MockOut’s 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Contrarian Edition
As promised, the Official Contest for the 2017 NFL Draft has opened, and the entries are pouring in. As we get closer to the draft, it’s important that our mock drafts change to keep up with all the ramped up rumors we’re hearing. Some of them will prove to be gifts to our mock drafts- that one bit of information we needed to pair a player to a team, allowing everything to fall into place. Others will ruin you, making you doubt everything you thought you knew and eating away at the foundation you’d build your mock draft on.
Pick the right rumors. Listen only to the ones that don’t feel like they are being pushed out to by a team spokesperson. In other words… I’m not buying Peppers to Pittsburgh. Not yet…
Getting into the mock draft contest strategy, when in doubt, go contrarian. Just like in DFS, there’s little to gain from having a mock draft that looks like everybody else’s. This is especially true when it comes to competitive mock drafting, as the chalk is rarely right. Instead, focus on nailing trades, hedging bets, and snagging away some extra points at the end of the round by predicting first rounders that everyone else left out.
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So here is my latest, contrarian version of my mock draft. There will be just one more, final mock draft, published alongside every other one on the Wednesday before the draft. This is less a complete version for me than an exercising in both chalk and contrarian pairings, trying to get a hold of my player and positional values as I look to finalize everything, and, as always, hearing from readers about which picks just don’t make any logical sense.
Because there’s the trick- the beauty and art- of creating an elegant mock draft. Just because it’s contrarian, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to make sense. There has to be sound logic behind every single pick.
Let’s see how sound I am, shall we?
1. Myles Garrett, DE Texas A&M
This pick is sound.
2. via Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson
This contrarian pick hedges in a few different ways- Watson at pick 2, Watson to the Jaguars- but is also contrarian in the strangest way possible… it’s like everybody’s forgotten about the positional importance of QBs. Goff and Wentz cost their respective teams a fortune last season, and I think that whole offseason mock draft experts were confused why teams didn’t just wait until this year to draft a QB, when Watson and Kizer would be available. Now we’re here, and despite his phenomenal championship game against an elite defense, everyone is pushing him down the boards. I don’t know how putting the gritty, championship winning QB who loves football at #2 is contrarian… but I’ll take it.
3. Solomon Thomas, DE Stanford
Not all picks in a contrarian mock draft should be contrarian. You need some common team-pick-player pairings that make sense on your own board, as well as the public’s boards. This is one of those picks. Thomas is an ultra-disruptive inside-outside pass rushing presence, and just the kind of player a team like Chicago could use.
4. via Reuben Foster, ILB Alabama
I still love Foster, and I still believe he would be a great fit in San Francisco. I also believe that he would pair with Myles Jack in the mid-level of this rebuilt Jacksonville defense and help turn this unit into a dominant force under Marrone. I like him on both ends of this trade, and keep a player I love in the top-5. He is rarely mocked to San Fran and almost never mocked to Jacksonville, so this is a perfect blend of contrarianism, bet hedging, and slotting in a player I love into the part of the draft I think he deserves to go.
5. Marshon Lattimore, CB Ohio State
You smell that? Is that smoke? Yes. There has been a lot of smoke about teams not really loving Lattimore that much. Oh, Conley is better. Humphrey is better. I’m not buying it. I think Tennessee stays put and takes their top CB here while everyone else is trying to convince them to pass on him.
6. via Mitchell Trubisky, QB UNC
Of all the rumors we’ve been fed the past few weeks, the ones that I definitely am on board with are that Cleveland loves Trubisky, and that the Jets love Trubisky. I’d like to move him up into my top-5 (and might end up doing so in my final mock) but for now, let’s just hedge my bet and guess that he ends up with one of those two teams. I especially like having Cleveland trade up for him, because a) that’s the only way I see them landing him, and b) they have more than enough ammo to make this move. I’m banking on a trade bonus for this pick.
7. Malik Hooker, S Ohio State
Like the Solomon Thomas pick, here’s one where I firmly believe in groupthink. The value, team, and player all match, so let’s slot him in here early and focus on getting fancy with my other picks.
8. Leonard Fournette, RB LSU
Another common pairing, not only does this make sense from a schematic standpoint… the Panthers are also notoriously hard to predict. So rather than trying to find the next surprising Panthers pick (and finding a good landing spot for Fournette) I’ll pair them here and trust that if I get it wrong, at least everyone else will as well.
9. Derrick Barnett, DE Tennessee
So I’ve thought about this Bengals pick a lot, and I think I will end up sticking with the edge player here. In my previous mock I had Reddick here, but then had a really good discussion with a reddit user about the gap in talent between Reddick and Jordan Willis. He used it to prove I had Reddick too high, and I countered that maybe what it really meant was that Willis was too low. I settled on believing both to be true. With a pretty good class of raw, super-athletic stand up rushers (including Reddick, Willis, and Bowser) I think the strength, pass rush moves, and solid run game chops of Barnett shine as a well-rounded skill set that will go top-10. I like the scheme fit, and I like Barnett falling way down others’ mock drafts.
10. John Ross, WR Washington
I already explained why I want Ross here, and there’s no way I’m backing off it now. He demands CB and deep safety attention every play. He opens up the run game and offers a deep option for a strong-armed QB bereft of them. My big gut feeling pick is also a contrarian pick, which is a nice situation to be in.
11. Marlon Humphrey, CB Alabama
I admit, I have a little fanboy streak in me for Rob Staton. But I am learning that I need to take his opinions with a little grain of salt. When he gets high on a player, he immediately gets really high on that player. Immediately after scouting Bolles, he put him in the top-5. Immediately after scouting Reddick, he was a top-10 pick. He sees someone he likes, and tends to get a little over-excited. That said, he also has a much better read on prospects than 99.9% of us out here, and so while I won’t push those guys up that high in this mock, I will trust him on positional pecking orders. That said, he is quite high on Humphrey as the #2 CB on the board, and if that is the case, I think he would be a great fit here for NO. It goes against the grain compared to most mocks, but it is well-informed.
12. via Jamal Adams, S LSU
There are 13 or 14 players who I think are top-10 caliber players, so some prospects who I want to have higher will fall. Adams is one of those players, and having it a trade scenario helps protect me in case he ends up not falling. He could easily be the pick for the Jets at 6. Or the Browns might take him here if he drops. Lots of bases covered here, by simply having a guy I like fall further than I think he should.
13. via O.J. Howard, TE Alabama
Doug Marrone has no stake in Blake Bortles. Maybe he likes him, maybe he doesn’t. I’m not sure. But they have a decision to make on his fifth year option, and personally, I would rather have a rookie QB like Watson AND a complete TE like Howard, saving future money on Bortles in the process. I do think they would be able to get a mid-first for Bortles, and I think Arizona would be the kind of team to give it up. He has everything they want in a QB, and the Cardinals have all the players in-house to set him up for future success there.
14. Kevin King, WR Washington
I thought really hard about putting Conley here, but I think I’ll go with the uber athletic King here instead. I’m not going to jump both legs into the Conley pool and go against everything I’ve seen and heard about King. I think it’s a smokescreen, and the reality is that King is the third CB off the board. I know he is a Seahawky player, so sending him to Philly, who showed they might like similar traits in their CBs when they grabbed Maxwell, seemed like a good decision.
15. Jonathan Allen, DE Alabama
I was thinking that I wanted to drop Allen further because of his shoulders, but I lost my nerve. The Colts have a big need at 3-4 DE, and Allen is seen as one of the best to come along in a while. And they are in win-now mode, and so would not have as big a problem only having Allen for five or six years. He would slot in next to Hankins and help provide the Colts with an incredibly stout D-line for the first time in… forever?
16. Garett Bolles, OT Utah
Something about the Ravens offense feels strange. I’m so used to seeing them as bullies, and they just didn’t have that last year. Their running game stalled, and their offense lacked identity. I think they take the first O-lineman off the board, replace Wagner at RT, and work toward establishing themselves as the meanies of the AFC North again.
17. via Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford
I really believe McCaffrey will not last past Washington, and Denver knows it. And they want him SO bad. You just know it. So I am just as confident banking on getting the trade bonus for a Broncos trade up for McCaffrey as I am about the Browns trading up for Trubisky. But this is a good bet hedge, as I am also very confident that if they do not trade up for him, he does not last past Washington. The big downside of this deal is that outside of RB, Denver and Washington don’t have very many needs in common. But that’s not a problem for me now. I’ll let Pick 20 Micky deal with that problem…
18. Mike Williams, WR Clemson
I personally have Williams rated lower than Corey Davis, but I think he fits the Titans needs a bit better than Davis does. Getting the long, rangy jump ball artist gives this offense an element that they just don’t have right now with Tajae Sharpe or Rishard Matthews. Another reason for this is because I am not super confident that Corey Davis lasts this long (though I couldn’t find a good slot for him in this mock) but I feel pretty good about having Mike Williams fall this far.
19. Ryan Ramczyk, OT Wisconsin
I still like the idea of Tampa staying here and taking a top tackle, so I’m leaving him here. This is also a matter of Tampa Bay being “okay” at many positions, but not totally SET anywhere except QB. So I’ll send them a player who I also think could end up going anywhere, turning two question marks into one. Reducing risk. That’s the name of the game here. I thought long and hard about putting Lamp or Charlton here, but I have a plan for both of them…
20. via Malik McDowell, DE Michigan State
I like the strategy of risk reduction so much, I’m doing it again here. Remember what I said about the Redskins and Broncos not really matching up in regards to team needs? That means I have no idea what single player could satisfy both of them here. So I choose a player I firmly believe will be a first rounder, but don’t have any idea where to send him. I know that both teams could use a dominant 3-4 DE, which is what McDowell has the potential to be. But will he ever live up to it? I don’t know. I think no matter where McDowell goes, it will be a surprise- it will be some team that is not risk-averse, drafting for his potential. It’s a big question, and so is this WAS-DEN pairing, so let’s combine them and reduce the overall risk.
21. via Haason Reddick, OLB Temple
Boom! This trade makes me so happy, as a Hawks fan and as a mock draft creator. Let me explain. Reddick is absolutely the kind of player the Hawks grab in the first round. Special athletic talents and traits. He also fills a need in the Hawks LB corps, both alongside Wagner and Wright, and as a player who can step in and give them a rest. Third, they’ve been bringing in a lot of CBs who seem to fit the Day 2 mold, where they have 4 picks. They’ve always waited on the position, and can continue to do so. On the Lions side of things, their biggest team need is LB, and I believe he would definitely be the pick here if he lasted that long. Him or… the other guy who I love for both Detroit and Seattle.
22. via Taco Charlton, DE Michigan
But before we get to that, I teased you with my Taco-Lamp connection, and here it is. Both the Giants and the Dolphins, who pick one after another, could use both prospects. I love Taco’s fit with both teams, and think a DE is more valuable than a G/T, so I put him first. But this is straight up bet hedging at it’s most hedged. I value those two players in the low 20’s, I can’t decide which team would grab which player, so I just have them flip their picks and take them both here.
23. via Forrest Lamp, G Western Kentucky
The Giants and Dolphins both need help on their O-line (though the Dolphins more at guard, the Giants at tackle and guard) and Lamp, with his positional versatility, makes for a good choice for both teams. Whoever doesn’t take Charlton to boost their D-line can have Lamp to boost their O-line.
24. Takkarist McKinley, DE UCLA
I still like the idea of sending Takk to the Raiders to play both inside of- and opposite- Khalil Mack. The Raiders’ main team need (RB) is one that I don’t think they will feel compelled to fill in the first round, so I think adding some extra heat to the pass rush will be the move for them here.
25. via Tim Williams, OLB Alabama
I feel good about Williams as a now-contrarian first rounder. I don’t know which team will grab him, but I think it will be a 3-4 team. And one who has a history of overlooking off-field concerns. That fits KC perfectly, and half-fits Houston, so I’ll send them to this couple of 3-4 teams.
