For the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, this week is all about preparation for the Super Bowl. For a large portion of the rest of the league, however, it's all about Saturday's Senior Bowl.
The Senior Bowl is the latest stop on the path to the 2017 NFL draft. A number of prospects will play on Saturday in the hopes of making lasting impressions on NFL decision-makers.
The next stage will be the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, which is scheduled to kick off on February 28. Hundreds more prospects will be under the microscope there, as teams poke, prod and put them through their paces.
These two events—along with personal workouts and pro days—are going to cause a lot to change in the draft landscape between now and April's draft. We're here today to took past the next few months and make our early predictions for the opening round of the draft. We'll be basing our picks on what we know now, along with factors like projected player potential and team needs.
We will also take a closer look at some of the draft's top prospects and our projected landing spots.
2017 NFL Mock Draft
|Pick||NFL Team||Proj. Selection|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|3||Chicago Bears||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|5||Tennessee Titans (from LAR)||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|6||New York Jets||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Derek Barnett, DE,Tennessee|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Jabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from PHI||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin|
|14*||Indianapolis Colts||Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama|
|15*||Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|17||Washington Redskins||Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Charles Walker, DT, Oklahoma|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|20||Denver Broncos||Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama|
|21||Detroit Lions||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Teez Tabor, CB, Florida|
|23||New York Giants||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
|25||Houston Texans||Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||Sidney Jones, CB, Washington|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|29||Green Bay Packers||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Charles Harris, DE, Missouri|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana|
|32||New England Patriots||Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State|
|*Picks 14 and 15 to be determined by coin flip.|
2. Mitch Trubisky to San Francisco 49ers
If the Cleveland Browns select a quarterback with the first overall pick, there's a good chance the San Francisco 49ers will not. The same is true if the 49ers land a quarterback before the draft—like, say, Kirk Cousins of the Washington Redskins.
It's easy to connect the dots between Cousins and the 49ers because it's looking like Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be taking over as San Francisco's head coach following the Super Bowl.
Michael Silver @MikeSilver
According to sources familiar with both parties, it is almost certain that Kyle Shanahan will accept the 49ers' multi-year offer to be HC1/18/2017, 4:51:25 AM
Shanahan, you might remember, spent some time coaching Cousins while with the Redskins. However, Washington appears (at least publicly) to be standing by Cousins as a piece of the future.
"I totally anticipate him coming back to the Washington Redskins," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said, per JP Finlay of CSNMidAtlantic.com.
If the 49ers aren't going to be able to snag a talent like Cousins before the draft, it makes sense to use the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback Shanahan can develop. Though he has just one year of starting experience, North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky could be that guy. He appears to have all the physical tools to be an NFL starter.
4. Leonard Fournette to Jacksonville Jaguars
The Dallas Cowboys raised their fair share of eyebrows last year when the team took Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall. However, Elliott proved to be worth the pick, leading the NFL with 1,631 yards rushing and helping the Cowboys earn the NFC's No. 1 seed.
The Jacksonville Jaguars probably aren't poised to go on a similar run, and LSU running back Leonard Fournette probably isn't the complete back that Elliott is. However, Fournette could have a massive impact on what the Jaguars do offensively.
The Jaguars have playmakers on offense like Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson. A lack of them isn't exactly why Jacksonville averaged just 19.9 points per game this past season. The problem was an apparent regression by quarterback Blake Bortles—his passer rating dropped from 88.2 in 2015 to 78.8—and a rushing attack that was rated just 21st by Pro Football Focus.
Not only can Fournette give the Jaguars a legitimate playmaker at the running back position, but he can help keep some of the pressure off the throwing shoulder of Bortles.
Fournette rushed for an impressive 1,953 yards two seasons ago with an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He averaged the same 6.5 yards per carry in 2016, though an ankle injury limited him to just 129 carries and 843 yards.
Fournette insists that the ankle is no longer an issue. He recently told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:
My ankle is doing fine. It’s not affecting my training. I had a high- and low-ankle sprain and a bone bruise in the fall during training, before the season, and like the doctor said, if I would have stayed out a couple more weeks following the beginning of the season, my ankle would have been healed properly in time. All it needed was time. The doc's rehab has been good, and I’m doing fine.
Drafting Fournette might mean cutting ties with T.J. Yeldon, who averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last season. It also might mean trying to move Chris Ivory, whose 2017 salary is fully guaranteed.
Ideally, the Jaguars could trade down a couple spots with a quarterback-needy team and land Fournette there.
5. Mike Williams to Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans were close to earning an AFC South title in 2016. Just a few more pieces, and the team could be right in the thick of the playoff race next season.
One of the things that likely kept the Titans from being legitimate contenders this past year was the lack of a true No. 1 receiver. Rishard Matthews performed well in the de facto role, amassing nearly 1,000 yards on the year, but he logged just 65 receptions and rarely took over a game.
Clemson's Mike Williams has the potential to be the kind of game-breaking wideout the Titans need. He caught 99 passes for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns this season for a championship Clemson Tigers team.
Pro Football Focus (PPF College) rated Williams eighth overall among all college wide receivers.
Williams' ability to find holes in a defense was on full display in the national title game against Alabama. He caught eight passes in that game for 94 yards and a touchdown. He was clearly Deshaun Watson's go-to guy in that game and could be Marcus Mariota's go-to guy at the next level.
This is assuming the Titans believe Williams is the top receiver in this draft—if not, they should snag the guy they believe is the best—and that decision could hinge on how the Titans view Williams' speed.
One NFC executive recently told NFL Media's Lance Zierlein that he doesn't think Williams is that fast: "I don't think he's going to run as fast as people think. When college players get up here and find out that cornerbacks are faster and more physical, there is an adjustment period. I think it will take him some time to figure things out, but I think he'll do it."
Williams, who Bleacher Report's Matt Miller believes is the top wideout in the draft, declined an invitation to the Senior Bowl.
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams was invited to the Senior Bowl but will not attend, per sources. Top WR in the class.1/18/2017, 4:16:44 PM
This means that the next time we'll get a look at Williams will be at the combine.