40 Yards Scouting

Malik McDowell at his best rushing the passer inside

2017 NFL Mock Draft: Combine Edition

in Mock Drafts

As we head into the penultimate edition of our 2017 NFL Mock Draft, we take a look at those stable, perennially well run franchises, who make the draft process work for them year after year, each of whom who look to push the reigning super bowl champions further in the 2017/18 campaign.

Detroit Lions
Malik McDowell/DT, Michigan State

A highly talented, disruptive talent who endured something of a down year in what was a season of transition in East Lansing. Utilised primarily as a defensive end by the Spartans this season, McDowell was out of sorts lined up on the outside and is certainly not where his strength lies. However, when he shifted inside over the center on obvious passing downs, he was transformed, causing mayhem upfront, swiping away blockers with his excellent hand use and busting through the gap off the snap. Much was placed on his shoulders following the loss of three of his defensive line colleagues to the NFL Draft twelve months ago. A disruptive interior presence is his best suit, but he is undersized to play the role at the next level. He will require patience in an NFL weight room and satisfy teams this week at the NFL Combine that he will give his all on an every down basis when asked to play end, something he did not always do in 2016. The Lions need to inject greater pass rushing threat from the line and the flashes McDowell has shown are a portent, with the correct development and commitment from the player himself, of a highly disruptive force both off the edge and inside on Sundays.

2017 NFL Mock Draft : Jarrad Davis has been the heart and soul of the Florida defense again this season
NFL Mock Draft 2017: Davis has been the heart and soul of the Florida defense once again this season (ESPN/Getty Images)

Miami Dolphins
Jarrad Davis/ILB, Florida

The Dolphins astutely add intensity in this 2017 NFL Mock Draft, to a linebacking corps that has been crying out for an upgrade at this position. The franchise would have dearly loved to have added our top ranked prospect at the position, Alabama’s Reuben Foster, but by no means is Davis a backup plan. It is fair to say that wherever he went, so too did the Gators. An intense performer, who flies around the field both downhill to make the big hit, coming up into the box close to the line of scrimmage to blow up plays as well as a dangerous blitzer. All thanks to his excellent speed up the middle or around the edge to get to the passer. A highly productive career in Gainesville, thanks to his attacking instincts, taking the game to the opposition with his signature head of steam that stood out consistently when watching him.  He has a great intelligence for the game and always stood out in moving his fellow defensive colleagues into correct position pre-snap, reading and recognising the opposing offence impressively quickly.

New York Giants
O.J Howard/TE, Alabama

Another of the 2016/17 Crimson Tide vintage comes off the board. The Giants are able to achieve great value, getting their hands on our #1 ranked tight end in the class and address a position of need. Boasting outstanding size, length and athleticism, Howard plays the position with eye catching positional awareness, in identifying soft areas of coverage and speed/size mismatches in the seam, on deep routes or at the perimeter. He takes ghosts into favourable match ups and as a big passing play threat, evidenced by his 15 yard per catch average during his three-year starting career. Howard has developed his game year on year and is a big time talent for the big occasion, standing out during a plethora of clutch situations when Alabama have needed him most. Possesses impressive fluidity in his hips and the agility to turn in an instant once the ball is in his grasp, making him tough to stop after the catch. Impressed as a vastly improved blocker in both the run and passing game as a this season.

Oakland Raiders
Solomon Thomas/DL, Stanford

While Raiders fans may be disappointed not to see a space-eating, run stuffing defensive tackle that they so desperately need, Oakland jump at the chance to snag the junior who has produced a blistering past two seasons in Palo Alto as one of the breakout stories in college football. In fact, Thomas offers a versatile range of options for the Raiders on defense. His strength lies primarily as a tough, strong run defender at the point of attack who is tough to move from his spot and so quick off the snap. In base formations, he can line up as an end as a 5-technique and then shift inside on obvious passing downs, where he is adept at making himself skinny to routinely burst between defensive tackles as a highly disruptive interior rusher.

Houston Texans
Pat Mahomes/QB, Texas Tech

To say this is the perfect landing spot for both the junior and former dual-sport athlete (he played baseball for the Red Raiders before pursuing football full-time twelve months ago) and the Texans is there for all to see. Blessed with outstanding athleticism that lights up the game every time he has the ball in his hands, Mahomes brings an effortless cannon of an arm that will bring out the best in the deep field quickness of Will Fuller and Hopkins. The junior is not a ‘running’ quarterback, only escaping the pocket when absolutely necessary. He stands imperiously behind his line, constantly active behind his protection, consistently keeping his eyes forward and head up despite the chaos around him, often with personal physical cost coming his way to get the job done. With a strong physique and outstanding foot movement, he is a tough proposition to bring down by pass rushers and is unaffected by their presence. With this selection, the Texans transform their entire offense with the one draft selection. Of course Mahomes will need to iron out certain mechanical flaws and polish the more raw areas of his game, but he offers outstanding upside.

Seattle Seahawks
Antonio Garcia/LT, Troy

There’s simply no greater requirement for the Seahawks to come out of the offseason with a vastly upgraded offensive line via a combination of free agency and the draft. With both tackle spots requiring significant attention, the senior brings pass protection finesse to Seattle. The senior has attracted much attention with his solid fundamentals, arm and body length impressive footwork and leverage that is not commonly found in this tackle class. His high level of play on the blindside stood out in the Sun Belt and is just the answer the franchise has been looking for, with the upside to become a special talent as a pro.

Kansas City Chiefs
Sidney Jones/CB, Washington

The Chiefs revisit the well in Seattle, to pair up the former Husky teammates and give the outstanding Marcus Peters the perfect accompaniment opposite. General Manager John Dorsey will be in the enviable position of having an array of long, physical, press-corners to choose, that defensive co-ordinator Bob Sutton loves to use, with Quincy Wilson, Kevin King and Garçon Conley still on the board. Jones was a key cog in the Huskie’s shut-down, ‘death row’ defensive back unit in the Pac-12 and consistently displayed his ball skills and playmaking ability. He snared no less than seven interceptions in his last two seasons combined, while a strong tackling force against ball carriers.

Dallas Cowboys
Taco Charlton/DE, Michigan

Had it not been for Takkarist McKinley’s shoulder surgery, taking place on the heels of the NFL Combine, college football’s most disruptive edge talent would be the pick here. However, with questions to his ability to be a factor at all next season and having previously taken risks at the position in recent years that have failed to pay off, the Cowboys opt for one of my favourite edge talents of this past college campaign. Charlton, blessed with prototypical size for the position at the next level, consistently displayed his smooth athleticism to glide around the outside of tackles, intelligently utilising his length and athletically put together frame to bend to get the job done in a breakout 10 sack/13.5 tackle for loss campaign in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, the Cowboys get an instant, day one starting upgrade at a position of need and excellent value.

Up Next: Last season’s final four looking to repeat in 2017 – Picks 29-32

Featured Image Credit: CSN Chicago/csn.chicago.com

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.

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