NFL Mock Draft: Browns take two defensive stars after hiring new coordinator
Despite the Browns going defense, two quarterbacks and two running backs still make the top eight
The decision to replace Ray Horton with Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator could be a sign that the top priority in Cleveland is not at quarterback but instead boosting a defense that statistically ranked near the bottom in nearly every meaningful category this past season.
The Browns finished ranked 30th in points allowed, 31st in total defense and in sacks per pass play and last in passing touchdowns allowed. Fortunately for Cleveland, help is available in the 2017 draft, which features a bumper crop of edge rushers and defensive backs.
While the selection order has largely been determined, the talent pool is still muddied with the official deadline for underclassmen considering the NFL leap coming Jan. 16.
1. Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett , DE, Texas A&M: In his previous tours as defensive coordinator and as head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2001-03, Williams preached an aggressive and varied pass rush. Though an ankle injury limited him in 2016, the 6-foot-5, 262-pound Garrett is widely regarded as the top prospect in the 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, offering a prototypical combination of length, burst and bend off the edge.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Mitch Trubisky , QB, North Carolina Tar Heels : The 49ers were nearly as bad on offense as the Browns were on defense this season, which was among the reasons Chip Kelly was shown the door. San Francisco ranked 27th in points scored, 31st in total yards and last in passing yards. Sure there is skepticism surrounding Trubisky, who only emerged as the Tar Heels' starter in 2016, but other than experience, he has many of the traits scouts look for in a franchise quarterback, including accuracy, arm strength, mobility and poise.
3. Chicago Bears
Jonathan Allen , DE, Alabama Crimson Tide : As long as the defensive-minded John Fox is calling the shots in Chicago, reinforcing this side of the ball will be a priority. The 6-foot-3, 292-pound Allen offers unique position versatility to go along with the production and intangibles the current regime prioritized in draft picks last spring. Allen is stout against the run and a proven pass rusher with 19 sacks in his past 26 games.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Dalvin Cook , RB, Florida State Seminoles : New head coach Doug Marrone will want to boost the running game, the only one in the NFL to fumble the ball away more times (nine) than score 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)
Jamal Adams , S, LSU Tigers : The Titans improved in virtually every category in 2016 with one significant exception -- pass defense, where they ranked 31st. Fortunately for Tennessee, the 2017 draft appears to be loaded with playmaking defensive backs. Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and secondary coach Deshea Townsend might see shades of former Steelers star Troy Polamalu in Adams, because of their similar awareness, athleticism and enthusiastic style of play.
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 potential but throwing 28 interceptions over the past two seasons, most in the FBS.
7. San Diego Chargers
Malik Hooker , S, Ohio State Buckeyes : The Chargers won big with Joey Bosa a year ago and could see the speedy Hooker as an ideal replacement for Eric Weddle , who the club clearly missed in 2016. The 6-2, 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
Tim Williams , OLB, Alabama: 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. Williams is arguably the most dynamic edge rusher in this class, winning with terrific snap anticipation and bend around the edge. His ability off the edge might be the best complement to Cincinnati's current stars Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap , who were the only two Bengals to account for more than 3.5 sacks in 2016.
10. Buffalo Bills
Mike Williams , WR, Clemson: No team was more dependent on running the football in 2016 than the Bills, which led the NFL with 164.4 yards per game on the ground but ranked 30th in passing with just 189.8 yards through the air. With no less than five receivers currently slated for free agency, the Bills will likely be looking for replacements and could see reuniting the 6-3, 225-pound Williams with his former Clemson teammate Sammy Watkins as the perfect solution.
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)
Teez Tabor , CB, Florida Gators : With the need for an edge rusher filled with Garrett at No. 1 overall, the Browns could opt to take advantage of this year's strong cornerback class to address a leaky secondary. Tabor plays with the aggressive mentality that Williams has preferred in the past and he is a playmaker, returning three of his eight career interceptions for touchdowns. Perhaps best of all, the addition of the fiery Tabor could reignite the career of former Gators star Joe Haden on the other side.
13. Arizona Cardinals
DeShone Kizer , QB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish : Poor performances and injury concerns for Carson Palmer have rekindled questions about the Cardinals' long-term plans at the position. As just a redshirt sophomore, Kizer is understandably raw but he possesses the size, arm strength and field vision to be an ideal developmental project for Bruce Arians.
14. Indianapolis Colts
Derek Barnett , DE/OLB, Tennessee: 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 GM Ryan Grigson's top offseason priorities. The 6-3, 257-pound Barnett lacks the length and pure explosiveness scouts would prefer, but he is a well-rounded player who combines quickness, strength and technique to be effective against the pass and run alike.
