The week that determines so much in this league. Perhaps not always in Week 1 of Year 1 of a draft, but there is no question the team that finds the players who work for cheap in this week of every year are at a distinct advantage over the competition. Do it often enough and your roster becomes strong or remains strong for another several years.
Things change very fast in this league, but there is little doubt that the "four-year conveyor belt of talent" is the great equalizer in how teams can rise up and overtake their rivals. We dispute this when we obsess about the league being QB vs. QB, but those who study the game know that a simplistic view such as that is too basic and just absurd. The game is won with roster depth and talent that provides strengths and hides weaknesses. Top heavy rosters get exposed. As do substandard positions with the starters.
To fortify the rosters, you need more than one player or one round. You need to hit and hit again and continue to add 22-year-olds to take over from the 32-year-olds. Build margins for error and cover for star players who have health issues or salary cap situations that have not been managed well.
In this space, we value the draft enough to get started the day the regular season expires. It requires three months of attention, but it is finally here. A new crop of young players to populate the league and determine the course for the next several seasons.
So, today's objective is to give you some idea of what I think about the 55 players I have spent a few hours each on and to construct some level of a big board for those who really like those types of things.
Now, this is possibly the oddest "big board" you will see all day. This is not a mock draft. This is not a thorough look at the entire draft. I did not spend any time on wide receivers, tight ends, or offensive linemen. None. There are none of those on my board, yet we know that there will likely be about 10 of those in the first round alone. So, my 32nd player is probably close to the 45th player in the draft. I wish my staff was bigger than just me and I didn't try to cover seven sports, but I do. So, I had time for 11 weeks and five players per week. So, we did 45 defensive players, five running backs, and five quarterbacks.
It doesn't make a ton of sense, but it is what will have to suffice for my 2017 NFL draft effort.
Now, with that said, this is the type of ranking list that people will want for historical purposes. Any of us who like to evaluate prospects -- even with only a few hours on each player -- like to take stabs in the dark and see if we can pick out any future stars.
So, the following observations are not a mock draft, nor something you should use against me in six months. Rather, the hope here is to offer some thoughts on how I see this all in 2019 or 2020. Who are the real players in the NFL from that 2017 draft? What did you think at the time, Bob?
Well, here we go:
TOP 10 PLAYERS IN THE 2017 DRAFT
This category is pretty self explanatory. These are the 10 players who I think will be the best 10 players in this draft a few years down the road. This will certainly be amusing to read in 36 months when two of these guys are no longer in football, right?
Myles Garrett - DE - Texas A&M - He is fantastic and will not disappoint.
Jamal Adams - S - LSU - Just a phenomenal talent.
Solomon Thomas - DT - Stanford - Scheme fit will really help. 3-technique!
Malik Hooker - S - Ohio State - Should be a fun ball hawk.
Jonathan Allen - DT - Alabama - Only slightly less sold on him than Thomas.
Marshon Lattimore - CB - Ohio State - Of all the corners, this is the best one.
Leonard Fournette - RB - LSU - Health makes me nervous, but so much potential.
Derek Barnett - DE - Tennessee - This dude would be the best DE most years.
Joe Mixon - RB - Oklahoma - I know, I know. But, I think his best is ahead.
Haason Reddick - LB - Temple - His fit will be vital, needs creative defensive coach.
OK, let's keep this party going.
PLAYERS I LIKE MORE THAN MOST
This category is quite subjective, but I try to see what "Draft Twitter" or the famous draft people think and see if I agree or disagree with them. So, these are the guys -- in no particular order -- I think I like more than your average smart draft guy:
Tra'Davious White - CB - LSU - I have no idea why his hype is so low. Love his profile.
Jabrill Peppers - S - Michigan - Most controversial prospect in draft (in on-the-field terms). I love him. Think he will be a difference-making stud for a while.
Tim Williams - DE - Alabama - This one is a risk, but if you just put on the tape, he looks like 10 sacks a year. But, there is considerable baggage to consider. I take that chance for 10 sack upside.
Teez Tabor - CB - Florida - I don't like bad 40-times, either. But, his tape says he can handle things on the corner. I believe in his skills.
Desmond King - DB - Iowa - Again, I am not worried about the 40, I am worried about the football skills and Desmond King is a player.
Sydney Jones - CB - Washington - Yes, I know. Redshirt year and Achilles projection. But, he might be my favorite corner in the whole draft. Hope he recovers.
Chidobe Awuzie - CB - Colorado - A player who seems to offer all sorts of flex and splash ability.
Budda Baker - S - Washington - Geez, a lot of Huskies on this list. He is so small, but at that size he made such an impact that I will trust it and gamble on him.
Derek Rivers - DE - Youngstown State - He looks like a real edge presence and there is a price to grab him.
Tarrell Basham - DE - Ohio - Yes, it is a projection pick. But, I love his ability moving forward.
PLAYERS I LIKE LESS THAN MOST
Again, another subjective category, but I am not positive I see what everyone seems to see in this list of 10 names after spending three games on these guys. Still nice players and all, but I think they must see something I don't totally see. Again, no particular order here:
Obi Melifonwu - Safety - UConn - I have a code on safeties that they must be more physical than corners. Despite his size, I don't see that.
DeShone Kizer - QB - Notre Dame - Maybe I am wrong, but I don't think his CPU moves at the speed required to be a strong decision maker at the NFL level. His tone isn't helping, either.
Gareon Conley - CB - Ohio State - No doubt a talent, but I must be missing the first-round ability.
Taco Charlton - DE - Michigan - This one makes me nervous. But, I think he lacks the athleticism to be elite on Sundays.
Ryan Anderson - DE - Alabama - He seems to benefit a lot from his environment. He won't enjoy that benefit at next level.
Jarrad Davis - LB - Florida - Tremendous college talent that might lack the wheels on Sundays.
Justin Evans - S - Texas A&M - I wish I thought he could tackle someone. Might be more of a corner at next level, because he can really play the pass.
Quincy Wilson - CB - Florida - He definitely has use, but he is down my corner rankings several names.
Tyus Bowser - DE - Houston - Again, I like him. I'm not sure I like him like you guys seem to like him at those prices.
Fabian Moreau - CB - UCLA - The combination of age and health have me pushing him down several spots on my corner rankings. But, still easily a top 60 player.
MY TOP 5 SCENARIOS AT NO. 28 FOR DALLAS
This is simple -- what am I hoping for on Thursday night when the Cowboys are on the clock. Hypothetically, you would take the highest player available from this list -- assuming Derek Barnett or someone way up there doesn't fall in your lap:
Takk McKinley - DE - UCLA - of all the players in the range, this is the one I am most sold upon being a real stud on the edge.
TJ Watt - DE - Wisconsin - He is down a level and I do not know about his knee situation, but I think he has a very high ceiling. I would be thrilled with him, too.
Kevin King - CB - Washington - He is ranked higher, but I do take the edge over the corner. This is my favorite corner that has a chance.
Tra'Davious White - CB - LSU - Again, don't be scared of a corner from LSU. Claiborne is no more a comp than Pat Peterson. White can really do it all.
Tyus Bowser - DE - Houston - I like him. I just would argue that there are too many unknown components if the other 4 are alive. If they are gone, let's figure out how to use his quality skills.
And last but not least, here are the 55 players as I ranked them over the weekend. Again, there are no TE, WR, or OL in here at all. I really heavily weighed the defense in this draft. Go easy on me. I just want to hit .330 like Tony Gwynn: