The 2017 NFL draft is right around the corner, and the NFL Combine has given us an opportunity to see a lot of great former college athletes do drills in shorts that somehow will translate to them performing well on the football field in pads. The bulk of what gets a draft prospect noticed is their career at the collegiate level. The combine can sometimes get teams carried away with how good a player really is, and this causes some people to have unrealistic expectations for incoming players. There are also some prospects that don’t get enough love when entering the draft.
Athletes have been overlooked and over hyped in the draft for years now. Think of guys like Tom Brady who were overlooked and didn’t get selected till late in the draft, and then think of players such Jamarcus Russell who was selected number one overall based off potential and failed miserably in the NFL. These kinds of mistakes happen every NFL draft. There is also always a player taken in later rounds that turn out to be a great NFL players for many years after being an afterthought.
Here are 8 future NFL draftees that are being overlooked and 7 that are being over hyped leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft:
15 Steal: James Conner
James Conner is a massive success story whose NFL dreams looked gloom this time a year ago. Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma during the 2015 college football season, and there was doubt as to whether he would ever play football again. This would have been a tragedy if he couldn’t play considering he was the ACC player of the year in 2014. Conner came back and led the Pittsburgh Panthers to a decent year, which saw the Panthers in the top 25 towards the end of the season. After the surprisingly dominant season for Connor he announced on Twitter that he was forgoing his senior year to enter the NFL Draft. Connor will be more than likely be selected in the late rounds, but could be a real steal for the team that gives him a chance.
14 Bust: John Ross
Many thought John Ross would be a late first or second round pick prior to the NFL Combine, but then he became the talk of the event. Ross set the 40 yard dash record at the 2017 NFL Combine by running it in 4.22 seconds, breaking Chris Johnson’s prior record of 4.24 seconds. This is an impressive feat, but now there are some that think he will be selected in the mid to early first round based off a performance with no pads or football in hand. The combine is the ultimate overhype machine when it comes to NFL Draft prospects.
Ross could end up being a nice wide receiver in the NFL, but speed is not the only weapon that a receiver needs to possess. Darrius Heyward-Bey also had speed but couldn’t perform in the NFL after being drafted early in the first round.
13 Steal: Kevin King
Kevin King is an unreal specimen, and has the size at the cornerback position of a created player in Madden. King stands 6-foot-3 which is unusual for a cornerback, and scouts have questioned whether he will have the speed to cover shifty wide receivers at the NFL level. That question was partially answered at the NFL combine when he ran a 4.43 second, 40 yard dash. This was one of the quicker times among his defensive back peers, and King is likely not going to be selected until day two of the draft.
This defensive back class is stacked for 2017, otherwise King would have a really great chance of being a first round selection. Cornerbacks are also notorious for not being good at catching the ball, but King had six interceptions at the college level and showed he has the ability to make spectacular catches.
12 Bust: Teez Tabor
Teez Tabor is one of the top defensive backs coming into the 2017 draft, but may be merely a product of the excellent system he played in at the college level. The University of Florida has been known for having a strong presence on defense year after year, and Tabor may have greatly benefited from this. His combine numbers did not blow anyone away, and he ran a disappointing 4.62 second, 40 yard dash. Perhaps Tabor can improve upon his 40 yard dash on his pro day at the University of Florida.
Tabor seemed to not play as confidently in 2016 as he did in 2015 with Vernon Hargreaves, and he may have trouble with covering receivers at the next level who can go vertical.
11 Steal: Cooper Kupp
Anyone who didn’t play at the FBS level such as Cooper Kupp is going to fly under the radar, and Kupp has the ability to be successful right away much like his FCS comrade Carson Wentz has done with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kupp set all-time records in total receptions with 428, receiving yards with 6,464, and receiving touchdowns with 73 while suiting up for the University of Eastern Washington. One of the most important characteristics of a great receiver is someone with amazing hands, and Kupp rarely dropped a ball during his collegiate career.
The team that acquires his services will be getting a capable receiver that played great against one of the best teams in the nation, the University of Washington in 2016.
10 Bust: Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey had a stellar college career at Stanford University, and along the way was a Heisman finalist in 2015 and was named the AP college football player of the year that same year. Having success at the NFL and college levels are two different parallels. McCaffrey did have nearly 1,500 less all-purpose yards in 2016 compared to 2015, but his team did not enjoy as much success on the field in 2016 compared to 2015.
Couple this with the fact that Christian McCaffrey's physique is a big question mark for the position he plays. Running backs take a physical beating on nearly every play, and McCafferty only weighs 202 pounds and stands 5-foot-11. McCaffrey will be taken in the early rounds but will he be an impact player at the NFL stage?
9 Steal: Alvin Kamara
Alvin Kamara was one of the top running backs coming out of high school, and chose to go on to the University of Alabama. After off the field issues and injuries he found himself playing football for a community college in 2014 before he was given another chance by the University of Tennessee. He did not screw up his second chance, and performed well, averaging over six yards a carry in 2016.
Much of the spotlight was not on Kamara while at the University of Tennessee. Josh Dobbs took on most of the spotlight, and this allowed Kamara to fly under the radar while playing at a high level. Kamara more than likely won’t be selected until the second day, making him a potential steal in this draft.
