The final, best-guess NFL mock draft

The draft is Thursday; expect quarterbacks to fly off the board high
The New York Giants could land the player considered the best in the draft, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
The New York Giants could land the player considered the best in the draft, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.

The New York Giants, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills control their draft destiny Thursday only to a point.

The Giants, sitting at No. 2, can take the consensus best player in the draft, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, call it a night and be mighty satisfied.

But the G-Men might have to reconsider if the Cleveland Browns, picking No. 1, pass on USC quarterback Sam Darnold in favor of Wyoming’s Josh Allen. (Don’t count on it.) Darnold, with a year or two’s seasoning, would be a perfect replacement for Eli Manning. Then again, the Giants could be blown away by a trade offer: Moving down to the fifth spot would mean the Giants still could get Barkley or North Carolina State pass rusher Bradley Chubb, or their quarterback of the future. A trade down to the Bills at 12? That would have to reap the mother lode.

Then again, another consideration: Word came out Tuesday that the Cleveland Browns could be considering Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield at No. 1. That smells like a smokescreen designed to get the Jets to trade up, but with the top four quarterbacks predominantly a pick-your-flavor, who knows?

Regardless, the Giants are sitting pretty.

The Jets paid a steep price to already move up from No. 6 to No. 3, but the cost — the No. 6 selection and three second-round picks (one in 2019) — seems worth it to get your choice of three potential franchise quarterbacks. The debate among Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Allen could keep commentators busy until New York turns in its card. If somehow Darnold falls into their lap, the conversation ends, unless the team’s supposed crush on Mayfield is real. (That is, if the Browns don’t take him. Again, not buying it.)

As for the Bills, with a pair of picks in both the first and second rounds, and the top pick in the third, they are open for business in search of a trading partner to move up and land a franchise quarterback. (Think the Nos. 4-8 range.) The Jets made a preemptive strike moving up to third, but expect Buffalo to be picking in the top 10 somehow.

This mock draft does not call for trades (they are too difficult to determine, and, when you miss, you miss on that deal and the one that actually gets made), but expect more than a few. The draft begins at 8 p.m. Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and will be seemingly broadcast on every sports channel.

1. Cleveland Browns — Sam Darnold, QB, USC. The consensus is it’s either Darnold or Allen. Mayfield is the longest of long shots. Darnold is considered the safest pick of a top quarterback quartet, whose members all have appealing facets and concerning flaws.

2. New York Giants — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. He’s an eye-popping workout warrior who produced on the field as a runner, receiver, returner and blocker, and is also considered a high-character leader. There is too much to like here to pass. Still, if Darnold falls, will the Giants pounce?

3. New York Jets — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. Yes, he is a shade under 6-foot-1, and has shown streaks of immaturity. But the brash reigning Heisman Trophy winner is the most experienced, productive and accurate QB in this bunch, and is a football-savvy leader respected and liked by players and coaches alike. Forget the bogus Johnny Football comparisons: Get ready for Broadway Baker.

4. Cleveland Browns — Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State. Putting Chubb opposite Myles Garrett gives the Browns the foundation for a very, very good defense. The Browns — yes, the Browns — are heading in the right direction.

5. Denver Broncos — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. Will Denver be making this pick? Maybe … perhaps … doubtful? Regardless if it’s the Broncos’ selection, or the Bills’ pick, or the Miami Dolphins’ or Arizona Cardinals’, Allen makes sense here. An absolute cannon for an arm, but significant questions about his accuracy and performances against top competition. Rosen is the other option.

6. Indianapolis Colts — Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. There are three players rated above and beyond everyone else in this draft: Barkley, Chubb … and Nelson. You are looking at a 10-year Pro Bowler and Day 1 starter. That said, don’t be surprised if the Colts, who already traded down with the Jets, drop again for a team in the quarterback market.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Derwin James, S, Florida State. A safety who can cover, play up at the line of scrimmage and be a vocal leader of the defense is just what the Bucs need.

