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2017 NFL Draft: Top 12 at Each Position

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NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It’s draft day, so here are my final positional rankings for this 2017 draft season.

Quarterbacks

1. DeShone Kizer — Notre Dame

2. Deshaun Watson — Clemson

3. Brad Kaaya — Miami (Fla.)

4. Mitch Trubisky — North Carolina

5. Nathan Peterman — Pittsburgh

6. Patrick Mahomes — Texas Tech

7. Davis Webb — California

8. Josh Dobbs — Tennessee

9. C.J. Beathard — Iowa

10. Chad Kelly — Ole Miss

11. Philip Nelson — East Carolina

12. Kyle Sloter — Northern Colorado

This isn’t a very strong quarterback class, with only one quarterback garnering a late 1st round grade (Kizer). Kizer would have benefitted from another year in school, but he has the tools (arm strength, great upper body mechanics, touch) and pro style offense experience to be successful earlier than the other quarterbacks. I debated back and forth between Kaaya and Watson; Kaaya is more technically sound and does a better job mentally processing the game, but struggles mightily under pressure. Watson is a gamer in every sense of the word, has a strong arm and is a great athlete, but his quarterback-friendly spread system won’t prepare him well for the NFL. I made the last minute to switch putting Watson in the #2 spot. Trubisky has the potential to be a very good starter, but is tremendously inexperienced and needs a lot of time to develop. Peterman and Mahomes are two very different players but I have them slotted as good early day 3 picks. Mahomes is extremely talented but I know that as a quarterbacks coach, reworking and fixing his mechanics is going to be a very tough job and we’ve seen many coaches undertake a project like that before and fail (Logan Thomas being a recent one). He’s a big risk. Peterman is a safer choice but has a very limited ceiling due to his poor arm strength and athleticism. Webb, Dobbs and Beathard follow those two. All three are solid day 3 picks, especially the first two and should become solid backup quarterbacks. Kelly, Nelson and Sloter are the last three picks. Kelly is talented, but his off-the-field issues will scare off most teams. Nelson and Sloter are two under-the-radar players who may have their names called on day 3.

My QB rankings for the 2017 draft with archives from previous years: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ydVzXVIjWJlLguGJJ6GiiXhVT_ZHHDPtDSccR6awULQ/edit?usp=sharing

*Will be fully updated in the next couple of days*

Running Backs

1. Christian McCaffrey — Stanford

2. Dalvin Cook — Florida State

3. Leonard Fournette — LSU

4. Kareem Hunt — Toledo

5. Joe Mixon — Oklahoma

6. Alvin Kamara — Tennessee

7. Jamaal Williams — BYU

8. D’Onta Foreman — Texas

9. Wayne Gallman — Clemson

10. Samaje Perine — Oklahoma

11. Jeremy McNichols — Boise State

12. Marlon Mack — USF

This is one of the strongest classes I’ve ever seen. I made a last minute switch at the top. I initially had it Cook-McCaffrey-Fournette, but McCaffrey’s versatilty (receiving skills specifically) makes him the better prospect. His vision reminds me of Leveon Bell and he is a great athlete. Cook has great burst and breakaway speed, plus is a good blocker and a good enough pass catcher. Fournette is a close third (still a top 20 prospect). I’ve come around on him in recent weeks, but I still don’t see that “franchise changing” potential that some analysts have described he possesses. After that, I have Kareem Hunt, which may be a surprise to some. He has great balance and vision on top of being a good athlete and receiver. Mixon is in 5th, but is the 4th most talented running back in this class. I debated Kamara vs Williams but chose Kamara in the end because of his breakaway speed. Foreman and Gallman are two good downhill runners who could be great starting running backs if they get paired with a good coach. Perine, McNichols and Mack round out the top 12 and received late 3rd round, early 4th round grades.

Wide Receivers

1. Mike Williams — Clemson

2. Corey Davis — Western Michigan

3. Zay Jones — East Carolina

4. John Ross — Washington

5. Cooper Kupp — Eastern Washington

6. Juju Smith-Schuster — USC

7. Ryan Switzer — North Carolina

8. Carlos Henderson — Louisiana Tech

9. Josh Reynolds — Texas A&M

10. Amara Darboh — Michigan

11. Chris Godwin — Penn State

12. Curtis Samuel — Ohio State

Williams got the nod over Davis due to his playmaking ability (winning the 50/50 balls and high pointing the ball), but it’s very close. Zay Jones is one of my favourite prospects in the draft due to his great size/speed/athleticism combination and all around ability. Ross was a 2nd round pick until the combine (where he broke the 40 time record); I’m always wary of those type of prospects as many of them get drafted earlier than their talent level indicates (cough cough Philip Dorsett cough cough). Kupp and Juju are 5 and 6, with both having a very good chance of being round 2 selections. Switzer is another one of my favourites and would be a potential first round pick if he were 3 inches taller. Henderson, Reynolds, Darboh, Godwin and Samuel are 5 good but not great prospects who should have decent careers in the NFL. There are some talented players at the top of the class, but this class is average at best.

Tight Ends

1. O.J. Howard — Alabama

2. David Njoku — Miami (Fla.)

3. Evan Engram — Ole Miss

4. Jordan Leggett — Clemson

5. Bucky Hodges — Virginia Tech

6. Jake Butt — Michigan

7. George Kittle — Iowa

8. Gerald Everett — South Alabama

9. Jeremy Sprinkle — Arkansas

10. Adam Shaheen — Ashland

11. Cole Hikutini — Louisville

12. Anthony Auclair — Laval (Canada)

This tight end class is loaded from top to bottom. Howard is a special talent and should be a top 10 pick. Njoku is nothing to sneeze at and is one of the most impressive tackle breaking tight ends I’ve seen in recent memory. He breaks through everything! Engram and Leggett are #3 and #4; both are athletic and are dynamic threats in the passing game. Hodges gets the nod over Butt due to Butt’s injury. Kittle is an underrated day 2 player who should have a nice, long career in the NFL. Everett, Sprinkle, Shaheen and Hikutini are 4 players who could be day 2 picks, but I expect them to go on day 3. Antony Auclair is a Quebecer, so he’s definitely making my list! He’s a good pass catcher and is aggressive as a blocker, but will face a steep learning curve in the NFL.

Offensive Tackles

1. Ryan Ramczyk — Wisconsin

2. Garett Bolles — Utah

3. Taylor Moton — Western Michigan

4. Cam Robinson — Alabama

5. Antonio Garcia — Troy

6. Adam Bisnowaty — Pittsburgh

7. Zach Banner — USC

8. Conor McDermott — UCLA

9. Erik Magnuson — Michigan

10. Roderick Johnson — Florida State

11. Justin Senior -- Mississippi State

12. Dan Skipper — Arkansas

I’ve been a big Rammer fan all year and he remains my #1 offensive tackle due to his great technique and his powerful hands. It doesn’t hurt that he comes from an offensive linemen factory! Bolles is a close 2nd and should be an instant starter. Moton and Robinson are two day 2 picks who could start early on, but must undergo some technique changes. Garcia is a project with a high ceiling and Bisnowaty looks like a solid career backup with limited starter potential. Banner is a massive man but has a high ceiling and a low floor. The rest look like solid backups, with most possessing pro-style offense experience, which will make their transition to the NFL a little easier. This is a weak class.

Offensive Guards/Centers

1. Forrest Lamp (OG) — Western Kentucky

2. Pat Elflein (C/OG) — Ohio State

3. Dan Feeney (OG) — Indiana

4. Ethan Pocic (C) — LSU

5. Dion Dawkins (OG) — Temple

6. Dorian Johnson (OG) — Pittsburgh

7. Damien Mama (OG) — USC

8. Tyler Orlosky (C) -- West Virginia

9. Kyle Kalis (OG) — Michigan

10. Kyle Fuller (OG) Baylor

11. Isaac Asiata (OG) — Utah

12. Danny Isidora (OG) — Miami (Fla.)

While there are some players I really like, this is also a weak class. Lamp is at the top of class due to his versatility. Elflein is very technically sound and is a bull inside. Feeney is a great phone-booth guard, but I believe he lacks the athleticism to be effective on pulls and struggles to block in space. For those reasons, he looks to be a day 2 pick. Pocic is a lengthy center (which is actually a bad thing unless that player has great knee bend and hand placement, which Pocic does not necessarily have) but he held his own at the Senior Bowl and in the SEC, so he should be a nice career in the NFL. Dawkins and Johnson are two day 2 guards that possess starter potential in the future. The rest of the class is filled with career backups, with only Orlosky looking like a potential future starter.

Edge Defenders

1. Myles Garrett — Texas A&M

2. Soloman Thomas — Stanford

3. Takkarist McKinley -- UCLA

4. Carl Lawson — Auburn

5. Charles Harris — Missouri

6. Derek Barnett — Tennessee

7. T.J. Watt — Wisconsin

8. Taco Charlton — Michigan

9. Tim Williams — Alabama

10. Jordan Willis — Kansas State

11. Ryan Anderson — Alabama

12. Derek Rivers -- Youngstown State

This is the best edge defender class I’ve ever scouted. Garrett and Thomas look like two day 1 impact players with very bright futures. There’s a bit of a drop off after Thomas, but McKinley looks like a solid 1st round pick. He does, however, possess some injury risk which will scare off some teams. Lawson is super talented and by many standards, is underrated. He does, like McKinley, possess an injury risk (more severe than McKinley) that will scare off some teams. Harris and Barnett are two productive players who should serve in complimentary roles, but lack the explosiveness to be true game changers in the NFL. Watt and Taco follow those two, and I see a lot of similarities in both of their games. Watt is slightly more athletic and explosive, so he gets the nod. Williams is the 5th most talented edge defender, but his off-the-field issues push him down the board. I learnt my lesson with Randy Gregory a couple of years ago. Willis, Anderson and Rivers round out the class and should be solid day 2 selections.

