2017 NFL Draft Review
Heading into the 2016 draft I did very little prep and spent basically the whole draft trying to get my footing. I traded down 2-3 times to acquire additional picks and in doing so completely misread the draft board missing out on my top targets. This year I compiled my composite rankings about a week before and spent 2-3 days leading up to the draft reading reports so felt more prepared, but it didn’t help much on draft day. Looking at rounds 1-3, only Cunningham and Tayler were targeted in the range I drafted them. Conley and Feeney (along with Ford later) weren’t even in my plans, but I think they were my best value picks. While I thought highly of Williams, he wasn’t the S I was targeting and had hoped to grab Garcia later. Suffice to say my draft board was decimated by pick 96 with rounds 6-7 basically all picks I had hoped to sign during the UDFA period.
Overall, definitely felt more prepared for the early rounds, but need to start prep earlier and spend more time on the later rounds. I would say B- with a chance to look really good if some of the raw players can develop.
Pick 1-31: Gareon Conley (CB – Ohio State)
Overall Ranking: 17
CB Ranking: 2
I had hoped to land one of Charles Harris, Malik McDowell or Cam Anderson, but it wasn’t in the cards so I decided to take a chance on Gareon Conley despite the recent allegations against him that caused his slide in the RL draft. With good size (6’0’’ and 195 pound), speed (~4.4 40-yard dash) and ability to press or play zone, Conley has pretty much everything you want in a NFL CB. Couple that with Ross Cockrell being a pending FA, it seemed like a good fit. Some question his consistency and athleticism, but he has shown significant improvement with each season and I am hopeful that continues resulting in a shutdown corner I can pair with Xavier Rhodes on the other side through 2020.
Pick 2-41: Zach Cunningham (OLB – Vanderbilt)
Overall Ranking: 44
LB Ranking: 6
This may seem like a little bit of a reach, but after taking a CB earlier than I expected, multiple options I liked at S available and the weak O-Line class I decided to take Zach Cunningham who I did not expect to last until pick 56. At 6’4” and 230 pounds, Cunningham has the speed and physicality to rush the passer, stop the run or drop into coverage. There are questions about his ability to finish plays to the whistle and lack of interceptions, but all the physical traits and raw ability are there for an impact player at LB to pair with Ryan Shazier and Reggie Ragland for years to come.
Pick 2-55: Marcus Sanders-Williams (FS – Utah)
Overall Ranking: 56
S Ranking: 8
I had Obi Melifonwu queued up and ready to go, but he went 2 picks before I could call his name. Despite the disappointment, Marcus Williams is the safer pick and some consider him to be one notch below Malik Hooker as one of the better cover safeties in the class. A 3-year starter at Utah, Williams had 11 interceptions and 8 defended passes in 34 games. Some knock his size and physicality, but he routinely shows the ability to be in the right position and make textbook form tackles.
2-60: Antonio Garcia (OT – Troy)
Composite Ranking: 71
OT Ranking: 5
With Villanueva walking in FA and Cam Robinson being selected before pick 31, Antonio Garcia is a bit of a necessity pick. Garcia is raw and needs to add weight/strength (consistently played below 300 pounds), but has the size (6’6” with 34” arms) and athleticism to play OT at a high level in the NFL. Couple the physical traits with one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL (Patriots), hard combination to pass up.
Pick 2-64: Dan Feeney (OG – Indiana)
Composite Ranking: 57
OG Ranking: 2
While Garcia may need a year or two to develop, Dan Fenney is a pretty finished product as one of the better offensive lineman in college football. While OG is not as highly sought after in the NFL, they are effectively equally valuable in the EFFL so it seemed like a no brainer even though I had Juju Smith-Schuster queued up. Feeney is a 4-year starter earning Big Ten honors 3 times (injured in 2013). May not be a sexy pick, but an above average pass and run blocker that will hopefully be a solid NFL lineman for years to come.
Pick 3-72: Taywan Taylor (WR – Western Kentucky)
Composite Ranking: 91
WR Ranking: 10
With Juju off the board, decided to take another chance on a small school player in Taywan Taylor (over Carlos Hernandez and Kareem Hunt). He may not be as well-known as the top 3-4 names in the class, but there have been reports that Taylor has posted an 11'5" broad jump, a 39.5-inch vertical and a 4.33 40-yard dash showing elite athleticism leading to 253 receptions for 4,234 yards (16.7 avg) and 41 TDs at Western Kentucky. There are concerns that he excelled against weaker competition or may be limited to a slot receiver, but I read a lot of articles seeing comparisons to Derrick Mason, Stefon Diggs, Will Fuller and even Antonio Brown. Time will tell what kind of player he becomes, but the profile was too enticing to pass up and I like the QB situation in Tennessee for the next few years.
Pick 3-96: Bucky Hodges (TE – Virginia Tech)
Composite Ranking: 96
TE Ranking: 7
2017 was a deep TE class and I passed up a few more well-known players to take a chance on Bucky Hodges potential. At 6’6” and 260 pounds with a 4.5 40-yard dash, Hodges is a freakish athlete. A HS QB and basketball player converted to TE in college, he is raw and lacks experience at the position, but all of the tools are there to become an elite receiving TE in the NFL. There are legitimate concerns about his ability to run routes and block, but I think he will be a matchup nightmare and it is hard to pass up Jimmy Graham comparisons.
