The 2016 NFL season is starting to wind down, and that means it’s time to look forward to the 2017 season and all of the projected NFL mock drafts, especially for all the teams that won’t be playoff bound.
For NFL fans, football never sleeps. In fact, of all the four major sports, the NFL is the closest to becoming a year-round event. Between the rookie combines, which happened just weeks after the Super Bowl, and all the NFL mock drafts that lead up to the draft itself, the NFL has done a great job of staying in the spotlight 10 months of the year.
So which players could really make an impact following the upcoming draft and make an instant difference for a team in 2017?
Anyone who tells you they know the answer to that question is flat-out lying — just ask all of the NFL brain trusts who passed over Dak Prescott. However, while none of us know the answers, it sure is fun to share opinions as fans cheer for their favorite teams each season.
Three players who are going to get quite a bit of publicity, and are most likely going to be drafted in the first round of the upcoming 2017 NFL draft, are Jabrill Peppers from Michigan, Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, and LSU running back Leonard Fournette.
Right now, Garrett is projected by many experts to be the first pick of the 2017 NFL draft and for great reason.
You can never have too much talent at defensive end. In fact, that’s not even a possibility when it comes to the NFL. But what this kid seems to bring to the table is making every NFL scout drool at the possibility of picking him up.
Garrett has been a flat out beast since he first suited up on the gridiron. Garrett broke the NCAA freshman record for quarterback sacks previously held by South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney. After sacking the QB 11.5 times in his freshman season, he has gone on to total 32.5 sacks so far in his three years at A & M. No matter how bad Aggies fans want the big man to stay for his senior season, it won’t happen.
The good news for Garrett is that he should be a top-five pick, if not the number one overall next April. The bad news is he may be a member of the Cleveland Browns.
Another junior ready to forego his senior season is Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers.
Peppers can do it all.
The six-foot-one linebacker has speed and strength, and most of all, he is a leader. While some experts have said he may be better off as a hybrid safety/linebacker in the NFL, either way, he will help any team that selects him.
Another advantage Peppers brings to the table is his ability to be used on special teams. His speed makes him a duel threat as a kickoff/punt return man. Peppers will most likely be selected in the mid to late first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
On to Leonard Fournette.
Another junior who will not be around for his senior season, Fournette is NFL-ready. In fact, the list of positives on this kid is so long, NFL GM’s would be better off asking “What can’t Fournette do,” instead of what does he bring to the table?
Walter Football reports that Fournette is fast, strong, explosive, and has the ability to “go the distance every time he touches the ball.”
Although he was banged up a bit this season, Fournette still put up decent numbers, averaging nearly seven yards per carry and gaining nearly 900 yards. Last year, Fournette gained close to 2,000 yards on the ground and scored 22 touchdowns for the Tigers. In his three seasons at LSU, Fournette has racked up nearly 4,000 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns.
Fournette is predicted to be a top 10 selection by most NFL experts, however, would a team on the cusp of greatness be willing to trade up to get someone like Fournette – like the Detroit Lions?
The Lions are a young team that have surprised many by leading the NFC North at 9-4, however, they have a major weakness, running the football. Fournette reminds experts of Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott in many ways, and Elliott has proven that rookies can play right away in the NFL.
Sure, it may be a pipe dream, but adding a player like Fournette to the back field for the Lions would really open up that Detroit offense. Golden Tate, Eric Ebron, Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin, and Fournette on the field at the same time with Matt Stafford? That would be fun to watch.
If you think Matt Stafford is having an MVP-type season in 2016, just think what he could be doing if the Lions weren’t last in rushing yards per contest.
Maybe Detroit needs to take a page from the Mike Ditka era in New Orleans.
The NFL Draft is scheduled to run from Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29.
[Featured Image by Chris Graythen/Getty Images]