Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2017 NFL Mock Draft, Part 1

Today, we're releasing part 1 of our 2017 NFL Mock Draft. This covers picks 1-16. Tomorrow we will release choices 17-32. Future mock drafts will feature a full first round.

1. Cleveland Browns - Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M

If the Browns front office continues to engineer their plans for rebuilding the team despite media criticism, I think Cleveland will look to trade down in the draft again this year if they can find a willing partner. How highly teams value quarterback Mitch Trubisky and how he does in pre-draft workouts could change the whole draft. Teams have to give up a ransom for the #1 pick, so it usually only happens for a quarterback. Cleveland could also of course be "wowed" by Trubisky themselves and keep the pick because of him.

For now, though, we'll slot Garrett here at number one as the Browns are reportedly in love with him as a prospect and have given him an "astronomical grade." He's a dominant pass rusher that will likely require offenses to avoid him on Sundays.

2. San Francisco 49ers - Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

It's tough to make an educated guess with this pick without knowing who the next head coach of the team is going to be, but with Josh McDaniels reportedly dropping out of the search and them honing in on Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, we'll assume Shanahan is the next coach.

Mitch Trubisky does appear to be the kind of quarterback that would fit well in Shanahan's scheme, and after a successful season with Matt Ryan at quarterback Shanahan has to feel some pressure to find a quarterback to build around. The North Carolina prospect has all the tools teams look for in franchise quarterbacks, although his lack of on-field experience undoubtedly will have some scouts concerned.

In what is otherwise expected to be a weak quarterback class, Trubisky might be the only true chance at finding a player capable of turning their franchise around. Some insiders have suggested a Shanahan-coached 49ers team could potentially target Kirk Cousins.

3. Chicago Bears - Jonathan Allen, DT/DE, Alabama

While it's no secret the Bears need a franchise quarterback, I can't see John Fox and company drafting someone like DeShone Kizer when they might be out of a job next season. The Bears have several holes to fill, so they can choose arguably the best prospect in the whole draft.

The Alabama standout is capable of moving all along the defensive line, and a defensive minded coach like John Fox would find ways to use his versatility to the team's benefit. The Browns will likely take a long look at Allen at number one, so the Bears would be more than happy to land someone this talented at #3.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Jacksonville seemed poised to finally take a step forward this past season, as a talented young core and incoming draft class were supposed to make a difference for Gus Bradley and his team. As we all know, that didn't happen, and Jacksonville has yet another top five draft pick.

While the Jaguars have several capable running back options, including Chris Ivory, Fournette is a rare talent at the halfback position, combining enormous size and strength with breakaway speed. The Adrian Peterson comparisons are spot-on, in my opinion, but Fournette is even bigger. He would help the Jaguars control the ball for longer periods of time, and help an already strong offense get even better.

5. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams) - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

At first glance, drafting an inside linebacker makes no sense for the Titans. They have two very solid inside linebackers in Wesley Woodyard and Avery Williamson, and Sean Spence isn't a bad player either.

However, Woodyard and Williamson could both be lost to free agency soon, and Foster has the potential to be one of the league's best linebackers. The Titans badly need help in the secondary, and while Jamal Adams is a popular choice at this point, he's not as great in coverage as some suggest. I think he'll be a great player, but the Titans need a lock down corner more than a hybrid safety. I don't see a lock-down corner available in this draft, and certainly not this early.

The fact that the team will pick again later in the first round also allows them to choose the best player available here and target a more pressing need with their next pick.

6. New York Jets - Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

After a disaster of a year that began with high expectations, the Jets clearly need to find an answer at quarterback first and foremost. I would expect to see them make a push for Tony Romo, if anyone is in fact willing to trade for his contract. If Romo becomes a free agent, I can't imagine him choosing the Jets over other suitors.

Drafting a quarterback a year after taking Christian Hackenberg in the second round seems unlikely, not because Hackenberg is the future but because the team will likely be gun shy about drafting a quarterback so highly after Hackenberg disappointed as much as he did.

Tabor has the potential to be a great cornerback if he can just become more consistent. He has great tools and instincts, and with the right development and coaching he could very well become a capable #1 corner. With Darrelle Revis a shell of his former self and likely to move to safety or be cut, the Jets need to develop a new defensive back.

7. San Diego Los Angeles Chargers - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

After a scary neck injury ended his 2015 season, Williams came back and had a great season for the national champion Clemson Tigers. His production and size should guarantee him a top-10 selection, although his 40-yard-dash time will have some effect on his draft slot as well.

The Chargers need to find a receiver to both play with Keenan Allen and one that can fill in for him if he should suffer a third serious injury in as many seasons. With Philip Rivers nearing the end of a wonderful career, it's important for the team to add some playmakers to help him try and make one last run as a Charger.

The team could also target someone like Williams teammate DeShaun Watson, if they decide they need a young future quarterback for their move to LA. I think a player that can help now, though, is much more likely.

8. Carolina Panthers - Cam Robinson, LT, Alabama

It's no secret that the Panthers need to protect their franchise quarterback, Cam Newton. Looking to another Cam to fill their needs now may be the right strategy.

The 6'6, 326 pound giant of a man would be a great addition to a solid offensive line, and would go a long way toward keeping Cam Newton upright long enough to move the offense down the field. Mike Remmers isn't the worst starting tackle, but the team would prefer more than average play from a cornerstone position.

The Panthers could potentially target a running back like Dalvin Cook or one of many edge rushers, but I think they can try to fill those needs later in the draft.

9. Cincinnati Bengals - Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

Thomas has been rising up draft boards with his performance in Stanford's bowl game, but he's been a great player all season. With the Bengals defensive line aging, a player like Thomas would be a great value at this point.

There isn't much value in a 4-3 outside linebacker at this point in the draft, although a cornerback is a possibility with Adam Jones' recent legal trouble and his age making him a possible cap casualty.

The Bengals have solid players at several positions, and I expect them to bring back Andrew Whitworth for another season at left-tackle. The team can almost certainly wait and take the best player available.

10. Buffalo Bills - Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Buffalo would be very happy if Adams were to fall this far in the draft. Seen by many as the next great safety, I think Adams has the potential to be a star for sure. I think he can have trouble in man coverage against NFL-caliber receivers/tight ends, which makes him less versatile than teams are currently projecting.

He's a great player and will make a difference, but in a pass-happy league he'll need to show better instincts as he learns the NFL game. Safety is a major need for Buffalo, and Adams is capable of playing either safety position.

11. New Orleans Saints - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

I can't imagine Sean Payton being very happy about a pick like this, as Watson obviously won't play anytime soon. However, the organization needs to think toward the future and there's no denying Drew Brees could retire at any point. Great quarterbacks don't gradually decline, they almost always go from great to bad and then retire. It's impossible to know how long Brees will continue to play at a high level.

Watson had a remarkable season, is by all accounts a great person, and a great leader to build a football team around. Saints fans would welcome him as the future of the team.

12. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles) - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Cleveland would be jumping with joy if Cook were to fall this far, in my opinion. Hue Jackson has always loved to build an offense around a talented running back, and Cook could be among the best running backs in the league in the near future.

While the team would still need to find a quarterback, Cook is simply too talented to pass up at this point for a team that really needs talent any way it can find it. A first round of Myles Garrett and Dalvin Cook would be a home run.

13. Arizona Cardinals - Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

The Cardinals will be looking for an inside linebacker this off-season, but whether that comes through free agency or the draft remains to be seen.

Cunningham could start very early next season, as he's a polished prospect who still possesses plenty of upside. He's not quite the player Reuben Foster is, but that doesn't mean he isn't a great prospect in his own right.

Arizona could also potentially look to draft a quarterback for the future, but Cunningham is too good of a player at a position of need to pass up.

14. Indianapolis Colts - Jabril Peppers, S, Michigan

It's no secret that the Colts GM Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano are on very thin ice, as owner Jim Irsay reportedly has reached out to both Jon Gruden and Peyton Manning. After years of misguided first round draft picks, the Colts don't have enough cheap talent around franchise quarterback Andrew Luck to allow the team to win consistently.

Peppers is without a true position in the NFL and is a bit undersized, but after seeing how successful Tyrann Mathieu has been after being a similar college player, NFL teams would be silly to pass up on the talented playmaker.

Grigson and Pagano need to be sure there choice is able to make an impact from day one, and Peppers appears to be one of the most NFL-ready prospects in the draft.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings) - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

Some experts have Ohio State defensive back Marshon Lattimore as the top corner in the draft, and that's certainly possible. Humphrey has been a better college player overall, flashing far more consistency and fantastic technique.

The Eagles defensive backs need an upgrade, and getting a potential future lock down corner back for the average, overpaid Sam Bradford is a win for the Eagles in every possible way.

16. Baltimore Ravens - Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA

The Ravens defense is at their best with great pass rushing edge rushers, and McKinley could develop into a quarterback's worst nightmare with the right development time.

A talented player with a very high motor as well, McKinley will rack up highlight reel sacks and coverage sacks from his constant hustle. If he tests out as well at his pro-day or the NFL combine as some expect, he could be a fast-riser into the top 10.

Coming tomorrow, Part 2.



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