2017 NFL Mock Draft: Post-Pro Bowl Projections for 1st-Round Prospects

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2017

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers celebrates after throwing a 2-yard game-winning touchdown pass during the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide to win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game 35-31 at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Pro Bowl may be a glorified exhibition that's crammed between the conference title games and Super Bowl, but it is notable an NFC-best six Atlanta Falcons and four New England Patriots were named to the initial rosters.

It isn't a mystery that teams with the best players often find themselves battling for the Lombardi Trophy, and that is once again the case this season. The best hope for those franchises pursuing New England and Atlanta is to land some future Pro Bowlers in the upcoming draft to counter the likes of Tom Brady and Matt Ryan.

With that in mind, here is a look at a complete mock first round for the 2017 draft, as well as a breakdown of which skill-position players will be taken first.

2017 NFL Draft Mock First Round
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersMitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
3Chicago BearsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
4Jacksonville JaguarsJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
5Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)Jamal Adams, S, LSU
6New York JetsMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
7Los Angeles ChargersMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9Cincinnati BengalsSolomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
10Buffalo BillsMike Williams, WR, Clemson
11New Orleans SaintsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
12Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia Eagles)Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
13Arizona CardinalsCorey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
14Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)*Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
15Indianapolis Colts*Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
16Baltimore RavensMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
17WashingtonJabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
18Tennessee TitansJohn Ross, WR, Washington
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersJuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
20Denver BroncosRyan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
21Detroit LionsSidney Jones, CB, Washington
22Miami DolphinsO.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
23New York GiantsTaco Charlton, DL, Michigan
24Oakland RaidersZach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
25Houston TexansDeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
26Seattle SeahawksGarett Bolles, OL, Utah
27Kansas City ChiefsTakkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
28Dallas CowboysMalik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
29Green Bay PackersGareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
30Pittsburgh SteelersTim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama
31Atlanta FalconsForrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
32New England PatriotsChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
*coin flip


Which Quarterback Will Be Selected First?

The quarterback position always generates headlines leading up to a draft, and this year's race to be the first signal-caller selected is a three-way battle after dark-horse candidate Josh Allen returned to Wyoming.

North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky threw for 3,748 yards and 30 touchdowns this season and has the necessary athleticism (five rushing touchdowns in 2016) to escape pressure and create throwing lanes, where his strong arm will then take over.

Clemson's Deshaun Watson is the trending name because he dominated Alabama with 420 passing yards, 43 rushing yards and five total touchdowns in the Tigers' 35-31 win in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

The Heisman Trophy finalist tallied 4,593 passing yards, 629 rushing yards and 50 total touchdowns in 2016 and is the best dual-threat quarterback in this draft.

Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer was seen as a top-notch prospect for much of the 2016 season, but the Fighting Irish's 4-8 campaign—and the rise of Trubisky and Watson—took some of the luster away.

Despite the record, he still has the physical makeup of an NFL quarterback, as Luke Easterling of USA Today described: "He's got ideal size, arm strength and athleticism, and it doesn't take long to see all three on film. He can make every NFL throw, and his ability to make plays with his legs when the pocket breaks down will only add to his value at the next level."

Kizer will be a good value pick late in the first round, but the race to be first among these three players is between Watson and Trubisky.

It is a close call, but the fact Trubisky had just six interceptions this season to Watson's 17 (with superior weapons) will make the difference. The San Francisco 49ers will give the nod to the quarterback who made fewer mistakes this season, even if Watson is the national champion.


Which Running Back Will Be Selected First?

Teams in need of running backs will be looking for the next Ezekiel Elliott, and that pursuit will turn into a two-man battle between LSU's Leonard Fournette and Florida State's Dalvin Cook.

Fournette battled through injuries and didn't match Cook's 2016 numbers (843 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns for Fournette; 1,765 rushing yards, 488 receiving yards and 19 rushing touchdowns for Cook), but he burst onto the scene in 2015.

Fournette used his power and athleticism to post 1,953 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground in 2015 and generated discussions about whether he should even play for LSU in 2016 because he was such a sure-fire NFL prospect.

Cook's biggest advantage here is his receiving ability, which will help him develop into a three-down back in the pass-happy NFL. He is also explosive in the open field in his own right and has the talent to challenge for Rookie of the Year regardless of his landing spot.

Still, Fournette's sheer power and ability to pick up yards between the tackles will make the ultimate difference in which goes first.

Easterling painted an enticing picture for talent evaluators: "Fournette's combination of speed, power and explosiveness is arguably the best in NFL draft history. At his size, it's incredible how quickly he can accelerate and explode into the secondary, leaving defenders grasping for air in his wake."

He will be doing that for the Carolina Panthers in 2017.


Which Wide Receiver Will Be Selected First?

There is a theme with many of the top-notch wide receiver prospects—a combination of size and athleticism.

Clemson's Mike Williams (6'3"), Western Michigan's Corey Davis (6'3") and USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster (6'2") can all outleap defenders in the red zone or run past them in the open field.

Williams recently wowed in the title game against the NFL-caliber defenders of Alabama with eight catches for 94 yards and a score, often outleaping Crimson Tide defenders for passes that were up for grabs. He finished the 2016 campaign with 1,361 receiving yards and 11 touchdown catches.

Davis tallied 1,500 receiving yards and 19 touchdown catches in 2016 and helped lead Western Michigan to the Cotton Bowl. He, like Williams, is a red-zone threat with his height but made a living off blowing past defenders with precise route running at the collegiate level.

Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell described Davis' ability, per the Associated Press (h/t USA Today): "I see it on a daily basis, he's the real deal. Anybody that doubts that, just look at the highlights."

Smith-Schuster is also 220 pounds and can outmuscle defenders for contested catches. He posted 914 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches in 2016 after notching 1,454 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches in 2015.

The one exception to the size rule here is Washington's John Ross, who checks in as a 5'11" vertical threat more than a red-zone weapon. He finished 2016 with 1,122 receiving yards and 17 touchdown catches behind game-changing speed. He was also versatile enough to serve as a kick returner at times.

NFL teams can't go wrong with any of these pass-catchers, but Williams' final performance against many of the defenders they are also looking at will stick in the minds of talent evaluators as the draft approaches.