After months of anticipation, the draft is finally upon us. The hundreds of young men who have prepared for this moment their whole lives will see their dreams come true, and fans will learn what new players they’ll be cheering for. While I haven’t followed the draft as long as some, this is one of the wackier ones I can remember. After the first pick, it seems that anything can happen which is reflected in some of my selections. It’s also worth noting that this mock does not include any trades, so if you see a player falling, he might not actually fall to that point as someone could always trade up. With that said, here is my first and final 2017 mock draft.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett DE, Texas A&M: When building from the ground up like the Browns are, talent should come first. Teams can try starting with a quarterback, but we’ve seen plenty of times how that can go if the right pieces aren’t in place. Here the Browns get Garrett who is the consensus best player on the board and plays at a premium position. I do believe the rumors involving the Browns and quarterbacks, just not with this pick.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Christian McCaffery RB, Stanford: With no clear top player available after Garrett, this is where the draft gets crazy. Reports in recent weeks have said the 49ers are interested in a quarterback here, but to me that translates to “please trade with us”. One thing worth noting is that new GM John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan were signed to six year contracts. A rare length in today’s NFL, this gives them the luxury to stockpile pieces instead of swinging for the fences with a quarterback immediately.
That’s why in a scenario I haven’t seen to this point I have them selecting McCaffery, who would be a great fit and a foundational player in Shanahan’s offense. There are no shortage of options for the 49ers if they don’t go this route. Solomon Thomas has been linked to them for a while and Leonard Fournette has also started gaining steam here. Marshon Lattimore, Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker and Mitchell Trubisky (if they do actually go quarterback) are also play.
3. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams S, LSU: Despite signing Mike Glennon early on in free agency, the Bears have been reported to be in the quarterback market on draft day. With that said, they are still in need of an impact type player in their secondary and Adams’ ability to play the run and pass would give them that. As far as draft capital goes, this could be too high for some teams to take a safety so a defensive lineman like Solomon Thomas would obviously be in play if available.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Solomon Thomas DE, Stanford: The popular pick for the Jaguars in the last month or so has been Leonard Fournette. While I understand their reasoning, that would be a luxury pick for a team that has plenty it can address. The same could also qualify for O.J. Howard who has also been linked to the team in mock drafts. Essentially, the Jaguars are yet another team that would probably like to trade down unless they are all in on a quarterback like Deshaun Watson here.
Considering the success Tom Coughlin has had building teams in the trenches, Thomas would make a lot of sense here. He is a versatile player and would add to a Jaguars pass rush that is still looking to replace Tony Brackens. For that reason, Jonathan Allen (if they trust his medicals) is also a player who could be thought about here.
5. Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore CB, Ohio State: Since Sam Hinkie’s “Process” died for our sins in early 2016, the Titans might have started one of the more effective rebuilds across sports in that time. How did they do it? Simply by hitting on their quarterback pick (while playing on a rookie contract) and not improving that first year. Just like that, the Titans fell into the first pick in 2016 and traded it to the Rams so they could try their spin at the franchise quarterback wheel. Now, after Marcus Mariota’s second season, the Titans are noticeably better but still get to hold the 5th pick in the draft. The beautiful part is, if another team really wants a Mitchell Trubisky or a Deshaun Watson, they can do this all again!
Without projecting trades in my mock, there are a few ways the Titans could go here. O.J. Howard has been linked with the Titans, but would make more sense if they were to trade with a team in the 9-13 range. Same goes for either of the receivers in Mike Williams or Corey Davis (both of which could be available when they’re on the clock again). The Titans do have a pressing need in the secondary particularly at corner and if Lattimore was available here, they’d be getting a corner who is considered the tops in his class.
6. New York Jets: Mitchell Trubisky QB, North Carolina: Like the other teams mentioned, the Jets do have a lot of options where they are. A player with upside and a high floor like Jamal Adams would be very enticing here. Same goes for O.J. Howard who would give them a field stretching tight end the franchise has been lacking. Heck, even Leonard Fournette is a scenario that seems possible. Despite all that, the Jets do need to find their next quarterback to build around and that guy isn’t on the roster.
