What’s a team to do when it misses out on that premier pass rusher or lock-down cornerback in the draft? This mock is all about helping to form those backup plans.
In addition to each team’s current projected Round 1 pick in the mock draft below, you’ll find a mid-to-late-round replacement option for the player selected. In other words, if a team has its eye on, say, Solomon Thomas but he’s gone before it picks, which Day 2 or 3 prospect offers a similar—if less impressive—skill set?
Same as it ever was. A rebuilding team doesn’t necessarily have to mold its image around a quarterback—the Raiders, for example, are as much Khalil Mack’s team as Derek Carr’s (or more so). Garrett can be a foundational piece.
Backup plan: Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic. Garrett is a singular talent in this draft, so there aren’t many good fallback options. In Hendrickson, though, a team can find a Day 3 value in a player who has athletic upside (4.65-second 40, 4.20-second short shuttle) and posted 13.5 sacks in the FBS ranks last year.
QB, North Carolina
Our mocks have been cycling through defensive options at No. 2—Solomon Thomas, Jonathan Allen, Malik Hooker, Jamal Adams. But it’s far from out of the question that the 49ers stay put and nab their franchise QB. Trubisky would have a bright future under Kyle Shanahan. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee. It’s the escapability that puts Dobbs in the picture here. Like Trubisky, he has work to do with his technique as a passer, but he’s dangerous with the ball in his hands.
An Allen–Eddie Goldman–Akiem Hicks front line would give the Bears a powerful, versatile grouping atop the depth chart. Allen is a more finished product than Solomon Thomas. Full scouting report
Backup plan: DeMarcus Walker, DT, Florida State. The early-season Round 1 buzz is long gone for Walker, but he offers similar size to Allen, and he too can deliver a punch from several spots along the line.
Two ways to look at the Calais Campbell signing: Either he makes it so the Jaguars do not need to take a D-linemen early, or he’s the perfect mentor for a player like Thomas. Obviously, this points toward the latter. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova. Thomas is a talented lump of clay in need of molding. Kpassagnon is an even bigger lump (6' 7″, 289 pounds), who is a multi-year developmental project.
CB, Ohio State
(Pick via Rams) It was obvious even before the Titans cut Jason McCourty that they would be looking to draft at the cornerback position. Here, they get the top prospect—a physical, aggressive lock-down defender. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson. Lost a bit in this incredibly deep DB class, Tankersley has 4.4 speed and a hard-willed mentality that matches Lattimore’s.
There has not been a top-four safety since Eric Turner in 1991, but there have been top-10 safeties like Eric Berry and Sean Taylor. While Adams has a long way to go to reach the level of those players, he has All-Pro potential. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Delano Hill, S, Michigan. Hill won’t come with the expectations of Adams, but he does have sub-4.5 speed and can pop ballcarriers in the box.
S, Ohio State
The Chargers led the league with 18 interceptions last season, but only one player (CB Casey Hayward, with seven) had more than two. They badly need a playmaker at safety. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Marcus Williams, S, Utah. A Day 2 steal waiting to happen, Williams is cut from the same free safety mold as Hooker—both players can track the ball like they have built-in radar.
There has been some discussion of Fournette’s “fit” in the Carolina scheme, what with Cam Newton’s capabilities and use of the shotgun. At its heart, though, the Panthers’ rushing attack is a power system, which plays right to Fournette’s strengths. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma. His former teammate, Joe Mixon, is more of a story at the moment, but Perine is built to be an effective NFL back. He put up 30 bench reps at the combine and is a battering ram with the ball in his hands.
The Bengals could pounce on one of the receivers here. Saving that, they have a glaring need at defensive end, and Barnett is capable of tearing up the man-on-man blocking he’d see with lines focused on Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Avery Moss, DE, Youngstown State. With Barnett on that 4–3 DE/3–4 OLB line, Moss is active at the point of attack and can turn the corner. He had 10.5 sacks a year ago.
I initially penciled in Cam Robinson here and walked it back because the Bills already have Cordy Glenn on the left side and Howard’s blocking ability would help Jordan Mills on the right. Add in what Howard can do as a receiver, and he’s a great fit. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo. Not as far along as Howard as a blocker, but he can create matchup headaches like Howard does. Roberts scored 16 times on just 45 catches last season.
McCaffrey could be electrifying in this offense, both as a receiver and running back. If he gets past the Saints, don’t expect him to linger long. His NFL pedigree and athletic profile make him the type of player teams love in the draft. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Donnell Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State. Pumphrey is even smaller than McCaffrey, who already is facing his own questions about durability as a full-time back. Pumphrey will be a gadget player, to some degree, but he has vision and cutting ability that’s on par with just about anyone in this class.
(Pick via Eagles) Watson? Patrick Mahomes? DeShone Kizer? Wait until Round 2 (or a trade up late in Round 1)? All are on the table. One thing is relatively clear, though: The Browns need a QB ready to compete for the job immediately. That’s Watson, more so than the other remaining options. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Alek Torgersen, QB, Penn. The under-the-radar Ivy Leaguer is a rhythm thrower with the mobility to find throwing windows. He’ll be a nice project from Day 3.
The Cardinals have earned a reputation for finding creative ways to utilize talent. Reddick looks like he’ll be able to do a little bit of everything, including bringing heat off the edge and as a blitzer through the A-gap. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Blair Brown, LB, Ohio. Brown has some size limitations, but he tested well (37-inch vertical, 4.18-second short shuttle) and flies toward the football.
CB, Ohio State
(Pick via Vikings) With just one cornerback off the board, the value certainly is there for the Eagles to pounce at 14. Would they prefer Conley and his outstanding coverage skills or a different corner more proven as a physical force against the run? Full scouting report
Backup plan: Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee. Sutton also relies on his feet, positioning and anticipation to make plays—and he makes a lot of plays. If he grows more of a mean streak, he could become an elite prospect himself.
The health of Foster’s shoulder remains a bit of a mystery, and then there was the whole combine dismissal. However, before Day 1 grows too old, his talent relative to the 2017 draft class will demand a team take him. The Colts have upgraded up front and off the edge. Time to take a major step forward at ILB. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Duke Riley, LB, LSU. Once he finally cracked the lineup in 2016, Riley displayed three-down chops. He doesn’t have the rare gifts of a Reddick or Foster, but he could be a plug-and-play option on Day 2.
It’s not a given that the Ravens go with a receiver in Round 1. It's hard to pass, though, when everyone at that position makes it to pick 16. Williams’s physical game would help open the field for Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Kenny Golladay, WR, Northern Illinois. A strong 6' 4″ receiver, at minimum Golladay projects as a downfield threat and jump-ball target in the red zone.
Washington doesn’t need to draft an edge rusher just because Trent Murphy will open the season on a four-game suspension. But it might draft one because there wasn’t much depth there in the first place. Harris can get after the QB and seems comfortable in space. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Carroll Phillips, DE/OLB, Illinois. Phillips could for a steady rotational piece on Day 3. He lived behind the opponent’s line last season, and he can contribute against the run.
WR, Western Michigan
Davis has all the traits of a 1,500-yard receiver in the NFL, provided he’s healthy and acclimates after the pro leap. While the Titans did churn out some production through the air in 2016, they do not have anyone with Davis’s ceiling. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Chad Hansen, WR, Cal. Hansen has enough fans that he might not make it far into Day 2. He can make the tough catch, both up the sideline and over the middle, and has a little giddy-up with the ball in his hands.
There could be a small safety run near this point in the draft—Melifonwu, Jabrill Peppers and Budda Baker are all still available. Should the Buccaneers opt to go that route, Melifonwu’s rangy game might make the most sense paired with free-agent pickup J.J. Wilcox. The upside with Melifonwu is so intriguing.
Backup plan: Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M. There may not wind up being that much of a draft gap between Melifonwu and Evans—the latter definitely can creep into an early Day 2 slot. Evans stands about four inches and 20 pounds lighter than Melifonwu, but he plays with aggression and can cover from varied alignments.
OT, Western Kentucky
The consensus has been to push Lamp inside to guard, but he deserves a shot to show what he can do at tackle. He could fill a role at either spot for the Broncos, who could lean on his athletic run blocking. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Jordan Morgan, G/T, Kutztown. Morgan is on track for the college tackle-to-pro guard transition, too. He has a lot longer trip. He’s extremely raw, but with the size and quickness for someone to take a flier.
Ever since the Lions let Cliff Avril walk in free agency, they have struggled to find a complement for Ziggy Ansah off the edge. Charlton might require a little patience while he grows into his game, but he could end Detroit’s search. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M. The other half of A&M’s dynamic pass rush, Hall shows flashes of brilliance from a 6' 5″ frame. The trick will be finding that production on a consistent basis.
Miami is in solid shape at safety, with Reshad Jones and Nate Allen to be joined midseason by T.J. McDonald (eight-game suspension). That’s perfect for Peppers, who then can be used to erase matchup issues as he grows into his role—Allen and McDonald both are on one-year deals. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Johnathan Ford, S, Auburn. ”Rudy” Ford is a solid tackler with safety/nickel experience, plus he averaged 23.9 yards as a kick returner for Auburn. He generated a Peppers-esque buzz with a reported sub-4.35 40 at his pro day.
