2017 NFL Mock Draft: Texans serve notice to Osweiler, gamble on Patrick Mahomes

Brock Osweiler might get paid like a star quarterback but he showed very little evidence in his first season with the Houston Texans that he will live up to the four-year $72 million dollar contract he inked as last year’s flashiest free agent.

The trio of owner Bob McNair, general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O’Brien may find it easier swallowing their pride than the $25 million in dead cap space Osweiler would take up if released. Adding a talented rookie to the roster would put the pressure on Osweiler while providing the club with a relatively cheap alternative should he falter in his second season in Houston.

The Texans may see Texas Tech Red Raiders product Patrick Mahomes as just such a candidate. The strong-armed Mahomes – a Texas native and son of the former Major League pitcher of the same name – is among the players talent evaluators are most excited to see at this week’s NFL Scouting Combine. 

1. Cleveland Browns

Myles Garrett , DE, Texas A&M: The clear top need in Cleveland is at quarterback but frankly it would be a stunner if anyone other than Garrett was the first pick of the 2017 draft. He is much more agile than Emmanuel Ogbah (who led the Browns with 5.5 sacks in 2016) or Carl Nassib , early picks by Cleveland last year, boasting the combination of length, burst and bend off the edge to project as an immediate difference-maker and future All-Pro. 

The Browns pass on a QB at No. 1 for the draft's top talent. USATSI

2. San Francisco 49ers

Jonathan Allen , DL, Alabama Crimson Tide Head coach Kyle Shanahan was hired to help spark a listless offense that ranked 27th in the NFL in points scored and dead last in passing last season, but ignoring better players just to draft a quarterback may only guarantee another poor season in 2017. The 6-foot-3, 292-pound Allen sandwiched between massive defensive ends DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead and new defensive tackle Earl Mitchell could give the 49ers the dominant defensive line to compete in the NFC West, with the need at quarterback more likely to be addressed with a veteran.

Jonathan Allen would make the 49ers scary again on defense. USATSI

3. Chicago Bears

Mitch Trubisky , QB, North Carolina Tar Heels : Whether he is traded, released or retires, Jay Cutler appears on the way out in Chicago. After dropping from six wins in 2015 to just three a year ago, head coach John Fox may see the investment in a young quarterback as one way to buy himself time. Sure there is skepticism surrounding Trubisky, who only emerged as the Tar Heels starter in 2016, but other than experience, he possesses many of the traits scouts look for in a franchise quarterback including accuracy, arm strength, mobility and poise.

Mitch Trubisky checks a lot of boxes for an NFL starting QB. USATSI

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

Dalvin Cook , RB, Florida State Seminoles Tom Coughlin will bring a no-nonsense approach back to Jacksonville, including a recommitment to the running game. He was the Jaguars’ head coach the last time and the only time this team used a first-round pick on a running back and that player -- Fred Taylor -- is the team’s all-time leading rusher. Cook’s vision, burst and soft hands out of the backfield could be the spark Blake Bortles needs to resurrect his once-promising career.

Is Dalvin Cook worthy of a top-five pick? USATSI

5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles)

Jamal Adams , S, LSU Tigers : The Titans improved in virtually every category in 2016 but one significant exception was in pass defense, where Tennessee Volunteers ranked 31st in the NFL. Instinctive, physical and athletic enough to make plays against the run and pass, alike, Adams is the sheriff in the secondary to turn things around immediately.

Jamal Adams makes the Titans better at their weakest spot. USATSI

6. New York Jets

Marshon Lattimore , CB, Ohio State: With Revis Island seemingly on the verge of sinking, Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan and defensive-minded head coach Todd Bowles may have a tough time passing on an elite talent like Lattimore, who has emerged as this year’s top cornerback. Recurring hamstring injuries limited Lattimore to just one healthy season for the Buckeyes but his easy athleticism and reliable open-field tackling jump off tape.

