No conference had more first-round picks in last year’s draft than the Southeastern Conference, which had eight. That could happen again in the 2017 NFL draft, thanks in large part to Alabama.
After having just one first-round pick in last year’s draft, the Crimson Tide are poised to get at least five in the first round next year, depending on how many underclassmen declare.
In total, the SEC had 51 players picked in the 2016 draft. For this week’s scenario, all common sense is thrown out. This week’s mock draft is SEC players only.
Is this absurd? Of course. But with 136 more days until the 2017 NFL draft, there is plenty of time to get serious.
1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Browns have an “astronomical” grade on Garrett according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, whatever that really means at this point. Garrett would be the pick for the Browns regardless of mock draft stipulation. Hopefully he turns out better for the Browns than the last A&M player they picked in the first round.
2. San Francisco 49ers — Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
This is actually a tough spot for San Francisco, even if you remove the mock draft restrictions. Taking Williams — a pass rush specialist — at No. 2 is a stretch that fills a need. His teammate Jonathan Allen grades out higher, but the 49ers have used their last two first-round picks on defensive linemen. A trade down is the ideal. Staying at two, they could go with a natural pass rusher like Williams.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
Even with the SEC-only mandate, this is the third pick in a row that’s the same as last week. That should show how good the SEC talent is this year. Every game Allen plays, he seems to turn hyperbole into the truth. He’s a plug-and-play destroyer up front.
4. Chicago Bears — Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Bears low key have a nice group of cornerbacks developing, including breakout rookie Cre’Von LeBlanc. They could be even better with more quality play from safety. Jamal Adams is not only the top option in the SEC, don’t be surprised if some teams end up liking him more than Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers.
5. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams) — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
There hasn’t been a lot of talk about Humphrey, a redshirt sophomore, going pro. That should pick up over the next few weeks, however. He would give the Titans a shutdown player in the secondary.
6. New York Jets — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
This is another pick that’s actually staying the same. New York’s top needs are a pass rusher and offensive lineman, but Fournette is hard to ignore. If the Jets can get better at offensive tackle, Fournette is talented enough to be for the Jets what Ezekiel Elliott has been for the Cowboys.
7. Carolina Panthers — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
I continue to like this fit for the Panthers. Kony Ealy’s been inconsistent for the Panthers, and Charles Johnson may be in his final season with the franchise. The experience and productive Barnett would slot right into the line at end and give Carolina another legit pass rusher to go with Mario Addison.
8. San Diego Chargers — Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
With Adams off the board, the Chargers’ next biggest need is on the offensive line. Robinson hasn’t become the actual top-10 pick many — including me — expected, but in his SEC-only simulation he fits. There’s still enough raw talent with Robinson that he could eventually play like a top-10 pick.
9. New Orleans Saints — Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
It seems the Saints just can’t seem to find a star pass rusher. They could with a player like Lawson. He’s capable of playing traditional end or standing up.
10. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles) — Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
This is strictly a BPA choice. The Browns have Chris Kirksey and Demario Davis at inside linebacker, and the latter signed only a two-year deal with the team before the season. He could easily be upgraded with Foster, a homing missile inside linebacker.
11. Arizona Cardinals — Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
Had Arizona been in front of Cleveland, Foster would have easily been the pick for the Cardinals. Instead, they get Wilson, arguably the second-best SEC cornerback in a pretty loaded group that also includes teammate Teez Tabor. Wilson is a big corner who would give Arizona a talented cover man opposite Patrick Peterson.
12. Cincinnati Bengals — Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
No kidding, it was almost tempting to give Cincinnati Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson. Whenever the junior decides to go pro, he’ll almost assuredly be the first specialist pick. But lets get back to being very serious for this pick. It’s been clear this season that the Bengals need talent on defense. Harris is a player some teams will view as a linebacker, but for the Bengals he could start as a pass-rush specialist before settling on a set position.
13. Buffalo Bills — Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Can the Bills draft Nick Saban? If not, falling back on a cornerback makes sense. Stephon Gilmore’s contract is up at the end of the season, and his up-and-down play could lead Buffalo to letting him walk. You can flip a coin to pick whether or not Tabor or Wilson is the better cornerback at Florida. Tabor is a little more dynamic of an athlete, and would be a fine replacement at cornerback in Buffalo.
14. Indianapolis Colts — Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Cunningham isn’t quite the pass rusher the Colts need, but he fills an obvious void of young talent at linebacker. He’s the type of do-everything linebacker that could be even better in the NFL than he was in college. Considering he has 119 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss this season, that should say something about his draft grade.
15. Tennessee Titans — Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
Two cornerbacks in the first round? That should say something about the quality of play the Titans have gotten at the position this season. It should also indicate the level of talent we’re reaching from the SEC. White can run hot and cold, but when he’s on he’s a stellar press-coverage cornerback.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings) — Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida
If one of the four cornerbacks slid, they would be the choice for Philadelphia. Instead, they could target a linebacker because Mychal Kendricks’ play has been uneven, and the Eagles could look to move on even though he’s in the middle of a four-year contract extension. If they do, a player like Davis is a nice fit. He’s a smart linebacker and a sure tackler.
17. Green Bay Packers — Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
This is a high-risk, high-reward pick. Chubb doesn’t rate as high as Fournette, but when he’s healthy he’s an impressive running back.
18. Washington — Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
Leading up to last year’s draft, I advocated for Washington picking a good defensive lineman. The position wasn’t addressed until the fifth round, and could be a top need again in 2017. Brantley is a disruptive lineman who can line up as a tackle in four-man fronts, or at end in a three-man front. He can be for Washington what Jarran Reed is becoming for Seattle.
19. Baltimore Ravens — Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama
Anderson is criminally overlooked at Alabama, but he’s a good player who excels when he’s moving forward and closing in on the ball. The sixth Alabama player in this mock, Anderson could be molded into a pass rusher in Baltimore’s system.
20. Miami Dolphins — O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Yes, another Alabama player. Maybe it’s by design, but the Dolphins are getting a minimal amount of receiving production out of tight end Dion Sims. Howard is a good all-around tight end who can work the seam or stay in to block.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
Mike Evans is obviously a standout player for Tampa Bay, but bringing in another talented outside receiver could bring the offense to another level. Dupre is a highly skilled player, but hasn’t been able to show it in LSU’s run-heavy offense.
22. Denver Broncos — Avery Gennesy, OT, Texas A&M
The tradition of Texas A&M offensive linemen stretches to an incredible fifth year in a row thanks to the SEC-only scenario. The Broncos need to find better offensive linemen, and Gennesy is the best fit.
23. New York Giants — Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
Engram isn’t a traditional tight end. He’s much better working as a receiver out of the slot. But the Giants have been trying for years to find a viable tight end, and Engram could finally be it.
24. Oakland Raiders — Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
Oakland’s need to get better up front on defense fits nicely with the best draft-eligible players available. Adams often works at nose tackle for Auburn, and he’d do much of the same for the Raiders.
25. Houston Texans — Justin Evans, SS, Texas A&M
The Texans have a solid player in Andre Hal at one safety spot, but could use a better player next to him. Evans could be the answer. He’s a hard-hitting safety who could ascend during the offseason process.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers — Kendell Beckwith, ILB, LSU
With Lawrence Timmons entering free agency after the season, the Steelers could look for his replacement in the draft. Beckwith has been a dependable player for LSU, and leads the team with 91 tackles. He’s not flashy, but his reliability will be attractive to an NFL team.
27. Atlanta Falcons — Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
If Robert Alford leaves Atlanta after the season, the Falcons will need to find his replacement. Sutton has been a little inconsistent at Tennessee, but he was once highly regarded so there’s some coachable talent there.
28. Seattle Seahawks — Dan Skipper, OT, Arkansas
In this SEC-only mock draft, the enormous Skipper is the best offensive lineman available. He has potential to be a blocker like Alejandro Villanueva of the Steelers. That is to say, he projects as a solid, but maybe unspectacular blocker.
29. Detroit Lions — Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M
This pick is another instance of best player available fitting a need. The Lions need more of a pass rush, and Hall can provide it. He’s overlooked because of Myles Garrett, but he’s a tough pass rusher who is at least a solid backup.
30. Kansas City Chiefs — Marcus Maye, FS, Florida
This is the Eric Berry leaves Kansas City contingency plan. Maye is a solid player who will be at the Senior Bowl despite breaking his arm last month. Maye is a disruptive player who forced seven fumbles and intercepted five passes in his college career.
31. New England Patriots — Marquis Haynes, OLB, Ole Miss
Kyle Van Noy has done a solid job of filling Jamie Collins’ position for the Patriots, but a player like Haynes could push him.
32. Dallas Cowboys — Darius English, DE, South Carolina
Up until this season, English had a quiet college career. He broke out as a senior, though, finishing with 57 tackles and a team-high nine sacks. At 6’6, English has some natural length, but at just 245 pounds he’ll need to add bulk. For the Cowboys, he’d be a nice addition to help boost the team’s pass rush.