2017 NFL Mock Draft: Jabrill Peppers to Jaguars

The latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft of all 32 first-round picks with the Jacksonville Jaguars landing a star in Jabrill Peppers.

NFL fans who tuned into Week 11 of the college football season got themselves a treat. Not only were the future stars of the league on in full-effect, but the upsets were numerous. It was the first weekend since 1985 that the No. 2, 3 and 4 ranked teams in the country were all upset. To make things even crazier, the No. 8 and 9 ranked teams were toppled as well. Coming off of all of this calamity, what better time than now for our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft.

One of the teams that was upset on Saturday was the Michigan Wolverines, featuring star linebacker/jack-of-all-trades Jabrill Peppers. However, even a player with the immense versatility of Peppers couldn’t do anything to get the offense going (though they tried at times with him at running back) and they fell in a dogfight.

Peppers wasn’t the only highly rated prospect that saw his team get upset this week. However, it’s always important to remember that the team in college isn’t everything. Yes, that team should be better if a top-rated player is on it. However, that player can’t play all 22 positions on offense and defense (though Peppers would probably come the closest to being able to). Thus, team success and no-longer-perfect records should have no bearing on draft evaluations.

Once again, the draft order for this 2017 NFL Mock Draft will be determined by our latest NFL Power Rankings heading into Week 10. Moreover, we won’t be working in trades or possible free agency moves just yet. This continues to be solely an exercise in player evaluation and team needs.

With all that in mind, the winless Cleveland Browns are on the clock (again) with the No. 1 pick.

Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in action during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kyle Field. The Aggies defeat the Volunteers 45-38 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

1

Myles Garrett

DE, Texas A&M

Now at 0-10, the first-overall pick looks almost like a lock for the Cleveland Browns. As we’ve discussed and as many others have talked about, you could pick a player at any position and the Browns could likely use him (save for wide receiver or Joe Thomas’ left tackle spot). Subsequently, they’re in the position with the top pick where they should be taking whoever the best player available is. That player is still Myles Garrett by my estimation.

The Texas A&M star has all of the tools that you’d want for an edge-rusher in the modern NFL. He boasts fantastic size at 6-4, 268 pounds coming off of the edge. And while he is indeed a physical load that can overpower opposing tackles, the speed and quickness he displays are astounding. Garrett moves with ease around linemen who either underestimate his physical tools or simply can’t keep up with him and his burst at the snap.

For the Brown, this pick is starting to make more sense with each passing week. Following the Jamie Collins trade, it’s clear that Cleveland is addressing their defense and looking to build on that side of the ball. If Emmanuel Ogbah can continue developing as an edge rusher out of last year’s draft, that’s a solid young core in the front seven that Cleveland can continue to build around. Again, their holes are numerous. But plugging one with Garrett makes the most sense at No. 1.

Oct 15, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) attempts a pass against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

2

Mitch Trubisky

QB, North Carolina

For all of the detractors of Mitch Trubisky that talk about his inexperience and lack of starts, his last outing on Thursday night against the Duke Blue Devils must have been a treat. The North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback played his worst game of the season (that wasn’t played in a hurricane) and his team was upset by an inferior rival. Moreover, Trubisky matched his season total for interceptions in one game, throwing two picks. However, you’re still a fool if you think he hasn’t proven himself the best quarterback in this draft.

Though he’s still raw in many areas—areas that came to light at times vs Duke—the tools for Trubisky are astounding. He has the right frame, build, and athleticism to instantly be able to handle the physical tolls of the NFL. What’s more, Trubisky also has shown that he’s an incredibly accurate passer with above-average arm strength. The UNC quarterback can extend plays with his legs and by being a hard target to bring down in general, while then having the mechanics and tools to make the right throw.

Frankly, the San Francisco 49ers can’t afford to come into the 2017 NFL Draft and not come out with a quarterback in the first round. Colin Kaepernick can put up all of the garbage-time shootout yards that he wants, but he’s not the long-term solution in the Bay Area. Instead, they have to move on and start developing a potential franchise player at the position. It will indeed take some development on the part of Chip Kelly (if he’s around still) and his staff, but Trubisky has that potential.

NFL Mock Draft

Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) on the field against the Michigan State Spartans during the second half at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

3

Jabrill Peppers

OLB/S, Michigan

Despite adding cornerback Jalen Ramsey in the first round of last year’s draft and then Malik Jackson in free agency, the Jacksonville Jaguars has continued to struggle in 2016. They’re weak in a number of areas, certainly. However, the two most quantifiable shortcomings that they have without any real prospects for saving it would be at outside linebacker opposite Telvin Smith and at safety. So why not take possibly the best player in the draft that could potentially slot in at either position?

Jabrill Peppers is the picture of versatility coming out of the Michigan Wolverines program. There’s not much that he hasn’t been asked to do for Jim Harbaugh’s team in the past couple of seasons. He’s played both sides of the ball, but has shined since being slotted in as a hybrid linebacker. His ability to read plays from the snap and make smart decisions in that role is uncanny. Time and again, Peppers is making plays for his team, be it with big tackles, big pass defenses, or essentially anything that you’d expect from the leader of one of the best defensive units in the country.

Jacksonville undeniably has talent dispersed throughout the roster that all serve as quality pieces for the future. However, they have to start adding the stars that can round out their depth chart on both sides of the ball. Looking at the defense considering the talent on that side of the ball in the 2017 draft, Peppers is the easy choice that could take them to new heights.

