2017 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Prospects Ready for Early Impact

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2017

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - NOVEMBER 12:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers looks to the sidelines during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 38-10.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Every year, NFL fans hear about incoming rookies who are ready for the NFL right now and others who are longer-term projects.

Both types of players have positives and drawbacks. Ready-made prospects should be able to contribute immediately but might have less room to grow. Players who are further from the finished product will deliver fewer short-term returns but could pay off in a big way in the long term.

The three players below fall into the former category.

First-Round Mock Draft

1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DETexas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersSolomon Thomas, DEStanford
3Chicago BearsJonathan Allen, DEAlabama
4Jacksonville JaguarsJamal Adams, SLSU
5Tennessee Titans (from Rams)Marshon Lattimore, CBOhio State
6New York JetsMitchell Trubisky, QBNorth Carolina
7Los Angeles ChargersMalik Hooker, SOhio State
8Carolina PanthersLeonard Fournette, RBLSU
9Cincinnati BengalsReuben Foster, LBAlabama
10Buffalo BillsCorey Davis, WRWestern Michigan
11New Orleans SaintsTeez Tabor, CBFlorida
12Cleveland Browns (from Eagles)Deshaun Watson, QBClemson
13Arizona CardinalsMike Williams, WRClemson
14Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings)Dalvin Cook, RBFlorida State
15Indianapolis ColtsDerek Barnett, DETennessee
16Baltimore RavensTaco Charlton, DEMichigan
17Washington RedskinsJabrill Peppers, SMichigan
18Tennessee TitansO.J. Howard, TEAlabama
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersJohn Ross, WRWashington
20Denver BroncosRyan Ramczyk, OTWisconsin
21Detroit LionsCharles Harris, DEMissouri
22Miami DolphinsDavid Njoku, TEMiami
23New York GiantsZach Cunningham, LBVanderbilt
24Oakland RaidersSidney Jones, CBWashington
25Houston TexansPatrick Mahomes, QBTexas Tech
26Seattle SeahawksGarett Bolles, OTUtah
27Kansas City ChiefsHaason Reddick, LBTemple
28Dallas CowboysGareon Conley, CBOhio State
29Green Bay PackersQuincy Wilson, CBFlorida
30Pittsburgh SteelersBudda Baker, SWashington
31Atlanta FalconsTim Williams, LBAlabama
32New Orleans SaintsTre'Davious White, CBLSU
Draft order via NFL.com

Immediate-Impact Prospects

O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

At another school, O.J. Howard likely would've assembled a stronger body of work. In four years at Alabama, he caught 114 passes for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns.

The athletic tight end stepped up in big moments, finishing with nine receptions, 314 yards and three touchdowns in the Crimson Tide's two national championship matchups with Clemson in 2015 and 2016.

At 6'6" and 251 pounds, Howard will present problems for opposing defenses at the next level. He also ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.51 seconds) for tight ends at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Howard isn't merely a pass-catcher, either. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller labeled him the best blocker among this year's tight end group.

In the last 10 years, six tight ends have been selected in the first round—the results of which so far have been mixed:

First-Round Tight Ends (2007-16)
201410thEric EbronDetroit Lions
201321stTyler EifertCincinnati Bengals
201021stJermaine GreshamCincinnati Bengals
200920thBrandon PettigrewDetroit Lions
200830thDustin KellerNew York Jets
200731stGreg OlsenCarolina Panthers
Source: NFL.com

Howard should fall closer to the Greg Olsen end of the spectrum than Eric Ebron. He has all of the tools teams are looking for in a potential Pro Bowl tight end.

Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Leonard Fournette looked like a future NFL star during his sophomore year at LSU, when he was running roughshod over SEC defenses. An underwhelming junior season doesn't change what Fournette can do at the next level.

Pro Football Focus' Matt Claassen listed him as the second-best running back in this year's draft class:

With Fournette’s combination of size and speed, he is an athletic freak in many ways. His 2015 season remains one of our highest-graded among runners over the past three years. There are some small concerns, though, on how well he can create on his own if behind a bad offensive line, how much of an impact he can have in the passing game, and if the ankle injury was the only reason for his lessened effectiveness in 2016.

The fact Fournette only played seven games for the Tigers in 2016 could be a blessing in disguise. Rather than racking up 250 to 300 carries, he had 144 total touches between his carries and receptions. The less wear and tear he has on his body coming out of college the better.

Fournette isn't as agile as Dalvin Cook, who's two inches shorter and 30 pounds lighter, and the Florida State star may go on to have the better NFL career when all is said and done.

In terms of which of the two is more suited to help an NFL offense now, though, Fournette gets the clear edge. At 6'0" and 240 pounds, he'll have no trouble overpowering defenders at the next level.

Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett is widely considered the No. 1 overall player in 2017 for a reason. The Texas A&M star compiled 47 tackles for loss and 31 sacks in three years for the Aggies.

It's not as if major questions needed to be answered about his athleticism, but Garrett further solidified his draft stock with an excellent combine performance. He posted a 4.64-second 40-yard dash and a 41-inch vertical jump, both of which are absurd for somebody who's 6'4" and 272 pounds.

Garrett is strong enough to outmuscle offensive tackles and fast enough to beat them around the edge. He was a bit too reliant on his physical tools in college, which is understandable from his perspective given the results.

Even though Garrett will need to work on his technique, he could have a Joey Bosa-type impact as a rookie in 2017.


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