We are excited to release our first top 10 mock draft for the 2017 NFL Draft. In the coming weeks, we will release our full first round mock draft along with proprietary tools aimed to provide RosterWatch Nation with everything you need to project what could happen in this year’s draft. Stay tuned for the release of our NFL Team Needs Tool as well as our Team Interest Tracker for PRO members as we move closer to draft day. Follow Mike Band on Twitter
1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett EDGE, Texas A&M
CLE Needs: QB, EDGE, CB, FS, TE, WR, RB
Why it will happen: The analytically-focused front office knows the importance of building a defense around a strong pass rush. Garrett, the consensus top player available in this year’s draft class, immediately improves the up-and-coming Browns defense. When asked about the possibility of trading the first overall pick, head coach Hue Jackson replied, “No. I can tell you no on that one.”
Why it won’t happen: Without a quarterback worthy of a top pick, the trade market for the first overall pick is diminished. Reading between the lines of Jackson’s comments, the Browns would balk at a trade involving the first overall pick even in a deal for Jimmy Garoppolo. All indications suggest the Browns are set on selecting Myles Garrett with the first overall pick.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Solomon Thomas EDGE, Stanford
SF Needs: QB, CB, EDGE, WR, RT, SS, RB
Why it will happen: The 49ers have shown plenty of interest in edge rusher Solomon Thomas throughout the pre-draft process. Projected starters Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks are both free agents next offseason so long-term pass rushers for a team in re-building mode will be considered early. General manager John Lynch is a former Stanford grad and is expected to prioritize high character and work ethic in his first draft class, traits Thomas possesses.
Why it won’t happen: The 49ers have used their last two first round picks on the defensive line (Arik Armstead & DeForest Buckner), though both are interior defensive lineman. The new staff is rumored to be looking to trade out of this spot to accumulate draft capital, even if it means receiving less than market value for the second overall pick. This will require a team looking to move up for either Solomon Thomas or Leonard Fournette. Alternatively, the 49ers have shown interest in the top cornerback in this year’s class, Marshon Lattimore.
3. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen DT, Alabama
CHI Needs: 5T, SS, CB, WR, RT, QB, TE
Why it will happen: The Bears will almost certainly use the third overall pick on a defensive player. If the Bears doctors pass Jonathan Allen medically (shoulder arthritis), Allen will likely be atop the Bears board. Allen provides an immediate upgrade at the 5-tech position and is an ideal fit in Vic Fangio’s base 3-4 scheme. The only reliable three-down interior lineman on the Bears roster, Akiem Hicks, is a free agent next offseason.
Why it won’t happen: The Bears are worried Jonathan Allen’s shoulder issue will linger throughout his career. The Bears suffered a myriad of injuries last season at key positions and cannot afford to miss on their investment with the third pick. General manager Ryan Pace will also consider adding a safety or cornerback. During the pre-draft process, the Bears have shown interest in Jamal Adams and Marshon Lattimore.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette RB, LSU
JAX Needs: EDGE, RB, LG, 5T, TE, QB, SLB
Why it will happen: By all accounts, VP Tom Coughlin will have final say on draft day decisions. Although Coughlin has been non-committal on Blake Bortles’ long-term future with the team, he will consider supporting Bortles and the offense with a more aggressive run game (Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon are not long-term options). We think Coughlin envisions using Fournette the same way the Giants used Brandon Jacobs in the mid-2000s, bringing much needed support in the red zone. Let’s also remember Coughlin used the ninth overall pick in 1998 on Fred Taylor.
Why it won’t happen: If Coughlin listens to the analytics guys in the building, they may pass on a running back fourth overall. The Jaguars have major needs along their defensive front and could look to address the EDGE or DT positions with the fourth pick if Solomon Thomas or Jonathan Allen are available. Draft pundits believe Jamal Adams could be also be the pick, but the contracts for safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson suggest otherwise.
5. Tennessee Titans (from LAR) – Marshon Lattimore CB, Ohio State
TEN Needs: WR, CB, 5T, EDGE, FS, ILB, OG
Why it will happen: The league needs cornerbacks and the market is acting accordingly. General manager Jon Robinson comes the Belichick tree where you can never have enough young cornerbacks. Soon-to-be 30 years old, Jason McCourty enters the final year of his deal and may not be in the team’s long-term plans. The Titans signed Logan Ryan to a three-year deal, but the contract is not guaranteed beyond next season. All signs point to the Titans showing plenty of interest in Marshon Lattimore during the pre-draft process.
Why it won’t happen: There’s a chance Lattimore won’t be available when the Titans make their pick. Jamaal Adams is also in play, though there is less of a need at safety with the emergence of Kevin Byard and the addition Jonathan Cyprien in free agency. If Jonathan Allen falls to the fifth pick due to injury concerns, there’s a strong possibility Allen will have a higher grade on the Titans draft board than Lattimore.
6. New York Jets – Jamal Adams SS, LSU
NYJ Needs: CB, SS, QB, RT, WR, EDGE, RB
Why it will happen: The Jets desperately need help at both the cornerback and safety positions. In this scenario, the Jets take the best player available on their board, at an area of need, on a player noted for his leadership ability. Projected starting safeties Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist are not in the team’s long-term plans.
Why it won’t happen: Adams may not be available when the Jets make their selection. If Lattimore is available, he will be considered due to need. The Jets could place a premium on pass catchers and consider O.J. Howard, Mike Williams, John Ross or Corey Davis with the pick to support projected starter Christian Hackenberg. This pick could also be the ceiling for the quarterbacks in this year’s class—the Jets have shown strong interest in Mitchell Trubisky throughout the pre-draft process.
7. Los Angeles Chargers – Malik Hooker FS, Ohio State
LAC Needs: FS, OT, CB, RG, SLB, QB, RB
Why it will happen: When Eric Weddle signed with the Ravens, the back end of the Chargers secondary suffered from a playmaking perspective. Jahleel Addae supplanted himself as the team’s in-the-box strong safety, though coverage support is needed at free safety. Dwight Lowery is the projected starter playing on a team-friendly deal at 31 years old. The Chargers have shown plenty of interest in both Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams during the pre-daft process.
Why it won’t happen: Hooker had surgery to repair a torn labrum and a sports hernia in February and was unable to work out for scouts at the combine and his pro day. If Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker are both available when the Chargers make their selection, they may be pressed to take Adams due to the cleaner bill of health.
8. Carolina Panthers – Christian McCaffrey RB, Stanford
CAR Needs: RT, RB, EDGE, WR, CB, DT, OG
Why it will happen: General manager Dave Gettleman prioritizes versatility and McCaffrey fits the bill. The Panthers are expected to address the running back position in the early rounds of the draft and the front office must find a compliment piece for their shotgun-heavy offense. McCaffrey visited the Panthers facility just last week.
Why it won’t happen: The Panthers have been known to select the best player available regardless of the need, and McCaffrey may not be among the top eight players on their draft board. The front office could look to trade down a few slots and consider players like John Ross, Corey Davis or a top offensive tackle.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Reuben Foster LB, Alabama
CIN Needs: EDGE, SLB, RG, NT, WR, SS, RB
Why it will happen: If the Bengals want to continue to bring attitude and aggressiveness to their defense, Reuben Foster is a perfect fit. Vincent Rey and Nick Vigil are the only two linebackers signed beyond next season. It remains to be seen whether the team will re-sign Vontaze Burfict next offseason—drafting Foster gives them leverage if Burfict’s market is greater than their budget. Reuben Foster belongs in the NFC North. Foster visited the Bengals during the pre-draft process.
Why it won’t happen: If the Bengals want to be a more disciplined football team, Foster may not be the right fit. Foster’s off-field concerns stem beyond his incident at the combine. Based on need, they will likely take a linebacker or edge pass rusher with the ninth overall pick—Derek Barnett and Haason Reddick are both in play.
10. Buffalo Bills – Mike Williams WR, Clemson
BUF Needs: WR, RT, CB, FS, QB, 3T, ILB
Why it will happen: The Bills desperately need help at the receiver position given the health risks surrounding Sammy Watkins and the lack of depth currently on roster. Specifically, the offense is devoid of an impact red zone threat. New head coach Sean McDermott learned the philosophy of building around big-bodied receivers from his time in Carolina and Williams fits the bill.
Why it won’t happen: Corey Davis may be higher on their board, despite missing both the combine and his pro day due to an ankle injury. If the priority is to add the best available pass catcher, O.J. Howard will also be considered. The Bills have just as pressing needs in their secondary at both the cornerback and safety positions and will consider Marshon Lattimore, Jamal Adams, or Malik Hooker if one should fall to the 10th pick.