NFL Mock Draft: Picks 1-16

Updated: July 16th 2017

We’re now less than a month away from the NFL Draft and hopefully you’re well into your rookie research.  I think doing a full 32 pick mock draft is a good, albeit time consuming, exercise for dynasty owners because it can help you identify the landing spots for the best offensive talent.  Hopefully, that offensive talent will feature prominently on your 2017 RSO team.  I have included the first sixteen picks below, check back next week for the rest of the first round.

#1 – Browns – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Garrett is the consensus first overall pick and will be an instant impact on the Browns defense.  He was a starter for three years at A&M and produced each season (31 sacks, 47 tackles for loss).  His closest combine comparison over the last few years would be the Vikings Everson Griffen who started out slow his first three seasons but is now coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons.

#2 – 49ers – Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

Thomas is a versatile DE who showed out in the Sun Bowl against Mitch Trubisky’s Tar Heels (7 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 very important late sack).  He can move inside when needed and will give flexibility to a team that finished 2016 in the bottom half of sacks.

#3 – Bears – Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama

The Bears have other needs but will go Best Player Available (BPA) here and go for offense later.  Like Thomas, Allen is versatile and can get to the quarterback from either his interior DT position or from the end.  He had 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons.

#4 – Jaguars – Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

The Jags signed Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson but neither is the long term answer, more like a stop gap.  Jacksonville was dead last in 2016 with just 7 INTs, meanwhile, Hooker had 7 himself with the Buckeyes last season.  He is coming off injury so he won’t immediately take over but should be firmly entrenched come midseason.

#5 – Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

CB Jason McCourty is a UFA in 2018 so I expect the Titans to draft his replacement at #5.  They can take that luxury pick because they have the #18 where they can go for an offensive weapon for Marcus Mariota.  Lattimore is young, he’s only a redshirt sophomore, and only had 16 career games at Ohio State.  He would benefit from that time behind McCourty if they don’t push him into the lineup beside him right away.

#6 – Jets – Jamal Adams, S, LSU

I don’t believe any of this year’s QBs are worth the #6 pick so the Jets should go BPA and take Adams.  His stock has fallen slightly recently so he might still be available here rather than going in the Top 5 as was previously thought.  Many mocks have Fournette going here but with the serviceable duo of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell I don’t think they would invest this heavily at RB.

#7 – Chargers – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

I’m sure the Chargers would prefer safeties Hooker or Adams but they will likely miss out.  Instead, they will have to settle for the next best CB to help their secondary.  This feels like a great spot for a team to trade up and grab the first QB (I think the Panthers, Bengals and Bills are pretty solid with who they want and who will be available so don’t think those three would trade back) or for somebody to grab Fournette before the Panthers do.

#8 – Panthers – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Fournette won’t come into the NFL as much of a sure-thing as Zeke Elliott was last year, but he’s pretty close.  Dynasty players have been planning for Fournette for two years now.  The Panthers did just extend Jonathan Stewart’s contract but Ron Rivera has a history of using multiple RBs (i.e. Stewart, DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert) so I don’t think that precludes them from taking Fournette.  I could foresee two seasons of a Fournette-Stewart combo that helps Cam stop taking so many hits on short-yardage plays and extend his career.

#9 – Bengals – Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

The Bengals lost Karlos Dansby in free agency, signed Kevin Minter to replace him and still have Vincent Rey on the roster.  Foster totaled 115 tackles and 5 sacks in 2016, including 12 tackles and a sack in the championship game against Clemson.  Foster will instantly be the best ILB on the roster so this is a no-brainer.

#10 – Bills – Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Personally, I have Williams ranked below Corey Davis but I’m not sure if most NFL teams would agree.  Now that he got his new contract, Tyrod Taylor will need some help; the Bills lost Robert Woods this offseason and Sammy Watkins is unreliable due to injury.  I also would not be surprised to see the Bills go for OJ Howard or David Njoku here and be the first team to start the run on TE.  Williams injury history (he missed all of 2015 with a neck injury) does worry me but he did return just fine in 2016.  He has a big frame that helps him catch off target passes which is good when you have an average quarterback.

#11 – Saints – Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

Charlton is the biggest DE in the Top 100 or so prospects and had more tackles and sacks than Myles Garrett last year.  If Charlton’s 40-yard dash wasn’t so bad (4.92) he could have snuck further up the draft board.  The Saints were 28th in sacks last season and Charlton will help get pressure on the QB.  And, just think of the marketing possibilities with a guy named Taco.

#12 – Browns – Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC

If the Browns only had one pick in the first round, I don’t think they would use it on Trubisky.  However, to leave the first round with Garrett AND Trubisky is huge – that could set up the franchise for a decade to come if both hit.  Trubisky is a hometown guy (from Mentor, only about 30 min outside of Cleveland) and seems to be the consensus best QB in this class.  I don’t think Trubisky is good enough to start from Day One since he is so inexperienced but maybe since he doesn’t go #1 overall the Browns can be more patient.

#13 – Cardinals – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

We all know that the QBs will be drafted higher than their value warrants and I think this is the most “reach” of a pick thus far.  I don’t like Watson but he does have a championship pedigree and seems to have good leadership skills.  He won’t need to start at all in 2017, barring an injury to Carson Palmer, and that should help his long term prospects.

