2018 NFL Mock Draft: Complete Updated 1st-Round Projections
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The NFL draft never goes according to plan, nor should anyone expect it to.
The 2018 event in Arlington, Texas, is only 10 days away, and nothing is certain. The lying season is in full swing, and multiple options are available for every franchise.
The Cleveland Browns aren’t locked into any specific course due to the availability of several talented quarterback prospects, specifically Wyoming’s Josh Allen and USC’s Sam Darnold. Every other team’s decision will be a byproduct of the cascading effect started by the Browns’ stranglehold of the top four overall.
The tea leaves must be read to better understand who each organization prefers based on visits, private workouts and overall interest throughout the predraft process.
Trades weren’t considered to avoid an innumerable amount of possibilities.
When all is said and done, teams will have selected six quarterbacks, Penn State’s Saquon Barkly won’t be counted among the top five picks and only one wide receiver will have heard his named called in Bleacher Report’s latest first-round mock draft.
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The Cleveland Browns don’t have any other choice but to select a quarterback with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Well, technically, they do. However, the organization can’t pass on the opportunity to choose its preferred candidate from a strong quarterback class.
USC’s Sam Darnold is the preferred choice of 17 different teams, according to NFL Network’s Charley Casserly. Cleveland’s decision boils down to Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen.
Darnold is further advanced as an anticipatory thrower and overall playmaker. His high-end throws in difficult situations are much better, while Allen still struggles with pre- and post-snap reads, decision-making and pocket presence.
The 20-year-old nicknamed “Flatline” has the perfect mentality to lead a franchise.
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The 2018 NFL draft truly begins with the second overall pick since the Cleveland Browns are destined to select a quarterback with the top choice. The New York Giants have plenty of options.
General manager Dave Gettleman can take one of three paths. The second pick could serve as the first round’s fulcrum point in a trade-down scenario allowing another team to select its preferred signal-caller. The Giants could choose Eli Manning’s heir apparent. Or, a team in win-now mode selects its highest rated player.
According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, the Giants came away “extremely impressed” by North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb during his official visit. Chubb can replace Jason Pierre-Paul in the lineup.
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The New York Jets spent the sixth overall pick in the 2017 draft to select LSU’s Jamal Adams. The safety’s value increased due to his leadership skills. Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield can be a similar catalyst on offense.
The undersized quarterback operates with a massive chip on his shoulder and an infectious attitude.
“If I want to be a franchise guy, there are certain things I can’t do,” Mayfield said at the combine, per Ethan Greenberg of the Jets official site. “But I’m still going to be competitive and passionate. That’s what has gotten me to this point and I talk about it. And I’m upfront about it.”
These qualities only add to the fact he’s the class’ most accurate and efficient quarterback.
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The Cleveland Browns secondary is far from complete even after the additions of Damarious Randall, T.J. Carrie, E.J. Gaines and Terrance Mitchell. The unit still lacks a true cover corner.
Penn State’s Saquon Barkley seems to be the logical choice at No. 4, but the Browns already have Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson with a chance to select a talented running back later in the process.
The speed (4.33 40-yard dash), fluidity and coverage skills that Ohio State’s Denzel Ward presents can’t be had later in the draft. Ward gives the Browns a cornerback who can turn and run with any NFL receiver.
Darnold and Ward address two of the NFL’s four cornerstone positions, and the Browns still have three second-round selections.
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The Denver Broncos must be wary of teams jumping in front of them to a select a quarterback. A legitimate possibility exists where four quarterbacks are chosen among the first four selections. This will leave the Broncos out in the cold if they want to draft their future face of the franchise.
In this scenario, UCLA’s Josh Rosen is available and the obvious choice. Case Keenum is the team’s short-term starter after he signed a two-year contract in free agency. The 30-year-old isn’t the team’s answer at quarterback, though.
Rosen is this year’s most polished prospect. The Chosen One is a fundamentally sound passer with more experience in pro-style concepts than anyone in this class. He’s a natural.
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The Indianapolis Colts appear to have two obvious options with the sixth overall pick: Take one of the top two overall talents in Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, or trade down again.
