MockOut’s Final, Official 2017 NFL Mock Draft
Here we are, friends. It’s been a weird little journey, going from my first mock draft to this finished version.
Some fun, embarrassing missteps between then and now include insisting that Mike McGlinchey would declare for the 2017 NFL Draft, despite his protestations otherwise; mocking Jamal Adams and O.J. Howard to the Chiefs and Steelers, respectively; and keeping Desmond King and Caleb Brantley in the first round discussion for too long.
I am still in love with Zach Cunningham, Ryan Anderson, and Quincy Wilson… but I am going to trust popular wisdom in these cases and accept that I might be wrong about them. I view them as first round prospects, but creating a mock draft is not trying to predict who will be the best pro players; it is trying to predict who will be picked where, and by which team. Measuring pro careers is subjective. Draft results are objective. Every player gets drafted at a certain number, by a certain team. You either score points, or you don’t.
And we’re all going to get our scores tomorrow.
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1. Myles Garrett, DE Texas A&M
Garrett has to be the top pick. I do not believe the Browns are inept enough to pass on Garrett in favor of a QB. This has been written in pen for some time now, and I’m not about to find my white out. Especially when…
2. via Mitch Trubisky, QB UNC
Hear me out. First off, I don’t know if a team has ever had the first two picks of a draft. But it makes a lot of sense here. First, let’s talk about the real-world deal. San Francisco badly wants to trade down. So half the equation is set. As for Cleveland, if they really do think that Trubisky is worth possibly passing on Myles Garrett (who is an incredibly worthy #1 pick, at the most premium position outside of QB) then they must then think he is worth trading up for. Now, talking game strategy instead of real-world strategy, I think there’s a great chance Trubisky goes #2 overall, either to the 49ers or to someone who trades up. 6 potential points there. But I also believe that if he slips to pick 5, the Browns will trade up ahead of the Jets. So either way, if the Browns move up and grab Trubisky, I get the Trade Bonus. It is a great solution to the problem of Who To Pick at #2, and how to give the Browns their QB.
3. Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson
I do not care how badly they overpaid Glennon. There can’t be anybody in Bears Nation, inside the organization or out, who believes Glennon is a long-term answer at the position. And QB is too important a position to pass on Watson, who was in the conversation for top pick a year ago, and has only won a national championship by gutting out a tough comeback win against a brutal defense since then. Does he have some flaws? Sure. But outside of Garrett (and maybe Thomas and Adams) there isn’t a single prospect without some concern about how he will transition to the pro game. If you need a QB, and there’s a potentially great one sitting there for you, you pull the trigger. Or… you let someone else trade up and do it. But nobody’s going to trade up into the top-3 for anyone but a QB. The top-4 though…?
4. via Solomon Thomas, DE Stanford
Sure. The Panthers and Jaguars, connected forever by expanding into the league at the same time, are also connected this season by common team needs. And since they draft near enough each other, pulling a trade here is a gimme. So. The first half of this deal has to go with the best player available, who also fills a big need for Carolina (and a smaller, but still real need, for Jacksonville.) There’s a great chance that Jacksonville sees Thomas as too good to pass up here, or allows someone else to grab Thomas, who I firmly believe is the first player taken after Garrett and the QBs. If he does happen to slip though, I could see the Panthers stopping his fall at pick 8, as they love drafting for the trenches.
5. O.J. Howard, TE Alabama
It took me a while to come around on this pairing, but it is so natural. We all laughed when we first heard the phrase “exotic smashmouth” but it actually, mostly, worked. The Titans imposed their will on opposing defenses in the run game, though the passing game was lacking. What better player to add to an exotic smashmouth team, than a player who elevates the pass game while providing another devastating blocker in the run game? Mariota’s top target was his TE, and he is going to love what Howard brings to the passing game. Murray and Derrick Henry will be even more of a force with Howard creating gaping running lanes, just like he did during Henry’s 2015 Heisman campaign at Alabama.
