The 2017 NFL draft is a little more than a week away and the hype train is going full steam.
Don’t believe the hype with every player. Some are projected to be drafted in the first round even though they shouldn’t be. Some are virtually guaranteed to be drafted in the top 10, but there’s no guarantee they’ll deliver on their promise.
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
As the front-runner to be chosen with the No. 1 pick in the draft, there’s nowhere to go but down for Myles Garrett. Since not every scout is convinced he’s the best player in the draft, Garrett fits the definition of “overrated” until he proves otherwise.
The 6’4″, 272-pounder logged 31 sacks and 47 tackles for loss in three years at Texas A&M. Injuries reduced Garrett’s numbers in 2016, but he vaulted his way to the top of draft boards with a combine performance that included top-five showings among defensive linemen in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical leap and broad jump.
However, there’s a feeling out there that Garrett can disappear at times.
“This guy is supposed to be the certain first pick in the draft but he leaves a lot to be desired,” one scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “He’s a good athlete but there are stretches of him not being productive. He’s not really a tough guy. He’s not strong. He’s a flash player.”
Unless that’s a Browns scout talking, and other Browns scouts feel the same way, count on the Browns taking Garrett with the first pick. If it is a Browns scout talking, count on Garrett being drafted by whichever teams gets the first pick in a trade with the Browns.
Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Perhaps it’s fitting that a guy with seven interceptions last season, tied for second in the nation, is pretty much married to the Chargers at No. 7 in the mock draft community.
The 6’1″, 206-pound Hooker returned three of those interceptions for touchdowns last season and broke up four passes. He also missed 17 tackles, however, and the concern is that he’s soft against the run.
Another concern is the fact that Hooker has just one season as a starter under his belt.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano also was Ed Reed’s defensive coordinator at Miami. He won’t downplay the comparisons between Hooker and Reed.
It’s hard not to be overrated when you’re compared to a future Hall of Famer. Hooker could be an All-Pro safety in the NFL, but there could be a learning curve.
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
O.J. Howard is the unquestioned top dog of this year’s tight end class. He caught 45 passes in 2016 and led tight ends in the 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle at the combine. Howard also placed in the top five in the position group in the 40-yard dash (4.51) and bench press (22 reps).
Howard is a top-10 prospect because every team wants the next Rob Gronkowski, but his stock is based more on potential than what he accomplished in college. Howard’s yards per reception dipped from 15.8 in 2015 to 13.2 in 2016. He caught just seven touchdown passes in four years and was under-utilized in Alabama’s offense. Scouts are going to want to know why he wasn’t used more.
“Alabama recruited a shiny toy but (Lane) Kiffin never really knew what to do with it. I don’t worry about the talent at all. He could be an all-pro. I just need to know if he loves football,” one NFC scout told NFL.com.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Mike Williams could be the first receiver off the board. It’s hard to find a mock draft that projects him to fall into the second half of the first round.
A 6’4″, 218-pound receiver drafted early in the first round needs to be a game-changing talent, but Williams’ scouting profile paints the picture of a possession receiver who also could be useful on fade patterns in the end zone.
Williams isn’t especially fast, he’s prone to drops and he isn’t the best route runner. He caught 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He’s third in Clemson history behind Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins in single-season receiving yards.
Add Martavis Bryant to the mix, and there seems to be an air of disappointment surrounding Clemson receivers. Bryant and Watkins can’t stay on the field for different reasons, and while Hopkins caught 111 passes two years ago there’s a definite gap between him and the Antonio Browns, Odell Beckhams and Julio Joneses of the world.
Williams has to shake that stigma.
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Derek Barnett broke Reggie White’s school record with 33 sacks at Tennessee. That’s more than anyone else in college football over the last three seasons.
That got Barnett into the top-10 conversation early in the draft process, but perhaps the word on the street already is out that he might be overrated, because he’s been slipping out of the top 10 in some mock drafts.
