Now that the NFL Combine has finished up, the 2017 Draft is the next thing on everyone's mind regarding next year's rookie players. There's no doubt that the Combine gleaned some insight on some of the most high-profile prospects, and some new favorites emerged as a result of their performance there as well. As is usual with every draft season, there are perceived positions of strength, and some that are lacking in the personnel department. This effects what each individual team will do with their own selections. As a result, some prospects are apt to fall or rise in their round grades, and it could also allow for some crazy trades to occur as well.
Of course, this doesn't mean that the projection for every player will end up being correct. There will confirmed hits and misses, just as there is every year, but who will be the subjects of them is open for debate right now. There will be mid-round players who outperform the high-profile names, and vice versa. What ends up happening is anyone's estimation, but it's one of the most exciting times of the NFL offseason, so let's take a look at some potential happenings that will emerge from this year's draft, taking place in Philadelphia, beginning on April 27th.
Ranked below are 15 bold predictions for the 2017 Draft.
16 The Browns Will Not Make A First Round Pick
Cleveland is slated to have two excellent first round selections in this draft (first overall and 12th overall respectively), but there remains a real possibility for them to swap them out for a franchise quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo is the first name that comes to mind. While the Patriots may not want to move on from him, and save him as the eventual replacement for Tom Brady, it's tough to turn down those kind of premium draft picks. The Browns have shown time and time again that they are inadequate at drafting in the first round, and even though Garoppolo has limited experience, what he's shown on the field has been impressive. It's a weak quarterback draft, and Cleveland needs an answer at that position right now, and has for the past 15 years or so.
15 Haason Reddick Will Be A Top-20 Pick
All things considered, Reddick may have been the player most benefitted by a great Combine performance, and has definitely increased his estimated draft position. He was projected as a likely second round selection, and now has probably moved into the first. With the emphasis on edge rushers that there is today in the NFL, it wouldn't be surprising to see him creep into the top-20 overall picks. It's not a given, but Reddick showed that he has elite athleticism, and a varied skill set via the Combine, and he's going to be taken much higher than originally expected. The Temple product could be looking at a long, storied NFL career if he ends up going to the right team.
14 The 49ers Will Trade Back
New head coach Kyle Shanahan knows that he has plenty of roster holes to fill. The 49ers have been woefully mismanaged for the past several seasons, and there isn't a quick fix option just sitting at second overall in this draft. One option for them will to attempt an acquisition of Kirk Cousins from the Redskins, who Shanahan coached during his stint in Washington. It seems that Cousins wants out, and the first step to fixing San Francisco's roster situation is to get a steady quarterback. Cousins may not be elite, but he has shown that he is a very good NFL starter in most situations. This would make sense for the 49ers, and give Shanahan a marquee player to build around at quarterback, who will stay with the team for the long-term.
12 Cordrea Tankersley Will Be A Steal
It's a deep draft as far as cornerbacks go for this year, and Tankersley is going to fall into the second round, or possibly even into the third. This shouldn't be a red flag, and Tankersley actually has the potential to be a Pro Bowl-worthy NFL cornerback. The Clemson product is rangy and quick, and has the skill set necessary to succeed at the next level. If he drops into the third round, this may be the best bang for the buck any team will come across in this class. He may not have the ceiling that Marshon Lattimore and Sidney Jones have, both cornerbacks projected to go in the first round, but he can be an upper-tier NFL corner for a long time, which is almost just as good. He's a great value, and in the right situation he will flourish.
11 Zay Jones Will Be The Best Value WR
Though names like Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross are cluttering the first round projections for the wide receiver position, Jones is still a great option in the second or third round. He's a possession receiver, and doesn't have elite speed, but his skill set decreases his chance of busting out of the league. While a player like Ross might be bullied in press coverage, or a player like Williams not having the long speed to live up to the hype in the NFL, a crisp route-runner like Jones who plays tough is going to stick around and be productive for a long time. Again, his ceiling may not be as high as some other receivers in the draft, but he may end up being the better option over the long-term when it comes down to it.
10 The Redskins Will Seek Out A Franchise QB
It seems that Washington will be looking to move Kirk Cousins for the right price, and a deal with the 49ers would make a lot of sense. They've already franchise tagged him twice, and that generally isn't a good sign that the player in question will eventually be signing a long-term deal with the team. With that in mind, they could seek out a quarterback option in this draft. If they did end up getting the second overall pick from the Niners, they could go after a player like Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, or North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky to fill their franchise quarterback role. Or, they could wait until the second or third round to nab DeShaun Watson if he drops that far down the board. There are a lot of options for the Redskins if they want to address the quarterback position in the draft, though who the best prospect actually is, is up for debate.
9 An O-Lineman Will Not Be Taken In The Top 15
In recent years, we've seen an emphasis placed on offensive tackles in the first round. The position is considered a prime protector of the quarterback, and the anchor of any given offensive line. But this is a down year for quality offensive lineman in the draft. The best of the bunch is probably tackle Cam Robinson, coming out of Alabama, but there's no guaranteed, surefire bet like there has been the past few years. In fact, it may take until late in the first round until one is taken at all. Not ideal for teams with needs for the position, but that's just the reality of the talent pool for this year. Robinson is the only one with a fighting chance to get drafted inside the top 15 selections.