We could use the “next year’s class should be better” debate, but that always holds until there is one more year of tape available on those players. Trubisky is a player early on in the draft process that was reported to of caught the Jets’ attention, but obviously Watson would be in play here too.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Hooker S, Ohio State: Before going on to post the worst winning percentage of a head coach in the modern era, Gus Bradley was known for working with Seattle’s “Legion of Boom”. One of the things that made the group so special was the ball hawking ability of Earl Thomas. While he hasn’t been able to work out for teams during the draft process, Hooker has shown some of the same skills on tape.
The only problem with this is it almost seems too obvious, so of course, something will probably happen. In that event, a change of plans could lead to them thinking about pairing Jonathan Allen with Joey Bosa. A really interesting scheme fit would be McCaffery if he does make it to this point, so that should be taken into some consideration.
8. Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette RB, LSU: While they will have options, it seems pretty apparent the Panthers are going to take a running back here. This is probably the latest McCaffery would get selected at this point in the process, but of course he is off the board in this particular mock. In that case, Fournette is far from a consolation prize and him paired with Cam Newton might just be the most physically imposing QB/RB tandem of all time. Aside from McCaffery, Solomon Thomas or O.J. Howard would be the main names to keep in mind here.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Derek Barnett DE, Tennessee: Unfortunately for the Bengals, this is not a particularly strong offensive line draft as theirs was decimated with players moving on this offseason. While prospects such as Mike Williams, Corey Davis, O.J. Howard (due to Tyler Eifert’s inability to stay healthy) and even Fournette have been linked to the team, the Bengals pass rush has dropped off quickly. Barnett is a player that many seem high on as some mocks have him going as early as the top five. He would be a step in the right direction to creating the strong defenses they had earlier this decade.
10. Buffalo Bills: Haason Reddick LB, Temple: Depending on how the quarterback board plays out, I could see the Bills moving up or down. While many feel Tyrod Taylor is serviceable, the franchise seems on the fence about him as their starter. For that reason alone, Trubisky or Deshaun Watson have to be in play here. Despite trading up for Sammy Watkins just three years ago, the Bills are still facing a need at receiver so Mike Williams is also a player that will be considered.
Despite that, I have them selecting a player who might be the fastest riser in this draft. Reddick would serve as a defensive chess piece who can play as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme or rush the passer in a 3-4 defensive scheme. With rookie head coach Sean McDermott’s defensive background, someone with Reddick’s skillset figures to be a very appealing option.
11. New Orleans Saints: Reuben Foster LB, Alabama: Despite the evident talent, Foster’s medical and character red flags have led to a possible slide down draft boards. While 11 might be high, he will still likely be selected within the first round. The Saints just have so many holes around their defense that going off a talent standpoint, he could be their pick. Other possibilities here would include an edge rusher such as Charles Harris, a defensive lineman such as Jonathan Allen or one of the top cornerbacks available.
12. Cleveland Browns: O.J. Howard TE, Alabama: This would be a fantastic scenario for the Browns. Not only would this net them two of the top six or seven players on the board, but they still have plenty of assets if they did want to trade up for a quarterback. Having coached him in the Senior Bowl, the Browns staff is familiar with Howard and he could be a foundational piece for their offense. Obviously I wouldn’t be surprised if the Browns did use this pick to trade up in the event the quarterback they coveted was available.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Mahomes QB, Texas Tech: With an older coach in Bruce Arians and older quarterback in Carson Palmer, the question is if the Cardinals want to win now, or start building for the future. If a player like Haason Reddick was available, I think selecting him would be very enticing. However, he’s gone in this mock so they pick their quarterback of the future instead. Mahomes has the tools to succeed in Arians’ vertical offense and with Palmer in place would also have an opportunity to be eased into the NFL. With all the receivers available at this point, the Cardinals could also have an outside option like Mike Williams or John Ross in mind.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Charles Harris DE, Missouri: While adding more weapons for Carson Wentz in the way of John Ross or Mike WIlliams have been popular, the Eagles still need to address their pass defense. One way to take the pressure off of cornerbacks is with the pass rush and the addition of Harris would be able to bring that. There are also a handful of cornerbacks that could be in consideration here as well.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Takkarist McKinley DE, UCLA: This might be a little high for McKinley, but reports have circulated that the Colts are still looking for another pass rusher despite their free agent spending. This makes sense when you realize their new GM Chris Ballard comes from a Chiefs team that was able to rotate Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford. if McKinley isn’t the pick here, odds are it will still be spent on the defensive side of the ball. Charles Harris if he makes it to this point or one of the many corners projected for the second half of the first round could be intriguing.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Forrest Lamp OL, Western Kentucky: The Ravens could go a few different ways here as they have been looking for an outside threat like Mike Williams, but could also use a cornerback. However with Ronnie Stanley already in place, the possibility is there for them build a very nice foundation of a young offensive line. While some see Lamp mainly at guard, there are those who think he has the ability to play tackle. Other players to keep an eye out for the Ravens include Reuben Foster and Jabrill Peppers (if they trade down or into day two).
