2017 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Week 1 Projections
In the 2015 and 2016 NFL drafts, quarterbacks went back-to-back at the top, as NFL teams made moves to secure their franchise signal-callers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans struck first with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, respectively, and the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles followed up with Jared Goff and Carson Wentz this past April.
Will that trend hold true in 2017, or will the tide turn in a year featuring dynamic talents at running back and pass-rusher?
When talking quarterbacks, all eyes will be on Clemson's Deshaun Watson after he racked up 4,109 yards and 35 passing touchdowns to go with 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in 2015. Watson is a legitimate Heisman candidate and the belle of the ball when it comes to college quarterbacks. But is he the best pro prospect, or can Notre Dame redshirt sophomore DeShone Kizer and his huge arm challenge for that role?
Here's a very early look at where each team will select in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, based on Super Bowl odds from FootballLocks.com, and the players currently projected to be valued in those spots.
1. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: Quarterback DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
The Cleveland Browns filled many needs on paper through the 2016 NFL draft...if you buy into the potential of players such as wide receiver Corey Coleman and pass-rusher Emmanuel Ogbah.
Though the Browns went for a quantity-over-quality approach to the 2016 draft, they're still lacking in top-end talent. That could lead to a "best player available" approach, but this team needs a franchise quarterback. DeShone Kizer looks like a franchise quarterback.
The redshirt sophomore from Notre Dame has the arm, football IQ and poise from the pocket and on the move to be a worthy pick at No. 1 overall. He's young, so there is still room for failure that would push Kizer down the board, but right now, he looks like the best arm in college football and one heck of an athlete to complement it.
2. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: Quarterback Deshaun Watson, Clemson
While the San Francisco 49ers have bypassed a need at quarterback in recent drafts, it's time for general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly to pick "their guy" at the position.
It wasn't that long ago that the 49ers were playing in a Super Bowl and looking like a potential dynasty with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback and a powerful offensive line that was built through strong drafting. But that offensive line has broken apart through free agency, and Kaepernick may not be on the roster after the 2016 season.
The need for a franchise savior is big in San Francisco, and Deshaun Watson is the best bet that this draft class has to offer in early September.
Watson is a viable pass threat—especially deep down the field—and has the legs to make things exciting when he gets loose. There are concerns about his size (listed at 6'3", 215 lbs), but if he can cut down on his interceptions this season, Watson is explosive enough to be in the conversation for the top pick.
3. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: Edge Defender Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
In talking to NFL scouts this summer, no player in college football receives more praise than Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett.
The hype may be a little out of control as scouts head into their road schedule, but the talk about Garrett makes him sound like a cross between Jadeveon Clowney and Von Miller. Will he be a Clowney or Khalil Mack type, or is he Randy Gregory—a smallish pass-rusher who can't put on NFL weight—waiting to happen?
Garrett's pass-rushing production has been very good, but he's beaten up on lesser competition at times while struggling to perform against the top dogs in the SEC. With his athleticism and production, though, Garrett is another double-digit-sack season away from being a very early draft pick.
The Tennessee Titans have drafted well, but new general manager Jon Robinson doesn't have anyone on his roster like Garrett. After loading up on offense with Jack Conklin, Tajae Sharpe and Derrick Henry in 2016, Robinson can add a potentially terrifying pass-rusher in Garrett.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: Running Back Leonard Fournette, LSU
Leonard Fournette is arguably the best pure football player in college. As such, he should be a very early draft pick as long as he enters the offseason healthy after his junior season at LSU. The biggest question is how early can he go?
Fournette is special, and there may be teams in the top five willing to take a running back early—especially if Ezekiel Elliott, who Dallas selected fourth overall this past spring, has success this season. Based on his two seasons of work, Fournette is like Elliott with a little more power and breakaway speed.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't necessarily need a running back with Doug Martin and Charles Sims on the roster, but it would be difficult to overlook Fournette no matter who is filling out the depth chart. Fournette is an elite, generational talent and not the kind of player you pass on.
