2017 NFL Mock Draft: Mad Rush At Start For Top Defenders
Quarterbacks of course decide how things are going to play out but this 2017 NFL mock draft is driven by an impressive crop of defensive talent.
How those players will be distributed depends heavily on where the QBs end up going and predictably it will be the first team on the board who charts the course. Thus far the Cleveland Browns have remained comfortably in that spot and the beauty of this is nobody knows what they plan to do. Being such a bad team in need of help means they could go any direction. So which way will it be this time and why?
1. Cleveland Browns
QB, North Carolina
Word has begun to pick up that they have many eyes on North Carolina standout Mitch Trubisky. They like his game and what he can do. Scouts are beginning to agree he might be the most complete quarterback in this class. He’s got enough size for the position, a solid arm with consistent, accurate passes. He gets the ball out quick and on time. To top it off he has enough mobility to make things happen with his legs. Jackson has made things work with a lot less.
2. San Francisco 49ers
DE, Texas A&M
Even though they took DeForest Buckner this past draft, he doesn’t bring what Myles Garrett does. The Texas A&M product is a once in a generation pass rusher. He can play any position, be it a defensive end or outside linebacker and excel. He’s that gifted of an athlete. Teams have to constantly note where he lines up because he can rush from a multitude of spots. Best of all he knows how to win battles with power and with finesse. Pair him and Buckner together? It’s over.
3. Tennessee Titans (via CHI)
Few know this better than Jonathan Allen. He’s enjoyed success at Alabama that few have dreamed of. Already a national champion, he has a chance to get another before turning pro. Much of that success is his own doing. He’s their best defensive lineman, a mix of power, quickness and violence. He can be moved inside or outside, stops the run and consistently shows he can get to the quarterback. Jacksonville needs a tone-setter like him.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jabrill Peppers is probably the best overall athlete in the entire class. He’s got the size of a linebacker but can run like a corner. Naturally this makes safety look like his ideal position. In terms of tackling and playing around the line of scrimmage he’s already a force. It will be up to Bradley and his staff to help him with his raw issues in pass coverage. If they can work out the kinks, they got a potential superstar in the making. To say nothing of his special teams value.
5. New York Jets
Florida looks like it will be the premier destination to find one in this class. Teez Tabor has gotten most of the hype, but the buzz has really begun to pick up on teammate Quincy Wilson. For obvious reasons. He’s got that desired mix of size, length, athleticism and speed. He can man up on any receiver and stick to them like glue. His instinct and ball skills are also very good. There aren’t many holes in his game and he’s only getting better.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
Derek Barnett has shown repeatedly at Tennessee that this is his calling. The Tennessee defensive end is a marvel of consistency. He’ll likely go pro having never had fewer than nine sacks in a season in college. That’s hard to do. It speaks to his natural ability at doing this job. He’s got the size and strength to play defensive end along with the quickness and natural finesse to beat blockers off the edge. Him and Dunlap across from each other with Atkin in the middle? Not bad at all.
7. Carolina Panthers
Leonard Fournette may not quite be Adrian Peterson, but he’s close. The LSU back has it all. He can run with power, he can take it the distance for 80 yards with speed and he’s a deceptive athlete for his size. Teams will be concerned about his spotty injury history but backs of this caliber don’t come around very often. Putting him and Newton in the same backfield could have devastating effects for the rest of the NFC and put the Panthers right back in the Super Bowl picture.
8. Chicago Bears (via TEN from LA)
QB, Notre Dame
Deshone Kizer has lost steam since the early part of the season. The question is how much of that is his fault and how much is it Notre Dame? It’s clear the coaching at that program has slipped and Kizer doesn’t have the strongest cast of talent around him. He may be the most talented quarterback in this class. He’s big, mobile, can throw the ball far and with accuracy. He’s also intelligent, something Ryan Pace values highly in his signal callers. He’s not a polished product, but the risk is worth it.
9. Green Bay Packers
Teez Tabor would be a major get for Dom Capers. The Florida standout is everything a coordinator wants in a boundary corner. He’s got size, quickness, athleticism and enough speed to carry receivers deep. His ball skills are good and improving too. Sometimes teams can nitpick on certain issues and there are some minor ones with him. In the end it shouldn’t matter. This is going to be a good football player and pairing Tabor with Sam Shields would do big things for the Packers.
