The much anticipated 2017 draft is over, and before we look back on all the highs and lows of the annual event which took place in Philadelphia, or gaze into the future to see how this will change careers and the fortunes of franchises, let’s all just take a moment to bask in the glory that is no more NFL Mock Drafts until 2018! Looking forward into the 2017-18 season and beyond, it’s clear that some teams set themselves up for major future success, solidifying a position of weakness in their franchise, or even adding to a major strong point, whereas others remained stagnant with confusing picks, or ones that didn’t warrant such high draft picks.
That’s looking at the big picture, and how these picks will affect franchises, but how about those individual players? What will their 2017-18 season look like for themselves and their impact on the franchise. The following will look at 10 players from the first few rounds of the 2017 draft who will make an immediate impact, as well as leaving a lasting legacy in the NFL, as well as 5 players who will be considered "busts," whether that be due to injury, lack of impact or inability to meet the expectations of a 1st or 2nd-round pick.
15 Dalvin Cook: Minnesota Vikings - STAR
Florida State have been a powerhouse in the college football ranks over the past few years, and while that can be attributed a lot to the QB and WR play, as well as the talented defense they’ve always had, Dalvin Cook has quietly become one of the best running backs in the game. Although he fell to the 2nd round, the Vikings got an absolute steal. With LaTavius Murray on the roster as well, Cook will compliment Murray’s talent perfectly, and it will take the pressure off the former Seminole, which means he will be able to take his time to develop in the system which was quite good in 2016. The Vikings have a lot of competition in the NFC North, but with the veteran Sam Bradford at QB and plenty of talent in the backfield, Cook could help the Vikings to some success.
14 Evan Engram: New York Giants - STAR
The New York Giants already had a fantastic offense in 2016, and after adding Brandon Marshall to pair with Odell Beckham, and in the draft they added to that, by drafting the best receiving tight end in the draft, Evan Engram from Mississippi. There would have definitely been temptations to reach for an offensive lineman at the #25 spot in the draft, but the Giants have looked to build on their strongest points from 2016, adding Engram to an offense that has Beckham, Marshall, and even an impressive rookie in Sterling Shepard. By the looks of things, Engram will complement everyone's skills on offense. Like all rookies, there will be growing pains in adjusting to the size, speed and skill of NFL caliber defenses, but once the adjustments are made (which should be helped by having such an experienced QB like Eli Manning), he will add another huge vertical threat to an already imposing Giants offense.
13 T.J. Watt: Pittsburgh Steelers - BUST
In any other circumstance, I’d look at someone like T.J. Watt and see a star in the making, especially in a system that puts on dominant defenses on a yearly basis, but coming into the league as the younger brother of J.J. Watt, the most dominant and all round defensive player in the league will eventually take its toll. Sure, T.J. might turn into a star in his own right alongside promising young star Ryan Shazier, but T.J. and J.J. have another brother Derek who is all but forgotten in this league, so you can’t discount that possibility. I expect him to turn into a serviceable player who will last in the NFL for quite some time, but when the Steelers take a chance on a defensive player in the 1st round, they usually expect superstars like Shazier, and unfortunately, Watt won’t be able to live up to his expectations being a 1st-rounder, or the expectations of his lineage.
12 Reuben Foster: San Francisco 49ers - STAR
According to the majority of mock drafts leading up to this years draft, Alabama’s Reuben Foster was one of the top talents available, but through a load of trades and QBs picked, he somehow slipped to the back end of the 1st round, becoming the second defensive star taken by the San Francisco 49ers, as they took Solomon Thomas at #3. He may be on a team with little offensive firepower, but paired with the traditionally dominant 49ers defense and 1st-round star Thomas, these two could be the catalyst for a change in San Fran’s fortunes. The versatile star comes from a long line of well coached, disciplined Crimson Tide players, and barring injury, he will have a long, successful career as a game changing player on the defensive side of the ball.
11 O.J. Howard: Tampa Bay Buccaneers - STAR
With all the hype around the three talented QBs at the top of the draft board and the deep running back class, O.J. Howard, the Alabama tight end, fell under the radar, and despite his huge talent, he slipped to #21 to join the already stacked Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense. He is by far the most talented all-around tight end to come into the NFL in quite some time, and as he'll be paired with Jameis Winston and all the weapons around him, he will no doubt shine straight away. The team already has Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, so adding Howard to the mix will not only make him one of the best tight ends in the league, but will help Tampa Bay ascend to the top of the NFC South.
10 John Ross: Cincinnati Bengals - BUST
There were some great Wide Receivers taken in this draft, with the best being Tennessee’s Mike Williams taken #7 by the Los Angeles Chargers, but the one whose stock rose most during the draft process was Washington’s John Ross, who famously broke Chris Johnson's record 40 yard dash time at the NFL Combine. The Bengals added to their high-powered offense by pairing him with AJ Green, and it looks like they will be relying on him to be a big part of their team going forward, as they seek to finally win a playoff game for the first time in decades. Ross may have a few good seasons as an NFL player, and be a valid number 2 or 3 for a team, but as far as someone taken #8 overall in the draft, he will be considered a bust.
9 Jamal Adams: New York Jets - STAR
Coming into the draft, all the talk was about the three top QBs and Myles Garrett, but arguably the most complete player in the entire league was the safety out of LSU, Jamal Adams. He may have been drafted by a Jets team that will most likely struggle throughout the 2017-18 season, but if Adams can pan out, alongside 2nd-round pick Marcus Maye, they could have a defense that will thrive like the Jets D of old for quite a long time. Adams is the best playmaker in the secondary in this entire draft, and knowing the Jets history of great D, it was the obvious choice for them to make. Expect Adams to be one of the feature safeties in the entire NFL in about five years.
