The 2017 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday night, and it is the most wonderful time of the year for speculation, as rumors about what every NFL team will do with their draft picks are running rampant. We here at SportSmasher.com have been on top of all of the rumors, and as NFL Draft experts, we feel confident in our 2017 NFL Mock Draft (final edition). This is based on the whispers that we are hearing, the rumors and innuendo, some of which are smokescreens and some of which are fact. Here are our projections:
1) Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE (6’4 272lbs) Texas A&M – The easiest pick in the draft, Myles Garrett is far and away the best player in the 2017 NFL Draft class, he is a potential superstar who is in a tier all by himself. One scout recently told me in this new crop of NFL talent, there is Myles Garrett, and there is everyone else. The Browns have been letting it leak that they are considering selecting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the first overall pick, however this is viewed as a smokescreen, which the Browns are using to hope a team that loves Trubisky makes them an offer that they cannot refuse for the first overall pick. This pick is a no-brainer, Garrett is easily the best player in the draft, not even the Cleveland Browns can screw this up. Can they?
Alternate Pick: Not all of the speculation around the Browns and Trubisky is total garbage, the Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson does really like Mitchell Trubisky, and the Browns are putting out feelers to create a scenario where they end up with Garrett and Trubisky at the end of Thursday night. Armed with 11 total picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Browns are looking into using the twelfth overall pick as well as their later round draft picks, in order to trade up and select Trubisky. One rumor is that the Browns have had discussions with the New York Jets, and if Mitchell Trubisky is still on the board when the Jets are on the clock with the sixth selection, the Jets could trade down from the sixth to the twelfth spot (picking up an additional second round pick and mid-round pick for their troubles), allowing the Browns to draft Mitchell Trubisky sixth overall.
2) San Francisco 49ers – Mitchell Trubisky, QB (6’2 222lbs) North Carolina – The 49ers are desperately trying to trade down, but they have let other teams know that if they stay put, their likely pick will be UNC quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. This might be a smokescreen, as the 49ers are hoping that a team that loves Trubisky will panic, and trade up with the 49ers in order to select him. Trubisky is a good player, he has a quick release and quelled fears that he was smaller than advertised at the NFL Combine, when he measured in at 6’2. Trubisky compares favorably to Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan explored trading for earlier this offseason, so in this scenario Shanahan gets a younger version of Cousins that he can try to develop into a star.
Alternate Pick: The 49ers know that 2017 is going to be a rebuilding year, with a work-in-progress roster in a difficult division, so picking a quarterback at the top of the 2017 NFL Draft might be a mistake. The 49ers could take the best player available, which would likely be LSU running back Leonard Fournette or Standford pass rusher Solomon Thomas, and then start Matt Barkley or Brian Hoyer for the upcoming season. If the 49ers have a terrible year, as expected, they can select their quarterback of the future at the top of the 2018 NFL Draft from a much stronger class of quarterback prospects. If Shanahan and general manager John Lynch really feel the need to select a developmental prospect, he could select a quarterback like Davis Webb or Nate Peterman in the middle rounds of the draft, and look to fortify another position with the second overall pick. One scout for another NFL team thinks that the 49ers will draft Patrick Mahomes here, which would be shocking, but he is flying up draft boards.
3) Chicago Bears – Jamal Adams, S (6’ 214lbs) LSU – The Chicago Bears need to upgrade their defense, and in this scenario they draft a tone setter who is not only a great prospect as a player, but also a leader on and off the field. Jamal Adams is a second generation player, the hard hitting safety out of LSU is highly regarded for not only his physical play, but also his leadership abilities and the fact that he was the quarterback of the LSU defense. The Chicago Bears have a huge hole at safety, and adding a player as gifted as Adams from both a mental and physical standpoint would immediately upgrade a defense that has some promising young players, but could use a general in the defensive backfield.
Alternate Pick: The Bears could take Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who would also fill an immediate need in their defensive front seven, but teams are scared about Jonathan Allen’s multiple shoulder surgeries which could cause him to slide during the draft. The Bears also could take Ohio State safety Malik Hooker here, who is more of a centerfielder than Jamal Adams, but Hooker had two surgeries this offseason and struggles at open field tackling. While Hooker might make more spectacular plays than Adams, Adams is a better overall prospect on my board, he is solid all around and has better intangibles thank Hooker. I also heard a ridiculous rumor that Clemson quarterback DeShawn Watson would not fall past the Bears at third overall, I hope that they meant in the second round, because Watson could still be available and the Bears just spent a lot of money on free agent quarterback Mike Glennon so drafting a quarterback third overall would be absurd.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars – Solomon Thomas, DE (6’3 273lbs) Stanford– The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Tom Coughlin as their Executive Vice President Of Football Operations, and as Tom Coughlin proved when he won two Super Bowls as head coach of the New York Giants, you can never have enough pass rushers. The Jaguars do have some young pass rushers with potential, including Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue, but Tom Coughlin is really going to want to pressure the quarterback with the addition of Solomon Thomas will help the Jaguars do just that. Suddenly a defensive front that includes Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Dante Fowler, Yannick Ngakoue and Solomon Thomas in a rotation could be the best defensive line in the league. Thomas has double-digit sack potential, and in a division in which the Jaguars will be facing Andrew Luck and Marcus Mariota twice per season for the next decade, they need to rush the passer.
Alternate Pick: Many experts seem to think that the Jaguars will be selecting LSU running back Leonard Fournette with this pick, however with Tom Coughlin calling the shots, I do not see that happening. During Tom Coughlin’s successful run with the Giants, the team never addressed running back early in the draft, and hit some home runs (like Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw) in the later rounds. There are rumors that the Jaguars will focus heavily on offense in this draft, as they spent a lot of money in free agency to fix their defense, I could see Alabama tight end O.J. Howard being a player that would be right up Tom Coughlin’s alley due to his combination of run blocking skill and pass catching ability.
5) Tennessee Titans – O.J. Howard, TE (6’6 251lbs) Alabama – The Tennessee Titans need to upgrade quarterback Marcus Mariota’s weapons this offseason, and while they have an excellent tight end in Delanie Walker, he is now 32-years-old. O.J. Howard is more than just a tight end, he is a true weapon in the passing game, who can stretch the field and make big plays by running after the catch. The Titans also love to pound the ball in the running game with running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, O.J. Howard is an excellent blocker, he will make the Titans offense more dangerous both in the running and passing games. He will also give Marcus Mariota a big target in the red zone, which the Titans were missing in 2016, Howard will help Mariota’s development and could take the quarterback to the next level.
Alternate Pick: The Titans need to upgrade their wide receivers, at this point their starts look to be Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe, however there is not a Calvin Johnson level talent in this draft that is worth the fifth overall pick. The Titans are also known to be looking to upgrade their secondary, and while they added free agents cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Jonathan Cyprien this offseason, they could still look to add youth and speed here by drafting a safety like Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker or a cornerback like Marcus Lattimore. In this scenario, defensive tackle Jonathan Allen falls into the Tennessee Titans laps, he would be an excellent fit in the Titans defensive scheme.
