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2018 NFL Mock Draft: Bills trade up for Sam Darnold, Giants trade back then up in Round 1

After their trade of Tyrod Taylor goes through, the Bills will have five top 65 picks and six selections in the top 100. 

After the Browns, Buffalo is the most draft-capital rich team in the NFL for the 2018 NFL Draft. While the Bills could use those draft choices to fill clear roster needs, nothing is more important than the quarterback spot, and a trade up won’t totally erase the team’s valuable picks in this draft.

The trade up connection is between Bills GM Brandon Beane and Giants GM Dave Gettleman who worked together for years at the top of Carolina’s personnel department before landing in their new gigs. Darnold is a ridiculously talented but young and slightly raw quarterback who, with time, could potentially become an elite NFL quarterback. 

The 2018 NFL Draft order is finally set. 

1. Cleveland Browns

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. The Browns have their bridge quarterback in Taylor, who resembles Alex Smith as a player, which strikes a chord with GM John Dorsey. Allen reminds offensive coordinator Todd Haley of Ben Roethlisberger in this scenario.

2. Buffalo Bills

Sam Darnold, QB, USC. I expect Buffalo to sign a bridge-type quarterback in free agency to alleviate pressure on Darnold to start right away as a 21 year old. In terms of natural talent and lack of collegiate experience, Darnold can be likened to Cam Newton, a player Beane and head coach Sean McDermott know well. The Bills send both of their 2018 first-round picks, and a 2019 first-rounder to make this trade. 

3. Indianapolis Colts

Bradley Chubb, DE,  NC State. Plenty of options here for the Colts, but they stay the course and pick the best outside-rusher in this class to bolster a front seven that desperately needs production on the edge.

4. Cleveland Browns

Saquon Barkley, RB, Browns. This pick is cause for more celebration than Allen at No. 1. With Cleveland’s strong offensive line, Barkley can thrive immediately. 

5. Denver Broncos

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. Assuming Kirk Cousins lands in Minnesota, the Broncos must address the quarterback spot, and Rosen is a signal-caller to which John Elway can relate.

6. New York Jets

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. This match is ideal from a need perspective, and Mayfield’s personality would play well with the New York City fans and media.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. This pick comes with some risk, but the Buccaneers must address their pass rush, and Davenport has a freakish blend of length and athleticism. 

8. Chicago Bears

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. Similar to Davenport, Edmunds isn’t a finished product yet has All-Pro potential due to his size and physical tools. Chicago needs to revamp its linebacker group. Drafting the former Virginia Tech star is a good place to start.

9. San Francisco 49ers

Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame. The 49ers are ecstatic Nelson is available, and he’ll be an anchor on the offensive line for the next decade protecting Jimmy Garoppolo against interior pass-rushers in the NFC West.

10. Oakland Raiders

Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. No-brainer here. Smith is the exact type of linebacker the Raiders need. He’ll bring speed, tenacity, and top-end coverage ability to the second level of Oakland’s defense.

11. Miami Dolphins

Derwin James, S, Florida State. The Dolphins are likely to explore the quarterback market in this draft, yet fail to find a willing trade partner in the top 10. They’re pumped to land James here, a multi-dimensional defensive back who’ll quickly become one of the leaders on defense.

12. Cincinnati Bengals

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. Hard to move way from this prospect-team connection. McGlinchey would be the Bengals starting left tackle from Day One.

13. Washington Redskins

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. With Bashaud Breeland hitting free agency, and Josh Norman 30, the Redskins should turn their attention to the top corners in this draft. Fitzpatrick is undoubtedly one of them, and he’d provide Washington a tremendous amount of versatility right away.

14. Green Bay Packers

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. With Damarious Randall traded to the Browns, the Packers go corner in the top 15, and are happy to add Ward, a fierce competitor and plus athlete, to their roster. 

