2017 NFL Draft: What If Sam Darnold & The Underclassmen Were Available?
If the underclassmen were able to declare early for the NFL Draft, what would’ve happened?
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It’s an important theoretical argument. What if everyone was available for the 2017 NFL Draft?
What if there wasn’t the silly rule that a player had to be three years removed from high school to be eligible to play in the NFL?
In the 2016 NFL Draft, would Leonard Fournette have gone ahead of Ezekiel Elliott? Would Myles Garrett have gone No. 1 overall, and would Deshaun Watson been taken ahead of Jared Goff and Carson Wentz?
It would’ve been an interesting 2017 NFL Draft if Wyoming QB Josh Allen had come out early – he probably would’ve been the second overall pick.
Georgia RB Nick Chubb and Oregon RB Royce Freeman chose to return even though they might have been in the first round mix. But that was their choice – they were eligible to come out, and didn’t.
Not everyone had a choice, and now, USC QB Sam Darnold, Florida State S Derwin James, and LSU DE Arden Key are forced to come back for another year. But what if they could’ve turned pro this year, and chose to do so? How would the draft have looked? What would’ve happened?
How different would things have been? At least nine underclassmen would’ve likely have gone in the first round – they would’ve changed everything.
1. Cleveland Browns
The Pick Was: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
QB San Darold, USC
Do you go with the franchise defensive end in Myles Garrett, or the franchise quarterback? Always, always go quarterback. Of course.
2. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick Was: DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford (moving down to the 3)
DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
It’s a two man draft, and no way would San Francisco have traded out of the spot. The Niners would’ve taken whichever top talent the Browns didn’t.
3. Chicago Bears
The Pick Was: QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina (moving up to the 2)
QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
This is nowhere near a lock. The Bears might have still loved Mitchell Trubisky, but Rosen – and Lamar Jackson – are better prospects, but assume they don’t mess around and stand pat with a quarterback. And, they wouldn’t make their fans mad by trading ways away late picks to move up a spot.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick Was: RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
Plenty of good backs would be on the board – with LSU’s Derrius Guice and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley each available – but Fournette is the franchise-maker. The Jaguars wouldn’t have messed with this.
5. Tennessee Titans
The Pick Was: WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
S Derwin James, Florida State
In a deep class of receivers, the Titans could get a good playmaker later. James would have to get past his medical concerns, and there are other good safeties in this draft, but he’s the one. Just ask the scouts who broke down Jalen Ramsey before last year’s draft.
6. New York Jets
The Pick Was: S Jamal Adams, LSU
QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
It would be tough to pass up Jamal Adams, and Solomon Thomas is sliding, but the Jets would pick Jackson to crank up the franchise. Mitchell Trubisky would still be there for the taking, though.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
The Pick Was: WR Mike Williams, Clemson
WR Mike Williams, Clemson
Corey Davis would be available, but assume the Chargers liked Williams better all along. Assume they stay here.
8. Carolina Panthers
The Pick Was: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
DT Solomon Thomas, Stanford
The slide stops here. The Panthers might need a running back, and several are available, but Thomas would be a steal here for a team that needs to crank up the talent on the defensive front.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick Was: WR John Ross, Washington
DE Arden Key, LSU
As much as the Bengals might like the receivers still on the board, they also need a pass rusher. Key is too good, and too special not to take the flier on here. He fits what Cincy likes and needs to do.
10. Kansas City (trade with Buffalo)
The Pick Was: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
Yeah, Trubisky is still available, but assume that Kansas City had Mahomes as its guy all along, and that’s why it traded up to grab him.
11. New Orleans Saints
The Pick Was: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State
The No. 1 corner on the board, the Saints would still stick with the guy they ended up with. Lattimore is a better prospect than Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Florida State’s Tarvarus McFadden.
12. Houston Texans (trade with Cleveland)
The Pick Was: QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
Yeah, the Texans would’ve still moved up to grab a quarterback. They would’ve had an argument about Trubisky or Deshaun Watson, but the North Carolina star would’ve been too good a value here.
13. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick Was: LB Haason Reddick, Temple
QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Sure, the linebackers are a must for a team that needs to find more defensive pop on the outside, but bringing on Watson to groom behind Carson Palmer would’ve been too important to ignore.
14. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick Was: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
S Jamal Adams, LSU
As much as the Eagles might have been drooling over the idea of getting a pass rusher in Derek Barnett, Adams is a special safety who would’ve slid far too long.
15. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick Was: S Malik Hooker, Ohio State
RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
The Colts got a steal in Malik Hooker, and he might be intriguing, but McCaffrey sliding down to this spot would be too good to pass up.
16. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick Was: CB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
S Malik Hooker, Ohio State
The Ravens went corner getting Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey, but Hooker is a ball hawker who fits. He might not be the next Ed Reed, but the franchise knows what safeties can do.
17. Washington Redskins
The Pick Was: DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama
DE Jonathan Allen, Alabama
The belief still stands. Allen is a top five talent no matter what, but he slid because of his shoulder concerns. Washington would take the chance on him here no matter what.
18. Tennessee Titans
The Pick Was: CB Adoree Jackson, USC
WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
The Titans went with USC CB Adoree Jackson here and Davis at the five. If the underclassmen were available, they would’ve gone DB at the five, and Davis would’ve been available at a much cheaper price.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick Was: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
The Bucs took their big-time tight end here, looking to get Jameis Winston some more help. There’s no changing it – Howard would still be the top TE.
20. Denver Broncos
The Pick Was: OT Garrett Bolles, Utah
OT Garrett Bolles, Utah
It’s a very, very lean year for offensive linemen. If Denver really wanted one, it would’ve still taken its guy for one of the tackle spots.
21. Detroit Lions
The Pick Was: LB Jarrad Davis, Florida
DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
Barnett went 14th to Philadelphia, but he’d slide a little bit. That would come to a dead stop here with a terrific value selection for a Lions team that needs pass rushers.
22. Miami Dolphins
The Pick Was: LB Charles Harris, Missouri
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
The Dolphins need defensive ends, and they need pass rushers, but Oliver – even after a true freshman season – would be too good with too much upside to pass up. Get him, let him mature a bit, and he’s the star on the inside who can get behind the line.
23. New York Giants
The Pick Was: TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss
RB Derrius Guice, LSU
The Giants might have liked the idea of Ole Miss TE Evan Engram, but for a team that wanted a running back, Guice would be a phenomenal get here.
24. Oakland Raiders
The Pick Was: CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State
WR John Ross, Washington
Oakland absolutely doesn’t need a receiver, and it was all in on corner, taking the chance on Conley, but … it’s the Raiders. It’s a new regime with a new attitude, and a new city – in a few years – but there’s a chance to take vertical threat with all-timer speed, done.
25. Cleveland Browns (trade from Houston)
The Pick Was: S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
LB Haason Reddick, Temple
Assuming the Browns would’ve taken Darnold instead of Garrett with the first pick, Reddick would’ve been a great value pass rusher pick – even if he’s not a true defensive end. Charles Harris would’ve been a thought, too.
26. Atlanta Falcons (trade from Seattle)
The Pick Was: DE Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
The Falcons went with Takk McKinley from UCLA to be the key pass rusher on the other side of Vic Beasley, but with defensive tackle a needs, taking a chance on a young talent in Wilkins would’ve filled another need.
27. Buffalo Bills (trade from Kansas City)
The Pick Was: CB Tre’Davious White, LSU
CB Adoree Jackson, USC
The Bills went with LSU’s Tre’Davious White, but Jackson is better. Either way, getting a corner wouldn’t have been a problem.
28. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick Was: DE Taco Charlton, Michigan
S Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
The Browns pounced on Peppers with the 25th pick, but he’s had slid a wee bit further. Dallas needs defensive back, and while DE Taco Charlton would still be an option, Peppers would be too perfect.
29. Cleveland Browns (trade with Green Bay)
The Pick Was: TE David Njoku, Miami
RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Waiting around would’ve paid off. The Browns passed on a slew of running back options the first time around, and they were going after freakish athletes, but Barkley is a rare all-around talent who wouldn’t have gotten out of the first round.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick Was: LB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
OLB Charles Harris, Missouri
Harris would’ve tumbled down big with the way things would’ve shaken out. T.J. Watt might have been the guy the Steelers targeted, but Harris is more of a sure thing.
31. San Francisco 49ers (trade with Seattle)
The Pick Was: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
The new Niners brass wasn’t blowing smoke that they have Foster in the top three on their board. They would’ve taken him here no matter what.
32. New Orleans Saints
The Pick Was: OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
OT Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
The Saints got their corner with the first pick, and they’d lock up their offensive tackle if Ramczyk fell in this draft, too.