NFL draft week has finally arrived. Round 1 of the league’s annual “player selection meeting” begins Thursday night in Philadelphia. Rounds 2 and 3 follow on Friday, and the event wraps up Saturday with Rounds 4 through 7.
That still leaves us time for one more first-round prognostication, which will be freshened through the week as news dictates — such as Ohio State CB Gareon Conley’s legal issues. So here’s mock draft 7.1 for 2017:
1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: A lot of conjecture in recent weeks, from the Browns’ rumored consideration of a quarterback at No. 1 to questions about Garrett’s work ethic. We’re not buying it. No reason for the league’s worst team to pass on this year’s best available player, and one who can energize a Cleveland pass rush that’s been nearly as bad as the franchise’s play under center since it rejoined the NFL in 1999. So don’t overthink this one, Browns. Garrett upgrades the roster’s talent, fills a need and even brings a refreshing personality to a team that needs positive buzz. Slam. Dunk.
2. San Francisco 49ers — Jamal Adams, S, LSU: This seems like a prime spot for a trade if the Niners can entice someone to a deal, maybe a team that loves LSU’s Leonard’s Fournette or one of this year’s (developmental) quarterbacks. But if the rookie duo of GM John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan stay put, they’ll obviously want to find a reliable cornerstone for this major rebuild. Adams should be that player, providing tone-setting hits, leadership and range for a new-look defense.
3. Chicago Bears — Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State: The Bears have already dumped CB Tracy Porter, and Kyle Fuller can’t be counted on given his injury history. Lattimore is a better option than both anyway and is expected to quickly flourish as a pro — assuming his hamstring issues are behind him.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU: Stanford DL Solomon Thomas will be tempting here, but the Jags know it’s incumbent to support Blake Bortles with a legitimate ground game in order to give him a final chance to flourish or else finally determine that he’s not the long-term answer at quarterback. Fournette, who’s drawing comparisons to a young Adrian Peterson, is a workhorse who would almost certainly end the club’s five-season streak without a 1,000-yard rusher.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams) — Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State: An elite ballhawk, Hooker had seven interceptions last year and returned three of them for TDs. He’d be quite a weapon in a division that features a pair of quarterbacks — Bortles and Andrew Luck — who not only tend to air it out but also put the ball up for grabs way too often. Shoulder and hernia surgeries sidelined Hooker the last few months, but considering his name has been mentioned with Ed Reed’s, it will be hard to say no.
6. New York Jets — O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama: The best tight end prospect to surface in some time — Howard is a throwback who’s both a downfield weapon and capable blocker — he could be a real asset for a team that’s sure to have issues at quarterback, is trying to replace departed WR Brandon Marshall’s production and also revamping its offensive line.
7. Los Angeles Chargers — Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford: What a gift for new Bolts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Thomas could fill the Michael Bennett role for this unit as a player who can be disruptive inside and out, against the run and while pursuing quarterbacks. And what a nice combo Thomas and defensive rookie of the year Joey Bosa might make for the foreseeable future.
8. Carolina Panthers — Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: The best way to reduce pressure on QB Cam Newton, who’s recovering from shoulder surgery, might be providing him a backfield mate who doubles as a dangerous short-area receiver while complementing aging RB Jonathan Stewart. McCaffrey could also take over departed Ted Ginn’s return duties.
9. Cincinnati Bengals — Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama: Just too good a player for Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis to overlook. Allen is solid against the run and an adept pass rusher despite a 6-3, 286-pound build. Cincinnati doesn’t have much on the interior of its D-line after Geno Atkins, but he and Allen could form the type of tandem that could give the Bengals a devastating four-man front that wouldn’t have to rely on blitz help to get the job done.
10. Buffalo Bills — Mike Williams, WR, Clemson: This team was raided of its receiver depth during free agency, and WR Sammy Watkins’ nagging injuries are reason enough to reload with a No. 1-caliber target for QB Tyrod Taylor. Williams’ 6-4, 218-pound frame will make him an inviting target who can increase Taylor’s margin for error and serve as a needed red-zone weapon. And his talent offers an insurance policy if Buffalo doesn’t have the stomach to give Watkins a long-term deal.
11. New Orleans Saints — Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama: He did himself no favors at the combine, providing a temper tantrum and a failed drug test. But if Foster gets the off-field stuff squared away, he could have a Ray Lewis-esque stamp on a defense that needs a leader, enforcer and every-down difference maker at the second level.
12. Browns (from Philadelphia Eagles) — Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina: Ohio’s Mr. Football in 2012 as a high schooler is apparently the preference of some in Cleveland’s front office, perhaps even as the No. 1 overall pick. The Browns may wind up having to parlay some of their stockpile of draft picks to move up several slots for Trubisky. But given the accuracy, ability to read the field and athleticism he showed in 13 college starts — definitely a worrisome sample size — he could be a very nice schematic and public relations fit for a team that’s been in flux at the game’s most important position for decades.
13. Arizona Cardinals — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan: Video of him working out last week suggests his surgically repaired ankle is progressing nicely. There will be some questions about the level of competition Davis faced in the Mid-American Conference, but his Football Bowl Subdivision record 5,278 career receiving yards cannot be discounted. He’s a smooth player who could project as the best all-around wideout from this year’s crop and might offer a seamless succession plan from Larry Fitzgerald.
14. Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings) — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee: DT Fletcher Cox paced the team with just 6½ sacks in 2016, and Connor Barwin is now with the Rams. Barnett won’t make anyone in Philly forget Reggie White, even if he did break the Minister of Defense’s sack record in Knoxville. But he is a very productive, relentless player who could take this pass rush up a notch or two while limiting the exposure to what’s surely going to be a suspect group of corners.
15. Indianapolis Colts — Haason Reddick, LB, Temple: Reddick’s a player, that much is clear after his sensational showings at the Senior Bowl and combine, not to mention a sterling senior year. He’d quickly find a home in Indy’s leaky defense, whether he’s lining up inside or out, on all three downs. A 6-1, 237-pound defensive end for the Owls, Reddick resembles Robert Mathis physically and has the gifts to one day replicate the retired pass rusher’s numbers.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky: Holes have opened on Baltimore’s offensive line this offseason, but Lamp could remedy questions at left guard or right tackle and theoretically catalyze a 28th-ranked ground game.
17. Washington Redskins — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama: Conley was originally mocked to the ‘Skins, but his outlook is now decidedly uncertain amid an accusation of rape. And Humphrey is no slouch, an exceptional athlete who merely needs to improve his technique and would have a reasonable opportunity to do that against second-tier receivers assuming Josh Norman continues to draw the toughest assignments.
18. Titans — John Ross, WR, Washington: Yes, he’s on the small side (5-11, 188), comes off shoulder surgery and has had past knee problems — issues that may cause him to slide out of Round 1 entirely. But perhaps no player in this draft can have a bigger effect on a game without the ball in his hands. Ross’ now legendary 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the combine should make him a bona fide deep threat and return man. That speed will garner instant respect from defensive coordinators already facing a slew of problems from Tennessee’s run-heavy offense.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Charles Harris, DE, Missouri: Running back is a popular pick for the Bucs, but they can probably wait for one and might shy away from some of the concerns around Dalvin Cook given the ongoing drama with incumbent (and suspended) starter Doug Martin. And Tampa might be better off spending its top pick to get a pass rusher who can ramp up the heat in a division full of special quarterbacks. Harris could establish a pick-your-poison dilemma for offenses that generally focus on deleting Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy.
20. Denver Broncos — Garett Bolles, OT, Utah: He’s a late bloomer but also one of the few tackles coming out this year likely to make a splash. Denver needs to replace departed LT Russell Okung and get more juice out of its running game. Bolles could allow the team to check both boxes.
21. Detroit Lions — David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.): This offense has some nice pieces but lacks a true mismatch player. Njoku, 20, seems capable of being that guy in the near future and able to make the consistent impact that Eric Ebron has too often failed to provide.
22. Miami Dolphins — Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida: Rangy defender who could give a questionable linebacking corps a nice boost. And Davis would have a chance to quickly leave an imprint with DT Ndamukong Suh and Co. sucking up blocks in front of him.
23. New York Giants — Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin: This offense needs better tackle play on both sides of the ball. Ideally, Ramczyk would prove capable of locking down QB Eli Manning’s blind side and allowing Ereck Flowers to anchor the right side.
24. Oakland Raiders — Kevin King, CB, Washington: A big defender (6-3, 200) who could present a challenge to the Demaryius Thomases and Keenan Allens of the world, King would also bring a needed element of athleticism to this secondary. DC Ken Norton would love to land someone who might remind him of Richard Sherman.
25. Houston Texans — Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech: USA TODAY Sports’ Tom Pelissero has already reported that Houston coach Bill O’Brien “absolutely loves” Mahomes. Taking him would almost surely mean one season of Tom Savage at the controls, but O’Brien might also finally have the man who could eventually operate his offense at the level he’s only imagined.
26. Seattle Seahawks — Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA: A high-effort, highly productive player — the type of competitor Seattle covets — he might be a nice fit for the team’s LEO position and ultimately more of an edge presence than, say, Bruce Irvin ever was.
27. Kansas City Chiefs — Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson: Alex Smith is a nice player, but it’s time to start thinking about replacing him with someone who has the talent to eventually transform this team into a legitimate Super Bowl threat. Watson could learn the ropes from Smith and Andy Reid in 2017 before potentially supplanting the veteran quarterback a year from now.
28. Dallas Cowboys — Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Southern California: The winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the country’s top defensive back in 2016, Jackson would surely be made to order for a defense that lost four key defensive backs to free agency. Jackson’s coverage skills will need some refinement, but that isn’t the case on special teams after he scored eight times on returns for the Trojans.
29. Green Bay Packers — Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: He’s got some red flags off the field and in the training room but also owns a multi-dimensional, every-down, game-breaking skill set that would diversify the Pack attack and alleviate the load on Aaron Rodgers’ right arm.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers — Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU: This defense’s deficiencies against the pass took center stage in the AFC Championship Game, when Tom Brady exposed Pittsburgh’s secondary. White could solve one corner spot for years to come.
31. Atlanta Falcons — Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama: The NFC champs didn’t lose much this offseason, but starting G Chris Chester did retire. Robinson could more than fill that vacancy and maybe even kick out to tackle, his college position, at some point.
32. Saints (from New England Patriots) — Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi: A small tight end? A huge slot receiver? Would it matter in this offense? QB Drew Brees could definitely use a weapon like Engram, who’s got 4.4 speed at 6-3 and 234 pounds, after saying goodbye to TE Jimmy Graham and WR Brandin Cooks in recent years.