6. Jamal Adams, S LSU
I had spent so much energy finding good trading partners for the Jets. Teams whose needs matched theirs. But I kept running into the same problem: they need literally every position, except D-line (and even that will be thinned with the departure of Richardson.) So I could slot any team in here, and the deal would make sense. There were just too many possibilities. So instead of trying to focus on a good trading partner, I started listening to what I was hearing the Jets would do if they stayed put… and I kept hearing the same two names. Charles Harris and Jamal Adams. Many believe Adams will not be available at pick 6. I think he lasts that long due to Trubisky and Watson going earlier than expected, and I think the Jets skip merrily to the podium.
7. Malik Hooker, S Ohio State
This one has felt correct for far too long. When they took Bosa last year, I learned that the Chargers can surprise, and go with the best available player. But since that player is probably a running back, I think that theory will be tested. Because they sure could use a safety like Hooker. And Bradley sure did enjoy having Earl Thomas to play centerfield while he was D-coordinator in Seattle. I just can’t see the Chargers passing on a player who is a good value pick, at a position of need, who fills a very specific role that brought the D coach huge success the last time he had a player with a similar skill set. The glove fits.
8. via Garett Bolles, OT Utah
If you read my 30 Takes, With Varying Degrees of Hotness then you know that I fully expect the Jaguars to ruin everyone’s mock drafts. Again. I’m getting a very strong Tyson Alualu or Blake Bortles vibe from them this year. They seem to always draft for need in the first, and their greatest need is on the O-line. I feel more confident about this pick because of the total dearth of talent past the big-3, which will cause teams with a need to pull the trigger on the position earlier than expected. Positional scarcity will drive the O-linemen who do have the potential to be very good starters higher in the first round than many expect. I also think Carolina could easily make the selection here, as their starting left tackle was recently dumped by a team who desperately needs O-line help, and their right tackle has such serious concussion problems he might never play again. Protecting Cam will be their priority as well. There is depth at other positions of shared need (RB, TE) so let’s have both teams wait for the value at those positions, and spend the higher pick on the commodity in greater demand.
9. Forrest Lamp, G/T Western Kentucky
Oh, you thought I was done prioritizing the O-line for teams? Nope. I think these two picks are going to be total MockBusters, and I plan to be there sitting pretty while everyone else’s mocks crumble and cry. I understand why everyone is averse to mocking an O-lineman to the Bengals. They have other needs. I get it. But I think Lamp is probably viewed as a better prospect- a flexible one, who can be an above average tackle or an elite guard- than the mock draft community believes. And the Bengals need that flexibility. I understand they have a couple young players that the fans think are ready to step in and play. But they are not sure things. And the Bengals lost two very good linemen. Maybe one of those two young players works out? Maybe neither? Maybe one of them is a better guard than tackle? Lamp makes all of those scenarios more manageable with his positional versatility. And he brings some nastiness to a team that has to stay tough in the trenches to keep up with Baltimore and Pittsburgh (not to mention dealing with Myles Garrett now, twice a year…)
10. via Marshon Lattimore, CB Ohio State
The worst feeling in the world has to be drafting a guy who is injury prone, saying he is worth the risk, then having him get injured all the time and not see the field enough to have any real impact. “Worth the risk” feels good to say when you are taking the risk. Feels bad when it doesn’t work out. This is why Lattimore falls to pick 10. If he had no hamstring problems, I would definitely mock him in the top-5. But since he has some troubling hammies, I’ve got a CB-desperate team making the move up and… well, taking the risk. I also think think Buffalo, with the departure of Gilmore (and playing in the same division as Brady for another 5 years) could see Lattimore falling as a gift too good to pass on. Both teams need a CB, and the top option being available at pick 10 made this an easy pairing. And oh boy, just wait until the second half of this trade…
11. Marlon Humphrey, CB Alabama
Sticking with Humphrey here feels very much like sticking with Hooker at 7. He is in consideration for best player available, and plays at a position of need, but also brings the specific skill set needed to his team. In Humphrey’s case, it’s bringing not only shutdown potential, in a big bodied CB who can match up against divisional behemoths like Mike Evans, Julio Jones, and Kelvin Benjamin… but also a bad man who likes to mix it up. If you want to compete in the NFC South now, you have to cover big bodies, and you’ve got to be tougher than those other teams. Humphrey brings a bully mindset to a defense that sorely needs one.