Nov 12, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Teez Tabor (31) works out prior to the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

4

Teez Tabor

CB, Florida

Pick via Los Angeles Rams

Unless something dramatic happens to where both the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Rams have a massive turn of fortune for their respective seasons, this pick likely isn’t going to change. The Titans desperately need to add a star cornerback to bolster the secondary opposite of Jason McCourty. It’s been a glaring hole that opponents have exploited from the very start of the season. And though some may not be sure, there’s no better cornerback in the draft in my eyes than Jalen “Teez” Tabor of the Florida Gators.

It’s genuinely shocking to met that some can watch the corners in the 2017 draft class and find someone better and/or with more upside than Tabor. The 6-0, 201-pound junior has proven time and again what he’s capable of. Whether it’s speed to keep up with his coverage down the field, ball-skills to make a play with the ball in the air, or even size to deal with physicality on the outside, Tabor has all of the tools that you’d want for a potential NFL cornerback.

Tabor would immediately come into Tennessee and take over as the No. 2 corner for Perrish Cox. Cox has been an eyesore to watch in coverage all season for the Titans, getting burned as often as the crumbs at the bottom of a dirty oven. For a team nearing something close to their final form with all of the young talent they’ve added in recent years, Tabor could be the piece to really make things come together on the defensive end.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) intercepts the ball from Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Josh Reynolds (11) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

5

Marlon Humphrey

CB, Alabama

The only cornerback in the 2017 draft class that can hold a candle to Teez Tabor is another player from the SEC, Marlon Humphrey of the Alabama Crimson Tide. While he started the year as a late-first round pick, Humphrey has played his way into being an almost sure-fire top-10 pick at this point. And with some of the poor cornerback play in 2016, many teams could use his services. However, the New York Jets could use him to help improve a rapidly declining secondary.

Behind their front four, the Jets defense had been quite bad in the 2016 season. One of the biggest issues has been the noticeable and steep decline of Darrelle Revis this season. He’s not only not a lockdown corner anymore, but he may barely be average. Revis needs to start transitioning to safety, which would open up the hole for the younger Humphrey to slot in and start moving towards a new look Jets defense.

At 6-1, 196 pounds, Humphrey’s length is one of his greatest assets as a corner. However, he’s also rarely beat in one-on-one coverage and has a tremendous understanding of angles and technique when it comes to shutting down his assignment. Oh yeah, the Crimson Tide is also a terrific playmaker. Without being reckless, you don’t want to give Humphrey a go at the ball because he will take it away. This is unquestionably the type of player the Jets need to add on the outside as it will help them still be able to rely on the defense.

Nov 12, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) passes the ball during the first half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

6

Deshaun Watson

QB, Clemson

Jay Cutler returned to the starting quarterback duties for the Chicago Bears two weeks ago and earned a win in his comeback. Shockingly, though, one win hasn’t made his future with this team any more clear. It still feels like a viable and possibly likely chance that he won’t be playing in the Windy City beyond this year. If that’s the case, the Bears need to waste little time getting their quarterback for the future. With Trubisky off the board, that means Deshaun Watson out of Clemson gets the nod.

Watson has proven over the past two seasons what he brings in regards to physical tools with both his arm and legs. The Tigers star can burn teams by turning upfield with the ball in-hand and also create plays. But he’s also an extremely accurate passer on most any throw, including a solid deep ball that he’s shown off several times throughout 2016. Of course, his decision-making has seemingly regressed this season, which is a bit of a concern. With the right coaching, though, the foundation for a franchise quarterback is there if they can develop him properly.

The Bears have tough decisions awaiting them this offseason, but most notably at quarterback. Because of other needs, I won’t say they should draft Watson or a quarterback no matter what in 2017. However, that has to be an option for them given the uncertainty. And if they do go after the quarterback with an early pick, they should be pleased with the chance to develop a player with the elite-caliber talent.

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

7

Malik McDowell

DT, Michigan State

Currently dealing with minor injuries not expected to effect his draft stock, Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell is someone that I have struggled and toiled with since the start of the season thinking about the draft. There is a ton to like about what he brings to the table and he should very well be an effective NFL defensive linemen, but he’s just always felt slightly over-valued in the draft. Having said that, though, this is a perfect pick for the the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the top-10.

Whenever he’s on, McDowell showcases a unique blend of traits uncommon among players at his position. He has an enormous 6-5 frame at just under 300 pounds and with great functional strength to boost. What McDowell does well, though, is catch interior offensive linemen off guard with how quick and explosive he is. If you blink, McDowell is either controlling you, by you, or in your grill. Moreover, he’s tenacious in the trenches and has proven to be able to rip through linemen even after getting engaged inside.

Health as always been a key concern for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, so adding depth alone is a necessity when looking ahead. However, McDowell has the chance to really be someone who changes the look for this defense. He can open up the edges for this Bucs defense by demanding so much attention and allow them to generate an effective pass rush—something they haven’t done much of. Again, this is a minuscule reach by my estimation. However, it feets the need so well that I’ll buy in to it.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) returns a fumble for a touchdown against the Texas A&M Aggies during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

8

Jonathan Allen

DE, Alabama

Some people are probably already screaming that Jonathan Allen slipped this far. Hell, when you look at CBS Sports 2017 NFL Draft Prospects Rankings, Allen is the No. 1-overall player. While I disagree with that, he’s easily one of the three best overall players in the 2017 draft class. However, the Alabama defensive end slips down to the Cincinnati Bengals in this mock simply due to team needs. Sure, who couldn’t use another great edge rusher. But at this early junction in the draft, you have to fill bigger needs and Allen simply slipped.

That said, Allen’s body of work with the Crimson Tide has been impressive almost every time out. He’s another player that’s a physical phenomenon as he stands at 6-3, 291 pounds. Even approaching 300 pounds, Allen moves like a man who weighs about 250. The end can burst off the edge with elite quickness and pass rush moves while also contributing well against the run as well. It doesn’t matter what you’re throwing at him as an offense, Allen is going to disrupt it.

Cincinnati has long been known in their defensive front for their interior defensive line presence. However, one of their shortcomings this season has been generating pressure as a general whole coming off of the edges. Allen is a player who has everything you’d want for someone to step right in and make an impact on a defense. I think he fits this void in the Bengals defense like a glove and would really ramp up the effectiveness upon getting out there with the 10 other starters.

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

9

Zach Cunningham

ILB, Vanderbilt

After trading for Chandler Jones and then drafting Rober Nkemdiche at the end of the first round last season, the defense of the Arizona Cardinals strikes fear in opponents and rightfully so. Moreover, their secondary is one of the best throughout when they’re at full health. However, where they’re severely lacking is in the middle of the field at inside linebacker. They don’t have a big playmaker and run-stopper that can cause opponents trouble in every facet of the game.

Despite not being incredibly high on many draft boards at the start of the year, Zach Cunningham of the Vanderbilt Commodores has proven that he can be that type of player. As the anchor of a Vandy defense where he’s not exactly swimming in talent around him, there have been numerous instances where Cunningham has single-handedly kept his defense competitive. At 6-3, 230 pounds, he boasts ridiculous size clearly, but also has elite-level athletic traits t go with it. On top of that, he’s proven to have a strong sense of play recognition in carrying his defense, eating up runs and making plays in coverage.

2016 hasn’t gone nearly the way that the Cardinals had hoped. However, they still have to be hopeful about what they can be if they can keep building. For their defense to stay at an elite level and even improve, addressing that hole in the middle of the field is critical. Cunningham can not only play that role, but may develop into a superstar in doing so.

Nov 12, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs for a large gain after a reception during the first quarter of the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

10

Leonard Fournette

RB, LSU

Football fans get excited by great football. That’s as simple as that. But if you were showing a newcomer to the game on prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft to try and get them excited, you’d show them LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette. For two years now, there hasn’t been a more electric playmaker in all of college football. In any game when he’s been healthy and not running into Alabama defenders in the backfield, he’s been a dominant force.

What Fournette is capable of as a running back with his size is mind-boggling in so many ways. Backs who are 6-1, 230 pounds aren’t normally built to cut on dimes and take off down field with speed that leaves trailing defenders in the dust. However, Fournette has done that throughout his LSU career. Additionally, he’s also not afraid to use his stout frame to lower his shoulder into contact and truck through a would-be tackler. He’s an enigma in regards to his complete and improbably skill-set.

Offense hasn’t been the strong-suit of the Baltimore Ravens this season and, while a lot of that blame can go on Joe Flacco, there’s something to be said for their lack of running game. Yes, they have a combination of young and sub-par linemen, but the fact that they’re running Terrance West doesn’t help either. And since Kenneth Dixon is either still hurt or not impressing, taking a potential superstar in Fournette seems like the ideal way to bring in a weapon, but also to bring balance to the offense and open things up for Flacco in the passing game.

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

11

Cam Robinson

OT, Alabama

Following a year when it felt like every other draft pick was an offensive tackle, the 2017 class is quite light on top-end talent. In fact, there’s only one player at the position that any team could really justify taking in the top-15 picks, perhaps the top-20. Cam Robinson of Alabama is that player and he comes off the board with the 11th pick going to a Buffalo Bills team that could use his services.

Despite being the best tackle prospect in his class, Robinson may not be of the caliber of the likes of Laremy Tunsil, Jack Conklin, or even Ronnie Stanley. However, those three have all come in as rookies and been phenomenal more often than not, though Tunsil has been at guard with the Dolphins. That said, Robinson has tremendous upside and the framework to become a high-quality NFL tackle. His 6-6, 310-pound frame makes him a wide body to simply try and get around and he has great length to help keep rushes at bay. He needs to improve his burst off the line and with his hands, as well as some of his footwork. However, proper NFL coaching could help him improve there sooner rather than later.

The Bills currently start Cordy Glenn and Jordan Mills as their tackles, which there are far worse combos in the league. However, there is also room for a definite upgrade. For a Buffalo team that likes to run the ball with LeSean McCoy as much as they do and that wants to let Tyrod Taylor work outside the pocket, having the best combo possible at tackle is pivotal to their offensive success. Therefore, Robinson has to be the pick if he falls to them.

Oct 15, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) carries the ball while being defended by North Carolina State Wolfpack cornerback Jack Tocho (29) during the second half at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Tigers won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

12

Mike Williams

WR, Clemson

Now using their own pick after the Rams gifted them a current top-5 selection to select a quarterback last year that they’ve yet to start in favor of Case Keenum, the Tennessee Titans have the chance to address another huge need with one of the best prospects at the position. That need is at wide receiver and the player is Mike Williams out of Clemson. For what Tennessee needs, this is the ideal player for the job.

Williams is an absolute force in the passing game at 6-3, 225 pounds. He’s not excessively fast for a player his size, but he has adequate speed an great route-running ability to break away from coverage and get open. That’s obviously valuable, but his greatest value to the Titans is the fact that he gives them the big playmaker they’ve long coveted. Other players have been projects to be that guy in the past, but have flamed out. Williams won’t be that. With his frame and sure hands, he’s the big playmaker in the passing game this offense needs.

Marcus Mariota has solid weapons around him with guys like Rishard Matthews, Kendall Wright, and rookie Tajae Sharpe. But none of those players are the guy that’s going to grab the jump ball in traffic or outmuscle defensive backs for 50-50 balls to make big plays. Williams can be that guy for this offense without question and could help take that unit to new heights.

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

13

Jamal Adams

SS, LSU

Pick via Philadelphia Eagles

If you’ve read last week’s NFL mock draft, the theme when it came to the Browns was the notion that this team shouldn’t be in a rush to pursue a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. Yes, there are some intriguing prospects, but there’s no sure-fire franchise-type talent that you have to take. For a team like Cleveland that has such a multitude of holes and deficiencies on their roster, using a high pick on a quarterback that might work out isn’t worth it. It’s better to address bigger needs throughout the roster, see if Cody Kessler develops, and then assess the situation moving forward.

One week later and I’m sticking with that train of thought. Especially with the suddenly glaring holes in the game of DeShone Kizer (how he was ever the top prospect on some boards is still baffling), the Browns would have to reach a ton to take a quarterback at No. 13. Instead, they’d be much better suited in regards to building a team for the future in taking safety Jamal Adams out of LSU.

With the departure of the mediocre Tashaun Gipson, the Browns safety situation right now is currently a pile of dreck. However, Adams looks like an absolute stud as the best true strong safety in this draft. Size, speed, athleticism, solid tackling, and explosion in both coverage and his tackling—Adams brings it all to the table. As Cleveland’s front seven is starting to take shape, it’s natural to then start building behind them. Adams would be a fantastic first piece in that and a potential future leader for that unit.

Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs as Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson (54) and linebacker Reuben Foster (10) pursue during the third quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Alabama defeated LSU 10-0. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

14

Reuben Foster

ILB, Alabama

Because Ryan Grigson has consistently wet the bed when it comes to his drafting, the Indianapolis Colts picking at No. 14 could use essentially everyone that doesn’t play quarterback or wide receiver. You think that’s an exaggeration, but it’s almost unanimously true across the board with this team. They need help at every level of the defense and on the offensive line as well. That leaves this pick relatively wide-open, but I’m taking Reuben Foster out of Alabama to start shoring up the middle of the field.

Again, this Colts defense isn’t going to be fixed by adding one player. However, Foster has proven to be the versatile middle linebacker threat that you could potentially build a defense around. If asked, he has a knack for finding lanes to rush the passer up the middle. His biggest strengths, though, come in the running game. Foster has tremendous instincts and play recognition in the middle of the field. He almost knows where a  ball-carrier is headed before they do, resulting in him rarely getting burned in the middle of the field. Foster is also big enough and athletic enough to be effective covering tight ends in man or hovering in the middle of the field in zone.

Indy simply needs to add players that they can start to smartly build around on their defense and offensive line at this point. Their strategy right now is essentially “Good luck, Andrew,” and we’ve all seen how ineffective that’s been in recent years. Foster is a positive step for this franchise towards finally building a 22-man roster (baby steps) that can not put such a tremendous burden on their quarterback.

Nov 5, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs as North Carolina State Wolfpack defensive back Shawn Boone (24) defends during the first half at Carter Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

15

Dalvin Cook

RB, Florida State

Given the issues that the Carolina Panthers have had in their secondary, the call from some fans might be to address the secondary. That still isn’t the right course of action for this team. Yes, their secondary needs to improve, but one of their biggest issues is youth and inexperience on the outside in 2016. In theory, that should improve after a full NFL season. Thus, the Panthers should look elsewhere in the first round. As they likely can’t justify taking an offensive lineman at No. 15 with Robinson already gone, they should look to upgrade at running back with Dalvin Cook.

Carry after carry, Cook has done nothing but impress for the Florida State Seminoles. Despite inconsistent offensive line play, the junior running back has done nothing but remain productive every time out. Moreover, he offers an array of skills as a runner that make him exceptionally dangerous. To go with great vision, Cook has tremendous lateral quickness to make quick cuts and then burst into open running lanes. And when given space, defenders might as well not even try as he has breakaway speed that comes from that burst and acceleration.

When healthy, Jonathan Stewart has proven that you can still run behind this Carolina offensive line. However, Stewart’s days as a reliable (especially in terms of health) back seem to be numbered. And all indications point to the Panthers not being too keen on making Cameron Artis-Payne their new featured back. Cook far exceeds CAP’s potential and could come in and immediately take the reigns in the running game. And this offense will be better for it.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) reacts after sacking the Texas A&M Aggies quarterback at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

16

Tim Williams

OLB, Alabama

Whenever you watch the dominant Crimson Tide play this season, there are obviously a number of players that stand out on the defense. That’s evidenced by the fact that three Alabama defensive players went in the first 15 picks of this NFL mock draft. However, perhaps the most electric playmaker of the bunch is outside linebacker and edge rusher Tim Williams. You may have seen him absolutely flying north-south on his rush and lighting up opposing quarterbacks. If you haven’t, that’s honestly a surprise because that’s what the big man does.

