It’s Never Too Early: NFL Draft Class 2017
The college football season is almost over, and the 2017 NFL draft will be here before we know it (April 27, 2017). Which means, we can finally start diving into who will be entering the draft and our expectations of those Fantasy prospects. Here is an early look at the top ten college prospects that will be in demand.
WR Mike Williams
Clemson | Height 6-3 | Weight: 225 lbs.
There may be no other wide receiver in this draft class with the overall potential of Mike Williams. He has outstanding college production, comes from a wide receiver factory of a program, has solid size and should be the first wide receiver taken in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The red flags on Williams are present. He has a less than flattering injury history (Neck Fracture in 2015), and I have questions about his overall athleticism. Can’t wait for the NFL Combine.
RB Leonard Fournette
LSU Tigers | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 235 lbs.
Probably one of the most talked about college prospect in years. When healthy, Fournette has lived up to his billing. He is a size and speed marvel and will drive people crazy this year the same way Derrick Henry drove people crazy in 2016. The plus side of Fournette is he is big, fast, doesn’t have the same lower body questions Henry had and has shown to be a good enough receiver in college. I do have questions about the fit for Fournette going into the NFL. He is not a shifty runner and would thrive in a one-cut and go system.
RB Dalvin Cook
Florida State Seminoles | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 213 lbs.
I don’t often look at players vastly different from one year to the next, but Cook has taken, what most likely will be, his last season at FSU and become much more than he was in 2015. Watching Cook I see a more explosive athlete, a player who can be a “Foundation Back” as Greg Cosell says and a player who worked extremely hard to correct some of his big questions. Similar to Mike Williams, I have some real issues when diving into Cook’s injury history (hamstring and shoulder). There may not be a complete player at the running back position in this draft.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
USC Trojans | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 220 lbs.
One thing to look for when focusing on a prospect is finding out when a player broke out for their college team. There is often a strong correlation between the age a player breaks out in college and how they will translate to the NFL. If a player “breaks out” at a young age in college and sustains that success then they will most likely continue to develop and do well in the NFL. JuJu is a prime example of a young man breaking out at USC at a very young age, continuing his success and now looking like a strong candidate to succeed in the NFL. One concern I have, and hope to have cleared up, is his size. Most recently USC has produced a number of productive players with slight frame (Nelson Agholor, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods). JuJu needs to show a thicker NFL build.
RB Nick Chubb
Georgia Bulldogs | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 228 lbs.If we are talking about Clemson being a wide receiver factory, we should talk about Georgia being a running back factory. From Knowshon Moreno to Todd Gurley to Keith Marshall and now to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The Bulldogs know their running backs and have a great one in Elijah Hollyfield waiting in the wings. Back to Nick Chubb. If Chubb were 100%, I would put him at the top of this list. He can be an explosive and physical game changer at the running back position who would be one of the best prospects to come out in the NFL draft in recent memory. Yes, that includes his former teammate, Todd Gurley. The truth of the matter is Chubb is not 100% healthy and hasn’t been since his injury (tore several ligaments in his knee including the PCL). If a team does get the 100% healthy Nick Chubb, he should be at the top of this list. Pay VERY close attention to the combine medical check and where he goes in the NFL draft.
WR Corey Davis
Western Michigan Broncos | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 213 lbs
There is probably one phrase you will hear a lot with Davis and that is “level of competition.” People will say he played against poor competition; it is easy to run past people who will never make it to the NFL and the sample size of him playing against top competition isn’t big enough to make a fair evaluation. I say all of those things are true, but there is so much more to look at with Corey Davis. He is a player who has dominated his team’s passing game from a young age, has shown he can compete against Division I schools; he won’t shut down when his school is down, and he is a team player (returned to school for his senior season when there was little to play for). If Corey Davis went to a power 5 school, he would be talked about in the same breath as JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Williams.
RB Christian McCaffrey
Stanford Cardinal | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 200 lbs
There are a few players on this list with a chance to go back to school, and there may be none with a bigger chance than Christian McCaffrey. A player who has, on multiple occasions, hinted towards returning for a senior season. With that said, McCaffrey is a swiss army knife who is a great fit for the NFL today. He can be a physical runner, good receiver, has good enough speed and shows some very nice wiggle. I don’t see him being the “bruiser” half of a committee, but he does have the opportunity to carve out an excellent role.
WR Courtland Sutton
SMU Mustangs | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 215 lbs.
Probably the least known person on this list with the highest upside. Similar to Corey Davis, Sutton will have the “level of competition” question haunting him throughout his NFL Draft experience. In my opinion, if you watch Sutton’s game tape he has great speed, ball skills and body control. If his quarterback wasn’t so bad he would have been well above his 2016 stat line (76 receptions, 1,246 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns). The sky is the limit with this young man and as a converted defensive back, he still has a lot of room to grow.
WR John Ross
Washington Huskies | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 190 lbs.
Early reports in the 2016 offseason were that John Ross could run between a 4.25 and 4.28 40-yard dash. While the production wasn’t always there with Ross, he has had an incredible senior season and has flashed his game-changing athleticism. Ross has DeSean Jackson level speed, good hands, ability to run routes out of the slot or outside and nice wiggle. The concerns with Ross are BIG. He missed the entire 2015 season with two torn menisci in his right knee, and he has the “small wide receiver” tag. With a slight build and limited thickness, Ross will be more likely to be injured. If he showed up with the same speed and explosiveness at 200+ lbs. I would be very happy. I also have concerns with John Ross attacking the ball with the “my ball” mentality. Someone with Ross’ speed can separate quickly, but he needs to work on tracking and attacking the ball.
TE O.J. Howard
Alabama Crimson Tide | Height: 6-6 Weight: 242lbs.Tight ends don’t often make these lists, but Howard is unique. At the 2012 Nike Football SPARQ Combine OJ Howard graded out with a 104.22 SPARQ score. In simple terms, Howard is a beast of an athlete. In 2012 he was running a 4.63 40-yard dash and was already measuring in at 6-5 224lbs. Probably the biggest problem with Howard is that he listened to the Alabama coaching staff promising him a major part in the offense and returned to school. Let’s face it. This is definitely not a red flag and to top things off I believe Howard will be a first round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has great speed, size, and hands for the position and is a superb blocker.
This list is far from a finished product, and there are a ton of data points we should be paying attention to leading up to the draft. Some important dates to keep in mind are the deadline to declare for the draft ( January 16, 2017), the Reese’s Senior Bowl (January 23, 2017 to January 28, 2017), the NFL Combine (February 28, 2017 to March 6, 2017), the NFL Combine re-check for medical and any pro days from prospects who do not participate in the combine.
I started playing redraft fantasy football in 2007. After winning my first championship in year one I was hooked immediately. The following season I finished in last place in both of my leagues, haha. After this epic failure I decided to always be one step ahead of my friends and family. I started studying the teams closer, watching the draft and learning more about the NFL as a whole instead of focusing on individual players. After two years of studying I realized I was often early on players to grab off the waiver wire and decided to try dynasty fantasy football. I have been playing dynasty for six years total and have been in more competitive leagues (myfantasyleague.com) for the past three. Over the past three years I have written about dynasty, DFS, redraft and scouting reports on upcoming rookies or unknown players.
I am one of the weekly co-hosts of the Under the Helmet podcast (available on iTunes and Podbean) and you can also find my written content at uthdynasty.com and dynastynerds.com.