6) New York Jets – Leonard Fournette, RB (6’ 240lbs) LSU – The New York Jets seem to be getting themselves ready for a complete rebuild, they are jettisoning veterans, and seem to be starting from scratch. In New York, you have to give the fans and the media a glimmer of hope, and in this scenario the Jets draft a potential superstar in Leonard Fournette. At 240lbs, Leonard Fournette ran a ridiculous 4.51 40-yard-dash at the NFL combine, and one scout remarked to me that he looked flabby. The scout remarked, just think about how explosive Fournette will be when an NFL team gets him in shape, the way the Steelers got Le’Veon Bell in shape. The Jets seem like they will be treating 2016 as a tank year, as they try to get themselves into position to draft a star quarterback at the top of the 2018 NFL Draft, and what is a young quarterback’s best friend? A monster running back who can carry the load. Draft Fournette, sell some Fournette jerseys in New York, and start your rebuilding process with a potential star.
Alternate Pick: The Jets could draft a defensive back like Marshon Lattimore, Malik Hooker or Jamal Adams. The Jets are also viewed as one of the teams most likely to trade down in the 2017 NFL Draft, because they need help everywhere, and could use the additional picks. There are rumors that, if quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is still on the board, the Jets will trade the sixth overall pick to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for the twelfth overall pick as well as a second round pick and a mid-round pick. The Jets are known to covet Missouri pass rusher Charles Harris, who has been one of the hottest named in the draft over the last few days, and he could be the pick for the Jets at twelfth overall if this trade does go down.
7) Los Angeles Chargers – Jonathan Allen, DL (6’3 286lbs) Alabama – The Los Angles Chargers can put up points offensively, but they cannot stop anybody, they need to be focusing on rebuilding their defense in the 2017 NFL Draft. In this scenario, the Chargers get extremely lucky, as arguably the top defensive player in the entire draft falls into their laps at seventh overall. Jonathan Allen is an absolute monster, he is a stout defensive lineman who stuffs the run, and while he is not a pure pass rusher he can get penetration on passing downs. The Chargers will have the best young defensive line in the NFL if the draft breaks like this, with Joey Bosa and Jonathan Allen, it will be near impossible to block the Chargers up front. The only reason that Allen falls a bit is concerns about his shoulder injuries, if the 49ers are not concerned about Allen’s shoulders, he could go as early as second overall.
Alternate Pick: The Chargers are in a good spot here, they can sit back and add the best defensive player on their board, they are known to want to upgrade safety as well which can be done in the later rounds. I feel pretty confident that the pick here will be either Jonathan Allen, Malik Hooker or Jamal Adams depending on how the board breaks. The Chargers also want to upgrade their offensive line, however the offensive line class is extremely weak in the 2017 NFL Draft, and there are no players worthy of a selection here.
8) Carolina Panthers – Christian McCaffery, RB (5’11 202lbs) Stanford – There were rumors that the Carolina Panthers are very interested in LSU running back Leonard Fournette, and at one point were considering trading up to select him, however since then they have fallen in love with Stanford running back Christian McCaffery. I am now hearing that the Panthers love McCaffery so much that, even if Fournette falls into their laps at eighth overall McCaffery still might be the pick over Fournette. The Panthers need more weapons for quarterback Cam Newton, they love the fact that McCaffery is so versatile, he can help the Panthers score points in numerous ways. McCaffery is a skilled running back, but he is also the best punt returner in the draft, and when he worked out with the slot receivers at the combine he outperformed them all. The Panthers are set on the outside, with tall wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess, as well as tight end Greg Olsen, but McCaffery can help them in multiple facets of the game which the Panthers love. I have been told that at team in the top fifteen, likely the Philadelphia Eagles, have given McCaffery a guarantee at which point he canceled his visits to all non-top fifteen teams. I also know that whichever team gave McCaffery his top-fifteen guarantee does not expect McCaffery to be available when they are on the clock, because the Panthers like him so much.
Alternate Pick: The Carolina Panthers need to upgrade cornerback, and the best cornerback in the draft Marshon Lattimore is still available in this scenario, however this draft is extremely deep at cornerback and the Panthers can afford to wait and select a cornerback in the later rounds. The Panthers also need to improve their protection of quarterback Cam Newton, I did not like their big money signing of oft-injured left tackle Matt Kalil, but this draft is very weak along the offensive line unless the Panthers want to take massive Alabama tackle Cam Robinson here.
9) Cincinnati Bengals – Mike Williams, WR (6’4 218lbs) Clemson – The Cincinnati Bengals had a major problem during the 2016 NFL season, their two top options in the passing game A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert both missed significant time with injuries, and without them the Bengals offense struggled to move the ball through the air. Since Mohammed Sanu left as a free agent following the 2015 NFL season, the Bengals have desperately needed a number two wide receiver, and while 2016 rookie Tyler Boyd flashed some potential they need to give Andy Dalton another option in the passing game. Veteran Brandon LaFell is not the answer, so in this scenario, the Bengals get a major upgrade, and select Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams. I have my doubts that Mike Williams will ever be a true number one receiver in the NFL due to his lack of straight line speed, but as a number two option across from A.J. Green, Williams would be truly terrifying. With teams focused on Green, Williams would be open all day long, and he also adds another big target for Andy Dalton along the goal line.
Alternate Pick: The Bengals lost two good offensive linemen in free agency, in guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Andrew Whitworth, and while they brought back Andre Smith and have young players like Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi ready to step up, they may look to draft a lineman here who is ready to step in and start right away. That player would likely be Cam Robinson in this slot, who could start at guard, then transition outside to right and maybe left tackle. The Bengals could also look for a pass rusher, a player like Derek Barnett, Solomon Thomas or Taco Charlton could be intriguing here. The Bengals are rumored to be looking to draft another running back, but unless Leonard Fournette were to fall into their laps, I would expect them to wait until the later rounds.
10) Buffalo Bills – John Ross, WR (5’11 188lbs) Washington – The Buffalo Bills need to address wide receiver during the 2017 NFL Draft, they rely far too much on often injured Sammy Watkins in the passing game, and they have to provide Tyrod Taylor with weapons in the passing game in order for him to succeed. I have heard that the new regime in Buffalo wants to bring explosiveness to the passing game, and if that’s the case, there is not a more explosive player in the draft than former Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross who ran a ridiculous 4.22 40-yard-dash at the NFL combine. We have seen speed guys become busts in the NFL before, but John Ross is much more than a workout warrior, he is an incredible football player who caught 81 passes for 1150 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2016. The addition of the most explosive player in the draft would make the Bills offense frightening to face each and every week. Bills fans might hope that Mike Williams falls to them with this selection, but in terms of fit, I think John Ross brings the Bills a lot more of what they lack. The speed of Ross will have to be accounted for by an opposing defense on every single play, his ability to take the top of the defense will open up the rest of the passing game, which will make things much easier for quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Alternate Pick: The Buffalo Bills get their 2016 first round pick defensive end Shaq Lawson (who was limited to 10 games due to a shoulder injury) and their 2016 second round pick inside linebacker Reggie Ragland (who missed the entire season with a torn ACL) back healthy in 2017, so they upgrade in the defensive front seven, prior to the draft. The Bills could use some offensive line depth, as well as adding players in a secondary that lost Stephon Gilmore to the Patriots in free agency, but these positions can be addressed in later rounds especially the cornerback which is very deep in this class. The Bills are also viewed as one of the most likely candidates to trade up, apparently they like players such as quarterback Mitch Trubisky and tight end O.J. Howard, but know they may have to move up to get them.
