The 2017 NFL Draft finally starts on Thursday night. Arguably unlike any year before, this is one of the deeper, better classes talent-wise overall - in particular at defensive back and tight end.
What tomorrow really brings is an end to all of the rampant mock drafts, rumors, and anxious pacing. The madness is coming to a close. But we still have just a little over 24 hours until we know who the Chicago Bears and the rest of the NFL invests their futures in. That feels like ages.
With that in mind, we decided to divvy up general manager powers as evenly as possible across all selecting teams. Then run through our own wide mock draft of picks of what could indeed potentially happen on Thursday. As a note, unless we were actually the Bears, each pick was in the best interest of each franchise we were in control of. There was no setting the table for someone else. It was strictly best player available and need for everyone throughout.
Now, here’s how our staff 2017 first-round shook out.
1. Cleveland Browns (Robert Zeglinski) - Myles Garrett, Edge, Texas A&M
With the first pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Browns go with Garrett. Generational is thrown around too much as a descriptor for players nowadays, but Garrett might appropriately fit the bill. He's the best and most talented player in this class and will give Cleveland a perennial Pro Bowl and All-Pro edge rusher for a decade-plus.
2. San Francisco 49ers (E.J. Snyder) - Solomon Thomas, Edge, Stanford
New San Francisco defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh spent time in Seattle as a coach and likely wants to run a version of the Seahawks system. If he wasn't tapped to be the 49ers defensive coordinator, he was headed to Los Angeles. to be the linebackers coach for Gus Bradley. So he knows linebackers and understands that the pass rush will be critical. Although tempted by Malik Hooker to fill the Earl Thomas role, they choose to build from the inside out. Thomas gives them a flexible chess piece that can be moved around in the role Michael Bennett plays with the Seahawks.
3. Chicago Bears (Ken Mitchell) - O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
I would dearly love to trade out of this position down four or five picks, because one of my top players at least will still be there at that position, but since we can't do that, I'm going to throw a curve ball here and choose Howard.
I know, this draft is strong in tight ends and this is WAY too high value-wise to pick one, but Howard is a generational talent at tight end. He's exactly what a run-first, ball control offense like the Bears needs to keep drives going and the defense off the field.
Howard is the real deal, the whole package, and he's a 10-year-starter kind of a player. With a two-tight end set of Howard and Dion Sims, and the option of splitting Miller out wide in other sets, that both opens up lanes for Chicago’s running game and presents matchup nightmares for opponents.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (Jeff Berckes) - Johnathan Allen, DL, Alabama
I'm seeing a ton of Leonard Fournette to the Jaguars in mock drafts but I just don't see it. Tom Coughlin has returned to Jacksonville, now in the front office, and I think he wants to build the lines. Adding Allen to the mix with Malik Jackson and Dante Fowler Jr. is downright scary. Allen is strong against the run and was the best defensive player on the best defense in the country. He can kick inside to the three-technique on third downs and create even greater mismatches for the Jaguars to get off the field.
The Titans had an abysmal pass defense last year and they need someone to shut down opposing wide receivers, especially in a division with DeAndre Hopkins, T.Y. Hilton and Allen Robinson. The safeties here are tempting but the Titans badly need a No. 1 cornerback such as Lattimore.
6. New York Jets (Lester Wiltfong Jr.) - Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Jets head coach Todd Bowles will get the best safety prospect in the draft to bolster his secondary. Adams has Pro Bowl talent and there's nothing he can't do at the position. He can cover, tackle, hit, play centerfield, and or even act as an eighth defender in the box.
7. Los Angeles Chargers (Robert) - Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Chargers have the makings of quite a talented defense. They have two dynamic edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, as well as a long-term number one cornerback in Jason Verrett. Now they just need an elite center-fielding safety to compliment this trio and no one has better range or upside as a safety in this class than Hooker. The injuries could be concerning but at No. 7, the value is fine. With Hooker roaming the middle of the field in tandem with that budding pass rush, look for San Diego to create a lot of turnovers for a long time.
8. Carolina Panthers (E.J.) - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
After all the speculation, the Panthers just drop the bomb and do it. Can you imagine an RPO (Run-Pass-Option) play with Newton and Fournette? Defenders in the NFC don't want to think about it either. That kind of running power is substantial and will wear opponents down. Fournette has the speed to break off large gains when it does too. This move also makes standard play-action fakes deadly with defenders trying to crowd the box to stop the runaway train that is Fournette.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (Ken) - Derek Barnett, Edge, Tennessee
This one's a home run for the Bengals. Barnett is a top-five talent at a desperate need position. Most mocks have this pick going to Alabama linebacker, Reuben Foster, but with the combine dismissal and now news of a drug violation notification by the NFL, it's way too high of a spot to take Foster with a guy like Barnett on the board.
Barnett has all the tools on the field winning many SEC awards against top competition, is smart, and has a clean off-the-field track record. He projects as a three-down player and is a perfect fit for the Bengals defense physically. Easy pick for Cincinnati: Best player available and top need.
10. Buffalo Bills (Jeff) - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Sammy Watkins couldn't stay on the field last year in a disastrous season for the Bills. If he can get right, Davis provides the perfect complement in the passing game for a dynamic attack. If Watkins can't get healthy, at least you have a guy that can take over the No. 1 wide receiver role eventually. It will come down to Davis versus Mike Williams, and although pairing up two Clemson Tigers is interesting, I prefer Davis in this coin-flip.
11. New Orleans Saints (Sam) - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
The Saints need plenty of defensive help but the board doesn't reflect value at their biggest needs positions: Edge and cornerback. So Foster it is. Yes he has some red flags but last year the Dolphins took the nose-diving Laremy Tunsil at No. 13, so this is in the vicinity for concerning players.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia Eagles) (Lester) - Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
The Browns get the former Mr. Football in the state of Ohio to be their quarterback of the future. Then again, with the collection of quarterbacks they have in Cleveland at the moment, Trubisky may push to start as a rookie.
13. Arizona Cardinals (Robert) - Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
It was difficult to pass on other more polished passers, but Mahomes is a better fit for head coach Bruce Arians' vertical, challenging offense in Arizona. The Cardinals need a quarterback for the future with Carson Palmer nearing the end of his career, and Mahomes lands in one of the few perfect situations to let him flourish to develop for the future. A run-and-gun player with a big arm that takes chances lands in the ideal desert.
The Eagles need a cornerback but they also need to surround quarterback Carson Wentz with weapons. They can get a corner later because McCaffrey is just that: a weapon. He can contribute on the ground, through the passing game, and on special teams if they need him to. He is one of the smartest runners in this draft and may be the best route runner too.
15. Indianapolis Colts (Ken) - Ryan Ramcyzk, OT, Wisconsin
Indianapolis has one of the more talented quarterbacks in football in Andrew Luck, but they haven’t supported or protected him well. Selecting Ramczyk here is a step in a positive direction for new general manager Chris Ballard in building a proper team for his franchise quarterback.
16. Baltimore Ravens (Jeff) - Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
The Ravens lost Ricky Wagner in free agency and pluck one of the few highly rated offensive linemen in this draft. Pair this man with Marshal Yanda and you've got a running game to work with.
17. Washington R-words (Sam) - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Washington has several needs and among them are running back (lots of mocks pin McCaffrey to them, but he's gone) and defensive line. While they could stretch for the next tier of defensive linemen such as Michigan State’s Malik McDowell or Michigan’s Taco Charlton, I think they see the No. 2 wide receiver on the board and pounce.
18. Tennessee Titans (Lester) - David Njoku, TE, Miami (FL)
After Tennessee went defense with their earlier first-round pick, getting a receiving weapon for quarterback Marcus Mariota is a must. Njoku has good hands and is a freakish athlete. He'll need to work on his blocking to become a great all-around tight end, but Pro Bowl potential is there.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Robert) - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Buccanneers have the makings of a budding playoff team and or pseudo contender, but still need foundational pieces on defense, especially in the secondary. Veteran Brent Grimes will be 34 by next season and Humphrey gives Tampa Bay possibly the safest (no injury-risk) and smartest cornerback in this class. He should help form a nice long-term shutdown duo with last year's first-round pick, Vernon Hargreaves III.
