After our draft grades, here are our favorite and least favorite picks of the 2017 NFL Draft
The Best Picks
Malik Hooker, FS, Indianapolis Colts
Pick: No. 15 (First round)
There were two elite prospects in our pre-draft tiered Big Board; first pick Myles Garrett and Hooker who—likely due to a couple injuries—dropped some in the draft. By all accounts, his recovery’s going as well as expected, and he should be ready to play by camp.
Regardless of his immediate recovery timetable, this is a pick for the long term, and Hooker promises to be special once he gets healthy. He’s a devastating athlete with super-human range that would allow him to play as a center-fielder in Coors Field. The Colts got a spectacular prospect, and Chuck Pagano who coached Ed Reed both at Miami and with the Baltimore Ravens gets the closest clone he’ll ever find. A great pick and a much-needed fit. Don’t look now, but the Colts secondary actually has some blue-chip talents on it now.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, New Orleans Saints
Pick: No. 11 (First round)
It’s still unclear why Lattimore dropped; maybe it was the depth at the position this year or Lattimore’s inexperience in addition to his hamstring injury that he’s already recovered from. Whatever it was, the Saints were happy to let the top cornerback prospect in the 2017 class drop right into their lap.
Lattimore is the perfect modern cornerback as he can run, has size, great ball skills, and plays with adequate physicality being even a valuable asset in run support. For a New Orleans “D” that was desperate for any help particularly at corner this was a slam dunk selection. Lattimore’s upside is enticing, and he plays a premium position, even this high it was one of the best value picks of the entire draft.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Pick: No. 41 (Second round)
Four players who graded out as first-round prospects on our board didn’t get selected in the first round (out of 24), those four were all taken in round two and would all merit being on this list – Sidney Jones, Budda Baker, and Chidobe Awuzie – but Cook was the highest ranked of the group.
The Florida State standout is an explosive playmaker who runs with a great combination of speed and some deceptive power, making him a constant home run threat, not to mention a big weapon catching out the backfield. If not for injury and character concerns, he would have been in the mix with Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey as a top 10 pick.
For a team like Minnesota that was without their first round selection, this is an outstanding pickup.
The Vikings did trade a fourth-round pick to trade up and get Cook (to the Bengals who selected WR Josh Malone) a worthwhile price to make the acquisition. We ranked Cook as the 10th-best prospect one spot behind McCaffrey and one spot ahead of Reuben Foster. Getting that kind of value and upside in round two is something else.
Derek Rivers, EDGE, New England Patriots
Pick: No. 83 (Third round)
Rivers was talked about even in the late first round before the draft as the small school talent really stood out in the pre-draft process. He surprisingly dropped to the third round, and the Pats were able to draft him despite having traded down from pick No. 72 to 83 to take him.
They then took the fourth-rounder they’d recouped in that trade and traded up to get Antonio Garcia, another fine pick.
Rivers is exactly what the Patriots defense was missing, a dynamic speed rusher who plays with a relentless motor. A bit of a poor man’s Shane Ray, he might turn out to better than some at his position drafted higher including Charles Harris who division rival Miami took in round one.
The Worst Picks
Adoree Jackson, CB/PR, Tennessee Titans
Pick: No. 18 (First round)
Jackson was the 18th pick and third cornerback taken in the first round. His talents are undeniable, and there are few players with more entertaining tape, but as a cornerback full time, he’s a risky player.
The Titans want to use him as a man-corner which he can do, but he’s a risk-reward player in that role. He’ll make some spectacular plays on the ball, but he’ll also make some costly mistakes as his size costs him on contested balls and he has a bad habit of biting on double moves. Jackson also struggles in press, where his 186-pound frame puts him at a considerable disadvantage. More troubling is that though he’s a speedster, his two games against the fastest receivers he’s faced, Will Fuller in 2015 and John Ross in 2016, he was burned deep multiple times.
He’s simply a raw cornerback, and a bit against the mold of the bigger DB look the NFL’s shifting to. He does have amazing ball skills and will make mind blowing plays, but he also makes those plays look more spectacular because of how small he is. Jackson is an electric returner and could be used as a weapon offensively as well, where he likely fits best right now. As a cornerback, he’s a definite risk this high considering the ample alternatives Tennesee had in this loaded 2017 class.
Three wide receivers going in the top 10
Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans
Pick: No. 5 (First round)
Of the three wideouts who were shockingly taken in the top-10 picks, Davis is the one that bothers me the least. His only reason for not being the taken this high was that he was injured and unable to give a 40 yard dash time, which given that he’s coming from a smaller school is a bit more important. Ultimately, it turned out not to matter as he goes higher than anyone anticipated and we did have him ranked as our top receiver. With some studs on the defensive side such as Lattimore, Hooker and Jamal Adams I think there was better value to be had, though Davis does project to be a true number-one receiver on the outside.
Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Pick: No. 7 (First round)
This pick was even more surprising as Williams has some concerns with his ability to separate and a worrisome neck injury that kept him out the entire 2015 season. Though obviously none of that mattered given where he was taken. The Chargers had some needs defensively they ignored to add a receiver when ultimately they have some intriguing targets in Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, and Travis Benjamin in the slot. If Keenan Allen is ever healthy, their top 10 pick might not have many chances to see the field.
He’s in the perfect situation to succeed with Philip Rivers tossing him the ball and throwing him open, but it was a debatable value pick and not the biggest need.
John Ross, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Pick: No. 9 (First round)
Ross is another exciting player to watch on tape and deserved to be a top-10 talent if not for his injury history, but this was another head-scratching pick. He’s an electric playmaker, but longevity has to be a concern as he’s already undergone ACL surgery on both knees. He’s also small, and Cincy has a decent amount of young receiving targets already.
Ross’ biggest strength is his speed, and I’m also not sure Andy Dalton has the arm to hit him on deep balls. The Bengals might also not have the pass protecting offensive tackles necessary for those kinds of plays to succeed. It just seemed like a luxury pick for a team that has other issues to address.
C.J. Beathard, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Pick: No. 104 (Third round)
Look, if you wanna be a smart ass, you could put every single quarterback on this list – except for maybe DeShaun Watson. That’s the nature of the beast, quarterbacks get overvalued because the potential of one working out or seeming even competent means getting a $19 million player or a valuable trading chip.
With a borderline top 100 pick taking a player who on tape was “just a guy,” who wasn’t really a star collegiate quarterback and more of a game manager even at Iowa is head scratching. For a team like the Niners who need everything, just tossing a pick on this quarterback seems a bit wasteful.
He does come from a pro-style system, already has good footwork and some deceptive athleticism, in his defense. But he’s just average or below in all other areas, particularly arm talent and strength. There’s just not much upside with him.
If Beathard turns out to be a serviceable starter, then this will still be a great pick, but if he’s just a backup it’s a wasted selection as they’ll likely draft their quarterback of the future in next year’s draft.