By: Luke Feliciano ~Sports Editor~
With the 2017 NFL Draft beginning Thursday night, here is a comprehensive list of the top college standouts hoping to make a splash in the professional league.
Deshaun Watson of Clemson is arguably the best quarterback talent for his NFL-caliber arm, precision and ability to perform under pressure. Watson’s agility and speed can also be used effectively at the next level. North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky is high on experts’ draft boards for his prototypical NFL build and downfield passing ability. Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes is another top prospect, according to most draft experts. Another talent includes DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame, who has the potential to be a surprise sleeper pick.
Dalvin Cook from Florida State and Leonard Fournette from LSU lead a quality running back class. Recent draft projections have the explosive Christian McCaffrey, Women’s golf finishes season who also has kick return capabilities, being drafted high. A sleeper pick in the running back group is San Diego State’s undersized playmaker Donnel Pumphrey, who became the all-time FBS rushing leader last season with 7,125 total yards.
Perhaps the strongest position on the offensive side of the ball is the wideout group. Mike Williams from Clemson and Corey Davis from Western Michigan both have top 15 potential with elite size, speed and hands. The speedy slot receiver from Washington, John Ross, also has first-round potential. Eastern Carolina’s Zay Jones had a strong combine and may slip into a late first-round spot.
Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Miami’s David Njoku headline the tight end position. Some experts have Howard being selected as high as No. 6. Another top prospect for the tight end class is Jake Butt from Michigan.
On the defensive side of the ball, Myles Garrett, a defensive end, figures to be a sure-fire No. 1 overall draft pick. Garrett possesses superhuman size, strength, natural instinct and speed. Solomon Thomas from Stanford and Derek Barnett from Tennessee are two other defensive ends projected to go off the board in the first round.
Reuben Foster from Alabama headlines the linebacker class. However, his combine was cut short after a dispute with a hospital staff member during a medical exam. Some other top linebacker prospects are Haason Reddick from Temple and Zach Cunningham from Vanderbilt.
LSU’s Jamal Adams and a pair of Ohio State defensive backs, Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore, are all projected top 15 picks. One player to watch on the defensive side of ball is the versatile Jabrill Peppers from Michigan, who has the ability to play both cornerback, safety and even some outside linebacker in a nickel defense.