The National Football League definitely loves surprises during its draft. They add to the spectacle of the event, which has allowed the draft to become must-watch television.
Fortunately for the NFL, there are going to be surprises as long as teams continue to throw up smokescreens leading up to the draft. In other words, there are always going to be surprises.
Some surprises occur at the top of Round 1—like when the San Diego Chargers snagged Joey Bosa after barely being linked to him before last year's draft. Others occur near the end of the round, when prospects not expected to go on the draft's opening night force their way in.
We're focusing on the latter group here. We'll examine some possible first-round picks that would surprise most on April 27. We'll also run down the draft order and mock selections based on factors like prospect stock, player potential and team needs.
2017 NFL Mock Draft
|Pick||NFL Team||Proj. Selection|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford|
|3||Chicago Bears||Jamal Adams, S, LSU|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU|
|5||Tennessee Titans (from LAR)||Mike Williams, WR, Clemson|
|6||New York Jets||Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State|
|7||Los Angeles Chargers||Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Haason Reddick, LB, Temple|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State|
|12||Cleveland Browns (from PHI)||Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson|
|14||Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)||Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan|
|15||Indianapolis Colts||Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama|
|17||Washington Redskins||Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan|
|18||Tennessee Titans||Charles Harris, DE, Missouri|
|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||Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU|
|23||New York Giants||David Njoku, TE, Miami|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut|
|25||Houston Texans||Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Garett Bolles, OT, Utah|
|27||Kansas City Chiefs||John Ross, WR, Washington|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan|
|31||Atlanta Falcons||Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State|
|32||New Orleans Saints (from NE)||Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC|
Potential Surprise First-Rounders
Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
There seem to be two camps when it comes to former Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis. One camp believes that the sack artist is seeing his stock rise due to his combine performance. The other believes the talent is real and that Willis can have an immediate impact for whichever team selects him.
It's the latter camp that has driven Willis from being a late Day 2 pick to a possible first-rounder.
"Jordan Willis isn't the fastest riser in the 2017 draft class, but he's perhaps the steadiest riser," Emily Kaplan of TheMMQB.com explained. "He is in Tampa meeting with the Buccaneers today, one of his 15 private workouts or team visits, and it seems feasible he could sneak into the first round."
There are reasons to like Willis in addition to his strong combine performance. He was a consistent and disruptive defender over the past two seasons, amassing 21.0 sacks in that span.
Willis isn't a no-brainer as a Day 1 pick, though, as some view him as a combine darling and little else. Bleacher Report's Chris Simms is a member of this camp.
"The combine numbers might say it, but the film doesn't say he's explosive enough to be a consistent edge-rusher in the NFL," Simms wrote. "He doesn't have a great first step, and he doesn't have the ability to bend around the corner."
Given the defensive depth in this draft, there's little need for a team to force the selection of Willis in Round 1. However, this certainly doesn't mean the move won't happen—even if it's a bit surprising.
Curtis Samuel, WR/RB, Ohio State
Ohio State product Curtis Samuel is an intriguing playmaker in the mold of Braxton Miller. The hybrid running back/receiver has a log going for him, including speed. He ran a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger also believes that Samuel might just be the best route-runner in the draft, per 97.5 The Fan:
Could Samuel actually sneak into the first round, though? Well, it would definitely be a surprise but it seems possible. Depending on where you envision Florida State's Dalvin Cook ending up—and many view him as a possible first-rounder—Samuel may already be trending in the first-round direction.
"Don't be surprised if Samuel goes ahead of Dalvin Cook," one NFL scout recently told Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller.
As Miller explains, Samuel's stock is on the rise because of his ability to affect the game as a receiver, runner and return specialist. Samuel should be one of the fastest receivers coming out this year, and his versatility is going to earn him attention.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
Former Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie hasn't garnered the attention of some of the other cornerbacks in this class. However, his ability to excel in man coverage is going to place him high on the draft boards of certain teams.
Will he be high enough to end up in the first round? Well, the NFL at least seems to believe that this is a possibility. He is one of 22 players who have been invited—and who will attend—the draft this year:
Now, this obviously doesn't mean that Awuzie will be a first-round pick. Several of the players on this list will likely last until Day 2. However, the league has done a good job in recent years of identifying which players will go on Day 1 and making those priority invitees.
There is certainly reason to believe Awuzie could end up a Day 1 selection. He had a strong 2016 campaign, with 65 tackles, 12 passes defended and an interception. Pro Football Focus rated him 30th in the country among college cornerbacks in coverage for the season.
Teams are also going to like the confidence Awuzie brings to the proverbial table.
"I feel like I'm a winner, first and foremost," Awuzie said, via NFL.com "It doesn't matter where I play—special teams, defense, offense—it doesn't matter. I'm going to get the job done."
Awuzie is definitely a long shot to sneak into the first round, but it could happen if there is a run on cornerbacks. The injury suffered by Washington's Sidney Jones likely creates one first-round opening, and the falling stock of Florida's Teez Tabor could create another.