With the 2017 NFL Draft season now under way, here's a look at the top five prospects at each position.
There aren't any sure-fire franchise quarterbacks in the 2017 class, but there are plenty of intriguing developmental candidates. Kizer has prototypical physical dimensions, arm talent and athleticism, but his inconsistent play during his final season will raise some concerns about his readiness for the pro game. Watson is a big-game player with a knack for delivering his best performances in his team's biggest games. Despite scouts' concerns about his turnover woes and inconsistent ball placement, he earns rave reviews for his leadership skills and unshakeable confidence. Trubisky is highly regarded in the scouting community as a big, athletic passer with impressive pocket-passing skills. He lacks extensive playing experience, but his accuracy and arm talent makes him an enticing option as a QB1 candidate.
The 2017 running back class is as talented as any unit that we've seen in recent years. Fournette is a rugged runner with an old-school game that makes him an ideal workhorse in a power-based system. Cook is a dynamic playmaker capable of delivering splash plays as a runner or receiver. Kamara isn't a household name, but teams looking for an electric pass-catching threat to feature out of the backfield will be intrigued. Mixon is a polarizing prospect due to his off-field baggage, but he is arguably the most talented running back in the class. He's a transcendent playmaker capable of delivering splash plays as a runner/receiver, which will prompt decision makers to weigh the risk/reward consequences of picking him.
Williams is a notch above the rest as a WR1 with an NFL body and a pro-ready game. Scouts expect him to shine as a dominant pass-catcher from Day 1. Ross and Davis are excellent complementary receivers with polished route-running skills and big-play ability. Westbrook might be the best route runner in the class, but his slender frame is a huge concern for scouts searching for bigger options to fill a WR2 role.
The 2017 tight end class is loaded with athletic pass-catchers with basketball-player-like bodies and the capacity to create mismatches on the perimeter with their combination of size, strength, and athleticism. Howard is an exceptional perimeter playmaker with solid blocking skills. He hasn't put up big numbers at Alabama, but scouts are intrigued with his potential as a traditional tight end. Butt suffered a torn ACL a few weeks ago in the Orange Bowl, but he remains one of the most complete tight end prospects in the class. He is a solid blocker at the point of attack and scouts rave about his ability to work the middle of the field. If he checks out medically during the process, he will remain a top prospect on the board. Engram, Leggett, and Hodges are new school tight ends capable of acting as "Jumbo" receivers on their perimeter. Each player is a potential matchup nightmare on the perimeter when used out wide or in the slot in a spread formation.
Scouts have decried the lack of franchise offensive tackles in the 2017 class, but that won't stop them from taking a flier on a big, athletic blocker with a hint of agility, balance and body control. Robinson is the crown jewel of the class despite his reputation as a mauler/brawler on the edge. He is a monster in the running game but needs to refine his technique in pass protection. Bolles intrigues some scouts as an athletic edge blocker with outstanding athleticism and agility.
The scouting community is always looking for rugged interior blockers with size, strength, athleticism and nasty dispositions. The 2017 class certainly has a handful of "hard-hat-and-lunch-pail" guys capable of stepping in as Day 1 starters. Feeney headlines the group as a blue-collar blocker with a nasty game. He is a scheme-friendly player with the capacity to play in a zone or power-based scheme at the point of attack. Johnson flashes some power and pop as a mauler-type in a power-based scheme.
Pass rushers are always coveted at a premium during draft season. The 2017 class features a number of marquee playmakers but Garrett is the crown jewel of the group. The freakishly athletic rusher displays exceptional first-step quickness and burst as an edge rusher. Most importantly, he amassed 32.5 sacks while showing outstanding skills as a closer. Thomas is a disruptive force as a pass rusher. He flashes outstanding quickness and violent hands as a versatile defender at the point of attack.
The 2017 defensive tackle class features a handful of blue-collar defenders with the size, strength, and power to control the line of scrimmage as run stoppers or pass rushers. McDowell headlines the group as a long, rangy interior defender with disruptive potential as an inside rusher. Although questions about his motor will trouble scouts looking for a dominant player at the top of the board, he is certainly a player who flashes intriguing potential. Qualls is a fire hydrant at the line of scrimmage as an immovable run stopper with exceptional power.
The NFL's move to more hybrid schemes has changed the job description of outside linebackers entering the league. Scouts are looking for versatile defenders capable of rushing off the edge or dropping into coverage in dynamic schemes. Williams is a shop wrecker off the edge with explosive first-step quickness and burst. In addition, he shows the ability to turn speed into power as a bull rusher off the edge. Cunningham is a long, rangy athlete with the size and pop to set the edge or plug holes against the run.
The 2017 class of inside linebackers features a number of hard-hitting traffic cops with sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability. Foster is the top dog of the group as a punishing defender with exceptional instincts, awareness and physicality. McMillan and Davis are solid playmakers with excellent communication skills and outstanding athletic ability. Each prospect has the potential step in as a Day 1 starter in aggressive schemes.
The NFL scouting community loves long, rangy cornerbacks with versatile skills on the perimeter. The 2017 class is loaded with big corners capable of using press, bail or off technique in zone or man schemes. Lattimore is an explosive athlete with exceptional movement skills and instincts. He lacks the physicality that some coaches covet but there's no denying his cover skills, particularly in bump-and-run coverage. Tabor will intrigue scouts looking for a big, athletic press corner with the length to snuff out receivers at the line. Although his technique and backpedal needs some work, there is always a place for long corners in schemes that prominently feature bump-and-run coverage in the game plan.
There is a lot of excitement about the 2017 safety class in the NFL scouting community. Evaluators rave about the range and ball skills of the top centerfielder (Hooker) in the group. The Ohio State standout displays the speed and quickness to cover from numbers-to-numbers on deep balls. Most importantly, Hooker is a sticky-handed ballhawk with a knack for generating turnovers. Peppers is a unique prospect with experience playing within the box or in the slot as a hybrid playmaker. He was a dynamic player at Michigan, but he lacks the turnover production to cement his reputation as a game-changing playmaker.