In the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, general managers and their staff are meeting with, interviewing and hosting workouts for many different college players, hoping to solidify their draft selections.
Here is my prediction of the top 10 picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.
No. 1: QB Sam Darnold
There has been some speculation that the Browns are considering taking Josh Allen with the No. 1 pick, possibly a make-up selection for passing on Carson Wentz. That would be a mistake. Darnold has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback: Size, arm strength, accuracy, mobility and intelligence. One of Darnold flaws, his tendency to fumble, is something that teams will fix very quickly.
Drafting Darnold and then slowly integrating him into the NFL behind Tyrod Taylor, for maybe his entire rookie year or just a couple games, is the smart move for the Browns. When Darnold is eventually ready to lineup under center, he will have Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon, pending no substance violations, on either side to make that adjustment even easier.
New York Giants
No. 2: RB Saquon Barkley
General manager Dave Gettleman and the Giants have plenty of options for this pick. There has been reported interest from the Buffalo Bills about a possible trade, any of the top quarterback prospects could come off the board, and even defensive end Bradley Chubb or offensive guard Quenton Nelson may be drafted at this spot.
Nevertheless, Gettleman seems to believe that Eli Manning still has plenty of accuracy and strength left in that right arm. The best way to maximize Manning would be surround him with weapons. Saquon Barkley is a great weapon and the best player in the draft.
Selecting Barkley is somewhat contingent on whether or not the Giants decide to trade Odell Beckham Jr. before the draft, which would signal a full rebuild. Were that scenario to occur, the Giants would, most likely, look draft a quarterback or Chubb.
New York Jets
No. 3: QB Josh Rosen
When the Jets traded with the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 3 pick, it was mightily clear that they were looking to select a quarterback. Which quarterback, however, depends on what the Giants and Browns decide to do.
In this scenario, the Jets are able to draft Rosen, a supremely intelligent prospect and talented passer. Rosen seems to have the personality and attitude to be able to handle playing in New York City.
No. 4: DE Bradley Chubb
The Browns would have liked to get Barkley here but, now, they will look to bolster their defensive front in the North Carolina State prospect Bradley Chubb.
The Browns need to add talent at many different positions but, Chubb is by far the best pass rusher in this draft class. With Chubb on one side and Garrett on the other, the Browns are going to feel confident about their ability to get to the quarterback, which is especially important when going up against Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco twice a season.
No. 5: CB Denzel Ward.
John Elway is a smart man and a good general manager. He is well aware that the cornerstones of the 2015 Super Bowl winning Broncos was the defense, specifically having shutdown corners and a lethal pass rush.
With Aqib Talib now a member of the Los Angeles Rams, Ward is the ideal selection. Although slightly undersized, Ward is a good tackler and excellent in man coverage. Ward also showed his exceptional athleticism at the NFL combine with an impressive 4.32 40-yard dash.
Potential matchups should also lead the Broncos to draft Ward. Denver will have to face wide receivers like Tyreek Hill, Keenan Allen and, now, Brandin Cooks twice a year. Elway and head coach Vance Joseph need a corner like Ward to come in and contribute immediately.
No. 6: QB Josh Allen
The first trade in this mock draft happens for the sixth pick. The Bills will give up the No. 12 and 22 picks to draft Josh Allen, a gunslinger that can handle the extreme Buffalo weather conditions.
Giving up two first-round picks for No. 6 is a hefty, but necessary, price. The Bills desperately need to draft a quarterback because AJ McCarron is not the answer to their problems. Allen is big, strong and will not need to throw the ball 30 plus times a game thanks to LeSean McCoy.
Unlike other quarterbacks coming out of college, Allen took many snaps from under center and will not need time to adjust for that. Allen will also benefit from having more talent beside him, something lacking at Wyoming.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 7: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick
The Buccaneers ranked 32nd last season in yards and passing yards per game, according to NFL.com. Drafting Quenton Nelson here to help protect Jameis Winston is enticing but bolstering that awful secondary with a high-level talent like Fitzpatrick is a bigger concern at the moment.
The national champion from Alabama is a perfect player to help give the buccaneers’ secondary new life. Fitzpatrick can play all over the field, producing at both safety and cornerback in college, and is not afraid to come down into the box to make a play. Fitzpatrick is the ideal player for the Buccaneers at No. 7.
No. 8: OG Quenton Nelson
This is a dream scenario for the Chicago Bears. Nelson is the clear top offensive lineman in this year’s draft. The Notre Dame lineman is used to playing outdoors in the cold and would help protect Mitchell Trubisky for the next eight to ten years.
The Bears have already added skill position players in free agency and now need to focus on letting Trubisky deliver the football with time and protection. Nelson is strong inside and can move well when pulling outside for run blocks. Landing Nelson at No. 8 would be a great selection for new head coach Matt Nagy.
San Francisco 49ers
No. 9: WR Calvin Ridley
Since the 49ers already acquired running back Jerick McKinnon, they still need to get a No. 1 option at wide receiver. Calvin Ridley was the best wide receiver in college football last season and is the best in the draft.
Ridley had an off year last season compared to his Freshman and sophomore campaigns, but he still had over 900 receiving yards and scored five touchdowns in Alabama’s run-heavy offense, according to Sports Reference.com. The 6-foot-1-inch receiver will be a good addition for the 49ers and help Garoppolo in the passing game.
No. 10: LB Roquan Smith
The Raiders need to address the defense in this draft, Roquan Smith is an excellent start. The Butkus award winner, SEC defensive player of the year and team leader in sacks last season, Roquan Smith is a talented linebacker for John Gruden to mold and unleash.
Smith can not only help Khalil Mack rush the quarterback, he is also a good tackler, supremely fast, 4.51 40-yard dash, and covers well in space.
Roquan Smith will be a much-needed addition to the Oakland Raiders front seven.