In honor the opening night of the NFL Draft being less than three weeks away, we’ve got volume 3 of our 2018 mock draft series. That’s right, pretty soon we’ll have an answer to whether or not the Buffalo Bills will make another move up the draft board to land one of the classes highly touted quarterbacks or stay put and address other needs with the 12th and 22nd overall picks.
Meanwhile, Buffalo’s arch-nemesis New England joined the Bills as one of only three teams with multiple first-round picks in this year’s draft after shipping wide receiver Brandon Cooks to the Rams and receiving the 23rd overall pick in return. Rumor has it they may be looking to move up for a quarterback as well. As the Bills are finding out that may be easier said than done.
Once again, I’ve teamed up with Nick Wojton (@Nick_Wojton) of BuffaloFootballBeat.com for Vol. 3 of our 2018 mock draft series. We’ve also joined forces with Kevin Massare (@KevinMassare) of Locked on Bills this time around for another perspective on how things could unfold on April 26th. For comparison purposes, you can find Vol. 1 here, and Vol. 2 here.
In both of my previous scenarios I had the Bills landing a quarterback at some point in the first round. Am I still convinced they’ll land one this time around? See for yourself.
S– QB Sam Darnold, USC: You may notice this pick hasn’t changed since Vol. 2 or if you tuned in for our live Mock Draft show last weekend where I controlled the Browns and selected Darnold here. At this point, I’m chalking all the “Josh Allen at one” rumors as just that, rumors. I’m pretty convinced Darnold is the choice here for Cleveland.
N– QB Sam Darnold, USC: Like many years in the past, Cleveland needs a quarterback. Darnold will be a project by all accounts, but could be worth it in the end if Tyrod Taylor allows him time to grow.
K– QB Sam Darnold, USC
S – RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State: Three weeks out from the draft, the Giants have become the team to watch. What they decide to do will dictate how everything else falls for the remainder of the first round, and they have plenty of options. After trading away veteran DE Jason Pierre-Paul, N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb could be in play here, so could a quarterback with Eli Manning getting up there in age and so is trading back. A report earlier this week said Bills general manager Brandon Beane is “trying like hell” to move up for a quarterback and the Giants are surely on his radar as a potential trade partner. New York could get a serious haul from the Bills who possess six picks in the first three rounds. However, Dave Gettleman has never traded back in the first round and there’s too much talent to pass up at No. 2 that in this mock they stay put and select Barkley.
N– DE Bradley Chubb, NC State: Eli Manning will remain and help on the O-line is still needed, but after sending out Jason Pierre-Paul, Chubb makes sense.
K– DE Bradley Chubb, NC State
3) Jets (From Colts)
S– QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: In a decision between Mayfield and Josh Rosen, the Jets ultimately feel Mayfield’s personality is a better fit for the Big Apple and its critical media scene.
N– QB Josh Allen, Wyoming: After re-upping with Josh McCown and then adding Teddy Bridgewater, Allen makes sense like Darnold does with Tyrod. Give him time.
K– QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
4) Browns (From Texans)
S– *TRADE* Bills (from Browns via Texans) … QB Josh Rosen, UCLA: It’s no secret the Bills are trying to move up from 12 and draft a quarterback – just this week it was reported that Brandon Beane is “trying like hell” to do so. How they get there is a little more complicated. History says Dave Gettleman won’t be trading back from two, especially with players like Barkley, Bradley Chubb or even one of these QBs to choose from. No problem for Buffalo. When Beane sees Rosen slide through the top three he’ll waste no time getting Browns GM John Dorsey on the phone to make a deal. The Bills give up the 12th pick, the 22nd pick, the 56th pick and a 2019 second rounder for the fourth overall selection. The value charts will tell you they overpaid, but to move up and grab yourself a franchise quarterback, you’ll pay a little interest.
While it’s sometimes hard to decipher what’s real and what’s a smokescreen at this time of year, the Bills interest in Rosen feels sincere. To me, their most likely pathway into the top five is what played out here, through Cleveland. Rosen, who is viewed as needing the least refining of all these rookie quarterbacks, falling to four would be an ideal scenario for Buffalo. Meanwhile, even after trading up they can still have a normal draft the rest of the weekend with a second rounder and two thirds still in their possession.
N– RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State: Darnold + Barkley together in a backfield have a chance to change the way the NFL views the Browns’ offense for the next decade.
K– RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
S– G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame: The Broncos miss out on the top three quarterbacks, but are feeling okay after adding Case Keenum via free agency. They opt for taking Nelson – considered by some to be the best player in the draft and bolster the offensive line.
N– *TRADE* Bills (from Broncos) … QB Josh Rosen, UCLA:
Viewed as the best prospect in the draft by some, the Bills land their QB of the future. Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane has clearly set himself up for this move and could have looked to move to second-overall with the New York Giants, but landing at five is much easier. Onto the player, Rosen has odd questions surrounding him in the pre-draft process. Even his head coach at UCLA Jim Mora hasn’t really helped him recently. While most of those questions seem foolish to me, such as he wants to be challenged or he likes things in life other than football, there’s reason to believe those questions could make Rosen available at the fifth-overall pick with old-school NFL front office guys calling the shots at the real NFL draft. Rosen could be the most “NFL ready” QB, I would guess the 6-foot-4 quarterback would battle with AJ McCarron and Nate Peterman to be the team’s opening day starter. The Broncos signed quarterback Case Keenum this offseason and could still look for another here, but after going 5-11, Denver can fill more voids by moving back with the Bills. Denver head coach Vance Joseph also recently referred to Keenum as “the piece [his team] was missing this year.”
Trade details: Buffalo sweetens the pot, sending both first-round picks at No. 12 & No. 22. Via the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart, 12 & 22 are worth somewhere between the third and fourth picks (1,980 points), so Denver gives the Bills a fourth-round pick (106 overall) along with their first-round pick. That’s still in favor of Denver, but this deal would get it done.
K– QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
6) Colts (From Jets)
S– DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State: At this point, the Colts are running to the podium. Chubb is considered one of the best talents in this draft and Indianapolis is desperately looking to improve their pass rush. This is really a no-brainer.
N– DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA: With high-upside and a need at the position following a switch to a 4-3 defense, Indy takes Davenport who has potential to help turn around a defense that often struggles.
K– G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
S– S Derwin James, FSU: Tampa Bay’s secondary as a whole is a mess, but they brought back Brent Grimes and seem willing to give former 11th overall pick Vernon Hargreaves another year to prove himself, so, for now, they stay away from drafting a cornerback. Meanwhile, T.J. Ward flopped with the Bucs in 2017 and James can provide what Ward couldn’t at strong safety.
N– S Derwin James, FSU: After addressing a sore defensive line via JPP, the Bucs add James who’s touted as one of the top DBs in the 2018 draft.
K– CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
S– TRADE* Browns (from Bears) … CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State: Cleveland flips the 12th pick they received from Buffalo and throw in the first pick of the second round and a fourth-round pick (123) to get back into the top 10 and take Denzel Ward. Ward’s stock has been on the rise of late and with the 49ers lurking at nine he may not make it to 12. Moreso than Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ward could become a lockdown corner for Cleveland in a division with Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.
N– G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame: The draft falls well for the Bears, who need some more protection for 2017 first-round pick Mitchell Trubisky.
K– LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
S– *TRADE* Cardinals (From 49ers) … QB Josh Allen, Wyoming: After missing out on Ward, the 49ers see an opportunity to pick up some draft capital and take advantage. Arizona sends pick No. 15, pick No. 79 and a 2019 second rounder to jump the Dolphins and grab the best QB left.
N– WR Courtland Sutton, SMU: The 49ers get a playmaker for newly acquired QB Jimmy G.
K– S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
S– LB Roquan Smith, Georgia: Tremaine Edmunds has been mocked ahead of Smith in some cases, but I still consider Smith the top dog at the position. Oakland takes him here to solidify the middle of their defense with a young talent.
N– *TRADE* Cardinals (From Raiders) … QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: Miami and Washington could take a QB. But Arizona needs one. Mayfield nearly falls out of the top-10, but the Cardinals grab him.
