Posted Tuesday, March 7, 2017.
I did this the past six years, and I thought it would be pretty fun to do it again. It's exactly what it sounds like - if free agency occurred in a draft format, who would be the top picks? I've excluded all the free agents who are either restricted or franchised.
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Real 2017 NFL Mock Draft
Cleveland Browns: Kevin Zeitler, G, Bengals. Age: 27.
As with the 2017 NFL Draft, the free agent market contains so many players at the other positions who happen to be better than the signal-callers. Of course, this is to be expected in free agency.
The Browns could be interested in All-Pro guard Kevin Zeitler to upgrade their poor offensive line. Signing Zeitler would make one of their rivals weaker as well, so that's an added bonus.
San Francisco 49ers: T.J. Lang, G, Packers. Age: 29.
Speaking of a team with offensive line issues, the 49ers had major problems blocking this past season, and they need help all across the offensive line, save for left tackle. T.J. Lang has some injury concerns, but if he's healthy, he's one of the top guards in the NFL.
Chicago Bears: Calais Campbell, DE/DT, Cardinals. Age: 31.
The Bears could use some help on the defensive line, particularly another five-technique to play across from Akiem Hicks. Chicago would have one of the most dominant front sevens in the NFL if it could secure a mega talent like Calais Campbell on the open market.
Jacksonville Jaguars: A.J. Bouye, CB, Texans. Age: 26.
As with the Browns, the Jaguars are able to weaken a rival by signing a great free agent. A.J. Bouye doesn't have an extensive history of success in the NFL, but he was tremendous in 2016. Jacksonville could lose Prince Amukamara this offseason, so finding another corner to pair with Jalen Ramsey seems imperative.
Tennessee Titans: John Cyprien, S, Jaguars. Age: 27.
And the trend of teams signing players from divisional opponents continues. The Titans have a strong front seven, but are pretty weak in the secondary. John Cyprien struggled early in his career, but he came on in 2016, becoming one of the better safeties in the NFL. He'd help Tennessee big time.
New York Jets: Tony Jefferson, S, Cardinals. Age: 25.
The Jets need help everywhere, particularly in their secondary. As with John Cyprien, Tony Jefferson doesn't have much experience playing on a high level, but he's one of the top players available, and New York would be thrilled to have him.
Los Angeles Chargers: Larry Warford, G, Lions. Age: 26.
The Chargers cut D.J. Fluker about 30 minutes prior to this writing, so that's still fresh in my mind. They desperately need to improve Philip Rivers' blocking, so that's something they'll need to concentrate on in free agency because the 2017 NFL Draft class is lacking on the offensive line (I have only two blockers in the top 30 picks of my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.) Larry Warford is coming off a great year and would be a welcome addition in San Angeles.
Carolina Panthers: Logan Ryan, CB, Patriots. Age: 26.
The Panthers struggled for a variety of reasons last year. One reason was their downgraded secondary, which predictably wasn't nearly as good without Josh Norman. They can find a viable replacement by selecting Logan Ryan in this fake free agency draft.
Cincinnati Bengals: Terrelle Pryor, WR, Browns. Age: 28.
Cincinnati's offense slowed down considerably when either Tyler Eifert or A.J. Green was out of the lineup last year. I imagine the Bengals will be looking for a talented receiver to play across from Green, and Terrelle Pryor would certainly qualify. Plus, Cincinnati can weakened a riv... wait, never mind, it's the Browns.
Buffalo Bills: Brandon Williams, NT, Ravens. Age: 28.
The scuttlebutt is that Kyle Williams won't be around much longer following the 2017 campaign, so the Bills could be looking to find a long-term replacement. Brandon Wlliams is a terrific, run-stuffing nose tackle, who would be a great addition, and his presence could allow Buffalo to dump Kyle Williams ahead of time.
New Orleans Saints: Johnathan Hankins, NT, Giants. Age: 25.
Here's another talented nose tackle, as Johnathan Hankins would give the Saints a viable starter next to Sheldon Rankins. Hankins is coming off a down year because he never recovered from a torn pectoral, so he could provide value for some team in free agency.
Cleveland Browns: Chris Baker, DE/DT, Redskins. Age: 29.
The Browns need help everywhere, and that includes the defensive line. Danny Shelton is a terrific interior lineman, but that's all Cleveland has in that area. Chris Baker would help tremendously.
Arizona Cardinals: Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears. Age: 27.
Larry Fitzgerald confirmed he'd return for the 2017 season, but how much longer will he be around beyond that? Besides, Arizona cut Michael Floyd last year, so the team could use a new No. 2 receiver for the present and a top wideout for the future.
Philadelphia Eagles: Stephon Gilmore, CB, Bills. Age: 26.
Stephon Gilmore played under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, so this seems like a natural fit. The Eagles are desperate for a cornerback, and it'll be shocking if they don't at least find two new players at the position this offseason.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Whitworth, OT, Bengals. Age: 35.
The Colts are ready to win now with Andrew Luck, so they would be in favor of bringing in someone like Andrew Whitworth. The problems Indianapolis has on its offensive line are well documented, and Whitworth would help tremendously to keep Luck upright.
Baltimore Ravens: Dontari Poe, NT, Chiefs. Age: 27.
The Ravens are likely to lose Brandon Williams - he was selected by the Bills at No. 10 overall in this very mock draft - so they'll be searching for a replacement. Dontari Poe could provide nice value as a player who performed well in the past, but has declined recently.
Go to 2017 NFL Free Agent Draft: Picks 17-32
Sorry for cutting this into two halves; I've received complaints about load times and putting the mock draft on two pages saves bandwith.
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