The 2017 NFL Draft is finally in the rearview mirror, and what a draft it was. We saw all the marquee prospects become members of an NFL team, and the results are intriguing to say the least. Some players ended up in a situation that benefits their skill set, and others will be trapped in nightmarish scenarios that will only hinder their development. It’s not an uncommon thing to witness, as many rookies through the years have been selected by NFL franchises that don’t exactly assist them in their development as best as they should.
Overall, there were some surprise selections, and others that fell right in line with what the mock drafts predicted. In the end though, these rookies are either going to prove their worth, or be cast out of the league in short order. There are no guarantees in the NFL, and some of these players will find that out very quickly. Some will certainly thrive, but others will inevitably struggle, and it may end up costing them a long career in the league. Let’s see which rookies taken in this year’s draft are going to fall.
Ranked below are 8 NFL rookies who will succeed with their new team, and 7 who will fail miserably.
15. Solomon Thomas (Succeed)
The 49ers were able to nab Thomas with the 3rd-overall pick in the draft, after the Bears traded up to the 2nd spot. This was likely going to be their plan all along, and for good reason. Thomas is a ridiculously talented athlete, who can move around the field from linebacker to defensive end, and has a penchant for rushing the passer.
He was stellar during his time at Stanford, and along with Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and the incoming Rueben Foster, he’ll be part of a San Francisco defense that looks to be on the upswing. It may take some time before they get on track completely, but the surrounding situation for Thomas looks to be pretty good, and he should show good production immediately.
14. Christian McCaffrey (Fail)
In the right offensive system, McCaffrey would be a monster in the open field. He’s able to line up at wide receiver, in the slot as a receiver, or in the backfield as a running back. Unfortunately this varied skill set doesn’t fit the Panthers’ offense very well, with Cam Newton wanting to throw the ball down the field to big targets.
Carolina has employed a power-running style of an offense for the past couple seasons, and the speedy, shifty McCaffrey doesn’t really fit the mold. Maybe they’ll change some things up, but then it would be less beneficial to Cam Newton, who usually thrives off that style. While McCaffrey should be able to make some highlight reel plays, and produce a bit, he won’t reach his full potential with the Panthers.
13. DeShaun Watson (Succeed)
Thought it was a weak quarterback class, Watson was considered by many to be the best of the bunch. The Texans, desperately in need of a starting quarterback after the pipe dream of landing Tony Romo fell through, got extremely lucky to be able to land Watson with the 12th overall pick. He should be the starter immediately over Tom Savage.
Coming into a playoff roster, who many believe are just a quarterback away from making a very deep playoff push, the Watson pick makes sense from many angles. Houston has a plethora of talented skill players on the offense such as DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller and Lamar Miller to ease Watson’s transition. He’ll go through some growing pains, but ultimately. play well enough to makes the Texans a real contender.
12. Taco Charlton (Fail)
Not a surprising pick, given that the Cowboys lost roughly six defensive starters in the offseason, and desperately need some pass rushing weapons. On paper, Charlton seems to fit the bill. The issue is that while he has a very high ceiling, his floor is also very low. Coming into a Cowboys defense that is void of many productive players isn’t an ideal scenario.
If he can come anywhere to replicating his latest season at Michigan in the NFL, then it’s going to be a good pick. More likely however, he’ll struggle playing next to too many mediocre players on the Dallas defensive line, and it will cost him his development. Not necessarily a forgone conclusion, but Charlton seems to be in line for a disappointing rookie season, and maybe a wasted career.
11. Derek Barnett (Succeed)
The Eagles have some nice defensive pieces in place already, and adding Barnett with the 14th-overall pick makes a lot of sense. Considered by many to be the 2nd-best defensive end in this class, Barnett fits perfectly into an already talented Eagles defensive line. He’s a definite system fit, and he should be able to rack up sacks right away in Philly.
If all goes according to plan, Barnett should be a week one starter, and begin contributing immediately. At a mere 20-years-old, it’s safe to say that he’s going to be a force on the Eagles defensive line for a long, long time. Other defensive ends in the draft may have a slightly higher ceiling, but Barnett is a safe best NOT to bust, in a league where that happens far too often.
10. Charles Harris (Fail)
There’s been some questions as to where exactly Harris fits at any one position. He was a quality defensive end at Missouri, but in the NFL the size requirements for each position are different than the college game, and some view Harris as a “tweener.” The Dolphins took him at 22nd overall, and it seems to be a risky selection, given the questions about Harris’ game that are currently left unanswered.
He’ll probably be placed on the defensive line, and while Miami had a pretty solid defense last year, it’s hard to see Harris excelling in the system immediately. He struggles against the run, and worst case scenario, he proves himself to be only a situational pass rusher, which isn’t the best return on a player that you took with a 1st-round pick. Harris has question marks, and they may be enough to leave him as an underachiever.
9. Marlon Humphrey (Succeed)
This pick was initially criticized by many, but Humphrey is one of the best cornerbacks in the draft, and a physical one at that. The Ravens likely see him as a week one starter, and the Alabama product has the tenacity and instincts to succeed in the NFL immediately. Some have called him a reach, but the fact is that Humphrey is the kind of player worthy of a 1st-round selection at 16th-overall.
With many talented pieces already present on the Baltimore defense, Humphrey is coming into an almost-ideal situation. If he struggles a bit in the early going, the presence of safeties like Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson should be able to mitigate the impact it has on the overall defense. A good pick by the Ravens here, despite the criticism.
