There is still a long way to go before the NFL Draft. A lot of things will change between now and April, but Joe Malfa put together his first mock draft of the season now that the order is set for the top-20.
1 — Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
The Browns are going to draft a quarterback this year, but they can worry about that with their second pick of the first round. Garrett is the best player in the draft and has the ability to be elite.
2 — San Francisco 49ers: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The new head coach and general manager will probably look to grab themselves a quarterback, and I think Watson is QB1 when the dust settles. He has a lot of talent and is the only QB in the draft class that has proven himself on the big stage against top competition.
3 — Chicago Bears: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Trubisky was an inconsistent, one-year starter at North Carolina, but he has the tools and potential that will make a quarterback-needy team like the Bears take a chance.
4 — Jacksonville Jaguars: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
The Jaguars need to work on protecting Blake Bortles, but there are no offensive lineman worthy of the fourth pick. Allen is arguably the second best player in the draft. Adding him to a defense that already features Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey will give the Jags three top defensive prospects to build around on the defensive side of the ball.
5 — Tennessee Titans: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Tennessee ranked 20th in total defense and 11th in total offense in 2016. Mike Williams may seem like the sexy pick here because Marcus Mariota could use a big-time receiver, but defense is clearly the bigger need. Foster can start right away and serve as the all-important “defensive quarterback” for the next decade.
6 — New York Jets: Tim Williams, EDGE, Alabama
The Jets could really go anywhere with this pick, but EDGE is the biggest of the team’s many needs (outside of quarterback). Williams may be the best pure pass-rusher in this draft, and the Jets would be foolish to pass on him.
7 — San Diego Chargers: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Keenan Allen is unreliable, having played just eight games over the last two seasons. The Chargers need to get Philip Rivers a new top receiver, and Williams has the size, speed and talent to be a star in the NFL.
8 — Carolina Panthers: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Jonathan Stewart is neither healthy nor effective enough to justify his $8.25 million cap hit. Fournette would fit this system perfectly. Carolina’s offense could be dangerous with Newton and Fournette in the backfield, Kelvin Benjamin on the outside, and Greg Olsen in the middle.
9 — Cincinnati Bengals: Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
The Bengals need to get faster at linebacker and around the edge. Barnett is the best player available here at a position of need.
10 — Buffalo Bills: Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
The Bills need help in the secondary whether it’s at safety or corner. I will give them the star safety for now, but they may opt for a corner come April if they lose Stephon Gilmore in free agency.
11 — New Orleans Saints: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
The Saints’ defense ranked 25th against the pass in 2014, 31st in 2015, and 32nd in 2016. They desperately need to upgrade the secondary and pass rush, which is why they grab one of the top corners in the draft here. Wilson has the size and speed that general managers look for in in corners in today’s NFL.
12 — Cleveland Browns: DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
The Browns need to draft a QB at some point, so here it is. Kizer is a bit of a project, but he has the size, arm strength and intangibles to solve the Browns’ quarterback conundrum.
13 — Arizona Cardinals: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State (UPDATE: Hooker has declared)
The Cardinals could use another playmaker in the secodary to go along with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. They had one of the top passing defenses in 2016, but turnovers were harder to come by and they gave up a lot of big plays.
14 — Philadelphia Eagles: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cornerback and wide receiver may be bigger needs for the Eagles, but they cannot pass on Cook if he is available. Think about Carson Wentz and Dalvin Cook in the same backfield for the next few years.
15 — Indianapolis Colts: Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan
The Colts need a playmaker on defense and special teams — insert Jabrill Peppers. He was projected to go inside the top-10 when the earliest mocks were released in mid-October, but he is rapidly falling down draft boards because he does not have a true position. He will ultimately find his true position and make every team that passed on him because he is a “misfit” regret that decision.
16 — Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Ravens have been in search of an offensive coordinator that will bring the best out of Joe Flacco, but part of the issue is the lack of a big-time receiver. Losing Steve Smith’s production is not going to help the situation. Davis is a playmaker and should not be dismissed just because he comes from a small program.
17 — Washington Redskins: Montravius Adams, DL, Auburn
The Redskins have issues on the defensive line. It was an area of need heading into last year’s draft, but they opted for Josh Doctson in the first round to help Kirk Cousins. They will finally address the needs on defense.
18 — Tennessee Titans: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida (PICK CHANGE: Cardinals take Malik Hooker now that he has officially declared, dropping Tabor to 18th)
There is a lot of talent at corner in this draft class but there is not much separation between the top guys. For now, Tabor is my second-ranked corner, and the Titans opt for a second defender in the first round to fill another major need.
19 — Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Jameis Winston was able to have success throwing the ball to an average tight end like Cameron Brate in 2016. Brate will be a free agent coming off a back injury he sustained in Week 16. Selecting the top tight end in the draft would be the best way to replace him. Howard has the tools to be a top-tier tight end in the NFL.
20 — Denver Broncos: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
The Broncos’ main concern this offseason will be improving the offensive line. Robinson can be plugged in right away for a team that will once again be a contender in the AFC after John Elway makes a deal for Tony Romo.
Photo Credit: Alabama.com