2017 NFL First Round Mock Draft

  1. Browns: Myles Garrett, Edge Rusher (Texas A&M) → This is really a no-brainer, as Garrett is head and shoulders above everyone else in this draft class. An edge rusher who combines prototype size and freaky athleticism with elite college production, Garrett has the potential to change a defense as soon as he steps onto the field. He’s truly an All-Pro talent, and even Cleveland can’t mess this one up (I hope, for their sake).
  2. 49ers: Solomon Thomas, Edge Rusher (Stanford) → While the 49ers will likely try to trade down since this draft has no clear #2 prospect, I believe they’ll ultimately have to stay put and take the best player available. While Thomas lacks the length and bend of the typical top 5 edge rusher and has “tweener” size, he’s a phenomenal athlete and has the versatility to kick inside on passing downs. Quarterback could also be a possibility here, though I think they’ll wait until a later round for that.
  3. Jaguars via Bears: Leonard Fournette, Running Back (LSU) → Worried that a team might try to jump them, the Jaguars switch spots with the Bears to get their guy. Fournette is a legitimate workhorse with enticing speed and power, and while he may not contribute much on passing downs he isn’t a liability there. His subpar vertical jump is not a concern since his leg drive is evident on tape. This move would take some pressure off Blake Bortles in a make or break year.
  4. Bears via Jaguars: Jamal Adams, Safety (LSU) → Armed with an underrated front seven, the Bears pounce at the opportunity to get much-needed help in the back end of their defense. As a do-it-all safety, Adams is comfortable in zone coverage and excels when able to play downhill in the box. At LSU, his unmistakable confidence and leadership ability stood out, and these intangibles should translate to the NFL.
  5. Browns via Titans: Mitch Trubisky, Quarterback (UNC) → Armed with 11 draft picks, the Browns trade up in front of the Jets to make sure they get a guy who they hope can be their quarterback of the future. While Trubisky was only a one year starter and needs to improve his pocket presence, his overlooked arm strength and athleticism and top-level production give the Browns hope that he can give them some stability at quarterback.
  6. Jets: Deshaun Watson, Quarterback (Clemson) → While the Jets have many other needs and plenty of top talent remains on the board, they address their most pressing issue by adding Watson, who I believe is the best quarterback in this draft. His decision-making and downfield accuracy need work, but he has a strong arm and great athleticism. Most importantly, he’s a proven winner with strong leadership intangibles, and I think this will win a team over, causing him to be drafted higher than some may expect.
  7. Chargers: Haason Reddick, Linebacker (Temple) → Mike Williams and Malik Hooker would fill big needs and should also draw strong consideration for this pick, but at the end of the day I believe the Chargers will view Reddick as the superior player. His speed and overall athleticism are undeniable, and as a walk-on cornerback who eventually ended up on the defensive line in college, he excels in space and can chip in rushing the passer in sub packages. Thought to be one of the fastest risers throughout the draft process, Reddick would add to the Chargers’ extremely talented front seven.
  8. Panthers: OJ Howard, Tight End (Panthers) → While this may seem like a questionable fit given the team’s other needs and Greg Olsen’s presence, Howard could help the Panthers in a number of different ways. Underutilized in college, Howard would give Cam Newton some much-needed help by giving him another receiving threat and allowing the team to run more 2 TE sets, improving both their pass blocking and run blocking. Plus, Greg Olsen is 32 years old and only has two more years left on his contract.
  9. Bengals: Jonathan Allen, Interior DL (Alabama) → With this pick, the Bengals would fill a big need by giving them depth across their defensive line. Arguably the most productive collegiate player in this draft, Allen slides to the Bengals due to his questionable athleticism (not particularly fast or powerful) and injury history (tore labrums in both shoulders). While I believe Allen would be a better fit with a 3-4 team as a 5-technique, he would help Cincinatti set the edge on early downs before kicking inside to rush the passer.
