So much remains incredibly fluid when it comes to projecting the NFL draft in April. Free agency and trades will affect team needs. The NFL Scouting Combine and pro days will play into evaluations. Certain teams will fall in love with certain players.
The NFL draft, as always, remains an inexact science. But let's take a look at how the draft could unfold given what we know, at the moment, about these prospects and about the needs each team possesses.
|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||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama|
|5||Tennessee Titans (via Rams)||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|6||New York Jets||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|10||Buffalo Bills||DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|12||Cleveland Browns (via Eagles)||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama|
|14||*Philadelphia Eagles||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|15||*Indianapolis Colts||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State|
|17||Washington||Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|20||Denver Broncos||Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin|
|21||Detroit Lions||Montravius Adams, DE/DT, Auburn|
|22||Miami Dolphins||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|23||New York Giants||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Malik McDowell, DE/DT, Michigan State|
|25||Houston Texans||Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Sidney Jones, CB, Washington|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Takkarist McKinley, OLB/DE, UCLA|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida|
|32||New England Patriots||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
|*Order to be determined by coin flip|
I continue to believe that the Cleveland Browns will take the best available player at No. 1, in this case Myles Garrett, and will wait to see if a quarterback they like falls to No. 12. If that player was Deshaun Watson, I don't think the Browns would hesitate for a moment to add a player who led his team to consecutive National Championship Games and won the title this past year.
Then again, pretending to know what the Browns will do at the draft is like trying to predict President Trump's next target for a Twitter beef. You know both the Browns and Trump will pick someone, but who will it be?
Because Garrett feels like a smart bet to go No. 1, the draft will really begin with the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2 and the new pairing of general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan. Mitch Trubisky is probably a bit of a project, but the 49ers aren't currently anywhere close to the playoffs, so a project with Trubisky's upside is a smart investment.
And Shanahan will likely want his quarterback situation resolved sooner rather than later. Drafting Trubisky and adding a veteran to start in the short term would be a logical plan for the Niners.
At No. 5, the Tennessee Titans are going to address either wide receiver or cornerback. Mike Williams is a better prospect than any cornerback at this point in the draft—and has the upside to be a game-changing receiver for Marcus Mariota over the next decade—so he'll be the pick.
If Leonard Fournette falls to the Carolina Panthers at No. 8, well, look out NFL. The combination of Cam Newton and Fournette in that backfield—along with Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin in the passing game—will have the Panthers thinking playoffs again in 2017.
"I think he's a guy, much like Ezekiel Elliott, that can step in right away and possibly be a Pro Bowl rusher," Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson told Mike Tanier of Bleacher Report.
Fellow Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk agreed.
"I think he's kind of similar to Ezekiel Elliott," Faulk said of Fournette, per Tanier. "I hope that he gets the experience that Ezekiel experienced—to go to a team with a great offensive line that maybe experienced some misfortune last year."
No pressure, Leonard.
How about the rest of the quarterbacks in the first round?
Don't be surprised if the Buffalo Bills go after a quarterback at No. 10. DeShone Kizer's upside and talent may be too much to pass on. And we already spoke about Watson, one of the more polarizing prospects in this year's draft.
Some folks love his big-game poise, leadership and ability to cause defenses stress with his mobility. Others bemoan his propensity for turnovers and question whether Clemson's system made him look better than he actually was during his college career.
Put an offensive system around him that best suits his ability and Watson seems more than capable of managing a game. Doing so worked for the Titans with Mariota, a player with a particular set of skills that the Titans have embraced.
Often, teams try to put square-peg quarterbacks into round-hole offenses. Do so with Watson, and he will likely struggle. Build a system around him, however, and he's proved he can lead a winner.