The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft is in the books, and it was a wild one, as predicted here at SportSmasher.com. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who are the best players remaining on the board? Let’s break it down:
Despite all the trades, and some confusing reaches on players, we here at SportSmasher.com did pretty well in our 2017 Final NFL Mock Draft. We nailed Myles Garrett to Cleveland, Christian McCaffery to Carolina, Malik Hooker to Indianapolis, Corey Davis to Tennessee (at pick eighteen, not pick five), Garrett Boles to Denver, Charles Harris to Miami, Deshaun Watson to Houston (at pick twenty-five and not twelve). Not bad. There were many other teams in which we got the position right, but the player wrong, so we were in the ballpark.
San Francisco 49ers – You have to love what John Lynch did in his first draft as 49ers GM, he got two of the top three players on his board when he added defensive lineman Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster, who might remind us of John Lynch’s old Tampa Bay teammates Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks down the road. John Lynch played the Chicago Bears like a fiddle, the Bears (third overall) clearly coveted quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, and the 49ers (second overall) let the Bears know that they had offers on the table for teams who wanted to trade up and take Trubisky. The 49ers let the Bears know that they would be accepting the best offer to trade out of the second pick, and the Bears gave up a third round pick and a fourth round pick this year and a third round pick next year, just to slide up one spot and take their quarterback. Meanwhile, the 49ers still got their guy Solomon Thomas at third overall, plus got much more ammo in a loaded draft to make their team better. Did the 49ers really have another offer on the table for Trubisky? Or did they bluff and fleece the Bears? The 49ers were not taking Trubisky, they wanted Thomas desperately, so if the Bears did not make the deal would Trubisky have fallen into their laps anyway? We are not sure, but, masterful work by the 49ers.
Cleveland Browns – The Browns walked away from the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft with the consensus best player available in defensive end Myles Garrett, they also got jack-of-all trades Jabrill Peppers and freakish tight end David Njoku, all three players should be difference makers on the Browns right away. So the Browns are winners from that standpoint, however, they also got the Houston Texans 2018 first round pick. That’s huge. The Browns are not ready to win now, and that’s fine, they clearly do not have their quarterback of the future on the roster yet. They now have two first round picks next year, plus a giant stockpile of later round picks, which they will use to maneuver to get a franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. Guess what? The 2018 NFL Draft class has a loaded quarterback crop, it’s much better than this year’s class, and the Browns can go get whichever quarterback they desire. When that quarterback arrives, the cabinet will not be bare, there will be young talent in place to help that quarterback succeed.
Buffalo Bills – The Bills wanted a cornerback, but they knew the 2017 NFL Draft class was loaded at that position, and they received an offer they could not refuse from the Kansas City Chiefs who wanted to trade up to secure quarterback Pat Mahomes. So the Bills traded down, to 27th overall, and still grabbed one of the top cornerback prospects in the draft Tre’Davious White who happens to be an excellent return man as well. The Bills now have the Kansas City Chiefs first round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, as well as their own, so if things don’t work out with quarterback Tyrod Taylor the Bills can trade up to land a quarterback they love in the much more quarterback-rich class of 2018. The Bills also got a third round pick this year in the trade.
Carolina Panthers – The Panthers struggled offensively last year, Cam Newton himself was really the only big play threat that the Panthers had on offense, Kelvin Benjamin, Jonathan Stewart and Greg Olsen are good players but you do not need to fear them breaking a 70-yard touchdown on every single play. So the Panthers get Christian McCaffery, a big play threat wherever he lines up, at running back or in the slot where he ran better routes than any other slot receiver at the combine. McCaffery is also an incredible punt returner, the Panthers will be creative in getting him the ball, and defenses will have to be aware of him at all times which will help other players excel.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – I am a huge fan of tight end O.J. Howard, I thought he was a lock to be a top ten pick, and I could not believe that he fell into the Buccaneers lap at nineteen overall. Howard is a weapon in the passing game, he can block, Jameis Winston is going to love him. The Bucs were the only team in the NFL without a pass play over 50-yards last season, they added DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, they are going to be much more dangerous offensively in 2017.
Potential Steals With Injury Concerns:
New Orleans Saints – As the Saints watched everyone reach for wide receiver and trade up for quarterback around them, they sat tight, and snagged the best cornerback in the draft at eleventh overall in Marshon Lattimore. Cornerback is a huge need for the Saints, and Lattimore may have slid a bit due to his lingering hamstring issues, but he fell right into their laps. The Saints nabbed another player later in offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who may end up being the best offensive lineman in the draft, but I was not a huge fan due to his hip injury and concerns that he may not love football.
