Potential hidden gems, steals, and busts of the 2017 NFL Draft

Movie quote of the day:

“You can be my wingman any time.”

– Iceman, “Top Gun” (1986)

I came out with my grades for each team’s draft earlier this week, but now I’m going to try to dig a little deeper and take a guess at which individual players that I feel like could potentially be busts, hidden gems, and the biggest steals. To clarify for my readers, a bust is a player that was drafted early that I think might not live up to the hype, a hidden gem is a player that was drafted in a later round as expected, but I think could be an instant contributor and have a long career in the NFL, and a steal is a player that I think is talented but was selected later than expected. Let’s go ahead and start with my potential busts (keep in mind that the players aren’t listed in order of likelihood, but in the order they were drafted):

Potential busts:

North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitchell Trubisky throws against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second quarter of the 2016 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game at Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

QB Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Round: 1 Pick: 2

You could make the argument that all of the quarterbacks that were taken in the first round have the potential to be busts, but I think Trubisky is the most likely. As I’ve said in previous posts, I like Trubisky as a quarterback, but I understand the criticism against him. He was only a starter for 13 games in college, and North Carolina didn’t really benefit from having him as its starting quarterback last year – winning just eight games. I won’t be shocked if he turns out to be a bust in the NFL. He’s going to a franchise that has historically been one of the league’s worst in the last 30 years. Chicago also has a defensive-minded head coach that isn’t going to help much with Trubisky’s development, and the Bears don’t have very many weapons offensively. It’s not a very good situation in Chicago right now for a young quarterback.

Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross rushes the ball against the Portland State Vikings during the second half at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

WR John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals
Round: 1 Pick: 9

Similar to Mitchell Trubisky, Ross was really just a one-year starter in college due to a history of knee injuries. He’s an elite athlete though that isn’t short of speed – breaking Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record at the combine. However, he’s a very one-dimensional wide receiver right now and probably won’t make much of an impact in Cincinnati’s passing game aside of being a deep threat. He also had problems with ball security and dealing with physical cornerbacks in college. If he can’t develop into a more complete wide receiver and get more physical with opposing defenses, he’s likely going to be just a contributor on special teams as a returner.

Southern California Trojans defensive back Adoree Jackson celebrates during a NCAA football game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

CB Adoree’ Jackson, Tennessee Titans
Round: 1 Pick: 18

In today’s NFL, the new defensive fad is to get tall, long, big-body cornerbacks with great speed. The only one of those traits that Jackson has is great speed. He’s going to get a shot as an outside cornerback, but I think he’s probably going to end up being a slot cornerback or full-time kick returner – there’s nothing wrong with that, but Tennessee shouldn’t have used the No. 18 pick on this type of player. Jackson got burned a lot in college by lesser receivers and only recorded five interceptions in three years.

Wisconsin Badgers linebacker T.J. Watt celebrates following a sack during the second quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Edge T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers
Round: 1 Pick: 30

I said it in the weeks leading up to the draft that I never understood the hype around Watt. He’s another one of these one-year starters in college, but had a really good final season and the scouts went nuts for him. I didn’t see much of a difference between his college tape and his former Wisconsin teammate Vince Biegel – who was drafted in the fourth round. Seriously, if his brother wasn’t three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, I’m not sure he goes in the first round.

Florida Gators defensive back Teez Tabor works out prior to the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

CB Teez Tabor, Detroit Lions
Round: 2 Pick: 53

Once upon a time, Tabor was once considered the best cornerback in this draft class. Then, scouts noticed his lapses in coverage sometimes, inability to tackle in the run game, and his mediocre 40-yard dash times at the combine and Florida’s pro day – his stock has fallen ever since. I’ll give him a little credit, he was a ballhawk in college, but that was in the SEC where the quarterbacks are below average and the wide receivers aren’t much better. I’m under the belief that you have to have speed to play cornerback in the NFL, and if a player doesn’t have it he won’t last very long.

Potential hidden gems:

San Diego State Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey runs for a second quarter touchdown against the San Jose State Spartans at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Donnel Pumphrey, Philadelphia Eagles
Round: 4 Pick: 132

Not a lot of people know about Pumphrey, but here’s his stat line in his four years at San Diego State: 7,446 total yards, 6.05 rushing yards per attempt, and 67 total touchdowns. He doesn’t have great size (5’8″ 176 pounds), but he has terrific speed (4.48 40-yard dash) and vision. The fact he played against lesser competition and had over 1,000 rushing carries in college probably turned off a lot of teams, but that’s why I see him as more of a third-down running back, and potential replacement for Darren Sproles in Philadelphia’s offense.

North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Ryan Switzer with a touchdown catch in the first quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

WR Ryan Switzer, Dallas Cowboys
Round: 4 Pick: 133

I feel like Switzer is going to be a great fit in Dallas. The Cowboys needed to find a No. 2 wide receiver to help keep the attention off Dez Bryant, and Switzer should fit right in their play-action-then-throw-it-in-the-flat-style offense. He probably isn’t going to make a lot of plays down the field in the NFL, but he knows how to create separation at the line of scrimmage and run in space – which will work well with Dak Prescott. Also, ever since the departure of Dwayne Harris, Dallas has needed a returner on special teams and Switzer should help fill that void – he had 1,082 punt return yards and seven touchdowns at North Carolina.

Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joshua Hobbs runs the ball against the Kentucky Wildcatsduring the first half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

QB Joshua Dobbs, Pittsburgh Steelers
Round: 4 Pick: 135

I said in one of my posts earlier this week that I felt like Dobbs could become the Dak Prescott of this draft class. He’s mature and has good size, pretty good arm strength, and runs very well. He even majored in aerospace engineering at Tennessee, so he’s clearly very smart and should have no problem picking up the Steelers’ system. He’s also walking into a good situation in Pittsburgh. It’s an organization with a culture of winning, he can learn from future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger, and has a good quarterback coach to help develop him in Todd Haley.

Northwestern Wildcats linebacker Anthony Walker (18) runs off the first during the first half of the game against the Eastern Illinois Panthers at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

LB Anthony Walker, Indianapolis Colts
Round: 5 Pick: 161

Walker started two full seasons and tallied over 200 tackles in college. No other linebacker that was drafted in the first four rounds accomplished both of those feats except Raekwon McMillan, Zach Cunningham, and Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Walker is an excellent downhill tackler with good size and speed. Indianapolis has been dying for a player like this to step in at inside linebacker. He probably isn’t going to be on the field for passing downs, but he should immediately help improve the Colts’ run defense – which has ranked in the bottom half of the league in that category since 2007.

Drake tight end Eric Saubert runs after making a catch. (Google images)

TE Eric Saubert, Atlanta Falcons
Round: 5 Pick: 174

Atlanta’s offense doesn’t have a lot of needs, but I think tight end is the most glaring one. The Falcons have lacked one since Tony Gonzalez retired a few years ago, and I don’t think Austin Hooper or Levine Toilolo are the answer. This was one of the most talented tight end classes to come through the NFL draft in recent memory, and I feel like Saubert was just buried by players with more recognition. Playing at Drake, not many people know about Saubert, but he played very well in his senior season – 56 receptions, 776 yards, and 10 touchdowns. His athleticism should allow him to make the roster, and he’ll have one of the best quarterbacks in the league throwing to him in Matt Ryan.

Potential steals:

Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones in action against the Oregon State Beavers during the first quarter at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

CB Sidney Jones, Philadelphia Eagles
Round: 2 Pick: 43

It’s unfortunate that Jones suffered an Achilles injury so close to the draft because he was one of the best cornerbacks in this class. He played in every game but one in his three years at Washington, and had six interceptions and 16 pass deflections in his last two years. Jones has decent size (6’0″ 186 pounds), and he’s very physical with wide receivers and has great speed. With today’s advances with rehab, injuries aren’t nearly as bad as they used to be, so I doubt this Achilles injury will hurt him too much in his development. Even if it’s not this year, I expect Jones to be a very good NFL cornerback at some point.

Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Jordan Willis (right) tries to tackle Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Jalen McCleskey at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Edge Jordan Willis, Cincinnati Bengals
Round: 3 Pick: 73

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Willis was gaining a lot of traction as a potential first-round pick. I thought for sure he’d get snagged in the second round. Willis was a three-year starter at Kansas State and he recorded 38.5 tackles for loss and 24.5 sacks during that span. He even measured well at the combine. He has good size, length, speed, and vertical jump – basically, everything teams want in an edge rusher. Cincinnati needed to find an edge rusher in the draft and I expect Willis to be in the front end of the rotation this season.

UCLA Bruins defensive back Fabian Moreau (right) defends but is called for pass interfence against Utah Utes wide receiver Tim Patrick during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

CB Fabian Moreau, Washington Redskins
Round: 3 Pick: 81

Moreau is a former running back that made the transition to cornerback at UCLA. He’s developed well at the position and it really showed last year – he had two interceptions and eight pass deflections. He’s got decent size (6’0″ 206 pounds), and still managed to run a 4.3 40-yard dash at the combine. I was surprised he was still available in the third round. He should have no issues keeping up with fast wide receivers in coverage. Moreau does need to be more physical and it’s convenient that he’s going to a defense with Josh Norman – one of the best and most physical cornerbacks in the league. I expect him to continue to develop well and should be a starter on his first day.

Michigan Wolverines tight end Jake Butt makes a reception for a touchdown in the second quarter against the UCF Knights at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

TE Jake Butt, Denver Broncos
Round: 5 Pick: 145

Until his knee injury in the Orange Bowl, Butt was considered a borderline first-round pick. Even after the injury, draft analysts didn’t think he’d fall past the third round. Butt is a complete tight end. He makes an impact in both the passing game – 97 receptions, 1,200 yards, 12.4 yards per reception, and seven touchdowns in his last two years at Michigan – and as a run blocker. Like I said above, with today’s rehab, this knee injury shouldn’t affect Butt’s future too much. Denver has needed to get a tight end in its offense since losing Julius Thomas, and if Butt can bounce back, the Broncos got tremendous value by picking him in the fifth round.

LSU Tigers wide receiver Malachi Dupre makes a touchdown reception during the second quarter against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

WR Malachi Dupre, Green Bay Packers
Round: 7 Pick: 247

Almost every draft analyst I’ve heard considered Dupre to be a third-or fourth-round pick. His collegiate stats aren’t that impressive, but keep in mind that was at LSU – a school that has had incompetent quarterbacks for the last decade. Despite not having a quarterback, he still managed to average 16.4 yards per reception in college – which is very impressive to me. He has good size (6’2″ 196 pounds) and speed, he even had a 39-inch vertical jump at the combine. Green Bay knows how to breed wide receivers and Dupre should thrive with Aaron Rodgers.

Thanks for reading

Shane Price
Follow me on Twitter – @priceisright53

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