Ranking the top 32 prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft
With the 2016 NFL Draft in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to take a look at the 2017 NFL Draft. While we can’t do a true mock draft for another nine months or so once the draft order is determined, we can certainly rank the top 32 players on our list. Rivals.com National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and Rivals.com National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney share their top picks nearly a year ahead of the big day.
1. FARRELL: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
Farrell’s take: We all expect a quarterback to go No. 1 in every draft, at least before we know who’s drafting, and Watson is hands down the most dangerous of a weak crop.
1. GORNEY: Watson
Gorney’s take: There is some discussion about Miami's Brad Kaaya being the first quarterback taken because of his pro-style pedigree, but Watson is better. He’s going to have a tremendous season, could win the Heisman and, oh, a national championship.
2. FARRELL: Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett
Farrell’s take: Garrett is a freaky athlete who needs to improve his inside pass rush but his length and quickness make him an NFL franchise pass rusher.
2. GORNEY: Garrett
Gorney’s take: If the team drafting first doesn’t take a quarterback, Garrett could come off the board at No. 1. He’s a phenomenal athlete who also hits, finishing with 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. Another big year should solidify his lofty status.
3. FARRELL: LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Farrell’s take: The best running back in a decade should go in the top three right? A lot depends on how Ezekiel Elliott does for the Cowboys after they took him fourth this year.
3. GORNEY: Miami QB Brad Kaaya
Gorney’s Take: Quarterbacks always go high -- the Eagles traded up for a guy from North Dakota State -- and Kaaya is a prototypical NFL QB. He has a strong arm, he’s smart and he’s going to wow NFL executives in meetings. He could even be the first QB taken.
4. FARRELL: Alabama OT Cameron Robinson
Farrell’s take: The best tackle in the draft at this stage, he should go higher than No. 6, where Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley went this year.
4. GORNEY: Robinson
Gorney’s take: Robinson was not dominant all of last season but he’s a physical specimen and the top offensive tackle on the board. Expect him to have a big year because Alabama will lean on its running game.
5. FARRELL: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey;
Farrell’s take: McCaffrey is a rare athlete, but will he be downgraded because of his position? Will some NFL team try to make him a gadget guy? To me, he’s a top five NFL Draft talent.
5. GORNEY: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Gorney’s take: My guess is Cook has a phenomenal season, maybe even better than Fournette, and then tests better at the NFL Combine. In many ways, Cook is just more dynamic and it could intrigue NFL teams.
6. FARRELL: Alabama DL Tim Williams
Farrell’s take: This may be a bit high for Williams, especially ahead of his own defensive line teammate in Jonathan Allen, but situational pass rushers can go top 10 and even as high as top three as we’ve seen.
GORNEY: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
Gorney’s take: Barnett had 69 tackles and 10 sacks last season, he’s incredibly active against the pass and the run and in a strong group of defensive ends he’s going to stand out the most. He’s an athletic playmaker who will be taken early.
7. FARRELL: Kaaya
Farrell’s take: In a down quarterback year, Kaaya is in a perfect spot to be a top 10 pick or even higher if he takes the next step in his development. The NFL loves starters from freshman year as they go through the bumps and bruises that prepare you for the NFL (see Jared Goff).
7. GORNEY: Fournette
Gorney’s take: Although I have Cook going first at running back, Fournette does not fall far. He’s a dominant player at his position, could have a long NFL career and could be a superstar. No way he falls too far.
8. FARRELL: Florida CB Jalen Tabor
Farrell’s take: It will all depend on how well Tabor runs because he’s not a natural burner, but his instincts are off the charts. He’s become a good tackler near the line of scrimmage. He’s a longer Tyrann Mathieu, and that’s impressive company.
8. GORNEY: Tabor
Gorney’s take: Vernon Hargreaves III was talked about more at Florida this season but Tabor was tested more and answered the call. He had more tackles, just as many interceptions and 10 more pass deflections that Hargreaves. Some think he’s better, too.
9. FARRELL: USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Farrell’s take: The best wide receiver in the draft, Smith-Schuster is powerful, fast and can not only spread the field but gain yards after the catch. Think Laquon Treadwell with more speed.
9. GORNEY: Alabama DE Jonathan Allen
Gorney’s take: Allen had nearly three times as many sacks as A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed combined for the Crimson Tide last season. After a second-round grade he’s coming back to Tuscaloosa to dominate. He could move even higher in this draft.
10. FARRELL: Allen
Farrell’s take: I like Allen much better than some others do. Players who return for their final year to improve and for the good of their team are leaders and high-character kids the NFL loves.
10: GORNEY: Smith-Schuster
Gorney’s Take: Smith-Schuster is a top 10 pick all the way and in my mind clearly the best receiver in this draft. He’s a physical outside receiver who makes tough catches and is more athletic than he gets credit for.
