Wednesday, September 7, 2016

On The Clock, NFL Draft 2017: It's Never Too Early For A Big Board

By Alex Hale, @ThatCLESportGuy

As the summer winds down and the kids go back to school, that can only mean one thing… Football. 

With the NFL Regular Season starting back up this week and the first week of the College Football season in the books, I think now is the time to start talking about NFL Draft.  Now before you stop complaining, this isn’t a mock draft, instead we’re going to do monthly installments of the Top 10 players on my Big Board.  Normally I’d wait to truly reveal this, but I think it would be a fun idea to see how my Big Board changes throughout a season.  Now we’re going to keep this simple, we’re only going to do a Top 10 every month and trust me, there will be some changes every month as I’ve already started my scouting process and am already finding some concerns at some big time prospects.  So it’s that time to reveal my first 2017 NFL Draft Top 10 Big Board.

Honorable Mention- Michigan CB Jourdan Smith, Georgia RB Nick Chubb, Western Michigan WR Corey Davis, Alabama LT Cam Robinson, Alabama DT Jonathan Allen, Florida St RB Dalvin Cook, Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan

10. RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford- Quite possibly the favorite to win the Heisman this year, Christian McCaffrey has some lofty expectations to live up to after his historic season a year ago.  My big question for him right now is where does he play in the NFL level?  While it’s very possible he translates into a Reggie Bush/Darren Sporles/Theo Roddick receiving RB type, in order to really climb up this board, he’s got to show a bit more power as a runner this year.  We all know the explosiveness and playmaking ability is there, the question is in terms of translating as a 3 down back at the next level, can he lower the pads and run through defenders?

9. CB/S/LB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan- I know what the big question is, what position does he play?  Should it matter?  Peppers just makes plays happen and has been without question the Wolverines best defensive player in quite some time.  He’s extremely athletic as evidenced as his versatility by playing Defense, Offense and also as Punt Returner.  While Michigan hasn’t had the success that makes them truly stand out, Peppers is just that great of a talent.  In all honesty, I personally think right now that Peppers won’t enter the draft in 2017, but he’s worth throwing on this list simply because of his outstanding talent.  A lot of people see Jalen Ramsey in Peppers, but he could potentially become another Charles Woodson.  Has a whole season to prove it to teams.

8. QB Brad Kaaya, Miami (FL)- While Kaaya is ranked here at 8, there truly is a significant drop off after Watson.  Going into this season, Kaaya looks to be the intriguing physical QB specimen this year.  A lot of people are quickly are jumping the gun on him and calling him a lot like Christian Hackenberg, a strong season at Miami could really eliminate some of the doubts scouts may have.  My biggest gripe with him is if Kaaya is that extremely talented, why hasn’t it translated to wins for Miami?  By pure athletic ability and arm strength, Kaaya could be the highest upside prospect in the draft, but as of now, he’s got a lot to prove.

7. WR Juju Smith-Schuster, USC- Without question Smith-Schuster is the best WR in the draft class this year.  While not a burner as a WR, he plays with the rare physical and attacking style that we’ve seen plenty of great NFL WRs with (Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall).  He has a knack to catch the ball and make something happen with it, which is always a good sign for a WR.  He knows how to run the short and intermediate routes that we’ve seen really can translate at the NFL level, and with the QB play he’s had a USC, you gotta wonder if he lands on the right team with the right QB, what can he do?  His only downside is blocking, which is a typical problem for WRs, so I’m taking that with a grain of salt.  A player to watch though at WR, Western Michigan Corey Davis.

6. CB Teez Tabor, Florida- Florida just has a tradition of bring out the best CB prospects every year, as Tabor takes the early nod as my Top CB available.  Unlike previous top Florida CB prospects Joe Haden and Vernon Hargreaves, Tabor has the size over them at 6’0’’ which will be a big plus for teams as we’ve seen in recent drafts teams like the size CBs.  He has very good speed to go with his size and has a presence as it seemed teams tried to avoid passing to him and instead go after Hargreaves as evidenced by lack of stats.  Tabor out of the 2 last year was the better prospect and is a guy I’ll be studying a lot more as the season goes on.  But early Big Board rankings are more about potential and pure talent instead of numbers so that’s why for now Tabor is this high.

5. S Jamal Adams, LSU- Yes this makes potentially 2 Safeties in my initial Top 10 picks in this draft.  Adams is the leader of the LSU defense that although lost in their Week 1 matchup vs. Wisconsin, it was the Defense that kept LSU in the game.  Adams projects best as a SS, but has the ability to play both safety positions.  At 6’0’’ 211, his size makes him more of the SS type, but his tackling leaves a bit to be desired.  What he excels at is breaking up passing and more importantly being able to identify the play as it’s happening.  Another strong season this year could push Adams into the Top 10 in terms of where teams could draft him.  But simply by pure talent and upside, I see a lot of Earl Thomas here and that worked out pretty well for Seattle, didn’t it?  He’s going to have to stand out though as teams don’t necessarily look for a Safety that high in the draft.

4. DT/DE Malik McDowell, Michigan St- One of the more intriguing prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft was Oregon DE DeForest Buckner.  McDowell is this year’s version of Buckner.  McDowell chose to stay at Michigan State for another year to build on a strong 2015-2016 season where he established himself as one of the premiere DL players in College Football.  Standing at 6’6’’ 276, McDowell actually lost weight in the offseason to become more versatile in Michigan State’s defense.  He has the explosiveness off the snap to get pressure on the QB, but also the ability to stop the run.  The loss of weight in the offseason makes him look like a better fit as a 4-3 DE instead of a 3-4 DE, but depending on the team who might take him next year, it’s possible if needed he can slide into a 3-4 DE role.  Quite possibly the most intriguing prospect in the draft and already getting strong endorsements from Mel Kiper and Todd McShay as the potential #1 prospect available.

3. RB Leonard Fournette, LSU- Fournette looks to be one of the best RB prospects in the last 20 years.  In today’s age of the NFL where it’s a passing league, it speaks volumes that Fournette is ranked this high.  What jumps out is his size, (6’1’’, 230 lbs) which one would think would effect his speed and playmaking ability.  Fournette breaks that traditional mode and has shown elite speed and quickness.  He can zoom by defenders and make them miss.  Plus at his size, he has shown the ability to break tacklers with a powerful running attack.  Add to the fact he can make plays in the passing game, it seems Fournette is too good to be true.  Which leaves one thing he must improve on…VISION.  Fournette seems to rely on his talents too much instead of developing vision.  Many running backs have gone to the NFL with all the talent but lack the vision to make plays (see Trent Richardson), this is something scouts will look closer at this year.  The pressure is on for Fournette to either be the next Adrian Peterson or the next Trent Richardson.

2. QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson- A lot of people are pegging Watson as the #1 Overall pick next April, the reality is that Watson isn’t the #1 player in this draft possibly.  Yes, Watson had an outstanding year last year with Clemson throwing over 4000 yards with 35 TDs and 13 INTs.  Watson almost led Clemson to a National Championship, but fell short.  Watson displays excellent touch on his passes and what stands out more to me is his footwork.  What I look for is a QB who is light on his feet and has an understanding of how to move in the pocket.  He displays both which translates into great accuracy throwing downfield.  And we haven’t gotten into his running ability.  Watson to me seems like a James Winston/Marcus Mariota hybrid.  The passing ability of Winston and the running ability of Mariota.  I got high expectations for Watson this year.

1. DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M- Those who casually watch College Football they may not know him, but a lot of people see Garrett as the #1 prospect to begin the 2016-2017 College Football season.  Standing in at 6’5’’ weighing 270, Garrett has the immediate size that could translate to him being a 4-3 DE, but what makes him even more interesting is the explosiveness for his size that could make him a 3-4 OLB.  After getting 12.5 sacks last year, teams will be game planning around him to try to stop him.  There’s plenty of upside with him and so much intrigue on what he could become as a prospect, I would’ve gone as far as even if Joey Bosa didn’t sign with San Diego and had to re-enter the draft, I would rank Myles Garrett over Joey Bosa.  There’s just too much to like with him that sets him apart from everyone else.  Bottom line, the kid is a freak of nature that should dominate college play again this year.

Now trust me when I say this Top 10 will change over time.  I left off quite a few big names that I’m sure are going to play well early and play themselves into my Top 10.  This first Big Board is all about my projections for players along with upside.  Last year at around this time, I had pegging former MSU QB Connor Cook as the #1 pick, only to have former Cal QB Jared Goff jump him only a month later.  So trust me this Top 10 is far from over.  But for now let’s enjoy College Football and keep our hopes high for our respective NFL teams.  It should be fun to see how this plays out because the first weekend of the College season left us with a ton of surprises, so I expect my big board to be full of surprises all year as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment