By: Brandon Sysak @BrandonSysak
NFL Mock Draft 2.0
1st Round Mock Draft
Now that the regular season has come to an end, it is time for teams to go two different directions. A select number of teams are heading to the postseason and will do all they can to make it to the NFL pinnacle known as the Super Bowl. For those left on the outside of playoff contention, it is a time to reflect on what the 2017 season was. A time to analyse what went right, what went wrong, what can be improved upon and so on. One of the best ways for a franchise to improve for the long term and sustain success is executing well on draft night. These teams will try to make the right selections for their needs and hope these players can make a positive impact on the roster. Here is the next installation in my projected Mock Draft series.
1. Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma
A lot has been made in recent weeks over what the Browns will do at their quarterback position moving forward. Some are saying Cleveland should make a move for a veteran player like Alex Smith and have him be the starter. Other say they need to once again start over and wipe the slate clean with a new quarterback at the first overall selection. It is likely that both moves will happen for the Browns. They could move one of their second round picks to Kansas City for Smith and have him be the short term solution. For the long term, it is probably still in their best interest to take their favorite quarterback in this spot. The Browns will take a shot with Baker Mayfield with this selection. He would be given the luxury of not having to perform right away and he could learn a lot under the tutelage of Smith. These moves would be best for Cleveland and would have the most likely success of preventing another 0-16 season.
Fantasy Relevance: Not likely to be relevant right way because the Browns would start Smith at least through 2019. He has the tools and talent to be a good QB if he is brought up correctly. Good player to hold on to.
2. NY Giants: Sam Darnold, QB USC
While the Giants did make the smart choice of going back to Eli Manning after his questionable sit-down, it is unclear whether or not the Giants will continue with him next season. Manning is well past his prime at 36 and with this draft choice the Giants would be wise to consider their future at the position. With only one quarterback off the board at this pick, the Giants would have a lot of freedom to select anyone they liked. This selection will be Sam Darnold. Darnold had a disappointing finish to his college season and looked very rough in USC’s bowl game versus Ohio State. Despite this bad beat, Darnold is still a talented quarterback prospect and will still be favored by scouts and members of the front office. He possesses a lot of skills that make him an NFL ready quarterback, like his solid footwork and throwing mechanics.
USC gave Sam Darnold a clean pocket, and he delivers on this beautiful vertical strike.
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 11, 2018
Look for the Giants to grab Darnold here and either sit him behind Manning until he is fully ready or potentially give him the starting job if Manning leaves town.
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: Quenton Nelson, G Notre Dame
The Indianapolis Colts’ franchise quarterback did not play a single snap in the 2017-2018 season. Andrew Luck has yet to fully recover from his shoulder injury he suffered after the constant barrage of hits he has received in his time as a Colt. He has had the misfortune of playing behind a rough offensive line and it has cost him and the franchise dearly. The Colts will address this glaring need with their third overall pick in the 2018 draft. They will look for the best offensive line prospect and will take him in this spot. That man will be guard Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame. Now, it is very rare for guards to go this early in the draft. In fact, only one guard has been taken in the top five selections since 2000 (Leonard Davis by Arizona in 2001). Nelson would be in a rare circumstance but is as talented as an lineman in this draft and will do well in Indianapolis. Nelson will be the first step in helping keep Luck off the turf and the IR going forward.
Fantasy Relevance: Would become best offensive lineman on Colts. Could help make Luck better by giving him more protection which would lead to more fantasy success for the offense in Indy.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston): Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
Saquon Barkley was unquestionably the most explosive and dynamic player in college football last season. He should have no problems bringing these talents to the NFL and is very likely to be a high selection in the 2018 draft. For a lot of those teams, running back is not a necessarily a priority but when a player like this is presented it is hard to pass him up. In this sense, Barkley would be a good fit for the Browns with the fourth overall selection. He would bring an element that Cleveland lacked last season and is something that could help elevate their move from the NFL’s basement. Whether he is working with the veteran quarterback Smith or fellow rookie pick Mayfield, Barkley has the potential to be the foundation of an offense going forward and could be an important piece in the Browns recovery.
