As the final countdown to the first round of the NFL draft winds down, we’ll keep churning out fun content.
This is my only mock draft of the year. It’s not because I want to be cool and dramatic like Mike Mayock, I just don’t want to do a mock draft early because I change my mind so much throughout the process.
So here’s my one and only mock draft of the year, including all of my opinions and hot takes on each player selected...
1. CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Browns have all of the options. There’s lots of reports, rumors, and smokescreens surrounding what will happen here, and possible uncertainty in the Browns’ own war room. But I’m not buying any of the nonsense... the Browns would have to be pretty silly to pass on Myles Garrett.
The Pick: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
New General Manager John Lynch played safety in the NFL, but that has nothing to do with them using this pick on the 2nd-best player in the draft. I really like Jamal Adams, and I wish he would be available for the Titans, but I really doubt he will. I’m sure Solomon Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, and Jonathan Allen will be discussed. But at the end of the day, the 49ers need to swing for a true game-changer, and Adams has potential to go along with an extremely high floor.
The Pick: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
3. CHICAGO BEARS
The Bears would like Jamal Adams to be sitting here after investing a lot of money in cornerback in the offseason and generally ignoring a weak safety group. However, I don’t think they’d take Malik Hooker quite as high. This one is a toss-up for me between Jonathan Allen and Solomon Thomas. I’m going to go with the one I think better fits Vic Fangio’s 3-4 defense. Allen is another player I’d wish would fall to the Titans but simply think the talent is too much for these top-picking teams to pass up.
The Pick: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
4. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
There’s been a whole lot of talk the last few days about the Jags picking DeShaun Watson right here. It’s not the craziest thing I’ve heard, but I don’t think they will go the QB route in the first round. There’s also been talk of them trading down. I don’t buy it. If they want to give Blake Bortles one last shot, or if they want to help the rookie quarterback they plan on drafting in the 2nd or 3rd round, they should take the perceived “best player” on the board.
#Hot Take# Alert: I don’t think Leonard Fournette is going to be all that successful in the NFL if he doesn’t land in the right situation. There’s no denying his size+athleticism combination, nor his power running the football in the open field. But I am not a huge fan of his explosiveness, I think has to chop his feet to change direction, and worst of all, I don’t think he has great vision (which to me is one of the most important traits for a running back). So I hope the Jags draft him, stick him behind their sub-par offensive line, and try to run him side-to-side from shotgun formation.
The Pick: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5. CLEVELAND BROWNS (FROM TENNESSEE)
Yep, I’m mocking trades this year. Didn’t do it last year. This year, I want to.
The Titans trade pick #5 to the Browns for pick #12 and other picks that make sense value-wise for both teams. I don’t know what those other picks will be. Don’t @ me.
With the move up, the Browns get the two players they most covet in this draft: Myles Garrett and...
The Pick: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
6. NEW YORK JETS
The Jets, I believe, would be ecstatic to be sitting here staring at Marshon Lattimore, with the release of Dee Milliner and Darrelle Revis recently and the terrible state of their secondary. No brainer pick, I think, as long as the medical staff clears those hamstrings. I really do like Marshon Lattimore after being resistant at first, and I just want to say if he is the Titans pick at #5, I’m pretty happy with that. But I prefer a trade down, of course.
The Pick: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
7. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (FROM LA CHARGERS)
Malik Hooker and the Los Angeles Chargers seem like a perfect pair. It happens pretty often in mock drafts, and it really does make sense from a need/BPA standpoint. But the Chargers will gamble that Hooker falls to 14 and accept whatever haul it takes the Eagles to come up in the draft ahead of the Carolina Panthers. Who will be the first Stanford player selected in this draft? My guess is it’s McCaffrey.
The Pick: Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS
With their number one draft target off the board, the Panthers are happy to take possibly the best non-Myles Garrett pass rusher in this draft. Similar to DeForest Buckner’s “fall” to the back half of the top ten last year, I think Solomon Thomas drops to the Panthers, who could really stand to add their next “franchise pass rusher” with the age of Charles Johnson and recently re-signed Julius Peppers.
The Pick: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
9. CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Bengals “need” receiver help according to the experts, despite the presence of superstar A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, and last year’s 2nd-round pick Tyler Boyd. For those three reasons, I don’t think the Bengals are going to spend a top ten pick on a wide receiver. However, they could certainly use defensive help. Will Reuben Foster’s off-field concerns cause them to look at maybe Haason Reddick? I say no.
The Pick: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
10. BUFFALO BILLS
The Bills might have thought about moving up, but after hearing what the Browns gave the Titans, and with only 6 total picks in this draft, they decide to stay pat and hope their top draft target falls to them at 10. And what do you know, he has. I would’ve wanted this player to fall to 12 for the Titans, but unfortunately, you can’t always get what you want... The Bills land one of the safest prospects and add the most complete tight end in the draft to their offense.
The Pick: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
11. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
I really like Derek Barnett. I know he’s not the most explosive athlete, but he plays with a relentless motor chasing down quarterbacks. You don’t break Reggie White’s University of Tennessee sack record on accident. His consistency year-to-year is another important trait, as he recorded 10, 10 and 13 sacks in his three years of college. He plays with great snap anticipation and uses his hands very well, which will allow him to compensate for the lack of general athletic explosion usually seen in the top defensive ends. And I think the Saints will agree with me.
The Pick: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
12. TENNESSEE TITANS (FROM CLEVELAND)
Despite dropping 7 spots, the Titans are still faced with plenty of options. Help out Mariota with your pick of the receiver options? Upgrade the back end with a high-potential prospect like Malik Hooker? Find a starting cornerback like Quincy Wilson or, if he’s innocent, Gareon Conley? (I really doubt Conley goes in the first round despite the recent videos that have come out contradicting the story of his accuser).
Rather than try to get into Jon Robinson’s mind and guess what I think will happen (which is my strategy for the rest of this mock), I’m just going to predict what I want to happen. While I love Corey Davis, I also really like Mike Williams (by the way, Titans fans, it’s okay to like both - you don’t have to choose one or the other).
It’s not that I don’t think Corey Davis can beat press coverage, it’s just that I know Mike Williams can. And I know that our receivers struggled to get off the line against the better and more physical corners in the league last season. Mike Williams is big, strong, physical, and uses his hands really well to keep defensive backs off of him. His separation and speed issues are WAY overblown, and his ability to high-point the football and secure it in his powerful hands is too much for me to pass on at this point.
Again, I think Corey Davis does a lot of things well. He runs better routes and is physical in his own way. Also, I think John Ross is the most talented wide receiver in the draft, but I worry about his injuries, so I’ll take the best receiver instead.
The Pick: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
13. ARIZONA CARDINALS
The Cardinals are in a strange position where they have immediate needs at a few positions but also have glaring long-term needs that will surface on the horizon soon. Everything we’re hearing is that Patrick Mahomes is going to be the pick here. I think that’s crazy. While Mahomes has great arm talent and possibly the best physical tools in the class, I think his career will be very Jay Cutler-esque, placing his team in the position to not ever draft a replacement but also not ever being good enough to take his team to the next level. I would not make this pick if I was the General Manager of the Cardinals, but I also don’t get to meet with Mahomes and see if I think he has what it takes mentally to develop.
This might be the best landing spot for him to learn behind a seasoned veteran in Palmer, with a great running back to rely on in David Johnson. So what the heck, why not.
The Pick: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
14. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (FROM PHILADELPHIA)
Wow, the Chargers master plan actually worked. Their favorite target lasted through the seven picks as they watched in suspense, and now they get to add a turnover machine to their secondary, replacing Eric Weddle one year after his departure.
My take on Hooker is that I am very wary of a player who relies so much on watching the quarterback’s eyes, who has so little experience playing football (not just college experience, but actual life experience playing football). While Hooker has maybe the highest ceiling of anyone in the draft, I think it will be a couple of seasons before he becomes the player he is drafted to be. In the top ten, that might be a reach. At No. 14, it might be a steal...
