Thirty-two young men had their lives changed forever during the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft Thursday night. They all have a chance to be franchise cornerstones in the coming years, but history tells us many won’t have the kind of impact expected of a first-round pick.
Some players were selected higher than they should have based on team needs. One clear-cut example of this was Patrick Mahomes, who went No. 10 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Others fell down the board for various reasons. Reasons that include those aforementioned players who had teams reach for their services. Marshon Lattimore fell into this category, ending up with the New Orleans Saints at No. 11.
Taking everything we saw Thursday night into account, these are the biggest winners and losers from the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Winner: John Lynch roped Ryan Pace into trade for Mitch Trubisky, lands two of draft’s top defenders
San Francisco 49ers rookie general manager John Lynch brilliantly roped Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace into giving up a ton of draft capital for a player the 49ers weren’t going to take (details here).
Granted, other teams were looking to move up to No. 2, so Lynch had all the leverage. But Chicago gave up far too much to move up one spot for Mitch Trubisky — a quarterback who likely won’t start for Chicago this year unless Mike Glennon gets hurt.
Even all by itself, it’s an iffy deal on the surface.
The Bears gave Mike Glennon $18M guaranteed and a month and a half later used 3 picks to move up 1 slot to take Mitch Trubisky.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 28, 2017
To have given up so much to land Trubisky — especially since the Niners weren’t going to take him in the first place — was just horrible. Chicago isn’t good enough everywhere else to have given up so much to bring in a guy who cannot help right away and who has just 13 career college starts under his belt.
What’s even more stunning is the 49ers ended up getting Solomon Thomas, a guy they were already targeting and were planning on taking at No. 2 if they hadn’t worked out a trade. The Niners even trolled the Bears afterwards with a vicious tweet (look here), and they weren’t the only ones, as NFC North rival Minnesota threw a bit of shade their way as well.
So to break it down one more time, the Bears gave up three valuable mid-round picks to move up one spot to pick a guy who wasn’t going to be the No. 2 pick, and the 49ers landed their targeted guy in the process.
Then at the end of the first round, San Francisco traded back up to nab the No. 31 pick from Seattle for Reuben Foster — a guy most considered to be a top-three defensive talent in the draft. He would have been considered at No. 2 overall if not for some red flags.
Lynch is a huge winner here, as are the 49ers.
Loser: Titans reach for Corey Davis at No. 5, Adoree’ Jackson at No. 18
— WBG84 (@WBG84) April 28, 2017
There is no doubt the Tennessee Titans needed a top-rate wide receiver to pair with Tajae Sharpe. However, Davis was a guy whose stock wasn’t necessarily soaring in the weeks leading up to the draft. Coming off an ankle injury, the Western Michigan product was being seen by most as a guy who would be taken in the middle of the first round.
There’s a real chance the Titans could have landed him at No. 18, which was their second first-round pick this year. However, they chose to use the No. 5 overall pick instead, acquired in last year’s trade with the Los Angeles Rams.
Davis is a tremendously talented young man. He caught 331 passes for 5,278 yards and 52 touchdowns in four years with the Broncos. That’s a ton of production, but most of it came against competition far inferior to what he’ll see at the NFL level.
Don’t get us wrong. Davis is a very good prospect who has tremendous potential. But there were other players on the board — particularly on the back end of the defense — that would have given Tennessee better value at that spot.
Speaking of defense, the Titans then selected cornerback Adoree’ Jackson at No. 18.
This is a guy many thought of as a fringe first-round pick, if not a second-round pick. He’s a small corner (5-foot-10 and just 186 pounds) who has great ball skills and showed improvement in his final year at USC.
But in reality this was another big reach. There were other guys on the board like Kevin King, Tre’Davious White and Teez Tabor, who might have been better fits. But in reality, they should have gone with a guy like O.J. Howard or Charles Harris.
Winner: Running backs are back, baby!
Who said the NFL doesn’t love running backs any more? Two of them were selected in the first eight picks, continuing a mini-trend that the Dallas Cowboys started in 2016 when they drafted Ezekiel Elliott No. 4 overall.
