Free agency begins on Thursday and each team will begin to have a better understanding of its needs heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. That being said, it’s never too early for speculation and who doesn’t love a mock draft? Here is my first attempt of the year, and like the previous three seasons, two editions will follow.
Al Preziosi’s Pre-Free Agency 2017 NFL Mock Draft
- Cleveland Browns: DE Myles Garrett (Texas A&M)
Myles Garrett is the consensus best player in the draft this year, and the Browns could use an elite pass rusher. There have been some rumors about Mitch Trubisky being selected here, but that would be a mistake. With two elite quarterback prospects probably being available next year, the Browns should focus on the defense for now.
- San Francisco 49ers: QB Deshaun Watson (Clemson)
The 49ers desperately need a franchise quarterback and Deshaun Watson could be that guy. Either Watson, Trubisky, or DeShone Kizer will be the first quarterback selected, but I am going to select Watson because of his intangibles. With San Francisco moving to a 4-3 defensive scheme, a pass rusher is another option here.
- Chicago Bears: QB DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame)
With Jay Cutler on his way out, the Bears will likely look for a replacement at the quarterback position. It’s possible that Chicago could select the top quarterback in the class, but in this mock draft, only Kizer and Trubisky are available. For now, I am giving the edge to Kizer because he has the superior size and physical abilities.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: DL Jonathan Allen (Alabama)
With the run on quarterbacks to start the draft, the Jaguars would be ecstatic to select Jonathan Allen. He could play any position along the defensive line, but the Jaguars need more help at defensive end, so that would probably be his destination. Jamal Adams could be selected to replace Jonathan Cyprien, but Allen is too good to pass up.
- Tennessee Titans: WR Mike Williams (Clemson)
The Titans have a franchise quarterback, an elite rushing duo, a good tight end, and a very respectable offensive line. Pairing Rishard Matthews with an elite receiver like Mike Williams would turn Tennessee’s offense into one of the most dangerous in the league. One of the elite safeties is another option, but adding Williams to that offense makes too much sense.
- New York Jets: CB Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State)
After cutting half the team, the Jets could go in any direction with this pick. Cornerback is as big of a need as any and Marshon Lattimore is the best at the position. Leonard Fournette and Solomon Thomas are two of the other options I considered, but the Jets secondary was laughably bad last season.
- Los Angeles Chargers: FS Malik Hooker (Ohio State)
The Chargers need an upgrade at both safety positions, so either Malik Hooker or Jamal Adams would fit. Since free safety is generally the more valuable position, I will give Hooker the edge. He has undergone core muscle and labrum surgeries this off-season, but he should still be selected in the top ten.
- Carolina Panthers: DE Solomon Thomas (Stanford)
Defensive ends Mario Addison and Charles Johnson are both free agents and Solomon Thomas is probably the best player available. He has been rising quickly up draft boards, so if he is still available, the Panthers will be very happy. Leonard Fournette is another enticing option, but an elite pass rusher is a better value.
- Cincinnati Bengals: DE Derek Barnett (Tennessee)
The Bengals need an impact pass rusher and Derek Barnett is the best available. Reuben Foster has been a popular prediction at this slot, but his draft stock has dropped after injury and character concerns emerged. Surprisingly, Jamal Adams is still available, but the Bengals do not have a need at safety.
- Buffalo Bills: SS Jamal Adams (LSU)
Jamal Adams is the best player available and the Bills could use an upgrade at safety. Corey Davis is another option at this spot if the Bills lose Robert Woods in free agency. However, Adams is too good to pass up.
- New Orleans Saints: CB Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)
The Saints could use an upgrade at cornerback and Marlon Humphrey gives them a versatile defensive back who can thrive in both man and zone coverages. The Saints could also use a pass rusher, so Taco Charlton is another option. Reuben Foster would also be intriguing, but the aforementioned issues continue to push him down the draft board.
- Cleveland Browns: CB Teez Tabor (Florida)
The Browns could use an upgrade at cornerback and Teez Tabor could form an excellent duo with Joe Haden. Building the defense in this draft, tanking the 2017 season, and then building the offense behind a new franchise quarterback next season seems to be the plan in Cleveland. This selection depends on which cornerback the Browns prefer, as Sidney Jones is another plausible option.
- Arizona Cardinals: WR Corey Davis (Western Michigan)
This could be Larry Fitzgerald’s last season and the Cardinals disposed of Michael Floyd during the season after his DUI charge. Corey Davis has the potential to be the #1 receiver in Arizona once Fitzgerald retires. If Tony Jefferson leaves in free agency, an impact player in the secondary like Jabrill Peppers could be the selection.
- Philadelphia Eagles: RB Leonard Fournette (LSU)
I expected to select a cornerback for the Eagles, but Fournette has fallen far enough. Ryan Mathews cannot stay healthy and Darren Sproles is aging, so running back is definitely a need for Philadelphia. Fournette has the potential to be one of the best running backs in the league, so the Eagles would love to scoop him up here.
- Indianapolis Colts: OLB Tim Williams (Alabama)
The Colts desperately need pass rushing help and Tim Williams is one of the best pure pass rushers in the class. Outside linebackers Robert Mathis, Trent Cole, Erik Walden, and Akeem Ayers are all free agents. Sidney Jones is another option, as the Colts need another cornerback to play opposite of Vontae Davis.
