2017 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Shrine Game
This week brings the Senior Bowl, the premier all-star game for graduating college prospects to flash their potential in front of NFL scouts and the media alike. Last week featured the other two major all-star games in the draft cycle: the East-West Shrine Game and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Neither of those games showcased many first-round prospects—though Fabian Moreau, a UCLA cornerback, could be a high selection pending his combine performance. But the draft world is ever-changing, and it shifts even more as the NFL postseason reaches its climax.
With just the Super Bowl left to play, the order of the first 30 selections has been decided. We'll go through the whole first round, mocking the best fit for every franchise as we see it today, to give you all a taste of what April might have in store for your teams and the league overall.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
Myles Garrett was college football's best pass-rusher in the 2014 freshman class, the 2015 sophomore class and the 2016 junior class. After recording 31 career sacks with the Texas A&M Aggies, Garrett made the right decision to declare for the 2017 NFL draft. There was little to nothing he could prove by returning for another college season.
The Cleveland Browns don't have a premium pass-rusher on their roster, but if you look at their recent moves, it's easy to see which direction they're going toward as a franchise. The Browns traded for former New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins during the regular season. They also drafted Emmanuel Ogbah in the second round in 2016 and claimed rookie Tyrone Holmes off waivers in September. All three players are incredibly athletic.
Cleveland seems to be looking for premier athletes at the linebacker level, and Garrett fits that mold. After the combine, he should be a lock for the first overall pick.
2. San Francisco 49ers: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
The San Francisco 49ers have the last head coach opening in the NFL, and that could play into their favor. If Kyle Shanahan, the league's hottest offensive coordinator, takes the job, they'll have an in-house quarterback guru.
Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer has the upside of a Jameis Winston-style passer, but his consistency just isn't there. Now, Kizer wasn't surrounded by the talent Winston had at Florida State, and like Kizer, Winston was a bit up and down in his sophomore season. But Kizer's name doesn't seem to be ringing like Winston's was at this time in 2015.
If Shanahan can iron out some of Kizer's game, the big-armed, mobile passer could be a $120 million quarterback by the time his first contract runs out. San Francisco just needs some sort of identity as a team right now.
3. Chicago Bears: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
A defensive line of Jonathan Allen, Eddie Goldman and Akiem Hicks could be the best young 3-4 line in the NFL. Allen, a hybrid player, can also line up as an edge-defender in nickel looks, 4-3 fronts and heavy personnel situations.
Allen's the type of player who can operate in a four-point stance or a two-point stance, and in today's NFL, that's incredibly important. Listed at 291 pounds, the top senior prospect in the country posted 28 career sacks and 44.5 career tackles for a loss in his days with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Now, he may just fall into the lap of the Chicago Bears. Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would love to match Allen's versatility with that of 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd and utilize those players alongside proven talents like Goldman and Hicks. It could be a major boost in Fangio's third year of rebuilding the Bears defense.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Dalvin Cook is a better overall running back than LSU's Leonard Fournette, who is incredibly explosive but lacking in creativity. In many ways, Fournette is the anti-LeSean McCoy.
Jacksonville needs to get better on the offensive side of the ball. Cook, who can make something out of nothing, would be a better immediate fit for the Jaguars, while Fournette could be better behind an offensive line of the Dallas Cowboys' caliber. But building that kind of line in the NFL is hard, which is why Cook should come off the board first.
At this point in the draft, Jacksonville should be looking for premier positions. It can't draft a quarterback, receiver, pass-rusher or cornerback because of recent investments, and there isn't an offensive tackle or true defensive tackle worth taking this high.
That really only means that Cook should be the choice here.
5. Tennessee Titans: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Heading into his third NFL season in 2017, Marcus Mariota has done extremely well for a young quarterback. But he continues to struggle in one area of his game: the deep ball. He never had a premier receiver at the University of Oregon, and his wideouts with the Tennessee Titans haven't been great, either.
If his deep passing is going to improve, it's going to have to come through practice, but throwing to non-threats downfield won't help him develop. After locking up their bookends last draft, the Titans, who have several high draft choices after trading the 2016 first overall pick, should focus on bringing in a top wideout.
In most timelines, Mike Williams would have declared for the draft in 2016. But after he suffered a season-ending neck injury at the beginning of the 2015 season, he had to return to Clemson for one more year.
It all worked out in the end. The Tigers won the College Football Playoff National Championship over Alabama, and Williams looked like a man among boys. He measures in at 6'3", 225 pounds, and he's projected to run the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, according to NFL Draft Scout.
6. New York Jets: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The New York Jets want to run an aggressive defense under head coach Todd Bowles. It's what he did as a defensive coordinator with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Jets have lined up creatively on defense, with players like Sheldon Richardson at inside linebacker, because their 3-4 outside linebackers don't frequently operate as true pass-rushers. They want to send the blitz, and that's fine, but it also means man coverage on the back end.
That is exactly why the Jets (and their division rival Buffalo Bills) had losing seasons in 2016. They simply did not have the horses in the secondary to run their desired schemes.
In all likelihood, Darrelle Revis, the Jets' All-Pro cornerback, should be cut. He's regressed a massive amount, he'll turn 32 before the next season and he has a horrible contract.
Cutting Revis would save the Jets $9.3 million in 2017, more than enough to replace his 2016 production, and over $30 million in the next three seasons combined. Last year, the New York Giants drafted Ohio State's Eli Apple, who helped revamp their defense. Maybe it's time that the Jets grab their own Buckeye cornerback in Marshon Lattimore, a sophomore who had four interceptions and nine pass breakups in his first and only year as a collegiate starter.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Back-to-back Buckeye defensive backs come off the board here. The Los Angeles Chargers hired Gus Bradley, formerly a defensive coordinator with the Seattle Seahawks and a head coach in Jacksonville, as their new defensive coordinator. Expect the team to roll with a Cover 3-heavy scheme in 2017.
That scheme demands two things: Length outside, as the cornerbacks tend to use the sideline as a friend, and a free safety who is a master center fielder. Los Angeles falls short there.
At cornerback, the Chargers have Casey Hayward (5'11") and Jason Verrett (5'10"). Not ideal.
They need a game-changer to fit Bradley's mold, and Malik Hooker of Ohio State, a true free safety, fits that mold well. In his one year as a true starter, Hooker recorded seven interceptions, returning three for touchdowns.
8. Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Carolina Panthers base their entire offense around their power run game. Their receivers aren't particularly talented, nor are their bookends, but they like to maul defenses with their interior offensive linemen and their big backs.
Unfortunately, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is turning 30 in March, basically a death sentence for modern NFL running backs. With that in mind, if Leonard Fournette of LSU does slip all the way down to the eighth overall pick, expect the Panthers to be his floor.
He's a perfect fit for their system. Trying to stop the inside zone option with Fournette, when quarterback Cam Newton has the potential to pull the ball and take off himself, would be a headache for any defense.
In three years at LSU, the New Orleans native scored 40 rushing touchdowns and nearly cracked the 4,000-yard mark—despite the fact that he left school a year early and recorded just 129 rushing attempts in the 2016 season.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Solomon Thomas, EDGE, Stanford
The Cincinnati Bengals are a homegrown franchise. They don't participate much in free agency, rivaling the Green Bay Packers in terms of their patient draft-and-develop style of team building.
With that said, they have developed some interesting trends over recent years. One of them is the size of their defensive ends. At the combine, Carlos Dunlap measured in at a quarter-inch under 6'6", Michael Johnson was an eighth of an inch from 6'7", Will Clarke measured in over 6'6" and Margus Hunt measured in at 6'8".
The Bengals seem to like bigger defensive ends, probably for arm length and the amount of weight those prospects can carry. A defensive end like Solomon Thomas, who is listed on NFL Draft Scout at a hair over 6'2", still checks those boxes, even if he doesn't stand tall.
Thomas is a redshirt sophomore who has been the best lineman in the Pac-12 over the last two seasons. The Stanford end even played in a nose tackle rotation while with the Cardinal, and his contributions in both the run and pass game shouldn't be questioned.
His only issue is that he has up-and-down tape, but his peaks are higher than anyone's in this class (other than Myles Garrett's). Over the years, the Bengals have shown they're not afraid to select long-term projects in the first round.
10. Buffalo Bills: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Buffalo Bills receiver Sammy Watkins, the team's 2014 first-round pick, has failed to meet expectations in the NFL, partly due to a slew of injuries. Odell Beckham and Mike Evans, both drafted after Watkins, have made themselves into household names. It's considered a win if Watkins even suits up for Buffalo on Sundays.
Robert Woods, Buffalo's most consistent receiver, is about to be a 24-year-old free agent and land a rich contract this offseason. Whether or not Tyrod Taylor is their starting quarterback heading into the 2017 season, the Bills need to invest at wide receiver soon.
