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NFL mock draft 2017: Trades shake up the top 5

Trades will inevitably impact the first round, so what if the Panthers and Bengals move up to get defense-changing pass rushers?

NCAA Football: UCLA at Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mock drafts are impossible to do accurately, and correctly predicting trades is even harder. But there will be trades because there are always trades.

In 2016, there were five trades during the first round of the NFL draft, and that’s the same amount of trades projected in this mock draft, beginning with two in the first five picks.

With three weeks left until the Cleveland Browns officially go on the clock with the No. 1 overall selection, here’s another crack at predicting how the first 32 picks could look on April 27:

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

No need to overthink this one. The Browns say they haven’t made up their minds yet and I actually believe them. It’s still possible Cleveland could go in another direction, but it shouldn’t. Garrett’s the best in the class. Take him.

2. San Francisco 49ers: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

The 49ers took defensive linemen in the first rounds of the last two drafts and can address the secondary with Hooker, a ball-hawking safety. By using him as a centerfielder in the San Francisco secondary, the 49ers can feel comfortable putting Eric Reid at strong safety and keeping Jimmie Ward at cornerback.

3. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Picking back-to-back safeties with a pair of top-rated defensive linemen on the board goes against my better judgment, but the Bears have a need in their secondary. Signing Quintin Demps addressed one of the starting spots, and Adams could slide into the other and help a defense that was last in the NFL in forced turnovers.

TRADE — 4. Carolina Panthers (via Jaguars): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

With Thomas and Jonathan Allen still on the board, the Panthers can come up to get the player they like most at a decent price. After trading Kony Ealy, Carolina’s options at defensive end are Mario Addison, Julius Peppers, and Charles Johnson. Addison has been a rotational rusher his whole career, Peppers is 37, and Johnson had back surgery in March. Finding the future at the position is a must.

TRADE — 5. Cincinnati Bengals (via Titans): Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama

In the last three seasons, the only Bengals players who have managed more than five sacks in a season are Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Finally finding a threat on the other end of the defensive line is a priority and it really wouldn’t cost much to go up four spots and grab one of the top defensive ends in the class.

6. New York Jets: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The days of Revis Island are over, and while Morris Claiborne can provide help for now, the Jets secondary hauled in just eight interceptions in 2016 and needs a new star to shut down receivers on the outside.

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

This is a bit of a surprise pick for a team that didn’t do a whole lot of things well except pass the ball. But Keenan Allen struggles to stay healthy, and Travis Benjamin struggled in 2016. While Tyrell Williams stepped up, the Chargers’ offense can grab a top outside threat with each of the top two safeties already off the board.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Panthers): O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Julius Thomas didn’t work out well for the Jaguars and Marcedes Lewis is about to turn 33. Getting a ridiculously athletic tight end like Howard would be perfect for an offense that has outside threats, but could use a safety valve in the middle. After moving down four picks, taking a tight end at No. 8 is a much more palatable decision.

9. Tennessee Titans (via Bengals): Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Please give Marcus Mariota some help. Signing Rishard Matthews was a start, but Mike Williams would be a legitimate No. 1 threat on the outside for the Titans, and makes Matthews even more dangerous on the other side.

TRADE — 10. Arizona Cardinals (via Bills): Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

It’s hard to imagine Bruce Arians coaching a team without a significant investment at the quarterback position. Before he was working with Carson Palmer in Arizona, he had Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. With Palmer soon to retire, the Cardinals only need to move up a few spots to take the first QB off the board and secure the future of the franchise.

Arians told reporters that there’s only one quarterback in the draft class he believes could start on day one. Trubisky may not even be that player, but he is in the mold of the type of quarterback that Arians loves.

11. New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger, so the Saints need to stockpile some defensive talent if they hope to make a run before his NFL career is over. Barnett is a good place to start, providing a team that was near the bottom of the league in sacks with possibly the most polished pass rusher in the class.

