The 2016-2017 NFL season is officially over, signaling the start of the NFL Draft season. Now that the order of the draft is set for all 32 teams, it feels like the perfect time to release my first mock draft of the year.
This mock is a predictive one, so before you scroll down and tear through it remember that I’m trying to predict what NFL teams will do on draft night – I’m reading the tea leaves and doing my best to think like NFL teams think.
One big thing to remember is I don’t predict trades. Trying to think like 32 GMs in a vacuum is hard enough, guessing at any trades at this point takes this exercise even further away from any realism – but rest assured, there will be trades on draft night. A player will fall further than he was expected and a team will trade up to grab him. More likely than that is a quarterback being available in the late first round and a team trading up to secure that all-important fifth-year guarantee on his contract.
With that being said, let’s dive into Mock Draft 1.0:
- Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, Edge Rusher, Texas A&M – Browns have a chance to acquire a generational talent at a cornerstone position for the franchise. It’s a no-brainer pick, especially given how well Garrett will fit into new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’s defensive scheme.
- San Francisco 49ers – Mitch Trubisky, Quarterback, North Carolina – How do you guess what John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan will do as rookie GM and head coach? Any pick mocked here is a reach but I’ll submit Trubisky for now because we know San Francisco needs a QB and we know Trubisky is being hyped as a potential QB whose skillsets match what Shanahan likes from his quarterbacks.
- Chicago Bears – Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU – Bears’ identity will always be defense. Safety is a premium position with few talents equal to the necessity of it, and Jamal Adams is a special (maybe generational) player at the position. A reach at quarterback will be tempting, but addressing a crucial part of the secondary should be priority number one for John Fox and Vic Fangio.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Jonathan Allen, Defensive Line, Alabama – Jags nab arguably the best player in college football this past season to bolster their defensive front. I’m of the belief Allen can play both 4-3 DE as well as 3 technique at a high level. He’s a tank against the run and underrated as a pass rusher. Maybe the highest floor of any player in this class.
- Tennessee Titans – Corey Davis, Wide Receiver, Western Michigan – We’ve seen Jon Robinson not shy away from putting talent around Marcus Mariota, and this pick would be a cherry on top of what they’ve already done. To me Corey Davis is easily WR1 in this class and I see Allen Robinson when I watch his tape. He’s a big-bodied split end to make the tough possession catches and provide Mariota the downfield/redzone threat that he needs.
- New York Jets – DeShone Kizer, Quarterback, Notre Dame – Todd Bowles is on thin ice headed into year three as head coach. A clear future at quarterback is needed going forward, with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg are all clearly not the guy. Kizer’s ceiling is the highest in the class and, with proper grooming, he’s a future franchise quarterback.
- San Diego Chargers – Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Clemson – Remember last year when everyone knew the Chargers were picking an offensive tackle and then they selected Joey Bosa? I’m seeing the same trend this year with defensive back being frequently mocked here. I go in a different direction with Mike Williams, who’s the type of receiver the Chargers are lacking in filling out their offense. All of a sudden Los Angeles has a young, explosive offense for Philip Rivers to make one last run with.
- Carolina Panthers – Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU – It feels certain that Fournette is going early in the draft, now the task is finding his suitor. He fits what Carolina wants to do philosophically and there’s a need to upgrade the position in this draft. Top 8 is too rich for me personally but all things considered this landing spot is as ideal as any.
- Cincinnati Bengals – Reuben Foster, Linebacker, Alabama – Linebackers aren’t usually top-10 picks, but most linebackers aren’t Reuben Foster. He’s far and away the best in the class in my opinion, and having watched every Bengals game in 2016, it’s apparent that they need speed at this position.
- Buffalo Bills – Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State – He might be a generational free safety prospect. As rangy of a midfielder as there’s been in several years, he’d fit perfectly in any system, but especially with new head coach Sean McDermott and what he’ll bring in Buffalo. Hooker’s torn labrum shouldn’t cause Buffalo to pass on him, despite injury woes from last year’s selection’s Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland.
