Power Ranking Every NFL Team's 2017 Draft Haul One Year Later
Each NFL team's 2017 draft class either raised the bar for expectations or left much to be desired for the upcoming season.
This power ranking isn't an indicator of how good or underwhelming a group will become over the next few years. Instead, we leaned on what we know more than what we think a player can become.
In other words, first-year production took precedence over second-year potential. Secondly, a solid draftee at a premium position held more weight than a quality kick returner or third linebacker. Finally, teams are rewarded a little extra for hitting on productive middle- and late-round picks.
For each team's 2017 rookie class, we broke down the good, starting with a top performer, and factored in the shortcomings for a one-year assessment.
To account for the size differences between draft classes, smaller ones with high-end contributors ranked as high as larger ones with widespread production.
Which high-potential players fell short, whether due to injury, scheme fit or the inability to deliver in sizable roles? Which rookie classes flourished? Read on to find out.
No. 32: New England Patriots
Draft Picks: DE Derek Rivers (No. 83 overall), OT Antonio Garcia (No. 85), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (No. 131), OT Conor McDermott (No. 211)
Total Starts: 3
Top Performer: Wise
With a small draft class, the New England Patriots didn't have much room for error, and only one player made a notable contribution. Wise logged five sacks at defensive end to help the team get to 42, which tied for seventh in the league. That's where the good news ends with this group.
There's no chance at a bounce-back season for offensive tackle Garcia. The Patriots waived him after he sat out 2017 because of blood clots in his lungs, which led to significant weight loss. The New York Jets claimed him off waivers.
McDermott played one snap on offense at tackle, and Rivers missed the entire 2017 term at defensive end with an ACL tear. There's little to talk about pertaining to this class, though Wise and Rivers have some upside as rotational assets.
No. 31: Denver Broncos
Draft Picks: OT Garett Bolles (No. 20 overall), DE DeMarcus Walker (No. 51), WR Carlos Henderson (No. 82), CB Brendan Langley (No. 101), Jake Butt (No. 145), WR Isaiah McKenzie (No. 172), RB De'Angelo Henderson (No. 203), QB Chad Kelly (No. 253)
Total Starts: 16
Top Performer: Bolles
Unlike New England, the Denver Broncos have a player who started 16 contests in Bolles. The front office has attempted to strengthen the front line, and the Utah product could develop into the face of change in the trenches. For those unsatisfied with his rookie season, hang tight—he came into the league as a one-year starter against FBS competition. There's much room for growth.
Walker played out of position as an outside pass-rusher rather than a defensive end in a three-man front. He's packed on weight during the offseason—now 280 pounds on his 6'4" frame—and intends to move inside at his natural position. That's fine and dandy, but the Florida State product struggled through 100 snaps last year, which significantly drops this class ranking.
As for the remaining rookies, cornerback Langley returned six kicks for 183 yards, and Henderson reached paydirt on one of his two receptions. Keep your eyes on Butt, who spent last season recovering from a torn ACL. He turned heads during mandatory minicamp, according to Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post.
No. 30: Oakland Raiders
Draft Picks: CB Gareon Conley (No. 24 overall), S Obi Melifonwu (No. 56), DT Eddie Vanderdoes (No. 88), OT David Sharpe (No. 129), LB Marquel Lee (No. 167), S Shalom Luani (No. 221), OT Jylan Ware (No. 231), RB Elijah Hood (No. 242), DT Treyvon Hester (No. 244)
Total Starts: 24
Top Performer: Vanderdoes
The injury bug bit the Oakland Raiders' top two picks repeatedly. Conley and Melifonwu played a combined 126 snaps. Don't let the 24 starts fool you; the Raiders had minimal contributions from this class. Lee logged six, but he's a two-down linebacker who needs to show improvement against the pass to claim a full-time starting spot.
Vanderdoes made the bulk of the starts with 13, but he vanished in the trenches for several games. He's recovering from an ACL tear, and the Raiders drafted defensive tackles P.J. Hall and Maurice Hurst, which means the UCLA product will likely take a backup role in the upcoming season.
The Raiders expect Conley to take major strides in his sophomore campaign after showing some promise in a two-game sample size. Melifonwu needs to stay healthy before there's a legitimate assessment on his upside.
No. 29: Atlanta Falcons
Draft Picks: DE Takkarist McKinley (No. 26 overall), LB Duke Riley (No. 75), G Sean Harlow (No. 136), CB Damontae Kazee (No. 149), RB Brian Hill (No. 156), TE Eric Saubert (No. 174)
Total Starts: 7
Top Performer: McKinley
McKinley didn't start a single game, but he logged six sacks. With Adrian Clayborn's departure to New England in March, expect the first-rounder to take another step in development opposite Vic Beasley Jr., who's back as a full-time pass-rusher on the end, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Riley led the Atlanta Falcons' 2017 rookie class with six starts, but he lost his prominent role after going down with a torn meniscus. Another year in the system should lead to progress. However, the LSU product must flash his quickness and ball-tracking skills to stay on the field alongside Deion Jones and De'Vondre Campbell.
McKinley's production provided the only bright spot within a class that lacks starting talent.
No. 28: Baltimore Ravens
Draft Picks: CB Marlon Humphrey (No. 16 overall), LB Tyus Bowser (No. 47), DE Chris Wormley (No. 74), LB Tim Williams (No. 78), G Nico Siragusa (No. 122), G/T Jermaine Eluemunor (No. 159), S Chuck Clark (No. 186)
Total Starts: 9
Top Performer: Humphrey
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey proved he's a capable cover man on the boundary after Jimmy Smith tore his Achilles in December. The veteran plans to participate in training camp, but he should look over his shoulder with the Alabama product eyeing a starting spot.
Humphrey recorded two interceptions and 11 pass breakups during his rookie campaign, which gives the Baltimore Ravens a solid trio at cornerback. However, the coaching staff must sort out the depth at linebacker.
Tyus Bowser logged three sacks, three passes defensed and one interception last season. With a bigger role in the rotation, he could take a sophomore leap. No one else in the Ravens class left a mark on the 2017 campaign. Like many teams at the bottom of this ranking, there was little production and some upside.
No. 27: Miami Dolphins
Draft Picks: DE Charles Harris (No. 22 overall), LB Raekwon McMillan (No. 54), CB Cordrea Tankersley (No. 97), G Isaac Asiata (No. 164), DT Davon Godchaux (No. 178), DT Vincent Taylor (No. 194), WR Isaiah Ford (No. 237)
Total Starts: 18
Top Performer: Tankersley
Cornerback Cordrea Tankersley took advantage of Byron Maxwell's exit. He didn't log an interception but found ways to break up passes in coverage. Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux was the only other rookie in this class to take significant snaps. Both could hold big roles in the upcoming season.
Nonetheless, Tankersley faces competition for his spot. Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett also took reps on the boundary through mandatory minicamp. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's departure means more snaps for Godchaux and Vincent Taylor in the upcoming season.
Defensive end Charles Harris only logged two sacks, and he'll likely find himself in a rotational role behind Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who's primed to start at middle linebacker, brings tremendous upside as a physical playmaker and will fill a void at the heart of the defense. There's potential, but two of the top three picks may not start in 2018.
No. 26: Carolina Panthers
Draft Picks: RB Christian McCaffrey (No. 8 overall), WR Curtis Samuel (No. 40), OT Taylor Moton (No. 64), DE Daeshon Hall (No. 77), CB Corn Elder (No. 152), RB Alex Armah (No. 192), K Harrison Butker (No. 233)
Total Starts: 14
Top Performer: McCaffrey
Without running back Christian McCaffrey, this class would've ranked dead last. The Stanford product didn't light the field on fire on the ground, but he was as advertised in the passing game.
McCaffrey caught 80 passes for 651 yards and five touchdowns, basically borderline No. 2 wide receiver numbers. He finished the season with 1,086 yards from scrimmage. The 22-year-old adds some value to an otherwise unproductive group.
Offensive lineman Taylor Moton could earn a starting role at left guard, but he's going to face stiff competition. The Kansas City Chiefs signed Harrison Butker off the Carolina Panthers practice squad, and he made 38 of his 42 field-goal attempts, so Carolina missed out on the credit for selecting a starting kicker.
No. 25: Minnesota Vikings
Draft Picks: RB Dalvin Cook (No. 41 overall), C Pat Elflein (No. 70), DT Jaleel Johnson (No. 109), LB Ben Gedeon (No. 120), WR Rodney Adams (No. 170), G Danny Isidora (No. 180), TE Bucky Hodges (No. 201), WR Stacy Coley (No. 219), DL Ifeadi Odenigbo (No. 220), LB Elijah Lee (No. 232), CB Jack Tocho (No. 245)
Total Starts: 28
Top Performer: Elflein
If not for running back Dalvin Cook's season-ending ACL injury in Week 4, he likely would've been listed as the top performer. Center Pat Elflein started 14 games and helped improve the Minnesota Vikings front line. Sure, he struggled at times, but the 24-year-old should progress with another season at the pivot. He's expected to participate in training camp coming off ankle surgery.
