The NFL draft is just one day away ladies and gentlemen. The day that feels like Christmas for teams and fans alike. For some fans it’s more exciting than the post-season, and for players it is the next step in fulfilling their lifelong dream. Like all draft cycles, there are players who see their stock fall, and others who see their stock skyrocket. There are no trades in this mock draft, but there will for sure be some come draft day. This article is more of a reflection of what the teams need/what the realistic picks are going to be. Now with the first pick of the 2017 NFL draft…
1) Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The prospect with the highest floor in this draft. There isn’t a QB worth going number one overall in this year’s draft, and Garrett is an absolute monster. Garrett had the best combine of any player in this draft class, which wasn’t a surprise, and pretty much cemented his status as this year’s top prospect. While he may not be able to dominate right away in the way that some are hyping him up to be, his ability to counter the run is very underrated and he should be able to contribute on any team from day one.
2) San Francisco 49ers – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The 49ers take a player that the organization can build their defense around going forward, similar to how Seattle built their secondary around Earl Thomas (yes Richard Sherman might be the most well known of the bunch, but Thomas does the most and is the most important of the LOB). This may be the least likely pick to actually happen due to the fact that teams generally don’t draft safeties this high, but that should be an even higher indicator of Hooker’s ability. Hooker can shut down the middle of the field and be the ball hawk the team needs as proven by his 7 interceptions last year (3 of which were returned for touchdowns).
3) Chicago Bears – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
The Bears defense has more promise than most people will give it credit for, but they are still in desperate need of a stronger presence up front on D. The signing of Prince Amukamara, Marcus Cooper, and Quintin Demps in the offseason was a solid step forward for the secondary, so the front office selects a pass rusher. Thomas is versatile enough to play on all 3 downs. Whether it be getting after the passer when lined up on the outside or even getting pressure from the inside, Thomas is too good to pass up.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars – Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
While there have been rumblings that the Jaguars could take a QB here due to Blake Bortles lack of progression, and his ability to make throwing interceptions look like a work of art, however it is very possible that the front office wants to take a signal caller in the 2nd or 3rd rounds due to how deep this draft is on defensive playmakers. It would not be surprising to see the Jags add Allen to pair with Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler, and newly signed Calais Campbell. Are there concerns about the longevity of Allen’s career in the NFL? Yes. Did Allen record 11 sacks, 12 QB hits, and maul interior lineman while playing at Alabama? Yes.
5) Tennessee Titans (From Rams) – Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Depending on who you ask, Adams is the best safety in this year’s draft. He’s had more experience than Hooker, playing in 12 games the past three seasons, and has recorded 209 tackles in his career. He is fearless when it comes to tackling, especially around the line of scrimmage, and loves to set the tone for a team. Defensive coordinator’s will make use of his versatility in coverage increasing his draft stock even further. Adams also has the reputation of being a great locker room presence and is a player that coaches and fans will fall in love with.
6) New York Jets – Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
The Jets need to improve their offensive line desperately, which was ranked 21st overall by pro football focus. They also need to find a replacement for the recently released shell of Revis Island in a draft that happens to be rich in cornerbacks. However, the temptation is too strong to pass up on taking a quarterback here. No team bit on one in the top 5, but the Jets take a chance on the one year starter. This pick will come down to team building philosophy (or owner intervention). Do you build a solid team first and then pick your QB so to not risk whiffing on one? Or do you build a team around a QB that you trust the franchise to? It might be smarter for the Jets to take a defensive back here, but the front office will attempt to get the team out of QB purgatory. Trubisky has the prototypical size and arm, the short to mid range accuracy that most of the other QB’s in this draft don’t have, knows how to progress through his reads, and he can make throws outside the pocket. Trubisky has a high ceiling, he just has to put the pieces together first.
7) Los Angeles Chargers – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
As long as Phillip Rivers is under center, the offense will continue to produce. New coach, Anthony Lynn, may want to shore up the offensive line in order to run a more run focused attack like he had in Buffalo, however since this year’s offensive lineman class isn’t stellar the Chargers take the best corner in this year’s draft. While he is no Jalen Ramsey, Lattimore did only allow a passer rating of 30.2 this past year, and possesses the size and speed to lock down receivers at the next level. Pair him with Casey Hayward (led the NFL in interceptions in 2016) and a healthy Jason Verrett and this could easily become one of the NFL’s top passing defenses in the future.
