The draft looms over much of the offseason when it comes to player decisions and roster moves, but it truly comes to the forefront during the NFL Scouting Combine.
Now that the 40-yard dashes, interviews and tests have largely been conducted, the front offices around the league can start finalizing some of their draft boards and preparing for the difficult decisions that are sure to come in April.
With that in mind, here is a look at a first-round mock as well as a breakdown of some of the top prospects who will be available.
|2017 Mock Draft|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|3||Chicago Bears||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|5||Tennessee Titans (from L.A. Rams)||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|6||New York Jets||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)||DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|14||Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota)||Teez Tabor, CB, Florida|
|15||Indianapolis Colts||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|17||Washington||Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama|
|18||Tennessee Titans||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|20||Denver Broncos||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|21||Detroit Lions||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA|
|23||New York Giants||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Sidney Jones, CB, Washington|
|25||Houston Texans||Garett Bolles, OT, Utah|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||David Njoku, TE, Miami|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Ryan Ramcyzk, OT, Wisconsin|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Charles Harris, DE, Missouri|
|32||New England Patriots||Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State|
Top Projected Picks
Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Cleveland Browns went 1-15 in 2016, so there are plenty of needs and weaknesses to address in this draft. While quarterback talk will garner plenty of headlines, the Browns have the No. 12 overall pick to still land a signal-caller and won't take one at No. 1.
Cleveland's pass rush was largely nonexistent last season, as it finished 30th in the league in total sacks with just 26. For comparison, J.J. Watt has reached 20.5 sacks by himself in two different seasons through his career.
The Browns were also an abysmal 30th in the league in points allowed per game and need plenty of help on the defensive side.
Enter Texas A&M's Myles Garrett.
According to Sports-Reference.com, Garrett tallied 31 sacks and 47 tackles for loss in three collegiate seasons. He has an explosiveness off the snap that can wreck an opposing passing game and is also solid against the run. He can use his speed to pursue ball-carriers in the backfield and from sideline to sideline.
Garrett is also ridiculously athletic, as the NFL illustrated from his combine performance:
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com praised a "Wicked, whirling, dervish inside spin move that's reminiscent of Dwight Freeney's."
Even the mere chance that Garrett could be the next Freeney makes this a straightforward No. 1 pick for Cleveland.
San Francisco 49ers: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
It is a new era for the San Francisco 49ers after they went 2-14 in 2016 and fired head coach Chip Kelly.
Kyle Shanahan will take Kelly's place after helping lead the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl as offensive coordinator. Quarterback Matt Ryan won league MVP in Shanahan's system, and the coach will need a building block at the position in San Francisco to turn around a dreadful offense.
The 49ers finished 27th in points per game and dead last in passing yards per game in 2016 with a group that was not exactly reminiscent of the glory days with Joe Montana and Steve Young.
While it would be unfair to ask Mitchell Trubisky to replicate said glory days from the start, he will provide San Francisco with a potential franchise quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick.
He notched 3,748 passing yards and 30 touchdown throws in his one full season at starter for North Carolina and is comfortable setting his feet in the pocket and delivering downfield. He is also athletic enough to escape pressure and either make plays with his legs (five rushing touchdowns in 2016) or find receivers on the move.
Trubisky's college coach, Larry Fedora, described exactly what San Francisco is likely looking for when asked about his quarterback, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com:
Mitch Trubisky will be the face of somebody's organization and he will make them proud. He will never embarrass them. He's as solid a person as there is. He's the kind of person you would want to be the face of your organization and he's a program-changer. Somebody's going to be able to build around him and have that piece of the puzzle. And at that level, that piece of the puzzle is extremely important.
Trubisky will be asked to be that piece of the puzzle if he goes No. 2.
Chicago Bears: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Like the other teams on this list, the Chicago Bears need stability under center. However, none of the options will be enticing enough at No. 3, especially after the 49ers select Trubisky with the previous pick.
Chicago will bolster the pass rush with this pick even though it was a solid 12th in the league in total sacks in 2016.
Injury issues for Pernell McPhee, Leonard Floyd and Eddie Goldman in 2016 left the front seven vulnerable, and Alabama's Jonathan Allen will provide some needed depth for a defensive unit that was a disappointing 24th in the league in points allowed per game even with the decent sack totals.
Chris Emma of CBS Chicago made the case for Allen from the Bears' perspective:
Bears general manager Ryan Pace must be intrigued by Allen’s potential. He’s the kind of dynamic pass rusher whose consistency off the edge showed with each game at Alabama. The coaching from Nick Saban’s staff has his technique ready for the next level.
Ever since Pace took office as Bears general manager, he has made it an emphasis to build the defense starting up front. With Eddie Goldman at the nose and Akiem Hicks on one end, the Bears can become ever better defensively with Allen’s presence.
Allen was one of the featured pieces of an Alabama defense that finished first in the nation in total sacks, yards allowed per game and points allowed per game. The 2016 SEC Defensive Player of the Year notched 22.5 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss in just the last two years, per Sports-Reference.com.
Allen boasts the physical strength to steamroll through the middle and the athleticism to attack off the edge. He can engage multiple blockers at once and open up blitzing lanes for teammates, which would immediately bolster a Chicago defense that struggled last year.