2017 NFL Mock Draft: Full First-Round Projections for Week 3

It may only be Week 3 of the 2016 NFL season, but it’s never too early to take a look at the future with a 2017 NFL mock draft of the full first round

The 2016 NFL season is off and running, which means it’s time to put together a 2017 NFL mock draft. I mean, it’s pretty much NFL Draft season as soon as the final pick of the previous draft is made, right?

So it’s safe to assume Week 3 is not too early to start looking at how all 32 of next April’s first-round picks could play out.

Let’s remember one thing, though. This exercise is not meant to accurately predict who is going to wind up where. More than anything, it’s meant to highlight the rising and falling stock of some of college football’s top prospects. It’s also intended as an early look at which positions are of significant need for all 32 of the NFL’s teams.

Don’t take it too seriously. Instead, look at it as an opportunity to familiarize yourself with some of college football’s brightest stars.

So without further ado, here is my 2017 NFL mock draft of the first round.

DeShone Kizer 2017 NFL Draft

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1

DeShone Kizer

Quarterback, Notre Dame

It only took one week for the Cleveland Browns to find out Robert Griffin III wasn’t the answer at quarterback. Although he showed some flashes of the playmaker we saw during his rookie campaign, it all came crashing down in a hurry. He took a big shot to the shoulder instead of protecting himself, and wound up on the IR list as a result. Now, the Browns need another quarterback.

So why not go with the current top talent at the position? That would be Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer, who has quickly emerged as a star in 2016. The young gunslinger has been killing it for the Irish since the start of the season, earning the praise of the scouting community as a whole.

Kizer would give the Browns a high-upside talent under center with a big frame, strong arm and intelligence in the pocket. Given some further coaching and time to develop, it’s easy to imagine him developing into Cleveland’s first quality starting quarterback in who knows how long.

It’s just too bad to see such a promising young passer end up in Cleveland, the land of wasted NFL talent.

Myles Garrett 2017 NFL Draft

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2

Myles Garrett

Defensive End, Texas A&M

*Tennessee Titans received this pick from the Los Angeles Rams*

With no need for a quarterback, the Titans gladly take the best player of the draft in Myles Garrett. The Texas A&M defensive end wasted no time proving he’s a star pass rusher, which should bode well for a Tennessee defense that already has plenty of talent up front.

Garrett will step onto a defense that already boasts the talents of Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo, and Jurrell Casey. Playing alongside that type of veteran presence will not only help him unlock his sky-high potential, but should provide him with some quality leadership that can point him in the right direction as he begins his NFL journey.

The Titans have a number of needs, but it’s too hard to pass on a talent like Garrett. He may not fill a huge hole, but it’s all about adding the best possible players to your roster. The Aggie edge rusher will immediately upgrade their pass rush tenfold, and give opposing offensive coordinators nightmares on Saturday nights.

Cam Robinson 2017 NFL Draft

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3

Cam Robinson

Offensive Tackle, Alabama

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chargers consider a quarterback at this point with Philip Rivers getting up there in age. However, instead of putting a contingency plan in place, they could just give the aging gunslinger more protection.

The addition of Cam Robinson would accomplish that goal in a big way.

The Alabama tackle has easily asserted himself as the top offensive lineman eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft so far. He routinely dominates his opposition, using an impressive mix of size and athleticism to win at the point of attack. Although he obviously needs more work, the film would suggest he’s ready to make the jump to the league.

Robinson has spent the last few seasons winning battles against some of the SEC’s best edge rushers. That should be more than enough to convince the Chargers to pull the trigger at No. 3.

Leonard Fournette 2017 NFL Draft

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4

Leonard Fournette

Running Back, LSU

Is it just me, or does this seem like a match made in heaven?

The Saints find a true superstar to upgrade their running game, and Leonard Fournette gets to stay local and give New Orleans fans another reason to fill the Super Dome on Sundays.

Mark Ingram is a quality starter, but the former first-round pick never quite lived up to expectations after winning the Heisman at Alabama. Fournette would not only be a sizable upgrade, but he’d give the Saints arguably the best young back in the NFL. That’s saying a lot when you think of players like Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott.

