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NFL Draft 2017

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Quentin Walker, Staff Writer

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With free agency starting, the next thing that football fans are looking forward too is the NFL draft. But before that takes place the next big event it the NFL combine, where every NFL scout gets to see the draft prospects show their skills in a multitude of drills.

There’s one question that a lot of people are asking: Who’s is the player to watch out for? Well here’s a list of 15 of the biggest names pre-combine and where they’re projected to be drafted (projections taken from cbssports.com and nfl.com, respectively).

1.) Myles Garrett, Defensive End – Texas A&M

Projected pick: #1, Cleveland Browns

Analysis: Standing at 6’5”, 270 lbs., Garrett is easily one of the best, if not the best pass rusher in this year’s draft class. His raw speed and explosiveness allow him to make offensive tackles look like babies when he comes around the edge. His numbers may have been down from what they were in his first two years, but that still doesn’t take away the fact that Garrett is just an absolute best at what he does in this draft class.

2.) Malik Hooker, Safety – Ohio State

Projected pick: #12, Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia) or #7, Los Angeles Chargers

Analysis: At 6’2”, 205 lbs., Hooker is the ideal build for an NFL ready safety. His coverage skills and run support made him stand out as one of the best safeties in this year’s draft. Hooker lead the team with seven interceptions in the 2016 campaign, which was the third most interceptions of all defensive backs in the FBS. Hooker is a lethal defender and is an asset to any team he gets drafted by.

3.) Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback – Ohio State

Projected pick: #6, New York Jets or #2, San Francisco 49ers

Analysis: Another Buckeye cracks the top 10, and this one is known for his lockdown coverage. Lattimore, 6’0”, may be a little undersized to cover some of the taller receivers the league has to offer like Julio Jones or Mike Evans. Everyone witnessed that his size can be used to exploit him in the College Football Playoff Semifinal game against Clemson, but that doesn’t mean he can’t play lockdown defense.  His run support and tackling ability is another reason he is so highly touted. Just like Hooker, Lattimore will be an asset to any team at the cornerback position.

4.) Jamal Adams, S – LSU

Projected pick: #5, Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams) or #4, Jacksonville Jaguars

Analysis: Adams is a little more of a run support safety, he can come down and hit hard and fast. He tackles well in open space and he just has the innate ability to blow plays up before they get started. Adams is kind of like a Eric Berry or Kam Chancellor, someone who can blitz off the edge to add extra pressure when needed, but he can also handle is own in coverage.

5.) Jonathan Allen, Defensive Tackle – Alabama

Projected pick: #4, Jacksonville Jaguars or #3, Chicago Bears

Analysis: Allen was a part of a d-line that disrupted and rattled so many quarterbacks over the course of the 2016 season, including eventual National Champ, Deshaun Watson. His natural power caused problems for any interior lineman that tried to block him, and it was rare for any quarterback or running back to get away from him once he had them in his clutches. Allen’s ability to reach up and swat the ball down at the line of scrimmage is another fold to his game. Allen could be, arguably, the best interior defensive lineman this class has to offer.

6.) Rueben Foster, Linebacker – Alabama

Projected pick: #9, Cincinnati Bengals or #5, Tennessee Titans (from Los Angeles Rams)

Analysis: It’s fairly normal to see multiple defensive players from Alabama that are high on scout’s watch lists, and this year is no different. Many scouts consider Foster to be “the most NFL ready linebacker” in this year’s draft class and there aren’t many people that are going to disagree with that statement. It’s not just his hard hitting that has him so high on scout’s boards, it’s also his intelligence and pursuit that make him the most NFL ready LB in this year’s class.  

7.) Leonard Fournette, Running Back – LSU

Projected pick: #8, Carolina Panthers or #6, New York Jets

Analysis: Fournette runs the football like he is a man amongst boys, injuries held the early season Heisman hopeful back from having the season that everyone in the college football world knows that he is capable of. Fournette is the perfect mix between power and speed on both inside and outside runs; he makes running the ball seem like it’s child’s play. What people are really looking for is if he can live up to the hype or if he’ll fizzle out in the bright lights of the NFL.

