NFL Mock Draft 2017: Stock Watch and Predictions for Combine's Top Prospects

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 6, 2017

AMES, IA – NOVEMBER 19: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes II #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders passes the ball in the first half of play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa State Cyclones won 66-10 over the Texas Tech Red Raiders. (Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images)
David K Purdy/Getty Images

With the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine reaching its conclusion in Indianapolis, NFL fans are getting a better picture of how the 2017 NFL draft will shake out in April.

The combine doesn't offer the definitive evaluation for a player's outlook at the next level, but it's one of the last showcases draftees have to impress scouts and team executives. A strong pro day could elevate a player's draft stock, but most are locked into a general area in which they can expect to be selected.

Below is a mock for the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, followed by three players who received the most or least from their combine performance.

 

2017 Mock Draft

2017 Draft—First-Round Mock
PickTeamPlayerSchool
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DETexas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersMitch Trubisky, QBNorth Carolina
3Chicago BearsJonathan Allen, DEAlabama
4Jacksonville JaguarsJamal Adams, SLSU
5Tennessee Titans (from Rams)Marshon Lattimore, CBOhio State
6New York JetsDeshaun Watson, QBClemson
7San Diego ChargersMalik Hooker, SOhio State
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RBLSU
9Cincinnati BengalsSolomon Thomas, DEStanford
10Buffalo BillsPatrick Mahomes II, QBTexas Tech
11New Orleans SaintsReuben Foster, LBAlabama
12Cleveland Browns (from Eagles)Teez Tabor, CBFlorida
13Arizona CardinalsMike Williams, WRClemson
14Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings)Dalvin Cook, RBFlorida State
15Indianapolis ColtsDerek Barnett, DETennessee
16Baltimore RavensTaco Charlton, DEMichigan
17Washington RedskinsJabrill Peppers, SMichigan
18Tennessee TitansCorey Davis, WRWestern Michigan
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersJohn Ross, WRWashington
20Denver BroncosRyan Ramczyk, OTWisconsin
21Detroit LionsCharles Harris, DEMissouri
22Miami DolphinsO.J. Howard, TEAlabama
23New York GiantsZach Cunningham, LBVanderbilt
24Oakland RaidersSidney Jones, CBWashington
25Houston TexansGarett Bolles, OTUtah
26Seattle SeahawksCam Robinson, OTAlabama
27Kansas City ChiefsHaason Reddick, LBTemple
28Dallas CowboysGareon Conley, CBOhio State
29Green Bay PackersQuincy Wilson, CBFlorida
30Pittsburgh SteelersBudda Baker, SWashington
31Atlanta FalconsTim Williams, LBAlabama
32New England PatriotsChristian McCaffrey, RBStanford
Draft order via NFL.com

     

Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech

LUBBOCK, TX - NOVEMBER 05: Patrick Mahomes II #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders leads the offense on to the field during the game against the Texas Longhorns on November 5, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Texas defeated Texas Tech 45-37. (Pho
John Weast/Getty Images

In no particular order, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer were widely considered to be the top three quarterbacks available in the 2017 NFL draft immediately after the college football season ended.

In the weeks since, however, Patrick Mahomes II has closed ground on Kizer and arguably overtaken him in the QB hierarchy. 

While Mike Leach is gone, Mahomes will have to overcome the general stigma around Texas Tech quarterbacks. Graham Harrell, B.J. Symons and Kliff Kingsbury posted monster numbers for the Red Raiders but did little at the next level.

Mahomes should buck the trend because he has skills that should transfer to the NFL. He has arguably the strongest arm of any quarterback in this year's class, and he ranked 13th in FBS in completion rate (65.7 percent), so he's an accurate thrower as well.

In addition—and something that will serve him well at the combine—he possesses above-average mobility. He ran for 845 yards and 22 touchdowns in three years with Texas Tech. According to NFL.com, Mahomes ran a 4.8-second 40-yard dash at the combine, which tied for sixth-best among quarterbacks.

Mahomes' rushing total in 2016 (285 yards) was well below its 2015 equivalent (456 yards), but that had more to do with Texas Tech dropping from eighth to 89th in adjusted sack rate last year, according to Football Outsiders.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller and NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah offered praise of Mahomes at the combine:

Not only has Mahomes climbed into the first round, he should also warrant top-10 consideration.

 

John Ross, WR, Washington

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 22:  Wide receiver John Ross #1 of the Washington Huskies rushes against cornerback Treston Decoud #14 of the Oregon State Beavers on October 22, 2016 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

No player raised more eyebrows at the combine than John Ross, who ran a 4.22-second 40-yard dash. The NFL Network shared a replay of the record-breaking performance:

Of course, a great 40 time is hardly an accurate indicator for a player's future. Below are the 10 fastest runs at the combine from 2006 to 2016, per NFL.com

Fastest 40-Yard Dashes at NFL Combine (2006-16)
RankPlayerSchoolTime (sec.)
1Chris JohnsonEast Carolina4.24
2Dri ArcherKent State4.26
3Marquise GoodwinTexas4.27
T4Jacoby FordClemson4.28
T4J.J. NelsonUAB4.28
T4DeMarcus Van DykeMiami4.28
T7Yamon FigursKansas State4.30
T7Darrius Heyward-BeyMaryland4.30
T7Tye HillClemson4.30
T10Tyvon BranchConnecticut4.31
T10Jonathan JosephSouth Carolina4.31
T10Justin KingPenn State4.31
T10Keith MarshallGeorgia4.31
T10Trae WaynesMichigan State4.31
Source: NFL.com

The fact Ross only has one good year at Washington further complicates his overall evaluation. After missing the entire 2015 season following a knee injury, Ross caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior for the Huskies.

Miller argued Ross is more than worthy of a first-round selection:

The NFL coach compared Ross to Tyreek Hill, and while that's a fun comparison, he isn't limited to special teams or being just a gadget player. Ross is a legit route-runner and has a much more dynamic ability to leave defenders in the dust with his breaks and cuts. Hill is arguably more powerful as a runner, but Ross is the more complete player. He's perhaps a mix of Hill's speed and DeSean Jackson's route-running skills.

That's a pretty dangerous combo.

Ross' injury history and lack of consistent success beyond 2016 may prevent him from jumping ahead of Corey Davis and Mike Williams. His combine performance, on the other hand, gave NFL evaluators a taste of his massive potential.

A team in the middle of the first round is guaranteed to gamble on the Huskies star.

 

Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 19: Jabrill Peppers #5 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates a second half sack while playing the Indiana Hoosiers on November 19, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The combine couldn't have gone much better for Jabrill Peppers. 

He headed to Indianapolis with questions about his position in the NFL, and how he performed would help give teams a better idea whether he'll fit better at linebacker or safety. While Peppers was grouped together with the linebackers at the combine, he looked more like a defensive back, per the NFL:

Peppers will likely need a season or two to find a comfort zone at the next level. His defensive versatility helped the Michigan Wolverines, but it was a slight detriment to his long-term development on the field since he couldn't gain a wealth of experience in any one role.

Similar questions hovered around Shaq Thompson, whom the Carolina Panthers selected 25th overall in 2015. Following an underwhelming rookie year, some questioned whether the Panthers made a mistake in taking Thompson. In 2016, Carolina knew better how to utilize Thompson, and Pro Football Focus graded him the 13th-best linebacker (85.6) in the NFL.

Thompson ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash and measured 33.5 inches in the vertical jump, both of which were worse than Peppers' 2017 showing. 

Since he has more physical upside, Peppers should come off the board earlier than Thompson, but like Thompson, an NFL team shouldn't be surprised if the Michigan star fails to provide immediate dividends.