The 2017 NFL Draft is just one week away, and as expected, the rumor mill is spinning out of control. We are hearing plenty of rumors involving nearly every player and team, some of which are smokescreens, and others that are legitimate. Who are the hot names? Who’s stock is declining? With just seven days until the NFL Draft, here is what we are hearing about which teams are targeting which players, and what trades are being discussed as the NFL Draft approaches:
Stock Rising As The Draft Approaches:
Hasson Reddick, LB (6’1 237lbs) Temple – There has been an increasing buzz around Hasson Reddick this week, teams see him as an sideline-to-sideline weakside linebacker on early downs, who is also capable of being a stellar pass rusher on later downs. Teams absolutely love Reddick, so much so that I have been told he could easily be selected in the top ten, which would be a meteoric rise for a player who had to earn his scholarship at Temple. I still have Reddick slotted in the late teens or early twenties, I cannot find a fit in the early portion of round one, but Reddick is hot at the right time and his name could be called on draft night earlier than you think.
Christian McCaffery, RB (5’11 202lbs) Stanford – Arguably the hottest name over the past week has been Christian McCaffery, who has received a guarantee that he will be selected in the top fifteen (speculation is it came from the Eagles who have the fourteenth pick), however he is unlikely be last that long. McCaffery is now reported to be a lock for the top ten, with many scouts convinced that he will not make it past the Carolina Panthers, who hold the eighth pick. McCaffery can just impact the game on so many ways, as a running back, a receiver and a return man.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB (6’2 222lbs) North Carolina – While the Browns will not take Trubisky first overall, they do love him, and are trying to find a way to select him as well. The Browns have two first round picks (1,12) so landing both prospects is possible, and they are apparently in discussions with the New York Jets, attempting to work a trade to acquire the sixth pick in the draft if Trubisky is still on the board. Early speculation is that the Browns would send three picks (12, a second round pick, a mid-round pick) to the Jets to move up to six and select Trubisky, however, the Jets want the 33rd overall pick (first pick of the second round), while the Browns are offering the 52nd pick (later in round two). The Browns feel that, if they do not trade up, Trubisky will not fall into their laps at twelve because he will be selected by the Bills at tenth overall. NOTE: If I was the Browns (I’m available), I would look to solidify my roster in this draft and neglect quarterback, then draft a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft when there is much more talent at the position.
O.J. Howard, TE (6’6 251lbs) Alabama – Another name that has been hot this week is O.J. Howard, although he does not play a premium position, teams see him as a top three talent in this draft from both a physical and skill standpoint. It would not be shocking to hear Howard’s name called as early as fourth overall to Jacksonville, in fact, I have heard that the Bears have some level of interest with the third pick. The Tennessee Titans at pick number five and the Carolina Panthers at pick number eight are very interested in Howard, as well as the Bills at tenth overall, I could of just saved some time by saying everyone loves O. J. Howard. The fact that this is a very deep tight end draft hurts Howard, but enough teams love him that someone will draft him early, which his talent justifies.
Patrick Mahomes, QB (6’2 225lbs) Texas Tech – A scout recently told me to not be surprised when Pat Mahomes is the second quarterback selected, and that some teams have him graded higher than Mitchell Trubisky, suddenly Mahomes is a red hot prospect. Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien absolutely loves Mahomes, and had hoped that he would fall into the Texans laps at pick number twenty-five, but that now seems extremely unlikely. The Texans are considering trading up in order to secure Mahomes, O’Brien is that smitten with him, but how far up will Houston have to move up in the draft to get him? And how much will they have to give up for a quarterback that clearly needs time to develop. Mahomes has a rocket for an arm, and he is a gunslinger, but he needs coaching and has to cut down on mistakes.
Cam Robinson, OT (6’6 322lbs) Alabama – Throughout the year, Cam Robinson was on the top of the offensive line rankings, however an arrest and questions about which position he will play in the NFL caused teams to sour on Robinson for a while. However the charges against Robinson were dropped, and he has apparently blown teams away with how well he has performed in interviews, his stock is back up at the right time. Offensive tackle is a premium position in the NFL, the draft class is extremely weak at offensive tackle, and teams are convinced that Robinson is the best of the bunch. While there were initially rumors that Robinson may have to kick inside to guard in the NFL, teams are now convinced he is at worst a solid right tackle, who may be able to hold his own on the blindside if he trims down. Do not be surprised if Robinson is the first offensive lineman off the board, he could start his right tackle with the potential to flip to the left side down the road.