More than anything, Fournette would give the Saints a true workhorse back to take some pressure off of Drew Brees. The aging quarterback only has so much gas left in the tank, so having a top-tier back like Fournette would allow New Orleans to not rely so heavily on the passing game.

When it comes down to it, it’s going to be too difficult for the Saints to pass on this local legend in the making.

Deshaun Watson

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5

Deshaun Watson

Quarterback, Clemson

We all knew this was coming, right?

At this moment, the 49ers’ starting quarterback is Blaine Gabbert. No matter how optimistic you want to be, that is not a viable long-term solution for San Francisco. They need to invest in a young, high-upside quarterback who can take this team into a brighter future.

Since they’ve obviously soured on Colin Kaepernick, grabbing Deshaun Watson in the first round wouldn’t be the worst idea. The Clemson product is an exceptional talent, offering an exciting mixture of athleticism and arm talent. He’s more than capable of shredding opposing defenses through the air, or using his feet to stuff the stat sheet. Since he became the starter for the Tigers, it took almost no time at all for the program to become title contenders.

That’s exactly what the 49ers need. They need a young gunslinger who can come in and light a fire under this franchise. Watson has the physical skills, football IQ and instincts to develop into the face of this San Francisco team. It’s always a risky move taking a quarterback this early, but the 49ers can’t afford to continue settling for mediocrity.

Jalen Tabor 2017 NFL Draft

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6

Jalen Tabor

Cornerback, Florida

Through two weeks, the Colts have fielded one of the worst pass defenses in the league. It hasn’t been pretty, although injuries have played a big part in their inability to slow down opposing quarterbacks.

Still, it seems like a logical option to go with a cornerback, especially with a player like Jalen Tabor on the board at No. 6.

Vontae Davis is obviously still a reliable starter on the outside, but the mix of Antonio Cromartie, Patrick Robinson and Darius Butler aren’t getting the job done on the other side. Indianapolis needs to get younger in the secondary–they simply can’t rely on picking veterans off the free agency scrape heap.

Tabor is currently the class’ top cornerback prospect, and for good reason. While I’m not convinced he’s as good as his former teammate Vernon Hargreaves III, he’s shown impressive instincts in coverage and possesses impressive size for the position. With an outstanding year as the new star of the Florida secondary, he could easily warrant a top-10 pick by next April.

Tim Williams 2017 NFL Draft

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7

Tim Williams

Outside Linebacker, Alabama

If Tim Williams is still on the board, the Bills would be crazy to pass on the electrifying pass rusher. Especially with the Buffalo defense getting older and slower, they desperately need an influx of young, high-motor players on the edge. I know they spent a first-round pick on Shaq Lawson last year, but you can never have too many capable pass rushers in today’s pass-happy NFL. Grabbing a guy like Williams would be a dream come true for Rex Ryan—if he’s still around in 2017.

Based on what we’ve seen from Williams so far, his ceiling is nearly nonexistent. The Alabama outside linebacker is lightning quick off the edge, using his excellent first step and impressive bend to turn the corner and put pressure on opposing passers. He racked up 10.5 sacks in limited action last year, and should start to see more production in 2016 as the season rolls along.

This Buffalo team needs more help on defense. They’ve struggle to get after the quarterback through the first two games, but having Williams and a healthy Lawson in 2017 would change that.

Jonathan Allen 2017 NFL Draft

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8

Jonathan Allen

Defensive End, Alabama

Right now, the Lions need help along the defensive line. While they have Ziggy Ansah, he always seems to be hurt and is a bit inconsistent in the pass rushing department. Devin Taylor is a solid starter, but the Detroit defense can do better. And then there’s Haloti Ngata, who is getting up there in age and appears to be running out of gas.

So instead of settling for mediocrity moving forward, the Lions opt to address the defensive line in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Yes, I mean snagging an exciting prospect by the name of Jonathan Allen.

Honestly, any team sitting at No. 8 would be lucky to find him available at this point in the draft. The Crimson Tide star is a monster along the defensive line, bringing strength, sound technique and versatility to the table. While he’s more than capable of playing defensive end, he seems like he’d be a terrific fit at the three technique for the Lions.

