Following on the heels of our top ten, pre-combine 2017 NFL Mock Draft and with some outstanding talent already off the board, we take you through to the 2oth selection. We project and match up your NFL team’s greatest need with the depth of the class for best value, beginning with last season’s (7-9) New Orleans Saints, who look to improve on a disappointing third spot in the NFC South.
New Orleans Saints
Marshon Lattimore/CB, Ohio State
With a mere six games a season faced with the likes of Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and the ever improving James Winston, with a struggling defensive back unit in tow, doesn’t bear thinking about for yet another campaign. Washington’s standout safety, Budda Baker would get serious consideration here, but the underwhelming big money free agent Jarius Byrd is given a pass here, with hopes to see marked improvement in 2017. However, the Saints’ depth chart is devoid of talented corners and the franchise will be delighted to have Lattimore fall into their laps. He’ll bring good height, athleticism and outstanding awareness, instincts and ball skills to counter the passing excellence that call the NFC South home to give the Saints a legitimate chance to compete for the divisional title.
Leonard Fournette/RB, Louisiana State
Two picks inside the top twelve selections is for any franchise a boon, but haven’t we been here before Cleveland Browns? With the defensive playmaker already in place to get the Browns off the field on third downs and with good enough talent at quarterback in Cody Kessler, Robert Griffin and Kevin Hogan already in place, it’s time the Browns give their signal callers a supporting cast. While the defence can get valuable recovery time on the sidelines, Fournette has the chain moving, destructive power and quickness the offence needs to control the clock on a consistent basis. The former Tigers’ star, hampered this past season with a nagging ankle injury, has the strength, power and quickness to give the Browns an identity on offence, something not witnessed at Paul Brown Stadium for many years. Alongside Isiah Crowell, few defences will fancy facing the Browns this season.
Reuben Foster/ILB, Alabama
With Kevin Minter and Sio Moore both unrestricted free agents, it is imperative the Cardinals upgrade a position of weakness in the first round and go and select the best in class. Of course, it goes without saying that the quarterback of the future needs to be found this offseason, but it comes down to matching a genuine need with value. Yes, you could take DeShone Kizer’s card to the podium here, but it makes greater sense to select our top ranked #1 ILB (it isn’t close either) than the the third best quarterback, wildly overrated at this point where patience and development is required. Foster is an outstanding talent who simply jumps off the screen with his range between the sidelines thanks to his outstanding quickness to close the gap on the outside while packing a punch in bursting to fill the hole up the middle. Foster consistently displays the awareness, vision and diagnostic skills that mean he is rarely fooled by the opposition and simply cannot be beaten to the edge. The senior is going to be a day-one standout on Sundays.
Christian McCaffrey/RB, Stanford
Saddled with a consistently inconsistent core of pass catchers in Philadelphia, the Eagles would have hoped for either Mike Williams or Corey Davis to have been available here. However, with both off the board and the likes of John Ross and Taiwan Taylor too rich this early, the Eagles turn to the next best option in the outstanding all-around game of the former Cardinal. McCaffrey is a versatile, multi faceted talent who can withstand a heavy load as he has throughout his career in the Pac-12, but also dissect defences as a highly skilled pass catcher either out of the backfield, in the seam on crossing routes or at the line of scrimmage. He plays the position with great vision and positional awareness, utilising his outstanding athleticism to avoid the big hits and would-be tacklers to turn short passes into field-breaking big plays. Certainly an option that would offer Carson Wentz an insurance option and alleviate some of the pressure from him. I love the value here too and will finally allow Eagles fans to forget about their team having allowed Le’Sean McCoy to leave the building.
Jonathan Allen/DE, Alabama
The value in this pick is there for all to see. Our second highest rated prospect of the entire 2017 NFL Draft class, due to the pressing needs of the teams above and lack of a suitable fit, remains on the board at #15 where newly incumbent GM Chris Ballard will run to the podium with the pick. Having been the director of player personnel in Kansas City for many years, Ballard knows the value of selecting identifying 5-technique talent. Simply put, Jonathan Allen is outstanding, a model professional both on and off the pitch playing at the collegiate level. He plays with great intelligence and awareness, outstanding against the run and shutting down his side of the defensive line. Vastly experienced, Allen is rarely fooled and plays with great discipline to always be around the ball. This season, the former Crimson Tide defensive end often lined up inside at tackle, demonstarting his versatility and footballing intelligence. The senior plays with great leverage and hand use, with flawless technique at the point of attack, while offering a pass rushing element too. With the ability to shift inside in certain looks, the Colts will upgrade their entire 3-man line with one selection.
