It is important to distinguish between a mock draft that speculates on what WILL happen, versus one that speculates on what SHOULD happen. In the mock drafts I will be writing now and in the future, I will be sure to detail which I am completing. Here is my first mock draft, which is based on what I predict will happen.
- CLE- Myles Garrett EDGE TAMU- Slam dunk. I think most of the football community sees this pick being as close to a sure thing as you can get in the draft.
- SF- Solomon Thomas EDGE STAN- I really think San Francisco wants out of this pick, and badly. Their needs do not match up with the value on the board. Where the value is, they already have good talent. I predict that they will try to trade. If they don’t, then I can see a surprise pick happening. It is a tough selection to predict. I don’t see QB if they believe they can land Cousins (why they would want to, I am not sure) in 2018. Thomas is a player with violent hands who fits best as a 4-3 defensive end.
- CHI- Jonathan Allen DT BAMA- The Bears have needs all over their defense. In this case, the value matches best with Allen. He can be their anchor on their defensive line for years, as long as he stays healthy (shoulder issues in college). Allen is a candidate to have a surprising slide on draft day, due to his long term health, which always seems to be a problem with Alabama players. I will keep him at 3 for now, but don’t be surprised if he slides on day 1 of the draft.
- JAX- OJ Howard TE BAMA- Surprise! Howard is a freak of nature and is undoubtedly skyrocketing up draft boards. He should have been there all along. A top 10 talent, Howard is a complete tight end that will complete the set of Jaguars pass catchers. Since they have been relentless in their commitment to Blake Bortles (bad teams stay bad for a reason), and brought in S Barry Church and DT Calais Campbell to fill holes in their defense, it is logical to see this as an offensive selection. The only place where value and need match up relatively well is tight end. Could they be blowing smoke on Bortles? Sure, but if they are not going QB, then the best value selection is Howard.
- TEN- Reuben Foster LB BAMA- Another surprise! Most have an offensive weapon such as Corey Davis or Mike Williams mocked here to the Titans. That would absolutely make sense logically and could be correct. However, remember who we are dealing with: Mike Mularkey, also known as the coach who thinks he is playing in 1974. He believes in run game and defense (because he doesn’t like winning) and forever holds back the development of his QB. That being said, Foster might be the best player in the draft. He reminds me of a Patrick Willis type of impact LB, a rare impactful player at the 2nd level in all aspects of the game. He could turn this defense into a great unit. Plus, the Titans may believe they can get a WR of good value at 18, whereas a player of Foster’s caliber will not be there at that point.
- NYJ- Jamal Adams S LSU- The Jets appear to be going the tanking route. They look to be forgetting about 2017 already. It is a fine idea, but that may eliminate a QB from their 2017 draft discussion. Why tank in 2017 if you have a rookie QB? So where do the Jets go from there? With so many holes on the roster, it simply could be a best player available scenario. I would look to the secondary, at this point. With the Todd Bowles defense, I think Jamal Adams might be the better fit than Hooker as a do it all type of safety. I also think Marshon Lattimore is a sleeper here.
- LAC- Malik Hooker S OSU- When I do my season preview this summer, the Chargers will be all over it. I love this team to rebound this year as a “worst to first” candidate. With a great QB and talent all over the roster, if this team could stop with the injury bug, then they can contend. Malik Hooker is a born playmaker on the back end. He fits extremely well in the Gus Bradley Seattle defense that requires a “center fielder” with range. This defense is going to be nasty with Bosa, Ingram, an underrated Denzel Perryman, Verrett, Hayward, and now Hooker. Look out, AFC West.
- CAR- Leonard Fournette RB LSU- I am never a proponent of RB high in the draft, unless the player is special. I think Fournette is excellent, but I would not agree with this pick. That said, I can see the logic behind it, simply because of how Carolina operates on offense. It is not that they run often (they threw 55% of the time last season), but it is more about how they run. Fournette will likely struggle to run out of shotgun and is not a natural pass catcher. He is elite in running downhill from under center. That is exactly what Carolina emphasizes. When they are in shotgun they pass 65% of the time, and when they are under center they run 73% of the time. While they are in shotgun a lot (76%), they do not throw to their backs all that much. Having Fournette allows you to be elite when you run that 73% of the time from under center, and matches a need with Stewart’s advanced age. I would not make this pick, but I simply believe this is the pick Carolina will make.
