2017 NFL Mock Draft: Two-Round Projections Before Wild Card Round

2017 NFL Mock Draft prior to the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, projecting every pick for the first two rounds.

Now that just one game remains in the college football season and the 2017 NFL Playoffs are slated to begin with the Wild Card Round, teams are kicking into draft-mode quickly. Subsequently, there’s no better time to take another look at what could happen in April with another 2017 NFL Mock Draft.

Following the conclusion of the NFL regular season, the top-20 picks (save for a coin-flip) are set. The order of the 12 playoff teams at the end of the rounds will be determined, as always by the results of the playoffs. With that being said, we’ll be using the draft order set forth by Pro Sports Transactions for the purposes of our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft.

As this is the first mock draft after the regular season, it stands to reason that this would be a great time to take a look into the second round for the first time. Obviously looks will get deeper moving forward—though others throughout the postseason may not dive as deep—but projecting two rounds and 64 picks seems like a good fit for the current time.

The stipulations of no trades remains in effect for now and this mock remains a look at team needs and player stock more than a sure-fire projection of how everything will play out in April. Now that we have that out of the way, the Cleveland Browns are on the clock at No. 1 in the latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft.

Sep 24, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in game action against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium. Texas A&M won 45-24. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 24, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in game action against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium. Texas A&M won 45-24. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports


Myles Garrett

EDGE, Texas A&M

If the Cleveland Browns take anyone other than Myles Garrett with the No. 1 overall pick come April, they’ll be doing themselves a disservice. They have needs all over the field on both sides of the ball. Moreover, many will highlight their gaping hole at quarterback and the need to shore the most important position on the field up. But for a team still a long way away from contending, taking best player available is pivotal in this position. Though it’s no longer a unanimous opinion, that remains Garrett in my book.

Listed at 6-5, 270 pounds, Garrett is a physical freak as an edge rusher. Obviously his size affords him both strength and leverage to fight through blocks, but that may not even be his best asset. Garrett’s flexibility and speed off of the edge are near unmatched by anyone in this draft class, much less anyone of his size. He has the potential to be one of the best edge rushers in the NFL and reach that status quite quickly.

Detractors from Garrett point to a lack of production, most recently in Texas A&M’s bowl game loss. However, that fails to consider the lackluster 10 players around Garrett and the luxury that college teams then had in terms of scheming to block Garrett with double teams or by simply going away from him on every play. Even in Cleveland, teams can’t afford that and his effectiveness will only increase as he makes the leap to the pro level.


Jonathan Allen

DL, Alabama

Much like the Browns, the San Francisco 49ers also enter the 2017 NFL Draft in need of a quarterback as neither Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert are the answer (to much of anything really, but especially the future at quarterback). With that said, they too are another team that has too many holes to reach on a quarterback and not look at the best player available. Though they addressed their front in the 3-4 in the first round last season, I don’t think they are in the position to pass on Jonathan Allen.

With the Alabama Crimson Tide’s unreal defense, Allen stood out as potentially being the best player in college football. Listed at 6-3, 294 pounds, the defensive lineman has an incredible combination of speed and power that he displays on almost every play he lines up for. For Bama, Allen rotated between defensive end and tackle depending on situation and down. That speaks to his versatile skill-set and his fit in the Niners’ 3-4 defense. Putting him with Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner creates an absolutely lethal trio up front that’s capable of creating a pass-rush and stuffing the run in the trenches.

Considering the 49ers’ needs at quarterback and elsewhere throughout the roster, I think they stand as a quality candidate to trade back from No. 2. That move would be to gain more draft capital while also still hopefully getting an impact player in the first round. Should they stay at No. 2, though, they would be sacrificing value and a potential Pro Bowler if they don’t nab Allen with the pick. After a 2-14 season, doing so would be a bad start for the incoming regime.


Deshaun Watson

QB, Clemson

Considering that quarterback is the most important position on the field, it’s not surprising that the first three teams selecting in the 2017 NFL Draft are faced with uncertainty at the position. The Chicago Bears sit third among them, though, and in an entirely different situation. Though they too aren’t close to being contenders, they have far more in place than the Browns or 49ers. Subsequently, I find them in a much better position to take a quarterback in what is considered a weak and certainly interesting quarterback class.

That leaves the Bears selecting Deshaun Watson out of Clemson at No. 3. Though he’s jostled between being the Nos. 1-3 quarterback in this draft class, Watson stands out as the best option for the Browns. He lacks prototypical size at the position at 6-2, 215 pounds, but has plenty that he brings to the table. In addition to having solid arm strength, Watson’s athleticism and ability to both extend plays and garner yardage with his legs is clearly valuable.

Like every quarterback in this draft, there are shortcomings when it comes to Watson’s game as he makes the leap to the NFL. He has a tendency to stare down receivers and his decision-making has been questionable as a result of that. What’s more, Watson’s accuracy has seemingly digressed from his 2015 season where he was a master of completion rate. However, Watson has the tools to be a viable NFL starting quarterback, which is what the Bears need if they stay the expected course and part ways with Jay Cutler.

Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) works at the line of scrimmage during the third quarter in the 2016 CFP Semifinal Washington Huskies at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


Cam Robinson

OT, Alabama

This is 100 percent a reach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. In this loaded draft class that is notably not loaded at offensive tackle, taking any player at the position in the top-5 would be a huge waste. Subsequently, the Jaguars would be wise to trade down and gain draft capital while still being in range to address their need on the offensive line. In this mock, though, I have them reaching because there are no trades and taking Cam Robinson out of Alabama.

When it comes to size, Robinson certainly isn’t lacking what it requires to be successful in the NFL. At 6-6, 310 pounds, the Crimson Tide’s left tackle can physically handle anyone put in front of him. He’s displayed this in the running game over his career in Tuscaloosa, proving to be an absolute mauler when asked to open up holes and get down to block at the second level. While Bama always has an elite back in play, Robinson has helped to maximize their effectiveness in that regard.

Contrarily, pass protection is the glaring weakness for Robinson as it currently stands. He has a propensity for relying on his impressive size and strength and sacrificing the technique and footwork required to be wholly effective at keeping edge rushers at bay. With that said, NFL coaching could potentially help remedy this—as will getting burned at the next level a couple of times with his sloppy technique. As for right now, though, he remains the best tackle on the board and the Jaguars will hope that he can help protect Blake Bortles so that the young quarterback can hopefully progress without fearing for his life.

Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a ball for a touchdown during the first half against the USC Trojans at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports


Marlon Humphrey

CB, Alabama

Pick via Los Angeles Rams

Especially given how they’ve operated in recent years, I’d say that the Tennessee Titans are another strong candidate to potentially trade down out of the first five picks. They have obvious needs heading into this draft and this pick from the Los Angeles Rams could be their golden ticket. That said, addressing those needs could prove to be even more valuable if they can trade down and get a player to immediately help in an area of weakness while also gaining more draft capital.

