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NFL Mock Draft: The Year of the Defensive Backs

 The Browns should take the best player available, no questions asked. It so happens that the best player available is not a quarterback, but they can, and should, address that position later. Garrett is hands down the best athlete and player in this draft and should not be passed on at No. 1.
San Francisco 49ers,Mitchell Trubisky, Quarterback North Carolina
The 49ers are in serious rebuild mode and need a quarterback of the future. There are plenty of other holes in the offense and defense, but with a quarterback class so thin and guys like Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the depth chart, it would be a good time to get a young guy to train under offensive guru Kyle Shanahan.
LA Chargers (trade up with Chicago Bears): Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU
The Chargers defense was horrible against the pass in 2016 and figures to be the first thing they’ll want to upgrade. The Chargers are making the move up to Los Angeles and want to be at least average next year to
drum up some excitement. Adding a big hitter on defense like Adams will certainly help sell tickets come September.
Jacksonville Jaguars:Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU
The Bayou Bruiser, or so Fournette should be called, is capable of bringing a new angle to the Jaguars offense. The past few years have been Blake Bortles shouldering the load of the offense because TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory aren’t effective enough at playing the position. Fournette is an absolute monster between the tackles and the best running back in this class.
Tennessee Titans (from LA Rams): Mike Williams, Wide Receiver, Clemson
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is recovering from an ACL tear he suffered at the end of the 2016 season, but when he gets back he will want a number one receiver to throw to. Mariota had great chemistry with Rishard Matthews last year, but Williams would be a true threat in that offense.
New York Jets: Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback, Ohio State
Lattimore finished his 2016 year with a bad taste, with the Buckeyes being shutout 31-0 during the first round of the playoffs by the eventual national champions, the Clemson Tigers. Lattimore plays fast and strong, bodying up receivers and contesting passes. The Jets have a void at corner and could use another nasty player like Lattimore.
Chicago Bears (trade down with Chargers): Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson
(Bears receive Chargers’ first, second and fourth round picks this year and second and third round picks next year. The Bears trade their first and third round picks this year). The Bears have finally given Jay Cutler the boot and need a new quarterback to run the offense. Mike Glennon was acquired in free agency to most likely be a stopgap option while Watson learns the offense. Watson isn’t as mechanically sound as some of the other quarterback options in this year’s draft, but he brings leadership qualities and confidence to a Bears team starving for a playoff appearance.
Carolina Panthers: Reuben Foster, Linebacker, Alabama
A linebacker group featuring Luke Kuechly and Reuben Foster would be devastating for opposing offenses. Kuechly’s range and tackling ability combined with Foster’s instincts and hit power would keep running backs in check and force quarterbacks to throw over to the boundary where it is harder to complete passes downfield.
Cincinnati Bengals: Haason Reddick, Linebacker, Temple
The former Owl has risen up draft boards since the season ended and is a potential top-10 pick. Reddick is a smaller linebacker and has a couple of different positions he could play: he could bulk up and try to be a 4-3 defensive end; he could try to stay at the same weight and be a Swiss-Army-knife linebacker; or he could be a 3-4 pass rusher. With the Bengals, he would likely become the last option due to his slight frame.
Buffalo Bills: Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State
Hooker only started one year for the Buckeyes, but he made quite a name for himself in the process. He is what is interestingly called a “center fielder.” Draft prognosticators use a term from another sport to describe something entirely different in another sport. Wild. Hooker has the talent and range to be where the ball is going to be – a fortune teller of sorts. The Bills need a lot of help at safety and Hooker could slot in from Day One.
New Orleans: Solomon Thomas, Defensive End, Stanford
Many draft aficionados have Thomas going very early, but not me. Thomas is a hand in the dirt type of pass rusher and wouldn’t fit in a 3-4 style defense. Most of the top 10 teams have a 3-4 style defense. The Saints, however, have a terrible defensive line and they operate a 4-3 style defense. Boom.
Cleveland Browns (from Eagles): Patrick Mahomes, Quarterback, Texas Tech
The Browns have needed a quarterback since 1999 and maybe Mahomes can be the one to help turn things around. Cody Kessler and the hodgepodge of other quarterbacks that have attempted to captain the Browns in the last few years have woefully flamed out and disappointed a loyal fanbase in need of some shred of positivity. If Head Coach and famous quarterback whisperer Hue Jackson can’t get Mahomes to get this offense going the Browns might as well just skip next year’s season and cash their chips in.
Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Allen Defensive Line, Alabama
Free agency has ravaged this defense. Four of the five best players on the defense left the team in search of more money and now the Cardinals need to retool. Adding a guy like Allen helps bring back their defensive line and pass rush. Allen was a superstar for Alabama, collapsing the pocket and using his strength to force quarterbacks into bad positions. Some questions have lingered about Allen’s arthritic shoulders, but it is likely he will be drafted high regardless of this problem because of his high talent ceiling.
Philadelphia (from Vikings):Gareon Conley, Cornerback, Ohio State
The Eagles have the defensive line figured out which is more than most teams, but their corner situation is fluid. Jalen Mills
was a seventh round pick that filled in admirably, but was quite outmatched at times throughout the season. Conley was the
corner opposite Marshon Lattimore this past year and has a similar skillset, but with less polish than Lattimore. He is a guy
that can start as the nickel corner and move his way up the ladder.
Indianapolis Colts: Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Florida State
A poor Combine workout almost cost Cook a first round selection, but his pro day calmed some minds about his ability as a runner. Lateral quickness and good field vision will keep Cook on the Colts for a few years. The easy test to see if Cook busts as a prospect or not is if Frank Gore (33 years old) is still on the Colts when Cook is off the team.
Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis, Wide Receiver, Western Michigan
Someone needs to replace Steve Smith Sr. as the number one. Davis is fast, has big hands and has the swagger of a number one receiver. The Ravens don’t have much of a rushing attack and with Smith gone, there doesn’t look to be much of an offense at all. Flacco can only keep this going for so long.
Washington Redskins: Quincy Wilson, Cornerback, Florida
Grouping top corner Josh Norman with Bashaud Breeland and Quincy Wilson in the secondary is a scary thought for opposing offenses. Wilson is a big and imposing perimeter defender. His main problem is if he gets beat, he gets beat big. It would help his development to start as the nickel or dime corner and prove his way up from there.
Tennessee Titans: Chidobe Awuzie, Cornerback, Colorado
Chidobe Awuzie is a quick and reactive player, even if a bit undersized. The Titans have two first round picks and they were realistically two or three pieces away from being a solid playoff team. This draft has the potential to radically transform a perennial bottom-dweller in the AFC South and Awuzie could be the last necessary piece.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OJ Howard, Tight End, Alabama
Once upon a time, Tampa Bay drafted a guy named Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. The tight end of the future turned into a train wreck of off-the-field issues and now Tampa needs a new tight end. Cameron Brate did pretty well in his first year, but Jameis Winston could always use a second tight end. Howard is a big playmaker and a presence on the field. He would be a good fit with the Buccos.
Denver Broncos, Garett Bolles, Offensive Tackle, Utah
The Broncos’ offensive line gave up the most sacks in the AFC last season. Trevor Siemian had a tough job trying to replace Peyton Manning, but one thing he shouldn’t have to worry about all of the time is some defensive end in his face. Bolles is a big, but athletic, guy. He ran a 4.95 40-yard dash at the Combine. Not that that means anything to a tackle,but it does put a nice number in his column for scouts to look at.
Detroit Lions: Christian McCaffrey, Running Back, Stanford
A Heisman finalist in 2015, McCaffrey had a bit of a letdown year in 2016. Except a letdown year is still rushing for over 1,600 yards and putting up more than 2,000 total offensive yards. The only major knock on McCaffrey is his size at 5’ 11” and 202 pounds. He figures to be more of a pass-catching back which fits perfectly in the more air raid style offense that Jim Bob Cooter of the Detroit Lions deploys. Matthew Stafford would be happy having such a dynamic guy in his backfield.
