It is often said by NFL executives and general managers that good NFL teams are built through the draft. The draft is the lifeline for all great rosters and selecting the right players makes a huge difference in the make-up of a team. Drafting players that make immediate impacts can be huge from a financial standpoint as it provides teams with a low-salary impact player and thus gives freedom to spend more money on other positions. Essentially, finding steals in the draft can push a team into a consistent playoff competitor, while having multiple bust picks can send your team spiraling down the standings.
The 2017 NFL Draft was considered a deep draft and provided a wide mix of players and positions that teams highly valued. But as with any draft, there was a fair share of busts and steals. This article takes a look at all the second year players around the league to see which drafted players look like "steals" or "busts." Some of the selections on this list will be obvious, while some others may come as a surprise to many readers. It's important to remember, however, that this list is still very premature and many "busts" listed here still have time to rebound and prove everyone wrong. On the flip side, many of these "steals" could very well go in the tank after a couple of seasons. Only time will tell and that's what makes the draft so important and exciting. Did your team get a steal in 2017? Or did they draft a bust? Continue below to find out.
20 Bust: Haason Reddick - 13th Overall
Perhaps one of the biggest busts of the 2017 NFL Draft is a name that not many NFL fans are probably even familiar with, but Hasson Reddick on the Cardinals is looking like a tremendous flop for the team so far in year two. Part of the reason why the Cardinals opted against trading up in this draft to grab Patrick Mahomes was because they liked the potential of Reddick's pass rushing capability so much that they thought he was the next Von Miller.
Well, in year two, the Cardinals have already shopped Reddick for a trade. His potential is still there but after drafting Reddick No. 13 overall, he's going to have to produce sooner rather than later.
19 Steal: JuJu Smith-Schuster - 62nd Overall
Many draft scouts thought JuJu Smith-Schuster could have been drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft after he had a very successful stint at USC. Smith-Schuster has a good mix of size, speed, and catching ability that make him a matchup nightmare.
One thing that has certainly helped Smith-Schuster's development is having Antonio Brown consistently demand double-teams on his side of the ball, but don't let that undermine Smith-Schuster's talent as he could very well be a No. 1 receiver on most NFL rosters. In year two, Smith-Schuster is continuing to look like a budding star receiver and is making this pick look very smart by the Steelers.
18 Bust: John Ross - 9th Overall
One receiver that hasn't seen very much success so far is John Ross. Coming out of the University of Washington, Ross was able to shoot up scouts draft boards after he posted the fastest clocked 40-yard dash time in NFL Combine history. This flash of elite speed is what perhaps caused some teams to overlook his smaller size and deficient route running. Well, the Bengals took the bait and drafted Ross No. 9 overall. In his first season and a half, Ross has struggled to see the field because of injuries and his own inefficiency. It's not too late for Ross to turn it around (at least he's found the endzone this season), but at this point he looks like one of the biggest busts of the 2017 NFL Draft.
17 Steal: Alvin Kamara - 67th Overall
The New Orleans Saints surprised a lot of NFL evaluators last season when they made an unexpected run to the NFC Divisional game, in which they lost in heart-breaking fashion to the Vikings. A big reason for the Saints' success last season was the contributions they received from many of their rookies. One rookie who saw tremendous success last season was running back Alvin Kamara. This guy is a game-changer and is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball.
The Saints have one of the best, if not the best, backfield in Kamara and Mark Ingram and it will help prolong Drew Brees's career as well. Kamara is already a bonafide star and will continue to get better.
16 Bust: Zay Jones - 37th Overall
The Buffalo Bills thought they were getting a future No. 1 receiver when they selected Zay Jones in the early parts of the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, Jones finished the season with only 316 yards and two touchdown receiving. So far this season, Jones has shown a little bit of progression but is still falling far below his lofty expectations. With his lack of productivity on the field combined with his off-field issues last offseason, Jones certainly fits the mold of a major draft bust. Can he turn it around in time before he finds himself out of the league?
