2017 NFL Draft: 25 Predictions with Under a Month to Go

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystApril 7, 2017

2017 NFL Draft: 25 Predictions with Under a Month to Go

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    JASON DECROW/Associated Press

    The NFL draft never goes according to plan. The moment one team zigs and does something unexpected, the rest of the league zags.

    Projections go off the rails the second a trade occurs, and draft-day movement regularly happens.

    Organizations prepare as thoroughly as possible, working through months of what-if scenarios. But not every move can be foreseen.

    With that in mind, multiple moves appear possible once the draft begins. Some are more likely than others, but an untold number of possibilities exist.

    Below are 25 predictions bound to happen—OK, that might happen—during the 2017 NFL draft.

Seattle Seahawks Part Ways with Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    Let's start with a bang.

    The Seattle Seahawks hold two key bargaining chips on the trade market, and the organization is open to the possibilities of moving cornerback Richard Sherman and running back Marshawn Lynch. The team should take advantage of both situations with a pair of draft-day trades.

    First, the organization appears ready to move past Sherman even though he's been named to the past four Pro Bowls. Sherman turns 30 years old next year, and his salary-cap hit is over $13 million in each of the next two seasons, per Spotrac. According to ESPN.com's Adam Schefter, Sherman initiated the trade discussion.

    This year's secondary class is extremely deep and serves as the perfect opportunity to make a move by gaining a valuable asset in return for Sherman, while adding a cornerback via a draft pick.

    "What you've seen lately in the news is real," general manager John Schneider said Wednesday in an interview on 710 AM ESPN. "That's on both sides."

    Meanwhile, the Seahawks still own the rights to Lynch. The Oakland native is ready to come out of retirement to play for his hometown Raiders, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Instead of releasing him, Seattle can add an extra draft pick for his services.

    By waiting until the draft, Seattle maximizes the value of both players if multiple teams are interested or pressured to make something happen. There's no reason to keep either, especially if both want to play elsewhere.

New York Jets Trade Defensive Lineman Sheldon Richardson

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    A pair of former Seattle Seahawks won't be the only former Pro Bowl players on the move.

    Defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson has likely played his last game with the New York Jets. Richardson wore out his welcome with the organization and current coaching staff despite being the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

    The Jets have been trying to move Richardson since last year's trade deadline. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Clarence E. Hill Jr., the Jets wanted a first-round pick in return. No team was interested at the time.

    Considering Richardson's history with two previous league suspensions, an $8 million cap hit in 2017 and looming contract negotiations, no team will consider the Jets' previous asking price. The draft tends to spur movement. Once the Jets' demands decrease, a trade can and will occur.

New England Patriots Find a Way to Select Somewhere in First Two Rounds

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots aren't finished wheeling and dealing this offseason.

    After trading for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and defensive end Kony Ealy, Bill Belichick and Co. are without first- and second-round selections.

    According to NESN's Doug Kyed, the latest the Patriots selected their first player in the draft during the Belichick era came last year when the organization chose Cyrus Jones with the 60th overall pick.

    The Patriots aren't scheduled to make a pick in the 2017 NFL draft until 72nd overall. However, New England manipulates the draft to its liking better than any other organization.

    The team also has an important trade chip in restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler. The Patriots can exercise a sign-and-trade deal with any team interested in the talented defensive back.

    Whether Butler is shipped elsewhere or the Patriots target a talent earlier in the draft and trade up, the odds New England waits until the 72nd pick to make a selection are slim to none.

Cleveland Browns Continue to Build Draft Capital

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns need to appear on an episode of Hoarders with the way the organization likes to acquire draft picks. The franchise prefers quantity over quality.

    A year ago, Cleveland traded out of the second overall pick even though a potential franchise quarterback was staring the quarterback-desperate franchise square in the face. The team didn't feel Carson Wentz was the answer, though. Acquiring more draft picks was.

    The team finished the 2016 NFL draft with 14 draft selections, which tied the record for most picks in the modern draft era.

