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2017 NFL Mock Draft: Bleacher Report's Final Pre-Combine Update

Brent SobleskiNFL AnalystFebruary 28, 2017

2017 NFL Mock Draft: Bleacher Report's Final Pre-Combine Update

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    Aspiring NFL athletes stand on the edge of tomorrow as the combine approaches. 

    This week's festivities in Indianapolis can have a dramatic effect on a player's future. Medical checkups, interviews and workouts all factor into evaluations. A poor report can send organizations scrambling, while an outstanding effort will create plenty of positive momentum. 

    The twist and turns of the draft process are equally fascinating and gut-wrenching. Before that happens, one more draft projection is needed. 

    The overwhelming theme to this year's class is simple. 

    "I have never seen a draft this deep in defensive players in the first two rounds, especially cornerbacks and pass-rushers," former general manager and NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly tweeted

    The only thing these young men can do is be prepared and give their best in front of the league and a national viewing audience. 

    As Master Sergeant Farell—played by Bill Paxtontaught his troops"Through readiness and discipline, we are the masters of our fate."

1. Cleveland Browns

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    The Pick: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

                                                         

    Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is already considered the consensus top talent for the 2017 NFL draft. His performance at the combine is expected to reinforce that status. 

    Prior to the 2016 campaign, Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman named Garrett college football's No. 1 freak. According to Feldman, the defender posted a 440-pound max on bench, jumped 40 inches in the vertical and blazed a 4.45-second 40-yard dash.

    At 6'5" and near 270 pounds, Garrett's physical traits are rare. As such, his potential is limitless as he sets his sights on becoming the game's premiere pass-rusher. 

    "I just want to go No. 1 and be the best player in the draft and the best in the league for years to come," Garrett told Sporting News' Alex Marvez. 

    The Browns can't leave this year's draft without finding an impact performer. Garrett is the logical starting point. 

2. San Francisco 49ers

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    The Pick: S Malik Hooker, Ohio State

                       

    With the hire of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh now official, the San Francisco 49ers will be building a Seattle Seahawks-like defense. In Seattle, free safety Earl Thomas is the key to the scheme. The 49ers lack a similar talent. 

    "You want to run and hit people and make that field smaller for everybody, especially for the receivers," head coach Kyle Shanahan said during an interview on 680 KNBR The Sports Leader (via the Niners Wire's Chris Biderman). "That starts with the safeties and corners, being able to hit. It's not just about hitting. You want to be able to cover."

    The likelihood of selecting a top defensive back as opposed to a quarterback falls in line with Shanahan's approach. Former Texans general manager Charley Casserly relayed a story to the Mercury News' Jon Wilner about Shanahan, as a young assistant coach, preferring Mario Williams to Reggie Bush in the 2006 NFL draft. 

    "He was an offensive coach, we needed a running back, and he said we should take the defensive player," Casserly said. "That's why I always thought he would be a head coach, because he can see the big picture."

3. Chicago Bears

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    The Pick: DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama

                                             

    Two things continue to hold Alabama's Jonathan Allen back as this year's top overall talent. 

    The fact he's not a traditional edge defender takes away some of his value. Unlike Texas A&M's Myles Garrett, Allen isn't expected to come into the league and beat the NFL's best offensive tackles. Instead, the Alabama product lined up as a 5-technique at 291 pounds. He dominates at the point of attack with exceptional strength and technique.

    His true value resides in an ability to rush the passer from the interior. Those defenders are worth their weight in gold, but they're not as athletic, which makes them harder to project. 

    Also, Allen's injury history will come to the forefront at the NFL Scouting Combine. Teams are concerned about two shoulder surgeries he needed during his time at Tuscaloosa, with a potential third not being reported, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. 

    As long as the Alabama product medically checks out, the Bears should select him third overall to build their defense around a young and exciting defensive front.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The Pick: RB Leonard Fournette, LSU

                            

    It's time to remember why Leonard Fournette has been considered the top running back prospect since Adrian Peterson. His performance at the NFL Scouting Combine should blow away most of the competition. 

