Latest 2018 NFL mock draft: Arizona Cardinals swoop on Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield

By Rob Rang, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 1, 2018 at 5:46 PM
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The 2017 NFL regular season has come and gone, with the selection order for the 20 non-playoff clubs almost entirely set.

Two teams -- the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers -- finished the regular season tied (including strength of schedule) and will flip a coin at the 2018 Scouting Combine, with the winner earning the ninth overall selection and the loser picking 10th.

Much will change between now and April 28, with free agency certain to shake up the rosters and needs for every team, but scouts like the talent this year with potentially bumper crops at quarterback, cornerback and along the line of scrimmage.

Underclassmen listed in this mock (denoted with an asterisk) have until January 15 to officially request special admission by the NFL into the draft.

1. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California*: The hiring of John Dorsey as general manager could be just the first of several moves in Cleveland with head coach Hue Jackson (and the team's incumbent quarterbacks) very much on the hot seat. As demonstrated in the Cotton Bowl loss to Ohio State, Darnold (just a redshirt sophomore), is by no means a flawless prospect but he possesses the physical tools and intangibles Dorsey has prioritized in the past.

2. NEW YORK GIANTS: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA*: Like in Cleveland, new Giants GM Dave Gettleman could spark a house cleaning in New York. An elite runner like Penn State's Saquon Barkley could be exactly what Eli Manning (and Odell Beckham Jr.) need to get the Giants back on track, but Gettleman may find it hard to pass on a talent like Rosen, whose big arm and personality could make him a perfect fit for Broadway.

3. INDIANPOLIS COLTS: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State*: All indications are that Andrew Luck will be back in 2018, though no one knows how effective he will be. While acknowledging a defense desperately in need of playmakers, adding a dynamic talent like Barkley to soften Luck's return and make the Colts less one-dimensional seems like an easy choice.

4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (from HOUSTON TEXANS): Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama*: After almost surely drafting a quarterback at No. 1 overall, Cleveland should be in position to take the best available player here. That could may very well be Fitzpatrick, the reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top defensive back, who possesses the physical traits and intangibles to project as a decade-long starter in the NFL. Given that Cleveland surrendered four times as many touchdowns passes (28) as it intercepted in 2017, adding Fitzpatrick would make sense on every front.

5. DENVER BRONCOS: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming*: The Broncos have needs other than at quarterback and could be tempted by some of the safer prospects. No one has to remind John Elway of the value of a franchise quarterback, however. Allen is quite raw and struggled in high-profile matchups throughout his career, suggesting that he needs time. No quarterback in this class offers a more intoxicating blend of size, arm and athleticism, however, and Elway has already shown his interest, scouting Allen in person at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

6. NEW YORK JETS: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State: The Jets boast one of the league's most gifted defensive lines but currently lack a disruptive element off the edge. In terms of his production, technique and work ethic, Chubb -- a two-time All-American coming a senior season in which he made 72 tackles, including 24 for loss and 10 sacks -- might just be the safest player in the draft.

7. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame*: It is hard to fathom that a defensive line as individually talented as Tampa Bay's could finish last in the NFL in sacks with just 22 in 16 regular-season games, making a pass rusher an obvious priority. Protecting Jameis Winston and sparking the ground game should also be a priority, and although guards rarely earn top 10 consideration, Nelson is viewed as a future Pro Bowl talent.

8. CHICAGO BEARS: Connor Williams, OT, Texas*: The brave trade up for Mitchell Trubisky last season only works if the Bears are just as aggressive in filling the club's other shortcomings, including at wide receiver and left tackle, where Charles Leno remains overmatched against the top edge rushers. With no clear-cut top 10 caliber wideouts available in this draft, gutsy general manager Ryan Pace goes for the upgrade up front with Williams, the consensus top-rated tackle.

*9. (tie) OAKLAND RAIDERS: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson*: Despite the presence of edge rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, the Raiders sacked opposing quarterbacks just 31 times in 2017. To put that into perspective, just one playoff team -- Buffalo (27) -- finished with fewer. The Raiders could use an athletic interior presence to complement its outside speed. Wilkins possesses rare quickness and agility for a 300-plus pounder with the intangibles Oakland seemed to lack in a disappointing season.

