2017 NFL Mock Draft
Last Updated: March 25, 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. But all indications at this point are that the Browns are going to select Garrett here, and considering the lack of a perceived can't miss prospect at QB in this draft class, adding a high-end pass-rushing threat like Garrett at least gives the Browns a strong weapon to use against opposing passing attacks.
2. San Francisco 49ers - Soloman Thomas, DL, Stanford (6'3" 275) *
New general manager John Lynch has a tall order ahead of him, tasked with replenishing a thin roster and returning San Francisco to greatness. This isn't something which happens overnight.
With the 49ers signing free agent QBs Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, there should be opportunity for the team to target a quarterback later in the draft. Stretching to take a signal-caller here in a draft that has so much depth at other positions would seem to be a likely mistake, particularly as the team adjusts to a new 4-3 defensive scheme.
3. Chicago Bears - Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama (6'3" 295)
Chicago addressed its need for a starting QB via unrestricted free agency, just as you would expect a staff facing an unspoken-but-real "win or lose your gig" mandate for 2017 to do.
Allen's stock has dropped in the eyes of some evaluators, but there is no doubting his ability. There's a reason he played a key role in Alabama's recent run of remarkably skilled front seven defensive sets.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (6'1" 230) *
One of the best running backs to come through the SEC in some time (and that covers considerable ground), Fournette was NFL ready this time last year. But the shameful NCAA/NFL collusion over pro eligibility kept him out of the league until now, and anyone criticizing college athletes who skipped a glorified exhibition game designed to line the pockets of big bowl fat cats, advertisers, major conference presidents, television networks, and athletic departments can piss off.
There is also the possibility that the Jags could go with Florida St. RB Dalvin Cook here instead.
5. Tennessee Titans (from L.A. Rams) - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio St. (6'1" 190) *
This time last year, the Titans had an embarrassing poor secondary. Trust me, I saw multiple blown second-half home leads by Tennessee in person in 2015, which was especially frustrating considering the team had (and still has) a solid front seven on defense.
Since then, the Titans found a quality free safety in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft in the form of MTSU's Kevin Byard. He played just down the road from Nissan Stadium, and Byard was a standout as a rookie on a still underwhelming secondary.
I had thought the Titans might target another safety here, but then the team signed free agent SS John Cyprien (who had been with Jacksonville), filling that need with a large contract signing. The Titans also signed CB Logan Ryan (previous with New England) to an even larger contract.
With that kind of spending on defensive backs, you might think the Titans would look elsewhere at this spot. But this was a much-needed wholesale overhaul, and nabbing the exceptionally-talented Lattimore to line up opposite Ryan could complete the rebuilding process for its secondary.
6. New York Jets - Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio St. (6'1" 205) *
The Jets have been cutting big-contract veterans this off-season, jettisoning experienced talent in an attempt to build for the future. Hooker is perhaps the most talented defensive back in this draft, though off-season surgery has raised some questions about his health and possible availability for the start of the season.
But when you're a team that has clearly shown willing to sacrifice the 2017 season for long-term success, drafting an elite player at a need position who might need some time to get healthy is a logical move. And, sorry 2017 Jets season ticket holders, but the team already has your money.
7. Los Angeles Chargers - Jamal Adams, SS, LSU (6'0" 210) *
Adams didn't shine at the 2017 NFL Combine, but his on-field performances more than make up for whatever perceptions have been had about his workouts. And as much as an offensive lineman might make sense for the Chargers (and I had to catch myself from typing San Diego there), most evaluators see this as a weak offensive line class, at least as far as high-end talent goes.
8. Carolina Panthers - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida St. (5'11" 205) *
Last season I saw Cook play in person in Tampa when Florida State paid a visit to USF. I knew Cook was fast, but I don't know that I could have truly appreciated his speed without having seen it for myself. On a sweltering, miserably hot day, Cook really impressed me. When I saw him outrun South Florida's defensive backs on a long TD scamper, I was especially impressed.
It could be argued that the Panthers have other needs, but Cook is a special player who also is an exceptionally talented pass receiver. And, more than ever in the NFL, that is a very valuable trait for a RB to have.
