As best put by Rick Gosselin – one of the NFL’s most respected writers and draft evaluators – “The first mock is based on my board, the second mock is based off of team fit, and the third one is the only one that counts.”
This is my third and final mock draft leading up to Thursday night, so I expect this to be my most accurate one.
Having said all of that, I can’t remember a draft shrouded in so much mystery. In years past we usually have the top-five picks written in ink, however this season I can’t even guarantee you who is going number one. While draft experts are scattered on who will go where, I can guarantee you one thing – this is going to be one hell of an exciting Thursday night!
1) Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett (Edge) Texas A&M
Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 272 lbs.
Big, strong, fast, productive – Myles Garrett is the clear number one player in this draft and it really isn’t even close.
The number one overall pick has been his destiny since his freshman year when he recorded 11.5 sacks and emerged as the best edge player in college football. Despite the aforementioned foregone conclusion, Garrett still went out at the combine last month and even further solidified things by posting speed/agility numbers that many running backs would blush at, and strength numbers that most offensive tackles could only dream of. While his talent and Greek God physique is an incredibly rare combination, if forced to come up with a comparison, I would say to think DeMarcus Ware’s talent, skillset, and work ethic in Jadeveon Clowney’s body. This guy will be an IDP terror for years to come and has double-digit sack potential right away.
2) San Francisco 49ers
Jamal Adams(S) LSU
Height: 6-foot | Weight: 214 lbs.
This has been the hardest number two overall pick to predict in all of my years paying attention to the NFL draft. Having said that, after much deliberation I have come to a conclusion…
John Lynch will be making this pick and it will be his first as an NFL GM. Because of this A) he will want to take the safest player on the board in hopes of hitting on his first career draft pick, and B) his history as a legendary safety will obviously add at least some slight bias into the equation. Ultimately Jamal Adams is the safest player available, is an impact player, the best leader in the draft, and most importantly, is the most talented player on the board. Sure safeties aren’t often picked in the top-five, but you have to play the board as it is presented. This will be a home run pick for the Niners.
3) Chicago Bears
Solomon Thomas(DL) Stanford
Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 273 lbs.
For the last two months, Solomon Thomas has been more or less locked into the number two overall selection by most, but what it comes down to is that I just don’t believe he is quite as good as Jamal Adams. Subsequently he will fall to number three overall, and in the end the Bears will be getting themselves a really talented player. Overall, Thomas is an incredibly safe pick and fills a need for the Bears here. He’s a versatile player who can create pressure either inside or outside, while it can also be argued that Thomas has the best motor out of anyone in this class. He uses incredible functional strength in his hands and possesses a relentless leg drive that will keep offensive linemen up at night. He just never quits, and seems to always be wreaking havoc in the backfield. Don’t believe me? Just ask Mitchell Trubisky what he thinks of him (see: video below)…
4) Jacksonville Jaguars
Jonathan Allen (DL) Alabama
Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 286 lbs.
Up until about a month ago, Allen was considered the safest pick in the draft, but after an underwhelming combine and shoulder concerns, his stock has slipped slightly. This works out perfectly for the Jaguars because here they would be getting a number one overall talent, despite picking at number four. Think of when the Jets got Leonard Williams at sixth overall in regards to the value selection that Allen would be for Jacksonville.
For the last two years, Allen has been the best player on the best defense in the country and has the production to match the hype despite playing a position that makes production hard to come by. In the Jags defense, Allen’s versatility will be much appreciated, as they seem to value that amongst their defensive linemen. The way I see it, in base, Allen will slot in as the strong-side defensive end, while newly signed Calais Campbell will kick inside having him and Malik Jackson handle the defensive tackle spots. Either Dante Fowler or Yannick Ngakoue will play the “LEO” as the team’s primary edge rusher. In college, Allen had no trouble racking up double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons, so when joining another incredibly talented defensive line like the Jags have, I see no reason that he wouldn’t have double-digit sack potential right away in the NFL.
Further supporting this selection is the presence of Tom Coughlan. He frequently took defensive linemen for the Giants even when they were flush with talent at the position. The Jags loaded front seven shouldn’t make Coughlan shy away from Allen here.
Rumors have been swirling around like toilet water in regards to what the Browns want to do with their first overall pick. The majority believe that the pick will be Myles Garrett (as do I), however there is reportedly a rogue camp that believes that top-ranked quarterback Mitchell Trubisky should be the selection. In this move, the Browns will be able to appease both camps, as they have more than enough picks to spare if they want to move up and get both of their guys.
The hope here is that Trubisky will be the Browns savior… Fingers crossed.
With one off the board, it is only a matter of time before the next one goes. Watson is largely the consensus number two or 1A quarterback in this draft, and while the Cardinals have other needs, they don’t want to leave this draft without feeling comfortable with their quarterback of the future.
