There you have it, the New England Patriots are the Super Bowl champions. Again. They mounted a historic comeback to defeat the Atlanta Falcons and in the process swayed my opinion of Tom Brady from “I can’t stand the guy” to “I think he’s the greatest of all time.”
But all of that is in the past now. The 2016-17 NFL season is over. Now is the time to look ahead. It’s draft season. And boy, do I love draft season.
I have been obsessed with the NFL draft for most of my life. I love watching the scouting combine and pro days, reading scouting reports and watching video of the incoming draft prospects. But my favorite thing of all is mock drafting. I love reading other people’s mock drafts, and I love coming up with my own. Every year my friends and I make mock drafts before the NFL draft and count how many we get right. It’s a blast.
So, here is my 2017 NFL mock draft.
1 — Cleveland Browns
Myles Garrett, edge rusher, Texas A&M
At this point, the Browns just need to get the most talented players possible on their team. And Garrett is the best player in this draft. He’s huge at 6-foot-5, 260, incredibly athletic and had a productive season with the Aggies, registering 8.5 sacks.
2 — San Francisco 49ers
Jamal Adams, safety, LSU
Many people are going to try to give the 49ers a quarterback in the first round, but I just don’t see anybody from this QB class jumping up into the Top 5, and SF has a lot more needs than just the signal caller. New 49ers general manager John Lynch — a former safety — is going to dip into the safety brotherhood and select a versatile safety with the ability to play in the box and help the team regain its identity as a great defensive unit.
3 — Chicago Bears
Jonathan Allen, defensive line, Alabama
The Bears shouldn’t over-think this pick. Jonathan Allen is an absolute freak with freakish production to go along with it. He produced 10.5 sacks from defensive tackle this year as a member of the best defense in college football. He will help a Bears defense that needs to re-tool.
4 — Jacksonville Jaguars
Reuben Foster, linebacker, Alabama
The other best player on the best defense in college football. The Jaguars add another young, elite defensive piece to a unit that has drafted defensive back Jalen Ramsey, linebacker Myles Jack and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. in recent years.
5 — Tennessee Titans
Marshon Lattimore, cornerback, Ohio State
The Titans have several needs, including a playmaking weapon for young quarterback Marcus Mariota, but they can worry about that with their second first-round pick. Tennessee had the 29th-ranked pass defense last season and desperately needs to add some help to the defensive backfield.
6 — New York Jets
Malik Hooker, safety, Ohio State
The Jets have the front seven to win games in the NFL, but they need help on the back end. Malik Hooker gives them a tall-rangy ball hawk who picked off seven passes at Ohio State in 2016.
7 — Los Angeles Chargers
Ryan Ramzcyk, offensive tackle, Wisconsin
Philip Rivers isn’t getting any younger and the Chargers can’t afford to let their franchise quarterback get mauled like he did in 2016. They had the worst offensive line in the league according to Pro Football Focus and allowed Rivers to be sacked 36 times. While none of the offensive tackles in this year’s class are highly touted, Ramczyk is the best of the bunch and the Chargers are desperate for help.
8 — Carolina Panthers
Leonard Fournette, running back, LSU
Can you imagine Leonard Fournette and Cam Newton lining up in the same backfield? That’s terrifying.
9 — Cincinnati Bengals
Taco Charlton, defensive end, Michigan
It’s impossible to miss Taco Charlton when he is on the football field. A 6-5, 275-pound monster of a man, Charlton has all of the physical traits you look for in a defensive end. He can help a Bengals pass rush that finished 19th in the NFL in sacks with 33 in 2016.
10 — Buffalo Bills
Mike Williams, wide receiver, Clemson
The national champs get their first representative in the NFL draft. Williams pairs with another former Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins to form one of the scariest WR tandems in the league. The Bills still may not have a quarterback, but whoever ends up under center will have some serious weapons.
11 — New Orleans Saints
Sidney Jones, cornerback, Washington
Playing in a division that includes the last two MVPs Matt Ryan and Cam Newton, the Saints need to add some help to a secondary that finished 31st in pass yards against in 2016. Sidney Jones is a long, fast cornerback that can help improve New Orleans’ lacking pass coverage unit.
12 — Cleveland Browns
Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Clemson
Finally, the first quarterback comes off the board. The Browns desperately need to bring in a winner at the quarterback position to help turn around the culture. Watson fits that bill, after leading the Clemson Tigers to a national title game victory over Alabama. Plus we already know he looks good in orange.
13 — Arizona Cardinals
Deshone Kizer, quarterback, Notre Dame
While Carson Palmer says he’s going to play next year, his career is quickly nearing it’s end. The Cardinals need to address the future of the position, and it is a perfect situation for Kizer. The big, athletic quarterback has some rough edges to polish up, but he may be the most physically gifted quarterback in the class. And with the Cardinals, he can learn and develop while backing up a solid veteran in Palmer.
14 — Philadelphia Eagles
Corey Davis, wide receiver, Western Michigan
Last year’s No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz desperately needs weapons to help him out in the Philadelphia offense. Davis definitely qualifies. The 6-3, 212-pound receiver is a size-speed freak and had incredible production, with 97 catches for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns his senior year.
15 — Indianapolis Colts
Forrest Lamp, offensive guard, Western Kentucky
Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times in 2016. The Colts have their franchise quarterback and weapons for him in the passing game. Now they need to protect him, and make sure he can stay on the field.
16 — Baltimore Ravens
Solomon Thomas, defensive end, Stanford
The Ravens live by a code of drafting the best player available, and without a doubt at this point in the draft it is Solomon Thomas. Drawing comparisons to Aaron Donald, Thomas is a tremendous pass rusher with position versatility as an inside or outside pass rusher that the Ravens know how to utilize.
17 — Washington Redskins
Malik McDowell, defensive tackle, Michigan State
The Redskins ranked in the bottom of third of the NFL in both rush defense and sacks, and a disruptive defensive lineman like McDowell will help both areas of the defense. Weighing only 276 pounds on a 6-4 frame, McDowell may be a bit undersized to play inside in the NFL, but he has room to grow.
18 — Tennessee Titans
OJ Howard, tight end, Alabama
After adding help on the defensive side of the ball with their first pick, the Titans draft a player to help out young starting quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Titans already feature a dynamic tight end in Delanie Walker, but the two of them would complement each other’s games and allow offense to run or pass effectively out of two-tight end sets.
19 — Tampa Bay Buccaneers
John Ross, wide receiver, Washington
The speedy Ross is a perfect complement to young superstar Mike Evans in the Bucs passing attack. While Evans is a tremendously physical outside receiver, Ross’ quickness brings a new dynamic to the passing attack and gives young quarterback Jameis Winston a new option to beat opposing defenses.
20 — Denver Broncos
Cam Robinson, offensive tackle, Alabama
If the Broncos can’t protect their signal caller better, it’s not going to matter who they line up under center in 2017. The Broncos ranked 23rd as a pass-blocking unit in 2016 and desperately need to improve there if they are going to return to Super Bowl contending status.
21 — Detroit Lions
Derek Barnett, edge rusher, Tennessee
The Lions defense was tied for 26th in the NFL with only 26 quarterback sacks in 2016 and could really use another pass rusher to pair with young and inconsistent defensive end Ziggy Ansah. At 6-3 and 265 pounds, Barnett is a big, physical edge rusher who has a history of production in college with 52 tackles for loss and 33 sacks in his career.
22 — Miami Dolphins
Jarrad Davis, linebacker, Florida
The Dolphins have a desperate need for a playmaker in the middle of their defense. Jarrad Davis fills that hole and gives Miami a big, physical run stopper and is a good enough athlete to not be a liability in coverage. Plus he’s right in the Dolphins backyard, playing his college ball at Florida.
23 — New York Giants
Takkarist McKinley, edge rusher, UCLA
The Giants love to take pass rushers in the first round, and with Jason Pierre Paul probably leaving the team in free agency, Takk McKinley is a perfect replacement. He has elite speed off the edge and great college production, with 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in 2016 . He will provide the Giants with the pass rush that has been a trademark of their defense.
24 — Oakland Raiders
Dalvin Cook, running back, Florida State
The Oakland Raiders may be getting the steal of the draft here, but with such a deep class of running backs in 2017, teams may think they can wait at the position. Cook teams up with young franchise quarterback Derek Carr and one of the league’s best offensive lines to become one of the most talented offensive units in the league.
25 — Houston Texans
Mitch Trubisky, quarterback, North Carolina
If Mitch Trubisky — touted by some as the draft’s top QB — falls this far, somebody will certainly have traded up to select him long before pick 25. But I’m not allowing for trades, so the quarterback-needy Texans nab what they will see as the missing piece to a Super Bowl calibre roster.
26 — Seattle Seahawks
Garrett Bolles, offensive tackle, Utah
In the name of all things holy, Seattle, please take an offensive lineman in the first round. I don’t care which one. I don’t care which position. Just please try to give your quarterback some protection. Russell Wilson is far too good to be wasted behind the league’s cheapest (and worst) offensive line. His elusiveness can cover up a lot of the O-line’s woes, but he deserves better.
27 — Kansas City Chiefs
Tre’Davious White, cornerback, LSU
The Chiefs could use some help in the secondary and pairing one of the draft’s best defensive backs in Tre’Davious White with talented ballhawk Marcus Peters could lift the Chiefs’ pass defense to new heights.
28 — Dallas Cowboys
David Njoku, tight end, Miami
The Cowboys are desperate for defensive help with needs at defensive end and cornerback, but they can’t pass up the prospect of adding another elite piece to their already powerful offense. Jason Witten isn’t going to play forever, and Njoku gives the ‘Boys another young superstar to add to an offensive unit that already features prodigies Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott.
29 — Green Bay Packers
Jabrill Peppers, safety/cornerback, Michigan
While the Packers desperately need a true outside cornerback to replace Sam Shields, Ted Thompson loves position versatility in the secondary — and boy is Peppers versatile. Dom Capers could deploy Peppers in much the same way he used late-career Charles Woodson, as a safety/corner/linebacker hybrid. While he certainly doesn’t have the outside cover skills of Woodson, his athleticism will help a secondary that could use an infusion of speed.
30 — Pittsburgh Steelers
Tim Williams, edge rusher, Alabama
Tim Williams gives the Steelers defense the pass rusher it needs if it is to ascend to a Super Bowl calibre unit. While he has some serious off-field issues, his on-field production has been tremendous for Alabama, with 19.5 sacks the last two seasons.
31 — Atlanta Falcons
Budda Baker, safety, Washington
Adding a superbly athletic and versatile safety like Washington’s Budda Baker along with Keanu Neal will give head coach Dan Quinn the kind of tremendously athletic safety duo he had as defensive coordinator in Seattle. Many will say the Falcons need to add a cornerback in the draft, but No. 1 corner Desmond Trufant’s return from season-ending shoulder injury will help the unit. Plus Baker has the athleticism and coverage skills to help as an inside corner in the NFL.
32 — New England Patriots
Cooper Kupp, wide receiver, Eastern Washington
What do you get for the team that has everything? How about a true No. 1 receiver. Cooper Kupp may have been the biggest winner during Senior Bowl week as pro teams got to see the FCS prospect on the field with other elite talents. He was incredibly productive in college at Eastern Washington, finishing with Division I career records in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He has ideal size at 6-2, 200 pounds and played both outside and in the slot in college.