NFL Mock Draft 2017: Best Landing Places for 1st-Round Prospects

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2017

With the season concluding for the majority of fans, eyes next turn toward the 2017 NFL draft. 

Much will change between now and the draft itself, including the order of picks for those teams lucky enough to find themselves in the playoff bracket. What won't, though, is the majority of the names often cited as top picks.

So it goes in a class touting the long-awaited arrivals of guys like Leonard Fournette. Others will break into the top ranks through strong draft journeys, but the names on the list right now have obvious ideal fits with the top of the draft order set.

Here is an opening look at a mock draft based on team need and projections.


2017 NFL Mock Draft

1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE,Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersMitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
3Chicago BearsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
4Jacksonville JaguarsJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
5Tennessee Titans (from LA)Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
6New York JetsJabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan
7San Diego ChargersRyan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9Cincinnati BengalsMalik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
10Buffalo BillsTim Williams, LB/DE, Alabama
11New Orleans SaintsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
12Cleveland Browns (from PHI)Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
13Arizona CardinalsMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
14Indianapolis ColtsDalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
15Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)John Ross, WR, Washington
16Baltimore RavensCorey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
17Washington RedskinsMalik Hooker , S, Ohio State
18Tennessee TitansTeez Tabor, CB, Florida
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersMarlon Humphrey, CB , Alabama
20Denver BroncosJamal Adams, S, LSU
21Detroit LionsTaco Charlton, DE, Michigan
22Miami DolphinsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
23New York GiantsSolomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
24Oakland RaidersQuincy Wilson, CB, Florida
25Houston TexansRaekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
26Green Bay PackersGareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
27Seattle SeahawksCam Robinson, OT, Alabama
28Pittsburgh SteelersO.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
29Atlanta FalconsCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
30Kansas City ChiefsDan Feeney, OG, Indiana
31Dallas CowboysAdoree' Jackson, CB, USC
32New England PatriotsChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Author's projections

Philadelphia and Indianapolis will flip a coin for No. 14 and No. 15 at the NFL combine.


Best Spots for Top Names

3. Chicago Bears: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Talk about the perfect fit—how about pairing Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson with a franchise looking like it's a quarterback away from playoff competition?

This might sound silly when it comes to the Chicago Bears, but keep in mind the team had one of the biggest injured-reserve lists this year. The team has a strong offensive line in place when healthy, Alshon Jeffery might be back and newfound running back Jordan Howard just rushed for 1,313 yards and six scores despite not starting until Week 4.

Granted, the Bears need to rebuild the secondary, but Eddie Goldman in the trenches and a strong linebacking corps give Watson a nice complementary defense.

Watson himself, of course, was a Heisman Trophy candidate once again in 2016, completing 67.3 percent of his passes with 38 touchdowns against 17 interceptions while rushing for another 586 yards and eight scores on the ground.

Chicago really has it all for Watson. The Bears can employ a run-first offense if Watson looks ready to start as a rookie. If not, he can sit and learn while a veteran such as Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley starts. Chicago has shown plenty of patience during this rebuild under head coach John Fox, and sometimes the key to success for an NFL quarterback is simply not being thrown to the wolves by an impatient staff fearful for its job.

Unlike places like Cleveland, the Bears have a strong supporting cast and a long-term blueprint sure to let a rookie quarterback blossom at his own pace.


5. Tennessee Titans (from LA): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Watson's top wideout, Mike Williams, needs a quality quarterback and complementary ground game to succeed out of the gates as a rookie. 

Luckily for Williams, the Tennessee Titans clutch a top-five pick.

Williams casually dropped 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns on opponents this year, using his solid size (6'3", 225 pounds) to box out smaller defensive backs and otherwise flaunt a silly catch radius.

His game is why's Lance Zierlein compared him to Plaxico Burress:

Wide receivers seem to be getting bigger each season, but Williams still has rare size for the position and it can be tough to find a physical match for him. While he's not a burner by any stretch, he has the ability to win the deep ball with excellent ball skills and upper-echelon ball-tracking skills. And as for being able to get to throws outside his frame, Williams' catch radius is everything a team could want from a WR1.

Tennessee happens to be one of the NFL's most wideout-needy teams. Marcus Mariota had a breakout year before a season-ending injury, throwing for 26 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.

Despite this, no Tennessee wideout broke the 1,000-yard mark. Williams, even as a rookie, shouldn't have a problem doing so with defenses needing to worry about the one-two punch in the backfield consisting of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, not to mention tight end Delanie Walker.

Mariota making Williams his No. 1 wideout is a symbiotic situation, which could be enough to get the Titans to the top of the AFC South and into the playoffs.


8. Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Gone are the days a rookie running back can simply land anywhere and post great numbers, perhaps carrying a bad team on his shoulders—just look at Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley lately. 

Fournette, great as he is, isn't an exception here.

To burst onto the scenes and have more of an Ezekiel Elliott-style impact, Fournette needs to land somewhere with an established quarterback and capable defense.

Somewhere like the Carolina Panthers.

Fournette, whose highlight season came in 2015 when he rushed for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns, would be the perfect complement to Cam Newton in Carolina. Defenses needing to account for both in a read-option attack wouldn't have a good time, to say the least.

The nice thing about Carolina is the Panthers could keep Fournette fresh. Newton takes some of the rushing load and the offense could pair him with veteran Jonathan Stewart, who could also double as a quality mentor. Defenses can't just account for the ground game, either, not with weapons such as Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin through the air.

For Fournette, landing in a potential triple-headed monster surely beats trying to carry a miserable team behind a bad offensive line in which he's the focal point of the defense's attack.


Stats courtesy of All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus

Follow Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) on Twitter.


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