We’re just one day away from football Christmas.
The NFL draft is tomorrow … and if you ask me, that’s more exciting than actual Christmas. Instead of tearing open green and red packages to unveil a brand shiny new 12-pack of white athletic socks, we get to open big … really, really, really big boxes full of new football players.
With the draft right around the corner, this is my final mock before the commissioner gets booed more than Rocky at the beginning of his fight with Ivan Drago. But, if things go the way I project they will, the fans in Philly will sound more like the Russian pugilism enthusiasts at the end of the fight. Spoiler alert: they’re landing a difference maker on offense.
Unfortunately, due to some recent news regarding failed combine drug tests, two of my favorite players in this class — Jabrill Peppers and Reuben Foster — fall out of my first round. Perhaps NFL teams aren’t concerned about the failed tests, but for now they fall. But stay tuned after the completion of the first round for a bonus pick featuring both Foster and the Cleveland Browns. Oops was that another spoiler?
Well, before I spoil any more of my picks, here’s my final mock before the actual draft.
1 — Cleveland
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Cleveland needs to acquire as many elite talents as possible, regardless of position. And Myles Garrett is the most talented player in the draft and it isn’t close. He is a freaky athlete, and matched his athleticism with college production, racking up 31 sacks and 47 tackles for loss in three years for the Aggies.
2 — San Francisco
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
New 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan want to make their mark with a franchise quarterback. There are a ton of questions about Trubisky, a 1-year starter at North Carolina — not exactly considered a football powerhouse. But Shanahan has been something of a quarterback whisperer in Washington and Atlanta.
3 — Chicago
Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Adams provides the Bears with a dynamic safety who can impact the running game in the box or make plays in coverage. He will provide an identity for a Bears defense that was middle of the road in 2016 and will want to make strides in year three under John Fox.
4 — Jacksonville
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
After spending several high picks on defense in recent drafts and handing out big contracts to free agents Calais Campbell and AJ Bouye, the Jags add a big playmaker to their offense. Fournette is a generational talent at running back and put up highlight reel run after highlight reel run at LSU. He will force defenses to load the box against him and take the pressure off of young quarterback Blake Bortles.
5 — Tennessee
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Tennessee ranked 30th in pass defense in 2016 and desperately need help in the secondary. Lattimore arrives in Nashville like a knight in shining armor to save defensive backfield. He has elite cover skills and elite athleticism, running a 4.36 40-yard dash. There are some concerns over a lack of experience with only one year as a starter and a history of hamstring injuries, Lattimore’s upside is high enough to make the Titans look past their concerns.
6 — New York Jets
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
The Jets desperately need help at the quarterback position. As it stands, they have a quartet of middling-to-terrible passers on the roster in Ryan Fitzpatrick, Christian Hackenberg, Josh McCown, and Bryce Petty. Ouch. In Watson, they get a proven winner with a national championship ring and a pair of 400+ yard passing performances against the elite Alabama defense.
7 — LA Chargers
Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Chargers miss having an elite centerfielder after Eric Weddle left in free agency before the 2016 season. Hooker fills that hole with a tremendous athlete with ridiculous range and great ball skills. The Buckeyes safety intercepted seven passes in 2016 in his first season as a starter. Comparisons to the great Ed Reed may be a bit lofty, but if things shake out his way, Hooker may have the talent to live up to them.
8 — Carolina
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
The Panthers need an infusion of youth into their pass rush as the defensive end spots are currently held down by Charles Johnson, 30, and Julius Peppers, 37. In Thomas, they get one of the draft’s two or three most talented players at pick No. 8. He can come in into Carolina and immediately make an impact as a strong side defensive end in base and bump into the interior on passing downs.
9 — Cincinnati
Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
The Bengals need help at pass rush and in the middle of the field at linebacker. Reddick solves both problems. A converted safety-turned-defensive end, he can play as well moving backward in coverage as he can moving forward. The 6-1 237-pounder finished third in the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss and had 10.5 sacks for the Owls in 2016.
10 — Buffalo
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Bills need to give quarterback Tyrod Taylor some help in the passing game. Sammy Watkins is a solid target as a No. 1 receiver, but the depth chart is pretty barren after that — especially after losing Robert Woods in free agency. Williams plays wide receiver like a power forward, using his 6-4, 218-pound frame to box out defensive backs.
11 — New Orleans
John Ross, WR, Washington
The Saints replace a fast wide receiver, Brandin Cooks, whom they traded to New England with the fastest wide receiver. John Ross ran an all-time combine record 4.22 40-yard dash, and pairs his speed with hands. route running ability, and production uncommon in combine speedsters. In 2016, Ross caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns.
12 — Cleveland
Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
Somehow Cleveland ends up with perhaps the two best players in the draft. As stated earlier, the Browns just need to acquire as many really good football players as possible. A combination of a so-so combine performance and durability concerns causes Alabama’s Jonathan Allen to fall to No. 12. Allen is an elite interior pass rusher, earning the Bronko Nagurski Award and Chuck Bendarik Awards as the best defensive player in the country in 2016, while racking up 69 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks on the nation’s best defense.
13 — Arizona
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is 37 years old and rapidly approaching the end of his career. In Texas Tech signal caller Patrick Mahomes, they find his eventual replacement. The gunslinger is a perfect fit in the Arizona’s passing attack which favors the deep ball. He threw for 5,052 yards, 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2016, and set an FBS record with 819 total yards in a single game against Oklahoma.
14 — Philadelphia
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
After adding wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency, the Eagles could still look to add to the arsenal of weapons for second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. McCaffrey can come in and instantly be an elite running back and slot receiver for the offense. There are concerns about McCaffrey’s ability to handle a heavy workload at the next level, but those concerns are overstated as he was the focal point of the pro-style Stanford offense for two outstanding seasons, and set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015.
15 — Indianapolis
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Colts need to give Andrew Luck some protection. He has spent the better part of his five years in the NFL running for his life behind terrible offensive lines. He says he is finally healthy after having surgery for fix a lingering right shoulder injury that has been bothering him since 2015. The Colts should take Ramczyk, the latest product of Wisconsin’s offensive line factory to help keep him that way.
16 — Baltimore
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
With the Ravens letting Elvis Dumervil leave and Terrell Suggs rapidly approaching the end of his career, the Ravens could use help with their pass rush. Derek Barnett didn’t test particularly well at the combine, posting a 4.88 40-yard dash and a 31-inch vertical jump, but makes up for it with incredible production at the college level. He set the all-time record for sacks at Tennessee with 32, surpassing all-time great Volunteer Reggie White. And by the way, Suggs himself had a pretty pedestrian combine in 2003, when he ran a 4.84 40-yard dash.
17 — Washington
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
The Redskins ranked 24th against the run in 2016, allowing 1,916 yards on the ground. Jarrad Davis, the athletic and physical linebacker from Florida, can step onto the field and instantly help Washington against the rush — a necessity against the rival Cowboys’ elite rushing attack.
18 — Tennessee
OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
After taking care of their secondary with the No. 5 pick, the Titans can turn their focus to the offensive side of the ball. OJ Howard steps in and gives Marcus Mariota a gigantic target in the passing game and fits perfectly into the Titans’ power rushing offense as a plus run blocker. He and Delanie Walker would create major mismatches in two tight end sets for Tennessee, forming an updated version of New England’s 2011 offense with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
19 — Tampa Bay
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Off-field question marks cause the elite running back, Cook, to fall into the second half of the first round. With the Buccaneers, he joins forces with his old pal Jameis Winston from Florida State. The Bucs added an elite home run threat in Desean Jackson in free agency, and adding a home run threat on the ground in Cook would make them one of the scariest units in the league.
20 — Denver
Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
The Broncos desperately need to improve their offensive line. After losing 2016 starter Russell Okung to the Chargers, Menelik Watson sits atop the depth chart at left tackle. Robinson is a big powerhouse who can help to improve the situation up front.
21 — Detroit
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
After Calvin Johnson’s early retirement, the Lions have a big need at No. 1 wide receiver. Golden Tate is a good secondary option, but he isn’t a guy you want to have as your top option. They don’t have to look far to find a new top target, as they stay inside the state of Michigan with Davis. He had 97 reception for 1,500 yards and led the nation with 19 touchdowns in 2016.
22 — Miami
Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
The Dolphins top cornerbacks are Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard. While they finished 2016 in the middle of the pack, ranking 15th against the pass, they could use an infusion of talent at the position. The third OSU defensive back drafted is an elite athlete, posting a 4.44 40-yard dash with a 6-foot, 196-pound frame.
23 — NY Giants
David Njoku, TE, Miami
It looks as though the Giants want to make the most of Eli Manning’s remaining years in the Big Apple, as they added free agent Brandon Marshall to an already talented receiving corps. The addition of David Njoku further reinforces the NY passing attack. The 6-4 246 pound tight end will be a matchup problem in the middle of the field for NFL defenses. In 2016, he racked up 698 yards and eight touchdowns receiving for the Canes.
24 — Oakland
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Oakland’s pass defense was a liability in 2016, ranking 24th in the league. Adding Humphrey, a physical outside presence at corner would be a big improvement to their talent at the position. The 6-foot, 197-pounder intercepted two passes and had five pass break ups in the Crimson Tide’s elite defense in 2016.
25 — Houston
Deshone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
The Texans may have been a competent quarterback away from defeating New England in the playoffs last year as they outplayed them at every position except the most important one. Houston thought so little of last season’s starter, Brock Osweiler, that it gave Cleveland its 2018 second-round pick just to get rid of him. While there are a lot of question marks surrounding Kizer, and many people think he should have stayed in school, including his old head coach Brian Kelly, he can’t be worse than what they have, right. Right? Kizer has all of the tools and raw talent to be a successful NFL quarterback, he just needs some time to develop. And he’ll be in a position to succeed, paired with a defense so good that 21 points should be enough to win nearly every game.
26 — Seattle
Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
The Seahawks have the worst offensive line in the league. I’m pretty sure my plumber took some snaps for them up front last year. Russell Wilson is good enough at avoiding pressure that he negates some of the o-line issues, but he can’t do it alone. They need to add offensive linemen in the draft, multiple offensive linemen. Maybe they should just go ahead and pick one in every round.
27 — Kansas City
Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
The Chiefs were 28th in sack production in 2016, with only 28. They fix that in the draft with an in-state talent infusion in Harris. The 6-3, 253-pounder had 12 tackles for loss and nine sacks in 2016 for Missouri, and will provide a physical edge-rush presence.
28 — Dallas
Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
The Cowboys lost safeties Barry Church and JJ Wilcox in free agency and need to add a player to play next to Byron Jones on the back end. Former Connecticut safety, Obi Melifonwu, joins his old Huskies teammate in the Cowboys defensive backfield. Melifonwu is an all-time athletic freak, posting a 4.40 40-yard dash, 44 inch vertical leap and an 11-9 broad jump at 6-4, 224 pounds. His broad jump is the second best in NFL history behind only Jones.
29 — Green Bay
Kevin King, CB, Washington
You don’t have to look any farther than Matt Ryan’s 398-yard, four touchdown thrashing of the Packers in the NFC Championship game last year to see that they need help at cornerback. Especially with former No. 1 cornerback Sam Shields’ career looking to be over due to ongoing concussion issues. King’s combine was second, perhaps, only to Obi Melifonwu’s as he displayed elite speed (4.43 40-yard dash) and change of direction ability (6.56 3-cone drill) combined with a 6-3 frame.
30 — Pittsburgh
TJ Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
As badly as I want him to, James Harrison just can’t play forever. The Steelers find his replacement in TJ Watt. Word has come out that several scouts have a higher great on TJ than they did on his older brother, JJ, coming out of college. And to be honest, that’s not terribly surprising as TJ was an absolute terror on the edge in Wisconsin’s 3-4 defense in 2016 earning All-America honors while racking up 12.5 sacks.
31 — Atlanta
Budda Baker, S, Washington
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn — a former Seattle defensive coordinator — acquired his new Kam Chancellor last year in 17th overall pick Keanu Neal. This year, he gets his new Earl Thomas in Washington safety Budda Baker. If Baker (5-10, 195) was two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier, he would be a no-doubt Top 10 pick. He has elite speed for the safety position with a 4.45 40-yard dash, game-changing cover skills in centerfield, the ability to bump down to slot cornerback, and a willingness to tackle as he led Washington’s top notch defense with 71 tackles in 2016.
32 — New Orleans
Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
The Saints finally replace Jimmy Graham. Engram doesn’t provide quite the same catch radius as Graham, standing only 6-foot-3, but his 4.42 40-yard dash is otherworldly for the tight end position. He isn’t a great in-line blocker, but they never really asked Graham to do that in NO either. He was the top receiving tight end in the country in 2016, totaling 65 catches for 926 yards and eight touchdowns for the Rebels.
And just for fun:
33 — Cleveland
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
After selecting a pair of near-can’t-miss prospects in Myles Garrett and Jonathan Allen in the first round, the Browns feel safe taking a risk on Reuben Foster in the second round. Character concerns pushed Foster out of the first round after he failed a drug test before being ejected from the combine, but he is an elite talent and as previously stated, the Browns need as many elite talents as they can get. After this draft they find themselves with a front seven that includes uber-athletic ends Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett, elite tackles Danny Shelton and Jonathan Allen, and a pair of world-class linebackers in Foster and Jamie Collins. These mock Browns may have acquired one of the greatest collections of defensive front-seven talent ever. It’s probably pretty unrealistic, the Browns will probably reach for a quarterback in the Top 10 and ruin another career. But it’s kinda fun to imagine a world where the Browns are the best at something.