Big Board 3.0: Quarterbacks trending down as 2017 NFL draft approaches

A few days ago, I received an email from my colleague Andrew Perloff (you may know him better as “McLovin” from The Dan Patrick Show, or as the guy who dressed up as the Kirk Cousins “you like that!” Vine for Halloween) who wanted to know how Mitch Trubisky could be No. 4 on my 2017 draft QB rankings but No. 3 in my most recent mock draft. The explanation can help set the table for the Big Board below.

Here’s what it boils down to: the mocks are a best guess, attempting to pair team needs with the prospect board to theorize how the draft may play itself out. The positional rankings (found here) and the Big Boards are sort of a look behind the curtain at what I’m learning as I study up on the 2017 class—which players I like or am lukewarm on, who’s ready to step in as a rookie, etc. The players on the Big Board are ordered by how confident I am that they’ll succeed in the NFL. Think of the top 12 are being as close to “sure things” as the draft produces, on down through guys I’d consider borderline Round 1 prospects.

You’ll no doubt notice that just one of the 2017 class’s QBs falls within the top 31 spots. That honor belongs to Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Three more quarterbacks (DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes and Trubisky) check in between 32 and 40. And, again, that doesn’t mean they’ll all sit around until Day 2—just that, as of this moment, I’d place their respective values closer to late Round 1 or early Round 2 than a top-five pick. One reason why this class will be fascinating to track is that the views on the quarterbacks seem to vary wildly. To some, Trubisky is an obvious superstar in the making; others will bang the table for Kizer or (as is the case here) Watson. Mahomes? He’s viewed as a high-upside, low-floor prospect …  and no one seems certain what that means yet.

Ahead of last year’s draft, the view was that most of the quarterbacks needed time before they could thrive as starters. Carson Wentz proved that wrong, to a point, and Dak Prescott blew it out of the water. There is a similar opinion of the 2017 class, and that argument in part fuels the placements of Kizer, Mahomes and Trubisky near the edge of “Round 1” valuation.  But we’ll see. There’s still a long way to go and plenty to learn about these prospects. For now, the top 50:

  • 1

    1Myles Garrett, Edge
    Junior, Texas A&M
    In what looks to be a wide-open draft, Garrett getting grabbed by pick three (at the absolute latest) is almost gospel. He’s not a carbon-copy player, but Garrett could impact a defense next season the way that Joey Bosa did once he got on the field for the Chargers.

  • 2
    2Jonathan Allen, DT
    Senior, Alabama
    This is a good spot to note that us listing a prospect as a “DT” is merely a positional designation, not at attempt to pigeonhole that player’s skill set. In Allen’s case, he may make the most sense as a penetrating 4–3 DT, but he also has the power to play 3–4 DE and the quickness to step out as a 4–3 edge at times.

  • 3
    3Reuben Foster, LB
    Senior, Alabama
    There was a drive early in the national championship in which Foster was caught out of position multiple times. He shook it off and made play after play against Clemson. Obviously, Alabama came up short, but the title game should ensure there’s no one left on the fence about Foster. He’s an NFL-ready star.

  • 4

    4Dalvin Cook, RB
    Junior, Florida State
    Cook accounted for 5,399 yards from scrimmage in his Florida State career—he obviously can make defenders miss in the open field. What he doesn’t get enough credit for, though, is his ability to absorb contact and keep moving.

  • 5
    5Jamal Adams, S
    Junior, LSU
    Bleacher Report draft guru Matt Miller recently mentioned Sean Taylor and Eric Berry as possible comps for Adams, so…we’re potentially in rarefied air here. Adams’s versatility is a clear plus, but what helps set him apart is how quickly he reads and reacts to plays. It’s not an accident that he is constantly near the football.

  • 6
    6Derek Barnett, DE
    Junior, Tennessee
    No matter the edge prospect, the same questions always arise: Can he drop in coverage? Can he be a stand-up rusher? Forget about it with Barnett. There’s no need to complicate what he is, which is a dominant, hand-in-dirt presence. The career sack total (32.0 in three years) is impressive, but he uses his hands and positioning to stay active vs. the run, too.

  • 7
    7Quincy Wilson, CB
    Junior, Florida
    There will be a lot of discussion on the differing opinions of this class’s quarterbacks. Just looking around the draft-analysis landscape, a similar variance appears to be emerging at CB. It’s shaping up as a great cornerback class, with upwards of 10 guys with Round 1 talent. Give me Wilson up top. He has the size and technique to be a lock-down NFL defender.

  • 8
    8Leonard Fournette, RB
    Junior, LSU
    Now that the furor over players skipping bowl games has died down, the spotlight can shift back to how healthy Fournette’s ankle is—Will Carroll of SEC Country reported two months ago that Fournette has a “chronic” ailment. When he’s at 100%, Fournette is a wonder to behold, a combination of power and speed who has all the makings of a 1,500-yard NFL back.

  • 9
    9Corey Davis, WR
    Senior, Western Michigan
    Anything an offense could ask of a wide receiver, Davis produced for Western Michigan. Heck, he even finished his college career 2-for-2 passing. He can play outside or in the slot, explode for yards after the catch and—as he showed on his bowl-game TD vs. Wisconsin—willingly fight through contact for 50/50 balls.

  • 10
    10Solomon Thomas, DT
    Junior, Stanford
    Another lineman, like Jonathan Allen, who offers up equal-opportunity demolition to centers, guards and tackles. Thomas shows a great burst from the interior, plus has the closing speed to finish plays.

  • 11
    11Mike Williams, WR
    Junior, Clemson
    Whether he runs a 4.4- or 4.6-second 40-yard dash, the proof of Williams’s success is out there. He doesn’t profile as a “burner,” yet manages to create separation on all levels. When he is covered tightly, he can go up and win in the air.

  • 12
    12Tim Williams, OLB
    Senior, Alabama
    Williams’s draft stock is a bit in limbo. A scout told The MMQB’s Albert Breer that “off-field stuff will drop,” while Walter Football’s Charlie Campbell reported Williams has “many failed drug tests” in his past. Purely on football talent, Williams—a game-wrecking pass rusher off the edge—is a borderline top-10 prospect in this class.

  • 13
    13Deshaun Watson, QB
    Junior, Clemson
    Without rehashing any of the QB talk above, here’s the short version: Watson is the most physically and mentally complete quarterback in this class. Does that mean he’s a guaranteed success? Of course not, but he’ll be starting several steps ahead of the other 2017 QBs.

  • 14
    14Jabrill Peppers, S
    Junior, Michigan
    Worried about Peppers’s weaknesses (or, at least, about what he wasn’t asked to do at Michigan)? Understandable. What Peppers can be, though, is a safety with linebacker-like downhill closing speed and receiver-like athleticism.

  • 15
    15Sidney Jones, CB
    Junior, Washington
    There just are not many holes in Jones’s game. He’s a ballhawk (eight career INTs, 21 pass break-ups), who has the same aggressiveness playing press or off coverage. And he is a willing run defender, too.

  • 16
    16Malik Hooker, S
    RS Sophomore, Ohio State
    A top-10 selection would come as no surprise. Hooker produced 74 tackles and seven picks this season, all while displaying exceptional awareness for where quarterbacks wanted to distribute the ball.

  • 17
    17Zach Cunningham, LB
    Junior, Vanderbilt
    Cunningham waited until this past weekend to declare for the draft, but it should pay off for him. He’s a force against the run, able to get off blockers on the move and make one-on-one tackles.

  • 18
    18John Ross, WR
    Junior, Washington
    His electrifying speed alone will make Ross a draft target for teams wanting to be more vertical in the passing game. He might be even more dangerous with the ball in his hands on short and intermediate routes.

  • 19
    19Desmond King, CB
    Senior, Iowa
    The Senior Bowl and combine will be huge for King (as they are for most prospects), because he has to erase any doubts about his speed. Nothing slowed him down as a standout CB in college—he picked off 14 passes. That a move to safety could be an option is a nod to King’s ability in run support.

  • 20
    20Christian McCaffrey, RB
    Junior, Stanford
    Maybe NFL teams won’t view him as a bell-cow back, but he did average 26.9 touches per game over his final two Stanford seasons. He also doesn’t need the ball a lot to change a game. His vision sets up the remarkable footwork that gets McCaffrey into space.

  • 21
    21O.J. Howard, TE
    Senior, Alabama
    We never really saw what Howard could do as a consistent focal point in Alabama’s offense. That won’t happen at the next level. Howard is a dynamic pass-catching threat, who has too much speed for most linebackers and too much size for defensive backs.

  • 22
    22Budda Baker, S
    Junior, Washington
    Baker plays about as physical a game as one could expect a 192-pounder to play. He can cover deep, in the slot or over tight ends, but he also had 9.5 tackles for loss this season—Washington did not hesitate to pull him up close to the line.

  • 23
    23Cam Robinson, OT
    Junior, Alabama
    The best of an uninspiring OT class, and possibly a franchise tackle once an NFL staff works to clean up his inconsistencies. He can be a very good run blocker out of the gate. The challenge will be in pass protection, where Robinson can be too passive (no pun intended) working against quick edge rushers.

  • 24
    24Malik McDowell, DT
    DT, Michigan State
    The deciding factor on McDowell’s draft position will be whether or not any team believes it can get him to play full throttle on every snap. His dominance was too come-and-go in college. But he’s still a 6’ 7”, 290-pound lineman with unteachable athleticism.

  • 25
    25Marshon Lattimore, CB
    RS Sophomore, Ohio State
    There is a very real possibility that Lattimore comes off the board before his highly-hyped teammate Malik Hooker, and it has more to do with Lattimore’s top-10 potential than any impending Hooker slide. Lattimore is big and physical, flashing a linebacker-esque mentality when it comes to tackling.

  • 26
    26Jarrad Davis, LB
    Senior, Florida
    While a nagging ankle injury hindered him for much of 2016, Davis is an athletic specimen with great range, and he can play ILB or OLB. 
  • 27
    27Caleb Brantley, DT
    Junior, Florida
    A 300-pounder with a quick get-off at the snap, Brantley could be next in a growing line of disruptive interior D-line playmakers to hit the NFL. 

