2017 NFL Mock Draft, version 2.0 — The “five weeks away” edition

By | March 24, 2017
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Haason Reddick NFL Draft 2017 Washington Redskins

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For the record: I still think mock drafts are stupid.

Just think about it for a second: the majority of mock drafts are nothing but wild, random, and often totally clueless speculations about what that particular pundit, talking head, or idiot blogger (me squarely being in the latter category) thinks a team should or will do. If you’re a fan of any particular team, why the hell would you care about the personal opinion of said pundit/talking head/idiot blogger? In reality, their opinion isn’t really any more valid than having a monkey fling its poop at a board of the top 50 prospects, and creating a mock draft by choosing which players are closest to said feces.

So, then, why am I publishing this 3,300-plus word mock draft? And more importantly, why should you care?

Allow me to get on my own personal high horse for a moment (though you should still very much treat me as the aforementioned idiot blogger). I’ll let you in on a little secret, which isn’t really all that paradigm-shattering: For all the “mediots” — aka media idiots (a term that I coined myself, that I’m rather proud of) — out there, publishing their mock drafts and vehemently defending each pick (even though they statistically have a 90%+ chance they’ll get it wrong), the reality is that the people who generally have the best sense of what a team is really going to do come draft day are the team’s local beat writers. They’re the ones who cover the team on a daily basis, and have the connections closest to the people making the decisions for those teams.

So, I spent an inordinate amount of time investigating the local tea leaves, and reading up on what direction is leaning towards — at least at this point in time — as far as the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Of course, the reality is that: 1) draft boards are still very, very fluid at this point in time; 2) even the most reliable reporters are given a whole bunch of misleading information; and 3) more often than not, teams change their minds in the last 48-72 hours of the draft. In other words: it’s still a total crapshoot.

But, as of right now, here’s how things could shake down come late April, at least in the eyes of this particular idiot blogger:

1. Cleveland: Myles Garrett, Edge, Texas A&M — Barring some type of catastrophe, or brain fart of historic proportions, Myles Garrett is all but locked up as the #1 overall pick (at least as of right now). His combination of athleticism, explosiveness, and prototypical physical tools are so off-the-charts that he could probably double as Captain America. He registered a total of 21 sacks over the past two years, despite teams devoting their entire game plans around stopping or avoiding him at all costs. And the scary part? He still has a ton of room for improvement as a pass rusher.

2. San Francisco: Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State — Solomon Thomas from Stanford has become the trendy projection, but the more you think about it, it doesn’t make sense for the 49ers to take Thomas with this pick. It goes back to the original line of thought: if anything, the 49ers defensive line is the one area on the team that doesn’t require a total rebuild, and Thomas’ skillset is a bit redundant to those of Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. On the other hand, Malik Hooker is one of the best pure free safety prospects to come out in years, and could play the Earl Thomas role in the Seattle-esque defense that new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will run.

3. Chicago: Solomon Thomas, Edge, Stanford — The Bears have a bunch of guys along the defensive line, but none of them are game-altering players. They spent a bunch of money in free agency to upgrade several different positions on the team, but didn’t really do much to upgrade their front seven on defense. Thomas would be the best player available at a huge position of need for the Bears. I really can’t see a defensive-minded coach like John Fox passing on him.

4. Jacksonville: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU — Yes, the Jaguars still have Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon at running back. But there’s a reason Chris Ivory is on his third team in five years, and ask anyone who had TJ Yeldon on their fantasy football team last year about how his 2016 went (just be prepared for a tirade of profanity). Both Tom Coughlin (the new Executive VP in Jacksonville) and Doug Marrone (the new head coach) have a history of using multiple running backs in the running game as well, and there’s a growing belief that Jacksonville could draft Fournette to help take the burden off the struggling Blake Bortles.

5. Tennessee (from St. Louis): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State — Titans General Manager Jon Robinson showed last year that he’s about rebuilding positions of key need on the team, and the Titans cornerback situation was a total mess last year. They already got rid of one of their starting cornerbacks from last year (Perrish Cox), and it wouldn’t be surprising if they let their other starter — Jason McCourty — walk after the season is over (he’s on the last year of his deal). Lattimore is crazy athletic with a huge upside, if he can just stay healthy.

6. NY Jets: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina — The comedy of the incredulous reactions of Jets fans, when the team makes this pick, would be worth watching the draft for, by itself. But according to the tea leaves — or whatever the internet equivalent of those are — the Jets are reportedly intrigued by Trubisky. Of course, when your future at quarterback involves the names Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, almost any other quarterback known to man would probably look intriguing.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Jamal Adams, Safety, LSUThe Chargers currently have Dwight Lowery and Jahleel Addae as their starting safeties, but Lowery could be a cap casualty at the end of the season, and Addae has missed 16 games in four years due to injuries. Everyone thinks of Adams as more of an in-the-box safety, but he actually might be better as a single-high safety in the NFL, making him a great compliment to Addae.

8. Carolina: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama — As if he wasn’t already enough of a “one man offense,” the Panthers spent the offseason adding more bums and nobodies to catch passes from Cam Newton. Mercifully, they reportedly do want to draft another target for Newton… in the form of another franchise tight end, to compliment — and someday succeed — Greg Olsen. O.J. Howard might be the most singularly talented football player in this draft, but he got overlooked nationally because he was neglectfully overlooked in Alabama’s anemic passing attack.

9. Cincinnati: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama — The Bengals are reportedly focused on coming out of the draft with upgrades to their defensive end rotation. If Jonathan Allen slips this far, which is a distinct possibility after rumors of potential long-term issues with his shoulders, then there’s just no way Cincinnati could pass on him. Sure, Allen is most often listed as a defensive tackle, but he’s actually a great fit as a 4-3 defensive end who can move inside to tackle in passing situations.

10. Buffalo: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson — The wide receiver position hasn’t been a strength of the Buffalo Bills for a while now, and it aint much better after this offseason. Their current group of receivers is basically Sammy Watkins, and a whole lot of nobodies. After bringing back Tyrod Taylor, they simply have to upgrade the receivers he’s got to throw the ball to. Mike Williams reminds a me a lot of Dez Bryant, and his style of play would be an ideal compliment to that of Watkins.

11. New Orleans: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee — You want to know why head coach Sean Payton publicly stated that finding an edge-rushing defensive end is a “must” for the Saints this offseason? How about this: outside of Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan, every other defensive end on New Orleans’ roster had less than four sacks last year (including the recently signed Alex Okafor). Derek Barnett doesn’t have the eye-popping numbers athletically, but there’s a reason he broke Reggie White’s school record for most career sacks while at Tennessee. He’s a polished and savvy edge rusher who consistently impacted games.

12. Cleveland (from Philadelphia): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson — I don’t think the Browns can go that much longer without having a long-term solution in place at the quarterback position. If Trubisky doesn’t fall to them at #12, I think they pull the trigger on Watson. He’s been steadily rising up draft boards over the last few weeks, and Hue Jackson has experience working with guys coming from a spread offense in college (Andy Dalton and Robert Griffin III — albeit very briefly — last year).

13. Arizona: Rueben Foster, LB, Alabama — The Cardinals spent most of the offseason watching their defense get absolutely gutted, thanks to free agent defections. They managed to bring back Karlos Dansby, but he’ll turn 36 years old by season’s end, and they lost fellow inside linebacker Kevin Minter to Cincinnati. Rueben Foster’s draft position took a hit after the NFL Combine, but Arizona has shown they’re not afraid to take a chance on a talented player who might have some character flaws, if the talent is there (like Tyrann Mathieu and Robert Nkemdiche).

14. Philadelphia (from Minnesota): Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State — Over the past seven seasons he’s been in the league, Eagles running back Ryan Mathews has missed three or more games in six of those seven seasons. On top of that, he’ll turn 30 years old in October, which is the age where running backs basically start to fall off the proverbial cliff. That’s why the Eagles are reportedly interested in “aggressively” upgrading the RB position in the NFL Draft. From a talent standpoint, Dalvin Cook is a perfect fit for the dual-threat style of running back that head coach Doug Pederson’s offense needs. It’s just a matter of whether the off-the-field stuff checks out for Cook.

15. Indianapolis: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan — Now that former General Manager Ryan Grigson was (finally) dismissed by the Colts, perhaps they can stop going out of their way to avoid adding any impact talent to their defense. The only edge rusher the Colts have had over the past three years to record double-digit sacks — outside linebacker Erik Walden — is currently a free agent, and there’s no guarantee he’s coming back. The only other pass rusher of consequence that the Colts have — Robert Mathis — turned 36 years old in the offseason. Point being: they need more people capable of pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Charlton is a well-built (6’6 and 277lbs), high-motor guy who compares favorably to a Chandler Jones-type player.

