It’s safe to say the College Football Playoff was a nice sign-off to the 2016 NCAA season. The thrilling finish may have even made up for the four blowouts NFL fans suffered through during Wild Card Weekend. With the college season wrapped-up, and positions 1-24 solidified in the 2017 NFL Draft, it’s time for an updated mock draft.
There are a handful of teams atop the board that need a quarterback, but does the 2017 crop of signal-callers possess the talent to entice any of them? Here’s how I see the first-round playing out.
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE (Texas A&M)
I don’t think Hue Jackson is ready to draft his quarterback yet. The Browns still have too many other holes to fill, and no quarterback in this draft stands out as generational. Garrett is the best player available, and exactly what the Browns defense needs.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Deshaun Watson, QB (Clemson)
Watson’s performance in the National Championship, against a very good Alabama defense, cemented his standing as the first quarterback off the board. The 49ers fall into a similar category as the Browns: they need a lot of help in a lot of places. But looking at the coaching candidates that remain, it is likely San Francisco’s new boss will be an offensive minded one. That coach won’t be heading into the season with any quarterback currently on the roster taking the snaps.
3. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen, DL (Alabama)
The Bears possess some pretty good edge rushers, but they need some talent on the interior of their defensive front. Allen did everything for one of the better Bama defenses we have ever seen, and he would make an immediate impact in the NFL.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette, RB (LSU)
The Jags need offensive line help. But it would be too much of a reach to take an offensive lineman at this spot. If they don’t trade down, Leonard Fournette seems like the pick here. Both T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory have proven to be injury prone, and Doug Marrone made it clear that he values the running game.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Rams) – Jamal Adams, S (LSU)
Mike Williams would be the sexy pick here, but a stud wide receiver doesn’t make the Titans that much better right now. What they really need is help in the secondary to fix that 30th-ranked pass defense. Adams has the ability to play either safety position and is a very reliable tackler.
6. New York Jets – Quincy Wilson, CB (Florida)
Darrelle Revis is done. Buster Skrine is not very good. And there isn’t anyone else in the system that’s ready to step-up. It’s obvious they need a quarterback, but I believe they’ll go the free agency route to find one. The Jets have some talent and believe they can win now. Drafting Wilson immediately helps their biggest weakness.
San Diego Los Angeles Chargers – Mike Williams, WR (Clemson)
I could see someone (Cincinnati) trading up at this point to get the best receiver in the draft, but if not, he’s too enticing for the city of Los Angeles to pass on. Williams would be a great complement to Keenan Allen, who is more of a possession receiver.
8. Carolina Panthers – Malik Hooker, S (Ohio State)
As was the case with the Jags earlier, there aren’t any offensive linemen that are worth drafting this high. So if Carolina stays put, they’ll look to address another position of need: safety. Carolina ranked 29th against the pass in 2016 and lacked defensive backs that could make a play on the ball. Hooker finished third in the nation with seven interceptions last season.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Barnett, DE (Tennessee)
Few helped their draft stock in a bowl game this year more than Barnett. The disruptive end spent the entire game in the Nebraska backfield. This is exactly what the Bengals need on defense. Cincinnati only recorded 33 sacks (19th) and ranked 21st against the rush. Barnett makes them better in both areas.
10. Buffalo Bills – DeShone Kizer, QB (Notre Dame)
Now that the Bills have a head coach, Sean McDermott, Tyrod Taylor’s future with the team should become less foggy. The top brass has spoken. Though I think it’s a bad decision, I see the team moving on from Taylor and filling the void in the draft.
11. New Orleans Saints – Solomon Thomas, DE (Stanford)
Just like Barnett, Thomas’ performance in the Sun Bowl has rocketed him up the board. After recording just 30 sacks last season (27th), the Saints are desperate for a pass-rusher. Thomas could step in and make a difference immediately.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Eagles) – Jabrill Peppers, S (Michigan)
As I previously mentioned, Hue Jackson wants to build a good situation for a young quarterback to step into. Peppers is an absolute freak of an athlete and will be able to do a lot of different things for Jackson’s defense.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Reuben Foster, ILB (Alabama)
The Cardinals offensive line was terrible last year, but that gets resolved by Jared Veldheer returning from injury. Other than that, there aren’t many glaring holes on this roster. As a result, I expect Arizona to take the best player on the board. Reuben Foster is a sideline-to-sideline player who does everything you want from a middle linebacker.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings) – Corey Davis, WR (Western Michigan)
The Eagles traded up to get their quarterback last season, and Carson Wentz showed a lot of promise in his first season. Now he needs some talent to throw the ball to. Jordan Matthews is a nice option out of the slot, but they need someone who can stretch the field. Corey Davis is the perfect fit.
15. Indianapolis Colts – Ryan Ramczyk, OT (Wisconsin)
Andrew Luck needs some protection. The Colts allowed 44 sacks in 2016 (fifth-most), and I expect big changes coming up front. Outside of Anthony Castonzo (LT) and Ryan Kelly (C), Indianapolis should be looking for new starters at each position. Ramczyk is an easy solution and can be kicked over to right tackle.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Dalvin Cook, RB (Florida State)
John Harbaugh has spoken out regarding the lack of trust the team has in the running backs currently on the roster. Cook is arguably the best back in the draft and would provide Baltimore’s 28th-ranked rush attack with a reliable option.
17. Washington – Teez Tabor, CB (Florida)
Jay Gruden’s squad needs a lot of help on the defensive side after ranking 28th in total defense. Josh Norman proved last year that he wasn’t just a product of the Panthers’ system, but Bashaud Breeland got beat way too many times. Tabor can step in and start opposite Norman from day one.
18. Tennessee Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB (Ohio State)
Lattimore falling this far would be a dream come true for the Titans. Adding Adams and Lattimore would solve their secondary issues, and Tennessee would be as hyped as the 2016 Jaguars.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – John Ross, WR (Washington)
The Bucs could really use some help at safety, but the three first-rounders will be long gone by the time they are on the clock. Tampa Bay could also use another weapon for Jameis Winston to throw to. Between Mike Evans, Vincent Jackson, and Cameron Brate, the Bucs have size but lack speed. Ross is one of the most explosive players on the board and would be a nice complement.
20. Denver Broncos – Cam Robinson, OT (Alabama)
If the Broncos had a serviceable offensive line last season, they are likely back in the playoffs trying to defend their crown. Denver couldn’t run the ball (27th) and Trevor Siemian was always under pressure – 40 sacks allowed (24th). Robinson provides them with a mean tackle who can start right away.
21. Detroit Lions – Ryan Anderson, OLB (Alabama)
The Lions recorded the second-fewest sacks last season. Ryan Anderson is one of the top-five edge rushers available. At very least, he can provide them with a specialty rusher on third downs.
22. Miami Dolphins – Zach Cunningham, LB (Vanderbilt)
The Dolphins surrendered 4.8 yards per carry last season (31st). Cunningham can make plays all over the field with both strength and speed. The Vandy product also excels when asked to drop into coverage.
23. New York Giants – Ethan Pocic, C/G (LSU)
The Giants couldn’t run the ball last year (3.5 yards per carry), and their low sack numbers don’t accurately portray the poor protection they provided Eli Manning. If Quenton Nelson declared for the draft, he would slide in here, but it sounds like he’s returning to Notre Dame. Pocic could play either guard or center in the NFL, and the Giants could use help at both positions.
24. Oakland Raiders – Malik McDowell, DT (MSU)
The Raiders ranked 26th in total defense last year, and would like to be able to win games without having to put up 30-plus points. McDowell can provide a push from the interior and take some attention away from Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin on the outsides.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Garrett Bolles, OT (Utah)
George Fant cannot continue at left tackle for the Seahawks. Bolles will boost a Seattle run game that only averaged 3.9 yards per carry (24th) in the regular season, and he’ll do a better job keeping Russell Wilson upright.
26. Houston Texans – Mitch Trubisky, QB (UNC)
The Texans are a pretty complete team that is only lacking a quarterback. It would cost Houston too much money to cut Brock Osweiler next season, but Trubisky would likely benefit from a year on the sideline anyway.
27. Green Bay Packers – Marlon Humphrey, CB (Alabama)
The Packers secondary got torched all season. Green Bay ranked 31st against the pass and is in desperate need of a cover corner. Humphrey can start opposite of Sam Shields next season.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Sidney Jones, CB (Washington)
The Steelers lack of secondary options to Antonio Brown will be solved when Martavis Bryant returns from suspension. Pittsburgh addressed the secondary in the first two rounds of last year’s draft, but could use another corner. Jones is the best available.
29. Atlanta Falcons – Tim Williams, OLB (Alabama)
Williams has top-15 talent, but his off-field issues have his stock plummeting. The Falcons would love to add a pass-rusher to play opposite Vic Beasley and Williams can be that guy.
30. Kansas City Chiefs – Caleb Brantley, DL (Florida)
The Chiefs were very soft in the trenches last season, evident by the 4.4 yards per carry they allowed. Brantley also provides them with an interior pass-rusher to free-up Justin Houston.
31. Dallas Cowboys – Taco Charlton, DE (Michigan)
Although the Cowboys recorded 36 sacks in 2016 (13th), they don’t have a player that incites fear when coming for the quarterback. Charlton can line-up in a variety of places and pressure the quarterback.
32. New England Patriots – Charles Harris, DE (Missouri)
The Pats weren’t able to fill the void left by trading Chandler Jones in the offseason, only recording 34 sacks in 2016 (16th). Harris can play in any of the Patriots’ packages and is a steal this late in the draft.
Photo Credit: Atlanta Falcons (YouTube) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en] via Wikimedia Commons.