NFL Mock Draft 2017: Latest Projections for Highly Sought-After Prospects

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2017

Christian McCaffrey is one of the draft's most sought-after players.
Christian McCaffrey is one of the draft's most sought-after players.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It's not hard to figure out the most sought-after players in the 2017 NFL draft. 

Where they land is another conversation entirely. 

Myles Garrett is the top player in the class and should come off the board first. There are a handful of notable quarterback prospects with the importance of the position sure to inflate their stock.

This continues to play out ahead of the draft, as a note from ESPN's Adam Schefter captured recently: "Cleveland has not made up its mind at No. 1, per source. Split opinions. Some like Myles Garrett, some like Mitchell Trubisky. We will see."

For now, let's cut through the buzz and identify some of the most coveted prospects and figure out where they'll land in an updated mock. 


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, 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.


8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Given his on-paper outlook, every team would love a shot at Stanford's Christian McCaffrey.

Leonard Fournette might be a bigger name, but McCaffrey is more of a modern back in today's NFL who won't come off the field often thanks to his ability out of the backfield as a receiver.

Standing at 5'11" and 202 pounds, McCaffrey tested better than most at his position at the combine. The film shows his soft hands and ability to score from anywhere on the field.

Comparing him to LeSean McCoy, Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke summed the Stanford product up: "The McCaffrey negatives are nitpicking based on style preference. If a team wants a power back to grind out carries, it ought to look elsewhere. If it wants a versatile player built for the modern game, McCaffrey has to be near the top of the list."

The problem for McCaffrey is how often teams would use him and where it fits from a value standpoint. Teams needing a short-yardage back won't take one high in the draft, meaning the first realistic slot for him in a mock is likely the Carolina Panthers at No. 8.

Carolina shouldn't let him slip past. The backfield needs a nice complement to the veteran Jonathan Stewart, if not an eventual successor. McCaffrey can do both while helping along an offense that hasn't received enough in the way of upgrades around Cam Newton over the years.


12 Cleveland Browns (from Eagles) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 04: Tight end O.J. Howard of Alabama in action during day four of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 4, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

O.J. Howard is in a similar boat as McCaffrey—every single team would love to add him, but how high can a front office justify taking a tight end?

For Howard, it's higher than most. Folks throw around the term "pro-ready" entirely too much, but with Howard it's the perfect description. He's 6'6" and 251 pounds with proven SEC blocking ability on film and the sure hands teams covet in gigantic ends. Howard doesn't have any major stats to flaunt because of the system at Alabama, but if he had played elsewhere with a consistent quarterback his stock would maybe manage to be higher than it already is.

Pro Football Focus went as far as comparing Howard to Greg Olsen: "Like Olsen, Howard can move around the formation and create mismatches in the passing game. Olsen has been inconsistent in the run game, and despite Howard’s top-notch run-blocking grade in 2016, his success in the trenches may rely more on scheme and fit."

Howard is an instant NFL starter who might need to add some more weight to be a quality in-line blocker, but this won't stop the Cleveland Browns from getting him on the field right away.

Used properly, Howard could be the top target in Cleveland for a potential rookie quarterback. Either way, he's one of the best possible picks the Browns could make at No. 12 as he's a surefire offensive cornerstone for years.


20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

This is a weak offensive tackle class, which has only helped boost the stock of Utah's Garett Bolles.

In a normal class, teams might not love Bolles as much as they should because he's already 24 years old. But the iffy nature of the class has his stock through the roof and teams will play the waiting game on the hopes he keeps falling.

A team in need like the Denver Broncos won't allow it. Bolles is a bit light at 6'5" and 297 pounds, but as NFL.com's Lance Zierlein noted in a summary, it's all about the fit:

He clearly has elite athletic ability and foot quickness, but his lack of core strength and ability to sustain blocks against power across from him is a concern at this time. While he has Pro Bowl potential for a zone-scheme team, his floor will be a little lower than you might like in an early round pick.

Look at it this way—Bolles ran a 4.95 40-yard dash at 297 pounds, then busted off a 115-inch broad jump and ran 7.29 seconds in a three cone drill and 4.55 in a 20-yard shuttle. So he's a bit light, he has more than enough athletic ability and footwork to stay with speed rushers on the edge.

Denver isn't going to care about the age detail, not after a guy like Donald Stephenson graded 75th out of 76 at offensive tackle last season at PFF. The Broncos are desperate and Bolles slipping to them is one of their best possible outcomes.


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


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