It’s never too early to talk about the NFL Draft. While we are slightly less than a year away from the 2017 NFL Draft, we’re getting a jump on things. The grind never stops. This is our first attempt at a 2017 mock draft. Of course a lot will change during the season, but this is how it currently stands before anyone sets foot on the gridiron as we kick things off in the next few months.
1. Cleveland Browns: QB – Deshaun Watson – Clemson
In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Browns elected to trade down from the number 2 slot and pass on a franchise QB like Carson Wentz in favor of accumulating more picks as Sashi Brown attempts a roster overhaul. This leads them to pick atop the 2017 NFL Draft where they still find themselves with a glaring need under center. They did draft Cody Kessler in the 3rd round, but he’s a longtime backup.
While I don’t see Deshaun Watson worthy of a top 10 pick, let alone the 1st overall pick in the draft, his stock could be lifted in a poor QB class. He does have undeniable potential with dual threat ability and an improving arm. He will need to fill out his frame and continue to prove himself as a junior if he wants to hear his name called this early next April.
2. Detroit Lions: RB – Leonard Fournette – LSU
If Ezekiel Elliott can go 4th overall, Leonard Fournette sure can go 2nd – this would make him the highest RB drafted in over a decade since Reggie Bush was taken 2nd overall back in 2006. Ever since he was a freshman Fournette has been in the spotlight. His ultra productive sophomore campaign put him as the frontrunner for the Heisman trophy this college football season. Fournette’s combination of speed, power, vision and size is extremely rare and would completely morph Detroit’s offense With the departure of Calvin Johnson, the Lions are in need of another playmaker on offense to soften the blow.
I fully expect this to be Jim Caldwell’s final season in the motor city. Quite frankly, I’m surprised he wasn’t fired following the 2015 season. Fournette would revolutionize the offense for whomever takes the reigns of the Detroit football team. Detroit has been trying to replace Barry Sanders since he retired, well here you go.
3. San Francisco 49ers: QB – Brad Kaaya – Miami (FL)
Nothing was resolved over this past offseason regarding the 49ers QB situation. It won’t be much longer until Chip Kelly gets ‘his guy’, especially if San Francisco is picking in the top 3.
After Watson, it looks like Brad Kaaya is the next QB in line. The Miami Hurricane has a more traditional skillset compared to that of Watson. Kaaya stands tall in the pocket and has flawless mechanics with good poise. A well-polished, experienced QB, he could step right in and start from day one. I can see him surpass Watson as the top QB in the draft class as the season goes on.
4. Tennessee Titans: DE – Myles Garrett – Texas A&M
Without my #1 prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft, Myles Garrett finds himself going off the board at 4 to the Tennessee Titans with their first of two 1st round picks. With Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan setting the edge, the Titans could use some youth coming off the edge. Plus, you can never have too many pass rushers.
Garrett is the most explosive pass rusher in this year’s draft class and will be a double-digit sack artist for years to come. If you think Joey Bosa was good, stay tuned for Myles Garrett in 2016. He’ll bring an intimidating presence off the edge in Tennessee for the next decade.
5. New Orleans Saints: DE – Derek Barnett – Tennessee
This was a tricky pick to project for New Orleans. A team that seemingly always needs help on the defensive side of the ball, it was just a matter of what to address. A guy like Jalen Tabor or Jabrill Peppers would add a much-needed difference maker to the secondary. However, Sean Payton decides to continue building up the trenches.
After drafting Sheldon Rankins 12th overall in 2016, Derek Barnett brings a great compliment to the outside. A lethal pass rusher who has been causing havoc in the SEC since his freshman season, Barnett brings another outside presence opposite Cameron Jordan.
6. San Diego Chargers: OT – Cam Robinson – Alabama
After passing on Jalen Ramsey in favor of Joey Bosa in 2016, you would think the Chargers would add a playmaker to the secondary like Tabor or Peppers. That’s not the case. Assuming Mike McCoy is still the head coach, he continues to build up front, now addressing the offensive side of the ball.
Protecting Philip Rivers is pivotal to the success of San Diego’s offense. Cam Robinson is the top offensive tackle in the draft which is a great get for the Chargers here at 6. Robinson follows a long-line of Alabama offensive linemen to make a living in the NFL and has the potential to be a franchise left tackle.
7. Chicago Bears: OT – Roderick Johnson – Florida State
The Bears reeled in a solid draft in 2016, but they neglected to address offensive tackle. Jay Cutler won’t have any time to throw this season with Charles Leno manning the blindside. Roderick Johnson provides a much needed upgrade at left tackle and forms a good tandem with 2nd round pick Cody Whitehair on the left side of Chicago’s offensive line.
