By: Brandon Sysak @BrandonSysak
NFL Mock Draft 1.0
An exciting time for all football fans is that period between April and May where hop can be restored for a franchise. Last season’s results are washed away as the potential of what is to come shines bright. The NFL draft is a time where teams make trades and selection that will hopefully lay the groundwork for future success. These picks are of vital importance and the ability to make good choices in this situation are what truly separates the elite franchises from the floundering ones. With that in mind, here is a projection of who I see the first round of the 2018 draft playing out to be used to inspire hope for your favorite team or cause debate amongst your fanbase friends.
1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen, QB UCLA
Though the Browns just drafted a QB in last year’s draft with the 52th pick (Deshone Kizer), many are speculating that the Browns are likely to move on from Kizer and select a QB with their first overall pick. While this is a questionable move by an organization that is humorously short on answers, something that can not be questioned is the remarkable talent of Josh “Chosen” Rosen. The UCLA prospect is the real deal and will lead this stacked class of quarterbacks by being the first one taken. Rosen seems to be the most complete QB prospect in the draft, with his excellent footwork, throwing mechanics and his mobility to get out of the pocket and create plays with his feet. The only major mark on Rosen is his decision making, he has a slight tendency to make the wrong read and force a pass that should not have been thrown. Rosen will get coached up and should be able to overcome this obstacle. There is optimism in Cleveland that Rosen is finally the true answer the Browns have been searching for in a man under center; here is to hoping number 25 is the final stop on their infamous list.
Fantasy Relevance: Not likely to be relevant right way because the Browns are such a mess, but has the tools and talent to be a good QB in NFL. Good player to hold on to.
2. NY Giants: Sam Darnold, QB USC
With the New York Giants going away from their constant veteran starter Eli Manning in Week 13, it is clear the team is going into a rebuild mode and will be looking to make some selections in this draft that will revitalize them and will put them back on the right track of being competitive going forward. One such selection on this road to redemption will be a QB at the second overall selection (given that last year’s third round selection Davis Webb does not impress management with his on-field performance in the remainder of 2017). With such a loaded class at the most important position in football, many of the teams at the top of the draft board will be looking at this group and trying to select their favorite player. For the Giants, this will be Sam Darnold (with Rosen already off the board). Darnold, like his cross-town college rival, has a very NFL-ready skill set and will likely have the ability to make a smooth transition to the pros. The main question mark will be what the overall QB situation will be for the Giants. Many do not expect (myself included) Manning to be back with the G-men again in 2018, but management has not said either way. If Manning is back, Darnold will more than likely stay on the bench and have a Pat Mahomes role in the offense until Manning is done. If Manning is playing somewhere else in 2018, the job will most likely be Darnold’s to lose. Expect the Giants to grab a QB in this spot, and expect it to be Darnold.
Fantasy Relevance: In best position to succeed among other rookie quarterbacks in this draft if given starting job right away. If not, good dynasty hold like Pat Mahomes.
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE North Carolina State
The Indianapolis Colts have been searching over the past few years for the right pieces that will make them the proud contender they once were. They have an elite QB in Andrew Luck and some great offensive pieces that make for a great squad (when they are all healthy at the same time). The major problem for the Colts that is holding them back from contention is their defense. Over the past three seasons it has ranked no better than 25th in the league in total defense (including ranking 29th and 28th best in 2016 and 2017), making it hard for Luck and crew to win more football games. After a down season, the Colts are selecting 3rd overall in this year’s draft. As the only top five team that doesn’t have a glaring need at QB, expect the Colts to go after the best defensive player in the draft. This man is none other than Bradley Chubb.
Astronaut SZN 💯
— Blake (@BlakeHHarris) May 24, 2017
This DE out of North Carolina State is the complete package, superb pass rushing abilities who is also willing and able to stop the run. His size and speed along with these qualities make him an excellent pick for a Colts defense that is looking for an impact player than can help get their whole squad back on track.
Fantasy Relevance: Would become best defensive lineman on Colts. Improves D/ST play but not by much. Has some IDP appeal
4. San Francisco 49ers: Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
Saquon Barkley has been one of the biggest playmakers in college football over the past two seasons. His highlight reels are a sight to be hold for anyone that enjoys watching dynamic backs in the open field.
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) November 20, 2017
Many have questioned how Barkley’s skill set will translate from Saturdays to NFL Sundays and which team would be the best fit for the Penn State RB. San Francisco seems like a great fit for Barkley, the 49ers are in desperate need of a playmaker as they severely lack a skill position player that can create plays for himself. While the 49ers do have a good RB already on their roster in Carlos Hyde, the team has certainly been non-committal to Hyde in recent years and he has been on the proverbial cutting block many times since 2016. With the ability to get a dynamic player such as this, the 49ers will take their shot with Barkley at the #4 selection and make him the new face of the offense beside Jimmy Garoppolo.
Fantasy Relevance: Superstar playmaker, will be effective in the passing game. Will likely be a 1.01 in rookie drafts.
5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma
Since the Bronco’s Super Bowl win in 2015, John Elway has struggled to find a quality QB to follow in the footsteps of Peyton Manning. He has tried Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch as the man under center to lead the Broncos back to the big game. The wheels have completely fallen off of the wagon this season however, and now Denver is going be selecting at the #5 spot in this year’s draft. Since they have such a high pick, it only makes sense that they will attempt to fix this problem and will address the QB with this selection. While some will say that Elway will go with a safer pick like Josh Allen or Mason Rudolph, the best pick they could make to truly elevate their offense would be Baker Mayfield. He was a polarizing player during his time in college football, from his team swapping ways (transferring from Texas Tech to Oklahoma in 2014 that resulted in the NCAA naming a rule after him) to his on-field antics (most notably the flag planting incident at Buckeye Stadium after a win in Sept. 2017), Mayfield draws attention with most everything he does. That being said, it is not all bad. He is a dynamic football player who is one of the best pure playmakers at the QB position we have seen in awhile. Mayfield has the ability to stretch plays out and make what seem like broken plays to most into first downs and touchdowns.
— Nate Feken (@TheGreat_Nate) December 6, 2016
Despite the debate as to what he will become on the NFL level, Mayfield is a guy who is an electric playmaker who will mature over time and be more in control of his feelings and actions. Elway will sense this within him and Mayfield will end up as the 5th pick in the draft. This would be a win-win situations for Denver and for Mayfield. The Broncos would get someone who can elevate their offense again and Mayfield would get the mentorship and direction that would help maximize his potential, either directly through Elway or through potentially sitting behind Siemian or another veteran QB for a short amount of time. This has the chance to be a corner-turning moment for the Broncos, and expect Mayfield to be a part of the process.
Fantasy Relevance: Another dynasty hold. Will be a very dynamic player in the future, but could be fantasy relevant next year if given the starting job early.
6. Cleveland Browns (via Houston): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB Alabama
When the Houston Texans traded up last year to draft Deshaun Watson, they gave their 2018 first round pick to Cleveland as part of the deal. As a result of that trade, the Browns now own the 6th overall pick in the draft. In this spot, expect the Browns to take the best talent available and add whoever their scouts like the best, whichever they position they play. This player will be another Alabama prospect, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is a versatile player who has played both CB and FS for the Crimson Tide. This flexibility along with his overall skillset make him a very desirable player, especially for a team in need of talent like the Browns.
Fantasy Relevance: Another talent added to the Browns shockingly fair defensive unit in 2017.
7. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama
After selecting two pillars of the Chicago offense over the past two years (QB Mitch Trubisky second overall in 2016 and RB Jordan Howard in the fifth round in 2016), it is time for the Bears to look at addressing their massive hole at the WR position. So far this season the Bears have one of the worst WR groups in all of the NFL, lacking both in talent and in production. With Chicago already having some solid pieces on their roster, including the seemingly capable franchise QB and a pretty good defensive unit, this draft pick seems like a good time to select a playmaker who can help elevate the offense to the next level. The WR that best fits their needs for this pick is Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. Ridley has the size to be an outside guy (6′ 1″ and 200 pounds) with the speed and route running ability to be a difference maker in the NFL. Expect the Bears to snag Ridley with this pick and feature him in their offense going forward.