On the Jets side of things, I don’t believe that they are in love with any of these signal callers, and based off of their offseason moves, they seem content with tanking for another season. They will take their QB of the future next April, while they can move back in this draft, acquire more picks, and subsequently more talent.
7) Los Angeles Chargers
Malik Hooker(S)Ohio State
Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 206 lbs.
Entering the draft, the Chargers biggest need is at the single-high free safety position. As you can see, if I tried, I probably couldn’t manufacture a more ideal scenario for the Chargers, as many argue that Hooker is the best single-high talent since Earl Thomas. The only real reasons that he will slide this far down the board are because of his injury concerns and because he only started for one season at Ohio State, but after doing my due diligence on the prospect, it appears that Hooker will end up panning out.
8) Carolina Panthers
Leonard Fournette (RB) LSU
Height: 6-foot | Weight: 240 lbs.
Admittedly, this may be a slight reach, but after the Cowboys proved last season what a game changing running back can do to a team with talent, I can’t help but see the incredible potential here.
Fournette has probably been the most publicized player in this draft class for the last three years, and for good reason, as when healthy he is one of the most dominating running backs in recent memory. He’s built like Jamaal Lewis, yet has the breakaway speed of Clinton Portis – an unfathomable combination, I know. Now I won’t say that he is the prospect that Ezekiel Elliott was last year because he lacks the refinement and nuance needed for the position, plus he isn’t the blocker or receiver that Zeke is, but there is no doubt that Fournette’s physical traits have never been seen at this position before. Paired with Cam Newton, the Panthers will have the two best goal line backs in the NFL, and arguably the two most explosive playmakers at both the quarterback and running back positions. I doubt that they will be able to pass up on that potential if Fournette is still there when they are picking at eight.
9) Cincinnati Bengals
Derek Barnett(Edge) Tennessee
Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 259 lbs.
Michael Johnson is a nice player, but he’s 30 years old now and is quickly turning into a shell of the player that he once was. The Bengals may have other needs, but I would argue that an upgrade across from Carlos Dunlap is amongst their most important. Barnett is the best edge rusher not named Myles Garrett in this draft, so he will do just fine at ninth overall.
10) Buffalo Bills
MikeWilliams (WR) Clemson
Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 218 lbs.
The Bills doubled-down on Tyrod Taylor this offseason and appear to be giving him another year to right the Buffalo ship. If he is going to take things to the next level, he will need another playmaker to throw the ball to. Mike Williamsis arguably the best playmaker in this draft, and he will perfectly compliment the skillset of Sammy Watkins – also a Clemson alum and the Bills number one target.
11) New Orleans Saints
Marshon Lattimore (CB) Ohio State
Height: 6-foot | Weight: 193 lbs.
How the hell did this happen? Some have Lattimore mocked as high as second overall, and he is undoubtedly the best corner in this draft. Look, when doing the mock draft, all I do is go in order, team by team, and take who I think they will take. No player is put in a spot just because I think, “he can’t slip out of the top-five” for example. People slide in drafts, that is the nature of the game. The Saints will just be happy to be the beneficiaries of Lattimore’s extended anxiety.
The Titans also considered Howard at fifth overall, but were willing to take the chance that he would still be there when they traded out to 12th. The gamble paid off, and now Tennessee can happily leave day one knowing that they got one of the most talented and safest prospects in the draft. With an incredible size and athleticism combination, Howard has the makings of an All-Pro tight end, which more than justifies his top-15 selection.
Like the Titans, the Jets gambled that they would be able to trade out and still get their guy later in the round. Unlike the Titans, the gamble didn’t pay off, as Marshon Lattimore came off the board two picks prior to their new 13th overall slot. In any event, they settle on Humphrey, who has ample size and athleticism, but may just be a little rough around the edges. On talent alone though, he is certainly worth a first round selection, and most importantly he fills a need for the Jets.
14) Philadelphia Eagles - from Minnesota
Corey Davis (WR) Western Michigan
Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 209 lbs.
Sure the Eagles may have just spent money on Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith this offseason, but the fact of the matter is that beyond 2017, none of the Eagles presumed top-three receivers (including Jordan Matthews) will be under contract if they so choose for it to be that way. Davis is a very talented wideout with a size, speed, and route running combination that makes him a future number one option in any NFL offense.
15) Indianapolis Colts
Christian McCaffrey (RB) Stanford
Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 202 lbs.
I’ve been saying it for two years now – Christian McCaffrey is the best back in this class. He’s got the tape in spades, his 2015 season (3,864 all-purpose yards, 15 TD’s) was the best by a running back in the history of college football (2016 was no slouch either: 2,327 all-purpose yards, 16 TD’s), and to top it all off he was the best pound-for-pound performer at the combine.
