Above: Photo gallery highlights the projected top 15 picks in this mock draft
Mock Draft by Joe Hopkins
In less than a month, a flood of emotions will rush over 253 young men as their NFL dreams comes true. The moment of a lifetime will be short-lived as greater challenges lie right around the corner.
While how early a player is drafted affects his rookie contract by millions, the specific team which selects him will leave the greatest impact. Much of a player’s success relies on scheme fit, coaching development and the leadership of his veteran teammates.
Clubs have just as much at stake on draft night, as the decisions they make determine the future of their franchise. The Rams lost five games by one possession last season. Could they have reached the playoffs had they selected Carson Wentz instead of Jared Goff? The jury is still out on the Goff vs. Wentz case, but this draft will certainly spark several debates of a similar nature.
Below is my prediction on how the first round will shake out, barring trades. For each pick I weigh team needs versus the best prospect available and select the player who offers the most value to that team.
Player comparisons are based on body type and athleticism similarities, and represent what type of player that prospect could become if they reach their maximum potential.
The NFL Draft is April 27-April 29 in Philadelphia.
1-Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett – EDGE – Texas A&M
NFL Comparison: Jadeveon Clowney
If you come across a mock draft that doesn’t send Garrett to Cleveland disregard it immediately. He’s an even better prospect than his comparison, Jadeveon Clowney, and he further illustrated that at the combine. Men that weigh 270 pounds simply aren’t supposed to have 41-inch verticals and 4.64 40-yard dash times. The 21 year-old’s athleticism, production and character all suggest this former Aggie will torture opposing quarterbacks for the next decade.
Other Considerations: Jamal Adams (S), Marshon Lattimore (CB) Deshaun Watson (QB)
2-San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas – EDGE – Stanford
NFL Comparison: Everson Griffen
For the third year in a row San Francisco addresses their defensive line in the first round. Thomas’s draft ascension began when he dominated North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. The 21-year-old then solidified his status as a top 10 pick with an impressive showing at the combine. This ferocious pass rusher will bring power, quickness and versatility to a defense that gave up an NFL-worst 30 points per contest last season.
Other Considerations: Jamal Adams (S), Mitch Trubisky (QB), Deshaun Watson (QB)
3-Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams – S – LSU
NFL Comparison: Eric Berry
Those who expected Chicago to make a defensive splash through free agency remain dry. Instead they’ll use the draft to add a tone setter in the secondary. This pick makes Adams the highest drafted safety since 1988 (Bennie Blades), and for good reason. Making those around him better, the alpha male’s leadership is raved about at LSU. With the addition of this intelligent bruiser, the outlines of another dominant Bears defense begin to take shape.
Other Considerations: Malik Hooker (S), Marshon Lattimore (CB), Jonathan Allen (DL)
4-Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette – HB – LSU
NFL Comparison: Steven Jackson
General Manager Dave Caldwell has invested heavily in defense again this offseason and will look to improve a 25th ranked scoring offense (19.9 PPG) early in the draft. After scoring the 14th most points in 2015 (23.5 PPG), Blake Bortles failed to make the progression many expected, causing the offense to sputter. If the quarterback can’t prove himself in his fourth season, Fournette could be Jacksonville’s saving grace. The bell-cow back has a rare blend of size, power and speed.
Other Considerations: O.J. Howard (TE), Malik Hooker (S), Reuben Foster (LB)
5-Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore – CB – Ohio State
NFL Comparison: Desmond Trufant
While free agent acquisitions Logan Ryan and Johnathan Cyprien are nice additions to the secondary, there is still work to be done on the back end of that defense. Long-time starter Jason McCourty will turn 30 in August and is entering the final year of his contract. Lattimore engraved his name atop the list of this draft’s corner backs with an impressive showing at the combine. The former Buckeye has the athleticism, instincts and ball skills to become the best cornerback in the NFL. Tennessee is building a unit the rest of the AFC South should fear.
Other Considerations: Malik Hooker (S), Jonathan Allen (DL), Reuben Foster (LB)
6-New York Jets: Deshaun Watson – QB – Clemson
NFL Comparison: Ryan Tannehill
By releasing aging stars Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis and Nick Mangold, the Jets have committed to a full-on rebuild. This roster has more holes than a bomb test site, but the biggest crater lies at quarterback. Watson is a proven winner, with relentless work ethic and plenty of talent. While he has to clean up his decision making and deep throw accuracy, the reigning National Champion will immediately compete with recently signed Josh McCown for the starting job.
Other Considerations: Malik Hooker (S), Mitch Trubisky (QB), Reuben Foster (LB)
7-Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Hooker – S – Ohio State
NFL Comparison: Antrel Rolle
Hooker is a ball-hawking safety who has barely scratched the surface of his potential. The one-year starter tracks the football like a predator in the passing game, and has the ball skills to feast on daring quarterbacks. While he has good length, Hooker could stand to increase his physicality and shore up some sloppy tackling against the run. A hernia and torn labrum denied us his combine performance, but that shouldn’t stop the Chargers from reuniting him with former teammate Joey Bosa.
Other Considerations: Mike Williams (WR), Reuben Foster (LB), Jonathan Allen (DL)
8-Carolina Panthers: Taco Charlton– EDGE – Michigan
NFL Comparison: Chandler Jones
Carolina saw a team wide regression in 2016, as they still seemed deflated from their Super Bowl 50 loss. To get their 26th ranked scoring defense (25.1 PPG) back to top-ten form, the Panthers need to add young talent on their edges. Charlton is a blossoming player who brings size and athleticism to an elderly defensive end group. Don’t let his poor 40 time (4.92) fool you. Charlton possesses double-digit sack ability.
Other Considerations: Derek Barnett (EDGE), Mike Williams (WR), Quincy Wilson (CB)
9-Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Williams – WR – Clemson
NFL Comparison: Alshon Jeffery
Marvin Lewis’s squad also took a step back last season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Only eight teams scored fewer points than Cincy last year, but the draft’s best receiver will help Andy Dalton and company get back on track. Williams is a big, physical pass catcher, with excellent hands and body control. Questions about his speed were more or less answered when the Clemson product ran in the 4.5’s at his pro day.
Other Considerations: Reuben Foster (LB), Jonathan Allen (DL), Cory Davis (WR)
10-Buffalo Bills: Jonathan Allen– DL – Alabama
NFL Comparison: Derek Wolfe
Though two Pro Bowl defensive tackles already reside on Buffalo’s roster, Kyle Williams has one year on his contract and will turn 34 in June. Marcell Dareus has served a suspension each of the past two seasons for substance abuse, leading the front office to wonder if he’s worth his massive contract. Allen, a top-five talent, has seen his stock fall due to an underwhelming combine, and concerns over arthritis in both of his surgically repaired shoulders. If he can hold up, the Bills will have landed a steal with the tenth pick.
Other Considerations: Reuben Foster (LB), Haason Reddick (LB), Quincy Wilson (CB)
11-New Orleans Saints: Reuben Foster – LB – Alabama
NFL Comparison: Patrick Willis
Foster is another elite Alabama talent experiencing a depreciation of his stock. After being sent home from the combine for engaging in a heated dispute with a hospital worker, teams are now digging deeper into his character. New Orleans winds up the beneficiary of this whole ordeal, and will sprint to the podium to select the best pure linebacker prospect since Luke Kuechly. Foster will be faced with the task of turning around a scoring defense that hasn’t ranked outside the bottom five since 2013.
Other Considerations: Haason Reddick (LB), Derek Barnett (EDGE), Christian McCaffrey (HB)
12-Cleveland Browns: Mitch Trubisky – QB – North Carolina
NFL Comparison: Derek Carr
Until Cleveland hits a homerun, they have to keep swinging on quarterbacks. This former Mr. Ohio Football hopes he can be the savior Browns fans have long been praying for. The one-year starter will need some time to adjust to a pro-style offense, as he took almost every snap from the shotgun as a Tar Heel. Nevertheless, the accuracy and mobility Trubisky displayed in his limited opportunities will be enough to sell head coach Hue Jackson on this boom-or-bust prospect.
Other Considerations: O.J. Howard (TE), Quincy Wilson (CB), Tre’Davious White (CB)
13-Arizona Cardinals: Cory Davis – WR – Western Michigan
NFL Comparison: Jordy Nelson
Larry Fitzgerald will turn 34 in August, Michael Floyd was cut after yet another DUI, and John Brown has been hindered by lingering migraines. Arizona hopes the NCAA’s all-time D-I receiving leader can revive a passing attack that looked dormant in 2016. Davis is the most complete receiver in this draft. The MAC star would challenge Mike Williams to be the first wideout taken had it not been for a minor ankle surgery that will prevent him from working out prior to draft day.
Other Considerations: O.J. Howard (TE), Quincy Wilson (CB), Patrick Mahomes (QB)
14-Philadelphia Eagles: Tre’Davious White – CB – LSU
NFL Comparison: Janoris Jenkins
Carson Wentz received two shiny new toys to play with this offseason in the forms of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. Now the Eagles must be aggressive in improving the perimeter of a defense that gave up the sixth-most passing plays of twenty yards or more. Despite all the talented defensive backs to come out of LSU, White managed to start all four years in Baton Rouge. His elite quickness allows him to mirror receivers all over the field. The 22-year-old needs to improve his tackling but has the potential to make an early impact.
Other Considerations: Haason Reddick (LB), Quincy Wilson (CB), Dalvin Cook (HB)
15-Indianapolis Colts: Charles Harris – EDGE – Missouri
NFL Comparison: Cliff Avril
New general manager Chris Ballard has done a good job of adding depth to Indy’s problem areas. Recently signed linebackers Jabaal Sheard and John Simon will improve a lackluster pass rush, but more help is needed on the edge. Harris uses his burst, lateral agility and top-notch footwork to navigate his way into the opposition’s backfield. While he needs to do a better job of disengaging from blocks against the run, his spin move will trigger Dwight Freeney flashbacks in the minds of Colts fans.
Other Considerations: Haason Reddick (LB), Takkarist McKinley (EDGE), Quincy Wilson (CB)
16-Baltimore Ravens: John Ross – WR – Washington
NFL Comparison: Brandin Cooks
In back-to-back seasons Baltimore’s offense has failed to crack the top 20 in points scored. Joe Flacco is going to need more weapons if the Ravens are going to fight their way into the playoffs. Ross has more to offer than just the record-breaking speed he displayed at the combine (4.22 40 yard dash). The 40-yard dash king has displayed reliable hands and route versatility during his time at Washington. Aside from the passing game, Ross also provides value as a return man and has shown to ability to take handoffs for hefty gains.
Other Considerations: Takkarist McKinley (EDGE), Derek Barnett (EDGE), Dalvin Cook (HB)
17-Washington Redskins: Malik McDowell – DL – Michigan State
NFL Comparison: Deforest Buckner
Washington’s best defensive lineman, Chris Baker, signed with Tampa Bay this offseason, further weakening an underwhelming defensive front. McDowell might be the biggest boom or bust prospect in this draft. The former Spartan packs an unnatural amount of athleticism in his 6’6” 295 lb. frame. However, words like “raw,” “lazy,” and “inconsistent” are commonly used to describe his time at Michigan State. If defensive coordinator Greg Manusky can light a fire under McDowell, he’ll have a perennial Pro Bowler playing defensive end in his 3-4 scheme.
Other Considerations: Quincy Wilson (CB), Haason Reddick (LB), Dalvin Cook (HB)
18-Tennessee Titans: OJ Howard – TE – Alabama
NFL Comparison: Greg Olsen
Howard is a top-five talent who falls to the middle of the first round because he doesn’t play a premium position. The Titans should be thrilled to land the best tight end prospect in years. The 22-year-old pairs his reliable hands and blocking ability with a rare combination of size and athleticism. He’ll unite with Delaine Walker to instantly give Tennessee’s smash-mouth offense the best dual tight end threat in the league.
Other Considerations: Haason Reddick (LB), Takkarist McKinley (EDGE), Jarrad Davis (LB)
19-Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Obi Melifonwu – S – Connecticut
NFL Comparison: Cam Chancellor
No safety in the league possesses Melifonwu’s size and athleticism, making it difficult to find his comparison. At the combine, the four-year starter intrigued scouts across the league when he posted a 4.40 forty time and 44” vertical leap, at 6’4” 224 lbs. While his coverage skills need to be coached up, the former Husky is a down field tackling machine who will make an impact early in his career playing in the box. Melifonwu also has the added benefit of being able to match up with the league’s freakish tight ends, leading Tampa Bay to take a chance on his potential.
Other Considerations: Ryan Ramczyk (OT), Haason Reddick (LB), Derek Barnett (EDGE)
20-Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles – OT – Utah
NFL Comparison: Joe Staley
Giving up the ninth-most sacks (40) will not help out an inexperienced quarterback. Neither will ranking 28th in yards per carry (3.6). The additions of Ronald Leary and Menelik Watson provide some relief, but a glaring hole at left tackle remains. Bolles, who will turn 25 in May, had his introduction to football delayed by a troubled past. Since turning his life around, the graceful tackle has shown the kind of athleticism and mean streak to warrant a first-round pick. While his strength and technique need improvement, Bolles has the highest ceiling of any tackle in this class.
Other Considerations: Ryan Ramczyk (OT), David Njoku (TE), Jabril Peppers (S)
21-Detroit Lions: Haasan Reddick – LB – Temple
NFL Comparison: Lavonte David
Only the Raiders compiled fewer sacks than Detroit (26) last season. If the Lions are ever going to surpass Aaron Rodgers in the NFC North, their pass rush needs a boost. Reddick’s athleticism and versatility have his stock skyrocketing. The former defensive back earned all-conference recognition from defensive end last year, recording 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. While his size suggests he’s in line for another position change in the NFL, Reddick has double-digit sack potential as an attacking outside linebacker in Teryl Austin’s 4-3 scheme.
Other Considerations: Derek Barnett (EDGE), Takkarist McKinley (EDGE), David Njoku (TE)
22-Miami Dolphins: Derek Barnett – EDGE – Missouri
NFL Comparison: Brandon Graham
While still productive, Cameron Wake is 35 years old, and Miami’s 33 sacks didn’t exactly set the league on fire last season. Barnett is a far better football player than athlete. The 20-year-old started all three seasons at Tennessee, finishing with the most sacks (33) and second most tackles for-a-loss (52) in school history. Despite his resume, scouts are concerned about Barnett’s athleticism, as he wins more with savvy technique and strength, than speed and quickness. Regardless, the former Volunteer has a nonstop motor, and enough tools to be a valuable pro.
Other Considerations: Takkarist McKinley (EDGE), Quincy Wilson (QB), David Njoku (TE)
23-New York Giants: Ryan Ramczyk – OT – Wisconsin
NFL Comparison: Anthony Castonzo
Eli Manning struggled last year, producing his lowest yardage (4,027) and touchdown (26) totals since Ben McAdoo joined the coaching staff. Former ninth overall pick, Eric Flowers, has proven in two ugly seasons that he is incapable of holding down the left tackle position. If the Giants are going to squeeze one last Super Bowl run out of the soon-to-be 37-year-old, they need to better protect Manning’s blindside. Ramczyk’s size, athleticism and impressively refined technique allowed him to earned All-Big-Ten honors last year in his only season of D-I play.
Other Considerations: David Njoku (TE), Takkarist McKinley (EDGE), Jarrad Davis (LB)
24-Oakland Raiders: Dalvin Cook – HB – Florida State
NFL Comparison: Devonta Freeman
A talent like Cook could take Oakland’s seventh-ranked scoring offense (26 PPG) to a whole new level. Lead back Latavius Murray signed with Minnesota, and until something actually happens, all this Marshawn Lynch talk is nothing but hearsay. Fumbling concerns and a pattern of troubling off-field behavior have put a damper on some of Cook’s hype recently. Regardless, he remains an elite prospect with the shiftiness and burst to instantly upgrade half the backfields in the league.
Other Considerations: Quincy Wilson (CB), Marlon Humphrey (CB), Jarrad Davis (LB)
25-Houston Texans: Patrick Mahomes – QB – Texas Tech
NFL Comparison: Jay Cutler
Well, that didn’t last long. Houston’s $72 million dollar man has been shipped to the Browns. While Osweiler is Cleveland’s problem now, the Texans are still searching for the missing ingredient to their championship stew. Even if Tony Romo ends up with a bull on his helmet next season, he will be 37 years old and hasn’t been able to stay on the field for more than four games since 2014. Mahomes is a gunslinger with immense upside but will need time to learn how to operate within an NFL system.
Other Considerations: David Njoku (TE), Cam Robinson (OT), Jarrad Davis (LB)
26-Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson – OT – Alabama
NFL Comparison: Michael Oher
The Seahawks have given up the sixth-most sacks for two years running. Robinson was an instant starter in Tuscaloosa who dominated defenders with his hulk-like size and strength. The experienced 21-year-old is available this late due to bending and balance deficiencies that may demand a move to right tackle or guard in the NFL. In any case, the addition of Robinson improves Seattle’s biggest weakness and should please the likes of Russell Wilson and recently acquired Eddie Lacy.
Other Considerations: Quincy Wilson (CB), Forrest Lamp (OG), Kevin King (CB)
27-Kansas City Chiefs: Quincy Wilson– CB – Florida
NFL Comparison: Aqib Talib
When we look at the amount of yards (18th) and touchdowns (15th) given up through the air, the Chiefs ranked in the middle of the pack last season. One of the few holes on this team can be found at cornerback, as upgrade opposite of Marcus Peters could lead this defense to greatness. Wilson is a big, physical prospect with plus anticipation and ball skills. A 4.54 40-yard dash won’t deter Andy Reid, who wisely selected Peters despite his time of 4.53.
Other Considerations: Jarrad Davis (LB), Marlon Humphrey (CB), Forrest Lamp (OG)
28-Dallas Cowboys: Gareon Conley – CB – Ohio State
NFL Comparison: Xavier Rhodes
Morris Clayborn, Barry Church and Brandon Carr all found new teams this offseason, leaving Dallas to figure out how they’ll replace three starters in their secondary. Nolan Carroll will step into one of the cornerback spots, but the other positions must be addressed through the draft. Conley is a long, athletic prospect who was a bit overshadowed by other talents in Ohio State’s secondary. While he’ll have to improve against the run, this former Buckeye has the press skills and zone coverage instincts to keep tabs on the NFC East’s talented receivers.
Other Considerations: Marlon Humphrey (CB), Jabrill Peppers (S), Takkarist McKinley (EDGE)
29-Pittsburgh Steelers: DeShone Kizer – QB – Notre Dame
NFL Comparison: Daunte Culpepper
Ben Roethlisberger will be 36 in May, and is considering retirement after 13 accomplished, injury-riddled seasons. While he is expected to return, Pittsburgh needs to ensure their championship window doesn’t close once Big Ben hangs up the cleats. No quarterback has a higher ceiling in this draft than Kizer. The 21-year-old needs further development, but has a combination of size, athleticism and arm strength that is unmatched. After a year or two of shadowing the potential Hall of Famer, Kizer should be ready to carry the torch.
Other Considerations: David Njoku (TE), Takkarist McKinley (EDGE), Jabrill Peppers (S)
30-Green Bay Packers: Forrest Lamp – OG – Western Kentucky
NFL Comparison: Zach Martin
No team allowed their quarterback to hold the ball longer than the Packers last season. If Aaron Rodgers is going to once again carry his team deep into the playoffs, Green Bay must replicate that elite pass protection. The departures of starting center J.C. Tretter and Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang make interior O-line a priority. Lamp started all four years at left tackle for the Hilltoppers and dominated against Alabama’s talented defensive front last season. Though his lack of length suggests he’ll play guard in the NFL, many consider Lamp to be the best offensive lineman in this draft.
Other Considerations: Marlon Humphrey (CB), Takkarist McKinley (EDGE), Awuzie Chidobe (CB)
31-Atlanta Falcons: Takkarist McKinley – EDGE – UCLA
NFL Comparison: Jerry Hughes
While Falcons fans continue grieving the worst Super Bowl collapse of all time, they should feel optimistic about this roster’s makeup moving forward. The only considerable loss to the league’s top scoring offense is coordinator Kyle Shanahan. The other side of the ball has several young cornerstones in place and signed Dontari Poe to a one-year deal. McKinley’s pass rushing upside could elevate Atlanta’s defense into another tier. Though still raw in his technique, the former Bruin used his relentlessness and athleticism to earn All-Pac-12 honors his senior year.
Other Considerations: David Njoku (TE), Jordan Willis (EDGE), T.J. Watt (EDGE)
32-New Orleans Saints: Christian McCaffrey – RB – Stanford
NFL Comparison: Warrick Dunn
McCaffrey’s skill set is tailor-made for Sean Payton, who loves to utilize running backs in the passing game. A lack of size and power leaves scouts concerned about the former Heisman runner-up’s ability to be an every down back. In New Orleans, college football’s most versatile weapon would be the perfect complement to Mark Ingram’s smash-mouth running style. Filling the role that saw Darren Sproles catch 232 passes over three seasons, McCaffrey would help make up for the loss of Brandin Cooks. Don’t be surprised if the 20-year-old catches 100 balls next year.
Other Considerations: David Njoku (TE) Marlon Humphrey (CB) Jarrad Davis (LB)