- With college football bowl games completed and the Super Bowl around the corner, NFL draft talk is heating up. Here's a look at the current top 50 prospects.
A few days ago, I received an email from my colleague Andrew Perloff (you may know him better as “McLovin” from The Dan Patrick Show, or as the guy who dressed up as the Kirk Cousins “you like that!” Vine for Halloween) who wanted to know how Mitch Trubisky could be No. 4 on my 2017 draft QB rankings but No. 3 in my most recent mock draft. The explanation can help set the table for the Big Board below.
Here’s what it boils down to: the mocks are a best guess, attempting to pair team needs with the prospect board to theorize how the draft may play itself out. The positional rankings (which are up-to-date here) and the Big Boards are sort of a look behind the curtain at what I’m learning as I study up on the 2017 class—which players I like or am lukewarm on, who’s ready to step in as a rookie, etc. The players on the Big Board are ordered by how confident I am that they’ll succeed in the NFL. Think of the top 12 are being as close to “sure things” as the draft produces, on down through guys I’d consider borderline Round 1 prospects.
You’ll no doubt notice that just one of the 2017 class’s QBs falls within the top 31 spots. That honor belongs to Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Three more quarterbacks (DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes and Trubisky) check in between 32 and 40. And, again, that doesn’t mean they’ll all sit around until Day 2—just that, as of this moment, I’d place their respective values closer to late Round 1 or early Round 2 than a top-five pick. One reason why this class will be fascinating to track is that the views on the quarterbacks seem to vary wildly. To some, Trubisky is an obvious superstar in the making; others will bang the table for Kizer or (as is the case here) Watson. Mahomes? He’s viewed as a high-upside, low-floor prospect ... and no one seems certain what that means yet.
Ahead of last year’s draft, the view was that most of the quarterbacks needed time before they could thrive as starters. Carson Wentz proved that wrong, to a point, and Dak Prescott blew it out of the water. There is a similar opinion of the 2017 class, and that argument in part fuels the placements of Kizer, Mahomes and Trubisky near the edge of “Round 1” valuation. But we’ll see. There’s still a long way to go and plenty to learn about these prospects. For now, the top 50.
In what looks to be a wide-open draft, Garrett getting grabbed by pick three (at the absolute latest) is almost gospel. He’s not a carbon-copy player, but Garrett could impact a defense next season the way that Joey Bosa did once he got on the field for the Chargers.
Cook accounted for 5,399 yards from scrimmage in his Florida State career—he obviously can make defenders miss in the open field. What he doesn’t get enough credit for, though, is his ability to absorb contact and keep moving.
Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller recently mentioned Sean Taylor and Eric Berry as possible comps for Adams, so...we’re potentially in rarefied air here. Adams’s versatility is a clear plus, but what helps set him apart is how quickly he reads and reacts to plays. It’s not an accident that he is constantly near the football.
No matter the edge prospect, the same questions always arise: Can he drop in coverage? Can he be a stand-up rusher? Forget about it with Barnett. There’s no need to complicate what he is, which is a dominant, hand-in-dirt presence. The career sack total (32.0 in three years) is impressive, but he uses his hands and positioning to stay active vs. the run, too.
There will be a lot of discussion on the differing opinions of this class’s quarterbacks. Just looking around the draft-analysis landscape, a similar variance appears to be emerging at CB. It’s shaping up as a great cornerback class, with upwards of 10 guys with Round 1 talent. Give me Wilson up top. He has the size and technique to be a lock-down NFL defender.
Now that the furor over players skipping bowl games has died down, the spotlight can shift back to how healthy Fournette’s ankle is—Will Carroll of SEC Country reported two months ago that Fournette has a "chronic" ailment. When he’s at 100%, Fournette is a wonder to behold, a combination of power and speed who has all the makings of a 1,500-yard NFL back.
Anything an offense could ask of a wide receiver, Davis produced for Western Michigan. Heck, he even finished his college career 2-for-2 passing. He can play outside or in the slot, explode for yards after the catch and—as he showed on his bowl-game TD vs. Wisconsin—willingly fight through contact for 50/50 balls.
Whether he runs a 4.4- or 4.6-second 40-yard dash, the proof of Williams’s success is out there. He doesn’t profile as a "burner," yet manages to create separation on all levels. When he is covered tightly, he can go up and win in the air.
Williams’s draft stock is a bit in limbo. A scout told The MMQB’s Albert Breer that "off-field stuff will drop," while Walter Football’s Charlie Campbell reported Williams has "many failed drug tests" in his past. Purely on football talent, Williams—a game-wrecking pass rusher off the edge—is a borderline top-10 prospect in this class.
Without rehashing any of the QB talk above, here’s the short version: Watson is the most physically and mentally complete quarterback in this class. Does that mean he’s a guaranteed success? Of course not, but he’ll be starting several steps ahead of the other 2017 QBs.
Worried about Peppers’s weaknesses (or, at least, about what he wasn’t asked to do at Michigan)? Understandable. What Peppers can be, though, is a safety with linebacker-like downhill closing speed and receiver-like athleticism.
A top-10 selection would come as no surprise. Hooker produced 74 tackles and seven picks this season, all while displaying exceptional awareness for where quarterbacks wanted to distribute the ball.
Cunningham waited until this past weekend to declare for the draft, but it should pay off for him. He’s a force against the run, able to get off blockers on the move and make one-on-one tackles.
His electrifying speed alone will make Ross a draft target for teams wanting to be more vertical in the passing game. He might be even more dangerous with the ball in his hands on short and intermediate routes.
The Senior Bowl and combine will be huge for King (as they are for most prospects), because he has to erase any doubts about his speed. Nothing slowed him down as a standout CB in college—he picked off 14 passes. That a move to safety could be an option is a nod to King’s ability in run support.
We never really saw what Howard could do as a consistent focal point in Alabama’s offense. That won’t happen at the next level. Howard is a dynamic pass-catching threat, who has too much speed for most linebackers and too much size for defensive backs.
Baker plays about as physical a game as one could expect a 192-pounder to play. He can cover deep, in the slot or over tight ends, but he also had 9.5 tackles for loss this season—Washington did not hesitate to pull him up close to the line.
The best of an uninspiring OT class, and possibly a franchise tackle once an NFL staff works to clean up his inconsistencies. He can be a very good run blocker out of the gate. The challenge will be in pass protection, where Robinson can be too passive (no pun intended) working against quick edge rushers.
The deciding factor on McDowell’s draft position will be whether or not any team believes it can get him to play full throttle on every snap. His dominance was too come-and-go in college. But he’s still a 6’ 7”, 290-pound lineman with unteachable athleticism.
While a nagging ankle injury hindered him for much of 2016, Davis is an athletic specimen with great range, and he can play ILB or OLB.
A 300-pounder with a quick get-off at the snap, Brantley could be next in a growing line of disruptive interior D-line playmakers to hit the NFL.
He’s like a wind-up toy—once a play starts, McKinley is non-stop energy until the whistle. His speed is what will allow him to be a playmaker early in his NFL career.
There’s a blitz of CBs coming in the next few slots, all with deserved Round 1 hopes. Tankersley is an in-your-face defender, almost to a fault.
An effective three-down defender for Michigan, it’s the pass rush that has Charlton rising. He sets up OTs with speed, then can dip and bend around them.
Has to shake some of his bad habits, but Kizer's upside is tantalizing. He has a good arm, great size, and he throws a pretty deep ball up the sideline.
Despite a rough outing in the Orange Bowl, Lewis has established himself as a Round 1-2 pick. He may be too small (5’ 10”) to thrive outside, but his footwork is outstanding.
Qualls is a 300-pound load inside, who also just so happens to have the speed-to-power capacity to blow up OTs as an oversized edge rusher (as seen here).
Smith-Schuster will have to prove he can get open against physical NFL defensive backs. He’s a big-time playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Tabor is an ideal fit for a defensive coordinator who likes to turn his CBs loose. The Florida product thrives on taking chances, and he often succeeds thanks to his extremely quick feet.
The Air Raid system tag will follow Mahomes, who needs time to develop. Already in his possession, though, are a rocket arm and a feel for how to manipulate the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield.
He needed hip surgery after Wisconsin’s season, so that’s a bit of a wrinkle in the outlook right now. Otherwise, Ramczyk has elite movement skills for a player of his size (6’ 6”, 314 pounds.).
Cut from the gunslinger mold, Trubisky has the arm strength, athleticism and understands defenses well enough to project as a potential All-Pro. He needs a lot of work, though, to settle down his mechanics.
The positive athletic traits are there, but Conley really thrives as a read-and-recognition corner.
A stout end who can kick inside on passing downs, Walker looks the part. Keep an eye out for that advanced swim move.
Adams fires off the line, but does so with purpose—he shows great awareness for what’s happening around him.
Harris flies off the line and features a deadly spin move, as well as a nice complement of backup attacks. Can he bend the edge effectively enough to beat NFL tackles?
Johnson produced 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks this season. At times, he was unblockable as an interior defender.
Anderson is less explosive but arguably more complete of a player than his former teammate and fellow 2017 prospect, Tim Williams.
The Senior Bowl could be his ticket to Round 1 consideration. Kupp finds holes in coverage and seems to always pick up chunks of yardage after the catch.
A GM could fall in love in Round 1. Foreman is built to last as a starting back (6’ 1”, 250 lbs.) but also has ample big-play speed once he gets to the second level.