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2017 NFL Mock Draft JL
Putting this article together each year is always an interesting exercise for me. I develop my mock based on a variety of elements that include: expert mocks, draft rumors, team needs, value picks, games and highlights I've seen, and my opinions of NFL teams. Most call mock drafts an "exercise in futility" because they're very difficult to predict, but well done ones are based on educated guesses. It's impossible to create a mock that is anywhere near perfect because no one knows how each team values each prospect, and trades are always unpredictable. Despite all of this, I still enjoy predicting the draft in this article and watching it unfold live on Thursday night.
This year's draft interests me because I feel like more than half of teams in the top 10 want to trade back. Most years teams have to give up a lot to get into this territory, so I'm curious to see if this year it costs a little less. I also think I'm very much in the minority because my mock draft only has one quarterback being drafted in the first round. While this is very unlikely, as I predicted each pick I kept thinking that teams likely have many of the QBs bunched together, and will be able to get one by trading back into the first or early in the second. As their picks come up in the first round, I could see them opting for a more talented non-quarterback.
As usual, I've kept the draft order as it currently stands. If I think a trade is more likely at a specific spot, I'll give my thoughts on a potential move. For each pick I've listed my rationale, along with any alternate picks that I think are likely. I'll be documenting my thoughts as the draft progresses on Twitter @jmlockowitz if you're interested in following along.
In addition to my picks, I've also included my good friend Brian's prediction for each selection. A few years ago he co-launched the website www.eaglesfocus.com. The website mainly covers the Philadelphia Eagles, but in anticipation of the draft they have been making predictions for the picks over the past few weeks. At this point, things have changed, so he's provided me with an updated version of his predictions. Enjoy!
1. CLE: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
I understand that Cleveland has a lot of holes to fill, the most important being a QB, but I think Garrett needs to be the pick here, and ultimately think they go in this direction. None of the signal callers in this draft are slam dunk prospects, and Cleveland has tons of draft capital to potentially move up later if they like a guy. Garrett is widely considered the top prospect in this draft for a reason. I think Cleveland doesn't overthink this one.
Brian's pick: Garrett
2. SF: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
I was leaning really hard towards going with a safety or corner here, but the consensus out there is that the 49ers will go in this direction and form a defensive line of young first round picks. I do think that San Fran will think long and hard about going with a QB here, but with new GM John Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan receiving 6 year contracts, there's no rush to grab a QB here. Perhaps they trade down here or back up later to take a signal caller, but I think at this spot they go with a defensive stud.
Brian's pick: Jamal Adams, S
3. CHI: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Chicago has quite a few needs, as they have for several years, but I think drafting a safety like Jamal Adams in this spot can go a long way towards restoring the defense to what it once was. I've heard QB is also an option here, which is a bit puzzling after signing Mike Glennon to a three year contract, but ultimately I think the Bears choose to upgrade their defense.
Brian's pick: Solomon Thomas, DL
4. JAX: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
I was pretty sure the Jaguars would not be going with a RB here, thinking that the tandem of Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon was passable last year. But after finding out that they ranked 33rd and 35th in yards per carry in 2016, I think that Jacksonville goes in this direction to boost the offense, help out Blake Bortles, and add a does of toughness to the team. With 9 of 11 starters on defense having joined the team in the past two years, the focus should be on the offensive side of the ball.
Brian's pick: Jonathan Allen, DE
5. TEN: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The Titans are one of the few teams with multiple picks in the first round of this year's draft, thanks to their trade with the Rams last year, which has netted them this pick. If Tennessee can secure studs both here and at 18, they could be looking at a playoff berth. I think they decide to take the best corner in the draft to help shore up that side of the ball.
Brian's pick: Lattimore
6. NYJ: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Jets are one of the teams that I feel will strongly consider a QB in the first round, because it's such a big need for them. Their quarterback draft chart is a little bit of a mess with Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg filling the second and third slots, but I think presumed starter Josh McCown can be a decent bridge for them in the short-term. I see New York solidifying their defense with one of the best defensive backs in the draft and potentially taking a QB with their next pick.
Brian's pick: O.J. Howard, TE
7. LAC: Johnathan Allen, DE, Alabama
I think the Chargers will be bummed that they missed out on the top two safeties in this draft, but Allen also fills a need along the defensive line. LA feels like a much better team than the seventh worst in the league, and I think the former Alabama lineman will be a great way to shore up their defense.
Brian's pick: Malik Hooker, S
8. CAR: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
I'll start off by saying that I am not a big fan of McCaffrey. He was undoubtedly a great college player, but I'm not as convinced as others that he will be as successful at the NFL level. While he's not as small as other "do it all" backs, I'm not sure that he has the physicality and strength to be successful as an every-down back, so a team will have to make sure they use him properly. I think Carolina could be a nice fit because they have bigger receivers and Cam Newton at QB, so McCaffrey would be a nice change of pace.
Brian's pick: Leonard Fournette, RB
9. CIN: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Edge rusher is the Bengals' most pressing need, and Barnett fits the bill. He feels like more of a pass rushing specialist than the more rounded player that some of the other prospects offer, but I think ultimately Cincinnati goes in this direction.
Brian's pick: Barnett
10. BUF: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
I think that the Bills are another team who could potentially wade into the QB drafting pool, but ultimately think they look elsewhere. Although Buffalo was unsure of the future of Tyrod Taylor with the team, he's a QB who presents some challenges to defenses. Providing him with another weapon feels like a great direction for the team to go, and OJ Howard is arguably the best pass catcher in the draft. I think WRs Mike Williams or Corey Davis are also options, but ultimately the Bills choose Howard as their offensive upgrade.
Brian's pick: Gareon Conley, CB
11. NO: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
It feels like the Saints have been trying to build their defense for years now, and they never seem to get any closer. With New Orleans in win now mode because the hourglass is ticking down on Drew Brees it might be temping to go with an offensive player, but they can add a piece or two later. This team can't compete until they can stop their opponents from scoring.
Brian's pick: Christian McCaffrey, RB
12. CLE: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
We finally have a QB! Two or three field generals could be gone by the time this pick actually rolls around, but I think this is where the first blood is drawn. Trubisky makes me nervous because of the small sample size in college, but it sounds like Cleveland is high on him and is considering taking him with the top pick. While ultimately I think they wait, they have the draft capitol to move up into the top 10 (as high as #2) to grab the guy they think can be their quarterback of the future.
Brian's pick: Trubisky
13. ARI: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
I'm hearing a lot of talk about how the Cardinals love former Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes and how he will be the pick here. I'm not buying it because, while Carson Palmer has fallen off a bit, he can still be a guy who wins big games for his team. I don't see Arizona wasting a pick on someone who won't see the field until Palmer is gone; instead I think they provide him with a new weapon that has the capability to run the deep route, but is also perfectly comfortable working the intermediate ones. Running back David Johnson is a star, so Palmer no longer needs to do it all by himself.
Brian's pick: Mike Williams, WR
14. PHI: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
To be honest, I'm pretty much at a loss for what the Eagles do here. I was stuck between choosing a CB or a WR, but after reading some comments from GM Howie Roseman and listening to some talk radio, this is my prediction. It's been said Philadelphia likes five guys at this spot, and I'm predicting the other four are gone by this point. Harris has been flying under the radar, but he's been rising up draft boards lately, and you never can have too many guys capable of getting to the QB.
Brian's pick: Reuben Foster, LB
15. IND: Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
For the past few years the dialogue around Indy has been they need to find lineman who can protect Andrew Luck and improve their defense. Well the line has gotten better, but the defense still has too many holes to be considered an effective unit. The Colts' largest hole is at edge rusher, and I think McKinley fills that need nicely. It's possible that they go with a different edge rusher here, but with a few already off the board McKinley feels like the next in line.
Brian's pick: Tre'Davious White, CB
16. BAL: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The former Clemson receiver would fill a need for Baltimore, and Joe Flacco would be happy to welcome him aboard. I think there are a lot of different directions that they could go with this pick (offensive line, defensive lineman to name a few) and they potentially even trade down. But I think at the end of the day they need to add some punch to their attack, and the former Tiger is that guy.
Brian's pick: Corey Davis, WR
17. WAS: Hassan Reddick, LB, Temple
Reddick really helped his value by performing well after the season, where he continued to display his athleticism and versatility. I think the Redskins are a good fit because Reddick is capable of playing any of the linebacker positions, and could potentially even drop down to defensive end in pass rushing situations. If linebacker Reuben Foster is still on the board I think he's an option, but I'll go with the flexibility that Reddick offers.
Brian's pick: Reddick
18. TEN: John Ross, WR, Washington
Ross seems to be a pretty popular pick at this slot in several mocks, and I think Marcus Mariota would welcome him with open arms. Ross was always considered a burner, but his record-breaking 40 yard dash cemented his status as a mid round pick in my mind. Teams just love speed, and Ross has plenty of it. I have heard that some teams are concerned about Ross' injury history and lack of durability, but I think Tennessee sees too much upside to pass on him here.
Brian's pick: Jabrill Peppers, S
19. TB: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Who doesn't love a good Taco? Tampa Bay could go a few different directions here, and I know that they would love to provide Jameis Winston with another weapon, but I think that can be addressed later. Pass rushers will be going off the board fairly quickly in this round, and I think the Bucs won't want to wait until next round to address this need.
Brian's pick: David Njoku, TE
20. DEN: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Before Foster's failed drug test came out I had considered him going to Buffalo at 10, but I'd be surprised if it didn't push him down the board a little further. While there are several teams between 10 and 20 that would be interested, I think ultimately Foster's fall ends here. Denver has shown before they aren't afraid to take risks (Shane Ray was drafted recently after off the field issues) and I think they see the value in bringing in another true playmaker and plugging them into their defense. When Denver won the Super Bowl recently their defense carried them, and I see them wanting to get back to that.