    The scary part is he's in the best shape of his life just before he travels to Indianapolis. According to his father, Leonard Sr., the running back is down 15 pounds and now weighs 227 pounds, per The Advocate's Ross Dellenger. 

    Fournette expects to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.3- to 4.4-second range. 

    "A lot of people don't think I'm fast," Fournette told Dellenger. "We'll see."

    Fournette dealt with an ankle injury during the 2016 campaign, which hampered his production and caused him to miss five games. As a result, it's easy to forget how special he really is in the open field. Everyone will be reminded in the coming days. 

5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)

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    The Pick: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

                                    

    This year's cornerback class is one of the deepest and most diverse in recent memory. As many as 15 can be considered in the first two rounds of April's draft. 

    Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore worked his way to the top of the pack, though. There may be better pure cover corners or more physical defensive backs available, but two traits separate Lattimore from the rest. 

    "When all else fails, ball skills win," an anonymous scout told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. "Lattimore has that and a whole lot of speed."

    There are concerns within Lattimore's game. For example, he played almost exclusively on the right side of Ohio State's defense and wasn't asked to backpedal out of his stance. Yet recovery speed and ball skills are traits every team wants at the position.

    As a result, the Ohio State product is the first cornerback off the board to the Tennessee Titans, who lack talent at such a vital position. 

6. New York Jets

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    The Pick: QB Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina

                                       

    The NFL combine will go a long way in determining which quarterback prospect will finally assert himself as the top signal-caller. 

    Interviews with teams are the biggest factor for all of these young men. North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky might have a slight edge as QB1, but he has questions to answer too. 

    "I think [Mitch] Trubisky has the same talent as Carson Wentz, but Wentz is way bigger and he was just special from a football intelligence and interviewing standpoint," an AFC national scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "Trubisky is barely going to [measure] 6'2", so he better kill it in combine meetings."

    Height and sample size are the biggest issues for the North Carolina product. Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora swears the quarterback will measure at least 6'2" or even a little taller, per Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot. 

    Great interviews, plus coming in a littler taller than expected, will drive up Trubisky's value and finally establish him as the top quarterback for those teams in desperate need at the position. 

7. Los Angeles Chargers

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    The Pick: WR Mike Williams, Clemson

                                              

    A strong argument can be made that Clemson's Mike Williams isn't the top wide receiver available. But he's a great fit for the Los Angeles Chargers offense. 

    Williams is 6'3" and 225 pounds, with an exceptional ability to make contested catches. His size, length and catch radius translate into an ideal red-zone target or security blanket on crucial downs. 

    More importantly, he excels running deep-in patterns and post routes, which is where Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers thrives. 

    An inability to create separation is often counted among Williams' perceived faults. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted, the Clemson product had a high success rate getting open for nearly every pattern on the route tree. 

    With the seventh overall pick added to a healthy Keenan Allen, speedy Travis Benjamin and developing Tyrell Williams, the Chargers' wide receiver corps has a chance to be special. 

8. Carolina Panthers

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    The Pick: DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford

                     
    Stanford's Solomon Thomas is expected to blow away the NFL combine process, thus solidifying himself as one of the draft's elite prospects.

    "Solomon Thomas is going to put on a show," an anonymous team executive told NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah. "He's incredibly explosive and he'll destroy the change-of-direction drills. I wouldn't be shocked if he ran [the 40-yard dash] in the 4.6s and jumped in the high 30s [inches]."

    The defensive lineman may not make it to this slot, and the Carolina Panthers should be thrilled even after re-signing Mario Addison to a new three-year contract Sunday, per the team's official site.

    "Mario has shown he is one of the best emerging pass-rushers in the league, and he deserves this contract," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "He consistently affects the quarterback, and we envision an increased role for him in our defense."

    Even so, Carolina lacks a true bookend. Veteran Charles Johnson is a free agent, Kony Ealy hasn't lived up to expectations and Wes Horton is a rotational player. Thomas is a potential game-wrecker alongside Addison, Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei. 

9. Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Pick: Taco Charlton, DE Michigan

                                                   
    Michigan's Taco Charlton's selection is a big change based on two factors. 

