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2017 NFL Mock Draft: Giants get Eli a scary weapon in Njoku, Texans take a QB

rooz 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Giants get Eli a scary weapon in Njoku, Texans take a QB image

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Pass rushers rank second in importance only to quarterbacks in modern era football, a truth that will play out dramatically over the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. More NFL Draft How to watch NFL Draft
Barring a shocking change of events, the Cleveland Browns will start things off April 27 with consensus top-rated overall prospect Myles Garrett at No. 1 overall. That, however, will be just the beginning as a virtual avalanche of edge rushers should follow soon thereafter, with seven (most of any position) coming off the board over the first 32 picks. 1. Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett , DE, Texas A&M: The clear top need in Cleveland is at quarterback, but it would be a stunner if anyone other than Garrett was the first pick. He is simply the best player in the draft. Garrett lived up to his hype at the combine, dazzling with his combination of size (6-feet-4, 272 pounds), power (33 repetitions of 225 pounds) and speed (4.64 in the 40) and explosiveness (41-inch vertical). The Browns pass on a QB at No. 1 for the draft’s top talent. USATSI 2. San Francisco 49ers
Solomon Thomas , DL, Stanford Cardinal : Coach Kyle Shanahan was hired to help spark a listless offense that ranked 27th in points and dead last in passing last season but ignoring better players just to draft a quarterback might only guarantee another poor season in 2017. Thomas is a disrupting force who has drawn comparisons to Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald . He could be the perfect finishing touch for a defensive line currently better prepared to stuff the run than bother rival quarterbacks. Solomon Thomas is just too good to pass up at No. 2. USATSI 3. Chicago Bears
Jamal Adams , S, LSU Tigers : Safety has long been a sore spot in Chicago with only one Bears safety (Mike Brown) earning an invitation to the Pro Bowl over the past 20 years. Adams has that kind of potential and is viewed by some as the safest prospect in the draft. He is a tone-setter with a rare combination of instincts, athleticism and intangibles to make an immediate impact on a defense that made strides a year ago but allowed 24.9 points per game, 24th in the NFL . Jamal Adams looks like Honey Badger 2.0. USATSI 4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Leonard Fournette , RB, LSU: Splashy signings in free agency suggest the Jaguars are looking for an immediate difference-maker with this pick. The Cowboys went from last to first in the NFC a year ago in large part because of the stellar play of 2016 No. 4 overall pick Ezekiel Elliott . The Jaguars could see a similar bounce with Fournette taking the pressure off young Blake Bortles and the passing game. Fournette was not as impressive in workouts as expected but he is a freakish talent, boasting the most exciting combination of size, speed and power since Adrian Peterson . Can Leonard Fournette provide the Jags an Ezekiel Elliott-like boost? USATSI 5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles)
Marshon Lattimore , CB, Ohio State: The addition of veterans Logan Ryan and Johnathan Cyprien help but only the most optimistic of Titans fans believe that they can turn a secondary that ranked 31st a year ago against the pass into an elite unit. Now if a talent like Lattimore was added to the mix, on the other hand, optimism should be much higher. Lattimore struggled with hamstring injuries early in his career at Ohio State but he was dominant last season, showing the easy agility, acceleration and instincts to project as a future Pro Bowl player. Marshon Lattimore would upgrade a leaky Titans secondary. USATSI 6. New York Jets
O.J. Howard , TE, Alabama Crimson Tide : If the Jets indeed plan on entering next season with Josh McCown , Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg at quarterback, adding weapons in the passing game is a must. After spectacular performances at the Senior Bowl and combine, Howard is gaining traction as the top pass-catcher in this draft and a top-10 pick. O.J. Howard is the best TE in the draft. USATSI 7. San Diego Chargers
Malik Hooker , S, Ohio State Buckeyes : The Chargers won big with Joey Bosa a year ago and could see another Buckeye as an ideal replacement for Eric Weddle , who the club clearly missed in 2016. The 6-2, 205-pound Hooker possesses the range and ball skills to complement San Diego’s small but physical cornerbacks. Malik Hooker is still raw in spots but he’s a can’t-miss top-10 prospect. USATSI 8. Carolina Panthers
