA PANTHERS: John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
- TENNESSEE TITANS: Fred Warner, OLB, BYU
- ATLANTA FALCONS: Shaquem Griffin, OLB, Central Florida
- NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Breeland Speaks, DE, Mississippi
92: PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Jaylen Samuels, RB, North Carolina State
- JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU
94: MINNESOTA VIKINGS: R.J. McIntosh, DT, Miami
- NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
96: BUFFALO BILLS (via EAGLES): Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T
- ARIZONA CARDINALS (compensatory): Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State
- HOUSTON TEXANS (compensatory): Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
- DENVER BRONCOS (compensatory): Isaac Yiadom, CB, Boston College
- CINCINNATI BENGALS (compensatory): Geron Christian, OT, Louisville