Now that the draft is over, which teams got the best bang for their buck?
Trying to predict the NFL draft is like trying to prepare for a hurricane. All the experts think they have it under control until all hell breaks loose. While NFL analysts have been crafting and perfecting mock drafts for months, nobody knows for certain what will happen until commissioner Roger Goodell gets up onstage to announce the picks.
This year was no different. At just the second pick, the Bears controversially traded away four picks just to move up one spot and draft North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Once the draft gets going and teams engage in trade talks, it’s anybody’s guess as to who goes where.
Amidst all the chaos, many talented prospects fall much lower than they should. In this draft, four notable players dropped farther than anticipated and should be worth more than their draft position.
Jonathan Allen, DL, Washington Redskins
With the 17th pick in the draft, the Redskins never imagined getting Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen. However, with a shocking seven skill players drafted in the top 10, many high-profile talents on the defensive side were left on the board, including Allen, Malik Hooker, and Marshon Lattimore. Of those three, Allen was the last on the board at number 17, despite arguably being the best.
Simply put, Allen was the best player on the best defense in the country. In 2016, he won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award, beating out higher draft picks like Myles Garrett (No. 1 overall), Jamal Adams (No. 6), Derek Barnett (No. 14) and teammate Marlon Humphrey (No. 16). Compared to top pick Garrett, Allen had more sacks (22.5 vs. 20) and tackles (105 vs. 92) while playing on a much better defense (first vs. 91st) in terms of yards allowed per game. When the two played each other back in October, it was Allen who shined with four quarterback hurries and a sack, as opposed to just one quarterback hurry from Garrett.
Coming to the Redskins, Allen should contribute immediately on the defensive line. The Redskins’ defense allowed the fifth most yards per game last season and, with the departure of veteran defensive tackle Chris Baker, could use more help up front. With the size and strength to play either defensive tackle or defensive end, Allen will provide versatility to a depleted line and will be a front-runner for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Without a first-round pick, the Minnesota Vikings were not as hopeful as other teams entering the draft. However, when they saw how far running back Dalvin Cook was falling, they took their chances and traded up to snag him with the 41st pick.
With a rare combination of strength and speed, Cook is a special talent. At the NFL Combine, Cook was the only participant to finish in the top seven in both the 40-yard dash and the bench press.
Not only a raw talent, though, Cook also produced on the field for Florida State. Since joining the Seminoles in 2014, only one other FBS player has rushed for more yards than Cook. Even more impressive, of the top 10 rushers since 2014, no other back has rushed for more yards per carry than Cook (6.5), including top-10 picks Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey (both 6.2).
After letting Adrian Peterson walk in free agency, the Vikings are in need of help in the backfield. Though Minnesota signed former Raiders running back Latavius Murray, they needed more assistance in replacing the future Hall of Famer. Enter Cook who, along with Murray, can provide the Vikings with a 1-2 punch in the backfield that could rival prime Peterson years.
Jake Butt, TE, Denver Broncos
If you had told me six months ago that Michigan tight end Jake Butt would be a fifth-round pick, I would have laughed in your face. Alas, you would have the last laugh, as Butt fell to the Denver Broncos at 145th overall. In 2016, Butt played like the top tight end in the nation, and a probable first-round pick, until he went down with a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl.
Even after the injury, Butt was still ranked as the fifth best TE prospect by Sports Illustrated, despite likely missing his entire rookie season. However, after failing to hear his name called on the first two nights of the draft, Butt fell to the eighth tight end taken overall, way out of his projected second-to-third round range by CBSSports.
The Denver Broncos could not be happier about their pick. Their number-one tight end on the depth chart as of now is Virgil Green, who has fewer receiving yards in his six-year career (616) than 13 tight ends had last season. While rehabbing next year, Butt has the chance to learn the ropes in the NFL before competing for the starting spot the year after. In a couple seasons, this fifth-round pick could easily be the starting tight end on a playoff team.
Though a large chunk of the high-end talent in the league comes from the top of the draft, many All-Pro-caliber players slip through the cracks. Only time will tell how successful the players in this draft are, but these three could wind up being the biggest steals of 2017.
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- D'onta Foreman
- Donnel Pumphrey
- Dalvin Cook
- Christian McCaffrey