2017 NFL Mock Draft - Kevin Hanson- Updated: Monday, May 9th
With the 2016 NFL Draft only one week behind us, I've already begun the process of looking ahead to the 2017 NFL Draft.
This should be obvious to everyone, but I'll state it anyways, this preliminary projection of my 2017 NFL Mock Draft will likely change significantly between now and end of the April 2017. Therefore, the goal is primarily to highlight players who could hear their names called on Day 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft and match up some possible fits.
For the draft order, I've used the inverse of my 2016 NFL Power Rankings. And I'll continue to use them for future updates until we know the draft order for certain.
With that said, here is my very early projection of how Round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft could play out next April:
1. Cleveland Browns (Draft History: DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Since professional football has returned to Cleveland, the Browns have had nothing but question marks under center. While RG3 will enter 2016 as Cleveland's starting quarterback and the team drafted USC's Cody Kessler in the third round, it would be difficult for Hue Jackson and the front office to pass up an opportunity to select a franchise quarterback here.
Despite losing their top receiver in the season opener, Watson went on to finish in the top three among Heisman voting as he led the Tigers to the national championship game against Alabama as a true sophomore. Watson threw for 4,104 yards, 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while also rushing for 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns against Alabama in the championship game and rushed for another 73 yards. Per Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports, one NFL quarterbacks coach said of Watson: “Those are NFL players he was going against. He threw with anticipation. He was very accurate. He responded well to adversity. He’s a smooth athlete, and he showed he’s tough.”
2. San Francisco 49ers (Draft History: Myles Garrett, DE/OLB, Texas A&M
If the 49ers are selecting second overall in 2017, it's more than possible that they consider a quarterback prospect, such as Miami's Brad Kaaya, in this spot. That said, Garrett has as good of a chance as any other prospect to be the first non-quarterback prospect selected next April. Averaging nearly a sack per game over his first two seasons in College Station, Garrett racked up 11.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss as a true sophomore in 2015. The 49ers ranked 29th in the NFL in sacks (28) in 2015.
3. San Diego Chargers (Draft History: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
There was some speculation that the Chargers would take either Ronnie Stanley or Laremy Tunsil (pre-social media hack), but it wouldn't surprise me if they draft a tackle here in 2017. PFF graded San Diego's offensive line 32nd of 32 teams in 2015. Starting at left tackle since stepping on campus as a freshman, the former five-star recruit and 2015 All-SEC selection would be a long-term upgrade over either King Dunlap or Joe Barksdale at either tackle spot.
4. Tennessee Titans (Draft History: Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
Only three teams -- 49ers (8.0 Y/A), Browns (8.2) and Saints (8.7) -- allowed more yards per attempt than the Titans (7.9) last season. The Titans used a couple of Day 3 picks on corners, but the 6-foot-1 Tabor has the talent to become the team's true No. 1 corner. Vernon Hargreaves III was a top-11 pick in this year's draft and it's possible that his Gator teammate gets selected even higher than VH3.
5. Detroit Lions (Draft History: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
With Todd Gurley and Ezekial Elliott both going within the first 10 picks of the draft, Fournette should extend that streak for a third consecutive year. The dominant 230-pound sophomore rushed for 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns despite the lack of a passing attack to keep defenses honest.
6. Tennessee Titans, via LA, (Draft History: Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
By trading the No. 1 overall pick last year, the Titans have a pair of first-rounders and based on my post-draft 2016 NFL Power Rankings, the Titans have a pair of top-six selections as a result. Last year, they added DeMarco Murray, Heisman winner Derrick Henry and Jack Conklin to improve their rushing attack.
With the pick of Smith-Schuster, who finished with 89/1,454/10 as a sophomore, Marcus Mariota get a potential No. 1 wideout. Perhaps Dorial Green-Beckham will take a step forward in his second season and beyond, but Kendall Wright will be a free agent after the 2016 season.
7. Cleveland Browns, via PHI, (Draft History: Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn
Playing only seven games over the past two seasons due to injury, Lawson is an explosive edge rusher with the potential to be a top-five selection next April provided he stays healthy. Ranking in the bottom five in the league in sacks (29) last season, the Browns added some pass-rushers through the draft -- Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, etc., but they declined the fifth-year option on Barkevious Mingo, who has been a disappointment, and Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant will be free agents after the 2017 season.
8. New Orleans Saints (Draft History: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
The Saints improved their defensive line by drafting Louisville's Sheldon Rankings, a disruptive interior defensive lineman, and continue to rebuild the unit by selecting Allen here. After allowing the most points and second-most yards in 2015, however, the team's defense has a long way to go. Despite playing fewer than half of the team's defensive snaps, Allen led the team with 12 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Draft History: Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan
In addition to having made contributions on offense and in the return game, the versatile Peppers has played safety, cornerback and will play SAM linebacker this season. While the Bucs added VH3 at cornerback in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Peppers would provide the Bucs with an upgrade at safety.
10. Chicago Bears (Draft History: Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (FL)
With Jay Cutler's guaranteed money set to run out after this season, it's possible that the Bears find a long-term replacement for their turnover-prone quarterback if Kaaya is still on the board here. The son of Angela Means, who played Felisha in the movie Friday, the 6-foot-4 signal-caller has all of the tools to develop into a franchise quarterback.
11. Miami Dolphins (Draft History: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Only five teams recorded fewer sacks than the Dolphins (31) last season. In addition, the Dolphins gave Cameron Wake a two-year extension, but both of their starting defensive ends -- Wake (turns 35 in January) and Mario Williams (turns 32 in January) -- are on the wrong side of 30. Over 26 games in his two seasons with the Vols, Barnett has racked up a total of 20.0 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss.
12. Atlanta Falcons (Draft History: Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
As a 19-year-old sophomore, McDowell recorded 4.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles as the team's starting nose tackle. Going into the 2016 season, however, the confident McDowell (6-6, 280 pounds) will line up all over the defensive line including defensive end.
Who's the best defensive lineman in the country? It's McDowell, if you ask McDowell.
"I think I'm the best D-lineman in the country, I can't lie," McDowell said, per Mike Griffith of MLive.com. "So if you want it and you ask for it, you've got to be willing to take on the pressure."
13. New York Jets (Draft History: Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State
With the retirement of D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets signed Ryan Clady to a two-year deal. Based on the deal, the Jets hold an option for 2017 that would pay Clady $10 million (or up to $13 million based on 2016 playing time). Florida State's starting left tackle last season, Johnson won the 2015 ACC Jacobs Blocking Trophy, which is awarded to the conference's best blocker.
14. Buffalo Bills (Draft History: Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
Stud cornerback Stephon Gilmore is due to hit unrestricted free agency next offseason. If they are unable to sign Gilmore to a long-term deal or they use their franchise tag on him, White gives them some insurance. Either way, you can never have too many talented cornerbacks and White would have likely been a first-round pick had he not decided to return to Baton Rouge this fall.
15. New York Giants (Draft History: Zach Banner, OT, USC
The son of former Pro Bowl offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy, Banner is one of the biggest college football players in the country at 6-foot-9 and 360 pounds and he has played basketball for USC as well. With 25 of his 27 starts at right tackle, Banner will move to the left side this season.
16. Houston Texans (Draft History: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
All three of Houston's qualified safeties (out of 89), Quintin Demps (47th), Andre Hal (51st) and Eddie Pleasant (66th) graded out in the bottom half of PFF's 2015 grades for the position. A confident, hard-hitting, playmaking safety, Adams (6-1, 211) is the son of George Adams, who played for the Giants and Patriots. Adams had a team-high four interceptions and finished third on the team in tackles (67) last season.
- Continue to picks 17-32 in our 2017 NFL Mock Draft
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