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2017 NFL Mock Draft: Post-free agency edition

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 12: LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) with a rushing attempt during the football game between LSU and Arkansas on November 12, 2016 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, AR. LSU would defeat Arkansas 38-10. (Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire)
Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire

After most of the top-tier free agents have signed, many teams have finalized the top of their roster. With that set, their horizontal draft boards can begin to crystallize. While need shouldn’t be the ultimate decision maker in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, it will certainly play a big role.

How does this change the way teams may draft? Let’s take a team-by-team look with our latest mock draft.

1. Cleveland Browns – EDGE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

(Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire)

Nothing has changed at the top of the draft. Garrett looks like an elite prospect on tape and at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. In the midst of a massive roster rebuild, the Browns would be smart to select Garrett.

 

2. San Francisco 49ers – S Malik Hooker, Ohio State

Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch made a tremendous effort to purchase a competent offense in free agency, including a pair of receivers, a top-of-the-market fullback and two short-term solutions at quarterback. Those options are enough to keep Shanahan happy for now, leaving Lynch to focus on getting younger on defense.

Lynch has consulted with Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on safety evaluation in the past, and the 49ers plan to bring that type of defensive scheme to San Francisco. Therefore, an elite free safety like Hooker could be high on their list of draft targets.

3. Chicago Bears – S Jamal Adams, LSU

Grabbing Mike Glennon on a contract that is team-friendly after the first year will help the front office sleep at night after passing on a quarterback. It won’t take the position off the board, but if they aren’t crazy about the options, they could elect to focus on other positions early. Adams is an elite prospect who can be a tone setter for an underrated and improving Chicago defense.

 

4. Jacksonville Jaguars – RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

The Jaguars focused on defense in free agency with the high-profile signings of A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, and Barry Church. However, their two biggest areas of need remain at quarterback and offensive line. Drafting Fournette will give them some more time to develop Blake Bortles.

5. Tennessee Titans (from LAR) – LB Reuben Foster, Alabama

The Titans weren’t tremendously active in free agency, adding Logan Ryan and losing Kendall Wright. They still have needs in the secondary and at wide receiver, but with the depth at corner and safety, they could consider Foster at this spot.

The Crimson Tide linebacker has some question marks after getting kicked out of the combine, but he looks like an elite prospect in the middle of the defense and would bring a new element of speed to the second level.

6. New York Jets – CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

The Jets elected to move on from aging superstars Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, and Nick Mangold in an attempt to get younger across the board while fixing their salary-cap situation. They found a nice one-year deal with Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, but finding good players on the outside should continue to be a priority.

Many consider Lattimore the top corner in this draft class, and he has elite speed and athleticism that would allow him to run with NFL receivers from Day 1.

7. Los Angeles Chargers – DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama

After drafting Joey Bosa a year ago and franchising Melvin Ingram at the beginning of this offseason, the Chargers would seem to have enough pass rushers. However, Allen is a different type of athlete, with the size and strength to hold up against the run and move around the defensive line.

He was able to rush the passer at an elite level during the past two seasons. Combined with Ingram and Bosa, the Chargers could build a front seven with top-level players capable of filling multiple roles.

8. Carolina Panthers – EDGE Solomon Thomas, Stanford

Even after signing Matt Kalil, the Panthers have a hole along the offensive line. Additionally, they are still looking to replace Josh Norman. However, the Panthers are unlikely to reach on their board for either position. Instead, they could consider Thomas here.

The Stanford pass rusher is able to work on the edge or kick inside and rush the passer from defensive tackle. He is an explosive athlete who could do a lot of damage for a Carolina team that is always looking to add talent up front.

9. Cincinnati Bengals – WR Mike Williams, Clemson

The Bengals took a huge hit on offense last season after losing Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency. This year, they lost Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler. They were prepared to lose a couple of offensive linemen because they drafted Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first two rounds two years ago. Yet, they don’t have much of a contingency plan at receiver.

Drafting inside the top 10 for the first time in the Andy Dalton era, Cincinnati could make a move to pair A.J. Green with a talent like Williams on the outside. Williams ran well at his pro day, and is a big, physical pass-catcher who could take advantage of single coverage.

10. Buffalo Bills – CB Tre’Davious White, LSU

The Bills were strapped for cash in free agency, and they lost two of their top three receivers plus cornerback Stephon Gilmore. They made a few key signings, including the underrated pickup of Micah Hyde in the secondary, but adding more pieces on the back-end would help Sean McDermott build a powerhouse in Buffalo.

His defense doesn’t typically require a heavy investment at cornerback. Carolina’s release of Josh Norman should be a cautionary tale for a defense that just lost a young talent like Gilmore. White’s senior tape was terrific, and he was a dominant force for LSU in the defensive backfield.

11. New Orleans Saints – CB Quincy Wilson, Florida

The Saints are still in the market for cornerback Malcolm Butler, but whether they pull off a deal or not, they should remain in the hunt for a cornerback in the NFL draft. Wilson is tall, fast and can force turnovers. He would help New Orleans improve defensively in Drew Brees’ waning years. Cornerback is a group stocked with talent, though they will look for talent at all levels of the defense.

12. Cleveland Browns (from PHI) – TE O.J. Howard, Alabama

Quarterback is the giant shadow hanging over the franchise, but if the Browns don’t consider drafting one with their first pick, they are likely comfortable pushing the problem to another year. The last two times the Browns had multiple first-round picks, they struck out badly. It has happened four times since 2007, and although they got Joe Thomas with that first one, the next-best player they came away with was Danny Shelton.

Johnny Manziel, Brandon Weeden, Brady Quinn, Trent Richardson and Justin Gilbert all flamed out spectacularly, while Cameron Erving is struggling to find a spot on the field. Garrett should be a home run at the top of the draft, but adding a high-floor prospect like Howard, who has the potential to develop into a top-three NFL tight end, would go a long way toward putting the Browns back into contention.

13. Arizona Cardinals – QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina

15 October 2016: North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) takes the snap against the Miami Hurricanes at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL (Photo by Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire)

Losing Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson might make the front office push for defensive talent in a draft that is loaded with it, but all signs in Arizona point to them pulling the trigger on a quarterback if they get a reasonable chance.

With the 49ers, Bears, Jaguars, Jets, and Bills all passing on a signal caller, the Cardinals get their pick of the litter. Trubisky doesn’t have a long track record of success at North Carolina, but he has great tools and the tape he has from 2016 is excellent. They wouldn’t be forced to play him right away, and he could be developed behind Carson Palmer until the team is able to (or forced to) put him on the field.

14. Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN) – TE David Njoku, Miami

The Eagles came into the offseason trying to surround Carson with as many weapons as possible. Philadelphia has a strong offensive line when everyone is available, and the defense should be solid even with the loss of Bennie Logan. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith give the Eagles a strong and well-rounded receiving group for 2017 even if there are no guarantees after that. However, Njoku would give Eagles coach Doug Pederson a super playmaker at tight end.

15. Indianapolis Colts – LB Haason Reddick, Temple

The Colts would love to come away with a big-time pass rusher or offensive lineman in this spot, but either position could be a slight reach on their board. They brought in Jabaal Sheard and John Simon to try to help the pass rush, leaving them open for an interesting selection in the first round.

Reddick is an unbelievable athlete who blew up the combine. He was an edge defender in college, but his size could limit him to an off-ball role at the next level. He assimilated well at the Senior Bowl and proved that he was capable of playing the run, covering receivers and blitzing when asked to do so.

 

16. Baltimore Ravens – CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State

The Ravens lost a few key players like Ricky Wagner and Kyle Juszczyk, but they did add Danny Woodhead, Tony Jefferson, and Brandon Carr to compensate. Those signings allow Baltimore enter the draft open-minded.

Still, the Ravens could look to add more talent at corner in light of some recent injuries, and Conley has the athleticism and ball skills to develop into an impact player in the secondary. The Ravens could strengthen the weakest part of a defense that was already strong in 2016.

17. Washington Redskins – WR John Ross, Washington

With the 4.22 speed Ross showed at the NFL combine, there really isn’t a ceiling to how high teams could target him in the draft. The Redskins lost Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in free agency, meaning they are hoping Josh Doctson stays healthy and Jamison Crowder continues to improve.

Ross’ speed will give Kirk Cousins enough ammunition to keep Washington’s offense among the best in the NFC.

18. Tennessee Titans – CB Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson

After taking Reuben Foster earlier, the Titans should try to improve the secondary. Tankersley is tall and very fast, with the ability to play man-to-man and cover the most physically dominant receivers in the league. He gets criticized for being overly grabby with receivers, but he should be able to succeed in the NFL with some fine tuning. The Titans should also consider a receiver at this spot.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – EDGE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

With John Ross breaking the 40-yard-dash record, Tampa Bay was wise to spend on DeSean Jackson rather than wait for Ross in the draft. Selecting Noah Spence last year and signing Chris Baker this year give the Buccaneers a lot of flexibility along the defensive front.

Barnett has criticized his below-average athleticism which could prevent him from being an elite pass rusher in the NFL. Even still, he should come polished as a run defender with a ton of upside.

20. Denver Broncos – OT Garett Bolles, Utah

The Broncos helped their offensive line issues by signing Ronald Leary from the Cowboys, but they also lost Russell Okung at tackle. In order to protect the quarterback – whether it be Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, or Tony Romo – the organization could feel tremendous pressure to add an offensive tackle in the draft.

Bolles may be the top player at his position, and he had a very good NFL combine to solidify that status. Adding a solid player at left tackle should be a priority before the start of the 2017 season.

21. Detroit Lions – EDGE Taco Charlton, Michigan

The Lions failed to get much production from their pass rush in 2016, and it would have been virtually nonexistent if not for the surprise contributions of Kerry Hyder in the sack department. Ezekiel Ansah has the talent, but as a one-man show, he failed to live up to expectations last season.

