As we get closer to kickoff of the annual NFL Draft on April 27, it’s time to debut Salute’s first mock draft now that some of the free agency dust has begun to settle.
At post time, there were a few prime-time questions that remained to be answered regarding the futures of Tony Romo and Adrian Peterson.
Those two moves among a few others will shake things up. In the meantime, let’s look at where we are.
#1 Cleveland Browns, Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Browns seem deadest against drafting a quarterback in this spot so this year’s can’t miss option will reside in the Mid-West. In the NFL either you have a franchise quarterback or you are knocking one of his back. Cleveland will choose to the latter.
#2 San Francisco 49ers- Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Let’s face it Brian Hoyer is not going to get the job done. But the top QB option in this year’s selection does not fit HC Kyle Shanahan’s mold.
And let’s face it, the 49ers need EVERYTHING. Solomon will be set the edge and the foundation for the evolution of the 49ers’s defense.
#3 Chicago Bears- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
I am sure the Bears have to know that their new quarterback Mike Glennon is not a long-term solution and that they need help at wide receiver.
Enter LSU monster, Leonard Fournette to right the ship and help take a load off of both areas of inefficiency.
#4 Jacksonville Jaguars- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook was originally a lock to be the number one running back selected in the 2017 draft but a really poor showing at the combine and off-the-field issues forced a redo on that thought process.
Geography states that Cook would instantly be a local favorite and a really strong addition to a Jaguars squad that is in need of someone that can tote the rock full-time.
#5 Tennessee Titans-Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Thanks to a deal with the Los Angeles Rams can continue to rebuild their near-playoff caliber squad with top-shelf picks.
Lady luck shined on Adams as the Titans need help over-the-top and Malik Hooker is now too big of a medical risk to take in the top 25-percent of the draft.
LSU turns out quality defensive backs faster than Alabama can churn out Pro Bowl wide-outs, so Adams is ready for a strong career in the NFL.
#6 New York Jets-Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
As much as I hate it for the young man, Watson seems to be doomed to be headed to the Jets. However, his level head, composure, skill-set and the ability to win at all costs make him exactly what the Jets so desperately need at this time.
#7 Los Angeles Chargers-Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The National Champs put up two back-to-back picks as Williams who made good on his solid pro day, joins the Chargers as a much-needed target for a veteran quarterback.
#8 Carolina Panthers- Jonathan Allen, DE/DT, Alabama
Medical concerns will drop Allen down a few pegs from his initial forecast but they won’t push him out of the Top 10 past a Panthers team that is under renovation. Under the tutelage of veteran Julius Peppers, Allen will learn a lot as he eases into the Panthers revamped rotation.
#9 Cincinnati Bengals- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Two factors why Robinson will end up in Cincy. The first is that their offensive line was ravaged in free agency. As it stands, Andy Dalton would not make it through the pre-season with their current options. The second is that Robinson is coming in as a tackle but has many traits that could send him to guard. That flexibility makes him a benchmark piece to reshape the trenches around.
#10 Buffalo Bills-Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Yes, Stephon Gilmore departing for New England is a factor here. But Lattimore is so athletically gifted that there is no way he gets out of the Top. Buffalo has the fit and the need.
#11 New Orleans Saints- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
New Orleans needs help at all three levels of their defense. It all starts with generating a pass rush and Barnett is a good fit for their scheme.
#12 Cleveland Browns-Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Our mock drafts do not take trades into consideration until they happen. That being said, we expect something to happen before the draft to push the Browns in another direction away from Trubisky.
If not, the second best option at QB in this draft will become the next victim in the Browns never-ending search for a leader.
#13 Arizona Cardinals-Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Surgery or no surgery, the Cards will not pass on the opportunity to reel in Hooker to take over Tony Jefferson. With the Honey Badger across the way and cornerback Patrick Peterson locking down primary targets, Arizona will make it difficult for teams to stretch the field.
#14 Philadelphia Eagles-Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
The Eagles will go defense after putting together a nice passing attack in free agency. Reddick benefits from the temper tantrum that Reuben Foster threw at the combine.
While Reddick was putting up huge numbers at the Underwear Olympics, Foster was showing his ass and immaturity in such a manner that got him sent home.
#15 Indianapolis Colts-O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Howard is something special and could very possibly be the target of the Colts who let Dwayne Allen bounce in a trade with the Patriots.
It would certainly be an upgrade for a team that suddenly needs a little bit of everything.
#16 Baltimore Ravens- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Baltimore needs a linebacker with a mean streak and Foster fits that mold. From top-to-bottom the Ravens are set-up to handle a knucklehead, so they won’t shy away from taking the best player available over some foolishness.
#17 Washington Redskins- Chris Wormley, DL, Michigan
Wormley is an ideal fit for the Redskins. He’s a versatile playmaker that can make things happen in the backfield. With a defense that is a liability, the Redskins will take this piece and rebuild around him.
#18 Tennessee Titans-John Ross, WR, Washington
Previous rate of injury is the only reason why the new fastest man in the league drops this far. Ross is not just a fast guy, he’s a speedster that can run crisp, clean routes and finish off plays with a bit of anger.
The Titans have not shied away from the buzz that they love Ross and truthfully, he could be the final piece that that offense needs to from dangerous to deadly.
#19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Tampa Bay needs a running back. Point black period. McCaffery will fall to them gift-wrapped with the ability to run sensation wheel routes and screens and pound the rock between the tackles. Durability may be a concern long-term but in the short term he could give opponents fits if deployed correctly.
#20 Denver Broncos- Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
His lack of touches at Tennessee had less to do with his skill and ability and more to do with a Vols staff that at times is overwhelmed and misguided.
Kamara leaps into the NFL with fresh legs and most importantly the heart and size to punish defenses.
#21 Detroit Lions-Jabrill Peppers, LB, Michigan
One of the most talked about names in college football will not leave the state. If not Peppers another in-state product wideout Corey Davis will assume this spot. Despite need, Peppers is nearly a can’t miss option for a defense that could use some juice.
#22 Miami Dolphins- Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Miami is one playmaker away on both sides of the ball from being able to put away close games. With this being a defensively deep draft, Davis will be available for Ryan Tannehill to work with.
#23 New York Giants- David Njoku, TE, Miami
One of two tight ends that are first-round worthy, Njoku is another athletic freak in the vertical mold that can streak down the seam.
#24 Oakland Raiders-Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
McDowell for some reasons has some question marks around him but if the Raiders say they are not interested, it’s a smokescreen. They need the interior pressure and the sacks, both of which McDowell can immediately deliver.
#25 Houston Texans-Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Tabor will step into a void on a defense that is pretty solid otherwise. Forget about the Texans looking for a signal caller here. They will fortify their strengths and keep it pushing.
#26 Seattle Seahawks- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Legion of Boom needs a little new blood and if there is any merit to the buzz about a Richard Sherman trade, best believe Humphrey will become the new favorite of the 12s.
Sherman is likely to stay, but he and his superstar safeties need another intelligent chess piece that can tackle and play the ball. No other corner in this draft fits that mold better than Humphrey.
Besides, we all know Seattle won’t spend first round money on an offensive lineman.
#27 Kansas City Chiefs-Charles Harris,OLB, Missouri
Harris is a great talent that finds a nice fit with a team that needs to rotate its veteran linebackers due to frequent injuries. Harris has Kansas City Chief written all over him.
#28 Dallas Cowboys- Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Dallas has low-key lost a few key pieces this off season. Going into this period, the Cowboys were already relying on linebacker blitzes and over-achieving defensive line play to get their defense off the field.
Conley can stop the bleeding somewhat and give Dallas a chance to get a bit more creative with their defensive looks.
#29 Green Bay Packers- Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Julius Peppers is out and Charlton will add some spring to a defense that looked geriatric and deflated at the end of the season.
#30 Pittsburgh Steelers-Takkarist McKinley, LB, UCLA
McKinley is a working class, high-motored –bruiser that will fit in well in Pittsburgh. It’s not out-of-the-question to envision a flip-flop with Charles Harris as they share a lot of traits that could send either to Pittsburgh or Kansas City.
#31 Atlanta Falcons- Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Noone helped themselves more at the combine than this kid did. He flat out showed up to impress and Atlanta needs to upgrade their free safety options.
Melifonwu’s abilities and instincts lie somewhere between free and strong safety making him the type of defensive back that head coach Dan Quinn covets.
The Falcons typically telegraph their draft moves yet they have been nearly dead silent about their intentions.
Recent developments have shown that they are focusing on defense and its hard to envision that will leave such a gaping hole wide open with an ideal prototype on the board.
#32 New Orleans Saints- Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
It’s a passing league and the Saints’ secondary has been horrific as of late. Seeing that the win-a-shootout approach hasn’t gotten them anywhere, they will use the pick that they got from New England to finally get stingy over-the-top.