Mid-Season Mock Draft: NFL 1st Round Projections
Time for our first Mock Draft of the season, and while it is very early to be talking about which future rookies may or may not dawn your favorite teams’ jersey next season, it’s still fun.
Mock drafts have a way of inciting anger, excitement, jealousy and can spark more than a few debates.
Currently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in position to select 8th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft after a 3-5 first half has them sandwiched between the Carolina Panthers at 7th-Overall and the Arizona Cardinals at 9th.
Now, had I told you the Bucs were going to be positioned between these two teams in the pre-season every fan would have praised me or called me crazy for how good Dirk Koetter’s crew must be doing.
Instead, it’s just as crazy because of how far the two NFC Championship contenders have fallen.
There are plenty of mock drafts to come in 2017, but we’re going to take a look at some
possibilities here in 2016 as we hit the half-way point of the regular season.
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
Laremy Tunsil was the consensus top pick heading into the 2016 NFL Draft for everyday leading up to the Titans trade out of the #1-Spot.
Now, other things contributed to the Ole Miss offensive tackle’s drop in the first-round, but why hash up old news?
Myles Garrett is the consensus top pick as of right now, and every NFL team in need of a pass rush will certainly be looking at the true junior as he’s expected to make the jump after this season.
Hampering his ability to solidify his billing as the best prospect coming out of college football is a nagging leg injury and extra attention due to the fact every coach in the NCAA knows he’s coming.
With just four sacks to this point in the year his numbers are certainly being impacted by these factors, and time will tell if he can maintain his grip on his draft stock.
Cleveland Browns fans seem destined to a fate of arguing about whether or not the team needs to draft a “franchise” quarterback with the first pick.
I had many a fun interactions with such fans leading up to the draft earlier this year, and look forward to more, but right now Garrett is the pick to try and give Hue Jackson some front-line control.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Jonathan Allen, DE/LB, Alabama
At this point what doesn’t San Francisco need to get in the draft?
Defense wins championships and this team needs help immediately. The 49ers are one of just six NFL teams with less than 15 sacks and have the only defense to have allowed over 1,500 yards rushing half way through the year.
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Jonathan Allen is my favorite defensive lineman at this point and gives the 49ers some serious versatility as he can lineup anywhere on their defensive front and can even come in as a linebacker in specific situations.
With seven sacks nine games into his final season at Alabama, Allen is projected to surpass his impressive 12 sack, 14.5 tackles for loss stat line from 2015.
DeForest Buckner has been a solid addition to this defense, but he can’t do it alone. Bringing in a running mate to play beside him who can not only make his own plays, but help take away attention from the 2016 seventh overall selection.
As I said before, there are plenty of places Chip Kelly needs to get talent to fill in his roster, so it’ll be interesting to see just which direction San Francisco goes with their pick.
This will be a domino pick as it will significantly impact the draft strategies of every team behind them.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
Defensive back may not be the biggest need for the Jaguars at the moment, but there aren’t any offensive linemen who look like a Top-5 worthy pick.
While Gus Bradley’s secondary may not be the worst part of this disappointing team, they aren’t exactly perfect either.
There are some talented names later in the draft for the team to address areas of need like the offensive line, and perhaps it’s time this franchise brings in a third-round quarterback selection to put some pressure on Blake Bortles.
Meanwhile, Peppers and his 16.5 career tackles for a loss with the last part of his junior season still left to be seen will come in to Duval County and put one more piece in place for a defense on the rise.
Whether Jacksonville uses the Michigan playmaker in coverage, run support, or even on offense this football player is just that in every way.
Taking the top talent in the draft is not always an option for any NFL franchise, and the Jaguars will take advantage of their good fortune here.
4. Chicago Bears – DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
The Jay Cutler ended a while ago in Chicago, the Bears just haven’t realized it just yet.
DeShone Kizer has the prototypical size you want in any NFL quarterback, the mobility Carson Wentz wished he had and the pocket presence most mobile QBs never find.
It’s important not to look at his teams total body of work as franchises draft quarterbacks. You’re not drafting the team, you’re getting the player.
This player looks to have all the tools needed to lead a franchise into their future and with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery certainly losing patience in the “Windy City” it’s time to give their franchise receiver a reason to believe in his future with the Bears.
Jordan Howard’s rise as the running back to beat in Chicago will give Kizer some weapons around him to help take the pressure off, and if need be I’m sure Brian Hoyer would be willing to take some early snaps as they wait for Kizer to fully mature.
Bears fans are a passionate and loyal crowd, and once the Notre Dame quarterback shows them he can carry their aspirations to win, he’ll be engrained into Chicago sports lore. For now, John Fox and his coaching staff are just looking for a guy who can execute their gameplan.
5. New York Jets – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
So, the Jets need a quarterback. I seem to remember writing similar words leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft.
Here we are again however, and the AFC franchise in New York City is in a familiar position with no answer in sight.
Whether it be Mark Sanchez, Brett Favre, Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick it seems this franchise finds a quarterback of the short or long-term future just to see him disintegrate right in front of their very eyes.
While Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson will certainly be intriguing options here, I think this team is going to take a long look at this year’s second-round draft pick Christian Hackenberg before pulling the trigger on a first-round quarterback.
Leonard Fournette answers a question for this team as well as they have to address who eventually replaces Matt Forte less than a year after they signed him.
Thankfully, much of the Bilal Powell franchise running back noise has disappeared and now we can get to reality.
What worries me about Fournette is his running style and injury history at the college level.
A year behind Forte will give him a chance to grow a bit more, learn from one of the best and hopefully learn to run aggressive without recklessly sacrificing his health at the same time.
6. Tennessee Titans (From Los Angeles) – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Behind the signing of DeMarco Murray, development of existing talent and some good old fashioned coaching, the Tennessee Titans have gone from a team with the first overall pick in the draft to a 4-5 record within reach of a division title with seven games remaining.
Not bad for a year’s difference. Adding to this good fortune is the added benefit of having what seems destined to be a Top-10 pick via their trade with the Los Angeles Rams who then selected franchise backup Jared Goff.
Rookie wide receiver Tajae Sharpe has shown some good potential, but he’s a long way from being a number-one receiver in the NFL.
Rishard Matthews has been a nice addition to the Titans offense and is on pace to have a career year, but his career numbers aren’t exactly ballooning at the moment.
Mike Williams has the talent to come in and make an immediate impact with Marcus Mariota and should help quell injury concerns with his 50+ catches for the Clemson Tigers this season.
Tennessee has the looks of a team who is one good off-season away from being a relevant challenger in the AFC, and drafting Williams is a good piece to add in the draft as they look to make the leap in 2017.
7. Carolina Panthers – Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Who better to protect Cam Newton than Cam Robinson?
I have to admit I’m rather surprised Mike Remmers is still employed by the Panthers, but I don’t think it’s going to last much longer.
This team needs to address the running back position for a long-term solution, but Stewart can give them a couple more good years before they really need to replace him.
Fans of the team will probably be screaming for Dalvin Cook here, but if Newton is going to continue to stand tall in the pocket looking for targets then they need to give him a line capable of giving him the time to do so.
If not, he’s going to continue running and continue to take the shots he’s been taking this season.
There’s a big target on Carolina’s franchise quarterback so they need to add strength up front to keep him from getting annihilated week in and week out.
While the types of hits he’s taken are being publicized very often, what isn’t is the fact he’s been hit 52 times this season as a quarterback. What I mean by this is this number doesn’t count the hits he’s taking when he becomes a ball carrier.
The Panthers offensive line has also allowed their quarterbacks to get sacked 21 times this year, ranking them 8th worst in the NFL.
In Newton’s MVP 2015 season he was sacked just 33-times all season or almost ten times fewer than this line is on pace to surrender currently.
Drafting help up front isn’t only smart, it’s needed, if this team hopes to return to Super Bowl contention.
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Jamal Adams has five interceptions over the past two seasons for LSU in just 20 games.
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Granted Adams is facing college quarterbacks which range from rec league talent to future NFL Hall of Famer, but you get the point.
Now it’s entirely possible Adams doesn’t leave school just yet as he is just a junior, but I don’t think anyone expects him not to declare at the end of this year, and if he didn’t I for one would be completely surprised.
The Bucs secondary has been missing playmakers for a while now, but the last two-years has reached an all-time low.
The only consistently good defender from 2015 was Sterling Moore who was allowed to walk and now sits on the Saints’ roster waiting for his chance to come back and face his former mates a little while later.
VHIII looks to be the closest thing this secondary has to a real playmaker, but he’s a rookie and needs to get some more experience under his belt.
Almost nothing was done to improve the safety position and it’s been the Achilles heel of this unit all year long.
Chris Conte is a liability and Bradley McDougald is a situational player right now with some upside, but currently isn’t much more than a filler at his position.
McDougald and Adams isn’t the best safety duo in the NFL, but it’d be a large upgrade over what the Buccaneers have currently.
9. Arizona Cardinals – Mike Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Mitch Trubisky wasn’t a pre-season name being tossed around as a high first-round pick, but his 70% completion rate and 3,000 yards has certainly opened some eyes.
Another junior, it’s going to be interesting to see how he closes out the year and even more critical for him to have a good showing in a bowl game.
Trubisky burst onto the scene with three straight 400+ yard performances coming against James Madison, Pittsburgh and then on the road against Florida State.
In the same three game period he threw for 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. In fact, he didn’t throw his first pick until mid-October against Virginia Tech.
The Tarheel’s quarterback has only thrown four interceptions this season, but they came in two games where he threw a pair of them in each. Both games ended in a loss for North Carolina, so much will be discussed about his ability to overcome mistakes and bounce back from them.
As developmental quarterbacks go, there may not be a better one entering the draft if he does what we all expect, and the Cardinals would be wise to snag him here at pick nine.
10. Cincinnati Bengals – Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
For the second straight year the second-best defensive back in the draft is coming out of Florida.
This year his name is Quincy Wilson.
The 6’1” junior cornerback has continued the great secondary play Vernon Hargreaves III put on display in his time as a Gator, and at the end of the year should be a serious contender to be the next defensive back off the board after Jabrill Peppers.
With three interceptions this year alone he’s already surpassed his career numbers in the category and even took one back to the house this season.
For the Bengals, just about all of the bite has been removed from a team which was a few bad defensive plays from advancing in the playoffs last year.
If Cincinnati’s defense is going to reclaim their swagger they need to get a player in their secondary who has an eye for the ball and athleticism to do something with it when he has it.
An argument can be made this team’s issues stem from a lack of pass rush, and I certainly wouldn’t disagree that they need to make strides in the area.
However, if you’re looking for early impact, Wilson can make it. The Bengals should draft the cornerback of their future here and look for a pass rushed to hurry quarterbacks into easy picks for him in later rounds.
11. Tennessee Titans – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
With the Titans getting Marcus Mariota a wide receiver to throw to earlier in the first-round, now it’s time to stop other quarterbacks from throwing on their defense.
Marlon Humphrey is arguably the best cornerback in the draft and no slouch as a consolation prize for Tennessee taking the third defensive back on the board.
12. Indianapolis Colts – Rueben Foster, ILB, Alabama
The Colts passed on Reggie Ragland in the 2016 Draft, but they need to pick up this year’s inside linebacker from Alabama in Rueben Foster.
How long can this team ignore their defensive issues? Hopefully, not longer than it takes to make this pick.
13. Buffalo Bills – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The first Buckeye off the board goes to Buffalo who spent most of their draft in 2016 getting better in the front end of their defense.
This year they’ll look to secure the back-end and give Tyrod Taylor some time and options of offense.
14. San Diego Chargers – Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
Defensive tackle isn’t the Chargers’ biggest need, but McDowell is the best player available here and certainly doesn’t hurt their chances.
McDowell and Bosa will form a very disruptive tandem which can help the Chargers defense stay relevant in the AFC West.
*15. Miami Dolphins – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Dolphins have to realize now that Ryan Tannehill isn’t the quarterback they hoped he’d be right?
Deshaun Watson is a leader and just what Miami needs, especially if Jay Ajayi is the real deal.
16. Cleveland Browns (From Philadelphia) – Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
The second Florida defensive back off the board is the more troubled of the two, but potentially the more talented as well.
