Coming off their fourth-straight win with new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at the controls, the 49ers are now slotted to pick 7th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. This is pretty impressive considering they were a virtual lock for a top-two pick prior to his arrival. And with the 49ers’ capital affected, their strategy may be slightly altered.
They shouldn’t even be a favorite anymore to land Penn State dynamo Saquon Barkley.
Anticipating this is the final draft order, and no trades are made (there likely will be, so take this with a grain of salt), this is how the top-10 could play out given the expected players available and team needs. This mock is also influenced by what I believe the teams would do, and not necessarily what I think they should do.
1. Cleveland Browns – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen long seemed destined to go No. 1 overall once he eventually declared. The Bruin is by far the most polished quarterback in terms of his mechanics. And no matter happens with Hue Jackson, with new GM John Dorsey in the building, it seems safe to assume one of his first orders of business will be acquiring a quarterback of his choice. The smart money is on Rosen.
2. New York Giants – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
This season was a wake-up call that we are on the downslope of the Eli Manning era in New York—and that it’s not too soon to acquire a potential successor. Being in the top-two with a QB in place is a rare opportunity, and it seems the Giants should take advantage and bring in Mayfield if he’s there. The Heisman-winner for the Sooners could ease the transition from Manning and bring about a new competitive era for the Giants.
3. Indianapolis Colts – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Frank Gore is playing exceptional football for his age, but his career will likely be coming to an end within a season or two. Bringing in Barkley would make a lot of sense for the Colts, who have to compete with tough run defenses in the Titans, Texans and Jaguars. This would also take pressure off Andrew Luck by introducing a new centerpiece and franchise-caliber player on offense. And if Luck comes back healthy, he and Barkley could form one of the league’s most-feared batteries.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston) – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
The Browns have the fortune of two top-five picks. Not long after finding their potential quarterback of the future, they select the best player available, and perhaps the best defender in the draft in Fitzpatrick. The 'Bama DB comes in as a much-needed leader for the secondary, backing up an improving defensive front led by Myles Garrett.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bradley Chubb, EDGE, N.C. State
The Bucs could go in several different directions here. However, Chubb looks like one of the best available players at this point, and Tampa’s pass rush could certainly use a shot of life in a high-flying NFC South. Chubb had 25 career sacks and 54.5 tackles for loss with the Wolfpack. He would be a solid selection here.
6. Denver Broncos – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Broncos general manager John Elway certainly has a type when it comes to quarterbacks. It doesn’t seem like he’ll veer far from that criteria, either, despite his lack of success, considering Elway was at the Potato Bowl where Allen took on Central Michigan for his final college game. At the very least, the projection-based QB is on his radar. If this is the choice, it shouldn’t come as a major shock.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
If the 49ers don’t trade back from here, it makes all the sense in the world to select the best offensive lineman in the draft. That’s Nelson, the All-American guard and 2017 Fighting Irish team MVP. This pick shores up the backside protection for Garoppolo and introduces a key cog for the future of the 49ers’ rushing attack.
8. New York Jets – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Have to hand it to the Jets, they’ve been scratching and clawing in every game this year, winning more than anyone predicted them to. Their air-it-out attack and RB-by-committee has laid the groundwork for the offense, giving the next QB something to work with. Jackson is too talented to pass on here, and he fits what they want to do. The Jets secure a potential franchise quarterback here that could give them an edge in the AFC East as Tom Brady’s career winds down.
9. Chicago Bears – Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
New quarterback Mitchell Trubisky needs weapons, it’s as easy as that. With Alshon Jeffery now gone, and Kevin White failing to reach his potential, it would make sense if the Bears chose to sink a first-rounder into the wide receiver position. And Sutton, as an alpha specimen with legit numbers at SMU, could attract Chicago’s attention.
10. Cincinnati Bengals – Connor Williams, OT, Texas
A good portion of the Bengals offensive line left in 2017 free agency, including three-time Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth. Cincy felt it this year. Potentially under new management, the Bengals may want to start by addressing the trenches, and Williams could be one of the better offensive linemen available at this point.
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