2017 NFL Mock Draft: Early Trade Blitz Seeks Pressure

Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) tackles Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) during the first quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s becoming more apparent by the week how the 2017 NFL mock draft (and the real one) will be shaping up for next April.

Of the Cleveland Browns seems like the shoe-in for the #1 overall pick, but now other teams have slowly cemented themselves in the spots behind them. The question moving forward is what their priorities will be. Don’t act surprised if the Browns lead things off with a pick that most people never would’ve expected.

1. Cleveland Browns


Myles Garrett

DE, Texas A&M

Every time Cody Kessler steps on the football field for the Cleveland Browns, he seems to play really well. One can understand why the team likes him. The problem is he’s having a really hard time staying healthy. So the Browns still have a big decision ahead in regards to whether they take a quarterback #1 or not. It certainly seems like they’re looking for an excuse not to. If Kessler can finish the season healthy, expect them to look elsewhere.

Most experts are in agreement on one thing. It seems like Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett is a cut above the rest of the 2017 class in terms of talent. He is a legitimate pass rusher who can beat blockers almost any way imaginable. The Browns currently have nobody like that on their defense. Jamie Collins looks like their only building block at the moment. Adding Garrett to the roster would be a giant step in the right direction.

Nov 5, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) looks to pass the ball in the second quarter against the Navy Midshipmen at Everbank Field. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

2. San Francisco 49ers


Deshone Kizer

QB, Notre Dame

Chip Kelly insists that he’s not going anywhere despite the struggles of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. The bottom line is that roster needs a lot of work. If he’s going to get his offense running the way he wants to, he’ll have to assemble the proper players. It starts at the quarterback position. Kelly has never selected his own 1st round QB in his entire tenure as a head coach. Blaine Gabbert was a failure and Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been much better.

Deshone Kizer may not be putting up the wins or the numbers experts had hoped for, but a lot of that isn’t his fault. Notre Dame has failed to surround him with proper weapons and the defense is a train wreck. He’s still a highly gifted young man with a strong right arm, big body and plenty of mobility. He’s also smart by all indications. Probably the most talented quarterback in this class. It will fall on Kelly to help him realize his vast potential.

Nov 5, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) goes into the end zone after scoring a forth quarter touchdown run against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 48-20. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

3. Arizona Cardinals (via JAX)

Cardinals get #3 pick

Jaguars get #9 pick, 3rd in 2017 and 1st in 2018

Mitch Trubisky

QB, North Carolina

Bruce Arians isn’t a fool. He knows the window to win a championship is closing on the Arizona Cardinals. Carson Palmer turns 37-years old at the end of December. It looks like he’s begun to fade in terms of his playmaking ability. Currently the Cardinals don’t have a young buck waiting in the wings to take over when he hangs up the cleats. So they make the calculated decision to go find one while the opportunity is there for the taking.

Mitch Trubisky is the hot name of the 2017 class. He really did almost come out of nowhere. A first-year starter at North Carolina, the junior has torn up most of the defenses he’s seen so far this season. He’s got size, a good arm, stands poise in the pocket and can deliver the ball with timing and accuracy. He’s also an athlete, able to move well and extend plays. Arians, a noted QB guru, would be able to do wonders with his game.

Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

4. Tennessee Titans (via CHI)

Titans get #4 pick

Bears get #6 pick, 3rd in 2017 and 6th in 2017

Jonathan Allen

DE, Alabama

The Tennessee Titans have a promising young offense on their hands. The running game is dynamic with Demarco Murray and quarterback Marcus Mariota is coming into his own as a passer. With a few more additions that group will be hard to stop. Getting stops on defense is something else entirely for this team. They can’t do it consistently enough and it’s costing them wins. There really is no star power on this unit. That has to change if they want to seize control of the AFC South.

That is why they trade up for Jonathan Allen. He’s one of just a few blue chip players in this 2017 class. A mammoth defensive end from Alabama, he’s got the power befitting his frame. What sets him apart is his superb quickness and athleticism for a man his size. Throw in a non-stop motor and the Titans have themselves a defensive lineman whom opponents will have to game plan for every week because of his disruptive capabilities.

Nov 5, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) looks to pass the ball during the first quarter against the Syracuse Orange at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

5. New York Jets


Deshaun Watson

QB, Clemson

Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing out his string. Geno Smith is now officially a bust. Bryce Petty doesn’t seem to have the teams’ full confidence and Christian Hackenberg remains a big project. The New York Jets have searched high and low for their answer at quarterback. Thus far without success. This pick represents their best chance yet to solve that problem unless they plan to stick it out with Petty or Hackenberg. Right now the odds are against it.

That is why they take Deshaun Watson. Though he’s not the biggest player on the field and has dealt with some accuracy problems of late, he’s still a proven winner with great athleticism. He understands how, where and when to make plays for his team. When Watson gets hot, he can put up numbers with the best of them. For him it’s about learning to play with more consistency. If the Jets commit to him, that will be their priority.

Nov 5, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) during the first quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via CHI from TEN)

Buccaneers get #6 pick

Bears get #8 pick and 3rd in 2017

Derek Barnett

DE, Tennessee

The defensive line for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers isn’t getting the job done. Indeed the entire Bucs defense is bad. They rank 28th overall in the league and have managed just 17 sacks on the season. It’s little wonder they’ve struggled to win games. Gerald McCoy remains their best player in the middle but he’s flanked by a series of role players or unprovens on the edges. Until they find a serious edge rusher who can take advantage of his presence, they can’t hope to succeed.

That’s why they trade up to get Derek Barnett. The Tennessee defensive end is one of the most consistently productive pass rushers in college football. He had nine sacks as a freshman, 10 as a sophomore and already has nine against as a junior. He just has an inherent sense of how to beat blockers and get after the quarterback. His body type and playing style are a good fit for the Buccaneers’ scheme too. It’s an easy decision to make.

Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) carries the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

7. Carolina Panthers


Leonard Fournette


The foundation of what the Carolina Panthers want to do on offense is running the football. When they are able to do it, Cam Newton becomes that much more dangerous as a quarterback. Jonathan Stewart has done a great job for them over the years but his age and injury history have to be in the back of their minds at this point. Ensuring the line of succession at running back would be a huge benefit to this teams’ future.

Can one imagine having Leonard Fournette and Cam Newton in the same backfield? It wouldn’t be fair. The LSU back is the total package. He runs with power and vision but is also surprisingly athletic for his size. Give him a lane to the second level and he’s liable to bust it for a long touchdown. At LSU he has every defender geared to stop and can still dominate. So imagine how it will be when teams have to account for Newton.

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

8. Chicago Bears (via TB)


Teez Tabor

CB, Florida

With the top two quarterbacks and the best player all off the board, the Chicago Bears are forced to make a decision. Do they just go with the best player available or try moving back to stockpile more picks? GM Ryan Pace chooses the latter. While Chicago is headed in the right direction, they have a series of depth problems across their roster. Extra picks would go a long way towards improving that problem. Besides, this draft is strong at positions of need.

Having Teez Tabor still available after two moves down is a perfect example. Chicago is really hurting at the cornerback spot. They could use a man with the capability to lock down any receiver he lines up against. Tabor is that kind of athlete. He is a good-sized, smooth corner with fluid movement and enough speed to hang with receivers deep. He plays with swagger, a short memory and keen instincts too. Put him under Vic Fangio and it will be big for that Bears defense.

Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Brian Lewerke (14) attempts a pass as Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) defends during the second half at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

9. Jacksonville Jaguars (via ARI)


Jabril Peppers

S, Michigan

Will Gus Bradley be back? That is the question that will dominate the rest of this year for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s had four years to make them a winner and not only failed but failed badly. Based on their level of young talent, this team is playing far belong its capabilities. That falls at the feet of the head coach. Whomever ends up replacing Bradley must continue to add potential playmakers. Getting a dynamic safety could end being a final piece on defense.

The tricky part with Jabrill Peppers is he’s not a finished product. There is no debating the fact that the Michigan star is the most exciting player in college football. He plays multiple positions and creates a lot of big plays. Still, his primary position is safety and his play there has been solid but unremarkable. Not a lot of impact plays. Much of that may have to do with his constantly moving around. Hopefully settling at just safety will make him the star he should be.

Nov 5, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver Marcus Davis (80) is tackled by by Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) during the first quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

10. Cincinnati Bengals


Zach Cunningham

LB, Vanderbilt

While other teams have focused on drafting great athletes over the past few years, the Cincinnati Bengals have developed a reputation for finding great football players. They hope to continue that trend as they seek to finally break their ongoing curse of being unable to win a playoff game. Part of that comes with being able to reload the roster in key areas when they start to age or weaken. Linebacker looks like one of them.

Vontaze Burfict is a loose cannon who could get himself in trouble again at any time. Ray Maualuga is a steady, dependable veteran but isn’t the player he was a few years ago. Vincent Rey is more of a specialty linebacker. Paul Dawson hasn’t really lived up to his draft billing. Adding Zach Cunningham would be a big help. The Vanderbilt product is built on elite instinct, reflex and tackling prowess. He’s a dynamo around the line of scrimmage and should be able to stay on the field for three downs.

Oct 8, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) returns the interception during the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

11. Tennessee Titans


Malik Hooker

S, Ohio State

Having added another quality piece to their defensive front seven, the Titans can next turn their attention to the back end. While not totally devoid of decent players at corner and safety, they have no legitimate playmakers. When Dick LeBeau was at his best in Pittsburgh, he had a stud on the back end in Troy Polamalu who could be moved around like a chess piece depending on circumstances. If he could get that again, it would be huge for Tennessee.

The buzz around Ohio State safety Malik Hooker has picked up by major percentages over the past month. Not only big at 6’2″, his speed and athleticism stand out in coverage. The ball skills are most definitely there as he always seems to get his hands on the football if teams dare to try him. There are still some fundamental flaws in his game that need ironing out. LeBeau is no stranger to such problems. This is a potential Pro Bowler.

Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Danny Etling (16) is hit by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) as he slides during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

12. Indianapolis Colts


Reuben Foster

ILB, Alabama

A person could pretty much point to any position on the Indianapolis Colts defensive depth chart and it sorely needs help in the draft. So they could go any number of directions and it would be totally understood. Improving the front seven though should take priority for them. Either a productive pass rusher or an active inside linebacker would be tremendous helps to the cause. In this case they go after the latter.

Alabama is so loaded with defensive talent that it’s often easy to overlook certain players who aren’t getting their due. Reuben Foster may be one of them. He’s a linebacker who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work. He shoots gaps, stops the run and makes tackles with impressive regularity. A solid athlete with range who isn’t a big weak point in coverage. It’s hard to tell how he’ll be behind an average defensive line, but he is at least a step in the right direction.

Nov 5, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) runs a route during the second quarter against the Syracuse Orange at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

13. San Diego Chargers


Mike Williams

WR, Clemson

It seems like year after year the San Diego Chargers deal with the same problem. None of their receivers can stay healthy. Stevie Johnson and Keenan Allen are already out and Travis Benjamin can’t stay on the field. Philip Rivers can’t be expected to work miracles with role players and backups. If the Chargers can’t trust who they have and don’t plan to go after a quarterback, then they need to grab another receiver to help with this problem.

Mike Williams was projected to be the top receiver in the 2017 class and he’s held up that end of the bargain. The Clemson standout is the principal playmaker for Deshaun Watson in the passing game. He’s got the big body, strong hands and inherent sense of how to get open. It doesn’t matter how well he’s covered, he can make the tough catches. Better still he has enough speed to go deep when the situation call for it. Rivers will love him.

Nov 5, 2016; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley (4) tries to outrun Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) during the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. South Carolina wins 31-21 over Missouri. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

14. Baltimore Ravens


Charles Harris

OLB, Missouri

The Baltimore Ravens have long been a team defined by defense. When it’s playing well, they tend to win. Much of their success centers around the front seven. specifically the pass rush. Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil have been their aces the past few years but age is becoming a big issue for them now. Ozzie Newsome has to recognize he doesn’t possess anybody of that caliber on the roster who is ready to take over for them.

So the Ravens go hunting for one. In a draft class that could be loaded with such talents, Charles Harris is one that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. Missouri is a program known for producing good pass rushers and Harris is their latest. He’s a quick, strong guy with good size and a high motor. Can post 2-3 sacks in a game out of nowhere. Just a feel for what he must do to beat blockers, including a nasty spin move reminiscent of Dwight Freeney.

Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) carries up the field against LSU Tigers defensive back Dwayne Thomas (13) during the first quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

15. Miami Dolphins


O.J. Howard

TE, Alabama

Adam Gase seems to be making progress with the Miami Dolphins offense but a number of problems still haunt them. They just haven’t been able to open games up through the air. Ryan Tannehill draws a lot of criticism for that but much of it is due to his receivers being unable to get open consistently. The tight end position is certainly an area that continues to underachieve. It might be high time they changed that.

The 2017 class appears strong at that position and O.J. Howard is the leading man. His national championship performance is still the talk in scouting circles months later. He put up over 200 yards on Clemson, showcasing his basketball-type mix of size and athleticism. A big target with reliable hands who can gash defenses down the middle but also threaten on the outside due to his speed. Not an unwilling blocker either.

Oct 29, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) 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

16. Cleveland Browns (via PHI)


Quincy Wilson

CB, Florida

Their pass defense is among the worst in the NFL. That alone makes this pick an obvious one. Combine that with the constant news they were trying to trade Joe Haden and it’s clear they intent to revamp the entire roster. They already have Jamie Collins at one level and now Myles Garrett up front. Getting a quality cover corner would represent a possible playmaker at the third and final level of their defense. This is how it must be done for success.

Teez Tabor gets a lot of the press but many agree his teammate at Florida Quincy Wilson is just as good. Another long corner with fluid movement skills. He can mirror any receiver he lines up against and doesn’t lack the speed needed to stay in their hip pocket down the field. To top it off he has good ball skills and can be dangerous after making the interception. Another classic man corner made for play press.

Oct 1, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) is congratulated by offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey (68) after Notre Dame defeated the Syracuse Orange 50-33 at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

17. Buffalo Bills


Mike McGlinchey

OT, Notre Dame

Rex Ryan must be feeling the heat at this point. The Buffalo Bills are on another losing streak, dropping a series of close defeats that threaten to sink the season. Ryan came in on the back of promises that he would finally get the franchise to the playoffs. If he fails, there is a strong chance the new ownership looks to make a change. On the other hand, it doesn’t change the objectives for this draft.

Improving the offensive line must lead the agenda. Outside of Cordy Glenn the Bills really have no proven young blockers up front. Mike McGlinchy could end up being the first tackle off the board if he declares. Another well-developed prospect from Notre Dame. He’s a versatile athlete with size and keen pass protection skill. It may not show all the time but he’s not afraid to get after it in the run game. Quarterbacks learn to trust him.

Nov 5, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines tight end Jake Butt (88) rushes in the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

18. Green Bay Packers


Jake Butt

TE, Michigan

For the first time in years it feels like the Green Bay Packers’ foundation is crumbling a bit. The team is 4-4 at the midway point, something unheard of in years past. The defense is underwhelming again and now the offense seems out of sorts. Word is head coach Mike McCarthy may be on the hot seat if this trend continues. It’s hard to say how all of it plays out, but it’s plainly clear this roster needs tweaking in key areas.

A big one is tight end. Richard Rodgers, Jared Cook and others have failed to nail down that key spot. None of them have become that presence in the passing game Aaron Rodgers needs. Jake Butt could become that difference-maker. He’s a sturdy blocker for Michigan who is just coming into his own as a pass catcher. Big with strong hands and enough athleticism to challenge defenses down the seam.

Oct 15, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Corey Clement (6) is tackled by Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) during the second quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

19. New Orleans Saints


Marshon Lattimore

CB, Ohio State

The reasoning behind this pick is as simple as it gets. The New Orleans Saints have the worst pass defense in the NFL. Period. End of story. They rank 32nd overall, allowing 300 yards through the air. In fact the only reason they’re not challenging the Browns for the #1 pick is the continuing brilliance of Drew Brees on offense. What a blessing. If this franchise has any hopes to try for one more Super Bowl before it’s too late, this is the problem they must fix.

They have two choices. Either improve the pass rush or find cornerbacks who can cover. Given the state of the 1st round, the latter course is their best option. Marshon Lattimore is part of a strong tandem that has driven much of the success for Ohio State this season. He’s well-built with good height, plenty of speed and agility and doesn’t make a ton of mistakes. He’s still discovering his instincts but that should come with time.

Oct 29, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) outruns Clemson linebacker Korrin Wiggins (15) at Doak Campbell Stadium. Clemson won 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

20. Detroit Lions


Dalvin Cook

RB, Florida State

The Detroit Lions are surviving by the skins of their teeth. They are now in position to seize control of the NFC North and it’s because of the singular brilliance of quarterback Matthew Stafford. He sure hasn’t gotten much help from the running game. Ameer Abdullah can’t stay healthy. Theo Riddick is a great receiving back but not the best runner. This team needs somebody who can balance the offense and ease the pressure on Stafford.

Even as Florida State struggles through a tough year, it’s so easy to forget how good of a player Dalvin Cook is. He might be the most versatile running back in the class. While a solid runner who can take the hits and break tackles, he’s even more dangerous as a pass catcher. There are so many ways for an offense to use him. He’ll see far more lanes to run through in Detroit thanks to Stafford’s presence, and that success will bleed into the passing game.

Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) stands on the field during the first quarter of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

21. Washington Redskins


Malik McDowell

DE, Michigan State

The Washington Redskins are one of the biggest mysteries of the 2016 season. One week they look like the playoff contender they were last season and the next they seem like most other mediocre teams. Part of the problem is their inconsistencies on defense. Teams with strong offensive lines have been able to push them around far too often, revealing their overly weak defensive front. There is no lynch pin holding that underwhelming group together.

It must be corrected. Prior to the struggles of Michigan State, Malik McDowell was considered among the top prospects in the entire draft. A big, versatile defensive lineman with great length and quickness. He could play outside or inside depending on the situation and is good at finding ways into the opposing backfield. He’ll have to rev up the motor more often to reach his potential, but his upside is top 10-worthy.

Sep 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) rushes against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half at Camping World Stadium. Florida State Seminoles defeated the Mississippi Rebels 45-34. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

22. New York Giants


Demarcus Walker

DE, Florida State

The defense is improved from where it was last year, but the New York Giants know it’s far from where they need it to be. One specific problem is the pass rush. Despite adding Olivier Vernon to the rotation, the Giants still can’t apply consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With Jason Pierre-Paul a free agent in 2017, they must consider making an edge rusher a priority in the draft. Preferably somebody who can contribute right away.

Demarcus Walker continues to stand out at Florida State despite the program struggling this season. His high motor and natural savvy for beating blockers flashes a lot on tape. He’s a good fit for a 4-3 scheme and can be moved around in order to find favorable matchups. That is something Steve Spagnuolo loves to do. Walker may not impress as a premier athlete, but he’s very good at his primary job. That is what New York needs.

Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) celebrates after intercepting a pass from Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (not pictured) during the first quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

23. Denver Broncos


Jamal Adams


T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart are a capable tandem at safety for the Denver Broncos. That being said, age is becoming a factor for them. Ward turns 30 in December. Stewart will be 29 next year. Besides, John Elway has an obligation to take the best players available even if they might be at strong positions. Given how important safety is in that Wade Phillips defense, this is a pick that cannot be understated. Two or three years down the road it would be applauded.

That is how good a player Jamal Adams can be. It’s a pretty big shock he fell this far. The LSU product is that classic cross between linebacker and defensive back. He’s a terror near the line of scrimmage, delivering vicious hits but also proving quite excellent at sniffing out screen passes. Don’t ignore him in coverage either because he’s got the size and range to make plays there too. Some may see him as a younger version of Ward, which isn’t a bad thing.

Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) against the Missouri Tigers during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

24. Kansas City Chiefs


Jarrad Davis

ILB, Florida

It’s been referenced a number of times since before the season even started. The Kansas City Chiefs built their recent success on defense, and Derrick Johnson is one of the biggest reasons for it. The inside linebacker has been brilliant for years, but at age 34 he’s in the twilight of his career. Kansas City has to know they have nobody on the roster capable of replacing what he brings to the table. So they’ll have to go out and find it.

Jarrad Davis comes from a proven program at Florida, exhibits plenty of athleticism for the position and has good size. He fits the 3-4 defensive scheme due to his tackling prowess and ability to blitz the quarterback. He’s often in the opposing backfield making things happen. Teams will focus on his sagging stat line this year but the quality talent hasn’t diminished. Davis can play. If the Chiefs give him a chance to learn from Johnson, he’ll thrive.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) sacks Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

25. Pittsburgh Steelers


Tim Williams

OLB, Alabama

It feels like the Pittsburgh Steelers have about had their fill of Jarvis Jones. The former Georgia standout looked exactly like what they needed when they drafted him a few years back but the outside linebacker has disappointed. They still don’t have a true pass rush threat on the outside. Bud Dupree is only now returning from a serious injury. Given the importance of outside linebackers to that scheme, it’s a position they must continue addressing.

His production isn’t what it was in 2015 but Tim Williams remains a dangerous edge presence for undefeated Alabama. He’s quick off the snap, able to bend the edge and finishes strong to the quarterback. Offenses can’t block him when the motor runs hot. His issues lay with inconsistent fundamental and a general lack of size that bigger blockers can sometimes exploit. Provided those two problems are masked, he’ll be a huge addition.

Oct 15, 2016; Akron, OH, USA; Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis (84) tosses the ball after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Akron Zips at InfoCision Stadium. Western Michigan Broncos won 41-0. Mandatory Credit: Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports

26. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIN)


Corey Davis

WR, Western Michigan

It’s becoming apparent with each passing week that the Philadelphia Eagles have a lot of work to do on offense. Carson Wentz should be a good one at quarterback and Doug Pederson is the man to develop him. The problem is they really don’t have many weapons around him on offense, especially at wide receiver. Jordan Matthews and Dorial Green-Beckham are big bodies but haven’t established themselves as go-to guys. That is what Wentz needs more than anything else.

Somebody he can trust when he absolutely needs a completion. Coming from Western Michigan, it’s easy to understand why Corey Davis isn’t getting much attention. He should be though. The kid dominates consistently every week. He’s got size that teams like and sets himself apart with polished route running skills. Combined with his sudden quickness, it’s easy for him to get open. Those traits translate well to the pro game and are a good fit for the Eagles’ scheme.

Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) blocks USC Trojans linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) during the game at AT&T Stadium. Alabama defeats USC 52-6. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

27. Houston Texans


Cam Robinson

OT, Alabama

Is there a possibility that the Houston Texans go after a quarterback? Sure, but it’s just difficult to believe they’d give up on their investment in Brock Osweiler after one season. They paid him a lot of money and must not forget he still has a winning record. Quarterbacks need time to acclimate to a system. It might be worth waiting at least one more year to give Osweiler a chance to blossom. In the meantime the team can continue building around him.

The offensive line is never a bad place to focus. Both the guard and tackle spots have major question marks. Cam Robinson has the versatility to play almost any position up front. He’s a left tackle at Alabama but can play either side. Some also believe he’d make a better guard. His pass protection has improved significantly from last year and he’s already a proven run blocker. Perhaps they could slide him in at guard and have him ready to replace Duane Brown whenever he retires.

Nov 5, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (94) reacts after sacking Syracuse Orange quarterback Eric Dungey (not pictured) during the first quarter at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

28. Seattle Seahawks


Carlos Watkins

DT, Clemson

The Seattle Seahawks defense isn’t the suffocating unit its been the past few years. It’s still among the league best but there are holes in the dam they haven’t experienced for years. Chief among them is their run defense. Seattle is allowing a generous 98.8 yards on the ground. That starts up front. Though they still apply pressure, the Seahawks defensive line isn’t doing its part when it comes to closing off running lanes. That’s why defensive tackle is high on their list of needs.

Carlos Watkins looks like a player they would like. A nose tackle from Clemson, he was already a proven run plugger the past couple years for one of the best teams in the nation. The exciting part is he seems to have switched the light on as a pass rusher. He’s already got more sacks in 2016 than he did in 2015. This could make him one of the most well-rounded interior defensive linemen in the class. Just what Seattle is looking for.

Oct 22, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) in action against the Oregon State Beavers during the first quarter at Husky Stadium. Washington won 41-17. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

29. Atlanta Falcons


Sidney Jones

CB, Washington

The run defense has been terrific for the Atlanta Falcons this season, but it can’t cover up the lingering problem on the back end. They rank a distant 31st in the NFL against the pass. Teams with this sort of problem have a hard time winning in January, which is of course their top goal. Outside of Desmond Trufant, who is battling injury, they really have few reliable options at cornerback who can hold their own against receivers one-on-one.

Washington continues to roll in college football, showcasing that they might have a pipeline to pro-caliber talent. Indeed several of their players are getting loads of attention, with Sidney Jones right at the top. Like former teammate Marcus Peters he is an athletic corner with size and instinct. He plays fast and fluid, able to go toe-to-toe with wide receiver and shows the ball skills needed to make plays. He and Trufant could form quite the tandem.

Oct 29, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Northwestern Wildcats fullback Garrett Dickerson (9) is tackled by Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

30. Oakland Raiders


Raekwon McMillan

ILB, Ohio State

Strides are being made step by step for the Oakland Raiders. Their offense is emerging as one of the best in the NFL. Derek Carr is becoming elite before the eyes of everybody. Defensively is where this team must maintain its focus. There has been improvement but several areas remain problematic. A big one is the middle linebacker spot. Thus far repeated attempts haven’t brought a viable solution for that critical position.

Ohio State is known for producing quality defenders and Raekwon McMillan is the latest example. He may not be the flashiest player but he’s the type that gets things done. A good athlete with range who can play coverage. He’s at his best when when he plays downhill. McMillan is aggressive and tackles well. He provides solid pressure as a blitzer and shows the instinct to see the gaps and shoot them. Just a solid all-around player.

31. Dallas Cowboys


Adoree Jackson


The Dallas Cowboys defense continues to get by with what they have, A tribute to how good a coordinator Rod Marinelli is. That being said there are changes on the horizon for this unit, particularly on the back end. A number of their key cornerbacks including Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr will be free agents in 2017. Given the salary cap crunch they’re already in, the odds say they’ll try finding cheap replacements in the draft.

Adoree Jackson has had himself quite a productive year at USC. He might be one of the most athletic corners in the draft, able to play tight coverage against anybody. Better still he’s proficient with the ball in his hands. He’s dangerous when he forces a turnover and also can lend a big hand in the return game. Dallas can and should make great use of that versatility as they try to keep their Super Bowl window open in the long-term.

Nov 14, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Carl Lawson (55) walks on the sidelines during the first quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

32. New England Patriots


Carl Lawson

DE, Auburn

Right now the New England Patriots are a team in transition on defense. Already they’ve traded away arguably their two best players in Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins. Odds are they fully plan to find replacements in the draft. With Chris Long on a one-year deal and Rob Ninkovich aging, they need to focus on finding a pass rusher on the edge. Somebody who can get them a sack when they need it in key situations.

Bill Belichick is always one to take calculated risks. Carl Lawson has a history of health problems at Auburn, but when healthy he is clearly one of the best pass rushers in the 2017 class. A good athlete with explosive quickness and natural bend. He’s one of those hybrid types of players that can be moved around depending on situation. Exactly the type of player the Patriots have thrived on for years.

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