We are inching closer and closer to what we’ve all been waiting for — the 2017 NFL Draft. The rumors are swirling, information is leaking, and it is getting more difficult to predict.
We thought we knew that Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett would be the first overall pick, and now that isn’t even a certainty.
One thing is certain: we have no idea what’s going to happen, and I love it.
This mock draft is a mix of what I’m hearing and logical fits.
1. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Trubisky, Quarterback, North Carolina
Whoa! There are reports of an internal disagreement on whether Myles Garrett is worthy of the No. 1 selection and apparently the Browns love Trubisky. If they want to draft Trubisky, there is only one way they can guarantee he becomes their property and that is to select him with the first pick in the draft.
The environment is ripe for Trubisky. The offensive line is stacked, Cleveland has a formidable duo of receivers in Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman, tight end Gary Barnidge is one year removed from the Pro Bowl and running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson had productive seasons in 2016 and are emerging talents.
While Trubisky has only started one season in college, the traits he illustrated last season rival any quarterback in this class. He is the most accurate quarterback in this class, has tremendous poise and pocket skills and ran his offense with total command.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Myles Garrett, Edge Defender, Texas A&M
You’re welcome, San Francisco. The Browns handed you the clear-cut top player in the draft, and he should not fall any further than the second overall pick.
Garrett has the upside to become one of the NFL’s premier defensive players with his balanced skills to overwhelm offenses as a pass-rusher and against the run. When pairing his on-field performance with a prototypical build, optimal length and freaky athletic ability, Garrett represents a special, blue-chip prospect who projects as a franchise cornerstone.
A scenario that seemed so unlikely is now something the 49ers brass must be prepared to consider.
3. Chicago Bears: Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback, Ohio State
Despite only 14 career starts at Ohio State, it’s abundantly clear that Marshon Lattimore has high-end traits for the cornerback position. Able to perform at a high level in both man and zone coverage, Lattimore is a fit for any scheme and has the talent to start right away. His combination of play speed and route anticipation skills allow him to be trusted alone on an island, allowing the rest of the secondary to focus their attention elsewhere.
The Bears were prepared to spend big money to acquire free agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and Lattimore is a nice consolation prize.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU
Leonard Fournette can become the focal point of the offense and allow the passing game to be more complementary to the ground game. Having a true feature back would impact the balance of the offense after a 2016 season in which the Jaguars passed the ball 626 times compared to 392 rushing attempts.
After finishing in the bottom 10 of the NFL for rushing yards and producing only 8 rushing touchdowns last season, Fournette would be a welcome addition to the roster. The Jaguars haven’t produced a 1,000-yard rusher since the 2011 season, and Fournette could finally solve their issues.
5. Tennessee Titans: Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Clemson
The Titans need receivers – probably several – and definitely a No. 1 option. Insert Mike Williams, who is a big-body target who has excellent skills at the catch point to secure contested receptions. Williams has proven his ability to work all levels of the field and is the type of player that an NFL passing game can be built around. After missing all but one-quarter of the 2015 season with a broken neck, Williams was dominant in 2016 and should continue to develop in his second season back from injury.
Williams would be a welcome addition for quarterback Marcus Mariota, who deserves to have a stable of pass-catching weapons at his disposal. Williams would be a great start in providing that.
6. New York Jets: Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State
The Jets have so many needs that literally ANY position makes sense for them to select.
Hooker has off-the-charts range and ball skills, thriving in deep zones. He needs work in run support, but the ground he can cover and ability to create turnovers would be a welcome addition to the Jets defensive unit.
Hooker’s addition would allow Calvin Pryor to play closer to the line of scrimmage, which is where he belongs.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
The Chargers are assembling an impressive arsenal of pass rushers, so adding a playmaking safety such as Adams behind them would be a terrific addition. Adams functions will in deep zones, short zones and man coverage, allowing for diverse coverage schemes that will create turnovers.
Against the run, Adams is a field general who plays with an aggressive urgency. He is a complete player.
8. Carolina Panthers: John Ross, Wide Receiver, Washington
The departures of Ted Ginn and Corey Brown leaves the Panthers offense with a group of giant pass catchers in Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess but little in the way of speed. Enter John Ross, who set the NFL Scouting Combine record with a 4.22-second 40-yard dash.
He is the big-play threat that Carolina needs to take the top off the defense and lift coverage for their possession threats to work underneath. There isn’t a player in the NFL who has the speed to remain in phase with Ross vertically.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Solomon Thomas, Edge Defender, Stanford
The way that the first eight picks have fallen dumps one of the top defenders right into the Bengals’ laps as they sprint to the podium to turn in the card for Thomas. One of the most refined defensive linemen in the draft, Thomas plays with outstanding technique to work through blocks, locate the football, shed blocks and finish.
Thomas has immense upside and would provide a freaky compliment to Geno Atkins up front. Able to win inside or outside, Thomas’ versatility is intriguing.