Brian's pick: Ryan Ramczyk, OT
21. DET: Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
While their offense is in pretty good shape, Detroit's defense could use some help. There are several spots that they could use an upgrade, with the biggest upgrade needed at edge rusher. Despite this fact, I feel like that may be a bit of a reach here, so I think they address their secondary and look for a pass rusher later.
Brian's pick: Jarrad Davis, LB
22. MIA: Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
Miami is another team that finds their slot not quite matching up with their biggest needs. I think that the Dolphins would like to upgrade their defense here if the right player falls to them, but if the board plays out this way I think they'd be comfortable with drafting the first offensive lineman of the night.
Brian's pick: Cam Robinson, OT
23. NYG: Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
Speaking of offensive lineman, after seeing the first guard drafted, we may just see the first offensive tackle drafted. The Giants have struggled the past few years to put a good enough line of front of Eli Manning that prevents him from taking such a beating, While they've made up some ground, taking a tackle here would keep them moving in the right direction. I'm a bit torn between who the best tackle is, but I'll go with Bolles over Ryan Ramcyzk and Cam Robinson, and hopefully New York agrees.
Brian's pick: Takkarist McKinley, DE
24. OAK: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Despite their impressive record last season, Oakland's defense was a bit unimpressive. They ranked 20th in points per game, and 26th in yards per game, so there is definitely room for improvement. Davis is an instant upgrade to the second level of the defense, and would be a welcome addition to the silver and black. His stock does seem to be heating up recently, so there's a chance he's not here, in which case I think the Raiders consider someone in the secondary.
Brian's pick: Zach Cunningham, LB
25. HOU: Ryan Ramcyzk, OT, Wisconsin
It seems that many believe the Texans may go with a QB here (Deshaun Watson seems to be a popular pick), but I'm not so sure. I think it's a definite possibility, and they may even move up to accomplish this. I tend to think that the Texans feel good enough about current starter Tom Savage that they don't have to invest a first round pick in his potential successor. I could see Houston investing an early pick in a quarterback, but I think they shore up the offensive line here, and look into that later.
Brian's pick: Deshaun Watson, QB
26. SEA: Kevin KIng, CB, Washington
It's been some time since Seattle has invested such a high pick in their secondary, but I think the time has arrived to do it again. I don't think current star cornerback Richard Sherman will be traded, but it doesn't hurt to infuse some youth since most of their leaders are entering the later years of their primes. With King playing in their backyard the Seahawks should have gotten a pretty good look at him, and think he can be an instant contributor. It's worth noting that Seattle loves trading back in the draft, and if one or two of the top three QBs (in this case Pat Mahomes and Watson) are still available they'll likely be giving up this slot.
Brian's pick: Garett Boles, OT
27. KC: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
It's tempting to go with a QB here for the Chiefs, but I feel like with this team being so close to serious contention and a few of their core players not getting any younger, it's more important for them to focus on the now and shore up starting weaknesses. Humphrey could be long gone by this time, but if he's still here I think he's the pick. Pairing him with Marcus Peters could quickly turn a weak secondary into a dangerous one. If they do choose to go in this direction I think they'd be on the hunt for someone to groom behind starter Alex Smith.
Brian's pick: Pat Mahomes, QB
28. DAL: Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
Word on the street is Dallas likes Jackson and his stock is on the rise. Dallas has always had a thing for defensive backs who can also return the ball, and the former Trojan fits the bill. It's no secret the Cowboys need to focus on improving their defense in this draft, and I think this is a great start.
Brian's pick: Marlon Humphrey, CB
29. GB: Budda Baker, DB, Washington
Technically Baker is a safety, but I think he's capable of playing a few spots in the secondary. I read somewhere that he's similar to Tyrann Mathieu, and that feels like a pretty good comparison to me. The Packers may have reached the conference championship last year, but their defense has been rough to watch for a few years now. Baker fills a big hole in the secondary, and allows Green Bay some flexibility in the ensuing rounds.
Brian's pick: Baker
30. PIT: David Njoku, TE, Miami
I think the Steelers could badly use a linebacker or pass rusher here, but I'm not really seeing anyone that wouldn't be considered at least a mild reach. I definitely think a trade back is in play, especially with the QBs still on the board. If Pittsburgh does keep this pick I think they switch it up a little and go with Njoku. While they don't necessarily need another tight end or offensive weapon, this would allow them to guard against injury to Ladarius Green, and when healthy, give them a two tight end package that would arguably be the most athletic and scary in the league.
Brian's pick: John Ross, WR
31. ATL: Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
There are few weaknesses for the defending NFC champions, but the Falcons could use a player to beef up the defensive line and rush the passer. I think there are a few players they could have their eye on, but feel like McDowell fits their needs best. I could also see Atlanta trading out if a QB-needy team wants to move up.
Brian's pick: McDowell
32. NO: Tim Williams, LB, Alabama
I think it's important that the Saints get another defensive piece here, and while they'll likely have several players to consider, I see them going with a pass rusher. While Williams carries a bit of a risk, he has a high ceiling, which will convince New Orleans to make this pick. If a QB is still in play there may be a trade here, as this will be the last opportunity for a team to get an automatic fifth year option on a player's contract.
Brian's pick: Kevin King, CB