Fantasy Relevance: Best offensive playmaker in the draft. Should be 1.01 in all rookie drafts and has the highest fantasy star potential in the entire draft.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB UCLA
The Denver Broncos missed out on the postseason after being projected as a potential playoff team. Their horrid quarterback play completely derailed them and has landed the team with the fifth overall selection in the 2018 draft. While it is highly likely that the Broncos will address their quarterback need by going after a veteran in free agency, they also are in a position where they should think about their future. Selecting a quarterback prospect in this spot gives them the chance to groom a guy for future success. Based on the players left on the board, Josh Rosen would be the best selection for Denver. Like his former Los Angeles rival Darnold, he wouldn’t likely be expected to produce right away and would sit behind whatever veteran they bring in, giving him an advantage in development. Rosen could be the answer to a question that has plagued the Broncos since their Super Bowl win in 2016.
Fantasy Relevance: Could have an immediate impact in 2018 if given the starting job. If not, due to a veteran signing or trade, look for Rosen to be groomed in 2018 and be a potential star in 2019. Late first round rookie draft pick but could easily move up and be a QB2 if given starting job.
6. NY Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
Despite the miraculous play of journeyman quarterback Josh McCown, the New York Jets are still looking for a quarterback they can rely on for the future. They’ll need someone they can build their offense around as they continue through the rebuilding process. A perfect man for this job at the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft would be Lamar Jackson out of Louisville. Most football fans know that name and what Jackson can bring to the field as both a dynamic runner as well as a good passer. The 2016 Heisman winner was a special player in college and should continue to be one in the NFL if developed properly. The new offensive coordinator for the Jets will look to build around an offense that highlights Jackson’s strengths and look for a way to make them a success in the NFL. While some scouts will have questions about Jackson, his potential to be a playmaker in the most important position in football is too great to pass up for New York.
Fantasy Relevance: Project QB. Could be very dangerous if the right system is built around/for him. Late first round of rookie draft due to risk but could blow up and be a solid fantasy QB2.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, DE North Carolina State
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a disappointing 2017 season to say the least. Many expected them to be a team in playoff contention but after some missteps are found picking in the top 10 in the upcoming draft. With their seventh overall pick, look for the Bucs to go after a player they can help turn their defense around and will help get them back on track. This player will be Bradley Chubb out of North Carolina State. Chubb is one of the best overall defensive prospects in the 2018 draft and is the best defensive end/edge rusher in the class. His talents will translate in Tampa and can help turn around what was a poor defense in 2017.
Fantasy Relevance: Chubb is the edge rush/DE that the Buccaneers desperately need to pair with Gerald McCoy. Will improve streaky Bucs D/ST and make them a better option in 2018.
8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama
In the time that last year’s second overall selection Mitchell Trubisky spent on the field for Chicago, he look to have developed into nice franchise-level quarterback. While he had some of the usual rookie bumps and bruises in his game, he has given optimism to Bears fans everywhere. The next step for Chicago to take in continuing this Trubisky momentum is landing a solid wide receiver. After the injury to Cameron Meredith, the pass catchers around Trubisky were less than stellar and he could certainly use an upgrade. Chicago will use the eighth overall pick in this draft to do so by taking Calvin Ridley out of Alabama. Ridley had solid career in Tuscaloosa (224 receptions for 2781 yards and 19 touchdowns in three seasons) and will be a good fit for the Bears. If Ridley and Trubisky can develop chemistry, this could be a dangerous combination that could lead to great offensive potential in Chicago.
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. Ridley should be considered for the early part of rookie drafts.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Courtland Sutton, WR SMU
With Chicago taking Ridley at pick eight the San Francisco 49ers, another wide receiver needy team, will grab one off the board and translate him into their blossoming offense. This wide receiver will be Courtland Sutton from Southern Methodist University. Sutton has all the measurables of being an NFL wide receiver (6’ 4” and 218 pounds) and was productive in his time in Dallas. San Francisco is progressing in their rebuild and the next step needed to keep things going strong is to grab someone that can open up the field and make big plays in connection with Jimmy Garoppolo. Sutton will provide this and is a good candidate to be the next great wide receiver in San Francisco.
Fantasy Relevance: Provides Garoppolo with a young wide receiver to develop chemistry with and take the 49ers offense to the next level. Sutton is a late first round rookie draft pick with lots of potential if things click in San Francisco.
