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Matt Brandon's 2017 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Scout Fantasy Managing Editor reveals his first mock draft as we inch closer to the real thing!

Pick 1: Cleveland Browns - Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

While the Browns clearly need a quarterback, I don't see them passing on the opportunity to select a high impact player such as Myles Garrett. The edge rusher out of Texas A&M had no problem surpassing expectations at the NFL Combine and is simply the best all around player in this year's draft class. Garrett is an athletic freak and placing him on this defense with Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton creates a front seven that AFC North offenses will not want to face on Sundays, even the one featuring Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Cleveland will bank on either QB Mitch Trubinsky or QB Deshaun Watson to fall to pick No. 12 where they have another first-round selection.

Pick 2: San Francisco 49ers - Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

San Francisco possesses the pick that will most likely shape the entire first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Kyle Shannahan was brought in to address the Niners' 27th-ranked offense, but this team has quite a bit of holes to fill on defense, which is where most of the top-end talent lies in this draft class. The Niners need a quarterback, but they will not select one here. There's always the possibility of trading back to get a value QB, but I have a different scenario in mind. Drafting three defensive linemen in the first round three consecutive years is rare, but I expect the Niners to pick Solomon Thomas, the flexible inside and outside DL whose draft stock has skyrocketed since the Combine. A front four featuring the young and fierce Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Thomas will help the Niners compete in a tough NFC West division.

Pick 3: Chicago Bears - Jamal Adams, SS, LSU

Chicago's front seven isn't so bad; it's the secondary that killed the Bears defense in 2016. Cutting ties with Tracy Porter probably won't help matters either, as the defense didn't allow too many yards to opposing offenses but only forced seven interceptions, the second fewest in the NFL. LSU safety Jamal Adams has Pro Bowl upside while also being one of the safest picks in this year's draft class. You don't usually see a safety being selected in the top three, but it's very difficult to envision him not making an immediate impact on this defense, especially one that allowed the 24th most point per game in the NFL. Adams is a natural born leader with an exceptional ability to see the field and anticipate where the quarterback is going with the ball. He can also make huge hits when necessary, which can often look lethal. Adams will help Chicago's defense continue to trend in the right direction as the vocal leader in center field. The product out of LSU reminds me a lot of New York Giants All-Pro S Landon Collins.

Pick 4: Jacksonville Jaguars - Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama

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The Jaguars have had a tremendous offseason, signing DE Calais Campbell while bulking up their secondary with CB A.J. Bouye and S Barry Church (though they did lose CB Prince Amukamara). Not to mention, top-five pick from last year's draft class Jalen Ramsey is looming in the defensive backfield. Jacksonville may be tempted to select RB Leonard Fournette and to be honest, I can't say I would blame them if they don't see T.J. Yeldon as a solid future RB. Then again, how often do you see a running back go within the first five picks of an NFL Draft? In a passing league, running backs only have a limited life span and by the time the Jags can compete for a Super Bowl, Fournette may not be the same guy Jacksonville drafted in 2017. It'd be great if this were a strong class of offensive linemen, but there are simply no players even close to worth selecting with the No. 4 pick. I envision the Jags either trading back to stockpile picks or continuing to bolster their defense. After improving their secondary exponentially, what if Jonathan Allen slipped into their laps when they already have Dante Fowler Jr. and Calais Campbell. Andrew Luck and Marcus Mariota twice a year is no easy task and Jacksonville would be turning one of the worst defenses in the National Football League into a force not to be reckoned with for years to come. After all, it was Allen who was expected to be the top pick in the draft before the Combine. There are a few picks that will shape the rest of the draft, and this is most definitely one of them.

Pick 5: Tennessee Titans (From LAR) - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Titans have had their eye on a few different players but I expect them to select the top player listed at cornerback on the board in Marshon Lattimore. The Buckeyes talented DB recorded 41 tackles, picked off four passes and broke up another nine in 2016 at Ohio State. Remember, Tennessee has another pick in the first round to get Marcus Mariota some help at the WR position. As the most physical corner on the board, Tennessee will get a lot better, so long as Lattimore avoids the injuries bug that plagued the earlier half of his collegiate career.

