— -- We're through the evaluation process of the? Senior Bowl, and the combine (Feb. 27-March 5) is on deck.?The picture for the 2018 NFL draft is becoming clearer, though we still have to get through free agency -- and the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes -- before we have a better idea of?what all 32 teams need.
Since my first mock draft in mid-January, we've seen the Eagles win the Super Bowl, Alex Smith traded to Washington and all of the vacant head-coaching openings filled. So, yeah, there are quite a few changes in my new projection of Picks 1-32, which you can read below:
A few reminders before I get started:
- Upcoming combine testing, medicals, pro days and individual workouts are?extremely important to the process, and draft boards will change a lot based on those.
- There are no trades allowed in this projection, and several of these picks are based on who I think is the best player available. In some cases, I have identified a few needs that could be targeted.
- An asterisk denotes a prospect who is an underclassmen.
- The 49ers and Raiders are tied at Nos. 9 and 10, and the picks will be decided by a coin flip at the combine. For the purposes of this projection, I'm sticking with San Francisco for the ninth pick.
My new Big Board and position rankings can be found? here.?Let's dig in to Mock Draft 2.0:
Quick links: First-round draft order | McShay's Mock 2.0 | Kiper's Mock 1.0
1. Cleveland Browns
* Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
I'm sticking with Allen here. The only way I see the Browns not ending up with a quarterback?at No. 1 is if they sign Kirk Cousins, which is going to cost them around $100 million in guarantees. Then they could trade down with a quarterback-needy team to pick up more talent -- and remember, they have the No. 4 pick, too. Allen had a strong week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, improving every day. The NFL statistical comp I make to Allen:? Matthew Stafford, who completed 57.1 percent of his passes in 39 games at Georgia and still went No. 1 overall. And Stafford had?better talent around him.
2. New York Giants
* Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Do the Giants take a quarterback or the best prospect available? They don't have quite as many needs as the Browns, and they won 11 games two seasons ago. New York has some talent. I went?with Josh Rosen in Mock Draft 1.0, but Barkley is the top-ranked player?on my Big Board. If the Giants can add Barkley to a group that includes Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, that would be rare skill-position talent. Barkley is more than a great runner -- he is a stellar receiver (he caught 54 passes in 2017) and pass-blocker. Eli Manning should be more efficient with these weapons around him, and the Giants can use another year of evaluation to figure out whether 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb is the heir apparent.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
No change with the Colts, who don't need a quarterback and can grab the draft's best pass-rusher. They ranked 31st in the NFL in sacks (25) last season. Chubb had?46.5 tackles for loss?over the past two seasons.?New defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus came over from Dallas, where Rod Marinelli and the Cowboys ran a 4-3 defense. Chubb is a great fit in a 4-3 as an edge rusher.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)
* Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
With? Saquon Barkley off the board, Cleveland can fill a huge need at cornerback with the pick it acquired in the Texans' trade up for? Deshaun Watson?last year. And yes, that's where Fitzpatrick would fit with the Browns. I said in my Mock Draft 1.0 that he is the top cornerback? and?safety in this draft. Fitzpatrick is a big-time playmaker?as a deep safety, outside corner and in the slot -- he really has it all.?He is a defensive coordinator's dream.
20. Detroit Lions
* Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
This is a spot to watch for a rising pass-rusher, but Detroit would be thrilled with the No. 2 running back on the board. Guice is a true every-down back, which Matthew Stafford has never had in his career. Ameer Abdullah averaged only 3.3 yards per carry in 2017, while Theo Riddick is more of a versatile pass-catcher. Guice had 26 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons, and he looked every bit as good for the Tigers as Leonard Fournette?did in 2016. I also like the fit for USC running back Ronald Jones II and Detroit, so he's another option as the second back?to be drafted.
21. Buffalo Bills
* Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
With back-to-back picks here, could the Bills try to package these and move up for a quarterback? It would take both picks -- and more -- to get into the top 10. Hughes fills a big need opposite 2017?first-round pick? Tre'Davious White, and he's a great punt and kick returner,?too. He had three touchdown returns last season. After?playing at North Carolina in 2015 and a junior college in 2016, Hughes doesn't have a ton of experience, but he emerged as a shutdown corner and important player for the Knights in 2017.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)
* James Daniels, C/G, Iowa
Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is a perfect fit in the Bills' 4-3 -- and my top-ranked 4-3 tackle -- but the retirement of Eric Wood opens up a void at center in Buffalo, and the Bills could get the top prospect at a real position of need. Daniels is No. 1 on my board there. At 6-4, 296, he can?move his feet and get to the second level as a true athlete. He is perfect as an anchor for today's NFL. I wouldn't be shocked if two centers went in the first round. Ohio State's Billy Price is the other one.
23. Los Angeles Rams
* Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Los Angeles has decisions to make on free-agent cornerbacks? Trumaine Johnson?and Nickell Robey-Coleman?and safety/corner? Lamarcus Joyner, and it isn't likely to keep them all. Cornerback is a clear need for the Rams. Jackson burst onto the scene with eight interceptions in 2017, including three in an upset win over Ohio State. The big question about Jackson is true speed -- he needs to run well at the combine to stay in the first-round discussion. He could also help out on punt returns.
