Just one day away from the start of the 2017 NFL Draft, it is officially time for anyone who's done any type of draft work to release their final mock draft.
Though I have close to no idea what is going to happen Thursday night after the first selection of Myles Garrett, I gave it my best shot to project the first 32 picks. To keep things simple, I stayed away from making trades, though it is unlikely each team will stay put on draft night.
While my first mock draft on Slant Sports was a bit more of a "what would I do" exercise, this is meant more to be a projection of what could happen in the first round.
So, without further adieu, let's get into the picks.
R1/1 - CLE: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
This is pretty much a no-brainer. Myles Garrett is the best EDGE prospect since Jadeveon Clowney to most people, and deserves to go first overall. The Browns will have a chance to move up into the top 10 again to grab their quarterback, but they should still take Garrett first overall.
R1/2 - SF: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
This is where the draft really starts, right? The 49ers can go a lot of directions here, but I think they fall in love with strong safety Jamal Adams. I don't love drafting a strong safety this high at all, but the 49ers will add a tone-setter to their defense.
R1/3 - CHI: Solomon Thomas, EDGE, Stanford
Salivating because the 49ers passed on Thomas, the Bears jump in and grab him third overall. I'm not "as" high on Thomas as others, but still believe he could be worth the early first round pick. If the pick isn't Thomas, I'd expect either a quarterback or Ohio State corner Marshon Lattimore to go to Chicago.
R1/4 - JAC: Deshuan Watson, QB, Clemson
This is where things get a little weird. The Jags need to move on from Blake Bortles sooner rather than later, and I just have a feeling Tom Coughlin really likes Watson's intangibles. Just a hunch. Plus, I think if any of these quarterbacks are worth a high pick, it'd be Watson.
R1/5 - TEN: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
With the Jaguars passing on some impressive defensive talent to take a quarterback, the Titans get the pick of the litter here fifth overall. Lattimore is a top five player in this class to me, and the Titans pick up a number one corner.
R1/6 - NYJ: Mitchell Trubisky , QB, North Carolina
And with the sixth overall pick, the second quarterback domino falls. Mitchell Trubisky isn't my favorite QB in this class, but he fits what the Jets front office tends to look for in the draft. While they have other holes, and there are better players on the board, if you don't have a quarterback what chance do you really have in this league?
R1/7 - LAC: Malik Hooker, Safety, Ohio State
The best safety in this class to me is clearly Malik Hooker. Drafting him the Chargers get SAF1 and DB2 to me in this class, and find a single-high center-fielder for years to come.
R1/8 - CAR: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Falling to the 8th overall pick, Leonard Fournette finds a home beside Cam Newton in the NFL. The Panthers offense needs to start providing Cam some more help, and Fournette is the power running back to do just that.
R1/9 - CIN: Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
The two most pressing needs for the Bengals are probably running back and defensive end. Barnett isn't my favorite EDGE remaining, but he's the most likely of the bunch to go in the top ten.
R1/10 - BUF: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Bills made the smart decision to maintain Tyrod Taylor this offseason, and it's time to draft him some weaponry to work with. The Bills love ACC players, and Mike Williams is a legit WR1-type.
R1/11 - NO: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Saints desperately need secondary help, and Marlon Humphrey might be the next-best corner in this draft class behind Marshon Lattimore. With another pick at the end of the first round, they should be able to address their other defensive needs as well.
R1/12 - CLE: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
The Browns miss out on the two consensus favorites at quarterback, but add two incredible defensive line prospects. Myles Garrett and Jonathan Allen? Sign me up.
R1/13 - ARI: Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
The Cardinals have some more needy holes to fill, but I'd love to see Mahomes with Bruce Arians. Give Patrick Mahomes a year to develop and learn, and you could have your next starting quarterback in 2018.
R1/14 - PHI: Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
A running back like Christian McCaffery or Dalvin Cook would make sense here, but the Eagles can add an explosive young defensive end to their rotation in Charles Harris.
R1/15 - IND: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Possibly the best wide-out in this class falls to the Colts here, and Indianapolis gives Andrew Luck the best target he's ever had.
R1/16 - BAL: John Ross, WR, Washington
Completing a mini-run on first round receivers, the Ravens add speedster John Ross and immediately improve their weak passing game.
R1/17 - WAS: Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
In my opinion, Malik McDowell would be worthy of the second overall pick in this draft if not for "non-football" reasons. Washington needs some serious defensive line help, and McDowell brings that for sure.
R1/18 - TEN: OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
Though they missed out on the top receivers, the Titans give Marcus Mariota a legit offensive weapon in OJ Howard. Howard is deserving of a top ten pick, and the Titans would rejoice if he falls to 18th overall.
R1/19 - TB: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
With both Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffery falling, the Bucs have an incredible opportunity to draft one of the top backs in this class. They decide on Dalvin Cook, and add to an already impressive offensive unit.
R1/20 - DEN: Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford
The Broncos do need to add some offensive line help, and could take the first tackle off the board. But if McCaffery falls to them, they should draft him. With the way things are going, however, I doubt McCaffery falls this far in real life.
R1/21 - DET: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
The fall of Reuben Foster continues, as the Lions decide to go with Reddick instead of the Alabama stud. Reddick brings versatility and athleticism to a defense which could use both.
R1/22 - MIA: Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
And finally, the first offensive line domino falls. Forrest Lamp is my favorite offensive lineman in this class, and will be a much needed addition to the Dolphins offense who so badly needs guard help.
