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NFL Draft

First edition 2017 NFL mock draft

11 January 2016: Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 throws during the first half of the College Football Playoff National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Az. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire)
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire)

For those as sad as I am that the 2016 NFL Draft is over, just look on the bright side: now we have plenty of time to get a head start on next year’s class. There are still plenty of needs that still need to be filled in and plenty of roster activity that is bound to change things, but these mock drafts never stop being fun.

For the draft order, I have arranged the teams based on their over/under number for wins in the 2016 season, using the figures decided on by the Las Vegas Superbook at Westgate. To break ties, I went first to the Super Bowl odds at the same casino from lowest to highest and then by their 2015 record from worst to best. In the case of the Packers, Seahawks and Steelers I had to use a really complicated method–flipping a coin.

(I flipped a coin between the Packers and Seahawks first, because with the Patriots holding the best odds and the 32nd pick, it wouldn’t make sense to include the Steelers in the slot reserved for the Super Bowl loser as another AFC team. After the Packers won the flip for the 31st pick, the Seahawks won the flip with the Steelers for the 30th pick. All this really doesn’t matter at all.)

There is a lot of film left to be watched from all of these players and there will be a ton more to take into account during the 2016 college football season. There also will be plenty of change in terms of where teams are picking–the Redskins got the second-overall pick in the early mock draft last year before going to the playoffs–and exactly what their positions of need will be. For Eagles and Rams fans I projected picks for Philly and L.A. in the second round. Remember, don’t blame anyone at Today’s Pigskin for saying your team won’t be drafting 32nd next year and with that cleared up, let’s take a very early look at what we can expect for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Round One

No. 1 to the Cleveland Browns (4.5 O/U, 150/1, 3-13): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Why: Considering they are picking first in this draft–based on Vegas odds as a predictor–we have to assume Robert Griffin III didn’t work out for the Browns. For that reason, it is hard to pass up the top quarterback in the draft, unless they saw promising signs out of Cody Kessler. Watson has a shot to be the best pro prospect in the nation, as a dual-threat quarterback who is coming off an appearance in the National Championship game as a redshirt sophomore.

No. 2 to the Tennessee Titans (5.5 O/U, 100/1, 3-13): Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan

Why: They passed up a chance to grab a versatile defensive back that they need in Jalen Ramsay when they traded back from the first-overall pick, but Peppers gives them a second chance to add a big-time playmaker to their secondary. We aren’t sure if he’ll settle at corner or safety–and word is he’ll fill more of a role at linebacker for Michigan this season–but wherever he fits he should be a contributor immediately.

No. 3 to the San Francisco 49ers (6 O/U, 80/1, 5-11): Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

Why: Like the Browns, the idea that the 49ers will be picking third basically ensures that they had another disastrous year under center, whether that is with Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert. For that reason they will try to get the quarterback they missed out on this year when the Eagles and Rams jumped ahead of them and Brad Kaaya could be just the guy.

No. 4 to the New Orleans Saints (6.5 O/U, 80/1, 7-9): Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama

Why: Needs are fluid in the NFL, especially this early while projecting to the 2017 season, but a big pass rusher who can put his hand in the dirt opposite Cameron Jordan would make a tremendous difference along the defensive line. If Rankins lives up to his potential, they will be building a line that greatly resembles what the Rams did with putting high picks along their front four.

No. 5 to the San Diego Chargers (7 O/U, 80/1, 4-12): Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Why: Passing on the combination of Laremy Tunsil and Ronnie Stanley pushes this need forward a year and Robinson has the potential to be a long-term starter at left tackle. Whether watching Derrick Henry run to the Heisman Trophy or scouting Ryan Kelly in preparation for the 2016 NFL Draft, it is hard to ignore the physical dominance Robinson possesses on the Alabama offensive line.

No. 6 to the Miami Dolphins (7 O/U, 80/1, 6-10): Myles Garrett, ED, Texas A&M

Why: Maybe Mario Williams comes in and improves on the pass rush while replacing Olivier Vernon, but Williams is getting old and Cameron Wake isn’t a spring chicken himself. Garrett has become a great young pass rusher for the Aggies and if he adds a little polish he could easily be a top-five talent in next year’s draft.

