We may have just had the 2016 NFL Draft but it is never too early for a new one. For this mock I have taken the Las Vegas Super Bowl Odds to determine the order, teams that had the same odds were placed according to which had a worse 2015-16 year. So if one team had the same odds as another but finished worse they were put ahead. I also constructed this mock as if I were the general manager of every team. This is not meant to be a prediction, rather it is a look at all the potential stars in the 2017 draft.
1. Cleveland Browns - Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama - If the Browns are picking at #1 in 2017 than many will be calling for a QB to be the pick. Right now Deshaun Watson is the best QB available and is worth the #1 overall pick, but let us look a bit deeper here. I believe the Hue Jackson and RG3 combo can be efficient in Cleveland. Landing the #1 pick may say otherwise however the lack of talent throughout the roster is apparent and would most likely be the reason why Cleveland is at the top slot. Instead of trying the replace RG3 the Browns should look to add pieces around him to really gauge how effective he can be. Cam Robinson would be an excellent start as he can step into the LT spot from day one and dominate. Joe Thomas will most likely be off the team next year as he looks to join a contender so Robinson is an easy selection. The Alabama prospect is a flat out bully on the field and would provide RG3 with an excellent blindside protector.
2. Tennessee Titans - Carl Lawson, 3-4 OLB, Auburn - The Titans already have a young QB who they are trying to develop so selecting a star pass-rusher for their defense seems like a good idea. Lawson has had injury issues throughout college but when he is healthy he is effective. Lawson is strong when making contact with offensive lineman and has an quick first step that allows him to get an advantage against his opponent from the jump. Throw in his seemingly non-stop motor and Lawson looks like an easy transition to the NFL.
3. San Francisco 49ers - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson - Kaepernick does not have the accuracy to do well in Kelly’s system and Blaine Gabbert is not a starting QB. Deshaun Watson is a player right out of Chip Kelly’s dream. Accuracy is an extremely important trait to have for a Chip Kelly QB and Watson has great touch accuracy. Not only is the Clemson Tiger accurate, but he has excellent arm strength and a great deep ball. Watson can fling it all over the field with great precision. The fact that he is an extraordinary athlete is just icing on the cake. Watson in Chip Kelly’s offense would give the 49ers new life in the NFL.
4. San Diego Chargers - Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida - Florida already had one of the best college cornerbacks last year in Vernon Hargreaves. Now they will again have a top cornerback in Jalen Tabor. Tabor has great cover skills like Hargreaves, but he is a bit taller which NFL teams will love. San Diego is in the process of rebuilding their secondary, if they could get both Tabor and Verrett in their secondary their rebuild would be on the right track.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M - Tampa Bay selected Noah Spence in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft. Spence is a speedy pass-rusher who still has plenty to learn but his potential is sky high. By taking Garrett the Bucs would be getting into a similar situation. Garrett has the frame and tools to be a monster in the NFL, he just has yet to really unlock his potential. It will take a good defensive coaching staff and some patience for Garrett to work out, but if he can reach his ceiling the rewards would be plentiful. If Tampa Bay can get both Garrett and Spence to reach their ceilings than every quarterback will be terrified to play Tampa.
6. Cleveland Browns (PHI) - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU - This goes back to the Browns getting more help for RG3. Fournette is arguably the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson and that is saying something. Fournette’s strength and balance allow him to consistently churn out yards. Fournette also has the feet to make defenders miss in space while also possessing the speed to take it all the way if the opportunity presents itself. There is truly nothing Fournette can not do and I believe he could be the focal point of Cleveland’s offense from day one. This would help ease the workload for RG3 creating a better situation overall.
7. Detroit Lions - Dalvin Cook, RB, FSU - Cook would be the best Detroit running back since Barry Sanders. The Seminole has had no problem adjusting to a world where he does not have Jameis Winston as his backfield buddy. Cook is a dangerous runner with excellent vision and quick feet. He finds creases with ease and his explosiveness makes him a threat to take it to the house every time he find a hole. The Lions will need to find a new guy to scare defenses with now that Megatron is gone, Cook can be that guy.
8. Miami Dolphins - Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio St. - Miami will still be trying to rebuild their defense when the 2017 draft comes along and McMillan would be a very nice piece to help speed up that rebuild. McMillan is strong in every facet of the game and can play all three downs in the NFL. He can stick to tight ends in coverage, smash running backs in the open field, and terrorize QBs in the backfield. McMillan is the type of linebacker every team needs and Miami could definitely use some good linebackers.
9. New Orleans Saints - Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami - Drew Brees will be 38 by the time the 2017 season rolls around so the Saints need to find his replacement fast. Kaaya is an excellent option thanks to his high football IQ and potential. The Hurricane has a smooth throwing motion and the physical tools to be a very good passer in the NFL. Kaaya played under an incompetent coaching staff his first two years which stunted his growth, but now that Richt is in town Kaaya’s game should greatly improve. The Saints have the pieces on offense that will allow them to ease Kaaya into the NFL allowing him to grow naturally.
10. Atlanta Falcons - Jabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan - Dan Quinn used versatile defenders in Seattle to create the best defense in the NFL so it makes sense that he would try to do the same thing in Atlanta. Peppers fits into the safety/linebacker hybrid that many NFL teams now employ. Peppers has lived off his high school hype for most of his time in Michigan but he does have the tools that could one day back up his hype. He is an impressive athlete with very good instincts, he just has really yet to have that big jump in production. Dan Quinn will see Peppers’ tools and know that he could play a huge role in improving Atlanta’s defense.
11. Buffalo Bills - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson - Next year both Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin will hit free agency and the Bills will be left with Sammy Watkins and a bunch of bench warmers. Instead, they could create a deadly Clemson combo by taking Mike Williams who would have been the #1 WR in the 2016 draft if it were not for a scary neck injury. Williams is back on track to play this year which is great for Clemson. Williams is a basketball wide receiver with a huge frame and large mitts. This does not mean he is slow, in fact it is just the opposite. His speed makes him even more of a mismatch on the outside allowing him to create space between his defender and himself. Clemson does not ask Williams to run a lot of complicated routes and he is a bit raw, but both can be fixed in time. Watkins and Williams would be a heck of a duo in Buffalo.
12. Chicago Bears - OJ Howard, TE, Alabama - The Bears lost some serious offensive firepower by trading Martellus Bennett to New England. They could replace Bennett with OJ Howard who would actually be an upgrade. Howard is not used often by Alabama since Lane Kiffin usually focuses in on one offensive weapon but Howard proved his ability in the National Championship game where he was arguably the MVP. Perhaps now that Derrick Henry is gone, Kiffin will utilize Howard more. Either way, the Bears could use an super athletic move tight end to really diversify their offense while also giving them another big passing target in the red zone.
13. Tennessee Titans (LA) - Ethan Pocic, C, LSU - If the Titans really want to be a ground and pound team than Pocic is a match made in heaven for them. Pocic paves lanes for college star Leonard Fournette to run through, so there is no reason he can not do the same for Derrick Henry and Demarco Murray. Fournette is unreal in his own right but his center is a major reason for his success. Pocic is an extremely strong player with the ability to move defenders off of their spot. A road-grading center sounds like the type of player Tennessee wants.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars - Roderick Johnson, OT, FSU - The Jaguars are loaded at every offensive position except the offensive line. If Jacksonville can strengthen the line then Bortles and company can really do some damage. Roderick Johnson is a player with amazing physical abilities who still needs to put it all together. Johnson could start at right tackle for the Jags until he can really grasp the position. Then he will be able to flip over to the blind side. At 14 Johnson is worth the gamble for Jacksonville.
15. New York Jets - Desmond King, CB, Iowa - Darrelle Revis is getting old and after him the Jets really do not have any standouts at cornerback. King would be a nice pupil for Revis to teach as he ages and King already has nice coverage skills which were a huge reason for Iowa’s quality season last year. Good cornerbacks are vital in today’s NFL so the Jets should take them when they can.
16. Washington Redskins - Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida - The Redskins have been adding quality pieces to their defense the past few years but they still lack that leader on the inside. Davis leads a nasty Florida defense but he has the bite to go along with his bark. He is a rangy linebacker capable of playing in space or coming up to lay the wood on running backs. He is the type of player that makes everyone around him better and that is exactly what Washington is missing on their defense.
17. Houston Texans - Malik McDowell, 3-4 DE, Michigan St. - Watt, Clowney, and Mercilus already form a tremendous pass-rushing trio. Adding McDowell would just make Houston’s defense that much better. The Spartan is insanely strong and has a variety of moves to get to the QB. Him in Houston just would not be fair.
18. New York Giants - Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama - New York loves to spend on their defensive line and secondary while having no one to man their linebacker spots. Perhaps they will finally remedy this issue in 2017 by drafting Reuben Foster. Foster is another vocal middle linebacker with the play to back it up. He is a beast against the run and fully capable of handling himself in coverage. A player of Foster’s caliber behind that defensive line would be a very nice setup.
19. Baltimore Ravens - JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC - When you have a 37 year old Steve Smith starting for you, chances are your WR corps is not good. The Ravens have added pieces over the past few years to inject new blood into their corps but it has yet to produce results. JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the best athletes in college football which should easily carry over to the NFL. He uses his explosiveness and smooth feet to get open and has an aggressive mentality when he gets the ball in his hands. He sounds like he would fit right into the Ravens organization and fills a big need for them.
20. Oakland Raiders - Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford - More offensive firepower in Oakland is something the other AFC West teams do not want to hear. McCaffery is not the gadget player some make him out to be. The Stanford product is explosive, has excellent vision, and can be effective on every down. On the Raiders McCaffery could fill in the #1 running back start while also flexing out wide in certain situations. Adding another dimension to the offense would improve an already scary scoring attack for the Raiders.
21. Indianapolis Colts - Adoree Jackson, CB, USC - The Colts’ defense has Vontae Davis as a very good cornerback and not much else. Jackson would be a nice addition to the secondary thanks to his athleticism and ability to play anywhere. He can move between the slot and outside giving Pagano some options when deciding how to cover the opposing team’s pass catchers.
22. Kansas City Chiefs - Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU - The Chiefs have a decent wide receiver corps but there is always room for improvement. Dupre is a big, explosive wide receiver capable of racking up yards after the catch. He is hard to bring down thanks to his big frame and his size makes him very valuable in the redzone. Dupre is a raw wide receiver who has dealt with bad quarterback play while in LSU, I like Andy Reid’s chances at developing him into a great NFL receiver.
23. Dallas Cowboys - Quin Blanding, FS, Virginia - The Cowboys could have created an uber athletic secondary last year by taking Jalen Ramsey but they passed over him. Blanding is not Ramsey but he is a good cover man in his own right. Blanding would allow Byron Jones to play cornerback full time while also being a valuable contributor on defense. Blanding and Jones creates a very nice secondary for Dallas.
24. Minnesota Vikings - Jamal Adams, SS, LSU - For the past two years I have been begging the Vikings to take a good strong safety to pair with Harrison Smith. They could end my cries by taking Jamal Adams out of LSU. Adams is a thick safety with the frame to battle it out in the trenches. He’s a good enough athlete to do his part in coverage and could also be used as a good QB spy when playing mobile quarterbacks. I already believe Minnesota has a very special defensive unit, adding Adams to the mix would just give them another versatile defender to utilize.
25. Cincinnati Bengals - Jon Allen, DT, Alabama - The Bengals consistently have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL which gives them multiple options with what to do with their first round pick. I like the idea of them adding another inside pass-rusher to come in when Geno Atkins gets tired. Allen is a mauler on the defensive line and played a big part in Alabama’s championship run. Offensive lineman would never get a break if Atkins comes off the field only to be replaced by Allen. The Bengals could also put both players in on obvious passing downs to really attack the quarterback.
26. Arizona Cardinals - Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan - The Cardinal’s secondary is already very strong but adding Lewis just gives them more depth to work with. Patrick Peterson already covers the opposing team’s #1 wide receiver which would allow for Lewis to play against lower competition. His coverage skills are already very good and he would have plenty of great mentors to help him master his craft in Arizona.
27. Denver Broncos - Pat Elfein, OG, Ohio St. - The Broncos continue to try and mix and match their starting offensive line. Elfein would at least give them a solid answer at one of the guard spots thanks to being a solid overall blocker. Elfein is not a flashy pick but he could play a big role in Denver’s success down the road.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee - The Steelers seemed to have struck gold with 2014 first round pick Ryan Shazier. Shazier has been an effective presence in the middle next to Lawrence Timmons. Timmons is getting up there in age so the Steelers should look for his replacement. Jalen Reeves-Maybin would be a good replacement for Timmons as he is a solid all around linebacker. Him and Shazier in the middle would be quite the duo for Pittsburgh to build around.
29. Carolina Panthers - Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia - A great running game was a major aspect to the Panther’s incredible 15-16 season. Carolina will need to ensure their run attack stays strong since Cam Newton is lacking in quality throwing options. Jonathan Stewart is growing old which could lead to new blood in the organization. Chubb is a bruising running back that punishes every defender he touches. His nasty style of play is a perfect match for what the Panther’s want from their offense. A backfield of Newton and Chubb would demolish the smaller defenses that are more prevalent in today’s NFL.
30. Green Bay Packers - Carlos Watkins, 3-4 DE, Clemson - Green Bay loves to stuff their defensive line with big men and Watkins is non different. Watkins is an athletic big man capable of both rushing the passer and stuffing the run. There is no such thing as too much beef on the defensive line and adding Watkins to the Packers would create a suffocating defensive line.
31. Seattle Seahawks - Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee - There is no such thing as too many pass-rushers and the Seahawks know this lesson to be very true. By taking the powerful Barnett, they would be giving themselves quality depth and a future starter that they can develop for a few years. It is a win all around for Seattle and their defense only continues to improve.
32. New England Patriots - Devonte Fields, Pass-rusher, Louisville - New England has a solid array of pass-rushers even after trading Chandler Jones. However, many of them are aging and will start to decline in play so acquiring new blood seems like a good idea. Fields is an excellent pass-rusher capable of getting to the QB no matter where Belichick plays him. Fields has a bit of a history off the field but that looks to be all behind him and the Patriots have taken risks before in the past. Field’s skillset is worth the risk.