Having a dominate defensive line is the cornerstone of a great defense in today’s NFL. The Lions need more beef up front, and Allen is just the type of big-time playmaker to help turn things around in Detroit.

Dalvin Cook 2017 NFL Draft

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9

Dalvin Cook

Running Back, Florida State

If you think the combo of Arian Foster and Jay Ajayi is going to get it done moving forward, you’re wrong.

The Dolphins desperately need to give their ground game a shot in the arm, and spending their first-round pick on Dalvin Cook would be an excellent way to do it. The Florida State star has run rampant on the ACC over the past couple of seasons, and continues to be a go-to playmaker for the Seminoles. Chances are he’ll carry his success over to the NFL.

Realistically, this Miami offense just needs more reliable weapons. They have plenty of talent, but there’s just no week-to-week consistency from any of their starters. Adding Cook to the mix, however, would absolutely give them a reliable option in the backfield capable of hurting defenses in a number of ways.

It’s crazy to imagine two running backs coming off the board in the Top 10 picks. However, based on what we’ve seen from Cook, there’s little evidence to suggest he wouldn’t be worth the pick. The Dolphins absolutely need to upgrade the offense moving forward—drafting Cook would be a huge step in the right direction.

Carl Lawson 2017 NFL Draft

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10

Carl Lawson

Defensive End, Auburn

Let’s be honest—there’s no way the Cowboys can avoid addressing the pass rush during the 2017 NFL Draft. Even if Demarcus Lawrence stays out of trouble and Randy Gregory gets back on track, Dallas absolutely needs to add more reliable bodies along the defensive line. Unfortunately, the class’ top edge rushers are already off the board.

So that’s why I’ve decided to have them reach for a boom-or-bust prospect like Carl Lawson. It’s definitely a gamble, but it’s one that could pay huge dividends for a team that desperately needs help.

Lawson has all of the physical tools to be a sack artist in the NFL. He’s got a good burst off the snap, offers plenty of athleticism and has flashed disruptive abilities during his days at Auburn. He’s still got a long way to go in his development, but the Cowboys simply can’t afford to play it safe at this point.

Either way, Dallas needs to find more options at defensive end. Lawson can be a star if he unlocks his potential—that’s why he’d be worth the risk at No. 10.

Desmond King 2017 NFL Draft

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11

Desmond King

Cornerback, Iowa

I had high hopes for this Tennessee squad heading into 2016, but it hasn’t looked pretty through two games. They fell apart against the Vikings in Week 1, and barely edged out an overrated Lions team in Week 2. Both sides of the ball have had their struggles, but one position clearly needs an upgrade at this moment.

That would be cornerback, which is why Desmond King is my pick for Tennessee at No. 11.

The Iowa cover man may not be the flashiest of prospects at this point in the draft, but he’s definitely worth the consideration this early. Not only does he excel at getting his hands on the football, but King is terrific against the run and never shies away from contact. Plus, he brings added value as a return man.

The Titans have put together an interesting group of young, promising players on both sides of the football. Both groups just need more time to gel, but adding another playmaker or two in the secondary wouldn’t hurt. King can be exactly that, with the upside to develop into one of the NFL’s most reliable cornerbacks.

Charles Harris 2017 NFL Draft

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12

Charles Harris

Defensive End, Missouri

Dan Quinn’s plan is taking shape, but the Falcons still have a major concern along the defensive front. Even with players like Vic Beasley and De’Vondre Campbell in the mix, the Atlanta defense is having trouble making an impact in the pass rush. That needs to change during the 2017 NFL Draft.

So why not spend the No. 12 overall selection on Charles Harris, an underrated asset at defensive end?

The Missouri product seems to be flying a bit under the radar, but you better believe he’s more than capable of being a star pass rusher at the next level. He possesses excellent bend and power, and has more than his fair share of moves on the edge to get himself free. Tie all of that in with his never-ceasing motor, and you’ve got a defensive end with the potential to turn this Falcons defense around.

I’m not saying he’s J.J. Watt, but Harris can be a difference maker in Atlanta. Unless there’s a better option still on the board, the Falcons would be wise to give him an opportunity to shine.

Jabrill Peppers 2017 NFL Draft

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13

Jabrill Peppers

Safety, Michigan

The Bears made a lot of upgrades to their defense this offseason, but still appear to be missing something as the 2016 campaign chugs along. With many NFL defenses looking for the next Deone Bucannon—a safety/linebacker hybrid—I think it’s time for the Chicago defense to jump on the bandwagon.

That’s the type of talent Jabrill Peppers can be.

During his time at Michigan, Peppers has moved all over the field, lining up at cornerback, safety, linebacker, wide receiver and return man. He’s been about as versatile as they come, which has only elevated his stock as we inch closer to the 2017 NFL Draft. What truly makes him a worthwhile prospect, though, is his potential to fill the aforementioned hybrid role.

In recent years, this hybrid has become a valuable commodity. Players like Bucannon, Shaq Thompson and Mark Barron have all used their impressive combination of athleticism, speed and toughness to keep up with the ever-evolving offenses of the NFL. They have the speed to stick with running backs and wide receivers in coverage, and the physicality to make impacts as run defenders.

Peppers is this class’ best bet to be the next in that mold. I have a feeling the Bears will be interested in reaping the rewards of his unique skill set.

Ethan Pocic

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14

Ethan Pocic

Center/Guard, LSU

There are several directions the Giants may go in here, but I believe beefing up the offensive line would be their best option.

At this moment, New York boasts one of the most underwhelming starting guards in the NFL in John Jerry. Allowing him to continue providing protection for Eli Manning is not a great position to be in, especially since the other four starters aren’t exactly stars. The Giants need to bolster the right guard position if they plan on getting better in the coming years.

Personally, I’m a fan of LSU’s Ethan Pocic. I believe he’s a well-rounded interior blocker with the versatility and relentless motor to make an impact wherever the Giants put him. It also helps that he’s extremely strong, meaning he’d provide an excellent upgrade as a run blocker as well.

Manning only has so many years left, and New York needs to make sure he stays healthy to prolong his career. Upgrading the offensive line seems like the logical next step, and drafting Pocic at No. 14 would be a good start.

Raekwon McMillan

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15

Raekwon McMillan

Inside Linebacker, Ohio State

In 2016, the Jaguars have more than enough talent and athleticism on the defensive side of the football. However, at this moment, they’re a bit lacking when it comes to the physicality part of the equation. They need an injection of toughness and grit if this defense is going to reach its full potential moving forward.

A way to fix that would be to draft Raekwon McMillan in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Ohio State star is an instinctive, hard-hitting linebacker who has the potential to be a run-stopping stud at the next level. He’s also more than capable of holding his own in coverage, but isn’t as athletic as some of the other linebackers to come out of Urban Meyer’s program in recent years. Still, the tools are there for him to excel on the inside.

Especially with players like Dante Fowler Jr. and Malik Jackson up front, the Jaguars have the pieces in place to foster a high-upside prospect at middle linebacker. It’s not like Paul Posluszny is getting any younger, so it’s time for an upgrade. McMillan fits the bill, and would give this Jacksonville defense a physical presence to complement all of the athleticism.

Devonte Fields 2017 NFL Draft

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16

Devonte Fields

Outside Linebacker, Louisville

One of the cornerstones of the Jets’ defense in recent years has been an abundance of pass-rushing specialists. At this moment, that isn’t the case.

That’s why I believe an outside linebacker could be an option for New York in the first round in 2017. One guy who may be good fit for the Jets defense is Devonte Fields, a boom-or-bust prospect with ridiculous upside.

While the physical tools are there for Fields, he does have his fair share of red flags. Off-the-field issues ended his time at TCU, and eventually landed him with the Cardinals. He’s been mostly potential up to this point in his career, but he’s started off 2016 strong and should see his stock rise as the season goes along.

