The 2016 season is over. The New England Patriots are champions.
NFL teams now have about three weeks to regroup before they descend on Indianapolis for the all-important scouting combine, beginning on Feb. 28. Free agency opens shortly thereafter, with the negotiation period kicking off on March 7 and the new league year hitting on March 9. Shy of a surprise trade in the coming days, that’s really when the draft picture will start to come into focus in earnest.
Between potential team needs and current guesses at prospect values, we’re still able to piece together the puzzle a bit now. Three rounds of mock-draft action await.
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(Note: The complete order of the first two days of the draft isn’t quite set yet. The Colts and Vikings will flip a coin to determine which team earns the rights to the 14th and 15th slots in the order, and compensatory picks will be tacked on to the end of the third round based on free agency losses around the league.) 1 1Myles Garrett DE, Texas A&M Hypothetically, the Browns could use this pick on Garrett and then package Nos. 12 and 33 to jump back into the top 10 somewhere for a QB. They also could stay put and (possibly) find a quarterback they like at one of those spots. Either way, their options are too numerous to pass on a player like Garrett. 2 2Deshaun Watson QB, Clemson Sorting out the 2017 QB pecking order remains almost impossible, and there are no trends to read in San Francisco with a rookie head coach, Kyle Shanahan, and rookie GM, John Lynch. Watson throws too many picks (17 this year) ... but so did Shanahan’s most recent quarterback, Matt Ryan, who fired 19 INTs before Atlanta took him at No. 3 in 2008.
3 3Jamal Adams S, LSU Chicago is a definite candidate to take a quarterback, too, but a choice between Adams, Jonathan Allen and Reuben Foster might be too enticing. Shy of landing Eric Berry in free agency, Adams is the Bears’ best chance for an upgrade at safety. And this might be preferable anyway, given what Berry will cost. 4 4Jonathan Allen DL, Alabama This would be a pick with Tom Coughlin’s imprint on it—he made no secret, either with the Giants or during his first go-round with the Jaguars, that he believed in winning up front on defense. Allen can thrive as a base end or a penetrating tackle. • Want more draft coverage from SI? Subscribe to the On the Clock Podcast 5 5Reuben Foster LB, Alabama (Pick via Rams) Not a lot of ILB/MLB types hit these draft heights. Foster is worth it in relation to this draft class. He may not be the next Luke Kuechly or Brian Urlacher (both top-10 picks), but his absolute ceiling would put him in a similar range. 6 6Mitch Trubisky QB, North Carolina I doubt any Jets fans are thrilled with the prospect of taking a QB top 10. Watson, Trubisky, DeShone Kizer or Patrick Mahomes all come with their question marks. Trubisky, though, also has the physical traits to develop into a gem.
7 7Corey Davis WR, Western Michigan Davis long has been considered this class’s WR1 ’round these parts. The Chargers have a very interesting collection of receivers, led by the oft-injured Keenan Allen, but Davis can be better than any of them ... and soon. 8 8Solomon Thomas DE, Stanford Leonard Fournette and the Panthers seem like an obvious fit here. Almost too obvious, hence a slight zag in this mock. Thomas is a threat to win inside or outside, and he’d add to the versatility of a young, talented Carolina front. 9 9Leonard Fournette RB, LSU Jeremy Hill has spent the past two seasons averaging fewer than 4.0 yards per carry—a disappointing development that could put his roster spot in jeopardy for 2017. Enter Fournette, who could elevate the Bengals’ run-game thunder alongside Gio Bernard’s lightning. 10 10Malik Hooker S, Ohio State Hooker won’t work out at the combine, reportedly on account of recent labrum and hernia surgeries, so that’s definitely something to file away for discussion. Talent-wise, the ballhawking Ohio State safety is an elite prospect at a position where Buffalo is weak. 11 11Tim Williams OLB, Alabama More unknowns: Williams’s off-field red flags could push him down another round or two. But if he checks out, this is his range. He is an explosive pass rusher and an underrated, developing run defender. 12 12DeShone Kizer QB, Notre Dame (Pick via Eagles) Save for the 49ers, Bears, Jets and Bills all taking a quarterback (or the Cardinals trading up), the Browns should have at least one of the Watson-Trubisky-Kizer-Mahomes quartet available here. Kizer is big, strong and athletic.
13 13Quincy Wilson CB, Florida Perhaps the Cardinals want to give it one more season to see what they really have in 2016 additions Brandon Williams and Harlan Miller. Or they can get proactive at CB and add a big, physical defender in Wilson. 14 14Malik McDowell DL, Michigan State The buzz has quieted some on McDowell—he had a frustrating, injury-plagued year and wasn’t eligible for the Senior Bowl. But it’ll pick back up. He’s still a highly mobile defensive lineman built for the mix-and-match fronts of the modern NFL. 15 15Dalvin Cook RB, Florida State (Pick via Vikings) The Eagles don’t need a running back as badly as they need a receiver, but Cook would be a steal in mid-Round 1. He does not require much room to be able to take on the distance. 16 16Marshon Lattimore CB, Ohio State Baltimore was a bit disheveled on the back end throughout 2016, so adding a potential starter would make ’17 a lot more promising. Lattimore’s size and desire to press up on receivers will make him a wanted commodity.