Taco Charlton, DE (6’6 277lbs) Michigan – I was once told that Taco Charlton was a lock to be drafted in the top ten, and while I cannot find a fit, he should hear his name called during the first half of round one. Charlton has no weakness, and he looks the part, he is solid against both the run and the pass. I have always said he reminds me of former New York Giants star Justin Tuck. While I have trouble finding a pick for Charlton within the top ten, I would not be shocked if he is drafted ahead of players like Derek Barnett, and he could hear his name called before Solomon Thomas if things break right.
Gareon Conley, CB (6’ 195lbs) Ohio State – This is a very deep cornerback class, the deepest in recent memory, I count as many as fifteen cornerbacks who could be drafted within the first two days (three rounds) of the draft. The hottest name in the group right now is Gareon Conley, who is a solid player with few weaknesses, he has closed the gap with the perceived top prospects at the position like Marshon Lattimore and Marlon Humphrey and could be the first cornerback off the board when all is said and done. Cornerback is a position that you can wait on in this draft, it is that loaded, so do not expect any reaches.
Kevin King, CB (6’3 200lbs) Washington – If you are a team interested in a big and physical cornerback in the mold of Richard Sherman, Kevin King is the top prospect in this draft, and he is steadily rising up draft boards. An absolute freak athlete with great size, teams view King as a player that can match up with the NFL’s big receivers in the red zone, and keep them from catching jump balls. Although this is a deep cornerback draft, and teams can afford to wait, teams are drooling over King’s size and athleticism which separates him from the pack. King could leapfrog some of the more highly touted prospects on draft day, due to his natural gifts, his ceiling is the teens in round one and his floor is probably early round two.
Marcus Maye, S (6’ 210lbs) Florida – This is an interesting safety class, with Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams sitting at the top (more on them below), then a physical freak in Obi Melifonwu who is a wildcard, but the player who is flying under the radar that has scouts very impressed is Marcus Maye. A solid player that does everything well, Marcus Maye is ready to step in on a good team and contribute right away, so he will be getting looks in the late first round of the NFL Draft. Obi Melifonwu is a boom-or-bust prospect who needs development, but do not be shocked if Marcus Maye is the third safety drafted and is picked before Melifonwu, Maye is ready to step in and start day one.
Chidobe Awuzie, CB (6’ 202lbs) Colorado – Teams are very split on cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, some teams love him and think that he will be a star in the NFL, other teams seem to have no interest in him at all. If one of the teams that has a high grade on Chidobe Awuzie is looking to fill their need at cornerback early, word is that he could hear his name called in the late portion of round one, in a deep cornerback class I would personally wait but it only takes one team who loves him to make him a first rounder.
Justin Evans, S (6’ 200lbs) Texas A&M – A player who is rising up draft boards at the right time, Justin Evans is a tremendous athlete, and whispers are starting to make the rounds that he could be selected in the late portion of round one. I have Evans graded as a second to third rounder, he is not as instinctive as some of the other safeties in this class and likely needs a development, but he does have athleticism that could make him a special player down the road.
Tyus Bowser, DE/OLB (6’2 244lbs) Houston – One of the hottest names in the draft over the last few weeks is Tyus Bower, who should is a hard-nosed pass rusher, that fits best in the NFL as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Bower plays the run and the pass well, he had 12 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in 2016, who was very impressive in pre-draft workouts. There is some talk that Bowser could sneak into the end of the first round, he is in the mix with pass rushers like Takkarist McKinley, Charles Harris and T.J. Watt, in that late first round to early second round mix.
Stock Solid As The Draft Approaches:
Myles Garrett, DE (6’4 272lbs) Texas A&M – The no-brainer number one pick in the NFL Draft, the Browns are saying that Mitchell Trubisky is still in consideration, but this is just a smokescreen with the Browns hoping that a team has fallen in love with Trubisky and will make a “godfather offer” in order to move up. Nobody is making the Browns that offer, so they will select Garrett, by far the best player in this draft class. One scout told me that Garrett is the only “first tier” player in this draft, there are about fifteen guys who are all pretty closely graded on the “second tier” so even the Browns should not be able to screw this up.