If New York really is interested in adding more pass rushers to Todd Bowles’ defense, Fields could be the way to go. He comes with significant risk, but the possible rewards of making him the No. 16 overall pick seem worth it at this moment in time.

Brad Kaaya 2017 NFL Draft

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17

Brad Kaaya

Quarterback, Miami (FL)

Obviously the Redskins don’t end up re-signing Kirk Cousins in this scenario. He fails to impress in a make-or-break season, and Washington lets him test his value in free agency. It’s a disappointing development for this team, but that’s the way the dice land (hypothetically).

Seeing as they’re now short of a starting quarterback, desperate times call for desperate measures. While Brad Kaaya isn’t the biggest gamble in the world, it’s not an ideal situation for D.C. to find itself in. Still, he’s the best arm on the board, and they can’t afford to go into 2017 with Colt McCoy or Nate Sudfeld as the starter. So they go for the Hurricane in the first round.

Now this wouldn’t be a bad pick by any means. Kaaya is an excellent quarterback prospect with the tools to develop into an above-average starter over time. While he isn’t as close to being a slam dunk as Kizer or Watson are, the Miami (FL) star could easily emerge as a long-term starter for Washington. He definitely needs to get better before we start talking Pro Bowls or anything like that, though.

Kaaya is a bit inconsistent as a passer, looking like a star one game and disappearing the next. Just look at his early work in 2016, lighting it up against two FCS teams while throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns against FAU. He’s going to need to prove he play more consistently moving forward if he’s going to convince an NFL team to spend a draft pick on him.

The potential is there, though, which is why I have him going to the Redskins here.

Tre'Davious White 2017 NFL Draft

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18

Tre'Davious White

Cornerback, LSU

At this moment, the Chiefs have one exceptional cornerback in Marcus Peters. As you move further down the depth chart, though, the amount of talent gets far less impressive. Kansas City needs an influx of cornerback talent, especially if they’re going to continue competing in the pass-happy AFC West.

Drafting Tre’Davious White at No. 18 would be the perfect way for the Chiefs to stabilize the position moving forward. The LSU product was already considered a first-round talent prior to this offseason’s draft, and has been lighting it up early in 2016. So it’s easy to see why he’d be a great candidate to come off the board here.

Peters is turning out to be a star in Kansas City, but the Chiefs need more than one starting-caliber cornerback to get the job done in the AFC West. White has the tools to start in the very near future, so he seems like the logical choice.

Jamal Adams 2017 NFL Draft

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19

Jamal Adams

Safety, LSU

This offseason, the Bengals allowed a major player in Reggie Nelson to walk via free agency. That decision left them with Shawn Williams as the starting strong safety, a position I’m not confident he can hold down for Cincinnati. That’s why addressing the position could be a top priority when the 2017 NFL Draft rolls around.

A great way to do that would be to spend their first-round pick on Jamal Adams.

Adams is an energetic, high-motor player who is capable of making plays all over the field. While he still needs work in coverage and with taking angles to the football, he’s shown excellent aggression against the run and passion for making big hits. Between his physicality and instinctive play, Adams should have no trouble proving his worth as a first-round prospect this season.

The Bengals’ defense has shown some holes early in 2016, and the secondary is absolutely a cause for concern moving forward. If they really aren’t convinced Williams can prove himself in the starting role, targeting Adams on Day 1 would be wise.

Malik McDowell 2017 NFL Draft

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20

Malik McDowell

Defensive End, Michigan State

An offensive lineman would also make sense here for Seattle, but they already spent three of their 2016 draft picks on the front five. That’s why I believe they’ll turn their attention back to their sensational defensive line, reloading one of the NFL’s most dominant positional groups.

And while Malik McDowell is no homerun at No. 20, the upside the Michigan State product brings to the table is undeniable.

McDowell, a former five-star recruit, has all the makings of a dominant defensive end at the next level. While he’s struggled a bit to live up to his billing since joining the Spartans, he’s flashed plenty of the physical traits that made him such an intriguing high-school prospect a couple of years ago.

The Seahawks have too sensational starters at defensive end in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, but could use some help on the inside. McDowell has the strength and frame to develop into a stout interior rusher who would compliment the abilities of 2016 second-round pick Jarran Reed.

McDowell has stated he’ll stay at Michigan State unless he’s projected as a top-three pick (via NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread). However, a lot can change during the course of a season.

Marlon Humphrey 2017 NFL Draft

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21

Marlon Humphrey

Cornerback, Alabama

*Philadelphia Eagles received this pick from the Minnesota Vikings*

The Eagles got what appears to be a very promising quarterback, got rid of one who didn’t want to be there, and managed to get back into the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Based on their current roster, I believe a cornerback could be the target when draft day rolls around.

Marlon Humphrey is an impressive prospect, and he’s the type of player who could make a big difference for the Philadelphia secondary. Just look at Alabama’s game against USC earlier this season, when Humphrey held the Trojans’ star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to only one catch while hauling in an interception of his own.

He’s still developing as an NFL-caliber prospect, but the package he’s put together on the field paints the picture of a future star. If he can continue to impress throughout the 2016 campaign, there’s little doubt he’ll hear his name called on Day 1.

DeMarcus Walker 2017 NFL Draft

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22

DeMarcus Walker

Defensive End, Florida State

Based on what we saw in Week 2, it’s clear the Ravens could use a little help on defense. They need to do a better job of getting after the quarterback, which makes me believe a defensive lineman could be in their crosshairs come draft time.

Because of that, I believe DeMarcus Walker could be a high-upside addition for Baltimore when the 2017 NFL Draft rolls around.

While a bit undersized for a 3-4 defensive end, Walker makes up for his lack of height with tremendous power and tenacity at the point of attack. He uses excellent burst and hand work to disrupt the backfield and make plays on the football. Especially with another year under his belt as the star of the Florida State defense, it’ll be interesting to see how he progresses.

Timmy Jernigan is the Ravens’ only dominant defensive lineman at this point, and their outside linebackers aren’t getting any younger. Adding Walker to the mix would give them a young, explosive edge defender with the potential to upgrade their pass rush tenfold.

Derek Barnett 2017 NFL Draft

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23

Derek Barnett

Defensive End, Tennessee

*Cleveland Browns received this pick from the Philadelphia Eagles*

The Browns already found the next quarterback they’re going to ruin, so now it’s time to turn their attention to the defense. And considering their lack of playmaking ability along the defensive line, I think it’s time they took a true pass-rushing threat off the board.

Yes, I’m talking about Derek Barnett.

Based on what we’ve seen from him during his days at Tennessee, the impressive defensive end has all the makings of an NFL sack artist. He’s quick, powerful and aggressive off the edge, and should continue to develop as a star on passing downs with some NFL coaching. Barnett has even shown improvement as a run defender over the last season.

Slowing opposing offenses in this league starts with the defensive line. If the Browns are serious about not being the laughing stock of the NFL, adding Barnett here would be wise.

O.J. Howard

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24

O.J. Howard

Tight End, Alabama

The run of defensive players ends here with another Alabama product coming off the board.

No matter who is under center moving forward, more weapons are needed on offense if the Broncos are going to stay competitive moving forward. They simply can’t keep relying so heavily on Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to make all of the plays in the passing game.

Luckily for Denver, a player like O.J. Howard is still on the board here at No. 24. And seeing as he’s been underutilized during his time with the Crimson Tide, he’ll be rearing to show what he’s capable of at the next level.

Realistically, the Broncos could use an upgrade at tight end anyways. Jeff Heuerman isn’t looking like a long-term starting option, and we all know how disappointing Virgil Green has been despite all of the hype. Whether Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch is the main man moving forward, finding a more reliable weapon at tight end should be a top priority.

Howard has the size to dominate defensive backs, and the athleticism to leave linebackers in his dust. He possesses trustworthy hands, good route-running abilities and the speed to stretch the seam. If the Broncos were to bring him aboard, he’d immediately provide a physical presence to the Denver passing game.

Spending a first-round pick on a tight end always carries some risk, but Howard seems like a safe selection at No. 24.

Adoree' Jackson 2017 NFL Draft

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25

Adoree' Jackson

Cornerback, USC

I really like this Buccaneers team, but I believe there are some gaping holes that could keep them from being competitive down the stretch. As we saw against the Cardinals, their secondary isn’t entirely up to par, and the problem lies at cornerback. Drafting a potential starter in 2017 wouldn’t be the worst move.

It’s a gamble, but Adoree’ Jackson seems like an excellent candidate to join the Tampa Bay defense.

Realistically, his athleticism and playmaking ability more than warrant a Day 1 selection. He’s a three-way star, excelling as a cornerback, wide receiver and return man. However, he’s focused more on defense in 2016, which should help his development as an NFL prospect. So why is he coming off the board at No. 25 and not earlier?

Jackson is a star athlete, but his skills in coverage still need work. Although he has the physical tools to consistently shut down receivers, his awareness and mental toughness on the field are still a bit concerning. He tends to loss focus from time to time, and currently lacks the discipline needed to be a shutdown cornerback.

With some maturation and coaching, Jackson’s future should be very bright. The Buccaneers would be wise to gamble on the athletic freak from USC.

Reuben Foster 2017 NFL Draft

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26

Reuben Foster

Inside Linebacker, Alabama

I was a big proponent for the Raiders grabbing a linebacker in the first round last April. They didn’t address the position in 2016, so next year’s draft could be the opportunity to finally do so.

They didn’t get Reggie Ragland like I had mocked several times, so the attention now turns to another Alabama linebacker. In this case, it’s Reuben Foster—an imposing presence who loves to hit hard and make big plays all over the field. It also helps that he’s a consistent presence in pass coverage, and is more than capable of getting home on a blitz from time to time.

I know lots of Oakland fans will be rooting for Ben Heeney to succeed in the middle this season, and I’m sure he will. However, I truly think they need to replace Malcolm Smith as the starter on the weak side. Foster is more than capable of filling that role even as a rookie, and is a much more reliable tackler than Smith has proven to be during his time with the Raiders.

Based on what we’ve seen from the Oakland defense so far, more investments are needed on that side of the ball. Replacing Smith with Foster would be a positive move in my book.

Christian McCaffrey 2017 NFL Draft

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27

Christian McCaffrey

Running Back, Stanford

The Panthers would be thanking their lucky stars if a player like Christian McCaffrey fell all the way to No. 27. The Stanford star is one of the best playmakers college football has seen in some time, and yet he continues to be overlooked as one of the 2017 NFL Draft’s most intriguing prospects.

Carolina, however, may actually benefit from that.

It’s no secret that Jonathan Stewart is getting up there in age, and may not have much gas left in the tank. Despite his dependable productivity, he’s always getting hurt and may decide to hang it up soon. I don’t think the Panthers have his replacement on the roster, so McCaffrey would be a great fit for their current situation in the backfield.

He’s also an intriguing option because of the versatility he brings to the table. Not only is he a terrific runner with ridiculous patience, vision and toughness, but he’s also an explosive receiver and return man capable of breaking games open in the blink of an eye. You better believe Cam Newton would love having the ability to put the ball in his hands.

McCaffrey could easily come off the board earlier, but this seemed like a good landing spot for him. Carolina loves taking the best player available, and that’s exactly what the Heisman hopeful is.

Jarrad Davis 2017 NFL Draft

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28

Jarrad Davis

Inside Linebacker, Florida

As we all know by now, Brian Cushing is nearing the end of his time as an effective NFL linebacker. He can’t stay healthy, and has clearly lost a step when he does manage to stay on the field. That’s why the Texans need an upgrade who can slot in alongside Benardrick McKinney and keep this Houston defense at its dominant state.

Based on the film and comments from scouts, I believe Jarrad Davis has the potential to be that aforementioned replacement.

Not only does Davis have all of the physical tools, but his motor is among the most relentless in college football. The Gators’ standout offers excellent competitiveness, athleticism and smarts, allowing him to make plays all over the field. With a player like McKinney filling in the other inside linebacker spot, Davis would have little trouble excelling in Houston.

Now out from under the shadow of Antonio Morrison, you better believe the tenacious Davis should solidify his status as a first-round talent this season.

Mike McGlinchey 2017 NFL Draft

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Mike McGlinchey

Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame

Is it just me, or could McGlinchey and Bill Belichick be related?

On a serious note, I think this could be an intriguing fit for New England. The Notre Dame offensive tackle is one of the best of the 2017 draft class at this moment, offering impressive athleticism and movement skills for a player of his size. While he needs to get stronger and improve his power in the running game, McGlinchey has the makings of a starting left tackle.

A lot of it will come down to how he performs this season. He’s making the move from right to left tackle to replace Ronnie Stanley, a 2016 first-round pick. He’ll have some big shoes to fill, but shouldn’t have too much trouble getting the job done. Assuming he does, McGlinchey should be a lock for the 2017 first round.

That’s where the Patriots come into the picture. They need to solidify a front five that always seems to be ailing, and keeping an aging Tom Brady safe should be a top priority. With Nate Solder always hurt, McGlinchey would provide an excellent fallback plan who can fill in elsewhere until he’s needed on the blindside.

It would be a dream come true for Belichick (maybe).

Mike Williams 2017 NFL Draft

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Mike Williams

Wide Receiver, Clemson

The first wide receiver finally comes off the board.

It’s a perfect opportunity for the Cardinals, who have an excellent passing game now but will have some issues to address next offseason.

Larry Fitzgerald may decide to call it a career at the end of the 2016 campaign, and Michael Floyd is set to hit free agency. If they both left, that would leave the aging Carson Palmer with John Brown as his best option out wide. While I can think of worse situations to be in, it’s definitely not ideal for the Arizona offense.

Adding Mike Williams at the end of the first round would be a terrific option, especially since there likely won’t be any worthy quarterbacks on the board at this point. Although his injury history is a bit concerning, he brings all of the tools you want in a top receiver—size, hands, leaping ability. Assuming he can stay healthy throughout 2016, I won’t be at all surprised if he’s the first receiver off the board during the 2017 NFL Draft.

Trust me–the Cardinals would be ecstatic to see Williams fall into their laps.

Dawuane Smoot 2017 NFL Draft

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Dawuane Smoot

Outside Linebacker, Illinois

You can never have too many pass rushers in the NFL, and the Packers have had their struggles in that department in recent years.

It doesn’t help that the outside linebacker position is far from settled in Green Bay. Julius Peppers is nearing the end of his illustrious career, Datone Jones is in a contract year and Clay Matthews is often needed on the inside. Nick Perry has a new deal in hand, but is a bit inconsistent in terms of pressuring the passer. Realistically, the Packers need more bodies at the position in 2017.

Dawuane Smoot seems like a realistic option for Green Bay near the end of the first round. The Illinois product has spent his entire career excelling off the edge, never failing to keep opposing quarterbacks on their heels. Just ask Pro Football Focus, which graded out the underrated edge rusher right alongside Garrett and Barnett in 2015.

With so much uncertainty at the position, the Packers would benefit from a high-upside addition. In my opinion, Smoot could be exactly what the doctor ordered.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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Julie'n Davenport

Offensive Tackle, Bucknell

This is definitely a bold move, but the defending champion can afford to make a luxury pick in this situation.

You may not have heard of Julie’n Davenport yet, but he’s quickly working his way up the ranks as a small-school prospect worth taking very seriously. As Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller pointed out, the Bucknell sensation is making a name for himself in scouting circles due to his impressive size, length and experience. While there’s little else on the big offensive tackle, he’s an intriguing talent to keep on your radar.

The Steelers offense appears set as we move through the early part of 2016. However, the offensive line could use some help, especially at offensive tackle. Alejandro Villanuevo has routinely been embarrassed as a pass blocker, which could force Pittsburgh to look elsewhere for a starter on the blindside.

If Davenport continues to gain momentum through the 2016 campaign, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him enter the mix as a potential Day 1 pick. The fact that the 2017 draft class isn’t loaded with tackle talent helps.

Make sure to check in next week for more 2017 NFL Draft coverage.

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