2017 Aftermath NFL Mock Draft

Welcome back NFL Draft fans. Matt, Brian and Jack join me once again for our annual mock draft. This is who we think each team should take at their spot, not who we think they will take.

1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Browns shouldn’t overthink this. Just take Garrett and move on. He is a great talent that would hugely improve a terrible pass rush in Cleveland. This is a deep quarterback draft, wait on selecting one. -CM

2. San Francisco 49ers: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
While a QB is tempting here, I would rather test out Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley first and then wait for next year when there is a stronger QB class. So, they need to fill their defense, and with the last 2 first round picks being D-linemen, a strong secondary presence makes sense for the Niners. -ML

3. Chicago Bears: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
After a 3-13 season, the Bears need to fix a lot.  Importantly, they need to continue to rebuild their defense.  More importantly, a shut down corner can expedite the process, and even with the injuries, Marshon Lattimore is the best cornerback on the board for the Bears to pick. -BM

4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
This was easy. Fournette fills a need and was probably the best talent at this point. Also, imagine how this offense will look when the passing game is not the only threat on the field. -JV

5. Tennessee Titans: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Titans fired their receivers coaches at the end of last season. Rishard Matthews led the way with 65 receptions for 945 yards, in other words, great stats for a number two receiver. Adding Mike Williams fills the void of a big-bodied playmaker who can stretch the field and make third down conversions easier with his huge catch radius. Marcus Mariota was having a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2016 before his injury. Adding Williams would accelerate his growth and make the ground game even more viable, keeping the safety out of the box. -CM

6. New York Jets: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
I really struggled with this pick. In order to avoid the trap of drafting another QB, I really think the Jets should trade down. Malik Hooker made sense here as well, and while Reddick is a stretch, the guy was a freak at the combine and has the ability to play all over the field. Plus, the last guy the Jets drafted out of Temple? Muhammad Wilkerson. -ML

7. Los Angeles Chargers: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
The Chargers could have gone with a safety with this pick, but I feel Thomas will have a larger impact on the Chargers defense. Imagine Thomas lined up opposite to Bosa. Do I need to say anything more? -BM

8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Jonathan Stewart only has so many more miles left on those legs. Not to mention McCaffrey has the hands to catch passes from Cam Newton. This will add another dimension to the Panthers offense. -JV

9. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
It might not be the biggest need for the Bengals, but adding a great pass rusher and likely the best player remaining makes a ton of sense. He could be a long-term replacement for Michael Johnson or start alongside Geno Atkins. -CM

10. Buffalo Bills: OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
This guy is for real.  Howard is a big target, and has the speed and power to match it.  He can make all the catches, run all the routes, and even his blocking as a TE is strong. With the Bills having locked down Tyrod Taylor, it’s time to give him a new toy to play with. -ML

11. New Orleans Saints: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Like every other year, the Saints have a Super Bowl contending offense, but a very flawed defense.  With Hooker dropping this far in the draft, the Saints need to draft him even with the injuries. -BM

12. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Turbisky, QB, UNC
It’s the same old song and dance. The Browns need a quarterback. Except this time Turbisky apparently wants to play in Cleveland. I guess some people are just gluttons for punishment. -JV

13. Arizona Cardinals: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
While rumor has it that this will be a quarterback, Arizona would be smart to draft the future for wide receiver. Davis can block and is a polished route runner. He needs to work on cutting out drops, but who better to learn from than Larry Fitzgerald. -CM

14) Philadelphia Eagles: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Having satisfied their receiver need by signing Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, the Eagles ABSOLUTELY need to take a cornerback, no matter how tempting a RB is. Dalvin Cook is available, but the aggressive corner from the SEC with great open-field tackling skills will be more valuable in the long run. -ML

15. Indianapolis Colts: Derek Barnett, LB,  Tennessee
The Colts did a good job improving their defense this offseason, and one could say drafting an OL with this spot would not be reaching.  However, Barnett gives the Colts defense pass rushing they sorely need.  He could even be the most explosive pass rusher after Garret in this draft. -BM

16. Baltimore Ravens: Takkarist McKinley, UCLA, OLB
The Ravens defense has not been the same in recent years and I think they will address that upfront by taking Takkarist McKinley. -JV

17. Washington: Forrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
Washington takes a page out of Dallas’ playbook and continues to build its offensive line up. Giving Kirk Cousins as much time to throw is critical and with so many running backs still available, adding one in the later rounds will bolster the running game. -CM

18. Tennessee Titans: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
He might just be the better of the Ohio State corners. Lattimore tends to be more highly rated, but his inflated stats are due to teams consistently targeting Conley, who performed admirably under the pressure. With a clean bill of health that his former teammate does not have, and great size and speed for a corner, Conley could step in as a day one starter for the upstart Titans. -ML

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
The Bucs could go a few different directions with this pick, but their running back corps is in flux with the suspension of Martin.  Cook is a game changing talent once one looks past the off field issues, and Tampa Bay loves Florida State products. -BM

20. Denver Broncos: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Broncos need someone to protect that young quarterback of theirs. Ramczyk comes from a Wisconsin system that usually translates well to the NFL. -JV

21. Detroit Lions: John Ross, WR, Washington
Calvin Johnson is gone and not coming back. Anquan Boldin might skip town too. That leaves a pretty serious void behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Ross can start in the slot right away and spread the field underneath by taking the top off of defenses. -CM

22. Miami Dolphins: Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
Once Pouncey returns healthy for the 2017 season, the offense will be shored up, so the Dolphins most glaring hole is CB.  Jackson is explosive and can immediately be plugged next to Byron Maxwell.  An added benefit is his strong play on special teams. -BM

23. New York Giants: Jarran Davis, LB, Florida
For years, ever since Antonio Pierce retired to be honest, the Giants have desperately needed a linebacker, and never taken one. They should this year in one of the strongest LB classes to date, and Davis might just be the best of the bunch. Davis has great tackling instincts, flies to the ball, and word on the street is he’s the kind of character you want to lead your team. -ML

24. Oakland Raiders: David Njoku, TE, Miami
You know how the Raiders usually draft big fast wide receivers? Well, why not a big fast tight end to throw into the mix? Njoku could be a real threat for this team who opens up different areas of the field for other players. -JV

25. Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
About time Houston lands a quarterback. The likelihood is that Watson will be long gone by this pick, but in this scenario, selecting him makes a ton of sense. The one thing that Houston desperately needs is a quarterback. Watson is the most pro ready in this draft, making him a great fit for Houston. -CM

26. Seattle Seahawks: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Seattle is transitioning to a central focus on Russell Wilson, and therefore need to keep him upright so he can make the plays he has to. So, Seattle needs to take the best lineman available who is ready to play right now. I think that guy is Robinson, as the LT at Alabama for 3 years has the experience against great SEC defenses to make an immediate impact on Seattle’s line. -ML

27. Kansas City Chiefs: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
Foster dropped in the draft because of his off field issues, and looking past that, he is clearly the best player available. Derrick Johnson is coming off a torn achillies and will be 35 in November. I have the Chiefs drafting Foster because they should go with the best player available route. Also, Reid knows how to deal with players with previous off field issues, and on the field, Foster will put the Chiefs over the top. -BM

28. Dallas Cowboys: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
As much as I wanted to add to the Cowboys’ offense here, their secondary really needs help. Even though White might be the fourth or fifth corner taken, this is a deep cornerback draft and the Cowboys are getting a good cover corner in White. -JV

29. Green Bay Packers: Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
Keeping Clay Matthews at outside linebacker is essential. Adding Cunningham will allow for that. He needs to improve his tackling, but he always seems to be around the ball. He will likely improve the run defense right away. -CM

30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
This was my favorite pick of this mock draft, because I honestly think it is a perfect fit at the end of the first round.  Ever since Troy Polamalu retired, his presence has been missed, as Pittsburgh misses his wrecking ball mentality and his playmaking abilities.  Peppers is athletic enough to fill that void, and if handled correctly, could vault the Pittsburgh defense right into line with its explosive offense. -ML

31. Atlanta Falcons: Budda Baker, FS, Washington
Although the Falcons defense improved last season, there is still a lot of work to be done.  One could argue they need a defensive lineman or a linebacker to help shore up the rush defense, but the secondary needs help.  Baker is a playmaker and could easily make the Falcons secondary the strength of their defense. -BM

32. New Orleans Saints: Kevin King, CB, Washington
Similar to the Cowboys above, I was really tempted to take some offensive talent, but could not ignore the issues the Saints have on defense. Again, this is a deep cornerback draft and we could see quite a few cornerbacks go in the first round. This Saints defense looks a lot better with Hooker and King coming to town-JV

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Why Griffin Makes Sense in Cleveland

So I was right! I was just about six months early.

Robert Griffin III
Griffin has 40 career touchdown passes from his time in Washington.

Robert Griffin III signed with the Cleveland Browns this afternoon, joining the laundry list of quarterback to play for Cleveland over the last 15 years. While the internet might have had some fun with this, signing Griffin makes a lot of sense for the Browns.

