With Thursday’s 2018 NFL Draft quickly approaching, it got me to thinking back towards last year’s event. During this week of draft coverage that I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing my best to abstain from going into too much depth over the 2017 class because we just don’t know what we have with each player as of yet. In 2016, Jared Goff, who was taken #1 overall by the Rams, was looking like a colossal bust. He didn’t win a single game as a rookie and he looked totally overwhelmed by NFL competition. Enter a new head coach in Sean McVay and Goff became one of the NFL’s most efficient quarterbacks and helped lead the Rams to a division title. There’s also Robert Griffin III in 2012. He set the league on fire as a rookie but a knee injury in the playoffs followed by being rushed back to play before he was ready sapped him of his explosiveness and his weaknesses as a passer were exposed. So quite frankly, we really don’t know what we have in the young stars like Deshaun Watson, Alvin Kamara, and Kareem Hunt or with the unknowns like Mike Williams and John Ross. But let’s take a look at how the first round went last year and see how these guys did and what it means for their futures in the league. The number in parentheses is where they ranked on my Big Board.
1. Cleveland Browns-Myles Garrett-EDGE-Texas A&M (1)
Garrett struggled with injuries as a rookie but when he was on the field, he was a beast. He played 11 games and recorded 7 sacks, including 2 in his first game. If he can stay healthy, he looks like he’s going to be a beast off the edge for the Browns.
2. Chicago Bears (from San Francisco 49ers)-Mitchell Trubisky-QB-North Carolina (19)
Trubisky basically just played like a rookie. He had some good moments but he also made his share of mistakes. He ended up going 4-8 as a starter and threw for 2193 yards with 7 TD’s and 7 picks while completing just 59% of his passes. Not great, but there’s something there with him. He’s getting a new head coach in Matt Nagy, who likes to run RPO’s and we saw how well Nick Foles did with those in the playoffs. He’s also actually getting a supporting cast of receivers, as the Bears signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel in the offseason.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Chicago Bears)-Solomon Thomas-DL-Stanford (5)
Thomas didn’t do a ton as a rookie, but he didn’t really need to. He played 14 games but he started 12 of them and only recorded 3 sacks. He did flash some of the ability that made him the third overall pick, though, and we’ll have to wait and see how he grows in year 2.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars-Leonard Fournette-RB-LSU (3)
Fournette basically did exactly what I expected him to do, which is to be the Jaguars’ bellcow and he was the focal point of their offense. He rushed for 1040 yards with 9 TD’s and while his YPC wasn’t great (3.9), that can be attributed to the fact that he was the only real weapon on Jacksonville’s offense and teams were stacking the box against him.
5. Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)-Corey Davis-WR-Western Michigan (17)
Davis spent much of the season injured and didn’t record his first NFL touchdown until the playoffs against the Patriots, where he had a very impressive game in the Divisional Round. He caught two TD’s and started looking like the receiver we expected him to be.
6. New York Jets-Jamal Adams-S-LSU (2)
Adams immediately became a leader in the Jets’ locker room and was an enforcer on the field. He and fellow 2017 rookie Marcus Maye formed a pretty good safety tandem that should have Jets fans very excited.
7. Los Angeles Chargers-Mike Williams-WR-Clemson (14)
Williams basically did nothing as a rookie. He was limited by injuries, playing 10 games and starting just 1, however he only managed to catch 11 passes for 95 yards and no touchdowns. It’s still early, but this hasn’t been a promising start for the former Clemson star.
8. Carolina Panthers-Christian McCaffrey-RB-Stanford (12)
McCaffrey didn’t put up gaudy rushing stats, as he only ran for 435 yards on 117 carries, but he was utilized far more frequently in the passing game, catching 80 passes for 651 yards. With Jonathan Stewart no longer with the organization, expect an uptick in carries for the former Stanford star.
9. Cincinnati Bengals-John Ross-WR-Washington (23)
Ross, who was famous for posting the fastest 40-yard dash time in Combine history at 4.22, was a nonfactor for the Bengals last season. He played just 3 games due to injury, but even in those games he didn’t amount to anything. He failed to catch a pass and his lone touch was a carry that he fumbled. A pretty poor start to Ross’ career if I do say so myself (and I do).
10. Kansas City Chiefs (from Buffalo Bills)-Pat Mahomes II-QB-Texas Tech (47)
I was not a fan of taking Mahomes in the first round because I felt he had the steepest learning curve of any quarterback in recent memory, coming from Texas Tech. However he landed in the perfect situation in Kansas City and got a chance to make a start in Week 17, leading the Chiefs to a victory over the Broncos. The Chiefs traded Alex Smith so this is Mahomes’ team now. We’ll have to see how he does with it.
11. New Orleans Saints-Marshon Lattimore-CB-Ohio State (7)
One could argue that Lattimore was 2017’s best rookie. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year and is already considered to be one of the top corners in the game, which says a lot considering he had to cover the likes of Julio Jones and Mike Evans twice each.
12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland Browns)-Deshaun Watson-QB-Clemson (26)
People are ripping the Browns for not taking Watson here and trading this pick to the Texans, but to be honest, given how poor they were run last year, I don’t think Watson has the same success in Cleveland that he did in Houston. Before his untimely ACL injury, Watson led the NFL with 19 passing touchdowns and was running away with Offensive Rookie of the Year. He looks like he’s the quarterback of the future for the Texans.
13. Arizona Cardinals-Haason Reddick-EDGE-Temple (9)
Reddick was one of my favorite players in the 2017 class but he didn’t really do much as a rookie. He played in all 16 games but made just 3 starts, recording 2.5 sacks but he did force a couple fumbles. It’s a big step up in competition going from Temple to the NFL so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at this stage.
14. Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)-Derek Barnett-EDGE-Tennessee (13)
Derek Barnett’s stats were okay overall, however a lot of that was due to just how deep the Eagles were at defensive end, as he had to compete with the likes of Brandon Graham, Chris Long, and Vinny Curry for snaps. However Barnett and Graham teamed up to make one of the most critical plays for the Eagles’ first ever Super Bowl win, when Graham strip-sacked Tom Brady and Barnett recovered. He flashed a lot of potential and could be a force for this Eagles defensive line.
15. Indianapolis Colts-Malik Hooker-S-Ohio State (6)
The Colts finally addressed the defense in last year’s draft and Hooker looks like a good pick. I had him as a Top-10 talent but he slipped to pick number 15 and looked like an absolute ballhawk for the Colts. However his season was cut short due to injury but he still managed to rack up 3 picks in just 7 games.
16. Baltimore Ravens-Marlon Humphrey-CB-Alabama (25)
Humphrey got off to a slow start but he really came on by the end of the year. As you can see from the photo above, the Ravens were trusting him to cover the likes of AJ Green with a playoff berth on the line. Humphrey will likely get more opportunities at opponents’ number 1 receivers in due time.
17. Washington Redskins-Jonathan Allen-DL-Alabama (10)
Like Hooker, Allen was a top-10 talent that fell, though this was due to concerns over his shoulder. The concerns were very real, as that shoulder caused him to miss most of his rookie season. However when he was on the field, Allen was absolutely dominant, particularly against the run. Hopefully an offseason of rehab will help him because the Redskins desperately need a run stuffer.
18. Tennessee Titans-Adoree’ Jackson-CB-USC (N/A)
I thought this was a massive reach by the Titans because I had Jackson as a late-second/early-third round pick due to his lack of size but, credit to him he held his own out there. He was a starter from day 1 and with the Titans’ addition of Malcolm Butler, Jackson can kick inside to the slot to face the shiftier receivers, which is where he will be best utilized.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-OJ Howard-TE-Alabama (4)
Howard had an up-and-down rookie season, though he finished it with 432 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not eye-popping by any means, but tight ends typically have the toughest transition to the NFL given how much they’re asked to do nowadays so I’d say watch out for Howard next season.
20. Denver Broncos-Garrett Bolles-OT-Utah (31)
Bolles had one of the sweeter draft moments when he brought his infant daughter on stage with him to greet Roger Goodell when his name was called. Bolles was a Day 1 starter for the Broncos and while he did suffer through injury problems, he was decent when he was on the field. Probably not going to be an All Pro, but he’ll be a more-than-competent tackle for Denver.
21. Detroit Lions-Jarrad Davis-LB-Florida (28)
Eyebrows were raised when the Lions took Davis over Alabama’s Reuben Foster, but given Foster’s legal situation, this looks like the right choice, especially considering how well Davis played as a rookie. He’s a guy Matt Patricia will have a lot of fun with in his first season as a head coach.
22. Miami Dolphins-Charles Harris-EDGE-Missouri (20)
Harris wasn’t much of a factor for the Dolphins as a rookie, playing in all 16 games but registering just 2 sacks. With Cameron Wake already up there in age, now would be a good time for Harris to start showing he was worth the first round selection.
23. New York Giants-Evan Engram-TE-Ole Miss (24)
Engram wasn’t much of a blocker for the Giants but he was an excellent receiver, which is kind of what was expected of him coming out of college. Engram led all rookie tight ends in receiving yards at 722 and also caught 6 touchdowns for the Giants. He looks like a good complimentary piece to ODell Beckham Jr.
