There are two types of people who will tell you that they know what’s going to happen in this year’s NFL draft: Liars and people who have their head so far up their own ass that they can see the spots on their molars that they missed while brushing.
Even the one thing about this class that everyone seemed to agree on — that Myles Garrett would be the number one overall pick — took a hit on Tuesday after a report came out that the Cleveland Browns were struggling to come to an agreement between him and Mitch Trubisky. I think that is also one report we can call total bullshit on, but that would undermine the entire point of this article:
Nobody knows anything. Even the idea of the Browns taking Trubisky over Garrett might sound ludicrous to you and me right now, but so did the idea of taking Mario Williams over Reggie Bush back in 2006. Seems obvious now, but I distinctly remember the theme for the worst teams in the 2005 NFL season being called, “The Reggie Bush Sweepstakes.” I mean, in 2005, Aaron Rodgers went from being mocked to the San Francisco 49ers at number one on draft day morning to falling to pick 22.
This is going to be one of those years where phrases like “Unbelievable,” “Shocking,” and “Nobody saw this coming” will be used on ESPN and NFL Network to the point of the words carrying no meaning at all. Like saying “champagne” a dozen times in a row and then questioning whether that’s even a real word or not. “There’s a g in it? Really?”
Let’s recap how damn confusing this class is.
Start where everyone else does: The quarterbacks. This class does not include a clear-cut number one like some recent classes had with Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, and Andrew Luck, nor does it even have a “probable number one” like Jameis Winston or Jared Goff. Not only do the top two (Trubisky, Deshaun Watson) interchange a bunch on different people’s lists, but the number three and four (DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes, not in any order of course) do as well, and will sometimes be listed as better than the one and the two. Even Davis Webb was called a “first round pick” by Ian Rapoport today. However, some mock drafts have four quarterbacks going in the first round, and some mock drafts have none.
If you’re going to tell me that you know for a fact that one way is right and one way is wrong, I’d like to know your sources and you should probably have at least 32 of them.
It seems like there is a chance that something could happen that was similar to the 2016 class, where Goff and Carson Wentz didn’t honestly seem that special but teams forced themselves into believing they were. That is something that could happen with Watson and Trubisky. (See how I flipped ‘em there?) But it could also be a year like 2013, when senses hit NFL teams and EJ Manuel was the first QB off the board at 16 and Geno Smith was next at 39. Not that Watson, Trubisky, Mahomes, Kizer, and Webb will all fail like those quarterbacks did, or that a team would be completely stupid for taking one really early (Watson would be my cup of tea, but there are concerns for all of them that are bigger than you typically see for a top-5 QB), the point is just that we have no idea.
And if the 49ers love a QB in this draft, at least one at number two, they sure as hell aren’t showing it. John Lynch confirmed on Wednesday that they are listening to offers for the pick, and if a team is moving up for a QB, why is that player not a “must have” for Lynch?
Any team trading up to 2 for a QB should really be questioning why Kyle Shanahan isn't interested in these QBs for San Fran https://t.co/FoQlacxAE0— Field Gulls (@FieldGulls) April 12, 2017
Which brings us to another point that goes in another direction from just not having any idea what order many positions are ranked in, which is that there is no clear-cut number two after Garrett.
Solomon Thomas, Trubisky, Watson, Leonard Fournette, Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, Jonathan Allen, and Jamal Adams could all reasonably land there. Thomas is the one most often mocked to San Francisco, and he’s a guy who wasn’t really being talked about until January. Still, you get the second pick of the draft and already there’s eight different directions you could go in and make a good argument for, I think. I’m gullible though, so maybe it’s just me.
How about Fournette and the running back class? I think Fournette is definitely the best back in this class, if not the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, but arguments are made for Dalvin Cook, as well. Either way, once you get past Fournette, you get to Cook, Christian McCaffrey, D’Onta Foreman, Alvin Kamara, and Joe Mixon. How many of those guys go in the first round? What was once considered a transcendent running backs class now seems hard to get a read on. There’s been talk of McCaffrey being a huge riser and getting into the top 10, there’s also the idea that he will fall out of the top 20. Where does that leave Cook? Does Mixon fall out of day two or does a team push the off-field stuff to the side and draft him in the second round? Kamara is such a great athlete, where should he go? And isn’t Toledo’s Kareem Hunt super fascinating? Let’s not forget that a player who once rushed for a record 427 yards in a single game (Samaje Perine) and the NCAA’s all-time leader in career rushing yards (Donnel Pumphrey) could be going somewhere on day three.
As far as the receivers go, John Ross, Corey Davis, and Mike Williams are mentioned as the only first rounders usually, but they could go in any order. Literally any of the three could be mentioned as top 10 picks, but also sometimes they’ll fall into the 20s. Ross seems like a rare enough talent to maybe even go in the top five, but some people would argue that he’s clearly always going to be a step behind Davis and Williams because of his size. Who knows.
(Not you or me, that’s the point.)
The safety class is headed by an ongoing debate between Hooker and Adams, but most agree that a team will do fine with either. Jabrill Peppers and Obi Melifonwu on the other hand are all over the board, with Melifonwu — a safety from non-football-school UConn — probably even surpassing Peppers, who finished fifth in Heisman voting. I think both also end up in the first round, but could also land anywhere from like 12 to 32.
Lattimore heads the cornerbacks class (for most), but I think is closely followed by teammate Gareon Conley, Marlon Humphrey, and the fast-rising Kevin King. (“Fast rising” by the standards of ... who the fuck knows.) Sidney Jones, Adoree’ Jackson, Tre’Davious White could all be there in round one, and I’m sure people will make arguments for or against Jalen Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Fabian Moreau. I mean, I’m still slotting Jones as a potential first round pick despite his torn Achilles because I think he’ll recover and be fine by 2018, so if he was a top-15 pick before the injury, shouldn’t he still be a top-32 pick if he’s likely to recover, but opinions on that are entirely mixed and shrouded in mystery.
