Arthur Arkush's NFL mock draft 2.0

Browns and Giants trade down as AFC East big 'winners' in QB sweepstakes

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Welcome to Arthur Arkush's mock draft 2.0, where the biggest departures from the first incarnation are based on two premises: never before in the NFL has there been greater incentive to draft rookie quarterbacks, and perhaps at no time during the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady reign has the AFC East been more... not up for grabs, per se, but poised for upheaval.
We already know the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are serious buyers in the top-end QB market. We now wonder whether the New England Patriots could be, too, after they added another first-rounder last week in the Brandin Cooks trade. And Mike Tannenbaum and Adam Gase, with a nearly 30-year-old starter whom they inherited and who has twice mangled his left knee since his last meaningful pass, have done significant vetting of a position they've yet to earnestly put their stamp on entering Year Three together.
Indeed, there are two aggressive moves up the board by teams in this mock. I'm sure there will be more than that come April 26, but I refuse to do any mock drafts in this offseason of unprecedented trades without including at least a couple possible mock trades.
And, for our subscribers, we're including links to our Greg Gabriel's draft database scouting reports. Get the full report from our draft expert here. And if you haven't signed up? Help support our work for just 99 cents for a daypass, or $5 for All Access.
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1. Cleveland Browns — USC QB Sam Darnold
Whispers remain that John Dorsey is enamored with Josh Allen. Dorsey and Browns consultant Scot McCloughan, who thinks Baker Mayfield is this year's Brett Favre, were in Green Bay when Favre was revitalizing that franchise. If I were the Browns, Mayfield would be my pick. But I'm sticking with my mock 1.0, pairing Cleveland with Darnold, whose prototype size and athleticism, sterling intangibles and immense upside are too tough for the Browns to bypass.

2. Buffalo Bills (from New York Giants) — UCLA QB Josh Rosen
The Bills have had eyes for Rosen since long before the Jets traded up to No. 3 — and they're not about to let their division rivals spoil their best-laid plans. The Giants were sold on one quarterback in this class — Darnold — but GM Dave Gettleman sees multiple hog mollies who can help replace JPP and contribute readily to a club with designs on competing this year. Remember, Gettleman's former Panthers employees are Bills power brokers, Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, a rapport that helps this deal get consummated.

3. New York Jets (from Colts) — Wyoming QB Josh Allen
If Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles didn't love more than one of these QB prospects, they wouldn't have settled for moving up just three spots and leaving it to chance. That they still land Allen is a stroke of luck... for them and the team trading into the spot right behind them...

4. Miami Dolphins (from Browns through Houston Texans) — Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
And there it is. Quarterbacks go off the board 1-2-3-4 for the first time since at least the merger, and the Dolphins get their top choice — and the best quarterback in the class — without giving up as much as their AFC East counterparts. Adam Gase gets the thrower with top accuracy and anticipation who best suits his scheme, and Tannenbaum stays true to form as a trade enthusiast who continually looks to rebuild on the fly. The Browns reclaim the fourth-rounder they sent Miami in the Jarvis Landry deal and now have extra 2019 picks in Rounds 1 and 3 (from Patriots).

5. Denver Broncos — Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
After Vance Joseph's old pal, Gase's Dolphins, ransack John Elway's plan of drafting Mayfield, Denver quickly pivots to Barkley. This is a strong fall-back plan for one of the league's worst rushing outfits (23rd in Football Outsiders DVOA) and a smart boon for the Case Keenum investment. C.J. Anderson was good last year, but he isn't a transformative dual-threat talent like Elway sees in Barkley.

6. Indianapolis Colts — North Carolina State EDGE Bradley Chubb
Chris Ballard was fully content to take Quenton Nelson, but the fortuitous fall of the NFL's best defensive prospect leads to an audible. They might not be Nelson, but there will be plug-and-play guards available early in Round 2 — remember, the Colts select at Nos. 36 and 37 — not the game-changing pass rusher Indianapolis has sought since Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis left.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson
Like the Colts, Tampa Bay and its NFL-worst pass rush could've rationalized Chubb over Nelson — and perhaps Barkley, too. But an imbalanced offense and a wobbly young quarterback in need of steadying can benefit more from Nelson than the secondary would from one of the top defensive backs.

8. Chicago Bears — Florida State S Derwin James
Marcus Davenport was their pick in my mock 1.0, and the thinking is the same — just at a different position. James, like Davenport, is a spectacular athlete still coming into his own as a player, not unlike former Ryan Pace first-round picks, Kevin White, Leonard Floyd and Mitch Trubisky. Trading down for Davenport, Tremaine Edmunds or Harold Landry also makes sense, as does moving back for Mike McGlinchey, new OL coach Harry Hiestand's other prize prospect. But James could be the missing piece in the secondary where, unlike in the trenches, Pace has yet to spend a premium pick as GM, and the hunch here is that he's one of several around the NFL who prefers James to Minkah Fitzpatrick.

9. San Francisco 49ers — Ohio State CB Denzel Ward
He might not have the length of fellow starters — Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon — but Ward has the talent to ascend as Niners' CB1 quickly. And San Francisco's interest in trading for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib prior to signing Sherman suggests more press coverage — Ward's specialty — could be in the offing.

10. Oakland Raiders — Georgia LB Roquan Smith
Pretty much the best-case scenario for Jon Gruden. The Niners probably pull the trigger on Smith if they didn't just invest in troubled Reuben Foster, and Oakland's biggest remaining need, still, is for an off-the-ball linebacker. Smith is the best one in this draft, and new coordinator Paul Guenther, formerly a linebackers coach, gets a special weapon for his fast and physical Double-A gap blitz scheme.

11. Cleveland Browns (from Dolphins) — Alabama S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Even after the prior regime drafted Jabrill Peppers and the current one recently traded for Damarious Randall, the secondary needs more help than the front seven. Fitzpatrick's arrival only continues to enhance the newfound flexibility defensive coordinator Gregg Williams lamented lacking last season. Remember, the Browns still hold the keys to Rounds 2-7, so if they want to move back into Round One for an offensive tackle or any other position, their resources remain unrivaled.

12. New York Giants (from Bills through Cincinnati Bengals) — UTSA EDGE Marcus Davenport
Gettleman is looking to replace JPP, and it's easy to see similarities in Davenport: small-school wonder with a big wingspan and tremendous strength. Also remember that Gettleman spent time in Carolina, where Julius Peppers is perhaps the greatest player in franchise history. Peppers, Jadeveon Clowney ... that's the kind of ceiling some NFL clubs envision for Davenport.

13. Washington — Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds
Even with Zach Brown re-signed, second-level speed can stand to improve on Greg Manuksy's unit. And after losing Trent Murphy in free agency and with Preston Smith approaching a contract year, Edmunds' arrival could also mean a potential force off the edge — depending on how Washington opts to use him.

14. Green Bay Packers — Louisville CB Jaire Alexander
Sticking with my 1.0 pick, new GM Brian Gutekunst pounces on arguably the top remaining cover man. Josh Jackson has better ball skills, but it's Alexander's speed and transition ability that makes him the better fit for Mike Pettine's scheme. The perception that the Packers only covet 6-foot-plus corners is overblown, and Alexander makes up for a lack of great size with his swagger and urgency.

15. Arizona Cardinals — UTEP OG Will Hernandez
Steve Keim has spent two of his five first-rounders as Cardinals GM on offensive lineman, and Hernandez reminds me of the free agent the Cardinals GM splurged on a few years ago, Mike Iupati. Obviously, the Cardinals need to find their quarterback of the future, but their top preferences are gone and Sam Bradford needs help up front more than Steve Wilks needs more reinforcements for an already solid 'D.'

16. Baltimore Ravens — Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
The Ravens have their pick of any wide receiver in the class — and Calvin Ridley would surprise no one here. But does Baltimore truly need help for Joe Flacco or an heir to Flacco? The 33-year-old will undoubtedly be the starter this year, and his contract suggests 2019 could also be Flacco's, but Baltimore clearly values having athleticism in its QB room — as evidenced by Tyrod Taylor and Robert Griffin III — and has done a lot of work on the former Heisman winner.

17. Los Angeles Chargers — Iowa CB Josh Jackson
Jason Verrett is a stud when healthy, but that hasn't been often, and he enters a contract year. Tom Telesco just locked up huge free-agent success story Casey Hayward with his second Chargers contract, containing $20 million guaranteed. The Bolts captured lightning in a bottle last April with Jackson's former Hawkeye teammate, versatile Desmond King. Jackson's playmaking ability is sensational, and any concerns regarding his speed are somewhat lessened in Gus Bradley's scheme. This is a supreme value pick.

18. Seattle Seahawks — Boston College EDGE Harold Landry
Pete Carroll and John Schneider have a lot of work to do to replace the disruption lost with the departures of Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson and, likely, Cliff Avril. Counting namely on former first-round busts Dion Jordan, Barkevous Mingo and Marcus Smith seems reckless. Landry isn't quite as long, but he has some athletic and 'tweener similarities to former Seattle first-rounder Bruce Irvin.

19. Dallas Cowboys — Maryland WR D.J. Moore
Moore isn't Dez Bryant, but he brings Bryant's coveted aggressiveness and physicality without the unwanted headaches and declining explosiveness. Moore earned the right to be the first wideout selected with an electrifying combine and impressive production for the Terps despite his quarterback's shortcomings. He'd provide the speed and playmaking ability that's been sorely lacking in Dak Prescott's receiving arsenal.

20. Detroit Lions — Washington NT Vita Vea
With the top three pass rushers gone, the Lions opt to maximize their new-look LB corps with a behemoth who can occupy blockers and let the speed of Jarrad Davis and Co. shine on the second level. Matt Patricia's Patriots defenses relied on a massive nose guard to muddy up the middle, and although Sylvester Williams was signed in free agency, he's not reason enough to pass on the talented Vea here. The Lions' other possibility would be selecting the draft's second-best RB prospect, but a LeGarrette Blount-Theo Riddick tandem might be good enough to hold off on addressing the backfield.

