John Lynch grabs the 49ers a franchise quarterback. San Francisco should be in position to land one of the top four quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Darnold was very impressive as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and impressed evaluators even though he wasn't being graded yet. Along with a quality skill set, teams like his intangibles and moxie. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 6-4, 225-pounder led USC on a nine-game winning streak to end the season.
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Prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, sources with the Jets told me they didn't like the 2017 quarterback prospects. They also said that Christian Hackenberg is developing well and worked really hard behind the scenes during his rookie year. However, if Hackenberg doesn't show some promise on the field in 2017, the Jets could be targeting a quarterback in next year's draft class.
Allen (6-5, 222) became a discussed prospect late in the 2016 season, but he wisely decided to return to Wyoming. He has a special skill set, and some draft analysts were projecting him high in the first round, but one general manager told WalterFootball.com that he had Allen as a third-day prospect and thought Allen should improve before going pro. Other team sources that did advance work for National Scouting for the 2018 prospects really liked Allen and compared him to Ben Roethlisberger, so don't be surprised if he is a polarizing prospect. However he has a great skill set with tons of upside. In 2016, Allen completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
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The Bears need a franchise left tackle to protect Mitchell Trubisky.
Adams was one of the top left tackles in the Pac-12 during 2016. The Huskies fielded a potent passing offense, and Adams did a nice job of keeping Jake Browning protected. The 6-foot-7, 302-pound Adams has length and size on the edge to go along with good quickness and athleticism. Sources have raved about Adams being one of the top talents for the 2018 NFL Draft class with franchise left tackle potential. They were impressed with his 2016 tape including how well he did in one-on-ones with Alabama's edge rushers in the Huskies' playoff game.
Key could be too good for the Rams to pass on as, entering the season, I have him as the best talent for the 2018 NFL Draft. I know team sources who feel the same way. Los Angeles could use an edge rusher to pair with Robert Quinn. William Hayes led the Rams with only five sacks last year and was traded to Miami.
In 2016, Key was one of the best players in college football. He recorded 56 tackles with 14.5 for a loss, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes broken up on the year. Key is a dangerous pass-rusher with excellent speed and the ability to bend around the corner. He flashed a ton of potential as a freshman for LSU, totaling 41 tackles with 6.5 for a loss, five sacks and one pass broken up. The 6-foot-6, 231-pounder is a lightning-fast edge rusher with a ton of upside to develop.
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The Browns drafted DeShone Kizer during the second round in the 2017 NFL Draft, but that won't stop them from adding a signal-caller who they think could be a franchise quarterback.
Jackson (6-3, 205) set college football on fire in 2016 while winning the Heisman Trophy. He was a massive point-producer for the Cardinals. Jackson completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the year. He also ran for 21 touchdowns and 1,571 yards while averaging six yards per carry.
Jackson has a good athletic skill set, but he will need to show more accuracy and pocket-passing skills in 2017 to be a high draft pick. Jackson also faces some size concerns.
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If Blake Bortles doesn't have a big season, the Jaguars will be searching for a potential franchise quarterback.
Rosen completed 59 percent of his passes in 2016 for 1,915 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in his six games before being sidelined by shoulder surgery. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has a strong arm with pocket-passing skills, yet could stand to improve his decision-making and accuracy. Scouts who have done advance work on the 2018 prospects have told me that Rosen is disliked by his teammates and lacks leadership skills for the NFL. That could cause him to slide.
Rosen had an impressive debut as a freshman, completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,670 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He showed off a powerful arm and the ability to be an NFL pocket passer.
While Rosen has gotten a ton of hype, the same thing happened with Christian Hackenberg and Brad Kaaya after their freshman seasons. Thus, Rosen still has more to prove as a junior to be a high first-rounder. Undergoing a personality makeover also sounds advisable.
The Bills were in the market for safety help early in the 2017 NFL Draft, but didn't draft one at all. Here's a difference-maker who could make an impact in the deep middle of Buffalo's defense.
James totaled 11 tackles through two games in 2016 before sustaining a knee injury. He had been playing well for Florida State. Entering the 2016 season, there was a lot of hype that James was an elite player and perhaps the best defensive player in college football. As a freshman in 2015, he had a strong debut with 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles, but zero interceptions. The 6-foot-3, 211-pounder has a great athletic skill set.
The Cardinals grab their heir apparent for Larry Fitzgerald.
In 2016, Ridley made 72 catches for 769 yards with seven touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder had a tremendous freshman season for the Crimson Tide as their No. 1 receiver. As a replacement for Amari Cooper, Ridley was very effective with 89 receptions for 1,045 yards with seven touchdowns. He finished the 2015 season with impressive performances against Florida and Michigan State to help push Alabama to the National Championship. Ridley has size, speed and a ton of upside for the NFL.