Corey Davis of Western Michigan isn't a sexy prospect. He's not going to be Dez Bryant or Julio Jones, but Davis' consistency in college—in the Mid-American Conference and against Big Ten squads—was incredible to watch.
Davis is as close to a Brandon Marshall clone as you're going to get. If you told the Bills that they could get a 22-year-old Marshall, who had 5,278 receiving yards and 53 receiving touchdowns in his college career, they'd take that deal with the 10th overall pick.
11. New Orleans: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
One of the main reasons that the New Orleans Saints have been held back over recent seasons is the assets they've spent on safeties. If it wasn't drafting Kenny Vaccaro with a first-round pick, it was handing Jairus Byrd a record-breaking contract for the position.
Heading into the 2017 offseason, the Saints should prioritize parting ways with Byrd. His acquisition was one of their worst mistakes as a franchise, and they need to right it.
If Jamal Adams of LSU, a potential top-five pick, were available for the Saints at No. 11, he'd be a home run selection. He could have to play the role of an enforcer, but with Vaccaro's versatility, that should be a fine fit.
12. Cleveland Browns: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Cleveland Browns need a quarterback, and if they draft Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, they almost have to select a passer with the 12th overall pick. In this range, the two quarterbacks you'll see the most are North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky and Clemson's Deshaun Watson.
If the Browns put a premium on experience, it's going to be hard for them to ride with Trubisky, who only started for one season with the Tar Heels. On the other hand, Watson was a three-year starter, and he led his team to the national championship in back-to-back seasons.
Watson can bring the run-pass element that Hue Jackson sought when he signed Robert Griffin III, and he has about as much college experience as Cody Kessler had when the Browns drafted him in 2016.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Carson Palmer has regressed since suffering a finger injury in 2015. He went from an MVP candidate back to the form he displayed with the Cincinnati Bengals, and it happened in a hurry.
If the Arizona Cardinals want to start thinking about his replacement, they need to do it soon. After all, Palmer was in Madden games before these draft prospects were even in middle school. He's not getting any younger.
At this point in the draft, the Cardinals would really only have two options: select Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina, despite the fact that he's only started for one season, or take a flier on a player like Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech. Mahomes has some Derek Carr-Johnny Manziel style to his game, but he is as unrefined as you can imagine. At the end of the day, the more polished prospect usually comes off the board first, and it seems like Trubisky's floor will be in this range on draft weekend.
14. Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Indianapolis Colts just fired their general manager, Ryan Grigson, after he headed five drafts for the franchise. When you look at his resume, only one name stands out: Andrew Luck.
Luck was the first overall pick, a slam dunk selection in 2012, and he's met expectations so far in his career, even if his team hasn't. After loading up with receivers in prior years, the Colts may want to turn their attention to the offensive line, where they still struggle, especially considering Luck's aggressive style of play.
There are maybe three offensive line prospects who are worth a traditional first-round grade in this draft, and Ryan Ramczyk of Wisconsin is one of them. He's a powerful left tackle who has declared for the draft early after transferring from a lower level of competition.
If the Colts want to start trending in the right direction, they have to build around Luck. If they want to be the AFC's Atlanta Falcons, an offense-heavy team that can make up for defensive flaws with speed in a dome stadium, they need to do what the Falcons did this past offseason: lock in their offensive line.
15. Philadelphia Eagles: John Ross, WR, Washington
The Philadelphia Eagles have a huge talent issue at wide receiver. Yes, they spent high picks on Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews, and, yes, they traded for 2015 second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham last preseason. But that doesn't mean that they're talented.
Under a new staff, none of these decision-makers have to lose their good name because of poor personnel choices in the past. The Eagles should be in the market for a receiver, particularly one who can pair well with Carson Wentz's deep ball.
The Eagles originally lost their 2017 first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns, who gave them the 2016 second overall pick that led to Wentz, but they recovered a 2017 first-round selection when the Minnesota Vikings traded for their old quarterback, Sam Bradford. Through all the team's shuffling over the years, one of the worst decisions it made was letting wideout DeSean Jackson go.
Like Jackson, John Ross of Washington is an undersized-but-productive receiver from the West Coast. He may run a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, showcasing a trait that the Eagles so desperately need right now.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
The present of the Baltimore Ravens pass rush is Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs. The future is yet to be determined.
NFL pass-rushers are the second-highest-paid players in the sport, trailing only quarterbacks for the top contracts. In a deep pass-rushing class, expect Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome to pounce on a falling talent with the 16th overall pick.
Derek Barnett, who left college football with the record for most sacks in a three-year career, would make as much sense as any pick here. Barnett's game at Tennessee was a bit built around his ability to jump the snap in front of 100,000 screaming fans. But he can bend consistently, if not explosively, and consistent is the mantra of Baltimore's franchise.
17. Washington Redskins: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
For all the weapons that Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins had with the Redskins last season, he didn't have a consistent running back. With the likes of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson potentially hitting the open market and the future of tight end Jordan Reed uncertain due to health issues, it might be time for the team to add one.
After Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Leonard Fournette of LSU, the next biggest prospect at running back is Christian McCaffrey, the Stanford weapon in the mold of a Reggie Bush. McCaffrey not only has the feet of a zone back and experience in a power scheme, but he can catch passes out of the backfield, too. He would give Cousins yet another valve in the passing game.
McCaffrey can also immediately contribute as a returner on special teams. He's about as versatile as you can get on the offensive side of the ball. You saw what the Green Bay Packers offense looked like before and after the addition of Ty Montgomery in the backfield. McCaffrey could give Washington its own Stanford chess piece.
18. Tennessee Titans: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
At some point, talent means more than draft need. The Tennessee Titans, who run a 3-4 defense, can get away with the talent they have at the linebacker level right now. But Reuben Foster would be a huge get for them.
If you look back through all the Alabama Crimson Tide linebackers under head coach Nick Saban, there are plenty of players who hovered around All-American lists. With that being said, no Alabama linebacker was as polished, promising and healthy as Foster is heading into the draft.
Foster can play any off-the-ball linebacker role in the NFL, which would give Tennessee flexibility in how its safeties and box align pre-snap. After adding a first-round receiver with the fifth overall pick in this mock draft, the Titans are making the most out of house money.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: David Njoku, TE, Miami
If you look back at how Jameis Winton threw the ball at Florida State, he loved using his tight ends. If you watch him in the NFL, you spot an issue: He doesn't have talent at the tight end position.
A few years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent a second-round pick on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington. But after a few off-field incidents, the team cut ties with him. If Tampa Bay wants to target an upside tight end, this is the draft to do it, as both David Njoku of Miami and O.J. Howard of Alabama are players who can make a difference at the next level.
Njoku is one of the hotter prospects in the draft community. No one had him pegged as a potential first-round pick heading into this season, but he's clearly showed his worth as an underclassman. He's not the blocker that Howard is, but Njoku has rare athleticism for the position, even if he is a little undersized.
20. Denver Broncos: Jabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan
When you think about the Denver Broncos' run over the last few years, their success boiled down to one factor: talent on the defensive side of the ball. It didn't matter if it was a Malik Jackson defensive lineman or a Von Miller pass-rusher or an Aqib Talib defensive back making plays, they had enough talent on defense that someone would stand out every single game.
You need to be balanced and disguise your intentions on that side of the ball, which is why talent matters so much. A defense is only as strong as its weakest link, which differs from the offensive side of the ball (other than at offensive line).
If the Broncos want to take the most talented player left on the board, it might be Jabrill Peppers of Michigan. Peppers went to Ann Arbor as a cornerback recruit, failed to prove himself in coverage and transitioned into an overhang linebacker-safety hybrid while also returning kicks. If Denver can let him loose, like it has with its other premier talents, the team might have another Pro Bowler on its hands.
21. Detroit Lions: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
The Detroit Lions need to either improve their running game or their defense this offseason. The Lions relied on quarterback Matthew Stafford way too much in 2016, and their season came crashing down with one injury to his hand.
They shouldn't be willing to live and die off the performance of one player. On the defensive side of the ball, they allowed the highest completion percentage in the NFL in 2016. Thus, even with a career year from Stafford, the Lions still lost some quarterback duels.
They need to add a big-name cornerback, and this is a deep class for the position. The first player that comes to mind here is Sidney Jones of Washington, who left Seattle with nearly as much talent as Marcus Peters and none of the off-field issues. If Jones is available after the top 20, the Lions should be excited about finding a plug-and-play cornerback to line up opposite Darius Slay.
22. Miami Dolphins: Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
Cameron Wake and Mario Williams are aging, Dion Jordan (former No. 3 overall pick) is a virtual unknown and Andre Branch's development looks questionable after his 2016 season. It's time for the Miami Dolphins to start thinking about their pass-rushers of the future.
