Heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, there are a few players who find themselves in the “no doubt about it” category. Texas A&M EDGE defender Myles Garrett comes to mind when discussing that type of player.
Other prospects quality as flyers and potential steals.
There’s a whole other category, though, and those are the players who we’ll classify as “boom or bust.” Either they’ll be the next big thing, or they’ll fail to live up to lofty expectations, for one reason or another.
These 10 players qualify for that list.
Jabrill Peppers, safety/linebacker, Michigan
Jabrill Peppers did a little bit of everything for the Wolverines during his three seasons at Michigan, and he’s undoubtedly one of the best athletes in the draft. In fact, he could be the best overall athlete.
The question with Peppers is this, though: Will his “jack-of-all-trades” skill-set translate to a permanent, big-impact role in the NFL?
He played a ton of hybrid linebacker for the Wolverines, but at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he’s probably not big enough for NFL linebacker. Perhaps he would make sense as a 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker (think Clay Matthews), but that’s a very limited skill set.
Safety probably makes more sense for Peppers, but consider this: He only notched one total interception in three seasons at Michigan, and just 11 passes defended.
He’ll clearly make an impact on special teams and a smart coach may try to figure out how to get him in on offense from time-to-time, but is a defensive back who only notched one pick worth it as a high draft selection?
Peppers is the ultimate boom or bust player this draft.
Christian McCaffrey, running back, Stanford
Much like Peppers, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey was a do-everything player for the Cardinal.
In three seasons at Stanford, he rushed for 3,922 yards and 21 touchdowns, caught 99 receptions for 1,206 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he notched 1,859 total yards and two touchdowns as a kick and punt returner.
He’s dynamic, explosive and a true gamer. But he’s only 6-foot, 197 pounds, and one has to wonder if he’ll hold up through a 16 game NFL season — especially considering how many times he could potentially touch the football.
If he remains healthy, McCaffrey undoubtedly has star potential. Considering the load he carried at Stanford, though, one has to wonder how many truly elite carries his body has left.
Jalen Tabor, cornerback, Florida
Jalen Tabor has the physical skills to be a superstar cornerback in the NFL. He’s 6-foot, 191 pounds and notched 104 tackles (65 solo), 11 tackles for loss, four sacks, three fumble recoveries, eight interceptions and three touchdowns as a defender in three seasons for the Florida Gators.
He’s a big-time playmaker who won’t shy away from star receivers in the NFL, but he does have some character concerns that may cause some NFL teams to believe he could have “bust potential”.
Tabor was suspended twice while at Florida, including one incident that saw him get in a fight with his own teammate (C’yontai Lewis) at practice.
If he can keep his head on straight and learn under a savvy, smart veteran, though, Tabor has a chance to be very, very good.
Leonard Fournette, running back, LSU
If you were asked to build an NFL running back, you’d come back with Leonard Fournette. He’s 6-foot-1, 235 pounds of athlete. He runs with the power and explosion to run even NFL defenders over, but he’s also extremely quick in the open field and can be shifty.
At times at LSU, Fournette looked like the best running back in the world, let alone in college football. Injuries really ended up hampering his college career, though, so much so that his long-term viability in the NFL needs to be questioned.
He’s had chronic ankle injuries that have kept him out of games. Notably, in 2016 he missed five of LSU’s games and was questionable for many of them. That included the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
How many more carries does Fournette have left? On talent alone, he’s one of the best players, if not the best NFL-ready player, in this draft.
Those injury concerns are real, though.
Malik McDowell, defensive lineman, Michigan State,
Malik McDowell is built like an NFL 3-technique. He’s 6-foot-6, 276 pounds of pure quick-twitch athleticism, muscle and grace.
He has the potential to be an elite pass rusher and when he gets into the backfield he certainly can cause havoc, but there are some concerns.
Notably, the 2016 season was brutal for him as far as injuries were concerned. He took the best of opposing offensive lines and had to fight through plenty of double teams, which left him very banged up. So much so that he had to miss MSU’s last three games with an ankle injury.