- CIN- Marshon Lattimore CB OSU- This is not their biggest need. I would put an EDGE player ahead of CB here, purely based on need. However, Lattimore is an excellent value selection here, with a lack of a fit for an EDGE player at #9. If Lattimore’s hamstrings check out, then he is a top 5-6 player in this draft. Combined with Adam Jones’s age, Lattimore gives the Bengals a future #1 CB in a league that emphasizes secondary play.
- BUF- Corey Davis WR WMU- This was tougher than I thought it would be. Most expect a WR here, especially with Corey Davis still on the board. I can see it, but at the same time it is tough to envision because of the limited QB we have (one of Davis’s biggest assets is YAC ability, and a huge Taylor weakness is providing YAC opportunity) and an emphasis on the running game. Dennison had two very good WRs in Denver, so it is a possibility. I have had this gut feeling we will take a QB round 1, despite the evidence suggesting otherwise. It really is tough to gauge. Marlon Humphrey is also a possibility in this zone heavy defensive scheme. For now, I will mock Davis here, as on this day it makes the most sense, but I do not feel as strongly as many others that the Bills will take a WR at 10.
- NO- Taco Charlton EDGE MICH- The Saints have a gaping hole on their defensive line. Currently, Cameron Jordan is their best EDGE player. Jordan is great, but he is not a specialized EDGE rusher that provides speed. Charlton will provide that pass rush. With the firepower of this offense, even an average defense will return this team to the playoffs. I like their chances if they get a top notch pass rusher early on.
- CLE- Jabrill Peppers S MICH- Peppers is not a favorite of mine, but this defensive secondary is so devoid of talent that they must be desperate to add a playmaker on the back end. They have already secured their pass rusher in Garrett, and I do not believe QBs will go off the board early. For a team that is taking a heavy analytics approach, it does not seem prudent for the Browns to take a QB in this slot. Plus, Cody Kessler actually looked competent in 2016. I think the Browns will give him at least a chance in 2017 to prove he can be effective.
- ARI- DeShone Kizer QB ND- I have a lot of respect for Bruce Arians. He is a good talent evaluator and understands his system needs very well. It requires a vertical passer with speed WRs. A sleeper in this spot is John Ross; I would love to see what he could do in this offense. However, I think Arians believes in his young WRs already on the roster (Brown, Nelson). Their next biggest issue is at linebacker. This is a spot I do not see matching the value at linebacker. With Carson Palmer aging, Kizer is the perfect QB to come in and develop for this offense. A big armed player who handles pressure very well (acknowledging much of 2016 as an anomaly with the sheer volume of pressure faced), Kizer and Arians is a match made in heaven. A personal favorite, Kizer is my QB1 in this year’s draft. It will be tough to predict where these QBs will land, however.
- PHI- Marlon Humphrey CB BAMA- This is one of the best defensive back draft classes in a while. There are about 8 DBs worthy of a first round pick, and plenty more of value in the subsequent rounds. This begs the question, will the defensive backs be pushed up the board or will the value in the later rounds lead teams to want to wait to get their back? I am leaning toward the former.
- IND- Cam Robinson OT BAMA- This team has one of the best QBs in the league on one of the league’s worst rosters. The WR corps is set, so protect your QB! The left side of the offensive line is good, but the right side is atrocious. Robinson is a good fit as a right tackle and is an absolute mauler in the run game with movement skills.
- BAL- John Ross WR WASH- I have no clue how people think Joe Flacco is good, but somehow people still think Flacco is passable at QB. His deep accuracy is incredibly erratic, but his arm strength leads people to believe he has a special deep ball. This leads me to think they will draft a WR to fit his “skill set.” With record speed, Ross is a “good match” with this skill set. As a player, Ross is actually really good and is very under-appreciated in the red zone for a receiver is his build.
- WAS- Mitchell Trubisky QB UNC- Many will not expect this pick if Cousins remains a Redskin, but I think this pick happens, regardless of his status with the team. Cousins is as good as gone in 2018, regardless, with the team’s inability to utilize the franchise tag again, so the Redskins should be planning for that situation. It may not be Trubisky, but I think QB is the pick here.