17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen DL, Alabama: There is a chance Allen goes much higher, but due to lacking a fit and concerns about his shoulder surgeries this is where the slide comes to an end. While he was dominant at Alabama, there are concerns about how explosive a player he is. At this point in the first round though, he’s worth the risk. The Redskins could also look adding depth in the secondary or offensive line, but it’s tough to project how a team will draft when they don’t have a GM.
18. Tennessee Titans: Mike Williams WR, Clemson: Just like the Browns with picks one and 12, the Titans having two first round picks works out perfectly. Not only were they able to address a need, but at pick 18 they’re getting who many feel is the best receiver in the draft at a relative value. If they don’t address the secondary earlier on, that could be something the Titans do here. Colorado corner Chidobe Awuzie has been linked with the team in a few reports, so he would be in play here along with a potential addition to the offensive line after letting Chance Warmack leave.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: David Njoku TE, Miami (FL): Dalvin Cook was a popular early target here, but due to subpar athletic testing and various concerns injury and character wise, I’m not as optimistic that he’s the pick. While they very well could target a defensive back like Obi Melifonwu here, I think the possibility to add Njoku to a nucleus of Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson could be too much to pass up. Njoku has plenty of athletic ability for the position and would bring mismatch creating ability.
20. Denver Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk T, Wisconsin: Well, the good news is it seems everyone’s pretty certain the Broncos will be addressing their offensive line in the draft. The only question is who do they take? At this point, only Lamp is off the board for offensive linemen so they would have their choice. While it could be someone else like Garett Bolles or Cam Robinson, Ramczyk has the size and athleticism for teams to believe he should be able to start at tackle.
21. Detroit Lions: Obi Melifonwu S, Connecticut: One thing GM Bob Quinn said this offseason is that he wanted to add speed to the Lions defense. By selecting Melifonwu here, they’d be doing that and then some. With outstanding athleticism and rare size for a defensive back, Meifonwu is a player the Lions could lineup all across the field and has the ability to play opposite Darius Slay. Melifonwu would be my personal preference for the team if Hasson Reddick is gone (which is highly likely). Other ways the Lions could go include addressing their linebacker need with Jarrad Davis or looking at other secondary options.
22. Miami Dolphins: Jordan Willis DE, Kansas State: Every year it seems we come back to similar needs with the Dolphins. Usually it’s the offensive line, but this year it’s the “you can’t beat the Patriots if you don’t get to the quarterback” need. With Mario Williams disappointing last season, the team has a sudden need in a pass rusher. Willis was a highly productive player at Kansas State and has moved up draft boards by testing very well through the process. Linbackers such as Jarrad Davis or Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham could also be considered here.
23. New York Giants: Garett Bolles T, Utah: At this point it seems the Giants will be going tight end or tackle with this pick. The two top tight ends are off the board in this scenario, so in this case the Giants have their choice of the board. In this instance I have them taking Bolles who reports have said they’re high on. Bolles does have some question marks as he would be a 25 year old rookie and there are some character concerns. Obviously Ryan Ramczyk and Cam Robinson will be some of the other options here.
