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2018 NFL 1st Round Mock Draft: predictions and pick-by-pick analysis

By Chris Kennedy                                      published April 24, 2018                              

The 2018 NFL Draft will get underway starting on April 26, 2018. With a wild off season that is continuing to develop, and new trades and free agents moving around every week, the draft will be at the center of attention of the NFL as teams look to build around their newly acquired free agents and their current teams.

With that being said, here is a good idea of what each team may end up doing with their first-round picks.

  1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

The Browns made some major moves in free agency this offseason. They acquired Pro-Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry from Miami and quarterback Tyrod Taylor from the Bills. The Browns did all of this and still kept two of the top four picks in this draft. The Browns will still need to pick a quarterback to compete with Taylor and see which one will be the franchise’s starter for the foreseeable future. Sam Darnold had an excellent pro-day at USC and is now considered the top quarterback in the class. The Browns find their franchise quarterback at first-overall.  

  1. New York Giants: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

The Giants need a quarterback at some point, and the odds that they will have another pick this high next year are low. Additionally, Eli Manning is 37-years-old. Josh Allen has absurd arm talent and has great physical attributes. He has shown the ability to throw accurate passes at the NFL Combine, making him look like a complete pro-prospect. The Giants should let Allen learn under Eli Manning for a year or two, then give him the reigns.

  1. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts): Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

The Jets made heads turn this past week when they traded with the Colts to get into the top-three. The Jets also acquired quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from the Vikings. The Jets will still need to pick a quarterback to be the franchise’s starter for the future. Josh Rosen, the polished pro-style prospect from UCLA, is the best quarterback available at this point in the draft.

  1. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

The Browns have the Texans to thank for this pick after Houston traded this pick in order to draft rookie sensation Deshaun Watson last year. This is a dream-scenario for Cleveland, being able to pick both the top quarterback in the class and possibly the top running back prospect that the draft has seen in quite some time. Saquon Barkley is probably the best player in the draft and will start day one for the newly-revamped Browns’ offense.

  1. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

The Broncos, having lost the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes to the Vikings, still need a quarterback. Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield is the most successful quarterback of the class at the collegiate level, and has shown no real weakness in his game over his career. Mayfield has drawn comparisons to the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, and if Wilson is any indication to how good Mayfield will be, then the Broncos find themselves a winner in the first round.

  1. Indianapolis Colts (via New York Jets): Bradley Chubb, EDGE, North Carolina State

The Colts get the steal of the first round, as they were intending to use the third overall pick to draft Chubb. They moved back in a trade with the Jets where they picked up three second-round picks, two being this year. The Colts still get the player they wanted in the first place, as Chubb should give immediate help to an abysmal Colts’ pass rush.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

The Bucs have the offensive talent and firepower to have success, as well as a capable defense to go with it. One of the Bucs’ biggest issues is the offensive line. At 6-5 330, Nelson is the best offensive lineman in the draft. Though DB Minkah Fitzpatrick wouldn’t be a surprise here either, I tend to believe that the Bucs will take Nelson here instead.

 

  1. Chicago Bears: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

The Bears secondary is just not very good at all. There is no sugarcoating it, and that’s all there is to it. Minkah Fitzpatrick is most likely the best defensive back in the class. He’s big, smart, physical and he can catch the ball. He can play both cornerback and safety, and his versatility would be indispensable for the Chicago secondary. Even though they could also go for a wide receiver like Calvin Ridley, the Bears will take the best player available here, and if the Buccaneers take Fitzpatrick, then the Bears take CB Josh Jackson out of Iowa instead.

  1. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster has been arrested twice in a month’s time. It is unfortunate, but San Francisco will most likely cut him if his legal troubles continue. Enter Tremaine Edmunds. Edmunds is a bona fide run stuffer with outstanding athleticism and instincts. Edmunds should be an immediate difference maker, and will end up the starter this season.

  1. Oakland Raiders: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

The Raiders had a disappointing defense last year, and need new talent all across the board. Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds is a strong possibility, but I believe Josh Jackson is too good to pass up here. The best cornerback in the draft after Minkah Fitzpatrick, Josh Jackson most likely starts in his rookie season for Oakland.

  1. Miami Dolphins: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

The Dolphins secondary was bad enough a season ago, but CB Byron Maxwell was released this season. Denzel Ward, though undersized compared to most cornerbacks in this draft, can cover as well as any of them and ran a 4.32 at the Combine. The Dolphins are fortunate to get Ward here and fill a big need.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

The Bengals seem sold, at least for the time being, on having Andy Dalton at quarterback. Dalton needs more time in the pocket, and the offensive line was poor this past season. Brown should start immediately, and if the Bengals can protect Dalton and get running back Joe Mixon going, the offense could make some noise in 2018. Connor Williams from Texas is also possible, but either way the Bengals need an offensive lineman here.

  1. Washington Redskins: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

The Redskins made one of the biggest stories of the offseason so far by trading for Chiefs Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith, leaving quarterback Kirk Cousins to become an unrestricted free agent. Washington now must surround their new quarterback with playmakers. The Redskins are still fresh off of the loss of receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, and free agent Terrelle Pryor has been largely underwhelming. Alabama wideout Calvin Ridley is the best receiver in the draft, and grouping him with the Redskins young receivers Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson will give the Redskins a formidable young receiving corps. The Redskins also badly need a defensive tackle, so don’t be surprised if  DT Da’Ron Payne falls here as well.

  1. Green Bay Packers: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UT- San Antonio

The Packers had a disappointing season, missing the playoffs due to star quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ early season injury. However, it has given them a favorable 1st-round draft spot, and the Packers will bolster their defense here. Green Bay’s defense was pedestrian all of last season, completely unable to rush the passer and banged up with multiple injuries. The Packers find their stud pass-rusher to finally give Clay Matthews some much needed help in the freakishly athletic Davenport.

  1. Arizona Cardinals: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Cardinals’ quarterback Carson Palmer has retired, so the Cardinals are desperate for a starter. The Cardinals may opt to find a free agent quarterback before the draft, but if they do not, I think they find Rudolph here. Rudolph put up some daunting statistics up at Oklahoma State this past season, and he has excellent size to go with it. If Arizona doesn’t trade up in the draft for a guy like Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold, Rudolph should be waiting at the 15th pick.

  1. Baltimore Ravens: Connor Williams, OL, Texas

Though the Ravens need serious help at wide receiver, Calvin Ridley is off of the board at this point in the draft. The wide receiver class isn’t particularly deep this year, so the Ravens could afford to wait until later in the draft to get their wide receiver. Baltimore will use this pick to address the offensive line, another big need for the Ravens, and Connor Williams is the best available at this point in the first round. Williams will give the Ravens’ offensive line the boost it needs to do a better job of protecting quarterback Joe Flacco.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James, S, Florida State

The Chargers defense showed signs of excellence last season, and the defense needs just a few more pieces before they can become elite. Enter Derwin James, a freakishly athletic, ballhawking safety from Florida State. If someone had said, at the beginning of the college football season, that James would fall to 17 in the NFL Draft, they would have been called crazy. James may be the best player available at this pick, and teaming him up with Chargers’ young cornerback Desmond King could make for one of the most dangerous secondaries in the NFL.

  1. Seattle Seahawks: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Seattle has a lot of flexibility with this pick, having a number of needs that could potentially be filled here at number 18, such as the defensive line and secondary. However, the Seahawks’ most glaring issue last season was the offensive line. Russell Wilson had little to no protection and was running for his life for the entire season. The second offensive lineman out of Notre Dame, McGlinchey should contribute immediately to the Seattle offensive line.

  1. Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

With major needs along both the defensive and offensive lines, the Cowboys need to get some help in the trenches. Though the offensive line underperformed last year, I believe the defensive line is still the greater need. Vita Vea, at 6-4 and 350 pounds, is one of the biggest players in the draft. Vea is a bona fide run-stuffer, and would give the Cowboys a much needed anchor at nose tackle.

  1. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

The Lions have many of the necessary offensive pieces to be a playoff team, with Matthew Stafford at quarterback and a great group of receivers, including Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. The biggest thing the Lions are missing is a dependable running back, as their rushing attack has been awful in recent years. Derrius Guice is a hard, physical runner, and after two straight seasons of at least 1,250 yards and 11 touchdowns,  Guice has the potential to become a great starting running back in the NFL. First-year Head Coach Matt Patricia finds the Lions’ workhorse-back in Guice.

  1. Buffalo Bills: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

Most mock drafts don’t have Payne falling this far in the draft, and Payne could easily get picked earlier in the draft by a team like the Redskins, who also needs a defensive tackle. However, I have Washington going for a receiver and Vita Vea rated higher, so Payne lands with Buffalo here due to team needs and necessity alone. The Bills find their replacement for DT Marcell Dareus in Payne.

  1. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Cortland Sutton, WR, SMU

The Bills should look to free agency to fill their quarterback needs, as Tyrod Taylor is in Cleveland and rookie Nathan Peterman hasn’t shown much promise. Nick Foles would be the most reasonable free agency option, but there’s no guarantee that he will leave Philadelphia. Whoever the Bills end up going with at quarterback, he will need someone to throw it to. Rookie Zay Jones looks good so far, but the Bills don’t have much after that. Sutton has huge upside and great talent, despite a subpar senior campaign.

  1. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams): Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Patriots traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Rams for this pick. Many experts have hypothesized that this year may be the year that the Patriots draft Tom Brady’s successor in New England. Lamar Jackson, in this mock, is the best quarterback left available. It is highly likely that the Patriots will use their extra first round pick to trade up in the first round in order to draft a quarterback. In this mock, however, no trades will be assumed as reality, so 2017 Heisman Trophy-winner Lamar Jackson is the pick. Watch out for the Patriots to make a blockbuster trade on draft day.

  1. Carolina Panthers: Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia

The Panthers have some real needs at offense everywhere except for quarterback and running back. Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey had a good rookie season, but it could’ve been better with a better offensive line. Cam Newton also needs more time in the pocket. Wynn is the best available offensive line prospect at this point, and will give the Panthers an immediate boost at offensive line. Wide receiver is also a possibility, but the offensive line comes first.

  1. Tennessee Titans: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

The Titans defense needs new, young talent with speed. Roquan Smith fits the bill, and is a bargain here this late in the 1st round. Roquan Smith has the size to take on the run and the speed to chase after the ball carrier, as well as the instincts to be good at picking up receivers in coverage. Smith is an unbelievable value here and just the fresh, young defensive talent that new Head Coach Mike Vrabel needs to make it back to the playoffs.

  1. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

The Falcons do not have that many needs, but a new one developed when defensive tackle Dontari Poe signed with the division-rival Carolina Panthers. Taven Bryan is a big body and has excellent physical talent. The only thing holding him back for being a top-15 pick is his lack of stats in college play. Because of this, the Falcons could get a huge steal and an immediate starter in Taven Bryan.

  1. New Orleans Saints: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

The Saints need a wide receiver badly in this draft, and there isn’t much else they do need. Though the Saints are fresh off of a 10-6 season, the only threat they have at that position is Michael Thomas. Christian Kirk is fast, physical, and has great hands. He should start immediately and end up as the Saints’ number-two receiver for years to come.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

The Steelers have a big need at linebacker with the unfortunate spinal injury of star linebacker Ryan Shazier. Rashaan Evans is a steal at the 28th pick, and at 6’3” and 234 pounds, Evans has the physical attributes and athleticism to contribute immediately. The Steelers are still holding out on Shazier to see if he can recover, but they will need to draft someone who can play immediately.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

The Jaguars do not have many needs as it stands, with the best defense in the NFL and coming off of an AFC Championship run. The Jaguars did lose starting tight end Mercedes Lewis, so replacing him with the best tight end in the class makes sense. If the Jags combine Hurst with young tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, they could have one of the most compelling tight end duos in the NFL.