Following in Elliott’s footsteps, Leonard Fournette was the No. 4 pick of the 2017 NFL draft, selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars. This pick fits a big need for the Jags, as they can now confidently hand the ball off to a guy who’s capable of handling the load. It protects Blake Bortles, who needed the help, and gives the offense much-needed balance.
Four picks later, the Carolina Panthers — a team that was heavily linked to Fournette and the man they eventually landed — selected Christian McCaffrey out of Stanford. This is a tremendous selection for the Panthers, who now have the most dynamic backfield in the NFL with Cam Newton and Run CMC.
Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton in the same backfield = NFC South defenses pic.twitter.com/AMtenmwFbi
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) April 28, 2017
Granted, both McCaffrey and Fournette were highly valued throughout the pre-draft process. But for a position that was seen to be devalued around the league, suddenly running backs are the flavor of the week again in the NFL.
Loser: Chiefs gave up the farm for project QB, Patrick Mahomes
Let’s get this out of the way first: Patrick Mahomes has elite athletic traits. He can throw the ball over the top of them mountains and can run like the wind. He’s essentially Colin Kaepernick, version 1.2.
But he isn’t ready to start. He’s got a lot of learning to do before he’s going to be able to step into a pro system and make pro reads.
We predicted he’d be the second quarterback picked in this draft. But when we did it we were predicting a nightmare scenario in which teams panicked and reached for quarterbacks. And make no mistake about it, the Chiefs not only reached for Mahomes here but also gave up way too much to do it (details here).
Now, you have to feel for Alex Smith a bit, too. As we mentioned before, Mahomes has Kaepernick-type qualities, and Smith has seen this movie before. The Chiefs, at some point in the (hopefully) near future are going to ditch Smith for Mahomes, because that’s what you have to do when you give up so much for a quarterback.
Winner: Deshaun Watson slides but lands in perfect situation
The Houston Texans finally got their quarterback. After years of flailing without one, general manager Rick Smith absolutely had to land a franchise passer. He made a bold trade with the Cleveland Browns up to No. 12 overall to land Deshaun Watson (details here)
Watson watched as Trubisky and Mahomes — a couple of guys who aren’t ready to play yet — went before him. He must have been quietly battling fury (especially based on comments he made before the draft), but in the end he landed in the perfect situation.
Watson was the top quarterback on this scribe’s board this year. He has some flaws but is ready, both mentally and physically, to not only play at a high level but lead an NFL offense.
He’ll team up with fellow Clemson alum DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller and Co. to form one of the most exciting young offenses in the NFL. Houston, already possessing a championship-caliber defense, now has a quarterback who has already proven himself in a championship environment and has all the physical tools to succeed at the pro level.
Loser: ‘Bama players take a collective tumble
Heading into the draft, it was thought three Alabama players had a chance to be drafted in the top half of Round 1. In the end, only one of them got into that group (No. 16 overall to Baltimore), and it wasn’t the one most expected — cornerback Marlon Humphrey.
These three — Jonathan Allen, a big-time performer up front for ‘Bama’s defense, O.J. Howard, seen as a potential top-10 pick due to his incredible athleticism and ability to stretch the field vertically and linebacker Reuben Foster, at one point considered as a potential fit for San Francisco at No. 2 overall — slid much further than anyone anticipated.
Allen went No. 17 to Washington. He slid that far because teams had fears about his arthritic shoulders, an issue that showed up during his combine medical. If he can stay healthy, then Allen has a chance to be an instant impact player playing under Jim Tomsula.
Howard went No. 19 overall to Tampa Bay. It’s a great fit for the Buccaneers (more on that in a few), and he’s going to be a tremendous weapon for Jameis Winston. But he went far lower than he was projected.
Foster, as we mentioned talking about the 49ers, ended up falling all the way to No. 31.
Cam Robinson was also a guy many thought would be a first-round player. He didn’t even hear his name called on Thurday night.