  10. Bills: Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback (Ohio State) → A surefire top 10 talent, Lattimore would be a good get for a Bills defense that just lost Stephon Gilmore in free agency. While he has average size and was only a starter for one season, Lattimore has plus speed, tremendous quickness, and showed strong ball skills and coverage ability in both press and off coverage. Pat Mahomes could also get a surprising amount of consideration for this pick, as the Bills have reportedly been very active scouting this year’s quarterbacks and owner Terry Pegula personally attended a private workout of his.
  11. Cardinals via Saints: Mike Williams, Wide Receiver (Clemson) → With Larry Fitzgerald firmly in the twilight of his career, the Cardinals need an heir apparent on the outside and Williams is this draft’s best wide receiver. In this scenario, they trade with the Saints to get in front of the Titans, who are also expected to add a wide receiver early in this draft. While his long speed is a concern, Williams’ ball skills, size, and hands are all elite and more than make up for it. If they stay put, the Cardinals could be another option for Pat Mahomes, who would benefit immensely from learning under Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians.
  12. Titans: John Ross, Wide Receiver (Washington) →  While Ross is not as complete of a player as Mike Williams, the Titans would likely be happy to get him since his speed (record 4.22 40 yard dash at the NFL combine) would give their offense a new dimension. Questions about his hands and durability persist and could cause him to be drafted later than this, and if the Titans look elsewhere a cornerback like Marlon Humphrey could make a lot of sense, but Ross’ college production, versatility, and return ability suggest that he should be an immediate impact player.
  13. Saints via Cardinals: Taco Charlton, Edge Rusher (Michigan) → While the Saints have needs all over their defense, the main thing they’ve been missing is an impact pass rusher to take pressure off Cameron Jordan. While Charlton didn’t perform quite as well as expected at the NFL Combine, his prototypical size, length, and bend is apparent on tape and he can win with both burst and power. His production can be somewhat inconsistent, but he steadily improved and had his best year as a senior.
  14. Eagles: Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback (Alabama) → The Eagles’ need for a cornerback (or three) is well publicized, and an early investment would go a long way toward improving what’s otherwise a talented defense. Humphrey’s toughness and athleticism instantly stand out, and he produced from the time he was a redshirt freshman for an upperclassman-heavy defense. His ability to play the ball down the field has come under fire of late, but that shouldn’t be as much of an issue on a team with two quality safeties.
  15. Colts: Malik Hooker, Free Safety (Ohio State) → While safety isn’t the Colts’ number one need, they’d be thrilled to get a player with Hooker’s potential at pick 15. His outstanding range and ball skills make him an ideal fit for a center fielder-type role who has the freedom to roam the back end of a defense, and he’ll rank higher than this on many draft boards. However, nagging injuries through the draft process, his lack of physicality in the run game, his lack of experience as a one-year starter, and a lack of teams who need safeties in the early teens could cause him to fall farther than some expect.
  16. Buccaneers via Ravens: Dalvin Cook, Running Back (FSU) → Doug Martin’s lack of reliability between constant injuries and his suspension makes running back a huge need despite his recent extension, and the Buccaneers jump the Redskins (who could be looking to take a running back as well) in this scenario to get their guy. While some evaluators are concerned with Cook’s attitude off the field and combine results (tested in the 9th percentile athletically), I believe he’s a good football player when all is said and done and his play speed trumps what he showed in gym shorts. Unlike Leonard Fournette, Cook also has the potential to be a plus contributor on passing downs.
  17. Redskins: Christian McCaffrey, Running Back (Stanford) → It’s possible that the Redskins make this pick even if Cook is still on the board, as McCaffrey’s game complements the incumbent Rob Kelley’s very well. Whether or not a platoon running back is worth a first round pick is another issue entirely, but given all the buzz McCaffrey has received it’s looking like he’ll hear his name called on day one. One of the draft’s most versatile offensive weapons, McCaffrey offers elite receiving skills and return ability, great athleticism, and an underrated ability to run between the tackles, though his build (listed at 202 lbs with questionable leg drive) makes it fair to question whether he can handle the workload of a feature back in the NFL.
  18. Titans: Reuben Foster, Linebacker (Alabama) → A top 10 lock if not for off field issues and reported subpar interviews, Foster would give the Titans an exciting young talent for their defense. Arguably the hardest hitter in this draft, Foster’s speed and tremendous instincts make him a heat-seeking missile on the field, and his coverage skills are more advanced than Dont’a Hightower’s and Reggie Ragland’s were coming out of Alabama. Whether this outweighs the aforementioned personality and football intelligence risks remains to be seen.
  19. Ravens via Buccaneers: Takkarist McKinley, Edge Rusher (UCLA) → While many have speculated that this pick will be an offensive lineman given that the Ravens have lost Kelechi Osemele and Rick Wagner in consecutive offseasons, edge rusher is just as big of a need given their lack of youth at the position. While McKinley may be shorter and have less play strength than some teams would like, his speed, movement skills, and tremendous effort make him a strong fit for the Ravens. If his rush moves continue to develop once he enters the league, he could be dangerous.
  20. Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, Offensive Tackle (Wisconsin) → In most drafts the thought of the first offensive lineman coming off the board at pick 20 is incomprehensible, but this year’s class is as weak as any in recent memory. I believe Ramczyk is the best of the bunch, offering good balance in pass protection along with smarts and underrated athleticism, and while he isn’t perfect (recovering from hip surgery and one year starter) he would fill a huge need for a Denver team that currently projects to start Donald Stephenson at left tackle. If they decide to go a different direction, an interior defensive lineman would make a lot of sense for a team that struggled to defend the run in 2016.
  21. Lions: Derek Barnett, Edge Rusher (Tennessee) → The Lions desperately need pass rush help following a season that saw them rank 30th in sacks, and Barnett should be a plug and play starter. In terms of college production, his only rivals are Jonathan Allen and Myles Garrett among defensive linemen, but a concerning lack of speed and overall athleticism coupled with ailments (illness and then a hamstring strain) throughout the draft process put the status of his draft stock up in the air. Despite his aforementioned production, Barnett’s upside may not be as high as that of some of his counterparts.
  22. Dolphins: David Njoku, Tight End (Miami) → Guard and defense figure to be the Dolphins’ main priorities in the draft, but Njoku is simply too good to pass up at this spot. I got to watch him play a lot this year, and while his hands and ball skills don’t scream “first rounder,” he’s special with the ball in his hands (which should translate to a lot of YAC), is one of this draft class’ best athletes, and is very young (20). He isn’t a great blocker yet, but he puts the effort in and has the frame to develop that skill in the pros. Julius Thomas can’t be relied on as anything more than a dart throw and is unlikely to be the Dolphins’ answer at the position. The upside is very high here.
  23. Giants: Garett Bolles, Offensive Tackle (Utah) → Anyone who watched the Giants last season knows they struggled to move the ball at times despite their talent, and one of the main reasons was because their blocking was so poor. Boles isn’t a sexy pick, as he turns 25 in May and only spent one season at Utah, but his great athleticism/movement skills and pass blocking would make him a plug and play left tackle for New York while allowing them to move Ereck Flowers to right tackle. His play strength isn’t what you’d expect from him given his toughness, leaving some concern about how good of a run blocker he’ll be in the NFL.
  24. Steelers via Raiders: Pat Mahomes, Quarterback (Texas Tech) → Surprised? Don’t be: Ben Roethlisberger briefly flirted with retirement this offseason, and the Steelers’ depth and youth across their roster gives them the flexibility to jump the Texans and pick a player who won’t help them win right away. Mahomes is extremely raw fundamentally and has a steep learning curve coming from Texas Tech’s “Air Raid” offense, but his confidence and unteachable arm talent are impossible to deny. While I don’t believe he should be a first rounder, he could succeed in a situation like this where he has the opportunity to sit back and learn from a quarterback with similar traits for a couple years before seeing the field.
  25. Texans: Cam Robinson, Offensive Tackle (Alabama) → While quarterback is the Texans’ most publicized and pressing need, Bill O’Brien is not going to force a high pick on a player he doesn’t love. Easily the most talented offensive lineman in this draft, Robinson entered the year as a potential top 10 pick but fell to the first round fringe thanks to off-field issues and inconsistencies with balance in pass protection. However, his strength, athleticism, and production are still very encouraging, and his skillset profiles well at right tackle, where the Texans would likely deploy him to start his career.