10. Oakland Raiders: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB Alabama
Minkah Fitzpatrick is a very talented defensive player and was a star in his time for the Crimson Tide. Fitzpatrick finished his college career with a National Championship and will look to translate his college success to a long and fruitful NFL career. While he is a top talent and is one of the best defensive players in the draft, he will land in Oakland as the tenth overall selection in the 2018 draft. Oakland’s defense had a rough 2017, ranking as one of the worst secondaries in the NFL and could certainly be improved upon. The new Jon Gruden regime is look to restore the black and silver to their old ways of success and in their first step will be drafting Fitzpatrick.
Fantasy Relevance: Improves a bad defensive unit, especially in the secondary. Oakland D/ST could be good in 2018 but has a lot of other question marks still to be worked out.
11. **TRADE** Buffalo Bills (via Miami): Josh Allen, QB Wyoming
BUF receives 11th pick MIA receives 21st pick, 22nd pick, 2019 4th
We have our first trade of the day ladies and gentlemen. Thanks to last year’s trade, Buffalo has ended up with the 21st and 22nd pick in the 2018 draft. These assets are both good but will not help Buffalo with getting a quarterback they want based on how late they are in the first round. While they don’t quite have enough power to make a move into the top 10, this trade with Miami makes sense. Buffalo gets the 11th overall pick and gives them the ability to pick a quarterback they can build through. The Dolphins get two first-round picks to help build their team and restore them to their playoff form of 2016. For the Bills, they will use this pick to grab the last solid quarterback prospect the 2018 draft in Josh Allen. While Allen certainly has his own questions about his draft profile, he is the last of the 2018 top-tier quarterback prospects and is still solid enough to be a potentially franchise backing quarterback. Sean McDermott and Buffalo’s offensive staff will have what it takes to build Allen into someone that Bills fans can rely on for years to come.
Fantasy Relevance: Allen is a wait and see prospect. If Buffalo retains Taylor or gets another veteran, Allen is just a hold. If Allen is named the starter, he will be shaky still has the potential to do well. A late first round/early second round rookie draft pick.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame
In what was one of the most shocking moves of the offseason so far, the Cincinnati Bengals retained seemingly out-the-door head coach Marvin Lewis and the team will continue its status quo for 2018. If the Bengals are not going to change their coach, one thing that needs to change for them to be successful is their offensive line play. Andy Dalton and the rest of the offense sputtered due to constant pressure and an inability to establish a run game, leaving the Bengals in a bleak spot. With their 12th overall selection, the Bengals will address this need and select the best offensive tackle of the draft in Mike McGlinchey out of Notre Dame. McGlinchey is a very solid prospect and will be a building block for the Bengals and has the potential to be the foundation of their offense of line for years to come.
Fantasy Relevance: Improves a terrible offensive line unit. Biggest benefactor would be Mixon and Dalton.
13. Washington Redskins: Roquan Smith, LB Georgia
The Washington Redskins have some tough calls to make in this offseason. Their feud with Kirk Cousins has come to a point and it seems like the front office in Washington will have to decide on what to do with their quarterback. While some signs point to him going elsewhere, I see the Redskins either finding a way to retain Cousins or addressing his loss with another veteran under center. This being the case, they will look to add a player that can help solidify their roster in other positions with the thirteenth overall selection in the 2018 draft. The best option for Washington to take here would be Roquan Smith from Georgia. Smith was an award winning linebacker at the college level and has the talent and pedigree to become an exceptional NFL player. He would fit right in the Redskin defense as a middle linebacker and could make an impact right away.
Fantasy Relevance: Improves a defense that already has a star in Josh Norman. Smith will help push the Redskins D/ST over the edge and make them a match-up dependent unit in 2018.
14. Green Bay Packers: Arden Key, DE LSU
For the first time since 2008, the Green Bay Packers failed to qualify for the postseason and will be picking at the fourteenth overall selection in the 2018 draft. While this may be unfamiliar for some Packers fans, this selection gives Green Bay a chance to select a type of player that is not normally available to them in most years. The player they will select in this spot will be Arden Key. Key is a very solid pass rushing defensive end who would help fill a need that the Packers have been searching for. Players like Clay Matthews and Ahmad Brooks are getting older and Key would be able to fulfill the roles these players currently have. Look for Key to come in and unlock what could be a good Packers defense going forward.
