2017 NFL Mock Draft 9.0: The first three rounds should be dominated by defense
- The distribution of compensatory picks is complete: The first two days of the draft will see 107 prospects come off the board. Here's our latest forecast of who will land where.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.