Last week, I finished a worst case scenario mock that looked at what the Detroit Lions could do if all of the most well known options were unavailable as the first part of a series of mock drafts. The next exercise was a full first round mock draft with trades, where I took the part of every GM in the NFL in turn to see what I would do given available choices, team needs, contract situation and tendencies. I’m not going to waste much time with the details here, let’s jump right in!
1st Overall: Cleveland Browns select Myles Garrett, DE, TAMU
This pick is as much of a no brainer as it seems. Garrett is an athletic phenom, rating ahead of Mario Williams, Jadeveon Clowney, and other top tier pass rushers. He has the tape to boot. Don’t be fooled by claims the Browns are looking to trade away or take someone else. This is the pick.
2nd Overall: San Francisco 49ers select Marshon Lattimore, CB, OSU
After fielding some trade options, I ultimately decided to have the 49ers take the third best defensive player in this class instead of the second. I flirted with Solomon Thomas here, but ultimately decided against it after their investments on their line in recent years. Lattimore has some serious medical concerns the 49ers will be weighing, but his talent is unsurpassed in this draft class and in such a strong class for corners that is saying something. Like getting the fastest Ferrari.
3rd Overall: New York Jets select Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
TRADE: Jets send Sheldon Richardson, sixth overall pick and mid-round pick to Bears for third overall pick
The Bears had a few players they were seriously targeting at 3 but the best of the bunch was Lattimore who was taken at 2. This left me finding trade down partners and ultimately I found a really intriguing option with the Jets. Sheldon Richardson may seem overvalued a bit in this trade (which would involve a second-round pick straight up normally), but his addition to the Bears’ front-seven fills an immediate need and keeps them in play for several players they are likely to rate very highly still. The Jets land the second-best player in this draft class and will be adding him as the third piece of a Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams combo that is bound to give offensive lines fits for years to come.
4th Overall: Jacksonville Jaguars select Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama
I had three options for the Jags, they either select Allen, select Leonard Fournette or trade down. When attempts to do the third option failed, I looked back to the first two. While it’s easy to see how someone like Fournette could help the woeful Jaguars running game, the team could really use an impact defender in their front seven. I also considered a couple safeties here, but when it really came down to it I felt like Jon Allen will make life so much easier for the already terrorizing Jalen Ramsey it was too good of an option to pass up.
5th Overall: Chicago Bears select Malik Hooker, FS, OSU
TRADE: Bears send sixth overall and mid-round pick to Titans for fifth overall pick
With Lattimore, Thomas, and Allen gone, the options for the Chicago Bears come down to the two safeties, Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams. On the surface, this is a good time to stand pat if they like both players, save that extra pick they got from the Jets and just chill with your consolation prize. Then I started considering if the Bears truly favored one of those two more than the other, and I was convinced it was likely they did. Hooker has some injury concerns, but is the best midfield safety in this draft. The team finally addresses our annual running joke about not having a safety and takes a gamble in the top five for one. Walking away with essentially two picks (Hooker and the previously attained Sheldon Richardson) is a strong haul for the rebuilding Bears.
6th Overall: Tennessee Titans select Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
After accepting a low risk trade with the Bears at 5, who had in turn gotten this pick from the Jets, the Titans go with the best offensive player in this draft. We’re at that time of the season where we get reports like Davis being “out of sight out of mind” is hurting his draft stock and other such nonsense. Teams, ultimately, have a draft grade on a guy and aren’t sitting their adjusting their boards because they haven’t heard his name in the national media for a while. Marcus Mariota gets his new top target and the YAC master of this class finds himself in position to help elevate the Titans into 2017 and beyond.
7th Overall: Los Angeles Chargers select Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
I caught some flak from Bears fans when I traded back, as they didn’t like the value I got in trade. The Reddick pick was one of the only picks that I was told by their fans that it didn’t make much sense. Through this process, I often interacted with fans of the other teams and was told linebacker was one of the Chargers’ strongest positions. With Denzel Perryman and Melvin Ingram, the team already has a competent complement to 2016 first-round pick Joey Bosa. What sold me on the pick was when I started imagining what Gus Bradley, the team’s defensive coordinator, could do with those players while adding someone as athletic and versatile as Haason Reddick. Jamal Adams and a few others were considered, but the idea of the havoc this defense could create made it too interesting to pass up.
8th Overall: Carolina Panthers select Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
This one made too much sense and was one of around four picks that only took me a minute or two. Pairing Leonard Fournette with Cam Newton would be criminal in the NFC South as Cam’s abilities as a mobile quarterback will help force defenders to question where they want to be just enough to give a little extra runway to Fournette. That combination of size and speed could put the Panthers in a position to dominate on offense.
9th Overall: Arizona Cardinals select Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
TRADE: Cardinals send 13th overall pick, third-round pick to Cincinnati Bengals for ninth overall pick
The Bills have been doing a lot of posturing about their quarterback position in what is probably just a smoke screen. The possibility that it isn’t is too great for the Cardinals to risk, who send a high pick (or possibly future package of picks) to move up a few spots and take a guy I think fits their offense perfectly. Patrick Mahomes is the only quarterback I’ve evaluated since 2009 who may have a better arm than Matthew Stafford, and while his style is unorthodox, he will have a perfect teacher in Carson Palmer. That should allow him to clean up his issues just in time to be the future of the Cardinals offense.
10th Overall: Buffalo Bills select Jamal Adams, SS, LSU
I went a lot of different ways with the Bills before landing on Jamal Adams with the pick, and when it finally came down to it, I looked at who I felt could provide the most immediate impact with the least amount of risk. After looking at a large number of trade options, including one that involved former first-round pick Sammy Watkins and the Detroit Lions (Martin Mayhew is gone, so it fell through), I felt Jamal Adams provides the most day one value to a Bills secondary that faces Tom Brady twice a year and two other divisional rivals whose quarterbacks are less threatening, but who a good safety could punish for bad mistakes.
11th Overall: New Orleans Saints select Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
There are certain draft day scenarios I consider when doing full mocks and one of those involve what would happen if Reuben Foster’s medicals caused too many teams to question him as the pick? If he fell all the way to 21, I am fairly certain even the linebacker-starved Detroit Lions would skip on him, as the questions about his concussion history and play style would likely be pretty severe. When going over the Saints draft needs, I didn’t have linebacker right at the top, but I didn’t feel a pass rusher or corner really fit at this point. I considered quarterbacks, but I don’t feel the remaining quarterbacks really gel with how the Saints operate. With Foster, the team gets an elite talent for Dennis Allen’s defense but have the luxury of time for Mike Nolan to coach Foster out of his bad habits. Foster may have the talent to provide immediate impact, but this is more a pick for giving the defense something to build around.
12th Overall: Cleveland Browns select Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC
The Browns made the obvious choice in drafting Garrett first overall, but they lucked out that their (likely) top quarterback is still available when they came back on the clock. It’s possible, if unlikely, that the Browns go elsewhere here, perhaps taking O.J. Howard or another athletic defender. There weren’t many reasonable trade partners, so I went with the most obvious upgrade and picked up a signal caller for the Browns. This time it’s gonna work. This time.
13th Overall: Cincinnati Bengals select Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
After missing out on Corey Davis and Malik Hooker, the Bengals traded back with the Cardinals hoping that Mike Williams or Reuben Foster would still be there when they picked. They just missed out on Foster, but Mike Williams is still there for the taking, and the team doesn’t flinch. The pairing of A.J. Green and Mike Williams will make it tough for defensive backfields to fight in the air and easier for Andy Dalton to force throws where his pass catchers can do some damage.
14th Overall: Philadelphia Eagles select Christian McCaffrey, RB/WR, Stanford
Coincidentally, it is another running back who I paired up immediately when this team came on the clock. I spent some time looking at defensive options, but after keying in on Christian McCaffrey it all became a formality. He simply fits what the Eagles like to do, where they are strong and who Carson Wentz is as a passer too easily for me to have picked anyone else here. The NFC East will never be the same and McCaffrey could revolutionize how teams evaluate rushers from here on out.
15th Overall: Indianapolis Colts select O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
With the Ravens, Redskins, and Titans up next, I felt this was prime trade down time for the Colts as Howard somehow made it this far. As I started looking at trade options, I began to ponder what it would be like with O.J. Howard in the Colts offense. His functional blocking ability coupled with elite athleticism would put him in a position to do tremendous damage in the AFC South. Eventually it became too good of an option to pass up, so the Colts dropped any trade options and simply took the best player there.
16th Overall: Baltimore Ravens select Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
One player that I didn’t really figure for any team in particular, but had a very clear place in a division, was Garett Bolles and the AFC North. The hard-nosed rivalries between the Bengals, Steelers, and Ravens just fit so well with the type of angry and aggressive play style of the Utah tackle. This is another situation where need and fit simply lined up, even if value may not have. No tackles going in the first 15 picks is an unlikely scenario in the worst of years, and the only reason it happened this year for me was the depth of talent in this class. Still, Bolles is a good player and the Ravens need an offensive lineman who can piss off the Steelers players and fans for a good long while.
17th Overall: Washington Redskins select Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
It’s very possible, given how poorly McDowell handled interviews at the NFL Combine (from multiple reports) that his character and motivation concerns push him out of the first round altogether. The Redskins have not had much qualms selecting a player they feel may need to be motivated, and McDowell is one of the most talented players in this draft... at least when he wants to be.
18th Overall: Tennessee Titans select Gareon Conley, CB, OSU
The Titans are walking away with quite the haul in this first round. They nabbed my No. 1 offensive player in this draft at sixth overall after trading down and gaining an additional pick. Now they pick one of the fastest rising players in the draft in Gareon Conley. Not so much the Robin to Lattimore’s Batman as he is the Captain America to Lattimore’s Iron Man. One of the best pure athletes in this class and a top-tier player on tape, the Titans are going to walk away happy with how this draft played out.
19th Overall: Tampa Bay Buccaneers select David Njoku, TE, Miami
I generally try to avoid selecting local players for teams unless the fit is very clear and Njoku wasn’t my first pick here. Strangely, while researching who has been selected the most in mocks I found that two Michigan products of Taco Charlton and Jabrill Peppers were mocked often to the Bucs. I didn’t really see the fit in either and I keyed in on two pass catches, Njoku and John Ross. Ross’s injury concerns give me pause every time I bring him up, but he was in serious consideration here as the NFC South is a good fit and the Bucs a better one. With DeSean Jackson a Buc until at least 2019, however, it didn’t make much sense since what Ross brings is already present on the roster. David Njoku will add another intermediate weapon for Jameis Winston to throw to in an already dangerous receiving corps.
20th Overall: Denver Broncos select Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Ryan Ramczyk has been battling a hip injury that has sidelined him for much of the draft process. The popular choice here would of course be Forrest Lamp and I came into this pick with that being the choice. While looking at trade options here, however, I kept falling back to what the Broncos really need and a pure tackle that can take on the pass rushers in the AFC West was what a I kept coming back to. Forrest Lamp is a very good offensive lineman, but Ryan Ramczyk is the best pure tackle in this class and if it weren’t for his injury, he wouldn’t be available here.
21st Overall: Detroit Lions select Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
I spent several hours on this pick alone. With something like 20 selections on the board at the time, there was plenty to choose from. After ruling out a trade down, unfortunately, I started walking through the picks. I eliminated Jabrill Peppers, Kevin King and others I didn’t feel were good fits on the Lions. I moved past Dalvin Cook, Charles Harris, and Derek Barnett who didn’t hit athletic benchmarks that likely disqualify them per Bob Quinn’s comments on that subject. In the end, it boiled down to one of the four picks in the poll above.
Though Taco Charlton is the most popular pick for the Lions by far, my final two choices were Jarrad Davis and ironically my ‘worst case scenario’ pick Tyus Bowser. In my previous mock I selected Bowser over Davis, so why the change? As I mentioned in that mock, it was very close between the two, and, as luck would have it, Jarrad Davis was getting a ton of love on my timeline while I was researching this pick. It came down to coverage ability this time and Davis has the edge there.
22nd Overall: Miami Dolphins select Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
Like the Bucs, there was an odd pairing of Jabrill Peppers and Taco Charlton with the Dolphins pick (maybe Florida media just has a fascination with Michigan?), but I felt neither would really help the Dolphins take that next step. What they really need is some help up front and teaming Forrest Lamp with new Dolphins left tackle Laremy Tunsil was a frightening match up in the run game.
23rd Overall: New York Giants select Taylor Moton, OT/OG, WMU
My first pick here was Forrest Lamp, but he went the pick before. I tried trading down as well, but could find no takers for Cam Robinson or any of the remaining defenders. Then it came down to Cam Robinson. Robinson would be the starting right tackle for the Giants over D.J. Fluker immediately, but he could probably start over incumbent right guard John Jerry, too, despite his extension. As I played it out in my head, I rolled to the idea that Taylor Moton would be an even better option in this scenario. Not only is Moton a starter at right tackle from day one, he could potentially start at left tackle from the get go, moving Ereck Flowers to the right. He could start at either guard spot if need be, in fact. The Giants line has three holes in it and Moton provides them a fix for not only one, but potentially two, and in several different combinations.
24th Overall: Kansas City Chiefs select Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
TRADE: Chiefs 27th overall, mid-late pick for Raiders 24th Overall pick
Intra-divisional trades are rare and with good reason, teams don’t like to give up compensation to a rival team that may make them pay for years. They do happen, however, and the compensation needed to move from the Chiefs 27th pick to 24th isn’t very high. The Chiefs try to trade with the Texans to jump the Seahawks who are in the market for a big athletic cornerback, but can’t get it done. Instead, they trade in division to select the most physical defensive back in this class. A Marlon Humphrey/Marcus Peters/Eric Berry defensive backfield is a nightmare for opposing offenses.
