2017 NFL Mock Draft
Last Updated: February 7, 2017
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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2017 NFL Mock Draft
1. Cleveland Browns - Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M (6'5" 260) *
To be sure, the Browns need a franchise quarterback. Cleveland is expected to make a run at trading for Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo, though even if the Browns don't land him, it would surprise me to see them take a QB at #1 overall.
There is little question that Garrett is a truly special pass rushing talent, an absolute menacing force from the edge who played at a high level out of the box against SEC competition as a true freshman at Texas A&M in 2014. There are several indications coming out of Cleveland suggesting the Browns are high on him, and it's a move that makes sense.
And while there are some questions about his run-stopping and motor, Garrett is a special talent who can make an immediate impact. And for a team coming off a 1-15 season, a quick major upgrade at a key position makes total sense.
2. San Francisco 49ers - Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (6'3" 220) *
With the surprising hire of John Lynch as the team's new general manager last month, the 49ers went out of the box in their thinking. How that relates to the draft remains to be seen, particularly with such a glaring need at quarterback.
Few franchises have fallen as hard and fast as quickly as the 49ers did. Four years ago they were playing in the Super Bowl. Now it's Lynch's job to rebuild the team, and particularly with the 49ers not being under the "win in 2017 or else" pressure that the Bears and others face (and thus a relative disinclination to mortgage the future in trading for a QB), it seems that going with Trubisky here is the most likely scenario, at least for now.
3. Chicago Bears - Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama (6'3" 295)
Chicago's management and coaching staff is under the unspoken-but-clear mandate to turn the team into a winner in 2017 -- or face losing their jobs. And with veteran QB Jay Cutler not expected to be retained for next season, the Bears almost for sure will break the bank to get a veteran starter, perhaps it Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots or Tony Romo from the Cowboys.
With that expectation in mind, I anticipate the Bears selecting Allen if he's on the board here. Allen was part of some of the best front seven defensive groups in recent memory in college football during his time in Tuscaloosa. He's not the pure freak pass rusher that Myles Garrett is, but he was particularly disruptive down the stretch in 2016 for Alabama. And, when you include his run-stopping skills, there are some who have suggested Allen might be a better all-around prospect than Garrett.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (6'1" 230) *
The NFL is a copycat league, and after rule changes made for safety reasons tilted the game considerably in favor of passing attacks, the notion of a running back going in the top five went from commonplace (e.g. three of the first five players selected in the 2005 draft were running backs) to being a rarity.
But then last year the Cowboys drafted Zeke Elliott at #4 overall, and he went on to lead the league in rushing this past season. And while the Jaguars could add another blue chip defensive back or an edge rusher here, Fournette is a truly special player who had a remarkable career at Louisiana State, and he has the potential to instantly improve Jacksonville's offense in a major way.
5. Tennessee Titans (from L.A. Rams) - Jamal Adams, SS, LSU (6'0" 210) *
The Titans have the pieces in place to make a solid run at the playoffs in 2017. But there is a tremendous need for the team in its secondary, and Adams very well might prove to be the best defensive back in this year's crop. Alternately, Tennessee could go with a cornerback here, perhaps Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore. But, absent a trade, this is the direction I anticipate the Titans taking with this selection.
6. New York Jets - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida St. (5'11" 205) *
This is higher than where many project Cook will go. I don't care -- just wait until he dazzles scouts at the combine and at his pro day and get back to me. Cook has drawn plenty of comparisons to Thurman Thomas, and his pass-catching skills compliment his abilities on rushing plays. I saw him in person in Tampa against USF, and he's even faster in person than on video. Seeing him outrun the Bulls' defensive backs on his first touch of the game (on a stifling hot day, no less) made an immediate positive impression.
Like many other teams drafting near the top, quarterback is a major need for the Jets, at least depending on how they project second-year QB Christian Hackenburg as a viable prospect for 2017 after not playing at all in 2016. Also, the ghosts of the 2011 NFL Draft still linger (Jake Locker #8, Blaine Gabbert #10, Christian Ponder #12) and stretching for a question mark at QB with the #6 overall pick would be foolish, at least in my estimation.
7. Los Angeles Chargers - Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama (6'5" 325) *
This is not a particularly strong class for top-tier offensive tackles, but Robinson is likely the best of the bunch and would fill a major need spot for the Chargers. As much as it's unlikely that Jonathan Allen would really fall this far without another team trading up to get him, the Chargers used a high first-rounder in 2016 on Ohio State DE/OLB Joey Bosa, who excelled as a rookie in spite of the Chargers ownership's exceptionally tacky contract negotiating ploys. So one would think the Chargers wouldn't go for another edge rusher here, and moreover the team really owes it to Philip Rivers (and its fans) to provide him with better pass protection.
8. Carolina Panthers - Soloman Thomas, DL, Stanford (6'3" 275) *
First things first: the Panthers voluntarily taking the franchise tag off CB Josh Norman was one of the strangest NFL personnel decisions of 2016. General manager Dave Gettleman said the tag was removed because he didn't feel the team would be able to reach a long-term agreement with Norman before the July 15 deadline, but that contradicts what he said the month prior about being "very comfortable" about Norman playing in 2016 via the franchise tag one-year tender.
In short, the move made little sense at the time, and the Panthers suffered accordingly, along with the retirements and free agent defections that tend to plague Super Bowl teams the following off-season. But beyond problems at cornerback (and elsewhere), the Panthers really need to add a blue chip pass rusher into the fold for 2017.
Thomas was a highly-coveted recruit out of high school, and he really came into his own in 2016. Gifted with remarkable speed for his size and impressive upper body strength, Thomas' best trait might be in the tackles for loss category. His skills make him a major challenge: fast enough to zip past offensive tackles with insufficient reaction time, yet strong enough to gain separation from blockers who are quick enough to make contact.
9. Cincinnati Bengals - Derek Barnett, DE/OLB, Tennessee (6'3" 255) *
I've known about Barnett since 2011, when I called his game with Brentwood Academy at Father Ryan High School in Nashville. That was a BA team which also had Jalen Ramsey, who himself became a Top 5 NFL draft pick this past April, along with C.J. Sanders, who played in that game as a freshman and is now a wide receiver at Notre Dame. But at that point Barnett hadn't developed into the pass rushing menace he has become in Knoxville, where he broke Reggie White's school career sack record.
10. Buffalo Bills - Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan St. (6'4" 275) *
It's unusual to see the kind of raw speed and unyielding effort which McDowell regularly exhibits in a player of his size, but that's part of the reason McDowell is one of the top defensive line prospects for the 2017 Draft. There are nitpicks to be made about his technique, but that can be fixed at the next level. What is much tougher to teach is an iron will to play to the whistle, which McDowell has shown a willingness to do in both good times and bad for the Spartans.
11. New Orleans Saints - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio St. (6'1" 190) *
At this point there isn't a consensus top cornerback prospect, but there are several elite-level talents who will be in the mix. That includes Lattimore, who has high-end speed and great technique. And, if he can separate himself from the pack in drills and interviews, it's entirely possible that Lattimore could end up being the first cornerback drafted in 2017.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia) - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (6'2" 210) *
It seems unlikely that Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer would slide to this spot, and there are some who would scoff at Watson being projected as a first-rounder, let alone a top ten pick. But the Browns need a franchise quarterback, and Watson is a proven winner who is a dynamic playmaker.
13. Arizona Cardinals - Charles Walker, DL, Oklahoma (6'2" 300) *
Walker excelled in stopping interior rushing attacks for the Sooners, though he also showed interior pass rush skill by recording six sacks in 2015. Walker probably projects best as a 3-4 defensive end, which would make him a good fit for Arizona's scheme. His low center of gravity making him challenging to block on any play.
Concussions are a concern, as Walker sustained at least two within the span of 12 months at Oklahoma, the latter of which essentially ended his college career. This earned him the scorn of Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops for "quitting" on the team. That sure sounds funny coming from a guy making $900,000 a year as an assistant talking about an elite athlete who was being compensated with only a scholarship.
14a. Indianapolis Colts - Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan (6'0" 210) *
A coin flip will determine whether the #14 pick belongs to the Colts or the Eagles (via Minnesota in the Sam Bradford trade).
The Colts are in the midst of a management change, which means things are wide open relative to what the team might do here. I could see Indianapolis going with a safety, perhaps Peppers or Ohio State's Malik Hooker. But with Hooker recovering from multiple surgeries, including an injured labrum, there could be limited opportunities for teams to fully evaluate him, potentially hurting his draft stock.
