NFL Draft Big Board: Top QBs Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky are risky bets
Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson combine for five turnovers in shocking losses
Another exhibit of the questionable quarterback talent in the 2017 NFL Draft was presented in Week 11 of the college football season, when the best this class has to offer struggled and slid down the Big Board as a result.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish redshirt sophomore DeShone Kizer led the Irish to a 44-6 thumping of Army West Point Black Knights but threw an interception and completed just 60.7 percent of his passes along with his three touchdowns. That's better than fellow underclassmen Mitch Trubisky ( North Carolina Tar Heels ) and Deshaun Watson ( Clemson Tigers ) fared.
Their combined five turnovers contributed to surprising upset losses. A QB-needy team like the Cleveland Browns , San Francisco 49ers or perhaps even the Chicago Bears may very well elect to gamble a top-five pick on one of these players. Doing so would be passing on a safer pick.
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
A nagging ankle injury robbed Garrett of his trademark explosiveness this season and his statistics (22 tackles, including 9.5 for loss and four sacks through eight games) are disappointing as a result. Rather than drop him for a lack of production, I've been encouraged by the competitiveness Garrett has shown in trying to fight through the injury and remember what a dominant force he was when healthy. The former consensus five-star recruit has been a terror since stepping onto the field for the Aggies, answering his breakout freshman season (53 tackles, including 14 for loss and 11 sacks) with an even better one last year (59-19.5-12.5). Boasting a prototypical blend of explosiveness, flexibility and length off the corner, Garrett has the look of a future Pro Bowl regular.
2. Jonathan Allen , DL, Alabama Crimson Tide , Sr, 6-3, 292, 4.85
With his 19th sack over the past 25 games, Allen was once again a standout in the showdown against LSU, recording three tackles in the Tide's 10-0 win. Allen's production is remarkable and a pace more typical among speedy edge rushers. Quite the contrary, Allen is position versatile, making many of his flashiest plays inside while at defensive tackle. He reminds me a little of Seattle Seahawks ' Pro Bowler Michael Bennett , winning with an explosive upfield burst and powerful, coordinated hands.
3. Leonard Fournette , RB, LSU, Jr, 6-1, 230, 4.45
Barring a major surprise, Fournette will be playing his final home game as a member of the LSU Tigers on Saturday, with a proud but injury-ravaged Florida Gators squad coming to Baton Rouge. Like Garrett, Fournette has been hobbled this season with an ankle injury and actually ranks behind his own teammate Derrius Guice among LSU rushers this season, totaling "just" 803 yards and eight touchdowns in the six games he's played this season. While Fournette's struggles this season are not ideal (and raise legitimate concerns about his durability), I believe he possesses the most exciting blend of size, speed and power among running backs since Adrian Peterson .
4. Jabrill Peppers , SS/OLB, Michigan Wolverines , rSoph, 6-0, 208, 4.48
Defensive coordinators looking for versatile playmakers will covet 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 perfectly demonstrated his versatility against rival Michigan State Spartans in Week 9, playing eight positions (linebacker, cornerback, safety, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, kick returner, punt returner) and recording seven tackles (including two for loss and a sack). He scored on a scramble as a Wildcat quarterback and a botched PAT return. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Peppers was not as impactful against Iowa Hawkeyes , recording five solo tackles and 45 all-purpose yards in the stunning 14-13 loss.
5. Reuben Foster , ILB, Alabama, Sr, 6-1, 240, 4.72
Inside linebackers rarely warrant top-10 consideration but Foster is a rare 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.
6. Marlon Humphrey , CB, Alabama, rSoph, 6-1, 198, 4.53
The son of former Alabama (and NFL) standout Bobby Humphrey, Marlon looks like a chip off the old block with his easy change of direction and acceleration. He's built well for a young player at a solid 6-1, 198 pounds and is an aggressive tackler, including in run support. Humphrey and true sophomore Minkah Fitzpatrick gives Alabama the best duo of cornerbacks in the nation.
7. Teez Tabor , CB, Florida, Jr, 6-0, 199, 4.52
Until this summer, Tabor's first name was Jalen, though his new name may 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. Tabor is one the nation's top smack-talkers but usually backs it up. He was suspended (reportedly for a fight with a teammate) for Florida's season opener but has recorded four interceptions since, tied for most in the SEC.
8. 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 possesses the agility and speed to handle coverage duties on slot receivers, possesses soft hands for the interception and is a tenacious run defender. Adams' kamikaze style of play can lead to occasional mistakes but he is always around the ball.
9. Christian McCaffrey , RB, Stanford Cardinal , Jr, 6-0, 202, 4.48
Despite Stanford's struggles, McCaffrey has proven every bit as dynamic as in past seasons -- quietly again leading the conference in rushing (123.6) and all-purpose yards (191.1) per game. With his easy agility, instant acceleration and soft hands, McCaffrey is a weapon of mass destruction as a runner, receiver and returner, warranting comparison to 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 versatility translates very well to today's wide-open NFL.
10. Malik McDowell , DT, Michigan State, 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 this season. McDowell is a clear-cut top 10 talent but his stock is slipping as scouts question whether he possesses the physical and mental toughness to excel at the next level.
11. Dalvin Cook , RB, Florida State, Jr, 5-11, 206, 4.46
Cook struggled out of the gate this season but has been dynamic since, especially in FSU's near upset over Clemson, when he ran for 169 yards and four touchdowns. While not as big as Fournette nor as explosive as McCaffrey, Cook is a natural runner with excellent vision, agility and burst. While his rushing totals are slightly down this season (1,242 yards and 13 TDs through 10 games), Cook has already set career-highs in receptions (27) and receiving yards (400), making his projection to the pass-happy NFL that much easier.
12. Zach Cunningham , LB, Vanderbilt Commodores , rJr, 6-3, 230, 4.74
Listed No. 18 on the initial 2017 Big Board in August, Cunningham has reinforced my opinion this season and warrants top-20 consideration. Cunningham currently leads the SEC with 104 tackles -- one more than he posted a year ago, when he earned First Team All-SEC honors despite not starting until the fourth game. Instinctive, aggressive and athletic, Cunningham offers an exciting and versatile skill set sure to intrigue any creative defensive coordinator in the NFL.
13. Mike Williams , WR, Clemson, rJr, 6-3, 220, 4.50
Don't blame Williams for Clemson's surprising home loss to Pittsburgh Panthers , as he was magnificent, hauling in a career-high 15 passes for 202 yards, including a 15-yard second quarter touchdown that gave the Tigers an early lead. Though last year's neck injury and an occasional drop of an "easy" pass remain concerns, Williams is in the same class athletically as former teammates Sammy Watkins , DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant . An imposing target with explosive speed and the body control to win contested passes, Williams looks the part of a future No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
14. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame, 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. The young signal-caller has struggled at times and was even benched for much of the second half against Stanford. He possesses the kind of undeniable talent that could lead to an early selection should he opt to head to the NFL but is far from a surefire franchise quarterback. Teams will not overlook that Brian Kelly has produced just one NFL quarterback (2010 sixth-round pick Tony Pike , Carolina) in 26 seasons as a head coach.
15. 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 possessed the length and explosiveness 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 the run and pass, alike.
16. John Ross , WR, Washington Huskies , rJr, 5-11, 190, 4.35
Ross was just as dynamic in his team's surprising Week 11 loss as Williams, recording eight grabs for 154 yards (including a 70-yard touchdown) in a highly-anticipated matchup with Southern California Trojans 's ultra-athletic cornerback Adoree' Jackson (27th on this list). A DeSean Jackson clone with blinding straight-line speed, agility and versatility as both a receiver and returner, he is only a clean medical grade away from becoming the first receiver from Washington to earn a first-round pick since Reggie Williams in 2004.
17. Sidney Jones , CB, Washington, Jr, 6-0, 181, 4.49
Jones is the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high two interceptions (along with two other pass breakups and three tackles) in the Huskies' Week 10 win over Cal and draft-worthy senior quarterback Davis Webb . 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 this spring, though some worry about his somewhat slim frame.
18. Cam Robinson , OT, Alabama, Jr, 6-5, 327, 5.28
Robinson has starred at left tackle for the Tide since earning the job as a true freshman but his NFL future may be on the right side or even inside at guard. 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 has certainly been tested, squaring off against Tennessee's Derek Barnett, Garrett and LSU's super sophomore Arden Key in recent weeks with Lawson still to go.