Solomon Thomas, DE (6’3 273lbs) Stanford – Teams see Solomon Thomas as a double digit sack pass rusher, and he will not have to wait long to hear his name called on draft day. The 49ers have announced that they are open for business, and are looking to trade down from second overall, but if they stay put Thomas is in the conversation. I have been told that the ceiling for Thomas is likely second overall to the 49ers, while the floor is likely ninth overall to the Bengals, with every team in between interested.
Leonard Fournette, RB (6’ 240lbs) LSU – The Carolina Panthers are known to covet Fournette with the eighth overall pick, but there are reports that the Panthers do not think Fournette will be available at eight, and while they discussed trading up they will probably select Christian McCaffery who they also love. The 49ers are interested with the second overall pick, and once Myles Garrett is selected first overall, the 49ers will be on the clock making a selection which is believed to be between Fournette and Solomon Thomas. If the 49ers pass on Fournette, it is believed that the Jaguars at fourth overall or the Jets at sixth overall will take him, so the Panthers at eight would be his floor.
Jamal Adams, S (6’ 214lbs) LSU – Not only a physically gifted player but an excellent leader, teams are not worried about Jamal Adams, who is just a solid prospect that will is ready to step in and help a secondary right away. Adams does not play a premium position, but his name should be called somewhere in the top ten, with the Titans at fifth overall, the Jets at sixth overall and the Chargers at seventh overall are interested. See below for more, but it will be very interesting to see who is drafted first, Adams or fellow safety prospect Malik Hooker.
Malik Hooker, S (6’1 206lbs) Ohio State – A true centerfielder safety with speed, Malik Hooker is coming off of shoulder and hernia surgery, but teams are convinced that he will be fine and ready for the 2017 NFL season. There was a report this week that Malik Hooker is in the mix for the Bears with the third overall pick, and it will be interesting to see who is drafted first, Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker. It really depends on what type of safety you are looking for, if you need an instinctive centerfielder you want Hooker, and if you are looking for a big hitter who is solid all around you want Adams.
Derek Barnett, DE (6’3 259lbs) Tennessee – A player that you do not hear a lot about is Tennessee DE/OLB Derek Barnett, but he is a solid all around prospect, who should be an excellent NFL player for years to come. While Barnett might not have the ceiling of Solomon Thomas or Taco Charlton, he has solidified his place in the draft, probably somewhere between the ninth pick and the twentieth pick. I personally think that Barnett would be a perfect fit in a four man front, with his hand in the dirt, who should have a long career pressuring quarterbacks in the NFL.
Deshone Kizer (6’4 233lbs) Notre Dame – We know that the Arizona Cardinals really like DeShone Kizer, we know that their current quarterback Carson Palmer is now 37-years-old and they are looking for the heir apparent, so Kizer to the Cardinals with their second round pick makes a ton of sense. I have this penciled in right now, Kizer needs development and should sit behind a player like Palmer for a year or two, Kizer should be available when the Cardinals are on the clock in the second round. The smart money is on the Cardinals drafting the top cornerback available with the thirteenth overall pick, then DeShone Kizer in the second round.
Mike Williams, WR (6’4 218lbs) Clemson – The best wide receiver prospect in the draft, Mike Williams is not a deep threat who will be breaking long touchdowns every week, but his is a big bodied wide receiver who should have a very long and productive NFL career. The Buffalo Bills desperately need another wide receiver opposite often injured Sammy Watkins, so Williams will get consideration if he makes it to that slot, but I have also been told to keep an eye on the Bengals at ninth are looking for a true second option opposite AJ Green. Williams will be picked somewhere between ninth and eighteenth overall.
John Ross, WR (5’11 188lbs) Washington –The fastest man in the history of the NFL combine has scouts and coaches drooling, because not only is John Ross immediately going to be one of the fastest men in the NFL, he was also very productive in college which people tend to forget. John Ross is ahead of Mike Williams on my big board, because while Williams could be an Anquan Boldin type wide receiver, Ross has the deep speed to take the top off of a defense and the catch-and-run ability that truly gives offensive coordinators nightmares. I would not be shocked if a team as early as the Bengals at nine picked Ross, and I think his window is similar to Williams’, he will be drafted between nine and eighteen overall. It all depends on fit, if I am the Ravens or Titans I like Williams more, if I am the Bills or Eagles I lean Ross.
Charles Harris, DE/OLB (6’3 253lbs) Missouri and Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB (6’2 250lbs) UCLA – You always see a run on pass rushers at the end of the first round, because playoff teams often feel that they have a chance to win the Super Bowl, if they can generate a little more heat on the opposing quarterback. Each of these players could be drafted in round one, because that’s what they do best, pressure the quarterback. I have Takkarist McKinley ranked ahead of Charles Harris, because McKinley is a superior athlete who is more explosive, but McKinley’s injury could scare some teams away allowing Harris to leapfrog him during the draft. Each of these players come into play starting with the Detroit Lions with the 21st pick, and will end up late first rounders or early second rounders, unless McKinley’s injury causes a significant slide.
Forrest Lamp, OG (6’4 309lbs) Western Kentucky – A left tackle in college, Forrest Lamp will likely kick inside in the pros, but teams love his versatility and ability to play all along the offensive line. Lamp is the type of player that many teams covet, while he may start at guard, if one of your tackles is injured you can kick Lamp outside and survive. On top of that Lamp is a very good player, several scouts think he is the top offensive lineman in the draft, and he should be a first round pick.
Corey Davis, WR (6’3 210lbs) Western Michigan – The record setting wide receiver is the all-time leader in receiving yards in the history of major college football, he is probably the best route runner in the draft, it’s either Davis or Zay Jones who are both excellent route runners. He has a great combination of size and speed, he was a man amongst boys playing at Western Michigan, while I have him ranked third in the wide receiver class it would not be shocking if he was drafted ahead of Mike Williams and John Ross. The rankings are that close. My guy Zay Jones is ranked fourth.
Stock Down As The Draft Approaches:
Jonathan Allen, DL (6’3 286lbs) Alabama – There was a point when it looked like Jonathan Allen would be the second player chosen in the 2017 NFL Draft, and while he is still a great prospect that teams think very highly of, his multiple shoulder injuries have reportedly scared several teams off. Allen is still an option for every team in the top five, but there is a chance he slides on draft day, possible out of the top ten and into the teens due to fear over his shoulders. At this point, I could see several teams passing on Allen, and him spending the next eight years making every team that passed on him regret it at a Pro Bowl level.
Marshon Lattimore, CB (6’ 193lbs) Ohio State – A few teams have mentioned concern about Lattimore’s injury history, and the general feeling is that while Lattimore is the top cornerback prospect in this draft class, the cornerback class is absolutely loaded and you can afford to wait on a corner. As I mentioned earlier, there could be fifteen cornerbacks drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft, with so many excellent prospects at the position you can address a different need early and draft a cornerback later. While some teams will be scared off by Lattimore’s injury history, the depth of the class could also cause him to slide,
Marlon Humphrey, CB (6’ 197lbs) Alabama – What I said about Lattimore above is also true for Humphrey, except I have heard several scouts say that despite his excellent game against USC last season, Humphrey’s tape is very inconsistent. The cornerback class is loaded, and the rumor is that many teams will wait until the second or third round to draft a corner, which means Humphrey could easily slide until the late first or even early second round.
Dalvin Cook, RB (5’10 210lbs) Florida State – While teams do like Dalvin Cook, he did not test well in workouts, and he has clearly been leapfrogged by Christian McCaffery on team’s big boards. I would argue that one of Dalvin Cook’s biggest strengths is his vision, which cannot be measured, and he is an also an excellent pass catcher out of the backfield. Running back is no longer a priority on draft day, I see Cook sliding into day two, but expect him to be a productive back in the NFL.
