With the 2017 NFL Draft nearly a week in the books now, it’s time to dive into draft grades. While draft grades are essentially meaningless as it’s impossible to project a player’s success at the next level, let alone an entire team’s draft haul, it is still fun, and a necessary aspect of the process. in this addition, I will be focusing on the uver competitive AFC South. We saw the Titans spend two first round picks, and the Texans secure their franchise QB, while the Jaguars snagged a polarizing RB prospect in the top 5; but who did the best?
For each team, I will be grading their individual draft picks and writing a brief paragraph to explain my thoughts on the pick. Along with grading their draft picks, I will also be giving my personal favorite pick, the best value pick, their biggest reach, and the top 2 remaining team needs. I will be calculating the final draft grade with a GPA calculator.
Coming later this week I will be starting a 3 part series for the 2018 NFL Draft. The first part is the top 55 players (rankings will change due to 2017 season), next I will be ranking the top 10 players at each position, and finally at the end of the week, I will be doing a 2018 NFL Mock Draft.
1 (4) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU – B-
The Jaguars struggled running the ball last season, their leading rusher was T.J. Yeldon who racked up a poor 465 yards which lead the 22nd rushing offense in the league. Bringing in Leonard Fournette will implement a physical running style and provide some much needed toughness on this offensive unit, which Coughlin has been adamant about throughout the draft process.
2 (34) Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama – A+
The Jaguars’ offensive line could be at fault for why the Jaguars could not run the ball last season. Cam Robinson was arguably the best offensive lineman in the 2017 draft class, snagging him in the 2nd round in what was a weak positional group was a gift. Robinson started every game during his time at Alabama, giving up only 10 sacks in his 3-year tenure.
3 (68) Dawuane Smoot, Edge, Illinois – C+
I gave the Smoot pick a C+ because their OL remains a bigger need, even after the drafting of Robinson. Picking Smoot over a top guard prospect like Dan Feeney was not the right move. If they were stuck on picking a defensive line presence, there were still better players on the board such as Chris Wormley, Tim Williams, and Derek Rivers.
4 (110) Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma – B
With both Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee in their contract seasons, it was smart for them to pick insurance in case they aren’t able to resign one of them. The only reason I didn’t give Westbrook an A is because many teams didn’t have Westbrook on their draft boards, however, if they did have him on their draft board, they mostly had a 6th round grade or later. The reason his stock was so low is because of his off-field issues. That’s a big risk to take, even in the 4th round. Westbrook will also bring help to PR/KR.
5 (148) Blair Brown, LB, Ohio – B-
Drafting a LB who isn’t going to play strong side linebacker is probably not the smartest choice with their veteran MLB transitioning to strong-side linebacker. According to Coughlin, Blair Brown will play weak-side linebacker along will special teams. Telvin Smith is in his contract year, so it was smart to draft insurance in case he doesn’t return next season. Brown gained a lot of steam leading up to the draft, so the Jaguars seemed to have gotten great value in the 5th round.
7 (222) Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota – A
Caldwell said the team was focusing on adding speed throughout the draft, Myrick adds just that running a 4.28 at the Combine which was 2nd fastest overall and the fastest DB 40 time. Myrick had 4th-5th round talent, so drafting him in the top of the 7th is an insane steal. Myrick will most likely compete with Aaron Colvin and Josh Johnson for a nickel spot. Myrick will also compete for a spot at kick returner and punt returner.
7 (240) Marquez Williams, FB, Miami – A-
Marquez Williams is the best run blocking fullback in this class, which will hopefully help Leonard Fournette. Williams is a boulder of muscle weighing 260 pounds. Williams has a very impressive 40 time for a 260-pound man, running a 4.73 40 at his pro day.
Overall Grade: B (3.2 according to GPA calculator)
Best Pick: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Best Value Pick: Jalen Myrick, CB, Minnesota
Biggest Reach: Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Remaining Team Needs: OG, QB
1 (5) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan – A
When the Titans first selected Corey Davis I was surprised but later realized it was a very good pick after 3 WRs went within the top 10 picks. Davis, a 4-year starter at Western Michigan, is a precise route runner and is excellent after the catch with his burst and field vision. Corey showed great speed on tape, but due to an ankle injury, he was never able to run the 40. Even if it could be considered a slight reach by some, the Titans got their guy and an instant playmaker on offense.