8) Carolina Panthers – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Panthers want to put less pressure on Cam Newton during games. By adding a potentially generational talent like Fournette to the fold should accomplish that in spades. Hyped as being the best prospect at the position since Adrian Peterson, Fournette is a semi truck that runs through defenders once he gets a head of steam. He also has speed and surprising agility for his size. Don’t let his underwhelming performance at the combine fool you, Fournette is a monster who fits perfectly with the physical identity of the Panthers. While he isn’t a great pass catching back, it shouldn’t matter too much in the scheme that the Panthers run. Newton and Fournette in the backfield…good luck with that read option NFC south.
9) Cincinnati Bengals – John Ross, WR, Washington
Depending on the day you ask, John Ross may be the best receiver in this year’s draft. Other days it may be Clemson’s Mike Williams. However, Ross is the first to go since the Bengals already have one of the best big bodied receivers in A.J. Green. The departure of Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency clearly took a toll on Cincy’s offense last year. Ross brings the ability to stretch the field, gets separation like no other, but is also very effective on slants in the redzone. He’s a bit undersized but he makes up for that with his elite top end speed. He will help Andy Dalton and the offense get back on track.
10) Buffalo Bills – O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
His career numbers at Alabama won’t pop out to anyone, however this can be attributed to the scheme that he played in at Alabama. OJ Howard or “Juice” as Bama fans called him come in at 6’6, 251 pounds, and has the speed to run a 4.5 forty yard dash. His elite athleticism, if used in the proper system, can turn Howard into one of the league’s best receiving tight ends. The Bills would benefit greatly by adding a security blanket for Tyrod Taylor that will compliment Sammy Watkins that can also contribute to blocking up front.
11) New Orleans Saints – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
It’s been clear for a while now that the Saints need help just about everywhere on defense. With the meteoric rise of Cameron Jordan last year, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Saints to grab someone like Barnett to pair with Jordan in the years to come. Think of Barnett like a lite version of Von Miller. While he doesn’t have the elite speed that Miller had, he has developed his ability to bend around the edge. His level of flexibility for someone of his size and stature is not natural. He’ll be a great physical presence for any team.
12) Cleveland Browns (From the Eagles) – Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
I’m not sure if Cleveland will hold onto this pick or not, but this mock draft doesn’t include any trades, so I have them once again improving their defense with their next pick. White joins Lewis in the storied pipeline of defensive backs to come out of Baton Rouge. Coordinators can place White in a variety of positions on the field. He’s shown that he can play with bigger receivers on the outside as well as with the shiftier ones lined up in the slot. He possesses great football instinct and has shown that he knows how to predict what decision a quarterback is going to make before they release the ball. Cleveland will be getting a guy that makes every completion a very hard fought one.
13) Arizona Cardinals – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Yes he’s raw and needs some polish and yes he is probably going to need a year to get used to the speed of the NFL, but Watson has so much talent and plays his best when the stakes are at their highest. Do the Cardinals necessarily need a QB considering they have Carson Palmer? Maybe not. However, the 2015 MVP runner up isn’t getting any younger and his arm may not have much life left in it. That’s not an indictment against Palmer, but when you see a player that could be your cornerstone for the future, why pass on him? *See the Packers drafting Aaron Rodgers in 2005 despite having Brett Favre*. Watson has the size, the winning pedigree, the ability to lead a locker room, and…you know what let’s just be honest, we all want to see Watson paired with David Johnson.
14) Philadelphia Eagles (From Vikings) – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Entering the offseason, Philadelphia desperately needed to get help at corner and wide receiver. Since then the Eagles have signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to help stop the bleeding at receiver, so they decide to add some depth on the other side of the ball. I really like the way that Humphrey plays. He shows no fear when left on an island, isn’t afraid to get physical (if allowed) with whoever he lines up against. The big corner out of Alabama won’t be afraid to play against any of the elite receivers on any given Sunday.
15) Indianapolis Colts – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The Colts need to make Andrew Luck’s life easier and there are several ways to do so. They could continue to build up their offensive line, taking Ryan Kelly last year was the start. However, there aren’t a lot of elite O-line prospects this year. They could address their defense so that Luck doesn’t have to score 35 points a game to keep them competitive. I know this is a trendy pick but I think they’re going to end up taking a running back. When you consider that Frank Gore, who is 33 years old, was the team’s first 1,000 yard rusher since 2007 things begin to come into perspective. If you follow the same logic of the Dallas Cowboys last year when they drafted Ezekiel Elliot with the 4th overall pick to help take pressure off of Romo, this selection isn’t shocking. Finally adding the threat of a consistent run game would pay dividends for Luck’s health and future. Cook has explosive ability as a runner and as a pass catcher out of the backfield. If he can improve as a pass blocker then he’ll be a perfect pairing for Luck.
16) Baltimore Ravens – Tim Williams, Edge, Alabama
Baltimore has one of the best coaching staffs in the league, lead by John Harbaugh. This pick is a reflection of how much the front office believes in the ability of their coaches to develop Williams into the best version of himself. It is unsure how many years of great play Terrell Suggs has left, so this would take pressure off of Williams to produce right away. At the moment he is a pure pass rushing prospect, and a good one at that. However, with time and good coaching he could become the next defensive player that the Ravens hang their hat/helmet on and is able to contribute on every down. That being said, we could see Williams slip out of the first round due to off the field issues that have come to light recently. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome does have a habit of removing players with a history of concerns from his board, so we may see Haasan Reddick, a similar high ceiling project type pick here. They could take a receiver here, but I think the Ravens want to get back to their core identity of being a defensive minded team that wears opposing teams down.
17) Washington Redskins – Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Foster may have been the most fun defensive player to watch in college football this year. Actually, that’s disrespectful of me. Foster may have been the most fun player to watch in college football this year period. The Redskins need help in defending against the run, and Foster can do that and more. He has the ability to fly from sideline to sideline like a safety, and can be the future centerpiece of Washington’s defense.
18) Tennessee Titans – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Clemson product is the best big bodied outside threat in this year’s draft. He physically dominates defenders a la Dez Bryant. He boxes out corners smaller than him and has the vertical ability to catch just about anything in traffic. His lack of speed may be a concern that causes him to slip this far, but he’s got so many things going for him that he won’t be overlooked for long. Tennessee needs to get Marcus Mariota a receiver that he can grow with and form a connection with like so many other top end QBs have (Romo-Dez, Rodgers-Nelson, Ryan-Jones, Roethlisburger-Brown, and etc.). Williams may be the missing piece that lifts Tennessee up from above average team to division contender.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Every team should fall in love with Davis’s route running ability. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, he’s got the body of an outside receiver, but the footwork of someone that plays in the slot. He runs a near perfect slant, but doesn’t need to rely on just his speed to get open thanks to his frame. Tampa Bay already has an elite big bodied vertical threat in Mike Evans. This offseason they added Desean Jackson, who can stretch the field by being a deep threat in addition to much more. Adding Davis to the mix would be a nightmare for defensive coordinators. Davis has the ability to be lined up outside, inside, the slot, and both sides of the field. The Bucs can form a wide receiver core on par with the 2015 Bengals and Steelers, and the 2016 Raiders by taking Davis.
20) Denver Broncos – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Now that the Romo Sweepstakes is (most likely) over, the Broncos address their biggest need. Regardless of who gets rolled out as the starting QB in Denver, they’re going to need to not get mauled by some of the best defensive lines in the NFL. The Broncos have to play Khalil Mack, Joey Bosa, and Justin Houston twice a year. Other than praying for his two young quarterbacks and hoping they maintain their confidence, John Elway can help them out by drafting a promising offensive tackle prospect. Depending on who you ask, Ramczyk may be the best one in this year’s draft. He can lock down the left side of the line and protect Denver’s QB for a long time.
21) Detroit Lions – Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Harris may have the most refined technique of all of the pass rushers in this year’s draft. There should be no doubts about his ability to get to the passer, considering that he finished his 3 year career at Missouri with 18 sacks and added 34.5 tackles for loss. Everyone that watches his tape raves about how Harris has a dominant first step off the line of scrimmage, but don’t underrate his ability to play both sides of the line.
22) Miami Dolphins – Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Heading into year 2 of the Adam Gase era, you should expect Ryan Tannehill to put up impressive numbers (yes I know we say this every year, but this time its for real…?). Tannehill showed a big step forward in his play last year and the offense looked elite at times. The secondary does need to improve, but the catalyst of the team’s success under their current coach is going to be their offense. I would also suspect a tight end selection here, but I believe they will address that later in the draft. Here the Fins take Bolles to pair with Tunsil on the other side of the offensive line for years to come.
23) New York Giants – Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
Eli Manning was not a very good quarterback last year. Blame that on a sub-par run game or whatever you want, but his performance was not great. Even with Odell Beckham making him look better than he actually was by turning routine plays into 60 yard touchdowns, Eli struggled in the pocket. The obvious choice is to address the need on the offensive line. Eli’s going to be the guy in New York for the foreseeable future (4 years unless he has another weird Eli super bowl year) so the Giants front office is going to need to make sure he’s not getting thrown to the ground or scrambling for his life every other play. You can slide Lamp on either side of the line and he should be able to contribute and find success as a rookie.
24) Oakland Raiders – Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
The linebacker out of the University of Vanderbilt could possibly be the most underrated player in this year’s draft. Cunningham has flown under the radar for the most part of the draft process so far. When he’s on the gridiron it’s an entirely different case. He led the SEC in tackles last year, with a whopping 125. The Raiders still need some help on defense to solidify themselves as a true Super Bowl contender. They need someone to cover the part of the field that Khalil Mack can’t dominate. Cunningham can fill that role and he has the insticts to have a very successful career at the next level.
25) Houston, Texans – Deshone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Make fun of Kizer for his comments about being able to be the best quarterback of all time, sure, but he does have a point. By that I mean he’s got potentially the highest ceiling of any QB in this draft. He can make all the throws you need your franchise guy to make at the next level. Plus Kizer already has a strong connection with Houston’s 2016 first round pick, receiver Will Fuller. Houston has played this game long enough, but they have a team and can win now so they should take a QB here or as I expect them to, trade up and take one. If head coach Bill O’Brien is truly the quarterback whisperer then this is a no brainer. Kizer does need to be developed and mature a bit, but a half season with O’Brien and the Texans is all I think he’s going to need.
26) Seattle Seahawks – Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Seattle’s front office philosophy when it comes to the offensive line is to try and pay as little as possible. Last season, the Seahawks had the lowest amount of CAP allocated to their O-line in the NFL. The success of the Seahawks all depends on Russell Wilson’s performance. For example, in 2015 there was a stretch of games where Wilson played lights out and had the best QBR in the league during that span. Then you look at the 2016 season when he got injured, and the Seahawks struggled on offense against above average teams (He threw 5 picks against the Packers). Seattle doesn’t want to pay a lot for it, but they know they have to protect Russell Wilson and a cheap rookie contract is exactly what they are looking for. Robinson slips here because of his lack of polish in pass protection, but the Seahawks are going to have to trust that the staff can get the most out of Robinson’s elite size and athleticism.
27) Kansas City Chiefs – Patrick Mahomes Jr., QB, Texas Tech
If you look at this draft, it’s pretty easy to say that Mahomes isn’t a first round talent. He’s got the size and playmaking ability, but he is the dictionary definition of a diamond in the rough. His footwork is probably a couple of years away from being what it needs to be, but Andy Reid knows what he’s doing for the most part (looking at you 4th quarter of playoff games). I see the Chiefs taking Patty here because they don’t think he’ll be there in the 2nd round or later on. This is another high ceiling project pick, but it’s not totally unreasonable considering that Mahomes can straight up ball.
28) Dallas Cowboys – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
I’m having the hardest time with this pick. The Cowboys need a pass rush, because last year’s unit was pretty anemic, but at the same time the Boys have had a lot of turnover in the secondary.and really need to keep building on that unit. I could see them drafting a big corner here, like Kevin King or a guy that they think is going to be a playmaker in the secondary in the form of Adoree Jackson, but I think the size and physical ability (and name that is second to none) of Charlton will be too hard to pass up on.
The Organization has shown recently, that they put a heavy emphasis on players with elite size and athletic ability. As a result, they tend to stay away from players that are labeled as undersized. I’m uncertain that the coaching staff can develop a pass rusher, like Taco, that is one or two moves away from being a force of nature up front. This one is a coin flip between King or Jackson and Charlton for me, but I’ll go with the need for big bodies up front.
29) Green Bay Packers – Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford
This is frightening. Not because McCaffery is capable of bulldozing over NFC North defenders nor is it because he’s fast enough to burst out of the backfield and fly by linebackers and split safeties up the middle. He doesn’t have the size or speed to do either of those things, but what he is and what he can do is create something out of nothing. I don’t really know how to describe him other than he’s an all purpose play maker. Line him up as a receiver however you want Mike McCarthy and let the bromance with Aaron Rodgers blossom. Last season the Packer’s running back core left a lot to be desired and now that Eddy Lacey is gone, they need to find a replacement. Rodgers can get white hot, but why not pair a multi dimensional threat that can play to your QB’s strengths? McCaffery will also get an opportunity to contribute on special teams.
30) Pittsburgh Steelers – Jabrill Peppers, LB/S/CB, Michigan
I thought about having Peppers slip out of the first round for a couple of reasons: He doesn’t have a natural position, at least he didn’t at Michigan. He’s too small to play strong safety at the next level, same goes for linebacker. I’m not sold on him as a cover guy because if you watch the tape of him at Michigan, the defense almost always had him Blitz or line up against the run in the box, he only had one career interception – which was off a tip – and it just looked like putting Peppers in coverage was a last resort. Also, there’s the recent news of him being linked to a diluted sample at the combine.
However, I think Peppers still has a chance to go in the first round for similar reasons that I think McCaffery has first round value. He has the ability to be incredibly versatile, and can stay on the field for all 4 downs. In a time of positionless football, that ability can be the most important thing to a team. Team’s also have to realize that Peppers didn’t stick at one position and wasn’t able to develop his ability at a specific position. During his time at Michigan, Peppers would start in the defensive meetings, finish with those, run down the hall to the offensive meetings, learn the playbook, and then run down the hall to be a part of the special teams meetings. So if Peppers can focus on one position, which I am guessing will be safety, he may be able to become the next Honey Badger.
This pick makes sense for Pittsburgh because they still need a little help on the defensive side of the ball. The team seems to be getting a ton of value out of last year’s pick, CB Artie Burns, so why not continue with the pattern of drafting raw, athletic, high potential players? Peppers can help out in the secondary, and even blitz on occasion if the defensive line opens up a hole for him, again with the versatility, but most importantly I don’t know if there’s a single jersey that Peppers would look better in than in Steelers black and yellow.
31) Atlanta Falcons – Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
McKinley’s ability isn’t as refined as some of the other pass rushing prospects in this draft, but he’s got a great combination of size, speed, and burst off of the line of scrimmage that is too good to pass up. Atlanta’s defense came together down the stretch last year, but there is room for improvement along the defensive front. Atlanta would be well suited to find and groom a future pass rusher to pair with the league’s reigning sack leader Vic Beasley as soon as possible.
32) New Orleans Saints (From Patriots) – Kevin King, CB, Washington
Earlier during this draft process there were rumors that the Seahawks were entertaining the idea of trading Richard Sherman. The Saints were linked as one of the potential suitors that were interested in a trade, but it fell through as expected. The Saints also were interested in trading with New England for CB Malcolm Butler, but it seems unlikely that the Pats are willing to move Butler before draft day. With this pick the Saints improve upon their defense even more, and are able to get a big bodied, long wing-span corner in a similar mold of Richard Sherman. King is imposing when you look at his size, but his performance at the combine showed off his speed as well. New Orleans plays in the division with arguably the best quarterback play across the board and the 6-foot-3 corner can help the Saints keep up with the rest of the NFC South.