We're just about to enter combine week, which means we'll soon know more about how NFL teams actually view this year's crop of draft hopefuls.
The 2017 NFL Scouting Combine is set to kick off on February 28, it is expected to feature 330 invitees. While not every rookie prospect is going to take part in drills, most will participate in measurements, interviews and testing.
Once the combine is complete, we'll have a better idea of how players measure up physically, which quarterbacks are shorter than advertised, which receivers possess small hands and which prospects with checkered pasts have adequate explanations for their actions.
Until then, we can only judge these players on their collegiate performances—which might seem like the most important factor but often is not.
Taking what we do know now, we're here to make our projections for the first round in April's draft. We'll be running down the current draft order and making our picks based on factors like projected player potential, team needs and team fit. We'll also examine the latest draft-related news heading into the scouting combine.
2017 NFL Mock Draft
|Pick||NFL Team||Proj. Selection|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama|
|3||Chicago Bears||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|5||Tennessee Titans (from LAR)||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|6||New York Jets||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from PHI)||Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|14*||Indianapolis Colts||Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin|
|15*||Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)||Jabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|17||Washington Redskins||Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri|
|20||Denver Broncos||Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky|
|21||Detroit Lions||Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Teez Tabor, CB, Florida|
|23||New York Giants||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|24||Oakland Raiders||David Njoku, TE, Miami|
|25||Houston Texans||Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Sidney Jones, CB, Washington|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA|
|32||New England Patriots||Tim Williams, LB, Alabama|
|*Order to be detemrined by coin flip|
Njoku to Raise Stock at Combine?
Miami tight end David Njoku is considered one of the top two tight ends—along with Alabama's O.J. Howard—available in this draft and a potential first-round pick. However, a strong combine could potentially lift Njoku into the top half of the first round as a potential game-changing offensive weapon.
This is something Mike Renner of the Chicago Tribune fully expects to happen.
Renner named Njoku as one of five players he expects to "dominate" the combine, and he wrote the following:
The first time I watched a Miami game this season, I just assumed number 86 for the Hurricanes was a wide receiver. It wasn't until later I discovered he was actually a 6-4, 245-pound tight end David Njoku. Getting mistaken for a wideout usually bodes well for a tight end's athleticism. He may very well put up wide receiver-type athletic numbers at the combine while at the same time having an ideal tight end frame.
Njoku put up some impressive numbers at Miami this past season—amassing 698 yards and eight touchdowns. Yet his stock could really skyrocket after teams and scouts get an up-close look at his speed, athleticism and size.
NFL teams love guys who can create mismatches on offense. Once teams realize what Njoku is capable of, someone early in the draft is likely to covet his mismatch potential.
Watson Still Unsure Where He'll Land
Given the presence of quarterback-needy teams early in the first round of the draft, former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson could wind up as one of the top prospects taken in April. However, the reality is that he simply has no real clue where he might land at this point.
"I'm hearing that. First round, anywhere in that range, top 10, top five, just depends on what the teams say," Watson said recently, per Associated Press sportswriter Stephen Hawkins. "It's something I can't control. I just make sure I can control what I can control. Stay positive."
The fact that Watson isn't quite sure how high he'll go is likely behind his decision to fully participate in next week's combine. He'll need to alleviate concerns about his size and his ability to make throws in the pocket while showing teams his leadership qualities and football IQ.
If Watson doesn't quite measure up at the combine, his stock could realistically push him to the bottom of Round 1 or even further.
I currently have Watson as the first quarterback off the board, but this projection hinges largely on a satisfactory combine performance. I believe teams will be comfortable with Watson's ability to make throws from the pocket and to dissect the play board.
This, I believe, will be enough for a team to fall in love with Watson, given his proven performance on the biggest stages of the collegiate world.
Could Cleveland Fall in Love With Kizer?
I have the Cleveland Browns taking North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the 12th overall pick in this mock, but CBS Sports draft expert Dane Brugler believes that Cleveland could fall in love with a different quarterback.
Brugler recently visited with Zack Meisel and Doug Lesmerises of the Take By the Lake podcast and said the following:
I personally think that guy would be DeShone Kizer. Maybe I'm way off, but with what Kizer brings to the table.... A guy that just turned 21 years old, he's built for the AFC North. He's built to take punishment, he's an Ohio guy, he's played in the elements his entire career. What he did as a freshman was really impressive.
Brugler goes on to point out that Kizer lost his left tackle, top six receivers and a top running back this past season, so perhaps we shouldn't hold his 2016 struggles against him so much.
Kizer's stock will very much depend on how he performs at the combine, in private workouts and in interviews over the next two months. If he can outperform the likes of Trubisky and Watson over that span, he might not even make it to the 12th overall pick.