1 (18) Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC – B
Adoree’ Jackson was drafted before players like Kevin King, Gareon Conley, and Quincy Wilson, and while you can say he has more upside than the aforementioned players, the Titans didn’t quite get a player who can come in from day one and start on the outside, which they’re in desperate need for. While Jackson was widely considered the biggest reach in the 1st round, it’s hard to ignore his electric speed and upside. At the very least, you have one of the game’s top returners.
3 (72) Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky – B+
Throughout the entire draft, you could tell the Titans wanted to give their young QB weapons to throw to. Taylor is a smaller WR that can change direction almost instantly. Taylor, a small school standout, had most of his production in college on bubble screens which exemplifies his ability after the catch.
3 (100) Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International – B-
As much as I like Jonnu Smith, the 3rd round was a bit early to hear his name called. Smith’s compares quite well to fellow teammate Delanie Walker, who Smith will now have the pleasure of playing behind and learning from. One of Smith’s limited weaknesses is that he is a body catcher who doesn’t trust his own hands. Smith plays quick and has experience blocking in a 3-point stance.
5 (155) Jayon Brown, LB, UCLA – B
Brown is a smaller LB, but plays faster than his 40 time would indicate. When watching UCLA tape you almost always see Brown near the ball carrier. Brown will also be able to contribute on special teams from day one. A great value pick, Brown should have heard his name called in the 3rd-4th round range.
6 (217) Corey Levin, G, UT-Chattanooga – C
Levin looked like a potential undrafted guy prior to the draft, but the Titans chose to keep him in-state with their 6th round pick. Corey Levin was a 4-year starter at UT-Chattanooga and is a tough offensive lineman who offers balance on the line with decency in both pass and run blocking. With a small to no sample size against blue-chip competition, it’s hard to say how he will make the leap to the next level. There was more quality talent on the board at this pick.
7 (227) Josh Carraway, LB, TCU – A-
Josh Carraway should have heard his name called earlier than he did. Carraway most likely fell due to not playing as rough and tough as a man his size should. Carraway is a very good athlete who is very explosive, with a great tackle range. He was one of the best defenders in the Big 12 during his stint at TCU.
7 (236) Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova – B
A 3-year starter at Villanova is an average athlete, but actually has good agility for a man his size. Seaton is good against bull rushes and good blocking most rushes. To play at the pro level Seaton will need to increase his strength.
7 (241) Khalfani Muhammad, RB, California – B+
Muhammad is a very, shifty fast RB, running a 4.31, who accelerates very quickly and runs through holes almost immediately upon opening. Muhammad is a very underrated RB who was overshadowed throughout the draft process. Muhammad is shifty and hard to tackle. The reason Muhammad’s stock slipped a bit was heavily due to his lack of size. To make the Titans final 53-man roster, Muhammad will need to gain strength and prove he can take the big hits.
Overall Grade: B (3.11 according to GPA calculator)
Best Pick: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Best Value Pick: Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky
Biggest Reach: Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International
Remaining Team Needs: LB, CB
1 (15) Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State – A+
Malik Hooker falling to 15 was something most people weren’t expecting. Hooker was hands down the best free safety prospect in this draft. In just one season Hooker produced 7 interceptions and 74 tackles. Hooker possesses elite range and ball skills which will give them a polarizing presence back in the secondary which they’ve been lacking since Bob Sanders.
2 (46) Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida – A
Wilson, a first round talent fell to the colts at 46. Quincy Wilson is a very competitive CB with great ball skills who will help the Colts with their ongoing lack of CBs. Wilson and Hooker will add exceptional ball skills to the Colts secondary, and provide Indy with some playmakers on the backend.
3 (80) Tarell Basham, Edge, Ohio – B
Basham has great size and explosiveness for a successful NFL defensive end. Basham is great at bouncing off contact or bull rushing through the line to get to the QB. The Colts now add a pass rusher as they look to restore their former presence of Dwight Freeney/Robert Mathis up on the line.
4 (137) Zach Banner, OT, USC – D
This was possibly one of the worst picks in the draft. Banner was expected to get drafted around the 7th round, not the 4th. While Zach Banner was the biggest prospect in the draft, he lacks control of his weight. Banner is heavy footed causing him to struggle against the rush. A man his size should not play with his level of “softness”. Banner lacks that mean streak you like to see.
4 (143) Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida – B+
Mack will be a great compliment and possible replacement for aging RB, Frank Gore. Marlon Mack is a very versatile runner who will eventually gain the starting spot after Gore retires. He gets by with his shifty, one-cut running style as he is always a threat to make a big run out of nothing.
