Alas here it is; the first of many mock drafts by another so-called ‘expert’. Obviously this mock draft is not final, and it was created with the most available information available as of February 24th. It is sure to change as free agency, the NFL Scouting Combine® and private information and videos (looking at you, Laremy Tunsil) become available to the public.
As a disclaimer, as of right now, the 14th and 15th picks could be swapped based on a coin flip. The author has taken liberties in who earned each pick. These picks are also without any potential future trades, which are sure to happen before and on draft day.
Be sure to comment with your own opinions and picks, and to follow along for future mock drafts by this author, and the other cohosts too.
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, OLB/DE Texas A&M
Everyone wants Cleveland to draft a quarterback here. I agree that they need one but with Garoppolo, Cutler and potentially Tyrod Taylor all available it would make sense for Hue Jackson to take a signal caller with a little more film than a college prospect. Garrett has reminded scouts of JJ Watt in terms of his motor and his skill set as a complete defensive end.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Mitch Trubisky, QB North Carolina
The new front office needs to make a splash, and nothing says rebuild like drafting a quarterback early. Kyle Shanahan did wonders with Matt Ryan, and an ACC prospect with similar mechanics would fit well into Shanahan’s scheme. The question is who will Trubisky be throwing to?
3. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen, DE Alabama
Another potential quarterback spot, but I don’t think there are any with the talent available here. Most likely if the Bears don’t want a quarterback, they can move out of this spot for a team who is more needy. If they stay, Allen fills a need on their defensive line especially after giving up the 6th most rushing yards last season.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jamal Adams, Safety LSU
Jacksonville is perennially rebuilding, and with a potential trade for LT Brandon Albert from Miami their defense would be a top fix here. Jonathan Cyprien is a free agent, and Adams will be a day one starter. Paired with CB Jalen Ramsey and the young talent at linebacker, their secondary is the best spot for an upgrade.
5. Tennessee Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB THE Ohio State University
While the Titans need additional wide receiver talent, the Titans cornerbacks need an immediate upgrade. Brice McCain and Jason McCorty are not shutdown players, and Lattimore provides constant cover on one side of the field. The Titans still have their own pick in this draft, and they could also use this pick to move back and take one of the star receivers if they don’t find value here.
6. New York Jets – DeShone Kizer, QB Notre Dame
The Jets are another team that need improvement in the quarterback position. Sources say that Christian Hackenberg has impressed coaches, but Hackenberg is not the long term solution for the franchise. Realistically if the Jets are going to take a quarterback, they’ll probably either trade up to ensure they get their choice or they’ll trade back
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Malik Hooker, Safety THE Ohio State University
Eric Weddle has been gone for a season, and the Chargers had trouble stopping the pass, especially on deep throws when their corners were being stretched. Malik Hooker has the ability to play deep but also poses a threat as a playmaker. The team may be looking for a ‘sexy’ pick here because of the move to Los Angeles, but Hooker provides more strength for a defense that collapsed later in the year.
8. Carolina Panthers – Leonard Fournette, RB LSU
Rumors out of Charlotte is that Jonathan Stewart may be a casualty of the salary cap. Aging and costing them millions, he may be cut. And if he is, Fournette provides a strong replacement that can start immediately. Paired with Cam Newton, the running threat should give the Panthers more one on one opportunities for Kelvin Benjamin and company.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Solomon Thomas, DE Stanford
The Bengals are getting older, and their defensive line needs improvement. They were middle of the road in passing yards allowed, but gave up considerably more rushing plays, especially on the edge. This pick allows them to get edge pressure and free up Geno Atkins.
10. Buffalo Bills – Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson
The Bills have a new head coach, and a new regime traditionally means a new quarterback. As of right now, it seems that the Bills and Tyrod Taylor are breaking up to avoid having to pay the remainder of his $27.5 million paycheck. While I think Watson may move based on free agency, the Combine and his pro day; the Bills seem like a good fit for the Clemson signal caller. And with the Patriots and now the Dolphins both being playoff teams, the Bills need to do something to keep up or at least show the fans that they are trying.
11. New Orleans Saints – Reuben Foster, LB Alabama
The Saints’ linebackers in 2016 were a hodgepodge of random players from trades (Ellerbe) and free agency (Craig Robertson). Reuben Foster is a stud inside linebacker who can improve their linebacking corps. Both consistent against the run and capable against the pass, Foster provides an improvement on what was considered to be a weak defense across the board.
12. Cleveland Browns – Quincy Wilson, CB Florida
This pick is considered to be the one that would be traded for Garoppolo, if the Browns do pull the trigger on that trade. But until it’s done, the Browns need help on defense. Quincy Wilson would be a great addition for their secondary across from Joe Haden. Wilson was one of a pair of great corners from a Florida team that defensively was very strong. He can play one on one against tough, big-bodied receivers and can play more aggressively with safety help. If they don’t end up re-signing Terrelle Pryor, then they could go Corey Davis or Mike Williams. But a stud cornerback would be the smarter move.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Corey Davis, WR Western Michigan
Larry Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer, and replacing him won’t be easy. And while Fitzgerald said he is returning, Corey Davis will learn behind him and from Carson Palmer, and it will give him valuable experience before he jumps into a starting role. Davis is a more complete, but less flashy, prospect than Williams, and with Bruce Arians’ strength at offensive planning then Davis seems like a better fit in his offense.
14. Indianapolis Colts – Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State
Stop me if you’ve heard this before; Frank Gore is old and is nearing retirement. Calvin Cook is a fast, one cut back who can compliment Luck’s passing offense with fast speed. Cook is also a good pass-catcher out of the backfield, which benefits Luck’s use of check downs. The Colts do have glaring needs across the team, including linebackers and secondary, but a dynamic playmaker in Cook would be very hard to pass up.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Mike Williams, WR Clemson
Even if they pick ahead of the Colts, Mike Williams still makes sense in Philly. Last year they drafted their hopeful franchise quarterback, and now they need to give him a shiny weapon. Mike Williams’ highlight tape is exciting. He’s a big bodied outside target that still has breakaway speed. His size makes him a good weapon across the field, especially in the Red Area.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Marion Humphrey, CB Alabama
While Baltimore’s defense has young talent in players like Timmy Jernigan and CJ Mosley, their secondary is aging. Ladarius Webb and Eric Weddle are both over 30, and Jimmy Smith is the only other stud in that secondary. Humphrey provides relief for the other side of the field. Don’t be surprised if Baltimore goes defensive line, but a shutdown corner gives their young talent and veteran players (like Elvis Dumervil) more time to rush the passer.
17. Washington – Derek Barnett, DE Tennessee
Washington is in an uncomfortable position of having to potentially fill the spots of multiple departing free agents. Quarterback, both outside receivers, nose tackle, defensive end, safety and backups behind nearly every position are all empty spots as of right now. While some players may be re-signed and others picked up during free agency, the biggest improvement at this place in the draft is on the defensive line. Barnett, and edge rusher out of Tennessee is a faster, and younger, replacement for free agent Chris Baker or to shuffle around Ricky Jean-Francois. Since money will be tied up in quarterback and wide receivers, adding a capable end would fill a position on a defense that was 8th worst against the pass and 9th worst against the run in the league.
18. Tennessee Titans – David Njoku, TE University of Miami
People see a tight end here and go bananas, but Anthony Fasano is a free agent and Delanie Walker is 32 years old. This draft is being considered one of the deepest in tight end depth, and with their second pick in the first round, it is an easy way to upgrade a position that will need to be addressed in only a few years. Njoku was a great weapon for Brad Kaaya at Miami, and Mariota would be getting another weapon in the Red Area, where he has already excelled.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Taco Charlton, DE Michigan
With William Gholston a free agent and Robert Ayers not being a long term option, the Bucs need help to go alongside Gerald McCoy on their defensive line. The Bucs have multiple free agents across the field on both sides, but a proven pass rusher is being rated as important for teams to get critical stops on defense. Look for Tampa Bay to address secondary concerns in free agency while targeting the line early in the draft.
20. Denver Broncos – Ryan Ramczyk, OT Wisconsin
Denver is stuck in a salary cap zone where they will have trouble bringing in free agent talent, especially if they make a push for Tony Romo. Their offensive line is a patchwork of late draft picks and free agents. And while Okung and Stephenson excelled at pass blocking, especially when the team operated in the shotgun, they have trouble in heavy formations especially when running. Ramczyk comes from a run first offense in Wisconsin, and he is capable in the passing game. Provides an immediate improvement over their current right tackle Stephenson while being a good replacement for Okung in the next few seasons.
21. Detroit Lions – Malik McDowell, DT Michigan State
If the Lions let both Riley Reiff and Larry Warford go, look for them to target offensive linemen in free agency. That frees them up to target another defensive stud. While not as explosive or complete as Ndamukong Suh, Malik McDowell is a great pair for Haloti Ngata. Ngata is 33 and has one more year left on his contract, so replacing him will be important for the team, especially since he was only brought in as a replacement for Nick Fairley and Suh. McDowell won’t have to travel far to be with a team that can use him day one.
22. Miami Dolphins – Zach Cunningham, LB Vanderbilt
I originally had OJ Howard going to Miami, but trading a 7th round pick for Julius Thomas seems to have filled their need, at least on paper. Despite making the playoffs, Miami needs help across the board (guard, defensive line, linebacker, secondary) so I think this will be a true ‘best player available’ pick, if they keep it. Cunningham fills a big need at linebacker. Besides Kiko Alonso and maybe Koa Misi, there isn’t much in terms of starting potential in south Florida. Miami has become known for trading back a few picks, and with only four picks they could use more.
23. New York Giants – OJ Howard, TE Alabama
By releasing Rashad Jennings, the Giants may make a push for a running back. But if one isn’t available and they don’t move, then OJ Howard is the best player available. They added defensive help last year in free agency and the draft, and if they re-sign Jason Pierre Paul, then they’ll target the offensive side. Current tight ends Will Tye and Larry Donnell have been acceptable options (moreso the former and not the latter), but OJ Howard is an incredibly talented tight end in a deep tight end draft class. Capable of blocking, OJ Howard is a very skilled offensive weapon that can take the underneath routes, pulling down safeties letting Odell Beckham get better targets. Howard also provides another big target in the Red Area.
24. Oakland Raiders – Teez Tabor, CB Florida
The second Florida cornerback to go in the draft is marked to go to Oakland. DJ Hayden is a free agent and Sean Smith is getting older, so Tabor can fill a potentially immediate starting role while the team decides if they want to keep one or both of their current corners. Oakland’s defense was
25. Houston Texans – Cam Robinson, OT Alabama
As we discussed on the podcast, Houston is one quarterback away from being a playoff threat in the AFC. But they most likely won’t find one here in the draft, so they’ll need to protect who they already have. current LT Duane Brown was drafted in 2008, and is 31 years old. Cam Robinson played well run blocking at Alabama, which can help Texans’ Lamar Miller find more running lanes. Robinson also has the ability to play either tackle, which makes him a versatile piece for the Texans.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Garrett Bolles, OT Utah
Pete Carroll and the Seahawks’ front office has made a system of paying stud defensive playmakers while letting other positions walk during free agency or trade them instead of re-signing them, specifically members of the offensive line. Bolles is a fresh tackle who can play either side of the line. While not as complete as Robinson or Ramczyk, Bolles is still a first round talent who can make an immediate impact for Wilson. The question is how well he does holding off pressure if/when Russell Wilson moves out of the pocket, but his tape does show he has the ability to learn and adapt.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – Charles Harris, DE Mizzou
This pick is contingent on which star defensive player Kansas City franchises. Both Eric Berry and Dontari Poe are free agents, and while the team wants to bring both back, all signs are locking up Berry and hoping Poe will stay during free agency. Drafting Harris as a defensive end allows the Chiefs to shuffle around their line in the worst case that Poe doesn’t sign. But it also can provide depth and youth if he does.
28. Dallas Cowboys – TJ Watt, LB Wisconsin
Jerry Jones sees a famous name so say no more. Realistically, TJ Watt doesn’t necessarily meet the same standards as his brother, but he is a chip off the old block. Sean Lee is getting older, and TJ Watt is a young replacement with a household name in the state of Texas. Despite their offensive strengths last season, their defense felt bland and stagnant. Watt provides a spark in a position that has the ability to both rush the passer and play in coverage.
29. Green Bay Packers – Sidney Jones, CB University of Washington
If anything about the Packers’ 2016 season comes up in our memory, it’s Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary plays. What we all seem to forget is the fact that their defense couldn’t get stops, especially late in the games. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played well as a safety, especially with the injuries sustained by what felt like half of the team, but they need help at corner. Sidney Jones provides the ability to add another playmaker to their secondary. Jones has been moving around the first round, and he will continue to do so through the Combine and his pro day, but if he can fall to the Packers at 29, then that is a steal for a complete corner.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tim Williams, OLB Alabama
James Harrison may think he can play forever, but the Steelers have to start planning for life after the great linebacker. Their secondary does need help, but with the holes open due to expiring contracts (Lawrence Timmons, Jarvis Jones, James Harrison) bringing in a young talent, especially a player with good playing time in a similarly ran defense could provide a day one starter this late in the draft. Partnered alongside Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier, the Steelers would have a young, but capable, linebacking corps that can retain James Harrison as a veteran teacher and situational rusher.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Dan Feeney, OG Indiana University
Dan Feeney is a four year starter at Indiana, where he earned All-American honors. Capable of playing all five spots on the line, Atlanta can get a young player to compliment Jake Matthews and fill in any hole on the line. Guard play has been lacking across the NFL and seeing a guard go in the first round is rare, but a player who can comfortably play across the offensive line could be worth the cost. Former teammate Jason Spriggs was a second round pick for the Packers last year, and Feeney was projected for the same if he came out last year, but instead he improved his outside game and stayed in college for another year.
32. New England Patriots – Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford
Again this is a pick that is most likely going to be traded; teams like to put a value here so they can grab a second round pick and get the fifth year option on their contract. But if the Patriots do keep it, they could make a move for McCaffrey. A stud, three down back may seem like overkill to a team with Lagarrette Blount and James White, but they could easily be victims of the salary cap or be traded for picks, too. Remember, this is the team that cut Jonas Gray immediately after he went on a tear two seasons ago,