11) New Orleans Saints – Taco Charlton, (6’6 277lbs) Michigan – The New Orleans Saints are tired of letting Drew Brees down from a defensive standpoint, it seems like the offense put up huge numbers every season, but the Saints stink because they cannot stop anybody defensively. One big problem with the Saints defensively has been that, other than Cameron Jordan who had 7.5 sacks in 2016, they get zero pass rush off the edge. In a loaded class, the Saints should select the best pass rusher available when they are on the clock, and in this scenario that player is Taco Charlton. I was told by a scout that Taco Charlton is going to hear his name called earlier than people expect, and that although he is not a standout in any one area, he is solid all around and should be a great NFL defender against the run and the pass. Taco Charlton reminds me of former New York Giants great Justin Tuck, and all he did was help the Giants win two Super Bowls, if you need help on defense and can take a three down defensive lineman who is effective in all facets of the game eleventh overall you have to do it.
Alternate Pick: The New Orleans Saints traded star wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots for first and third round draft picks, a trade which upset a lot of Saints fans, but it really does make sense. The Saints have a lot of weapons on offense, and while Cooks had some huge games in 2016, he did not produce consistently. There were several games last season where the Saints put up a lot of points, like when the Saints hung 49 points on the Rams on 11/27/2016, but Cooks had zero catches and sulked afterwards. Cooks is due a huge contract extension before he becomes a free agent in 2019, he was not an intricate part of the Saints success, and the Saints were not a good team with him. Since Cooks had a ton of trade value, and the Saints need to overhaul their defense if they want to contend again before Drew Brees retires, this trade makes sense. The Saints need so much help defensively, they could wait on a pass rusher, and select a cornerback at twelve. It sounds like the long rumored trade of Malcolm Butler from the Patriots to the Saints is not going to happen. Also, the Saints officially signed Adrian Peterson to a two-year $7 million contract, so running back depth is no longer a need. Expect the Saints to draft defense, defense, defense. The Saints also like Temple linebacker Hasson Reddick, a fast-rising prospect, so he is an option here.
12) Cleveland Browns – Patrick Mahomes, (6’2 225lbs) Texas Tech – Everyone knows the Browns like Mitch Trubisky, and while they will take Myles Garrett first overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, they are reported to be considering trading up in an attempt to get both players. I would advise the Browns not to trade up for Trubisky, the 2017 NFL Draft is deep, and they have so many needs to fill with their 11 picks. If the Browns sit tight, and stay at twelve, there is a chance Trubisky falls to them if the 49ers pass (however the Bills would likely jump on him at 12). Quietly, another rumor that has been discussed is the Browns being very intrigued with the leading passer in college football last season, Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Browns recently worked out Mahomes, head coach Hue Jackson said that he wants to throw the ball downfield, and Mahomes does that better than any quarterback in the draft. Mahomes is a gunslinger, he takes risks and he will make mistakes early in his career, but his big arm and athletic ability give him star potential. There are major questions about Mahomes, he comes from the Air Raid offense, and multiple players coming from that system have struggled to adjust to the NFL. Hue Jackson is considered by many to be a quarterback guru, he gambles on the potential of Mahomes here, a player that is expected to come off the board than experts predict. Mahomes has been a hot name over recent weeks, the Houston Texans are known to covet him, but they hold the twenty-fifth pick and I have been told there is “no chance” Mahomes makes it to twenty-five.
UPDATE: The Browns secondary target is Trubisky, they have spoken to three teams in the top eight about trading up if Trubisky is on the board, but their 2018 first round pick is (smartly) off the table. In fact the Browns do not want to trade the first pick of the second round (33rd overall) in order to move up, at the present time, they are offering their second second round draft pick in 2017, combined with mid-round picks in each of the next two drafts. The Browns do not believe the 49ers will take Trubisky second overall, but the 49ers are playing this draft close to the vest, and nobody is sure what they will do. The 49ers are clearly trying to get the Browns to panic, and either pass on the best player in the draft by far Myles Garrett first overall in order to get Trubiksy, or make the 49ers an offer they cannot refuse to obtain the second overall pick so the Browns can draft Garrett first overall and Trubisky second overall.
Alternate Pick: The Browns have so many needs that they can really go many different directions here, I would like to add that I have loved the Browns offseason, especially their decision to rebuild the offensive line in free agency by adding guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter. The Browns could select a cornerback, but in a deep class, they can also afford to wait. The Browns need help at wide receiver, but they signed Kenny Britt, and you have to wonder if they will finally get Josh Gordon back. The Browns will do the right thing and select Myles Garrett first overall, then with their second first round pick I expect them to select a quarterback, possibly in a trade up scenario.
13) Arizona Cardinals – Marshon Lattimore, CB (6’ 193lbs) Ohio State – The Arizona Cardinals need to find a starting cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson, and in this scenario, the best cornerback in the draft falls into their laps at thirteenth overall. Lattimore falls a bit in the draft due to his troublesome hamstrings, which often bothered him at Ohio State, but he also falls a bit because the cornerback class is absolutely loaded with depth which makes cornerback needy teams think they can wait on the position. Marshon Lattimore has the best cover skills in the draft, and he is graded slightly ahead of his teammate Gareon Conley, who is also likely to be selected in the first round.
Alternate Pick: The Arizona Cardinals are looking to find another talented wide receiver, who can learn the ropes from the legendary Larry Fitzgerald, who will turn 34-years-old before the start of the 2017 season. The Cardinals know that 2017 may be Fitzgerald’s final season, so they need to start upgrading the wide receiver corps, because the depth chart looks pretty bleak without Fitz at the top of it. If Mike Williams were to fall to this slot, the Cardinals would likely have a hard time passing him up, and they might consider John Ross or Corey Davis if they are available. The Cardinals are also known to be looking for the successor to their 37-year-old quarterback Carson Palmer in this draft, but I do not expect them to use a first round pick on a quarterback, I think they can wait until the second round and select a big pocket passer like DeShone Kizer or Davis Webb to become Palmer’s heir apparent.
UPDATE: As noted later in this mock draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers are allegedly very interested in making DeShone Kizer the heir apparent to Ben Roethlisberger, so if the Cardinals love Kizer, it could be smart to trade down if possible and select him in the first round. Good cornerbacks will be available for the Cardinals in the second round if they take a quarterback in the first round.
14) Philadelphia Eagles – Marlon Humphrey, CB (6’ 197lbs) Alabama – The Philadelphia Eagles need to find a shutdown cornerback who can match up with a team’s number one wide receiver, and that’s what they do here, and they get a very good cornerback prospect in Marlon Humphrey. There were rumors that Humphrey could slide a bit due to the fact that his play was a bit inconsistent, but when he was matched up with USC star wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster he held him to one catch for nine yards, he stepped up and played his best in the biggest games for the Crimson Tide.
NOTE: I initially had the Philadelphia Eagles selecting Ohio State University cornerback Gareon Conley here, but as I was getting set to publish this mock draft, it was announced that Gareon Conley was accused of raping a woman at a Cleveland hotel. Unless Conley is exonerated within the next 48 hours, he may not be drafted at all, let along be a top fifteen pick as initially projected.
Alternate Pick: The Philadelphia Eagles could go a number of routes with this pick, but after filling their biggest need in free agency by signing wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, most agree that the Eagles will be picking defense in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Eagles could draft a pass rusher here, or safety Malik Hooker who is surprisingly still on the board, but cornerback is arguably their biggest need and in this scenario they select the top cornerback available. I have heard that a team slotted between ten and fifteen gave Christian McCaffery a guarantee at which point he canceled the rest of his visits, many speculate that that team was the Philadelphia Eagles, however scouts no longer expect McCaffery to be available at this point.