Pick 3-105: James Conner (RB – Pittsburgh)
Composite Ranking: 143
RB Ranking: 12
I REALLY wanted Kareem Hunt with Samaje Perine as a backup and Joe Williams as a late flyer, but a run on RB killed my list so decided to handcuff Bell with his future backup on the off chance his injury issues persist. After rushing for nearly 1,800 yards and 26 TDs as a sophomore in 2014 on his way to winning ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Connor was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015. While his 2016 campaign was underwhelming, he has a pretty damn good excuse showing the resiliency and toughness to succeed in the NFL. Probably won’t end up being one of my better picks, but he has shown the ability to be an impact player in the past and the Steelers’ have one of the better offensive lines so hedging my bets a bit.
Pick 4-139: Brad Kaaya (QB – Miami)
Composite Ranking: 122
QB Ranking: 8
Similar to RB, completely misjudged the QB board, but had to draft someone after I failed to resign Landry Jones which in hindsight was a bad idea. Kaaya was not even someone I was looking at seriously, but he does have some positives. A 3-year starter at Miami, Kaaya is one of the few QBs in the class with experience in a true NFL offense. He is described as a high IQ QB, has good size (6’4” with 10” hands), adequate arm strength (53 mph ball velocity) and has shown ability to read defenses. He even has an interesting story being the son of Angela Means who played Felisha in the movie Friday. However, his accuracy needs a lot of work routinely missing easy throws and lacks mobility to evade pressure if the pocket collapses. Some reports hinted at some simple mechanical corrections that could improve his accuracy and there is definitely potential here, but may just end up as an averagish QB at the NFL level.
Pick 5-178: Malachi Dupre (WR – LSU)
Composite Ranking: 146
WR Ranking: 21
Malachi Dupre doesn’t have the stats of a top wideout, but the LSU passing attack was abysmal his entire collegiate career and he will be lining up with one of the NFL’s best in Aaron Rogers on Sundays. Dupre’s calling card is size (6’4”), speed (4.5 40-yard dash) and athleticism (HS track champion in the triple, long and high jump), but he needs to do a better job catching the ball with his hands and improving his route tree (both common issues that can be fixed with coaching and practice). This is much earlier than I wanted to call his name, but I wrote his name down on draft day when I saw he was going to GB and wanted to make sure I got him before I starting pulling names out of a hat.
Pick 6-199: Joe Mathis (DE – Washington)
Composite Ranking: 135
DE Ranking: 15
Injured in 2016, Joe “JoJo” Mathis flew a little under the radar. He lacks prototypical size (6’2”, 266 pounds and 33” arms) and some question his speed, but there were enough positive reports with a Terrell Suggs comp out there to convince me to take a chance this late.
Pick 6-200: Carroll Phillips (OLB – Illinois)
Composite Ranking: 145
LB Ranking: 18
Rereading reports to write this up, I kind of wish I went with another player. I found a couple sources that say he went undrafted due to medical reports and one said he was one hit away from a possible career ending injury. Definitely sounds bad, but this is pick 200 and it is the NFL so just hoping for the best. On the football field, Carroll “Wild Man” Phillips is a sound tackler and lashes the ability to get to the QB on a consistent basis.
Pick 6-212: D.J. Jones (DT – Ole Miss)
Composite Ranking: 174
DT Ranking: 17
I debated taking Elijah Qualls at 199/200 and in hindsight should have being both were injured and flying under the radar a bit, but he went 3 picks before I could select him. However, DJ Jones is a fine player in his own right with a freakish combination of power and athleticism for a DT that weighs 320+ pounds. Due to his height (6’1”), he plays with a naturally low pad level that gives him leverage against taller lineman, but some worry his arms (32”) could be an issue against interior NFL lineman and double-teams. Hopefully he or Andrew Billings from last year can develop and eventually replace Cam Heyward on the Steelers’ line.
Pick 6-219: Jonathan “Rudy” Ford (FS/CB – Auburn)
Composite Ranking: 142
S Ranking: 13
After taking Sanders in the 2nd, I really wasn’t looking for another S, but decided this late I would be getting great value selecting Jonathan Ford at this point in the draft. A RB when he arrived on campus in 2013, Ford switched to the defensive side and is an aggressive, downhill tackler (280 tackles) that is not afraid to get in the box and stick a RB. Some feel his home will be at nickel CB which either way is fine with me. Pure value pick with the hope he can develop.
Pick 7-224: Aviante Collins (OG/OT – TCU)
Composite Ranking: 198
OG Ranking: 10
Raided in a family of sprinters, it shouldn’t be a surprised that Collins (6’4” and ~300 pounds) ran the fasts 40-yard dash time of any OLine prospect since 2013. Some see him as an OG at the NFL level so he should give me great versatility a few years down the road as he gets experience.
Pick 7-229: KD Cannon (WR – Baylor)
Composite Ranking: 139
WR Ranking: 19
Anyone that has played in a baseball league with me knows I like to take a few flyers every year and I decided to bet on pure upside with my last 2 picks. KD Cannon has elite speed (4.4 40-yard dash) and athleticism, but there are no questions that he needs to expand his game (80% of his targets were on screens, hitches and go routes with 96% of his targets on the right side) to become a complete player. I was unaware at the time that KD had already been released by SF, but was quickly claimed by the Jets and I think he will have plenty of opportunities.
Pick 7-246: Jonathan “Bug” Howard (WR – North Carolina)
Composite Ranking: 205
WR Ranking: 27
A few weeks back I was listening to a podcast at work hoping to pickup a couple tidbits and heard UNC WR coach Gunter Brewer who has worked with the likes of Randy Moss, Dez Bryant and Justin Blackman is on record saying Bug Howard was one of the more freakishly gifted players he had worked with. I have no idea if this pick will amount to anything, but that is all I have to say.
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