2017 NFL Mock Draft: Doug Farrar's Final Predictions
With just a few days until the 2017 NFL draft gets underway, it's time for pro personnel departments to dot every "I" and cross every "T." Teams are doing their final due diligence on their needs and the players who may fit them, running final probability studies on which ways the draft could go and instigating and fielding calls regarding possible trades.
We're in full swing here at Bleacher Report—our own personnel department is headed by Matt Miller and his NFL 400 team, and the NFL1000 team, which provides in-season scouting, has been watching college tape as well.
This particular mock draft has less to do with how I think teams will pick and more to do with how I think they should pick. Some selections are based on dire needs, and others are based on best-player-available scenarios. There are also a few surprises, which is in line with any draft.
You'll likely disagree with some of these picks, but the fun is in the discussion and all the possibilities—especially with the real draft just around the corner.
All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
Obviously, the Cleveland Browns have a ton of options. They could trade down with a willing partner for even more picks. They could pull off the trade for Jimmy Garoppolo that would ostensibly give them the franchise quarterback they so desperately need. They could decide that one of the quarterbacks in this draft class is worthy of the first overall pick. If they don't trade, it makes sense to take the best player on the board regardless of position, with the knowledge that a quarterback they like could be there at No. 12.
Given that last scenario, Myles Garrett fits the bill as someone who could have a transformative effect on the Cleveland defense. He can play end or outside linebacker depending on the front, though in Gregg Williams' defense, he'd be a 4-3 end. From there, he can win with inside and outside rushes, impressive hand moves and the kind of counters you don't often see from NCAA pass-rushers. He's not yet a great run defender, but that's a secondary concern. He's been a consistently productive disruptor against elite offensive lines at the college level, and there's no reason to believe that won't continue at the NFL level.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Many mocks have Stanford's Solomon Thomas going to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2, and while I love Thomas' talent, I'm at a loss to understand how he would be best utilized in a front that already has Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner on the inside and also the outside in various hybrid fronts. Thomas can get it done from multiple gaps, but I don't think he's the kind of transcendent edge guy who you want on the end of the formation at all times.
With Jimmie Ward finding his best fit at slot corner and Antoine Bethea out of the picture, there's a real need at safety. Few understand the position better than new general manager John Lynch, and Lynch can't help but be impressed by Jamal Adams, the most versatile pure safety in this draft class. He's not the deep cover man that Ohio State's Malik Hooker is, but he's a better threat at linebacker depth and at the line of scrimmage, and he is interchangeable in that he can roll back deep and take on a receiver or tight end. He can also play the slot, but his best role in the San Francisco defense would be as a roving coverage enforcer—the kind of player who can be the face of a defense.
3. Chicago Bears: Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
Assuming the Chicago Bears believe in Mike Glennon beyond year one of the three-year, $45 million deal they gave him this offseason (they can cut and run pretty easily after 2017), the next issue to address is a run defense that allowed 1,950 yards and 99 first downs in 2016. Solomon Thomas would help a great deal in the run game—he was a stellar run defender in multiple gaps for Stanford—and he can add pass rush to the equation. Last year, in addition to his 10 sacks, 12 hits and 22 hurries, he had 46 total stops, among the most of any defensive lineman in the nation.
Over time, Thomas could be to Vic Fangio's Chicago defense what Justin Smith was to Fangio's San Francisco defense—a constant pain for any opposing offensive line from the end and tackle positions. The Bears also have needs in their defensive backfield and receiver corps, but the chance to get a player of Thomas' caliber is too good to pass up.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
With new head coach Doug Marrone looking to redefine a Jacksonville Jaguars offense that has been reeling for a number of years, and new executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin trying to add an element of accountability, it's past time to acknowledge that in his three NFL seasons, Blake Bortles has not provided anything near franchise-quarterback potential. The organization also has a difficult decision to make by May 3, which is the deadline to pick up Bortles' fifth-year option.
It's my opinion that the option is the primary reason the Jags will take a quarterback with the fourth overall pick. Letting Bortles try to compete in the near term is fine, but it's hard to imagine him turning it around too much after his severe regression in 2016. So, with that in mind, the pick is Mitchell Trubisky. The North Carolina product started for just one year, but in this case, Jacksonville can avoid the mistake it made with Bortles—starting him a year too early—and let Trubisky develop over time. He's still learning the position, but he's already ahead of Bortles in his ability to work under pressure and fire with accuracy to the middle and deep areas of the field.
