NFL Mock Draft: Jets bet on Deshaun Watson, Leonard Fournette to Panthers
Dalvin Cook is the first running back off the board at No. 4 to the Jags
The conclusion of the NFL's regular season means more than just that the first 20 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft have officially been determined. For many teams around the league, it means a fresh start with new head coaches, general managers and personnel plans.
Each organization makes its own strategy, of course, but the pressure to win immediately is felt league-wide. That pressure could force QB-desperate teams like the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and New York Jets to ignore safer prospects and gamble on relatively unproven passers. For a Jacksonville squad selecting among the top five for the sixth consecutive year, it could mean betting on the local "sure thing" yet again.
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
Mitch Trubisky , QB, North Carolina Tar Heels : If any of the quarterbacks on Cleveland's current roster had shown flashes of being a franchise savior this season, the Browns might consider taking Myles Garrett or Jonathan Allen , the best players in the draft. Barring the addition of a veteran in the offseason, the most likely scenario has Cleveland giving Hue Jackson his pick of a shaky quarterback class. CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora has reported that the Browns are already honing in on Trubisky, an Ohio native and childhood Browns fan. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Trubisky has the tools and intangibles to excite but is a huge projection as an NFL franchise quarterback after only emerging UNC's starter this season.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: Like the Browns one pick earlier, the 49ers are so desperate for help at quarterback that the club could have little choice but to ignore safer prospects at other positions and roll the dice. It is hard to fathom a potential Pro Bowl caliber edge rusher like Garrett -- the best player in this class -- falling outside of the top two picks, however. Garrett plays defensive end for the Aggies but projects to a stand-up edge rusher in the 49ers' scheme and would complement recent early first-round picks on Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner .
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 6-3, 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 : Whoever is tabbed as the Jaguars' next head coach 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 but one significant exception was in pass defense, where Tennessee ranked 31st. Fortunately for Tennessee, the 2017 draft appears to be loaded with play-making defensive backs. Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and secondary coach Deshea Townsend may see shades of former Steelers star Troy Trojans 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. He could be an intriguing fit in Chan Gailey's offense, however, and has the history of performing well under the bright lights that may mean more on Broadway.
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 , 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 has been 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 per game 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. Possessing remarkable closing speed and the physicality to intimidate, Foster could offer immediate impact ability against the pass and run, alike.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)
Teez Tabor , CB, Florida Gators : Hue Jackson and his staff deserve credit for an improving offense. The defense remains a quagmire, despite several premium draft picks being spent on the unit in recent years. With the need for an edge rusher potentially filled with the trade for former New England Patriots standout Jamie Collins (a pending free agent), the Browns might opt to pair Tabor with former Gators star Joe Haden to add some bite to the secondary.
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's a well-rounded player who combines quickness, strength and technique to be effective against the pass and run alike.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Golden Gophers )
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 Rick Wagner each 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 has been a standout all year, earning the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12's top defensive lineman. At 6-2, 275 pounds Thomas may 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 has been just as inconsistent as it was in Seattle. Ramczyk has been 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 Gary Kubiak's zone blocking scheme.
21. 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, 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.
22. Detroit Lions
Taco Charlton , DE, Michigan: Stellar play from quarterback Matthew Stafford has diverted attention away from a Detroit pass rush that has 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 the country's better edge rushing prospects, boasting exciting initial quickness and bend given his 6-5, 272 pound frame.
23. 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 upfield speed and flexibility to wreak havoc off the edge.
24. 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, 242 pounds who may very well wind up being more productive in the NFL than he has been for the Crimson Tide.
25. 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 been the single biggest factor in the team's struggles this season. With just one season at the FBS level, Bolles is raw but he plays with the combination of physicality and competitiveness that Seattle prioritizes.
26. 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 upfield to help and has shown enough strength and savvy to slide inside to defensive tackle, as well.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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 between Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin would give the Raiders arguably the most athletic linebacker corps in the league.
30. Kansas City Chiefs
Marlon Humphrey , CB, Alabama: The Chiefs already boast one of the NFL's best young 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-foot-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 position 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-foot, 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 over 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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