Before any of these rookies take the field in the NFL, we’re going to let you know the players who will succeed and the unfortunate one’s who will fumble their hopes at a lasting professional career. Succeeding in the NFL may be a bit of luck, but it’s largely due to the immense talent and physical ability that each of these guys possess. It has been a long journey for every one of the players drafted in the first round of this year’s draft. It has been an overwhelmingly successful one, too. Getting drafted in the first round is any young kids dream. But that dream is going to come to a crushing end for some of the guys on this list. And there is even a chunk of guys who won’t have a spot in the NFL after this season.
Like every other year of the draft, there will be the superstars of the group. There will be guys who will play into their forties. And there will be guys who won’t be in the league long enough to consider signing another contract. There are future Pro Bowlers on this list, and even a few future Hall of Famers. Like all of the draft classes that have come before, the 2017 group of first rounders will have it all … and this is the place where you’ll learn of all of this first. With this list, we project the future of every first round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft.
32 RYAN RAMCZYK
Don’t worry. Only a couple offensive linemen were drafted in the first round this year so we won’t have to spend too long on the subject. Sorry to all those offensive linemen out there, but protecting the quarterback/running back isn’t making headlines. They’re like the secret service. Sure, it’s an important job … but no one ever truly sees their worth.
But Ryan Ramczyk already knows this, just like all other offensive linemen do. Ramczyk knows he won’t be publicized for his actions. That publicity can cripple certain players careers. But for offensive linemen, draft day is when most of the attention comes. For Ramczyk, draft day was the most attention he’ll receive throughout his career. Luckily for him, he has the talent to stick around in the league for at least 5-6 years. But he already missed certain workouts at the combine because of a hip injury. That means it’s a safe bet to assume that he’ll be struggling with injuries from time to time and never truly breakout as a O-line star. But he’ll get spots on rosters throughout the league until he needs to hang up the jersey because of injuries.
31 REUBEN FOSTER
As a linebacker in San Francisco, Reuben Foster will likely slip into an all-star role for the 49ers as the team will be relying heavily on the defense. Obviously, by looking at San Francisco’s roster the offensive unit isn’t looking to be much of a factor this year. That’s going to place immense pressure on the defense and that’s not going to bode well for most of the guys playing there. But Foster has been used to being the center of attention. He was a four-star recruit by ESPN in his early days and had multiple big-D colleges pursuing his talent.
Even more important to what will be a long-lasting career in the NFL is the fact he played four years for Alabama. Sure, he didn’t take over the starting position until his junior year, but that system adds value to any soon-to-be pro linebacker. Why else does it seem likely that Foster will have a long-lasting, multiple Pro Bowl appearing career? Well his Butkus Award, which is given to the nation’s best linebacker (in the past guys like Von Miller and Luke Kuechly, among many others, have received the award).
30 T.J. WATT
The younger brother of J.J. Watt has at least a few good years of NFL football in him. Just the family bloodline seems to equate to success in this case. T.J. Watt may not have the build of his older brother J.J., but he has roots in the NFL in the form of the double-J and Derek Watt. It’s like the Manning dynasty, just on the other side of the ball (and the father, a fullback, isn’t as prolific).
Nonetheless, young T.J. Watt has got to be ready for the NFL. His biggest pressure inducing fear has got to be that he’ll never be as good as his brother. That’s a fair worry when your comparing yourself to J.J. Watt, but it’s something that is going to fuel a pretty successful NFL career. Sure, he may not be a multi-Defensive Player of the Year … but he’ll be a consistent force in the league that will likely outlast the length of his brothers career (since J.J. will likely have to retire early because of injury).
29 DAVID NJOKU
David Njoku has a ton of pressure weighing him down for a tight end drafted late in the first round. Njoku, without fault to himself, pushed out one of the Browns most effective players in recent years. Despite countless offensive issues and a number of different quarterbacks, tight end Gary Barnidge has been a beast in Cleveland and has consistently produced for the Browns offense.