16. Baltimore: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan — For all the acquisitions and draft picks the Baltimore Ravens have used at the wide receiver position, they still lack a guy who’s anything near a true #1 receiver, especially now that Steve Smith has retired. They have a bunch of guys, like Mike Wallace and Breshad Perriman, who can run really fast, but can’t really be trusted to consistently get open. Corey Davis is basically the opposite of that. None of his stopwatch times will impress you, but he’s a smooth, smart, and super-productive player.

17. Washington: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple — If the reports are true that, after firing Scot McCloughan (and totally destroying the hopes of their fan base at the same time), the Redskins are still using his draft board, then this pick would fit on multiple levels. McCloughan valued high-character guys, who played four years in college, have good measurables, and “love football.” Haason Reddick was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl, showing speed and relentlessness that made him stand out among the competition there. He would fit a huge need that the Redskins have at inside linebacker.

18. Tennessee: John Ross, WR, Washington — As mentioned above: the precedent we have for the Titans is that they’ll use the draft to methodically address the positions of need on the team, with the best players available at that spot. John Ross basically broke the internet when he set a new record for the fastest (official) 40 yard dash time at the NFL Combine (4.22 seconds). But, more importantly, you actually see that speed on his game tape, as opposed to him being some type of freak workout fluke. The Titans want to focus on upgrading the group of guys to whom Marcus Mariota can throw passes, and nobody among their current group can stretch the field vertically like Ross does.

19. Tampa Bay: David Njoku, TE, Tampa Bay — Even after signing DeSean Jackson in the offseason, the central theme for Tampa Bay seems to be around giving Jameis Winston more receiving options. With Jackson and Mike Evans on the edges, adding a talent like David Njoku to work the seam routes & middle of the field would make this offense even more formidable. Over the last two months, Njoku has soared up draft boards because of his incredible athletic tools, but he’s still far from a finished product.

20. Denver: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford — Here, let me go ahead and save you the effort of expressing your outrage: “THIS PICK IS COMPLETELY MORONIC!!! THE BRONCOS ALREADY HAVE C.J. ANDERSON AND DEVONTAE BOOKER AT RUNNING BACK, WHY WOULD THEY TAKE ANOTHER ONE IN THE FIRST ROUND!?!?! YOU ARE A COMPLETE IDIOT!!!” Feel better now? Great. As far as this projection, i’m basing it on one of the rumors that’s emerged as of late, about the Broncos (allegedly) being interested in selecting Christian McCaffrey. Don’t forget that so much of what happens in the NFL is based on connections. John Elway played with Ed McCaffrey — Christian’s father — in the late 1990’s, plus Elway and the McCaffrey’s are all Stanford alumni.

21. Detroit: Takkarist McKinley, Edge, UCLA — We have two big clues, as far as what the Lions might do with this pick: 1) General Manager Bob Quinn has said on numerous occasions that he’s a big believer in building a football team from the inside out; and 2) the Lions really don’t have anyone of consequence at defensive end, on the other side of Ziggy Ansah, to stop opposing offenses from focusing on stopping (or avoiding) Ansah at all costs. McKinley could start off as a situational pass rusher, and eventually take over full time at defensive end.

22. Miami: Charles Harris, Edge, Missouri — A lot of people are projecting an offensive lineman here, but everything you read out of Miami indicates they’re pretty happy with their current starting five. On the other side of the football, even after extending Andre Branch and acquiring William Hayes from the Rams, the Dolphins could still use someone who could bring the heat on opposing quarterbacks in passing situations. Harris-to-the-Dolphins seems to be picking up a little steam lately. It makes sense too, as he’d be in the perfect situation to learn from a veteran like Cameron Wake.

23. NY Giants: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin — The Giants have devoted a ton of draft resources towards their offensive line, yet still can’t seem to fix their issues at either tackle position. They signed DJ Fluker in the offseason, but there’s thought that he’ll kick inside to right guard (bumping John Jerry — who still stinks — to a reserve role), so they still have a gap at right tackle. Ryan Ramczyk could probably come in and start at right tackle from day one, but he’s got an underrated upside as a potential left tackle in the NFL. If he did develop into a starting left tackle, that would allow New York to move Ereck Flowers to the right tackle spot, so that he could stop potentially trying to get Eli Manning killed by opposing pass rushers. (source)

24. Oakland: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt — The Raiders signed Jelani Jenkins (formerly of the Dolphins this offseason), but he’s really a stopgap solution at the weakside linebacker spot. At the middle linebacker spot, they’ve never really been all that fond of incumbent Ben Heeney, and their other “mike” linebacker, Perry Riley Jr., is a free agent. Cunningham is an athletic, smart linebacker that can run sideline to sideline, meaning the Raiders could try to use him at either the mike or will linebacker spots.

25. Houston: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah — Houston has been kicking tires on offensive linemen during the offseason, as their top priority remains finding someone who can help protect whoever it is that plays quarterback for the Texans next season. After all, if they do end up getting Tony Romo, the last thing they need is somebody letting a pass rusher by him, and breaking Romo’s back (again) like Bane did to Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. Houston could start Garrett Bolles over at the right tackle spot right away, and then shift him over to the left side when they finally move on from Duane Brown.

26. Seattle: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida — Yes, as a knee-jerk reaction, this pick might not make a lot of sense at first glance. But, there’s a growing belief that the Seahawks will address the cornerback spot with their top pick in the draft. That idea got even more traction with the recent talk that Seattle would be open to trading Richard Sherman, for the right price. Quincy Wilson is the tall, long type of cornerback they’ve favored, and some people believe he’s actually a better cornerback that his more heralded teammate, Jalen “Teez” Tabor.

27. Kansas City: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State — The Chiefs don’t have a real “burning need” at the moment (besides finding someone to mercifully replace Alex Smith), and the prevailing notion is that they’ll use this pick to help address future needs. Most specifically: three of their top six cornerbacks this season — including starter Phillip Gaines — will be free agents after the season is over. Conley could step in and play right away as a reserve cornerback, and then be groomed to take over opposite of Marcus Peters.

28. Dallas: Budda Baker, Safety, Washington — I can’t tell you how much I detest the fact that the Cowboys have been making solid selections with their first round pick in recent years. Did you know that five of their last seven picks first-round picks were Pro Bowl selections? Given that, I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up taking another player who I really like — in this case, Budda Baker, who looks (and plays) like the second coming of former Colts great Bob Sanders. Given that the Cowboys basically have nobody at the strong safety position right now, he’d be a huge addition for them.

29. Green Bay Packers: TJ Watt, Edge, Wisconsin — Green Bay was ranked among the top 10 teams in the NFL in quarterback sacks this past season, but that’s mostly because defensive coordinator Dom Capers used basically every player on defense to blitz the quarterback; the Packers literally had 11 different players record at least one sack last year. But, they only had three guys register more than four sacks total: Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, and Clay Matthews. But given that Peppers left this offseason, and Green Bay plans on moving Matthews to inside linebacker (again), they have a need at edge rusher. TJ Watt is one of my favorite players in the draft, both because of his bloodlines (he’s J.J.’s little brother), and the relentless way he plays in general (which clearly runs in the family). (Source)

30. Pittsburgh: Obi Melifonwu, Safety, Connecticut — The Steelers also like to draft players with the future in mind, rather than taking players who fit immediate needs. Their current starter at free safety, Mike Mitchell, turns 30 years old this summer, and could very well be a cap casualty after the 2017 season is over (releasing him would free up more than $6 million in cap room for them). They’ve shown an interest in Obi Melifonwu, visiting his Pro Day and inviting him for a pre-draft visit. He has the speed to play in coverage , but also shows the physicality and mentality against the run that fits the Steelers’ culture.

31. Atlanta: Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky — Atlanta’s offensive line did a fantastic job last season, but they weren’t exactly without their warts; namely, right guard Chris Chester wasn’t very good (which any Redskins fan could have seen coming from miles away). Atlanta doesn’t have a whole lot of needs — this team won 12 games and went to the Super Bowl after all — but after letting Chester go, guard has become a need. If Lamp were to fall this far, he’d be an easy selection for Atlanta. He’s another one of those guys who played tackle in college, but will kick inside in the NFL.

32. New Orleans Saints (from New England): Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama — The Saints still need talent in the secondary, as evidenced by the fact that they’re chasing Malcom Butler of the Patriots. If they don’t end up acquiring Butler before the draft — they’d have to give up the 11th overall pick to get Butler since he’s a restricted free agent, and you can’t use picks you acquired from another team for RFA purposes — then it would make a ton of sense for them to use this pick to upgrade the position. Humphrey is as physically gifted as any corner in this draft, but like most of the cornerbacks to come out of Alabama in recent years, he still needs a lot of development.

Top five prospects falling out of the first round (in this mock):

Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

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