2017 NFL Mock Draft: The QBs set to dominate next spring

2:56 | NFL
Jaguars, Bears, Bengals among NFL draft winners
Monday May 2nd, 2016

Before anyone gets all hot and bothered about the prospect of a 2017 NFL mock draft in early May 2016, allow me to pass along a couple of notes:

A) Minimal consideration was paid to perceived team needs—some, to be sure, but there is no point in pretending anyone knows how these rosters will shape up a year from now.

B) The real goal here is to introduce (or reintroduce) some of the prospects football fans will become familiar with during the 2016 college season.

2016 NFL draft grades: How all 32 teams fared

The other sticking point on the 2017 mocks tends to be the draft order. As usual, ours has been pulled from the 2017 Super Bowl odds laid down by Vegas—in this case, the Westgate Superbook. This in no way is meant as a prediction of how the teams will finish, so ignore the low expectations for a team like the Jaguars.

People always miss that part, so I’ll repeat, in bold: The draft order has been determined by Super Bowl LI odds set in Vegas. If you hate the order, it is Vegas’s fault. (“It is Vegas’s fault” is a decent excuse in many non-football cases.)

The college football season kicks off on August 26, when Hawaii and Cal battle in Sydney, Australia. Here is an extremely early shot at how the 2017 draft landscape might shake out in the months that follow.

2017 NFL Mock Draft
  • 1
    1Brad Kaaya
    QB, Miami
    Since 2000, a quarterback has been the No. 1 pick 12 times, and in three of the past five drafts QBs have gone 1-2. So, just playing the percentages here. There is no question that Deshaun Watson will be a Heisman favorite this season, off his brilliant 2015. There’s also little question that, on paper, Kaaya—who is 6' 4" and plays in a pro-style scheme—better fits the NFL prototype.

  • 2
    2Deshaun Watson
    QB, Clemson
    The 49ers can trim almost $15 million off their 2017 cap by cutting Colin Kaepernick next off-season, so let’s assume that marks the end of a frayed relationship. Watson probably will face similar questions asked of previous top prospects Jared Goff (No. 1 in 2016) and Marcus Mariota (No. 2 in 2015). He also undeniably enters his junior season atop the 2017 draft list.

  • 3
    3Cam Robinson
    OT, Alabama
    The 6' 6" prospect struggled early last year but, like his title-winning team, found his mojo again late. He is entering his third season as the Crimson Tide’s starter at left tackle.

  • 4
    4Myles Garrett
    DE, Texas A&M
    “This year,” Garrett told SI’s Brian Hamilton, “I want to make sure I get out of here and I break the single-season record [for sacks], I break the career record—pretty much I want to break all the records I can possible for a defensive end." With 22.5 sacks and 32.0 tackles for loss already, he might pull it off.

  • 5
    5Leonard Fournette
    RB, LSU
    The latest player, through no fault of his own, to be swept into the “should he sit out a season” debate. Fournette arguably is the best RB prospect of the past three seasons, and that list includes Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley.

  • 6
    6Carl Lawson
    DE, Auburn
    Can he stay on the field? That’s the only mystery surrounding Lawson, who sat out the 2014 season with an ACL injury and missed several games to injury last year. If he can show some durability, there’s no question he has top-10 potential.
  • 7
    7Roderick Johnson (via Eagles)
    OT, Florida State
    Johnson inherited the Seminoles’ left tackle spot as a true freshman in 2014 after Cam Erving moved to center. The 6' 7", 307-pounder locked down that spot last year during a dominant campaign.

  • 8
    8Jalen Tabor
    CB, Florida
    Tabor’s ex-teammate Vernon Hargreaves just missed the top 10 this draft. The 6' 1" standout will pair with Quincy Wilson to form one of college football’s top cornerback combos in 2016.

  • 9
    9Christian McCaffrey
    RB, Stanford
    What does McCaffrey have on tap for an encore after topping 2,000 yards on the ground (and nearly 4,000 total yards) last season? He would be so much fun in this offense.

  • 10
    10Jonathan Allen
    DE, Alabama
    Allen, the Crimson Tide sacks leader last season with 12, told ESPN.com that he received a second-round grade ahead of this year’s draft. If he continues to progress as he has from 2013 to ’15, he should have no trouble surpassing that projection.

  • 11
    11Desmond King (via Rams)
    CB, Iowa
    It was a bit of a surprise when King announced he would stay in school for his senior season. The 5' 11" DB has a chance to repeat as the Jim Thorpe Award winner.

  • 12
    12Mike Williams
    WR, Clemson
    Watson’s 2015 was made all the more impressive by excelling despite losing Williams to a neck fracture in the season opener after the 6' 4" receiver crashed into the goalpost after a TD catch. He is on track to be 100% for 2016, giving him ample time to reemerge as an elite prospect.

  • 13
    13Dalvin Cook
    RB, Florida State
    Don’t want to overdo it on running backs, especially in the top 15, but Cook will be in the early first round discussion if he repeats his 2015 production: 1,935 rushing yards, 20 TDs. Pro Football Focus graded him out No. 2 in the nation in yards after contact per attempt.

  • 14
    14Jabrill Peppers
    S/LB, Michigan
    Jim Harbaugh said Peppers might be the “Willie Mays of football”, and his two-way contributions no doubt will lead to ample Charles Woodson comparisons this season. The rising junior is an athletically gifted safety who actually is set to play linebacker in new defensive coordinator Don Brown’s scheme.