He will join the Colts as both their best running back and best slot receiver from day one, and the same would go if he were to be drafted by about 20 other teams. It’s this dual-threat skill-set that makes him such an attractive option in the first round, but if we are just strictly talking about running the football, I still see him as the best in this class. Similarly to Le’Veon Bell, McCaffrey can stop and start on a dime, set up blocks, and change directions in a way not seen since Barry Sanders. I have to go to another sport to find a comparison for his change of speed ability, as it is most reminiscent of a crafty left-handed pitcher.
Once he is through the hole and has shaken every would-be defender out of their cleats, he has ample breakaway speed to take it to the house. If drafted here, I expect McCaffrey to serve as an excellent back, receiver, and return man right out of the gates for the Colts, which is the type of explosive weapon that they have been lacking since the days of Edgerrin James.
16) Baltimore Ravens
Haason Reddick(LB) Temple
Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 237 lbs.
According to my notes, the Ravens need defensive help at all three levels. How about giving them Reddick, who is a versatile linebacker with the ability to play inside on run downs, cover, and rush the passer off the edge. He’s a difference maker and a guy who the Ravens can begin rebuilding their defense around going forward.
17) Washington Redskins
Dalvin Cook (RB) Florida State
Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 210 lbs.
The NFC East better watch out because the Redskins just turned the volume up to 11. In other years, Dalvin Cook is unquestionably the first back off the board, but due to the deep nature of this class, he manages to slide all the way to the middle of the round. His skillset is well rounded to the point that he can remain in on all downs, while he possesses both the ability to be patient in between the tackles and to break off huge chunks of yardage with his agility and breakaway speed on the outside. Provided he improves his ball security and remains clean off the field, this will be remembered as one of the best value picks in the draft.
18) Tennessee Titans
Chidobe Awuzie(CB) Colorado
Height: 6-foot | Weight: 202 lbs.
After going for a skill position with their first pick, the Titans couldn’t leave the first round without also addressing the secondary. While I originally liked Ohio State corner Gareon Conley for this spot, his recent rape accusation will likely kick him out of the first round. As a consolation, Tennessee will end up with Awuzie, who while being one of the more unknown names in the first round, is still oozing with talent. He’s well built for the position, with more than enough athleticism to justify his first round projection, oh and hey, he can play too. Ultimately, the Titans will be getting one of the stickier coverage corners in the draft, while they will only be punting on a corner with tackling skills.
The Falcons have one major need headed into next season – right guard – and they will be damned if they don’t fill it prior to kickoff in September. Word has it that they will be very aggressive headed into the draft, with a mind for trading up in the first round. With only one major need, why else would they be trading up but other than to fill said void? Forrest Lamp is the best guard prospect in the draft, and this is the spot that they would have to trade up to get him. Nice move here for the defending NFC champions.
20) Denver Broncos
Ryan Ramczyk (OT) Wisconsin
Height: 6-foot-6 | Weight: 310 lbs.
I’m not breaking news when I tell you that the Broncos need some serious offensive line help. Sure they signed Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson in free agency, but more help is still needed. They definitely will be bummed out about Atlanta trading in front of them to grab Lamp, but Ramczyk will be a nice consolation prize, as he is the best offensive tackle prospect in the draft.
21) Detroit Lions
Reuben Foster (LB) Alabama
Height: 6-foot | Weight: 229 lbs.
Foster is probably the biggest faller in my mock here, but it’s only of his own doing, as he had an awful draft process. First, he was sent home from the combine for harassing a nurse, secondly, he failed a drug test (diluted sample), and thirdly, several teams worry about the priority he puts on partying. All of these factors knocked him out of the top-10 and instead land him in the laps of the Lions at 21st overall. The Lions won’t complain, as his talent on tape is better than nearly every starter they have on defense. My point being, all things being equal, Foster is still a baller who has no business falling out of the first round.
22) Miami Dolphins
Charles Harris (Edge) Missouri
Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 253 lbs.
He’s not my favorite prospect in the draft, but word has it that teams are higher on Harris than most draft pundits are giving them credit for. Because of that, I plugged him in here with Miami because they have a need on the edge and no other real obvious holes that can be filled in this range.
23) New York Giants
Garett Bolles(OT) Utah
Height: 6-foot-5 | 297 lbs.
Admittedly I struggled with this one because while there aren’t many tackles that I like in this draft, there is no way that I can see the Giants leaving the first round without one.
While Bolles is blessed with raw ability and excellent physical traits, he’s a late bloomer at the position. He only has played one year of FBS football and he’s also already 25-years old. Some red flags throughout his scouting notes there for sure, but I also would be lying if I said that I haven’t been in awe of his natural athleticism on tape. If the Giants just work with him on cleaning up his punch technique and get him a little more of a power base in his kick-slide, there is no reason that he can’t become a pro bowler some day.
