With all underclassmen declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and the order of the first 30 picks already set in stone its time for our first mock draft of the year. We’ve already offered up several updated versions of our prospect rankings and we’ll have more of those coming fast in the upcoming weeks.
As the NFL season comes to a close with only the Super Bowl left it’s time to look at the next crop of talents and where they could fall in the first round.
Mind you this is not a Big Board or how we would rank the prospects. Rather this a projection of what each team might do as things presently stand prior to the free agency period.
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Browns will have an interesting conundrum; take the best player available or finally snatch up their quarterback of the future? Considering how Cleveland approached things in 2016 they’re unlikely to force a pick on a signal-caller in this type of class.
Primarily because there’s Garrett around, a phenomenal talent with exceptional length, explosiveness, and the agility to bend the edge.
He has the potential to be a double-digit sack guy for a long time and could be a key part of the Browns nucleus for the next decade. A building block type pick for a franchise that’s desperate for talent everywhere.
2. San Francisco 49ers – DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The 9ers have the same conundrum that faces Cleveland, with a roster that’s depleted of high-level talent and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Watson isn’t a top pick based on his arm talent. But his intangibles, poise, and cold-blooded assassin type execution in the big moments really stand out.
Much will depend on what the future San Francisco head coach – likely Kyle Shanahan – wants to do. But for now, Watson’s leadership qualities make him the pick here.
3. Chicago Bears – Deshone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Few prospects are as different as Kizer and Watson. Kizer has tons of upside and at one time or another has shown all the necessary qualities to be a high-end prospect at the position. The problem is that was mostly at the beginning of the year. He slowly fell apart as things progressed and his flashes of brilliance became fewer and fewer. In the NFL, when there’s a prospect with the upside that Kizer possesses one often takes the risk.
He’d be a local prospect for the Bears who have struggled mightily behind center. Kizer is a developmental pick with high-end upside.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Jaguars are supposedly sticking with Blake Bortles in hopes that the offense can get back to the promise they showed in 2015. Adding a talent such as Fournette could go a long way in fixing things offensively for the Jags.
Fournette might not be as well-round as Ezekiel Elliott and he doesn’t have the long speed that Todd Gurley possesses but he’s bigger, just as explosive and a force of nature when taking on contact. Fournette isn’t just a powerful runner, he’s a bulldozer. He doesn’t break tackles, he flattens defenders. He’s a truly rare and special talent.
If his medicals check out at the Combine after a final collegiate season marred by injuries. He could be a franchise-altering talent for the Jags.
5. Tennessee Titans (from the Los Angeles Rams) – Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
The Titans would be delighted to have Allen drop into their laps at this pick. Tennessee really needs a star receiver but with a wealth of picks, they don’t need to force a need this early. They’re also in need of more playmakers on defense and adding Allen to their front would be a huge get.
On a unit full of NFL talent at Alabama N. 93 stood out amongst all for his relentlessness, power, and ability to constantly be around the ball – and/or constantly in the opposing backfield. In the Titans three man front opposite Jurrell Casey Tennessee would have a devastating pair to anchor their defense.
6. New York Jets – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The Jets are another team in the mix for a quarterback and given how things have fallen here they could consider Mitch Trubisky – who might not be an ideal fit in a bad weather environment after his horrible outing in the rain against Virginia Tech.
There are other issues in New York beyond who’s under center and Todd Bowles defense requires high-level corners on the boundaries for everything else to work. With Darrelle Revis’ skills declining and no one of real worth opposite him, Lattimore would be a fantastic pick.
Not the most polished but Lattimore has huge talent surpassing former teammate Eli Apple’s, who went to the other team in the Big Apple last season. Fast, physical, and with great ball skills Lattimore would be the ideal boundary corner to get the best out of the Jets defensive scheme.
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State
The Chargers have some intriguing talent on the defensive side but their safety group needs an upgrade since Eric Weddle’s departure to the Baltimore Ravens. Enter Hooker another Buckeye redshirt sophomore who’s dripping with potential.
Hooker’s greatest quality is his speed and instincts allowing him to cover the entire length of the field, making him an elite center field type who can create interceptions all around. He’s also a willing tackler who will come downhill and make plays against the run.
Still young and inexperienced Hooker would be a huge upgrade for the Chargers defense.
8. Carolina Panthers – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
The Panthers lost a bit of their defensive bite with some lacking pressure up front in 2016. The defensive end position has seen some turnover the last few seasons and Kony Ealy didn’t perform as hoped this year.
Thomas’ stock is scorching hot right now as the rest of the world is finding out what those of us out west have known for a while. Thomas is at his best in a three-man front being able to explode off the line and use his natural gifts to wreck havoc in opposing backfields. Meaning Carolina will have to be creative with him as he’s not a classic outside rusher. But he fits their more physical powerful style and with their tackles contracts up for renewal as well the Panthers might need an end who can double as an inside rusher.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
The Bengals have often neglected the inside backer spot sticking with low-cost players who don’t exactly excel in the speed department. Foster has lost some weight this past season to maximize his athletic gifts and it’s really paid off.
A downhill destroyer who covers the entire field, Foster quickly closes down plays and is a masterful tackler in space. He’s also a dangerous blitzer and has shown himself to be good in coverage as well.
A rare complete inside linebacker that’s worthy of this high a pick. Cincinnati could choose to neglect the position again, but Foster’s talent might be too tantalizing to pass up.
10. Buffalo Bills – Jamal Adams, SS, LSU
The Bills have lots of things they need to figure out this offseason, first and foremost their decision with their quarterback. Like the Jets, they could be in the running for Trubisky but Adams would be a much better value.
Buffalo needs assistance on the back end of their ‘D’ and could go several different ways with this pick but the Tigers playmaker just makes too much sense. This safety has a complete game and can be used as a high-safety and cover in the slot. But when used close to the line or in the box things turn up a notch. Supremely athletic downhill he quickly reads and closes down plays with destructive tackles. A fun player to watch.
11. New Orleans Saints – Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
The Saints had a revolving door at cornerback and should be happy with just about anyone who’s still available in this incredibly deep class.
Jones hasn’t received as much attention as his tape warrants, but he’s the most complete cornerback in this class; man, zone, press, off, he’s great in it all with really good instinct and ball hawking skills. This guy blankets opposing receivers and takes them out of the game.
He’s also an accomplished tackler and will force the ball out when he has the chance. Jones doesn’t have elite size so testing will be key for him. But his tape certainly warrants this high a selection.
12. Cleveland Browns (from the Philadelphia Eagles) – Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC
Trubisky finally gets taken and it’ll be interesting to see if the stats-laden Browns front office is willing to pull the trigger on a prospect who’s only started for one season.
The questions as to whether Trubisky can play in the Browns winter weather are also going to arise, but Mitch is an Ohio kid which might help quell some doubts.
When he’s on, Trubisky has the best accuracy in the class over the short to intermediate in addition to good size and impressive feet when navigating or escaping the pocket.
He’s still a bit unpolished and comes from an offense that doesn’t translate to the NFL so he’ll face some questions. Not to mention he’s been rather inconsistent against the best defenses he’s faced which could hurt his stock, but the tools are there.
With all the picks they have Cleveland is bound to take another quarterback to develop at some point either here or in the second round.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
Opposite Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals haven’t had all that much depth and talent at corner lately. Add Tabor to the mix and all of a sudden there aren’t nearly as many spots to pick on that Cardinals defense. There are other needs on this roster but given how the board fell and the depth of talented cornerbacks in this class it’s a logical choice.
Tabor isn’t all that big but he’s sticky in coverage thanks to his fluid movement and top end speed. He’ll also make you pay when the ball’s throw his way with some sweet instincts and ball skills.
His tape is better than former teammate and 11th overall pick Vernon Hargreaves III, a great value pick here.
14. Indianapolis Colts – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
This is such a typical Colts pick, ignoring all else and simply adding playmakers on offense. Cook would finally give Andrew Luck a running back who could carry some of the offensive load and force defenses to key in on something other than Indy’s QB.
The Seminoles all-time rushing leader has superb speed and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the rock. He’s also a valuable asset as a receiver out the backfield.
In a good defensive draft with plenty of depth, the Colts might actually need to make this pick to diversify the offensive plan to get back atop the AFC South.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from the Minnesota Vikings) – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Williams just had a stellar season with the Tigers and is a dominant big bodied receiver on contested catches. Even more impressive he did so coming off a scary neck injury that held him out for the entire 2015 season.
