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2017 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Prospects Vaulting into Opening Round

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2017

Connecticut defensive back Obi Melifonwu runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine Monday, March 6, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Now that the NFL has officially released the 2017 schedule, fans know who their favorite teams will be playing each game. What they don't yet know is which rookies will be playing for them. We still have a week to go before sorting that out.

The 2017 draft is next weekend, and there seems to be as much uncertainty surrounding it as there ever has been. Sure, we have a good idea of which prospects are going to be drafted at the top of Round 1—guys like Myles Garrett, Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker—but we don't know exactly where they'll land. We also don't know which players are going to be picked at the end of the first round.

The bottom of Round 1 is where things have really changed over the past couple of months. For the most part, those guys at the top have stayed there. Some new prospects, however, have slipped into the first-round conversation.

These prospects are the ones we're going to examine here. We'll take a look at some who have recently forced their way into that Round 1 conversation and how they've done so. We'll also examine the latest draft order and mock selections based on factors like prospect stock, team needs, player potential and team fits.

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 ChargersJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
8Carolina PanthersMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
9Cincinnati BengalsHaason Reddick, LB, Temple
10Buffalo BillsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
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)John Ross, WR, Washington
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 ChiefsTaco Charlton, DE, Michigan
28Dallas CowboysT.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
29Green Bay PackersKevin King, CB, Washington
30Pittsburgh SteelersJabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
31Atlanta FalconsDan Feeney, G, Indiana
32New Orleans Saints (from NE)Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC

Prospects on the Rise

Kevin King, CB, Washington

Former Washington cornerback Sidney Jones was expected to be one of the first defenders off the board on draft weekend. Unfortunately, Jones suffered a torn Achilles at his pro day. His injury is part of the reason why former teammate Kevin King has seen his stock rise.

Jones' injury opens another first-round spot for a cornerback, and that could go to King. The NFL must at least think this is a possibility, as King is one of 22 prospects who was invited to and will attend the draft.

"Kevin King is going to go in the first round," one NFL executive told NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah. "He killed it at the combine and his pro day was unbelievably impressive."

King ran the 40-yard dash in a solid 4.43 seconds at the combine. While this isn't blazing fast, it's pretty impressive for a cornerback who is 6'3" and 200 pounds.

Size isn't the only thing to like about King, though.

"King attacks the ball in the air with great length and leaping ability," Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller recently wrote. "He's short-area fast, which is rare for a long, lean cornerback, and he shows great ability to change direction with balance and speed."

With King out of Jones' shadow, he's been steadily moving into the first-round conversation.

Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

While this is expected to be a very talented and deep draft, it isn't believed to be very strong at the offensive tackle position. There doesn't appear to be a clear-cut top prospect in this class, though at one point the high profile of Alabama's Cam Robinson had him trending at the top.

Utah's Garett Bolles has been moving up draft boards ever since the combine, though, and he may now be in the conversation to be the first offensive tackle off the board. He's certainly in the conversation for Round 1.

NFL Media's Charley Casserly has Bolles going to the Denver Broncos 20th overall in his latest mock draft.

At the combine, Bolles ran the 40 in 4.95 seconds, he also produced a 115.0-inch broad jump and a 7.29-second three-cone drill.

"Most athletic offensive lineman I've done since I took over this area of the country," one NFL scout told NFL Media's Lance Zierlein. "He's also mean on the field, which you love. I'm projecting him to get stronger once he locks into an NFL strength-and-conditioning program."

Bolles certainly doesn't lack confidence either.

"I know I have what it takes to be a franchise tackle in this league," Bolles said, per Chris Burke of SI.com.

Some team is going to give Bolles the opportunity to be an NFL tackle, and it could happen in the first round.

Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut

Former UConn safety Obi Melifonwu might not have been one of the top draft names early in the predraft process, but he's been trending up ever since his ridiculous performance at the scouting combine.

Melifonwu ran the 40 in 4.40 second, produced a 44.0-inch vertical and a 141.0-inch broad jump.

That's some pretty impressive athleticism. When you add it to the fact Melifonwu is a 6'4", 224-pound safety, it's easy to understand why teams have become interested in him.

NFL Media's Bucky Brooks had the following to say of Melifonwu:

I agree with that assessment, but I would even suggest that Melifonwu should be considered a borderline first-round talent based on his size, production, and skills. He has all of the physical tools that teams covet in an enforcer between the hashes and I can see him thriving in a Kam Chancellor-like role as a pro.

How many teams would love to have a Kam Chancellor-type safety on their team? Probably most of the 31 teams that don't employ Chancellor himself.

Interestingly enough, though, Brooks recently mocked Melifonwu to the Seattle Seahawks at 26th overall.

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