The following is a complete preview of the upcoming NFL Draft and an examination of the top prospects as well as intriguing players and storylines to follow. Click here for a link to part one if you missed it.
The Mock Draft you are about to look at does not account for trades and this almost assures that it will be horribly wrong. That being said, I still hope you enjoy.
- Washington Redskins: OLB Haason Reddick (Temple)
Haason Reddick has been the of the most steadily rising prospects in this class over the past month or so and perhaps having him go at 17 to Washington may be a little bit of wishful thinking on the part of Redskins fans. This is why if he’s still there when it comes to their pick they must select him.
Versatility seems to be the theme of this draft and Reddick is no different. The Camden, New Jersey native proved to be very efficient as a pass rusher during his time at Temple tallying 10.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss last season with the Owls.
Reddick is simply not big enough to be an every down edge rusher in the pros (at just 6’1”, 237 lbs.), but fear not because he is no one trick pony. He excelled in this year’s Senior Bowl showing not only his ability to rush the passer, but also his capability to fulfill the off-ball linebacker role and even impressed when asked to drop back into coverage.
Reddick’s proficiency in pass rushing couple with his versatility in other areas of the game could provide the Skins with a mid-round steal in this year’s draft.
- Tennessee Titans: WR John Ross (Washington)
He ran a 4.22 40-yard dash. He’s the next DeSean Jackson.
Those are some of things that you’re likely to hear a lot of from the analysts come draft day.
I cannot in good conscience condone a drinking game, but I’ll just leave you with that.
This certainly might not be the most original or imaginative pick, but sometimes it just makes too much sense. The Titans are in desperate need of any kind of vertical threat on their offense with the majority of their passing game being tailored around TE Delanie Walker.
Ross provides the team with a legitimate downfield threat who serves as a major upgrade over the departed Kendall Wright. Pairing him up with former Pac-12 running mate Marcus Mariota will give Tennessee a dangerous duo, one that should have defenses in the AFC South pretty worried.
Ross’ inferior route running deeply concerns me, but with the type of speed that he has, it’ll be difficult for him not be an instant impact player from Day 1.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Dalvin Cook (Florida State)
Until a couple of days ago, I had Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers slotted at this pick. However, in light of his recent “diluted urine sample” I have opted to have the Bucs pass on Peppers in favor of another controversial draft prospect.
I sense the contradiction here as I still had Reuben Foster going high in spite of his failed drug test, but I think Foster is a special enough player to warrant that.
As for Cook, he has plummeted in the past month or so due to a laughably bad combine performance and concerns over off the field issues. The former FSU running back has multiple arrests on his record dating back to high school which leaves teams wondering whether he’s worth the risk. Others point to his fumbling issues in college as a significant deficiency.
Regardless, there’s no denying that the nevertheless talented Cook would provide a significant boost to the Tampa Bay backfield if all goes right, especially with the question mark that is Doug Martin. Cook displayed excellent vision while at Florida State, which is something that’s hard to teach, and although he performed poorly at the combine, his game tape speaks for itself.
The first-team All-American selection may be one of the most difficult prospects to analyze in this year’s draft class, but a selection by the Buccaneers in the first round could be just what the doctor ordered.
- Denver Broncos: OT Garett Bolles (Utah)
The Broncos need a left tackle and at the moment, Donald Stephenson is slated to be the team’s starting tackle.
The Broncos sit in the AFC West which is home to some of the most fearsome pass rushers in the entire NFL, such as Justin Houston, Khalil Mack, and Joey Bosa and entering the season with a blatant gaping hole at left tackle is simply not an option.
Their top option, Ryan Ramczyk is off the board in this scenario, but the team still seems to be pretty high on Bolles. Bolles brings a nasty and competitive edge is his game and is among the most athletic linemen in the draft. He’s quick and agile and although he may lack elite strength, is still filling out his body.
Denver could opt to go Cam Robinson here, but his mechanical flaws and lack of agility are proving to be a major turn off for some teams.
Bolles isn’t a perfect prospect. He’s already 25, still needs to develop more core strength to be able to hold his blocks more efficiently, and may have a lower floor than you’d want out of a first round selection, but he’s the best option here.
The Broncos simply cannot go in to next season without a starting caliber left tackle, if only for the sake of whoever starts at quarterback.
