ARLINGTON, Tex. -- After months of rumors, reports and lies -- a lot of lies -- here is my final best guess about how the first 10 picks of the 2018 NFL draft are going to play out on Thursday night.
1. Cleveland Browns - Sam Darnold, USC
I've spent a month buying into the talk that the Browns were going to take Wyoming QB Josh Allen No. 1, even though it never made sense to me. This franchise has made so many mistakes in the draft, particularly with quarterbacks. Why would they take the biggest risk of the Big 4? In the end, I'm betting that they won't. I'm also betting that the very late talk of Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield being in play is just talk and perhaps a bluff to entice someone to move up for a trade. Cleveland GM John Dorsey is too smart to pass on the guy who has long been considered the best quarterback in this draft.
2. GIANTS - RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
I think there's a chance that if the Browns do the unthinkable and pass on Darnold that the Giants might take him -- but not necessarily a great chance. Even though I believe taking a future franchise quarterback is the responsible and smart pick, the talk around the Giants' "love" of Barkley is just too strong. They really do seem to think they can make one last run in the Eli Manning Era, sometime in the next two (or maybe three) years, and if they're all in on that then it makes sense that they take the draft's best player. Maybe they'll regret it in the long term, especially if they end up in a post-Manning "Quarterback Hell". But in the short term Barkley is pretty close to being a can't-miss kid. What about N.C. State DE Bradley Chubb, you ask? Don't rule him out because pass rushers are harder to find than running backs, but I get a sense they like Barkley a little bit more.
3. JETS (from Indianapolis Colts) - QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
If Darnold is indeed off the board, as the Jets seem to be expecting, it will come down to a tough choice between Rosen and Oklahoma's Mayfield. And while I'm sure Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has already made up his mind, it has seemed like a coin flip to those of us on the outside. There is strong support for both in the organization and questions about both, too. The personality of Mayfield, in particular, really worried some in their building when this process began -- including some of the coaches. Since then, it seems the Jets (and their coaches) have warmed to him. In the end, though, can the Jets afford to build their franchise around a player who might not be able to handle the New York media? They can be pretty sensitive to that. Rosen's personality seems like a better fit, and many believe he's the better player.
4. Cleveland Browns - DE Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
They were dreaming of a franchise quarterback and Barkley at 1 and 4, but that wasn't their only dream. Browns coach Hue Jackson was open about how much he loved the idea of having Chubb and last year's No. 1 pick, Myles Garrett, as bookends of his defensive line. They have other needs here too and there's certainly a chance they could trade down to a quarterback-needy team looking to move up. But if not, they'll take the best defensive player on the board.
5. Denver Broncos - QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
John Elway seems to be collecting quarterbacks with the Broncos, but he obviously doesn't love the ones he has. He's spent a lot of time scouting the Big 4 in this draft and word is that Mayfield is one of his favorites. Sure, Mayfield's personality is a wild card, but having Elway in the organization as a mentor certainly will help with that.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from the Jets) - G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
This is where the draft could get really interesting, because the Colts apparently want to move down and there are a bunch of teams (Buffalo at 12, Arizona at 15) who will want to move up if there's still a Big 4 quarterback available -- especially if there's only one. And in this case, Wyoming's Josh Allen -- the darling of the scouting community -- would be hard to resist for those teams. The best guess is that the Bills, with two first-round picks (12 and 22), two second-round picks (53 and 56) and two third-round picks (65 and 96) are in the best position to jump up. And I think they will. That said, mocking trades is a fools' errand, so I won't. If the Colts stay here they'll take Nelson, the draft's best offensive lineman, to boost a line that gave up an NFL-worst 56 sacks last year. And in that case, barring another trade, Allen could slip right out of the Top 10 (which would be just fine for the Bills at 12).
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
They need a pass rush more than help in the secondary, but their secondary isn't exactly strong. Cornerback Brent Grimes will soon be 35 and while Vernon Hargreaves is young and talented, he did get demoted to nickelback last season. The Bucs could use safety help too, and they might look at Florida State S Derwin James. But the versatile Fitzpatrick could play corner or safety giving them some flexibility.
8. Chicago Bears - LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
Get past the fact that at 6-1, 236 he's a little small, because that's basically the same size as Patrick Willis and he worked out OK. The more important fact is he's the best linebacker in the draft and his sideline-to-sideline speed makes him a difference maker. He's likely to be a force in the middle, but some think he'd be even better on the outside as a pass-rusher. By the way, the Bears will be rooting for the Colts to trade out of 6, because if that happens then guard Quenton Nelson could land here.
9. San Francisco 49ers - LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
The recent arrest of Rueben Foster on domestic violence charges, and the possibility that he won't be on the 49ers next season, makes a linebacker here seem likely. They'll consider Smith if he slips, but if not it's hard to pass up the 6-5, 253-pound Edmunds. He might be the most athletic player in the draft, and his size makes him a guy that can line up as a defensive end, too.
10. Oakland Raiders - DT Vita Vea, Washington
Jon Gruden knows how important Warren Sapp was to his defenses in Tampa, and that's what he sees in Vea, a 6-4, 347-pound monster. If he can occupy blockers in the middle of the line of scrimmage, just imagine how much damage an edge defender like Khalil Mack will be able to do.