24. Oakland Raiders-Gareon Conley-CB-Ohio State (N/A)
This pick was REALLY controversial because Conley had been accused of rape just weeks before the Draft. I had taken him off my board altogether just out of fear of the allegations being true. However the Raiders took Conley anyway and the charges were later dropped. He only played 2 games due to injury but the Raiders must have liked what they saw because he’s currently slated as their #1 corner.
25. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Jabrill Peppers-S-Michigan (18)
Peppers struggled as a rookie but he was also playing at a position that didn’t best utilize his abilities. He was playing a lot of free safety where he has to cover a lot of ground rather than nickel corner where he can chase guys around the field, which is what he’s best at. If the Browns can find a centerfielder-type safety (like Minkah Fitzpatrick), then it would allow Peppers to do what he does best.
26. Atlanta Falcons (from Seattle Seahawks)-Takkarist McKinley-EDGE-UCLA (16)
Takk McKinley got a bit controversial when he got really hyped and passionate after he was selected 26th overall in the Draft, going so far as to drop an F-bomb into Deion Sanders’ mic on live television (which I saw coming a mile away given how much emotion he was showing). I actually found the moment kind of endearing because it shows just how passionate this guy is. He was a situational pass rusher for the Falcons as a rookie and he looked pretty good, registering 6 sacks and forcing 2 fumbles in a limited role. He’s going to have more opportunities this season so watch out for him.
27. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Tre’Davious White-CB-LSU (27)
What a trade by the Bills. They move back from 10 to 27, get an extra first rounder in 2018, and use the pick they do get on Tre’Davious White, who was the highest-graded rookie corner by Pro Football Focus (even higher than Lattimore, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year over him). White has already earned the Bills’ #1 corner job and was a big part in Buffalo making the playoffs for the first time in the 21st century.
28. Dallas Cowboys-Taco Charlton-EDGE-Michigan (44)
Charlton was drafted as an insurance policy in case DeMarcus Lawrence left in free agency after the 2017-18 season. Lawrence got franchise tagged so Charlton will have another year to develop alongside the stud pass rusher. He’ll need it, too, because he was mediocre as a rookie, registering just 3 sacks. He did flash some potential, though, but more work needs to be done.
29. Cleveland Browns (from Green Bay Packers)-David Njoku-TE-Miami (FL) (21)
The Browns traded up with the Packers to land Njoku and while his overall stat line wasn’t that great (32 catches for 386 yards and 4 TD’s), it seemed like every time the Browns popped up on the screen when I was watching NFL Redzone the play somehow involved Njoku. I think he’s primed for a big Year 2.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers-TJ Watt-EDGE-Wisconsin (29)
JJ’s little brother had about as good an NFL debut as you could ask for, recording 2 sacks and registering an interception in his first game. He finished the year with 7 sacks and looks like he’s going to be a stud for the Steelers for some time.
31. San Francisco 49ers (from Seattle Seahawks through Atlanta Falcons)-Reuben Foster-LB-Alabama (8)
This one’s a little tricky. Foster was excellent on the field, however his days with the 49ers may be numbered due to an off-the-field incident. Foster has been accused of domestic violence, where he allegedly punched his girlfriend 8-10 times, which ruptured her ear drum. He was also found in possession of numerous illegal firearms. If convicted, he could face up to 11 years in prison. 49ers GM John Lynch has publicly stated that if Foster is convicted, he will be cut immediately. However they want to wait for the judicial process to conclude because they cut Tramaine Brock before his domestic violence case was over and he was cleared of all charges. But despite great on-field performance, Foster’s NFL career may be in jeopardy if these horrific allegations are true.
32. New Orleans Saints (from New England Patriots)-Ryan Ramczyk-OT-Wisconsin (22)
This is the pick the Saints acquired from the Patriots for Brandin Cooks and it was one of several home runs the Saints had in this draft class. Ramczyk was seen as a raw talent and people were concerned when he had to enter the starting lineup in week one due to an injury to Zach Strief. However he played excellently at right tackle and is going to start there for the foreseeable future for New Orleans.
So that’s how the first round played out last year. Injuries played a factor for a lot of these guys but you cannot deny they showed a lot of ability. Not a lot of guys who are already looking like busts (Mike Williams and John Ross are the only guys that I can really consider to be in danger of falling into that category). Of course, two of the biggest talents in this class, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt, went in the third round. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the 2018 class. Of course, you can get your next-day coverage here at Wyman’s Sports. Let me know what you think of the 2017 Draft Class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.