Mel Kiper Jr. NFL Mock Draft 2017: Notable Picks from ESPN Guru's 3-Round Mock

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2017

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

With just over one week before the 2017 NFL draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has unveiled his latest three-round Grade-A mock draft for all 32 teams. 

As Kiper notes, this version of his mock is different because it's all his opinion for what teams should do to receive a perfect draft grade instead of being based on information he's hearing from NFL sources connected to specific players. 

While the entire article offers all 105 picks from the first three rounds, here's how Kiper has the first round of the draft playing out:

2017 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. "Grade A" Mock Draft
PickTeamSelection
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersSolomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
3Chicago BearsJamal Adams, S, LSU
4Jacksonville JaguarsJonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
5Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams)Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
6New York JetsO.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
7Los Angeles ChargersMike Williams, WR, Clemson
8Carolina PanthersChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
9Cincinnati BengalsHaason Reddick, LB, Temple
10Buffalo BillsJabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
11New Orleans SaintsMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
12Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles)Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
13Arizona CardinalsCorey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
14Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings)Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
15Indianapolis ColtsLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
16Baltimore RavensForrest Lamp, G, Ball State
17WashingtonMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
18Tennessee TitansMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersJohn Ross, WR, Washington
20Denver BroncosRyan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
21Detroit LionsKevin King, CB, Washington
22Miami DolphinsJarrad Davis, LB, Florida
23New York GiantsCharles Harris, DE, Missouri
24Oakland RaidersTre'Davious White, CB, LSU
25Houston TexansCam Robinson, OT, Alabama
26Seattle SeahawksGarett Bolles, OT, Utah
27Kansas City ChiefsZach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
28Dallas CowboysDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
29Green Bay PackersTakkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA
30Pittsburgh SteelersZay Jones, WR, East Carolina
31Atlanta FalconsTaco Charlton, DE, Michigan
32New Orleans Saints (via New England Patriots)Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
Source: ESPN.com

 

Notable Selections

No. 5: Tennessee Titans: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 18:  Reuben Foster #10 of the Crimson team reacts to a play during the University of Alabama Crimson Tide A-day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 18, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Keeping in mind the caveat this isn't what Kiper would have teams do and not necessarily what they are expected to do, Reuben Foster going No. 5 to the Tennessee Titans is certainly one of the most noteworthy things from this version of his mock. 

In terms of what Tennessee needs, Kiper does make a strong case for why Foster makes sense at this spot. 

"I think the Titans have three clear needs: cornerback, wide receiver and inside linebacker," he wrote. "I don't have a corner or receiver in my top five, but I do have Foster ranked that high. He's that good, an every-down linebacker with elite range."

There are some off-field concerns Foster will have to overcome, as Robert Klemko of The MMQB wrote about:

He is considered a high-first round talent, one of the best linebackers to come out in years and the most highly regarded to emerge from Tuscaloosa during the [Nick] Saban era. Yet, at least one NFL team with a selection in the top 15 had already removed Foster from consideration before the incident at the combine.

"He already had immaturity, issues with life skills. This is the same guy," said an evaluator for the team after Foster was sent home from Indianapolis. "We're not in the market."

Foster's scouting reports almost universally acknowledge his dynamic talents on the field, but the concerns away from the field do make it unlikely he will be one of the top five picks.

It's also hard to justify taking an inside linebacker that high because the position's value isn't high in today's NFL. Yet based on what the Titans need and value with their first pick, Foster would certainly fit their roster. 

 

No. 8: Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

The consensus around this year's running back class is that Leonard Fournette will be the first one drafted, followed by Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook in some order. 

McCaffrey has been steadily rising up the ranks throughout the pre-draft process, with Kiper having him as the first running back off the board to the Carolina Panthers with the eighth overall pick:

He has the athleticism (4.48 40) and versatility to be a difference-maker. The Panthers could use him as a complement to veteran Jonathan Stewartand as a primary option in the receiving and return games. Don't count out McCaffrey's being an every-down back in the league, even at 5-foot-11, 202 pounds.

The Panthers are in an unusual spot heading into 2017. They are one year removed from posting a 15-1 record and playing in the Super Bowl but have finished under .500 in five of the last seven seasons. 

Quarterback Cam Newton took a beating behind a mediocre offensive line last season. He completed a career-low 52.9 percent of his passes, and his 14 interceptions were his most in a season since his rookie year. 

McCaffrey would add a dynamic and versatile talent to Carolina's offense who can take some of the pressure off Newton to be the do-it-all player he's had to be throughout his career. 

Fournette and Cook are more impressive physical specimens than McCaffrey, but McCaffrey's versatile skill set as a running back and slot receiver makes him an ideal fit for the NFL in 2017. 

 

No. 34: San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

It's not a stretch to say this year's quarterback class is lacking in appeal, which is probably part of the reason why Kiper only has one going in the first round (Mitchell Trubisky to the Cleveland Browns at No. 12). 

Patrick Mahomes is Kiper's second quarterback off the board, going to the San Francisco 49ers with their second-round pick (No. 34 overall). 

The idea of Mahomes as a development project for 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who has an offensive mind and played some role in helping Kirk Cousins develop into a solid quarterback after being a fourth-round pick in 2012. 

B/R's Matt Miller has Mahomes ranked as the No. 3 quarterback in this draft class, behind Trubisky and Deshaun Watson, with a positive scouting report to back it up:

A shotgun-only quarterback in college, Mahomes is athletic enough to learn to take snaps from under center. Velocity on all throws is very impressive for Mahomes, who understands how to dial up spin and get the ball through tight coverage. He’s a dual-threat player with the strength and speed to be effective as a designed runner or when getting free from pressure.

Miller also noted Mahomes boasts the best arm strength from this year's crop of quarterbacks. 

The 49ers don't have to play Mahomes in 2017 if they draft him. Brian Hoyer is a capable stopgap quarterback, especially for a team still rebuilding its roster that doesn't have to worry about its record right now. 

It would be a bold risk for the 49ers to take Mahomes, though one that could pay huge dividends if they develop him the right way and don't force him on the field before he's ready to play.