The 2017 NFL Draft is about to give many young men a chance to live out their dreams. It will also give some players reason to start their NFL careers with a huge chip on their shoulders after they experience the agony of waiting far longer for their names to be called than they ever thought possible.
Draft-day tumbles aren’t anything new. They happen every year. Players that have been hyped by the media end up taking a trip to the green room, only to wait uncomfortably as all their peers walk out the door and onto the stage for their moment in the spotlight. All the while, these unfortunate individuals are caught looking nonplussed while cameras capture their every emotional reaction to being publicly spurned.
So which prospects from this year’s draft class might end up being subject to this agony? Which prospects are the most likely to see a draft-day tumble?
We’ll start with a quarterback who was at one point considered by many to be the top passer coming into the league in 2017.
DeShone Kizer, quarterback, Notre Dame
Before those who analyze talent started taking a deep dive into the 2017 NFL Draft, Kizer was seen as a guy who, along with Deshaun Watson, might be the top quarterback taken this year. Fast forward a few months and not only will Kizer almost certainly not be selected in the first round, but he could slide all the way into the third round…or further.
Maturity issues are one reason. One AFC head coach reportedly thinks Kizer has “diva qualities,” and the quarterback recently waffled back and forth about comments he made saying he was like a mix of Tom Brady and Cam Newton (more on that here).
Then there’s the matter of his NFL readiness. His own head coach at Notre Dame doesn’t think Kizer is a polished product and says he should have stayed in school, which Kizer shockingly said he agreed with. His numbers from last season indicate this is the truth as well. Kizer led a team that went 4-8 while completing just 58.7 percent of his passes (yuck) and made some baffling late-game decisions.
Kizer is falling down draft boards like a rock.
Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan
This is the story of a guy many in the media have fallen love with but who could end up falling hard come draft day.
Charlton is a pass rusher who wreaked havoc on college offensive tackles during this past season at Michigan. He racked up 10 sacks in 2017 and is being projected by many analysts to go in the bottom half of the first round on Thursday.
But let’s be honest about what Charlton is and what he isn’t.
He isn’t a complete defensive end. He was often washed out of running plays by strong offensive tackles or pulling guards. He isn’t strong at the point of attack and doesn’t have a complete repertoire of pass-rushing moves. He’s also not a spectacular athlete, which was clearly seen by his underwhelming combine performance.
What he can do is get around the corner against slow-footed offensive tackles. He’s a one-trick pony, and he might not be very good at that one trick against NFL-level talent. There is just too much talent in this draft for this scribe to envision Charlton going any earlier than the middle of the second round.
Dalvin Cook, running back, Florida State
It seems opinion vary pretty dramatically when it comes to Cook, who was undeniably one of the best running backs in the nation the past few seasons. The FSU product racked up 5,399 yards from scrimmage and 48 total touchdowns in three years with the Seminoles (40 coming the past two years), showing off a potent combination of power rushing, receiving prowess and home run speed when he got an open lane.
So why would Cook be mentioned among those who could take a huge tumble on draft day? There are two key reasons, and either one all by itself could be cause for NFL personnel folks to decide against risking their necks to take Cook early.
First off, his health is a big red flag. He battled through a hamstring injury for most of the 2015 season and has had multiple shoulder injuries, which have resulted in three separate surgeries since high school for the running back.
Secondly, and perhaps even more concerning for NFL general managers, Cooks’ off-field character has been questioned by many since the pre-draft process began.
.@SABmetrics Dalvin Cook has: BB gun incident, battery arrest (not guilty), cited for mistreatment of animals.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 9, 2017
.@jords_mac It's a big deal to me when a player has multiple arrests in their background, even if acquitted. Still a pattern.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 9, 2017
One of the arrests Matt Miller is referring to stems from a 2015 incident in which Cook allegedly punched a woman, though he was later found to be not guilty.
Running backs have typically been valued far less in recent years than other skill positions. Given the fact that Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are likely going to be first-round picks, and given Cook’s red flags, it won’t be surprising at all if he falls well into the second round.
Davis Webb, quarterback, Cal
Webb is a bit of a conundrum. He could go as early as late in the first round (based on what he’s been told, anyway) or could end up dropping into the third round or later based on what guys like Mike Mayock are saying about him.
We’re leaning towards the latter.
Webb has arm talent, of that there is no doubt. He made some tremendous throws during his last season at Cal and has prototypical NFL size to boot. Unfortunately, he’s nowhere near ready to play at the NFL level, having just come out of the Air Raid system Sonny Dykes ran.
While it’s pretty much the same system that Patrick Mahomes II — a guy who’s almost certain to be a Round 1 pick — ran at Texas Tech, Webb’s overall talent level is far inferior to what Mahomes brings to the table.
Furthermore, there is so much talent at other positions that teams in the first round or two will be more eager to land a guy who can help them immediately than draft a project quarterback who needs a few years to season before he can contribute.
Reuben Foster, linebacker, Alabama
A supreme talent, Foster enters the 2017 NFL Draft with some serious red flags, and not all of them are off-field related.
Foster reportedly got some bad news at his combine medical re-check, which indicated surgery he had in February to repair rotator cuff damage might not have done the trick. If his shoulder doesn’t heal soon, another surgery could be coming, per the report.
That, by itself, likely wouldn’t be enough to keep Foster from still being drafted in the top half of the first round. His blazing speed and instincts as an inside linebacker, not to mention the countless plays he made at Alabama, have scouts drooling over his pro potential. But his off-field issues have recently become a huge issue that will almost certainly shove him out of the first round. And this is a guy who was being mentioned as a top-five pick before the combine.
Then Foster erupted at a medical worker at the combine, resulting in him being tossed out of the annual event. He also failed his drug test at the combine and reportedly has some issues in his past that have been uncovered during the past few months.
Nobody wants to draft the next Rolando McClain, so it’s very likely Foster is going to be watching Thursday’s first-round action without hearing his name called.