17 17Derek Barnett DE/OLB, Tennessee There is more of a need in Washington for help between the tackles than another edge presence. Barnett, though, is strong enough and active enough to play hand in the dirt up front at times, which would max out how many athletes the Redskins can get on the field in their front seven. 18 18Mike Williams WR, Clemson At the bare minimum, Williams would provide the Titans with the big-bodied outside receiving presence they have been missing. If Williams continues to develop, he has the size/speed combo to be among the league’s better No. 1 WRs. 19 19O.J. Howard TE, Alabama Last mock, I had John Ross in this spot and the majority of Bucs fans who responded said they’d rather have Howard. Bucs fans, I heard you, and I think you’re right. While Tampa Bay without question needs a speed threat like Ross at receiver, Howard is the best player available at his position and can force more mismatches than Ross would. 20 20Jabrill Peppers S, Michigan For the omnipresent concerns about how Peppers’s game will translate to the NFL, this fit is an example of why he’s still a Round 1 name. Peppers can help Denver if A) they opt to bail on the final year of T.J. Ward’s contract, B) they want to improve their coverage in the middle of the field, and C) if they want to replace Jordan Norwood as a return man. 21 21Sidney Jones CB, Washington There’s probably a better chance of Jones landing in the top 12 than sliding out of Round 1, which should tell you all you need to know about his talent level. He’s thin, at 180 or so pounds, but has height and a willingness to mix it up on the outside.
22 22Jarrad Davis LB, Florida The Dolphins tried to gain athleticism in their linebacking corps last off-season by adding Kiko Alonso, and it paid off to an extent. They shouldn’t stop there. Davis is a three-down linebacker who could bump Alonso to the middle or on the weak side. 23 23Ryan Ramczyk OT, Wisconsin One of the class’s other tight ends (say, David Njoku) would be intriguing here. However, the Giants’ offense can only do so much—no matter the number of weapons—without better line play. Ramczyk is a plug-and-play candidate. 24 24Budda Baker S, Washington Essentially, he’d be the replacement for veteran Reggie Nelson, who has one year and no guaranteed money left on his contract. A Baker–Karl Joseph combo at safety would cover all sorts of ground, with Baker often patrolling deep as Joseph walked up near the line. 25 25Patrick Mahomes QB, Texas Tech The Texans have all but said they’ll be drafting a quarterback—and likely early, because whomever it is will be expected to push Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage. Mahomes’s blend of athleticism and a rocket arm might finally solve Bill O’Brien’s QB woes. 26 26Marlon Humphrey CB, Alabama I mentioned it in my last mock, and it’s becoming obvious again: talented cornerbacks will be available in spades into Day 2. Here, the Seahawks score one whose aggressive mentality would fit their defense well. 27 27Zach Cunningham LB, Vanderbilt The Chiefs cannot bank on Derrick Johnson returning at 100% next season, nor can they put all their eggs in the Ramik Wilson basket. Cunningham is a tackle machine at linebacker, a well-built specimen who reads run keys and explodes to the ball. 28 28Taco Charlton DE, Michigan Even on his worst days, Charlton is a good bet to disrupt a pass play or two simply by unleashing his speed off the edge. The way he closed his college career hinted at the possibility that he could become borderline unblockable. 29 29Takkarist McKinley Edge, UCLA Atop their OLB depth chart for their final playoff game, the Packers listed three impending free agents (Julius Peppers, Datone Jones, Nick Perry) and a 31-year-old Clay Matthews, capping off his least-productive NFL season. McKinley needs to be coached up, but he’s a high-motor player. 30 30Teez Tabor CB, Florida See what I mean? Cornerbacks to be had. While Tabor will swing and miss from time to time, he has the footwork required to thrive as an NFL man-to-man cover corner. Put a pass anywhere near him, and a quarterback is at great risk of that ball heading back the other way.
31 31Caleb Brantley DT, Florida You thought Grady Jarrett was good this season (and in the Super Bowl?) Just wait until he has a consistent impact performer next to him inside. Brantley’s burst and power make him tough to block heads up, which is what teams will have to do with Jarrett patrolling. 32 32David Njoku TE, Miami It would surprise exactly no one if Martellus Bennett’s Patriots career is a very successful one-and-done. New England will want to make sure it’s set at tight end with a dangerous playmaker, and Njoku—although raw—certainly has a bright future.
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33 33Cam Robinson OT, Alabama This is about value, but also about giving the Browns options. Robinson would compete at right tackle, with an eye on a future at left tackle. 34 34Ryan Anderson LB, Alabama Anderson showed via his coverage missteps at the Senior Bowl that he needs to be up on the line. He’s a force there, against the run and pass. 35 35Garrett Bolles OT, Utah Bolles is 24, so he won’t have the luxury of sitting and developing for long. Good news: He’s ultra-athletic and capable of playing on the left or right. 36 36John Ross WR, Washington Should Ross slide out of Round 1, he’s the type of dynamic playmaker teams would be willing to trade up to land. 37 37JuJu Smith-Schuster WR, USC Ideally, you want a WR who can break open on every play. Smith-Schuster may not do that, but he uses his outstanding hands and body positioning to make catches in tight spaces.
38 38Obi Melifonwu S, UConn A Senior Bowl riser, Melifonwu is a huge safety (6' 4", 220 lbs.), who loves to fly downhill and finish plays. 39 39Charles Harris DE/OLB, Missouri There would be worse outcomes for the Jets here than to land a premier pass rusher who would need a little bit of time to become an early-down defender. 40 40D'Onta Foreman RB, Texas All the reasons a Fournette-Panthers match makes sense work here, too, even if Foreman may not be the same level of prospect as his LSU counterpart. 41 41Carl Lawson DE, Auburn For a team that likes to set the tone up front like Cincinnati, Lawson’s bulked-up presence could get him in the lineup early. Even better if they unlock his full potential. 42 Christian McCaffrey RB, Stanford McCaffrey shouldn’t last this long, but worries about his bell-cow back ability could make it happen. He would be lethal in this offense. 43 Desmond King CB, Iowa During Senior Bowl week, the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock compared King’s possible NFL role as a safety/corner hybrid to that of Malcolm Jenkins. 44 Forrest Lamp G/T, Western Kentucky I don’t buy the chatter that Lamp is destined for a guard-only career, but it’s happening because Lamp could be a Pro Bowl-caliber option there. 45 45Evan Engram TE, Ole Miss Arizona has not had an offense that features a tight end, in part because it didn’t have a TE worth featuring. Engram is one. 46 Antonio Garcia OT, Troy The Vikings’ first pick of the draft goes to their long-troublesome tackle spot. Give it a year or two and Garcia might be a dominant left tackle. 47 Pat Elflein G/C, Ohio State He’d push Pro Bowler Jeremy Zuttah for the starting center job from Day One, and that says more about Elflein than Zuttah. • Jeremy Zuttah's dog Ace doubles as best man 48 Haason Reddick LB, Temple McDowell in Round 1 and the multi-dimensional Reddick—a DB turned DL turned LB—would make the Colts’ D much more competitive. 49 49Jaleel Johnson DT, Iowa Johnson has exceptional quickness for a 309-pounder, and he makes a ton of plays in the backfield. 50 50Demarcus Walker DE, Florida State Walker is strong and durable as an early-down DE, with the counter-moves and quickness to drop down inside against the pass. 51 51Dan Feeney G, Indiana Dropped into a system like the one Denver runs, Feeney can be an impact run blocker on the move. 52 52Raekwon McMillan LB, Ohio State (Pick via Titans)A Buckeye for the Browns, and one that’s being overlooked a bit. McMillan has the instincts to be an impact inside 3–4 defender. 53 53Taylor Moton G/T, Western Michigan RT Riley Reiff and G Larry Warford both could hit the road as free agents. Moton could replace either in the Lions’ starting lineup. 54 54Rasul Douglas CB, West Virginia Douglas has excellent size, and he’s comfortable bouncing from man to zone. He makes receivers work. 55 55Derek Rivers DE/OLB, Youngstown State While Rivers is arguably a better fit for a 3–4, his ability to bend the edge and get to the QB translates to a 4–3.
56 56Gareon Conley CB, Ohio State Conley is another Ohio State cornerback who really gets up in receivers’ grills when he’s thrown into man coverage. 57 57Marcus Williams S, Utah Williams has everything an NFL team could want from a free safety, most notably the ability to find the ball and go after it. 58 58Isaiah Ford WR, Virginia Tech How about another burner for the Seattle passing attack? Ford may struggle against physical CBs, but if he gets a step he’s gone. 59 59Dion Dawkins G/T, Temple A difficult blocker to move off his spot, Dawkins has a ton of experience playing tackle and the frame of an NFL guard. 60 60Josh Reynolds WR, Texas A&M Put a little meat on his bones and it’ll be hard to imagine any cornerback wanting to see Reynolds lined up across from him. 61 61Jourdan Lewis CB, Michigan A Round 1 talent in late Round 2. Again, some of these cornerbacks have to slide. Lewis would be better outside than most think, but he can lock down the slot.
62 62Tyus Bowser OLB, Houston If Bowser can conquer the steep learning curve awaiting him, he has the movement skills to be the kind of player a coordinator can use in a variety of ways. 63 63Adoree' Jackson CB, USC The Falcons’ current depth at corner would allow them to slide in Jackson as a No. 4/No. 5 option early. Oh, and Jackson can turn games by himself as a return man. 64 64Montravius Adams DL, Auburn Is this simplifying things too much? Maybe. But Adams feels like that type of player—talented but enigmatic—that the Patriots manage to max out.
65 65Cordrea Tankersley CB, Clemson 66 66Cooper Kupp WR, Eastern Washington 67 67Nathan Peterman QB, Pittsburgh 68 68John Johnson S, Boston College 69 69Kevin King CB, Washington (Pick via Rams)
The two that stand out: Kupp and Peterman. The former is so, so smooth in everything he does but will turn 24 this summer and likely won’t run below 4.5; the latter is a rising QB prospect who has the baseline traits to project at least as a long-term backup.
70 70Cameron Sutton CB, Tennessee 71 71Curtis Samuel RB, Ohio State 72 72Julie'n Davenport OT, Bucknell 73 73Anthony Walker LB, Northwestern 74 74Zay Jones WR, East Carolina
Samuel is so electrifying in the open field that a team in need of a unique weapon could pull the trigger on him as early as Round 1. Continuing the cornerback theme, another high-quality prospect in this group of five, with one following just below. When he’s healthy, Sutton is a dependable cover corner with an advanced understanding of where the ball is headed. 75 75Chad Hansen WR, Cal 76 76Tre'Davious White CB, LSU 77 77Ethan Pocic C, LSU 78 78T.J. Watt DE/OLB, Wisconsin 79 79Joe Mixon RB, Oklahoma
Let’s spend a moment on Mixon, shall we? He has a despicable off-field moment in his background, but he also might be the closest RB in talent to Fournette and Cook. So, what wins out? Which team decides he’s worth the trouble? It’s almost certainly going to happen somewhere in the draft, even though Mixon did not receive a combine invite.
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Why the Colts? Well, purely from a football standpoint, this a team that has to find a running back somewhere—even the unbreakable Frank Gore has to wind down his career. Beyond that, though, the Colts just hired as their new GM Chris Ballard, who previously had been the Chiefs’ director of player personnel. And he held that title when Kansas City signed off on Tyreek Hill, a player who entered the NFL with his own vile incident tailing him. Hill was a breakthrough, if controversial, star for the Chiefs this season. 80 80Marcus Maye S, Florida 81 81Brad Kaaya QB, Miami 82 82Dalvin Tomlinson DT, Alabama 83 83Dorian Johnson G, Pitt 84 84Dede Westbrook WR, Oklahoma
There once was a time that Kaaya was mentioned as a potential top-10 pick. That’s no longer the case, but he also is far from devoid of talent. The footwork and ability to read defenses is there, and he might remind Washington fans of Kirk Cousins in time. Oh, and that mention of Tampa Bay needing a speed receiver? Westbrook is a player defenses have to find before every single snap. 85 85Chris Wormley DE, Michigan 86 86Alvin Kamara RB, Tennessee (Pick via Dolphins) 87 87Jake Butt TE, Michigan 88 88Taywan Taylor WR, Western Kentucky 89 89Dawaune Smoot DL/LB, Illinois
There is a lot to like in Kamara’s game. He posted 6.2 yards per carry and caught 74 passes over two seasons with Tennessee. Flip side: He averaged just 105 carries over his two seasons as a Vol, so it’s fair to wonder if he can be more than a committee guy in the NFL. Butt is the new poster child for skipping bowl games. He might have been a Round 1 pick before his ACL in Michigan's bowl game against Florida State, and some will argue he still should be. 90 90Avery Gennessy OT, Texas A&M 91 91Travin Dural WR, LSU 92 92Chidobe Awuzie CB, Colorado 93 93Wayne Gallman RB, Clemson 94 94Ryan Switzer WR, North Carolina
The Packers just cut James Starks and Eddie Lacy can be a free agent, so they need help at RB—Ty Montgomery hasn’t shown the durability to be a 20-carry-per-game player. Gallman’s downhill style would mesh well with what Montgomery brings. Switzer may be overkill for a team that has an emerging Eli Rogers, but in the best way possible. Just ask Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola how it works to have two stellar slot options. 95 95Jordan Morgan G, Kutztown 96 96Vince Biegel OLB, Wisconsin
Morgan was a small-school tackle, but if you dream of his ideal fit it’s as a guard in a scheme like the Falcons run (or at least, like they ran under Kyle Shanahan): wide-zone with the occasional power pull—something that gets the nimble Morgan on the move. Biegel projects as a chip for a defense rather than a star edge presence. He is an intelligent football player, though, with a nice range of skills.