All in all, it was a disappointing night for the Alabama program.
Winner: Buccaneers and Saints have top players fall into their laps
The New Orleans Saints absolutely lucked out when former Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore — a potential top-five pick — fell into their laps at No. 11 overall.
Lattimore had a bit of a health issue (hamstring) during his tenure with the Buckeyes, but when he finally got his chance to shine last year he made the most of his opportunity. In 2016, he showed off tremendous speed, athleticism and ball skills, hauling in four interceptions.
He also fits a dire need the Saints have in their defensive secondary and will be an instant starter for them in 2017.
As we mentioned before, O.J. Howard was considered by many to be one of the premier players in this draft. Not only is he a tremendous physical talent, but he was as clean as any player in the draft. A true winner, both on and off the field.
So when the Buccaneers were at No. 19 and saw him still on the board, it was an easy decision. He joins Cameron Brate, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, making for a truly scary set of weapons for Winston to work with in the coming years.
Loser: Dalvin Cook slides into Round 2
Whether it was due to health concerns, character concerns or both (more on all that here), Cook was not one of the 32 young men selected in Round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft.
It’s understandable that teams might be concerned about Cook’s long-term durability. He is a physical back who had a hamstring injury for most of the 2015 season and who has had three shoulder surgeries since high school.
Unfortunately, Cook also saw his name dragged through the mud due to off-field concerns, though upon thorough investigation by Robert Klemko of The MMQB they may have been extremely unwarranted.
Cook was very productive during his three seasons with Florida State. He totaled 5,399 yards and 48 touchdowns from scrimmage and was the only thing keeping them in some games offensively this past season. He has the ability to do it all from the backfield and is a true three-down back.
Unfortunately, he’s losing a significant amount of money compared to the other top backs in the draft. It’s going to be interesting to see how far he falls. We’d be shocked if he lasts 10 picks into the second round, but stranger things have happened.
Winner: Browns show discipline
By all rights, the Cleveland Browns could have taken a quarterback with either the No. 1 over No. 12 overall picks and nobody would have batted an eye. Regardless of what your take is on this year’s quarterback class, they need one, make no mistake about it.
However, rather than reach for a need, Sashi Brown and Co. stuck to their board and took the right man at No. 1, Texas A&M star Myles Garrett.
Then, rather than taking Deshaun Watson, who they obviously weren’t sold on, the Browns traded down. Now, it’s going to be fascinating to see how Deshaun Watson performs. He’s in a perfect situation as we mentioned before, but who knows if he would have succeeded in Cleveland?
With the pick they received in the trade with Houston, the Browns took a guy who could end up being a dynamo in the secondary, Jabrill Peppers. This scribe isn’t convinced Peppers will thrive in the NFL as a tweener, but the Browns didn’t do anything crazy by drafting him at No. 25 overall.
Finally, at No. 29 overall the Browns landed one of the steals of the draft in Miami tight end David Njoku. He’s going to step in immediately and make a huge difference as a receiving tight end, giving Cleveland two solid options there to go along with Gary Barnidge.
As an added bonus, the extra draft currency that was purchased with their trade will help Cleveland in the long term.
Loser: Takkarist McKinley loses his cool on stage
After being selected No. 26 overall by the Atlanta Falcons (who traded up to land him), UCLA product Takkarist McKinley absolutely lost his cool on stage.
Carrying a picture of his late grandmother, he talked about how she pushed him to where he is now. It was touching and very heartfelt. Then, out of the blue, McKinley took a turn for the worst with a profanity-laced outburst that likely would have caused her to grab him by the ear if she had been there with him.
— FanSportsClips (@FanSportsClips) April 28, 2017
Now, it’s understandable that a player would be emotional under these circumstances. Many wondered if McKinley would fall into the second round due to a shoulder injury. So he had reason to be excited. But to lose his cool like that, with the entire NFL world watching, was out of line.
Thankfully he did apologize after Deion Sanders helped him get back on track.