    First, the defensive end fits the prototype. At 6'6" and 272 pounds, the Michigan product is a tailor-made NFL defensive end with the athleticism and flexibility to warrant top consideration. After coming on strong as a senior with 13 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, Charlton can pair his breakout campaign with a strong combine performance. 

    Second, the Cincinnati Bengals need to reinforce their defensive front. Carlos Dunlap earned two straight Pro Bowl berths, and Geno Atkins remains one of the league's best interior defenders. However, Dunlap needs a new running mate. Michael Johnson never returned to form after his short-lived Tampa Bay experience, while Margus Hunt and Wallace Gilberry are set to enter free agency. 

    Charlton is a potential three-down defender with tremendous upside as a pass-rusher. As long as he tests well in Indianapolis, he'll garner far more attention among those teams located in the top half of the first round. 

10. Buffalo Bills

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    The Pick: S Jamal Adams, LSU

                             

    Tyrod Taylor's departure from the Buffalo Bills doesn't appear to be a foregone conclusion. What was once believed to be an inevitability may develop into a mutually beneficial situation for both the quarterback and the organization. 

    According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, there's "probably a better chance" the Bills keep Taylor instead of letting him go. An important part of that decision occurred when the team medically cleared the quarterback last week, per ESPN.com's Adam Schefter. 

    With Taylor still on the roster, the franchise can stand pat at the 10th overall selection and choose one of the draft's top talents. LSU's Jamal Adams is this year's most complete safety. With Aaron Williams' neck injury and the fact Corey Graham turns 32 years old before the start of the 2017 campaign, safety is a major concern. 

    If the Bills do pass on a quarterback, the rest of the draft's signal-callers should prepare themselves for a potential tumble down boards.

11. New Orleans Saints

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    The Pick: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama

                                            

    The on-field workouts and team interviews aren't the most important aspects of the NFL Scouting Combine. The primary reason the event exists is for teams to get the most thorough medical evaluations possible.

    A poor medical report can have a drastic impact on a player's draft status.

    As talented as Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster is—and he's counted among the best—teams will be looking closely at his health. The reigning Butkus Award winner won't participate in drills during the event after requiring rotator cuff surgery, per ESPN's Adam Caplan. 

    With his shoulders an area of concern, teams must be wondering how he's going to hold up physically. Foster said that losing 15 pounds last offseason stopped his knees and back from hurting, per AL.com's Michael Casagrande. 

    The New Orleans Saints need an impact defender in the worst way. As such, the organization should be willing to take a chance on someone as talented as Foster, even with his injury concerns. 

12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)

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    The Pick: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama

                                 

    This selection may seem like overkill with both Gary Barnidge and Seth DeValve already on the roster. Howard may play the same position, but his skill set is completely different. 

    At nearly 6'6" and 251 pounds, Howard is a tremendous athlete and mismatch in the passing game when properly utilized. He also graded as the nation's top run-blocking tight end last season, per Pro Football Focus

    The latter point is critically important since neither Barnidge nor DeValve can even be considered average blockers. Instead, they can be used as move tight ends off the line of scrimmage coupled with Howard as an in-line option. These two-tight end sets have the potential to be difficult to defend. 

    The Browns' coaching staff worked with Howard when he established himself as the top prospect at this year's Reese's Senior Bowl. With his inclusion to the offense, the organization continues to build the cockpit for whatever quarterback it eventually anoints as the starter.

13. Arizona Cardinals

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    The Pick: WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan

                                            

    Corey Davis is arguably the top wide receiver prospect, but a couple of issues will plague the Western Michigan product throughout the draft process. 

    Davis won't run at the combine because he underwent a minor ankle surgery at the start of February, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. 

    Because he won't run or do a full workout, teams won't get to see him in a competitive setting with the best college football has to offer. Instead, they'll have to rely on his play in the MAC and his pro-day workout. 

    "He's a good player, but he basically bullied those dudes in his league," an anonymous AFC college scouting director told NFL.com's Bucky Brooks. "Look at how he played when he faced some top guys. ... I need to see him work out to get a better feel for his talent and potential." 