26. via Jarrad Davis, ILB Florida
Here’s the other side of the equation I love! I could definitely see Seattle standing pat and taking Davis (or even trading up for him) just as I could see Detroit doing the same. I think both teams will have the same wish-list of LBs, and having them swap picks and grab both of the players I think they’ll love is a pairing I will almost certainly keep in my final mock draft. The only thing that might prevent that is if Reddick’s (or Davis’s) stock rises too high, and I can’t reasonably mock them at 21 or 26.
27. via Patrick Mahomes, QB Texas Tech
The Texans will draft Mahomes if they can. I don’t believe the love fest between him and O’Brien is smokescreen. There are many who say that Mahomes will not last to the Texans pick, so the obvious choice is to have the Texans trade somewhere for him and grab the trade bonus. I couldn’t find a good trade partner for them to move up with, so I just had them move back to another team who could have great interest in the passer. This is my third (but not last) trade where I would actually see it as an upset if I didn’t get a trade bonus.
28. Corey Davis, WR Western Michigan
This one is kind of bonkers, because I could see Corey Davis going in the top-10 just as easily as I could see him lasting until the bottom of the round. But one thing I cannot see is him falling out of the first round completely. So the best place for me to put him would be here, to a team who would be vastly improved with a pass catching threat opposite Dez.
29. Gareon Conley, CB Ohio State
No, I don’t think Conley will end up going ahead of Lattimore, but yes, I am fairly certain he will be a first rounder. I went back and forth between him and Quincy Wilson, who is a personal favorite here, but went with the player who seems to be generating the more legitimate first round buzz. Like I said in my previous mock, it’s all about identifying the first rounders at this late stage in the mock draft contest. Conley should fit the bill, so he goes to GB.
30. David Njoku, TE Miami
You’re welcome, Steelers Nation. Zay Jones is no more. It was a passing fancy. I am allowed those now and then. But the time for fooling around is over. There are only three players left who will end up being first rounders in this mock draft, but seven who I really think will be first rounders. Obviously, that crates a problem. So I just have to go with the top of the list, and the first one there is Njoku. He is an exciting pass catcher, a matchup nightmare, and a very willing blocker. He is a sure-fire first rounder, and he goes to Pittsburgh, whether or not Roeth is actually banging the drum for him.
31. via Charles Harris, DE Missouri
Of all the rumors I’ve heard and chatter I believe, the Jets being high on Harris is tops. I believe it to be true, trust my Jets sources who predicted it, and think it will happen in the first round. It might not happen quite as low in the round as most are predicting (he is even getting top-10 hype right now) but if he starts to slip, I could definitely see the Jets offering Richardson and their second round pick to the Falcons, to move up and grab Harris. But even if they don’t trade up from the second to get him- if they trade back from pick 6 to grab him- I would still get that trade bonus. All I know is that I need to predict the Jets trade for Harris. And if I am wrong? The Falcons could definitely use some pass rush help to pair with Beasley, so Harris could be the pick here. This is the last trade where I am banking on and fully expecting that trade bonus.
32. via DeShone Kizer, QB Notre Dame
Shocker. I know. But bear with me here. Leading into the season, Kizer was popularly considered the best QB prospect in the nation. Then he had a pretty bad season behind a horrible O-line, on a really bad (and apparently poorly-coached) team, and now he’s not seen as being worth a first round pick. I don’t buy it. He is a QB, with prototypical size, a good arm, and who has already faced great adversity. I think he will be the final pick of the first round, because a team who takes him will want to have a fifth year option if they think he could be a long-term solution. I chose Chicago because I don’t think they will need to grab a QB at 3 with their selection of Glennon. But I also don’t think their QB problem is “solved” by his addition. It would probably not cost too much for them to move past such QB-needy teams as Cleveland, San Francisco, or Jacksonville (depending on how the top of the first round shakes out) so it would be a low-risk, high-reward gamble.
Some players who I still feel will garner strong first round consideration are Jabrill Peppers, Jordan Willis, Tyus Bowser, Quincy Wilson, and T.J. Watt. I obviously can’t fit all of these prospects into the first round, so all I can hope for is a little more clarity in these last ten days before the 2017 NFL Draft.
You can track changes to my mock draft, as well as other mock drafts from around the web, at WalterFootball’s NFL Mock Draft Database.
photo: Getty Images