2017 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Projections and Prospects Impacted by Free Agency

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2017

Patrick Mahomes II is one of many big names impacted by free agency.
Patrick Mahomes II is one of many big names impacted by free agency.John Weast/Getty Images

The NFL draft stock market isn't as volatile as March Madness by any means, but it doesn't hit a full stop during college basketball's biggest month, either. 

With the lasting vibrations of free agency still shaking the foundation of the league, adding combine results and pro days to the mix creates an environment with a little bit of madness of its own.

Even small signings—like the San Francisco 49ers inking Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley—could have massive implications on the entire draft. Teams that once looked like a lock to address one side of the ball attacked it in free agency, opening up a world of options.

Below, let's take an updated look at a mock based on team need and the prospect stock market, emphasizing a few slots where prospects find themselves impacted by free agency.


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 JaguarsLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5Tennessee Titans (from Rams)Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
6New York JetsSolomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
7Los Angeles ChargersJamal Adams, S, LSU
8Carolina PanthersMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
9Cincinnati BengalsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
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 DolphinsMalik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
23New York GiantsHaason Reddick, LB, Temple
24Oakland RaidersFabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
25Houston TexansPatrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
26Seattle SeahawksCam Robinson, OT, Alabama
27Kansas City ChiefsDan Feeney, OG, Indiana
28Dallas CowboysKevin King, CB, Washington
29Green Bay PackersForrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
30Pittsburgh SteelersDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
31Atlanta FalconsCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
32New Orleans Saints (from Patriots)Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Author's projections.


Prospects Impacted by Free Agency

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

The Jacksonville Jaguars looked like a team ready to grab the best defensive talent available and call it a day.

Then the front office went out and decided to act like major spenders, grabbing the likes of Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church to join a front featuring Dante Fowler Jr., Malik Jackson and Jalen Ramsey, among others.

On paper (it's important to stress that part, especially with free-agency "winners"), the defense looks like a great unit. This leaves the Jaguars open to address the offense.

Leonard Fournette makes the most sense.

Fournette hasn't wavered as the top back in the class thanks to his blend of size (6'0", 240 pounds) and sheer ability, reminding some physically of Adrian Peterson. His bullying the SEC to the tune of 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2015 reinforces the idea.

The Jaguars graded 23rd in run blocking last year at Pro Football Focus, something the front office won't fix overnight. But Fournette is a bulldozer of sorts who can compensate and give the offense a versatility it has lacked despite investments on guys like Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon.

Another idea is Jacksonville taking a quarterback, but Fournette is more of an immediate-impact player in an iffy quarterback class. Solidifying the offense around Blake Bortles and giving him one last chance seems like a smart approach.


5. Tennessee Titans (from Rams): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

The Tennessee Titans didn't hit one area the front office seemed to gun after in free agency—wideout.

In fact, the team lost Kendall Wright before trying to land Brandin Cooks of the New Orleans Saints, even offering a first-round pick, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.

Corey Davis looks like the biggest winner of Tennessee's struggles to fill the position with an elite player.

And Davis is certainly an elite prospect. At 6'3" and 209 pounds, Davis is crisp on the routes and a surefire producer all over the field, hence north of 1,400 yards and at least 12 scores in three consecutive years.

"Man, he breaks them off with those routes. It wasn't even fair the way he did those corners in that conference. A man among boys," an AFC North scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein.

The only issue with Davis right now is his lack of pre-draft workouts. An ankle issue means Western Michigan's pro day wasn't a thing for him, which some will feel iffy about. But at the same time, four years of tape speak louder than any individual workout could.

Tennessee won't mind an instant contributor in the passing game to help Marcus Mariota. It simply helps the team has a pair of first-round picks, and consistent misses to make a big splash at the position open Davis up for a top-five slot.


25. Houston Texans: Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech

Patrick Mahomes II now looks like a lock for the first round.
Patrick Mahomes II now looks like a lock for the first round.John Weast/Getty Images

Other elements of the quarterback situation around the league guarantee Patrick Mahomes II a spot in the first round.

Look at a team like the Houston Texans, which fancies itself a playoff contender thanks to guys like Jay Cutler, Jadeveon Clowney and others. The team won't have a shot at a Tyrod Taylor or a Kirk Cousins, meaning the rookie route is the most plausible.

The only problem with Mahomes is the fact he's a bit of a project. But it's important to distinguish the "project" areas—the NFL probably won't care about what some might consider messy mechanics if he's producing and they don't hurt his game. The issues when moving to the pros come from leaving an Air Raid offense at Texas Tech.

Still, it's hard to ignore Mahomes throwing 77 touchdowns over his final two years in college and rushing for 22 more over the same span. Nor can evaluators brush aside a pro-ready frame at 6'2" and 225 pounds.

Most importantly of all, Mahomes improved in key areas each year, which is what the pros want to see:

PFF College @PFF_College

QB Patrick Mahomes steadily improved throughout his college career. https://t.co/hqndRV4G9Q

Maybe Houston wouldn't trot out Mahomes right away, but head coach Bill O'Brien is known for his smarts when it comes to the position. Insulating him with weapons such as DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller is a smooth way to bridge the gap between developing for the future and pushing for a playoff spot in the shaky AFC South.


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