Skill positions are typically the focus of a draft, but the 2017 NFL Draft will eventually be remembered for its rare top-end talent and depth on the defensive side of the ball: edge rushers, cornerbacks and safeties.
The quarterback and offensive tackle classes are not weak, as some suggest, but they do lack polish, with neither group producing a top-10 talent.
The class comes with plenty of durability and character red flags, pushing top-15 talents like Butkus Award winner
and Heisman finalist
down the board a bit and knocking star Big Ten cornerbacks
Ohio State Buckeyes
), as well as
completely off my board.
The Big Board is not a mock draft. No attention is paid to team needs. It represents my personal ranking of the top 100 prospects available for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Players are listed by name, position, school, year, height, weight and 40-yard dash time
The Top 32
, DE, Texas A&M, Jr, 6-4, 272, 4.64
If possible, Garrett exceeded expectations at the combine, registering eye-popping numbers in every drill, including 33 repetitions despite possessing 35 1/2-inch arms. Garrett’s production (33 tackles, including 15.5 for loss and 8.5 sacks) was way down in 2016 in comparison to his first two seasons (53-14-11.5 in 2014 and 59-19.5-12.5 in 2015) but that was due to a nagging ankle injury, which robbed him of his trademark explosiveness. Garrett possesses an ideal blend of burst, bend and power off the edge, projecting as a future All-Pro regular.
, rSoph, 6-3, 273, 4.69
Thomas was the runaway winner of the Pac-12’s Morris Trophy as the most dominant defensive lineman in 2016 by a vote of the conference’s blockers. He was as impressive on a snap-to-snap basis as any prospect in the country in 2016, demonstrating the initial burst, power and advanced hand usage to earn comparisons to
Los Angeles Rams
, S, LSU, Jr, 6-0, 214, 4.56
It is easy to mistake Adams for former
, 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.
Alabama Crimson Tide
, Sr, 6-2, 286, 5.00
Allen slipped two spots following less-than-sterling workouts but maintains his year-long perch as my top-rated senior prospect regardless of position. Capable of creating havoc while lining up inside or out, Allen reminds me a little of
, winning with an explosive upfield burst and powerful, coordinated hands.
, CB, Ohio State, rSoph, 6-0, 193, 4.36
The only thing more impressive than Lattimore’s performance at the combine (including his 4.36-second 40-yard dash and 11-foot broad jump) is his 2016 tape. A history of leg injuries will give teams pause but Lattimore is an easy athlete capable of blanketing receivers and shutting down half of the field.
, TE, Alabama, Sr, 6-6, 251, 4.51
Howard is the most gifted pass catcher in the Class of 2017. He was not featured at Alabama but was the best player on the field at the Senior Bowl and only built upon that momentum in Indianapolis, showing off a remarkable combination of size, speed and explosiveness.
, FS, rSoph, Ohio State, 6-1, 206, 4.47
Nicknamed “Malik the Freak” because his combination of size and athleticism stands out even among the talented Buckeyes, Hooker exploded onto the scene in 2016, finishing tied for second in the country with seven interceptions while wowing with his instincts and sideline-to-sideline speed. Hooker only has one season as a starter and is prone to over-aggression as an open-field tackler, but scouts are giddy about his upside.
Florida State Seminoles
, Jr, 5-10, 210, 4.49
Cook’s shuttle times caused consternation at the combine, but what timed tests cannot take into account are anticipation and vision, which make Cook such a dynamic runner. Cook possesses soft hands out of the backfield, as well as the toughness and selflessness to block, making him a fit in today’s NFL offense. Durability and character concerns will likely push Cook further down the board than my ranking indicates, but the three-time 1,000-yard rusher is about as proven on the field as it gets.
, Jr, 6-3, 259, 4.88
Barnett lacks the length and sheer athleticism that scouts would prefer but, frankly, he is a more polished defender than even the top-rated Garrett. Barnett varies his attack, incorporating quickness, power and refined technique to wreak havoc against the run and pass, alike. His 33 sacks over the past three seasons led the country and he passed Reggie White in the Music City Bowl to become Tennessee’s all-time sack king.
