The deadline for college players to declare for the 2017 NFL draft is still a little over a week away but it won’t derail our first mock draft of the 2017 season.
It starts with the Browns making two picks in the top 12 and Minnesota and Los Angeles not selecting at all in the first round. There’s no guarantee that this board won’t be turned upside down by the time we get to April, but as is, here’s our best guess at the first round in 2017.
**Not yet declared
1. Cleveland Browns (1-15) — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The cold, hard truth is that the Browns still don’t have a quarterback. Unfortunately, there is no Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston in this draft, so the Browns should select the draft’s most transcendent talent.
Garrett is an immediate game-changer for a defense that’s 31st in the league in scoring allowed and total defense. The quarterback question can’t be avoided but, again, there’s no slam dunk answer to the problem at No. 1. Pick No. 12? Perhaps. They could even look at the top of the second round (potentially Patrick Mahomes from Texas Tech?), where the Raiders (Derek Carr) and Bengals (Andy Dalton) found their quarterbacks in recent years.
2. San Francisco 49ers (2-14) — Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina**
The York family housecleaning cost general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Chip Kelly their jobs. As such, there’s no telling what the 49ers will do in the draft, much less what they’ll find at GM and head coach. Regardless, there is no future at quarterback with either Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert, so the 49ers have to find “The Future” at the position at some point. Trubisky might be a safer overall pick than DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) and Deshaun Watson (Clemson) so he makes more sense than either one at this point.
3. Chicago Bears (3-13) — DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
The Jay Cutler experiment seemingly has reached its end and unless the team was completely blown away by Matt Barkley’s performance in November and December, the Bears must look to the future at the position. Chicago could bridge the gap between Cutler and Kizer by having Barkley or Brian Hoyer start until Kizer is ready to take over. If the Bears’ plan doesn’t include a quarterback on the draft’s first night, it’s because they also need a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Kizer isn’t in the top 15 on my Big Board, but, as a talent-rich quarterback, he’ll get drafted well before his board slot.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13) — Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
The debate will rage all offseason in Duval County — is Blake Bortles the answer at quarterback for this franchise? Perhaps the Jaguars will give Bortles the benefit of the doubt, yet address the position later on Day 2. For the moment, Bortles will remain at quarterback, and the Jags pick Allen, a versatile chess piece in any defense, with any scheme who can dominate inside and out.
5. Tennessee Titans (via L.A. Rams 4-12) — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama**
The Titans are one of the biggest surprises in the league and arrived a year earlier than most expected. If there’s a weakness on the defensive side of the ball, though, it’s at corner. Humphrey could step in right away and make an impact for this Dick LeBeau-led defense that finished 30th in the league in pass defense. Receiver will come next.
6. New York Jets (5-11) — Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
After drafting Christian Hackenberg last year, it wouldn’t make sense to invest in another young quarterback, even if Hackenberg is not the answer (which he isn’t). The Jets have a ton of needs, including an edge rusher to complement Leonard Williams on the interior. That said, there isn’t an 3-4 edge rusher that makes a ton of sense here, so the Jets take Wilson, the best available athletic cornerback on the board.
7. San Diego Chargers (6-10) — Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Hooker hinted at returning to Ohio State earlier in the season, but his performance in the Fiesta Bowl may have opened his eyes to the potential at the next level. The Chargers are far from settled at the safety position since losing Eric Weddle in free agency to Baltimore in 2016. Hooker gives the Chargers a true middle of the field range player that plays the run and pass equally well.
8. Carolina Panthers (6-10) — Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The Panthers have relied so heavily on Cam Newton in both phases of the offense the past few years that he needs some help. Running back Jonathan Stewart will be 29 and has an $8.3 million cap hit in 2017, so the Panthers could look to go younger and more explosive at the position. Offensive tackle makes the most sense for the Panthers, but there’s little at the position to get excited about in the top 10 prospects of this draft.
9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-9-1) — Jabrill Peppers, OLB/S, Michigan**
On a Cincinnati defense brimming with experienced athletes, Peppers could step in and fill any number of roles. Whether at outside linebacker or at safety, Peppers can be an instant impact player and a chess piece of enormous value for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther.
