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The NFL draft is a critical occasion for teams. They spend a lot of time, money, and effort in order to find those prospects that will improve their teams. It is more about identifying the team needs and picking the best rookie to fill those holes than simply taking the best available player. This is especially true in the first couple of rounds. Most of us know that the scouts aren’t always right and that there have been plenty of high draft picks that have been total busts. For every Peyton Manning, Bruce Smith, and Marshall Faulk there are a few Ryan Leafs, Steve Emtmans, and Curtis Enises. On the flip side, some teams end up getting lucky in the late rounds. Tom Brady anyone?
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We won’t really have any idea how this year’s top draft picks will pan out until at least the end of the season or longer but the following guys are definitely expected to make an immediate impact.
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Corey Davis – Tennessee Titans
This 6’3” wide receiver out of Western Michigan comes into the NFL with big expectations. He leaves the NCAA as the career leader in receiving yards. In 2016, Davis was a First Team All-American and the MAC Offensive Player of the Year. He caught 97 passes for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. It’s not just his size, speed, and agility that makes Corey Davis dangerous. He is pretty smart too. Marcus Mariota has a very good set of receivers to throw to and Davis will see his share of targets. NFL fans will know his name before the end of the season.
Myles Garrett – Cleveland Browns
The Browns took Myles Garrett as the first overall pick in the 2017 draft. The 6’4” defensive end will be slotted in on the right side and his speed and strength immediately improves a woeful Cleveland defensive line. Garrett was a two-time First Team All-American and a two-time First Team All-SEC with Texas A&M and he will be sacking opposing quarterbacks for many years to come.
Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville had the 4th overall pick in the 2017 draft and they chose to reel in running back Leonard Fournette who had a pretty strong college career in which he rushed for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns with LSU. At 6-feet tall and 230 pounds, Fournette becomes the number one rusher for the Jags ahead of T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory. Fournette isn’t going to carry the Jaguars to the Super Bowl this year but he projects to be an exciting player to watch.
Solomon Thomas – San Francisco 49ers
No team was easier to rack up yards and points against the San Francisco 49ers. They were terrible at stopping 3rd down conversions and they couldn’t stop the run. This has been the story for a few years now but they have been trying to address it. They used their first picks in 2015 and 2016 on defensive linemen and they did it again this year when they chose Solomon Thomas as the third overall pick. Thomas makes the Niner defense younger as well as stronger against the run.
Jamal Adams – New York Jets
The New York Jets have all sorts of holes to patch and they used the sixth overall pick to improve their secondary by drafting Jamal Adams. The 2016 second team All-American and First team All-SEC safety will be given a big role right away and should make things a bit tougher on opposing offenses. If he can stay healthy and meet expectations then we could be looking at a Defensive Rookie of the Year. That’s far from a playoff appearance but it’s a step in the right direction.
Mike Williams – Los Angeles Chargers
With Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson lost to injury, Tyrell Williams was the Chargers’ leading receiver in 2016 with 69 receptions for 1,059 yards and a team-leading 7 touchdowns. This year, it will be another Williams getting the bulk of the looks from Philip Rivers. The Chargers took 6’4” wide out Mike Williams from Clemson as the 7th overall pick and he makes for an excellent target for Rivers. ESPN had him ranked as the best receiver in the draft.
Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
Jonathan Stewart had a decent season for the Panthers in 2016 but he is getting a bit older and he managed just 3.8 yards per carry. The Panthers used the eighth overall pick to bolster their running game when they took Christian McCaffrey. He has great speed and agility as well as having a good set of hands. Defenses will need to keep an eye on this guy who could quickly supplant Stewart as the clear-cut number one running back on a revitalized Panther team.
Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans
It’s no secret that the Texans are in desperate need of a quarterback and they might have found their man when they used the 12th overall draft pick to acquire Deshaun Watson. Even though Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes were off the board, the Texans find themselves with a guy that could easily beat out Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden for the starting job. We’re not saying that you should use your first fantasy football pick to draft Watson but he is most likely a far better option than Brock Osweiler, Savage, or Weeden.
Quincy Wilson – Indianapolis Colts
The Colts did a good job in addressing some of their most obvious concerns when they picked safety Malik Hooker in the first round. They also got an impact player in the second round when they took cornerback Quincy Wilson. He’s 6’1”, 211 pounds, and possesses a fair amount of speed. The Colts will likely have Wilson starting at the left cornerback position where he should fast become a fan favorite in Indianapolis.
O.J. Howard – Tampa Bay
Jameis Winston is on the rise and the Bucs are trying to get him all the weapons that he needs to maximize his talents. In 2016, Winston relied heavily on Mike Evans who racked up 1,321 yards and 12 TDs. Tight end Cameron Brate was also very effective with 57 receptions for 660 yards and 8 scores. Tampa went out and got DeSean Jackson which makes the receiving core even scarier but they also drafted tight end O.J. Howard. He’s 6’6”, 245 pounds, has decent hands and good speed. He probably won’t be the go-to guy for Winston this but his presence gives defenders another threat to worry about and he will absolutely get his share of looks.
Jonathan Allen – Washington Redskins
At 6’3” and 288 pounds, this SEC Defensive Player of the Year and Lombardi Award-winning All-American defensive end was projected to go a little higher in the draft but he went a little later due to injury concerns. The Redskins picked him up in the 17th spot in the first round and, if he stays healthy, Allen will be a pain in the neck for opposing offenses. He’s far from the fastest guy on the field but he will definitely improve Washington’s pass rush.