- New Orleans Saints – Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback, Ohio State – The Saints’ offense was as dynamic as ever in 2016, and if New Orleans wants to get the most out of Drew Brees’s twilight, they have to continue building the defense. Lattimore is my top cornerback, displaying exceptional length and physicality and possessing the ability to bail, play Cover 3, stick to the run, or press man.
- Cleveland Browns – O.J. Howard, Tight End, Alabama – Cleveland needs difference makers on both sides of the ball, and they had the chance to see how much of one Howard was up close in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. He excels in every facet of the game. The elephant in the room is I didn’t mock a quarterback to Cleveland here, but I’m not certain they like either Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes enough to put them in this spot. Cleveland has the capital to come back up for a quarterback later. For now I’m focusing on cornerstone talents to build a winning football team.
- Arizona Cardinals – Teez Tabor, Cornerback, Florida – Arizona goes back to the SEC to add a much-needed defensive back to their roster. Outside of Honey Badger and Patrick Peterson the Cards have a major deficiency at cornerback, and Tabor’s traits fit ideally with their defensive scheme.
- Philadelphia Eagles – John Ross, Wide Receiver, Washington – Despite drafting wide receiver in 2014 and 2015, Philadelphia shouldn’t be skittish about taking a player like John Ross who is a “trump card” kind of wide out. Ross flourished with Jake Browning, a quarterback with significantly less arm talent than Carson Wentz, and in an offense like Doug Pederson’s, Ross could have a Desean Jackson-esque impact.
- Indianapolis Colts – Tim Williams, Edge Rusher, Alabama – On a per snap basis Williams was the most disruptive player at the college level that I can remember. If his off-field issues aren’t anything significant, I expect him to be a future Pro Bowler. He’s perfect for the Colts’ scheme and a major upgrade to their defense that has to assist Andrew Luck in getting Indy back to the playoffs.
- Baltimore Ravens – Takk McKinley, Edge Rusher, UCLA – Baltimore is getting long in the tooth at edge and McKinley is an excellent value here. Whether rushing as a 3-4 OLB or a 4-3 DE, McKinley’s the perfect protégé for Terrell Suggs moving forward.
- Washington – Solomon Thomas, Defensive Line, Stanford – I won’t be shocked if Thomas is the steal of the first round. One of the youngest talents in the draft, he’s scheme-versatile with as high of a ceiling as anyone in 2017. This would be another homerun for GM Scot McCloughan.
- Tennessee Titans – Sidney Jones, Cornerback, Washington – Titans go 2-for-2 in Round 1 by filling their other biggest need with Jones. Best word I can use to describe him is steady. Jones was expected to lock down his spot every week at Washington and he answered every week.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Obi Melifonwu, Safety, Connecticut – Obi’s going to be the riser of this draft class, coming off an impressive Senior Bowl. He’s the rare “big” safety who can actually cover in man or zone, and be more than a lumbering figure-piece in the secondary.
- Denver Broncos – Cam Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Alabama – Robinson is one of the more controversial players in this class, but I’m still all-in on him. Denver’s OL trouble was a stain on their 2016 season and drafting Robinson gets them a franchise type left tackle for the better part of the next decade.
- Detroit Lions – Carl Lawson, Edge Rusher, Auburn – If Lawson stays healthy, he has special potential. He’s a power rusher with heavy hands and is an impact pick for a team on the verge of the playoffs. Placing him next to Ziggy Ansah could make for one of the better pairings in the NFL.
- Miami Dolphins – Derek Barnett, Edge Rusher, Tennessee – Miami needs to get young at defensive end, so Barnett is a great value here. He’s been accused of being a snap-jumper, but the same was said of Dee Ford in 2014. I see Barnett as having strong hands, good technique, and enough bend to win at the next level. The Dolphins become a better football team by adding him.
- New York Giants – Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Florida State – There are questions about Cook’s medicals, but there is no doubt about his on-field potential. He’s a three-down, do-it-all running back. The Giants have the defense, and key pieces on offense, and adding Cook could get them back into the Super Bowl potential conversation.
- Oakland Raiders – Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback, Alabama – Humphrey was made to be a Raider. Size. Speed. Athleticism. Pedigree. He is an impressive tackler with elite, long speed. His issue is burn-rate. If/when he gets technique down, he could be the best corner out of this class.
- Houston Texans – Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Texas Tech – The wildcard. Houston has a Super Bowl defense paired with a ready to explode offense. They’re on the hook for Osweiler either way so he shouldn’t affect how they address quarterback in this class. Mahomes isn’t ready yet, but don’t stereotype him as an Air Raid QB. There’s something special there to be mined, and we know Bill O’Brien can get the best out of that position.
- Seattle Seahawks – Taylor Moton, Offensive Line, Western Michigan – Seattle needs real solutions on the offensive line and Moton’s a Day 1 right tackle who can play guard if need be. They’ve have to get serious about this position or they’re going to remain stagnant in the NFC hierarchy.
- Kansas City Chiefs – Zach Cunningham, Linebacker, Vanderbilt – If you’re looking to replace Derrick Johnson, I can’t think of a better candidate than Cunningham. He made Vanderbilt’s entire defense better, he’s as smart as any LB in this class, he’s instinctive and relentless.
- Dallas Cowboys – Charles Harris, Edge Rusher, Missouri – Dallas has to hit on a reliable pass rusher and Harris fits in Rod Marinelli’s system perfectly. For Dallas to get to a Super Bowl they need to start here and work their way back on the defensive side of the ball in this draft.
- Green Bay Packers – Quincy Wilson, Cornerback, Florida – Having just released Sam Shields, Green Bay has to upgrade their cornerback position that was exposed in the NFC Title game against Atlanta. Wilson gives the Packers a future #1 corner to play beside Damarious Randall and Quinton Rollins.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – David Njoku, Tight End, Miami (FL) – Njoku might be the best athlete at tight end in this class. He’s perfect to pair with OC Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger, as Pittsburgh continue to bolster an offense that can be as good as any in football.
- Atlanta Falcons – Jaleel Johnson, Defensive Tackle, Iowa – Defensive line upgrade is needed for a defense that’s close to matching its offense in terms of quality. Johnson is a disruptor like Grady Jarrett and putting the two of them together make one of the best young pairs in the NFL.
- New England Patriots – Malik McDowell, Defensive End, Michigan State – Conventional wisdom says they’ll trade this pick, but for this exercise they’re snagging one of the best, most versatile edge players in this class in McDowell. We know New England likes to play multiple formations, and Malik is a high-end 4-3 defensive end who can slide inside and play the 3 technique on sub-packages.
Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson – Watson is my QB1 and I’d pull the trigger on him at #2 overall, but it doesn’t seem that NFL teams value him that high yet. We’ve seen quarterbacks fall before and if he does fall, I suspect some team trades back into Round 1 to grab him so they get him on a five-year contract. New England trading out of the #32 spot (potentially to Cleveland) wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Jabrill Peppers, Safety, Michigan – There’s no denying the talent. My co-host of #PylonU, Jeff Feyerer and I talked extensively all season about how good Peppers could be with consistent reps at safety – something he didn’t get at Michigan. He’s an unknown projection at the moment, so I couldn’t even remotely be confident mocking him in Round 1 until more information is available.
Budda Baker, Safety, Washington – His tape is tremendous and he’s on the fringe of the 1st round, but his size could deter the NFL from taking him on Day 1. We saw Karl Joseph rise last season, so the potential is there for Baker as well, with several landing spots – including Tampa Bay as high as #19.
Ryan Anderson, Edge Rusher, Alabama – Questions about his athleticism coupled with a Senior Bowl in which he was pretty much unusable due to a hand injury keeps him out of Mock 1.0. His Combine will do a lot to cement his draft status.