- TEN- Mike Williams WR CLEM- The value matches up better at this spot for a WR, rather than at 5. In this case, Tennessee still gets a top target for Mariota. I am really really REALLY excited about this team’s future. They have the biggest prerequisite: the next great QB. Now they can focus on the rest of their roster. Williams gives him that big target to throw to on the outside. I would not rule out this team drafting multiple WRs early on in the draft.
- TB- Derek Barnett EDGE TENN- I am not a Barnett fan, but the Buccaneers are desperate for some edge rushing. Gerald McCoy is a force in the middle, but without an edge presence their defense has suffered. Barnett is excellent against the run, not just settling for setting the edge against it, but also making plays with violent hand work. He is a day 1 starter for this team, a team that looks ready to contend in 2017. Seems like a very good fit.
- DEN- Ryan Ramczyk OT WISC- There are a lot of teams with gaping holes right now at certain positions. Will these get filled during the second wave of free agency? Some will, but some of these must be filled early on in the draft. The Broncos have to commit to their offensive line. If they are planning to continue on with their young QBs (they are), then they need to protect them. The offensive weaponry is actually really good, but the line needs to be improved dramatically. Ramczyk is the best left tackle prospect in this draft and looks to be a good starter at the minimum, with the potential for more.
- DET- Zach Cunningham LB VAND- Detroit was a bottom defense in 2016, finishing 31st in True Turnovers (Turnovers + Punts) this season. They need a lot of help. One of their biggest problems was at LB, and a true 3 down player is needed. In today’s NFL, if you cannot play the pass and cover in space, then you simply are not worth a pick anywhere near the first round at LB. This class is full of space players, however, including Zach Cunningham. Cunningham covers space in a hurry and can handle the coverage responsibilities that today’s game shows is necessary.
- MIA- Teez Tabor CB FLA- I think linebacker is a bigger need here, but I also do not believe Reddick will fit in here. They have a similar player in Alonso. That is, someone who is undersized and athletic. While I like Reddick and believe he should be in the Dolphins’ draft considerations, I just feel like he won’t be the pick. Tabor is a player that is falling down draft boards due to a slow 40 time and off the field concerns, but those are things that do not bother me with football players. Give me the talented off the field guy or someone who doesn’t wow in the underwear olympics over the opposite every time. Tabor fits that to a T. He is an instinctive, pure cover corner with a great ability to close and play the ball. Tabor looks to be a very good corner for a long time. Players with a “finesse” label are something I do not mind from my corners. He reminds me of Stephon Gilmore (which will haunt crazy Bills fans who somehow still think he is terrible), a pure cover player that is not a top notch player by any means, but a very good player.
- NYG- Haasan Reddick LB TEMP- The Giants defense was awesome last season. Their starting linebackers: Devon Kennard, Kelvin Sheppard, and JT Thomas…It is amazing that they were as good as they were on defense with that at the second level. A 3 down LB is among the team’s biggest need. Reddick is a perfect marriage for the Giants and today’s NFL needs, really. He is an explosive and quick player that can make plays in space. He actually started as a defensive back, showing the comfort to be a top cover LB in the league. While he is undersized to play at the line of scrimmage, his run and chase ability coupled with his instincts to slip through gaps will be a huge asset in the NFL. This is one of my favorite players in this year’s draft.
- OAK- Malik McDowell DT MSU- Oakland is such an interesting team. They have a reputation as this offensive juggernaut that carries an underachieving defense. While their defense may be “underachieving,” they finished 6th in True Turnovers in 2016 on defense. If that is underachieving, then I can’t wait to see what will happen if they begin to reach their potential. UB’s own Khalil Mack is a freak of nature, but they need an interior penetrator to take some attention away from him. McDowell falling to this spot is a dream for the Raiders. Many traditional “rah rah” guys will hate McDowell. His motor is not always running hot, and he has a reputation for laziness. However, his talent is undeniable, and when he is on, he is absolutely dominant. I will take a guy with McDowell’s potential stardom over an overachiever like Derek Barnett. McDowell will be a pass rushing machine if he reaches his potential. I think he will, and that Raiders tandem will torment the AFC West for years.
