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Ranking the top 32 prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft

Deshaun Watson (Getty Images)

With the 2016 NFL Draft far in the rearview mirror and college football season upon us, it’s time to take a look at the 2017 NFL Draft. While we can’t do a true mock draft until the draft order is determined, we can certainly rank the top 32 players on our list. National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney share their top picks.

1. 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. Quarterbacks usually go No. 1, but Garrett is freaky enough to warrant this selection.

1. GORNEY: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson

Gorney’s take: If Los Angeles or Philadelphia draft first then those teams might look to another position of need since the Rams took Jared Goff and the Eagles selected Carson Wentz last draft. But if it’s any of the other 30 teams, Watson should be the pick because he’s the best quarterback and someone to build a franchise around for many years.

2. FARRELL: Watson

Farrell’s take: We all expect a quarterback to in the top two of every draft, at least before we know who’s drafting, and Watson is hands-down the most dangerous of a weak crop.

2. GORNEY: Garrett

Gorney’s take: Garrett is a physical outside rusher who finished with 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles last season. He’s up to 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, which means he has all the physical tools to be a special player again. Edge rushers like Garrett don’t come around every year so he’ll quickly come off the board.

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: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook

Gorney’s take: Cook said this summer he was the best running back in college football and I believe him. Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are first-rounders but Cook’s size, speed and breakaway ability move him even higher in this draft. I just have a feeling Cook is in for a huge season and he’ll test off the charts at the NFL Combine.

4. FARRELL: Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan

Farrell’s take: The top linebacker in the draft hands down, he’s an instinctual tackling machine with size who is worth a top five pick, often times a rarity for linebackers.

4. GORNEY: Fournette

Gorney’s take: If Ezekiel Elliott is a top-four pick then Fournette definitely belongs that high or close. I know we’re not comparing apples and apples and it’s a different draft but Fournette could be the next great running back star in the NFL. He’s tough, powerful and dominates even in the SEC.

5. 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 Ronnie Stanley went this year despite some off-field issues.

5. GORNEY: Miami QB Brad Kaaya

Gorney’s take: Kaaya had impressive numbers last season, he’s smart and has a terrific arm plus quarterbacks always go high in the draft. Teams drafting this high need franchise players and Kaaya could be one of them. The only danger here is if Kaaya doesn’t gel with the new Miami coaching staff, but I suspect he’ll be fine.

6. 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).

6. GORNEY: Alabama DE Jonathan Allen

Gorney’s take: After further review, I’m moving Allen ahead of Tennessee’s Derek Barnett as the first defensive lineman off the board after Garrett. Allen had nearly three times as many sacks as A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed combined for the Crimson Tide last season. He’s a huge, powerful, hungry player who’s going to be a top commodity.

7. FARRELL: Clemson WR Mike Williams

Farrell’s take: The injury question has been answered it appears and his length, speed and body control remind me a bit of a bigger and more polished Josh Doctson.

7. GORNEY: Robinson

Gorney’s take: Robinson was arrested this offseason but the charges were dropped and since Robinson is the top offensive tackle in this draft, I don’t see that event hurting his draft stock all that much. The former five-star is a dominant left tackle, Alabama should run the ball a lot this season and Robinson will come off the board quickly.

8. FARRELL: Allen

Farrell’s take: I like Allen as the top rush end in this draft so he could go even higher than this. Guys who come back for their final year to get better and for the good of their team are leaders and high character kids the NFL loves.

8. GORNEY: Florida CB Jalen Tabor

Gorney’s take: Tabor was suspended for the season-opener against UMass but NFL teams won’t care about that once it’s time to select the top cornerback in this draft. He had more tackles, just as many interceptions and 10 more pass deflections than Vernon Hargreaves at Florida last season. With his size and playmaking ability, Tabor is a top 10 pick easily.

9. FARRELL: 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 and he’s become a good tackler near the line of scrimmage. To me he’s a longer Tyrann Mathieu and that’s impressive company.

9. GORNEY: M. Williams

Gorney’s take: This is a little bit of a gamble this early because Williams suffered a neck fracture in the season-opener last year. But Williams is expected back and could be better than ever. With Watson throwing the ball, he could have a huge season, shoot up draft boards and be the first wide receiver taken.

10. 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 Stanley and more aggressive. He just needs to fine-tune a few things but his ceiling is sky high.

10. GORNEY: Alabama DE/OLB Tim Williams

Gorney’s take: My suspicion is that Alabama’s defense will be spending more time on the field this season with an unproven offense, so Williams could really shine as another top situational edge rusher and linebacker for the Crimson Tide. He only had 19 tackles last season but recorded 10.5 sacks and a huge season could be ahead.