25th Overall: Houston Texans select DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
I don’t buy the narrative that DeShaun Watson is tumbling too far down draft boards, and I think this works out perfectly for the quarterback starved Texans. They can’t seriously be relying on Tom Savage to lead them forward, so they take a proven collegiate winner with one of the quickest releases in football.
26th Overall: Seattle Seahawks select Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Kevin King and Marlon Humphrey are natural selections for the Seahawks here as big, athletic corners. As I mentioned before, I don’t tend to take oft-mocked local products (like Peppers/Taco to Lions, Njoku to Bucs/Dolphins, etc.) as seriously because it’s largely a media driven narrative. King is a viable option here, though, given the Seahawks tendencies and needs. Still, it is their offensive line that needs the most help and you can’t get by with converting players off defense and spending nearly nothing forever. They need help and Robinson provides some immediate relief for Russell Wilson.
27th Overall: Oakland Raiders select Obi Melifonwu, SS, Connecticut
People are trying to talk themselves out of Melifonwu going in the first round, but this level of athleticism almost never goes later. After trading back with the Chiefs, the Raiders look to bolster both their secondary and their linebacking corps. It came down to Tyus Bowser and Obi Melifonwu here, and only one of those two can fix one issue and help with the other. Melifonwu was the clear choice here.
28th Overall: Dallas Cowboys select Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
T.J. Watt was the easy choice here, but I didn’t want to run to the podium for him. Looking at the remaining players and potential trade options, I kept coming back to what the Cowboys need: A pass rush. Benson Mayowa led the team with only 6.0 sacks in 2016, which is pretty putrid considering almost all of those were against the worst offensive lines in the NFL. I like T.J. Watt, but I feel Lawson is the superior pure pass rusher, and that’s what the Cowboys really need. An elite athlete despite being somewhat undersized, Lawson lands in a spot where he could contend for rookie of the year, facing off against the NFC East offensive tackles.
29th Overall: Green Bay Packers select T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
Bowser was another option for the Packers as was Charles Harris. I don’t feel the Packers defense has the pieces necessary to take advantage of Charles Harris’ straight line ability, however, and T.J. Watt provides more pass rushing ability than Bowser does. Watt is being hailed by some as a better prospect than his brother (which is pure agent-driven poppycock), and provides much needed athleticism to the Packers front seven.
30th Overall: Pittsburgh Steelers select Derek Barnett, DE/OLB, Tennessee
Derek Barnett isn’t a natural fit in a 3-4 defense and my first pick here was to give the Steelers Tyus Bowser, giving them the most athletic linebacking corps in the universe (in addition to Ryan Shazier and Alvin Dupree). I started thinking about all the ways they could use Bowser as a movable piece in that defense, and I hit upon an idea. What if they, instead, added an opportunist with elite bend who could take advantage of both the explosiveness of Bud Dupree and the power of James Harrison? What if the Steelers had a player who understood blocking assignments and could allow the team to use their versatile pieces however they wish, while ensuring someone was there to spring every trap? The schematic possibilities were too intriguing to ignore, and I landed on Derek Barnett for the pick despite my early concerns.
31st Overall: San Francisco 49ers select Davis Webb, QB, California
TRADE: 49ers give 34th overall and mid-to-late pick to Falcons for 31st overall
Groan, moan, complain. Believe me, I get the criticism for this pick and know it’s coming despite being the one making it. I used the hashtag #MathMock when running this exercise and you figure I’d use at least SOME math during it all, right? The thing is, despite no notable connection between athleticism and success at the quarterback position using benchmarks like yardage, Pro Bowls, and TD/INT ratios, there is a very clear correlation between athleticism and draft status. Players like Blaine Gabbert, EJ Manuel, and Jake Locker prove this odd phenomenon out, and while those players all ended up as failures, there are clear reasons this pick may work out. Marcus Mariota, Cam Newton, even Alex Smith and Russell Wilson (who went in the third, but was a great athlete) all prove out what can happen if you have a great athlete at the quarterback position. Davis Webb has some flaws his team will need to correct before he plays, but the upside is there that a team will bank on that fifth-year option for a passer like him.
32nd Overall: New Orleans Saints select Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
The Saints haven’t had a good defense in years and part of that has had to do with their lack of pass rush. They could surely look for a successor to Drew Brees with this pick, but I think they’re better served trying to add someone who can complement Cam Jordan and Sheldon Rankins instead. I initially considered Taco Charlton here, but he is fairly redundant to Jordan and doesn’t really complement the defense. What would help a lot more is someone who can explode through the line and wreak havoc in the backfield, leaving it down to McKinley or Charles Harris. McKinley was the final pick in the end, and his speed gives the Saints something to terrorize the NFC South with for years.