Analysis

Baker Mayfield, first pick of 2018 NFL Draft, traded: Ranking the top five classes from that year

After agreeing to trade Baker Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday, the Cleveland Browns have just two (Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb) of the nine players they selected in the 2018 NFL Draft still on their roster. The pair have certainly been productive players, with five Pro Bowl nods between them, but, in hindsight, the overall Cleveland group from '18 doesn't quite measure up to some of the other hauls from that year.

With Mayfield, the first overall pick from that class, now playing for a new team, I took a look back at the draft classes for all 32 teams to rank my top five. Here is how I stack them, with the benefit of four seasons in the books for evaluation.

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You don’t see NFL MVPs selected with the last pick of the first round too often. The Ravens get a lot of credit for landing Jackson, who won the award in 2019, 32nd overall, even if they did pick tight end Hayden Hurst (who was traded to Atlanta after two disappointing seasons) seven picks earlier.


Picking Orlando Brown in Round 3, despite his poor NFL Scouting Combine performance, was considered a smart move at the time, and proved to be -- even though he eventually asked for a trade and was dealt to Kansas City last offseason. Doubling down on former Oklahoma Sooners was fruitful, as Andrews is a two-time Pro Bowl selectee. Grabbing guard/center Bradley Bozeman in the sixth round turned out to be wise, as well. He was a full-time starter for the Ravens before signing with Carolina in March.


Baltimore found starter-quality players in cornerback Anthony Averett and linebacker Kenny Young in the fourth round as well as contributors in safety DeShon Elliott (sixth) and defensive lineman Zach Sieler (seventh), although all four now play for different teams.

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There were many doubters about Josh Allen’s pro potential when the Bills traded up to pick him seventh overall in 2018. The doubters are pretty quiet these days, though. The Bills helped him take advantage of his physical talents and become one of the top playmakers in the league. 


Allen and the Bills’ second first-round pick, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, have both been selected to the Pro Bowl (Edmunds has earned the honor twice). General manager Brandon Beane was smart to grab Edmunds in the middle of the round, trading up in a deal with the Ravens to select him. He’s posted 100-plus tackles each year he’s been in the league.


Defensive tackle Harrison Phillips is a solid player despite starting just 11 games in his four seasons with Buffalo before signing with the Vikings this offseason. The team also found good value in cornerback Taron Johnson (35 career starts for the Bills) and guard Wyatt Teller (who’s become a staple on Cleveland’s O-line after being traded following his rookie year) on Day 3, as well as a valuable special-teamer in Siran Neal. Receiver/returner Ray Ray McCloud has carved out a niche since leaving the team after his rookie season, as well.


Allen is the star of this group but, as usual, Beane found contributors throughout the draft.

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General manager Chris Ballard pulled off a rare feat by picking All-Pros with the team’s first two picks. It wouldn’t be surprising if dominating guard Quenton Nelson and the ultimate tackling machine, linebacker Darius Leonard, both end up in Canton.


Selecting Braden Smith in the second round to play right tackle solidified the Colts’ offensive line, which was a sore spot for the team before Nelson and Smith arrived. Nyheim Hines was a nice pickup in Round 4 as a dual-threat playmaker. Edge rusher Tyquan Lewis is coming off a knee injury that ended his 2021 campaign prematurely but has been a good rotational piece when healthy, while seventh-round linebacker Zaire Franklin has been a special-teams demon and earned 11 starts last season. 

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Philadelphia got incredible bang for its buck. Tight end Dallas Goedert was the only pick the Eagles made through the first two days of the 2018 draft. The former FCS star showed enough early in his career that the team felt comfortable trading away Pro Bowler Zach Ertz and signing Goedert to a four-year, $57 million extension.


Cornerback Avonte Maddox and defensive end Josh Sweat both earned second contracts from the Eagles as fourth-round picks. Using a late pick on Jordan Mailata could go down as the best value of all. A rugby player from Australia, Philly selected him 233rd overall and he’s become the team’s starting left tackle, earning a four-year $64 million extension last year. proved quite wise despite his lack of experience. Versatile lineman Matt Pryor started 10 games for the Eagles in 2020 and is the front-runner to start at left tackle for the Colts this season.

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The Buccaneers picked three very good defenders in 2018, starting with Pro Bowl DT Vita Vea, who wreaks havoc in the middle. Cornerback Carlton Davis and safety Jordan Whitehead, who signed with the Jets in March, bolstered the secondary for the Super Bowl LV champions. Tampa Bay re-signed Davis to a three-year, $45 million contract this offseason.


Guard Alex Cappa was an excellent pick in Round 3 and capitalized on his free agency this spring, signing with the Bengals after starting 46 games over the past three seasons. Running back Ronald Jones II had his ups and downs in Tampa Bay but led the team in rushing during its title-winning campaign. He signed with the Chiefs this offseason.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter.

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