The Browns hold the key to this year’s draft in the sense that they’ll shape how the entire event unfolds based on who they take first overall. We’ve already spent countless hours wondering how they’ll proceed. Which of the four quarterbacks will it be? Will they make a move for Saquon Barkley? Could they take a pass rusher for a second straight year?
So, of course, the Browns decided to change everything last week by making a flurry of trades, the most important of which Tyrod Taylor. The Browns, a team that has been allergic to competent quarterback play throughout their history, suddenly have a capable quarterback in place. And that — along with the fact that they also own the fourth-overall pick in a top-heavy quarterback class that features four quarterbacks you can make a reasonable case for at No. 1 — could change how they proceed with the first-overall pick.in
There’s no doubt that the Browns still need to draft a quarterback. But maybe they don’t need to take one with the first pick in the draft.
Let’s say that general manager John Dorsey thinks the top four prospects — Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield — are all similar. If that’s the case, then Dorsey should absolutely pull the trigger on the best non-quarterback with the first-overall pick and then take his pick of the remaining quarterbacks at No. 4, who will then sit behind Taylor for a season. A prospect like Bradley Chubb probably won’t be sitting there at No. 4 — not with the Giants and Colts holding the second and third picks — but a quarterback like Mayfield probably will be. You probably can’t get another Chubb later in the draft. But you can get another top-tier quarterback prospect.
That’s why in this iteration of my mock draft, I have the Browns passing up on a quarterback at No. 1 by taking Chubb and then “settling” for Mayfield at No. 4. What follows is quarterback chaos as the Broncos, , trade up to take their quarterback of the future. The Jets, , engineer their own trade to take their future quarterback. That means I have four quarterbacks going in the top-five picks even though the Browns pass on a quarterback at No. 1.
Beyond that, this is the first mock draft we’ve published that’s come after the legal tampering period of free agency. After Tuesday’s action, mock drafts will never be the same again. Star Lotulelei and re-signing Kyle Williams, so … actually never mind, we’re not going to play this game. Let’s just say Tuesday — the day before free agency even officially began — was (expletive) crazy as nearly every top-tier free agent agreed to sign somewhere., which means they likely won’t take a receiver at No. 8. The Jaguars , which takes them out of the market for a guard. The Bills upgraded their defensive line by bringing in
Stupidly, I decided to write this mock draft on Monday and have since been forced to rework a few aspects. On that note, this mock draft was revised at roughly 10 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, so if the Patriots somehow end up re-signing Nate Solder at some point between now and the time you’re reading this, please don’t yell at me for having the Patriots take an offensive tackle at the end of the first round. Cool?
OK, onto the draft.
1. Cleveland Browns
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. The Browns still need a quarterback even though they traded for Taylor, but they’re don’t go quarterback at No. 1 because they know a top quarterback will be available at No. 4. This all comes down to how Dorsey views the quarterback class. If the Browns pass on a quarterback with the first pick, it means he thinks all of the top quarterbacks are similar in caliber and he’d be happy with the vast majority of them as the long-term answer in Cleveland.
2. Denver Broncos (via mock trade)
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. The Broncos see an opening after the Browns pass on a quarterback. After missing out on Cousins in free agency and signing Keenum, the Broncos still have a chance to take the first quarterback in the draft. So, they trade up with the Giants, who need all the extra help they can get. At No. 2, the Broncos pull the trigger on Allen, who will sit for a season while Keenum sees if he can extend his magical run for another season. John Elway can’t resist that big arm of Allen’s, erratic accuracy be damned.
3. New York Jets (via mock trade)
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. The Jets, devastated to see Cousins head to Minnesota, also spot an opening. They engineer a trade up with the Colts, The Colts don’t need a quarterback ( but I digress), but the Jets do. Even after re-signing Josh McCown and signing Teddy Bridgewater, the Jets will be in the market for a long-term quarterback with both of those quarterbacks signing one-year deals. The Jets then take Rosen, rebounding nicely on their failed bid for Cousins with a top-tier quarterback prospect.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Texans)
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. Surprise, surprise. The reason the Browns felt comfortable passing on a quarterback is because Dorsey secretly sees Mayfield as his top quarterback. He gets his quarterback at No. 4 after adding a stud pass rusher at No. 1. The Browns head into the 2018 season with a future that is finally beginning to look bright.
5. New York Giants (via mock trade)
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. The Giants are tempted to go with running back Saquon Barkley, but they can’t resist taking a quarterback to groom behind 37-year-old Eli Manning. Darnold has a case to be the first quarterback off the board, but he drops to No. 5 overall after three other quarterbacks go ahead of him. The Giants need to get a quarterback in the near future and there’s no guarantee they’ll get to draft this high in the near future. So, they grab a quarterback who’ll sit behind Manning for a year.
6. Indianapolis Colts (via mock trade)
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame. Nelson might be the best player in the draft and the Colts definitely need help on the offensive line after a season that saw them allow a league-high 56 sacks. The Colts need to prioritize protecting Andrew Luck. Nelson can do that and be an absolute monster in the run game. The Colts get great value after moving down and acquiring more draft picks.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St. The Buccaneers released Doug Martin. They need a new running back. Barkley is one of the best running back prospects to enter the draft and he killed it at the combine. Taking a running back at No. 7 might be a reach because selecting running backs in the top 10 usually doesn’t translate to Super Bowls, but Barkley is the best playmaker in the draft. The Buccaneers can’t resist.
8. Chicago Bears
Tremaine Edmunds, ILB, Virginia Tech. The Bears need another inside linebacker to pair alongside Danny Trevathan. After an impressive showing at the combine, Edmunds established himself as the best inside linebacker in the 2018 draft class. The Bears, meanwhile, solved their receiver issue in the free agency by signing Robinson, so they won’t need to reach for someone like Calvin Ridley.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, FS, Alabama. The 49ers can’t believe Fitzpatrick falls to them at No. 9, but they’re not complaining. Fitzpatrick is arguably the most versatile defensive player in the draft, which will come in handy in today’s NFL. Suddenly, with Richard Sherman and Fitzpatrick added in a single offseason, the 49ers’ secondary looks like it could be a real strength.
10. Oakland Raiders
Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia. I’m not changing this pick from my last mock draft. As I wrote two weeks ago, “Jon Gruden is an offensive-minded coach, but he can’t live up to his overwhelming expectations unless he fixes a horrific defense.” The Raiders‘ defense was putrid in 2017. Smith fills a need immediately.
11. Miami Dolphins
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. The Dolphins just got rid of Jarvis Landry so they pull the trigger on a receiver — and one who can actually win downfield. Besides, it’s not like Devante Parker has developed into the receiver they thought he’d be. Some think the Dolphins could pull the trigger on a quarterback, but they’re officialy out of the market after four go in the first five picks.
12. Buffalo Bills (via Bengals)
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. The Bills were hoping one of the big four would fall to them at No. 12 or that they could trade up, but with too many teams going after quarterbacks, they missed out on the top prospects. They’ll “settle” for Lamar Jackson, a quarterback who looks to be a perfect fit for an offense that embraces concepts like RPOs, which just won the Eagles a Super Bowl. No, the Bills will not try to convert him to receiver. Jackson might not be a star immediately, but when you’re stuck in the same division as Tom Brady, you shouldn’t be targeting 2018. You should be targeting the window after Brady’s decline, which might be coming sooner than expected considering .
13. Washington Redskins
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. The Redskins let cornerback Bashaud Breeland walk in free agency, so they need someone to play opposite of Josh Norman. Ward is often regarded as the best cornerback in the draft, so the Redskins scoop him up here.
14. Green Bay Packers
15. Arizona Cardinals
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. Patrick Peterson is still entrenched as the Cardinals‘ CB1, but in today’s pass-happy NFL, you can never have too many top cornerbacks. The Cardinals are in the market for a quarterback after signing Sam Bradford, but No. 15 is too much of a reach for the best-remaining quarterback prospect on the board, Mason Rudolph. In Jackson, the Cardinals are getting a cornerback that features ideal size and length.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist. After missing out on Allen Robinson in free agency, the Ravens need to add playmakers to their offense in the draft. Sutton might be the best receiver in the draft — at least, that’s how Trapasso sees it. A year ago, the Ravens’ best receiver was Mike Wallace. This is a position of need even if they did add Ryan Grant and John Brown, two players who would be better as complimentary targets, not focal points.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. The Chargers take arguably the best tackle in the draft to bolster an offensive line that allowed the fewest sacks in football last year. The Chargers will enter 2018 with a top-tier quarterback and they’ll be strong on both sides of the trenches. You can’t ask for much more than that. Now, all they have to do is stop blowing late leads. I wouldn’t bet on it.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. Offensive line is almost always a need for the Seahawks, but after trading away Michael Bennett, potentially losing Cliff Avril to a career-ending injury, and seeing Malik McDowell miss his entire rookie year after an ATV accident, they also need to bolster their defensive line line. Davenport is ranked third among defensive ends, according to Trapasso.
19. Dallas Cowboys
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma St.Dez Bryant isn’t the receiver he once was, but he’s not exactly cuttable. Outside of Bryant, the Cowboys don’t really have any weapons for Dak Prescott. Washington is Trapasso’s second-ranked receiver and fittingly, 19th overall on his big board.
20. Detroit Lions
Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College. You can never have too many pass rushers, especially when you’re situated in the same division as quarterback god Aaron Rodgers, the good not great Kirk Cousins, and . Last year, the Lions ranked 20th in sacks. But by drafting Landry, bringing back Ezekiel Ansah on , and hiring Matt Patricia as their head coach, the Lions could be poised to improve at one of the most important aspects of the game.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Bills)
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. By trading for a new left tackle before the draft, the Bengals addressed a position of need. Now, they’ll be free to upgrade elsewhere, like cornerback. The Bengals declined to pick up Adam Jones‘ option, so they have an opening at the position. Alexander is 11th overall on our big board even after an injury-plagued 2017 season. When healthy in 2016, he notched five picks.
22. Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs)
Isaiah Wynn, Georgia,OT. I originally had the Bills going with a defensive tackle, but re-signing Williams turns a major area of need into a minor area of need. Don’t get me wrong, the Bills still need to address defensive tackle at some point with Williams getting up there in age, but they’re now free to target more pressing areas. Speaking of which, . So, they draft his replacement in Wynn, who is ranked first at his position group here at CBS Sports.
23. Los Angeles Rams
Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP. Linebacker might be a bigger need, Rams can’t ignore their need on the interior of their offensive line. It’s time to protect Jared Goff and make sure Todd Gurley’s running lanes remain wide open. Hernandez, according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, compares to Richie Incognito., but the
24. Carolina Panthers
Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado St. After missing out on the big-name receivers in free agency, the Panthers address a clear need by taking Gallup, who checks in at No. 3 among the receivers on our big board here at CBS Sports. During the past two seasons at Colorado State, Gallup caught 176 passes for 2,685 yards, and 21 touchdowns. Devin Funchess isn’t a WR1. The . The Panthers need to continue addressing receiver.
25. Tennessee Titans
Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama. Before the craziness of free agency began, I had the Titans taking a cornerback (Carlton Davis), but after they signed Malcolm Butler, the Titans have to be out of the cornerback market. So, let’s slot in Evans. The Titans lost linebacker Avery Williamson to the Jets on Tuesday, so a new need opened up.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. The Falcons, coached by Dan Quinn, are building a dangerous defense, but they can aim higher. Last year, they ranked 13th in sacks and 19th in yards allowed per carry. Meanwhile, Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe are both free agents, creating a void on the defensive line. Payne, who is 23rd on our big board and fourth at his position, makes too much sense here.
27. New Orleans Saints
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma St. I’m keeping this one locked in. Here’s what I wrote two weeks ago:
Drew BreesDrew Brees, 39, won’t play forever, so the Saints go and get his successor in Mason Rudolph, who is actually ranked first among quarterbacks on Chris Trapasso’s big board. Rudolph, who threw 37 touchdowns and only nine picks in his final college season, lands in an ideal destination, getting a chance to learn from Brees and Sean Payton.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Leighton Vander Esch, OLB, Boise St. Funny how fast things can change in mock draft season. Two weeks ago, I had Edmunds falling to the Steelers, who need help at linebacker in the aftermath of Ryan Shazier’s injury. But after a great combine, there’s doesn’t appear to be any scenario that sees Edmunds slipping all the way No. 28. Instead, with the Bears scooping up Edmunds, I have the Steelers taking Leighton Vander Esch, who is already being connected to Pittsburgh. He’s Trapasso’s top-ranked outside linebacker and 27th overall.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota St. I thought the Jaguars would re-sign Allen Robinson and while that still could happen, their refusal to franchise tag him likely means he’s a goner. That makes pass-catchers a serious area of need. Goedert is my first tight end off the board. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared him to Zach Ertz, one of the game’s best tight ends, while Trapasso ranked him first at his position group. Last year, the Jaguars’ leading tight end, Marcedes Lewis, caught 24 passes for 318 yards and five touchdowns. The Jaguars need more from the position.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Vita Vea, DT, Washington. They got their quarterback in Cousins, now they can bolster their defensive line in Vea, who is 18th overall on Trapasso’s big board.
31. New England Patriots
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma. Brown experienced a horrific combine performance that was so bad it could actually take him out of the first round. Not so fast. The Eagles need to develop a new left tackle with 36-year-old Jason Peters coming off a torn ACL. The Eagles realize that the combine is an overrated evaluation tool and decide to trust his tape instead.