Jonathan Allen , DL, Alabama: Defensive line is not necessarily the biggest concern in Charlotte, but general manager Dave Gettleman might have a hard time letting a talent like Allen slip any further. Questions about the health of his shoulders and schematic fit could hound the 6-3, 286-pound Allen, but the tape does not lie; he is agile, powerful and technically refined, possessing the ability to play virtually anywhere along the defensive line. Jonathan Allen can play anywhere on the defensive line. USATSI 9. Cincinnati Bengals
Derek Barnett , DE/OLB, Tennessee Volunteers : Adding a young pass rusher to complement veterans Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap is expected to be among the Bengals’ top draft day priorities. Barnett lacks the ideal traits that general manager Mike Brown has prioritized in the past but his production (NCAA-best 33 sacks over the past three seasons) against elite competition speaks for itself and he possesses the pro-ready game and work ethic to continue this success in the NFL. Barnett gets results. USATSI 10. Buffalo Bills
Mike Williams , WR, Clemson Tigers : With significant losses to both position groups in recent weeks, this selection is likely to be spent on either a wide receiver or a cornerback. Given the commitment made to re-signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the depth at cornerback this year, GM Doug Whaley might like the idea of pairing the 6-4, 218-pound Williams with former Clemson teammate Sammy Watkins to give Taylor a pair of play-makers on the outside. Mike Williams is a plug-and-play starter at WR. USATSI 11. New Orleans Saints
Taco Charlton , DE, Michigan Wolverines : The Saints ranked 27th in the NFL a year ago with just 30 sacks, a real concern given the quarterback talent in the NFC South. Help is on the way with former Arizona Cardinals’ edge rusher Alex Okafor but he signed only a one year deal. It took a while for the light to come on for Charlton at Michigan but he led the Big Ten in sacks a year ago in his first season as a full-time starter. Boasting a terrific combination of burst, bend and length, Charlton has Pro Bowl potential. Charlton is only scraping the surface of his potential. USATSI 12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)
Mitch Trubisky , QB, North Carolina Tar Heels : The splashy trade for Brock Osweiler is not likely to keep Cleveland from drafting another quarterback. Trubisky is obviously a roll of the dice given that he only started one year for the Tar Heels, but he showed impressive accuracy, athleticism and pocket awareness in 2016. The Ohio native possesses the combination of upside and intangibles that Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson prioritized with their draft picks a year ago. Mitchell Trubisky is the first QB to come off the board. USATSI 13. Arizona Cardinals
Patrick Mahomes II , QB, Texas Tech Red Raiders : The Cardinals have publicly stated their intention to find a young quarterback to groom under Carson Palmer and Mahomes would seem to be a perfect fit in Bruce Arians’ aggressive passing attack. After starring in Tech’s shotgun-heavy Air Raid offense, Mahomes is undeniably a project, but he possesses the gunslinger mentality and arm that project well to the next level. Pat Mahomes is the future at QB for the Cardinals. USATSI 14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota)
Jabrill Peppers , S, Michigan: Given the dynamic pass-catchers the Eagles face annually in the NFC East, addressing a leaky secondary should be among Philadelphia’s top priorities. Peppers is a polarizing prospect in the scouting community based in large part because he recorded just one interception over his career at Michigan. However, he is an instinctive, versatile player with the open-field tackling skills and competitive nature to quickly become a fan favorite. Jabrill Peppers gives the Eagles a versatile DB. USATSI 15. Indianapolis Colts
Christian McCaffrey , RB, Stanford: Sure, adding a defender would appear to make the most sense, but injecting the speed and play-making ability of McCaffrey into a backfield currently build around steady (but slow) veterans Frank Gore and Robert Turbin could be precisely what the Colts need to spark a return to the playoffs. Christian McCaffrey gives Andrew Luck a home-run hitter in the backfield. USATSI 16. Baltimore Ravens