The speed and ferocity that Williams moves with at 6-3, 252 pounds is honestly a bit jarring to watch on tape. Whenever he gets a lane or breaks free, the burst he shows when going at the quarterback is tremendous. If defensive backs are called ball-hawks, it feels apt to call Williams a “quarterback-hawk.” Along with his cohorts on that stout defense, Williams is a constant threat to pressure opposing quarterbacks. There are some minor character concerns stemming from an incident earlier in the season, but that only makes him going to the Pittsburgh Steelers more sensible.

It’s likely that the Steelers will have a minor changing of the guard in their linebacking core this offseason as Jarvis Jones could be gone as a free agent. That leaves a potential hole at outside linebacker that Williams should slot right in and not really miss a beat. In fact, with the right coaching under Mike Tomlin, he has the physical tools to potentially be even better than Jones has been. He seems like the perfect fit in Pittsburgh with his ferocity and passion that he plays the game with in addition to being a potentially lethal rusher off the edge as a 3-4 outside backer.

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

17

Derek Barnett

DE, Tennessee

Everyone who goes through prospects develops an affinity for the way that certain players perform or, simply, play. Without question, mine in this 2017 draft class is Derek Barnett of the Tennessee Volunteers. The defensive end is consistently disruptive against SEC offensive lines coming off of the edge and is an absolute bear for any level of linemen to try and contain. With the Miami Dolphins needing to bolster their edges, Barnett makes a ton of sense.

Just looking at the need for the Dolphins, they obviously have Cameron Wake and Mario Williams at the position currently. However, those two players, you’ll recognize, have been at it in the NFL for quite some time. There’s a need for new blood and to provide insurance for when those players inevitable start to decline with age taking its toll. They can’t afford to neglect getting a pass rush for the future off of the edges and Barnett more than adequately can make sure that’s not the case.

What stands out about Barnett at 6-3, 265 pounds is just how strong he is coming off of the edge. When a tackle gets locked up with him, the smart money is almost always on Barnett winning that matchup and getting past him. There are shortcomings, sure, as he’s not incredibly agile and doesn’t have the quickness that some edge rushers in this draft do. However, his strength and clear commitment to putting in the work in training have to make you think he can be effective in the NFL with the potential to improve on his weaknesses once working with a pro roster and coaching staff.

Sep 17, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; Utah Utes defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (93) during the game at Spartan Stadium. The Utah Utes defeated the San Jose State Spartans with a score of 34-17. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

18

Lowell Lotulelei

DT, Utah

Amidst an abundance of edge rushers, linebackers, and cornerbacks, there isn’t a deep crop of defensive tackles entering the 2017 NFL Draft. Rather, there aren’t many prospects at the position that you’d want to burn a first-round selection on. However, Utah Utes star Lowell Lotulelei is one of those players. While taking him at No. 18 might be a slight bit of a reach for the Washington Redskins, it’s a definitive position of need that they have to address, thus making the slight reach sensible.

In 2016, a healthy Ryan Kerrigan and young Preston Smith have proven they can be forces coming off of the edge and getting into the backfield. Where the Redskins are severely lacking, though, is up front in the 3-4 where they have been burned by the run relatively often and could use big, strong bodies to both plug up holes and to consistently demand attention to help generate that pass rush.

Lotulelei has proven throughout his time at Utah that he can be that type of player in college in a way that should translate to the next level. He fits the bill as a nose tackle with a brick-wall type build at 6-2, 310 pounds. He has a low center-of-gravity that allows him to get up under interior offensive linemen and control his man and even maneuver double-teams as well. While he himself may not be an elite pass rusher or great at getting arms up at the line to defend the pass, he’s the big presence that can stifle runs up the middle and at least demand the attention in the middle to open up space for pass rusher on the Washington defense to go to work.

Oct 29, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) catches a pass during the first half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

19

John Ross

WR, Washington

The rise of John Ross is 100 percent warranted. While Mike Williams and JuJu Smith-Schuster have been projected first-rounders all season, Ross has vaulted ahead of the latter on many draft boards and ahead of both on some others. While I still have him behind Williams, I’m 100 percent in on what the Washington Huskies star brings to the table.

Undeniable in Ross’ game is his speed. The 5-11, 190-pound wideout has legit 4.3 speed that he brings to the table and he’s been making defensive backs look silly all season with those type of wheels. However, he’s far from a one-trick pony and may be the best overall route-runner in this draft at receiver. His footwork is consistently incredible as his short cuts and moves on routes get defensive backs to bite regularly, thus freeing him up in space. There, he has great hands and the ability to turn on those blazing hot burners in a hurry after securing the catch.

While the San Diego Chargers hope to one day know what it’s like for Keenan Allen to last a whole season, this team still needs high-quality depth at receiver to, well, just give Philip Rivers someone reliable to throw the ball to. Ross would undoubtedly be that and, if Allen is healthy, would also be a terrific complement on the opposite side as a No. 2 wide receiver. The Washington product is the real deal and he’s going to only cause his stock to rise throughout the draft process.

Oct 1, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) returns a punt against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

20

Desmond King

CB, Iowa

As we’ve already talked about, there are a high number of quality cornerbacks in the 2017 draft class that could be headed to a first-round selection. While many of them have shuffled throughout the college football season in terms of their rankings as a prospect, Desmond King out of Iowa has pretty consistently in the late-teens to early 20s in terms of his projections. That consistency, though it means he’s been passed by and has passed other corner prospects, is a big reason to be high on King.

