What do we really know about the quarterbacks in the 2017 NFL draft? We know that Deshaun Watson of Clemson is a marvelous athlete with unrivaled athleticism at the position this year. But we also know some teams will frown upon his running style and relatively normal size.
With DeShone Kizer, we know he’s a physical specimen with desirable size and the durability that should come with it. But we also know he had an up-and-down season that saw Notre Dame crumble and finish the year at 4-8. With Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina, you have a quarterback who can work the ball down the field, but he’s inexperienced.
As easy as it can be to like these three quarterbacks, it could be just as easy to dislike them. The NFL probably feels the same way. For the purposes of this week’s mock draft they do, at least.
The exercise this week is to not use a quarterback in the top 10. While that’s odd, it’s not quite unprecedented. It happened in 2013, a miserable draft year, when there were some of the same questions about quarterbacks. Let’s also assume for the purposes of this mock draft that Kizer decides to go back to Notre Dame in an attempt to make himself a top-five pick.
This week’s mock draft is only the first 20 picks as teams continue to jockey for playoff positions.
1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Garrett is the top prospect in next year’s draft, and a player the Browns need. But would Cleveland entertain offers for the top spot?
2. San Francisco 49ers — Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
Call this the Oakland Raiders method. In 2014 the Raiders drafted a pass rusher in the first round, and their quarterback in the second. The 49ers could do the same, targeting the ultra-athletic Williams with the second overall pick.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jonathan Allen, DT/DE, Alabama
Fine, maybe having Allen slide in the last mock draft was a mistake. You can make the case for the Nagurski Trophy winner going in each of the first three picks, and several more after Jacksonville’s. Allen is an attractive NFL option because he plays the run and pass extremely well. He’s an instant starter in the NFL.
4. Chicago Bears — Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan
Peppers is an enigma. He’s largely a defensive player, yet he’s a Heisman Trophy finalist. If nothing else, it’s a testament to his freaky ability. Michigan used Peppers a lot on defense this season near the line of scrimmage. In the NFL, he’s likely a strong safety who can play in the box or drop back. In other words, out of college he can be what Landon Collins has developed into for the Giants.
5. New York Jets — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
It’s easy to flip flop back and forth between Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook. My personal preference is Cook, but the NFL may prefer Fournette, the latest underclassman make his pro declaration. Fournette is a bulldozer, and would give the Jets an identity on offense even if the quarterback situation remains messy.
6. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams) — Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
Prepare yourself for a cringe worthy draft cliché: If Tennessee drafts Foster, they’re set at inside linebacker for the next decade.
7. Carolina Panthers — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett looks like a sure-thing pick, which is exactly what Carolina needs. Barnett overtook Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee, and should continue being a productive player in the NFL.
8. Cincinnati Bengals — Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Brandon LaFell signed only a one-year deal in Cincinnati, and he’s not quite good enough to pass up on Williams. The combination of Williams and A.J. Green would give a potent duo of wide receivers who can attack the ball at the catch point and stretch the field.
9. New Orleans Saints — Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
Pass rushers have a tendency to rise in the buildup to the draft, and McKinley is primed to gain ground. He’s a fast athlete who will time well at the NFL Scouting Combine. He’s the type of pass rusher the Saints need on the outside.
10. San Diego Chargers — Jamal Adams, S, LSU
With Ohio State’s Malik Hooker saying he’s returning to Ohio State for his junior season, Adams is the undisputed No. 2 safety prospect behind Peppers. Adams not only fills San Diego’s biggest need, but this is about the range he should land in on draft night.
11. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles) — Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Trubisky’s mom recently told the local newspaper her son is scheduled to graduate this month, and will announce his pro decision after the Tar Heels’ bowl game. For some reason, I think he’ll go pro despite starting just one season. He’s the choice for Cleveland over Watson because he’s more of a traditional thrower with a bigger body. It’s only a bonus that Trubisky played high school football a bit outside Cleveland. A potential good thing happening for the Browns? Who said mock drafts have to be wholly realistic?
12. Arizona Cardinals — John Ross, WR, Washington
It’s not nice to predict doom and gloom, but here it comes for Arizona. What happens if Larry Fitzgerald decides to move on, and Michael Floyd prices himself out of town? The answer is the Cardinals will be looking for a wide receiver. That could be Ross, a speed wideout with good hands. Watson is intriguing, but he might not have the arm strength to fit in Bruce Arians’ offense.
13. Buffalo Bills - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The parade of Alabama players continues. There might be five stellar cornerbacks in next year’s draft, and Humphrey is arguably the best. Just a redshirt sophomore, Humphrey has already proved himself to be a shutdown cornerback who can beat receivers in man coverage.
14. Tennessee Titans — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
As we go through the offseason process, look for more and more people to start talking about Davis. He put together an incredible college career that included more than 1,400 yards receiving each of the past three seasons. His physical playing style will translate nicely to the NFL.
15. Indianapolis Colts — Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
At this point, Cook is far too good to pass up. He’d inject some excitement into the Colts’ offense, and take some of the burden off Andrew Luck.
16. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings) — Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Jones is in this group of really good corners that includes Humphrey, the Florida duo of Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor, and Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley.
17. Green Bay Packers — D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
Fun fact: The fewest yards Foreman had this season was 124 against Kansas State. Scary fact: He had 341 against Texas Tech. That’s almost as much as Eddie Lacy has had all season. Foreman is a bruiser who could go in the top 20 because of his combination of running ability and pass blocking. He’s not much of a receiver, but when he has the ball, look out.
18. Washington — Malik McDowell, DE, Michigan State
McDowell is easily a best-player-available pick for Washington at No. 18, and gives them a key piece along the defensive line.
19. Miami Dolphins — Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Although Cunningham has played mostly inside for Vanderbilt, he could work nicely as a 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL. There he can rely on his length and range.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers — Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri
Harris a linebacker who is versatile, with the ability to play standing up outside in a 3-4 or with his hand in the dirt. For Pittsburgh he could be the player Bud Dupree hasn’t become yet.
Where is Deshaun Watson?
If we predict that quarterbacks don’t go in the top 10, and Trubisky is the first one picked, we could potentially see a Watson tumble. A potential landing spot if a team doesn’t trade back into the first round is Houston. That would make Brock Osweiler an expensive backup, but Watson could push him.
Best player available?
Depending on which juniors come out, there are plenty of good players available for the playoff teams. Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson is the best of the bunch left. He might move to the right side in the NFL, but he’s been a dependable and experienced player for Alabama.
After him, the Florida and Ohio State cornerbacks, Michigan defensive lineman Taco Charlton, and Auburn pass rusher Carl Lawson round out the BPA.
Another name to ponder
Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is potentially as good of a running back as Fournette or Cook. Off-the-field issues, however, may push him down the draft board. Of course, the redshirt sophomore has to declare for the draft first. Had a nice season with 1,183 yards on 168 carries, as well as 32 receptions. He’s sort of a combination of Fournette and Cook.