With Super Bowl LI looming this Sunday, February 5, the 2016 NFL season is down to the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons for the chance to win the title. For the other 30 teams, all that is left is to dream of the promise of the 2017 season, a hope that can be greatly enhanced with the correct first-round draft selection, where the greatest talent is there for your team’s taking.
Each season’s draft crafts its own story, offering positional strengths and weaknesses unique to that year; in 2017 it’s a draft strong in the defensive backfield, yet weak in offensive linemen. Quarterbacks remain the most intriguing and headline-grabbing element of any draft, but there is considerably more ambiguity with this year’s selections at signal-caller.
This particular mock draft exists in a “vacuum” of sorts, because it does not consider the NFL Combine that gets underway February 28, trades or even the later rounds of the draft, in which needs can be tempered for a round or two to choose a superior player with an earlier pick. However, players generally regarded as having “first round talent” (again, pre-combine) was a consistent consideration in compiling this list, in order to render it most reflective of what will actually take place when the NFL Draft commences on April 27 in Philadelphia.
There’s also the wild-card element of trades in any draft, but for the sake of this mock, we’re just leaving things as is and not considering trades whatsoever. Rather, this mock combines the current team's need matched with the best available first-round talent with the objective of immediate improvement in a given team’s primary weakness.
This mock can be regarded as a “meta mock” draft of sorts--think of it as, “us doing the work, so you don’t have to”--as numerous other mocks were analyzed and compared in order to arrive at the most plausible list of first-round draft choices in the 2017 NFL Draft.
NOTE: Picks 31 and 32 are based on regular season records and the Patriots’ status as the favorite to win Super Bowl LI. Should the Falcons win the Super Bowl, they drop to pick number 32 and the Patriots would select at 31.
NOTE: Philadelphia and Indianapolis will flip a coin for No. 14 and No. 15 at the NFL combine. For the purpose of this mock draft we have the Colts drafting number 14.
32 CLEVELAND BROWNS - MYLES GARRETT, DE
The number one pick of the entire draft; Cleveland can’t possibly screw this up again--can they? Of course, they’re the Browns after all. Getting this draft right is imperative for the downtrodden franchise--even if that gets written every year. Despite Cleveland desiring that franchise signal-caller, none of this year’s candidates is that sure thing, first overall choice like an Eli Manning (2004) or Cam Newton (2011). But if the Browns want to take that baby step towards no longer “screwing things up”, then they’ll go for the sure thing at number one, who happens to be Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. And Garrett is as sure a thing as you can find in this draft, with his career 31 sacks and 47 tackles for loss of yardage.
31 SAN FRANCISO 49ERS - MITCH TRUBISKY, QB
Another floundering franchise that needs to get this pick right, and maybe even more so than Cleveland, given the astronomical expectation of the San Francisco fanbase. Forget the politics; Colin Kaepernick is not the solution on the field and the 49ers need an upgrade, especially with offensive-minded Kyle Shanahan about to take over the team.
30 CHICAGO BEARS - JONATHAN ALLEN, DE
The Bears might not be so far away from NFL respectability in terms of talent, and they certainly need a helmsman behind center, but with John Fox putting a premium on defense--and landlocked in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford--picking up a supreme pash-rusher like Allen is a solid move. Paired with last year’s number one pick William Floyd, the Bears could be building toward a renewed Monsters of the Midway. At this point, the Bears just need talent and they'll get a quarterback when it's worth the price.
29 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - LEONARD FOURNETTE, RB
Tom Coughlin has returned to the Jags to serve as a vice-president and try to clean up this mess. Old school Coughlin will want to strengthen the running game--though he certainly likes his pass rushers, as he is currently the only coach to defeat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in a Super Bowl (twice).
28 TENNESSEE TITANS - MALIK HOOKER, S
For Tennessee, it’s good to be a team on the rise coming off a winning record (9-7), a near playoff berth and and have two first round picks--including number five overall. While there are several directions the Titans can go, Dick LeBeau’s defense gave up 30 points-plus in three critical losses.
And don’t let the late-season defensive surge fool you, those were three offensively challenged teams the Titans held down. They need help to become a solid contender, so the Titans will choose the best defensive back, which could well be Ohio State's Malik Hooker and not Jamal Adams.
