The countdown is on.
Instead of months or even weeks, we are now just days away from the start of the 2017 NFL Draft in the City of Brotherly Love. A high volume of rumors will surface between now and draft day, so for many, the 2017 NFL Draft can't come too soon.
Please note that there will be at least one additional update of this mock draft, no later than the Wednesday night preceding the draft.
For now, however, here is my updated 2017 NFL Mock Draft:
1. Cleveland Browns (Draft History): Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
No position in sports, not just football, is more important than quarterback and the Browns lack of success in finding their franchise quarterback has been well-documented. Even though the Browns used a third-round pick on Cody Kessler in last year's draft, the quarterback position remains unsettled for the long term.
With so many other holes on the roster, Garrett appears to be a lock here despite reports the Browns may consider UNC's Mitchell Trubisky at No. 1 as well. Fortunately for the Browns, their five top-65 selections gives them the draft-day ammunition and flexibility to address the need.
Only the Raiders (25) recorded fewer sacks than the Browns (26) last season, but Emmanuel Ogbah, one of the team's 2016 second-round picks, led the team with 5.5 last year. Racking up 31 sacks in 34 career games, Garrett has the length, burst and freakish athleticism to make an immediate impact with the potential to develop into a perenniel All-Pro pass-rusher to pair with Ogbah.
2. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
“There’s the traditional trade chart, (and) we’ve got one of our own,” [GM John] Lynch said. “I think we know how we value that (pick). As I’ve said, we’re open for business. We’d listen to anything. But, I’ve always said you don’t like being 2-14, but you like having the second pick. I think it puts you in the driver’s seat with a lot of options at your disposal and we’ll explore every single one of them.”
If the 49ers stay put and are unable to find a trade partner to move back, this pick likely comes down to Thomas or one of the top-three defensive backs -- safeties Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker and cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Considering the potential for Kirk Cousins to call the Bay area his home this time next year, I wouldn't expect the the 49ers to use a top-two pick on a quarterback even though they currently go into the season with backup-caliber quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley atop the depth chart.
Even though the 49ers (albeit Trent Baalke) have selected defensive linemen with back-to-back first-round picks in 2015 (Arik Armstead) and 2016 (DeForest Buckner), they aren't exactly ideal fits in the team's new defensive scheme. Meanwhile, Thomas has outstanding quickness and strength and a tireless motor that warrants a selection this high in the 2017 draft.
3. Chicago Bears (Draft History): Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Signing Mike Glennon this offseason means the Bears should target the defensive side of the ball with this selection. Perhaps the Bears will select one of the top three defensive backs here (I had Jamal Adams mocked here in the previous version of my mock), but Allen would be a good fit provided the medical staff is comfortable with his shoulders. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year, Allen closed his collegiate career with back-to-back seasons of double-digit sacks and will help shore up Chicago's 27th-ranked run defense.
MORE: Bears select a QB in my way-too-early 2018 NFL Mock Draft
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (Draft History): Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Going eighth overall to the Panthers in previous versions of this mock, Fournette may not last that long. Likely the first team to take a serious look at selecting Fournette (despite reports the 49ers could select him at No. 2), the Jaguars have built upon their strong defense (sixth in total defense in 2016) by adding Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye in free agency.
Despite universal expectations that the Jags would take a step (or two) forward in 2016, they instead took a step backwards as the play of quarterback Blake Bortles regressed. In addition, Jacksonville ranked only 27th in the NFL in rushing offense (92.1 yards per game).
Adding a back with Fournette's combination of size, power and speed would take some pressure off Bortles. And Fournette is built to be a workhorse back that will wear down opposing defenses as the game progresses.
5. Tennessee Titans (Draft History), via Rams: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Upgrading the secondary was a major need for the Titans and their two biggest free-agent signings (cornerback Logan Ryan and safety John Cyprien) will help to bolster the unit. With the team releasing Jason McCourty this month, they will go into the season with two new starters -- Ryan and Lattimore -- based on this mock.
At the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, Lattimore displayed his elite athleticism (4.36 forty and 38.5-inch vertical) prior to tweaking his hamstring. His history of hamstring injuries is a potential concern, but he is extremely fluid with the cover skills to develop into a true shutdown corner.
6. New York Jets (Draft History): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
In the previous version of this mock, I had the Jets selecting UNC quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the Tar Heel or another quarterback could certainly be in play here. Using (read: wasting) a second-round pick on Christian Hackenberg last season, however, the Jets may decide to wait until 2018 to add another early-round quarterback in a year where the talent is widely expected to be better (depending on which quarterbacks declare early).
Recently running a sub-4.4 forty at LSU's Pro Day, Adams has a first-round pedigree (father George was a first-round pick in 1984), the versatility to play either safety spot and is a defensive tone-setter. In fact, NFL.com's Bucky Brooks went so far recently to call Adams "the best prospect in the draft."
7. Los Angeles Chargers (Draft History): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Once again, I have the Chargers selecting Hooker and if he's still on the board here, it's hard to imagine him the Bolts passing on him. Drawing comparisons to Ed Reed, Hooker is a ball-hawking free safety with tremendous range that finished his only season as a starter with seven interceptions, three of which he returned for scores.
8. Carolina Panthers (Draft History): O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
If Leonard Fournette were available here, I think he'd be the pick -- and he was in the previous version of this mock -- as Jonathan Stewart recently turned 30 and has missed three-plus games in each of the past five seasons. If Fournette is off the board, I'm not sure that they add Christian McCaffrey or Dalvin Cook here.