Tim Williams/OLB, Alabama
With a pass rush that is not getting any younger in Terrel Suggs and Elis Dumervill, the Ravens invest their first pick of the 2017 NFL Draft in Alabama’s dangerous edge talent. Defensive End Derek Barnett of Tennessee is an option here and with no wide receivers matching the value at this spot, Williams is the pick here. While at this stage he is best utilised as a situational pass rusher on obvious passing downs, Williams is tall, quick and skilled at cutting around the corner and making big plays at key moments, allowing the Ravens defence to get off the field that much quicker in 2017. Despite not being an every down prospect at this juncture, he is a difference maker with some flashiness to complement the tough, physical and disciplined play of the Ravens impressive front seven, so disciplined against the run. He can enter the fray on third down and be let free to do his work. Like Allen, he too endured a quiet national championship game but showed his development in featuring more on first and second downs and improvement as a run defender on the edge.
Montravious Adams/DT, Auburn
A 6’4/294lb wrecking ball, Adams has impressed me ever since stepping onto the field as a starter in the opening week of the 2015/16 campaign and remained our top graded interior defemsive lineman ever since. Returning to school for his senior campaign, having certainly been a first round selection a year ago, Adams can do it all on an every-down basis. He will give the Redskins a force at the point of attack currently absent from the roster, who plays with outstanding strength, core strength and an unmovable anchor that made Auburn so tough to run on in 2016. Possessing an array of pass rush moves, a devastating spin move to consistently split double teams and hand strength to effortlessly swipe away blockers, he will generate considerable pressure inside to dictate games on Sundays. The Redskins pick up the #1 defensive tackle at pick 16; outstanding value. Full scouting report
Dan Feeney/G, Indiana
Titans fans will be legitimately asking why they have not drafted a cornerback here. With the future set on the shoulders of the outstanding and improving quarterback talent in Marcus Mariota, the Titans need to keep furnishing him with weapons and the protection to ensure they get the best out of him. Having provided him, with the dangerous #1 wide receiver he has so sorely required since arriving in the league with the fifth pick, that neither Kendall Wright or Tajae Sharpe have established themselves to be to this juncture, the next step is to continue constructing what is an impressive unit upfront. The tackle duo of Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin is by far my favourite in the league, set to protect Mariota’s edge for years to come, while the guard position, no slouches themselves, get an immediate starting upgrade with our #1 ranked interior talent. Feeney will bring a physical and nasty road blocking edge in the running game and strong technique to close off interior pass rushers. Again it comes down to value over pressing need. At pick 17 you add the #1 guard prospect here, rather than settling for the #3 cornerback, in a deep positional class, allowing the Titans to come back in the second round and still pick up a dominating, shut-down corner.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Derek Barnett/DE, Tennessee
One of the most improved players in college football this past season, watching the former Volunteer game changing talent has been a lot of fun. A promising looking future lays ahead after just one year under the stewardship of head coach Dirk Koetter in Tampa, with a high powered offense and talented defense that overcame some of the heavyweights in the NFL last season. Here, the Buccaneers take one of the finest at the position to bring the disruption this defensive unit has needed for so long. Line him up next to the outstanding, seasonally underrated Gerald McCoy, where he can fully utilise his power and burst off the snap, lean and diagonal agility to chase the quarterback off his spot, powered by his consistently excellent leverage and quickness in pursuit. Single-handedly this season, Barnett has heavily impacted upon the playbook of opposing offences, simply by his presence alone. In any other year, Barnett would be the finest pass rusher in the class. The Bucs have the opportunity here to build upon and become the dominant force in an open NFC South division with the right draft strategy this spring.
Ryan Ramczyk/LT, Wisconsin
After a season of struggle in protecting the likes of Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, while letting Russell Okung walk this offseason, the Broncos have to address the offensive line.With such a shallow class at the position in mind, they must use their first 2017 NFL Draft selection on the unit. While OJ Howard would represent a significant upgrade at a less than stellar tight end spot, first we need to protect the former Northwestern quarterback, who in my opinion is more than good enough to be the undisputed stater in 2017/18, but must be given help by Elway and co. Ramczyk is a powerfully, yet athletically put together framed talent, whose stature and play reminds me so much of the great Joe Thomas in many ways. He brings outstanding vision, awareness, balance and movement as a highly skilled pass protecting technician that established him as our #1 ranked offensive tackle in this class. Having made the jump from the D-III level just twelve months ago, the former Badger was outstanding this season in what was the most significant breakout campaign of any player in America. Blessed with significant upside and room to improve as a run blocker, Ramczyk will only get better and better. He has the traits that have me convinced he can be a presence on the left side for the next ten years.
Up Next: The playoff teams look to build on their success in part three with picks 21-32
Featured Image Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
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). Take a look inside for previews and see what our readers think of Europe’s only scouting guide to the NFL Draft.
Never miss an article by subscribing to our feed below.