11. FARRELL: Cook

Farrell’s take: Cook could test better than Fournette and have a better year, but he doesn’t have the same size. That being said, how do you pass on him a player who, pound for pound, could be better any running back we’ve seen in years?

11. GORNEY: USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

Gorney’s take: USC receivers caught 309 passes last season. Smith-Schuster had 89 of them totaling 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns, far and away the leader on the team. He should be the top target again for the Trojans with first-year starter Max Browne at quarterback. Smith-Schuster is a big, physical outside receiver with speed and NFL teams love building around those guys.

12. FARRELL: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

Farrell’s take: Three running backs in the top 12? That’s crazy I know, but this is a special year. 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? He’s a top five NFL Draft talent who should land in the middle of round one.

12. GORNEY: Michigan State DT Malik McDowell

Gorney’s take: McDowell said he won’t leave Michigan State after this season unless he’s a top-three draft pick. I don’t have him that high, but he’s going to go relatively quickly in the first round because McDowell is a superb talent. I would like to see him put up more than 41 total tackles this season.

13. FARRELL: T. Williams

Farrell’s take: This may be a bit high for Williams but situational pass rushers can go top 10 and even as high as top three as we’ve seen, so No. 13 isn’t far off.

13. GORNEY: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett

Gorney’s take: Barnett has 20 sacks the last two seasons and he totaled 69 tackles a year ago so his production goes without question. There are a lot of defensive ends and edge rushers coming off the board early, but it continues to be justified because this draft is loaded at that position and Barnett is one of the best.

14. FARRELL: 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.

14. GORNEY: Florida State OT Roderick Johnson

Gorney’s take: Johnson has the size and phenomenal athletic ability to move even higher if a team needs a franchise tackle, but he’s still not as technically sound so he could be in this range. However, with a great season in Tallahassee, Johnson could be lining up to head to the combine and wow everybody in testing.

15. 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 which clearly looks like the case based on game one.

15. GORNEY: LSU S Jamal Adams

Gorney’s take: Adams should be the first pure safety taken off the board and NFL teams will love his competitiveness and fire. Plus, he covers so much ground on the field, is in line for another great season in Baton Rouge after recording four interceptions and 10 pass deflections a year ago.

16. FARRELL: Smith-Schuster

Farrell’s take: The most physical 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.

16. GORNEY: McCaffrey

Gorney’s take: McCaffrey is a special talent who could be used all over the field on offense and he could contribute in so many ways. I also believe he should have won the Heisman Trophy last year. That being said, if he falls to the middle of the first round, so many teams are missing out on what could be an incredible player for years in the league.

17. FARRELL: LSU CB Tre'Davious White

Farrell’s take: White was smart to stay in school and not enter last 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. His return for a touchdown in week one shows how explosive he can be.

17. GORNEY: McMillan

Gorney’s take: Ohio State loaded up with players in the last draft and yet it was McMillan who led the Buckeyes in tackles last season with 119. NFL teams will love his size, hitting, instincts and playmaking ability and he should be one of the first linebackers off the board.

18. FARRELL: Adams

Farrell’s take: The safety position impacts the NFL as much as corner it seems, or is becoming more coveted at the very least, and Adams is a whirling dervish of talent.

18. GORNEY: McGlinchey

Gorney’s take: Offensive tackle is a premium position and I suspect McGlinchey is going to have a terrific season at Notre Dame to shoot up draft boards. He’s almost 6-foot-8 and 310 pounds with a physical streak that NFL teams will love. With a big season, I could see McGlinchey moving even higher on the board.

19. FARRELL: Michigan S Jabrill Peppers

Farrell’s take: Peppers is a freaky athlete who can do so many things on the field and will fit someplace at safety or as a hybrid safety/linebacker who can also play special teams. And working under Don Brown will make him that much better.

19. GORNEY: White

Gorney’s take: White is a fantastic cornerback and although he doesn’t have the size or length of Tabor he’s a playmaker, too, who is definitely a first-round talent. He could blow teams away at the combine and in workouts and move even higher.

20. FARRELL: Iowa CB Desmond 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.

20. GORNEY: Peppers

Gorney’s take: Peppers is going to play all over for Michigan this season and he’s one of the most physically-gifted players in this draft, probably a top 10 talent… if he had a certain position. He could be a safety or move to outside linebacker, so a team will take him because of his athleticism but questions about long-term position will come up.

21. 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.

21. GORNEY: Missouri DE Charles Harris

Gorney’s take: Missouri has no problems producing defensive ends and Harris might be one of the best. He was all over the field last season with 56 tackles (18.5 for loss), seven sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and more production is expected from him this year. Harris could be a steal here.

22. 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.

22. GORNEY: King

Gorney’s take: Best pure corner in this draft? An argument could absolutely be made for King, who finished with eight interceptions and 21 pass deflections last season. Just think about those numbers – nobody could catch a ball on him.

23. 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.

23. GORNEY: Auburn DE Carl Lawson

Gorney’s take: Lawson needs to prove he can stay healthy. He missed all of 2014 and played in only seven games last season because of a hip injury. If he can stay on the field, there aren’t many better defensive ends with his motor and his athletic ability. But if he’s sidelined again, teams might pull back on him a little.

24. 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.

24. GORNEY: USC ATH Adoree' Jackson

Gorney’s take: Jackson is arguably the most dynamic player in college football although I argue he’s been underutilized at USC. He can be a weapon on offense, defense or special teams and even if size is a concern, Jackson has proven he can be a breakaway threat time and time again. He’s a talented corner but I feel he’d be best utilized in the NFL on special teams and as a receiver.

25. FARRELL: Lawson

Farrell’s take: Lawson is great off the edge and if he can stay healthy he could go much higher, the only knock is his lack of length.

25. GORNEY: Tennessee LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin

Gorney’s take: I go back to the stat that Reeves-Maybin had 35 more tackles than anyone else on the Tennessee defense, so his production is without question. He also had 14 tackles for loss and six sacks, so he’s proven to be a playmaker all over the field. There aren’t many linebackers better than him in this draft.

26. FARRELL: Alabama TE O.J. Howard

Farrell’s take: Tight ends have to be freak athletes to go in round one, at least in my book, and Howard is that guy. If he doesn’t have a breakout year I’ll be stunned. If Eric Ebron can go in the first round, Howard can for sure.

26. GORNEY: LSU WR Malachi Dupre

Gorney’s take: Will LSU open up its offense, even a little, to let Dupre shine? That will be the major question through this season because the Tigers have a gem on the outside that is not being utilized enough. A big season could help Dupre and it’s expected he will blow people away at the combine to stay in the first round.

27. 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.

27. GORNEY: Oregon RB Royce Freeman

Gorney’s take: Freeman had excellent numbers (1,836 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns) as a running back last year and was also fourth on the Ducks with 26 receptions so his versatility goes without question. He’s a big-bodied, fast running back that NFL teams will covet. He’s not in the Fournette/Cook/McCaffrey class but Freeman is not far off, either.

28. FARRELL: Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly

Farrell’s take: Quarterbacks are hard to find and despite many off-field issues, Kelly will show this year he has the leadership and makeup to go along with his impressive skills to make a first-round pick worth it for someone.

28: GORNEY: Georgia RB Nick Chubb

Gorney’s take: Chubb proved in the season opener that he is completely back from a knee injury that sidelined him last season. With his physical ability and talent there is no question he is a special talent who can continue to move up draft boards. Finally, we get to talk about something other than Chubb’s knee.

29. 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 and has become a physical tackler.

29. GORNEY: Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis

Gorney’s take: Lewis is a natural cornerback and one of the nation’s best after recording two interceptions and 20 pass deflections a season ago. The only question might be his size but Lewis has proven against some of the best in the Big Ten that his stature won’t be a problem at all. NFL teams might need to see a little more to be convinced.

30. FARRELL: Chubb

Farrell’s take: Chubb showed us that he’s back at 100 percent in his first game and with his elite speed and low-to-the-ground running style he will be hard to pass on as a first rounder.

GORNEY: LSU OC Ethan Pocic

Gorney’s take: Pocic is a smart, physical interior offensive lineman who could really help his draft stock this year by opening up even more holes for Fournette and Derrius Guice. Alabama’s Ryan Kelly was taken in the first round by Indianapolis in this last draft and this year’s version could easily be Pocic.

31. 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.

31. GORNEY: Watkins

Gorney’s take: With Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd’s production gone, this is the perfect time for Watkins to step in and become the star of Clemson’s defensive line. He gets in the backfield, he has athleticism and Clemson’s d-line is still loaded, so he won’t be saddled by double teams all season.

32. FARRELL: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kiser

Farrell’s take: He could shoot up the charts if he continues to play the way he did against Texas. He has size, he can move, has good touch and a strong arm. Watch out Brad Kaaya, he could be No. 2 behind Watson soon enough.

32. GORNEY: Howard

Gorney’s take: Was the national title game where Howard finished with five catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns a revelation for Alabama’s offensive staff? It should be because Howard is one of the most athletic and gifted tight ends available and with a big season ahead a first-round grade is definitely probable.