The 2016 NFL Draft is right around the corner, so what better way to celebrate by taking a look into the future? College football produced some pretty amazing freshmen this season, many of which will be high draft picks when they are eligible in 2018.
Note: The order of this mock draft is completely random. All teams were entered into a random number generator and drawn from there. No, I do not think your favorite team will be terrible during the 2017 season, this is just a random projection.
1. Arizona Cardinals – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson), Tim Williams (OLB, Alabama)
Josh Rosen was phenomenal as a true freshman and is already projected by many scouts and analysts to be the No. 1 pick in 2018. If he stays healthy and continues to develop, he will challenge Andrew Luck as the highest graded quarterback to come out of college football in the past decade. Pairing him with Bruce Arians would be unfair for the rest of the league.
2. Carolina Panthers – Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Sterling Shepard (WR, Oklahoma), Carl Lawson (DE, Auburn)
Mitch Hyatt stepped in as a true freshman at left tackle and helped pave the way for Clemson’s national championship run. He is perhaps one of the best offensive linemen in college football already and will be a high draft pick when the 2018 draft rolls around.
3. Tennessee Titans – Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Laremy Tunsil (OT, Ole Miss), Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
A year removed from a serious knee injury, Josh Sweat made a freakish recovery and started most of the season for Florida State at defensive end. He’s a tad light at the moment, but two more years in the weight room should bulk him back up to around 250 lbs. If he can regain that elite speed that made him the No. 1 high school recruit, the sky is the limit for Sweat.
4. New England Patriots – DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – N/A (2016), Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
The Patriots have to think about Tom Brady’s replacement eventually and, if they are picking this high, DeShone Kizer is an excellent option. He still has to develop a bit as a pro prospect, but showed leadership, poise and some serious arm talent as a redshirt freshman this past season.
5. Baltimore Ravens – Connor Williams, OT, Texas
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson), Desmond King (CB, Iowa)
Connor Williams stepped in as a true freshman at left tackle for Texas and, despite the Longhorn’s poor record, was one of the few bright spots on the team. If he continues to develop, he could easily challenge Mitch Hyatt for the top offensive lineman spot.
6. Cleveland Browns – Cameron Smith, LB, USC
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State), Myles Garrett (DE, Texas A&M)
Cameron Smith burst onto the scene after his three interception-performance versus Utah and established himself as one of the best linebackers in college football. Unfortunately, his season was cut short by injury but should be back to full health by the time next season rolls around.
7. Houston Texas – Derwin James, S, Florida State
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Connor Cook (QB, Michigan State), Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
Derwin James quickly established himself as a playmaker in the talented Florida State secondary and even challenged Jalen Ramsey for the title of best defensive back. At 6-3, 212 lbs., a knack for hard hits and turning the ball over, he will draw major Kam Chancellor comparisons.
8. Seattle Seahawks – Arden Key, DE, LSU
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Jason Spriggs (OT, Indiana), Marquez White (CB, Florida State)
At 6-6, 231 lbs., Arden Key has some major weight to gain, but proved as a true freshman that he is an explosive pass rusher. If he can bulk up and retain that quickness, he will be a great pass rusher as a junior.
9. Washington Redskins – Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – William Jackson III (CB, Houston), Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Christian Kirk burst onto the scene as a true freshman as a playmaker in both the passing and return game at Texas A&M. He might be a bit undersized at 5-11, but you will not find a more explosive athlete in all of college football.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jake Browning, QB, Washington
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Cody Whitehair (OG, Kansas State), Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
The Steelers have to be looking for Ben Roethlisberger’s replacement eventually and Jake Browning is the perfect option. Browning quietly had a great true freshman season at Washington and would be an excellent understudy to Big Ben for a season or two before taking over.
11. Atlanta Falcons – Kevin Toliver II, CB, LSU
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama), Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Want a cornerback that will draw some major Richard Sherman comparisons? Look no further than Kevin Toliver of LSU. At 6-2, 196 lbs., he is a lock down corner who will take away an entire side of the field.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – Khalil McKenzie, DT, Tennessee
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Ronnie Stanley (OT, Notre Dame), Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
Khalil McKenzie is a massive human being at 6-3, 344 lbs., but moves surprisingly well for that size. The production wasn’t there as a true freshman, but his ceiling is incredibly high.
13. San Diego Chargers – Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Jalen Ramsey (CB, Florida State), Juju Smith-Schuster (WR, USC)
San Diego has to be looking for Phillip Rivers’ replacement eventually and, luckily for them, the 2018 draft looks to be rich in quarterback talent. Mason Rudolph has NFL-ready size and will be a perfect option to sit and learn if Rivers has one or two years left.
14. Miami Dolphins – Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida), Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
Similar to Connor Williams, Malik Jefferson was the lone bright spot on defense for the Longhorns. He stepped in as a true freshman and was the clear leader of the defense from day one.
15. Kansas City Chiefs – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Jonathan Bullard (DL, Florida), Raekwon McMillan (LB, Ohio State)
Much like Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley earned the title of No. 1 receiver at Alabama as a true freshman. He’ll be an older prospect by the time the 2018 draft is upon us, but his playmaking abilities will make him a first-round selection.
