ESPN analyst Mel Kiper released his 2017 NFL Mock Draft 3.0. The major changes included dropping down the 2 top college QB prospects Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson from the early few picks to #12 (Cleveland Browns) and #13 (Arizona Cardinals). The top is heavy with defense and Alabama TE O.J. Howard moves up again to the N.Y. Jets at #6 as one of the most solid prospects in 2017. His 40yd combine time of 4.51 (low time of 4.45) and a height of 6’6″ with good hands makes him an almost can’t miss prospect in the eyes of many.
Mel’s complete first round mock draft + commentary courtesy of ESPN:
1.) Cleveland Browns Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Garrett to the Browns has been my pick in the other two mocks, and I’m not changing it. His phenomenal combine performance — a 4.64 40-yard dash, 41-inch vertical and 10-foot-8 broad jump, all at 6-foot-4, 272 pounds — locked in his status as the best prospect in this class. Cleveland was 30th in the NFL in sacks last season (26), and Garrett is a brilliant, natural pass-rusher who had 32.5 sacks in three seasons for the Aggies. Don’t overthink this pick, Browns; take the top overall prospect.
2.) San Francisco 49ers Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
After the 49ers signed veterans Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley in free agency, I’m moving away from North Carolina signal-caller Mitch Trubisky here. The urgency for the 49ers to pick a QB isn’t as high. They could target a developmental prospect in the second or third round (Patrick Mahomes, maybe?) and let him have a redshirt year in 2017. The reality is that San Francisco has many needs on both sides of the ball. Thomas (6-3, 273) is a different kind of player than the D-linemen the 49ers have taken in the first round the past two years (DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead); he’ll get after the quarterback from Day 1.
3.) Chicago Bears Jamal Adams, S, LSU
This might be a high pick for the traditional version of a safety, but Adams is more than that. He’s a true hybrid who never has to come off the field, because he can run and cover but also is a beast as an in-the-box defender. His 4.56 40 at the combine was right in line with what I expected. The Bears targeted the secondary in free agency, signing cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper and safety Quintin Demps, and the addition of Adams (6-0, 214) would further boost their defensive backfield.
4.) Jacksonville Jaguars Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Jacksonville has put a lot of capital into improving its defensive line — a No. 3 overall pick on Dante Fowler Jr., (2015) and big-money free-agent contracts to Malik Jackson (2016) and Calais Campbell (2017) — but Allen is almost too good to pass up at No. 4. In this scenario, Allen (6-3, 286) would probably slot in at tackle next to Jackson, but he could kick outside, too. He’s versatile enough to play in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense and rush the passer from the inside or at end. He totaled 22.5 sacks over the past two seasons in Alabama.
5.) Tennessee Titans (from Rams) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
In Lattimore, the Titans would get the top cornerback in the draft with the first of their two picks in the top 18. Yes, they gave former Patriots corner Logan Ryan $16 million guaranteed in free agency, but they need bodies. Plus, long-time starter Jason McCourty turns 30 in August and is a free agent in 2018, so Tennessee could move on with a ready-made replacement. Lattimore (6-0, 193) is an athletic phenom who doesn’t have a ton of experience — he ran a 4.36 40 and had a 38.5-inch vertical at the combine, but he started just one season for the Buckeyes.
6.) New York Jets O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
If the Jets are really going with Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg at quarterback, they’re going to need someone to catch passes to try to score some points. At 6-6, 251 pounds, Howard is my top-ranked pass-catcher, even though he wasn’t prolific for the Crimson Tide, with just seven touchdowns in his career. He has all of the athletic attributes of a top-tier player, though, and he was one of the most impressive prospects at the combine. There is precedence for a tight end going this high, too — Vernon Davis (49ers in 2006) and Kellen Winslow Jr. (Browns in 2004) both went No. 6 overall.
7.) Los Angeles Chargers Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
If Jahleel Addae is the Chargers’ in-the-box safety, Hooker (6-1, 206) could be their center fielder. He has incredible range, but like Lattimore, he was a first-year starter for the Buckeyes in 2016. One thing that makes Hooker particularly interesting here is that Los Angeles already has one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL in fellow Buckeyes alum Joey Bosa. Hooker is the type of player who can help a great pass rush produce points going the other way on errant throws.