The worst part is that after this selection, Barnidge (who is such a good guy) tweeted that he couldn’t wait to begin working with Njoku … Well, the next morning Barnidge was tweeting about his departure from Cleveland as the Browns decided to drop the veteran tight end. This isn’t good for the start of a rookie’s career. Early on he’ll be compared to a veteran tight end that managed to elevate an offense. That’s impossible for a tight end. Let alone a rookie tight end. Njoku isn’t going to see another contract signing in his days with the NFL.
28 TACO CHARLTON
Any rookie should be excited about joining the Cowboys this year. This is “America’s” team and it seems that the next wave of young superstars are being grown in Dallas. After Dak and Zeke took the field last year for Dallas, it seemed like the league was in the mercy of whatever Dallas wanted. With the best rookie quarterback and running back, there doesn’t seem like much that can stop this team. But the Cowboys still got a draft pick and they still got to select somebody in the first round. This year, Taco Charlton, a defensive end from Michigan, was the lucky college guy who joined a playoff-bound team.
But Dallas may just be as luck as Charlton was on draft day. Charlton, an All-Big Ten first-team selection, will be a crucial factor in maintaining a strong defensive front in Dallas. Five years from now, we’ll all be praising Prescott, Elliott and Charlton, while wondering how they all wound up on the same team at the same time. Good job Dallas front office.
27 TRE’DAVIOUS WHITE
Being drafted by the Bills would generally be something players would scream into their pillow pissed at night about, but Buffalo is a pretty good place for defenders. That’s why this match works out pretty well for Tre’Davious White. He’s a cornerback joining an organization that loves developing young guys on the defensive side of the ball. Sure, the Bills offense may have tons of questions going into next year … but you can expect their offense to be ready to handle any threat the Patriots throw at them by Week 1 … and that’s why their defense will be ready.
Having to play Tom Brady and the Patriots twice a year means that Tre’Davious White will get an accelerated course in defending wide receivers. Whether he picks that up in one game, or eight, he’ll get the hang of it before his rookie contract is up. And if he succeeds early, White could be one of the big names of the league. Either way, expect this guy in the Pro Bowl at least a few time over the next 10 years.
26 TAKKARIST MCKINLEY
When compared to the guys that remain here, Takkarist McKinley ended up on the best team. At this point in the first round (with 26 teams that have already picked), McKinley is added to the only team left that reached the most recent Super Bowl (the Patriots gave up their spot for Brandin Cooks, which was probably an awesome decision given their 40-year-old quarterback).
McKinley joins the NFL after playing college ball at USC. He did have to through shoulder surgery right before the draft, though. Surgeries can be dealt with (given advancements in medicine and the ungodly amount of money spent on keeping players healthy), but injuries are always scary for someone this young. With the brutal hits expected out of a defensive end, McKinley can’t be expected to stay on for long. He’ll likely be dealing with one-year contracts once his rookie deal is up.
25 JABRILL PEPPERS
Getting drafted in the first round is nice … getting drafted by the Cleveland Browns near the end of the first round might be a death sentence. As we previously stated, a first round draft pick is what every kid dreams of when tossing around the football in the backyard. But getting drafted by the Browns has become, well … a sort of nightmare in recent years.
No matter how talented you are, the crushing despair of the Cleveland offense seems to crush any defensive promise. Do you remember Joe Haden? Not many fans do. He was one of the best lockdown defenders in the league. But he had to play on a team that couldn’t score. So, Jabrill Peppers will likely succeed. But if Cleveland’s offense can’t produce, Peppers will fade into oblivion.
24 GAREON CONLEY
Getting drafted to the Oakland Raiders was a godsend this year. The Raiders are coming off a 12-win season and they’re a very talented young team mixed with some key veteran superstars. For all of those who aren’t under the New England stranglehold, Oakland is the next big thing. You’ve got Derek Carr throwing the ball to Amari Cooper.
