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NFL Mock Draft 2017: Predictions for NCAA's Most Coveted 1st-Round Prospects

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2017

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Jonathan Allen #93 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tackles Myles Gaskin #9 of the Washington Huskies during the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Hearing one's name called at the NFL draft is the dream of just about every collegiate football player. Not only does it mean a chance at professional glory awaits, it creates a sense of accomplishment for the many years of hard work, studying and sacrifice.

The 2017 draft is set to kick off on April 27. When it does, 32 former NCAA stars are going to hear their names called on opening night. This is something of which we can be certain. What we don't know is exactly which 32 players it is going to be.

We're here, of course, to make our predictions based on what we know so far. The draft picture will undoubtedly become clearer after the scouting combine and pro-day workouts, but we still have a fair amount of information now.

We'll be running down the current draft order and making our predictions based on factors like projected player potential, team needs and team fit. We'll also take an in-depth look at some of our top projections.

    

2017 NFL Mock Draft

Round 1
Pick #NFL TeamProj. Selection
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
3Chicago BearsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
4Jacksonville JaguarsJamal Adams, S, LSU
5Tennessee Titans (from LAR)Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
6New York JetsMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
7Los Angeles ChargersReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9Cincinnati BengalsJabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan
10Buffalo BillsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
11New Orleans SaintsSolomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
12Cleveland Browns (from PHI)Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
13Arizona CardinalsMike Williams, WR, Clemson
14*Indianapolis ColtsRyan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
15*Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
16Baltimore RavensDalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
17Washington RedskinsChris Wormley, DL, Michigan
18Tennessee TitansQuincy Wilson, CB, Florida
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersCharles Harris, OLB, Missouri
20Denver BroncosForrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
21Detriot LionsDawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
22Miami DolphinsTeez Tabor, CB, Florida
23New York GiantsO.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
24Oakland RaidersDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
25Houston TexansMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
26Seattle SeahawksDan Feeney, OG, Indiana
27Kansas City ChiefsJohn Ross, WR, Washington
28Dallas CowboysTaco Charlton, DE, Michigan
29Green Bay PackersSidney Jones, CB, Washington
30Pittsburgh SteelersCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
31Atlanta FalconsTakkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
32New England PatriotsJarrad Davis, LB, Florida
*Order to be determined by coin flip

1. Myles Garrett to Cleveland Browns

Texas A&M pass-rusher Myles Garrett appears to be a near-lock to be the first overall player selected in this year's draft. He's definitely made it clear that this is the position in which he wants to be drafted.

“I just want to go No. 1 and be the best player in the draft and the best in the league for years to come," Garrett recently explained in an interview with Alex Marvez of the Sporting News and co-host Gil Brandt on SiriusXM Radio. "It doesn’t matter who I'm with. I'd love to play for the Browns. I'd love to play for anybody who picks me No. 1. But my goal is just to go No. 1 and have a successful career."

While there's no guaranteeing that Garrett can have a successful pro career—especially if the Cleveland Browns are involved—he certainly would make sense for Cleveland at No. 1.

The Browns are in dire need of talent all across the roster. Garrett can bring a load of it to the defensive side of the ball and to the pass rush, which was lacking in 2016. Pro Football Focus rated Cleveland just 26th in pass rush for the season.

With the Browns' hire of Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator, the team is likely to switch to a more 4-3 look, and Garrett could certainly help provide a base for the transition. In fact, the only way the Browns probably don't take Garrett No. 1 overall is if they fall in love with a quarterback or trade the pick away before draft weekend.

2. Jonathan Allen to San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers are in a position similar to the Browns in the fact that they are devoid of playmaking talent all across the board. This is why adding an elite defender like Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen makes a lot of sense for the rebuilding franchise.

As is the case with Garrett and Cleveland, Allen could anchor a new-look defense in San Francisco.

The 49ers recently hired their new defensive coordinator, former Jacksonville Jaguars linebackers coach Robert Saleh. This is likely to precipitate a significant defensive shift for the 49ers.

“Robert Saleh is as smart as anyone I’ve been around,” Shanahan said on the "Murph and Mac Show" on KNBR. “He studies everything. He knows a lot of different systems, but he knows the true Seattle-Atlanta-Jacksonville system inside and out, as much as anybody I’ve been with."

According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, Saleh's system will feature a modified 4-3 base look:

Matt Barrows @mattbarrows

Shanahan says Robert Saleh will run a Seattle-like 4-3 (with a five guys on the line of scrimmage, fifth being the SAM lb. (Ahmad Brooks)).

Allen has the talent and the physical requirements to help make a 4-3 front work for San Francisco. He could anchor the interior of the line on early downs and switch to the edge on long downs. In fact, Allen has so much potential that some believe he could even be selected first overall ahead of Garrett.

"Either Jonathan Allen, the defensive tackle from Alabama, or the big defensive end Myles Garrett from Texas A&M," NFL Media's Mike Mayock said of the first pick on NFL Network's Total Access. "I think Garrett affects the game on the outside. I think Allen affects the game on the inside."

Unless the 49ers feel they absolutely have to grab a quarterback, they can sit tight here and grab one of the two best defenders in the draft.

     

3. Deshaun Watson to Chicago Bears

With Garrett and Allen going first and second, this leaves the Chicago Bears with their pick of quarterback—presuming the Bears choose to move on from Jay Cutler. Right now, I have Clemson's Deshaun Watson ahead of North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky, so I'm pairing Watson with the Bears here. 

If the Bears are going to move on from Cutler, they're going to want a quarterback with grit, leadership skills and physical upside. Watson possesses all of these qualities, plus he's managed to shine on the biggest stages of his career.

The argument against Watson—and, really, all of the quarterbacks in this class—is that he isn't NFL ready. However, at least one person who has watched Watson up close believes otherwise.

Former North Carolina defensive coordinator Gene Chizik recently spoke with Stewart Mandel of FoxSports.com about Watson and Trubisky. Chizik obviously had exposure to Trubisky, and his team played Watson and the Tigers in the 2015 ACC title game.

While Chizik had positive remarks for both quarterbacks, his analysis of Watson was intriguing:

When the ball kicked off, he was [a] fierce competitor, tough as boots, wiry—I thought he made some great tight window throws. He is going to make somebody a fantastic NFL quarterback. Dak Prescott is kind of what I see Deshaun being, a guy that comes in, he’s a football guy, he picks it up well and becomes successful early in his career.

It's probably a bit premature to be predicting Prescott-like rookie success since, you know, no one could have predicted Prescott's success a year ago. However, if Watson really can grasp the NFL game as a rookie like Prescott did, the Bears should be quick to pounce at No. 3.

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