The 49ers and Raiders flipped the coin Friday morning at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and San Francisco remained undefeated in the Jimmy Garoppolo era. Coming up winners meant the 49ers would now select 9th in the 2018 draft, with the Raiders picking 10th.
With the order set, there are now three schools of thought:
1. Someone great will fall to them.
2. Their slot is more valuable if they trade out.
3. They may stand pat and select a player at No. 9 that they could've and would've at No. 10.
All are true in a way. But I can't shake the overwhelming feeling that free agency, and the 49ers and Raiders having similar needs—even competing for the same top free agent—and their proximity to each other in the draft, makes the third school of thought very realistic.
Who wins the bidding war in free agency may impact which picks the teams make in April.
So, if the draft order remained as is, and considering the combine, free agency and team decisions around the league, we can project how the top 10 could go. Here is a trade-less, "coin flip reaction" mock with the 49ers selecting at No. 9 overall.
1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold, QB
At the end of the day, the least surprising player to go No. 1 to Cleveland would be Darnold. They need a signal-caller, and whether it's right or not, the USC quarterback is the one scouts have been drooling over. This marriage seems inevitable.
2. New York Giants – Quenton Nelson, OG
All signs point to the Giants doing good by Eli Manning, and building around him in the draft. The two-time Super Bowl winner is beloved by ownership and fans, he has some years left, new head coach Pat Shurmur seems committed to him, and the team also doesn't know what it has yet in backup Davis Webb. That being the situation, the best non-QB at a position of need at No. 2 overall is Nelson.
3. Indianapolis Colts – Saquon Barkley, RB
Indianapolis is moving on from veteran running back Frank Gore. And while they have Marlon Mack, they can’t pass on Barkley. They're on entirely different tiers. Barkley can be the offensive centerpiece and face of the franchise in case the one they invested the No. 1 pick in back in 2012 doesn’t make it back. It'd be a stretch for the Penn State playmaker to make it past the Colts.
4. Cleveland Browns – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB
The Browns added their quarterback first, but they can still add arguably the best defensive player in the 2018 draft in Fitzpatrick. The blue-chip prospect from Alabama is a no-brainer. Fitzpatrick joins a rebuilding defense that has Danny Shelton and added Myles Garrett last year.
5. Denver Broncos – Baker Mayfield, QB
John Elway’s top priority this offseason is quarterback. I think Mayfield, the Heisman winner from Oklahoma, is his guy. The quarterback has terrific field presence and overall playmaking ability. He's battle-tested and confident. And he seems ready to put an NFL team on his back. If Denver doesn't ink Cousins, the pick is Mayfield.
6. New York Jets – Josh Rosen, QB
The Jets may be the team to land Cousins, but if they don't, the No. 6 overall pick is no doubt going toward a quarterback. And that player may be Rosen, the UCLA product who is arguably the most mechanically refined of the bunch. He could be the franchise QB that has long eluded Gang Green.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derwin James, S
Tampa likes those players out of Tallahassee, and they badly need to reinforce the secondary, especially if they expect to survive the NFC South. James is a rare secondary player in that he can cover, play the run like a linebacker and offer pass-rush value.
8. Chicago Bears – Bradley Chubb, EDGE
Nelson would’ve made sense here, but he’s long gone. And while the Bears could turn their attention to getting a weapon for Mitchell Trubisky, the idea of pairing Chubb with Leonard Floyd is too intriguing to pass on, especially when you're playing Aaron Rodgers twice a year. Not mention it's a deep class of receivers, further supporting this as the way to go. Chicago winds up taking the N.C. State pass rusher and doesn't look back.
9. San Francisco 49ers – Denzel Ward, CB
The Raiders and 49ers are reportedly vying for the services of cornerback Trumaine Johnson in free agency. How that plays out impacts picks Nos. 9 and 10, as they're looking to fill similar holes. To me, it seems unlikely the 49ers overpay for a 28-year-old cornerback, and may pull out of talks, leaving the free-agent CB to Oakland and choosing to find a solution in a stacked draft. If that does happen, the highest-level player that fits the system is Ward. The All-American from Ohio State can be compared to Marcus Peters, a player the 49ers also had interest in.
10. Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith, LB
Assuming Trumaine Johnson becomes a Raider, the team is able to take Smith here. The defense badly needs repair. While Khalil Mack is a great pass rusher, and they've been adding intriguing pieces to the secondary in Gareon Conley, Obi Melifonwu and Karl Joseph, the unit needs a general and that's the Butkus Award winner from Georgia.
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