2017 NFL Mock Draft 9.0: The first three rounds should be dominated by defense

2:43 | NFL
The definitive guide to writing the perfect NFL Mock Draft
Wednesday March 29th, 2017

This is approximately our 107th mock of the draft season, so it's only appropriate that we swing back into the three-round format and cover picks 1 through 107. In the time since we last forecasted the first two days, the league handed out 32 compensatory picks, 11 of which were tacked onto the end of Round 3 (starting at pick No. 97) to push the mock into triple digits for the first time all year.

As was the case a couple weeks ago, we have no quarterbacks in the top 10 this time. It's still not too difficult to see two or three QBs wind up there, though.

Let's get into it.

2
2Jamal Adams
S, LSU

This is where the real intrigue begins. It’s hard to entirely shake the feeling that new, offensive-minded coach Kyle Shanahan will want to hand-pick his potential franchise quarterback here. But the Brian Hoyer/Matt Barkley duo is at least serviceable, the No. 33 choice provides a window later on and the defensive options might be too numerous to ignore here. 

4
4Solomon Thomas
DL, Stanford

Thomas may not get past San Francisco. But if he does, the odds are very much stacked against him then slipping beyond this spot. Thomas could learn the NFL game behind veteran Calais Campbell, with an eye on an eventual starring role. 

5
5Jonathan Allen
DL, Alabama
(Pick via Rams)  The Titans have to be loving where they are at, assuming  Marcus heals on time from his late-season leg injury. Already a playoff contender, they have two top-18 picks and minimal glaring needs coming out of free agency. Hence the ability to nab Allen at No. 5, even if they have a steady D-line. Worries about his shoulders aside, Allen stands out as a potential perennial Pro Bowler. 
6
6Marshon Lattimore
CB, Ohio State
7
7Corey Davis
WR, Western Michigan

The Chargers’ offense was a top-10 scoring unit last season thanks to Philip Rivers and the unexpected emergence of a couple wide receivers. But wouldn’t it be fun to see what this group could do at full speed, with a powerhouse 1–2 punch like Davis and a (hopefully healthy) Keenan Allen? The Rivers era will end soon enough. May as well lean into it.

8
8O.J. Howard
TE, Alabama

Speaking of leaning into a strength, few QBs in the league have the rapport with their tight ends that Cam Newton and Greg Olsen share. So, how about pairing Olsen with one of the draft’s most dynamic offensive threats?

9
9Leonard Fournette
RB, LSU

Gio Bernard’s status for early 2017 is up in the air due to an ACL injury and Jeremy Hill, in the final year of his contract, has averaged 3.7 yards per carry the past two seasons. Fournette could give this offense a huge boost. ​

10
10Reuben Foster
LB, Alabama
11
11Derek Barnett
DE, Tennessee

Since they’re now armed with two first-round picks, the Saints remain a wild card to swoop in on a QB—Sean Payton put Patrick Mahomes through a private workout a few days ago. But the pressing needs are at defensive end and cornerback. In Barnett, they can land the piece they need opposite Cam Jordan. ​

12
12Mitchell Trubisky
QB, North Carolina
13
13Patrick Mahomes
QB, Texas Tech

It is becoming painfully obvious that Carson Palmer is close to the end of his career rainbow. Rather than wait on his departure and try to find their QB then, the Cardinals can get a head start with a dazzling but raw talent. Full scouting report

14
14Haason Reddick
LB, Temple
(Pick via Vikings)
15
15Taco Charlton
DE, Michigan

Adding John Simon and Jabaal Sheard provided the Colts a lot more life off the edge, but they should not stop there. Charlton could use a landing spot like this, where he doesn’t have to shoulder the load immediately. The long-term payoff stands to be massive.​ Full scouting report

17
17Malik McDowell
DL, Michigan State

If those who continue to question his level of desire are to be believed, a McDowell pick is not risk-free. But the potential reward is pretty apparent, too. They don’t build ’em like McDowell, who has top-five talent among this class if he finds his motivation.

18
18John Ross
WR, Washington

Ross has an injury history on each of his knees and he needed shoulder surgery after the combine. That we’re even discussing him as a Round 1 prospect anyway, let alone a top-20 guy, should tell you all you need to know about his skill level. He doesn’t fit the No. 1 receiver profile the same way Davis or Williams does, but he could thrive with Mariota firing him passes. 

19
19Dalvin Cook
RB, Florida State

There are enough excuses available if a team wants to pass on Cook, including that spending in Round 1 at RB is a tough investment. Cook’s game is just so explosive, though, that a team needing a go-to back should jump at the opportunity to draft him. Tampa Bay has that need. 

20
20Garett Bolles
OT, Utah

Good draw for the Broncos in this mock, with the likes of Christian McCaffrey, David Njoku, Zach Cunningham and every OT still on the board. Bolles is older than the typical rookie, but his outstanding athleticism would be a perfect fit in this offense. Full scouting report

21
21Zach Cunningham
LB, Vanderbilt

The modern NFL demands defenses have athletic linebackers, and the Lions … well, don’t. If Cunningham or Reddick (or Foster, in a long shot) is available here, he should trump the pass-rushing options. ​

22
22Forrest Lamp
G/T, Western Kentucky

Physical limitations aside, Lamp probably could hold his own as a tackle if the Dolphins wanted to keep Laremy Tunsil at guard. Better yet, he might be an absolute gem at guard himself if Tunsil is to be the franchise left tackle. Full scouting report

23
23Ryan Ramczyk
OT, Wisconsin

This pick has been reserved in prior mocks for Cam Robinson. Should the Giants feel he too closely resembles Ereck Flowers, though, they could turn to Ramczyk, a plug-and-play option on either side of the line. Full scouting report

24
24Christian McCaffrey
RB, Stanford

The only thing lacking from McCaffrey’s game is the prototypical NFL running back size. Maybe that’s enough to drive him out of the top 20, but he should be in Round 1. The Raiders have a need at running back, and any team could use McCaffrey’s versatile explosiveness. 

25
25Deshaun Watson
QB, Clemson

Watson could go anywhere from No. 2 to Round 2 and no one would be all that taken aback. That said, if Houston can get its hands on him, the draft’s most NFL-ready quarterback could push for a starting job on a playoff team.

26
26Quincy Wilson
CB, Florida

A long wait for the second cornerback off the board in this mock. It’s a wait well worth it for the Seahawks, who find a long, physical defender in Wilson to help round out their secondary. 

27
27Jabrill Peppers
S, Michigan

Perhaps the Chiefs aren’t the perfect fit for Peppers, but they make for a darn good one. Kansas City utilizes enough three-safety looks to be able to take advantage of Peppers’s positives, plus the Michigan star even could drop down and help cover the depth issues at linebacker. 

29
29Tre'Davious White
CB, LSU

While the loss of Micah Hyde hardly qualifies as a fatal blow for the Packers’ 2017 hopes, it does leave them down a playmaker. White would make up for that departure by giving Green Bay another interchangeable outside/slot defender. Full scouting report

30
30David Njoku
TE, Miami

A luxury pick? Maybe, but a team picking at 30 can make one of those. Njoku’s development will require some patience, but he has the skill to be all that the Steelers hoped they were getting in Ladarius Green, and more. Full scouting report

31
31Takkarist McKinley
DE/OLB, UCLA

McKinley’s post-combine shoulder surgery could drive him out of the early Round 1 spots and right onto the roster of an established contender. Atlanta would love to find one more pass rusher to complement Vic Beasley. Full scouting report

32
32Kevin King
CB, Washington
(Pick from Patriots)

Round 2

33
33Caleb Brantley
DT, Florida
34
34DeShone Kizer
QB, Notre Dame
35
35Joe Mixon
RB, Oklahoma
36
36Chris Wormley
DT, Michigan
37
37Charles Harris
DE/OLB, Missouri

If multiple quarterbacks come off the board in the top 15, as was the case with this mock, then the 49ers (or Bears or Jets) might be compelled to move back into Round 1 to address the position. Without any trades, the 49ers are able to stay put and add Kizer to Jamal Adams, giving them a centerpiece on each side of the ball.

Scouting reports: Caleb Brantley | DeShone Kizer | Chris WormleyCharles Harris

As for Mixon, be prepared for him to be gone on Day 2 ... and maybe on Day 1. He has obvious NFL-level talent, enough to put him in the class of Fournette and Cook, and we’ve now heard several GMs speak positively about him. In making the move at 35, the Jaguars finally answer their RB conundrum—neither T.J. Yeldon nor Chris Ivory reached 4.0 yards per carry last year.

