Our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft introduces a little chaos into the system with a boatload of trades throughout the first round.
Chaotic would be an apt way to describe the 2017 NFL Draft process to this point. Between the uncertainty regarding quarterbacks, situations like Joe Mixon’s, the lack of clarity early behind Myles Garrett at No. 1 and plenty more, it’s all been erratic to this point. So why not douse the first round in even more chaos in our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft?
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In recent years, it’s been the plight of several teams to go all-in with trades to move up and try to get their guy. Most of the time, these decisions revolve around the quarterback position. Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Robert Griffin III all highlight a long list of signal callers that teams have essentially banked their future on with massive trade packages to move to the top of the first round to select.
Considering the aforementioned uncertainty at quarterback this season, that’s almost definite not to be the case this season. However, this is one of the deepest draft classes in recent memories, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Meanwhile, it’s also shallow in terms of top-tier talent at one of the most important positions on the field in offensive tackle. Thus, we could still see plenty of movement through trades early on.
Throughout this latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft, there’s going to be plenty of that. Admittedly, the first round of the draft playing out like this on April 27 probably has a 0.001 percent chance of happening — and even that might be generous. However, by going all-in on chaos and trades in the first round, it does help to paint a picture of how important certain needs are for teams in addition to still evaluating the stock of prospects.
With that in mind, embrace the madness in the latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft, the Trades and Chaos Theory Edition.
Even when all hell is about to break loose behind them, the Cleveland Browns aren’t giving up the No. 1 overall pick. They have the opportunity to select Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M and they would be foolish not to do so. He’s been tagged as far and away the best prospect in this draft class for months on end now. And everything that he’s done throughout the pre-draft process has simply confirmed that notion.
Garrett is simply a physical anomaly in terms of everything that he brings to the table. He’s an enormous man chiseled out of stone with both exceptional length and functional strength. Just based on his build and strength alone, he would likely be a first-round pick. But when you factor in the fact that he’s among the most explosive players in this entire 2017 draft class — not just his position, the entire class — it’s what makes him the consensus top prospect in the class.
There aren’t many areas on the roster that the Browns don’t need to fill moving forward. That’s part of their plan as they’ve been accruing draft capital and are chiefly concerned with starting from the ground up. Though a quarterback would obviously be an integral part of their development, they have enough capital in this draft to wait on pulling the trigger there. When they have the opportunity to add a player like Garrett that can have a Day 1 impact and potentially turn a promising unit into a net positive fore the Browns as a whole, they have to do it. When you bank on the draft, you can’t swing and miss when it’s tee-ball.
Mar 5, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Stanford Cardinal defensive lineman Solomon Thomas participates in a workout drill during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
After the easy selection with Garrett, though, we jump right into the madness. There has actually been some chatter not long ago that the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers have been discussing the possibility of a trade up from No. 8 by the Cats to take Solomon Thomas of Stanford second-overall. Obviously they have to give up a big haul to make that happen, which they certainly do as they give up their first- and second-round picks her to get the job done.
As for why the 49ers would do this trade, they’re not in a position where Thomas or any prospect at No. 2 is going to move the needle for them all that much. For all intents and purposes, they’re going to be bad again in the 2017 season. Their focus should be like the Browns in accruing as much capital as possible and taking advantage of a deep draft. By moving down just six spots, they get a top-10 pick still, but also add another top-40 selection.
Looking at Thomas in Carolina, it’s not hard to see why they’d covet the Stanford product. After shipping away Kony Ealy in a trade with the Patriots, they need to add youth at defensive end behind Charles Johnson and Julius Peppers. Thomas is a versatile and effective player who’s capable of providing that immediately.
Dec 31, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) reacts after they they stopped Louisville Cardinals on 4th down during the second half at Camping World Stadium. LSU Tigers defeated the Louisville Cardinals 29-9. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
3. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams, SS – LSU
The Chicago Bears ultimately elect not to make a trade here with the third-overall pick simply because of the opportunity that presents itself. There’s no question that the Bears biggest need heading into the draft and moving forward is in their secondary, at both cornerback and both safety positions. At No. 3, they have a plethora of options as they could look at both strong and free safety or even at cornerback with Marshon Lattimore.
Alas, they choose the player who I maintain is going to be a perennial All-Pro caliber strong safety in Jamal Adams out of LSU. Just watching the film on Adams in college, it’s hard not to fall in love with what he brings to the table. His instincts as a football player are both nuanced and wide-ranging. Adams is effective coming up and reading the run in the box, but also displayed exceptional ability in coverage for his position.
And that’s just off of the film. Then came an impressive showing at the NFL Scouting Combine followed by a simply absurd showing at his Pro Day. Adams was clocked by some scouts as running a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. When you add in that type of top-end athleticism and speed to the instincts that Adams has, he’s a game-changer in the biggest possible way. He’d start right way and my guess would be he’d quickly become a leader of the defense in Chicago.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB – LSU
I know, I promised you chaos and trades and we’re four picks into this NFL mock draft and there’s only been one trade. Think of this as the calm before the storm, because it’s definitely coming. However, the Jaguars are one of the most interesting teams in this draft. On paper, they should have the majority of their defense solidified after free agency. Meanwhile, their biggest offensive need might be quarterback — but it doesn’t appear time for them to give up on Blake Bortles just yet.
