I have been a fan of the NFL for about 4 years now and due to the Chip Kelly fiasco the most exciting moment as a fan for me personally has been the NFL draft where the Eagles moved up to snag Carson Wentz upon whom the franchise and its fan base pin its hopes on.
As exciting as the Superbowl is and as blessed as we are to witness the Patriot’s greatness, only two teams get to the Superbowl every year. The draft however, is an exciting event for all fan-bases to participate and invest hope in. The beauty of the Draft and Free Agency cap system in the NFL is that it allows fans of all teams – good or bad (maybe with the exception of the Browns and Jets) – to believe it could finally be their year.
Having developed – or at least tried to – my knowledge of the sport more each year I have followed this years draft class more than ever and so I am finally going to do a mock draft of my own; something I’m personally excited for!
My draft will be with the implausible assumption that picks aren’t traded because I’m not connected with league sources nor that knowledgeable of how General Managers value draft picks when trading. I will also pick as I expect them to be drafted rather than how I think players should fall so please don’t leave angry comments when I inevitably draft Trubisky higher than he should be!
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, DE
Unfortunately for the die hard Dawg Pound gang there is no Vontae Mack available to save them in this year’s draft class. A year removed from electing to miss out on potential franchise quarterback (much to my delight) Carson Wentz, the Brown’s find themselves at the top of the draft following a 1-15 season. With no QB worthy of being the first overall pick – not even one worthy of being a week 1 starter – the Browns are left with the consensus number 1 pick. A pass rusher is a vital position and Garrett is a generational freak of nature; surely even the Browns can’t and wont mess this up.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Solomon Thomas, DL
Obvious move for the 49ers here would be to trade down but the problem is they are not in an enviable position based on the positions of strength in this draft. Everybody knows the 49ers need a franchise QB for new coach Kyle Shanahan. They also need to bump up their offensive line. This draft has no candidates worthy of being this high a pick for those positions. The 49ers haven’t been at the level of Harbaugh’s Superbowl defence and weren’t helped by retirements of Patrick Willis, Chris Borland and the subsequent flame out of Aldon Smith. Players like Reuben Foster would be warranted and favourable friends for Navarro Bowman but a pass rusher like Thomas makes more sense for a pick of this value; especially considering DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead have only 10.5 sacks between them.
3. Chicago Bears – Jamal Adams, S
A high pick for a safety but a worthy one. A toss up between Adams and the cornerback Marshon Lattimore for the Bears in a division containing elite passers Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford. In the end I think they’ll take elite athlete Adams for what he gives in the run game whilst they can improve his coverage skills. They have also just signed Prince Amukamara whilst Kyle Fuller (who so far has been disappointing as a former 1st rounder) is still young. Another issue is Lattimore’s hamstring issues which isn’t something that goes away. The success of Leonard Floyd to play with Trevathan and McPhee means pass rush not vital. Again would expect them to trade down because they need weapons for Mike Glennon and a potential QB of the future.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jonathan Allen, DL
I think the Jaguars like Fournette but I without the Cowboys O-line a running back at 4th overall is possibly too expensive. Marshon Lattimore was another consideration here because with him playing across from Jalen Ramsey they would be set for years but they shelled out on AJ Bouye in free agency. As a result I think they take safe pick in Jonathan Allen and continue to load their young defence. It also gives him the chance to learn from Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson. I think they give Chris Ivory another shot and draft a running back later on.
5. Tennessee Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB
The best placed team in this draft are laughing. Pick twice in the top 20 thanks to the highway robbery of the Rams who thought Jared Goff was Andrew Luck. The Titans have two great running backs, a franchise quarterback and two bookend offensive lineman. As a result, having cut Jason McCourtey, the Titans have the luxury of whoever they want. Again, wouldn’t be surprised if they ransomed more picks from the Browns (concerned about the Jets taking a QB) and moved back. They need weapons for Mariota but no need at five. Without Sidney Jones (Achilles injury) its a toss up between Ohio cornerbacks so I’ll go with Lattimore to play across recent acquisition Logan Ryan this season. Titans are a sleeper team to go deep into the playoffs next season a-la Raiders of 2016.
