- Three rounds. 96 picks. With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror and the combine dead ahead, a look at how all 32 teams may address their needs in the draft's first two days.
The 2016 season is over. The New England Patriots are champions.
NFL teams now have about three weeks to regroup before they descend on Indianapolis for the all-important scouting combine, beginning on Feb. 28. Free agency opens shortly thereafter, with the negotiation period kicking off on March 7 and the new league year hitting on March 9. Shy of a surprise trade in the coming days, that’s really when the draft picture will start to come into focus in earnest.
Between potential team needs and current guesses at prospect values, we’re still able to piece together the puzzle a bit now. Three rounds of mock-draft action await.
(Note: The complete order of the first two days of the draft isn’t quite set yet. The Colts and Vikings will flip a coin to determine which team earns the rights to the 14th and 15th slots in the order, and compensatory picks will be tacked on to the end of the third round based on free agency losses around the league.)
Hypothetically, the Browns could use this pick on Garrett and then package Nos. 12 and 33 to jump back into the top 10 somewhere for a QB. They also could stay put and (possibly) find a quarterback they like at one of those spots. Either way, their options are too numerous to pass on a player like Garrett.
Chicago is a definite candidate to take a quarterback, too, but a choice between Adams, Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster might be too enticing. Shy of landing Eric Berry in free agency, Adams is the Bears’ best chance for an upgrade at safety. And this might be preferable anyway, given what Berry will cost.
(Pick via Rams) Not a lot of ILB/MLB types hit these draft heights. Foster is worth it in relation to this draft class. He may not be the next Luke Kuechly or Brian Urlacher (both top-10 picks), but his absolute ceiling would put him in a similar range.
Davis long has been considered this class’s WR1 ’round these parts. The Chargers have a very interesting collection of receivers, led by the oft-injured Keenan Allen, but Davis can be better than any of them ... and soon.
Leonard Fournette and the Panthers seem like an obvious fit here. Almost too obvious, hence a slight zag in this mock. Thomas is a threat to win inside or outside, and he’d add to the versatility of a young, talented Carolina front.
Jeremy Hill has spent the past two seasons averaging fewer than 4.0 yards per carry—a disappointing development that could put his roster spot in jeopardy for 2017. Enter Fournette, who could elevate the Bengals’ run-game thunder alongside Gio Bernard’s lightning.
Hooker won’t work out at the combine, reportedly on account of recent labrum and hernia surgeries, so that’s definitely something to file away for discussion. Talent-wise, the ballhawking Ohio State safety is an elite prospect at a position where Buffalo is weak.
More unknowns: Williams’s off-field red flags could push him down another round or two. But if he checks out, this is his range. He is an explosive pass rusher and an underrated, developing run defender.
Perhaps the Cardinals want to give it one more season to see what they really have in 2016 additions Brandon Williams and Harlan Miller. Or they can get proactive at CB and add a big, physical defender in Wilson.
The buzz has quieted some on McDowell—he had a frustrating, injury-plagued year and wasn’t eligible for the Senior Bowl. But it’ll pick back up. He’s still a highly mobile defensive lineman built for the mix-and-match fronts of the modern NFL.
(Pick via Vikings) The Eagles don’t need a running back as badly as they need a receiver, but Cook would be a steal in mid-Round 1. He does not require much room to be able to take on the distance.
There is more of a need in Washington for help between the tackles than another edge presence. Barnett, though, is strong enough and active enough to play hand in the dirt up front at times, which would max out how many athletes the Redskins can get on the field in their front seven.
At the bare minimum, Williams would provide the Titans with the big-bodied outside receiving presence they have been missing. If Williams continues to develop, he has the size/speed combo to be among the league’s better No. 1 WRs.
Last mock, I had John Ross in this spot and the majority of Bucs fans who responded said they’d rather have Howard. Bucs fans, I heard you, and I think you’re right. While Tampa Bay without question needs a speed threat like Ross at receiver, Howard is the best player available at his position and can force more mismatches than Ross would.
For the omnipresent concerns about how Peppers’s game will translate to the NFL, this fit is an example of why he’s still a Round 1 name. Peppers can help Denver if A) they opt to bail on the final year of T.J. Ward’s contract, B) they want to improve their coverage in the middle of the field, and C) if they want to replace Jordan Norwood as a return man.