12. Cleveland Browns: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

The Browns have patiently built up the trenches and can add to an already impressive offensive line by grabbing Ramczyk, who would immediately be penciled in at right tackle. The position has long been thought of as not valuable enough to address early, but those times are changing and with the selection, the Browns will have one of the most enviable offensive lines in the NFL.

13. Buffalo Bills (via Cardinals): Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

With Stephon Gilmore leaving to join the Patriots and Nickell Robey-Coleman getting cut in March, the Bills are in need of some help at cornerback. Ronald Darby can hold down one side, and with White, Buffalo gets an athletic and well-rounded press cornerback to man the other side. Moving down three spots provides more value with the choice and likely gives the Bills another second-day pick to work with.

14. Philadelphia Eagles: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

It’s very possible the Eagles could find a pair of starting cornerbacks in the 2017 draft, as Patrick Robinson, Jalen Mills, and Dwayne Gratz are currently their best options at the position. Conley was nothing short of a shutdown cornerback in man coverage during the 2016 season, allowing just 14 receptions for 159 yards in the 43 times he was targeted.

15. Indianapolis Colts: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Jim Irsay was very forthcoming about the Colts’ desires in the draft, saying the team should focus on edge rushers and cornerbacks, and hopefully land a solid young running back with a later draft pick. But with the top running back in the class falling right into their laps, it’d be hard for the Colts to not take Fournette.

16. Baltimore Ravens: John Ross, WR, Washington

With the retirement of Steve Smith, the Ravens don’t have much returning production at receiver outside of Mike Wallace. There are still high hopes for Breshad Perriman, but Ross can add more speed to the team’s wide receiving corps, and Joe Flacco has been a quarterback who has thrived when he has deep threats that can take the top off the defense.

17. Washington: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

Washington has had one of the worst rushing defenses for the last couple seasons, but it hasn’t been successful finding defensive linemen to fix the problem. One of the issues is that the team hasn’t drafted up front. In the last five drafts, Preston Smith is the only defensive lineman Washington has taken in the first three rounds. Getting the top defensive tackle in the draft class would be a good way to snap that trend.

18. Tennessee Titans: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Dick LeBeau loves linebackers who can be well-rounded and dominant forces in the middle of his defenses, and Foster fits the bill. He’s a three-down linebacker who can be the backbone of a defense that was middle of the road in 2016.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan

Strong safety is a bit of a logjam for the Buccaneers, but not in a good way. J.J. Wilcox, Chris Conte, and Keith Tandy all have value as special teamers and can rotate in at strong safety, if needed, but Peppers would be an upgrade and an instant starter who can help in both run and pass defense. With other options, like Wilcox, the Buccaneers can be creative and move Peppers around to use him in multiple ways, a la Tyrann Mathieu.

20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

The Broncos are almost definitely going to add a left tackle at some point. Maybe a reunion with Ryan Clady is in the cards, but with Bolles still on the board at the No. 20 selection, it’d be hard not to address the problem here.

TRADE — 21. Kansas City Chiefs (via Lions): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

With quarterbacks continuing to tumble, the Chiefs don’t wait any longer to jump up a few picks and address the future of the position. Alex Smith hasn’t been a bad player for Kansas City, but he hasn’t been able to take a very good team over the hump either. With a $20.6 million cap hit on the horizon in 2018, the Chiefs can move on from Smith and save $17 million by releasing him, so having a young quarterback to turn to in 2018 would be wise.

Watson is a player who has performed on the big stages that the Chiefs have wilted on. He’s been inconsistent at the collegiate level and threw more interceptions than you’d like out of a first-round prospect, but Andy Reid will have a year to try to mold Watson into the starter of the future for Kansas City.

22. Miami Dolphins: Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky

While Laremy Tunsil will slide over to the take the reins at the left tackle position he was drafted to fill, the Dolphins don’t have a solid option to replace him at left guard. Miami has struggled to find interior offensive linemen, but the team has a tendency to draft offensive tackles and convert them to guard, just like it did with Tunsil in 2016. Forrest Lamp was the left tackle at Western Kentucky, though he projects best inside and can be comfortably slated next to Tunsil on the left side.

23. New York Giants: David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.)

Victor Cruz, at 6’0, was the tallest of the three leading receivers for the Giants in 2016. He’s a free agent now, and the New York wide receiving corps looks to be in good hands with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard, but could use a boost in size. Adding a 6’4, 246-pound tight end like Njoku can give the Giants a legitimate red zone threat who can also help with the team’s anemic running game.

24. Oakland Raiders: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

The rise of Reddick has been impressive: from a walk-on at Temple to a first-round pick. If he falls into the Raiders’ laps at No. 24, it’s difficult to imagine Oakland passing. Malcolm Smith and Perry Riley are gone and the Raiders are relying on some combination of Jelani Jenkins, Ben Heeney, and Cory James to hold down two of the inside linebacker positions. Reddick would make that choice a lot easier by serving as an instant starter in the middle of the Oakland defense.

25. Houston Texans: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut

All eyes will be on the quarterbacks when this pick rolls around, but I don’t believe Bill O’Brien and company will force it if there isn’t a player they feel really comfortable with. Melifonwu is a perfect fit, though. The Texans have a big need at the position with Andre Hal, Eddie Pleasant, and K.J. Dillon currently at the position, and Melifonwu will give the team a 6’4, 224-pound monster in the secondary who can drop into the box and also contribute as a pass defender.

26. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

The Seahawks tried to make do with a discount offensive line in 2016 and it wasn’t a good idea. Though they already tried to correct those issues by adding Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi in free agency, there’s more work to do. Robinson has huge potential at 6’6, 322 pounds, but was inconsistent at times at Alabama and racked up false start penalties. Still, his physical talent makes him worth a first-round pick.

27. Detroit Lions (via Chiefs): Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Charlton looks like a player who could be the favorite to be the Lions’ selection at No. 21, so landing him six picks later and scooping up a little extra draft value is a win for Detroit. The Raiders were the only team with fewer sacks than the Lions in 2016, and while Ezekiel Ansah is a solid playmaker on one side, he and the rest of the Detroit defense would benefit from another defensive end on the opposite side of the line.

28. Dallas Cowboys: Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA

Replacing DeMarcus Ware hasn’t been easy and probably will continue to not be easy. Randy Gregory is suspended for the entire 2017 season, and Benson Mayowa’s six sacks led the team in 2016. McKinley boasts some of the rare physical attributes of an elite edge rusher, and while he’s still raw and needs some refining, he’s a boost of talent at a position where the Cowboys need more threats.

29. Green Bay Packers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Eddie Lacy and James Starks are gone, and unless the Packers are really confident in the ability of Christine Michael or Ty Montgomery, running back looks like a position that’s a must. Luckily for the Packers, McCaffrey is a hell of a fix and a player who can provide Aaron Rodgers with another weapon to work with in the passing game.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri

Unfortunately, James Harrison isn’t a robot. He’s about to turn 39 and at some point — probably soon — he won’t be around to terrorize opposing quarterbacks in the AFC North. Bud Dupree was drafted to be an outside linebacker of the future for the Steelers, but adding another to pair with him would be wise.

TRADE — 31. Cleveland Browns (via Falcons): DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

The Falcons don’t have many needs that must be addressed, so bumping back two spots and out of the first round is no sweat off their back. But the Browns didn’t want to patiently sit and wait any longer for a quarterback to fall into their laps. Jumping up a couple spots allows them to take a passer with the physical gifts of a No. 1 pick. He’s inconsistent and might not be ready to start right away for the Browns, but the team needs to add talent at the position and this is a good place to start.

32. New Orleans Saints: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

The Saints haven’t picked defensive players with both of their first two draft picks since 2009, so this would be a departure from the norm for the team. Now would be a good time to start, though. Yes, New Orleans could stand to find a replacement for Brandin Cooks, but getting a talented defensive back like Marlon Humphrey to upgrade a defense that was No. 32 in pass yards allowed should be a higher priority.