16. Cincinnati Bengals – Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Ryan Kelly (C, Alabama), Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama)
Many were surprised when Marlon Humphrey redshirted as a true freshman, but bounced back and earned a starting job the following year. A track star, he has the athleticism and coverage abilities you want from a No. 1 cornerback.
17. Buffalo Bills – Ethan Wolf, TE, Tennessee
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Sheldon Rankins (DL, Louisville), Montravius Adams (DL, Auburn)
Ethan Wolf has quietly been one of the most talented tight ends in the country, but limited production at Tennessee has kept him off of the national radar. If he can take the next step as a tight end, the sky is the limit for Wolf.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Trent Thompson, DT, Georgia
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Taylor Decker (OT, Ohio State), Adoree Jackson (CB, USC)
The former No. 1 high school recruit started as a true freshman for the talented Georgia defense and proved to be a vital contributor. If he can develop as a pass rusher, this might be too low for his future draft stock.
19. Oakland Raiders – KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State), Malik McDowell (DT, Michigan State)
Amari Cooper is the No. 1 receiver for the Raiders, but there’s no harm in grabbing Derek Carr some extra help. KD Cannon is in line to become the next great Baylor receiver after posting over 1,800 receiving yards during his first two seasons.
20. San Francisco 49ers – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Jared Goff (QB, California), Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
In a season where Penn State’s offense was largely underperforming, Saquon Barkley was the lone bright spot. As a true freshman, he established himself as the No. 1 option and has NFL-ready size to boot.
21. New York Jets – Aliz’e Jones, TE, Notre Dame
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Leonard Floyd (LB, Georgia), Roderick Johnson (OT, Florida State)
The top-rated tight end coming out of high school, Aliz’e Jones needs to develop as a blocker, but showed good receiving skills as a true freshman and should continue the great tight end tradition coming out of Notre Dame.
22. Chicago Bears – Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – DeForest Buckner (DL, Oregon), Charles Harris (DE, Missouri)
Much like Jake Browning, Brett Rypien’s true freshman campaign went largely unnoticed. While he doesn’t have the biggest arm, he showed poise and accuracy and should continue to develop as an NFL prospect.
23. Los Angeles Rams – Iman Marshall, CB, USC
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis), Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
A Los Angeles team needs a cornerback? Why not just go down the road to USC and pick up their star cornerback? Iman “Biggie” Marshall has to develop a bit as a pro prospect, but has a very high ceiling at the position.
24. Denver Broncos – Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Joshua Garnett (OG, Stanford), O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
The Denver Broncos proved that one of the best ways to win a Super Bowl is with great pass rush, so they add Daylon Mack, who could be mistaken for a rhinoceros with the way he manhandles offensive linemen.
25. Dallas Cowboys – Terry Beckner Jr., DT, Missouri
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Myles Jack (LB, UCLA), Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma)
A former five-star prospect, Terry Beckner hails from the Missouri “factory” of defensive linemen. He needs to grow as a pass rusher, but is next in line to be a high draft pick from Mizzou.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky), Cameron Robinson (OT, Alabama)
The reigning ACC Rookie of the Year, Jordan Whitehead was phenomenal as a true freshman for the Panthers. He is a turnover machine and a great coverage safety as well.
27. Minnesota Vikings – Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Josh Doctson (WR, TCU), Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Adrian Peterson’s replacement has to be drafted eventually. Myles Gaskin is a tad small at 5-9, but he was arguably the best true freshman running back in the country.
28. Detroit Lions – Porter Gustin, LB, USC
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss), Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU)
Sometimes overshadowed by his true freshman teammate, Porter Gustin was quietly a solid contributor for the Trojans. He and Cameron Smith should form one of the better linebacker duos in the country in the coming years.
29. New York Giants – Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State), Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Another true freshman left tackle in the Big 12, Orlando Brown helped pave the way for Oklahoma’s playoff run. He still has a bit of developing to do, but he has a high ceiling at 6-8, 342 lbs.
30. New Orleans Saints – Ross Pierschbacher, OG, Alabama
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Andrew Billings (DL, Baylor), Brad Kaaya (QB, Miami)
Whether Drew Brees is still around by this point or if the Saints have moved on to someone else, drafting a good interior offensive lineman will be a priority. Ross Pierschbacher earned a starting job on Alabama’s offensive line as a redshirt freshman and has the talent to be a future first round pick.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State), Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
Minkah Fitzpatrick was exposed a bit in the national championship game, but proved throughout the season that he is a talented player. He will likely move back to safety this offseason and he’ll be a star at the position.
32. Green Bay Packers – Chance Hall, OT, Tennessee
2016/17 Mock Draft Picks – Vernon Butler (DL, Louisiana Tech), Mike McGlinchey (OT, Notre Dame)
Aaron Rodgers will be getting long in the tooth at this point, so Green Bay’s first priority should be grabbing him some protection. Chance Hall played at right tackle this year for Tennessee, but will likely be a future left tackle at some point in his career with the Vols.