With the champion crowned and the 2016 season officially in the books, the focus of the football world finally turns to the offseason in earnest. The postseason college bowls are done, the Scouting Combine in Indy is 3 weeks away and free agency starts March 9th. So there is no better time (and no fan-friendlier way) to assess where we are in the draft process than a 1st round mock draft. Mock drafts at this stage are more about lining up a team’s primary needs with the talent available as we currently see it. In other words, they aren’t really worth the paper they are printed on. But it is a fun exercise and creates interesting talking points, so here goes!
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, OLB, Texas A&M
In this offseason there are approximately 9 QB needy teams (Cle, SF, Chi, NYJ, Buf, Ari, Wash, Den and Hou), 6 big free agent QBs (Romo, Garoppolo, Cousins, Cutler, Glennon and Tyrod Taylor) and 3-4 QBs to be considered in the 1st round (Trubisky, Kizer, Mahomes and Watson). Therefore each team will have to find their piece of that puzzle. I expect the Browns to attempt to answer their QB questions with later picks and/or free agency and therefore take the best player in this draft, the Aggie edge rusher.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC
The Niners are also a QB needy team and address this with the most polished yet least experienced QB in this class in Trubisky.
3. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen, DT/DE, Alabama
The Bears could also go QB here but I think will instead be more aggressive in free agency and seek a developmental QB in later rounds. Instead the Bears bolster their DL with the big man from Bama.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jamal Adams, S/LB, LSU
As the first team somewhat settled at quarterback (maybe?) the Jags will take the best player available and that is the do-everything DB from LSU Adams. With the prospect of free agent SS Cyprien leaving, the Jags can fill that slot and improve upon it with Adams.
5. Tennessee Titans – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Titans 2 biggest needs are in the secondary and at receiver. With 2 picks in the 1st round, they could address both of those issues. The question is in which order. Even though he will likely be out until summer with injuries, the Titans pull the trigger on the Buckeye centerfielder to sure up their secondary.
6. New York Jets – Marcus Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
By drafting Christian Hackenberg in the 2nd round last year, the Jets are unlikely to draft a QB high again and will likely pursue Mike Glennon in free agency. Instead the Jets move Revis to FS and draft his replacement in Lattimore.
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
New regimes usually mean new quarterbacks and the Chargers have not only a new regime but also a new city to sell to their fan base. With their best need filler in Hooker off the board, the Chargers go for the splash and draft the reigning champ in college football as the heir apparent to Rivers.
8. Carolina Panthers – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Panthers need someone to take the offensive focus off of Cam and Fournette has shown he is up to the task. With two former SEC big bodies running in opposite directions on a zone read, defenses in the NFC South should be on alert.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Soloman Thomas, DE, Stanford
The Bengals seem to covet big end in their 4-3 defense and Thomas is an ideal fit to add punch to their pass rush.
10. Buffalo Bills – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Bills are thrilled to see Williams fall to them at 10 and pair two Clemson WRs (Williams and Watkins) on the outside.
11. New Orleans Saints – Reuban Foster, LB, Alabama
The Saints were dreadful against the run last year need an enforcer in the middle of their defense. Foster is just the guy they need.
12. Cleveland Browns – OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
After seeing him up close at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, the Browns get a go-to weapon for their offense in Howard.
13. Arizona Cardinals – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
With Larry Fitzgerald their best WR at age 37, the Cards must add weapons and get a guy many compare to Antonio Brown in Davis.
14. Indianapolis Colts – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The Colts are desperate to add a running attack for Andrew Luck and overlook the many, many red flags on Cook in order to do that.
15. Philadelphia Eagles – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Eagles secondary got torched last year and must be improved. With all the big WRs gone, the Eagles take the son of Bobby Humphrey and a big physical corner from Alabama.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Cam Thomas, OT, Alabama
The Ravens took their LT in last year’s draft and take their RT in this one. Thomas is a road grader that can bookend the Ravens OL for a decade.
17. Washington Redskins – John Ross, WR, Washington
The Redskins have many needs this offseason including DL, LB and S. But also a need is at WR where only Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder are expected to return. The Redskins add even more speed with the Huskies WR.
18. Tennessee Titans – Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
With all the 1st round WRs gone, the Titans continue to bolster their secondary with the sticky man-cover corner from Florida.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
McCaffrey is a versatile RB/WR type and an ideal fit in a Bucs offense in need of playmakers.
20. Denver Broncos – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The offensive line of the Broncos really regressed last season and needs to be rebuilt in their new system. Ramczyk in the best overall OT prospect in this draft but will likely slide based on medicals. If he sees the field in 2017, the Broncos will have gotten a steal.
21. Detroit Lions – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Lions stay within the state to address their pass rush in Charlton. Paired with Ziggy Ansah, the Lions hope they can finally get consistent pressure on opposing QBs.
22. Miami Dolphins – David Njoku, TE, Miami
Njoku appeared out of nowhere midway through the season for the Hurricanes and gave scouts flashes of Jimmy Graham. The Dolphins have a big need for weapons around Tannehill and Njoku is just that.
23. New York Giants – Garrett Boles, OT, Utah
The Giants missed out of Jack Conklin in last year’s draft and their OL was their undoing. Boles was a JUCO transfer into Utah but showed great balance and skill in his brief time there.
24. Oakland Raiders – Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Cunningham is a tackling machine and the Raiders have a huge void to fill in the middle of their defense. If he gets this far down the board, the Raiders would happily snap him up.
25. Houston Texans – Pat Mahomes III, QB, Texas Tech
The Texans desperately need a QB but are hamstrung by the Osweiler contract. By drafting Mahomes, they can begin to develop their future at QB for a fixed cost.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Forrest Lamp, G/T, Western Michigan
The Seahawks OL was a revolving door last season and must be solidified. Lamp has had scouts raving all season and has the position flex that Seattle typically covets.
27. Kansas City Chiefs – Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Losing ILB Derrick Johnson late last season really hurt that Chiefs defense and at age 34 he is starting to show his age. Davis from Florida is built for speed and has a great nose for the ball.
28. Dallas Cowboys – Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
The Cowboys have never minded undersized DEs as long as they can get to the QB. And McKinley can definitely do that, with 10 sacks last season for the Bruins. In fact the only reason he could slide to Dallas are some injury concerns that will need to be vetted at the Combine.
29. Green Bay Packers – Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
The Packers secondary was riddled with injuries and was ultimately their Achilles heel. Wilson is a solid corner, though not as flashy as his Florida teammate Tabor. But with good size and technique, he is an instant starter for the Pack.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers – Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Like the Packers, the Steelers too struggled at the CB spot. Jones is polarizing prospect among scouts, with some in love with his cat-like reflexes and ball skills while others worry about his thin frame and hesitance to get his nose dirty.
31. Atlanta Falcons – Malik McDowell, DE/DT, Michigan State
The Falcons defense ran out of gas versus the Patriots in Super Bowl LI and need more pass rushers to pair with Vic Beasley. McDowell is versatile and adept both inside and outside in getting to the QB.
32. New England Patriots – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The Champs love to find guys who don’t always have all the measurables but are just good football players. That perfectly describes Barnett, who surpassed Reggie White’s Sack total at Tennessee but probably won’t shine during the “underwear Olympics” at the NFL Combine.