NFL mock draft 2017
Myles Garrett, Deshaun Watson, Leonard Fournette and other prospects are expected to be top picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, which will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia. But which teams will pick them? With the conference championships less than a week away, newsday.com NFL draft analyst Nick Klopsis makes his predictions in the 1.2 edition of the 2017 NFL mock draft.
Note: This early mock draft features the first 28 picks, which are officially set with 20 non-playoff teams, the four teams that lost in the wild-card round and the four teams that lost in the divisional round. The final four picks will be determined by playoff results. This mock draft will be updated each week of the playoffs as teams are eliminated. In addition, the tie for the 14th overall pick will be broken via coin flip at the Combine.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, Edge rusher, Texas A&M(Credit: Getty Images / Scott Halleran)
Cleveland narrowly avoided becoming the second team to go 0-16, and their reward was the No. 1 pick. Simply put, the Browns need help anywhere they can get it, and with the benefit of an extra first-round pick, they don't have to feel compelled to address their biggest need -- quarterback -- first overall. Myles Garrett is the consensus top prospect in this class and would be an immediate boost to a pass rush that tied for second-to-last in the NFL in sacks (26). Garrett has every trait a team could want from an edge rusher. His prototypical size (6-5, 270) and an excellent mix of speed, power, bend and burst helped him rack up 31 sacks and 47 tackles for loss in three seasons for Texas A&M. Garrett is an impact player that opposing teams would have to gameplan for - something that the Browns defense hasn't had for some time.
2. San Francisco 49ers: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame(Credit: Getty Images / Norm Hall)
The housecleaning in San Francisco has begun, with both head coach Chip Kelly and GM Trent Baalke fired after a 2-14 season. The 49ers need a long-term answer at quarterback -- Colin Kaepernick was uneven in his 11 starts and can opt out of his contract this offseason. Right now, there's no clear consensus on who is the top passer in this class, so a lot will depend on what the new brass looks for in a quarterback. Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer is one of the quarterbacks in that upper tier and could be a Week 1 starter in San Francisco. Kizer has good size at 6-5 and 220 pounds, is mobile and throws a nice deep ball. He struggled a bit in 2016 and can sometimes overthrow his intended targets, but he has all the tools teams look for in a franchise signal-caller.
3. Chicago Bears: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson(Credit: Getty Images / Christian Petersen)
Jay Cutler finished the season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Combine that with his 51-51 career record and his favorable cap number ($2 million against the Bears' cap in 2017 if they cut him before June 1, or $1 million after June 1) and it's possible the Bears could start over. If so, Clemson's Deshaun Watson could be the pick. The two-time Heisman runner-up is a dual-threat quarterback who can move the chains with his legs, but he trusts his arm enough to stand in the pocket and make a throw rather than run. He did throw 32 interceptions in college, so he'll need to improve his decision-making, and his 6-2, 215-pound frame may raise some durability concerns.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama(Credit: Getty Images / Kevin C. Cox)
The Jaguars have lots of young talent, but they couldn't put it together and will pick in the top five for the sixth consecutive year. They have a pair of young edge rushers in 2014 first-rounder Dante Fowler and last year's third-round pick Yannick Ngakoue, and they signed Malik Jackson to a $90 million deal last offseason, but they still could use more versatility along the defensive line. Jonathan Allen was the best player on Alabama's defense this season and provides just the kind of versatility Jacksonville needs. He has great size (6-6, 294) and plays both the run and the pass very well. Depending on what kind of defense the new head coach installs, Allen could start at five-technique in a 3-4 scheme or play defensive tackle alongside Jackson in a 4-3.
5. Tennessee Titans (via L.A. Rams): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson(Credit: Getty Images / Streeter Lecka)
Rishard Matthews emerged as the Titans' top receiver this year with 831 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, but as Marcus Mariota continues to grow at quarterback, the Titans need to keep giving him more receiving options. Clemson has a history of producing great NFL receivers (DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant), and Mike Williams looks to be the next member of that group. Williams has great size at 6-3 and 225 pounds, is expected to be one of the faster receivers at the Combine in February and plays the ball well in the air thanks to his size and large catch radius. He missed 2015 with a neck injury, and while he looked to have put it behind him this season, teams still will do their due diligence in making sure Williams is healthy.