  1. Minnesota Vikings: Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon

The Minnesota Vikings are the winners of the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, paying him a whopping $84 million over three years in guaranteed money. Now the Vikings must protect their new and expensive asset. Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown may fall here depending on how teams judge his lackluster combine performance. Tyrell Crosby is 6’5” and 325 pounds of run stuffing and pass protection, and could develop into a solid starter to protect Kirk Cousins.

  1. New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

Though it is highly likely that the Patriots will trade one of their first rounders right before or during the draft, this mock draft does not assume that they will. As it stands, they have the pick and they desperately need a cornerback. The secondary had its struggles last season, and in top of that, the Pats lost their best cornerback, Malcolm Butler, to the Tennessee Titans. Jaire Alexander was a beast at Louisville, only marred by injury concerns. He had an outstanding NFL Combine, which has vaulted him into the first round. He should start immediately for New England.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

The 2018 Super Bowl Champions should come into next year as the favorites again, as they made their Super Bowl run with a backup quarterback. Getting star quarterback Carson Wentz back from injury will make the Eagles even more dangerous. The run game is an area of concern, and Sony Michel could prove to be the steal of the first round. Sony Michel had an excellent senior season for Georgia last season, and he breaks off big runs often. He has many similarities to the Saints’ Alvin Kamara, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He is also very good in the pass game, giving Carson Wentz yet another option on a loaded roster.

 

 

2018 College Football Playoff National Championship: Alabama edges Georgia 26-23 in SEC overtime showdown

By Jonathan Cardona     January 12, 2018

ATLANTA– The 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, played in the newly built Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on January 8,  included two of the top teams in the nation this year, the #4 Alabama Crimson Tide and the #3 Georgia Bulldogs.

Alabama and Georgia had an epic clash that ended with a game winning 41-yard touchdown pass, giving Alabama a 26-23 win in overtime. This National Championship win for the Tide is Head Coach Nick Saban’s fifth such win in the last nine seasons at Alabama.

Both Alabama and Georgia are from the Southeastern Conference (SEC), making this the second time in seven seasons that the national title came down to two SEC teams. In the only other national title featuring two SEC schools, Alabama defeated LSU 21-0 in New Orleans to win the 2012 National Championship.

On Georgia’s first possession of the game, they opened with an interception, giving Alabama’s offense a chance to score first. The Georgia defense stopped the Tide, forcing them to kick a field goal which was then missed.

At the start of the second quarter, Alabama’s starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, began to struggle only completing three passes for 21 yards.

Taking advantage of Alabama’s scoring struggles and dominant play by the Bulldog’s defense, Georgia’s quarterback Jake Fromm drove down the field for a Georgia touchdown. Georgia added two field goals as well,  allowing the Bulldogs to go into the locker room at halftime with a 13-0 lead against the Crimson Tide.

In the third quarter, Alabama began with the ball, but it wasn’t quarterback Jalen Hurts leading the Tide offense. True Freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa came in to replace the struggling Hurts, although Tua had never played in a game all season.

Tagovailoa’s first drive on the biggest stage came to a quick end with an interception that gave Georgia the ball. Just one play later, Alabama’s defense stepped up and got an interception of their own, giving Tua another shot. Tua then redeemed himself with a six-yard touchdown pass to shorten the gap to 13-7 with 8:52 left in the third quarter.

Georgia’s True Freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, helped Georgia answer with a touchdown of their own, stretching the lead to 20-7 with an 80-yard touchdown pass. Alabama slowly came back within reach by kicking two field goals to make it a 20-13 game with 9:34 left in the fourth quarter.

Following their last field goal drive, The Crimson Tide got a crucial stop in the fourth quarter on Georgia’s offense and getting the ball back to the Alabama offense. The True Freshman Tagovailoa showed tremendous poise in the face of high pressure, going 66 yards down the field in eight plays and throwing a huge touchdown to star wide receiver Calvin Ridley to tie the game up at 20-20 with 3:49 left in regulation.

Alabama then got the ball back with a short clock, giving them the chance to end the championship with a game winning field goal. With all eyes on Alabama’s kicker, Andy Pappanastos missed the go-ahead field goal and sent the game to overtime.

