A top NFL executive with a top-10 pick predicts the 2017 NFL Draft
No. 1 is no-brainer pick, but get ready for some surprises in the top five
We're almost close enough to the draft for me to begin putting together some sketches of a mock. Almost.
As is my norm, I'll hold off on publishing anything until the morning of draft day -- and then I'll want to revise it five or six times through the day as more information comes trickling in. But I have begun the process of slotting -- in pencil -- certain players to certain teams while trying to maintain an open mind about what could go down. Because twists and turns and surprises are inevitable.
After chatting for a while with a top executive with a club selecting in the top 10, I ambushed him by asking, rapid-fire, if he had to rattle off what he believed would be the top five picks in the draft right now, how would he handicap it. Here's what he came up with, in short order:
1. Cleveland Browns: DE Myles Garrett
This evaluator believes it's a no-brainer, and for all of the dysfunction in Cleveland and the ever-present friction between the coaching staff and the football operations/analytics staff, this guy isn't buying the Mitch Trubisky chatter. "We can try to tear all of these kids down and pick at what they can't do, but Garrett is the pick." I agree.
2. San Francisco 49ers: CB Marshon Lattimore
I've been eyeing this as a possible trade spot and there is little doubt that John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan want to drop down. They have abundant needs to address on that roster and covet volume in picks. But who is trading up? My guy doesn't buy this is the spot for Trubisky. "The 49ers aren't taking him and the Bears aren't taking one either, so why do you have to trade here to take one?" He also thinks this is a little high for Solomon Thomas. Of course, any selection of Lattimore would mean that team's doctors are all good with his hamstrings … and not all are.
3. Chicago Bears: S Jamal Adams
One of the most complete players in the draft who could be a game changer at strong safety or free safety. Chicago is starved for any dynamic talent on that side of the ball. It could be a pass rusher here as well, since Adams will be the top player on some defensive boards. I get it.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: RB Leonard Fournette
I've been hearing for weeks that this hulking running back is in play all over the top five, and this makes a ton of sense to me. He would add a physical dynamic and an identity to an offense long starved for one. Tom Coughlin would love this. "This kid is a beast," my guy commented.
5. Tennessee Titans: WR Mike Williams.
I thought this might be a little high, but I definitely trust this evaluator's instincts. With another pick looming at 18, the Titans could address a pass catcher there with a TE or WR, but Williams has a high ceiling.
So, if we assumed this is how the top five will go down -- and I would add this was off the top of my guy's head and was his gut instinct -- how would I see the rest of the top 10 shaping up? I could see it playing out this way.
6. New York Jets: QB Mitch Trubisky
They need to find an answer at quarterback, they like this kid a lot, and they aren't shy about drafting QBs over and over. Neither was Hall of Fame evaluator Ron Wolf, for what it's worth. Trubisky is the top QB and could be ready to take over for Josh McCown midseason after being a one-year starter in college.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: DL Jonathan Allen
Imagine this kid paired with Joey Bosa? They could be dominant for a long time to come. I could see the Chargers going with a safety like Malik Hooker as well, but Allen is so clean and was so productive and there would be a ton of value grabbing him at this spot given his top-five talent.
8. Carolina Panthers: RB Christian McCaffrey
Cam Newton needs help and especially along the offensive line, but this ain't the draft for that, especially in the top 10. So why not get Newton a dynamic playmaker who is a matchup nightmare in space and who can line up at 4-5 different positions? Any of the next four teams could take McCaffrey.
9. Bengals: LB Reuben Foster
He just seems like the prototypical Bengal, doesn't he? I could see them going with DE Derek Barnett, or DE Solomon Thomas. Neither would surprise me if the top 10 plays out this way. I'm just riding a hunch here, slotting in Foster, hypothetically.
10. Bills: S Malik Hooker
Just like the Bengals, I could see the Bills taking any of those defensive linemen, but the safety void is so significant and new head coach Sean McDermott has a strong background in the secondary and they have some bodies upfront and a little depth.
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