The first round of the 2017 NFL Draft was pretty insane, and as we look forward to the second and third rounds Friday night, it’s time to take stock of what’s already gone down. I broke down what I thought were the worst picks of Thursday night’s first round, and now it’s time to take a look at the best.
Here’s my list of the picks that were absolutely nailed Thursday night.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
The Browns had to take Garrett here and they did. Given that they’re still the Browns, there was doubt this would actually happen. Garrett was the best player in this draft by far and has all the tools to be an elite edge rusher, something every team needs in this pass-happy version of the NFL. For a team devoid of actual playmakers this was the correct move.
Garrett’s production didn’t match his talent level at times, and he did take plays off, but that doesn’t diminish what he could be. This is an elite talent who had the most star power in the draft. The Browns desperately needed a difference-maker. In all likelihood, they got one.
3. San Francisco 49ers: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
This gets praise as much for the absolute fleecing of the Chicago Bears as the pick itself. Thomas is clearly the guy the 49ers wanted at No. 2 and had been connected to the team for weeks if not a few months. For some reason the Bears panicked and gave up the third pick, and their third- and fourth-round picks this year (No. 67 and No. 111), plus a third-rounder next year, to move up one spot. It was insane and San Francisco’s first-year GM John Lynch should be commended for his work.
Thomas is 6’3″ and 273 pounds of perfectly-built defensive lineman. He ran a 4.69 40 (which is perfectly adequate), but also threw up 30 bench reps, and turned in a 10′ 5″ broad jump, a 6.95-second 3-cone drill and a 4.28 20-yard shuttle. All of those marks ranked among the top three for defensive linemen at the combine.
He is incredibly quick for his size, gets off blocks well, flashes great pass rush moves and converts quick bursts to power well. The only downside is that he can disappear for long stretches of games from time to time. Still, with Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and now Thomas, the 49ers have built one heck of a young, athletic, supremely-talented defensive line in just three years.
6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
The Jets and the Browns making smart picks? What the heck is going on around here? Adams was pretty clearly the best defensive back in the draft and the Jets have dire needs in the secondary. This was a fantastic selection, especially given that virtually everyone thought Adams would be gone by this point.
The LSU product is a big-time leader. He’s high-character kid who will take over as the quarterback of Gang Green’s secondary. He has perfect size, excellent speed and loves to hit. He can get a bit handsy in coverage, but that should be ironed out with time. An absolute stud and a great pick for the Jets.
11. New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
The Saints badly needed cornerback help, and they stayed patient at No. 11 and got the best one in the draft. Lattimore is 6′ and 193 pounds and ran a blazing 4.36 40, while flashing a 38.5-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump at the combine. That’s some ridiculous athleticism.
He’s an insane athlete with electric speed and closes on the ball so fast quarterbacks completely misjudge the windows they have to throw in to. Even if he gets out of position, the Ohio State product has the burst to make up for mistakes. He was targeted 35 times in 2016 and was credited with 14 passes defensed. That’s absurd. Oh and he’s also a fantastic tackler.
The downside with Lattimore is that he only has one year of starting experience and has struggled with hamstring issues. Still, the Saints remained patient and wound up getting the best player at their biggest area of need.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
This wasn’t necessarily a need pick for the Bucs, but getting Jameis Winston more weapons should be the goal of this year’s draft. In that, they succeeded.
Howard is a matchup nightmare for defenses. At 6’6″ and 251 pounds with a 4.51 40 at the combine, he has possibly the best size/speed combination I’ve ever seen at the tight end position. Despite bad quarterback play at Alabama he was a weapon every defense in the SEC feared. He’s big, fast, helps in the run game as a blocker and is a phenomenal pass catcher.
The only issue with Howard is the fact that his talent didn’t match his production. But a lot of that had to do with Alabama’s system and the team’s inconsistent quarterback play. When Howard was targeted he regularly made plays. Winston should buy the entire front office something nice as a thank you for this pick.