15 Steal: Cooper Kupp - 69th Overall
While hindsight is always 20/20, it's easy to bet that the Bills probably wish they would have selected Cooper Kupp instead of Zay Jones in the 2017 NFL Draft. Instead Kupp fell to the L.A. Rams in the third round and has turned into a fantastic pick, even after the serious injury he ended his sophomore season. Kupp looks the part of the NFL slot receiver and draws a lot of comparisons to Wes Welker, who was a great receiver in his own right.
As Kupp continues to learn the tricks of the NFL trade, he will only continue to improve. Plus the chemistry between him and Jared Goff is undeniable and will greatly benefit the Rams moving forward.
14 Bust: Taco Charlton - 28th Overall
The Dallas Cowboys drafted defensive end Taco Charlton in the first round to be a pass rush specialist and a landmark for the future of their defense. While Charlton has been decent, he's only registered 4 sacks in his career to date. For a guy with his size and speed, Charlton should be able to wreck havoc on opposing offenses each and every week so his lack of production has been disappointing to say the least. It's never smart to count out a man named "Taco," but at this point, it's safe to say that Mr. Charlton looks like a disappointment.
13 Steal: Budda Baker - 36th Overall
While Arizona Cardinals GM Steve Keim has had his fair share of missed draft picks, he has had success drafting play-making safeties. In his first draft in 2013, he selected Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu in the third round. In 2017, he drafted another small defensive back named Budda Baker. Not only did Baker's skillset and production help force Mathieu out of Arizona, but it has also helped him earn a Pro Bowl nod in his rookie season. Baker is the real deal and is on a trajectory to become one of the NFL's next star safeties. Check this guy out next time the Cardinals play on primetime television.
12 Bust: DeShone Kizer - 52nd Overall
DeShone Kizer was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the second round with hopes that he would become the future franchise quarterback. This was a bold expectation seeing how the Browns have gone through over a dozen different quarterbacks in the past decade-plus. Kizer certainly struggled as a member of the Browns as he threw 22 interceptions in his rookie season.
The Browns now have Baker Mayfield at quarterback, so Kizer was expendable and was traded to the Green Bay Packers last offseason. Kizer fits a mold of a backup in the NFL, not a starter. For that reason, he is clearly a bust, given his second-round status.
11 Steal: T.J. Watt - 30th Overall
It's never a bad idea to draft a player with the last name "Watt." The Pittsburgh Steelers absolutely crushed the 2017 NFL Draft and T.J. Watt is just further evidence of that. It's hard to be called a "steal" when you're a first-round draft pick but at the No. 30 overall pick, Watt has far exceeded his draft position. In his first two seasons, Watt already has over 15 sacks. It's very obvious that pass rushing skills just run in the Watt family blood and T.J. will continue to challenge his older brother J.J. for family bragging rights in the sack category.
10 Bust: Soloman Thomas - 3rd Overall
The 49ers were praised on draft night because they managed to move down one spot, from no.2 to no.3, after making a trade with the Chicago Bears, who badly wanted Mitchell Trubisky. The 49ers received the Bears' first, third and fourth rounders that year, as well as a third rounder in 2018. The 49ers elected not to take a QB, instead taking pass rusher Soloman Thomas 3rd overall.
Thomas has not made an impact for the 49ers thus far, as he hasn't been an effective pass rusher, and he ranks low on his team in sacks. The good news is, it's been a lost season for the Niners anyway, so Thomas will have a shot at redemption in year three.
9 Steal: Dalvin Cook - 41st Overall
Obviously, Dalvin Cook is still in the midst of proving his ability due to his ongoing injury concerns, but when he is on the field, Cook definitely has the look of a future star. Cook has the speed and size to be a pure bell-cow running back for Minnesota and provides already potent offense with a rushing element that makes it really reach top gear.
The Vikings are competing for the playoffs again this year and getting Cook back to full health will be a major plus for this team. Look for Cook to show off his star skillset in big moments down the stretch this season.
8 Bust: Charles Harris - 22nd Overall
In his career so far, Charles Harris has two (2) sacks. Yes, only two sacks. That is clearly not the type of output the Miami Dolphins were hoping for or expecting when they used the No. 22 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on the big defensive end out of the University of Missouri. So far in 2018, Harris hasn't registered a single sack and has pretty much been invisible while on the field. He's got the size to compete in the trenches in the NFL but at some point he's going to have to start putting pressure on quarterbacks on a consistent basis if he wants to avoid being labeled a bust.
