Now’s the appropriate time to take in everything we witnessed during the NFL season and re-examine the famed, quarterback-driven 2018 NFL Draft.
A career isn’t made or broken after one season, but factoring in rookie years and projecting forward, let’s piece together a re-draft for the 2018 class.
With this re-draft we are assuming:
- All rookies from the 2018 class (including undrafted free agents) have been removed from their respective NFL rosters and are free to be selected.
- If a rookie is not included in the top 32 here, they would revert back to the round in which they were originally drafted and to the team that picked them. Original first-rounders not included in this first round would stay with their current teams too.
- All veteran transactions made during the 2018 season are in tact (Khalil Mack trade, Amari Cooper trade, etc.).
- The below selections are what I would do as the GM of every team (while considering coaches’ schemes, etc.), not what I think the GMs of each teams would do.
- The draft order is based on the real order on April 26, 2018, before the draft began.
Let’s get to it.
1. Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. Based on what we saw from Mayfield, especially over the final two months of the season, the Browns seemingly made the correct choice in reality in late April 2018. Mayfield was decisive, accurate, stretched the field consistently, and calmly moved away from pressure in the pocket in most instances. The re-draft starts with a no-brainer.
2. New York Giants
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. If Dave Gettleman would be making this pick, of course he’d go Saquon Barkley again. The uber-talented runner won Rookie of the Year after a dazzling season. Also, Darnold was actually disappointing until the final six weeks of the season. While the Giants’ offensive line is still a major problem, Darnold would have better pass-catching options with the G-Men than with Gang Green and is still only 21 years old.
3. New York Jets
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. Allen’s opening handful of games in Buffalo were brutal at best, and strangely, the injury that shelved him for a month proved to be a godsend. He looked like a different, considerably more confident quarterback in November and December than he did in September and October. The Jets moved up before the draft to guarantee themselves a top signal-caller, and they get one in this re-draft.
4. Cleveland Browns
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Ward’s play fizzled a bit down the stretch, and some of that probably had to do with injuries. He played in 14 games as a rookie, snagged three picks, knocked down 11 passes and had 53 total tackles. Ward was sticky in coverage and made plays on the football. I have no problem with him going No. 4 overall to Cleveland again.
5. Denver Broncos
Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State. Chubb was a menace opposite Von Miller in 2018, and while some of his production — 12 sacks, 14 tackles for loss — may have been thanks to the exorbitant amount of attention Miller received down the line, Chubb proved to be as NFL ready as just about everyone thought.
6. Indianapolis Colts
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame. Nelson was a justified First-Team All-Pro as a rookie in 2018, and the Colts are bound to get a massive return on investment by picking a guard just outside the top 5, which to some, is still way too early to pick that position. It’s not.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Derwin James, S, Florida State. It seems like the Buccaneers have had secondary issues since Ronde Barber hung up the cleats, doesn’t it? James was a game-changer for the Chargers in 2018, excelling in whatever was asked of him — rushing the passer, halting the outside run game, or getting his hands on the football in coverage. He finished the year with 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, 13 pass breakups, and three interceptions. Don’t ask me how and why he fell to No. 17 overall last April. Draft travesty.
8. Chicago Bears
Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State. Leonard emphatically exceeded expectations and his draft position by (rightfully) winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year after leading the NFL with 163 total tackles (111 solo). The super-long, hyper athletic linebacker also defended eight passes and snagged two picks. He has incredible range in coverage, sideline-to-sideline speed, and he was a consistent tackler as a rookie … a lot of which he showed on film at South Carolina State.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma. Mike McGlinchey had a solid rookie campaign in San Francisco. Brown was steadier in pass protection. The gigantic tackle probably would’ve gone in Round 1 anyway, had he decided to not participate in on-field drills at the combine.
10. Oakland Raiders
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. Kolton Miller wasn’t able to get more explosive as an athlete for the left tackle spot. He just has to get significantly stronger to be even an average blocker in the NFL. Therefore, the Raiders take McGlinchey here, who’s much less of a project.
11. Miami Dolphins
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. The Dolphins are in the midst of starting a new chapter of their organization, and Jackson would be an interesting case study for Miami at this juncture. He’s a unique talent who blossomed as a passer as he got more experience in college. In this re-draft, the Dolphins hope the same occurs at the pro level. If not, they’re content with a high draft pick in 2020 and/or 2021.
12. Buffalo Bills
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. We’ll probably never know for sure how much the Bills were interested in Rosen. However, in reality they did trade up with him on the board and picked Allen instead. So, they couldn’t have been too enthralled. Yes, Rosen had a disastrous rookie season. But he was also placed in the worse situation of any of the first-round quarterbacks and does have the wide-ranging skill to be a franchise quarterback.
13. Washington Redskins
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. The Redskins have a need at receiver, thanks to Josh Doctson not yet materializing as a true No. 1 on the outside after going in the first round of the 2016 Draft. Moore wasn’t tremendous as a rookie but proved to be a dangerous yards-after-the-catch wideout who’d work well in Jay Gruden’s West Coast Offense.
14. Green Bay Packers
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. Without trades in this re-draft, the Packers stay put and draft Alexander, who had some hiccups in 2018 but was a mostly stellar corner in his debut NFL season. He had 11 pass breakups and a pick in 13 games. His aggressive nature, mirroring skills, and athleticism bode well for his future.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA. The Cardinals would be in a bind here without all the five quarterbacks who went in Round 1 in 2018 gone, and there’s not an offensive lineman worth taking here either. So, they go best player available who happens to fill a need opposite Chandler Jones on the outside of their defensive line.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma. Andrews represented great value for the Ravens going in the third round of the 2018 Draft with 34 receptions for 552 yards and three scores as a rookie. Yes, without Jackson at quarterback, Baltimore would have a colossal hole at the signal-caller spot with Joe Flacco’s time with the team seemingly done. But the Ravens don’t reach at quarterback and pick a solid prospect at a position of need.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Jessie Bates, S, Wake Forest. With James gone, the Chargers turn to Bates, who was kind of the poor man’s James as a rookie. Bates loaded the stat sheet with 111 tackles, seven pass breakups, and three interceptions. He was all over the field for Cincinnati, which is exactly how he played at Wake Forest.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. Vander Esch is the pick here because he was better than any rookie linebacker outside of Darius Leonard. His enormous, lengthy frame engulfed runners all season and his supreme athletic gifts let him glide all over the field in coverage. With K.J. Wright set to hit free agency, LVE would be a tremendous and logical replacement in Seattle, and Pete Carroll would love his physical abilities. Vander Esch had 140 tackles, seven pass breakups, and two picks in 2018.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Da’Shawn Hand, DT, Alabama. The Cowboys have a little bit of a need on the inside of their defensive line. Right now, Tyrone Crawford’s the star there. Beyond that, they’re lacking. Hand demonstrated a complete game with Lions in 2018 before landing on IR late in the year. Honestly, I didn’t see much pass-rushing upside from him while at Alabama, but he got after the quarterback with good regularity and was a solid run-plugger.
20. Detroit Lions
Levi Wallace, CB, Alabama. Wallace didn’t get the call-up from the Bills practice squad until November. After that, he proved he should’ve been Buffalo’s No. 2 cornerback all season. The undrafted free agent, who walked on at Alabama, defended three passes and had 37 tackles in seven games down the stretch for the Bills and was consistently glued to receivers on the outside.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Somewhat of a fall for Smith, who had an up and down season for the Bears, which featured some high-end flashes. He remains someone to be excited about as a modern-day linebacker. The Bengals linebacker group is disastrous, and Smith would provide much-needed athleticism and coverage ability to the second level of Cincinnati’s defense.
22. Buffalo Bills
Braden Smith, OT/OG, Auburn. Whether it be for Josh Allen in reality or Josh Rosen in this hypothetical, the impact a receiver can make is largely contingent upon his quarterback … who needs to be protected. Smith was a road-grader at guard at Auburn and acclimated amazingly to the right tackle position for the Colts as a rookie. Had it not been for his teammate at left guard, we would’ve heard much more about Smith during the season. He’s a powerful player with light feet and good technique.
23. New England Patriots
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. YOOOO … Saquon in New England? Just give the Patriots that seventh Super Bowl title now. Yeah, I can’t have Barkley falling out of the first round despite the minimal value at the position he plays. He was incredibly effective from start to finish for the Giants and is the new prototype for a franchise running back in the NFL. While the Patriots are likely happy with the returns they got from Sony Michel, they’d likely jump at the chance to pick Barkley.
24. Carolina Panthers
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. Ridley was more productive than Moore, but to me, Moore had a more impressive season individually, given that he didn’t have a true, alpha wideout alongside him in Carolina. Cam Newton needs much more help at receiver.
25. Tennessee Titans
Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State. Baker is the latest in a long line of athletic linebackers to enter the NFL from the Urban Meyer-led Ohio State Buckeyes who’ve had varying degrees of success as pros (Ryan Shazier, Darron Lee, Raekwon McMillan). And he enjoyed an underrated season for the Dolphins in 2018 with three pass breakups and an a pick to go along with 79 total tackles. This is the logical replacement for Rashaan Evans.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Robert Foster, WR, Alabama. Foster spent time on waivers this season following the Bills releasing him from the practice squad mid-way through the year. That was the wake-up call he needed, as he erupted in Buffalo down the stretch with 27 receptions for 541 yards (20.0 yards per grab) from Week 10 on after being re-signed to the practice squad and promoted to the active roster. Foster managed a monstrous 12.2 yards per target too. He’d be a fun complement to Julio Jones.
27. New Orleans Saints
Chris Herndon, TE, Miami. The Saints would be interested in replacing Davenport here, but they’re content with Herndon, who fills a need at tight end. The Miami alum quietly had an encouraging rookie year in New York with 39 receptions, 502 yards, and four touchdowns.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
J.C. Jackson, CB, Maryland. The undrafted free agent showcased strong play down the stretch in the regular season for New England with six pass breakups in his final eight games, and he had two picks in his first four NFL appearances. The Steelers have to address the secondary. It’s obvious.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Kemoko Turay, EDGE, Rutgers. Surprising. Yeah, maybe a little bit. Turay only had four sacks but generated considerably more quarterback pressure than that on the outside. The Jaguars need to get younger up front on their defense and have a gaping hole on the edge after trading Dante Fowler Jr. Sam Hubbard was also in play here.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP. Toss up between Hernandez and James Daniels. Both had respectable rookie seasons at guard, a gigantic position of need for the Vikings with Kirk Cousins under center.
31. Justin Reid
Justin Reid, S, Stanford. Reid seems like a Belichick-type player who can do anything on the back end. He can play some corner against slot receivers, roam the second level comfortably as a big nickel linebacker, and range from center field. He was outstanding as a rookie in Houston.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado. Two running backs in Round 1? Ehh, why not? Lindsay was ultra efficient as a rookie and would go bananas behind the Eagles’ offensive line. He’s a decisive runner with serious speed and loose hips and ankles to make violent cuts.