2017 NFL Mock Draft: Chris Simms' Final Predictions
The NFL draft is all about elite talent, proposed value and where you can get guys in relation to their value. Interestingly enough, I don't think this draft is heavy in top-end talent, but there is a wealth of depth and value to be had.
Figuring out the draft order is where things get difficult.
We have a ton of talented defensive backs and edge-rushers in this draft. We have talented offensive playmakers. We don't have a clue where these quarterbacks are going to go. All of these things factor into the challenge of making a mock draft.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that's why you'll probably find my mock draft different than others. I've put a lot of time and work into the evaluation of these draft prospects, and I'm basing my mock on my own evaluations. You can take my top five cornerbacks and match them up against an NFL general manager's top five—you might have some of the same players in there, but you're probably going to find differences as well.
At the same time, I approached this mock draft as if I am an NFL GM. With each pick, I'm looking at the players on the team, the prospects on the board and the value of the prospects who are there. I went pick by pick, team by team, 1 to 32. I put my GM hat on with each pick and tried to find the pairing that made the most sense.
1. Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
This is a no-brainer. Former Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett is a once-in-every-few-years type of talent. The Cleveland Browns lack elite talent in their front seven, and Garrett is going to be an elite defensive player for years to come.
We're talking about a 6'4", 272-pound defensive lineman with 4.64-second speed. There's no need to overthink this pick—even if the Browns seem to want to.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
This is the new Kyle Shanahan regime. The San Francisco 49ers are going to be running a Seattle Seahawks type of defense, and Stanford's Solomon Thomas can be San Francisco's version of Michael Bennett.
Thomas can play defensive end or defensive tackle and is going to be disruptive at either position. Thomas is athletic, strong and versatile and pairs well with DeForest Buckner.
Adding Thomas immediately improves the team's defensive front and changes what the 49ers can do defensively.
3. Chicago Bears
Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
If you watched the Chicago Bears last year, you know the team is devoid of talent in the secondary. Chicago simply has to improve in this area.
Ohio State's Malik Hooker is your perfect version of the modern-day free safety. He's a ball-hawking, Ed Reed-type player with phenomenal size (6'1", 206 lbs) and speed. Hooker, who snagged seven interceptions last season, would immediately add a playmaking presence to the back end of Chicago's defense.
The Bears could also go cornerback here, but the potential upside of Hooker is too hard to pass up. He could be a tone-setter and a difference-maker for years to come.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
This is another no-brainer to me. Leonard Fournette is 6'0", 240 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.51 seconds. Like Garrett, he's a once-in-every-few-years talent. Fournette is a quick-footed, physical runner in the class of Adrian Peterson, Bo Jackson and Herschel Walker.
If Tom Coughlin wants to help his offense and quarterback, Fournette is the perfect guy to do it. While he might not be as versatile as some of the other backs in this class, Fournette can legitimately carry an offense.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams) TRADED to Cleveland Browns
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
This is where we have our first shake-up. I don't like doing trades in mock drafts, but this one is just too obvious for me. The Cleveland Browns have a stockpile of draft picks and the need for a quarterback, and they can't risk missing out on their guy.
The Tennessee Titans' general manager is Jon Robinson. He comes from the New England Patriots, and I worked under Robinson when he was there—and we traded down a lot. I don't think the value for what the Titans need is going to be there at No. 5, and I think they try to move the pick.
Ultimately, the Browns might be scared that the New York Jets could take Mitchell Trubisky at No. 6, so I think they pull the trigger on the trade. Cleveland gets its quarterback and the Titans get extra draft capital—it's a win-win.
The Browns could win this draft by making this move. They would get their signal-caller of the future and still take Garrett at No. 1.
6. New York Jets
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
The New York Jets haven't had a top-tier tight end since...I don't even know when.
Former Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, like Garrett and Fournette, is a can't-miss guy. He's a physical specimen. There just aren't a lot of human beings who are 251 pounds and run the 40 in 4.51 seconds.
Howard can block, run great routes and outrun people with the football in his hands—he's the epitome of the new-age tight end. Howard is a difference-maker, and the Jets could desperately use one of those on offense.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Los Angeles Chargers might consider taking a quarterback at No. 7. Philip Rivers is 35 years old and has 13 seasons under his belt. With LSU's Jamal Adams on the board, though, I think they'll wait until the second round.
L.A.'s new defensive coordinator is Gus Bradley. He comes from Jacksonville, and before that, the Seattle Seahawks. Adams can be his new version of Kam Chancellor. He's a hard-hitting, quality-in-coverage safety who can set the tone in the Chargers secondary.
The Chargers defense would suddenly look pretty nasty with Joey Bosa on the front end and Adams on the back end.
8. Carolina Panthers
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
This is a tough one for me because I can see the Carolina Panthers going cornerback with this pick. But the Panthers have to start putting some weapons around quarterback Cam Newton too.
The Panthers have a little bit of an NFL-college-hybrid offense with Newton at the helm. Stanford's Christian McCaffrey can only help this unconventional offense grow. He can do things that aging running back Jonathan Stewart simply cannot.
The Panthers can use McCaffrey as a traditional back, put him at slot receiver or place him in the backfield next to Stewart—and it's going to drive opposing defensive coordinators nuts.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
The Cincinnati Bengals can use an influx of talent along their defensive line. Domata Peko is gone and Michael Johnson (30) is getting up there in age. At pick No. 9, Alabama's Jonathan Allen is just too good for the Bengals to pass up and makes too much sense.
Allen might not be the pure edge-rusher the Bengals need, but he's one of the 10 best players in the draft. He can help anchor Cincinnati's defensive line for the next several years.
10. Buffalo Bills
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
The Bills have been starving for a quarterback of this nature, but they won't need to rush Mahomes on the field. Mahomes will have the luxury of sitting behind Tyrod Taylor for a year or so as he adapts to the pro game. Then he can take over and be the man in Buffalo.
11. New Orleans Saints
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
From a talent standpoint, Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore probably deserves to go higher than 11th overall. However, people I've talked to around the league tell me there are legitimate concerns about Lattimore's hamstring issues.
So, I think Lattimore falls and the New Orleans Saints get a gift at No. 11. He can be the much-needed shutdown corner the Saints have been looking for. New Orleans had the worst pass defense in football last year (273.8 yards per game allowed), and Lattimore should instantly change that.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia Eagles) TRADED to Tennessee Titans
John Ross, WR, Washington
I thought about going with Clemson's Mike Williams here. But the Titans already have bigger possession receivers in Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe. Washington's John Ross would add a different element to the offense.
The Titans need speed and Ross can provide it (he ran a 4.22-second 40 at the combine, after all).
Ross can take the top off the defense, and he would complement Tennessee's system. Marcus Mariota doesn't helm a traditional NFL offense—there are some college elements to what the Titans do. Ross can play the Tyreek Hill role. He can trick and trip opposing defenses—whether it's on a sweep, an option or a reverse—and fit Tennessee's unconventional offense perfectly.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
The Arizona Cardinals need a game-changing presence in their front seven. Calais Campbell is gone, and Daryl Washington hasn't played in three years because of a suspension. Temple's Haason Reddick can be the type of linebacker Washington was in his prime.
A lot of people probably have this pegged as the Reuben Foster pick, but I think Foster is going to fall. Based on what I've heard from NFL teams, the diluted sample, the combine dismissal and Foster's off-field concerns add up to make him an iffy prospect.
Meanwhile, Reddick is one of the five most physically freakish players in this draft. Arizona's defense is similar to Pittsburgh's, and Reddick can be a more physical version of Ryan Shazier for the Cardinals.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)
Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
I'm not going to rush to judgment on the Gareon Conley allegations. It's a serious allegation, but like Laremy Tunsil last year, the teams who like him are going to get really involved over the next couple of days and find out for themselves if the allegations are true or not. So I could still see Conley being drafted early if a team believes Conley's story that he is innocent.
Like New Orleans, the Philadelphia Eagles are lacking a legitimate cover corner. Ohio State's Conley can be exactly what the Eagles are looking for to fill that role.
Conley has tremendous size (6'0", 195 lbs), length and speed—and he plays faster than his 4.44-second combine 40 would indicate. In a division with receivers like Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham Jr. and Terrelle Pryor, the Eagles desperately need a No. 1 corner.
On the field, Conley is a No. 1 NFL corner.
15. Indianapolis Colts
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
This is one of the toughest picks in the first round for me because the Indianapolis Colts can go in a number of different directions. Ultimately, though, Florida State's Dalvin Cook is too tasty to pass up.
The Colts have talented receivers like T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Cook can be the versatile running back who complements them. He has blazing speed when running on the edge, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he can line up at receiver and run a full route tree.
The Colts have tried multiple times to find a back who can help take pressure and hits away from Andrew Luck, and Cook can be that back.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
I know the Baltimore Ravens took Breshad Perriman in the first round two years ago, but man, they've gotten next to nothing out of him. There are too many questions about Perriman—regarding his health and what kind of player he can be—and Steve Smith retired at the end of last year.
Honestly, I'm getting sick of Joe Flacco not having weapons around him. Clemson's Mike Williams is a weapon. He's the type of receiver Flacco can launch balls to down the field. The back-shoulder throws, the 50-50 balls, the goal-line grabs—Williams can come down with all of them, and that's exactly what the Ravens offense has been missing.