For as much as the Giants could use Zach Cunningham or Jarrad Davis, the pick here is Robinson because the drop-off from Tier 1 to Tier 2 at tackle is greater than at linebacker. In other words, the Giants can find a starting LB in Round 2 or 3. They need to pounce on the tackle spot here, and Robinson can plug in as a road grader. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State. Things just didn’t click for Johnson last season. Again, though, once teams get beyond Robinson/Garett Bolles/Ryan Ramczyk, there will be a scramble to find potential OT starters. Johnson won’t be that in 2017, but he could be down the line.
Eat your heart out, Al Davis. The late Raiders owner loved his speedy prospects, and there is no faster 2017 option than Ross. Drop him in the slot playing off of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, and he could be a huge weapon. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech. Henderson’s 4.46 40 time doesn’t hold a candle to Ross’s 4.22. Nevertheless, Henderson is shifty as all heck in the open field.
The belief is that Mahomes needs to sit and watch next season. Landing on a depth chart headlined by Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden could change those plans. Mahomes’s potential alone could get him a crack as a starter early, and his athleticism/arm combo would make plays happen in Bill O’Brien’s offense. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss. Kelly comes with a ton of baggage, including most recently a pro-day wrist injury. He also might be the only QB in this class that can match Mahomes’s improvisational abilities. A true gunslinger.
A Luke Joeckel-George Fant tackle pairing probably is a step up from last season’s Fant-Garry Gilliam mess, but it’s hardly reason to avoid a tackle. Bolles needs to play with more power, but he’s still a ready-made NFL starter. The Seahawks could run behind him all day. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy. Right there along with the aforementioned Roderick Johnson in the ”maybe he’ll be a starting left tackle one day” category. Garcia isn’t as mature a blocker as Bolles, but he might be just as impressive an athlete.
RB, Florida State
Might DeShone Kizer pique the Chiefs’ interest at 27? Probably not as much as, say, Mahomes might. In any case, Cook sitting on the board at this spot would be hard to pass. The Chiefs do not have a back capable of changing defensive game plans. Cook can force those adjustments. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo. Hunt does not measure up to Cook’s game-breaking abilities. He does, however, show glimpses of Cook in how his well-built frame navigates through traffic. Hunt has exceptional balance, with power to boot.
There are no Round 1 guarantees in this cornerback class beyond Lattimore. King, though, has propelled himself forward enough that it would be a mild upset if he isn’t among the top 32 picks. The Cowboys have to be tougher against the pass, hence the addition of King’s size and speed.
Backup plan: Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado. Overshadowed (incorrectly?) by his potential Round 1 Colorado cohort, Chidobe Awuzie, Witherspoon checks off a lot of the same boxes as King. A lot of teams will take notice of 6' 3″ size and 4.45 speed.
Cornerback or pass rusher? They’re both there for the taking at 29, if those are where Green Bay looks. (Sleeper option: Ryan Ramczyk, to slot in at guard with a future at tackle.) White has the footwork to thrive in outside coverage or pushed down into the slot. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Howard Wilson, CB, Houston. We cannot refer to every cornerback in this deep class as “underrated”, so suffice it to say that Wilson deserves a little more love. He’s a lanky but physical 6' 1″, with a ballhawking mentality.
McKinley’s TBD status for the start of 2017, on account of his shoulder, leaves his stock in a little limbo. He still should land somewhere in Round 1, and the Steelers could do a lot worse than to bring on his high-motor presence outside. Full scouting report
Backup plan: Devonte Fields, OLB, Louisville. His checkered past (dismissed from TCU after a domestic incident) nearly put a full stop on his football career. The risk might be worth the possible reward on Day 3, for a talented edge rusher.
DE, Kansas State
More impressive athletically at the combine than he was as a player at Kansas State, Willis could have teams buying into his upside late in Round 1. The Falcons will be on the lookout for a pass-rushing presence to pair with Vic Beasley.
Backup plan: Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh. A name to remember once the list of potential DE/OLB starters dries up. Price outplays his 5' 11″, 241-pound size, both in terms of his quickness and his power.
(Pick via Patriots) Are the Saints ready to bail on Stephone Anthony? Cunningham or Davis would be ideal finds here, if so. But even in a deep CB year, it would be frustrating for the Saints not to use either Round 1 pick at that position of need. Wilson, although he has his warts, plays a nose-to-nose brand of corner that should work well in the pros.
Backup plan: Shaq Griffin, CB, Central Florida. He tested off the charts—better than Wilson, in most aspects. It’s the approach, though, that makes him the Plan B choice to a team missing on Wilson. Griffin brings that same fiery demeanor outside.