8. Cleveland Browns: CB – Jalen Tabor – Florida (Eagles)
They may look to address offensive line here, but with the top 2 tackles going off the board in consecutive pick, analytics guru Sashi Brown elects to go with BPA, while also filling a need in the process. In 2016, Cleveland focused on revamping their front 7, but there are still holes in the secondary.
Jalen Tabor will provide a great compliment to fellow Gator Joe Haden on the outside. Tabor is a playmaker at corner. He has a nose for the ball, plus athleticism and good ball skills.
9. Baltimore Ravens: WR – JuJu Smith-Schuster – USC
The Ravens seem to never consistently provide Joe Flacco with a reputable supporting cast, whatever the case may be. The fact is, Steve Smith will retire at season’s end while Kamar Aiken is set to become a free agent. If Baltimore wants to continue the flow on offense, they need to ensure Flacco has weapons to throw to.
Not only does he have the coolest name of any prospect in the draft, JuJu Smith-Schuster has developed into an electric playmaker in Pasadena. He’ll bring another dimension to Baltimore’s offense and succeed Steve Smith as the team’s #1 weapon.
10. New York Jets: RB – Dalvin Cook – Florida State
Signing Matt Forte surely isn’t a long-term solution in the backfield for the New York Jets. After drafting Christian Hackenberg, the Jets complete their future backfield with their selection of Dalvin Cook to round out the top 10.
Cook reminds me a bit of Todd Gurley, except a little bit quicker. Cook has the quickest feet of any RB in this year’s class and has the homerun ability to take it to pay dirt on any given play. His combination of speed and power will be coveted in the Big Apple to open up the passing game for Hackenberg.
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DE – Jonathan Allen – Alabama
I really wanted to go WR here for the Bucs, and I was actually really surprised to see them forego that position in this past draft. However, you can always get a WR in the 2nd round. Even after drafting the unpredictable Noah Spence, the Buccaneers grab another pass rusher.
The rule of thumb is that you can never have too many pass rushers, and the Bucs obtain another one as they look to keep on building that defense. Allen is the 3rd SEC pass rusher to go off the board in the first 11 picks. Allen dominates the SEC and looks like a man amongst boys in college football’s best conference.
12. Tennessee Titans: CB/WR – Adoree’ Jackson – USC (Rams)
After drafting the dynamic Myles Garrett in the top 5, the Titans get another playmaker. Adoree Jackson kills two birds with one stone here for Tennessee as he offers versatility to play both corner and receiver – both of which happen to be needs for the Titans.
While he’s not quite the receiver like teammate Smith-Schuster, Jackson still brings a spark on offense. However, he’s better suited at corner. His speed makes him a great downfield cover man. He is a playmaker on the outside no matter what side of the ball he is on. This pick is dynamite for Tennessee. Last year they focused on bringing in the “meat and potatoes” of the football team, now this year they want to bring in some playmakers.
13. Denver Broncos: LB – Raekwon McMillan – Ohio State
With the departure of Danny Trevathan, the Broncos have a big hole in the middle of their defense. To make matters worse, Brandon Marshall is an impending free agent as well. After this past offseason, Denver saw some holes on defense develop in the front 7.
An explosive player in the 2nd level, McMillan brings everything to the table and can be a difference maker right from the get-go. The type of player who not only brings tremendous talent and upside, but 100% on every play as well.
14. Miami Dolphins: S – Jamal Adams – LSU
With Reshad Jones ready to hit the free agent market, the Dolphins snag his successor in the middle of the 1st round. Even if Jones is retained, Jamal Adams very well could still be the pick based on his BPA value at this point.
Miami is a team that seems to always need help in the secondary. Adams has drawn comparisons to former LSU Tiger Tyrann Mathieu based on his knack for the ball, confidence and swagger he brings to the defensive backfield. He would provide an intimidating presence and give Miami’s defense an identity.
15. Atlanta Falcons: DE – Charles Harris – Missouri
I was surprised to see the Falcons neglect to draft a defensive linemen in 2016; this calls for one in the 1st round in the 2017 NFL Draft. We all know by now that Dan Quinn is all about revamping Atlanta’s defense. After his 2nd season as head coach, he’s almost there – however, he still needs more pieces, particularly a pass rusher opposite Vic Beasley.
Charles Harris is a productive, plug and play SEC pass rusher. Pairing him with Beasley would provide Atlanta with a formidable pass rushing duo and set them up to be competitors in the NFC South year after year.