Both of those moves make sense yet overlook another possibility in former Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
First, the running back and interior linemen classes are loaded, and the Colts could land very good prospects at each position later in the process. Second, general manager Chris Ballard worked in the Chicago Bears scouting department as the organization built a defense around Brian Urlacher (No. 9 overall in 2000). Third, new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is a Rod Marinelli disciple, and the middle linebacker is crucial to his system’s success.
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Penn State’s Saquon Barkley may be the most talented prospect in this year’s class regardless of position. Unfortunately for him, position value matters. Furthermore, the incoming running back group is stacked.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ patience is rewarded with Barkley sliding to the seventh overall pick.
Barkley adds to Tampa Bay’s already potent offense featuring quarterback Jameis Winston, tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard and wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.
The Buccaneers finished 27th overall last season in rushing offense (90.6 yards per game) and yards per carry (3.7). Plus, Barkley is a weapon in the passing game. Fellow running back Charles Sims, who managed 35 receptions last season, remains a free agent.
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The Quenton Nelson-Harry Hiestand relationship could and should continue with the Chicago Bears.
“He’s developed me into the player I am today,” Nelson said of the former Notre Dame and current Bears O-line coach at the combine, per 670 The Score’s Chris Emma. “It would be awesome to continue that development.”
The organization opened itself up to this possibility when it released veteran left guard Josh Sitton. Nelson can slide into the spot with the potential to provide Pro Bowl and All-Pro performances for the next decade.
The previous statement may seem hyperbolic, but Nelson is legitimately the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson. The Notre Dame product is tremendous at the point of attack, a solid technician and reliable pass protector.
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The San Francisco 49ers continue to stockpile collegiate defensive ends after selecting one in the first round of the previous three drafts. But Harold Landry’s skill set is different compared to Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas.
Landry is a pure edge-rusher and arguably the best in the class due to his quickness, flexibility and ability to bend the edge.
The defensive end amassed 21.5 sacks the last two seasons with an FBS-leading 16.5 during the 2016 campaign. Landry only played in nine game as a senior due to an ankle injury.
The 49ers tied for 26th overall in 2017 with 30 sacks before letting Aaron Lynch leave in free agency and not picking up Elvis Dumervil’s option.
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Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey is the only offensive tackle in this year’s class worthy of a first-round selection. The All-American’s draft value could far exceed expectations considering the dearth of talent compared to overall demand.
McGlinchey isn’t in the same class as recent tackle prospects, yet he has the requisite size (6’8″, 312 lbs), length and technique teams prefer.
The Oakland Raiders are not positioned well to protect Derek Carr for an extended period. Donald Penn turns 35 years old later this month. Meanwhile, right tackle is wide open even after signing Breno Giacomini, who allowed constant pressure on Houston Texans quarterbacks last season.
McGlinchey can start his career at right tackle before taking over for Penn.
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Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is “smitten” with Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, according to The MMQB’s Albert Breer. While QB may be on the organization’s radar, the team isn’t in position to select the coach’s favorite target.
As such, the Dolphins can concentrate on finding a quarterback for their defense.
According to the Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson, “The Dolphins view linebacker as a bigger need than defensive tackle” and have been “impressed” by Roquan Smith’s all-around skills.
The reigning Butkus Award winner is an instinctive defender with sideline-to-sideline range and coverage skills. Smith led the 2017 Georgia Bulldogs with 137 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and 20 quarterback hits.
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One way or another, the Buffalo Bills will draft a quarterback.
Wyoming’s Josh Allen is the most divisive option because he’s a ball of untapped potential coupled with inconsistent performances. Either he’s viewed as a physical marvel with all of the tools to excel, or he’s belittled due to erratic accuracy, decision-making and failing to perform against top competition. Reality falls somewhere in between those two points.
Allen could very well be the Bills’ target even if the organization executes a draft-day move since it isn’t settled at quarterback.
Right now, AJ McCarron is the Bills’ projected starter with Nathan Peterman serving as the backup. Allen provides a long-term plan after the organization decided to move past Tyrod Taylor.
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Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick will never be the biggest, fastest or toughest player on the field. His intelligence, dedication and playmaking ability can’t be defined during the predraft process, though, and his slotting reflects some devaluation.
Even so, Fitzpatrick is one of the class’ best pure football players. The reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner fills two holes within the Washington Redskins roster.