8. Chicago Bears — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. A teenager (!) with monster numbers all around who could be moved all over the second level, either in coverage or getting to the quarterback. Chicago fans will love Urlacher 2.0.

9. San Francisco 49ers — Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia. The loss from the inevitable release of bad actor Reuben Foster is negated by the addition of Smith, who has cornerback speed and will man the middle sideline to sideline.

10. Oakland Raiders — Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama. Nick Saban raved about Fitzpatrick’s versatility in the Crimson Tide’s vaunted defense. Can play slot corner, but will likely be a safety utilized in multiple roles.

11. Miami Dolphins — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. One of the top four quarterbacks could fall, at least a bit. The bet here is Rosen, who would be a perfect fit for the Dolphins. There are concerns about his commitment to the game and concussions, but he is considered the best pure passer in the draft.

12. Buffalo Bills — Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. The Bills will get a quarterback in the first round; the questions are which one, and where. After silly talk early in the draft process about the 2016 Heisman winner changing positions, one team will select Jackson in the first round and tailor its offense to his unique skill set.

13. Washington Redskins — Vita Vea, DT, Washington. The Redskins get a disruptive run-stuffer who pushes double-teams deep into the backfield.

14. Green Bay Packers — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Thanks to the run on quarterbacks, the Packers are gifted with arguably the best cover corner in the draft.

15. Arizona Cardinals — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. The Cardinals are assuredly in the quarterback market. But Arizona would welcome addressing their interior defense with the player who dominated the national championship game against Georgia.

16. Baltimore Ravens — Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. A furious runner capable of ripping off big plays, Guice would be the home-run hitter the Ravens lack in their backfield.

17. Los Angeles Chargers — Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. A size-speed clone of Edmunds who can get at the quarterback and cover, Vander Esch would fill a need at value for the Chargers.

18. Seattle Seahawks — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. The Seahawks need to address their offensive line. With no picks in the second or third rounds, Seattle would desperately like to trade down.

19. Dallas Cowboys — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. Dallas was likely going wide receiver even before the release of Dez Bryant. Linebacker and interior defensive line are also options.

20. Detroit Lions — Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. A slight slide for the raw edge rusher with the potential to be the best sack artist in the draft.

21. Cincinnati Bengals — James Daniels, C, Iowa. The Bengals must address the interior of their line, and it starts with Daniels, who can also play guard.

22. Buffalo Bills — Will Hernandez, G, UTEP. Hernandez is an absolute beast of a road grader who will drive his man into Lake Erie. Also in consideration is Ohio State center Billy Price.

23. New England Patriots — Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. When do the Patriots do anything you expect (except trade out of the first round)? The Pats need an eventual replacement for Tom Brady, and get ahead of several teams that could have taken the Cowboys QB — predicted here to be the record-tying sixth quarterback selected in the first round.

24. Carolina Panthers — Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia. Wide receiver is a trendy pick here, but the Panthers need to replace the departed Andrew Norwell (Jacksonville Jaguars).

25. Tennessee Titans — Harold Landry, OLB/DE, Boston College. Tennessee will be looking for a linebacker who can get after the quarterback. If Landry is still available, he makes too much sense to pass on.

26. Atlanta Falcons — D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. With speed demon Moore opposite Julio Jones, Atlanta can stretch the field all the way to South Carolina.

27. New Orleans Saints — Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State. Freakish in-air skills make this small-school product Drew Brees’ new favorite red-zone target.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers — Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama. If Evans is still on the board here, the Steelers will likely waste no time making the selection.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars — Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. Jags get a steal with this big possession receiver with long speed.

30. Minnesota Vikings — Connor Williams, OT, Texas. The Vikings get a new tackle to protect their investment in quarterback Kirk Cousins.

31. New England — Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA. Athletic 6-foot-9, 300-plus-pounders who can play left tackle get taken in the first round.

32. Philadelphia Eagles — Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. Alexander’s cover skills are too good to pass up; a steal for a player who could go mid-first round.

Reach Executive Sports Editor Mark McGuire at 518-395-3105, [email protected] or @MJMcGuire on Twitter.

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