27 NEW YORK JETS - JALEN - "TEEZ" TABOR, CB
This could be the most controversial pick, when the 2017 Draft could get really wide open-as the offerings range from potential franchise quarterbacks to defensive game-changers, and the Jets are just the team to send this season's draft off into another stratosphere of complexity.
26 LOS ANGELES CHARGERS - JAMAL ADAMS, S
Most mocks have Los Angeles’ latest team choosing Hooker, but whoever the Chargers pick pretty much has to be on defense, given how pathetic the Bolts were on that side of the ball in 2016. In this mock, Hooker is off the board so the Chargers “settle” for the highly regarded Adams.
25 CAROLINA PANTHERS - DEREK BARNETT, DE
A lot of mocks posts have the Panthers taking Fournette but he’s gone in this scenario and Dalvin Cook isn’t generally considered a high enough talent to take at eight. The Panthers’ fall from grace was astonishing--from Super Bowl runner-ups in 2015 to also-ran with too many holes to fill this past season.
24 CINCINNATI BENGALS - REUBEN FOSTER, ILB
Cincinnati was one of the most disappointing NFL franchises in 2016 and if they want to rewrite their story for 2017, they’ll have to start with the draft. Cincy’s once imposing defense went from ferocious jungle beasts to declawed house cats as the Bengals were the fourth-worst team in the NFL versus the run this past season.In a division with Le’Veon Bell, that won’t get it done. The Bengals add the 2016 Dick Butkus Award winner as college’s top linebacker.
23 BUFFALO BILLS - DESHONE KIZER, QB
The Bills are currently on the clock with longest playoff drought in the NFL (since 1999). Per usual, Buffalo has plenty of needs, but the most important position in all team sports--quarterback--is the position the Bills need to address with uncertainty surrounding Tyrod Taylor and others. There are other options in this mock, but Kizer holds as much promise as any, standing 6-3 and totaling a 145.57 QB rating during this past season at Notre Dame.
22 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - SOLOMON THOMAS, DE
Sean Payton is under pressure to return the Saints to serious contending status while the window remains open for Drew Brees to produce at the highest level. There were reports a few weeks ago that the Saints were open to trading Payton to Indianapolis but a deal didn't materialize. That means Payton's time is ticking in New Orleans to recapture their former glory. To do that, New Orleans will have to construct a defense that takes the pressure off Brees and starts stopping other teams marching up and down the field.
21 CLEVELAND BROWNS - PATRICK MAHOMES, QB
If the Browns don’t take a passer with the number one pick, then they can grab one here, and according to this mock, Texas Tech’s Mahomes will be the best QB still on the board.
With a dominant defensive player and possibly a quarterback of the future, the Browns could do quite well for themselves in 2017's first round alone.
20 ARIZONA CARDINALS - MIKE WILLIAMS, WR
19 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - MARSHON LATTIMORE, CB
Is Indy going to choose Dalvin Cook, like virtually every mock predicts, or do the Colts address their defensive deficiencies? This mock projects them addressing the latter, as it will prove too tempting for the Colts to pass on Lattimore, so highly regarded out of defensive factory Ohio State University.
18 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - COREY DAVIS, WR
Another weapon for Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz? How about any weapon for the talented signal-caller? The ultimate question Philly must answer is; does Wentz become a Ben Roethlisberger...or a Blake Bortles? To elevate Wentz’s game, the Eagles need to surround him with weapons he was missing in 2016. Western Michigan’s Davis is more than capable, as he hauled in a whopping 97 passes for exactly 1,500 yards for the Broncos last fall.
As noted by Pro Football Focus, Davis ideally combines precision route-running that enables him to slip behind the defense with strong yards after the catch, two traits that will win Wentz’s gratitude.
