NFL Mock Draft 2017: 1st-Round Predictions as Free Agency Officially Begins

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 04: Quarterback Deshaun Watson of Clemson looks on during day four of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 4, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As the dominoes begin to fall during the legal tampering window for free agency, teams can pin down their draft needs for April. Furthermore, the prospective 2017 rookie group put on a collective show through four days at the NFL Scouting Combine. Where do clubs stand on the biggest names within the new rookie class?

With the No. 1 overall pick, there's immense pressure on the Cleveland Browns. Why? The front office hasn't handled top-10 picks well over the past few years.

The Browns' top-10 picks from 2012-14 didn't pan out. Running back Trent Richardson, linebacker Barkevious Mingo and cornerback Justin Gilbert have all worn the bust label. Last year, Cleveland traded out of the No. 2 spot and missed out on Carson Wentz, who flashed potential as a franchise quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2016 season.

As the laughing stock of the league, the Browns simply can't miss in April. Who will they draft at No. 1 to lead the franchise into the future? 

Consequently, the Browns' choice will affect teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and New York Jets who will probably start a new quarterback in the upcoming season. 

We'll take a look at the draft predictions as free agents fish for lucrative deals on the market.

NFL Mock Draft—Round 1
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersSolomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
3Chicago BearsJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
4Jacksonville JaguarsJamal Adams, S, LSU
5Tennessee Titans (via Rams)Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
6New York JetsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
7Los Angeles ChargersMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9Cincinnati BengalsSidney Jones, CB, Washington
10Buffalo BillsJohn Ross, WR, Washington
11New Orleans SaintsTeez Tabor, CB, Florida
12Cleveland Browns (via Eagles)Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
13Arizona CardinalsGareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
14Philadelphia Eagles (via Vikings)Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
15Indianapolis ColtsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
16Baltimore RavensDalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
17Washington RedskinsMalik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
18Tennessee TitansMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersJabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
20Denver BroncosCam Robinson, OT, Alabama
21Detroit LionsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
22Miami DolphinsHaason Reddick, LB, Temple
23New York GiantsO.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
24Oakland RaidersZach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
25Houston TexansCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
26Seattle SeahawksGarett Bolles, OT, Utah
27Kansas City ChiefsMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
28Dallas CowboysTaco Charlton, DE, Michigan
29Green Bay PackersChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
30Pittsburgh SteelersEvan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
31Atlanta FalconsTre'Davious White, CB, LSU
32New England PatriotsRyan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

Browns Select Myles Garrett at No. 1

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 05: Defensive lineman Myles Garrett of Texas A&M participates in a drill during day five of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Edge-rusher Myles Garrett could follow Von Miller's mold as a fellow Texas A&M alum. If so, it's a good start for another rebuild in Cleveland. Despite solid combine workouts, none of the quarterbacks in this year's draft deserve the top slot. There's no point in reaching when a top-three passer in the class will likely be available with the No. 12 overall pick.

During the combine, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller reached a definitive conclusion about the Browns' selection choices:

Matt Miller @nfldraftscout

If I'm the #Browns, Myles Garrett's name is already on the card with pick No. 1.

Matt Miller @nfldraftscout

Passing on Myles Garrett is how the Browns would stay "the Browns". No brainer. I'm not answering more questions about this.

The Browns need to stack talent, and they could acquire a potentially exceptional player in Garrett. His tape and combine numbers vault him above the rest within the 2017 draft class. When paired with edge-rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, opposing quarterbacks would have to respect Cleveland's pass rush.

Ideally, front offices want a No. 1 pick to provide an immediate impact. The quarterbacks in the draft would all benefit from holding the clipboard for a year on the sideline. The Texas A&M star can wreak havoc in Week 1.


Deshaun Watson Leapfrogs Mitchell Trubisky at No. 6

Remember when Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney dubbed quarterback Deshaun Watson as the Michael Jordan of this year's group?

Well, the New York Jets need more than a few transcendent players to speed up the rebuilding process. General manager Mike Maccagnan should add the most polished passer of the bunch.

For a few weeks, some draft analysts pegged Mitchell Trubisky as the top prospect at quarterback, but the Jets should go with proven production over potential. Watson proved that he's not overwhelmed by the big stage.

The Clemson signal-caller rushed for 1,734 yards and 21 touchdowns over the past two years. The Jets will reconstruct their offensive line. As a dual-threat quarterback, Watson has a built-in escape route if his pass protection falters during the jelling period.

Barring an unforeseen occurrence, the Jets have already missed out on quarterback Brian Hoyer, who agreed to terms with the San Francisco 49ers, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Source: FA QB Brian Hoyer is headed to the #49ers. Reunion with Kyle Shanahan

According to Rapoport on NFL Network's Good Morning Football, another veteran option, quarterback Mike Glennon, seems locked in with the Chicago Bears. Adding Watson creates a legitimate competition at quarterback for training camp. Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg and the Clemson product would all compete—may the best quarterback win the starting job.

Panthers Keep Pounding with Leonard Fournette

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 03: Running back Leonard Fournette of LSU runs with the ball during a drill on day three of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 3, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Leonard Fournette ran a 4.51 40-time at 240 pounds at the combine, which displayed his uncanny speed for a violent runner his size. Despite impressive performances from running backs Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey, the LSU product fits the Carolina Panthers' identity as a grinder who can continuously pound the ball. 

As a whole, the Panthers offense took a step backward with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin back in action after missing the 2015 season with a torn ACL. The rushing offense stumbled at times, finishing No. 10 in the previous season. During Carolina's run to the Super Bowl, the ground attack ranked No. 2 and the offense listed as the top-scoring unit in the league.

Running back Jonathan Stewart, who turns 30 on March 21, hasn't started a full 16-game season in his nine-year career. In an attempt to alleviate pressure off of quarterback Cam Newton, the Panthers have an opportunity to add a running back who can handle 20-plus carries per game and wear down opposing defenses.

Stats provided by NFL.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.