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Ramczyk, Offensive Guard, Wisconsin
This draft doesn’t have much offensive line depth and the Dolphins will need to jump on whatever they can get. Ramczyk entered the offseason looking like the best offensive lineman in the draft, but an average Combine workout didn’t help him while other guys rose up draft boards. The Dolphins need to be able to protect Tannehill this upcoming year if they want a chance to challenge the Patriots.
New York Giants: David Njoku, Tight End, Miami
Another very athletic and physically imposing presence like OJ Howard, Njoku can command multiple defenders and spread them out creating more opportunities for teammates. Eli Manning needs a good safety blanket over the middle when Odell Beckham Jr. is covered.
Oakland Raiders: Zach Cunningham, Linebacker, Vanderbilt
The Raiders were a complete team last year, but quarterback Derek Carr suffered a torn ACL in the last regular season game of the year. Adding Cunningham just makes their defense even better and will hopefully take pressure off of Carr’s return to the field.
Houston Texans: Deshone Kizer, Quarterback, Notre Dame
A big kid with a strong arm, Kizer would be brought in to fix the mess that was Houston’s quarterback situation. Even with historically bad field generals, the Texans made it to the second round of the playoffs, but Osweiler was traded to Cleveland and the starting position is up for grabs. The defense is well put together, but it can’t carry the team forever.
Seattle Seahawks: Kevin King, Cornerback, Washington
A homegrown talent in Seattle’s backyard, King could take over in the defense if Richard Sherman is eventually traded. If not, he projects to be a good nickel corner to start or even a depth piece. King will eventually find his way into the starting rotation, sooner rather than later.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jabrill Peppers, Safety,Michigan
Peppers was a veritable Swiss Army knife of a player back when he played under Jim Harbaugh. The NFL is a little different than college and he is too small to play linebacker so he will move to safety and play alongside Eric Berry. The Chiefs defense lost a couple of pieces on defense so drafting Peppers is a no-brainer.
Dallas Cowboys: Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
This would be quite a tumble down the draft board for Barnett, but the Cowboys would be getting a fantastic pass rusher that can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up. He is a bit undisciplined on the line, but can overcome that with better snap counting and timing. He’s an aggressive player that uses his hands to force players out of position. He
is a starter from Day One.
Green Bay Packers: Alvin Kamara, Running Back, Tennessee
The Packers don’t have many holes, but one they could address here is running back. Eddie Lacy has moved on to the Seahawks and the Packers are left with Ty Mongomery, a wide receiver, to start at running back. Kamara has problems with vision, but with the right training it can be fixed. He profiles to be an every down back and a starter out of the box.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Marlon Humphrey, Cornerback, Alabama
The Steelers have a good defense, but it needs to be more physical. Humphrey can bring that type of nasty, thumping play back to Pittsburgh.
Atlanta Falcons:Forrest Lamp, Offensive Guard, Western Kentucky
Everyone in Atlanta and the surrounding area wants to forget what happened in the Super Bowl. What the Falcons need to do is be able to protect Matt Ryan for another run at the Super Bowl. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has moved to San Francisco, but the Falcons don’t need to fill many holes on offense except on the line. Lamp played at
a smaller school, but he was able to compete with the Alabama defensive line which might be the only reason he gets picked in the first round.
New Orleans Saints (from New England:Cordrea Tankersley, Cornerback, Clemson
Continuing with the defensive overhaul, the Saints take the best defensive player on the board which just so happens to be at a position of need for them. Tankersley is a ball hawk and sticks well to opposing receivers. He does have problems getting beaten with pure speed, but Tankersley can make tackles with the best of them. He could start Day One, but the Saints staff might opt to make him a rotational player for his first year.

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