  • 28
    28Takarrist McKinley, DE/OLB
    Senior, UCLA
    He’s like a wind-up toy—once a play starts, McKinley is non-stop energy until the whistle. His speed is what will allow him to be a playmaker early in his NFL career.
  • 29
    29Cordrea Tankersley, CB
    Senior, Clemson
    There’s a blitz of CBs coming in the next few slots, all with deserved Round 1 hopes. Tankersley is an in-your-face defender, almost to a fault.

  • 30
    30Marlon Humphrey, CB
    RS Sophomore, Alabama
    Humphrey has height (listed at 6’ 1”) and sub-4.5 speed, so that combo might be enough for several GMs. A read-and-react corner that can run his way out of mistakes.

  • 31
    31Taco Charlton, DE
    Senior, Michigan
    An effective three-down defender for Michigan, it’s the pass rush that has Charlton rising. He sets up OTs with speed, then can dip and bend around them.
  • 32
    32DeShone Kizer, QB
    Junior, Notre Dame
    Has to shake some of his bad habits, but Kizer's upside is tantalizing. He has a good arm, great size, and he throws a pretty deep ball up the sideline.

  • 33

    33Jourdan Lewis, CB
    Senior, Michigan
    Despite a rough outing in the Orange Bowl, Lewis has established himself as a Round 1-2 pick. He may be too small (5’ 10”) to thrive outside, but his footwork is outstanding.

  • 34
    34Elijah Qualls, DT
    Junior, Washington
    Qualls is a 300-pound load inside, who also just so happens to have the speed-to-power capacity to blow up OTs as an oversized edge rusher (as seen here).
  • 35
    35Pat Elflein, C
    Senior, Ohio State
    Elflein is a plug-and-play option, at either guard or center. Interior lineman that can pull like Elflein does instantly improve a run game.

  • 36
    36Juju Smith-Schuster, WR
    Junior, USC
    Smith-Schuster will have to prove he can get open against physical NFL defensive backs. He’s a big-time playmaker with the ball in his hands. 

  • 37
    37Jalen Tabor, CB
    Junior, Florida
    Tabor is an ideal fit for a defensive coordinator who likes to turn his CBs loose. The Florida product thrives on taking chances, and he often succeeds thanks to his extremely quick feet. 
  • 38
    38Patrick Mahomes, QB
    Junior, Texas Tech
    The Air Raid system tag will follow Mahomes, who needs time to develop. Already in his possession, though, are a rocket arm and a feel for how to manipulate the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield.
  • 39
    39Ryan Ramczyk, OT
    Junior, Wisconsin
    He needed hip surgery after Wisconsin’s season, so that’s a bit of a wrinkle in the outlook right now. Otherwise, Ramczyk has elite movement skills for a player of his size (6’ 6”, 314 pounds.).

  • 40
    40Mitch Trubisky, QB
    Junior, North Carolina
    Cut from the gunslinger mold, Trubisky has the arm strength, athleticism and understands defenses well enough to project as a potential All-Pro. He needs a lot of work, though, to settle down his mechanics.

  • 41
    41Gareon Conley, CB
    Junior, Ohio State
    The positive athletic traits are there, but Conley really thrives as a read-and-recognition corner.

  • 42
    42DeMarcus Walker, DE
    Senior, Florida State
    A stout end who can kick inside on passing downs, Walker looks the part. Keep an eye out for that advanced swim move.

  • 43
    43Montravius Adams, DT
    Senior, Auburn
    Adams fires off the line, but does so with purpose—he shows great awareness for what’s happening around him.

  • 44
    44Raekwon McMillan, LB
    Junior, Ohio State
    The mystery about McMillan is if he can cover at the next level. He’s a missile against the run.

  • 45
    45Carl Lawson, DE
    Junior, Auburn
    If a team is convinced Lawson will stay healthy, he could be a top-15 pick. The consistency hasn’t been there, but the talent is.

  • 46
    46Charles Harris, DE/OLB
    Junior, Missouri
    Harris flies off the line and features a deadly spin move, as well as a nice complement of backup attacks. Can he bend the edge effectively enough to beat NFL tackles?

  • 47
    47Jaleel Johnson, DT
    Senior, Iowa
    Johnson produced 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks this season. At times, he was unblockable as an interior defender. 
  • 48
    48Ryan Anderson, DE/OLB
    RS Senior
    Anderson is less explosive but arguably more complete of a player than his former teammate and fellow 2017 prospect, Tim Williams. 
  • 49
    49Cooper Kupp, WR
    Senior, Eastern Washington
    The Senior Bowl could be his ticket to Round 1 consideration. Kupp finds holes in coverage and seems to always pick up chunks of yardage after the catch.

  • 50
    50D'onta Foreman, RB
    Junior, Texas
    A GM could fall in love in Round 1. Foreman is built to last as a starting back (6’ 1”, 250 lbs.) but also has ample big-play speed once he gets to the second level.

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