Trade details: Arizona gets pick 10 and a sixth-round pick (185). Oakland gets a first-round pick (15) and a third-round pick (79).
K– LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
S– LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech: Miami misses out on the early run at QBs and feels that taking Jackson here would be a reach, so they turn to addressing their need for a linebacker instead.
N– LB Roquan Smith, Georgia: With Raekwon McMillian returning to the lineup, the Dolphins could have a strong duo at linebacker with Smith’s addition.
K– S Derwin James, FS
12) Bills (From Bengals)
S– *TRADE* Bears (from Browns via Bills) … S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama: Best player available at this point for Chicago as Fitzpatrick has fallen a bit here. The Bears could think about offensive line here as well.
N– *TRADE* Broncos (from Bills) … CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State: Despite trading back, the draft’s best corner could still be there for Denver, who traded Aqib Talib this offseason.
K– QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: Buffalo stays put and gets the player it was coveting. After Allen/Rosen/Darnold go, the Bills play it cool and get their franchise QB at 12.
S– DT Vita Vea, Washington: The Redskins were dead last in the NFL in rushing defense. Time to shore up the middle of the front seven with the 330-pound Vea.
N–LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech: Washington addresses a front-seven need, with their QB of the (near) future, Alex Smith, in town.
K– DT Vita Vea, Washington
S– DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA: Davenport’s ceiling is sky high and for a team that needs to do a better job getting after opposing quarterbacks, he’s a perfect choice for Green Bay.
N– S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama: Fitzpatrick is a versatile safety that the Pack could use in multiple places. He can help replace recently traded Damarious Randell
K– CB Joshua Jackson, Iowa
S– *TRADE* 49ers (from Cardinals) … DE Harold Landry, Boston College: San Francisco needs to get more pressure on opposing QBs, Landry should help with that.
N– *TRADE* Raiders … CB Joshua Jackson, Iowa: Oakland could have hoped one of the top linebackers in Smith or Edmunds was there, but defensive back is just as big of a need.
K– CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
S– WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama: The addition of Michael Crabtree is nice, but still not enough. Baltimore snags Ridley to give Joe Flacco another weapon.
N– WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M: Baltimore is in desperate need of a playmaker outside, even with Michael Crabtree’s addition.
K– T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
S– DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama: The Chargers had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last year. Payne is a 300-pound space eater who can clog up running lanes.
N– T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame: Phillip Rivers might eventually retire, but while he’s still playing, he could use a strong offensive line to go along with LA’s strong defensive line.
K– DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
S– CB Josh Jackson, Iowa: Richard Sherman is strangely wearing different colors now. Time to find his potential replacement and rebuild that secondary from the ground up.
N– *TRADE* Saints (from Seahawks) … QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville: Drew Brees will be back, but if Jackson is giving time to sit and learn, the Saints could eventually not miss a beat. With only one pick in the first three rounds, Seattle trades for more.
K– DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
S – WR D.J. Moore, Maryland– Dez Bryant’s future beyond this year is unclear. Moore is a new young weapon for Dak Prescott and the offense in case it’s Bryant’s last season in Dallas.
N– LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State: Could be a neat option as Sean Lee’s eventual replacement down the line. Vander Esch does a lot good.
K– LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
S– DT Taven Bryan, Florida: With Matt Patricia taking the reigns adding a stud defensive player to address a need makes total sense. Running back could be in play here as well, but with a deep class of backs to choose from, the Lions hold off for now.
N– RB Derrius Guice, LSU: For the Lions’ sake, they’ll hope Guice’s talents can help give their offense and one-two punch with Matt Stafford.
K– RB Derrius Guice, LSU
21) Bengals (Via Bills)
S– C James Daniels, Iowa: After failing to re-sign Russell Bodine, the Bengals need a center.
N– C James Daniels, Iowa: After Russell Bodine left for the Bills, to many of their fans delight, the Bengals look for an improvement.
K– G Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
22) Bills (From Chiefs)
S– *TRADE* Browns (From Bills) … T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame: This is pretty much a “best player available” pick here. Cleveland didn’t necessarily expect McGlinchey to be here this late and after losing future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas to retirement have a void to fill at tackle.
