With the start of training camp less than one week away, what better time to look ahead to next offseason and preview the 2017 NFL Draft with a new mock draft.
While all 32 teams welcome the start of a new season with hope and vigor of making the playoffs and contending for a championship, the reality is that some organizations already know that they will not be vying for the playoffs in 2016. Instead their future success relies on developing the young players currently on their rosters and looking ahead to drafting more talented football players in the 2017 draft.
For the draft order, I have arranged the teams based on their over/under for win totals in the 2016 season, using the figures decided on by the Las Vegas Superbook at Westgate. The tie breakers were the teams Super Bowl odds, from lowest to highest and then by their 2015 record from worst to best.
So without any further ado, let the mocking begin:
No. 1 to the Cleveland Browns (4.5 O/U, 200/1): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Browns’ new brass bypassed an opportunity to select a potential “Franchise” quarterback in the 2016 draft and decided to instead see if head coach Hue Jackson would be able to resurrect the once-promising career of RGIII.
Even though I expect Griffin to have a good year under Jackson’s tutelage they will not bypass the opportunity to select the talented Watson and have him sit and learn for a season or two on the bench if needed.
Watson is a dual-threat quarterback who possesses the ability to create plays both with his arm and his feet. Watson led the NCAA with 5,214 combined passing and rushing yards as a sophomore, while also passing and rushing for a total of 47 touchdowns which led the ACC.
His arm is strong enough to make NF- type throws, plus he is accurate, completing 67.8 percent of his throws last season.
With a talented supporting cast and the return of his No. 1 target in Mike Williams look for Watson to continue to put up gaudy numbers and be the top-rated draft prospect in 2017.
No. 2 to the Tennessee Titans (5.5 O/U, 100/1): Myles Garrett, Edge, Texas A&M
The Titans give defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau a shiny new toy to help terrorize the quarterbacks in the AFC South division. Garrett is coming off impressive back-to-back 11-plus sack seasons in his first two years playing for the Aggies. Garrett’s ability to quickly get off the line of scrimmage coupled with his length allow him to consistently bring pressure off the edge.
Although his run defense has room for improvement, Garrett did lead the SEC Conference in tackles for loss (19.5) and forced fumbles (5) in 2015.
No. 3 to the San Francisco 49ers (6 O/U, 100/1): Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
After watching a season of Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert battling it out to be his starting quarterback, head coach Chip Kelly goes out and drafts himself a young signal caller in Miami’s Brad Kaaya.
The true junior will enter his third season as the starter for the Hurricanes and will look to improve on what some believed was a sub-par sophomore campaign. Kaaya should benefit from the arrival of head coach Mark Richt and his preference to run a more pro-style offensive system that NFL teams favor to see college quarterbacks learn to play within.
Kaaya has prototypical size at 6’4” and 210 pounds, with a strong arm that can make all the throws. He has shown to have good pocket awareness and is able to slide away from oncoming defenders to buy some extra time in order to find an open target downfield.
His ability to quickly get rid of the ball will fit perfectly in Chip Kelly’s offense where he likes his quarterbacks to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers right away once the ball has been snapped.
No. 4 to the New Orleans Saints (6.5 O/U, 80/1): Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Saints make the Louisiana fans happy and select the local boy in LSU’s Leonard Fournette. The 2015 Consensus All-American will give Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton something that haven’t really had in New Orleans a true lead running back.
While former first-round pick Mark Ingram has been a solid dual-threat contributor in the Saints’ offense, Fournette though is a whole different animal. To simply put it, Fournette is a game-changer.
His combination of size, speed and power is an element that defenses have to game plan to stop. Fournette’s arrival with the Saints will alleviate a tremendous amount of pressure on an aging Drew Brees to not have to carry the offense by himself.
No. 5 to the Miami Dolphins (7 O/U, 100/1): Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Allen surprised many by returning to school for his senior season. The talented pass rusher put together a terrific junior campaign for the Crimson Tide tallying up 14.5 tackles for loss and leading the SEC with 12 sacks.
Allen does a nice job of converting speed to power and using his hands to separate from offensive lineman. He is versatile enough to move inside to defensive tackle and allow another speed rusher to enter the game on passing downs, projecting as a three-down lineman who won’t need to come off the field in sub-packages.
With aging defensive ends in Cameron Wake and Mario Williams, the Dolphins can use some young blood to come in to backup and learn from the two productive pass rushing veterans.
No. 6 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7 O/U, 80/1): Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU
The Bucs decide it is time to move on from Doug Martin and select Jameis Winston’s former college teammate in Dalvin Cook.