R1/23 - NYG: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Cam Robinson is the best tackle in this draft class, and the Giants biggest need is at tackle. This makes too much sense. The only other legit option I see for them here would be Miami tight end David Njoku.
R1/24 - OAK: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
The Raiders have a dire need at inside linebacker, and Reuben Foster is the best of this bunch. If not for a diluted drug sample, he'd certainly be a top 15 selection.
R1/25 - HOU: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Texans need a quarterback badly, but there isn't one remaining that makes sense for them in year one. Instead, they work on protecting whoever their QB will be, bringing in arguably the most NFL-ready tackle in the draft.
R1/26 - SEA: Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
I don't know if any team needs offensive line help like the Seahawks do. Garrett Bolles has some position versatility, though he should be a day one tackle for Seattle with a high upside and low floor.
R1/27 - KC: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
The Chiefs already have a solid defensive unit, but could really use some linebacker help. Zach Cunningham would be a good pick as well, but I see Davis as the better prospect.
R1/28 - DAL: Tyus Bowser, EDGE, Houston
Tyus Bowser has been a riser over the last few months, and could be just the pass rusher the Cowboys need to take their defense to the next level. They could go with Takkarist McKinley here, but his shoulder issues may push him down their board. TJ Watt is also a fan-favorite, but I am partial towards Bowser personally. I also considered going with Washington corner Kevin King here, but I think the depth of this corner class forces Dallas to go EDGE in the first round.
R1/29 - GB: Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
Missing out on Tyus Bowser, the Packers will certainly be tempted to make TJ Watt the pick here. They could also look towards Kansas State's Jordan Willis or maybe even Youngstown State's Derrick Rivers. However, they might think that round two is a better spot for those players, and instead take a first round corner off the board in Tre'Davious White.
R1/30 - PIT: Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
With the Cowboys passing on Takk, the Steelers add the 3-4 OLB they need to replace James Harrison down the line. McKinley might be the second EDGE player off the board if it weren't for his shoulder issues.
R1/31 - ATL: Budda Baker, S, Washington
After drafting Keanu Neal, the Falcons now must add a free safety who can takeover Ricardo Allen's role. Budda Baker is exactly that player, and can be Dan Quinn's new Earl Thomas prototype.
R1/32 - NO: TJ Watt, EDGE, Wisconsin
With their second first-round pick, the Saints address the other part of the defense. They got secondary help in Humphrey early, and get a solid pass rusher/linebacker late in TJ Watt.
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
Why Cowboys Nation Should Feel Better About Leighton Vander Esch
A week ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell walked out to the stage at AT&T Stadium to announce the Dallas Cowboys first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. For the second consecutive year, a large portion of Cowboys Nation was not pretty happy about the player America's Team had drafted in the first day of the Draft.
Boise State's Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has become one of the main debates among Cowboys fans right now and will continue to be one at least until the season starts. Some are fine with the decision the front office made and some simply don't view Vander Esch as a first round talent.
Naturally, taking Leighton in the first round has been widely compared to the team's last first round pick: Taco Charlton.
Both of these selections resulted in fans all around the world complaining and criticizing the selections since they both seemed like a reach, arguing that they could've gotten better players at other positions.
But fans shouldn't be so quick to compare the Charlton and Vander Esch selections, because they really aren't that similar. Sure, most of the media and Draft fans didn't consider any of these players worthy of a first round pick, but that doesn't mean both players were ranked similarly in the Cowboys' draft board.
Defensive End Taco Charlton, despite showing some very promising flashes towards the end of the year, wasn't able to become a starter at any point during his rookie season. Hopefully he develops into one next season. But when you're talking about first-round picks, being a solid starter at the end of the season at the latest is a very usual expectation.
Possibly what made the Taco pick hurt even more, is the fact that the front office didn't even consider him a first-round talent. Although he was drafted to wear the Star with the 28th overall pick, he wasn't their guy.
The #Cowboys had three first-round grades on DEs, but Taco Charlton wasn't one of them.
With Leighton Vander Esch, the same can't be said. The Cowboys knew he was their guy and that they were going to take him, regardless of the situation. For many weeks we wondered about just every scenario the team might face when they were on the clock.
What if DE Harold Landry is available? What if Calvin Ridley is still on the board? What if Derwin James slides, would they trade up?
For the front office, there was quite a lot of talent to choose from at 19 (not to mention James did slide out of the top 15), but they still took Leighton Vander Esch, even with Landry and Ridley on the board. We might disagree with the pick. We might not think the Boise State's product should've been taken so early. That's completely fine.
But Cowboys Nation should be happy knowing that this was the guy they wanted all along. Maybe if Derwin James hadn't been drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 17th pick, Dallas would have still taken Vander Esch.
"If the Cowboys traded up a few spots in the first round, I believe it would have been to ensure they got Vander Esch, not get James or Edmunds." Dane Brugler on the Cowboys' approach to the Draft.
For now, it's time to root for the Dallas Cowboys' new rookie. Vander Esch will provide a special factor to this defense and has the potential to become a very good starter down the road. Playing side by side with Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith will certainly help his development and turn him into an impact player soon.
At the end of the day, it takes years to properly evaluate how a draft pick turned out in the NFL. There are first round players who turn out to be complete busts just like there are sixth or seventh round players that go on to become superstars in the league.
The Dallas Cowboys did a hell of a job addressing their needs throughout the Draft this year and there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this year's draft picks. Leighton Vander Esch is without a doubt, one of them.
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