*10. (tie) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama*: The future looks bright in San Francisco with general manager John Lynch, head coach Kyle Shanahan, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and first-round picks Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster each looking like long-term fixes, collectively sparking the 49ers to five consecutive wins to end the 2017 season. Adding a No. 1 target for Garoppolo would seem like the next logical move. Ridley is a silky-smooth athlete from a pro-style scheme who projects well at flanker in Shanahan's offense.

11. MIAMI DOLPHINS: Derwin James, SS, Florida State*: Coverage and open-field tackling were season-long issues for the Dolphins, which allowed one of the league's worst touchdown-to-interception ratios in 2017, intercepting just nine passes while giving up 26 touchdowns. After shaking off the rust from missing much of the 2016 season due to injury, James began living up to his billing as the "next Sean Taylor," proving a difference-maker for the Seminoles.

12. CINCINNATI BENGALS: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson*: Whether it is Marvin Lewis or someone else, the head coach in Cincinnati will have one of the league's better (and better paid) defensive lines to work with, but standouts Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson are each unrestricted free agents after 2018. Adding a talented edge rusher like Ferrell -- whose best football is clearly still ahead of him -- would fit in with the long-term strategies the Bengals have used in the past.

13. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia*: Washington's big offseason decisions may start and end with Kirk Cousins, but finding new options for the "quarterback on defense" will also be a priority, with no less than five traditional linebackers set for free agency. Smith, the 2017 Butkus Award winner as the nation's top linebacker, lacks ideal bulk but his speed to the flanks and in coverage makes him perfectly suited to today's modern pass-happy NFL.

14. GREEN BAY PACKERS: Arden Key, OLB, LSU*: The Packers' starting OLB duo of Clay Matthews Jr. (8.5 sacks) and Nick Perry (seven) contributed solid numbers in injury-shortened seasons but more depth and production is needed for a team built to win now. Struggling with injuries and off-field concerns of his own, Key is not the traditional Ted Thompson selection, but he is a potential difference-maker who would give the club flexibility with Matthews' contract up after 2018.

15. ARIZONA CARDINALS: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: With Bruce Arians retiring (and increasingly injury-prone 38-year-old Carson Palmer potentially following suit), general manager Steve Keim will be looking for new faces to spark Arizona's passing game. Shorter than ideal and coming from a spread offense that has not consistently resulted in NFL success, Mayfield is not for everyone, but he is an undeniable playmaker and could be the dramatic shift Keim and the Cardinals are looking for.

16. BALTIMORE RAVENS: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M*: Despite multiple draft picks and investments in free agents, the Ravens' receiving corps remains essentially a black hole for production with Baltimore. Teams could be gun shy about selecting a receiver in the first round given how much last year's class has struggled, but Kirk has the raw athleticism to become Joe Flacco's big-play specialist.

17. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State*: Veteran Casey Hayward has proven one of the NFL's better free agent additions in his two seasons since leaving Green Bay but his counterpart -- 2014 first-round pick Jason Verrett -- has struggled with injuries. While lacking prototypical size, Ward possesses the elite footwork and physical nature to handle nickel or outside duties, giving the Chargers options should Verrett's durability issues continue.

18. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Billy Price, OC/OG, Ohio State: With poor play along the offensive line once again the obvious culprit, the Seahawks failed to make the postseason for the first time since 2011. With an aging roster and free agency looming for Jimmy Graham and Sheldon Richardson -- previous Pro Bowlers added via trade -- the Seahawks may be tempted to again focus on other positions with its first pick. The durability, toughness and versatility Price showed in blocking for mobile quarterback J.T. Barrett at Ohio State, however, could be enough to convince general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll to keep the pick and make the logical -- if not necessarily flashy -- selection.

19. DALLAS COWBOYS: Maurice Hurst, DL, Michigan: Injuries and suspensions have robbed the Cowboys of some of their more talented defensive linemen, leaving coordinator Rod Marinelli little to work with. Hurst (6-2, 280) may lack ideal size, but his quickness, tenacity and versatility suggest NFL success.

20. DETROIT LIONS: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU*: Ready for a jaw-dropping statistic? The Lions have not had a running back rush for at least 100 yards since Reggie Bush accomplished the feat back in 2013, with that ineptitude costing Jim Caldwell his job. Guice has the build, power and burst to be a bell-cow back in the NFL.

21. TENNESSEE TITANS: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn*: In veteran Logan Ryan and the ultra-athletic Adoree' Jackson, the Titans boast one of the better 1-2 punches at cornerback in the AFC. Tennessee's defense could take another step with the 6-1, 195-pound Davis offering the size on the outside Ryan and Jackson lack.

22. BUFFALO BILLS: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama*: Head coach Sean McDermott helped build the Panthers into a Super Bowl contender while serving as defensive coordinator in Carolina with multiple draft picks invested along the line. Don't expect that to change in Buffalo. The Bills have a sizable hole inside after shipping Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville and could replace him with a similarly stout nose guard from the Tide in Payne, whose strength, toughness and consistency are all upgrades over his Alabama predecessor.

23. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist*: Selecting a wide receiver in the first round might not sound like a typical Tom Coughlin move but considering that the Jaguars have already invested big dollars in retaining Allen Hurns, with Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee pending free agents, Coughlin might have little choice but to consider stocking up at pass-catcher. The 6-3, 218-pound Sutton is the 2018 draft's best at boxing out cornerbacks to win 50-50 balls, scoring 31 touchdowns over the past three seasons.

24. BUFFALO BILLS (from KANSAS CITY CHIEFS): Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville*: Adding a talent like Kelvin Benjamin will surely help, but the Bills may not be finishing addressing a poor passing attack. Jackson plays a similar style as Tyrod Taylor, relying upon his legs as much as his arm or eyes. He is younger, cheaper and has a higher upside, however, characteristics the Bills may consider with two first-round picks this season due to Kansas City's trade up last year to nab their quarterback of the future, Patrick Mahomes.

25. ATLANTA FALCONS: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford*: With Dontari Poe on a one-year deal, the Falcons are likely to be looking for youth and size along the defensive line this spring. At 6-3, 290 pounds, Phillips is not nearly as big as Poe but he plays with the instincts, technique and motor that head coach Dan Quinn will appreciate.

26. LOS ANGELES RAMS: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State*: With top cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson, Lamarcus Joyner and Nickell Robey-Coleman each in the final year of their respective contracts, the Rams may need to take a look at the future. McFadden possesses the athleticism, size and playmaking ability to contribute immediately.

27. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Vita Vea, DT, Washington*: The Saints already boast a young and talented defensive line but at this point in the draft, Vea may simply be too gifted to pass up. Vea possesses a combination of size (6-4, 344), strength and athleticism that could earn top 10 consideration, but he remains technically raw with snap-to-snap consistency also an issue that could drop him a bit on draft day.

28. CAROLINA PANTHERS: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State: As long as Cam Newton is taking snaps in Carolina, the focus should be on adding massive maulers for the running game. Rankin lined up at left tackle at Mississippi State but possesses the girth, power and nasty playing demeanor to project to any of the four exterior roles in the NFL.

29. PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama: The frightening spinal injury to star Ryan Shazier could force the Steelers to strongly consider investing an early pick at inside linebacker. Evans is nowhere near Shazier's match in terms of speed (few are) but his instincts, physicality and toughness warrant late first-round consideration.

30. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama*: The Eagles boast one of the more complete rosters in the NFL but lack a true intimidator in the back end. Harrison remains better against the run than the pass at this point but he could be afforded a "redshirt" year with veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod already in place in Philadelphia.

31. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Taven Bryan, DL, Florida*: For all of the success Bill Belichick has enjoyed as coach, his willingness to gamble on upside as a general manager has led to plenty of surprise draft picks. Bryan, a physical freak whose best football lies ahead of him, is one of the wildcards of the 2018 draft and would make sense for a team lacking difference-makers up front.

32. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: As long as Mike Zimmer is coaching the team, size and physicality will be a premium for future Vikings. McGlinchey lacks the athleticism to wow scouts during pre-draft workouts but an old school coach like Zimmer will appreciate McGlinchey's size (6-7, 312), toughness and consistency.

Rob Rang is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, a collaboration between The Sports Xchange and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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