The weekly mocks continue to roll along, as does my attempt to offer something a little different each time out. Here, it’s an extended look behind the curtain at the decision-making process that went into the 32 first-round picks.
With each slot in Round 1, you’ll find the usual selection (and explanation), in addition to a backup plan—the idea being to expand the discussion of each team’s needs beyond what is covered with the actual mock selection.
Aside from perhaps Myles Garrett at No. 1, there will be hard decisions to be made at every spot. This is how the internal debates played out for Mock Draft 10.0.
DE, Texas A&M
Landing Jamie Collins last season was a start, but selecting Garrett here to create a potent 1–2 punch off the edge would give the Browns a long-absent defensive identity.
Plan B: Take a quarterback. That’s really the only realistic alternative for the Browns up top, and even that would be a stretch considering Garrett’s stock relative to the QB class.
S, Ohio State
If the 49ers really are committed to playing a Seahawks-style scheme on defense, they need an eraser on the back end. Hooker isn’t going to be an Earl Thomas clone on Day 1 (or possibly ever), but he is a threat to pick one off every time a QB drops back.
Plan B: DE Solomon Thomas. Even if both DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead take to the 49ers’ new 4–3 scheme, there will be ample use for Thomas’s inside-outside game.
While Thomas may be a more natural fit for a 4–3, he could help Chicago’s 3–4 scheme in the same fashion. Which is to say that he could line up all over, including at outside linebacker if defensive coordinator Vic Fangio wanted.
Plan B: S Jamal Adams. Two safeties in the top three picks would be an unprecedented development (even just one is a break from the norm), but Adams’s versatility coupled with free-agent addition Quintin Demps’s ball-hawking would make the Bears’ D much better.
It’s strange to call the No. 4 pick a “value” pick, but any landing spot from here on down could qualify the ultra-talented Allen as such. He would be a Calais Campbell understudy in Jacksonville, with a future as a D-line linchpin.
Plan B: RB Leonard Fournette. T.J. Yeldon has been more of a complement than a featured player, and neither he nor Chris Ivory can elevate an offense the way Fournette might be able to.
CB, Ohio State
(Pick via Rams)
Logan Ryan played his best ball for the Patriots last season after they moved him into a slot-heavy role. Drafting a shutdown outside cornerback like Lattimore would free up Ryan for similar duty, thereby making the entire secondary more complete.
Plan B: S Jamal Adams. Kevin Byard’s play as a rookie and Johnathan Cyprien’s arrival mean the Titans don’t have to chase a safety. Adams, though, would be an upgrade on Da’Norris Searcy and a nice fit in Dick LeBeau’s defense.
The Jets already seem like they’re heading toward declining Calvin Pryor’s fifth-year option, and this would make that choice an easy one. Adams can be the face of a defense.
Plan B: QB. It’s hard to be more specific at this position, because there is still no consensus on the quarterback pecking order. The Jets have worked out all of Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer.
Corey Davis would be a lot of fun in this spot, too, but his ankle injury could be a concern—the Chargers have to worry enough about Keenan Allen’s health. Philip Rivers has had success with big, physical receivers in the past. Full scouting report
Plan B: LB Reuben Foster … (he said, unconvinced). Offensive tackles are starting to be linked to this spot, too, which makes sense given the Chargers’ needs but flies in the face of the draft class’s strengths. His unfortunate combine incident aside, Foster is an elite prospect.
Is the 8–9 range the floor for Fournette? If the Panthers pulled the trigger, few teams would be able to match the horsepower they would have in a Fournette–Jonathan Stewart tandem next season.
Plan B: TE O.J. Howard. No matter how one slices it, the Panthers can grab an explosive playmaker in this slot. Howard and Greg Olsen might catch 150-plus balls between them.
Kevin Minter made for a solid pick-up in free agency. He’s also on a one-year deal and should do little to dissuade the Bengals from considering Foster. Their linebacking corps is still relatively thin and lacks three-down options.
Plan B: WR Corey Davis. Davis deserves top-10 consideration, arguably even more so than Mike Williams. And Cincinnati is sorely lacking the pieces necessary to take the heat off A.J. Green.
The Bills need another pass catcher, but he doesn’t have to play wide receiver. Howard would be a friendly target for Tyrod Taylor, and his blocking would keep the Bills’ potent run game clicking.
Plan B: A cornerback. The Bills still need a replacement for Stephon Gilmore (Micah Hyde is not that guy). Everyone at that position, save for Lattimore, remains on the board. Depending on whom you ask, next up would be Gareon Conley, Quincy Wilson, Marlon Humphrey or Tre’Davious White.
The extra attention offenses have to pay Cam Jordan would provide Barnett plenty of one-on-one showdowns. He’s advanced enough technically and solid enough athletically to be productive in those situations as a rookie. Full scouting report
Plan B: Cornerback. Foster might be the pick if he’s here, and Haason Reddick is a wild card—the Saints are mediocre at linebacker. But edge rusher–cornerback is the most obvious Round 1 combo for New Orleans’s two picks, no matter which order.
QB, North Carolina
(Pick via Eagles) The deeper into the top 10 this draft goes without a QB off the board, the more likely it is that some team swoops in ahead of Cleveland via trade. In this mock sans trades, though, the Browns can take whichever quarterback they want. They go with the local product. Full scouting report
Plan B: Cornerback. Passing on QB at both 1 and 12 would be a gamble—the Browns could wind up reaching in Round 2 or having to trade back into Round 1 to find help at that position. But they also aren’t going from 1–15 to the playoffs with their secondary as is.
The buzz around Mahomes right now isn’t just a product of the lengthy draft season. (OK, maybe some of it is, but it’s not all because of that). He has athleticism, a cannon for an arm and an exceptionally high ceiling. Bruce Arians could tap into all of that potential. Full scouting report
Plan B: WR Corey Davis. Wide receiver is an under-the-radar need for the Cardinals—Michael Floyd is gone, Larry Fitzgerald has maybe a season or two left, and John Brown missed time last season after being diagnosed with sickle cell trait. Davis is an immediate No. 2 receiver, with No. 1 upside.
CB, Ohio State
(Pick via Vikings)
After signing Chris Long and trading for Timmy Jernigan, the Eagles can focus their attention on their back seven. Conley can succeed in press or zone coverage, outside or in the slot. Full scouting report
Plan B: Haason Reddick. One of these days, the Eagles are actually going to succeed in unloading Mychal Kendricks. Together, Reddick and Jordan Hicks would cover a lot of ground.
The Colts need to improve up the middle and add to their pass rush. So, why not bring in a rookie who can do both? Reddick would slot in as an ILB, but he showed at Temple how productive he is at getting to the QB. Full scouting report
Plan B: DE Taco Charlton. A more conventional edge-rushing route would make sense here, too. Charlton, Takk McKinley, Charles Harris … there is an abundance of 3–4 edge types.
The Ravens spent a first-rounder last year on Ronnie Stanley, but they need to address right tackle after losing Ricky Wagner. They could lock in Stanley and Robinson as their bookend OTs for the foreseeable future. Full scouting report
Plan B: WR Corey Davis. Davis’s ankle and John Ross’s knee/shoulder issues could work to the Ravens’ benefit, if they’re thinking about an early receiver. Davis would break from the Mike Wallace/Breshad Perriman mold.
DL, Michigan State
McDowell won’t be for every team. The one willing to take a shot on him, however, could land a tone-setting force along the frontline. McDowell has rare physical traits. Full scouting report
Plan B: How about RB Dalvin Cook? Washington milked 1,500 yards out of Rob Kelley, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson last season, but not one of those players has the star quality of Cook.
WR, Western Michigan
A gift, should the board fall this way … and I realize that this is my mock, but there is nothing outlandish in picks 1 through 17. Davis has an NFL-ready understanding of the route tree, with the speed and size to win from any spot.
Plan B: S Jabrill Peppers. Well, John Ross, if this is the situation. But Peppers covers some of the same ground touched upon with the Adams suggestion at No. 5.
On the one hand, signing J.J. Wilcox means the Bucs are less desperate at safety. On the other, Wilcox’s presence would give them more free rein to utilize Peppers as a matchup buster. Oh, and Peppers might be the most explosive back and return man on the roster. Full scouting report
Plan B: RB Dalvin Cook. A match that’s almost too obvious—the Florida State product, reuniting with his college QB in a backfield missing a clear starter.
The only offensive tackle off the board thus far is the one (among the potential first-rounders) who probably least fits Denver’s scheme. McCaffrey, Cook and Ross are all still here. This is a gold mine for the Broncos. They go with the player who could upgrade their backfield and their slot-receiver situation. Full scouting report
Plan B: OT Garett Bolles. The Utah tackle has plug-and-play capabilities, which would come in handy since the Broncos currently have Menelik Watson penciled in at right tackle.
The Lions have made minor adjustments across the board on defense, but they’re still counting on the draft to bring in upper-tier talent. In Charlton, they could land a developing pass rusher with tantalizing potential. Full scouting report
Plan B: CB Tre’Davious White. John Ross or David Njoku might be tough to pass on as well. That said, D.J. Hayden is hard to count on in the slot and the Lions also could upgrade on Nevin Lawson outside. White helps anywhere.