24. Oakland Raiders: Jarrad Davis LB, Florida: After just acquiring Marshawn Lynch, the chances of the Raiders going with a running back at 24 seem very slim. The weakest part of their roster at this point would probably be linebacker and Davis could fill that need and likely slide in as a starter on day one. Zach Cunningham should also get a lot of consideration here.
25. Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson QB, Clemson: Somehow in a quarterback crazy market, this worked out very well for the Texans. On a team that is ready to compete everywhere but what could be the toughest position in sports, Watson could very well be their guy. Patrick Mahomes if available could be considered and after falling for Brock Osweiler’s size, Davis Webb might be in play too. Another alternative for the Texans would be to go with a tackle who is still there as their right tackle Derek Newton is coming off of two torn patellar tendons.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson T, Alabama: The Seahawks could go a few different ways with this. In a pretty deep secondary draft, they could address adding more depth or try finding a solution on the offensive line. While I feel Melifonwu would be a fantastic chess piece for them, he’s off the board. That would bring it down in this scenario of picking between a bigger corner (Marlon Humphrey, Kevin King or Chidobe Awuzie)and the top tackle left on the board. With the Seahawks having shown an ability to add quality corners later in the draft, picking Robinson here makes sense.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Gareon Conley CB, Ohio State: In the past few days, allegations have come out against Conley that have the potential to be career threatening. With the case unlikely to be resolved by the draft, it will all come down to the research a team has done on Conley. With a need for a corner opposite Marcus Peters and having shown they’ll take chances on players with concerns coming in, the Chiefs make a lot of sense.
Despite being a clear first round talent, Conley does carry a risk of not being drafted at all. Other corners such as Marlon Humphrey, Tre’Davious White or Kevin King could also be options if that’s how it plays out. A quarterback like Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes if either made it here can’t be counted out either.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Adoree’ Jackson CB, USC: One of the best things to come from Ezekiel Elliott’s immediate success is that by milking the clock, it left less time for the Cowboys secondary to get exposed. By selecting Jackson, the Cowboys would be filling a need and doing it in the flashiest fashion possible. That’s truly the Jerry Jones way. Jackson had a decorated career at USC, is extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands and could be gone by this point in the draft. If Jackson isn’t available, I would expect the Cowboys to look at pass rushers such as Taco Charlton, Tyus Bowzer or T.J. Watt while adding secondary depth on day two.
29. Green Bay Packers: Tyus Bowzer LB, Houston: There is a chance I’m selling Bowzer short here and he’ll be long gone at this point. A player who teams think can rush the passer with a hand in the dirt or on the outside, he tested extremely well athletically and still has lots of projection left as a player. While the Packers could use help in their linebacker corps, they’re deep enough where Bowzer can ease his way into things and be more involved as the season continues. T.J. Watt is another name that could be a possibility here along with the various cornerbacks that will be coming off the board.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Corey Davis WR, Western Michigan: Early on in the draft, there is a good chance the Steelers will address finding another pass catcher and their secondary. But this right here, is the most Steelers result possible. Davis is viewed by some as the top wideout in this class and as someone who can win at various levels of the field, would make a great compliment to Antonio Brown. Another pass catcher to watch here is Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram.
Engram has the ability to lineup all over the field and paired with Brown and Le’Veon Bell would create plenty of headaches for opposing coordinators. With Ben Roethlisberger pondering retirement each season, DeShone Kizer being selected here wouldn’t stun me either.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Taco Charlton DE, Michigan: If we saw anything from the Falcons defense in the Super Bowl, it’s that they could use some more depth in terms of edge rushers. Once considered a sure top 15 pick, Charlton would prove to be a nice get at this spot. Due to Dan Quinn’s love of speed on the defensive side of the ball, Tyus Bowzer if available is also a real possibility.
32. New Orleans Saints: Kevin King CB, Washington: Like the last six or seven picks, this is one that could be dealt if a team wanted to trade up and get a quarterback for the fifth year option. Assuming they stay put, the Saints have too many issues in the secondary to not address it with the players available. A big corner with experience at various secondary positions, King makes a lot of sense for the Saints if he is available here. In the event he isn’t, corners such as Marlon Humphrey or Tre’Davious White could be considered with this pick.