Thus, they take the best player available and land a game-breaking running back to potentially help open up the offense. Leonard Fournette undoubtedly is that. The LSU product has been polarizing throughout this draft process for a number of reasons. It all started with concerns over ankle injuries in college, which may have been overblown as he was trying to stay healthy long-term for the NFL, ironically. Then came the Combine when he weighed in heavy, citing it as water-weight, and then posted a pitiful number in the vertical jump. However, he then ran just over a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash.
When you watch the film of Fournette and think about his size with that type of speed, he’s a once-in-a-class type of talent at the position. He has the vision and lateral quickness to hit any hole, the power to fight through contact, and burst to break away. Fournette is as true of a feature running back as you’ll see, especially if he’s shown impressive pass-catching in workouts. He’d be a bell cow to take pressure off of Bortles and help carry the offense in Jacksonville.
I told you the craziness was coming. When you look at this quarterback class, it’s hard to fully say whether or not any of the top players at the position are worthy of a top-10 pick in terms of grade. However, teams always have to pay a premium at quarterback, whether it’s reaching in the draft or handing out big contracts in free agency down the line. Thus, for the Browns to get their guy, they have to trade up to No. 5 and take Mitchell Trubisky.
Trubisky only started one year at North Carolina, which is one of the knocks against him. There’s limited tape on him and it raises questions over why he didn’t start before. However, the tape on him shows a lot of things to love about the Tar Heels former signal-caller. He boasts solid arm strength and a nice throwing motion to go with decent size and tremendous athleticism. Trubisky wasn’t asked to do it a great deal in college, but he’s capable of creating with his legs in a big way. There are flaws of course, namely in his deep-ball consistency and his performance under pressure. However, the upside is tremendous and he has viable franchise quarterback potential.
As for why the Titans make this trade, the first factor is that we know that general manager Jon Robinson loves to deal when it comes to the draft. What’s more, they’re in a tricky position at No. 5 where they might be reaching to grab a player that they fill fits their biggest needs. Instead, they trade down to ease the difficult decision and get some more capital to boot.
Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) tackles Washington Huskies running back Myles Gaskin (9) for a short gain during the first quarter of the 2016 CFP Semifinal at the Georgia Dome. Alabama defeated Washington 24-7. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
TRADE: 6. New Orleans Saints (via Jets): Jonathan Allen, DL – Alabama
We get another trade and it might come as a bit of a surprise. Looking at what the New Orleans Saints need for their defense moving forward, most people would look at the secondary and qualify that as their biggest need. What’s more, their defensive front might actually be considered among the strengths of their defense — even if that isn’t saying much. However, they can’t pass up on Jonathan Allen dropping to No. 6 and definitively making their front four a strength.
After being considered the No. 2 overall prospect for most people behind Garrett, a mediocre showing at the Combine seemed to cool down the buzz about Allen. That works to the Saints benefit, though, as they’re able to get a stud. Allen’s tape shows a player that is simply dominant in every way. He can clog gaps against the run with great leverage and strength, but also can come off the edge quickly and generate a pass rush. The Alabama prospect is one of the most versatile in the entire class. Putting him on the front with Cameron Jordan, Nick Fairley and Sheldon Rankins makes that group capable of wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines.
Meanwhile, the New York Jets make the savvy choice to trade down here. Unlike the Browns and 49ers, they don’t have a ton of draft capital to work with. But like those teams, they have holes at virtually every level. With Trubisky off the board, they figure they can wait on quarterback a bit and pick up some extra picks in the process.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) reacts after making a touchdown catch against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR – Clemson
There’s no trade here as the Los Angeles Chargers have the opportunity before them to address a number of needs. They could look to the secondary here as both Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore could feasibly fill a need and are worthy of being taken at No. 7. Instead, though, they look to help out Philip Rivers as the veteran quarterback needs all the help he can get during his twilight years in the league.
Mike Williams is undoubtedly the player that’s capable of doing that for the Chargers as they make their move to the City of Angels. The Clemson product was absolutely integral to the Tigers winning the National Championship as a near-unstoppable weapon for Deshaun Watson to take advantage of. With the prototypical size of a No. 1 receiver, he can win most any 50-50 ball and come down with it. However, he showed at the Combine that he also possesses great speed for a receiver his size. With solid route-running for his still-developing route tree, he’d be phenomenal with Rivers throwing to him.
Quite frankly, the Chargers have been both negligent and unlucky when it comes to getting Rivers weapons on the outside. Keenan Allen has been great when healthy, but that caveat is the most important part as he’s suffered a litany of knee injuries in his young career. Outside of that, there’s been nothing but stop-gap options unable to step up. Williams cures that upon arrival.
8. San Francisco 49ers (via Trade with CAR): Marshon Lattimore, CB – Ohio State
After trading with the Panthers and accruing more draft capital, the San Francisco 49ers are now able to look at the player that some mocks have them taking with the No. 2 pick already. Lucky for them, he lasts until the eighth pick as the chaos continues. That player is obviously Marshon Lattimore, who immediately gives the Niners an upgrade at cornerback, something that they desperately need.
The days of the 49ers defense being a force to be reckoned with have long since passed. They have plenty of talent on that side of the ball, but it’s a unit that is lacking in several key areas and that is also aging in other spots. However, the need at cornerback is more pressing than ever. It was already a position they could’ve looked at regardless, but with Tramaine Brock release following his arrest, it’s vital that they add to the position.
Lattimore would do that in San Francisco in a big way. The Ohio State product was absolutely phenomenal this past season with the Buckeyes. He has prototypical size for the modern No. 1 corner in addition to the length and coverage skills that teams covet. His hips are fluid and his instincts are pure. There’s a lack of experience that some point to, but that’s the product of playing at OSU and it’s not that severe of a lacking in that area. He’s shown enough to prove that he’s worthy of being a starter Day 1.
Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) lines up for a play during the first quarter in the 2016 CFP Semifinal against the Washington Huskies at the Georgia Dome. Alabama defeated Washington 24-7. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
There are still plenty of other trades that will follow, but this might be the one that comes as a shock to some people — and frankly one of the most unlikely in this NFL mock draft. The Oakland Raiders sitting at the No. 24 overall pick are in an odd spot considering their biggest needs. At that spot, they would simply be putting $5 into a need that only requires $1. Thus, they make a move to try and get the best player at their biggest hole.
That hole, of course, is at inside linebacker. They had hoped that Malcolm Smith (he was a Super Bowl MVP, in case you didn’t hear that 58 times on broadcasts per game) would be the answer. However, he was not. And while Perry Riley was a nice pickup, he remains unsigned and may not be able to replicate his performance from 2016. Reuben Foster, though, could step into that role immediately. He’s the best linebacker in this class, displaying pure skills as both a run stuffer and when dropping into coverage. Foster is the ideal fit given the need in Oakland.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Bengals trading down is interesting, certainly. They have a number of holes to fill after falling off in 2016 in addition to losing the core of their offensive line in free agency in Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. However, that’s exactly why they elect to move down. They have enough needs that having a surplus of picks should be at a higher premium than the No. 9 pick.
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) intercepts a pass intended for Clemson Tigers wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (13) during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
10. Buffalo Bills: Malik Hooker, FS – Ohio State
Trading down has been mentioned as a viable option for the Buffalo Bills. What’s funny, though, is that it becomes less of an option with the chaos in this particular NFL mock draft. With so many teams on the move and leaping ahead of the No. 10 pick, theirs becomes a bit less valuable. Perhaps most importantly, though, the shuffling through the top-nine picks allows them to get a viable top-five talent with the 10th overall pick.
Malik Hooker is another player who only has one year of tape to really look at, but damn if it isn’t good tape. The Ohio State free safety is a bonafide stud already at the position. He showcases great speed, technique and quickness that all point to him being an elite coverage safety in the NFL. If you need to know what Hooker looks like at his best, go watch his Fiesta Bowl performance against Clemson. There is an interception he has where he breaks on the throw once he reads it from centerfield, covers half the field to get to the front corner of the end zone and then beats the receiver by a split second to make the play. It’s unbelievable, but wholly indicative of what he brings to the table.
The Bills secondary as a whole was a bit underperforming one year ago and losing Stephon Gilmore at cornerback hurts that further. They need a cornerback in this draft, but could also use a game-changer at free safety if they get the chance. Hooker falling to No. 10 indeed gives them that chance and they jump at the opportunity.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) looks to the bench against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
11. New York Jets (via Trade with NO): Deshaun Watson, QB – Clemson
Frankly, this trade couldn’t have worked out better for the New York Jets. In its simplest terms, the draft is largely about circumstance and situation in the moment. With the Browns trading up to get Trubisky, it would be unlikely that any of the teams picking Nos. 7-10 would be in the market for a quarterback — except for potentially the 49ers after they traded down, but the feeling is that their eggs are in the Kirk Cousins for 2018 basket.
Subsequently, the Jets are able to trade down to No. 11 while gaining additional picks and are still able to land the guy they could possible take at No. 6 in Deshaun Watson. When you talk about the former Clemson quarterback, his biggest strengths are obviously his leadership and intangibles. He’s a proven winner with back-to-back trips to the National Championship Game under his belt, and a win from this past season to his credit as well.
There are some shortcoming to his game. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, even if its adequate. What’s more, he has to grow in terms of his decision-making and ability to go through his progression and reads. However, the Jets more than anything need a quarterback that inspires confidence. Watson provides that in bunches and could be the leader that they’ve longed for at quarterback for many years. He won’t be a star immediately, but he has the work-ethic and mental makeup to develop into the franchise player that New York needs.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) makes a touchdown catch against Clemson Tigers safety Van Smith (23) during the third quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
12. Tennessee Titans (via Trade with Browns): O.J. Howard, TE – Alabama
After trading down, the Tennessee Titans move out of the top 10, which is actually better for them. When you look at this team, they are clearly doing everything right from a team-building perspective. Marcus Mariota has all the signs of a franchise quarterback and progressed wonderfully last season to have the Titans on the cusp of the playoffs. With that being said, there are key areas they have to address.
