Friday, March 17, 2017

Updated NFL Mock Draft: Picks 11-21

Part 1 can be found here, while the final part will be posted tomorrow. Part 2 below the break.

11. New Orleans Saints - Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Arguably the draft's most talented safety, Hooker could potentially see his name called before LSU safety Jamal Adams. Hooker is more of a center fielder, with great ball skills and very good high end speed. The Saints recent trade of Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots makes it clear the team is going to focus on rebuilding their very poor defense. A player like John Ross would fill Cooks shoes, but the team has plenty of talented pass catchers already.

The Saints were targeting their former safety, Malcolm Jenkins, in a Cooks-Eagles trade, so it's no secret they're looking for upgrades in their secondary. Hooker doesn't have a lot of collegiate experience, which can happen at a stacked school like Ohio State, but that shouldn't scare away any suitors. Hooker is the real deal and would be a huge help to rebuilding the atrocious Saints defense.

12. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles) - OJ Howard, TE, Alabama

The Browns are reportedly set to make a run at New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and would have to part with this pick and likely at least one more to land the Aladdin look-a-like.

However, conflicting reports have emerged regarding the Patriots intentions. Some reports insist the team will listen to a Browns package headlined by this pick, while others say the team is going to keep him as Tom Brady insurance. My opinion is the team is fine developing Jacoby Brissett and if Cleveland is indeed willing to offer the #12 pick and another draft pick, they'll make the deal.

But with no trades predicted here, the Browns stay put here and select the drafts best tight end. Howard has been flying up draft boards after an impressive combine performance, and there's no doubt Cleveland has a huge need at tight end. Howard's collegiate production didn't match his ability most of the time, but that's likely more of an Alabama system issue than anything Howard did. He should be a good starter for years.

13. Arizona Cardinals - Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

The Cardinals are in need of some linebacking depth, and with most veteran contributors off the board, the team will likely target one early in the draft.

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. Thanks to Foster's combine blow-up, Cunningham jumps him in this scenario.

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. In what is likely to be Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald's last season, I expect the team to target someone who can at least contribute next season.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings) - John Ross, WR, Washington

Ross made headlines at the NFL combine, running a record 4.22 40-yard-dash. The former Washington speedster is more than just a fast 40-time, though, as he constantly gets open and makes difficult catches look routine on tape.

Ross will give franchise quarterback Carson Wentz another playmaker on offense, and he should help spread the defense for the running game and intermediary passing game as well. His injury concerns and small stature are why he's likely to be the third receiver taken, but if a team inside the top 10 really loves his speed I wouldn't be surprised to see him go higher. I still think Williams and Davis are better all-around receivers, though.

15. Indianapolis Colts - Jabril Peppers, S, Michigan

With Chuck Pagano surviving for at least one more season, the Colts are likely going to target a defensive playmaker after years of poor first round picks under the recently fired Ryan Grigson.

Peppers is arguably the draft's most versatile player, a potential pro-bowl kick returner with the ability to play both linebacker and safety at the next level. His combine performance in which he ran a 4.40 40-yard dash, only solidified him as a first round prospect in my opinion.

He's undersized and without a true position, but his collegiate production is off the charts. He's going to be a steal for whatever team drafts him.

16. Baltimore Ravens - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

The Ravens drafted Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round of last year's draft, and signed pass-catching dynamo Danny Woodhead this off-season to help serve as a change of pace back. Despite Woodhead's addition, it's clear the Ravens need to find an upgrade at this position.

It'd be difficult to find a better upgrade than McCaffrey. He's not the pure runner Leonard Fournette is, but he's the best pass catching running back in decades and he's still a darn good runner. Adding a versatile weapon like McCaffery would help the Ravens jump back into the playoffs in the near future.

17. Washington Redskins - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

The Redskins are planning to keep Kirk Cousins around for at least one more season, which means the team has designs on winning again in 2017. Foster was a potential top-10 pick prior to his outburst at a hospital staff worker at the NFL combine. He was sent home for his actions and later apologized, but there's no doubt the damage has been done.

Unless Foster's pro-day performance is off-the-charts, he's likely going to be a mid first round pick. He will be a steal at this point in the draft, as he's a better prospect than fellow linebacker Zach Cunningham. If he can stay out of trouble and avoid controversy, he should be anchoring the Redskins defense for years to come.

18. Tennessee Titans - Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

While the Titans obviously need a true number one receiver, the value at this point isn't there. The team continues it's philosophy of taking the best player available, which in this case is Barnett.

The Tennessee standout is a potential top 10 pick with outstanding collegiate production over his career. Barnett's combine did nothing to hurt him, and while the Titans defensive line is solid, adding a talent like Barnett to get the quarterback would put it on another level.

If the draft falls this way, a potential trade to a team looking for a quarterback could happen here.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

As a former college teammate of Bucs franchise quarterback Jameis Winston, Cook is likely going to have at least one player stumping for him with management. The Bucs have seen Cook play a lot I would imagine as his college games weren't all that far away, and it's no secret the team isn't a huge fan of running back Doug Martin despite his solid 2016 season.

Cook would give the team a true home run threat, although his 4.49 40-yard-dash was a lot slower than most expected. Some teams will likely prefer Cook over both Fournette and McCaffrey, so it should be interesting to see how each running back develops over the years.

20. Denver Broncos - Cam Robinson, LT, Alabama

The Broncos need to find a left tackle to replace the departed Russell Okung, and it seems very likely they will do so in the draft. Protecting last year's first round pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch, is a must. Robinson was once considered a potential top 5 pick, but as teams have viewed his tape he's fallen a bit.

He's clearly the best left tackle prospect in the draft in my opinion, and is far more likely to be a franchise-caliber left tackle than the other options in the first round. He'll likely need time to develop into a starting caliber player, but he'll get every opportunity to show he belongs in the starting lineup.

21. Detroit Lions - TJ Watt, OLB, Wisconsin

The Lions need to find some athletic linebackers capable of playing in a 4-3 scheme. Watt is versatile enough to likely play several positions in several schemes, but his best fit is as a 4-3 OLB rather than a 3-4 defensive end like his brother JJ.

TJ isn't the athletic speciman his brother is (who is?) but he's a very good athlete in his own right who showed exceptional football instincts time after time last season. With other outside linebackers like Tim Williams falling out of the first round in most projections, Watt has done enough to potentially hear his name called in the first round.


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