With the NFL Combine on the horizon, Matt LaPan projects the first two rounds in his latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft
The Cleveland Browns will start the 2017 NFL Draft, but will they go defense, or a quarterback? Where will the first quarterback come off the board? All of these questions surround the draft class. With players such as Jabrill Peppers, Leonard Fournette and others having questions surrounding them, it will be a very entertaining draft weekend, to say the least. However, it also increases the difficulty in projecting in this latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
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With the NFL Combine set to begin in one week’s time, players’ stocks are going to go berserk. Teams always overreact when it comes to 40 times and other things of that nature. Thus, this is an important time to look at the projections in this 2017 NFL Mock Draft to try and temper post-Combine hype.
Having that in mind, who does your team take in this latest mock? Find out with Matt LaPan’s latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft, projecting the first two rounds.
Sep 17, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Texas A&M Aggies lineman Myles Garrett (15) tackles Auburn Tigers quarterback Sean White (13) during the first quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns are in desperate need of a game-changing talent on with side of the ball. There does not appear to be a quarterback worth taking with the top pick, the Browns need to go with the most transformative player in the 2017 NFL Draft: Myles Garrett.
Garrett possesses the size, speed, length and explosive athleticism that can change any game plan. Garrett bends the edge extremely well for a player of his size, getting low and flashing good hip and ankle flexibility to get under opposing tackles. He is not just a speed and athleticism player, however. The Aggies standout has more than enough strength to deliver a punch to tackles and bull rush right over them.
Not only does Garrett have the skills, he had the production to back it up in the SEC. He battled some of the top tackles in the country and was able to succeed. Garrett should be a game-changer from day one for Cleveland.
Nov 25, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) is pushed out of bounds by North Carolina State Wolfpack linebacker Jarod Fernandez (4) during the second half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The Wolfpack won 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
2. San Francisco 49ers: Mitch Trubisky, QB – North Carolina
(Previous Pick: Myles Garrett, EDGE – Texas A&M)
The first pick of the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch era needs to be an impactful one, and they go for a big hit with a potential franchise quarterback in Mitch Trubisky.
Trubisky is an accurate, efficient passer that has experience in a pass-first system, similar to that of Shanahan. He shows a good pocket presence, but more than enough athleticism to extend plays and find open receivers. He reads defenses very well, finding the correct holes to exploit and the right matchups to attack. He takes care of the ball, something a Shanahan quarterback has to do.
The biggest question comes in Trubisky’s experience. He was just a one-year starter at North Carolina, and only attempted 572 career passes in college. He gets caught throwing off his back foot too often, which could be exploited more in the NFL.
Taking a quarterback with the second overall pick is a big risk for both Lynch and Shanahan in their first draft, but it is a move that is needed to get the San Francisco 49ers to the next level.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) reacts during the second quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
3. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Allen, DL – Alabama
(Previous Pick: Mitch Trubisky, QB – North Carolina)
This Chicago Bears are said to be in hot pursuit of New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo this offseason, so they will have a chance to bulk up their defense with one of the top players in the 2017 NFL Draft, Jonathan Allen.
Allen is a disruptive force on the defensive line that can make plays from anywhere on the defensive line. He has the size and strength to plug the middle or push the pocket from the inside, but also shows the burst, quickness and moves to dominate off the end of the line. The Crimson Tide star is a versatile player that forces offenses to identify where he is lined up on every play. He delivers a violent punch off the line, exploding out of his stance and getting everything moving at once. Allen came back to Alabama to prove he was one of the top players in the draft, and has done just that by adding muscle while maintaining speed and agility.
The questions arise around his ability to be a true pass rusher off the edge in passing situations, or if he is truly powerful enough to dominate against NFL interior linemen. Some may have those concerns, but the Bears should not and should run to the podium to select Allen.
Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball in the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dalvin Cook, RB – Florida State
Running back might not be atop the list of needs for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but with Dalvin Cook on the board, it is the right selection to make. Cook is an explosive, fast, athletic play maker that can add a different dimension to the Jaguars offense. He can break any play and make it a big gain, using quick feet and a powerful leg drive to burst through the hole.