, RB, LSU, Jr, 6-0, 240, 4.51
A healthy, focused Fournette is undeniably among the top 10 prospects in this draft. Showing up heavier and less explosive than expected at the combine and opting not to run shuttles or re-do his stunningly poor 28.5-inch vertical jump at his pro day, however, raise real questions about how seriously he is taking the predraft process. Fournette is a bulldozer and a legitimate NFL Rookie of the Year candidate and potential Pro Bowler in the right offense, but his lack of ideal wiggle and durability concerns are factors.
11. Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina, rJr, 6-2, 221, 4.67
Though the only 13 starts of his college career came in 2016, Trubisky is my top-rated quarterback in the class. As you’d expect given his limited experience, Trubisky is a work in progress reading defenses and he lacks ideal size. Trubisky grades very well in many of the areas that I believe to be the greatest indicators of future success at the NFL level, including mobility in and out of the pocket, arm strength and most importantly, accuracy to all levels of the field, which he demonstrated during solid workouts at the combine and his March 21 pro day. Trubisky completed 68.2 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,748 yards and tossed 30 touchdowns to just six interceptions in 2016.
, rJr, 6-6, 310, 5.29
The Badgers are well known for producing quality offensive linemen, but Ramczyk (pronounced Ram-check) comes with a unique backstory as a transfer from D-III Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Possessing uncanny agility and balance for a player of his size, Ramczyk has the athleticism that appeals to zone-blocking schemes and was the most consistent pass protector I saw in 2016, his only year at the FBS level. Ramczyk was unable to compete at the combine or his pro day due to hip surgery but teams were comfortable with his progress after last week’s re-check.
, RB, Stanford, Jr, 5-11, 202, 4.48
Despite Stanford’s struggles, McCaffrey was every bit as dynamic as in past seasons — quietly again leading the Pac-12 in rushing (145.7 yards per game) and all-purpose yards (211.5) in 2016, and therefore his splashy performance at the combine was no surprise. With his easy agility, instant acceleration and soft hands, he reminds of another former Pac-12 star,
. Like Bush, McCaffrey lacks the bulk to be a true bell-cow back at the next level, but his ability as a returner and as a potential slot receiver add to his value.
, rJr, 5-10, 188, 4.22
In precisely 4.22 seconds, Ross silenced critics who dared suggest that his 17 touchdowns this season were the result of Chris Petersen’s spread offense. For all of his game-breaking speed, however, Ross came with plenty of medical concerns, including surgeries to both knees, even prior to the recent procedure to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder. If teams believe he can remain healthy over a full NFL season, the
clone could wind up as the first receiver off the board this year. A poor medical grade, however, could send the speedster tumbling out of the first round.
, rJr, 6-3, 218, 4.52
After a sluggish performance while running routes at the combine, Williams showed better than expected speed (4.51, 4.53 in the 40-yard dash on his two attempts) at his March 16 pro day, easing concerns about his ability to stretch the field. Scouts know that Williams is not a speedster — his game is posting up cornerbacks and using his height and excellent body control to box them out to win contested passes.
16. Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama, Sr, 6-0, 229, 4.72
Due to both medical and off-field concerns (including for the well-documented expulsion from the combine), Foster is in danger of taking a tumble on draft day. Foster suffered through multiple shoulder stingers in 2016, ultimately requiring surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, and the reigning Butkus Award winner plays with the fearless aggression that could lead to concussions. While he comes with obvious concerns, Foster’s talent is just as undeniable. He might be the most intimidating hitter in the entire draft and possesses the fluidity and speed to cover, projecting as a true three-down linebacker capable of making an immediate impact.
, rSr, 6-1, 237, 4.52
Reddick starred as an undersized edge rusher for the Owls (recording 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2016) but it was the agility and acceleration he showed playing off the ball in Mobile and during drills at the combine that has his stock skyrocketing. Reddick isn’t just a ridiculous athlete; he comes with a chip on his shoulder as a former walk-on.