12. via Christian McCaffrey, RB Stanford
Here’s where I say “Let’s get weird.” Christian McCaffrey is going to end up on a bad offense. He has to. Like O.J. Howard, McCaffrey transforms both the running and receiving aspects of an offense. I think a team without any offensive playmakers, with a poor defense, will select McCaffrey earlier than many see him going. Earlier, even than Fournette. Because what’s the point of having a 240 pound power back when you are pretty sure you’ll be playing from behind for 75% of every game? What you need is that player who can score any time he catches the ball, who is uncoverable in space, and who the coach will know how to use. Both Shanahan and Hue Jackson are familiar with and know the value of having a great pass catching back. I don’t believe Duke Johnson or whoever is a compliment to Hyde in SF are good enough to preclude McCaffrey from being the pick, so I’m going to slot him in where he would have the biggest impact, and own an offense.
13. Reuben Foster, ILB Alabama
I look at Foster and I see a madman that strikes fear in opposing offenses. If he just had a ho-hum offseason, I’d have him go in the top-5 for certain, probably number 2 overall. But it seems like every new week brought more bad news about Foster. Injuries. Dismissal from the combine. More injuries. Urine dilution. At a certain point, I just had to say “fine!” and drop him down a little. I’ll stop his fall at the team who needs him the most. I still think he goes earlier than this, but my strategy in having him fall to 13 was less about the pick number and more about the team. If any team trades up to grab Foster, I believe it will be the Cardinals, who don’t have a ton of needs, but would kill for Foster. I am strictly going for 6 with this pick.
14. via Leonard Fournette, RB LSU
I warned you at pick 10 that the second half of this trade would be a shocker, and here we are. I do believe I am the only person in America mocking Fournette to the Bills, but hear me out. They are about to lose Gillislee, their goal line back, to the Pats. McCoy is 29 years old, has a history of hamstring issues, and is better utilized as a back in space. The Bills are built to run, boasting a pretty good offensive line and a great blocking fullback. No team ran the ball more than Buffalo last season, and they will want that trend to continue in 2017. On the flip side of this deal, I think it is pretty obvious why the Eagles would want Fournette to lead their backfield, so I won’t spend any time explaining that. Instead, let’s all just lean back and imagine the Bills with a RB duo of Fournette and McCoy… my god! It will be beautiful.
15. Haason Reddick, OLB Temple
Every. Single. Mock. I make a bad pick for the Colts. I clearly just don’t have a sense of who they are as a team, or what they need. So instead of trying to use all my expertise to find an under-the-radar pick that makes sense for them, I’ll just go with what I know: they need a pass rushing OLB. That much, I know. And since Offseason Hype Machine Reddick has fallen a little bit in the mock, I’ll send him here. I don’t love the pick, as it seems too cookie-cutter-simple to me… but since I don’t have a great gauge of Reddick’s actual value, or of the Colts’ team strengths and weaknesses, I’ll just reduce my risk by squeezing both question marks into one pick.
16. via Ryan Ramczyk, OT Wisconsin
The Ravens and Giants both have a glaring hole at one of their tackle spots, and the last good option has fallen down to pick 16. I’ll hedge my bet here by having one team trade up with the other to grab the guy I imagine both would want. I like this pick a lot, as I think Ramczyk is behind both Lamp and Bolles in the OL pecking order, and so being the edge of the cliff, he will go before some of the other players who I like more, and fit both teams (read: Njoku) but play a position with much greater depth in this year’s draft.
17. Gareon Conley, CB Ohio State
Does anybody have any idea what the Redskins will do? They have needs all over the roster, there are a lot of great players available, and they have no GM with a track record that we can study for past draft habits. So I just gave them a player who I am certain will be a first round pick, but I have no idea which team will tab him. The Skins need outside corners badly. I also imagine the team will be paying much more attention to the combine than most teams, because (once again) they don’t have a GM. So whoever will be making the pick for the Skins is probably going to put a lot more stock in the combine, which he (probably) attended, than most teams, whose GMs have been studying tape all season. Conley had a great combine, so I like the match. His tape is good and he plays a position of need. Next!
18. Mike Williams, WR Clemson
I know I predicted Njoku would be drafted before any WRs in my Hot Takes article, but when it came time to actually make a mock draft that reflected that (and all my other takes of varying hotness) it just became impossible. I either had to draft Njoku or Ramczyk at 16, and I went with the guy who plays a more impactful position, which also has far less depth. I still think, somehow, Njoku goes before any WRs. Maybe to Buffalo at 10, or the Browns at 12? But I have to send Mike Williams to Tennessee at 18, because I just can’t imagine a better pairing. This is a Hooker-to-LAC-level pairing, sending a team with little size or toughness at WR, a tall, tough, jump-ball artist. If this scenario came to be, and the Titans added Howard and Williams to their offense in the first round, their offense would be incredibly difficult to defend, especially in the red zone.
19. Derek Barnett, DE Tennessee
Barnett has fans torn, but really it feels more like a division within the analytics world. Which analytics are more important? PFF-style in-game production scores? Or 3sigmaathlete-style burst and explosion scores? Barnett dominates the PFF rankings, while lagging badly behind the pass rush class in burst and explosion scores. So where to mock him? How about if we pick a team where he would fill a need, fit their defensive profile, and split the difference between the Early Round Truthers (I’ve seen Barnett mocked as high as JAX at 4) and the Late Round Brigade (I’ve also seen him mocked as low as NO at 32…) I’m splitting differences, hedging bets, and reducing risk with this pick. Therefore, it is one of the picks in which I have the least confidence.
20. David Njoku, TE Miami
Boy, I really like Njoku! This guy is not just an athlete, not just a pass catching mismatch, but also a willing blocker. Note, I didn’t say dominant blocker. He is not on the same level as O.J. Howard. No TE is. But what I’ve seen from Njoku tells me he loves smashing his facemask into defenders, loves mixing it up, and wants to do anything he can to assert his dominance over whoever lines up across from him. I love his energy. He actually reminds me a lot of Richard Sherman in that way. Wherever he goes, he is going to bring with him a tenacity that equals his pass catching prowess and smooth athleticism. I honestly don’t think he falls this far, but if he does, Denver would be wise to add him to their already-talented, if not very intimidating, offense.
21. Jarrad Davis, ILB Florida
Last time I had Seattle trading up to this pick so the Lions could grab Davis at 26. This time, after more consideration, I believe Reddick is long gone by this point, and Davis will follow soon after. Davis is another player I can see going higher than I have him slotted, but it’s so hard this year with so many great first round prospects. If Davis had no pro day and just went into the draft an injured player with good potential, I would have slotted him in the early second round. But after he destroyed his pro day, it just solidified what I’d been seeing for some time. My initial take on Davis wasn’t nearly kind enough. He will be an impact LB from day 1, as long as he is allowed to play in the inside. If he is forced to play outside, I worry about his range. But that is a pretty small ding against a phenomenal prospect.
22. Jordan Willis, OLB Kansas State
The first time I mocked Taco Charlton here, it felt so good! I said I would always keep him there. But that was more my mocking the idea of Taco Charlton there, than the actual player. I just don’t like him as a prospect, and think he falls to round 2 on draft day. Instead, I started paying attention to what others were saying about Miami. Similar to how everyone (myself included) seemed to jump on the Ju’Wuan James-to-Miami bandwagon at the same time, a similar thing seems to be happening with Jordan Willis. Willis, the player, I like. As I discussed with a commenter, there really is not much (any?) difference between Willis and Reddick. In fact, Willis was even more productive in college, and is just as athletic. I wanted him in the first round, but wasn’t sure where to put him. Then, when mockers started giving him the Ju’Wuan James treatment, I recognized what was happening and slotted him in.
23. via Carl Lawson, DE Auburn
I’ve been a bigger fan of Lawson than most, this draft season. I really like the way he pairs with Pittsburgh, to be honest. But I know I wanted to invite him to the first round party all along. Reading some recent reports of how high Baltimore is on the powerful edge rusher made me move him up even higher in the round. Like Ryan Anderson, he has a distinctly AFC North feel to him. He would replace Dumervil in Baltimore (or Harrison in Pittsburgh, if he ended up there) as a powerful edge rusher who can also hold up against the run. I think the Giants would be equally interested in a player like that, even if he doesn’t perfectly fit their scheme. As Bosa showed, sometimes you take the talent and trust that he can be an impact player in any scheme.
24. Corey Davis, WR Western Michigan
No player in this year’s draft gave me bigger fits in trying to pair him with a team than Corey Davis. He’s been injured all offseason. He’s a good all-around WR, but that means he doesn’t fill any specific role for an offense other than “good WR.” He doesn’t go up and get it like Mike Williams, and doesn’t lift the lid off a D like John Ross. I think his value should fall in the middle of the round, but there are other valuable players there as well, who’ve participated all offseason. So I have him fall a little bit, which I expect to happen on draft day, and get gobbled up by a high-octane offense on a team that will probably want to add another weapon to their arsenal. I think he is a bit of a luxury pick for Oakland, but Crabtree works more naturally from the slot anyway, so having Cooper and Davis outside with Crabtree in the middle of the field would make the passing game almost impossible to defend. More than anything though, I know he will be a first rounder, but don’t know which team to send him to. So let’s minimize risk by sending him to another team that is nearly impossible to predict.
25. via Jonathan Allen, DE Alabama
Of course nobody believes Jonathan Allen is not going to last to pick 25. But I tell you, I have no idea where to put this guy. He was dominant for much of college, yes. But he also occasionally disappeared in big games, tested relatively poorly at the combine, and plays a position that often struggles to make a huge impact at the next level. And those arthritic shoulders are a thing too. So, where to put him? I figured the safe thing to do was accept that I don’t have a good read on his draft stock, move him way down (where the draft will be a major mystery any way) and have a team with a big need at his position trade up for him. The Chiefs just dropped Jaye Howard, who was a surprisingly productive player for them as a 3-4 DE. The Chiefs don’t have too many glaring holes, and I don’t think they have any interest in a QB, so making a move to fill this spot is the best I can do. Plus, if I am wrong about them wanting a QB, I have a good hedge set up for two picks later.
26. T.J. Watt, OLB Wisconsin
I finally get to talk ab out my Seahawks! Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief. Here’s my thought process. I agree with everyone else that O-line is the ideal position to draft here. But only if one of the top options are available. They are long gone. Reaching for one in the first would not fit their style. They like unique, explosive, passionate players in the first. Next up… cornerback. Sure, it’s a need. But not a glaring one. Carroll and company believe they can coach later picks up, and so far have been proven right. Sherman. Maxwell. Browner. Shead. Lane. All are players that went late in the draft and turned into decent starters, Pro Bowlers, and the best CB in the league. So why spend a first rounder on one when they have proven over and over that they can coach players up? If a CB so dominant- so much better than everyone else in the class- was there, sure. But this class is deep, which will give a team like Seattle even more incentive to wait on the position. So where do they go? Pass rush. LBer. Someone to get after the QB, but also to step in for Wagner and Wright every so often, to keep them fresh for later in the season. Watt can play alongside those guys on first and second downs, replace them if needed on third down and in a nickel package. And most importantly- the reason I chose him above the other explosive pass rushers- the energy he brings. Look at the players Seattle has added with their first round picks. Earl. Irvin. Harvin and Graham, through trades. Ifedi. These guys are all furious competitors, and want to be the baddest guys on the field. That’s not Melifonwu. That’s Watt. He is the perfect combination of team need, player value, and the mindset that personifies this team.
27. via Patrick Mahomes, QB Texas Tech
Let’s keep this pick the same as it was in the last iteration. I think the safest trade prediction is one that has the Texans trading for Mahomes. This pick manages to snag me the Trade Bonus if Houston trades for him, at any point in the draft, but also gets me the 6 for Player-Pick if I am wrong about KC, and they do decide to grab him as their QB of the future in round 1.
