2018 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections and Prospects Impacted by Free Agency

LSU running back Derrius Guice runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, March 2, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Remember those mock drafts from February to early March? Free-agency moves have scrambled first-round projections as teams filled holes or created new ones with trades and cuts.

Just when you thought early selections wouldn’t change, front offices created some doubt once the new league year officially started March 14. Big-time unrestricted free agents inked deals with new clubs and transactions have blurred draft plans.

As the current rosters stand, team executives will have tough choices with their first selections. Typically, it’s a pick expected to make an early or long-term impact on the roster as well as set the agenda for the remainder of the draft.

In a couple of scenarios below, the decision not to fill a roster void during free agency gives a strong indication as to what position a front office may address in the first round.

2018 NFL Mock Draft 1st-Round Projections

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC 

2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA  

3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

5. Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

6. Indianapolis Colts (via New York Jets): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

9. San Francisco 49ers: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama 

10. Oakland Raiders: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

11. Miami Dolphins: Derwin James, S, Florida State

12. Buffalo Bills (via Cincinnati Bengals): QB, Josh Allen, Wyoming

13. Washington Redskins: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

14. Green Bay Packers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia 

15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

16. Baltimore Ravens: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

17. Los Angeles Chargers: LB, Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

18. Seattle Seahawks: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia

19. Dallas Cowboys: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

20. Detroit Lions: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo Bills): Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA

23. Los Angeles Rams: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College

24. Carolina Panthers: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

25. Tennessee Titans: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

26. Atlanta Falcons: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford

27. New Orleans Saints: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

30. Minnesota Vikings: Billy Price, OG, Ohio State

31. New England Patriots: Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh 

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Tegray Scales, LB, Indiana

Prospects Impacted By Free Agency

San Francisco 49ers: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama  

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley in action during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When wide receiver Allen Robinson hit the open market, you could have drawn a connection to the San Francisco 49ers, who need a top-flight No. 1 option for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Instead, the front office decided to extend wideout Marquise Goodwin.

Despite the on-field chemistry between Goodwin and Garoppolo, the 5’9″ speedy pass-catcher doesn’t qualify as a lead wide receiver. Pierre Garcon has familiarity in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offensive schemes, but he’s going into his age-32 season after missing half the 2017 campaign with a neck injury.

It makes sense the 49ers decided not to pay huge dollars for a wideout during free agency, as they have the No. 9 overall pick in the draft. The Chicago Bears signed Robinson, which completely opens the wide-receiver pool for San Francisco in their draft spot. 

General manager John Lynch will choose the best wide receiver available with the first pick, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley.

          

Washington Redskins: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Due to injuries and inefficiency on the ground, the Washington Redskins ranked 27th in rushing yards in 2017. Running backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson—the latter also took on a significant role as a receiver—landed on injured reserve. Samaje Perine played through minor ailments and logged just 3.4 yards per carry. 

According to NBC Sports Washington reporter JP Finlay, team executive Doug Williams expressed the need to add quality talent in the backfield: “We need to upgrade at running back. No doubt about it.”

Washington could address the position in the second or third round, but LSU’s Derrius Guice lists as the No. 2 running back on most draft boards. There’s a good chance that he’s on the board with the Redskins on the clock. 

The front office could acquire linebackers Roquan Smith or Tremaine Edmunds with the No. 13 overall pick, but a top-notch ball-carrier would provide an immediate impact for a transitioning offense with Alex Smith under center.

            

Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville 

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Barring a trade up, the Arizona Cardinals should absolutely select a quarterback with the No. 15 overall pick. Assuming quarterback-needy clubs picking ahead select Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen, general manager Steve Keim must take a long look at much-maligned signal-caller Lamar Jackson.

Though effective when healthy, quarterback Sam Bradford‘s recurring knee issues have shortened his seasons. More than likely, he’ll continue to miss games due to injury. Behind him, there’s Mike Glennon, who didn’t play well during the 2017 preseason in Chicago then lost his job to Mitchell Trubisky after four starts. 

Right now, the Cardinals don’t have a long-term plan at quarterback. They’re outside the cut-off point for a top prospect at the position. Jackson could develop into a starting-caliber signal-caller despite the ridiculous inquiries about a switch to wide receiver.

Jackson would have a reliable wideout in Larry Fitzgerald on the perimeter and a dual-threat All-Pro running back in David Johnson behind him. Hypothetically, the Louisville product joins an offense with high-quality assets that should help his progress under center. For the second time in his football career, he’ll play for a Cardinals team.