Much like a fingerprint, every draft is unique in its own right. While we will soon pick apart each team’s selections up and down their board, it won’t be until years down the road that we can fairly assess the winners and losers.
When dissecting the 2017 draft class in depth, it too has its own special quirks as to how we will likely perceive it as a whole.
For example, the 2014 draft class offered one of the best groups of wide receivers we may have ever seen — from first-round picks like Odell Beckham, Jr., Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin to mid-round steals like Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry and Allen Robinson.
Last year’s class was stacked at the defensive line with an absurd 17 selections drafted in just the first two rounds.
This year’s class is loaded at the running back position with both talent at the top and depth near the middle-to-late rounds. This makes things interesting when trying to gauge guys like Adrian Peterson’s market value, as well as the importance of the position as a whole. It’s been said the tailback position has been watered down in value with the league’s new passing trends.
With the offseason officially underway for over two-thirds of the league I caught up with SB Nation and Bleacher Report contributor Kyle Posey to help celebrate our first mock draft of the 2017 class.
While mock drafts can seem a little far-fetched this early in the process, their main function is to give us a more precise assumption as to what tiers of talent each player falls in and narrow down each team’s biggest need. Working with Posey is as good as it gets with his standards for player evaluation inside the draft community. Very few understand the game and grind through as much tape as him on a regular basis.
Before unveiling the first set of picks, let’s take a quick look at some of the emerging themes from this year’s draft class.
Cover Corner Strong
While running back is a position of strength in this class, don’t be surprised when you see double-digit cornerbacks flying off the board in the first two rounds. We had five cornerbacks drafted here with arguably three more sitting on the board that could be justified as first-round talents as well.
Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey is the biggest wildcard of the bunch as the redshirt sophomore will make his decision to declare or stay after the national championship game. If he enters, though, Humphrey has the tools that make you drool with good length, ultra quick feet and ball skills to be a playmaker on the outside of any defense.
Signaling the Signal Callers
The last two years we’ve seen quarterbacks be selected with the first two consecutive picks (Jameis Winston/Marcus Mariota, Jared Goff/Carson Wentz). This year, however, it’s likely you won’t hear two signal callers names called in the first 10 picks altogether.
While there is some solid quarterback talent in the pool, this year’s class seems to be lacking any true studs or can’t-miss prospects. Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer has the NFL size and build but doesn’t make all the throws on a consistent enough basis. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky flashed some real NFL potential but only in a small, 13-game sample size.
When it’s all said and done the growing need for talent to develop at the position may force teams to draft these quarterbacks higher than their perceived consensus value, which is the equivalent of the NFL’s own version of supply and demand. This means that although we had just two quarterbacks drafted in this mock, it’s likely you’ll see more when it’s all said and done like Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Miami’s Brad Kaaya and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes.
With running backs, secondary and defensive linemen heading a deep list of prospects, offensive linemen struggle to keep up with the rest of the class, specifically at the offensive tackle position.
With seven offensive lineman drafted in the first round last year, there’s a strong chance less than half of that will be selected in the same round in 2017. Even after a season that didn’t come close to living up to scouts’ expectations, Alabama’s Cam Robinson is still likely to be the first tackle off the board by default due to a lack of talented peers.
In fact, the lack of quality tackles is a growing epidemic in the league today with so many young recruits choosing the glitz and glamour of the defensive side of the ball. Young kids would rather rack up the sacks and big hits as opposed to the lackluster simplicity of the tackle position.
San Francisco 49ers first-round pick Arik Armstead is a prime example. Armstead was the nation’s number one offensive tackle prospect but instead flopped sides and chose to play defense and stock up his highlight reel. The Oregon commit ended up being a top-15 selection and has been one of the better young interior lineman of his class.
With so many young players choosing the same path as Armstead, it’s no wonder why every draft is crowded with fierce pass-rushers while their counterpart continues to be neglected.
Favorite Pick: MLB Reuben Foster, Cincinnati Bengals
“Exactly what the team has been missing in the middle. Pair him with Vontaze Burfict and that’s a dirty duo for years to come.”
Biggest Reach: DT Jonathan Allen, Chicago Bears
“While he’s a popular pick I’m not so sure Jon Allen is a top-five type player, so seeing him at 3 is surprising. I view him more as a complimentary Robin-type player than a Batman.”
Best Offensive Player Available: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
“He tends to get lost in the shuffle since he didn’t put up big numbers, but it’s easy to see his talent and what he can do when Alabama threw him the ball.”
Best Defensive Player Available: CB Sidney Jones, Washington
“Jones has great instincts and awareness. I’m not sure he’s an explosive athlete, so it’s tough to put him ahead of other CBs. But, he’s a smooth cover guy that should have an easy transition at the next level.”
Without further ado, here are picks 1-10 of our first-round mock.
PICK 1: Cleveland Browns (Inman)
SELECTION: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
The number one player in the draft at a premier position. Only the Browns could find a way to screw this up.
PICK 2: San Francisco 49ers (Posey)
SELECTION: Edge-Rusher Tim Williams, Alabama
San Francisco had one of the worse defenses in the NFL and a terrible pass rush. Williams might be the best pass rusher in the draft, so this is a no brainer for San Francisco.
PICK 3: Chicago Bears (Inman)
SELECTION: DL Jonathan Allen, Alabama
If Myles Garrett is the best player in the draft, Allen is a close second. John Fox gets freak interior lineman to build an elite front-seven. Had the 49ers not drafted Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, Allen would not even be here.
PICK 4: Jacksonville Jaguars (Posey)
SELECTION: RB Dalvin Cook, Florida St.
Jags have added defensive pieces, and now it’s time to get another playmaker on offense to keep them out of long-yardage downs. Cook helps everyone on offense and is a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
PICK 5: Tennessee Titans (From Los Angeles Rams) (Inman)
SELECTION: S Jamal Adams, LSU
With elite speed, Adams can do it all at one of the toughest positions to play in the pass-happy NFL. Adams will put a new definition to the term “Money-Backer.”
PICK 6: New York Jets (Posey)
SELECTION: CB Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
The Jets have had some poor CB play, and with Revis likely retiring it makes sense to address the position here. Tanksersley is an all-around corner that can develop into a big time CB at the next level. He’s the best technician in the draft.
PICK 7: San Diego Chargers (Inman)
SELECTION: WR Mike Williams, Clemson
The Chargers have needed to protect true pocket passer Phillip Rivers for years now. However, with Cam Robinson’s “off” year the value just isn’t there. Instead, they get Rivers help on the outside with the best playmaker through the air in Williams who has a few A.J. Green traits to him.
PICK 8: Carolina Panthers (Posey)
SELECTION: DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford
The Panthers get a high-end athlete that might have the best flashes of any defensive lineman in the draft. He needs to be more consistent but he can play inside and outside for Carolina.
PICK 9: Cincinnati Bengals (Inman)
SELECTION: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
Injuries hindered the Bengals in 2016, but the fact remains they have a playoff caliber roster. Drafting the best player available is never a bad idea and fits a position that could use a shot of youth. Some will argue Foster is a top-five talent.
PICK 10: Buffalo Bills (Posey)
SELECTION: DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State
The Bills need help up front as they were not a good unit last year. McDowell gives them a fierce defender that would be a big upgrade from what they had a season ago.
Keep an eye out for Picks 11-20 and Picks 21-32 in the coming days!