Pick 6: New York Jets - O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

The Jets have the opportunity to alter every other team's plans. You don't see tight ends go this early. The last one was Vernon Davis, and while he had his shining moments, he's no Hall of Famer in my opinion. That being said, O.J. Howard is the real deal. Standing at 6-foot-six-inches tall and weighing a chiseled 250 pounds, the big man had solid freshman and sophomore years before breaking out in 2015. Tight end is not one of New York's top priorities, but you could argue that the Jets need to fill holes at every single position. As a junior, Howard proved he wasn't just an elite blocking tight end but that he was also a wide receiver. He hauled in 38 passes for over 600 yards and earned the Offensive MVP award of the NCAA National Championship game when he scored twice on five catches and a whopping 208 yards. The Jets haven't had an impact tight end in as long as I can remember and if they are going to wait a few years to be competitive as they look for their quarterback of the future, the former TE could be the perfect fit in the new West Coast Offense. Howard can do it all and if Christian Hackenberg happens to be a decent quarterback, expect the two to develop chemistry very, very quickly.

Pick 7: Los Angeles Chargers - Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State

Drafting Joey Bosa last year obviously paid off in dividends but now the Chargers need to find a replacement for S Eric Weddle. While they would love for Malik Hooker to fall to this spot, there is a chance that he's already taken. If Hooker does fall to pick No. 7, the Chargers will not hesitate to take their guy. Hooker is a beast of an athlete. He could have played Division I basketball if he wanted but his heart was all about football. Playing behind Lattimore at safety, Hooker was a first-team All-American and All-Big Ten accolade due to his seven interceptions, four broken up throws, 74 tackles and 5.5 for a loss. This kid would be the perfect replacement for Weddle playing behind Casey Heyward and Jason Verrett. If neither Hooker nor Adams is available and a trade is unlikely, the Los Angeles Chargers will most likely take WR Mike Williams out of Clemson. Only time will tell.

Pick 8: Carolina Panthers - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

Leonard Fournette has proven to be an elite talent with an undeniable NFL-level skill set. Running a 4.51 40-yard dash with his 6-1, 240-pound frame after leaving LSU with 3,380 yards and 40 touchdowns only helps his cause. The Panthers made the Super Bowl two years ago so Fournette can make an immediate impact for a competitive team as Jonathan Stewart's playing days are beginning to come to an end. Fournette absolutely dominated at LSU, leading the SEC in all-purpose yards his freshmen year. He almost surpassed 2,000 yards the following year (1,953) adding a ridiculous 22 touchdowns. Despite an injury-riddled junior season, the LSU Tiger has been said to be the greatest running back prospect since the impeccable Adrian Peterson. The kid would take enormous pressure off of Cam Newton and give Ron Rivera so many more looks to use. This would be a straight up steal if Fournette fell this far. The trio of Newton, Fournette and Kelvin Benjamin would be very difficult for even the best defenses to game plan against.


Pick 9: Cincinnati Bengals - Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama

Cincinnati has a few different holes they could address at this position in the draft. I'd expect them to either go with a wide receiver or add some youth to their linebacking corps. In the end, they go with Reuben Foster, who may end up being the steal of the draft. Think Patrick Willis. That's the type of player Foster can be.

Pick 10: Buffalo Bills - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

By putting their faith in Tyrod Taylor, the Bills believe they have the answer at the quarterback position and may look to add to Taylor's arsenal of weapons. WR Robert Woods is gone, and Sammy Watkins has proven he isn't quite reliable to remain healthy. The running game is strong so adding a wideout who can take the pressure off both Taylor and Watkins is an excellent idea. Just try naming Buffalo's WR2... I know Rex Ryan is a defensive-minded coach, but Williams makes as much sense as anyone at this spot, although I do see the Bills snagging O.J. Howard if he's still on the board.