    Cleveland has 11 more draft picks to play with this year, including five in the first 65 selections. The organization has already amassed 11 picks for the 2018 draft too. Chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta explained the team's approach, per The MMQB's Peter King:

    We've looked ourselves in the mirror and said, "Do we think that we are actually superhuman when it comes to picking players?" And we pretty easily answered that with a resounding no. So how are we going to increase our chances? We need to have more picks. So, if we have the same number of picks every year as everyone else, we don't expect do better than anyone else.

    The logic is simple: More picks equal more opportunities to strike big on a player. The Browns have been a talent-deficient team for a long time, so they're going to continue to maximize their draft capital while adding more to their coffers when the opportunity arises.

Fewer Than 10 First-Round Draft Trades Occur

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    First-round trades happen, and they happen often. On average during the past five drafts, 11 first-round selections were traded. A few of those picks were even traded more than once.

    A year ago, the top of the 2016 NFL draft was completely upended when the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles traded up to acquire quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz respectively.

    How much activity occurs is dependent on the draft class' makeup. For example, Goff and Wentz were considered top prospects. Quarterbacks often spur the most movement. This year's class isn't headlined by top signal-callers. Instead, it's considered a relatively weak quarterback class.

    During the aforementioned span, the 2015 draft featured the least movement with only six traded draft picks. The 2012 class experienced the most with 16 picks moved. In fact, three of the last five drafts featured more than 10 traded draft picks.

    Yet the makeup of this year's class is different. The teams at the top of the first round are more likely to stand pat and select one of the elite talents. With little movement at the top, it'll be difficult to eclipse 10 first-round trades.

Albany State's Grover Stewart Highest-Drafted Player You Never Heard Of

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    A certain allure surrounds small-school prospects. These individuals were men among boys at a lower level, and their dominance portends an intriguing NFL future.

    Albany State's Grover Stewart is the least known player likely to become a relatively high draft selection.

    This year's class features exceptional talent from the FCS ranks and below. Ashland's Adam Shaheen, Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp, Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon and Youngstown State's Derek Rivers became known entities during appearances at all-star contests and the NFL combine. Each of those young men is expected to be selected in the first three rounds. Stewart should join them.

    The 6'5", 330-pound defensive tackle led the Golden Rams last season with 12 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. At his pro day, the massive defensive tackle benched 225 pounds an impressive 30 times and ran a 5.1-second 40-yard dash, per WALB News 10's Jake Wallace. All 32 teams attended his workout, per NFL Network's Ben Fennell.

    In the last few years, the NFL saw unknown prospects rise from the lower ranks to become extraordinary nose tackles. Stewart has the talent to develop into an interior defender the caliber of Damon Harrison, Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce.

Youngstown State's Derek Rivers Is Top Non-FBS Draftee

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Stiff competition exists to become the first non-FBS prospect off the board during April's NFL draft.

    As mentioned earlier, Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp, Ashland's Adam Shaheen and Villanova's Tanoh Kpassagnon are exceptional talents worthy of becoming early draft picks.

    Youngstown State's Derek Rivers has an edge over each of them. He plays a premium position as one of the draft's top pass-rushers. Rivers finished his senior campaign with 19.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. He amassed 37.5 sacks during his collegiate career.

    More importantly, the former Penguin fits the physical profile NFL teams want in their edge defenders. Rivers stands 6'4" and weighs 248 pounds. He also finished top-five among defensive linemen at the NFL combine in the 40-yard dash (4.61 seconds), bench press (30 reps), vertical jump (35 inches) and three-cone drill (6.94 seconds).

    Rivers' combination of pass-rush skills and top-notch athleticism makes him a hot commodity, which will result in his being the first prospect drafted who didn't play at a major college football institution.

Workout or No Workout, Western Michigan's Corey Davis First WR off the Board

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Western Michigan's Corey Davis is the top wide receiver available for the 2017 NFL draft.

    Clemson's Mike Williams can make a case with his size and unbelievable catch radius. John Ross' 4.22-second 40-yard speed will intrigue teams too.

    Davis is still the most complete available target.

    His draft status took a hit at the onset of the predraft process when he suffered an ankle injury while training, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. He wasn't able to perform at the NFL combine or Western Michigan's pro day. But his play speaks for itself.

    The former Bronco stands 6'3" and weighs 209 pounds. Davis left Western Michigan as the FBS' all-time leader with 5,278 receiving yards and second with 52 career receiving touchdowns. Production isn't everything, but Davis' skills translate to the next level.

    According to Pro Football Focus, the All-American finished among the top 10 in receiving yards per route every year since his sophomore campaign. His ability to separate at the top of his stem can't be denied.

    "Man, he breaks them off with those routes," an AFC North regional scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "It wasn't even fair the way he did those corners in that [MAC] conference."

Despite Injuries, Sidney Jones, Jake Butt Remain Day 2 Options

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    A year ago, linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered the most unfortunate injury since Willis McGahee blew out his knee in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Despite concerns over nerve damage, the Dallas Cowboys still spent a second-round pick on the former top-10 talent.

    With this scenario in mind, no team should be concerned about selecting Washington's Sidney Jones or Michigan's Jake Butt before Day 2 of the NFL draft ends. Neither is as highly regarded as Smith was prior to their injuries, yet teams shouldn't be swayed by injuries like they once were.

    Jones was considered one of the top cornerback prospects and a legit first-round talent. He'll likely need to sit a season after suffering a torn Achilles at Washington's pro day, but a patient organization can land an exceptional talent for the 2018 campaign at a discounted price.

    Butt is in an even better position. The reigning John Mackey Award winner as the nation's top tight end was considered among the best at his respective position before he tore an ACL during the Orange Bowl against the Florida State Seminoles. Concerns over nerve damage threatened Butt's draft status too, but his recuperation is going well.

    "I'm not rushing anything, but I am ahead of schedule," Butt told NFL Network's Mike Mayock (h/t NFL.com's Chase Goodbread) at Michigan's pro day. "I'm doing everything the trainers are asking me to do. I'm right on track. Timetable-wise, it could be as early as mid-July."

    In both cases, teams with extra draft picks or those that aren't searching for an instant impact from a second- or third-round pick will strongly consider adding Jones and Butt.

Tight Ends, Slot Receivers See Rise in Overall Value

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    A premium is always placed on playmakers. Big, small, running back, tight end, wide receiver or slot receiver, the ability to create chunk plays and scoring opportunities takes precedent over those who don't create big plays.

    In recent years, tight ends and slot receivers have become more prevalent throughout the league. Both positions are deep in this year's draft class too.

    Tight end is particularly strong. Alabama's O.J. Howard, Miami's David Njoku, Ole Miss' Evan Engram, Ashland's Adam Shaheen, Virginia Tech's Bucky Hodges (pictured above), South Alabama's Gerald Everett, Clemson's Jordan Leggett and Michigan's Jake Butt are expected to be drafted before the end of the third round.

    As the position evolves, more teams will consider it higher in the draft as long as the talent is available.

    Wide receiver is no longer defined by those who can be true No. 1 targets as an X-receiver. Every team wants a Julio Jones or A.J. Green, but those are rare specimens. The prevalence of players like Julian Edelman, Jarvis Landry, T.Y. Hilton and Doug Baldwin shows a slot receiver can be a team's top target. Thus, slot receivers are no longer seen as just undersized or slower options who can't cut it working outside the numbers.

    East Carolina's Zay Jones, Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp, North Carolina's Ryan Switzer and Louisiana Tech's Trent Taylor are exceptionally difficult to cover out of the slot, and each is expected to be drafted between the second and fifth rounds.

    If a target can get open and create, there's room for him in the NFL.