17. Washington Redskins
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
The Washington Redskins need help at the interior of their defense. They did a good job of improving it by adding defensive tackle Terrell McClain in free agency. Now they need to add that modern-day NFL middle linebacker.
Florida's Jarrad Davis is a three-down linebacker and a thumper between the tackles. Yet, he also has the speed, range and athleticism to cover the Jason Wittens and the Zach Ertzs of the world. He would immediately make Washington's defense better.
18. Tennessee Titans
Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
I haven't seen UCLA's Fabian Moreau anywhere in the first round in mock drafts, and people are dropping the ball with him. He's one of the four best corners in this draft, and he's a great fit for Dick LeBeau's defense.
What's not to like about a guy who is 6'0", 206 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.35 seconds and possesses the physicality of a former running back? A torn pectoral muscle at UCLA's pro day has caused Moreau to practically disappear from the draft conversation, but there's too much talent to ignore.
Moreau might be a little raw, but he's physical, athletic and only going to get better.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Taco Charlton, DL, Michigan
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need help on their defensive line. Not only do they need a legit pass-rusher, but they also need help against the run. Taco Charlton, a 6'6", 277-pound Michigan product, can do both.
For my money, Charlton is one of the best all-around defensive linemen in the draft. He's a quality run-stopper, and he's only scratching the surface of his potential as a pass-rusher. He has an explosive first step, he has good bend around the edge, and he knows how to disengage from blockers.
Charlton is a strong, long end with the athleticism to kick inside on passing downs and make life miserable for guards. His ceiling is a bigger, stronger Chandler Jones, and in a short amount of time, he can become the total package.
20. Denver Broncos
Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin
The Denver Broncos need offensive line help any way they can get it. Even when the team was playing in Super Bowl 50, the line wasn't the greatest group in football—and it hasn't improved since.
Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk can play tackle, but I think he can kick inside and be an even better guard. I'm not going to say he's the next Zack Martin, but he reminds me of him to a degree. There's not a better run-blocking lineman in the draft.
Ramczyk doesn't have the anchor to handle speed and power edge-rushers as an elite tackle, but he can be one of the better guards in football. The Broncos line gets better as a whole by adding him.
21. Detroit Lions
David Njoku, TE, Miami (FL)
The Detroit Lions could go pass-rusher here if there's one they fancy on the board. However, I'm not sure the value is going to be there. Former Miami tight end David Njoku, on the other hand, represents tremendous value at pick No. 21.
Detroit's general manager Bob Quinn is another guy I worked for in New England—and New England loves tight ends. The Lions could go to more two-tight-end sets and take advantage of the athleticism of Eric Ebron and Njoku in the play-action passing game. Njoku is the type of tight end who can put his hand in the dirt and move people on a running play, then go beat a defensive back on a pass play. His value is too high for Detroit to pass him up.
22. Miami Dolphins
Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama
The Miami Dolphins could look at cornerbacks and pass-rushers here. However, their biggest weakness is in pass protection.
Now that Branden Albert is gone and the team is moving Laremy Tunsil to left tackle, there is a need at guard. Alabama's Cam Robinson is a big, powerful tackle who I ultimately think fits better as an NFL guard. He doesn't have the footwork or the agility to fully excel against edge-rushers at the pro level.
As a guard, though, Robinson isn't going to get overpowered by interior pass-rushers. He also has the strength and drive to collapse an area of the defensive line in the run game. Adding him at guard would immediately improve Miami's line.
23. New York Giants
Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp is yet another college tackle I believe fits better as a guard in the NFL—I don't think any of these guys are first-round tackles. Lamp can be a terrific pro guard, though, and adding him would make a lot of sense for the New York Giants.
I think New York will consider Reuben Foster, but ultimately, it will pass because of his character concerns. The Giants could also go tight end, but the value isn't there with Howard and Njoku both off the board.
Lamp doesn't bring character concerns and brings value at 23rd overall. I still believe in Ereck Flowers as a left tackle—he just needs to work on his technique. Adding Lamp would allow the Giants to play D.J. Fluker at right tackle with Lamp and Justin Pugh as guards and Weston Richburg in the middle. All of a sudden, New York's line is a strength.
24. Oakland Raiders
Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri
Yes, the Oakland Raiders secondary stunk last year, but here's one thing a lot of people don't realize: The Raiders finished dead last in the NFL in sacks last season with 25.
Outside of Khalil Mack, the Raiders don't have a pressure presence they can rely on game by game. The team can't count on Aldon Smith to come back into the picture and remain there, so drafting an elite pass-rusher is the way to go.
Harris is athletic enough to cover and do linebacker things if you want him to, but his best fit is as a pass-rushing end. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. comes from Seattle and believes in building around defensive linemen.
There is enough secondary depth in this draft that Oakland can get a starter in Round 2.
25. Houston Texans
Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Obi Melifonwu from UConn has been flying under the radar a bit, and I'm not sure why more people aren't talking about him. He's just too talented to ignore.
Melifonwu has tremendous size (6'4", 224 lbs), tremendous speed (ran a 4.40-second 40 at the combine) and unreal leaping ability (logged a 44.0-inch vertical at the combine). He's legitimately fast and explosive too—he doesn't just have BS combine speed.
Melifonwu is also one of the top tacklers in the draft. He's phenomenal in the open field, and while he might not knock you out, you're going to go down when he gets to you. He would immediately improve the back end of Houston's defense.
With Trubisky and Mahomes both off the board, I don't think Bill O'Brien will be comfortable with a quarterback here, so Melifonwu is the pick.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Budda Baker, S, Washington
Seattle needs to get a bit younger in the secondary in general, and Washington's Budda Baker can make it younger at a variety of positions.
Look, Richard Sherman may soon be on the way out, and Earl Thomas was talking about retiring last season, so the Seahawks need to prepare for the future. The beauty of Baker is that he has the talent and the ball skills to potentially step into whichever position is vacated first.
The Seahawks can play Baker at corner, they can play him at safety, and they can play him in the slot if they need to. He's just a really good defensive football player—too good of one for Seattle to pass up.
27. Kansas City Chiefs
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
The Kansas City Chiefs are also in the conversation for a quarterback—and I wouldn't be shocked if they tried to trade up for Mahomes. In this scenario, Alabama's Reuben Foster makes too much sense to pass up.
Yes, Foster has his character concerns, but the Chiefs are a stable organization. They'll soon need a replacement for Derrick Johnson, and Foster can be that guy. Their run defense was 26th in the NFL last year (121.1 yards per game allowed), and Foster can make it better.
28. Dallas Cowboys
Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
USC's Adoree' Jackson is another guy who has been a little bit undervalued throughout the draft process. We're talking about a 21-year-old kid who's only going to get faster, stronger and bigger—and he's already pretty darn good. With his speed and athleticism, Jackson could have some success early in his career when left on an island in coverage.
Jackson would also provide a huge boost to the return game. Knowing Dallas' offense, I wouldn't be surprised if the Cowboys sneak him in on that side of the ball once in a while and send him deep too.
29. Green Bay Packers
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
There are a lot of ways the Green Bay Packers could go here, but I think they have to go defense. Considering they had the league's 31st-ranked pass defense last year (269.2 yards per game allowed), the pick should be a corner.
Colorado's Chidobe Awuzie is one of the most physically gifted cornerbacks in this draft. You can put him at nickel or at free safety if need be, but he's also a guy you can put on an island and let him run with the other team's No. 1 receiver. Green Bay needs that on its defense.
The Packers pass defense was an embarrassment last year. Awuzie can help fix that.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Derek Barnett almost makes too much sense for the Pittsburgh Steelers here. This is the right value for him as a prospect, and he fills a need on Pittsburgh's defense.
James Harrison (38) is getting up there in age, and the Steelers have parted ways with Jarvis Jones. Barnett can come in and complement Bud Dupree as a pass-rusher. While he doesn't always wow you on tape, Barnett doesn't have many weaknesses. He can play end and also cover, rush and play the run as a linebacker.
Whatever the Steelers need Barnett to do in their multi-look 3-4 defense, he can do.
31. Atlanta Falcons TRADED to Jacksonville Jaguars
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
As I said before, I don't love putting trades in my mock. However, this is another one that makes too much sense to me not to do.
I think the Atlanta Falcons are looking to add an edge-rusher with their first pick, and they can get their guy a few selections into the second round. Trading the pick to Jacksonville potentially gets the team an extra second- or third-round selection.
There have been plenty of rumors recently about the Jaguars taking a quarterback, but I'm not basing this selection on rumor. Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone have to be concerned with having Blake Bortles at quarterback. There's no way they're looking at his film and saying "Wow, I feel good about our quarterback. He's impressive."
This is a West Coast-style offense that relies on a lot of play action and bootlegs, and Clemson's Deshaun Watson has the skill set to run it—even if he has to play as a rookie. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett can make life simpler for Watson. Don't forget we added Fournette at No. 4, and he'll make life simpler for Watson as well.
32. New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots)
Josh Jones, S, NC State
We're going back to the secondary well one more time for the Saints. Why? Because their secondary sucked in 2016, that's why.
With cornerback taken care of, we now look to safety. Josh Jones is a perfect example of your modern NFL safety. He'll come down and try to knock your head off in the run game, but he's also phenomenal in the pass game. He has tremendous speed (ran a 4.41-second 40 at the combine) and range for the position.
In the NFC South, the Saints have to face Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan. They can and will sling the ball deep. So the Saints need guys like Lattimore and Jones on their defense.