No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7 O/U, 60/1, 6-10): Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State

Why: Unless there is a really good kicker the Bucs could trade up into the top five to take, they will benefit from staying here and taking an offensive tackle like Johnson. Donovan Smith is a good-not-great player who might benefit from moving to the right side if Tampa Bay wants to play Johnson on the left and after adding Vernon Hargreaves and Noah Spence their top-two needs of corner and pass rusher could have been filled with their 2016 draft class.

No. 8 to the Detroit Lions (7 O/U, 60/1, 7-9): Carl Lawson, ED, Auburn

Why: Ezekiel Ansah has established himself as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and Lawson represents a great value at bookend in this draft. He can rush the passer with his hand in the dirt or as a stand up linebacker and has a chance to be one of the best talents in the 2017 class.

No. 9 to the Atlanta Falcons (7 O/U, 60/1, 8-8): Devonte Fields, ED, Louisville

Why: The Falcons ignored pass rusher early in the 2016 NFL Draft even though they really struggled to get to the passer last season. If Vic Beasley and company don’t find a way to improve getting after the quarterback, they could look at an edge rusher next season with a high pick. Fields might have the most upside of any of the seemingly very deep class of edge defenders, after putting up a double-digit sack season at TCU and a bonkers end of the year at Louisville where he racked up 8.5 sacks in his final four games.

No. 10 to the Jacksonville Jaguars (7 O/U, 50/1, 5-11): Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama

Why: Assuming Dante Fowler and Myles Jack both pan out in the front seven, the Jaguars could have the luxury of not targeting a pass rusher here, especially with the top-four edge players potentially off the board. Instead they look to add a safety to pair with Jalen Ramsey in the secondary. It looks like it will be a stronger safety class, with four or five guys who could emerge as the best player at the position. Jackson is a converted cornerback at Alabama, who could very well solidify his first-round status.

No. 11 to the Cleveland Browns (from PHI: 7 O/U, 50/1, 7-9): Derek Barnett, ED, Tennessee

Why: Cleveland did a lot of interesting things in the 2016 NFL Draft, but among their clearest agendas was a willingness to add players at premium positions. They drafted five wide receivers and three pass rushers last season, so after getting the franchise quarterback in this mock, they use their extra first-round pick from the Eagles in order to target a very good pass rusher in Barnett with their second first-round pick.

No. 12 to the Washington Redskins (7 O/U, 40/1, 9-7): Charles Harris, ED, Missouri

Why: Washington has done a better job of roster building in recent years, even if their reputation as big spenders in free agency isn’t totally finished in the wake of signing Josh Norman to a huge contract. They could still find a very good pass rusher here in Harris, to go along with Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy, especially if their favorite safety is off the board.

No. 13 to the Chicago Bears (7.5 O/U, 60/1, 6-10): Zach Banner, OT, USC

Why: The Bears can still find a way to add a left tackle before the season, especially if either Eugene Monroe or Branden Albert becomes available after the Ravens and Dolphins took tackles with their first-round picks. Even still, this could be a good draft to go with an offensive tackle like Banner, who probably falls a little with the emphasis on pass rushers in front of him.

No. 14 to the Tennessee Titans (from LA: 7.5 O/U, 60/1, 7-9): Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

Why: Taking Peppers with the second-overall pick costs the Titans a chance at a pass rusher, with the top six coming off the board in the first 12 picks in this draft, but they respond by taking McDowell who could be the best defensive lineman in this draft. McDowell might be able to play defensive tackle or end in a four-man front, but could really thrive as a defensive end in a 3-4.

No. 15 to the Buffalo Bills (8 O/U, 40/1, 8-8): Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Why: The Bills did a great job by adding three players in the first three rounds who hopefully become starters in the front seven. Rex Ryan will want to build on that–assuming he is still here despite missing the playoffs and coming away with the 15th pick. Drafting an athletic defensive back like Jamal Adams, who bounced around the LSU defense from corner to nickelback before settling at safety, will allow them to help strengthen the cornerback tandem of Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby.

No. 16 to the New York Jets (8 O/U, 40/1, 10-6):Adoree Jackson, CB, USC

Why: Mike Maccagnan kept very quiet leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, before grabbing a super athletic quarterback-turned-safety-turned-linebacker with their first rounder. With a need at cornerback, it makes sense that Jackson could be the best-player available here, as a do-it-all chess piece who plays corner, safety and receiver for the Trojans and can also run the ball and return kicks and punts.