6. New York Jets – Leonard Fournette, RB
It’s a good job the Giants are looking good because between the Knicks and the Jets New York has some of the most awful and dysfunctional teams in US sports currently. Hate to be the bearer of bad news but the Jets could go 0-16 quite easily. I have them and the Rams at equally low points. The Browns have picks at least in the next few drafts to slowly build something. Gang Green desperately need help in the secondary after the disaster of Darrelle Revis last season. I think Malik Hooker as a result is an option and I wouldn’t be surprised if they blow the pick on a QB. However I think they’ll take the splash pick and turn this into a physical team that’ll run it down your throat. A team they can get behind and Fournette can easily be the face of the franchise and focal point of the offense. He’d also keep that appalling defence off the field. Expect a CB taken in the second round.
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Malik Hooker, S
The Chargers, considering the record they had last season, really aren’t a bad footballing team. Casey Howard turned in a surprise Pro Bowl season leading the league in interceptions. They’ve also got a talented returning cornerback in Jason Verrett coming back next season and a Joey Bosa facing a whole offseason with the team. On the other side of the ball Melvin Gordon is finding his feet, Hunter Henry seems like a stud and Keenan Allen might finally stay healthy. Certainly they’ll be better than the Rams. They still haven’t replaced Eric Weddle though and they’ll be disappointed Jamal Adams has gone. Malik Hooker is the rawer talent but athletically gifted with immense East-to-West speed. With Gus Bradley I’m sure he can be coached into a frequent Pro Bowler.
8. Carolina Panthers – Christian McCaffery, RB
I’m not McCaffery’s biggest fan. He’s got great abilities and he’s very quick but I would be terrified if he falls to the Eagles to be the number 1 back. At 5’11 and 202lbs, as great as his numbers were in college I think he’d struggle with durability amongst the behemoths of the NFL. I also get concerned when a running back’s biggest asset is in the passing game. I appreciate Sproles is one of the Eagle’s most dangerous players but he’s not an every down back. McCaffery wont be the Panther’s first choice; ultimately they’re praying to land Fournette here. However with tall receivers in Benjamin, Funchess and Greg Olsen and a power back in Jonathan Stewart, McCaffery is another complementary weapon who can help Newton recapture his MVP form.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Reuben Foster, LB
I’m probably completely wrong here. Reuben Foster already had character concerns and his diluted sample from the combine wont help his draft stock as so many teams are avoiding any drug problems due to so many heavy suspensions dished out. However, this is the Bengals. They are filled with problematic players, what’s more suspension when you have Adam Jones resisting arrest and a yearly ban for a dirty hit on Vontaze Burfict. Their linebackers core is getting older and thinner with cuts and so a hard hitting star like Foster would be a great addition. I love the player’s ability on the field I’m just scared regarding his availability to be there. Having said that, based on appearances on sports debate shows he comes across as an educated and honest young man who has been through an awful lot and developed into a good young man. However, rumours have been circling regarding the rise of Haason Reddick so he could easily move up and take this spot if Foster slides.
10. Buffalo Bills – OJ Howard, TE
Thankfully for Buffalo fans, the front office saw sense and mutually restructured Tyrod Taylor’s contract and retained him for the near future. He isn’t the best QB in the world but he’s better than a lot of teams have and he’s better currently than this years draft class crop. As a result, if they want even a hope of competing in their division they ought to draft some weapons for him. CB is a position of need now Gilmore fled to serve the Evil Empire but it’s a deep class so get one early second round. I don’t have Mike Williams lasting until this pick – he’s their ideal I believe – but it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he and Howard switch places in this draft. However, he gives a fast and strong reliable target to take the pressure of Watkins meaning if he has any niggles they can rest rather than exasperate it and make him miss yet more games.
11. New Orleans Saints – Tre’Davious White, CB
The Saints appear to be slowly heading towards finally going all in for Brees. I hesitate to really put my neck out and confidently state this but signing future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson for the backfield to partner Peterson seems like an urgent fix. Some drafts have pass rush as an urgent need but they should get a full year of Nick Fairley and Sheldon Rankins alongside Cameron Jordan on the O-line. Instead I think it is a toss up for the Saints between improving a weak linebacker group [Haason Reddick was a close call for this pick] and finally addressing their porous secondary. I know it’s a strong cornerback group but by getting an instant starter to play across from Delvin Breaux suddenly their defence looks capable of allowing Brees to finally cash in on his hugely successful offence. I initially had Gareon Conley here who is graded above Lattimore for some as the top corner, but recent allegations of rape leaking will likely bounce him out of the first round this close to the draft.
12. Cleveland Browns – Mitchell Trubisky. QB
Some drafts have Reuben Foster falling to the Browns with this pick and I think that combined with Myles Garrett they’re suddenly a much brighter looking team with massive upside on defence. It’s not happening though. The Browns will take a QB in this draft in the first round, it is an addiction for them. I, as I mentioned earlier, expect them to trade up and swap picks with the Jets/Titans in order to guarantee this pick. The biggest concern regarding Trubisky is his college career. He was successful in situations he was forced into and had success in his 13 career stats but its not a ringing endorsement he was made to sit behind a draft bust in Marquise Williams. The positive is that he didn’t play enough to develop bad habits from college offences. Also, if the Browns want to red shirt him he has experience on the bench. The bad news is that the Browns are wasting a well earned pick by reaching for a QB that is not ready to start. At least he has an expensive O-line to protect him; it’s gonna be baptism by fire.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Corey Davis, WR
Arizona Cardinals need a Quarterback for the future. Everyone knows Carson Palmer doesn’t have long left in the league; he could quite easily go down during the season. However, he isn’t long removed from a season that had him as a legitimate MVP candidate; before he got injured and Drew Stanton was knocked out of the playoffs. Bruce Arians is a QB whisperer and I think the ideal situation is if he gets a Deshaun Watson/Patrick Mahomes II to sit for a year or two and develop whilst Palmer holds down the fort. However, I think this is too expensive a pick for that. They could also be a potential candidate to trade back down in the draft but I expect them to take the best route runner in the WR class who at 6’3 with safe hands gives Palmer another weapon to attack with in his twilight years. Also begins preparation for life without future 1st ballot Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald.
14. Philadelphia Eagles – Derek Barnett, DE
I absolutely love the fact we were able to regain a draft pick in the first round in return for Sam Bradford; especially as it’s only two places back from our own pick [traded to the Browns for Carson Wentz]. It may be wishful thinking for Barnett to slide to 14th but not entirely implausible. Wentz needs weapons that have continuity but I think Alshon Jeffery will be re-signed at seasons end whilst Jordan Matthews might finally break out as a slot receiver. Certainly the secondary needs addressing with Jalen Mills the only starting cornerback on the roster but it’s a deep class so second round should contain players like Marlon Humphrey or Teez Tabor who can start from day 1. With Brandon Graham ageing, Fletcher Cox not rushing the passer consistently from inside and Barwin gone the Eagles currently would be praying for a breakout form Vinny Curry… I say drafting the man to break Reggie White’s college sack record would be a good way to dramatically improve them upfront and Jim Schwartz would love this pick. I also would love them to get D’Onta Foreman later in this draft as well.
15. Indianapolis Colts – Takkarist McKinley, OLB
Since Andrew Luck was taken first overall the Colts have consistently failed to surround him with a supporting cast resulting in a change at GM. Ryan Kelly was a good addition to a porous offensive line at center who should be a big help in years to come. They still need to improve their O-line if Luck is to survive but with a weak class I can’t see them doing that this early in the draft; possibly an option of trading down if a QB needy team like the Texans like someone. As a result we turn to their defence. They may be tempted to finally find a partner across the field from Pro Bowl corner Vontae Davis if Conley drops and they feel safe doing so but I see them taking a replacement for Mathis here and drafting a pass rusher from UCLA. They were one of the league’s worst defences last year and with Luck being the division’s best QB currently, a pass rusher to go after the likes of Mariota could help them compete.
16. Baltimore Ravens – John Ross, WR
The Ravens have a good defence but one that is ageing as Terrell Suggs turns 35 this year. They also need an improvement at secondary though I think they may do this later in the draft particularly with a higher pick in the 3rd round after trading Jernigan to the Eagles. As a result, I think they become enamored with combine star John Ross and his lightning speed. He gives them a true deep ball threat outside the numbers as a number one receiver that Wallace and Perriman just don’t have the talent to fulfill from what we have seen. Flacco will be grateful as the Ravens try to be competitive again; also look for a running back to be taken later on.
17. Washington Redskins – Haason Reddick, LB
I think the Redskins would have loved Ross to fall to them to replace the loss of DeSean Jackson as a deep ball threat but with Josh Doctson returning to play alongside Pryor and Crowder their receiving corps is relatively healthy. As a result, Reddick who I think could go as high as 12, falls in this draft and is a steal. Trent Murphy is suspended to start the season and there are question marks with other linebackers on the roster. Why not get a feel good story and a top talent to both improve the roster and the morality surrounding this dysfunctional franchise.
18. Tennessee Titans – Kevin King, CB
With the draft’s top receivers gone there isn’t really another target for Mariota worthy of this pick in this class. There are some incredibly talented tight ends but the presence of Delanie Walker and the offence run it doesn’t really seem likely. I personally think their best bet would be to trade down and regain a second rounder used up to get Jack Conklin last year as the second round would be a good place to take a Cooper Kupp or JuJu Smith-Schuster. As I’m not doing trades I think they can either further strengthen their front seven or with Jason McCourtey being cut take another cornerback to strengthen their secondary; either way their defence is now looking as deep as their offence.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Dalvin Cook, RB
Quite simply, the Buccs are probably licking their lips as they retain Cook in the sunshine state. With Doug Martin suspended and not entirely reliable as he spends time in a drug rehabilitation centre this offseason, a running back who can aid the passing and ground game is an ideal enhancement for this team. Dalvin Cook put up strong numbers for the Seminoles as a runner and is thought of as the best catching back behind McCaffery; he also played with Jameis Winston in college as an added bonus. He’s got baggage but so did Winston when the Buccs took him first overall. I think this is a good value pick which might elevate the Buccs to the next level this year.
20. Denver Broncos – Cam Robinson, OT
A lot of boards have Forrest Lamp as the best O-Line man in the draft but I feel the Broncos probably don’t want to add a college Guard having just added Ronald Leary from the Cowboys. Their weakness is majorly at the bookends relying on the ever injured Menelik Watson. Defensively they feel good enough to get back to the Superbowl and there is no-one in this draft seen as a major improvement over Siemain and Lynch. It’s a toss up between Robinson and Ramczyk but Robinson appears to be seeing his stock rise recently and was part of a team who reached consecutive title games. I see him going to the Mile high city at 20. Even if he isn’t yet ready at left tackle he gives them an upgrade on the right side.
21. Detroit Lions – Taco Charlton, DE
The Lions need pass rushers. Their only elite level pass rusher from the edge is Ezekial Ansah who they’re struggling to agree a long term deal with whilst interior lineman Haloti Ngata is now 33. A lot of mock drafts have Charles Harris from Missouri as the solution but with 6’6 277lbs Charlton – who ran a sub 5 second time at the combine – on the board he has to be the pick. He’s long, led his team with 9.5 sacks and has rare athletic ability and paired with Ansah would certainly create enough problems for Aaron Rodgers that the Lions might finally be able to win the AFC North. He drops to 21 due to consistency but with the natural traits it should be coach-able to make him a star.
22. Miami Dolphins – Forrest Lamp, G
Last year the Dolphins lucked out when a video released of Laremy Tunsil smoking marijuana leaked just before the draft and landed a franchise tackle in their laps all the way down at 13. He was consistent and reliable at guard and with Brandon Albert gone they can finally move him out to be a pillar for their O-line. They can do this with confidence as well because luckily for the Dolphins a talented prospect guard falls into their lap at 22nd overall. They can continue to build a strong and talented line for the future which will do wonders for the emerging stud Jay Ajayi.
23. New York Giants – David Njoku, TE
Certainly the Giants need to improve their offensive line at some point which is why Garrett Bolles is a popular choice currently. However, their biggest rivals for the division, the Cowboys are weak at rushing the pass and have just overseen an exodus in their secondary. Seems like the perfect time to capitalize by making do with their existing O-line and drafting a top level Tight End to complement the rich and elite receiving targets at Eli’s disposal. He is an athletic freak with reliable hands and would be a dramatic improvement in the position; it would probably elevate them for a deep playoff run behind that serious defence.
24. Oakland Raiders – Jarrad Davis, LB
An inside linebacker to play alongside Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin would make this Raiders defence similar to that of old; terrifying! With the Chiefs last year being the division’s biggest rivals to the Raiders, strengthening their linebackers even further would aid stopping a run heavy offence and slow down Travis Kelce. His strong, passionate leadership is matched by his production and he was elected to second-team All-SEC. With the fan base smarting about the relocation, give them a stereotypical Raiders player to trigger the nostalgia from the golden days.