9. Cincinnati Bengals - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama (6'1" 240)
Foster coming off the board here fits as far as team needs go, though it's looking more questionable after whatever happened with Foster getting sideways with someone during the medicals at the combine. But, more importantly, there are concerns about injuries Foster has sustained and how effective he will be post-surgery.
However, just like his Crimson Tide teammate Jonathan Allen, Foster was a key cog in some of those incredibly skilled Alabama front seven defenses of the past few years.
10. Buffalo Bills - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan (6'3" 215)
Davis was a key cog in Western Michigan's recent success, with tremendous size and great technique. An ankle injury has made him a bit of a mystery relative to the typical measureables, but his four years in Kalamazoo provided more than enough evidence of his ability to work as a top-level receiver.
11. New Orleans Saints - O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (6'4" 255)
Yes, it's entirely possible the Saints will take an EDGE player (DE/OLB) at this spot. But the Saints haven't been the same without Jimmy Graham, and Coby Fleener can't do it alone, especially on a Saints team that relies so strongly on its passing game. Howard is a highly-skilled blocker, and while Alabama didn't fully utilize his pass-receiving talents, Howard showed in the January 2016 NCAA championship game against Clemson that he can deliver big-time as a receiver in high-pressure spots.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia) - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (6'2" 210) *
Cleveland needs a winner. Cleveland fans deserve a winner.
Deshaun Watson is a winner. I've tried to quell my enthusiasm for Watson as a prospect since what I think should happen is immaterial, but this fit makes total sense to me.
13. Arizona Cardinals - DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame (6'4" 230) *
Carson Palmer deciding to return for 2017 was great news for the Cardinals. Imagine if the perfect storm of Al Davis' death and Hue Jackson's desperation trade with the Bengals to bring Palmer out of retirement to Oakland hadn't happened in 2011 -- would Palmer have stayed retired while the Bengals sat on his NFL rights?
Whatever the case, Palmer is 37-years-old, and the Cardinals can't safely presume that he will play through the end of his contract, which runs through 2018. This would seem to be a good destination for Kizer, who presumably would be given time to adapt his tremendous physical skills for the pro game.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota) - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama (6'1" 195) *
The Eagles could really use a top-flight cornerback, and Humphrey is actually tops on some lists for top CB prospects for this draft.
This column from NJ.com makes a compelling argument for why the Eagles should take Humphrey that I found after I had set this draft projection. Humphrey sure sounds like he would be a good fit in Philadelphia's secondary.
15. Indianapolis Colts - Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin (6'6" 315) *
There's a new general manager running things for the Colts, and one would think a top priority would be providing Andrew Luck with as much offensive line protection as possible. Him staying healthy/upright is critical relative to the Colts' postseason hopes.
Ramczyk took a quixotic path in his college football career, which leaves him with less tape against high-end competition than I'm sure scouts would like. Also, he is recovering from hip surgery, which is a complicating factor.
To be sure, not everyone is sold on Ramczyk as a left tackle prospect. And there are some legitimate concerns. But in a draft lacking in top-level offensive tackle prospect, Ramczyk could end up being the first offensive lineman off the board.
16. Baltimore Ravens - Derek Barnett, DE/OLB, Tennessee (6'3" 255) *
It's noteworthy that Barnett broke Reggie White's career sack record at Tennessee. The guy is ferocious at blowing up plays in the backfield, and in the modern NFL there is more value than ever for players that can do one of two things: either helping with a team's passing game or stopping an opponent's pass attack. And Barnett is adept at the latter.
I've known about Barnett for a long time, as I did color commentary for one of his high school games in 2011 for Brentwood Academy at Father Ryan High School in Nashville. Jalen Ramsey also played in that game for BA, I might add. Though at that point Barnett hadn't yet developed into the sackmaster role that he filled so ably in Knoxville.
17. Washington Redskins - Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky (6'4" 310)
Perhaps the highest-rising offensive lineman of this off-season, Lamp doesn't have much flexibility as far as his position goes -- not with his relatively short arms.
But what Lamp does have going for him is tremendous technique, outstanding strength, and big hands, among other positives. It's entirely possible depending that Lamp could be the first OL off the board in this draft, though that is as much an indictment of the offensive tackle class as anything.
18. Tennessee Titans - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (6'3" 220) *
Presuming Tennessee adds a top-tier cornerback at #5, the Titans would be in position to fill another need here: wide receiver.