No. 17 to the New York Giants (8 O/U, 30/1, 6-10): Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Why: After Ezekiel Elliott was drafted fourth by the Cowboys, the 2016 NFL season will put a microscope on how much a running back is worth. If Elliott goes berserk behind the Cowboys’ offensive line, that bodes well for a very deep class of running backs that could easily see 10 players go in the first three rounds. Of course, the Cowboys are a formed team looking for final pieces for a Super Bowl roster, something the teams picking in the top-10 might not realistically think they are. The Giants however are trying to maximize a chance to get back to the big game behind Eli Manning and Fournette is a ridiculous prospect who could eclipse the love that was poured out for Elliott in advance of this past draft.

No. 18 to the Oakland Raiders (8 O/U, 30/1, 7-9): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Why: For the second straight year, the wide receiver class doesn’t seem to have the cache of the 2014 and 2015 drafts. Williams might be the exception, as he was considered by some to be the best in the 2016 class before losing his entire season at Clemson due to injury. With Deshaun Watson emerging as the best quarterback in this mock, it makes sense that Williams will have a big season as well and the Raiders will either need to replace Michael Crabtree at some point or give Derek Carr a third option in three-receiver sets.

No. 19 to the Baltimore Ravens (8.5 O/U, 30/1, 5-11): Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

Why: A need at cornerback pushes the Ravens toward considering Tabor here, but it helps that he is a six-foot guy on the outside who can play physically and also get his hands on the football. Tabor has a pretty high ceiling and if he builds on his 2015 season he might never get this deep into the draft, but the Ravens would be smart to scoop him up in this mock.

No. 20 to the Houston Texans (8.5 O/U, 30/1, 9-7): O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Why: The Texans missed out on the playoffs by half of a win in their over/under, but as a result of being the best non-playoff team in this mock let’s say that the focus on offense worked out for them. Bill O’Brien and the organization made a big bet on Brock Osweiler and are committed to giving him every chance to succeed and adding a big-time athlete at tight end in Howard is the next step towards building a high-powered offense. Howard wasn’t super productive in 2015 but broke out in the National Championship victory and clearly has some impressive skills to go with his 6’6″, 240-plus pound frame. He is a good blocker with upside as a receiver.

No. 21 to the Indianapolis Colts (9 O/U, 30/1, 8-8): Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

Why: As a redshirt freshman Humphrey broke onto the scene as a big, physical corner with the top-end speed to compete in the SEC. The Colts have more problem areas on the roster than they’d like to admit, but adding a corner opposite Vontae Davis–or possibly to eventually replace Davis–isn’t a bad idea. Humphrey has the size and athleticism to make him a highly sought after guy in round one.

No. 22 to the Kansas City Chiefs (9 O/U, 18/1, 10-6): JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC

Why: The Chiefs passed on adding a premium wide receiver across from Jeremy Maclin, but Smith-Schuster is tough to pass up this late in the draft. He was highly regarded coming out of high school where he played receiver and safety, but it is his production as a sophomore that stands out. He caught 89 passes for nearly 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns, numbers that Andy Reid would love to have offsetting Maclin and Travis Kelce.

No. 23 to the Minnesota Vikings (9 O/U, 18/1, 11-5): Nate Andrews, S, Florida State

Why: The Vikings are stacked with young talent and could easily go best-player available in this spot, but if they do have a need to fill (other than just throwing assets at the offensive line) it is finding a safety to pair with Harrison Smith. Smith is going to command huge money and getting a talented rookie next to him could set the secondary with Xavier Rhodes and Mackensie Alexander for a while. Andrews was overshadowed playing with Jalen Ramsey at Florida State, but was noticeable on tape for making good plays and should have the athleticism to back up that film.

No. 24 to the Dallas Cowboys (9 O/U, 16/1, 4-12): Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee

Why: Taking Ezekiel Elliott worked out for the Cowboys, but they need to focus on their defense after passing on Jalen Ramsey this year. Sutton could have been a second-round pick had he entered this past draft and he is a supreme athlete and cover guy who should be able to work as a nickelback or on the outside and make a difference early for the Cowboys.

No. 25 to the Denver Broncos (9.5 O/U, 18/1, 12-4): Jake Butt, TE, Michigan

Why: Either Paxton Lynch or Mark Sanchez worked out in this scenario for the Broncos as they make the playoffs again and John Elway and Gary Kubiak double down on offense by drafting Butt out of Michigan. Make fun of his name all you want, but Butt is a huge target who can make plays on the ball and be physical over the middle of the field. With all the play action Kubiak wants to run, having a threat to block and then get open on a crossing route will be a great fit.