It’s not like the Browns have many better options on their roster right now. Josh McCown is 36 going on 70 and that Manziel guy is now a free agent with some legal trouble. The only other guy on the roster is Austin Davis, whose 13 career NFL starts have left a lot to be desired.

So instead, the Browns are taking a gamble on the former Heisman trophy winner. And there is really no harm in that. Cleveland will likely draft a quarterback with the second overall pick and all signs point to it being Carson Wentz.

Wentz has looked solid during the pre-draft process and he is seemingly pro ready. However, the Browns know better than anyone else on planet Earth that forcing quarterbacks to play in the NFL before they are ready can be catastrophic.

Griffin’s contract is reportedly for two years and maxes out at $15 million. Paying about $7.5 million per year for a short term starting quarterback isn’t a bad deal and because the deal is short, the Browns are not really committed to Griffin. He essentially has a two-year window to show if he can still play in the league. If the answer is no, then start Wentz in 2017.

RG3
Griffin is 15-24 over the first three seasons of his career. 

The reality is that the Browns need someone to play quarterback and they are taking a low-risk high-reward gamble on RGIII. And this is not Denver where they are likely just a quarterback away from a deep playoff run. Cleveland would miss the playoffs this year with Russell Wilson under center. There just isn’t enough talent. Getting Griffin gives the Browns a stopgap while they continue to try to improve in other areas of the roster and groom a future starter.

Imagine for just a second if Griffin somehow reverts to his 2012, rookie of the year form during the next two seasons with the Browns. First of all, Griffin would then have suitors around the league after his contract is over and Cleveland would have the happy situation of having two starting quarterbacks.

In the best case scenario, Griffin proves to be a stud and the Browns ship him off to Denver or Philadelphia after his first season for some draft picks. Worst case scenario is that Griffin flounders again, or even more likely gets hurt, and Cleveland turns the keys over to Wentz at the start of his second year.

All in all, I think this is a great deal for both sides. Cleveland gets a two-year rental at quarterback and Griffin gets one last shot to prove he can still play in this league.

Potential landing spots for Alex Mack

Every year, there is a premier talent that hits the open market in the NFL. Turns out that the hottest commodity is one we did not expect.

Alex Mack
Mack started every game in six out of his seven seasons with Cleveland.

Alex Mack announced at Pro Bowl practice that he would like to opt out of his current deal with the Cleveland Browns. Mack is a three-time Pro Bowler and a former All-Pro. He is widely regarded as a top five player at his position.

Mack is set to make $8 million with his current deal, but he and his agent believe that he is worth a lot more than that and that he can get a lot more than that. With few other centers expected to be available in free agency, we could see that boost Mack’s value even more.

While this does not mean that Mack is definitely leaving the Browns, the possibility now exists. So I figured it was time to find a couple of good fits for when he hits the free agent market. Something to note is that Mack definitely fits better as a pass blocker than a run blocker, so that needs to be considered.

Hue Jackson
Jackson should make retaining Mack a priority in his first days as coach.

Cleveland Browns
Obviously, Mack would have just opted out of his Browns deal, but it seems more monetary than distain for Cleveland. With the Browns under a new direction with Hue Jackson at head coach, Mack might be enticed into hanging around. The Browns would need him too. The closest thing to a backup center is either long-snapper Charley Hughlett or rookie right guard Cameron Erving, who played center at Florida State. Mack would be a center piece on a developing offense that needs a huge makeover already.

Russell_Wilson
Wilson suffered the most sacks of his career this season.

Seattle Seahawks
This past offseason, Seattle outsmarted itself in trading for Jimmy Graham. It was assumed that the former All-Pro tight end would push the Seahawks of the brink and turn them into a true powerhouse. However, the lack of a steady offensive line proved to be the constant issue for the offense all year. Part of the deal to acquire Graham involved sending Pro Bowl center Max Unger to New Orleans. Bringing in Mack would truly make Seattle’s offense scary. If they cut down on the 46 sacks allowed this past season and give Russell Wilson more time to pick apart offenses, look out.

Blake Bortles
Bortles was sacked 106 times over the last two seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars
Even though spending big every season in free agency hasn’t seemed to work, adding Mack could be a savvy move for this young Jaguars squad. Blake Bortles is clearly coming into his own and the skill positions for Jacksonville look to be improving. Solidifying the offensive line by signing a proven veteran like Mack would make a major impact. Jacksonville allowed the fourth most sacks in the league this season and failed to impress in the running game. Mack would immediately remedy both of those issues, along with replace soon-to-be free agent Stefan Wisniewski. In the end, Jacksonville should push very hard to sign Mack.

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans
Mariota only managed to start 12 games in his rookie season.

Tennessee Titans
Another AFC South team could use some help on the offensive line, especially when you consider the circumstances. Tennessee has a young quarterback in Marcus Mariota who got banged around this season and missed some time with various injuries. The Titans also match up twice a year with the Houston Texans, which means a nice dosage of J.J. Watt. The Titans allowed the most sacks by any NFL team this season and had a ground game that was average at best. Plugging in Mack and then drafting Laremy Tunsil first overall makes this group look like one of the better ones in the league. Mack’s presence could make a huge difference in whether the Titans continue to falter near the bottom or start showing signs that the rebuild has worked.

Free agency is still a long way off but Mack seems intent on exploring his options. If Mack does leave Cleveland, I think his first choice would be to play in Seattle, but I would not be surprised to see him land in Jacksonville either.

Have we seen the last of Johnny Manziel?

In the past I have defended Johnny Manziel. That ends here. He lost my support. He has proven to me that he does not belong in this league.

Johnny Manziel 2014
Manziel became a fan favorite in Cleveland before he ever played a down in the NFL.

Rumors surfaced yesterday that the Browns coaching staff and management was done with Johnny Manziel. Who can blame them? He might have generated a lot of excitement and fan fair when he drafted, but Manziel has been nothing but a pain in the ass since he walked through the door two years ago. He has shown himself to be unreliable, immature and uncommitted.

It pains me to say these things about Manziel. He is one of my favorite players to watch. He is riveting on the field. He has the potential to be electric. He makes you gasp and groan and everything in between. Unfortunately, off the field, he often makes you shake your head and now Manziel is in hot water for his latest antics.

The 23-year old was inactive this week due to a concussion, so Manziel decided he didn’t want to be with the team. He was reportedly spotted in Las Vegas last night, before the Browns season finale with the Steelers. He was supposed to show up for a scheduled meeting with team doctors on Sunday morning, but failed to appear. This was the final straw for Cleveland, who has been trying to police this kid from day one. Between DUIs and rehab stints, Manziel has been a tabloid writer’s dream.

Johnny_Manziel
Manziel did post a 54.7 Total QBR rating this season, which was fractionally better than Cleveland’s other quarterback, Josh McCown.

Rumor has it that Manziel is interested in leaving the Browns in order to join the Cowboys during the offseason. Remember, Dallas showed a lot of interest in Manziel during the 2014 draft and came close to selecting him in the middle of the first round. With his track record though, you have to start wondering if Manziel wants to play for the Cowboys, or hit the Dallas party scene with a couple of the team’s cheerleaders.

It is hard to name a player who has been more irresponsible during his first two seasons in the NFL. Sure, every player has their own adjustment period when they join the league but Manziel doesn’t show any signs of settling down. He just keeps doing whatever he pleases, making it clear just how selfish he is as a teammate.

The Browns are already an embarrassment of a franchise. Since 1999, Cleveland have just two winning seasons and played in just one playoff game. The Browns also managed to churn through 26 starting quarterbacks during that time span. This team is already down and out, they certainly don’t need things like videos of their starting quarterback drunk at a house party cropping up online. No franchise needs that.

Manziel has burned his only bridge in Cleveland. I can’t imagine that many teams will touch the former Texas A&M Heisman winner with a 10-foot pole. He brings with him a media hailstorm, a questionable work ethic, a tendency to get into trouble and a lack of production.

Johnny Manziel
Manziel has failed to live up to expectations heaped on him when he arrived in Cleveland.

It is easy to pretend that Manziel’s problems are solely off the field. He struggles a lot on the field as well. He has posted a 57 percent completion rate in his two seasons, while turning the ball over 14 times. He averages a lackluster 6.5 yards per attempt and lacks the mechanics of a pro quarterback. If you watch him play, it is rare that Manziel looks to more than his first option before he starts to scramble.

On all sides, Manziel is a mess. He is a middling quarterback with an attitude problem and an inability to stay out of trouble. Even if he says that he just did not like Cleveland and he would be willing to do all the right things for a different team, what does that say about his demeanor and character? That is not the type of guy that I would want in my locker room.

Jerry Jones
Dallas selected offensive linemen Zach Martin instead of Manziel in 2014.

However, Jerry Jones showed earlier this year that he was not afraid of a potential locker room cancer. He signed Greg Hardy, who immediately flared up and started fights with coaches and teammates. Jones responded by saying he wanted to resign Hardy. Jones was also apparently at the forefront of the bring Manziel to Dallas campaign back in 2014. Something tells me that he is salivating at the thought of bring him in from Cleveland. He will surely cite Dallas’ shakiness at the quarterback position behind Tony Romo as a justification for bringing Manziel on, if he does choose to sign him.

I think Dallas is the only team that might give Manziel a shot, otherwise, we could see Manziel take the route of another polarizing former Heisman trophy winning first round selection in Tim Tebow. Could you imagine those two working together on the SEC Network? Oh what I would give to listen to those off-camera conversations.

Back to the point, Manziel has made it very difficult for any general manager to consider signing him. There are simply too many red flags surrounding him. More and more frequently, teams are staying away from players with any character issues.

Maybe Manziel would straighten himself out with another team. Maybe he would benefit from learning for a year behind a veteran quarterback. Maybe he would play better with a better supporting cast. All of this is plausible but I don’t know if we will ever find out. If Dallas will not sign him, I think we have seen the last of Johnny Manziel.

Gary Who?

Who the hell is Gary Barnidge? I’m guessing this was a pretty common search on Google over the past couple of weeks. The Cleveland Browns’ tight end has come out of nowhere to shock the league with his consistently dominant play at the position.

For a player who is playing so well, you have to wonder why we had never heard of him before. Well maybe he is really young? No, actually Barnidge is already 30 and playing in his eighth season in the NFL. Maybe he was buried on the depth chart? It’s the Browns. They do not have talented skill players for him to be buried behind. New quarterback gave him new life? Josh McCown is older than he is and not exactly a franchise QB.

There isn’t really an explanation for Gary Barnidge’s sudden emergence into the NFL spotlight. It sort of just happened.

Gary Barnidge
Barnidge spent most of his NFL career in anonymity. There were seasons where he was not even targeted.

Barnidge was drafted out of Louisville in the fifth round of the 2008 draft by the Carolina Panthers. Barnidge failed to record a catch in his rookie year. He also did not have a reception during the 2010 or 2011 NFL season. After the 2012 season, Barnidge made the move to Ohio. He didn’t see much of an uptick in production though, continuing as an unknown entity.

In fact, Barnidge’s career stat line heading into 2015 was 44 receptions for 603 yards and three touchdowns. That is probably an average season for most tight ends right there, potentially even a down year. It took Barnidge seven years to pile up those numbers.

There was no indication that anything had changed for the Browns’ tight end during the offseason. No one speculated that the 30-year old backup tight end for Cleveland was poised for a breakout season. That’s right backup. Barnidge did not start the first two games of the season for the Browns at tight end, sitting behind Jim Dray. He had very little production with just four catches for 55 yards and no scores.

Then, in Week 3, Barnidge exploded. He hauled in six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, his first since 2013. Since then Barnidge hasn’t looked back.

On the year, Barnidge has 40 catches for 567 yards and six touchdowns. He ranks seventeenth in the league for both receptions and receiving yardage among all players. His half-dozen scores are tied for fourth. In all of those categories, he is second among tight ends behind only Rob Gronkowski.

Gronk is far and away the best tight end in the league, and the best one we have seen in some time. His 2015 stat line is 40 catches for 646 yards and 7 touchdowns. Barnidge really isn’t too far off from Gronk’s production this season. The former has player one more game than the latter this year but the latter also has Tom Brady as a quarterback. That is a slight upgrade over McCown.

This is one of the most bizarre stories of 2015. No one, and I mean no one, expected this. Barnidge has taken the league by storm. He is on pace to beat his career totals in receptions and receiving yards this upcoming week in just his ninth game of the season. Barnidge will likely be on that shortlist for the players making the trip down to Hawaii for the annual Pro Bowl as well if he continues his production.

Even if Barnidge begins to taper off down the stretch this is still one of the most impressive runs we have ever seen by a player who was previously so anonymous.

Peyton Hillis
Hillis rushed for over 1,100 yards in 2010 then never eclipsed 600 yards in his final three years in the league.

The only comparison I can make to Barnidge’s fast track to fame is actually to a former Cleveland player in Peyton Hillis. Much like Barnidge, Hillis came from nowhere to finish sixth in yards from scrimmage and tied third in total touchdowns.

However, Barnidge and Cleveland fans alike must hope that Barnidge is not a one-year wonder like Hillis. Following his tremendous 2010 campaign, Hillis never rushed for over 600 yards again and scored fewer touchdowns over the next three years than he did in that one season.

There is no telling how long Barnidge’s run will continue. For now, we must simply enjoy it while it lasts.