2018 NFL Draft Preview: With the First Pick in the…


This Time They’ll Get it Right.

The Cleveland Browns are the ‘little NFL franchise that could.’ Members and non-members of the Dawg Pound really want this team to succeed. Head Coach Hue Jackson is a solid football man that earned the respect of players and colleagues. Quite honestly, the Browns modern history is so bad, the team that played at the Mistake by the Lake,” deserve a great draft. Browns’ ownership and General Manager John Dorsey need to select a difference maker and finally hit on a franchise quarterback in April. But, who exactly will Cleveland go for? Let’s preview the 2018 NFL Draft. If we cross our fingers maybe Dorsey’s choices can make Jim Brown and Otto Graham proud.

USC Sam Darnold (l.) and UCLA’s Josh Rosen (r.) greet each other after the Trojans victory 28-23. The LA quarterbacks are two of the highest ranked quarterbacks in April’s NFL Draft.

No. 1. Cleveland Browns

2017-18 Record: 0-16
Needs: QB, RB, secondary
Prediction: USC/Sam Darnold (QB)

UCLA starting quarterback Josh Rosen surprised many when he announced that he wouldn’t sign with the Browns if they drafted him in April. Fans and media thought Rosen’s decision meant he’d stay in college for his senior year. However, Rosen has declared for the draft, forgoing his fourth-year eligibility with Bruins. The Browns can’t afford another controversy with their top pick, so we expect GM Dorsey to select USC’s, Sam Darnold.

Darnold is 6’4 and 225 pounds. He has the size and arm strength that NFL teams are looking for. Darnold’s accuracy stood out to both ESPN’s Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. One NFL scout told ESPN, “He’s got everything you look for — size, arm strength, accuracy. Could stand to clean up some mechanical stuff, but that’s going to come with time. He looks the part, and that matters when you’re trying to sell your fan base on a young guy with growing pains.”

Darnold’s lack of mobility is a concern. The Browns offensive line (as currently constituted) does not pass protect well. Just ask Deshone Kizer. The modern NFL is best suited for quarterbacks who can escape the pocket when a play breaks down and make something happen. See Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Marcus Mariota. Signal callers don’t need to be spread, option or pistol QBs, but mobile enough to pose a threat to exotic defenses. If the Browns throw a curveball, they could go with 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma.

No. 2 New York Giants

2017-18 Record: 3-13
Needs: OT, QB, RB
Prediction: UCLA/Josh Rosen (QB)

The Giants’ had a nightmarish season. They were beset by injuries (again), fired their ineffective head coach, and benched their two-time Super Bowl winning QB Eli Manning. The Manning fiasco shined a huge spotlight on Big Blue’s major dilemma this off-season. Is it time to finally move on from Manning? From every insight into ownership’s thinking so far, the Giants will use the second pick in the draft to select their next franchise quarterback. With Darnold off the board, we expect the Giants to pick UCLA’s, Josh Rosen.

Todd McShay assessment is, “Rosen is far superior [than Darnold] going through his progressions and has a pretty deep ball. He’s a better QB right now, but that doesn’t mean he will be down the line.” Rosen does have negatives, such as attitude and a big injury history. The Giants are rarely in a position to pick at top of the draft. They can’t afford to pass on one of the top two QB prospects. If Rosen’s makeup and injury past scare off new Big Blue GM Dave Gettleman, they could select Wyoming’s Josh Allen (QB) or surprise observers and select Penn State RB Saquon Barkley.

No. 3 Indianapolis Colts

2017-18 Record: 4-12
Needs: ILB, OL, DE
Prediction: Notre Dame/Mike McGlinchey (OT)

The Colts salvaged four wins without franchise quarterback Andrew Luck for the entire 2017 -18 regular season. GM Chris Ballard ‘lucked’ out by acquiring former Patriots QB Jacoby Brissett. Brisset had moments but the Colts aren’t committed to him long-term. Luck told the media in December that he spent the last month rehabbing his throwing shoulder in Europe and is he’s finally healthy. The Colts and Luck expect to be ready for the 2018-19 season. Saquon Barkley could be drafted at three, is he’s available. We expect the Colts to sure up their offensive line to protect Luck and the passing game. We expect the Colts to draft the 6’8, 315-pound tackle from Notre Dame, Mike McGlinchey.

USA Today’s scouting report on McGlinchey states, “[He’] an impressive prospect [with] the build and athleticism to project as a left tackle at the next level. McGlinchey uses his quick feet to effectively protect the edge. A technically sound prospect overall, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear McGlinchey’s name called early on draft night.”

No. 4 Cleveland Browns

2017-18 Record: 0-16
Needs: QB, RB, secondary
Prediction: Penn State/Saquon Barkley (RB) 

Barkley 2017 Season | SI.com

If the draft breaks out in this order, the Browns could finally have a two-headed monster in their offensive backfield. This could be the best QB/RB combination since Bernie Kosar and Ernest BynerSaquon Barkley dominated the Big 12 this year. He finished his junior year with over 1,900 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns. Sports Illustrated and NFL evaluators believe [Barkley] could be better than Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott. The Penn State running back is emerging as a generational talent and is being viewed as a true franchise player as the league goes back to the future with power-running offenses.

USA Today wrote [he is] “a rare talent with incredible athletic ability, Barkley’s well-rounded skill set will make him a terror on every down at the next level. His rare explosiveness for his size will create serious problems for NFL defenders, and he’ll be a dream for any offensive coordinator or a quarterback who wants a strong running game to balance their attack.

No. 5 Denver Broncos

2017-18 Record: 5-11
Needs: OG, QB, OT
Prediction: Too Early to Tell; Notre Dame/Quenton Nelson (OG), Texas/Connor Williams (OT) 
Wyoming/Josh Allen (QB), Oklahoma Baker Mayfield (QB)

Mandatory Credit: Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos are the wildest of cards amongst the top four teams in the draft. Reading early projections and mock drafts, GM John Elway, and the organization are in love with UCLA QB Josh Rosen. But, no one is expecting Rosen to be available at five. If the Orange Crush wants Rosen they need to trade up to at least the second position to pick him. The other quarterbacks worth selecting at five are Wyoming’s Josh Allen or Heisman Trophy winner, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. (We don’t like Mayfield’s size and attitude.)

Then again, Denver could acquire their starting quarterback via free agency. Bleacher Report reported last week (via Denver7’s Troy Renck) the Broncos are interested in acquiring Washington QB Kirk Cousins if available Washington can ‘franchise’ Cousins once more for over $30 million for the season. If the Broncos acquire Cousins, they can address their offensive line deficiencies in the draft. We think five is too early to select a guard, so going with Texas Longhorns’ OT Connor Williams makes sense.

Williams is 6’6 and 315 pounds. Some analysts rate him a better tackle than ND’s Mike McGlinchey, but both players rate as elite tackles at the next level. Draftwire writes, [Williams, has ] ideal NFL size, a well-rounded skill set, and all the physical tools pro scouts are looking for in a franchise left tackle. A knee injury cost him a sizable chunk of the 2017 season, but at full strength, Williams has proven he can handle even the most talented edge defenders.