Today at 4 p.m. ET is the deadline for underclassmen to enter the 2017 NFL draft. Thus far, 94 juniors or redshirt sophomores have publicly said they’re going pro. Many of those players are the ones who will dominate the draft news cycle over the next four months.
So in today’s mock draft, we’re giving all of the attention to the senior class. Imagine if we lived in a world where players could only be eligible for the NFL draft if they completed their senior seasons in college. That is the exercise in this week’s mock draft.
Last year’s first round was a good one for seniors, with 10 going in the top 32, including No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz. In fact, six of the first 18 picks were senior players. This year, the number of seniors taken in the first round will probably be much lower. As it stands right now, only four seniors look to carry certain first-round grades. They are Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, and Tim Williams of Alabama, and Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis.
Players like tight end O.J. Howard, pass rusher Takkarist McKinley, defensive end Taco Charlton, and cornerbacks Cordrea Tankersley and Tre’Davious White will get consideration for the top 32 as well. There are also three senior offensive linemen — Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson of Pittsburgh and Dan Feeney of Indiana — who could raise their stock next week at the Senior Bowl.
For now, here’s where they could fall if only seniors were allowed to be taken in the draft.
1. Cleveland Browns: Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
In this year’s draft, Allen is easily the top senior prospect. Despite working in an Alabama system that likes to rotate players up front, Allen finished his senior season with 10.5 sacks. For the Browns, Allen could be the penetrating defensive tackle to go alongside Danny Shelton.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Reuben Foster, MLB, Alabama
You can reasonably argue Foster as the pick for San Francisco even if there wasn’t a wacky stipulation attached to the draft. He’s an ace middle linebacker, and could be the solution inside for the 49ers.
3. Chicago Bears: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
As Alshon Jeffery enters free agency, the Bears could be lean on talent at wide receiver. Cameron Meredith has come along to be a solid player, but former first-rounder Kevin White has battled injuries for much of his career. Davis could fill Jeffery’s position as the No. 1 receiver.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
Williams doesn’t necessarily fill a big need in Jacksonville’s defense, but in this seniors-only scenario, there is a drop off after him in player quality. A player like Williams would slot into the strong-side linebacker position, which means Myles Jack moves to the middle.
5. Tennessee Titans (via Los Angeles Rams): Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
If there wasn’t so much underclassmen talent at cornerback in this year’s draft, Tankersley might carry a true first-round grade. He has good length for a cornerback, and has been a productive player throughout his career.
6. New York Jets: Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
The possibilities for the Jets here are McKinley and offensive linemen. The Jets have failed to really find a good outside pass rusher, and McKinley could finally fill that role.
7. San Diego Chargers: Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh
Obviously this is super early for Bisnowaty, unless he just kills it at the Senior Bowl. But for the Chargers, he would be a nice second-round pick. He’s an experienced left tackle with toughness and good athleticism.
8. Carolina Panthers: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
It took some time for Charlton to develop at Michigan, but as a senior he became an All-Big Ten first-team player. As an end, Charlton has good length to keep blockers out of his pads, and good strength.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State
Walker had a stellar season for Florida State, starting strong with 4.5 sacks against Ole Miss and totaling 16 on the season. At 6’4 and 280 pounds, his NFL position is hard to peg. Walker can be effective from the inside and outside.
10. Buffalo Bills: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
With Stephon Gilmore able to leave Buffalo this offseason in free agency, the Bills could be looking to replace him. White’s play at LSU was inconsistent at times, but when he was on, he showed he has the size to handle big receivers and enough quicks to handle speed receivers.
11. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama
Even in a seniors-only mock draft Anderson can get overlooked by his more acclaimed Alabama teammates. He’s a physical linebacker who will stuff the run and get after the quarterback.
12. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles): Desmond King, CB, Iowa
Joe Haden’s future in Cleveland seems a little murky, and if the team chooses to release the oft-injured veteran, they’ll seek his replacement in the draft. King is a player who the Browns could work at cornerback or even give him a look as a coverage safety.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
The third cornerback in the last four picks should display the strength of the class this year. Sutton is easy to overlook because he missed much of the season with a fractured ankle. But he’s still an experienced and productive cornerback who has some added valued as a return specialist.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings): Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
The Eagles need a sure thing at wide receiver, and a player like Westbrook could be it. He had a stretch of six consecutive games of more than 100 yards receiving, and finished the season with 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s an explosive playmaker with good enough hands.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Dawuane Smoot, DE/OLB, Illinois
Robert Mathis retired following the season, leaving the Colts with a big need at pass rusher. Smoot has played mostly end, but he could stand up on occasion in the Colts defense.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington
If you don’t know about Kupp, you will hear plenty about him soon. He was among the first names picked to play in the Senior Bowl, and has long been on the NFL radar. In four years, he compiled an unbelievable 428 receptions for 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns.
17. Washington: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson
Starting the last two years for Clemson, Watkins developed into a penetrating lineman up front for the Tigers. This season he had 13.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks, and would give Washington a player up front who can get after the passer.
18. Tennessee Titans: Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama
If we’re working through an impossible scenario in this mock draft, why not peg Jackson for the first round? Had he not suffered a fractured leg in October, Jackson could well and truly be a first-round pick. He’s an instinctive safety who was the leader of Alabama’s defense.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ethan Pocic, C, LSU
With plenty of wide receivers and safeties gone in this mock, the best value for Tampa Bay is the LSU center. Pocic is the type of talented center Tampa’s offense needs.
20. Denver Broncos: Dan Feeney, G, Indiana
The Broncos need to add a few pieces on the offensive line, and Feeney is too good to pass up in this mock draft. He’s an experienced left guard, but he should fit either side.
21. Detroit Lions: Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
Awuzie has experience playing in the slot and outside, and in Detroit he would be used more in the latter. Awuzie is at his best when he can read the quarterback and rely on a quick break to disrupt throws.
22. Miami Dolphins: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
At this stage, Howard is far too good to pass up. Dion Sims is a solid tight end for Miami, but Howard is too good of an all-around tight end to pass up.
23. New York Giants: Montravius Adams, DT, Auburn
This type of pick is dependent on whether or not the Giants re-sign Johnathan Hankins. If they don’t, a player like Adams could slot in nicely next to Damon Harrison.
24. Oakland Raiders: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
This is actually a repeat pick from last week’s standard mock draft. Davis is a good athlete for a linebacker and would give the Raiders a player who can make plays all around the field.
25. Houston Texans: Forrest Lamp, OT, Western Kentucky
Lamp is a four-year starter at left tackle, but thanks to his technique he should be able to handle a move to the right side.
26. Seattle Seahawks: Dorian Johnson, G, Pittsburgh
It would be nice to give the Seahawks an offensive tackle, but there just isn’t a senior with value close to Johnson. An experienced left guard at Pitt, Johnson is one of the more pro-ready players in the draft, which is what Seattle needs up front.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
It’s hard to argue with Lewis’ production. He finished his All-American career with 39 passes defended and six interceptions. He’s not the biggest corner, but he manages to get the job done.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Kevin King, CB, Washington
It’s hard to not be intrigued by King solely due to his listed 6’3 height. With Morris Claiborne facing free agency, the Cowboys could go after a corner like King who can be molded.
29. Green Bay Packers: Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
The Packers have used a lot of draft capital at cornerback the past few seasons, but they could add another player to the defensive backfield to bolster the depth. At 6’2 and 203 pounds, Douglas would fit nicely in Green Bay.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple
With Jarvis Jones entering free agency, and James Harrison inevitably nearing the end of his career, the Steelers could look for linebacker to put opposite Bud Dupree. Reddick is another player who could rise next week at the Senior Bowl.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa
Johnson had a standout senior season at Iowa with 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He’s a good one-gap defensive tackle and would fit nicely in Atlanta.
32. New England Patriots: Dion Dawkins, OT, Temple
The Patriots scored by adding Joe Thuney, a senior in last year’s draft. They do the same with a player like Dawkins. He’s a powerhouse blocker who may fit best in the NFL on the right side.