Washington Redskins – There are serious concerns about Jonathan Allen’s shoulders, which are both arthritic, but those shoulder did not bother him at all while he dominated the line for the best defense in the country during the 2016 season. If Allen’s shoulder can hold up, he could be a monster for the Redskins, he would have been a top five pick in the draft if not for injury concerns so getting him at seventeen is a huge win.
Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars need to make things easier for quarterback Blake Bortles, so they drafted a stud running back in Leonard Fournette, who will be a massive upgrade to the Jags running game. The Jags spent a lot of money upgrading the defense in free agency, they are hoping that Fournette can step in, and have an Ezekiel Elliott like impact on their offense.
New York Jets – The Jets have a lot of needs, so they were smart, they drafted one of the lowest risk players in the draft in safety Jamal Adams. An incredible leader and tone-setter, Adams can do it all, and he will be a perfect fit on a Jets team that is rebuilding. Adams is not a player you need to worry about, on or off the field, plug him in and play.
Cincinnati Bengals – All offseason I knew the Bengals were drafting a wide receiver (I just picked the wrong one, check my mock drafts), because when their superstar A.J. Green was injured last season, the Bengals fell apart offensively. Brandon LaFell scares nobody. With Corey Davis and Mike Williams already off the board, the Bengals added the most explosive offensive player in the draft, wide receiver John Ross. Now the Bengals have two offensive weapons that scare you, so if anything happens to A.J. Green, defenses cannot just load up in the box. Opposite from A.J. Green, John Ross should have a field day, his speed is terrifying.
Arizona Cardinals – The Cardinals had other needs, but Haason Reddick fills a need, he is a versatile linebacker who can play inside or slide outside and provide a rush on passing downs. No quarterback fell into the Cardinals laps, which is fine, but expect them to grab a developmental prospect who can learn behind Carson Palmer tonight. They also need to address cornerback in a deep class.
Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles need to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so they drafted an excellent pass rusher in Derek Barnett, who broke the school sack record at Tennessee. The guy who’s record he broke? Reggie White. Derek Barnett is not a workout warrior, which caused him to slide a bit, but he flat out produces.
Indianapolis Colts – The Colts have needs everywhere, except quarterback and wide receiver, but one huge need are was safety. The Colts grabbed the best centerfielder in the class, safety Malik Hooker, who will be an instant upgrade to a bad defense. Hooker is coming off surgery, and he has limitations, he has to become a much better tackler. However, expect him to create a lot of turnovers, that’s what he does best.
Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins believe they are close to being a very good football team, they are expected to grab a guard in this draft, and then focus on plugging any holes in their defense. The Dolphins have been relying too much on the great Cameron Wake for a pass rush, so they added an excellent prospect in Charles Harris, who should be able to apply pressure off the edge right away. In a deep secondary class, the Dolphins can address that need later.
Houston Texans – I hate the fact that the Texans traded their 2018 first round pick, but they had to do it, in order to come up and select Deshaun Watson. I get it though, Watson immediately becomes the best quarterback on your roster, he is also the only quarterback in this entire draft who is potentially ready to start now. The Texans are loaded, they were tired of bad quarterback play being the only thing keeping them from being a contender in the AFC, so they went out and solved the problem. I just hate trading the 2018 first rounder to do it.
Atlanta Falcons – If his shoulder holds up, Takkarist McKinley was an excellent draft pick for the Falcons, he keeps with the identity of their young defense which is speed. McKinely is a first team all effort player, while Vic Beasley had a breakout season as a pass rusher for the Falcons in 2016, he needs some help. McKinley should be an excellent complement to Vic Beasley, who no longer is the only player on the Falcons that can get to the quarterback, smart of Atlanta to trade up and jump Dallas who would have taken McKinley.
Pittsburgh Steelers – The Steelers needed another pass rusher, and they went out and got T.J. Watt, the explosive younger brother of Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt. I think that Watt is a bit limited sideline-to-sideline, but as a pass rusher, he should provide an immediate upgrade to the Steelers front seven.
Dallas Cowboys – Taco Charlton is a solid player at a huge position of need for the Cowboys, while he is not the pure edge rusher that some of these other prospects are, he has no real weaknesses to his game. Charlton is solid, and he is ready to play now, I just have to wonder if the Cowboys really wanted Takkarist McKinley who is much more of a pure edge rusher.
