2017 NFL Mock Draft: Myles Garrett, Mitchell Trubisky to Browns
Now only four weeks from the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia, the majority of free-agency moves and college Pro Days are behind us.
Leading up to the draft, I will project all seven rounds and 253 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft.
For now, here is how I think Round 1 could play out:
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, however, Garrett is all but a lock as the No. 1 overall pick. In fact, the Browns have five top-65 selections; three more than any other team.
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 sacks last year. Racking up 31.0 sacks in 34 career games, Garrett has the length, burst and freakish athleticism to make an immediate impact and the potential to develop into a perenniel All-Pro pass-rusher.
San Francisco's fourth head coach in as many seasons, Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch have time on their side after signing six-year deals this offseason. In other words, they have the job security to rebuild the roster with a long-term view in mind.
Neither Brian Hoyer nor Matt Barkley is the long-term answer at quarterback. And perhaps Kirk Cousins will be that guy (starting in 2018). But with so many holes and such a high pick in a talent-rich draft, it's unlikely that the 49ers reach for a quarterback here.
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), Thomas has outstanding quickness and strength to go along with a tireless motor that warrants a selection this high in the 2017 draft.
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
Signing Mike Glennon to a three-year deal in free agency all but eliminates the possibility that the Bears use this pick on a quarterback. If things don't work out with Glennon, however, it would only be a $4.5 million cap hit for the Bears to move on after the 2017 season.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Lattimore sustained a hip flexor or hamstring injury (depending on whom you ask), but he participated in on-field drills at Ohio State's Pro Day. His history of hamstring injuries is a potential concern with Lattimore, but he has elite athleticism (4.36 forty and 38.5-inch vertical) and the cover skills to develop into a true shutdown corner.
MORE: Bears select a QB in my way-too-early 2018 NFL Mock Draft
One year after giving Malik Jackson a massive free-agent deal, the Jags signed Calais Campbell to a $60 million contract. Perhaps there are some concerns about arthritis in his shoulders or his overall level of athleticism, but Allen gives the Jags another highly disruptive, productive and run-dominant defensive lineman with the versatility to play multiple spots along the line.
In both news and other mock drafts, a common prospect linked to the Jags with this particular pick is LSU's Leonard Fournette. With the regression of quarterback Blake Bortles, a good and improving defense and last year's 27th-ranked rushing offense (92.1 yards per game), Fournette would make sense as well.
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. While those moves give them more flexibility with this pick, it wouldn't surprise me if they added another defensive back here. With a first-round pedigree (father George was a first-round pick in 1984), Adams has the versatility to play either safety spot and is a defensive tone-setter.
In the previous version of this mock, I slotted a quarterback (UNC's Mitchell Trubisky) to join the trio of Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. Even though they team used (wasted?) a second-round pick on Hackenberg, the long-term answer at the position does not appear to currently be on the roster. If they go in a different (non-QB) direction with the sixth-overall pick, someone like Howard could help whoever is under center. 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.
Drawing comparisons to Ed Reed, Hooker is a ball-hawking free safety with tremendous range that finished his first season as a starter with seven interceptions. A pair of surgeries kept him from working out at the combine, but Hooker would be a Day 1 starter and upgrade for Gus Bradley's defense.
The last time Jonathan Stewart did not miss at least three games in a season was 2011. Not only did Stewart recently turn 30, but he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry last season. The Panthers signed Stewart to a one-year extension, but perhaps more than anything, that helps to alleviate his cap hit for 2017.
Given his unique combination of size, power and speed, Fournette is built to be a workhorse back that will wear down opposing defenses as the game progresses. With quarteback Cam Newton recently undergoing shoulder surgery, Fournette will help take some pressure off Cam while also significantly upgrading the long-term outlook of their rushing attack.
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.
Before free agency began, speculation led to the Bills parting ways with Tyrod Taylor -- and many mocks, including mine, had the Bills selecting a quarterback in this slot. With Taylor agreeing to a restructured deal (or pay cut), adding reinforcements would make sense especially given the durability track record of stud receiver Sammy Watkins and free-agent departures of Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.
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.
Only the 49ers (30.0) allowed more points per game than the Saints (28.4) last season, New Orleans can use help at all three levels of their defense. The Butkus Award winner as college football's top linebacker, Foster is a devastating hitter with sideline-to-sideline range.
Since returning in 1999, three quarterbacks have 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.
Passing on Carson Wentz last season, it's possible that they pass on a quarterback here given the talent that could be available in next year's draft. And with their number of picks including the second-round pick obtained by acquiring free-agent flop Brock Osweiler, it's possible that the Browns are able to package together an offer to pry Jimmy Garoppolo away from the Patriots (despite New England's apparent reluctance to part ways with their backup QB).
Completing 68.2 percent of his pass attempts with 30 touchdowns and only six interceptions in 2016, the biggest knock on Trubisky is his relative lack of experience as a starter. That said, the local kid (Mentor, OH) looks the part with a strong arm and good mobility.
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.
Signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency addresses one of their biggest needs this offseason. Another big need that hasn't yet been addressed is the secondary. Last year's starting cornerbacks -- Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills -- graded out as PFF's 92nd and 112th (of 112) cornerbacks last season and Carroll is now in Dallas. Essentially a four-year starter with outstanding cover skills, White could be the first (of potentially multiple) pick(s) to improve their secondary in the draft.
New GM Chris Ballard has been active in free agency as the Colts have added six new players to their front-seven. But there is still plenty of work to do to continue to improve this 26th-ranked defense (379.1/G) from last season.
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. Last year, Reddick finished with 22.5 tackles for loss, third-most in college football, and a team-high 10.5 sacks.
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, something that Williams doesn't necessarily possess, but he has the talent to develop into a true No. 1 receiver with the size and physicality to overpower defensive backs.
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