Fantasy Relevance: Most talented WR in class going to best situation. Would become a top target in offense and could really prosper if chemistry with Trubisky blossoms
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Arden Key, DE LSU
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had a down year this season when so many people were expecting them to not only take another step forward in their progression as a young team, but to also make the playoffs as well. Injuries to their franchise QB Jameis Winston and seemingly incapable coaching may have been the direct cause of the Bucs disappointment in 2017, but there is a larger problem that needs to be addressed before the team can go anywhere in the hopes of being a contender: Tampa Bay needs to doing something about their defense. It has been a streaky unit over the past two seasons that has shown some periods of coherence but has been a poor squad overall (ranked 22nd in 2016 and 31st in 2017 in total defense). While they do have some talented players on that side of the ball (Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, T.J. Ward, etc.), the Bucs need to add more to help bolster this unit. The best candidate that would be left on the board for their 8th overall selection would be Arden Key out of LSU. Key is the second best DE/Edge player in this draft outside of Bradley Chubb, but he is still very good in his own right and will make an amazing addition to this team. He will pair well with McCoy on the line and will hopefully be a big help in changing things around on Tampa’s defense.
Fantasy Relevance: Key is the edge rush/DE that the Buccaneers desperately need to pair with Gerald McCoy. Could be sneaky IDP play and will improve streaky Bucs D/ST.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame
One of the hardest positions to have perform poorly on a successful football team is the offensive line. All great teams in the NFL have a solid unit up front and it is part of what makes them great. Inversely, the abysmal play of the offensive line in Cincinnati is what make them a bad team in 2017. Their run game has stalled at times because there were no holes for Joe Mixon and company to run through (the Bengals running backs average around 0.42 yards before contact, ranking as one of the worst teams in the NFL) and Andy Dalton has been the victim of some vicious hits due to their inability to block pass rushers (Bengals have allowed 34 sacks in 2017). This major need will surely be addressed with the Bengals 9th overall selection in this draft. The Bengals will take the best lineman in the draft and select Mike McGlinchey out of Notre Dame. He will be able to big impact on Cincinnati’s terrible line and be part of a new movement for the Bengals.
Fantasy Relevance: Improves a terrible offensive line unit. Biggest benefactor would be Mixon and Dalton.
10. Washington Redskins: Roquan Smith, LB Georgia
Washington has a very big offseason coming up in 2018. Their feud with QB Kirk Cousins will come to a head as the two sides will have to decide whether Cousins will be coming back for next season and beyond. This will set off a chain of events that will alter the course of the Redskins franchise for years to come. I believe the two sides will settle their differences and Cousins will remain in Washington; with that being said, the Redskins will turn to another problem their team has with this 10th overall pick: their defense. The Redskins have a good player in CB Josh Norman but are lacking in playmakers outside of him on this side of the ball. With this pick they will address that situation by adding LB Roquan Smith from Georgia. Smith was an award winning LB in his time at Georgia (winning the Butkus Award for best LB in college and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2017) and will translate nicely to the NFL game. With Cousins back, expect Washington to go with Smith with this pick.
Fantasy Relevance: Washington needs more defensive playmakers and he will do just that. Improves the Washington D/ST and makes them more considerable in 2018.
11. NY Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
The New York Jets are a team of many needs. After purging their roster at the beginning of the 2017 season, many projected that the Jets would be one of the worst teams in the NFL and would be a near lock to select in the top five in the 2018 draft. Well, either by the fortune of exceeding expectation or the misfortune of playing well enough to miss out on one of those top draft selections, the Jets will be selecting 11th in this draft. This selection puts them in a curious spot; they will miss out on the much of the elite QB crop this draft has to offer but are still in a position to grab a very talented player. The Jets’ best bet would be to grab a player that could not only become the face of their franchise and rebuild, but also be a play that will keep fans engaged and interested in would could be a long process for their New York fandom. The perfect combination of these attributes is QB Lamar Jackson out of Louisville. Anyone that has followed college football over the past two years has surely heard that name before. The 2016 Heisman trophy winner is as dynamic and electric of a playmaker you can have have behind center. His ability to escape pressure and make plays with his legs are amazing, making him a delight to watch.
