The NFL Draft kicks off April 27 with the first round. The three-day event will feature shocking trades, improbable stock tumbles of top prospects and more. Despite the draft being arguably the most unpredictable day of the year, countless pundits believe they know exactly what will go down on the most important day of the NFL calendar. Without further ado, here is Part One of my final mock draft for 2017.
- Cleveland Browns (1-15): Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
As of this writing, Cleveland has not made a decision between Garrett and UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky, but Garrett has been the obvious selection throughout the entire draft process. He checked off all of the necessary boxes at the combine and his pro day, proving that he may be the best athlete as well as the best football player in this draft class. Garrett faced criticism from Warren Sapp recently, with the Hall of Famer stating that the former Aggie is lazy and not a difference-maker on the field. However, he is too talented to pass up on, especially for an unproven quarterback who would be saddled with one of the league’s most depleted rosters. The Browns are short on pass rushers, giving Garrett the opportunity to make an impact on day one.
Other options: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina; Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Previous edition: Same
Second Round Pick (2): Adoree Jackson, CB, Southern California (33rd); Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, Southern California (52nd)
Armed with two second round picks, the Browns address major needs with the USC duo. Joe Haden can’t stay healthy, and Jackson will provide depth as well as give Cleveland a dynamic return threat. With Terrelle Pryor’s departure, the Browns need another wideout to pair with Corey Coleman.
2. San Francisco 49ers (2-14): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Though it is rare to see a cornerback drafted this high, this relatively weak draft class opens the door for Lattimore to be a top-three pick. The Ohio State product is extremely talented and has all the tools to be a lockdown corner at the next level. The 49ers’ back end is a sieve, though they have holes all over the field. However, it would not be surprising to see a trade occur here, especially with the links between Kirk Cousins and San Francisco’s management. Additionally, if a team is looking to leapfrog the Jets to land a quarterback, this would be a spot to target.
Other options: Trubisky; Thomas; Jamal Adams, S, Louisiana State
Previous edition: Same
Second Round Pick: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan (34th)
The steal of this mock draft, Davis could possibly fall out of the first round depending on where Mike Williams and John Ross are selected. The 49ers desperately need receiving talent, especially with Torrey Smith leaving in free agency.
3. Chicago Bears (3-13): Jamal Adams, S, Louisiana State
With the signing of Mike Glennon, the Bears will not be taking a quarterback with this selection, opening the door for the Monsters of the Midway to address their porous secondary. Adams is a punishing safety with a reputation for being an enforcer in the middle of the field. With the NFL drafting trending towards tight ends with the athleticism of wide receivers, Adams would be a difference-maker with his rare size-speed combination. The Bears’ secondary is the improving team’s weak spot, and adding the former Tiger would help Chicago take the next step into playoff contention.
Other options: Thomas; Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama; Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Previous edition: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Second Round Pick: Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State (36th)
The Bears’ pass rush has little bite, and with a high second round pick they can grab some help for Pernell McPhee by drafting the quick-rising Willis.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13): Leonard Fournette, RB, Louisiana State
The highest-rated running back coming out of college since Adrian Peterson, Fournette’s stock is back on the rise after a disappointing senior season by his high standards. A 240-pound power back with 4.51 40-yard dash speed, Fournette will be a handful for NFL defenses. The Jaguars are in need for a bell cow running back after their signing of Chris Ivory turned out to be a dud, and TJ Yeldon has not shown the capability to be a full-time running back in the NFL. Fournette can be a spark plug for a Jaguars’ offense that disappointed after receiving heavy preseason hype last year.
Other options: Thomas; Allen; OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
Previous edition: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Second Round Pick: Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi (35th)
The Jaguars’ offensive revamping continues with the selection of Engram, who is a matchup nightmare and would provide Blake Bortles with a reliable threat up the seam and in the red zone.
5. Tennessee Titans (9-7): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
One of the top prospects in this draft class, Thomas could find himself going as high as number two overall. He dominated the Sun Bowl against UNC and continued to climb up draft boards since then with strong performances at the combine and at his pro day. An all-around athlete with the ability to play both a 4-3 end and a 3-4 outside linebacker, Thomas is appealing to many teams. Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan both had surprisingly good seasons last year after DT Jurrell Casey had been the primary pass-rushing threat for Tennessee in past years, but Thomas is too good to pass up at this juncture. The Titans’ ability to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback will be a critical factor in their chances to knock off the suddenly vulnerable Texans.