15) Indianapolis Colts – Malik Hooker, S (6’1 206lbs) Ohio State – It is surprising that Malik Hooker is still on the board in this scenario, but he is out for 4-6 months following shoulder and hernia surgery, which causes him to slide a bit on draft day. A ball hawking safety, Hooker had 74 tackles and seven interceptions in 2016, his first season as a starter for the Buckeyes. There are some issues with Hooker’s game, he is not the best tackler in the open field and is certainly not a big hitter, but his ability to make plays in the passing game from a defensive standpoint is second-to-none in this draft. The Colts need game changers, their roster around Andrew Luck is devoid of depth and talent after some horrible personnel decisions by the previous regime, adding a centerfielder with the skill of Malik Hooker would be a huge upgrade to the backend of the Colts defense.
Alternate Pick: The Colts need to upgrade their pass rush, but they tried to do so in free agency, by signing a trio of pass rushers in John Simon, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo. They also added former New York Giants defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins as a free agent. We here that the Colts are also intrigued by two linebackers, Alabama’s Reuben Foster and Temple’s Hasson Reddick, so each of these players could be an option. The Colts also need to find a running back, the only players on their roster are the ageless Frank Gore and Josh Ferguson, however there is not enough talent on their roster to make a luxury pick on a running back in the first round. There is plenty of depth at running back in this draft, the Colts can find good players in the middle rounds, they have too many holes to fill to select one early. Also, as always the Colts need to upgrade their offensive line to protect Andrew Luck, with Cam Robinson surprisingly on the board he could be the pick.
16) Baltimore Ravens – Cam Robinson, OT (6’6 322lbs) Alabama – There are a number of routes the Baltimore Ravens could go with this pick, however they lost right tackle Ricky Wagner in free agency, and they cannot risk entering the 2017 season without being able to protect Joe Flacco. In this scenario they draft massive Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson, who may not have the quickness to develop into a left tackle in the NFL, but who should be a starter at right tackle right away. Robinson was a three year starter at Alabama, he is an excellent run blocker, and paired with left tackle Ronnie Stanley he would give the Ravens bookend tackles on the offensive line for years to come.
Alternate Pick: Quarterback Joe Flacco clearly needs more targets in the passing game, and the Ravens are lacking at wide receiver especially after the retirement of Steve Smith. The only wide receivers of note on the Ravens roster are promising Breshad Perriman and soon-to-be 31-year-old Mike Wallace, after that the Ravens have names like Chris Moore, Kenny Bell and Vince Mayle. If Mike Williams were to fall to the Ravens here, he would be a no-brainer pick, however the Ravens could select John Ross or Corey Davis and the Ravens are determined to draft a wide receiver they could be the pick. Corey Davis to the Ravens does intrigue me, and I nearly went with that pick. The Ravens also could use another young pass rusher, they drafted Kamalei Correa last year, but rely too much on Terrell Suggs who will soon be 35-years-old.
17) Washington Redskins – Reuben Foster, LB (6’ 229lbs) Alabama –The Redskins fill a need at inside linebacker, and select former Alabama Crimson Tide star Reuben Foster, one of the most polarizing players in the 2017 NFL Draft. A player that could have been a top five pick based on talent and production, Rueben Foster was sent home from the NFL combine after getting into an argument with a hospital employee, which he later explained in an apology letter to all 32 NFL teams. It was then announced that Foster tested positive for a diluted urine sample at the combine, and I thought that the combination of these incidents would cause Foster to slide out of the first round, but rumors are circulating that either the Colts or the Redskins will still select Foster if he is available. Foster is still viewed as a good kid by NFL scouts, and he is a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine, while he made some mistakes during the draft process the scouts I have talked to do not think his red flags will hurt him too badly. Based on his tape, Reuben Foster could be the steal of the draft, he is also an incredibly gifted linebacker in coverage.
Alternate Pick: I considered giving the Redskins Hasson Reddick here, another super talented linebacker, who could easily be a top ten selection. The Redskins have a lot of needs, they could use a safety so I considered UConn workout warrior Obi Melifonwu but this was too early. The Skins could also use depth at cornerback, they are thin behind Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland, and could use some youth at the position. If one of the receivers were to fall into the Redskins laps, it could be a smart addition, as they are banking on second year receiver Josh Doctson to break out, as well as Terrelle Pryor producing on a one year “prove it” deal. Finally, Ryan Kerrigan is great, but the Skins could use a true speed rusher on the outside of their defense to harass opposing quarterbacks.
18) Tennessee Titans – Corey Davis, WR (6’3 209lbs) Western Michigan – The Tennessee Titans two biggest needs are offensive weapons and the secondary, and in this scenario they already drafted Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, but they go back to the same area of need and draft another playmaker in Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis. Davis is coming off an ankle surgery which is being called minor, but he went for over 1,400 yards receiving in three consecutive seasons and scored 46 touchdowns over that span at Western Michigan, he is not just big but an excellent route runner. Corey Davis dominated the competition in college, and by adding two offensive weapons as skilled as Howard and Davis with their two first round picks, the odds of quarterback Marcus Mariota taking the next steps to stardom in 2017 will greatly increase.
Alternate Pick: The Tennessee Titans are expected to add to their secondary in the 2017 NFL Draft, but after signing cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Jonathan Cyprien in free agency, they are not forced to do so with their two first round picks. This in an incredibly deep cornerback class, which is loaded with talent in the middle rounds, the Titans could wait and grab a cornerback or safety with one of their third round picks. The corner that I have heard most associated with Tennessee is Chidobe Awuzie, CB (6’ 202lbs) Colorado, who they apparently really like. The Titans could also use another talented pass rusher during the 2017 draft, their best pass rushers are Brian Orakpo who turns 31-years-old before the start of the season and 28-year-old Derrick Morgan, adding some youth and speed on the edge would be smart.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – David Njoku, TE (6’4 246lbs) Miami – Did you know the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the only team in the NFL that did not have a pass play longer than 50 yards last season? They needed to upgrade Jameis Winston’s offensive weapons, and they already added a big play threat when they signed DeSean Jackson in free agency, Jackson had four 50 yard plus pass plays on his own. I thought the Bucs made some excellent additions in free agency, the addition of Jackson and his speed should really help open op the offense, they also added two solid veterans in defensive tackle Chris Baker and safety J.J. Wilcox at reasonable price tags. Incumbent starting tight end Cameron Brate is coming off a very productive year, but in this scenario the Bucs select what would be a major upgrade, former Miami star David Njoku. A big play threat at the tight end position, Njoku has a catch radius larger than Dez Bryant, he has long arms and was a high jump champion in high school which he displayed with his 40-inch vertical jump at hos Pro Day. Njoku is not a great blocker, but he is a big play threat in the passing game, who will give Winston another dangerous red zone threat.
Alternate Pick: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need an upgrade at running back, and I keep hearing that they love Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, but concerns have been raised about the crowd that Cook runs with and his circle of friends. One scout mentioned that it would be a big mistake for the Buccaneers to select Cook, he needs to leave Florida, and be away from his circle of friends. Luckily for the Buccaneers, this is a strong running back class, and there are good players available later. The Bucs offensive line could use some tweaking, and I still would like to see a consistent pass rusher on the roster, but the Bucs feel Noah Spence will develop into a star pass rusher next season. Other needs include depth in the secondary.
