With the NFL Combine coming to a close on Monday, the picture is becoming clearer for the NFL Draft. However, with the chaos of free agency officially beginning tomorrow, there is still a ways to go before draft day. Here’s how SST thinks the draft will shape up as of now:
- Cleveland Browns (1-15): Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
The overwhelming favorite for the first overall pick prior to the Combine, Garrett all but assured his high status with a dominant performance at the NFL’s annual meat market. The explosive edge rusher, who has drawn comparisons to Julius Peppers, was one of the top performers in almost every drill. Garrett blazed the 40 yard dash in 4.64 seconds (that’s faster than what Jadeveon Clowney ran, despite outweighing him by about ten pounds), posted 33 reps of the 250-pound bench press, and jumped a 41-inch vertical (in comparison, Odell Beckham Jr. jumped 38.5). With good football instincts to go along with his freak athleticism, Garrett will breathe much-needed life into the Dawg Pound defense.
Previous edition: Same
2. San Francisco 49ers (2-14): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
At the moment, this is the most convoluted spot in the draft. With a new management core of HC Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch, it is hard to know where the 49ers will go here. There are rumors that the 49ers are going to pursue a veteran quarterback in either trade or free agency (Kirk Cousins is the name most commonly associated), decreasing the possibility of a signal-caller being selected here. If the 49ers were to get Cousins, this pick would likely be included in that deal. It is also a possibility that the 49ers would trade down, as teams could be looking to leapfrog Chicago to take Mitch Trubisky. Lending credence to that scenario, the 49ers wouldn’t have much use for the 2nd-best player on the board, Jonathan Allen, as they have drafted a 5-technique defensive end in the first round in the last two drafts.
I don’t think Lattimore will wind up going here, as cornerbacks almost never go within the top two, but with the current situation, it makes the most sense. Lattimore, despite a hamstring injury, had a big combine, running a 4.36 40 yard dash. The 49ers have major problems on the back end, and Lattimore would be a welcome addition.
Previous edition: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
3. Chicago Bears (3-13): Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Passing on Jonathan Allen may be tough, but franchise quarterbacks are hard to come by in today’s NFL. With Jay Cutler on the outs, the Monsters of the Midway need a new leader under center, though they have been linked to Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo and Mike Glennon. Rumors around the Combine have been that the Bears’ management are fans of Trubisky’s, and he would be a good fit in Chi-Town. The O-line isn’t great and the probable departure of Alshon Jeffery doesn’t present the most favorable situation for a quarterback with just one year of starting in college football to enter. However, Trubisky is a prototypical NFL quarterback who has all the tools necessary to succeed at the next level. He was one of the fastest quarterbacks at the Combine (4.67 40), and his shuttle and 3-cone performances showed he will translate to the next level as a dual-threat quarterback.
Previous edition: Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13): Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama
The Jaguars get a steal here at a position of need. Solomon Thomas has been a common projection for Jacksonville, but I think the development of edge rushing duo of Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue decreased the need for another end. With Jared Odrick likely leaving in free agency, Allen will step in as a defensive tackle in the Jags’ 4-3 scheme. Nothing was special in Allen’s Combine performance, but as a master technician with great instincts, it shouldn’t influence his draft stock. Jalen Ramsey has the back end locked down for Jacksonville, and the addition of Allen will bring a leadership presence to the front seven.
Previous edition: Jamal Adams, S, Louisiana State
5. Tennessee Titans (9-7): Jamal Adams, S, Louisiana State
With two picks in the first round, the Titans are almost certain to spend one on their sieve of a secondary. This pick will likely come down to Marshon Lattimore and Jamal Adams, and if the unlikely scenario occurs that both are off the board, Malik Hooker will come into play. Other than the back end, the Titans only other major need is at wide receiver, though none appear to be worth this high of a selection. Adams will be a Day One starter for the Titans, and will provide a punishing force in centerfield. A more physical player and a better run defender than his safety counterpart Hooker, Adams gets the nod here after Hooker’s recent surgery. The LSU product had a strong Combine showing, assuaging fears about his athleticism by running a 4.56 40 and displaying great footwork and burst in position drills.
Previous edition: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
6. New York Jets (5-11): Leonard Fournette, RB, Louisiana State
Gang Green has gone from contending for the playoffs to completely rebuilding their team in just one year. Franchise mainstays Nick Mangold, Darrelle Revis, and Brandon Marshall are gone, and Todd Bowles has a tough task ahead of him. The Jets could be looking for a quarterback here, but there are a lot of holes that need to be taken care of. Matt Forte played well in his first year in New York, but he has a lot of tread on his tires. Fournette is one of the best players on the board at this juncture, and gives the Jets a game-breaker at running back, which will mean Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t have to do as much. Fournette’s vertical jump of 28.5 inches was worrisome, but his 4.51 40 was very impressive for a 240-pound back.
Previous edition: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
7. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Jahleel Addae is a free agent, and Dwight Lowery is average at best these days. The loss of former All-Pro Eric Weddle was obvious in the Chargers’ frustrating final season in San Diego. The Bolts are only a few pieces away from contending, and getting a dynamic playmaker on the back end to complement the corner duo of Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett would be a step in the right direction. Hooker was unable to participate in drills at the Combine and will not be able to do so at his pro day either due to hip and hernia surgeries following the end of the college season. This makes his draft stock potentially volatile, but he is a special player and should be taken in the top ten.
Previous edition: Same
8. Carolina Panthers (6-10): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
The Panthers had a rough Super Bowl hangover in 2016, and most of that blame falls on the defense. While the interior of the line is set with Pro Bowlers Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, the edge is weak. With the retirement of Jared Allen and a failure to step up from Kony Ealy, the pass rush needs to be revamped, especially if promising Mario Addison leaves in free agency. Solomon Thomas is one of the best players in the draft class, and could easily be a top five selection. In a division with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Jameis Winston, generating pressure is key. Thomas had a huge Rose Bowl, and continued to rise up draft boards after a Combine in which he was a top performer for his position in the bench press, broad jump, 3-cone, and shuttle run.