#14 – Eagles – Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford

Matt Waldman has compared Christian McCaffery to Brian Westbrook.  Eagles head coach Doug Pederson played with Westbrook on the Eagles in 1999 and was on the coaching staff at the back end of Westbrook’s career there so you’d assume there is some synergy there.  I still believe McCaffery is a better football player than a RB but given the lackluster options ahead of him on the depth chart (Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood), McCaffery could see significant time right away if taken by Philly.  McCaffery had a staggering 6,000+ all-purpose yards combined in 2015 and 2016.

#15 – Colts – Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

This OT draft class is historically bad as we have investigated.  In most years, Ramczyk would be the 3rd or 4th best tackle but this year he is probably the best despite being injured.  I would hope that by now the Colts brass are tired of Andrew Luck missing games due to injury or playing hurt and are willing to invest some draft capital to fix that problem.  Unfortunately this is not a more talent rich class at the position but that doesn’t mean they can just ignore the need.

#16 – Ravens – Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Steve Smith has retired (presumably), leaving Mike Wallace (who was the team’s leading WR in 2016) and injury prone Breshad Perriman at the top of the depth chart.  Wallace is already 30 and is just not very good so to rely on him in 2017 is likely a mistake.  Enter Corey Davis who is a great route runner with a good combination of size and speed.  Davis is #1 on the all-time NCAA receiving yards list and is #2 in TDs and #4 in receptions.  Davis doubled, or nearly doubled, Mike Williams in most counting stats.  It shouldn’t be surprising that Davis’ numbers are better given that Williams missed 2015 but to see the stats doubled is surprising (Davis played 50 career games, Williams played 38).  He’s good and he’s the guy I’m targeting at the top of my RSO rookie drafts.

To be continued…

**Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

Rookie Film Study: QBs

Updated: July 23rd 2017

My first love was college football.  Like every long-term relationship, college football and I have had our ebbs and flows throughout the years.  Recently we’ve been in a lull due to the fact that I have Rutgers season tickets and I typically spend 6-8 hours at the stadium on a game day.  Factor in an annual away game (Ann Arbor here I come again this year) and I’m missing about 8 weeks of college football action each season.  Thankfully, playing on RSO has helped me refocus and concentrate on the incoming rookies and starting with today’s piece my writing on RSO will be devoted to rookies and the college game.  Check back throughout the offseason for more rookie-centric research, film study and mock drafts.  First up, let’s take a look at the top of the 2017 rookie QB class.

Mitch Trubisky, UNC

By many accounts, Mitch Trubisky will be the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft and much ink will be spilled discussing him.

Trubisky is a Junior who is coming out after just one full season as a starter.  The only game in which he had significant reps as a Sophomore came against FCS Delaware when he filled in for injured starter Marquise Williams.  In 2016 he totaled 3,748 passing  yards, 30 TDs and 6 INTs.  He also added decent production on the ground with eight games of either 30+ yards or a rushing TD.  Trubisky’s best outing was against #12 FSU where he completed 31 of 38 passes for 453 yards and 3 TDs; he also added a rushing TD.  His worst outing undoubtedly came against #25 Virginia Tech when he went 13-33 for just 58 yards, zero TDs and 2 INTs.

I watched Trubisky’s film against Duke and Stanford.  One of the first things I noticed about him is that his feet never stop moving in the pocket.  He is always poised to throw but is equally able to evade the rush and escape the pocket.  Twice in the 3rd quarter against Duke, Trubisky fled the rush and turned a sack into positive yardage (one of them into a first down actually).  He did the same a number of times against Stanford and their Top 5 prospect DE Solomon Thomas.  Unfortunately a last second two point conversion attempt to tie the game was one example of the pressure getting home and Trubisky being unable to escape.  Against Stanford he also threw two bad INTs which ended possessions the Tar Heels desperately needed late in the game.

The second half of the game against Stanford perfectly encapsulates Trubisky’s draft prospects.  In the 3rd quarter, on 2nd & 11, Trubisky eludes the pressure and throws a flat-footed pass 40 yards for a first down.  In the 4th quarter, 3rd & Goal, down 8 points with 30 seconds left, Trubisky rolls right toward the boundary but is pressured.  He circles back towards the field, quickly sets his feet and throws a dart from the opposite hash for a touchdown (he threw a similar TD pass from the opposite hash in the 1st quarter of the Duke game).  The next play was the aforementioned two point conversion sack that essentially ended the game.

He certainly has the arm strength and athleticism to make it in the NFL but he’s just a step short.  Will he be the first quarterback drafted?  I think so and somebody will likely take him in the Top 10 but that is too rich for me.

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

Kizer will be over-drafted because of his size, plain and simple.  He is 6’4″ and 230lb which should peg him as the biggest quarterback prospect other than Davis Webb who will be drafted significantly later.  He certainly won’t be drafted for the stats he put up at Notre Dame.  He had a horrendous completion percentage of 58.7% in 2016 and did not break 3,000 passing yards in either 2015 or 2016.  He does have some “boom” capability though so be careful which tape you watch – he went off for 5 TDs and 0 INTs twice, once in 2016 against Texas and once in 2015 against Pitt.  What makes his size so tantalizing is the speed that goes with it – he’s tough to bring down in traffic and if he gets into the open field, he’s gone.

When I watched Kizer’s film, I was struck by how uncomfortable he looked under pressure which I thought might be a strength given his athleticism and speed.  Kizer often seems to forget about the rush once it gets behind him and gets sacked from behind rather than stepping up and out of the pocket.  Against Stanford, I counted four sacks like this; two of which came on the last drive when the Irish were down 7 points.  I was not impressed with his accuracy or arm strength when rolling out.  I also question his attention to detail: between the two games I watched, Duke being the other, Kizer dropped two snaps and botched a handoff.  Lastly, his awareness of game situation and field position worries me.  Of all of the film I have watched so far of the rookie QBs, Kizer has by far the worst throw.  Let me set the stage… it’s 35-35 against Duke with just 5 minutes left, Notre Dame has the ball in the shadow of their own goal posts and it’s 3rd & 20.  Kizer drops back to pass, into his own endzone, shuffles left and throws a duck without setting his feet.  The pass is easily intercepted at the Notre Dame 45 yard line.  The announcer basically says, “no big deal, they would have punted anyway” but that is asinine.  If Kizer was able to gain even 5 yards to give his punter some room, they could have ensured that Duke at least got the ball back in their own half instead of plus territory.  Duke took over, killed 4+ minutes and kicked a 19 yard field goal that ended up being the game winner.

Some quarterback desperate team will inevitably take Kizer in the Top 15 due to his physical tools but I wouldn’t want my team making that mistake – he will need time to develop and he won’t get that if he’s taken in the top half of the first round.

DeShaun Watson, Clemson

DeShaun Watson will be the name that most casual fans will be familiar with and the one that I am most worried about RSO owners reaching for.  Watson has played in two National Championship games, one of which he won, has finished in the Top 3 of Heisman voting twice and has more than 10,000 career passing yards.  Watson certainly has a championship pedigree but can he turn that into success in the NFL?  Not unless he can stop throwing interceptions.

Without even watching any film of Watson, you can quickly determine his biggest negative… he throws way too many INTs.  In 2016 he threw 17 and in 2015 he threw 13.  Does this sound familiar?  Okay you’re right I ragged on Watson for his interceptions in the lead up to January’s championship game, so I’ll move on.

When I started watching film of Watson, I had a preconceived notion that his interception problems were caused by his limited reading of the field.  After watching 2016 outings against Auburn and Ohio State, I still believe that.  Against Auburn, the first game of the season, you will find very few throws when Watson looks away from his primary receiver.  Against Ohio State, in the semi-finals, he was improved but still not what you would hope for from a franchise quarterback.  Going back to the Auburn game, I also noticed three times when Watson’s throw was deflected at the line of scrimmage.  Depending where you look he is either listed at 6’3″ or 6’2″ – I would not be surprised if his height becomes a problem come combine.

Watson is obviously supremely talented and I think that his field vision issues could be helped by the right coach (whether that means giving him half-field reads or actually helping him improve) so I’d be willing to give him a shot in the late 1st round.

Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

If there is one quarterback in the first round that I would be targeting it would be Mahomes.  Many draft resources have him listed as the 4th prospect behind Trubisky, Kizer and Watson but I believe he should be right up there with Trubisky.  Given the difference in draft pick needed to nab the two, Mahomes would be my pick.

It’s easy not to give any credence to the numbers that Mahomes (and past air raid quarterbacks) put up but let’s just take a quick look because they are insane.  He threw for over 11,000 total passing yards in his career and 93 TDs.  In 2016 he had six games of 400+ yards, three games of 500+ and one of 700+.  Add in 22 career rushing TDs and you have an all-around prolific quarterback.  All of Mahomes’ stats (yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, interceptions, etc) improved year over year from 2014 to 2016.

Watching film of Mahomes is a bit misleading due to how many attempts he has each game, but it was sill instructive – anybody could find pros and cons when you have 50+ attempts.  You will notice immediately that his footwork needs improvement – he throws off one foot often – but he has the arm strength to overcome.  To my eye, he looked most comfortable when rolling out of the pocket and only had half of the field to read.  When on the run, he throws accurately.  Like Kizer, he seems to struggle with stepping up and out of the pocket, oftentimes he just stepped right into a sack.  Two things that I loved when watching Mahomes play against Arizona State… First, he drew two offsides and turned one of those into a touchdown on a free play.  That is something you see in the NFL (Aaron Rodgers anybody?  Just kidding) and not so often in college.  Second, he executed this one play perfectly a few times, once going for a touchdown, where he has a long fake at the mesh point and then fires a quick bullet to a slanting TE.  He was knocked out of the game against Kansas but it was not a serious injury.

Mahomes, like the other three profiled here, is not perfect but I think his trajectory is pointing in the right direction and he is worth a pick by a fringe playoff team around 20th overall.

 

Note: When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability.  If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents.  Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.