Pick 11: New Orleans Saints - Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan

After trading Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, the Saints have a few directions they could go with this pick. It will all depend on the first ten selections and whether or not the Saints can steal Malcolm Butler from the Patriots. Regardless, don't be surprised if New Orleans adds a pass rusher in this spot. This team possessed the worst pass defense in the NFL last season. They struggled to get to the quarterback but adding a presence on the edge such as Taco Charlton could change that. The prospect out of Michigan produced 10 sacks, including 5.5 over the Wolverines' final four games in 2016. He's the best pass-rusher on the board and would help cement a formidable line consisting of Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, Nick Fairley, and Barnett. Charlton has proven he can do great things, but it's his potential that excites NFL scouts. There simply are not many edge rushers out there who stand at 6-foot-six inches, weigh 277 pounds and have his rare combination of power and speed. Charlton's game is predicated on simply turning the corner on OTs, but his spin move and hand usage are also first-round worthy. He's not perfect, but New Orleans can still add a defensive back with the last pick of the first round if the need is still there. With offenses so focused on stopping Cameron Jordan, Taco will get plenty of one-on-one chances to make moves towards the quarterback.

Pick 12: Cleveland Browns (From PHI) - Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

You know Cleveland is taking a quarterback with their second pick in the first round. It's all a matter of who is left on the board. Despite the small sample size, if Mitch Trubisky is still available, the Browns won't hesitate to take their new franchise quarterback. It's no secret that the Browns are in love with the quarterback out of UNC. If they have to, they may trade up to get him earlier. There have even been talks about taking him with the first pick but that seems quite unlikely.

Pick 13: Arizona Cardinals - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

The Cards have a tough decision here. Will they draft a quarterback with Carson Palmer's career winding down? With Deshaun Watson still available at pick 13, the Cardinals will take the reigning NCAA champion and hope that Palmer can groom him into an NFL caliber stud. Watson is mobile enough to keep defenses honest, a trait Palmer lacks, but also has the intangibles, the accuracy and the ability to shine in the most difficult situations. Watson is clutch and too good to pass on despite the fact that he is not the type of arm that fits Bruce Arians' playbook. However, knowing Arians, he'll be able to cater to his starting quarterback's needs.

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Pick 14: Philadelphia Eagles (From MIN) - Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stamford

Everyone expected Philadelphia to take a wide receiver in the first round but after signing Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, I think they address the running game. Despite his struggles in the second half of the season, Carson Wentz proved he is absolutely the quarterback of the future. DeMarco Murray is gone, and Ryan Mathews hasn't proven he can stay healthy. Christian McCafrey was electric at the NFL Combine, and despite skipping the Sun Bowl, many teams have expressed interest in the hard working, dedicated running back. McCaffrey's patience and pass catching skills are perfect for Philadelphia's offense. This offense could be one of the most improved if they can execute.

Pick 15: Indianapolis Colts - Haason Reddick, LB, Temple

The Colts have a pretty strong offense with Andrew Luck at the helm but what they need is to improve that defense. Temple's Hasson Reddick is a very speedy linebacker who can line up inside or outside. He can play multiple positions and will bring an intensity to this Colts defense that this unit currently lacks.

Pick 16: Baltimore Ravens - Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

The Ravens have a ton of positions they can target, but they have always predicated themselves as a defensive explosion ready to blow up opposing offenses. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs… Baltimore doesn't have one of those players who can fire up the crowd and the defensive unit. Enter Tennessee's Derek Barnett, who will be an absolute steal if he makes it this far. The edge rusher recorded 19 tackles for a loss in 2016, including 13 sacks. He also forced two fumbles, batted down five passes and even hauled in an interception. Barnett has the pass rushing presence defensive coordinators are looking for and would absolutely fire up C.J. Mosley and the rest of this unit.

Pick 17: Washington Redskins - John Ross III, WR, Washington

Washington has some pressing needs on both sides of the ball. After losing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon and signing Terrelle Pryor to just a one-year deal, they need a wide receiver to rely on for the years to come. Last season they took Josh Doctson but he is unproven, and his health comes with some serious question marks. The Skins select the speediest player in the draft, the wideout out of Washington who broke Chris Johnson's record with the fastest 40-yard dash of all time. Between Ross, Pryor, Doctson and TE Jordan Reed, Kirk Cousins will have the weapons he needs to compete in the NFC East.

Pick 18: Tennessee Titans (From LAR) - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

The Titans nailed Marcus Mariota as their quarterback of the future and have a power running game consisting of two tremendous backs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Tennessee secured Lattimore earlier in the draft, but if they want to become a contender, they can't rely on TE Delanie Walker to catch all of Mariota's passes. They need a legitimate No. 1 WR. Dorial Green-Beckham obviously didn't work out and while John Ross is surely who Tennessee would like, Corey Davis is no slouch himself. With his 6-foot-4-inch frame, many pundits have compared Davis to Demaryius Thomas. A receiver like that will help the Titans improve the passing game, especially after losing Kendall Wright.

Pick 19: Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

The Buccaneers would like to put a very good runner in the lineup next to Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. The Bucs are much closer to a playoff appearance than some may think. Reuniting these two Florida State Seminoles could result in an elite offense as Winston continues to progress. Dalvin Cook has turned some teams off because of his off-field attitude, but you can't argue with his on-field tape. His speed, agility, and explosiveness are almost unbelievable. Doug Martin didn't even record 150 carries last season. It's time to cut bait and give Cook the chance to help this team move forward. 

USA Today/Melina Vastola

Pick 20: Denver Broncos - Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

With Russell Okung gone, Denver has a serious issue on the offensive line's blind spot. Denver's offensive line already ranked 24th in the league last season. Wisconsin's Ryan Ramcyzk should be the first offensive lineman off the board. He is a proficient blocker in the run game and excellent against the pass. The physical Ramcyzk is clearly the most game-ready lineman in this year's draft class and will help Denver get going in 2017. Something tells me Denver wont be done picking offensive linemen in this draft because they need more badly!

Pick 21: Detroit Lions - Marlon Humphrey CB, Alabama

Humphrey has the skillset to match Marshon Lattimore, and quite frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to see him go within the top 10 picks. That being said, I somehow think this draft works out perfectly for Detroit as they walk away with a top-tier corner in the bottom third of the first round. Another prospect out of Coach Saban's program has great size at around 6 feet and 200 pounds. He's physical, he's got quick feet and has a knack for preventing separation by opposing receivers. With Darius Slay on the other side of the field, the Lions' defense should become much more difficult to move the chains against. Detroit never really had a second corner they could rely upon. Now they do.

Pick 22: Miami Dolphins - Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

Miami ranked second-to-last in pass rushing last season, so Miami's passing defense is obviously a concern entering 2017. Zach Cunningham can immediately insert a shot of youth and toughness to play behind Cameron Wake and next to Kiko Alonzo. The linebackers in this draft are not deep so the Dolphins can hit on the deep defensive backs on Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft. With their first pick, Miami will get the prototypical outside edge linebacker.

Pick 23: New York Giants - Cameron Robinson, OT, Alabama

If Cook or McCafrey happen to fall to the G-Men, I think they take have a hard time passing, despite Paul Perkins' emergence late last season. The Giants have done a good job in free agency thus far, giving Eli Manning another red zone target in Brandon Marshall and adding depth to the line with D.J. Fluker. Still, they need more help on that offensive line. It's safe to say that the Erek Flowers at left tackle experiment is not working out. Flowers was a highly touted prospect, but he belongs on the right side of the line. The Giants will pick Alabama's Cam Robinson to protect Eli's blind spot. Robinson has experience at left tackle for a pro-style offense and won the award for best blocker of the year. The Giants are going all in while Manning is still good enough to lead them to a Super Bowl and Robinson will step in as one of his protectors.

Pick 24: Oakland Raiders - Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

It was sad to see Derek Carr go down last year as we will never know how far the Raiders could have gone had Carr been healthy in the postseason. Oakland has a strong offense so it would seem likely that the Raiders would go defense here, especially since they already have one of the strongest offensive lines in the league. Oakland ranked 25th in the NFL in pass defense, so I'm expecting either an edge rusher or a defensive back. In the end, I think they take the top corner left on the board. Conley fits the bill with this pick and will get solid reps in practice against Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

Pick 25: Houston Texans - Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech

After trading Brock Osweiler to Cleveland, Houston will select who they hope will be the quarterback of the future, a Texas man himself. Tom Savage just isn't that guy.

Pick 26: Seattle Seahawks - Garett Bolles, OT, Utah

Everyone knows that Seattle will be taking an offensive lineman. Russell Wilson had absolutely no time in the pocket last year. The pass protection was simply miserable. Garett Bolles provides a big and strong presence on the line that will help give Wilson more time to find his pass catchers.

Pick 27: Kansas City Chiefs - Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

Dontari Poe is gone, and Derrick Johnson is turning 35 heading into his 15th season as an NFL linebacker. There's no doubt that the Chiefs have some young talent on the defensive side of the ball, but they need someone who can clog the middle one play and line up on the end on the next. Malik McDowell, the former Michigan State Spartan, is a guy known for getting to the quarterback. Although he only totaled 1.5 sacks in 2016, he forced several throwaway passes by opposing QBs. McDowell would be a great addition to this defense, then again, quarterback whisperer Andy Reid could elect to take DeShone Kizer. Tough call here.

Pick 28: Dallas Cowboys - Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan

Peppers should go earlier in the draft, but teams are hesitant to use their first round pick on a player with so many question marks. The Dallas Cowboys will have no problem taking the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year. Peppers can do a little bit of everything; he's an excellent kick returner, but more importantly, he's a safety with flexibility. He can line up against an opposing team's wide receiver or transform into a soul crunching linebacker. Simply put, he's an athletic freak. He excelled at the Combine, posting a 4.46 40-yard dash, a 35.5-inch vertical and a 128-inch broad jump. Peppers has the speed to replace Barry Church and get from sideline to sideline. He's an excellent tackler who will flourish behind Byron Jones. Don't be surprised if the Cowboys use him in blitz packages. When he has a clean path to his target, there may not be a defender in this draft who covers ground faster.

USA Today

Pick 29: Green Bay Packers - Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU

There are a lot of directions the Packers can go here, pretty much any position on the defensive side of the ball. However, their biggest need is in defending the pass. Now that Micah Hyde is no longer a Green Bay Packer, the team is almost forced to select a defensive back. They've got their eye on Peppers, who can do everything Hyde did both on special teams and defense but they get sniped by Dallas. So with the clock winding down, they go with LSU's Tre'Davious White.

Pick 30: Pittsburgh Steelers - Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama

Pittsburgh's two outside linebackers, Bud Dupree and James Harrison, have both done a lot for this organization. But Harrison's body is falling apart, and the team needs a replacement if the inevitable happens before the 2017 NFL season. Once again, I think the Steelers also want Peppers since they need both a cornerback and a pass rusher but Tim Williams is no slouch either out of Alabama. Pittsburgh has had their eye on the kid for a while now, and you know Mike Tomlin will have no problem motivating the youngster.

Pick 31: Atlanta Falcons - Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

The second half of the Super Bowl exposed one of the few weaknesses in Atlanta's current roster, and that is their ability to get to the quarterback. While they did a nice job in the first half, they were clearly gassed in the second, and the Falcons just didn't have enough depth to get fresh pass rushers on the field. Missouri's Charles Harris would be a great addition to this already talented squad. Vic Beasley's job would immediately become easier as teams would have to game plan for both studs.

Pick 32: New Orleans Saints (From NE) - Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut

New Orleans is expected to spend it's first two picks of the draft on a pass rusher and a defensive end. By selecting UConn's Obi Melinofonwu, they get one of the most extraordinary athletes from the NFL Combine and a guy who can not only play safety but can also defend slot receivers due to his blazing speed.


Stay tuned for Mock Draft 2.0 and more mocks by some of the best experts in the industry! 

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