2017 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Overlooked Prospects to Watch

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 31, 2017

BOWLING GREEN, KY - DECEMBER 03: Forrest Lamp #76 of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers celebrates following the game against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Houchens-Smith Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Western Kentucky defeated Louisiana Tech 58-44. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The 2017 NFL draft is now less than a month away. With pro days and private workouts flying by at a rapid pace, we're beginning to get a better idea of what the opening round of the draft could look like.

At the very least, we have an idea of which prospects are likely to go near the top of Round 1. Defensive studs like Myles Garrett, Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker should all come off the board early. So too should offensive playmakers like Mike Williams, Leonard Fournette and O.J. Howard.

Given the lack of quality signal-callers circulating the NFL, a quarterback will likely hear his name called sometime early on opening night.

What we are less sure of is the prospects who will slide into the bottom of Round 1—those borderline players who can't be certain they'll be drafted on Day 1. These prospects don't get nearly as much attention as the guys at the top of draft boards, but we're going to examine them here.

We'll run down the current draft order and make projections for each draft slot based on factors like team needs, team fit, player potential and prospect stock. We'll then examine some of the draft's less-heralded potential first-rounders.

2017 NFL Mock Draft

Round 1
PickNFL TeamProj. 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 BillsMike Williams, WR, Clemson
11New Orleans SaintsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
12Cleveland Browns (from PHI)Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
13Arizona CardinalsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
14Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
15Indianapolis ColtsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
16Baltimore RavensO.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
17Washington RedskinsMalik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
18Tennessee TitansJabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
20Denver BroncosForrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
21Detroit LionsTakkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA
22Miami DolphinsGareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
23New York GiantsDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
24Oakland RaidersDalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
25Houston TexansDavis Webb, QB, Cal
26Seattle SeahawksRyan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
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)Kevin King, CB, Washington

Prospects to Watch

Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky

In a draft believed to be heavy in defensive talent, it might seem hard to get excited about a small-school offensive lineman. However, for teams looking for guard help, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp.

Lamp brings power and athleticism to the table. He primarily played tackle last season and finished rated fourth overall among all tackles by Pro Football Focus.

Most seem to view Lamp as an NFL guard, though, and his combine numbers suggest he can be a very good one. Lamp ran the 40-yard dash in 5.0 seconds, produced a 111.0-inch broad jump and put up 34 reps on the bench press. That's pretty impressive ability for a guy that's 6'4" and 309 pounds.

According to Rob Rang of CBSSports.com, Lamp continued to raise his stock while working with Cincinnati Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander at his pro day:

Lamp’s performance Monday continued the positive momentum he has created for himself throughout his senior season—a year which began with a massive test against Alabama and its vaunted and versatile defensive line and continued with impressive showings at the Senior Bowl and in Indianapolis last month.

Lamp might not be the trendiest name among draftniks, but he's one worth paying attention to. Teams looking for a quality pulling guard are likely to have him at the top of their offensive-line wish lists.

Don't be surprised if Lamp even ends up as the first lineman off the board.

Kevin King, CB, Washington

Former Washington cornerback Sidney Jones was widely believed to be one of the draft's top defensive prospects before suffering a torn Achilles at Washington's pro day. Now that Jones isn't considered a first-round target, his former teammate Kevin King, is becoming a trendy first-round pick.

"Kevin King is going to go in the first round. He killed it at the combine and his pro day was unbelievably impressive," one NFL executive recently told NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah.

There are definitely reasons to believe why teams would consider King near the bottom of the opening round. King has the size and speed teams want at the cornerback position—he ran a 4.43-second 40 at the combine at 6'3" and 200 pounds—and he also has some solid game film to lean on.

Last season, King amassed 44 tackles, 13 passes defended and two interceptions. Pro Football Focus rated him 52nd overall among all collegiate cornerbacks for the season.

Teams looking for a taller cornerback or even a hybrid cornerback/safety are going to be intrigued by King leading up to draft weekend. While King was largely overshadowed by Jones in the early portion of the draft process, he should creep into the spotlight over the final few weeks.

Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State

I don't have former Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis mocked in the first round, but I do believe he could easily end up there. While other pass-rushers like Garrett and Alabama's Jonathan Allen have maintained places in the draft spotlight, it would be unwise to overlook Willis.

At 6'4" and 255 pounds, Willis has the build of a lean, athletic edge-rusher. He showed he has the quickness, too, running the 40 in a blistering 4.53 seconds at the combine. If you're looking for production, Willis has it. He racked up 11.5 sacks last season and had 21.0 sacks over the past two.

Pro Football Focus rated Willis first overall among edge defenders in 2016.

According to Tony Pauline of DraftAnaylst.com, Willis isn't currently considered a first-round prospect.

"I think it will be a stretch for Willis to end up in the late part of Round 1 but would expect him to be off the board during the top half of the second frame," Pauline recently wrote.

Yet, I don't think it would be a stretch to see a team at the bottom of Round 1 pull the trigger on Willis. Quality edge-rushers don't grow on trees, and while this draft is believed to be deep with them, snagging Willis would make sense for a team like the Dallas Cowboys or New Orleans Saints in the first round.

Teams that played in the postseason last year aren't likely to get a crack at a player like Willis at the bottom of Round 2. Therefore these teams are limited to making a trade into the early portion of Round 2 or scooping up their pass-rusher in Round 1.

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