2017 NFL Mock Draft

  1. Cleveland Browns – QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)

The Browns are trying Robert Griffin at quarterback this season, their 25th different starting quarterback since the franchise returned to the NFL in 1999. It might not be Robert Griffin’s fault if they’re in this position, picking #1 overall, as he has next to no help on either side of the football, but the Browns would probably have a hard time passing on someone who could fix their quarterback issues for the next 10 years if they got the top pick. They would be the 15th team in the last 20 years to draft a quarterback #1 overall.

  1. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams) – OLB Myles Garrett (Texas A&M)

The Rams moved up from 15 to 1 last year to select a quarterback, even though there wasn’t a marquee quarterback prospect in the 2016 draft class like Watson. The Rams gave up the 15th pick, a pair of 2nd round picks, their 3rd round pick, and a 2017 1st and 3rd round pick to move up to #1 to select California’s Jared Goff. So far, the plan seems like one that’s going to backfire. Goff looked horrible this pre-season and is not expected to open the year as the starter. That means the Rams could easily be one of the worst teams in the league this season, after several off-season losses, no real off-season additions, and very few other draft picks with which to add young talent. If that happens, their high pick would go straight to the Titans, who are picking in the top-2 for the 3rd straight year in this scenario.

Another trade down makes sense because Garrett is the top defensive player in the draft class, but doesn’t fill an obvious need for a Tennessee team that already has Derrick Morgan, Brian Orakpo, and Kevin Dodd, while teams will also likely want to move ahead of San Francisco for quarterback Brad Kaaya. I’m not projecting trades 8 months out because I’m not that crazy, but this seems like an obvious spot for the Titans to move down. If they stay put, they might not have a choice but to take Jarrett, as none of the other top players available fit their biggest needs. They’d figure out a way to get all of their pass rushers on the field in sub packages.

  1. San Francisco 49ers – QB Brad Kaaya (Miami)

The 49ers are the reason teams would want to move up to 2 to grab a quarterback. The 49ers could also just move up one spot themselves to ensure they get a quarterback. By the 2017 NFL Draft, Colin Kaepernick is not likely to still be a member of the San Francisco 49ers, while Blaine Gabbert is unlikely to play well enough to keep the starting job long-term. After being leapfrogged by both the Rams and Eagles for quarterbacks in 2016, the 49ers get their guy here in 2017. It’s a long rebuild for the 49ers, but having a promising young quarterback in place makes everything easier because free agents are more willing to play for teams that have their quarterback situation figured out. The 49ers enter the 2016 season with 45 million in extra cap space after not being able to convince anyone of note to play for them this off-season.

  1. Atlanta Falcons – DT Malik McDowell (Michigan State)

If the Falcons are this bad in 2017, they’d probably be targeting Myles Jarrett in a trade up, but they have to settle for the draft class’ 2nd ranked defensive lineman here at 4. Jarrett might fill a more obvious need as a second edge rusher in sub packages opposite 2014 1st round pick Vic Beasley, but McDowell would instantly be their best defensive tackle. Both Tyson Jackson and Jonathan Babineaux are washed up veterans, 2014 2nd round pick Ra’Shede Hageman has shown nothing in two years in the league, and Grady Jarrett was just a 5th round in 2015 and is still unproven.

  1. Miami Dolphins – RB Leonard Fournette (LSU)

The Dolphins added a running back in the 3rd round this year, taking Alabama’s Kenyan Drake. However, he’s expected to open his rookie year as the 3rd running back behind veteran starter Arian Foster and second year player Jay Ajayi. He won’t prevent the Dolphins from taking a running back like Fournette early in 2017. Foster is only on a one-year deal and would be going into his age 31 season, with a serious injury history, next off-season. He may only spend one year as the starting running back in Miami. Neither Drake nor Ajayi look like future starters either. Fournette is the early Heisman favorite and one of the best running back prospects of the decade.

  1. Chicago Bears – OT Cam Robinson (Alabama)

The Bears added at right tackle this off-season, bringing in ex-Cardinal Bobby Massie to start, which allowed them to move Kyle Long back to his natural position of right guard. However, they still have major issues on the left side, where Charles Leno is being given another chance to start in 2016. Leno was horrible in 2015 and is unlikely to be better this season, but the Bears seem to believe in him. It’s unclear how much they’ll believe in him in a year if he struggles again though, so the Bears using a top pick on a left tackle is definitely not out of the question, especially if they can get the best one in the draft class.