38
38Budda Baker
S, Washington
39
39Taylor Moton
OT, Western Michigan
40
40Jordan Willis
DE, Kansas State
41
41Carl Lawson
DE, Auburn
42
Jarrad Davis
LB, Florida

Baker belongs in the first round. The sheer number of defenders that deserve to come off the board before Friday, as well as Baker’s size, could drop him into Round 2. Good news for the Chargers that it happens, because he’s better than any safety they have. Davis just had a terrific Pro Day, and if he can stay healthy he can offer just as much as a guy like Zach Cunningham.

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43
Marlon Humphrey
CB, Alabama
44
Gareon Conley
CB, Ohio State
45
45Tim Williams
OLB, Alabama
46
Raekwon McMillan
LB, Ohio State
47
T.J. Watt
OLB, Wisconsin

The long-awaited cornerback run begins here, with the Eagles and Bills joining the fun. So, too, does a continuation of the edge-rusher run, with outside linebackers Williams and Watt following DEs Willis and Lawson (picks 40 and 41). It is anyone’s guess which of those four will make the best pro.

48
Pat Elflein
G/C, Ohio State
49
49Desmond King
CB, Iowa
50
50Obi Melifonwu
S, UConn
51
51Evan Engram
TE, Ole Miss
52
52Adoree' Jackson
CB, USC
(Pick via Titans)

What if the Broncos could solve their TE production issue and their need for a slot receiver all in one? Engram isn’t the home-run hitter that offense covets, but he would be a valuable chip. The player with the brightest future among this group may be Elflein. He could compete for a starting guard job out of the gate in Minnesota, then eventually move over to replace 34-year-old Joe Berger.

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53
53Derek Rivers
DE, Youngstown State
54
54Fabian Moreau
CB, UCLA
55
55Tarell Basham
DE, Ohio
56
56Teez Tabor
CB, Florida
57
57Marcus Williams
S, Utah

Maybe some team sneaks in another skill-position prospect at some point. It should be evident, though, how much defensive value there could be in Round 2 this year. Tabor and Williams are potential starters as rookies—Tabor’s brutal 40 times at the combine and his Pro Day could drive him into Round 2, but he never had the look of a speedster CB. Rivers and Basham can be productive pass rushers in Year One, if nothing else.

Moreau and Washington’s Sidney Jones (coming soon) are going to be of interest to just about every team if they slip into Day 2. They both were headed for Round 1 before suffering Pro Day injuries. Moreau (torn pectoral) faces a shorter, more predictable timeline than does Jones (torn Achilles).

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58
58Tyus Bowser
DE/OLB, Houston
59
59Cordrea Tankersley
CB, Clemson
60
60Curtis Samuel
RB/WR, Ohio State
61
61Dan Feeney
G, Indiana
62
62Chidobe Awuzie
CB, Colorado

After handing the Cowboys Cam Robinson in Round 1, it may be too much to double up on offense at pick 60 when Dallas has pressing defensive needs. But this is both a value pick—Samuel has top-50 talent—and one that would further open up the field for the run game. A less flashy, arguably more important pick in the 58-62 range: Feeney. He can start as a rookie, and the Packers just lost T.J. Lang.

63
63Larry Ogunjobi
DT, Charlotte
64
64Sidney Jones
CB, Washington
(Pick from Patriots)

If Ogunjobi could hand-pick his destination, Atlanta would have to be at least top five. The defending NFC champs could use him to take snaps off Dontari Poe’s plate, while also mixing him into the lineup on passing downs. And as promised, here is Jones. The extended recovery period he is facing may send him spiraling into Round 3 ... or Day 3. However, the reward for giving him a shot could be a legit No. 1 cornerback, and the Panthers have enough young CBs on their roster to afford a little patience.