The Pick: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
15. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (FROM INDIANAPOLIS)
So, this is my boldest prediction of the draft probably. Eric Galko is an NFL writer who put the idea in my head. His logic makes a great deal of sense. Chris Ballard, the former right-hand-man of Kansas City Chiefs General Manager John Dorsey. Galko’s thoughts were that the Chiefs would come up to take Mahomes. I think they’re coming up to jump Baltimore and take the player they want: a true No. 1 to take the pressure off of Jeremy Maclin and let him settle into his ideal role as a No. 2, while Tyreek Hill continues to line up all over and be the electric playmaker that he is.
The Pick: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
16. BALTIMORE RAVENS
The Ravens really wanted Corey Davis. But he’s not the only player on their board, and I expect that with their huge (yuge?) hole at right tackle (similar to what the Titans were dealing with heading into the 2016 draft), I expect the Ravens to shore up that position. There are plenty of cornerbacks to draft and develop behind Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith. There are other receivers to be found. The offensive line, however, is very shallow. The Ravens take a career college Left Tackle who may be better situated for the right side in the NFL.
The Pick: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
17. WASHINGTON PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM
Washington gets pretty lucky to see “perfect first round match” Haason Reddick fall in their lap at No. 17. I don’t know a whole lot about Washington, but I looked the players still available and then Googled “Washington Redskins Haason Reddick” and apparently they are a perfect match. This was an easy pick.
Reddick has so much potential as an ILB, but offers the safe floor of at least being able to contribute as a rotational pass rusher. I expect Reddick to end up as one of the best players in this draft (when we look back on it years later). I think he will be overlooked and passed on because he didn’t play much ILB in college, so Washington gets a steal. Wish he would’ve fallen one more spot to pick No. 18.
The Pick: Haason Reddick, ILB/OLB, Temple
18. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (FROM TENNESSEE)
Yep, Jon Robinson trades both picks. If Reddick was on the board, he’d stick and pick him. Unfortunately, he isn’t.
In return, the Titans get pick No. 32 and, as before, whatever else it takes to satisfy all of you out there who are reading this and thinking, “That’s not realistic!!”
While the Saints were able to address their pass rush needs at No. 11, they still need a lot of help in the secondary. Sitting at pick No. 19 are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who also need a lot of help in the secondary. The Titans and Saints have obviously been discussing trades (see Brandin Cooks), so when the Saints see Tre’Davious White sitting on the board still at No. 18, they move to get the local product.
The Pick: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
19. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
But the jokes on New Orleans. Tampa Bay Buccaneers will also be reaching into their backyard, re-pairing former college teammates Vernon Hargreaves and Quincy Wilson. Tampa Bay sprints to the podium, having never expected Quincy Wilson to drop this far after Conley’s stuff essentially ruled him out of first round consideration.
The Pick: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
20. DENVER BRONCOS
The Broncos thought about moving up as the draft unfolded but realized they didn’t have to. With only one offensive tackle off the board, and not even the one the Broncos wanted, they happily stayed at No. 20 to take the most NFL-ready offensive tackle, and the one best suited to stay on the left side in the NFL.
The Pick: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
21. DETROIT LIONS
By all accounts, the Detroit Lions are going to beef up their defensive line with pass rushers in this draft. This situation happens to be a perfect example of need lining up with best player available. I don’t actually think Charles Harris will fall this far, but I couldn’t figure out where to slot him above. Maybe I’m making too many of these picks based on team needs and not best player available, but oh well. The point is that the Lions get a steal at No. 21.
The Pick: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
22. MIAMI DOLPHINS
The Dolphins drafted Laremy Tunsil last year and misplayed him at guard all season. After shipping Branden Albert to the Jaguars, Tunsil is expected to play his true natural position of left tackle, leaving a gaping hole at guard for the Jaguars.
But, luckily for them, no one has drafted Forrest Lamp yet. Do you love Lamp? Is that joke ever going to get old?
The Pick: Forrest Lamp, OG/OT, Western Kentucky
23. CHICAGO BEARS (FROM NY GIANTS)
Are things getting too crazy? The Giants are a pretty good football team. They aren’t without their own roster holes, obviously (no team is), and Erick Flowers is still currently the left tackle (Note: Flowers has not been very good since entering the league). But Garett Bolles might struggle as a day-one starter, and with the other top tackles off the board, I think New York takes this opportunity to move back.
Meanwhile, the Bears love DeShaun Watson. Houston is on the clock a couple picks down, and they are strong candidates to take Watson themselves. The Bears went best player available at the top of the draft, but here, they secure their franchise quarterback.
The Pick: DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
24. OAKLAND RAIDERS
The Raiders need a linebacker. They thought maybe Reuben Foster’s issues would cause him to slide to them. That was a silly thought. Faced with the choice between Jarrad Davis and Zach Cunningham, I’ll predict that the Raiders choose my favorite of the two. Something about Cunningham as a Raider feels right to me... even though I’d like it if the Titans found a way to draft him.
The Pick: Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
25. HOUSTON TEXANS
With the quarterbacks off the board, I hope the Texans don’t draft someone awesome like Obi Melifonwu or Budda Baker. They do need young replacement cornerbacks. The best one on the board is Marlon Humphrey. I think many would consider this a steal for the Texans if Humphrey fell to them at 25.
The Pick: Marlon Humphrey
26. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The Seahawks took a G/T in last year’s first round, and I expect them to follow a similar route this year. They need to keep Russell Wilson healthy and protected, which they did not do last year, and their entire offense suffered for it. For a team that wants to physically win the battle of the trenches, continuing to improve the offensive line should be priority number one. Germain Ifedi was a bit of a project last year, and I think Garett Bolles is pretty similar this year. Bring him on down.
The Pick: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
27. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (FROM KANSAS CITY)
Andrew Luck cannot do it all on his own. As much as we’d like to see him have to try, I (sadly) believe Chris Ballard will give him some help. Ballard was a part of the Chiefs 2-14 to 11-5 rebuild, helping to create a roster specializing in ball control and a strong running game.
If you haven’t read this amazing MMQB article about Dalvin Cook, I highly recommend you do so. This pick would worry me as a Titans fan.
The Pick: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
28. DALLAS COWBOYS
The Cowboys hit the jackpot in last year’s draft with NFL leading rusher Ezekiel Elliot in the first round, top-5 talent Jaylon Smith possibly returning from injury to play in 2017, and of course, the big score was Dak Prescott in the 4th round. But the Cowboys have lots and lots of problems on the defensive side of the ball. With no premiere pass rushers and with 30-year-old Orlando Scandrick the last remaining member of the secondary from last year, I expect the Cowboys to target either a pass rusher or a cornerback with this pick. So do all the experts. The draft has lots of cornerback depth. The Cowboys pick up a pass rusher here that should have gone much earlier, but too many offensive line needs and quarterback reaches have caused him to fall.
The Pick: Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers are another team that needs lots of cornerback help, but they also need pass rushers. For the same reason that the Cowboys passed on a cornerback, I see the Packers also snagging a pass rusher with this pick. Someone with upside, and an older brother...
The Pick: T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
30. PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Martavis Bryant was recently “conditionally” re-instated (whatever that means), lessening the Steelers need for a wide receiver. But can the Steelers really trust Bryant to stay out of trouble? They already have Antonio Brown, but there’s a player still on the board who if added to the Steelers offense might make them literally impossible to defend, as long as he stays healthy. This is simply a case of the best player on the board being too good of a value to pass.
The Steelers drafted Dri Archer in 2014 after he ran a 4.26 at the combine, which tells me that they value speed. Am I reading too much into this?
The Pick: John Ross, WR, Washington
31. ATLANTA FALCONS
Dan Quinn continues to upgrade the defensive line. Vic Beasley can’t get all the sacks, can he? Maybe he can. But I think Taco Charlton will take some pressure off of him early on as he grows into a bigger role, possibly taking over the left end spot in the base defense.
The Pick: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
32. TENNESSEE TITANS (FROM NEW ORLEANS)
The Titans are happy to see Kevin King, Chidobe Awuzie, and Adoree’ Jackson still on the board, as is high-potential tight end David Njoku. It’s up to Jon Robinson to determine which of these guys is the best fit for the team, but... could it be? Will the Titans actually come out of the first round having addressed their two biggest needs? Maybe so! I don’t really know.
The Pick: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
Well, folks, there you have it.
As you all undoubtedly know, I have no clue what’s going to happen tonight. But this is my best (or at least, my most fun) guess.