NFL Draft: Predicting QB-team pairings; prospects your team is considering

With the 2017 NFL Draft less than two weeks away, here is everything Optimum Scouting knows regarding what to expect come draft night.

The 2017 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away, and the first overall pick is getting clearer.

Quarterbacks as always will dominate the final draft discussion, even though this will be just the second year in the last five that will not see quarterbacks go first and second overall.

In this what-I've-heard column,find out why tight ends might be draftedhigh, why safeties might slip and why Charles Harris is a name to know. Plus,which prospectsyour favorite team isconsidering.

Previous "What I’ve Heard" columns: February |March

Quarterbacks: Who’s going where?

— I don’t expect any quarterbacks to be drafted in the top four picks. The 49ers have Mitchell Trubisky graded high, and he’d be their pick if they surprise. The Bears like Deshaun Watson the most. The Jaguars are the one wild card people around the league believe are in play for a QB. One scout from another team said they might be thinking Trubisky.

— If there’s one strong quarterback-team connection, it’s Trubisky and the Bills. They’ve had strong interest throughout the season and draft process, and they actually were one of the teams he looked to for advisement when he was making his decision to declare for the draft. While I don’t believe the Jets will draft a quarterback, the Bills might trade with the Titans to ensure they can get to Trubisky before New York. I would be surprised if they targeta different quarterback, but they’ve done their due diligence on all of them.

— Our top-rated quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, has many interested suitors. That said, I don’t think he’ll be a top-12 pick, but No. 13 to the Cardinals is where it gets interesting. I don’t believe Bruce Arians wants to use his first-round pick on a quarterback.

— The odds-on favorites to land Mahomes are the Chiefs. But the Texans are a close second. One hypothetical: The Chiefs trade up with the Colts (now ledby former Chiefs executive Chris Ballard) to ensure them their top-ranked quarterback.

— All signs point toWatson slipping on draft day. The Bears and Saints appear to have the most interest, but I don’t expect either team to covet Watson as a top-20 pick. Watson’s arm strength, transition from his college offense and overall upside has been in question. I expect him to go somewhere between pick 24 and 32. Once he gets into the mid-20s, multiple teams might look to move up from the second round to get him.

— I’ve reported it previously, but I still firmly expect DeShone Kizer to slip on draft day. It’s unlikely he’s a first-round pick, though the Texans at 25 and the 49ers and Bears trading up from Round 1 could all be in play. Mental makeup and lackluster reviews from Notre Dame personnel, along with lackluster fourth quarterback play, are key reasons why he couldslip to the late second round.

Davis Webb of California has an outside chance of going in Round 1 (though I doubt it). But there’s a chance Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman could go ahead of him if both get to the second day. After Trubisky, Peterman could have the most near-unanimous approval from NFL evaluators. Webb could be a Chief or Cardinal. Peterman could be a Jaguar, Saint, Redskin or 49er, and by the third round, he could be a pickfor any number of teams. If I had to pick one team for Miami’s Brad Kaaya, it’d be the Saints (though many teams compare him to Jared Goff in his mental makeup).

MORE: Top 10 QBs in NFL Draft


Team-quarterback pairingpredictions:

Bills:Trubisky

Chiefs:Mahomes

Bears:Watson

Cardinals:Webb

Jaguars:Peterman

Saints:Kaaya

Dobbs:Browns

Individual player/position notes

Leonard Fournette is a special talent, and most NFL teams appreciate him far more than the media or fans do. The 49ers are a darkhorse to consider him at No. 2, but the Jaguars at No. 4 might be his most likely destination. The Jets at No. 6 and the Panthers at No. 8 are his other options.

Christian McCaffrey will be the next running back taken, and he won’t last beyond the top 15 picks.

— Some teams have reservations on Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, but there are enoughwith interest that I no longer think he’ll fall on draft day. He could be a top-20 pick. The Raiders, however, will not take him.

Joe Mixon has plenty of suitors and shouldn’t last long in Round 2, just like Dorial Green-Beckham two years ago.

MORE: Top 10 RBs in NFL Draft

— We probably won’t see a receiver drafted before pick No. 16, but if it happens, it’ll be Clemson’s Mike Williams. The Bills (if they don’t get Trubisky), the Jets (who desperately need receiver help) and the Titans (who could draft him fifth overall) all value Williams highly.

— NFL Draft fans might be mad, but Western Michigan’s Corey Davis is more likely to go in the second round than in the top 20. He has a lot of high second-round grades, and I don’t think he’ll last long in Round 2.

John Ross won’t be a receiver for whom teams trade up (because of his injury history). He will have plenty of interest by the middle/end of Round 1, though he doesn’t have a clear suitor.

— Alabama’s O.J. Howard likely will be drafted in the top half of Round 1, with his ceiling likely at pick No. 5 with the Titans. But it’s possible Miami’s David Njoku joins Howard as a top-15 pick and maybe even goes ahead of him. The Cardinals, quietly, also might be considering tight end.

