Each year prior to the NFL Draft, there is a general consensus ranking of the top players, based on their raw talent. There may be slight differences depending on the source, but generally, a player can be considered to be selected in a certain range of picks (top ten, top twenty, etc.). Depending on the team making the selection and what their needs are for the roster however, players who were thought to be in the upper echelon of the draft from a talent perspective, may find themselves dropping down the ranks to a team later in the first round, or out of the first round all together.
There's no doubt that a portion of the top-ranked players in this year's draft will end up being selected at a respectable position in the first round. Many teams simply don't want to pass on a potential blue chip player if they have a realistic opportunity to acquire one. Even so, there are going to be some surprises on draft day, just as there are every year, and we'll witness some presumed top ten talents falling out of favor with the teams at the top of the draft board, for whatever reason. Let's take a look which teams will be selecting the best of the best in the 2017 draft.
Ranked below is a projection of which teams will draft the top 16 players in the 2017 NFL Draft.
16 DeShaun Watson: Buffalo Bills
This year's quarterback class is leaving many people scratching their heads, wondering exactly how it's going to shake out. It's a far cry from the past draft periods, where two quarterbacks were the consensus top two picks. Watson is considered by some to be the best of the bunch this year, but there's also questions on whether his game translates to the NFL level. The Bills have the 10th pick this year, and this would be a good pick for them. They do have Tyrod Taylor under center right now, but Watson would provide competition in training camp while he's being groomed as the franchise quarterback of the future. His upside is higher than Taylor's, and Buffalo needs to find a legitimate answer at quarterback.
15 Corey Davis: Baltimore Ravens
Now that Steve Smith has retired, the Ravens are shot at the wide receiver position. Davis had a stellar career at Western Michigan, and is considered by some to be the best receiver available in the draft this year. Baltimore holds the 16th overall pick, and that seems to be the range that Davis is looking at to be picked in. He's not quite good enough to sneak into the top ten, and he did miss the combine, so that should allow his stock to drop just far enough for the Ravens to snag him in the middle of the first round. This is a great pick, as Davis is a natural route runner with good size, and can immediately help their receiving corps, which desperately needs a shakeup at the moment.
14 Jabrill Peppers: Detroit Lions
There's no denying that Peppers is a superior athlete. He's arguably the most athletic player in the entire draft, but his game may not translate into the NFL game quite so quickly. Frankly, predicting where and when Peppers will end up going is a complete shot in the dark right now. He could be a top ten pick, or he could fall out of the first round. The Lions would make a lot of sense at 21st overall. They need stability on the back end of their defense, and Peppers is versatile, capable of playing both linebacker and safety. His technique and coverage skills are the question with his game, but his raw athleticism simply cannot be taught, and will probably warrant a first round selection from someone. Detroit may be the team that makes the move first.
13 Haason Reddick: Denver Broncos
No player in the draft has seen their stock rise as much over the past couple of months as Reddick has, and he's bumped himself into a first round projection as a defensive end or outside linebacker. Before that, he was a bit of an unknown coming out of Temple, but after his excellent combine performance, the interest level has risen through the roof. The Broncos usually seek out these kind of high-motor pass rushers, and Reddick would fit the bill for their defense. He can be shifted to a couple different positions, and a pass rushing tandem between him and Von Miller would give Denver the boost that their defense was missing at times last season, coming off of their Super Bowl-winning season in 2015. At 20th overall, the Broncos seem like a favorite to take Reddick.
12 Mitch Trubisky: San Francisco 49ers
While it's likely that the Niners will be starting journeyman Brian Hoyer at quarterback for the 2017 season, that doesn't change the fact that they will need a franchise option at the position for the long-term future. Trubisky was only a one-year starter at North Carolina, but there are some who believe that he is the best quarterback in the draft, and a favorite to be the first one taken out of the position class. There are questions as to how good he'll be in the pros, but he plays like a prototypical Kyle Shanahan-type quarterback, who will be entering his first season as head coach in San Francisco. Due to his relative inexperience, he'll be able to essentially redshirt his first season in the league, learn the offense, and emerge as the team's starter for the 2018 season. Quarterbacks are bound to go early, and at second overall it makes a lot of sense for the Niners.
11 Leonard Fournette: Carolina Panthers
Again, Fournette is a player at a deep running back position group, and there are many who believe that he's the best of the lot. Carolina holds the seventh overall pick, and Fournette fits their downhill running scheme to a tee. There are questions about how he would do in different offenses at the NFL level, but if there's one that's tailor-made for him, it's with the Panthers. They still have Jonathan Stewart, but he's well past his prime, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him take on a reduced role. With a bruiser like Fournette in the backfield, Cam Newton under center, and Kelvin Benjamin leading the receiving corps, all of a sudden the Carolina offense looks scary again. Fournette is worthy of being a top ten pick, and is probably the offensive player that most helps the Panthers.
10 Dalvin Cook: New York Giants
There's been talk recently of Cook falling out of the first round, but there still remains a host of people who consider him to be the best running back in the draft. Despite a relatively poor combine performance, his tape at Florida State doesn't lie; Cook is a dynamic runner who is lethal catching passes out of the backfield. It would be a surprise to see him fall out of the first round, but he might be available to the Giants at 23rd overall. The Giants need a featured running back badly, and Cook fits the bill for their offense in every way. Combined with a veteran quarterback in Eli Manning, and a stellar receiving corps headed up by Odell Beckham, New York could find themselves to be real contenders next season if they can land a runner of Cook's caliber.
