2017 NFL mock draft: First-round predictions

After months of speculation, and traffic nightmares for local Philadelphians, the first round of the NFL Draft is set to take place Thursday at 6 p.m. In anticipation, the CUI’s draft guru Jack Stern created a mock draft for the first round.

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

I don’t need to give a lengthy explanation for this one. The Browns have a chance to strike gold with a once-in-a-generation type of player this year, something they’ve proven to be incapable of doing in the past. If they end up overpicking for a quarterback here, they will be cursed and regret it forever.

  1. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas, defensive end, Stanford

I’m not buying the last-minute quarterback smokescreen that the folks in the Bay Area are putting up. Over the offseason, general manager John Lynch preached the importance of building a team the right way, not the quick way. By picking Thomas, the 49ers would shore up their defensive front and would give quarterbacks across the league nightmares. Conceivably, I could see them trading back, but I do feel they’d need to look at those options closely. They wouldn’t want to trade back and be stuck with none of the players on their original big board.

  1. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams, strong safety, LSU

The Bears are getting great value with Adams. Here, they could use the two-birds-with-one-stone solution to shore up both the front and back side of the Bears defense. Adams is a tremendous athlete with outstanding play recognition and situational awareness. He can be the single deep man or play in the box on running downs.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, running back, LSU

Several years from now, this could go down as the best value pick in the top 10. Fournette would take an enormous load off of quarterback Blake Bortles shoulders, while providing them with a rock solid (literally) player at a position they’ve struggled at. Even if they decide that Bortles isn’t the long-term answer at quarterback, this is the ideal way to solve one of their impending issues on offense.

  1. Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore, cornerback, Ohio State

Out of all the picks in the top five, this is the one I’m the most skeptical about. Lattimore has too many injury and experience related concerns to be slated this high for many. That being said, I feel he’d provide an immediate boost in the secondary for the Titans — especially following the signing of Logan Ryan — and could have a tremendous ceiling right away.

  1. New York Jets: Malik Hooker, free safety, Ohio State

With all the positional needs across the board, one could only hope that the Jets are bluffing about taking a quarterback here, especially one who isn’t NFL ready. Whoever is starting at quarterback next year is going to want the ball in their hands, which is where Hooker comes into play. He is a proven ball hawk with outstanding takeaway ability that would fill arguably the biggest position need for Gang Green. Even with the slight injury and tackling concerns (which are warranted for a safety), I feel he has a huge ceiling, and can be one of the best safeties within a few years.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, wide receiver, Clemson

For the first time in this mock, the “best player available” phenomenon comes in. With both Adams and Hooker off the board, I see the Chargers taking the lengthy, physical receiver out of Clemson. There are no defensive backs or offensive tackles worthy of a selection this high, which is why I see the Chargers taking Williams to complement last year’s acquisition of Kelvin Benjamin.

  1. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, running back, Stanford

Although this may be perceived as a slight overpick, it’s too perfect of a schematic fit to pass up. In addition to taking weight off Cam Newton’s shoulders running the ball, McCaffrey is also a great receiving threat either coming out of the backfield or lining up wide. Put this together with the the fact that they have Fozzy Whittaker as their third-down back, and this pick couldn’t make more sense.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonathan Allen, defensive end, Alabama

Although Allen’s stock slipped since the combine as injuries concerns swirled, I see this as a good fit. Although it may be tempting for the Bears, Chargers and Panthers to make this selection, they have too many needs to do so. Here, Allen would be a perfect candidate to complement Geno Atkins and shore up Cincinnati’s defensive front.

  1. Buffalo Bills: O.J. Howard, tight end, Alabama

With this pick, the Bills would get a long-term solution at the tight end position. In addition to being a large and effective receiving threat (something the Bills desperately need), Howard is a great blocker and someone who can open up even more holes for LeSean McCoy.

  1. New Orleans Saints: Derek Barnett, defensive end, Tennessee

This is a deep cornerback class, meaning that overpicking for one here isn’t a good idea. Here, the Saints would get a extra pass rusher and someone who could help bolster the overall defense.

  1. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Trubisky, quarterback, North Carolina

Here’s the pick all of you were waiting for. The Browns are in desperation mode (déjà vu?) for a quarterback and need one here. The Browns’ front office seems to be in love with the Ohio natives’ potential, and I think Trubisky could end up being a good fit here down the road.

  1. Arizona Cardinals: Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson

This is a much better situation than the previous pick simply because Watson likely won’t be thrown into a situation where he’ll have to start right away. Here, he’ll get the opportunity to learn and develop behind veteran Carson Palmer and adjust to coach Bruce Arians’ pro-style system.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles: Gareon Conley, cornerback, Ohio State

While there may be better value picks available here, if we’ve learned anything in the past, value isn’t always the deciding factor. Although the Eagles’ have been known to give second chances, I can’t see general manager Howie Roseman taking a risk and selecting linebacker Reuben Foster. Although Foster has great potential, Roseman is so shell-shocked from past draft failures that he likely won’t risk making another mistake. Here, the Eagles go with a semi-safe pick to shore up their secondary in anticipation of the offensive hardships in this year’s NFC East.

  1. Indianapolis Colts: Reuben Foster, linebacker, Alabama

I think this is ultimately where Foster’s draft ceiling is. Although he may have several red flags, the fact of the matter is this guy can play, and he isn’t afraid to be physical and hit hard. In addition, I feel defensive-minded head coach Chuck Pagano will find a way to maximize his potential while straightening him out off the field. If he can stay on the field, look for him to anchor the Colts defense for the next decade.

  1. Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis, wide receiver, Western Michigan

It’s no secret the Ravens need more targets for Joe Flacco. Here, they’d get a big target who could utilize the entire field and a variety of routes.

  1. Washington Redskins: Hassan Riddick, linebacker, Temple

I was tempted to slot Florida State running back Dalvin Cook here, but didn’t. Although Cook flashed elite ability at FSU, he has too many fumbling and off-field concerns to be slated this high. Here, the Redskins would bolster the middle of their defense with a guy who can blitz, play at the line of scrimmage and potentially cover the tight end — something that’s necessary when you face the likes of Jason Witten and Zach Ertz four times a year.

  1. Tennessee Titans: John Ross, wide receiver, Washington

The Titans’ two big needs coming into this draft are in the secondary and passing attack. Here, the Titans would give quarterback Marcus Mariota a reliable target in the Pac-12 speed burner.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: David Njoku, tight end, Miami

This pick could make the Bucs offense scary for opposing defenses next year. With top receiving threats Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson locked down and a solid number two tight end in Harvard brainiac Cameron Brate, the Bucs could add another potential elite target at a position they’d like to improve. With the deep depth at running back and  surplus of picks to potentially trade up, this is the right move.

  1. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, offensive tackle, Utah

This may not be the sexiest pick, but it will surely get the job done. Anyone who watched the Broncos last year cringed every time they saw a breakdown in pass protection. By the end of the season, their eyes rolled automatically after every false start. Here, they’d shore up both the run and pass protection.

  1. Detroit Lions: Taco Charlton, defensive end, Michigan

I could see Missouri’s Charles Harris going here as well. I do believe that Charlton is a great schematic fit based on his experience in both the 4-3 and 3-4, and he could complement Ziggy Ansah’s physical, hands-in-your face style up front.

  1. Miami Dolphins: T.J. Watt, linebacker, Wisconsin

Although there was an obvious connection between Jabrill Peppers and the Dolphins, they are searching for high-character players without any off-field issues. Although Peppers may have fit that several weeks ago, he doesn’t anymore in light of his diluted drug test. Here, the Dolphins would get an athletic, defensive, high-class playmaker to strengthen the middle of their defense.

  1. New York Giants: Dalvin Cook, running back, Florida State

Although there are other needs at offensive tackle and tight end, this is simply too good to pass up. Here, the Giants would add a running back with elite play-making ability to their backfield, something they really haven’t had since Tiki Barber. Although he may have red flags, this would be an immediate boost to their running attack.

  1. Oakland Raiders: Marlon Humphrey, cornerback, Alabama

This would bolster the back end of the Raiders defense and could potentially make it one of the most elite units, with stars Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack already on board. Although there are concerns about Humphrey’s ball-tracking ability, he would provide an immediate boost and is expected to only get better as time progresses.

  1. Houston Texans: Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech

This is the last quarterback I feel worthy of a semi-first-round grade. Although there are questions about Mahomes being ready right away, his developmental ceiling is extremely high. Additionally, he likely won’t be forced to play right away and could be the long-term quarterback solution the Texans have been looking for.

  1. Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Ramczyk, offensive tackle, Wisconsin

It’s no secret the Seahawks need help up front after last season’s offensive line nightmare, and this is the perfect way to do it. Here, they’d get someone who can set right in at the vacant left tackle position.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs: Forrest Lamp, offensive guard, Western Kentucky

Although the Chiefs are going to eventually need a quarterback, over-picking for one here isn’t a good idea. Here, the Chiefs could get a mainstay offensive lineman who will shore up both the run and pass protection up front.

  1. Dallas Cowboys: Charles Harris, defensive end, Missouri

The Cowboys need major help defensively both up front and in the secondary. With a deep class at the defensive back position, the Cowboys could take a talented pass rusher with a tremendous upside.

  1. Green Bay Packers: Kevin King, cornerback, Washington

Anyone who watched the 2016 NFC playoffs knows the Packers need help in the secondary. Here, they’d get a tall, versatile, Richard Sherman-esque cornerback who could easily become one of the top in the league in a few years.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jabrill Peppers, linebacker/safety, Michigan

Although Peppers’s stock has dropped slightly, this would be the ideal spot for him. He would have the ability to nurture under seasoned veteran linebacker James Harrison and develop alongside rising star Ryan Shazier. I also feel defensive coordinator Keith Butler would do a good job utilizing him as both a deep safety and box linebacker.

  1. Atlanta Falcons: Jarrad Davis, linebacker, Florida

This would add another layer to an Atlanta defense that seemingly improves by the second. Davis is a physical, versatile player who has great instincts and can be used a variety of roles on defense.

  1. New Orleans Saints: Chidobe Awuzie, cornerback, Colorado

Here’s the cornerback pick that Saints fans were waiting for. Here, the Saints would get a physical, low-risk cornerback with an unbelievably high ceiling. In a division where you face Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Julio Jones, this is a necessity.

Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Jack Stern at jack.stern@colorado.edu.

Jack Stern

Jack Stern is a staff sports writer for the CU Independent. He is a know-it-all sports fan who soaks up anything sports related. His favorite sports are football, baseball, and basketball, but is always excited to learn about, and cover other sports. For story ideas, he can be contacted at jack.stern@colorado.edu or by phone at 718-938-5846.

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