The Florida State star ball-carrier does a terrific job reading his blocks, doing a much better job than many of his collegiate counterparts. He can plant his foot and break to top speed in one step, allowing blockers to get into the right position and spring Cook. He is also a very good receiver out of the backfield, showing soft hands and a good ability after the catch.
Cook can be slowed down with penetration off the snap, causing him to get jumpy in the backfield. He also has a tendency to fumble far more often than a player of his caliber should. This should not deter the Jaguars from obtaining a potential franchise-changing talent. For a team that was supposed to take a leap one year ago, a coaching change and the addition of Cook might be able to make it happen, at least to some degree.
Dec 31, 2016; Orlando , FL, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
5. Tennessee Titans (via Rams): Jamal Adams, SS – LSU
(Previous Pick: Teez Tabor, CB – Florida)
The Tennessee Titans were a team on the brink of a playoff spot before Marcus Mariota went down with a broken leg late in the 2016 season. They get a great chance to add a top-five talent thanks to a smart move back in the 2016 NFL Draft with the Los Angeles Rams moving in to select Jared Goff.
This allows the Titans to select Jamal Adams and fortify a good defensive backfield before they even use their own selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Adams is a big, strong, athletic, aggressive safety that has the ability to change how opponents attack the Titans defense. He flashes the speed and athleticism to cover backs and tight ends, or to play over the top and cover the deep parts of the field. Adams is also a strong presence in the run game, coming down with conviction and delivering punishing blows to running backs.
He can get caught looking into the backfield at times, and can get a little over aggressive but overall Adams is one of the more polished players in the entire draft class. The Titans add a great talent to a team that is looking to take the next step in 2017, and still hold the 18th pick.
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) celebrates with cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) after intercepting pass against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
6. New York Jets: Marshon Lattimore, CB – Ohio State
The New York Jets defense was a disaster in 2016. If Todd Bowles wants to continue his tenure as Jets head coach, he must be able to rely on a strong defensive backfield. Marshon Lattimore might be a gamble, but it is one worth taking.
Lattimore is extremely athletic, and a true ball hawking cornerback. He uses his speed and athleticism to get anywhere he needs to on the field. An anchor for the Ohio State defense, he has good size, although he will need to add bulk in the NFL. His ball skills are very good, and he is a nightmare for opponents when he gets the ball in a return situation. He plays with good balance, changing direction and moving laterally with ease. Lattimore also does a good job flipping his hips and running with receivers as well.
He does not have the strength or hand positioning to get a good jam yet, and will have to learn hand placement quickly. Lattimore can also get grabby when he is beat off the line, leading to a lot of potential penalties in the NFL. The bulk issue can be seen against bigger receivers, and in run support. His athleticism jumps off the page, however, and he can create turnovers on a regular basis, making him a great fit for the Jets.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR – Clemson
The Chargers have a very good outside weapon on Keenan Allen, but his injury history is making it so the newest team in Los Angeles need to draft more help for Phillip Rivers. Mike Williams has the size, speed and athletic ability to be a true number one receiver in the NFL.
Williams has a solid 6-3 frame with good muscle distribution, long arms and big hands, all the physical traits one looks for in an outside receiver. He has good strength and quick feet, allowing him to get off the line clean more often than not. Williams also showed endless resolve in returning from an injury to be one of the top targets in college football.
Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) works at the line of scrimmage during the third quarter in the 2016 CFP Semifinal Washington Huskies at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
8. Carolina Panthers: Cam Robinson, OT – Alabama
Many are down on the idea of Cam Robinson in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft. Safe to say, this mock is not on board there. Robinson has a massive, hulking frame (6-6, 310 pounds) with good weight distribution and the massive lower half that you look for in a power tackle.
Robinson has great footwork, especially when you consider his size. He gets his feet under him and delivers a devastating punch, but all of this is secondary to his power in the run game. Robinson fires out of his stance and delivers a crushing blow to his opponents. He has the leg drive and violent hands needed to be a premier run blocker in the NFL. He plays with the edge that NFL teams love in their offensive line.
The knock on Robinson is his technique and effectiveness in the pass game. He is not all that fast getting into his pass drops, and does not use the same violent hands. His striking is inconsistent, and he gets grabby. Robinson also shows poor footwork, getting him off balance too often. He needs work in pass blocking, but a dominant run blocker on a running team is a great fit.
The Cincinnati Bengals need an infusion of youth and talent at the linebacker position. They get easily the best inside linebacker in the 2017 NFL Draft class in Reuben Foster. Foster is a great combination of size and speed with the aggression to be an impact linebacker.
Foster has shown in his time at Alabama that he is a true three-down linebacker. He has terrific closing speed and hits like a freight train, but plays with a controlled aggression that most of the linebackers in Cincinnati lack. He diagnoses plays very well in both the run and pass game, getting into the right spots and using his athleticism and strength to make big plays.
Though fantastic, Foster can play a little too much on his toes, at times. He can over commit and lunge for plays, leaving himself susceptible to cut backs or misdirection plays. He can also be a little too aggressive in pass coverage, missing opportunities to make a play on the ball. Foster does need some polish to become the star he has the ability to be, but Cincinnati would be foolish to pass on him if he is still on the board.
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) intercepts a pass intended for Clemson Tigers wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
10. Buffalo Bills: Malik Hooker, FS – Ohio State
The Buffalo Bills have a number of holes they need to fill if new head coach Sean McDermott wants to start off on the right foot. They address their defensive backfield, adding an explosive, athletic safety in Malik Hooker.
Hooker surprised many when he declared for the 2017 NFL Draft, but also excited many teams in the top half of the draft. He is built like a receiver, but patrols the defensive backfield. His long frame and elite acceleration allow him to get nearly anywhere on the field to break up please. He changes direction well, and can turn and run with backs, tight ends or even receivers if needed. Hooker then tracks the ball extremely well, showing a natural playmaking ability. Once the ball is in Hooker’s hands, he looks more like a receiver than a defensive back.
The biggest weakness of note for Hooker is his lack of technique when he comes up in run support. He delivers a booming hit, but does not bring his arms with him on a consistent basis. This leads to a lot of broken tackles against him. He also lacks the ideal experience that teams like to hand over the missile of their defense. This can lead to some bad reads, and lost plays. The potential reward far outweighs the risk, however, as the Bills add a defensive stud to try to get back into the playoffs.
11. New Orleans Saints: Solomon Thomas, DL – Stanford
(Previous Pick: Derek Barnett – EDGE – Tennessee)
The New Orleans Saints defense lacked play makers in 2016. This led to a lot of big plays for opponents – something Sean Payton would like to see far less of. They get a chance to add arguably the most disruptive player in the 2017 NFL Draft: Solomon Thomas.
Ignore his size, Thomas can flat-out play. He explodes off the snap and uses terrific power and drive to push the pocket from nearly anywhere on the line of scrimmage. He is a very polished rusher, showing a variety of pass rush moves that are generally not developed until later in a player’s career. This will help him transition to being on the edge full-time, but will also help when the Saints use him in sub packages to rush on the inside. Thomas moves well laterally, and is a nasty finisher. He never fails to deliver a big hit, making sure his opponents feel his presence.
There are concerns about his tweener size, but that will not scare teams after the recent run of success with tweezers. He is also not a burner, but he uses his positioning and quickness to counteract that. He can struggle with some of the more powerful tackles, but adding strength on an NFL program should help with that.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) drops back against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns already got a defensive playmaker by taking Myles Garrett with the top overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, now they need to address their quarterback spot. While some may be down on Deshaun Watson, he is better than the parade of poor quarterback play displayed by Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and even receiver Terrelle Pryor in 2016.
Watson is a tremendous athlete who does a good job at extending plays and keeping his eyes down field in search of an open receiver. He also shows a good arm, and the confidence in it that a true pro possesses. Watson can fire the ball into tight windows, and delivers the ball with great accuracy. He does a good job finding the open areas in defenses, and often throws his receivers open.
That being said, Watson is far from a finished NFL product. He has a good, not great arm. There are some questions around whether or not he has the ability to add to his arm or if he is maxed out. He is also another quarterback that has taken very few, if any, snaps under center. He is also not the ideal size for a quarterback, and could face some durability issues when taking on NFL defenders. The Browns need to get a quarterback, especially if Hue Jackson wants to survive another season as head coach.
The Arizona Cardinals have a great defensive backfield with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, but could stiles a reliable number two across from Peterson. Not only would Marlon Humphrey be a reliable No. 2, he would make it so the Cardinals have two number one cornerbacks on the field at the same time.
Humphrey has great size for a cornerback, displaying long arms that he combines with good play strength and aggressive play. His long arms help him get a good jam at the line of scrimmage, but he also does a great job placing his hands to ensure an effective jam. He has great recovery speed, showing his sprinter speed when beat off the line. He then flashes great ball skills, breaking up passes with ease.Humphrey is a reliable player who has played in 29 games for Nick Saban over the past two seasons.
Humphrey can be a little tight in his hips, struggling to transition from back pedal to trail against elite speed receivers. He can also be a little too aggressive at the line of scrimmage, putting himself behind the play from the snap by over extending. As a No. 2 with an elite cornerback on the opposite side, Humphrey could excel and work his way into being one of the NFL’s elite.
Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) rushes past Texas A&M Aggies offensive lineman Avery Gennesy (65) during the second half at Kyle Field. The Aggies defeat the Volunteers 45-38 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
14. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Barnett, EDGE – Tennessee
(Previous Pick: Tim Williams, EDGE – Alabama)
The Indianapolis Colts finished the 2016 NFL season with just 33 sacks, tied for 19th in the league. They need to add some more pop to their defense, and get that in Tennessee’s all-time career sacks leader Derek Barnett.
Barnett is not a prototypical EDGE player, standing 6-3 and 265 pounds with a stout, muscular frame. He is not a player with tremendous length, but he plays with good speed and great flexibility, dipping under tackles and using his strength to get past them. He is a relentless player, never motoring down whether it is a run or pass play. He lives in the backfield, shedding opponents with strong hands and good arm extension.
However, Barnett struggles if he is stopped on his initial rush. If a blocker gets inside his pads, he is often lost for that play. He also jumped offsides far too often, and tries to time the snap more than he does read it. Barnett also struggles if he is caught in a chase scenario, lacking the elite speed that many edge rushers flash. He does add a new element to the Colts defense, however, and would be a tremendous addition.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Vikings): Corey Davis, WR – Western Michigan
Carson Wentz lacked a true go-to receiver in 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles now get a chance to provide him one thanks to the Sam Bradford trade. Corey Davis is the guy that the Eagles will turn to, taking a small school product and utilizing him like the big time performer that he is.
Davis has the height, length, build and athleticism that is needed in elite receivers. He is a terrific route runner with quick footwork and crisp, effective cuts. He makes the hard catches look easy, showing strong hands and great ball tracking skills. He fights back to the ball consistently, and does a terrific job plucking the ball at its highest point. He is as polished as any receiver in the 2017 NFL Draft class.
At times, Davis can hear footsteps, worrying more about self-preservation than catching the ball. He has some drops, but overall has worked hard to keep them down. The obvious questions are around his ability to take on elite cornerbacks and if he can remain as effective when he is frustrated by an elite corner. He would be a great fit for Doug Pederson’s offense, and a great weapon for Wentz.
Oct 29, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Teez Tabor (31) against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at EverBank Field. Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Good size, great length and a lot of experience, there isn’t much to not like about Jalen “Teez” Tabor. He has the desired length for top cornerbacks, and elite athleticism. He is a smooth athlete with fluid hips and great lateral agility, helping him stay with inside and outside receivers.
Tabor shows great ball skills, timing his breaks right to break up passes and strong hands when he goes for the interception. He plays a polished press coverage, staying locked on his receiver without getting too grabby.
Tabor is a lean player, and is essentially a non-factor in the run game. He will dive at legs, but will rarely take on blockers. He also is more of a missile when trying to tackle, leaving his arms back and hoping he gets a good enough hit to bring down the ball carrier. He would step in and be the number one cornerback in Baltimore, but appears to be ready for that job.
17. Washington Redskins: Zach Cunningham, LB – Vanderbilt
The Washington Redskins are in serious need of a linebacker, and they get a chance to get a long, versatile linebacker in Zach Cunningham.
Cunningham does not hold the typical build of an inside linebacker, but he played there during his career. Combine that experience with his frame and versatility, and Cunningham is a very attractive linebacker prospect. He can play inside in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3, but either way he has the aggressive style that makes him a tackle machine. Cunningham also has very good speed and agility, turning that into power to drive opponents back rather than allowing backs to fall forward. He is also very good covering backs out of the backfield.
There is the question around where Cunningham really fits in on an NFL roster. Is he an inside linebacker, or an outside linebacker? He can also play a little high, causing some problems in tackling. He also lacks the ability to shed blockers on a consistent basis, and could struggle against polished NFL linemen.
There is no doubt that O.J. Howard is the most complete tight end prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Tennessee Titans get to add him to an offense that took tremendous strides in 2016 under Marcus Mariota. After addressing the defense with Jamal Adams at the sixth pick, they bolster their offense and get Mariota a great safety blanket.
Howard has great size, good athleticism, good blocking ability and a relentless drive that has pushed him to being a top-20 prospect. He has strong hands and runs very good routes and looks the part of a big-time tight end. Howard is also very good in the open field, displaying good speed and elusiveness.
It was smart for Howard to finish his career at Alabama, as he answered a lot of questions around toughness, strength and drive during his senior campaign. He can still use a little polish in his routes, and he can get better separation. Overall, Howard is a very good prospect and would be a perfect fit in Tennessee.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Leonard Fournette, RB – LSU
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without Doug Martin for at least the start of 2017, and are in need of a solid running back to help take some of the pressure off Jameis Winston on early downs. This is the perfect role for Leonard Fournette, arguably the best running back in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Fournette is a strong, stout back with the body to take, and dish out punishment in the NFL. He is a violent runner, but has the speed and agility to get to the outside and break runs. He sees the blocks developing in front of him quite well, stopping or slowing down to let the play develop before exploding through the hole with speed. He almost never loses yardage, falling forward and fighting for yards on every play. He can also be a three-down back when needed, showing good blocking principles on pass protection.
Fournette still has some strides to make in the passing game, showing good but not great hands. He can also get ahead of himself, getting off balance and essentially tackling himself by trying to deliver the hit on a defender. He also carried the ball a ton in college, piling up punishment and injuries. This will be a major check on Fournette, as some teams might think he only has a few elite years in him.
He is exactly what Tampa Bay needs, however, and would be a tremendous addition, especially at the No. 19 pick.
Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) blocks Western Michigan Broncos defensive end Keion Adams (1) in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers won 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
20. Denver Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, OT – Wisconsin
Nobody who watched the Denver Broncos in 2016 should be surprised with Denver taking an offensive lineman in the first Round. Their line play, although plagued with injuries, was less than stellar throughout the entire season.
Adding Ryan Ramczyk will add toughness, size and agility to an offensive line that struggled with all three. He is extremely quick off the snap, firing out of his stance and into defenders or out to the second level. Ramczyk looks the part of a tackle with even weight distribution and good length and a massive lower half. He has a violent initial punch, stunning opponents and locking on to them. He is a natural knee bender, playing with great balance and keeping his weight over his hips and not getting pulled off balance by opponents.
The biggest problem Ramczyk faces is with his feet. He has inconsistent footwork, and often relies on strength rather than proper footwork. He also leaves his feet stuck in the mud too often. He also needs to work on his hand placement, making sure he does not hit his hands outside and grab onto opponents. He has some room to grow, but would step in and start from Day 1 for Denver.
21. Detroit Lions: Sidney Jones, CB – Washington
(Previous Pick: Quincy Wilson, CB – Florida)
The Detroit Lions are coming off a surprising 2016 season, and can build on that by adding some defense to attempt stopping the offenses in their division (really just one offense). Adding a smooth athlete in the defensive backfield should help a great deal, that help coming in the form of Sidney Jones.
Jones is not the ideal size for a cornerback, but he uses his athleticism and fluid hips to stay with any receiver that he covers. Jones has good footwork that helps him mirror at the line of scrimmage, then flipping his hips with ease and having the speed to run with nearly any receiver. He is an extremely aggressive and tough cornerback, playing much bigger than his frame would suggest. He also shows tremendous ball skills, consistently making plays that change games.
The obvious knock is on the size and frame of Jones. He lacks the height, length and strength. This makes him mostly an off-man coverage player, but that should not hinder him too much in the NFL. His size also limits his play against the run, as NFL-sized linemen will overpower him or he will just remove himself from the play. Landing in the right spot is key for Jones, and Detroit is one of those spots.
Jul 26, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Indian Hoosier offensive lineman Dan Feeney addresses the media during the Big Ten football media day at the Hyatt Regency. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
22. Miami Dolphins: Dan Feeney, OG – Indiana
The Dolphins are going to need to be doing some shifting on their offensive line this offseason, and drafting a starting guard in Dan Feeney would solve their problems. Feeney has a ton of experience and is an athletic, aggressive guard that should slot right into an NFL offensive line.
He was forced to play at an unrelenting speed in college, giving him an edge in fitness over many guards. He is just as strong at the end of games as he is in the beginning. He fires out of his stance, and tracks defenders very well at the second level and beyond. He is a nasty player with a mean streak that he takes right to the limit, something the Miami offense could use.
Fenney is not the most polished pass blocker, receiving too much punishment in pass protection rather than dishing it out. He has a very inconsistent hand strike, getting wide and grabby far to often. He could likely add some more size to his frame as well to help deal with the bigger defenders he will face in the NFL.
23. New York Giants: Taco Charlton, DL – Michigan
(Previous Pick: Leonard Fournette, RB – LSU)
The New York Giants made a big investment in their defense ahead of the 2016 season and it paid big dividends. They continue to add to the defense by adding an explosive pass rusher in Taco Charlton.
Charlton came on strong in his senior season, showing that he has the strength and quickness to play on the edge at the next level. He has a solid frame and long arms that he uses to create separation, dipping under tackles and getting after the passer. He is a relentless rusher, but also strong against the run, setting the edge and forcing runs outside.
However, Charlton does play a bit high and could struggle by showing his pads to tackles and allowing them to lock in. He is more of a bull rusher and one-move player, lacking the secondary moves. His experience and steady growth throughout at Michigan make him an NFL-ready player. While he might not be a true impact player right away, he fills into the rotation of defenders very nicely in New York.
November 26, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) scores a touchdown against Rice Owls cornerback J.T. Blasingame (14) during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
24. Oakland Raiders: Christian McCaffrey, RB – Stanford
The Oakland Raiders were on the brink of a playoff run before Derek Carr went down with a broken leg. To take some of the pressure off of Carr upon his return, the Radiers add an extremely talented, elusive back that some continue to sleep on: Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey is not the ideal size for an every down running back, but he has the skills to be an every down back. He is built far more solidly than he gets credit for, but still moves better than just about anybody in the 2017 NFL Draft. He explodes through the hole or to the outside, but also displays the patience to slow down and set up his blockers. Aside from that, McCaffrey is as elusive as a player gets, juking and spinning defenders out of their shoes. He can run between the tackles and on the edge while showing some of the best hands for a back in recent memory.
There is worry about how much work McCaffrey had to shoulder at Stanford, accounting for a majority of the Stanford offense. This workload combined with his less than ideal size can lead to some questions on how much punishment he can take before breaking down. He would serve as a great option next to Carr, and could help take the Raiders offense to the next level.
25. Houston Texans: Obi Melifonwu, SS – Connecticut
(Previous Pick: Deshaun Watson, QB – Clemson)
The Houston Texans are going to need to re-work their defensive backfield entering 2017, especially if they lose A.J. Bouye. They do not go cornerback here, but instead they get a safety with elite size and very good athletic traits in Obi Melifonwu.
Melifonwu has terrific size, standing 6-4 with a muscular frame and good length. He is an extremely sure tackler who takes good angles to the ball and brings his arms with him on nearly every tackle. His coverage skills are much better than some credit him for, easily defending tight ends and running backs. His improvements have been credited to his hard work by his teammates and coaches.
He can work on better positioning himself to make plays, relying more on reads than his instincts. He does not play with the same speed he will test with, and can find himself a step behind some faster tight ends and backs. He does not create a lot of turnovers, but rather just makes the plays in front of him. He should be able to slot in as a day one starter in Houston, helping build on a very good defensive unit.
Nov 26, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Utah Utes offensive lineman Isaac Asiata (54) and offensive lineman Garett Bolles (72) in the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
26. Seattle Seahawks: Garett Bolles, OT – Utah
Much like the Denver Broncos, the Seattle Seahawks offensive line was a disaster in 2016. They mixed and match, getting Russell Wilson hit and hurt in the process.
Garett Bolles is a big, aggressive tackle prospect who loves to play with an edge. He is a monster going forward in the run game, striking hard, driving his legs and finishing off his opponents. He pulls, traps and gets to the second level with ease, identifying his mark and hitting it. He bends naturally at the knees, keeping balance against good rushers.
One thing Bolles does not do well is engage his hands on a consistent basis. He often is late to strike, allowing defenders to get inside him and take control. He shows good strength, but can get pushed back by pure bull rushers. His aggressive play can also lead to some penalties in the NFL. He should fit well into the tough style of the Seahawks, and will be a welcome addition by Wilson.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Jabrill Peppers, LB/S – Michigan
(Previous Pick: Desmond King, CB – Iowa)
Jabrill Peppers is easily the most argued about prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. Is he big enough to be a linebacker in the NFL? Does his athleticism allow him to take care of the coverage responsibilities of an NFL safety? Some might be down on Peppers, but he is a great fit on a Kansas City defense that could use another play maker.
Peppers is one of the more instinctive players you will see on film, seeing the play early and reacting to it with good burst. He has tremendous speed and agility, having the quickness to play at linebacker or safety. Peppers also shows a great ability to turn his hips and run with backs, tight ends or receivers, flashing very good coverage skills and the ability to mirror. He brings his arms consistently on tackles, making sure to at least slow down the ball carrier before his teammates arrive. His ability to play multiple positions will also allow the Chiefs to bring in different looks and create confusion for opposing offenses.
Size is always going to be the question with Peppers. Some say he is a tweener, and that is a fair characterization of his size. He also can be too aggressive for his own good, over-pursuing plays and pulling himself completely out of them. His lack of size makes it hard for him to effectively take on blockers, leaving some of his other teammates out to dry. His athletic ability and instinctive plays will help an aging Chiefs defense, however, making him a great fit.
Nov 5, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) scores a touchdown against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
28. Dallas Cowboys: John Ross, WR – Washington
(Previous Pick: Malik McDowell, DL – Michigan State)
The Dallas Cowboys appear to be on the bring of getting Jaylon Smith back for the 2017 season. This essentially adds a top-10 talent (pre-injury) to their defense and allows them to strengthen the offense around Dak Prescott. Adding an explosive receiver such as John Ross would be extremely beneficial for Prescott, Dez Bryant and the Cowboys offense as a unit.
Ross is not in the mold of a typical Dallas receiver, standing just 5-11 and playing mostly on the outside. Ross lets his play do the talking. He is lightning quick off the line, showing great footwork and a polished set of moves to free himself from jams and press coverage. He runs very good routes, and can cut his route short from full speed in an instant, leaving himself open for back-shoulder plays. His speed is undeniable—Ross has elite speed and can run past nearly any defender. He is a change of pace from some of the existing receivers in Dallas, and could mesh quite well with Prescott. He is also one of the most dangerous players available after the catch, knowing where to go and possessing the speed to get there and break a big play.
His frame needs work. Ross is slender and will need to add some strength in order to get away from some of the stronger corners. He is also a guy who will go down on contact, not showing the strength to break many tackles. He should be able to step in and make an immediate impact in Dallas, and should be the target for Jason Garrett.
29. Green Bay Packers: Tre’Davious White, CB – LSU
(Previous Pick: Sidney Jones, CB – Washington)
After watching the Green Bay Packers throughout the 2016 season, it was very obvious that they need cornerback help. They dive into LSU’s talent pool and get Tre’Davious White to help bolster their defensive backfield.
