CPGM Features

10 things you need to know about the 2017 NFL Draft

Takkarist McKinley - Photo by Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
10 things you need to know about the 2017 NFL Draft
CPGM Headley

CPGM has been watching tape endlessly trying to evaluate the 2017 NFL Draft Class. After watching every single position group, I have come up with 10 things you need to know before the start of the NFL Draft on the 27th of April. We are almost here guys & gals, so please make sure to review all of our draft content at CouchPotatoGM.com.

 

Here at CPGM we created a quarterback formula many years ago to try and help with answering the question, “Which college quarterback will be effective in making the transition to the pro game?” We have seen many college quarterbacks tear up the NCAA with prolific numbers just to get in the NFL and suck. We took a look at all the successful quarterbacks in the NFL to help us determine what traits they possessed to be so effective at the highest level. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck & Russell Wilson have all had varying degrees of success in the NFL and can be looked at as Top 10 quarterbacks. What do all of them have in common? They played in pro-style college offenses for the most part while taking snaps from under center. Most of them played at least 3 years for their alma maters and they all raised the level of play (of the team) around them. This brings me to the 2017 quarterback class and my statement that we should all get used to the subpar talent coming out due to how most college offensives are structured today. The spread, one read offense, is a thing in college football as teams are getting their most athletic players on the field and simplifying the scheme to get them the ball quickly. There is no more playing under center, being mechanically sound with your drop backs, reading coverages post snap and working through a progression at the collegiate level. Honestly, I can’t blame these college programs because it’s an effective offense that is winning them football games; however, it is not preparing our young signal callers at the next level. The NFL is a whole different ball game as defenses adjust quickly and won’t be fooled by gimmicks.

I am driving the bus and standing tall on my Dalvin Cook projection that he has always been and still is the number 1 running back in the 2017 class. I actually believe he is a better ball carrier than the RB God himself Ezekiel Elliott. Yes, there are concerns with drafting Dalvin Cook that teams might not feel comfortable with and for those reasons he will not be the first back taken in the 2017 NFL Draft. You have all the shoulder issues he has dealt with in his career; mind you he didn’t miss any time on the field due to shoulder injury. He did have some soft tissue injuries which caused him to bow out of some games a little early; mind you I haven’t seen a guy play so effectively with a limp other than Julio Jones. The most puzzling concern many of his detractors are bringing up are his subpar athletic scoring combine numbers, did you all watch his tape? Cook’s 3 year tape at Florida State is ridiculously amazing as he shows plenty athleticism with the rare ability to be patient as a runner, showcase excellent vision, burst through the whole with decisiveness, has the balance and strength to run through contact and the speed to take it to the house within a blink of an eye. I am a strong believer in there is no perfect prospect but Cook is a Top 5 player in the entire draft and will be a difference-maker immediately for a football team. The only issue I have personally with Dalvin is his lack of concentration when he is trying to make a play. He fumbled too often for my liking and dropped some passes looking ahead before corralling the football.

I’ve been hearing some chatter about Mike Williams for a while now that his game will not translate to the next level due to his inability to separate from defenders. I call bull niyee on that thought because I’ve seen Williams regularly separate from defenders on quick slants, posts and corner routes. You might think he doesn’t separate due to Clemson and Deshaun Watson drawing up back shoulder passes and goal line fades to the big bodied receiver often, however this is the case due to his supreme ability to attack the football at its highest point. The rare ability to win those 50/50 balls in my opinion is what makes good receivers great at the next level. Let’s take a guy like Dez Bryant for example who often times gets the same criticism of not separating. Dez wins with physicality early in the route and then wins again with having the ball skills to jump over or through opposing corner backs. Williams offers a big catch radius that any quarterback will love to have as he can win early and win late like a Bryant. You can’t teach size, the aforementioned catch radius or ball skills and Williams possess all 3 traits in abundance. The bull I called with Williams, I am doubling down with the same bull niyee on the Corey Davis critics who will not list him in their Top 5 because he didn’t test in the combine or pro day due to injury. In that case why have them play the games? Let’s just let them work out and make our decision based on a 40 time and athletic drills with no pads on. Davis albeit playing at Central Michigan against lesser competition, dominated that competition while showcasing precise route running with yards after the catch ability. I am not sure what his 40 time would have been but I honestly don’t think it matters as Davis wins with his footwork, excellent hands and play making ability once he gets his hands on the football. These are the two best receivers in the class and are in their own tier, tier 1 baby. Oh yea I love John Ross too, he can get in this tier as well.

How does the best tight end prospect to enter the NFL Draft in quite some time only have 114 catches in 4 seasons with Alabama? That is less than a 30 catch clip per season. We at CPGM have used the phrase “criminally underused” in Nick Saban’s offense as he was asked to be a blocker far too often than not. Can’t really complain about the success Alabama has had over the last decade, but I don’t think Bama used Howard’s dynamic receiving skill set enough and often times gave him a shovel pass to gratify him. The NFL will draw up plays by getting him downfield to create mismatches against linebackers and safeties. Honestly, I can’t think of a college football team that has really implemented a tight end as a downfield mismatch playmaker like the Redskins do with Jordan Reed, the Patriots with Rob Gronkowski or like the Panthers do with Greg Olsen. This brings me to the rest of the class whether it is Bucky Hodges lining up at outside receiver instead of playing the slot; Evan Engram running predominately 5-yard curls, 5-yard in-routes or 5-yard out patterns instead of creating schemes that match him up against less athletic players, the tight end position hasn’t evolved at the collegiate level. This is one of the best tight end classes in a while and I believe a lot of these guys will be better pro players than college players.

College football is must watch TV and I thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere, the energy and the passion these players and fans have for the game, but like I mentioned above for the quarterback position it does a disservice to future NFL offensive lineman. How can you get in the NFL and be a productive pass blocker when in college you are only asked to block for maybe a second as quarterbacks are getting the football out quickly to the receiver in a 4-man bunch towards the sideline. If they decide to run the football, it’s in a spread zone read scheme which doesn’t require much technique and fundamentals to execute. It has gotten so bad that you have many offensive linemen who come into the league that have never been in a three-point stance or been in a huddle. I know there are other factors which has led to the decline of the offensive line position such as a microcosm of bad quarterbacks who can’t get through their reads and the lack of contact NFL teams are allowed in practices under the new CBA. But at the end of the day ALL the factors above have caused the demise of the position.

Last month I completed my Mock Draft 2.0 on the players I would select if I were the GM for all 32 teams. First, I would like to say that doing a mock draft is hard work as many players who deserve to be in the first round drop down your draft and secondly I noticed that 22 of the 32 players in my first round were defensive players. Not that surprising to have more defensive players as the defensive talent is superior to the offensive side of the ball, but I didn’t expect such a wide disparity. The quarterback position is missing that blue chip quarterback, the offensive line position group is missing quality offensive tackles and the wide receiver position has hidden gems that will come off the board in Day 2. Add the devaluation of the RB position and you have yourself a predominantly defensive first round. I expect 10 defensive linemen/edge rushers to come off the board in the first round and 10 more defensive backs including 3 safeties in a loaded class. You know the saying, defense wins championships.

It seems like all the good interior defensive linemen came out in the 2016 NFL Draft. Some of the few standouts from that deep class were Sheldon Rankins, Kenny Clark, Robert Nkemdiche, Vernon Butler, Chris Jones, Austin Johnson, A’Shawn Robinson, Adolphus Washington, Javon Hargrave & Sheldon Day. Looking at this year’s class of true interior players, the respective depth pales in comparison to the 2016. Even the guys that will make their money rushing the quarterback from the interior like Jonathan Allen, Solomon Thomas, Malik McDowell & DeMarcus Walker can and will play defensive end for stretches of plays on the field. All the talent is on the edge starting with who should be the number 1 pick, Myles Garrett. Count those 4 above hybrid players who can play inside or the edge along with Derek Barnett, Taco Charlton, Takk McKinley, Tarell Basham, Tim Williams, Charles Harris, Ryan Anderson, Tyus Bowser, Carl Lawson & Jordan Willis and you have a very strong edge rushing class. The talent just doesn’t stop in the first 2 days of the draft however as there are a handful of pass rushers who will be great Day 3 gems.

The NFL game has turned into a passing league as fantasy football enthusiasts and fans who love points are thoroughly entertained every Sunday. This passer friendly NFL has made certain positions on the field more en vogue which in turn makes them the most money in the game. The quarterback position is King. The wide receiver position is at an all-time high with rookies coming into the league putting up numbers. The offensive tackle position is paid top dollar to protect the King. The pass rushers on the edge are highly valued because they get to the quarterback. The cornerback position has to cover those dynamic receivers. This change or turn in the way the game is played leaves the other positions de-valued including the running back, interior offensive linemen, safeties and linebackers who are not rushing the quarterback from the edge. With all that said I really like 4 off the ball linebackers in this class, 3 of them (Foster, Reddick & Davis) should be first round picks while Riley is my sleeper of the bunch who can outperform his draft value immediately at the next level. I love the way the former LSU product diagnoses and deciphers plays immediately and the speed he flashes covering ground to get to the ball carrier. Also he will not be a liability in passing situations as he opens his hips to run very fluidly which will help him cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. He is the next guy up from that LSU tree which included Kwon Alexander & Deion Jones in the last two years. After those 4 guys the next tier includes Zach Cunningham, Raekwon McMillan, and a guy who is listed as an edge but I believe will be a better off the ball linebacker, T.J. Watt.

Another deep position class in the 2017 NFL Draft is at cornerback. There seems to have been a trend of receiver classes being so much more dominant than their counterpart corner class over the last couple of seasons, but this season the tables have turned. College programs are putting more emphasis on putting their best athletes on the outside to cover receivers and developing their tools to combat against these spread offenses. This concentration is coming into fruition with the 2017 cornerback class. Even with injuries to Sidney Jones who was a guaranteed first round pick and Fabian Moreau who was a borderline first round guy, there are still around 8 corners that can be selected in the first round including the “Don DaDa” himself Marshon Lattimore. No disrespect to any corners in the draft but the gap between Lattimore and everyone else is not as close as some are making out to be. The next best corner can range from a healthy Jones, Lattiore’s teammate Gareon Conley, Tre’Davious White or Quincy Wilson but none of those talented guys can carry Lattimore’s luggage. Lattimore is the best corner to come out in some time now as his fluidness on the field mirroring opposing receivers is a thing of beauty. The footwork coupled with his instincts and ball skills makes him a complete player who is worthy of being drafted second behind Garrett. There are some soft tissue injury concerns with Lattimore which is a fair indictment but just by judging the talent on the field he is best thing to come out of the draft since Patrick Peterson.

I am a strong advocate in wanting the players and grading a player highly who are at their best at the moment of truth. The moment of truth on a football field is when the ball is in the air and you have two or more players battling to come down with the football. Some players fold up while the great ones always seem to make the play. There is nothing more frustrating than having a defensive back do everything correct in coverage and then fail to get their head around to locate the football. Usually one of two things will occur, either you will get called for pass interference for a boat load of yards because receivers are skilled in drawing contact or you are just going to end up getting done and looking foolish on the play. So to have a defensive back, especially a safety who has the instincts and ball skills at the moment of truth, sign me up every single day for that guy. This is who Malik Hooker is and this is the reason why he needs more respect on his name. People have questioned his tacking and the angles he takes coming downhill towards the ball carrier but I think it’s overblown criticism because I’ve seen him hold up in those positions just fine at Ohio State. What Hooker has is a rare talent you haven’t seen since consistently since the days of Ed Reed. The future Hall of Fame safety wasn’t the best tackling safety like a Troy Polamalu but what he had was elite range and ball skills that opposing teams and quarterbacks feared. So although I get the Jamal Adams hype in terms of him being a leader and alpha dog on the football field, Adams’ skillset is more attainable to fill in the NFL than it is to find a dynamic safety like Hooker who can locate the football, shine at the moment of truth and take it 6 the other way.

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