Charlton is a hometown kid from Michigan who struggled with injuries but was extremely productive for the Wolverines. He was particularly dominant down the stretch last season and especially against Ohio State. He disappointed athletically at the NFL combine, which could lead to a fall into the 20s, Nevertheless, he should still be highly regarded on many boards.

22. Miami Dolphins – CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

The Dolphins could use depth in a lot of places on defense, including the front seven and the secondary. Humphrey fits the mold of the players they have targeted in the draft recently. He is tall and strong with the ability to play man-to-man or zone coverage.

Humphrey has a similar physical profile to Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard as a bigger corner on the outside, meaning it could be tough to put all three on the field together at the same time. But between injuries and the need for development, they could continue to invest like this in the secondary.

23. New York Giants – RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State

Some Giants fans may have talked themselves into Paul Perkins but outside of the offensive line, running back is the biggest need on this team.

Cook is a do-it-all back on tape. He can run inside or outside the tackles as well as catch and pass protect, making him a three-down threat. Without a sure-thing left tackle available that would allow the Giants to move Ereck Flowers to the right side, adding a dynamic runner like Cook could help bring Eli Manning back to his glory days.

24. Oakland Raiders – Jabrill Peppers, Safety, Michigan

(Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire)

After taking Karl Joseph in the first round a year ago, safety isn’t a top priority for the Raiders. However, the strong roster gives the front office the opportunity to take the best player available. Peppers is a super athlete who can fill many roles in the Oakland defense.

His skill set doesn’t directly overlap with Joseph, who was known as a ball hawk and big hitter in college. Instead, Peppers can fill the void at linebacker left by Malcolm Smith while also functioning as a nickel corner, giving the Raiders a high-upside weapon.

25. Houston Texans – Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson

With only Mitchell Trubisky off the board here, the Texans are in a prime position to select a quarterback. Watson had turnover problems in his two seasons at Clemson, but he still performed at a high level in the biggest moments and showed the poise necessary for NFL success.

26. Seattle Seahawks – OL Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

The Seahawks signed Luke Joeckel and targeted offensive line in the draft a year ago, but they are still in the market for athletes along the offensive line. Lamp fits the bill in an unusual way.

On top of good numbers at the NFL combine, his tape at Western Kentucky showed an elite college left tackle. He isn’t being talked about as a top-20 pick because of questions about his arm length and the positional value if he gets bumped inside. However, his agility and play strength would immediately make him the best player on a young and unproven Seahawks offensive line.

27. Kansas City Chiefs – WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan

Despite being mentioned as a potential top-5 pick, Corey Davis falls in this mock draft because of positional need and concerns with his injury. While his peers impressed athletically, Davis missed the NFL combine and now won’t run at the Western Michigan pro day.

Kansas City gets a potentially dominant player who could eventually replace Jeremy Maclin.

28. Dallas Cowboys – EDGE Carl Lawson, Auburn

Take away the injury concerns and add an inch to his arm length, and Lawson could be top-10 player. It’s understandable why teams would be skeptical, but Dallas needs to add talent at pass rusher, and Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could get the most out of the Auburn star. Lawson uses his hands better than any pass rusher in the class and shows enough explosion to be very effective for the Cowboys.

29. Green Bay Packers – OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

The Packers won’t panic after losing T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter this offseason. However, an offensive line that was a strength of the team is now in flux. Ramczyk was a rock for the nearby Wisconsin Badgers and could start his career in the interior for Green Bay. The Packers also need help at cornerback, but the depth at the position should allow them to wait until Day 2 of the draft.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers – EDGE Charles Harris, Missouri

Bud Dupree emerged as Pittsburgh’s best pass rusher last season, but the Steelers are still looking for some additional pass rush help. Harris was a polished pass rusher at Missouri with the added versatility to rush as a stand-up linebacker and the athleticism to be effective in zone coverage as well.

31. Atlanta Falcons – EDGE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

The Falcons assembled an impressive defense late in 2016, but the lack of a pass rush became a problem at times throughout the season. Vic Beasley was highly drafted and led the NFL in sacks last year, but even he wasn’t getting consistent pressure without another presence to help threaten the pocket.

McKinley was a high riser at UCLA with excellent speed off the edge, and while he has a long way before he turns his athleticism into a dangerous tool, he would be an excellent complement to Beasley as a pass rusher.

32. New Orleans Saints (from NE) – TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss

(Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire).

This pick is the prize of the Brandin Cooks trade, and while the idea was they would use that capital to improve the defense, the Saints could still change their mind and select Engram with the last pick of the first round. Engram is a tall, long-armed athlete with good hands who can make plays over the middle of the field.

He is a speedster at tight end with a position-best 4.42-second 40-yard dash. He is also a smooth route runner with the ability to beat man coverage and find soft spots against zones. He isn’t much threat as a blocker, but he could be the star at tight end that the Saints have missed since trading Jimmy Graham.

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