NFL Mock Draft: Two Rounds, Too Many Decisions

I’m going to be completely embarrassed when many of these picks are wildly off target since I’ve pored over tape, measurables and a wide variety of opinions for roughly 125 players over the last few weeks to produce the shrewdest mock draft I possibly could. Okay, embarrassed is a stretch, but I did really put in my homework, and along the way, I concluded a few things:

1.) This is the deepest defensive class I’ve analyzed in a decade. Easily. There should be a dozen or so future All-Pro selections.

2.) Corners (arguably the deepest position) and quarterbacks (arguably the thinnest position) will dictate the flow of the first two rounds. Teams may pounce on the value of the corners and there could be a huge run next Thursday with as many as 6-8 in the first round, or they could wait given the depth, and plug other holes. Conversely, quarterback-needy franchises may have to “reach” a bit in the first, or they could take the better value options and take their chances with the field on the second day.
3.) There is going to be a ton of value on Day 2, and due to this, the first two rounds are extremely tough to predict.
4.) I’m going to get most of this wrong.
5.) I loved every second of doing this. Every. Damn. One.

So there you have it. My primary takeaways from my 2017 mock draft process. It’s always a labor of love, and one I take very seriously despite the obvious and almost hilarious nature of how impossible it is to predict. That’s why my approach to mocking is a blend of me trying to play GM and scout simultaneously. Certain picks are made with a bent towards what one team’s decision makers might conclude, while others lean towards my professional analysis from “scouting” the prospects. Bias plays a part from time to time (spoiler alert), but it can always be backed up by very sound reasoning.

In a class littered with fantasy talent and defensive difference-makers, I can honestly say that I can’t remember being this excited for draft day in a very long time. Maybe ever. Please blast me below or on Twitter for any selections you deem terrible: @Hoover_L_A

Round 1: 

  1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE (Texas A&M)
    – Elite measurables, ideal intangibles and excellent on-field production. What more can a team ask for at one of the game’s most important positions?
  2. San Francisco 49ers – DeShone Kizer, QB (Notre Dame)
    – Kizer is no more of a developmental prospect than Blake Bortles was when the Jaguars took him at No. 3 overall in 2014 because of the future player they envisioned. The big difference here is Kizer possesses dramatically better arm talent than Bortles and will get to be groomed by the great offensive mind of Kyle Shanahan.
  3. Carolina Panthers (from CHI) – Leonard Fournette, RB (LSU)
    – The addition of Fournette as a Bo Jackson/Eric Dickerson-like cyborg will give Carolina the most physically imposing backfield in football and instantly make them a threat to take back ownership of the NFC South.
  4. New Orleans Saints (from JAC) – Solomon Thomas, DE (Stanford)
    – Thomas is an utterly relentless force with great first-step quickness and good punch at the point of attack. With Cameron Jordan, Nick Fairley and last year’s first rounder, the equally-tenacious Sheldon Rankins, New Orleans will suddenly have one of the league’s most formidable defensive lines to help them improve on a 27th ranking in sacks.
  5. Tennessee Titans (from LAR) – Marshon Lattimore, CB (Ohio State)
    – The Titans defense finished 30th in passing yards allowed despite notching 40 sacks last year. Lattimore will be a huge upgrade at corner in a division loaded with top-notch wide receivers.
  6. New York Jets – O.J. Howard, TE (Alabama)
    – Howard finally gives New York an NFL-worthy tight end and provides a difference-making pass catcher for whoever lines up under center for Gang Green, even if the woebegone Jets fans would prefer a trade down.
  7. Los Angeles Chargers – Malik Hooker, S (Ohio State)
    – Hooker could be a major puzzle piece for a defense that missed Eric Weddle’s range and instincts in the back seven last year, but is on the cusp of elite status.
  8. Chicago Bears (from CAR) – Jamal Adams, S (LSU)
    – In Adams the Bears add a tone-setting safety that will give an identity to a rising defense in a similar manner to what Mike Singletary did for Chicago in the 80’s. High praise for sure, but warranted based on Adams’ elite instincts and fierce competitiveness.
  9. Cincinnati Bengals – Jonathan Allen, DT (Alabama)
    – Marvin Lewis is thrilled to land one of the safest defensive players in the draft as a chess piece for a defensive line that’s awfully thin beyond stalwarts Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
  10. Buffalo Bills – Mike Williams, WR (Clemson)
    – The Bills are investing in Tyrod Taylor (for at least one more year). They have to give him a chance to know if he’s the long-term solution (spoiler alert: he is) and adding a premier red-zone threat and big-bodied possession target to pair with Sammy Watkins’ speed will help them get their answers.
  11. Jacksonville Jaguars (from NO) – David Njoku, TE (Miami)
    – To fill one of their biggest roster holes, the Jags snag Njoku, whose 4.64-speed, 37.5-inch vertical and over 35-inch long arms give him a remarkable catch radius that even Bortles can’t miss. Not too shabby while also adding another second-rounder.
  12. Cleveland Browns (from PHI) – Deshaun Watson, QB (Clemson)
    – Hue Jackson needs a winner. The Browns and the city of Cleveland bleed for a battled-tested, ice-water-in-the-veins winner. Watson has poise, grit and the natural physical gifts to pick up the rest as he goes. At a minimum, he’ll team with Garrett to make Cleveland watchable on both sides of the ball again.
  13. Arizona Cardinals – Reuben Foster, LB (Alabama)
    – The Cardinals do opt to take a future quarterback, but instead of Carson Palmer’s heir apparent, they snag the QB of a defense that woefully underachieved last year and lost on-field leaders at all three levels to free agency (Calais Campbell, Kevin Minter and Tony Jefferson).
  14. Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN) – Dalvin Cook, RB (Florida State)
    – Doug Pederson knows exactly what kind of impact an electric runner can have on a team – he coached Jamaal Charles in his best season after all. And he knows the similarly explosive Cook will lift a huge weight off of Carson Wentz for the next 3-5 years.
  15. Indianapolis Colts – Gareon Conley, CB (Ohio State)
    – Beyond Vontae Davis, who’s entering his age-29 season, the Colts’ secondary is in utter disrepair. Conley is a Day 1 starter whose athleticism and length will help him limit No. 2 receivers.
  16. Baltimore Ravens – Haason Reddick, LB (Temple)
