By Oliver Mauntel
The 2018 NFL Draft may be the most volatile draft in recent years. Unlike past years, there is no clear cut top pick. The decision the Browns make with the first pick will set the tone for the remainder of the first round. It is presumed that Cleveland will select a quarterback with the first pick, but who? For each of the top 10 picks, I have listed who I believe each team should pick, and why. This isn’t a projection of what I think each team will do, but what I think each team should do.
1. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Browns are in need of talent, period. I understand that the Browns need a quarterback, but there is not a quarterback that is head and shoulders above the others in this draft. Besides, Saquon Barkley is arguably the best overall player in this draft. Barkley would serve as a playmaker in both the running game and passing game. For the first time in perhaps ever, Cleveland’s new quarterback would then have a surplus of talent to work with: Barkley, Hyde, D. Johnson, Njoku, Landry, Gordon.
2. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Eli Manning’s career is coming to a close, but he still is capable of serving as the starting quarterback for another year or two. A year of learning behind a likely future hall-of-famer would be an ideal situation for Sam Darnold. Darnold may be the most talented quarterback in this draft class, but he was plagued by turnovers (22 last year). A year of preparation behind Manning would ensure that he starts his NFL career on the right foot.
3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Josh Rosen might be the most scrutinized quarterback in the draft, but he will be ready to step in and play on day one. Rosen is a gunslinger, as he threw for over 420 yards in four of his eleven starts last season. Rosen has been criticized for coming across as “cocky” at times, but a talented, self-confident quarterback is what the New York Jets are in dire need of.
4. Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Heisman Trophy winner has been compared to Johnny Manziel due to his antics on and off the field, but I do not believe Mayfield’s career will have a similar path. For one, Mayfield has thrived as an underdog throughout his football career. His size should not be a factor to dissuade any team from drafting him. Mayfield has the ability to make Brett Favre-esque plays and has the “it factor” to elevate the Browns to relevancy.
5. Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
It remains to be seen whether or not Case Keenum is the long term answer at quarterback for the Broncos. Denver should hold out hope that Keenum is the guy, and draft a player that can surely have an immediate impact defensively. Denver’s rushing defense and passing defense both rank in the top five in the NFL already, but placing Bradley Chubb opposite to Von Miller would create quite a terror for opposing offenses. If any team knows that defense wins championships, its Denver.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
The Colts already traded back from the third pick, showing that they have confidence that Andrew Luck is still their man. Should they choose to stay at No. 6 (don’t be surprised if Buffalo trades up to take a quarterback here, especially if Josh Allen is available), they should add protection upfront for Luck. Last season, the Colts allowed an NFL-leading 56 sacks. The last thing Indy should do is throw their injury-riddled franchise quarterback onto the field with minimal protection. If they keep the pick, the Colts should take Quenton Nelson.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State
It seems fitting for the Buccaneers to select another former Florida State star. Last season, the Bucs allowed a league leading 261 yards per game through the air. They also allowed 117.5 rushing yards per game, which ranked 23rd in the league. Derwin James plays a hard-hitting brand of football, similar to Kam Chancellor. James’ speed to the ball would not only aid the Bucs against the passing game, but the rushing game as well.
8. Chicago Bears: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Bears appear to be regaining dominance defensively, as they ranked in the top ten in yards allowed per game and points allowed per game for the first time since 2012. Bolstering their already-stellar defense may help ease the pressure off of Chicago’s young offense too. Roquan Smith has similar physical attributes to former NFL greats Lance Briggs and Patrick Willis and could play a similar role in the Bears’ defense. Also to note, Chicago chose Leonard Floyd in 2016, another Georgia linebacker.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
San Francisco’s secondary is not very strong, and Minkah Fitzpatrick could make an impact as a starter early on. The 49ers ranked 22nd in the league in passing yards allowed and were ranked 30th in 3rd down stops. With the ability to make a difference against the running game too, Fitzpatrick is extremely versatile.
10. Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Like San Francisco, Oakland’s secondary also needs work. The Raiders allowed 241 passing yards per game last year, which ranked 26th in the league. Ward is a bit undersized, but he can make that up with his ball-hawking ability and his 4.32 speed. Ward would fill an obvious need for the Raiders. If Ward is available for Oakland, the Raiders should snatch him up.