2017 NFL Draft: Matt LaPan’s New Year’s Big Board

With the new year coming in, it’s time to dive into the 2017 NFL Draft. Matt LaPan gives his initial Big Board on Jan. 1.

Happy New Year and Happy 2017 NFL Draft season! With the turn of the new year, the draft class begins to take shape as the College Football Playoff National Championship Game approaches and players make their decision on declaring for the draft or remaining in school.

We’ve already seen some of the biggest names in college football declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. The likes of running back Dalvin Cook, Myles Garrett, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, and numerous others have made their decisions to turn pro and will be in the fold for April’s festivities.

With the draft season upon us, it is time to take a deeper look at some of the best prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft class. These players will change as they go through the process of postseason bowl games, the NFL Combine and workouts. But at the relative conclusion of the college football season and the end of the NFL regular season, it’s high-time to start assessing what we know.

With Fournette, Garrett, McCaffrey, Deshaun Watson and other big names all on the board, this class has the promise of a lot of heated discussions and great prospects. Let’s take a look at which players make the cut in the initial Top-50 of 2017.

Nov 5, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines tight end Jake Butt (88) rushes in the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Prospects Nos. 50 – 26

There are numerous idiosyncrasies when looking at the 2017 NFL Draft prospects. That’s true at the top of the board, but also when you get into the Day 2 prospects and beyond. One thing that remains prevalent, though, is the talent on the defensive side of the ball. Both in terms of edge rushers and defensive backs, NFL teams will have the chance to find potential first-round type talent later than that.

With that said, let’s look at prospects Nos. 50-26:

50. Bucky Hodges, TE – Virginia Tech
49. Dawuane Smoot, EDGE – Illinois
48. Jourdan Lewis, DB – Michigan
47. D’Onta Foreman, RB – Texas
46. Carlos Watkins, DL – Clemson
45. Dede Westbrook, WR – Oklahoma
44. Tre’Davious White, DB – LSU
43. Taco Charlton, EDGE – Michigan
42. Vita Vea, DL – Washington
41. Ryan Anderson, EDGE – Alabama
40. Garett Bolles, OT – Utah
39. Jarrad Davis, LB – Florida
38. Takkarist McKinley, EDGE – UCLA
37. Jake Butt, TE – Michigan
36. Solomon Thomas, DL – Stanford
35. Charles Harris, EDGE – Missouri
34. Marcus Williams, DB – Utah
33. Chris Wormley, DL – Michigan
32. Carl Lawson, EDGE – Auburn
31. Pat Elfin, C – Ohio State
30. O.J. Howard, TE – Alabama
29. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR – USC
28. Dan Feeney, OG – Indiana
27. Adoree’ Jackson, DB – USC
26. Ryan Ramczyk, OT – Wisconsin

The Top-50 of the 2017 NFL Draft class is loaded with talent. As stated, the EDGE and defensive line class is especially strong—featuring 10 players between 50 and 26. This includes Auburn standout Carl Lawson, Stanford’s Solomon Thomas and Carlos Watkins from Clemson.

The 50-26 group also features offensive standouts JuJu Smith-Schuster from USC, Jake Butt from Michigan and D’Onta Foreman from Texas. Overall this group features strength from front to back and will have many players called on the opening night of the 2017 NFL Draft

Sep 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) rushes against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half at Camping World Stadium. Florida State Seminoles defeated the Mississippi Rebels 45-34. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Prospects Nos. 25 – 21

The 25-21 rankings are defensive heavy. Demarcus Walker hits the Big Board at 25 after returning to Florida State and increasing his stock. Corey Davis of Western Michigan also sits at 23 after an incredible career at a smaller school. His name should be very popular once more get familiar with his name and his ability.

Cornerbacks Sidney Jones and Quincy Wilson round out this group—both aggressive cornerbacks that have the chance to make a huge impact in the NFL with cornerback play at a premium.

25. Demarcus Walker, DL – Florida State

It is hard to find many players in college football that benefitted more from returning to school in 2016 than Demarcus Walker.

After a very strong junior campaign, Walker return to Florida State and has since become one of the most feared defensive linemen in college football. The 6-4 280-pound senior finished his final season with 19.5 tackles for loss and a staggering 16 sacks. He wins both from the outside with speed and power, and on the inside with speed and relentless pursuit. He has terrific hand placement and uses a great punch to separate. He bends the edge quite well, possessing flexible hips and ankles. He is a three-down player, showing good power and strength against the run.

He is a little bit of a tweener in terms of size, not overly big or lean but not short or dense. Teams will have to use him correctly.

24. Malik McDowell, DL – Michigan State

There are some that will overlook McDowell after a down season in 2016. Do not expect that from any teams, however. Even with the dip in production, McDowell is a big, strong, quick defensive lineman with plenty of traits to make the jump to the NFL.

He is a versatile lineman with lightning quick hands off the line of scrimmage. He fires into opposing linemen and then uses a relentless attitude and get after the quarterback and shut down run plays. He is quite athletic for his size, using quick feet and flexible hips to scrape down the line.

There is the obvious question of why McDowell experienced such a down 2016. There were injuries, there was inconsistent play and there was mistakes. McDowell can pop up out of his stance, at times. This allows defenders to get under him and push him off his spot. He can also tend to use his upper body strength to try to fight at the line over using his keys and power. These slight inconsistencies are fixable, and do not take away from a potential playmaker in the NFL.

23. Corey Davis, WR – Western Michigan

Ignore the school on this one, Corey Davis is an NFL-caliber receiver and there is no doubt about it. Davis has the frame of a prototypical number one at 6-3 and 213 pounds with a muscular build and long arms. He can line up anywhere on the field and dominate, albeit against lesser competition. He runs crisp, smart routes that allows him to get into the open areas of zones or separate from his man. He has great hand strength, plucking the ball at its high point.

Davis does struggle with the physical parts of his game, however. He relies on speed to get off the line—rarely using his hands to fight through a defender. He is also not a great run blocker, again lacking the hand usage to keep his responsibility in-check. Teams will also need to see how he performs against elite competition, but his traits and production are quite convincing.

22. Sidney Jones, DB – Washington

In a loaded class of cornerbacks, Sidney Jones is another impressive, aggressive corner that will likely go in the first round. Jones is another defensive back that doesn’t exactly fit the mold of the long cornerback that is in demand right now, but he is a potential to be a No. 1 corner in the NFL. Jones has a strong, muscular build with quick feet and good strength. He is often left on an island, and excels in that area—also playing with supreme confidence in man coverage.

There are times where Jones can get overly aggressive and get himself out of position. He is also not a real ball hawking corner and can get caught with his head in the wrong spots, at times. These are very correctable concerns, none of which should keep a team from grabbing Jones in the first round.

21. Quincy Wilson, DB – Florida

In some circles, Quincy Wilson is rated more highly than his Florida teammate Jalen “Teez” Tabor. While that is not the case here, it does not mean Wilson is not one of the top players in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Wilson has good size, length and athletic ability that make him an impact on the outside. He is extremely physical at the line of scrimmage, jamming opponents with great hand work and then using good footwork to turn and run with opponents.

He does not have the elite speed that would put him over the top. He can also be a bit of a liability in run support, but he has improved this part of his game. That said, he is still a very good cornerback and has the upside to be a very good NFL player.

November 26, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) scores a touchdown against Rice Owls cornerback J.T. Blasingame (14) during the second quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Prospects Nos. 20 – 16

The Big Board gets a little more offensive in the 20-16 positions. Christian McCaffrey makes an appearance—even though he did not play in his bowl game. He is sure to be a topic of discussion, but stands as one of the top players in the 2017 NFL Draft class.

The first quarterback hits the board at No. 16 in Mitch Trubisky. Many look at Trubisky as the top quarterback in the entire class with his strong arm and extreme accuracy. He is not the top of this board, but will be an interesting player to watch throughout the pre-draft process.

20. Christian McCaffrey, RB – Stanford

Over the past two seasons, Christian McCaffrey has been one of the most exciting players in all of college football. The Stanford running back has run, caught, juked and spun his way onto nearly every highlight reel and into heated NFL Draft discussions.

Ignore the noise when it comes to McCaffrey’s decision to forego his final game to train for the NFL Draft—he is ready for the NFL. He is just 6-0 and 202 pounds, but has terrific burst and leg drive. He is fast, elusive and runs very hard in the open field. He has quick feet, great balance and good speed in the open. He can come out of the backfield and be a terrific receiver, as well, thus making him a complete weapon.