Before he tore his ACL, Cook logged a 127-yard rushing performance against the New Orleans Saints and caught five passes for 72 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In those four games, it was easy to see he possesses the tools to become a complete running back in the league.
Linebacker Ben Gedeon started nine games, but he was nowhere near Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr in snaps. The Vikings selected 11 players, but only one made a significant contribution for the majority of the season. Cook's upside raises the class' value a bit.
No. 24: Philadelphia Eagles
Draft Picks: DE Derek Barnett (No. 14 overall), CB Sidney Jones (No. 43), CB Rasul Douglas (No. 99), WR Mack Hollins (No. 118), RB Donnel Pumphrey (No. 132), WR Shelton Gibson (No. 166), LB Nathan Gerry (No. 184), DT Elijah Qualls (No. 214)
Total Starts: 6
Top Performer: Douglas
Among the rookies, the Philadelphia Eagles produced a low start count, but fans can hang their hats on rotational production from players who could assume larger roles in the upcoming season.
Defensive end Derek Barnett played 41.2 percent of the team's snaps and logged five sacks. Cornerback Rasul Douglas snagged two interceptions and broke up 11 passes in just about the same amount of playing time.
Linebacker-safety hybrid Nathan Gerry started one game, but he didn't contribute on defense. Defensive end Michael Bennett's arrival, depth at cornerback and an open competition at weak-side linebacker clouds the starting paths for all three aforementioned players. As a result, there's some concern about upside for the second-year pros.
No. 23: Arizona Cardinals
Draft Picks: LB Haason Reddick (No. 13 overall), S Budda Baker (No. 36), WR Chad Williams (No. 98), G Dorian Johnson (No. 115), OL Will Holden (No. 157), RB T.J. Logan (No. 179), S Rudy Ford (No. 208)
Total Starts: 16
Top Performer: Baker
Here's an All-Pro and Pro Bowl alert. Budda Baker earned those honors as a special teamer, but he also made a splash on defense. The Washington product logged seven pass breakups, forced two fumbles and notched a sack. He's in line to fill a void at safety after Tyrann Mathieu's departure to Houston.
Haason Reddick rushed off the edge at Temple, but his 6'1", 235-pound size prompted a move inside and subsequently to outside linebacker with the Arizona Cardinals. He still flashed his pass-rushing skill, recording 2.5 sacks. The 23-year-old went through minicamp preparing for a starting role on the strong side.
Offensive tackle Will Holden put together a strong three-game stretch at left tackle, but the Cardinals hope to see more from the rest of the class. Third-rounder Chad Williams only caught three passes for 31 yards. He's already in jeopardy of falling behind 2018 second-rounder Christian Kirk in the wide receiver pecking order.
No. 22: Los Angeles Chargers
Draft Picks: WR Mike Williams (No. 7 overall), G Forrest Lamp (No. 38), G Dan Feeney (No. 71), S Rayshawn Jenkins (No. 113), CB Desmond King (No. 151), OT Sam Tevi (No. 190), DE Isaac Rochell (No. 225)
Total Starts: 15
Top Performer: King
Desmond King's versatility stands out as a major component to the Los Angeles Chargers' much-improved secondary. He recorded an interception, five pass breakups and four sacks and scored a touchdown.
Left guard Dan Feeney started nine games and also made NFL.com's All-Under 25 Team. Between the two productive rookies who held significant roles, the class looks decent. However, there's so much potential we didn't see because of injuries, specifically with wideout Mike Williams and guard Forrest Lamp.
Williams struggled with a herniated disc and a knee injury, and Lamp continues to work his way back from a torn ACL. Once healthy, both players will likely assume starting roles. Nonetheless, their absences and lack of production dinged the Chargers in the rankings.
No. 21: Washington Redskins
Draft Picks: DL Jonathan Allen (No. 17 overall), LB Ryan Anderson (No. 49), CB Fabian Moreau (No. 81), RB Samaje Perine (No. 114), S Montae Nicholson (No. 123), TE Jeremy Sprinkle (No. 154), C Chase Roullier (No. 199), WR Robert Davis (No. 209), LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (No. 230), CB Joshua Holsey (No. 235)
Total Starts: 31
Top Performer: Perine
The Washington Redskins' 2017 draft class could've elevated the defense but fell short largely because of minimal production from the top three picks. Jonathan Allen started five games but finished the season on injured reserve with a Lisfranc sprain. For the most part, cornerback Fabian Moreau took the field as a special teamer. Linebacker Ryan Anderson also played a lot of special teams and not much on defense.