Team Selects Alabama TE O.J. Howard in Top 10

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is destined to become a top-10 pick. He's too talented not to be considered an elite prospect.

    Two things separate Howard from the rest of the tight end crop.

    First, he's an instant mismatch in the passing game at 6'6" and 251 pounds with 4.51-second 40-yard speed. He also has enough quickness to qualify among the top five tight ends at the NFL combine in the three-cone drill (6.85 seconds), short shuttle (4.16 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.46 seconds).

    The Crimson Tide coaching staff never fully utilized Howard as part of the passing attack, but the tight end still managed 314 yards and three touchdowns during the past two national championship contests.

    Second, Howard is a rare complete tight end. The position has shifted, and top talents primarily serve as receivers. Very few double as good blockers. Pro Football Focus graded Howard as college football's best blocker last season.

    Plus, multiple teams have fallen in love with the young man.

    "Based on things I'm hearing from front office executives and scouts, Howard is one of the more liked picks in this draft, and his stock is rising as the draft draws near," Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman reported.

    All of this points toward Howard's being drafted among the first 10 selections.

Alabama's Defensive Studs Tumble Due to Multiple Concerns

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Once upon a time, the Alabama trio of defensive end Jonathan Allen, inside linebacker Reuben Foster and outside linebacker Tim Williams were all considered likely to be selected in the top half of the first round.

    When it's all said and done, none of them will be drafted as highly as originally believed.

    Allen is still a top-10 talent, but he was once considered a challenger to Texas A&M's Myles Garrett as the No. 1 overall prospect. Concerns over previous shoulder injuries coupled with average athleticism forced the 2016 SEC Defensive Player of the Year behind Stanford's Solomon Thomas as the class' third-best defensive lineman.

    Foster is also dealing with a shoulder injury. Injuries are even more concerning for the 229-pound linebacker since he has a concussion history and a previous issue with stingers. When a defender plays with the level of physicality Foster does, his body may fail him before he makes an impact at the next level. This top-10 talent will wait to hear his name called later in the first round.

    Williams' natural pass-rush skills are exceptional. He's a fluid athlete with the quickness and bend to frustrate many NFL offensive tackles. Off-field concerns plague Williams, though, particularly failed drug tests during his time in Tuscaloosa.

    "If he's failing tests at 'Bama, he's probably going to fail tests in the NFL," an anonymous scout told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. "These things have a way of sticking around."

    The talent between these three former teammates will have trouble overcoming other issues found within their evaluations.

Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp Becomes First O-Lineman Drafted

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp is the best offensive line prospect available in the 2017 NFL draft class.

    The only thing holding him back is less-than-ideal measurables. Lamp's arms measured 32 ¼ inches at the NFL combine. The general consensus is he'll be moved to guard or center at the next level despite grading among the top five collegiate offensive tackles for three straight years, per Pro Football Focus.

    "You have to make him a guard," an NFL college scouting director told Yahoo's Eric Edholm. "Maybe you cross-train him at center. He reminds me a little of the N.C. State kid [Joe Thuney], who was ready to step in for [the New England Patriots] mentally from Day 1 but had to be helped out and got tossed around a few times when he wasn't."

    If Thuney is Lamp's floor as a prospect, Dallas Cowboys All-Pro guard Zack Martin is his ceiling. Lamp's measurements are nearly identical to Martin's when he came in the league, per Select Sports' Erik Burkhardt.

    Lamp doesn't just fit Martin's physical profile; he was dominant too. The Western Kentucky left tackle's effort against the Alabama Crimson Tide's talented front was the best single performance by any available prospect.

    With a weak offensive tackle class and increased value of guards around the league, Lamp is the perfect candidate to become the first blocker off the board in this year's first round.

Offensive Interior Produces More Potential Starters Than Offensive Tackle Class

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    With Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp leading the way, the guard and center class is far superior to the available offensive tackles.