5. Tennessee Titans: Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State
There's no question the Tennessee Titans need help at cornerback, despite the offseason signing of Logan Ryan. Ryan is a good slot guy and second outside pass defender, but Tennessee needs an alpha in that spot. It's entirely reasonable to imagine general manager Jon Robinson will take an elite cornerback with the fifth overall pick.
However, given the depth of this cornerback class, and the number of picks the Titans have, Hooker is a reasonable choice, as his skill set is rare and valuable. Every team wants a deep-field safety who can run and cover with the best receivers, but the Ed Reed/Earl Thomas paradigm doesn't come along often. Hooker isn't at that level yet, but he has the easy speed and tracking ability common to the best single-high deep safeties, and his seven picks in 2016 tied for the most in the NCAA at the position. With a little development, Hooker could turn into the kind of dominant free safety all NFL teams covet.
6. New York Jets: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
This pick is fraught with complications. The New York Jets inexplicably drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round in 2016, and Hackenberg has shown little to validate that selection. Right now, he is expected to be fighting it out with 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty for the backup job behind career journeyman Josh McCown. So, it's fair to say that without a radical jump in NFL-level talent by one of the youngsters, the Jets are as lost at the quarterback position as they've been since Mark Sanchez was half decent a handful of years back.
And because of this, it makes no sense for general manager Mike Maccagnan to make the biggest mistake some executives make: avoiding talent at a position because they've blown a pick at that position recently. If Deshaun Watson is there at No. 6, and the Jets haven't traded down with another quarterback-hungry team, they should grab him, as he has far more long-term potential than any quarterback on the roster. His toughness and ability to focus and win in big games are great attributes, and he's better at reading the field and throwing with anticipation than the typical spread-offense quarterback. There are things to be worked out with Watson's deep accuracy and ability to read advanced coverages, but his talent and mindset make him worth the investment.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
The Los Angeles Chargers have clear needs along the offensive line, but the 2017 draft doesn't figure to present talent at this point. And as is true for every team in need of cornerback help, the depth of prospects at that position will have general managers and coaches thinking they can get starter talent in the later rounds. They're probably right. So, for the Chargers and their dynamic duo of pass-rushers in new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's system, it could become more about stopping the run and getting the right kind of tackle to make the front seven a force.
Jonathan Allen is exactly that kind of player. The Chargers have Corey Liuget and Brandon Mebane on the inside, but Mebane is more of a nose tackle, and neither player brings Allen's explosiveness to the table. Allen can also rush from the edge if Bradley wants to use Melvin Ingram and/or Joey Bosa as rush linebackers. Allen's a powerful lineman who works well with his hands to control his blocker, and he had 13 sacks, 13 hits and 41 hurries last season. At 6'3" and 286 pounds, he's got the frame to win just about anywhere on the line, and his consistency is unquestionable.
8. Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
This is a match between player and team that's been floated by a ton of draft analysts, and it makes sense. The Carolina Panthers offense is best when it has a power back as its focal point, and there's no better power back in this draft class than Leonard Fournette. He played in just seven games last season because of injuries but still gained 843 yards and scored eight rushing touchdowns on 129 carries. He excelled in the same kind of power-based zone scheme that the Panthers prefer, and with his ability to work past poor blocks and create his own gaps with power, he's an ideal candidate for a team that's still putting its line together.
There was a lot of talk about how seriously Fournette took the predraft process after he showed up at the combine weighing 240 pounds, but he's lost some of that, and as long as the injury situation checks out, he'd be a natural fit in a Carolina offense that needs an every-down back who can pound defenses for extra yards and keep possessions alive.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Since Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler left the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency, they certainly have a need along the offensive line, but there is probably no lineman worth the ninth overall pick. The next most pressing needs for the franchise are at running back and defensive end, and I wouldn't be surprised if Cincinnati went with an edge-rusher. But the offense needs the kind of player who can take the field on every down and present versatility.
Christian McCaffrey presents every bit of versatility an NFL team would want. Not only is he a franchise-level back with an enticing combination of power and speed (he forced 44 missed tackles as a runner last season), but I'd take a second-round flier on him if he was nothing but a receiver. When you put it all together, there's no more flexible player on the offensive side of the ball in this draft class, and while I'm a bit concerned that McCaffrey got a lot of those broken tackles by bulling through arm tackles by subpar Pac-12 defenders, he's got enough acceleration in open space to put those concerns to rest.