— Despite a weak offensive tackle class this year, we still will see eight to 10 offensive tackles drafted in the top three rounds. For teams that need offensive tackles, it’ll be slim pickings. Here are my picks for the eight: Garett Bolles, Cam Robinson, Ryan Ramczyk, Taylor Moton, Antonio Garcia, Roderick Johnson, Will Holden and Julian Davenport.

— The position for which team-to-team rankings vary the most this year is defensive tackle. In a class that is not top-heavy, teams are selective as to which defensive linemen fit their defenses. The two who seem to have the most consistently high grades: Alabama’s Dalvin Tomlinson and Charlotte’s Larry Ogunjobi.

— I wrote about Malik McDowell in February. While we saw Robert Nkemdiche drafted in the first round last year despite off-field issues, I stand by what I said back then about his projection: second round.

— Some have said Jonathan Allen of Alabama might fall due to his shoulder injury issues, but that’s not what I’ve been told. Virtually every team I’ve spoken with has high first-round grades on him. I don’t think he gets past the Bears at third overall.

— UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley, who has been mocked as high as the top 10, does not have a lot of high or even mid-first-round grades, and I firmly expect him to be taken somewhere after the top 20, if not out of Round 1 altogether. His shoulder surgery has played a part in it. The Cowboys would be a great fit.

— Missouri defensive endCharles Harris has multiple top-10 grades from NFL teams, and I expect him to be drafted in the top 15. His ceiling might be sixth overall to the Jets, and his floor might be the Colts at No. 15.

— Two of my favorites since before the Combine, Houston’s Tyus Bowser and Kansas State’s Jordan Willis both should go somewhere between the early 20s and the end of Round 1.

— After Malik Hooker, safeties might fall on draft day. Jamal Adams, Jabrill Peppers and Obi Melifonwu have similar grades (depending on the teams), and I wouldn’t be surprised if Adams is not the first of the bunch taken. All three could be available for the Redskins at No. 17.

— I believe we’ll see five non-FBS players drafted in the top 100: Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers, Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon, Lamar’s Brandon Langley, Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp and Bucknell’s Julien Davenport, in that order.

MORE: Mock Draft | Big Board


Team notes: Who are they considering?

— The Browns’ coaching staff wants Myles Garrett, and someone else is pulling the strings to consider Trubisky. (My guess is ownership.) Coach Hue Jackson can win six-plus games with a Garrett-led defense and with Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler and Josh Dobbs as his quarterbacks.

— As I reported in March, the Kirk Cousins-49ers connection is sincere, and with the ongoing issues in negotiations between the Redskins and Cousins, it’s not dead yet. The Redskins like Trubisky a lot. If the 49ers don’t get Cousins, Kizer might be their target in Round 2 and Nathan Peterman their target in Round 3.

— Since 1980, just one team has drafted a quarterback in the top-four rounds three straight years: the 2007-2009 Dolphins (John Beck, Chad Henne, Pat White).
History (and logic) is against the Jets taking a quarterback that early again. Their desire to drum up interest for teams to move in front of them has been impressive.

— The Panthers will take Fournette if he's available at No. 8. If not, I believe they’ll take Derek Barnett, Harris or Howard and target a running back in Round 2. If Barnett does not become aPanther, I believe he’ll be taken by the Bengals.

— I believe the Saints will get a deal done for Malcolm Butler, but keep in mind they don’t want to give up another early-round pick. They want to address their offensive tackle depth need by Round 3, if not earlier.

Eagles first-round considered players: Harris, Barnett, Gareon Conley, McCaffrey and Ross. Of those five players, only one is expected to be available, and the Eagles will draft that one.

— Barring a top prospect like Harris falling, I expect the Redskins and Buccaneers to take two of the these three prospects: Peppers, Melifonwu and Cook.

— The Lions want a tight end early, as I reported back in February. It doesn’t look like Njoku will be available at No. 21. In Round 2, Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech likely would be their target.

— The Dolphins are optimistic a top safety will fall to them; Adams, Peppers and Melifonwu all are on their wish list. If none of those areavailable, Justin Evans,Willis and guard Forrest Lamp are the players they’ll consider.

— Two one-time underrated prospects, Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt and Bowser, likely won’t make it to the Cowboys at No. 28. If they do, I expect one of them to be the pick. McKinley might be their ideal target if he slips.

— The Falcons have interest inand are a perfect matchfor Willis. If he’s gone, they could strongly consider adding to their offensive line at No. 31.

— We’ll see at least one team move up for a quarterback in the back end of Round 1. The Bears, Browns and Jaguars (in that order of likeliness) could do it to grab a falling Watson.

— Darkhorse first-rounders: Alabama’s Dalvin Tomlinson, Ole Miss’s Evan Engram, Temple’s Dion Dawkins and Florida’s Marcus Maye.

— Vegas sportsbooks have their NFL Draft prop bets up. Here’s some free money for those of you who like to indulge:

UNDER 11.5 SEC players, OVER 2.5 Running Backs,and UNDER 3.5 Quarterbacks in the first round. And the Pac-12 will have more first-rounders than the Big Ten.


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