8 Bust: Reuben Foster
Reuben Foster is a potential top 10 selection in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft, but he made a boneheaded decision at a hospital that got him sent home from the combine. When getting his physical Foster got in a fight with a hospital worker which led to his dismissal. This could have some implications as to whether he gets drafted as highly as previously thought, as it demonstrates poor judgment skills from the young linebacker coming out of the University of Alabama.
Ironically enough, his medical history is an actual concern for NFL teams. Foster has been known as a hard tackler and great cover linebacker as well, but there is a history of stingers which could scare off some teams. Foster has a high upside but could just as well be injury prone during his football career.
7 Steal: Garett Bolles
Offensive tackle is not the sexiest position, but it is a position that teams desperately need, to prepare for the premier edge rushers that the NFL has to offer. Garrett Bolles will have to deal with speedy and powerful defensive ends at the NFL level, and his combine numbers prove he is prepared to take on the challenge. He ran the 40 yard dash in under five seconds showing off his quickness, and he weighs in at 297 meaning he is strong enough to deal with the most powerful defensive linemen the NFL has. He can block the run and the pass equally efficiently. Offensive linemen need to possess quick feet especially at the tackle position, and Bolles has the best foot work of any prospect coming out this year.
6 Bust: Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill Peppers was a Heisman trophy finalist, but many have argued and made the case that he was not even the best defensive player at the University of Michigan. The other issue facing Peppers is what position he will play at the NFL level. He seemed to be a jack of all trades at Michigan starring on defense, and also making his presence known on the offensive side of the ball. This led to him being overhyped by every sports outlet because of his versatility. Peppers has mentioned he would make a great safety, which is confusing because he participated with the linebackers at the NFL Combine. There is no doubt a team may reach on Peppers after his 72 tackles, four sacks, and one interception in 2016, but it is hard to see him excelling right away after not really having a position at college.
5 Steal: Larry Ogunjobi
The University of North Carolina Charlotte did not have a football program while Larry Ogunjobi was in high school, but they began their program once Ogunjobi began college, and he started all four years for the program. Ogunjobi was a disruptive defensive tackle who proved to be an excellent run and pass defender for opposing Conference USA offenses. The small school moniker is what has stopped Ogunjobi from getting much coverage from the media, but there is no denying the potential that surrounds this kid. He ran the 40 yard dash in less than five seconds which isn’t easy for someone who weighs 305lbs. One of his weaknesses is that he has short arms, but he can counter his weakness with the quickness of his hands which is vital for an interior lineman to possess.
4 Bust: DeShone Kizer
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had a very down year only winning four times, and this was due to a lot of different factors through the course of their season. One of those factors was the poor quarterback play of DeShone Kizer. Kizer is slated to be one of the first quarterbacks taken in this year’s draft, but his lack of success in college with a powerhouse football program raises some eyebrows. The second half of the 2016 college football season was particularly bad for Kizer as he was benched multiple times because of his poor play.
Kizer has great size, arm strength, and mobility which gives him an upside higher than perhaps any other quarterback coming out this year. The potential is great but the draft experts can’t forget about his tough 2016 season while at Notre Dame.
3 Steal: Haason Reddick
Haason Reddick had an impressive career at Temple University, and was named First Team All-AAC after recording 65 tackles and 9.5 sacks his senior season. His combine really bolstered his draft position. People were unaware of his coverage skills, but after his impressive combine drills he has been talked about as being able to play the inside linebacker position. NFL general managers love defensive players that can play multiple positions on the front seven. Reddick fits the bill as a player than can play more than one position, and he could presumably play inside or outside linebacker or even defensive end if need be. The little known Temple standout may have improved his stock so much that a team uses their first round selection for his services.
2 Bust: Mitch Trubisky
Mitch Trubisky was not even the starting quarterback for the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2015 as Marquise Williams kept his job, and Trubisky, after a standout high school career, was relegated to back up. The Tar Heels finally gave Trubisky his time to shine in 2016. The young quarterback did not disappoint throwing for over 30 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions, but 98 percent of his snaps came from the shotgun formation. Trubisky will have to learn to be able to take snaps from under center at the NFL level. North Carolina ran a spread offense, so the pro style offense will also be something that the top rated quarterback will need to adapt to.
Trubisky also has difficulty throwing the deep ball. Many quarterbacks have been overhyped coming into the NFL and have failed. This year's QB class is rather thin, which has increased the hype around Trubisky, but that hype may be unwarranted.
1 Steal: Chris Godwin
In the Big Ten Championship Game Wisconsin held a huge lead against Penn State at halftime, and Penn State kept on throwing deep ball after deep ball and got back in the game. Chris Godwin was the Penn State receiver who Wisconsin could not control. Someone with blazing speed such as Godwin is often times thought of as a physically weak receiver, but at the combine he was able to do the bench press for 19 repetitions. He also ran a fast 4.42 second, 40 yard dash at the combine. Godwin may not be one of the first couple of receivers taken, but he is capable of becoming a great receiver in the NFL. It is rare to find a receiver with great speed and strength attributes.