Previous edition: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1): Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The Bengals finally broke their five-year streak of losing in the first round of the playoffs in 2016, but I don’t believe failing to post even a winning record was the way they were expecting to do that. There are a number of weaknesses on the team, with wide receiver and defensive end being the top targets. After his record-breaking 40 yard dash, John Ross could be an option here as a speed complement to A.J. Green, but I think that would be a major reach. Barnett is a solid pick, and could play end in Marvin Jones’ 4-3 scheme. His Combine results were nothing to write home about, but he did perform well enough to retain his top 15 status.
Previous edition: Same
10. Buffalo Bills (7-9): DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Watson has been arguably the most talked about player of this draft class, and rightly so. After knocking off an undefeated Alabama team in the final seconds of the National Championship, Watson has been a polarizing figure for many pundits and scouts. Teams worry about the inconsistent accuracy that was seen throughout his career at Clemson, though Watson performed well during the throwing portion of the Combine. A dynamic, dual-threat quarterback, Watson also has the leadership abilities and intangibles to deliver a title in the NFL. With the Sean McDermott era beginning in Buffalo and upper management looking to move away from Tyrod Taylor, Watson would be a good fit for a team that appears to be on the verge of competing.
Previous edition: Same
11. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
In the last edition of the mock draft, I had Sean Payton pulling a stunner and taking a quarterback. While I do think the Saints have to start to think about life after Brees, their back end is simply too bad to ignore at this juncture, especially with the talented passers in the NFC South. Delvin Breaux was solid last year, but they need depth badly. The 2017 cornerback class is a talented one, and Sidney Jones is one of the best of the crop. Washington’s secondary was one of the best in college football last year, and Jones was their leader. He had an average Combine, but he has all the tools needed to be a #1 corner at the NFL level.
Previous edition: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
12. Cleveland Browns (1-15): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Cleveland continues to build a core of a franchise with this selection, and maybe if they play bad enough in 2017, they’ll be able to snag Sam Darnold and finally have a good football team. However, it is the Browns, so you know that situation won’t unfold in their favor. Yet, gaining a true #1 wideout is a step in the right direction. Josh Gordon is in the rearview mirror, Terrelle Pryor could leave in free agency, and Corey Coleman is best suited for the slot. Williams didn’t run the 40 yard dash at the Combine to the chagrin of the scouts, choosing to only run it at his pro day. Williams is aware that speed is his weakness, but his impeccable technique and abilities catching the ball mean he will be a top 20 pick.
Previous edition: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
13. Arizona Cardinals (7-9): Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
So here is your surprise quarterback selection of this mock draft. There will almost assuredly be one shocker, and I think this is a good place for that to occur. Bruce Arians has shown a propensity to do things his own way, and he is facing impending problems at quarterback. Just a year ago, Carson Palmer was the runner-up in the MVP race, but looked like a shell of himself in Arizona’s fall from grace. At 37, Palmer doesn’t have a lot of football left, and giving Mahomes time to sit behind one of the game’s better signal-callers will help him to transition smoothly out of the gimmick offense he was running at Texas Tech. Mahomes had a strong Combine performance, moving him up into the first round conversation. With a gunslinger arm and mentality and athleticism to boot, Mahomes is reminiscent of Matt Stafford. However, if Arians is in win-now mode, cornerback will likely be the target here.
Previous edition: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
14. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Philadelphia desperately needs skill players if they want Carson Wentz to succeed. If they don’t take a running back or receiver at this spot, I will be shocked. Nelson Agholor was a bust, and Jordan Matthews is a serviceable #2 wideout at best. The running back situation is only slightly better, but Dalvin Cook could still be an option here. Despite not performing at the combine due to his prolonged recovery from ankle surgery, Davis’ draft stock shouldn’t be in question. The most prolific receiver in FBS history, Davis said that he will hold a workout in April for scouts so they can watch him run the 40 and perform drills. Until then, it is hard to get an accurate read on where the Western Michigan product will wind up.
Previous edition: Same
15. Indianapolis Colts (7-9): Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The Colts have become Andrew Luck and a bunch of replacement-level players, and that is no way to win football games. The offensive line was revamped last year, as 3 rookies got significant playing time, but could still use help. Pretty much every position could be utilized on defense as well, but they need to build around their star signal-caller. Cook had a slightly underwhelming Combine, but shouldn’t fall out of the top 20. The former Seminole has drawn comparisons to Jamaal Charles, but if I was an NFL GM I would steer clear of Cook. He has had charges of battery and has undergone shoulder surgery over the last two years, and his SPARQ score (relative measurement of athleticism) would be the lowest of any first round running back since 1999. However, Cook has a high ceiling, and the Colts have a serious need at running back.
Previous edition: Leonard Fournette, RB, Louisiana State
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
The Ravens will likely lose Ricky Wagner in free agency this year, and protecting Joe Flacco has been a chronic issue for Baltimore. Leapfrogging Cam Robinson and Ryan Ramczyk on draft boards, Bolles put on a show at the Combine, running a 4.95 40 and broad jumping nearly 10 feet. Impressive numbers, especially considering Bolles is a hulking 6’5”, 300-plus pound left tackle. He had struggles as a youngster, but claims he is now a changed man. Nonetheless, Bolles will be entering the NFL as a 25 year-old, which could scare off some teams. Additionally, he could use a bit more weight on his frame, as the Utah product is narrow for a NFL left tackle.
Previous edition: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Stats courtesy of NFL.com.