14b. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota) - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (6'3" 220) *
The 2016 season proved to be a triumphant return for Williams, who returned to the lineup for Clemson seemingly without missing a beat after sustaining a rather scary season-ending injury in 2015. The Eagles traded up to acquire QB Carson Wentz at #2 overall last year, and perhaps this year the team will add Williams to the mix to give Wentz a high-end wide receiver with which to work.
16. Baltimore Ravens - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama (6'1" 240)
Foster is perhaps the best pure tackler in the draft and served as a key cog, much like Jonathan Allen, in Alabama's dominant front seven sets of the past few years. In some ways this would be a value pick for Baltimore considering Foster's skill, particularly his aggressiveness and effectiveness at hunting down ball-carriers, but inside linebackers have a way of sometimes sliding a bit further than might be expected.
17. Washington Redskins - JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC (6'2" 220) *
The Redskins have some talent, albeit aging, wide receivers. Smith-Schuster has a large frame for the position and has excellent hands, though he lacks the pure top-level track speed some teams really covet. But his yards-after-catch stats are strong, and he will be a chore for undersized corners or slower linebackers to cover.
18. Tennessee Titans - Jalen "Teez" Tabor, CB, Florida (6'0" 200) *
Even if the Titans select a safety with the #5 overall pick, it still makes great sense for them to target a cornerback at this spot, particularly if Clemson WR Mike Williams is off the board. Trust me, I've seen enough Titans blown second-half leads over the past two seasons to recognize the need, and I'm sure team management feels similar. This could be a spot where you start to see a run on cornerbacks, and if it's not Tabor it could be fellow former Florida Gator CB Quincy Wilson or Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey or one of a few other similarly skilled players at this spot.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama (6'3" 235)
Reviews on Williams vary considerably, particularly in his ability to stop the run. But he has truly remarkable pass rushing skill, and one lesson to be learned from the most recent NFL Draft is that many teams have shifted to placing much greater value on defensive linemen (and linebackers) who excel at pass rushing, to the detriment from the big run-stuffers who are less adept at pressuring opposing QBs.
20. Denver Broncos - Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin (6'6" 315) *
There is a huge question mark floating over Ramczyk on draft boards, as the Badgers offensive line standout needed surgery to repair a torn labrum but decided to wait until after the Cotton Bowl to have that surgery. And, for a player who had a limited run at the FBS level (after a quixotic journey to the big time that included an entire year out of the sport), he would especially have benefited from the full pre-draft process.
At the same time, Ramczyk reportedly received a first-round grade from the NFL Advisory Board, and this is not exactly lining up to be a strong draft for high-end offensive linemen. Ramczyk is remarkably athletic and adept at both run and pass blocking, and if he turns pro he will be a tempting prospect for teams needing help at offensive tackle.
21. Detroit Lions - DeMarcus Walker, DE/OLB, Florida St. (6'3" 275)
The Lions' 2013 first-round pick, defensive end Ziggy Ansah, has been a success as an edge rusher for the Lions in his four NFL seasons. But his sack numbers dropped in 2016, in large part due to him sustaining multiple injuries, and Detroit's pass rush was exposed as a result.
Even with a healthy Ansah, the Lions would be well-served to target an elite pass-rusher like Walker, who recorded 16 sacks this past season for the Seminoles.
22. Miami Dolphins - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama (6'1" 195) *
Humphrey has a background in track, and that experience will likely help him on his pro day and at the NFL Combine. He falls into an interesting spot as far as cornerback prospects go, where there are several you could potentially project in this range. But it's a time-honored tradition in the NFL for certain teams to overvalue 40-yard-dash time (and other measurements), and Humphrey could potentially find himself as one of the first defensive backs to be taken.
23. New York Giants - D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas (6'1" 250) *
It looks like a misprint at first, the 250 pound listing for Foreman -- but it's legit. And he played the role of workhouse running back for the Longhorns about as well as you could hope in 2016, with 323 carries on the season and more than two-thousand yards rushing to go with 15 touchdowns. He had 13 consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing, and it wasn't only Foreman bludgeoning opposing defenders, but in many cases he outran them, showing a second gear the likes of which you seldom see out of players with his size.
