On our path to the draft, here’s the final mock draft from D. Orlando Ledbetter, our Atlanta Falcons Beat writer. The NFL Draft is set for Thursday through Saturday in Arlington, Texas.
The Falcons have hide behind the Taven Bryan smokescreen for awhile.
When it’s time to turn their draft card in on Thursday night, they’ll have a defensive tackle on it. But it won’t be Bryan, the former Florida Gator and son of a Navy SEAL.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is going to say, “The Atlanta Falcons select from the University of Michigan, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst.”
Hurst is the player, who had an irregular heartbeat at the combine and was sent home. The situation was explained to teams and Hurst didn’t have to return to Indianapolis for a medical re-check.
“Mo Hurst, from Michigan, (if you’re) trying to find an interior pass rusher, someone that can create some havoc on the inside,” said NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks. “We've seen how the game is evolving. You want to make sure that you can be able to get someone in the A gap that can disrupt and disturb the timing of the passing game.”
2018 NFL Draft Order
1. Cleveland – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: He was a late-bloomer who was lightly recruited coming out of high school and junior college. Only Wyoming and Eastern Michigan gave him offers. He has the biggest arm in the draft and the most imposing physical stature. He was not very accurate at times, while completing just 56.3 percent of his passes for the Cowboys. He has drawn comparisons to Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz since they both played in the same offense. Allen was under center and in the shotgun for the Cowboys. He was proficient with read-pass option concepts. Most of his woes have been attributed to his weak supporting case. “I’ve done a bunch of his tape and saw him live at the Senior Bowl,” NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “He’s got as live an arm as anybody I’ve seen since JaMarcus Russell. I heard people thought that was a negative because of JaMacus’s career. But to qualify that, all I’m talking about is arm talent. I’m not talking about the ability to play in the NFL. His arm talent is the best I’ve seen since Russell.”
2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Some analysts consider him the top player in the draft and a generational type running back. He rushed for more than 3,800 yards over three seasons before entering the draft with a year of eligibility left.
3. New York Jets from Indianapolis -- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: A shade over 6-foot. Perhaps the most accurate quarterback in the group. Started his career at Texas Tech as a walk-on. Left and walked-on at Oklahoma. Comes off as brash and self-absorbed.
4. Cleveland from Houston – Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State: Quarterbacks in the ACC are happy that Chubb is gone. He was notorious for snatching the little towels that they tucked into their pants. He kept stealing Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant’s towel in a national televised game. He’s pilfered the towels from several others. “It’s just something I do to get in people’s heads,” Chubb said. “I do it in lightheartedness. Then it came to the point where I saw it really bothered (Bryant). So if I see something bothers you, I’m just going to keep doing it. ... They ended up winning the game, but I got in his head a little bit.” NFL scouts like Chubb not for his towel-snatching prowess, but for his quarterback sacks. He had 10 sacks in each of his junior and senior seasons. He had 25 sacks over his career and is considered the top pass-rusher in the draft. He’ll pair nicely with Myles Garrett, last season’s No. 1 overall pick.
5. Denver – Quentin Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: He can handle himself in the trenches at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds. He started 36 of 37 games over his career at left guard. “Quentin Nelson in my opinion is one of the two best players in this draft,” Mayock said. “Barkley and Nelson are the two best players in this draft...You’ve got a bad offensive line. You can talk all you want about the (quarterbacks) and the (running backs) and the wideouts. But if you can’t block for them. . . if you’re talking quarterback and what else is important, it’s fixing the offensive line.”
6. Indianapolis from New York Jets – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: A speedy cornerback with great coverage skills. He’s 5-10 and 183 pounds.
7. Tampa Bay – Derwin James, DB, Florida State: He is the top-rated safety in the draft and could help improve a NFL defense immediately.