8.) Corey Davis, Wide Receiver – Western Michigan

Projected pick: #18, Tennessee Titans or #13, Arizona Cardinals

Analysis: A name that very few heard about, mainly because of the school he attended, Davis is possibly the best receiver going into the draft this year. His height and flare for the dramatic when it comes to making spectacular catches is what entices NFL scouts, but he is much more than that; his big body allows him to pose a threat in the redzone and he can rise up over defenders with his long, lanky frame when deep balls are thrown his way as he posted his third straight 1000+ receiving yard season. He draws a lot of parallels to Julio Jones and even Calvin Johnson; Davis, if used the right way, will not disappoint in any way.

9.) Mike Williams, WR – Clemson

Projected pick: #13, Arizona Cardinals or #9, Cincinnati Bengals

Analysis: Williams definitely overshadowed Corey Davis in the discussion of the best WR in the nation last year, but with good reason. Williams, after missing majority of the 2015 season with a neck injury and missing the playoffs due to a suspension, made it a point that he was back and better than before. He posted his second 1000 yard season of his career, and in doing so made plenty of defensive backs look overmatched. His leaping ability, usage in the redzone, height, and ability to shield defenders away from the ball with his big body is the reason why scouts think so highly of him. Mike Williams and Corey Davis are essentially identical in what they do and how they do it, if anything Williams’ speed gives him a little bit of an edge over Davis.

10.) Solomon Thomas, DE – Stanford

Projected pick: #7, Los Angeles Chargers or #8, Carolina Panthers

Analysis: Thomas’ long arms and lateral quickness allow him to play in a speed rusher position, almost like a hybrid d-lineman/outside linebacker type. His pursuit on run plays and his relentlessness when rushing the quarterback are what makes Thomas special. Even though he may be undersized, he is still a very capable d-end.

11.) Dalvin Cook, RB – Florida State

Projected pick: #14, Philadelphia Eagles (from Minnesota Vikings)

Analysis: There are several things that make Cook special, but the few things that make him stand out are his breakaway speed, shiftiness, and his versatility out of the backfield. Many scouts and analysts believe that he is probably one of the most versatile backs, other than Christian McCaffrey, in college football. The way he runs the ball shows shades of Le’Veon Bell or a young Chris Johnson.

12.) David Njoku, Tight End – Miami

Projected pick: #16, Baltimore Ravens or #21, Detroit Lions

Analysis: Njoku is the exact mold of what tight ends in the NFL look like today. He’s a big bodied, athletic vertical threat who combines his physicality with his speed in order to make big plays in the pass game. He comes off as a mix between Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham; the only thing that he’s missing is the blocking ability to make him an even better tight end, but as of right now he is a great target in the pass game.

13.) O.J. Howard, TE – Alabama

Projected pick: #22, Miami Dolphins or #12, Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia Eagles)

Analysis: Another big body, physical deep threat, Howard is the typical “quarterback’s best friend” tight end. He may not have the speed that Njoku does, but he makes up for that with his physicality. Teams are just going to have to wait and see how well he blocks some of the best defensive ends and linebackers in the league.

14.) Sidney Jones, CB – Washington

Projected pick: #29, Green Bay Packers or #15, Indianapolis Colts

Analysis: Tremendous ball skills, closing speed, and lockdown coverage are just a few of the things that make Jones special. Although he may not be the best DB going into this year’s draft, he still has a lot of skill and talent behind his game and he definitely has the ability to make a tremendous impact wherever he ends up.

15.) Ryan Ramczyk, Offensive Tackle – Wisconsin

Projected pick: #20, Denver Broncos

Analysis: Ramczyk has the ability to completely stop defenders in their tracks. When ends and outside backers try to rush against him they tend to stay away from him and try to go around him. He is the prototypical backside tackle; he protects well on both run and pass plays. Ramczyk makes it very hard for anyone who tries to get around him or go through him. Teams will have to see how he fairs against stronger and faster d-ends, linebackers and safeties in the NFL to know if he was really worth the first round pick.
After looking back at this list, there is one thing that stands out: the lack of quarterbacks. This year’s draft class isn’t as quarterback heavy as the most recent years have been, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some talented QBs going into the draft, namely, Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky and DeShone Kizer.

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NFL Draft 2017