    The depth found at offensive tackle is poor. Once Alabama's Cam Robinson, Utah's Garett Bolles and Wisconsin's Ryan Ramczyk are selected early in the draft, starting options become limited. Western Michigan's Taylor Moton is a prototypical right tackle, Troy's Antonio Garcia brings a nasty attitude and Vanderbilt's Will Holden is underrated, but the entire crop is suspect at best.

    Meanwhile, three centers—Ohio State's Pat Elflein, LSU's Ethan Pocic and West Virginia's Tyler Orlosky—can immediately upgrade multiple NFL offensive lines.

    Guard is even deeper.

    Alongside Lamp, Indiana's Dan Feeney is a tailor-made NFL interior blocker. Temple's Dion Dawkins seamlessly transitioned to guard at the Reese's Senior Bowl and provided one of the week's best performances. Pitt's Dorian Johnson is a long and athletic option. Utah's Isaac Asiata (pictured above) is a potential 10-year starter as the class' best pulling guard with a nasty disposition. Michigan's Kyle Kalis is a well-trained technician. And San Diego State's Nico Siragusa is physical at the point of attack and helped lead the way for the FBS' all-time leading rusher, Donnel Pumphrey.

    Even allowing wiggle room for one or two prospects not to pan out or another to surprise, it's clear the offensive interior is much stronger than the current crop of offensive tackles.

Over 15 Defensive Backs Go in the First Two Rounds

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    Andy Manis/Associated Press

    This year's defensive back class is ridiculously deep. To understand how talented this year's class is, a little context must be provided.

    Over the last five years, 14 defensive backs were the most selected in the first and second rounds of a single draft. On average, 12 were picked during that time.

    As of now, 22 cornerbacks and safeties remain in the conversation.

    At cornerback, Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Clemson's Cordrea Tankersley, LSU's Tre'Davious White, UCLA's Fabian Moreau, USC's Adoree' Jackson, Washington's Kevin King, West Virginia's Rasul Douglas, Colorado's Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon, Florida's Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor, and Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley are talented enough to warrant consideration.

    Connecticut's Obi Melifonwu, Iowa's Desmond King, LSU's Jamal Adams, Michigan's Jabrill Peppers, North Carolina State's Josh Jones, Ohio State's Malik Hooker, Texas A&M's Justin Evans, Utah's Marcus Williams and Washington's Budda Baker are the safeties with early-round potential.

    Of course, not all of these prospects will be selected during the first two frames. However, it's easy to envision that 15 or more will be chosen.

Safeties Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker Make Top-10 History

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    A pair of safeties has never been selected among the first seven picks in the modern draft era. LSU's Jamal Adams and Ohio State's Malik Hooker will be the first.

    The closest any safety duo came was in 1981 when the Seattle Seahawks selected Kenny Easley with the fourth overall pick and the San Francisco 49ers chose Ronnie Lott with the eighth selection. Of course, Lott was a cornerback at the time.

    Twenty-five years later, Michael Huff and Donte Whitner came off the board back-to-back, but they were chosen with the seventh and eighth selections.

    Adams and Hooker are considered elite talents in this year's draft.

    The LSU product is a complete safety who is just as comfortable working in the box against the run as he is covering tight ends or receivers from the slot.

    "I feel like I'm versatile, I can play everything in the back end, I can blitz, I can cover in the slot, I can sit at 20 yards and go sideline to sideline," Adams said after he ran a blistering 4.33-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, per ESPN.com's Mike Triplett. "So I feel like that's what separates me."

    Hooker is a different animal. He's a consummate ball hawk. His sideline-to-sideline range is bonkers, and his seven interceptions last season tied for third at the FBS level.

    Once the Cleveland Browns select Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the first overall pick—and they will—the next six teams could use upgrades at safety.

Michigan's Jabrill Peppers Finds a Home in Top 15

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Once LSU's Jamal Adams and Ohio State's Malik Hooker are off the board, Michigan's Jabrill Peppers will soon follow.

    Too often, prospects are placed into boxes. Peppers doesn't fit the traditional mold of a defensive back or linebacker despite playing both at the collegiate level.