Center Chase Roullier started seven games and will likely retain his starting role. Samaje Perine made the biggest impact. He logged back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances in Weeks 11 and 12 but faded down the stretch. The Redskins' decision to select second-rounder Derrius Guice in 2018 indicates the 2017 fourth-rounder isn't going to carry the majority of the load during the upcoming campaign.
Despite all the issues with the class, Roullier, Perine and safety Montae Nicholson produced right out of college, accounting for 21 of the rookies' 31 starts.
No. 20: Detroit Lions
Draft Picks: LB Jarrad Davis (No. 21 overall), CB Teez Tabor (No. 53), WR Kenny Golladay (No. 96), LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (No. 124), TE Michael Roberts (No. 127), CB Jamal Agnew (No. 165), DT Jeremiah Ledbetter (No. 205), QB Brad Kaaya (No. 215), DE Pat O'Connor (No. 250)
Total Starts: 23
Top Performer: Davis
As far as impact, linebacker Jarrad Davis takes the top spot among the Detroit Lions rookie class. However, we shouldn't ignore All-Pro punt returner Jamal Agnew who led the league in yards and average with 447 and 15.4, respectively. Both add significant value to the group.
Kenny Golladay doesn't come up in many conversations as a wide receiver with high upside, but quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with him for chunk yardage. The third-rounder finished averaging 17.0 yards per reception. If the Lions allow Golden Tate to walk in free agency next year, the Northern Illinois product should be the next man up in the passing attack.
Head coach Matt Patricia will attempt to turn Teez Tabor into a contributor. The physical cornerback had a listless rookie year and started one contest. Detroit clearly hit on its first-rounder and a special teams asset, but the class' production doesn't go beyond those talking points.
No. 19: New York Giants
Total Starts: 31
Top Performer: Engram
Like the Redskins, the New York Giants rookies started a combined 31 contests. Nonetheless, there's a major difference in the overall production between the two sets of early-round picks.
Injuries ravaged Big Blue's receiving corps. Tight end Evan Engram emerged as a go-to target and scored a touchdown in four consecutive games from Weeks 6 to 10 with a bye week in the middle of the stretch. Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson's numbers didn't illustrate his value in stopping the run.
Running back Wayne Gallman logged 669 yards from scrimmage, but he didn't show the explosive traits of a lead ball-carrier. There is, however, versatility in his game as far as catching passes. The class is a top-heavy group that lacks in depth.
No. 18: Indianapolis Colts
Draft Picks: S Malik Hooker (No. 15 overall), CB Quincy Wilson (No. 46), DE Tarell Basham (No. 80), OL Zach Banner (No. 137), RB Marlon Mack (No. 143), DT Grover Stewart (No. 144), CB Nate Hairston (No. 158), LB Anthony Walker (No. 161)
Total Starts: 17
Top Performer: Hooker
Safety Malik Hooker only suited up for seven games because of a torn ACL, but he brought his ball-hawking skill set from Ohio State into the pros last season. He logged three interceptions and suggested there's major upside if he can stay healthy.
In small doses, running back Marlon Mack exploded through lanes, cornerback Nate Hairston showed traits comparable to a versatile starter (five pass breakups, one interception, two sacks), and Quincy Wilson just needs a full season to show his ability to cover the boundary in pass defense.
The group didn't have a standout performer who played exceptionally well throughout the season, but four players displayed brief glimpses. Keep an eye on Hairston as a fifth-round steal who could break out because of his ability to affect the game in a variety of ways.
No. 17: Jacksonville Jaguars
Draft Picks: RB Leonard Fournette (No. 4 overall), OT Cam Robinson (No. 34), DE Dawuane Smoot (No. 68), WR Dede Westbrook (No. 110), LB Blair Brown (No. 148), CB Jalen Myrick (No. 222), FB Marquez Williams (No. 240)
Total Starts: 35
Top Performer: Fournette
Running back Leonard Fournette and offensive tackle Cam Robinson logged 28 of the 35 starts for Jacksonville Jaguars rookies. It's a top-heavy group, as fourth-rounder Dede Westbrook's 27 receptions for 339 yards and a touchdown came in the second half of the season.
Fournette finished eighth in rushing yards with 1,040, and Robinson will maintain his starting role at left tackle. First Coast News' Mike Kaye expects Blair Brown to man the strong-side linebacker spot—a result of changes at the position following Paul Posluszny's retirement as opposed to what Brown did on the field last season.
Outside of the top two picks, the Jaguars class has a lot to prove in the upcoming season.