25. Houston Texans – Deshaun Watson, QB
How a QB who took his team to consecutive National Championship games, winning one of them with a clutch drive into the end-zone with seconds remaining whilst throwing 7 touchdowns to 1 interception for over 800 yards – in two games against colleges best defence – is rated below a player with 13 starts is beyond me. Tom Brady’s measurable didn’t match the desirable traits but he was a winner who led teams through tough periods, triggered comebacks and had intangibles that couldn’t be rated. Watson may have had mechanical and accuracy issues but mechanics can be fixed. Accuracy is more of a concern but less so that lack of experience (see Trubisky). Behind a defence with the potential to be elite and a large, reliable target DeAndre Hopkins, Watson would be in a similar situation to the one he faced at Clemson. He could be what takes the Texans to the next level.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Ryan Ramczyk, OT
It’s not rocket science that the Seahawks offensive line is abysmal. They sacrificed Pro Bowl center to the Saints for Jimmy Graham much to the delight of Drew Brees. As dangerous as a pass catcher as Graham is, he has been prone to injuries and has long been slighted for being a poor blocker and avoiding heavy hits. Coby Fleener and a consistently reliable center makes Brees the winner of that trade. Combine this with the loss of Okung and the retirement of Beastmode in the backfield has turned Russell Wilson into a pinata. They have increased aerial targets and the backfield in recent years but still avoided bandaging their O-line. It’s a necessity and so the Seahawks take the Wisconsin tackle out of need unfortunately rather than best available.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – Patrick Mahomes II, QB
The Chiefs are a strong team on both sides of the ball although there has been limits on how far into the postseason they can go as many consider Alex Smith to be incapable of taking them to the next level. The Chiefs definitely need to get younger in their linebackers unit and so it wouldn’t surprise me if they took a T.J. Watt or Zach Cunningham but if Andy Reid likes Mahomes II and thinks he’ll be gone in the second he should take him here. A strong defence and a solid starting passer, Mahomes II can redshirt allowing them to develop his decision making and improve his mechanics. Many consider him to have the most upside as a passer in this class and he certainly has a cannon arm so this would be a good situation for him.
28. Dallas Cowboys – Charles Harris, DE/OLB
The Cowboys lucked out in finding their franchise quarterback in the 4th round last year along with a cornerstone running back to run behind a wall Donald Trump would be proud of. They definitely need to replenish the secondary that fled in free agency but their most pressing concern is their pass rush. The NFC East has a plethora of talented quarterbacks and taking risks on people like Randy Gregory has earned them suspensions rather than sacks. With talented rusher Harris falling all the way down to 28th overall they should jump at the chance. An athletic rusher with a devastating spin move and huge upside would give the inventive Rod Marinelli something to finally work with.
29. Green Bay Packers – Marlon Humphrey, CB
The Packers need a running back to link up with Ty Montgomery but GM Ted Thompson never drafts them in the first round and certainly there seems to be a wealth of talent to be found in later rounds. I was tempted to increase their pass rush with a T.J. Watt but I think they take a Marlon Humphrey (or Gareon Conley if they are convinced recent allegations are false) here. Aaron Rodgers and his offence took them to the NFC Championship game but as usual his leaky secondary stopped them progressing as the Falcons torched them. It’s time to add to this secondary and with a week one starter taken here at good value Rodgers might finally add to his singular ring.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jabrill Peppers, S
The Steelers have an electric offence; ironically enough the franchise famed for its Steel Curtain has weakness on defence. I think T.J Watt would be a great addition to play with Bud Dupree and Ryan Shazier but most mock drafts agree that the Steelers like Peppers so I’ll send him to Pittsburgh as well. I’m sure Mike Tomlin can figure out how to use him but he seems like a jack of all traits and master of none which worries me on the pro level. He’s too small to play linebacker and has not shown the ability to cover which is an area of weakness for the Steelers. He strikes me as a splash pick with big bust potential but I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.
31. Atlanta Falcons – T.J. Watt – LB
It’s true that the Falcons need to get a younger defensive end to partner Vic Beasley in rushing the quarterback which is why Malik McDowell has been touted as potential pick. Certainly he’d be fun for defensive minded Dan Quinn to play around. However he appears to align more on the inside as a defensive tackle where the Falcons have recently signed Dontari Poe (admittedly on a one year prove it deal). As a result I think go for pass rushing LB with huge upside – and apparently stronger athletic skills than his Godlike older brother JJ – T.J. Watt. If he is even half the talent of his older brother he’ll be special and incredible value at this pick. It would be fun to see him develop next to Deion Jones.
32. New Orleans Saints – Budda Baker, S
Following the theme from earlier, the Saints continue to improve the secondary that has kept Brees back with the mere mortals. Budda Baker was actually placed ahead of Jamal Adams as a First Team All-American at safety based on his play in a strong secondary alongside Sidney Jones and Kevin King. It can only be an upgrade from the failed experiment with Jarius Byrd and if the Saints can get another receiver further down the draft to complement the emerging superstar Michael Thomas then the Saints may yet get another ring for future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.