The 2017 NFL draft is only three weeks away, and the anticipation is building higher than ever before this draft season. This is in large part due to the wide range of draft rumors that are put out by multiple media outlets, anonymous scouts, and even some NCAA head coaches. I’m looking at you Brian Kelly. Anyways, with draft coverage intensifying in the final weeks leading up to April 26, here is the first edition of my two-round 2017 NFL mock draft. Feel free to reach out with your feedback on Twitter, where you can find my handle: @JonahTulsNFL.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
– This is an easy decision. Myles Garrett is the undisputed top prospect in this year’s draft class, and he would be an instant difference maker as a pass rusher for the Cleveland Browns.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas, EDGE, Stanford
– Some people think this is a spot where the draft begins, and while I agree because the pick of Myles Garrett is a foregone conclusion, Solomon Thomas is going to be the pick here unless a team offers San Francisco a trade they cannot turn down. Regardless, Thomas has the potential to be the 49ers’ Michael Bennett of sorts in that they will play him outside on early work and kick him inside on third down.
3. Chicago Bears: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
– If Solomon Thomas is off of the board, the Chicago Bears’ pick is likely going to come down to Jamal Adams, Jonathan Allen, or the two Ohio State defensive backs, Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore. Given the combination of the need at cornerback and the athletic potential of the player, Lattimore gets the edge for me. The Bears have needed to address the back-half of their defense for some time now, and a player like Lattimore could be a cornerstone starter at cornerback for this team.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
– The Jaguars have built up a young, productive core on defense, but they have to find an identity on the offensive side of the ball. A player like Leonard Fournette could give Jacksonville what they need to establish a power running game. The wild card to watch for in the “Fournette sweepstakes” is Carolina, as they could swing a deal with San Francisco to jump ahead of Jacksonville for the bruising running back from LSU.
5. Tennessee Titans: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
– Jonathan Allen can play in an odd or even front as a defensive end, and he would be an instant upgrade over DaQuan Jones and Angelo Blackson for the Tennessee Titans. Jon Robinson has proven that he likes to take players with high intangibles and leadership qualities, which fits Allen to a T. Allen has the potential to be a leader for their front seven, but his injury history is concerning.
6. New York Jets: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
– It is no secret that the New York Jets are interested in upgrading the quarterback position, as they brought in each of the top five quarterbacks in this class for a workout. Some may say this pick would be an indication of what they think about Christian Hackenberg, but if they feel as if the right quarterback is there, they need to pull the trigger. With the way the board fell, there is a good chance they could also trade down from this spot.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
– The addition of Casey Hayward last year did wonders for the Chargers at the cornerback position, but they still need an upgrade at the safety position. Ohio State’s Malik Hooker could be the Eric Weddle for this team at centerfielder with his range and ball skills.
8. Carolina Panthers: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
– Jamal Adams didn’t have a great performance at the Combine, but he then blew up his pro day with reported 40-yard dash times in the 4.3 range. Regardless, Adams did enough to secure his status as a top-10 pick. His tape is fantastic, as he consistently makes plays around the football both in coverage and run support. The Panthers need to get younger at the safety spot, and Adams could fit right in as a tone setter for that defense.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
– This pick is likely going to come down to Reuben Foster or the best pass rusher on the Bengals’ board. Derek Barnett fits the prototype of a defensive end in the Cincinnati regime, and I think he has the ability to bring three-down production to this team right away if given the opportunity.
10. Buffalo Bills: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
– There is a strong case to be made that a wide receiver like John Ross should be the pick here, but the need for a cornerback is just as big. Buffalo’s opening-day favorites to be the starter opposite of Ronald Darby at cornerback as of right now are Kevon Seymour and Marcus Roberson. That is not ideal. A player like Gareon Conley would be able to step in right away as a starting cornerback with his advanced coverage mechanics and scheme versatility.