White has good size and length to go with great athleticism. He is an experience cornerback that has faced the best that college football has to offer, showing a tremendous compete level. He uses his athleticism to mirror receivers, then flipping his hips and using his speed to run with them. White also does a great job getting his head around at the right time and making plays on the ball.
However, White does have a slender frame and lacks a good jam at the line. He does not have elite speed, and can struggle with some of the elite speed guys on the outside. He is also not super effective in the run game, although he gives good effort. White fills a huge need for the Packers, and should step in as a starter from Day 1.
October 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley (98) brings down Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate (14) during the second half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Jarvis Jones and James Harrison are both free agents heading into 2017. Also, Harrison has to age at some point in his life. This leaves the Pittsburgh Steelers with the need for a pass rusher across from Bud Dupree, who emerged late in 2016. They land one of the more intriguing prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft, Takkarist McKinley.
McKinley is a long, lead athlete off the edge that plays with some serious burst. He explodes off the line of scrimmage, using good hand placement and long arms to keep opponents away from his pads. He has terrific speed off the edge while dipping under tackles with good flexibility. He does a great job fighting with his hands to keep tackles off him as well, showing good polish and a pretty good set of pass rush moves.
He is a little lanky, and could use some time to develop a more built frame. McKinley does not possess a great deal of power in the run game, getting pushed back a little too often. This also hurts his ability to bring down ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage. He also tends to run past the quarterback too often, trying to double back and make plays rather than keeping in his lane. He is a great fit in Pittsburgh, and would be a great complement to Dupree.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Malik McDowell, DL – Michigan State
(Previous Pick: Adoree’ Jackson, CB – USC)
The Atlanta Falcons have a good, young duo of defensive linemen in Ra’Shede Hageman and Grady Jarrett. But with Jonathan Babineaux entering his 13th season, the Falcons need some more depth on the defensive line. They land an athletic, versatile disruptor in Malik McDowell.
McDowell has tons of natural athleticism and ability, and a big frame to go with it. He has the versatility to play anywhere along the defensive line. He is explosive, dynamic and disruptive off his first step, firing through the line and getting penetration. He has a violent punch and good arm extension to free himself up in both the run and pass game.
He does play too high on a regular occasion. He fires out of his stance, but is nearly straight up by his second or third step. McDowell also appears to take plays off, dominating on some plays and becoming a non-factor on many others. He does not change direction well, and chooses gaps. This will pull him out of plays too often, leaving a big hole where he was supposed to be. If Dan Quinn and his staff can get McDowell to stay focused and dedicated, they could have one of the best, most dominant defensive lines in the entire league.
Nov 21, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Temple Owls defensive lineman Haason Reddick (58) dives to make a tackle on Memphis Tigers wide receiver Jae’lon Oglesby (19) during the first half at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
32. New England Patriots: Haason Reddick, LB – Temple
(Previous Pick: Pat Elflein, C – Ohio State)
The New England Patriots are coming off a dramatic Super Bowl LI win, and according to coach Bill Belichick they are “behind” on offseason preparation because of it. Lucky for Belichick, a versatile, aggressive linebacker is sitting at the No. 32 spot in the 2017 NFL Draft in Haason Reddick.
Reddick is extremely athletic and has the versatility to be a three-down linebacker. He can pair with Dont’a Hightower if he stays, or step in as a starter and help replace some of what Hightower can do if he leaves. He plays with great instincts and vision, finding the hole and hitting it hard. He had to fight for his entire career, becoming a team leader, a staple of Belichick draft picks. He can also slide down and play on the line of scrimmage in sub packages since he played there in college.
There will be a lot of room for growth as an EDGE player in the NFL, both physically and in his game. Reddick is undersized, and will need to add muscle to compete with NFL linemen. He also needs to work on bringing his arms a little more consistently. He also needs a lot of work flipping his hips and running with backs and tight ends, often tripping himself up and getting out of control.
The pick would be crucial if the Patriots lose Hightower in free agency, but could change to a different position of need if Hightower stays.