Even with all his weapons, McCaffrey has some red flags. He has been relied upon for a massive number of touches in college—bringing into question how long he will be the same explosive player in the NFL. He also lacks the ideal size and power to run between the tackles on a consistent basis.

Some call McCaffrey a “gadget player,” but this is simply overstated and not true. He might not be the same bell cow in the NFL that he is at Stanford, but he has all the skills and traits to be a productive NFL player.

19. Cam Robinson, OT – Alabama

The starting left tackle at Alabama is always going to garner a great deal of attention, especially when they have dominant flashes of talent like Cam Robinson has.

Robinson fits the mold of an NFL left tackle (6-6, 310 pounds) and has the long arms, massive legs and sturdy build that teams look for in a tackle. He is a dominant force in the run game. He fires out of his stance with powerful hands and leg drive. he stays low and overpowers his opponents. He sets a good anchor in pass protection and keep defenders off of him—even the elite competition he faces.

The Alabama product is not a finished product in pass protection, however. He is a reacher and a lunger against some of the better pass rushers, getting off balance at times. This has drastically improved, especially in 2016. There are times that he doesn’t keep his shoulders square, allowing defenders to use secondary moves on him.

Robinson has some work to do, but overall he has all the tools to be a dominant blocker in the NFL. A run-oriented team could put him in a great position to be a dominant tackle going forward. He will get over-analyzed by some, but he should be the first tackle off the board.

18. Desmond King, DB – Iowa

A lot of analysts were very high on Desmond King ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft, then he decided to return to school. While his senior season did not bring the same gaudy numbers that his junior campaign did, King still has the traits of a very good NFL cornerback.

King is a stout, aggressive cornerback that has led a productive career as a top cornerback. He is a fluid mover with great feet and excels in both press and off coverage. He has great strength and solid ball skills, allowing him to make plays on the ball when it is in the air. He is also a physical run support player, allowing him to help on all downs.

While King has some very impressive traits, he lacks the top-end speed that the top corners possess. He can get too aggressive at the line of scrimmage, leaving him in a trail technique, giving up big plays. Though he does not fit the mold of a true No. 1 corner, King has the skills and drive to develop into on in the NFL.

17. Tim Williams, EDGE – Alabama

Teams in need of pass rush will be drawn to Tim Williams, one of the top pass rushers in the top conference in college football. Williams has a great first step. His burst and explosive play off the edge gives the top tackles in the country fits. He has a devastating punch that stuns linemen and good strength to lock out and drive tackles back. He has the ability to beat opponents with power, agility or speed, winning on all accounts and making plays in the backfield.

Williams is not a three-down player at this point. He does not do what is needed in the run game. He often runs himself right out of the play, having to try to recover. He is also not much of a coverage player, and has very little tape on that.

He has the ability to be a terrific pass rusher in the NFL and will draw the attention of many of the teams that are in need of pass rush. He can develop into a three-down player, but his upside as a pass rusher might land him in the top-10.

16. Mitch Trubisky, QB – North Carolina

The hottest name in the 2017 NFL Draft class right now is Mitch Trubisky. The North Carolina quarterback is being looked at by some as a player for a top-three pick. Trubisky has the size at 6-3 and 220 pounds. In his first season as a full-time signal caller, he completed 68.9 percent of his passes and had a staggering 28-4 touchdown-to-interception number. He has a strong arm and is very accurate to all levels of the field. He sees the field very well and plays with great confidence.

The biggest knock on Trubisky is the fact that he is only a one-year starter. The lack of experience could scare some teams away. He tends to stay in the short and intermediate areas of the field and can be a bit inconsistent with the deep ball.

Drafting Trubisky has a big boom or bust factor, as is the case with nearly every quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft class. He has a lot of good traits, but not a lot of film to back it up. His upside could lead to him being drafted very high.

December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Prospects Nos. 15 – 11

Two more quarterbacks (the final two of the Top-50) hit the Big Board in DeShone Kizer and Deshaun Watson. Kizer has more of the prototypical tools and the build that teams will crave, but Watson’s athleticism and winning pedigree might sway teams to look his way.

Derek Barnett checks in at No. 11 after breaking Reggie White’s Tennessee record with 33 sacks in his career. His is not the prototypical EDGE player, but has been extremely productive and brings a relentless pass rush that teams covet.