Takkarist McKinley , OLB, UCLA Bruins : The Ravens recorded just 31 sacks a season ago with a team-high eight of them coming from 34-year old Terrell Suggs . With Timmy Jernigan (five sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (three) no longer on the roster, Baltimore must re-invest in the position. McKinley’s stock is a bit in flux after recently undergoing shoulder surgery but he possesses the explosive first step, arm length (34 ¾”) and high-revving motor to ultimately prove one of the best edge rushers from this year’s class. Takk McKinley is explosive coming around the edge. USATSI 17. Washington Redskins
Reuben Foster , LB, Alabama: The Redskins surrendered nearly 120 yards per game on the ground in 2016 and only three teams (the Chargers, Bills and 49ers) allowed more than their 19 rushing touchdowns. Foster was kicked out of the combine after a run-in with medical personnel, but his talent is undeniable. With remarkable closing speed and the physicality to intimidate, he could prove a steal at this point in the draft. Reuben Foster falls out of the top 10 after his combine fiasco. USATSI 18. Tennessee Titans
John Ross , WR, Washington Huskies : With Marcus Mariota’s speed and the two-headed monster of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in the backfield, Tennessee clearly has a run-first strategy on offense. That said, the incredible straight-line speed of Ross would force opposing defensive coordinators to think twice before crowding the box. Further, Ross would add juice to a special teams unit that ranked 20th a season ago in punt return average (7.9) and 26th on kickoffs (19.1). John Ross can flat-out fly. USATSI 19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dalvin Cook , RB, Florida State Seminoles : With Doug Martin facing a four game suspension for PED use and coming off of his third injury-shortened season, the Bucs understandably could be looking for help at running back. Reuniting Cook with former FSU teammate Jameis Winston could be the perfect solution. Cook has off-field and durability concerns of his own but he is an ideal fit in this offense as a slashing runner with terrific hands. Dalvin Cook could reunite with his college QB in Tampa. USATSI 20. Denver Broncos
Ryan Ramczyk , OT, Wisconsin Badgers : On paper, the signings of former Raiders right tackle Menelik Watson and Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary make up for the decision to let starting left tackle Russell Okung walk in free agency but reality could prove different. Ramczyk has the feet to handle blindside duties and at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, possesses the girth to move people in the running game, as well. Ramczyk fills a pressing need in Denver. USATSI 21. Detroit Lions
T.J. Watt , DE, Wisconsin: Aggressive moves in free agency signal that Detroit has high expectations in 2017. A healthy Ziggy Ansah for the entire season would certainly go a long way towards boosting the pass rush but he could use some help. Watt is surprisingly polished given that he began his career at tight end, showing the instincts and refined hand play to make an immediate impact opposite Ansah, who led the NFC with 14.5 sacks when healthy in 2015. T.J. Watt has terrific NFL pedigree. USATSI 22. Miami Dolphins
Forrest Lamp , G, Western Kentucky: Trading away starting left tackle Branden Albert (to Jacksonville) says a lot about the Dolphins’ confidence in 2016 first-round pick LaremyTunsil. While Tunsil should have no problem re-acclimating to tackle after starring at left guard last season, his absence inside could be an issue. Lamp looks like a plug-and-play solution after a seamless transition inside to guard at the Senior Bowl. Forrest Lamp is a perfect fit at guard in the NFL. USATSI 23. New York Giants
David Njoku, TE, Miami: Veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall gives the Giants a physically imposing pass-catcher to complement playmakers Odell Beckham , Jr. and Sterling Shepard but it is hard to imagine Eli Manning complaining if another set of hands was added to the mix. The 20-year old Njoku is still very much a work in progress but scouts are enamored with the 6-4, 246 pounder’s ability to create mismatches in the passing game. David Njoku provides Eli Manning with another explosive pass-catching option. Getty Images 24. Oakland Raiders
Malik McDowell , DT, Michigan State Spartans : The Raiders’ rise to the playoffs is directly attributable to their explosive offense, but if the club is to take the next step — and remain a consistent postseason threat — help must be on the way for a defense that surrendered 375 yards per game, 26th in the NFL. In his postseason wrapup, Jack Del Rio stressed the need to create more disruption on the interior, which is what the 6-5, 285-pound McDowell does best. Even double-teams don’t consistently stop Malik McDowell. USATSI 25. Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson , QB, Clemson: Getting rid of the colossal Brock Osweiler contract was a relief in itself, but unless a veteran replacement is found, quarterback is the top priority again in Houston. Watson’s ability to deliver in the clutch intrigues scouts, but he also threw an FBS-worst 30 interceptions over the past two seasons, making him a polarizing player in the scouting community. At this point in the draft, however, GM Rick Smith might see him as simply too talented to pass up. Is Deshaun Watson the long-term answer at QB in Houston? USATSI 26. Seattle Seahawks