Cook is a terrific combination of game-breaking speed, vision and pass catching. If not for Leonard Fournette he would most likely be the first running back selected in the draft. His ability to make defenders miss in the open field or when he has reached the defense’s second and third level is fun to watch. With his aforementioned speed, Cook is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, whether it is being handed off to him or thrown to him.
Tampa continues to prioritize building the offense around Winston and adding a playmaker like Cook will only help take pressure off the second-year quarterback.
No. 7 to the Detroit Lions (7 O/U, 80/1): Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
With the recent release of linebacker Stephen Tulloch, the Lions head into 2016 with some questions at middle linebacker. Assuming they do not find a permanent replacement for Tulloch this season, the Lions could look at Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan to help fill the void.
With the collection of talent Ohio State had on defense last season it was easy for McMillan to go unnoticed, but the talented sophomore who had 119 tackles, always seemed to flash on tape while I was watching the Buckeyes’ game film.
McMillan is an athletic, quick linebacker who is strong at the point-of-attack with the ability to shed blockers. He plays an aggressive style of football as he seems to always be in attack mode whether it’s a run or pass play. His ability to hold-up in coverage will allow him to develop into a three-down linebacker.
Urban Meyer should once again have a collection of future NFL players running around in Buckeye colors and McMillan is no exception.
No. 8 to the San Diego Chargers (7 O/U, 60/1): Jabril Peppers, SS, Michigan
Still looking to fill the void left by safety Eric Weddle the Chargers take Michigan’s Jabril Peppers.
The former five-star recruit is a terrific athlete and playmaker in the Wolverine backfield. Peppers is such a great athlete and has the ability to make plays from anywhere on the field, that new Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown plans on moving Peppers to a hybrid linebacker position in 2016, but we should still see him also play safety, corner, as well as nickel back.
Peppers could be one of the more athletic defensive players in next year’s draft and should be penciled in as a top ten selection.
No. 9 to the Cleveland Browns (from Eagles) (7 O/U, 60/1): Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
Using one of the picks acquired from the Eagles for Carson Wentz, the Browns take Alabama’s disruptive edge rusher Tim Williams. As a situational pass rusher last season, Williams posted 10 sacks and was receiving late first and early second-round grades from the draft’s advisory committee. Williams decided to come back to Alabama to not only help boost his draft stock but to also tighten up his run defense, being that he was strictly a pass rusher last year and questions remain about how he will hold up versus the run.
There is no question though that Williams will instantly impact a team’s pass rush as the 6’4”, 237-pound linebacker has a tremendous get-off at the line of scrimmage and does a good job of using his hands to free himself from the blocker keeping his pad level low to get the outside leverage as he turns the corner.
With veteran Paul Kruger already in his thirties and former first-round pick Barkevious Mingo looking more and more like a bust the Browns get a young disruptive pass rusher to juice up their defense.
No. 10 to the Atlanta Falcons (7 O/U, 60/1): Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
Continuing the trend of building a faster and more athletic defense under head coach Dan Quinn, the Falcons select Michigan State Spartan Malik McDowell.
At 6’6” and 275 pounds, McDowell could draw comparisons to DeForest Buckner (who went 7th overall to the 49ers) in terms of size, speed and length. His ability to rush the passer from both the interior as well as on the outside supplies versatility that coach Quinn loves in his defensive lineman.
McDowell has the frame to add more weight and play at or around 300 pounds which will allow him to easily shift back and forth from interior tackle to outside end, likely a five-technique, in multiple hybrid fronts.
No. 11 to the Washington Redskins (7 O/U, 50/1): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Currently sitting atop of Washington’s depth chart at running back is former Gator Matt Jones, who although he is coming off a productive rookie campaign is more of a road grader who will run the ball in between the tackles, but lacks the potential for generating big plays.
A perfect complement to Jones would be Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey who as a dual-threat running back is able to produce big gainers both on the ground and as a pass catcher. McCaffrey tallied over 2,600 combined yards last season for the Cardinals to go along with 13 touchdowns as he finished runner-up to Derrick Henry in the Heisman Trophy voting.
McCaffrey is also a viable returner both on punts and kickoffs, so he would add that big-play potential on the special team’s units as well. General manager Scot McCloughan has done a nice job of replenishing the talent level on the Redskins roster through his first two drafts so far, adding an all-around playmaker like McCaffrey will continue that trend.
No. 12 to the Tennessee Titans (from Rams) (7.5 O/U, 80/1): JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
With their second first-round pick, one of many that they obtained from the Rams in order for them to select Jared Goff, Tennessee continues building around their franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariotta and supply him with a weapon at receiver.
