2017 NFL Draft Big Board: Questions entering combine for injured prospects
Malik Hooker, Corey Davis and Ryan Ramcyzk are all first-round talents dealing with injuries
With Bill Belichick hoisting yet another Lombardi Trophy, the NFL calendar has officially turned to draft season.
Teams looking to emulate the "Patriot Way" will find plenty of talent available in the 2017 draft, especially among edge rushers, defensive backs, tight ends and running backs -- positions which dominate the Big Board, my personal ranking of the top 64 players available.
Unfortunately, this year's class also comes with plenty of questions, including at the all-important quarterback position, as well as several one-year wonders -- some of whom only raised more red flags with recent news that they will not be able to participate in combine workouts due to injury.
Players are listed by name, position, school, year, height, weight and 40-yard dash time
1. Myles Garrett , DE, Texas A&M, Jr., 6-5, 262, 4.74
Garrett is the most gifted prospect in this class, though his production (33 tackles, including 15.5 for loss and 8.5 sacks) was way down in 2016 in comparison to his first two seasons (53-14-11.5 in 2014 and 59-19.5-12.5 in 2015). An ankle injury robbed Garrett of his trademark explosiveness for much of his junior campaign but he offers a Pro Bowl-caliber combination of initial quickness, change-of-direction and length, projecting as an immediate difference-maker as a defensive end or stand-up edge rusher.
2. Jonathan Allen , DL, Alabama Crimson Tide , Sr., 6-3, 292, 4.85
Whereas Garrett was slowed by injury, Allen maintained his season-long perch as my top-rated senior prospect regardless of position. Capable of creating havoc while lining up inside or out, Allen reminds me a little of Seattle Seahawks Pro Bowl lineman Michael Bennett , winning with an explosive upfield burst and powerful, coordinated hands.
3. Leonard Fournette , RB, LSU, Jr., 6-1, 230, 4.45
Part of the reason why scouts were unfazed with Fournette's decision to skip the Fiesta Bowl is that he struggled with an ankle injury this season, finishing second on his own team in rushing yards (843 yards, eight touchdowns) to sophomore sensation Derrius Guice (1,249-14). While Fournette's struggles are not ideal, when healthy he has shown the most exciting blend of size, speed and power among running backs since Adrian Peterson .
4. Jamal Adams , S, LSU, Jr., 6-0, 211, 4.48
It is easy to mistake Adams for former LSU Tigers star Tyrann Mathieu , given their similar instincts and highly aggressive playing style. Like Mathieu, Adams has the agility and speed to handle coverage duties on slot receivers, with soft hands for the interception, and is a tenacious run defender. Adams' kamikaze style can lead to occasional mistakes, but he is always around the ball.
5. Solomon Thomas , DL, Stanford Cardinal , rSoph., 6-3, 272, 4.85
After focusing on seniors and fourth-year juniors through much of the season, scouts are still just starting the evaluation of Thomas and a host of other gifted redshirt sophomores. Once they do, you can expect his name to shoot up draft boards as quickly as he has mine. Thomas was as impressive on a snap-to-snap basis as any prospect in the country in 2016, demonstrating the initial burst, power and advanced hand usage to earn comparisons to Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald .
6. Dalvin Cook , RB, Florida State Seminoles , Jr., 5-11, 206, 4.46
While Fournette's blend of size, speed and power are certainly intriguing, one could argue that Cook offers the greater recipe for success in the NFL. He offers terrific instincts as a runner, showing vision, patience and burst attack on the ground. Just as importantly in today's pass-happy era, Cook has soft hands as well as the toughness and selflessness to block, when necessary. Cook ended his career in style, running for 145 yards and a touchdown and adding another 62 yards as a receiver to help beat Michigan Wolverines in the Orange Bowl.
7. Reuben Foster , ILB, Alabama, Sr., 6-1, 240, 4.72
Inside linebackers rarely warrant top-10 consideration but Foster is an exceptional talent. Foster might be the most intimidating hitter in all of college football and he possesses the fluidity and speed to cover. He is a more explosive athlete than Alabama's recent stars at linebacker, showing ridiculous closing speed and an utter disregard for his own safety or that of his opponents.
8. Mike Williams , WR, Clemson Tigers , rJr., 6-3, 220, 4.50
With all due respect to his quarterback and national title game MVP Deshaun Watson, Williams was the most impressive player on the field in Clemson's victory over Alabama. He possesses enough speed to challenge downfield and uses his frame and remarkable body control to haul in contested passes with ease, projecting as a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
9. Malik Hooker , FS, Ohio State Buckeyes , rSoph., 6-2, 205, 4.47
Nicknamed "Malik the Freak" because his combination of size and athleticism stands out even among the talented Buckeyes, Hooker exploded onto the scene in 2016, finishing tied for second in the country with seven interceptions while wowing with his instincts and sideline-to-sideline speed. Hooker only has one season as a starter and is prone to over-aggression as an open-field tackler, but scouts are giddy about his upside. Unfortunately, Hooker will miss the combine, undergoing core muscle and labrum (hip) surgeries.