He also left a somewhat uneven legacy at Michigan State, depending on who you’re talking to. He had and still has the physical talent to be the best defensive lineman in the world. But he only notched 7.5 sacks while at MSU, and that was in large part because of a 4.5 sack 2015 season.
His 24.5 tackles for loss in three seasons tell a different story, so again, here we are back to that question: Boom or bust?
McDowell can go either way.
DeShone Kizer, quarterback, Notre Dame
DeShone Kizer is an athletic, dual-threat quarterback who has a ton of NFL potential. He’s 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, so it’s not like he lacks the size to be an NFL quarterback. He also threw 5,805 yards and 47 touchdowns while rushing for rushing for 997 yards and 18 touchdowns in just two seasons at Notre Dame.
The potential is there, and his athleticism is undeniable.
The big cause for concern with Kizer is his ball-security. The game is going to speed up a ton in the NFL and he’s going to be playing against bigger, faster and stronger defenders. He threw 19 interceptions in those two seasons for the Fighting Irish, and that’s going to be a big, red flag for NFL scouts.
If he can get over the picks and prove that he can take care of the ball, Kizer can be special in the NFL. Some think he may even be the draft’s best quarterback.
Ryan Ramczyk, offensive tackle, Wisconsin
Ramczyk’s 2016 resume speaks for itself, though the rest of his time in the college ranks does present some questions.
In 2016, Ramczyk started every game at left tackle for the Badgers. He was first-team All-Big Ten and also was honored as an Associated Press All-American. He did have to sit out Wisconsin’s bowl game with a hip injury, an injury that did require surgery, but all things considered he played himself into a high draft pick in 2016.
He’s 6-foot-6, 314 pounds, which undoubtedly helps as well.
Here’s the concern with Ramczyk: 2016 was his only big-time college football experience.
Despite having FBS and FCS offers as a recruit — including one from Wisconsin — he chose to go to technical college out of his school. He then played two seasons at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point before transferring to the Badgers and sitting out the 2015 season.
On one hand, 2016 was great for him and he has franchise left tackle potential. On the other, NFL teams may be worried about his lack of experience playing against elite level competition.
Will he be able to handle the NFL?
Tim Williams, outside linebacker, Alabama
There’s little doubting the athleticism and football savvy that this Alabama linebacker brings to the table. In four seasons for the Tide, he notched 57 tackles (38 solo), 30 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He has championship experience and is NFL ready at 6-foot-4, 252 pounds. He could play outside linebacker, but he’s probably big and tough enough to be an inside backer as well.
The concern with Williams stems from a Walter Football report that stated Williams has a history of failing drug tests. He was also arrested in September and charged for carrying a pistol without a permit.
Williams has first round talent, but can he keep his head on straight in the NFL?
If he can, he’ll be really good for a long time.
Joe Mixon, running back, Oklahoma
As a football player, Joe Mixon’s talent is undeniable. He’s an explosive running back who can make plays out of the backfield and even as a receiver. At 6-foot-1, 226 pounds, he rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns in two seasons for Oklahoma, while catching 65 passes for 894 yards and nine touchdowns. He also scored a touchdown as a kick returner in 2016, so without a doubt, he’s a talented player.
Will the NFL take a chance on him, though, and is he worth taking a chance on?
Mixon landed himself in Ray Rice-esque hot water and was suspended for the 2014 season after punching a woman. Video of that punch was recently released, and reportedly, he’s not invited to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.
If he is drafted, he has the talent to be very good. That punch and video may never stop haunting him, though, and some would say rightfully so.
Pat Mahomes, quarterback, Texas Tech
In three seasons at Texas Tech, Mahomes put up an incredible 11,252 yards and 93 touchdowns to go along with 29 interceptions. That’s not surprising when you consider the Red Raiders’ system, but those are still impressive none the less.
Mahomes is a big, NFL bodied quarterback at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, but the big question on his scouting report is one that has been haunting quarterbacks with lofty stats for years now.
Did he put up those kinds of numbers because of Texas Tech’s system? Or, is he just extremely talented and those numbers will translate to the NFL?
The answer to that question remains to be seen, but it certainly qualifies Mahomes for this boom or bust list.