Smith-Schuster may not be the fastest receiver in this draft, but similar to Laquon Treadwell, he is a playmaker downfield with his ability to make a play on the ball while it is in the air. Smith-Schuster also runs good routes and can also line up inside as the slot receiver.
Smith-Schuster’s ability to take a short pass and turn it into a big gain will be welcomed with open arms by both Mariotta and the rest of the offensive unit.
No. 13 to the Chicago Bears (7.5 O/U, 60/1): Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Having revamped their offensive line this past offseason, which entailed moving Kyle Long back inside to guard where he is more comfortable, the Bears enter 2016 still having questions surrounding the quality of play they will receive from both their offensive tackles in 2016.
With Alabama’s Cam Robinson, Chicago gets a plug-and-play left tackle who not only appears to possess the athleticism and quick-feet for the position, but the temperament as well. He plays the game angry and looks to finish off his defender.
Assuming there are no further ramifications or new allegations stemming from his arrest earlier this summer, Cam Robinson could be the first offensive lineman drafted in the 2017 draft.
No. 14 to the Jacksonville Jaguars (7.5 O/U, 50/1): Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
Having loaded up on defense this past offseason during both the free agency period and the draft, the Jaguars are slowly building a roster loaded with talent and will be a team to reckon with in the near future.
However, they could still probably use another cornerback which is why Tabor makes sense for them at this spot.
Tabor may have been a bit over shadowed by teammate Vernon Hargreaves, but many feel that he actually outplayed VHIII last season. Tabor is a tall corner with long arms yet still has the quickness and speed to turn and burn with receivers downfield. His four interceptions and 14 passes defensed in 2015 indicate that he has the ball skills many NFL teams are looking for.
Adding a potential shutdown corner to what looks like a formidable front seven should have the rest of the AFC South a little worried about playing the Jaguars.
No. 15 to the Buffalo Bills (8 O/U, 50/1): Roderick Johnson, OT, FSU
The thought of going with a wide receiver here crossed my mind, but with a potential Pro Bowl left tackle still available on the board the Bills can’t pass up on Florida State’s Roderick Johnson.
There was talk during the offseason of potentially moving starting left tackle Cordy Glenn over to the right side but without a viable replacement on the roster the Bills will leave him be for now.
At 6’6” and 323 pounds, Johnson has the size and athletic ability to line up on either side and start on day one. He possesses the length and quickness needed on the left side to face some of the NFL’s premier pass rushers.
No. 16 to the New York Jets (8 O/U, 50/1): Desmond King, CB, Iowa
With veteran Darrelle Revis in his early-30s now and coming off a season that saw him beaten on more plays than we have come accustomed to seeing, it might be a good time for the Jets to find his future replacement in the form of Iowa’s Desmond King.
The 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner led the Big Ten with eight interceptions last season and if he had decided to bypass his senior season very well could have been drafted in the first round.
King is a physical corner who is an aggressive tackler both in run support and in the open field. He possesses the ability to make a play on the ball as his interception totals and passes defensed can attest to. The main concern with King is whether or not he has the foot-speed to stick with receivers downfield and determining if he is best suited for a zone-based defense.
With the Jets’ defense predicated on getting maximum pressure on the quarterback quickly, where King could excel is his ability to jam and slow up the receivers at the line of scrimmage allowing the front seven a little more time to get to the passer.
No. 17 to the New York Giants (8 O/U, 20/1): Jarrad Davis, OLB, Florida
The New York Giants are another team that spent a ton of money in free agency trying to shore up their defense. The one spot where they could still use an upgrade is linebacker–especially in the middle–and that’s where Jarrad Davis comes in.
Davis is a heat-seeking missile on running plays able to quickly locate and flow to the ball carrier. When he arrives he comes with bad intentions almost always delivering a loud hit on the runner. While in coverage, Davis is adept at dropping back to his landmark and attacking anything that crosses his territory.
While Davis projects as a middle linebacker in either a three or four-man front, he has enough speed and athleticism to play the WILL position as well. While the Giants are known for not drafting linebackers in the first round, Davis just might be the player who breaks that trend.
No. 18 to the Baltimore Ravens (8.5 O/U, 30/1): Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
General manager Ozzie Newsome continues to rebuild the Ravens defense by selecting Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis. Lewis, who was an All-Big Ten first team as well as All-America First team member, had 20 passes defensed last season to go along with two interceptions.
Although lacking a bit in size at 5’10” 176 pounds Jourdan is a gifted cover corner, with ball skills and quick feet where he can plant and drive on the ball in front of him. Lewis might get lost in the shuffle playing in the same defensive backfield has Jabril Peppers, but make no mistake about it this kid can flat out cover.