Other than a 6.96-second 3-cone drill, fifth among defensive linemen, the 6’3″, 259-pound Barnett doesn’t have any physical qualities that “wow” people.
Unless Barnett’s technique is superior enough to make a smooth transition to the next level, he could find himself behind athletically.
Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
Jabrill Peppers is like one of those “cool” products on the shelf at Brookstone or The Sharper Image. Customers just have to have it, but eventually it just gathers dust.
Peppers will be drafted in the first round because of his versatility. Although he’s primarily a safety, he played linebacker in 2016 and also was third in the NCAA with 310 punt-return yards, returning one punt for a touchdown.
At 5’11”, 213 pounds, Peppers is no NFL linebacker. His one career interception and 11 pass breakups (10 in 2015) don’t move the needle as a defensive back. According to Pro Football Focus, Peppers was targeted 93 times in college and allowed 58 receptions.
Peppers has a tendency to try to avoid blockers rather than take them on in pursuit.
The team that drafts Peppers will have to know exactly what it wants to do with him on defense. The first round is too early to take someone whose biggest strength turns out to be returning punts.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Dalvin Cook put up some eye-popping numbers in college.
He’s second in ACC history with 4,464 rushing yards in three seasons and fourth with 46 rushing touchdowns. Cook also caught 79 passes in college. According to NFL Draft Scout, Cook rattled off 10 runs of 50 or more yards at Florida State.
Cook is a dual-threat, big-play back, but he’s not close to Leonard Fournette. For someone who’s 5’10”, 210 pounds, Cook isn’t all that comfortable running between the tackles. His first instinct is to try to bounce outside. He fumbled 13 times in college, including six times in 2016. When it comes to blocking, Cook is willing but it’s not exactly a strength.
Medical and character concerns also follow Cook through the draft process. He’s had multiple shoulder injuries going back to high school and the off-the-field red flags also began in high school.
None of Cook’s legal issues have really stuck, and if he can shake off enough tacklers in the NFL, he’ll have to prove that he can move the chains just as well as he flips the field.
Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Marlon Humphrey comes from NFL bloodlines. His father, Bobby Humphrey, was an NFL running back for four years. Marlon Humphrey, like his father, also comes from Alabama. Both of those factors earn the younger Humphrey a long look.
Humphrey intercepted five passes, broke up 13 passes and forced three fumbles in two years at Alabama. Three of those picks, eight of those passes defended and two of those forced fumbles came in 2015 when the Crimson Tide won the national title
It will be interesting, however, to see what Humphrey can do when he’s not surrounded by so much talent. The knock on him is that he’s vulnerable to the deep ball.
Alabama has been a safety factory in recent years. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins both have made Pro Bowls. The last two cornerbacks from Alabama are Cyrus Jones, who started one game in his rookie season last year, and 2013 bust Dee Milliner.
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Taco Charlton’s name alone put him on the draft map before the end of the 2016 season. Actually, his true first name, Vidauntae, probably would have earned him some recognition.
Charlton’s 6’6″ height also gets him some attention. It helped the 277-pounder collect 10 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in 2016, but that was his only season as a starter and he started just 15 games at Michigan. One one hand, Charlton isn’t a finished product and will arrive with plenty of upside. On the other hand, it took him four years to earn a starting gig in college.
If Charlton is drafted in the first round and progresses as slowly in the NFL as he did in college, his fifth-year option won’t be picked up.
Davis Webb, QB, California
It’s not like Davis Webb has been overrated throughout the draft process, but a recent spike in his stock makes him a first-round pick in some circles.
That’s a little early to draft Webb.
Webb lost his starting job to fellow prospect Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech in 2015. Last season he was the successor to Jared Goff at Cal. Those two bullet points are going to make a lot of teams think twice before drafting Webb.
According to NFL.com, more than 65 percent of the passes Webb threw in college were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. He’ll need to develop the ability to throw downfield and kick his habit of locking in on his primary read. If he doesn’t, he’ll at best be a game manager in the NFL.