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2017 NFL Mock Draft: Latest 1st-Round Projections for Boom-or-Bust Prospects

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2017

Patrick Mahomes II leads the way when it comes to boom-or-bust prospects.
Patrick Mahomes II leads the way when it comes to boom-or-bust prospects.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Risk defines each pick in an NFL draft. 

Sometimes a team gets a Trent Richardson. Other times, it's a Jordan Howard.

Running back is an example of the downright unexpected happening. The transition to the pros isn't the hardest, and offensive fit isn't a major ordeal, which is what makes Richardson one of the bigger busts in recent history so perplexing.

A finer line surrounds other positions. Schematic fit, usage and talent around a rookie can decide whether he booms or busts. Coaching itself plays a major role, too.

A boom-or-bust prospect is just that—depending on seemingly countless variables, certain prospects will either put on a show at the pro level or fall off fast with little between the two extremes.

Here's a look at a few of the notable guys who fall under this classification after making the cut in an updated mock.

        

2017 Draft Order and Projections

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PickTeamSelection
1Cleveland BrownsMyles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2San Francisco 49ersMitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
3Chicago BearsDeshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
4Jacksonville JaguarsLeonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5Tennessee Titans (from Rams)Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
6New York JetsSolomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
7Los Angeles ChargersJamal Adams, S, LSU
8Carolina PanthersMalik Hooker, S, Ohio State
9Cincinnati BengalsDerek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
10Buffalo BillsMarshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
11New Orleans SaintsReuben Foster, LB, Alabama
12Cleveland Browns (from Eagles)O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
13Arizona CardinalsDeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
14Philadelphia Eagles (from Vikings)Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
15Indianapolis ColtsJonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
16Baltimore RavensMike Williams, WR, Clemson
17Washington RedskinsJohn Ross, WR, Washington
18Tennessee TitansMarlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersQuincy Wilson, CB, Florida
20Denver BroncosGarett Bolles , OT, Utah
21Detroit LionsTakkarist McKinley, OLB/DE, UCLA
22Miami DolphinsMalik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
23New York GiantsHaason Reddick, LB, Temple
24Oakland RaidersFabian Moreau, CB, UCLA
25Houston TexansPatrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
26Seattle SeahawksCam Robinson, OT, Alabama
27Kansas City ChiefsDan Feeney, OG, Indiana
28Dallas CowboysKevin King, CB, Washington
29Green Bay PackersForrest Lamp, G, Western Kentucky
30Pittsburgh SteelersDavid Njoku, TE, Miami
31Atlanta FalconsCaleb Brantley, DT, Florida
32New Orleans Saints (from Patriots)Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
Author's projections.

      

Projections for Boom-or-Bust Prospects 

Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State

Malik McDowell's motor continues to come into question.
Malik McDowell's motor continues to come into question.Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Questioning a player's effort or motor is always shaky ground to stand on for those who weren't in the huddle with a guy or coaching him up. 

Alas, such is one of the main stories around Michigan State's Malik McDowell. On paper, he has the upside to perhaps be the best defensive player to come out of this draft.

On paper.

McDowell is 6'6" and 295 pounds with a scheme-independent skill set. That means he's one of those guys no coach should have a problem implementing. If they can't, they probably shouldn't be coaching at the pro level, as "fit" isn't a thing.

The only question is the motivation. Look at what an NFC scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein: "He has a chance to be a dominant player in our league. I mean dominant. It hasn't turned on for him all the way yet but if it does, he could be like Mario Williams. He's just a little lazy and I worry about whether he is going to be a self-starter."

Some scouts also panned McDowell's interviews at the combine, according to Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm. It sounds harsh, but it rings true. There are times on film where McDowell is simply another guy. 

When McDowell is on, though, he's unstoppable. He can play on the edge or kick inside and has the power to stand up the running game. He lands with the Miami Dolphins in the above mock, a stable environment where he'll get to play alongside Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh and others, perhaps helping him lean more toward boom than bust.

     

Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech

Patrick Mahomes II physically has everything a team could want.
Patrick Mahomes II physically has everything a team could want.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Want a risky quarterback who gambles on the field in the same vein as Jay Cutler or Matthew Stafford?

Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes II is the way to go.

Based on that description alone, it's clear Mahomes might have more upside than any other quarterback in the class.

It rings true on film. He's 6'2" and 225 pounds with a strong arm and has improved every year, which isn't what the majority of draft hopefuls can say. Numbers produced aren't really important as a scouting metric, but his completion percentage climbing each year and scoring double-digit rushing touchdowns in each of his final two years says a lot.

The biggest problem for Mahomes, other than coming from Texas Tech's passer-friendly scheme, is mechanics. They were a mess in college even though he put up solid numbers, so coaches won't necessarily look to iron out the issues. But they're something that could flare up at the wrong times at the pro level.

Pro Football Focus' conclusion summed up the good and bad on the nose:

His arm is as good as any quarterback in the NFL playing right now. The natural passing instincts as far as sliding and feeling pass-rushers in the pocket, to seeing in front of the throw and adjusting to the type of throw needed, is special. His lack of discipline in the pocket with footwork, bailing on clean pockets, and decision making is a big concern.

A developmental prospect like Mahomes will be attractive to the Houston Texans near the end of the first round.

It's a great fit, provided the Texans don't force him to start as a rookie. Head coach Bill O'Brien is a quarterback guru, and when he does eventually take the field, Mahomes will have guys like Lamar Miller, Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins to lean on—potentially helping him boom.

    

Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut

Fit will decide how Obi Melifonwu pans out.
Fit will decide how Obi Melifonwu pans out.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

This year's big safety who may or may not pan out at the pro level is Obi Melifonwu.

Make no mistake, Jabrill Peppers is the posterboy for boom-or-bust safeties this year, but his sheer lack of experience at the spot has him falling out of the first round in the above mock.

Not Melifonwu.

He measures at 6'4" and 224 pounds, yet blazed a 4.40 40-yard dash at the combine. The problem is coverage skills, as Melifonwu is better suited as a sideline-to-sideline enforcer near the line of scrimmage.

Make no mistake—this isn't a bad thing. Look at the comparison NFL.com's Bucky Brooks throws out there:

He has all of the physical tools that teams covet in an enforcer between the hashes and I can see him thriving in a Kam Chancellor-like role as a pro. Considering how the perennial Pro Bowl safety has made an impact in the Legion of Boom, Melifonwu should receive high marks for his long-term potential at the position.

Again, it all hinges on fit for a player like this. If a team in a pass-happy division drafts Melifonwu to play deep every down, forget it.

If a team like the New Orleans Saints in the mock above gobbles him up with an extra pick and plays him to his strengths, both parties win in a big way. In New Orleans, Melifonwu can provide a foundation building block while succeeding in his defined role.

      

Stats courtesy of NFL.com. All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus.  

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