28. John Ross, WR Washington
Ross felt so right going to Buffalo at 10, but then reports surfaced that his medical evaluation was awful, and everyone had to ask themselves, what do I believe? Is that a smokescreen, so he stays available to some team in the teens that needs to have him? Or is it legit news, foreshadowing a draft day drop? After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that he really does probably have poor medicals. Just think about it. He moves so much faster than a body should be able to support. I don’t know how human hip flexors can handle the kind of strain such fast and powerful movements place on them. Not to mention knee ligaments. Shoulders. All of it. I think he will be a fantastic player when he is on the field, and will dramatically improve a run offense by the amount of deep attention that will have to be paid to him. But I see an unfortunately short career for the speedster. A running team like Dallas is the new fit. They and Buffalo tied for the league lead in rushing plays, and if defenses were forced to respect his deep speed on one side and Dez’s back shoulder fade on the other, Zeke will be given all kinds of space to run.
29. Adoree Jackson, CB USC
Once I got that terrible gif of Jackson getting burned by John Ross out of my mind, and started focusing on his athleticism, his surprising physicality, his impact on the return game, and did I mention that athleticism???? I saw him as a first rounder. Where to put him was a more difficult question to answer, so I sent the more athletic version of Desmond Trufant to a team in dire need of CB help. In need of a player who can replace key offensive players like Cobb and Montgomery in the return game. As I said in previous mock drafts, I believe the end of the round should be spent trying to find good homes for prospects whom you believe will go in the first round. Squeeze all your first rounders in here (starting with the contrarian picks first) and then try to pull some trades and find team fits that make sense for each player. Speaking of which…
30. via Charles Harris, DE Missouri
I feel very strongly that the Jets will end up with Charles Harris. I also believe that he will be a first round pick. But rather than have them spend pick 6 reaching for a player at a position with a lot of depth, I’ve got them trading back in to the round. This way, I’ll still get the Trade Bonus for the pick, even if they do end up trading back from 6 to grab Harris in the teens. But I am also covered if they stay put with that pick and draft their other supposed draft crush (that makes a lot more sense in terms of player value and team need) Jamal Adams. I chose Pittsburgh as a trade partner because, if the Jets don’t end up trading back into the round, I could see the Steelers adding Harris to bolster their own pass rush. And finally… I just have a very bad read on the Steelers and what direction they might go. So rather than just throw a dart at a list of first round prospects, I’ll have them trade out of the round entirely, allowing the Jets to grab their guy.
31. Tyus Bowser, OLB Houston
It was a tough call for me, deciding between Watt and Bowser for the Hawks. Both are explosive, both have the Big Bad Man mentality needed to fit in on that D. I selected Watt because he was a bit more productive, was a bit more explosive, and has a bit more of a healthy mean streak, as opposed to Bowser, who got in trouble for fighting his own teammate. But I love Bowser as a prospect, and I think he would be a great fit for a team that’s modeled their defense on the Seattle system, coached by a former Seattle DC. Adding pass rush to that defense is probably their number one priority, and since I have Bowser as my final first-round-graded pass rusher, the fit was very natural.
32. via DeShone Kizer, QB Notre Dame
I still think Kizer goes number 32 overall, to a team who wants to jump back into the first (and have the fifth year option available to them) to get their guy. I’ve just switched the hopping team from Chicago to Buffalo. Truth is, I don’t know who likes Kizer the best. I’m more interested in getting 6 for Player-Pick here than anything else. But in this iteration of my mock draft, with Chicago having grabbed Watson at 3 and the Jets already having traded back into the 1st round for Harris, the Bills were the natural trade partner. Kizer could really excel on a team that doesn’t ask too much of him, and a run-first team like Buffalo, with McCoy and Fournette in the fold, would give him every opportunity in the world to be successful as a pro.
This is the mock I will be entering into all contests. Of course, news will continue to come in between now and then (seriously, just in the hours it took me to write complete this mock draft, Gareon Conley has been accused of rape, which will certainly affect his draft stock) so I will probably make changes to my mock in the contests. But for the sake of publishing a mock, more than a day ahead of the NFL Draft, here it is.
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: Gerald Herbert, AP