— Kristian Epps (@kepps18) December 4, 2017
While Jackson does have some questions associated with him and some things to work on before he can truly become a good NFL QB, such as his deep ball accuracy and his inconsistent footwork, I see Todd Bowles and the rest of the coaching staff taking into acccount what Jackson is best at and crafting the offense around him, giving him the best ability to use his strentghs and continue to make plays on Sundays. If he can progress and can in any way translate his playmaking abilities to the NFL, he will be a problem for defense for years to come.
Fantasy Relevance: Project QB. Could be very dangerous if the right system is built around/for him.
12. Miami Dolphins: Quenton Nelson, G Notre Dame
Like their South Florida counterparts,The Miami Dolphins have also had a very disappointing 2017 season. Before the season they had hopes of building on last year’s playoff appearance and hoping to make it back to the playoffs again. Unfortunately, Miami has had many mishaps this season, including the injury to Ryan Tannehill, the signing of Jay Cutler, Jay Ajayi being shipped out of town for only a fourth round pick and so on. This misfortune has led to the Dolphins selecting 12th overall in the draft. With this pick, Miami could go in a few different directions. They have an established QB in Tannehill, they have faith in the RB tandem of Kenyan Drake and Damian Williams, they have good WR corp (assuming they bring back Jarvis Landry) and their defensive unit is a pretty good group. Their biggest need at this point is an offensive lineman, so look for them to take one with this selection. With his former teammate Mike McGlinchey off the board, expect the Dolphins to draft the other highly rated lineman out of Notre Dame: Quenton Nelson.
Fantasy Relevance: Improves an offensive line that was bad in 2017. Not extremely fantasy relevant.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Williams, OT Texas
The Arizona Cardinals were another team that suffered setbacks in 2017 and didn’t quite live up to their preseason expectations. When they lost elite RB David Johnson in Week 1 it came as the drop in the downpour of disappointment as the Cardinals continued to lose notable players to injury. After this rough season, Arizona will be selecting at the 13th overall selection in the 2018 draft. The Cardinals have some options with this pick, their roster as a whole is solid and should be ready to reload and go back for the playoffs next season. They are bringing Larry “Legend” Fitzgerald back for 2018 and they will more than likely make one last all-in attempt for him. With this in mind, the Cards would be best to get a player that can keep their offense going and help protect their QB. This man will be Connor Williams, an offensive tackle out of Texas. He is the one of the best offensive lineman and should go at this select to a team that struggled to establish the run game and keep their QB upright. Williams will help the Cardinals in a major way in 2018 and should not only be a good player to contribute in 2018 but should be a very solid one for many years to come.
Fantasy Relevance: Improves their offensive line and will hopefully be the pillar on a new offensive line unit that will set up the running and passing game.
14. Oakland Raiders: Isaiah Oliver, CB Colorado
At the beginning of this past season, one team that was thrust into the conversation of potential Super Bowl contention was the Oakland Raiders. Many of their young pieces, such as Derek Carr, had taken a step up in their development in 2016 and with the new shiny additions (namely Marshawn Lynch), experts and fans alike all projected Oakland to be a contender in 2017. Unfortunately, they fell short of this goal and are currently projected to have the 14th pick in the 2018 draft. With this selection, expect the Raiders to select a player that can help them rebuild their very poor secondary. Oakland has had one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL so far this season, ranking 23rd worst in the league against the pass and totaling only one INT through 12 games. The player that will best help them turn things around in their defensive backfield is Isaiah Oliver out of Colorado. He is one of the best CB in this draft and he will become an impact player right away for Oakland due to his advanced abilities.
Fantasy Relevance: Improves a bad defensive unit. Could make unit a better D/ST play but will have to see.
15. LA Chargers: Derwin James, S Florida State
After making the 124 mile move to Los Angeles this offseason, the Chargers have had a fairly good inaugural season in their new home. Right now they are slotted to select 15th overall in the 2018 draft, putting them in a good position to add another good piece to their squad and make a real push for the playoffs in 2018. Some experts expect the Chargers to take QB with this pick and groom the next heir apparent behind Philip Rivers. While this could be a good option for them, most of the elite quarterbacks will likely be taken and off the board for them to take, meaning they could get better value if they just wait. This is why it would be best for them to take someone else at this spot and look to build their team elsewhere with this pick. That someone will be S Derwin James of Florida State. James is a dynamic DB who will help bolster the Chargers defense and build on what has become an impressive defensive line duo in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Fantasy Relevance: Chargers D/ST is already pretty solid, this will just help make them better. Not super relevant.