9 Rueben Foster: Jacksonville Jaguars
In theory, Foster would be the final piece to the puzzle that the Jaguars have been building for the last several offseasons. Though they did draft another talented linebacker in last year's draft in Myles Jack, he has some injury concerns, and may not ever see peak production in the NFL ranks. Foster on the other hand, may just be the best defensive player in the entire draft overall this year. An elite athlete, he can excel in all facets of the position, and would give Jacksonville a homegrown leader on their defense almost immediately. Foster's worthy of a top five selection, and the Jags would be wise to snag him at fourth overall, because he won't last much longer after that. Foster is a game-breaking kind of defensive talent that comes along only once in a long while.
8 Derek Barnett: Philadelphia Eagles
It was assumed that Philadelphia would be taking an offensive skill player in the first round, but after the acquisitions of Torrey Smith and Alshon Jeffery in free agency, they've bought themselves some leeway for other options. Barnett is going to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL, and could possibly be the best player available by the time the Eagles draft at 14th overall in the first round. They aren't lacking at defensive end necessarily, but both starters in Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry are hovering around the age of 30. Barnett would infuse some much needed youth in the position group, and would aid their defense immediately. He's the kind of player that could anchor a defensive line for the next 8-10 years. If he's there at 14th overall, Philly should definitely consider taking him.
7 O.J. Howard: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Howard is another player that is a point of debate for many fans right now. Drafting a tight end in the first round is always risky prospect, but Howard is about as sure of a player as there is in the draft. In Tampa Bay's offense, which just added burner DeSean Jackson in free agency, Howard would be a lethal addition. He can move around all over the field, and play a variety of positions on the line of scrimmage. His athleticism is excellent and he has great speed for a tight end. He's a complete player, and no other other receiver or tight end would hold as much value for the Bucs in the first round. Jameis Winston is going to enjoy the personnel he'll have around him for the 2017 season if the Bucs are able to land Howard.
6 Malik Hooker: New York Jets
Considered by many to be the best free safety in the draft, Hooker would be a great fit for the Jets and their system. Their once-dominant secondary has completely gone by the wayside, capped off by their release of Darrelle Revis following his alleged incident that he has since been cleared from. Indeed, the Jets need a leader on the back end of their defense, and Hooker would fit the bill, or at least going a long way to making that the case. He's likely to be a top ten pick, and it would be a good decision to take him at sixth overall. He's the type of player that the Jets can rebuild their secondary around, to compliment their skilled defensive line. They have a lot of work to on top of this pick, but it's a good start at the very least.
5 Jamal Adams: Chicago Bears
Adams is the other safety other than Hooker that has been getting all the press. It may be a bit of a reach, but he would be a great fit for the Bears and their third overall pick. Their secondary is in shambles, and while you could make the argument that an offensive player would be a better route to go, they actually do have a half-decent front seven that Adams could be able to compliment. He would have an opportunity to anchor the Chicago secondary for years to come, and if they can get that part of their defense straightened out, the entire unit could soon be one of the better ones in the league. Adams would go a long way into making that a reality, and overall it's a good pick for the Bears.
4 Marshon Lattimore: Los Angeles Chargers
Lattimore has more sheer ability than any other cornerback in the draft class. He's also one of the youngest, at just 21-years-old. It's not a guarantee that Lattimore reaches the Chargers at the seventh overall pick, but if more than one quarterback goes off the board early, then it becomes a real possibility. Adding a player in the secondary of Lattimore's quality would make the Chargers defense fearsome in a hurry. Building off of pass rusher Joey Bosa and linebacker Melvin Ingram, the Lattimore addition would give them an elite defensive player at every level of their defense as a whole. This could make them one of the marquee units in the league, and it's a no-brainer that Lattimore should be the selection if he does make it to their pick.
3 Jonathan Allen: New Orleans Saints
This isn't the best draft we've ever seen for defensive tackles, but Allen is the cream of the crop, and a great player all the same. The Saints have invested more into their defensive line over the last few years, and should continue to do so, in order to begin to fix their defense as a whole. Allen provides elite run-stopping ability, and could be a day-one starter if everything shakes out right. It's not a guarantee that he makes it to the Saints at 11th overall, but it is a likely possibility, and there's a decent chance that he could be the best defensive player available at that point, depending on what happens with Derek Barnett. Either way, Allen would be a great fit in New Orleans, and he for sure will be drafted in the top half of the first round.
2 Solomon Thomas: Arizona Cardinals
A contingent of people do believe that Thomas is the best pass rusher in the draft, and certainly his talent is worthy of a top ten selection. The issue lies with where he fits positionally, as he's not really an ideal fit for a 3-4 or a 4-3, making him a "tweener" player that could have trouble adapting to certain defensive systems. The Cardinals would be a good fit at 13th overall, and after losing Calais Campbell in free agency and Chandler Jones in free agency last offseason, Thomas would get an opportunity to contribute right away on the defensive line. He'll definitely find a landing spot somewhere in the top twenty picks, and the Cardinals do seem to fit his skill set the best, and it would fill a desperate need for them at the moment.
1 Myles Garrett: Cleveland Browns
While it remains to be seen if Garrett will actually turn out to be the most productive pass rusher in this draft, he's definitely being hyped like it by just about every outlet there is. If he's as good as people claim, then the Browns will have an easy decision on their hands with the first overall pick — how many times have we said that over the years? There's just not many other players (considering value and each positions draft class) that would help the Browns more than an elite pass rusher, and that's what most evaluators believe that Garrett will turn out to be. While there's never a "sure thing" in the NFL Draft, Garrett does seem to fill that role this year, and if you're putting money on it today, expect to see him playing in Cleveland come September.
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