10. New Orleans Saints
Marlon Humphrey is tops on many boards as the best cornerback in the class. He’s got that coveted mix of size and sticky coverage ability. Put him on the boundary and he’ll lock down any receiver he lines up across from. He’s also a dedicated run defender as they all must be at Alabama. Some are just concerned he might be a bit stiff when dropping back, opening him up to double moves against faster receivers. Still, the positives should outweigh the negatives.
11. San Diego Chargers
Jamal Adams will do something for them that no other defensive back on their roster has. He’ll set a tone for games. Adams has a reputation at LSU for being a pretty fierce hitter. He makes receivers pay for going over the middle and fills running lanes like a linebacker. His instinct is apparent almost constantly on tape, able to sniff out screens and where the ball is going through the air. He’s not a pure coverage safety but he can do both run and pass defense well.
12. Arizona Cardinals
Reuben Foster will help improve what is already a pretty good front seven. He’s a solid run defender who fills gaps and tackles consistently. He’s got good speed and athleticism. Though not great in coverage he shows the necessary capacity to handle himself. Best of all he brings value as a blitzer, something the Cardinals love to do. He should be an instant upgrade at that key inside linebacker position for them.
13. Tennessee Titans
Mike Williams has shown he’s all about that at Clemson. He’s been living that life for months at Clemson. Every week it seems like the Tigers are playing a tight game they need to win and every week he’s making 2-3 big catches to put them in position. His size-speed-hands combination make him an attractive target regardless of situation or who’s covering him. Just put the ball in a remote vicinity and he’s going to go get it.
14. Cleveland Browns (via IND)
S, Ohio State
The college season isn’t even over yet and he has five interceptions and two defensive touchdowns thus far for Ohio State. He’s a true ballhawk with ideal size at 6’2″. Hooker showcases plenty of instinct and toughness as a run defender too. His problems are all coachable, having to do with fundamentals and taking proper angles to the ball. It shouldn’t take long to sort those issues out and Cleveland will have another potential stud on defense.
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DT, Michigan State
Malik McDowell has suffered through a down year at Michigan State. Not in terms of his own play but the programs’ success. Still it hasn’t impacted his draft stock too much. Scouts love his combination of size, length and quickness. He’s the type of defensive tackle that can ruin game plans for opponents if the light ever switches on. Already a good player, he has a chance to become a great one if the motor revs up and he smooths out his fundamentals.
16. Buffalo Bills
CB, Ohio State
Stefon Gilmore will be a free agent this coming March and Ronald Darby hasn’t looked the same as he did last season. Corners are critical to every defense, but especially the one Buffalo runs. Gareon Conley continues to rise up boards. His size-athleticism combination, along with the steadiness under fire have teams excited about what he can do. Conley doesn’t get beat much and shows he has ball skill on top of it.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard not to love Zach Cunningham. He’s stuck in a downtrodden program at Vanderbilt where they hardly win. Yet he doesn’t let that stop him from being one of the best players in the country. Cunningham is a tough, instinctive linebacker who is so good at anticipating what the offense is going to do. He’s a tackling machine, can blitz and isn’t terrible when dropping in coverage. Maybe not the fastest guy in the world, but he doesn’t have to be.
18. Indianapolis Colts (via CLE)
Cam Robinson hasn’t gotten a lot of good press the past couple months. He’s run into some off-the-field problems and had several draft sources come out declaring he’s a headache who isn’t even that good a player. The reality is he’s a risk off the field but remains the best tackle in the class. Robinson is a strong run blocker, as per usual at Alabama but shows enough athleticism to handle himself in pass protection. No doubt he’d help the Colts with two key problems.
19. Miami Dolphins
O.J. Howard looks like he’ll be the top option in a strong class. For good reason too. The Alabama product looks every bit the part of what NFL coaches seek. He’s tall and big, making him a matchup problem for shorter defensive backs. He’s also an athlete, showing impressive speed for somebody that big. This makes him a problem for slower linebackers. Thus the Dolphins are getting somebody who can attack the middle of the field, getting first downs and offering a big target in the red zone.
20. Philadelphia Eagles (via MIN)
RB, Florida State
Dalvin Cook has been a tremendous soldier through some tough seasons at Florida State. He understands how to just do his job and try to make plays. A workhorse who does the heavy lifting. That is what the Eagles want and the best part is Cook brings so much to the table. He’s not only an effective running back in the traditional sense, he’s also a major threat out of the backfield as a receiver. Doug Pederson will see plenty of Jamaal Charles in his game.
21. Washington Redskins
Caleb Brantley would be a good fit for their system. The job of a 3-4 defensive end first and foremost is stopping the run. His combination of strength and explosion have made him a superior run stopper for the Gators. It also opens the door for the Redskins to turn him into a possible pass rush threat if he can learn to put that explosive acceleration to better use. It will be a bit challenging given his stockier frame but the ability is there.
