2017 NFL Mock Draft
Last Updated: January 8, 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 they were also torn up by opposing passing attacks in a major way in the 2016 season, and drafting a truly special pass rushing talent like Garrett at #1 overall could prove to be the best move for Cleveland. There have been whispers/leaks suggesting that the Browns prefer North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky to Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer, and the Browns could opt to take Garrett here and hope Trubisky falls to them when they go back on the clock with the first-round selection acquired from Philadelphia.
2. San Francisco 49ers - DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame (6'4" 230) *
The 49ers cleaned house after the 2016 regular season, sending head coach Chip Kelly packing after just one season and ending the tenure of general manager Trent Baalke. The decline of the team after its Super Bowl appearance in the 2012 season was precipitous, with the usual free agent poaching compounded by the loss of head coach Jim Harbaugh and the abrupt retirements of multiple players.
With the team in a state of flux, it's difficult to make any sort of accurate prediction on which quarterback they might select at this spot if they opt to go in that direction. For now I'll keep Kizer slotted here, but there are even more variables in play than normal for this time of year with opinions on draft-eligible QB prospects in some cases varying wildly.
3. Chicago Bears - Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (6'3" 220) *
With the Jay Cutler era all but officially over in the Windy City, the Bears will need to look elsewhere for a long-term answer at quarterback. A true breakout star for 2016, Trubisky showed great accuracy for the Tar Heels this past season, posting a 68.9% completion rate with 28 passing TDs against only four interceptions.
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 go with someone like Alabama DL Jonathan Allen, the chance to add a truly special running back like Fournette could prove too tempting to pass up.
5. Tennessee Titans (from L.A. Rams) - Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan (6'0" 210) *
The most likely scenario for the Titans here is to trade back. Between Myles Garrett, Jonathan Allen, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, DeShone Kizer, and Mitch Trubisky, this draft is top-heavy almost entirely at positions the Titans don't need to fill.
But it takes two to tango, and if there are no satisfactory offers for moving down, Peppers would fill one of multiple need spots for the Titans in the secondary.
Peppers is a bit of an anomaly, a safety with remarkable pass-rushing skills and a knack for making spectacular plays. He's not an interception machine, to be sure, but he is excellent at forcing pass break-ups and has proven to be adept in both run and pass coverage. I used to think I liked his chances better than most analysts, but Peppers has been creeping up draft boards enough to where this is a realistic projection.
6. New York Jets - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida St. (5'11" 205) *
This is higher than 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.
Note: if Kizer or Trubisky fall, it's entirely possible the Jets will look in that direction instead. An elite quarterback won't turn you into a sure-fire winner alone (see: Andrew Luck in Indy), but your chances of reaching championship glory without one in the modern NFL are quite slim.
7. San Diego 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 San Diego 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 - Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama (6'3" 295)
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, and the Panthers suffered accordingly. But beyond problems at cornerback (and elsewhere), the Panthers really need to add a blue chip pass rusher into the mix for 2017.
Allen's versatility is trumped only by his remarkable quickness and knack for evading blockers to pressure opposing QBs, and he has been a key part of an Alabama front seven that has been the gold standard against the run in recent seasons, including 2016. In reality, the Panthers would probably need to trade up to have an opportunity to draft Allen. But there is a chance he could fall this far, and if he does it would be some great fortune for Carolina.
9. Cincinnati Bengals - Derek Barnett, DE/OLB, Tennessee (6'3" 255) *
I've known about Barnett since I called his high school game for Brentwood Academy at Father Ryan High School in Nashville in 2011. 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 - Jamal Adams, SS, LSU (6'0" 210) *
A coin flip will determine whether the #14 pick belongs to the Colts or the Eagles (via Minnesota).
There are several directions the Colts could take here, including a safety in Adams who has great instincts and athleticism to go with strong tackling and support in stopping the run. The Colts need help at several positions, making it difficult to project what they are most likely to do. But Adams would be a tremendous value pick here, at least if the Colts think as highly of him as many evaluators do.
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 in this draft acquired last year from the L.A. Rams, it still makes great sense for them to target a cornerback here. Trust me, I've seen enough Titans blown second-half leads over the past two seasons, 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 needs surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip but decided to wait until after the Cotton Bowl to have surgery to repair it. That could prove to be a costly decision if Ramczyk does in fact declare for early entry into the NFL, as he would theoretically miss out on Wisconsin's pro day and the Indianapolis Combine. 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 season, but he will be entering his final year under contract in 2017. And, to be sure it would be interesting to see what Houston could do with both Fiedorowicz and Howard in its offense next season.
26. 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.
27. 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 it would be fun to see how the Seahawks would utilize him.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - Zach Cunningham, DE/OLB, Vanderbilt (6'3" 230) *
James Harrison's contract will expire at the end of the season, 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.
29. Atlanta Falcons - Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri (6'3" 255) *
Atlanta's defense has had an inordinately high number of injuries this season, but even with a fully healthy crew, the Falcons could really use a high-end pass rusher to bring the heat against opposing quarterbacks. Notice how I keep writing this about team needs/goals -- the passing game (and stopping your opponents 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.
30. Kansas City Chiefs - Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (6'7" 310) *
Adding a receiving threat could prove to be KC's top priority here, but with perhaps a worse-than-average receiving class to choose from, filling other needs might be the Chiefs' best bet here. Keep in mind that McGlinchey has very openly said he intends to return to South Bend for 2017. But the rule here is that, as long as a player could potentially turn pro, he will be taken into consideration. Once the deadline to declare passes for McGlinchey, I'll be glad to remove him from consideration.
31. 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.
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 as of this point.
* indicates player with NCAA eligibility for 2017 who could relinquish it (or already has) to declare for the 2017 NFL Draft