There are only three offensive tackles regularly mentioned for the first round: Cam Robinson, Ryan Ramczyk, and Garett Bolles. From my understanding, Bolles is the best of these three, by far, and potentially destined to be a high-end right tackle and at least an above-average left tackle. From many other’s understanding, that guy is Robinson. For some, it’s Ramczyk. I’d argue for Bolles in the top 10, Mel Kiper recently didn’t have him in the first round. Forrest Lamp is the only guard usually mentioned for round one, and though it might sound insane to say “Lamp could go top-7,” I don’t think it’s crazier than Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper once gaining that status.
And then the big dudes lined up on the other side ...
Solomon Thomas may stand out as a top-three pick to most people, but WalterFootball is still calling him the fourth-best defensive end in the draft and someone who they think could fall to the second round.
3/11/17: As expected, Thomas had a good workout at the combine. NFL teams aren't as high on Thomas the media though. In speaking with sources from seven different teams, six of them thought that Thomas is more of a mid- to late first-round pick. The issue that is coming up the most with Thomas is that many teams feel has tweener size with his best fit coming as an end in a 4-3 defense, although he lacks length for that position. Teams that run a 3-4 don't see a great fit for him.
And yeah, I get it, what does “Walter” know? How good are these sources really? I think you can look and find some really incorrect things that WalterFootball has reported in the past, but also ... maybe this report isn’t incorrect. I’m open to the possibility if only because, have we never seen a supposed top-five pick fall to the second round? Myles Jack made the confession about his degenerative knee condition at the very end of last April. At that point, he was considered a top five pick. He ended up going 36th overall. Yes, that slide may have required a very serious nudge by Jack’s knee, but who is to say that Walter’s rumor doesn’t get reported on by Adam Schefter tomorrow?
Some other recent “slides” from “projected top 10” to the back half of the first round or later include Johnny Manziel, Bud Dupree, Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, Sharrif Floyd, and Prince Amukamara. Nassib was projected by a lot of people as a top-10 pick, including Todd McShay, and he went 110th.
Now, if you asked me how certain I am that Solomon Thomas will be a top-five pick, today I would probably say “90 percent.” (Knowing full well that I don’t actually know shit but I’m comfortable trusting the vast majority of reports.) It only takes a single report from a reputable source to snowball all the other sources though; it would have sounded ludicrous two weeks ago to say that McCaffrey will be a top-10 pick but that has also gained steam and is being echoed more and more, so if he does go in the top 10, it won’t be as surprising. But if he doesn’t, it could be a “fall” even though him going really high was basically new information.
Okay, so back to the defensive ends as a group: Garrett is universally considered the top pass rusher and top player overall, and Thomas is generally thought to be number two, but after that it gets muddled. Taco Charlton, Derek Barnett, Takk McKinley, Charles Harris, Malik McDowell, and Tim Williams are also talked about a lot. Jonathan Allen (possibly a DT) is talked about in the top five, but like Jack, could “see his stock drop” dramatically before the draft because of concerns with his shoulder. If Haason Reddick is a defensive end (he could be a DE or a linebacker), then he’s also going to slide in there somewhere, with some loving enough for the top eight, and others still seeing him in the back end of round one. Charlton, Barnett, Harris, McKinley, McDowell, and Williams do not have a set order or ranking whatsoever. I think Barnett would definitely be ranked ahead of Williams for most, as one example, but there’s still a lot of guessing going on.
Nobody had Bruce Irvin ranked ahead of Quinton Coples in 2012, or even thought it was a possibility, but he went 15th and Coples went 16th.
Tight ends remain interesting as well because O.J. Howard has been pegged by plenty of people as a top eight pick, while others still don’t think a tight end should go that high, especially in a class that is supremely athletic. Howard may be the only tight end that everyone has “locked in” for the first round, but David Njoku and Evan Engram get their mentions too. Maybe teams wait for day two, where Jake Butt, George Kittle, Gerald Everett, Adam Shaheen, Bucky Hodges, Jonnu Smith, and more await. Or perhaps there’s a “crazy run” on tight ends in the first. Number one is clear, number two is fairly clear (but not super clear) and then it’s a lot of names that could go in many orders.
At inside linebacker, Rueben Foster seems a fair bet to be the top prospect there, and could be a top-12 pick, though there are a number of interesting names behind him. (We think they are behind him, at least.) Zach Cunningham, Jarrad Davis, T.J. Watt, Raekwon McMillan, Tyus Bowser (some of these may be OLB), are all there too. Cunningham over Davis? Watt over Bowser? I think arguments could honestly go either way for a lot of these matchups. Bowser has been hitting the very back of the first round in a lot of write-ups recently, while Davis may actually work his way up to the top 15 as a “shocking” move by some, but not to the team that drafts him.
I haven’t covered defensive tackles, but that’s probably because there isn’t a solid first round pick who is a pure DT or NT — that we know of, at least. Caleb Brantley may be the only one, Allen and McDowell and Chris Wormley could play at multiple positions along the defensive line.
And that’s what we’re left with, which is a class that might include as many as 50 players who could hear their names called on day one, and perhaps 25 or so of those with a legit first round grade, but then out of those, a good number of whom who are going to have a few respected analysts who vehemently disagree with their draft position. Is that a run-on sentence? No, I just had 50 words with a first round sentence grade.