Over halfway throughout the season, we are seeing a lot of the outcomes of the draft picks teams chose this offseason. While some teams haven’t used their draft picks much, other teams have used their draft picks as starters. Each draft is different, as some drafts you immediately see everyone who was drafted starting early on, and then other times you see a lot of these picks hitting the bench. It all depends on the needs and performance of some of these teams.
We have seen many of the ups and downs of some of these players by now. We have seen what players can do on the big scale. There are quite a few teams that struck gold by drafting the players they did, while other teams failed miserably. There is always room for improvement with many years to go, but we look at who we think will be a star in the future based off of what we have seen so far, and who is a complete bust. The time is now, and as we see more and more of each player we see their true potential. While we can’t completely make assumptions just yet, we can start to predict what the future may look like for some of these teams.
15. Star: Juju Smith-Schuster – Pittsburgh Steelers (WR)
With the uncertain future of Martavis Bryant, it looks like Juju Smith-Schuster may be the guy who will take over the number two receiver spot. Smith-Schuster has been able to make some big plays to help his team, and a bigger spot on this team could help the Steelers even more. So far, he’s actually been playing better than Bryant, while Bryant sulks about his usage on the team, so the Steelers may look to make this move that would give Smith-Schuster a larger role on this team, while figuring out what they plan on doing with Bryant.
14. Bust: Zay Jones – Buffalo Bills (WR)
The Buffalo Bills are playing extremely well for once, so good that they could see themselves in the playoffs this January. But the success has nothing to do with Zay Jones. The second-round pick hasn’t been very helpful to Tyrod Taylor on his quest to the playoffs. After the trade of Sammy Watkins this offseason, Jones’s production was expected to increase. Unfortunately, his rookie season has been nothing to be proud of, as he has struggled to make an impact on this team. The worst part about Jones, is that he’s only caught about 20% of the passes that have been targeted towards him. The Bills acquired Kelvin Benjamin at the trade deadline and it’s likely because they weren’t getting what they thought they would out of Jones.
13. Star: Jamal Adams – New York Jets (S)
Finally, the New York Jets grabbed a player who may be part of the future. Most draft pundits figured that the Jets would make the right decision and grab Adams as the sixth overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Jets went with what everyone expected, and they struck gold.
With Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye down the middle of the field, it makes it really scary to throw down the field against this Jets secondary. Adams also has the ability to come up on the ball and make plays in front of him. The success of Adams has actually helped this defense play really well this season which has helped the team exceed preseason expectations. Grabbing a safety that high in a draft is usually risky but it looks like the Jets made the right call.
12. Bust: John Ross – Cincinnati Bengals (WR)
Teams went into the NFL Draft knowing that John Ross was an injury-prone player. Because of that, many teams decided to pass up on him or not even consider him despite the fact that he broke the 40-yard dash time record. Well, maybe the Bengals should have been one of those teams. Throughout college, Ross had surgery on his shoulder and knees.
To start this season, Ross dealt with a knee injury that kept him out for some time. When he finally was ready to make his return, he was sidelined again because of his knee injury. Many players that are injury-prone usually never work out, especially rookies. Ross’s body type is very slim and could hurt him heavily when taking hits. He’s been targeted just once all season and he fumbled on his lone carry out of the backfield.
11. Star: Myles Garrett – Cleveland Browns (DE)
If Myles Garrett didn’t miss any games to his rookie season due to injuries, he might be leading the NFL in sacks. When he’s on the field, Garrett is an absolute beast, and has proven why he was chosen as the first overall draft pick. In his first three games, he recorded 11 tackles and four sacks. We can continue to look at those numbers as the season progresses, but it seems like these numbers will get even better as the year goes on. Garrett is a bad matchup for many offensive tackles, as he’s built like a linebacker. He has both the power, speed, and skill set to get around anyone to make a play on the ball. The only real question mark lingering right now comes from whether or not Garrett can stay healthy, but if so, he will prove to be one of the Browns’ few success stories.
10. Bust: Charles Harris – Miami Dolphins (DE)
Charles Harris was expected to thrive in a Dolphins front seven that includes Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. Being a rookie insulated with players like that lends the opportunity to take advantage of double teams going to the veterans. Well, unfortunately Harris hasn’t produced enough for what he should be doing as a first round draft pick. Through the first half of the season, he only has nine combined tackles and one sack. Those numbers can always go up, but it doesn’t look promising for the rookie from Mizzou.
With the body type of Harris, he should see himself easily have an advantage over a lot of offensive lineman. So far, he hasn’t exploited that advantage. There’s still time, and a chance for Harris to get more playing time. He’s still young and has more to learn and more football to play, but it hasn’t been good for the Dolphins’ first rounder so far.
9. Star: Malik Hooker – Indianapolis Colts (S)
It sucks to see someone balling out in their rookie year and then it all goes down the drain due to an injury. Malik Hooker is the second player on this list who unfortunately is dealing with injuries, except Hooker’s will keep him out for the rest of the season. The way Hooker was playing though before his injury, shows that this kid could end up becoming the best safety in the NFL. After playing seven games, Hooker totaled 22 tackles and three interceptions. It was dangerous to throw anywhere towards the Colts’ safety. He also had four passes defensed to start his rookie campaign. If Hooker didn’t suffer an injury, he could have had a great shot at winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Hooker will come back strong again, and help torture opposing quarterbacks.
