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NFL Mock Draft 3.0: Four QBs go early, so Bears land protection for Trubisky

Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson speaks during the NFL Scouting Combine. (AP)

We’ll know a lot more about team needs in a week, after the first wave of big-money free agent signings has washed over the league.

A lot can change,  but, like my colleague Adam L. Jahns a week ago, I still think you can make a strong case for a running back — gasp! — going first overall.

Here’s the Sun-Times Mock Draft, Version 3.0:

1. Browns — Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB

After Barkley posted a stellar NFL Scouting Combine, there’s only one way for the Browns to be guaranteed the star running back is to take Barkley first. There’s no guarantee he’ll fall to No. 4.

2. Giants — Sam Darnold, USC QB

The Giants could be tempted to take Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson here — it looks like they’re in win-now mode — but in the end, won’t be able to pass on a chance to draft the top quarterback as Eli Manning’s eventual replacement.

3. Colts — Bradley Chubb, N.C. State OLB/DE

He’s the best defensive player in the draft.

4. Browns (from Texans) — Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB

Just because they traded for Tyrod Taylor doesn’t mean they’re set at quarterback. Quite the opposite, given that he could be a mere one-year commitment. Mayfield makes a ton of sense here. Asked about the Browns at the combine, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner said that ““if anybody’s going to turn that franchise around, it’s going to me.” You got your wish, buddy.

5. Broncos — Josh Allen, Wyoming QB

Presuming John Elway doesn’t land Kirk Cousins and gets, say, Case Keenum instead, they’ll still have to invest in a long-term answer at quarterback. They know Allen, who along with Mayfield played for their coaching staff in the Senior Bowl, well.

6. Jets — Josh Rosen, UCLA QB

If Cousins goes to the Vikings, the Jets won’t be able to pass on the last available quarterback in the top tier. Rosen might have the best skillset of the bunch, though, like Darnold, it didn’t always translate to the field.

7. Buccaneers — Vita Vea, Washington DT

Can you imagine Vea and Gerald McCoy on the same defensive line?

8. Bears — Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame G

This version of the mock shakes out well for the Bears, who would choose between Nelson, Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. The Bears desperately need pass-rush help, whether or not they make a splash signing from a thin free agent class. Still, Nelson is the surest of things and helps them protect their largest investment, Mitch Trubisky. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said that “Barkley and Nelson are the two best players in this draft.” Hard to argue.

9. 49ers — Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama DB

He’s the best player available at this point. Safety John Lynch must love his ability to play the run and pass, both from the safety and cornerback spots.

10. Raiders — Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech LB

Quarterback guru Jon Gruden knows that a tandem of Edmunds and Khalil Mack gives their own offense a lot of room for error.

11. Dolphins —Denzel Ward, Ohio State CB

Coach Adam Gase said he was “extremely excited” about Ryan Tannehill returning from injury, but perhaps he keeps an eye out for a new quarterback here. Too early for Lamar Jackson?

12. Bengals — Connor Williams, Texas OT

It’s Williams or UCLA’s Kolton Miller.

13. Redskins — Roquan Smith, Georgia LB

When you share a division with the Eagles, you need linebackers that can cover. Smith can do that, and more.

14. Packers — Marcus Davenport, UT-San Antonio DE/LB

Davenport’s 4.58-second 40-yard dash at the combine cemented him in the top 20. The Packers need an injection of youth on defense.

15. Cardinals — Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR

They’re tempted by Jackson here, to be sure, but I need to know who their free-agent quarterback signing is before making the Lousville quarterback the pick. Ridley had a monster combine and is far and away the best receiver in the group.

16. Ravens — Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame OT

In my first mock, I gave them Orlando Brown, the Oklahoma tackle whose late father played for the Ravens. Then Brown managed 14 bench press reps at the combine, ran the 40-yard dash in 5.86 seconds and might have cost himself millions. It’s next-man-up in the mock draft.

17. Chargers — Mo Hurst, Michigan DT

The Bolts have star edge rushers but need beef. In this scenario, it’s either Hurst or Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne.

18. Seahawks — Derwin James, Florida State S

James could go higher, but I love the symmetry of James being drafted to replace Kam Chancellor, to whom he’s often compared.

19. Cowboys — Josh Jackson, Iowa CB

Jackson, who led the nation in interceptions last year and backed up those numbers with a solid combine, would be a steal at No. 19

20. Lions — Harold Landry, Boston College OLB/DE

It’s easy to draw the line to new Lions coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, his college defensive line coach, so we will. Landry would love it. “He played so much of a role in my development as a player. It’s crazy — not just on the field, but in the classroom,” Landry said at the combine.

21. Bills — Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB

Coming from stint at Alabama, albeit brief, new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll knows how absolutely unstoppable Jackson was in college — and what wrinkles to add to the offense to play to his strengths. After trading Taylor, the Bills could always try to trade up for a top quarterback next month.

22. Bills (from Chiefs) — Rashaan Evans, Alabama LB

Would Daboll pound the table for the player who had 13 sacks for the Crimson Tide last year?

23. Rams — Will Hernandez, UTEP G

Ohio State’s Billy Price would be the pick here, but he tore his pec at the combine.

24. Panthers — Courtland Sutton, SMU WR

Mayock described Sutton as an “outside-the-numbers, jump-ball, back-shoulder-fade guy.” The Panthers need one of those to complement the shifty Christian McCaffrey underneath.

25. Titans — Isaiah Wynn, Georgia G

Wynn is intriguing as a guard or center; he went to the combine for meetings and medical tests, but didn’t work out because of a shoulder injury.

26. Falcons — Taven Bryan, Florida DT

The Falcons need defensive line help. Let’s see what they do in free agency.

27. Saints —Hayden Hurst, South Carolina TE

Unless the Saints sign a game-changer at tight end — a Jimmy Graham reunion, anyone? — Hurst, who will turn 25 before the season starts, seems like the best fit for a team with designs on the Super Bowl.

28. Steelers —Mike Hughes, UCF CB

Hughes is polarizing — some mocks have him going in the top half of the draft.

29. Jaguars — Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State TE

The Jags must find play-makers for Blake Bortles — unless they want to draft a quarterback to groom behind him.

30. Vikings — Kolton Miller, UCLA OT

The Vikings would float to the podium if Miller was still available to protect their quarterback — perhaps Kirk Cousins.

31. Patriots — Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State QB

Mayock called Rudolph a “really logical player” for the Patriots to draft and develop behind the ageless Tom Brady. You heard me: six quarterbacks taken in the first round.

32. Eagles —Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State LB

Figure the Super Bowl champs look hard at trading back and collecting assets.