Other options: Hooker; Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State; Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Previous edition: Jamal Adams, S, Louisiana State
Second Round Pick: None
6. New York Jets (5-11): Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Last offseason, Gang Green gave in to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract demands (which seemed reasonable at the time), who repaid them by having a disastrous season and turned the Jets from playoff contenders to a squad in need of an overhaul. New York’s starter is currently 37-year-old Josh McCown, while 2016 second round pick Christian Hackenberg is still not prepared for an NFL starting role. In most years, a player of Trubisky’s caliber wouldn’t warrant such a high pick, but this year’s quarterback class is weak. With only 13 starts to his name, Trubisky is unproven but has all the tools to succeed in the NFL. The North Carolina product is the most accurate passer of all incoming rookies, and has shown good mobility both in and out of the pocket. However, he may not be ready to play from day one.
Other options: DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson; Hooker; Williams; Howard
Previous edition: Leonard Fournette, RB, Louisiana State
Second Round Pick: Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee (39th)
The Jets double down on skill players by taking Kamara, who dominated the combine and is a relative steal here. The secondary needs to be addressed, but Matt Forte is aging and Kamara would provide good value.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
In all three editions of this mock draft series, I’ve had Hooker slotted to the Chargers. As the best player on the board and at a position of major need, Hooker is the dream scenario for the Chargers. Hooker underwent hip surgery this offseason, but he is expected to be ready to go the first week so his draft stock has been relatively unaffected. Los Angeles has been seeking a replacement for franchise legend Eric Weddle, and would find it in Hooker. Oft-compared to Ed Reed, the Ohio State product is a quarterback’s nightmare with once-in-a-generation ball skills and anticipation. The Chargers are only a few pieces from contention, and drafting Hooker would be a step in the right direction.
Other options: Allen; Williams; Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Previous edition: Same
Second Round Pick: Dion Dawkins, OL, Temple (38th)
One of the fastest risers in the draft, the versatile Dawkins could find himself selected in the first round. The Chargers happily snap him up here, as their offensive line has been problematic for years.
8. Carolina Panthers (6-10): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
With Jonathan Allen still on the board, it will certainly be tempting for Carolina to take the Alabama lineman. However, rumor has it that the Panthers are smitten with McCaffrey, and the Stanford rusher’s stock has climbed rapidly as of late. The son of former Broncos wideout Ed McCaffrey, Christian was a Swiss Army Knife at Stanford, recording an NCAA-record 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015. He continued his run of success with a strong combine showing, and has flashed the ability to be a star at the next level. Cam Newton needs a new backfield partner as Jonathan Stewart continues to decline, and McCaffrey fits the bill.
Other options: Allen; Conley; Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Previous edition: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Second Round Pick (2): Tre’Davious White, CB, Louisiana State (40th); Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn (64th)
The Panthers’ secondary was decimated last year, and White will provide depth to one of the league’s worst units. The pass rush is punchless as well, and Lawson is a reliable producer of pressure.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1): Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Once considered the number two prospect in this draft class behind Garrett, Allen’s stock has tumbled slightly after unspectacular combine and pro day workouts. Allen is a skilled player technically but not a workout warrior, making his recent slide understandable. He is between the sizes of a defensive end and a defensive tackle, but should be well-suited for the Bengals 4-3 scheme as an end. Allen’s ability to line up anywhere allows him to take advantage of weak spots in opposing team’s offensive lines. The Bengals need to improve their pass rush if they are to make it back to the playoffs, as Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap have not provided much.
Other options: Barnett; Foster; Williams
Previous edition: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Second Round Pick: Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma (41st)
The Bengals continue their reputation of ignoring character issues by taking Mixon, whose first day talent has caused him to drop as a result of a video of the Sooner punching a woman.
10. Buffalo Bills (7-9): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Buffalo has had a gaping hole from Sammy Watkins, and with the stud pass-catcher’s injury history, wide receiver has to be a position of priority for new coach Sean McDonaugh. Hailing from Watkins’ alma mater, Williams cemented himself as the top receiver in this draft class by serving as DeShaun Watson’s go-to-guy during Clemson’s champion season. With prototypical size, speed and hands, Williams will step in as a contributor immediately for the Bills. Tyrod Taylor will finally be able to silence his doubters with the duo of Watkins and Williams and the Bills will be able to offensively keep pace with the Patriots.
Other options: Watson; Conley; Barnett
Previous edition: DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Second Round Pick: Davis Webb, QB, California (44th)
It’s no secret that Buffalo has been trying to find a replacement for Taylor. Webb is quietly climbing up draft boards; don’t be surprised if he’s taken in the first round.
11. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
The Saints have been looking for answers on the defensive side of the ball since Drew Brees arrived in the Big Easy. New Orleans had another forgettable season last year despite Brees throwing for more than 5,000 yards, and most of the blame can fall on the shoulders of a secondary that was shredded in almost every game. Delvin Breaux is a solid cover corner, but can’t be depended on to lock down opposing teams’ top wideouts. Conley is the third member of the dominant Ohio State secondary to be selected, and has the talent to be a top-10 selection.
Other options: Watson; Barnett; Foster; Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
Previous edition: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Second Round Pick: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame (42nd)
Kizer is a big, strong-armed passer with good mobility but needs time to mature, and lands in a perfect situation behind one of the all-time greats.
12. Cleveland Browns (1-15): OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
With their second pick of the draft, the Browns begin to fill out the offensive side of the ball. Cleveland has been linked to quarterbacks with this pick, and with DeShaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes still on the board, a passer would come as no shock. However, the Browns still have 2016 third-rounder Cody Kessler, and the 2018 quarterback class is leaps and bounds ahead of this one, so waiting would be a smart decision. Howard is rapidly climbing up draft boards, and the tight end out of Alabama possesses a rare size-speed combination to go along with his productivity in college.
Other options: Watson; Mahomes; Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Previous edition: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Second Round Pick: Aforementioned
13. Arizona Cardinals (7-8-1): Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
Arizona has other problems than quarterback, namely in the secondary, but with such a deep draft class for defensive backs they can afford to draft Carson Palmer’s successor early. Mahomes emerged from relative obscurity to a first round lock after assuaging teams’ fears over his lack of experience with NFL-style offenses during his combine and pro day performances. The Texas Tech product became a household name after a video of him throwing a football over 80 yards went viral. With more than just a cannon for an arm, Mahomes is an accurate passer and can be a threat in the run game. Palmer is just a year removed from a second place finish in MVP voting, so Mahomes will have time to learn the game from one of the best.
Other options: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama; Davis; Barnett
Previous edition: Same
Second Round Pick: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado (45th)
The Cards desperately need help across from Patrick Peterson, and Awuzie will be in line for a major role from day one.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (7-9): Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Eagles have commonly been projected to take a skill player at this juncture, but the signing of receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith as well as running back Dalvin Cook’s character concerns opened the door for Philly to go in a different direction. The Eagles need help at cornerback, as the combination of Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson isn’t exactly terrifying to opposing cornerbacks. Humphrey is yet another player in a line of SEC cornerbacks, and his exposure to top-tier competition in college will lessen the transition time to the NFL.
Other options: Davis; Foster; Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Previous edition: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Second Round Pick: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt (43rd)
With Joe Mixon off of the board at this point, the Eagles double down on defense and get good value by taking the reliable middle linebacker from Vandy.
15. Indianapolis Colts (7-9): Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA
The Colts’ defense is a disaster. They are short on defensive talent. Indianapolis could spend this pick on any defensive player regardless of their position. Even though Erik Walden racked up 11 sacks last year, the Colts are not returning another player who had more than three. Enter McKinley, who is a great scheme fit for the Colts’ 3-4 scheme and was a terror on the field in the PAC-12 last year. After running a 4.59 40-yard dash, McKinley’s stock rose as he proved he was more than just a “motor guy.”
Other options: Haason Reddick, DE/OLB, Temple; Cook; Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
Previous edition: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Second Round Pick: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut (46th)
Possibly the best pure athlete in this draft class, the UConn stud who received only one scholarship offer coming out of high school could find himself a top-40 pick.
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8): Derek Barnett, DE/OLB, Tennessee
Raven’s general manager Ozzie Newsome always finds a way to win the draft, and he gets a steal with Barnett here. The Tennessee product has been in top-10 talks all year, but slides in this situation as there is a glut of teams with which he wouldn’t be an ideal scheme fit with. Baltimore has very little to offer in the pass rush at the moment, and can’t rely on Terrell Suggs as an every-down player going forward. Barnett is a constant threat off of the edge and is a punishing tackler, but also has the versatility to straighten up and help out in coverage.
Other options: Davis; Cook; Reddick; Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama; Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Previous edition: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Second Round Pick: Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
The Ravens have one of the weakest receiving corps in the NFL, and get a boost from Jones, who was very productive for the Pirates.