8. Bust: Mike Williams – Los Angeles Chargers (WR)
Many people were wondering if this Mike Williams would be the one to end the seemingly endless parade of WR draft busts named Mike Williams. Well, so far Williams has disappointed for the Chargers. With Keenan Allen locked into a starting job, Williams was expected to be the big target Philip Rivers needed to stretch the field. Williams suffered a back injury that kept him out of action until mid-October and since returning he has only managed to catch 2 passes for 22 yards.
The Chargers have been better than many expected but they need more production from the big man out of Clemson to take the offense to another level. Perhaps we’ll really see what Williams is made of in year two, when he’s well past his back injury that has hindered his NFL career thus far.
7. Star: Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings (RB)
Many people actually thought Dalvin Cook was the best running back to come out of the 2017 NFL Draft. Cook didn’t end up getting drafted until the second round by the Minnesota Vikings, but has played as if he was a top ten draft pick. Unfortunately, Cook is another player on our list that is out for the season due to an ACL injury. But, let’s look at what he did before this major setback.
Cook rushed for 354 yards on 74 carries, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He also managed to score two touchdowns. After being gone for almost a month, he still sees himself within the top 20 rushing leaders of the 2017 season. Cook’s ability to use his speed and power to get past defenders is absolutely incredible. The Vikings honestly could be seeing a new era, that includes Dalvin Cook being the star running back.
6. Bust: Taco Charlton – Dallas Cowboys (DE)
The Dallas Cowboys desperately needed a defensive end to start the 2017 season, so they decided to stay safe and draft Taco Charlton. The good news is, he’s stayed healthy. The bad news is he hasn’t been that productive. Part of the reason is because he hasn’t gotten many reps, but he has gotten enough to get a chance to show what he’s got. So far, Taco has only six combined tackles and one sack. Charlton has struggled to get to the quarterback. It seemed pretty expected that he would struggle, as his body type doesn’t fit the typical NFL defensive end, and he also struggled during the preseason.
The Cowboys really just wanted a defensive end without any off the field issues and that could stay healthy. Although Taco has done that, they still want to look for more in him. He hasn’t been able to produce off the field, and the way some of their other defensive lineman look, he may never get a real chance.
5. Star: Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs (RB)
Who would have ever thought that the best draft choice for the Kansas City Chiefs this past draft, would be third rounder Kareem Hunt? I guarantee, nobody. Some of the media were fans of him, but everyone was so focused on the star running backs that were going earlier in the draft. Well, so far Kareem Hunt leads the NFL in rushing yards to start the season. Hunt has been a huge part of the Chiefs success, as they have been able to depend on him to run well with the football.
Hunt not only can just run the football, but he can also catch out of the backfield. He’s the ideal type of back that any team would want. With the way he’s playing, he’s definitely the steal of this draft.
4. Bust: Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals (RB)
Just when you thought the Bengals drafted well this offseason, they didn’t. They took a gamble by drafting John Ross, which doesn’t seem to be paying off. And then they took a gamble by drafting Joe Mixon, which also doesn’t seem to be paying off. Mixon was looked at to have the talent worthy of a top ten draft pick, but due to him being caught on video punching a woman in the face at a bar, his draft stock went down dramatically. The Bengals decided to go after him for his talent, but even that doesn’t seem to be working. Mixon is struggling running between the tackles, as he fails to create a good run game in Cincinnati. It’s put more pressure on Andy Dalton to produce and that is not a good formula for success in Cincy.
3. Star: Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars (RB)
The Jaguars knew that they needed some way to help boost this offense, and Leonard Fournette was the perfect fit. Although Fournette has had some trouble staying healthy in the past, he has played really well so far for the NFL. Fournette’s ability to make big plays helps open up this offense, and takes the pressure off of Blake Bortles. For once in a while, the Jaguars are actually playing well, well enough to possibly even make it to the playoffs.
Fournette is doing what Ezekiel Elliott did for the Cowboys a year ago, and Jaguars fans cannot stop raving about him. After one half of the season has finished, Fournette has rushed for 596 yards and has scored six touchdowns. Fournette may be the missing piece of the puzzle that could help solve some of the issues that the Jaguars have faced in recent years.
2. Bust: DeShone Kizer – Cleveland Browns (QB)
There’s really no way to defend DeShone Kizer. Kizer has been absolutely awful for the Browns. Maybe it’s because of the team around him, or maybe he’s just having a tough time transitioning from college football to the NFL, but he has not played well at all. Kizer does show hope for this Browns team, as he has the ability to extend some plays, but he’s been a turnover machine. Kizer has still yet to win his first NFL game, and somehow still manages to keep his job each week.
The Browns are trying to rebuild, but who knows if Kizer is their future. From what it looks like, he just seems like another bad Browns quarterback. He does an excellent job at throwing to the other team, but the only way that is helping the team is it will help land back that first overall pick once again.
1. Star: Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans (QB)
What a winner Deshaun Watson has been. Watson believed he should have been the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, and he’s definitely proving it. The Houston Texans were a quarterback away from success, and it seems like they’re finally succeeding.
Unfortunately, Watson suffered a season ending injury like so many other stars have this season, tearing his ACL in practice. He was surely on pace to win Rookie of the Year and possibly be in MVP discussions.
His season will end with 19 touchdown passes and 1,699 yards, through eight games. The games that he started and lost, were only lost by one possession, and they were to the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks. And in all of those games, he helped put up over 30 points.
Watson played out of his mind, and blew away every expectation that everyone had for him. Watson seems like the real deal, and when he’s healthy, he may be the man to finally bring a Super Bowl to Houston.
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