    His natural ability is tremendous, though. As a linebacker during his junior campaign, Peppers led the Wolverines with 16 tackles for a loss. He then went to the NFL combine in Indianapolis, worked out with the linebackers, tested among the top five in three of the four categories he participated in and stayed an extra day to show how smooth and fluid he was in defensive back drills.

    It was hard not to come away impressed, but whichever team selects Peppers must have a plan to properly use his skill set.

    Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll discussed Peppers with reporters at the combine, saying: "He's so versatile, you have to make your decisions. Some teams will look at him differently than others. He's just that gifted as an athlete. We are open for those kinds of thoughts. We don't ever want to turn our back on an opportunity to see something unique and special in a player. But it does challenge you in that way."

    The Seahawks select 26th overall in the first round. Peppers won't be available. Why? Because other franchises should see the same things. Peppers is a gifted athlete. He's unique and special. The latter descriptions aren't often used when evaluating prospects. As a result, the Heisman finalist shouldn't get out of the top half of the opening frame.

Safeties Budda Baker, Obi Melifonwu Make Late Rise into First Round

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    With three safeties already projected as first-round prospects, two more may be overkill. However, Washington's Budda Baker and Connecticut's Obi Melifonwu present the type of talent worthy of opening-round selections.

    Even though these two prospects fall on opposite sides of the spectrum based on their skill sets, each of their abilities is a sought-after commodity.

    Baker is a heat-seeking missile. His ability to close ground and drive on the football is second to none. He led Washington with 71 total tackles and 10 tackles for loss. The safety also drew primary slot coverage responsibilities. Pro Football Focus graded Baker as the nation's third-best safety.

    His quickness showed up at the NFL combine when he finished top-five among safeties with a 4.45-second 40-yard dash, 6.76-second three-cone drill and 4.08-second short shuttle.

    Baker's size is the only thing holding him back as a surefire first-round selection. At the NFL combine, he measured 5'10" and 195 pounds. His skills aren't in question, though.

    Melifonwu, meanwhile, is an impressive specimen at 6'4" and 224 pounds with 4.40-second 40-yard-dash speed, a mind-blowing 44-inch vertical and an 11'9" broad jump. The safety led Connecticut with 118 total tackles and four interceptions.

    The Oakland Raiders' Karl Joseph and Dallas Cowboys' Byron Jones both became first-round picks with similar skills sets. There's no reason why Baker and Melifonwu don't follow a similar path.

Marshon Lattimore Will Not Be the First Cornerback off the Board

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    After last year's collegiate season ended, Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore vaulted to the top of the cornerback class even though his play didn't warrant such consideration.

    Granted, it's obvious to see what many like about the early entrant. After all, the former Buckeye is 6'0" and 193 pounds with 4.36-second 40-yard-dash speed and a 38 ½-inch vertical. He can turn and run with any wide receiver.

    But he wasn't even the best cover corner on Ohio State's defense last season. Gareon Conley was.

    Conley finished with a better percentage caught against him, opposing NFL quarterback rating, yards per coverage snap and coverage snaps per reception, via Pro Football Focus. In fact, Conley played more coverage snaps last season and allowed four fewer receptions.

    Lattimore also has an injury history. His 2015 campaign was completely nullified due to nagging hamstring issues. Eyebrows raised when the cornerback pulled up lame at the NFL combine. Lattimore said it wasn't a hamstring issue, per ESPN.com's Austin Ward. Draft Analyst's Tony Pauline, citing sources, reported the cornerback's hamstrings "did play a role."

    CBS Sports' Dane Brugler stated teams are worried his hamstrings may be a "chronic" issue.

    Considering the cornerbacks available at the top of the draft, other options are more prudent. Alabama's Marlon Humphrey, Florida's Quincy Wilson and Conley are first-round talents worthy of being the first cornerback drafted.

Florida State's Dalvin Cook Experiences Draft-Day Slide

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    STEVEN CANNON/Associated Press

    Florida State running back Dalvin Cook falls in the murky area between an elite prospect and risky investment.

    The runner's numbers speak for themselves. He left Florida State as the school's all-time leading rusher with 4,464 yards. He added 48 total touchdowns, 79 receptions and 935 receiving yards too.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Cook led all FBS running backs in three categories last season: elusive rating (129.4), broken tackles (99) and average yards after contact (4.19 yards).

    Three things will hold him back on draft day despite his obvious talent.

    First, there are concerns about his history. Cook has been charged with multiple offenses since high school. Despite no convictions, teams are wary of the poor decisions he's made.

    "The pattern of bad decisions are alarming, really," an anonymous scout told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. "With my job on the line, I trust [Joe] Mixon [who has a well-documented assault incident] a lot more than Dalvin Cook."

    Second, the Florida State runner owns one of the class' worst fumble rates, per CBS Sports' Dane Brugler.

    Finally, the Miami native tested poorly at the NFL combine. Cook slightly improved his 40-yard-dash time at Florida State's pro day, but he still grades in the ninth percentile among NFL running backs, per 3sigmaathlete.com's Zach Whitman.

    Off-field concerns, ball-security issues and poor athleticism don't equate to a high first-round draft selection.

Team Drafts Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon Much Higher Than Anticipated

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is a first-round talent. His assault of a woman in 2014 makes him the draft's wild card, though.

    According to The MMQB's Emily Kaplan, teams view him as the sixth-best running back to enter the NFL since 2014. He's rated just behind former first-rounders Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. This shouldn't come as a surprise.

    What should come as a surprise is how many organizations appear willing to give him a chance despite the well-documented assault as he continues a whirlwind tour between numerous organizationsincluding the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders.

    "It just depends," an anonymous scout told Kaplan. "There were concerns about [Ezekiel Elliott] at Ohio State, his personality and off-the-field curriculars and how that would fit into a locker room. Obviously those who have studied Mixon have gathered a ton of information, and just like any prospect, we factor that into our evaluators."

    For a team to seriously consider Mixon, it must be entirely comfortable with the individual. A source from the Saints organization told the Advocate's Nick Underhill the running back's visit was an opportunity to get a "better look under the hood."

    Once teams are comfortable with Mixon and the backlash his selection will inevitably cause, his ability isn't in question. Even in a split backfield alongside Samaje Perine, Mixon rushed for 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns during the 2016 campaign. He's also an exceptional receiver and kickoff returner.

    According to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah, the consensus around the league is Mixon won't make it out of the second round if he even lasts that long.

Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs Is This Year's Sleeper Quarterback

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    No quarterback prospect benefited more from the predraft process than Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs.

    When evaluating the position, a quarterback's in-season performance only tells part of the story. The position is special because so much of it is played above the shoulders.

    Can the young man handle the pressure of being an NFL quarterback? What type of relationship is expected to develop between the player and the coaching staff? What type of work ethic does he bring? How does he grasp concepts?

    The last question is particularly important. Dobbs continues to wow teams once he's allowed to discuss pro-style concepts despite playing in a spread collegiate system.

    "My senior year I was taking astronautics, propulsion and an aerodynamics class...all on the same day," he told The MMQB's Emily Kaplan. "At the same time as football season when I was leading an SEC team. I think I can handle it."

    This isn't to say Dobbs lacks the physical tools or level of play necessary to be a legit quarterback prospect. He's 6'3" and 216 pounds with top-five performances among quarterbacks at the NFL combine in the 40-yard dash (4.64 seconds), vertical jump (33 inches), broad jump (10'2") and three-cone drill (6.75 seconds). He also scored 87 career touchdowns and helped lead Tennessee from a 5-7 record to 9-4 seasons and bowl games.

    "Dobbs definitely has the tools to be a solid player in the league," an AFC college scouting director told NFL.com's Bucky Brooks. "He's smart, tough and athletic. Plus, he showed at the Senior Bowl that he could adapt to a pro-style offense."

