- Who's the 2017 draft's best player at every spot on the field? Our position-by-position rankings offer the most up-to-date look at where every top prospect stands against his peers.
The draft process began months ago, almost before the 2016 event wrapped. Over the summer we compiled a watch list of between 300 and 400 players who could be on the ’17 draft radar. Then we added names when any potential prospects arrive a bit out of nowhere. The following positional rankings for this year’s draft class lay the foundation for our coverage leading up to the first round on April 27.
With the draft fast approaching, this is one final look at where each position group stands.
The Browns, 49ers and Bears could all use their first pick on a quarterback. Alone, that’s enough to think another early quarterback run is waiting at the 2017 NFL draft, even if this year’s class winds up not entirely warranting such a commitment.
The top four names in our QB rankings right now could be Round 1-bound, but several others may wind up among a group of promising mid-round selections. Is there enough talent at the top for those teams in need?
|1||Deshaun Watson||Clemson||6' 2", 221 lbs.|
|2||Patrick Mahomes||Texas Tech||6' 2", 225 lbs.|
|3||DeShone Kizer||Notre Dame||6' 4", 233 lbs.|
|4||Mitchell Trubisky||North Carolina||6' 2", 222 lbs.|
|5||Brad Kaaya||Miami||6' 4", 214 lbs.|
|6||Nathan Peterman||Pittsburgh||6' 2", 226 lbs.|
|7||Jerod Evans||Virginia Tech||6' 3", 232 lbs.|
|8||Davis Webb||Cal||6' 5", 229 lbs.|
|9||Joshua Dobbs||Tennessee||6' 3", 216 lbs.|
|10||Chad Kelly||Ole Miss||6' 2", 224 lbs.|
Each of the top four quarterbacks has a claim to the top spot, as well as a glaring issue that comes with his game. Watson turned the ball over too much, Mahomes comes from a Texas Tech “Air Raid” system that could make his NFL transition difficult, Kizer wilted in 2016 as his team struggled and Trubisky has footwork issues that could take a while to fix. Watson holds an edge here as much for the work he does pre-snap as the production he put up—the former certainly led to the latter. He showed up on the biggest stages. With a game built so much around how he can improvise, Mahomes won’t be for everyone, but he has a huge arm and incredible upside. Kizer has an inch-plus of height and a good 10 to 15 pounds on Watson, which counts in the pocket, and he also can get out and run when he needs to. Trubisky is such a mixed bag: He might be the first QB off the board, and he also might need the most seasoning before he’s ready to start.
Virginia Tech’s Evans was a surprise entry to this year’s draft. His size and ability on the move is reminiscent of what Kizer can do. There’s a drop-off beyond the top four in this class, so why not roll the dice on a multi-dimensional threat?
It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of Kelly, who has off-field red flags that denied him a combine invite and is working back from a torn ACL.
Montana’s Brady Gustafson drew the early tag as “2017 Carson Wentz”: tall, FCS program, high-powered offense. Don’t forget the name Alek Torgersen, though. We talked about the Penn QB on an episode of the On the Clock Podcast, and there’s a lot to like in his game.
This will come as no secret to anyone who has been paying attention, but the 2017 running back class has the potential to go down as an all-time great. Doesn’t mean it will, just that the talent is there if a few prospects translate their college stardom into NFL production. Todd Gurley set a high rookie bar back in 2015, and Ezekiel Elliott pushed it farther into the stratosphere this season. While it remains to be seen whether or not anyone in the ’17 class has that level of impact, a minimum of two running backs will go in Round 1. That number could rise before all is said and done.
|1||Dalvin Cook||Florida State||5' 10", 210 lbs.|
|2||Leonard Fournette||LSU||6' 0", 240 lbs.|
|3||Christian McCaffrey||Stanford||5' 11", 202 lbs.|
|4||Joe Mixon||Oklahoma||6' 1", 226 lbs.|
|5||Samaje Perine||Oklahoma||5' 11", 233 lbs.|
|6||D'Onta Foreman||Texas||6' 0", 233 lbs.|
|7||Alvin Kamara||Tennessee||5' 10", 214 lbs.|
|8||Jamaal Williams||BYU||6' 0", 212 lbs.|
|9||Kareem Hunt||Toledo||5' 10", 216 lbs.|
|10||Wayne Gallman||Clemson||6' 0", 215 lbs.|
|11||Donnel Pumphrey||San Diego St.||5' 8", 176 lbs.|
|12||James Conner||Pitt||6' 1", 233 lbs.|
|13||Jeremy McNichols||Boise State||5' 9", 214 lbs.|
|14||Elijah McGuire||Louisiana||5' 10", 214 lbs.|
|15||Marlon Mack||South Florida||5' 11", 213 lbs.|
Could Cook and Fournette both land in the top 10? Unlikely, but don’t rule it out. As things stand right now, both should be off the board within the first 20 picks, if nothing else. Fournette is a bruising back you want to get moving north and south as much as possible, although he sees the field well and can break off a sharp cut. Cook is more of a do-everything back with deadly east-to-west abilities, yet he also has breakaway speed when he does get downhill. The Round 1 wild cards come behind them. McCaffrey is an electrifying chip that could be produce massive numbers with a creative coordinator. Former teammates Perine and Mixon both have the look of potential No. 1 backs, although Mixon obviously has significant off-field questions to answer.
The middle rounds could wind up being a gold mine. Pumphrey is a Darren Sproles–like playmaker with excellent vision and burst. McGuire’s an under-the-radar name that also could step in and help as a rookie.
College offensive stats are as inflated as ever, but we’re still talking about some serious talent atop the receiver position and deep into the class.
|1||Corey Davis||Western Michigan||6' 3", 209 lbs.|
|2||John Ross||Washington||5' 10", 188 lbs.|
|3||Mike Williams||Clemson||6' 3", 218 lbs.|
|4||JuJu Smith-Schuster||USC||6' 1", 215 lbs.|
|5||Carlos Henderson||Louisiana Tech||6' 1", 191 lbs.|
|6||Zay Jones||East Carolina||6' 2", 201 lbs.|
|7||Curtis Samuel||Ohio State||5' 11", 196 lbs.|
|8||Josh Reynolds||Texas A&M||6' 3", 194 lbs.|
|9||Cooper Kupp||Eastern Washington||6' 2", 204 lbs.|
|10||Ryan Switzer||North Carolina||5' 8", 181 lbs.|
|11||Isaiah Ford||Virginia Tech||6' 1", 194 lbs.|
|12||ArDarius Stewart||Alabama||5' 11", 204 lbs.|
|13||Chris Godwin||Penn State||6' 1", 209 lbs.|
|14||Dede Westbrook||Oklahoma||6' 0", 178 lbs.|
|15||Chad Hansen||Cal||6' 2", 202 lbs.|
Davis is a polished weapon, with NFL-ready route understanding and a post-catch burst that turns short gains into substantial ones. Williams still is an early Round 1 prospect, thanks to how he can pummel cornerbacks with his physicality.
Ross and Smith-Schuster are quite different. Both can make defenders miss after the catch, but Ross is an absolute lightning bolt—watch his 4.22 40 at the combine for proof. Smith-Schuster gets the job done with body position and power.
Samuel has moved to wide receiver from his previous spot in the running back rankings. He’ll likely do a little of both in the NFL, but his skill set does seem a better fit for a slot role.
There is talent to be had deep into this class. Ford, Jones, Reynolds, Hansen and Kupp all could be pegged as Round 1 talents on certain boards.
Every NFL team craves a mismatch-creating tight end. All the better if that player can step inline and hand out a little punishment with his blocks, too. Good news for those front offices looking: The 2017 class has several prospects who fill the former void, and at least a couple who bring a complete game to the table.
|1||O.J. Howard||Alabama||6' 5", 251 lbs.|
|2||Evan Engram||Ole Miss||6' 3", 234 lbs.|
|3||David Njoku||Miami||6' 4", 246 lbs.|
|4||Bucky Hodges||Virginia Tech||6' 6", 257 lbs.|
|5||Jake Butt||Michigan||6' 5", 246 lbs.|
|6||Gerald Everett||South Alabama||6' 3", 239 lbs.|
|7||Jeremy Sprinkle||Arkansas||6' 5", 252 lbs.|
|8||Jordan Leggett||Clemson||6' 5", 258 lbs.|
|9||Michael Roberts||Toledo||6' 4", 270 lbs.|
|10||George Kittle||Iowa||6' 4", 247 lbs.|
At least three tight ends—Howard, Engram and Njoku—should land within the top 50 selections, Howard and Njoku possibly pushing up into the top 20 because of their athletic upside. Don’t sleep on the group below them, though, led by Butt, once thought to be a potential Round 1 option himself but now rehabbing from a knee injury.
Roberts and Ashland’s Adam Shaheen are the lesser-known names to remember. Shaheen, especially, enjoyed a rush of attention from draft analysts before the combine.
You’ve heard plenty about the deficiencies in this year’s tackle class. As always, starters will emerge from the players selected, but there is not an overwhelming number of obvious candidates, nor much in the way of top-10 talent.
|1||Cam Robinson||Alabama||6' 6", 322 lbs.|
|2||Ryan Ramczyk||Wisconsin||6' 6", 310 lbs.|
|3||Forrest Lamp||Western Kentucky||6' 4", 309 lbs.|
|4||Garett Bolles||Utah||6' 5", 297 lbs.|
|5||Taylor Moton||Western Michigan||6' 5", 319 lbs.|
|6||Antonio Garcia||Troy||6' 6", 302 lbs.|
|7||Roderick Johnson||Florida State||6' 7", 299 lbs.|
|8||Avery Gennesy||Texas A&M||6' 3", 318 lbs.|
|9||Chad Wheeler||USC||6' 6", 306 lbs.|
|10||Julien Davenport||Bucknell||6' 7", 318 lbs.|
There have been arguments to label Moton and Lamp as interior blockers, with moves to guard from their familiar tackle spots in their future—not sure why there would be such a rush to shift them, especially in an OT class that’s viewed as light. Lamp may not meet the size requirements NFL teams want outside, but he’s athletic enough to play there; Moton can start from Day One as a right tackle.
Both figure to be looking up at one or more of Robinson, Ramczyk and Bolles come the first round. All three have warts—Robinson’s inconsistent in pass protection, Ramczyk had hip surgery, Bolles will be 25 to start the 2017 season—but the potential is evident.
Pound-for-pound, the guard class could be one of the draft’s most impactful when it comes to making early contributions—especially since several of the top center prospects also have thrived here in the past. Typically, we don’t see more than one interior lineman slip into the first round, but there should be a run on guard/center types starting somewhere on Day 2.
|1||Dan Feeney||Indiana||6' 4", 305 lbs.|
|2||Dion Dawkins||Temple||6' 4", 314 lbs.|
|3||Isaac Asiata||Utah||6' 3", 335 lbs.|
|4||Dorian Johnson||Pitt||6' 5", 300 lbs.|
|5||Nico Siragusa||San Diego State||6' 4", 319 lbs.|
|6||Danny Isadora||Miami||6' 3", 311 lbs.|
|7||Kyle Kalis||Michigan||6' 4", 306 lbs.|
|8||Jordan Morgan||Kutztown||6' 3", 309 lbs.|
|9||Damien Mama||USC||6' 5", 305 lbs.|
|10||Ben Braden||Michigan||6' 6", 329 lbs.|
This is never a position that drums up a lot of pre-draft fervor, but obviously an important one nonetheless. And fortunately for the guard-needy teams out there, the 2017 class boasts at least a handful of prospects capable of stepping in early. At the top of that list is Feeney, an intelligent pass protector whose run-blocking footwork will have zone teams drooling. Johnson is more of a mauler.
Dawkins is another on the list of prospects who could stick at tackle, where he played in college. His perceived ability to be inside or outside will help his stock.
Sleeper: Jordan Morgan. Playing tackle, he often dominated the lower-level competition he faced by using his athleticism and through-the-whistle edge. He’s nimble enough to be very intriguing as a pulling guard.
Alabama’s Ryan Kelly was the gold standard at center last draft—the Colts nabbed him in Round 1, and he instantly upgraded their entire line. Expecting any of the 2017 center prospects to have that impact is a high bar, but here we find an ultra-experienced group with a couple names at the top that could be Week 1 starters.
|1||Pat Elflein||Ohio State||6' 3", 300 lbs.|
|2||Ethan Pocic||LSU||6' 6", 310 lbs.|
|3||Tyler Orlosky||West Virginia||6' 3", 298 lbs.|
|4||Kyle Fuller||Baylor||6' 5", 307 lbs.|
|5||Jon Toth||Kentucky||6' 5", 307 lbs.|
|6||Deyshawn Bond||Cincinnati||6' 2", 287 lbs.|
Elflein and Pocic are both up there with the center prospects we’ve seen in recent drafts: Kelly, Travis Frederick and so on. Expecting either to match the impact those players made is setting the bar awfully high, but don’t be surprised if it happens. This is a good group overall.
If the best prospect in this year’s draft class somehow winds up not being Myles Garrett, look no further than the defensive tackle spot for option No. 2. Alabama’s Jonathan Allen paces this position group, which also includes a deep roster of proven playmakers.
|1||Jonathan Allen||Alabama||6' 3", 286 lbs.|
|2||Malik McDowell||Michigan State||6' 6", 295 lbs.|
|3||Caleb Brantley||Florida||6' 3", 307 lbs.|
|4||Chris Wormley||Michigan||6' 5", 298 lbs.|
|5||Jaleel Johnson||Iowa||6' 3", 316 lbs.|
|6||Larry Ogunjobi||Charlotte||6' 3", 305 lbs.|
|7||Montravius Adams||Auburn||6' 4", 304 lbs.|
|8||Carlos Watkins||Clemson||6' 3", 309 lbs.|
|9||Dalvin Tomlinson||Alabama||6' 3", 310 lbs.|
|10||Eddie Vanderdoes||UCLA||6' 3", 305 lbs.|
Allen is a legitimate top-five prospect in this class, and like many of the others under this “defensive tackle” heading, that description does not cover his capabilities. He played DE quite a bit for Alabama and could stay outside in either a 4–3 or 3–4, dropping down in specific spots. That’s a theme for versatile guys like McDowell and Wormley, too.
The Brantleys and Johnsons of the class, on the other hand, could wind up as fixtures on NFL defenses because of how disruptive they are playing inside. Quick-footed DTs that can push the pocket are coveted—but relatively rare—finds.
A premium has been placed on edge rushers for decades, but rarely have they been as coveted as they are now, and this draft class has a stockpile of standouts. We’ve combined defensive ends and pass-rushing outside linebackers into one group here, because the difference between 4–3 and 3–4 edge defenders is as narrow as ever.
|1||Myles Garrett||Texas A&M||6' 4", 272 lbs.|
|2||Solomon Thomas||Stanford||6' 2", 273 lbs.|
|3||Derek Barnett||Tennessee||6' 3", 259 lbs.|
|4||Tim Williams||Alabama||6' 3", 244 lbs.|
|5||Takkarist McKinley||UCLA||6' 2", 250 lbs.|
|6||Taco Charlton||Michigan||6' 5", 277 lbs.|
|7||Charles Harris||Missouri||6' 3", 253 lbs.|
|8||Carl Lawson||Auburn||6' 2", 261 lbs.|
|9||T.J. Watt||Wisconsin||6' 4", 252 lbs.|
|10||Derek Rivers||Youngstown State||6' 4", 248 lbs.|
|11||Tarell Basham||Ohio||6' 4", 269 lbs.|
|12||Tyus Bowser||Houston||6' 3", 247 lbs.|
|13||Ryan Anderson||Alabama||6' 2", 253 lbs.|
|14||Jordan Willis||Kansas State||6' 4", 255 lbs.|
|15||DeMarcus Walker||Florida State||6' 4", 280 lbs.|
The 2017 edge group is comparable to the wide receivers in that there will be an abundance of talent waiting to be found even into Rounds 3, 4 and 5. Of course, most of the headlines will be written about the top prospects here, namely Garrett. He long has been locked in as the draft’s top prospect, and he proved why with a jaw-dropping combine performance. It should not take him long to be an impact playmaker off the edge at the next level.
Thomas, Williams, Barnett and McKinley all look for now as if they could crack the top 15, too. Thomas, for one, has been generating top-10 buzz. He can work off the edge but also has the power to create mismatches as an interior rusher.
Teams seeking out pure pass rushers could do worse than to pick through this group. Harris, Charlton, Watt, Rivers, and Bowser all are capable of developing into double-digit sack players, before much time passes. Anderson might be there, as well, though he offers value beyond specialist roles.
Those dynamic tight ends this class appears to offer? A lot of times, these are the players responsible for them in coverage. Linebackers—at least quality, three-down linebackers—have to be able to take on 300-pound blockers, chase running backs sideline to sideline and drop in coverage. This year’s class has several prospects who have done that throughout their college careers, as well as a handful of sleepers.
|1||Reuben Foster||Alabama||6' 0", 229 lbs.|
|2||Haason Reddick||Temple||6' 1", 237 lbs.|
|3||Zach Cunningham||Vanderbilt||6' 3", 234 lbs.|
|4||Jarrad Davis||Florida||6' 1", 238 lbs.|
|5||Raekwon McMillan||Ohio State||6' 2", 240 lbs.|
|6||Duke Riley||LSU||6' 0", 232 lbs.|
|7||Kendell Beckwith||LSU||6' 2", 243 lbs.|
|8||Anthony Walker||Northwestern||6' 1", 238 lbs.|
|9||Jalen Reeves-Maybin||Tennessee||6' 0", 230 lbs.|
|10||Vince Biegel||Wisconsin||6' 3", 246 lbs.|
Because of his size, Reddick likely will wind up transitioning to a linebacker-heavy role at the next level, and Senior Bowl week was one of the first glimpses at how he could handle that responsibility. He was, in a word, phenomenal. He helped himself even further with an excellent NFL combine.