- HOU- Pat Mahomes QB TTU- A dominant defense with good talent on offense goes one and done in the playoffs…gee, I wonder why? Oh, thats right. QBs win in the playoffs. The Texans are the perfect situation for a guy like Mahomes. With a true gunslinger mentality, Mahomes gives the Texans potentially the best QB they have ever had. It is amazing that their only QB taken in the top 12 since their first season is David Carr. It’s like they are not even trying. With Bill O’Brien, they are about to start. Mahomes is my #2 QB, and I think he can develop into a Matt Stafford level player, which would make this team a Super Bowl contender. I would love to see this selection.
- SEA- Garrett Bolles OT UTAH- After years of criminally underinvesting in their offensive line, the Seahawks finally start to pull the trigger. They got away with it for so long, they probably assumed they could continue to last year. It didn’t work in 2016, and I do not think they will make the same mistake again. This is a pretty simple pick to make.
- KC- Fabian Moreau CB UCLA- I feel as though Moreau is not getting enough love this draft season. This could be due to his Lisfranc injury in 2015 forcing him to face much more development time in 2016, but he seemed to really grow as the season went along. His confidence continued to develop, and he is a very physical player in rerouting WRs. Even if he ends up being just an above average player, he is a huge upgrade from the 2016 #2 CBs in Kansas City that savvy fantasy players always knew to target. This makes playing sides with Marcus Peters so much easier. If their edge rushers can get healthy, then this defense can fly right back to the top of the league, since they have decided they would like to continue being happy with losing the in playoffs due to their insane commitment to an average QB . . .
- DAL- Charles Harris EDGE MIZZ- Charles Harris is a guy you just need to have on your team. Ignore 2016. I do not think he fit the change in Missouri’s defense very well. Focus on 2015, where he thrived. He is a speed to power player, with fantastic first step quickness. He’s flexible around the edge and has the feet of a basketball player (he used to be a dominant player in high school). With Dallas’s inability to be able to rely on Lawrence and Gregory, they need to focus on acquiring a pass rusher. The guy flat out lives in the backfield, something he was not asked to do in 2016. Harris is going to be a good one. Take it to the bank.
- GB- Christian McCaffrey RB STAN- I am not fully convinced of this pick, but it seems to be very popular, so I will roll with it. A natural playmaker, McCaffrey is that do-it-all player that fits so well in a place with a top notch passing attack. I think he can be a lead back, and in a Rodgers led offense he will be heavily utilized as a receiver, as well. However, I really liked what I saw out of Ty Montgomery last season, and also believe he should be heavily involved. I do not think the Packers need to invest a first round pick on a running rack. I would think they should consider Tak McKinley heavily, if available.
- PIT- Takkarist McKinley EDGE UCLA- McKinley fits best as a complementary pass rusher, a “Robin” to someone else’s “Batman.” That said, he is a really good Robin. McKinley began to blossom in 2016, and he is definitely on the way up. He reminds me a lot of Bud Dupree in how he is starting to rise up draft boards during the process. I can even see him being taken in the middle of round 1. I think he is best valued around this spot and fits well as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Pittsburgh could use a pass rusher to groom for Harrison’s eventual decline (is it ever coming?).
- ATL- Forrest Lamp OG WKU- Atlanta was a machine in 2016. They will regress back to being just very good, but they can still be a top 10 offense in 2017. They can still win now with their level of offense and an ascending defense. If they think more long term, then they will focus on selecting pass rushers. However, as most teams do, they will most likely focus on winning now, and a starting guard is an immediate need. Lamp reminds me very much of Zach Martin. A tackle who will likely convert to guard, athletic and flexible, Lamp is legit. Smart and versatile, Lamp performed at a high level against Alabama in 2016, demonstrating his level of competition is not an issue.
- NO- Chidobe Awuzie CB COL- I really think the Saints’ defense is on the way up. Awuzie is a perfect fit in New Orleans. With a high powered offense, they often force teams to pass. Awuzie is a lot like Tabor in that he is not a great corner against the run, but again, that is superseded by great coverage ability. The NFL is a passing league. If run support as a corner is your biggest issue, then I am a happy talent evaluator. Awuzie has the long term potential to be a #1 CB. He has great change of direction skills, fluid hips, can cover in all defenses and at all cornerback positions, closing burst, confidence, and can even blitz. All of these things are fantastic, translatable skills that can be utilized heavily by a good coordinator. He should be on the rise.
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