Pairing Fournette with Jameis Winston and Mike Evans would give the Buccaneers a trio that can help them win Super Bowls.
5. San Diego Chargers
The Pick: Safety Jamal Adams, LSU
A safety in the top five?! No, I'm not drinking. Jamal Adams is that good.
When I watch Adams on film, I see a cross between Eric Berry and Tyrann Mathieu. He's physical but has a great eye for the ball and enough size (6'1", 213 lbs) to be a threat matched up in man coverage against tight ends. Adams can also roam the middle of the field in Cover 3 and show off his range and burst when attacking the ball outside the hashes.
Players such as Jabrill Peppers at Michigan slightly overshadow Adams, but by season's end, he'll be the one scouts are talking about as a legit top-five player in this draft class. And for the San Diego Chargers, who let Eric Weddle walk, he's the answer to a secondary that's better but still lacks an elite playmaker.
6. Detroit Lions
The Pick: Hybrid Defender Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Running back. Cornerback. Return man. Safety. Linebacker.
Jabrill Peppers is the next great "do-it-all" defender in the college ranks. Some will compare him to a smaller Myles Jack. Others will tell you he's the next Deone Bucannon. For NFL teams, versatility and athleticism are always valuable, and Peppers will bring plenty of both with him to the pros.
The Detroit Lions may look at a running back such as Dalvin Cook here, but the chance to take an impact defender in the back seven is rare. Pairing Peppers with Darius Slay—the best cornerback in the NFL no one talks about—and promising nickelback Quandre Diggs would give the Lions a secondary that can round out what is becoming a threatening defense.
7. Buffalo Bills
The Pick: Edge Defender Carl Lawson, Auburn
It's tough to make any NFL draft predictions in September, but it's even more difficult when talking about the Buffalo Bills.
This is a make-or-break year for head coach Rex Ryan, and with Buffalo's first two draft picks (Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland) starting the year on injured reserve, it doesn't look good for the team's immediate future.
The Bills do well with the pieces in place when getting after the quarterback, but there isn't a dynamic three-down threat here. And if they make a change at head coach, the scheme may not produce or create as many sacks and hurries as Ryan's does. That's where Carl Lawson comes in.
Lawson is a blur off the edge, with great feet and hips and the length to stun blockers and rip free on his way to the quarterback. He did miss time in 2015 with a hip injury, but his production was excellent once he returned, and his potential is through the roof.
8. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)
The Pick: Defensive End Jonathan Allen, Alabama
After drafting a franchise quarterback with the first overall pick, the Browns can turn their attention to the defensive line with the first-round pick they gained by trading back in the 2016 draft.
Jonathan Allen is special. On the field, he's big enough (6'3", 294 lbs) to play both defensive end and defensive tackle, while he has the foot speed and quickness to chase down quarterbacks and make splash plays in the backfield. He's versatile, powerful and intelligent, able to read and react to the ball on the go.
Allen, Emmanuel Ogbah and Danny Shelton give Cleveland a foundation on defense to start competing in the AFC North.
9. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: Cornerback Jalen Tabor, Florida
The Miami Dolphins are building a solid unit on defense, and after adding Xavien Howard in the 2016 NFL draft, the talent and scheme could be scary good. Continuing to add young talent at the position will be key to keep this defense as one of the most promising in the AFC.
Jalen Tabor has the size (6'0", 191 lbs), skills and swagger to be a difference-maker on defense in his first season. He's an excellent man-coverage cornerback with the physical style of play to match up well at the line of scrimmage. Tabor does have some off-the-field concerns—he was suspended for Week 1 of the 2016 season and missed the Tennessee game last year because of a suspension. If "Teez" can keep his off-field issues in check, he could be a top-10 player come April.
10. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: Edge Defender Dawuane Smoot, Illinois
The Atlanta Falcons invested in a pass rush through the draft and free agency over the last few offseasons, but the roster talent is still lacking. That's why they continued to add players such as Dwight Freeney late in the process this summer.
There are a lot of high-profile pass-rushers in college football, and many will get top billing throughout the draft season, but Illinois' Dawuane Smoot isn't getting the recognition he deserves as a top-tier rusher.
Smoot—6'3", 265 pounds—has ideal edge-rusher athleticism and size. Unlike a Randy Gregory or Vic Beasley, he can hold up against NFL offensive tackles with power and speed. Smoot also uses his hands like a pro and is able to be a force on the edge even when he's the sole defensive player opponents are game-planning for.
11. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: Running Back Dalvin Cook, Florida State
Sean Payton has used dynamic, dual-threat running backs such as Reggie Bush and C.J. Spiller in the past, but he's never had a player like Dalvin Cook.
The New Orleans Saints still have Drew Brees, which will keep their window of success open, but by taking a page out of the Denver Broncos' book with Peyton Manning—or John Elway—they're starting to be built on a strong defense and big after-the-catch threats at receiver. Now all the Saints need is a big-play back.
Cook is in the mold of Jamaal Charles or even LaDainian Tomlinson. He's track-star fast and elusive in space, and he has enough power to get low and run past a tackler. Cook is already generating buzz from scouts who see him as a better version of Bush as a threat coming out of the backfield and in the return game.
12. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles)
The Pick: Cornerback Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
The Tennessee Titans are potentially building something special, and with two first-rounders in 2017, the front office can double-down and continue to add to a defense that is behind the offense in terms of talent.
Jordan Thomas isn't getting the pre-draft publicity of Jalen Tabor or Desmond King, but his play on the field in a pass-happy Big 12 will get noticed this fall. Thomas has the size (6'0", 192 lbs) and speed to recover once beaten. He does need some refinement in his steps when trailing in man coverage, but the junior cornerback's potential is through the roof. A strong season behind an Oklahoma front seven that took hard hits in last year's draft class will only bolster Thomas' draft stock.
13. New York Jets
The Pick: Running Back Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Running back or wide receiver? How about "offensive weapon"?
There will be many debates between now and the 2017 NFL draft about what position McCaffrey should play in the NFL, but that takes away from how impactful he can be as a runner, receiver and kick returner. Just like Tyrann Mathieu on defense, McCaffrey doesn't need a label to take over a game.
McCaffrey has the sweetest hips in college football, and he combines that with excellent vision, burst and an underrated power to his game. He would provide an instant impact in the New York backfield, giving the Jets a younger version of the free-agent back they signed in Matt Forte.
14. Houston Texans
The Pick: Tight End O.J. Howard, Alabama
The Houston Texans are building a roster with Super Bowl potential, and a key to keeping up that level of play will be adding new weapons on both sides of the ball. As Brock Osweiler becomes a franchise quarterback, giving him toys on top of the electric speed at receiver will be crucial.
O.J. Howard flashed his brilliance in last year's College Football Playoff National Championship when he went off for 208 yards on just five catches against Clemson. He decided to wait on the NFL with the idea that he would be a featured part of the Alabama offense in 2016. That could boost his draft stock, which has been based purely on potential until now.
Howard in the Bill O'Brien offense—with DeAndre Hopkins, Lamar Miller, Will Fuller and Braxton Miller—would give the Texans one of the most deadly offenses in football.
15. Chicago Bears
The Pick: Tackle Cam Robinson, Alabama
Cam Robinson is widely regarded as the best offensive lineman in college football. That's based on how he finished the 2015 season as the left tackle for the Crimson Tide offense and his considerable upside as an athlete and technician. Will it be enough to move him into the top 10, though?
Robinson has upside, but he has off-field questions as well. He was picked up this summer in a car with teammates in which a stolen gun and marijuana were found. He wasn't charged, but scouts have been whispering about the dreaded "character issues" that can move a player down boards.
