Reviewing our 2017 NFL draft is pretty rough, but not as brutal as last year

It’s been a week since my 2020 NFL draft grades were ripped to shreds by two clear factions — those who disliked my grades and those who think grading a draft within 24 hours of its completion is utterly stupid.

Perhaps those latter folks have a point. But it’s not as if I didn’t spend months studying the players and the teams’ needs prior to that, checking with league and college sources alike on the draft’s vast landscape.

I had an opinion on how things went, who did well and who didn’t, OK? No one seems to get too bent out of shape over folks giving opinions on other things with variable changes. Draft grades, for whatever reason, seem to set people into rabid hysteria.

So my comeuppance for the effort here is to freely look back at my past efforts and laugh. Or cry. And yes, once in a while, even allow a tiny back pat.

When I reviewed my 2016 NFL draft grades one year ago, it was a terribly harrowing experience. The title then said it all: “Looking back at our 2016 NFL draft grades makes us want to gouge our eyes out.”

As for the look now at my 2017 NFL draft grades? Well … not quite as terrible as last year’s endeavor? The knives were mostly kept sheathed and all eyes are out of harm’s way.

So I’m going to make you suffer through five calls I made that proved to be prophetic. The payoff is that you get to laugh heartily for most of the five worst calls. A few were brutal. Just not as horrendous as the 2016 effort.

And oh yeah, I can take your slander now.

Our 5 best calls

Mitchell Trubisky — Chicago Bears

To be fair, I called him their best pick. That doesn’t look so hot. The caveat was quite cautious, as I wrote: “The Bears panicked and overpaid to move up one spot, and Trubisky’s inexperience makes the bust potential too high.” That certainly rang true. And I gave them the lowest team grade — a big, fat D-plus — so that must be factored into the modest win here.


We didn't love the Mitchell Trubisky pick, especially what it cost for the Chicago Bears to draft him in 2017. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The Bears announced last weekend that Trubisky won’t receive his fifth-year option, having also traded for Nick Foles this offseason. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes — who just won a Super Bowl, you might have read — and Deshaun Watson are two of the great stars. Both were available at the No. 2 overall pick, which you also might have read previously.

Naming Eddie Jackson or Tarik Cohen as a “Best Pick” would have made this a stronger victory lap, although I made up for it by panning Adam Shaheen as the worst pick. 

Corey Davis — Tennessee Titans

I wrote then that “picking him at No. 18 [the Titans’ other first-round pick that year] would have sat much better than selecting him at No. 5,” and it’s hard to argue otherwise. “Third round” would have been even bolder — and more accurate, it turns out.

Like Trubisky, Davis was another member of the 2017 top five who had his fifth-year option declined. Davis hasn’t been terrible, mind you. And maybe if they took him 18th, the Titans might have considered picking up the option (which costs less for picks outside the top 10).

But 48 players have more receiving yards than Davis over the past three seasons, including one — D.J. Moore — who was drafted in 2018. Moore has comparable numbers to Davis despite playing 11 fewer games. And he’s cheaper.

Malik McDowell — Seattle Seahawks 

For the 35th overall pick to have never appeared in an NFL game, it puts McDowell among the biggest busts in recent NFL history. In fact, I could find only five other players since the 1990 draft who didn’t appear in a single NFL regular-season game — and only one of those (Bengals RB Kenny Irons in 2007) occurred since 1998.

I certainly didn’t see that coming for McDowell. Here was the skinny on him then:

“There are some at Seahawks headquarters who did not like McDowell, but general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll think he’ll fit in and that they can coax the most from his immense talent.”

Spoiler: McDowell did not fit in.

When I wrote that the pick had “boom or bust written all over it,” the latter was borne out when McDowell was involved in an ATV accident a few months later that wiped out his rookie year, arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol that September and was again arrested in December 2017 for disorderly conduct.

After the Seahawks released him in 2019, a further string of run-ins with the law landed him in prison on an 11-month sentence last November. McDowell, who turns 24 in June and is younger than some players drafted last month, likely will never see an NFL field again. 

Taco Charlton — Dallas Cowboys

This was a tough pick for a Cowboys scouting staff that, by and large, is among the better groups in the NFL at mining talent. I got a funny feeling when they immediately admitted after making the pick that they didn’t have a first-round grade on Charlton.

“The feeling this time is that Charlton does not fill the pass-rushing void as well as they hoped [coming into the draft],” I said then. In 27 games with the Cowboys, he notched four sacks.

The Cowboys waived Charlton early in the 2019 season. The Miami Dolphins picked him up, and he actually had five sacks for them last season, but they cut him this offseason. The Chiefs have signed Charlton and hope to squeeze out whatever they can in what might be Charlton’s final shot.

Patrick Mahomes — Kansas City Chiefs

I owned up to the fact that Mahomes sat at only No. 39 on my overall board (behind Trubisky, yikes), which was a miss in that regard. I’ll give myself a point for ignoring that and recognizing that a special talent in the hands of Andy Reid could be a success.

In three short years, Patrick Mahomes already has become a Kansas City Chiefs legend. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

I wrote that Mahomes “landed in the perfect spot. Andy Reid brought out the best in Brett Favre, turned a flawed but talented Donovan McNabb into a very good QB and squeezed every drop out of Alex Smith,” adding that the Chiefs “could have something special brewing” with Mahomes.

If I knew just how special, I would have given him just a wee bit higher a grade than a B-minus.

