Now that the 2016 NFL Draft is complete, it’s time to start talking about the 2017 draft. It’s like Christmas, every year people start getting in the holiday spirit earlier than the year before. Well, this year we’re getting way ahead of ourselves.
We don’t know which NFL teams will be drafting at the top. We don’t know which college players will stand out in the fall. Still, that shouldn’t stop us from having some fun. Let’s look at some possible 2017 draftees before the 2016 rookie contracts are finalized.
Disclaimer: I’m totally playing favorites here. This is not meant to be a serious, analytical piece examining which prospects will be taken in the top ten. This is simply a list of ten guys I’m looking forward to watching go through the process of turning pro.
- Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan
This is the main reason I had to put in the disclaimer. I haven’t seen enough of Rush to be fully comfortable saying he’ll make for a great pro one day, but I have seen enough to be interested in how he does this fall. Last year’s stats are intriguing. 25 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, 3848 yards on 324 completions, a 66.3 completion percentage, if he improves on those numbers he’ll certainly draw someone’s interest.
- Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
Without Freeman, the Oregon Ducks might have lost six games last year, instead of four. Whenever Vernon Adams was struggling (which was often), his saving grace was being able to hand it to Freeman. He rushed for at least 105 yards in all but two games and scored touchdowns in bunches with six multi-score performances.
- Roger Lewis, WR, Bowling Green
Again, I’m never sure how anyone else is going to look at MAC football and those who play it, but this guy’s talented. He’s got the hands, the quickness and at six-foot, 196 he’s not as small as he sometimes looks. As a sophomore last year, Lewis won the Paul Warfield Award, the Touchdown Club of Columbus’ honor for the nation’s top collegiate receiver. 2014’s winner was Amari Cooper. Even though his quarterback has graduated, I can’t wait to see what Lewis will do this fall.
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
Another super sophomore last year, Smith-Schuster put up the fourth most receiving yards in FBS. If you want to see blazing speed you’ve found it right here. Get the ball in this guy’s hands and watch him run by people. There’s no doubt he has some refining to do, but his potential is undeniable.
- Desmond King, DB, Iowa
With so much passing going on, corners are valuable nowadays and King is one of the best around. Iowa went undefeated in the regular season because of its defense, which becomes much easier to play when you only have to worry about the opposing quarterback throwing to one side of the field. King locked down the opponents’ best target all season. Maybe last year was a fluke, but I doubt it.
- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Mr. Yards after the Catch, himself checks in at number five. McCaffrey finished third in Heisman voting last season and will be back in New York as a finalist again this year. On a team that’s lacked offensive playmakers for years, he’s what Cardinal fans have been waiting for. Hand it to him, split him out, sneak him out into the flat and check it down to him, it doesn’t matter. McCaffrey averages six yards a carry and 14 yards per completion.
- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Mayfield burst onto the scene during Oklahoma’s magical run to the College Football Playoff and I want to see if he can continue playing at such a high level. The top-notch numbers he put up were one thing, but the way he led his team by example was another. The Sooners fed off his energy and he was able to answer the bell for them just about every time. He’s fun to watch and I’m glad he’ll be coming back for another year.
- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
With Derrick Henry and McCaffrey and Leo Fournette all going off last fall, Cook got a bit overshadowed. Still, he scored 19 touchdowns on the ground and was one of two players with 200 attempts to average north of seven yards a carry. Don’t forget about this guy.
- Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
He’s got to be the most feared defender in college right now, which is funny because his team is terrible defensively. Opponents plan their games around Garrett and it works because there’s no one else to help. Garrett still gets his though. 12.5 sacks last year tied him with Shaq Lawson for fifth in the FBS. There’s a premium on pass rushers of late and Garrett looks to be the next great one.
- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
This guy’s unreal. He can bully you or blow by you, depending how he’s feeling at the time. Last fall, Fournette got off to a torrid start, rushing for 1352 yards in his first seven games. He couldn’t keep up that frantic pace, but he still finished third in the FBS in rushing yards. This rising junior has already proven, at least physically, he’s ready for the jump to the NFL. Watching him takeover games should be even more of a spectacle in 2016.