8.) Carolina Panthers Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Jonathan Stewart is 30. Fozzy Whittaker is a part-time back at best. Cameron Artis-Payne hasn’t shown much in two seasons. Why not take the draft’s best back and put him in the backfield with Cam Newton? He’s a special athlete with an incredible combination of size (6-0, 240), speed and power. Fournette can produce from Day 1 in the NFL, and that Carolina offense would become even more scary.
9.) Cincinnati Bengals Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
The addition of free-agent middle linebacker Kevin Minter makes me think the Bengals won’t take Reuben Foster, whom I had going to Cincinnati in Mock Draft 2.0. Pass-rusher is still in play, though, and McKinley is one of the most explosive in this class. At 6-2, 250, he’s not huge, but he is suited to play end in today’s NFL. Put McKinley in the rotation with Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Will Clarke, and the Bengals have a stellar foursome.
10.) Buffalo Bills Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
After losing Robert Woods to the Rams in free agency, the Bills have a clear need at receiver. And if Williams falls to No. 10, Buffalo would be getting a guy with a much high ceiling than Woods, not to mention another Clemson wideout to go alongside Sammy Watkins. Williams’ pro day moved him back to being my top-ranked receiver. His 40-yard dash was the question, and he ran right around 4.50, which is what he needed. Production wasn’t the issue — Williams (6-4, 218) had 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. Quarterback could still be in play here, too, with the Bills committing to Tyrod Taylor with limited guaranteed money.
11.) New Orleans Saints Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
No prospect has risen as much during the pre-draft process as Reddick has. He was fantastic at the Senior Bowl, and he was one of the MVPs of the combine, with a 4.52 40, 36.5-inch vertical and 11-foot-1 broad jump. Reddick’s value is in his versatility — he could play inside or outside in a 4-3 or 3-4, with his hand in the dirt or playing on his feet in space. The Saints have made an effort to improve their 31st-ranked defense in free agency, re-signing Nick Fairley and bringing in A.J. Klein, Manti Te’o and Alex Okafor, and Reddick (6-1, 237) would probably play outside in New Orleans’ 4-3.
12.) Cleveland Browns (from Eagles) Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
This might be the ideal situation for the Browns, getting the top overall prospect at No. 1 (Garrett) and the top quarterback at No. 12. This is assuming they don’t use draft capital to trade for Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who could still be available if the price is right. Trubisky (6-2, 222), who went to high school in Northeast Ohio and is a Cleveland sports fan, completed 68.2 percent of his passes and had 30 touchdown passes and six interceptions in his first season as a starter. The potential is there, but he’s green. Trubisky could compete with Cody Kessler and give the Browns some hope for the future.
13.) Arizona Cardinals Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Arizona needs a quarterback of the future, and this is a sneaky spot to grab one — if he’s still around. Carson Palmer, 37, showed his age last season, and backup Drew Stanton hasn’t proved he’s a starting-caliber QB. So now Bruce Arians, who’s a brilliant offensive mind, would get Palmer’s heir apparent in Watson, who flashes top-five-pick talent at times but was inconsistent in 2016. At 6-2, 221, Watson has the arm strength, toughness and athleticism to play for a long time. He could back up Palmer in the short term while he adjusts gradually to the NFL. Keep an eye on the secondary here, too; the Cardinals lost their two starting safeties plus a corner in free agency.
14.) Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings) Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
The Eagles are in a good spot to get their pick of one of the best cornerbacks in a deep class. Several will be on the board at No. 14 with a potential run on pass-rushers at the top of the first round. Conley, the third member of the Ohio State secondary to be picked so far, is rising after the combine, where he ran a 4.44 40 with a 37.5-inch vertical at 6-0, 195. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz needs a new No. 1 corner, and this is a great fit.
15.) Indianapolis Colts Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
Let’s be clear here: I don’t have Foster, a top-five talent, dropping because of his bizarre combine ejection. He’s dropping here because not many teams above the Colts at No. 15 need a true inside linebacker. The Bengals and Saints, for instance, have both signed inside linebackers in free agency. Whichever team takes Foster, though, is getting a big-time, sideline-to-sideline defender with All-Pro potential. Indianapolis has done a solid job of upgrading its roster this offseason, and picking Foster (6-0, 229) is another step toward defensive respectability.