Los Angeles Chargers – There were rumors circulating yesterday about how much the Chargers loved wide receiver Mike Williams, so they went and got him seventh overall, however the Chargers have a lot of needs and wide receiver was not at the top of the list. Mike Williams is going to be great, Philip Rivers is going to love him, but some of the other wide receivers on the roster will not be happy that they get bumped down the depth chart. If you need a veteran wide receiver, call the Chargers, they can spare one or two now.
Detroit Lions – While I would have rather have seen the Lions grab a pass rusher, a super athletic sideline-to-sideline linebacker who is also an leader on the field makes a ton of sense, Jarrad Davis should be an instant impact player for the Lions. If the Lions address cornerback and add a pass rusher later, they will be dangerous in 2018, I would like to see them add a wide receiver too. I think Davis will be great, linebacker was just not at the top of the Lions needs list, Tahir Whitehead was solid for the Lions last season and Davis is a much better version of him.
New York Giants – The Giants took Evan Engram, who people are calling a tight end, but Evan Engram is not a tight end. Engram will be a weapon for the Giants, he will line up all over the field to create mismatches, but he is not going to be blocking anyone. At 6’4 235lbs, Engram is the same size as Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans, in fact his 4.42 40-yard-dash at the combine was faster than Mike Evans. The Giants will use Engram the same way the Redskins use Jordan Reed, move him around to create mismatches, he is too big for defensive backs to cover and too fast for linebackers to cover. The Giants had other needs, especially along the offensive line, but in a weak offensive line class they grabbed another weapon to join Odell Beckham Jr, Sterling Shepard and Brandon Marshall. The Giants really missed tall receivers last year, Odell Beckham Jr, Sterling Shepard and Victor Cruz are all 6’ or under, so they added two (Evan Engram and Brandon Marshall) 6’4 weapons this offseason.
I’ve Got Questions:
Chicago Bears – I am not hating on the Bears as much as others today, clearly they loved Mitchell Trubisky and the 49ers threatened to trade their pick which would allow another team to leapfrog the Bears, so the Bears did what they had to do to get their guy. The Bears signed Mike Glennon this offseason, and while he makes a lot of money over the next two seasons, he is not on a long term deal that will kill your franchise. However the Bears have to be wondering, if they did not trade up a slot to secure Tribusky, would he have just fallen into their laps?
Tennessee Titans – The Titans clearly loved Corey Davis, he will be a great fit with quarterback Marcus Mariota due to Mariota’s accuracy and Davis’ precision route running, personally I would have rather had Mike Williams. I am also not as big of a fan of Adoree Jackson as other people are, he is a great athlete and is going to make an impact, but to say his cover skills need work is the understatement of the century. Watch the film of what John Ross did to Adoree Jackson last year, it was embarrassing. Jackson will be a great nickel and a great kick returner, but there were better cover corners on the board, who I liked more like Tre’Davious White. I like Corey Davis, Adoree Jackson is fine, but there were other players on the board I liked more.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs love Pat Mahomes, so they went and got him, and gave up a 2018 first round pick in the process. The Chiefs obviously feel like they are ready to win now, and they had better be as good as they thing they are in 2017, because it only takes one or two injuries for that 2018 first round pick to be top five. I personally think Pat Mahomes needs a lot of development, if anybody can develop him, it’s Andy Reid and Alex Smith. However, Mahomes will sit for a year (at least) and the Chiefs got no better in the first round of this draft by selecting a red shirt player, they cannot get any better in the first round of next year’s draft without a first round pick. They had better have hit a home run with Mahomes, and they better hope nothing goes wrong in 2017, because they now have no draft pick to improve if they struggle. The Chiefs must love Mahomes, if they wanted a developmental quarterback, grab one later and hang onto that 2018 first round pick.
Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens have a lot of needs, I thought wide receiver was their biggest need, followed by offensive tackle and edge rusher. Cornerback was on the list too, so they grabbed Marlon Humphrey, who should be an excellent addition. However, this is a very deep cornerback draft, if I was running the Ravens I would have added a player like Jonathan Allen or Charles Harris with this pick and grabbed a cornerback later. There was just too much talent on the board at sixteen to take a corner that needs development like Humphrey, in a deep class, with lots of cornerback options in rounds two and three.
Denver Broncos – The Broncos addressed a clear need, however, I have not been a fan of Bolles throughout the entire draft process for one major reason. He turns 25-years-old next month! To put things in perspective, the New York Giants have an offensive lineman named Bobby Hart who finished his second NFL season earlier this year, he does not turn 23-years-old until August. Bolles will help the Broncos now, but he needs work, and I’m worried that he is a finished product who will not get much better.
