The NFL Draft. A night where 256 lifelong dreams come true. As a fan of the game, but more importantly a jealously-filled teacher, I can only imagine the emotions that these athletes go through when their name is called. Whether it be pick #1, or #256, the feeling has got to be the same. Joy, relief, elation, and many, many more.
This 5-round mock draft is my projection on what the teams will do, not what I think they should do. There are a few trades included, none that have actually happened, but in my opinion, make sense for both teams. Here is a link to the draft in Google Sheets, with each team’s picks listed separately if that is what you are here for!
Pick 1. Cleveland Browns select…
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
This should and will be the easiest pick for any team in the draft. The rare combination of size, athleticism, and on-field production makes Garrett a shoe-in for the top pick. There are only three positions that are picked at the top. Quarterback, Left tackle, and Garrett’s spot, Edge rusher. With over 32 sacks in three seasons at A&M, Garrett is piece that the Browns can build their defense behind.
Pick 2. San Francisco 49ers select…
Soloman Thomas, DL, Stanford
It is no secret that the 49ers have an abundance of holes throughout their roster. New boss-in-charge Kyle Shanahan will be tempted to help out on the side of the ball he excels, but without a player worthy of the second overall pick, the Niners will take the best player after Garrett on their board. That player should be Soloman Thomas. He can play inside or outside and will be their first true pass-rusher along their up and coming front four.
Pick 3. Chicago Bears select…
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
It is rare to see two safeties with Top-5 grades, but that is what we get with Adams and Malik Hooker. Hooker has Ed Reed-like range, but Adams is the overall better prospect. With his skills, instincts and athleticism, he may have the highest floor of any player in this year’s class. These things, combined with the Bears inability to find a quality player in the back line make Adams the logical, and best, choice at three.
Pick 4. Jacksonville Jaguars select…
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Jaguars could go in a number of different ways with this selection. I doubt they go defense with all of the money in free agency and past high draft picks they have used on that side of the ball. At one time, Jonathan Allen was in consideration as the best player available, but his tweener status and shoulder issues takes him off the board. This leaves two positions, and two players, on the offensive side that can take pressure off of Blake Bortles. OJ Howard could be a safety blanket, but 4 is too high for the tight end. This leaves Leonard Fournette. He is a game-changer. The Jaguars can combine that up-and-coming defense with a powerful run game. Fournette may be the 2nd best talent in the draft and because of that, a running back goes #4 for the second consecutive season.
Pick 5. Tennessee Titans (from LA Rams) select… TRADE!
The Titans receive picks 1-12, 2-20 (52 overall), 4-1 (108), 5-31 (175) and a 2018 5th rounder.
The Browns receive pick 1-5 and select…
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
You could point to any team who is picking 2 through 9 and they are probably looking to trade back. The value of the players in the mid-teens isn’t that much different after Myles Garrett. The Titans are the first successful team to do so for two reasons. 1. They pick ahead of the QB-needy Jets. 2. They own two first round picks, so they may take a little less than other teams. The Browns give up a 1st, 2nd, 4th, and two 5ths to move up to 5 and take their hometown guy. “If he could choose an NFL team to play for, it would be the Cleveland Browns.” Draft night is often a night of fulfilled lifelong dreams. For Mitch Trubisky, he could fulfill two of them. The Mentor, Ohio native gets to come home and play for his favorite childhood team. It’s a great story. Although he has just one year of starting experience, Trubisky has the prototypical QB build and arm. He could be finally the answer for Cleveland.
Pick 6. New York Jets select…
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
This is a reach. Their decision may change once Trubisky is off the board. OJ Howard or Marshon Lattimore make a lot of sense. However, New York is QB-thirsty. With a team with as many needs as the Jets, I would go best player available, but when you keep swinging and missing on QBs, you keep taking them. Watson has the best college career of any of the quarterbacks in this class, playing in two national championships and winning it earlier this year. His leadership, poise, and character is everything you want as the face of the franchise. No lights are too bright and that is a crucial aspect of being a successful QB in the big apple. I do believe he is the best fit for the Jets because of those reasons. No matter who the guy is, it will take 3-4 years to get this roster where it needs to be.
Pick 7. Los Angeles Chargers select…
Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The LA Buckeyes…I mean Chargers would love to grab another Ohio State product in the first round. Once Joey Bosa got on the field, his production as a rookie was unheard of. However, the loss of Eric Weddle severely damaged their secondary. At this point, both standout Ohio St. defensive backs are still on the board. However, the Chargers corners are solid and a top-ten selection wouldn’t be worth it. However, safety is a big need after last season’s loss of Eric Weddle. In comes Malik Hooker, the best defensive playmaker in the draft. Playing in the cover-1 and cover-3 schemes with the Chargers, Hooker will be able to play centerfield and show off his range that help him intercept seven passes last season.
Pick 8. Carolina Panthers select…
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Reports are that Carolina is in love with Leonard Fournette, and you can easily understand it with his talent. Those same reports are saying that Carolina is one of two teams in the top ten looking to trade up with the 49ers to make sure they get him. When push comes to shove, I think the Panthers will be happy that they don’t, as McCaffrey makes much more sense for their makeup right now. He is the perfect compliment to the aging Jonathan Stewart, and he also fits their need as a part-time slot receiver. He runs routes like a wideout, but still has the ability to run inside and outside the tackles.
Pick 9. Cincinnati Bengals select….
Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Someone is going to fall to the Bengals. It is just a matter of who. If it is one of the defensive backs, the Bengals will pass. In best case scenario, it is Allen or Thomas. That is what happens here. With concerns over size and his shoulders, Allen slides down to the Bengals. While Cincinnati doesn’t covet smaller edge rushers, Defensive Coordinator Paul Guenther can use creative schemes to utilize Allen’s versatility. His overall strength that he showed plowing through college linemen won’t happen at the NFL level, but he is a top tier talent that can play outside on early downs and move inside on third down. Imagine Jonathan Allen and Geno Atkins going at interior o-lineman. Oh, and that’s not to mention Bengals sack leader Carlos Dunlap coming off the edge.
Pick 10. Buffalo Bills select…
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Let’s make it an all Clemson WR tandem in Buffalo. Mike Williams was the Sammy Watkins replacement at Clemson, and now the two would be paired up in the pros. While Watkins is the deep threat, Williams can be the redzone target that the Bills need for Tyrod. The race for the top WR in this class could not be closer between Williams and Corey Davis, but I think Williams fits what the Bills need a little better.
Pick 11. New Orleans Saints select…
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
The on-field talk about Foster could not be any better. He is a high-motored, sideline-to-sideline, three down linebacker. A defensive coordinator’s dream. He led the nation’s top defense at Alabama and he produced at an elite level. He gets talked about like a top-5 pick. However, there are red flags that have surrounded Foster during the draft process. To start, he has durability concerns. Every year, Alabama players are drooled over their ability, but frustrated over their durability. He was removed from the combine after an altercation during the wait time for his physical. And lastly, teams are scared about his low-football IQ, something he admitted to. In the end, he is a big risk, big reward player that can change a defense.
Pick 12. Tennessee Titans (via Cleveland via Philadelphia) select…
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The Titans benefit from a draft day trade for the second consecutive year. With this trade to the Browns, they will have packaged the top overall pick from a year ago (and a 4th and 6th) into 2 first, 2 seconds, 2 thirds, 1 fourth, and 2 fifths. That is value! To make a perfect situation better, the player that they probably would have taken at five is still on the board! In a draft that is loaded at DB, this could help turn around their struggling secondary. Wideouts John Ross and Corey Davis will be enticing here, but in the end, I think the choice is rather obvious even with the hamstring concerns of Lattimore. He has the ceiling of a future shut-down corner that this league so-ever covets.
Pick 13. Arizona Cardinals select…
Patrick Mahomes II. QB, Texas Tech
This pick will tell us a lot about the future of the Cardinals organization. If they take an immediate impact player like Ross, Davis, or Barnett, they are taking one last shot at it with Palmer. If they go with Mahomes, who fits the Arians offense perfectly, they feel like they are good enough if healthy, and can set themselves up for the future. I do believe the Arizona is much better than their 2016 record would show on one condition. Carson Palmer isn’t done. His arm looked noodle-y at times last season, which could be the result of age and the elbow injury he suffered in Cincinnati. While 13 is too high for the current Pat Mahomes, his ceiling is higher than any other quarterback in the class because of his enormous arm. He can make all the throws, but he needs time. A year (or more) would be ideal for him.
Pick 14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings) select… TRADE
Philadelphia receives picks 1-17, 3-17 (81), and a 2018 4th rounder
Washington receives pick 1-14 and selects…
Haason Reddick, OLB/DE, Temple
From walk-on to top-15 pick. That is the surreal possibility for Haason Reddick as he has flew up draft boards since his showing at the Senior Bowl. Reddick walked-on at Temple as a defensive back, but has transformed himself into the wanted edge rushing, athletic, outside linebacker. He is strong enough to hold up in the box and rush the edge, quick enough to cover and get to the QB, and fast enough to play sideline to sideline. Reddick is one of my favorite players in the draft and has an extremely high ceiling.
Pick 15. Indianapolis Colts select…
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
When teams reach for players, there is a trickle down effect. First was Jonathan Allen to the Bengals. Since the Bengals didn’t take Derek Barnett, he trickles down to the perfect spot in Indianapolis. The Colts have missed on edge rushers early in the draft in the past, but Barnett is a different animal. His production is unmatched by anyone in the draft, even Myles Garrett. He compiled 33 sacks over the past three seasons, but his poor combine brought up concerns. He isn’t the athletic type and those who run a 4.8+ combine don’t usually succeed at DE in the league. None of the previous players broke Reggie White’s sack record though.
Pick 16. Baltimore Ravens select…
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
With the losses of Steve Smith and Kamar Aiken, the Ravens need to find weapons for Joe Flacco. Their offense is now completely void of any true playmakers. Breshad Perriman has never come to fruition and Mike Wallace isn’t 25 years old. Corey Davis makes the most sense. The Ravens never want to be in rebuild mode and Davis is pro-ready day one. His route running is precise, and his after the catch ability brings flashes of Terrell Owens. Anytime you can draft a instant number one target, you do it.