While many NFL teams and fans are starting to look ahead to the draft on April 30th, many others are already looking ahead another year to the 2017 NFL Draft class, which is loaded with superstar prospects. Here are the 15 players NFL teams are already drooling over:
15) Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
The running back position has been largely devalued in the NFL game, but the 2017 class is absolutely loaded with Todd Gurley-like game-changers with as many as six backs expected to go in the first round. The 5'11", 237-pounder has rushed for over 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns in his two seasons in Norman, and has the strength and size to be a dominant featured back in the NFL.
14) Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
The next in a string of backs, Freeman has very similar stats and measurables to Perine. At 5'11" and 230 lbs., he has racked up over 3,200 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns during his first two seasons in Eugene, showing ability to gash defenses both between the tackles and on the perimeter. He gets the nod over Perine because he's a better receiver out of the backfield.
13) K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor
Cannon isn't the most physical receiver in the country at just 6'1" and 175-pounds, but he might be the fastest player in the country and is a dynamic deep threat, averaging over 17.5 yards per catch in his career. He started showing a more developed route tree in 2015, turning him into a first-round prospect.
12) Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
Jackson is hoping to qualify for the 2016 Olympics as a long-jumper, but he's far more than a track guy playing football. Using his elite athleticism, Jackson has shown the ability and techique to be a shutdown corner - now he just has to do it consistently to ensure he'll be a high draft pick in 2017.
11) Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook had a breakout year in 2015 after the departure of Jameis Winston, but he never really got the credit he deserved. Despite being FSU's only consistent weapon on offense, he averaged over 7.4 yards per carry and reached the end zone 19 times. His elite quickness, matched with good NFL size (6'0", 203 lbs.), has him very high on NFL draft boards.
10) Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
The top receiver prospect in the class of 2017, Dupre has been limited in college because of LSU's poor quarterback play - but don't hold that against him. At 6'3" and 190 lbs., he has catching ability and athleticism that has people in Baton Rouge comparing him to Odell Bechkam Jr. Though he may not be that good, Dupre is an athletic freak that will be a game-breaker in the NFL.
9) J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
Barrett may have been sitting behind Cardale Jones for most of this past season, but he has displayed several skills that NFL teams covet. An athletic running, Barrett prefers to use his athleticism to keep plays alive and look to pass, rather than tuck and run too early. Throw in his leadership (first sophomore captain in Ohio State history) and impeccable accuracy, and Barrett looks like a future NFL starter.
8) Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Remember Chubb? NFL scouts sure do. He was right in the mix with Leonard Fournette and Derrick Henry as the best back in the SEC last season before a knee injury cut his year short, but he'll be back better than ever in 2016. Chubb has racked up 2,294 yards and 21 on just 311 carries (7.4 YPC) in this collegiate career, and tied Herschel Walker's record for most consecutive games with 100 or more rushing yards in school history.
The 5'10", 220-pounder has averaged around 7.5 yards per carry for his career because of his expectional vision and quick acceleration. Expect to be a very, very high draft pick in 2017.
7) Derrick Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett has recorded 10 sacks in each of the past two seasons, and at 6'3" and 253 lbs., he already has the size and strength NFL teams love. With another great season in 2016, don't be surprised if he ends up being a top five pick.
6) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Leonard Fournette will once again assume the mantle as the SEC's premier back next season. He rushed for 150 yards or more in eight of LSU's 11 games this year, breaking LSU's single-season rushing mark in the process. Don't count LSU's three-game losing streak against him. He's perhaps the best combination of speed and power we have seen in recent years, which almost guarantees he'll be a top 10 pick.
5) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
McCaffrey obliterated Barry Sanders' all-purpose yardage record in 2015, racking up 3,903 so far. No player in the nation does more in all three facets of the game (offense, defense and special teams) than McCaffrey. Even with a new quarterback set to take over after Kevin Hogan's graduation, he'll have the Cardinal in the CFP chase next year - and that all-around ability will make him a valuable asset at the next level.
4) Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Myles Garrett is in consideration for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft because he is an absolute terror of a pass-rusher. Garrett would provide a huge boost on the edge at 6'5" and 260 pounds, possessing the speed and strength that has many comparing him to former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.
3) Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama
Robinson is the top offensive lineman in this class, by far. He's surprisingly athletic for a 6'6", 326-pounder, and has the potential to be a team's starting left tackle for 10-15 years.
2) Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (FL)
Kaaya has all the physical tools to be a franchise quarterback - good decision-making, excellent accuracy, good arm strength, capable runner - but scouts want to see him put it all together. Many think he was limited by former Miami head caoch Al Golden, and he's expected to have a BIG year with Mark Richt taking over the Hurricanes program.
1) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Watson led Clemson to their first undefeated regular season since the program's 1981 title run, making opposing defense look silly both on the run and through the air. The Tigers wouldn't have challenged for an ACC title without him, let alone earning a berth in the national championship game. He's the most dynamic QB nation right now, and he'll hold that same designation in 2016. He's almost a lock to be the top pick in 2017.
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