After John Harris offered his final projection from his view as a draft prospect specialist, Washington Post national NFL writer Mark Maske predicts what he thinks will transpire Thursday night when the NFL draft gets underway.
Quarterback-needy teams are lined up at the top of the first-round order and a celebrated class of prospects is ready to land with those teams. It’s a combination that could create an early run on quarterbacks, so much so that a quarterback not even projected to go in the opening round could land in the top 15 or so.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Browns simply must take the quarterback they believe is the draft’s best. Josh Allen probably has the greatest upside, but he also seems to have some bust potential. Darnold probably has the best chance to be good to very good.
2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
It’s an interesting choice for the Giants with Eli Manning still around as the starter. Make the team around Manning better or put his eventual successor in place? If it’s a non-quarterback, the Giants could go with running back Saquon Barkley or pass-rusher Bradley Chubb. It says here that Manning’s career is winding down and the wise move is to get a prospective franchise quarterback while the opportunity is there.
3. New York Jets: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Jets get the quarterback with the great arm and good athleticism who could be the next Carson Wentz … or the next JaMarcus Russell.
4. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
If the Browns come away from these two picks with a potential franchise quarterback and a would-be centerpiece runner like Barkley, they would be quite a bit closer to respectability.
5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
John Elway has spoken positively of Mayfield. The Broncos get their quarterback of the future while Case Keenum serves as their starter for now.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
The Colts get the draft’s top pass-rusher and come away as big-time winners after the blockbuster trade with the Jets to move down three spots and secure a trio of second-round picks, two of them in this year’s draft.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Using such a lofty pick on a guard will seem misguided to some, but Nelson is really, really good and he will be a difference-maker on the offensive line.
8. Chicago Bears: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Bears fortify their secondary with the draft’s top cornerback.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio
Davenport is an interesting player who gives the Niners a pass-rusher off the edge.
10. Oakland Raiders: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama
Is Fitzpatrick a cornerback or a safety at the NFL level? His versatility actually could work against him because of the disagreement on that topic. However, he is a playmaker and a potential difference-maker on defense, and he should not fall out of the top 10.
11. Miami Dolphins: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The quarterback decisions get really interesting once Darnold, Rosen, Allen and Mayfield are off the board. That potentially could be it for the first round. But if other quarterback-needy teams get impatient, the run could continue until five or six quarterbacks are taken in the opening round, perhaps in the top half of the first round. The Dolphins have Ryan Tannehill returning as their starter but can they count on him?
12. Buffalo Bills: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
The Bills could trade up for a quarterback. But if they don’t, Rudolph becomes an intriguing option for them.
13. Washington Redskins: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
There is talk of the Redskins being interested in Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, and that is a possibility. But adding Guice would help to make the transition to Alex Smith at quarterback more seamless by giving him a runner to attract the attention of opposing defenses.
14. Green Bay Packers: Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Packers address their secondary after trading Damarious Randall.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
If the Cardinals don’t get into the first-round quarterback mix, Ridley makes sense for them as the draft’s top wideout.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame
There are a lot of different ways the Ravens can go here. Helping the offensive line to safeguard quarterback Joe Flacco would be a valid approach.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
If he lasts this long, Edmunds would be a very good value pick at this point.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
The Seahawks are in transition on defense and getting a pass rusher or a defensive back in the first round would be sensible.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Dez Bryant is gone and the Cowboys address their wide receiver corps. The other option would be to bolster the middle of their defensive line.
20. Detroit Lions: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
If a difference-making pass-rusher isn’t available, the Lions help their defense with an excellent all-around linebacker who could be a standout.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
The Bengals continue to fortify their offensive line after trading for Cordy Glenn.
22. Buffalo Bills: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
If Vea is still available at this point, he might be too good to pass up.
23. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, T, UCLA
Trading up for the quarterback who would become Tom Brady’s heir apparent doesn’t seem very Patriots-like. It’s more like Coach Bill Belichick to seek to trade back and add picks. If they stay put, improving Brady’s offensive line would seem prudent.
24. Carolina Panthers: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
The Panthers continue the process of trying to reassemble their secondary.
25. Tennessee Titans: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Titans have other needs but Payne would be a very good value at this point.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
He’s a good fit for the Atlanta defense and also would be capable of playing defensive end.
27. New Orleans Saints: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The Saints failed to get Jimmy Graham in free agency and taking a tight end in the first round certainly would make quarterback Drew Brees happy. The issue would be whether they favor Hurst, South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert or Penn State’s Mike Geskicki.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Steelers never believe it’s a bad idea to use a first-round pick on a linebacker.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
The Jaguars need help at wide receiver and Moore would be a good value if he’s still available late in the first round.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, G/T, Georgia
The Vikings, after spending all that money on free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, make his offensive line better. It’s all about protecting a big investment.
31. New England Patriots: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
He’s a versatile player who could be an immediate contributor.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
The defending Super Bowl champs add a dynamic running back who could thrive as a situational player.
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