11. FARRELL: Michigan State DT Malik McDowell
Farrell’s take: McDowell is another guy I like better than many. He’s a gap-shooting defensive tackle, which is exactly what the NFL wants these days.
11. GORNEY: Florida State OT Roderick Johnson
Gorney’s take: Johnson already looks and plays like a left tackle in the NFL. He’s 6-foot-7, over 300 pounds and really could battle Robinson for top billing at the position. This season and the combine will tell the story.
12. FARRELL: Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan
Farrell’s take: I’d have McMillan higher if I knew how he was going to test because I don’t think he’s a combine guy, but he’s an instinctual tackling machine with size.
12. GORNEY: LSU CB Tre'Davious White
Gorney’s take: This might be an overstep on White because he needs to be more physical against bigger receivers, but he’s such a great athlete and he plays a premium position. He’s one of the best corners in the draft.
13. FARRELL: Clemson WR Mike Williams
Farrell’s take: The injury question has to be answered here, but his length, speed and body control remind me a bit of a more polished Josh Doctson.
13. GORNEY: LSU S Jamal Adams
Gorney’s take: Adams could be moving even higher in this draft because he’s a playmaker, covers so much ground and is a huge competitor. He had four interceptions, 10 pass deflections and was all over the field last season.
14. FARRELL: Adams
Farrell’s take: The safety position impacts the NFL as much as corner, or is becoming more coveted at the very least. Adams is a whirling dervish of talent.
14. GORNEY: McCaffrey
Gorney’s Take: As far as pure football ability, maybe no one in this draft is better than McCaffrey, who had more all-purpose yards last season than anyone ever in college football. But that raises questions. Is he a pure RB? Can he catch passes out of the backfield in the NFL? He might be able to do it all, but will NFL teams be convinced?
15. FARRELL: Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey
Farrell’s take: I love McGlinchey and think he could end up as they No. 1 offensive tackle in this draft if he has a standout year. He’s better than Ronnie Stanley to me and more aggressive.
15. GORNEY: Missouri DE Charles Harris
Gorney’s take: Missouri has had defensive end after defensive end taken in the draft and Harris could be among the best. NFL teams seem to love these hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker types who can fill lots of roles. Harris is perfect for that position.
16. FARRELL: White
Farrell’s take: White was smart to stay in school and not enter this year’s draft, which was loaded at cornerback, so he will end up near the top half of the draft if he becomes a bit more physical.
16. GORNEY: McDowell
Gorney’s take: Farrell has McDowell a little higher than me and in the end he could be right because the former five-star is a tremendously physical and athletic player. I’ll take a tough Michigan State defensive lineman over most on any day.
17. FARRELL: Cook
Farrell’s take: Three running backs in the first round? That’s unheard of these days but how to you pass on Cook who, pound for pound, could be better than Fournette if he can stay healthy.
17. GORNEY: Iowa CB Desmond King
Gorney’s take: An argument could be made that no corner in this draft has the feel for the game like King, who had eight interceptions and 21 pass deflections last season. Here’s another player I could see being taken even higher than this spot because he’s so talented.
18. FARRELL: Clemson DT Carlos Watkins
Farrell’s take: Watkins is athletic and can get into the backfield, which is what the NFL wants these days and he can run plays down as well.
18. GORNEY: Tim Williams
Gorney’s take: Williams only had 19 tackles all of last season but he had 10.5 sacks, so he’s another disruptive hybrid edge rusher who can get in the backfield. This could be his season to dominate and move high in the first round.
19. FARRELL: Alabama TE O.J. Howard
Farrell’s take: Tight ends have to be freak athletes to go in the first round, at least in my book, and Howard is that guy. If he doesn’t have a breakout year I’ll be stunned.
19. GORNEY: LSU WR Malachi Dupre
Gorney’s take: My contention with Dupre is that he’s a phenomenal talent but because of poor quarterback play and the presence of Fournette in the running game, he hasn’t had a chance to shine. This season could be different and NFL teams will love him at the combine.
20. FARRELL: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
Farrell’s take: Davis can play inside or outside depending on the scheme and is excellent in coverage. He’s one of the more versatile linebackers in the draft.
20: GORNEY: Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan
Gorney’s take: McMillan could be this draft’s Reggie Ragland except the former five-star has more speed and maybe even better instincts. Think about this: With all those Ohio State defenders drafted a couple weeks ago, McMillan led the team in tackles with 119.
21. FARRELL: Barnett
Farrell’s take: Barnett is a great upfield presence who is good at shedding blockers and beating double teams and he will be coveted if he has another big year.
21. GORNEY: USC DB/WR Adoree' Jackson
Gorney’s take: Any team that needs a spark on offense, defense or special teams will look at Jackson, who arguably is being underutilized at USC. He could be a slot receiver, corner and definitely used on special teams a la De'Anthony Thomas. Size and durability might be issues, but a smart team will use Jackson all over the field.
22. FARRELL: Harris
Farrell’s take: The unknown out of high school is now one of the top hybrid guys in the draft who could stand up in a 3-4 or play end in a 4-3.
22. GORNEY: Clemson WR Mike Williams
Gorney’s take: Williams could shoot up draft boards if he has a phenomenal, injury-free 2016 and that second part is most important. He sustained a scary neck fracture in the season-opener last year. If he comes back 100 percent and is the old Williams, he could be the top WR taken.
23. FARRELL: King
Farrell’s take: King, like Tabor, is a guy who will need to test well to go high but he has the same ball skills and natural feel for the game. He’s just not quite as long.
23. GORNEY: Tennessee LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Gorney’s take: Reeves-Maybin had 35 more tackles than anyone else on the Tennessee defense and he also finished with 14 stops for loss and six sacks. He is productive, athletic and he’s a playmaker who has first-round talent.
24. FARRELL: Johnson
Farrell’s take: Offensive tackles are highly sought after and Johnson is a guy you can plug in on the left side with length and excellent feet.
24. GORNEY: Michigan CB Jabrill Peppers
Gorney’s take: Peppers might be one of the most physically-gifted football players in this draft, but questions will arise about position. He’s already listed at 6-foot-1, 208 pounds and with a thick build he could add more weight. Maybe he stays at safety, but if he drops to outside linebacker, who knows?
25. FARRELL: Peppers
Farrell’s take: Peppers could be this year’s Su'a Cravens, dropping down to linebacker this year which could drop him out of round one, but for now he has a good chance of testing better and he’s more physical.
25. GORNEY: Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis
Gorney’s take: There are no questions about Lewis’ position because he’s strictly a cornerback and a great one at that. The only issue, really, with Lewis is his small stature and how that will translate to the NFL. Some team will take a chance because Lewis is so good.
26. FARRELL: Auburn DE Carl Lawson
Farrell’s take: Lawson is great off the edge and if he can stay healthy, he could go much higher. The only concern is his lack of length.
26. GORNEY: McGlinchey
Gorney’s take: McGlinchey is nearly 6-foot-8 and 310 pounds and has continued to get better and better as a left tackle. He won’t be one of the first taken off the board but he’s still a first-round talent.
27. FARRELL: LSU OC Ethan Pocic
Farrell’s Take: Pocic is an elite prospect who could play center or guard at the next level and is very mobile and smart.
27. GORNEY: Lawson
Gorney’s take: Lawson missed the 2014 season because of injury and played in only seven games last season because of a hip injury but I have faith. The former five-star has boatloads of talent and if he can stay out of the trainer’s office, could be a first-round pick.
28. FARRELL: Alabama S Eddie Jackson
Farrell’s take: Jackson is a ball hawk who has a great feel for the game and has shown much better discipline in coverage. He has become a physical tackler.
28. GORNEY: Georgia RB Nick Chubb
Gorney’s take: NFL teams will be watching Chubb closely coming off that knee injury but my guess is he could be stronger than ever. Of course, it’s going to be an issue all the way to draft night, but Chubb is a phenomenal talent who could move up draft boards if his knee is OK.
29. FARRELL: Dupre
Farrell’s take: LSU doesn’t throw the ball enough, so he could be a victim of his offense, but watch him test off the charts and watch NFL teams fall in love with his character and athleticism.
29. GORNEY: Alabama DE DaShawn Hand
Gorney’s take: Call me crazy, but if Hand has an outstanding season on Alabama’s defensive line I really feel he could be taken in the first round. Hand only needs his chance to dominate and now is the time. If he dominates, watch him move up big-time.
30. FARRELL: Louisville DE Devonte Fields
Farrell’s take: An edge rusher who can do so many things in different defenses, he’ll be a guy that could rise quite a bit with a big year.
30. GORNEY: Clemson DT Carlos Watkins
Gorney’s take: Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd ate up a lot of tackles last season but Watkins should have his opportunities this year. The Tigers’ defensive line is still loaded so he won’t have to deal with too many double teams.
31. FARRELL: Michigan DE Christopher Wormley
Farrell’s take: A late bloomer, Wormley is huge and can move and can fit into many different schemes. He takes the next step under Don Brown.
31. GORNEY: Howard
Gorney’s take: Howard was virtually non-existent for large swaths of time in Alabama’s offense until he torched Clemson in the national title game. He’s a physical specimen who is the best tight end in a strong group.
32. FARRELL: Clemson TE Jordan Leggett
Farrell’s take: Many have Jake Butt ahead of Leggett, but this kid is longer, he stretches the field better and it wouldn’t shock me if he ended up ahead of Howard in the end. He’s that good.
32. GORNEY: Pocic
Gorney’s take: Let’s keep going with LSU players coming off the board in the first round. This draft’s Ryan Kelly (taken by Indianapolis in the first round) could be Pocic, who anchors the line that opens up massive holes for LSU’s stud running backs.