Alabama won the overtime coin toss and chose to play defense first. Georgia’s offense wasn’t able to score a touchdown to win the game, but kicker Rodrigo Blankenship made a 50-yard field goal to make it a 23-20 game.

Tua then took his offense onto the field trying to take home the championship, but on his first play of the drive was sacked for 16 yards making it second down and 26 yards to go. Tua then rebounded with a 41-yard walk-off touchdown pass to De’Vonta Smith to win the game with a final score of 26-23.

No. 1 Villanova gets statement win, tops No. 10 Xavier 89-65 in Big East conference clash

By Chris Kennedy  January 11, 2018

VILLANOVA, Pa.– In an AP Top-10 showdown Wednesday night, the No. 1 Villanova Wildcats toppled the visiting No. 10 Xavier Musketeers 89-65 in the Wildcat’s first game as the top team in the nation this season. The Wildcats improved to 23-5 against Xavier all time, and this is the fourth time in the last five years that Villanova has started the season 15-1.

Villanova, led by stellar play from their backcourt, had five players score in double figures. The Wildcats were led by guard Phil Booth, who finished with a new career high 21 points. Booth had four assists and went 5-8 from 3-point range. Rising star guard Jalen Brunson also added 17 points and five assists on the night. Guard Mikal Bridges nearly had a double-double, chipping in 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists.

One of the biggest factors that swung the game in Villanova’s favor was the Wildcat’s clear advantage from the 3-point line. Villanova went 12-31 and shot 38.7 percent from three, while Xavier went only 3-17 and shot 17.6 percent.

This was a big win against a Big East conference rival and an AP Top-10 team for Villanova. It was also a bounce-back defensive effort for the Wildcats, as they had given up at least 90 points in the past two games. This was the first time that Villanova had done this since 2002, when head coach Jay Wright was only in his second season with the Wildcats.

Xavier, falling to 3-4 in their last seven games against No. 1 teams, finished 20 points behind their season average of 85. The Musketeers were led by forward Kareem Kanter, who had a game high 16 points and five rebounds. Forward Naji Marshall added 13 points and star guard Trevon Bluiett had 11 points and four rebounds.

Big East conference play is well underway for both schools, as both teams play their next game against conference foes on Saturday, January 13. Villanova (15-1, 3-1 Big East) takes a road trip to St. John’s and Xavier (15-3, 3-2 Big East) will host No. 25 Creighton.

 

South Carolina Gamecocks contending in the SEC East

By Chris Kennedy November 1, 2017

In Will Muschamp’s second year as the head coach at South Carolina, the Gamecocks have surpassed the expectations of many through the first eight of the 2017-2018 college football season.

The Gamecocks are still dealing with the aftermath of former head coach Steve Spurrier’s departure, as many of Spurrier’s recruits are still on the team from 2-4 years ago. Head coach Will Muschamp is working hard to shape this program in his own image and give this team a new identity.

With a team and a program coming into a season with so many unanswered questions on both sides of the ball, it works to the Gamecocks benefit that they play in the SEC East, a division that has just as much uncertainty as their program has. The SEC East has been highly contested over the past few years, with underwhelming seasons from traditional powerhouses like Tennessee and Georgia, coupled with resurgent programs like Kentucky and Missouri. Florida has won the division the past two years, with Missouri winning it the two years before that. Both of the past two years, Florida has been blown out by Alabama, who in both cases were on their way to the College Football Playoff.

South Carolina (6-2, 3-2 SEC) has been a pleasant surprise thus far, placing second in the division through eight games. The Gamecocks beat the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the first week of the year, and now the Wolfpack are the 14th ranked team in the country according to the AP Top 25. South Carolina also has wins against Missouri, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. The only two losses of the year came against divisional opponent Kentucky and Texas A&M on the road.

South Carolina’s seventh win won’t come easy, as the Gamecocks travel to Athens, Georgia to play the #1 Georgia Bulldogs in a pivotal SEC East game on Saturday, November 4 at 3:30 EST on CBS.

 

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