Reuben Foster, LB (6’ 229lbs) Alabama – Mock drafts have been predicting that Reuben Foster will be a top ten pick in the NFL Draft, but I just do not see it, I think that Hassan Reddick is drafted ahead of Foster which begins a slide. Foster is a very productive player, and he has a lot of potential, but teams are concerned that he was sent home from the combine after getting into an argument with a hospital official in Indianapolis. While some scouts say this incident was not a big deal, it would be equivalent to you going to the biggest job interview in your life, and getting into an argument with the receptionist at the front desk. I talked to one scout who said Foster would still be a top ten pick, but when I asked him who would select Foster, he had no response. I predict a major slide for Foster on draft day. NOTE: As I was writing this, it was announced Reuben Foster had a diluted urine sample at the combine, another red flag that will cause Foster to slide.
T.J. Watt, LB (6’4 252lbs) Wisconsin – There was a point when J.J. Watt’s little brother was climbing draft boards, and it looked like he could sneak into the tail end of the first round, however scouts have cooled on him as the draft approaches. T.J. Watt is a limited athlete, who will provide excellent effort whenever he is on the field, but he does not have the pure explosiveness that many scouts look for in situational pass rushers. Watt could turn out to be a very good player, but he is behind more explosive players on draft boards, he is likely to be selected in the second round but could slide into the third.
Tim Williams, OLB (6’3 244lbs) Alabama – A top ten talent as a pass rusher, Tim Williams needs to be ready for a long slide, because of his poor decison making off of the field. While at Alabama Tim Williams failed multiple drug tests, he was also arrested on a gun charge, and these mistakes have raised red flags for every scout. The other issue with Tim Williams is that he only does one thing, rush the passer, he is very good at it but he will only be a situational pass rusher in the pros. One scout told me he would not touch Tim Williams with a ten foot pole, and that out of all the players with issues in the draft, he is most worried about Tim Williams.
Stock Mixed As Draft Approaches:
Deshaun Watson, QB (6’3 221lbs) Clemson – There was a report this week that Deshaun Watson is a lock to be selected third overall by the Chicago Bears, which would be absolutely shocking, considering they have so many needs and spent big money in free agent quarterback Mike Glennon this offseason. I feel like this reporter misheard what was said, I feel like someone must have told him that if Deshaun Watson is still on the board with the third pick of day two, he is a lock to be selected by the Bears. Some teams do like Watson, but he needs development, I still see him as a late round one or early round two selection especially since the rise of Pat Mahomes.
Garett Bolles, OT (6’5 297lbs) Utah – The offensive line class is extremely weak, and if you need a left tackle who can step in and protect your quarterback on day one, Bolles probably is the only player in this draft class who fits that mold. Some teams are not interested in Bolles at all, he has some character concerns because he was kicked out of five schools while growing up, and he turns 25-years-old before his first training camp so he may already be a finished product. That being said, so many teams need offensive line help right away, I could see the Ravens or Broncos jumping at the opportunity to plug in Bolles as a day one starter.
Ryan Ramcyzk, OT (6’6 310lbs) Wisconsin – I have major concerns about Ryan Ramcyzk, due to the fact that he stopped playing football after high school because he no longer loved the game, then apparently returned to playing football not because he missed it but because of the doors that playing football opened for him. Several scouts have echoed my fears about Ramcyzk, they feel like if they spend a first round pick on Ramcyzk, he could retire in a year or two with a large signing bonus in his pocket. That being said, this is a weak offensive line class, and despite the fact that Ramcyzk only played one year of high level college football a team will likely gamble on him with a first round pick. Personally, I would steer clear, I’m a sucker for players who love and respect the game.
Jabrill Peppers, LB/S (5’11 213lbs) Michigan – There is no doubt that Jabrill Peppers is one of the best pure football players in the draft, and not only is he an incredible athlete with amazing instincts, he is a student of the game who absolutely loves football. The question is, of course, where does Jabrill Peppers play in the pros? I do not think it matters, get him on the field – put him at weakside linebacker, or safety, or in the slot, or on special teams. Jabrill Peppers will impact the game, and coaches absolutely love him, so I expect that he will hear his name called in the first round.
David Njoku, TE (6’4 246lbs) Miami – I am a big fan of David Njoku, he is a freak athlete at tight end, who should become an instant weapon for whichever team drafts him. Njoku cannot block, but he is a long armed receiver who was a former high jump champion, his catch radius is larger than players like Dez Bryant. NFL scouts seem mixed on Njoku though, when I ask why I do not get a straight answer, it seems like there are questions about his toughness and people feel he is a boom-or-bust prospect.
Obi Melifonwu, S (6’4 224lbs) Connecticut – An absolute freak of an athlete, Obi Melifonwu blew scouts away at the combine with his insane workout numbers for his size, but he could definitely fall into the category of workout warrior. Teams are split on how much of a project Obi Melifonwu is, and if he can actually play right away, or if it will take lots of coaching for him to harness his abilities. Some scouts predict that Obi Melifonwu will be a first round pick, but in my opinion, he is more of a second rounder because teams have stopped using first round picks on workout warriors who struggle to produce on the field in college.
Malik McDowell, DE/DT (6’6 295lbs) Michigan State – At one point it looked like Malik McDowell would be a top ten pick in this draft, but the market for him is limited, he is a big 3-4 defensive end who really only fits in that scheme. While McDowell should be a very good player, 3-4 teams have other needs, and McDowell could slide during the draft due to supply and demand. McDowell is probably going to be a second round pick, but do not be shocked if he slides into the third, where he could be a steal.
You have heard me talk about the loaded cornerback class at length, so how loaded is it? I have Marshon Lattimore, CB (6’ 193lbs) Ohio State, Marlon Humphrey, CB (6’ 197lbs) Alabama, Gareon Conley, CB (6’ 195lbs) Ohio State, Kevin King, CB (6’3 200lbs) Washington, Chidobe Awuzie, CB (6’ 202lbs) Colorado, Jalen Tabor (6’ 199lbs) Florida, Quincy Wilson (6’1 211lbs) Florida, Ahkello Witherspoon (6’3 198lbs) Colorado, Tre’Davious White (5’11 192) LSU, Jourdan Lewis (5’10 188lbs) Michigan, Desmond King (5’10 201lbs) Iowa, Adoree Jackson (5’10 186lbs) USC, Fabien Moreau (6’ 206lbs UCLA), Cordera Tankersly (6’1 199lbs) Clemson and the injured Sidney Jones, CB (6’ 185lbs) Washington as players who could be selected in the first three rounds. You can afford to target another position in round one and two, you should still end up with a good cornerback prospect in round three, which is why cornerbacks are sliding.
The running back class is also loaded, we know that Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery look to be lock top fifteen picks, while the third running back drafted should be Dalvin Cook. However, the rest of the class is very deep with players Alvin Kamara (5’10 214lbs) Tennessee, Corey Clement (5’10 220lbs) Wisconsin, T.J. Logan (5’9 169lbs) North Carolina, Marlon Mack (5’11 213lbs) USF, D’Onta Foreman (6’ 233lbs) Texas, James Connor (6’1 233lbs) Pittsburgh, Joe Mixon (6’1 226lbs) Oklahoma, Jeremy McNichols (5’9 212lbs) Boise State, Wayne Gallman (6’ 215lbs) Clemson and others available. NFL teams will find gems in the middle and even late rounds of this draft.
Malcolm Butler signed his tender with the New England Patriots, and now that he has signed, I have been told that there is a greater than 50% chance that he is traded to the New Orleans Saints for the 32nd pick in the NFL Draft. This trade would make sense for both teams.
The 49ers (2), Bears (3) and Jets (6) are considered the most likely candidates to trade down, which makes sense, all three teams have a lot of needs and rumors are that they are not enamored with any one prospect at the top of the 2017 NFL Draft that is projected to fall in their range.
– There is a rumor circulating today that the San Francisco 49ers are “desperate” to trade down, but if they stay put at the second overall pick, they will take Mitchell Trubisky. This has smokescreen written all over it to me, the 49ers lack talent and know they will be selecting towards the top of the 2018 NFL Draft, when the quarterback class is much deeper. In my opinion they are claiming they are drafting Trubisky hoping that a team that loves him will panic and trade up.
– The Dallas Cowboys believe they can win the Super Bowl in 2017, but to do so, they must patch the many holes in their defense due to free agency defections. Hearing that the Cowboys first two picks will be a pass rusher and a safety who can play now, and contribute right away, because the Cowboys will need them on the field from day one.