NFL teams love playmakers and that’s exactly what you’re getting when you draft Jourdan Lewis.
No. 19 to the Houston Texans (8.5 O/U, 30/1): Jamal Adams, SS, LSU
Houston spent a lot of money on what they hope is their quarterback of the future in Brock Osweiler and pretty much left the defense untouched hoping that a unit led by J.J. Watt can come into it’s this season and improve from within.
One area where the Texans are lacking some consistency and playmakers and need an upgrade is at safety. With LSU’s Jamal Adams those safety concerns might be alleviated.
Adams is a rangy, hard-hitting safety who at 6’1” and 211 pounds has a rare combination of speed, size and range in coverage. He can come downhill and square up ball carriers to secure the tackle or he can drop back in coverage and help protect against the big play. Adams is an aggressive attacking-style safety who can lineup in multiple positions and make plays all over the field.
No. 20 to the Oakland Raiders (8.5 O/U, 20/1): Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson
Continuing their recent trend of adding talented defensive lineman upfront the Raiders tabbed the underrated Watkins from Clemson to supply some needed depth up front.
Watkins was an unheralded member of Clemson’s defensive unit from last season supplying a big presence in the middle of the Tigers defense.
Watkins is stout at the point of contact and able to take on double-teams and hold his ground, but unlike most college run-stuffing defensive tackles Watkins has shown the ability to pressure the quarterback up the middle and collapse the pocket as well.
With Oakland Watkins would look to eat up blockers to allow for one-on-one matchups on the outside for the likes of Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin and Shilique Calhoun to take advantage of.
No. 21 to the Indianapolis Colts (9 O/U, 25/1): Derek Barnett, Edge, Tennessee
The Colts are hoping that the return of a healthy Andrew Luck will solve a majority of their issues from last season. While Luck’s return should allow the Colts to put more points on the board it will not stop the opponents from doing the same thing against that Indianapolis defense. Which is why a pass rushing edge player like Barnett would help fill a major need for defensive coordinator Ted Monachino.
Barnett has been a beast in his first two seasons in the SEC playing for the volunteers. In just 26 games Barnett has totaled 142 tackles, 33 tackles for loss and 19 sacks.
Barnett does a nice job of getting into the offensive lineman and using his hands and natural bending ability to gain outside leverage. Once he frees himself from the blocker Barnett has good closing speed and a non-stop motor to chase down the quarterback.
With 2016 possibly being Robert Mathis’ last season, Barnett would be a nice understudy for him to take under his wing and groom as his eventual replacement.
No. 22 to the Kansas City Chiefs (9 O/U, 18/1): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Seemingly in a constant search to find a running-mate for Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs go with Clemson’s Mike Williams. If not for a scary neck injury (fractured neck bone) that occurred during a game last September, Williams would have most likely been a first-round pick this past April. Williams possesses the size, speed and hands to be a legitimate number one receiver at the next level.
In 2014, Williams set a school record for receiving yards by a sophomore (1,030) averaging 18.1 yards a catch to go along with six touchdowns.
Adding a talent like Williams to go along with Maclin and tight end Travis Kelce will give quarterback Alex Smith and the Chiefs a formidable trio of receiving options on offense.
No. 23 to the Minnesota Vikings (9 O/U, 18/1): Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Having assembled a very talented roster general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer don’t appear to have a glaring need so they can afford to go with the best player available which, in this scenario, could very well be edge rusher Charles Harris from Missouri.
Harris stands to be next in a long line of defensive pass rushers to come out of Missouri. Harris is a speed rusher who does a nice job of using that speed along with a variety of pass rush moves to get past lineman and into the offensive backfield.
While Harris is still improving as a run defender, he did manage to accumulate 18.5 tackles for loss last season which ranked him second in the SEC.
No. 24 to the Dallas Cowboys (9 O/U, 16/1): Carl Lawson, Edge, Auburn
Dallas bypassed the defensive end position, for the most part, in the 2016 draft but will not pass up a chance to select Auburn’s Carl Lawson here.
Lawson, who has battled injuries the last two seasons, could turn out to be one of the better pass rushers in the 2017 draft. He has the ability to rush with either speed or power and set up lineman with counter moves to get them off-balance.
The only question with Lawson is can he stay healthy because the talent is evident and he has the potential to be special.
No. 25 to the Denver Broncos (9.5 O/U, 20/1): Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
Head coach Gary Kubiak loves to use the tight end in his offensive system and a player like Jake Butt would be a perfect fit with the Broncos.