Picking at No. 5, though, I don’t think that the Titans should reach on a wide receiver, thus leaving them looking at their other glaring need at cornerback. Marlon Humphrey sits as the top prospect at the position for 2017 by my estimation and for good reason. The Alabama defensive back has great size at 6-1, 196 pounds and has the speed as a former hurdler to keep up with absolutely any wideout in coverage. Moreover, he’s also displayed tremendous progression in terms of hip movement and ball-hawking in his redshirt sophomore season for the Crimson Tide.

Humphrey will still need to improve his technique despite making strides so to not rely solely on his physical gifts as often as he does. With that said, his potential is through the roof. Tennessee has one elite corner in Jason McCourty, but he’s joined by other team’s cast-offs and late-round projects after the Titans cut Perrish Cox midseason. Humphrey could join him in the secondary and help this team take another step toward being a viable threat in the AFC.

Dec 30, 2016; El Paso, TX, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) is pressured by Stanford Cardinal linebacker Peter Kalambayi (34) as he tries to throw the ball at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports


Mitch Trubisky

QB, North Carolina

No prospect will be under more scrutiny or the subject of more debates than North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky. At his best in his first season starting under center for the Tar Heels, he looked every bit like a potential franchise quarterback. However, that was not a consistent feat as there were moments that left scouts quite weary about his decision making and other aspects of his game. Even still, the New York Jets need to look to find their franchise quarterback above all else and Trubisky is their best option on the board to do so at No. 6.

Trubisky’s two biggest strengths are his accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws and his athleticism. His impressive touchdown-to-interception ratio in his first season as the starter for North Carolina showcased that accuracy. Moreover, he also displayed an impressive ability to use his physical tools to both buy time for plays to further develop and also to make plays by taking off on the run.

While those things are impressive, Trubisky does still need some tuning. His deep ball accuracy leaves something to be desired. More pressingly, though, his inexperience at the position often leads to poor decision making, particularly when faced with pressure off the edges. This problem surfaced in North Carolina’s bowl game against Stanford, when Trubisky performed quite poorly. He needs more reps and time, but the Jets could potentially develop a gem with the Tar Heels signal caller.

Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis (84) reacts after catching a touchdown pass during the second half of the 2017 Cotton Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports


Corey Davis

WR, Western Michigan

Some people might be shocked to see Mike Williams not be the first wide receiver off of the board. However, I have Western Michigan’s Corey Davis rated as my No. 1 wideout in the 2017 draft class. Despite playing at a smaller school for the Broncos and not seeing much competition in the MAC, Davis shined in every matchup and proved everyone lauding him right with his playmaking in the Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin.

Davis has the size that teams would love from a true No. 1 wide receiver at 6-3, 213 pounds. Unlike some of the bigger receivers (i.e. Kelvin Benjamin) that we’ve seen in recent drafts, though, his value isn’t solely tied into his ability to make plays on 50-50 balls—he certainly has that, still. Instead, Davis also boasts legitimate top-end speed that allows him to beat coverages and get loose down the field. When you couple that with his size, that makes him an absolutely lethal threat.

Though Davis needs to improve his consistency with route-running, there’s no reason to believe from what you see on tape with him that he’s not a star in the making at the NFL level. Though Keenan Allen returns next season for the San Diego Chargers, they need depth in a big way going forward on the outside and a reliable No. 1 that can, well, stay healthy. Davis is that player and is well worth the No. 7 pick.

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


Leonard Fournette


There have been some scouts and draft experts recently rating Dalvin Cook as the best running back prospect in this draft. That’s important by my calculation because, simply, I don’t see but one running back going in the top-15 of the draft. This class of backs is deep, so the notion that teams would be inclined to wait a bit seems likely in my eyes. But despite the deserved love for Cook, Leonard Fournette remains my top running back in this class and the Carolina Panthers would be making a mistake to let him pass by.

Jonathan Stewart isn’t getting any younger for the Panthers and has a troubled injury history regardless of how many miles he has left on the tires. While they have other backs on the roster, none appear to be a bell-cow back that can shoulder the load and present an offensive weapon that teams have to respect, particularly when Cam Newton goes into zone read concepts. As such, Fournette coming in fixes all of that.

Fournette is a physical freak as he boast both the size of a hard-hitting power back and the speed of a elite burner out of the backfield. It may seem cliche, but running backs as big as Fournette aren’t supposed to be as fast as the LSU star is at his size. There are concerns about his injury woes in college, but much of that feels like protecting his draft stock. Coming in to play in an offense with Newton, Fournette could be a star and help the Panthers return to their former glory.

Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) communicates at the line of scrimmage during the fourth quarter in the 2016 CFP Semifinal against the Washington Huskies at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


Reuben Foster

ILB, Alabama

Another top-10 pick gets used on an Alabama player, and another defensive player at that. For my money, though, Reuben Foster might be the best overall player coming into the 2017 NFL Draft. While there are number of stars on that side of the ball for the Crimson Tide, Foster stands out with his overall impact that he’s able to have on the game. With the ninth pick, the Cincinnati Bengals get to address a key need by adding a player with Foster’s talent.

The inside linebacker is exceptionally versatile when it comes to all of the areas that he’s able to affect games. Foster has proven to be a highly effective force at recognizing plays and designs and stopping the run from the middle of the field. Moreover, he’s great as a pass-rusher from his spot in the middle of the field for the Alabama defense. Most importantly, he has the speed and athleticism that allows him to be a quality cover man at linebacker.

2016 was highly disappointing for the Bengals as they didn’t even bother to sniff the postseason. Their defense struggled mightily for much of the year, but perhaps the biggest reason as to why was a lack of elite athleticism among their linebackers. Foster answers the call in that regard and does much more for their defense. This would be a huge move in helping Cincy get back to the postseason.

Jan 2, 2017; Tampa , FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Teez Tabor (31) defends Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Jay Scheel (3) in the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. The Gators won 30-3. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports


Teez Tabor

CB, Florida

Because of the depth at cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft, it feels like a constant shuffle when it comes to which prospects rate where. That’s likely going to continue almost all the way up to draft day in April. While that may be the case, though, I don’t think there’s any feasible way someone can watch Teez Tabor on film and not come away impressed with his capabilities and potential to be a true No. 1 corner in the NFL, and perhaps even a superstar in that regard.

At 6-0, 201 pounds, Tabor has the size, length, speed, and athleticism that you need to build an elite cornerback in the NFL. When he’s sound with his technique and hip movement, there aren’t many players alive that could do anything to beat Tabor when he’s locked on them. Moreover, he’s also proven to be a solid tackler and doesn’t allow hardly any plays to get by him when he comes up on the outside to make a play.

The knock on Tabor is that too much of his value coming into the NFL is based on potential. He’s a classic case-study in the college player so gifted that he doesn’t bother consistently displaying the coverage techniques that will be necessary for him to succeed as a pro. However, with the right coaching, that can be developed and the team that takes him will reap the rewards. The Buffalo Bills need solid depth on the outside of their defense and Tabor brings that and more with the 10th 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


Malik Hooker

FS, Ohio State

There was talk about a month ago that Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker was eyeing a return to Columbus rather than entering the 2017 draft. However, he shocked everyone after this Buckeyes’ loss in the Fiesta Bowl when he announced that he was, in fact, declaring for April’s draft. As such, he’s put himself in line to be an early-to-mid first round pick. In this case, he’s the first safety off of the board and goes to the New Orleans Saints.

In terms of fit and need with New Orleans, Hooker fits right where the Saints have a major need. Since joining the team in free agency, Jarius Byrd has been almost wholly disappointing and hasn’t helped anchor the secondary like the front office has hoped. Subsequently, adding a potentially elite playmaker on the back end of the secondary could go a long way to finally building a defense capable of not making Drew Brees do everything for this team to succed.

The range and playmaking that Hooker displays at free safety is truly astounding. From what the OSU product shows on tape, he looks like he could step into an NFL defense on Day 1 and be an effective coverage safety over the top. Even in the beatdown that Clemson gave the Buckeyes, Hooker flashed his instincts and closing speed with a truly incredible interception that he covered what was about half of the field to go make the play. He’s truly impressive and the Saints need to grab him if he’s available at No. 11.

Dec 31, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Louisville Cardinals wide receiver James Quick (17) catches the ball as LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) defends during the first quarter at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


Jamal Adams


Pick via Philadelphia Eagles

As I’ve maintained throughout these mock drafts, I’m not taking a quarterback in the first round if I’m the Browns. Not only would it be foolish to pass up Garrett at No. 1, but it would be equally foolish to then reach on a quarterback with the 12th pick that they acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles. Rather than being foolish, the Browns look to improve their defense once again as they take strong safety Jamal Adams out of LSU.

Adams is an absolute monster when it comes to his ability to make plays all over the field. He possesses the unique and coveted ability to lay big, punishing hits while also still being a sure tackler that doesn’t let guys bounce off of him. He’s an elite playmaker at strong safety in that regard, using that both against opposing passing attacks and when he comes up to make plays against the run.

Quite frankly, there’s not a lot that you can really detract from Adams’ game as he comes into the NFL. He could stand to improve in coverage a bit to not rely on athleticism to make plays in the open field, but that’s not of paramount importance at strong safety. After adding Garrett first-overall, the Browns would get another playmaker and great athlete to help their defense start to take leaps forward towards their future.

Nov 19, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores inside linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) is congratulated by teammates after a fumble recovery during the second half against the Mississippi Rebels at Vanderbilt Stadium. Vanderbilt won 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports


Zach Cunningham

ILB, Vanderbilt

We’ll talk about this again, but there’s been a recent call for the Arizona Cardinals to look at a quarterback in the first round. I think that’s not a smart move regardless of who’s on the board, but especially so with Watson and Trubisky having already been selected. Because of that, I think the Cardinals front office is smart enough to recognize value and look to address other areas of concern. One such area is a tough, sure-tackling athlete up the middle at linebacker.

Lucky for them, that’s the exact mold that Zach Cunningham fits as he comes out of Vanderbilt. While slight of frame, Cunningham has the body that seems to lend itself to putting on more muscle as he gets on a professional weight-training program and diet. Even still, his athleticism and production at the college level are enough to warrant him being taken here by the Cardinals.

There are going to be a number of combine stars when the time comes and I expect Cunningham to be among them. Between the speed he displays in terms of closing distances, the impressive lateral quickness that he’s flashed at times, and the agility and overall athleticism that he’s showcased, he’s a monster that could be a star at the next level. He was the anchor for an otherwise poor Commodores defense and helped lead them to a bowl game, albeit a loss. In college, his ability to tackle and get stops gave him the ability to take over games. It may take some time as he fills out, but he could be that for the Cardinals in the NFL as well.

Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56), linebacker Reuben Foster (10), and defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) react during the third quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal against the Washington Huskies at the Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports


Tim Williams

OLB, Alabama

Without question, the Indianapolis Colts owe it to themselves and their franchise-quarterback, Andrew Luck, to address their offensive line in the 2017 NFL Draft. That’s been a huge problem for them in recent years and you have to protect your greatest asset as a team. While that may be the case, though, their defense is also in need of playmakers in a big way, a pass rush in particular. Tim Williams is the prospect that could give them that and wouldn’t be a reach as a tackle would be with the 14th pick.

Williams is a bit of a one-trick pony, admittedly, which is why he doesn’t go in the top-10 in my opinion. However, I don’t see him falling out of the top-15 because he is so damn scary when he does his one trick. Whenever Williams shoots off of the edge to get after the passer, he’s like a heat-seeking missile that explodes so quickly that there are often times that he’s not even touched before getting in the backfield to make a play.

As Robert Mathis makes his way into retirement, the Colts have a big need to add a playmaker that can at least keep opposing quarterbacks on their toes. They’d love to have Williams further hone his moves and technique as a pass-rusher and, more importantly, his ability to stay in control and aware when defending the run. With that said, he has electric playmaking potential as a pass-rusher and Indianapolis needs that in a bad way.

December 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) runs the football against Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Chidobe Awuzie (4) during the third quarter in the Pac-12 championship at Levi


John Ross

WR, Washington

Pick via Minnesota Vikings

In the Peach Bowl against Alabama, there were a number of Washington Huskies that did wonders for their draft stock heading into the 2017 draft. However, those players all reside on the defensive side of the ball as they were the reason that the Huskies were able to keep it close. Contrarily, star wide receiver John Ross did himself no favors as he was largely a non-factor against the Crimson Tide defense.

Ross was shutdown for the most part by the rangy and sound cornerbacks that Alabama trots out in their elite defensive unit. Part of that was indeed due to the fact that quarterback Jake Browning was struggling with the pressure from the Tide, but part of it was Ross not being able to get free. With that said, he still is an enticing wide receiver prospect with the ability and tolls to develop into a huge weapon for a team in need of such things like the Philadelphia Eagles.

Philly did rookie quarterback Carson Wentz no favors this past season in terms of the weapons they gave him to utilize. When Jordan Matthews is your most reliable receiver, that’s not a good thing. Thus, adding a player like Ross would be of tremendous value to them. He has elite speed on the outside and can take the lid off any defense with that tool in his arsenal. If he can continue to develop improved route-running in addition to maintaining sure hands, he’d be a great asset for the Eagles to pick up at No. 15.

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


Jabrill Peppers

OLB/S, Michigan

Much like Ross with the pick before, Michigan star and Heisman Trophy finalist Jabrill Peppers didn’t do himself any favors in his team’s bowl game. Unlike Ross, though, Peppers didn’t do himself any favors because he didn’t take the field. He suffered a hamstring injury the day before the Orange Bowl and couldn’t go against Florida State. Now one of the most divisive prospects in the draft will enter with only the combine and a pro day left to prove himself.

With that said, there’s still a great deal to like about what Peppers offers as a prospect. Lauded in college for his versatility as he lined up at nine different positions this season for the Wolverines this season. However, he was good-not-great at all of those positions, which some view as a negative as he transitions to the NFL. With that said, Peppers is a supreme enough athlete that he can become great when NFL coaching slots him at one position and allows him to develop fully there.

The Baltimore Ravens present a great opportunity for Peppers as they will have the chance to allow him to see where he’s most effective right out of the gate. With need for depth at safety and also a need for youth and athleticism at linebacker, Peppers could potentially fill either role depending on how the Ravens see fit. That’s huge and makes this pick all too easy.

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


Malik McDowell

DT, Michigan State

Whenever he’s been on the field throughout his time with the Michigan State Spartans, Malik McDowell has proven to be a lethal force on the interior of their defensive line. Unfortunately for him, he spent much of his 2016 season battling with injuries and thus not being on the field to prove himself. Even with potential injury concerns and no 2016 season, though, what he has shown is impressive enough to have him go at No. 17 to the Washington Redskins.

McDowell is an absolute load that displayed the ability to almost bully interior offensive linemen in college. For a man his size (6-6, 280 pounds), McDowell also displays impressive speed once he’s able to use his strength to get into gaps or get into the gap and attack the quarterback. Moreover, McDowell has displayed the ability to both stop the run while also being able to bring down, or at least pressure, quarterbacks.

The Michigan State star’s prowess against the run is why he becomes intriguing for the Redskins, though his pass-rush up the middle certainly doesn’t hurt. Washington was one of the worst run defenses in the league this past season and needs to shore that up moving forward. McDowell will help them do just that and ultimately allow them to take the next step as a team.

Dec 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams (7) runs the ball after a catch against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the first quarter in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports


Mike Williams

WR, Clemson

After taking Marlon Humphrey at No. 5 with the selection that they are owed from the Los Angeles Rams, the Titans then turn their attention to the offensive side of the ball. With Kendall Wright likely leaving and no real threat as a No. 1 receiver even with him, the Titans desperately need to provide Marcus Mariota with the weapons that will allow him to reach his peak effectiveness as he continues to develop. They get that with Mike Williams falling to No. 18.

Williams is a talented enough prospect that he could wind up being a top-10 pick in this draft. However, he falls here due to the fact that I think Davis is the better prospect with a similar skill-set to Williams and the fact that the Eagles will look elsewhere other than another big-bodied wideout to address their needs. Therefore, Tennessee lucks out at getting the guy that fits the mold of exactly what they want.

The Clemson receiver has displayed so many great things this season after an injury cost him 2015. Williams has proven that he’s able to catch virtually anything thrown in his vicinity with a fantastic catch radius, but also can get open with both surprising speed and polished route-running. If he does indeed make it to the 18th pick in the draft, the Titans would have to be crazy to not add him to their offense to continue looking like a threat for the near future.

Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball in the first quarter as Michigan Wolverines linebacker Mike McCray (9) defends at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports


Dalvin Cook

RB, Florida State

Quite honestly, Dalvin Cook dropping this far in the draft is an absolute travesty. With that said, there aren’t any teams in need of running back ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that don’t see a prospect that fits a more pressing need at their draft position in this mock. As that’s the case, the Bucs get tremendous value at a position that suddenly exists as a gaping hole.

With Doug Martin getting suspended for Adderall use at the end of the season, it wouldn’t be a shock for the Buccaneers to completely cut ties with the running back who was frustrating in terms of on-field performance even before that. Subsequently, they suddenly have a need to give Jameis Winston a weapon in the backfield that he can not only use as another weapon in the passing game, but that can also provide balance to the offense to open up the field for the budding star at quarterback.

Cook offers all of that and more as a potentially elite player at the position right away in the NFL. Speed, the ability to run through contact, and vision are all present with the Florida State prospect as he’s able to break open plays any time the ball is in his hands. Even if the Buccaneers make minimal improvements to the offensive line, Cook has the ability to still make things happen. What’s more, he’s a dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield that Winston could use to help take Tampa’s offense to an extra gear.

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


Ryan Ramczyk

OT, Wisconsin

Finally we get our second offensive tackle coming off of the board with another team that has a dire need to address their line. The Denver Broncos offense essentially hampered them to the point of keeping them out of the playoffs. While the simplistic stance would be to put the blame on quarterback Trevor Siemian, the first-year starter wasn’t afforded much of a chance at times because of how ineffective his offensive line was. First and foremost, they need to bring in a tackle that can be effective from Day 1.

To me, Ryan Ramczyk fits that mold. In fact, he fits it so well that there’s a chance that the draft process could put him out of range for Denver as he continues to test. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked if Ramczyk ultimately usurps Cam Robinson as the top tackle prospect in this draft class. What’s interesting is that the skinny on the Badgers big tackle is that his strengths and weaknesses are opposite those of Robinson.

Ramczyk is at his best when it comes to his pass-blocking. The former junior college standout that transferred into Madison is highly effective at using his large frame and long arms to keep opposing edge rusher from exploding around him and then controlling them. His run blocking was a weakness coming into the year, but even that has improved throughout the season. If he were to fall to Denver, they’d be getting a potential stud. As of right now, he does.

Dec 30, 2016; Nashville , TN, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Ryker Fyfe (17) throws the ball as Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) defends during the second half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports


Derek Barnett

DE, Tennessee

Outside of Darius Slay, Ezekiel Ansah and DeAndre Levy (when he’s healthy), there’s frankly not a great deal to like about the Detroit Lions defense. They may be in the postseason, but it’s largely been in spite of their defense rather than on the merits of it. Perhaps the biggest need that they have to improve that is to help balance out their pass rush in any way possible, be it by adding someone on the other edge or finding a defensive tackle. Lucky for them they can find one of the best ends in the draft at No. 21.

Derek Barnett surpassed Reggie White in Tennessee’s Music City Bowl win over Nebraska as the school’s career-leader in sacks. Frankly, it feels like I could stop there in discussing the big edge rusher’s value entering the draft. However, we’ll continue as the 6-3, 278-pound defensive end deserves more of a look. The win over the Cornhuskers highlighted who Barnett is as a player and prospect. He used his arsenal of moves, which is wide considering he’s still in college, and his power to wreak havoc from start to finish.

Barnett has solid explosion, but won’t be mistaken for being exceptionally quick or fast coming into the NFL. Even still, his polished pass-rushing game and the physical tools he does possess would give the Lions an immediate answer to their need in that regard. The Tennessee product could be a star and, by the time April rolls around, it wouldn’t be shocked if he’s shot up much higher than No. 21.

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


Dan Feeney

OG, Indiana

Much like when the Houston Texans play football with Brock Osweiler at the helm, none of their draft needs for 2017 really offer the opportunity for flashy pick like last year when they selected Will Fuller in the first round. They need some depth in their front seven, but the more pressing need to me remains on the offensive line. They’ve been shallow there all season in addition to also having an older group. Put simply, the Texans would be wise to use the 22nd pick to take the best guard available.

Though there are other candidates, that player is Dan Feeney out of Indiana to me. The big man for the Hoosiers is an absolute tank on the interior of an offensive line, listed at 6-4, 310 pounds. His 2016 season was frustrating to say the least as he missed time due to injuries in addition to being forced to work at right tackle due to injuries along the line. Make no mistake, though, he’s a guard tried and true as he enters the NFL.

Feeney isn’t the next Zack Martin by any means, but he is the type of player with great and polished technique and strength on the interior of a line. He could provide Houston with much needed youth and depth along their offensive front to help open up holes on the interior for Lamar Miller. He’ll be effective and the transition shouldn’t be a rocky one, which is more added upside for the Texans.

Sep 3, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton (33) rushes on Hawaii Warriors offensive lineman RJ Hollis (74) at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 3, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton (33) rushes on Hawaii Warriors offensive lineman RJ Hollis (74) at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports


Taco Charlton

DE, Michigan

The Miami Dolphins have several needs entering the 2017 NFL Draft that have to be addressed. For one, they might be wise to look at inside linebacker to help improve their shaky run defense and intermediate pass defense. Moreover, they have a few holes on the offensive line—at least ones that may open up—that need to be addressed. However, I think they all pale in comparison to the need to add youth on the edges to bolster their pass-rush moving forward.

Again going after a prospect from Michigan’s stout defense that was one of college football’s best, Taco Charlton seems like a perfect fit in Miami. Aside from wanting someone named “Taco” on your team, Charlton would be a fantastic threat to help usher in a new era for the Dolphins defensive front. His combination of size (6-6, 272 pounds) combined with his speed an athleticism makes him almost an anomaly in what he can bring to the table.

Charlton consistently improved his draft stock throughout the 2016 season as he seemed to continue progressing throughout the year. While he may have benefitted from playing with Chris Wormley for the Wolverines at defensive tackle, Charlton would have the same benefit with Ndamukong Suh in the middle of the Dolphins front-four. With Mario Williams likely out in Miami and Cameron Wake not getting any younger, Miami would be wise to nab Charlton here.

December 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) defends against Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Kabion Ento (17) during the fourth quarter in the Pac-12 championship at Levi


Sidney Jones

CB, Washington

Aaron Rodgers almost single-handedly led the Green Bay Packers to the 2017 NFL Playoffs after he predicted that his team would run the table to finish the season and then went out and made it happen. However, no one is going to mistake their defense as being an overall fearsome unit. If there’s one glaring weakness, though, it’s the depth in their secondary. They’ve been ravaged by injuries there all season and it’s killed them not having many quality options behind him.

Enter Sidney Jones out of Washington to come in and fill the position. Much like the rest of the Huskies defense in the Peach Bowl against Alabama, Jones shined in his ability to cover on the outside. He doesn’t possess the top-end speed that many other cornerbacks in this class can boast, but he does have playmaking and coverage technique that rivals the best at the position coming out of college.

Displaying solid size in terms of his height (6-0) and length, Jones does need to put on size coming into the NFL as his 180-pound frame doesn’t lead to him being the surest tackler at cornerback. With that said, Jones has shown against some of the best receivers and offenses in college football that he can be a true No. 1 cornerback if he’s developed properly. Having him as depth to a hopefully healthy Packers secondary next season will afford him that opportunity.

Nov 26, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Utah Utes offensive lineman Isaac Asiata (54) and offensive lineman Garett Bolles (72) in the first half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports


Garrett Bolles

OT, Utah

We’ve talked a bit about potential teams that could make a trade down, but the Seattle Seahawks seem to be the most likely team to try and make a big move up in the first round considering their desperate need to improve their offensive line. They saw the hit-or-miss nature of drafting a lineman late in the first round with the ineffectiveness of Germain Ifedi in his rookie season. However, with them staying put at No. 25, they take the best offensive tackle on the board.

Utah’s Garrett Bolles was a force for the Utes throughout his junior season and was named an to the All-Pac-12 First Team at his position. Bolles has nice size at 6-5, 300 pounds and has shown his tremendous ability to make plays on the edge in the running game as a blocker. Utah’s rushing attack was the heart of their offense and the big man excelled in opening things up and using his combination of impressive strength and streaky bursts of athleticism to get down to the next level and open lanes.

Much like Cam Robinson, Bolles is far more effective against the run than against the pass, something the Seahawks will need to develop and work on with him at the next level. However, he falls well below Robinson in terms of value largely due to his age as he’ll be 25 years old when he plays his first NFL snap. All of that leads to Bolles being likely a second-round prospect, but the Seahawks need a tackle so badly that they have to reach to get one in this mock.

Jan 2, 2017; Tampa , FL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) points and reacts against the Florida Gators during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


Desmond King

CB, Iowa

Even after earning the No. 2 seed in the NFC entering the 2017 NFL Playoffs, the Atlanta Falcons defense remains a bit suspect. They’ve found a stud in Vic Beasley in their front seven as the second-year pro won the sack total in the 2016 regular season. Moreover, they have a No. 1 cornerback in Desmond Trufant. With that said, their secondary is still lacking overall, even more evident with Trufant injured at the end of the regular season.

Subsequently, addressing their secondary needs should be the priority for the Falcons with their first-round pick. The best player available to do so here would be Iowa Hawkeyes prospect Desmond King. King is a great athlete in terms of his agility and leaping ability, in addition to having great ball-skills and playmaking in coverage. Moreover, King has displayed tremendous vision and prowess as a return man throughout his career with the Hawkeyes.

With that said, King does lack top-end speed despite his impressive athletic traits. He can be burned by speed on the outside, something that the Falcons will need to have in mind when putting him opposite of Trufant. However, his technique and ball-skills still make him a quality first-round prospect as his ability to consistently shut down opposing receivers makes him seem a more pro-ready prospect than many others, though it comes at the expense of some upside.

Dec 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (94) pressures Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports


Carlos Watkins

DT, Clemson

Coming into the Fiesta Bowl, the talk about the Clemson Tigers’ draft prospects centered around their offense with Watson and Williams at quarterback and wide receiver, respectively. While both players submitted great performances in the emphatic win to advance to the title game, it was defensive tackle Carlos Watkins that did the most for his draft stock as he absolutely dominated two draft prospects on the interior of the Ohio State offensive line.

While some may look at his listing of 6-3, 300 pounds and wonder about the length of Watkins and his ability to get hands up and disrupt plays, he has length and effectiveness in that regard that make him appear much bigger. Moreover, Watkins has proven to be an effective tackler and force against the run this season. That again shined against the Buckeyes, including helping to stifle their mobile quarterback, J.T. Barrett.

However, Watkins’ biggest asset entering the 2017 NFL Draft remains his ability to create a pass rush up the middle. The Clemson star notched 8.5 sacks on the season prior to the Fiesta Bowl and added two more against Ohio State. While the Giants have run-stopping specialist Damon “Snacks” Harrison already in-tow, adding Watkins as a potentially premier pass-rushing defensive tackle could take an emerging defense to an entirely new high.

Nov 25, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen (8) drops back to pass and is pressured by Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) during the first half at Faurot Field. Missouri won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports


Charles Harris

EDGE, Missouri

Consistency hasn’t exactly been the forte of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense in the 2016 season. At their best, they’ve looked like the Steel Curtain of old, but that hasn’t been a common level that they’ve reached this season. Instead, they’ve battled both injuries and the decline of aging players throughout the season. And with departures likely to their linebacking core, they could stand to add a playmaker that position. In the first round, they look to the edge as they take Charles Harris out of Missouri.

Harris has been graded at the end of the first round all season, but his potential is that of a player who could be a mid-first round selection. When on, he has both the speed and power to attack the edge with ferocity and make plays in the backfield. He’s made a living at hurrying quarterbacks and bringing them down. The problem, though, and why he drops to No. 28 is the simple fact that his production has been a bit uneven.

For instance, 2016 started out with Harris looking exceptionally lackluster against teams that he should have dominated against. However, he hit his stride midseason with strong performances against the big offensive lines of the SEC. What we’re supposed to make of this is hard to say, but it does present a curiosity and a lack of consistency that might be worrisome to some. That said, the Steelers have the staff and culture to help him become a consistent force off the edge.

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


Jarrad Davis

LB, Florida

The Oakland Raiders defense has proven to be both opportunistic and masters of bending, but not breaking, in the 2016 season on their way to 12-4. However, they could use some shoring up in the middle of that defense as there are clear issues at middle linebacker moving forward. They need a versatile playmaker capable of dropping into coverage, effectively blitzing, and most importantly stuffing the run. Jarrad Davis out of Florida could provide that as one of the more versatile linebackers in this class.

Despite missing three games in the 2016 college season for the Gators, Davis still showed tremendous effectiveness. He’s a sure tackler that doesn’t miss much in that regard, though he does show room for improvement when it comes his approach in the run game and taking on blocks. That said, his ability to drop back in coverage in addition to his potential as a run defender is what makes people swoon.

Davis’ coverage instincts are exceptionally good for a player at his position. He’s not an athletic phenomenon like someone such as Cunningham at inside linebacker would be considered, but he has great physical tools to help him make plays in coverage. Those same tools again lend to him developing into an effective threat against the run. As the Raiders look to continue towards future success as they build off of 2016, adding Davis would go a long way in helping them do so.

Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive end Chris Wormley (43) rushes the passer against the Michigan State Spartans during the second half at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports


Chris Wormley

DT, Michigan

Much of the talk about the Kansas City Chiefs has centered around rookie receiver and returner, Tyreek Hill. Coming out of West Alabama and selected in the fifth-round due to a litany of red flags, Hill has added the explosive scoring threat that Kansas City has long needed. Even still, this is still a franchise and team that thrives off of the success of their defense. And coming into the 2017 draft, they have a need to add depth to their front four, particularly on the interior.

Chris Wormley should be that guy for the Chiefs. The Michigan Wolverines standout has been absolutely fantastic this season, moving around a bit from end and tackle. However, he’s spent most of his time and been most effective on the interior. Wormley has great size at 6-5, 303 pounds and has respectable strength and athleticism working to his credit. He’s not going to be someone who wows at the combine, but he is a player that uses the tools at his disposal consistently and effectively.

There aren’t many defenses in college football that mimic the intricacies of a pro defense quite like Jim Harbaugh’s in Ann Arbor. Subsequently, Wormley should be suited to play right away if necessary. Even if that’s not needed, the big man should provide quality depth to their front four, especially having shown the ability to potentially fill in on the outside if called upon.

Dec 30, 2016; El Paso, TX, USA; Stanford Cardinal defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (90) celebrates with head coach David Shaw (L) after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 25-23 at Sun Bowl Stadium. Thomas was named MVP of the game. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports


Solomon Thomas

DE, Stanford

Following a huge performance for his Stanford Cardinal in the Sun Bowl against Trubisky and the Tar Heels, the stock of Solomon Thomas has skyrocketed for many. I think he’s a first-round talent, but I’m not going to lose my mind over a single game and have him vaulting into the top-15. Frankly, I don’t think he’s at the level of someone like Derek Barnett right now and in terms of his potential. With that said, I do believe that he’d be a great answer to the Dallas Cowboys’ need in their pass-rush.

Thomas is a bit undersized at 6-3 and 273 pounds, but the Stanford prospect has a ton to like about his game. He shows great explosion off of the edge and uses that surprising speed to get around tackles effectively. However, he also uses his compact frame to create leverage and has displayed impressive strength despite those physical limitations. Some say he’d fit best as a 3-4 edge rusher, but Thomas has the tools to work as an end in the 4-3 in Dallas.

One of the things that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has specialized in since taking over in Dallas is maximizing the effectiveness of the pieces in place, putting players in positions to where they can best succeed. That’s how he’s been able to make effective pass-rusher out of a cast-off like David Irving. So given a player with the talent of Thomas, Marinelli could do wonders as far as making him a credible defensive threat.

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


Roderick Johnson

OT, Florida State

Considering that the New England Patriots are coming off of a 14-2 season, it’s hard to say that their needs anywhere are particularly glaring. With that said, my first bet would be that they need to start addressing their defense, particularly at linebacker and up front. While that may be true, I’m not sure there’s a player left at No. 32 where they would be getting good enough value. Yes, that would likely mean they trade down—as they’re famously known to do. As there are no trades in this mock draft, though, I instead have them addressing another need.

The future of veteran Sebastian Vollmer in New England is in question as the tackle is slated to hit free agency this offseason. Moreover, they had issues with depth there all season and need to address it moving forward as keeping Tom Brady upright remains paramount to their success. Though his stock has taken a major hit, Roderick Johnson seems like an option that could make sense for New England.

Johnson’s struggles in his senior season have been widely noted and have rightfully seen him tumble down draft boards. That said, he’s still a player who boasts the length and size that you want from a potentially elite tackle prospect at the NFL. With the direction of the Patriots machine, Johnson would be in an ideal situation to develop in regards to his technique and consistency. As such, the Patriots get a solid asset if they stay at No. 32 here.

Oct 29, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at EverBank Field. Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


Quincy Wilson

CB, Florida

The third pick of the 2017 draft for the Browns and they’ve still yet to take a quarterback. Yet I stand by it all as they get their third potential stud on their defense in Quincy Wilson out of Florida. I think the hype-train for Wilson has gotten a bit out of control and his upside is far too limited for him to be a top-10 pick as some project. With that said, he has fantastic size and coverage abilities at the position that should see him play effectively right away. Regardless of what Joe Haden does, the Browns need to address their secondary and Wilson stands as the answer to that.


DeShone Kizer

QB, Notre Dame

Some places have DeShone Kizer going in the first round and, based on physical tools and upside, it’s not hard to see why. However, the red flags for him as a player (certainly not off the field) are too great for me to have him in the first round in good conscience. That said, the 49ers punted on quarterback at No. 2 and need to start looking for their future there. With a new regime coming in to work with a young player that displays the talents of Kizer, I think he’d be in a good position to develop and potentially succeed moving forward in San Francisco.


