The wait is almost over. With the 2017 NFL draft only five days away, it is time to release my overall rankings for the draft with my final top 300 big board. The board will be separated by players with a first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth/seventh or priority free agent round grade. If you are not familiar with a big board, this is a vertical, overall ranking of the top prospects in the class according to my evaluations; however, they are not where I think they will go in a mock draft necessarily. Feel free to contact me on Twitter (@JonahTulsNFL) if you have any feedback, and without further ado, here is my final big board for the 2017 NFL draft:
First Round Grades: 24
- Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
– Myles Garrett has unanimously been the top player in the draft since the beginning of the process, and nothing is going to change here. He is a premier prospect who projects to the NFL as a potential All-Pro pass rusher with his freakish talent.
- Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
– I feel comfortable saying Malik Hooker is a generational talent as a single-high safety with his sideline to sideline range, uncanny ball skills and instincts. The issues with him in run support are a bit overblown, but he does need to wrap up consistently instead of leading with his shoulder. If he can stay healthy, Hooker has the chance to be a true game-breaker a la Ed Reed.
- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
– There is no doubt in my mind that Marshon Lattimore has all of the tools to become a top five cornerback in the NFL one day, but it all depends on his health. He has a long history of hamstring injuries, but if he can stay healthy, his pure athleticism and playmaking ability as a cover corner could make him a Pro Bowl player the minute he steps on the field.
- Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
– Western Michigan’s Corey Davis is the undisputed top wide receiver prospect on my draft board. He has the athletic ability to create separation vertically, but also the hand strength and body control to make spectacular catches in traffic. Davis has the talent to be a true number one receiver for a team on day one, and I think he compares favorably to the peak of former Lions wide receiver Roy Williams.
- Solomon Thomas, EDGE, Stanford
– Some people want Solomon Thomas as a three technique, but he is best suited to play strong-side defensive end and kick inside in nickel packages. Thomas has an incredible first step and was able to beat offensive linemen because of his quickness alone, but if he can learn to stay disciplined and play under control both in the run game and as a pass rusher, the sky is the limit.
- Jamal Adams, S, LSU
– Other than Myles Garrett, I think there is a case to be made that LSU’s Jamal Adams is the safest player in this draft class. Adams is a missile coming downhill in run support, but he rarely misses his assignment in terms of overrunning an angle or mistiming a wrap up. Another trait that separates him from the rest of the pack is his ability in man coverage. He was not asked to play single high at LSU, but I think he has the talent to be that kind of player in the NFL. Adams may not have the ceiling of a player like Malik Hooker, but his floor is among the highest in this class.
- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama
– If Jonathan Allen’s shoulders hold up, he can be a valuable Swiss army knife on the defensive line for a team. With his discipline, advanced technique, and play strength as a defender who can play up and down the defensive line, he is a player who will find production early on in his career. With what he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for it with intangibles. Health is the primary concern here with his arthritic shoulders, but if he can stay off of the injury report, I can see him as a leader of a front seven for a defense.
- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
– Plaxico Burress all over again. In terms of his play on the field, this is the kind of player Mike Williams can become at the next level. With his above-the-rim playing style at the wide receiver position who can consistently come down with 50/50 balls, I can see Williams becoming one of the league leaders in touchdowns early in his career. If put in the right situation, Williams has a chance to be scary good.
- Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
– If we are talking about just pure talent, Malik McDowell is the second best prospect in this draft class behind Myles Garrett. However, no one at Michigan State has anything good to say about his work ethic or in-game consistency. There are legitimate questions if he is a fair-weather player in that he tanked when the Spartans had a down year in 2016, as opposed to his dominant play in the playoff run the team had in 2015. His interior pass rush ability could make him an instant difference maker in this league, and if a team can bottle up his talent, McDowell is going to be an All-Pro defensive lineman.
- OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
– OJ Howard is an all-purpose tight end who adopts the “old school” playing style of the position. With his reliability in the run game as an in-line blocker and playmaking potential in the passing game, Howard is a true three-down weapon at tight end. Some people say he is the second coming of Greg Olsen, but I compare his game more to Kansas City’s Travis Kelce.
- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
– More so than the other top running backs in this draft class, Leonard Fournette’s success at the next level is going to depend on the scheme he plays in. If he is asked to create in a zone-blocking scheme, he is not going to be as effective as he could be with a power running offense. Once he gets downhill, there is no stopping this guy. I have never seen a running back coming out of college with the physicality Fournette runs with. It is almost as if he intends on punishing defenders for trying tackle him. If put in the right situation and the ankle holds up, he could be a game-changer on offense.
- Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
– If I were asked to draw up the prototypical press cornerback prospect, the final product would end up being similar to Florida’s Quincy Wilson. With his size at 6’1, 211 lbs., Wilson suffocates receivers at the LOS with his play strength and length, but it is his patience and instinctive quickness that sets him apart from other press cornerbacks in this class. He is able to mirror the receiver’s route and stick on the hip pocket to seamlessly break on the ball. Wilson is not the fastest cornerback in this class, but I would challenge anyone to find someone in this class who plays better with their back to the ball in man coverage. This guy has “shutdown cornerback” written all over him.
- TJ Watt, EDGE, Wisconsin
– Count me in on the TJ Watt hype train. He played primarily as an off-ball linebacker at Wisconsin, but his future is as an edge rusher at the next level. The way he is able to bend and close on the quarterback with his premier athletic ability off of the edge should make him a highly coveted option at the one of the most important positions in football. This past season was his first full year as a defender, and if he continues to grow the way he did in 2016, there is no ceiling on Watt’s potential as a pass rusher.
- David Njoku, TE, Miami (FL)
– As a high jump champion in high school and holder of the fourth-highest mark of the event in the history of the University of Miami, David Njoku could jump his way into superstardom early in his career with his freakish athletic ability as a pass catcher. He needs a lot of refinement as an in-line blocker, but he has the potential to be a Jimmy Graham-like weapon for an offense at the next level.
- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
– Dalvin Cook has multiple blemishes on his resume as a draft prospect with questions about his medical and off-field history, but on tape, he is the most refined running back in this class. He has the vision, quickness, receiving ability, and big play potential to be an instant difference maker on all three downs in the NFL.
- Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
– Gareon Conley might be the most NFL-ready cornerback in this draft class with his advanced coverage mechanics, footwork, and ability to play in multiple schemes. He has an innate feel of how to play the game at the cornerback position, showing the instincts and ball skills to be a productive playmaker at the next level. Conley does not have an elite trait, but he is a well-rounded player who I think has a high floor as a prospect.
- Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
– UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley has all of the physical tools and traits to be a dominant edge rusher at the next level, but it is going to take him longer to realize his potential than the other top pass rushers in this class. He is underdeveloped in the mental part of the game with how he rushes off of the edge without a plan, but if he lands in the right situation under the tutelage of the right defensive coordinator, McKinley has double-digit sack potential.
- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
– The player I’ll be most interested to see where he lands in the draft is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey. He undoubtedly has the best footwork of any running back in this draft class, but it is his receiving ability that makes him stand out as a potential top 10 pick. The attributes he brings to the table as an offensive weapon reminds me of former Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook with his ability to impact the game on all three downs at all levels of the field.
- Budda Baker, S, Washington
– The most versatile defensive back in this draft class is Washington’s Budda Baker. Baker has shown the ability to play in man coverage from the slot, over the top as a single-high safety, and in the box as a “run and chase” defender. Pound for pound, I would not disagree with an argument that Budda Baker is one of the 10 best players in this draft class with his cover skills and playmaking ability. The only real question I have is his alarming lack of size. Can he hold up at the next level?
- Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn
– Carl Lawson may fall out of the first round because of his vast injury history, specifically his hip, as well as concerns about his lack of length as an edge rusher, but he may be the most technically-refined pass rusher in this draft class. He has the bend, power, and counter moves to consistently beat offensive tackles at the next level. It is going to take a team with conviction to take a guy like Lawson considering his injury history, but his ability as a pure pass rusher warrants a first round grade on my board.
- John Ross, WR, Washington
– John Ross is another player with an injury tag attached to his name, as recent reports claim that his medical re-checks did not go well at all, and as a result, he could reasonably drop out of the first round. We all know this speed demon broke the 40-yard dash record with a 4.22 time, and his skill set as a wide receiver should intrigue teams in need of a slot or Z to create separation vertically. Health is the key with Ross, but there is reason to believe he can become a player similar to DeSean Jackson both on offense and in the return game if he can stay off of the injury report.
- Tyus Bowser, EDGE, Houston
– Houston did Tyus Bowser a disservice by dropping him back in coverage as much as he did this past season. Whenever he was given the opportunity to just rush the quarterback, he showed flashes of big time potential. With his explosiveness and energy off of the edge combined with the fact that he has plenty of room to grow at the position, Bowser could be one of the steals of the draft.
- Marcus Williams, S, Utah
– I have Marcus Williams higher on my board than most draft analysts, but when you can find a rangy, instinctive, ballhawking single-high safety with type of production Williams had in a power conference, you have to take him high in the draft because they are so difficult to find. Combine that with his explosive 43.5” vertical jump and the fact that he is only 20-years old, I would stand on the table for Williams. He’s not a highlight hitter coming downhill with physicality, but he is a reliable open field tackler who takes good pursuit angles, which is all I need in my deep-middle player. Do not be surprised if Williams ends up being one of the most productive players to come out of this draft class.
- Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
– A lot of people say Raekwon McMillan is just an early down player at inside linebacker, but I thought his tape showed something different, and his impressive Combine performance helped back that up. In the run game, he is instinctive and disciplined, consistently finishing with stopping power. In coverage, I thought he was a lot better than people gave him credit for. The way he has a feel for zone coverage is going to keep him on the field on all three downs in the NFL. With his leadership and intangibles in addition to his on-field traits, I can see McMillan becoming a 10-year starter and captain for a defense at inside linebacker.