The 2017 NFL Pro Bowl was played on Sunday night, and the AFC walked away with a 20-13 victory over the NFC. It was actually an entertaining game and the type of all-star exhibition in which this year's crop of draft hopefuls would love to one day participate.
Yes, we're here to take another look ahead at the 2017 NFL draft. With the Pro Bowl in the books, there's only one week remaining in the NFL season. All heads will be turning to free agency and the draft once Super Bowl LI is played.
Fortunately, the Pro Bowl wasn't the only game played over the weekend. A number of draft prospects participated in the Reese's Senior Bowl. That game, along with the week's worth of practices leading up to it, has helped clarify at least part of the potential draft picture.
Now, we're going to examine the current draft order and make our predictions for the first round. We'll be basing our projections on factors like projected player potential, team fit and team needs. We will also examine some of the top storylines entering Super Bowl Week.
A couple of notes about the draft order: A coin flip will be used to separate the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles at selections No. 14 and 15. We're not suggesting the New England Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl. Since the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons have yet to actually play, we're simply using record to determine the final two picks of Round 1.
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||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama|
|5||Tennessee Titans (from LAR)||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|6||New York Jets||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Jabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from PHI)||Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|14||Indianapolis Colts||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|15||Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama|
|17||Washington Redskins||Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Charles Walker, DT, Oklahoma|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|20||Denver Broncos||Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama|
|21||Detroit Lions||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Teez Tabor, CB, Florida|
|23||New York Giants||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida|
|25||Houston Texans||Sidney Jones, CB, Washington|
|26||Kansas City Chiefs||Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky|
|27||Seattle Seahawks||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Charles Harris, DE, Missouri|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana|
|32||New England Patriots||David Njoku, TE, Miami|
A Number of Top Prospects Increase Stock During Senior Bowl Week
The Senior Bowl isn't just an exhibition of what some draft hopefuls can accomplish on the football field. It's also a chance for NFL scouts and executives to get to know prospects on a more personal level and to become familiar with their practice and work habits.
As is often the case, this can lead to improved impressions about a player. Last year, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott left such an impression after being named Senior Bowl MVP.
Now, Prescott didn't suddenly find himself a first-round pick, but we've all seen what those paying close attention at last year's Senior Bowl might have known—that Prescott is pro material.
This year, a number of top prospects left similar position impressions, both on the game field and in practices. Possible Round 1 selections include Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White, Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp and Eastern Washington receiver Cooper Kupp.
Mike Renner @PFF_Mike
Senior Bowl guys I like for no particular reason: Jourdan Lewis Tanzel Smart Dan Feeney Forrest Lamp Cooper Kupp Ryan Glasgow2017-1-28 21:11:02
Kupp garnered particularly noteworthy buzz, and may have forced his way into the consideration for Round 1, as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller noted:
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout
Mike Williams...Corey Davis...Cooper Kupp? Eastern Wash. WR may end up over Washington WR John Ross for me2017-1-28 01:11:35
"He's had a fantastic week," Pro Football Focus analyst Gordon McGuinness said of Kupp in an interview on WNSP-FM 105.5 (h/t Greg Stephenson of AL.com). "Everything he's been asked to do this week, he's done incredibly well."
Though he isn't likely to trend toward the first round, Cal quarterback Davis Webb was named MVP for his performance. He finished the game a crisp 11-of-16 for 165 yards and a touchdown.
Webb certainly has the size (6'5", 229 pounds) to be a pro quarterback. If he can develop properly, he might even become a competent starter.
"I think he has enough between the ears to unlearn some of his bad habits and start to get things right. I see another Nick Foles if you give him time to develop," one unnamed AFC scout told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.
Senior Bowl Week likely gave NFL decision-makers a better idea of just how coachable Webb can be.
Did Watson Make the Right Call?
It's worth noting that Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson chose to pass on an opportunity to participate in the Senior Bowl. He chose instead to rest on the 420-yard, four-touchdown (one rushing) performance he produced in the CFP National Championship.
It's worth noting because the coaching staffs of the Cleveland Browns and the Chicago Bears were in charge of the South and North teams, respectively. Both franchises could be in the market for a quarterback come draft day.
The Browns hold the No. 1 and No. 12 picks, while the Bears select third overall.
It seems unlikely that Watson would have done anything on the field to improve his stock, as what he accomplished against Alabama in the title game was impressive enough. However, the Bears and Browns could have gotten a better idea of what kind of person Watson is and how he practices and prepares.
The Browns might have appreciated this kind of insight into Texas A&M standout Johnny Manziel a few years ago.
Watson obviously believed that he had more to lose than gain here, and there are plenty of folks who agree with him.
"Let's say Watson simply needed a break after a long season and wasn't on his game," Pat McManamon of ESPN.com recently explained. "If he faltered at all in practice, that would erase the last memory NFL teams have of him—leading Clemson past Ohio State and Alabama in the college playoff. It also might have raised concerns among scouts and teams."
Cynics might believe Watson simply didn't want to raise his stock in the collective eyes of the Browns, a franchise that has become a veritable wasteland for quarterbacks. The Browns, however, don't seem too upset that Watson chose not to play.
"There are going to be other guys that are not participating either, so I won't hold it against him,'' Browns head coach Hue Jackson said, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. "I don't think that's the right thing to do. He's still a draftable player."
Cleveland, Chicago and the other 30 NFL teams will get plenty of chances to examine Watson more closely at February's scouting combine and in pro day and private workouts.
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One player who did take the opportunity to appear in the Senior Bowl—and who took full advantage of it—was East Carolina wideout Zay Jones.
Since Jones didn't often play under the national spotlight, he might have easily been overlooked heading into the draft. This would be a shame because Jones is an incredibly talented wideout. He racked up 1,746 yards receiving in 2016 to go with eight touchdowns and a whopping 158 receptions.
Pro Football Focus rated Jones first overall among all wide receivers for the 2016 season.
Jones finished the game with six receptions, 68 yards and a touchdown. He also made a couple of impressive catches, including one that caught the attention of Hall of Fame wideout Jerry Rice:
Zay Jones amazing catch #seniorbowl2017-1-28 20:22:03
He was also impressive in practices leading up to the game itself, which is often where scouts pay the most attention. ESPN.com's Todd McShay highlighted the strengths Jones displayed on the practice field:
Todd McShay @McShay13
ECU WR Zay Jones much better on SR Bowl practice tape than I realized watching live today. Strong acceleration and tough plucks in traffic2017-1-26 02:42:16
While Jones isn't likely to be a first-round pick just yet, there's no doubting that his stock is rising fast. If NFL teams weren't keenly aware of Jones before the Senior Bowl, they are now. He isn't going to be overlooked any longer.