10. Buffalo Bills: Reuben Foster, Linebacker, Alabama
Coach Sean McDermott goes from the elite range and athleticism on the second level of Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly to clunky Preston Brown and Reggie Ragland. Adding speed and playmaking ability to the linebacking corps should be a priority.
Foster is a field general who profiles as the face of an NFL defense. Among the most physical players you will ever see, Foster plays with high intensity and strong mental processing skills.
11. New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett, Edge Defender, Tennessee
Like we’ve been saying for the last 20 years, the Saints need help on defense. Barnett dominated the SEC over the last three seasons and broke Reggie White’s school record for career sacks. Finishing 27th in the NFL last season in sacks, Barnett would be a welcome addition to the Saints defense.
Giving up the second-most points and sixth-most yards per game last season should have the Saints selecting defensive players early and often.
12. Cleveland Browns: O.J. Howard, Tight End, Alabama
Howard is a long, freaky-athletic pass-catcher who will provide a massive target for Trubisky. It will be difficult for any safety or linebacker to run hip-to-hip with Howard, and his length is incredible.
Not only does Howard have exciting potential as a receiver, but he is the best blocking tight end in college football. With his ability to drive block, lead block or function in space, Howard will be able to create offense for the Browns by the space he will create.
Howard would nicely round out the weapons at Trubisky’s disposal and provide an exciting offensive nucleus from the onset.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Texas Tech
The Cardinals need to start planning for life without Carson Palmer, and Mahomes represents a player who fits coach Bruce Arians’ philosophy well in terms of being able to push the ball vertically down the field. He also adds a dimension with his legs that would be a cool drink of water from the statuesque Palmer.
Transitioning from Texas Tech’s air raid scheme to the NFL is quite the task, but Mahomes has exceptional traits that are worth investing in, and he would not be pressed to play right away.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Gareon Conley, Cornerback, Ohio State
Someone needs to match up with Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham in 25 percent of the Eagles’ games, and Conley is the chess piece needed to counter.
Conley offers the size, length and athletic ability with plenty of experience playing at a high level in the Big Ten. Conley has the man coverage ability and ball skills needed to make an impact quickly in the NFL, something the Eagles defense severely needs.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Christian McCaffrey, Running Back, Stanford
The Colts featured the fifth-best passing offense in the NFL last season, but a bottom 10 rushing attack. Creating more balance offensively would ultimately improve the team and take pressure off Andrew Luck.
McCaffrey is a dynamic backfield weapon who has tremendous vision and elusive traits to execute between-the-tackle and boundary runs. He is an outstanding receiving threat who will dominate in the screen game, check downs and designed routes.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis, Wide Receiver, Western Michigan
The Ravens’ investment in Joe Flacco is sizable, and he needs weapons far greater than what the roster currently offers. With Steve Smith Sr.’s departure, they need a go-to target, and Davis is that alpha-type receiver who can win at all levels of the field. With dynamic route-running ability, ball skills and talent after the catch, Davis is the multi-dimensional weapon the Ravens offense needs. Oh, by the way, he also happens to be the most prolific receiver in Football Bowl Subdivision history.
17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, Defensive Lineman Alabama
Allen is a stout, powerful defensive lineman with exceptional hand technique to disengage from blocks and make tackles near the line of scrimmage. A versatile player, Allen can line up in nearly any technique and still offer tremendous playmaking ability along the defensive front. The Redskins need more help up front on defense, and Allen is the best player available and fills a position of need. Allen has dominated SEC offensive linemen for three seasons and has the versatility to play inside or outside, making him a great fit.
18. Tennessee Titans: Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback, Colorado
There is a growing narrative that Awuzie is going to be selected in the first round. While that is too rich for me, if there is a destination that makes sense, it would be Tennessee.
Awuzie would help improve a Titans secondary that allowed the third-most passing yards per game in the entire league last season. He has the versatility to play inside and outside, which complements the exotic packages and zone blitzes that Dick LeBeau likes to run.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: David Njoku, Tight End, Miami
Njoku has arguably the most playmaking upside of any pass-catcher in this class with his freaky athleticism and ball skills. A national high-jumping champion in high school, Njoku caught seven touchdowns over his final six games at Miami and is putting it all together as a football player. The addition of Njoku opens things up even more for Mike Evans and presents matchup nightmares for opponents. Jameis Winston would be thrilled with this selection.
20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, Offensive Tackle, Utah
Bolles is a good value with this selection at a position of need for the Broncos. Bolles is a powerful run blocker with a nasty mean streak to create running lanes. As a pass blocker, Bolles has good ability to mirror, quick feet and know-how to shut down a pass rusher’s landmarks in pursuit of the passer. Denver has an immediate need for an upgrade at offensive tackle and with unproven options at quarterback, the Broncos need to be able to protect whoever the passer will be.
21. Detroit Lions: Haason Reddick, Linebacker, Temple
The Lions need a new face to the defense on the second level, and Reddick is an exciting, emerging talent.
