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Conquest Chronicle's 2018 “Collegiate Experts” First-Round Mock Draft

The staff takes their first crack at a cohesive mock draft, featuring three Trojans landing in the first round

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we tried our hand in separately mocking the first three picks in the first round—that was a “little” fun. Now it’s time for the “big” fun with CC’s first ever staff mock draft. We didn’t know what were getting into, but a lot thought went into these picks—and with three Trojans in the first round, it certainly did have a Southern Cal spin to it. The staff’s picks break down as follows:

Dina— 1 &4(Cleveland), 11(Miami), 15(Arizona), 17(San Diego), 18(Seattle), 25(Tennessee), 31(New England)

Josh— 2(New York Giants), 9(San Francisco), 10(Oakland), 13(Washington), 14 (Green Bay), 16(Baltimore), 22(Buffalo), 32(Philadelphia)

Richard— 3(New York Jets), 7(Tampa Bay), 12(Buffalo), 19(Dallas), 21(Cincinnati), 27(New Orleans), 28(Pittsburgh), 30(Minnesota)

Matthew— 5(Denver), 6(Indianapolis), 8(Chicago), 20(Detroit), 23(Los Angeles Rams New England), 24(Carolina), 26(Atlanta), 29(Jacksonville)

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

We all know the Browns need a solid quarterback and Sam Darnold can be just that for them. Darnold has faced every situation in his short career, he’s been the starter and the backup. He’s won big games and he’s lost big games, he knows how to handle almost every situation that comes his way and he does it effortlessly. Owner Jimmy Haslam was at Darnold’s rainy pro day and the rumor is that Darnold is their guy.

2.New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

New York fills a need and adds a prospect widely thought of as one of the best running backs to come out of college in recent memory. If Odell Beckham isn’t traded then this offense may improve by leaps and bounds in 2018.

3.New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

This is who the Jets traded up for—a transcendent personality considered a generational prospect. Josh Rosen is the most NFL-ready QB in this draft class with sound technique and a high football IQ. New York gets their QB for the 2018 season and beyond with this pick.

4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State

The Browns were awful in their pass defense last year, they were 26th in the NFL and 31st in interceptions with only seven. A dominant Bradley Chubb with an experienced Myles Garrett terrorizing quarterbacks, would more than likely help the backfield boost their stats.

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Denver already signed a quarterback in Case Keenum, however that won’t stop them from taking a quarterback with the 5th pick. Allen would give Denver a solid QB to groom while Keenum takes snaps for the Broncos this season.

6. Indianapolis Colts: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Colts will look to go defense here with Edmunds. The Colts want speed on defense and someone who brings versatility on that side of the ball, Edmunds brings just that. He’s currently climbing up the draft boards and is a potential good fit for the Colts.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

Fitzpatrick falling this far down is an absolute upset—but quite the get for Tampa Bay. Whatever is required—nickel, box/ballhawk safety, outside corner, Fitzpatrick can do it and at the highest levels. The Bucs have gone all in an addressing the front-seven this free agency and adding Fitzpatrick would instantly improve the secondary and potentially wake up a disappointing Vernon Hargreaves III.

8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Chicago going offensive line with this pick. The Bears need to improve their offensive line to protect Mitchell Trubisky. Nelson brings phyiscallity and some athleticism to the Bears line.

9. San Francisco 49ers: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

Kyle Shanahan would love nothing more than to add Quenton Nelson to his offensive line in order to protect the team’s investment in Jimmy Garoppolo. Davenport has been rising up draft boards and fills a need for San Francisco to have a solidified pass-rusher.

10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

The Raiders go for best-available at the number ten slot and, quite frankly, Smith is not a bad option to have. New/old head coach Jon Gruden looks to instill some old school feel to this franchise and Smith fills a need at linebacker.

11. Miami Dolphins: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

The Dolphins need a replacement for Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea can fill that void and more. Vea was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. He is huge, powerful, and athletic which makes for a deadly combo. Vea is arguable the best interior defender of this year’s draft after recording 43 tackles and four broken up passes for Washington last season.

12. Buffalo Bills: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Buffalo is not stating here, they’ll be moving up to not miss out on their QB prospect. Luckily for them, Baker Mayfield somehow fell to them here. Mayfield becomes the instant starting QB (I’m sure he’ll beat out Nathan Peterman in training camp) and give Buffalo the franchise QB they’ve been longing for—sorry Tyrod.

13. Washington: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Newly acquired quarterback Alex Smith is in need of some weapons to throw to - they’ve added Paul Richardson and already have Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder on the roster but Calvin Ridley has potential to blossom into a true number one receiver.

14. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, DB, Ohio State

The Packers will be absolutely ecstatic if Ward falls to them at the 14th pick. He has the ability to play safety and corner and is a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber player. With Kirk Cousins now in the fold in the division (along with Mitchell Trubisky continuing to grow) this pick is a no-brainer.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

The Cardinals need more offensive line depth and Connor Williams would certainly help to rectify that. The All-American is back to 100 percent after a knee injury in 2017 and impressed at the NFL Combine with the best vertical jump and a very solid 40, bench press, and broad jump. Williams has said that while he feels like a tackle, he will play anywhere a team needs.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Derwin James, S, Florida State

Like, are you serious right now? It’s almost unfair how stellar defensive players find their ways to Baltimore year-in and year-out. James adds his name to the list and flourishes as the new playmaker in the Ravens secondary.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

The Chargers need some solid talent on their offensive line and All-American Mike McGlinchey can provide just that. At 6’8 and 315 lbs, it will be hard for pass rushers to get past McGlinchey to Philip Rivers. Playing in the AFC West means playing against linebackers like Von Miller, McGlinchey’s size and natural talent will be added protection against elite opponents.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

Richard Sherman is no more for the Seahawks, as is Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead. It’s safe to say Seattle is in desperate need of some talent in their backfield and Josh Jackson would be a great fit. Jackson recorded 27 passes defended and eight interceptions at Iowa last season, stats that Sherman would be proud of.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Man, Vander Esch is turning into this draft’s ascending GM crush. What’s not to love, though? Big, athletic linebacker who impressed in only one year of starting at the position. Dallas can go a number of directions with this pick, but insurance for Sean Lee and a special teamer and mouth-watering duo of Vander Esch and (a healthy) Jaylon Smith is too much for Dallas to pass up.

20. Detroit Lions: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

Detroit will need a replacement for Tahir Whitehead, who signed with the Raiders during free agency. Evans brings speed off the edge at linebacker and has a high football IQ. Evans would bring some decent help to the Lions defense.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

Easiest pick in this draft. Then Bengals have talent literally everywhere EXCEPT the offensive line. They’ve done well in adding Cordy Glenn at left tackle, but adding Wynn gives them a starter at guard from day one and someone who has legitimate ability to be a perennial Pro Bowler.

22. Buffalo Bills: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

The Buffalo brass will make sure that Baker Mayfield has weapons to utilize and Courtland Sutton makes for an easy target to throw to. His wide frame and ability to win the jump-ball will have cornerbacks flustered but will make his Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback very, very happy.

23. New England Patriots: Rasheem Green, DE, USC

This was the Rams pick before the Brandon Cook trade. With this pick the Patriots would use it to add to their defensive line. This is where Rasheem Green comes into play for New England. Green on film has impressed a lot of scouts and his ability to line on the edge or at tackle. Belichick will love to have a player like Green on his defense....That’s if they keep this pick.

24. Carolina Panthers: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Panthers need another wide receiver to compliment their No. 1 receiver Devin Funchess. Kirk brings playmaking ability downfield and would be a natural fit for the Panthers offense. Carolina will get their deep threat with this pick.

25. Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College

The Titans desperately need a great pass rusher and Harold Landry knows how to get to a quarterback. Behind Chubb and Davenport, Landry is the best edge rusher that will be available this late in the first round.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

The drop of Maurice Hurst comes after the early reports of a heart condition. While Hurst has been cleared, I believe teams will pass on him to fulfil other needs. The Falcons will take a chance on Hurst as they need to address their defensive tackle needs. Hurst would also be the best player available on the board.

27. New Orleans Saints: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

The Saints gave up 4.4 yards on the ground last season and were in heavy pursuit of Ndamukong Suh. Payne gives them a big body to stuff the run who has shown an increased ability to pass rush—totaling 33 total pressures last season. An ascending talent, New Orleans might wind up with the steal of the first round with this pick.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronald Jones II, RB, USC

Yes, I can hear you all yelling at me as I type this. Yes, Jones weighs 205 pounds. Yes, he clocked a 4.54 time. But don’t be fooled, Jones is the second best back in this draft. Jones amassed over 1500 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns last season behind a beaten down and taped together offensive line and a highly turnover-prone Sam Darnold. Jones made the Trojan offense go as far as it did, and outside of Saquon Barkley, is the only other true feature back in this class. Not committing so much money to the RB position to a back who’s yet to play a full season in Leveon Bell isn’t completely far-fetched, as Pittsburgh can address other issues with so much available cap space, while Jones brings an homerun element to the position not seen since “Fast” Willie Parker.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

Jacksonville will add on to their offense and give Blake Bortles another weapon. The Jaguars released Marcedes Lewis looking to get younger at that position. Andrews brings a red zone threat that the Jaguars need. Andrews does a great job using his body to boxout smaller defenders and his vertical to high point the ball.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

Minnesota is heading into the season as one of the favorites to come out of the NFC, but an almost 40-year-old Terence Newman and (to this point) bust Trae Waynes isn’t enough help to pair with All-Pros Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. Tough, technically sound and small in stature, Alexander is a Joe Haden clone—just what the Vikings could use.

31. New England Patriots: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

I’m going for the shock factor here for this pick. Despite his disappointing combine, Orlando Brown’s game film can still do the talking for him. His college quarterback Baker Mayfield said it best,

“When are you going to watch Orlando Brown run 40 yards down the field? Never. Look at his film. He gave up zero sacks last year.”

The Patriots are looking to fill out the offensive line and add more protection for Tom Brady, will Belichick over look an atrocious combine showing? Crazier things have happened.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

The Eagles, fresh off a SuperBowl victory over the Patriots, will add the heir apparent to the left tackle position that Jason Peters will one day leave vacant - he’s 36 and is recovering from both a torn ACL and MCL (yikes). Kolton Miller won’t be ready right away but the ability for him to learn under Peters and other fellow lineman Lane Johnson will be invaluable.