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Windy City Gridiron 2018 NFL mock draft first round

The WCG staff takes out the collective crystal ball for the first round of this year’s draft.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl - USC v Ohio State Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Believe it or not, there exists a scope of football outside of the Chicago Bears. There are 31 other NFL teams after all. Many of their actions will influence results the Bears have to open the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday. We at Windy City Gridiron have decided to put our general manager hats on for several of these other organizations and mock out how we believe Thursday night’s madness unfolds.

1. Cleveland Browns (Robert Zeglinski)

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

UCLA v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Darnold isn’t the most pro-ready prospect, nor is he the safest. But he has the moxie to succeed in a perennially downtrodden football environment such as Cleveland and rise above. Luckily enough, any concerns he has about development are mitigated with the stopgap in Tyrod Taylor. If the Browns are smart, they’ll hand Darnold the keys to the franchise sooner rather than later, because he has the ability to turn around decades of misfortune.

2. New York Giants (Josh Sunderbruch)

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

California v UCLA Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Giants need to plan for life without Eli Manning, and this is the year to do that. With Darnold off the board, that means that they are narrowed to a pool of one. Rosen’s personality rubs some people the wrong way, but New York is ready after the younger Manning had a hand in two Super Bowls.

3. New York Jets from Indianapolis Colts (Jacob Infante)

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Rose Bowl Game - Oklahoma v Georgia Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Jets undoubtedly pick a quarterback, it’s just a matter of whom they’ll pick. Josh Allen could be in play, but the Jets have been bitten by the “high-upside, low-floor” approach before when they took Christian Hackenberg in 2016’s second round. Sure, Mayfield in the Big Apple could cause controversy - and a lot of media attention - but he would be the best quarterback available in this scenario. He’s an accurate quarterback who can read defenses well, make good decisions, and escape pressure in the pocket. He would be a far less risky pick than Allen, and he would be a perfect fit for the Jets.

4. Cleveland Browns from Houston Texans (Robert Zeglinski)

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

After nabbing their future of the franchise in Darnold, the Browns grab their all-around workhorse in Barkley. An electric runner and receiver, Barkley is exactly the tailback the Browns need to have their offense join the 21st century. The perfect archetype for 2018.

5. Denver Broncos (Sam Householder)

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Wyoming v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

This works perfectly for the Broncos, who need to give up the mistake of Paxton Lynch and get themselves a possible quarterback of the future. They signed Case Kennum, but he isn’t a long term solution and is a huge candidate for regression this season. Allen can sit and learn, as Keenum should be able to hold down the fort for a year.

6. Indianapolis Colts from New York Jets (Lester Wiltfong Jr.)

Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Andrew Luck has started throwing so they better get someone that can keep him healthy. Nelson will help keep pressure out of Luck’s face, allowing him to step up, plus he’ll open holes in their running game.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Josh Sunderbruch)

Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

North Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Bucs need help on their defense, and at multiple levels. The selection of Chubb doesn’t fix that single-handedly, but he’ll make a significant improvement as they add someone who might be the best defender in the draft at a position that is one of need.

8. Chicago Bears (Lester Wiltfong Jr.)

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Delaware v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

I’m not sure if Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio envisions Edmunds playing inside, or if his prototypical size and athleticism for outside linebacker brings about a position switch for the soon-to-be 20-year old. But, Edmunds has too much potential to pass up.

9. San Francisco 49ers (Erik Duerrwaechter)

Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama

Mississippi v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

General manager John Lynch spent 2017 building up his defense’s front seven. Now, he’s going to land his top playmaker in the secondary. Fitzpatrick has the physical and mental traits to be a dominant free safety, and the versatility to match up in the slot against shiftier receivers.

10. Oakland Raiders (of Las Vegas) (Jeff Berckes)

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Maryland v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

If this is the board when the Raiders pick, they’ll be thrilled. They need more talent at all three defensive levels, but Ward gives them at least one cornerback with playmaking abilities. He helps in a division with Tyreek Hill, Keenan Allen, and Demaryius Thomas.

11. Miami Dolphins (of Hard Rock Stadium) (Kev H.)

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

TaxSlayer Bowl - Mississippi State v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

If they don’t trade up, the Dolphins will watch all of the other “good” quarterbacks disappear off the board. Ryan Tannehill is unlikely to be in their long term future, and there may be a bit of a freakout. With Jackson still on the board, they can get an athletic young quarterback who could work out either way. If he works out, he could be a star for head coach Adam Gase.

12. Buffalo Bills from Cincinnati Bengals (Sam Householder)

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

Temple v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Bills have missed out on every top quarterback in this exercise, so they go with a tackle: which they need after dumping Cordy Glenn. They have a lot of good options but I think McGlinchey is the route to go.

13. Washington Redskins (Andrew Link)

Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College

Virginia Tech v Boston College Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Landry is the consensus No. 2 pass rusher in the draft and pass rushers are over drafted every year. Over the past three seasons, Washington has lost it’s best pass rushers in free agency. It’s time to restock the shelves.

14. Green Bay Packers (Ken Mitchell)

Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA

NFL Combine - Day 4 Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

15. Arizona Cardinals (Robert Zeglinski)

D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

Northwestern v Maryland Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Moore is the best wide receiver in this class and a rebuilding Cardinals team could use immediate playmakers. Moore helps whoever is under center in Arizona immediately.

16. Baltimore Ravens (Erik Duerrwaechter)

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

He is considered the most polished receiver in this year’s class, and the Ravens are hurting for receivers in the worst possible way. Ridley should step in from day one as the de facto number one receiver on their depth chart.