    – Reddick is a Baltimore kind of guy: hard-nosed, versatile and laser-focused between the lines. He’ll immediately slot into the starting spot vacated by the untimely and unfortunate retirement of Zach Orr.
  17. Washington Redskins – Christian McCaffrey, RB (Stanford)
    – The Redskins cannot resist creating a thunder and lightning backfield with Robert Kelley and McCaffrey. With the injury concerns for Josh Doctson and the loss of receiver depth, McCaffrey’s ability to double as a receiver will have Jay Gruden giddy.
  18. Tennessee Titans – Corey Davis, WR (Western Michigan)
    – If an ankle injury didn’t keep Davis from working out for teams in the pre-draft process, he’d have landed in the top 10. Davis’ elite hands, competitive savvy and well-rounded athleticism give him the upside of an All-Pro. In other words, Marcus Mariota is very, very excited with this pick.
  19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derek Barnett, DE (Tennessee)
    – The Buccaneers have not had a double-digit sack guy since 2005. Barnett took down Reggie White’s all-time sack record at Tennessee and he’ll put an end to Tampa Bay’s inglorious streak as a critical piece to a rising defense.
  20. Denver Broncos – Ryan Ramczyk, OT (Wisconsin)
    – Ramczyk only played one year at Wisconsin, but sadly that still makes him one of the most experienced left tackles on an embarrassing Broncos offensive line.
  21. Detroit Lions – Jarrad Davis, LB (Florida)
    – Sure, the Lions do need a second pass rusher, but they’re really desperate for a difference-maker at linebacker. As a ball magnet with explosive stopping power, Davis gives them one.
  22. Miami Dolphins – Forrest Lamp, G (Western Kentucky)
    – Laremy Tunsil’s move from guard to left tackle leaves a gaping hole in a Dolphins offense that needs its power ground game to set up the pass. Lamp is the perfect solution to help create interior running lanes for the “J-Train.”
  23. New York Giants – Cam Robinson, OT (Alabama)
    – There are few holes on a roster poised for a run to Eli Manning’s third ring. Protection for the 36-year-old so he can exploit one of the league’s top wideout trios is the biggest.
  24. New York Jets (from OAK) – Mitchell Trubisky, QB (North Carolina)
    – Jets fans “rejoice” when New York selects a developmental quarterback in the fourth straight draft. It only costs them a high third round pick and former first rounder Sheldon Richardson to get the passer they hope will grow up with their shiny new receiving weapon.
  25. Houston Texans – Patrick Mahomes, QB (Texas Tech)
    – Everything in Texas is big. Now the Texans get a Texas kid with a big arm and the big cojones to attempt and convert big throws. For former No. 1 picks DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, that’s a BIG deal.
  26. Seattle Seahawks – Malik McDowell, DE (Michigan State)
    – If anyone can get McDowell’s motor to run hot at all times it’s Pete Carroll, Michael Bennett and a hell of a proud defense that will love this monster’s versatility and superior athletic gifts.
  27. Kansas City Chiefs – John Ross, WR (Washington)
    – Andy Reid brought DeSean Jackson to Philly and now he’s going to bring Jackson 4.22-0 to Arrowhead. With Ross on the perimeter and Tyreek Hill lining up all over, the Chiefs won’t miss Charles’ speed putting defenses on their heels. Not. One. Bit.
  28. Dallas Cowboys – Jabrill Peppers, S (Michigan)
    – The all-too-obvious Jerry Jones pick actually makes sense this year. Peppers is the sure-tackling, heavy-hitting box safety they need opposite Byron Jones in the secondary now that steady vet Barry Church is gone.
  29. Green Bay Packers – T.J. Watt, LB (Wisconsin)
    – Even with Clay Matthews and Nick Perry to rush the passer, Watt is too tempting to pass up as the best player left on Green Bay’s board. He’ll replace Matthews one day and will be a vital rotation guy until then as a versatile, backfield-wrecking chess piece.
  30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Tyus Bowser, LB (Houston)
    – With Bowser, the ageless James Harrison gets another pup to groom and the Steelers get a lightning quick outside linebacker with the explosive burst to get in the backfield or to the sideline in a blink and wreak havoc.
  31. Atlanta Falcons – Takkarist McKinley, DE (UCLA)
    Dan Quinn’s defense is predicated on overwhelming an offense with speed and tenacity. That makes the non-stop motor of McKinley (who clocked a wicked fast 4.59 40-time, btw) the perfect running mate for reigning sack leader Vic Beasley.
  32. New Orleans Saints (from NE) – Kevin King, CB (Washington)
    – With Thomas and King the Saints add arguably the two best value selections of the entire first round to continue one of the league’s most painstakingly prolonged defensive rebuilds.

Round 2:

  1. Cleveland Browns – Evan Engram, TE (Mississippi)
  2. San Francisco 49ers – Chris Godwin, WR (Penn State)
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Joe Mixon, RB (Oklahoma)
    – As physically gifted and complete as nearly any tailback prospect this decade, Mixon just needs one team to believe in second chances. After just missing on Fournette, this may be the all-time consolation prize for a Tom Coughlin operation that will help Mixon continue to mature on, and more importantly, off the field.
  4. Chicago Bears – Zay Jones, WR (East Carolina)
    – This is Keenan Allen with a little less size and a little more speed. The Bears coaches got to work with Jones at the Senior Bowl and now add him to the mix of Alshon Jeffrey replacements.
  5. Los Angeles Rams – Garett Bolles, OT (Utah)
    – A very unsexy first pick for the Sean McVay era, but the Rams need to protect their young Bambi-like quarterback and desperately have to open up running lanes for their best offensive player.
  6. Los Angeles Chargers – Adoree’ Jackson, CB (USC)
    – Keeping the SoCal kid in SoCal, the Chargers will add a premier playmaker to Gus Bradley’s defense while dramatically boosting their return squads – which respectively finished 30th and 27th in kickoff and punt return average last year.
  7. Oakland Raiders (from NYJ) – Zach Cunningham, LB (Vanderbilt)
    – Only five teams allowed more than the 4.5 yards per carry Oakland relented in 2016. Cunningham’s ability to diagnose plays and shut down running lanes will help take that number down.
  8. Carolina Panthers – Charles Harris, DE (Missouri)
  9. Cincinnati Bengals – Taco Charlton, DE (Michigan)
  10. Jacksonville Jaguars – Obi Melifonwu, S (Connecticut)
    – Among the top value picks in the first two rounds, Melifonwu’s incredible athleticism will allow Jacksonville’s gifted linebackers to play looser and generate more chaos.
  11. Philadelphia Eagles – Marlon Humphrey, CB (Alabama)
  12. Buffalo Bills – Quincy Wilson, CB (Florida)
  13. Arizona Cardinals – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (USC)
    – The Cardinals pair huge need with good value in Smith-Schuster, who possesses all the tools to develop into a No. 1 wideout in the NFL.
  14. Indianapolis Colts – Tim Williams, OLB (Alabama)
  15. Baltimore Ravens – Derek Rivers, OLB (Youngstown State)
  16. Minnesota Vikings – Caleb Brantley, DT (Florida)
  17. Washington Redskins – Budda Baker, S (Washington)
  18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Marcus Williams, S (Utah)
  19. Denver Broncos – Adam Shaheen, TE (Ashland)
    – A Division II “Gronk,” this monstrous tight end has all the physical tools to develop into a premier weapon once his technique as a route runner and blocker are refined.
  20. Cleveland Browns (from TEN) – Curtis Samuel, WR (Ohio State)
    – A bit redundant with Corey Coleman and Duke Johnson offering similar skillsets to Samuel, but the Browns just flat out need more playmakers.
  21. Detroit Lions – Cooper Kupp, WR (Eastern Washington)
    – By Week 8 when Kupp already has 20-something catches for first downs Lions fans will love this pick. In the quick-throw, rhythm Detroit offense, Kupp’s exceptional technical polish and strong hands will translate to a lot of chain-moving plays.
  22. Miami Dolphins – Tre’Davious White, CB (LSU)
    – White has the potential to be the best slot corner in this class, and when you play in the AFC East, that pesky Julian Edelman and his slightly more famous quarterback always have to be a concern.
  23. New York Giants – Chris Wormley, DT (Michigan)
  24. Oakland Raiders – Chidobe Awuzie, CB (Colorado)
  25. Houston Texans – Antonio Garcia, OT (Troy)
  26. Seattle Seahawks – Fabian Moreau, CB (UCLA)
  27. Kansas City Chiefs – Alvin Kamara, RB (Tennessee)
    – With Kamara to play Charles’ role out of the backfield, to go along with Hill’s and Ross’ absurd speed, the Chiefs will never lack for explosive plays.
  28. Dallas Cowboys – Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE (Villanova)
    – The untapped potential for Kpassagnon parallels well with Ezekiel Ansah coming out of BYU in 2013, but this freaky athlete boasts even more size. Dallas can’t resist the immense upside.
  29. Green Bay Packers – Samaje Perine, RB (Oklahoma)
    – At the exact same number pick the Packers took Eddie Lacy in 2013 they snag his replacement in the similarly bruising Perine, who just so happens to be Oklahoma’s all-time career rushing leader – a.k.a., the guy whose college numbers bested OU alums such as DeMarco Murray, Billy Sims and some Adrian Peterson guy.
  30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jourdan Lewis, CB (Michigan)
  31. Atlanta Falcons – Dan Feeney, G (Indiana)
  32. Chicago Bears (from CAR) – Desmond King, CB (Iowa)

Trades:

  • Chicago receives the 8th, 64th and 233rd selections from Carolina in exchange for the 3rd selection
  • Jacksonville receives the 11th and 42nd selections from New Orleans in exchange for the 4th selection
  • Oakland receives the 39th and 70th selections from New York Jets in exchange for the 24th and 168th Oakland also receives defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.