2017 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Top Prospects' Stock Watch

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2017

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 26:  Christian McCaffrey #5 of the Stanford Cardinal leaves the stadium after an NCAA football game against the Rice Owls played on November 26, 2016 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
David Madison/Getty Images

The NFL Scouting Combine has passed, NFL free agency is now in its second stage, and in a little more than a month, it will be time for the 2017 draft to unfold. A lot has changed since the end of the regular season, and this year's crop of incoming rookies is included.

Whether due to their own performances or due to the moves made during free agency, several prospects have seen their draft stocks fluctuate over the past several weeks. Some, like injured Washington product Sidney Jones, have seen their stock affected dramatically.

Let's take into consideration what we've seen since the end of Super Bowl LI and apply it to our updated mock. We'll run down the current draft order and make projections for each pick based on factors like player potential, team needs and team fit. We'll also examine the changing stock of some of the draft's top prospects.

2017 NFL Mock Draft

Round 1
PickTeamProj. Selection
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersJamal Adams, S, LSU
3Chicago BearsSolomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
4Jacksonville JaguarsLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5Tennessee Titans (from LAR)Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
6New York JetsMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
7Los Angeles ChargersJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
8Carolina PanthersMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
9Cincinnati BengalsHaason Reddick, LB, Temple
10Buffalo BillsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
11New Orleans SaintsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
12Cleveland Browns (from PHI)Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
13Arizona CardinalsMike Williams, WR, Clemson
14Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
15Indianapolis ColtsO.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
16Baltimore RavensReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
17Washington RedskinsChris Wormley, DL, Michigan
18Tennessee TitansTakkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersJabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan
20Denver BroncosChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
21Detroit LionsGareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
22Miami DolphinsTeez Tabor, CB, Florida
23New York GiantsDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
24Oakland RaidersMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
25Houston TexansTre'Davious White, CB, LSU
26Seattle SeahawksForrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
27Kansas City ChiefsJohn Ross, WR, Washington
28Dallas CowboysTaco Charlton, DE, Michigan
29Green Bay PackersT.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin
30Pittsburgh SteelersTim Williams, LB, Alabama
31Atlanta FalconsDan Feeney, OG, Indiana
32New Orleans Saints (from NE)Budda Baker, S, Washington

Stock Watch

Up: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey has seen his stock rising since putting together a strong showing at the combine. He measured in at 5'11" and 202 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.48 seconds and produced a vertical jump of 37.5 inches.

When you put McCaffrey's athleticism next to his production—he rushed for more than 3,600 yards over the past two seasons—he appears to be a top-tier prospect.

While it's too early to consider McCaffrey a lock for the first round, things do appear to be trending in that direction. If recent chatter is to be believed, McCaffrey could be snatched up in the middle of the round by the Denver Broncos.

According to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com, McCaffrey was linked to the Broncos during the combine.

"Where does he end up in the draft? During the combine, I consistently heard daily rumors that the Denver Broncos could take McCaffrey in Round 1 in large part due to the Elway/McCaffrey family relationship dating back to Stanford," Pauline wrote, referring to Denver general manager John Elway and former Broncos wide receiver Ed McCaffrey

The Broncos do have a bit of a need at running back—the team was rated 31st in rushing by Pro Football Focus last season—so grabbing McCaffrey would make sense.

Teams will next get a look at McCaffrey on March 22 at Stanford's pro day.

Down: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

There are a couple of reasons to believe that former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson's draft stock is starting to slip. One of the reasons is the fact that two teams picking at the top of the draft seem to have secured their quarterbacks for the 2017 season.

The Chicago Bears got their man in Mike Glennon. The San Francisco 49ers signed former Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer. The New York Jets could soon be added to the list of quarterback-needy teams with a signal-caller in place.

According to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY, the Jets are talking with journeyman Josh McCown. If the Jets land McCown, another top-10 team with quarterback needs would likely be out of the market for Watson.

The other reason Watson could be sliding is the inconstant performance he produced at Clemson's pro day. According to NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah, at least one scout believed the performance was barely above average:

Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks

Scout at Clemson on Watson's day: Average day. Inconsistent timing/placement...solid on deep ball. It was a B-/C+ type workout.

Watson is widely considered to be a project at quarterback, so the fact that he couldn't impress in a controlled environment is discouraging. Teams looking for a quarterback to start from day one are likely to steer away from Watson early in the first round.

I have Watson mocked to the Buffalo Bills, who have Tyrod Taylor in place for the next couple years. However, I could see the Bills trading back to the middle of Round 1 and still securing him.

Up: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

We've seen over the past several years just how big a difference an elite tight end can make at the NFL level. This is why Alabama product O.J. Howard is likely to hear his name called very early on the draft's opening night.

Howard didn't exactly produce eye-popping numbers at Alabama—he had 595 yards receiving in 2016—but his potential is impressive. Pro Football Focus rated him first overall among tight ends last season.

Tony Tsoukalas of Rivals.com believes it's time to start viewing Howard as a truly elite prospect.

"I'll admit, I did a double-take seeing Howard's name projected as the first Alabama player off the board," Tsoukalas wrote. "However, upon further consideration, it just makes sense. Never mind Alabama, there might not be another player in the draft who offers as much versatility or can make a difference in as many ways."

Tsoukalas is referencing a recent mock draft from ESPN's Todd McShay in which Howard is off the board inside the top 10.

We haven't seen tight ends going as high as some other offensive players in recent years, but given the potential teams seem to believe Howard possesses, it wouldn't be too surprising to see him as the first offensive player from Alabama off the board.


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