With the Super Bowl still a week away and the spectacle that is the Pro Bowl behind us, what better time to get familiar with the new crop of rookies that teams will be pinning next year’s hopes to?
The 2017 draft looks to fight back against the modern NFL. With passing numbers at an all-time high and quarterback play more important than ever, the crop of 2017 rookies will look to put a little more defense back in the league. With no true blue chip QB coming into the league, the draft should start off with consensus #1 prospect and QB-hunter Myles Garrett. That should set the stage for an entire first round filled with edge rushers and other elite defenders. In reality, there’s little top end offensive talent coming in.
The scouting combine is still to come and free agency will alter some teams’ draft strategies. But let’s take an early look where all the top prospects may fit into the NFL come April.
2017 Mock Draft 1.0
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE (Texas A&M)
Listed at 6’5, 270 lbs, Myles Garrett is a physical freak. He’s expected to wow at the combine, which will only solidify his position as 2017’s best prospect. Cleveland is in dire need of talent on both sides of the ball and selecting the best player available is a good way to start restocking the cupboards. The Browns also have the #12 pick in their back pocket, so they won’t feel forced to take their future signal caller with the 1st overall pick.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Mitch Trubisky, QB (UNC)
It’s not an ideal draft to need a quarterback. That being said, the 49ers are in complete rebuild mode. If, as expected, Kyle Shanahan lands the Niners’ head coaching gig, I expect he and new GM John Lynch to grab their future signal caller with this pick. Although all the 2017 quarterback prospects have their warts, Mitch Trubisky flashes the ability to lead an NFL offense. It may take a couple years to change the franchise’s recent losing ways, but with a little patience, the Trubisky/Shanahan combo could be scary.
3. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen, DL (Alabama)
The Bears could go a number of ways. Head coach John Fox and GM Ryan Pace may be on thin ice, meaning they’ll want to add a player who can make immediate contributions with this pick. Jonathan Allen is a versatile defender who can plug in anywhere along the line on passing downs and provide some heat on the QB. He and Leonard Floyd, last year’s first-rounder, would give the Bears a formidable pass rush for the foreseeable future.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Solomon Thomas, DL (Stanford)
The Jaguar ship is once again being piloted by Tom Coughlin, who was brought on as president. Coughlin and new head coach Doug Marrone will look to take the team in a new direction. Coughlin know from his Giants days how far a disruptive defense can carry you. Look for the Jags to add Solomon Thomas, who some believe will be the best defensive player to come out of the 2017 draft five years down the road. A high-motor, versatile player, Thomas will be a key contributor on an already solid defense.
5. Tennessee Titans (via Rams) – Mike Williams, WR (Clemson)
The Titans need more weapons for Marcus Mariota, including a legitimate #1 receiver. They’ll add one of the few offensive game-changers this draft has to offer. Mike Williams has prototypical WR1 size and plenty of speed. He’ll create mismatches against the majority of corners and can flip a game in one play.
6. New York Jets – Marshon Lattimore, CB (Ohio St.)
As long as Marshon Lattimore’s hammies pass all the tests, teams will be drooling over the ultra-competitive, well-rounded athlete. He has all the tools to be a shutdown corner, making him a perfect fit for the Jets and their questionable secondary.
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Jamal Adams, S (LSU)
The Charger defense gets a hard-hitting natural leader for the secondary. Adding Adams to a defense that already features former first-rounders Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram would give the Chargers leaders at each level.
8. Carolina Panthers – Leonard Fournette, RB (LSU)
Carolina is a popular place for Leonard Fournette to be mocked. His skill set fits the Panthers’ power-run game perfectly. With starting running back Jonathan Stewart about to turn the dreaded 30, the time is now for Carolina to give Cam Newton a workhorse running back he can lean on.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Malik Hooker, S (Ohio St.)
The Bengals defense lacks playmakers and it showed last year, as the team failed to earn a playoff spot for the first time since 2010. With a very average 20 takeaways in 2016, Cincy will benefit greatly from Malik Hooker’s ball skills. He tied for second in the nation with seven interceptions, and is a sure tackler, to boot.
