X

NFL Mock Draft 2017: Projections for Top Prospects in Unpredictable 1st Round

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 1, 2017

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 26:   Malik Hooker #24 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs for a touchdown after intercepting a pass by Wilton Speight #3 (not pictured) of the Michigan Wolverines during the first half of their game at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The home stretch for the 2017 NFL draft is finally here. April is when all 32 teams finalize their boards, discuss which players will best fit their scheme and offer the most potential so they can challenge for a spot in the playoffs and a Super Bowl title. 

More than any other draft in recent memory, this year's has the most unpredictable feeling. Myles Garrett feels like the closest thing to a lock for the Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 overall pick, but after that is when the insanity will begin. 

In anticipation of what will likely be a wild first round on April 27, here's the latest mock projection and which teams appear likely to make a shocking move. 

2017 NFL Mock Draft
PickTeamPlayer
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
3Chicago BearsJamal Adams, S, LSU
4Jacksonville JaguarsSolomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
5Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams)Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
6New York JetsMitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
7Los Angeles ChargersO.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9Cincinnati BengalsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
10Buffalo BillsMike Williams, WR, Clemson
11New Orleans SaintsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
12Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles)Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
13Arizona CardinalsHaason Reddick, LB, Temple
14Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings)Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
15Indianapolis ColtsJordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
16Baltimore RavensTakkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA
17WashingtonBudda Baker, S, Washington
18Tennessee TitansJourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersMalik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
20Denver BroncosGarrett Bolles, OT, Utah
21Detroit LionsCharles Harris, LB, Missouri
22Miami DolphinsQuincy Wilson, CB, Florida
23New York GiantsZach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
24Oakland RaidersCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
25Houston TexansDeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
26Seattle SeahawksRyan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
27Kansas City ChiefsJarrad Davis, LB, Florida
28Dallas CowboysObi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
29Green Bay PackersMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
30Pittsburgh SteelersTim Williams, LB, Alabama
31Atlanta FalconsCam Robinson, OT, Alabama
32New Orleans Saints (via New England Patriots)Marcus Maye, S, Florida
Adam Wells' Mock Draft

Most Unpredictable Teams

Malik Hooker to San Francisco 49ers

Conventional wisdom when the 2016 season ended was the 49ers needed to find a quarterback, despite being bereft of talent on both sides of the ball. 

The 49ers have since added Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as stopgap options at quarterback, curbing their need to overdraft a player like Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson while giving them freedom to address one of their many other needs. 

San Francisco general manager John Lynch knows a couple of things about the importance of a safety to a defense. 

Malik Hooker was an extraordinary playmaker at Ohio State in 2016, recording 74 total tackles and seven interceptions in his only season as a full-time starter. 

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah believes Hooker's talent at safety compares favorably to one of the best to ever play the position:

He has the best combination of range and ball skills that I've ever seen in a college safety. His anticipation and awareness is off the charts. I wasn't in Baltimore when Ed Reed was drafted, but I arrived the following year to scout for the Ravens and spent four years around the future Hall of Famer. Hooker is the closest thing I've seen to Reed seen since I've been scouting. He is also very effective in the run game. He takes proper angles and he's a reliable tackler.

It's not impossible that a player like Trubisky or Watson turns into a franchise quarterback, which is why they will eventually be drafted in the first round. 

For a team like the 49ers, in desperate need of immediate and long-term help, taking a rare and unique talent who plays a vital position with the No. 2 overall pick is not a bad decision. 

They will eventually be able to find a quarterback, either later in this draft or next year, for head coach Kyle Shanahan to build around. For now, Hooker is San Francisco's best bet to strike gold with the second pick. 

Derek Barnett to New Orleans Saints

The Saints are one of the most fascinating teams to follow right now because we still don't know if they will keep the No. 11 overall pick. 

Head coach Sean Payton told reporters this week the Saints would not sign restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler to an offer sheet because of the draft-pick compensation that would go to the New England Patriots. 

"I don't think we're going to do that and give up the 11th pick. In fact, I know we're not going to do that," Payton said. "So it is what it is right now."

Assuming the Saints do keep both of their first-round picks—they acquired the No. 32 pick by trading Brandin Cooks to the Patriots—they will finally be able to start building a defense that has allowed at least 424 points each of the last three seasons. 

But Payton is also an offensive-minded coach. He saw John Ross, whose measurements closely match Cooks when he was drafted, run a 4.22 in the 40-yard dash. 

NFL @NFL

OH. MY. GOODNESS. JOHN ROSS!!!! 🔥 @UW_Football WR @WatchJRoss runs 4.22u 40-yard dash. (cc: @chrisjohnson28) https://t.co/kkeUVDIMeQ

The smart money is still on the Saints addressing a defensive line that had the fifth-fewest sacks in the NFL last season. 

Derek Barnett is a polarizing prospect because he doesn't look the part of a traditional three-down defensive end in the NFL. 

"He knows how to beat blocks, disrupt in the running game and get around the edge as a pass-rusher and his production should translate to the next level, even if he doesn’t have the classic look of a Myles Garrett or Jadeveon Clowney," per Pro Football Focus.

There is something to be said for Barnett's consistently high level of production in three years at Tennessee against SEC competition. He tallied 52 tackles for loss and 32 sacks in 39 college games. 

This is an excellent class if you need pass-rushing help. Barnett's ceiling doesn't compare to players like Solomon Thomas or Taco Charlton, but he's got one of the highest floors of any edge-rusher and should have no problems translating his skills to the NFL right away. 

DeShone Kizer to Houston Texans

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

No matter how the board plays out with the top three quarterbacks, the Houston Texans are the most likely team outside of the top 10 to address the position in the first round. 

The Texans pulled off one of the great stunners this offseason by unloading Brock Osweiler's $16 million salary in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.

It seemed to signal the Texans would follow that up by acquiring Tony Romo, either in a trade with the Dallas Cowboys or signing him as a free agent if he was released. There's still been no resolution to Romo's situation, leaving Houston with Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden as its top two quarterbacks.

Adding a rookie who by all accounts will need time to develop won't necessarily serve the Texans, who are in win-now mode after consecutive AFC South titles, but DeShone Kizer is making the most of his pre-draft workouts. 

Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated made a physical comparison between Kizer and one of the NFL's best active quarterbacks:

His player comp here, to Big Ben, mainly has to do with his size and passing acumen. Like the Steelers’ QB, Kizer can look over the top of defenses and freeze safeties with a lethal pump fake before coming back to an open receiver. He keeps his feet moving, too, both inside the pocket and out of it, so that he can throw on the run.

Kizer turning into anything close to Roethlisberger would certainly be the best possible outcome for him and his future team. 

There is a lack of overall consistency with Kizer that is really holding him back from being one of the top players in this year's class, with one NFC scout offering this assessment for where the former Notre Dame star's game stands to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein:

I could tell you he should have gone back to school, but he also has some things you can work with. We need to find out how he will handle the board when our coaches put him through different reads. That's going to be huge for him. He's a bright kid, but I'm not sure he sees what he needs to see all time.

In a perfect world, Kizer would be able to sit and develop for at least one year before getting a chance to start. The Texans may think highly of Savage to give him the job when 2017 starts, but the first sign of trouble would make it difficult to resist the urge to make a change. 

Kizer has all the makings of a star at the NFL level. It will take time for him to reach that ceiling, if he's able to do it, but a team like the Texans are at a point where they can't afford to pass on that upside late in the first round.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.