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2017 NFL mock draft: Detroit Lions strengthen defense

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We’ve tracked over 100 mock drafts during the 2016 NFL season, so it’s time to put out one of our own.

Washington v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

It’s usually about this time of year that we as Detroit Lions fans collectively turn our focus from the end of the season to the NFL Draft. That’s not meant as a dig, just a matter of fact remark that Lions fans have weathered some pretty rough storms over the past decades. Three games to go and top of the division, staring a playoff berth in the face is not common place for Detroit fans. So rather than ambush you after the season, we’ve been looking at other draft experts mock drafts over the past few months to build a little bit of name recognition and keep you as fans engaged with, but not necessarily looking ahead to, the 2017 NFL Draft. As it eventually happens, we get to the point where we feel prepared enough to post a mock draft of our own, so here is the first full first round 2017 mock draft from Pride Of Detroit.

*Rankings are based on pre Week 15 draft rankings and not indicative of an end season prediction.

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

News that the Browns are completely sold on Garrett shouldn’t really be that surprising. Both analytics and film based analysis tend to agree that Garrett is one of, if not the very best player in this draft. Do the Browns still need a quarterback? Yes, water is still wet. Is there one that I’m pounding the table for when I know I have another pick in the top ten of a deep draft? Not a one.

2. San Francisco 49ers: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

Did I mention that much of this will be math based? Of the mocks I’ve covered, Kizer appeared in only about half of them. In those, however, he was generally ranked somewhere between first and third, making him one of the most consistently highly ranked players in this class. Personally, I don’t think Kizer is the type of QB that should be leading a desperate franchise like the 49ers back to relevance, but I don’t think they rush him to be a star in the bay.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama

The Jaguars need to improve their offensive line first and foremost, but there just isn’t an offensive lineman I see good enough to pick in the top five. Interior defensive lineman is another need despite the success of free agent acquisition Malik Jackson and relative impact of Sen’Derrick Marks. Marks’ contract only runs through 2017, when he’ll be 30, and the only thing keeping Jonathan Allen from being a consensus top pick is the need for QBs and existence of Myles Garrett.

4. Chicago Bears: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Few things give an NFL fan more joy than seeing a division rival suffer through a lost year. Much of the Bears struggles have been due to injuries, but the constant reliance on Jay Cutler with no backup or succession plan has put several extra nails into the coffin of their 2016 season. Watson has plenty of doubters, but up until the month of November was almost universally the top or second pick in the draft on the mocks I’ve compiled. Although his stock has taken a bit of a hit, I’m still convinced at this point he’ll be picked relatively high by a team desperate for a signal caller.

5. New York Jets: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

There seems to be a lot of resistance to Cam Robinson, much of which I gather is from his much less strong 2015 tape. I also just said I don’t see a tackle in the top five, yet here one is. If Christian Hackenberg is any indication, the Jets are okay reaching for need and that’s what they’re doing here. Sure, they could pick a QB (which they need), or a pass rusher, or a corner, or any of their other many needs, but ultimately I feel they go after their biggest need, value be damned. Robinson is a good player, and he’ll be thrown right into the fire, and while I feel he’s being overdrafted a bit here, he is ultimately going to help improve one of the worst offensive lines in football.

6. Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

The Titans need secondary probably more than they need a No. 1 wide receiver, but I think they will gamble that their back end can hold up with their much stronger front four. Corey Davis is an elite talent whose multi speed acceleration and run after the catch ability have been favorably compared to Dez Bryant. With Kendall Wright poised to depart, leaving only No. 2 caliber Rishard Matthews, the Titans are going to want to keep the Mariota show rolling.

7. Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

What the Panthers need and desire most of all is a starting caliber offensive lineman. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst drafts to need one and the Jets already sniped the only top 20 talent. With Jonathan Stewart’s age and injuries, the team is going to need a fresh rushing threat to pair with Cam Newton and Fournette gives them that. There are other defensive needs that this team may pursue, but Riverboat Ron goes for a gamble here.

8. Cincinnati Bengals: Tim Williams, LB, Alabama

One of the more athletic players in this draft gets paired with a team that is in dire need of some athleticism at its linebacker position. The Bengals are also in need of edge help and Williams will not only fill the hole at linebacker he will help increase their edge troubles by doubling as a pass rusher on third downs. The guy can ball and flies all over the field, so if the Bengals want to keep pace in their division, they’re going to need a Tim Williams.

9. Cleveland Browns: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

After picking their highest rated player, the Browns go after a signal caller hoping that Trubisky will be the one to erase several decades worth of futility. He isn’t the flashiest passer in this class, nor is Trubisky much of a celebrated athlete, but he has decent enough arm talent and decision making to run an NFL offense if the scheme is right. I won’t pile onto the Browns team management skills, but several things have to go right for this pick to be a worthwhile, including something the team has been notably lacking: patience.

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

The 2017 cornerback class has the potential to be the best one in recent memory, but it is probably going to surprise some to see Marlon Humphrey as the first off the board. Some top prospects, like Adoree’ Jackson and Jourdan Lewis, are going to drop due to size concerns. Others, like Desmond King, should drop due to concerns over AA at their size. Marlon Humphrey lacks neither size nor athleticism and has a punch you in the mouth attitude the Saints defense sorely lacks at this moment.

11. San Diego Chargers: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Few things have gone right for the Chargers in 2016, but like many of these teams, their biggest need is offensive line and there still isn’t much top tier talent in this class. While Tyrell Williams has been a revelation, pairing him with the playmaking ability of Mike Williams would make for a dangerous (If somewhat confusing for whoever is calling the game) tandem of big receivers. Philip Rivers’ successor will probably come with whoever shakes out in the second or third round.

12. Arizona Cardinals: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

I’d really like to see the Cardinals get the player for whom Carson Palmer will ultimately pass his torch, but the best quarterbacks are off the board. If there was ever a moment for a Patrick Mahomes hail mary pick, this would be it, as he is stylistically similar to Palmer. As it is, I’m not all sold on Mahomes and think the Cardinals forego OL (for the same reason everyone else has so far) to pick up a playmaking interior threat like Reuben Foster.

13. Tennessee Titans: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Teez Tabor is one of the most well-rounded corners in this class with some of the fewest on field red flags to be concerned with. Unfortunately, he also has some of the more prominent off the field red flags that will have to be thoroughly vetted by any team that takes him. With their offense addressed, the Titans are likely to shoot straight for their secondary on their second first-round pick and Tabor should provide an athletic boost to the league’s 24th ranked pass defense.

14. Indianapolis Colts: Jabril Peppers, LB, Michigan

The Colts would surely like to add another blocker to help keep Andrew Luck from being murdered every Sunday but this draft is just not the one for that need. Instead, the team turns to a surprising fall from Jabrill Peppers. Ranked third overall on the CBS big board I used for this mock, there simply wasn’t a place for him on the teams that came before and the versatile Michigan product lands in the Colts’ lap. Will his college game translate to the pros?

15. Buffalo Bills: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

The Bills have other needs, but a tight end that can both block and catch is going to minimize a few of those. It’s amazing he’s still playing so we can use this comparison, but a Jason Witten type of tight end doesn’t come along every year. Most tight ends are either good blockers or good pass catchers, but Howard somehow manages to do each of those things as good or better than anyone else in this class. In a division that values that sort of versatility, the Bills make a gamble to try to jump ahead.

16. Green Bay Packers: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

The Packers have generally drafted their skill position players in the second round, but this is going to be an instance where a need lines up with the players available. Eddie Lacy is all but done in Green Bay and their rushing attack has mostly been relegated to one of their receivers. Dalvin Cook could be a menace in the NFL if put in the right position and a team like Green Bay whose offense can benefit from Cook’s skill set, but whose limitations are such that they may be forced to lean on him more than usual as a rookie lines everything up fairly tight.