10. Buffalo Bills – DeShone Kizer, QB (Notre Dame)
For whatever reason, Tyrod Taylor has fallen out of favor in Buffalo, opening the door for new head coach Sean McDermott to put his stamp on the team with his version of what an NFL quarterback should look like. Kizer possesses ideal size, arm strength, and athleticism, and has the upside to at least humor the Bills for a few years. It’s a new era Bills fans. Careful what you wish for.
11. New Orleans Saints – Reuben Foster, ILB (Alabama)
The Saints have had a terrible defense for far too long. They took a step in the right direction last year with first-round DT Sheldon Rankins. Now they need to make it a trend. Reuben Foster, a sideline to sideline playmaker, has what it takes to lead an NFL defense. Do the right thing, New Orleans, and give the aging Drew Brees a defense he can win with.
12. Cleveland Browns (via Eagles) – Deshaun Watson, QB (Clemson)
In two picks, the Cleveland Browns manage to change the outlook of their entire team. After adding the best defensive player in Garrett, the Browns take a(nother) shot on a potential franchise quarterback. Watson has proved he is a winner and is as clutch as they come. Now we will see if he has enough jam to lift a perennial doormat to some level of respectability.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Quincy Wilson, CB (Florida)
The Cardinals continue to add to their talented secondary with Quincy Wilson. Teaming the big, physical Wilson with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu would make life even tougher on opposing offenses.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (via Vikings) – Corey Davis, WR (Western Michigan)
Carson Wentz looks like the real deal in Philly. But he has no one outside the numbers to throw the ball to. Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews are fine targets in the middle of the field. Now Wentz needs an outside guy to help loosen up the middle and that’s exactly what Davis should provide.
15. Indianapolis Colts – Ryan Ramczyk, OT (Wisconsin)
It’s not likely the best tackle in the draft will fall this far. But as an NFL fan, you should hope he does. If the Colts and their new GM Chris Ballard do one thing this off season, it should be finding better protection for Andrew Luck at all costs. Ryan Ramczyk would go a long way to improving a terrible offensive line situation.
16. Baltimore Ravens – O.J. Howard, TE (Alabama)
Howard dominated Senior Bowl week, giving more life to the rumors that he was under-utilized at Bama. He’d give the Raven passing game a huge boost in myriad ways. He can provide a security blanket, get down field, and stay inline and block. And he can do it all at an exceptional level.
17. Washington – Caleb Brantley, DT (Florida)
Big enough and quick enough to play either defensive tackle position, Brantley provides some much needed talent to Washington’s 28th-ranked defense. With Kirk Cousins leading a high-scoring offense, a little improvement on defense would go a long way in Washington.
18. Tennessee Titans – Marlon Humphrey, CB (Alabama)
The Titans are another team with two first-rounders. After adding an offensive playmaker in Williams with their first pick, they turn to the defensive side of the ball and help out their struggling secondary with the #18 selection. Humphrey doesn’t do any one thing at an elite level, but he is a solid all-around corner with enough size to battle bigger receivers and should be an asset in the secondary from day one.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Dalvin Cook, RB (Florida State)
With Doug Martin seemingly done in Tampa, Dalvin Cook can slide in and provide Jameis Winston with a dynamic do-it-all back. If Cook’s shoulder checks out, he may go even higher. But in this mock, he lands with the Bucs in an offense with all sorts of potential.
20. Denver Broncos – Cam Robinson, OT (Alabama)
I love Robinson’s nastiness. He may be a bit of a reach here, but the Broncos o-line needs reinforcements in a bad way. Denver might need upgrades at both tackle spots, and with such a limit of top-tier tackles in this draft, now is the right time for the reach.
21. Detroit Lions – Jabrill Peppers, S (Michigan)
The Lions defense has some decent pieces in the front-seven when healthy, and Darius Slay has emerged as an elite corner. Now they get their leader on the back end. Peppers is a freak athlete who will be a nightmare around the line of scrimmage. His size makes him a bit of a tweener, but if the Lions give him some freedom, Peppers will be a playmaking machine.
22. Miami Dolphins – Taco Charlton, DE (Michigan)
Continually improving throughout his collegiate career, Taco Charlton registered 9.5 sacks last season. His rare combination of size and athleticism could give the Fins what they thought they were getting when they traded up for Dion Jordan back in 2013.
23. New York Giants – Garett Bolles, T (Utah)
Though Bolles is inexperienced and more of a projection, his athleticism and upside should be enough for the Giants. Ideally, he’d be able to replace Ereck Flowers at left tackle in a year. Flowers shouldn’t be anybody’s left tackle.
24. Oakland Raiders – Teez Tabor, CB (Florida)
The Oakland Raiders secondary wasn’t even competitive at times last year. Their big free-agent acquisition, Sean Smith, didn’t pan out as expected and the Raider defense suffered for it. The addition of the talented and hard-working Teez Tabor should have a ripple effect, including relieving a little pressure off Smith.
25. Houston Texans – Christian McCaffrey, RB (Stanford)
The Texans don’t have many holes to fill this offseason. No doubt, an upgrade at quarterback is needed, but that will have to wait until next year, given that Brock Osweiler is guaranteed $16M in 2017. Houston has talent at the skill positions, but Lamar Miller was overused last year and his health suffered for it. McCaffrey, a potential 2000-all purpose yard player, can do it all. He’d be able to spell Miller and give Osweiler a target out of the backfield.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Malik McDowell, DL (Michigan St.)
Obviously the Seahawks’ biggest needs are on the offensive line. But there are two reasons I see them going defense here: (1) the aforementioned lack of OL talent in this draft, and (2) the hints that they’re focused on developing the lineman that they have. McDowell has all the physical traits to be dominant in the NFL. His potential has yet to be reached and rumors of him being lazy and unmotivated are floating about. Who better than Petey Sunshine to help him reach his ceiling?
27. Kansas City Chiefs – Derek Barnett, DE (Tennessee)
The Chiefs defense was opportunistic last year, however, it was not the most consistent. Adding a player of Barnett’s ability and nasty demeanor should help the entire unit. He has great hands and wins battles, both rushing the passer and setting the edge. He also adds depth to a line that’s suffered from key injuries in recent years.
28. Dallas Cowboys – Takkarist McKinley, OLB (UCLA)
The Dallas defense needs players who can rush the passer and McKinley can do that, as evidenced by his ten-sack senior year. With a great motor and ability to make plays all over the field, the raw McKinley has lots of room to grow.
29. Green Bay Packers – Sidney Jones, CB (Washington)
It’s no secret the Packers need cornerback help. You can blame the secondary’s poor performance to injuries, but you also have to recognize that Sam Shields is aging and his future with the team is foggy at best. The tenacious Sidney Jones would be a welcome addition, with seven picks over his last two seasons.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tim Williams, OLB (Alabama)
If one thing was apparent in the Patriots’ thrashing of the Steelers in the AFC Championship, it was that the Steelers had no hope to stop Tom Brady. Their pass rush is largely dependent on a 38-year-old James Harrison. Williams may never be able to set an edge, but with 19.5 sacks over his final two years, he’s proven he can rush the passer. Good enough.
TBD 31. New England Patriots – David Njoku, TE (Miami)
The Pats are all about exploiting their opponents. David Njoku is a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. Bill Belichick will find creative ways to use the athletic freak, moving his new chess piece all over the board and destroying enemy pawns at will.
TBD 32. Atlanta Falcons – Charles Harris, Edge Rusher (Missouri)
The Falcons are about to play in the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. They will have to face Tom Brady who is going for his fifth Super Bowl ring. If you asked the Falcons if they would like more guys who can rush the passer, I bet they would say yes. Charles Harris provides that. With nine sacks in 2016, Harris has the ability to be a disruptive force in the backfield.