In the first of our 2017 NFL Mock Draft series, we take a look inside what is a fascinating class, particularly if your team is in need of running back, tight end, edge rusher, cornerback or safety help. With this in mind, we match up the strength of the class with your favourite team’s greatest needs. In this edition we take an in-depth look at the first day’s top ten selections.
Myles Garrett/DE, Texas A&M
Dear Sachi Brown and Co. I urge you not to overthink this. Garrett is by far and away the finest all around talent in the 2017 NFL Draft class. A playmaker, whose ability to rush the passer with a plethora of pass rush moves whether on the edge or lined up inside, while able to offer a physical, disciplined edge against the run. Garrett is a talent whom just by his presence alone, will impact what opposing offences can do and will get an improving defence, anchored by the impressive Danny Shelton off the field and keep the unit fresh. Something the Browns have not been able to do on a consistent basis, thus ticking many boxes with just the solitary draft pick and with #12 still to come.
San Francisco 49ers
Deshaun Watson/QB, Clemson
As 49ers fans have made quite clear, the program needs a refresh at the game’s most vital position. My philosophy has always been new coach AND new quarterback, crucially one cherry picked by the incumbent. Kyle Shanahan can do great things with Watson’s ability as a passer. As we wrote last month Deshaun Watson has been our top rated at the position for the last two years and it is his reign at the pinnacle of the rankings that the wider media have used against him, in order to pick apart his ability. There’s no quarterback I’d rather have to lead and put my team on the back of in clutch situations, than Watson. His leadership and success in the most hostile of atmospheres will improve the play of the offence around him and bring a winning mentality absent from the 49ers locker room. An exciting new era awaits and Watson is a talent that will only get better. Jonathan Allen deserves, on ability alone to be the second player to be drafted, but would be a bad fit in San Francisco, a square peg in a round hole that will not get the best out of the either the player or the defensive front as a result. With both the 2015 and 2016 first round picks invested in Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, GM John Lynch must focus elsewhere.
Mitch Trubisky/QB, North Carolina
It goes without saying that the Bears have just as pressing needs, namely along the offensive line and defensive back, but with the starting quarterback pool very thin, the front office has to make this choice and Trubisky is the next best option at the position. Certainly not as battle tested as Watson’s 35-game starting experience, the former Tar Heel is already the most accurate passer in his class (68% in 2016/17) both deep downfield and in the short and intermediate areas, while a powerful, effective runner when required. Despite my concerns about having only become the starter this season, replacing the departed Marquise Williams and a fear he may be due for a ‘sophomore slump’ of sorts, he has the ability to be a day one starter in Chicago with the toughness to survive.
Jamal Adams/S, Louisiana State
Our #1 safety prospect, leading an outstanding and deep class at the position comes off the board here. Adams (see scouting report) and the Jaguars have been linked for some time now and the selection would make a lot if sense, marrying up a key need to become more aggressive and athletic at the back end of the defence, where they have been bullied at times. The opportunity to recruit a hard hitting talent who also excels in pass coverage is too good to pass up. Adams has the ability to become one of the best at his position in the NFL. The former 5-star recruit brings an athletic, strong frame along with his outstanding pre-snap diagnostic skills.
Mike Williams/WR, Clemson
With the franchise quarterback and a very good one at that already in place, this Titans team desperately lacks receiving talent on the outside to bring out the best in third year starter to be Marcus Mariota. Williams will bring size and physicality to the position. He wins at the catch point, physically dominating opposing defensive backs and working his way back to the ball, allowing Mariota a luxury as a pressure valve, knowing he will be able to place great confidence in Williams to make the contested catch. Outstanding at ‘walling off’ defensive backs, the national title champion possesses a wide catch radius, something very different than what is currently on the roster in Nashville. This is a move that will lift Tennessee into the playoffs in the 2017/18 campaign and an early contender for the wide open AFC South title.
New York Jets
Dalvin Cook/RB, Florida State
No quarterback? I hear you Jets fans. With no day one starting calibre quarterback remaining on the board, the franchise can come back for a developmental option with their subsequent selections. Given the current situation at the position, the next best option is to take a hard look at the former Seminole, whose outstanding all-around ability as a deceptive, intelligent runner, skilled pass catcher and pass protector will take the heat off whoever starts at signal caller. I believe Cook is every bit as good as Ezekiel Elliott was at this stage twelve months ago and we’ve seen the transformation a skilled feature back of this calibre can do. I could see Christian Hackenburg being the future this season and with Cook, an outstanding talent who can take the heat off him.
Los Angeles Chargers
Corey Davis/WR, Western Michigan
With Phillip Rivers still in place whose play remains at a high level, behind a competent enough offensive line, the Chargers desperately need to add a #1 wide receiver. While their greatest weapon, Keenan Allen has been beset by injury and both Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams filling the void admirably, Davis will add outstanding athleticism and yards after the catch specialism as a big, fast pass catching option that could form a dangerous duo with Rivers both on crossing routes, in the seam and at the sideline.
Derek Barnett/DE, Tennessee
The Panthers need to generate greater pressure on the quarterback and Barnett is a technician at bending the edge and closing in on the passer, while strong and physical against the run. The senior has been unblockable at times thanks to his agility, burst off the line of scrimmage and consistent leverage to change the course of games this season. Running back is an option here to operate within the power run scheme favoured in Charlotte, but the chance to take a game changer who can slot seamlessly into the 4-3 front is too good to pass up.
Jabrill Peppers/S, Michigan
While the Bengals need to generate greater pressure off the edge, the multi-talented, athletic marvel that is Julius Peppers upgrades both the safety position, while adding great range and in the box physicality as a hybrid linebacker when asked to play closer to the line of scrimmage. Blessed with outstanding intangibles, the former Wolverine can offer his dangerous ability to hit the edge with quickness and power as a running back to give the offence a new wrinkle. Adding Peppers will allow defensive co-ordinator Paul Guenther to play a far greater array of looks – a coaches dream at the next level.
Tre’Davious White/CB, Louisiana State
With the the wide receiver corps likely to take a hit from the outset of free agency, Buffalo will understandably look in that direction, but with the impending loss of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and no corners having been selected up to this point, the Bills add shutdown corner type length, physicality, ball skills and the finest tackling ability at the position in the 2017 NFL Draft. White has the skill set, as he showed for the Tigers this season, to shut down his side of the field and provide something different for defensive co-ordinator Leslie Frazier.
Coming Next: Picks 11-21
Featured Image Credit: Tony Guiterrez/Associated Press
If you enjoyed this you can read our scouting reports on all the eligible draft prospects in the 2017 edition of our NFL Draft Guide, available here from the 1st April (All proceeds are donated to Muscular Dystrophy UK) (£5).
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