Western Michigan Broncos
, Sr, 6-3, 209, 4.48
With his FBS-record 5,212 career receiving yards (and 51 touchdowns), a prototypical frame and polished route-running, there is a lot to like about Davis, the most well-rounded receiver in this class. A shoulder injury kept him from competing at the Senior Bowl and he missed both the combine and his March 15 pro day after suffering an ankle injury during postseason workouts that required “minor” surgery, but teams appear satisfied with his recovery.
, OT, Alabama, Jr, 6-6, 322, 5.15
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 reminds me in many ways of recent early first-round picks
New York Giants
, ninth overall in 2015) and
San Diego Chargers
, 11th overall in 2013), each of whom are highly regarded by scouts, though often criticized by the media and fans. Robinson, honored as this year’s Outland Trophy winner, 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. Robinson also comes with significant off-field concerns after an arrest prior to the season involving a gun and marijuana.
, rJr, 6-3, 234, 4.67
Listed 18th overall on my initial Big Board back in August, Cunningham only reinforced my opinion throughout the regular season that he warrants top-20 consideration. Instinctive, aggressive and athletic, Cunningham offers an exciting and versatile skill set sure to intrigue any creative defensive coordinator in the NFL. Cunningham led the SEC with 125 tackles in 2016 — 22 more than he posted a year ago, when he earned All-SEC honors despite not starting until the fourth game.
, rJr, 6-3, 253, 4.82
Harris looked better during his positional workout than in measured drills, but performing at his best late in the process is nothing new for the two-time second-team All-SEC pick, who recorded 30.5 tackles for loss (including 16 sacks) the past two seasons after first joining the sport as a junior in high school. Agile, physical and tough, the arrow is pointing up with Harris.
, CB, Alabama, rSoph, 6-0, 197, 4.41
Teams prioritizing size and physicality like Humphrey, the son of former Alabama star and NFL first-round pick Bobby Humphrey (Denver, 1989). Just a redshirt sophomore, Humphrey remains a work in progress from a technique standpoint, but he possesses the length (including 32 1/4-inch arms) scouts covet, as well as top-notch athleticism and an aggressive mentality, including in run support.
, QB, Clemson, Jr, 6-2, 221, 4.66
Just as he did against Alabama in each of the past two national championship games, Watson shined under the bright lights of Indianapolis, showing surprising polish in the five- and seven-step drop throws that he rarely (if ever) attempted at Clemson, following this up with a solid showing at his March 16 pro day. He was the most accurate passer at the combine, which was a surprise for a quarterback who threw an FBS-high 30 combined interceptions over the past two seasons. Watson remains a polarizing prospect but his dual-threat talents and poise under pressure are undeniable.
24. David Njoku, TE, Miami, rSoph, 6-4, 246, 4.64
Njoku is a gamble on sheer athleticism. Despite only starting five of 13 games for the Hurricanes in 2016, the redshirt sophomore emerged as one of the nation’s most productive tight ends, hauling in 43 passes for 698 yards and eight touchdowns. He will drop an occasional easy pass but his agility and acceleration are top notch for the position, helping Njoku project as a legitimate matchup nightmare in the NFL.
25. Jabrill Peppers, SS/OLB, Michigan, rSoph, 5-11, 213, 4.46
Whether at safety or linebacker on defense, wide receiver or Wildcat quarterback on offense or returner on special teams, Peppers is one of the elite players in the 2017 draft. Jim Harbaugh and his staff at Michigan correctly identified that Peppers is an exceptional open-field tackler with the instincts and courage to attack, prompting the move to linebacker last season. Peppers proved his ability to handle coverage duties earlier in his career and can make the transition back here in the NFL. Recent news of his diluted drug tests is concerning, but not enough to knock him out of my personal top 25.
, Sr, 6-2, 250, 4.58
McKinley is among the prospects who received positive news from the medical re-checks, with league sources telling me that his recovery from shoulder surgery (torn labrum and broken glenoid) is progressing as expected. McKinley possesses an intriguing combination of length (34 3/4-inch arms), explosive burst and tenacity. He recorded 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in just 11 games in 2016 and is not “just” a pass rusher, showing the awareness and closing speed to drop into coverage or spy mobile quarterbacks, as well.
, DE, Michigan, Sr, 6-5, 277, 4.92
In a class loaded with exciting edge rushers, Charton’s upside stands out. A twitchy athlete with prototypical length, burst and bend off the edge, he registered a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2016. Scouts are optimistic that he may just be scratching the surface of his potential.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
, rSr, 6-4, 309, 5.00
Lamp shined at left tackle the past four years, proving himself against top competition like Alabama and LSU during that time. Due to below average arm length (32 1/4-inch), Lamp projects best inside at left guard, but this a role that he has proven able to handle, quickly and successfully acclimating there at the Senior Bowl. Lamp even snapped the ball at his March 27 pro day. Agile, powerful and smart, Lamp might just be the most versatile lineman in the 2017 draft.
29. Garret Bolles, OT,
, Jr, 6-5, 297, 4.95
In terms of sheer athleticism and upside, Bolles is the most gifted tackle in this class and he plays with the brawler’s mentality that will appeal to offensive line coaches. Questions about his upper body strength and ability to anchor were not addressed at the combine or Utah’s pro day, as Bolles was unable to participate in the bench press, citing a strained left pectoral muscle. Bolles comes with undeniable upside but he is far from a sure thing, only playing one year at the FBS level and lacking the refined technique and football intelligence of most his peers.
, OLB, Florida, Sr, 6-1, 238, 4.68
Unable to work out at the combine due to the ankle injury which caused him to miss three games in 2016, Davis enjoyed a terrific pro day, clocking in at 4.58 seconds and registering a 38.5-inch vertical jump, It was a workout that confirmed the raw explosiveness that epitomizes Davis’ game when he’s healthy — and could earn him a first-round pick.
Michigan State Spartans
, Jr, 6-6, 295, 4.85
McDowell’s highlight reel would be as impressive as any defensive lineman’s in this draft (including Garrett’s), but it his troubling tendency to disappear for long stretches and get nicked up with various injuries that have him ranked this low.
, OG, Temple, Sr, 6-4, 314, 5.11
Dawkins starred at left tackle for the Owls, but it was the power he showed when sliding inside to guard at the Senior Bowl that really caught my eye. Dawkins proved his strength at the combine, starring in the bench press with 26 repetitions despite possessing 35-inch arms. A battle-tested three-year starter capable of playing inside or out, Dawkins projects as one of the few relatively “sure things” among offensive linemen in this class.
The Next 32
33. Patrick Mahomes, QB,
Texas Tech Red Raiders
, Jr, 6-2, 225, 4.80
A classic gunslinger with literally a MLB arm, Mahomes could wind up being the best of this quarterback class — but he will need time to acclimate to a pro-style offense.
, FS, Washington, Jr, 5-09, 195, 4.45
Whether as a nickel corner or center fielder, Baker’s agility and ball skills deserve first-round consideration.
, Sr, 6-5, 300, 5.27
Mr. Reliable among offensive line prospects as a former five-star recruit turned four-year starting left guard, Johnson has the athleticism and length (35 1/4-inch arms) that project well to NFL.
, CB/WR/RS, Southern Cal, Jr, 5-10, 186, 4.42
Among the draft’s best overall athletes, Jackson is currently more polished as a returner than a cornerback, surrendering seven touchdowns in 2016. Watch out when his technique catches up to his talent, though.
, Sr, 6-0, 202, 4.43
Agile, instinctive and physical, Awuzie is arguably the top nickel corner in this class and has the length to play outside.
, TE, Mississippi, Jr, 6-3, 234, 4.42
Engram is a
clone who projects best to the NFL as an H-back or slot receiver rather than a traditional in-line tight end.
, OLB, Wisconsin, 6-4, 252, 4.69
An instinctive, tenacious pass rusher despite playing tight end until 2016, Watt is still growing into his body and may ultimately become a 4-3 defensive end.