17 BALTIMORE RAVENS - DALVIN COOK, RB
The Ravens have considerable talent, yet pressing needs. The Birds' running game was nothing much to speak of in 2016, lead by Terrance West's 774 yards and ho-hum 4.0 per-rush average. All the Ravens need do is glance over at AFC North division champ Steelers' rushing/receiving star Le’Veon Bell to realize the importance of such a weapon in today’s NFL. Cook isn’t likely to last past pick number 20, and he'd provide Joe Flacco with an instant weapon; out of the backfield as a receiver, Cook nabbed 33 passes for a nice 488 yards with Florida State last fall.
16 WASHINGTON REDSKINS - ZACH CUNNINGHAM, ILB
Washington should be in a hurry to halt the run, because it’s killing a talented team. In 2016, Washington’s defensive rankings against the rush were pathetic; among the sad stats, ranking 24th in yards with nearly 2,000 (1,916) allowed on the ground.
15 TENNESSEE TITANS - O.J. HOWARD, TE
Like the Browns before them in this mock, the Titans bolster their ranks by adding both a defensive and offensive chip before they’re even out of the first round. And for the Titans’ second pick in this mock, they give their quarterback Marcus Mariota a big shiny new toy to play with in O.J. Howard, straight outta the NFL factory also known as the University of Alabama.
14 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - JOHN ROSS, WR
An impact receiver is one of the pieces Tampa's offense needs to step into the postseason next year. And in this mock, like the Titans, Tampa gives their emerging franchise QB, Jameis Winston, a new weapon in Ross, who caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards at Washington last fall. Adam Humphries had a decent 2016 season in the slot for the Bucs, but Ross--a consensus first-rounder--would be such a upgrade at the position, giving Winston a safety valve option that will enhance his overall game.
13 DENVER BRONCOS - RYAN RAMCYZK, OT
If Broncos’ head honcho John Elway is serious about bringing in a somewhat fragile Tony Romo to play quarterback in 2017, then the Broncos' offensive line has to be remade, and drafting Ramcyzk out of Wisconsin would be a smart start.
12 DETROIT LIONS - MARLON HUMPHREY, CB
The Lions’ inability to stop the pass in 2016 was so pathetically profound, it’s a testament to the greatness of Matthew Stafford that he dragged Detroit into the playoffs. While the Lions could certainly use a Taco Charlton on the line, as most mocks predict, a cornerback to stop all the TD passes would help as well. As noted by WalterFootball.com, Alabama’s Humphrey offers the versatility to match up with big receivers and keep pace with the speedy wideouts. He's big at 6-1 and does a little bit of everything from hawking interceptions to forcing fumbles, and the Lions need a lot of that.
11 MIAMI DOLPHINS - DAVID NJOKU, TE
The Dolphins’ offensive attack as it is presently constituted is not dynamic enough for coach Adam Gase’s lofty ambitions. In this mock, Gase goes offense and if Howard is indeed gone, then the coach need look no further than in his own city at the “U” to find the “Mammals” (Dolphins aren’t fish) the second best tight end in this draft. The Dolphins have gone WR and OT their last two drafts, so the next piece on offense is at TE.
10 NEW YORK GIANTS - CAM ROBINSON, OT
In the Giants’ divisional round loss to the Packers, it was Eli and the offense that let the G-Men down, failing to build a lead when the Giants' stout defense held the Pack scoreless midway through the 2nd quarter. The Giants' offensive retooling begins up front, and here they land the second-best tackle in the draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper projects the Giants going offensive line in the first round as well, though he has them choosing Ramcyzk. In this mock, the Giants have to “settle” for Alabama’s Cam Robinson, who may not have the pass blocking skills of Ramcyzk, but Eli was only sacked 21 times last year, so protection is not as critical.
9 OAKLAND RAIDERS - TACO CHARLTON, DE
Just when the Raiders are back to making a commitment to excellence, they’re ready to jump ship for Vegas. You’re welcome, Oakland. But maybe the Silver and Black can win one more title for the East Bay before they bolt to Sin City. Offensively, they’re there, but the defense needs some serious work. Taco Charlton is a tremendous run stopper-a key need for the Raiders. Of his 42 tackles for the Michigan Wolverines in 2016, 13.5 were for a loss, with 10 sacks. Those kind of big-plays can send an opposing offense into predictable third-and-long situations, thus empowering the defense, especially one that's led by Khalil Mack. One player can make that much difference and Charlton could be that player.
8 HOUSTON TEXANS - DESHAUN WATSON, QB
As much as the Texans might want to add to their defense, let's face it, they held Tom Brady to rather mediocre stats in the divisional round, and they're getting J.J. Watt back next season, so they’ve got to address their dismal offense first and foremost. However, with the top notch running backs, receivers and tight ends already taken in this mock, the Texans look to the most critical position of all by selecting Watson, the leader of the national champion Clemson Tigers.
7 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - JABRILL PEPPERS, S
Just like his versatility on the field, Michigan’s Peppers is a wild-card in the meta-mock analysis conducted to compile this list; ranging in picks from top ten to bottom of the first round--yet always in play somewhere. And if he’s still available here, the Seahawks would be wise to snatch him up and embolden a safety position exposed by the injury to defensive leader Earl Thomas. This situation was multiplied by how badly Steven Terrell was beaten by Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ receivers in Atlanta’s thrashing of the Seahawks in the divisional round.
6 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, WR
In the Chiefs' divisional round loss to the Steelers, their offense was the component to let them down--once again. The soon-to-be 33-year-old quarterback Alex Smith probably isn't ever taking the Chiefs to a Super Bowl, but with the best quarterbacks gone in this mock, the best strategy is to surround Smith with more weapons. And if Ju-Ju proves to be the real deal, perhaps QB Alex will add a hyphenated “Schuster” at the end of his own “Smith”.
5 DALLAS COWBOYS - QUINCY WILSON, CB
To assess the Cowboys’ draft needs, one need look no further than the Green Bay Packers' last two playoff game results. Against the Cowboys’ defense, Aaron Rodgers was his usual superior self, yet that same QB was hunted down to earth like a little sparrow by the Falcons. The Cowboys’ offensive prowess is unsurpassed, but to take that next step, the Boys have to start constructing a top-tier defense that features outstanding talent like the 6-1 Wilson, who can cover the speedy guys as well as the massive wideouts.
4 GREEN BAY PACKERS - SIDNEY JONES CB
Sometimes it feels like Aaron Rodgers is all alone out there. The best quarterback in the league needs help around him as he had in 2010 when he won it all. We saw how badly the Packers were outmatched against the Falcons' vaunted offense in the NFC Championship. In order for the Pack to truly get back, they’ve got to develop a stiffening defense with a shutdown corner. So, which excellent Pac-12 CB do the Pack nab? Washington Huskies' Sidney Jones or the USC Trojans’ Adoree Jackson?
3 PITTSBURGH STEELERS - CHARLES HARRIS, OLB
The Steelers would do well with either Tim Williams or Harris but Williams’ off-field problems are something Pittsburgh might want to avoid based on the suspensions they’ve endured with Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant for weed. Therefore the Steelers go with the more mature Harris, who could instantly provide the edge speed they desperately need to neutralize the likes of Tom Brady.
2 ATLANTA FALCONS - MALIK MCDOWELL, DT/DE
There’s no denying that state-of-the-art offense is Atlanta’s strong suit and their undersized, occasionally soft defense, is their weakness. A dominant lineman can change that, and, if McDowell maintains his 6-6, 276 pound frame, he’ll likely end up as a defensive end. In either scenario, McDowell is first-round talent who harasses the quarterback and amassed 24.5 tackles for losses in only 36 games at Michigan State.
1 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - HAASON REDDICK, OLB/ILB
Even now, at the last pick of this mock draft, a prodigious amount of defensive talent abounds. And Bill Belichick loves enriching his D, especially with his less-than-stellar pass rush, which ranked only 18th in the NFL in sacks-per-pass-play.
The rich get richer as the best team in the NFL in the 2016 season nabs the player who made the biggest impact in the Senior Bowl, Temple’s Haason Reddick, who is rewarded with inclusion in this first-round mock. As NFL.com’s Mike Mayock opined, Reddick had one impressive practice after another. The 6-2, 237 pound Reddick is the classic talented “tweener”--he could play outside, inside or even on the edge of the line--that defensive mastermind Belichick would put to good use. With the Pats having traded Jamie Collins this season, Reddick provides a potential replacement.
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