20) Denver Broncos – Garett Bolles, OT (6’5 297lbs) – The Denver Broncos offensive line was atrocious in 2016, and no matter if the quarterback is Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, the Broncos need to do a much better job in protecting their quarterback as well as opening holes in the running game. Garrett Bolles has had some issues, he was kicked out of five schools growing up and will turn 25-years-old before the start of his first NFL training camp, however he impressed during interviews at the NFL combine and has convinced teams that he has matured as a person. He is a talented player who has a nasty streak to his game, he is ready to play now, and can step in right away to upgrade the protection of whoever is under center for the Broncos in 2017.
Alternate Pick: The Broncos need to get younger along the defensive front, after the excellent Derek Wolfe, there is not a lot of talent or depth there. Players like Derek Barnett or Malik McDowell, who are still on the board in this scenario, could be very attractive to the Broncos. This is also an excellent tight end draft, and free agent acquisition Virgil Green was supposed to be the breakout star of the Broncos offense in 2016, but that did not happen. The Broncos offensive line was just so bad in 2016, and while they added a talented guard in Ronald Leary and an offensive tackle that has struggled Menelik Watson, the tackle position still needs an upgrade.
21) Detroit Lions – Derek Barnett, DE (6’3 259lbs) Tennessee – The Detroit Lions believe they are close to contending, and they made two huge additions to help protect quarterback Matthew Stafford in free agency, by signing guard T.J. Lang and tackle Ricky Wagner. The Lions defense has an elite pass rusher in Ziggy Ansah, but everyone else struggles to get to the quarterback, and they need to generate more pressure on the opposition. In this scenario, they grab Derek Barnett, a player who should be a top fifteen pick based on his tape but could slide a bit on draft day due to his measurables. Scouts are concerned about Barnett’s lack of length, and he is not as quick as some elite NFL pass rushers, but I feel he has been overanalyzed a but during the draft process because he knows how to get to the quarterback. Barnett is the all-time sack leader at Tennessee, passing a guy you may have heard of named Reggie White, he would be a huge upgrade in the Detroit front seven.
Alternate Pick: The Lions want to add speed and youth at cornerback, I almost gave them Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey here, but in a deep class they can afford to wait. I know they like USC corner Adoree Jackson, who would be a first round lock if he were a little taller, he is an excellent kick returner as well as a talented corner. The Lions should look to upgrade at running back during the 2017 NFL Draft, the best back on their roster is Theo Riddick, who does his best work as a receiver. After that, the Lions have often injured Ameer Abdullah and Zane Zenner as their top two options. The Lions could also use another wide receiver, while Marvin Jones and Golden Tate were excellent in 2016, there is not much else on the depth chart. While Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson were standouts at cornerback for the Lions in 2016, they need depth at the position, and in an excellent 2016 cornerback class it would be smart to add depth.
22) Miami Dolphins – Charles Harris, DE/OLB (6’3 253lbs) Missouri – The Miami Dolphins think that they are close to being a playoff team, they believe they have elite skill position players, and feel that they made quality roster additions which should make them a playoff contender in 2017. A big issue for the Dolphins has been their lack of a pass rush, other than 35-year-old Cameron Wake, the Dolphins do not get much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Dolphins traded for defensive end William Hayes, and resigned Andre Branch, but they need to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks in order to take the next step towards playoff contention. Enter Charles Harris, an explosive edge rusher who has racked up 16.0 sacks and four forced fumbles over the past two seasons, who has been compared to Shane Ray of the Denver Broncos who also went to Missouri. Harris will start his career as a situational pass rusher, who can play standing or with his hand in the dirt, then transition to an every down player as he develops. Harris has been a red hot name lately, the New York Jets are known to love him, and
Alternate Pick: For the reasons I noted above, I believe that the Dolphins will be selecting an edge rusher with this pick, so players like Takkarist McKinley or Derek Barnett could get the call. The Dolphins could also use young cornerback depth, Xavien Howard looks like he is going to develop into a very good corner, but they need more youth at the position. The Dolphins did sign former Steelers star linebacker Lawrence Timmons, but linebacker is still an area of need, where the Dolphins can use youth and speed.
23) New York Giants – Ryan Ramcyzk, OT (6’6 310lbs) Wisconsin – The Giants biggest problems come from their offensive line, which struggled to protect Eli Manning, as well as open up holes in the running game. In this scenario they select Ryan Ramcyzk, while it is a weak offensive tackle class, one guy who has a chance to develop into an an elite left tackle is Ryan Ramcyzk. The latest in a long line of excellent offensive line prospects out of Wisconsin, Ryan Ramcyzk is quick out of his stance and has good feet, but his shorter arms do worry me a bit. Ramcyzk also had surgery for a torn hip labrum this offseason, which kept him out of the combine, and hurt his draft stock a bit. There are other issues with Ramcyzk, he stopped playing football after high school and scouts believe that he returned to the game not because he loves it, but because it of the opportunities given to him for playing the game. NFL teams are questioning if Ramzyzk is just after NFL money, one scout said he would not be surprised to see Ramcyzk play a few years and cash a few checks, then retire young. That being said, Ramcyzk is talented enough that he could start at left tackle for the Giants from day one, which would allow them to move incumbent left tackle Ereck Flowers to the right side, where he would be a much better fit.
UPDATE: That being said, NFL Network Insider and draft guru Mike Mayock loves Ramcyzk and thinks he will be a high level starter in the league for a decade.
Alternate Pick: Many experts are predicting that the Giants will draft a linebacker here, but they have not drafted a linebacker in the first round since 1984, so I doubt that they do so (although Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis intrigues them according to sources). The Giants also need to get younger along the defensive line, while they have some depth behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon (Owa Odighizuwa, Romeo Okwara) they could use a young situational pass rusher to bring heat off the edge. However, after committing to upgrading Manning’s weapons in the passing game, a receiving tight end like O.J. Howard or David Njoku makes a ton of sense, it is a position that the Giants have neglected over recent years. It is a deep tight end draft, but Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram could be an option, or Miami’s David Njoku if he falls this far.
24) Oakland Raiders – Hasson Reddick, LB (6’1 237lbs) Temple – The Oakland Raiders were one of the most improved teams in football last season, however their weakness was right up the middle of their defense, an area which you can expect them to address during the 2017 NFL Draft. In this scenario, the Raiders get the exact type of player they need, in Hasson Reddick. One of the stars of the draft evaluation process, Hasson Reddick wowed scouts with his performance during Senior Bowl week, then had a stellar NFL combine to solidify his grade as a first round prospect. Reddick was an edge rusher in college, he will play traditional linebacker in the NFL, but he has impressed scouts with how quickly he has been able to adjust his game. Reddick flies around the field, from sideline-to-sideline, and I considered having him come off of the board as early as 11th overall to the Saints (who like him).
Alternate Pick: The middle of the Raiders defense has to be the area of focus during this draft, expect them to draft interior defensive linemen and linebackers, in order to upgrade their biggest weakness. Raiders could use a true pass catching tight end, while Clive Walford has been decent they could use another target for Derek Carr in an excellent tight end draft. You can also expect the Raiders to draft a running back, the Raiders need a workhorse to pair with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, and wide receiver depth can be upgraded behind Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and the newly signed Cordarrelle Patterson.