17. Philadelphia Eagles: John Ross, WR, Washington

I’m inclined to believe the Eagles showed interest in reacquiring Desean Jackson from rival Washington, but instead of that they’re going to go for a younger version of the same player from a different Washington. John Ross isn’t the incredible athlete Jackson was, but he’s a phenomenal athlete in his own right and a dangerous deep threat. His YAC ability is nothing to scoff at either, and the Eagles would land a player they can pair with Carson Wentz to grow together as the team moves forward.

18. Washington Redskins: Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State

Washington needs someone to help shore up their defensive line and nobody in this draft is more suited to do so than the versatile Malik McDowell. One of the only players I actually followed since high school, McDowell didn’t turn into the brutish all world athlete I expected (Jonathan Allen did that), but he’s a top tier athlete who can play anywhere on a defensive front. If Washington wants someone to join their lineup whose sole mission is to wreck shop for offensive lineman, they’ll get their guy.

19. Miami Dolphins: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

The Dolphins are still trying to figure out how long Cameron Wake can play at the level he is (high) at the age he is (also high). Since they won’t be able to figure it out (no one can), they’ll opt instead to draft a successor and find new ways to keep rushing the passer. Barnett is an excellent player in his own right, but pairing him with Ndamukong Suh shouldn’t be allowed. Fortunately for the Dolphins, Goodell hasn’t gotten around to making that a rule yet.

20. Pittsburgh Steelers: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

So part of me wanted to have the Steelers skip Cunningham despite LB being a need and Cunningham being the best one on the board. It just doesn’t seem fair that they would get to pair Zach Cunningham, one of the best and most athletic off the ball linebackers I’ve covered, with Ryan Shazier, who I’ve compared Cunningham to at times. If both can remain healthy long term, this tandem would be even more unfair than Barnett and Suh.

21. Houston Texans: Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana

Ideally, the Texans would prefer to have a QB available that they want to use to wash the stink of Brock Osweiler off in 2017. Unfortunately for them, they’ve all been taken and anyone remaining is a reach. Instead, they decide to bolster their second worst position, interior OL. Dan Feeney is widely considered the best interior lineman of this draft class and one of the only ones to be mocked consistently in the first round. Regardless of which side the Texans plug him into, he’s an improvement.

22. Baltimore Ravens: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

Few teams have such a glaring need at any one position as the Ravens do at edge. Terrell Suggs has eight sacks on the season, but their next best edge rusher is rookie Matt Judon with only four. The team needs a young pass rusher to take over for Suggs and hopefully develop along with Judon. Charles Harris has been mocked as highly as top ten and as low as out of the first round altogether, but he’s a schematic fit for the Ravens and has his best shot to succeed with them making both team and player a match.

23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jamal Adams, SS, LSU

At one point mocked in the top five, Adams has seen much of his hype eaten up by a flashier player in Jabrill Peppers. Adams is an excellent safety in his own right, however, and lines up with one of the biggest needs the Bucs have coming into the offseason. Adams isn’t some highlight reel playmaker, but he’s a talented athlete with good field vision and play awareness who should not only help improve a single position on the Bucs defense but aid in improving the secondary as a unit.

24. Atlanta Falcons: Quincy Wilson, FS, Florida

I heard some rumblings early in the season that Quincy Wilson was the best corner in Florida. That’s died down some, but I would entertain the idea that he’s the best safety prospect in this class, certainly. Wilson has the size and speed to roam the field in whatever role a defensive coach wants. The Falcons drafted Keanu Neal in the first round last season and while their chief need is along the defensive interior they end up finding a perfect compliment to Neal’s hard hitting style instead. It certainly isn’t right now, but the addition of someone like Wilson could make Atlanta’s secondary one of the most formidable in the NFL.

25. Detroit Lions: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Generally, I am not a fan of undersized cornerbacks. Size tends to be a pretty severe limiting factor at the professional level unless the player has significant athleticism to overcome it. Jones is plenty tall enough at about 5-foot-11-and-a-half, but at only 180 pounds, he will need to bulk up at the professional level. He is a fantastic athlete, however, and I’m intrigued to see what he can do with some NFL coaching in a more versatile scheme. Nevin Lawson is fine in Detroit, but with questions about Quandre Diggs’ long term viability at nickel it seems prudent to swing Lawson inside and bring in someone like Jones to play opposite Darius Slay. When I started this mock, I had fully expected any of the players I wanted to be gone (there is a tendency to overvalue the guys you like), but despite all my preparation I still managed to find Sidney Jones and Solomon Thomas available. It’s a coin flip between them, and I went with the dynamic corner from Washington.

26. New York Giants: Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State

The New York Giants need a lot of things in this draft, and while I think the team needs a rusher to get things moving offensively I feel they need someone to shore up the middle of their defense more. Raekwon McMillan is a consistently good player, albeit not as flashy as some of the other options in this draft. He steadily gained recognition this season and started receiving first round consideration more and more as the season wore on. He won’t fit every team, but the Giants need someone who can play both downhill and sideline to sideline.

27. Denver Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

The Broncos have a very serious quarterback problem, but they drafted Paxton Lynch last season to be that long term option and I highly doubt they’d cut bait this early. Instead, they’ll look to protect their investment by going with a talented blocker from the lineman factory that is the University of Wisconsin. You don’t scout the helmet, though, you scout the player and thankfully for the Broncos, Ramczyk is a damn good blocker and thankfully he’s an offensive lineman so you don’t have to try and pronounce his name all the time.

28. Kansas City Chiefs: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

The Chiefs lost one of the best linebackers in the NFL to an achilles injury this past week, but I don’t want you to think this is reactionary. The team would have needed a linebacker regardless in this coming draft and having a player of Jarrad Davis’ caliber land at your draft spot this late in the first round is a boon that’s hard to pass up. Like Derrick Johnson, Davis is also pretty good in coverage so he may be taking those type of plays while Johnson recovers.

29. Seattle Seahawks: Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah

Bolles isn’t a player I’ve seen mocked in the first round very often, more often he’s an early second round type. With the Seahawks drafting this late in the round and this being their biggest need by a Texas mile, I felt the need to make a small reach with only a small drop off in talent. A Utah native, Bolles was a considered the No. 1 JUCO prospect prior to his transfer to the Utes and made first team All-Pac-12 his first season as a starter. I’m not sure he’s the sole answer to the Seahawks protection woes, but he should help a lot.

30. New England Patriots: Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State

The Patriots also need an offensive tackle, possibly two, so they take the same route as the Seahawks and reach a little bit for top of the next round talent. I mean, let’s be serious, they’re probably going to trade back into the second round and take the same player, am I right? Johnson is still a good talent at offensive tackle, simply not as refined as you’d like and the Patriots are likely to pick up a veteran insurance option rather than start Johnson right away on either side. With Tom Brady playing into his 50s, you’re going to want to keep the old man upright.

31. Oakland Raiders: Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson

Win total notwithstanding, the Oakland Raiders still have plenty of holes to fill on their roster. None was more apparent to me than their interior defensive line, as much like the Detroit Lions, they don’t really have any penetrating interior rusher who can collapse a pocket and force the QB into mistakes. Nabbing someone like Watkins, who can push the pocket backward, with someone like Khalil Mack, who can bend around the edge and wreck shop, is another cheat code worthy combination of players.

32. Dallas Cowboys: Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn

Dallas needs a pass rusher. Despite winning many games on the backs of their rookie QB/RB duo and offensive line, the fact that Dallas has trouble generating any sort of pass rush has remained pretty constant. Carl Lawson was at one point considered a top five lock, but due to lingering injury concerns he has seen his stock drop considerably. He can still bend lower than nearly any player I can recall in the past few years, so I’m of the mind he’s a worthy gamble for the last pick in the first round.