2017 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for 1st-Round Prospects After Free Agency Day 1

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2017

Free agency altered the draft outlook for big names like Christian McCaffrey.
Free agency altered the draft outlook for big names like Christian McCaffrey.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The first day of free agency altered the outlook for the 2017 NFL draft more than a week's worth of action at the NFL Scouting Combine did.

Sounds dramatic, right? Except some of the league's biggest names, from Stephon Gilmore to A.J Bouye to Alshon Jeffery and beyond found new homes. Even Brock Osweiler's name came up one year after he signed a deal with the Houston Texans—the team decided to ship him to the Cleveland Browns, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

As a nice supplement to foundation pieces acquired in the draft, a flurry of moves seemed the obvious outcome for teams looking at a deep free-agent class at certain spots and a draft class with obvious weaknesses on the way.

With the list of needs for each team altered and a domino effect created each time a projected pick changes, it is a great time to take another look at a mock draft.


2017 Draft Order and Projections

1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersMitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
3Chicago BearsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
4Jacksonville JaguarsSolomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
5Tennessee Titans (from Rams)Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
6New York JetsMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
7Los Angeles ChargersJamal Adams, S, LSU
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9Cincinnati BengalsMalik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
10Buffalo BillsMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
11New Orleans SaintsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
12Cleveland Browns (from Eagles)O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
13Arizona CardinalsDeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
14Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings)Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
15Indianapolis ColtsJohn Ross, WR, Washington
16Baltimore RavensMike Williams, WR, Clemson
17Washington RedskinsJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
18Tennessee TitansMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersQuincy Wilson, CB, Florida
20Denver BroncosGarett Bolles , OT, Utah
21Detroit LionsTakkarist McKinley, OLB/DE, UCLA
22Miami DolphinsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
23New York GiantsTim Williams, LB/DE, Alabama
24Oakland RaidersTre'Davious White, CB, LSU
25Houston TexansPatrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
26Seattle SeahawksCam Robinson, OT, Alabama
27Kansas City ChiefsDan Feeney, OG, Indiana
28Dallas CowboysSidney Jones, CB, Washington
29Green Bay PackersForrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
30Pittsburgh SteelersDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
31Atlanta FalconsCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
32New England PatriotsObi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Author's projections.


Breaking Down Free Agency's Biggest Areas of Impact

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Going into free agency, the Los Angeles Chargers needed to find a way to get serious about surrounding franchise quarterback Philip Rivers with better talent. The veteran didn't miss time last year, yet took a beating, suffering 36 sacks.

Few expected the team to be in contention for a serious upgrade in the offensive trenches when the market opened.

Alas, there were the Chargers Thursday, agreeing to a deal with Russell Okung, a veteran formerly of the Denver Broncos according to ESPN's Josina Anderson. Okung ranked as the No. 44 tackle in football last year at Pro Football Focus, which is higher than the three names the Chargers had on the list, so he's an obvious boon along the line and makes Rivers' life easier in the short term.

Okung's arrival also opens things up at No. 7, where the team can now take the best player available. The honor in the above scenario goes to LSU's Jamal Adams, arguably the best defensive back in the draft.

At 6'0" and 214 pounds Adams is an enforcer and leader while touting unlimited upside. Look at a description put forth by NFL Network's Mike Mayock, captured by the Northwest Herald's Kevin Fishbain:

Adams is a major upgrade at a premium position and the team team certainly needs it after Dwight Lowery and Adrian Phillips came in graded at 44th and 79th among safeties last year at PFF, respectively.

After years of futility, the Chargers made a smart move in grabbing an elite veteran stopgap to build the roster elsewhere.

12. Cleveland Browns (from Eagles) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Few teams won like the Browns did Thursday.

Other than swinging the Osweiler trade—he's not the quarterback of the future; the team just wanted to buy a draft pick—the Browns struck gold with the market's best guard, former Cincinnati star Kevin Zeitler, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The team also got some some insurance at wideout, grabbing veteran Kenny Britt, according to Adam Caplan of ESPN.

In other words, the Browns can still go for the best player available at both No. 1 and No. 12, barring any further major moves. 

In the above scenario, after grabbing the draft's best player in Myles Garrett, the Browns secure Alabama's O.J. Howard at No. 12.

Howard might be the safest prospect in the draft overall as a pro-ready tight end at 6'6" and 251 pounds who can move all over the field. He has sure hands and performs well as a blocker.

It's important to note Howard never ascended to household-name status because the Alabama offense simply doesn't employ tight ends in a major way. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein worked this into his summary:

Howard has struggled to live up to hype that has come with his play-making ability while at Alabama, but some scouts put the blame on the staff and scheme. He has elite athletic traits and raw talent, but must add polish to go along with those attributes. Should become substantially more productive as a pro, but the difference between "potential weapon" and "elite tight end" will likely be tied to his desire and overall football character.

Though the Britt signing was a smart move, the Browns continue to leak talent like Terrelle Pryor Sr. and running back Isaiah Crowell, provided they don't return.

Howard is a nice remedy to the situation. The team figures to break in a new quarterback one way or another in 2017, so a massive target who can reliably bail out a starter and move the chains is a great investment.


14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz orchestrates one of the scariest offenses in the NFL.

After watching wideouts struggle to catch passes for a year, the Eagles got serious about the position. The front office signed speedster Torrey Smith to stretch defenses vertically, a move the team announced.

Far from content with the rebuild at the spot, the team then grabbed Alshon Jeffery to gobble up the targets on underneath work, per ESPN's Josina Anderson.

Call it the perfect scenario on paper. Smith and Jeffery line up on the outside, and Jordan Matthews moves to his preferred role in the slot. Wentz, barring a slump, shouldn't have any problems. 

With the biggest need out of the way, the Eagles can focus on another problem area while upgrading an already strong-outlook offense: running back.

Stanford's Christian McCaffrey is the obvious choice. He feasted at the combine, turning heads with a 4.48 40-yard dash, a 37.5-inch vertical and a blazing 6.57 seconds in the three-cone drill, confirming he's an ideal modern NFL back who excels as a rusher and, perhaps more importantly, as a receiver.

Unleashing McCaffrey in Philadelphia's offense is almost unfair to defenses. Units have three major problems to worry about on every down without watching for McCaffrey to line up all over the field as a wideout or sneak out of the backfield for opportunities.

For Wentz and the Eagles, though, it's the perfect rebuild around the most important position of all.


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