My first and only rule in mocking out the first round of the NFL Draft is always the same every year: Push potential starting quarterbacks up in the round, because they always get drafted higher than they should due to need. The story remains the same in 2017. I've got four quarterbacks going in my only mock of the year, with the Browns dealing up to the Jets' No. 6 slot to get the passing party started, and the Texans taking a flyer on another fast-rising quarterback at No. 25.
There are a ton of unknowns about how this year's first round will shake out, but we're finally close to getting some questions answered. Sorry, Patriots, Vikings and Rams fans, you'll be sitting out the festivities (we presume) until Friday. I'll be at the draft in Philadelphia and providing coverage for Patriots.com, but here's my best guess at how the proceedings will unfold. Remember, as always, your results may vary. Let's go mocking...
1. Cleveland - Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Browns haven't always nailed this first overall platform (see Tim Couch and Courtney Brown in 1999-2000), but this seems pretty straightforward in a draft woefully lacking in consensus: Garrett is this class's preeminent talent.
2. San Francisco - Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Playing a hunch here, because the Solomon Thomas buzz to the hometown 49ers feels like something of a smokescreen to me. I wanted to give San Francisco North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, but Adams is a potential game-changing force in the Ronnie Lott mode.
3. Chicago - Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The Bears choose to boost their pass defense with the draft's top-rated cornerback, bypassing Solomon Thomas and his pass-rushing skills in the process.
4. Jacksonville - Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
I'm not buying that the Jaguars could start the quarterback run at No. 4. Just not the kind of move new football czar Tom Coughlin is known for. I think Jacksonville is choosing between Fournette, the LSU power running back, and Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen.
5. Tennessee - Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
The Titans in this scenario (and maybe any scenario) will be eager to trade down and get out of the top five. But if they are forced to stick, the pick is Thomas, who buttresses the pass rush with his top-shelf talent.
6. Cleveland (trade with NY Jets) - Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Everybody knows the Browns want Trubisky, at least in some sections of their building. The Jets have a myriad of needs, so it stands to reason that Cleveland will ship New York its No. 12 pick, 33rd pick, and whatever else it might take to jump up six spots and land its latest quarterback of the future. Will the Browns finally end their long national nightmare at the game's most pivotal position?
7. L.A. Chargers - Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Chargers are thought to be debating between Hooker and his great ball-hawking talent and Clemson receiver Mike Williams and his great ball-hogging skills. I'm going defense before offense for the NFL's newest Los Angeles franchise.
8. Carolina - Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford
Getting quarterback Cam Newton some help shouldering the offensive burden is the top priority. It'll either be the ultra-versatile and chains-moving McCaffrey, or hyper-productive LSU running back Leonard Fournette, if he gets past the Jaguars.
9. Cincinnati - Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
The Bengals could certainly opt for a linebacker like the fast-rising Haason Reddick of Temple or Reuben Foster of Alabama. But Allen is a solid top 10 talent and you can never have enough quality defensive linemen in the NFL.
10. Buffalo - O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
I've heard the quarterback buzz, and the pass rush could get the first-round attention with Tennessee's defensive end Derek Barnett there for the taking. But Howard is an intriguing talent and Buffalo will try to emulate the Patriots in adding a difference-making tight end to its offensive weaponry.
11. New Orleans - Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
The Saints will go defense, and they should have their choice between highly-rated linebackers like Reuben Foster and Haason Reddick. Cornerback is another crying need, so keep an eye on Alabama's Marlon Humphrey. But that position is deep, so the Saints can address it at No. 32. New Orleans always needs more pass rush, and they won't find a sack artist like Barnett waiting for them at the end of the first round.
12. NY Jets (trade with Cleveland) - Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
I don't have a great feel for what the Jets would do at No. 12 after my projected trade with Cleveland (could another move back be in the offing, with No. 25 Houston?) But have you seen New York's quarterback depth chart lately? If Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is still on the board, he's the likely pick. Otherwise, let's go with Watson and see how he fares donning green and white.
13. Arizona - Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Bruce Arians finds his big-armed successor to Carson Palmer and it's a prospect with the moxie and intuitive feel for the game that the Cardinals' bold and brash head coach admires. Mahomes will quite literally get a red-shirt season wearing a Cardinals jersey in 2017.
14. Philadelphia - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
This was slated to be the slot for Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley, but that's not happening now. Williams is a great choice given Carson Wentz's need for improved targets. But the Eagles hope the depth at cornerback bears out for them later in the draft.
15. Indianapolis - Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
The Colts need defensive impact players and Reddick is a versatile talent who can both supply heat to the quarterback and handle a variety of roles as a three-down player.
16. Baltimore - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Ravens have to get more out of quarterback Joe Flacco this season, and landing him one of the draft's top receiving prospects is one way to hopefully raise the bar on offense in Baltimore.
17. Washington - Rueben Foster, LB, Alabama
Jay Gruden's team opens the second half of the first round by taking a very proven and productive defensive cog who has top 12 talent. Haason Reddick is the other name to know in D.C.
18. Tennessee - Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
With Jason McCourty released, the Titans could use help at cornerback, and thus Humphrey gets the nod over a receiver like Washington speedster John Ross.
19. Tampa Bay - Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
I was prepared to give them Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, but his stock has swooned in recent days due to off-field concerns. The Bucs will be more cautious with a young team on the rise, addressing their offensive line with a solid option at left tackle.
20. Denver - Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
The Broncos seem locked in on a first-round tackle, and Ramczyk has been getting mock-draft love from Denver for weeks now. Utah's Garett Bolles is another potential selection.
21. Detroit - David Njoku, TE, Miami
The Lions need to add to their offensive options, and Njoku is a gifted receiver and the draft's second-highest rated tight end.
22. Miami - Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
Cornerback is another need, but again the depth of the draft at that position leads the Dolphins in a different direction in the first round. Lamp is a bright spot among the available top-rated offensive line prospects.
23. NY Giants - Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
With tight ends Howard and Njoku already gone, the Giants face an easy choice to upgrade at offensive tackle. There aren't many quality choices left at the position, but Bolles qualifies as the best of the rest.
24. Oakland - Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
The Raiders covet a linebacker who can run and chase the ball all over the field and Davis is an ideal match for their need in this draft slot. Cornerback is the other area of need that fits for Oakland at No. 24.
25. Houston - Davis Webb, QB, California
The Texans could make a trade to move up into the teens of the round and pursue either Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes, but barring that, Webb would be an intriguing roll of the dice in Houston.
26. Seattle - Kevin King, CB, Washington
Seahawks don't find an offensive line prospect worth a first-round pick, so they replenish their secondary with one of the draft's top cornerbacks.
27. Kansas City - Jordan Willis, DE, Kansas State
The remaining board doesn't fit Kansas City's needs particularly well, because I don't have a quarterback left deserving a first-round pick (unless K.C.'s stretches for Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer). When in doubt, add to the pass rush. Willis or UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley would help in that department.
28. Dallas - T.J. Watt, OLB, Wisconsin
How about J.J. Watt and T.J. Watt playing their pro ball in the same state, after both starred at the University of Wisconsin. Watt is a pass rusher who can supply some day one impact. Missouri linebacker/defensive end Charles Harris is the other name to know.
29. Green Bay - Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
The Packers seem fixated on defense in the first round, so I don't think Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is on their radar screen until round two. The versatile Peppers seems like a nice fit for Green Bay's defense, given how much Dom Capers has been known to move his chess pieces around from week to week.
30. Pittsburgh - Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
The Steelers are very interested in Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, but I'm not convinced it's first-round love. The pass rush can't rely on James Harrison too much longer, so Pittsburgh goes out and gets an infusion of youth with intriguing upside.
31. Atlanta - Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri
Harris could go a bit higher than this penultimate pick in the first round, but if he's still there, the Falcons could pounce, given their desire to find another pass rusher to pair with the productive Vic Beasley.
32. New Orleans - John Ross, WR, Washington
The Saints went defense at No. 11, but at No. 32 it will be too difficult to pass on the draft's fastest receiver. Ross is a burner who makes up nicely for the loss of Brandin Cooks to New England. If New Orleans opts for defense, Tre'Davious White, a cornerback from home-state LSU, would fit the bill in the absence of any late-developing trade for the Patriots' Malcolm Butler.