20. Denver Broncos (E.J.) - Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
Denver needs some youth and depth on the offensive line and Lamp offers that in spades as the best available on the board.
21. Detroit Lions (Ken) - Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Reddick is a fast, athletic linebacker that should fit well into the Lions defense. He will slide right into the Lion's 4-3 scheme at middle linebacker and provide them speed and athleticism.
22. Miami Dolphins (Jeff) - Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Fish Tacos! Miami has a lot of needs on defense and they'll gladly take the talented Charlton to add to their defensive line. Taco has a chance to be a special pass rusher and will contribute immediately.
23. New York Giants (Sam) - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The Giants have several needs and some good players that fit those needs (DL, OT) are available, but the Giants' running game is in bad need of a boost after finishing in the bottom half of the league. Cook can step in right away and be a dangerous weapon to go with the arsenal of wide receivers they have.
24. Oakland Raiders (Lester) - Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida
The Raiders have a need in the middle of their defense and Davis is a fast, physical, and instinctive player that will eventually grow into a leadership role with the team.
25. Houston Texans (Robert) - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Texans are one of those teams on the cusp of true long-term contention - if only they could find a quarterback. They have virtually every piece you want, except for a quarterback. Watson falling to them here will be a dream, and while they may throw him into the fire sooner than he's ready, they'll feel the gamble paid off eventually with their new franchise leader (apologies to J.J. Watt).
26. Seattle Seahawks (E.J.) - Kevin King, CB, Washington
King stays in the state where he played in college as the lengthy cornerback is picked by the perfect team for his press, athletic style in the Seahawks. They keep stocking up on corners for their unique defensive scheme.
27. Kansas City Chiefs (Ken) - Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
At No. 27, Kansas City had a choice of shoring up it's defense with White out of LSU, some other corner, or could’ve looked at finding an eventual replacement for the aging (and limited) Alex Smith with quarterback prospects like DeShone Kizer. Or, even one of the strong running backs in this draft remaining.
I went with more of a "sure thing" (in as much as any pick can be considered a sure thing). There's a definite hole in the Kansas City secondary across from the solid Marcus Peters. The Chiefs have been throwing draft and free agent pick after pick at cornerback, adding four different guys last year, but the hole in the unit remains. There aren't many problem areas in the Kansas City defense, and picking White addresses the biggest of them.
28. Dallas Cowboys (Jeff) - T.J. Watt DE Wisconsin
Here's my argument: 1. J.J. is an absolute marketing force for Houston - you don't think the Cowboys want a piece of that Watt money? 2. The Cowboys are desperate for a pass rush and the youngest Watt offers effort and athleticism at the defensive end spot. 3. There is a lot of secondary talent later in the draft for Dallas to fill a needy secondary.
And last but not least, 4. I think Packers fans will be in tears if their guy goes one slot ahead of their pick. I'm not too proud to enjoy a little Schadenfreude here among friends.
29. Green Bay Packers (Sam) - Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
The Packers need to build up their defense, the best defensive backs are off the board and it's a slight dip on edge rushers, so they take McDowell who can work inside or outside.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (Lester) - Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Steelers need help in getting after the quarterback and Harris is the top-rated pass rusher on the board. He may not start as a rookie, but he'll be in on third downs rushing the passer.
31. Atlanta Falcons (Robert) - Budda Baker, S, Washington
The Falcons don't lack defensive speed but it's my belief they need more, especially after being torn apart by Tom Brady. Ricardo Allen is a serviceable player but isn’t the long-term answer next to stud young guy, Keanu Neal. With Baker and Neal, you get the range and you get the hammer with a quality secondary. Baker makes an immediate impact and helps Atlanta stay afloat as a contender in the NFC.
32. New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots) (E.J.) - DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
The Saints are the perfect spot for Kizer to grow as he won’t start right away and can develop under head coach Sean Payton. They can develop him in the wings while Drew Brees plays out his last few years and New Orleans gets that valued fifth-year option on his contract by picking him in the first round.