Caleb Brantley

DT, Florida

Caleb Brantley is a player that some people have circled as a potential first-rounder. While I think that’s a bit of a stretch, that doesn’t mean he’s not a highly effective defensive tackle, an area that the Jaguars need to address in terms of depth. Brantley’s ability to penetrate up the middle in any situation would pair well with Malik Jackson, who was ineffective in 2016 largely due to the overall ineptitude (and injuries) in the front seven. Brantley would be a great addition to a budding defense.


Marshon Lattimore

CB, Ohio State

After taking Watson in the first round to address their likely hole at quarterback with Cutler’s expected departure, the Bears turn their sights on the defense. They find a potential stud at cornerback there in Marshon Lattimore. As part of this deep class of corners, Lattimore truly feels like he could fall anywhere from the middle of the first round to the start of the second. He has great range and athleticism in coverage, though his technique and awareness need further developing. That said, his development could be swift and he could wind up being an elite player in Chicago.


Adam Bisnowaty

OT, Pittsburgh

Nothing about Adam Bisnowaty out of Pitt truly jumps off the page or even the film. However, what ultimately stands out is that he’s effective on the edge and one of the better players in a weak tackle class. Effective in both run and pass blocking situations, though elite in neither, the Los Angeles Rams need to both protect Jared Goff and help open up space for Todd Gurley. Bisnowaty can help them in both regards moving forward.


Budda Baker

FS, Washington

With the way that Budda Baker has finished his career with Washington, he’s on track to play his way into being a first-round pick. He remains on the fringe here, though, thus allowing the Chargers to get a fantastic player on the back-end that can be a real playmaker. Despite not having great size, Baker has tremendous range and playmaking ability as a coverage safety. Moreover, his lack of size doesn’t greatly impact his tackling ability, a fundamental player in that regard. San Diego needs him to continue to bulk up, but his upside is off the charts.


Christian McCaffrey

RB, Stanford

Simply because of the immense talents of Fournette and Cook in addition to depth at the position in this class, I have Christian McCaffrey slipping out of the first round. That winds up with the Jets getting a steal at No. 39. Matt Forte’s days as an every-down runner are clearly over and, despite what he showed at the end of 2016, the Jets have never shown enough faith in Bilal Powell. McCaffrey, however, is the smart and immensely versatile player that could be a weapon in New York’s backfield and in their special teams.


Carl Lawson

DE, Auburn

Carl Lawson has the talent and potential that could cause him to land in the first round. However, the depth of defensive ends and edge rushers limits the likelihood of that in my opinion. That’s great news for the Carolina Panthers, though, given their potential departures in the front-four and the need, regardless to address defensive end. Lawson needs to add a bit more size to better battle with his strength on the edge, but his burst and athleticism as a pass-rusher are undeniable. Some say he’s best suited as a 3-4 edge rusher, but he has value in the 4-3 front of Carolina.

Nov 19, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers guard Josh Boutte (76) and center Ethan Pocic (77) and quarterback Danny Etling (16) in action during the game against the Florida Gators at Tiger Stadium. The Gators defeat the Tigers 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


Ethan Pocic


2016 was immensely disappointing for the Cincinnati Bengals and they have a number of areas to address. However, their sneaky biggest weakness last season may have been their interior offensive line. Center is a must-have for this draft and they get the best at the position in Ethan Pocic. The LSU center made a living opening holes for both Fournette and Derrius Guice this season. Subsequently, it’d be foolish for the Bengals to not nab him in this position of the draft.


Gareon Conley

CB, Ohio State

In this deep class of cornerbacks in the 2017 NFL Draft, standing out is not easy given both the playmaking and flashy upside of some. Because of that, a pro-ready cornerback like Gareon Conley gets pushed down potentially more than he should. While his upside isn’t as great as his teammate in Lattimore, Conley is solid in every aspect of his position. For a Saints team needing to add that type of player in the secondary, not adding him there would be criminal.


Adoree Jackson


In terms of simple playmaking ability, there aren’t many prospects that offer what Adoree’ Jackson can. The USC product at his best is a freak athlete capable of covering any NFL wideout and even recovering if he makes a mistake with his coverage due to still-developing technique. Moreover, he’s always a threat to break loose as one of college football’s most dangerous returners. The Eagles need a cornerback with upside here and Jackson delivers that. I’m not sold on his abilities to contribute immediately as a shutdown cornerback, but the potential to develop as a No. 1 is there with the added bonus of his special teams value.


JuJu Smith-Schuster


At pick No. 44, the Bills might get the best value in this entire draft—in this mock at least. JuJu Smith-Schuster was once the top receiver in this draft, but has since seen others surpass him in that regard, clearly. However, the Bills desperately need depth at receiver both to complement Sammy Watkins and to step in behind the oft-injured wideout. The USC standout has the potential to do that and more as he has first-round talent.


Davis Webb

QB, Cal

There is a call from some people for the Cardinals to take a quarterback in the first round, which I find asinine. Obviously Carson Palmer isn’t their answer for the future at the position, but they have other needs that are more pressing than reaching in a weak quarterback class. However, taking a player like Davis Webb in the second round should be in play. The Cal quarterback has prototypical size and solid athletic traits to go with a live arm. He’s another player that will need to adjust to pro-style offense, but having him develop behind Palmer makes Arizona a great situation for him to land.


Dion Dawkins

OT, Temple

Finally the Minnesota Vikings get to take a look at their future and try to improve moving forward. Not having a first-round pick is quite detrimental (thanks, Sam Bradford) as this team has major holes to address moving forward. None are as pressing as their issues on the offensive line, though, which is why they go with Dion Dawkins here. At 6-5, 320 pounds, Dawkins has fantastic athleticism and solid technique at tackle. While he may not be a finished product and will need to adjust, the potential for him to help shore up the line in Minnesota is evident.


Dawuane Smoot

EDGE, Illinois

The stock of Dawuane Smoot has fluctuated tremendously throughout the season, but it feels like he’s ultimately settled into a groove as a mid-second-rounded. As the Ravens need youth and playmaking off of the edge moving forward, Smoot could be a tremendous asset. While his stats don’t jump off the page, his film does in the way that he can create disruption and set up teammates with the attention he demands. As part of a talented front seven in Baltimore, that seems like a perfect fit.


Forrest Lamp

OT, Western Kentucky

After addressing a major weakness on defense in the first round, the Colts need to look at investing in the protection of Andrew Luck. That’s where Forrest Lamp comes into play at tackle. The edges of the line are the biggest concern for Indy right now and Lamp has displayed the ability to come in right away and contribute. Don’t let the Western Kentucky below his name fool you; Lamp has the size, length, and technique to be a force at tackle that can keep Luck healthy and cleaner moving forward.