    No one should be surprised when the Tennessee product is drafted higher than expected—which was the middle to late rounds.

Ole MIss QB Chad Kelly Goes Undrafted

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    What a long, strange trip it's been for Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly.

    The nephew of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly went from being a top talent for the 2017 NFL draft class entering the 2016 campaign to a mere afterthought.

    Injuries added to already questionable attitude issues.

    Kelly suffered a torn ACL and torn lateral meniscus during a Nov. 5 contest against the Georgia Southern Eagles. Prior to the injury, Kelly completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 2,758 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He passed for 4,042 yards, 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions during the 2015 campaign.

    The knee prevented him from participating at the Reese's Senior Bowl, and Kelly had to cut his pro-day workout short due to a wrist injury, per the Clarion Ledger's Antonio Morales. The quarterback plans to throw again just five days before the NFL draft, per the Rebel Walk, but the damage has been done.

    The Ole Miss prospect displays exceptional arm talent, and he's arguably the draft class' best anticipatory thrower, yet none of that matters at this point. Kelly's past off-field issues continue to haunt him.

    A poor attitude, inconsistent play and injury history don't equal a draftable prospect.

    "I just wouldn't want to put my name behind him because I think it will come back and bite you with on-field and off-field mistakes," an AFC East scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "We value leadership at quarterback, and I don't trust his."

Multiple Teams with Established Quarterbacks Target Position

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    A changing of the guard should be expected at the game's most important position.

    The New England Patriots' Tom Brady, New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees, Arizona Cardinals' Carson Palmer, Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, Los Angeles Chargers' Philip Rivers and New York Giants' Eli Manning are all 35 years old or older.

    Each of these teams is preparing for a future without its franchise quarterback. None of these options are ready to walk out the door, but their respective organizations must have a plan in place. Even the Kansas City Chiefs have done their due diligence since Alex Smith turns 33 years old in May.

    The Patriots are in the best position since the franchise doesn't plan to trade backup Jimmy Garoppolo, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The same can't be said of the other rosters.

    Even in what's considered a weak quarterback class, the potential is there to develop in the right situation. This makes drafting a young quarterback even more enticing for teams that don't have to rush a prospect onto the field.

    Legitimate succession plans aren't easy to execute. Each of the teams mentioned spent draft picks on quarterbacks in recent years. Aside from Garoppolo, none of them appears to be a future starter, and some are off the roster entirely.

    As a result, multiple teams with aging quarterbacks will select a signal-caller in this year's draft class. The position may be addressed earlier than expected too. A few first-round possibilities exist since teams like the Saints, Cardinals and Chiefs thoroughly scouted the top prospects.

No Quarterbacks Will Be Selected Among the Top 10 Picks

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    The 2017 quarterback class is overrated.

    None of the top prospects—Clemson's Deshaun Watson, North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes or Cal's Davis Webb—displayed the ability or upside customary of a top-10 selection.

    Each of these young men can be considered developmental prospects beyond the normal scope of most incoming signal-callers. All of them are filled with potential, yet glaring deficiencies can be found within their skill sets.

    Selecting one of these individuals among the top 10 selections due to positional value or need won't improve their chances of future success. Yes, this year's draft is filled with quarterback-needy teams slotted among the top picks. However, those teams have positioned themselves to bypass this year's quarterback crop and select superior prospects at other positions.

    The Cleveland Browns appear locked on Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett with the first overall pick. The San Francisco 49ers signed veteran free agents Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. The Chicago Bears chose to move forward with Mike Glennon at the helm. The New York Jets agreed to a deal with Josh McCown and already have a pair of young quarterbacks in Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. Finally, the Buffalo Bills decided it was preferable to restructure Tyrod Taylor's contract than to roll the dice with a quarterback prospect.

    All of this movement points toward one outcome: None of this year's quarterback prospects will be selected within the top 10 picks.


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