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Varun’s NFL Mock Draft 1.0

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With the NFL off-season underway, it’s time to look ahead to April 26th, when all 32 teams will get together to improve their team in the NFL Draft. What happens on that day will obviously be impacted heavily by what teams do in free agency. For the purposes of this mock, Kirk Cousins signs with Denver, taking them out of the market for a quarterback. Here is a look ahead to my top 10 picks that night.

1) Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold, QB USC
John Dorsey, in his first act as Cleveland’s general manager, takes his franchise quarterback. Darnold is worth the first pick. He has incredible physical tools but also has some serious flaws, particularly with ball security, as he threw 13 interceptions last year. Part of that was due to the loss of his top weapon, JuJu Smith-Schuster to the draft. Part of that however, was also due to erratic mechanics and questionable decision-making. If coached correctly, a huge issue in Cleveland, Darnold could develop into a savior for a team that needs one now more than ever.

2) New York Giants – Josh Rosen, QB UCLA
Rosen is the best pure thrower of the football in this draft. In terms of understanding what type of touch to put on each pass, Rosen is far more advanced than most prospects are. His accuracy is unmatched, but there are some real concerns. Rosen has an injury history, having suffered both injuries to the head and shoulder while at UCLA. He also has some personality concerns, with many saying that he is uncoachable. Eli Manning is not going to be playing forever, and drafting Rosen gives the Giants a young prospect at the position.

3) Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb, EDGE NC State
The Colts desperately need an infusion of athleticism onto their roster. The biggest question is still about Andrew Luck’s health, if he can’t come back healthy, their long-term outlook becomes much bleaker. Chubb isn’t in the Von Miller/Myles Garrett class of pass-rushers, but he’s very close. With 10 sacks and a jaw-dropping 23 tackles for loss, Chubb is an elite defender both against the run and pass. He has a wide array of pass-rushing moves and could immediately help a Colts defense that is lacking in talent.

4) Cleveland Browns – Minkah Fitzpatrick, SS/FS/LB/CB Alabama
With their second pick of the first round, the Browns take the most versatile player in the draft. Fitzpatrick has a wide array of skills that allow him to play all over the defense. He can slide in as a nickel linebacker, play in the slot against receivers, or patrol the middle of the field as a ball hawk. Playing for Nick Saban has given him great technique to go along with exceptional physical tools. Cleveland needs difference-makers at every position on their roster, and drafting Fitzpatrick gives them exactly that.

5) Denver Broncos – Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
After signing Kirk Cousins, the Broncos give him a weapon. CJ Anderson and Devontae Booker can’t match the physical talent of Barkley. He can take any handoff to the end zone at a moment’s notice with impeccable speed, power, and balance. He’s not simply a two-down back however, with the hands and route-running ability of a receiver. Barkley is the best running back prospect of the last few years, surpassing Leonard Fournette, Ezekiel Elliot, and even last year’s NFL Offensive player of the year, Todd Gurley. He can and will transform the Denver offense, giving them an offense to match their fierce defense.

6) New York Jets – Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma
Since they lost the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, the Jets decide to find their quarterback of the future through the draft. Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty are simply not anywhere near talented enough to be NFL quarterbacks. Nobody can say that about Baker Mayfield. Slightly undersized, he more than makes up for it with a gregarious personality and an above-average arm. While not an elite athlete, he can throw from the pocket and has the potential to be the next Russell Wilson.

7) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Quenton Nelson, OG Notre Dame
Tampa has to see what they have in Jameis Winston. While he’s shown flashes of living up to the billing of a number one overall pick, he’s been too inconsistent. Drafting Nelson allows them to protect Winston, giving him adequate time to find his array of weapons, Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, and Desean Jackson. Winston missed a large portion of last year, but drafting Nelson, who many consider to be the best player in the draft should prevent that from happening.

8) Chicago Bears – Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama
The Bears have their quarterback for the future in Mitchell Trubisky, but they have little talent around him in the passing game. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen give them a thunder and lightning combination in the backfield and Ridley gives them a weapon in the passing game. While not the best athlete, Ridley is an extremely polished route-runner who can separate at an elite level in the NFL. He might not have the highest upside of other players, but his relatively high floor justifies the high draft spot.

9) San Francisco 49ers – Josh Jackson, CB Iowa
Their winning streak at the end of the year hurt the 49ers in the draft but also revealed their coach and quarterback of the future. Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo give them a partnership that they hope develops into one of the best in the NFL. Their front-7 has been bolstered in the last few years but their secondary lacks elite playmakers. Jackson is an elite playmaker, with an incredible burst to attack the football. While he has some issues in press-coverage, Jackson gives defensive coordinator Robert Saleh a shutdown corner for the future.

10) Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith, LB Georgia
The Raiders had a disappointing year last season, leading to the hiring of Jon Gruden. When Gruden was at his peak, he had an elite defense down in Tampa Bay led by Derrick Brooks. Now in Oakland, Gruden gets his Brooks in Roquan Smith, a special talent at the linebacker position. Smith has incredible speed for his position, allowing him to run sideline to sideline in the run game and cover running backs and tight ends in the passing game. He’s the prototype linebacker for the new NFL, a player who can rush the passer, play against the run, and cover well in the pass game. The Raiders badly need athletes in their linebacker corps, and Smith gives them another cornerstone on their defense.

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Varun’s NFL Mock Draft 1.0