The Appalachian Sports Desk reporters have predicted the top ten picks for the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The draft is scheduled to begin on Thursday night at 8 p.m.
Brooks Maynard, Sports Editor
- Cleveland Browns (QB, Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma)
While Mayfield is not the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft, word has it that the Browns love Mayfield’s tenacity and competitive spirit. He will be boom or bust, but he will be fun to watch.
- New York Giants (RB, Saquon Barkley, Penn State)
Eli Manning is in desperate need of another weapon on offense and Barkley is the best athlete in the draft. Barkley also possesses excellent ball catching skills, making him the most versatile back.
- New York Jets (QB, Josh Allen, Wyoming)
The Jets are another team that are looking for their next franchise quarterback and Allen fits the NFL mold better than anyone else at his position. While his Wyoming affiliation makes some hesitate, no one can deny his stats and physical attributes.
- Cleveland Browns (DE, Bradley Chubb, NC State)
The Browns are looking to pick up two high-impact players with their first two picks and they will do that here with Chubb. Chubb is the cousin of Georgia running back Nick Chubb and much like Nick, Bradley is also a physical beast. He presents a dangerous pass rush attack, especially paired with 2017’s first overall pick, Myles Garrett.
- Denver Broncos (OG, Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame)
Nelson heads up an impressive guard class in this year’s draft, and he is the best player left on the board for the Broncos at this point. They could go with cornerback Denzel Ward out of Ohio State on the defensive side, but I think if they go offense, then they will choose Nelson.
- Miami Dolphins [trade via Indianapolis Colts] (QB, Sam Darnold, USC)
The Colts are willing to wait on Andrew Luck to recover from his shoulder injury, so they will trade down here and make way for another team looking for a quarterback. The Dolphins could go with Rosen out of UCLA instead, but most seem to think that Darnold has the most potential.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (S, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama)
I think the Buccaneers go defense here and Alabama has a history of generating NFL-ready talent. There is talk that they could go with safety Derwin James from Florida State instead, but I think Fitzpatrick is their best fit.
- Chicago Bears (LB, Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech)
The Bears selected who they hope will be their next franchise quarterback last year in Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina, and this year they will take their next franchise defender. Edmunds was a standout at VT, and while they may choose Roquan Smith out of Georgia instead, I think they take Edmunds for his physical attributes.
- San Francisco 49ers (CB, Denzel Ward, Ohio State)
Ward is a player who could have been selected by a number of teams already in the draft, so the 49ers will be counting their lucky stars. Ward had a great career for the Buckeyes and will likely have a chip on his shoulder after being passed on by others.
- Oakland Raiders (LB, Roquan Smith, Georgia)
The Raiders are another team who will count themselves lucky if Smith falls down the board to their slot. He is one of the fastest linebackers in the draft and he will go great with current Raiders defensive standout Khalil Mack.
Sleeper: WR, DJ Moore, Maryland
While Calvin Ridley out of Alabama gets most of the attention at wide receiver, Moore has been flying up draft boards for his dynamic playmaking ability and hands in traffic. Most have him slated as the number two receiver in the draft, and he compares well with his fellow Terp, Minnesota Vikings star Stefon Diggs. Look for him to go late in the first round.
Shane Harvell, Sports Reporter
- Cleveland Browns (QB: Josh Allen, Wyoming)
Cleveland’s recent incompetency at the quarterback position will without a doubt urge them down the path of drafting yet another quarterback. Josh Allen is either a complete boom or bust coming from a “Group of Five” school but the Browns seem to be willing to take a chance. Allen’s favorability arises in his sole possession of rare arm strength on deep routes and the so-called prototypical body frame of a pocket passer.
- New York Giants (RB: Saquon Barkley, Penn State)
The Giants essentially possess the key to the future in regard to the outcome of the entire first round. David Gettleman, the general manager of New York, drafted a playmaker of a running back in Christian McCaffrey last season for the Panthers, and he will do the same here. An available asset of a running can protect the quarterback from disguised blitzes with either blocks or availability in space with dump-down passes. Frankly, Eli Manning can use all the help he can get at this point within his career.
- New York Jets (QB: Sam Darnold, USC)
The Jets are just one of many franchises still seeking to obtain the right quarterback for long-term success. With quarterback Josh Allen already off the board as the No. 1 overall pick to the Cleveland Browns, Sam Darnold will more than likely be acquired next over that of Josh Rosen to compete for an NFL starting job. Darnold falls to the Jets simply due to his alarming interception rate within his collegiate career. He finished the 2017 campaign for the USC Trojans with 13 interceptions and 22 in two years as a starter for the Trojans.
- Cleveland Browns (DE: Bradley Chubb, N.C. State)
Rumors have it that Cleveland may in fact draft two quarterbacks with their two top five picks. At least they would double their chances of finding their leader to lead them to the Promised Land. However, the highly sought-after offensive spark could be provided with the acquisition of a juggernaut of running back in Saquon Barkley. To Cleveland’s dismay, Barkley was already taken by the Giants. Therefore, defensive end Bradley Chubb will slide into the equation next. Chubb potentially lining up alongside fellow defensive end Myles Garrett is a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks all across the league.
- Miami Dolphins (via trade with Denver Broncos) (QB: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma)
Miami will more than likely trade up as well as be in a potential trade battle with Buffalo to obtain a quarterback. The question that remains is what they would have to give up for the right to have a higher pick such as this one. Let’s not forget that wide receiver Jarvis Landry is already headed to Cleveland via trade. Anyway, John Elway, the general manager of the Denver Broncos, has already made it known around the league that Denver is open to the concept of trading down, quite possibly for Minkah Fitzpatrick due to Aqib Talib’s absence within the lineup. As for Miami, the drafting of dynamic quarterback such as Baker Mayfield could resolve their revolving quarterback carousel of Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler. Although Mayfield presents extra baggage regarding on-field and off-field antics, he is as competitive as they come with a perennial rise to the occasional chip on his shoulder.
- Buffalo Bills [via trade with Indianapolis Colts] (QB: Josh Rosen, UCLA)
At this point, Indianapolis seems content to ride with Andrew Luck coming back from his injury. Although Buffalo has already traded up once from the No. 21 spot to the overall No. 12 position, they very well may do it again. With Tyrod Taylor already being shipped off to Cleveland via trade, the drafting of a potential franchise quarterback should be a must within the minds of those in the front office. In this scenario, Rosen ends up as one of the last available top quarterbacks for Buffalo to acquire.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (S: Derwin James, Florida State)
The Buccaneers’ woes last season simply came about on the defensive side of the ball, especially deep up and over the top. Adding Derwin James, who surprisingly appears at the top of their list over Minkah Fitzpatrick, could temporarily ease the issue.
- Chicago Bears (OG: Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame)
Mitchell Trubisky has asserted himself as Chicago’s starter for years to come. Now, the protection that he desperately needs to thrive could come by the way of a stellar offensive line.
- San Francisco 49ers (DB: Denzel Ward, Ohio State)
Ward has effectively made himself a household name as a true standout cover corner during his time with the Ohio State Buckeyes. San Francisco could definitely use him to accompany and offset newly acquired veteran cornerback Richard Sherman from Seattle.
- Oakland Raiders (LB: Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech)
Oakland promptly signed a couple of defensive backs within the off-season, so there goes the possibility of Minkah Fitzpatrick landing here. Therefore, the Raiders will adequately address their problems over the middle of the field with a highly talented linebacker. However, with wide receiver Michael Crabtree now effectively gone, the drafting of a rookie wide receiver for depth chart reasons would not be surprising.
Sleeper Pick: (QB: Lamar Jackson, Louisville)
Whoever gives Jackson the one shot that he needs to unveil his Michael Vick like talents in the first round could potentially end up having the steal of the draft when looking back upon this date.
Silas Albright, Sports Reporter
- Cleveland Browns (Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming): Cleveland has picked up some pieces to possibly win a game next year and they will need a quarterback of the future with their first pick. Although Sam Darnold probably has the most upside of the quarterback class, I think the Browns will go with the most NFL-ready quarterback, Josh Allen.
2. New York Giants (Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State): The Giants need a lot of help and making a strong pick here is something of utmost importance. They do not have room to take a gamble on Darnold, and Manning will be serviceable next year, so they will take Barkley, who is the most dynamic athlete in the draft.
3. New York Jets (Sam Darnold, QB, USC): The Jets are also in dire need of taking full advantage of their earliest pick. They need a quarterback to build around for the future. They probably are not going to be a playoff team either way, so they will take Darnold and hope for the best.
4. Cleveland Browns (Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State): It just makes sense for Cleveland to take defensive end Bradley Chubb with their second pick of the top five. Chubb is a freak athlete and should pair nicely with last year’s first overall selection, Myles Garrett.
5. Denver Broncos (Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA): Another quarterback-needing team will take the best one still on the board. They could go with Mayfield, but I think they will take Rosen.
6. Indianapolis Colts (Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame): The long-awaited return of Andrew Luck should be happening in 2018, and the Colts need all the protection they can get for him. Indianapolis will select guard Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Derwin James, S, Florida State): The Buccaneers have one of the strongest offenses for this area of the draft, but their defense is dismal. They will get Florida State’s play-making safety Derwin James.
8. Chicago Bears (Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State): After going out and getting some legitimate offensive threats in the off-season, the Bears also need a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. They will go with speed cornerback Denzel Ward here.
9. San Francisco 49ers (Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama): The 49ers are another team in need of a talented play-making defensive back. Versatile cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick is that guy.
10. Oakland Raiders (Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia): Oakland should be a fun team to watch in 2018, and they will be even more fun if they make a good pick here. Georgia outside linebacker Roquan Smith would make a pretty intimidating duo paired with former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Khalil Mack.
Sleeper: UCF CB Mike Hughes. The New Bern High School product and UNC transfer excelled in his lone season with the National Champions, locking down wideouts in man coverage all year long. For teams who like to play press coverage, Hughes would be a perfect fit and possibly even a first rounder.
Zack Antrum, Sports Reporter
- Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Browns are in desperate need of a quarterback, and Darnold is the best in the draft.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Barkley was easily one of the most exciting players during the college football season and has all the tools needed to be a start at the next level.
3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen QB, UCLA
Rosen is a very talented quarterback who has the leadership and mental skills
necessary to run the offense.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Alabama has a proven history of sending guys to the NFL and Fitzpatrick
will follow suit.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen’s strong showing in combine shows that he is worth the risk.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
The Colts need a defensive end, and Chubb is the best in the draft.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Buccaneers may go with a defensive end here, but Nelson is one of the best
players in a strong guard class.
8. Chicago Bears: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Ohio State has churned out many strong CB’s, and Ward is no exception.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The 49ers need a linebacker more than any position, and Edmunds is the
first guy they should look for.
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
With comparisons to Luke Kuechly, Roquan Smith could be one of the
strongest players to come out of this draft.
Story By: Sports Desk
Photo By: Courtesy of the NFL