For about as long as Mel Kiper Jr. has been brushing his hair, quarterbacks dictate how the top of NFL drafts go.
Yes, this year, Kiper is still brushing his flowing locks for the ESPN telecast.
The drama of Sam Darnold of USC: To the Cleveland Browns as the first-overall pick Thursday? To the New York Giants at No. 2? Is Darnold even the top QB? Or is it Josh Allen? That's is just the start of what will be the definitive picks of the first round.
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The trickle-down effect of who takes the quarterbacks where will last all the way to the 18th pick. That's the one the Seahawks own, their highest since 2012.
If Saquon Barkley, the wondrous running back from Penn State, goes to the Browns at No. 1 or Giants at No. 2, that will push the quarterbacks not already drafted by then — Josh Rosen of UCLA, Baker Mayfield from Oklahoma and Louisville's Lamar Jackson — down the board. That may, in turn, entice teams owning lower picks and needing QBs (yes, you, the Buffalo Bills) to trade up. Then every team's draft board gets affected.
The more non-quarterbacks drafted in the top 10, the easier it will be for the Seahawks to do the most likely: trade down out of 18 to get back the second- or third-round choices they lost in their trades last season for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown. The league already probably already knows the Seahawks will shop the18th pick. Quarterback-needy teams likely saw Seattle general manager John Schneider's (probably message-intending) comments last week that he and the Seahawks haven't done a good enough job drafting quarterback since Russell Wilson in the third round in 2012.
In fact, they haven't drafted any since then. Wilson is the only QB the Schneider-Pete Carroll regime has drafted since they arrived in Seattle before the 2010 draft.
Who knows, teams that want quarterbacks may see Schneider's comments as an indication Seattle might consider drafting, say, Jackson, the throwing-running QB and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner who is likely to be the last of the top passers available in the latter half of round one. And perhaps that could, in turn, entice a team such as the Browns, who own two of the first three picks of the second round, or the Indianapolis Colts (who have the fourth and fifth choices of the second round plus another one in the middle of round two) to trade back into the first round.
Point is, the quarterbacks will drive how round one goes.
THE NEWS TRIBUNE'S 2018 NFL MOCK ROUND ONE
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC: New GM John Dorsey finally has a quarterback with the NFL-quality intangibles and the skill to succeed in the league. Even in Cleveland.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Sure, quarterback Eli Manning is about done. But he can play another couple years with the support this do-it-all back will give him in the running and passing games. Barkley is the best college player I saw the last two years. The Browns very well could take him, however.
3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: The Jets traded up with the Colts to get a quarterback. So they take the technical, accurate but also slight Rosen.
4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State: The best pass rusher off the edge in a draft weaker in pass-rushing depth than usual.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming : Broncos decision-maker and former cannon-shooter John Elway loves Allen's huge arm, the strongest one in this draft.
6. Buffalo Bills (in a predicted trade up with Indianapolis): QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: The Bills really want a new, young, franchise quarterback. Mayfield's accuracy and habit of winning entice them up six spots as Colts trade down again.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State: Bucs stay close to home and get maybe the best all-around defensive player in this class. Has played cornerback and linebacker, too.
8. Chicago Bears: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Bears tempted by take a top cornerback here, but get the 6-foot-8, best run blocker in the draft. The former basketball player considered ready to start in the league now.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edwards, ILB, Virginia Tech: GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have their franchise QB in Jimmy Garoppolo. So now it's time to get a QB they need for their defense, the best inside linebacker in the class.
10. Oakland Raiders: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama: Really want UW's Vita Vea to be a top-10 pick. And he might. But Jon Gruden chooses instead to lock down the toughest position in the sport with a player who has Charles Woodson-like ability and can play safety or cornerback.
11. Miami Dolphins: Roquan Smith, OLB, Georgia: Dolphins could get Vea here to replace departed Ndamukong Suh. But Smith is a complete linebacker who tackles, covers, runs and is likely to have more immediate NFL impact.
12. Indianapolis Colts (traded down from Bills): Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: Colts can't believe the cornerback they likely would have taken at No. 6 is still around after their trade. A win-win for them.
13. Washington Redskins: Vita Vea, DT, UW: Man, does this Washington team need a dominant interior defensive lineman. Man, is this other Washington stud a dominant interior defensive lineman.
14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa: The Packers need to give Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Graham and the offense some help to keep foes from scoring so much. Jackson's aggressive plays on the ball, Big Ten breakout games sway Green Bay.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame: Everyone in Arizona up to John McCain seem to think Alabama WR Calvin Ridley here. But the Cardinals' offense line has been a wreck for years. Just ask Carson Palmer. It got him out of the league.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State: The most unlikely first-round pick. A former walk-on from nowhere — actually Riggins, Idaho, population: 419 — to the center of Baltimore's defense where Ray Lewis once was.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashaan Evans, OLB, Alabama: Chargers get a fast, big (6-3, 232 pounds) athletic force off the edge. Why do I know this? Because my TNT predecessor and Chargers beat man Eric Williams says it's Evans for L.A.
18. New England Patriots (in predicted trade with SEAHAWKS): Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA: Schneider trades his top pick for the seventh consecutive draft. He moves back to 23, gives up one of his fourth picks in the fifth round and gets one of Patriots' second-round choices. New England gets a protector it needs for Tom Brady.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin RIdley, WR, Alabama: The first wide receiver off the board is the one to replace the now-cut Dez Bryant in Dallas.
20. Detroit Lions: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College: The Lions get one of the best edge rushers in this class. And there aren't many top ones left. The Seahawks sigh in relief it's not their guy.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Billy Price, C, Ohio State: Bengals need so much offensive-line help. They are ecstatic their home-state stud is still available to anchor their line, like he did the Buckeyes' for an OSU-record 55 starts.
22. Buffalo Bills: Will Hernandez, G, Texas El-Paso: Bills need blockers for the shiny new quarterback they just got.
23. SEAHAWKS: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio: This would be an ideal scenario, the best thing to happen to the Seahawks this offseason. Get back a second-round pick and still snag the athletic, raw pass rusher they need with Michael Bennett traded and fellow Pro Bowl end Cliff Avril's career on hold because of a neck injury. If last year's top pick Malik McDowell hadn't wrecked on an ATV, they'd be picking LSU running back Derrius Guice here.
24. Carolina Panthers: Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama: The best run-tackling safety could be going to the Seahawks one pick earlier. Seattle has had him in for a pre-draft workout.
25. Tennessee Titans: Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State: Many see Sweat as a second-round talent with questions to answer. But pass rushers rank just behind passers in importance in today's NFL.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida: Coach Dan Quinn gets better and more athletic on the interior of his defensive line.
27. New Orleans Saints: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville: Drew Brees won't be slingin' it down there forever. Sensing coach Sean Payton relishes the chance to develop the ultra-athletic, 2016 Heisman Trophy winner into an NFL starter.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU: Biggest, most physical wide receiver in the class gives resurgent Blake Bortles someone to throw to down the sideline.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia: Now that they have their quarterback, the fully guaranted Kirk Cousins, they need blockers to guarantee Cousins' safety.
31. New England Patriots: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville: The Patriots got smoked in the secondary through much of last season. Or did you not watch what Nick Foles did to them in the Super Bowl?
32. Philadelphia Eagles, Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma: About the only guarantee of round one: The stacked Eagles won't draft a quarterback with Carson Wentz returning from injury and Super Bowl MVP Foles back to the bench. Eagles don't let Brown's brutal combine performance change their thinking of him.