- Detroit Lions: OLB T.J. Watt (Wisconsin)
No that isn’t a typo…there is another Watt brother set to make an explosive impact on the NFL come this fall and his name is none other than T.J. Watt.
Watt is the type of football player that any team would be lucky to have. He has an extremely high motor and plays relentlessly right until the whistle is blown. He is a leader on the field and has taken a lot from his brother’s “lead by example” motto. Most of all, he may be the most athletically gifted out of the two Watt brothers!
Now simmer down, I didn’t say he was better.What I did say is that he has the athletic tools necessary to be a Day 1 impact player as a pass rusher.
Where Watt needs to improve is in his versatility as a run stopper and putting on a few more pounds could do the trick.
The Lions are coming off a season where they finished 30th in sacks and saw their NFC North hopes dwindle away after a scrambling Aaron Rodgers was given ample time in the regular-season finale. Watt would give them a player to line up opposite Ziggy Ansah, who’s coming off worrying 2016 campaign where he tallied only 2.0 sacks, and provide the Detroit with some much need pass rush support.
- Miami Dolphins: OG Forrest Lamp (Western Kentucky)
The Miami Dolphins have already made their intentions to move second year lineman Laremy Tunsil back to offensive tackle. This leaves a hole at guard, a hole the team hopes to fill with Western Kentucky standout Forrest Lamp.
Lamp was a four year starter at left tackle for the Hilltoppers and a two time All-Conference USA selection, but his lack of length and overall size will likely force him to slide inside in the pros. The Venice, Florida native is an excellent run blocker which would only help to support a Miami offensive line that ranked 30th in the league according to advanced metrics from Pro Football Focus.
As of right now, the Dolphins’ options at guard are veterans Jermon Bushrod, Ted Larsen, and Anthony Steen, none of which should be considered quality starting options.
While they also have a potential need in the secondary and at linebacker, Lamp is the clear choice here to be a Day 1 starter and who could help establish a prominent offensive line for the ‘Phins for years to come.
- New York Giants: TE David Njoku (Miami)
With two of the last three players selected being offensive linemen, it’s time for some excitement again.
Little known fact: ‘Excitement’ is David Njoku’s middle name.
Njoku may very well be the best all-around athlete in this year’s draft who possesses the receiving ability upside of a Greg Olsen or a Jordan Reed. The former Miami Hurricane tore up the combine placing top three in the 3-cone drill and vertical and broad jumps. He is an exciting playmaker, one that, although only 20 years of age, is a player to build an offense around and should be a nightmare for opposing defenses.
While his run blocking skills still lack due to technical issues, his abundant athleticism has proved to compensate for poor footwork in the past.
Tight end isn’t necessarily the Giants biggest need as most would agree it’s left tackle, but the Giants have learned their lesson with reaching for offensive linemen in the past (*cough Ereck Flowers cough*) and they should elect to go with a player with the ridiculously high upside of Njoku.
- Oakland Raiders: LB Jarrad Davis (Florida)
Selecting Davis here at 24 may be a bit high for a player who has a relatively consistent high 2nd round grade, but both Reuben Foster and Haason Reddick are off the board here so the Raiders decide to go with the next best option in former Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis in this scenario.
Although Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham is still available here, the Raiders would be smart to pick the athletic Jarrad Davis as his natural athleticism and killer instinct provide a perfect fit for the team’s defensive style. While he may need a bit more refining in his skills, his athleticism couple with his football and persona character more than cover up for his deficiencies at the position.
Las Vegas…I mean Oakland has a significant hole at inside linebacker with free-agent signing Jelani Jenkins as the only interior linebacker with any significant starting time and Davis is the no-nonsense, agile player who could fill that hole sufficiently.
- Houston Texans: QB Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech)
He is a Texas native through and through. Born and raised in Tyler, Texas, Mahomes excelled at Whitehouse High School before committing to Texas Tech to play football there. The confident signal-caller has established himself as one of the most intriguing players in this class and what would be more perfect than being drafted by the in-state Houston Texans to continue his Texas legacy?
This is rhetorical, or course, but it’s certainly a draft day development that might come to fruition.
Mahomes is a cocky kid full of swagger and one quick review of his tape shows no shortage of highlight reel plays. He has ample arm strength and his fearless when attacking downfield, something that works both to his advantage and disadvantage. At 6’2”, 225 lbs., Mahomes is a large, dual-threat quarterback who rolls out of the pocket with ease and has no difficulty throwing on the run.
Inconsistency and overconfidence could prove to be achilles heels early in his career, but with the right system and a patient coaching staff, Mahomes has the ability to become a special talent for a team.
In regards to the Texans, the team’s quarterback is sketchy at best. Tom Savage is slated to be the starting quarterback and unless the team makes a surprising move in free agency (potentially bringing in a Jay Cutler), it is likely that he’ll be the Day 1 starter.
Perhaps the only good news is that Brock Osweiler, and his contract, are gone.
Drafting Mahomes would not only give the team their developmental quarterback of the future, but allowing him to sit behind Savage for at least part of the season could do wonders for his progress in the future.
- Seattle Seahawks: OT Cam Robinson (Alabama)
Alabama’s Cam Robinson is one of a long list of polarizing prospects in this year’s draft class.
A former 5-star recruit, Robinson has the size, at 6’6”, 322 lbs., and corporeal power to physically overwhelm opposing defenders. He has had impressive showings against top NFL prospects Myles Garrett and Derek Barnett, but his overall lack of consistency has scared many analysts away, myself included.
Watching this inconsistency on tape, it’s clear to see that the majority of this is mental. Robinson has a tendency to get beat off the edge sometimes and could struggle with speed rushers occasionally. When this happens, he tends to get in his own head and this leads to an abundance of false start penalties which could severely stall a team’s offensive possession.
I see a team like Seattle, absolutely desperate for offensive line help (this is a team that just signed former draft bust Luke Joeckel to an $8 million contract), reaching for a player like Robinson hoping they could put all the pieces together. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, I don’t know if I see that happening.
But if anyone could do it, it’s Pete Carroll.
- Kansas City Chiefs: LB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)
A good amount of mocks I have seen have Kansas City taking a quarterback at this spot. In this case, the top 3 QB’s are all gone and I don’t see the Chiefs taking the supremely risky DeShone Kizer or Davis Webb so I have them going Zach Cunningham out of Vanderbilt.
There’s not too much to analyze here.
The Chiefs have relatively few holes to fill, but the health of aging veteran Derrick Johnson is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Johnson is recovering from a torn Achilles and despite the fact that he has been the stalwart for this Kansas City defense for over a decade now, it may be time for the beloved 34-year old to pass the torch.
In steps Zach Cunningham.
Cunningham is a three-down linebacker with good range and a keen nose for the ball who would be a perfect replacement for a departing Johnson. The former Vanderbilt needs to working on becoming a more consistent tackler, but there’s no denying his production with the Commodores.
It’ll be sad day once Derrick Johnson finally hangs up his cleats, but the blow could be softened if Chiefs fans know they have a stud linebacker in waiting.
- Dallas Cowboys: CB Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)
The majority of the teams in the later portion of the draft tend to go for a best player available approach as they don’t usually have too many glaring needs.
The Cowboys are not one of those teams.
Dallas enters this draft on the heels of an offseason that has done more harm than good as they have lost both starting cornerbacks in veterans Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne and have lost one of their starting safeties, Barry Church, as well as their top reserve safety, J.J. Wilcox.
So yeah they need secondary help.
Marlon Humphrey could be the saving grace for the Cowboys as he is a corner with good size and the ability to step in and start right out of the gate. He fits in well with the Cowboys’ scheme as he is a talented zone coverage corner, but not yet established as a shutdown man coverage guy. The former Alabama defensive back has good size measuring at 6’0” even and a 4.41 40 time will certainly improve his stock.
There is certainly sufficient development needed to allow Humphrey to mature into a legitimate number 1 cornerback as he struggles with press coverage and his technique and footwork are behind some other prospects in this class. However, for a Dallas secondary deprived of much true talent, Humphrey would be far from a bad selection here at 28.
- Green Bay Packers: DE Takkarist McKinley (UCLA)
I initially had the Packers taking Humphrey here at 29, but since he is now off the board Green Bay decides to go with a slightly free-falling prospect in UCLA edge rusher Takk McKinley.
McKinley fits well into Green Bay’s scheme as a 3-4 situational edge rusher who has the potential to develop into a pretty darn good player in the coming years. He is a twitchy athlete who shows numerous flashes of brilliance as a speed rusher on the outside. The All-Pac-12 standout has explosive athleticism and a high motor which allowed the raw 21-year old prospect to rack up 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in his senior season.
If not for injury concerns (he had shoulder surgery in early March), it is likely that you would hear his name go earlier, but the Packers would certainly be glad if he were still there to be chosen at 29. McKinley may be a raw, developmental prospect, but he has tremendous upside and pairing him with an excellent organization like the Packers could do wonders for his career.
And come on; is there no better draft day slogan than “Takk to the Pack”?
- Pittsburgh Steelers: S Jabrill Peppers (Michigan)
The previous two picks are both players that the Steelers would have been happy to have as they could certainly use and upgrade in their secondary or pass rush. However, with both of them gone the Steelers opt to take the highly controversial prospect that is Jabrill Peppers.
Where to begin with Jabrill Peppers?
There are some that believe that he has the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler who could be a playmaker for whatever team he lands on for years to come. Others feel that he is no more than an ordinary player who lacks a true position and will fail to make much of an impact in the NFL. My true opinion of him lays somewhere in the middle, but let’s get one thing straight.
He is NOT Charles Woodson.
Got it? Good.
The argument that he lacks a true position, I feel, is a weak one as the NFL is shifting into an era of players without positions, really just athletes, and it is up to the organization to determine how to utilize them to the best of their abilities.
I think Peppers can play a very similar role to how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers use Deonne Buchanan as a safety/linebacker hybrid. Obviously Peppers is more versatile than Buchanan with his capacity to return kicks and is probably a better all-around athlete, but this could be a role that maximizes Peppers strengths.
Where he has to get better in is his ball hawking skills and overall coverage ability. Many critics point to the fact that he had just 1 interception and 10 pass deflections during his time as Michigan and was beaten again and again in coverage against tight ends.
The Steelers can certainly use a player like Peppers in their secondary and Mike Tomlin is a coach who can truly take full advantage of Peppers’ talents and if the stars all align and Pittsburgh plays their cards right, the Steelers might have the steal of the draft.
No? I’ll see myself out…
- Atlanta Falcons: DE Charles Harris (Missouri)
The Atlanta Falcons might not have any real immediate needs, but they would be lucky sons of you know what’s if they’re fortunate enough to have edge rusher Charles Harris fall to the end of the first round.
Perhaps it’s his semi-inconsistent play, including a disastrous 2016 campaign for Missouri, or perhaps it’s just that he’s been overlooked in a deep edge rusher class and doesn’t have the flashy name of a Takkarist McKinley or a superstar brother like a T.J. Watt. Whatever it may be, if Harris is available at 31, it’s an obvious choice for Atlanta.
Not the quickest or biggest player, Harris gets by on his quick first step and surprisingly solid athleticism to get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. The second-team All-SEC defensive end has the versatility to play at either defensive end position or stand up as a pass rushing linebacker in 3-4 packages.
This season, Harris could join a long list of Missouri pass rushers that have had a significant impact in the NFL including Kony Ealy, Sheldon Richardson, Shane Ray, and Markus Golden just to name a few. The spin-move specialist may not be the flashiest player, but he is without a doubt an effective one that could have an impact on Day 1 if the Falcons are fortunate enough to acquire his services.
- New Orleans: CB Adoree’ Jackson (USC)
We’ve finally reached the end of the first round and if you’ve stuck it out through this entire mock draft, kudos to you.
With the final selection in the first round I have the Saints drafting the speedy and exciting Adoree’ Jackson out of Southern Cal. We close this draft with a flashy pick with the electrifying Jackson being added to boost the Saints lackluster secondary which is desperately in need of any sort of talent.
Since they’ve already gone and selected Reuben Foster earlier in the draft, secondary is a must with this pick and the undersized, overachiever that is Adoree’ Jackson fits the bill as I guy who will not only contribute in the secondary, but also provide a major boost on special teams.
He has improved drastically as a corner over the past year or so and developed ball skills that were previously undetected in his game tape. His lack of size and length, at only 5’10”, 186 lbs., could prove to be a turn off for many teams, but there’s no denying the man’s playmaking ability a playmaker is precisely what the Saints need in their defense.