16. Dallas Cowboys: Malik Jefferson, LB Texas
Just a year ago, the Dallas Cowboys were riding high. They were 13-3, had won their division and were the top seed in the NFC. Since then, however, things have fallen off and been drastically different for “America’s Team”, causing them to have the 16th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Most of it has had to do with the Ezekiel Elliott suspension/legal drama, which has led to some poor performances and showings for the Cowboys. Another storyline that has derailed them was the health of LB Sean Lee. Lee has missed lots of time so far in 2017 and it has cost the Cowboys defense dearly. It would be a good move for Dallas to grab another LB that can help make the defense better and will be able to fill in when Lee is out, The best LB for this selection is Malik Jefferson out of the University of Texas. Jefferson is a solid LB whose size and skill will translate nicely to the NFL. He, along with 2015 pick Jaylen Smith, will be a duo that hopefully anchors the Dallas defense for years to come and helps elevate the team back to their 2016 ways.
Fantasy Relevance: Dallas needs more defensive playmakers and he will do just that. Makes the Dallas D/ST more appealing for 2018.
17. Detroit Lions: Maurice Hurst, DT Michigan
The Detroit Lions, much like the rest of the teams in this 14th-20th pick range, are teams that are fairly solid but were just not good enough to make the playoffs in 2017. While this is a good summarizing statement for the entire Lions franchise, the 2017 squad was a good team that had some shining moments and showed promise for some future success. Detroit does not have many holes on their roster and have done well in building a team recently and holding on to those assets long term, meaning this draft selection can go a number of different directions. The Lions have an elite DE in Ezekiel Ansah and an up-and-coming one in Anthony Zettel, but lack depth on the interior of their defensive line. The Lions will select the DT out of Michigan with their 17th overall selection, Maurice Hurst. Hurst is an NFL ready lineman with the size and strength to contribute right away for Detroit. In a draft that could go a number of different ways for Detroit, Hurst seems like the safest pick and one that could work out the best for the team.
Fantasy Relevance: Biggest need for Detroit is on defense, specifically the defensive line. Hurst helps that and would be a good addition that fills a need. Makes a good D/ST in 2017 better for the future.
18. Buffalo Bills: Denzel Ward, CB Ohio State
Buffalo, much like Cleveland, made a trade in last year’s draft that netted them an extra pick in this draft. They were a part of the Pat Mahomes trade with the Kansas City Chiefs and now own the right to their first round pick in 2018. This 18th overall selection was Buffalo’s originally, and expect the Bills to use it to draft cornerback Denzel Ward out of Ohio State. Ward will look to make an impact on what was a less-than-stellar defensive unit in Buffalo. Ward has what it takes to come in early and be a difference-maker in the Bills secondary.
Fantasy Relevance: Buffalo is thin at DB and could use a defensive playmaker. Will help solidify what was an inconsistent D/ST in 2017.
19. Green Bay Packers: Orlando Brown, OT Oklahoma
The Green Bay Packers had another Aaron Rodgers injury this year and caused their season to end in disappointment for their fans. After starting off 4-1 through Week 6 and looking like they were another contender in the NFC, Rodgers went down with a shoulder injury that looks to cost him a majority of his 2017 season. In this timeframe Green Bay has fallen out of contention and will likely miss the playoffs this year. With this 19th overall pick in the 2018 draft look for Green Bay to grab someone who will help keep Rodgers protected and will make their overall offense better. This player will be Orlando Brown from Oklahoma. Brown is another one of the top tier offensive tackles that this draft has to offer, and expect him to be taken in this spot by the Packers. Brown should have the ability to be good enough to play right away and will be someone Green Bay relies on to protect their franchise quarterback for years to come.
Fantasy Relevance: Green Bay needs offensive line help, they will address it with this pick. This will have big benefit for Rodgers and the Packers’ running backs.
20. Seattle Seahawks: Martinas Rankin, OT Mississippi State
Much like the Baltimore Ravens, when one watches the Seattle Seahawks you can see that they are a team that is one step away from being a contending team. This misstep by the Seahawks has to do with their offensive line. Over the past two years, Seattle has had it rough up front and their whole offense has suffered because of it. The running game has basically been turned off because they have no holes to run through and Russell Wilson is having to escape constant pressure. The Seahawks will look to fix their problem this offseason and will presumably do so with this 23rd overall selection in the draft by selecting Martinas Rankin out of Mississippi State. Rankin is the step below some of the other offensive tackles in this draft such as McGlinchey and Williams, but Rankin is still a solid enough prospect that will help the Seahawks protect their prized quarterback and hopefully elevate their run game to what it once was.
Fantasy Relevance: Seattle badly needs to improve their offensive line, Rankin will help open the Seattle offense up even more in 2018 and beyond.
21. Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, WR SMU
When one watches the Baltimore Ravens play, they look like an old school team who can successfully play defense and run the ball to control the clock. This formula has worked for them in the past and did just fine in 2017, but those that observe the Ravens on offense know that they are missing one thing that will help elevate them too true contention: they lack skill players on the outside. Sure, Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin have done fine this year and have contributed in their own right, but they are not the future of the Baltimore Ravens wide receiver corps and can’t be relied on to supply big plays in the future. With the Ravens having nearly everything else in place to make them a solid squad, look for them to grab the best available WR with their 21st overall pick. This man will be Courtland Sutton out of SMU.
— American Football (@American_FB) September 4, 2016
Sutton has speed for days and is a solid enough route router to get separation and make the plays that Baltimore desperately needs. Sutton will be a great addition to a pretty good offense and will have a role in making the Ravens a dangerous squad in 2018.
Fantasy Relevance: The Ravens are lacking at the skill positions, especially at WR. Sutton is talented enough to make an impact, likely won’t be fantasy relevant right away but is a good dynasty hold.
22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City): Mason Rudolph, QB Oklahoma State
This pick, originally belonging to Kansas City, now belongs to the Buffalo Bills who just selected at the 18th pick. With their second selection in the first round of this draft, I expect the Bills to grab a QB with this selection. The Bills have shown many times this season that they are not committed to their current starter Tyrod Taylor, so look for them to move on from him in this offseason. The flexibility of having two first round picks allows Buffalo the ability to grab a good defensive player with the first selection and grab a QB here. The best ones left at this point are Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State and Josh Allen from Wyoming, with the former going in this spot. Rudolph is a fairly good QB who has benefited nicely from the system that Mike Gundy has set up for him at Oklahoma State, going on to become a school record setter in many statistical categories. Rudolph will carry these skills up to Buffalo and should have the ability to start immediately for the Bills as they don’t have any other solid options with Taylor gone. If McDermott can help create a positive situation for Rudolph this trade could end up being far more valuable than they imagined.
Fantasy Relevance: Rudolph may not have the ceiling that some of the other quarterbacks have in this draft but he is still a good one in his own right. He has the best chance to start of any rookie QB taken so far so that could make him more appealing for fantasy.
23. Atlanta Falcons: Vita Vea, DT Washington
After their cataclysmic Super Bowl loss, the Atlanta Falcons are projected to finish outside of the playoffs this year and will be selecting 23th overall in the 2018 draft. The Falcons still have a lot of their core players from that year and will look to regroup this offseason, cure their Super Bowl hangover and make another run in 2018. The best player that will help them make this run at the 23th overall selection is DT Vita Vea. Vea is a strong defensive lineman who’s best playing on the nose, and will help a young Falcons defensive line become better unit and be more solid for the future.
Fantasy Relevance: Atlanta needs defensive line help, Vea will be a good presence for them. Makes the Falcons D/ST more appealing in 2018.
24. New Orleans Saints: Rashaan Evans, LB Alabama
While the New Orleans Saints defense has been bad over the past few seasons, constantly ranking in the bottom half the league and being a common punchline among fans and analysts, this unit took a huge step forward in 2017 and have been one of the best defenses in the whole league this season. This elevation has pushed the Saints into contention and have made a big impact on their season. New editions, like Marshon Lattimore, have gelled with some of the veterans already on the squad and have made for an excellent defense. While the Saints went with defense early in the 2017 draft, expect them to go there again with the 28th pick in 2018 by grabbing a dynamic defensive player from Alabama. LB Rashaan Evans was a leader of the Crimson Tide defense during his time there and he will look to make the transition from Tuscaloosa to New Orleans and hopefully bring his championship pedigree with him.
