One thing has become clear over the first few 2017 mock draft runs: There is going to be an abundance of defensive talent available in Rounds 2 and 3.
No matter how I plot out those opening 32 picks, there are a good five to 10 other defenders it’s tough to exclude because of how talented they are. Those teams in need of edge rushers and cornerbacks, in particular, stand to be quite happy with what they find when the draft reconvenes for Day Two on April 28.
For now, though, we’re focused on who did make the cut for Round 1. The latest mock:
1. Myles Garrett
RECORD: DE, Texas A&M
Longtime Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas said last week that the Browns should take a pass rusher at No. 1. Listen to the man. Cleveland can circle back on QB at pick No. 12 or No. 33 (or use those picks to trade back into the top 10). Up top, it should take the best available prospect.
2. Reuben Foster
RECORD: LB, Alabama
If the 49ers don’t love one of the quarterbacks, a trade down has to be their top option. They can the Bears’ unsettled QB situation as leverage in floating the pick. But hypothetically, should they stay put and pass on a quarterback, what’s the play? Jonathan Allen is a bit of a redundant piece given the young talent they already have on the D-line. Foster is not. Pair him with NaVorro Bowman and San Francisco’s linebacking corps could be as good up the middle as any in the league.
3. Deshaun Watson
RECORD: QB, Clemson
A similar conversation at 3 as at 2: what happens if the pick isn’t a QB? Defense is the obvious choice, but the Bears could look WR if Alshon Jeffery leaves. Sooner or later, though, they have to draft a quarterback. Watson has his detractors, but his experience will help him separate from the pack.
4. Jonathan Allen
RECORD: DL, Alabama
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5. Jamal Adams
RECORD: S, LSU
(Pick via Rams) The last safety selected in the top five was Eric Berry, by Kansas City. It’s safe to say Tennessee would take a Berry-esque impact right here. Maybe it’s setting the bar too high to say that Adams will be a perennial Pro Bowler, but he can be. He plays like a linebacker against the run and like a cover corner when diagnosing pass plays.
6. Mitch Trubisky
RECORD: QB, North Carolina
How quickly are the Jets willing to admit they botched the Christian Hackenberg pick last year? Even if the answer is “not yet,” they will be adding a quarterback to compete for the starting job. Rather than pick through the veteran retreads, diving in headfirst with Trubisky would provide hope for the future. Trubisky needs time—or he’ll make a lot of mistakes, if forced to play early—but his upside may be greater than any ’17 QB.
7. Malik Hooker
RECORD: S, Ohio State
As a tackler in run defense, Hooker will overpursue and tends to lead with his shoulder, both of which can cause problems. A reminder, though, that he spent just one season as a starter at Ohio State. And as a coverage safety he is unparalleled in this class. Put him in the L.A. secondary, and he’d only make guys like Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward better.
8. Leonard Fournette
RECORD: RB, LSU
9. Solomon Thomas
RECORD: DL, Stanford
Thomas’s stock already was on the rise before he demolished North Carolina in Stanford's bowl game. He has the power necessary to drop in as a starting end for the Bengals, but he also might be lethal as an interior pass rusher alongside Geno Atkins.
10. Mike Williams
RECORD: WR, Clemson
Another obvious potential landing spot for a QB, since the Bills seem determined to nudge Tyrod Taylor out the door. Saving that, though, Buffalo has to consider a big-play wide receiver. Sammy Watkins is a constant injury risk, Robert Woods is about to be a free agent and no one on the current roster can physically impose his will as Williams can.
11. Derek Barnett
RECORD: DE, Tennessee
Barnett may not possess the elite explosiveness of Garrett, but let’s not just ignore those 33 career sacks. His scouting reports may sound a lot like those of current Saint Cam Jordan, a 2011 pick, who was viewed as a heady, high-effort, three-down player with question marks about his ability to be dominant off the edge. He has 46.5 sacks as a pro. A Jordan-Barnett edge duo, with Sheldon Rankins inside? Pretty good.
12. DeShone Kizer
RECORD: QB, Notre Dame
13. Marshon Lattimore
RECORD: CB, Ohio State
Thus endeth the Cardinals’ search for a No. 2 cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. Lattimore is a physical, ballhawking defender. As is the case with Peterson, he has the speed to stay right on receivers, plus the physical nature to press effectively at the line.
14. Tim Williams
RECORD: OLB, Alabama
Williams is a top-10 talent in this class, with off-field red flags that will require some digging. Assuming he checks out from a character standpoint, the Colts would have to be thrilled to find him here. He is a freakish pass rusher who can beat OTs in a variety of ways.