10. Buffalo Bills: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Tyrod Taylor's restructured contract gave him just one more guaranteed year with the team, so the Buffalo Bills have made it clear they don't yet believe Taylor to be the future of the franchise at quarterback. That's led a lot of people to speculate the Bills will go with a quarterback at No. 10, and if the guy they want (probably Deshaun Watson) is still on the board, that wouldn't surprise me.
However, if general manager Doug Whaley and new head coach Sean McDermott want to give Taylor the best possible tools to succeed, they'll select the best receiver in this class: Mike Williams. Watson's primary target in Clemson's national championship season, Williams caught 98 balls for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he put up those numbers in a variety of ways. Williams is perfectly capable of creating separation at the line of scrimmage and gaining speed downfield, but he's special at the catch point; he has a ridiculous catch radius, and his ability to win contested catches is unparalleled in this class. He could very well be a franchise receiver from day one, and that's certainly enticing for a team that lost a good chunk of its receiver corps in free agency.
11. New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The New Orleans Saints have gone 7-9 in four of their last five seasons, and they'll never get over that hump—even with the seemingly eternal productivity of Drew Brees—until they do something about a pass defense that has been a liability for a long time. It's why they're looking to acquire New England Patriots cornerback Malcom Butler, but even if they do so, there's still a need at the position. Delvin Breaux is a decent developmental corner when healthy, but he allowed 10 touchdowns in 2015, and injuries shut him down for most of last season.
Marshon Lattimore would be just what the doctor ordered. He allowed an absurd opponents' passer rating of 31.9 on throws on which he was the targeted cornerback in 2016, and he's just the kind of aggressive press cornerback NFL teams desire these days. He will occasionally get lost downfield, but when he's mirroring his assigned receiver, it's tough for those wideouts to get away from him. He's a dynamic tackler who has potential as a flexible zone cornerback as well. The Saints need his kind of technical, aggressive play in their defensive backfield.
12. Cleveland Browns: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
The Cleveland Browns are in the second year of a sabermetrics-led rebuild, but no matter how savvy the front office might be, that means nothing without a functional quarterback. And while it's still possible the Browns could trade for an NFL signal-caller like New England's Jimmy Garoppolo, I would hit the pause button on that proposition because teams have been burned before when overpaying for Tom Brady's backup. Jimmy G might transcend that, but at No. 12, I like the idea of Patrick Mahomes as a developmental guy who's further along than some may think.
When I recently watched tape with the Texas Tech product—who threw for 11,252 yards and 93 touchdowns with just 29 picks in three seasons—I learned he's far more than just another hothouse flower flourishing in an Air Raid offense. Mahomes called routes, audibles and protections at the line, and many of Texas Tech's play concepts and verbiage were pro-style in nature. Mahomes has mechanical issues to work out, and he'll have to control the gunslinger instincts that caused him to throw deep into coverage too often, but he's aware of those issues, and he's got all the physical tools to succeed. Browns head coach Hue Jackson, long a developer of quarterbacks, would have a field day with Mahomes.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
If the first round of the draft works out according to this mock, it would be a disappointment for the Arizona Cardinals; Patrick Mahomes would be an ideal fit for Bruce Arians' offense. Arizona, however, needs to address a few issues besides Carson Palmer's replacement before it can get back to the playoffs.
One thing the Cards need is a reliable outside cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson, who can be both great and inconsistent. Marcus Cooper left in free agency, and nobody else in the fold is ready to take the next step. Tre'Davious White is—both outside and in the slot—which makes him a great fit in James Bettcher's defense, in which defensive backs are asked to take on multiple roles. White allowed a 42.6 percent completion rate in 2016, and his improvement in all areas after an iffy 2015 season bodes well for his future. At 5'11" and 192 pounds, he's a bit smaller than the ideal modern cornerback, but that's not an issue on the field.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
If there's one thing Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has always loved in his hyper-aggressive four-man fronts, it's pairing dominant interior linemen with the kinds of edge-rushers who have the speed and acceleration to the pocket to turn single blocks into pressures and sacks. It was a smart move to acquire veteran end Chris Long in free agency—he still has a bit of speed around the edge left in his game—but last season, Fletcher Cox was Philly's primary pass-rusher at tackle. The Eagles have a solid rotation of ends with Long, Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry, but a Schwartz defense can always use another edge specialist.
