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Mel Kiper's 1st 2017 mock draft has QBs Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson going in top 10

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Myles Garrett at No. 1 and Mitch Trubisky at No. 2 is becoming an early consensus, but three months can change plenty.

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The matchup in Super Bowl LI will be decided Sunday, but the offseason has already started for 28 teams and ESPN’s Mel Kiper is wasting no time diving into the 2017 NFL draft. The longtime analyst released his first mock draft of the offseason and it features North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky near the top.

With the San Francisco 49ers set to begin an era with a new coach and general manager, it would be logical for the team to start fresh at the quarterback position. While Colin Kaepernick had a resurgent year in San Francisco, he is due to count more than $19 million against the salary cap in 2017 and can opt out of his contract with the team.

It seems likely the 49ers will be in the market for a new quarterback and so Kiper believes Trubisky could be the man for the job and has projected the North Carolina quarterback to go to San Francisco with the No. 2 pick — even if the ESPN analyst doesn’t believe Trubisky is the second player in the 2017 NFL draft.

“This isn't a strong draft for quarterbacks,” Kiper wrote. “Trubisky is the best QB in the draft, but he's only No. 16 on my Big Board. He has only one season of collegiate starting experience, completing 68.2 percent of his passes with 30 touchdown passes and six interceptions.”

There’s already a bit of an early consensus at the top of the draft order, with Kiper projecting Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett to go to the Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 pick. SB Nation’s Dan Kadar and NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah also have Garrett and Tribusky off the board with the first two picks.

Wildly different opinions on Deshaun Watson

Kiper, Jeremiah, and Kadar all have Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in the first round, but there’s far from a consensus for the National Championship-winning quarterback. Kadar projects Watson to go to the Chicago Bears with the No. 3 pick, while Jeremiah has the quarterback all the way at No. 25 to the Houston Texans.

Kiper falls in the middle with Watson at No. 10 to the Buffalo Bills.

“I'm a believer in franchises with new head coaches starting fresh with new quarterbacks, and it appears likely the Bills move on from Tyrod Taylor after hiring Sean McDermott,” Kiper wrote. “That leaves Buffalo with a huge hole and a top-10 pick to fill it. I wrote last week that I didn't think Watson would get a post-title game draft bounce, but I've heard differently from people around the NFL.”

While Kiper noted that Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer is his third quarterback, he doesn’t land in the remainder of the first round.

Here comes the running back revolution

While there’s only two quarterbacks in Kiper’s mock draft, the first round does feature three running backs. He projects Leonard Fournette to the Carolina Panthers, Dalvin Cook to the Browns, and Christian McCaffrey to the Green Bay Packers, which would represent the most running backs in a first round since the 2012 NFL draft.

There have been just three running backs selected in the first round in the last four years combined.

Aside from the obvious talent shown by Fournette, Cook, and McCaffrey at the collegiate level, the willingness to project running backs early may be helped by the success teams have found at the position lately.

The Rams picked 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley in the top 10 and the Dallas Cowboys found even more success with Ezekiel Elliott at No. 4 overall in 2016.

A possible record-breaking wave of defensive backs

A year ago there were five cornerbacks taken in the first round and two safeties, although the selections of Keanu Neal and Karl Joseph in the middle of the first round surprised many.

But both Neal and Joseph landed on the Pro Football Writers of America (PWFA) All-Rookie Team after solid first-year campaigns. But there could be a lot more safeties contending for spots on the All-Rookie team in 2017.

In Kiper’s mock draft there’s a whopping 10 defensive backs projected in the first round, with six cornerbacks and four safeties. That would be a record amount, topping the nine defensive backs taken in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.

Leading the way in 2017 is LSU safety Jamal Adams at No. 4 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore at No. 6 to the New York Jets.


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