After injury cut his 2015 season short, Williams made a great recovery and bounced back to have a strong 2016 season.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Taco Charlton, DE/OLB, Michigan (6'6" 275)
There are several solid EDGE prospects in the mix for this draft, and the Bucs should be able to land one at this spot if they opt to go in that direction. And this is no knock on 2016 second-rounder Noah Spence, who collected 5.5 sacks as a rookie last year. But in the modern NFL there is almost no such thing as having too many quality pass rushers, and Charlton would seem to be a good fit in Tampa Bay's 4-3 scheme.
20. Denver Broncos - Garett Bolles, OT, Utah (6'5" 295) *
There is a rather fascinating back story for Bolles, a talented offensive tackle who went through some challenges as a teenager before developing into a standout with the Utes.
Bolles is 24, which is a double-edged sword: more maturity but, in theory, a more limited window for an NFL career. His fundamentals aren't great in the minds of some evaluators, and there are some questions about his pass blocking ability. The latter is a concern, but he is remarkably fast (running a 4.95 40) especially considering his size. And he only has one year of FBS-level experience, though that puts him in the same boat with Ryan Ramczyk as far as that goes.
In a related note, there are some who are rather freaked out over what they perceive as a drop in pro-ready NFL tackles coming in from the college game. And I can tell you anecdotally that the spread 3/4 WR look is as popular on the high school level as ever. I've perceived a change even over the past few years.
Of course, if the NCAA level wasn't treated as a de facto minor league by the NFL, perhaps this wouldn't be a problem.
21. Detroit Lions - Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri (6'3" 255) *
Projecting a first-round pass-rusher to Detroit makes considerable sense, and there are a wide variety of talented EDGE players who should be a good fit here for the Lioins.
Harris-to-Detroit has become a popular projection, though remember that the further you get from the top of the draft board, the less likely it is that a given projection will match up.
22. Miami Dolphins - Haason Reddick, ILB, Temple (6'1" 235)
Reddick had a tremendous season for the Owls in 2016, with 22.5 tackles for loss that included 10.5 sacks. You don't normally get that type of production from an inside linebacker, and with there being such a premium now on players who can impact either a team's passing game or passing attack, this might actually be a low projection for Reddick.
A one-time walk-on at Temple, injuries severely limited Reddick's game action in the final two years of his high school career. But he made a name for himself with the Owls, and after running a 4.52 40-yard dash, Reddick looks to be a tempting option for teams wanting a high-end ILB with superior pass-rush ability.
23. New York Giants - David Njoku, TE, Miami (6'4" 245) *
Despite only starting in nine games over two seasons of football for the Hurricanes (after redshirting in 2014), Njoku has impressed evaluators with his outstanding athleticism and potential as a scoring threat. It probably doesn't hurt his case that he's coming from a university that has produced the likes of Jeremy Shockey, Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, and Kellen Winslow II over the past 15 or so years.
When I say Njoku is athletic, keep in mind that he won a national championship in long jump while he was in high school, clearing a 6'11" height. And while he only saw limited playing time in 2015 as a redshirt freshman, it was under new head coach Mark Richt that Njoku flourished, revealing his strong potential as an NFL prospect.
Here's how Todd Hartley, the tight end coach at Miami, described Njoku: "The natural bend and flexibility and athleticism and twitch—he has it all."
24. Oakland Raiders - Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama (6'5" 325) *
It has surprised me to see evaluators fade Robinson's hopes of going in the top ten, or even the top-half of the first round, as the off-season process has played out. Robinson is a very talented offensive lineman, but some (including Mike Mayock) believe he projects best as a guard.
Not everyone agrees with that assessment, and the reality probably falls somewhere in the middle depending on a given team's needs. And to that end, Robinson offers versatility, and there certainly is plenty of tape on him against high-level competition from his time in Tuscaloosa.
25. Houston Texans - Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (6'3" 210) *
Would the Texans be willing to wait patiently here if Trubisky slides down the board on night one of the draft? It's a risky move considering the demand for quarterbacks and the likelihood of another team leapfrogging Houston to pull Trubisky off the board before the Texans go on the clock.
Trubisky ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, then followed that up with a performance described as solid but not spectacular at UNC's pro day. But Trubisky was never going to wow scouts with his arm strength, and while he has limited tape available for analysis, Trubisky at this point appears to be on track to go somewhere in the first round.
26. Seattle Seahawks - Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan St. (6'4" 275) *
Much like the Patriots, the Seahawks are a very difficult team to gauge relative to the draft. But defensive tackle is a need, especially one with the ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks from an interior position.
A highly-touted prospect out of high school, McDowell has incredibly speed for his size, running a 4.85 40-yard dash. That is remarkable for a man with his size. But he also has an unyielding effort, the so-called "motor" that is usually code for this guy isn't lazy. There are nitpicks to be made about McDowell's 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 showed a willingness to do in both good times and bad for the Spartans.
27. Kansas City Chiefs - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (5'11" 200) *
It seems very realistic to believe that Kansas City might attempt to leapfrog Houston at #25 should Mitchell Trubisky slide down the board. That's true even with incumbent QB Alex Smith, who has thrived in an offense that plays toward his strengths and makes the best of his usually very accurate throws. But, more than ever, backup QB is an important position to fill, particularly for top contenders.
But, absent that, the Chiefs going running back at this spot with McCaffrey would be very interesting to see play out. McCaffrey is an adept receiver out of the backfield, the kind of do-it-all player who provides multiple ways to help his team win. His kick return skills likely wouldn't be needed in Kansas City, at least not as long as Tyreek Hill is healthy. But that might not matter all that much considering you typically don't see teams use their starting RB as a kick returner because of the obvious risks that are inherent to the position.
28. Dallas Cowboys - Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn (6'2" 255) *
The Cowboys have a very strong need at the EDGE position, and Lawson could be the perfect fit for Dallas here. This is a draft that is deep in quality DE/OLB pass rushers, and if Lawson is already gone by this point, there should be other strong options here for that spot for Dallas.
29. Green Bay Packers - Jalen "Teez" Tabor, CB, Florida (6'0" 200) *
Tabor played a key role as part of a strong secondary in Gainesville, and he would fill a considerable need for the Packers.
Looking back on it, what Green Bay did to turn the ship around mid-season after being absolutely ravaged by injuries and appearing to be on the brink of collapse was rather remarkable.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers - Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama (6'3" 235)
Williams is an interesting case, a remarkably-gifted pass rusher who, like Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster, was a major part of Alabama's highly-touted front seven.
He was arrested this past September for possession of an unpermitted pistol. It's not the typical gun case though per most indications, as it seemed like a legit paperwork mix-up. The anti-cannabis nutters who choose to blindly believe the long-refuted lies of Harry J. Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst will likely bristle about cops finding marijuana in the car, even though there was no indication it belonged to Williams.
It's beyond unconscionable that the NFL randomly tests players for cannabis, medical or otherwise, yet seems to be fine with actual legitimately dangerous drugs like Toradol. Start piss-testing the owners for recreational drugs and then get back with me. And it's even more disgusting that medical marijuana will likely be used as a bargaining chip in the next CBA negotiations.
For now, I'll just keep on waiting on the world to change.
31. Atlanta Falcons - Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt (6'3" 230) *
Stop me when you've heard this sort of thing before: many evaluators seem Cunningham as being particularly valuable because of his skill against opposing passing attacks. That, in turn, makes him more than just a tackling/run-stopping player, with the capacity to play three downs.
Where exactly Cunningham would fit best is the subject of some debate, and obviously it depends on the scheme of whichever team drafts him. But his versatility would seem to make him valuable in a variety of schemes and packages.
32. New Orleans Saints (from New England) - T.J. Watt, DE/OLB, Wisconsin (6'4" 250) *
It's quite the run on DE/OLB types at the end of the first round of this mock, though even with this scenario the Saints would land an excellent prospect in Watt. He will face the inevitable comparisons with his brother J.J. Watt in Houston, which is a rather unfair thing for any incoming rookie to endure. But such is life.
Injuries kept Watt from reaching his full potential with the Badgers until the 2016 season, but he made the most of his opportunity, recording 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss overall. A strong showing at the NFL Combine helped his cause further, and even amongst a crowded field at the spot, Watt could very well end up sneaking into the latter half of the first round.
* indicates player with NCAA eligibility for 2017 who opted to leave school early for the 2017 NFL Draft