To go ahead and get a knock on King out of the way before anyone starts thinking about it, he’s not as big as many of the other players at the position coming out in 2017 at just 5-10. For his height, though, he still possesses solid length and range. And what he lacks in those areas, he can more than make up for in regards to his athleticism and speed when he’s in coverage.

The Iowa product has been a reliable presence for a team that hasn’t been wholly reliable on this college football season. When they need a big defensive play, he’s in the mix trying to make it happen. He’s the type of playmaker at corner that the New Orleans Saints are desperately missing. Admittedly, the Saints are desperately missing a lot of things on defense. However, adding quality defensive backs is a huge step in the right direction for them. King can slot in almost right away and make an impact, which is what New Orleans needs.

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

21

Dan Feeney

OG, Indiana

You have to wonder if there was a way for the Houston Texans to use the draft to get out of their contract with Brock Osweiler, would they do it? The quarterback hasn’t lived up to the big money he’s being paid by the Texans and the results have been wildly disappointing throughout the year. However, he’s likely there for the long-haul and now the Texans must do what they can to put him in the best position to potentially succeed. At the 21st pick, that’s taking offensive guard Dan Feeney.

Over his career with the Indiana Hoosiers, the 6-4, 310-pound Feeney has proven to be a monster on the interior. Time and again he’s shown good technique in getting off of the line and intercepting pressure up the middle while not giving up ground. Also aiding him is the simple fact that he’s a bear of a man who’s simply hard to move around. While he may need to adjust to NFL level speed and power, he has everything you need to be a quality guard as a pro.

The Texans right now are downright weak when it comes to the guards on their offensive front. Too many times, opposing defensive tackles are able to bull rush their way either to pressure Osweiler or clog up holes for Lamar Miller. By adding Feeney and inserting him into one of those spots, that’s definitely a step in the right direction for the Houston offense. Now if only they can get The Lobster to start looking like he’s worth $72 million.

November 5, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) runs with the football against the Oregon State Beavers during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

22

Christian McCaffrey

RB, Stanford

Feeney going one pick ahead of the Green Bay Packers is a bit of a gut-punch for this team. Coming into the draft, this team desperately needs to add big, capable bodies on the interior of their offensive line after letting Josh Sitton go in the preseason. However, no one after Feeney can truly be justified going at No. 22. Thus, the Packers must address another need. Here, they start a new chapter at running back in Christian McCaffrey.

When in good physical condition and healthy, we’ve seen Eddie Lacy be a high-quality NFL running back. The issue is that he hasn’t been either of those things much at all in recent years. It’s been enough of an issue that it’s now time to move on and find a back who’s also better suited to work out of the backfield with Aaron Rodgers. That’s why McCaffrey is the perfect selection when looking for the Packers next running back.

Not only is McCaffrey hyper-athletic and ridiculously smart with the ball and as a runner, but he brings so much more to the table. He could work on special teams as a returner. More importantly, though, is what he could bring as a pass-catcher. Not only is he another weapon for Rodgers, but he’s a weapon that can aid the quarterback and what he likes to do. We’ve all seen A-Rodg buy time by getting out of the pocket and directing a semi-broken play to where it works. McCaffrey’s high football IQ and his tape suggest he’d be perfect in working like that. He can break his designed route and find opens space for his quarterback to make the throw. This simply seems like a match too good to pass up.

Nov 5, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Carl Lawson (55) sacks Vanderbilt Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur (14) during the fourth quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Auburn won 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

23

Carl Lawson

DE, Auburn

In all likelihood, the New York Giants are going to say goodbye to Jason Pierre-Paul this offseason as he hits free agency. Though he’s been a star at times in his career, those days have passed him by. While he could still be effective, the better move would be to move on and address their edge rush in the 2017 NFL Draft. That’s where Carl Lawson out of Auburn comes into play to fill that void in their defensive front on the edge.

When you watch elite NFL pass-rushers such as Von Miller, one of the thing that stands out is his ability to simply avoid being blocked. That sounds obvious and a bit silly, but Miller has an innate way of being nimble and agile enough to avoid the hands of would-be blockers and get around the edge. While Lawson isn’t Miller, he has that type of flexibility off of the edge and that ability to avoid even making contact coming off of the edge.

Lawson has the ability to come into the league and immediately become a sack monster—or at least a consistent threat that hurries the quarterback. The Auburn product has proven time and again that the tools are all there for him to be elite at his position and in his role. He’ll need to continue progressing and develop a fuller arsenal of rushing moves, but the baseline is there and enticing enough for the Giants to take him at No. 23.

Sep 24, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) blocks Michigan State defensive end Evan Jones (85) during the second quarter of their game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports

24

Ryan Ramczyk

OT, Wisconsin

By this time in the first round of the draft last year, there were seemingly 30 offensive tackles off of the board. While I’m aware thats not at all possible, the point remains. And standing in stark contrast to all of the linemen from the 2016 draft, this 2017 class has far worse depth at the position. That’s why it’s been nearly 20 picks since the first tackle was drafted and now Ryan Ramczyk out of Wisconsin goes to the Denver Broncos.

Watching the Denver offense, there are quite a few things that aren’t going particularly well for them. Trevor Siemian lately has been proven why he was taken in the seventh round in 2015 rather than being a potential star sleeper from that draft. Injuries have also contributed to the sputtering offense. But the biggest issue has been the play of their offensive line. Sliding Raczyk at tackle could help improve that.