Fitzpatrick is most comfortable covering the slot, and Washington traded last year’s nickel corner, Kendall Fuller, to the Kansas City Chiefs as part of the Alex Smith deal. The 21-year-old former Alabama defender can be an interchangeable piece as a safety, cornerback or nickel linebacker.
A prospect’s role doesn’t need to be defined if he can do a little bit of everything.
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Derwin James’ availability is a godsend for the Green Bay Packers since the organization’s primary offseason goal is to overhaul a porous secondary.
Safeties aren’t generally seen as top prospects, yet James’ combination of size, athleticism, versatility and playmaking ability make him a surefire top-15 selection.
James tied for first among Power Five safeties with a 43.6 percent catch rate allowed in coverage, per Pro Football Focus.
Some of the pieces are already in place for Green Bay with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Quinten Rollins, Kevin King and Josh Jones. The 6’2″, 215-pound James fills the gaps as a potential nickel corner, box defender, blitzer or pure safety. He shouldn’t be viewed as a position-specific prospect since he contributes in so many areas.
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Cornerback is a more pressing need for the Arizona Cardinals than quarterback. They obviously want to find a franchise signal-caller, but the team lacked a true No. 2 corner for years.
“I believe if we’re able to get a true No. 2 cornerback that’s solidified itself in this game, in this league, I think quarterbacks won’t have an option anymore,” seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson said of offenses avoiding him, per ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss.
Peterson is the league’s best cornerback, yet his effectiveness is nullified when quarterbacks attack the opposite side of the field.
Louisville’s Jaire Alexander is a 5’11”, 192-pound bulldog with 4.38-second 40 speed. He’ll make plays and let everyone know it.
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Ozzie Newsome’s parting gift to the Baltimore Ravens is a franchise quarterback. The Joe Flacco era is dying a slow death after reaching the pinnacle at Super Bowl XLVII.
The 33-year-old’s back issues are problematic, and his massive contract becomes far more manageable after the 2018 campaign. The Ravens are in a position to consider all quarterback options and already started with Robert Griffin III‘s signing.
Baltimore is an ideal fit for Lamar Jackson since offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg once crafted an offense around Michael Vick while assistant head coach Greg Roman built the 49ers offense around Colin Kaepernick.
The team can place Jackson in a position to succeed early as he matures into a well-rounded quarterback.
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The Los Angeles Chargers already have the league’s best pass-rushing duo in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but their defensive interior is soft.
Gus Bradley’s 2017 defense finished next to last in run defense and last in yards per carry. The team lacks a stout presence to clog the middle and collapse the pocket.
Vita Vea can step in as a starting 1-technique, yet his athletic profile provides further options. The 347-pound defender played both interior spots and defensive end at Washington. Bradley once used the 323-pound Red Bryant as a base end.
The reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year needs to refine his technique to realize his full potential. If he does, be afraid, AFC West rivals. Be very afraid.
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The Seattle Seahawks shifted gears recently with far more emphasis placed on their defensive line than on the vaunted secondary. The defensive backs room has undergone an overhaul, and the front requires a similar approach.
Sheldon Richardson’s free-agent departure, along with Malik McDowell’s unfortunate accident, will force the Seahawks to consider all interior options.
Michigan’s Maurice Hurst is the most disruptive defensive tackle in the class and a tailor-made 3-technique to play alongside Jarran Reed. The Seahawks did sign seven-year-veteran Tom Johnson to serve as Richardson’s replacement, and he’s an ideal mentor for Hurst.
A young defensive front featuring Hurst, Reed, Nazair Jones, Frank Clark and Dion Jordan presents so much potential.
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A turning point occurred within the Dallas Cowboys organization when the front office decided to select a future All-Pro guard (Zack Martin) instead of a flash-in-the-pan quarterback (Johnny Manziel).
Forget Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. The team’s strength resides along its offensive line. Yet one position remains unsettled since Jonathan Cooper didn’t secure left guard last season.
UTEP’s Will Hernandez is a natural fit between Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. A connection exists between all three since they share the same agent, according to SB Nation Radio Cowboys reporter Bobby Belt. The group, including Hernandez, spends time together away from training, too.
