Redrafting the 2017 NFL First Round Pt 2
Before we get into part two of the redraft, let's look at trends and notable picks from the top half of the draft.
In the original 2017 draft, we saw only two running backs go in the top half of the draft, this was also the last time multiple RBs were drafted in the top sixteen picks and only one (Saquon Barkley - #2, 2018 - NYG) has been a top sixteen pick since. In the redraft, we see four with Aaron Jones making the biggest move from the fifth round to the 12th pick overall.
We saw "prototype" and "athletic" players like Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and Haason Reddick outperformed by a wide margin by a player who "could struggle to separate from some NFL cornerbacks" in Cooper Kupp and a player who was seen as "Not twitchy or overly agile" (T.J. Watt). I feel that NFL teams may be wasting too much time trying to project a prospect's growth ceiling and not enough time evaluating whether they can play their position or not.
We also continued to see NFL teams so starved for a field general that they will take someone regardless of how much, or in this case, how little experience they had as a starter. Mitch Tubisky started a mere 13 games at UNC Vs Patrick Mahomes (29 starts) or DeShaun Watson (34), something that showed itself as their respective careers advanced.
With that small recap, let's continue. . .
Washington – Jonathan Allen – DL – Alabama – It looks like Washington was trying to beef up its defensive line with this move adding Allen to a line that already featured Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy who combined for twenty sacks the year prior. Instead, they got 10 tackles and a single sack in Allen’s rookie year that was mostly lost to injury. He’s improved considerably but is still up and down.
On second thought – Marlon Humphrey – CB – Alabama – The Football Team didn’t have the option to select Humphrey in 2017, but they do here. Instead of an inconsistent lineman, they get a player who has made First-Team All-Pro as well as two Pro Bowls. Drafting Humphrey would have also allowed them to more easily replace Kendall Fuller after he left for KC following the 2017 season.
Tennessee – Adoree’ Jackson – CB – Southern Cal – Jackson isn’t a bad corner, I actually think he’s pretty solid. He’s willing and smart in run support and is a fluid performer in coverage allowing him to effectively (if unspectacularly) cover star receivers. His departure from Tennessee, who had previously picked up his 5th-year option, seems to stem more from disagreements with the coaching staff and front office than concerns over his play.
On second thought – George Kittle – TE – Iowa – The drafting of Jonnu Smith in the 5th round shows that Tennessee had a desire to at least add depth to the TE position behind Delaine Walker who would lead the Titans in receptions in 2017 and was second in 2016. Grabbing Kittle would have given them a cornerstone offensive piece to build around going forward and may have salvaged the Marcus Mariotta pick.
Tampa Bay – O.J. Howard – TE – Alabama – In Tampa’s defense, it was widely believed that Howard was simply being misused in Alabama’s offense under Lane Kiffin; after all, he had earned the 2015 CFP Championship Game MVP with a 5 REC, 208 yd, 2 TD performance. Yep, his scouting report read like teams would be getting the next Rob Gronkowski, instead, they got an overhyped player they were drafting on potential.
On second thought – Evan Engram – TE – Mississippi – There was a lot to like in Engram’s scouting report, not the least of which listed speed, route-running, and an ability to create mismatches against the defense. He was also considered to be undersized at “only” 6’3” and 240 pounds as well as likely have an issue with injuries due to his size. That hasn’t been the case and Engram has outperformed Howard by every metric available.
Denver – Garrett Bolles - OT - Utah - With only one year of major college football, Bolles was the first offensive tackle off the board at the 2017 draft. That might sound like a bit of a risk, but Bolles’ mental toughness, athleticism, and mean streak have carried the day for him in his NFL career where he’s earned All-Rookie (2017) and All-Pro (2020) honors. This was absolutely a solid pick by Denver.
On second thought – Ryan Ramczyk – OT – Wisconsin – As good as the pick of Bolles was, there was a point where it looked like it might not pan out. No such instance for Ramczyk who also made the All-Rookie squad and then followed it up with a pair of Second-Team All-Pro selections (2018, 2020) sandwiched around a First-Team All-Pro selection(2019).
Detroit – Jarrad Davis – LB – Florida – Following a productive rookie season (made All-Rookie team) and an even better second year (improved stats across the board) Davis began to fall off in years three and four leading to the Lions declining his 5th-year option and allowing him to sign with the New York Jets as a free agent. The decline has continued with Davis only recording only 25 tackles and zero sacks or interceptions this year as a backup.