Garett Bolles , OT, Utah Utes : It is no secret that the Seahawks’ top priority over the offseason would be addressing a leaky offensive line and the club made several moves, including adding former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel in free agency. If the team was confident that Joeckel was the long-term answer at left tackle, however, Seattle likely would have given him more than a one-year “show me” deal. Bolles is a work in progress after only starting one year at Utah and comes with some character red flags. He has the highest upside of any lineman in this class, however, boasting the light feet and competitive nature to project as a future standout left tackle. Garett Bolles has rediscovered his love for the game and has NFL-level talent. USATSI 27. Kansas City Chiefs
Haason Reddick , ILB, Temple Owls : The Chiefs have some massive shoes to fill up the middle with nose guard Dontari Poe walking in free agency and the 34-year old Derrick Johnson recuperating from his second season-ending Achilles tear over the past three years. Reddick recorded 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks as an edge rusher for the Owls in 2016 before wowing first at the Senior Bowl as a more traditional linebacker and then at the combine, recording a ridiculous 4.52-second time in the 40-yard dash and 11’1” broad jump at 6-1, 234 pounds. Haason Reddick’s stock is on the rise. USATSI 28. Dallas Cowboys
Charles Harris , DE/OLB, Missouri Tigers : The Cowboys’ gambles on recent character concerns at pass rusher have not paid off and adding a playmaker to this unit should be a top priority. Harris possesses the burst, bend and lethal spin move to wreak havoc off the edge and, after only joining the sport as a junior in high school, he possesses the upside for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to develop. Charles Harris gives the Cowboys an edge. USATSI 29. Green Bay Packers
Marlon Humphrey , CB, Alabama: With clear needs at edge rusher, cornerback and running back, Ted Thompson has plenty of options with this pick. Humphrey, arguably the best player on the board, is an NFL legacy with a rare combination of size (6-0, 197 pounds) and speed (4.41), who at just 20 years old appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential. Marlon Humphrey is a physical, attacking corner. USATSI 30. Pittsburgh Steelers
Obi Melifonwu , FS, Connecticut Huskies : Two years ago, it was former Husky Byron Jones who wowed scouts at the combine with his sheer athleticism, earning a first-round pick by Dallas. Melifonwu was one of this year’s brightest stars in Indianapolis, producing a 4.40-second 40-yard dash, 44-inch vertical and 11-9 broad jump at 6-4, 224 pounds. Better yet, Melifonwu’s athleticism translates onto the field and the Steelers could use his range in the deep patrol. Obi Melifonwu jumps into the first round after an impressive combine. USATSI 31. Atlanta Falcons
Budda Baker , FS, Washington: After surrendering a Super Bowl record 466 passing yards to Tom Brady , no one should be surprised if the Falcons opt to reinforce the secondary. At just 5-10, 195 pounds, Baker does not possess ideal size but Dan Quinn has previously been willing to overlook that at free safety with the 5-9, 185-pound Ricardo Allen currently starting in Atlanta. Quinn previously worked with Earl Thomas (5-10, 202) in Seattle. Baker has more range and quickness than Allen, projecting as a traditional centerfielder who can drop down to help at nickel, as well. Budda Baker looks like Dan Quinn’s next center fielder. USATSI 32. New Orleans Saints (from New England)
Gareon Conley , CB, Ohio State: The Saints ranked dead last in pass defense in 2016 and may opt to trade this or another pick for New England Patriots ’ star cornerback Malcolm Butler in an attempt to fix the issue. Until that occurs, adding talent in the secondary is likely New Orleans’ top priority. The Saints won big a year ago with former Ohio State wideout Michael Thomas and may see Conley as another Buckeye overshadowed by talented teammates. Gareon Conley is yet another first-round talent from Columbus. USATSI Add a Comment

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