Marshon Lattimore is a can’t-miss prospect on tape. Kevin Jairaj, Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

7. San Diego Chargers

Malik Hooker , S, Ohio State Buckeyes : The Chargers won big with Joey Bosa a year ago and could see another Buckeye as an ideal replacement for Eric Weddle , whom the club clearly missed in 2016. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hooker possesses the range and ball skills to complement San Diego’s small but physical cornerbacks.

Malik Hooker is still raw in spots but he's a can't-miss top-10 prospect. USATSI

8. Carolina Panthers

Leonard Fournette , RB, LSU: One of the reasons for Carolina’s slip this season was an inconsistent running game, putting the spotlight once again on Jonathan Stewart ’s struggles with durability. Stewart has only played in 16 regular-season games three times over his nine-year career and not since 2011. Fournette is a freakish talent, boasting the most exciting combination of size, speed and power since Adrian Peterson .

Leonard Fournette would give Cam Newton a new weapon. USATSI

9. Cincinnati Bengals

Solomon Thomas , DE, Stanford Cardinal : Marvin Lewis will remain the Bengals head coach in 2017 but with the pressure on, he likely will be pushing for players who can make an immediate impact. Despite the fact that he is just a redshirt sophomore, Thomas has that kind of ability, demonstrating the initial quickness, power and refined hand technique of a much more experienced player.

Solomon Thomas is a little green but he's only going to get better. USATSI

10. Buffalo Bills

Deshaun Watson , QB, Clemson Tigers The Bills’ draft day strategy will get a lot clearer by March 12, when the guaranteed portion of incumbent starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s contract kicks in. General manager Doug Whaley may see Watson as a similarly gifted dual-threat with a much more palatable sticker price. If Taylor remains on the roster, Buffalo may address a receiving corps that currently contains five pending free agents.

Is Deshaun Watson an upgrade over Tyrod Taylor?

11. New Orleans Saints

Reuben Foster , LB, Alabama: Given that the Saints finished last in the NFL against the pass in 2016, adding one of the talented cornerbacks from this year’s class would seem like a shoo-in selection. Instead, look for the Saints to go bigger. With remarkable closing speed and the physicality to intimidate, Foster could offer immediate impact ability against both the pass and run.

Reuben Foster would upgrade a Saints defense in need of playmakers. USATSI

12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)

DeShone Kizer , QB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish : Whether it is a veteran ( Jimmy Garoppolo ?) or a rookie, the Browns cannot head into the 2017 season with their current quarterbacks ( Robert Griffin III , Cody Kessler and Josh McCown ) and expect to make strides in the AFC North. Kizer is raw but possesses the size, intangibles and accuracy on the deep ball to fit in well with the Browns coaching staff and current receiving corps.

Kizer would finally give the Browns an answer at quarterback. USATSI

13. Arizona Cardinals

Mike Williams , WR, Clemson: Cardinals fans should be happy with the news that veterans Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald are returning for 2017 but that does not erase the need for youth at both positions. Steve Keim likely would not hesitate if Williams, the top receiver in the draft, was still on the board. At 6-3, 220 pounds, Williams has the size and body control to match up against the physical corners in the NFC West.

Mike Williams is the top receiver in the draft. USATSI

14. Indianapolis Colts

Takkarist McKinley , OLB/DE, UCLA Bruins : Outside linebacker Erik Walden contributed a full third of the Colts’ 33 sacks this season and with longtime standout Robert Mathis retiring, adding reinforcements to the pass rush should be among the Colts’ top priorities. McKinley possesses the explosive upfield speed and flexibility to wreak havoc off the edge.

Takkarist McKinley's athleticism makes up for his lack of size. USATSI

15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota)

Corey Davis , WR, Western Michigan Broncos : Despite plenty of draft picks invested in the position, the Eagles lack a go-to target in the passing game to aid the development of Carson Wentz . Starring in the MAC rather than a Power 5 conference, Davis does not get the attention he deserves but he’s a polished route-runner with an ideal combination of size (6-3, 213) with 4.4 speed.

