2017 NFL mock draft 2.0: Two QBs drafted in top three picks—but not by the Browns

1:04 | NFL
2017 NFL Draft Notebook: October 28th
Friday October 28th, 2016

It’s the same question every year: How badly do those teams near that top of a draft want a quarterback?

The answer usually turns out to be “very,” and this year doesn’t set up all that different—except the presence of Myles Garrett, like Jadeveon Clowney in 2014, tips the scales in favor of defense. Clowney was perceived as the clear No. 1 prospect that year, and while it’s taken him a little bit to get going he is starting to show flashes toward that end. The best QB from the ’14 class? Thus far, it’s been Derek Carr, taken in Round 2 after Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater were off the board.

Could that history lead the team picking No. 1 to roll with Garrett and wait on a QB? And which QB even is the best pick right now? DeShone Kizer and Deshaun Watson have been the leaders in the clubhouse for a bit, but both have stumbled on occasion this season. Ditto for Brad Kaaya, whose momentum has slowed. Rising North Carolina prospect Mitch Trubisky could crash the party, but he offers very limited college experience.

In other words, as is usually the case this time of year, it’s wide open.

2016 NFL re-draft: Which players should have been drafted when in Round 1?

Our latest mock draft follows. How much will change when it’s time to check the lay of the land again in a few weeks?

(Note: The order for this draft is based roughly on the current NFL standings, with adjustments made for playoff seeding.)

2017 NFL Mock Draft 2.0
  • 1
    1Myles Garrett, DE/OLB
    Texas A&M

    The debate is already raging, and it will continue on no matter where the Browns pick: Should they draft a quarterback early? Keep in mind that they also hold Philadelphia’s first-rounder (No. 24 here), plus an extra second-rounder via Tennessee. Do they have enough faith in a) Cody Kessler’s development, and/or b) their own ability to find another viable QB prospect later, to pass on a quarterback here? For now, I’m betting they do, and much of that has to do with what we’ve seen so far from Kessler, a hand-picked Hue Jackson player.

    That, and the fact that Garrett is the best player in this draft class. Add him to Danny Shelton, Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah, and suddenly the Browns’ front seven is in business.

  • 2
    2DeShone Kizer, QB
    Notre Dame
    Unlike in Cleveland, there is no real discussion to be had here. The 49ers have to find themselves a quarterback—ideally, one that can start from the get-go. The jury will stay out until 2017 on Kizer’s (or Deshaun Watson’s or any other rookie QB’s) ability to do that, but Kizer has much of what it takes, including mobility and an arm to find tight windows downfield.

  • 3
    3Deshaun Watson, QB
    Here’s a partial list of the prospective 2017 free-agent QB class: Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Geno Smith, Landry Jones. Anyone in there feeling like a game-changer for the Bears? The answer is “no,” which is why Chicago almost has to take a quarterback in Round 1. Watson’s athleticism is the main attraction, but for the mistakes he makes (too many of them) there is arm talent there that could be developed outside of Clemson’s QB-friendly system. Plus, no other quarterback in this class has played—or thrived—in the big-money moments Watson has faced repeatedly.

  • 4
    4Jabrill Peppers, S
    The Panthers’ need for help at cornerback is obvious, so ... yeah, Peppers can play there if you want him to. They’re not desperate at safety, but also wouldn’t decline an upgrade on Kurt Coleman or Tre Boston and ... O.K., that works, too. Want to groom someone for the post-Thomas Davis era? Need another weapon for the offense or special teams? Check. Check. Peppers is a draft-now, figure-out-the-plan later prospect.

  • 5
    5Derek Barnett, DE/OLB
    The combination of Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams has not worked out all that well because they’re too similar—all 3–4 DEs in a perfect world, which has left Richardson playing out of place. Swap him (and his contract that the Jets likely will bail on after this season) out for Barnett, and it all makes more sense. Barnett can play the edge when Todd Bowles wants a 4–3 look; he would face a challenge as a 3–4 OLB but could do the job as a downhill playmaker from there, too.

  • 6
    6Jonathan Allen, DT
    “Fat guy touchdowns” are fan favorites because we don’t often see 300-pounders lumbering toward the end zone. It didn’t have the same appeal with Allen scored vs. Tennessee, because even at 294 lbs., he runs like a tight end. The NFL player comparisons that have been thrown out for Allen of late—Ndamukong Suh, Fletcher Cox, Jurrell Casey—consist exclusively of dominant NFL defensive tackles.

  • 7
    7Malik McDowell, DT
    Michigan State
    The Saints just used a 2016 first-rounder on Sheldon Rankins (who has yet to play because of injury), so this would be doubling down at DT. But, well, why wouldn’t you double down? McDowell is an imposing figure, with the versatility to line up anywhere. Add McDowell to Rankins and perhaps Nick Fairley ($745K salary for 2017), and the Saints might finally find some defensive footing behind their D-line.