6. Jets: Tim Williams, Edge rusher, Alabama(Credit: Getty Images / Tom Pennington)
Yes, we know the Jets really need a quarterback. But bad QB play wasn't the only reason for their 5-11 record. Their 27 sacks were fourth-worst in league, and while they have some young edge guys in Lorenzo Mauldin and Long Island's Mike Catapano, they desperately need another player who can get to the quarterback. Alabama's Tim Williams could be that player. Williams has good length for a pass-rusher at 6-4 and 252 pounds, and he recorded 19 1/2 sacks in two seasons as a starter. He's explosive off the snap, has a good array of pass-rush moves and is improving against the run and in coverage. However, there are off-field concerns Williams must address - he was charged in September with carrying a pistol without a permit (a pretrial appearance is scheduled for Jan. 11). If the Jets are comfortable with the off-field issues, Williams could provide a nice boost to their pass-rush corps.
7. San Diego Chargers: Jamal Adams, S, LSU(Credit: AP / Butch Dill)
The Chargers' secondary is trending in the right direction with Jason Verrett, Casey Hayward and Brandon Flowers, but they still could use a playmaking safety, especially if Jahleel Addae leaves in free agency. Jamal Adams is expected to be the top safety prospect in this class. The LSU product (and son of former Giants first-round pick George Adams) is very well-rounded, with the instincts and range in pass defense to play free safety as well as the tenacity and physicality to be a strong safety who can play up in the box. He would give the Chargers the impact safety they lost when Eric Weddle left for Baltimore last year.
8. Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU(Credit: Getty Images / Kevin C. Cox)
The Panthers' biggest need is to protect Cam Newton, but there aren't yet any great left tackles worth considering this high. Instead, they could decide to find their eventual replacement for Jonathan Stewart, who will turn 30 in March. Leonard Fournette has been talked about as one of the best running back prospects ever since he set foot on LSU's campus in 2014. His bulldozing, powerful running style would fit well in the Panthers' power run attack. The Panthers are no strangers to drafting multiple first-round running backs - they took Stewart 13th overall in 2008, two years after they picked DeAngelo Williams 27th overall. They could use Stewart and Fournette in a similar way, with Fournette taking on more of the workload down the line.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama(Credit: Getty Images / Kevin C. Cox)
After five straight playoff seasons, Cincinnati took a step back in 2016. The offense seems set, so look for them to address the defense. They could use another pass-rusher opposite Carlos Dunlap, or they could find another linebacker alongside Vontaze Burfict. If the latter, Alabama's Reuben Foster would be a fine choice. Foster is a complete inside linebacker and plays very aggressively in every phase. He's a brick wall against the run, can drop back in coverage to defend passes over the middle and get after the quarterback as a blitzer. He's an AFC North type of player and could be an immediate upgrade in the heart of the Bengals' defense.
10. Buffalo Bills: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama(Credit: Getty Images / Jamie Squire)
Quick, name the top rushing team in the NFL in 2016. No, not the Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliott. It was the Bills, whose 164.4 rush yards per game were 14.6 yards better than Dallas. They could draft a receiver (or, depending on Tyrod Taylor's situation, a quarterback) to balance their offense, or they could build on their strong run game, especially if right tackle Jordan Mills leaves in free agency. Alabama's Cam Robinson has excellent size at 6-6, 327 pounds and is an excellent run blocker. He'll have to answer questions about an offseason arrest on three charges -- including illegal possession of stolen firearms and possession of a controlled dangerous substance -- and needs a good amount of work on the field as a pass protector, but he could be a plug-and-play solution for Buffalo at right tackle and help open holes for LeSean McCoy.
11. New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett, Edge rusher, Tennessee(Credit: Getty Images / Frederick Breedon)
New season, same old issues on defense for New Orleans. The Saints ranked last in pass yards allowed per game (273.8), and much of it was due to an anemic pass rush that ranked sixth-worst with 30 sacks. They need another edge rusher to take the pressure off Cameron Jordan. Derek Barnett has good size at 6-3 and 265 pounds and can rush the passer from either side of the line, using active hands to shed blockers and disrupt plays in the backfield. A lot of his production at Tennessee is due to the Vols' aggressive style of defense, so he'll need to prove he can transcend scheme fit, but the technique and talent are there.
12. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles): Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina(Credit: Getty Images / Streeter Lecka)
Remember what we said earlier about the Browns waiting to get their quarterback of the future? Well, they finally get one in North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky. At first glance, it seems like a match made in heaven - the Browns are reportedly very high on Trubisky, and Trubisky's bio on UNC's website says that if he could choose any NFL team to play for, he'd play for the Browns. Trubisky has an impressive mix of arm strength and accuracy, can make any throw asked of him and is mobile enough to extend plays with his legs. There isn't too much tape on him, though -- he assumed the starting role at North Carolina this year -- and he struggled in the Tar Heels' Sun Bowl loss to Stanford, so it remains to be seen if he just had a good season or if there's something more sustainable there.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama(Credit: AP / Samantha Baker)
Arizona allowed the fourth fewest passing yards per game, but Marcus Cooper will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so the Cardinals may need to find somebody to line up opposite Patrick Peterson. Luckily, this draft class is expected to be loaded with defensive back talent, so they could find a quality corner early in the first round. Marlon Humphrey is a dual-sport athlete who anchored Alabama's 4x400-meter relay team as a freshman and won the 110 meter hurdles (13.67) and the 400 meter hurdles (50.75) at the 2013 World Youth Track & Field Championships as a high school junior. He has good size at 6-1, 196 pounds and has the physicality to match up with bigger receivers on the outside. He could stand to improve his technique, but the physical traits are there for him to become an impact NFL cornerback. Something to watch: if any of the top quarterbacks slide this far, could Bruce Arians pass up drafting Carson Palmer's replacement?
T-14. Indianapolis Colts: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State(Credit: Getty Images / Mike Ehrmann)
The Colts have bigger needs than running back this offseason -- pass rusher, offensive line, defensive line -- but Frank Gore will be 34 in May, and even though he had his ninth career 1,000-yard rushing season, it's time to start thinking about his replacement. As good as Leonard Fournette is, there wouldn't be too much argument here if a team thought Dalvin Cook was the top running back. Cook has an excellent mix of speed, quickness and vision, and has shown off some reliable receiving chops as well (79 receptions in 38 career games). He has dealt with his share of injuries in college, including a hamstring injury that lingered throughout his sophomore season, but his big-play ability in a big-play Colts offense could be too good to pass up.
T-14. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan(Credit: Getty Images / Gregory Shamus)
The Eagles have their quarterback. Now they need to get him better targets -- Jordan Matthews has been inconsistent, and Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham have been disappointing. Corey Davis probably is the most complete wide receiver in the entire draft. The Western Michigan star has the size at 6-3 and 213 pounds, which he uses to his advantage in 50-50 situations. He's a very crisp route-runner for someone of his size and can make defenders miss in the open field. Davis has lined up outside and in the slot, giving him extra versatility. He's a legitimate No. 1 option for an Eagles team desperately in need of one.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State(Credit: Getty Images / Jamie Sabau)
The Ravens have an aging pair of safeties in Ladarius Webb (31) and Eric Weddle (32). Both were decent in 2016, so the Ravens could opt to address an also-aging pass rush, but with a dynamic safety prospect such as Malik Hooker still on the board, the Ravens may be hard-pressed to pass him up. The Ohio State product became a starter in 2016 following the departure of Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell and has shown incredible ball skills, hauling in seven interceptions and returning three for touchdowns. He has reportedly drawn comparisons to the greatest Ravens safety of all time: Ed Reed.
17. Washington Redskins: Solomon Thomas, Edge rusher, Stanford(Credit: AP / Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Washington doesn't have many glaring needs on either side of the ball. The biggest hole they need to address is along the defensive line -- Washington allowed 119.8 rushing yards per game (ninth worst in the NFL), and 25.8 percent of opposing runs resulted in a first down. Solomon Thomas is a balanced end who could fit right in and make a Week 1 impact. Thomas had a strong season with 8 1/2 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He has the strength to set the edge against the run as well as the quickness and explosiveness to rush the passer, which Washington will find helpful in an NFC East loaded with quality quarterbacks.
18. Tennessee Titans: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida(Credit: AP / Chris O'Meara)
Time here for the Titans to address a secondary that gave up the third-most passing yards per game (269.2). Teez Tabor -- his given name is Jalen, but he goes by his nickname "Teez" -- is one of two potential first-round cornerbacks from Florida and could be a good fit here. Tabor certainly has the size (6-foot, 201 pounds) and athleticism that teams look for in cornerbacks. He also doesn't lack in confidence and bravado, but sometimes that feistiness can backfire - he was suspended for the 2016 season opener after getting into a fight with another teammate, was suspended one game in 2015 for refusing to take a drug test and called college athletics a "modern form of slavery" on Twitter in January (though he later deleted the tweet and apologized for using the comparison). Still, he has tremendous talent, which could be enough to warrant an early pick.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: John Ross, WR, Washington(Credit: Getty Images / Otto Greule Jr)
Mike Evans was the most targeted receiver in the NFL with 175. Vincent Jackson -- who will turn 34 on Jan. 14 -- is the Buccaneers' No. 2 receiver but is coming off a season-ending ACL injury, and Cameron Brate developed into a reliable if unspectacular tight end. The Bucs could stand to give Jameis Winston another receiver to take some heat off of Evans, especially with Jackson entering the twilight of his career. Washington's John Ross is an incredibly fun receiver to watch and would complement Evans' big, physical style very well. Ross is a speedy deep threat who may end up running in the high 4.2s at the Combine. That makes him very tough to stop on both deep passes and on short crossing routes over the middle. He has had a few knee injuries.
20. Denver Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin(Credit: Getty Images / Joe Robbins)
The Broncos ranked 27th in rushing yards per game (92.8) and 21st in passing yards per game (230.3). Both issues can be remedied with a better presence in the trenches. Ryan Ramczyk battle a hip injury that may require offseason surgery, but the Wisconsin left tackle still could become a very sought-after prospect because of his well-rounded skillset. Ramczyk is strong in both run blocking and in pass protection, so he'd be able to keep Trevor Siemian and/or Paxton Lynch upright while creating running lanes for C.J. Anderson.
21. Detroit Lions: Charles Harris, Edge rusher, Missouri(Credit: AP / L.G. Patterson)
The Lions tied the Browns for second-to-last in the NFL with 26 sacks. Devin Taylor had 4 1/2 of them, second-most on the team, but his contract is up this offseason. Kerry Hyder had a breakout season with eight sacks, but the Lions still need pass-rush help across from Ziggy Ansah. Charles Harris is the latest in a long line of Missouri pass-rushers, and he could be a good fit here. Harris has excellent speed and uses his varied pass-rush moveset (in particular, a nasty spin move) to get past blockers. He's still a work in progress in the run game, but he could contribute right away in a Lions defense that needs another edge threat.
22. Miami Dolphins: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt(Credit: AP / Mark Humphrey)
The Dolphins had the third-worst rush defense in the NFL, allowing 140.4 rush yards per game, and were gashed for 167 yards and two scores by the Steelers' Le'Veon Bell in their wild-card game. Kiko Alonso battled injuries, but even when he's healthy, Miami could use another off-ball linebacker to stop the run and help defend the shallow middle of the field. Zach Cunningham is a solid defender with excellent range and athleticism. The Vanderbilt product has a nose for the ball and flies in to make plays in run defense and coverage. He could play inside or slide outside if needed, giving him added versatility.