10. Buffalo Bills (7-9) — Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
The Bills lost last year’s first-rounder Shaq Lawson and last year’s second-rounder Reggie Ragland to injuries before their NFL careers even started. Those two should aid the 29th-ranked run defense in the league, and McDowell should do the same. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams can’t, and won’t, play forever and fellow DT Marcell Dareus is far from reliable. This Bills defense with Lawson, Ragland and McDowell should take significant strides in the near future.
11. New Orleans Saints (7-9) — Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Surprise, surprise, the Saints go defense, yet again. New Orleans cornerback Delvin Breaux is a tremendous comeback story, but he can’t be a team’s best cornerback, especially for a team in a division that faces Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan twice a season. Tabor is cocky, confident and will get roasted a bit early on. But, his length and athleticism are a necessity for a team that finished last in the league in pass defense.
12. Cleveland Browns (via Philadelphia Eagles 7-9) — Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
With the second of two top 12 picks, the Browns take a polarizing quarterback in the scouting community. Some love him. Some don’t feel the love at all. But, if the Browns end Thursday night with Garrett and Watson, it’s a win for Cleveland, even if it’ll take a few years for all the pieces to eventually come together.
13. Arizona Cardinals (currently 7-8-1) — Adoree Jackson, CB/ATH, USC**
This is a bit higher than I’d want to take Jackson, but the Cardinals cornerback situation, Patrick Peterson notwithstanding, is not a good one. The Cardinals selected Brandon Williams out of Texas A&M in the third round and that was a major reach for a guy that had only played the position for a year. Jackson is an all-around athlete with world class speed and movement skills that could solve the problem Arizona still had last season.
(Tied) 14. Philadelphia Eagles (via Minnesota Vikings 8-8) — Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
The Eagles lost DeSean Jackson to the Redskins during the Chip Kelly era and there’s no consistency at the receiver position. However, the secondary is void of any players whatsoever. The only reason the Eagles were 13th in the league in pass defense is because of their dominating defensive front. This is a lot higher than Jones is on my big board, but the Eagles desperately need players with cover ability.
(Tied) 14. Indianapolis Colts (8-8) — Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
The Colts lost D’Qwell Jackson for the remainder of the season at inside linebacker due to a suspension. The loss of Jackson created a major void on a defense that already needed a ton of help. Foster will start from Day 1 and could be the best Colts defender by the end of the season. The offensive line needs work, but the late season improvement by LeRaven Clark at tackle is promising.
16. Baltimore Ravens (8-8) — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
The Ravens have to be thrilled that Fournette is still on the board at No. 16. It always seems that a high profile player falls into the lap of GM Ozzie Newsome and Fournette at No. 16 is a gift. He’s the physical, ground-and-pound presence that this offense lacks; the Ravens finished 28th in the league in rushing.
17. Washington Redskins (8-7-1) — Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Redskins were 28th in the league in total defense and could use help at all three levels of the defense. Adams is the best player available on the board and the Redskins brass would love to find a physical presence like Adams that can impact both the run and the pass.
18. Tennessee Titans (9-7) — Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Rookie Tajae Sharpe was a gem that GM Jon Robinson found on Day 3 of the 2016 draft; however, the Titans don’t have a true go-to, No. 1 type threat. Williams will be that guy for Marcus Mariota in Nashville . . . if he makes it all the way to No. 18.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7) — Solomon Thomas, DT, Stanford**
Although the Buccaneers have an interior disrupter in Gerald McCoy, the defense needs even more next to him. Thomas might be an odd fit but the dynamic nature of his game next to McCoy could be intriguing and difficult for opposing offensive lines to handle.
20. Denver Broncos (9-7) — Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt**
The Broncos really miss the speed and athleticism that former Bronco star Danny Trevathan provided on defense. As a result, the Broncos add another SEC player with tremendous upside in Cunningham. He’ll fit into that Broncos defense for Week 1, no matter who takes over as head coach and what scheme is installed.
21. Detroit Lions (9-7) — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Defensive end Ziggy Ansah’s production fell off dramatically in 2016 and the Lions must find a way to get to the quarterback. Barnett was, at times, totally dominant at Tennessee and he could easily move into the top 15. If he’s available at No. 21, the Lions should run the draft card to the podium.
22. Miami Dolphins (10-6) — Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
There isn’t a tight end worth considering at this spot in the draft and the Dolphins will part ways with defensive end Mario Williams. Charlton would provide a much-needed infusion of youth and explosiveness on the edge opposite longtime star Cameron Wake.
23. New York Giants (11-5) — Christian McCaffrey, RB/ATH, Stanford
When Jason Pierre-Paul returns in 2017, the Giants defense won’t have many holes, but there’s a major gap on the offensive side of the ball at running back. Rashad Jennings isn’t the player that he used to be, but even if he returns to have a great season in 2017, McCaffrey can still have a significant role on this offense.
24. Oakland Raiders (12-4) — Desmond King, CB/S, Iowa
The Raiders’ cornerbacks are average at best and King could step in right away opposite Sean Smith, even though he’s better served to be a safety in the future. If Zach Cunningham is on the board at this point, don’t be surprised if the Raiders add the rangy superstar from Vanderbilt. Perry Riley has played well at times this year, but he’s not getting any younger.
25. Houston Texans (9-7) — Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin**
Seeing as how I work for the Texans, I’ve put this selection in the hands of the WaPo staff. This makes sense though. There is no guarantee Derek Newton returns after injuring both knees earlier this season. Chris Clark is better served as the third tackle, the swing tackle, than a starter at right tackle. Ramczyk would be a great fit on Houston’s offensive line.
26. Green Bay Packers (10-6) — Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
Clay Matthews isn’t getting any younger and the Packers must get more pressure off the edge. Williams won’t stop the run exceedingly well early in his career, but he’ll present a ton of issues for tackles trying to keep him from getting to the quarterback. He added weight for the 2016 season and that has helped him play the run much better. The key, though, is his speed that’ll get him to opposing quarterbacks often in his career.
27. Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1) — Garett Bolles, OT, Utah**
The Seahawks drafted Germain Ifedi near the back end of the first round in 2016, but need much more help up front for Russell Wilson and the running game. Bolles is a nasty mauler who was once a defensive tackle and plays the offensive tackle position like he’s still playing defense.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Considering Antonio Brown came from Central Michigan, the directional Michigan schools have been pretty good to the Pittsburgh receiving corps in the past and they could again with the addition of Davis. He’s polished, experienced, physical and gifted with the ball in the air. The Steelers’ receiving corps has some athletes, but that group hasn’t produced much (Sammie Coates) or hasn’t been around to produce (Martavis Bryant). Davis will be WR2 in short order in Pittsburgh behind former Central Michigan star Antonio Brown.
29. Atlanta Falcons (11-5) — Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan
The Falcons finally found their edge rusher in Vic Beasley, but still need help on the defensive interior. Wormley can work both inside and outside, but should find a permanent home playing either a 3-technique (defensive tackle) in even fronts or 5-technique (defensive end) in odd fronts.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) — DeMarcus Walker, DT, Florida State
The Chiefs love players with elite traits and typically find the best athlete possible to fit their scheme. Marcus Peters in 2015. Chris Jones in 2016. Walker isn’t quite the physical specimen Jones is, but he can win up and down the line of scrimmage, rushing the quarterback or playing the run. There were times in 2016 where he was flat out unblockable.
31. Dallas Cowboys (13-3) — Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
Harris isn’t going to play the run well early in his career, but he will find the quarterback. His blazing quick spin move is tough for any offensive lineman to handle and he should find his way on the field because of his ability to rush the quarterback. The Cowboys’ edge players have been completely unreliable in the past, so Harris is more necessity than luxury.
32. New England Patriots (14-2) — Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
Ironically, he reminds me a bit of former Patriot/current Arizona Cardinal Chandler Jones. The Patriots have gotten surprisingly consistent production from Trey Flowers, but Smoot is a much better athlete off the edge than anyone the Patriots have on the roster.
Others under first round consideration
T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
John Ross, WR, Washington
Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn
Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Tak McKinley, OLB, UCLA
John Harris contributes to the Washington Post’s NFL draft coverage. He is the sideline reporter and football analyst for the Houston Texans and owner of footballtakeover.com.