By JACOB TRASK
The 2017 NFL draft class is one of the most talented classes that the NFL has seen in awhile, and this years draft could be one of the most exciting ever. There are offensive and defensive talents across the board, with high stake draft picks for many teams. The first round will be filled with big names such as Myles Garrett, Deshaun Watson, Reuben Foster, Christian McCaffrey, Mike Williams and Jabrill Peppers. Many teams could walk away from the draft with players who can immediately make a difference, which gives this year’s draft much more weight than previous years. Whether you’re a die-hard fan, or a football novice who’s curious on draft night, here are some things to watch out for on Thursday, April 27.
The First Six
Besides the Cleveland Browns likelihood of picking Myles Garrett, the first six picks should set an interesting pace for the rest of the draft. Among the first six teams to draft are the 49ers and the Jets, two teams that may draft quarterbacks. The 49ers will likely draft a new quarterback to replace Colin Kaepernick. If the Jets also draft a quarterback, many mock drafts would be busted and teams with picks in the 20’s may have to change their plans.
Other teams in the top six are the Bears at No. 3, who will likely draft a defensive back, and have will have a tough pick ahead of them with numerous options such as Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, and Jamal Adams, who are all ready to start on an NFL defense. Many mock drafts have the Jaguars selecting LSU running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth pick to add some powerful depth to their run game. With many needs to fill, the Titans could go any direction with the fifth pick, and with another pick later in the first round, they may want to take a playmaker as early as possible.
Easily one of the most talked about aspects of this year’s draft is how many talented quarterbacks could be taken in the first round. Right now, the talk is mostly between four players: Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes. All four of these guys bring something special to the table and all four could potentially be starting for NFL teams next season. Trubisky seems like the smart pick for a team trying to build around a quarterback, but Watson is flashy and has put his leadership ability on full display at Clemson. Mahomes is a hard-nosed player, has a rocket for an arm, and could be molded into a star, while Kizer has the size and the confidence to be an NFL quarterback, despite a 4-8 record with Notre Dame last season.
There are a handful of teams that should be looking for a quarterback this year. The 49ers and the Jets will be looking for new leaders for their offenses and it’s very likely they could take two of these quarterbacks. A team like the Texans should definitely be looking for a new quarterback after their failed effort with Brock Osweiler last year. The Chiefs could be drafting a quarterback to be the future replacement of Alex Smith and sit for a year under quarterback guru Andy Reid. Again, if the Jets take a quarterback, it could make things interesting for the Chiefs and the Texans. Mahomes is mostly predicted to be the third quarterback to go, and Kizer is almost unanimously the fourth, so those two teams could very well both be trying to draft Mahomes.
The quarterbacks projected in the early rounds seem to be of a very similar talent level. Numerous NFL analysts and mock drafts have the top three going in different orders. Many project either Trubisky or Watson will go first, but some are even picking Mahomes. It seems like Trubisky will be the first quarterback picked, and he would be an exciting selection for a team like the 49ers, but with Watson’s legendary performance in the NCAA Championship this year, he may have earned it.
There are three receivers that fans should keep their eyes on this year and all of them are projected to go in the first 20 picks. Mike Williams from Clemson has proven himself at the top receiver in the draft, and could easily go in the first 10 picks, probably to the Titans, who would love to have more help for Marcus Mariota.
John Ross turned heads in the draft combine by running a 4.22 second 40-yard dash, and could become a standout speedster, much like the Kansas City breakout rookie Tyreek Hill. Ross would be a great fit for a team with a weak receiving core, like the Cardinals.
The third receiver projected in the first round is Corey Davis from Western Michigan. Davis caught for 5,285 yards in his collegiate career, making him college football’s all-time leader in receiving yards. He’s had an ankle injury since January, which kept him out of the draft combine and Western Michigan’s pro-day, but Davis posted a workout video earlier this week. He’ll likely fall behind Williams and Ross, but with the amount of receiver hungry teams early in the first round, he most likely won’t make it past the 20th pick.
Myles Garret, Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, and Jabrill Peppers
These are four of the most talented and discussed defensive players in this years draft. Myles Garrett is easily the biggest superstar in this year’s class and should be the unanimous No. 1 pick for the Browns. Allen and Foster led one of the best defenses in college football history under Nick Saban at Alabama. Jabrill Peppers proved himself as the most versatile player in college football, making plays as a safety, a running back and receiver on offense, and a kick returner.
Garrett is an absolute force to be reckoned with for any offense. At 6’4 and 272 pounds, he has the strength, power, and speed to disrupt the quarterback. He’s been compared to NFL lineman like Dwight Freeney and Von Miller for his diverse move-set, mostly for his extremely effective inside swim-move, which has been wrecking college quarterbacks for the three seasons.. Garrett logged 31 sacks and seven forced fumbles in his time at Texas A&M. NFL analysts across the board are predicting that he will be the first pick.
Allen will likely go in the first 10 picks. He’s shown that he is the best defensive lineman in the draft behind Garrett, and could help out a team like the Bengals. Foster is one of the most talented linebackers coming out of college in a long time. Although he’s had issues this offseason with an incident at the combine and a positive drug test for diluted urine, Foster’s draft stock should not fall. He’s an extremely talented, physical player and should be gone in the first 15 picks.
As electrifying as Peppers was last season, many NFL analysts are expecting that he won’t go in the first round. He certainly is not the best defensive safety in the draft. His claim to fame is his speed, his athleticism and his ability to make big plays with the ball in his hands. It will be interesting to see how a team uses him. Although he has the talent and IQ to be a starting safety, we may see him on an NFL offense with the ball in hands next season.