Who wants a seven-round NFL mock draft? Who doesn’t? I foresee a ton of trades at the top of this year’s draft, and am going with a big one at No. 5. I think the Browns trade back into the top five and get their quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. The work below is an annual labor of love. The insight comes from hours and hours of conversations with NFL decision-makers right up until it was published. A lot can change between now and Thursday night, but dig in.
Sashi Brown is going to be Sonny Weaver in this year’s NFL Draft. Yes, a “Draft Day” reference right off the top. The Browns are wealthy with draft picks (six of the top 65), but they shouldn’t get cute here. The numbers may say to go with a quarterback if you don’t have one, but this is the right choice. Take the best guy on the board. Garrett is the top prospect in this class and a franchise cornerstone.
Some folks in the 49ers facility really like Mitchell Trubisky, but everyone loves Solomon Thomas. The big boy who’ll work perfectly in the San Francisco defensive scheme has Stanford ties like the new general manager and is the perfect blend of competitor and leader. He can do it all.
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Bears: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Another great kid both on and off the field, but Allen’s shoulder concerns might keep some teams away. I think Chicago is the right fit. He’d be the perfect 5-technique in Vic Fangio’s scheme and has the championship pedigree from years of playing for Nick Saban. Jamal Adams has some fans in the building, too, but this pick — for now — is Allen.
Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
I’d expect Jacksonville to be in the market to trade back on Thursday, but if it keeps the pick I do believe the Fournette talk is real. New coach Doug Marrone is an offensive line-first, smash-mouth guy, and executive VP Tom Coughlin’s best teams had pounding running attacks that owned the game in the trenches. No offensive tackle is worthy of the fourth pick in this year’s draft, and Jacksonville’s defense is going to be sound. The offense is the big question mark. Fournette, a 230-pound back with 4.5 speed, can tote the rock 20 to 25 times a game and be an immediate difference-maker.
Browns (TRADE with Titans, from Rams): Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
The Browns trade with the Titans, giving up the Nos. 12 and the 33 picks for the team’s quarterback of the future. The football guys get their superstar in Garrett, and the Moneyball guys get their quarterback in Trubisky. The local hero from 15 miles away comes home to be the next QB1 for the Cleveland Browns.
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Jets: DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Jets would have to think long and hard about passing on Jamal Adams and O.J. Howard, but I think there’s enough push in the room for Watson to see the quarterback taken if he’s on the board. The Jets are currently in the Reggie McKenzie/Oakland Raiders mode from a few years back right now. Scrape the roster clean, draft well and build from within. Watson is a winner and someone who can lead. He can be their Derek Carr.
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Chargers: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The safety position is one of great need for Los Angeles, and I view Adams as a steal if he slips all the way to 7. Adams is a big hitter, covers a lot of ground and is a vocal locker room leader. In a whirlwind of a season at LSU that included the firing of Les Miles, Adams was the guy who rallied the troops. His father was an NFL player, and he has the athleticism to match his intensity and intangibles.
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Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
If Fournette and Thomas are gone, I think McCaffery could very well go in the top 10 to Carolina. He’d look awfully good in that backfield with Jonathan Stewart and could be expected to get 25 touches a game as a runner, receiver and return man. Carolina wide receivers coach Lance Taylor was McCaffery’s coach at Stanford. There is a lot to like here.
Bengals: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
This might seem like the biggest surprise thus far, but calling around the league this week, Reddick going as high as ninth overall wouldn’t shock anyone. The Bengals’ front seven isn’t getting any younger, and Reddick, a relative unknown before the Senior Bowl, could be the perfect fit. Both in the locker room and on the field, he’s viewed as a guy who can help change a franchise.
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Bills: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
At 6-foot-6, Howard is an uber-athlete who also happens to love to block and get dirty. A GM told me around the Combine that his best NFL comparison is Jimmy Graham … ”if Graham loved to block in the run game.” Buffalo has a defensive head coach and needs help everywhere on that side of the ball, but I think Howard is the play at 10.
USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Saints: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Lattimore started just one season at Ohio State, but it was an outstanding one. He’s also a terrific athlete, ripping off a 4.36 40-yard dash and jumping 38 ½ inches at the Combine. He has some hamstring concerns — there have been past issues — but I’m told his medicals have come back overwhelmingly positive. The top cornerback in this draft will either go to Tennessee at No. 5, or somewhere in this range if Tennessee trades out of the pick.
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Titans (TRADE with Browns, from Eagles): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
I think the Titans would sign up for this. Trade back a few slots, scoop up a premier second-round selection and get a guy who many think could be the best pure player in this draft. Malik the Freak is compared to Ed Reed and had seven interceptions last season. Tennessee is building something special; Hooker would be a steal at No. 12.
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Cardinals: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
I seem to be a lot higher on Humphrey than other mock draft pundits. Watch, he’ll be the second or third cornerback off the board on Thursday. The son of NFL running back Bobby Humphrey, he was a stud at well-known Hoover (Ala.) High and a prime recruit of Nick Saban’s. An opportunistic player who started for two seasons in Tuscaloosa, Humphrey forced three fumbles and intercepted two passes in 2016. Arizona would look at Trubisky or Watson, here, but I think 13 is a little too rich for Pat Mahomes.
Eagles (from Vikings): Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
The NFL Draft is amazing, and in this simulation, I have Conley — viewed by many as the third-best defensive back at Ohio State last season — going to the Eagles. Philly would love Christian McCaffrey to fall here, but I don’t see it. Best cornerback available.
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Colts: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
It’s no secret what Chris Ballard is looking to do in Indianapolis this offseason. The Colts are getting tougher, stronger and bigger up front on both sides of the ball. Harris had a better 2015 than 2016, but he was also double-teamed for most of 2016. This might be rich for some, and going Harris over the other pass rushers might raise eyebrows, but he fits what Indianapolis is doing.
Ravens: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Foster has more than a diluted urine sample on the red flags list, but he can play and he can hit. I have heard rumors that Baltimore is big in on wide receiver Corey Davis, but I think Foster would be the guy in this scenario. If he slips to 16, I could see Ozzie Newsome and Co. tossing the draft board out the window and handing in the card for Foster. Ozzie is an Alabama guy, the Ravens have a history of going Alabama in the first and second rounds, and Foster would provide a toughness and ferocity that has been part of the Ravens defense for decades. He might slip quite a bit on Thursday, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Baltimore scooped him up.
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Redskins: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Davis is going to go somewhere between 10 and 25 on Thursday, the question is where. Washington makes a whole lot of sense. An NFC executive compared the intensity of Davis to that of a pretty intense guy: Ray Lewis. Regardless of whether that’s hyperbole, the 240-pound linebacker runs a 4.58 40-yard dash and notched a 38.5-inch vertical jump at his pro day. He missed some time with an ankle injury in 2016, but he’s got the goods to be worth it at this spot.
Titans: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Titans GM Jon Robinson trades the No. 5 pick, picks up Malik Hooker at 12, sits patiently, and gets the top wide receiver in Williams all the way down at No. 18. Compared to Alshon Jeffery for both his size and his high-point ability, Williams is a big, physical wideout who would complement what Tennessee has already at the position. He suffered a severe neck injury in 2015 but seems to be recovered. If all things go right, Williams could be the steal of the Draft taken way down here.
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Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The Buccaneers can go a variety of ways here, but I’d look at cornerback and running back at the two positions to focus on. Cook was a local collegiate superstar at Florida State, is a buddy of Jameis Winston’s and could end up being the most explosive of the three running backs who’ll go in the first round. He’s a top-10 talent.
