2017 NFL Draft Awards

By Charlie Campbell.
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With the 2017 NFL Draft in the books, it is only fair to dish out some awards for a job well done by a number of teams across the NFL. It also doesn’t hurt to look at which teams may have made regrettable picks.

Pass along your thoughts on these awards and the 2017 NFL Draft. I may put together a mail bag that answers questions/comments sent via email [email protected] or on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Best Value Pick Round 1:
Indianapolis Colts: S Malik Hooker

There were two candidates who really stood out for this to me, and that was Jonathan Allen to the Redskins to go along with Hooker. However, I had Hooker rated higher, and he was in the top three of my big board. He fell all the way to the 15th-overal pick, where the Colts got a massive steal with one of the best players in the 2017 NFL Draft and one of the most rare safety prospects to come out in years.

Hooker is a rare player with tremendous speed and instincts. He is the rare single-high safety prospect who is very much like Ed Reed in terms of interception and pick-return skills. Hooker made seven interceptions with three of them returned for touchdowns during his one year as a starter. In coverage, he has great speed, quick feet, and is extremely athletic with a rare ability to defend the deep part of the field. Hooker is extremely fast and shows it routinely, as in an instant, he can race over from the middle of the field to the sideline to break up passes or pick them off. Hooker was tremendous at being the single-high safety to protect his defense vertically. He is the epitome of the rangy center fielder who shuts down the back end of the field. Those kind of safeties with Hooker’s interception skills, size, length and instincts are extremely hard to find.

Prior to the combine, WalterFootball.com was first to report that Hooker would be out with labrum surgery. That injury was the primary catalyst to him sliding out of the top 10. Hooker does need to improve his run defense and tackling, but that will come as he gains experience. In the passing-driven NFL, Hooker will be a major weapon on the back end. The Colts got an absolute steal in landing him with the 15th-overall pick.

Honorable mentions: Washington Redskins defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard, Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis, Miami Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris, and Dallas Cowboys defensive end Taco Charlton

2016 Winner: Laremy Tunsil, Dolphins
2015 Winner: Todd Gurley, Rams and Malcom Brown, Patriots
2014 Winner: HaHa Clinton-Dix, Packers
2013 Winner: Sharrif Floyd, Vikings
2012 Winner: Riley Reiff, Lions

Best Value Pick Day 2:
Minnesota Vikings: RB Dalvin Cook

This pick was an easy choice as I had Cook as a top-10 pick on my big board. I knew teams around the NFL that had a top-10 grade on him as well. Sources say the reasons why Cook slid were a combination of the medical evaluation and off-the-field issues, but in speaking with sources at multiple teams that could have used an upgrade at running back, it sounds like the off-the-field concerns were a bigger detriment to Cook than the medical report.

For the NFL, Cook is a dynamic runner. He is a well-built back with tremendous speed. Cook possess an explosive first-step and a second gear to accelerate downfield after hitting the second level. Cook is a very elusive runner, which makes him extremely dangerous in the open field. In space, Cook dominates defenders with juke moves and cuts to weave around defenders. Cook is an incredible prospect as a receiver, too. He runs tremendous routes to get open and has superb hands. He is a threat to make big plays in the passing game, running routes vertically down the sideline. With his skills as a receiver, Cook could line up in the slot and should be a mismatch weapon who will be very valuable on third downs as an outlet receiver who can move the chains.

I think that Cook could quickly become a Pro Bowl running back for Minnesota. He can be the lead back in their offense, and with his first-round talent, he helps make up for the Vikings not having a first-round pick from the Sam Bradford trade. Cook was an absolute steal in the second round for Minnesota. Going to small market in a cold midwest city also could help Cook to stay focused on football and put distance between himself and the friends who are the genesis of Cook’s off-the-field issues. Mike Zimmer has done well working with some players who had off-the-field issues. The Vikings were a great landing spot for Cook, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he provides a big impact for them as soon as his rookie season.