The Dolphins tried to gain athleticism in their linebacking corps last off-season by adding Kiko Alonso, and it paid off to an extent. They shouldn’t stop there. Davis is a three-down linebacker who could bump Alonso to the middle or on the weak side.
One of the class’s other tight ends (say, David Njoku) would be intriguing here. However, the Giants’ offense can only do so much—no matter the number of weapons—without better line play. Ramczyk is a plug-and-play candidate.
Essentially, he’d be the replacement for veteran Reggie Nelson, who has one year and no guaranteed money left on his contract. A Baker–Karl Joseph combo at safety would cover all sorts of ground, with Baker often patrolling deep as Joseph walked up near the line.
The Texans have all but said they’ll be drafting a quarterback—and likely early, because whomever it is will be expected to push Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage. Mahomes’s blend of athleticism and a rocket arm might finally solve Bill O’Brien’s QB woes.
I mentioned it in my last mock, and it’s becoming obvious again: talented cornerbacks will be available in spades into Day 2. Here, the Seahawks score one whose aggressive mentality would fit their defense well.
The Chiefs cannot bank on Derrick Johnson returning at 100% next season, nor can they put all their eggs in the Ramik Wilson basket. Cunningham is a tackle machine at linebacker, a well-built specimen who reads run keys and explodes to the ball.
Even on his worst days, Charlton is a good bet to disrupt a pass play or two simply by unleashing his speed off the edge. The way he closed his college career hinted at the possibility that he could become borderline unblockable.
Atop their OLB depth chart for their final playoff game, the Packers listed three impending free agents (Julius Peppers, Datone Jones, Nick Perry) and a 31-year-old Clay Matthews, capping off his least-productive NFL season. McKinley needs to be coached up, but he’s a high-motor player.
You thought Grady Jarrett was good this season (and in the Super Bowl?) Just wait until he has a consistent impact performer next to him inside. Brantley’s burst and power make him tough to block heads up, which is what teams will have to do with Jarrett patrolling.
It would surprise exactly no one if Martellus Bennett’s Patriots career is a very successful one-and-done. New England will want to make sure it’s set at tight end with a dangerous playmaker, and Njoku—although raw—certainly has a bright future.
This is about value, but also about giving the Browns options. Robinson would compete at right tackle, with an eye on a future at left tackle.
Anderson showed via his coverage missteps at the Senior Bowl that he needs to be up on the line. He’s a force there, against the run and pass.
Bolles is 24, so he won’t have the luxury of sitting and developing for long. Good news: He’s ultra-athletic and capable of playing on the left or right.
Should Ross slide out of Round 1, he’s the type of dynamic playmaker teams would be willing to trade up to land.
A Senior Bowl riser, Melifonwu is a huge safety (6' 4", 220 lbs.), who loves to fly downhill and finish plays.
There would be worse outcomes for the Jets here than to land a premier pass rusher who would need a little bit of time to become an early-down defender.
All the reasons a Fournette-Panthers match makes sense work here, too, even if Foreman may not be the same level of prospect as his LSU counterpart.
For a team that likes to set the tone up front like Cincinnati, Lawson’s bulked-up presence could get him in the lineup early. Even better if they unlock his full potential.
McCaffrey shouldn’t last this long, but worries about his bell-cow back ability could make it happen. He would be lethal in this offense.
During Senior Bowl week, the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock compared King’s possible NFL role as a safety/corner hybrid to that of Malcolm Jenkins.
I don’t buy the chatter that Lamp is destined for a guard-only career, but it’s happening because Lamp could be a Pro Bowl-caliber option there.
Arizona has not had an offense that features a tight end, in part because it didn’t have a TE worth featuring. Engram is one.
The Vikings’ first pick of the draft goes to their long-troublesome tackle spot. Give it a year or two and Garcia might be a dominant left tackle.
McDowell in Round 1 and the multi-dimensional Reddick—a DB turned DL turned LB—would make the Colts’ D much more competitive.
Johnson has exceptional quickness for a 309-pounder, and he makes a ton of plays in the backfield.
Walker is strong and durable as an early-down DE, with the counter-moves and quickness to drop down inside against the pass.
