April is the month of potential for NFL fans. Soon, the fate of a franchise can be decided through the NFL draft. And from the 27-29 of April, 253 athletes will have their names announced in the seven-round event. The first of these rounds is the most vaunted round, as that is where the cream of the crop is selected. The following athletes are among the elite in this year’s draft class and should hear their name called in the first round.
Myles Garrett has dominated the conversation for the first overall pick. The Texas A&M edge rusher is so highly sought after for his unique combination of grace and power. At the NFL combine in Indianapolis, he bench pressed 225 pounds 33 times. He followed that show of strength with a show a grace, posting a 4.64 second 40-yard dash. In his three years at Texas A&M, Garrett racked up 31 sacks and 141 total tackles. Garrett is a freak. There’s no better word to describe him. He played in the best football conference in the nation and wreaked havoc. He will be an immediate starter, and an immediate pain to all offensive coordinators. The Cleveland Browns will likely take him with the first overall pick.
On the topic of talented edge rushes, Stanford’s Solomon Thomas is worth mentioning. Thomas ran a 4.69 40-yard dash at the combine, coupled with 30 reps of 225 pounds on bench press and a 35-inch vertical jump. His 61 tackles and 8.5 sacks earned him the Defensive Player of the Year for the Pac-12. His 6-foot-3-inch, 273-pound build has made some scouts skeptical. He is a bit slender for an edge, and some would prefer to see him embrace a linebacker role in the pros. No matter where he plays, Thomas can play ball, and can prosper at either position. The San Francisco 49ers could use a transcendent talent like Thomas, so he very well could be selected second overall by them.
Ohio State sophomore Marshon Lattimore was wise to make the jump to the league. Scouts are drooling over the 6-foot cornerback despite his history of injuries. He earned All-Big Ten honors last season thanks to his 4 interceptions and 45 total tackles. Lattimore ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine which was in the top ten for the event. Lattimore is the image of athleticism. He is not afraid to leap up for jump balls, and more often than not will knock it away or come down with it himself. He has the potential to grow into a Richard Sherman type of lockdown corner. Lattimore could have an immediate impact with any team currently, but look for him to go third overall to the Chicago Bears.
The biggest name in this draft is Leonard Fournette. The power back out of LSU is truly a force. The 6-foot, 240-pound behemoth is not just big. He has deceptive speed that has torched the SEC for the past three seasons, as proved by his 4.51 40-yard dash. He can either run around you or run through you, and he would much rather do the latter. In his time at LSU, he rushed for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns. He is an immediate impact type of athlete that could compete from day one. The Jacksonville Jaguars have big names on their roster at the running back position such as T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, but both have been underperforming for the Jaguars. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Fournette taken fourth by Jacksonville.
What is a draft preview without discussing the position of quarterback? The franchise cornerstone is an important position to address this time of year. This is an average class in the quarterback department, but there are two who should see success in the league.
The first is Mitch Trubisky. The signal caller out of North Carolina is widely considered the best prospect at his position in this draft. Trubisky passed for 3,748 yards and 30 touchdowns in his one full year of starting for the Tar Heels. He impressed at the combine with his footwork. He ran a 4.67 40-yard dash and also posted a 4.25 second shuttle. Trubisky is a shotgun quarterback entering a league that still prefers under-center. If Trubisky can overcome this learning curve, he has the metrics and work ethic to be a solid starter.
The quarterback with the highest ceiling going into the draft is Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. This Red Raider can flat out throw the ball. He’s enjoyed the pass-heavy spread offense that Tech utilizes for the past 3 seasons. In his career, he threw for 11,252 yards and 93 touchdowns. His senior year alone, he threw for 5,052 yards and 41 touchdowns. His sophomore and junior years, he led the NCAA in passing yards. Mahomes is built to take hits, his stocky 6-foot-2-inch, 225-pound build makes him sturdy yet mobile. He is a raw product and will take some developing, but can be a stud in the pros.
There is no shortage of teams searching for a quarterback like Trubisky or Mahomes. Though the Cleveland Browns just acquired Brock Osweiler from the Houston Texans, he is obviously not the answer, and they could go after a quarterback. Speaking of the Texans, they have shown interest in Mahomes, and hope he slips to them at the 25th overall pick. The San Francisco 49ers are in rough shape in regards to quarterback, as are the New York Jets and Chicago Bears. All three teams could be contenders to pursue one of the aforementioned quarterbacks early in the draft.
April 27 will be first day of the future for many teams, while others will regret the selections they made. The players mentioned seem to be the safest bets to turn a franchise around. Regardless of round of selection, every player selected can make an impact on the league. Just ask Tom Brady, sixth round selection of the 2000 draft. There are plenty of diamonds in the rough, and only time will tell who shines.