Daniel Carrigy’s 2017 NFL Mock Draft: Round 1

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Daniel Carrigy of Just Blog Baby outlines where he predicts the next influx of college stars will land in a first round mock of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The 2017 NFL Draft is just about two weeks away, and no doubt GM’s, owners and head coaches the country over are doing their final due diligences on players in the lead up to the evening of April 27th.

This may sound strange, but I look forward to the draft more than I look forward to the Super Bowl, and that’s not because the Raiders have had a 15 year dry spell. Rather, the NFL draft offers something the Super Bowl cannot: universal hope. Where fans of the other 30 teams find themselves choosing sides in the Super Bowl, the draft holds an opportunity for every fan base to cling to some promise for the future. Be that in a high profile superstar, or an under the radar gem.

The draft is some of the finest reality television you will ever see. One team could be literally jumping for joy when their moment arrives and they believe they have landed their superstar for the next decade. Several minutes later, groans and exasperation can roll out over the auditorium as a team picks a guy no-one thought of, let alone wanted. Nothing stings more than your team picking someone else when the guy everyone wants is still available.

The draft has brought us incredible moments of intrigue and hysteria, moments that acutely peel back the curtain into the fascinating machine of draft analysis, conjecture and hype. Be it then rookie Donovan McNabb booed by Eagles fans who wanted Ricky Williams as he walked onto center stage in 1999. Or alternatively, the Vikings passing on their first round pick in both 2002 and 2003 by taking too long to hand their card in.

My personal favorite? Mel Kiper versus Bill Tobin. Kiper roasted then Colts General Manager Bill Tobin for taking almost unknown linebacker Trev Alberts over quarterback Trent Dilfer in the 1994 draft. Tobin’s response is an all time classic. “Who in the hell is Mel Kiper anyway?..He’s never put on a jock strap… Mel Kiper has no more credentials to do what he’s doing than my neighbor, and my neighbor’s a postman.” Point being, the draft always serves up some delectable morsel for analysis.

What follows is my first mock draft for the 2017 class. It should be noted that I am not taking into account trades (even though there will most likely be at least one). Furthermore, there is a tricky balancing act when crafting mock drafts — that is, what you think a team should do, versus what you think they will do. For the purpose of this draft, I have gone with the latter.

One last tidbit, however. On the morning of the draft, be sure to check out NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah and his final predictions. DJ has correctly predicted the Raiders first round selection for the past three years running (he changed to Karl Joseph at the last minute last year). Whilst it may be tempting to skip straight to the Raiders pick, I encourage you to stick along for the ride. It’s more fun that way.

Without further adieu, here is my official 2017 First Round Mock.

1

Myles Garrett

Defensive End, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett is the best player in the draft, bar none. Reports were a few months ago that the Browns had an “astronomical” grade on Garrett. He is an explosive edge rusher with great hips and movement around the outside, but also with a lightning quick inside move. He can play the run incredibly well also, and has tremendous acceleration and pursuit to the ball carrier when he penetrates the backfield (which is frighteningly often).

Garrett is the type of edge rusher that does not come around often by any stretch of the imagination. Scouts compare him to Julius Peppers, but there’s every chance he could be better.

The two most important positions in football are the quarterback and someone who can get to the quarterback. The Browns get the latter, and I believe will look to the former next year. But Garrett is a guy that can be the cornerstone of your defense for the next 10-12 years.

2

Solomon Thomas

Defensive End, Stanford

I love Solomon Thomas. For all the Garret hype (rightfully so) Thomas is an absolute monster and a beast of a football player. The 49ers would be getting the second best defensive end and defensive player on the board. While Garrett is easily the number one prospect, there’s a part of me that believes Thomas has the higher floor between the two.

Ever so slightly undersized, Thomas reminds me of Aaron Donald. An exceptionally strong, exceptionally quick lineman with tremendous hands. Like Garrett, Thomas’ parents were both athletes themselves, and Thomas demonstrates an ability to go sideline to sideline with the best of them. His motor is commendable, demonstrating a hunger to track down ball carriers behind the line.

The thing I love about Thomas most of all is the combination of his intelligence and his versatility. Thomas can bull rush you, swim you, rip you and spin you. His intelligence dictates when to use those moves, and in so doing, he can blow by your tackle and then your guard in quick succession with varying moves to get to the quarterback, like he did against Notre Dame.

If there is a trade in the top five, I believe it could be Jacksonville jumping up here to take Thomas, who they apparently are very high on. Rookie GM John Lynch could then stockpile some future picks for the 49ers, while still having a top 10 selection this year.

That aside, Thomas is a mean, hungry defender who will eat up opponents. When he arrives at the quarterback, he arrives with menace. Pair him with last year’s choice in Deforest Buckner, and I’ll be damned if the 49ers don’t have one scary defense sooner or later.

3

Marshon Lattimore

Cornerback, Ohio State

The Bears scooped up Leonard Floyd last year, who impressed with 7 sacks, finishing third among rookies. They believe they have somewhat of an answer at quarterback with Mike Glennon. This year, it’s a safe bet the Bears will again stick to the defensive side of the ball.

A lot of analysts believe this pick will be dedicated to the secondary. It could be Jonathan Allen here, given the Bears have Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara already at corner. Adding Lattimore however, would give them a potent stable of corners, an asset that would no doubt come in handy against the likes of Aaron Rodgers twice a year.

Lattimore is a freak of an athlete, running a 4.36 40-yard dash and a 38.5 inch vertical. He is a physical corner who will get right under a receiver’s nose at the line of scrimmage. Lattimore’s elite speed means that he can track receivers all the way down the sideline. Furthermore, on intermediate routes, it allows him to keep pace with his man, before making a last second burst to undercut the route and pick off the ball.

I love that about Lattimore. He possesses good hands as well, and a solid understanding of how to use them. His ability to to stretch out at full speed and tip the ball away is akin to that of a goalkeeper. Lattimore isn’t afraid to hit either, and wraps up well on his tackles. When in press coverage this past season, opponents when 6/23 for 85 yards, 1 TD and 4 INT against Lattimore. That speaks for itself.

4

Leonard Fournette

Running Back, LSU

The Jaguars attempted to address their defense in free agency, particularly through the recent additions of Calais Campbell, Dante Fowler Jr. and Malik Jackson. Rumors abound that the current regime isn’t exactly shy at the prospect of jettisoning Blake Bortles off after his contract expires. In the meantime, however, if Bortles is to return to his 2015 form, it makes sense the Jaguars should now turn their attention to the offense.

Enter Leonard Fournette.

Fournette is a physically imposing running back. Old school smash mouth, lower the shoulder pads and run you over type of downhill runner. Fournette is built like a linebacker but with 4.51 speed — he’s the guy that will send opposing tacklers to Disneyland before they wake up in the locker room with the world’s worst headache. For a big guy, his through the hole acceleration is impressive and scary. Thick hips make it incredibly difficult for arm tacklers to bring him down as well. Fournette is everything you want in a power back, and his ability to grind down opponents could be just what the doctor ordered to relieve some of the pressure off of Bortles.

5

Mike Williams

Wide Receiver, Clemson

The Titans desperately need to get Marcus Mariota some receiving help in this draft. I believe the Titans will go Williams here, unless Lattimore is still on the board, in which case it will be a jump ball.

Williams was Deshaun Watson’s go to man, helping Clemson to their sensational National Championship. At 6 foot 4 and running a 4.5 40-yard dash, Williams is a physical specimen and red zone threat that can bully out opposing corners to high point the football in the back corner. He excels at tracking the ball just as much as does snatching it out of the air when its just behind him or over his shoulder.

Pairing the best receiver in the draft with Mariota might just give the Titans the injection they need to start making some serious noise in the AFC South.

6

O.J. Howard

Tight End, Alabama

After ‘fitzmagic’ fizzled out and Marshall has departed, the Jets need offensive help like a thirsty man needs water. O.J. Howard is an impeccable tight end prospect, so much so that NFL.com scouting expert Bucky Brooks described him as “The most complete tight end prospect in 10 years.”

Howard is a big, fast and athletic player who dominated his position group at the Senior Bowl. He is a guy that can step in day one and immediately elevate your offense. Howard’s measurables are eye popping — 6’6″, 250 pounds and running a 4.51 40 time is just unfair. He excels in the vertical game where his speed and size are on full display.

But Howard can also be relied upon as the traditional tight end safety blanket, making tight catches in traffic that highlight his route running savvy and reliable hands. Howard is an exceptional pick here.

7

Malik Hooker

Safety, Ohio State

I don’t care what anyone thinks of this. But last year Joey Bosa was my number one prospect hands down, no holds barred. Whilst it’s easy to admit that now he won the defensive rookie of the year award, I believe the Chargers go back to the well for the seventh pick.

Hooker is an instinctive playmaker off the back end. He reads offenses and opposing quarterbacks very well, often putting himself in great position to make a play on the ball. I love his intelligence as a safety. Hooker tallied an impressive 7 interceptions in 2016 thanks to a combination of his football smarts, ability to diagnose plays and above average ball skills as a safety. Hooker doesn’t possess exceptional speed and could certainly improve as a tackler, but he’s a quarterback on defense.

There is a very, very outside chance this could even be Deshaun Watson.

8

Jonathan Allen

Defensive End, Alabama

Carolina would be high five’ing in Charlotte if they could walk out of this draft with Jonathan Allen. While Julius Peppers returned, he’s no doubt a temporary solution at defensive end. Yet, he could be a tremendous mentor for Allen and the pair could bring a tenacity to the Panthers defensive front that was often lacking in 2016.

Allen is a premiere defensive line prospect with great burst off the snap. He is great with his hands and demonstrates a sizzling ability to rip along the inside of his blocker and get to the quarterback. Allen plays the run very well and like Thomas, is a guy who can track a running back to the sideline and bring him down. Allen’s numbers have been both impressive and consistent and he would be a great pick for the Panthers here.

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