By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 5.1.2017
Another NFL draft has come and gone with it it’s usual predictions and interesting predicaments. While no one can predict the future, NFL teams and television analysts sure like to think they can. There are always there share of booms and busts and usually no remembers how wrong the scouts, general managers and TV analysts were. He is my take on some of the steals and or solid picks in the 2017 draft.
You probably weren’t around for pick #206 but it was solid. The LA Rams selected Virginia Tech fullback Sam Rogers. First, fullbacks are a dying breed in football which makes them all the more valuable but more importantly this guy was a walk-on at Virginia Tech and earned a scholarship after just one week of practice. One week! He contributed all four years so that should tell you something about his character and work ethic. While he may never be an NFL star, the Rams sure aren’t going to have to worry about desire to play.
Zach Cunningham played in the SEC. Why didn’t you hear about him that much? Because that SEC school was Vanderbilt. Cunningham, in my opinion, was one of the best inside linebackers in the draft if not the best. He single handedly beat lead Vandy to an upset win over Georgia in Athens after stuffing Georgia’s top running back on a 4th and short. That was just one of his 125 tackles on the season which led the SEC.
A guy who didn’t get drafted but will probably make the Carolina Panthers due to his hard nosed style is former Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware. He’s not big enough or fast enough but like Cunningham, he just makes plays. Not to mention that he does his homework and can sniff out plays before they happen. This was evident in the National Championship game against Alabama.
Some wide receivers to watch include Cal’s Chad Hansen and North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer. Neither will impress you with their size or speed but both just have a knack for making the tough catches and finding the endzone.
Running backs, how about the three out of the Mountain West. First, Donnel Pumphrey from San Diego State who was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. While his size put some teams off, he is also the FBS All Time Leading Rusher with 6,405 yards to his name.
Pumphrey wasn’t the only Mountain West back taken. Wyoming’s Brian Hill and Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols both came off the board in the fifth round. Hill is Wyoming’s all time leading rusher (a feat he accomplished in less than three full seasons) and McNichols scored 26 touchdowns in 2015 (20 rushing and 4 receiving) not to mention the 138 yards a game he averaged on the ground last year.
While NFL teams can talk themselves into anything (see the Chicago Bears and the #2 pick in the draft), they eventually do the right thing. Forget the combine numbers and the all that jazz and go back and look at the players tape. You’ll see that the eight guys mentioned here stood out week in and week out. I’ll roll the dice with these guys every week.