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NFL Mock Draft 2017: 1st-Round Predictions for Most Intriguing Prospects

Derek Barnett is one of the draft's most intriguing prospects.
Derek Barnett is one of the draft's most intriguing prospects.Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2017

It is understandable if NFL fans have tuned out the draft process even slightly during Super Bowl week.

With the Senior Bowl completed, the next major landmark on the journey is the NFL Scouting Combine, which begins Feb. 28, leaving a nice break for observers to rearrange draft boards and mock drafts.

While they do, fans won't have any problems digging into a Super Bowl featuring the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

Those two, of course, present a good study as to what quality drafting can do for a franchise. At this time of year, both teams likely started targeting intriguing prospects who eventually ended up on their championship rosters.

This year's class doesn't lack intriguing prospects who are capable of exploding into something special on the pro scene, so let's target a few after a look at an updated mock draft.

        

2017 Draft Order and Projections

PickTeamSelection
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersMitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
3Chicago BearsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
4Jacksonville JaguarsMalik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
5Tennessee Titans (from LA)Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
6New York JetsMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
7Los Angeles ChargersRyan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9Cincinnati BengalsJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
10Buffalo BillsJamal Adams, S, LSU
11New Orleans SaintsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
12Cleveland Browns (from PHI)DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
13Arizona CardinalsMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
14Indianapolis ColtsDalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
15Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
16Baltimore RavensMike Williams, WR, Clemson
17Washington RedskinsSolomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
18Tennessee TitansJabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
20Denver BroncosTeez Tabor, CB, Florida
21Detroit LionsTaco Charlton, DE, Michigan
22Miami DolphinsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
23New York GiantsTim Williams, LB/DE, Alabama
24Oakland RaidersQuincy Wilson, CB, Florida
25Houston TexansRaekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
26Seattle SeahawksCam Robinson, OT, Alabama
27Kansas City ChiefsDan Feeney, OG, Indiana
28Dallas CowboysAdoree' Jackson, CB, USC
29Green Bay PackersSidney Jones, CB, Washington
30Pittsburgh SteelersDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
31Atlanta FalconsCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
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 Scouting Combine.

     

Most Intriguing Prospects

Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Corey Davis looks like the top wideout in the draft.
Corey Davis looks like the top wideout in the draft.David Dermer/Associated Press

A receiver with silly numbers against so-so competition who isn't a household name always offers plenty of intrigue.

So it goes for Western Michigan's Corey Davis, a 6'3", 213-pound wideout with big-play ability and head-turning numbers. 

Davis has quickly ascended to the No. 1 spot at wideout in the class. A quick glance at his numbers shows why:

YEARRECYDSAVGTD
201697150015.519
201590143616.012
201478140818.115
20136794114.06
ESPN.com.

But the hype around Davis goes well beyond numbers. He has good size and superb speed and goes up and makes big catches over defensive backs, bringing the ball in away from his body.

Best of all, Davis has experience as a slot wideout and on the outside, meaning he can force mismatches all over the field based on what the offense wants to do.

Davis goes to the Tennessee Titans at No. 5 in the above scenario. Should he stand out among his elite peers throughout the predraft process, he'll have no problem convincing a team to take a risk on him early.

      

Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Derek Barnett is one of the most talented defenders in the class.
Derek Barnett is one of the most talented defenders in the class.Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The 2017 class is heavy when it comes to defensive linemen, with guys like Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas leading the way.

A polarizing prospect like Tennessee's Derek Barnett, then, draws plenty of intrigue.

Barnett, at 6'3" and 265 pounds with plenty of explosive power, broke Reggie White's career sack record at Tennessee and looks like a high-floor player who's ready to contribute at the next level out of the gates.

Intrigue remains, though, because some wonder whether his collegiate strengths will remain strong points in the pros.

An AFC North scout spoke with NFL.com's Lance Zierlein on the topic: "(Derek) Barnett generates a lot of discussion out on the road. He's physical and he's got great production, but some scouts just don't think he'll be able to translate those numbers to the pros because he's not very explosive off the ball. He won't overpower NFL tackles like he did in college."

Barnett finds a home with the Miami Dolphins at No. 22 in the mock above. Though he doesn't have the explosive upside of other names in the class, guys who can join rotations and play well upon arrival thanks to high floors are coveted, too.

The path to the draft will still decide Barnett's stock. If he exceeds expectations, he could become one of the process' biggest surprises while shaking up the entire market.

      

David Njoku, TE, Miami

David Njoku is one of this year's top big-play threats.
David Njoku is one of this year's top big-play threats.Rob Foldy/Getty Images

When it comes to tight ends in 2017, it goes O.J. Howard, and then the rest. 

It's the truth, as nobody in the class has a more well-rounded game. The Alabama product can do it all with ease and won't have much of a transition to the pros.

David Njoku out of Miami is the high-upside guy.

Njoku has started to gain traction in the first round of mock drafts for a variety of reasons. One, he is 6'4" and 245 pounds. Two, he is a ridiculously explosive player, as ESPN.com's scouting report detailed:

A weapon in the passing game that has the ability to generate explosive play from anywhere on the field. Quick starter off the line of scrimmage that has the speed to stretch the vertical seams. Also flashes an extra gear when tracking the deep ball down the field. Red zone threat with the ability to win in one-on-one situations.

As Bleacher Report's Marcus Mosher pointed out, Njoku might even be the most attractive option at the position:

Smart teams—such as the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 30—can utilize Njoku's strengths out of the gates while he develops the rest of his game.

Such a team will be greatly rewarded in the passing game. Fans can expect Njoku to be one of the most popular names ahead of the draft thanks to his freakish testing numbers.

      

Stats courtesy of NFL.com. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

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