For one, they must go after secondary help in this draft. That was a definitive weakness last season and, though Logan Ryan signing in free agency helps, the former Patriot isn’t a cure-all. The other big need, though, is for the Titans to give their franchise signal-caller more weapons to work with. Many people have wide receiver circled as a need and it most definitely should be addressed. However, they can’t pass up on a player like O.J. Howard at No. 12.
Howard would fit perfectly in the Titans offense. Yes, Delanie Walker is still on the roster and still producing. However, Howard offers much more of an athletic problem for defenses as a receiver. He could undoubtedly be a playmaker that is impossible for linebackers to cover. Making the fit even more ideal, though, is that Howard might be the best blocking tight end in this draft. So inserting him into the Exotic Smash Mouth style in Tennessee is a natural transition. This is a no-brainer for Tennessee after trading down.
Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) blocks Western Michigan Broncos defensive end Keion Adams (1) in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers won 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
TRADE: 13. Indianapolis Colts (via Cardinals): Ryan Ramczyk, OT – Wisconsin
With pick No. 13, the Arizona Cardinals have a number of areas that they could look to address. After losing the likes of Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, Marcus Cooper and Kevin Minter, there are definite holes on the defense. What’s more, though, the Cardinals could be in a position where they look for their quarterback of the future. With Adams, Hooker, Foster, Trubisky and Watson all off the board, though, it’s in their best interest to trade down.
They find a partner in the Indianapolis Colts as they get greedy and make a play to ensure they get the player they need. There’s no question that the Colts have to do something in the draft to improve their defense. However, their biggest asset on the roster is undoubtedly Andrew Luck. Thus, they have to invest in protecting him. They’ve half-heartedly tried, but new general manager Chris Ballard is going to go all in by moving up and taking Ryan Ramczyk.
Ramczyk is the most complete offensive tackle in this draft class. He’s a tremendous pass blocker and, though there were concerns about his run blocking early in the year, he improved in that area a great deal this past season. He’s immediately shore up a problem area at left tackle to keep Luck healthy, thus giving the Colts a better shot at success before building the defense.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In the chaotic scenario where all of these trades actually happen, the Seattle Seahawks actually trade up to No. 14 before the Colts trade up to No. 13 to grab Ramczyk. Frankly, the Seahawks trading up would this high would be with the intention of grabbing the Wisconsin tackle. With the Colts going ahead of them, though, they have to still get the next best offensive tackle on the board, Cam Robinson.
How the Seahawks front office has treated Russell Wilson has been downright offensive — in terms of the offensive line in front of him, of course. The dynamic quarterback spent much of last season trying not to get killed as turnstiles played in front of him. That led to him fighting through injuries for much of the year, which is less than ideal. Robinson isn’t a perfect prospect as he still needs to clean up his pass blocking technique. However, he his a mammoth athlete with great physical tools that would be an immediate upgrade in Seattle.
The Eagles make this deal because they recognize the value that they can get. After trading up for Wentz last year, they need to make a play to get more draft assets so that they can continue to build around him. They’re lucky to have a first-rounder thanks to the Sam Bradford trade. However, they trade down to acquire more capital and stay in a position to address their most glaring need.
Sep 4, 2015; Kalamazoo, MI, USA; Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis (84) makes a catch for a touchdown against Michigan State Spartans cornerback Arjen Colquhoun (36) during the 2nd half of a game at Waldo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
15. Arizona Cardinals (via Trade with IND): Corey Davis, WR – Western Michigan
As a result of their trade with the Colts, the Arizona Cardinals only move back two spots and still find themselves in an interesting position. At No. 15, their still in a position where taking someone to fill their defensive needs would not be maximizing the value of the pick. The same can be said for if they were to look at a quarterback at this spot with Watson and Trubisky off the board. Ultimately, that leads hem to looking for another young playmaker on offense to become the heir apparent to a veteran start.
Though most everyone would like for him to, Larry Fitzgerald can’t play forever. The former Pitt star has been an exceptional and consistent player for the entirety of his career, which is impressive considering some of the quarterbacks he’s had throwing to him prior to Carson Palmer. With the end nearing for him, though, the Cardinals indeed need a replacement and they get a fine one in Corey Davis out of Western Michigan.
Davis’ level of competition is one of the biggest drawbacks when looking at his NFL future. However, he could’ve been playing against peewee teams and still would’ve been impressive. He has legit No. 1 size and crazy speed on tape for a player his size. He needs to improve on his fight on 50-50 balls, but he has the aggressive mentality to make that happen without question. Davis was absurdly productive in college and could even take a year to learn from the best in Fitz to fully adapt to the NFL. If that’s the case, he’ll be a stud in Arizona.
Mar 4, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross runs the 40 yard dash during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
16. Baltimore Ravens: John Ross, WR – Washington
The Baltimore Ravens stay put because, well, that ultimately feels like the Ravens thing to do amidst chaos. They’re going to be who they are regardless of anything else going on around them. Unfortunately for them, who they were last season was a team whose defense could limit most any offense in the NFL, but whose offense was completely incapable of producing with any kind of consistency.