Honorable mention

Desmond King — Los Angeles Chargers

I had King, who went 151st overall, as our 48th overall prospect. He has been mentioned in trade chatter recently but has outplayed his fifth-round draft status.

Our 5 worst calls

Kevin King — Green Bay Packers

Boy, I liked this one at the time, praising Ted Thompson for trading down and still landing King, whom I said was “better than a few first-round corners.”

Well, that line aged like a fine milk. The first-round corners that year: Marshon Lattimore, Marlon Humphrey, Adoree’ Jackson, Gareon Conley and Tre’Davious White. The only one you could argue is worse is Conley, who was traded from the Raiders to the Texans for quarters on the dollar.

King broke out last season with five interceptions, but he also allowed the fifth-most yards for any corner in the NFL and averaged a missed tackle per game in 2019. My praising King — and for good measure, second-rounder Josh Jones, who has been waived twice — looks bad now.

Kenny Golladay — Detroit Lions

Ouch. Re-reading what I wrote back then, it starts out fairly innocently for a worst-pick selection, as I noted that Golladay was a “height-weight-speed prospect” who boasted very nice strength.” Not so terrible to start.

By the time I get to “he’s very raw and feels like a career No. 4 receiver,” it’s clear that something terrible has happened. Getting all the way down to where I wrote “he won’t be special” pours a little turpentine in my wounds.

Golladay leads all 2017 draftees in TD receptions (19), is third in receiving yards (2,730) and has more catches (163) than top-10 picks John Ross and Mike Williams combined. I thought Golladay was a reach at No. 96 overall; it turns out he was a massive steal.

Kenny Golladay was one of the better wide receiver picks of the 2017 NFL draft, but we didn't appreciate him enough back then. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Nathan Peterman — Buffalo Bills

I’ve just been warming you up for the main course. Imagine a place and time where someone, anyone really, could cook up this take on Peterman, my “best pick” for the Bills that year.

The hilarity begins right away, from the first line.

“Not saying he’s the next Kirk Cousins, but they share similarities,” I wrote then. And yes, I’m laughing now. This is funny on multiple levels, of course.

Peterman, lest you forget, was the author of a six-completion, five-INT performance in his first NFL start. Hey, not even Cousins did that!

Peterman started three more games for Buffalo after that, which might be his most stunning achievement to date. He currently resides on the Las Vegas Raiders’ roster behind three QBs with more starting experience than he has in the league. If Peterman is going to make this take of mine look less brutal, well, time’s a-wastin’.

It’s stunning when you look back and remember that this man once outgunned Deshaun Watson in college, and on the road no less. It’s possible I put a wee bit too much stock into that performance.

Leonard Fournette — Jacksonville Jaguars

I, like others, was charmed into thinking this king-sized running back with work-ethic issues was going to suddenly be a game-changer once entering the pass-dominant NFL. Makes perfect sense when you phrase it that way.

Fournette’s production hasn’t been abjectly terrible — he’s one of only seven NFL backs to amass more than 2,500 yards rushing and more than 100 catches the past three seasons combined. That must be worth something. His career production is similar to that of the Bengals’ Joe Mixon despite eight fewer games over that stretch.

But there’s a reason Fournette is on the trade block and that no one is biting. He costs the Jags more than $8 million against the salary cap, the fifth-highest total in the league for 2020. That’s stupid money for a guy who hasn’t given what those coaches would call maximum buy-in. Meanwhile, Mixon — the guy with all the character questions imaginable — is on Cincy’s books for less than $2 million and has kept himself out of trouble in the NFL.

Reuben Foster — Washington Redskins

Most of Foster’s college issues were well-cloaked by the folks in Tuscaloosa, so in some ways it was harder to project whether his character would be a concern. Playing-wise, Foster was a beast in college. The only reason the 49ers cut him were for non-football reasons — it happened following his arrest with domestic violence allegations.

“There’s risk, but it was worth it,” I said then. That was proven false. No matter where you fall on the Foster decision, the 49ers cite that as a major turning point for the organization and a show of strength from first-time head coach Kyle Shanahan and his brand-new GM, John Lynch.

The fact that I lumped in their getting Solomon Thomas at No. 2, making Round 1 a home run for the maiden duo, made me 0-for-2 on that team’s forecast. 

At least give me a smidgen of credit for dumping on the C.J. Beathard pick?

Honorable mention

Garett Bolles — Denver Broncos

I mentioned all these potential pitfalls — overaged prospect, little experience, could struggle early — and then made it my favorite pick. I don’t even know myself sometimes. Of course, the rest of the Broncos’ draft that year really stunk.

Charles Harris — Miami Dolphins

We’re blaming our Mizzou bias on this one. Sheesh, I thought Harris could play. The Dolphins just traded him for a seventh-round pick. Blech.

Malik Hooker — Indianapolis Colts

I called Hooker a top-five prospect in the entire draft. His fifth-year option wasn’t picked up this week. Ouch. When healthy, he’s good. Problem? He’s seldom healthy.

If the Colts move on from him, keep an eye on the Raiders being interested. Hooker is still young (24), and Mike Mayock really liked him coming out. 

Obi Melifonwu — Oakland Raiders

I admittedly fell too hard for the workouts. He even worked as a corner that offseason and looked fascinating. He just doesn’t do any one thing all that well. Most scouts in the league weren’t as high on him as I was; maybe listening to them would have been a good idea, looking back.

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