15. DeShone Kizer, QB – Notre Dame

DeShone Kizer is another quarterback that will garner a large amount of attention in the pre-draft process. The Notre Dame signal caller has all the physical traits of an NFL quarterback. He is 6-4 and 230 pounds with a lean build and good athleticism, checking all the boxes when it comes to the look of a quarterback.

Kizer has a strong arm and good, but not great accuracy, completing only 60.7 percent of his career passes. He is a productive quarterback with a compact delivery and good speed to escape the pocket when needed. Kizer was forced to work under a lot of pressure during the 2016 season, and handled it relatively well. He maneuvers the pocket well and makes some of the hardest passes look simple.

However, Kizer’s ability to make those hard passes also shines light on his biggest flaw: inconsistency. He will make the hard passes look easy and the easy passes look hard. He gets rattled at times, leaving throws short. He also struggles to see defenders underneath routes, at times, leaving him susceptible to bad interceptions. He will also need to work on seeing the field better and adjusting on the fly.

He has made huge strides in his career, and if he continues to grow at this rate he could become a very good NFL quarterback. The right situation could catapult Kizer’s game into the next level, but there is also the possibility that he does not make the adjustment and flames out. He is a big upside, big risk player.

14. John Ross, WR – Washington

John Ross is a playmaker, plain and simple. Despite his 5-11 frame, Ross has proven that he has the speed and hands to be a true game breaker at the highest level. Ross has elite speed as a receiver and a returner. He uses this speed and his agility to get open and get the ball in the open field. Once he gets the ball, he is extremely elusive. He is a nightmare to bring down, especially when used in the screen game where he works almost like a running back in following his blockers.

He has ridiculous production as both a receiver (1,172 yards and 17 touchdowns) rusher 12.8 yards per rush) and returner (26 yards per return in 2016). He can work both inside or outside, making him a big threat in the NFL.

He does have injury red flags with problems in both knees. If he does not get a clean release, he can have problems getting past defenders. He can rely too much on his speed at times, running inconsistent routes—but he did improve on that throughout 2016. Ross has the speed and playmaking ability to be a high draft pick. It all depends on which team covets him.

13. Deshaun Watson, QB – Clemson

Many are calling the quarterback class in the 2017 NFL Draft extremely weak. This year’s class is highlighted by Deshaun Watson. And despite what many say, he is ready to make the jump to the NFL.

Watson is an athletic quarterback with a very good arm. He is also an accurate quarterback – completing 67.7 percent of his career passes and never falling below a 67 percent completion rate. His arm is far from elite, but Watson has the ability to push the ball down the field when needed, and does a very good job distributing the ball in short and intermediate areas.

Watson has shown great durability as a starting quarterback, even as an athletic and mobile quarterback. He elevates his game in the biggest spots, showing the composure and poise to lead his team in difficult spots.

That being said, there are plenty of flaws in Watson’s game. First, he does not have the ideal build of a quarterback. While the notion of having a taller quarterback has been diminished in recent years, he will need to be in the right place to make sure this does not impact him. He also struggles when he is consistently pressured, making decisions too quick if facing pressure. This has led to 28 interceptions in the past two seasons.

The discussions will be strong on both ends of the spectrum for the quarterback class as a whole, especially Watson. Teams know what he can bring on the field, but will likely have to be sold that he can carry their franchise in the NFL. The quarterback battle will rage on right up until the NFL Draft, but expect Watson to be the first quarterback off the board.

12. Zach Cunningham, LB – Vanderbilt

There are not many 230-pound inside linebackers in a 3-4 system that work. Zach Cunningham is the exception to that rule. The long, lead linebacker has worked his way up to an NFL body, and has the production to get him there. More than 100 tackles and a residency in the opponents backfield can be attributed to Cunningham’s range and ability to read the field. He will likely move to the outside in the NFL, giving him more opportunities to show off his speed and hard-hitting style.

The obvious knock on Cunningham is his frame. He is muscular, but too lean to succeed as an NFL linebacker. He also needs to work on wrapping up as he misses far too many tackles by hitting over tackling. With a move to the outside, he will need to work on his pass rush moves as well. He relied on speed in pass rushing situations in college—that will not fly in the NFL.

Not many Vanderbilt defensive players make the successful, or early, jump to the NFL. But Cunningham should be different. His size, range and relentless play make him a nice fit to a team in need of better linebacker play in 2017.

11. Derek Barnett, EDGE – Tennessee

Barnett does not have the long, lean build that many edge rushers have, but he has the strength, burst and production to make him one of the top edge players in the 2017 NFL Draft class.

At 6-3, 265 pounds Barnett has massive legs that help him generate a great deal of power. He has a great burst then uses his hands very well to beat opposing tackles. He has a good array of pass rush moves, also showing secondary moves that many other college rushers lack. He is also stout in the run game, forcing opposing backs to the edge.

While he shows a good burst, Barnett jumps while trying to guess the snap count a lot. He is not the most agile edge rusher, and can struggle to change direction if he gets sucked down inside. He could also take a better angle to the quarterback, rather than taking a long, round path. He is not the perfect edge rusher, but with productive edge rushers at a premium, Barnett fits the mold of a high draft pick.

Nov 19, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow (21) is sacked by Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) and safety Dymonte Thomas (25) in the second half at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Prospects Nos. 10 – 6

The top-10 is generally regarded as the elite prospects, and 2017 is no different. The entire Big Board has been loaded with defensive talent, and 10-6 is no different. The defensive backfield is well represented with Marlon Humphrey from Alabama, Jamal Adams from LSU and Jabrill Peppers from Michigan (likely an NFL safety) come onto the Big Board.

Peppers is going to be the most argued about prospect in the entire draft class. Is he a linebacker? Is he a safety? Can he dominate in the NFL like he has in college? All these questions will need to be looked at further, but he is one of the top prospects in the class.

10. Marlon Humphrey, DB – Alabama

Size, athleticism, ball skills—Marlon Humphrey has displayed all the traits needed to be an impact cornerback in the NFL. At 6-1, 196 pounds Humphrey has great size and a muscular build that will allow him to make an easy transition to the NFL.

Humphrey has great footwork and fluid hips, allowing him to mirror nearly any receiver he faces. He is aggressive at the line of scrimmage, using a good hand strike and good strength to jam in man coverage. He has terrific ball skills down the field, positioning himself correctly and turning his head to make plays. Humphrey is also more than willing to come up in run support, and is a sure tackler.

He can get over-aggressive in coverage, and tends to grab if he is beat. This could lead to a good amount of flags in the NFL. Even with that, Humphrey is set to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL.

9. Jamal Adams, DB – LSU

Adams is another in a long line of instinctive, aggressive defensive backs to come from LSU. He has good size for a safety and plays with great speed and instincts.

Adams simply plays faster than opposing offenses, but rarely finds himself out of control. He sees the field extremely well, and has the speed to get to anywhere on the field to make a play. His athletic ability allows him to make plays in coverage while his size allows him to be one of the best run defenders at safety in this draft.

Much like the safety’s before him from LSU, Adams is expected to make an immediate impact in the NFL—so don’t sleep on him going very high in the draft.

8. Jabrill Peppers, LB/S – Michigan

Jabrill Peppers will undoubtably be one of the more talked about prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Heisman Trophy finalist is an exciting, versatile player who essentially does not have a position as he enters the draft.

The 6-1, 205-pound Peppers played linebacker the majority of the time at Michigan, but is likely going to be forced to play safety in the NFL. He is not truly big enough to be a linebacker in the NFL, and not truly fast enough to be an impact safety in the NFL.

What Peppers does have is upside. He is one of the most explosive playmakers in the draft class. He closes with speed and force, proving to be a sure tackler. He is also a special teams maven, adding value and versatility to any team that drafts him.

The real question is where to play Peppers. Can he make enough plays on defense to warrant a top-10, or even top-5, pick? Or is he more of a situational player with great special teams value. He is easily the most interesting prospect to watch for his stock as we approach the draft.

7. Mike Williams, WR – Clemson

If one was crafting the ideal build for an NFL wide receiver, they would likely come close to the build of Mike Williams. The 6-3, 225-pounder is long, lean, muscular and has great athletic traits.

He is fast, powerful and has tremendous hands and ball skills. He hands and feet work in concert at the line of scrimmage to give him a clean release, then he is great going down the field or coming back to the ball. The Clemson star also has terrific body control in the air, making him a nightmare to cover.

Williams is not the most consistent route runner, but with work he could round out his game. He is going to be a featured weapon in the NFL, and could be a great addition to a team with need for size on the outside.

6. Reuben Foster, LB – Alabama

Stop me if you have heard this before, but Reuben Foster is a big, strong, aggressive linebacker from Alabama that is set to be a first-round draft pick.

He has the strong, sturdy build with an athletic cut and strong legs that true middle linebackers need, but his athletic ability and explosiveness are what separate him from the pack. He has elite field vision and explodes into the hole, delivering punishing blows to opponents. He scrapes down the line and gets to the outside runs with ease. His sideline-to-sideline ability make him one of the elite prospects in the draft.

He can get over aggressive, trying to get to a spot and not leaving himself any room to adjust if the run bounces outside. He can also get caught guessing, at times, in pass coverage—especially against better quarterbacks. There are some small flaws to his game, but Foster is ready to make the NFL jump and be an impact player.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) returns a fumble for a touchdown against the Texas A&M Aggies during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Top-5 Prospects

The top-5, where the elite members of the 2017 NFL Draft live. The names are recognized by all. Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook highlight the offensive players while Jalen “Teez” Tabor, Myles Garrett and Jonathan Allen highlight the defensive players.

Garrett and Allen are the true gems of the class, keeping the theme of the extremely strong, deep and talented EDGE class. Both players are ready to make an immediate NFL impact, and should be the top two picks.

5. Leonard Fournette, RB – LSU

Disregard the current discussion about Fournette and his decision to forego his final bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft—he is still one of the top prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft Class.

Fournette is a strong, aggressive runner that has handled a massive workload since coming to LSU. He has a strong build that allows him to overpower defenders and run through them. He has good speed and does a tremendous job following his blocks. He is not asked to pass protect often, but when he does, he is a strong, able blocker.

The big question will be around how much is left in the tank for Fournette. This will not hurt his early career, but after a massive workload in college his longevity could be hurt. He is built to be an NFL running back, and stands out as the best of a very strong group in the 2017 NFL Draft.

4. Jalen “Teez” Tabor, DB – Florida

There likely is not a player with more confidence in his game in the entire 2017 NFL Draft class than Teez Tabor. The confidence can be construed by some as cocky, but either way a young, confident corner with length is a hot commodity in the NFL.

Tabor has good size (6-0, 191 pounds) and length that he uses well in coverage. He lines up inside and outside, showing great versatility. He excels in both man and zone coverage, using solid footwork and great ball skills.

He does need some polish, especially when it comes to how he uses his hands at the line of scrimmage. He is also susceptible to being beat deep, lacking elite recovery speed. Overall he has an NFL-ready game and should be a very high draft pick.

3. Dalvin Cook, RB – Florida State

If one simply looks at size and measurables for running backs, they will overlook Dalvin Cook. This would be a massive mistake. Cook is an athletic back with natural running back instincts. He has great vision to find the hole, then turns on the jets to explode through it and break off big runs. He pairs his great speed with tremendous agility and cutting ability. He is a tough runner that is hard to bring down on first contact.

Cook is also a very good receiver out of the backfield. He shows soft hands and uses his athleticism to create problems for defenders at every level.

He lacks the ideal size, and has been plagued by some shoulder problems in the past, but Cook is the real deal. He might not test as well as other backs, he might not have the look of other backs, but Cook is a prospect that can make a splash in the NFL in 2017.

2. Myles Garrett, EDGE – Texas A&M

While Jonathan Allen might be considered the top player in the 2017 NFL Draft, Myles Garrett has every bit of the potential in the NFL. He is a long, lean pass rusher with muscle packed onto his frame and terrific burst off the line of scrimmage. Not only does he get off the line well, he possesses the speed to get past tackles or chase down plays from behind with ease.

Garrett proved in 2016 that he can rush from any position on the field, including bumping down to the interior. This is something many young edge rushers struggle with, showing great polish in his overall game. It will be a toss up to see if Allen or Garrett go first-overall, but both players are deserving of the honor.

1. Jonathan Allen, DL – Alabama

Jonathan Allen, quite simply, is an athletic anomaly. The 6-3, 294-pound senior surprised many when he returned to Tuscaloosa for his final season, fearing he might get injured or his stock might take a drop. That could not be further from the truth.

Allen has the size, speed, power and footwork to be a truly dominant force in the NFL. His rare combination of quickness and size makes him a great choice for any team in the top-5, but he should not make it past the top two picks. Not only did Allen benefit from returning to Alabama, he proved that he is the top player available in the 2017 NFL Draft class.

This article originally appeared on