7. Los Angeles Chargers – Jonathan Allen (Defensive End, Alabama)
The newly relocated Chargers are more than likely going in the direction of defense with their first round pick. In this particular mock draft, Malik Hooker comes off the board right before their selection whom they would almost certainly select if he was still available at pick 7. Cornerback can be viewed as an area of need for the Chargers due to the questionable medical history of starter Jason Verrett. I tend to think the Bolts will target corner later in the draft due to the depth of the overall position. Jonathan Allen is a talented pass rusher who can create havoc from both inside and outside. He will pair nicely with 2016 first round pick Joey Bosa who hit the ground running once his contract fiasco was resolved. The Chargers also have Corey Liuget under contract for a couple more seasons making for a formidable defensive front. Allen is an extremely talented pass rusher who is projected to fit in various defensive schemes based on his ability. His hand usage and footwork are common talking points referred to by scouts who are impressed by the combination from the Crimson Tide product. In the long run Allen might be a better fit on the outside based on his size, and potential to be ineffective from the inside due to his arm length. Either way the Chargers will be getting a talented player to plug into their defense from the first day of camp.
8. Carolina Panthers – Leonard Fournette (Running Back, LSU)
There has been much debate surrounding the best running back headlining this historically deep class of 2017. Leonard Fournette brings a different skillset than some of the other backs boasting a physical presence unmatched by most. The style of offense being run by the NFL team will dictate the success for any one of these rookie running backs. Carolina seems to be a logical fit for Fournette based on the running approach they’ve displayed in years past. Cam Newton will also be coming off shoulder surgery making one think the Panthers will rely on the run heavily early season. Jonathan Stewart is the incumbent, but his best days as a starter are behind him coupled with his injury history. Fournette is best described as a grown man who possesses a running style that matches as such. He is not praised for his open field elusiveness or ability to make defenders miss. However, the shake which Fournette lacks is balanced by his capability to run through any arm tackle or over a defender in the open field. He will certainly need to work on his pass protection along with catching out of the backfield to take the next step as a full time starter.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Barnett (Defensive End, Tennessee)
Barnett being selected 9th by the Bengals would make the fourth defensive end drafted in the top ten. He has been a targeted prospect of the Eagles based on his skillset, and the need for a bigger defensive end in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. Unfortunately, I don’t envision Barnett lasting out of the top ten let alone pick 14. Barnett put up some gaudy numbers while at Tennessee including surpassing Reggie White as the all-time sack leader at the university. Scouts rave about the hand usage of Barnett which helps him win most battles off the edge. He’s also well-known for discarding any tight ends who attempt to line up on his side of the line. There are question marks surrounding Barnett’s ability to win off the line of scrimmage with speed as opposed to hand battling with tackles consistently. As is the case with most college pass rushers he will need to further develop his repertoire to become a consistent defensive end. The Bengals are in need of pass rush help with veterans Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson penciled in as the two starters. Margus Hunt departed for the Colts during free agency leaving a hole in the rotation which Barnett would certainly fill.