A converted defensive end, Reddick has the traits needed to convert to linebacker. He functions well in space, processing quickly and closing down distances well. His three-down ability and range would be a major asset to a Lions defense that needs to improve.
22. Miami Dolphins: Forrest Lamp, Guard, Western Kentucky
The Dolphins offensive line has a few holes to fill and drafting Lamp to be the team’s starting left guard would be an outstanding selection.
A left tackle at Western Kentucky, Lamp should move inside to guard at the next level and offers a balanced skill set as a run and pass blocker. His technique and athleticism are top-notch, and Lamp projects as a plug-and-play starter who should have a long shelf life.
23. New York Giants: Ryan Ramczyk, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin
The selection of Ramczyk improves the Giants offensive line at two positions by inserting him at left tackle and moving Erik Flowers to the right side. Flowers has had his struggles protecting Eli Manning’s blindside and is better suited for responsibilities at right tackle.
Ramczyk had a dominant final season at Wisconsin, where he demonstrated polish as a pass blocker and the ability to create movement in the ground game. While he has limited FBS experience, he dominated the Big Ten competition and is ready to become a starter in the NFL.
24. Oakland Raiders: Jarrad Davis, Linebacker, Florida
The Raiders have a massive need for a true “Mike” linebacker in the middle of its defense, and the man for the job is Gators standout Jarrad Davis. An imposing, physical presence, Davis has terrific burst and finishing ability with the range needed to make plays all over the field.
An every-down player, Davis is sound when fulfilling his coverage assignment and is capable of carrying tight ends and running backs into space. Davis has excellent reactionary skills and the playmaking upside of a high-level NFL starter.
25. Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson
The Texans will be handcuffed until they have a viable quarterback, so adding a prolific passer such as Watson who has experience in college football’s biggest stages makes perfect sense.
The weapons are in place for Watson to come in right away and develop in coach Bill O’Brien’s scheme. Watson will keep the offense moving, and his dual-threat ability adds another layer to the scheme. If Watson falls to pick No. 24, this is a very easy decision for the Texans brass.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Kevin King, Cornerback, Washington
The Seahawks can use an upgrade opposite of Richard Sherman, and local product King fits the Seahawks prototype in terms of length and athleticism at the position.
King does have some technical deficiencies to improve upon, but his ball skills and ability to disrupt the catch radius of a receiver are enticing. Having a viable No. 2 cornerback would allow Seattle the scheme to play more aggressively.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Joe Mixon, Running Back, Oklahoma
Mixon with coach Andy Reid could be something special. In need of upgrades at the running back position, Mixon has the ability to become the focal point of the offense with his dynamic skills as a runner and receiver.
With Jamal Charles tenure as a Chief over, Kansas City needs to retool the position. Mixon’s blend of size, speed and power provide the Chiefs with a new feature back with a high ceiling.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Takkarist McKinley, Edge Defender, UCLA
There is no questioning that the Cowboys must improve the pass rushing options on the roster, adding an explosive, high motor rusher such as McKinley makes sense.
McKinley is an exciting edge rusher who has outstanding burst, twitch and power to rush the edge track and pressure the passer. An every-down player, McKinley has the power to play the run and set the edge. His balanced blend of skills will help retool the position.
29. Green Bay Packers: T.J. Watt, Edge Defender, Wisconsin
The Packers experienced a mass exodus of core players on defense, and it’s time to rebuild the nucleus. Watt offers a balanced skill set, and he can make plays on the edge.
Watt’s hand technique and feel for defending the run is outstanding. His motor is among the best I have seen, and he is relentless working to the football. As a pass rusher, Watt wins with aggression and hand technique. He can work angles, attack gaps, and utilize his length to get to the quarterback.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback, Alabama
The Steelers secondary overhaul continues with the addition of Marlon Humphrey, who is among the most talented corners in the draft and would represent a steal at pick No. 30.
Humphrey is supremely athletic and among the most physical defensive players in the entire draft. He is sticky in coverage and brings high levels of contact power as a tackler. His play demeanor has Pittsburgh written all over it.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Derek Rivers, Edge Defender, Youngstown State
Vic Beasley counted for nearly half of the Falcons sacks in 2016. He needs a complementary rusher, and Derek Rivers is the man for the job.
Rivers is a nuanced player who is assignment-driven and plays with excellent technique. His approach to defending the run is textbook, and he plays with good awareness to counter blocks and get to the ball. He has a variety of pass rush moves that blend his power and athletic ability to generate consistent pressure on the quarterback.
32. New Orleans Saints: Adoree’ Jackson, Cornerback, USC
The Saints had the NFL’s worst passing defense last season, so improving the talent in their secondary is an obvious necessity.
Adoree’ Jackson is a supremely talented cover man with outstanding ball skills and immense special teams upside. His playmaking skills on the perimeter are something the Saints defense desperately needs as they build a unit capable of complementing the offense.