Edge rushers galore highlight the 2017 class but talent abounds elsewhere, except maybe at quarterback
With the regular season complete the 2017 NFL Draft is starting to take shape, but there’s still a long way to go.
New general managers and coaches have to be put in place, the playoffs have to be completed to set the rest of the draft order, and more evaluation in the form of the Scouting Combine and pro days needs to take place before all of the fun begins on April 27 in Philadelphia.
On top of that, there will likely be trades and, if last year was any indication, there could be some major ones at the top to shake things up even further.
But mock season won't wait for any of that. Besides, who wants to, anyway? So without further ado, here's the first of what should be many attempts to predict who goes where. Subject to change (a lot), of course.
Note: Picks 1-20 are set based on the completion of the regular season, while Nos. 21-32 will be determined by playoff outcomes.
1. Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Browns have needs everywhere. With the team's instability at the quarterback position, maybe Cleveland goes that way, but the defense is still a far more pressing concern. Adding what most consider the best edge rusher in the class is a safe pick.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
There will be a new general manager and head coach here, so let the guesswork begin as to where exactly the organization would like to go. A splashy quarterback pick might be in store, and Trubisky's name has steadily gained steam over the course of the season.
3. Chicago Bears
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Although Matt Barkley had his moments down the stretch for the Bears, one has to think he isn't likely the long-term solution. Watson has struggled at times with his accuracy, but his overall poise, arm strength and athleticism give him the requisite tools to be successful.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
There are a number of different directions the Jags could go, and while the team could potentially move on from quarterback Blake Bortles, the new head coach might find him worth saving. Allen may have been the best player in college football this year and would be too good to pass up.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles)
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Titans have their franchise quarterback and a true identity on offense. Now, Marcus Mariota needs an explosive weapon on the outside. Williams missed the previous season with a neck injury but returned and showed why he is the best receiver in this class.
6. New York Jets
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
You could very well see the Jets go with a pass rusher here and someone like Alabama's Tim Williams would make sense if the team went that way. However, despite skipping his bowl game and a nagging ankle injury, Fournette is a game-changer at running back worth taking.
7. San Diego Chargers
Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State
The Chargers could use another pick on an offensive lineman, but retooling a porous defense should be the priority. The secondary clearly missed the presence of Eric Weddle this season, and Hooker is an elite free safety with a nose for the ball and making game-altering plays.
8. Carolina Panthers
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cam Newton took a beating this year and the Panthers need to protect their franchise quarterback, so an offensive tackle would be wise. But Cook's stock continues to rise and a game-breaking running back would help the offense get back to its 2015-level effectiveness.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
A pair of Alabama players -- linebacker Reuben Foster and edge rusher Tim Williams -- might be where the Bengals choose to go here if one is available. Barnett, though, is one of the best edge rushers in a class that is chock-full of good ones and would be an immediate upgrade.
10. Buffalo Bills
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
With a new head coach coming in, you may see the Bills go after a quarterback. But Adams, who may go a little higher depending on how the dominoes fall, is one of the top talents in the draft regardless of position with a versatile skill set that includes an ability to lock down tight ends.
11. New Orleans Saints
Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama
Another year, another season of shootouts in New Orleans with Drew Brees and the offense having to keep pace in games where the defense can't stop anyone. The latter side of the ball will again be the priority in the draft, and Williams can provide help rushing the passer right away.
12. Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia)
DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
If the Browns pass on taking a quarterback with the first overall pick, they might be tempted to pick up one here. Kizer had somewhat of an up-and-down season, but head coach Hue Jackson may like his pro-ready frame and tools just enough to take a shot with him.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
There's a very good chance that the Cardinals feel like they want to find quarterback Carson Palmer's successor, but the talent gap between one here and a later round isn't huge. A new face at inside linebacker might help, and Foster could come in and provide athletic new blood.
14. Indianapolis Colts
Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
If one of the top running backs like Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook is still hanging around here, the Colts might be apt to go in that direction. But while a lot of scouts are split on where exactly someone like Peppers fits in, his overall athleticism and versatility would make a strong choice.
15. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota)
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
It looks like the Eagles have their franchise quarterback of the future in Carson Wentz, but the amount of weapons at his disposal appears to be lackluster at the moment. Although the team has struck out on recent wide receiver picks, Davis is getting high marks from just about everyone.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA
The Ravens are either getting old along the edge (Terrell Suggs) or at a point where the cap could cause problems (Elvis Dumervil), so that should be the first order of business. McKinley's stock has risen steadily throughout the year and could even go higher.
17. Washington Redskins
Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
The Redskins had the sixth-worst rush defense in terms of yards per carry allowed and need to improve up the middle. Enter Cunningham, who hasn't had as many opportunities to be in the spotlight as Alabama’s Reuben Foster or, say, Ohio State's Raekwon McMillan, but could be just as effective in the league.
18. Tennessee Titans
Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
The likelihood that cornerbacks start coming off the board sooner is fairly high, but this mock just so happens to get the ball rolling there a little later. Either way, Tabor will be one of the first ones taken in a class that has plenty of high-end talent at the position even going past the first round.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DeMarcus Walker, DL, Florida State
The Bucs did well last year in the first round by taking Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, but there is still a lot of work to be done on that side of the ball. Staying with another in-state talent in Walker would be a good idea, as the defensive lineman was productive all season.
20. Denver Broncos
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The talent along the offensive line took a step down this season in Denver and the running game wasn't nearly as effective as it should have been. Look for John Elway to try and rectify that by getting what some consider the best lineman in the draft, although he could come off the board sooner.
21. Detroit Lions
Desmond King, CB, Iowa
Defense is where the Lions will probably shift their focus to with their first pick, and any one of an interior lineman, edge rusher or cornerback would be a solid choice. King could have come out last year and been a relatively high pick, but he returned to school and has a well-rounded skill set.
22. Miami Dolphins
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
The Dolphins have had a number of tight ends come through and not live up to expectations lately, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill could use another red zone threat. Keep an eye on the University of Miami's David Njoku here, but at the moment Howard has the highest stock at the position.
23. New York Giants
Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
At this time last year, Robinson was a consensus top-five pick. Although he could still be taken higher, if he's around when it's the Giants' turn to pick, they would likely snatch him up in a heartbeat. Ereck Flowers has simply not panned out, and more help up front is a must.
24. Oakland Raiders
Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
There are no problems for this team when it comes to rushing the passer, but the defense still has holes up the middle. McDowell makes sense, as he can be an effective player from multiple spots. An inside linebacker, like Ohio State’s Raekwon McMillan or Florida's Jarrad Davis, could also work here.
25. Houston Texans
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
The Texans obviously have a lot of issues with the quarterback position, but that's not exactly a realistic option, so they will target other needs. Getting a little more athletic at inside linebacker would not hurt, and Davis can be someone who can come in and help in that regard.
26. Green Bay Packers
Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
Over the course of the season, it became more and more clear that cornerback would be a position for the Packers to seek help. Luckily, there should be plenty of good ones when they pick, and although Wilson could be gone, someone close to his caliber is sure to be available.
27. Seattle Seahawks
Garrett Boles, OT, Utah
For the last two seasons, the Seahawks have needed to severely upgrade their talent along the offensive line. They should be able to do it from this spot, as Boles is someone who has gained some momentum lately and could provide immediate assistance.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama
Ryan Shazier has been a rising star in the Steelers' linebacker corps, but the unit could still get better somewhere on the outside. Anderson would be the perfect addition, as the Crimson Tide star both rushes the passer well and has the athleticism to be an asset in coverage.
29. Atlanta Falcons
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Vic Beasley has turned into one of the better edge rushers in the league, but the Falcons still have too many issues on defense to ignore. Harris is potentially someone who could come off the board sooner, but if he's around this late, it would be a mistake to pass on him.
30. Kansas City Chiefs
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Even with the emergence of Tyreek Hill, another offensive weapon would not be a bad place to go. Still, the Chiefs would like to add another cornerback to pair with Marcus Peters. There is still debate over who the best player at that position in this class may be, but Humphrey is in that conversation.
31. Dallas Cowboys
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
An edge player would make sense here, but the Cowboys could still benefit by upgrading their cornerback depth. Lattimore, like Marlon Humphrey, is in that discussion of top corners in the draft and would fill a need. If Dallas does go with an edge rusher, Auburn's Carl Lawson would fit in nicely.
32. New England Patriots
Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
Many people are expecting the Pats to go with Thomas' college teammate, running back Christian McCaffrey. But while the latter sat out Stanford's bowl game, Thomas balled out in it, and his stock is through the roof right now. If he's not already gone, Thomas would be an easy choice.
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.