8 Leonard Fournette Will Not Be A First Round Pick
Fournette is one of the most hyped running backs in this draft class, but there re detriments to his game that might make him a risk if taken in the first round. He's not a developed pass-catcher out of the backfield, and has dealt with injury issues in the past. He's pretty much a downhill runner, albeit with incredible power, but little else to his game. There's a good chance that he could be a very good NFL running back, but his bust potential is also higher than anyone else at the same position projected to go in the first round. Frankly, Fournette compares to Trent Richardson in numerous ways. While he may not bust out completely as he did, it still should be in the back of everyone's mind. All things considered, Fournette has a decent chance to drop out of the first round completely.
7 Reuben Foster Will Be A Top-3 Pick
Without a doubt, Foster is the best linebacker in this draft, and probably the best defensive player as a whole. He's an athletic freak who can play the run, or drop into pass coverage with ease. Despite the fact that he was sent home from the Combine due to an altercation, that won't change anyone's opinion of his play on the field. He's a fit on just about any roster, and really should be a top-three selection. He's an Alabama product, which always produces quality players on a defensive front-seven. While Foster is definitely a top-10 pick, it's not a stretch to believe that a team will be willing to take him higher. All in all, he may be the best player in the entire draft, which can't be taken lightly.
6 Dalvin Cook Will Be Drafted In The Top-10
In contrast to Leonard Fournette, Cook has an NFL-worthy skill set. He can run with speed and agility, catch passes out of the backfield (or in the slot), and can contribute in pass blocking as well. He's an all-around quality running back, in the style they're expected to play in the 2017 game. He was simply a dominate offensive player at Florida State, and in the right situation, he could be one of the best players at the NFL level. It's not a given, but there's good reason to believe that he could be a top-10 overall pick. He has more dynamic, playmaking ability than Fournette, and his skill set is just more suited to the NFL game in general. It's unlikely he'll have an Ezekiel Elliott-esque rookie season, but he can definitely be productive right from the start in most backfields.
5 Corey Davis Will Drop Out Of the First Round
The stock on Davis has been dropping of late, and since he missed the Combine due to injury. He's going to have to have a killer Pro Day in order to rise back up the ranks, and even then it isn't a given. It's not a good look for a player who went to a small school to begin with, and didn't get much of an opportunity to play against elite competition at the NCAA level. Since John Ross ran a 4.22 40-yard-dash, shattering a Combine record, it's safe to say that he is now the second most coveted receiver in this draft, behind Mike Williams. In all, it's becoming increasingly likely that Davis drops into the second round. He's a good prospect, but he has a lot of elements working against him right now, for someone to spend a premium draft pick on him.
4 John Ross Will Be A Top-20 Pick
Ross shattered the Combine record for the 40, and even before that was projected as a very likely first round option. Now, there's a good chance he could land in the top-20. He's not the biggest or strongest receiver, but speed kills, and some team is going to take him before he gets into the later part of the first round. He has a dynamic level of talent that is rarely seen in an NFL deep threat receiver. Still, he has some things in his game that need to develop. Logic would say he goes in the late first round or early second, but NFL GMs have a history of prioritizing speed, and if Ross can consistently run vertically at a 4.2 level, he'll be snagged before long. It's a fluid situation, but the best estimate is that someone is going to spend a premium pick on Ross.
3 Derek Barnett Will Be Better Than Myles Garrett
Garrett is widely suspected to be going first overall in the draft, but Barnett is a tougher player at the same position, with most of the athletic traits that Garrett possesses. There are multiple options for Cleveland to take at number one overall, but if they don't end up trading the pick, the reports say that they'll likely go with Garrett. It's not a terrible decision, but if they want an edge rusher that badly, they're better off going with Barnett, who's projected to go in the middle of the first round, instead. It's unlikely that Garrett busts out entirely, but expect him to have a less productive career than Barnett. Not the consensus choice, but it's the one that has a better chance of happening.
2 Mid-Round RBs Will Provide Better Value
There's been a lot of talk about Fournette, Cook and McCaffrey going in the first round, and being the best running backs in the draft. While that may true, there's also plenty of players at the position who are going to fall down the board, and can provide a similar output. Jamaal Williams (BYU), Kareem Hunt (Toledo) and Brian Hill (Wyoming) are all slated to be available in the fourth round or later, and could feasibly be a featured running back on an NFL team. They have the size, skill set and ability to do so. For a team that doesn't want to spend a first rounder on one of the big names, these players will provide great value, and fill a position of need with very solid production.
1 None Of The QBs Will Be Franchise Players
This is one of the worst draft classes for quarterbacks in quite some time, and it's going to show. The "big four" so-to-speak are Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina), DeShaun Watson (Clemson), DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) and Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech). Every one of them has at least one major flaw in their game, and certainly, none are NFL ready at this time. It's just a very unremarkable group, and none of them really jump off the screen in a positive way. But inevitably, there will be at least a few teams that will spend their first round pick on a quarterback, and two or three of these names will be off the board very early. It will probably end up being a mistake, especially with some great quarterbacks coming through in the 2018 and 2019 drafts. As always however, the allure of a franchise quarterback will prove to be too much. These names will be drafted high, and more than likely they won't live up to the expectations.
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