11. New Orleans Saints: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
– Other than Myles Garrett pulling a Laremy Tunsil-type move down the board, this the best-case scenario for Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints. The New Orleans Saints do not have an identity on defense, and a player of Reuben Foster’s caliber would instantly boost this defense’s physicality and toughness. If he stays healthy, Foster could be an All-Pro inside linebacker for many years to come.
12. Cleveland Browns: OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
– I have a feeling Cleveland covets Mitch Trubisky at this spot, but now that he is off of the board, I think OJ Howard is a slam-dunk pick. The connection Hue Jackson and the Browns’ staff made with OJ Howard in Mobile was obvious, and you have to think Phil Savage is in their ear about it too. This pick makes too much sense, and it would instantly boost Cleveland’s promising core of young skill players.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
– Both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are on the “back-nine” of their respective careers, and it would be wise to consider picking their replacements. I think Arizona is one of the candidates to move back into the first round to get their quarterback, and if they can pair a young quarterback with this running game as well as a wide receiver like Mike Williams, the future is going to be bright in the post-Palmer and Fitzgerald era.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
– A running back like Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook would make a ton of sense here given Doug Pederson’s history in Kansas City with Jamaal Charles, but other than a somewhat promising rookie campaign from Jalen Mills last season, Philadelphia’s cornerback depth chart is barren of talent. Marlon Humphrey is one of the most physical cornerbacks I have ever scouted, and with his athletic prowess and zone awareness, he has tantalizing potential at the position.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
– The value of Haason Reddick is his versatility as a linebacker. He can fill the Indianapolis Colts’ need at inside linebacker, but at the same time, provide a boost as a pass rusher as well. I’m not sure I’ve seen a player raise their stock more in a pre-draft process than this linebacker from Temple. Whichever team drafts Reddick is getting a chess piece on defense, and I think Indianapolis would be licking their chops if he is still on the board.
16. Baltimore Ravens: John Ross, WR, Washington
– The Baltimore Ravens’ offense was one of the least exciting groups to watch in 2016, and they are in desperate need of a playmaker on that side of the ball, especially with Kenneth Dixon’s recent suspension. This organization has a history of drafting speed demons, and I think John Ross would provide big-play potential to this offense with the rocket arm of Joe Flacco.
17. Washington Redskins: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
– Christian McCaffrey’s stock soared to reportedly top-10 status earlier this week, and while I don’t think he goes that high in the first round, he is going to be coveted around the league. His play style as a running back and receiver out of the backfield is reminiscent of Brian Westbrook, and I think he is going to be a thorn in the sides of defenses for years to come.
18. Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
– There is chatter of a wide receiver going to Tennessee with the fifth overall pick, but I have always thought that this was the sweet spot for this team to take a player at that position. Corey Davis has the highest upside of any receiver in this class with his combination of smooth route running skills, ability to separate, and competitive toughness in traffic. He is the top receiver on my board, but he has a chance to fall because of injury concerns with his ankle.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
– Tampa Bay could go a ton of different directions with this pick, but I have a feeling they love the potential Obi Melifonwu brings as a chess piece in the secondary. Some teams are going to view him as a cornerback, but I think the Buccaneers will utilize Melifonwu as a safety who can play all over the field and match up with tight ends. With his freak athleticism, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Melifonwu go even earlier.
20. Denver Broncos: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
– Denver desperately needs to find an upgrade at offensive tackle, and the best one on my board is Alabama’s Cam Robinson. His combination of length, power, and athleticism gives him a chance to be a steal with the 20th overall pick, but his off-field baggage clouds his future.
21. Detroit Lions: Jabrill Peppers, LB/SS, Michigan
– Some Lions fans are going to hate me for this projection because he is such a polarizing prospect, but I think some team is going to fall in love with Jabrill Peppers in the first round. The general manager, Bob Quinn, is a disciple of Bill Belichick, who loves players that can play all over the field and do multiple things on both defense and special teams. There are more pressing needs on this team, but I think this pick makes too much sense.
22. Miami Dolphins: Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan
– There is a good chance Taco Charlton is off the board by the time Miami is on the clock, but if he is available, he is a perfect fit as a 4-3 defensive end who can replace what Olivier Vernon was able to accomplish here a couple of years ago.
