image description

Insert Title

Just insights and opinions.

NFL 2017 Mock Draft 2.0: CFB Playoff Implications

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Here's our second mock draft following the release of the college football playoff bracket. Here goes:

1.1, Cleveland Browns - Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M - After turning in a god-awful performance in Week 15 against the Bengals, it would appear Robert Griffin III will be replaced by whomever is Cleveland's top pick in this upcoming draft. But if Griffin does lose the starting job, I think it's far more likely to be someone already in-house, perhaps 2016 3rd rounder Cody Kessler, who flashed the ability to be a serviceable starter for the team while Hue Jackson waits on a true blue chip passer down the road. Myles Garrett is a far safer pick for a team rebuilding. Perhaps the drafts' most complete pass rusher in years, Garrett brings consistency, athletic ability, size, diverse skills, and three years of production out of Texas A&M. Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib have shown promise for the Browns, but Garrett will be the perfect building block for this defense. 

1.2, San Francisco 49ers - Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina - Another team in desperate need for consistency at the quarterback position, the 49ers would appear much more likely to reach on a passer with their top choice given Colin Kaepernick's likely departure at the end of the season. No quarterback will be quite as overhyped as Mitch Trubisky. While he reminds me as perhaps a little more cerebral and accurate version of Bryce Petty, scouts have fallen in love with his pro-build, elite accuracy, good footwork, and athleticism. Despite being a one-year starter surrounded by NFL caliber wideouts in a spread offense, Trubisky is probably one of just two passers in this class worthy of first round consideration, and for a team in desperate need to get it's rebuilding effort underway, he would appear a safe bet to come off the board here. 

1.3, Jacksonville Jaguars - Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama - One of the few teams in the top five without a legitimate quarterback issue, the Jaguars will be experiencing some turnover in their organization this offseason and will be looking to continue adding pieces to their rebuilding effort. Jonathan Allen would be a great addition to that effort. The anchor up front to a very scary Alabama defense, Allen brings a diverse skillset, consistent production, effort, leadership, and a prototypical body to the NFL. The Jaguars have finally taken steps in the right direction under defensive-minded HC Gus Bradley, but with a departure likely this offseason, a pick like this would solidify a talented young front including Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue. A more offensive minded coach might look elsewhere, but it will still be hard to ignore someone as talented as Allen. 

1.4, Chicago Bears - DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson - Despite some serviceable starts out of Brian Hoyer, HC John Fox cannot believe he is this team's long term answer at QB, especially with a departure of Pro-Bowler Alshon Jeffery this offseason looming. Deshaun Watson is a unique playmaker who could be the juice this offense needs at quarterback. Despite some early season struggles, Watson has came alive down the stretch this season and reminded everyone why he earned Heisman nods the past 2 years, flashing all the same mobility, accuracy, touch, and leadership neccessary for success in the NFL. He isn't quite the pocket passer that Jared Goff was at Cal, nor the scrambler with size that Marcus Mariota was at Oregon, but Watson is a terrific playmaker who will absolutely get the attention of scouts and GM Ryan Pace with a strong CFB Playoff performance. 

1.5, New York Jets - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama - The Jets are yet another team in need of a quarterback this offseason with the likely end of Fitzmagic in New York, but with no real first rounders available, GM Mike Maccagnan is far more likely to select the top player on his board even in a win-now situation. Marlon Humphrey could be that guy. Jets fans will hesistate to take another athletic cover corner out of Alabama, but Humphrey is a lot better than Dee Milliner coming out of school: a starter since his redshirt freshman year, Humphrey has consistently been graded as one of the best cover corners in the nation by PFF and adds to that a 6'1, 200lbs frame, unbelievable speed (on Alabama's 4x400 relay team and in World Youth Track and Field Championship), and terrific footwork to boot. Looking to replace Darrelle Revis, Humphrey is exactly what the Jets need.  

1.6, Cincinnati Bengals - Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State - Even amongst all of the talented players on this Buckeyes defense, Malik Hooker stands out as one of the best pure playmakers around. Accounting for THREE pick sixes this season as a redshirt sophomore, Hooker has been integral in the success of this Buckeyes unit, especially one replacing Vonn Bell and Eli Apple in the secondary. Finishing the year with six interceptions, the All-American is already drawing comparisons to 9x Pro-Bowler Ed Reed, a player I'm sure the Bengals would have loved to have in his prime. The Bengals, for their part, have struggled to replace Pro-Bowler Reggie Nelson this season, and a rangy playmaker like Hooker would do well to complement hard hitting SS George Iloka in coverage. While some pass protectors would be nice, Hooker is too exciting a prospect for the Bengals to pass up. 

1.7, Tennessee Titans - Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida - I've flipped between Tabor and Wilson as Florida's top defensiveback off the board, but I think Wilson earns the edge for now. Allowing the lowest completion percentage in the SEC and fifth lowest nationally, Wilson gave up just 16 catches all season to wideouts in his coverage, and just one of which for a touchdown. The Titans, for their part, have shown tremendous strides offensively under new HC Mike Mularkey, but despite their tremendous pass rushing effort, have proven inept in coverage against even subpar units. Wilson, thanks to tremendous athleticism, sticky shadow skills, and a 6'1, 213lbs frame, could slide into the top cover spot immediately and provide some consistency for this unit which has ranked 25th in DVOA against the pass. It's a tough call, but Wilson would be a great addition here. 

1.8, Carolina Panthers - Sidney Jones, CB, Washington - If there is a secondary that could rival the star-power of Florida's on the west coast, Washington could certainly have it, and that's thanks a greal deal to the efforts of Sidney Jones. A lengthy (yet sinewy), athletic cover corner with a nose for the ball, Jones has emerged as one of the nation's top ball-hawks with eight interceptions over a three year career at Washington. The Panthers, for their part, have struggled without Pro-Bowler Josh Norman this season, having been torched by the likes of Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, and of course, Julio Jones this season for a combined 604 yards in four combined games. Jones needs some refinement of his technique, but on a defense filled with talent, Jones will have the time and opportunity to become this team's next lockdown cornerback. 

1.9, Arizona Cardinals - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson - After releasing former 2012 first rounder Michael Floyd following a DUI, the Cardinals are a team with very few proven receivers outside of 36 year old Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson. JJ Nelson and John Brown are more gadget/vertical weapons, and this team will soon need a prototypical wideout to take up Fitzgerald's mantle. Williams could be up for the task. At 6'4, Williams has the size to win jump balls and outmuscle receivers, although he has consistently shown the ability to out run corners on the outside and win with finesse. While he's been blessed with one of the better passers in college football the past three seasons, Williams has the look and playmaking ability of a top wide receiver, and the Cardinals, looking to bring back vet Carson Palmer, will need all the playmakers they can get in 2017. 

1.10, Indianapolis Colts - Teez Tabor, CB, Florida - If Quincy Wilson edges Tabor as the top Gators defensiveback, it certainly isn't by much. Tabor was a much-hyped freshman recruit who stepped in immediately and became one of Gainesville's most beloved players. While perhaps not as sticky in coverage as predecessor Vernon Hargreaves, Tabor has just as much athleticism and more size at 6'1 199lbs. The Colts have struggled to field serviceable corners thanks to a plethora of injuries to Pro-Bowler Vontae Davis and a slew of other players, eventually turning to vet Antonio Cromartie earlier in the year (before releasing him). Even when healthy, this Colts defense has proven consistently overwhelmed, and a confident, productive player like Teez Tabor should have no problem coming in and injecting some life into this subpar defensive unit. 

1.11, Green Bay Packers - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU - Despite not leading his own team in yards, attempts, or touchdowns this season, Fournette will unquestionably be this draft's top runningback off the board. Blessed with the size, speed, power, vision, productivity, and big playmaking skills of 2007 Adrian Peterson, Fournette is sure to attract attention from NFL teams who don't even need a runningback. Despite dealing with an injury all season, Fournette would no doubt be of great use to Mike McCarthy and the Packers, who have turned to a stable of Ty Montgomery, James Starks (sometimes), and Christine Michael to run the ball in Eddie Lacy's absence. With Lacy unlikely to be signed back next season, Fournette would appear poised to come in and take some pressure off Aaron Rodgers and this passing game and help him return to MVP form in 2017. 