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 earn 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
Cam Robinson , OT, Alabama: The Ravens could be looking for a new right side of the offensive line in 2017 with guard Vladimir Ducasse and tackle Ricky Wagner pending free agents. A former five-star recruit, Robinson has starred the past three years at left tackle for the Tide, earning the Outland Trophy this season as the best blocker in college football.
17. Washington Redskins
Solomon Thomas , DT, Stanford Cardinal : A dominating performance in the Sun Bowl has Thomas' stock on the rise but the redshirt sophomore was a standout all season, earning the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's top defensive lineman. At 6-2 and 275 pounds, Thomas might lack ideal size but his quickness, power and technique are top-20 caliber.
18. Tennessee Titans
John Ross , WR, Washington Huskies : Recent early picks like Jake Locker and Bishop Sankey failed to deliver for the Titans but the decisions made by the prior regime won't impact GM Jon Robinson, who showed with his trade for DeMarco Murray and selection of Derrick Henry that he is willing to take gambles. The three-headed monster of Marcus Mariota , Murray and Henry would be that much more effective with a speed merchant like Ross forcing safeties to respect the deep ball.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jabrill Peppers , S, Michigan Wolverines : The Bucs' duo at safety of Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald is one of the league's least athletic. That certainly is not the case with Peppers, who wowed with his athleticism and instincts regardless of where he lined up with the Wolverines.
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, 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.
21. Detroit Lions
Taco Charlton , DE, Michigan: Stellar play from quarterback Matthew Stafford has diverted attention away 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 has 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
O.J. Howard , TE, Alabama: With current tight ends Dion Sims , Jordan Cameron and MarQueis Gray each in the final year of their respective contracts, the Dolphins could be looking for an upgrade at the position. Howard lacks the flashy statistics most often associated with first-round prospects, but he is a freakish athlete at 6-6 and 242 pounds who may very well wind up being more productive in the NFL than he has been for the Crimson Tide.
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
Zach Cunningham , ILB, Vanderbilt Commodores : The Raiders' rise to the playoffs is directly attributable to an 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. Plugging the speedy Cunningham in with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin would give the Raiders one of the most athletic front sevens in the league.
25. Houston Texans
Malik McDowell , DT, Michigan State Spartans : The Texans have quietly assembled one of the better young rosters in the NFL. Due in part to the injury to three-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt , one area that could use improvement is along the defensive line. At 6-5 and 282 pounds, McDowell has the size and athleticism to play virtually anywhere along the defensive line. Talented but inconsistent and injury-prone, he could blossom under Watt's wing.
26. Green Bay Packers
Takkarist McKinley , OLB/DE, UCLA Bruins : 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. McKinley is not as well known nationally as some of this year's top edge rushers but just wait until the Senior Bowl. McKinley possesses the explosive up-field speed and flexibility to wreak havoc off the edge.
27. Seattle Seahawks
Garett Bolles , OT, Utah Utes : Though it is far from the only concern, the Seahawks' decision to invest their salary cap space in every position other than the offensive line has left that group lacking. With just one season at the FBS level, Bolles is raw but he plays with the combination of physicality and competitiveness that Seattle prioritizes.
28. Atlanta Falcons
Charles Harris , DE, Missouri Tigers : The emergence of Vic Beasley significantly boosted Atlanta's defense this season but reinforcements should still be an offseason priority. Harris has the burst up the field to help and has shown enough strength and savvy to slide inside to defensive tackle, as well.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers
Carl Lawson , DE, Auburn Tigers : Lawson has struggled with injuries over his career, but he is a power-packed edge rusher who could step right in for the Steelers with former first-round pick Jarvis Jones and the great James Harrison in the final year of their respective deals.
30. Kansas City Chiefs
Marlon Humphrey , CB, Alabama: The Chiefs already boast one of the NFL's best young cornerback tandems in Marcus Peters and Steven Nelson , but with so many offenses now going to three- and four-receiver sets, adding depth at the position is always a priority. Kansas City prioritizes length and physicality at cornerback, which is exactly why scouts are so excited about Humphrey, a 6-1, 196-pound redshirt sophomore.
31. Dallas Cowboys
Sidney Jones IV, CB, Washington: Teams drafting late in the first round have the advantage of simply taking the best player available. In this draft, that very well could be at cornerback, a spot where Dallas could use greater depth. Jones is a silky-smooth athlete with the poise and ball skills scouts covet at the position and is more physical in run support than his 6-0, 181-pound frame implies.
32. New England Patriots
DeMarcus Walker , DE, Florida State: With Jamie Collins traded to Cleveland and Dont'a Hightower , Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long each in the final year of their respective deals, the Patriots will likely be focusing on pass rushers in the 2017 draft. The 6-2, 273-pound Walker tied (with Boston College Eagles 's Harold Landry ) for the national lead with 15 sacks in the regular season, showing more refined pass rush technique than the similarly sized Dominique Easley , the Patriots' first-round pick in 2014.
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