By: Zach Metkler, GZ Sports Report Writer
[twitter-follow screen_name=’GZSports_ZM’ show_count=’yes’]
Which players will help turn their franchise around? Which picks left fans scratching their heads? Take a look at my pick-by-pick analysis of the 1st-round of the 2017 NFL Draft and my grade of each selection.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Browns get handed their guy at #1. The only way that they didn’t nail this pick was by selecting literally any other player.
2. Chicago Bears (From San Francisco 49ers): Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Giving up your 2017 #3, #67, and #111 picks and your 2018 3rd-round pick to move up one spot? They better hope that Trubisky becomes everything that they hope. If I’m the Bears, I stand put and draft one of the top defensive players that could instantly life your defense. In my personal opinion, Chicago is not the environment that Trubisky needs to develop. For his sake, here’s hoping that I’m wrong. But giving up this much to select a quarterback that might not be the savior of the franchise is asinine.
3. San Francisco 49ers (From Chicago Bears): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Trade back one spot and accumulate four picks and still snag the player that you wanted all along? Need say no more. Thomas is an instant upgrade for the 49ers’ pass-rush.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Fournette will provide the Jaguars with an instant impact offensive weapon that “should” take some of the pressure off of Blake Bortles (but probably not because Blake Bortles). Either way, Fournette has Pro Bowl potential and was the only logical pick for the Jaguars at #4.
5. Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Don’t get me wrong, I love love love Corey Davis. He is a physical specimen and will quickly become Marcus Mariota’s favorite target in Tennessee very quickly. But at #5 overall? Mike Williams at this spot would have made a lot more sense. Part of me wants to label this pick as a reach, but Davis is a legit talent. I’m just going to assume that they got the guy that they wanted and there is no doubt he’ll give them a lift early.
6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
After having 3 offensive players unexpectedly selected in the top 5, the Jets were essentially handed the player that many people thought that they would take in the first round. Adams will give the Jets leadership and talent on the back end of the defense for years to come. Safe and solid pick for the Jets.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Mike Williams was my top-rated receiver in this class and was one of the safest picks this draft had to offer. But with so many needs on defense, I struggle to see the rationale of taking Williams at #7. Will he help Rivers and the Chargers’ offense? Most definitely, especially with Keenan Allen’s inability to stay healthy. But this just means that the Chargers need to nail the rest of their draft.
8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Reports of the Panthers’ love of Christian McCaffrey began to leak heading into the final week before the draft, making this seem like the expected pick. This is a great fit for the Panthers and will give them plenty of options with strong talent already set in place.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross, WR, Washington
I can describe this selection in two words: luxury pick. The Bengals could have selected any of the top defensive players in this draft, such as Jonathan Allen or Reuben Foster. Instead, they added speedster John Ross, who while he is a speedy deep threat, doesn’t fit the Bengals offense at all, especially when you consider Andy Dalton’s average ability to throw the ball deep effectively. Ross at #9 wasn’t filling a major need, wasn’t selecting the best player available, and won’t go a long way in fixing the problems the Bengals have developed over the last 2 seasons.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (From Buffalo Bills): Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
The Chiefs traded up from #27 to #10 while also giving up the 91st pick and their 2018 1st-round pick to select the polar opposite of Alex Smith. Pat Mahomes is a big-armed quarterback that has drawn comparisons to Brett Favre due to his ability to effortlessly throw the ball down field with a high level of accuracy. However, giving up this much to select an extremely raw quarterback with so many question marks around him is without a doubt the riskiest move of the 1st round. I would have preferred the Chiefs addressing defensive needs in the 1st. Mahomes probably won’t see the field much in 2017 but if he is unable to become the guy that they think he is, this will be all too reminiscent of the Redskins’ selection of RG3 in 2012.
11. New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Marshon Lattimore at #11 is an absolute steal. Lattimore was considered by most to be a surefire top 8 pick in this draft, with many believing that he would be the Titans pick at #5. With such a huge need to improve the defense (specifically the secondary), taking Lattimore at this point was a no-brainer. He constantly stood out on tape and was the unquestioned top corner in this draft class. Well done, Saints, by patiently waiting and killing this pick.