1.12, New Orleans Saints - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama - Despite making huge strides defensively in my opinion, this Saints defense isn't even close to being ready to compete for a playoff spot. With 2015 first rounder Stephone Anthony in the doghouse, a new leader needs to come in an establish the tone for this Saints unit. Reuben Foster has been every bit the leader and playmaker Nick Saban was looking for this season. As one of the hardest hitting linebackers in college football, Foster is just as good a tackler and play diagnoser as predecessor Reggie Ragland, and is even more athletic than him. A true enforcer for this talented Crimson Tide defense, Foster is exactly what the Saints need up the middle to bring down runningbacks and conduct this defensive unit, which has added some nice young players up front over the past two years. 

1.13, Cleveland Browns - Adoree Jackson, CB, USC - While he's yet to decide to declare for the NFL Draft, I have a feeling that the Draft Advisory Committee will have some good things to say that will change his mind eventually. As one of the nation's most prolific playmakers as a kick returner and cornerback, Jackson secured the Jim Thorpe award as the nation's top DB over the likes of Michigan's Jourdan Lewis and LSU's TreDavious White, a solid collection of players. He's got the size, production, and ball skills of a top corner, and with the team locking up CB Jamar Taylor for the next three years, it's becoming increasingly obvious that head of Football Operations Paul DePodesta will be looking to trade top cornerback Joe Haden away and replace him in this upcoming draft. He's not quite there in terms of technique, but as a 21 year old, Jackson will compete right away. 

1.14, San Diego Chargers - Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama - Despite paving the way for a "breakout" season for 2015 first rounder Melvin Gordon, this Chargers offensive line is still ranked in the bottom third of the league in pass protection and run blocking. With Phillip Rivers getting older, and Gordon likely to continue taking on more of the load, this offensive line needs to improve it's play significantly. Robinson would help that effort. The Outland Trophy winner is probably the nation's best run blocker, and he brings to the table a nasty demeanor, consistent effort, and 6'6 326lbs frame that isn't easily moved. In a fairly weak class of offensive lineman compared to last season, Robinson is probably the best despite some issues in pass protection, but he has shown consistent improvement in that area since becoming the starter as a freshman in 2014. 

1.15, Tennessee Titans - JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC - Also undecided on his future at USC, Schuster has been a productive three year starter since breaking out as a freshman in 2014. While the prospect of becoming the nation's undisputed top receiver next year with Sam Darnold at quarterback could be enticing, the idea of becoming emerging star Marcus Mariota's new favorite target could be just as alluring. A terrific route runner and vertical threat with nice size and ball skills, Schuster has been consistently productive despite being banged up often this season. Mariota has truly been defying the laws of quarterback success gravity so to speak, managing to turn in a terrific year statistically without any legitimate #1 options vertically. Schuster could immediately unseat Rishard Mathews and Tajae Sharpe and do wonders here offensively. 

1.16, Buffalo Bills - Jabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan - While a Heisman victory would have been nice, the hype has certainly come down a bit for Michigan's Jabrill Peppers. As a redshirt sophomore, Peppers exploded onto the scene under DC Don Brown's new blitz happy scheme as a linebacker, flashing tremendous versatility, athleticism, speed, and instincts at the position. But Peppers biggest calling card has been his position changes, something that isn't likely to continue at the next level. Despite experience as a cornerback and safety, Peppers was relatively inconsistent in coverage this year and might struggle as a smaller linebacker at the next level. If there's one coach who isn't afraid of unicorns defensively, it's Rex Ryan, and if he's still employed this April, Ryan would be thrilled to mold Peppers into the next Deone Buccanan or Shaq Thomson. 

1.17, Philadelphia Eagles - Desmond King, CB, Iowa - The Eagles have been truly awful this year in coverage despite some improvements under DC Jim Schwartz. Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin have been outmuscled and outmatched this season, and that needs to change to take some of the pressure off Carson Wentz. Desmond King is a physical, cocky cornerback who could be the difference maker this defense needs in the secondary. While at times too grabby, King is a Jim Thorpe award winning defensive back who has delivered consistently for this Iowa defense against some pretty impressive teams over his career. Thanks to his size, physicality, and toughness, King certainly won't get pushed around by the likes of Dez Bryant, but he'll be tested by smaller, faster guys like Odell Beckham and DeSean Jackson. King is the right pick for this Eagles defense. 

1.18, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - John Ross, WR, Washington - As one of the most explosive and exciting playmakers in the country this season, redshirt sophomore John Ross certainly makes a case as the draft's best vertical threat. At 5'11 190lbs, Ross isn't physically intimidating, but he has made many a cornerback (including likely first rounder Adoree Jackson) look silly with his speed, suddenness, and change of direction abilities. He draws a lot of comparisons to DeSean Jackson, which I don't really buy because Jackson has a lot more fight before going down, but certainly the deep threat aspect is there. The Buccaneers have rotated through a plethora of inexperienced receivers aside from Mike Evans and could benefit from a speedy, vertical threat to stretch the field. Paired with a risk taker like Jameis Winston, Ross could thrive at the next level. 

1.19, Pittsburgh Steelers - Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama - The Steelers have been just about average in pressuring passers this season, a far cry from the big play unit they were a year ago. Bud Dupree has disappointed for the most part thanks to a multitude of injuries, and the Steelers would love to get their hands a pass rusher to take the pressure off their inexperienced secondary. Tim Williams, despite being used mostly situationally for the Crimson Tide this season, could be an impact player for the Iron Curtain. Thanks a prototypical, 6'3 255lbs frame, Williams is aggressive, physical, and dominant at the point of attack and is a pure menace in passing down for Alabama opponents. While he really hasn't been used all too often against the run, the Steelers have proven more than adept at player development, especially at the linebacker position over the years. 

1.20, Denver Broncos - O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama - QB Trevor Siemian has struggled with injuries and inconsistency this year, not helped by the fact that starter CJ Anderson was lost for the season a few weeks ago and rookie Devontae Booker has throughly underwhelmed. A consistent, vertical tight end though is always a great pick for a young quarterback. Probably this draft's most athletic tight end and one with the most upside, Howard broke onto the scene in a big way in last year's National Championship game and, despite relatively pedestrian production, projects as a do-it-all tight end thanks to a 6'6 240lbs frame. Add to his impressive physical skills is an equally impressive 4.0 GPA and a nomination for SEC's Scholar Athlete of the year, and head of Football Operations John Elway would seem to have a perfect replacement for former Bronco Julius Thomas. 

1.21, Baltimore Ravens - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State - The Ravens have tried a number of players at the runningback position this season, between bruiser Terrance West, now released Justin Forsett, and incumbent rookie Kenneth Dixon. In my opinion, neither West nor Dixon are the long term answer at tailback. Dalvin Cook, on the other hand, brings a ton to the table for the Ravens. As one of the nation's most consistent playmakers, Cook is a homerun threat similar to Jamaal Charles, flashing speed, shiftiness, efficiency, pass catching skills, and consistency as a three year starter for the Seminoles. As a true three down featureback, Cook perhaps doesn't have the power of a Fournette, but I really think that the Charles comparison is an accurate one. While Dixon could take on a third down role and West a goalline role, Cook has 15-20 touch potential at the next level. 

1.22, Houston Texans - Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana - The Texans have struggled to protect $70+ million dollar man Brock Osweiller (not that his decision making improves much given time) and open holes for oft-injured signee Lamar Miller, and could use a replacement for Xavier Su'a-filo. One of the most physically dominant guards in this draft, Feeney is a 6'5 311lbs monster who plays aggressive and nasty inside for the Hoosiers. While not a techinque savant, often caught leaning on pass rushers in protection, Feeney's long arms and powerful build should ensure he isn't handled up the gap at the next level, and his sneaky athleticism should allow him to get off the line quickly and engage second level defenders, which is where Lamar Miller is at his best. A project passer would be a smart investment for the Texans, but they should try to fix Osweiller first. 

1.23, Washington Redskins - Malik McDowell, DE, Michigan State - There haven't been a lot of positive things to talk about with this Spartans team, but Malik McDowell is certainly one of them. As one of the most physically imposing linemen in this draft at 6'6 276lbs, McDowell will no doubt draw comparisons to DeForest Buckner or Arik Armstead because of his size and versatility. While not quite as athletic as either or dominant in terms of production, this is mostly because of an ankle injury that limited him for much of the season. McDowell is as much about projection with this pick as his previous production, but he complements his speed and athleticism with a solid array of moves that should serve him well at the next level. The Redskins have been solid in pressure but could use a solid body like McDowell's to improve their 27th ranked run defense. 