16. New York Giants: DT – Malik McDowell – Michigan State
The next big thing on a Michigan State defensive line that seems to produce blue-chip players year after year, Malik McDowell could be the best one we’ve seen come out of East Lansing in quite sometime.
The junior defensive linemen is in for a breakout season. McDowell does a little bit of everything. He can serve as an interior pass rusher, or make a living in the backfield against the run. Imposing size at 6’6”/280, the Giants get younger on defense and add an eventual starter in the middle.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB – Desmond King – Iowa
Even with their selection of Jalen Ramsey with the 5th overall pick in 2016, the Jaguars still have a hole at corner entering the 2016 season. Many, including myself feel that Ramsey is much better suited at safety, so taking a corner in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft gives them much more flexibility on the defensive side of the ball.
Desmond King is a name you’re going to hear a lot of next season. The Iowa Hawkeye is a lockdown corner in the Big Ten. His combination of length, athleticism and instincts will provide a great compliment to Ramsey in Jacksonville’s secondary.
18. Indianapolis Colts: RB – Christian McCaffrey – Stanford
For the 2nd consecutive year, the Colts sit at the 18th pick in the draft, this despite an assumption that Andrew Luck stays healthy. Even though holes on the defense remain, I can see the front office in Indy’s mouth watering over the idea of pairing Luck with fellow Cardinal and Heisman hopeful, Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey is a bull of a runner, he gives 100% no matter the situation. He would provide a much needed boost in the backfield as Frank Gore will more than likely retire following this season, and there isn’t anyone the Colts have to succeed him.
19. Dallas Cowboys: CB/S – Jabrill Peppers – Michigan
The Cowboys elected to pass on Jalen Ramsey in 2016 in favor of Ezekiel Elliott who goes on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. With no pass rushers of value on the board, Dallas gets this year’s version of Ramsey in Jabrill Peppers.
While not as polished in coverage as Ramsey, Peppers brings a more dynamic presence to the secondary. Extremely athletic with a high football IQ, Peppers could develop into a stud playmaker in the NFL. A high upside guy who provides a much-needed boost to the Dallas secondary.
20. Oakland Raiders: RB – Nick Chubb – Georgia
The coaching staff in Oakland doesn’t seem to trust Latavius Murray as the team’s starting running back which leads to the selection of Nick Chubb to round out the non-playoff team selections in the 1st round.
Even though his sophomore season was cut short due to a season-ending knee injury, Chubb remains a late 1st round prospect. He’s a big, bruising back who possesses some speed as well. Would be a good fit in Oakland and form a good future QB-RB tandem as the Raiders look to compete in the AFC for the next decade.
21. Buffalo Bills: WR – Mike Williams – Clemson
Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills picked another Clemson Tiger, are you actually surprised? This pick is actually justifiable, however. Before his devastating neck fracture after running into the goal post, Mike Williams was thought of as a top wide receiver prospect following his huge 2014 campaign. If he can stay healthy this upcoming season, there’s no doubt he’ll be hearing his name called in the 1st round.
Receiver was thought of as a big need for Buffalo this past draft, but it’s a position they didn’t address until the 6th round. There is minimal talent behind Sammy Watkins in the WR corps, so the Bills decide to provide him with a legitimate #2, and fellow Clemson Tiger.
22. Seattle Seahawks: G/C – Ethan Pocic – LSU
Even after drafting two linemen in the first 3 rounds in 2016, the Seahawks still need to rebuild their offensive line and provide protection for Russell Wilson. As it stands, Ethan Pocic is the top interior linemen in the draft and would provide much needed versatility to the offense.
Pocic stands tall at 6’7”, not typical size for an interior guy. However, his versatility would give Seattle the flexibility to move 1st round pick Germain Ifedi outside to tackle and slot Pocic at either center or guard. Not the sexy pick, but a much needed one.
23. Houston Texans: DE – Davon Godchaux – LSU
After building the offense this past offseason, Bill O’Brien shifts his focus to the other side of the football. Aside from J.J. Watt, the Texans defensive line isn’t anything to write home about. Even though Watt is the most dominant player in the league, he could use some help on the opposite side.
Godchaux is a key returnee for the LSU Tigers who enter the season as a playoff favorite. Godchaux has started since his freshman season and will bring experience to Houston. A powerful penetrator who will fit as a 3-4 end in Houston’s defense.
24. Washington Redskins: DE – Da’Shawn Hand – Alabama
This is large in fact a projection pick. The former power recruit hasn’t been all that productive during his first two years in Tuscaloosa. However, with all the talent that departed from their Championship team this past season, Hand will receive a much larger role and start on the defensive line.