With Steve Smith Sr. retiring, the Ravens offense is seemingly in line to take yet another step back. They have Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace at wide receiver, but your offense is in trouble if that’s your 1-2 punch at receiver. Thus, they look to add one of the most electric players in this draft. Baltimore selects Mr. 4.22 himself, John Ross out of Washington. This just feels like the perfect spot for him.
Obviously the first thing you think about is Joe Flacco’s cannon of an arm and how he can utilize the speed of ross deep down the field. Ross brings more than that, though, he’s a fantastic route runner with just incredible footspeed and quickness to lose his coverage in man-to-man. His size is brought up as something to knock him, but he’s the same size as the likes of Antonio Brown and possesses the same caliber of talent. The one concern that’s warranted is his injury history, but he’s worth that risk and more at No. 16 for a team that needs a wideout as badly as the Ravens.
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) during the second half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
17. Washington Redskins: Jabrill Peppers, S/LB – Michigan
The Washington Redskins have done an absolutely phenomenal job in terms of getting their affairs in order on the defensive side of the ball. Being able to land Zach Brown late in free agency was somewhat of a risk considering his isolated top-end production in the league, but it’s a good move for a group needing in a big way at the position. What’s more, they at least halfway addressed the safety position finally with D.J. Swearinger and Su’a Cravens making the move.
However, one of the interesting things about this Redskins team is the lack of a true playmaker on that side of the ball. They just don’t have the type of player that’s back at safety or in the linebacker corps that can simply take over games with their ability. He might be polarizing and he might be someone that many refer to as position-less, but Jabrill Peppers is whole-heartedly that type of player in my mind.
Peppers played nine different positions in his junior season at Michigan, but spent most of his time at linebacker. At only 5-10, though, that seems like a stretch to have him as a pure linebacker. Instead, he could be used as a hybrid to a degree, oddly similar to what Cravens was asked to do last year. More so than Cravens, though, Peppers is just a better football player. His instincts and physical traits outside of size are more impressive. What’s more, he also brings value to the receiving game. For a defense still needing elite talent, the Redskins would be foolish to pass on Peppers.
Mar 5, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Temple Owls defensive back Haason Reddick participates in a workout drill during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
If you were waiting to see what defensive player that the Titans take with their second top-20 pick, think again. They could certainly grab someone at No. 18 that would indeed fill a need for them. However, Jon Robinson proved last year that he’s a GM unafraid to shake things up in a big way. He traded back from No. 1 overall with the Rams, but then traded back up to get Jack Conklin. In Year 2, he gets to wheeling and dealing again. Most importantly, they get a second-round pick out of this deal, something they don’t have after trading up for Conklin a year ago.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers need to make a move to try and get playmakers. They could definitely be in the same position as Tennessee as they look for defensive back help. However, the more dire need right now could well be at linebacker — anywhere along the back four of the front-seven will do. That’s why I love them trading up for Haason Reddick.
With the departure of Lawrence Timmons, James Harrison being held together by putty and grit and Jarvis Jones also departing, the Steelers desperately need youth at linebacker in addition to aiding the future. Reddick has the versatility to rush off the edge or play in the middle and drop into coverage. He’s one of the more impressive athletes at the position and offers tremendous flexibility. He’d be perfect in the Steel City for what they need right now.
Nov 19, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) during the first quarter against the Missouri Tigers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s the place where everyone freaks out. The Dallas Cowboys are obviously one of the most polarizing teams in the NFL regardless of their situation. However, the Cowboys are even more so in the spotlight because they are coming off of a 13-3 regular season where they won the NFC East behind their offense and the strength of two rookies, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. However, they also have a desperate need on their defense. Yes, they need a cornerback.
That being said, a pass rusher is their biggest concern. The lack of a pass rush is why the Green Bay Backers were able to annihilate them early in the Divisional Round and why they were able to put together late-game heroics to win. You know, that and Aaron Rodgers being a damn cyborg. By trading up to No. 19, they go full win-now mode as they get the guy some call the best edge rusher in this draft in Derek Barnett. He fits right into the Cowboys 4-3 defense and gives them exactly what they need, especially since their scheme basically nullifies his athletic shortcomings.
Then we get to why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make this trade. They were on the verge of the playoffs a year ago and could make a splash with the No. 19 pick. However, with the way things shake out in this chaotic mess of a first round, they can afford to take on more draft capital and move back nine spots while still getting a player to help them take a step forward.
Mar 3, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Utah Utes offensive lineman Garrett Bolles goes through workout drills during the 2017 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OT – Utah
While the Colts and Seahawks both made big moves to move up into the top 15 to get the offensive tackle that they so desperately need, the Denver Broncos don’t follow suit. With those two teams already ahead of them, they look at the draft order and see that the third best player at the position is theirs essentially. Thus, they don’t make any move and hope to shore up their line by adding Garett Bolles out of Utah.
Bolles is a guy who has been around the block and has some delinquency in his past. He was mixed up with drugs and criminal behavior at one point, but has since put that long behind him and developed into a strong, reliable character and football player. He also stands out from the likes of Robinson and Ramczyk because of the the way he simply plays the game on the edge of the offensive line.
