The NFL draft is a way for teams to restock talented players on their rosters. General managers and head coaches are on the lookout for players that fit their scheme and potentially have an impact on their roster. Some draft selections impact teams before others. However, the 2017 NFL draft class featured more potential starters than usual.
Let’s take a look at that list of players who will immediately impact their teams.
Leonard Fournette (RB) – Jacksonville Jaguars
Leonard Fournette is widely viewed as the most NFL-ready running back out of the 2017 draft class. Fournette adds a dynamic element to the Jaguars that has not be available in years past, despite the Jaguars desperate attempts.
Over the past four seasons, the Jaguars have signed Toby Gerhart (2014) and Chris Ivory (2016) in free agency and drafted Denard Robinson (5th round – 2013) and T.J. Yeldon (2nd round – 2015). In nine combined seasons with the Jaguars, these four players totaled 3,072 rushing yards (341.33 yards per player). By comparison, two rookies led the NFL in rushing yards a season ago – Ezekiel Elliott (1,631 yards) and Jordan Howard (1,313 yards).
The Jaguars are hoping Fournette brings this element to their team. Fournette compares more to Howard in that the Jaguars do not have a spectacular offensive line. Despite the Jaguars offensive line, look for Fournette to bruise his way through NFL defenses. He has the size and speed to make defenders miss at every level. If I was a betting man, Fournette would be my prediction for offensive rookie of the year.
Corey Davis (WR) – Tennessee Titans
Corey Davis is an intriguing player to dissect. While I believe he is the most talented wide receiver in this draft class, I wonder how often he will hear his number called. The Titans are built around grounding and pounding.
DeMarco Murray finished third in most rushing yards in the NFL a season ago with 1,287 yards. Additionally, they have another “ace in the hole” with running back Derrick Henry. Combine these running backs with the highest rated offensive line a season ago (according to Pro Football Focus) and you have one of the best running attacks in all of the NFL. However, with the addition of Corey Davis, the Titans now have a slew of options now in the passing game.
Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews are coming off career years. While Walker is coming off a record year in touchdowns, Matthews set career highs in receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns. Corey Davis gives this offense a big, physical receiver that opens up the field for Walker and Matthews to continue eating opposing defenses.
Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis are both quiet, hard-working “bring your lunch pale to work” type of players. I imagine they will have great chemistry on and off the field. Corey Davis will have an immediate impact on this offense as the Titans will look to throw the football more with him on the field.
Deshaun Watson (QB) – Houston Texans
Of all the quarterbacks selected in the first round, Deshaun Watson won the golden ticket. The Chicago Bears traded up one pick to select Mitchell Trubisky second overall and the Kansas City Chiefs traded up seventeen picks to select Patrick Mahomes II tenth overall. Additionally, The Bears signed veteran NFL quarterback Mike Glennon in the offseason and the Chiefs still have Alex Smith lining up under center. This allows both of these quarterbacks times to grow and develop.
However, Watson fell into the ideal situation. This Houston Texan team is coming off a division title and the number one rated defense a season ago, without J.J. Watt – their best defender. While Watson has the best team around him, he also has the best chance, of all quarterbacks, to impact his team immediately. Tom Savage is not the quarterback Rick Smith (Texans GM) or Rob McNair (Texans Owner) want for the future.
In 35 games as the Clemson Tigers starting quarterback, Watson threw for 10,168 yards, 90 touchdowns (32 interceptions), and averaged 8.4 yards per pass attempt. Bill O’Brien and his staff will do everything in their power to make sure Watson starts early in the season. While Watson may not be as mature as Savage, he has the higher ceiling and has the potential to take this team further into the postseason.
Jonathan Allen (DL) – Washington Redskins
Chris Baker was by far the best Washington Redskin defensive lineman over the past five seasons. After he left in free agency, there was a gaping hole along the defensive front. By drafting Jonathan Allen, who fell into their lap at 17th overall, the Redskins project Allen to fill Baker’s void along with free agent signees Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee.
Allen is able to line up on the interior and along the edge of the defensive line without sacrificing production. He has tremendous athletic ability and uses his play strength and quickness to overpower interior lineman. Last season he tallied 16 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, 2 passes batted down, and 3 fumble recoveries. He has a knack for getting into the backfield and disrupting plays at the point of attack.
Every good NFL defense begins in the trenches. Jonathan Allen will immediately plug and play on all three downs for this defense. He also has a chance to reshape this defensive front with his athleticism and versatility. I predicted Leonard Fournette to win offensive rookie of the year and I project Jonathan Allen to win defensive rookie of the year.
Forrest Lamp (OG) – Los Angeles Chargers
While I (along with many others) projected Forrest Lamp to be selected in the first round, he fell to the second round. Some view Lamp as the best offensive lineman in the draft after he allowed zero sacks, and four total pressures in the 2016 season. He also had nine perfect games of pass protection, according to Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson.
Forrest Lamp gives the Los Angeles Chargers much-needed aid along a weak offensive line. Last season, Pro Football Focus rated the Chargers offensive line 31st; that’s good for second worst in the NFL. Forrest Lamp will immediately be inserted into LG on this line, and he can make the transition to LT in the future if the Chargers feel the need to.
Lamp brings prototypical NFL size, athleticism, versatility, and great balance to this front. He will impact this offensive line by protecting Philip Rivers’ backside and open running lanes for Melvin Gordon.