Corey Davis gives the Eagles a true No. 1 WR. USATSI

16. Baltimore Ravens

Jabrill Peppers , S, Michigan Wolverines : With starting safety Matt Elam a pending free agent -- and likely done as a Raven after his arrest in Miami on Saturday night --  and Eric Weddle poised to enter his 11th NFL season, the Ravens may very well be looking for help in the secondary in the 2017 draft. Peppers starred as a linebacker in 2016 but possesses the agility and speed to handle coverage, as well.

Jabrill Peppers is a playmaker wherever he lines up. USATSI

17. Washington Redskins

Zach Cunningham , LB, Vanderbilt Commodores : The Redskins surrendered an average of nearly 120 yards per game on the ground in 2016, and only three teams (Chargers, Bills and 49ers) allowed more than their 19 rushing touchdowns. Cunningham, the SEC’s leading tackler in 2016 and a two-time first-team all-conference selection, possesses the speed and instincts to help shore up Washington Huskies ’s run defense.

Zach Cunningham is the run stuffer that Washington needs in the middle. USATSI

18. Tennessee Titans

O.J. Howard , TE, Alabama: The Titans’ commitment to running the football already puts a lot of stress on opposing linebackers and safeties and adding a seam threat like Howard would only make Tennessee that much more difficult to stop. Howard was simply the best player on the field at the Senior Bowl and given his time in New England, Robinson knows better than most what a dominant tight end can do for an offense.

O.J. Howard is the draft’s most complete tight end. USATSI

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

John Ross , WR, Washington: Jameis Winston has publicly expressed his desire for the Bucs to pursue free agent DeSean Jackson , but general manager Jason Licht may be hesitant to give the oft-injured nine-year veteran a big contract, especially with a similarly gifted (and significantly cheaper) alternative like Ross available in the draft.

John Ross can flat-out fly.  USATSI

20. Denver Broncos

Ryan Ramczyk , OT, Wisconsin Badgers : The release of veteran Russell Okung only confirms the obvious – the Broncos need help at tackle. Ramczyk was one of this year’s most pleasant surprises, starring at left tackle for the Badgers after transferring from D-III UW-Stevens Point. The 6-6, 314-pounder is long and surprisingly agile, making him a potentially perfect fit in Denver’s zone blocking scheme.

Ramcyzk has made scouts take notice in a hurry. USATSI

21. Detroit Lions

Taco Charlton , DE, Michigan: Stellar play from quarterback Matthew Stafford has diverted attention from a Detroit pass rush that struggled with star Ziggy Ansah limited by an ankle injury. The Lions need not look far for help. Only emerging as a full-time starter for Michigan this season, Charlton developed into one of the country’s better edge rushing prospects, boasting exciting initial quickness and bend given his 6-5, 272-pound frame.

Taco Charlton wouldn't have to travel far to Detroit from Ann Arbor. USATSI

22. Miami Dolphins

Tim Williams , OLB, Alabama: Adding two more years to Cameron Wake’s contract lessens Miami’s need for pass rush help but doesn’t eliminate it, especially with the Dolphins electing to move on from defensive linemen Mario Williams and Earl Mitchell. The talented but troubled Williams might learn a thing or two from Wake, who finished with more than twice as many sacks last season (11.5) as any other Dolphins defender and has earned Pro Bowl nods five times since jumping from the CFL to Miami in 2009.

Tim Williams can learn a few things from Cameron Wake.  USATSI

23. New York Giants

Christian McCaffrey , RB, Stanford: The Giants rushed for a minuscule 3.5 yards per carry in 2016 and scored a league-low six touchdowns on the ground. McCaffrey isn’t a bruiser but his instincts, shiftiness and soft hands out of the backfield could make him an intriguing weapon for Big Blue.

Christian McCaffrey would upgrade a Giants ground game in need of a spark. USATSI

24. Oakland Raiders

Malik McDowell , DT, Michigan State Spartans : The Raiders’ rise to the playoffs is directly attributable to their explosive offense, but if the club is to take the next step -- and remain a consistent postseason threat -- help must be on the way for a defense that surrendered an average of 375 yards per game, 26th in the NFL. In his postseason wrapup, Jack Del Rio stressed the need to create more disruption on the interior, which is exactly what the 6-5, 285-pound McDowell does best.

Even double teams don't consistently stop McDowell. USATSI

25. Houston Texans

Patrick Mahomes II , QB, Texas Tech: Though an offensive tackle might fill a greater immediate need, few know better than the Texans the high price of quarterbacks. After starring in Tech’s shotgun-heavy Air-Raid offense, Mahomes is undeniably a project but he possesses the mobility, arm strength and intangibles to project as a future NFL starter. 

Patrick Mahomes is a project that could turn into a franchise QB. USATSI

26. Seattle Seahawks

Cam Robinson , OT, Alabama: It is no secret that Seattle’s offensive line struggled in pass protection last season but just as problematic was the team’s inability to create push in the running game. Robinson is not as polished as one might think given that he won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top blocker but he possesses the bulk, power and temperament needed to contribute immediately, whether it be at tackle or guard.

Cam Robinson helps upgrade a lousy Seahawks line.  USATSI

27. Kansas City Chiefs

Haason Reddick , ILB, Temple Owls : Assuming the club is able to retain pending free agents Dontari Poe and Eric Berry , inside linebacker is one of the few obvious concerns for the Chiefs. GM John Dorsey -- a former linebacker himself -- could be intrigued by Reddick, whose agility and closing speed proved just as effective in coverage at the Senior Bowl as it was attacking off the edge for the Owls.

Haason Reddick projects as a linebacker at the NFL level.  USATSI

28. Dallas Cowboys

Sidney Jones IV, CB, Washington: With quality prospects at each of their primary positions of concern (edge rusher, pass catcher and defensive back) still on the board, the Cowboys take the best player route with Jones, a silky smooth athlete with good size and ballskills (eight career interceptions) who is tougher than he looks in run support.

Sidney Jones is the best on the board when the Cowboys pick.  USATSI

29. Pittsburgh Steelers

Teez Tabor , CB, Florida Gators : The loss in the AFC Championship Game proved that Pittsburgh’s secondary still has its faults, especially when multiple receivers are on the field. Tabor is not the classic zone corner Pittsburgh has built around in the past, excelling instead in man coverage. Further, he comes with some off-field baggage. He plays with the bravado and ball skills, however, that Pittsburgh has been lacking in the deep patrol.

Teez Tabor upgrades a sore spot on the Steelers’ defense. USATSI

30. Green Bay Packers

Derek Barnett , DE/OLB, Tennessee: With edge rushers Julius Peppers , Nick Perry and Datone Jones all in the final year of their respective deals, the Packers will once again be looking for help at the position. Barnett lacks the length and pure explosiveness scouts would prefer, but his instincts, use of hands and production (33 sacks over the past three years) are certainly first-round caliber.

Derek Barnett is as polished as it gets for an edge rusher in the draft. USATSI

31. Atlanta Falcons

Marlon Humphrey , CB, Alabama: The Falcons’ secondary will get former first round pick Desmond Trufant back from injury in 2017 but even more reinforcements could be in order after the second half collapse in the Super Bowl. Humphrey possesses the height, physicality and speed to fit in well in Dan Quinn’s scheme.

Marlon Humphrey’s father was a first-round pick of the Broncos.  USATSI

32. New England Patriots

David Njoku, TE, Miami: With Jamie Collins traded to Cleveland and Dont’a Hightower, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long each pending free agents, the Patriots will likely be focusing on pass rushers in the 2017 draft. There should be some quality candidates available with this pick. Martellus Bennett is a free agent, as well, however, 

David Njoku could make sense for the Pats if Martellus Bennett leaves in free agency.  USATSI
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