NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock answered questions about the 2018 NFL Draft during a media conference call Monday, and suggested various prospects as strong potential fits for a number of NFL clubs. Here's a quick look at some of the connections Mayock made between 11 NFL teams and members of the upcoming draft class.
The timing couldn't be more attractive for the NFL's perennially most QB-starved team to draft a first-round quarterback. With two of the top four picks, in an apparently QB-rich draft, and with a new GM looking at a clean slate, when if not now? Mayock's gut feeling on the best options for Cleveland center on two of them: Wyoming's Josh Allen and USC's Sam Darnold.
"I think when you're the GM of Cleveland, you've got to be thinking about the weather, you're playing outside, you need a big arm. His new offensive coordinator came over from Pittsburgh, and he's used to Ben Roethlisberger. So, to me, Josh Allen has to be in that conversation at (No.) 1 or 4, along with Darnold, perhaps Rosen. But this is my gut. I think Darnold and Allen are the two guys they would consider the most highly."
New England Patriots
After trading QBs Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, the AFC champs need to insert another young quarterback into an understudy role behind Tom Brady. But if the first round is too rich to do so (New England picks at No. 31 overall), potential options, per Mayock, include Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, Washington State's Luke Falk and Western Kentucky's Mike White. Other quarterback possibilities who Mayock called "a notch below that" include Richmond's Kyle Lauletta and Logan Woodside of Toledo.
If the Panthers are looking for a big-bodied receiver for Cam Newton after trading away Kelvin Benjamin last year, Mayock identified SMU's Courtland Sutton as a potential first-round fit. If Carolina prefers to find that type of target later on, Mayock mentioned Missouri's J'Mon Moore, Notre Dame's Equanimeous St. Brown, Indiana's Simmie Cobbs, Iowa State's Allen Lazard and Oklahoma State's Marcell Ateman as big receivers who could go in Rounds 2-4.
The Titans can improve on the interior of both lines, and Mayock believes Georgia OG Isaiah Wynn, who performed exceptionally well at the Reese's Senior Bowl, could be a strong fit for Tennessee with an early pick, along with Iowa's James Daniels, Auburn's Braden Smith, Ohio State's Billy Price and UTEP's Will Hernandez. If defense is the play, the Titans probably won't get a shot at an elite defensive tackle with the No. 25 overall pick, such as Alabama's Da'Ron Payne or Washington's Vita Vea. One to watch for Day 2: Andrew Brown of Virginia.
If the Cowboys look to the draft to add a complementary back for Ezekiel Elliott, Mayock sees several middle-round fits. He mentioned Miami's Mark Walton, N.C. State's Nyheim Hines, Northwestern's Justin Jackson and Colorado's Phillip Lindsay as RBs who could provide a change of pace for Dallas.
Pass-catchers figure to be at the core of the Ravens' draft, and if they don't go for one in the first round, Mayock believes a glut of possibilities could await Baltimore from Rounds 2-4. Atop that list could be James Washington of Oklahoma State, if he slides to the second round. Other names to keep an eye on: Washington's Dante Pettis, Maryland's D.J. Moore, Memphis' Anthony Miller, LSU's D.J. Chark, Clemson's Deon Cain, Missouri's J'Mon Moore, Boise State's Cedrick Wilson, Notre Dame's Equanimeous St. Brown and UCLA's Jordan Lasley. As for tight ends, South Dakota State's Dallas Goedert, Penn State's Mike Gesicki, Oklahoma's Mark Andrews and Indiana's Ian Thomas figure to fall in the second-to-fourth-round range as well.
If the Colts hold onto the No. 3 pick, they'll be able to choose from at least three of five top prospects that Mayock believes would all fit nicely in Indianapolis: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley, N.C. State DE Bradley Chubb, Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson, Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick and Washington DT Vita Vea. Regarding Barkley, Mayock called him a "transformational back" who belongs in a category with Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott.
Pickings could be slim if the Lions are hoping to match the No. 20 overall pick with a pass rusher of appropriate value. LSU's Arden Key could provide pass-rush help, and if UTSA's Marcus Davenport is still around, Mayock said the Lions should "jump all over him." Beyond that, Mayock mentioned Ohio State's Tyquan Lewis as potential fit in the second or third round.
New Orleans Saints
After trading Jimmy Graham to Seattle, the New Orleans Saints turned to Benjamin Watson, then to Coby Fleener, as their primary tight end. If the time is right to turn the page again, South Carolina's Hayden Hurst could fit the bill.
"When they won their Super Bowl and everybody talked about Drew Brees in the pass game, they had a commitment to the physicality of the run game, and they still do because of Sean Payton and who he is," Mayock said. "So if you're going to bring in a tight end at a high level, you have to have a commitment to block, in addition to just being a pass-catcher, and I think that's Hayden Hurst."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs should "run to the podium" if N.C. State's Bradley Chubb slips to them at the No. 7 overall pick, per Mayock. If not, Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick and Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson could be strong fits as well. Mayock expects Penn State RB Saquon Barkley to be off the board before the Bucs picks, unless they trade up.
What might await the Super Bowl champions with the final pick of the first round? Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey might not be there, but if he is, Mayock thinks the Eagles would do well to spend the pick on the Fighting Irish's blindside protector on the left side.