Round 3

65
65Alvin Kamara
RB, Tennessee
66
66JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR, USC
67
67Dion Dawkins
G/T, Temple
68
68Cameron Sutton
CB, Tennessee
69
69Ethan Pocic
C, LSU
70
70Zay Jones
WR, East Carolina
71
71Nathan Peterman
QB, Pittsburgh
72
72Jaleel Johnson
DT, Iowa
(Pick via Panthers)
73
73Josh Reynolds
WR, Texas A&M
74
74D'Onta Foreman
RB, Texas
75
75Carlos Henderson
WR, Louisiana Tech
76
76Davis Webb
QB, Cal
77
77Montravius Adams
DT, Auburn
78
78DeMarcus Walker
DL, Florida State
79
79Justin Evans
S, Texas A&M
80
80Bucky Hodges
TE, Virginia Tech
81
81Brad Kaaya
QB, Miami
82
82Ahkello Witherspoon
CB, Colorado
83
83Carlos Watkins
DT, Clemson
84
84Isaac Asiata
G, Utah
85
85Samaje Perine
RB, Oklahoma
86
86Dalvin Tomlinson
DT, Alabama
(Pick via Dolphins)

There has been Round 1 buzz around Kamara of late. More realistic (especially with Fournette, Cook and Mixon in the first-round mix) is that he hears his name called on Day 2, and the Browns have room for a player with Kamara’s explosiveness to join Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell.

Two more QBs off the board in the top half of Round 3, ending the post-Kizer drought. The Chargers have done zero planning for their lives beyond Philip Rivers, and Peterman has starter-quality traits if given time to develop. Washington almost has to draft a quarterback with Kirk Cousins likely headed elsewhere for 2018. Kaaya is a bit robotic and needs to improve under pressure, but his game is similar to that of Cousins.

The Patriots’ first pick of the 2017 draft is a skilled, penetrating defensive tackle. Bill Belichick loves pieces he can move around up front, and Johnson could help Belichick overcome Malcom Brown’s inconsistencies.

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87
87Duke Riley
LB, LSU
88
88Eddie Vanderdoes
DT, UCLA
89
89Antonio Garcia
OT, Troy
90
90Marcus Maye
S, Florida
91
91Kareem Hunt
RB, Toledo
92
92Howard Wilson
CB, Houston
93
93Jake Butt
TE, Michigan
94
94Ryan Anderson
OLB, Alabama
95
95Chris Godwin
WR, Penn State
96
96Kendell Beckwith
LB, LSU
97
97daeshon hall
de, texas a&M
98
98jamaal williams
rb, byu
99
99dorian johnson
g, pitt
100
100eddie jackson
s, alabama
(Pick via Rams)
101
101rasul douglas
cb, West Virginia
102
102Cooper kupp
wr, eastern washington
103
103wayne gallman
rb, clemson
(Pick via Patriots, via Browns)
104
104jalen reeves-maybin
lb, tennessee
105
105isaiah ford
wr, virginia tech
106
106aviante collins
ot, tcu
107
Alex anzalone
lb, florida

A few of the highlights from the final bunch of picks in this mock:

• The Texans have to address their offensive line during this draft. Garcia is a developing prospect who needs a healthy dose of NFL coaching, but his length and athleticism are enough to sell him. He moves well enough to be a fit for Houston’s scheme, on either side of the line.

• Maye would allow Pete Carroll to sleep a lot more easily at night. Obviously, Seattle’s defense is at its best when Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are on the field together, but Maye could be a fallback option for either player. The Florida product is that versatile.

• Dallas begins handling its defensive issues at No. 92, with the underrated Wilson. There will be a handful of teams (and the Cowboys were among them in this mock) that lean offense in Rounds 1 and 2 because of this class’s depth on defense. There is less starter-caliber DE talent by this point, which limits the Cowboys’ options, but the abundance of skill in the secondary remains.

• Carolina had a shot at Fournette (and all the other RBs) at No. 8 but opted to pass, in this mock. Williams doesn’t bring the same upside, but he would be a nice fit behind Jonathan Stewart in that offense. He’s a hard runner with good size.

• A couple more injured players off the board: Jake Butt and Eddie Jackson. The former maintains he is well ahead of schedule in recovery from his ACL injury; the Packers’ recent addition of Martellus Bennett means they could ease Butt back, and he would be a terrific option for Aaron Rodgers once he is healthy. Jackson (broken leg) did not work out at the combine, but he was supposed to go through the paces during Alabama’s Pro Day—taking place about the same time as this mock hits the presses. At the very least, a healthy Jackson is a special teams contributor. At best, he’s a turnover-forcing machine from the free safety spot.

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