With 32 teams in the NFL, trying to stay on top of all the latest news, rumors and information, is an enormous undertaking. To meet the demands of this extraordinary challenge, cover32 has a collection of more than 23 editors and a myriad of writers following each team from around the league, producing credible, authentic and high-quality content on a continual basis.
Given this distinct organizational structure, with a staff of editors and writers dedicated to covering each of the NFL’s 32 teams, cover32 has been provided a unique opportunity to create one of the most definitive mock drafts possible. When constructing this mock, the goal was to generate an accurate representation reflective of the upcoming NFL Draft in April.
Regardless of preparation, there is no such thing as a perfect mock draft. Even the most successful mocks are not without their discrepancies and miscalculations. Much like the actual NFL draft, unforeseen maneuvers and strategies come into play. It is impossible to predict the future motives and intentions of any team with complete accuracy.
In order to achieve an approximate facsimile of the draft, considerable attention was given to the draft order, team needs, best fit, current player projections and evaluations, combine results and pro-day workouts. It was our endeavor to deliver a mock draft that attempted to genuinely replicate the NFL Draft in a way that would deliver the closest potential results.
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1. Cleveland Browns: DE, Myles Garrett – Texas A&M
There’s just so many holes to fill on this Browns’ roster that it gives them a lot of freedom in the draft to go after talent rather than specific needs (because let’s face it, they need everything). The Browns need improvement all over their defense and a talented pass rusher could do wonders for their defensive performance moving forward.
2. San Francisco 49ers: DE, Solomon Thomas – Stanford
The 49ers’ free agency moves have decreased the pressure to select a quarterback or wide receiver with their high pick, leaving specific needs for an edge rusher, along with adding depth at the offensive line, quarterback and linebacker positions. At the combine Thomas silenced concerns about his size and showed that he has the potential to be one of the most explosive edge rushers in the draft. Thomas comes with extreme versatility for a 4-3 scheme which will be implemented by the 49ers’ defense in 2017 and wouldn’t even need to move if he joins this NFL team.
3. Chicago Bears: S, Jamal Adams – LSU
The Bears have been active in free agency, but haven’t found a long-term solution at any position yet this offseason. A quarterback is a possibility here, but it would be hard to pass on a player who many believe to be the best safety to enter the draft since Eric Berry. Adams is a physical, instinctive safety who can dish out hits just as well as he can drop back in coverage. He’s a natural leader who would step in from Day 1 and make an impact for the Bears on the field and off of it.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: RB, Leonard Fournette – LSU
Jacksonville will likely look to target a safety with the fourth overall pick, but if Jamal Adams is off the board, there is a good chance Fournette lands with the Jaguars. A commitment to the run game is not something this organization has targeted in recent years, but Fournette would give the team a true feature back that has been described as a workhorse with a rare blend of power and athleticism. With an already vastly improved defense, Fournette would give this young offense another playmaker with the ability to take some of the pressure off of Blake Bortles.
5. Tennessee Titans: DE, Jonathan Allen – Alabama
For the second year in a row, the Titans select a top-five ranked defensive end. Allen is a 4-3 defensive tackle or a 3-4 end. He is a potential star and could be a significant upgrade over DaQuan Jones, who has been average for the Titans at defensive end. Tennessee could look to add a bookend here to play opposite Jurrell Casey. Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are an excellent outside linebacker duo and the addition of Allen would about complete the set here. Opposing offenses could have their hands full attempting to keep the Titans’ edge rushers in check.
6. New York Jets: S, Malik Hooker – Ohio State
The temptation to select a quarterback here could be very high for the Jets, but instead Gang Green could opt to add a defensive playmaker to their secondary. Hooker’s ability to read everything from an opposing quarterback’s eyes to receivers entering his vicinity, make him a real threat to throw against, on each and every down. While his strength is against the pass as, time and experience could make him just as effective against the run. In 2016, defensively the Jets’ primary struggle was against deep balls, that would no longer be an issue with Hooker lurking in their defensive backfield.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: CB, Marshon Lattimore – Ohio State
Despite having two talented players currently manning the cornerback position, the Chargers are in need of additional depth across nearly their entire roster. A potential playoff contender that was ultimately ravaged by injuries last season, Los Angeles is in the unique position to take the best player available, while hoping everyone remains healthy in 2017. At this point, that individual looks to be Lattimore. He may be inexperienced but has all the tools necessary to be an annual Pro Bowl caliber player.
8. Carolina Panthers: DE, Derek Barnett – Tennessee
The Panthers were one of the league’s biggest disappointments last year; plagued by mistakes on both sides of the ball. One of the major differences between the 2015 and 2016 seasons, was the inability to put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. The signing of Julius Peppers during the offseason is at best a short term solution. Barnett has an impressive collegiate resume and could be someone the Panthers see as having the ability to make an immediate impact.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: LB, Reuben Foster – Alabama
Adding Foster opposite of linebacker, Vontaze Burfict, has the potential to make a tremendous impact. Foster is a vicious hitter whose playmaking capabilities could benefit the Bengals, especially in nickel packages. The Alabama product has the ability to cover in the passing game, stop opposing rushing attacks, or get to the quarterback if called upon. His addition could immediately give Cincinnati one of the top-linebacking groups in all the NFL.
10. Buffalo Bills: WR, Corey Davis – Western Michigan
In desperate need of someone to play opposite of wideout, Sammy Watkins, the Bills could opt to select the big man it needs at its’ number two wide receiver position. By taking Davis, the Bills would get a big, physical presence with a history of success all over the field. Given Watkins ability to run the deep route, Davis could be the perfect complementary option in the Bills’ passing attack.
11. New Orleans Saints: WR, John Ross – Washington
Ross has big play potential with an ability to stretch opposing defenses. He was Jake Browning’s go to guy near the goal line, while scoring seventeen touchdowns in his final season for the Huskies. Ross could help fill the void left by Brandin Cooks’ departure to New England and provide Drew Brees and Saints’ potent offense with another vertical threat.
12. Cleveland Browns: WR, Mike Williams – Clemson
With the loss of Terrelle Pryor Cleveland is in need a big playmaker in the receiving corps. An aging Kenny Britt is not going to be the spark that ignites the Browns’ offense. With Corey Coleman being the speed guy on one side, Williams’ 6’4″ 218-pound size, could give the Browns some much needed bulk at the receiving position.
13. Arizona Cardinals: QB, Deshaun Watson – Clemson
The Cardinals have grown old at two of the most critical positions on offense, as both wideout, Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback, Carson Palmer, have gotten another year older. Let’s be honest, a battalion of Fitzgerald’s at the wide receiver position does not help Arizona if they don’t have someone who can pull the trigger to get them the football. Palmer has gotten brittle with age and that’s not on him; just genetics. Selecting Watson would be a wise move for Arizona with Palmer as the incumbent, allowing Watson to learn. It’s a rare opportunity that the Cardinals should not miss out on.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: CB, Marlon Humphrey – Alabama
After parting ways with both starting cornerbacks from last season, the Eagles need to find at least one starting corner in the draft. While this pick very likely would have been Sidney Jones before his disastrous achilles injury, Humphrey makes for a decent plan-B.
15. Indianapolis Colts: DE/OLB, Takkarist McKinley – UCLA
The Colts are desperately in need of talented edge rushers. With Erik Walden (free agent) and Robert Mathis (retired) out of the mix, McKinley has the ability to contribute right away. He finished second in the PAC-12 last season with 18 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Though McKinley’s size, 6’2″ 240 pounds, might force him to be just a third down specialist early on, he has the talent to be an every-down contributor on the edge.
16. Baltimore Ravens: WR, Ryan Switzer – North Carolina
There are few sure things in life. But, after seeing every one of his college games, scouring his Senior Bowl workouts, examining his Combine performances, talking to him and his father at length, and observing his Pro Day performance, there is no doubt that he is the explosive inside player that the Ravens need to compliment the speed burners on the outside. Switzer will likely face single coverage and use his surprising strength and lethal speed to destroy teams underneath. He is the type of blue-collared, smart, character guy that the Ravens are built on. Switzer looks to be a sure thing and is worth a first-round flier when considering the other targets selected. Switzer is likely to be the next successful-shifty-clutch guy. The world will question us now, just like they questioned Seattle when they took Russell Wilson, but soon they will regard this as a very smart pick as well. Watch the RACs!
17. Washington Redskins: WR, JuJu Smith-Schuster – USC
The Redskins have become a bona fide dumpster fire this season since free agency began; losing their two best wide receivers, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, and general manager, Scot McCLoughan. As much as they should be considering defense with this pick, the glaring holes (plural) at wide receiver may be of an even bigger concern. At 6’1” 215 pounds, JSmith-Schuster was a 12-game starter in 2016, catching 54 passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns. He could be yet another young wideout to pair with last year’s selection, Josh Doctson of TCU, giving Kirk Cousins two big targets on the outsides. This might not be the safest pick for Washington, given its defensive woes last season, but it is the best one given the losses on the offensive side of the football, where replacing two veterans with youth might prove dividends down the road.
18. Tennessee Titans: LB/DB, Jabrill Peppers – Michigan
Peppers participated as a linebacker and a safety at the NFL Combine. This hybrid type could be perfect for Dick Lebeau’s Troy Polamalu-Rod Woodson-Carnell Lake-role, but may be asking an awful lot out of a rookie. Hopefully, Peppers will be up to the challenge. He has the athleticism and style of play to get it done. The Titans were a top-10 pass defense in 2015 and a top-five run defense in 2016. Peppers could be “the missing piece” for Lebeau to create a top-overall defense in Tennessee.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE, OJ Howard – Alabama
The Buccaneers arguably have one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Cameron Brate. He led the league in touchdowns in 2017 with eight, however, he is a below average blocker. Howard has the ability to immediately step in and bolster the pass protection and could be lethal in two-tight end sets. Considered by many the best tight end in the draft and a day-one contributor, the Buccaneers could select this dynamic player that would immediately vault their offense into a deadly attack, featuring multiple weapons. Head coach, Dirk Koetter, is known to feed his tight ends and Howard could be a prime target for one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks in Jameis Winston.
20. Denver Broncos: RB, Christian McCaffrey – Stanford
Connecting the dots could be very easy with this pick. John Elway’s ties to Stanford and Ed McCaffrey make this a logical marriage. It does not hurt that Denver could use an upgrade and addition at the running back position as well. There are questions abound for CJ Anderson’s availability and Devontae Booker’s ability heading into 2017. McCaffrey’s Swiss Army Knife skill set could inject some life into what was a stale Broncos’ offense in 2016.
21. Detroit Lions: LB, Haason Reddick – Temple
Detroit needs starting linebackers in the worst way; particularly with the release of DeAndre Levy. Reddick has been considered a workout warrior, but his production — 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2016 — speaks for itself. Quick and explosive in coverage, the Temple standout could provide the Lions with a dynamic playmaker who can start anywhere in a desperate linebacking corps.
22. Miami Dolphins: OLB, T.J. Watt – Wisconsin
The Miami Dolphins need one more starting linebacker and could benefit from some added youth at the defensive end position. Banking on both his name and size and stats from his time at Wisconsin, the Miami Dolphins could look to add Watt as the future face of one of these positional groups. Depending on how he developes size wise, Watt could fill the need at either of the above mentioned needs. For the purpose of this mock draft though, we will say that he is a day-one starter at outside linebacker.
23. New York Giants: TE, David Njoku – Miami
While the addition of Brandon Marshall should be a major help to Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants still need a tight end that can actually play. Njoku’s 6’4″ 246-pound frame, is chiseled from granite. He can catch, break tackles and block at a high level already and with experience, he will only get better. Yes, the team needs to add young and cheap options along their defensive front, but this squad is built to contend in the postseason right now and adding a difference maker on offense should be the priority over financial issues in the future.
24. Oakland Raiders: DL, Malik McDowell – Michigan State
Despite employing the league’s most versatile and explosive pass rusher in Khalil Mack, the Raiders struggled to generate a consistent pass rush. Netting just 25 sacks is inexcusable. McDowell could be the missing piece the Raiders need. The fascinating aspect of drafting McDowell would be how he fits into the scheme that new assistant head coach, John Pagano, implements. Pagano, a pupil of Wade Phillips, could utilize McDowell’s length, pursuit and swim move to effectively bolster the Raiders’ pass rush.
25. Houston Texans: QB, DeShone Kizer – Notre Dame
With the $72 million man shipped off to Cleveland, the Texans can (again) try to find their franchise quarterback. Kizer may not be ready to contribute in week one, but with time he could develop into a top-10 quarterback in the league.
26. Seattle Seahawks: S, Budda Baker – Washington
The Seahawks are in need of secondary help, both with depth and starters. While Baker shapes up more as a potential starter at safety, he could supply excellent depth behind Earl Thomas while filling time in the slot in nickel formations. The Seahawks are not afraid of taking local players and love playmakers and Baker undoubtedly fits the mold.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: RB, Alvin Kamara – Tennessee
Exit Jamaal Charles, enter Alvin Kamara. Head Coach, Andy Reid, knows where his bread is buttered and the Chiefs’ offense has missed the flash that Charles once provided. Kamara’s strength is found in his burst. He gets to top speed quickly and has the moves of a return man when he hits the open field. Kamara can also lineup out wide and has the hands to be an above average receiver. Topping off his skillset is Kamara’s blocking ability. He is not a rookie that comes in as a liability when protecting the quarterback. While Spencer Ware is a nice piece to have, Kamara has the ability to be the future of the position.
28. Dallas Cowboys: DE, Taco Charlton – Michigan
With plenty of good corners still on the board, the Cowboys have no reason to reach when they could get a top-20 player and an immediate upgrade along their defensive line in Charlton. The Michigan standout could finally give Dallas the long-term pass rusher they have been seeking up front since DeMarcus Ware held down the fort. Rod Marinelli, a defensive line specialist, has the potential to mold Charlton into a potential star coming off of the edge.
29. Green Bay Packers: S, Obi Melifonwu – Connecticut
Green Bay’s aging secondary was shredded for a good half of the season last year. Melifonwu could give the Packers’ defensive backfield both the young talent and depth that it sorely needs.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB, Tim Williams – Alabama
After much deliberation, the Steelers could decide that Williams’ off the field questions are worth dealing with due to his on field production. With linebackers at a premium, due to lack of high end quality, it would be wise for the black and gold to take one in the first-round; Williams’ talent is just too much to ignore.
31. Atlanta Falcons: DT, Nazair Jones – North Carolina
The Falcons are going to be looking to anchor their defense in this year’s draft following the devastation of their Super Bowl LI loss. Jones brings versatility to the defensive line and can play almost every position along it. The Falcons would be wise not to pass up on such an opportunity this late in the first-round.
32. New Orleans Saints: CB, Kevin King – Washington
King was part of one the best secondaries across the nation in all of college football last season. The Saints need a lot of help defensively and could desperately use King’s cover skills to upgrade one of the most forgiving secondaries in the NFL.