The latest NFL mock draft 2017 speculations take a look at two players who were among the competitors in the National Championship Game weeks ago. Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson and Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard were both on the field for the championship matchup, with Watson guiding his team to victory. There continues to be a wide range of spots for where the Tigers star might end up, although several mock drafts currently have him going in the first round. As for Howard, he recently improved his draft position and appears headed for the first round. So which NFL teams might choose these potential future stars?
First up is Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard. Over the course of his senior season with Alabama, Howard was able to make 45 catches for a total of 595 yards and three touchdowns. That helped his overall college career totals reach 1,726 yards and a total of seven touchdowns. Howard didn’t participate in Saturday’s Senior Bowl, but according to SEC Country in their mock draft report, he’s now considered a first-round pick due to a solid week of practices for the game.
On Saturday, NFL.com ran a report with comments from NFL Network draft expert Mike Maycock, who gave high praise to the senior Crimson Tide player.
“In my opinion, he’s a top-20 pick and my NFL comp for him will be Greg Olsen. He can block, he can be in-line, and he can beat you downfield vertically.”
Drawing comparisons to Olsen is certainly a nice boost for Howard. Olsen, who has spent the last six of his total 11 seasons with Carolina, has recorded three-straight seasons of 1,000-plus yards receiving. Haycock noted that when talking to Howard before this year’s Senior Bowl, the Alabama tight end said he thinks he can run the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds.
So where will Howard end up in the NFL? SEC Country speculates he could go as high as No. 13 to the Arizona Cardinals, while they note Bleacher Report has him at No. 19 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and CBS Sports has him at No. 16 for the Baltimore Ravens.
While Howard was on the losing side of the National Championship Game, quarterback Deshaun Watson’s performance helped get the Clemson Tigers the college football title. Watson has been one of the more intriguing prospects for draft analysts to place on the board. His own coach recently tried to help boost his star player’s draft stock, comparing him to a legendary basketball star, or at least comparing a team passing on Watson to passing on that star in the NBA Draft.
Coach Dabo Swinney gave his comments about what it would mean if the Browns don’t take Watson early.
“I’m just telling you: They pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan. I mean, I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, I’m just an old funky college coach, but Deshaun Watson is the best, by a long shot.”
As noted, Howard chose to participate in the Senior Bowl but was unable to due to an injury during practice. In the case of Watson, Cleveland.com indicated that the Cleveland Browns requested he participate in the game, but Watson declined to do so. It’s possible this hurt his draft stock, at least with the Browns, although they could still draft him with one of their later picks.
As it stands, if Watson went as high as the No. 6 spot, SEC Country indicates he’d join the New York Jets, per CBS Sports’ mock draft. Bleacher Report suggests Watson could still go at No. 12 to the Cleveland Browns, becoming yet another potential franchise QB for the team. On Bucky Brooks’ mock draft at NFL.com, Watson goes at the No. 27 spot and would probably become a backup to Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith.
Both Deshaun Watson and O.J. Howard will get further chances to improve their draft spots at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. The event takes place from February 28 through March 6 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The 2017 NFL Draft will go down on Thursday, April 27 and conclude on Saturday, April 29. Once the dust has settled, NFL fans will have a clearer picture of just how much value team executives believe these two college stars offer for a professional squad in terms of improving their rosters.
[Featured Image by Jamie Squire/Getty Images]