With the NFL draft just weeks away, it's time for another updated mock draft. Let's take a look at how I project the first round to play out.
|NFL Mock Draft|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|3||Chicago Bears||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama|
|5||Tennessee Titans (via Rams)||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|6||New York Jets||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|10||Buffalo Bills||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|12||Cleveland Browns (via Eagles)||Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|14||Philadelphia Eagles||Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State|
|15||Indianapolis Colts||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|17||Washington||Haason Reddick, LB, Temple|
|18||Tennessee Titans||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford|
|20||Denver Broncos||Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin|
|21||Detroit Lions||Charles Harris, DE, Missouri|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Forrest Lamp, OF, Western Kentucky|
|23||New York Giants||Garett Bolles, OT, Utah|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC|
|25||Houston Texans||DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Takkarist McKinley, OLB/DE, UCLA|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State|
|32||New Orleans Saints||Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan|
There are a few prospects whose draft stock is more intriguing, and perhaps more oscillating, than other players. Let's talk about them.
Outside of perhaps this year's group of quarterbacks, who have been analyzed ad nauseum at this point, Jonathan Allen's draft stock is the most compelling. Put on the film, and he's a top-three pick in this year's draft. But there are other concerns.
For starters, his NFL Scouting Combine numbers didn't exactly impress. While 21 bench press reps and a 5.00 40-yard dash weren't terrible, they were hardly elite. And there are concerns that, at 6'3" and 286 pounds, he doesn't have ideal size at defensive tackle.
"He's a really talented pass-rusher but he's always been surrounded by enough talent that it's been hard for offenses to game plan their protection for him," an NFC director of player personnel told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com. "He's skilled and very fundamentally sound, but I just worry about his size and how he holds up to NFL running games."
Another concern is an arthritic condition in his shoulders that was revealed during the combine's medical testing. Add it all up, and Allen found himself at No. 8 on the latest big board from Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
Will Allen drop? Or will he ultimately be a top-five pick based on his excellent film and production at Alabama? I'm leaning more toward the former, but the NFL draft is nothing if not unpredictable.
Leonard Fournette is another fascinating player to watch at this draft. Again, on talent and film alone, he's a top-five pick. But in the past 10 drafts, just four running backs—Ezekiel Elliott (2016), Trent Richardson (2012), Darren McFadden (2008) and Reggie Bush (2006)—have been selected with a top-five selection.
The question for teams interested in Fournette is twofold: Is he worth a high selection at the cost of a player at a different position when running backs generally hold their value in the later rounds? And is the need for a running back so high that selecting Fournette rather than waiting on perhaps a different player at the position will dramatically improve their team?
Let's break down the first seven teams in this draft and their need for a running back over other positions:
- Cleveland Browns: If they don't draft Myles Garrett, well, fans should boycott every game this season.
- San Francisco 49ers: With Carlos Hyde in the fold and a slew of needs elsewhere, Fournette shouldnt be a priority.
- Chicago Bears: Jordan Howard had a superb rookie season and is the future at the position for the team.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: They have a need—T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory aren't exactly conjuring up memories of Fred Taylor—but enough of a need to pass up potential game-changing options for the defensive line or secondary? Fournette would give the team a piece to build around on offense and also would generate a lot of excitement with the fans. He is a very real possibility here.
- Tennessee Titans: With DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, the Titans are covered.
- New York Jets: The Jets can get by with Matt Forte and Bilal Powell and instead address bigger needs.
- Los Angeles Chargers: Melvin Gordon had a breakthrough season in 2016.
That brings us to Carolina. The Panthers have Jonathan Stewart, sure, but he hasn't played a full season since 2011 and has rushed for over 1,000 yards just once in his career.
The Panthers also are in a far better position from a roster standpoint than the seven teams ahead of them. Getting Cam Newton another compelling playmaker makes a ton of sense, and the team has enough talent elsewhere on the roster to justify selecting a specific need like Fournette.
So would it be shocking if the Panthers traded up for Fournette? No, not at all. But if they don't—and if Jacksonville doesn't select him at No. 4—it wouldn't be terribly surprising if he slipped to them at No. 8 anyway.
Finally, we come to Reuben Foster, the talented Alabama linebacker who was kicked out of the combine after a heated exchange with a hospital worker.
As such, Foster was immediately hit with the "character concerns" label, which could drop the top-10 talent down the board.
"He already had immaturity, issues with life skills. This is the same guy," an evaluator told Robert Klemko of MMQB.com after he was sent home from the combine. "We’re not in the market."
Another concern emerged during the draft process as well, per Klemko:
The major concern with Foster for NFL teams, beyond the off-field questions, is his ability to absorb a playbook. Foster has struggled in interviews with teams who ask him to draw concepts with X’s and O’s. "I’ve been working to get better," Foster says. "Other people learn different, other people have ADHD, or have a learning disorder. X’s and O’s on boards is hard to do for me. I second-guess myself."
He performs best when watching film and learning on the field, Saban says. "If you put on the film he’ll be able to tell you chapter and verse because that’s how he learned it."
Like Allen, Foster pops on tape. Not only did he register 188 tackles (21 for loss) and six sacks over the past two years, he was also Alabama's defensive play-caller in the huddle during that time.
So, will teams be more swayed by Foster's positive traits or his negative ones? And if more teams are convinced by the latter, just how far will he drop?
It's hard to imagine him dipping out of the top 20 picks given his talent and on-field impact. But again, at the NFL draft, you just never know.