23. Giants: Taco Charlton, Edge rusher, Michigan(Credit: Getty Images / Gregory Shamus)
The Giants' revamped defense paid off during the regular season, leading the team to its first playoff appearance since 2011. Keeping it at that level will be the challenge in the offseason, with both Jason Pierre-Paul and Johnathan Hankins set to hit free agency. With the draft deep at edge rushers, the Giants could let Pierre-Paul walk and find his replacement in the first round. Taco Charlton may remind some Giants fans of Justin Tuck with his size (6-6, 272 pounds), versatility and motor. He has the speed to get after the quarterback and can pursue the ballcarrier. He could end up filling a Tuck-like role on the Giants' defensive line, playing end in base formations while sliding inside in their NASCAR sub package. Tight end or running back could also be the pick here if JPP returns.
24. Oakland Raiders: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State(Credit: AP / Al Goldis)
The Raiders have one of the NFL's brightest young pass-rushers in Khalil Mack, but outside of him, their defense was subpar in 2016. The unit gave up an NFL-worst 6.1 yards per play, partly a product of its league-low 25 sacks. They need to get Mack help, whether along the defensive line, at linebacker or at cornerback. Malik McDowell would give Oakland an athletic interior pass-rusher to help take the focus off Mack. The Michigan State defensive tackle has a hulking 6-6, 276-pound frame, but he still is able to get leverage on opposing linemen and uses his quickness to get into the backfield. McDowell could be a true three-down player for a Raiders defense in need of more playmakers.
25. Houston Texans: Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan(Credit: Getty Images / Leon Halip)
Left tackle Derek Newton tore both patellar tendons in October, and right tackle Duane Brown will be 31 next season, so the Texans' biggest offseason need likely will be to find their replacements. However, they also could use another linebacker to pair with Benardrick McKinney in the heart of their defense, as well as a thumper strong safety. How about they address both of those with one player? Jabrill Peppers may be the most versatile player in this class, having played as many as 13 positions while at Michigan. He projects more as a safety at this point, but he could bulk up and help as a coverage linebacker. Either way, Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel could find a way to maximize Peppers' impact in an already stout defense.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah(Credit: Getty Images / Lachlan Cunningham)
The Seahawks drafted Germain Ifedi in the first round last year, but the offensive line still desperately needs more talent, especially if Seattle hopes to keep Russell Wilson upright and healthy. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, this class isn't very rich in offensive line prospects, but they could go with Utah's Garett Bolles. The 6-5, 300-pound Bolles fits the athletic criteria the Seahawks seem to look for in their offensive linemen and is very physical. He also has a very intriguing backstory, having overcome a troubled childhood to turn his life around. That combination of on-field ability and off-field maturity could be what the Seahawks need.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida(Credit: Getty Images / Rob Foldy)
Marcus Peters is one of the NFL's best cornerbacks on a Chiefs pass defense that finished tied for the league lead in interceptions, But, the unit still ranked 18th in passing yards per game allowed, so it wouldn't hurt for Kansas City to add another lockdown corner. If Quincy Wilson manages to fall this far, he may be the easy pick for GM John Dorsey. Wilson doesn't jump out as much as Florida teammate Teez Tabor, but he may be just as good with his ideal frame (6-1, 213 pounds), excellent ball skills and physical style of play. He could make for a potent cornerback tandem opposite the All-Pro Peters.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Takkarist McKinley, Edge rusher, UCLA(Credit: AP / Young Kwak)
Randy Gregory may never play another snap for Dallas after his third marijuana-related suspension in as many years. DeMarcus Lawrence also was suspended four games to start the season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, and he may need a second back surgery this offseason. So the Cowboys' search for a dominant pass-rusher will continue this offseason. Takkarist McKinley could be a perfect fit for the Cowboys' defense after a breakout senior season with 10 sacks. He has excellent speed and a non-stop motor, though he still could use some work as a run defender.
Playoff teams (draft order TBD)(Credit: AP / Chris Szagola)
Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots