Earlier this week, soon-to-be No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett made a plea to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to move up to the top spot to select the Arlington, Tex.-raised star defensive end. Seriously, there’s no way that happens, right? Could you possibly imagine Jones making a huge splash by trading up to No. 1 to snag the draft’s best player to fill one of the Cowboys’ major positions of need?
Well, when you put it like that, perhaps nothing is off the table. So this mock may take a more-adventurous approach to certain scenarios than later versions when we’ll try to more accurately predict where all the players land. And later we’ll project trades, but for now, Jones stays pat at No. 28 and still gets a pass-rusher, albeit not one of Garrett’s caliber.
Instead, Garrett finds a home on the Lake in Cleveland. But there’s a big shake-up at No. 3. Now that I have your attention, here’s my most recent mock draft a few weeks ahead of the NFL Scouting Combine.
1. Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett, Edge, Texas A&M
With no definitive quarterback worth taking at No. 1, the Browns aid a defense that was 31st in the league last season. Add Garrett to a recently signed Jamie Collins and the makings of a competent, if not exciting, defense can finally be seen.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
First-year coaches want, and need, to win right out of the chute and that doesn’t happen often with a rookie quarterback at the helm. But, Coach Kyle Shanahan stepped into, and perhaps created, a situation that shouldn’t penalize him for not winning immediately. He can grow into the head coaching position at the same time as Watson grows into the leader of the 49ers. Essentially, they can grow the 49ers together.
Watson’s movement skills are a natural fit for Shanahan’s offense, but that scheme is complex and will take a while for Watson to master. Assuming that Shanahan really doesn’t have a ton of pressure to win right now, though, he can allow Watson some time to learn it. As crazy as it might sound, this might be the best situation for Watson long term.
3. Chicago Bears
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Okay, let’s shake this entire draft up early on Thursday night. I went back and forth on the exact player to put in this spot, but it just has to be a quarterback, given the situation, right? The Jay Cutler experiment seems to be at its end ($16 million cap hit in 2017, $2 million in cap dead money), while Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are free agents. So, it’s a quarterback, right?
Would it behoove the Bears to investigate other options? Jimmy Garoppolo? A.J. McCarron? Sign Barkley or Hoyer as a bridge to the rookie? I could see the Bears looking at two outstanding safeties in this spot if they procure a trusty veteran that could carry them the next couple of years. That doesn’t always work out (see Houston Texans), so quarterback is the call.
Now, Mahomes? That’s out there. Way, WAY out there, mostly because all anyone has mentioned this early is DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) or Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina). Mahomes is an artist in the style of Ben Roethlisberger, one who can make any throw on a football field and carried Texas Tech in his three years as a starter. He gave Tech a chance in every game when it should’ve lost 10 games a year. Think Chicago fans wouldn’t like to see a playmaker that is competitive as anyone in this draft class? So, let’s do it.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Jaguars loaded up on defense last offseason, and that unit was night-and-day different from 2015. But the Jaguars lacked big plays in the secondary, especially at safety. Jonathan Cyprien is a free agent and Tashaun Gipson wasn’t the turnover machine the Jaguars wanted when they signed him as a free agent. Hooker, when healthy, is exactly that. He provides a middle-of-the-field presence the Jaguars have rarely had in their existence.
5. Tennessee Titans (from L.A. Rams)
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Simply put, the Titans got production from only two wide receivers: Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe. In crunchtime, though, quarterback Marcus Mariota targeted tight end Delanie Walker, instead of the receiver position. The Titans have nearly every piece on offense to become one of the most dangerous units in the AFC, but they need a transcendent, all-around, pass-catcher. Davis is more dynamic than Mike Williams (Clemson) and appears to be the right fit in this spot. The Titans will select a cornerback later in the first round with all of the depth at that position, but Davis is too good to pass up at this spot.
6. New York Jets
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
General Manager Mike Maccagnan has a decision to make, and it’s not one many GMs around the league envy. He can draft a quarterback at No. 6 (or higher, if he trades up) after drafting one in the second round last year and muddle through a rebuilding campaign. The other option is to obtain a quarterback via trade or free agency that could help this team win in 2017. Neither road is truly palatable to be honest, given the quarterbacks remaining on the board. Maccagnan, who could be on a hot seat with another subpar season, won’t seemingly entrust his future to any of the remaining rookies at this spot. As such, he’ll select, arguably, the most pro-ready corner in this draft. Lattimore immediately aids a secondary that struggled in 2016, including future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Chargers lost Eric Weddle through free agency in 2015 and never truly replaced him. Adams was the heart, the soul and the physical presence on an outstanding LSU defense. He might be best suited to play near the box, but add a Kam Chancellor-like player to this defensive roster and it’s trouble for AFC West opponents. Melvin Ingram (if he re-signs or is franchised), Denzel Perryman, Joey Bosa, a healthy Jason Verrett, Casey Hayward and, now, Adams? The Chargers were 20th in the league stopping the pass and Adams can play a big role changing those numbers in 2017.
8. Carolina Panthers
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
For years, quarterback Cam Newton has been the most dangerous ball-carrier on the Panthers’ roster, even with Jonathan Stewart in tow. Stewart has been solid, but he hasn’t played more than 13 games since 2011. He hasn’t been better than 1,000 yards since 2009, his second year in the league. He turns 30 in March and the addition of Cook provides nothing but possibilities for the Panthers’ offense. It takes pressure off Newton, helps extend Stewart’s useful life and, lest I forget, adds the most explosive ball carrier in this draft to an offense that needs a kick in the backside, I mean, backfield.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
The Bengals have to be thrilled to find Allen at spot No. 9 and a little lucky, too. He can play either end spot on first and/or second down and then jump inside and rush the quarterback from a three-technique on third down. The Bengals did that with Wallace Gilberry last season and it was highly effective. If they do that with Allen, it will be even more effective. He’s the type of player that can line up at three spots on the defensive line on three consecutive defensive plays.
10. Buffalo Bills
Deshone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
The Tyrod Taylor situation must play out over the next few weeks in Buffalo, but the sense I get is that the Bills want to look in a different direction. If that’s the case, Kizer or Mitch Trubisky will be directly in the crosshairs. Given the makeup of the Bills’ offensive roster, Kizer seems to be a better fit. He’s blessed with a howitzer, perhaps the best downfield arm in this draft. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is on the precipice of breaking out, but needs a strong armed gunslinger to get him the ball deep down the field on a consistent basis. New Coach Sean McDermott has a defensive background, so he could push for another young piece to add to this defense if they keep Taylor.
11. New Orleans Saints
Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
The Saints were 32nd in the league in pass defense. Jones is a ballhawk that steps in and starts from Day 2. Nothing more needs to be said, back to Cleveland for pick No. 12.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia Eagles)
Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Four quarterbacks in the top 12 in a year where there are so many question marks about that position? Take a look at the eight quarterbacks, minus one, that played in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Alex Smith, Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson. It’s clear more than ever that a team must find the answer at that position. Furthermore, when is Cleveland going to ever find a player that wants to be a Cleveland Brown? The last time the Browns found an Ohio native that wanted to be a Brown, it worked out pretty well — Bernie Kosar in the 1980s. Trubisky won’t light it up right away, but he’s solid and will improve each and every week until he’s truly comfortable leading this squad. If the Browns end up with Garrett at No. 1 and a quarterback that wants to lead this team, it’ll be a wildly successful Thursday night.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Patrick Peterson is coming off a relatively down season, and there are a bunch of question marks at the other corner spot. There are a number of options at corner at this spot, but Humphrey has prototype size and length to fit what the Cardinals want to do at this position. He must learn how to play the ball better and he’ll get tested opposite Peterson all year long. But he’s a competitive and physical corner who won’t back down in the slightest from the pressure.
14. Indianapolis Colts
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
New GM Chris Ballard will build the offensive and defensive lines in his first two years in Indianapolis. So, with running back Leonard Fournette still on the board, Ballard must fight the urge to add another offensive skill piece and bolster those shaky lines of scrimmage. He will, rather easily, actually. Thomas is as disruptive as any interior defensive lineman on this list and can create a ton of mayhem anywhere up and down the line of scrimmage. On to the offensive line in the next round.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Although the Eagles have a big receiver in Dorial Green-Beckham, they don’t have a consistent, all-around receiving threat to team with Jordan Matthews. Second year quarterback Carson Wentz got contributions from Zach Ertz late in the season, but Williams gives the Eagles’ passing game a completely different dimension.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Fournette doesn’t even have to give up his purple as he transitions right into the spot next to quarterback Joe Flacco. The Ravens find their new big back to hammer the rock 20 times a game, aiding an offense that was 28th in the league in rushing yardage per game.
17. Washington Redskins
Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
There are two reasons Foster fell here. The torn rotator cuff surgery he had recently isn’t all that unusual for Alabama player post career, yet still concerning. That concern could drop him a few spots in the first round. A couple of teams that could possibly have their eyes on him (Indianapolis, perhaps) have other needs at more valuable positions. If the Redskins’ brain trust is lucky enough on draft night to have a shot at Foster, it has to take him, injury history be damned.
18. Tennessee Titans
Adoree Jackson, CB-ATH, USC
Jackson is still an athlete playing corner and not an athletic corner … yet. He has elite athleticism and can be dynamic, while concentrating on the defensive side of the ball. Worst case, he would immediately supplant Marc Mariani as the team’s return man, but in due time, he’ll be a fit at corner in Dick LeBeau’s defense in Nashville.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Malik McDowell, IDL, Michigan State
All-pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been the stalwart for the Bucs’ defensive line, but he hasn’t had a running mate since he’s been in Tampa. It may appear that McDowell does similar things to McCoy, but, in tandem, these two could be completely disruptive on the interior for the next five to seven years.
20. Denver Broncos
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Broncos offensive line has been a source of concern in Denver for a while, even with the bandages John Elway applied the past couple of seasons. It’s not as if the Broncos haven’t addressed that group in the draft and free agency, but it hasn’t been right. Ramczyk IS right for the Broncos. He can play either tackle position, play in either a zone/power scheme and be a starter for the next dozen years.
21. Detroit Lions
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Lions need help on the edge opposite Ziggy Ansah. The former first rounder had a rough season, finishing with only two sacks. Luckily, unheralded Kerry Hyder finished with eight, but he’s not an every down answer at defensive end. Charlton can be exactly that and then some.
22. Miami Dolphins
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The Lions will take a long look at Barnett, so these two picks could ultimately be flipped. Regardless, the Dolphins would seemingly be happy with either one on the edge. They lost Olivier Vernon in free agency in 2016 and then got nothing out of Mario Williams, which was to be expected. Barnett could learn from veteran Cameron Wake and then break out in future years on his own.
23. New York Giants
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Will Tye was the Giants No. 1 tight end in 2016, and he finished with 48 catches during the season. Unfortunately for the Giants, he only averaged 8.2 yards per catch. Howard is freakishly athletic and can even line up at a true in-line Y-TE position. As such, he has the potential to be a 14-yard-per-catch weapon in the passing game. Quarterback Eli Manning would love to have an athlete like Howard blazing down the seam in their passing attack.
24. Oakland Raiders
Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
The Raiders are close. Well, when quarterback Derek Carr is fully healthy, they’re very close. A few years ago, the team’s holes were severe and plentiful. Heading into 2017, those holes are few and far between, but one that stood out watching them up close twice in 2016 is the one at inside linebacker. Add Cunningham to Khalil Mack up front and 2016 first rounder Karl Joseph in the back and this defense is nearly complete.
25. Houston Texans
Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
As an employee of the Houston Texans, I’ve offered this selection up to my friends at The Post. Rumor has it that there was some heated debate as to which offensive lineman to place in this spot. Nice! Either way, Texans fans should be happy with this selection. There’s no guarantee that starting right tackle Derek Newton can make it all the way back from TWO patellar tendon tears. Furthermore, his replacement Chris Clark struggled at key times during 2016. The Texans must find a right tackle and Bolles is the consummate selection for this offensively-challenged unit.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Forrest Lamp, OG-OT, Western Kentucky
If the Seahawks don’t go offensive lineman (again) in this spot, they’ll take a look at a handful of corners that could develop opposite Richard Sherman (Teez Tabor or Quincy Wilson — Florida, Tre’Davious White — LSU). That said, the defense can survive without a rookie at corner, but the offensive line must start protecting quarterback Russell Wilson immediately. Insert Lamp at either guard or tackle spot and he’ll take care of 20 percent of the line’s issues upon his arrival.
27. Kansas City Chiefs
Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
The Chiefs love length, speed, confidence. You name it; Tabor has it. Studying him closer, he didn’t have as up-and-down a season as some analysts believed. Combine Tabor with Marcus Peters and the Chiefs will have the two most confident corners in the entire league. Tabor’s length and press man cover abilities stand out and will make this selection easy for GM John Dorsey and Coach Andy Reid.
28. Dallas Cowboys
Charles Harris, Edge, Missouri
The Cowboys’ pass rush was completely absent at times in 2016. Unfortunately for Dallas, that’s been the case for the past three years or more. Cowboys owner Jones rolled the dice on former Nebraska star defensive end Randy Gregory and they came up snake eyes. Demarcus Lawrence? Similar results. Harris is a bit of a risk too, given his boom or bust potential, but if he goes boom, he could be great value at No. 28.
29. Green Bay Packers
Takk McKinley, Edge, UCLA
Clay Matthews doesn’t quite have the juice that he did in years past and emerging star Nick Perry is a free agent. Even with those two on the edge, the Packers pass rush could use a bit of a boost. If Perry takes the first free agent train out of Green Bay, the need for an edge disrupter becomes a necessity. McKinley is a relentless, edge menace that possesses similar athleticism to that of Matthews early in his Packers career.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
Carl Lawson, Edge, Auburn
The Steelers tapped into the Southeastern Conference a couple of times the past few years for edge threats. Jarvis Jones (Georgia) is close to being a bust, while Bud Dupree (Kentucky) has been wildly inconsistent in his two seasons as a Steeler. Lawson fought through injury issues throughout his Auburn career, but he’s a more complete player than either of those two and a better fit in Pittsburgh.
31. Atlanta Falcons
Tim Wiliams, Edge, Alabama
The MO in Atlanta is speed. Look at this defense. Grady Jarrett at defensive tackle. Vic Beasley on the edge. Inside linebacker Deion Jones. The youngsters in the secondary. They all can fly. Williams is faster and, potentially, more disruptive than any of them. With Beasley and Williams on the edge on third down, the Falcons won’t allow NFC South quarterbacks Newton, Drew Brees or Jameis Winston much time to process and throw down the field.
32. New England Patriots
Jabrill Peppers, S-LB-RB, Michigan
After studying Peppers closely this offseason, I wouldn’t be opposed to lining him up at running back for a significant number of snaps. If Bill Belichick used Peppers like a true two-way Swiss Army knife on offense and defense, he might be a steal at this point in the draft. He didn’t go to Rutgers, but he is from New Jersey and that might be enough to swing Belichick. With 46 players active on game day, he accounts for nearly three roster spots, including return duties on punts and perhaps kickoffs.