N– *TRADE* Raiders (From Bills) … DE/ LB Harold Landry, Boston College: After adding to their secondary at 12, Denver adds Landry into their front-seven mix.
K– WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama: Buffalo gets a new weapon for Mayfield in Ridley. A much-needed addition to the Bills depleted WR core.
23) Patriots (From Rams)
S– T Kolten Miller, UCLA: Here comes the run on offensive lineman. New England would have loved to see McGlinchey fall one more spot, but will gladly take Miller instead after losing Nate Solder to free agency.
N– Mike Hughes, CB Central Florida: With Malcolm Butler’s void to fill, enter Hughes.
K– QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
S– G Will Hernandez, UTEP: Carolina has a hole to fill at guard and protecting Cam Newton should be their top priority.
N– WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama: Ridley’s combine causes him to fall to the Panthers who replace Kelvin Benjamin.
K– WR D.J. Moore, Maryland
S– LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State: The Titans need to replace Avery Williamson and Vander Esch’s stock has been rising throughout the offseason.
N– DT Vita Vea, Washington: The Titans need help all over the defensive line, edge is a big consideration too.
K– DE Harold Landry, Boston College
S– DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan: Hurst had that scare at the combine where a heart condition forced him to withdraw from participating in any workouts. However, he apparently had the same issue while at Michigan and was cleared to play. After losing Dontari Poe in free agency, Atlanta tabs his replacement in Hurst.
N– DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan: Big shoes to fill with Dontari Poe leaving, but Atlanta’s defense left the offense hanging last year and Hurst falls to them due to his heart condition.
K– G Will Hernandez, UTEP
S– QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville: Jackson’s tumble can only continue for so long. While I love the idea of New Orleans taking a tight end here, they can’t ignore the quarterback position much longer. Brees is back on a new deal for the next two seasons, but he ain’t getting any younger. At this point, you could consider Jackson a steal. New Orleans will see what he’s got.
N– *TRADE* Seahawks (from Saints) … CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado: Richard Sherman is gone and it’s a new chapter for the Seahawks at cornerback.
K– QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
S– LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama: Lot of directions the Steelers could go. They need to start thinking about life without Ben Roethlisberger for one. But for now, they will try to fill in some of the cracks around Big Ben while he’s still playing. One of the biggest cracks former this past season when Ryan Shazier suffered a scary spinal cord injury. He could play again, but not any time soon. Evans will stabilize the position in the meantime.
N– Rashaan Evans, LB Alabama: Dominate days of a strong Steelers’ defense with James Harrison are a thing of the past.
K– CB Mike Hughes, UCF
S– TE Dallas Goedert, SDSU: Outside of Marqise Lee, the Jaguars receiving corps got a complete makeover. That revamp continues with the addition of Goedert. Bortles has never had a legitimate tight end to throw to.
N– OT Kolton Miller, UCLA: Their dominant defense doesn’t need any help, but protecting Blake Bortles and his new contract could be an idea.
K– TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State
S– C Billy Price, Ohio State: Price had surgery earlier in the offseason on his partially porn pectoral, suffered at the combine. He’ll be out four months but could be ready for training camp. It’s an unfortunate setback but I think he’s still worth a first-round pick. Price was most recently a center he played guard for 15 games during the Buckeyes championship run in 2014, which is exactly where the Vikings could use an upgrade on the O-line.
N– OG Will Hernandez, UTEP: Another needed upgrade to protect a QB, but this time it’s for prize free agent Kirk Cousins. He can’t get hurt.
K– TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
S– DE Arden Key, LSU: The Patriots seem to have more needs to address than usual, but they always find a way to piece together what they have into a run to the Super Bowl. New England could stand to bolster the defensive line and the addition of Key will help generate more pressure.
N– QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: The new Jimmy G in waiting? Yup.
K– OT Kolton Miller, UCLA
S– T Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh: Jason Peters is 36 and recovering from a torn ACL and MCL that ended his 2017 campaign early. It’s time to start thinking long-term about protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside.
N– TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State: Semi-local product gets picked by the defending champs.
K– DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan