In the recent weeks, there have been a lot of questions about who are my value picks in the 2017 NFL Draft class. A value or sleeper prospect is basically a player who gets drafted after the first round and proves to be a steal. The second day of the draft is where the men are separated from the boys among NFL general managers. All the players have strengths and flaws, but the top evaluators find future starters and team building blocks on Day 2. Every year, I pick my favorite second-day values. Here is my record.
2008: Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech 2009: Mike Wallace, WR, Ole Miss 2010: Brian Price, DT, UCLA & Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida 2011: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia 2012: Derek Wolfe, DL, Cincinnati 2013: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky 2014: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU 2015: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT Texas A&M, & Ronald Darby, CB Florida State 2016: Jaylon Smith, LB Notre Dame & Sheldon Day, DT Notre Dame 2017: Gerald Everett, TE South Alabama (Runner-up: Akhello Witherspoon, CB Colorado)
This year, my choice came down to Gerald Everett and Colorado cornerback Akhello Witherspoon. I think Witherspoon could be a huge steal with the potential to be a No. 1 corner in the NFL. I honestly think he has Pro Bowl potential. However, there are some questions around Witherspoon's willingness to tackle, ability to be coached, and being a nerdy know-it-all. Hence, maybe he clash in his NFL locker room depending on his coaching staff and teammates. I think Everett could be a dynamic pass-receiving tight end in the NFL. It wouldn't surprise me if he becomes one of the better mismatch receiving weapons and a Pro Bowler.
Overall, this list is very strong with the one exception being Brian Price. Unfortunately family tragedies robbed him of being able to put an NFL career together. Flowers has had a Pro Bowl career. Wallace has been a good pro receiver and helped get the Steelers to a Super Bowl. Houston is a pass-rushing terror for the Chiefs, while Wolfe has turned into a very good pro for the Broncos. Warford is one of the better guards in the NFL. Warford has been better than top-10 picks at guard in the same draft class, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper. Hill flashed as a rookie and could right his career.
In 2015, I went with Cedric Ogbuehi with Ronald Darby being my backup. Since Ogbuehi was selected in the first round, he doesn't count for the long-term track record. Darby has played really well for Buffalo in his first two years and looks like he'll have a very good NFL career. It is too early to say how last year's selection will work out.
Here is a breakdown of a sleeper prospect at each position for the draft class. All the players will be prospects who are likely going on the second or third day of the 2017 NFL Draft. If a player is a possible late first-round pick, I generally don't include them as an option.
Pat Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Right off the bat, I'm breaking a guideline with a potential late first-round pick. The problem is there are only late first-round quarterbacks to pick from. I had a choice of Mahomes, DeShone Kizer, Davis Webb. Otherwise, I was going to say there is no quarterback value pick. Rather than not staking a claim on a player, I figured I would pick from these signal-callers. I do not think that Josh Dobbs, Nate Peterman, Brad Kaaya or Chad Kelly will turn into value picks. I could see Dobbs and Peterman making it as backups in the NFL, but backup quarterbacks are a dime a dozen. To be a real value, a player turns into a good starter.
Many would probably say I'm crazy, but I believe in Mahomes more than any quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has a cannon for an arm along with mobility and a propensity to make big plays for his team when nothing is open. Mahomes can create on his own via his physical tools that let him make amazing throws from a variety of platforms. He is also confident and a competitor who took the starting job away Webb from Texas Tech. Mahomes has the pedigree of a pro athlete with his father and godfather. Mahomes is a great kid off the field who studies a lot and wants to be a great player. He has an 'it factor,' and I think he can make the transition to a pro-style system.
Many teams have graded Mahomes on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft, so while he might go in the first round, his consensus grade would put him as a potential value pick.
Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
This was a tough choice between Alvin Kamara and D'Onta Foreman. I automatically rule out Joe Mixon because of his off-the-field issues. Kamara is a lot like Jamaal Charles as a runner in that both are fast slashers who are built well with some power. Additionally, Kamara is a phenomenal receiver with great hands and the route-running to also be used as a slot receiver. He also is a dynamic returner on punts and kickoffs. Teams have concerns about Kamara being able to handle a heavy work load in the NFL, but I think he could surprise in that regard. Kamara is heavier than Charles and LeSean McCoy, so I think Kamara could end up being more sturdy than he's been given credit for.
Previous Picks 2016: C.J. Prosise 2015: T.J. Yeldon 2014: Jeremy Hill
Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
Unlike last the two years, there were a lot of great options to pick from as top value pick at the tight end position. The 2017 NFL Draft is loaded at the tight end position. For me, this pick came down to Gerald Everett and Evan Engram, but as stated above, Everett stood out to me as the best value of all second-day value prospects.
For the NFL, Everett is a dynamite receiving weapon down the middle seam of the field. He is fast at running vertically down the field with speed, explosiveness and athleticism. Everett alsi is a very good route-runner who consistently gets separation. He is way too fast for linebackers and uses his size well against safeties. Everett often burns man coverage and is very adept at finding the soft spot in zone coverage. Everett repeatedly used his leaping ability frame and make catches over defenders as Everett plays bigger than his listed numbers. He is a dangerous run-after-the-catch receiver, too, possessing a second gear to run away from defenders and explode into the open field. He can flash some moves and strength as a runner.
As a pro, Everett could be a devastating mismatch weapon and one of the better receiving tight ends in the NFL. He should contribute some as a blocker, but he is a limited player in that regard. In the 2017 NFL Draft, he is my favorite value pick for Day 2.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
Smith-Schuster has been an underrated prospect in the leadup to the 2017 NFL Draft. For the next level, the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder is a big, strong, possession receiver. He routinely uses his size and strength to make catches over defensive backs for 50-50 passes. That makes Smith-Schuster very dangerous in the red zone. Even though he isn't very fast, Smith-Schuster has some excellent run-after-the-catch skills. He can pick up yards by getting North and South while also being tough to tackle in open field. On wide receiver screens, Smith-Schuster is dangerous, and he is a very good receiver for running quick slants, digs and crosses. Those are the basic routes of the west coast offense, and Smith-Schuster will be a good fit in that scheme. I think Smith-Schuster will be a very good No. 2 receiver in the NFL and could end up being a borderline No. 1.
Dan Feeney, G, Indiana
Feeney is a tough guard at the point of attack. The 6-foot-4, 304-pounder is strong to get movement in the ground game, yet retains the athleticism to pass block on the inside of the line. His senior year didn't go as planned as he dealt with injuries to himself and teammates that forced him to play some right tackle. That didn't help Feeney's draft grade, but at the Senior Bowl, he was impressive. I think he is going to end up being a really solid NFL guard. This isn't a good offensive line draft, and Feeney could be one of the only picks who becomes a good value after the first round.
Previous Picks 2016: Nick Martin and Le'Raven Clark 2015: Cedric Ogbuehi 2014: Antonio Richardson