  1. New Orleans Saints – CB Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)

The Saints have a 2-3 year rebuild ahead of them on defense, so they’ll probably be looking at defensive players in the first round of the draft again in 2017, after taking Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins at 12 in 2016. This time around, they take the top cornerback in the draft class, to give them a long-term option opposite the promising Delvin Breaux. 2015 3rd round pick PJ Williams will start opposite Breaux in 2016, after missing his entire rookie year with injury, while washed up veteran Cortland Finnegan figures to man the slot. Unless Williams surprises, cornerback will be a need for the Saints next off-season.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – S Jabrill Peppers (Michigan)

The Buccaneers went with a cornerback in the first round in 2016, filling a major need there. However, they still have problems at safety, where mediocre veterans Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald start. Conte is actually coming off of a solid 2015, but neither one of them are very good and both are free agents next off-season. That gives the Buccaneers an opportunity to upgrade and they’re picking in the top-10 in a draft with a pair of talented safety prospects. They grab one of them here.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – S Jamal Adams (LSU)

Adams is the other top safety prospect. He’ll fill a need for a Jacksonville team that still needs to add to their defense. John Cyprien and Tashaun Gipson are their starting safeties are both are coming off of bad 2015 seasons. Gipson was better in 2014 and signed to a big contract, so he’ll probably be around for more than a year, even if he struggles in 2016, but Cyprien is going into the final year of his rookie deal and running out of chances. If he doesn’t turn it around in 2016, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they let him go and replaced him with a top safety prospect.

  1. New York Jets – OLB Tim Williams (Alabama)

The Jets have the best trio of 3-4 defensive ends in the league with Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Leonard Williams, but outside linebacker is a completely different story. They’re counting on unproven 2nd year player Lorenzo Mauldin to be an every down player, with 3rd round rookie Jordan Jenkins penciled in as the other starter, with no proven depth behind either. Many thought they’d take an edge rusher at 20 in the first round this year. They didn’t, but the position should be high on their list next off-season.

  1. Houston Texans – DT Lowell Lotulelei (Utah)

The Texans obviously have JJ Watt, but they need to get him help on the defensive line. Experienced veteran starter Jared Crick is gone, leaving them with only unproven players on the other side opposite Watt, while veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork is going into his age 35 season and possibly his last season in the league. Lotulelei is big enough to play the nose, but he’s also a good enough pass rusher to go this high and be an every down player in the NFL. If he can reach his potential, the Texans would have a pair of monsters on the defensive line.

  1. Indianapolis Colts – RB Dalvin Cook (Florida State)

The Colts are going into 2016 with a 33-year-old Frank Gore at running back with absolutely no depth behind him. Considering Gore rushed for just 3.22 yards per carry over his final 8 games last season, this likely won’t go well. Even if this isn’t Gore’s final year in the league, the Colts will likely be looking at running backs next off-season, including early in the draft, rather than paying Gore 3.5 million non-guaranteed in 2017. Cook isn’t quite as good as Fournette, but could also be a high pick in a good running back class.

  1. Washington Redskins – MLB Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State)

The biggest obstacle to the Redskins repeating as NFC East champions is how weak they are on the defensive line and up the middle of their linebacking corps. They’ll likely be one of the worst run defenses in the league. Their defensive line got worse this off-season, while their middle linebackers didn’t get any better. Tim Compton and Mason Foster, both of whom struggled mightily last season, are penciled in as the starters, with little depth behind them. It’s a position they could address early in next year’s draft.

  1. Dallas Cowboys – CB Teez Tabor (Florida)

I still don’t understand the Cowboys passing on Jalen Ramsey for Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott obviously has a chance to be great in Dallas’ offense, but they ran the ball well even without him last season. Their running game was not the problem. Their defense was a much bigger problem, particularly in the secondary. Despite that, they didn’t address the cornerback position until the 6th round, when they took Purdue’s Anthony Brown. Because of that, Morris Claiborne, one of the worst cornerbacks in the league last season, and Brown will be the primary reserves behind Orlando Scandrick, who is coming off of a torn ACL, and Brandon Carr, a declining, overpaid player going into his age 30 season in 2016. With Carr possibly in his final year in Dallas, this position will need to be addressed next off-season.