Fantasy Relevance: Green Bay needs defensive help, especially on the pass rush. Key will bring his pass rushing ability to the Packers and makes their D/ST slightly more appealing in 2018.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Williams, OT Texas
The Arizona Cardinals are going through a transition point at this time. Not quite a rebuild because they still have a lot of good veteran players on their team, but there will certainly be changes to the franchise in 2018. Both their head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer retired at the end of this season and the team will look to address both needs. I project the Cardinals will also be a team that solves their quarterback quandary through free agency or trade and will use their fifteenth pick in the draft to grab a player that can help them continue their contending ways. Connor Williams from Texas will be the man for Arizona. Williams is someone who the Cardinals can rely on to keep their quarterback upright and can be a leader on their offensive line for years to come. Williams will be a nice young addition to a team that will still look ot be competitive in 2018.
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.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR Notre Dame
After looking like a playoff team, the Baltimore Ravens were knocked out of playoff consideration in Week 17 ona miraculous play by the Bengals. Now the Ravens are faced with what to do with the sixteenth overall pick in the upcoming draft. Baltimore does not have a lot of needs, their roster is fairly solid and should be ready to compete for a playoff spot again in 2018. However, there is one selection that could help put them over the top. The Ravens could use a new wide receiver that would absorb some responsibilities that their older wide outs, like Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin, are unable to do now. A great choice for this role that will be left for Baltimore would be Equanimeous St. Brown from Notre Dame.
Equanimeous St. Brown || "Breakout Reciever" || Notre Dame Highlights pic.twitter.com/8Cjix1w5Gp
— LPx98 ⭐️ (@LPx98) December 1, 2016
St. Brown has length for days at 6’ 5” and has the speed to take advantage of smaller defenders. The major drawback to St. Brown would be his weight, coming in at only 200 pounds as of today. He will need to bulk up a bit to help prevent injury at the NFL level but I have faith he will be able to do so, giving the Ravens a wide receiver they can rely on for years to come.
Fantasy Relevance: The Ravens are lacking at the skill positions, especially at WR. St. Brown is talented enough to make an impact, likely won’t be fantasy relevant right away but is a good dynasty hold.
Don’t forget to check out all the Fantasy Football gear from our friends over at RotoWear!
Use the promo code ‘FFD260’ to get 20% off any purchase!
17. LA Chargers: Derwin James, S Florida State
Despite making a late season playoff push, the Chargers finished outside of playoff consideration and will be selecting from the seventeen spot in the 2018 draft. With this pick, Los Angeles will look to add to their young up-and-coming defense and will do so by taking Derwin James. James, a hard hitting safety from Florida State will come to the Chargers and has the potential to instantly be a playmaker for their defense. He, along with Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Casey Hayward, would form a core group that has the potential to be one of the top units in the NFL sooner rather than later.
Fantasy Relevance: Chargers D/ST is already pretty solid, this will just help make them better. Not super relevant.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Orlando Brown, OT Oklahoma
When watching the Seattle Seahawks over the past few seasons, it is easy to notice that they have problem on their offensive line, especially for the 2017 team. Russell Wilson had barely any time in the pocket before facing pressure and Seattle was one of the worst rushing teams in the whole league (23rd in total rushing yards, 21st in yards per rush and 32nd in rushing touchdowns). The Seahawks can no longer afford to ignore this problem if they wish to get back to their winning ways. They will address it correctly with their eighteenth overall pick by selecting Orlando Brown out of Oklahoma. Brown is a big boy at 6’ 8” and 345 pounds which, along with his strength, will translate nicely to the NFL. Brown has the potential to be a great NFL tackle and could be the piece that solves a problem that has plagued Seattle for years.
Fantasy Relevance: Seattle badly needs to improve their offensive line, Brown will help open the Seattle offense up even more in 2018 and beyond.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Christian Kirk, WR Texas A&M
Despite already having a talented and high profile wide receiver in Dez Bryant, the Cowboys could still use more weapons around their young quarterback Dak Prescott, who we saw regress slightly in 2017. With the three receivers already off the board, Dallas would be in a tough spot with their nineteenth overall pick as they would miss out on the sure-fire prospects of the class. However, Christian Kirk from Texas A&M would still be on the board and is a talented player in his own right. Kirk is smaller than the wide receivers selected before him, but he makes up for his lack of size with an abundance of speed and solid route running. Kirk was also a primary kick returner at Texas A&M and could be useful for the Cowboys in that regard. Whether the Cowboys keep Bryant or let him go, Kirk will be a player that can elevate the Cowboys offense and get them back on track in 2018.