At 6-5, 314 pounds, Ramczyk is a massive body to have on the edge in the NFL to replace the poorly performing tackles for the Broncos. He still struggles with getting too high with some of his blocks and his technique needs to continue being honed. However, there’s a reason that Wisconsin has traditionally been a great school for drafting offensive linemen. With that coaching under his belt he should come into the NFL ready to jump in and help either Siemian or Paxton Lynch right away.

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

25

Sidney Jones

CB, Washington

Every time you watch Sidney Jones on the outside for the Washington Huskies, it feels like you find another thing that you have to like about him. In the loss to USC, Jones’ effort was fantastic all game and he showed how stifling he can be against the USC wide receivers for the most part. He’s far from a perfect player, but he has the size and skills already in his arsenal to head into the NFL and contribute in some capacity.

As he goes to the Detroit Lions with this pick, he most surely will be seeing the field plenty as a rookie. Since the departure of Ndamukong Suh, the Lions have been trying to piece together a defense—to no real vail. However, they have some decent pieces that they need to give help to and Jones could do that. It’s not hard to imagine him playing opposite Darius Slay and those two making plays, when Slay is healthy of course. Jones could then eventually supplant Slay as the No. 1 as he continues to develop his game, train his instincts, and get physically ready for the NFL.

Getting physically ready is likely the biggest key for Sidney Jones. Despite standing at 6-0 with a long frame, Jones weighs in at a meager 181 pounds. While he displays good form when tackling regardless of his size, that could be a potential problem when he reaches the next level. A player his size going up against someone even as old and slow as an Anquan Boldin could beat him relatively simply by out-muscling him in the air. However, he has the prospects of being a great NFL corner and the Lions could sure use one of those.

Nov 5, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles tackle Roderick Johnson (77) blocks against North Carolina State Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb (9) during the second half at Carter Finley Stadium. Florida State won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

26

Roderick Johnson

OT, Florida State

Before anyone loses their mind here, I don’t think the Seattle Seahawks are going to reach this much in the first round. Florida State Seminoles tackler Roderick Johnson is graded by most to be a mid-second round prospect after falling from the first throughout the season for a variety of reasons. However, what this is to showcase is how badly the Seahawks need to address the tackle positions on their offensive line.

That Russell Wilson is still standing upright weekly is an act of heaven at this point considering what Seattle’s O-line has looked like. They’ve neglected the offensive line for years in the draft and now it’s finally biting them due to a lack of depth and general lack of talent among the five big bodies ahead of Wilson. Now they need to go into this draft heavily looking at tackle and nothing else early on. In fact, the Seahawks seem like a candidate to try and make a big trade up in this draft. This offensive tackle class isn’t nearly as deep as last year’s so they may want to ensure they get a game-changer.

As for Johnson, he’s not that game-changer. He’s shown propensity as a run blocker in front of Dalvin Cook in recent seasons, but has struggled at times in pass protection. He has to improve getting into his base and moving laterally with much more quickness as the next level. That is to say, he’s a bit of a project at this point and would get any team panned for taking him the first. But to point out what this Seahawks team is looking at , he serves as the fill-in here.

Nov 27, 2015; Toledo, OH, USA; Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis (84) smiles after the game against the Toledo Rockets at Glass Bowl. Broncos win 35-30. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

27

Corey Davis

WR, Western Michigan

Pick via Minnesota Vikings

Maybe you’ve heard, but the Philadelphia Eagles went all out in trading up in the 2016 draft. For their spoils, they were able to select Carson Wentz. Wentz has tailed off a bit of late, but he looks the part of a franchise quarterback int he making. Maybe his biggest problem in Philly right now, though, is that he doesn’t have anyone to throw to. The Eagles receiving core in its current state may be the worst in the league.

Enter Western Michigan Broncos receiver Corey Davis to help cure their woes. If you haven’t heard of Davis, shame on you first of all because MACtion is incredible. However, playing in the MAC has limited his exposure. Limited exposure, though, doesn’t change a 6-3 frame with fantastic speed to compliment it. Throughout his career, Davis has been a workhorse as a receiver and has burned defenses in every way imaginable with that. And yes, I know that JuJu Smith-Schuster is still on the board. He’s fantastic, but I like Davis even slightly better than the USC standout.

Davis is the perfect type of receiver to add here if you’re the Eagles. While some scouts might call it a reach, it’s only a matter of time to me before he finds his way into a first-round projection. At the pro level, Davis has everything you need to take a passing offense to the next level. He can make grabs in traffic, blow by defensive backs on the outside, and runs solid routes considering his big play ability. Putting him at the No. 1 in Philadelphia would be a huge hit on their first pick of the draft—that they acquired thanks to the Sam Bradford trade with the Vikes.

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

28

Malik Hooker

FS, Ohio State

While Budda Baker out of Washington continues to close the gap between them, Malik Hooker out of Ohio State remains the best free safety prospect in the 2017 draft class. The Kansas City Chiefs are likely content to roll with Eric Berry at strong safety, though they could look to make changes at both spots. Regardless, the writing is on the wall that they want to upgrade over Ron Parkers and Hooker would be that.

There’s a ton to love about Hooker and what he brings to the table after playing for the Buckeyes. The redshirt sophomore measures in at 6-2, 205 pounds and has one of the rangiest frames of any secondary player in the draft. With his length and physical abilities, Hooker can break off a huge play deep in the secondary at any point. And though his frame is a bit slight, he’s still a more-than-capable tackler in open space as well.

