Projections Top 10 NFL Draft Busts

2017 NFL Draft: First Impressions

Synopsis: As a follow-up to the first ever T10B Mock Draft, I will now offer my assessment of the top 10 overall picks from the 2017 NFL Draft. Based on previously determined criteria, only these players were drafted high enough to qualify as potential Top 10 Busts. As of now, I predict that the top of this draft could be one of the worst ever. At the same time, it might be one of the deepest drafts ever. Don’t be surprised if many later-round picks surpass the careers of the players highlighted in this post.


2017 NFL DRAFT: FIRST IMPRESSIONS 

In case you’ve been imitating Patrick Star for the last few days, I’ll provide a quick recap of the top picks from the 2017 NFL Draft.

PATRICK STAR
If you still don’t get the reference, I don’t know what else to say.

Then again, a recap may be necessary depending on when you’re reading this post. To start, all of the players will become instant millionaires so there’s no reason to challenge their worthiness as football players. On the other hand, it’s fair to challenge whether they’ll have successful NFL careers. Relative to recent drafts, I believe this one has the potential to be remembered for the busts versus the superstars.

SUPERSTARS OR BUSTS?
2017 NFL Draft - First Impressions
#7 Pick – WR Mike Williams / #1 Pick – DE Myles Garrett / #4 Pick – RB Leonard Fournette
2017 NFL DRAFT: TOP 10 PICKS (SUMMARY)
                T10B
Pick Team Player Pos. School Class Height Weight Proj.
1 Cleveland Browns Myles Garrett DE Texas A&M Jr 6’4½” 272 1
2 Chicago Bears [1] Mitch Trubisky QB North Carolina rJr 6’2″ 222 2
3 San Francisco 49ers [1] Solomon Thomas DT Stanford rSo 6’2⅝” 273 5
4 Jacksonville Jaguars Leonard Fournette RB LSU Jr 6’0½” 240 4
5 Tennessee Titans Corey Davis  WR West. Mich. Sr 6’2¾” 209 N/A
6 New York Jets Jamal Adams S LSU Jr 5’11¾” 214 6A
7 Los Angeles Chargers Mike Williams WR Clemson rJr 6’3⅝” 218 10
8 Carolina Panthers Christian McCaffrey RB Stanford Jr 5’11¼” 202 N/A
9 Cincinnati Bengals John Ross WR Washington rJr 5’10¾” 188 N/A
10 Kansas City [2] Patrick Mahomes QB Texas Tech Jr 6’2″ 225 N/A

[1] Chicago and San Francisco swapped picks. SF also received Chicago’s 67th and 111th picks in 2017 and 1st round pick in 2018.

[2] Kansas City received the #10 pick in a trade with Buffalo. In return, Buffalo received KC’s 27th and 91st picks in 2017 and 1st round pick in 2018.

With respect to the previous table, the most interesting information relates to the footnotes (i.e. the trades) and the last column (i.e. T10B’s projected draft positions). I’ll focus on my predictions for now and detail the trades later on.

For a first mock draft, I’d say that I did “OK.” Perhaps most impressively, four of the first five picks matched my top five. To the extent I didn’t include four players as top 10 overall picks, I had them in my top 20. Yeah, yeah, anyone can say that after the fact. In response, I’ll expand my 2018 NFL Mock Draft to include more potential picks.

On the other extreme, two of my top ten mock picks fell to the second round. In particular, Cam Robinson (my #7 pick) went 34th overall and Dalvin Cook (my #8 pick) went 41st overall. I still believe Robinson will be the best offensive lineman and Cook will be better than McCaffrey (who went #8 instead). Regardless, I admit I could have done better considering additional information available prior to the draft. 

As the basis for my mock draft, I combined player rankings with team needs. The following table summarizes the first piece of the equation. 

2017 NFL DRAFT: TOP 10 PICKS (RANKINGS / ACCOMPLISHMENTS)
       CBS   Sporting   Bleacher     
Pick Player  Scout   Sports   News   Report   Avg   Accomplishments 
1 Myles Garrett 1 1 1 1 1 1st Team All-America / 15 TFL, 8.5 Sacks
2 Mitch Trubisky 18 12 64 12 27 30 TDs, 6 INTs, 68% comp (5th in NCAA)
3 Solomon Thomas 60 2 6 6 19 Pac-12 Def POTY / 62 tackles, 15 TFL, 8 sacks
4 Leonard Fournette 3 9 3 2 4 1st Team All-America / 1,953 yds, 22 TDs (2015)
5 Corey Davis  48 15 20 10 23 97 rec / 1,500 yds / 19 TDs (1st in NCAA)
6 Jamal Adams 11 3 2 4 5 1st Team All-America / 4 INTs
7 Mike Williams 7 21 19 8 14 2nd Team All-America / 84 rec, 1,171 yds, 10 TDs
8 Christian McCaffrey 27 16 24 23 23 Paul Hornung Award (’15) / 2nd Team All-America (’16)
9 John Ross 16 19 8 22 16 2nd Team All-America / 1,150 yds, 17 TDs (2nd in NCAA)
10 Patrick Mahomes 109 13 12 13 37 Sammy Baugh Trophy  / 5,052 yds, 41 TDs, 10 INTs

Based on the average rankings for these players, I identified four potentially questionable picks: Trubisky, Davis, McCaffrey, and Mahomes. Specifically, these four rated as late first-round or early second-round picks instead of top 10 overall picks. Each of these players could become a future superstar in the league. However, that doesn’t mean that the teams picking them acted rationally.