Another big ugly to complete the offensive line is the right move to make the entire team better.
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Very few prospects offer as much upside as UTSA’s Marcus Davenport.
At 6’6″, 264 pounds, Davenport is considered a physically gifted prospect, yet his game lacks polish. Even so, his current makeup is a far cry from the 198-pound high school recruit most collegiate programs snubbed.
“I feel like with strength, I was able to develop violence,” Davenport told Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier. “At first I was light, so I just had to use speed and finesse.”
Davenport’s growth can be seen in his skill set, where he displays a far more aggressive attitude yet retains outstanding athleticism.
The Detroit Lions once took a chance on another unfinished product, and Davenport can be the team’s next Ziggy Ansah.
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The Cincinnati Bengals have a long way to go before they can field a competent offensive line.
Cordy Glenn and Clint Boling form a solid left side, but everything else remains a concern.
Center, in particular, is a position without a starting-caliber option. T.J. Johnson and guard convert Trey Hopkins are the only two on the roster with snapping experience.
Iowa’s James Daniels is the most agile available pivot with an uncanny ability to reach defenders and make second-level blocks.
Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz called Daniels the most talented center prospect he’s ever coached. Daniels has the versatility to play guard, too, if the Bengals aren’t comfortable with the 20-year-old making line calls to start his career.
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How the Buffalo Bills proceed depends on their commitment to obtaining a top quarterback prospect. This pick may not even ultimately be theirs.
Since trades aren’t projected in this mock draft, the Bills were in perfect position to land their franchise quarterback earlier in the process and then address a glaring hole on defense due to Leighton Vander Esch’s availability.
Preston Brown’s 144 total tackles tied for the league lead last season, but he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The former Boise State Bronco Vander Esch is a far more athletic and dynamic option at middle linebacker. The 2017 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year is big (6’4″, 256 lbs), athletic and productive with impressive range.
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Nate Solder’s free-agent departure created a massive void at left tackle for the New England Patriots.
Last year’s third-round pick, Antonio Garcia, is a starting option if healthy. Garcia missed all of last season after being diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs and losing 40 pounds. As a result, the Patriots must consider all available options.
UCLA’s Kolton Miller is quite similar to Solder in build and development coming into the league. The 6’9″, 310-pound blocker is a tremendous athlete but needs time to improve his overall technique. Solder had the same concerns as a prospect.
Tom Brady’s blind side has never been more vulnerable. New England’s primary goal should be to protect its soon-to-be 41-year-old signal-caller.
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The Carolina Panthers made an abrupt change when they traded starting cornerback Daryl Worley for veteran wide receiver Torrey Smith. The front office saw value in adding a vertical threat opposite Devin Funchess yet weakened the cornerback corps.
General manager Marty Hurney signed veteran Ross Cockrell to fill the void, but he’s an average performer. James Bradberry still needs a running mate.
Iowa’s Josh Jackson is an ideal system fit due to his zone-coverage skills, route recognition and ball skills. The unanimous All-American’s eight interceptions and 26 defended passes led the FBS last season.
Jackson isn’t a true cover corner, but he’s an ideal defender for the Panthers’ zone-heavy scheme behind a talented front seven.
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Safety doesn’t appear to be an immediate need for the Tennessee Titans, yet Justin Reid’s addition provides flexibility within the team’s defensive scheme that neither Johnathan Cyprien nor Kevin Byard can.
Reid is a multipurpose defensive back, which is important given the changes in the Titans coaching staff.
Tennessee signed Cyprien to be an enforcer in Dick LeBeau’s scheme. New head coach Mike Vrabel and defensive coordinator Dean Pees prefer versatility. Reid covered the slot for the majority of his snaps last season, per Climbing the Pocket‘s Jordan Reid, with experience playing both free and strong safety.
Reid can step into the lineup as a dime corner or big nickel and eventually replace Cyprien, whose contract becomes far more manageable after the 2018 campaign.
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The Atlanta Falcons need a boost along the defensive interior since Dontari Poe signed with the Carolina Panthers and Ahtyba Rubin remains a free agent.
Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne isn’t quite as big as those two mammoth defenders, but he adds an element of athleticism along with being stout at the point of attack. The 6’2″, 311-pound defender with a 4.95 40 flashed explosive upfield capabilities during his final season on campus.
Payne won co-MVP honors after the 2018 national championship because he controlled the line of scrimmage, made numerous plays by blowing up blocking schemes and applied consistent pressure on Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm.
Grady Jarrett is an undersized, albeit disruptive, 3-technique, and Payne is a perfect complement as a 1-technique.
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Hayden Hurst already understands the pressure of being a professional athlete, and he’s willing to give it a second try, even if it’s in a different sport.
Hurst’s story is among this year’s best; he’s a former standout pitcher who experienced the yips and panic attacks before leaving minor league baseball.
“I understand now what it’s like to be at the bottom,” he told Bleacher Report’s Dan Pompei. “… What I went through I wouldn’t wish on anybody. I dug myself out of it and put myself in this position.”
The 24-year-old prospect is now considered the class’ top tight end as the Saints search for another option beyond the 37-year-old Benjamin Watson.
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Life after Le’Veon Bell will come sooner rather than later.
Bell may be forced into another season under the franchise tag since he can’t seem to find a middle ground with the Pittsburgh Steelers on a long-term contract.
The Steelers shouldn’t offer a significant deal because they’re already getting the most out of the 26-year-old runner without being locked into megadeal over multiple seasons.
Instead, the organization can maximize Bell’s production for one more season while drafting his replacement in Derrius Guice; they’d have the next feature back locked into a five-year rookie contract.
Guice is the draft’s most physical runner with the skill set to develop into a complete back like Bell coming out of Michigan State.
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The Jacksonville Jaguars have been heavily invested in this year’s tight end class even after signing free agents Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul.
South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert can immediately step into the lineup as a move tight end or slot receiver. The former Jackrabbit caught 164 passes for 2,404 yards and 18 touchdowns the last two seasons.
According to Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline, Goedert posted a 35-inch vertical, 10’1″ broad jump, 6.87 three-cone and 4.06 short shuttle at his pro day while dealing with a sore hamstring. Each of those numbers would have qualified as top-four performances at the combine among tight ends.
Goedert is an automatic mismatch in any offense with the potential to add another dimension in Jacksonville’s scheme.
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The Minnesota Vikings did a wonderful job during free agency to address the team’s two biggest needs. Guard is now the most glaring hole on the roster after Joe Berger’s retirement.
Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn is a plug-and-play talent after dominating SEC and Senior Bowl competition. Wynn played left tackle during the 2017 campaign, but he’s a natural guard.
Wynn can take over one guard spot, while the Vikings decide whether to keep Mike Remmers along the interior or move him back to right tackle.
An offensive front featuring Remmers, Wynn, Pat Elflein, Nick Easton and Riley Reiff with Rashod Hill, Danny Isidora and Tom Compton serving as depth should provide Kirk Cousins with ample time to distribute the football.
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A sixth first-round quarterback may be a stretch, but the New England Patriots are in a predicament. The Jimmy Garoppolo trade is still a sore spot, and the organization must find Tom Brady’s eventual successor.
Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph meets all of Bill Parcells’ criteria for quarterback prospects as a three-year starter and senior graduate with over 30 games started, 23 or more wins, a 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 60-plus completion percentage. Oklahoma State’s all-time leading passer also displays great touch.
A quarterback prospect of this caliber may not be available in the second round.
Taking Rudolph—even if it’s considered a tad early—provides the Patriots with control over his rights for five seasons because of rookie first-round contracts.
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A suspect wide receiver class provides the Philadelphia Eagles with their choice of prospects after the organization displayed plenty of interest in the position throughout the predraft process.
The Eagles traded Torrey Smith to the Carolina Panthers for Daryl Worley this offseason, thus creating a hole opposite Alshon Jeffery. Maryland’s D.J. Moore can provide a similar skill set as Smith with 4.42-second 40 speed plus more.
Moore displays outstanding hand strength and ability to create after the catch. Head coach Doug Pederson can utilize the 6’0″, 210-pound target in numerous screen scenarios or run-pass options to maximize the receiver’s effectiveness.
The Eagles defense is already loaded. The more weapons the merrier for Carson Wentz and the offense.