The 2017 NFL Draft is still several months away, but the teams out of the playoff hunt have already started looking at this year's draft. While many prospects still have yet to decide whether to return to school or turn pro, we do have a general idea of where players will be selected. Much can, and will, change between now and the actual draft. This is an exercise about trying to project team needs and where a player could go.
It's a strong class for pass rushers, secondary, running backs and tight ends, but a weak one at quarterback and offensive tackle. This is a first round only mock, but there are numerous players who could end up as a first round pick who aren't listed.
Now that the NFL regular season has concluded, the top 20 picks are set with the remaining 12 set to be determined by the playoffs. Here's how we predict the draft will shake out, as of now:
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
Jonathan Allen might be a better fit for the Browns scheme and QB is a bigger need. But the Browns need almost everything, so they must take the best player on the board. That's Myles Garrett, an edge rusher who is the best prospect to come along since that Clowney/Mack draft. He's that good and would provided a need boost for the Browns defense.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC
The 49ers would LOVE if Garrett fell to them and there's a chance they will. They need weapons for a QB badly, but also a QB in general. It's a tad early for a WR, and although it's a poor QB class, the 49ers are one of several teams that could pull the trigger. If it's a QB, which one will it be? Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson or DeShone Kizer? Trubisky is the riser this year and if he comes out, will be a first round QB. He doesn't have the ceiling of Kizer or Watson, but he might be the best fit for Chip Kelly's offense.
3. Chicago Bears: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
He's raw, make no mistake about. But Kizer has the tools to be a franchise QB, even if another year of development would be best. The Bears will have a new QB next year; Jay Cutler isn't coming back. Take the franchise guy in Kizer, bring him along slow and keep building like they are. Kizer has already turned pro.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Do the Jaguars really need Allen? Not really, but their other needs don't match the value of the players on the board. So take Allen, the second-best player in the draft, and plug him at at DE or DT on a already good defensive line. You can never have enough pass rushers. If the Jags let Jonathan Cyprien walk, Jamal Adams makes perfect sense.
5. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Titans need secondary help, at both safety and CB. Luckily, Adams is on the board. A fantastic prospect, Adams is a top-five prospect. He'll provide a needed boost in all phases on defense in the secondary for Tennessee.
6. New York Jets: Jabrill Peppers, ATH, Michigan
The Jets routinely take the best player available, which might not actually be Peppers (there's Jamal Adams and Leonard Fournette). But, Peppers could be some strange hybrid of Tyrann Mathieu and Deone Bucannon, both players Todd Bowles coach in Arizona. I think he's a safety, which the Jets don't really need, but he could play CB or LB too. Still, he's an impact player for a defense that could use some more.
7. San Diego Chargers: Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
Jamal Adams would be a great fit, but he's off the board. McDowell hasn't reached his potential yet, but he'd be a perfect fit for the Chargers. They need another 3-4 DE, and McDowell can fill that role. He has the traits teams want and this is a nice combination of value and need.
8. Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
They need OT help in the worst way, but it's not a bad class. Corner and edge rusher help is also wanted, but it's a deep class which could push players down (like DT last year). So how about the Panthers form an even more terrifying back field with Fournette? There's some injury worries here, but Fournette is the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson. He would have been picked before Ezekiel Elliott. Frankly, this might be too low for Fournette. Jonathan Stewart could be a cap casualty, and this would help the Panthers' offense.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Rueben Foster, LB, Alabama
The Bengals haven't played up to their talent level, which makes things a bit tricky here. They could use some impact players regardless of position on defense, which actually makes Jabrill Peppers a logical landing spot. Foster is the best player on the board, even if the Bengals don't badly need a LB. It's a value pick and he can help the defense right away.
10. Buffalo Bills: Malik Hooker, S, OSU
A right tackle makes sense, but is it too early for one? The Bills need a No. 2 WR, but I'm not sure they throw it enough to justify it. So I'm not sure on this, but I do love Malik Hooker - and he has already declared for the draft. I'm a big Aaron Williams fan, but he can't stay healthy.
11. New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Defense. It doesn't matter what position, the Saints just need to pick a defensive player. We'll slot them another edge rusher for the time being, since Cam Jordan is the only proven, reliable option out there right now. If the Saints want to invest every pick on defense, that's fine with me. Believe it or not, this is the first pick to change order since last week.
12. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
How perfect (in theory) is this? The Browns get an elite edge rusher and a QB. Should remind you of a certain team (cough Raiders cough). Watson might not be exactly what Hue Jackson wants in a QB (don't be surprised if he prefers Trubisky), but Watson has the upside. He took a step back this year, but still has the tools to succeed.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
QB is an option, if one of the top three are on the board. But the biggest need for Arizona is at CB, where Marcus Cooper isn't getting the job done at CB. Humphrey has lockdown corner ability and has the size teams want out of their CBs. Humphrey would be a great fit in Arizona.
14. Indianapolis Colts: Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
Good news Colts fans, one of your two biggest needs has plenty of options. The Colts need to do a better job of protecting the passer on offense and getting to him on defense. Williams is one of the better pure pass rushers to come along in recent years. He needs work elsewhere, but he is exactly what the Colts need right now. He'd be a great fit in Indy as a 3-4 OLB.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Eagles need CB help, but they also have to get some weapons for Carson Wentz. Corey Davis might be the first one off the board and he can be the bona-fide No. 1 option the Eagles desperately need.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
Ozzie Newsome loves Power 5 prospects in the first round, especially if they play in the SEC. Harris checks both those boxes and fills a major need. He'd be a great fit in Baltimore.
17. Washington Redskins: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
The Redskins want to build through the trenches, but it's too early for any of the guards and they're likely won't be an interior defensive lineman worth taking. Tabor is a gifted corner and the Redskins do need secondary help (although they could hope their young guys rebound). Tabor has some off-the-field issues, but he's a damn good corner.
18. Tennessee Titans: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Two picks for the Titans, and I wouldn't be surprised if they spent both on the secondary. But, I'll slot them Mike Williams, a legit No. 1 for Marcus Mariota. He could even be in play with the Titans' first pick.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
There's Mike Evans and no one else really. I don't expect Vincent Jackson back and Adam Humphries isn't worrying defense. Smith-Schuster isn't a burner, but he's a really good possession receiver than is deadly after the catch. He'd be a great replacement for Vincent Jackson. I considered John Ross of Washington, who is a real speedster, for this spot as well. However, there are concerns about the health of Ross' knee.
20. Denver Broncos: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Someone will eventually take a tackle and it might just be Denver. Russell Okung has struggled and the Broncos need a right tackle anyway. Robinson might be better at RT and there are off-the-field worries, but he might be able to start right away for Denver. Tackles, like QBs and pass rushers, tend to rise before drafts and that could happen again.
21. Detroit Lions: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
I expect the Lions to take the best player available this year, and if the draft breaks down this way, that might just be Lattimore. He could go well before this if he elects to join an already loaded CB class. A gifted corner, Lattimore would also upgrade a Lions' secondary that could use some help.
22. Miami Dolphins: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
The Dolphins would love another offensive lineman (namely a guard), but the value isn't right. Corner isn't a massive need, but there will be players worth taking here. Wilson could actually go before Tabor and he'd be a big upgrade for the Dolphins secondary.
23. New York Giants: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Giants tried to draft a tackle high last year and they tried to sign one in the offseason. They failed at both and must upgrade the position this offseason. Ramczyk came out of nowhere this year, but he's a very good lineman. He might be better at right tackle, but that's good enough for the Giants.
24. Oakland Raiders: Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
Perry Riley has been a quality addition for the Raiders, but Malcolm Smith hasn't struggled. The main need is in pass coverage, as TEs tend to beat up on Oakland. Cunningham is better against the run, but he has the skills to be effective in coverage. He can also play as a 3-4 ILB or a 4-3 OLB. That fits Oakland's scheme, although he must stop missing so many tackles.
25. Houston Texans: Eddie Vanderdoes, DL, UCLA
The Texans need DL help badly. Without J.J. Watt, the defensive line has struggled. Vince Wilfork is no longer getting the job done and Vanderdoes could be his replacement. There are some productivity and injury issues, but Vanderdoes has the skill set. It might be a bit early for him, but the need makes sense.
26. Green Bay Packers: Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU
Running back is a need, but the Packers don't usually invest highly in RBs. That might not be the case this year, as Cook is a running back prospect worth taking in the first. He'd be a great fit in Green Bay, as he's a 3-down back. If it's not a running back, it might be a linebacker. Ty Montgomery might have something to say about the Packers going running back, however.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Seahawks need to pick an offensive lineman. Any offensive line, be it a guard or tackle. It's a massive need and McGlinchey could be the best one from this class. He might return to Notre Dame to refine his game, but he could thrive in Seattle.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn
I think this will be a LB, but inside or outside? There are options at both and this is great value for Lawson. He could easily go before this selection. He had issues staying healthy that helped cause him to drop, but he's got all the skills.
29. Atlanta Falcons: Desmond King, CB, Iowa
The Falcons defense hasn't been great this year and they could go in several directions. Desmond Trufant is great when healthy and Jalen Collins took a big step forward. King was the best corner in college football the last two years, although their are concerns about his size and speed that could cause him to fall. Still, he'd help out in Atlanta.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Two Huskies CBs? Why not? Jones might not be as productive as Marcus Peters, but he's a fine corner in his own right. The Chiefs must find an upgrade at the No. 2 corner spot this offseason and Jones is good value here. He might need to bulk up for the more physical WRs.
31. Dallas Cowboys: Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
Randy Gregory might be a lost cause and DeMarcus Lawrence can't do everything. There are plenty of pass rushers to pick from and Smoot is one of them. He might be more disruptive than productive, but he fits what the Cowboys want in their DEs. Don't rule out another WR either.
32. New England Patriots: Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
McKinley has climbed up big boards since the start of the year and he should be a first rounder. He's a bit of 'tweener, but that's okay in New England. They need front seven help and that's what McKinley provides. He's best rushing the passer. This is Christian McCaffrey territory by the way.
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