G/T, Western Kentucky
Lamp could sneak into the top 15, because of how prepared he looks as a possible Day One starter. This is a more appropriate range. The Dolphins’ guard spots are a mess, and Lamp might even be able to push for time at tackle. Full scouting report
Plan B: LB Zach Cunningham. Despite signing Lawrence Timmons and handing Kiko Alonso a big contract extension, the Dolphins aren’t exactly flush with athleticism at LB.
The Giants have not drafted a Round 1 linebacker since Carl Banks in 1984, which might explain why we have to talk about them needing a linebacker every year. End the streak, take the three-down LB out of Vanderbilt, improve on defense. Full scouting report
Plan B: OT Garett Bolles or OT Ryan Ramczyk. Both are still on the board (and one even falls out of the first round here). The Giants obviously have issues at tackle, and either Bolles or Ramczyk could step into the starting lineup.
Ross’s injury history could be all that keeps him from pushing toward the top 10. By this point, he’s a steal. All the better for the Raiders that they should be in the market for another weapon on offense. Full scouting report
Plan B: Cornerback. White, Marlon Humphrey and Kevin King all have Round 1 credentials, along with at least a couple others. Oakland should be thinking about making multiple DB picks in this draft.
Tony Romo’s retirement left the Texans again trying to convince everyone (including themselves) that Tom Savage can be their guy. But they cannot allow another year to be undone by shoddy QB play. Watson could swipe the job from Savage in a hurry. Full scouting report
Plan B: Bolles or Ramczyk. Either could slot in at right tackle. Drafting at that position would allow the Texans to stop crossing their fingers in hopes that Derek Newton is ready sometime in the near future.
The Seahawks talk themselves into a hodgepodge line every year, so they might be good with Luke Joeckel and George Fant at OT. They probably shouldn’t be, and Bolles would lend quite a hand to Russell Wilson & Co. Full scouting report
Plan B: S Budda Baker. Cornerback should be on the agenda, too, but Baker can drop in on sub packages and be a (pun alert) safety net behind Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
RB, Florida State
Cook’s availability this late in Round 1 doesn’t make much sense from a talent perspective—he’s a brilliant back—but it is starting to feel like a very tangible outcome. He would light it up in Andy Reid’s offense.
Plan B: QB DeShone Kizer. Alex Smith may have taken the Chiefs as far as he possibly can take them, so the hunt is on for his eventual replacement. Kizer could be that guy as soon as 2018.
Fellow UConn product Byron Jones has worked out pretty well, so why not? Like Jones, Melifonwu could offer some hybrid cornerback/safety possibilities, and the Cowboys need a little new blood after several off-season losses in the secondary.
Plan B: Ryan Ramczyk. He had just one year of FBS game experience and then required post-season hip surgery, so there are reasons why he could slip. He’s also arguably the tackle prospect most Day One ready, and Dallas has a spot up for grabs on the right side.
The Packers figure to enter training camp with competition for the outside corner spots. Ditto the slot, where they lost Micah Hyde to Buffalo. White is a contender for either position, but he might be an ideal fit for Hyde’s vacated role. Full scouting report
Plan B: Edge rusher. This particular mock cuts off at pick 32, but the stage is set for there to be a run on DE/OLB types. The Packers lost Julius Peppers and Datone Jones in free agency, which left them thin at the pass-rusher spots.
As was the case with John Ross, McKinley is another top-15 candidate if a team can look past the health concerns—McKinley could be out into the preseason after shoulder surgery. The Steelers (or Falcons) would have to consider ending his slide, if he makes it this far. He’s a high-motor havoc creator off the edge. Full scouting report
Plan B: TE David Njoku. This McKinley-Njoku battle brings up a hot 2017 draft discussion topic: There are about 50 players who fit in Round 1, but just 32 spots. Njoku would allow the Steelers to wash their hands of Ladarius Green.
Should the Falcons desire another DE/LB hybrid for Dan Quinn’s defense, they likely would find no shortage of suitors at 31. Harris has been a productive pass rusher, but he also has the all-around game to be more than a one-dimensional defender. Full scouting reportPlan B: Caleb Brantley. Plan C might be a guy like Pat Elflein—it’s not too early to take a sure-fire starting guard, let alone one that could fill Alex Mack’s shoes down the line. Brantley, though, would provide even more depth inside and would allow Atlanta to limit Dontari Poe’s workload.
(Pick from Patriots) I mentioned way back at New Orleans’s No. 11 pick that a DE-CB combo was the safest Round 1 bet for the Saints. They nabbed their end, so here’s the cornerback. King vaulted himself into the first round with his combine performance.
Plan B: LB Jarrad Davis. Stephone Anthony simply has not worked out, and the Manti Te’o signing likely won’t save the linebacker corps, either. Davis, an athletic linebacker who battled through injury at Florida, is not far off the Foster-Reddick line.