It's draft week. Finally. The evaluations are done. The rankings are set (more on those on Wednesday). Before the picks are made, let's take a comprehensive stroll through this draft class. Consider this my 2017 NFL Draft Awards, in which I highlight the best of the best in particular categories.
We'll start broader, with categories that apply to all positions, before drilling down to specific skill sets that matter for each position group. If you'd like to skip forward to a particular position, click the links below.
The All-Tape Team: Players I love watching the most
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
James Conner, RB, Pitt
Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic
Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State
McKinley is the captain of this team. He has the best motor of any defensive player I watched in this draft (see video below). He's not fully developed as a pass-rusher (he needs to learn how to use his hands better), but you know what you're getting from him in terms of effort on the field. Awuzie plays cornerback with the mentality of a linebacker. Conner is just so damn competitive; he runs with urgency and holds his teammates accountable. Henderson and Hendrickson both show a mean streak on the field: The WR relishes contact almost to a fault, while the DE never surrenders when teams run at him. Hollins shows great toughness making contested catches over the middle, and he clearly takes pride in being a standout member of the punt/kick coverage units. Lewis gave up less separation in coverage than any CB I watched all year. Walker is limited athletically, but he's a really smart player: He'd often know the offense's tendencies and how to exploit them because he studied up.
UCLA DE Takk McKinley's effort is awesome! He's No. 98 at left defensive end. pic.twitter.com/nn8hUvukIC— Todd McShay (@McShay13) February 27, 2017
Best fit for today's NFL
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
2. Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
3. Haason Reddick, ILB, Temple
4. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
5. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
6. Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
7. Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
One theme on this list: running backs who are great pass-catchers. That applies to McCaffrey, Cook and Kamara, giving them more value in what has become a pass-first league. Reddick is athletic enough to hang with shifty running backs and tight ends in coverage while also having some upside as a pass-rusher. Engram has the size/speed combination (6-3, 234, 4.42 40) to be a matchup piece in this era of shotgun-based spread offenses.
Adams has off-the-charts football character. He loves the game and plays with great instincts (see video below). McCaffrey's work ethic and stamina are second to none. Howard is one of the most complete TE prospects in years, with the ability to align as a tradition TE or split out wide.
DS Jamal Adams plays fast! pic.twitter.com/FImlBmqM4N— Todd McShay (@McShay13) April 8, 2017
Highest ceiling overall