16.) Baltimore Ravens Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
This is a strange year for offensive tackles — there are no top-five-type talents in this class. This is about the range where I expect the first tackle to go. Ramczyk, Cam Robinson and Garett Bolles are all on the board, but I’m going with Ramczyk, who’s a better prospect at right tackle. Baltimore has Ronnie Stanley, the No. 6 overall pick in 2016, on the left side, and Ramczyk (6-6, 310) would upgrade the right side over former undrafted free agent James Hurst.
17.) Washington Redskins Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Like I mentioned in Mock Draft 2.0: At what point should a team forget about what’s conventional and just take the best football player? That’s the value in McCaffrey here. The Redskins like Rob Kelley, but McCaffrey brings a different element to the offense as a runner and receiver, and he can be a return man, too. McCaffrey’s 4.48 40 and 37.5-inch vertical at the combine eliminated any doubts about his athleticism.
18.) Tennessee Titans John Ross, WR, Washington
Don’t you think Marcus Mariota would be elated with this pick? He’d get a true field-stretcher in Ross, whose 4.22 40 broke the combine record. That’s something the Titans’ offense sorely lacks. Ross (5-11, 188) produces, too — he had 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Tennessee has drafted a good, young core on offense, and it could also target a cornerback or linebacker here and with the No. 5 overall pick.
19.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
This pick stays the same as Mock Draft 2.0 — it makes too much sense. Vincent Jackson is gone, and there’s an opening opposite Mike Evans. Davis, who had 331 catches for 5,278 yards and 52 touchdowns in his collegiate career, would give Jameis Winston a fantastic second option. The only issue with Davis (6-3, 209) is an ankle issue that kept him out of the combine, and he might not run a 40 before the draft, so scouts won’t have a true number. I don’t expect him to drop out of the first round, though.
20.) Denver Broncos David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.)
Njoku can no longer be considered a sleeper after posting a 4.64 40, 37.5-inch vertical and 11-foot-1 broad jump at the combine. He has the size (6-4, 246) and athleticism to run past and jump over defenders. He will be a weapon in the NFL. Experience is a question — he’s a third-year sophomore who only put it all together down the stretch of the Hurricanes’ 2016 season — but he has a high ceiling. This is another spot in which an offensive tackle could go.
21.) Detroit Lions Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Pass-rusher and cornerback are the two biggest needs for the Lions, and you can take your pick from a deep class at both positions. Harris (6-3, 253) would give Detroit’s D-line a boost — the Lions had only 26 sacks last season, which ranked 30th in the league. He would play end in Detroit’s 4-3, but he could move inside and rush the passer when needed. Harris had nine sacks and two forced fumbles in 2016.
22.) Miami Dolphins Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
Laremy Tunsil’s expected move to left tackle leaves an opening at guard, and Lamp is the best guard in the draft. He could also move over to right tackle or slide in to center, and his versatility is a plus. Though Lamp (6-4, 309) played in Conference USA, he has the traits to step in and play immediately next season. Miami could also be in play for a linebacker, even with Kiko Alonso locked into a new deal. Florida’s Jarrad Davis makes some sense.
23.) New York Giants Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The Giants’ 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl teams featured a fearsome pass-rushing rotation, and this would be an attempt to build out that rotation again. Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon are entrenched as starters — and they have the big-money deals to show for it — but they played too many snaps last season. Vernon had more than 1,000, and Pierre-Paul was on his way before a groin injury ended his season in December. Barnett had 33 sacks in three seasons for the Volunteers, and he’s an all-around 4-3 end at 6-3, 259 pounds.
24.) Oakland Raiders Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
D.J. Hayden was a miss at No. 12 overall in 2013, and now the Raiders will be looking for cornerback help on Day 1 or Day 2. Enter White, who has what many of the corner prospects above him don’t: experience. A four-year starter for the Tigers, White (5-11,192) could have been a Day 3 pick a year ago but made the right decision to return to school. The Raiders think they’re Super Bowl contenders, but corner is a gaping hole headed into 2017.
25.) Houston Texans Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
The Texans could be in play for a quarterback here after trading away Brock Osweiler, though Tony Romo could find his way to Houston soon if he gets his release from the Cowboys. For now I’m sticking with Robinson at No. 25, even if he’ll have no idea whom he’s blocking for. Robinson (6-6, 322) has been a known commodity for the Crimson Tide, for whom he was a three-year starter, but he isn’t a lock to play left tackle. He’s a powerful run-blocker who needs to clean up some things to reach his potential as a pass-blocker.
26.) Seattle Seahawks Kevin King, CB, Washington
Before Sidney Jones’ Achilles’ injury at the Washington pro day last week, the Huskies had a realistic chance of having two corners taken in the first round of the draft. King (6-3, 200) is a lanky, rangy defender who fits the Seattle mold of bigger defensive backs, and he knows his way around the city. In a great class of cornerbacks, he stands out for his size but can also move, as the 4.43 40 at the combine showed. The Seahawks could be in the market for an offensive tackle on Days 1 and 2 as well.
27.) Kansas City Chiefs Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina
Jeremy Maclin had a down season in 2016, and the Chiefs’ top pass-catchers were tight end Travis Kelce and rookie fifth-round pick Tyreek Hill, who’s not a true No. 1 wideout. Jones has moved up my board considerably thanks to his performances at the Senior Bowl and combine, where he ran a 4.45 40 and had a 36.5-inch vertical. At 6-2, 201 pounds, he put up huge numbers for the Pirates last season with 158 catches for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns. Adding Jones would help open up the Chiefs’ offense and give Alex Smith a reliable, productive target.
28.) Dallas Cowboys Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
Wouldn’t this be a Jerry Jones type of pick? Peppers is one of the most well-known prospects in this class, but he’s a tweener (5-11, 213) who’s polarizing to NFL scouts. The team that drafts him will have to get creative and use him as a hybrid safety who can play the run and cover tight ends. Peppers could also be a great return man. He’s a tremendous athlete (4.46 40, 35.5-inch vertical). And Dallas’ secondary has been depleted in free agency — Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox are all gone.
29.) Green Bay Packers Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook’s stock is dropping a little bit. He didn’t test amazingly at the combine, a couple of shoulder injuries at FSU have worried teams and not many teams in the first round need running backs. But falling to Green Bay here would be considered a great value pick. Green Bay needs a back and will take one at some point — converted receiver Ty Montgomery is really all it has now — and Cook (5-10, 210) is one of the best home run hitters out there. Cook gives Aaron Rodgers and the offense some help in the passing game, too.
I came close to giving Green Bay another player here: Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, who is surging up draft boards and might be the most talented back in the entire class. Mixon has notable off-field issues, and some teams will take him off their boards because of that, but I expect him to be picked by end of the second round.
30.) Pittsburgh Steelers Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston
You might remember Bowser from the time he got in a fight with a teammate and broke an orbital bone the day before a game, but he has made a name for himself from his play on the field, too. He had 8.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss for the Cougars in only eight games last season. Bowser (6-3, 247) is perfect for a 3-4 team like the Steelers, and he is rising up draft boards after testing incredibly well at the combine with a 4.65 40 and 37.5-inch vertical. Pittsburgh brought back James Harrison, who at 38 could be a mentor to Bowser.
31.) Atlanta Falcons Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Charlton falls to Atlanta here in this projection because a 4.92 40 at 6-6, 277 at the combine was concerning. He’s still a first-round talent, however, and I suspect the Falcons would be thrilled to put him on the other side of Vic Beasley Jr., who broke out with 15.5 sacks last season, and let him get after quarterbacks. Charlton has long arms (34¼ inches) and active hands and takes ideal angles when rushing the passer.
32.) New Orleans Saints (from Patriots) Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Saints are trying to pry away restricted free-agent corner Malcolm Butler from the Patriots, but until they do, the position is a weak spot on a defense that gave up the most passing yards per game (273.8) last season. Humphrey (6-0 197) has length, strength, speed and good bloodlines (his father is former NFL running back Bobby Humphrey). I had Haason Reddick going to the Saints with their other first-round pick, and I suspect they’d be happy with two defenders who could step in and play on Day 1.