The wild first round of the 2017 NFL Draft saw three quarterbacks go in the first 12 picks and just two offensive linemen in the first 32. It was filled with surprises, particularly with teams trading up to land QBs.
While there were a number of great selections – the Colts landing Malik Hooker, the Redskins getting Jonathan Allen, and the 49ers nabbing Reuben Foster – but there were also a handful of players who were probably taken higher than they should have gone. These nine players could wind up turning into busts at the next level, just as a large number of first-round picks often do.
Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Bears: 2nd overall
Trubisky was the top quarterback in the draft, but that doesn’t mean he was a safe pick. There’s absolutely no guarantee he’ll pan out to be a top-level starter in the NFL, especially when looking at his ceiling. He projects as an Andy Dalton-type player, which is nice, but is that really worth the No. 2 overall pick? Eh, I don’t know about that.
He’s going to need a year to develop, which isn’t terrible because the Bears just paid Mike Glennon a boatload of money. However, he’ll need to prove he can succeed from under center, and hit on deep passes down the field. This was a big risk for the Bears to take.
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Taco Charlton, DE, Cowboys: 28th overall
Charlton was a late bloomer at Michigan, really only playing well in his last season with the Wolverines. Is that a matter of him not hitting his prime, or simply being a one-year wonder? The Cowboys are about to find that out.
He doesn’t fit what the Cowboys needed, essentially playing a similar role to that of Demarcus Lawrence and Dallas’ other left ends. He’s a decent athlete, running a 4.92 40 at the Combine, but he doesn’t have the quick-twitch traits you look for in a dynamic edge rusher. Charlton does have good length and size, though, and room to grow.
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Marlon Humphrey, CB, Ravens: 16th overall
Humphrey is a similar player to that of Dee Milliner, the Jets’ top draft pick a few years ago. He has good enough speed, but he struggles to track the ball on deep routes down the field, having most of his success in shallow zones closer to the line of scrimmage. He fits the mold of Baltimore’s physicality and desire for size at corner, but as a pure cover guy, he may struggle at the next level. The Ravens have some work to do in order to turn him into a No. 1 corner.
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Jabrill Peppers, S, Browns: 25th overall
Peppers was a polarizing prospect throughout the draft process. One of the best athletes in the class, no one truly knows what his best fit is in the NFL. Is he a safety? A linebacker? A running back? The Browns will use him at multiple positions, but his inconsistency is concerning.
He had just one interception in college and was unreliable as a last line of defense. He missed tackles and wasn’t great in coverage, leaving much to be desired in all of those areas. Perhaps he’ll turn into a Micah Hyde-type player and play all four downs. Or maybe he’ll struggle to find a place on defense and flame out in five years.
Garett Bolles, OT, Broncos: 20th overall
Bolles had one of the most interesting roads to the draft of any prospect. He was suspended throughout high school, getting kicked out of five schools throughout his teenage years. He’s already 25 years old, shortening his window in the NFL a bit, and his baggage can’t be overlooked.
That being said, he’s an elite athlete with long arms and the potential to be a really solid left tackle. He just needs to bulk up and add some strength in order to hold up against opposing defensive ends.
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Derek Barnett, DE, Eagles: 14th overall
Barnett was a more prolific pass rusher than Myles Garrett in college if you look at the numbers, breaking Reggie White’s sack record at Tennessee. Now, he’ll try to follow in White’s footsteps with the Eagles.
That’ll be a tough thing to do because of his lack of explosiveness and bend as an edge rusher. Barnett has good get-off at the line of scrimmage, but he doesn’t have the athleticism and quickness of an elite pass rusher. Perhaps splitting out in Philadelphia's Wide 9 front will help his productivity.
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Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs: 10th overall
Mahomes was one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the draft. He has the potential to be either Brett Favre or Jamarcus Russell, boasting great measurables and arm talent but questionable mechanics and decision-making. Fortunately, he landed in a great situation with the Chiefs.
Andy Reid will groom him for a year with Alex Smith most likely remaining the starter for 2017 before unleashing Mahomes in 2018. He’ll need all the time he can get, too, which makes him a risky pick at 10th overall – especially after giving up next year’s first-rounder. The tools are there, he just needs to refine his footwork and awareness.
Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Titans: 18th overall
If you’re talking about a sheer football player who can do a multitude of things, Jackson is one of the best prospects in the draft. Unfortunately, being versatile doesn’t always guarantee success in the NFL. Jackson lacks the size to be a boundary cornerback, limiting him purely to the slot at the next level.
He’ll impact the game as a return man and possibly as a gadget player on offense, but he may struggle to hold up as a three-down cornerback for the Titans. He needs to bulk up a little bit.
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Mike Williams, WR, Chargers: 7th overall
Williams was the second wide receiver taken, finding himself in an ideal situation with the Chargers. He’s a good complement to the much smaller, shiftier Keenan Allen, providing Philip Rivers with a big possession receiver. However, wideouts are often some of the biggest busts in the NFL.
He’ll need to prove he can separate from faster cornerbacks at the next level. In college, that was easier for him to do, but even then he did most of his damage as an above-the-rim receiver. That’s more difficult to do in the NFL when corners are bigger, faster and stronger.