NFL Draft 2017: Mock Draft and Potential Surprise 1st-Round Picks to Watch

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2017

South squad defensive end Jordan Willis of Kansas State (75) runs on the field during the player introductions of the Senior Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

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

Round 1
PickNFL TeamProj. Selection
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersSolomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
3Chicago BearsJamal Adams, S, LSU
4Jacksonville JaguarsLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5Tennessee Titans (from LAR)Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
6New York JetsMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
7Los Angeles ChargersDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
8Carolina PanthersMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
9Cincinnati BengalsHaason Reddick, LB, Temple
10Buffalo BillsJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
11New Orleans SaintsGareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
12Cleveland Browns (from PHI)Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
13Arizona CardinalsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
14Philadelphia Eagles (from MIN)Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
15Indianapolis ColtsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
16Baltimore RavensO.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
17Washington RedskinsChris Wormley, DL, Michigan
18Tennessee TitansCharles Harris, DE, Missouri
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersChristian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
20Denver BroncosForrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
21Detroit LionsTakkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA
22Miami DolphinsTre'Davious White, CB, LSU
23New York GiantsDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
24Oakland RaidersObi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
25Houston TexansPatrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
26Seattle SeahawksGarett Bolles, OT, Utah
27Kansas City ChiefsJohn Ross, WR, Washington
28Dallas CowboysTaco Charlton, DE, Michigan
29Green Bay PackersQuincy Wilson, CB, Florida
30Pittsburgh SteelersJabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
31Atlanta FalconsJordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
32New 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:

975TheFanatic @975TheFanatic

Curtis Samuel is the guy that @BaldyNFL is praying is there in the 2nd round for the Eagles “He might be the best route runner in the draft”

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:

James Palmer @JamesPalmerTV

NFL announces 22 players will attend the NFL Draft in Philadelphia. https://t.co/iBtn03HmHj

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.