12. Houston Texans (From Cleveland Browns): Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
After watching teams trade up for Trubisky and Mahomes, the Texans joined in on the fun and selected Deshaun Watson. Watson has some deficits in his game, but he is a proven winner that will have some very solid options in the form of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Will Watson ever be an elite NFL football player? Probably not. But this is a guy that the Texans wanted and the feeling was mutual from Watson.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple
Most people (myself included) were convinced that the Cardinals wanted a quarterback, specifically Pat Mahomes. However, Haason Reddick was the pick they wanted all along. The Cardinals defense is filled with players like Reddick: versatile, athletic playmakers that can fill a variety of roles. Reddick is one of the most exciting prospects in this draft and will help the Cardinals from day 1.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
Tell me why Jonathan Allen or a corner wasn’t selected here? Derek Barnett is a great pass-rusher and should have a great career in the NFL. But Barnett to the Eagles is a frustrating pick whenever there were more pressing needs with top talent available on the board.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
The Colts secondary is a disaster. The Colts defense is a disaster. Adding a falling prospect like Malik Hooker was a great pick up. Hooker roams the deep middle like a veteran and will almost surely help improve the Colts turnover production. Only knock on Hooker: inexperience. But that’ll be a mute point whenever he snags his first interception early on.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
The Ravens have made it a priority to improve their secondary this offseason, and this selection continues that trend. Humphrey is a solid cornerback prospect and will solidify their cornerback group for a while to come. My only issue with this pick is that it wasn’t the best player available or the position of greatest need. Humphrey is a solid player, though.
17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
Jonathan Allen had no right to go this late in the 1st round. Yes, there were concerns about his shoulder injury, and that’s understandable. But Allen is a top 3 prospect in this draft class. Just like the Saints with Lattimore, the Redskins get a huge position of need with an absolute steal. Allen will be a stud on this defensive line in no time.
18. Tennessee Titans: Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
The Titans needed cornerback help. They needed help on special teams. They needed a playmaker. Adoree’ Jackson checks off all of those boxes for the Titans. The problem? He checks off those boxes only on paper. Jackson is about as raw of a prospect as anyone in this class and while he has huge upside, he has just as much potential of being a bust. There were safer options at cornerback that could’ve given the Titans the same thing.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Another top 10 prospect falling this far in the draft should be a crime. O.J. Howard is arguably the most complete tight end prospect to come into the league in years. Add in the fact that this is arguably the greatest tight end class to ever enter the NFL makes this pick even sweeter. Putting him in the increasingly dangerous Buccaneers offense will help him reach his true potential. Jameis Winston should be licking his chops at the prospects of having Howard, Mike Evans, and DeSean Jackson to throw to this fall.
20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
The Broncos wasted no time making Garett Bolles their top pick. Bolles is an athletic tackle with the length you look for in top-tier bookends. He has great upside but he is no where ready to step into the starting lineup for the Broncos. His technique needs some major work and he’ll probably get there one day. But for right now, the Broncos need to look at this pick based on long-term upside, not immediate impact.
21. Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida
The Lions needed an inside linebacker and they got just that in the 1st round. The only problem? He’s not Reuben Foster. Jarrad Davis is a solid player and will be good in the NFL as he is an athletic run defender and can hold his own in coverage. But at the end of the day, Davis is not in the same realm as Foster, injuries and all.
22. Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
I’ll admit that I wasn’t as high on this pick when it originally happened. However, the pick does make sense. Charles Harris is one of the top pass-rushers in this class (again, look at his spin move… it’s absolutely disgusting). That’s about the only elite aspect of his game at this point, as he’s average in most other parts of his game. Luckily, he has the potential to improve in each of his average areas. The Dolphins needed a compliment to Cameron Wake and Harris brings a lot less question marks than some of the other pass-rushers in this draft class.
23. New York Giants: Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
Evan Engram has been one of the most interesting prospects to scout this offseason. He isn’t a traditional tight end in the slightest, as he’s mainly an oversized receiver. He reminds me of a slightly more athletic Devin Funchess and a poor-man’s healthy Jordan Reed. He doesn’t have much to offer as a blocker (although he gives it his all every play) but is the ultimate vertical receiving threat at tight end. I think the safer pick would have been David Njoku, but if the Giants can use him properly, this pick will pay dividends.
24. Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
This pick is as risky as they come; not because of talent, but because of the current rape investigation surrounding Gareon Conley. If you factor in the off-the-field questions, this pick gets about a D+ to a C grade. However, simply looking on the field, this pick makes a ton of sense. Conley fills a huge need for the Raiders and is a great value pick based on talent. If he is found to be innocent in his involvement with the rape allegations, this pick could be a steal for the Raiders.