Hue Jackson is no stranger to unique personalities on his defense, and can bring Tabor in successfully to bookend with Joe Haden.
17. Green Bay Packers – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Eddie Lacy’s days as the starting running back are numbered, and the clock starts ticking even faster once this card is turned in.
Dalvin Cook is a close second for the best running back in this draft, but slides down due to a focus on passing and pass defense. Cheese-heads celebrate.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers – Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
The Steelers need to secure some young linebacker talent and Cunningham is the best available at this point in the draft.
Zach Cunningham gives Pittsburgh some cap flexibility as they’ll lose at least one starting linebacker to free-agency.
19. New Orleans Saints – Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
The Saints can go just about anywhere here, but their defense needs the most help.
A legitimate pass rusher will help everyone behind him, and Derek Barnett should pair up with Sheldon Rankins nicely.
20. Detroit Lions – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Another young man who is a TBD as he isn’t a lock to come out quite yet. Marshon Lattimore is just one of the talented defensive backs residing in Columbus, OH currently.
The Lions need to build a pass defense, and Lattimore can be a key piece.
21. Washington Redskins – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The offensive line talent coming out this year pales in comparison to the 2016 class.
Ryan Ramczyk is the only offensive tackle outside of Cam Robinson sniffing the first round, and the Redskins should draft him here.
22. Denver Broncos – Tim Williams, EDGE, Alabama
The Broncos defense hasn’t looked as solid as it did a year ago, and linebacker play has been a big part of it.
The front line also needs reinforcement, and Tim Williams can help both.
23. New York Giants – Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
Drafting Carl Lawson won’t immediately eat up the gap in production, but he’ll do just fine as a long-term replacement.
*24. Kansas City Chiefs – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
Jeremy Maclin simply hasn’t panned out in Kansas City, but some of their younger options seem to have decent potential.
JuJu Smith-Schuster could be their future top-receiver, and the Chiefs should add a quarterback later to work with him as well.
25. Baltimore Ravens – Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
With nine sacks so far this year and 16.5 tackles for a loss, Takkarist McKinley could be the future for Baltimore once Terrell Suggs calls it a career.
In the meantime, he’ll provide some valuable depth and may get snaps at other areas of the field as well.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (From Minnesota) – Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
The Eagles defense looked decent in the early part of the season, but have gotten exposed a bit lately.
Adding Gareon Conley from Ohio State to their stable of cornerbacks gives them some talent to groom for the future.
27. Houston Texans – Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
Last year the Texans focused heavily on the offense early in the draft. This year, they need to address the defense a bit.
Raekwon McMillan gives them a linebacker who can play anywhere on the field.
28. Seattle Seahawks – Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
Solomon Thomas can play inside or outside on the defensive line when called upon to do either.
Adding another Stanford alum to the Seahawks defense could be the smartest move they could make in the early part of the draft.
29. Atlanta Falcons – Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
The Falcons need someone to secure wide receivers other than Desmond Trufant.
Sidney Jones may not be the premier defensive back in this draft, but he’s an upgrade to what Atlanta has currently.
30. Oakland Raiders – Pat Elflein, OL, Ohio State
Pat Elflein is better suited as a guard, and the Raiders can insert him next to Kelechi Osemele who can then shift over to tackle.
Protecting Derek Carr and opening lanes for Latavious Murray are key to the Oakland offense. This draft pick lets them do both.
31. Dallas Cowboys – DeMarcus Walker, DL, Florida State
Many thought the Cowboys would address their defensive line problems early in the 2016 NFL Draft, but they didn’t.
While they’re certainly happy with Ezekiel Elliott, they need a D-Lineman and DeMarcus Walker is the best available here.
32. New England Patriots – Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
All Jarrad Davis does is his job.
All the Patriots need is a linebacker who does his job. They draft one here.
There’s our early look at the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Many games are left to play and the draft order is far from set as we enter the second half of the NFL season.
While it’s always fun to take a look to the future and see what guys are playing on Saturdays and may help your favorite team on Sundays, a lot of things will happen between now and Spring of next year.
What do you think of the name I drafted to your favorite team? Do you desire a different player, or maybe think the need isn’t one your franchise actually needs?
Leave your comments or hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you think of this first, and very early, mock draft.