Hooker’s biggest issues is staying mentally in tune with the game and consistently displaying sound technique. The OSU star can get a bit loose sometimes and force himself to make mistakes that aren’t necessary. Andy Reid might be the perfect veteran coach to help rid him of this. Because of that and the leaders on this KC defense, Hooker seems like a match that makes sense for both player and team.

Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA;Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) works out prior to the game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

29

Charles Harris

DE, Missouri

Early in the 2016 season, this would have felt like a much easier call for the Atlanta Falcons. The NFC South leaders heading into Week 10, their pass rush was near nonexistent at the start of the year. Lucky for them, rookie Vic Beasley has started to come on strong—as has most of the defense. That said, Atlanta should surely be in the market for someone to pair opposite Beasley for the future. Charles Harris out of Missouri looks like the right guy to take on that task.

Harris is a tremendous playmaker and has shown how electric he can be coming from the edge and beating opposing tackles. His quickness is noteworthy for a guy his size, but he also has some already quality moves to help get around blockers. There are issues with inconsistent effort and sometimes inconsistent technique as the getting off of and shedding blocks. However, that’s not a lack of tools, but rather a lack of work being put in.

To put Harris and Beasley on opposite edges, they’d make him put the work in from Day 1. And Harris would be all the better for it. He could come to this Falcons team and be a great defensive star and a steal for getting him late in the first round. If he puts it all together at the next level, there’s no doubt that Harris will be an absolute force raining terror down upon the other 31 teams in the league.

Nov 12, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Riley McCarron (83) catches a pass in front of Michigan Wolverines cornerback Jourdan Lewis (26) during the first half at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

30

Jourdan Lewis

CB, Michigan

The more I watch of Michigan Wolverines cornerback Jourdan Lewis, the more confused I am about how some scouts have him falling all the way to the third round. While he may be partially a product of the great defense around him, Lewis has showcased immense abilities in coverage. Subsequently, a team like the Oakland Raiders should address one of their big offseason needs by adding him at the end of the first round.

What’s most impressive when watching tape on Lewis is how often he blankets receivers in man-coverage. With the style of defense that Jim Harbaugh plays, he expects his corners to play man on the outside more often than not. If they get beat, it jumps out at you on film because you know whose man it was. That man is rarely Lewis as he’s time and again proven he can shut down throwing lanes to where it’s either a tough pass/catch or where the ball never even comes his way.

Oakland clearly needs help at middle linebacker moving forward as that’s been a problem area for the defense. However, there’s no one at No. 30 that makes sense at that position for this Raiders team. Instead, they would be wise to add more depth at corner to play behind Sean Smith and David Amerson, perhaps in the slot as well. Lewis’ abilities in man coverage make it seem like he’d be up for the challenge right way. Thus, this is the logical pick for Oakland.

Dec 31, 2015; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook (11) makes a reception against Clemson Tigers cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (25) during the second quarter of the 2015 CFP semifinal at the Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

31

Cordrea Tankersly

CB, Clemson

Coming off of seven-straight wins into Week 10 of the 2016 NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys have to be happy about their playoff chances. Moreover, they might even be looking deep into the postseason, thinking about a possible trip to the Super Bowl. However, the unfortunate part of their success is that they find themselves now picking at the tail-end of the first round. So while their biggest need is likely for an edge rusher, any player I’d feel comfortable taking in the first at that position is no longer available at No. 31.

Subsequently, you have to look to the issues that they’re currently facing with Morris Claiborne and Barry Church out with injuries in Week 10. Their secondary is lacking in quality depth in a major way, particularly at cornerback. Therefore, the wise move would be to again dip into this deep class of corners and take Cordrea Tankersly out of Clemson.

At 6-0, 200 pounds, you have to like the size and build of Tankersly as a corner. He’s not overwhelmingly big or strong, but he has enough size that he won’t get destroyed physically by big, playmaking receivers. Moreover, he’s displayed solid coverage skills throughout his time with the Tigers, able to keep his hips in position to stick with and shut down receivers. There are some issues with inconsistency, but that’s something that can be worked with. Filling a need with the best talent on the board is the point here and that’s what Dallas does.

Nov 12, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; USC Trojans defensive back Adoree’ Jackson (2) celebrates after making an interception against the Washington Huskies during the fourth quarter at Husky Stadium. USC defeated Washington, 26-13. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

32

Adoree’ Jackson

CB, USC

If you were reacting to all of the insanity that happened this past week in college football, you might have USC Trojans cornerback near the top of your draft boards. Though he was burned at times by John Ross, he came up with the biggest defensive play against the Washington Huskies with essentially a game-sealing interception. Moreover, he was making big plays all throughout the night in the marquee matchup of the week. However, I have him barely slotting into the first round.

Had the New England Patriots not been selecting here, Jackson would probably fall out of the first round. However, he’s exactly the type of player that Bill Belichick and this team love—something I’ve said before. Because of his elite athleticism and physical traits, Jackson has been hyped for years at this point. The USC corner has never fully lived up to the hype, though. Even still, he still has impressive potential as a cornerback and the same potential as a return-man.

Over the years, we’ve seen how much Belichick and the Patriots organization value versatility in players. And as they could potentially use depth in their secondary, Jackson is a player that can answer the call to fill a defensive void while also contributing on special teams right away. He’s the type of player this organization simply loves and I can even see them reaching to grab him a little bit as he won’t make it to them in the second round.

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