NFL Mock Draft 2017: 1st-Round Projections and Ideal Scenarios for Top Prospects

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2017

Prospects like DeShone Kizer need the help of ideal scenarios on draft day.
Prospects like DeShone Kizer need the help of ideal scenarios on draft day.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Perfect fits in the NFL draft don't happen often. 

This is a development best served by a dose of hindsight. Guys like Joey Bosa last year can transcend iffy fits (organizational in his case) off sheer talent. Others, such as Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, found the perfect home to thrive.

Hindsight will cast a harsh eye on the 2017 class, one marred by a rather unpredictable outlook at quarterback and a defensive-minded structure. There might be a Bosa in this class in Myles Garrett but little in the way of assurances on the defensive side otherwise.

Below, let's look at an updated mock and nail down some early ideal fits sure to help prospects succeed at the next level.


2017 NFL Mock Draft

1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersSolomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
3Chicago BearsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
4Jacksonville JaguarsLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5Tennessee Titans (from Rams)Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
6New York JetsMitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
7Los Angeles ChargersJamal Adams, S, LSU
8Carolina PanthersChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
9Cincinnati BengalsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
10Buffalo BillsMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
11New Orleans SaintsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
12Cleveland Browns (from Eagles)O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
13Arizona CardinalsDeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
14Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings)Fabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
15Indianapolis ColtsJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
16Baltimore RavensJohn Ross, WR, Washington
17Washington RedskinsCorey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
18Tennessee TitansMike Williams, WR, Clemson
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersQuincy Wilson, CB, Florida
20Denver BroncosGarett Bolles , OT, Utah
21Detroit LionsTakkarist McKinley, OLB/DE, UCLA
22Miami DolphinsMalik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
23New York GiantsHaason Reddick, Edge, Temple
24Oakland RaidersKevin King, CB, Washington
25Houston TexansPatrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
26Seattle SeahawksCam Robinson, OT, Alabama
27Kansas City ChiefsDan Feeney, OG, Indiana
28Dallas CowboysMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
29Green Bay PackersForrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
30Pittsburgh SteelersDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
31Atlanta FalconsCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
32New Orleans Saints (from Patriots)Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Author's projections.


Ideal Scenarios for Top Prospects

13. Arizona Cardinals: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

DeShone Kizer is the type of quarterback prospect who shouldn't start as a rookie.

Kizer has many of the tools NFL teams covet, but he didn't exactly raise Notre Dame around him last year, at one point getting benched. He also struggled at times with accuracy in pressure-free drills at the combine.

None of which is a shocker. Kizer is a bit of a project with perhaps more upside than any quarterback in the class. He's dominant physically, standing at 6'4" and 233 pounds with a strong arm and a punishing ability to lay defensive backs flat when he takes off with his feet.

This combination of traits has experts such as NFL.com's Bucky Brooks comparing Kizer to Cam Newton

When he is playing his game with supreme confidence, he can mirror some of the production that Newton displayed during his MVP campaign. Whether it's the red zone rushes (18 career rushing touchdowns at Notre Dame) or the splashy throws to every part of the field, Kizer has the tools to change the game like the Panthers' star.

Funnily enough, Brooks even mentions the Arizona Cardinals as a great fit. Not only is it a match from a schematic standpoint, head coach Bruce Arians and the rest of the staff won't throw Kizer to the wolves as a rookie. 

A year learning behind a guy like Carson Palmer can do much for a prospect who struggles with composure under the spotlight. If the Cardinals play it right, Kizer could turn out as the best quarterback in the class.


18. Tennessee Titans: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

To some, Clemson's Mike Williams is easily the top receiver in the class. Others wonder why he had an iffy combine workout and didn't do much for scouts physically on the path to the draft.

Williams is a jump-ball receiver at 6'4" and 218 pounds who produced big numbers while teaming with Deshaun Watson in college. He can work all three areas of the field well, but an odd pre-draft journey and a red flag of a neck injury in 2015 has plenty asking questions.

An NFC personnel director explained Williams' likely journey best while talking with NFL.com's Lance Zierlein:

Really pretty looking when you watch him down on the field but he's not there yet. I think he'll get there but he's not there yet. I don't think he's going to run as fast as people think. When college players get up here and find out that cornerbacks are faster and more physical, there is an adjustment period. I think it will take him some time to figure things out but I think he'll do it. He's going to be good, I just don't know if he's going to be a star.

Williams isn't going to be great right out of the gates, and his shying away from the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis hints at the speed-adaption issues.

Teaming with Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans  would be a great way for Williams to smooth over the transition issues. Other than Tajae Sharpe and tight end Delanie Walker, Mariota doesn't have a reliable target to hit.

Williams changes that out of the gates as a big chain-moving presence.


30. Pittsburgh Steelers: David Njoku, TE, Miami

David Njoku is a pass-catching tight end first, which isn't a bad thing in Pittsburgh.
David Njoku is a pass-catching tight end first, which isn't a bad thing in Pittsburgh.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In many classes, Miami's David Njoku would be the top tight end prospect.

Njoku is unlucky enough to reside in the same class as O.J. Howard, though it might be a blessing in disguise—he has a better chance of landing with a team that will use him right away and help along his pro transition if he falls a bit.

Not that Njoku should fall too far. He's 6'4" and 246 pounds with a great ability to catch passes at their highest point and create droves of yards after the catch. Or, in other words, a quarterback's best friend.

Pro Football Focus wrapped its scouting report by comparing him to Jordan Reed:

Like Reed, Njoku figures to have more NFL success as a receiving option than he does as a run-blocker, while showing competence as a run-blocker when the alignment is in his favor. Neither player is overly elusive but both are effective with the ball in their hands due to a combination of size, top-end speed and a willingness to punch the defense in the mouth, don’t be surprised if there’s a highlight of Njoku hurdling over a defender next season.

That sound is Ben Roethlisberger clapping at the idea of the Pittsburgh Steelers adding a player like Reed. 

Big Ben loves his tight ends, and Njoku wouldn't be an exception. With defenses focused on Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, Njoku could get deep often and create splash plays while having a monster rookie campaign.

At the same time, there are few better locales for Njoku to learn what it means to be an efficient blocking tight end. Many will focus on the numbers, but Pittsburgh has the coaching to help Njoku stick in the league for a decade.


Stats courtesy of NFL.com. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

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