PAST HISTORY

We’ve all heard the expression, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” In the case of the draft, desperate teams make desperate decisions. Since starting this site almost three years ago, I have evaluated over four decades of NFL drafts. Not surprisingly, many busts over that time period could have been avoided if teams acted more rationally. 

I came up with the following 7 Lessons from Highly Ineffective NFL Draft Picks as a way for teams to minimize busts. Specifically, those lessons include:

  1. There’s no such thing as a sure thing.
  2. When in doubt, draft offensive linemen and avoid receivers.
  3. Don’t reach with the pick.
  4. Character matters.
  5. Avoid players who have peaked already.
  6. Avoid QBs who were interception leaders in college.
  7. Get to camp on time.

With respect to the top 10 picks of the 2017 NFL Draft, seven players have red flags. First, teams took wide receivers Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross with early picks (Lesson 2). Second, both Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey peaked in 2015 vs. 2016 (Lesson 5). Third, teams may have reached by taking Mitch “You’re not a Mitchell” Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes (Lesson 3) so high.

For now, I’ll skip Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas and Jamal Adams as potential busts. In contrast, I believe the other seven Top 10 Picks have concerns.

2017 NFL DRAFT: THE WIDE RECEIVERS

Relative to every other position, wide receivers seem to be the most unpredictable as top 10 overall picks. Of note, they offer the lowest Weighted Average Value (WAV). If you’re unfamiliar with WAV, the following post provides an explanation of the stat and its usefulness when evaluating players.

Arguably, teams drafting at the top of the draft don’t have good quarterbacks. In this case, the top three receivers will catch balls thrown by Marcus Mariota, Phillip Rivers, and Andy Dalton. As such, they don’t have the typical excuse. Still, I’ll go with long-term history and predict at least one underachiever/bust: Corey Davis.

With an impressive highlight reel, Davis has a flair for the spectacular. At the same time, he drops too many routine catches. For this reason, he had been compared to 6x Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall. With a WAV of 83, Marshall represents an upper limit for Davis. Instead, I view the recent pick as someone with the upside of 1x Pro Bowler Braylon Edwards (WAV of 41) and downside of Top 10 Bust Honorable Mention Troy Williamson (WAV of 8). Is that worth a #5 overall pick. I say, “No.”

2017 NFL DRAFT: THE RUNNING BACKS

As indicated in a previous post, the best running backs in history have been taken at the top of the draft. Regardless, NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper argues that quality backs can be found in later rounds. I have disagreed with Kiper in the last two drafts when evaluating Todd Gurley, Mel Gordon, and Ezekiel Elliott. Given Elliot’s success last year as the #4 overall pick, Kiper seemingly has softened his stance.

Despite my previous contention, Jacksonville and Carolina may have overreached this year by taking Fournette and McCaffrey, respectively. Of note, both running backs peaked during their injury-free 2015 seasons. Perhaps the biggest risk for RBs relates to injuries. In this case, both players may lack the required durability.

Perhaps worried about their own durability, both players decided to skip their teams’ bowl appearances last year. Clearly, neither player hurt his draft status by presumably valuing himself over his team. Now that Pandora’s Box has been opened, we can look for this trend to become even more prevalent in years to come.

2017 NFL DRAFT: THE QUARTERBACKS

More than any position in a team sport, quarterback ranks as the most important. In that regard, I will focus most intently on the quarterbacks taken at the top of the 2017 Draft. Of note, the only trades for top 10 picks involved quarterbacks. Desperate teams act irrationally. Desperate teams in need of a quarterback act even more so.

Earlier in this post, I detailed what the Bears gave up to take Trubisky and the Chiefs gave up to take Mahomes. Specifically, I mentioned the potential value lost based on the value of the forfeited picks.

Huh? Don’t worry, here’s where I excel.  

In order to appreciate what teams give up when trading picks, you should review the following table.

TFI – Top10Bust Football Index (TFI)
  Round
Pick 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
1      100.0       50.0       35.0       25.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
2-3        95.0       45.0       35.0       25.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
4        85.0       45.0       35.0       25.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
5-10        75.0       45.0       32.5       22.5       17.5         15.0       12.5
11-13        70.0       42.5       30.0       22.5       17.5         15.0       12.5
14-16        65.0       42.5       30.0       22.5       17.5         15.0       12.5
17-19        60.0       40.0       27.5       20.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
20-24        55.0       37.5       27.5       20.0       17.5         15.0       12.5
25-32        50.0       35.0       25.0       20.0       17.5         15.0       12.5

Of note, I have determined the value of a future draft pick based on the production of players drafted over the last 40 years. While Jimmy Johnson’s value chart started the conversation, mine goes further based on more quantitative analysis.

