2017 NFL Mock Draft: Early 1st-Round Predictions for Top Prospects

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2017

SYRACUSE, NY - NOVEMBER 19:  Dalvin Cook #4 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates a touchdown run during the game against the Syracuse Orange on November 19, 2016 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Florida State defeats Syracuse 45-14.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The storylines seem endless with draft season underway. 

For instance, the battle at quarterback continues to heat up between Mitch Trubisky, DeShone Kizer and others. There are also seemingly unlimited options when it comes to defensive backs, thanks to a superb class. The same cannot be said for the offensive line.

With the playoffs in the past, all eyes are focused on the draft, which brings an ever-changing stock market and countless storylines fans might have a hard time digesting.

Below, let's take a look at an updated mock draft based on team need and prospect value before examining some of the slots most impacted by major stories.


2017 Draft Order and Projections

1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersMitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
3Chicago BearsDeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
4Jacksonville JaguarsSolomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
5Tennessee Titans (from LA)Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
6New York JetsMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
7Los Angeles ChargersRyan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9Cincinnati BengalsMalik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
10Buffalo BillsJamal Adams, S, LSU
11New Orleans SaintsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
12Cleveland Browns (from PHI)Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
13Arizona CardinalsMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
14Indianapolis ColtsDalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
15Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
16Baltimore RavensMike Williams, WR, Clemson
17Washington RedskinsJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
18Tennessee TitansJabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
20Denver BroncosTeez Tabor, CB, Florida
21Detroit LionsTaco Charlton, DE, Michigan
22Miami DolphinsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
23New York GiantsTim Williams, LB/DE, Alabama
24Oakland RaidersQuincy Wilson, CB, Florida
25Houston TexansRaekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
26Seattle SeahawksGarett Bolles, OT, Utah
27Kansas City ChiefsDan Feeney, OG, Indiana
28Dallas CowboysAdoree' Jackson, CB, USC
29Green Bay PackersSidney Jones, CB, Washington
30Pittsburgh SteelersDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
31Atlanta FalconsCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
32New England PatriotsChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Author's projections

Philadelphia and Indianapolis will flip a coin for Nos. 14 and 15 at the NFL Scouting Combine.


1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Sorry, Myles Garrett.

The defensive end apparently doesn't want to play for the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately for Garrett, this is a draft, and he is the best player available—so a video posted by ESPN featuring him asking the Dallas Cowboys to trade up and draft him might be a funny storyline, but it is a moot point.

The Browns aren't in a position to take anybody other than the best player available at the top of the draft. This is easily Garrett, who looks like one of the best pass-rushing prospects to enter the pros in years.

Excerpts of a conclusion penned by NFL.com's Lance Zierlein say it all:

Elite edge rusher who possesses rare explosiveness and the fluid-movement skills and agility of an NBA shooting guard. ... However, his ability to explode into the backfield through a gap or around the edge gives him disruptive potential on every snap. Garrett still needs to fine-tune his pass-rush strategy and could stand to give more consistent effort from the start of the snap until the whistle. But his pass-rush production and athletic traits point toward an all-pro career. 

Garrett, listed at 6'5" and 270 pounds, is a freak athlete who can contribute right out of the gates as a rookie. But as Zierlein notes, Garrett's ceiling could easily have him playing like one of the best players in the league.

It's a much-needed area of improvement for Cleveland, following a year in which the team tallied only 26 sacks. A centerpiece like Garrett gives the team a foundation to build around, beginning with the No. 12 pick a bit later in the first round.


14. Indianapolis Colts: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Another interesting tidbit making the rounds is the ballooning stock of Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.

According to 104.3 The Fan's Cecil Lammey, the Carolina Panthers have an interest in McCaffrey at No. 8.

While McCaffrey is a great prospect, overlooking Florida State's Dalvin Cook would be a disservice.

Cook, who comes in at 5'11" and 213 pounds, will remind some of a pro such as LeSean McCoy, thanks to his shifty ability to leave would-be tacklers grasping at air. It's the biggest reason he tallied huge numbers over three seasons with the Seminoles:


Cook is a big-play threat every time he has his hands on the ball, which makes him a perfect complementary back alongside someone such as Frank Gore of the Indianapolis Colts.

Gore keeps chugging along as perhaps one of the most underrated players of his generation. This past year, he ran for 1,025 yards and four touchdowns at the age of 33. But his versatility and a lack of a strong complement hurt the offense, which led to Andrew Luck dealing with injuries while suffering 41 sacks over 15 games.

If the Colts are serious about surrounding Luck with quality talent, getting him a superb every-down back is a big step in the right direction.


30. Pittsburgh Steelers: David Njoku, TE, Miami

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 5: David Njoku #86 of the Miami Hurricanes looks up at the fans after scoring a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Panthers on November 5, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Mimi defeated Pittsburgh 51-28. Phot
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

O.J. Howard's standing as the top tight end in the 2017 class is the third interesting storyline addressed here. 

Howard is incredible, and any simple search will find him at the top of most positional draft boards. But his shadow extends in such a giant way that it completely overshadows quality prospects such as Miami's David Njoku.

Njoku has a little bit of everything, though his tremendous upside is his most appealing attribute. A big-bodied target at 6'4" and 245 pounds, the junior was a vertical threat who turned 43 catches into 698 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

The biggest knock on Njoku is blocking, though as FanRag's Joe Marino pointed out, it often goes overlooked how well he actually did in that facet of the game:

Joe Marino @TheJoeMarino

Miami TE David Njoku is a better blocker than credited for. Desire & technique is good, just needs more strength. Good in space/laterally.

The Pittsburgh Steelers need an NFl-ready, pass-catching talent at the position. It wasn't too long ago that Ben Roethlisberger would spam the ball to Heath Miller with great success.

Last season, though, Big Ben didn't get much of anything out of the position. Jesse James was the top player at the spot and finished fifth on the team in receiving with 338 yards and three touchdowns.

Call it the perfect fit. The Steelers will ask Njoku to do exactly what the offense missed last year: stretch defenses in a vertical manner and make big plays. Not a bad deal at No. 30, as Howard will perhaps clog the spotlight to make the pick possible.


Stats courtesy of NFL.com. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.