, RB/WR, Ohio State, Jr, 5-11, 196, 4.31
Samuel’s a Percy Harvin-caliber athlete with the versatility to be a matchup nightmare in the NFL.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
, rSoph, 6-4, 233, 4.83
Kizer possesses the arm, size and intangibles to project as a future starter (which makes him worthy of first-round consideration) but he has a frightening lack of consistency with his throwing motion, leading to his spraying the ball all over the field.
, CB, Florida, Jr, 6-0, 199, 4.62
Tabor’s route awareness, agility and competitiveness stand out on tape, but so does his below average-speed, as shown at the combine (4.62) and his March 28 pro day (4.75), raising significant concerns about his ability to remain on the outside against the NFL’s speed merchants.
, Sr, 6-4, 269, 4.70
MAC Defensive Player of the Year who stood out at the Senior Bowl and combine, Basham’s long arms (34 1/4-inch) and powerful hands are a recipe that often leads to success in NFL.
, CB, Washington, Sr, 6-3, 200, 4.43
Long, athletic and a proven difference-maker at cornerback and safety alike in the pass-happy Pac-12, King’s reign may be just beginning.
CB, LSU, Sr, 5-11, 192, 4.47
Elite feet and loose hips make this LSU star erase or “white-out” receivers in coverage. He is not the most physical tackler, though.
, S, North Carolina State, rJr, 6-1, 220, 4.41
Jones is a hyper-aggressive defender with the closing speed and size to be an intimidating presence — when he doesn’t over-run the ball-carrier, that is.
, rSr, 6-4, 224, 4.40
Despite starting four years for the Huskies, Melifonwu is not the most instinctive defender, but he stood out at the Senior Bowl and owned the combine with his freakish speed and explosive leaping ability (44-inch vertical led all participants in 2017).
, CB/S, Florida, Jr, 6-1, 211, 4.54
Wilson starred at corner but his bulk, big hitting ability (and average feet) project better to safety.
, OT/OG, Western Michigan, 6-5, 319, 5.18
A mauler in the running game, Moton’s game may be best suited inside at guard in a power-based scheme.
, DT, Florida State, Sr, 6-4, 280, 4.86
Some ‘tweener traits contributed to his running hot and cold, but Walker times the snap well, showing good coordination in his initial burst and over-arm swim to wreak havoc, especially when inside.
, rJr, 6-2, 261, 4.67
Lawson’s a power-packed edge rusher with good initial burst, strength and aggressiveness, but he’s struggled with health and possesses short arms (31 1/2-inch).
, OLB, Alabama, Sr, 6-3, 244, 4.68
Williams boasts a first-round combination of burst, bend and snap anticipation but disappears for long stretches (especially against the run) and comes with off-field concerns as well.
Kansas State Wildcats
, Sr, 6-4, 255, 4.53
The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Willis’ hustle and technique stood out at the Senior Bowl and his raw athleticism wowed at the combine.
, C, Ohio State, Sr, 6-2, 303, 5.32
An alpha-male type with the square frame and aggression to project as a longtime standout inside in the NFL, Elflein is best suited to center in a power-based scheme due to just average quickness.
, rSr, 6-4, 305, 5.24
Feeney is a pro-ready right guard with the agility and awareness that projects best to a zone-blocking scheme.
, CB, Clemson, Sr, 6-0, 199, 4.40
A long, physical press corner, Tankersley has a knack for making big plays (eight interceptions over past two seasons) despite possessing less-than-ideal instincts and grabby hands in coverage.
, FS, Utah, Jr, 6-0, 202, 4.56
Overshadowed by some of the “top” safeties in this class in part due to his spindly frame, Williams has terrific instincts, hands and underrated overall athleticism.
, rSr, 6-3, 305, 4.97
This small-schooler stood out against top competition at the Senior Bowl, using his thick lower body and initial quickness to plug running lanes. An ascending talent in a relatively weak year for defensive tackles.
