Sam Farmer’s first NFL mock draft: Saquon Barkley and Sam Darnold could end up in Cleveland
Formulating a mock draft this early in the NFL offseason, with the scouting combine still underway, is like working with wet cement.
It’s fluid and messy, but it’s still fun to scribble names in it.
So here’s one of a trillion ways the first round could unfold when the league kicks off the draft April 26 in Dallas.
1. Cleveland — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State — The Browns need help at running back but are looking for the answer at quarterback. This could come down to USC (Sam Darnold) and UCLA (Josh Rosen).
2. New York Giants — Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State — Having committed to 37-year-old Eli Manning, the Giants are in a win-now mode. Their best teams have been built around a pass rush.
3. Indianapolis — Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame — Pass rush and running back are pressing needs. Most important, though, is providing Andrew Luck with protection.
4. Cleveland — Sam Darnold, QB, USC — If the Browns don’t address the position in free agency and no one trades into the Nos. 2 or 3 spots and takes Darnold, the USC standout would be a good fit here.
5. Denver — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma — John Elway is on the hunt for a quarterback. The Broncos will make a run at Kirk Cousins and/or maybe Case Keenum. Mayfield fills the bill.
6. New York Jets — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA — The Jets will make a huge push to sign Cousins. If that falls short, they’ll look to take the best pure passer in this draft class.
7. Tampa Bay — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State — An elite pass rusher is the Buccaneers’ biggest need. A shutdown corner is a close second, though, and Ward gets the nod here over Minkah Fitzpatrick.
8. Chicago — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama — A year after the Bears maneuvered to get their quarterback, they stay put and pick up the best receiver in the draft.
9. San Francisco — Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama — The 49ers need help at cornerback, bolstering their pass rush, and fortifying their offensive line. Fitzpatrick is a natural fit here.
10. Oakland — Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia — The Raiders went with defense in the first three rounds last year but still have holes to fill. Jon Gruden grabs the best inside linebacker in this class.
11. Miami — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming — The Dolphins basically need help everywhere but safety and receiver. It’s time to start thinking about the future at quarterback beyond Ryan Tannehill.
12. Cincinnati — Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame — The Bengals need tackles, and especially a left tackle. McGlinchey, who’s Matt Ryan’s cousin, will be a 10-year starter in the NFL.
13. Washington — Derwin James, SS, Florida State — If they can’t grab a game-changing running back, the Redskins will look to address their needs at safety, inside linebacker, and along the defensive line.
14. Green Bay — Vita Vea, DT, Washington — At 340 pounds, he’s a great athlete for his size. He might be tough to resist for the Packers, despite pressing needs at outside pass rusher, receiver and tight end.
15. Arizona — Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn — The Cardinals need a cornerback to play opposite Patrick Peterson. If they don’t trade up to get in the quarterback mix, or take a receiver, cornerback is a solid bet.
16. Baltimore — Orlando Brown, T, Oklahoma — The Ravens need to get help for Joe Flacco. That can be done with an overhauled receiving corps, a field-stretching tight end and a reworked offensive line.
17. Chargers — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama — Last year’s picks, receiver Mike Williams and guard Forrest Lamp, essentially are rookies, so now the Chargers pursue an heir apparent to the pricey Corey Liuget.
18. Seattle — Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech — The Seahawks need an edge rusher with Cliff Avril likely to be gone and Malik McDowell’s situation unclear.
19. Dallas — Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas San Antonio — Although the Cowboys need a receiver, they also need to augment their defensive front. Davenport would be a steal here.
20. Detroit — Sony Michel, RB, Georgia — Michel needs to prove at the combine and beyond that he can run good routes and catch the ball. Draft guru Mike Mayock has made some Alvin Kamara comparisons.
21. Buffalo — Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M — Watch for the Bills to package picks to move up for a quarterback. If they stay here, Kirk would be a good choice.
22. Buffalo (via Kansas City) — Rasheem Green, DE, USC — The Buffalo front seven needs retooling, especially if Kyle Williams retires. Green is the type of player Sean McDermott likes.
23. Rams — Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida — Even with Marcus Peters, the Rams need cornerbacks, especially with Trumaine Johnson likely leaving and Kayvon Webster coming off Achilles surgery.
24. Carolina — Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist — The Panthers didn’t get much production from receivers other than Devin Funchess. The 6-foot-4 Sutton could be a Kelvin Benjamin-type target.
25. Tennessee — Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia — The Titans need to upgrade the interior of their lines. Wynn, who played left tackle in the national championship game, is seeing his stock trend up.
26. Atlanta — Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan — The Falcons are looking for defensive tackles and interior offensive linemen. Hurst would be a good pick here, unless Washington’s Vea were to drop.
27. New Orleans — Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina — The Saints need a pass rusher to go with Cam Jordan, but can they get an elite one? Tight end makes sense with Coby Fleener sidelined by concussions.
28. Pittsburgh — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama — Pittsburgh’s biggest need by far is an every-down inside linebacker to replace Ryan Shazier. Evans can play inside or outside.
29. Jacksonville — Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville — Even though they extended Blake Bortles through the 2020 season, the Jaguars are going to taking a hard look at quarterbacks. Jackson is intriguing.
30. Minnesota — Connor Williams, T, Texas — The Vikings need to bolster their offensive line. They might move Mike Remmers from tackle to guard, where he played in the postseason, and draft a tackle.
31. New England — Uchenna Nwosu, OLB, USC — Sure, they need to replace Jimmy Garoppolo and (eventually) Rob Gronkowski, but the Patriots had zero pass rush against Philadelphia. Nwosu is raw but rising.
32. Philadelphia — Leighton Vander Esch, OLB, Boise State — The Eagles are looking at linebackers. They need to re-sign Nigel Bradham, and Jordan Hicks has had two serious injuries.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer
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