24) Oakland Raiders
Jarrad Davis(LB) Florida
Height: 6-foot-1 | Weight: 238 lbs.
You like tough-nosed football, then look no further than Davis, as he only has one gear… Spoiler alert, it’s not neutral. This constant fast-paced tempo led to ample carnage in offensive backfields, but also led to some serious wear and tear on his body throughout his years at Florida. Ultimately though, Davis is worthy of a first round selection based on talent and scheme versatility alone, while the hope is that he remains healthier throughout his future NFL career.
25) Houston Texans
Patrick Mahomes (QB) Texas Tech
Height: 6-foot-2 | Weight:225 lbs.
Personally, I have a fifth round grade on Mahomes, and that is being nice considering I have no hope that he will succeed as an NFL quarterback, but the fact of the matter is that this kid is generating a ton of first round buzz. The Texans are in serious need of a quarterback and rumor is that they like him. All things considered then, this selection makes sense, despite my personal feelings on his game.
26) Seattle Seahawks
Kevin King (CB) Washington
Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 200 lbs.
by accounts of most scouts, this cornerback class is very even from about numbers 2-20. King certainly falls into that range of the CB position rankings, and thus I believe that this scenario is not that unlikely. I picked Seattle for his landing spot because he is almost the exact prototype of what they love to see in corners. He’s huge (6-foot-3, 200 lbs.) – check – is excellent in press – check – specializes in zone third coverage – check – and as an added bonus he doesn’t have to move very far because like his college team, the Seahawks play their football in Seattle too. Furthermore on King, his combine performance in my eyes put him into first round consideration because there is no way that a man his size should run a sub 4.45 40-time.
27) Kansas City Chiefs
Taco Charlton(DL) Michigan
Height: 6-foot-6 | 277 lbs.
The Cheifs will be bummed that they missed out on Mahomes and Watson, and while Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer will be in consideration here, chances are that they just address the defensive line instead. Charlton projects as the Chiefs starting 5-tech DE from day one, however he offers a scheme versatile skillset, which is a plus considering the nature of today’s multiple front defenses.
28) Dallas Cowboys
Adoree Jackson(CB) USC
Height: 5-foot-10 | Weight: 186 lbs.
The Cowboys have clearly defined needs headed into this draft: 1) edge rusher, 2) cornerback, and 3) safety. While there are plenty of edge rushers still on the board, reports are that they really like cornerback Adoree Jackson out of USC in the first round. His skills as a corner are not NFL ready quite yet, but his traits are off the charts. As a plus, he is arguably the best kick returner in this draft and he also offers plenty of skill as a gadget offensive weapon.
If you ask me, this pick is not my cup of tea, as a team so close to winning a Super Bowl, with such clearly defined needs, ultimately settles on a project pick in the first round. Regardless of how much I don’t like it though; a mock draft is about what will happen, not what I like. Considering this, if nothing else, I have to trust reliable sources.
To make skeptical Cowboys fans out there optimistic, take a look at Jackson’s highlight tape. He is a game breaker with the ball in his hands.
29) Green Bay Packers
T.J. Watt (Edge) Wisconsin
Height: 6-foot-5 | Weight: 252 lbs.
This is the player who Dallas should have taken, but instead the Packers end up getting their hometown boy, who will immediately fill their biggest need. He is a bit of a projection considering his mere one season of production, however his traits are off the charts.
30) Pittsburgh Steelers
Zach Cunningham (LB) Vanderbilt
Height: 6-foot-3 | Weight: 234 lbs.
The Steelers are out of first round edge options, so instead they settle on the best inside linebacker available to fill the need left in the wake of the Lawrence Timmons departure.
Cunningham is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, who will join Ryan Shazier as one of the most athletic linebacking duo’s in quite some time. Great value here, but what else is new for the Steelers?
Even after nearly trading out of the first round, Tampa still manages to get their game changing safety. While Melifonwu is still really rough around the edges, his never before seen size and athleticism at the position makes him a worthy selection in the first round. He may not start right away, but a creative defensive coordinator will have themselves a deadly weapon at some point down the road if they can figure out how to unlock his aggressive side.
32) New Orleans Saints - from New England
John Ross(WR) Washington
Height: 5-foot-11 | Weight: 188 lbs.
Want to talk about value? How about getting John Ross – the faster player in NFL history and arguably the most productive receiver in college football last season – with the final pick in the first round. Ross has the skillset to almost immediately replace what Brandin Cooks gave the Saints offense over the last few seasons, so the don’t have to feel so bad about the Patriots trade anymore.
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