10. Mitch Trubisky , QB, North Carolina Tar Heels , rJr., 6-3, 220, 4.74
The 13 starts of his college career all came in 2016, but Trubisky is my top-rated quarterback. As you would expect given his limited experience, Trubisky is a work in progress reading defenses and he lacks ideal size. However, he grades very well in many of the areas that I believe to be the greatest indicators of future success at the NFL level, including mobility in and out of the pocket, arm strength and most important, accuracy to all levels of the field.
11. Zach Cunningham , LB, Vanderbilt Commodores , rJr., 6-3, 230, 4.74
Listed 18th overall on my initial Big Board in August, Cunningham only reinforced my opinion throughout the regular season that he warrants top-20 consideration. Instinctive, aggressive and athletic, Cunningham offers an exciting and versatile skill set sure to intrigue any creative defensive coordinator in the NFL. Cunningham led the SEC with 125 tackles -- 22 more than he posted a year ago, when he earned first-team All-SEC honors despite not starting until the fourth game.
12. Derek Barnett , DE, Tennessee Volunteers , Jr., 6-3, 257, 4.76
A more polished defender than even the top-rated Garrett, Barnett has silenced critics (including me) who questioned whether he had the length and burst to warrant a first-round selection. While perhaps lacking in pure explosiveness, Barnett varies his attack, incorporating quickness, power and refined technique to wreak havoc against both the run and pass. Those close to the program rave about his work ethic, and Barnett's production speaks for itself. Barnett passed the late Hall of Famer Reggie White as Tennessee's all-time sack king in a Music City Bowl victory over Nebraska Cornhuskers . Barnett's 33 sacks led the country over the past three seasons.
13. Ryan Ramczyk , OT, Wisconsin Badgers , rJr., 6-5, 316, 5.29
The Badgers are well known for producing quality offensive linemen, but Ramczyk (pronounced Ram-check) comes with a unique backstory as a transfer from D-III Wisconsin-Stephens Point. With uncanny agility and balance for a player of his size, Ramczyk has the agility that appeals to teams with zone-blocking schemes and was the most consistent pass protector I saw in 2016, his only at the D-I level. Ramczyk will miss the combine and possible pro day workouts after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip.
14. Jabrill Peppers , SS/OLB, Michigan, rSoph., 6-0, 208, 4.48
Unfortunately, Peppers made headlines for all of the wrong reasons in the Orange Bowl, with a hamstring injury sidelining him for the game. Despite his absence in this critical matchup, defensive coordinators looking for versatile playmakers will be highly intrigued by Peppers, the latest in a new line of defensive "erasers" capable of lining up at safety, linebacker or cornerback similar in style to recent first-round picks Deone Bucannon , Damarious Randall and Shaq Thompson. Peppers' agility and instincts routinely show up with big plays near the line of scrimmage but he was beaten in coverage by Curtis Samuel in the showdown with Ohio State.
15. O.J. Howard , TE, Alabama, Sr., 6-6, 249, 4.57
Despite relative pedestrian numbers at Alabama, Howard entered the week of Senior Bowl practice as the top-rated player in Mobile and certainly lived up to the billing, wowing with his freakish combination of size, speed and soft hands.
16. Teez Tabor , CB, Florida Gators , Jr., 6-0, 199, 4.52
Tabor's first name was Jalen, until this summer when he chose a new name that might provide a more accurate description of his game. Tabor teases with an exciting combination of size, fluidity and speed, standing out in coverage and as a gunner on special teams the past two years. He is a more consistent pass defender than former teammate Vernon Hargreaves , the No. 11 overall selection (Tampa Bay) last year.
17. Marshon Lattimore , CB, Ohio State, rSoph., 6-0, 195, 4.47
Like his teammate Hooker, Lattimore broke out in a big way in 2016, recording a team-high 13 passes defensed, including four interceptions after struggling with hamstring injuries over his first two seasons. Lattimore could follow former Buckeye Eli Apple 's ascent up draft boards as the process moves forward as scouts pore over his tape and note his quickness, balance and speed in coverage.
18. Corey Davis , WR, Western Michigan Broncos , Sr., 6-3, 213, 4.48
With his FBS-record 5,212 career receiving yards (and 51 touchdowns), a prototypical frame and polished route-running there is a lot to like about Davis. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury kept him from competing at the Senior Bowl and he may miss the combine, as well, after suffering an ankle injury.
