2017 NFL Draft: Top 50, Big Board 1.0

The Sports Xchange

January 17, 2017 at 11:50 am.

Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in action during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kyle Field. The Aggies defeat the Volunteers 45-38 in overtime. Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in action during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kyle Field. The Aggies defeat the Volunteers 45-38 in overtime. Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

by Dane Brugler

The 2017 NFL Draft is over three months away, but with the underclassmen additions to the draft pool, it is time to map out the top-rated prospects available in this class.

This initial top-50 board will fluctuate somewhat throughout the process, but based on film study, this is how the top players stack up for me based on first look.

Without a specific scheme or culture to evaluate for, these rankings are very broad with certain prospects needing specific fits to live up to the high ranking (example: Clemson CB Cordrea Tankersley makes this list based on his press-man cover skills, but wouldn’t come close to the top-50 for a zone-heavy scheme).

1. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M (6-5, 262, 4.64, #15)
Once the final selection was made in the 2016 NFL Draft, Garrett became the No. 1 prospect available for the 2017 class and that has held true since last spring. With his explosive get-off and ability to rush the passer in different ways, this former Aggie is the easy favorite to be drafted first overall.

2. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama (6-3, 292, 4.85, #93)
A true scheme-versatile lineman, Allen has the skill-set and ball awareness to be productive inside or outside in various fronts. He converts speed to power with contact balance and body control, also showing the lateral agility to knife through gaps and out-leverage blockers.

3. Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State (6-2, 205, 4.57, #24)
With only one season of starting experience, Hooker still has plenty of areas that require refinement, mainly his consistency as a downhill run defender. But his ball production this past season was remarkable due to the natural instincts, athletic range and ball skills, displaying difference-maker potential.

4. Jamal Adams, SS, LSU (6-0, 211, 4.54, #33)
The heartbeat of LSU’s defense, Adams is an alpha with the skills and mentality to contribute from day one in the NFL. He’ll arrive too hot at times, but his play speed is a strength to his game along with his physical nature to be comfortable playing anywhere on the field.

5. Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford (6-2, 271, 4.84, #90)
Although he might not fit the prototype in terms of body type, Thomas is a balanced athlete who beats blockers with initial quickness and powerful hand tactics. He has a pre-snap plan, but can also alter mid-rush and projects best as a defensive end who can rush from inside on passing downs.

6. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama (6-1, 240, 4.72, #10)
Few linebacker prospects in recent memory showed the violence and explosive burst like Foster did at Alabama. Although he needs to improve hiccups in coverage, the Tide’s leading tackler is a power athlete with the range, instincts and predator mentality ideal for the next level.

7. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (5-11, 213, 4.46, #4)
The two main traits NFL teams want in a running back prospect: can you navigate and create? Cook is exceptional in both areas with the foot quickness and vision to gash defenses. His history of shoulder issues could knock him down draft boards, but he has the best talent at running back in this class.

8. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (6-3, 220, 4.50, #7)
There will be faster wideouts in the 2017 class, but none have the combination of size, ballskills and body control that Williams shows on film. His large catch radius and quick reflexes make him dominant in contested situations, especially on back shoulder and fade routes.

9. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State (6-0, 195, 4.53, #2)
After missing time over his first two seasons in Columbus due to injuries, Lattimore stayed healthy in 2016 and produced impressive game film for NFL teams to evaluate. A twitchy athlete, the redshirt sophomore has the lower body explosiveness and speed to attach himself to receivers in man coverage.

10. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida (6-0, 192, 4.52, #31)
Comfortable in press and off-coverage, Tabor plays relaxed, trusting his talent, but also aggressive with the plant-and-burst quickness and “my ball” mentality. He needs to pay more attention to his technique, but the position appears to come very natural to him.

11. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (6-3, 220, 4.83, #10)
One season of starting experience is far from ideal, but that doesn’t make Trubisky’s 2016 film any less impressive, showing NFL starter traits. His decision-making needs fine-tuned, but his combination of physical skills and accuracy downfield are why NFL teams view him as a possible top-10 pick.

12. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (6-1, 230, 4.45, #7)
Simply put, Fournette is a freak of nature. His blend of size, speed and strength is rare and the best NFL comparison in terms of body type and natural ability might be Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis. He has some areas that require fine-tuning, but Fournette is a different breed of athlete.

13. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame (6-4, 230, 4.84, #14)
Although his 2016 tape was far from perfect, Kizer was making mistakes you expect from a 20-year old sophomore and it is encouraging to think where he might be in his development a few years from now. He checks the necessary boxes physically and mentally with a high number of NFL throws on his Notre Dame film.

14. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan (6-3, 213, 4.48, #84)
One of the most productive pass-catchers in NCAA history, Davis is physically built for the NFL with the route athleticism and polish that dominated MAC competition. He might not have any true dominant qualities, but he is very savvy and competes with a survivor mentality.

15. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee (6-3, 268, 4.76, #9)
One of the most productive pass rushers in SEC history, Barnett isn’t naturally explosive off the edge, but he can bend and win with flexibility, instincts and power. He is consistently in the right place at the right time to be a reliable edge player vs. both the run and the pass.

16. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt (6-3, 234, 4.82, #41)
A linebacker with a quick trigger, Cunningham’s game tape is like a clinic on how to play the position. His play speed makes him tough to block, diagnosing in a flash and arriving with pop to detach from blocks and make stops. The production (125 tackles, 16.5 for loss in 2016) matches the tape.

17. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (6-6, 242, 4.57, #88)
A very athletic and toolsy prospect, Howard wasn’t a high volume pass-catcher you expect from a prospect graded top-20, but it won’t surprise anyone if he ends up being a better pro than collegiate tight end. He isn’t an overpowering blocker, but he does just enough to be a reliable three-down NFL player.

18. Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State (6-6, 285, 4.92, #4)
Based on his flashes, McDowell is one of the top-five talents in this draft class, but inconsistency and concerns over fit create some doubt. Nonetheless, he has outstanding movement skills for a man his size with the length and upper body strength to rush from different positions up front.

19. John Ross, WR, Washington (5-11, 190, 4.35, #1)
After switching between offense and defense earlier in his career, Ross has developed into a very polished route runner with the vertical speed and sudden footwork to manipulate coverages. His athleticism before, during and after the catch will remind many of Brandin Cooks.

20. Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama (6-3, 237, 4.76, #56)
Giving blockers trouble with lateral quickness and bend, Williams can capture the corner, loop and attack the pocket from multiple angles. He is instincts, consistency vs. the run and off-field baggage are all question marks, but he can get to the quarterback.

21. Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA (6-2, 252, 4.61, #98)
One of the most athletic edge rushers in this class, McKinley doesn’t have ideal size and isn’t yet the sum of his parts, but he has the hip flexibility and initial burst to get blockers off rhythm. He also does a great job keeping himself clean due to his active hands to swat blockers’ jabs.

22. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington (6-0, 182, 4.49, #26)
A three-year starter, Jones is well-versed in press-man and zone coverages with adequate height/length for the position. A former receiver, he is a natural playing the ball with body control and light feet to contest throws – his tape is reminiscent of Cleveland Browns corner Joe Haden, both the good and bad.

23. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin (6-5, 314, 5.29, #65)
In a weak class of offensive tackles, Ramczyk is one of the few with a chance to crash the first round. The former Division-III transfer has had a tremendous trajectory from high school until now and will get even better as long as the medicals check out.

24. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan (6-5, 285, 4.87, #33)
An edge rusher who passes the eye test, Charlton needs to develop his pass rush repertoire and play with more consistent pad level, but he moves very well for his size and plays reminiscent of Justin Tuck when he was coming out of Notre Dame.

25. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (6-0, 202, 4.48, #5)
A do-everything back, McCaffrey lacks an ideal build to be a true feature NFL running back, but with his versatility to line up in the slot and be a chess piece on offense, he is deserving of top-25 consideration. McCaffrey is very quick to read and react and is one of the most intelligent runners I’ve studied.

26. Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn (6-2, 253, 4.67, #55)
A Brandon Graham type of rusher, Lawson does a great job using his lower body movement skills and upper body power in unison to beat blockers off the edge. He lacks ideal length and his past medical issues are a concern, but Lawson has the energetic play style off the edge that NFL teams covet.

27. Forrest Lamp, OT/OG, Western Kentucky (6-3, 300, 5.12, #76)
A four-year starter at left tackle, Lamp might be able to stay at tackle in the NFL, but he projects much better inside at guard due to his square-blocking style and lack of length. He has the body control, core strength and stubborn mentality to start and thrive early in his pro career.

28. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama (6-0, 192, 4.49, #26)
Humphrey, who is the son of 1989 first round running back Bobby Humphrey, has the physical ingredients ideal for the position with his size and athleticism. His hands-on approach will lead to frustrating penalties, but he can press and keep receivers uncomfortable on the outside.

29. Evan Engram, WR/TE, Ole Miss (6-3, 227, 4.64, #17)
Listed as a tight end on the roster, Engram was more of a wideout in the Ole Miss offense and projects best as a “big” slot receiver in the NFL. He is quick to release off the line of scrimmage, enter his route and give his quarterback a clean target, securing passes with his strong hands.

30. Budda Baker, FS, Washington (5-10, 192, 4.52, #32)
A defensive back with a honey badger mentality, Baker has the playing range, timing and pop at contact that jumps off the screen. Although his overaggressive tendencies lead to mistakes and his lack of ideal size also shows, Baker can do a little bit of everything and fits best as a NFL nickelback.

31. David Njoku, TE, Miami (Fla.) (6-4, 245, 4.75, #86)
With only 64 career catches, Njoku doesn’t have a large sample size, but his natural athleticism and pass-catching skills are impressive. He is underdeveloped as a blocker and needs route maintenance, but his fluid acceleration makes him a mismatch down the field and scouts are understandably excited about his upside.

32. Jabrill Peppers, LB/SS, Michigan (6-0, 210, 4.45, #5)
While athleticism and hustle aren’t concerns, Peppers lacks a true identity on the roster. He struggles in coverage and lacks ideal body type to live near the line of scrimmage, requiring a hybrid role to be a starter in the NFL. Peppers will get better once he can focus on one position and set of responsibilities.

33. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (6-2, 210, 4.74, #4)
A proven winner at the college level, Watson has the mental make-up and intangibles that will endear him to pro coaches. He also has the arm strength and mobility needed for the next level, but his inconsistent ball placement and awareness from the pocket make his NFL evaluation tricky.

34. Curtis Samuel, RB, Ohio State (5-11, 200, 4.52, #4)
The east coast version of McCaffrey, Samuel was the only FBS player with 700+ yards rushing and receiving this past season. He projects very well as a slot receiver with his routes and reliable ballskills, but also averaged 7.9 yards per rush in 2016 and is a true hybrid weapon in the NFL.

35. Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida (6-1, 240, 4.78, #40)
A physical thumper, Davis is a fun player to watch do work with his mix of power, athleticism and smarts. There isn’t a huge gap between him and Rueben Foster as prospects, but Davis has struggled to stay healthy and his lack of durability might scare off some teams.

36. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State (6-2, 240, 4.78, #5)
After a rocky start to his junior season, McMillan finished strong with outstanding performances down the stretch in 2016 (31 total tackles vs. Michigan and Clemson). Although he isn’t a top-tier athlete and needs to better keep himself clean near the line of scrimmage, McMillan projects as a sturdy MIKE linebacker.

37. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson (6-0, 195, 4.48, #25)
Tankersley became a starter as a junior and has been one of the most productive college corners the past two seasons (29 passes defended, nine interceptions). His tape is a tale of two different types of corners – off the ball, he struggles, but in press, Tankersley can jam and take away receivers.

38. Haason Reddick, LB, Temple (6-1, 230, 4.69, #7)
Used all over the front-seven at Temple, Reddick lined up mostly as a defensive end, but projects best as an off-ball linebacker in the NFL. He is comfortable in space with above average athleticism and the secondary quickness to work off blocks and track down ballcarriers.

39. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan (5-10, 176, 4.43, #26)
An interesting test case, Lewis has the film and coverage skills of a first round cornerback, showing speed, toughness and ball awareness. However, his lack of size, length and growth potential also shows on his film in both the run game and coverage.

40. Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee (5-10, 215, 4.62, #6)
A transfer from Alabama, Kamara spent most of his career in the shadows, but he took advantage of his opportunities, averaging 6.2 yards per rush the past two seasons. A shifty athlete with receiving skills, he is a tough ballcarrier to tackle one-on-one due to his controlled feed and redirection skills.

41. Charles Harris, DE, Missouri (6-3, 255, 4.74, #91)
A player still very young in football years, Harris has the short-area burst to win the corner, stay low and finish at the quarterback. He doesn’t own efficient pass rush moves at this point in his development, but the initial quickness off the edge is a great place to start.

42. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama (6-5, 326, 5.28, #74)
A three-year starter at left tackle, Robinson is a good-sized athlete with the edge quickness and length to keep rushers at bay. But while he looks like a quality NFL starter on some snaps, Robinson looks like a back-up on others due to mental and technical errors.

43. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma (5-11, 175, 4.39, #11)
Although his skinny, slight frame isn’t ideal, Westbrook has speed to burn and was responsible for 12 touchdowns of at least 40 yards in 2016. He has some accountability and durability questions, but his vertical skills make him a home run threat as a receiver and return man.

44. Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida (6-2, 314, 5.43, #57)
With only 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks over 13 starts in 2016, Brantley doesn’t have a productive résumé and tends to disappear for stretches. However, his flashes are very impressive with quick timing off the snap to squeeze gaps, using fierce hands to reset the line of scrimmage and finish ballcarriers.

45. Ryan Anderson, DE/OLB, Alabama (6-2, 253, 4.77, #22)
Recruited as a middle linebacker, Anderson lined up primarily at defensive end and outside linebacker for Alabama. Although he has a tweener skill-set and won’t test particularly well, Anderson is the type of player you want on your roster with his above average football awareness and tackling skills.

46. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU (5-11, 192, 4.50, #18)
White returned to Baton Rouge for his senior season to boost his draft stock and he did just that, cementing his status as a top-50 pick for several evaluators. A strong run defender as well, White has the patient feet in reverse to shadow receivers and make plays on the ball (16 passes defended in 2016).

47. Desmond King, CB/S, Iowa (5-10, 203, 4.53, #14)
A four-year starter at Iowa, King played variations of both man and zone coverages and might fit best at safety long-term in the NFL. Although he isn’t the biggest or fastest, he shows natural feel in coverage with the ballhawking instincts to sense, anticipate and attack before the play develops.

48. T.J. Watt, DE/OLB, Wisconsin (6-4, 243, 4.79, #42)
While better known as J.J.’s younger brother, Watt has a chance to make a name for himself with his pass rush potential. Ideally suited as a stand-up rusher in a 3-4 scheme, Watt isn’t a flexible rusher who will bend the edge, but his energy, contact balance and hand strength allow him to be productive.

49. Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana (6-4, 310, 5.09, #67)
A tough-minded blocker who likes to keep busy, Feeney has the upper body power to latch, engage and toss defenders from run lanes. He missed a portion of his senior season due to a concussion so the medicals will be important for his final draft grade.

50. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech (6-2, 221, 4.84, #5)
Coming from Texas Tech’s air raid offense, Mahomes looks like he is playing backyard football on film and isn’t ready for NFL snaps right now. However, he has the size, athleticism and arm talent that makes him an intriguing development prospect for a patient coaching staff.

–Dane Brugler is senior draft analyst for, published and distributed by The Sports Xchange in cooperation with