1.24, Detroit Lions - Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee - Widely regarded as this draft's best pass rusher outside of Myles Garrett, Barnett is also a three year starter for the Vols who has consistent delivered thanks to a diverse and impressive toolbox of moves and athleticism. Barnett has among the best hand usage in this draft, and his tape shows consistent use of shaking tackles and nice bust getting after passers. However, while listed at 6'3, Barnett could be a better fit as an OLB, a position the Lions have struggled with thanks to a myriad of injuries to star DeAndre Levy over the past two seasons. Either way, Barnett figures to be exactly the pass rushing presence the Lions have so desperately needed this season with injuries to Ziggy Ansah as well, as this unit has an adjusted sack rate of just 5.4%, good for just 23rd in the NFL this season. 

1.25, Miami Dolphins - Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt - One of this draft's least talked about players, Cunningham is a freakish athlete with terrific size and instincts scouts love at the next level. At 6'4 236lbs, the first team All-American was dominant this season at Vanderbilt, consistently flying around the field making plays in a conference filled with it's share of talented linebackers. The Dolphins have shown signs of improvement under HC Adam Gase, but have struggled with consistently bad play at the linebacker position this season, ranking 31st in the second level against the run game. Kiko Alonso has been decent in coverage, but has struggled mightily against the run, an area that Cunningham thrives in. While replacing Alonso, Spencer Paysinger, and Jelani Jenkins would be nice, the Dolphins can suffice to replace just one with Cunningham. 

1.26, Atlanta Falcons - Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan - Despite a loss to the Buckeyes in the season finale, Charlton finished his senior season with an impressive display in Columbus. Even with just four starts under his belt prior to this year, Charlton sports the athletic, lengthy 6'5 276lbs frame of a traditional pass rusher and showed consistent agility, speed, and awareness throughout the season, flashing skills that go beyond the stat sheet. While he'll need to improve a lot of his technique, Charlton could be the final piece in Dan Quinn's rebuilding of the Falcons defense as his Michael Bennett equivalent, as Charlton often was used as a standup and hand down pass rusher all over Michigan's talented defensive front this season. It's certainly a bit of a reach, given the other talent available, but Quinn has shown he's willing to reach before to get the player he wants. 

1.27, Seattle Seahawks - Ryan Ramcyzk, OT, Wisconsin - The two time first team All-American Ramcyzk is exactly what the Seahawks need to solidify what's been easily one of the worst offensive line's in the league under OC Darrell Bevel and line coach Tom Cable. Rated as the 13th best tackle in the country this season, Ramcyzk's combination of size, power, and athleticism inside a 6'5 313lbs frame make him an appealing pick for a team like the Seahawks, who struggled with depth at the tackle position this season, especially thanks to the limited mobility of the oft-injured Russell Wilson. The redshirt junior has the option to return for another year at Wisconsin, although his first round appeal, especially from a team that ranked 22nd in both run blocking and pass protection so far this season, could sway his opinion. 

1.28, Kansas City Chiefs - Jamal Adams, SS, LSU - The most recent in a long line of talented Tiger defensive backs (see LaRon Landry, Morris Claiborne, Patrick Peterson, Eric Reid, and Tyrann Mathieu), Adams is a surefire day one pick with top ten potential. At 6'1 213lbs, Adams has the prototypical build of a safety to go along with some impressive statistics and game tape that consistently highlights his impressive closing speed, fantastic instincts, nose for the ball, and solid cover skills against tight ends (see game against O.J. Howard). The Chiefs have one of the best secondaries in football, but are at risk of losing pending free agent Eric Berry this offseason to a massive deal elsewhere. Adams could serve as a fantastic insurance policy for Andy Reid and one of the league's top defensive units, who live for the bigtime playmakers like Adams in the secondary. 

1.29, New York Giants - Jarrad Davis, OLB, Florida - The Giants have made huge strides defensively under DC Steve Spagnuolo thanks to some great signings this offseason, but still have work to continue improving. Despite getting pretty fantastic production out of a collection of relatively unknown linebackers, GM Jerry Reese is probably looking to add some youth and talent to the unit. Jarrad Davis has the range, talent, toughness, and production of a top level linebacker, and has done it all for the Gators defense this season at 6'2 226lbs. While not the best tackler in the class, Davis' explosiveness and speed make him a nightmare in pressure and cover situations for opposing defenses. The Giants have ranked 28th in DVOA against tight ends this season, allowing over 75ypg to the position, and could certainly use a versatile guy like Davis. 

1.30, New England Patriots - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford - Wouldn't everyone love to see this pick (except for the AFC East)? Despite a slight dip in productivity this season, McCaffrey's struggles can probably be attributed to the massive turnover the Cardinals experienced offensively this season. NFL scouts value size, pro-style offenses, and production, and McCaffrey brings all three to the table; a 6'0 202lbs body combined with excellent vision, patience, shiftiness, pass catching skills, and special teams value make McCaffrey a dream for most offensive coordinators. While unlikely to shoulder a 20-carry workload, McCaffrey has Reggie Bush appeal as a slasher and pass catcher who could thrive in an offense not afraid to use him a multitude of roles like New England's, which has made household names of scatbacks James White and Dion Lewis. 

1.31, Oakland Raiders - Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah - The little brother of Panthers monster Star Lotulelei, Lowell brings to the table much of the same NFL skillset as his older brother. Thanks to a mammoth, 6'3 310lbs body, Lotulelei has emerged as one of the top run defenders in the country over the past three seasons, developing his pass rush repetoire as well to finish this season with 3.5 sacks in just nine games. Despite the league becoming increasingly focused around pass-happy offenses, a talented run-stuffer like Lotulelei will always have value. The Raiders, for their part, have remained cellar-dwellers in the category of run defense in 2016 despite making great strides elsewhere, ranking 29th in adjusted line yards and 31st in stuff rate against the run. The Raiders, who can afford to draft by need, would love a player like Lotulelei on 1st and 2nd down. 

1.32, Dallas Cowboys - Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State - The Cowboys defense has been one of the true surprise stories of 2016, as third year defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has done an excellent job making this a unit where the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. However, there is always room for improvement, especially at linebacker, where the team deals with marginal talent outside of centerpiece Sean Lee. While not spectacular, Raekwon McMillan has been excellent for the Buckeyes this season, captaining one of the best defenses in the Big Ten thanks to solid tackling mechanics, above average awarness, and prototypical size. While perhaps not as instictual as predecessor Darron Lee or explosive as Ryan Shazier, McMillan is a solid and consistent player who can be counted on in the run game day in and day out. The Cowboys, who rank 26th in run defense at the second level, could stand to replace LBs Anthony Hitchens or the undersized Damien Wilson. 

2.1, Cleveland Browns - Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU - Despite a relatively disappointing junior effort, White bounced back this year to earn a nomination for the Jim Thorpe as the nation's top defensiveback. Finishing a four year career at LSU with six interceptions and 33 passes defended, 13 of which occurred this year, White will likely receive day one attention from a number of corner-needy teams. The Browns, who would be getting a terrific value on day two with this pick, would love to pair the playmaking Adoree Jackson with the steady hand of White. While not overly athletic or fast, White's solid fundamentals and willingness to participate in run support remind me a lot of young Darrelle Revis, although it's not a perfect comparison. The Browns, looking to revamp their secondary, could benefit from a tandem of aggressive and talented corners on the outside. 

2.2, San Francisco 49ers - Amara Darboh, WR, Michigan - Going into the season, Jehu Chesson was the Wolverine wideout receiving much of the attention from scouts, who loved his size and ball skills, but it quickly became apparent that Darboh was the true player to look out for. Improving on a solid junior year by increasing his yards per catch and total touchdowns, Darboh flashed big play ability, solid hands, and reliable route running ability in a pro-style attack under former 49er HC Jim Harbaugh this season. The 49ers, who fielded just one positively graded PFF WR in slot man Jeremy Kerley, are in desperate need for reliable playmakers, the lynchpin of Chip Kelly's offense. While not possessing the pure upside of a Malachi Dupre or Isaiah Ford, Darboh is exactly the steady presence a young quarterback will rely on and progress with. 

2.3, Chicago Bears -  Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech - A three year starter for the Hokies, Ford has been productive since his true freshman year back in 2014. Complementing likely fellow draftee TE Bucky Hodges on the outside, Ford is a two time thousand yard receiver with impressive ball skills, prototypical size (6'2) and consistent production, owning many of the Hokies receiving records. Like Darboh, Ford is relatively unspectacular compared with John Ross and Mike Williams, but is the steady weapon that another rebuilding team like the Bears could use, who will likely lose pending free agent Alshon Jeffery this offseason. Add to that HC John Fox's love of receivers with size (Marquess Wilson, Alshon Jeffery, Cameron Meredith, Kevin White), and it's easy to see that Ford, should he declare, would be a perfect addition here. 

2.4, Jacksonville Jaguars - Roderick Johnson, OG, Florida State - While once regarded as one of the top offensive linemen in the draft, Johnson has fallen often thanks to a mostly projection based evaluation. The most recent in a long line of talented Seminole linemen (Tre Jackson, Cameron Erving, Bobby Hart, Rodney Hudson), Johnson is an imposing tackle with impressive physicality, size, and run blocking skills partially thanks to a 6'7 315lbs frame. However, Johnson has absolutely horrendous technique and fairly ineffective hand usage, a huge red flag at the next level. His road to success in the NFL will likely rely on him cleaning up some of his technique issues, bulking up and moving inside, where he can fully utilize his solid athleticism and terrific power against interior defensive lineman. The Jaguars have struggled mightily opening holes for the run game in 2016. 

2.5, New York Jets - Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon - After a report surfaced that 30 year old Matt Forte has been dealing with a meniscus tear the entire season, the Jets will likely add runningback to their list of needs going into this year's draft. As one of college football's most productive runningbacks since a 1300+ rushing campaign his true freshman year, Freeman enters the draft with a plethora of NFL level skills that a team like the Jets would covet; size, power, elusiveness, underrated catching skills, and the proven ability to strap in as a workhorse. While concerns about his workload and recent injuries might linger, Freeman is the perfect bruising back to take over early down work for Forte and allow him and Bilal Powell to assume third down abilities. A true workhorse, Freeman could be the bruising back the Jets have missed in 2016 free agent Chris Ivory. 

2.6, Cincinnati Bengals - Carl Lawson, DE, Clemson - One of the toughest players to evaluate this season is Carl Lawson. Thanks to a myriad of injuries over his career, Lawson is a very difficult player to grade out, but when healthy, Lawson is as explosive off the snap as any player in this class. His fast first step is matched by consistent suddenness throughout the plays. But despite all of the explosive plays, Lawson is an extremely undersized defensive end at 6'2 250lbs who is probably better off at linebacker in the NFL, a position of which he has no experience with. The Bengals, for their part, could use an explosive situational pass rusher right now, but Marvin Lewis will have his work cut out for him in order to make this pick worth it, as Lawson will likely have to improve his hand usage and coverage skills if he hopes to succeed as a three down linebacker. 

2.7, Carolina Panthers - Semaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma - The Panthers have been a shell of their former Super Bowl selves this season, but have been making strides more recently on both sides of the ball. However, one area that is of serious long term concern is the runningback position, which is scarily thin behind 29 year old Jonathan Stewart, who has an extensive injury history himself. After breaking on to the scene as a freshman with almost 1700 rushing yards, Perine has been a consistent bully for the Longhorns, averaging nearly 115 rushing yards per game over his past 36 games. A decisive, powerful one cut runner with a similar profile to Stewart, Perine would be the perfect successor in Carolina, as he'd likely have a year to work on his pass protection and receiving skills before taking over Jonathan Stewart in his age 31 season. 

2.8, Los Angeles Rams - Corey Davis, WR, Central Michigan - As the nation's most productive and consistent receiver over the past four seasons - actually, college football's all time receiving yards leader - Corey Davis has forced scouts to travel to Kalamazoo, Michigan to see what he's all about. And Davis hasn't disappointed: a third consecutive year of 1400+ receiving yards, double digit touchdowns, and back to back years of over 90 receptions thanks Davis's precise route running, soft hands, and a solid 6'3 205lbs frame that has delivered consistent against top level cover corners like Eli Apple and Darqueze Dennard. The Rams, whose best receivers are Kenny Britt and Brian Quick, need to seriously consider giving Jared Goff some legitimate weapons like Davis if they hope he can develop into the franchise passer they hoped for when they took him first in 2016. 

2.9, Arizona Cardinals - Deshone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame - Despite being the top passer once upon a time in these mocks, Kizer has since fallen significantly for a myriad of reasons. While I think as a project Kizer still offers tremendous upside, it became clear down the stretch this season that another season in college to polish his game would have been better, as he still lacks ideal pocket awareness or touch despite offering an enticing combination of size, arm talent, athleticism, and mobility. The Cardinals have dealt with relatively inconsistent play out of Carson Palmer this season, who will turn 37 at the end of this month, and are likely thinking about grooming his eventual replacement when he gets hurt, retires, or plays below expectations. As a second round pick, Kizer is well worth the risk, especially considering how massive the payoff could be (Cam Newton level potential), but that doesn't mean that this will be a fast or easy process for the Cardinals. 

2.10, Green Bay Packers - Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan - PFF's highest graded cornerback a year ago, Lewis entered this season as the second fiddle to the hype train that is Jabrill Peppers, but quickly reminded people against Wisconsin why he was the best player in this secondary, with a one handed interception for the ages. Despite lacking in elite NFL size, Lewis is a three year starter and four year member of this Wolverines unit with an impressive 34 passes defended and six interceptions over his past three seasons. The Packers have struggled defensively this season thanks to injuries to starters Sam Shields and 2015 first rounder Damorious Randall, and could use an elite cover corner like Lewis to fill some of the gaps that have been exposed this season. While some help at the linebacker position would be nice, a DB should be priority number one defensively. 

2.11, New Orleans Saints - Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson - One of the safer picks of the draft in my opinion, Cordrea Tankersley is a player who has established as one of the more reliable cover corners in the nation this season. While lacking elite athleticism and speed that many of his higher upside peers possess, Tankersleys counters with quick instincts, ball skills, size, physicality, and a willingness to support against the run. Undrafted 26 year old Sterling Moore has been serviceable this season opposite Delvin Breaux (who has been awful following a breakout 2015), but Tankersley has the size and read and react skills that Moore is seriously lacking in. While perhaps not as much of an upside play as some other corners in this draft, Tankersley's consistent, fundamental play should be welcomed by the Saints, who have struggled defensively this season.  

2.12, Philadelphia Eagles - D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas - The nation's leading rusher this season, Foreman is exactly the type of down hill runner that HC Doug Pederson would love to pair alongside the nimble Wendell Smallwood for his backfield of the future in Philadelphia. Thanks to a 6'1, 255lbs frame, Foreman broke out onto the scene despite a ton of uncertainty in Austin, Texas this season, partially thanks to an offensive line adept at the power running scheme, but also thanks to Foreman's relentless, wear down style of rushing. He get's tripped up quite a bit for such a big guy, and doesn't break as many tackles as you would think for a big guy, in addition to lacking second level speed, but he's a perfect goalline and early down rusher to replace the againg and injury prone Ryan Mathews, who has seen his fair share of goalline work in Philly this season. 

2.13, San Diego Chargers - Pat Elflein, G/C, Ohio State - Widely regarded as one of the best interior offensive lineman in this class, Elflein earned All-American honors this season as well as the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center. And it's easy to see that the titles were well earned: per FootballOutsiders, this OSU offensive line was first in adjusted line yards, first in power rushing, and 3rd in preventing stuffed runs. As the centerpiece of a line filled with inexperience, Elflein was one of just a handful of seniors on this Buckeyes roster this season and showed why experience is irreplaceable, consistently dominating at the point of attack and opening holes thanks to a prototypical 6'3, 295lbs frame. The Chargers were 22nd this season in rushing yards created by the offensive line up the middle, and while not a liability, Matt Slauson could certainly be replaced. 

2.14, Indianpolis Colts - Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson - While he's taken a bit of a backseat to Mike Williams and perrenial Heisman threat Deshaun Watson, Gallman is another talented runningback in a fairly deep class of rusher. While dipping in his rushing productivity this season, Gallman has proven himself as an efficient one-cut runner and pass catcher with big play potential, consistently showing impressive vision and decisiveness. It'd be easy to say that Gallman benefits from a rushing quarterback who keeps defenses on his toes, and you might not be wrong, but his consistent productivity in a talented ACC should put a lot of those concerns to bed. The Colts have gotten two years of solid production out of an aging Frank Gore as a runner and receiver, but still lack any depth behind him. As a future replacement and initial backup, Gallman is perfect here. 

2.15, Cleveland Browns - Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA - While Jamie Collins was a huge addition for this team, his pending free agency means this team should explore an insurance policy in the likely event Collins wants nothing to do with Cleveland. Takkarist McKinley is a player who has day one potential and is sure to be gone by the end of the second round. One of the fastest and most explosive pass rushers in this draft, McKinley is the latest in a long line of successful UCLA linebackers (Eric Kendricks, Myles Jack, Anthony Barr). While he needs some work on his hand usage and technique, McKinley's physical gifts, including his 6'3 265 frame make him a prototypical player at the next level. The Browns linebackers in general have mostly disappointed outside of ILB Christian Kirksey, and Hue Jackson is likely to continue pushing for additional young talent. 

2.16, Minnesota Vikings - Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh - Johnson, a senior All-American, was an integral piece of a Pittsburgh offensive unit that was effective on the ground and in the air in 2016, partially thanks to his massive 6'5 315lbs frame. Equally talented in pass protection, not allowing a single sack this year, Johnson will be a welcome addition to a Vikings offensive line that has struggled opening rushing lanes and protecting Sam Bradford. 

2.17, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Ethan Pocic, C, LSU - The Buccanneers have showed improvement in protecting franchise quarterback Jameis Winston this season, partially thanks to the development of Ali Marpet, but they should continue that effort by replacing liability and penalty machine Joe Hawley with Pocic. Familiarity with a pro-style offense, a solidly built frame, and a ton of experience opening holes at LSU for first rounder Leonard Fournette are all things to like about Pocic. 

2.18, Pittsburgh Steelers - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State - While I thought he delivered a horrible game against a Michigan team filled with talented and experienced receivers similar to the ones in the NFL, Lattimore is a prototypical #1 corner with a lot of upside out of Columbus. The Steelers have one of the more inexperienced secondaries in football, but would do well to complement 2016 first rounder Artie Burns with more talent outside. 

2.19, Buffalo Bills - Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State - Rex Ryan, should he still be the HC in April, most addresses his team's offensive concerns in round two historically, and this is a good opportunity to with this pick. Forced to bring back Percy Harvin midseason because of injuries to the WRs, Ryan would love to add a solidly sized and productive wideout like Travis Rudolph on Day Two, especially given all the talent the seminoles have given the NFL over the years at wide receiver. 

2.20, Denver Broncos - Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois - Despite a fairly raw pass rush repertoire, Smoot is a fast and explosive pass rusher who keeps his eye on the prize: the quarterback. While slightly undersized as a defensive end, and in need of improvement in run defense, Smoot could certainly take on DeMarcus Ware's role as a situational pass rusher with massive upside, especially in a scheme that has not disappointed in pressure situations this season, with the best sack rate to boot. 

2.21, Houston Texans - Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami - Once regarded as the top passer in this class, Kaaya has fallen off significantly thanks to some poor performances against top level talent at Florida State and UNC. Despite deadly accuracy given a clean pocket, Kaaya has a lot of work to do and is reminiscent of a raw Jared Goff. The Texans have dealt with the regular implosions of Brock Osweiller this season as best they can, but will look to develop a potential replacement in Kaaya. 

2.22, Baltimore Ravens - Tyrone Crowder, OG, Clemson - After losing LG Kelechi Osemele to the Raiders this offseason, the Ravens have seen significantly worse play out of their offensive line this season. As a redshirt sophomore, Crowder broke out as a starter for Clemson thanks to a massive frame and impressive power. While in need of some refinement in pass protection and on his hand usage, Crowder has starter potential as a terrific run paver. 

2.23, Washington Redskins - Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma - Despite a less than ideal NFL frame, Westbrook is a productive playmaker for the Sooners who is deadly in space. On the back of a terrific season with Baker Mayfield, Westbrook has flashed speed, shiftiness, and solid hands, and with the departure of Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon this offseason, the Redskins should be looking for a vertical playmaker to complement Josh Doctson and slot-man Jamison Crowder. 

2.24, Detroit Lions - Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State - While not the playmaker that Malik Hooker is, Conley is a prototypically sized corner who has more than held his own this season for the Buckeyes. Despite just two years as a starter, Conley has 13 total passes defended to go along with five interceptions, The Lions have their top corner in Darius Slay, but this defense has been ravaged been injuries this season and will be looking for a consistent #2 option on the outside. 

2.25, Atlanta Falcons - Budda Baker, FS, Washington - A three year starter at Washington since his true freshman year, Baker is a terrific playmaker who has the opportunity to become Dan Quinn's Earl Thomas in Atlanta. Thanks to great speed, coverage ability, and tackling technique, Baker makes up for his less than ideal size and earned unaninimous All American honors this season even amongst a Washington secondary filled with it's share of playmakers. 

2.26, Miami Dolphins - Jake Butt, TE, Michigan - Probably this draft's best receiving tight end, Butt is a four year member of this Wolverines squad who has earned his reputation as the top tight end in the Big Ten. Thanks to a prototypical build, soft hands, and solid route running, Butt was integral in the success of the Wolverines this year, and HC Adam Gase, who will likely be looking to replace former Pro-Bowler Jordan Cameron, would love to bring him down to the warm weather of Florida. 

2.27, Seattle Seahawks - Charles Harris, DE, Missouri - While Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh have been more than solid for the Seahawks this year, the long term health of Michael Bennett has to start becoming a concern for Seattle. Harris is a first round pass rushing talent only, with an impressive toolbox of moves and quickness. However, his limited abilities in coverage and less than ideal frame will result in him likely sliding to day two, where hopefully, a team like Seattle can snatch him up. 

2.28, Kansas City Chiefs - Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado - One of the lesser known prospects of this draft, Awuzie has emerged as a supreme athlete and cover corner for the Buffaloes this season with the potential to shadow receivers at just about every position at the next level. Despite less than ideal size, the Chiefs would love to replace the fairly one-dimensional Phillip Gaines outside with someone like Awuzie, who offers a ton of versatility to HC Andy Reid.

2.29, New York Giants - Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech - Despite solid play from hybrid Will Tye and Larry Donnell, the Giants should look to bring in a traditional pass catcher and blocker to get some more consistency out of Eli Manning. While not a polished route runner, Hodges has shown great strides since his transition from QB to TE, and despite stats that don't jump off the page, Hodges projects as a freakish athlete who has Jimmy Graham like potential at the next level. 

2.30, New England Patriots - Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama - The "two punch" of Alabama's dynamic pass rushing duo, Ryan Anderson is arguably even more versatile than Tim Williams. Thanks to the same size and athleticism, Anderson has thrived as a situational pass rusher, but has also flashed tremendous ability as a run defender. The Patriots, who just traded away outside linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns, should look to fill the position with another talented player. 

2.31, Oakland Raiders - Chris Wormley, DT, Michigan - Another player who emerged under new HC Jim Harbaugh in 2015, Wormley has all the size and physicality of an NFL starter at 6'5 303lbs. While not as refined a pass rusher as he is a tremendous run stuffer, the Raiders likely don't care, as they have gotten subpar play from their defensive line in the run game all year, ranking 29th in adjusted line yards allowed at nearly 4.32 yards per rush. 

2.32, Dallas Cowboys - Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan - Once regarded as the best receiver at UM, Chesson had a relatively disappointing season compared to expectations, but still brings a solid set of skills and terrific physical gifts to the table. While less productive overall, Chesson's big frame and healthy 15.2 ypc indicate he can still be a solid #2 complement to Dez Bryant and the Cowboys, who will have to decide whether to pay former second rounder Terrance Williams this offseason. 

NFL 2017 Mock Draft 1.0: Two Months In the Books

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

1.1, Cleveland Browns - Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M - New management in Cleveland is clearly taking a long term approach towards rebuilding this franchise, and I don't think their quite ready to give up on third rounder Cody Kessler, especially after the relatively solid performances he turned in replacing Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown this season. Myles Garrett has separated himself with his play as the best defensive player in the country this season, and if the Browns are really trying to build a franchise through the draft based on talent, not need, then Garrett is no doubt the pick for a team that has struggled this season to generate pressure on passers this season (23rd ranked pass rush per FootballOutsiders).

1.2, San Francisco 49ers - DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame - It's tough to envision a quarterback who nearly lost his job midseason on a losing team would be the likely top passing prospect in the upcoming draft. But DeShone Kizer has managed to transcend the issues magically, combining a tremendous dual-threat physical repetoire reminiscent of Cam Newton with exceptional arm talent. Chip Kelly has done his best with the limited talent he has in San Francisco, but no question Colin Kaepernick's restructured contract is forboding of a change come April. Kizer isn't a perfect prospect, and at just 20 years old, he's got a long way to go, but he looks like the most likely to become a franchise passer of those available in 2017. 

1.3, Chicago Bears - DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson - After losing Brian Hoyer for the season, HC John Fox expressed his deep displeasure at having to play once-starter Jay Cutler once again this season. Clearly, a shakeup is in store, and drafting someone like Deshaun Watson to develop as the Bears next franchise passer seems like a rational decision. Watson hasn't played at nearly the same level this season as he did last year, as his decision making is noticeably worse, but he's still been a highly accurate intermediate passer with nice rushing ability as well. It'll be interesting to see if he draws comparisons to rookie sensation Dak Prescott, but I think a solid College Football Playoff performance would solidify him as a first round prospect. 

1.4, Carolina Panthers - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama - Alabama has made a living manufacturing NFL talent over the past decade, and Humphreys should be no different. At 6'1 198lbs, Humphrey has the size and length of a prototypical outside corner, and he has speed for days. The real question is whether scouts will overlook his lack of real technical refinement evident in many blue chip Alabama defensive backs before (Dee Milliner, Dre Kirkpatrick). He's turned in a couple of subpar performances this season after a stellar opener against USC, but that shouldn't stop the Panthers from taking him in the top ten if they get the chance, especially considering their lack of success covering WRs following the departure of Josh Norman. 

1.5, New York Jets - Derek Barnett, OLB, Tennessee - The Jets have really struggled this season offensively because of poor play from their quarterbacks, but I think GM Mike Maccagnan stays the course with 2016 2nd rounder Christian Hackenberg and looks elsewhere. With no real blue-chip offensive linemen available, Barnett looks to be the best player available. Just three sacks away from surpassing Reggie White as the Vols alltime sack leader, Barnett is as disruptive a player in this draft as you'll find; a player who brings intensity, consistency, and productivity to the game. The Jets, for all the hype surrounding their defensive line, have struggled to bring pressure this season, an area Barnett could prove to be exceptionally valuable. 

1.6, Jacksonville Jaguars - Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama - After firing offensive coordinator Greg Olson, the Jaguars are likely no closer towards fixing this offense than they were before. This team needs to establish the running attack, but they have no chance to do that without an effective run blocking unit. Robinson would be a step in the right direction. Robinson has really utilized his 6'6 326lbs to his advantage in the pass came this year, but his real bread and butter is in the ground game, where he has been dominant as a mauler. The Jaguars have played a collection of human subway turnstyles this season, and will look to bring in some fresh talent through to the draft to alleviate their huge issues on the ground (30th ranked run blocking unit).

1.7, New Orleans Saints - Desmond King, CB, Iowa - The Saints have made a pretty big push towards reviving their defensive line this past season, drafting DL Sheldon Rankins and signing disruptive DT Nick Fairley to complement Cam Jordan. However, now it's time to focus their efforts on their secondary, headed currently by rookies Ken Crawley and De'vante Harris. Some fresh talent would be welcome. King has seen quarterbacks shy away from his side of the field this season, but has still been terrific in coverage and has flashed excellent ball skills and instincts. While they might be looking already for a replacement for 2015 first rounder Stephone Anthony (played just 13.1% of snaps this year), I think CB is the biggest need right now. 

1.8, Baltimore Ravens - Jabrill Peppers, OLB/S, Michigan - Jabrill Peppers has been sensational this season for the Wolverines as a do-it-all wunderkind under HC Jim Harbaugh. While he's been effective as a KR and RB, Peppers is most likely going to be an attacking outside linebacker in the NFL. His terrific closing speed and pop behind the pads has helped him become one the best tacklers for loss in the nation this season (T-9th), and his freak athleticism gives him versatility in coverage. The Ravens have one of the most talented linebacking corps in the league with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs, but the team will likely be looking for a long term replacement for one of the two given their age (32 and 34 respectively). 

1.9, Indianapolis Colts - Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama - The Colts have been bad in a wide variety of aspects of their game, but nothing has been quite as bad as the team's defensive line, which hasn't been stop much of anything in 2016. GM Ryan Grigson, if he's not looking for a new job come April, will be looking primarily for some help likely from the University of Alabama, where DL Jonathan Allen is having a Heisman-level defensive season. The clear anchor of one of the top defenses in football, Allen has the size, technique, nastiness, and power to dominate similarly at the next level. Protecting Andrew Luck should be a big priority for this team, but with all of the draft picks dedicated to OL last year, it's time to look elsewhere. 

1.10, Tennessee Titans - Teez Tabor, CB, Florida - Florida has been making talented defensive backs like clockwork over the past few years (Joe Haden, Reggie Nelson, Vernon Hargreaves) and they look to have another talented collection of players in their secondary this year. While it's tough to say who's the best, the case could be made for Jalon "Teez" Tabor. As a press man corner, Tabor is among the best around. He's got the size, speed, and swagger to play the position really well, but his lack of discipline becomes apparent when he is forced to diagnose plays. He bites on the occasional pump and sometimes gets caught stumbling, but he's not doubt exactly the premiere type of corner the Titans are looking for at 6 feet 210lbs. 

1.11, Miami Dolphins - Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt - Why more hasn't been said about Cunningham is beyond me. Combine a 6'4 230lbs frame with college football's 6th most tackles for loss and 8th most total tackles and you have a top level talent in my book. The Dolphins are fairly middle of the line against the run this season by most metrics under new HC Adam Gase, but have struggled mightily at the second level thanks to a collection of subpar run stoppers led by recent trade piece Kiko Alonso.  While some might call for a replacement for QB Ryan Tannehill, there's no prospect ready to immediately replace him, at least at this stage in the draft, and GM Mike Tannenbaum needs to finally address this defenses' woes with a top pick. 

1.12, Tennessee Titans - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson - With the retirement of Andre Johnson, who was already way over the hill, the Titans have pretty much zero reliable pass catchers on the depth chart. HC Mike Mularkey wants a run based offense, but he needs a reliable vertical threat to keep defenses honest. Mike Williams is that threat. Despite a quite performance against the Seminoles this Saturday, Williams is a premiere talent with the size, body control, and hands to be a top level performer at the NFL like fellow Tigers DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, to name a few. Concerns linger about his 2015 neck issue, but Williams is a first round talent who could provide the consistency Mariota has needed the past two seasons. 

1.13, Cincinnati Bengals - Marcus Maye, S, Florida - After losing playmaking free safety Reggie Nelson this offseason to the Raiders, the Bengals have dropped from 1st in DVOA against deep passes to 30th per FootballOutsiders. That's a huge dropoff that could be alleviated by the addition of another Florida Gator. The quiet leader of arguably the best secondary in football, Maye has maximized his prototypical size and speed to make plays all over the field for the Gators, standing out on a defense laded with NFL level talent. The Bengals probably believe their top need is along the offensive line, allowing Andy Dalton to get thrown around at an alarming rate, but I think defense remains the key to unlocking postseason success for the Bengals. 

1.14, San Diego Chargers - Jamal Adams, S, LSU - The Chargers secondary has been hit hard this season by the off-season departure of longtime safety Eric Weddle and the loss of Jason Verrett to an ACL injury. Don't let their solid pass rush fool you; this defense needs help if it wants to close out games. Few playmakers are quite as electric as Jamal Adams. Blessed with all of the instincts and physical tools a coach could ever want, Adams has proven he's solid in coverage against most tight ends and is at his best when he let's plays develop in front of him. Another playmaker at wide receiver would help, considering Keenan Allen has now missed significant portions of consecutive seasons to injuries, but a replacement for Weddle would be ideal. 

1.15, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC - While Mike Evans has now established himself as one of the best receivers in the league, Jameis Winston has struggled with consistency thanks to a lack of depth behind Evans. It would go a long way in Winston's development if he were given another player to spread out the targets. After a slow start under Max Browne, Schuster has turned it on in recent weeks, averaging 106.4 yards per game while flashing all the same ball skills, route running, and speed that he showed during his sophomore season. Schuster's combination of size, speed, and terrific ball tracking make him a likely Day One candidate and a great fit for the young Buccaneers offense. 

1.16, Arizona Cardinals - Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU - The Cardinals don't seem like a team in need of a wideout, but considering the age of Larry Fitzgerald, the concussion history of John Brown, and the general ineffectiveness of former first rounder Michael Floyd, Carson Palmer could benefit from a consistent outside weapon. Sutton has put up impressive numbers for the Mustangs as a redshirt sophomore, and while he certainly hasn't mastered a full route tree, he's a big play threat with serious size and speed that the Cardinals love on the outside. An offensive linemen couldn't hurt, considering the vast injuries sustained at the position, but Bruce Arians loves his wideouts, and few have the upside of Sutton. 

1.17, Buffalo Bills - Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech - A third wideout in a row? Seems improbably, except when you consider the fact that the Bills are so thin at the position that they had to bring Percy Harvin out of retirement just to add some depth. Ford is a three year starter who has been a model for consistent production, currently on pace for over 1200 yards. Ford is an exceptional vertical talent with off-the charts speed, and he brings above average size to the position at 6'2. He doesn't have great hands, and probably will need to bulk up to avoid getting pushed off his routes, but Tyrod Taylor throws an excellent deep ball, and with Sammy Watkins on IR, Ford is a player who could be a solid downfield complement as a #2 option. 

1.18, Detroit Lions - Adoree Jackson, CB/KR/WR, USC - Few cornerbacks have been as effective as Jackson this year, as the junior has notched two interceptions, five passes defended, and 34 solo tackles through just eight games. In addition to terrific production and physical tools, Jackson is an excellent special teamer who brings additional value in the return game. Jackson has shown excellent skills as a cover corner, but his technique needs serious refinement. That should be of little concern for the Lions, who aside from Darius Slay, sport one of the least talented secondaries in the league. In desperate need of talent like Jackson, the Lions should have no gripes pulling the trigger at this spot on such a versatile and capable player. 

1.19, Washington Redskins - Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State - The Spartans have been a massive disappointment this season following up on a College Football Playoffs appearance, but one of the few stable pieces of this 2-6 team has been it's defensive line, thanks in great part to Malik McDowell. While not quite as dominant as DeForest Buckner of Oregon, McDowell is a similarly versatile player with tremendous size and power, checking in at over 6'6 275lbs. McDowell has seen more double teams this year, which has hindered his production slightly, but he's only begun to scratch the surface of his true potential. The Redskins are struggling to address their defensive line, and would seriously improve their playoff odds with upgrades there. 

1.20, New York Giants - Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama - The Giants spent significantly this offseason on their defensive, and they have seen some tangible results, particularly against the run, but they still rank as one of the worst pass rushing units in football. Tim Williams figures to be a player who can change that. Already blessed with a prototypical body and elite-level speed, Williams has flashed immense upside as one of the best pass rushers in the nation this season. While the Giants linebackers have performed commendably against the rush this season, Williams could benefit from a season as a situational pass rusher while he works on improving his angles of attack and consistency against the run game. 

1.21, Atlanta Falcons - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama - If Tim Williams has an antithesis on this Roll Tide defense, it's inside linebacker Reuben Foster. The most recent successor in a long line of successful Alabama linebackers, Foster is an athletic, hardhitting enforcer who has earned a reputation as one of the biggest hitters in college football. Far more active than predecessor Reggie Ragand, Foster has stepped up as a senior leader on clearly a very talented Alabama team that has yet to lose a ball game this season. The Falcons made some serious upgrades defensively this offseason, but are still in desperate need for an authority figure up the middle to command Dan Quinn's reincarnation of the Legion of Boom. After tasting success tapping into the deep pipeline of SEC talent in the first round last year, why not come back for more in 2017? 

1.22, Houston Texans - Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame - While McGlinchey has stated he intends to return as a fifth year senior, I'll bet that some friendly advice from the NFL Draft Advisory Board changes his mind. A three year starter for a productive offense that has produced it's fair share of NFL talent (Nick Martin, C.J. Prosise, Ronnie Stanley), McGlinchey is a big, physical player who has shown versatility and sound technique despite a shift from the right side to the left side this season. The Texans have suffered a rash of injuries along their offensive line this season, and have already fallen in love with former teammate Nick Martin, leaving me to believe that they'll finally find a long term solution at tackle with this pick. 

1.23, Pittsburgh Steelers - Carl Lawson, DE, Clemson - After flashing potential for years behind players like Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd, Lawson is finally coming into his own as a productive starter for this Clemson defense. While lacking the size to play defensive end at the next level, Lawson is a talented pass rusher who uses his hands and speed effectively in tandem to get after quarterbacks consistently. He's not as complete as a run stuffer yet, but the Steelers have shown a desperate need for consistent pass rushers on defense this year, ranking dead last in adjusted sack rate per FootballOutsiders. Another cornerback would be nice, but the Steelers should give time to develop Artie Burns and instead focus on pressure up front. 

1.24, Cleveland Browns - Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami - Despite the relative lack of success of first round quarterbacks not taken in the top ten, Kaaya is a perfect developmental passer for Hue Jackson to take in the late stages of Day One. While Kaaya has fallen out of favor as the top passer in this draft with scouts, he's still a tremendously talented player with similar skills and build to other top rated passers like Jared Goff and Marcus Mariota. He's probably not ready to handle an NFL offense at just 21 years old, and will need to add bulk to his frame to make up for the athleticism he lacks, but he's shown the ability to read defenses as well as deliver a highly accurate pass without a clean pocket. An interesting player to watch for the rest of the year.

1.25, Kansas City Chiefs - Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU - After a terrific sophomore campaign, White sort of disappeared as a first round lock last season, but has since bounced back in fine fashion. While not the fastest corner available, White is a fluid athlete with good dexterity and foot quickness NFL scouts love in press-corners. He struggles at times with larger receivers, partially due to his lack of strength inside a 5'11 frame, but he has thrived as a nickel corner this year. While the Chiefs are likely looking to replace Phillip Gaines with a more prototypically sized outside corner, they should really be looking to replace slot corner Steven Nelson, who has struggled mightily this year despite being surrounded by terrific playmakers up front. 

1.26, Green Bay Packers - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State - Eddie Lacy received a lot of attention this offseason for his renewed focus and weight loss, but is now out for the year with yet another ankle injury following a fairly meh campaign. The Packers are now struggling to find consistent playmakers out of the backfield, and would have no problem bringing in a Jamaal Charles type of running-receiving threat like Dalvin Cook. One of the best backs in football for almost three years now, Cook followed a slow start with a slew of fantastic games against big teams like Clemson and North Carolina. While perhaps not as complete as someone like Leonard Fournette, Cook is a premiere talent who could easily replace Lacy next season. 

1.27, Denver Broncos - Jake Butt, TE, Michigan - Butt has slide across draft boards recently because of scouts complaints about his blocking, but he should still be regarded as the best tight end in this draft. Well known as a reliable receiver with soft hands and good route running abilities, Butt is a four year letterman with a solid pedigree in a pro-style offense under HC Jim Harbaugh. The Broncos have two great receiving weapons out wide, but have struggled to field a consistent weapon up the seam for Trevor Siemian. While Butt probably doesn't have the upside of an OJ Howard, he's a high floor pick who should immediately step in for a fairly conservative Broncos offense looking to keep things simple for their quarterback. 

1.28, Seattle Seahawks - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State -  The Seahawks have struggled the past two season with depth at the cornerback position behind Richard Sherman, ranking 24th in DVOA against #2 receivers this season. As a redshirt sophomore starter for the Buckeyes, Lattimore has been as productive as anyone in college football, using his prototypical size and athleticism to consistently lockdown corners outside, holding a very explosive Sooners offense that includes Dede Westbrook to under 50 yards receiving. While it's possible he returns for his junior season, the Seahawks would be wise to take him at this spot if he is available given most in the scouting community regard him as a #1 corner type of talent. 

1.29, Oakland Raiders - Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida - Despite a 6-2 record, the Raiders are still defensively in the same hole that they were in last year, and despite the addition of Bruce Irvin, still need additional bodies at linebacker to become a legitimate contender. Jarrad Davis is one of my personal favorites. A highly athletic player with tremendous instincts and explosiveness, Davis really is one of those players that jumps off the tape because of his skills. He has both the cover skills and speed to matchup with runningbacks and tight ends and the strength to become an impact player in the run game. Even better, Davis returned from a severe ankle injury after missing just two weeks to make the game ending tackle against Georgia last week. 

1.30, Dallas Cowboys - Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois - Trade talks with the New York Jets prove that the Cowboys, despite their 6-1 record, know they need massive help on their defensive line. Smoot is the high-motor, explosive type of pass rusher that can energize this front opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, who seems to the be the only one able to generate pressure consistently. While slightly undersized, as an edge rusher, Smoot is second to almost none in his combination of burst and violent hand usage, leading me to believe he should provide exactly the pressure the Cowboys have so badly needed this season. Dallas might be looking at a replacement for Terrance Williams, but defense has to be Jerry Jones' first concern. 

1.31, Philadelphia Eagles - Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan - Jim Schwartz has done a fantastic job with a talented unit up front for the Eagles, but the holes in the secondary have been exposed on a fairly regular basis by competent passing offenses. The team will likely be looking at a replacement for Nolan Carroll, and who better than ProFootballFocus' top graded cornerback in 2015, senior Jourdan Lewis? While slightly undersized for a #1 cornerback, Lewis has unprecedented ball skills and shadow ability, and while he may struggle with physical receivers like Dez Bryant, in theory, he's the perfect counter to smaller receivers like Odell Beckham. Lewis doesn't check all of the boxes for size and height, but NFL teams play production, not potential. 

1.32, New England Patriots - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford - Wouldn't this be a match made in heaven? While not as productive as his sophomore season, McCaffrey is turning in a solid year despite a far worse supporting cast at Stanford. He's easily this class's best pass catcher out of the backfield, and unlike most scat backs, McCaffrey has great vision and decent size to hold up at the next level. He'll probably never be a workhorse rusher, and will likely add bulk to his frame to address concerns about his lack of tackle breaking ability, but McCaffrey is a great playmaker with the ball in his hands who would be perfect as a combo rusher in a New England offense that has made James White and Dion Lewis into household names. 

Blaine Gabbert is poised for a breakout season

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Quick thought experiment; how is it that 25 year old Brock Osweiler despite 7 career starts received a $72 million dollar contract from the Texans while 26 year old Blaine Gabbert, who is eerily similar to Osweiler, remains mired in a QB battle on the 49ers? 

Sure, you're answer might include how Osweiler is younger (albeit not by much) has far more upside (highly questionable) and  is more physically gifted (yes, but not by that wide of a margin). But a quick peek at both players numbers in their 8 games played last year reveal that there isn't as much of a statistical gap between the two as many would think. 

Gabbert vs. Osweiler (2015)
























(Just as a note, Osweiler is listed as a 5-2 record because he started, but did not finish, his eighth game against the Chargers; that game was eventually won)

Let me point out a couple of things. Number one is the record. This number is basically irrelevant. Osweiler won five games on a team that would go on to win the Super Bowl (without him playing a single game in the playoffs mind you) and that would lead the league in virtually every defensive metric there is. Osweiler's Broncos allowed 5.7 points less per game during the regular season than Gabbert's 49ers. Osweiler won five games on a team that won twelve total, with seven of those going to Peyton Manning, who threw just nine touchdowns to seventeen interceptions during that period. Gabbert, meanwhile, won 3 of his teams 5 total wins despite an offensive line that ranked 31st according to footballoutsiders, a defense that allowed the fourth most total yards, and an offense that faced the league's third hardest schedule according to DVOA compared to Denver's sixteenth easiest schedule. 

Another thing worth mentioning is the surrounding talent on this offense. With Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush already down with injuries, rushing duties were left to a combination of subpar replacements like Shaun Draughn, Mike Davis, and DuJuan Harris, none of whom managed a single hundred yard performance during this time. Gabbert's receivers included veterans Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, who managed to both place outside the top 30 in DYAR (defensive adjusted yards above replacement). TE and career 49er Vernon Davis was traded ironically to the Broncos before Gabbert took over. Brock Osweiller meanwhile had a dearth of talented players on his offense. They included one of the league's most efficient rushers after Week 8 in C.J. Anderson (6.35 yards per carry), two receivers who would go on to post over 1100 yards and 6 touchdowns a piece in Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. And by the time Osweiller took over, Denver's offensive line had significantly improved it's chemistry and play to the point that it ranked in the top half of the league in run blocking and pass protection by season's end. 

But in the end, what does all of this mean? Almost nobody is expecting even a top 15 year from Brock Osweiler, so even if Gabbert is better, what exactly would be a "successful" year for him?

First, let's understand a little bit about Gabbert and break some assumptions about him. 

Gabbert was widely regarded as one of the top passers in the 2011 draft class, a class that was loaded with premiere passing talents and thought to be one of the deepest classes in recent memory. An undercurrent in the draft community believed that teams desperate for passers would reach in the first round for a quarterback, and while they proved to be correct, the prevailing feeling at the time was that most passers had solid potential to become good players in the league. Gabbert was one of four passers taken in the first round: top choice Cam Newton of Auburn, Jake Locker of Washington, and Christian Ponder of Florida State. Newton went to Carolina, where he'd make a Pro-Bowl and win RotY, Locker flamed out after just three injury riddled seasons in Tennessee, and Ponder would flop after just one season as the full time starter and be replaced by Teddy Bridgewater in 2014. 

Coming out of Missouri, Gabbert had a lot of support to be the top choice in the draft. He was a 6'5, 234lbs passer who had terrific arm talent and athleticism for the position, flashing mobility and impressive accuracy on short and intermediate passes. He was a tad raw, however, and most expected him to take some time to accustom to the speed of the NFL coming from a spread offense in Missouri that didn't require him to go through progressions or read defenses pre-snap. The Jaguars took him tenth, and he proceeded to start 14 games for the Jags that year despite being just 22. He was sacked the third most times in the league, and struggled with a weak receiving corps and tough schedule. He improved slightly the next season, but was injured, and after an 0-3 start in 2013, Gabbert was replaced, released, and found a role as a backup to Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. Most never expected to hear from him again. 

Which leaves us here. Gabbert is back atop the quarterback depth chart, albeit now in a new city, and will begin the season as the starter for the first time since 2013. He's performed modestly so far this preseason, and will once again deal with a weak defense, thin offensive line, and inexperienced and talentless receiving corps. The only notable upgrades for Gabbert come in the form of 25 year old rusher Carlos Hyde, who looks poised for a breakout year himself, and a new coach: Chip Kelly. Here's where things get interesting. 

After three years in Philadelphia, it's pretty clear to me that Kelly does a nice job turning down on their luck former first and second rounders into consistent weekly starters at quarterback. Say what you will about his abilities as a talent evaluator, but Kelly clearly knows a thing or two about actual coaching. He managed to make Nick Foles into a Pro-Bowler, Sam Bradford into a reliable starter, and Mark Sanchez into a valuable trade asset. 

While it's a fairly small sample size, I decided to make a table showing the difference in play between Foles, Bradford, and Sanchez under Kelly and their stats without Kelly. Because all have varying years of experience without them, I add their totals and extrapolated them onto a per game basis. Here's what it looks like.

With Kelly vs. Without Kelly







Foles (PHI, '13-'14)







Foles (STL, '15)







Bradford (PHI, '15)







Bradford (STL, '10-'14)







Sanchez (PHI, '14-'15)







Sanchez (NYJ, '09-'12)







Let me address a couple of things first. In no way am I saying that Chip Kelly has instantly made these players better. Far from it. Obviously, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez might have turned a leaf because they had been stuck in run heavy offenses in their early years and transitioned to more pass happy attacks in their more mature, later years. Nick Foles might have seen a boost in his numbers because he took the league by surprise in 2013 and was promptly dissected by defensive coordinators in the years to follow. Any one or combination of these possibilities could explain the boost that quarterbacks under Chip Kelly have seen.

But to my point, why can't Blaine Gabbert do exactly what the other passers have done? Like Sanchez and Bradford, Gabbert was once a highly touted top ten selection in the prime of his career. He was mired in run heavy attacks early in his career and was forced to play almost immediately out of college. He still has all the physical tools draft experts drooled over coming out of Missouri. And now, like Sanchez and Bradford, he finds himself in a spread offense that will create space in open field and take advantage of his superior mobility and decisive short passes. 

It won't be all roses. Bradford struggled early in the year in Kelly's offense and Foles fell off a cliff following his spectacular Pro-Bowl performance. But history and the numbers tell us that Blaine Gabbert will have every opportunity to finally prove he's a starting quarterback in this league and will have the chance to surpass the fairly low expectations that experts and analysts have set for him.