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
|Pick||NFL Team||Proj. Selection|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|3||Chicago Bears||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|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||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from PHI)||Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|14||Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)||Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU|
|15||Indianapolis Colts||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|17||Washington Redskins||Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Jabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
|20||Denver Broncos||Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky|
|21||Detroit Lions||Takkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State|
|23||New York Giants||David Njoku, TE, Miami|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|25||Houston Texans||Davis Webb, QB, Cal|
|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||T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Tim Williams, LB, Alabama|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana|
|32||New 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.
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.