  • 8
    8Quincy Wilson, CB
    (Trade via Los Angeles) There will be worse spots to be this year than to need a cornerback. The potential Round 1 talent at the position is through the roof, so much so that guys like Tre’Davious White and Jourdan Lewis—legit top-32 possibilities—slid off the board. Wilson has been brilliant this season, and at 6' 1", 213 lbs., can bang with physical, NFL-caliber receivers. Of course, you could drop his teammate, Jalen Tabor, into this spot instead and no one would blink.

  • 9
    9Mike Williams, WR
    The Titans are riding quantity over quality at the receiver spot right now. For the sake of their offense and the development of Marcus Mariota, they have to find a true No. 1 threat. Williams can be the answer, especially if he becomes even more physical in tight quarters—he dominates at the catch point when he wants to. Watson’s top target also has the speed to get deep, another element sorely lacking in the Titans’ repertoire.

  • 10
    10Jamal Adams, S
    For as much as Peppers’s mix-and-match talents are discussed, Adams, while not as eye-popping in his explosiveness as Michigan’s star, brings a lot of similar elements to the table. He is cut from the hybrid-safety mold the NFL has placed such an emphasis on recently, with the wherewithal to play high, low or over the slot.

  • 11
    11Leonard Fournette, RB
    As amazing as it is that Frank Gore is on track to top 1,000 yards again, at age 33, the Colts should be thinking about the future at RB. Anyone who just saw Fournette’s 16-carry, 278-yard, three-TD showing vs. Ole Miss knows what he’s capable of doing. He could be the next Gore: a back with 1,500-yard potential and the frame to last.

  • 12
    12Reuben Foster, LB
    Be it the Patriots, Cowboys or Browns, teams have exposed the Bengals on the second level this season. Adding athleticism there should be a priority this off-season. Enter Foster, arguably the heart and soul of Alabama’s insanely talented defense. He’s a three-down defender, with the range and ability to diagnose plays that comes with such a designation.

  • 13
    13Desmond King, CB
    We do not talk enough about what cornerbacks can add in run defense, instead focusing on the obvious topic of their coverage. But King excels in both areas—perfect for a Miami team that’s been worn down on the ground but also is holding its secondary together with duct tape. King has 12 career interceptions and 32 pass break-ups.

  • 14
    14Tim Williams, OLB
    Maybe Williams never becomes an NFL defender who’s on the field for 80% of snaps, in all situations. For two years straight now, though, few players in college football have been able to match Williams’s per-snap impact off the edge. His speed as a pass-rusher is dazzling, and it should allow him to maintain his success as a pro.

  • 15
    15Dalvin Cook, RB
    The Buccaneers shouldn’t draft Cook simply because, as a freshman, he produced 1,000-yard season alongside Jameis Winston. But that doesn’t hurt. Doug Martin’s “five-year, $35 million” contract essentially vanishes after 2017; Jacquizz Rodgers has been great in his recent stint as Tampa Bay’s starter, but long-term he’s a complementary piece. Cook is a dynamic, home-run threat around which an entire offense can be built.

  • 16
    16Corey Davis, WR
    Western Michigan
    I was thisclose to slotting Davis in as a top-10 pick before hedging a bit, but I have a hard time watching Davis and not seeing a successful NFL receiver. Continued exposure to (and improvement against) physical, press coverage will have to come in time, and his 40 time will be one to note. Otherwise, what else do you want? He runs sharp, nuanced routes from all spots on the field, plus has the size to finish plays when he can’t create separation. Michael Floyd never became a true go-to threat for Arizona; Larry Fitzgerald’s nearing the end of the line.

  • 17
    17Carl Lawson, DE
    This is an obvious spot for the prospect slotted in at 18 (Raekwon McMillan), but the Giants are organizationally allergic to Round 1 linebackers. Instead, with Jason Pierre-Paul again on the verge of free agency, they nab an end. Lawson has responded this season to those who questioned the hype surrounding him—he has 6.5 sacks already.

  • 18
    18Raekwon McMillan, LB
    Ohio State
    With DeAndre Levy continuing to battle injury issues and the massively disappointing Kyle Van Noy now a Patriots, the Lions’ linebacking corps is about as uninspiring as it gets. McMillan would change the outlook. He is going to be a standout inside/middle linebacker, capable of reading and closing on run plays while also holding his own in coverage.

  • 19
    19Mitch Trubisky, QB
    North Carolina
    Washington’s still playing the “Is Kirk Cousins the long-term answer?” game, with the franchise-tagged QB in limbo beyond 2016. Cousins has been good in stretches, yet nothing he’s done should prevent the Redskins from adding a young arm if they like one. Trubisky has limited experience (eight starts as of Oct. 28), but he offers the size, arm and moxie to develop into a star.