Davis’s coverage abilities, provided he’s healthy, could make him the next best thing to Foster, the runaway No. 1 linebacker prospect this year. Davis can be matched up against backs or tight ends and hold his own.
Kansas State’s Elijah Lee was among the most notable combine snubs—and he lands just outside the top 10 here. He had 110 tackles this past season, and he’s well-rounded enough to be counted on for all three downs in the NFL.
How many cornerbacks are going to hear their name called in Round 1? Figure a minimum of two, with a maximum pushing double digits. The quality of this class suggests the number should be in the eight or nine range, but depth often can cause teams to wait it out at a position.
|1||Marshon Lattimore||Ohio State||6' 0", 192 lbs.|
|2||Quincy Wilson||Florida||6' 1", 213 lbs.|
|3||Tre'Davious White||LSU||6' 0", 181 lbs.|
|4||Gareon Conley||Ohio State||6' 0", 195 lbs.|
|5||Marlon Humphrey||Alabama||6' 1", 198 lbs.|
|6||Desmond King||Iowa||5' 11", 203 lbs.|
|7||Kevin King||Washington||6' 3", 200 lbs.|
|8||Jalen Tabor||Florida||6' 4", 199 lbs.|
|9||Sidney Jones||Washington||5' 11", 192 lbs.|
|10||Adoree' Jackson||USC||5' 10", 186 lbs.|
|11||Jourdan Lewis||Michigan||5' 10", 188 lbs.|
|12||Cordrea Tankersley||Clemson||6' 1", 199 lbs.|
|13||Howard Wilson||Houston||6' 1", 184 lbs.|
|14||Fabian Moreau||UCLA||6' 0", 206 lbs.|
|15||Chidobe Awuzie||Colorado||6' 0", 202 lbs.|
The top three (Lattimore, Wilson and Jones) are separated by a razor-thin margin. Lattimore, though, belongs on top—he already plays like a lock-down cornerback, despite limited college experience, and he packs a punch against the run.
Even the players rounding out the top 15 here are potential rookie starters. Kevin King stormed the combine with a 4.43 40 and the fastest three-cone drill of any corner.
Defining a player as a safety these days—even when adding the “free” or “strong” designation—rarely tells the whole story. Safeties obviously have to be able to cover ground deep against the pass, but more than ever they also have to be forceful against the run and be able to handle any offensive position in coverage. This position will have a significant impact on the draft’s first round.
|1||Jamal Adams||LSU||6' 1", 213 lbs.|
|2||Malik Hooker||Ohio State||6' 2", 205 lbs.|
|3||Jabrill Peppers||Michigan||6' 1", 205 lbs.|
|4||Budda Baker||Washington||5' 10", 192 lbs.|
|5||Marcus Williams||Utah||6' 1", 202 lbs.|
|6||Obi Melifonwu||UConn||6' 4", 224 lbs.|
|7||Josh Jones||NC State||6' 1", 220 lbs.|
|8||Marcus Maye||Florida||6' 0", 212 lbs.|
|9||Eddie Jackson||Alabama||6' 3", 201 lbs.|
|10||Justin Evans||Texas A&M||5' 11 1/2", 199 lbs.|
This safety class could turn out to be special. Adams is enough of a presence that he could singlehandedly shift a defense’s personality. Barring an unexpected development in the next couple months, it would be shocking to see him slide out of the top 10.
Hooker could join him up in those heights, too, provided a front office can see the full picture. He’s a gem as a ballhawking safety now, but will need time and experience before he also can be considered a strong run defender. Baker’s size may push him into a similar role: free safety first, and anything in the box is a bonus.
As for Peppers, the challenge will be in figuring out how best to use him. The answer very well could include time spent on offense, and it definitely should include a spot on the return teams. More production—or more time spent at safety—while at Michigan would have helped his evaluation. But try to focus on what he did, and what he allowed his teammates to do by playing linebacker, rather than nitpick the negatives.
Oh, and did people forget about Jackson? He broke his leg midway through Alabama’s season, but a healthy Jackson has the skill and instincts to make things happen.