, Sr, 6-3, 247, 4.65
Bowser checks a lot of boxes in terms of his imposing build and raw athleticism, and he may prove a better pro now that he is focusing on football after spending first two years at Houston splitting time between the gridiron and basketball court.
, DL, Michigan, rSr, 6-5, 298, 4.86
Wormley, a two-time All-Big Ten defensive lineman, has enough agility to pressure the quarterback off the edge despite possessing the size of a run-stuffer.
, WR, Southern Cal, Jr, 6-1, 215, 4.54
The most physical receiver in the draft, Smith-Schuster wins with body positioning, strength and simple want-to. He may never prove a true No. 1 in the NFL but should be a solid No. 2 for a long time.
, RB, Tennessee, rJr, 5-10, 214, 4.56
He’s a twitchy athlete with the wiggle, burst and hands to be effective on all three downs, but Kamara was never was asked to be “the bell cow” at either Alabama or Tennessee due to various injuries and suspensions.
, OG, Utah, Sr, 6-3, 335, 5.34
An intimidating run blocker, Asiata has the competitiveness, bulk and strength (combine-best 35 repetitions of 225 pounds in 2017) to project as a starting guard early in his NFL career. He made winning the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12’s top offensive lineman a goal for 2016 and earned it.
, CB, Washington, Jr, 6-0, 186, 4.47
A top-20 talent prior to rupturing his Achilles tendon at his Pro Day, Jones is a silky smooth athlete with excellent route anticipation. He did not allow a single touchdown reception in 2016.
Finishing off the Top 100
, rSoph, 6-1, 228, 4.45
Penn State Nittany Lions
, Jr, 6-1, 209, 4.42
, DT, Alabama, rSr, 6-3, 310, 5.19
East Carolina Pirates
, Sr, 6-2, 201, 4.45
69. Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State, Sr, 6-4, 248, 4.61
, WR, Eastern Washington, rSr, 6-2, 204, 4.62
71. Montravious Adams, DT, Auburn, Sr, 6-4, 304, 4.87
, OLB, Alabama, rSr, 6-2, 253, 4.78
, CB, UCLA, Sr, 6-0, 206, 4.35
, S, Florida, rSr, 6-0, 207, 4.47
, ILB, Ohio State, Jr, 6-2, 240, 4.61
South Alabama Jaguars
, rSr, 6-3, 239, 4.62
, rSr, 6-6, 302, 5.15
78. Ar’Darius Stewart, WR, Alabama, rJr, 5-11, 204, 4.49
79. Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland, rJr, 6-6, 278, 4.79
80. Justin Evans, S, Texas A&M, Sr, 6-0, 199, 4.60
, Sr, 5-10, 216, 4.62
San Diego State Aztecs
, rSr, 6-4, 319, 5.35
, OT, Vanderbilt, rSr, 6-7, 311, 5.47
Virginia Tech Hokies
, rJr, 6-6, 257, 4.57
, OLB, LSU, Sr, 6-0, 232, 4.58
, TE, Clemson, Sr, 6-5, 258, 4.71
, rSr, 6-3, 316, 5.25
California Golden Bears
, Sr, 6-5, 229, 4.79
, OT, Florida State, Jr, 6-7, 298, 4.90
, C, LSU, Sr, 6-6, 310, 5.15
, WR, Western Kentucky, Sr, 5-11, 203, 4.50
92. Shaquill Griffin, CB, Central Florida, Sr, 6-0, 194, 4.38
93. Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M, Sr, 6-5, 266, 4.76
, S, Alabama, Sr, 6-0, 201, 4.53
95. Anthony Walker, Jr., ILB, Northwestern, rJr, 6-1, 238, 4.65
, S, Iowa, Sr, 5-10, 201, 4.60
, CB, Tennessee, Sr, 5-11, 188, 4.52
, QB, Pittsburgh, rSr, 6-2, 226, 4.82
, OL, Southern Cal, rSr, 6-8, 353, 5.58
, DE, Villanova, Sr, 6-7, 289, 4.83
Final 2017 NFL Draft Big Board: Red flags cause Foster, Conley, Peppers to fall – CBSSports.com