Dropped into a system like the one Denver runs, Feeney can be an impact run blocker on the move.
(Pick via Titans)A Buckeye for the Browns, and one that’s being overlooked a bit. McMillan has the instincts to be an impact inside 3–4 defender.
RT Riley Reiff and G Larry Warford both could hit the road as free agents. Moton could replace either in the Lions’ starting lineup.
Douglas has excellent size, and he’s comfortable bouncing from man to zone. He makes receivers work.
Conley is another Ohio State cornerback who really gets up in receivers’ grills when he’s thrown into man coverage.
Williams has everything an NFL team could want from a free safety, most notably the ability to find the ball and go after it.
How about another burner for the Seattle passing attack? Ford may struggle against physical CBs, but if he gets a step he’s gone.
A difficult blocker to move off his spot, Dawkins has a ton of experience playing tackle and the frame of an NFL guard.
Put a little meat on his bones and it’ll be hard to imagine any cornerback wanting to see Reynolds lined up across from him.
If Bowser can conquer the steep learning curve awaiting him, he has the movement skills to be the kind of player a coordinator can use in a variety of ways.
The Falcons’ current depth at corner would allow them to slide in Jackson as a No. 4/No. 5 option early. Oh, and Jackson can turn games by himself as a return man.
Is this simplifying things too much? Maybe. But Adams feels like that type of player—talented but enigmatic—that the Patriots manage to max out.
(Pick via Rams)
The two that stand out: Kupp and Peterman. The former is so, so smooth in everything he does but will turn 24 this summer and likely won’t run below 4.5; the latter is a rising QB prospect who has the baseline traits to project at least as a long-term backup.
Samuel is so electrifying in the open field that a team in need of a unique weapon could pull the trigger on him as early as Round 1. Continuing the cornerback theme, another high-quality prospect in this group of five, with one following just below. When he’s healthy, Sutton is a dependable cover corner with an advanced understanding of where the ball is headed.
Let’s spend a moment on Mixon, shall we? He has a despicable off-field moment in his background, but he also might be the closest RB in talent to Fournette and Cook. So, what wins out? Which team decides he’s worth the trouble? It’s almost certainly going to happen somewhere in the draft, even though Mixon did not receive a combine invite.
Why the Colts? Well, purely from a football standpoint, this a team that has to find a running back somewhere—even the unbreakable Frank Gore has to wind down his career. Beyond that, though, the Colts just hired as their new GM Chris Ballard, who previously had been the Chiefs’ director of player personnel. And he held that title when Kansas City signed off on Tyreek Hill, a player who entered the NFL with his own vile incident tailing him. Hill was a breakthrough, if controversial, star for the Chiefs this season.
There once was a time that Kaaya was mentioned as a potential top-10 pick. That’s no longer the case, but he also is far from devoid of talent. The footwork and ability to read defenses is there, and he might remind Washington fans of Kirk Cousins in time. Oh, and that mention of Tampa Bay needing a speed receiver? Westbrook is a player defenses have to find before every single snap.
(Pick via Dolphins)
There is a lot to like in Kamara’s game. He posted 6.2 yards per carry and caught 74 passes over two seasons with Tennessee. Flip side: He averaged just 105 carries over his two seasons as a Vol, so it’s fair to wonder if he can be more than a committee guy in the NFL. Butt is the new poster child for skipping bowl games. He might have been a Round 1 pick before his ACL in Michigan's bowl game against Florida State, and some will argue he still should be.
The Packers just cut James Starks and Eddie Lacy can be a free agent, so they need help at RB—Ty Montgomery hasn’t shown the durability to be a 20-carry-per-game player. Gallman’s downhill style would mesh well with what Montgomery brings. Switzer may be overkill for a team that has an emerging Eli Rogers, but in the best way possible. Just ask Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola how it works to have two stellar slot options.
Morgan was a small-school tackle, but if you dream of his ideal fit it’s as a guard in a scheme like the Falcons run (or at least, like they ran under Kyle Shanahan): wide-zone with the occasional power pull—something that gets the nimble Morgan on the move. Biegel projects as a chip for a defense rather than a star edge presence. He is an intelligent football player, though, with a nice range of skills.