Derek Barnett has the quick twitch off the line to get to the quarterback, and at 6'3" and 259 pounds, he's also delivered pressure inside at times. He totaled 32 sacks and 52 tackles for loss in his three seasons at Tennessee, and though he doesn't fit the traditional pass-rusher archetype from a bull-rush perspective, I like his ability to time gaps and make things happen. So would Schwartz.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Indianapolis Colts made a number of free-agent moves this offseason, but the best thing ownership did was to relieve general manager Ryan Grigson of his duties. After getting Andrew Luck as his first draft pick—which was the gimme of all gimmes—Grigson did little to validate his position in the coming years. His combination of ill-conceived trades and free-agency moves, along with draft picks that are hard to defend, left the Colts bereft or talent at numerous positions. New general manager Chris Ballard looks to be a significant improvement with his personnel acumen.
One thing Ballard must do is give Luck more targets; T.Y. Hilton is the only consistent receiver on the team, and though the addition of ex-Baltimore Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken was a good one, there's a need for a bigger, physical receiver who can win at the catch point and give Luck more quick passes to help create yards after the catch. Corey Davis isn't the most physical receiver in this class, but he has a great understanding of the little things that make receivers great at the next level: how to create separation with subtle movements, get free of coverage with angles and accelerate in the open field. Ridiculously prolific through his collegiate career (331 catches for 5,278 yards and 52 touchdowns in four seasons), he'd be an amazing addition to an offense that needs a lot of help.
16. Baltimore Ravens: John Ross, WR, Washington
Joe Flacco's regression in 2016 was real and had a lot to do with his own game, but it's also true that for a great deep-ball thrower, he didn't have the kinds of targets who could take advantage of that. Breshad Perriman led the Baltimore Ravens with just five catches on balls thrown more than 20 yards in the air last year, which is simply unacceptable; if a passing offense can't stretch the field consistently, everything else tends to fall apart as defenses adjust to that missing dimension.
And if an NFL team wants to add explosiveness to its passing game, there's no better quick fix in this class than John Ross, who made opposing defenders look silly in college as he took his blinding speed and, over time, developed into a complete receiver. Ross was the talk of the scouting combine with his 4.22-second 40-yard dash, and that speed shows on the field. But make no mistake—he's not a one-dimensional straight-line guy. Ross can run complex route concepts, his foot fakes at the line are ridiculous, and he's not afraid to go over the middle. He caught 13 balls last season thrown over 20 yards in the air—just two fewer than the entire Ravens receiver corps. The DeSean Jackson comparisons are frequent, and accurate, and as long as Ross' medicals are OK, he'll be a star.
17. Washington: Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
The loss of free agent Chris Baker to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be a big hit to the Washington defense, as Baker was one of the team's most productive defensive lineman and a real asset to its hybrid front with his ability to play end and tackle. Getting Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee to replace Baker seems like a bit of a spackle job, and now, a front that needs interior pressure is without it. Malik McDowell would be a perfect solution and provide a major upgrade to even Baker's efforts over time.
There's been a lot of talk about McDowell's motor issues, but it's a bit overblown. Yes, there were times when he negated his own efforts with bad technique (primarily by coming off the snap too high), and he'll need a wider array of pass-rush moves, but at 6'6" and 295 pounds, the amount of stuff McDowell can already do is astonishing. In the years I've evaluated collegiate defensive linemen, I've seen three who can win consistently from every gap: South Carolina's Melvin Ingram, Florida's Dominique Easley and McDowell. Watch him on tape, and it's clear he's a prime disruptor from 1-tech nose tackle to 4-man defensive end. And in time, his play could be even better—he has the potential to be the best defensive player in this draft class.
18. Tennessee Titans: Haason Reddick, LB/EDGE, Temple
Throughout his career, Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has worked wonders with "tweener" players who, in less-flexible situations, would find their talents negated. But LeBeau has always had a special ability to diagnose what a defender can do and fit their abilities into his concepts.