Fantasy Relevance: Dallas needs more offensive playmakers and he will do just that. Gives Prescott more options and could open up the offense for Elliot and Bryant as well.
20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB LSU
Here is a fun fact: The Detroit Lions have not had a 100 yard rusher in a game since Reggie Bush did it in 2013. That marks 68 consecutive games since a player in the Lions’ backfield eclipsed the century mark. Now, there have been a lot of factors that have contributed to this alarming number, including an overall shift in philosophy in offensive scheming and so-so offensive line performances, but mainly it has had to do with a lack of talent in in Lions running backs. Many though Ameer Abdullah would be the next great back in Detroit but he has fizzled in his three seasons with the team. The Lions have the twentieth overall selection in the draft and this would be a good time to upgrade the position and will do so by taking Derrius Guice from LSU.
I have derrius guice as my number 2 rated running back, I have guice going in the first round to the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit lions or the Baltimore ravens. pic.twitter.com/oxvAP32tau
— UGABornNRaised 🐶 (@UgaBornNrasied) January 11, 2018
Guice has the talent that Detroit has been searching for and should have an excellent chance of breaking Detroit’s dreadful streak.
Fantasy Relevance: The best way for the Lions to produce a fantasy relevant RB in 2018 is to replace Abdullah with Guice as the main guy. It is still unknown what the offense will look like in the face of a coaching change but it will likely be a more balanced approach for the Lions. Guice is an early rookie draft selection how has the potential to pay off big if given the right amount of work in Detroit.
21. Miami Dolphins (via Buffalo): Billy Price, OG/C Ohio State
With the first of Miami’s consecutive selections in the 2018 draft, look for them to address their need at the offensive line, specifically the interior of the offensive line. Billy Price out of Ohio State is the best center in this draft and is someone who can also play either guard position, giving him a tremendous amount of flexibility for the Dolphins. Price will be able to come to Miami and make an impact on their offense right away due to his NFL skillset. Expect the Dolphins to grab him with one of their selections in the first round.
Fantasy Relevance: Price will help keep Tannehill protected and create better lanes for Drake and Williams.
22. Miami Dolphins (via Buffalo): Clelin Ferrell, DE Clemson
With the second of the Dolphins’ consecutive selections, Miami will grab a player who can help them on the other side of the ball. Clelin Ferrell, a defensive end from Clemson, will be taken with the twenty second overall pick in the 2018 draft, going to a Dolphins team that will look to add his edge rushing talents to an already above-average defense. Ferrell, alongside Price, will represent the immediate return in a trade made with their rival Buffalo, which should make fans happy with their side of this deal.
Fantasy Relevance: Ferrell will help the Dolphins D/ST be more reliable in 2018. They will still be a match-up dependent unit but overall will be better than the 2017 numbers.
23. LA Rams: Ronnie Harrison, S Alabama
While the Los Angeles Rams had an early playoff loss, they made great strides as a franchise this year and are projected to only get better in coming years. Their young core on both offense and defense is something that fans should get excited about and will look to be added upon with this twenty third pick in the 2018 draft. The Rams will add a piece to their secondary and select Ronnie Harrison from Alabama. Harrison would join a team that already has a star player in Aaron Donald but with this pick the Rams have the potential to build a new very solid unit for years to come.
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.
24. Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Oliver, CB Colorado
For the Carolina Panthers, they finished 2017 with a disappointing loss to their rival Saints in the Wild Card round. The Panthers had an interesting season as they went back and forth in their quality of play. Cam Newton has a lot to do with their success, as to be expected, and the team played its best games when Newton was on. Going forward, the Panthers will look to build the team around Newton so he doesn’t have to shoulder all of the responsibilities for the team. One area that can be improved upon is their secondary. Carolina’s defense has not quite been the same since Norman left and the team will look to grab a cornerback they can rely on with their #24 pick in the draft. That man will be Isaiah Oliver from Colorado. Oliver has the skills to be a corner at the NFL level and will put into an already strong Panthers defensive system. Look for Oliver to make an impact on Carolina’s secondary right away and be a player they can start to rely on going forward.
Fantasy Relevance: Oliver will provide balance to a D/ST that was lacking in the secondary. Makes their D/ST a better week-to-week option.
25. Tennessee Titans: Joshua Jackson, CB Iowa
The Tennessee Titans had a surprising finish to their season. They spend most of the year on the playoff bubble but managed to get in with a Week 17 win and some key loses. In their Wild Card playoff matchup, that many predicted they would lose, they stuned the Chiefs with a comeback victory. Though they lost to the Patriots in the Divisional round, it was a pleasant end for what was an up-and-down year. Going forward, the Titans will look to add this momentum and build for future playoff runs. One player that can be selected with Tennessee’s twenty fifth overall selection in the 2018 draft cornerback Joshua Jackson from Iowa. Jackson is a solid defensive back that would be a great pair with last year’s first round pick Adoree Jackson. These two would become an excellent pair of corners that are very important for a elite defense to have.
Fantasy Relevance: Tennessee needs a defensive playmaker, Jackson will help in that regard. Will increase usefulness of Titans D/ST next year.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Vita Vea, DT Washington
After their rather infamous Super Bowl defeat in 2017, the Atlanta Falcons bounced back and made the playoffs this season, even winning their Wild Card game versus the Rams. The Falcons avoided a complete post Super Bowl hangover but will still look to make improvements to their roster in the draft for future success. With the twenty sixth pick in the 2018 draft, look for the Falcons to go defense and specifically take Vita Vea from Washington. Vea is large man (6’ 5” and 340 pounds) who primarily played nose guard in his time with the Huskies. His body type and skill set would fit in nicely with the Falcons as they need a presence in the middle of their defensive line to compliment their star edge rusher Vic Beasley.
Fantasy Relevance: Atlanta needs defensive line help, Vea will be a good presence for them. Makes the Falcons D/ST more appealing in 2018.
27. New Orleans Saints: Da’Ron Payne, DT Alabama
The New Orleans Saints suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Vikings in their Divisional round playoff game. While some mistakes were made, it should not be forgotten that New Orleans had an excellent 2017 season and have a bright future ahead of them with up-and-coming stars Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore. A large contributor to the Saints’ success was the resurgence of their defense. After being a poor unit for many years, this year’s squad flipped the script and made a lasting impression on fans and coaches alike. With New Orleans selecting from the #27 spot in the draft, look for them to add to their defensive riches by taking Da’Ron Payne out of Alabama. Payne played all over the defensive line for the Crimson Tide but primarily played defensive tackle, a position that the Saints could use an upgrade on. Payne is a solid prospect and has the potential to be among the many great Alabama defensive linemen we have seen produced from the Nick Saban era, giving the Saints defense another piece to their arsenal.
Fantasy Relevance: Improved Saints D/ST gets better with this pick. Will be a relevant unit in 2018.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB Alabama
In what was definitely the saddest story of the 2017 season, regardless of who you root for, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a super scary injury in a Monday night game versus the Bengals. He attempted to make a tackle with his head down and suddenly lost movement and feeling in his lower body. Now, since that injury Shazier has bounced back slightly and has even reportedly began to regain feelings in his legs, it was still a terrifying moment for him and the Steelers organization. Moving forward it is presumed, at this point in time, that Shazier won’t return to football anytime soon. This leaves a hole in the middle of Pittsburgh’s defense and the draft would be the best time to address this sudden need. With their twenty eighth overall selection in the 2018 draft, the Steelers will take Rashaan Evans, making him the second consecutive Alabama player taken and the fifth one selected in the first round. Evans plays in the inside linebacker position and should be able to fit in nicely in the Steelers’ system. While his circumstances for ending up in Pittsburgh may be grim, Evans will make the best of the situation and bring new hope to Steelers fans everywhere.
Fantasy Relevance: Pittsburgh’s D/ST was good before the Shazier injury and with the addition of Evans will get back to that success in 2018.
29. **TRADE** Green Bay Packers (via Jacksonville): Denzel Ward, CB Ohio State
GB receives 26th pick JAX receives 45th pick, 76th pick, and 2019 3rd round pick
We have our second trade in the first round at the twenty ninth overall selection. The Packers have made a move with the Jaguars and will be picking from this spot after already picking Arden Key at the fourteenth pick. In return, Jacksonville will get Green Bay’s 2018 second and third round selections (45th and 76th overall respectively) and third round pick in 2019. Green Bay will elect to move up in the draft to grab another defensive player that they will need to help bring their unit back to its glory days. This player will be Denzel Ward, a cornerback from Ohio State. Ward is among the second tier of cornerbacks after Minkah Fitzpatrick and is the last one left on the draft board in this current projection. Ward will help a defense that has been lacking at this position for years. Ward has lots of potential and is the type of player that will pay off for the Packers’ front office who made this deal.
Fantasy Relevance: Ward fills a large void for the Packer defense and along with Key may turn things around for Green Bay’s D/ST in 2018.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: Martinas Rankin, OT Mississippi State
Despite the extremely successful season the Philadelphia Eagles had in 2017, it could have been much better if not for a knee injury to Carson Wentz late in the season. The Eagles have a nice young core that will be able to make runs like this for years to come, assuming health. One part of their team that is much older than the rest is the offensive line. Now, they played well in 2017 and were a huge part of the Eagles’ success, but you can not deny that they have some age at this position (Jason Peters at 35, Jason Kelce at 30, Steve Wisniewski and Brandon Brooks at 28, etc.). Philadelphia, in this projection, has the thirtieth overall pick in 2018 and will use it to draft the best offensive lineman available and add him to their stout unit. This man will be Martinas Rankin from Mississippi State. Rankin can come to Philadelphia, learn from some of the older Eagles lineman and, with his potential, can be a good left or right tackle in the NFL for Philly.
Fantasy Relevance: Philadelphia is another team that is very balanced so they do not have a lot of needs. Rankin will come in and help solidify the offensive line and fill in if injuries occur.
31. Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, G UTEP
The Minnesota Vikings finished their Divisional playoff matchup versus New Orleans with the only walk-off touchdown in NFL playoff history. This pumped a lot of excitement into a season that was already pretty excellent for their organization and fans. Despite the injury to their star-potential running back Dalvin Cook, the Vikings sailed on and are now looking like Super Bowl contenders. In this projection, I have them selecting from the thirty first spot which gives their team a lot of options. Both the Minnesota offense and defense were great this season and don’t need a lot of improvement. One thing that is always nice to have on NFL rosters is depth at the offensive line, which is where I expect the Vikings to go with this pick. Being at the back end of the draft, they missed out on a lot of the top-tier offensive line talent but can still find a good player in this spot. The player they will choose is Will Hernandez, a guard from the University of Texas El Paso. While Hernandez may have played at a smaller school, it doesn’t mean he can’t be a success at the NFL level. Based on his tape, he has all of the skills and size that one would look for in a professional offensive lineman.
LG Will Hernandez (UTEP, 6’3”, 330lbs). This is a man amongst boys, even vs. Texas & Oklahoma (#76). I think I’ll be comfortable with him in the late 1st round. pic.twitter.com/ofLX1ROLhG
— Jeremy Stevenson (@MyColtsAccount) November 30, 2017
Hernandez will have a chance to come to Minnesota and compete with the other lineman for playing time but will also not be expected to make an impact right away, a move that would work out for both sides.
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: Jaire Alexander, CB Louisville
With the last pick in the first round of the 2018 draft, the New England Patriots will add to what was a struggling defensive unit in 2017 by taking Jaire Alexander from Louisville. Alexander played cornerback for the Cardinals but also had a large role in their return game, something that he can bring to the Patriots and be even more versatile on the roster. Alexander has speed for days, running a 4.32 40 yard dash time at Louisville’s spring testing in 2017, which will also make him a nice weapon for the New England defense. Now, Alexander is a little on the raw side when it comes to his cornerback skills compared to some of the others taken before him. But if there is anyone that can take a players with some question marks about him and turn him into a star, it is Bill Belichick.
Fantasy Relevance: Alexander likely won’t be someone to make an impact in 2018 but he has the potential to be solid in future years. He will likely return some kicks or punts for New England so he could be someone to look for if you league allows return yards for defensive players.