The NFL has its eye on the impending matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Behind the scenes, though, the draft realm weaves its way toward the 2017 Senor Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, on January 28. Some of the nation's best seniors will link up and hit the first of many draft landmarks on the way to the big event in April.
With two new teams officially joining the draft fray and the prospect stock market changing by the day, now is a good time to take an all-encompassing look at the situation.
Here is a mock draft based on team need and prospect value, with a spotlight on three of the more interesting situations.
2017 NFL Mock Draft
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|3||Chicago Bears||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State|
|5||Tennessee Titans (from LA)||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|6||New York Jets||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|7||San Diego Chargers||Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from PHI)||DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|14||Indianapolis Colts||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|15||Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|17||Washington Redskins||Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Jabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Marlon Humphrey, CB , Alabama|
|20||Denver Broncos||Teez Tabor, CB, Florida|
|21||Detroit Lions||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|23||New York Giants||Tim Williams, LB/DE, Alabama|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|25||Houston Texans||Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Sidney Jones, CB, Washington|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida|
|32||New England Patriots||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
Philadelphia and Indianapolis will flip a coin for No. 14 and No. 15 at the NFL combine.
12. Cleveland Browns (from PHI): DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
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The Cleveland Browns have planned for this moment for a long time.
Barring head coach Hue Jackson and the front office absolutely falling in love with one of the guys near the top of the draft, the Browns can nab the best overall player with the first pick and still get a quarterback they like at No. 12.
With Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson off the board, the Browns roll with Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer in this scenario. As a junior, the Toledo, Ohio, native showed off his usual versatility by throwing for 26 touchdowns and running for another eight on the ground.
Kizer is one of the bigger unknowns at quarterback right now while everyone still digs into the tape. However, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compared him to the late Steve McNair back in September. Zierlein noted the similarities:
While McNair was more of a game manager in the pros, he was a gunslinger at Alcorn State. McNair had a very pedestrian yards-per-attempt average (6.9) in the pros, but "Air McNair" had the ability to push the ball down the field, especially coming out of college. Kizer has that same arm strength to attack down the field and can make winning throws on the move.
This is the sort of prospect a coach like Jackson would love to build around for years. With signal-callers like Robert Griffin III and Cody Kessler around, the Browns wouldn't need to throw Kizer to the wolves as a rookie, either.
Cleveland—especially with an extra pick—can't afford to pass on a potential franchise quarterback. Jackson did outstanding things with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, so letting him groom Kizer for a year or more could finally give the Browns a viable starter.
29. Green Bay Packers: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Anyone who caught the NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons couldn't help but notice the eventual loser needs some serious help in the defensive backfield.
Granted, Green Bay coughing up four passing scores to Matt Ryan in the 44-21 loss wasn't a great representation of the secondary at full strength with Sam Shields sitting on injured reserve. In addition, letting Casey Hayward walk prior to the season had created a major void in the area.
Washington's Sidney Jones is a step in the right direction for the Packers. At 6'0", 181 pounds, the junior isn't a prospect who will get overpowered by bigger NFL receivers.
Jones doesn't fix everything wrong with the Green Bay defense, but he does have the ability to lock down an opponent in man coverage.
For CBSSports.com's Rob Rang, comparisons to Trae Waynes, the No. 11 pick in 2015, spring to mind: "Though he possesses a slimmer build than scouts would prefer, Jones' light feet and loose hips allow him to shadow receivers in coverage. Like Waynes, Jones plays bigger than he measures due to terrific timing on his leaps and wiry strength."
With Jones on one side and Shields on the other with a quality rush in front of them, the Packers would be back in business. The front office in Green Bay just has to hope Jones doesn't raise his stock too much before the draft.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Say hello to one of the most obvious picks of this year's draft.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't stand much of a chance in Foxborough Sunday against the Patriots. Big Ben once again struggled on the road, throwing just one touchdown and an interception.
It's an alarming trend. Le'Veon Bell got hurt early on and was limited, and Big Ben didn't have anyone to turn to after Antonio Brown.
A game-changing tight end would be nice.
Fans remember the glory days when Big Ben used to hit Heath Miller all the time. The offense misses the surefire safety valve Miller used to provide—though Alabama's O.J. Howard could step right in and offer the same thing as a rookie.
Howard continues to fly under the radar because the Crimson Tide don't look to tight ends much in the offense. But the senior is a massive 6'6", 251 pounds and the best in the class at the position.
As Bleacher Report's Ian Wharton noted, Howard is the complete package:
Ian Wharton @NFLFilmStudy
Bet against O.J. Howard at your own peril this year. Best blocker & downfield athlete in a stacked class. Shined everytime Bama asked him to1/22/2017, 7:08:59 PM
Such a prospect would work wonders for the Steelers. The last thing opposing defenses want to do is attempt to account for Brown and Bell and then get surprised when Howard feigns a block before going out and making a huge play in the passing game.
Like the Packers and Jones, though, the Steelers have to hope Howard's stock remains in a holding pattern.
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