Oakland Raiders – The Oakland Raiders must have done exhaustive homework on Gareon Conley, because he was accused of sexual assault earlier this week, and the Raiders must be confident that Conley will be proven innocent and never charged with any crime. If they are right, and Conley is not a total scumbag who ends up incarcerated, this was an excellent pick and Conley could potentially be a steal.
Best Players Available:
Cam Robinson, OT (6’6 322lbs) Alabama – I am still shocked nobody took Cam Robinson, who in my opinion, is at worst a great right tackle. Robinson had some red flags entering the combine, but he apparently was an excellent interview, and was a first round lock. I cannot see Robinson getting past the Jets in round two.
Forrest Lamp, OG (6’4 309lbs) Western Kentucky – I was also surprised that Forrest Lamp was not drafted in round one, but interior linemen are not high priority, so he slides to round two. Lamp is going to be an excellent guard, he was a four year starter at left tackle, and he should not have to wait long to hear his name called on day two.
Dalvin Cook, RB (5’10 210lbs) Florida State – I took some flak from FSU Twitter yesterday, they were trying to tell me that Cook was a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott, and that Cook would have had the same numbers behind the Dallas offensive line. Cook is still on the board, and while he just had an okay combine, he has better vision and balance than any other back in the class. Just a natural runner. Cook is the best running back available.
After Cook, the rest of the running back 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, Samaje Perine (5’11 233lbs) Oklahoma, the troubled but talented Joe Mixon (6’1 226lbs) Oklahoma, Jeremy McNichols (5’9 212lbs) Boise State, Wayne Gallman (6’ 215lbs) Clemson and others available. Keep an eye on Alvin Kamara, teams love him, and he is going to be a great pro.
There is still a deep tight end crop available: Ole Miss, Jake Butt (6’5 246lbs) Michigan, Gerald Everett (6’3 239lbs) South Alabama, Bucky Hodges (6’6 257lbs) Virginia Tech, Jordan Leggett (6’6 258lbs) Clemson, and sleeper Adam Shaheen (6’6 278lbs) Ashland
Demarcus Walker, DE (6’3 280lbs) Florida State – Burst onto the scene for the Seminoles this past season, accumulating 68 tackles, 21.5 tackles for a loss, and 16.0 sacks while forcing three fumbles. Walker is not your prototypical edge rusher, he will have to play with his hand in the dirt, but he should be good at it.
Malik McDowell, DT (6’6 295lbs) Michigan State – I thought Malik McDowell had a chance to be a top ten pick entering the 2016 season, but he was nagged by an ankle injury for the majority of the season, and had only 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2016. McDowell was still very disruptive, and he put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, he slides in this mock draft because he is prototypical 3-4 defensive end. A 3-4 team will snatch up McDowell quickly in the second round.
Obi Melifonwu, S (6’4 224lbs) Connecticut – Obi Melifonwu has a ridiculous size and speed combination, a freak athlete who may be a bit of a workout warrior. At 6’4 224lbs, Melifonwu ran a ridiculous 4.40 flat 40-yard-dash, then had the top vertical jump at the entire combine (44”).
Zay Jones, WR (6’1 209lbs) East Carolina – If you want to talk about production, Zay Jones caught 158 passes during the 2016 season, the all-time record for receptions in a season. Jones also has the most receptions in a game (22), and the most receptions all-time (399), and he backed up his stats with an excellent showing at the NFL combine. Zay Jones comes from NFL bloodlines, his father Robert Jones played linebacker in the NFL for ten years winning three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, and his uncle is former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake. Probably a possession wide receiver only in the NFL, but should be a good one.
Zach Cunningham, LB (6’3 234lbs) Vanderbilt – Led the SEC in tackles in 2016 and was selected to the All-SEC team twice (2015,2016), so he has a ton of high level experience to step right in and produce.
I have talked about how great this cornerback class is, the board is still stacked with top tier prospects: 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, Jourdan Lewis (5’10 188lbs) Michigan, Desmond King (5’10 201lbs) Iowa, Fabien Moreau (6’ 206lbs UCLA), Cordera Tankersly (6’1 199lbs) Clemson and the injured Sidney Jones, CB (6’ 185lbs) Washington – so expect a run on cornerbacks on day two.
Jordan Willis, DE (6’4 255lbs) Kansas State – A highly productive pass rusher who recorded 26.5 career sacks, Willis can fit in either the 4-3 or a 3-4, he can apply pressure standing up or with his hand in the dirt.