8 Jabrill Peppers: Cleveland Browns - STAR
It’s very safe to say that the Cleveland Browns absolutely nailed this draft, and after deciding to pass on a QB as they made a trade with the Texans, fans of the team were anxious to see who they’d take at number 25. They ended up picking one of the biggest names in the entire draft, and possibly the most versatile player in the draft, Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. We’ve assumed that the team will look to play him at the safety position, but he can also play offense and special teams, and that’s the kind of X-factor that the Browns need at this point. He may just become a special kind of star in the NFL. Obviously no one expects the Browns to be playoff contenders at this point, but if this great draft class can pan out the way they hope, the team could finally become contenders in the AFC.
7 Leonard Fournette: Jacksonville Jaguars - BUST
Leonard Fournette is one of the biggest names to come out of the college football game in quite some time, and when he was healthy, he was the most dominant and powerful back in the entire game. Unfortunately though, like many others, he sustained many knee injuries, limiting him to just 4 games in this past season, but that didn’t make the Jaguars shy away from taking him with the number 4 overall draft pick. While some people can overcome a history of injuries (i.e. Adrian Peterson), that will definitely hurt Fournette, as there is way too much pressure on him to be a revolutionary back that could change the fortunes of the Jaguars. If he isn’t considered one of the best backs in the game within the next five years, he will be considered a bust.
6 DeShone Kizer: Cleveland Browns - STAR
The Notre Dame team came into this past season looking to run a platoon QB system, but the talented DeShone Kizer won the job through fantastic performances, and despite all the hype around the top three QBs on the draft board, Kizer will prove to be a fantastic value pick as a 2nd-rounder. That team ended up being the Cleveland Browns, who after picking up two superstar talents in the first, decided to back that up and get their potential QB of the future. Although he may not start in his rookie year, Kizer has the talent to be a star in the NFL. The team may look to add some offensive weapons around him with two 1st-round picks in the 2018 draft, which will help his development, but Kizer has the raw talent to be a great NFL QB.
5 Christian McCaffrey: Carolina Panthers - STAR
Christian McCaffrey is one of the most polarizing prospects from the past few college football seasons, and the Stanford star who has a fantastic pedigree (his dad, Ed McCaffrey, was a former NFL All-Pro wide receiver) has shown at every turn that he is one of the most versatile and explosive stars in the game. After being drafted #8, he will join Cam Newton with the Panthers in what looks to be a fantastic offense in 2017-18. He can run the ball just as well as he can catch it out of the backfield, and will add another dimension entirely, and that bodes well for the success of the second-generation star and the Carolina Panthers. With the way the game is changing, the Newton-McCaffrey combination will be hard to stop, and Christian may just be one of the best by the time his Panthers rookie contract comes to an end.
4 Patrick Mahomes: Kansas City Chiefs - BUST
Patrick Mahomes slid under the radar after a great career at Texas Tech, and although he was considered the third-best QB on most mock draft boards, the Chiefs traded all the way up to #10 to take him, even ahead of the most talented QB in the draft, DeShaun Watson. There’s nothing wrong with the Chiefs taking him, as he can sit behind Alex Smith and develop as the future of Kansas City, but moving up to #10 was a huge mistake, as the expectations will be too high to reach. Smith will still be a viable starter in the league for the next few years, so Mahomes will have to wait his turn, and it’s hard to see him doing anything but disappointing when he gets his shot. Sadly, he may live out his career as a backup at best.
3 DeShaun Watson: Houston Texans - STAR
There was a lot of talk coming into the 2017 draft about the top QB’s and where they would go, and three trades later, all three of them were gone within the top 12 picks. At number 12, it looks like the Houston Texans picked the QB who could solidify the position and take them where they want to go in the postseason. Watson showed that he came up big in the clutch moments throughout his time with Clemson, competing in two National Championship games against Alabama, with a 1-1 record,. Although he has flaws, like any young college QB has, he also has major upside. The Texans have one of the best defenses in the entire league, and made the playoffs in the last two seasons with below-average QB play, so if Watson can develop as quickly as expected, he will not only succeed on an individual level, but will help Houston to major success.
2 Myles Garrett: Cleveland Browns - STAR
Like we’ve already mentioned, the Browns did very well with this latest draft, and in Myles Garrett they have gained a potential "once in a generation" talent, despite the hefty amount of criticism that has come his way recently. The Texas A&M defensive end came up big in the big moments for the Aggies, and although he was known for disappearing throughout games, which can be fixed with the professional coaching he will receive, and he could be the heart of the Browns' resurgence. It may take quite some time, just like the rebuild of the Browns in general, but if the team can put some talent around him, with their two 1st round picks in 2018, he may become one of the biggest defensive stars the NFL has ever seen.
1 Mitch Trubisky: Chicago Bears - BUST
Fans have known about QB’s like DeShone Kizer and DeShaun Watson for quite some time, as they played on major programs like Notre Dame and Clemson, but UNC’s Mitch Trubisky had flown up the mock drafts and teams radars only since the draft process had begun. After struggling to win the starting job over his North Carolina tenure, he had a great senior year, throwing for over 30 touchdowns, and that was enough to make him the #2 overall pick by the Chicago Bears. That was a very surprising pick, as the Bears had already picked up Mike Glennon in the offseason, but it’s obvious they are very high on Trubisky. With all the pressure of being a #2 pick, he just won’t be able to live up to the hype, which is what Bears fans expect, as he was heavily booed upon arrival in Chicago.