  • 15
    15Eddie Vanderdoes
    DT, UCLA
    Kenny Clark is the UCLA DT everyone got to know this spring, but Vanderdoes would have been right with him if he had’t torn his ACL last September.

  • 16
    16Patrick Mahomes
    QB, Texas Tech
    Time to take a stab at the other QBs who could crack Round 1 a year from now. Put the 6' 3" Mahomes on the list of possibilities. He has given up his spot on the Red Raiders’ baseball team so he can focus on football and is primed to blow up off a 46-TD season (36 passing, 10 rushing).

  • 17
    17DeMarcus Walker
    DE, Florida State
    Walker applied for an NFL draft evaluation following his junior year, then stayed put. Expect him to build on his second-team All-ACC showing, which included 15.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.

  • 18
    18Tim Williams
    OLB, Alabama
    Williams was a dominant situational edge rusher for the Tide last season, racking up 10.5 sacks in limited time. He even flirted with the 2016 draft. Circle him as a player whose stock could skyrocket in the coming months.

  • 19
    19Raekwon McMillan​
    LB, Ohio State
    You didn’t think we would get through the first round without a couple Buckeyes, did you? McMillan stood out even on a defense which included two 2016 first-rounders (Joey Bosa and Darron Lee). He should be a star this fall.

  • 20
    20Adoree’ Jackson
    CB, USC
    To give you some idea of the kind of athlete we’re talking about here: Jackson took off spring practice because he is trying to qualify as an Olympic long jumper. He can do it all on the football field, adding 27 catches and almost 900 return yards to his defensive duties last season.

  • 21
    21Jarrad Davis
    LB, Florida
    Another prospect that flirted with entering the 2016 draft, Davis did so on the heels of a breakout season (94 tackles, 11 tackles for loss). His teammate, safety Marcus Maye, is yet another Florida defender to keep in mind as a potential 2017 Round 1 choice.

  • 22
    22Derek Barnett
    DE, Tennessee
    Tennessee’s miserable 2016 draft experience will not be repeated next year. Barnett, CB Cameron Sutton, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin and QB Joshua Dobbs lead what could be an excellent class. Barnett is the best of the bunch right now. He was a beast against both run and pass last season.

  • 23
    23O.J. Howard
    TE, Alabama
    A year after an underwhelming 2016 tight end class, 2017 could be loaded: Howard, Michigan’s Jake Butt and Clemson’s Jordan Leggett should lead an excellent class. Howard shredded Clemson in the national title game (five catches, 208 yards, two TDs), setting the stage for what could be a huge senior season.

  • 24
    24Jourdan Lewis
    CB, Michigan
    The Pro Football Focus folks graded him as the country’s top cornerback, period, last season. His size (5' 10", 176 pounds) is the only thing that may hold him back from hearing his name called early.

  • 25
    25Malik McDowell​
    DT, Michigan State
    The Spartans continue to churn out NFL-caliber talent, and McDowell might be the best of the recent bunch—not bad considering Shilique Calhoun, Trae Waynes and Darqueze Dennard are among the program’s recent draft picks. McDowell (6' 6", 280 lbs.) is a physically imposing monster inside.

  • 26
    26Pat Elflein
    G/C, Ohio State
    I actually had a different Buckeye, DE/OLB Tyquan Lewis, in this spot initially but moved him out to accommodate Elflein, who will receive significant attention should he thrive in his move to center this year. Another Ohio State prospect to remember: cornerback Gareon Conley, the heir apparent to top-10 pick Eli Apple.

  • 27
    27Tony Conner
    S, Ole Miss
    We just saw the Raiders and Falcons use picks 14 and 17, respectively, on Karl Joseph and Keanu Neal. Conner is next in line to be the hard-hitting safety NFL teams drool over. He might have joined Joseph and Neal in Round 1 had he stayed healthy last year.

  • 28
    28Charles Harris
    DE, Missouri
    Speaking of being "next in line," Harris (18.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks last season) could pick up right where fellow Mizzou products Shane Ray, Markus Golden and Kony Ealy left off in the draft.

  • 29
    29Corey Davis
    WR, Western Michigan
    Davis (6' 3", 205 pounds) would have had a strong chance to land on Day 2 had he declared following his junior season. He again should be among the FBS’s top producers at receiver in his final Western Michigan go-round.

  • 30
    30Baker Mayfield
    QB, Oklahoma
    Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly is a lock to be mentioned among next year’s first-round QBs, but his checkered past also will come up time and again: kicked off a high school team, kicked off Clemson, arrested before joining the Rebels (he pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge). But don’t sleep on Mayfield, who finished fourth in last year’s Heisman voting. He put up 3,700 yards passing, rushed for another 400 and is extremely accurate.

  • 31
    31Carlos Watkins
    DT, Clemson
    With Shaq Lawson, Kevin Dodd and D.J. Reader now in the pros, Watkins will be a lead dog for the Tigers’ D-line. The 300-pounder was second-team All-ACC last season and is set to build on a strong campaign.

  • 32
    31Cooper Kupp
    WR, Eastern Washington
    Vernon Adams recently told SI’s Doug Farrar that Kupp is the best receiver in college football—Adams played with Kupp before the latter took home the Walter Payton Award in 2015 as the top FCS offensive player. He has decent size (6' 2", 205 lbs.), runs sharp routes and produces from the slot or outside.

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