Fantasy Relevance: Improved Saints D/ST gets better with this pick. Could be a reliable unit in 2018.
25. Tennessee Titans: Clelin Ferrell, DE Clemson
While Tennessee seems like a team going in the right direction from their recent rebuild, there is still some work to be done in making their team as good as it can be. One aspect of their team that needs Improvement is their defense, specifically their defensive line. The Titans have problems reaching the quarterback (108 total sacks over the past three seasons) and could really use a good pass-rusher in this draft. The best candidate for this position that will be available to them at pick 25 will be Clelin Ferrell, the DE from Clemson. He is a solid lineman whose strength and playmaking ability will translate nicely to the NFL. His overall skill set will help the Titans form a formidable front on that side of the ball and will help the defense become what it needs to be for Tennessee to start winning regularly again.
Fantasy Relevance: Tennessee needs a defensive playmaker, Ferrell will help in that regard. Will increase usefulness of Titans D/ST next year.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Allen, QB Wyoming
The Jacksonville Jaguars have to be considered for the best surprise of the 2017 season. A lot of people expected them to progress and step out of the NFL basement, but not many expected this team to be in line to win their division in December. The Jaguars have mainly achieve this success on the back their outstanding defensive unit who has been getting to the quarterback and also defending the pass an elite rate. This paired with blooming career of Leonard Fournette has made the Jaguars great and could leave them just making some noise in the playoffs potentially. The only thing that seems to be holding them back is their quarterback play. Blake Bortles has done better this year than he has in recent years, he has turned down his turnover rate and has become more efficient and effective as a game manager. Even though this is the case, Tom Coughlin and other members of the Jaguar front office are unsure as to Bortles’ role in the future. Many speculate that they will move on from him this offseason and will either go get a veteran quarterback, like a Eli Manning or Kirk Cousins, while some think they will draft a new one and allow him in Bortles to compete. Or it could be a combination of the two, it is very unclear at this point. Either way, with this 26th pick in the 2018 draft it would be a good idea for the Jaguars to take QB Josh Allen from Wyoming. Allen is another interesting QB prospect, but not in the Baker Mayfield way. Allen is a highly discussed prospect because he, much like Carson Wentz and Blake Bortles, excelled at a smaller school and has not played against many top tier college talent. Allen has still shown that he has the tools and the skills to be a good quarterback at this level, but some are still unsure as to his true potential. This is what makes Jacksonville a good fit for him. It seems as though Allen will not be asked to succeed right away as he will likely sit behind another quarterback and will be groomed for at least the next few years. This grooming will help iron out any difficulties Allen will have with his translation to the NFL and could make it the best possible situation for him to be in long-term.
Fantasy Relevance: Hold, may not get the job outright but will likely be competing with Bortles/some veteran QB.
27. LA Rams: Ronnie Harrison, S Alabama
The Los Angeles Rams were another stunning surprise after it seemed as though their franchise would be a desert wasteland after years under Jeff Fisher. But new young stud Sean McVay has turned this team around and now has them on the right side of things, leading them to what could be a possible Super Bowl appearance. In this projection, they will be making the 27th selection in the draft, a spot that still offers them a chance to grab a solid player that will help the Rams build on this impressive season. Los Angeles made good strides on the offensive side of the ball, and did on the defensive side of the ball as well, but they could still use more playmakers to help aid Aaron Donald. The best player to help play that role that will be left at their selection is S Ronnie Harrison out of Alabama. Harrison is a great two-way S who can both provide running support by reading the play and filling the box while also being able to provide pass coverage. Harrison will become a difference maker for this revitalized Rams of Los Angeles and will be an important piece of their future success.
Fantasy Relevance: Harrison will be a great addition to very solid D/ST, making them almost a lock to be a weekly, non-matchup dependent squad.