Haason Reddick would be great in a LeBeau defense because he can do everything from rush the passer (18 sacks, 24 hits and 55 hurries in three seasons) to play at linebacker depth to cover slot receivers and tight ends. At 6'1" and 237 pounds, he doesn't fit the old-school NFL linebacker prototype, but that model has shifted significantly in the last decade. More and more, teams want smaller, faster backers who can fill multiple roles, and Reddick is that type of player. He'd be a stellar Swiss army knife under LeBeau's tutelage.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Adding DeSean Jackson in free agency went a long way to making the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense more complete and multi-dimensional; with his ability to take the top off any defense, Jackson opens things up for everyone else on the field. It would be nice, then, if the Bucs had a more stable situation at running back. Veteran Doug Martin will miss the first three games of the 2016 season because of a violation of the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy, and his age and injury history have started to add up. There's a good sub-package of rotational backs in Tampa in Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber, but there's a need for a new difference-maker in Dirk Koetter's offense.
Dalvin Cook could be that difference-maker if his off-field issues don't stunt his potential and his own injury history doesn't get in the way. He's had shoulder issues, but he's also been highly productive, gaining 5,399 yards from scrimmage and scoring 48 touchdowns in three seasons. Cook is a rare do-it-all back; he is best as an outside runner and receiver, but he also has the ability to run between the tackles. He's an explosive play waiting to happen and could put the Buccaneers offense over the top.
20. Denver Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Denver Broncos' drop from Super Bowl champions to 9-7 question marks had to do with more than the transition at quarterback from Peyton Manning to Trevor Siemian—it was obvious Manning wasn't at his best in 2015, and the Denver defense held up its end of the bargain last season. One fundamental issue that came home to roost was an underperforming offensive line that proved problematic in pass protection and run-blocking. Though he was inconsistent in 2016, left tackle Russell Okung moved on in free agency, and that left a big hole when it comes to protecting the blind side of whoever plays quarterback for the team in 2017 and beyond.
Ryan Ramczyk is one of the few collegiate left tackles in this draft class who doesn't project better as an NFL guard. Though he played just one season of FCS football after starting his college career in Division III, he's a well-developed blocker who gave up just one sack, three hits and eight hurries in 978 snaps last season. And he's ahead of the curve when it comes to keeping his head on a swivel and diagnosing stunts and other line games. Over time, Ramczyk could develop into a top-level left tackle, and he looks like a starter right away.
21. Detroit Lions: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
The Detroit Lions selected tight end Eric Ebron in the first round of the 2014 draft, and they've alternated between being impressed by his potential and wondering if he was ever going to live up to it. The injury-prone Ebron has never played a full season, and his issues with drops and route-running are well known. The Lions must decide by May 3 whether to pick up his fifth-year option, and if they're skittish about the idea, it's certainly understandable.
Adding O.J. Howard to the Detroit offense would certainly provide some clarity and perhaps light a fire under Ebron's posterior. Howard wasn't a primary target in the Alabama offense—he doesn't have the numbers he would if he'd played in a spread attack—but when you watch him play, it's clear he's NFL-ready. At 6'6" and 251 pounds with 4.51-second 40-yard dash speed, Howard is a mismatch for enemy defenders. He can beat safeties and tight ends with both quickness and strength and will find the open spot in a zone, and perhaps most importantly for some teams, he's an excellent blocker. Howard could see his numbers shoot up in a high-volume passing offense like Detroit's.
22. Miami Dolphins: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
The Miami Dolphins signed veteran linebacker Lawrence Timmons in free agency, and Kiko Alonso is still on the roster, leaving defensive coordinator Matt Burke with two starting outside backers who have been inconsistent in recent years. Inside backer Koa Misi is in the last year of his deal, and injuries have affected his playing time. Youth is needed, and a talent upgrade should happen sooner than later.
It appears Reuben Foster is this year's "Bad News the Week of the Draft" winner, as Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that Foster had a diluted urine sample when tested at the combine. He was also sent home from the combine following a "heated altercation" with a hospital worker during medicals. Both situations bear monitoring, but Foster is likely to still be a first-round pick. If he didn't have baggage, and he played a position more valued by the NFL, he might find himself in the top 10, but here we are. There isn't much Foster can't do on the field—his pass-rush numbers improved greatly in 2016, he's a stellar run defender, and he did not allow a touchdown in 106 collegiate targets. He'll need to avoid the aforementioned drama in the NFL, but there's no question he's got what it takes on the field.
23. New York Giants: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
The Alabama portion of our mock draft continues, as the New York Giants look to right a serious evaluative mistake from a couple of years back. When general manager Jerry Reese pulled the trigger on the selection of Miami left tackle Ereck Flowers with the ninth overall pick in 2015, it left a lot of draft analysts stunned; based on his tape, I had Flowers with a third-round grade. Over his two NFL seasons, Flowers has proved to be a consistent liability in pass protection, allowing 10 sacks, 26 hits and 97 hurries. Moreover, Flowers hasn't developed nearly enough from a technique perspective, which has me believing these issues will only continue if he is kept at left tackle.
