Don’t you dare do it. Don’t you dare think these quarterbacks could actually slide in the epic event we’ve come to worship since the early days of ESPN and the 1983 class, the magnificent NFL Draft.
Think back to the last few drafts. A year ago, there wasn’t much at the position. Mitchell Trubisky was scooped up by an aggressive Chicago Bears team in the two-hole. Spread QB Patrick Mahomes went to Andy Reid No. 10.
In 2016, back-to-back QB picks went one-two just when we thought one of them may slip outside of the top 10. Jared Goff to the Los Angeles Rams and Carson Wentz to the Philadelphia Eagles with both organizations relenting a king’s ransom to move into each spot.
In 2015, we witnessed the same exact order of quarterback dominance. Jameis Winston No. 1 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Marcus Mariota No. 2 to the Tennessee Titans and this came after speculation Mariota’s place in the first round was extremely unsettled.
Why would 2018 play out differently?
There are four quarterback names personnel-decision makers have endures months of immense salivating. All four will go off the board quickly. The way this league is played now forces such a narrative to hold true. Quarterbacks remain the key to ultimate championship success and a franchise without one is simply treading water while looking for that guy, their guy, their face of so many millions of dollars actively thrown around on a week-to-week basis.
Here’s ClutchPoints’ official top 10 2018 NFL Mock Draft, the one and only (because come on, now … it’s entirely too annoying to see hundreds of mocks spanning nearly a full year ahead including annoying preambles like “way too early”):
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB-USC
Josh Allen or Sam Darnold? That’s the ultimate question.
We know Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey loves the measurables. He falls in love with the prototypical QB look more than so many others. Still, Darnold fits that mold and comes bundled in much safer wrapping paper.
In the end, Cleveland goes with Darnold, the safer pick whose status as the top guy in the pool has been semi-cemented for over a year since his dominant Rose Bowl via 2017.
The gut-check move would have the Browns select Saquon Barkley and then take the third or possibly second QB off the board at four. But it just won’t happen. The Browns will ultimately decide to roll the dice on their own decision at quarterback and then let the chips fall where they may.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB-Penn State
David Gettleman and the New York Giants will not hesitate here. It’s Penn State beast, Saquon Barkley, all the way.
While I agree with the overall notion inferring the running back spot is devalued and shouldn’t be messed with in the top 10, this kid is different.
He’s a generational talent.
Racking up 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns on the ground in 38 total collegiate games, Barkley’s lush 5.7 yards per carry only tells a fraction of the complete story. He can do it all. He can ground and pound it between the tackles, accelerate it around the most talented edge players in the league, and even offer pretty solid pass protection from the get-go.
The only question at No. 2 will hinge on the outside factor. Will any quarterback-hungry franchise offer enough to have Gettleman move down with his eyes set on Quenton Nelson? My bet is “no,” as Saquon Barkley is just that damn good.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB-Oklahoma
- Via Indianapolis Colts: Traded No. 6 pick, two 2018 second rounders and one 2019 second rounder.
Oh, baby. We’ve now come to the spot in which fans, players and media members alike understand will create the lightning-rod situation of the night. For years, New York Jets fans have made the NFL Draft their home away from home. (Actually, Radio City Music Hall acted as the Jets main home due to their home games being played under the bright lights of Giants Stadium.)
The draft equals hope. Hope is a friendly yet so frightening word for all fans who’ve impatiently awaited the next Joe Namath.
Baker Mayfield. That’s right. Baker Mayfield. Should Jets GM Mike Maccagnan see Darnold and Barkley go one-two, Mayfield will be the choice over Josh Rosen and Josh Allen.
Rumors have it that New York is only enamored with two of the four big arms. The two that don’t really capture the hearts of the Jets front office are Allen and Rosen. It’s why they offered up three second-round selections to the Colts to move up just three spots (from six to three).
By the time Thursday night comes and goes, Broadway Baker will have hit our computer screens a million times a minute. Not bad for a kid whose draft status was hovering the middle rounds a year ago.
4. Buffalo Bills: Josh Rosen, QB-UCLA
- Via Cleveland Browns: Trades No. 12 overall pick, second and third rounders in 2018 and first-rounder in 2019.
If there’s one spot in the top 10 that offers up complete flexibility, it’s right here.
We’ve already seen the Browns willingness to make moves (Jarvis Landry, etc.). After snagging the face of the franchise in Darnold No. 1, the spot prior to QB-hungry Denver is where Dorsey can rake in a ridiculous number of assets.
The candidates to move up are the Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. While I actually like the Phins getting it done, the Bills make the most sense from a strategic point. Buffalo is loaded with picks this season and possess the most ammo to get it done.
Mayfield in New York with Josh Rosen in Buffalo. Suddenly, the AFC East is a quarterback powerhouse.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB-Wyoming
John Elway gets the kid he wanted all along after all of the drama and waiting. The Denver Broncos stay patient while watching the entire world buzz around them yet still call the name of Josh Allen in the five-hole.
This would make it five picks, four quarterbacks. Again, just when you think a QB might slide a bit, think again. This is a different league nowadays. Positional discrimination is a reality, more than ever.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, EDGE-South Carolina
- Via New York Jets: Traded No. 3 overall pick
Right after Allen is called out for Denver, the envelope will be quickly delivered in the six hole.
Despite moving from three to six, the Indianapolis Colts also snag the guy in Bradley Chubb they had their eyes set on from the get-go. So instead of Chubb alone, the Colts come away with Chubb and three second-round selections to boot.
Colts fans better start preparing Chrismas cards for Mike Maccagnan at this very moment.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Denzel Ward, CB-Ohio State
Now that all four stud QBs, the best non-QB player and best defensive player is gone, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a serious decision to make.
We bet they decide on the best cover-corner in the draft, Denzel Ward from Ohio State.
As a Consensus All-American player a year ago, Ward totaled just two interceptions during his final Junior season with the Buckeyes. Nobody threw to his side. It’s just that simple.
He’s on the smaller side at 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds, but possesses everything needed to hold down a No. 1 corner spot in the league.
8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, OG-Notre Dame
Other than David Gettleman shedding a small tear when this pick is announced, nothing abnormal will follow. Chicago Bears fans will be thrilled when it’s all said and done.
The position that busts the least in this league is along the offensive line. Usually, if a big heavy is highly-touted coming into the draft, he’s selected early and plays out a long, successful NFL career.
Quenton Nelson is going to be an NFL stud from Week 1 on.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Derwin James, S-Florida State
John Lynch can go a few different ways here, but the positional need on the back-end trumps everything else.
It’ll ultimately come down to Minkah Fitzpatrick or Derwin James. James receives the slight nod as he’s a pure safety while Fitzpatrick is a corner/safety hybrid. The position clarity makes for a more seamless transition.
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, ILB-Georgia
Just imagine this: game-planning for the league’s best edge presence in Khalil Mack while knowing Roquan Smith is behind him on the second level. It would make for one frightening defensive unit for a long time.
With Smith, the Oakland Raiders find their defensive captain and leader for the better part of a decade.
Listen, the first pick is still very much in debate. Perhaps the Browns already know which name will be called, but in terms of specificity in mocks, it’s either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen. If it’s Darnold, the above will hold true.
If it’s Allen, those New York Giants have one serious decision to make, but we still feel Barkley’s the guy there. However, it then grants the Jets Darnold at three and the rest of the top 10 shakes out much differently.
In terms of mocks, this is it. Again, forget the hundreds of mocks and those that come with a preamble of “way too early” (which will come on Sunday, just one day after Day 3 ends, by the way). This is the only one you need, the ClutchPoints official Top 10 NFL Mock Draft.