21. Cincinnati Bengals — Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey
Credit the Bengals for giving the offensive line the earnest attention it's long needed. After securing Cordy Glenn from Buffalo by moving down nine spots, they still land the draft's best tackle, effectively turning the team's biggest weakness into a potential strength. McGlinchey is a set-it-and-forget-it prospect on the right side, where the Bengals would just as soon forget the recent performances of Jake Fisher and Andre Smith, among others.

22. Buffalo Bills — Texas OT Connor Williams
They appeared to hit on Dion Dawkins on Day 2 last April, and he'll replace Glenn, but Williams can be an immediate right guard upgrade opposite Richie Incognito. That's assuming the Bills don't believe the former Longhorn blindside blocker can stick on the outside, where right tackle can also stand to improve over replacement-level Jordan Mills and Marshall Newhouse.

23. New England Patriots (from Rams) — Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch
We originally sent Vander Esch to the Patriots at No. 31 in our first mock of 2018, conducted in early February for the magazine. Well, he's since torn up the pre-draft process and will no longer be available at 31, and the Patriots have since added a second first-rounder. We're not saying Bill Belichick traded Brandin Cooks with Vander Esch specifically in mind, but it's easy to think the ultra fast and flexible former Bronco is an ideal fit for New England's dilapidated front seven.

24. Carolina Panthers — Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
He doesn't necessarily solve Carolina's lack of speed and downfield weaponry for Cam Newton, but Ridley can pair with ascending Devin Funchess to give the Panthers a decent blend of polish, production and potential that was previously missing on the outside of their WR corps.

25. Tennessee Titans — Florida DT Taven Bryan
Tennessee likely would've preferred one of the top edge rushers here, but Jon Robinson settles on the best player available, the ultra-athletic Bryan, whom Dean Pees will find an early pass-rushing role for alongside Pro Bowler Jurrell Casey. The Titans' pass rush is old and just slightly above average on the outside, but the headaches Casey and Bryan can team up to create in the middle can help offset those concerns.

26. Atlanta Falcons — Alabama DT Da'Ron Payne
Since the unusually fast and athletic three-tech in Bryan just went in front of them, Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff scratch their athletic D-lineman itch with Payne. He actually fits better as the early-down Dontari Poe replacement with the kind of traits the Falcons think they can mold into eventually making Payne more than a run-down player. Until then, Payne still helps arguably Atlanta's greatest weakness, stopping the run.

27. New Orleans Saints — South Dakota St. TE Dallas Goedert
After going with Hayden Hurst here in my first mock, I'm switching to Goedert, who won't help in the run game like Hurst but will threaten the seams in a Saints offense that attacks down the middle of the field as well as any in football. After failing to bring back Jimmy Graham, and about out of patience with Coby Fleener, New Orleans takes another swing at supplying Drew Brees with his coveted mismatch from the TE position.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers — Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
They've shown a lot of interest in Evans, the instinctive Tide 'backer who reinforces their greatest need — filling the Ryan Shazier void — a lot more confidently than Jon Bostic and Vince Williams. Whether Evans can develop into the kind of rare playmaker that Shazier was is a big if, but he'll be an every-down starter from Jump Street.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars — South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
He just seems like a Doug Marrone-Tom Coughlin kind of player — tough, mature and physical. The Jaguars will value hs run blocking ability more than most clubs and, boasting a super young roster, won't shy away from the fact that he's an over-aged rookie who might not have the biggest upside.

30. Minnesota Vikings — Georgia OG Isaiah Wynn
Injuries and retirements threaten to undo some of the massive strides this unit made last season, with stud rookie C Pat Elflein breaking his ankle in the NFC title game and steady vet Joe Berger recently hanging them up. Enter Wynn, who brings the same kind of vinegar and versatility that likely compelled Rick Spielman to splurge on Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers a year ago. Wynn should be an early force inside who just could wind up on one of the edges over the long haul.

31. New England Patriots — Michigan DT Maurice Hurst
A lot of options here, including Christian Kirk (Brandin Cooks replacement), Kolton Miller (Nate Solder replacement) and even Mason Rudolph, a potential Tom Brady replacement who, if selected here rather than 13 spots later, gives Bill Belichick an extra year of team control — which cannot be discounted. But Hurst is a really good player who offers insurance as Malcom Brown enters a contract year on a club that has let most of its homegrown defensive studs walk of late.

32. Philadelphia Eagles — Iowa C James Daniels
With few holes, the reigning champs could also go multiple ways, from nickel back (we went with LSU's Donte Jackson in 1.0 and were tempted to plug in UCF's Mike Hughes here) to running back (Ronald Jones or Sony Michel would look awfully good as the lightning to Jay Ajayi's thunder). We also were tempted to have Howie Roseman mimic the Sidney Jones model from a year ago with injured C Billy Price. Instead, we'll stay at the same position but go with the more athletic future Jason Kelce replacement in Daniels.
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