As I previously stated, creating a mock draft before the combine is a pointless idea that will likely get you nowhere. Good thing I covered all the picks before then, right?
Now that the combine is almost over, we can look to the future and get a better feel of which players are going where. Teams and players start to meet, and we see how athletic some players are, which plays a big part in evaluation for some teams. Extra medical concerns can be found, and players can prove to not be as strong and agile as they may look on the field. After gathering a clearer view on things, we can move on and try to predict where players will be drafted. Here we can see how the first round might shake out, according to some of the news and things that have happened so far.
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
This is almost a guaranteed lock, although there has been some buzz that the Browns have looked into drafting Mitchell Trubisky first. Garrett is one of the best, if not THE best, edge rushers in the class, and he is a great choice for the Browns. They may be transitioning to a 4-3 defense next year, and placing Garrett on the edge across from Emmanuel Ogbah would be a great fit. Look for Garrett to be a great player in the league for at least the next five years, with more to come.
2. San Francisco 49ers – DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
While Kizer may not be QB1 to everybody, he apparently impressed new 49ers GM John Lynch. Kizer is a polarizing prospect who had a fantastic 2015 season followed by a year full of doubts, injury, and uncertainty. If he is fully healed and ready to go for training camp and the team is all-in on him, he could wind up being a superstar in the NFL. All of the quarterbacks will likely be in play for each team in the top 3, and San Francisco is the first to act on it here, hopefully securing the future for Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan.
3. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen, EDGE, Alabama
While Ryan Pace and co. could look to draft a quarterback here, they take the best player available in Jonathan Allen. While he played plenty of defensive line spots for the Crimson Tide, he projects as an edge rusher or 3-4 defensive end in the Windy City. Allen is almost a guaranteed great player in the future, and this addition to an already decent front seven may push them over the edge. If the Bears can trade for a quarterback this offseason, they should 100% be taking Allen here with the third pick.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
This is where things start to get interesting. There are a few places the Jaguars could go; defensive back, linebacker, or defensive line come to mind. Here they select Fournette, who could help the ground game in Jacksonville and possibly help Blake Bortles get back on track after a down year. If Jonathan Allen is gone at pick #3, and Dave Caldwell thinks it’s too much of a reach to choose one of the defensive backs here, then the selection of Fournette is the best choice. He is a generational talent and an impressive athlete that could have an “Ezekiel Elliott-lite” impact on the offense that struggled so much in 2016.
5. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles) – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The Titans are arguably in the best spot they can be. They have a set quarterback, and are just missing some small pieces to propel them into playoff contention, which they can do with their two first round picks. Their main area of need appears to be the secondary, and here they can shore it up with the selection of Lattimore. He may be one of the best defensive back prospects since Darrelle Revis, with great athleticism, ball skills, and the IQ that is required to be a shutdown corner. If Tennessee selects the former Buckeye, they may have a cornerstone to their secondary for years to come.
6. New York Jets – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Jets may have finally found a solution to their quarterback problem. Watson is arguably the best quarterback in this year’s draft, as his pedigree is unmatched in this class. People may knock him for his interceptions in 2016, but in reality the percentage of his turnovers to completed passes wasn’t that bad. I covered this on QB Mecca. Anyways, Watson is a bona fide college superstar that has skills that can translate to the pros, and he will end up being a very good quarterback, which is what New York needs if they keep their defense-first mentality. If Watson ends up in New York, the fans should be excited, even in the middle of a rebuild.
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Chargers’ secondary was in a decent place before injury struck, and now with the new season coming up, they can add another great piece to the team. After Eric Weddle left, the safety position suffered, but the addition of Adams would be a game changer. One of the best players in coverage in the draft, he can also lay the wood and be a very good run defender. The top of this draft has a couple of “cornerstone” guys, and San Diego could bring in one in Adams to join Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward in a strong secondary.
8. Carolina Panthers – Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU
The Panthers ideally would get a tackle, and trading down for one is certainly an option, but they would pass up on a great talent in Cook here. After breaking the Seminoles’ record for rushing yards, Cook moves on to the pros to bring his great skillset to a greater stage. He has a great combination of initial burst, speed, and agility to run all over defenders, and decent power to boot. The Panthers’ offensive line isn’t exactly a strength, but Cook can create his own yards, and is one of the best rushers out of the shotgun formation the Panthers often use, per Graham Barfield.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
The Bengals have one defensive end under 6-6, so it’s very clear the team likes length in its rushers. These DE’s also don’t have much talent. They can fix that with the selection of McDowell, who measured in at the combine at 6-6, 297 pounds, with an 87 inch wingspan. This is a massive man who can play every spot on the DL, which would benefit the Bengals’ defense in a major way. While Cincinnati may also need secondary and linebacker help, McDowell is the surest pick they can make here, and it allows them to focus on the rest of the their problems with a solid linebacker and cornerback class later on.
