Nov 12, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) passes the ball during the first half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Below is a pre-college playoff 2017 NFL Draft position rankings for the offensive side of the ball.
With the college football season winding down, everyone is focused on the playoff rankings and who will get a shot at a National Championship. The players not involved in those high-stake games are starting to turn their attention to the NFL draft and establishing their 2017 NFL Draft position rankings.
My year has been spent working through each prospect and developing an opinion. However, the process is far from over. I haven’t been able to hit every player eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft. This means my rankings will remain fluid as until we get closer to April.
The biggest question mark heading into the 2017 draft is at the quarterback position. Not one of the prospects have established themselves as a legitimate 1st round talent. It’s shaping up where we could see quarterback-needy teams overdraft to fill a need.
This is a great year for teams looking to fill a hole at the running back position. There are elite talents such as Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey in the mix. Both bring a different skill set to the table, but are proven difference makers.
Nov 12, 2016; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) drops back for a pass against the California Golden Bears during the first half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
1. Luke Falk, Washington State
2. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
3. Brad Kaaya, Miami
4. Pat Mahomes III, Texas Tech
5. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
The 2017 NFL Draft quarterback group will be a major storyline throughout the process. There’s plenty of raw talent available, but each of the prospects come with noticeable flaws. It’s possible that these flaws result in no quarterbacks taken in the 1st round.
My rankings have Washington State’s Luke Falk as the top ranked quarterback. He’s an accurate passer who features good arm strength. The biggest knock against Falk is that he plays in Mike Leach’s spread attack.
Any criticism of him playing in Leach’s system are a little overblown. Falk shows the ability to read both sides of the field and go through his progressions. He also has the arm strength needed to attack the deep part of the field and not just dink and dunk.
Deshaun Watson’s draft stock has taken a major hit after his less than inspiring season. His accuracy and feel for the position has taken a step backwards. He just doesn’t appear to be in full command of the offense.
Brad Kaaya is an intriguing prospect because he has experience working in a pro-style attack. However, there are legitimate questions about his arm strength.
There’s a ton of love for Mitch Trubsiky, but I see a quarterback who needs a lot of work. He has the raw talent but has terrible footwork. His lack of proper mechanics results in questionable accuracy and ball placement.
November 5, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) runs against Oregon State Beavers cornerback Xavier Crawford (22) during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium. The Cardinal defeated the Beavers 26-15. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
1. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
2. Leonard Fournette, LSU
3. Nick Chubb, Georgia
4. Dalvin Cook, Florida State
5. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
The 2017 NFL Draft class features a strong group of running backs. This is a position that has good top-end talent and overall depth. We could see as many as 4 running backs taken in the 1st round and two in the top-10.
Christian McCaffrey is my top ranked running back because of his versatility. He’s someone who can contribute as a runner, pass catcher and return man. There are just some many ways he can hurt a defense that it’s nearly impossible to shut him down.
Leonard Fournette is more of a prototypical running back who can grind out the tough yards. He’s very effective between the tackles where he lowers his head to push the pile. However, Fournette has the second gear needed to break off long runs.
Most have Fournette rated at the top running back prospect. He’s just slightly behind McCaffrey in my rankings because he’s not a major threat as a pass catcher.
Both Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook have a shot at being 1st round picks. Chubb is a grinder who moves the chains. Cook is a home run threat who has the breakaway speed to score every time he touches the football.
Despite both having 1st round talent, it’s more likely that both are one of the first few players selected on day 2 of the draft.
Oct 7, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) catches a pass as Boston College Eagles defensive back Isaac Yiadom (20) defends on the play during the first quarter at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
1. Mike Williams, Clemson
2. JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
3. Corey Davis, Western Michigan
4. John Ross, Washington
5. Malachi Dupre, LSU
Clemson’s Mike Williams is a dynamic playmaker who features all the traits needed to excel in the NFL. His combination of size, speed and leaping ability make him a nightmare for opposing defenses. Williams is one of the more fluid athletes in this draft which helps him run clean and crisp routes.
JuJu Smith-Schuster got off to a slow start this year, but has come on strong as of late. His early season struggles had more to do with poor quarterback play than his own. Smith-Schuster is a big target who uses his frame to box out defenders.
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He also as enough speed to stretch the field and create separation. Smith-Schuster could still claim the top spot in this ranking with a strong combine performance.
Corey Davis is an underrated prospect who is extremely explosive. He’s Western Michigan’s top playmaker who produces despite constantly facing double teams.
John Ross is a speedster who excels at taking the top off the defense. He is a constant threat to get behind the defense and haul in the deep ball. Ross needs some refinement as far as route running is concerned. He also needs to show more aggressiveness in jump ball situations.
Sep 10, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines tight end Jake Butt (88) makes a reception for a touchdown in the second quarter against the UCF Knights at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
1. Jake Butt, Michigan
2. OJ Howard, Alabama
3. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
4. Jordan Leggett, Clemson
5. Evan Engram, Ole Miss
The tight end position is stack this year with several players capable of making an immediate impact. In fact, there are a few prospects who have star potential. This is great news for the NFL as the league as a whole lacks great depth at the position.
Michigan’s Jake Butt has a strong hold on the No. 1 spot in my rankings. He’s a major threat in the passing game thanks to his size-speed combination. Butt is a strong route runner who has the feel to find openings in the zone.
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His ability to make the tough catch in traffic will make him a favorite target of any quarterback. Butt also provides help in the running game where he fights to open running lanes.
OJ Howard is top-end athlete who has only shown flashes of his potential. The biggest problem appears to be Alabama doesn’t focus on feeding the ball to Howard. He is typically asked to do the dirty work as a blocker or working across the middle.
Bucky Hodges is a fast rising prospect who has a legitimate shot at cracking the 1st round. Jordan Leggett and Evan Engram are pass-catching tight ends who fit well in today’s NFL.
Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) blocks USC Trojans linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) during the game at AT&T Stadium. Alabama defeats USC 52-6. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
1. Cam Robinson, Alabama
2. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
3. Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
4. Roderick Johnson, Florida State
5. Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh
The offensive tackle group lacks that safe prospect who is a lock to be a top-10 pick. In fact, there’s a chance we don’t see the first offensive tackle selected until the middle of the 1st round. The positive is that there’s some solid depth and talent to be found in the middle rounds.
Alabama’s Cam Robinson is my top ranked offensive tackle based on his experience, production and upside. He has just enough skills to stick at left tackle in the NFL, but will need to clean up several areas of his game.
Mike McGlinchey is a more reliable prospect who is a good athlete and physical presence. However, I have questions about his foot speed and ability to handle the left tackle spot. He’s still a solid prospect but is more of a right-tackle only.
Florida State’s Roderick Johnson is extremely talented but equally raw. He has a lot of work to do with his technique and feel for the position. However, evaluators will see a great piece of clay that coaches can mold into a star.
Oct 8, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Pat Elflein (65) and teammates Jalyn Holmes (11) and Joe Burger (48) celebrate following the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
2. Dan Feeney, Indiana
3. Billy Price, Ohio State
4. Braden Smith, Auburn
5. Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh
1. Pat Elflein, Ohio State
2. Ethan Pocic, LSU
3. Mason Cole, Michigan
We could see as many as 5 of the players listed above come off the board in the 1st round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Interior offensive linemen have been gaining momentum with teams unafraid to use a high pick on the position.
Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson is a throwback player who loves to move defenders off the line of scrimmage. He’s a perfect fit for a team looking to establish a power running attack. Nelson needs to clean up some areas in pass protection, but he’s a good enough athlete to make quick progress.
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Pat Elflein is a versatile player capable of handling both the guard and center position. This is a plug-and-play prospect who should be a starter from day one.
Ethan Pocic is also extremely versatile and highly athletic. He has spent most of his time at center, but shows the movement skills needed to potentially kick outside to offensive tackle. That type of position versatile is extremely value in a league where injuries often happen.