The Panthers could use more dynamic pass-catchers. A top-10 prospect, Howard is a complete tight end that excels as a blocker while also possessing elite physical tools (4.51 forty at 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds) to create mismatches in the passing game. Howard had just two 100-yard games at Alabama, coincidentally both coming in the past two national championship games, but he should be much more productive in the NFL than he was in college.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (Draft History): Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Carlos Dunlap had 8.0 sacks (and defensive tackle Geno Atkins had 9.0), but the Bengals could use an upgrade opposite Dunlap as 30-year-old Michael Johnson had 3.5 sacks and graded out as PFF's 105th edge rusher (out of 109 qualified players).
While he may lack the elite burst of some other pass-rushers in this class, Barnett's production is unparalelled as no player had more sacks over the past three seasons combined. In fact, Barnett broke Reggie White's all-time sack record at Tennessee despite playing only three seasons and the junior edge rusher became the first player in SEC history to record double-digit sacks in three different (consecutive) seasons.
10. Buffalo Bills (Draft History): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Before the start of free agency, there was rampant speculation that the Bills would part ways with Tyrod Taylor -- and many mocks, including mine, had the Bills selecting a quarterback in this slot. With all of the quarterback prospects still on the board, it's possible that the Bills select one of them here, but adding pass-catching reinforcements would make sense especially given the durability track record of receiver Sammy Watkins.
Possessing the size (6-4, 220) and physicality to overpower defensive backs, Williams isn't the fastest receiver, but he's fast enough. Bouncing back from his 2015 neck injury, the Clemson wideout finished 2016 with 98/1,361/11 and has the talent to develop into a true No. 1 receiver at the next level.
11. New Orleans Saints (Draft History): Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
A three-down linebacker prospect with tremendous speed and range, Reddick began his Temple career as a walk-on defensive back and has played a variety of roles for the Owls. As an undersized defensive end last year, Reddick finished with 22.5 tackles for loss, third-most in college football, and a team-high 10.5 sacks. Few prospects, if any, improved their draft stock since the end of the college football season as much as Reddick has.
12. Cleveland Browns (Draft History), via Eagles: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Since professional football returned in 1999, three quarterbacks have had double-digit wins during their time in Cleveland: Tim Couch (22), Derek Anderson (16) and Brian Hoyer (10). Out of that group, only Hoyer (10-6) has a winning record as a starter. Meanwhile, 26 of them have a QB loss.
It's possible that Trubisky doesn't last this long in the draft. Specifically, the Jets at No. 6 and Bills at No. 10 would be the two most-likely teams to select him. Then again, it's possible that the Browns trade up to get in front of the Jets to select Trubisky.
The biggest knock on Trubisky is his relative lack of experience as a starter (only one season), but he could at least enter the 2017 season as the backup to McCown in this scenario. Possessing a strong arm and mobility, Trubisky completed 68.2 percent of his pass attempts with 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 2016.
13. Arizona Cardinals (Draft History): Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
The Cardinals are fortunate to have cornerback Patrick Peterson, but that means teams will heavily target the other cornerback. And for the most part, that has been met with plenty of success.
If college teammate Lattimore tops the cornerback draft class, you could argue that Conley is the second best in this deep and talented group. With good length (6-0 with 33-inch arms) and athleticism (4.44 forty and 37-inch vertical), Conley has started every game over the past two seasons and intercepted four passes in 2016.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (Draft History), via MIN: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
If the Cardinals went in a different direction than Conley, I would expect him to be the pick here and he's been slotted in this spot in many of my previous editions of this mock. With both Lattimore and Conley off the board, perhaps the Eagles will go in a different direction here and target a corner in Round 2.
Breaking Barry Sanders record for all-purpose yards in college football back in 2015, McCaffrey may not be ideally suited to be a workhorse at 202 pounds, but he's as versatile as they come and especially gifted as a receiver and returner. One player comp for McCaffrey has been former Eagles great Brian Westbrook, but Westbrook himself doesn't seem to be a fan of McCaffrey at No. 14.
15. Indianapolis Colts (Draft History): Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
The Colts lost a number of pass-rushers to free agency or retirement (Erik Walden, Robert Mathis, etc.) and added others in free agency (Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, etc.), but you can never have too many pass-rushers. An explosive athlete with a relentless motor, McKinley had a breakout season for the Bruins with 18 tackles for loss including 10 sacks.
MORE: The Indianapolis Colts have the easiest strength of schedule in 2017
16. Baltimore Ravens (Draft History): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Without Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken, the Ravens will rely on Mike Wallace, a free agent after the 2017 season, and former first-rounder Breshad Perriman, who missed the 2015 season due to injury and posted a 33/499/3 line in 2016. Both Wallace and Perriman have elite speed as vertical receivers, but Davis has the talent to develop into a true No. 1 receiver for the Ravens.
In each of his past three seasons, Davis has dominated lesser competition with 1,400-plus yards and 12-plus touchdowns. The senior receiver has excellent size (6-3, 213), speed, hands and is an outstanding route-runner. Assuming Davis is selected here (or somewhere in Round 1), he will Randy Moss as the second MAC wide receiver to be selected in the first round.
- Continue to picks 17-32 in our 2017 NFL Mock Draft
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