    These question marks can linger into the draft. What can't be denied, though, is his production and dominance against those he did face. With Larry Fitzgerald nearing retirement, Davis brings more size and explosiveness to the Cardinals wide receiver corps.

14. Indianapolis Colts

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    The Pick: RB Dalvin Cook, Florida State

                                                    

    Florida State running back Dalvin Cook to the Indianapolis Colts has been a constant. His talent coupled with the team's need at running back makes too much sense.

    But there is a downside to his potential selection. 

    "Listen, this is the time of year when we're digging hard into the character of these guys," an anonymous scout told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. "His past scares the s--t out of us. That, plus all the injuries and all the fumbles is just a lot to sign off on."

    Despite all of his talent, Cook must answer multiple questions at the combine. If the Colts—or any other team—become comfortable with the person as much as the football player, his selection is an obvious choice. 

    At this point, he'll remain slotted to the Colts until those concerns outweigh his benefits. 

15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota)

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    The Pick: CB Quincy Wilson, Florida 

                                        

    This year's cornerback class is already intriguing due to all of the available talent, but it's even more so for a pair of teammates from the University of Florida. 

    For most of the year, Teez Tabor was regarded as the nation's best cornerback. Quietly, fellow Gator Quincy Wilson outplayed him.

    "He's big and he's tough," an anonymous AFC executive told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "Tabor has more talent, but Wilson just has to find the right spot because he's got the mindset to be a pro player."

    A positive mental approach is often overlooked. Tabor is exceptionally talented, but he could fall all of the way out of the first round because of his attitude. Meanwhile, Wilson is being slotted to the Philadelphia Eagles with the 15th overall pick. 

    Wilson still needs to test well at the combine to put thoughts of a safety conversion to bed. If he does, his size (6'1", 213 lbs), length and exceptional play as a junior place him among the top cornerback prospects.

16. Baltimore Ravens

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    The Pick: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee

                                   

    Can lightning strike twice? It could happen if the Baltimore Ravens select Tennessee's Derek Barnett. 

    "He's not going to run a fast 40, but if you like tough, violent, high-motor players with production, you'll love him," an AFC executive told NFL.com's Bucky Brooks. "He kind of reminds me of a young Terrell Suggs coming out of Arizona State."

    Suggs obliterated collegiate competition when he set a single-season record with 24 sacks in 2002. However, the Arizona State product tested poorly before the draft. As a result, he slid to the 10th overall pick in 2003, where Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome selected him. 

    Similar questions about Barnett's athleticism persist. Despite these concerns, a team is still going to fall in love with him.

    "I love the kid," an AFC college scouting director told Brooks. "He is a great football player with a nasty temperament. I don't understand why some scouts aren't high on him, but he can play for me any day."

17. Washington Redskins

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    The Pick: TE David Njoku, Miami

                             

    All three levels of the Washington Redskins defense need to be upgraded. With that in mind, why would the organization select a tight end in the first round?

    Washington should strongly consider either Miami's David Njoku or Alabama's O.J. Howard, depending on who is available. Howard is generally considered the top prospect at the position, but Njoku's upside is ridiculous. 

    The early entrant doesn't turn 21 until after he's drafted, and he presents exceptional athleticism. 

    "His explosive power is off the charts," trainer Andy Luances told the Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter. "For his height and his size, you don't see it very often. He can jump out of the gym. When he wants to turn it on, he can turn it on better than anybody else. I haven't seen a guy that big jump or run like that before."

    At 6'4" and 245 pounds, Njoku can pair with Jordan Reed in two-tight sets to create mismatches all over the field. 

18. Tennessee Titans

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    The Pick: CB Tre'Davious White, LSU

                 

    The Tennessee Titans should be prepared to double down at the cornerback position. 

    Beyond Jason McCourty, the Titans' stable of corners consist of Brice McCain, LeShaun Sims and Valentino Blake. Not only is that a suspect group, but McCourty is entering the last year of his current deal. 

    After selecting Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore with the fifth overall selection, LSU's Tre'Davious White serves as the ultimate complementary piece. 

    During last year's draft, Titans general manager Jon Robinson saw value in acquiring Jack Conklin in the first round despite Taylor Lewan's presence on the roster. Conklin excelled at right tackle as a rookie. 

    A similar approach can be accomplished in the secondary.

    Lattimore is a fantastic prospect and an ultra-talented bookend to McCourty. White's value differs as a nickel corner, but he can excel in the role. As a result, the unit has the potential to come together and play at a high level after finishing 30th overall in pass defense. 

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Pick: S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

                                              

    Michigan's Jabrill Peppers is an elite athlete. He's not an an elite prospect, though. 

    His raw athleticism will be on display this weekend when his position group takes the field for workouts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Interestingly enough, Peppers will work out with the linebackers instead of the defensive backs. 

    In doing so, the Michigan product's performance should look even more impressive. As a high school 100- and 200-meter champion, the 205-pounder has the potential to easily outshine other linebackers since he's generally considered a safety prospect. 

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may need an overhaul at the position with both Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald about to enter free agency. The organization can let both walk, make Keith Tandy into a full-time starter and add Peppers. 

    With Tandy's playmaking ability along the back line and Peppers' versatility at or near the line of scrimmage, the Buccaneers can field a strong complementary duo while upgrading over last year's opening day starters. 

20. Denver Broncos

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    The Pick: OT Garett Bolles, Utah

                                   

    To no one's surprise, the Denver Broncos decided not to pick up Russell Okung's contract option, per Denver 9News' Mike Klis. The organization considered the possibility of re-signing Okung at a reduced rate, but Klis reported that option seems "remote." 

    With that decision out of the way, the franchise can concentrate on addressing its gaping hole at left tackle. No one on the roster provides a realistic option as a blind-side protector. 

    Instead, the team will need to consider its options via free agency or the draft. Since the free-agent class is barren at left tackle, the Broncos must rely on the incoming talent crop. 

    Garett Bolles is an older prospect at 24, but the combine is an opportunity to showcase the type of athleticism teams want in their left tackles. 

    "He's got the whole package," Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said, per the Salt Lake Tribune's Kyle Goon. "He's got the height, the length, the feet, the hips, he's flexible, he can bend, he's strong, he's athletic.

    "He lacks nothing."

21. Detroit Lions

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    The Pick: LB Tim Williams, Alabama

                                 

    Alabama's Tim Williams is a lightning rod among draft circles. No one questions his ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

    "Williams is a dynamite pass-rusher," an anonymous scout told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn. "He gets off the edge." 

    The linebacker is as slippery as an eel working his way around offensive tackles. However, three issues come up regarding Williams' draft status: age, usage and history.

    Only one of those issues can be answered in Indianapolis as teams grill the defender about an earlier gun charge during interviews. His age—he turns 24 years old in the fall—and the fact he only played part time for the Crimson Tide can't be, though. 

    Talent eventually trumps trepidation, and Williams' natural skill set is too tempting to fall far in the first round.

22. Miami Dolphins

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    The Pick: OG Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

                                       

    The performance by Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp against Alabama's talented defensive front just may be the single best effort by any prospect in this year's draft class. 

    "He didn't make many mistakes, technically sound, good competitor," Alabama outside linebacker Ryan Anderson said, per the New Orleans Advocate's Joel Erickson. "He was probably the best tackle I played all year."

    At 6'4" and 300 pounds, Lamp isn't considered a future NFL left tackle, though. He's expected to play guard or possibly even center in the right situation. 

    "They'll only dress seven offensive linemen in the NFL," Lamp said, per the Palm Beach Post's Joe Schad. "So if you can play all three positions, which is my goal eventually, you are really valuable to a team."

    The Miami Dolphins' offensive interior needs to be rebuilt with Laremy Tunsil bumping out to left tackle and Jermon Bushrod set to enter free agency. Lamp is a Day 1 starter as one of their replacements. 

23. New York Giants

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    The Pick: LB Haason Reddick, Temple

                   

    Temple's Haason Reddick improves the New York Giants in two different defensive areas. He provides a much-needed infusion of athleticism at linebacker and adds more of a pass-rush presence. 

    The organization decided to place the franchise tag on Jason Pierre-Paul for a second straight year. This lessens the need to add another edge-rusher, but it doesn't devalue Reddick in the slightest. 

    Yes, the Temple product built his reputation this past season on his accumulation of sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (21.5), but his value skyrocketed with his performance at the Reese's Senior Bowl. Reddick looked smooth and comfortable playing linebacker. 

    "I talk to a lot of people, some people like me for inside or outside [linebacker]," Reddick said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer's Zach Berman. "I can see playing inside 'backer first and second down, maybe let me rush on third down, long situations. I can do both. I'm versatile."

24. Oakland Raiders

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    The Pick: DT Jaleel Johnson, Iowa

                              

    The Oakland Raiders want to add a war daddy along their defensive interior. At this juncture, Iowa's Jaleel Johnson or Michigan State's Malik McDowell are legitimate options. Johnson is the choice since fewer questions exist about his motor and work ethic. 

    A combination of power, technique and athleticism allowed the Iowa product to establish himself as a potential first-round pick. 

    The 6'4", 310-pound defensive tackle plays with good leverage and shows the ability to throw around offensive linemen. Due to the scheme, he wasn't asked to play in the opponent's backfield as much as other prospects, yet he still finished first on the team with 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. 

    The interior defender is more explosive than he's given credit for, though. At the Reese's Senior Bowl, Johnson recorded some of the fastest times during practices and the game, per 1500 ESPN's Arif Hasan.

    Johnson is the monster in the middle the Raiders need.

25. Houston Texans

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    The Pick: QB DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

                                                          

    Three quarterbacks remain available, and the Houston Texans can take their pick between Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Clemson's Deshaun Watson or Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes. 

    An argument can be made for all three being first-round talents. An argument can also be made why a team should pass on each of them. 

    This is the crux of the 2017 NFL draft class. Identifying a potential franchise quarterback is of the utmost importance, but questions continue to be raised about these prospects' true value. If teams aren't comfortable with any of them, it's easy for those organizations to rationalize passing on each to select a higher-rated talent at a different position. 

    In the Texans' case, this scenario is far too tempting. Kizer fits all of the prototypical standards at the position. He has the size (6'4", 230 lbs) and arm talent teams want. His 2015 tape is much better than last season's, but coaches can see the potential with a chance to coax it out of him.

    A draft-day slide among the quarterback prospects plays right into the Texans' hands, and the organization can't allow the Brock Osweiler mistake to sway any decision regarding the game's most important position.

26. Seattle Seahawks

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    Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

    The Pick: OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

                     

    Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk and the Seattle Seahawks are an interesting match. 

    At this juncture, Ramczyk is clearly the best offensive tackle prospect available, and the Seahawks need a serious upgrade to their blind side. 

    "He's really athletic and he's really smart," an anonymous NFC scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "He played against Arden Key [LSU], Sam Hubbard [Ohio State] and Taco Charlton [Michigan]. This guy is battle-tested against three future first-rounders."

    However, Ramczyk enters combine week with arm length being his most important measurement. The Seahawks prefer their blockers to be long and athletic. 

    Even if the 6'6", 314-pound lineman doesn't quite fit the prototype, the Seahawks should make a concession in order to upgrade such an important position. 

27. Kansas City Chiefs

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    The Pick: LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt

                               

    The Kansas City Chiefs defense could look drastically different this fall. ESPN's Ed Werder reported the organization expects to place the franchise tag on safety Eric Berry and let nose tackle Dontari Poe test the free-agent market if the team can't reach an agreement with one of them by Wednesday's deadline. 

    The second line of defense needs to be addressed too. Derrick Johnson's future is still up in the air as he recovers from last year's season-ending Achilles injury. Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham may be the perfect replacement since his game is similar.

    Cunningham is expected to wow teams at the combine too. 

    "He can really run and he's going to impress teams in the interview room as well," an anonymous NFL executive told NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah. 

    The possibility exists the Chiefs enter next season without Poe and Johnson while building around Cunningham. 

28. Dallas Cowboys

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    The Pick: DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA

                                 

    The Dallas Cowboys can't rely on Randy Gregory or DeMarcus Lawrence. Both are quite talented, yet their recent suspension histories should make the organization uneasy.

    Instead, the franchise lands UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley at a discount price. 

    McKinley is a potential top-15 selection, but he'll need surgery on a torn labrum after the combine. That could put him on the shelf for six months, per Bleacher Report's Jason Cole. The Cowboys shouldn't be too worried, though.

    The injury hasn't affected McKinley's combine preparation. At 6'2"and 265 pounds, the 21-year-old is an athletically gifted pass-rusher, and he's still expected to impress in Indianapolis. Just within the past week, he bench-pressed 230 pounds for 24 reps

    McKinley is the type of edge presence the Cowboys want to add in this year's draft. 

29. Green Bay Packers

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Pick: CB Sidney Jones, Washington

     

    Washington's Sidney Jones has a big week ahead of him. Jones has an opportunity to leave the combine as the No. 2 cornerback. Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore is expected to remain at the top of the rankings, but Jones isn't far behind.

    According to Pro Football Focus, the Washington product hasn't surrendered a touchdown since Week 7 of the 2015 campaign. 

    His time in Indianapolis is crucial, though. Jones needs to show he can add some bulk without losing a step during the 40-yard dash and position drills. Washington listed the cornerback at 181 pounds on its official site. NFL teams prefer their corners to weigh closer to 190 or 200 pounds. 

    Jones' slender frame creates concerns about how he'll hold up against bigger and more physical receivers while also being asked to provide a presence against opposing run games. 

    The Green Bay Packers' top priority is improving a secondary that finished 31st against the pass last season. Jones is an ideal candidate, but any cornerback is an upgrade. 

30. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Pick: WR John Ross, Washington

                                             

    The Pittsburgh Steelers made Antonio Brown the NFL's highest-paid wide receiver Monday. Just because the Steelers invested so much in Brown doesn't mean the organization should stop there. 

    Martavis Bryant and Sammie Coates aren't reliable options for entirely different reasons. Bryant is tremendously talented, but his suspension history is well-documented. Meanwhile, Coates isn't a natural receiver. 

    If the organization has an opportunity to add another dynamic playmaker to take pressure off Brown and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, general manager Kevin Colbert needs to strongly consider it. 

    Washington's John Ross is arguably the best deep threat. His raw speed—the receiver is expected to clock between 4.2 and 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dashcan take the top off any defense and create more space underneath for Brown. 

    The Steelers have other areas of concern, but speed kills, and Ross has speed to burn. 

31. Atlanta Falcons

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Pick: DE Charles Harris, Missouri

                                  

    A defensive end doesn't need to be well-rounded to become a top pick. The ability to rush the passer is far more valuable than defending the run. Previous prospects like Bruce Irvin and Dee Ford established themselves as first-round talents despite being considered part-time performers. 

    Missouri's Charles Harris regularly beats blockers off the snap due to an explosive first step. Over the past two seasons, the 6'3" and 260-pounder registered 30.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. 

    In fact, Harris tied for second last season with 18 quarterback hits, per Pro Football Focus

    The Atlanta Falcons need an every-down defensive end, but the team can't sacrifice the ability to rush the passer for someone who isn't as athletic or disruptive as Harris. 

    Vic Beasley paired with Harris coming off the edges and Grady Jarrett disrupting the pocket provides a lot of punch in the team's sub-packages. 

32. New England Patriots

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    The Pick: S Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut

                   

    The New England Patriots almost always find a way to maximize their assets. In this case, there's not a talent quite like Connecticut's Obi Melifonwu in this draft class. 

    Melifonwu is a massive safety at 6'3" and nearly 220 pounds. At that size, he will invoke comparisons to Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Kam Chancellor. But the two don't present the same skill sets. 

    The Connecticut product is a more versatile prospect coming into the league. His range, instincts and ability to play the deep thirdas opposed to being just a consistent presence in the box—coupled with his size, length and athleticism make him unique. 

    "As guys I look up to, Ed Reed is such a ballhawk, Bob Sanders, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu and present players like Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Patrick Chung," Melifonwu told the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman. "But watching all those players, I've watched the way they play. In terms of my skill set, I think I'm in a category of my own. No knock to them. I bring another dimension to the game."

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