The COMBINE plays a larger role for me with every year that passes, it seems. I want to see more of those underclassmen in action, as well as small school guys. I also like having an idea how fast players are in comparison to their peers, even if it is only in their underwear. But while we wait for the Combine (an extra week later this year), I thought I would give a post-All-Star Game evaluation of the position groups for the 2017 Draft.
Let’s start with the Offense today.
QB GROUP This is likely to be a major disappointment after last year’s record haul of 15 QB drafted, including the top 2 picks in the entire process. Neither of those things is likely to happen this year. Perhaps more under the principle of ‘supply & demand’ economics, as opposed to pure talent/value, we can expect a couple of QB to be taken in Round One, maybe as many as 3. But to be honest if I need a franchise QB added to my team I am making a trade bid for JIMMY GAROPPOLO from the PATRIOTS.
The highest upside guy for me is DeSHONE KIZER from Notre Dame, but he’s almost a reclamation project already because of the mental damage inflicted upon him by BRIAN KELLEY, the Irish Head Coach and noted QB killer. KIZER may need to be de-briefed for a year or two, and the team that drafts him had best have a real QB Whisperer on the staff to tutor him one-on-one. Go back and look at some Notre Dame game film as KIZER stands on the sidelines, gazing into the stands, or perhaps up at Touchdown Jesus if it’s a home game, as KELLEY gets in his face about the last possession. Can you say ‘tuned out’?!
MITCH TRUBISKY, has a resume’ almost as short as CARSON WENTZ did last year at this time. At least his film is against FBS teams. He may indeed be NFL caliber in time, but at best he reminds me a lot of ANDY DALTON, and that is not a Round 1 recommendation. DeSHAUN WATSON has winner & leader written all over him, but he doesn’t usually overwhelm the opposition, and relies on his feet way too much to think he’ll stay healthy long enough at the pro level, ala RG3. How high will PATRICK MAHOMES/Texas Tech go? Likely, Round 2, but it may be several years before he sees the field because he has a lot to learn about running a pro stye Offense after being with HC KINGSBURY and his ‘chuck & duck’ offense.
I’m thinking 6-7 QB will be taken in the first 3 rounds, and maybe about 10-12 overall. 12 is the norm. Kind of on the positive side (I think), there may be 2-3 undrafted QB with just as good a chance to make NFL rosters as any of the Day 3 Draftees.
Group Grade: C, average
WR GROUP The recent benchmark for this position group is the amazing 2014 Draft that featured BECKHAM, LANDRY, BENJAMIN, WATKINS, BRYANT, MATTHEWS and more. This year’s group of wideouts is much more pedestrian than that group. But I have little doubt that once we stir the underclassmen into the mix, there will be a dozen-plus players capable of becoming solid No. 2 & 3 receivers on NFL rosters. I would also expect needy teams to be able to conjure up a first round short list of 3-4 names to plug into Round 1.
For my money MIKE WILLIAMS, COREY DAVIS & JOHN ROSS look like sure things for Round 1. Maybe 12-13 wideouts go in the first 3 Rounds overall. Based on the law of averages I’d expect about 30 players to come from this position group in April. That’s right about average, 31 being the norm.
The good news is that there should be something for just about everyone, when all is said and done. I have no doubt that the Combine will identify some real speed burners (like ROSS). We also have some nice sized possession types, as well as some smaller cat-quick slot guys to choose from.
Do NOT be sleeping on COOPER KUPP/E. Washington. He may be from a small school, but he is a big time player. He was not covered very often during Senior Bowl Week and seemed to have a personal duel going with RASUL DOUGLAS/West Virginia, who is a highly regarded CB. His goal is to run a 4.40-40 in Indy. By doing so he would shake off some scouting community stereotypes, and given his sure hands and great route running moves, could be a solid second rounder.
Group Grade: C+, slightly above average
TE GROUP For those teams who have been moaning about slim pickings at the TE slot the past few years, it is time to rejoice and pick your poison. The quality and depth at TE is the best it has been this decade heading toward the Combine. The only big question mark is how well JAKE BUTT/Michigan recovers from his knee injury incurred at the end of the Wolverines 2016 season. Per-injury I saw BUTT as having WITTEN type pro-potential, and clearly a Top 100 Draftee.
Leaving BUTT out of the equation I still see 3 very likely Round One TE prospects: O.J. HOWARD/Alabama, DAVID NJOKU/Miami, BUCKY HODGES/Virginia Tech. HOWARD is the best all-around, pure TE who can block as well, or better, than he catches. NJOKU, seems to have almost unlimited upside, and HODGES is a WR in a TE’s body.
The most fascinating “hybrid” TE is EVAN ENGRAM/Ole Miss, who at 236 lbs. can chip block a little bit, but cannot be covered by LB or S over the middle. He proved that at the Senior Bowl venue. He’s the next JORDAN REED/Washington, and what NFL team can’t find use for another REED?! On the average 15 TE get drafted per year by the NFL. Last year was a drought year with only 11 drafted. Bet the over in 2017, with more than a few being heavy Rookie contributors in 2017 for their teams.
A real late bloomer, in a monster body is MICHAEL ROBERTS/Toledo. This young man played at both the Shrine & Senior Bowl venues and showed very well at each one. His measurables are simply off the charts. He’s 6’043″ tall and weighs 261 lbs. He also has 11 5’8″ hands that are part of 33 1/4″ long arms. His wingspan is just over 80″! He established himself as a TD maker last season in the MAC. He could be the next TE taken after the top 3, given BUTT’s injury.
Group Grade: B+, well above average.
Next up a look at the RB/FB/OL groups.