25) Houston Texans – Deshaun Watson, QB (6’3 221lbs) Clemson – The only quarterbacks on the Texans roster are Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden, and while Bill O’Brien and the Texans coaching staff are acting like they are comfortable moving forward with Savage as their starting quarterback, you just know they are looking for their quarterback of the future with this pick. They are a good quarterback away from contending. Bill O’Brien loves Patrick Mahomes, so much so that he is considering trading up to get him, but Mahomes will be a top fifteen pick. In fact, Mahomes could be selected second overall by the 49ers, according to one scout. In this scenario, the Texans sit back, and land a player that might be the best quarterback in the draft twenty-fifth overall. One scout told me that about half the teams in the NFL think Deshaun Watson is the best quarterback in the draft, but they happen to be the teams that do not need quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson won the National Championship at Clemson last season and he has a knack for making big plays when it matters most. With that defense, and those weapons, Watson could succeed right away in Houston.
Alternate Pick: Other than quarterback, the Houston Texans seem to have their starting lineup pretty set, but they need to add youth behind pricey veterans. A player like defensive lineman Malik McDowell makes a lot of sense, he fits their defensive scheme perfectly. The Texans could also look the secondary, while they have solid veterans, but Houston should start adding some young players that they can develop into starters down the road. The Texans had concerns along their offensive line last season, mostly due to injuries, the Texans should look into upgrading the depth of this unit. One surprising area that the Texans could look to update is tight end, while they have Ryan Griffin and C.J. Fiedorowicz, this is a strong tight end draft and the Texans could add a threat in the passing game to stretch the field from the tight end position.
26) Seattle Seahawks – Forrest Lamp, OG (6’4 309lbs) Western Kentucky – The biggest problem for the Seattle Seahawks is their inability to protect quarterback Russell Wilson, and while they hope that a tackle like Garrett Bolles or Ryan Ramcyzk slides to them here, they end up with a player who could be the best offensive lineman in the draft in Western Kentucky guard Forrest Lamp. A left tackle in college, Lamp kicks inside to guard in the pros, where he should excel. Lamp was excellent at the combine, and although he is best suited for guard in the NFL, his experience at tackle in college gives him some position versatility in the NFL should another lineman go down with an injury.
Alternate Pick: The Legion Of Boom is starting to age, so the Seahawks could look to add youth to the unit, and the Seahawks love big and lengthy defensive backs. Two names to keep in mind are UConn safety and workout warrior Obi Melifonwu (6’4 224lbs) and Washington cornerback Kevin King (6’3 200lbs). Upgrading the offensive line is a huge priority for the Seahawks, so Temple Guard/Tackle is another versatile offensive linemen Dion Dawkins is another name to keep an eye on here, while Lamp will probably be a better player I think Dawkins has a better chance of sticking at tackle.
27) Kansas City Chiefs – Jarrad Davis, LB (6’1 238lbs) Florida – The Kansas City Chiefs are a good football team, but they have to start replacing some of their older veterans, Derrick Johnson has had an incredible career for the Chiefs but he is now 34-years-old and is coming off a torn Achilles tendon for the second year in a row. In this scenario they bring in an inside linebacker of the future, Jarrad Davis, a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine who has great character on and off the field. Davis is also good in pass coverage, he can be a three down defender in the NFL, and brings physicality to the field with big hit ability.
Alternate Pick: While explosive playmaker Tyreke Hill was incredible last season, and the Chiefs have often injured wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on the roster, Kansas City could use a wide receiver upgrade if they plan on finally starting to throw the ball downfield. If one of the draft’s better wide receivers falls into their laps at 27th overall, they should consider it, but only if they finally decide to open up the offensive playbook. The Chiefs have had a great pass rush for years, but Tamba Hali is now 33-years-old and Justin Houston has struggled with injuries, so while they have Dee Ford it would not hurt to add depth to the pass rush. If I am Andy Reid, and Deshaun Watson falls into my lap, I have to consider him. Alex Smith has taken the Chiefs as far as he can in my opinion, it’s time to find the quarterback of the future, the incredibly smart Smith would make for an excellent mentor to a young quarterback.
28) Dallas Cowboys – Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB (6’2 250lbs) UCLA – I have been told that the Dallas Cowboys are entering this draft intent on finding a top flight pass rusher, as well as upgrading their secondary, but that pass rush help is at the top of their needs list. In this scenario they land a potentially great pass rusher in Takkarist McKinley, who slides a bit on draft day due to a shoulder injury, but finds a perfect fit in Dallas in this scenario. McKinley is an extremely high motor player, he never gives up on a play, and he would give a much needed boost to the Cowboys pass rush.
Alternate Pick: Upgrading the secondary is a huge need for the Cowboys, and if you know anything about Jerry Jones, you know he is looking at the combine numbers of UConn safety Obi Melifonwu and drooling. It is a deep cornerback class, but Marlon Humphrey is still on the board, and he is going to be very hard to pass up. It sounds like the Cowboys are committed to drafting a pass rusher in the first round, and addressing the secondary later, so if a player like Charles Harris or Derrick Barnett were to fall the Cowboys could easily snatch them up.
29) Green Bay Packers – Dalvin Cook, RB (5’10 210lbs) Florida State – The Green Bay Packers need to fix their secondary, and the Alabama corner Marlon Humphrey is available, however in this scenario Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is simply too good to pass up. The Packers would be entering the 2017 NFL season with Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael at the top of their running back depth chart, which is simply not good enough, Dalvin Cook is a potential superstar who reminds scouts of LeSean McCoy. Cook did not standout at the combine, but that is not his style of play, Cook is an explosive player with incredible vision who is a threat in both the running and passing game. The Buccaneers love Cook, and heavily consider him at nineteen overall, but scouts feel it is best that Cook leaves Florida and his circle of friends. If scouts are worried about Cook partying, there is no better place for him to go then Green Bay, where his skill set translates perfectly to the Packers offense.
Alternate Pick: The Green Bay Packers have long needed to fix their troublesome secondary, their offense can put up points, but they have to be tired of being involved in shootouts every week. Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey is still available, and he is very tempting here, but in a deep cornerback class the Packers can afford to wait and address the secondary a bit later. Another player to keep an eye on is Malik McDowell, a massive 3-4 defensive end, who would fit well in the Packers defensive scheme.
30) Pittsburgh Steelers – Deshone Kizer (6’4 233lbs) Notre Dame – Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was apparently much closer to retiring at the conclusion of the 2016 NFL season than some realize, and those in the know believe that 2017 will be Roethlisberger’s final season, so it is time for the Steelers to find their quarterback of the future. There are reports making the rounds today that the Steelers spent a lot of time scouting Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer, and that they like what they saw, Kizer has some similarities to Roethlisberger (good athlete, big frame, big arm). We know that Deshone Kizer might be the most confident player in the draft, he claims he has Tom Brady’s intellect in Cam Newton’s body. If the Steelers know that 2017 will be Roethlisberger’s last season, and they like Kizer, they would be smart to select Kizer and let him learn from Roethlisberger for a year. Kizer is raw, needs development, and needs to improve his decision making which led to some bad turnovers in 2016.
Alternate Pick: The Steelers secondary has been a huge weakness for a few seasons now, and while the have added several young players to turn this unit around over recent drafts, those developing young players could still use help. A player like Marlon Humphrey or Adoree Jackson could be tempting. The Steelers also need consistency at wide receiver behind Antonio Brown, so they could look to fill that need, however they will likely do so in the later rounds when they consistently find great receivers (Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant).
31) Atlanta Falcons – Demarcus Walker, DE (6’3 280lbs) Florida State – Vic Beasley was great last season, he led the NFL in sacks, but he could use some help and the Falcons could certainly use another pass rusher so Beasley will not have to be a one man wrecking crew for the second year in a row. Demarcus Walker burst onto the scene for the Seminoles this past season, accumulating 68 tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, and 16.0 sacks while forcing three fumbles. Adding Demarcus Walker would help out Vic Beasley, as well as the Falcons secondary, which would obviously benefit from more pressure on the quarterback.
Alternate Pick: The Falcons love speed on defense, so a fast rising cornerback like Adoree Jackson could be an excellent pick, he ran a 4.42 at the NFL combine, and would be an excellent addition as a nickleback/return man/special teamer. I could also see the Falcons being interested in some of the larger cornerbacks in this class, a player like Kevin King could hear his name called here, he would give the Falcons more size in the defensive backfield.
32) New Orleans Saints – Tre’Davious White (5’11 192) LSU – The Saints were long rumored to be trading this pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for cornerback Malcolm Butler, but that move now seems extremely unlikely to be made, one scout told me the Saints should just stand pat and draft an cornerback that is younger and cheaper than Malcolm Butler in an excellent draft class. That’s what they do here, and they get a very good cornerback prospect, Tre’Davious White has been steadily rising up draft boards. White is a great athlete, and his long arms and excellent ball skills help him to lock down much bigger receivers, he is experienced on an island an could be selected much higher than the last pick of the first round.
Alternate Pick: The Saints focus is upgrading their atrocious defense, so if they do not make any more trades, I expect them to use their two first round picks on a defensive back and a pass rusher. In a very deep cornerback class, you can find talent later, so if I were running the Saints I would look to draft a pass rusher early and a defensive back with the final pick of the first round. In this scenario, the Saints walked away with Taco Charlton and Tre’Davious White, a solid haul which will upgrade their defense immensely.
Notes and Best Available Players Remaining:
Gareon Conley, CB (6’ 195lbs) Ohio State – As I was getting set to publish this mock draft, cornerback prospect Gareon Conley was accused of raping a woman at a Cleveland hotel, and though Conley, his lawyer and several witnesses deny these allegations, there is not much time to clear his name before the draft if Conley is truly not guilty. You have to wonder if Gareon Conley will get drafted at all. I projected Conley to be selected fourteenth overall by the Philadelphia Eagles, here is what I wrote about him: Cornerback Gareon Conley improved steadily over the past two seasons, and then produced excellent numbers at the NFL combine which included a 4.44 40-yard-dash and a 37” vertical jump. Conley has good size, and he has been one of the hottest names leading up to the draft, I have been told that it would not be surprising if the Saints selected him eleventh overall. I have also been told that several teams have Conley ranked ahead of his teammate Marshon Lattimore on their draft boards, do not be surprised if Conley is the first cornerback selected.
You have heard me talk about the loaded cornerback class at length, so how loaded is it? I have Marshon Lattimore, CB (6’ 193lbs) Ohio State, Marlon Humphrey, CB (6’ 197lbs) Alabama, Gareon Conley, CB (6’ 195lbs) Ohio State, Kevin King, CB (6’3 200lbs) Washington, Chidobe Awuzie, CB (6’ 202lbs) Colorado, Jalen Tabor (6’ 199lbs) Florida, Quincy Wilson (6’1 211lbs) Florida, Ahkello Witherspoon (6’3 198lbs) Colorado, Tre’Davious White (5’11 192) LSU, Jourdan Lewis (5’10 188lbs) Michigan, Desmond King (5’10 201lbs) Iowa, Adoree Jackson (5’10 186lbs) USC, Fabien Moreau (6’ 206lbs UCLA), Cordera Tankersly (6’1 199lbs) Clemson and the injured Sidney Jones, CB (6’ 185lbs) Washington as players who could be selected in the first three rounds. You can afford to target another position in round one and two, you should still end up with a good cornerback prospect in round three, which is why cornerbacks are sliding. I expect runs on cornerbacks in both the second and third rounds.
The running back class is also loaded, we know that Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery look to be lock top fifteen picks, while the third running back drafted should be Dalvin Cook. However, the rest of the class is very deep with players Alvin Kamara (5’10 214lbs) Tennessee, Corey Clement (5’10 220lbs) Wisconsin, T.J. Logan (5’9 169lbs) North Carolina, Marlon Mack (5’11 213lbs) USF, D’Onta Foreman (6’ 233lbs) Texas, James Connor (6’1 233lbs) Pittsburgh, Samaje Perine (5’11 233lbs) Oklahoma, the troubled but talented Joe Mixon (6’1 226lbs) Oklahoma, Jeremy McNichols (5’9 212lbs) Boise State, Wayne Gallman (6’ 215lbs) Clemson and others available. NFL teams will find gems in the middle and even late rounds of this draft
The deep tight end class: The 2017 NFL Draft features the best class of tight ends in recent memory, with O.J Howard and David Njoku should be first round picks, but players like Evan Engram (6’3 234lbs) Ole Miss, Jake Butt (6’5 246lbs) Michigan, Gerald Everett (6’3 239lbs) South Alabama, Bucky Hodges (6’6 257lbs) Virginia Tech, Jordan Leggett (6’6 258lbs) Clemson, and sleeper Adam Shaheen (6’6 278lbs) Ashland among others still available this class is loaded.
Malik McDowell, DT (6’6 295lbs) Michigan State – I thought Malik McDowell had a chance to be a top ten pick entering the 2016 season, but he was nagged by an ankle injury for the majority of the season, and had only 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2016. McDowell was still very disruptive, and he put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, he slides in this mock draft because he is prototypical 3-4 defensive end. A 3-4 team will snatch up McDowell quickly in the second round.
Obi Melifonwu, S (6’4 224lbs) Connecticut – Obi Melifonwu has a ridiculous size and speed combination, a freak athlete who may be a bit of a workout warrior. At 6’4 224lbs, Melifonwu ran a ridiculous 4.40 flat 40-yard-dash, then had the top vertical jump at the entire combine (44”).
Dawuane Smoot, DE (6’3 264lbs) Illinois – Smoot was more disruptive than his numbers indicate (56 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), and he had an excellent week at the senior bowl, coupled with a strong showing at the NFL combine.
Jabrill Peppers, LB/S (5’11 213lbs) Michigan – One of the best football players in the draft, Jabrill Peppers is not the ideal fit at any one NFL position, which causes him to slide on draft day. It did not help his stock that he tested positive for diluted urine at the NFL combine, but Peppers is a good kid, his slide is more based on the fact that teams cannot decide if she should play safety or bulk up and play linebacker at the next level. I personally think Peppers will be an impact player, and would want him on my team, I see him as a nickel defensive back and an standout special teams player.
Zay Jones, WR (6’1 209lbs) East Carolina – If you want to talk about production, Zay Jones caught 158 passes during the 2016 season, the all-time record for receptions in a season. Jones also has the most receptions in a game (22), and the most receptions all-time (399), and he backed up his stats with an excellent showing at the NFL combine. Zay Jones comes from NFL bloodlines, his father Robert Jones played linebacker in the NFL for ten years winning three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, and his uncle is former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake. Probably a possession wide receiver only in the NFL, but should be a good one.
Jordan Willis, DE (6’4 255lbs) Kansas State – A highly productive pass rusher who recorded 26.5 career sacks, Willis did not test very well at the combine, but on tape he makes plenty of plays.
Zach Cunningham, LB (6’3 234lbs) Vanderbilt – Led the SEC in tackles in 2016 and was selected to the All-SEC team twice (2015,2016), so he has a ton of high level experience to step right in and produce. Cunningham is not a workout warrior, but he is an experienced and battle tested player, he should develop into solid two down linebacker in the NFL.
Caleb Brantley, DT (6’3 307lbs) Florida – Caleb Brantley is a quick and disruptive force to add to the interior of the defensive line, where he has the skill to make plays against the run and the pass. However, Brantley likely killed his career when he punched a woman in the face last weekend, knocking her unconscious and knocking out one of her teeth. Drafting Brantley would be a public relations nightmare and I doubt he hears his name called at all, the Baltimore Ravens have pulled him from their draft board entirely.
T.J. Watt, LB (6’4 252lbs) Wisconsin – The younger brother of Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt, there was a point when I thought T.J. Watt could slide into the later portions of the first round, but second or third round now seems much more likely. T.J. Watt was impressive at the combine, and his best fit in the NFL is likely at outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense.
Sidney Jones, CB (6’ 185lbs) Washington – Sidney Jones deserves a special section of this mock draft, because he was going to be a top twenty selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he tore his Achilles at the Washington Huskies Pro Day during the last drill of the day, and will likely miss the entire 2017 NFL season. You have to feel bad for the kid, but for a rebuilding team that expects to struggle in 2017, you may was well draft Sidney Jones in the middle rounds and let him sit for a year to rehab his injury, you could get a starting cornerback for 2018 when your team is ready to contend. UPDATE: Sidney Jones and his doctors sent a letter to NFL teams, declaring that Jones is making excellent progress, and that he should be ready to play by September.
Curtis Samuel, RB/WR (5’10 196lbs) Ohio State – Is Curtis Samuel a running back or a wide receiver in the NFL? It does not matter, Curtis Samuel is one of the most explosive players in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he will not be on the board long on day two if he does not get drafted in the first round. I think he ends up as a slot receiver who spends time in the backfield on passing downs.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (6’1 215lbs) USC – It sounds like there are wide receiver needy teams who will address a different area of need in the first round, but have JuJu Smith-Schuster targeted for the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Smith-Schuster is hurt a bit by the fact that he only had one catch against Alabama, and by the recent performances of USC wide receivers in the NFL, but he is a talented player and the second round seems right. I hear the Ravens have interest.
Dion Dawkins, OL (6’4 314lbs) Temple – In a weak offensive line class, Dion Dawkins should not have to wait long to hear his name called on the second day of the NFL Draft, he is a quality developmental prospect at either guard or right tackle.
Chris Wormley, DE/DT (6’5 298lbs) Michigan – A player who probably fits best at defensive end in a 3-4 defense, Wormley is likely to be a second round pick, he was a productive college player at Michigan who should make a nice transition to the NFL.
Tim Williams, OLB (6’3 244lbs) Alabama – A ferocious pass rusher, Tim Williams does one thing well on the football field, and that is get to the quarterback. However, the other thing Tim Williams does well is get in trouble, and he was suspended multiple times at Alabama for failed drug tests. Williams will have to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL, and it will be interesting to see when/if he is drafted, one scout told me that no player in this draft worries him more than Tim Williams off the field.
Marcus Maye, S (6’ 210lbs) Florida – This is an interesting safety class, with Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams sitting at the top (more on them below), then a physical freak in Obi Melifonwu who is a wildcard, but the player who is flying under the radar that has scouts very impressed is Marcus Maye. A solid player that does everything well, Marcus Maye is ready to step in on a good team and contribute right away, so he will be getting looks in the late first round of the NFL Draft. Obi Melifonwu is a boom-or-bust prospect who needs development, but do not be shocked if Marcus Maye is the third safety drafted and is picked before Melifonwu, Maye is ready to step in and start day one.
Justin Evans, S (6’ 200lbs) Texas A&M – A player who is rising up draft boards at the right time, Justin Evans is a tremendous athlete, and whispers are starting to make the rounds that he could be selected in the late portion of round one. I have Evans graded as a second to third rounder, he is not as instinctive as some of the other safeties in this class and likely needs a development, but he does have athleticism that could make him a special player down the road.
Tyus Bowser, DE/OLB (6’2 244lbs) Houston – One of the hottest names in the draft over the last few weeks is Tyus Bower, who should is a hard-nosed pass rusher, that fits best in the NFL as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Bower plays the run and the pass well, he had 12 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in 2016, who was very impressive in pre-draft workouts. There is some talk that Bowser could sneak into the end of the first round, he is in the mix with pass rushers like Takkarist McKinley, Charles Harris and T.J. Watt, in that late first round to early second round mix.
Budda Baker, S (5’9 195lbs) Washington – A very explosive athlete and big hitter, Baker slides a bit on draft day due to his height and smaller frame, but he plays bigger than he is listed. Baker gets compared to former Colts great Bob Sanders, Baker will have to be a centerfielder in the pros, he is too small to cover NFL tight ends.
Davis Webb, QB (6’5 230lbs) Cal – A big pocket passer with a strong arm, Davis Webb is quickly rising up draft boards at the right time, Webb started out at Texas Tech but transferred to Cal when he was beaten out by Patrick Mahomes for the starting job. Webb threw for 4,295 yards and 37 TD with 12 interceptions, he won’t make it out of the second round, I have him being selected by the Arizona Cardinals.
Nate Peterman, QB (6’2 226lbs) Pitt – A former top recruit, Nate Peterman started out at Tennessee, but transferred when he broke his hand and lost the starting job by Josh Dobbs. Now Peterman has a good chance of being drafted ahead of Dobbs in the 2017 NFL Draft. Peterson is the most accurate quarterback available, he is not the biggest guy and he does not have th biggest arm, but his accuracy could lead to him being drafted in the second or third round.
Josh Jones, S (6’1 220lbs) NC State – If your favorite team needs a safety, do not be too upset, because there are plenty of good players available in the second or third round including Josh Jones. A safety Prospect who excels in the box, Jones is a great tackler, and he is big and physical enough to match up with tight ends in pass coverage.
Carl Lawson, DE (6’2 260lbs) Auburn – A high motor defensive end who was very productive in college, Lawson is short and by NFL standards, which causes him to slide into the middle rounds. Lawson is very strong, but has durability issues, including a torn ACL in 2014 and a hip injury in 2015.
Taylor Moton, OT (6’5 320) Western Michigan – A big man that plays the game with a mean streak that teams covet, Moton has issues dealing with quicker speed rushers, so some teams view him as a guard in the NFL. Moton wants to stay outside at tackle, he has a lot of talent, but he needs to play lower and work on his technique.
Pat Elfein, C (6’2 303lbs) Ohio State – If you need a center, Pat Elfein is your guy, he is a very smart and experienced center who plays with a physical edge. Elfein is not a true body mover in the run game, but he plays hard, and loves the game.
Raekwon McMillan, ILB (6’1 240lbs) Ohio State – A productive inside linebacker, McMillan is a punishing tackler, but he is la two down linebacker in the pros who will be off the field in passing situations. Not a coverage linebacker.