  • 20
    20Cam Robinson, OT
    Even in what’s perceived as a down year for offensive tackles, there are bound to be a few plug-and-play starters uncovered. Based on his impressive showing against Garrett, Robinson remains atop the list of candidates. While his technique requires clean-up work, the 6' 6", 327-pound Robinson ticks off almost all the boxes for NFL teams projecting out a franchise tackle.

  • 21
    21Malik Hooker, S
    Ohio State
    Hooker has slowed up from a statistical standpoint since his three picks-in-two games start—he added a fourth INT vs. Indiana a couple weeks ago. He’s still been all over the field for the Buckeyes. Houston has needs aside from safety, but a playmaker with Hooker’s range on the back end would be tough to pass up.

  • 22
    22Marlon Humphrey, CB
    Atlanta scored with its Keanu Neal pick a year ago. It can do the same at the cornerback spot by adding a player of Humphrey’s caliber. Yet another of Alabama’s defensive studs, Humphrey is an elite-level athlete, with the speed to track anyone the NFL will throw at him. The Falcons could drop him in as the new starter opposite Desmond Trufant.

  • 23
    23Zach Cunningham, LB
    Cunningham’s game at Georgia on Oct. 15 was one of the best individual defensive showings this season—he made 19 tackles capped by a game-clinching stuff. He may not hit those heights each week, but it has become a usual occurance for him to make plays all over the field, for 60 minutes. Next to Ryan Shazier in Pittsburgh, he would have 100-tackle potential.

  • 24
    24Jalen Tabor, CB
    (Pick via Philadelphia) This is spot No. 2 where I could have gone QB for the Browns and opted not to. Brad Kaaya would have been the choice. As discussed on this week’s On the Clock podcast, I see him with a similar game to, but higher upside than, Kessler. Tabor at 24 is too much of a value to turn down—he easily could be a top-10 choice in April. And he would be Cleveland’s best cornerback by a mile.

  • 25
    25Isaiah Ford, WR
    Virginia Tech
    Juju Smith-Schuster, Courtland Sutton, Cooper Kupp, K.D. Cannon (who is not being talked about nearly enough), Travin Dural, Zay Jones ... there will be a run on receivers in the Day 1/Day 2 strech. Why Ford here? Because Green Bay needs a big receiver with the speed and route-running to separate downfield.

  • 26
    26Ryan Anderson, DE/OLB
    Tim Williams has 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss; Anderson has 4.5 and 11.5, respectively, with 30 total tackles. Whereas Williams dominates with his burst, Anderson, at 6' 2" and 253 lbs., packs more of a punch. Dee Ford’s noticable improvement should not prevent Kansas City from bulking up off the edge.

  • 27
    27O.J. Howard, TE
    Denver just shipped a fifth-round pick to New England for A.J. Derby, a 2015 sixth-rounder with zero career catches. Derby has some upside, but tight end remains a hole on the Broncos’ roster moving forward. So, take your pick between Howard or Michigan’s Jake Butt. The former probably more of the modern NFL’s coveted seam-attacking threat.

  • 28
    28Ryan Ramczyk, OT
    When it comes to players who have flown up the draft board this season, Ramczyk is right there with Trubisky. Unfamiliar with him? Understandable. He played for Wisconsin Stevens-Point in 2013–14, prior to transferring into the Badgers’ program. (And he was studying to be a welder at Mid-State Technical College before all of that.) True to what you’d expect of a Wisconsin tackle, he can move guys in the run game but he’s shown impressive consistency on passing downs, as well.

  • 29
    29Jourdan Lewis, CB
    How much do you value size in a cornerback? If it’s a priority, Tre’Davious White or the underrated Sidney Jones also work here. As I said, it’s a good year to need a cornerback. Lewis is listed at 5' 11" (probably an overestimate) and 186 lbs., but he makes up for any height disadvantage with incredible footwork. He’s had no issues playing outside, but he could be a shut-down slot defender in the NFL. Either way, Oakland will take him.

  • 30
    30Royce Freeman, RB
    (Pick via Minnesota) Freeman is closing in on 4,000 yards rushing for his Oregon career. He has been a workhorse back for the Ducks—those 617 (and counting) carries could be a concern for the NFL—and at 229 lbs., can be the same as a pro. He’d look great alongside Carson Wentz in Philadelphia, where Ryan Mathews has come nowhere close to holding up as the lead dog.

  • 31
    31Curtis Samuel, RB/WR
    Ohio State
    Christian McCaffrey works for the purpose of this pick, too. The purpose, in this case, being to add a highly talented, versatile chip to a Cowboys offense centered (for now?) around Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Samuel could be a more explosive Cole Beasley-like option in the passing game, and he would be electrifying as a curveball in the run game paired with his former Ohio State teammate.

  • 32
    32Justin Evans, S
    Texas A&M
    Because of Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, the Patriots are in a strong position at safety. That hasn’t stopped them from addressing the position at the draft, nor should it given how often they like to shift into three-safety looks. Justin Evans is cut from the Keanu Neal mold as a big-hitting safety with improving coverage skills.

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