HawkTalk’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

HawkTalk’s first 2018 NFL mock draft comes on the heels of the free agent frenzy, with the Seahawks adding underrated talent on offense.

HawkTalk’s 2018 NFL mock draft 1.0

Pick Team Player Position
1. Cleveland Browns Sam Darnold QB
2. New York Giants Josh Rosen QB
3. New York Jets Josh Allen QB
4. Cleveland Browns Saquon Barkley RB
5. Denver Broncos Quenton Nelson OG
6. Indianapolis Colts Bradley Chubb DE
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Derwin James SS
8. ***Buffalo Bills Baker Mayfield QB
9. San Francisco 49ers Tremaine Edmunds OLB
10. Oakland Raiders Minkah Fitzpatrick S/CB
11. Miami Dolphins Vita Vea DT
12. ***Chicago Bears Marcus Davenport EDGE
13. Washington Redskins Roquan Smith LB
14. Green Bay Packers Denzel Ward CB
15. Arizona Cardinals Lamar Jackson QB
16. Baltimore Ravens Harold Landry EDGE
17. Los Angeles Chargers Mike McGlinchey OT
18. Seattle Seahawks Connor Williams OT/G
19. Dallas Cowboys Maurice Hurst DT
20. Detroit Lions James Daniels C
21. Cincinnati Bengals Billy Price C
22. Buffalo Bills Jaire Alexander CB
23. Los Angeles Rams L. Vander Esch ILB
24. Carolina Panthers Isaiah Wynn OG
25. Tennessee Titans Taven Bryan DT
26. Atlanta Falcons Da’Ron Payne DT
27. New Orleans Saints Dallas Goedert TE
28. Pittsburgh Steelers Lorenzo Carter OLB
29. Jacksonville Jaguars Courtland Sutton WR
30. Minnesota Vikings Will Hernandez OG
31. New England Patriots Joshua Jackson CB
32. Philadelphia Eagles D.J. Moore WR
33. Seattle Seahawks Ronald Jones RB

The Seahawks trade Earl Thomas to Cleveland in this scenario, netting the following picks in return:

  • Round 2, pick 33
  • Round 2, pick 64

That’s slightly less value than the 1st & 3rd asking price reported by Jason La Canfora last week, but perhaps a more realistic haul for Seattle. I have no idea if the Browns are interested in trading for Thomas, despite their massive hole at FS. Nor is it known whether Thomas would have any interest in signing a long-term deal in Cleveland. Nonetheless, it’s an ideal scenario for this exercise. Seattle may be picking from similar spots after all, assuming they actually trade Earl.

With the 18th and 33rd selections, Seattle drafts LT/LG Connor Williams and RB Ronald Jones. Before we dive into those picks though, here are some general notes from my first 2018 NFL mock draft:

2018 NFL mock draft notes

QB’s go early and often: Including the top three picks, four in the top 10, and five in the top half of the 1st round. I’m not so sold on some of the top QB prospects (*ahem* Josh Allen especially), but NFL teams seem to be. We already saw the Jets trade a whopping three 2nd round picks to only move up from #6 to #3. Despite the plethora of options, the demand for franchise QB’s should have them off the board quickly on day-one.

Which QB’s go where? Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen are probably viewed as the safest options, while providing high upside. They go 1 & 2 – and yes, the Giants should look to get their QB of the future while they have the opportunity… The Jets drafted Christian Hackenberg, so why not Allen?… Lamar Jackson goes to Arizona at 15 in this mock, which is a scary proposition for Seahawks fans… Mason Rudolph doesn’t quite crack R1 in this mock, which leaves one more…

Baker Mayfield to the Bills: Chicago needs an edge rusher, but they trade down with none deserving of a top-8 pick. Buffalo is more than happy to oblige, moving up from 12 to land perhaps the best QB in this draft. Mayfield has his baggage (height, maturity, spread-offense transition), yet he also has the best tape of any 2018 QB.

Elite prospects: Amongst non-QB’s, I have an elite draft grade on four players this year: DE Bradley Chubb, RB Saquon Barkley, LG Quenton Nelson and SS Derwin James. Say what you will about the positional value of the latter three, but they’re once-in-a-decade talents at those spots. Each finds a home in the top-7 in this mock draft, as the first four non-QB picks.

Next tier: Vita Vea, Tremaine Edmunds and Maurice Hurst are just a notch below on my board. Hurst drops in this case due to his health concerns, as well as his iffy projection in 3-man defensive fronts.

Strong draft class at the top: While the 2018 draft class isn’t very deep, it’s stronger than some would have you believe at the top. It wasn’t easy narrowing down to 32 players in R1, and day-two figures to have plenty of talent as well.

Biggest snubs: One or both of Ronald Jones and Derrius Guice could easily go in the 1st, but I can’t find the right R1 fit for those RB’s… Kolton Miller also figures to early after his phenomenal Combine, yet the late-R1 teams have greater needs than OT… I’m a huge fan of OG Braden Smith and EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, but neither is receiving 1st round hype… A QB-needy team who misses out early on could trade into the late 1st to nab Rudolph…

Interior OL bonanza: Six interior offensive linemen go off the board in the 1st round, if you count Williams as a Guard (which is where he’d play for Seattle). And none of them are reaches. OG and RB are the strongest positions in the draft this year, so expect them be plucked early and often. There will likely be a run on RB’s in the early part of the 2nd round, with several teams in that range needing backfield help.

Seahawks pick 1.18: Connor Williams – LT/LG, Texas

Williams earned a consensus 1st team All-American spot in 2016, following a dominant sophomore effort for the Longhorns. He would have been the first OL off the board in last year’s draft if eligible, ahead of Garett Bolles and Ryan Ramczyk. And he was hyped as a potential top 5-10 pick in 2018 prior to last season. Unfortunately, he struggled through injuries and inconsistency in 2017, which is why he could be available in Seattle’s range.

Aside from Quenton Nelson, Williams is arguably the best run blocker in this class. He explodes off the ball on balance with quick feet, while possessing tremendous power in his hands. He also locates and targets effectively at the 2nd level, creating huge lanes for his RB. He’s a terrific fit in any blocking scheme, as an athletic and menacing finisher.

Williams was also one of the premier blindside protectors in the country in 2016, though took a step back last season. He’s a technician with smooth footwork and a low center of gravity, and packs a punch on contact. Which is necessary, as he’s limited on the outside with only 33” arms. That’s the main reason some teams will project him inside to Guard in the NFL. Texas’ simplified pass blocking scheme is another, as (like most OT prospects these days) his assignments were relatively easy in college.

Based off his uneven 2017 play and explosive athletic testing alone, Williams would probably merit a 2nd round pick. On the other hand, he was a clear top-10 caliber prospect a year ago. So what gives?

His dominant 2016 tape should carry more weight, given that 2017’s regression was largely due to injury. He still has plenty of room to improve as well, given that he’s only 20 years old. Assuming his knee checks out medically, Williams will surely be a 1st round pick on draft day. The window is open for an opportunistic team to land a potential steal, which Seattle can take advantage of.

But didn’t Seattle sign D.J. Fluker to play Guard?

Yes, the Seahawks signed RG/RT D.J. Fluker this week:

However, it would be a mistake to assume Seattle is done “working on their offensive line” this offseason. This isn’t the Luke Joeckel signing a year ago, where he was brought in as an unquestioned starter. Fluker instead provides competition, depth and experience on the right side, all of which were previously lacking.

Who else did Seattle have besides the young (and relatively unproven) duo of Ethan Pocic and Germain Ifedi on the right side? The undrafted Jordan Roos at RG? George Fant coming off an ACL-tear with no experience at any spot besides LT? Isaiah Battle? The idea of any of these guys starting a game at RG or RT next season is a scary thought. Yet Seattle would have been forced to do so if any injuries befell the starters.

Perhaps Pocic could start at LG, where he made a handful of appearances last season. However, that was in an emergency capacity, and he’d only ever played at the 3 spots to the right before that. Pete Carroll also referred to him as a “right-side” player a year ago, and I doubt his vision is any different today.

Moreover, Seattle has a chance to draft a great player from an absolutely loaded Guard class next month. There are superb options to choose from in the first round, which we’ll get to in a moment. And there are also talented Guards like Braden Smith, Wyatt Teller and Austin Corbett available on day-two. The stars are perfectly aligned for the Seahawks to land an instant-impact starter at LG, which I’ve said for months. In my opinion, adding Fluker (depth, experience & competition on the right side) only reinforces that.

What about Isaiah Wynn or Will Hernandez?

Williams isn’t the only Left Guard worthy of consideration in the 1st round. Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez are excellent prospects in their own right, and are also top candidates for Seattle’s first pick.

There’s no disputing that Williams was less impressive than Wynn and Hernandez last year (though he was better than the prevailing narrative suggests). His injury-riddled performance caused his stock to drop and the duo gained traction, especially with dominant Senior Bowls. It’s also worth noting that Seattle met with Hernandez at the Combine, while OC Brian Schottenheimer coached Wynn at Georgia. Thus, there are clear Seahawks connections to them. Additionally, Williams doesn’t project as seamlessly to LG as they do, given his inferior core strength. (Though it’s not Pocic-level weak by any means – the others simply stand out as squatty beasts).

On the other hand, Williams’ 2016 performance was outstanding. And it came as a 19-year-old true sophomore, which is utterly ridiculous. It’s the best tape of any offensive lineman in this draft, apart from inhuman OG Quenton Nelson. He’s also a better athlete than both Wynn & Hernandez, and is over a year younger than both of them. Furthermore, he is probably the only long-term LT option of the trio. Which is something to consider given the age and contract status of Duane Brown. 

Here’s another thing to consider: PCJS have drafted 14 OG/OT since 2010, and every single one of them have measured at least 6’4″ with 33+ inch arms. Williams meets both those thresholds, while Wynn falls short on height and Hernandez misses on both. Tendencies could very well change with Mike Solari replacing Tom Cable, yet that large sample size still carries weight.

Seahawks pick 1.33: Ronald Jones – RB, USC

I’ll save my notes on Jones for a future post, but he would be an absolute steal here. He doesn’t fit the typical size profile at RB, yet he would complement Chris Carson exceptionally well in Seattle’s backfield. Additional options in the late-1st, early-2nd round include (casting a wide net here):

  • Defensive End – Harold Landry, Josh Sweat, Duke Ejiofor, Rasheem Green
  • Running Back – Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Derrius Guice, Kerryon Johnson
  • Offensive Line – Wynn, Hernandez, Kolton Miller, Braden Smith
  • Safety – Justin Reid
  • Tight End – Dallas Goedert (dark horse)