Grade: A- (Not factoring off-the-field issues, D+ factoring off-the-field issues)
25. Cleveland Browns (From Houston Texans): Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
Jabrill Peppers will be a do-it-all player for the Browns defense that will give new DC Gregg Williams a fun toy to use in the secondary and in the box. Myles Garrett will be the crown jewel of this class when it’s all said and done, but Peppers will make this defense even more exciting to watch moving forward. The Browns traded back 13 spots and added one of the most talented, athletic, and unique players in this draft class. Side note: Hue Jackson has said that Peppers will play some offense for the Browns, too. Look out.
26. Atlanta Falcons (From Seattle Seahawks): Takkarist McKinley, OLB, UCLA
Takkarist McKinley’s stock was one of the hardest to analyze during the draft process. He is a natural pass-rusher that could end up being a nice compliment to Vic Beasley. His injury history will be closely monitored by the Falcons, but this is a nice pick by a team that is still reeling from their Super Bowl loss. McKinley has the talent and should be a nice player in the league.
27. Buffalo Bills (From Kansas City Chiefs): Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
After losing Gilmore in free agency, the Bills needed to add some help in the secondary. Tre’Davious White might not ever be a true outside corner, but he has the potential to be a solid slot corner. White has been criticized for his lack of grit against the run, often seeming uninterested in stopping running backs as they rush to the outside. But after trading back 17 spots to accumulate more picks, the Bills won this spot.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan
This pick filled the biggest need for the Cowboys and gave them nice value at this point in the 1st round. Charlton just concerns me as a prospect, as he almost feels like the type of prospect that we see with great production that came primarily from teams putting him into situations to succeed, which is perfectly fine. But this often masks deficits that the player has when looking at him game to game instead of just at the end of the season. Charlton was often an extremely inconsistent player at Michigan and would get overpowered against the run more often than you’d like from a 3-down defensive end. Charlton has a ceiling that reaches to being an All Pro caliber player, but a floor that could lead to him bouncing around the NFL looking for work. This pick is a risky pick but fills a huge need for the Cowboys.
29. Cleveland Browns (From Green Bay Packers): David Njoku, TE, Miami
Some people view this pick as a luxury for the Browns. But when you’re 1-15 and consistently in the basement of the NFL, is there ever such a thing as a “luxury”…? Njoku is still developing as a run blocker but is the most physically gifted tight end in this class. He has Pro Bowl potential if he can put his game together but will likely take a couple seasons to reach that point. When he does, he’ll be an exciting player to watch in the NFL… assuming he has someone to pass him the ball.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt, EDGE, Wisconsin
The Steelers needed a pass-rusher in the worst way and they went out and took a guy that they fell in love with early in the process. T.J. Watt won’t blow you away with explosive athleticism, but he checks off all the boxes for what the Steelers look for in an outside linebacker. Mike Tomlin said it perfectly when he said that Watt isn’t raw, but is simply inexperienced. Watt won’t be pressured into playing time right away and can learn from one of the best in James Harrison and his future pairing Bud Dupree. Watt’s best days are ahead of him. The value was there, the need was there, and when you’re picking at #30, that’s all you can ask for.
31. San Francisco 49ers (From Seattle Seahawks Via Atlanta Falcons): Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
The 49ers could’ve stayed put and “settled” for just Solomon Thomas and they’d be one of the biggest winners of the night after netting solid picks to trade back one spot. Instead, they traded up 3 spots by giving up a pick that they acquired from Chicago to select the free-falling Reuben Foster. Foster is a top 5 talent but because of off-the-field issues and injury concerns, teams did not feel comfortable selecting the smart, physical, athletic linebacker from Alabama. Their loss is the 49er’s gain. Foster will be a star for the 49ers for years to come.
32. New Orleans Saints: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Ryan Ramczyk is a 1st-round player primarily due to the fact that this is a historically weak offensive line class. Ramczyk will likely be a day 1 starter for the Saints, but that’s out of need, not out of talent. He has the talent to eventually develop into a solid player but just like with Bolles, Ramczyk is a long way away from being a Pro Bowl caliber player (if he ever even reaches that level). If I was the Saints, I would’ve continued upgraded my terrible defense.