- Baltimore Ravens: CB Sidney Jones (Washington)
The Ravens have a need at cornerback and Sidney Jones could turn out to be the best cover corner in the class. The Ravens could use an edge rusher, but the best 3-4 edge rushers have already been drafted. Reuben Foster is another intriguing option, but his stock is wavering after being dismissed from the NFL combine.
- Washington Redskins: ILB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt)
The Redskins desperately need help at inside linebacker, and Zach Cunningham would fill that need nicely. He is an all-around linebacker, excelling both against the run and in coverage. If both Reuben Foster and Zach Cunningham are available, Washington will be elated.
- Tennessee Titans: ILB Reuben Foster (Alabama)
A couple weeks ago, Foster was being considered with the Titans fifth overall selection. His stock has dropped, but this value is too good to pass up. He is a clear upgrade at inside linebacker and he is the best run stuffer in the class.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR John Ross (Washington)
The Buccaneers need another weapon to pair with Mike Evans and John Ross could be that guy. Ross broke Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record at the combine and he is the best deep threat in the class. Taco Charlton and Jabrill Peppers would also fill needs, but young quarterback Jameis Winston needs another target.
- Denver Broncos: OT Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin)
After releasing Russell Okung, the Broncos desperately need a left tackle. Ryan Ramczyk’s stock has fallen a bit because he had hip surgery, but he is still the best offensive tackle in the class. O.J. Howard is another intriguing option, but left tackle is the priority position.
- Detroit Lions: DE Taco Charlton (Michigan)
The Lions only had 26 sacks last season, so the team could certainly use another pass rusher. Taco Charlton is the best available, and he would form a solid duo with Ziggy Ansah. Adoree’ Jackson is another option, as the Lions need secondary help, but Charlton is the better value.
- Miami Dolphins: TE O.J. Howard (Alabama)
O.J. Howard is a game-changing tight end, excelling as a receiver and in run blocking. He’s one of the best available players and the Dolphins have a need at tight end. Miami also needs a pass rusher, but none of the available rushers would make sense this early.
- New York Giants: DT Caleb Brantley (Florida)
The Giants will likely lose Johnathan Hankins in free agency, but Caleb Brantley would be a very good replacement. He can generate pressure on the quarterback from the interior, so he would pair nicely with elite run stuffer Damon Harrison. New York needs offensive line help, but Cam Robinson’s similarities to Ereck Flowers should scare the team away.
- Oakland Raiders: RB Dalvin Cook (Florida State)
Dalvin Cook is the best player available and the Raiders will be elated if he falls this far. Oakland will likely lose Latavius Murray in free agency, but Cook is an upgrade anyway. Behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, Cook should thrive immediately.
- Houston Texans: QB Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina)
With an elite defense, plenty of weapons on offense, and a very respectable offensive line, the Texans are a franchise quarterback away from being contenders. Mitch Trubisky could easily be selected in the top three, so if he falls this far, the Texans would be very happy. Brock Osweiler is clearly not the answer, so it is time to look elsewhere.
- Seattle Seahawks: OT Cam Robinson (Alabama)
The Seahawks desperately need offensive line help, so they might take a chance on Cam Robinson. Robinson has the potential to develop into a very solid left tackle, but he could also turn out like Ereck Flowers. Garett Bolles is another offensive line option if Seattle does not like Robinson.
- Kansas City Chiefs: ILB Jarrad Davis (Florida)
Derrick Johnson is aging and coming off another major injury, so an upgrade at inside linebacker would make sense. Jarrad Davis is incredibly athletic and he could make an impressive Chiefs defense even greater. Juju Smith-Schuster is another option because the Chiefs could use a receiver.
- Dallas Cowboys: SS Jabrill Peppers (Michigan)
If the Cowboys lose Barry Church in free agency, the team could elect to replace him with Jabrill Peppers. Peppers is one of the most athletic players in the class and he has experience in a variety of positions on both sides of the ball. Adoree’ Jackson is another option because cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are free agents.
- Green Bay Packers: RB Christian McCaffrey (Stanford)
Eddie Lacy is a free agent and the Packers could choose to replace him with Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey would add a scary weapon to Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal, as he is an excellent receiving back. Takkarist McKinley is another option, as Nick Perry and Julius Peppers are also free agents.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: OLB Takkarist McKinley (UCLA)
Jarvis Jones is a free agent and James Harrison cannot play forever. Takkarist McKinley can provide the Steelers with another pass rusher to eventually start opposite Bud Dupree. Pittsburgh could also use an inside linebacker, but none of the available inside linebackers would be a good value here.
- Atlanta Falcons: DT Malik McDowell (Michigan State)
The Falcons have a need at defensive tackle and Malik McDowell is a tremendous talent at this spot. If he did not have character concerns, he would probably be selected in the top 15. Chris Chester is a free agent, so Atlanta could decide to replace him with the best offensive guard in the class, Dan Feeney.
- New England Patriots: CB Adoree’ Jackson (USC)
Logan Ryan is expected to leave New England in free agency, so the Patriots could replace him with Adoree’ Jackson. Jackson is a tremendous athlete who could also play a few snaps per game on the offensive side of the ball. David Njoku is another option, as the Patriots need a replacement for Martellus Bennett.