In case you doubt my index, the following table shows a ranking of current (and recently retired) quarterbacks based on TFI.

QUARTERBACK TFI – AS OF SUPER BOWL LI (2017)
  Draft Super Bowl  All- Pro   Actual Remaining Proj. Excess
Player Year Pick Wins Games Pro  Bowls WAV TFI Career TFI Value
Tom Brady 2000 199 5 7 3 13 164 394 10% 438 338
Peyton Manning 1998 1 2 4 7 14 177 377 0% 377 277
Aaron Rodgers 2005 24 1 1 3 7 124 214 25% 285 185
Drew Brees 2001 32 1 1 1 10 153 238 5% 251 151
Ben Roethlisberger 2004 11 2 3 0 6 113 198 10% 220 120
Matt Ryan 2008 3 0 1 2 3 111 151 30% 216 116
Eli Manning 2004 1 2 2 0 4 109 179 15% 211 111
Russell Wilson 2012 75 1 2 0 3 76 121 40% 202 102
Cam Newton 2011 1 0 1 1 3 84 114 40% 190 90
Philip Rivers 2004 4 0 0 0 6 128 158 15% 186 86
Joe Flacco 2008 18 1 1 0 0 81 106 20% 133 33
Carson Palmer 2003 1 0 0 0 3 106 121 5% 127 27
Tony Romo 2003 UD 0 0 0 4 95 115 0% 115 15
Alex Smith 2005 1 0 0 0 2 80 90 15% 104 3
Jay Cutler 2006 11 0 0 0 1 84 89 10% 98 -2
TFI UPDATES

Since my last TFI, several notable changes have occurred.

  • By winning a 5th Super Bowl, Brady had extended his lead over Peyton Manning, Despite my protestations that Brady cheats, he categorically ranks the the NFL GOAT. Jim Brown remains the best football player ever. However, Brady will remain the greatest football player ever until someone leads his team to six Super Bowl victories. 
  • Matt Ryan jumped both Eli Manning and Russell Wilson based on his MVP season and Super Bowl appearance. Before Super Bowl LI, I argued that Ryan would surprise everyone and lead the Falcons to an upset over the Patriots. In retrospect, I failed to recognize Brady’s ability to win at all odds.
  • Russell Wilson fell below Eli Manning. Whle Wilson may match Manning’s two Super Bowl victories, I no longer see him getting a third. Frankly, I don’t think he’ll even get a second.
  • Tony Romo fell below Carson Palmer due to retirement.
  • Alex Smith and Jay Cutler didn’t change rankings, but fell in Projected TFI. To start, Smith has to worry about getting replaced by 2017 #10 pick Mahomes. Given how Smith lost his job to Colin Kaepernick, I doubt the Chiefs’ current starter will be so forthcoming with any injuries. Furthermore, Culter’s future is questionable after his recent release by the Bears. As of now, there seems to be a lack of interest in the interception-prone signal caller.
2017 NFL DRAFT: THE TRADES

Both the Bears and Chiefs gave up a lot of value to move up in the 2017 Draft and select their future franchise quarterbacks. Specifically, the Bears gave up the #67 and #111 picks this year and a 3rd rounder next year to get Trubisky. In turn, the Chiefs gave up the #27 and #91 picks in 2017 and a 1st rounder in 2018 to get Mahomes.

Based on my TFI table highlighted above, the Bears traded picks worth 184 points for a pick worth 95 points. In order for the trade to pay off, Trubisky needs to have a career worthy of Cam Newton. Arguably, PTI’s Michael Wilbon agrees because he commented that the new QB needs at least one Super Bowl appearance to justify the pick. As of now, Newton has one Super Bowl appearance on his résumé.

Unlike Trubisky, Mahomes only needs a TFI of 120 for the Chiefs’ trade to pay off. Specifically, Kansas City gave up picks with a TFI of 120 for a pick worth 75. Based on the prior table, the former Texas Tech Raider would need to match the career of Tomy Romo.

Could that happen? Sure. Will it happen? Probably not. Still, it may be worth the risk.

2017 NFL DRAFT: SUMMARY

Before the start of the upcoming 2017 NFL season, I will offer my full assessment of potential Top 10 Busts. For now, I predict the players with the biggest downside include Mitch Trubisky, Corey Davis, and Patrick Mahomes. At the same time, I’m watching Leonard Fournette, Mike Williams, Chrisitian McCaffrey, and John Ross as potential busts.

For any loyal readers, you know that I try to distinguish between busts and bad draft picks. Quickly, a bust underachieves relative to historical players taken with a similar pick. A bad draft pick underachieves relative to subsequent picks in the same draft. Given the lack of elite talent at the top and depth throughout the 2017 Draft, I’m sure I’ll be writing future posts about these players someday.

2017 NFL DRAFT: FIRST IMPRESSIONS 
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