The 2017 NFL Draft is in the books and every team got better last weekend. Yet, some teams did a better job than some others and a couple of players got help via the draft. On the other hand, there are a few prospects who saw their draft stock drop and they had to wait longer than expected to hear their name called, while a bunch of them did not have their phones ring at all. Here’s a recap of what happened in Philly:
You can blame the Browns for trading away from a franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz in the last draft, but they did their job last weekend. First overall they took the best player available, then Jabrill Peppers at 25 presents a versatile, energetic defender and then they traded back into the first round for Miami tight-end David Njoku two picks later. The best part about it though was that they didn’t reach for a quarterback and landed with DeShone Kizer in the middle of the second round, where I pretty much had him ranked. I think it would have been better for the Notre Dame QB to land somewhere with a veteran at the position, but the Browns just liked and saw the potential. I didn’t quite have a day two rating on Charlotte D-Tackle Larry Ogunjobi, but I thought everybody after that gave them excellent value. Howard Wilson out of Houston would have probably gone one round earlier if the corner class wasn’t that deep, FSU’s Roderick Johnson could soon start at right tackle with his ability to pave the way in the run game, if clean off the field and fresh on it Caleb Brantley is a three-gap penetrator from Florida, they got one of the best kickers available in the sixth round from Arizona State and a really solid all-around back in N.C. State’s Matthews Dayes in the last.
There were four first-round quarterbacks in this draft and outside of a possibility to learn under Andy Reid for Patrick Mahomes, I think having to come to Chicago, where the fans were already disappointed when your name was called second overall or heading to Cleveland with a locker room without a veteran QB and coming off a 1-15 year, I think Watson hit the jackpot. Houston has one of the top defenses in the league, he’s throwing to another former Tiger and one of the elite receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, has the dynamic Lamar Miller with him in the backfield and two talented pass-catchers out of last year’s draft. Everybody has said for years that the Texans are a quarterback away from the Super Bowl and their biggest struggles have been in big games, where everybody is watching. Guess what – nobody has shined more in those moments in the last three college seasons than the leader of this year’s national champs. Watson has the chance to take Houston to the next level and he could help them win one of the weaker divisions in the NFL for years to come.
The nation’s capital ruled the opening round of this year’s draft with the selection of Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who I had as my number two prospect in the entire draft. I don’t have any medical reports on his shoulders, but what I saw on tape was the most dominant collegiate defender last season. Then the Redskins teamed him back up with the hard-nosed linebacker Ryan Anderson and added a corner with first-round talent in Fabian Moreau out of UCLA on the second day. On Saturday they picked a couple more aggressive players with Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine and Michigan State safety Montae Nicholson. Arkansas tight-end Jeremy Sprinkle and Wyoming center Chase Roullier are really solid picks, while someone like Louisville safety-linebacker hybrid Joshua Harvey-Clemons is a dynamic athlete and could have been a second day pick without the drug tests he failed in college.
After not being able to perform to any degree at the combine or Western Michigan pro day, Davis probably was even surprised himself to be selected fifth overall by the Titans. I really liked him coming out of college, but without having seen anything from him in the pre-draft process I had him slotted behind Mike Williams as my number two guy at the position and a lot of experts also put the speedy John Ross ahead of him. Not often do you see a prospect out of the MAC selected as the first player at his position, especially not if the competition performed at least to some degree in front of all the scouts. I loved Davis on tape, outside of the one drop per game he had, with the crisp route-running and ability to make things happen after the catch, but I didn’t think he would be a top-five pick in this year’s draft.
I thought the Colts had the best rounds one to three in the entire draft. First they got the premiere center-fielder out there in Malik Hooker at number 15, then they got the big, physical corner Quincy Wilson out of Florida at 46 and a talented edge rusher Tarrell Basham (Ohio) in the third. In rounds five to seven they added an explosive back in Marlon Mack, who could eventually be their starter, when Frank Gore hangs up his cleats, a developmental nose tackle named Grover Stewart, the feisty Temple corner Nate Hairston and linebacker Anthony Walker, who plays with the heart of a lion. Indy needs defense badly and they had an outstanding defensive draft, which could contain their starting free safety, a corner and nickel, edge rusher and mike-linebacker, plus a slicing runner who should have been picked on day two. Give new general manager Chris Ballard a lot of credit.
Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers:
With this draft class the Chargers showed me they want to surround Philip Rivers heading into his final few years. They understood he loves to work with a big-bodied, physical wideout, like he had in Vincent Jackson, so they got Mike Williams out of Clemson seventh overall. In the second and third round they picked two starting guards in Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp, who I had as my top offensive lineman available overall, and Indiana’s Dan Feeney, who should have been an early day two pick if he didn’t come with some injury concerns. Then they looked more at the defensive side of the ball. Miami safety Rayshawn Jenkins is a physical presence in the back-end, Iowa’s Desmond King is a former Jim Thorpe award winner and could be their starting nickel week one and Notre Dame’s Isaac Rochell adds depth to the defensive line. I think this team just got a lot better and they are one of the sleeper teams to go really make noise next season after a disappointing 2016 campaign.
Other drafts I liked:
They managed to fill their biggest needs early, while staying true to their draft board. Taco Charlton should at some point give them the edge rushing presence they’ve been looking for since DeMarcus Ware left, Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan are both feisty defensive backs, after the Cowboys lost a lot of secondary players, Ryan Switzer is a Cole Beasley-clone, Xavier Woods is a ball-magnet and Noah Brown plays huge when the ball is in the air.
The Texans weren’t in the mood to wait for their quarterback anymore and made their move to grab him. I always thought Watson was the number one option in this draft. Vandy linebacker Zach Cunningham is a tackling-machine, who could see his numbers even go up with NFL training, Texas running back D’Onta Foreman complements Lamar Miller well with his bruising running-style, Julie’n Davenport is a developmental left tackle with starter traits and Carlos Watkins is an interior rusher with 10+ sack production out of Clemson.
San Francisco 49ers:
I thought one of the best moves in the entire draft was for the 49ers to move down one spot and collecting third-round picks in both this and next year’s draft, while still getting their guy in Solomon Thomas. Then they moved back into the first round late for only a fourth-round pick and added the top linebacker in the entire draft in Alabama’s Reuben Foster (although I don’t have medicals on his shoulders). I also really liked the selections of the home-runner hitting back Joe Williams (Utah), tight-end/fullback George Kittle (Iowa), slot receiver Trent Taylor (Louisiana) and a developmental pass-rusher Pita Taumoepenu (Utah).
Haason Reddick gives the Cards the dynamic linebacker they’ve lacked since Darryl Washington got kicked out of the league, Budda Baker (Washington) can start at nickel or safety and has the same no-bullshit approach of Tyrann Mathieu with both of the weighing only around 200 pounds, Chad Williams out of Grambling State tracks the ball very naturally and finds separation, Pitt guard Dorian Johnson was one of my top five interior offensive linemen available and Will Holden is a solid tackle, who started four years in the tough SEC.
When you lose Adrian Peterson and you don’t have a first-round pick, I think you can be pretty happy when being able to draft Dalvin Cook in the second round. In the third they found a plug-and-play center, who I had as my top guy at the position, and a replacement for Sharrif Floyd, if he doesn’t recover at some point, with Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson. I also really like the solid Miami guard Danny Isidora, the huge Virginia Tech tight-end Bucky Hodges and K-State linebacker Elijah Lee, who adds some more speed to the defense. They got all three of them from pick 180 and beyond.
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (selected 215th overall by the Lions):
I personally had Kaaya as a top 100 prospect. When I watched his tape, I thought he could pick apart defenses when he reads the coverage correctly and because of his accuracy, as long as he was protected. My concern occurred when the pressure was in his face leading to his game breakng down and he’s not very mobile to save himself from some of those rushers. Still, with his sound mechanics and experience from under center I thought some team would pull the trigger in the third round. The Hurricanes quarterback was selected late in the sixth round now finds himself behind arguably a top five QB from last year in Matthew Stafford. Had he landed with a team that has an average starter he would have had a chance to compete for the spot, if not this year and then in years to come, but with the way things went, he is stuck in Motor City behind a Pro Bowler in the prime of his career.
Tyler Orlosky, C, West Virginia (undrafted):
The West Virginia center was considered a top-five player at his position and CBS had him as a top 100 overall prospect, so I was really surprised he didn’t hear his name called at any point of the draft. I wasn’t such a big fan of him because I didn’t see much push in the run game on tape and he showed pretty lazy feet, but with the respect he got from the coaches in his conference, being a team-captain and three-year starter, I thought some team would ask for his services somewhere in the middle rounds. Instead he went undrafted and as far as I know no team has signed him to this point.
Alex Smith & Mike Glennon:
Well, Trubisky and Mahomes probably won’t start this year, but if a team invests a second and tenth overall pick in a quarterback that guy will eventually replace your current man at the helm. Alex Smith hasn’t gotten the Chiefs to the AFC Championship yet and their staff certainly doesn’t believe he can bring them there or even past it. As far as Mike Glennon goes, he just signed a three-year, 45-million-dollar deal and thought the Bears organization thinks he can bring them back to their winning days. Now they gave up a third round pick this and next year just to move up one spot, which tells you they really wanted the North Carolina QB. You never know if a player gets injured, but even if they don’t, it looks like Glennon will start for 2017 only, especially with the way his contract was structured top-heavy, while Smith might have one year more, but the K.C. coaches clearly think of Mahomes is their guy heading into the future.
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan (selected 145th overall by Broncos):
I feel really bad for the Michigan tight-end. He was considered a lock for round two and did nothing to hurt himself other than tearing his ACL in their final bowl game. He is tough and dependable. When you line him up in-line he can be a reliable target over the middle on short and intermediate routes. He won’t run away from people, but if he improves his blocking he could a nice Y-tight-end. So basically he dropped three rounds and millions of dollars just by trying to help his team win a big bowl game and unfortunately got injured.
Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama & Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky (selected 34th and 38th overall to the Jaguars and Chargers respectively):
Robinson was considered the top tackle prospect on most draft boards and Lamp the best interior guy on pretty much everyone’s, but they both fell out of the first round, even though this is a really weak offensive line class. I know it’s not always about when you get picked, but where you get selected, however they should have been locks for day one, especially in 2017. The money is different and a couple of playoff teams at the end of the night needed help up front. The two guys were right there for them, but neither one got a call.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma (selected 110th overall by Jaguars):
I really saw Westbrook as a top-50 prospect. I was a bit scared when I watched his Ohio State tape, since those two long corners present what the NFL offers, but Dede is an explosive play-maker, who can change the complexity of a contest in a heartbeat. How can a Heisman finalist drop to the fourth round? Some character concerns off the field and his small body suggested he would fall to some degree in the process, but I didn’t expect this to happen. It wasn’t like with his teammate Joe Mixon, who was charged with women abuse and where a video of him knocking that girl out went viral, and that guy still was a top-50 pick. Now Westbrook comes to a Jaguars team that has the great Allen-duo and a waiting Marquise Lee already. He will have to prove himself once again.
Veteran running backs:
This was one of the best running back classes in recent years and those young bucks will take away a lot of carries from the veterans. At the top of the draft the Jaguars selected Leonard Fournette, who will probably get a similar workload to Ezekiel Elliott, meaning 20 to 30 touches a game. Bad news for Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon. Christian McCaffrey went eight overall to the Panthers and will see his fair share of touches as well, but with his ability to catch the ball and return kicks, Jonathan Stewart will still be asked to pound inside to a certain degree. Dalvin Cook was a top-ten prospect to me and I think he’ll start day one for the Vikings, who got a steal early in round two. Minnesota just signed Latavius Murray a couple of weeks ago, but Cook’s game-breaking speed and vision will make Murray a number two guy. The Bengals selected one of the most controversial prospects in the draft, when they grabbed Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon. We don’t know if his aggression problems will hurt him in his NFL career, but what I do know is that he was the most complete back coming out. His talents are off the charts and I don’t think Jeremy Hill will have a chance to keep his starting job for very well long. Mixon will probably also take away some opportunities on passing downs for Gio Bernard. Even on day three teams added RBs who I think could work their way into the starting line-up, like Samaje Perine (Oklahoma) for the Redskins, Jamaal Williams (BYU) for the Packers, Marlon Mack (South Florida) for the Colts, Kareem Hunt (Toledo) for the Chiefs and Wayne Gallman (Clemson) for the Giants.
Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama (selected 17th overall by Redskins):
I already said, I thought Allen was the biggest steal of round one in this year’s draft. He was always the strongest guy on the field in a tough SEC, he has good initial quickness and excellent hand-usage. Like I mentioned already, I can’t judge the health of his shoulders, but he is a monster up front.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (selected 41st overall by Vikings):
I had Cook as my second-best running back and as a top ten prospect, but scouts questioned who he spent his time with off the field. I also think it’s important for pro players to surround themselves with the right people in order to be successful and not get distracted, but the Florida State back is a tremendous all-around talent. He accelerates like crazy, runs through arm-tackles all day, leaves people standing in the open field and is a great receiver from multiple spots.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee (selected 67th overall by Saints):
Kamara is another dynamic playmaker from the running back position. I know he never handled more than 18 carries a contest, but he can be used in multiple ways. You can split him out and run routes, toss the ball and let him beat people to the perimeter and have as a dangerous threat in the screen game. You just have to put the ball in his hands and he will make things happen. After being mocked late in the first round by some people, he saw himself drop to the third round and now has a Hall of Famer in front of him, who oh by the way is only second on the depth chart himself behind Mark Ingram.
Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt (selected 57th overall by Texans):
The people in the league were kind of split on Cunningham and I wasn’t sure if he would go late first or second, but I certainly had a first-round grade on the Vandy LB. I like his length to take on blockers and see through them to find the ball-carrier, he has outstanding initial quickness and is a tackling-machine. With no production in the passing game as far as interceptions go and a bunch of missed tackles, I could see him drop some spots, but when he improves his arm strength to finish some of those tackles I think he could be a tackling-machine in the NFL as well.
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan (selected 92nd overall by Cowboys):
Lewis was one of my favorite players in the entire draft. I really believe if he was six feet or beyond he would have been a first-rounder. At only 5’10’’ he is extremely competitive and his anticipation for route-patterns is unmatched. He could start week one at nickel for me and he’d be a key piece to my defense. At pick number 92 he is definitely a steal for me and the Cowboys just got better even compared to who they lost in free agency.
Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn (selected 116th overall by Bengals):
I don’t think Lawson is consistent enough at this point, but he flashes some explosive traits on film. I thought of him as a guy that would hear his name called in the middle of day two, but instead he had to wait until Saturday. I know injuries have bugged him over the years at Auburn, but with the way he moved around in the open field, I thought he’d move up some draft boards of the teams that run 3-4 schemes and look for an outside linebacker. Now the Bengals added him and Jordan Willis to the mix, who could easily both start on the edges for a couple of teams that aren’t as talented on the outside. With things the way they are, those two guys at least make for some outstanding situational pass-rushers, as they continue to work at their craft.
Desmond King, FS, Iowa (selected 151st overall by Chargers):
The former Jim Thorpe award winner never got the respect in the pre-draft process he deserved and I saw how he could drop as a result, but it’s crazy he lasted until the fifth round. King has unbelievable ball-skills and competitiveness, but he isn’t fast enough to survive on the outside. Still, I think he would make a great nickel or free safety if you take advantage of his strengths and he’s a guy who I’d want on my team.
Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State (selected 149th overall by Falcons):
Kazee is only 5’10’’, but he’s had unbelievable production in college with 17 career interceptions. He trusts what he sees and goes after the ball aggressively. I love how quickly he puts his foot in the ground and goes, as well as the way he constantly rips at the football. I know he comes with some size limitations and I don’t think he has elite speed for the outside, but he could be an immediate impact performer inside and continue to force turnovers.
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (selected 19th overall by Buccaneers)
Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama (selected 78th overall by Ravens)
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma (selected 110th overall by Jaguars)
Eddie Jackson, FS, Alabama (selected 112th overall by Bears)
Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh (selected 115th overall by Chargers)
Joe Williams, RB, Utah (selected 121st overall by 49ers)
Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson (selected 140th overall by Giants)
Jake Butt, TE, Michigan (selected 145th overall by Broncos)
Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson (selected 150th overall by Jets)
Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah (selected 164th overall by Dolphins)
Adam Bisnowaty, T, Pittsburgh (selected 200th overall by Giants)
Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech (selected 237th overall by Dolphins)
Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss (selected 253rd overall by Broncos)
Mitchell Trubisky (selected second overall by Bears):
I barely had a first-round grade on Trubisky, so spending a number two overall selection on him seems very rich for me. I like the pocket presence, calm demeanor, athleticism and arm talent, but he’ll get caught off guard off guard by what NFL defenses do, especially after the snap, and you only have 13 game tapes on him. I’d have no problem with some team spending a mid-first pick on him, but not the Bears, who need help in the pass rush department as well as the secondary. Solomon Thomas and Jamal Adams were right there and they both were extremely safe and energetic prospects, who would have added some juice to a Bears defense, that lacks exactly that quality. And even if they thought Mr. Biscuit is their guy, they could have stayed at number three and not waste a third-round pick in this and next year’s draft to move up that one spot, since I’m pretty sure San Fran wasn’t going spend such a high pick on him.
Patrick Mahomes II (selected tenth overall by Chiefs):
The Chiefs gave up next year’s first round-pick and a third-rounder in this draft, which was filled with talent, to move up to number ten and select their quarterback of the future. Finding a quality signal caller is crucial for success and the Chiefs have yet to move past the Divisional Round in the Andy Reid-regime, but let’s put this in perspective. A first-round selection is supposed to be an impact performer, while K.C. could have selected an immediate starter at nickel in Jourdan Lewis or a replacement for Dontari Poe with Montravius Adams still on the board in the third. And the Bills still got cornerback Tre’Davious White at number 27, who is solid pick himself. I know Pat Mahomes can make the craziest throws off platform and I like his competitiveness, but I’m not sure if he can ever be reigned in to dump it off to his running-back in the flat instead of forcing it between a linebacker and the safety on a third-and-five. Could he be Aaron Rodgers one day? Maybe. Could he be a turnover-machine for some years? More likely.
Marcus Maye (selected 39th overall by Jets):
I like this guy. I had him as one of my top ten safeties coming out and ranked 74th overall. However, someone like Marcus Williams out of Utah and a bunch of fine corners were still available. I would understand if safety is their number one need and they think Maye is their guy, but I think they’re much more desperate for outside help and they had some good options. Players like Sidney Jones, Quincy Wilson and Chidobe Awuzie were all still on the board. At the same time it’s not like the Jets have a lot of firepower on offense and Dalvin Cook was right there for the taking. I’m a fan of the pairing of Maye and Jamal Adams at safety, but I thought they should have gone down a different path with a high second-round pick.
Dalvin Tomlinson (selected 55th overall by Giants):
Like I said in my rankings for the top interior defensive linemen, I thought Tomlinson was kind of the unsung hero on a historic Bama defense. He sets up his teammates on stunt and twists, by grabbing offensive linemen and opening up lanes, as well as being a rock in the run game. With that being said, I don’t think he should have been selected ahead of defensive linemen Montravius Adams or Chris Wormley. To me he just doesn’t offer enough of a disruption factor and will never be a true third-down rusher who makes things happen for himself. But not only did I have a couple of D-linemen ranked ahead of Tomlinson, I thought there were some better options on the offensive line at that point, which would make more sense for the Giants anyway. Indiana guard Dan Feeney or Dion Dawkins from Temple come to mind. I had the Alabama DT more as a third-rounder.
Ethan Pocic (selected 58th overall by Seahawks):
I don’t think Pocic is a bad player and I won’t knock him for how tall he is. I like how he stays engaged with defenders throughout plays, how he keeps his eyes up and moves well laterally. However, he plays pretty tall and isn’t very physical or aggressive, which doesn’t seem to fit necessarily well with what the Seahawks like to do. The LSU coaches were a big fan of him because of his intelligence and how technically sound he is, but to me he just isn’t the guy you’d want to have to impose your will with the ground game. Since Seattle has Justin Britt at center already, I think they plan on playing Pocic on the outside, where they need help, but he doesn’t really have a lot of experience at the tackle position and if you wanted to develop somebody there, I feel like Taylor Moton or Antonio Garcia would have made more sense, even though I had none of the three with a second-round grade.
Dawuane Smoot (selected 68th overall by Jaguars):
I like some of the Jaguars young edge-rushers and I still would applaud them for adding to a position, where they already have some guys, especially since you can never have too many guys chasing around quarterbacks, but Smoot certainly wasn’t the top player left at that position. Here are the defensive ends/outside linebackers that were drafted over the next 15 picks: Jordan Willis (Kansas State), Daeshon Hall (Texas A&M), Tim Williams (Alabama), Tarell Basham (Ohio) and Derek Rivers (Youngstown State). I would have taken each and every one of them ahead of the Illinois man. I like the athleticism, but I don’t think he knows what he’s doing at this point and I wouldn’t say any of the five guys mentioned are behind him as far as potential goes. I had Smoot as an early day three pick.