There's still time before Super Bowl LI marks the official end of the 2016 NFL season on Sunday. However, it's never too early to look ahead to the offseason.
This is especially true when talking about the NFL draft. In fact, a cursory internet search will reveal plenty of information and predictions for next year's draft.
We're here to talk about the 2017 draft, however. We've been able to learn about a number of draft prospects over the past couple of weeks. Though we'll learn even more at the NFL Scouting Combine, recent events like the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl have given the draft world something to chew on.
We're going to take what we've learned in order to try to predict the first round of April's draft. We'll base our choices on factors like a player's potential and team needs. In addition, we'll examine some of the top draft-related storylines heading into Super Bowl Sunday.
A couple of quick notes about the draft order, though. We're not predicting the New England Patriots will win the Super Bowl; we're simply going by record for the final two draft slots in Round 1. We're going in alphabetical order for Nos. 14 and 15, as a coin toss will determine those slots because the Indianapolis Colts and Minnesota Vikings finished with identical records and no definitive tiebreakers.
2017 NFL Mock Draft
|NFL Mock Draft: Round 1|
|Pick||NFL Team||Proj. Selection|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|3||Chicago Bears||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama|
|5||Tennessee Titans (from LAR)||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|6||New York Jets||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Jabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from PHI)||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame|
|14||Indianapolis Colts||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|15||Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|17||Washington Redskins||Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Charles Walker, DT, Oklahoma|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|20||Denver Broncos||Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin|
|21||Detroit Lions||Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois|
|23||New York Giants||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Teez Tabor, CB, Florida|
|25||Houston Texans||Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana|
|32||New England Patriots||David Njoku, TE, Miami|
Browns Interested in Garoppolo
The Cleveland Browns are in need of a quarterback. That statement shouldn't come as a shock to anybody. It is worth noting the Browns own the first overall pick in this year's draft—along with the 12th overall selection—and can therefore have their pick of rookie signal-callers.
According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, however, the Browns are interested in acquiring New England Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo:
Sources say the Browns' interest in Garoppolo is real and that they'll try to trade for him depending on how their draft evaluations go over the next five weeks or so. If the Browns decide to draft Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson in the first round, they'll be much less likely to pursue the Patriots' backup—but wouldn't rule it out.
Garoppolo has just six quarters of NFL starting experience under his belt, but he was impressive during that brief window. Pro Football Focus ranked him 20th among all quarterbacks for the 2016 regular season.
If the Browns were to acquire Garoppolo before the draft, they may not be interested in taking a quarterback at the top of Round 1, which would bode well for teams potentially looking to bolster the position, like the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2 or Chicago Bears at No. 3.
If another team falls in love with one of the rookie signal-callers, the Browns might want to consider trading out of the No. 1 slot before making a move for Garoppolo.
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Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis is expected to be one of the top offensive prospects in the 2017 draft. The speedy wideout racked up an impressive 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns on 97 receptions in 2016.
Pro Football Focus ranked Davis third among all collegiate wide receivers.
Unfortunately, teams may not get a proper up-close look at Davis before the draft. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the pass-catcher recently underwent ankle surgery and will be unable to run at the combine:
The good news is that the recovery period isn't expected to be lengthy, and Davis should be available to practice shortly after the draft.
The better news—at least for Davis—is that teams are already aware of the kind of talent Davis possesses, according to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah:
Teams may not need to see the wideout at the combine to understand what he is capable of.
Malik Hooker Also Has Surgery
Davis wasn't the only potential first-round prospect to undergo surgery ahead of Super Bowl Sunday. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Ohio State safety Malik Hooker underwent surgery to repair a core muscle and a separate labrum procedure:
Hooker is one of several quality defensive prospects who could go in Round 1. He finished the 2016 season with 74 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, four passes defended, seven interceptions and three defensive touchdowns.
Pro Football Focus ranked Hooker 29th among all collegiate safeties in 2016.
As is the case with Davis, it doesn't appear the injuries will keep Hooker out of action for long. While he won't be able to strut his stuff at the combine, he should be available by training camp.
Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller doesn't believe the procedures will affect Hooker's draft stock:
While Hooker's stock might not be affected, it could force teams to focus on other defensive backs during the combine. This, in turn, might uncover a hidden gem or raise the profile of another player who may have otherwise been overlooked.
Consider this notion a silver lining for the teams that aren't lucky enough to land Hooker.