  1. Denver Broncos – TE OJ Howard (Alabama)

I thought about giving Denver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the draft class’ top wide receiver, but that only makes sense if the Broncos aren’t unable to keep wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who is a free agent next off-season. Still, they need to add pass catchers either way, even if Sanders returns. With Owen Daniels (517 yards in 2015) retiring, the Broncos don’t have a single receiver on their roster behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders who had more than 207 receiving yards in 2015. They’re hoping for a big year from 2nd year tight end Jeff Heuerman, who missed his entire rookie year with a torn ACL, but if they don’t get it, they could be looking at a tight end in the first round in 2017.

  1. Baltimore Ravens – MLB Reuben Foster (Alabama)

The Ravens took an Alabama middle linebacker in the first round in 2014 and struck gold with CJ Mosley. They may do the same again in 2017. Mosley figures to remain in Baltimore for a long-time, but they need help inside next to him, where Zach Orr, a 2013 undrafted free agent with 0 career starts, is penciled in as the starter, going into 2016. The Ravens also might move rookie 2nd round pick Kamalei Correa from outside linebacker to inside linebacker, but they need him outside long-term. Foster fixes the problem inside long-term.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC)

As mentioned, JuJu Smith-Schuster is the top wide receiver in this draft class. The Chiefs are hoping that either Albert Wilson or Chris Conley can step up as the #2 wide receiver after Jeremy Maclin, but Wilson is undersized and best on the slot long-term, while Conley has upside, but hasn’t shown anything at the professional level yet, struggling on limited snaps as a rookie. Unless he has a breakout 2016, the Chiefs will likely be looking for wide receivers next off-season. It’s not a strong wide receiver class, but it’ll be hard for them to pass on Smith-Schuster here.

  1. New York Giants – RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)

The Giants got a steal in the 5th round with UCLA running back Paul Perkins in the 2016 NFL Draft, but they could still take a running back early in 2017. Rashad Jennings is the lead back, but he’ll be going into his age 32 season in 2017. He’s also never had more than 195 carries in a season in his career and needs a big 2016 to remain the lead back into 2017. Either way, this team needs an upgrade at the position and could easily take a running back early in a strong running back class in 2017.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings) – CB Adoree Jackson (USC)

The Eagles get this pick from Minnesota in the Sam Bradford trade. It’s not enough to make up for all they gave away to get quarterback Carson Wentz, but the Eagles are actually a more talented team that people realize, especially on defense, where the front 7 looks poised for a big year under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. The Eagles are still my pick to make it out of a weak NFC East. However, they have obvious issues at cornerback. The new regime does not like 2015 2nd round pick Eric Rowe, who did struggle as a rookie, and are starting Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin at cornerback in 2016. The latter is not very good, while the former is only on a one-year deal. With few other needs, cornerback will be at the top of their list next off-season.

  1. Buffalo Bills – WR Mike Williams (Clemson)

The Bills lost Chris Hogan to the Patriots this off-season and have no depth at wide receiver behind Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. Greg Salas is penciled in as the 3rd receiver and he has just 46 career catches in 5 years in the league. Woods isn’t very good either and is going into the final year of his rookie deal. They need a long-term complement to Sammy Watkins and they get one here, taking another Clemson wide receiver in the first round. Mike Williams largely replaced Watkins at Clemson. Now he joins him in Buffalo.

  1. Tennessee Titans – CB Desmond King (Iowa)

The Titans didn’t really fill a need with their first pick in the first round, taking the draft class’ top defensive player, Myles Jarrett. However, that’s okay because they have two first round picks (and two third round picks) and relatively few positions in need of long-term help. Cornerback is one of those positions though and they address the need here in with their other first round pick. Both Perrish Cox and Jason McCourty are expensive, aging veterans coming off of injury plagued years and they have no good depth behind them either. A good, young cornerback is needed.

  1. San Diego Chargers – OT Roderick Johnson (Florida State)

The Chargers’ offensive line should be a lot better in 2016 than it was in 2015, as they added center Matt Slauson in free agency and should be healthier in general. However, there’s no guarantee that veteran left tackle King Dunlap bounces back from an injury plagued 2015 season, as he’s already going into his age 31 season in 2016. Owed 6.75 million non-guaranteed in 2017, this could be his final year in San Diego if he can’t have a bounce back year. The Chargers could be looking for a long-term left tackle very soon.

  1. Detroit Lions – DE Carl Lawson (Auburn)

The Lions have Ezekiel Ansah on one end of their defensive line for the foreseeable future, but they need a long-term option on the other side. Devin Taylor, a 2013 4th round pick, will start there this season and he has shown potential, but he’s also going into the final year of his rookie deal and they don’t have any depth behind him. Lawson is a talented edge rusher that could easily go higher than this.