Honorable mentions: Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman Malik McDowell, Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson, Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett, Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon, Detroit Lions cornerback Jalen Tabor, Houston Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Akhello Witherspoon, New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, Baltimore Ravens edge rusher Tim Williams, Houston Texans running back D’Onta Foreman and Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Montravius Adams

2016 Winner: Myles Jack, Jaguars
2015 Winner: Jaelen Strong, Texans
2014 Winner: Carlos Hyde, 49ers and Louis Nix, Texans
2013 Winner: Eddie Lacy, Packers
2012 Winner: Janoris Jenkins, Rams

Best Value Pick Day 3:
Cleveland Browns: DT Caleb Brantley

This was an easy choice for me as Brantley was a first-round talent who fell all the way to Round 6 because of a recent legal issue. If Brantley gets on the field for the Browns, and matures to become a professional, he has the physical skill set to be one of the better three-technique defensive tackles in the NFL. He could be a dynamite interior disruptor being teamed next to Myles Garrett and Danny Shelton.

What really set Brantley apart are his speed, athletic ability, and strength. He uses a fast get-off and has excellent closing speed to cause havoc in the backfield. Brantley also is quite strong, and there were plays where he was like a bowling ball, bouncing off blockers and rolling through the pocket to cause disruption. Brantley is a major disruptive force at the point of attack. He won’t be a big sack producer in the NFL, but he is a good contributor in putting pressure on the quarterback. Brantley is fast to fire by guards or cut down the middle to put heat on the signal-caller. Brantley can use power to shed blocks or bull rush into the pocket. He is good at creating sacks for his ends by taking away the ability to step up in the pocket or chasing the quarterback to the perimeter. In terms of run defense, Brantley is tough. He uses strength to get off blocks and uses excellent speed to close on ball-carriers. When Brantley is playing well, you’ll see him blow up a lot of runs in the backfield and chase down running backs outside of his gap.

Last season, Brantley was the second-best interior defensive lineman in the SEC to only Alabama’s Jonathan Allen. Brantley didn’t interview well with teams as they had concerns about his work ethic and maturity. I think Cleveland’s defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, is a good coach for Brantley as he will push him on and off the field, while Brantley is also a great scheme fit for Williams. I think Brantley could be one of the biggest steals in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Honorable mentions: Washington Redskins running back Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins safety Montae Nicholson, New York Jets wide receiver Chad Hansen, Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack, Houston Texans defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, Denver Broncos tight end Jake Butt, New York Jets tight end Jordan Leggett, Washington Redskins tight end Jeremy Sprinkle and Miami Dolphins tight end Davon Godchaux.

2016 Winner: Andrew Billings, Bengals
2015 Winner: Jay Ayayi, Dolphins
2014 Winner: Justin Ellis, Raiders
2013 Winner: Philip Thomas, Redskins
2012 Winner: Bobbie Massie, Cardinals

Best Trade:
Buffalo Bills: CB Tre’Davious White

Former Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley gave the organization a great parting gift via his trade with the Kansas City Chiefs. Moving down from the 10th pick to the 27th pick netted Buffalo the Chiefs’ 2018 first-round pick. Whaley and head coach Sean McDermott took a quality and safe pick with Tre’Davious White to complete the move. The Bills are armed with two first-round picks for next year, and the 2018 NFL Draft has the potential to feature a good crop of quarterbacks.

Many will think that the pick the Bills will receive from the Chiefs will be a late first-rounder, but there is no guarantee of that. Plenty of playoff teams don’t make it to the postseason for the following season, and Kansas City is in one of the toughest divisions in football. For instance, after getting to the AFC Championship game a few years ago, the Colts haven’t been back to the playoffs since. Atlanta had some down years in between its playoff appearances before getting to the Super Bowl last year. Carolina went from being in Super Bowl 50 to the eighth-overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, and the Chiefs could definitely fall out of the postseason mix next year given their offensive limitations.

Buffalo could end up with two picks in the top-20 of the 2018 NFL Draft and already hass a talented roster. If the Bills are able to get their future franchise quarterback and another player, their 2017 draft will end up being a turning point for the franchise.

Honorable mentions: Minnesota Vikings trading up for Dalvin Cook, San Francisco 49ers trading up for Reuben Foster, Seattle Seahawks trading down for Malik McDowell, and Jacksonville Jaguars trading up for Cam Robinson.

2016 Winner: Myles Jack, Jaguars
2015 Winner: Maxx Williams, Ravens
2014 Winner: Louis Nix, Texans
2013 Winner: Alec Ogletree, Rams
2012 Winner: Justin Blackmon, Jaguars

Biggest Reach Round 1:
Tennessee Titans: WR Corey Davis

I like Corey Davis as a player, but he was a huge reach as a top-five pick. Sources from a number of other teams had Davis graded as a late first-round and early second-round pick. One other top-10 team that was targeting a receiver early, told WalterFootball.com they had Davis in their pool of candidates for the second round. Davis has a good, but not great, skill set, and most teams had him rated behind Clemson’s Mike Williams and Washington’s John Ross. Some teams also had East Carolina’s Zay Jones graded higher than Davis.

Davis goes to a good situation with a young franchise quarterback, a talented young offensive line, a dangerous receiving tight end, and a strong running game. With that supporting cast, Davis should get plenty of targets and the opportunity to prove he is a No. 1 receiver. However, teams around the league felt that Davis was a big reach as a top-five pick.

Honorable mentions: Arizona Cardinals linebacker Haason Reddick and Cleveland Browns safety Jabrill Peppers.

2016 Winner: Josh Garnett, 49ers
2015 Winner: Stephone Anthony, Saints
2014 Winner: JaWuan James, Dolphins
2013 Winner: Travis Frederick, Cowboys
2012 Winner: Bruce Irvin, Seahawks

Biggest Reach Day 2:
San Francisco 49ers: QB C.J. Beathard
This was an easy choice with Beathard, especially considering the 49ers traded back into the third round for the Iowa quarterback. Teams across the league had Beathard graded as a late-rounder. Taking him at the end of Round 3 was a massive reach by Lynch, not to mention the collateral San Francisco gave up to move up for him. The trade upward was completely unnecessary because the five teams picking in between those picks were not going to take quarterback – Steelers, Seahawks, Buccaneers/Jets, and Packers -, much less use a third-round pick on a late-round-caliber player.

Beathard may develop into a backup quarterback, but he does not have a starter’s skill set. The 49ers probably could have landed Beatheard in the fifth or sixth round as well. Moving up to take Beathard was the worst pick made on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Honorable mentions: Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker, New York Giants defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, Seattle Seahawks safety Delano Hill and Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner.

2016 Winner: Roberto Aguayo, Buccaneers
2015 Winner: Jordan Richards, Patriots
2014 Winner: Jack Mewhort, Colts
2013 Winner: Duron Harmon, Patriots
2012 Winner: Bryan Anger, Jaguars

Best Undrafted Free Agent Signing:
Washington Redskins: S Fish Smithson
Geronimo Allison played really well when the Packers gave him an opportunity last year, and I think he was a real steal for Green Bay. The Jaguars signing of Illinois outside linebacker Carroll Phillips would make this choice easy as he is an early round talent, but I learned after the 2017 NFL Draft that Phillips was flunked medically; some team doctors think he is one hit away from a career-ending injury. The Dolphins’ Damore’ea Stringefellow has early round talent and got consideration, but he has massive off-the0field issues that I’m not confident he can overcome.

Among some other good candidates, Smithson stood out to me. He is a really good player with excellent tape from college. The only reason that Smithson didn’t get drafted was because he is a little short on size and speed, but I think he has the instincts to overcome those issues. Over the past two seasons, Smithson racked up over 200 tackles with six interceptions and three forced fumbles. The Redskins signed D.J. Swearinger to a 1-year deal, but they could use some at least one long-term starter at safety, depending on how Su’a Cravens is utilized. Smithson is going to a good situation, and I think he could end up being a massive steal as an undrafted free agent.

Honorable mentions: 49ers wide receiver K.D. Cannon, 49ers safety Lorenzo Jerome, Jaguars outside linebacker Carroll Phillips, Jets offensive tackle Javarius Leamon, Chargers tight end Sean Culkin, Chiefs safety Jordan Sterns, LSU wide receiver Travin Dural, Texans defensive tackle Eli Ankou, Texans running back Dare Ogunbowale, Cardinals quarterback Trevor Knight, Cardinals wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals cornerback Sojourn Shelton, Eagles center Tyler Orlosky, Redskins safety Fish Smithson, Dolphins running back De’Veon Smith, Dolphins wide receiver Damore’ea Stringefellow, Falcons defensive end Darius English, Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin and Packers quarterback Taysom Hill.

2016 Winner: Geronimo Allison, Packers
2015 Winner: Akeem Hunt, Giants
2014 Winner: Antonio Richardson, Vikings
2013 Winner: Chase Thomas, Saints
2012 Winner: James Brown, Bears

Best Draft Class:
Washington Redskins
Teams that aren’t picking high have a disadvantage in terms of adding values at each pick, but the Redskins did a tremendous job of adding good talent despite picking in the middle of each round. Washington came away with good values at each selection with players who have plus athleticism and could help the team immediately along with being key long-term starters.

In the first round, the Redskins were fortunate that 16 teams passed on the 2016 college-football season’s best player. Allen was one of the clear steals of the first round as he was a consensus top-10 pick. The Redskins planned on a defense-heavy draft to upgrade their talent level on that side of the ball, but to come away with one of the top-five players in the 2017 NFL Draft with the 17th-overall pick is pure robbery. Washington wanted to get younger and faster on the defensive line, and Allen definitely helps accomplish the goal.

Allen is an impact-making defender at the point of attack with the speed to fire by guards and the strength to shed blocks. He is a consistent defender who produced double-digit sacks in each of the past two seasons. Allen is strong at the point of attack with developed technique as a run stuffer and pass-rusher. In the Redskins’ 3-4 defense, he’ll fit perfectly as a five-technique defensive end. For the pass-rushing package, Allen can move to the inside to rush over guards and will provide an immediate impact as an interior pass rusher. The Redskins got maybe the biggest steal of the first round with Allen.

On Day 2, Washington added two players who should be starting quickly in their NFL careers. Edge rusher Ryan Anderson is a pure football player. He is very instinctive, strong, physical, and makes huge plays in clutch situations. Anderson is a great fit as an edge defender in a 3-4 defense. Sources from other teams told me Anderson would be a first-round pick if his arms were a little bit longer, but to me, the guy is a pure football player who was a standout among a defense filled with pro talent. The Redskins’ next selection was a third-round steal in UCLA cornerback Fabien Moreau. He is a quick cover corner with size. It wouldn’t surprise me if Moreau is starting quickly across from Josh Norman.

The Redskins went on to be superb on Day 3. To start it off, they landed a power back in Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine. He could be a really nice complement to Robert Kelley, and Perine will be a quick upgrade over the oft-injured Matt Jones. Meanwhile, Michigan State’s Montae Nicholson (6-2, 212) has a superb skill set with the size and strength to tackle as a speedy strong safety, yet he also has the length to be a free safety. He could be a real steal if he develops.

In the fifth round, the Redskins got a good inline tight end with Arkansas’ Jeremy Sprinkle. He can block and also is a receiving threat. In a year or two, he could form a nice tandem with Jordan Reed. Additionally, Sprinkle offers the Redskins some immediate depth if Reed gets injured again.

Washington used the late rounds to land some size/speed freaks in Georgia State wideout Robert Davis (6-3, 219) and Louisville safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (6-4, 217). Both players have a lot of potential and upside to develop. Wyoming center Chase Roullier could compete at guard as well as man the middle of the line. Even seventh-rounder Joshua Holsey from Auburn has a lot of experience and could be a versatile backup at cornerback or safety. The Redskins finished off their phenomenal draft class with a great showing on Day 3.

Overall, I think the Redskins are going to get four to five good starters out of the 2017 NFL Draft – not just average players, but good players. I think many of Washington’s selectiong have serious Pro Bowl potential, and I would be surprised if Jonathan Allen isn’t a Pro Bowl candidate early in his NFL career. Redskins President Bruce Allen has received a lot of unjust criticism this offseason, but Allen has taken the high road throughout it all and to protect the reputation of many. Allen came through with a masterful draft that I think will form a core group of players who lead the Redskins to wins for many years to come.

Honorable mentions: New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders.

2016 Winner: Buffalo Bills
2015 Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars
2014 Winner: Houston Texans
2013 Winner: Green Bay Packers
2012 Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Worst Draft Class:
Arizona Cardinals
Clearly, I blew it with the 2012 award for Seattle and to a lesser extent with the Cowboys in 2013, so Cardinals fans should rejoice that I’m picking them this year. Last year, however, I was critical of the Rams’ draft class, and that was proven accurate based on the first-year returns. The Chiefs’ 2014 class has some wasted picks in it, although Dee Ford has panned out. The Panthers’ 2015 class and the Patriots’ 2016 class have been underwhelming, but it is too early to pass real judgement. Last year in this space, I ripped New England for the Cyrus Jones pick, and that was proven valid after Jones was a liability to the Super Bowl champs. Now, on to the Cardinals.

With their first selection of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cardinals took Temple defensive end-turned-outside linebacker Haason Reddick, and that set the tone for a lot of flawed players. I knew multiple other teams that had mid-round grades on Reddick. He has a grand total of three practices and part of an exhibition game at his NFL position. There is no real evidence that Reddick has the instincts or the ability to read his keys at the linebacker position. Learning how to cover is going to be a big challenge for him.

What Reddick does best is rush the passer off the edge, but the Cardinals are already set there with Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, so Reddick will have to rotate in behind them. I think Reddick is a very questionable player, and that is why other teams graded him in the mid-rounds. To take him with the 13th-overall pick is based mostly on his athletic ability, and that seems very risky pick for that high of a selection in the first round.

Early in Round 2, the Cardinals took Washington safety Budda Baker, but I knew teams that had him much lower because they think the 5-foot-10, 195-pounder won’t hold up in the NFL. Often, Baker was compared to Bob Sanders around the league as a good player who just doesn’t have the build for the NFL. Baker certainly is undersized to tackle NFL ball-carriers. Baker is another risky pick. Later on Day 2, Grambling wide receiver Chad Williams was a solid pick, but he does have off-the-field issues.

The reaches continued in the fourth round with Pittsburgh guard Dorian Johnson. I knew teams that had him graded much lower, and Johnson is not as good as the hype has suggested.

The Cardinals are still without a young quarterback to develop behind the declining and injury-prone Carson Palmer. I think Arizona should have taken Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second round as he has a first-round skill set and could have been a good project for Bruce Arians. Overall, I think the selections by Cardinals in the 2017 NFL Draft are going to provide very little impact for them, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they had some early round busts from this draft class.

2016 Winner: New England Patriots
2015 Winner: Carolina Panthers
2014 Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
2013 Winner: Dallas Cowboys
2012 Winner: Seattle Seahawks

Top Draft Newcomer:
San Francisco 49ers: John Lynch
First to be clear, this award is more about who made a splash in their first draft as a general manager. I’m not saying that any awardee did a great job. Many don’t realize that it is a really tough job for a new general manager to take over a team’s front office in January, make a decision on the coaching staff while typically hiring new coaches, then work the final three months of a draft process with an entire new set of scouts and a new roster to get familiar with. Thus, many general managers have better drafts in their second and third years than in their first season.

New 49ers general manager John Lynch certainly made a splash in his first draft. He did a masterful job of moving down one spot in the first round and picking up a third-round pick prior to taking the player who he really wanted in Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas. Lynch then moved back into the first round to get Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. Lynch mirrored that with moving back into the third round for quarterback C.J. Beathard. One of his best picks in this class could be third-round cornerback Akhello Witherspoon, who didn’t get the hype he deserved for his cover-corner skills and big-time NFL skill set.

Overall though, I don’t think that Lynch had a great draft in terms of talent acquisition in his debut for San Francisco. Thomas was overhyped and overdrafted; Beathard was graded as a late-rounder by a lot of teams; and Foster has serious medical and off-the-field concerns. We’ll see who is right or wrong on the players, but there is no doubt that Lynch certainly made a splash in his first draft as an NFL general manager.

2016 Winner: Jon Robinson, Titans
2015 Winner: Mike Maccagnan, Jets
2014 Winner: Ray Farmer, Browns
2013 Winner: John Idzik, Jets
2012 Winner: Ryan Grigson, Colts

Once again, pass along your thoughts on these awards and the 2017 NFL Draft. I may together a mail bag that answers questions/comments sent via email [email protected] or on Twitter @draftcampbell.

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