Free agency always has a major impact on how teams handle the NFL Draft. While most teams say they draft the best player available, the truth is that they often set up their board to match their needs. As a result, a team’s actions in free agency can often impact their approach come April. With that in mind, it is time for another 2017 NFL Mock Draft!
Here is a look at how free agency has impacted the first three rounds.
1) Cleveland Browns (1-15) – Myles Garrett DE Texas A&M
All sorts of rumors may fly about the Browns and certain quarterbacks, but they cannot afford to screw this pick up. Drafting a quarterback in any situation is a risky proposition, and none of the prospects in this class are worth gambling on with this pick. Even if there was a surefire star quarterback in this class, he would have a hard time matching Myles Garrett as a prospect anyway.
Garrett is as close to a sure thing as a prospect can get. He has all the tools to be the NFL’s next great pass rusher. Garrett can push the pocket with incredible power, or shoot gaps with impeccable speed. Off the field, he says and does all of the right things. The Browns desperately need to upgrade their pass rush anyway, so Garrett makes a lot of sense for them. After an impressive showing at the combine, it would be surprising to see anyone else get taken first overall.
2) San Francisco 49ers (2-14) – Solomon Thomas DE Stanford
This is a tricky pick to project. San Francisco has been heavily linked to the trade talks surrounding Kirk Cousins, and they could very well flip this pick for the Pro Bowler. Even if they cannot work out a deal for the star QB, it has been said that Cousins would join the 49ers as a free agent next year. Should that be the case, San Francisco would be a lot better off using this pick to build up their defense. Drafting Solomon Thomas would be a great way to do that.
Thomas is an excellent run defender, but he shows plenty of upside as a pass rusher. He could find a home in San Francisco’s front as a defensive end, and could even flip inside on occasion. This is not a perfect fit, but it is tough to find a better selection than Thomas here.
3) Chicago Bears (3-13) – Jonathan Allen DE Alabama
This may not be the most popular pick in Chicago right now, but Jonathan Allen still makes the most sense for the Bears. Allen moves with freakish quickness off the line, and he practically lived in the backfield while at Alabama. While he could be the final piece to an impressive defense, his arthritic shoulders may be a bit of a concern for the team.
Allen has said that his shoulders should not bother him during his NFL career, but the Bears really need to hit on this pick. With that in mind, Chicago does not have a lot of options here. With Mike Glennon making $15 million next year, drafting a quarterback here would only start a controversy. The Bears could take one of the impressive defensive backs in this class, but no DB has been drafted in the top-three in 20 years. Given Chicago’s plan in free agency, they seem to be locked in on Allen.
4) Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13) – Malik Hooker FS Ohio State
No team has made more impact moves during free agency than the Jaguars. Bringing in a haul of A.J. Bouye, Barry Church and Calais Campbell has certainly shaken up the board in Jacksonville. While the team may have pursued Allen or Thomas with this pick, the signing of Campbell may change that. The same could be said for Bouye and Church, who have definitely taken some defensive backs off of Jacksonville’s board. One player who remains a good fit with this team is Malik Hooker.
Hooker could end up being the final piece in one of the NFL’s best secondaries. He is a ball-hawk in ever sense of the term, disrupting passes, providing shutdown coverage, jumping routes, and taking turnovers to the house. Jacksonville had a great defense last year, but they struggled to force turnovers. Adding Hooker would change.