28. Carolina Panthers: Joshua Jackson, CB Iowa
When the Carolina Panthers released cornerback Josh Norman back in 2015, many analysts and fans were shocked as to why they would let a great corner like Norman walk for free. Ever since then, the Panthers have been lacking in the secondary and have yet to replace what Norman would do on the field. They have not been terrible in this regard, the players they have used as his replacement have been okay in that time, but the Panthers could really use another dynamic player in their secondary to help them get back on track as a defense. With the 28th pick in the 2018 draft, look for Carolina to select Joshua Jackson out of Iowa. Jackson is an outstanding cornerback and has the potential to be a very good one in the NFL, perfectly filing the need that the Panthers have.
Fantasy Relevance: Jackson will provide balance to a D/ST that was lacking in the secondary. Makes their D/ST a better week-to-week option.
29. Philadelphia Eagles: James Washington, WR Oklahoma State
Philadelphia came into this season with modest expectations. They had added some shiny new toys to their offense (Alshon Jeffery) and were anticipated to have a decent season and potentially even make the playoffs if they played their cards right. They seemed to have drawn a great hand in this regard, as the Eagles are one of the favorites to win the NFC and possibly even the Super Bowl. The Eagles have their young QB to thank as Carson Wentz has made massive strides in his development this year and has elevated to near MVP level potential, but they have come together as a team have made it known that they have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL. With this solid of a squad, there are not many holes that need to be filled, so the Eagles have some choices to make with this pick. I see them adding another playmaker to this offense and helping expand the field for Wentz. This player will be James Washington, who will be selected at the 29th overall pick in 2018. Washington was an excellent player at Oklahoma State and was someone who constantly was able to make plays and helped elevate Mason Rudolph’s game when they played together. Washington is a bit on the smaller side at 6′ 0″ and 200 pounds, but his speed will help him do well in the NFL. The Eagles will take Washington at this spot and he will make an already good offense even better.
Fantasy Relevance: Philadelphia is another team that is very balanced so they do not have a lot of needs. Washington would be a nice weapon for Wentz and could be a sneaky WR to own in dynasty and even in redraft if they develop chemistry.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Harold Landry, LB Boston College
In similar fashion as the Saints, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the narrative that their defense was bad by having an improved unit in 2017. Last year’s first round pick TJ Watt has done well in his first year and has made an impact on the whole team. The Steelers don’t have many holes on their team and will look to grab one of the best prospects left available at the 30th overall pick. This player will be Harold Landry, LB from Boston College. He, like Watt, is an outside linebacker/defensive end type that will be very effective in Pittsburgh’s defensive formations. These two have the potential to become a dangerous tandem that will set as the foundation for another era of strong Steeler defense.
Fantasy Relevance: Pittsburgh’s D/ST took a step forward this season and will add more talent with Landry. Could have week-to-week appeal next year.
31. Minnesota Vikings: Billy Price, G Ohio State
After losing their starting quarterback Sam Bradford in Week 2, many doubted the Minnesota Vikings’ ability to succeed in 2017. Case Keenum smashed those doubts and has taken the Vikings to Super Bowl aspirations. They are one of the most complete teams in the NFL, leaving few holes that need to be filled for their team to maintain this new level of success. The Vikings are projected to draft 31st overall in the 2018 draft, and with this pick look for them to grab the best available offensive lineman to help solidify their unit up front and create better protection for their quarterback and open up more holes for Dalvin Cook. This lineman will be Billy Price out of Ohio State, who will add to a fairly good unit and will help the Vikings fuel this level of execution for years to come.
Fantasy Relevance: Minnesota is one of the most complete teams in the NFL, this pick just helps solidify their line, giving a boost to Dalvin Cook next year.
32. New England Patriots: Christian Wilkins, DE Clemson
With the last pick in the first round of the 2018 draft, the New England Patriots are in familiar territory. Based on their recent success, they have been selecting around this spot many times over the past few years, but this has not stopped them from getting quality talent in the draft. The Patriots will look to add to their empire with this selection, and they will do so by selecting Christian Wilkins, a DE out of Clemson. He is just the kind of playmaker that flourishes in the Bill Belichick/Matt Patricia defense and he will be an excellent addition to an already great team.
Fantasy Relevance: Wilkins should be able to make an impact on the Patriots right away, solidifying their shaky D/ST unit and making them a good candidate for weekly success in 2018.