22. Baltimore Ravens (via KC)
Charles Harris is one of those pass rushers who will get overlooked because he doesn’t have the ideal size or athleticism that makes people go, “Wow.” The thing is though he’s quite good at doing his job, which is sacking the quarterback. That is what the NFL is about. Not being an athlete but being good at football. Harris is a high motor player with quickness and violent hands. He gives blockers fits and is difficult to stop when in a rhythm.
23. New York Giants
Tim Williams isn’t quite the athlete Floyd was, but he might be a more proven pass rusher. He’s shown that much with his consistent ability to harass the quarterback at Alabama. Coming off the edge with speed, bend and violence are his game but he has enough agility to move around and create mismatches. Spagnuolo is a guy who likes to do something like that. This could make the Giants front seven far more difficult to block.
24. Denver Broncos
Jake Butt makes plenty of sense for them. He’s a polished, determined blocker who can really help in protection or getting an extra body out of the running lane. However, he’s progressed quite a bit as a pass catcher since the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, a man notorious for developing tight ends. Butt has a tall frame, good quickness, and enough speed with strong hands to make those tough 50-50 catches every quarterback needs on key downs.
25. Kansas City Chiefs
If Berry is gone, then it falls to the Chiefs to find a replacement at safety sooner than later. This draft class seems strong at the position so that’s should help. Budda Baker is a name that has steadily risen up boards over the past month thanks to the success of Washington. In previous years his shorter stature (5’11”) would scare teams off but it’s becoming clearer that such problems are minute. If the player has instincts and a motor, which Baker does, the rest can be masked.
26. Atlanta Falcons
People always seek the potential superstars or hidden gems. Sometimes just taking the most qualified prospect can be the right thing to do. Nothing about Sidney Jones is eye-popping out of Washington. Nonetheless he is a sturdy, solid cornerback. He plays tough coverage with few mistakes, tackles well and features the size and ball skills teams like. Considering he comes from the same program as Marcus Peters, that only helps.
27. Detroit Lions
Looking at their cornerback positions it’s basically Darius Slay and a host of average Joes. Another quality cover man would go a long way towards making things easier for them. Adoree Jackson is one of those prospects that people can’t agree upon. Some think he belongs in the Day 2 conversation, others believes he’s too good a player to believe he falls that far. He’s an excellent return man and quality corner who isn’t easy to shake. It’s just a matter of overlooking his slightly shorter size.
28. Houston Texans
He wasn’t even on the radar to start the season. That is how fast Ryan Ramczyk has shot up boards in the past couple months. A transfer from Division II, he has quickly settled in for Wisconsin and become their rock at the left tackle position. His athleticism and ability to move in pass protection are what always draw NFL teams. If he can improve his overall power a bit more there’s a chance he might end up being a 10-year starter at the second most important offensive position.
29. Seattle Seahawks
DT, Notre Dame
Notre Dame hasn’t done a lot of good things lately but it’s clear they continue to find and develop really good defensive tackles. Jarron Jones has established himself as a presence on an otherwise underwhelming defense. He’s stout against the run but really showcases an ability to hit gaps and create pressure up the middle, forcing the quarterback off his spot. In the right situation that would almost guarantee creating a sack. A situation like the one Seattle has.
30. New England Patriots
Given the losses at linebacker this year it won’t surprise if the Patriots seek help right away. Takkarist McKinley is exactly the type of player they like. He’s a pass rush specialist who is excellent at finding ways into the backfield. Beyond that though he understands how to drop in coverage and also forces fumbles. This is a kid who knows how to make things happen. There is any number of ways New England will be able to use him.
31. Oakland Raiders
One of the key spots that needs filling is middle linebacker. Thus far the teams’ attempts to fill it with veteran free agents and mid-to-late round picks hasn’t worked. Jarrad Davis could finally solve this lingering headache for Oakland. He’s a high energy player who attacks the line of scrimmage as a run defender and blitzer. He goes sideline to sideline well and understands his responsibilities in coverage. Put him in the middle and let him control the action.
32. Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones has always been a gambler. If he sees a player that has a chance to be special, he’ll hang the risks and jump in with two feet. Carl Lawson represents exactly that kind of gamble. When on the field he is a seriously gifted pass rusher. He just knows how to beat blockers in many different ways. Hard to stop. The problem is he’s a health risk. Staying on the field is a struggle.
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