8. Corey Davis (Fail)
Davis went much higher than many expected at 5th-overall to the Titans, and while the selection makes sense for Marcus Mariota and the offense, it’s not an ideal scenario from Davis’ perspective. The Titans’ passing offense isn’t at what you would call an “apex”, and Davis will be forced to shoulder the load on a receiving corps that simply isn’t very good.
There’s a chance for himself to develop a rapport with Mariota, but without capable receiver options in the receiving corps, at tight end, or in the backfield, it’s going to be an uphill battle for Davis once defenses make it a point to double team him on every single play. Tennessee will need to get more weapons for Davis to be successful.
7. John Ross (Succeed)
A statement pick by the Bengals at 9th-overall, Ross is the fastest receiver in the draft, running a blistering 4.22 40-yard-dash at the combine earlier this offseason. Pairing him with A.J. Green goes a long way into making the Cincinnati offense a juggernaut again, and Ross should be able to burn defenses from the very beginning.
We thought that Ross would be taken somewhere in the 1st round, but the 9th overall selection may seem like a bit of a reach to some. Whether it was or not, Ross is going to prove why speed skills. Despite his injury history, it’s a good pick for the Bengals, and one that will pay dividends immediately, with most cornerbacks unable too keep up with somebody that fast.
6. Dalvin Cook (Fail)
The early reports about Cook dropping into the 2nd round turned out to be true, and the Vikings were the ones who ended up trading up to take him. Cook has a few red flags, and while they’re legitimate concerns, a bigger one may be the offensive line he’ll have to run behind in Minnesota. It’s a poor overall unit, and having mediocrity such as Sam Bradford under center won’t help him either.
Free agent signee Latavius Murray should be able to lighten the load for Cook in the early going, but it’s going to take several seasons, and a better offensive line for him to reach his full potential. The Vikings certainly aren’t doing him any favors by bringing him into an offensive situation that is up in the air, at best. He could succeed, but the chips are stacked against him right now. As usual, Minnesota’s strength will be their defense.
5. Leonard Fournette (Succeed)
Perceived to be the best running back in the draft by many, the Jaguars made an unsurprising, but likely effective pick by taking him at 4th-overall. In some modern NFL systems, Fournette’s game wouldn’t really work, as he’s a rumbling downhill runner who needs around 20 carries a game to get the most production out of him.
Fortunately, Jacksonville has exactly the kind of roster and system that will suit Fournette’s strengths. They have a very solid receiving corps to prevent defenses from stacking the box against him, and will employ a power-running style to fit the LSU prospect’s skill set. It’s an ideal situation for Fournette, and all of a sudden Jacksonville appears to be a team on the rise, benefiting from their new coaching staff.
4. Jabrill Peppers (Fail)
In traditional Browns draft fashion, they made at least one bad 1st round pick, and this year it was taking Peppers at 25th overall. Look, there’s no denying that Peppers is an amazing athlete that has the potential to succeed on an NFL roster. But it would have to be a fully-formed roster that would give him the opportunity to be an effective gadget player, instead of carrying a defense.
The Browns have little in the way of productive defensive players outside of their defensive line, such as Joe Haden and Jamie Collins, so Peppers will be playing alongside questionable players. To add on to that, he doesn’t really have a defensive positional fit to begin with, which only complicates matters even further. Cleveland overthought this pick, and should have taken a player with a more concrete role to assist their defense.
3. Mike Williams (Succeed)
Philip Rivers is getting older, and the Chargers are making one final push for him to lead them on a deep playoff run. They took Williams at 7th-overall, and he’s potentially the best overall wide receiver in this class. He can high-point the ball, and he has a monstrous catch radius, showing both of these qualities over a dominant career at Clemson.
With the move to Los Angeles taking place for the 2017 season, the Chargers want to start off their new look with a bang. Williams was the offensive player that most allowed them to do that at 7th-overall, and they’ll be helping Rivers out by getting him one last elite receiving weapon before he retires. Williams will benefit as well, catching passes from one of the best quarterbacks of the generation.
2. Mitch Trubisky (Fail)
In what was a simply horrendous maneuver by the Bears’ front office, they traded up a bevy of future drafts to move up a mere one spot to acquire Trubisky as their future franchise quarterback. For one thing, it’s unlikely that the 49ers would have taken him with the 2nd-overall pick, so moving up was unnecessary in all likelihood.
Second, there’s real questions as to whether Trubisky can succeed at the NFL level. He had a mere one season of play at the college level at North Carolina, and the hype train on him started moving relatively late in the process. Putting all of that aside, the Bears have a ton of roster holes to fill. The recently-signed Mike Glennon could have held down the fort for a few years, in order to improve other positions in the meantime. Then Chicago would have been able to get a better franchise quarterback a year or two down the road. A mediocre pick in a vacuum, and a downright awful one considering they traded up.
1. Myles Garrett (Succeed)
The Browns may have actually gotten a first round selection right for once. Garrett is considered by just about everybody to have the highest ceiling for a defensive end in the entire class, and as a generational talent all together. As the 1st-overall selection in the draft, he has a lot to live up to, but his talent is worthy of the praise.
He’ll be entering a Browns defensive line that surprisingly actually looks pretty good for the 2017 season. Playing alongside Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib and Danny Shelton should help him get acclimated right away, and if that happens, Garrett could show himself to be a sack artist in the NFL right away. It’s not often that you can praise a 1st-round pick from Cleveland, but Garrett was the consensus player to be taken in that spot all the way, and is easily the most talented one player in the draft, all positions considered. He should be a force in the NFL right away.
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