  26. Seahawks: Kevin King, Cornerback (Washington) → Between the inconsistent play of cornerbacks opposite Richard Sherman and trade talks involving Richard Sherman, cornerback has shaped up as a huge need for the Seahawks. King fits the Seahawk mold as a tall (6’3”), long corner with press-man ability and ball skills, and he tore up the combine by posting top-level speed and agility numbers typically seen in shorter players at his position. Smaller shifty receivers will give him problems due to his high center of gravity and he isn’t particularly strong for someone with his size, but if used correctly King could be an effective chess piece for defensive coordinators thanks to his versatility and unique skillset.
  27. Chiefs: Jarrad Davis, Linebacker (Florida) → With Derrick Johnson nearing the end of his career, the Chiefs need to look to the future at the linebacker position. Davis is a typical run and chase linebacker, excelling in space and coverage while leaving much to be desired filling gaps in the run game. In today’s NFL, guys like this are becoming increasingly popular and valuable as tight ends and running backs are increasingly utilized in the passing game. The Chiefs should also seriously consider taking a quarterback here, as Alex Smith is not the answer and has been holding a very talented team back.
  28. Cowboys: Jabrill Peppers, Safety (Michigan) → After losing both Barry Church and JJ Wilcox in free agency, the Cowboys have a big hole to fill in the back end of their defense. Jabrill Peppers is cut from a similar cloth as a box safety with tremendous athleticism and would also contribute significantly as a return man, but his current coverage skills, ball skills, and overall instincts leave much to be desired. At the end of the day, while I don’t think Peppers is a first round prospect and believe his best NFL position might be running back, it’s easy to envision a team like Dallas falling in love with him. If the Cowboys want to take a cornerback, which is also a huge need for them following the losses of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr in free agency, Adoree’ Jackson would make a lot of sense.
  29. Packers: TJ Watt, Edge Rusher (Wisconsin) → The Packers need more depth in their front seven if they want to improve their defense, and JJ’s younger brother can chip in both on the edge and as a stand-up linebacker. While not the twitchiest or most explosive, Watt is a very good athlete who put up big-time numbers for a great Wisconsin defense in his first year as a starter. His versatility figures to create a lot of interest among teams in the back end of the first round.
  30. Raiders via Steelers: Sidney Jones, Cornerback (Washington) → Interior pass rush and linebacker help are the Raiders’ primary needs, but they should have options to fill those holes in later rounds and no one else on the board has Jones’ talent. Considered a top 10 hopeful early in the draft process, Jones is widely expected to tumble on draft day thanks to a torn achilles suffered eat his pro day, making him a high risk/high reward gamble. It’s very possible that he’ll have to start 2017 on the PUP, but he could make valuable contributions upon his return and would give the Raiders a replacement for Sean Smith and/or David Amerson the following season in the event that either is cut (they’ll have the opportunity to cut either one without a cap significant penalty). Adoree’ Jackson is also a possibility here.
  31. Falcons: Forrest Lamp, Guard (WKU) → The Falcons have few holes to fill, but they could use some help at guard and Lamp figures to be one of the better players available for their pick. A prolific left tackle at Western Kentucky, Lamp will almost certainly kick inside in the NFL due to his lack of length and average frame, and while he doesn’t have tremendous power he’s a fluid mover and doesn’t get pushed around. A sneaky alternative could be Evan Engram, who figures to fill a Jordan Reed/Marques Colston role as a “big slot” in the NFL.
  32. Saints via Patriots: Adoree’ Jackson, Cornerback (USC) → The Saints need as many quality defensive players as they can get, and Adoree’ Jackson would immediately step in as a starter for them while providing a significant punch in the return game. Players with his combination of explosive athleticism, college production, and versatility usually don’t last this long, but some teams are concerned with his size and relative inconsistencies in coverage and this is an extremely deep cornerback draft. Despite these concerns, it’s not hard to envision him being drafted higher than this.

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