2017 NFL Mock Draft: Three QBs in the Top 10?
Roughly three months until Round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia, here's one prediction that's sure to come true: This mock draft will look a lot different in April than it looks today.
It's virtually impossible to predict how things will shake out three minutes before the start of a draft, let alone three months before it. After all, some prospects will rise and fall following workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine and their Pro Days, teams will fill needs (or not) via NFL free agency, etc.
As we get closer to April, I will add more rounds to this mock with the goal to be a full seven-round mock draft.
With all of that said, here is my early projection of how Round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft could play out:
Obviously, it's a quarterback-driven league and the Browns (still) do not have a franchise quarterback on the roster. While the team used a third-round pick on Cody Kessler in the 2016 NFL Draft, he's a low-end, low-upside starter (if not a career backup). That said, if the team passed on a signal-caller at the top of last year's draft class, there's a good chance they won't feel compelled to select a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick this year.
The Browns defense could use upgrades at all three levels. Not only did the Browns rank 31st in total defense (375.4 YPG) and 30th in scoring defense (28.3 PPG), but only the Raiders (25) recorded fewer sacks than the Browns (26) in 2016. On a positive note, Emmanuel Ogbah, one of the team's 2016 second-round picks, led the team with 5.5 sacks.
With Garrett, the Browns get a difference-making pass-rusher that is widely viewed as the top prospect in this year's draft class. After finishing with 11-plus sacks in his first two collegiate seasons, the explosive edge rusher had just 8.5 sacks in 10 games this season as he battled a high-ankle sprain in addition to facing many double and triple teams from opposing defenses.
As usual, there are several quarterback-needy franchises picking at the top of the draft yet there isn't necessarily a slam-dunk consensus choice at the position. Not only is Blaine Gabbert a free agent (and not a good quarterback), but there is a good chance that Colin Kaepernick won't on the opening day roster either.
Only a one-year starter for the Tar Heels, Trubisky completed 68.2 percent of his pass attempts with 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 2016. With good size (6-3, 220), accuracy, a strong arm and mobility, he possesses all of the traits to potentially develop into a franchise quarterback for presumed head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Will the Bears go with Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer or Clemson's Deshaun Watson here and make it two quarterbacks in the top three? (After all, Dabo Sweeney recently compared Watson to Michael Jordan.) It's certainly possible the Bears draft a quarterback here as they are expected to move on from Jay Cutler, but it wouldn't surprise me if they go with Allen here.
Few prospects are as safe as Allen. With the versatility to play multiple spots along the defensive line, Allen closed his collegiate career with back-to-back seasons with double-digit sacks and will help shore up Chicago's 27th-ranked run defense.
Possessing great size (6-1, 213) and a first-round pedigree (father George was a first-round pick in 1984), Adams has the versatility to play either safety spot, but he is especially good playing in the box. Having his best season, strong safety John Cyprien was the seventh-graded PFF safety (of 90 qualified), but he will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
With a franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota, the Titans exceeded expectations in 2016 and have a bright future. One area that needs to be addressed via the draft and/or free agency, however, is their pass defense, which ranked 30th in the NFL last season. One of the deeper positions in this year's draft class, the Titans can double-dip with a pair of first-round cornerbacks as I project in this mock.
None of the quarterbacks on the 2016 roster have shown that they are the long-term answer at quarterback for the Jets and both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith are free agents anyways. Perhaps it's too early to judge Christian Hackenberg, but Kizer has all of the physical tools to potentially become the long-term answer for the Jets.
The last time that Jonathan Stewart did not miss at least three games was 2011. Stewart, who turns 30 in March, averaged just 3.8 yards per carry this season and there is some speculation that Stewart could turn out to be a cap casualty. A man among boys, Fournette has a rare combination of size, power and speed and his presence would help take some pressure off of Cam Newton even if Stewart isn't released.
Viewed by some as a 'tweener, the redshirt sophomore was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and was dominant in the Sun Bowl win over UNC. Possessing rare physical attributes, Thomas has drawn some comparisons to J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald, but the long-term upside is tremendous.
Watching Stanford's Solomon Thomas looks incredibly similar to watching JJ Watt when he was coming out of Wisconsin. Very, very, similar— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) January 4, 2017
Tyrod Taylor's days as starter in Buffalo appear to be numbered, so the Bills could be in the market for a starter with this pick if (at least) one of the top-three signal-callers is still available here. First-round bust E.J. Manuel will be an unrestricted free agent and the only other quarterback on the roster is fourth-rounder Cardale Jones.
There is plenty to like about the dual-threat Watson, who led Clemson to a national championship win over Alabama and a runner-up finish the year before. While he has come up big in big games, he has struggled with accuracy and thrown too many interceptions -- 30 over his past two seasons -- so it's possible that Trubisky and/or Kizer are selected before him.
The Saints have finished 27th in team defense and have failed to make the postseason in each of the past three seasons. Obviously, adding playmakers to all three levels of their defense should be their offseason priority. The Butkus Award winner as college football's top linebacker, Foster is a devastating hitter with sideline-to-sideline range.
Isaiah Crowell had a number of big games (four 100-yard games), but he also rushed for less than 30 yards in seven of 16 games. Cook is a true difference-maker at the position and is a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball.
The first wide receiver off the board in this mock, Davis has dominated lesser competition with 1,400-plus yards and 12-plus touchdowns in each of his past three seasons. The senior receiver has excellent size (6-3, 213), speed, hands and is an outstanding route-runner.
While the Cardinals had a trio of receivers with 50-plus catches for 800-plus yards in 2015, wide receiver has become a position of need with plenty of question marks over the short term. While Larry Fitzgerald is expected back in 2017, his career is winding down, the team cut Michael Floyd earlier this season after his DUI arrest and John Brown has had some health concerns.
** Note: A coin flip will break a tie to determine whether the Colts or Eagles pick 14th or 15th. **
Far from the most explosive edge rusher, Barnett has been one of college football's most productive. After all, Barnett broke Reggie White's school record with 33 sacks in just three seasons.
The Colts had two players that recorded more than three sacks -- Erik Walden (11.0) and Robert Mathis (5.0). Walden is an unrestricted free agent and the soon-to-be 36-year-old Robert Mathis has announced his retirement.
Tabor certainly doesn't lack confidence and ex-Florida coach Will Muschamps put Tabor in his "starting five" of trash-talkers. But Tabor has the size, aggressive demeanor and ball skills to help upgrade a positional unit in massive need of improvement.
As PFF's 19th-graded offensive tackle, starting right tackle Ricky Wagner is about to become an unrestricted free agent. Especially if the Ravens are unable to re-sign Wagner, Robinson would be a good fit here. Even though he has started exclusively on the left side at Alabama, he may be a better fit on the right side opposite last year's first-round pick Ronnie Stanley.
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