23. New York Giants: David Njoku, TE, Miami
– The New York Giants already made their offense more dangerous with the acquisition of Brandon Marshall in free agency, but their passing attack could be scary if they can land a player with the athleticism of David Njoku at tight end. If this happens, I challenge anyone to find a better group of weapons.
24. Oakland Raiders: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
– The Dalvin Cook free fall ends here, and it would make sense if he fell this far given his vast off-field and injury history. On the field, he is as talented as any running back in this class with his vision and big-play ability in both the run and pass game. The Raiders are courting Marshawn Lynch, but the long-term answer in the run game can be found right here with this Florida State playmaker.
25. Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
– The Houston Texans cleansed themselves from the ugly Brock Osweiler contract by trading him to the Cleveland Browns in an NBA-style deal, but they still need a quarterback. With Tony Romo out of the picture, Tom Savage is the starting quarterback. Enough said. Personally, I think the most NFL-ready quarterback in this class is Deshaun Watson, and he could be the long-term option that Houston has longed for.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Kevin King, CB, Washington
– This pick is either Seattle’s best offensive lineman or cornerback on the board. Given their willingness to trade Richard Sherman, I think they will covet Washington’s Kevin King, who could be Sherman’s long-term replacement with his length and ball skills. At 6’3, King ran a time of 6.56 in the three cone drill at the Combine. That is not normal folks. There is a case to be made that Kevin King has one of the highest ceilings of any defensive back in this draft class given his size and athleticism, and he fits Seattle’s scheme to a T.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
– Kansas City is doing its homework on this quarterback class, which indicates they might be looking for Alex Smith’s long-term replacement. DeShone Kizer is the best quarterback on my board because of what I think he could be. In both his freshman and sophomore season at Notre Dame, Kizer showed flashes similar to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, both the good and bad. If Kizer lands in the right spot, he could be talked about as an elite quarterback, but on the other hand, he could be buried on a depth chart if the opposite happens.
28. Dallas Cowboys: TJ Watt, EDGE, Wisconsin
– TJ Watt really helped himself at the Combine with both his athletic testing and measurables, as he weighed in at an impressive 252 lbs. Watt played mostly as an off-ball linebacker at Wisconsin, but I think he showed enough bend and burst off of the edge to possibly become a highly productive three-down right defensive end for a team like the Dallas Cowboys. Considering this past season was Watt’s first full-time action as a defender, there is a chance you can develop him into something special with his rare athleticism.
29. Green Bay Packers: Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
– If Forrest Lamp somehow falls this far on draft day, Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers will be counting their blessings that arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft fell in their lap. With TJ Lang out of the picture, there is a hole that needs to be filled at right guard. Lamp has the ability to play all over the offensive line, and his versatility would be a big boost to any team in need of offensive line help.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
– Bud Dupree is still a young, developing talent, but James Harrison is nearing the end of his career, and it would be smart to find his future replacement. Carl Lawson would make a lot of sense schematically, but I get the feeling he is going to slip into the second day of the draft because of his vast injury history. Another player with injury concerns, but not as serious, is UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley. He is a project, but he has the talent, motor, and athleticism to potentially become a double-digit sack guy in the NFL.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
– Atlanta’s young defensive core played a huge part in the team’s breakout season, especially with the play of Vic Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks. The Falcons could still stand to improve their pass rush however, and although a player like Derek Rivers makes sense here, the value of Charles Harris at this spot might be too much to pass up. There are even some reports that have Harris as a top-20 lock.
32. New Orleans Saints (via New England): Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
– New Orleans acquired this pick in the Brandin Cooks trade, and they could go a number of routes here. A quarterback to groom behind Brees would be ideal, and in this mock draft, the ideal scenario played out for Sean Payton and company. New Orleans has done extensive homework on Patrick Mahomes II, and I think this is the perfect spot for him to serve as a developmental quarterback.