The injury on top of his speed and ability to create separation will be the big question marks for Williams. Potentially he could go higher but those are important questions that will need answering through the draft process. For a team looking to add offensive weapons and a big target down the sideline Clemson’s top receiver is a fine choice at this point.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
The pass-rushing duo of Elvis Dummerville and Terrell Suggs is starting to let up a bit and though Baltimore has a few intriguing developmental pieces behind them there’s still need to restore the outside rush.
McKinley is a long armed edge rusher who chases down quarterbacks with a relentless attitude. The former Bruin was in the opposing backfield constantly this past season and is an extremely productive player, with terrific athletic gifts; a great get off and some nice bendiness to get around the edge.
17. Washington Redskins – Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan
Peppers is much higher on my board but he isn’t for everyone as he’ll have to adapt from the LB/S hybrid position he played this past season at Michigan and focus on being a defensive back.
Luckily he’s been asked to do lots for the Wolverines and has shown himself capable in several aspects of the game. As a strong safety playing in the box, his athleticism and instincts would shine as he could play a similar role to what he did in college.
Washington needs to add talent at the safety spot and Peppers versatility combined with his elite traits would be just another piece to what’s slowly turning into a nice group in the nation’s capitol.
18.Tennessee Titans – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Tennessee gets its wideout with their second first-round pick and it’s still a top talent. Davis was the start of WMU’s undefeated regular season and has been a star collegiate athlete for the last couple years.
While lacking Williams’ gigantic size he’s a more complete and adapt receiver to being a true N. 1 on the outside. He has nice hands, is plenty big, runs smooth routes, and can gain yards after the catch. Davis has very few weaknesses in his game and would be a great target to add to the Titans budding offense.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett is a very complete player who’s improved quite a bit in becoming a more well rounded edge defender. Barnett has always been a productive pass rusher but he also showed some improved get off skills and ability to bend and turn the corner this season.
The Buccaneers have done well in adding Noah Spence and Barnett on the opposite end could really turn into a nice duo for years to come.
20. Denver Broncos – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
The Broncos will have several options here with the most pressing of all being on the offensive line. Unfortunately, in a weak class that would be a reach this early. Denver also needs to add talent all over the offense. A group that’s lacking in playmakers aside from the outside receivers.
McCaffrey is versatile and fills many needs, the biggest being speed and playmaking ability. As a runner, he’s a bit undersized but also has deceptive power combined with excellent vision and agility to make defenders miss. He’s also a big-time weapon as a receiver and could be turned into a slot receiver in crucial downs another area of need in Denver.
He’s also a phenomenal returner which is often an offense’s best friend. Find ways to get McCaffrey touches and he’ll make good things happen.
21. Detroit Lions – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Charlton’s coming off a phenomenal season that he finished with a bang by dominating against Ohio State and then in his bowl game against Florida State. Charlton’s a long defensive end who plays bigger than his size.
In Detroit’s 43 front he’d be perfect opposite Ezekiel Ansah bringing a varied arsenal of moves including a dangerous spin move to form an intimidating bookend pair on the line.
22. Miami Dolphins – Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
The Dolphins have been very short on talent at linebacker and Cunningham would be a fantastic fit in what they’re looking for.
The leader of the Vandy defense, Cunningham has great instincts, sideline-to-sideline speed, and is very equipped in coverage.
His talents make him worthy of going even higher than this though the need for inside linebackers might not be all that great, Miami would be delighted to sweep him up and plug him in as a three-down player in their scheme.
23. New York Giants – Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
McDowell has seen his stock slip quite a bit after a disappointing season in which he had inconsistent tape after a really strong sophomore campaign. But his talent is still that of a first rounder and if he can get his motor to run a bit more consistently while playing with better leverage he could be a special player.
In Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, he could be moved around similar to Justin Tuck in the good ol’ days. That could really take the G-men’s defense to the next level.
24. Oakland Raiders – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Oakland’s defense needs to catch up with the offense and the cornerback crop in this class should be just what the doctor ordered. Humphrey is another of these talented redshirt sophomores that possess great natural gifts.
He’s long and is a great tackler on top of being an accomplished defender in zone coverage as he reads the action well and closes quickly on the ball. Some questions have been raised about his ability to turn and run, though he’s always showed up in the tape I’ve studied.
This would be a great pick for Oakland.
25. Houston Texans – Ryan Ramczyk, LT, Wisconsin
Ramczyk has surprisingly risen all the way to the top of the offensive tackle rankings after only one season of major college football.
Reports that he’ll eventually require hip surgery to a nagging injury that he played with could significantly alter his stock but franchise left tackles are always in need and that’s the type of upside the former Badger has. Lengthy and strong aginst the run, Ramczyk is most impressive for his sound fundamentals and balance in pass protection. If the Texans are willing to use their pick on a prospect they might have to wait on post-surgery this could prove to be a great decision down the road.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Robinson has lots of natural tools but his on-field inconsistencies, sloppy technique, and pension for penalties have seen him drop down boards. Given the need for tackles in the league right now and Robinson’s potential, he could higher than this but his tape certainly wouldn’t merit it.
Seattle’s shown a willingness to take on reclamation projects like the Tide’s starting left tackle having selected Germain Ifedi in the 2016 draft. They still need lots more help and Robinson projects as a much better fit on the left side than the former Aggie.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
The Chiefs have already added a great player on the line in Chirs Jones in 2016. With Dontari Poe hitting free agency and little depth otherwise Adams could make a difference regardless of what happens with the current nose tackle.
The Auburn product is very strong at the point of attack and uses his strong long arms well to keep linemen disengaged, making him a force against the run. He’s also mobile for his size and will create push inside the pocket. He wouldn’t be a classic nose tackle replacement but could be moved around in KC’s three man front.
28. Dallas Cowboys – David Njoku, TE, Miami
The Cowboys are much better off than anyone would have imagined going into the season. Their defense still needs to add talent but Njoku’s upside at this point in the mock is too tantalizing to pass up.
With the identity that Dallas is creating offensively focusing on running first and making defenses pay with play action, a complete tight end is important and Jason Witten won’t be around forever. The former Hurrican is a hell of an athlete and a big-time weapon in the red zone while also being an effective in-line blocker.
Another talented piece like Njoku would make this offense that much more difficult to defend against.
29. Green Bay Packers – Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama
The Packers will have outside linebacker Nick Perry hit the free agent market unless they decide to franchise him and they’ve been in need of more bodies at linebacker for a while now. Ideally, they’d find someone for the interior but Anderson’s diverse skill set could help them as a jack of all trades backer who’s ideal in a 34 defensive scheme.
Anderson has a quick first step creating tons of plays for the Tide this season but he’s also been effective versus the run not to mention when dropped back in coverage.
He’s the type of player that fits what Green Bay looks for as they try to strengthen their defense.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tim Williams, OLB/EDGE, Alabama
Williams has an electric first step and is an explosive pass rusher with the skills to be a danger as an outside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 34 scheme. He’s a bit untested against the run and in coverage but he’s shown well as he’s been used more in an every down at Alabama.
His talent would merit a higher pick than this but an arrest in the offseason for an unregistered firearm and a marijuana bag found in his car has led to more reports that the weed issues might be more serious. That’s a big red flag in the league as incredible talents like Aldon Smith and Josh Gordon have burned their careers away. But others like Tyrann Mathieu and Warren Sapp have overcome their issues.
In a strong organization with a veteran locker room, Williams will have a great chance of overcoming his off field stuff. He’d be an ideal upgrade on James Harrison.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
You can never have enough corners and in a class that’s loaded the Falcons can take advantage. Atlanta is actually looking fairly good at the position once Desmond Trufant returns. However, Wilson is an ideal fit in the cover-3 press defense that the Falcons are playing and could really allow Dan Quinn’s unit to take the next step. He’s big and physical with good ball skills, all qualities that could allow him to go far higher than this.
Some more help among the d-line could also work but as things have fallen there aren’t many options. Wilson is a great system fit.
32. New England Patriots – Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
The Patriots are always one of the hardest teams to predict especially when they’re most likely to trade out of the first round. Ideally, New England finds a versatile linebacker to replace Jamie Collins or Chandler Jones but at this point, there aren’t really any who fit the bill of what the Patriots like.
With Sebastian Vollmer injured far too often and likely out in free agency the Pats have had to adjust and done so admirably. However, some added talent could seriously upgrade the entire line.
Bolles isn’t a perfect pick and would be a bit of a reach on need but value’s never seemed to matter to Bill Belichick. Bolles is 25 and played in junior college prior to starting for the Utes this year. He’s also nasty finishing blocks, has some solid ability in pass protection and is splendid when blocking on the move. In the right hands, he could be groomed into a starting tackle.