4 (144) Grover Stewart, DT, Albany State – C+
Stewart was a slight reach drafting him in the 4th, while he was expected to go in the 5th or 6th round. Stewart is a bit slow off the line and slow shaking off blocks. However, this pick could pay dividends as Stewart has good potential and can equate to his potential with the proper coaching.
5 (158) Nate Hairston, CB, Temple – B-
Hairston has great size for an NFL CB, being nearly 6’0″ and weighing 196 pounds. Hairston only started one season at CB, but only allowed 6/36 passes to be completed. Hairston was a former WR meaning he should have pretty good ball skills. Hairston is also has pretty good coverage skills with good potential, as he showcased in the Shrine Game a few months ago.
7 (161) Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Northwestern – A
Anthony Walker plays bigger than he actually is, Walker is an aggressive LB who is a good pass rusher. Walker should have gone in the 5th round but fell to the 7th, for that reason Walker is most likely the best value pick for the colts.
Overall Grade: B (3.04 according to GPA calculator)
Best Pick: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
Best Value Pick: Anthony Walker Jr., LB, Northwestern
Biggest Reach: Zach Banner, OT, USC Remaining Team Needs: WR, OG
1 (12) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson – A-
After trading Brock Osweiler to the Browns, it left a gaping hole at QB. No, Tom Savage is not the answer. Deshaun Watson has a tremendous supporting cast with targets such as DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Braxton Miller. Not to mention, a solid running back in Lamar Miller. Of all the 1st round QBs, Watson is surely up there with the best situation from day one. There remain some concerns, however, including his “poor” arm strength and regression this past season.
2 (57) Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt – A
Cunningham is a blue-chip linebacker prospect who is an absolute steal in the 2nd round. Cunningham is a great athlete, but has skinny hips which will cause him to gain leverage versus some runners. Cunningham somehow always finds his way to the ball, which gives him elite playmaking ability at the LB position.
3 (89) D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas – B
Foreman ran a 4.45 which is blazing fast for a RB who weighs 235 pounds. For a big man, Foreman is a very good athlete which will add a good compliment to their run game and be a good backup for Lamar Miller. Foreman doesn’t square his feet before going into contact and needs to keep them pumping upon contact if he wants to pick up extra yardage on his runs in the NFL.
4 (130) Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell – B-
Davenport didn’t face much competition at Bucknell, making him ill prepared for the competition in the NFL. You know the transition up won’t be easy. Although, Davenport was one of the standout offensive tackle prospects in a weak class. Davenport is also a pretty good athlete for his size with quick feet.
4 (142) Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson – C+
A big, athletic defensive tackle who has good movement for an interior linemen. Watkins is top heavy and needs to work on cutting weight. However, Watkins is fast off the line and can create quick power to penetrate the pocket.
5 (169) Treston Decoud, S, Oregon State – C+
Decoud wasn’t expected to hear his name until the late 6th round to early 7th, so picking him in the 5th is too early. Decoud is a big bodied S who showed flashes in coverage. Decoud is an aggressive tackler who can lay the wood. The Texans could have Decoud play CB or S depending on injuries or need, although I think he fits best at safety.
7 (243) Kyle Fuller, C, Baylor – B-
A slightly poor athlete who has great size for an NFL center. Fuller uses his hands effectively to engage blocks and holds onto blocks well. Fuller would have gone earlier, but struggles moving his feet while blocking and uses poor leverage while trying to block interior linemen who can beat him off the snap.
Overall Grade: B- (2.86 according to GPA calculator)
Best Pick: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Best Value Pick: Zach Cunningham LB, Vanderbilt
Biggest Reach: Treston Decoud, S, Oregon State
Remaining Team Needs: OT, CB
Conclusion: The team with the best draft, according to my grade scale, was the Jacksonville Jaguars (3.24) followed by the Tennessee Titans (3.11). The Jaguars addressed nearly every need besides QB and OG, and added good value throughout the draft. The Tennessee Titans addressed every major need they had during this draft as well, including WR, OL, and CB, although their value picks weren’t always there.
For the most part, each team in the AFC South did a great job in the 2017 NFL Draft, and made this division even more competitive heading into this upcoming season. The Titans enter as the favorite, but after getting their franchise QB in Deshaun Watson, the Texans are going to battle. Even Jacksonville will be in the hunt if Blake Bortles can return to 2015 form. As for the Colts, they’re the longshot, but they had a solid inaugural draft under new General Manager Chris Ballard.