On Second thought – Kareem Hunt – RB – Toledo – Instead, Detroit could have looked just down the road and plucked Kareem Hunt from the Toledo Rockets. Given that Detroit hasn’t had a 1000 yard rusher since 2013 (Reggie Bush – 1006 yds), it seems that taking Hunt would have be a no-brainer now. With his versatility he would have been an absolute weapon for the Lions and then maybe Stafford finishes his career in the Motor City.
Miami – Charles Harris – DE – Missouri – For a playoff team, the 2017 Dolphins were likely looking at this selection as drafting depth and finding a future bookend for Cameron Wake. Instead, all of the good that people saw on tape and workouts turned out to be incorrect. In three years Harris only averaged 20 tackles and a sack per year. On the upside for Harris, he’s had a career resurgence in Detroit as a 3-4 EDGE rusher setting career highs in every category.
On second thought – Solomon Thomas – DE – Stanford – Dropping twenty spots probably wouldn’t have been Thomas’ ideal situation on draft night, but in the long run, it might have benefited him more. Still, as a depth pick and eventual bookend for Wake, a player who he mirrors in physical stature and play style, he could have learned about how to adapt to the NFL from the multiple-time All-Pro.
New York Giants – Evan Engram – TE – Mississippi – With Engram not available here, having gone to Tampa with the nineteenth pick, we take the last of three tight ends in this redraft. The Giants did well picking Engram here, he’s been a productive player for them over the last five years but it remains to be seen if the team will move on from him following this season.
On second thought – David Njoku – TE – Miami (FL) – Njoku hasn’t had the same sort of success or production that Engram or Kittle have managed in the same span. He was been a fairly steady performer when used as a featured piece, though unfortunately, that has been less and less since the signing of Austin Hooper prior to the 2020 season.
Las Vegas – Gareon Conley – CB – Ohio State – The first of two Ohio State corners that the Raiders (Oakland at the time) drafted in a four-year span between 2017 and 2020. Neither is still with the team. Conley was traded to Houston midway through the 2019 season and after the Texans declined his 5th-year option is currently an unsigned free agent.
On second thought – Shaq Griffin – CB – UCF – So let’s give the Raiders a CB that’s solid enough that perhaps they won’t have to spend another first-rounder in a couple of years on the same position. Griffin isn’t an elite CB at the NFL level, what he is, is a solid performer who has the physicality to contribute to run defense, ball skills to break up the pass (with the occasional INT), and is an all-around solid producer for the right defense.
Cleveland – Jabrill Peppers – S – Michigan – I think that this line from Walterfootball.com’s page should have been all you need to know about Peppers prior to the 2017 NFL Draft - “For the NFL, Peppers could fit as hybrid safety/linebacker like Deone Bucannon. He also could be used similar to how New Orleans utilizes Kenny Vaccaro.” Those two players combined to average .8 INTs, 4 passes defended, and 1.3 sacks over 14 seasons. Peppers is averaging 1 INT, 5 PD, and .9 sacks per season; those are NOT 1st round numbers.
On second thought – Eddie Jackson – S – Originally picked in the 4th round, Jackson makes a big leap up to the 1st based mostly on his consistent play over the last five years. A starter from his rookie season on, Jackson is consistently rated as one of the better safeties in football, able to play up at the line but also play well in coverage. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Jackson also made First-Team All-Pro in 2018.
Atlanta – Takkarist McKinley – DE – UCLA – An undersized OLB asked to play DE, what could go wrong? After an ok-but-not-great rookie year, McKinley made slight improvements in year two. After that though, the wheels came off. He only earned 4.5 sacks the next two years before the Falcons cut him and this offseason he signed with the Cleveland Browns where he recorded 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble before tearing his Achilles tendon in a December game Vs Baltimore. This is likely the end of the road for him.
On second thought - Jonathan Allen – DE – Alabama - It shows how little depth there is in every draft. Of twenty-six defensive ends drafted in 2017, only five are still with the team that drafted them five years later (of those only two are non-First Round players). So, naturally, let’s give Atlanta one of the players (and the ONLY DE to make a Pro Bowl other than Myles Garett) that is still a starter in the NFL. I’m not sure how this affects the Falcons’ future, but it gives them a solid player.
Buffalo – Tre’Davious White – CB – Louisiana State – Sorry Buffalo, you’re another team that gets punished for making a great pick at a lower slot. White has turned out to be key in turning the Bills from also-rans into Super Bowl contenders. An All-Pro in 2019 and 2020, White has turned into one of the best corners in the NFL and would have been a likely bet to make his third Pro Bowl had an ACL tear not ended his season in November.