15. Arizona Cardinals

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. The surprise of Round 1. Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks knows the dangers and luxuries that come with a mobile quarterback from his time in Carolina, and Jackson is the most athletically gifted quarterback to enter the draft in a long time. He’d address a major need too. 

16. New York Giants (via mock trade)

Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan. Based on his time with the Panthers, we know Giants GM Dave Gettleman places a high priority on strengthening his defensive line. As Hurst slips, he can’t resist moving up for the former Michigan star. New York sends the first of the two Round 1 picks acquired in the trade with the Bills and a third-round selection to grab the penetrating defensive tackle.

17. Los Angeles Chargers

Vita Vea, DT, Washington. Quarterback is a possibility here. Don’t rule it out. However, in this mock, the Chargers continue to build their top-flight defensive front with Vea, a nose tackle boasting scary athleticism and underrated ability as a pass-rusher.

18. Seattle Seahawks

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. We get a taste of the Seahawks’ new philosophy here, as the club begins to really construct their roster around Russell Wilson. Sutton is a dominant high-point wideout with elite athleticism. 

19. Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. The Cowboys give Dak Prescott a downfield weapon in Ridley, a pass-catcher who can also move the chains and work the middle of the field. 

20. Detroit Lions

Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa. The Lions were clearly in on Richard Sherman before he signed with the 49ers. In Round 1, they take a cornerback with Sherman-esque ball-hawking ability. 

21. Baltimore Ravens (via mock trade)

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. After sliding back to add an extra third-round pick, the Ravens are happy to draft Joe Flacco’s heir apparent in Rudolph, a big pocket passer who’ll enter the NFL with loads of collegiate experience.

22. New York Giants (via mock trade)

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. Instead of simply drafting Barkley at No. 2 and calling it a day, the Giants maneuver up and down the board to land Hurst for the middle of their defense and the consensus second-best runner in this class in Guice. 

23. Los Angeles Rams

Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State. With Robert Quinn on his way to Miami, the Rams draft a similar talent in Sweat, a prospect who has his best football in front of him. 

24. Carolina Panthers

Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP. Star left guard Andrew Norwell is likely to strike it rich with a monster deal in free agency. To immediately fill the void created by his departure, the Panthers land Hernandez, a comparably powerful interior blocker. 

25. Tennessee Titans

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. The Titans could use reinforcement at linebacker. Vander Esch is a new-age prospect at that position ready to thrive in the spread-out NFL due to his speed to the football and length. 

26. Atlanta Falcons

Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. The Falcons could use more help on the inside of their defense, and Payne’s experience two-gapping and one-gapping would be sweet music to the ears of Dan Quinn.

27. New Orleans Saints

Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. The Saints are another 2017 playoff club with a clear-cut need at linebacker. Evans is a hard-hitting Alabama ‘backer with the sleekness to get to the sideline on outside runs and make the occasional play in zone coverage. 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. Alexander is a super-aggressive cornerback with outstanding athleticism and the ability to thrive in man, off coverage, on the outside or in the slot. 

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. With Allen Robinson likely to sign elsewhere in free agency, the Jaguars need a contingency plan at wide receiver with Blake Bortles returning at quarterback. Moore is a springy, yards-after-the-catch wideout with good size. 

30. Minnesota Vikings

Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA. The Vikings need to address their offensive line, and Miller has plenty of upside due to the physical talents he showed off at the combine and his pass-blocking prowess at UCLA despite being slightly underweight. With more strength, he can be a stellar left tackle in Minnesota. 

31. New England Patriots

Mike Hughes, CB, UCF. Malcolm Butler’s as good as gone, meaning the Patriots will have a hole opposite Stephon Gilmore in their secondary. Hughes is an opportunistic defensive back Bill Belichick will love. 

32. Philadelphia Eagles

James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State. Not an offensive tackle? Ehhh let’s change it up. Washington is an immediate replacement and younger upgrade from the soon-to-be officially traded Torrey Smith. 

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