1Â Â Cleveland Browns – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
This is the most important pick in the draft for many reasons. For the Browns, they MUST find their QB of the future. Whiffing on this pick after passing on DeSean Watson and Carson Wentz, to name a few, is not an option.Â I believe the choice here comes down to Allen and Darnold, but in the end they go with Allen. His upside is off the charts in terms of physical ability. Allen owns the strongest arm of any QB in this class to go with excellent pocket mobility. He had accuracy issues in college which present challenges at the pro level. The Browns must work with him to better understand NFL defensive concepts and put better touch on short to immediate passes. If handled appropriately, Browns brass believe this could be the next Ben Roethlisberger.
The second reason this pick is important is because it has implications for the Giants, Bills, and Cardinals…
2Â Â New York Giants – Sam Darnold, QB, USC
If the Browns pass of Darnold, the Giants will jump on him. Darnold is the most complete QB in this draft class. He has an above average arm with the ability to fit the ball in tight windows. He has excellent pocket mobility and can evade the rush while keeping his eyes downfield. Darnold’s best attribute might be his intangibles – he has superb locker-room presence and always says the right things. He’s the type of QB players want to follow. The interceptions and fumbles are a concern, coaches will need to work with him on ball security. However, his upside cannot be denied.
This pick will have a ripple effect throughout the league, especially in Arizona and Buffalo. If the Browns take Darnold, I do not believe the Giants front office likes Allen enough to take him here, opening up trade possibilities for both franchises to trade up for their potential franchise QB. If Darnold is available and the Giants take, both franchises will be left in desperation mode.
3Â Â New York Jets – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Baker’s off-field and on-field issues all well documented, but he has convinced the Jets front office enough to take him. Reports out of New York are that they love him and has matured. His arm is underrated – he threw very well at both the combine and his pro day. He will need work on taking snaps from under center and learning to read and decipher NFL defenses, two things he did not get any experience in playing against swiss cheese Big 12 defenses.
4Â Â Cleveland Browns – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Jets trade with the Colts to move to #3 benefits the Browns, who end up with a franchise signal caller in Allen and now one of the most dynamic RB prospects in NFL draft history. Barkley can do it all – run from any formation, catch out of the backfield, pass protection, and return kicks and punts. His athletic ability is off the charts, dominating the combine in almost every category. He adds a dynamic to the Cleveland backfield they have never had. Cleveland fans will be ecstatic with these first 2 picks. Barkley doesn’t come without a few warts, however. He had several games where he struggled to find room and must improve his vision at the point of attack.
5Â Â Denver Broncos – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Under John Elway’s guidance, the Broncos have hung their hat on defense and a dominant secondary. After trading Aquib Talib to LA, they find his replacement here. Ward is this drafts top cornerback and is lightning fast, consistently running in the 4.3s at the combine and his pro day. His rotates his hips quickly, allowing him to break on most routes in the route tree. His stock is boosted further up the board thanks to the success of last years Defensive Rookie of the Year, cornerback Marcus Lattimore, also from Ohio State.
6Â Â Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb, Edge, NC State
The Colts trade back to #6 with the Jets nets them their choice of several excellent prospects to go along with those 2nd round picks. While they desperately need better protection for Andrew Luck and could go Quentin Nelson here, an edge rusher as capable as Bradley Chubb is too much to pass on. While he isn’t the sure-fire prospect Miles Garrett was last year, Chubb is explosive off the edge and can consistently get to the QB. He’s excellent at setting the edge in run defense and his coaches at NC State say his work ethic is un-matched. The Colts haven’t had a consistent pass rusher since the departure of Dwight Freeney and fill a major void here.
7Â Â Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quentin Nelson, G, Notre Dame
While the Bucs were hoping Denzel Ward would fall to them here, they don’t exactly settle with Nelson. “Big Q” is the most NFL ready prospect in this draft class, a true plug and play guard. He is absolutely dominant at the point of attack, finishing defenders with a mean streak. Once he gets his hands on you, his leg drive resets the line of scrimmage. He is not quite as dominant in pass protection, but his footwork and hand placement are already better than most guards in the NFL.
8Â Â Chicago Bears – Derwin James, S, Florida St.
Derwin’s draft stock slipped a bit after an injury riddled down Junior season at FSU. However, his athletic ability cannot be denied. In the mold of Kam Chancellor, James fits the prototype safety GM Ryan Pace is looking for. He tackles with ferocity near the line of scrimmage and is capable of covering both tight ends and running backs out of the backfield.
9Â Â San Francisco 49ers – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Niners would love to use this pick to upgrade their secondary and will take a hard look at Minkah Fitzpatrick. However, Reuben Foster’s legal issues force their hand. Roquan is considered the most NFL ready LB in this draft class. He is rangy, capable of patrolling sideline to sideline with his freakish speed and athletic ability. He reads the point of attack quickly and often disrupts run plays in the hole faster than the RB can get there. The Niners might just find their next Patrick Willis, what they thought Foster would be, here.
10Â Â TRADE – Buffalo Bills – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Bills trade with the Raiders and jump up 2 spots, ahead of Miami, to get their QB. Rosen has been the subject of much debate this draft season. His ability is undeniable, in terms of talent and ability to read a defense he is the best QB in this class. His throwing motion is excellent and can make every throw at an NFL level already. However, his is dropping down draft boards because of perceived character issues among NFL GMs. His high school has nothing good to say about him, his college coach endorsed a rival QB, and part teammates have given luke warm reviews. Rosen’s recent interview with Sports Illustrated did nothing to quell concerns about his ability to lead an NFL organization. However, the Bills are desperate for a franchise QB and are willing to overlook the character flaws in exchange for the immense physical talent.
Other Notable Selections:
Minkah Fitzpatrick – Miami Dolphins, #11
Calvin Ridley – Baltimore Ravens, #16 (unless they sign Dez Bryant)
Lamar Jackson – New Orleans Saints, #27
Kyle Lauletta – New England Patriots, #31 (and my favorite pick of the first round, the Hoodie finds his next Jimmy G)