On Second thought – Dalvin Tomlinson – DT – Alabama – Since White isn’t available and there isn’t really a corner worth taking at this point, let’s pivot and give the Bills an upgrade over Kyle Williams (the Bills best performing DT in 2016/17). Tomlinson steps in as a run-stuffing DT who would be well received in December and January when the winds in Buffalo make throwing a chancy endeavor.
Dallas – Taco Charlton – DE – Michigan – Leading up to the draft, it feels like evaluators liked Charlton just a bit less than Myles Garrett and more than Solomon Thomas. Well, that didn’t play out at the draft as “Taco” fell to the Cowboys at the 28th pick. A player that was used as more of a rotational player until his senior season, he had doubters on the coaching staff at Michigan regarding his toughness and dedication.
On second thought – Corey Davis – WR – Western Michigan – Let’s draft Davis here as a replacement for Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley (both gone after the 2018 season) and maybe the Cowboys don’t have to use the 2020 first-round pick on CeeDee Lamb. While Lamb has proven to be an excellent pick, a player like LBs Jordyn Brooks, or Patrick Queen or a Safety like Antoine Winfield Jr would have been a big add as well.
Cleveland – David Njoku – TE – Miami (FL) – with Njoku gone to the Giants in this draft, we are forced to look elsewhere, not that you have to look far to find a position that the 2016 Browns needed to improve at. We’ve already added Patrick Mahomes, a Super Bowl Champion and a player who looks to be on a fast-track to Canton, and Eddie Jackson, a Safety who has a couple of Pro Bowl selections to his name. So let’s add another offensive piece to grow with Mahomes.
On second thought – Austin Ekeler – RB – Western Colorado - Granted, Ekeler didn’t really take off until his third year, but it’s not like he was a slouch backing up Melvin Gordon in 2017 and 2018. The player with the biggest move in this redraft, Ekeler was originally undrafted out of Western Colorado but now finds himself in the First Round. The Browns likely would have still drafted Nick Chubb in 2018 but Ekler would be an excellent complimentary piece much like Kareem Hunt is now.
Pittsburgh – T.J. Watt – OLB – Wisconsin – Sorry Steel Town, you’re losing out on a great player here because hindsight is ALWAYS 20/20. It’s almost crazy to believe that 26 other teams passed on Watt despite his brother being one of the best DEs of the last fifteen years (Cleveland and Tennessee passed multiple times). Though having a brother as a great player isn’t a surefire indicator (See Gronkowski, Dan and Watt, Derek as examples) you have to feel it needed to be accounted for.
On second thought – Leonard Fournette – RB – Louisiana State – The last of seven running backs drafted in the first round of this redraft, Fournette was the first taken in the 20107 Draft. An absolute beast his first two years in college, Fournette ran into the injury bug his junior year only playing in 7 games. His running style just feels like he was meant to be a Steeler and he would have been in a position to take over after Le’Veon Bell chose to sit out the 2018 season.
San Francisco – Reuben Foster – LB – Alabama – A player that was drafted in spite of the numerous off-the-field issues that continued to plague him once in the NFL, Foster was cut after parts of two seasons with the 49ers. He signed with Washington and after a major knee injury has bounced around the league to tryouts but not signed anywhere.
On second thought – Jarrad Davis – LB – Florida – Sometimes you have to wonder if, when a player fails to be productive, it is the player’s ability that was overrated or if they just went to the wrong team. In Davis’ case, I think it’s entirely possible that going to an organization that is constantly in flux (Detroit) stunted his professional growth over going to a more stable organization (San Francisco). In any case, Davis gets a chance to take over for (future) Hall of Famer Patrick Willis who retired following the 2014 season.
New Orleans – Ryan Ramczyk – OT – Wisconsin – A player who has turned out to be far-and-away the best offensive lineman in this draft, Ramczyk is a loss for New Orleans. Fortunately, Bolles has, after some growing pains, turned into better than a solid pro who made the All-Rookie squad in 2017 and was an All-Pro in 2020.
On second thought – Garrett Bolles – OT – Utah - In this redraft teams are kinda getting the short end of the stick with their replacement (KC, Houston, Pittsburgh) pick. While I can hardly say that New Orleans is getting a player who is “jUst As gOOd” (If you get it, you get it) they aren’t getting a slug by any means as Bolles made the Pro Football Writers All-Rookie Team in 2017 and last year made Second-Team All-Pro.