With veterans like Kendall Reyes and Chris Baker set to hit the free agent market, the Redskins bring in a guy like Hand who carries enormous upside, potential and brings much needed youth up front.
25. Green Bay Packers: LB – Carl Lawson – Auburn
With Julius Peppers set to retire within the next year or two, and Nick Perry an impeding free agent, the Packers are in need of pass rush and youth off the edge. While his size may hurt his draft stock, Carl Lawson is one of my favorite prospects in the draft due to his relentless pass rush ability.
If draftees such as Kyler Fackrell and Blake Martinez develop into starting caliber players, the Packers have a bright future of young players in their LB corps.
26. Kansas City Chiefs: CB – Tre’Davious White – LSU
They already have Marcus Peters as their lockdown corner, now they get his counterpart. Had Tre’Davious White entered the draft this past year, he would’ve likely been a 1st round pick. White will be the #1 corner on a powerful LSU team this season. He has great cover ability with length.
The Chiefs have solid depth guys in the secondary, but could really use that legitimate starter opposite Peters. With no glaring needs, the Chiefs go BPA and upgrade their defense.
27. Cincinnati Bengals: DE – Devonte Fields – Louisville
Despite his off-field issues, Devonte Fields finds himself in the 1st round based on his natural ability – think Robert Nkemdiche here. Fields is a terror off the edge and the talent Bengals team feel he is worth the risk here. With the aging Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson at defensive end, Cincinnati is in need of youth there.
Fields has arguably the most upside of any prospect in the draft which could prove this pick to be the steal of the 1st round. He is coming off an 11 sack season – if he could repeat double-digit sacks, he looks like a lock in the 1st.
28. Carolina Panthers: WR – Malachi Dupre – LSU
Surprisingly, the Panthers didn’t draft a receiver in 2016 which remains their biggest need heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. While he may be the most dominant QB in the league, Cam Newton needs more weapons around him and Kelvin Benjamin needs a compliment in the WR corps. Carolina goes BPA while filling a need here with the selection of Malachi Dupre.
Often overshadowed on LSU’s offense by Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre has made his fair share of big plays. A tremendous athlete with good size, Dupre and Benjamin will form one of the best WR tandems in the NFC.
29. Minnesota Vikings: LB – Marquis Haynes – Ole Miss
As if Anthony Barr rushing the passer isn’t intimidating enough to opposing offenses, the Vikings pair him up with a proven SEC pass rusher in Marquis Haynes. Haynes has been a straight up difference maker for the Rebels and has flown under the radar with guys like Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil stealing the team’s spotlight. The spotlight will be on Haynes this season as he looks to expand on his 17.5 sacks, 25.5 tackles for loss and 6 forced fumbles through his first 2 seasons.
With Chad Greenway nearing retirement, the Vikings lock up his long-term replacement as they continue grow with youth on the defensive side of the ball. A very sound drafting franchise as of late.
30. New England Patriots: DE/LB – Tim Williams – Alabama
Yes, they actually have a 1st round pick this season. After trading Chandler Jones to Arizona, many thought the Pats would address pass rush in the 2016 draft, which they failed to do. Therefore, they must do so early on in 2017.
Tim Williams is a pass rushing specialist in Tuscaloosa. With the host of players departed on Alabama’s defense, Williams will be given an even larger role this upcoming season. Williams’ size and versatility fits exactly what New England likes to do on defense. The 2nd consecutive year the Patriots select an Alabama player with their first pick.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB – Jourdan Lewis – Michigan
Even after drafting a corner in the 1st round in 2016, the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers do the same in 2017. After Artie Burns, the Steelers are very weak in the secondary. William Gay is a reliable veteran, but he’ll be entering his 10th season. Senquez Golson is a solid piece, but he’s hit or miss and still progressing.
Lewis could be the best player on the board, and he is arguably the best cover corner in the draft. Not the biggest or most athletic, but they already have that in Burns. Lewis provides a sound technician on the outside and will help a Steelers secondary that got torn apart in the Super Bowl against Arizona.
32. Arizona Cardinals: TE – O.J. Howard – Alabama
The Super Bowl winning Arizona Cardinals can afford to go with a luxury pick here. O.J. Howard is the draft’s top tight end and rounds out the 1st round. With a guy like Larry Fitzgerald set to retire soon, the Cardinals need reinforcements on offense.
Howard elected to return for his senior season and is in store for a huge year. He offers a great combination of size and athleticism which makes him a mismatch against anyone who attempts to cover him.