The National Football League has become a master in staying in the sports spotlight even during the spring season, after the Super Bowl but before the summer training camps and preseason games. And at the peak of the NFL’s offseason schedule is the annual drafting of college prospect to pro teams. Unlike past years, a quarterback, or quarterbacks, aren’t projected to head the first few picks, opening the door to skill position players on both sides of the ball to be selected high, increasing their market and team value. Here are something to look out for in the draft.
- The Big Three Running Backs
With the explosion of the passing game and teams finding pro bowl running backs in later rounds of the draft, the first round running back is a gamble for general managers and their teams. This draft we are see a throwback of some sorts, with three running backs being projected to be picked before the first QB. Leonard Fournette, the strong and fast downhill runner from LSU who makes a habit of finding himself on ESPN, has drawn comparisons to All-Pro Adrian Peterson for his intense running style. But also his injury history. Christian McCaffrey is looked at as a Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead type runner who works well in space and through the air. And Dalvin Cook of Florida State, outside an off the field incident back in 2015, rounds out the trifecta.
- Joe Mixon is Getting Drafted
An NBC Sports poll of sixteen NFL executives included one executive calling Oklahoma Sooner running back Joe Mixon the best player in the draft. He is the only player named in the poll that is probably not going day one of the draft and is entering the league with a mountain of bad press. A 2014 videotape surfaced last winter showing Mixon punching a female student as a freshman, and in an NFL who has had a terrible recent history on punishing domestic violence with their players, this doesn’t help public relations. Still, the fact he is called the top player in the draft by an executive and his clear talent guarantees a roster spot will be found for him. A roster spot and a mountain of boos from fans in Philadelphia.
- Jabrill Peppers?
At Michigan, Jabrill Peppers seemed to play almost every position on both offense, defense and in the special teams. That won’t work in the NFL however. A player must have a clear and dominate position he can play. The question now becomes is Peppers good enough at a single position or is he more like the defensive Kordell Stewart, a position-less collegiate athlete that tried to play everything in the pros. Moving to safety as a full time position, Peppers is not guaranteed a day one call, but he will find himself off the board by Friday. Whether he can play or not is a different question.
- The Carolina QBs
Mitch Trubisky of the Tar Heels and DeShaun Watson of Clemson are the two sexy QBs in this year’s draft. Watson is coming off an all time performance to win the National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide, while in his only year as the full time starter, Mitch Trubisky played probably the best QB play in the nation. But the two have massive question marks that plague their collegiate game. For Mitch, one year starters tend to falter in the pro league. Watson has the experience on his side, but also had an alarming number of interceptions, 17 this season. There is no Andrew Luck or Cam Newton in this year’s draft. Both quarterbacks will need a year or two under their belts before we can pass judgement on their skills in the NFL.
- Myles Garrett (or Jadeveon Clowney Jr) at No. 1
In this year’s projected top draft pick, Myles Garrett, there is a lot of comparisons to the last defensive lineman drafted number one. Jadeveon Clowney entered this league in 2014 with a body of Hercules and enough hype for the Lone Star State, where Garrett played at Texas A&M and Clowney now plays for the Houston Texans. And like Clowney, questions on his work ethic and competitive spirit are openly asked about Garrett. But talents on defense like Garrett and Clowney aren’t normal. As players like JJ Watt and Julius Peppers show, defensive lineman can become strong foundations for playoff teams.