19. O.J. Howard , TE, Alabama, Sr, 6-6, 242, 4.57
Howard is the best tight end in the country even if he plays an inconsistent role in the Alabama offense (including catching just one pass for -3 yards against LSU). Just as he did when featured during last season's national title game against Clemson, Howard was virtually unstoppable against Texas A&M, registering a career-high eight receptions for 69 yards and touchdown. His freakish combination of size, speed and strength make Howard a mismatch nightmare in the passing game and he's made major strides this season as a blocker.
20. Mitch Trubisky, QB, Jr, North Carolina, 6-3, 220, 4.74
Trubisky has skyrocketed up draft boards this season, completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 3,004 yards and 22 touchdowns against just four interceptions. Trubisky's production -- as well as his NFL-caliber combination of size, arm strength and athleticism -- is certainly intriguing. But the Tar Heels QB is largely a projection at this point. Though he played in 19 games the past two seasons as an often-used backup, the only 10 starts of his college career have come this season and he is supported by legitimate NFL talent at running back and wide receiver. Further, questions about Trubisky's late game poise were raised in last week's surprising 28-27 loss to Duke Blue Devils in which he threw two interceptions in the second half, including a game-sealing mistake with just 1:02 remaining.
21. Carl Lawson , DE, Auburn Tigers , rJr, 6-2, 253, 4.67
With all due respect to the top-ranked Garrett, Lawson has been the best pass rusher in the SEC over the past month, already eclipsing his previous single-season high and tying for the conference lead with 10 sacks. Finally healthy after missing 19 of 26 games over the 2014-15 seasons with a torn ACL and hip injury, Lawson is winning with a fearsome combination of initial burst, core strength and a relentless motor.
22. Bucky Hodges , TE, Virginia Tech Hokies , rJr, 6-6, 245, 4.78
Unlike Alabama's bigger, stronger Howard, Hodges is more of a hybrid receiver, projecting best as a mismatch in the passing game, similar to Seattle's Jimmy Graham . A high school quarterback who didn't make the full transition to pass catcher until his sophomore season at Virginia Tech, Hodges is understandably raw but is the kind of freakish athlete to be worthy of a first-round gamble.
23. Desmond King , CB, Iowa, Sr, 5-10, 200, 4.53
King nearly made the jump to the NFL after a junior season in which he recorded eight interceptions and was recognized with the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back. His statistics have dropped this season (only one interception) as opponents have wisely avoided him. Scouts admire King's instincts, physicality and ball skills but question his straight-line speed.
24. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson, Jr, 6-2, 210, 4.64
Watson set an ACC record with 580 passing yards against Pittsburgh but it was the three interceptions thrown in the loss which is more meaningful to scouts. Frankly, this game was nothing new for Watson, who for all of his athleticism and poise late in games, has often made troubling decisions with the ball and struggled with shaky accuracy from inside the pocket throughout his career. Watson's slight frame and Clemson's relatively simple offense are other legitimate concerns. Watson is gifted but he's far from the sure thing as a franchise NFL quarterback that his gaudy statistics (8,647 passing yards and a 76 to 28 TD to INT ratio) suggest.
25. JuJu Smith-Schuster , WR, Southern Cal, Jr, 6-2, 220, 4.52
With his eight touchdowns this season coming in just three games ( Utah State Aggies , Arizona State Sun Devils , Arizona Wildcats ), scouts want to see more consistency from Smith-Schuster, who is able to bully cornerbacks with his size, strength and body control but may lack top-end speed. Smith-Schuster made some key grabs early in the upset over Washington but was largely held in check by Jones and fellow future early NFL pick, Kevin King , catching three passes for 41 yards.
Best of the Rest:
26. Vita Vea , DT, Washington, rSoph, 6-4, 322, 5.19
27. Adoree' Jackson, CB/WR/RS, Jr, Southern Cal, 5-11, 185, 4.43
28. Dan Feeney , OG, Indiana Hoosiers , rSr, 6-4, 310, 5.09
29. Lowell Lotulelei , DT, Utah Utes , Jr, 6-2, 310, 5.28
30. Malik Hooker , FS, Ohio State Buckeyes , rSoph, 6-2, 205, 4.52
31. Ryan Ramczyk , OT, Wisconsin Badgers , RJr, 6-5, 316, 5.29
32. Dorian Johnson , OG, Pittsburgh, Sr, 6-5, 300, 5.20
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