While the Utah product might not be the technician that Ramczyk is or the mountain of force that Robinson is, neither of those two play with the mean-streak and mentality of Bolles. Bolles approaches every play like he wants to put his assignment flat on their back and let them know about it. What’s more, he also is relentless with his blocks as he’s going to play until the whistle in any situation. That type of effort can help mask some technique deficiencies as he picks up the nuances of the game. He’d be a great pickup by the Broncos.
Sep 29, 2016; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) rushes against the Kansas Jayhawks in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
TRADE: 21. Kansas City Chiefs (via Lions): Patrick Mahomes, QB – Texas Tech
There has been plenty of talk about what the Kansas City Chiefs are going to do in this 2017 NFL Draft. For much of the 2016 season, many would’ve had them circled as one of the best teams in the entire league — because they were. With an elite defense and an evolving offense, they seemed poised to make their deepest run yet. Instead, the problem that is Alex Smith reared its head again. As such, they finally pull the trigger and move to start the transition away from Smith.
Kansas City truthfully doesn’t have many glaring needs on their roster right now. So if they are making the decision to move on from Smith, there’s two factors to consider. First, they need to get ahead of the Houston Texans to get their guy. Secondly, they would only be adding depth in this draft for the most part, so they can afford to deal some of these picks if necessary. They do so to get Patrick Mahomes. Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions are willing partners to add more draft capital to help build their defense in a deep draft.
As for Mahomes, he’s a bit of an enigma at quarterback. Everything about his film is untraditional and improvisational. Thus, his footwork, mechanics and ability to run an offense are in question. When it comes to physical tools, though, there are no questions. He has a cannon for an arm, is a wonderful athlete, and has supreme confidence. Putting him under guru Andy Reid seems like an ideal match.
The Miami Dolphins have done a lot of good work to try and improve their defense in free agency this offseason. Adding Lawrence Timmons seems like a great move at linebacker and the addition of T.J. McDonald is sneaky — even if he’s suspended eight games. However, even with Timmons in the linebacking corps, they still need to get younger and even add a potential starter at the position. That’s where they look in the draft (rather than guard) and find Zach Cunningham.
We’ll get this out of the way first, but Cunningham needs to continue to bulk up. The Vanderbilt product is a sensational athlete that’s capable of covering ground while also delivering a pop when he hits you. However, his short-area power is lacking and that shows up on film with missed tackles in bad spots. Thus, that’s something critical he must address, but also something easily addressed on an NFL weight training program and diet.
As for what he does well, Cunningham is simply a playmaker. He was asked to do quite literally everything for the Commodores this past season in college and did so with phenomenal results. He was a tackling monster that could make plays in any situation. Even with Timmons and Kiko Alonso, adding a player with the raw physical tools and the proven playmaking of Cunningham alongside them seems like the most prudent choice for Miami here.
Nov 19, 2016; Syracuse, NY, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) carries the ball during the first quarter of a game against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
23. New York Giants: Dalvin Cook, RB – Florida State
Please, please stop the people that are telling you that Paul Perkins played well enough to be the No. 1 running back for the New York Giants next season. The then-rookie out of UCLA performed well when given the chance. However, he’s not a feature back in almost any regard. He’s not a player that’s going to give you 25 effective carries per game. To help open things up for and take pressure off of Eli Manning as he continues to get older, they need that type of player.
And lo and behold, here falls Dalvin Cook out of Florida State right into their laps with the No. 23 overall pick. As a prospect, Cook is far better than the 23rd best prospect in this draft. However, his stock has tumbled a bit after a mediocre Combine performance, with injury concern and with several off-the-fied concerns looming from his time with the Seminoles. But when you watch the tape and it’s hard not to think that the Giants couldn’t transform their offense by adding the running back.
He may not have the breakaway speed in the open field that some would like, but that never stopped Cook from breaking plays open. He has exceptional vision and cuts that allow him to bust through holes and break off big chunks of yardage. Cook has the makings of a bell cow back that can average over 4.0 yards per carry upon arrival and that will be able to become the piece that makes New York a viable contender.
Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers offensive lineman Forrest Lamp (76) blocks Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
24. Cincinnati Bengals (via Raiders): Forrest Lamp, OG – Western Kentucky
The Cincinnati Bengals made the decision to trade down 15 spots in the draft with the need to gain more draft capital to address a number of holes. With what was originally the Raiders pick, they’re able to do just that. Last season, Kevin Zeitler established himself as one of the best offensive guards in the entire league, or perhaps confirmed it after a strong career to that point as well. However, the notoriously shallow-pocketed Bengals didn’t pay the premium to re-sign him this offseason and he left in free agency.
With Zeitler gone in addition to longtime tackle Andrew Whitworth, going after the offensive line is a must. They get the best guard in the draft to come in and replace Zeitler at the No. 24 pick.
Forrest Lamp is an absolute monster of a man. He played tackle for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, so he does offer his experience and versatility there. However, his body type has him slated by most as a guard at the next level. Either way, he’s going to be a success at the next level.
Lamp is incredibly technically sound and powerful. Though you may question his level of competition at Western Kentucky, his name actually started coming up in draft circles after he dominated the formidable Alabama defense littered with first-round talent. Lamp is the ideal replacement for the Bengals after their losses. He might not be Zeitler right away, but he has the potential to be even better sooner rather than later.
October 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley (98) brings down Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate (14) during the second half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
TRADE 25. San Francisco 49ers (via Texans): Takkarist McKinley, EDGE/OLB – UCLA
This just hasn’t been the offseason for the Houston Texans. Things started off promising when they traded Brock Osweiler away to get him off the books. What’s more that seemingly opened up the door for them to bring Tony Romo in upon his release from the Cowboys. In the process, though, they lost key free agents, most notably A.J. Bouye. To make matters worse, they then lost out on Romo as he decided to retire.
Throughout the chaos of this NFL mock draft, they get the short end of the stick. They’d love to have Mahomes as their quarterback for the future, but the Chiefs traded up ahead of Houston to get him. They’d love to have Lamp, but he goes off the board just before them. Thus, they’re left in a bind and choose to add more to their draft but cutting a deal with the 49ers to move down to the second pick of the second round.
As such, San Francisco moves up and get a fantastic player that fills an immediate need for them. Their edge rush has been failing in recent years as their old-faithful core has become more old than faithful. Takkarist McKinley could come in and rejuvenate that part of their defense in a massive way. He’s exceptionally athletic and fits the mold of the stand-up edge rusher. He’d be a beautiful addition in the Bay Area.
Dec 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley (8) intercepts a pass intended for Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams (bottom) during the first quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
26. Philadelphia Eagles (via Seahawks): Gareon Conley, CB – Ohio State
After trading down to the end of the first round from the No. 14 pick, the Philadelphia Eagles actually get to do something that’s a bit more sensible. There’s a viable chance that, if the Eagles were to say at the 14th overall pick, they would potentially take Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley with the selection. He’s long been thought of highly as a possible early second-round pick, but his stock has risen further since the Combine.
More importantly in this instance, though, Conley is the exact right fit that head coach Doug Pederson needs to add to his defense. He slots in perfectly schematically. More importantly, he’s a good cornerback, which is more than what can be said of the majority of players at the position currently on the Eagles roster. They were thrashed last season in their secondary and they have to upgrade that area moving forward.
Conley helps them do that, without question. He’s got all of the traits that you want from a No. 1 corner with a great prowess in press coverage, but also the ability to adjust to off-man and a number of other types of coverage. He’s a do-it-all player and, while he might not have the upside of his teammate in Lattimore, he has the ability to be a longtime starter in the NFL. Conley checks every box both physically and on the film and should be a tremendous addition to the Eagles defense.
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) stands on the field between plays during the second half of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
27. Detroit Lions (via Chiefs): Malik McDowell, DT – Michigan State
When you look at what the Detroit Lions need to do in the 2017 NFL Draft, perhaps the most broad and accurate answer would be start fixing the defense. Outside of Darius Slay and Ezekiel Ansah, the Lions defense is largely starved for playmakers on that side of the ball. That’s one of the reasons why they trade down at the end of the first round, so they can take advantage of a deep draft by adding more pieces.
With the No. 27 overall pick, however, the Lions go and pick up one of the more hard-to-peg prospects in this class. Based on talent alone, Malik McDowell is probably a top-10 pick without any questions being asked. He’s an absolute monster with an unbelievable athletic profile for a player his size. McDowell showed at Michigan State that he can be effective in stuffing the run up the middle and also be a force when it comes to generating pass rush up the middle. In that regard, he’d be a wonderful complement to Ansah.
The issues arise with McDowell, though, in terms of the other aspects of the game, namely the mental parts. His effort is so inconsistent that you can legitimately point out the plays on tape where he’s caring and the ones that he’s not really wanting to be bothered by playing football. It’s troubling, especially with reports from former teammates that are less than flattering about his locker room presence.
However, Detroit has experience dealing with uber-talented defensive tackles who are bit of a head case. Ndamukong Suh is gone, though, and they desperately have been searching for an adequate replacement. McDowell can be that.
Nov 26, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku (86) runs for a touchdown during the second half against Duke Blue Devils at Hard Rock Stadium. Miami won 40-21. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Cowboys): David Njoku, TE – Miami (FL)
After again falling into the category of being a team that traded down in this exercise in chaos, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come on the clock at No. 28. They gained some nice top-100 draft capital to move down to this spot and are still able to land a player that could indeed help them a great deal moving forward.
Tampa addressed their defense quite nicely on the interior of their line in free agency by landing Chris Baker. While with the Washington Redskins, Baker was one of the more underrated players in the entire league. Pairing him alongside Gerald McCoy is going to make for quite a force for the Bucs defense up the middle. That would’ve been a target here if not for that move. Instead, they’re left with two options, one on each side of the ball. They could reach a bit and grab a free safety to replace the departed Bradley McDougald, or they could give Jameis Winston another weapon.
They opt for the latter here and, while they’d love to have Dalvin Cook fall this far, David Njoku is a hell of a consolation prize. Coming out of Miami, Njoku might be a better receiving threat than even O.J. Howard. He has unbelievable hands and physical traits that make him appear to be an unstoppable force as a pass catcher. He’s not quite on the same level as a blocker, which is his biggest knock. However, he’s willing in that regard and only needs a bit more functional strength and technique. With DeSean Jackson already added this offseason, Winston and Bucs offense will be flying high if they add Njoku.
