I know I know. The 2016 draft concluded no more than days ago and I’m already talking about next season? In a league that has turned into a “win now” mode, there isn’t time to catch our breaths as we turn over every stone and get started on next year’s prospects.
Here’s a fresh look at some big names to watch for throughout the 2017 season and expect to hear their names called early in the draft.
Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, Clemson (Sophomore)
Unless you were stuck in a deep dark cave during the 2016 season you’ve likely heard of this man. Watson was explosive and methodical in his precisioned path to the national championship game.
Watson has a little bit of Russell Wilson in his game with the ability to burn you up with his feet, while cutting your defense to shreds as a pocket passer with smart reads and good accuracy.
Just a sophomore, Watson looks to build off a magnificent freshman performance and continue to grow his untapped raw talent. Playing the most important position in sports, if Watson can stay healthy he will be the number one pick of the 2017 draft.
Myles Garrett, Defensive End, Texas A&M (Sophomore)
As a true sophomore Garrett posted 12.5 sacks and a ridiculous 19.5 tackles for loss, on top of his five-forced fumbles. With video game speed off the edge, Garrett is a player that can change a game with his dominance as a natural pass rusher.
If he can continue to mold and develop the nuances and art of getting into the backfield, it would be hard to pass on such an electric rusher.
Jabrill Peppers, Safety, Michigan (Junior)
It’s not fair to pigeonhole Peppers as a safety because of his ability to line up at multiple positions and make a huge impact.
Much like Jalen Ramsey of the 2016 class, Peppers can be an immediate starter at safety, as well as cornerback, and linebacker.
Peppers adds extra value with his ability in the return game, but as the number one high school recruit coming out he has lived up to the billing as a do-it-all player that just makes plays thus far.
Cam Robinson, Offensive Tackle, Alabama (Sophomore)
Five offensive tackles were drafted in the first 20 picks this year proving once again how other teams value protecting its quarterback in a pass happy league.
As an offensive lineman I won’t bore you with Robinson’s stats, but nobody was better in the trenches than this ALL-SEC standout.
What’s enticing his Robinson is his size, as just a 20 year old sophomore he measured in at 6’6” 327 pounds.
Adoree Jackson, Cornerback, USC (Sophomore)
You could argue who the best player in the class is until you’re blue in the face, but no one can argue who the best athlete is.
Jackson is a freak that’s lined up as the Trojans’ shut down cornerback in between his duties as a return man. Oh by the way, did I mention he caught 29 balls as a receiver too? He good.
Jamal Adams, Safety, LSU (Junior)
Weird, right? Another secondary player excelling their game at LSU. Baton Rouge has turned into a factory for producing some of the top NFL talent around in the backend of defenses.
You’ll love Adams’ toughness and demeanor as he plays the game looking to hurt someone every chance he gets, but his speed pops off the tape whenever you watch a Tigers football game. Adams will build off his 67 tackle and four-interception 2016 campaign and should be the first pure safety off the board.
Leonard Fournette, Running Back, LSU (Junior)
After a brief lull at the position the yearly running back prospects have been building momentum, and will crescendo in front of our eyes during the 2017 draft with a slew of big name talent.
Without a passing game in sight, Fournette ran for 1,900 yards and 22 touchdowns while drawing comparisons to Bo Jackson (was he any good?).
*Stay healthy, stay healthy, stay healthy
Jonathan Allen, Defensive Line, Alabama (Senior)
If LSU is “Cornerback U” than Alabama is the “Institute of Trenches”
Nick Saban watched three of his top prospects at their respective positions in his front-seven declare for the draft, but kept his best for last holding onto Reed.
Reed was Saban’s most disruptive lineman last year with 12 sacks and has the size to play inside and the quickness to get off the edge.
Desmond King, Cornerback, Iowa (Senior)
As one of his biggest closet fans, I was hoping this Thorpe Award winner would declare for the draft so we could watch him on Sundays.
No such luck for me or the rest of the Big Ten as King gets another year to prove why he was the nation’s best cover cornerback and ballhawk.
A true shutdown cover corner, King will likely watch his numbers dry up this year as opposing quarterbacks look the other way, but don’t forget about him as the season progresses.
Dalvin Cook, Running Back, Florida State (Junior)
Any other year Cook would not just be the top running back, but one of the top prospects of the entire class.
A rare blend of quickness, light feet, vision, and power, Cook can do it all and makes opposing defenses pay for any loosey goosey technique or sloppy tackling.
Make no mistake Cook can run through you or right around you, and will be a headliner in what should be the best running back class of the past decade.