Oh, Cooper and Carr aren’t enough? Well, there’s also Marshawn Lynch protecting the backfield and Khalil Mack crushing the opposing quarterback. It almost doesn’t matter who’s surrounding those guys. They’re arguable four of the five best athletes in the NFL. So, Gareon Conley has found a perfect landing spot after college. If he maintains health, he’ll maintain a successful NFL career for years to come.
23 EVAN ENGRAM
Here we meet the second of three tight ends drafted in the first round … that’s not a bad draft year for first round tight ends. Look back at previous drafts. There’s not many. And the tight ends that are drafted this high generally do pretty good. The previous tight ends drafted this high (with a few exceptions) have been successful, long-lasting NFL tight ends.
Being drafted by the Giants, Evan Engram’s career doesn’t seem any different than any of the other successful tight ends drafted out of the first round. After finishing his collegiate career at Mississippi, Engram was drafted by the Giants … possibly the best spot for a tight end to go this year. Obviously the defense is going to be focusing is OBJ, so, as long as the run game improves, it’s an easy stage for success.
22 CHARLES HARRIS
This is going to be a bit of a shock to the Dolphins newly drafted defensive end, but Miami isn’t as prepped for success as it seems. While you can’t ignore the fact that the Dolphins were a playoff team last season, there’s no way you could acknowledge the fact that Miami is a playoff team this year. In fact, the Dolphins seem more like a team that will have a top-10 draft pick next season.
Charles Harris was a two-time second team All-SEC, but that doesn’t necessarily make you deserving of a first-round draftee out of Missouri. Actually, Harris could have easily fallen to the second round given his performance record in college and at the combine. He’s a good player, but not the type that has the ability to transform a failing team. He’ll be around for a couple of contract extensions, but don’t expect Charles Harris to become a household name.
21 JARRAD DAVIS
It’s not normally the case, but for Jarrad Davis, he should expect to be given less attention as a professional athlete than he was as a collegiate linebacker. It’s unfortunate for the young guys drafted by Detroit, but they’re all being drafted to a team that had a brief stint of success surrounded by massive amounts of failure. The worst part is that the only successes they’ve seen has been surrounded by Matt Stafford, and he’s the guy who will prevent the team from getting any further.
But Davis may be a crucial part in developing the Lions defensive attack. But he’s another guy who has been hampered with injuries. In Davis’ case, it’s his ankle. That’s not something you want to deal with in a player who’s needed to make those cuts that could re-injure a tendon at any moment.
20 GARRETT BOLLES
An offensive tackle out of Utah. It doesn’t seem like there’s a much more boring draft pick out there. A white guy from Utah getting drafted by Denver. It’s a fair assumption that he’ll be enjoying that fresh powder on the slopes. But maybe O-linemen don’t like skiing. It does seem a bit risky for those big guys who spend careers protecting the players we love to watch the most.
The tough thing with Garrett Bolles is trying to figure out why he was drafted so high after playing just one year at the University of Utah (he played the previous two years at a place called Snow College). He must have really put spectators in awe at the combine and during Utah’s Pro Day. But it just doesn’t deem likely that he’ll be any more known than just about every other offensive lineman in the NFL.
19 O.J. HOWARD
Like Oakland, Tampa Bay is a great place for young talent to go because the Buccaneers seem poised to become a playoff bound team year after year. There’s just so much young talent on this squad, and the best part for O.J. Howard is the fact that he’ll have a successful quarterback throwing him the ball for the entirety of his rookie contract. Jameis Winston is the future of this franchise, and any receiver is going to thrive in this environment … especially in the tight end position.
Howard will see ample opportunity as defenses scramble to lock down Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. So, expect good things to happen early on in Howard’s career, which will set the stage for a lasting run in the NFL.
