May 8, 2014; New York, NY, USA; A general view of a helmet and NFL shield logo before the start of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
The 2017 NFL Draft has some legit stars across the spectrum but which positional group will shine? Here’s a breakdown of how the overall depth is across each position.
The 2017 NFL Draft has many intriguing players, some that aren’t getting a lot of attention, some stars that will be busts and some players that didn’t light up your television screens on Saturdays but will on Sundays.
This year’s draft is deep at some positions while others, not so much. It’s just the beginning of the end for some and the beginning for others.
What you think of them now may not be what you think of them in the years to come. For now, we will look at each position and assess whether they are capable of taking the next step in the pros.
Without further ado, here are the top positional groups ranked from worst to best.
Next: 10. Specialists
Jan 21, 2017; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; West Team kicker Austin Rehkow (20) kicks a field goal during the first quarter of the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Generally speaking, in this group, you know the players’ names (on Sundays), either, because they did something really awesome or really bad. There’s no in between with these players.
For instance, a botched snap by the long snapper, a late second made field goal or a shanked punt will get a specialist’s name in the paper. To be frank, the only reason they’re at No. 10 on this list is because there are only nine players to look at, period.
Of those nine, only one is likely to play on Sundays. Therefore, they have to be at the bottom.
Most of them will be late round picks or free agents. It’s a down year for specialists.
Next: 9. Quarterbacks
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
According to Colin Cowherd, in his estimations, college football gives the NFL an average of one franchise quarterback a year. Well, this year, there doesn’t appear to a long-term answer at quarterback.
There are some that have some good qualities, but none will really give you any sustained winning. They might give you good seasons, but nothing over the long-term.
If you’re looking for that spark, this is the year. A spark is all you will get from these men.
They all have some good qualities, but they don’t put the whole package together. They won’t be long-term answers.
Names to look out for: 1. Deshaun Watson 2. Nathan Peterman 3. DeShone Kizer
Next: 8. Wide Receivers
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
8. Wide Receivers
In the quarterback class there aren’t any franchise players, but in the wide receivers group, there’s only one guy. His name is Mike Williams of Clemson.
The depth of this group is based on role players. There are a few second and third-round talents, but none are No. 1 targets.
Most of the receivers in this class fit the Julian Edelman role of quality slot receivers. You won’t want any of them lining up against the best corners in the league.
Most of the players in this group will go late on Friday or early Saturday. If your favorite team needs help at wide receiver, they better look for it in free agency.
Names to look out for: 1. Mike Williams 2. John Ross 3. Corey Davis
Next: 7. Offensive Line
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) against Clemson Tigers defensive end Austin Bryant (91) in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
7. Offensive Line
The offensive line group isn’t as deep as it has been in year’s past. In fact, it really has no depth at all.
This grouping is very top-heavy. The top three players separate themselves from the group substantially, and they will be early picks.
Then, the next four players will be 3rd – 4th round selections. However, the rest of the group may either go really late or end up as free agents.
As the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders showed us, the offensive line is the most important unit on the field. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much in this year’s draft, and teams will have to find their pieces in free agency.
Names to look out for: 1. Cam Robinson 2. Ryan Ramczyk 3. Forrest Lamp
Next: 6. Tight End
Dec 31, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) makes a move on Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) after a catch during the fourth quarter in the 2016 CFP Semifinal at the Georgia Dome. Alabama defeated Washington 24-7. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
6. Tight End
This position group has a little more depth than offensive line, because multiple players may go in the first two rounds. Then, in the third round, we may see a few go.
Tight ends have become more and more significant as the decades go by since Mike Ditka became the first tight end to be a primary weapon and the first tight end enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It also has shown up at the college level.
That is why we have so much depth at the position this year, especially early on. You will see a few of them flash on your screens on Sundays for years to come.
This group is filled with some future Pro Bowlers and All-Pros. You may even see some of them as integral pieces on Super Bowl Sunday.
Names to look out for: 1. O.J. Howard 2. David Njoku 3. Evan Engram
Next: 5. Linebacker
This position group is where the best overall player in the draft resides. In addition, it’s where you find the first spot where you will find early round depth to the third round.
In this position, you will find at least three first-round picks, some definite Pro Bowlers, and All-Pros. Also, this is where you find the first true game changer.
As the importance of the tight end has increased so has the role of the linebacker. Linebackers can’t just be run stoppers or pass rushers.
Many teams are looking for guys who can do multiple things. This group has guys that teams are looking for.
Names to look out for: 1. Myles Garrett 2. Reuben Foster 3. T.J. Watt
Next: 4. Defensive Line
Oct 15, 2015; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (90) celebrates after a tackle in the second quarter against the UCLA Bruins in a NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
4. Defensive Line
This group has talent and versatility galore. They have guys who can play inside and outside, or they can play with their hand in the dirt or standing up.
That is why it is so deep. They’re athletic, strong, agile, fast, and they’re at least three rounds deep in this year’s draft.
The NFL has evolved into a quarterback’s league, and it has evolved into a league where teams pass more than they run. The defensive line either needs to get to the quarterback quickly or eat up blockers for the second level to do so.
That is why this class is so deep. They can do it all.
Names to look out for: 1. Solomon Thomas 2. Jonathan Allen 3. Derek Barnett
Next: 3. Running Back
Nov 12, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs during the first quarter of the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
3. Running Back
If this were the days of yesteryear, this position group would be much lower on the list. In today’s game, though, it’s near the top.
Teams are not necessarily looking for a workhorse back anymore, but they are looking to build depth at the running back position to where they can use multiple backs in a game most of the time. The multiple-back system is why this position group is so high.
That system allows for more backs to be available later in the draft, which in turn makes the class deeper than it would’ve been in the past. There’s talent all the way to the fourth round here.
Also, if you’re a running back who can play special teams, you’ll be an asset to any team. It is easily the deepest offensive group in the draft.
Names to look out for: 1. Leonard Fournette 2. Dalvin Cook 3. Christian McCaffrey
Next: 2. Safety
Oct 8, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) returns the interception during the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Safety may be top-heavy, similarly to the offensive line position, but the difference between safety and offensive line is that the talent is so much deeper at the top. It would be a shocker to see ten players go in the first 64 picks in this year’s draft.
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The depth of this class comes from the middle rounds. There is definitely a lot of second and third-round talent in the draft that might go in the first round other years.
This group has talent. A few Pro Bowlers will be in the mix, but there is talent that can start on NFL rosters all the way to the third round.
Being able to play on special teams also helps, because it can get you playing time early and give coaches an opportunity to see you in game situations. This class has a lot of potential.
Names to look out for: 1. Malik Hooker 2. Jamal Adams 3. Jabrill Peppers
Next: 1. Cornerbacks
Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Braxton Miller (1) makes a catch as Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) defends during the first half in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
There used to be a stereotype that people played cornerback because they couldn’t catch. Well, in a quarterback-driven league, you need to be able to not only know the football down but also force turnovers.
More and more cornerbacks are showing the ability to shadow receivers and get turnovers, and it’s showing in this class. Corners are becoming like linebackers in that there are plenty of passing down specialists (similar to the pass rushers).
The ability to play special teams helps this position group too. It gives them an opportunity to shine, and eventually land a spot in the rotation.
This group is four rounds deep in actual talent that will either start in the defensive backfield or on special teams. That is why it is the No. 1 group.
MUST READ: Linebacker T.J. Watt 2017 NFL Draft Profile
Names to look out for: 1. Marshon Lattimore 2. Marlon Humphrey 3. Sydney Jones