No. 26 to the Cincinnati Bengals (9.5 O/U, 14/1, 12-4): Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

Why: With Josh Perry and Darron Lee in the NFL, McMillan should have a lot of the spotlight to himself when it comes to Ohio State linebackers. The Bengals could be looking to add a big-bodied tackling machine in the middle who can really stop the run and McMillan also has the athleticism to drop in coverage as well.

No. 27 to the Arizona Cardinals (10 O/U, 14/1, 13-3): Tim Williams, LB, Alabama

Why: It was great for the Cardinals to add a pass rusher in Chandler Jones, but that guy is going to get paid and it might not be in Arizona. Williams could be the next chess piece who can get after the quarterback. Only weighing around 230 pounds, he doesn’t have the body size of some of the edge rushers who went earlier in the draft, but he has similar size to Leonard Floyd and has been far more productive in college. He had 9.5 sacks as a junior and could be a real menace on the edge.

No. 28 to the Carolina Panthers (10.5 O/U, 9/1, 15-1): Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Why: The Panthers have a reputation for going best-player available, drafting defensive tackle Vernon Butler despite having studs along the interior defensive line. However, they drafted corners with their next three picks, presumably to find a replacement for Josh Norman. Cook could fill both philosophies, as a dynamic running back who could ultimately compete with the aging Jonathan Stewart.

No. 29 to the Pittsburgh Steelers (10.5, 8/1, 10-6): Desmond King, CB, Iowa

Why: The Steelers have avoided drafting corners in the early rounds before drafting Artie Burns this year. However they go corner again and try to just turn over the reputation of the secondary quickly to keep up with the pace the front seven has set. King would likely have been drafted on the second day of the draft if he had entered the draft after picking off eight passes as a junior, but he could be even better in 2016 and set himself up to be a first-round pick.

No. 30 to theSeattle Seahawks (10.5 O/U, 8/1, 10-6): Deatrich Wise Jr., ED, Arkansas

Why: They took care of their offensive line in the draft this year, but left tackle will likely still be the biggest need on the offense, assuming Germain Ifedi settles at right tackle or guard. Still, the Seahawks appeased everyone by drafting three offensive linemen and they could like to go back to adding to their front seven. Wise had eight sacks as a junior and has the size to fit in perfectly along the defensive line for the Seahawks, with the ability to play inside or outside and rush the passer next to Jarran Reed.

No. 31 to the Green Bay Packers (10.5 O/U, 8/1, 10-6): Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Why: This might not make a ton of sense because there should be a handful of very capable inside linebackers available in round two and they just showed a willingness to pass on Reggie Ragland, but until the Packers find a real stud on the inside middle linebacker will be a need. If there was a notable edge rusher left on the board that would be a perfect fit, but drafting at No. 31 it will be tough to find that guy who can eventually replace Julius Peppers across from Clay Matthews. Foster will be a leader on the Alabama defense and should be able to easily man the middle of the defense.

neNo. 32 to theNew England Patriots (10.5 O/U, 6/1, 12-4): Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Why: For next year’s draft, there will be a lot of talk about how great the group of running backs are. Despite the declining value at the position, there is just a glut of talent that could all enter the draft together. McCaffrey’s overall skill set is something Bill Belichick should covet, able to run the football but also be a huge component of the passing game and even add value as a returner. The way the Patriots used Dion Lewis successfully and tried to use James White in Lewis’ absence point to them wanting big time receiving talent in the backfield (they signed D.J. Foster as an undrafted free agent for just that reason).

ROUND TWO

No. 40 to the Philadelphia Eagles: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

Why: The Eagles mortgaged the future for Carson Wentz, but only have to wait until the 40th pick in this draft to make their first selection. They could definitely consider a corner, but adding a real athlete at the second level of the defense could be huge. Davis is a monster in the middle who might have enough athleticism to be more than a two-down player and hold up one of the linebacker positions from day one.

No. 45 to the Los Angeles Rams: Dan Volts, OC, Wisconsin

Why: The Rams will need to invest in the offensive line after investing in Jared Goff and Todd Gurley the past two years. Volts could play center or guard and should be an NFL-ready player out of the pro-style offense at Wisconsin who can have a tremendous impact both as a run blocker and a pass protector on the inside.

Team logos used in this article are courtesy of XML Sports.

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