This first round mock draft is all about what I would do as GM for each team, not what I think will happen. I separate that into a different mock draft and I wish more writers would do the same. It let’s your readers get a better idea of what you know around the league and what you see on tape. Sometimes when I’m reading these mocks I don’t know if they are predicting or projecting based on which players they like.
I actually got the idea from Greg Cosell a few years back. He does maybe one mock draft a year and he goes completely by what he sees on tape. He wasn’t afraid to take consensus second or third round prospects in his first round mock draft if he liked the prospect enough and the fit was there with the team he selected them to.
That’s how I ran my mock draft this time around. This is all about how I loved on tape and identifying their best fits in the draft.
1) Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett Edge/Texas A&M- This is now a front office built around analytics so I get the value of taking a quarterback on the rookie wage scale as opposed to giving some average passer like Mike Glennon $16 mil a year, but I think this team is still a year away from drafting their quarterback. When you draft a franchise quarterback, you want to position your team into a contender within three years of drafting that quarterback because that gives you potentially three years as a contender with a really cheap quarterback contract.
This is why I think the Browns pass on taking someone like Mitchell Trubisky first overall and why they take an elite pass rusher like Garrett.
2) San Francisco 49ers: Marshon Lattimore CB/Ohio State- The 49ers front office is in a great position this draft. They don’t have to turn things around in year one. They were signed to long deals along with the coaching staff and they can really take their time with this rebuild. Forcing a pick here at quarterback would be a mistake.
The number two spot is going to be a surprise pick this year because nobody outside of Garrett looks like an obvious elite prospect. I like Lattimore here because he has the highest ceiling of all the corners in this draft. He’s a bigger corner with elite recovery speed and great ball skills. His technique needs a ton of work, but this is a developmental year for the 49ers so this is a good fit for him.
3) Chicago Bears: Jonathan Allen DL/Alabama- The Bears need a ton of help, especially on defense so Allen makes a ton of sense here. He’s a base 5-tech and a very good interior pass rusher who is also very stout against the run. I think showing up at 285 at the combine hurt his stock a little bit, but he will be an immediate producer in this league for a team that badly needs it.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette RB/LSU- The Jaguars offense has really lacked consistency and physicality lately and Fournette can help give the both right away. He’s not ideal for every offense, but here he can be a 20 carry foundation back that really opens things up for the passing game and take the pressure off of Blake Bortles.
5) Tennessee Titans: Malik Hooker S/Ohio State- This is probably too early for a safety to be taken, but I love Hooker’s game. He’s in that rare Ed Reed/Brian Dawkins/Eric Berry category of safeties that do everything well. He covers, he is a great tackler, he has incredible range and he finds the ball quickly. He will immediately make a really poor secondary better in year one.
6) New York Jets: Derek Barnett Edge/Tennessee- Every year I mock an elite pass rusher to the Jets and every year they go in a different direction and every year they seem to struggle generating pressure from the outside. Barnett is the best non-Garrett edge in this class. He’s extremely quick, has an array of moves and was highly productive on tape.
7) LA Chargers: Solomon Thomas DL/Stanford- This would be a total value pick. Thomas can dominate games at times and do so from either the edge, inside or as a 5-tech 3-4 end.
8) Carolina Panthers: Corey Davis WR/Western Michigan- The current Panthers wide outs run about as well as their interior line. Don’t get me wrong, they are big targets who can sky for the ball, but they could use someone who can separate quickly. Davis has a lot of Antonio Brown in his game and that outstanding YAC receiver that Cam Newton has lacked in Carolina.
9) Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross WR/Washington- This pick is all about rolling the dice a little bit and trying to take the next step as a franchise. The Bengals can’t seem to get out of the wildcard round of the playoffs and their offense really lacked some pop last season as they missed the playoffs altogether. Ross has a ton of injury issues, but if he can stay healthy he is a faster version of DeSean Jackson they can pair with A.J. Green for the next decade.
10) Buffalo Bills: O.J. Howard TE/Alabama- The Bills aren’t far off from becoming a playoff team, which would be a huge deal for this franchise. Howard could be the player to put them over the top because he’s an amazing athlete and outstanding blocker. He will upgrade this offense in year one in both phases.
11) New Orleans Saints: Jabrill Peppers S/Michigan- I love Peppers as an attacking safety, slot corner and return man so the value in this pick is outstanding. He also has some potential as an outside corner and offensive weapon.
12) Cleveland Browns: Mitch Trubisky QB/UNC- Trubisky fits this offense so well. He’s accurate, moves in and out of the pocket well and is accurate consistently with his deep ball.
13) Arizona Cardinals: Deshone Kizer QB/Notre Dame- Kizer is the best fit for Bruce Arians offense because of his cannon of an arm and how well he moves in the pocket. This offense is all about utilizing the pocket and attacking down field. Kizer has his faults for sure, but in this offense they can be covered up a bit more than in other systems.
14) Philadelphia Eagles: Christian McCaffrey RB/Stanford- A decade ago McCaffrey would be more of a offensive weapon then he would be viewed as a primary back, but this is 2017 and running up the middle 25 times doesn’t win you championships anymore. Everyone knows how special of a receiver he is, but what people don’t realize is how incredible his vision and patience are. He’s not a powerful runner, but he doesn’t have to be because he has elite quickness and he knows when to let his blocks set up and when to turn on the jets.
15) Indianapolis Colts: Haason Reddick OLB/Temple- This is the best fit for Reddick in the draft. He goes to a 3-4 defense and should get a role as the heavy blitzing edge rusher. His ideal role is as a blitzing linebacker in space. He lacks the size to play defensive end and the instincts and coverage skills to play as a 4-3 or inside linebacker. Here he is asked to get after the quarterback and cause disruption in the backfield.
16) Baltimore Ravens: Mike Williams WR/Clemson- The Ravens are still in a win now mode with quarterback Joe Flacco and Mike Williams is exactly the player they need to help free up some of their better deep threats. Williams is a pure possession receiver who wins the catch point better than any prospect in this class. He’ll help cut down on Justin Tucker’s field goal attempts and increase his extra point attempts.
17) Washington Redskins: Jamal Adams S/LSU- Quarterback here makes a ton of sense is this franchise has really soured on Kirk Cousins, but unless they move up for Trubisky they will take the best player available and stick it out one more year with Cousins. Adams is a great box and back end safety who should help solidify a secondary that was really up and down in 2016.
18) Tennessee Titans: Adoree Jackson CB/USC- The Titans second first round pick completes their secondary makeover. Adding Hooker and Jackson gives them some much needed speed and playmaking ability in their back four.
19) Tampa Bay Bucs: Charles Harris DE/Missouri- The Bucs are right on the cusp of something special. They do however, play Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan 6 times a year so continuing to add to their pass rush is vital to their success. Harris is a powerful, yet agile edge rusher with a devastating spin move. He’ll produce in year one.
20) Denver Broncos: Garrett Bolles OT/Utah- With their tight salary cap drafting a offensive tackle here is a must, especially as they develop last year’s first round pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch.
21) Detroit Lions: Taco Charlton DE/Michigan- When Aaron Rodgers stands in the way of you and a division title it’s important to load up on the pass rush. Charlton, along with Ezekiel Ansah, gives the Lions two long edge rushers with both power and elite bend for their size.
22) Miami Dolphins: Forest Lamp OG/Western Kentucky- With Laremy Tunsil making the move back to tackle, Lamp allows the Dolphins to have zero dropoff on their interior line. It’s not a sexy pick, but it keeps the Dolphins offensive line a strength which is badly needed for this offense.
23) New York Giants: Ryan Ramczyk OT/Wisconsin- Protecting Eli Manning as he enters the latter stage of his career is a must for the Giants. Again, not a sexy pick but we’ve seen Eli Manning without protection and it isn’t pretty.
24) Oakland Raiders: Kevin King CB/Washington- The Raiders seem like a lock to draft a corner here and King is easily the best corner on my board here. He’s a 6’3 corner who is a fluid athlete and is very active in run support. His technique needs a ton of work, but he probably has more potential than any corner in this draft. Al would be proud.
25) Houston Texans: Patrick Mahomes QB/Texas Tech- If Mahomes is available when the Texans are on the clock he should and will be their pick. He’s super raw at this stage, but it’s rare to find this kind of athleticism and arm ability this late in the first round.
26) Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson OT/Alabama- Tom Cable finally gets his type of lineman to develop with all pro ability. Robinson is a nasty tackle who can dominate in the run game and hold his own in pass protection. He’ll improve the run game right away and can play either tackle or guard spot if needed.
27) Kansas City Chiefs: Cordrea Tankersley CB/Clemson- Ideally the Chiefs take a quarterback they can develop into a franchise quarterback, but I don’t see Deshaun Watson or Davis Webb as that guy so the value here is to get a corner to pair with Marcus Peters long-term. Tankersley has both elite and head-scratching tape. He’ll look like a shut down corner for a stretch and later on he just looks uninterested. He’s a risky first round pick, but if the Chiefs can get elite play out of Peters right away I think they can turn Tank into a solid starter as well.
28) Dallas Cowboys: Derek Rivers DE/Youngstown State- The Cowboys are going to use the draft to revamp their secondary and front four. And because they are in a win now mode, they will target players like Rivers who are more polished coming out of college than say a Tarell Basham or Trey Hendrickson who need technique work before they can be every down type edge rushers.
29) Green Bay Packers: David Njoku TE/Miami- We’ve seen glimpses of what Aaron Rodgers can do with an athletic receiving tight end(Jermichael FInley, Jared Cook) and it’s pretty fun to watch. Unfortunately for Rodgers, Finley couldn’t stay healthy and Cook can’t block. Neither is an issue for Njoku who is far more athletic than both and could put up big numbers in this offense.
30) Pittsburgh Steelers: Evan Engram TE/Ole Miss- Drafting Engram to play with Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant might convince Big Ben to stick around for a little bit longer. Engram is listed at tight end, but really he is a faster version of Kelvin Benjamin who can also make plays in the slot. They’ve got issues in their secondary, but adding a weapon like this is way too good to pass up.
31) Atlanta Falcons: Malik McDowell DT/Michigan State- McDowell is an absolute freak and would give Atlanta the most dynamic sub-package front in the league. McDowell is a 295 pound tackle with a ton of length, quickness and crazy bend coming off the edge.
32) New Orleans Saints: Chidobe Awuzie S/Colorado- If the Saints really did try to trade for Malcolm Jenkins then they should be drafting Awuzie here, he’s very similar to Jenkins. Both are college corners who project better at the next level as safeties because of their high football IQ, open space tackling and ability to cover multiple positions.