One half of the NFL’s Wild Card Round is in the books with two more games left to play on Sunday. With their Saturday losses, the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions joined the other 20 teams that are now preparing for a long offseason.
Next up for them is the NFL draft, which presents an opportunity for teams to immediately acquire a game-changer.
The potential game-changing impact of rookies was most recently put on display by quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, who throttled the Dallas Cowboys to a 13-3 record, an NFC East title and the No. 1 seed in the conference.
With that, let’s take a look at my latest mock draft predicting which elite talents will go in the first round:
|1||Cleveland Browns||Myles Garrett||DE||Texas A&M|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||DeShone Kizer||QB||Notre Dame|
|3||Chicago Bears||Jamal Adams||S||LSU|
|4||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jonathan Allen||DT||Alabama|
|5||Tennessee Titans (via Rams)||Malik Hookier||S||Ohio State|
|6||New York Jets||Mitch Trubisky||QB||North Carolina|
|7||San Diego Chargers||Cam Robinson||OT||Alabama|
|8||Carolina Panthers||Derek Barnett||DE||Tennessee|
|9||Cincinnati Bengals||Reuben Foster||LB||Alabama|
|10||Buffalo Bills||Marlon Humphrey||CB||Alabama|
|11||New Orleans Saints||Quincy Wilson||CB||Florida|
|12||Cleveland Browns (via Eagles)||Leonard Fournette||RB||LSU|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Marshon Lattimore||CB||Ohio State|
|14||Indianapolis Colts||Dalvin Cook||RB||Florida St.|
|15||Philadelphia Eagles (via Vikings)||Mike Williams||WR||Clemson|
|16||Baltimore Ravens||Malik McDowell||DE||Michigan St.|
|17||Washington Redskins||Jabrill Peppers||LB/S||Michigan|
|18||Tennessee Titans||John Ross||WR||Washington|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Caleb Brantley||DT||Florida|
|20||Denver Broncos||O.J. Howard||TE||Alabama|
|21||Detroit Lions||Chris Wormley||DE/DT||Michigan|
|22||Miami Dolphins||Solomon Thomas||DE||Stanford|
|23||New York Giants||Zach Cunningham||LB||Vanderbilt|
|24||Oakland Raiders||Jalen “Teez” Tabor||CB||Florida|
|25||Houston Texans||Deshaun Watson||QB||Clemson|
|26||Green Bay Packers||Taco Charlton||DE||Michigan|
|27||Seattle Seahawks||Martinas Rankin||OT||Mississippi St.|
|28||Pittsburgh Steelers||Charles Harris||DE/LB||Missouri|
|29||Atlanta Falcons||Adoree’ Jackson||CB||USC|
|30||Kansas City Chiefs||Sidney Jackson||CB||Washington|
|31||Dallas Cowboys||Dawuane Smoot||DE||Illinois|
|32||New England Patriots||T.J. Watt||LB||Wisconsin|
Could 3 Quarterbacks Go in Round 1?
This could be the third time since 2014 that three quarterbacks are selected in the first round, given the need for passers around the league.
While the Cleveland Browns could take a quarterback with their No. 1 overall pick, it was revealed back in December that the organization has an “astronomical grade” on Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
At No. 2, though, the San Francisco 49ers need to find another option other than Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert.
In 2016, the 49ers’ passing offense under Chip Kelly ranked dead last in the league, which was a big reason why the team was 27th in scoring and Kelly was fired.
They’ll have the first crack at either DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame or North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky. Those two are widely considered bona fide early-first-round talents at the quarterback position.
According to Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com, more team sources are leaning toward Kizer because “they prefer his skill set,” so Kizer lands at No. 2.
He experienced a difficult 2016 season, but he was still voted the program’s most valuable player:
“Calm, but demanding.”
QB DeShone Kizer was named our Most Valuable Player for 2016. pic.twitter.com/z1ABTOPXmp
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) December 30, 2016
That leaves Trubisky up for grabs, and while the Chicago Bears could take him as a replacement for Jay Cutler, there is the possibility they can draft a defensive back instead in an attempt to fix a unit that intercepted just eight passes and allowed 1,950 rushing yards.
A safety like Jamal Adams out of LSU could be a perfect fit there.
With the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans set at quarterback, that allows the New York Jets to get their man.
New York hasn’t tried to hide the fact that it wants the North Carolina product, as league sources told Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News in December that the Jets “are all over this kid.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career as a Jet is all but over after the tough season he had, which was played under a one-year deal.
That leaves the team with Bryce Petty, who suffered a shoulder injury requiring surgery, and Christian Hackenberg. There’s little confidence surrounding Hackenberg, though, as a team source told Mehta that “he will never make it.”
Nabbing a quarterback with a big arm like Trubisky could be a huge addition to a Jets team that is going to look very different in 2017.
A third quarterback could be taken at the end of the first round, depending on how the Houston Texans view their current situation.
Brock Osweiler has not lived up to his big contract, despite Houston winning the AFC South and advancing to the divisional round.
If the team is desperate enough for an alternative arm, look for either Clemson’s Deshaun Watson or Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes to get the nod.