Defense Rules At The Top of the NFL Draft


02282017NFLdraft

The 2017 NFL Draft takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this year across three days in late April. On Thursday, April 27, the first round takes place, with the best football prospects in the country being selected.

The top of this year’s draft is interesting for a number of reasons. The Cleveland Browns have two of the first 12 selections in the draft, leading to rampant speculation about possible trades. There is also no consensus about who the top overall player will be, since the top few teams all need franchise quarterbacks.

End at the Top

Top NFL picks are hard to get right but vitally important. If Cleveland messes up the number-one selection in 2017, the franchise could be set back another few years. Scouts feel as though the top player is Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett. He is both huge and fast off the edge. Garrett has tons of ability and moves to get to the quarterback, as well as bring down opposing rushers. If he has a weakness at this point, it’s his propensity to rely too much on pure athleticism.

That is not uncommon for a player coming out of college. To pay off as the top overall selection in the draft, though, Garrett will have to learn and hone his craft.

Secondarily

A number of other defensive players populate the very top of most teams’ draft boards; Alabama’s Jonathan Allen is another defensive lineman, a la Garrett. He plays inside but possesses a similar ability to disrupt anything near his grasp. At nearly 300 pounds, Allen has the potential to play multiple positions across the line at the professional level. He could turn into a 3-4 end, 4-3 tackle, or some combination of both.

The rest of the elite defenders in this draft play in the secondary. Safeties Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker, Jabrill Peppers, and Budda Baker all possess elite talents. Each could be off the board in the first half of the first round in April.

Adams is probably the best of the bunch, with his intelligence and creativity on the back end. Peppers offers the most versatility, and played all three sides of the ball in college, including time as an elite return man.

Offensive Skill

On the other side of the ball, running backs and pass catchers dominate top grades. LSU’s Leonard Fournette made news by sitting out his team’s bowl game this winter. It shouldn’t factor into his draft status as Fournette will most likely be off the board early in the first round. Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey are lesser prospects with similar upside. McCaffrey may end up falling out of the first round, though his ability to affect games running, receiving, and returning make him highly intriguing.

At wide receiver, Clemson’s Mike Williams is the number-one guy. He has tremendous ball skills when passes are in the air. At 6-1, he doesn’t have elite size, but his tracking and hands help make up for that shortcoming. Tight end O.J. Howard isn’t too far behind atop draft boards. The one drawback of Howard’s game is his propensity to disappear in games. Was that a case of Alabama’s offense being too deep to consistently look his way or Howard lacking in concentration? That will be up to scouts and organizations to decide when taking him.

The main things lacking at the top of the 2017 NFL Draft are elite prospects at quarterback and offensive tackle, two of the most important positions in the NFL. Teams, such as the Browns and 49ers right at the top, may force a quarterback selection early, but none of the top players grade out as deserving of such praise. The same thing may happen with offensive tackles as well. It will be interesting to see which franchises stick hard to their grades and which venture out.

 

[Phil Oscarson is writer and sports enthusiast who spends a lot of his time talking about virtual bookkeeping.]