NFL Mock Draft: Bills land Mitch Trubisky after Browns, 49ers, Bears pass on QBs
The Jets are the first team to take a quarterback at No. 6
Longtime NFL Draft observers know all too well that quarterbacks tend to rise in value as the big day approaches. After all, they play the most important position in sports. Hitting on one can turn an also-ran franchise into a playoff contender almost immediately.
Just because quarterbacks went 1-2 to start the last two NFL Drafts, however, does not mean that the class of 2017 will follow suit. To take one this high, frankly, would be a reach.
This year's rookie class is loaded with talented edge rushers, defensive backs, tight ends and running backs. Don't be surprised if teams in the top five opt for surer things at these positions, and "pass" on this year's quarterbacks.
With the selection order all but finalized (picks 14 and 15 will be determined by a coin flip at the NFL Combine), here is an updated projection of the first round of the 2017 draft.
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. Could the Browns be talked into trading the rights to Garrett if another team (like the Cowboys, as Garrett suggested in a recent interview) come calling? Sure, but the price would likely start at multiple first-round picks.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Jonathan Allen , DL, Alabama Crimson Tide : New 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 could give the 49ers the dominant defensive line to compete in the NFC West immediately.
3. Chicago Bears
Jamal Adams , S, LSU Tigers : Safety has long been a sore spot in Chicago with only one Bears safety (Mike Brown) earning an invitation to the Pro Bowl over the past 20 years. Adams has that kind of potential and is viewed by some as the safest prospect in the draft. He is a tone-setter with a rare combination of instincts, athleticism and intangibles to make an immediate impact on a defense that made strides a year ago but allowed 24.9 points per game, 24th in the NFL.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Dalvin Cook , RB, Florida State Seminoles : Tom Coughlin will bring a no-nonsense approach back to Jacksonville, including a renewed commitment to the running game. Jacksonville was the only team with more lost fumbles (nine) than rushing touchdowns (eight) in 2016. Instinctive, explosive and durable, Cook might be hard to pass up for a franchise that has gone with a local flavor with its past three first-round picks: QB Blake Bortles (Central Florida), DE Dante Fowler (Florida) and CB Jalen Ramsey (Florida State).
5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles)
Marshon Lattimore , CB, Ohio State: The Titans improved in virtually every category in 2016 but one significant exception was in pass defense, where Tennessee ranked 31st in the NFL. 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. With two first-round picks this year, general manager Jon Robinson can afford to gamble on Lattimore's upside.
6. New York Jets
Deshaun Watson , QB, Clemson Tigers : Youngsters Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg have shown little evidence that either is the long-term answer at quarterback, and with veterans Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith set to hit the open market, at least one addition to the position group is likely coming. Watson is a polarizing player in the scouting community, dazzling with his dual-threat ability but throwing 28 interceptions over the past two seasons, most in the FBS. His undeniably impressive track record of playing his best under the bright lights could be more valued on Broadway than elsewhere.
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.
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 .
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.
10. Buffalo Bills
Mitch Trubisky , QB, North Carolina Tar Heels : 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. If Taylor remains on the roster, Buffalo may address a receiving corps that currently contains five pending free agents. General manager Doug Whaley has shown a willingness to gamble in the past, however, and he could be eyeing this year's top quarterback prospects as way to reshuffle the deck. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Jabrill Peppers , S, Michigan Wolverines : With starting safety Matt Elam a pending free agent 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.
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's run defense.
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.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sidney Jones IV, CB, Washington: At first glance, the Bucs would seem to be loaded at cornerback, with veterans Brent Grimes and Alterraun Verner on the roster, as well as 2016 first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves . Grimes and Verner each have just one more year on their respective deals, however, and neither contract is guaranteed in 2017. Jones' length, fluidity and intangibles is worthy of a top-20 pick.
20. Denver Broncos
Ryan Ramczyk , OT, Wisconsin Badgers : The Broncos gave veteran left tackle Russell Okung a one-year "show me" type of deal but his play in Denver was as inconsistent as it was in Seattle. Ramczyk was one of this season's most pleasant surprises as he starred 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.
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.
22. Miami Dolphins
David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.): With current tight ends Dion Sims , Jordan Cameron and MarQueis Gray each in the final year of their contracts, the Dolphins will certainly be looking for help at the position and could be too intrigued with the athletic upside of the local product, Njoku, to let him leave town.
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.
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.
25. Houston Texans
Cam Robinson , OT, Alabama: Injuries to starters Duane Brown and Derek Newton played a part in Brock Osweiler 's disappointing first season in Houston, making improving the depth on the outside a clear need for the Texans. 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 tools and temperament needed to contribute immediately.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Marlon Humphrey , CB, Alabama: The Seahawks prioritize length and physicality over speed at cornerback. Humphrey -- the son of former Broncos first-round running back Bobby Humphrey -- has all three. The speedy 6-1, 195-pound redshirt sophomore surrendered some big plays (including Washington's only touchdown in the Peach Bowl), but he plays with the confident, aggressive style Carroll prefers.
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.
28. Dallas Cowboys
John Ross , WR, Washington: For as dynamic as the offense was in 2016 with Prescott, Elliott and Dez Bryant , the lack of a legitimate deep threat was a relative weak spot with speedsters Terrence Williams and Brice Butler seemingly dropping as many passes as they caught. Ross is a DeSean Jackson clone with the electric elusiveness and acceleration to make an immediate impact as a receiver and returner.
29. 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.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
Teez Tabor , CB, Florida: 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.
31. Atlanta Falcons
Charles Harris , DE, Missouri Tigers : The Falcons feature two of the better young rushers in the NFL in Beasley and Jarrett but that won't stop the club from adding to the group. The 6-3, 255 pound Harris has the burst to rush outside, as well as the power and toughness to slide to defensive tackle on passing downs.
32. New England Patriots
Tim Williams , OLB, Alabama: The Patriots are world champions yet again but don't expect Bill Belichick to rest of his laurels for long.With Jamie Collins traded to Cleveland and Don't'a Hightower, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long each pending free agents, the Patriots will likely be focusing on pass rushers in the 2017 draft. Williams comes with plenty of off-field concerns but his burst, bend and snap anticipation make him one of this year's most lethal edge rushers.
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