Unless Kenny Dixon has a breakout year, the Ravens will still need a feature back for their offense.
Barkley was excellent in 2016, and NFL sources have already said they think he's a stud back for the next level. The sophomore averaged 5.5 yards per carry on the year for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also made 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver.
Barkley was very impressive as a freshman in 2015 when he averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,076 yards with seven touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 161 yards and a score. Barkley was very impressive running for 194 yards on 26 carries against an Ohio State defense loaded with NFL talent. The 5-foot-11, 223-pounder is a tough runner with a burst.
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10.Indianapolis Colts:Dorance Armstrong Jr., DE, Kansas
The Colts signed John Simon and Jabaal Sheard, but they still need a No. 1 edge rusher to lead their defense.
Armstrong was a big presence for Kansas in 2016 as he totaled 10 sacks with 20 tackles for a loss, 56 tackles and three forced fumbles. Armstrong (6-4, 241) could use more weight for the NFL to be an edge rusher against pro offensive tackles. He also could be considered at linebacker.
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The Vikings could consider taking a defensive tackle given the uncertainty around Sharrif Floyd.
Scouts who have looked ahead to the 2018 class have raved about Payne's potential. Coming from Alabama, it isn't a stretch as Payne could take on the lead role for the Crimson Tide with Jonathan Allen moving on to the NFL. Payne (6-2, 319) is a run plugger with a lot of potential to grow. When given the opportunity to rush the passer, Payne was impressive in 2016 and sources have said that he helped set up sacks for Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, and Ryan Anderson.
The Eagles only signed Alshon Jeffery to a 1-year contract. Here's a long-term playmaker for Carson Wentz.
Kirk played well in 2016 despite inconsistent quarterback play from the Aggies. He had 83 receptions for 928 yards with nine touchdowns while splitting targets with wideouts like Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones. Kirk is a fast, explosive play-maker. Some scouting sources have said their nickname for Kirk is "Baby Beckham" in reference to Odell Beckham Jr.
Kirk (5-11, 200) had an outstanding freshman debut for Texas A&M and earned playing time over more veteran receivers who had previously produced for the Aggies. In 2015, Kirk caught 80 passes for 1,009 yards with seven touchdowns. He averaged only 19.3 yards per kick return, but averaged 24.4 yards per punt returns with two touchdowns.
Previous Mock Selections: 7/17-Da'Ron Payne, DT/NT
13.Buffalo Bills:Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame
The Bills may move on from Sammy Watkins after this season, and if they do, they will need a No. 1 receiver to pair with Zay Jones.
Scouts who have done advance work on the 2018 class have told me they really are intrigued with St. Brown. They say he is a super-polished route runner with tremendous speed, athletic ability, body control, and hands. They said they think St. Brown could be more gifted and talented than the three wideouts who went in the top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft, but he gets fewer opportunities. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder had a quality 2016 season with 58 receptions for 961 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Saints grab a base end to go across from Cam Jordan.
Brown is a sturdy defender at the point of attack and impressed last year. Scouting sources say that Brown has a first-round skill set entering the 2017 season. He totaled six sacks, 13 tackles for a loss and 38 tackles. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder has good size to be a base end.
The Titans signed Johnathan Cyprien, but some in the organization weren't big fans of Cyprien, while sources at other teams said they picked on him. I could see Tennessee looking for an upgrade to go with Kevin Byard.
In 2016, Fitzpatrick recorded 66 tackles with seven passes broken up and six interceptions. He was dominant at times for Alabama, splitting time between corner and safety. Fitzpatrick had a superb 2015 season for the Crimson Tide. The freshman totaled 45 tackles with two sacks, 11 passes broken up and two interceptions - both returned for a touchdowns.
The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder has excellent size and some natural cover skills. He has a ton of upside to develop. It sounds as if his preference and natural position is safety. Sources who have looked ahead to the 2018 NFL Draft have said that Fitzpatrick is a prototypical free safety who can cover over the slot or in the middle of the field, yet also be a center fielder. They say he has good size, speed, athletic ability, high football IQ and is a play-maker.
Carolina signed Matt Kalil, but he was a bust for Minnesota, so it is hard to bank on him turning things around for the Panthers. Michael Oher was released as well, so the Panthers could still be in the market for tackle help after this season.
Williams (6-6, 290) started at left tackle as a freshman and sophomore for the Longhorns. He was a steady pass protector and a consistent run blocker. Williams has good length, quickness and athleticism. It would be good to see him become stronger and show more heavy hands.