24. Carolina Panthers
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
When Cam Newton was league MVP in 2015, he had a deep threat in Ted Ginn Jr. who could take the top off defenses. Ginn had 10 touchdowns and averaged almost 17 yards per catch. Washington could be that guy for the Panthers. He averaged?19.8 yards per catch and had 39 touchdowns at Oklahoma State. He is great after the catch. At 5-11, 210, Washington is undersized, but he was one of the best receivers at the Senior Bowl. He consistently beat defenders in one-on-ones, just like I saw on his college tape.
25. Tennessee Titans
* Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
Tennessee is expected to part ways with DeMarco Murray, which means Derrick Henry becomes the primary back. New offensive coordinator?Matt LaFleur spent time with the Falcons (2015-16) and Rams (2017), who both used their backs?a lot in the passing game, and Jones could be a complementary back who helps there. He caught only 14 passes last season, but he has a lot of tools with which to work and has a lot of talent after the catch. I also thought about center or guard here, as the Titans need to upgrade the interior of their line.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
Wynn is another prospect who helped himself at the Senior Bowl. He was one of the best offensive linemen there, and he?neutralized pass-rushers on almost every one-on-one rep. Wynn played guard and tackle for the Bulldogs, but at 6-2, 308,?scouts see him as a guard at the next level. By picking Wynn, Atlanta could upgrade on? Wes Schweitzer?on the right side or move on from? Andy Levitre on the left side. Defensive tackle and receiver are other positions to watch with this pick, depending on what happens in free agency.
27. New Orleans Saints
* Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
I mentioned Hurst at pick No. 19, and he's trending toward being a?Day 1 pick?and the first tight end off the board. He's a well-rounded tight end who didn't get a ton of targets in the South Carolina offense. One thing to note: Because Hurst spent a couple of years playing minor league baseball, he will be 25 when he plays his first NFL game. That shouldn't be a demerit, however, as he has the tools to be a premier tight end in the league. New Orleans brought in? Coby Fleener?in 2016 to try to replace the production of Jimmy Graham, but that didn't work out and the Saints could release him this offseason.? Drew Brees?needs a No. 1 tight end.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
* Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Vander Esch is a name?I continue to hear for the end of the first round. I expect him to put up strong numbers at the combine. At 6-4, 240, he has the versatility to play outside linebacker, but I think his best fit is as an inside 'backer in a 3-4. He's a physical run-stopper?who can defend tight ends and running backs -- he had three interceptions in 2017. Inside linebacker is an obvious need for the Steelers, who will have to replace? Ryan Shazier. This is also a spot where I could see a team trading up to grab Louisville quarterback and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner? Lamar Jackson, who I think will be the fifth?QB off the board.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
I'm giving the Jags a different tight end here after going with Oklahoma's Mark Andrews in my Mock Draft 1.0. Former first-round pick? Marcedes Lewis?has had a great career, but he's turning 34 this year and isn't much of a receiving threat. I have compared Goedert to Todd Heap and Zach Ertz, two?guys who can catch passes and also block. Goedert has a?tremendous catch radius at 6-4, 260. He suffered a hamstring injury at the first Senior Bowl practice but should be fine to work out at the combine.
30. Minnesota Vikings
* Geron Christian, OT, Louisville
This tackle class is fluid. I could see five or six picked on Day 1. I'm anticipating Christian to get a lot of buzz at the combine. He's going to be a riser after he shows his athleticism in drills. Christian started 39 straight games for the Cardinals, including every game as a freshman. He has great feet and a big 6-6 frame. With? Mike Remmers?likely staying at guard in 2018 and beyond, the Vikings have a hole at right tackle. Notre Dame's? Mike McGlinchey and Texas'? Connor Williams are other tackles to keep an eye on.
31. New England Patriots
* Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
Jackson is another prospect I expect will rise at the combine. He might be the fastest player in this class. He has elite speed and?physical talent, and he could help out as a returner. Jackson is only 5-11, 180, but he has a similar build to that of 2017 first-round pick? Adoree' Jackson. We know the Patriots love to trade down, so?this is a spot to watch for a team trying to get Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Patriots also need a pass-rusher,?and Boston College's Harold Landry or Georgia's Lorenzo Carter could be under consideration.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
* Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The Super Bowl champs are built to contend for years to come, and they don't have many immediate needs. I thought about tackle here, as veteran left tackle? Jason Peters?is coming off a torn ACL and MCL. But former?fifth-round pick? Halapoulivaati Vaitai?showed promise down the stretch, and the offensive line as a whole played really well in the playoffs. The Eagles might part ways with Torrey Smith this offseason, which means a receiver at the end of the first round makes sense. At 5-11, Kirk isn't a big target, but he can be a weapon in the slot and in the return game.?UCLA's Jordan Lasley is a receiver who could rise into the Day 1 discussion, too.