18 ADOREE’ JACKSON
Three great years at USC solidified Adoree’ Jackson’s spot in the first round of the NFL draft. Like many other guys on this list, Jackson didn’t need his senior season to prove his worth. About a month after Jackson was awarded the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive back, he announced his decision to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
In a draft that was filled with top defensive talent, this pick was no exception. But with this pick, Jackson also proved value at USC as a wide receiver and kick returner. Although he’ll be relied on for his cornerback skills, the ability to return kicks will add value to his contract talks in the future. Jackson proved to be a star in college, and there’s no reason to think that’s going to change for any reason in the NFL.
17 JONATHAN ALLEN
This defensive tackle was the second of four players drafted in the first round that played college football at Alabama. Jonathan Allen was a big part of Alabama’s National Championship appearances in the past couple of years. Allen was playing so well that he was tagged as a top-5 draft pick. But then some frightening news surfaced about his health. Allen was diagnosed with arthritis in one of his soldiers and had surgery on both prior to the combine.
In the NFL, aches and pains are a given … but this just puts Allen at a disadvantage before hitting the field. Although Allen was ranked a top defensive tackle in this draft class, these health issues are going to be too much make it in the NFL for more than a few years, and those are likely going to be a struggle given his shoulder issues.
16 MARLON HUMPHREY
This pick began the wave of Crimson Tide athletes being selected in the first round. The Ravens always seem to create a great environment for defensive talent, so this seems like it’s a good landing spot for Marlon Humphrey. Plus, it seems like playing the Browns twice a year can be a huge boost to any teams defensive effort.
Humphrey is just 20 years old, so he’s got a lot of time to develop on a team that will likely give him crucial snaps early and often. There doesn’t seem like many reasons to think that this cornerback won’t find a way to succeed in the NFL. Even if he struggles early on, he’s going to find ways to continue seeing those critical snaps throughout a lengthy pro career.
15 MALIK HOOKER
Malik Hooker is going to have a tough time in the NFL, partly because he’s a one-year starter who is anticipated was drafted just a bit too high. It’s tough to justify this type of pick for a guy who has started a full season just once as Ohio State’s safety. Hooker just seems like he’ll get way too caught up in the atmosphere and a simple fake are juke will cause him to flat out miss the mark. He has struggled as a tackler in his time at Ohio State, which will be the biggest problem in the pros.
But no doubt, Hooker proved himself as the best safety and deep threat defender in collegiate football last season. Hooker was really fun to watch and the fans loved him. Some of that will transfer to the NFL. But he’s also going to have trouble his first year in the pros, and he will be riding the bench soon after seeing the field.
14 DEREK BARNETT
Here’s a pretty cool couple of stats about Derek Barnett’s college career at Tennessee (which are two big reasons why we think that he’ll be successful early on with the Eagles). Barnett was the first true freshman defensive lineman to start the season opener for Tennessee. Also, Barnett (along with Myles Garrett) broke Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC freshman sack record. Barnett also broke his school’s career sack record, and he decided to forgo his senior season.
Even though Barnett had what was labeled as a stomach bug and couldn’t compete in the combine, he was still ranked among the top-3 defensive ends in this draft class. It’s safe to assume that Barnett will break into the NFL with immense success, just as he did in college.
13 HAASON REDDICK
This guy has a pretty interesting story. Haason Reddick played just four games of his high school career because of a fractured femur. Then, he joined the Temple University team as a walk-on in 2012. He saw his first action in 2013, and by his senior season in 2016, the defensive end was named to the First Team All-AAC after finishing the season with 65 tackles and 10.5 sacks.
At the combine, Reddick’s broad jump and 40-yard dash were the best among the defensive linemen, which were likely big part of the reasons he was drafted so high. But Reddick will likely be a linebacker in the NFL, but nonetheless, he’ll likely see early success in Arizona and be able to leverage that to at least one contract extension down the road.
12 DESHAUN WATSON
Deshaun Watson played at Clemson and he was at the top of a lot of teams draft boards, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when the Texans selected the young quarterback this high up in the draft. However, the same could be said for Mitch Trubisky. They both will likely end up having successful and lengthy careers, but Watson is going to shine right away. Although both guys are capable of leading a franchise for years to come, Watson will be doing it by Week 1.
Watson has the capability for big time throws and will be a scoring force from Day 1. And his accuracy is compelling enough to make us think that he can make Houston a relatively successful team this season. Watson’s last-minute win over Alabama for the national title was a good way to end his collegiate career, but he’s going to have many more shining moments as he stars in the NFL.
11 MARSHON LATTIMORE
A lot of scouts looked at Marshon Lattimore as a guy who can lockdown the opposition good enough to be a top-10 draft pick. Although he went at No. 11, Lattimore won’t prove to be the savior for the Saints failing defense. Lattimore, for instance, is not going to be able to keep up with receivers as well as the scouts are expecting. At least not in his first year.
Lattimore has the speed and quickness to keep up with receivers, but he’ll be seeing a whole new caliber of competition in the NFL. Although he saw some good competition playing for Ohio State, Lattimore started a full season just once. Just one full season as a starter will hurt Lattimore once he gets drafted.
10 PATRICK MAHOMES II
After the Chiefs struggle though this season because of Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes II will get his shot at taking over. The tough part is that the earlier this happens, the worst off Mahomes chances at success will be. Mahomes needs some time to grow on the bench as he went to the NFL after just three years at Texas Tech. But for a guy who threw 734 yards in one game, everyone wants to see Mahomes in the action early … especially in Kansas City.
The tough part is that he’ll be tossed into action far too early. Whether its injury, or a continued regression of play from Smith, Mahomes will be starting at some point this year. That will cause a Sam Bradford-like trajectory, and Mahomes will be moving from team to team before he truly proves his worth in the league. But at least he’ll be a continued starting quarterback.
9 JOHN ROSS
This is the third and final wide receiver who was drafted in the first round this year. The interesting thing is that each of the top wide receivers were deemed worthy enough of a top-10 draft pick. John Ross might be, arguably, the luckiest receiver out of the three because of his landing spot. Getting drafted by the Bengals effectively ensured that he’ll be working with one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league, and he’ll be alongside one of the best receivers.
Playing with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green will breed early success for Ross. That successful college run will continue into the game’s highest level. The best thing about Ross is his speed. He broke Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record time with a 4.22. It’ll be fun to see what he does with that speed early on in his career.
8 CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY
One of Carolina’s biggest issues in recent years has been a true top running back leading the backfield. Christian McCaffrey might just be the answer to the Panthers issue. McCaffrey seems to have all of the tools needed to become a star in the NFL. McCaffrey, who holds the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards in a season, was the AP College Football Player of the Year and the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, too.
McCaffrey followed that up with a 2016 where he, again, led the nation in all purpose yards. There was no reason to return for another season, so he gave up his senior eligibility. That was a good decision as he’ll now become a consistent selection for the Pro Bowl as he leads the backfield in Carolina for years to come.
7 MIKE WILLIAMS
Out of all of the wide receivers selected this year in the first round, Mike Williams was drafted to a team with arguably the best, but also the worst quarterback. Williams, who was selected by Los Angeles, will be working with veteran quarterback Philip Rivers. At first glance, that seems like a good thing. But a deeper dive reveals that Rivers isn’t necessarily the guy you want calling the signals.
Sure, Rivers was a Pro Bowl selection last year. But he was also the leader in interceptions thrown, which is the second time he’s done that in the last three years. Williams will likely lose his top wide receiver status early on because of this. But Rivers will still provide for some highlight reel plays for Williams, who will prove to be a No. 1 receiver once the team moves on from Rivers.