  1. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles) – OT Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame)

Most teams that draft a quarterback in the first round use their next pick on another offensive player. The Browns don’t need any more young pass catchers after using 5 picks on pass catchers in 2016, but they need help on the offensive line. Joe Thomas is still the top left tackle in the NFL, but he’s getting up there in age and might not want to around for another long rebuild. Even if he plays at a high level on the blindside for the Browns for another few years, they need help opposite him at right tackle. Mitchell Schwartz was a good right tackle for 4 years for the Browns, but he signed with the Chiefs this off-season.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals – DT Jarron Jones (Notre Dame)

The Bengals thought they got a steal in the 4th round in 2016 when they drafted defensive tackle Andrew Billings, a projected 2nd round pick. However, he’ll miss his entire rookie year with injury. He could still have an impact in 2017 and beyond, but they need another defensive tackle opposite Geno Atkins long-term. Domata Peko is currently the other starter, but he’s going into his age 32 season and hasn’t been a good player for a few years.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – OLB Charles Gaines (Missouri)

The Steelers used a 1st round pick on an outside linebacker in 2013 (Jarvis Jones) and 2015 (Bud Dupree). However, Jones has been a massive bust through 3 years in the league and did not have his 5th year option picked up, meaning this is likely his final season in Pittsburgh. Dupree, meanwhile, struggled mightily as a rookie and will miss at least half of the 2016 season with a groin injury after being put on injured reserve. James Harrison remains their best outside linebacker, but he’s going into his age 38 season and certainly isn’t a long-term option. Another young outside linebacker is needed.

  1. Seattle Seahawks – CB Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)

Everyone knows about Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor, but the 4th and 5th members of the Legion of Boom have been rotating for years. Right now, DeShawn Shead will start opposite Richard Sherman, despite struggling down the stretch after taking over as a starter midway through the 2015 season. Jeremy Lane is also in the mix, after being re-signed for 23 million over 4 years this off-season, but he’s expected to open the season as the 3rd cornerback and is unproven because of how injury prone he is. They could add another young cornerback early in 2017.

  1. Green Bay Packers – G Dan Feeney (Indiana)

The Packers made the shocking decision to part ways with long-time guard Josh Sitton at final cuts this off-season, even though he’s only going into his age 30 season and has been one of the best guards in the league over the past few seasons. In the short-term, the Packers could move Bryan Bulaga inside to guard and start 2nd round rookie Jason Spriggs at right tackle, but it’s unclear if that’s a long-term solution. The Packers also have left tackle David Bakhtiari and right guard TJ Lang set to hit free agency next off-season, so another offensive lineman is needed regardless.

  1. Oakland Raiders – OLB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)

The Raiders have done a great job of rebuilding their defense in recent years, but they still have major issues at linebacker, where unproven 2nd year player Ben Heeney plays every down inside and mediocre starter Malcolm Smith plays every down outside. Cunningham can be an immediate upgrade at either spot and possibly take this defense to the next level.

  1. Carolina Panthers – DE Derek Barnett (Tennessee)

The Panthers brought long-time defensive end Charles Johnson back this off-season at a cheaper rate, after originally releasing him. However, he’s only on a one-year deal and not a long-term solution. On top of that, the Panthers have next to no depth at the defensive end position behind him and Kony Ealy. Defensive end is one of their few positions of need.

  1. New England Patriots – DT Jonathan Allen (Alabama)

The Patriots have used their last two first round picks on defensive tackles, but they could easily take another one in the first round in 2017. Dominique Easley, their first round pick in 2014, is not even with the team anymore and the Patriots still have a major need at the position. Malcolm Brown, Vincent Valentine, and Alan Branch are all primarily run stuffers, so they need another interior pass rusher inside next to hybrid defensive end/defensive tackle Jabaal Sheard, who is a free agent next off-season anyway.

  1. Arizona Cardinals – QB Chad Kelly (Mississippi)

If the Cardinals end up winning the Super Bowl, quarterback Carson Palmer could follow Peyton Manning’s lead and ride off into the sunset. That would mean that the defending Super Bowl champion would have a major need at quarterback for the 2nd straight season. Like the Broncos did with Paxton Lynch, the Cardinals could take a quarterback in the first round as a long-term solution.

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