December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) tackles Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) in the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


Raekwon McMillan

ILB, Ohio State

Raekwon McMillan could wind up in the first round depending on what he does at the combine as he’s part of an increasingly deep-looking middle linebacker class. The Ohio State product has the physical tools to be a threat in coverage, but his primary strength is his recognition and playmaking against the run. Considering that’s exactly what the Redskins are looking for in this draft, taking him in this spot should be the move without thinking twice.


Jaleel Johnson

DT, Iowa

Jaleel Johnson might be the most undervalued prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Iowa defensive tackle has displayed tremendous power and disruptive abilities both against the pass and run this season. As the Buccaneers need to continue improving the defense after looking at the secondary in the first round of 2016’s draft, going to the middle of their front-four would be the wise move and taking a player of Johnson’s caliber winds up being tremendous value.


O.J. Howard

TE, Alabama

At his best, O.J. Howard is a gamebreaker at the tight end position. He put that on display a year ago as the Alabama product was a star in the national championship game. With that said, he’s been disappointing for much of 2016 and was again a relative non-factor against Washington in the Peach Bowl, including at least one horrendous drop. There’s major upside and the Broncos need to capitalize on that to give their young quarterbacks a threat at the position, but his value has taken a big hit.


Patrick Mahomes

QB, Texas Tech

Pick via Tennessee Titans

Finally the Browns take a quarterback and it’s the exact type of player that they should be looking at under Hue Jackson, Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech. If there are two things that define Mahomes’ career with the Red Raiders, it’s his elite accuracy as a passer and his mobility and playmaking in that regard. Both of those are things that Jackson values in his quarterbacks a great deal. While Mahomes will need to adjust from the air-raid Texas Tech offense to more pro-style sets, the tools that Jackson and the Browns are looking for are there. This ultimately goes down as a safe pick that doesn’t reek of desperation to fill the hole at quarterback.


Anthony Walker

ILB, Northwestern

Houston’s defense has been impressive in 2016, especially in J.J. Watt’s absence considering the role he plays. With that said, they are still lacking a bit in the middle of the field. Adding a player like Anthony Walker would be a great move for them in the draft. Walker needs to improve his coverage abilities, but has displayed a real ability to be a stopper against the run.


Jourdan Lewis

CB, Michigan

For quite a while, I’ve lauded Jourdan Lewis and the coverage abilities he’s displayed throughout his career at Michigan. While I maintain that his overall body of work is impressive, his Orange Bowl performance was anything but as Florida State burned him and Michigan with long passing plays on a number of occasions. That said, there is still massive potential in Lewis at the NFL level and the Lions need that type of player in their struggling secondary.


Ryan Anderson

EDGE, Alabama

If there’s one player that I struggle with the most in terms of evaluating, it’s Ryan Anderson out of Alabama. There’s no doubt that there is talent there, but it’s hard to tell how much of his production and disruption is based on his own merits and how much stems from the strength of the Crimson Tide defense. That said, the Packers are in need of depth with edge rusher and Anderson at No. 55 is too great of value to pass up, even with the difficulty in evaluation.


Quenton Nelson

OG, Notre Dame

With changes due to free agency coming to the Dolphins offensive line, Laremy Tunsil will likely make the transition to left tackle next season. That opens up a big hole at guard to open up the interior for Jay Ajayi. Enter Quenton Nelson, a player garnering a lot of buzz as draft season starts to kick into high gear. He has been tremendous in his two years as a starter and is a true force at the point of attack. Nelson has the size and has shown the performance a potential Pro Bowl guard.

Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Damien Harris (34) runs the ball ahead of Washington Huskies defensive lineman Vita Vea (50) during the first quarter in the 2016 CFP Semifinal at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports


Vita Vea

DT, Washington

Vita Vea is a player I have going much higher than most in this draft, but I stand firmly by it. If you need any further proof, just go watch the Peach Bowl again and see what Vea was able to do against the Alabama offensive line. He was creating pressure against the pass with his massive frame, showing great power and uncanny quickness for a player of his substantial stature (6-4, 332 pounds). While he would fit as a nose tackle naturally with his size, I think he has the versatility and traits to succeed in any role. While an offensive lineman is again in play for Seattle, I think they’d love to put Vea in the middle of their stout defense.


D’Onta Foreman

RB, Texas

No offense to Paul Perkins, but the Giants need to add a consistent ball-carrier to their rushing attack. Enter D’Onta Foreman, who put on a show for an otherwise disappointing Texas team this season. Foreman is a load and has talent that could see him sneak closer to the first round throughout the draft process. As for now, though, New York gets an answer to their running-game woes and a big, hard-nosed complement to the shifty Perkins.


Jake Butt

TE, Michigan

For my money, Jake Butt would’ve snuck into the first round had he not suffered a torn ACL in Michigan’s Orange Bowl loss. Alas, he did and now is in danger of his draft stock plummeting. However, I think a team like the Steelers will see too much value in him to let him slip by. Ladarius Green is not the long-term answer at tight end they’d hoped he’d be. Thus, they can continue to roll with a stop-gap while Butt goes through his recovery to start the 2017 season.


Jarron Jones

DT, Notre Dame

The emergence of Vic Beasley in 2016 gives the Falcons defense a premier edge-rusher moving forward, but they still need help up the middle in their front-seven. Jarron Jones out of Notre Dame could provide just that. He has great size and athletic versatility coupled with that size and is a consistent disruption against both the run and pass. While the Falcons would like to see his tackling numbers increase at the next level, there’s too much talent to pass up at No. 60.


Marcus Maye

S, Florida

Though most believe that re-signing Eric Berry should be a priority for the Chiefs, increasing their depth at safety this offseason is pivotal. Marcus Maye fits the mold as the type of player they’d love to add. In terms of his top-end, he has good range and solid athletic traits that make him a playmaker both dropping back and stepping up against the run. While he has made careless mistakes at Florida, the potential for him to be a steal late in the second round is there.


Cameron Sutton

CB, Tennessee

Unfortunately, we didn’t get too many looks at Cameron Sutton this season at Tennessee as an early-season injury kept him sidelined for much of the year. Based on what he showed in the previous season, though, that may just increase the value that a team will get in selecting. In this case, that’s the Raiders. Oakland needs to boost their depth at cornerback as, beyond the sometimes suspect Sean Smith and the workhorse David Amerson, they could use some help.


Dede Westbrook

WR, Oklahoma

Terrance Williams is set to hit free agency this offseason and there’s no word on if the Cowboys plan to re-sign him or look for his replacement. I believe it’ll be the latter and they find their guy in Dede Westbrook. While a different type of receiver, Westbrook has proven to be a playmaker with solid route-running and the ability to take the lids off of a defense. He’d be a tremendous complement to Dez Bryant and another great weapon for Dak Prescott to utilize.


David Njoku

TE, Miami

With another injury to Rob Gronkowski this season and Martellus Bennett entering free agency, it wouldn’t be a shock (in fact, it’d be wise) to have the Patriots targeting another tight end. David Njoku out of Miami has shown the ability to be a tremendous pass-catcher at the position with great size. While his blocking will require further development, he has the size and frame to develop in that regard.

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