If they want to invest in a long-term project with plenty of upside, the easiest decision is Takkarist McKinley of UCLA. McKinley runs like DeMarcus Ware, though he has some inconsistent pad-level issues.
He's a junior college transfer, so he's only had top coaching for a few years, but he's also a senior at just 21 years old. After initially accepting a Senior Bowl invite, McKinley will not be at the game this week, though he would have been one of the best prospects in attendance.
23. New York Giants: Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan
Jason Pierre-Paul is a free agent, and I don't think anyone knows what that means. Should the New York Giants sign him to a long-term contract after he played through a "prove it" deal? It's possible, but no one will fault them for whatever decision they make.
One thing is certain, though: The Giants completely revamped their defense between 2015 and 2016, and it was mostly because of their pass defense. If they do let Pierre-Paul, who at this point is best known for his firework incident, walk, they need to figure out what to do opposite Olivier Vernon.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa didn't get much work on the outside this season, and the likes of Romeo Okwara isn't going to get it done in the playoffs, evident in New York's loss to the Packers.
One intriguing player to keep in mind is Taco Charlton of Michigan, as the Giants have trended toward heavier pass-rushers for around a decade. Charlton really came on in the second half of the season, standing out against Ohio State and Florida State in some of the Wolverines' biggest games of the year.
For his size, he has an interesting spin move and can burst off the line of scrimmage well. He doesn't quite look like a young Everson Griffen, but he's in that ballpark as a prospect. If a first-round pass-rusher leaves your building, you need to replace him. The position significantly tiers off after the first round, similar to the quarterback position.
24. Oakland Raiders: Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
Last year, the Oakland Raiders were the Detroit Lions with a running game or the AFC's Atlanta Falcons. They were able to score points, but you could score on them, too.
Their main focus moving forward has to be improving their talent level on the defensive side of the ball, and there is no position more shallow in Oakland than cornerback. When you bomb on a corner like D.J. Hayden, that's just the natural fall of the other shoe. While the Raiders did add corners Sean Smith and David Amerson last offseason, they also gave up the most passes of 20-plus yards in the league in 2016 so they still need to take some action at the position.
Tre'Davious White of LSU was a four-year starter with the Tigers. After a disappointing junior season, he decided to return to school for one more year. As a senior, he rebounded, and he should be a borderline first-round pick, assuming his projected measurements in height (over 5'10 ½”) and speed (sub-4.50 40-yard dash) check out.
25. Houston Texans: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
When a team decides its big-money passer isn't the franchise's future, that quarterback's role can completely change. Look at how Colin Kaepernick was used at the beginning of the 2016 season. Look at how Robert Griffin was used in his last year in Washington. Look at how Tyrod Taylor was used at the end of this past season with Buffalo.
If a team doesn't want you, but it can't get rid of you quite yet, it'll lock you in a room for a year so it can get out of your contract. Unless Brock Osweiler, for whatever reason, decides to leave money on the table, that could be the situation he's in next season.
If the Houston Texans want to go after a high-upside passer who can develop as a second-string quarterback while Osweiler runs scout team safety looks, their top option will be Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech.
Mahomes has the mobility and arm strength of an Aaron Rodgers-like passer, and he's the most talented quarterback to come out of the state of Texas since Griffin left Baylor. He's nowhere close to starting duties in the NFL, considering his backyard style of play coming out of an Air Raid offense, but Texans head coach Bill O'Brien has won a lot of games with quarterbacks who had less potential. It's finally time for him to draft and develop a passer for the Houston fanbase.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Tom Cable just can't seem to develop an offensive tackle in Seattle. With rumors that the Seahawks will lose a second-round pick after covering up an injury to cornerback Richard Sherman this season, per ESPN's Chris Mortensen, they may only have one chance to draft a starting tackle in a weak offensive line class.
If Cam Robinson of Alabama is still on the board, he's an instant selection. Robinson was the best freshman tackle in 2014, the best sophomore tackle in 2015 and the best junior tackle in 2016, though his effort has been an issue.
When he wants to be dominant, he is. He just needs a competitive atmosphere, and no locker room fits that requirement better than Seattle's. Cinderella, meet glass slipper.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Yes, the Kansas City Chiefs already have Travis Kelce, but in 2017, you can build an offense around a two-tight end system. We know that Chiefs head coach Andy Reid doesn't want to air the ball out, at least with Alex Smith under center, so why not pair Kelce with another hybrid blocker/pass-catcher?