October 8, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) during the first quarter against the Washington State Cougars at Stanford Stadium. Washington State defeated Stanford 42-16. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
29. Green Bay Packers: Christian McCaffrey, RB – Stanford
Call them the most boring front office in the league (they are), but even when everyone around them is pulling off trades, the Green Bay Packers are of course going to stay put. They don’t have any reason to move or panic, though. Ultimately, they get the player in this draft who, when you look at everything he does, just has Lambeau Field written all over him. Christian McCaffrey might’ve been born to be a Packer.
The Stanford running back is truly exceptional in all of the things that he does well. He has great vision, quickness and speed as a ball-carrier and can make plays out of nothing when he gets the ball handed to him. However, he’s also the best pass-catching running back in this draft class. In fact, his Combine workout and the route-running and hands he showed in Indianapolis left some wondering if he could be a first-rounder as a wide receiver.
He’s a running back, though, and his versatility is the type of thing that they love in Green Bay. He could split the load with Ty Montgomery in terms of carries, which is actually ideal for both parties. But when you also factor in his pass-catching, he becomes an even more lethal weapon. And that doesn’t even begin to discuss his prowess as a returner, another area where he can help aid the Packers. This fit is just too perfect to pass on.
Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; LSU Tigers cornerback Tre’Davious White (18) celebrates a play during the first quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
After trading down for the second time in this draft to again acquire more picks, the Tennessee Titans are back on the clock at No. 30 and are finally able to look at the cornerback position and get a player that should be able to help them from Day 1. Tre’Davious White has everything you’d want in a cornerback already and has nice upside on top of that.
Though he’s a bit undersized in comparison to the traditional No. 1 corner type, White isn’t going to be asked to perform in that role for the Titans. He’s going to be playing in the secondary with Logan Ryan and Jason McCourty, both of whom are more than capable. Subsequently, he’ll have a bit of help so all of the spotlight isn’t on him. Even if it was, though, he as all the tools to handle it. He’s got great instincts in coverage and can stick to his man with nice quickness and technique in man coverage.
While I love White going to the Titans and what he brings to the table, there are some that are going to ask about receiver. However, I think that one thing that the draft process has shown is that this class of wide receivers is deeper than previously expected. And now armed with more picks, they could potentially make a move for another receiver to add to the mix at the end of the second round.
Sep 17, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) celebrates after a sack against the Georgia Bulldogs in the first half at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
31. Atlanta Falcons: Charles Harris, EDGE – Missouri
Mentally, the Atlanta Falcons may have more to overcome this offseason than any other team in the league. That stands to reason considering that they blew a 25-point lead in Super Bowl LI in less than two quarters. However, they have a mind to get back to that point and redeem themselves, even with the loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
To make that happen, the Falcons need to address their defense in a big way. They made a big splash by landing defensive tackle Dontari Poe to the interior of their offensive line. But now head coach Dan Quinn needs to add some more firepower off the edge to help bolster the pass rush with Vic Beasley. Sitting there waiting for them at No. 31 is a player more than capable of doing just that in Missouri Tigers product Charles Harris.
In terms of an arsenal of pass rushing moves, there might not be a prospect in this class with a more complete set than what Harris brings to the table. His spin move is simply lethal, but it’s not the only thing he can throw at linemen. Though not overly powerful or strong, he’s not afraid to unleash the bull rush when he sees he can gain leverage. For this Atlanta team as they look to take their defense to the next level so to not place as much pressure on Matt Ryan and the offense, Harris would be an ideal addition that should have an immediate impact.
Nov 4, 2016; East Hartford, CT, USA; Connecticut Huskies safety Obi Melifonwu (20) intercepts a pass intended for Temple Owls wide receiver Ventell Bryant (1) in the second quarter at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
32. New Orleans Saints (via Patriots): Obi Melifonwu, S – UConn
After trading up to get Jonathan Allen at No. 6 in the interest of shoring up the front four hopefully for a long time to come, the Saints now turn their attention to the back end of the defense. Looking at the secondary options, there are still a number of exceptionally talented cornerbacks on the board. Guys like Marlon Humphrey out of Alabama, Adoree’ Jackson out of USC and Quincy Wilson out of Florida could all be in play.
However, when you have a secondary that is severely lacking to the degree that New Orleans’ is, there’s two things that should come above all else when it comes to drafting. First, you have to be drafting a player that has tremendous upside and a relatively high floor. That’s a given. However, the second factor that should be in play is a player who offers versatility in regards to the different things he can do. Safety Obi Melinfonwu fits that billing perfectly.
Melifonwu was already getting buzz prior to the Scouting Combine, but took it to new heights after his workout. He was the star of the entire showing in Indianapolis for many as he wowed in every drill. The UConn product has the size to play strong safety, the range and speed to play as a coverage safety and the coverage skills to even play up at cornerback some. He’d be a perfect addition to the Saints secondary to help them take a step forward.