10. Buffalo Bills – Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
The Bills are considering cutting Tyrod Taylor, per Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, and I don’t think the front office is exactly sold on Cardale Jones being the future. Here they can choose a quarterback that has great upside in Mahomes. While people knock him for being from Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury’s “air raid” system, he has proven the ability to work through progressions and taking snaps from under center. These are two important things at the pro level that people believe aren’t a factor in air raid and spread systems. Mahomes has incredible arm talent and a “gunslinger”-esque mentality where he is not afraid to throw it, and throw it hard. He could be the best quarterback in this class, and pairing him with a great running back in Lesean McCoy and a top-tier receiver in Sammy Watkins wouldn’t be a bad idea.
11. New Orleans Saints – Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
This is likely a pick you will see often, as the Saints need defensive line help and Thomas would be a great fit. A trio of Thomas, Sheldon Rankins, and Thomas would be incredibly athletic and talented, and it would benefit Thomas, who may need some time to refine his technique and add some strength. He can get blocked out of plays at times, especially when double teamed, but when he’s on his game he is virtually unstoppable. Even if he is not able to collect gaudy stat numbers for New Orleans, it would likely benefit Rankins and Jordan in a major way.
12. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia) – Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
The Browns are considering Trubisky at #1 overall, but here they fall into a dream scenario in which they are getting the top talent and the QB they covet in the first round. Trubisky is a one-year starter that impressed in the games he played, but there are still some questions about his mechanics and the traits that will translate. He looked good in combine drills, but throwing against air is completely different. I think Trubisky will do well in the NFL after working with a coach like Hue Jackson, who made Andy Dalton a playoff quarterback, and a front office that understands how to build a team.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Here the Cardinals miss out on scoring their quarterback of the future in the first round, but they find insurance at another position. While they have an all-time receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, 2017 is likely his last season, and John Brown is not a “number one”-type receiver. Here they can select a future one in Mike Williams, who starred playing with Deshaun Watson at Clemson. He is a big-bodied receiver that is able to compete for jump balls and play extremely physically. While he didn’t have a great vertical jump or 40 yard dash number at the combine, the numbers aren’t as important as the actual playing style and game tape of his, and he stands out on the field. When Fitzgerald moves on, he can take over as the primary target, no matter who is throwing to him.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota) – Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
The Eagles’ main need is receiver, but after news that they could be in on Alshon Jeffrey, they could save that need for the later rounds and get a stud cornerback here in Jones. He starred at the University of Washington, being a key part in a defense that led the Huskies to be the 4th best team in college football this year. He has the traits teams covet in a number one corner, with great length, press ability, and ball skills, along with great mental toughness and confidence. Jones is a great fit for an Eagles team that is lacking in secondary talent aside from Malcolm Jenkins.
15. Indianapolis Colts – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Colts’ defense has been atrocious in recent years, and the selection of Hooker will really benefit the team. A standout defender for the Buckeyes in 2016, he is a great athlete and has the body type that teams want in a safety prospect. His ball skills are impressive, as he collected 7 interceptions in his one season starting, and he is a quick player that could lead a defensive secondary. The Colts should move on from 35 year old Mike Adams and admit they whiffed on the second round selection of TJ Green in 2016, and select Hooker here to become the star of their defense.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Ravens have a few key pieces that are departing or may leave the team this year, such as Steve Smith, Brandon Williams, and Zach Orr. Here they can upgrade the offense with the selection of Davis, who was a superstar at Western Michigan. He has great size and decent speed for the position, and his ability to move with the ball in his hands and collect yards after the catch is extremely impressive. Davis is almost a guaranteed lock to become a star perimeter receiver in the NFL, and he gets paired with a decent (not elite) quarterback in Joe Flacco who specializes in the deep ball.
17. Washington Redskins – John Ross III, WR, Washington
Desean Jackson might be leaving, but here they can get an even better Long Beach receiver with Ross. You likely know him from breaking the combine’s 40 yard dash record formerly held by Chris Johnson, and now holds the title with a 4.22 timing. Ross is a speedster who also has very refined technique in his routes and setup. One of his highlights in 2016 was breaking the ankles on USC cornerback Adoree Jackson, who is another speedy player that will be a good prospect in the draft. Ross is a great player, but his medical checks will need to be thoroughly vetted by the team before they make this selection: he has had two torn ACLs, and he will have shoulder surgery on March 14. If his history checks out, Ross will be a steal for the Redskins, who will be facing decent turnover at the wide receiver position.
18. Tennessee Titans – Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Ideally the Titans get a receiver in the first round to do big things for them in 2017, but they miss out on the top three, and behind them are some uncertain prospects. Here they can improve the defense even further by selecting Cunningham, who was a star at Vanderbilt. He can play both the inside and outside linebacker positions, and likely projects inside for Tennessee. The team could use Cunningham to replace an aging Wesley Woodyard, or keep him as an insurance policy behind the top two linebackers and outside guys in Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo. The former Commodore will be a very good linebacker in the league, and the Titans make a great pick here.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Budda Baker, S, Washington
The Buccaneers were on the precipice of playoff contention in 2016, and they are just a few pieces away from becoming a legitimate contender, similar to the Titans. They choose to upgrade the defense here, and select a safety that can be a star despite being considered undersized. Baker was another star at Washington, and he has great athleticism, tackling ability, and range to lead a defense. He would be an immediate upgrade over Brad McDougald, and the team would likely see improvements with Baker in the backfield. Two years removed from holding the first overall pick, the Bucs are primed to contend in the league, and this pick might help them get over the hump and find themselves in the hunt in January.
20. Denver Broncos – Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
The Broncos were expected to underwhelm in 2016 after losing Peyton Manning, but the real issue they had was their offensive line. Trevor Siemian performed admirably for a former seventh round pick in his second year, but the players around him were below average. Here the team can move on from one of Russell Okung or Donald Stephenson, and replace them with a great tackle in Utah’s Garrett Bolles. He played with a real mean streak, and wants to be “a nasty prick” on the field. This is the mentality teams love to see in linemen, and Bolles’ play shows he has it, locking down rushers like Takkarist McKinley for most of the game. Bolles would be a great fit for the Broncos, who want to keep the competitive pace they’ve held for many years.
21. Detroit Lions – Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan
A short run on tackles here with the Lions taking a hometown player, so to speak. Moton was the best right tackle in college football last season, and he would make perfect sense to replace the impending free agent Riley Reiff. The team suffered a first round exit in the playoffs this year, and this pick doesn’t necessarily improve the team, but it would allow the team to continue their pace and propel themselves further if everything goes right for them. An edge rusher could be in play, but they can’t pass up finding a great young tackle in Moton.
22. Miami Dolphins – Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
The Dolphins’ experiment with Mario Williams was a failure in 2016, and they need to find someone who can play across from Cameron Wake in his twilight years. They score a great edge rusher in Barnett here, who people have had some concerns about in terms of “bend” and pass rushing ability. I believe that Barnett isn’t a top 10 talent, but he’s a very good rusher already that could improve with time and is certainly worth a first round pick. He has some pretty impressive skills already, and can hold his own in the run game, according to Justis Mosqueda.
Barnett will be a very good edge player in the NFL, and here he scores a very good defensive line to play with from the jump.
23. New York Giants – OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
The Giants are seemingly ignoring their “Ereck Flowers” problem at left tackle, so here they can improve their tight end position with the best prospect in a few years. Howard was limited in his use at Alabama, but when he was targeted he was a highlight player. He’s more than capable as a run blocker, and his receiving ability is probably the second best in the whole tight end class. Everyone around the NFL loves him, and he would be a great weapon to give Eli Manning and the future Giants quarterback (we’ll discuss that later). Upgrading the position makes this a fantastic offense in terms of talent, and you should expect to see them around this same spot next year after another playoff run.
24. Oakland Raiders – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
The Raiders were poised to compete for the Super Bowl last season, but it fell apart at the end due to a broken leg for star quarterback Derek Carr. Now in an important offseason, they are losing their lead running back in Latavius Murray, who could possibly come back but could still be upgraded. Christian McCaffrey has starred at Stanford in his time there, being one of the most productive players ever in terms of yards from scrimmage. He is a strong rusher, a great receiver, and his ability in the return game is an added bonus to his already good skillset. He is the best running back in short areas in this draft, and he would be a very good fit for the Raiders. McCaffrey may be labeled as a slot receiver in the pros, but that’s because he’s white. In reality he’s a great running back that has added value in the passing game, and many teams will salivate over his abilities.
