The start of the 2018 draft is literally two weeks and normally at this time of the year the NFL community is awash in rumors about potential trades and who’s hot and who’s not on draft boards around the league. For whatever reason, though, it’s dead this year. At the same time, though, it is believed that both the New York Jets and Buffalo are working the phones trying to move up in the opening in order to select UCLA QB Josh Rosen. The Jets are believed to be working Cleveland in hopes of moving up from the 3rd pick to #1 overall, while Buffalo would reportedly like to move up to the #2 pick currently held by the Giants. Problem for the Jets and Bills is that neither the Browns nor the Giants appear to be inclined to move. The Browns are believed to have settled on selecting USC QB Sam Darnold with the top pick and would have no guarantee that he’d still be on the board if Cleveland dropped down to the 3rd pick. Meanwhile, despite some public protestations to the contrary, the Giants look to be interested in Rosen for themselves. In fact, no team has invested more time and resources scouting the QB prospects this spring than the Giants and the QB the Giants have spent the most amount of time with is Rosen. That included team owner John Mara making a 6,000 mile return trip across the country to have dinner with Rosen prior to the private workout the Giants conducted with him in L.A. earlier this month.
Of course, we won’t know for sure until the 26th, but it appears increasingly likely that the first three players off the board in this year’s opening round will be Darnold to the Browns, Rosen to the Giants and Wyoming QB Josh Allen to the Jets, although there is a little bit of a buzz around the league that Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield may have closed the gap on the big three such that it wouldn’t be a total shock if the Jets made him the #3 pick.
All that means that the real drama in this year’s opening round could begin when Cleveland gets back on the clock with the 4th pick. So far, the Browns are giving every indication that they’d like to sit at #4 and get the best non-QB prospect in this year’s draft along with the top-rated QB. Interestingly, though, there are rumblings out of Cleveland that if the Browns do stay at #4 they are actually leaning toward taking North Carolina State DE Bradley Chubb rather than Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. Indeed, we have had more than one source suggest that no one should be totally surprised if Barkley, who most analysts consider to be the consensus #1 prospect in this year’s draft, isn’t taken in the top 5 in large part because of positional devaluation.
At the same time, though, Cleveland is almost assuredly going to get calls about the 4th pick. Indeed, Denver at #5, Miami at #11, Buffalo at #12 and Arizona at #15 have all been heavily invested in checking out this year’s top QBs and Mayfield (or in an upset Allen) is almost assuredly going to be the last one standing at that #4 pick. Of course, the Browns could simply flip the 4-5 picks with Denver if the Broncos were so inclined and still end up with the top-rated non-QB prospect. Or if they were willing to move back the Browns could continue to stockpile picks with a deal with a team like Buffalo which would likely be willing to part with a package of picks including the 12th and 22nd picks this year. Indeed, in that scenario the Browns could still end with a pretty good player such as DE Marcus Davenport or safety Derwin James with the 12th pick and an OT such as Connor Williams, Mike McGlinchey or Kolton Miller to replace recently retired LT Joe Thomas. On the other hand, there is almost no buzz at all about any other possible moves lower on down the draft as teams bide their time to see how the top 5 unfolds.
Meanwhile, there just doesn’t appear to be a lot of movement – at least being leaked publicly – on draft boards around the league. We have been told, though, not to be too surprised if Ohio State CB Denzel Ward, Virginia Tech ER Tremaine Edmunds and/or Washington Vita Vea go a little higher in the the top 10 that they are currently projected. Other players who appear to be on the rise a little farther down the board include Florida DT Taven Bryan, Maryland WR D.J. Moore, Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch, Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk and Georgia ER Lorenzo Carter. On the other hand, the names one hears the most about possible slides are former Alabama stars Calvin Ridley and LB Rashaan Evans. Ridley didn’t test nearly as well as expected at pre-draft workouts, while Evans simply chose not to test at all.