Reese must now resist making a mistake that bedevils a lot of general managers: the temptation to double down on a high pick when it's clear things aren't working out. Flowers needs a position change, and if the Giants want a power tackle who can actually block ends with good technique, Cam Robinson is an excellent alternative. Robinson had stretches of messy tape, but he played better in 2016, greatly improving his efficiency and mechanics against edge-rushers. Robinson is a day-one starter, especially in contrast to Flowers, though it might take a while for the little things to get shored up.
24. Oakland Raiders: Kevin King, CB, Washington
Assuming the Oakland Raiders eventually bring in Marshawn Lynch to replace Latavius Murray, their running back need will be solved, at least in the short term. So, the Raiders need to address the linebacker and cornerback positions to get their defense up to speed with an offense that is one of the NFL's most dynamic when quarterback Derek Carr is healthy. Kevin King would fill Oakland's need at outside cornerback for a number of reasons.
He's a lanky 6'3" and 200 pounds, and he's as aggressive a press cornerback as I've seen in the last few seasons. Moreover, though King isn't always quick enough in his recovery speed when it comes to defending comebacks and quick-angle routes, he's great at trailing receivers up the seam and boundary, and he has no qualms when it comes to rocking receivers off their routes at the line of scrimmage. He allowed an opponents' passer rating of 62.1 during his three years at Washington and improved noticeably in 2016—he didn't allow a single touchdown pass.
25. Houston Texans: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
No NFL team needs one player at one position like the Houston Texans need a quarterback. However, general manager Rick Smith and head coach Bill O'Brien must resist the urge to overdraft if the guy they want isn't available, as there will be value players there in later rounds. Another issue the team must overcome is the departure of cornerback A.J. Bouye in free agency. Bouye upped his game last season, helping Houston put the No. 1 defense on the field, and the impact of his absence could be severe.
Gareon Conley would be a stellar choice to replace Bouye right away and over time. Last season, he allowed just 14 catches on 42 targets and an absurd opponents' quarterback rating of 14.0. Conley is best as a man cornerback—he'll need to learn the intricacies of zone coverage at the NFL level—but the Texans coaching staff does a great job making the most of cornerback talent.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
The Seattle Seahawks' primary need in the draft is obvious—outside of center Justin Britt, there's no offensive lineman on the team with a record of league-average blocking performances. The addition of Luke Joeckel in free agency gave the team a possible left tackle or probable left guard, but outside of that, the Seahawks seem content to follow their own theories of line development—whatever they may be. Garett Bolles is the answer because he fits the tough-guy paradigm Seattle seems to prefer.
Moreover, he's a study in redemption, which generally appeals to head coach Pete Carroll. Bolles had trouble with the law in his earlier years and spent two years away from the game before going the JUCO route and then ending up at Utah. He's perhaps the most physical pure left tackle in this draft class—he plays with a decidedly nasty streak, which offensive line coach Tom Cable would love, and given Cable's preference for developing raw players (an approach that has had mixed results), Bolles' iffy fundamentals wouldn't be an issue. He isn't always quick to his target in pass-blocking, and leverage issues cause him to lose strength at times, though he only allowed three sacks, one hit and 16 hurries in 2016. Bolles' one-year stint at a major college and advanced age (he'll be 25 on May 27) will give teams pause, but he'd be a great fit for what the Seahawks want in their offensive linemen and players in general.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
The Kansas City Chiefs know exactly what they're going to get from Alex Smith. Every season, he completes about 65 percent of his passes for about 3,500 yards and 20 touchdowns with fewer than 10 interceptions. He'll run Andy Reid's offense efficiently, with few risks and a minimum number of deep balls. It's an effective quarterbacking strategy for the regular season, though the lack of explosive plays puts a strain on the rest of the team to maintain a certain level of play. Smith is 32 years old and has two years left on his contract, and he's hit his ceiling. It's probably time to start grooming his replacement.