25. Houston Texans – David Njoku, TE, Miami (FL)
Brock Osweiler is the biggest obstacle facing the Texans as they fight for a Super Bowl title. They made it to the divisional round without JJ Watt and with Osweiler at quarterback, so they deserve plenty of credit for that. With Watt coming back, their real issue remains at the helm of the offense, and they miss out on the top four guys here. Fortunately they can upgrade another position that Osweiler won’t be able to throw to. David Njoku was a fast riser on draft boards, and he was a star at Miami with Brad Kaaya. He is crazy athletic and strong, and it shows on the field. Njoku would be an immediate upgrade over Ryan Griffin and CJ Fiedorowicz, and make the Texans’ passing game that much more lethal. They might also look to upgrade the safety position or find a future offensive tackle, but this is the best pick they can make here.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
It’s not a secret at all that the Seahawks need offensive linemen. Their line was easily the worst in the NFL, and it was clear in the play of Russell Wilson and the stable of running backs they have. When they have even a league-average OL, they can do great things. Here they take Forrest Lamp, who is easily the most athletic linemen of all in this class. It seems as though Seattle values athleticism over talent at those positions, and Lamp has a good balance of both. While it remains to be seen whether he is a better fit at the tackle or guard spot, he shined as a tackle at Western Kentucky, and could play either position at the next level. The Seahawks would really be smart to invest at least three picks into the offensive line in the draft, and also look hard in free agency to find fits.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
The Chiefs recently cut their leading rusher Jamaal Charles. They will need to look to find a replacement for his ability that has been gone for some time, and they find a great fit here with Kamara. While he was playing behind star running back Jalen Hurd as a Volunteer, Kamara’s draft slot is based largely on projection and the skills he showed that could be there in the pros. He was a great change of pace back that could catch balls well out of the backfield, and had decent running ability. While he may have to fight for the lead role in Kansas City, I would have faith in him beating out Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware in due time.
28. Dallas Cowboys – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys are in a very good place with their team, with a star receiver locked up and young studs at the running back and quarterback positions. Two main focuses they should have are the secondary receivers and the defensive backs. They can’t find a #2 receiver here, but they can get a great corner here in Humphrey. A former track star, he is a great athlete that could possibly be a lighter version of Byron Jones. Humphrey has impressive coverage ability and could end up being a number one corner that can lead a defense. The Cowboys need to find some youth to infuse into their secondary, and this is one of the best picks that they can make here.
29. Green Bay Packers – Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
Ladarius Gunter shouldn’t be your primary cornerback in any situation ever. This was a major problem for the Packers when they made it to the NFC Championship game, as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones eviscerated them for an embarrassing game. The Packers also lose Sam Shields, who has a problem with injuries and marijuana. They can get a stud corner here with Tabor, who was the leader of the Florida Gators’ secondary after the departure of Vernon Hargreaves. Tabor is a physical corner that can win at any level of the field, and is a decent run defender. He would be a great selection for Green Bay if Sidney Jones and Humphrey are both gone.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
The Steelers don’t have as many holes as they used to, with their defense and secondary seemingly on an upswing after the addition of some young talent. One position they could really use help at is the tight end spot. The team tried to rely on Ladarius Green, but he has had way too many concussions and could be cut in the near future. That leaves Jesse James, a capable second target, and Xavier Grimble, who is best as a reserve. Evan Engram hasn’t gotten a lot of first round hype, but he is a great tight end that the Steelers could use. While he may look a little small, coming in under 250 pounds, he is an extremely physical player and his run blocking flashes extremely impressive ability at times. As a receiver, he is the best tight end in the class, and he has massive talent at a position that is becoming more and more prominent in the passing game. Giving Ben Roethlisberger a new talent like this towards the end of his career would be a smart decision, and Engram would be a great fit for the Steelers.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn
The Falcons and their fans are probably still hurting from their epic Super Bowl LI loss, but this is the last time I will mention it for them. The team has a bevy of young talent at plenty positions, and the defense is certainly a great one. A few things that they are lacking are good offensive guards, an interior defensive line presence, and an edge rusher across from Vic Beasley. Carl Lawson is a great fit to work across from the former Clemson star, and he would be put in a great position to succeed. Lawson is a great athlete, and he has the pass rushing techniques that will be perfect for the NFL game. In another draft class, he would certainly be farther up the board. Here he fits in perfectly for the Falcons, where Dan Quinn would be able to make him a star.
32. New England Patriots – Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
The Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots are in an offseason where they are in danger of losing quite a bit of talent. While they have the chance to resign most of those players, there are also positions that can be upgraded, such as edge rusher and running back. Here they bring in one of the best edge rushers in the class with McKinley. Although he possesses great talent and may be one of the top defenders in the class, he is going through shoulder surgery and will be out for an extended period of time. Regardless, McKinley is a great fit for New England, who likes to move their defensive ends to the interior at times, and aren’t always asked to win outside. “Takk” is a player that can fill this role with Trey Flowers, and he would be an upgrade over Chris Long, who became more of a third down-only pass rusher than a full time defender. If the Patriots are willing to wait it out through his injury, Takk McKinley would be a perfect fit for the team.