O.J. Howard never was Lane Kiffin's favorite toy at Alabama, but the tight end is a freak athlete with his best football ahead of him. Howard is also a top run-blocker, which is how he was used most often with the Crimson Tide.
You can't say that pairing Kelce and Howard wouldn't shake up the AFC—just months ago, the New England Patriots scared the whole conference by trading for Martellus Bennett to line up with Rob Gronkowski.
At the end of the day, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey does a great job of acquiring elite talent at the top of drafts, and Howard fits that mold.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
Anything is possible under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The Dallas Cowboys locked up the first seed in the NFC despite lacking serious talent in their front seven heading into the season.
Marinelli, with a background in defensive line play, was able to make something out of freak athletes Maliek Collins and David Irving by the end of the year. If Marinelli can get his hands on a talent like Charles Harris of Missouri, he could make him into a Pro Bowler.
Harris has incredible burst off the line of scrimmage and a spin move to complement his speed. He's a fluid athlete who has only been playing football since his junior year of high school—a near self-made pass-rusher whose arrow is only pointing up.
Dallas needs a difference-maker on the edge, and Harris could be its top pass-rusher since DeMarcus Ware left for Denver.
29. Green Bay Packers: Malik McDowell, DL/EDGE, Michigan State
Under no circumstances did the Green Bay Packers want to get out of their nickel defense this season. Even against Dallas in the playoffs, when the Cowboys used a tight end and an extra lineman, the Packers continued to run their 4-2 front.
They use two players in a hybrid outside linebacker-defensive end role, and both Julius Peppers and Datone Jones are slated to hit free agency. On top of that, outside of their two nose tackles and Mike Daniels, the team doesn't have many options for true 3-4 defensive linemen.
Everyone plays some sort of 3-4 and 4-3 defense in 2017, but the Packers just didn't have enough quality big bodies to play base defense down the stretch. That's a massive problem.
A player like Malik McDowell of Michigan State, listed at 6'5" and 276 pounds according to NFL Draft Scout, would be a nice addition to the team. Imagine a more athletic DeForest Buckner, but coming about 20 picks later than Buckner was drafted last season.
Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson loves to draft athletic bodies on the line of scrimmage, and one will almost surely fall into his lap this class.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn
Bud Dupree of the Pittsburgh Steelers came along in the second half of his second NFL season, but the Steelers still need to find someone to pair opposite him for when 38-year-old James Harrison walks away. Carl Lawson of Auburn would be a starting caliber 3-4 outside linebacker the moment he joined the Steelers roster.
Lawson gave Laremy Tunsil, now with the Miami Dolphins, and Cam Robinson, who might be the first offensive lineman selected in this draft, huge issues while with the Tigers. Lawson may be a tweener type of pass-rusher, but at worst, he's Brandon Graham at the next level. That ceiling is much higher than usual in this range of the draft.
A dominant pass rush is something you build championship runs around, and the Steelers are one piece away from making that run.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Tim Williams, EDGE, Alabama
Adrian Clayborn struggles to stay healthy. There isn't a large enough sample size to claim if Derrick Shelby can be a starter in Atlanta. Dwight Freeney is going to turn 37 years old next month.
That's the status of the Falcons pass-rushers opposite of Vic Beasley as it stands today. If Tim Williams, one of the most efficient edge-defenders in college football, drops to Atlanta because of his size—the same reason Beasley fell into head coach Dan Quinn's lap—expect the Falcons to pull the trigger.
Quinn's Cover 3-heavy scheme is built around a zone defense and a four-man pass rush. Williams, about as close to a Bruce Irvin clone as you're going to get, could go a long way for the future of the squad.
32. New England Patriots: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Left tackle Nate Solder is only locked into a roster spot in New England through the 2017 season. On the offensive line, you can play your best five by mixing and matching at positions.
If the Patriots want to make a forward-thinking move, something head coach Bill Belichick tends to do, then they could draft Garett Bolles of Utah with the plan of easing him into the blindside bookend role for 2018.
Bolles, a hot riser in the draft community, is a bit of a redemption story as a 24-year-old junior. In his one season in the FBS, after transferring as a junior college prospect, he earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors. Bolles could be a top-10 pick, depending on how his draft cycle plays out, and it would be a very "Patriots move" for New England to acquire him at the end of the first round.