24. Oakland Raiders - Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida (6'1" 215) *
Wilson is one of three Florida defensive backs (along with fellow cornerback Jalen "Teez" Tabor and safety Marcus Maye) who could be selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The upcoming pro days, team interviews, and combine results will likely help separate the top tier of corners, but at this point Wilson looks like one of the best.
25. Houston Texans - O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (6'4" 255)
Howard is an ideal fit for the modern tight end role, an excellent blocker with great size and enough speed and agility to be an effective pass receiver, as demonstrated in the 2015 College Football Playoff championship game. Texans TE C.J. Fiedorowicz has had some good games this past season, but he will be entering his the final year of his contract this fall. And, to be sure, it would be interesting to see what Houston could do with both Fiedorowicz and Howard in its offense.
26. Seattle Seahawks - Caleb Brantley, DL, Florida (6'2" 295) *
It's a bit tricky to gauge where Brantley might end up. He is disruptive enough as an interior run stopper to make him valuable in that respect, but there are questions about how much pressure he'll be able to force from an interior DL spot. And pass rushing in the modern NFL is a critical skill, so it will be up to Brantley to show in drills that he has that ability more than perhaps it showed on tape.
There is also the question of Brantley's hustle on every play, which some have found lacking. But I could easily see Brantley end up becoming a disruptive force in Seattle's front seven, and Seattle under Pete Carroll has proven to be rather adept at locating and drafting players who are a good fit in their defensive scheme.
27. Kansas City Chiefs - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan (6'3" 215)
I went back-and-forth between Davis and Washington WR John Ross in this spot. Ultimately, considering the Chiefs already have the ultra-fast Tyreek Hill on their roster, I opted for Davis' size over Ross' speed. But it was close.
Davis had a prolific career in Kalamazoo, pulling in 318 receptions for 5,061 yards and a whopping 50 touchdowns. That should be of particular interest for Chiefs fans who are clamoring for the team to upgrade its passing attack in 2017.
28. Dallas Cowboys - Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn (6'2" 255) *
Dallas has had a tough time with its defensive end prospects, to the point of rolling the dice with a social pariah like Greg Hardy in 2015. Randy Gregory's trouble with the NFL substance abuse policy has been problematic, and as much as the NFL's ban on cannabis is antiquated and needs to go away, those are the rules as they are now.
Lawson has had a monster 2016 season for Auburn, and while any rookie for Dallas in 2017 is going to face near-impossible expectations after what Zeke and Dak have done there, he would fill a major need for a team that hasn't shown many deficiencies this season.
29. Green Bay Packers - Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson (6'0" 195)
Injuries ravaged the Packers inordinately in 2016, particularly at the cornerback position. Tankersley is a smart, durable corner who had the chance to shine this past season after Clemson lost so many high-profile defensive players to the NFL following the 2015 campaign.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers - Zach Cunningham, DE/OLB, Vanderbilt (6'3" 230) *
James Harrison is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and while he has been playing at a high level for the Steelers, he also will turn 39 in May.
Cunningham is a fearsome, disruptive force wherever he lines up on the field. And while he isn't a sack machine in the traditional edge rusher sense, he recorded 125 tackles for Vandy in 2016, 16½ of which were for a loss of yardage.
31. Atlanta Falcons - Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri (6'3" 255) *
The Falcons would benefit from adding another high-end pass rusher to the mix, even with Vic Beasley on their roster. Notice how I keep writing this about team needs/goals -- the passing game (and stopping your opponent's passing attack) is more important than ever before in the NFL. Harris, much like Tim Williams of Alabama, is an edge threat who is much stronger against the pass than the run.
32. New England Patriots - Marcus Maye, S, Florida (5'11" 205) *
It's rather remarkable to think of one school with three defensive backs going in the first round of the NFL Draft, but it's entirely possible it will happen with Maye along with cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson. Predicting what Bill Belichick will do in any given situation is usually an exercise in futility, and Maye seems as likely as anyone to be targeted here.
It should also be noted that I've had people legit politick me to project Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey here. And that could happen on down the line, we'll see -- though it would be a very non-Belichick type move to do something so predictable.
* indicates player with NCAA eligibility for 2017 who opted to leave school early for the 2017 NFL Draft