19. Cam Robinson , OT, Alabama, Jr., 6-5, 327, 5.28
As his monstrous size implies, Robinson can be a road-grader in the running game and his quickness and length can make him very effective in pass protection. He reminds me in many ways of recent early first-round picks Ereck Flowers ( New York Giants , No. 9 overall, 2015) and D.J. Fluker ( San Diego Chargers , No. 11 overall, 2013), who are highly regarded by scouts though often criticized by the media and fans. Robinson, honored as this season's Outland Trophy winner, has starred at left tackle for the Tide since earning the job as a true freshman but his NFL future might be on the right side or even inside at guard.
20. John Ross , WR, Washington Huskies , rJr., 5-11, 190, 4.35
Ross was limited to five catches for 28 yards by Alabama but that was more a reflection of Washington's inability to get him the ball in space. Perhaps no player improved his draft stock more this season than Ross, who has overcome two separate serious knee injuries earlier in his career to rank among national leaders with 17 touchdown receptions, including one in the Pac-12 championship win over a Colorado Buffaloes secondary filled with NFL prospects. Ross is a DeSean Jackson clone with blinding straight-line speed, agility and versatility as both a receiver and returner.
21. Marlon Humphrey , CB, Alabama, rSoph., 6-1, 198, 4.53
Teams prioritizing size and physicality will find a lot to like with Humphrey, the son of former Alabama star and NFL first-round pick Bobby Humphrey ( Denver Broncos , 1989). A former track star, Humphrey is built well for a young player at a solid 6-feet-1 and 198 pounds and is an aggressive tackler, including in run support.
22. Christian McCaffrey , RB, Stanford, Jr., 6-0, 202, 4.48
Despite Stanford's struggles, McCaffrey was every bit as dynamic as in past seasons -- quietly again leading the Pac-12 in rushing (145.7) and all-purpose yards (211.5). With his easy agility, instant acceleration and soft hands, he reminds of another former Pac-12 star, Reggie Bush . Like Bush, McCaffrey lacks the bulk to be a true bell-cow back at the next level but his ability as a returner and as a potential slot receiver add to his value.
23. Takkarist McKinley , OLB/DE, UCLA Bruins , Sr., 6-2, 258, 4.58
The NFL loves freaky athletes and they don't come much more explosive than McKinley, a former track star who has steadily developed into one of the nation's most fearsome edge rushers. Like Lawson, McKinley possesses the upfield burst and bend to attack off the corner (as his 10 sacks in 11 games this season imply), but he is not "just" a pass rusher, showing the awareness and closing speed to drop into coverage or spy mobile quarterbacks as well.
24. Sidney Jones IV, CB, Washington, Jr., 6-0, 181, 4.49
A big part of the Huskies' ascent into the playoff in 2016 was due to their extraordinary secondary, which will see three members (senior Kevin King , junior Budda Baker and Jones) drafted this spring. Jones is the most polished of the bunch. A silky-smooth athlete with excellent awareness and composure with the ball in the air, Jones has a shot to be the first cornerback selected, though some worry about his somewhat slim frame. While Alabama showed its muscle against the Huskies, it is worth noting that the Crimson Tide did not attempt a single pass in Jones' direction in the Peach Bowl.
25. DeShone Kizer , QB, Notre Dame Fighting Irish , rSoph., 6-4, 230, 4.84
Kizer is the most gifted draft-eligible quarterback prospect in the country with a prototypical blend of build, arm strength and functional athleticism. He possesses the kind of undeniable talent that could lead to a much earlier selection than my ranking, but he is far from a sure-fire franchise quarterback, making head-scratching decisions or simply inaccurate passes in virtually every game this season. Kizer threw for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns against nine interceptions this season for the 4-8 Fighting Irish. Teams will not overlook that Brian Kelly has produced just one NFL quarterback (2010 sixth-round pick Tony Pike , Carolina Panthers ) in 26 seasons as a head coach.
26. Taco Charlton , DE, Michigan, Sr., 6-5, 272, 4.87
Charlton missed out on a huge opportunity by opting not to attend the Senior Bowl but scouts are excited about him, nonetheless. A twitchy athlete with prototypical length, burst and bend off the edge, Charlton registered a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2016 and might be just scratching the surface of his potential.
27. Malik McDowell , DT, Michigan State Spartans , Jr., 6-5, 282, 4.92
Scouts are intrigued by McDowell's blend of size, strength and athleticism, which has allowed him to play virtually every position along the defensive line over the past three seasons for the Spartans. Unfortunately, for all of his talent McDowell has also shown a troubling tendency to get nicked up, missing snaps in several games in 2016, leading to questions about his durability and grit.
28. David Njokue, TE, Miami, rSoph., 6-4, 240, 4.65
He started just five of 13 games for the Hurricanes in 2016, but Njokue emerged as one of the nation's most productive tight ends, hauling in 43 passes for 698 yards and eight touchdowns. Njokue will drop an occasional easy pass but his agility and acceleration are top notch for the position and he projects as a legitimate matchup nightmare in the NFL.
29. Carl Lawson , OLB/DE, Auburn Tigers , rJr., 6-2, 253, 4.67
Finally healthy after missing 19 of 26 games over the 2014-15 seasons with a torn ACL and hip injury, Lawson recorded a career-high nine sacks for the Tigers this season after flashing opposite 2014 Kansas City Chiefs first-round pick Dee Ford as a freshman. Lawson wins with a fearsome combination of initial burst, core strength and a relentless motor.
30. Haason Reddick , LB, Temple Owls , rSr., 6-1, 237, 4.54
Reddick starred as an undersized edge rusher for the Owls (recording 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2016) but it was the agility and acceleration he showed playing off the ball in Mobile that has his stock skyrocketing as one of the few true three-down linebackers in this class.
31. Tim Williams , OLB, Alabama, Sr., 6-3, 252, 4.76
Pass rushers rank second only to passers themselves in today's NFL, and Williams might just be the country's most dynamic threat off the edge. Williams terrorizes opponents off the edge with his snap anticipation, first-step quickness and flexibility to turn the corner, but he comes with significant off-field questions that will need to be answered during interviews at the combine.
32. Deshaun Watson , QB, Clemson, Jr., 6-2, 215, 4.64
There is no denying Watson was spectacular in guiding Clemson to its first national championship since 1981, accounting for 463 yards and four touchdowns in the big win over the favored Crimson Tide and their vaunted defense. His competitiveness, big-game moxie and dual-threat talents are exciting. Watson starred in a relatively QB-friendly offense that did not ask him to make multiple reads before running and he has shown less-than-ideal accuracy throughout his career, leading the country with 28 interceptions over the past two seasons.
Finishing the Top 64:
, rSr, 6-4, 310, 5.09
34. DeMarcus Walker , DT, Florida State, Sr, 6-2, 273, 4.86
35. Tre'Davious White CB, LSU, Sr, 5-11, 192, 4.50
36. Dion Dawkins , OG, Temple, Sr, 6-5, 320, 5.27
37. Charles Harris , DE, Missouri Tigers , rJr, 6-3, 255, 4.74
38. Dorian Johnson , OG, Pittsburgh Panthers , Sr, 6-5, 300, 5.20
39. Dede Westbrook , WR, Oklahoma Sooners , Sr, 5-11, 175, 4.39
40. Garett Bolles , OT, Utah Utes , Jr, 6-5, 296, 4.97
41. Desmond King , CB/S, Iowa Hawkeyes , Sr, 5-10, 200, 4.53
42. Chidobe Awuzie , CB, Colorado, Sr, 5-11, 205, 4.56
43. Jourdan Lewis , CB, Michigan, Sr, 5-10, 188, 4.43
44. Marcus Williams , FS, Utah, Jr, 6-0, 195, 4.56
45. Taylor Moton , OT, Western Michigan, 6-5, 330, 5.31
46. Tarell Basham , DE, Ohio Bobcats , Sr, 6-4, 259, 4.64
47. Gareon Conley , CB, Ohio State, rJr, 6-0, 195, 4.50
48. Quincy Wilson , CB/S, Florida, Jr, 6-1, 213, 4.54
49. T.J. Watt , OLB, Wisconsin, 6-4, 243, 4.79
50. Forrest Lamp , OG, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers , rSr, 6-3, 302, 5.12
51. Obi Melifonwu , S, Connecticut Huskies , rSr, 6-4, 219, 4.54
52. Evan Engram , TE, Mississippi, Jr, 6-3, 227, 4.64
53. Alvin Kamara , RB, Tennessee, rJr, 5-10, 215, 4.62
54. Caleb Brantley , DT, Florida, rJr, 6-2, 314, 5.23
55. Cameron Sutton , CB, Tennessee, Sr, 5-11, 186, 4.50
56. Fabian Moreau , CB, UCLA, rSr, 6-0, 205, 4.43
57. Chris Wormley , DT, Michigan, rSr, 6-5, 302, 4.92
58. Adoree' Jackson , CB/WR/RS, Southern Cal, Jr, 5-11, 185, 4.43
59. Roderick Johnson , OT, Florida State, Jr, 6-6, 308, 5.10
60. Cooper Kupp , WR, Eastern Washington, Sr, 6-1, 198, 4.54
61. Budda Baker, FS, Washington, Jr, 5-10, 192, 4.52
62. Curtis Samuel, RB/WR, Ohio State, Jr, 5-11, 200, 4.52
63. Cordrea Tankersley , CB, Clemson, Sr, 6-0, 200, 4.48
64. Bucky Hodges , TE/WR, Virginia Tech Hokies , rJr, 6-6, 245, 4.75
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