No. 16: New York Jets
Draft Picks: S Jamal Adams (No. 6 overall), S Marcus Maye (No. 39), WR ArDarius Stewart (No. 79), WR Chad Hansen (No. 141), TE Jordan Leggett (No. 150), LB Dylan Donahue (No. 181), RB Elijah McGuire (No. 188), CB Jeremy Clark (No. 197), CB Derrick Jones (No. 204)
Total Starts: 37
Top Performer: Adams
The New York Jets have a talented duo at safety in Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. The former logged two sacks and the latter snagged two interceptions. Each started and played all 16 games last season. The tandem alone pushed Gang Green to the middle of the pack.
Running back Elijah McGuire started two games and accumulated 492 yards from scrimmage, and he's shown enough to maintain a sizable role, per running backs coach Stump Mitchell (via the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta), who compared him to LaDainian Tomlinson.
The Jets didn't see significant production among their pass-catchers. Wideouts ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen combined for 15 catches and 176 yards. With Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse leading the position, it's hard to see upside in production for the second-year receivers.
No. 15: Tennessee Titans
Draft Picks: WR Corey Davis (No. 5 overall), CB Adoree' Jackson (No. 18), WR Taywan Taylor (No. 72), TE Jonnu Smith (No. 100), LB Jayon Brown (No. 155), G Corey Levin (No. 217), LB Josh Carraway (No. 227), OT Brad Seaton (No. 236), RB Khalfani Muhammad (No. 241)
Total Starts: 42
Top Performer: Jackson
The Tennessee Titans' previous coaching staff valued cornerback Adoree' Jackson's versatility as a playmaker in open space. He logged 923 all-purpose yards as a ball-carrier and returner. The USC product's extra responsibilities didn't hurt him at his natural position in the secondary. The first-rounder led the team in pass breakups with 17.
Jayon Brown flashed his skill set as a cover man at linebacker with four pass breakups. Avery Williamson's departure will allow the second-year man out of UCLA to battle rookie Rashaan Evans for the starting spot.
Tennessee's first-year pass-catchers didn't produce gaudy numbers, but wideout Corey Davis' postseason showing should prelude a sophomore leap in the upcoming term. Excluding Jackson, the class lacked production but did enough to demonstrate its potential. As a result, this group slightly edged the Jets for the 15th spot.
No. 14: Kansas City Chiefs
Draft Picks: Patrick Mahomes (No. 10 overall), Tanoh Kpassagnon (No. 59), Kareem Hunt (No. 86), Jehu Chesson (No. 139), Ukeme Eligwe (No. 183), Leon McQuay (No. 218)
Total Starts: 21
Top Performer: Hunt
Listen closely. You can hear the hype train for quarterback Patrick Mahomes in motion—and for good reason. Head coach Andy Reid has a solid track record with quarterback talents ranging from Michael Vick, after a two-year break in his career, to conservative Alex Smith.
In this list, a draft class with a potential franchise quarterback receives a boost, but the passer must show enough to warrant such high expectations at the most important position. Mahomes hasn't checked that box after just one game.
Running back Kareem Hunt's league-leading 1,327 rushing yards saved this group from the cellar. The Pro Bowler made a strong case for the Kansas City Chiefs to land a middle-of-the-pack spot despite the lack of contributions from top to bottom.
No. 13: Dallas Cowboys
Draft Picks: DE Taco Charlton (No. 28 overall), CB Chidobe Awuzie (No. 60), CB Jourdan Lewis (No. 92), WR Ryan Switzer (No. 133), S Xavier Woods (No. 191), CB Marquez White (No. 216), DT Joey Ivie (No. 228), WR Noah Brown (No. 239), DT Jordan Carrell (No. 246)
Total Starts: 18
Top Performer: Lewis
Despite cornerback Chidobe Awuzie's reps on the outside during the offseason, Jourdan Lewis played almost two-and-a-half times as many snaps last year (746-309). Both flashed their potential. Together, along with Byron Jones at cornerback, the Dallas Cowboys have a young group with a high ceiling at the position.
Sixth-rounder Xavier Woods logged four starts, though his long-term outlook in a prominent role remains questionable since he made few impact plays in coverage. The Cowboys can take credit for wideout Ryan Switzer, who logged 902 all-purpose yards before a 2018 draft-day trade sent him to the Raiders in exchange for defensive tackle Jihad Ward.
The class came up short at the top in terms of production. Defensive end Taco Charlton took the field for 399 snaps and logged three sacks. Despite solid campaigns for Awuzie and Lewis, neither started for even half the season, which kept this group out of the top 10.
No. 12: Pittsburgh Steelers
Draft Picks: LB T.J. Watt (No. 30 overall), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (No. 62), CB Cameron Sutton (No. 94), RB James Conner (No. 105), QB Joshua Dobbs (No. 135), CB Brian Allen (No. 173), LS Colin Holba (No. 213), LB Keion Adams (No. 248)
Total Starts: 23
Top Performer: Smith-Schuster
The Pittsburgh Steelers class is another group that's top-heavy in terms of production. First-rounder T.J. Watt recorded seven sacks, and JuJu Smith-Schuster led 2017 rookie wideouts in yards with 917. Don't forget long snapper Colin Holba, who appeared in seven games on special teams.
Cornerback Cameron Sutton missed most the season with a hamstring ailment. Running back James Conner landed on injured reserve with an MCL injury, and he didn't see much work behind Le'Veon Bell when healthy. Third-string signal-caller Joshua Dobbs will likely lose his roster spot with 2018 third-rounder Mason Rudolph joining the quarterback room.
The Steelers hit on the draft picks they were expected to hit on, but there was a major drop-off after their second-round selection. Thanks to Smith-Schuster and Watt, Pittsburgh landed 12th.
No. 11: Los Angeles Rams
Draft Picks: TE Gerald Everett (No. 44 overall), WR Cooper Kupp (No. 69), S John Johnson III (No. 91), WR Josh Reynolds (No. 117), LB Samson Ebukam (No. 125), DT Tanzel Smart (No. 189), FB Sam Rogers (No. 206), LB Ejuan Price (No. 234)
Total Starts: 26
Top Performer: Kupp
Like most teams, the Los Angles Rams hit on their early-round picks. Cooper Kupp led the team in receiving yards with 869 and ranked No. 2 among rookies in the category. Despite his third-round draft tag, the Eastern Washington product looks like a No. 1 receiving option for the league's top scoring offense.
Safety John Johnson III and tight end Gerald Everett added to the Rams' success on their respective sides of the ball. The latter served in a reserve role behind Tyler Higbee but scored two touchdowns and recorded 15.3 yards per reception as a big-play option.
Los Angeles earned the nod over Pittsburgh for the 11th spot because of linebacker Samson Ebukam's upside. He recorded two sacks last season and won a starting spot on the outside.
No. 10: Cincinnati Bengals
Draft Picks: WR John Ross (No. 9 overall), RB Joe Mixon (No. 48), DE Jordan Willis (No. 73), DE Carl Lawson (No. 116), WR Josh Malone (No. 128), DT Ryan Glasgow (No. 138), K Jake Elliott (No. 153), C J.J. Dielman (No. 176), LB Jordan Evans (No. 193), S Brandon Wilson (No. 207), TE Mason Schreck (No. 251)
Total Starts: 22
Top Performer: Mixon
The Cincinnati Bengals class sneaked into the top 10 thanks to depth and two high-impact players. As a rotational pass-rusher, Carl Lawson finished with 8.5 sacks, and there's no doubt his role will expand in the upcoming season. Running back Joe Mixon headlines the class as the top performer with 913 yards from scrimmage.
Defensive end Jordan Willis only logged one sack but flashed as a solid run-stopper. Interior defender Ryan Glasgow also added resistance in the trenches on early downs. Even though it doesn't seem like much, there's value in rotational players mixing and matching based on downs and distances.
Wideout John Ross' nightmare campaign and kicker Jake Elliott's run as a starter with the Eagles kept the Bengals out of top-five consideration. Nonetheless, the 11 picks didn't go to waste with several role players active in their first year.
No. 9: Green Bay Packers
Draft Picks: CB Kevin King (No. 33 overall), S Josh Jones (No. 61), DT Montravius Adams (No. 93), LB Vince Biegel (No. 108), RB Jamaal Williams (No. 134), WR DeAngelo Yancey (No. 175), RB Aaron Jones (No. 182), G Kofi Amichia (No. 212), RB Devante Mays (No. 238), WR Malachi Dupre (No. 247)
Total Starts: 23
Top Performer: Williams
Green Bay Packers brass didn't lose any sleep when safety Morgan Burnett signed with the Steelers. Josh Jones, who logged five pass breakups, two sacks and an interception, should slide into a full-time starting role at the position.
The Packers may have finally assembled an effective ground attack to complement quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as fourth- and fifth-round picks Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones combined for 1,004 rushing yards. The former leads the class as the top performer because of his ability to leak out of the backfield as a reliable receiver.
Even though the Packers successfully plugged Day 3 prospects into decent roles on offense, first-rounder Kevin King fell short on expectations because of a shoulder injury and tackle Montravius Adams logged just 66 snaps on defense. Green Bay takes the ninth spot with two hits at running back and a starter at safety.
No. 8: Seattle Seahawks
Draft picks: DT Malik McDowell (No. 35 overall), C/G Ethan Pocic (No. 58), CB Shaquill Griffin (No. 90), S Delano Hill (No. 95), DT Nazair Jones (No. 102), WR Amara Darboh (No. 106), S Tedric Thompson (No. 111), CB Mike Tyson (No. 187), OT Justin Senior (No. 210), WR David Moore (No. 226), RB Chris Carson (No. 249)
Total Starts: 27
Top Performer: Griffin
According to Ian Rapoport, the Seattle Seahawks will likely release second-rounder Malik McDowell after he was injured in an ATV accident during the 2017 offseason. For now, we can squash hope that the Michigan State product will play a single snap for the team that drafted him.
Ethan Pocic proved himself as a versatile interior lineman and also landed on NFL.com's All-Under 25 Team. Defensive tackle Nazair Jones played 11 games, logging two sacks and one interception. Cornerback Shaquill Griffin also looks like a starter at a time when the Seahawks need someone to take over for Richard Sherman, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers.
In a rotational role, Chris Carson will battle for touches in the backfield. He showed glimpses with 49 carries for 208 yards to go along with seven catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Multiple contributors, including three expected starters, boosted Seattle to No. 8.
No. 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Draft Picks: TE O.J. Howard (No. 19 overall), S Justin Evans (No. 50), WR Chris Godwin (No. 84), LB Kendell Beckwith (No. 107), RB Jeremy McNichols (No. 162), DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu (No. 223)
Total Starts: 36
Top Performer: Howard
Starting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the last seven teams listed here have two factors in common: more than 30 rookie starts and a high volume of production among those players.
O.J. Howard led the Bucs class in starts with 14 and tied with fellow tight end Cameron Brate for a team-leading six touchdowns. Wideout Chris Godwin logged 525 receiving yards with a 61.8 percent catch rate as a high-end No. 3 wide receiver. Defensively, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and safety Justin Evans combined for 20 starts as playmakers at their respective positions.
The Buccaneers waived running back Jeremy McNichols, and he chose to join the 49ers practice squad over a developmental spot with the club that drafted him.
No. 6: Buffalo Bills
Draft picks: CB Tre'Davious White (No. 27 overall), WR Zay Jones (No. 37), OT Dion Dawkins (No. 63), LB Matt Milano (No. 163), QB Nathan Peterman (No. 171), LB Tanner Vallejo (No. 195)
Total Starts: 44
Top Performer: White
Early-round production, depth and a quarterback still in the mix to start propelled the Buffalo Bills to the No. 6 spot.
Tre'Davious White started 16 contests and performed like a lead cornerback on the boundary with four interceptions, 18 pass breakups and a defensive touchdown. Left tackle Cordy Glenn missed 10 games with ankle and foot injuries, but Dion Dawkins fared well on the perimeter in the veteran's absence. Matt Milano should continue to blossom within a revamped linebacker corps after five starts.
Though wideout Zay Jones struggled through 15 contests, he still reeled in 27 catches for 316 yards and two scores. Quarterback Nathan Peterman experienced an abysmal five-interception half, but he's still in the running for the starting spot. Those two players have cloudy outlooks for the upcoming season.
No. 5: Cleveland Browns
Draft picks: DL Myles Garrett (No. 1 overall), DB Jabrill Peppers (No. 25), TE David Njoku (No. 29), QB DeShone Kizer (No. 52), DL Larry Ogunjobi (No. 65), DB Howard Wilson (No. 126), OT Roderick Johnson (No. 160), DL Caleb Brantley (No. 185), K Zane Gonzalez (No. 224), RB Matthew Dayes (No. 252)
Total Starts: 44
Top Performer: Garrett
The Cleveland Browns and Bills were so close that it came down to their quarterbacks from the 2017 class. Though DeShone Kizer and Nathan Peterman both struggled, Kizer's flashes of brilliance—albeit in 13 more starts—make him more valuable. In fact, the Notre Dame product showed enough potential to help net starting safety Damarious Randall in a trade.
Myles Garrett will look to build on a seven-sack season in a bigger role and seems primed for a sophomore leap. Tight end David Njoku and defensive back Jabrill Peppers also project as primary starters at their positions. And the Michigan product brings a bonus as a returner. Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi paired well with Danny Shelton, who's now in New England via trade.
Overall, the class is stacked with sophomore starters, but defensive tackle Caleb Brantley seems like the only late-round pick who could make an impact in the upcoming season, and it's because of Shelton's departure.
No. 4: Chicago Bears
Draft picks: QB Mitchell Trubisky (No. 2 overall), TE Adam Shaheen (No. 45), S Eddie Jackson (No. 112), RB Tarik Cohen (No. 119), G Jordan Morgan (No. 147)
Total Starts: 39
Top Performer: Trubisky
To this point, Mitchell Trubisky has outperformed Mahomes, Peterman and Kizer. He started fewer games than the Browns signal-caller but looked the part as a franchise passer through 12 outings. There's no question general manager Ryan Pace approached the offseason with the 23-year-old's progress in mind.
Tarik Cohen logged 723 yards from scrimmage, and new head coach Matt Nagy is looking forward to deploying him in creative ways. Eddie Jackson fits the description as a playmaking safety on the back end. He started all 16 games and finished with two interceptions—one returned for a score—six pass breakups and three fumble recoveries.
The decision to sign tight end Trey Burton will likely limit Adam Shaheen's volume of targets, but the 6'5", 270-pound pass-catcher could remain effective as a reliable option in the end zone. Last year, he only racked up 127 receiving yards but reached paydirt three times.
No. 3: Houston Texans
Draft Picks: QB Deshaun Watson (No. 12 overall), LB Zach Cunningham (No. 57), RB D'Onta Foreman (No. 89), T Julie'n Davenport (No. 130), DT Carlos Watkins (No. 142), S Treston Decoud (No. 169), C Kyle Fuller (No. 243)
Total Starts: 30
Top Performer: Watson
Among the second-year quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson lists as the most productive even though he appeared in just seven games. The Clemson product threw 19 touchdown passes and eight interceptions in a short window, which included a 402-yard, four-score performance against a healthy Seahawks defense last season. Despite coming off an ACL tear, he deserves all the offseason hype around him.
Zach Cunningham leads the group in starts with 13 and should maintain a prominent role within the front seven. D'Onta Foreman must overcome an Achilles injury, but he's locked into a complementary role with Lamar Miller in the backfield. Julie'n Davenport started four contests at left tackle, and the fourth-rounder will likely claim the starting spot over rookie Martinas Rankin, who underwent offseason foot surgery.
Watson's performances carry this class. There's nothing more valuable than a promising franchise signal-caller in the NFL. However, this collection of players lacks surefire starters and first-year production across the board to rank above the top two groups.
No. 2: San Francisco 49ers
Draft Picks: DE Solomon Thomas (No. 3 overall), LB Reuben Foster (No. 31), CB Ahkello Witherspoon (No. 66), QB C.J. Beathard (No. 104), RB Joe Williams (No. 121), TE George Kittle (No. 146), WR Trent Taylor (No. 177), DT D.J. Jones (No. 198), OLB Pita Taumoepenu (No. 202), S Adrian Colbert (No. 229)
Total Starts: 50
Top Performer: Foster
The 49ers group ranks second in total starts, with six contributors who logged five or more. In 10 starts, linebacker Reuben Foster flashed sideline-to-sideline quickness as an impact chasedown defender. He was second on the team in solo and total tackles behind cornerback Dontae Johnson. Fifth-rounders George Kittle and Trent Taylor caught 43 passes apiece and combined for 945 yards and four touchdowns. Both exceeded expectations.
Solomon Thomas underwhelmed as a pass-rusher—recording just three sacks—but he fared well against the run. It's on defensive coordinator Robert Salah to unlock his potential. Reuben Foster and Ahkello Witherspoon project as primary starters coming off solid rookie campaigns. The former will serve a two-game suspension for violating the league's conduct and substance-abuse policies.
The 49ers hit at multiple positions. A franchise quarterback is the only aspect missing in this group. C.J. Beathard started five games, but he's destined for a long-term backup role with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm.
No. 1: New Orleans Saints
Draft Picks: CB Marshon Lattimore (No. 11 overall), OT Ryan Ramczyk (No. 32), S Marcus Williams (No. 42), RB Alvin Kamara (No. 67), LB Alex Anzalone (No. 76), OLB Trey Hendrickson (No. 103), DE Al-Quadin Muhammad (No. 196)
Total Starts: 51
Top Performer: Kamara
There's no argument here. The Saints hit a grand slam in the 2017 draft. As a whole, the group logged the most starts with 51. Alvin Kamara and Marshon Lattimore achieved Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year honors, respectively, and earned spots in the Pro Bowl. Ryan Ramczyk started all 16 games and performed at an optimal level throughout the season.
The "Miracle in Minneapolis" left a sour taste in Marcus Williams' mouth, but he recorded four interceptions and seven pass breakups through 15 starts in a productive rookie campaign.
The remaining picks didn't leave a lasting impression on the season, but it's hard to argue against the two rookie award winners plus quality starters with bright futures on both sides of the ball. The Saints vastly improved their secondary and added an asset in the backfield to form one of the best running back tandems in the NFL.