As we enter the second wave of NFL free agency, the flurry of signings has begun to slow. This means that while a lot can and will still happen between now and the 2017 draft, we have a fairly good idea of where teams will stand going into draft weekend.
Teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears appear to have found their quarterbacks, at least for the short term. Teams like the Cleveland Brown and New York Jets? Well, the nice way to put it would be that they're still weighing their options.
The New England Patriots, meanwhile, are looking to maximize the final years of their quarterback's career, and have traded out of the first two rounds entirely to do so.
Let's take what we've learned through the first wave of free agency and apply it to the upcoming draft. We're going to run down the current draft order and make our projections for each pick based on factors like player potential, team needs and team fit. We'll also examine the latest draft-related storylines heading into the second week of free agency.
2017 NFL Mock Draft
|Pick #||NFL Team||Proj. Selection|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|3||Chicago Bears||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|5||Tennessee Titans (from LAR)||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|6||New York Jets||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Haason Reddick, LB, Temple|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from PHI)||Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|14||Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|15||Indianapolis Colts||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|17||Washington Redskins||Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Jabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan|
|20||Denver Broncos||Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky|
|21||Detroit Lions||Takkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Teez Tabor, CB, Florida|
|23||New York Giants||David Njoku, TE, Miami|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
|25||Houston Texans||Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana|
|32||New Orleans Saints (from NE)||Budda Baker, S, Washington|
Sidney Jones Could Be in Store For Huge Slide
Former Washington cornerback Sidney Jones was expected to be one of the top defenders taken in this year's draft. However, as we all now know, Jones suffered a significant leg injury over the weekend at his pro day.
A torn Achilles for Jones means that he likely faces a significant recovery period. Returning to the playing field in 2017 might not be possible, and it could be quite some time before Jones is again close to 100 percent.
For a cornerback this is a major issue.
According to NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah, the confirmation of a torn Achilles could cause Jones' stock to drop dramatically—possibly as much as two rounds.
"I hate it for Sidney Jones," Jeremiah said, per Chase Goodbread of NFL.com. "I think he was a lock to be a top-20 pick," Jeremiah said. "Because of depth at the position and with the injury, I'd be surprised if he went before the third round."
Of course, it would only take one team willing to take a risk for Jones to go relatively high. Former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a torn ACL and a torn LCL in his final collegiate game. Yet, the Dallas Cowboys still decided to gamble on him with the 34th overall pick in the draft.
The downside is that if no team is willing to gamble on Jones' recovery, he might not even be taken before the final day of the draft. Former Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was widely considered a first-round prospect before he suffered a torn ACL shortly before the end of his senior season.
The Browns took a flier on Ekpre-Olomu in the seventh round.
Jets Interested in McCown?
The 49ers and Bears have found their bridge quarterbacks in Brian Hoyer and Mike Glennon, respectively. The Buffalo Bills may be using Tyrod Taylor as their own bridge quarterback after agreeing to a restructured contract.
The Jets might be looking to make a similar move this offseason as well.
According to Connor Hughes of NJ.com, the Jets are considering bringing in former Browns (and Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, etc) quarterback Josh McCown. Hughes admitted that it's unclear if the Jets are truly interested in McCown or if they're just "kicking the tires."
It wouldn't be a shock to see New York bring McCown into the fold for at least the 2017 season. The team showed at least marginal interest in McCown back in 2015, before he signed with Cleveland.
Given the fact the Jets have two young and unproven quarterbacks on the roster in Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, a veteran like McCown could be a big asset. McCown seems to have no problem filling the mentor role.
He said the following last offseason, per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
My expectation is to come into work and be available and be ready to do whatever’s asked of me. If that’s to bring along a draft pick and to start until that guy’s ready, then I’m willing to do that. If that’s to go the full 16, I’m excited about doing that. If that’s to help that guy as he takes over, whatever my role, whatever’s asked of me, I’m just here to win football games.
While the Jets might not draft a signal-caller this year, at least early, the team doesn't lack for inexperienced quarterbacks. If McCown is still willing to do whatever is asked of him, he might be a better fit for the Jets than a guy like Jay Cutler or Colin Kaepernick.
Role Still Undefined for Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill Peppers did a lot of different things during his time at Michigan. He played linebacker, he played safety, he ran the ball, he returned kicks. Given his size (5'11", 213 pounds) and lack of a defined role, it's unclear exactly how teams plan to use him at the next level.
Peppers participated in both linebacker drills and defensive back drills at the scouting combine in order to showcase his versatility. If you ask him, though, he thinks he's a safety.
"What do I look like? I'm a safety. I'm a safety. Yes, I'm a safety," Peppers said, per Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. "... I control the controllables. I'm pretty much effective wherever I'm gonna be put. I don't have a lot of tape at safety, but I'm a pretty damn good safety."
It makes sense for Peppers to pitch himself as a safety, of course. A versatile defensive back is likely to carry more value than an undersized linebacker. However, this doesn't mean teams will only play him at one position—or even on one side of the ball.
Per Bruce Feldman of the New York Times, some teams have spoken to Peppers about the possibility of playing offense:
One thing we know for sure is that Peppers is likely to be a highly coveted prospect on draft weekend. What we don't know is exactly what teams will do with him once he's drafted.