NFL draft shake-up: Fournette to Carolina?

In the days leading up to the 2017 NFL draft, USA TODAY Sports will take a closer look at the burning questions that will shape the event.

To kick off the series, we highlighted five teams that could make surprise moves that would defy mock drafts and reverberate throughout the first round.

Cleveland Browns

Even if Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is selected with the No. 1 pick as expected, Cleveland still could have a surprise or two in store. With five of the first 65 selections, the Browns have the arsenal and disposition to move around in a draft the organization has long targeted as integral to the rebuilding process. At No. 12, passing on a quarterback would cause quite a stir. But with the first pick in the second round, Cleveland could always jump up into a late first-round pick for a quarterback, which would be all the more appealing given the fifth-year option it would have on a potentially successful signal-caller.

San Francisco 49ers

Despite this draft class seemingly running short on consensus, the 49ers have been linked heavily to Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Yet new GM John Lynch could continue the organization's outside-the-box thinking by looking in a different direction, as the 49ers' needs are widespread. Going with a quarterback or trading the pick would be the most dramatic moves, but even selecting a different defender — like LSU's Jamal Adams or Ohio State's Malik Hooker — would have a ripple effect on the rest of the first round.

Tennessee Titans

Finding another weapon for Marcus Mariota in the aerial attack is perhaps Tennessee's most important task in the draft, yet few pass catchers in this class seem like a natural fit at No. 5. But what if the Titans see corresponding value in any of the players — perhaps wide receivers John Ross, Mike Williams or Corey Davis, as well as tight end O.J. Howard — and don't want to risk a run on those players before they pick again at No. 18? Defensive players are expected to dominate the top of the draft, but Tennessee could alter that outlook.

Carolina Panthers

GM Dave Gettleman has made his priorities known by taking a front-seven player with his top pick in three of his four drafts in Carolina. But the Panthers have to find a way to reconfigure their offense after Ron Rivera said Cam Newton's contributions in the running game would be scaled back. LSU running back Leonard Fournette would be appealing at No. 8, but Carolina could still surprise by taking Florida State's Dalvin Cook or Stanford's Christian McCaffrey in a slot higher than most would expect.

Arizona Cardinals

With Carson Palmer back in the fold, Arizona has to decide whether it wants to pull the trigger on a successor at No. 13 (or a later stage in the draft). Such a move by the Cardinals could raise concern for teams in the back half of the first round hoping for a quarterback to slide to them. Having either Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer or Texas Tech's Pat Mahomes come off the board at this stage would serve as a potential pivot point for the rest of the draft.

Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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