6 JAMAL ADAMS
Jamal Adams was the first of the three saftys who were drafted in the first round this year. Adams will be tearing apart offenses and starring on the field almost immediately. Adams will rarely see the bench. Adams will prove worth of picking apart defenses with his mind and body by Day 1. He’ll lead in the locker room and on the field. Heck, it’ll be tough to tell he’s a rookie by the team the regular season starts. Adams has good instincts, which separates him from a draft class that displays a lot of defensive talent. His instincts will allow him to pick off passes or stop guys for a loss, he can really do anything on the field and will continue that trend in the NFL.
5 COREY DAVIS
Who could have guessed that Corey Davis would be paired up with such a good quarterback this high up in the draft. It’s a true blessing for Davis, who will be paired up with one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. But regardless of the quarterback dishing out the passes, Davis will be a star. And Davis has the numbers to prove it from a very successful career at Western Michigan.
Davis is coming to the NFL with the tools needed to succeed. He’s a great rout runner and he’s got size. That combination makes him a tough guy to defend. And most fans could care less, but Davis’ blocking ability is what really separates him from the pack. With his talent and all-around skill, Davis will be a man showing up in Pro Bowls as early as next year.
4 LEONARD FOURNETTE
This draft has three guys who will one day be in the Hall of Fame. Leonard Fournette will be one of them. Sure, three guys from one draft class going to the Hall of Fame is a bit of a crazy though … but not with how talented this draft class is. Leonard Fournette has the ability to shape an offense. Teams may begin looking at drafting around running backs after Fournette makes his mark in the league. He’s a rare talent when you account for his size and speed.
The crazy part is that Fournette was a steal in this draft, even at the fourth pick. Fournette has a shifty ability to make defenders miss. He forced 136 missed tackles in three seasons. Sure, that was college, but NFL defenders will struggle too the first few times they see Fournette.
3 SOLOMON THOMAS
With how badly the 49ers needed a quarterback, this pick was surprising. Sure, drafting a guy like Solomon Thomas can’t be regarded as a bad pick, but San Francisco should have really considered drafting offensive help if the team wanted to be successful this year. No matter how well Thomas plays, the 49ers will be likely drafting at the top of the board in 2018. But that won’t be Thomas’ fault. It’s the fault of the team that has drafted a defensive end in the first round in each of the last three NFL Drafts.
Thomas will see individual successes, but nothing at the team level while he’s in San Francisco … despite the changes up top for this organization. Maybe one day he’ll sign with a better organization, but for now Thomas will have to get used to playing on an underperforming team.
2 MITCH TRUBISKY
Mitch Trubisky is the second of three players who will eventually be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This is going to take a few years until it starts looking like a possibility, but Trubisky will be leading a team in one of the league’s biggest markets. That bodes well for a huge payday. Especially when you’re the guy who came in at one of the franchise’s lowest points. Trubisky’s addition to Chicago shocked most spectators. That’s why Trubisky is in a terrible but great position at the same time. He’s in a huge market playing for Chicago, and once he proves worthy, he’ll be a guy that everyone will be talking about. Trubisky is in a town that’s been deprived of a franchise face. Once they get it, there’s nothing the bears won’t do to secure their guy.
But now Trubisky will play for a troubled team. Things will look better for Chicago next year with Trubisky leading the way, but there will be some bumps in the road for the quarterback who didn’t have much collegiate starting experience at North Carolina. But he will solidify his spot as a starter going into next season.
1 MYLES GARRETT
This future Hall of Famer is the next big sports star in Cleveland. It’s about time the Browns got their equivalent to LeBron James. Fans (and us) are dying for a new defensive superstar in the league. Myles Garrett is the best talent available in the draft. Yeah, defensive ends have a tough time making an immediate impact out of college. But Garrett is extremely skilled. Although careers generally go to die with the Cleveland Browns, Garrett will finally be the guy who lifts the Browns to a winning season. The comparisons to Jadeveon Clowney are relentless, but that’s not a bad guy to be compared to. Plus, Garrett seems like he has a good locker room presence and looks to be immensely focused on honing his game.
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