Butt, who reminds me of Dallas tight end Jason Witten, is a reliable pass catcher who works his tail off blocking in the run game. He has good size at 6’6” and 248 pounds and while not considered a downfield threat, can get by a defender and pick up large chunks of yardage.
Supplying future starting quarterback Paxton Lynch with a security blanket like Jake Butt at tight end can immensely help the young signal caller in his development.
No. 26 to the Cincinnati Bengals (9.5 O/U, 14/1): Eddie Jackson, FS, Alabama
Always looking to add playmakers, especially to a secondary who has lost some key members either through free agency or ineffectiveness the Bengals go with Alabama’s ball hawking free safety Eddie Jackson.
Jackson, who led the SEC with six interceptions last season, has a penchant for making a big play when it’s needed. He had 230 return yards on interceptions, while taking two back for touchdowns in 2015.
A former cornerback who was converted to safety as a junior Jackson has good length and excellent range. He does a nice job of reading the quarterbacks eyes from his safety position and uses his instincts to jump routes and cause turnovers.
No. 27 to the Arizona Cardinals (10 O/U, 12/1): Devonte Fields, OLB, Louisville
Arizona acquired Chandler Jones from New England this offseason to help supply a consistent pass rush off the edge, but Jones is a free agent after 2016 so his future is not guaranteed to be with the Cardinals.
With Devonte Fields the Cardinals can plug him into the lineup if Jones does end up leaving. Fields is a ready-made pass rusher who would fit in nicely at outside linebacker. As a freshman, playing for TCU, he was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year after posting 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
The questions surrounding Fields date back to his off-the-field issues which led to his dismissal from the TCU football team. He stayed clean last season playing for Louisville and if he continues down the right path, staying out of trouble while producing on the field, he will most likely end up being a first-round draft pick come April.
New England traded for former Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett with hopes of recreating the dual-threat tight end offense they had back when Aaron Hernandez was playing for the team.
With Bennett in the final year of his contract, chances are he will put up nice stats and look to cash in somewhere else.
Which leads to the selection of O.J. Howard out of Alabama. Howard has a similarly athletic frame to Bennett, plus the ability to pick up yards after the catch and run away from defenders. While Howard is not a physical blocker that Bennett is, he does have the potential to develop into an all-around tight end.
No. 29 to the Seattle Seahawks (10.5 O/U, 10/1): Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
Looking to add some youth to the Legion of Boom the Seahawks select Clemson’s only returning member from last season’s secondary in Cordrea Tankserley.
Fitting the profile that Seattle likes in their defensive backs Tankerley is a taller corner, who in his only season as a starter, displayed good ball skills in picking off five passes and breaking up 11 others.
Tankersley does a nice job using his length and frame to position himself in between the receiver and the ball. While also showing the athleticism to run step for step shadowing the receiver downfield.
No. 30 to the Green Bay Packers (10.5 O/U, 8/1): Zach Banner, OT, USC
With the Packers’ top priority continuing to be keeping Aaron Rodgers upright and healthy, Green Bay goes with USC senior Zach Banner with this pick.
Banner has the size, length and quick-feet that teams look for in left tackle prospects. Banner heads into his senior season viewed as being better in pass protection than he is as a run blocker. If he can improve his run blocking with his size and athleticism he has first round talent written all over him.
No. 31 to the Pittsburgh Steelers (10.5 O/U, 8/1): Malachi Dupree, WR, LSU
With it looking more and more likely that relying on Martavis Bryant to keep himself eligible to play is a risky gamble, the Steelers look to add another playmaking receiver to their impressive group.
Dupree is a tall, rangy prospect whose big strides quickly eat up the cushion given by his defender. Dupree’s ability to leap high for a ball coupled with his long arms offers the quarterback a huge target with a large catch radius to throw the ball to.
With Dupree’s combination of size and speed he projects as potentially another big-play receiver from LSU who looks to make an impact at the next level.
No. 32 to the Carolina Panthers (10.5 O/U, 8/1): Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan
With defensive end Charles Johnson heading down the home stretch of his career Carolina selects his possible successor in Michigan’s Chris Wormley.
Wormley, who at 6’5” and 300-pounds is not a speed demon off the edge, is a much quicker and faster athlete than most observers anticipate. He is a well-coached versatile defender who uses his length and strength to make life for opposing tackles miserable posting 14.5 tackles for loss to go along with 6.5 sacks last season.
Wormley will offer his club position versatility as he is able to lineup at both defensive end as well as defensive tackle due to his size, length and quickness off the ball.