17. Los Angeles Chargers (Sam Householder)

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

SEC Championship - Auburn v Georgia Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Chargers could use defensive help and Smith offers that. There are other good defenders on the board, but I think Smith is the best available.

18. Seattle Seahawks (E.J. Snyder)

Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia

Rose Bowl Game - Oklahoma v Georgia Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The Rams pairing Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh sent shockwaves through the NFC West and the Seahawks respond by adding Wynn to their undermanned front line. Wynn helped pave the way for both Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as they powered Georgia to the college football National Championship Game. He’s a very capable pass blocker as well, which Russel Wilson will learn to appreciate very quickly.

19. Dallas Cowboys (Andrew Link)

Derwin James, S, Florida State

Alabama v Florida State Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The cowboys need help in their secondary and James at No. 19 overall is a steal. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has himself a fun new toy to play with defensively.

20. Detroit Lions (Jacob Infante)

Vita Vea, DT, Washington

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When Haloti Ngata went down with an injury early last season, it became evident how weak the Lions are on their interior defensive line. Vea is a physical freak of nature. He’s 6-foot-4 and 347 pounds, is incredibly strong, and has eye-opening speed for his size. He accelerates off the ball like someone 60 pounds smaller than him would, and has the hand usage to provide upside as a pass rusher. Detroit would benefit greatly from having him work up the middle as a space eater. Vea has the potential to be more than that.

21. Cincinnati Bengals from Buffalo Bills (Jacob Infante)

Connor Williams, OL, Texas

Texas v California Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Williams is the best offensive line prospect on the board at this point, which bodes well for the Bengals: who need help on almost their entire offensive line. He didn’t look as quick in 2017 as he did before his knee injury, so playing left tackle may be out of the picture for him. Luckily for Cincinnati, they already have their left tackle in Cordy Glenn. Williams is a physically dominant blocker who has good balance, a high motor, and a strong lower and upper body. He’s good at advancing to the second level and packs a mean punch. He would be a great fit at right tackle or at either of the guard spots for the Bengals.

22. Buffalo Bills from Kansas City Chiefs (Sam Householder)

Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Getting Payne at No. 22 overall is good value for the Bills, who need defensive line help.

23. New England Patriots (E.J. Snyder)

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

New England’s linebacking and defensive corps is currently uninspiring. Adding Evans gives them a versatile every down player who can man the middle or rush off the edge depending on what the situation demands.

24. Carolina Panthers (Andrew Link)

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

Citrus Bowl presented by Overton's - LSU v Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Panthers are a smash mouth team and Riverboat Ron Rivera loves that style of football. Jonathan Stewart is a bruiser and Christian McCaffery is more of a slot receiver type. If the Panthers want to run the ball, they need a better back behind Cam Newton, whose body will eventually break down from the hits.

25. Tennessee Titans (Robert Zeglinski)

Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

Wisconsin v Michigan Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Hurst is most disruptive interior defensive player in this draft class. A heart condition shouldn’t scare anyone from his ability. The Titans have themselves a solid defensive core but could use a great player to anchor their unit. Hurst is their man.

26. Atlanta Falcons (Lester Wiltfong Jr.)

Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Big, strong and athletic, Bryan should slide right into the starting spot vacated by Dontari Poe. He’ll be a force once he tightens up his technique.

27. New Orleans Saints (Jeff Berckes)

Justin Reid, S, Stanford

The addition of Cameron Meredith means New Orleans could use some more defensive playmakers to fill out their back end. Reid is one of the most versatile in the entire draft.

Oregon v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (E.J. Snyder)

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Las Vegas Bowl - Boise State v Oregon Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

The Steeler defense has fully transitioned from pure brawn to high-speed, and the loss of Ryan Shazier last year badly limited what they could achieve. Vander Esch offers a highly instinctive backer who is big enough to stand up in the rough-and-tumble AFC North, but also has excellent movement and coverage skills. His hard-nosed style of play will be a perfect fit in black and gold.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (Jacob Infante)

Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

NFL Combine - Day 2 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Jaguars need a quarterback, but with the top five prospects at the position off the board, there isn’t anyone worth taking this high. Hernandez is a monster of a human being that has a nice blend of strength and agility. He has good technique, maintains solid pad level and has quick feet, and can also serve as a traditional mauler. With Andrew Norwell at one guard spot and Hernandez at the other, the Jaguars have the beef up front to support their run-heavy offense.

30. Minnesota Vikings (Jeff Berckes)

Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

Iowa v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

While offensive line is the more obvious move here, I don’t see how general manager Rick Spielman could pass up Jackson at this spot. This would effectively replace the 39-year-old Terence Newman in providing a third cornerback this year, and potential Trae Waynes replacement next season.

31. New England Patriots (Josh Sunderbruch)

Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

247 Sports

New England values the tight end position, and Goedert is the best in this class. This gives them a chance at true double tight sets while preparing for life after Gronk.

32. Philadelphia Eagles (Sam Householder)

Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

UCLA v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Not a ton of roster holes on a Super Bowl champion, but the best offensive linemen and linebackers are gone, so Philly takes a cornerback.

WCG Contributors: Jeff Berckes; Patti Curl; Eric Christopher Duerrwaechter; Kev H; Sam Householder; Jacob Infante; Andrew Link; Ken Mitchell; Steven Schweickert; Jack Silverstein; EJ Snyder; Lester Wiltfong, Jr.; Robert Zeglinski; Like us on Facebook.