The Josh Allen–to-Cleveland rumor mill is heating up this week, but it’s still looking like a near-lock that the Browns will take USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the first pick of the NFL draft. At this point, there’s far more uncertainty around what the Giants plan to do with the second pick: Will new general manager Dave Gettleman trade back (something he never did in Carolina), will he stay where he is and take a quarterback, or will he turn in the card for one of Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, or Quenton Nelson? Only time will tell, but what the Giants do at that spot could change the entire complexion of the first round.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how things could shake out if New York does pick at no. 2—but instead of grabbing Eli Manning’s successor, the Giants go with a blue-chip player at a different position. If they decide not to grab a passer, it’d push the quarterbacks down the draft and could give other QB-needy teams like the Cardinals and Bills a better chance to move up and grab one. That’s what happens here, with two teams trading up into the top 10.
1. Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold, USC
The Browns get the top quarterback in this class. The number of interceptions Darnold threw over the past two seasons (22) is a concern, but with a strong arm, accuracy down the field, and mobility to extend plays, he’s got all the tools to develop into a top-tier starter. He’ll be just 21 years old when training camp kicks off, and if he starts Week 1, he’d be the youngest quarterback to start in the NFL since the AFL-NFL merger. But with Tyrod Taylor under contract for at least a year, Cleveland will have the opportunity to bring its new face of the franchise along slowly.
2. New York Giants: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State
The Giants have undergone a mini-overhaul to their front seven over the offseason as part of the switch to new defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s attacking 3-4 scheme, adding linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive linemen Kareem Martin and Josh Mauro. After trading away one of their top pass rushers in Jason Pierre-Paul, the team needs to add more explosive speed off the edge opposite Olivier Vernon. Chubb’s their guy. He’s not quite as talented as last year’s top pick, Myles Garrett, but he’s damn good—and he may be a more well-rounded player who can contribute on all three downs from day one. The former NC State star played standing up at times for the Wolfpack, so he shouldn’t have any problem adapting to Bettcher’s scheme, and he’s versatile enough to play on either side of the line.
3. New York Jets (From Colts): QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
The Giants’ decision to take Chubb is good news for the Jets, who end up with their pick of the remaining quarterbacks on the board. Rosen is a smooth, accurate pocket passer they can build around long term. He’s good enough to start right away. He should get the chance to compete for the job, but after the Jets signed a pair of bridge quarterbacks in Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater, New York has the luxury of giving its new franchise player a year to develop on the bench.
4. Cleveland Browns (From Texans): RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
The Carlos Hyde contract has a potential out after one year, so there is no barrier to Cleveland taking the top running back—and one of the best players in the draft—at this spot. In picking Barkley, the Browns grab an explosive breakaway threat on the ground and a talented route-runner in the passing game. By pairing Barkley with Duke Johnson, the Browns could be a matchup nightmare with creative two-back sets. Against lighter nickel and dime defensive looks, Cleveland could run the ball up the gut, and if teams line up in base personnel, it’d be tough to match up with a pair of running backs who can both flex out to the wing to run routes against slower-footed linebackers.
5. Denver Broncos: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
The Broncos could consider a quarterback at this spot, but after signing Case Keenum to a two-year, $36 million deal (which features $25 million in guaranteed cash), GM John Elway may decide that giving his new signal-caller as soft of a landing spot as possible is a more pressing priority. Nelson would certainly be a start toward that goal: The nasty, physical lineman would not only help give Keenum more time to throw, but would also provide a boost to Denver’s anemic run game.
6. TRADE: Buffalo Bills (From Colts via Jets): QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
With the Giants and Broncos both passing on quarterbacks, the Bills pounce on the opportunity to move up and grab one—and find a willing trade partner in the Colts, who decide to move back again after watching Chubb, Barkley, and Nelson go off the board. The Bills surrender the 12th and 22nd picks to move up to no. 6 and select the strong-armed Allen (that’s an overpay, per Jimmy Johnson’s draft trade value chart, but it’s the type of “attractive offer” GM Chris Ballard said he’d need in order to trade back again after moving out of the third spot last month). The Wyoming star will need to improve his accuracy at the next level, but he’s got prototypical size and athleticism, and with a cannon for an arm and big hands to grip the football, he’ll be well equipped for the blustery, cold weather in Buffalo.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
No team gave up more passing yards than the Buccaneers last year (260.6 per game), and playing in a division with Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees makes upgrading the secondary a primary concern for Tampa Bay. Fitzpatrick would bring versatility and coverage chops to the defense from day one. The former Crimson Tide star can line up all over the middle of the field, whether that’s over the slot receiver, covering deep in the middle of the field, or playing a de facto linebacker role in subpackages.
8. Chicago Bears: DT Vita Vea, Washington
As subscribers to planet theory note, there are only so many human beings on earth who stand 6-foot-4, weigh 347 pounds, and can move like the former Husky. Vea’s an incredibly strong and athletic big man, and it’d be fun to see him play the Justin Smith role in Vic Fangio’s defense, drawing double-teams and pushing the pocket from the defensive end or nose tackle spots, freeing up Leonard Floyd and the team’s other pass rushers off the edge.
9. San Francisco 49ers: DE Harold Landry, Boston College
Landry’s seen his stock rise over the past few weeks after posting outstanding numbers at the combine, most notably a blistering 6.88-second three-cone time that illustrates his explosiveness in the short area. Landry’s production wasn’t great in 2017 (5.0 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss) as he fought through an ankle injury, but the 49ers are banking on the Boston College star returning to his 2016 form. A healthy Landry posted elite numbers that season (16.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, and seven forced fumbles) and could be a day-one contributor at the team’s LEO pass rusher position.
10. TRADE: Arizona Cardinals (From Raiders): QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Another trade! Arizona’s got Sam Bradford under contract for at least a year, but he’s not the long-term answer for a roster in transition under new head coach Steve Wilks. The teams swap firsts here and the Cardinals give up their second-rounder (no. 47 overall) to leapfrog Miami (which has also shown interest in Mayfield) and take their future franchise signal-caller. (Again, this is an overpay, but the Jimmy Johnson chart doesn’t really apply when quarterbacks are involved.) Mayfield’s a dynamic playmaker who posted elite numbers at Oklahoma, and while a lack of height (he’s just a shade over 6-foot) and his experience primarily in a spread system are red flags, his ability to aggressively throw downfield and extend plays while protecting the football (he threw 119 touchdowns and just 21 picks in three years in Norman) give him the chance to turn into a star at the NFL level.
11. Miami Dolphins: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
The Dolphins need more talent on defense, and Edmunds could develop into an elite playmaker at the next level. The Virginia Tech product is big (6-foot-5, 253 pounds), fast (he ran a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the combine), and versatile; he’s shown potential to line up at multiple spots on the field, both in the middle or on the outside, and he can play the run and the pass.
12. TRADE: Indianapolis Colts (From Bills via Bengals): LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
After trading back twice, the Colts still end up landing an elite talent—and this could be a dream pick for new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, a former college linebacker who cut his teeth coaching the position at both the college and NFL levels. Smith’s an undersized but highly athletic coverage backer in the mold of Bobby Wagner or Deion Jones, the type of every-down playmaker Indy can build its defense around.
13. Washington Redskins: S Derwin James, Florida State
James is just the type of impact-maker that Greg Manusky’s defensive unit needs. The former Seminole is rangy enough to run with backs and tight ends in coverage, is a one-setter against the run (important in a division that features Ezekiel Elliott and Jay Ajayi), and can even feature as a blitzer. He’s an all-around playmaker who will make his presence known from the get-go.
14. Green Bay Packers: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
At 5-foot-10 and 191 pounds, Ward’s a little shorter than what the Packers typically look for at the cornerback position, but he makes up for that lack of size with explosive speed and elite short-area quickness. After dealing away Damarious Randall, Green Bay needs a guy like Ward who can play in the slot this year, and long-term, he’d replace Tramon Williams on the outside.
15. TRADE: Oakland Raiders (From Cardinals): DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
Oakland’s trade-back gamble pays off here as the Raiders land one of the highest-upside pass rushers in the draft. Davenport’s raw, but throw him out there along with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin and he’s bound to get plenty of one-on-one opportunities to get after the quarterback in Year 1.
16. Baltimore Ravens: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
It’s no secret that Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome loves Alabama prospects, and Evans is a natural fit for a Baltimore squad under the control of new defensive coordinator Don Martindale (formerly the team’s linebackers coach). Evans is already being mentored by Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley and has the versatility to line up in the middle, at weakside linebacker, or as a situational blitzer in Martindale’s aggressive scheme.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
The Chargers already have plenty of speed coming off the edge between Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. But add in Hurst, the most disruptive interior pass rusher in the draft, and they’d field a pass-rushing unit that could take over a game. Hurst’s ability to slice into the pocket from the inside and force quarterbacks to get rid of the ball could help create plenty of turnover opportunities for the team’s talented secondary, too.
18. Seattle Seahawks: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Germain Ifedi was a liability in pass protection for the Seahawks at right tackle last year (he also led the NFL with 16 penalties), and McGlinchey could provide competition from the get-go. Long term, the Notre Dame product would have the potential to develop as Duane Brown’s eventual replacement on Russell Wilson’s blind side.
19. Dallas Cowboys: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Signing Allen Hurns was a good start, but the Cowboys still need to upgrade quarterback Dak Prescott’s pass-catching crew—especially if the team really plans to cut Dez Bryant. Ridley’s got quick feet, is sudden in and out of his breaks, and can pick up chunks of yards after the catch. He’d provide an immediate boost for the Dallas passing attack.
20. Detroit Lions: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
The Lions re-signed Nevin Lawson and brought in former Seahawk DeShawn Shead, but neither veteran corner looks like a long-term answer opposite shutdown star Darius Slay. Enter Jackson: The former Hawkeye racked up eight interceptions last year for Iowa and deflected another 18 passes. With Jackson on the outside, Teez Tabor in the slot, and Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, and/or Quandre Diggs at the safety spots, Detroit could have the makings of a talented secondary unit.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (From Bills): G/C James Daniels, Iowa
The Bengals failed to address their interior line in free agency, but could rectify that by picking Daniels here. The former Iowa standout is the best center in this class and has the versatility to play either guard spot. He’d be a big part of stabilizing a position group that was a liability for Cincy last year.
22. Indianapolis Colts (From Bills via Chiefs): OL Connor Williams, Texas
If Andrew Luck can get back on the field in 2018, protecting him is going to be priority no. 1. Williams is versatile and technically sound, and could come in and compete at either guard spot or at right tackle for the Colts, giving the team an instant upgrade in depth at three positions. He’s tough and physical, and has the upside to develop into a long-term starter.
23. Los Angeles Rams: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
The interior line combination of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh is going to give the Rams linebackers the ability to fly around the field in 2018, relatively unfettered by offensive linemen trying to block them. Vander Esch is the perfect candidate to take advantage of that situation: He’s an instinctive playmaker who racked up 141.0 tackles last year at Boise State (fifth in the country), where he utilized his length and speed—he ran the 40 in 4.65 seconds and the three-cone in 6.88 seconds, and jumped 39.5 inches in the vertical at 6-foot-4 and 256 pounds at the combine—to cover vast swaths of the middle of the field.
24. Carolina Panthers: CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
Signing free-agent cornerback Ross Cockrell helps, but in a division with Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and Mike Evans, the Panthers need all the talent they can get in that defensive secondary. Oliver has great length at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, and would bring the versatility to play in both press and off coverage in Carolina’s scheme. He’s raw and needs to be a more physical tackler, but all the tools are there for him to be an early contributor.
25. Tennessee Titans: S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
The Titans add to an already talent-packed secondary. Harrison could challenge veteran Johnathan Cyprien (who struggled when healthy and missed six games last year) for the starting strong-safety job and could feature in big-nickel or dime packages, plus he’s versatile enough to be the backup to All-Pro free safety Kevin Byard. At 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, the former Crimson Tide standout gives the Titans much-needed depth at the safety position and would give new defensive coordinator Dean Pees plenty of options in the back end.
26. Atlanta Falcons: DT Taven Bryan, Florida
Bryan is raw as a pass rusher and didn’t post eye-popping stats at Florida (just 5.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss in three seasons), but he boasts incredible explosiveness in his get-off at the snap. That talent helps him slice through the line and affect the play, and with a little coaching up from Dan Quinn (a former defensive line coach with a reputation for getting the most out of players at that position), he could refine his game and turn into a big-time producer.
27. New Orleans Saints: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
The Saints keep building what looks like a potentially dominant defensive unit. Payne’s a tough, physical mauler on the inside, and thrown onto a line with Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, and David Onyemata, New Orleans would be equipped to give offensive lines fits in 2018.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
The Steelers must plan for life after Ben Roethlisberger. The Louisville playmaker and former Heisman winner has experience in a pro-style passing scheme, can attack deep down the field, and is electric as a runner—both on scrambles and designed runs. He’ll have to clean up a few mechanical issues, but Jackson has just as much upside as any other passer in this class.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: OL Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
The Jags can double down on their identity as a smashmouth team by adding Wynn here. At worst, the former Georgia standout would provide depth at multiple spots along the offensive line in Year 1—both guard spots, right tackle, and potentially even on the blind side, which is where he played at Georgia—and could challenge both right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Jermey Parnell for a starting job early on.
30. Minnesota Vikings: OL Billy Price, Ohio State
It’s not easy to find many holes on the talent-rich Vikings roster, but after veteran lineman Joe Berger announced his retirement last month, the interior offensive line moved up toward the top of the list of needs. Price would be a nice fit in Minnesota: He’s versatile, tough, and athletic—and assuming the pectoral injury he suffered at the combine isn’t too serious, he could compete for a starter’s job at either guard spot while providing depth at center behind Pat Elflein.
31. New England Patriots: OT Brian O’Neill, Pitt
Without Nate Solder, who went to the Giants in free agency, the New England offensive line depth is suddenly pretty thin—particularly at tackle. This pick is a bit of a reach, but the Patriots likely can’t wait around until the end of the second round and hope a starting-caliber left tackle prospect falls to them there. O’Neill needs to add some bulk to his 6-foot-7 frame before he’s ready to make a big impact (he’s still under 300 pounds), but he’s as athletic as they come at the position (he ran a 4.82-second 40-yard dash at the combine) and could be the raw lump of clay that Patriots offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia molds into the next Solder.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
After losing tight end Trey Burton to free agency and releasing Brent Celek in a cap-savings move, one of the deepest spots on the Eagles roster has quickly turned into a need. Goedert is a dynamic pass-catching threat who could make a big impact for the defending champs right out the gate. He’s got size, speed, and soft hands, and paired with Zach Ertz could give Philly plenty of options in two-tight-end sets.