Interior Defensive Linemen

1. Jonathan Allen — Alabama

2. Malik McDowell — Michigan State

3. Dalvin Tomlinson — Alabama

4. Chris Wormley — Michigan

5. Carlos Watkins — Clemson

6. Jaleel Johnson — Iowa

7. Caleb Brantley — Florida

8. Montravius Adams — Auburn

9. Elijah Qualls — Washington

10. Eddie Vanderdoes -- UCLA

11. Ryan Glasgow — Michigan

12. Larry Ogunjobi — Charlotte

Jon Allen and McDowell are two solid top 12 picks/players and possess the ability to be dynamic impact players early on. Tomlinson is one of my favourite defensive players and could be a round 1 sleeper (as seen in my Mock Draft). Wormley and Watkins are two very good players with high motors. Jaleel Johnson is a very technically sound player with great hand placement. Brantley is currently my #7 defensive tackle, but to be completely honest, after his assault, I have no idea where he’ll end up. Adams, Qualls and Vanderdoes are three day 2 picks who have bright futures in the NFL if they end up in the right system with the right coaches. Glasgow and Ogunjobi are two day 3 players with very good upside, especially Ogunjobi. All in all, this is a solid but not special class.

Off-Ball Linebackers

1. Reuben Foster — Alabama

2. Haason Reddick — Temple

3. Jarrad Davis — Florida

4. Raekwon McMillan — Ohio State

5. Zach Cunningham — Vanderbilt

6. Kendell Beckwith — LSU

7. Anthony Walker Jr. — Northwestern

8. Alex Anzalone — Florida

9. Duke Riley — LSU

10. Jayon Brown — UCLA

11. Ben Gedeon — Michigan

12. Vince Biegel — Wisconsin

This is a somewhat weak class, but a few solid players on top propping up the class. Foster is still my #1 linebacker and is a top 10 talent in this year’s draft. I’m not too worried about his off-the-field issues. Reddick is talented and versatile, so he’ll be attractive to a lot of teams. Jarrad Davis is a solid first round player, who can come downhill and fill gaps quickly. McMillan and Cunningham round out the top 5, and after them there is a massive drop off. The rest of the class is filled with good positional players with Anzalone being the only one with good long-term starter potential.

Cornerbacks

1. Marshon Lattimore — Ohio State

2. Quincy Wilson — Florida

3. Sidney Jones — Washington

4. Marlon Humphrey — Alabama

5. Tre’Davious White — LSU

6. Gareon Conley — Ohio State

7. Teez Tabor — Florida

8. Adoree’ Jackson — USC

9. Chidobe Awuzie — Colorado

10. Kevin King — Washington

11. Fabian Moreau — UCLA

12. Rasul Douglas — West Virginia

This is an impressive cornerback class, led by Marshon Lattimore, a game changing cornerback. He is, without a doubt, the best cornerback in this year’s class, with his combination of size and ball skills. Wilson is instinctive and quarterbacks throwing his way had a very low passer rating in 2016 (29.9 rating according to Pro Football Focus). Sidney Jones may be injured, but if he were 100% healthy, he’d be a top 12 pick and would challenge Lattimore for the #1 cornerback spot in this class. Humphrey and White may be different types of players, but both could be late day 1 draft picks. I like Humphrey a bit more due to his physicality and his attitude. Gareon Conley was my #3 cornerback until he was accused of rape. Whether it’s true or not, he falls a few spots as he becomes a risky player to draft. Tabor is not very athletic, compared to the other players in his draft class, but is instinctive and can make plays in coverage. Jackson is versatile and possesses value as an explosive punt returner. He has a high ceiling. Awuzie, King, Moreau and Douglas are all day 2 picks with very high ceiling and they all possess very good size as well.

Safeties

1. Malik Hooker -- Ohio State

2. Jamal Adams — LS

3. Jabrill Peppers — Michigan

4. Budda Baker — Washington

5. John Johnson — Boston College

6. Desmond King — Iowa

7. Obi Melifonwu — Conneticut

8. Justin Evans — Texas A&M

9. Marcus Williams — Utah

10. Marcus Maye — Florida

11. Eddie Jackson — Alabama

12. Delano Hill — Michigan

I love this class! When John Johnson, Desmond King and Marcus Williams are solid day 2 selections, you know it’s a good class. Of course, the class is led by Malik Hooker and Jamaal Adams. Adams is more versatile and in many ways safer, so usually he’d be the one higher in my rankings, but for some reason I love Hooker more. He comes downhill hard and is a strong tackler in the open space. He’s a slightly better athlete than Adams too. I, unlike many analysts, really like Jabrill Peppers and I believe he’ll be a first round pick because of his versatility. Budda Baker looks like a good late 1st round pick who can play as a nickel corner or as a strong safety. Johnson is fantastic in coverage, as he possesses good athleticism and is fluid when turning his hips. King, a converted cornerback, has very good instincts in coverage. Melifonwu, Evans, Williams and Maye are solid day 2 selections with instant starter potential. Jackson should get more love and could sneak into the third round. Hill was overshadowed by Peppers, but is very good in his own right (especially in coverage).