Robinson would give the Chicago Bears a true left tackle of the future, but will straight-laced general manager Ryan Pace be willing to roll the dice on a prospect with off-field concerns?
The Pick: Linebacker Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
Washington general manager Scot McCloughan has to like what he sees when he turns on the Ohio State film and No. 5 is out there making plays. McCloughan was the general manager when Patrick Willis joined the San Francisco 49ers coming out of Ole Miss, and Raekwon McMillan has shades of that athleticism and instincts.
McMillan has rare skills at linebacker, and he would allow for maximum versatility on defense in Washington, given his ability to bounce between a 3-4 and 4-3 front. With McMillan behind an improving defensive line, the Washington defense could start to look like a contender with an already intimidating secondary.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: Defensive Lineman Malik McDowell, Michigan State
The Jacksonville Jaguars are loading up to a point where there aren't many holes on the roster. That leaves general manager Dave Caldwell and Co. in a position to select the best player available if they're drafting at No. 17 overall in 2017.
Malik McDowell isn't the biggest need for the Jaguars, but he would be a tremendous complement to newcomer Malik Jackson and 2015 first-rounder Dante Fowler Jr. With McDowell playing the role as a 1-technique gap-stuffing defensive tackle—and one that can get after the quarterback, too—the Jacksonville defensive line looks like one of the best in the league with an improved back seven anchoring a strong unit.
18. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: Edge Defender Tim Williams, Alabama
If edge-rusher Tim Williams can perform in 2016 like he did as a part-time-player in 2015, we'll be talking about him as a top-10 pick in next year's draft. As it stands now, he has the ceiling to be a highly ranked player come April, but he enters the draft season with questions about his ability to get to the quarterback without Jarran Reed and A'Shawn Robinson tying up blockers in front of him.
Williams has all the tools—athletically and in terms of upside—to entice former Alabama tight end and current Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. The Ravens are loaded with former Crimson Tide players, and Williams is another in a long line of talented linebackers and pass-rushers to come out of Nick Saban's defense.
19. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: Linebacker Jarrad Davis, Florida
When you turn on the 2015 Florida Gators game film, one player keeps popping off the screen and making plays. It wasn't first-rounders Vernon Hargreaves and Keanu Neal consistently dominating, nor was it Chicago Bears defensive end Jonathan Bullard. No. 40, Jarrad Davis, was the one all over the field making things happen.
Davis would be a plug-and-play starter for the Oakland Raiders defense, giving head coach Jack Del Rio a C.J. Mosley-like linebacker to anchor the middle of the 4-3 defense. Davis' range and instincts are top-tier for a college middle linebacker, and with his elite athleticism, he could be off the board well before pick No. 19.
20. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: Wide Receiver Mike Williams, Clemson
The No. 1 wide receiver on my big board last year at this time, Mike Williams is back from a scary neck fracture that ended his season in 2015 after Week 1. And boy does he look good.
Williams is big (6'3", 225 lbs) and has tremendous ability to attack the ball above the field. And unlike Martavis Bryant during his run at Clemson, Williams runs a complete route tree and has shown the hips and feet to throttle down and make the quick cuts rarely seen from bigger receivers.
Williams would be an amazing weapon for Tony Romo (or Dak Prescott) opposite Dez Bryant, giving the Dallas Cowboys a legit one-two punch as they transition to a younger, more fast-paced offense.
21. New York Giants
The Pick: Running Back Nick Chubb, Georgia
The New York Giants admitted that 2014 fourth-rounder Andre Williams wasn't a viable threat in the run game when they released him during roster cutdowns. The Giants' depth at running back is questionable, and they lack a back who threatens defenses consistently.
The addition of Paul Perkins shouldn't prohibit the Giants from going after a true bell-cow running back in Nick Chubb, who looked fantastic in his return from a knee injury that ended his 2015 season. Chubb looks like a young Frank Gore with his patience, body lean and vision between the tackles. Those traits, plus his ability as a receiver, would give the Giants a weapon in the backfield like they haven't had since Tiki Barber.
22. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: Edge Defender Charles Harris, Missouri
One of the best-kept secrets in college football right now is Missouri defensive end Charles Harris. And given the pipeline from Mizzou to the NFL, scouts and coaches will be taking notice of the athletic pass-rusher wearing No. 91.
The Indianapolis Colts continue to swing and miss on pass-rushers both in free agency and the draft. And no matter how good Andrew Luck and the offense look, the defense must improve for the Colts to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders. Adding a premier pass-rusher with legit NFL tools will go a long way to making that a reality.
23. Kansas City Chiefs
The Pick: Wide Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
The Andy Reid offense doesn't need a big-play wide receiver to thrive, but that didn't stop the Kansas City Chiefs from signing Jeremy Maclin two offseasons ago, and it won't stop them from falling in love with a weapon such as JuJu Smith-Schuster.
USC wide receivers don't have a great track record in the NFL, but scouts look at the player and not the helmet when making visits, and Smith-Schuster has pro tools that other Trojans before him lacked. He's a polished route-runner, for one, and he doesn't count on the scheme to get him open. He's also not playing for Lane Kiffin or Steve Sarkisian in a pass-happy offense that could find holes for just about anyone at wideout.
Wide receiver won't be the biggest need for the Chiefs—that could be another offensive lineman or a pass-rusher—but with the draft unfolding this way, it's a huge upgrade.
24. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: Cornerback Desmond King, Iowa
Desmond King, one of the best players in college football during the 2015 season, returned to college and looks to lead a talented Iowa defense with his ball-hawking ways. The next Chris Harris? That just might be King.
The Bengals have never had a great secondary, opting instead to pay defensive linemen and bet on scouting and drafting to roll out a solid cornerback group. One area where this team can improve even with the addition of William Jackson III in the first round of the 2016 draft is at cornerback. With Jackson on the outside and King looking like a shutdown nickel cornerback, this secondary becomes a massive strength in a division that is loaded at wide receiver.
25. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota)
The Pick: Cornerback Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
The Big 10 was loaded with cornerback talent in 2015, and Michigan's Jourdan Lewis was one of many looking at the NFL draft long and hard before deciding to return to school for another season. With more experience and another season under Jim Harbaugh, it shouldn't come as a surprise if Lewis finds himself in the first round of the 2017 draft.
With this pick, the Eagles can get back to finding fits at cornerback for Jim Schwartz's scheme. Lewis, with his zone-coverage ability and excellent eyes underneath, is an ideal match. He's also enough of a gambler and playmaker to be able to plant and drive on the ball when breaking on routes. Lewis' ability to flip the field and run in man coverage will make him an impact player immediately in nickel situations.
26. Denver Broncos
The Pick: Linebacker Reuben Foster, Alabama
The Denver Broncos don't have many holes on their roster, which makes predicting a Round 1 selection very tough in September.
The most likely need for the team will be continuing to get younger and more athletic on defense and the offensive line. Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey could be an option here, but replacing Danny Trevathan with a gap-stuffing linebacker from Alabama does more for the team right away.
Reuben Foster will be typecast as a traditional Alabama middle linebacker, but he has more range than Reggie Ragland did and is more of a total-field threat than many of the recent Crimson Tide 'backers have been. With his leadership and athleticism, Foster has a chance to be the top linebacker in the class.
27. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: Quarterback Brad Kaaya, Miami (Florida)
A potential top-10 pick in this draft class, Brad Kaaya doesn't have a logical fit on paper when looking at the teams selecting early in the first round, as many of them have invested in the position recently in top rounds. That leaves teams such as New Orleans and Arizona looking for "quarterbacks of the future."
Kaaya is the smartest current college quarterback I've encountered. He has become a master of Mark Richt's offense and is able to distribute the ball on point all over the field. A pro-style passer out of Miami, Kaaya has a chance to improve his draft stock with a new offense in place. Throw in his natural feel for the game and an uncanny ability to get into the right play call at the line of scrimmage, and Kaaya may have a Jared Goff-esque climb up the board if he improves his production with a shaky cast around him.
28. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: Tackle Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman does not care that the draft media at large thinks he needs to draft left tackles and re-sign his Pro Bowl cornerbacks. Gettleman does his thing and builds the team the way he thinks best, which is working pretty well for him.
The lack of talent on the offensive line will eventually—in theory—catch up to the Panthers, though. Cam Newton is a freak of nature and doesn't need the protection that a Tom Brady does, but that doesn't mean he should be exposed to more hits than needed. And while Michael Oher has impressed at left tackle, he cannot be viewed as a long-term answer.
Mike McGlinchey is a road-grader in the run game and has shown a smooth kick-step when asked to shadow in pass protection. In his first game replacing Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, against a fast Texas defense, McGlinchey stole the show with his ability to dominate at moving defenders out of the hole.
29. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: Defensive Lineman Carlos Watkins, Clemson
The Seattle Seahawks have undergone a transition in the past few seasons since winning the Super Bowl. What was once a roster dominated by young, cheap players is now a roster of eight or nine highly paid players (many in the secondary) and a quarterback who's good enough to carry the offense on his own. Can they win that way? We'll find out.
One must for general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll is to continue adding to the lines through the draft. Misses in that department and key losses through free agency have left the cupboard bare.
With Carlos Watkins, the Seahawks can get that Brandon Mebane-style defensive lineman to be a perfect complement to Michael Bennett and Frank Clark. Watkins is stout enough to stuff inside rushing lanes but has the quickness to get after it when the pocket breaks down.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: Tight End Jake Butt, Michigan
What do you do when Heath Miller retires? You wait a year and draft a player who could pass for his younger brother.
Jake Butt has more than college football's best name—he's a fantastic pro-style tight end with hands to exploit defenses over the middle and the frame to be a blocker in Jim Harbaugh's run-first offense. With his three-down ability, Butt may even overtake the more athletic O.J. Howard (Alabama) on draft boards.
The Steelers haven't traditionally drafted for need, but finding Butt sitting on the board at the end of Round 1 would be too good to be true as the offense transitions to life after Heath. Add a returning Martavis Bryant to a group featuring Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates and Markus Wheaton, and this is a corps of receivers that can win a Super Bowl with Ben Roethlisberger.
31. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: Edge Defender Devonte Fields, Louisville
Devonte Fields ended the 2015 season with 13 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in his final four games. This officially put him back on the map following his dismissal from TCU after he was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2012.
Fields has eye-popping talent, but he also missed most of the 2013 season with an injury and suspensions before finally being removed from the TCU team. He's been solid on and off the field since landing in Louisville—and he once again looks the part of a first-round pass-rusher—but teams must be willing to bet on the off-field as well as the on-field.
The Packers aren't known for taking risks with early draft picks, but general manager Ted Thompson has to eventually add a pass-rusher to the roster with a premium selection. Fields, lining up opposite Clay Matthews, would give Green Bay a young edge player with huge potential.
32. New England Patriots
The Pick: Wide Receiver Jehu Chesson, Michigan
Will the New England Patriots finally use a first-round-pick on a wide receiver? It's doubtful—in fact, Bill Belichick will likely trade this pick away or lose it in some kind of suspension—but a big-play receiver is where the Patriots should go in Round 1.
Jehu Chesson might not get great numbers in Jim Harbaugh's offense with an unsteady quarterback under center, but his athleticism and pro-readiness will make him more intriguing to NFL talent evaluators than many of the stat freaks in the Big 12. His 6'3" frame comes with big hands and the long arms needed to beat press coverage and take over when cornerbacks are in-phase.