Curtis Samuel, RB/WR (5’10 196lbs) Ohio State – Is Curtis Samuel a running back or a wide receiver in the NFL? It does not matter, Curtis Samuel is one of the most explosive players in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he will not be on the board long on day two if he does not get drafted in the first round. I think he ends up as a slot receiver who spends time in the backfield on passing downs.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (6’1 215lbs) USC – It sounds like there are wide receiver needy teams who will address a different area of need in the first round, but have JuJu Smith-Schuster targeted for the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Smith-Schuster is hurt a bit by the fact that he only had one catch against Alabama, and by the recent performances of USC wide receivers in the NFL, but he is a talented player and the second round seems right. I hear the Ravens have interest.
Dion Dawkins, OL (6’4 314lbs) Temple – In a weak offensive line class, Dion Dawkins should not have to wait long to hear his name called on the second day of the NFL Draft, he is a quality developmental prospect at either guard or right tackle.
Chris Wormley, DE/DT (6’5 298lbs) Michigan – A player who probably fits best at defensive end in a 3-4 defense, Wormley is likely to be a second round pick, he was a productive college player at Michigan who should make a nice transition to the NFL.
Tim Williams, OLB (6’3 244lbs) Alabama – A ferocious pass rusher, Tim Williams does one thing well on the football field, and that is get to the quarterback. However, the other thing Tim Williams does well is get in trouble, and he was suspended multiple times at Alabama for failed drug tests. Williams will have to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL, and it will be interesting to see when/if he is drafted, one scout told me that no player in this draft worries him more than Tim Williams.
Dawuane Smoot, DE (6’3 264lbs) Illinois – Smoot was more disruptive than his numbers indicate (56 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 2 forced fumbles), and he had an excellent week at the senior bowl, coupled with a strong showing at the NFL combine.
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.
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.
Budda Baker, S (5’9 195lbs) Washington – A very explosive athlete and big hitter, Baker slides a bit on draft day due to his height and smaller frame, but he plays bigger than he is listed. Baker gets compared to former Colts great Bob Sanders, Baker will have to be a centerfielder in the pros, he is too small to cover NFL tight ends.
Davis Webb, QB (6’5 230lbs) Cal – A big pocket passer with a strong arm, Davis Webb is quickly rising up draft boards at the right time, Webb started out at Texas Tech but transferred to Cal when he was beaten out by Patrick Mahomes for the starting job. Webb threw for 4,295 yards and 37 TD with 12 interceptions, he won’t make it out of the second round, I have him being selected by the Arizona Cardinals.
Nate Peterman, QB (6’2 226lbs) Pitt – A former top recruit, Nate Peterman started out at Tennessee, but transferred when he broke his hand and lost the starting job by Josh Dobbs. Now Peterman has a good chance of being drafted ahead of Dobbs in the 2017 NFL Draft. Peterson is the most accurate quarterback available, he is not the biggest guy and he does not have th biggest arm, but his accuracy could lead to him being drafted in the second or third round.
Josh Jones, S (6’1 220lbs) NC State – If your favorite team needs a safety, do not be too upset, because there are plenty of good players available in the second or third round including Josh Jones. A safety Prospect who excels in the box, Jones is a great tackler, and he is big and physical enough to match up with tight ends in pass coverage.
Carl Lawson, DE (6’2 260lbs) Auburn – A high motor defensive end who was very productive in college, Lawson is short and by NFL standards, which causes him to slide into the middle rounds. Lawson is very strong, but has durability issues, including a torn ACL in 2014 and a hip injury in 2015.
Taylor Moton, OT (6’5 320) Western Michigan – A big man that plays the game with a mean streak that teams covet, Moton has issues dealing with quicker speed rushers, so some teams view him as a guard in the NFL. Moton wants to stay outside at tackle, he has a lot of talent, but he needs to play lower and work on his technique.
Pat Elfein, C (6’2 303lbs) Ohio State – If you need a center, Pat Elfein is your guy, he is a very smart and experienced center who plays with a physical edge. Elfein is not a true body mover in the run game, but he plays hard, and loves the game.
Raekwon McMillan, ILB (6’1 240lbs) Ohio State – A productive inside linebacker, McMillan is a punishing tackler, but he is la two down linebacker in the pros who will be off the field in passing situations. Not a coverage linebacker.
The New York Jets are expected to trade Sheldon Richardson today for either a second or third round pick, two teams to keep an eye on are the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys, both have interest.