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Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Ramczyk is a tough son of a gun, and he comes from a good lineage. Look at some of the NFL offensive linemen out of Wisconsin the past few years, and it’s home run after home run after home run. Ramczyk is the next in line. The Wisconsin-Stevens Point transfer is a perfect fit for what Denver is building with its offensive line. In what’s viewed as a weak offensive line draft, I see the one-year starter as the first off the board.
Lions: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett is not the freak athlete Myles Garrett is, but his 33 career sacks in the SEC say something. He had more sacks at Tennessee than Reggie White and has the build — 6-3, 260 — to wreak havoc at the next level. Detroit built up its offensive line in free agency. Expect the Lions to look at running back (the big three are gone here) or defensive line in the draft.
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Dolphins: Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
The Jabrill Peppers diluted urine sample may end up costing him this spot in the draft. Remember, the Dolphins owner -- like Peppers -- is very much a Michigan Man. If the Dolphins opt to pass on Peppers, McKinley makes a whole lot of sense, too. Great kid, unbelievable story, and a relentless pass rushing style.
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Giants: David Njoku, TE, Miami
The next in line in the great tradition of Miami tight ends goes home to New Jersey where it all began. The 6-4, 246-pound athletic marvel is one of the youngest players in the draft and needs to be polished. But his sheer potential is through the roof. The Giants added Brandon Marshall already this offseason. I can see them adding the young tight end.
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Raiders: Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
Jackson is being viewed as a second-round pick by many of the other pundits, but I don’t see him sliding out of the first. Oakland makes a whole lot of sense. This is a team that is desperate to add cornerback depth, and he’s one of the fastest players in the draft. Going after speed is a Raiders tradition.
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Texans: Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
This one almost seems too obvious, but if Mahomes slips, I do think he goes to Houston. The Texans are looking to add a quarterback in the draft, and the Texas Tech product could end up being the best of the bunch in this year’s class.
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Seahawks: Kevin King, CB, Washington
Everyone has the Seahawks going offensive tackle, but I’m looking at the Legion Of Boom and think they look to add a young piece like the big, rangy King. He didn’t allow a single touchdown against him at Washington a season ago, and at 6-3, 200, he has prototypical NFL cornerback size.
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Chiefs: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
White comes out of LSU, which could be called “DBU” these days with all the defensive backs it’s churning out. A supremely gifted athlete who clocked a 4.47 40-yard-dash at the Combine, he’s also a very solid tackler. The Chiefs are likely looking for an inside linebacker or another cornerback. White fits.
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Cowboys: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Barry Church is gone. Mo Claiborne is gone. Brandon Carr is gone. J.J. Wilcox is gone. The Cowboys defensive backfield will need some young replacements in this draft. Obi fits a similar profile to that of Byron Jones, his college teammate who was drafted by the Cowboys a few years back. He can cover tight ends, held his own at the Senior Bowl lining up at cornerback and is perhaps the most athletically gifted pure talent in the class.
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Packers: T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin
This will sell some jerseys, huh? The younger brother of JJ and Derek Watt, T.J. really starred for only one year at Wisconsin. But he had a heck of a season, finally healthy and recording 11.5 sacks. The local boy stays home.
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Steelers: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Steelers would be looking at John Ross, Corey Davis, and maybe even DeShone Kizer here. I think Davis is the play. Ross has some lingering medical red flags, and Davis could be the best wideout in this draft. Google his touchdown versus Wisconsin this year and see what Davis can do with a ball in the air. Just a fantastic athlete and receiver who put up the big numbers to warrant a first-round pick.
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Falcons: Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
Chris Chester retired right after the first wave of free agency, and there could be a hole at guard for the Falcons this season. Lamp was a star at tackle in college but will play guard in the pros. He’s got a whole lot of nasty in him.
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Saints (from Patriots): Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Saints could do a lot worse than addressing their need at cornerback at 11th overall and pass rush at 32nd. Charlton has the athleticism and the build to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, and his work with his hands is among the best in the draft class.
Titans (TRADE with Browns): Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado