McKinley could be choice at No. 29
A look at how the first round may unfold
With few exceptions, most of the NFL’s prominent free agents have now found new homes or returned to their original ones. With team needs across the league more clearly defined as the draft approaches, here’s mock draft 4.0 for 2017:
1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M:
Free agency only alters so much. Garrett is still widely regarded as the best incoming player, and the Browns continue to lack a pass-rushing force in a division where all of their opponents feature established quarterbacks. There’s no reason for Cleveland brass to overthink this pick, especially since none of this year’s passing prospects have yet to distinguish themselves as worthy of a selection this high.
2. San Francisco 49ers — Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford:
He’s a three-down player, one who can play inside or out, and — unlike some other prospects at the top of the board — isn’t saddled with any questions regarding injuries or inexperience. New coordinator Robert Saleh, formerly an assistant in Seattle, would surely love to add one more stud to a defensive line that already features former first rounders Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.
3. Chicago Bears — Jamal Adams, S, LSU:
It’s been years since the Monsters of the Midway had a beastly hitter capable of setting the defensive tone from the safety spot. Adams lays down the law with a vengeance in run support and underneath coverage yet is also perfectly capable of playing the slot in nickel packages or holding up as a last line of defense on deep balls. Even with veteran Quintin Demps coming aboard, Adams could be far too tempt- ing to bypass.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars — Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU:
This team continued to invest big money into its defense, but now it’s time to spend a valuable pick on a lackluster ground game — one that hasn’t produced a 1,000-yard rusher since 2011. Fournette can provide plenty of production while establishing a physical presence that’s sure to please new foot- ball boss Tom Coughlin and substantially ease the burden on QB Blake Bortles.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Rams) — John Ross, WR, Washington:
He’s far more than pure speed, though his 4.22 40-yard dash time is reason enough to consider taking him this early. But Ross is also an effective route runner who could quickly become a trusted target for QB Marcus Mariota. And given his potential to loosen defenses for Tennessee’s tailbacks, spruce up the return game and the likelihood he probably won’t be available when the Titans pick again at No. 18, this is the spot to spring for Ross.
6. New York Jets — Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State:
He had seven interceptions in 2016. The Jets had eight. A free safety who covers a lot of ground is also a nice weapon to deploy against the AFC East rival Patriots and Dolphins, two teams that promise to put the ball in the air quite a bit. And though quarterback could be tempting, would the Jets really carry four arms for a second straight season?
7. Los Angeles Chargers — Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama:
The Bolts’ defensive makeover would look awfully good if Allen and DE Joey Bosa are paired as Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside for the next half-dozen years. Allen’s versatility and ability to impact all three downs would also be nicely leveraged in new coordinator Gus Bradley’s scheme.
8. Carolina Panthers — Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State:
Might help be on the way for a team that surrendered nearly 35 more yards per game through the air in the season after it let CB Josh Norman walk out the door?
9. Cincinnati Bengals — Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee:
At 6-3 and 259 pounds, he isn’t quite as big as Cincinnati’s prototypical edge player. But Barnett is a contanst presence in opposing backfields and would wreak the kind of havoc a defense that’s regressed in recent years needs.
10. Buffalo Bills — Mike Williams, WR, Clemson:
Buffalo re-committed to QB Tyrod Taylor for the immediate future, yet might be wise to give him a big-time target after the team’s wideout corps was raided during free agency. Williams’ redzone presence would certainly be a boon to a team that produced only 17 touchdowns through the air in 2016.
11. New Orleans Saints — Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama:
Maybe a pass rusher or corner would be more ideal for this long-reeling defense. But Foster can roam sideline-to-sideline and delivers bad intentions with each thunderous hit. And he might just fill a void the Saints haven’t successfully addressed since Jonathan Vilma’s decline.
12. Browns (from Eagles) — Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina:
With a 68% completion rate in 2016, the northeast Ohio native could possess the accuracy, mobility and moxie to effectively operate Hue Jackon’s offense ... eventually. However even a player with just 13 college starts might stand a good chance of quickly overtaking Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan on this depth chart.
13. Arizona Cardinals — Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson:
Does Carson Palmer have one more rebound in him at age 37? Does he even have another season in his right arm beyond the 2017 campaign? Even if the answer to those questions is “yes,” this might be the Cards’ best opportunity to obtain their next franchise passer. Letting Watson marinate under the tutelage of Palmer and Bruce Arians could also be the optimal way to prepare him for the big stage.
14. Eagles (from Vikings) — Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama:
Philly did a nice job revamping its receiving corps during free agency. Now personnel boss Howie Roseman must turn to the draft to replenish his secondary, and the Eagles desperately need an upgrade at corner in a division that contains so many dangerous wideouts.
15. Indianapolis Colts — Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford:
Even at 33, RB Frank Gore proved in 2016 his tank hasn’t run dry. But McCaffrey’s ability to play in space could open up a whole new world of possibilities when teaming him with fellow
Stanford product Andrew Luck.
16. Baltimore Ravens — Charles Harris, DE, Missouri:
The latest product from Mizzou’s pipeline of defenders could help revitalize Baltimore’s flagging pass rush. Harris’ already impressive array of moves off the edge would only improve under the guidance of graybeard Terrell Suggs.
17. Washington Redskins — Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan:
He might find himself filling as many roles for the ‘Skins as he did for the Wolverines. But even if Peppers simply focuses on playing safety, this defense would be in better shape. And wouldn’t it be fun to see the disruption he and Su’a Cravens could cause in sub packages?
18. Titans — Haason Reddick, LB, Temple:
Oh the ways defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could deploy a chess piece like Reddick, who had 22½ tackles for loss last year as a defensive end. And besides being an edge presence, he’s shown during pre-draft workouts that he might be able to play inside linebacker in base packages, too.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State:
You know former Seminoles QB Jameis Winston would love for this to come to fruition. Cook can do it all and could be a workhourse after averaging more than 250 touches during his three seasons with FSU. He might be an especially potent receiver against defenses forced to focus on containing WR Mike Evans and newly acquired deep threat DeSean Jackson.
20. Denver Broncos — O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama:
Never mind that Denver’s passing attack needs diversity beyond Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Howard is just too good a football player not to take here. And aside from his obvious receiving gifts, he might even provide enough blocking to get the Denver run game back into gear.
21. Detroit Lions — Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan:
The Lions addressed their offensive line issues in free agency and could look to the draft to bolster the defensive side of the trenches. Charlton has huge upside and might be the kind of weapon who makes life difficult for Aaron Rodgers, always a prerequisite of any NFC North defense.
22. Miami Dolphins — Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State:
This actually feels like a spot where the Fins might be best served to trade out and accrue more picks. But Conley could help a pass defense that was burned for 30 touchdowns in 2016.
23. New York Giants — Garett Bolles, OT, Utah:
Arguably this year’s top left tackle prospect, he could not only strengthen protection on QB Eli Manning’s blind side but also allow Ereck Flowers to shift to right tackle, which seems to be his more natural position.
24. Oakland Raiders — Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State:
The Silver & Black are in dire need of an interior defensive presence who can either make like easier for DE Khalil Mack and OLB Bruce Irvin — they combined for 18 of the club’s league-low 25 sacks last year — or make teams pay for scheming against the duo.
25. Houston Texans — Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky:
Whether Tony Romo or Tom Savage is taking the snaps next year, it would behoove the Texans to improve the blocking in front of their next quarterback. Lamp looks ready to check that box on Day 1.
26. Seattle Seahawks — Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin:
This team has to obtain some bona fide blocking talent in order to keep QB Russell Wilson intact and restore the formerly feared run game.
27. Kansas City Chiefs — Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan:
The 6-3, 213-pounder might emerge as this year’s top receiving prospect. Unfortu- nately, an ankle injury has prevented him from confirming that during the pre-draft process. But he and Tyreek Hill could give Kansas City its most formidable tandem since Carlos Carson and Stephone Paige in the ’80s.
28. Dallas Cowboys — Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU:
A sack-generating “war daddy” would definitely make sense if Dallas can find one here that fits its scheme. (Fat chance.) But White would also be a huge help after the mass free agent exodus from the Cowboys secondary.
29. Green Bay Packers — Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA:
One way to help a beleaguered secondary is to amp up the pressure. With Julius Peppers gone, McKinley could step in on passing downs while he learns the ropes from Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers — David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.):
As good as Heath Miller was, the Steelers haven’t really had a game-breaking tight end since Eric Green briefly teased Pittsburgh with his talents two decades ago. But Njoku has the goods to take a sometimes unstoppable offense to a whole new level.
31. Atlanta Falcons — Budda Baker, S, Washington:
If Keanu Neal is developing into Atlanta’s version of Kam Chancellor, Baker might just be able to become their Earl Thomas. Baker can cover the slot, hit, play deep — just the kind of asset a still-developing unit could really use.
32. Saints (from New England Patriots) — Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi:
They must get QB Drew Brees some kind of new toy, right? It’s not easy to envision a hybrid of Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks, the favored targets that have been taken from Brees. Yet Engram has 4.4 speed (almost at Cooks’ level) and a 6-3, 234-pound build (a mini-Graham). Given those measurables, his route running and reliable hands, we’d have to think Engram could be something truly special in this offense.
Solomon Thomas could help the 49ers’ defensive line.
UW’s Ryan Ramczyk could be a good fit for the Seattle Seahawks, who need some help protecting Russell Wilson.
UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley could give the Packers some pass-rushing help.