7 Steal: Kareem Hunt - 86th Overall
Possibly the biggest steal of the 2017 draft is Kareem Hunt on the Kansas City Chiefs, who wasn't drafted until the third round. Hunt was immediately thrust into the starting role with the Chiefs after starting running back Spencer Ware went down with a season-ending injury in the 2017 preseason. Hunt went on to become a star throughout his rookie season as he gained over 1,800 yards from scrimmage and scored 11 touchdowns. He has continued his high level of production so far in 2018 as he is a main piece of the Chiefs' NFL-best offense. This guy is already a star.
6 Bust: Garett Bolles - 20th Overall
The Denver Broncos' offense has struggled mightily in the last few seasons and obviously, one of the most important pieces of an offense is the left tackle. The Broncos took Garett Bolles 20th overall and Bolles was the NFL's most penalized offensive lineman in 2017. Vance Joseph has already hinted at a possible demotion for Bolles if his game doesn't turn around. The Broncos offense as a whole isn't doing well, but one thing that always cures an offense is better pass protection. The Broncos aren't getting that out of Bolles and may have address the position this offseason.
5 Steal: Pat Elflein - 70th Overall
It's very rare to say that an offensive lineman drafted in the third round can be one of the biggest steals in the draft, but Pat Elflein on the Minnesota Vikings has totally earned it with his play thus far. Elflein was immediately thrust into the starting center role for the Minnesota Vikings last season and showed that he was ready for the task. Elflein was so good that he was named to the All-Rookie team last year. Nothing so far in 2018 suggests that Elflein isn't the real deal, so it's safe to say that he will continue to progress into a star... well, as much as of a star as an offensive lineman can be.
4 Bust: Reuben Foster - 31st Overall
Many experts thought that the San Francisco 49ers were getting a steal when linebacker Reuben Foster fell to them at the No. 31 pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. It was a huge value pick as Foster was once considered to be a top-5 pick heading into the draft. Well, sadly, Foster has dealt with injuries and off-field issues that have completely derailed his career to this point. Although he is back on the field now, he appears to be only a shell of his former intimidating self. It's quite possible that Foster gets his life under control and turns into a major force for the 49ers, but his time is quickly running thin.
3 Steal: James Conner - 105th Overall
Prior to the 2018 season, it was looking like Pittsburgh Steelers backup running back James Conner was just going to be a depth running back, occasionally getting carries over the starter. But because Steelers superstar running back Le'Veon Bell has decided to sit out the entire 2018 season due to ongoing contract disputes, it has allowed Conner to take the starting role and thrive in it.
In fact, Conner has looked so good that the Steelers aren't really missing Bell so far this year. Ironically, Conner's great play has really diminished Bell's contract negotiation leverage. If Bell leaves this offseason, Conner will continue his path to stardom.
2 Bust: Malik McDowell - 35th Overall
How big of a bust is Malik McDowell already? Well he is no longer on the Seattle Seahawks roster and no other team has even bothered to offer him a new contract. That is a very harsh way to put it, however, because the fact is that McDowell sustained a serious injury in an ATV accident prior to last season. Will he ever get another shot in the NFL? It's still too early to tell whether these injuries will continue to haunt McDowell for the rest of his career or if he will be able to see the field again. Hopefully for him he will be get a chance to play soon.
1 Steal: Patrick Mahomes - 10th Overall
The Kansas City Chiefs made a huge jump up the draft board on draft night in order to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 overall pick. It's difficult to call Mahomes a "steal", considering his top-10 draft position, but his incredible play so far this season is far exceeding any expectations anybody had for the young gunslinger. If the season were to end today, Mahomes would likely be the NFL MVP. He looks like the next great quarterback in the league and is a pure steal for the Kansas City Chiefs, considering other QB needy teams like Chicago and San Francisco (they didn't have Jimmy Garoppolo yet) passed on him.