Kansas City would be an ideal landing spot for a player like DeShone Kizer, who has all the physical attributes you'd want in a quarterback but needs to develop as a pure passer. He's got the stature (6'4", 233 lbs) and arm to be an NFL quarterback—last season, he completed 23 passes over 20 yards in the air for 769 yards and nine touchdowns with two interceptions—and an appealing combination of traditional attributes and new-school mobility. What he needs is a year or two under a great quarterback tutor like Reid to deal with his footwork, mechanics and consistency under pressure.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
With exciting young stars Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot and the best offensive line in the business, the Dallas Cowboys have the structure in place to dominate that side of the ball for a number of years. However, if they're to ascend to the status of Super Bowl contender for the first time since the mid-1900s, they'll need to shore up a defense that was about league average before a number of free-agency defections left the team short at several positions.
Last year, Benson Mayowa was the team's most effective pass-rusher with six sacks, and the Cowboys have a handful of edge-rushers with potential. But they still need an alpha dog on the edge, and that's where Charles Harris would fit wonderfully. The Missouri product reminds me a bit of another pass-rusher who went to that particular school: Aldon Smith, though without the off-field issues. Unlike a lot of collegiate defensive linemen, Harris has a good understanding of how to use his hands, and his spin move is NFL-ready. He had 10 sacks, 18 hits and 34 hurries last season, and he's no one-year wonder.
29. Green Bay Packers: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
No matter what happens with their defense, run game, offensive line or playbook, the Green Bay Packers will always be in contention as long as Aaron Rodgers takes the field to do things no other quarterback can do. But the Pack hasn't won a Lombardi Trophy since the end of the 2010 season, and if that's to change, the defense needs to play better. Cornerback is their most glaring need, and it must be addressed.
Chidobe Awuzie hasn't gotten the buzz that higher-profile cornerbacks in this class have, but the tape doesn't lie. He can play both outside and in the slot, showing the versatility that defensive coordinator Dom Capers prefers in his defensive backs. Awuzie doesn't have great long speed, but as an intermediate defender in multiple positions, he'd provide an upgrade. In addition, he led all cornerbacks in stops with 41 in 2015, and he can excel as a blitzer.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn
It seems like James Harrison will never retire. Last season, at age 38, he led the Pittsburgh Steelers with five sacks—which tells you a lot about Harrison's durability and the sorry state of Pittsburgh's pass rush.
Carl Lawson can play either 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end, which makes him a nice fit for the Steelers' hybrid fronts. And unlike a lot of collegiate pass-rushers, he has a near-complete array of hand moves and counter techniques. Moreover, he created pressure on 40 percent of his snaps when he moved inside in 2016. He amassed 12 sacks, 17 hits and 68 hurries in two years against stellar competition. Pittsburgh needs a young pass-rusher who can get consistent pressure on the quarterback from multiple gaps, and Lawson has proved he can do that.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Forrest Lamp, OT/OG, Western Kentucky
There's not much the Atlanta Falcons need on offense or defense—Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff have done a great job rebuilding the defense in the draft, and the offense is humming right along. But the interior offensive line is an issue—Chris Chester retired, and Alex Mack and Andy Levitre are getting up there in years.
Forrest Lamp played left tackle at Western Kentucky, and he could be an Andrew Whitworth-style tackle, but he'd also be a good fit at guard in an expansive zone scheme in which he can use his agility, technique and root strength to anchor the inside. He'd look especially good making second-level blocks with Mack and Levitre holding down the fort at the line of scrimmage. He played at a smaller school, but Lamp showed well against Alabama and LSU, and over three seasons, he allowed just three sacks, nine hits and 18 hurries. Match that with his ability to run-block in zone, and he's a perfect fit for what the Falcons with their blocking schemes.
32. New Orleans Saints: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
I gave the New Orleans Saints a great cornerback in Marshon Lattimore earlier in this mock draft, but they still have a ton of needs on defense. They signed a few guys like Manti Te'o and A.J. Klein to fill out their linebacker corps, but they must get younger and more flexible at the second level of the defense.
Jarrad Davis would fit nicely. He's a smaller linebacker at 6'1" and 238 pounds, but the Saints need guys who can cover half the field in their sub-packages, and Davis can certainly take care of that. He's not afraid to drive to the ball at the line, but his real asset to an NFL team will be his speed and change-of-direction skills. Davis allowed just 39 receptions on 66 targets in his collegiate career, and he can roam the entire field at an elite level. He's not a guy who will bring a lot of strength as a run defender at the line, but he'd add a lot to the position group for a team that needs it.