2017 NFL Draft: All-Pros, Pro Bowlers and red-star players


The 2017 NFL Draft has been lauded by executives, scouts and coaches for the quality of talent available at several marquee spots. While the class lacks a plug-and-play quarterback with immediate star power, teams could find difference makers at pass rusher, running back, tight end, safety and cornerback. Although I believe Clemson's Deshaun Watson, North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky, Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer, Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes and Cal's Davis Webb eventually could develop into high-level starters, they aren't seasoned enough to take the league by storm on Day 1.

At running back, the 2017 class could spark a renaissance at the position, with LSU's Leonard Fournette, Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, Florida State's Dalvin Cook and possibly Oklahoma's Joe Mixon paving the way as dynamic talents with impressive skills as RB1s. Fournette is a throwback at the position with an old-school game built on strength, power and violence. While he is not quite a versatile talent like Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowler Ezekiel Elliott, Fournette is more than capable of putting a franchise on his back as a rugged workhorse runner.

The tight end position features a number of explosive pass catchers with receiver-like athleticism and NBA power forward size. Alabama's O.J. Howard headlines the class as a big-bodied pass catcher with soft hands and blazing speed. He is a rare tight end in that he has the capacity to stretch the field while also possessing the balance, body control and agility to dominate the game as a chain-mover between the hashes. Miami's David Njoku and Mississippi's Evan Engram are new-school tight ends capable of overwhelming defenders in the slot or on the outside with their ultra-athletic games.

On the defensive side of the ball, Texas A&M's Myles Garrett is the marquee prospect. He has the size, strength and athleticism to be an all-time great at the position. While there are questions about his motor and production against elite competition, Garrett is undoubtedly a blue-chip prospect at the position. Stanford's Solomon Thomas and Tennessee's Derek Barnett both have exceptional hand skills that could enable them to dominate as edge players in the NFL. Missouri's Charles Harris is an underrated pass rusher with a game that's made for third-down situations.

Alabama's Reuben Foster and Florida's Jarrad Davis are the crown jewels of the traditional linebacker class, but Temple's Haason Reddick also could be a star-quality playmaker on the second level. The former walk-on safety turned edge rusher is a Tasmanian Devil with a non-stop motor and knack for playmaking.

In the secondary, teams have a wealth of options available at safety and cornerback. LSU's Jamal Adams and Ohio State's Malik Hooker are the top two safeties, but they go about their business in different ways. Adams is a "smasher" who excels near the line of scrimmage but also displays the athleticism to play in space as a deep-middle defender. Hooker is more of a natural center fielder. His exceptional range and ball skills could allow him to lead the league in picks as a young player. Washington's Budda Baker is listed as a safety, but his impressive skills as a slot defender could make him a dangerous nickel corner in most systems.

Ohio State's Marshon Lattimore has been dubbed the "shutdown corner" of the class due to his speed, athleticism and movement skills. He is as fluid as they come as a corner, but questions about his injury history (hamstring issues) lead to concerns about his ability to consistently thrive as a CB1. If he is healthy and available, he could be a star. But he must show folks that he can be a dependable option on the island.

How does the newest crop of rising rookies stack up from the standpoint of pure pro potential? I've grouped them into the following categories below: All-Pros, Pro Bowlers and red-star prospects:


These are the elite prospects in this class -- they should rank among the top five players at their respective positions in two to three years.

1) Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2) Jamal Adams, S, LSU
3) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
4) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5) Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
6) Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma (Serious character issues certainly remain a concern, but this is where his pure talent would place him)
7) Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
8) Adoree' Jackson, PR/KR, USC

Pro Bowlers

These prospects are regarded as difference makers based solely on their talent. They should make immediate contributions as rookies and rank among the top 10 at their position within two to three years.

1) Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
2) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
3) Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
4) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
5) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
6) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
7) John Ross, WR, Washington
8) Budda Baker, S, Washington
9) David Njoku, TE, Miami
10) Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
11) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
12) Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
13) Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
14) Mitchell Trubisky, QB, UNC
15) Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
16) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
17) Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss

Red-star prospects

On the "Move the Sticks" podcast, Daniel Jeremiah and I frequently discuss how scouts will stand on the table for guys they believe will outperform their draft status. In scouting parlance, these players are called "red-star" guys, because they are destined to make it in the league regardless of their circumstances. I surveyed the 2017 class for players with the right skills and intangibles to perform better than their draft grades suggest. Here are my five red-star prospects to watch:

1) DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame: The Notre Dame standout raised a few eyebrows with his recent comments suggesting he possessed a mix of Tom Brady's football intelligence and Cam Newton's athleticism, but I believe the 6-foot-4, 233-pound passer has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the 2017 class. Kizer not only possesses the prototypical size, arm talent and intelligence typically displayed by the "elites" at the position, but he flashes the kind of athleticism to attack defenses with his arm or legs. While skeptics harp on his inconsistencies as a passer and leader, there are few quarterbacks capable of making "wow" throws with superb timing, anticipation and accuracy like Kizer. If he lands with the right team under the right head coach/offensive coordinator, Kizer could blossom into a Pro Bowl-caliber player early in his career.

2) Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma: The Biletnikoff Award winner is rarely mentioned as a top prospect at the position -- partially due to some off-field character concerns that include domestic violence accusations -- yet he exhibits all of the on-field qualities teams look for in big-play receivers. Westbrook is an explosive speedster (clocked at a reported 4.34-second 40 time at his pro day) with polished route-running skills and sticky hands. He averaged 18.0 yards per catch during his two seasons at Oklahoma and totaled 21 touchdowns, including 17 in 2016. With a game and frame (5-foot-11, 178 pounds) that's eerily similar to DeSean Jackson, observers should pay close attention to Westbrook as a young player.

3) Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan: The Wolverines' Swiss Army knife has been downgraded by some teams for his lack of ball production (only one career interception) -- as well as his positive test for a dilute sample at the NFL Scouting Combine -- but on the field of play, I see a versatile playmaker with a combination of grit, athleticism and skills that typically translates into solid production at the next level. Peppers has experience playing eight different positions as a collegian (S, LB, CB, nickel, QB, RB, WR and returner) and brings plenty of juice as a three-way player. While skeptics wonder if he has the skills to be a high-level defender, I see an active safety capable of playing in the box, slot or deep middle as a hybrid player. Not to mention, he is a Pro Bowl-caliber punt returner capable of taking the ball to the house from anywhere on the field.

4) Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado: There's always a place in the league for smart, tough and physical cover corners with versatile skills. That's why I would expect Awuzie to emerge as a standout player early in his career as an outside/slot corner capable of playing man or zone. The Colorado product displays impressive movement skills and technique, while flashing strong instincts and awareness in coverage. With Awuzie also displaying a willingness to thump running backs and receivers in space, he is one of the most complete corner prospects in this class and should thrive as a starter early in his career.

5) Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee: The Vols' WR1 has flown under the radar for most of the draft process, but the 6-foot-3, 200-pound pass catcher is quite enticing based on his combination of size, speed and ball skills. Malone is a vertical playmaker who excels when asked to use his 4.40 speed to blow past sleeping defenders on go-routes and posts from the outside. In addition, he is a crafty intermediate route runner with a knack for getting open on speed cuts (digs and outs). Given Malone's ability to run every route in the book with speed and precision, the Tennessee standout might be a surprise No. 1 receiver for an NFL squad in a few years.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.



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