A 2017 NFL Mock Draft one year early? Of course. We do it every year. For the 2016 draft, 11 of the 31 picks went in the 1st round. More difficult than picking the players? Picking the team order. Yes, that’s really our Super Bowl.
1. Cleveland Browns – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. A year out, it’s impossible to project the #1 pick unless you’re talking Andrew Luck. I love Watson as a college QB. He can make NFL throws into tight windows. Is he a bigger Russell Wilson? Watson lit up Alabama in the title game (405 yards passing, 4 TDs), but Saban has struggled against mobile QBs.
2. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia) – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU. Has 3,367 yards from scrimmage and 33 total touchdowns in two years. Never before has a team drafted 1-2 [Ed. The Colts drafted 1-2 in 1992! Both were busts] but with Sam Bradford holding out, the possibility exists for now. I know an analytics team would never pick a RB this high, but after a good 2016 draft, this would feel like a home run.
3. New Orleans Saints – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M. A 6-foot-5, 260-pound manchild who has 25.5 sacks and 32 tackles for loss in two seasons. Between Cam Jordan, Sheldon Rankins and Garrett, the Saints would have the makings of an elite defensive line.
4. Tennessee Titans – Da’Shawn Hand, DE, Alabama. The #1 ranked player coming out of high school in 2014, Hand rang up 6.5 TFL and three sacks last year, playing mostly as a reserve behind a few guys who got drafted this weekend (Bullard, Robinson, Reed). Hand put up 42 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. May make a bigger leap to stardom this year than any other player in college football. I like what the Titans are building but they’re very young in a lot of spots.
5. Miami Dolphins – Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami. Looks the part (6-foot-4), and has put up solid numbers (61% completions, 83. ypa, 3,238 yards, but his TDs were significantly down from his freshman year). Short of a playoff trip, I think the Ryan Tannehill era is over in Miami.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars – Cam Robinson, LT, Alabama. Monster. Nasty. Anchor. At 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, he’s a mountain to get around. I know this is low for a Jags team that just had a great draft (Jack, Day, Ramsey), but they’re still very young defensively. I believe 2017 will be the year the Jags push for a playoff spot.
7. Tennessee Titans (via St. Louis) – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC. Has the hands, speed and toughness to be a #1 WR in the NFL. Caught 89 passes and 10 TDs last year as a sophomore and played with a broken hand. JuJu would join Wright, Douglas, Matthews and Dorial Green-Beckham at WR.
8. San Diego Chargers – Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama. Nearly entered the 2016 draft, and would have been an early-round pick. Allen led a loaded Alabama DL with 12 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss. Bosa and Allen will terrorize Derek Carr and Paxton Lynch for the next decade.
9. San Francisco 49ers – Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU. If Dupre had a QB, might we be talking about him as a Top 5 pick? Went from 14 catches (five for TDs) as a freshman to 43 last year, and lit up Florida for two TDs and 115 yards in his best game of the season. At 6-foot-3, 187 pounds, he’s got the tools to be a No. 1 WR. How about Torrey Smith the speedster, 6th round pick Burbridge as the possession receiver, and then Dupre as Colin Kaepernick’s #1 option?
10. NY Jets – Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan. Redshirt sophomore wll be eligible to be drafted, and could be in Heisman contention. Could play CB or S at the next level; he just makes plays. Went to HS right outside of New York City (Paramus Catholic). If/when Skrine doesn’t work out as the #2 CB, he goes back to slot coverage; Peppers is tutored by Revis for a year, then becomes the #1 CB.
11. Buffalo Bills – Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State. Named the best blocker in the ACC last year. Is 6-foot-6, 325 pounds. I loved the Bills 2016 draft. First three picks helped front seven of the defense; and then got QB Cardale Jones (Tyrod Taylor a free agent in 2017). I even like RB Jonathan Williams and WR Kolby Listenbee. The Bills slapped a franchise tag on Cordy Glenn for 2016.
12. Atlanta Falcons – Malik McDowell, DE, Michigan State. A bit undersized (275 pounds) to play tackle in the NFL, but he’s done so with success for the Spartans. Inside as a freshman and sophomore, but he’s expected to play end this season.
13. Chicago Bears – Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida. Two scouts told me he had a better year with the Gators last season than Vernon Hargreaves, who was taken 11th overall. Tabor’s slightly bigger and had four interceptions in 2015. Was the 10th best player in the high school class of 2014, according to Rivals.
14. Baltimore Ravens – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan. Lit up Michigan State (10-154, TD). In two career bowl games: 16 receptions, 359 yards, 4 TDs. As long as the 6-foot-3 Davis can run a sub 4.5 40, he’ll be in the 1st round mix.
15. Cincinnati Bengals – Zach Banner, OT, USC. Pac-12 standout is 6-foot-9, 360-pounds and a pretty good basketball player. Several pivotal Bengals starters are free agents in 2017. The ’16 draft may have solved a couple (Billings for Peko?; Westerman for Zeitler?), but if Whitworth leaves, slide Smith to LT, plug Banner in at RT?
16. Detroit Lions – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State. Rushed for 1,691 yards and 19 TDs and is as explosive as any workhorse RB to come out college football in a long time. Six games with 20+ carries; averaged 7.4 ypc for the season. Probably measures smaller than 6-foot, 203-pounds but who cares. I see a faster Joe Morris (former Giants star) with a hint of LT.
17. Denver Broncos – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee. Wasn’t a Top 150 recruit out of high school but had 10 sacks and 20.5 TFL as a true freshman (3.0 and 4.0 respectively, vs Ole Miss), then another 10 sacks and 12.5 TFL facing some double teams as a sophomore.
18. NY Giants – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. Giants have made quantum leaps at nearly every position this offseason, except the offensive line. The 6-foot-7 McGlinchey is a promising prospect.
19. Carolina Panthers – Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC. Scouts don’t think he’s technically proficient at CB yet, but he’s going to be one of the best athletes in next year’s draft if he leaves early. Scored on special teams (he’s dynamic in that aspect of the game), offense and defense last year. NCAA contender in the long jump; ran a 10.48 in the 100-meter dash in the Pac-12 Championships in 2015. (Yes, I have the Panthers missing the playoffs.)
20. Dallas Cowboys – Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound pass rusher led the Buckeyes with eight sacks as a redshirt sophomore. Without Bosa to attract double-teams, it’ll be interesting to see how Lewis does when he’s the focal point of the pass rush. Very interesting background.
21. Tampa Bay Bucs – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound pass catcher went down with this injury in the 2015 season opener. As a sophomore, he caught 57 passes for 1,030 yards and six TDs. How scary is it that Clemson lost its best WR and still got to the title game?
22. Oakland Raiders – Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M. Yes, I’ve got the Raiders in the playoffs. QB issues in College Station are why RSJ had modest stats in 2015 (45-560-4 TDs) last year. He’s not as good as former Top 10 pick Mike Evans was, but if he runs a 4.5 40 at 245 pounds …
23. Minnesota Vikings – Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA. Both starting tackles could be free agents after next season, so the Vikings spent a 4th round pick in 2016 on Willie Beavers. The 6-foot-8 McDermott could have left early for the NFL, but staying on campus made Josh Rosen a happy QB.
24. Houston Texans – Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA. Very good sophomore season (5.5 TFL). Junior year ended in the season opener. He made two TFL and got hurt later in the game. Probably needs to add some weight to excel in the 3-4 (listed at 305 pounds). Vince Wilfork is a FA after this season, and probably retires. Houston got Clemson’s DJ Reader in the 5th round; it’s unclear now if he’s a project, a rotational guy, or an immediate impact player.
25. Green Bay Packers – Quin Blanding, DB, Virginia. The 5-star recruit has been a high-impact player in the ACC, finishing 2nd in the conference in tackles during his first two seasons. Blanding has run in the 4.5 range, and even though he’s a shade smaller (6-foot-2) than Kam Chancellor (Virginia Tech grad), expect to hear some comparisons as both are from the Virginia Beach area.
26. KC Chiefs – KD Cannon, WR, Baylor. Torched the Big 12 as a freshman (58 catches, 1,030 yards, 17.8 ypc), then took a backseat to star Corey Coleman (taken 15th by the Browns in the 1st round). The Chiefs got two WRs in the 2016 draft, but Demarcus Robinson has off-the-field issues to work though (four suspensions in three years) and Tyreek Hill is expected to be a special teams factor.
27. Indianapolis Colts – Marquis Haynes, OLB, Ole Miss. Despite a couple boneheaded plays late in the memorable loss to Arkansas (a game in which he had a sack, a TFL and a forced fumble), the 6-foot-3, 220-pound pass rusher had a monster year. Ten sacks, 16.5 TFL, and he figures to be an All-American contender. With Cole and Mathis likely goners after next season, Haynes might make sense to the Colts, who are definitely going back to the playoffs with a healthy Andrew Luck.
28. Washington Redskins – Jamal Adams, S, LSU. On a rapidly-improving defense, safety could be the lone weakness. Yes, I really do have the Redskins getting to the 2nd round of the playoffs. I’m bullish on Kirk Cousins, love the Josh Norman pickup, and thought the Redskins made smart moves in FA/draft. Adams going to the NFC East would be fun – his father, George Adams, was a 1st round pick of the Giants in 1985.
29. Seattle Seahawks – Desmond King, CB, Iowa. All-American has started for three years. Intercepted eight passes last year, tied for 2nd in the country. Rushed for 2,368 yards and 32 TDs as a senior in high school.
30. New England Patriots – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford. Could win the Heisman this year. May turn into a slot WR in the pros. Workhorse last year, with seven games of 25+ carries. Caught a total of eight passes for 210 yards and 2 TDs vs USC and Iowa. Rushed for 243 yards and 4 TDs vs UCLA. His Rose Bowl was insane.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon. A 4th running back in the first round? No way! Freeman’s 1,836 yard sophomore season isn’t the only reason to be excited. He supposedly ran in the 4.5 range at 215 pounds; but he’s at 230 now. Oft-injured Le'Veon Bellran a 4.6 at that weight at the Combine. And yes, I’ve got a Super Bowl rematch.
32. Arizona Cardinals – Luke Falk, QB, Washington State. Redshirt sophomore could be next year’s Carson Wentz – a QB who comes from the fringes and soars up draft boards. Falk though, actually has credentials – 69% completions, 38 TD passes last year. He’s 6-foot-4 and does play in a Mike Leach offense, though.