8. Chicago – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia: Smith was measured at 6-foot, 7/8 inches and weighed 236 pounds. He was listed at 225 pounds last season at Georgia. He said that was his sophomore year weight. “I love Roquan Smith,” Mayock said. “I think he’s today’s NFL off-the-ball linebacker and it’s mostly about speed. He’s 225 pounds. Deion Jones was drafted in the second round in Atlanta two years ago. He’s the prototype. I think Roquan Smith takes it a step farther. A very similar type guy. I love the way he plays.”
9. San Francisco – Tremaine Edmonds, LB, Virginia Tech: He started all 13 games as a junior and led the Hokies with 109 tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He was a first-team All-ACC selection.
10. Oakland Raiders -- Vita Vea, DT, Washington: Vea is the top defensive tackle in the draft. Vea is 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds. “Obviously, he’s a big man who a lot of the league is really honed in what he can do,” Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “I think the feeling is that he can come in and play right away and be an impact type of player in this league. It’s fun watching him move around. He’s a big man, who can cover some ground.”
11. Miami – Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama: He started 38 games the last three seasons at cornerback, hybrid nickel and safety.
12. Buffalo from Cincinnati – Sam Darnold, QB USC: He got plastered by Ohio State in his final collegiate game in the Cotton Bowl. He took his licking and tried to keep on ticking. After that spanking 24-7, Darnold elected to by-pass his final two seasons of eligibility and enter the draft. He was a four-star recruit and red-shirted one season before playing the past two seasons. He completed 549 of 846 passes (64.9 percent) for 7,229 yards, 57 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. “ I personally think he's the best quarterback in his class,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “And I think he's, at 20 years old, is just scratching the surface of what he can do.”
13. Washington – Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida: He started his career at North Carolina, but left after an off-the-field incident. He went to community college before ending up at UCF after a bid to attend South Carolina failed. He has the potential to be a lock-down cornerback.
14. Green Bay – Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio: He’s a late bloomer who played for Larry Coker and has been working out with former NFL coach Jim Washburn. Scouts like his size (6-foot-5-7/8 and 259 pounds) and quickness. Coker compares him to Calais Campbell. “Marcus Davenport is intriguing to everybody ,” Mayock said.
15. Arizona – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: He has survived some questionable comments from his former coach Jim Mora, but is immensely talented. His bizarre behavior and ability to lead has been heavily scrutinized during the pre-draft process. But physically, there is no question about his talent. He was a five-star recruit, but didn’t win big at UCLA while playing under three different coordinators. Rosen was the first true freshman in UCLA’s storied history to start the season opener. He passed for 3,670 yards, 23 touchdowns and had 11 interceptions, while setting several UCLA freshman records on the way to an 8-5 record. He had a shoulder injury and played just six games as a sophomore before going 6-7 last season as a junior. “Rosen needs to stop trying to do too much with his arm and improve his feel in the pocket, but his instincts and movements are reminiscent of Matt Ryan, projecting as a NFL starter,” according to Dane Brugler’s 2018 NFL draft guide.
16. Baltimore – Coutland Sutton, WR, SMU: He was a big-time playmaker for the Mustangs after being converted to wide receiver from safety. He caught 195 passes for 3,220 yards and 31 touchdowns over his career. He’s 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at the combine.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama: He made 32 starts over his 44-game career. He was a disruptive force in the SEC. “The production hasn't always matched the ability, but he is strong, he's athletic,” Jeremiah said. “You watch the Clemson game and see the interception he has there, he shows that off a little bit. Really quick hands. I think he's got a little bit of stiffness in his ankles. That's one of the only knocks I had on him. But he plays hard and he's a really intriguing player.”
18. Seattle – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: He is Matt Ryan’s first cousin, and has visited the Falcons. McGlinchey, who’s 6-foot-7 and 309 pounds, is considered one of the top tackles in the draft along with Texas’ Connor Williams. He had trouble with Georgia’s speed rushers in South Bend last season.
19. Dallas – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: He caught 224 passes for 2,781 yards and 19 touchdowns over three seasons. “He can come in day one and be your starting slot,” Mayock said. “He’s so tough and so quick.”
20. Detroit – Derrius Guice, RB, LSU -- He’s 5-10 and 224 pounds. He rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2016 and 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017. The Lions have been looking for quality running back since Barry Sanders retired.
21. Cincinnati from Buffalo – Will Hernandez, OG, Texas El Paso: He’s 6-foot-2 and 327 pounds. He made 49 straight starts in college.
22. Buffalo from Kansas City – Rashaad Evans, ILB, Alabama: -- He played middle linebacker in 2016 and weakside linebacker in 2017. “Rashaan Evans ... can play inside and outside,” Jeremiah said.
23. New England from Los Angeles – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: A team that is willing to re-tool on offense to blend in Jackson’s unique talents could end up with the steal of the draft. Former Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson, showed in a small sample size, how dangerous a quarterback with pass-run skills can be in the NFL. The former Heisman Trophy winner played three seasons at Louisville under former Falcons coach Bobby Petrino. He selected the school because Petrino ran a pro-style offense, and he had a chance to start as a freshman. The speedy Jackson rushed for 1,571 yards as a sophomore and 1,601 as a junior. The knock on Jackson is that he is not an accurate passer. He completed 619 of 1,086 passes (57.0 percent) for 9,043 yards, 69 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. "We ran the (Ron) Erhardt system," Jackson said. "Coach would probably call it from the sideline, and I would have to relay it to the line. My receivers had to look to the sideline to know what protection (was called). Simple stuff like that." Baltimore and New England appear to be most interested. “Jackson has the first-round athleticism of a right-handed Michael Vick and can have a better NFL career if he continues to develop his decision-making, mechanics and accuracy as a passer,” according to Dane Brugler’s 2018 NFL draft guide.
24. Carolina – Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA: He played right tackle and left tackle for the Bruins.
25. Tennessee – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville: -- Alexander, who’s 5-foot-10 and 196 pounds, is the third rated cornerback in the draft behind Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and UCF’s Michael Hughes. “Alexander isn’t getting any bigger, but he displays the requisite athleticism, intelligence and toughness to fight for immediate starting reps and if his technique and decision-making develop, he will be a NFL difference maker,” according to Brugler.
26. Atlanta – Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan: He’s the son of former New England Patriots Maurice Hurst, but was raised by his mother. He gets off the ball quickly and lifted 225 pounds 29 times at Michigan’s Pro Day. The Falcons must replace Dontari Poe on the defensive line and Hurst can step in as an opening day starter.
27. New Orleans – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina: Hurst, a former Pittsburgh Pirates’ baseball farm hand, believes he can flex outside and in-line block. “I’m able to change the game for our offense,” Hurst said. “Whatever team drafts me, I think that’s what I specialize in. But in the run game, I love being physical, I love hitting people.” He admits to needing some technique work.
28. Pittsburgh -- Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College: He had 16.5 sacks in 2016, but was hurt last season and only had five sacks.
29. Jacksonville – Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State: He’s considered the top tight end in the draft. He caught 198 passes for 2,988 yards and 21 touchdowns over his career.
30. Minnesota – Connor Williams, OT, Texas: Started 28 games at left tackle for the Longhorns. “Williams will be a guard/center on some draft boards because of his lack of length, but his sophomore tape showed a capable NFL starter at tackle and NFL teams will need to trust the 2016 tape to draft him in Round 1,” according Brugler.
31. New England – Taven Bryan, DT, Florida: Bryan, 22, is 6-foot-5 and 291 pounds. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds. He grew in Wyoming helping his father, Brandy, a former Navy SEALS, with the family construction business. At Florida, he redshirted in 2014 before playing three seasons and entering the draft after his redshirt junior season. He earned the nickname “Wyoming Wildman” while amassing 10.5 tackles for losses and 5.5 sacks over his career.
32. Philadelphia – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa: He had eight interceptions last season for the Hawkeyes. He was named the Big Ten’s Tatum-Woodson defensive back of the year, earning first team All-Big Ten and unanimous All-America honors. Jackson also received the Jack Tatum Award (nation’s best defensive back) and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award.