2017 NFL Draft: This Year’s Most Shocking Picks
0 of 11
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
Months of preparation by scouts, coaches, players and experts came together at the 2017 NFL draft. Even with the amount of predraft coverage and projections made, there were still decisions throughout the course of the three-day event that sent shock waves through teams and social media alike.
The buzz and hype that encapsulates the process from the end of the regular season until picks are announced creates an expectation among the majority of those who follow the draft closely. But sometimes there’s misleading information that never comes to fruition.
Whether it be quarterbacks rising or falling, character risks being taken or unforeseen positions filled, we’ve identified 11 shocking picks. Some are positive moments for teams, while other situations don’t look as rosy. Let’s jump in and recap one fun aspect of the draft.
Chicago Bears Trade Up for Mitchell Trubisky
1 of 11
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch pulled quite the heist in his first NFL draft. Not only did he land defensive end Solomon Thomas, who was most linked to the 49ers in mock drafts, he also baited the Chicago Bears into trading up one spot to secure quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in exchange for an extra third-round pick in 2017 and 2018 and the Bears’ fourth-round pick this year.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace was able to land his quarterback of the future, but he was seemingly deceived into giving up more picks than he needed to.
The Bears roster is left with major needs in the secondary and could use another pass-rusher. Even if Trubisky reaches his ceiling, which projects as an average to above-average quarterback, separating the pick from the trade is important, and this was a bad trade that hurt the Bears.
The 49ers couldn’t have dropped lower and still safely acquired Thomas, which should’ve given Chicago more leverage. The teams immediately after the Bears were direct threats to take him, and dropping below the third overall pick would’ve been a tremendous risk. Giving up valuable mid-round picks in a deep defensive draft will be a costly red mark on Pace’s resume.
Cleveland Browns Acquire a Quarterback After 3 First-Round Picks
2 of 11
Michael Conroy/Associated Press
For as much predraft talk about the Cleveland Browns’ obsession with North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky as there was, the team didn’t make much of an effort to acquire a new signal-caller in the first round.
It’s possible, and maybe even likely, the Trubisky talk came from people outside of the Browns’ facility, and the team clearly didn’t care for Clemson’s Deshaun Watson as it passed on him directly at No. 12 (trading out of the spot) and No. 1.
However, it’s most impressive that the Browns walked away from Day 2 of the draft with DeShone Kizer in tow along with their three first-round selections. Kizer’s a young player in terms of his development, but his innate ability to move within the pocket and throw downfield is Carson Palmer-esque. He has huge upside and was a great value where the Browns landed him (No. 52 overall).
Head coach Hue Jackson is the perfect coach to maximize his talent, and the Browns have the luxury to sit him this season and prepare him for the 2018 campaign.
The Browns added tremendous athleticism and explosiveness with each of their first-round picks, and they addressed a few massive holes. Myles Garrett projects as a superstar, while both safety Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku should be able to make early impacts.
The boldness to move up from the 33rd overall pick to No. 29 had seemed like a clear move to acquire Kizer, which would have made sense. But the Browns never panicked and showed savvy to wait for their quarterback in a similar fashion to when the Oakland Raiders landed Derek Carr in 2014.
Houston Texans Trade the Farm for Deshaun Watson
3 of 11
David J. Phillip/Associated Press
There’s no question the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns front offices have a good working relationship. Nearly two months after the Browns helped solve the first Texans quarterback conundrum by dealing for Brock Osweiler, the Browns did it again Thursday night.
Between the Osweiler and now the Deshaun Watson trades, the Texans owe the Browns their 2018 first- and second-round picks and sent them the 25th overall pick, which turned into Jabrill Peppers. Houston’s move up was a shocking one, considering the lack of assets the Texans now have.
Watson is a much different personality than Osweiler, and that should bode well for him as he competes for the starting job. The expectation will be that he beats out Tom Savage, and anything less would be a huge disappointment. His intangibles are off the charts, and his play in the clutch at Clemson was likely a massive factor in the Texans’ decision to invest so heavily.
Watson must improve his play in the pocket, read defenses better post-snap and shore up his consistency with his accuracy to maximize his talent. Head coach Bill O’Brien has generally squeezed as much as he can out of quarterbacks, and the Texans have a solid surrounding cast around Watson for him to be effective early on.
The cost was heavy to move up, but the potential payoff made this a worthwhile, though unexpected, move.
Tennessee Titans Select Corey Davis and Adoree’ Jackson
4 of 11
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
The Tennessee Titans broke mock drafts into a worthless pile of nothing when the fifth overall pick was announced.
Though Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis is a good fit and regarded as one of the top three receivers in the class by most, Tennessee’s taking him so early triggered a run on receivers in what is considered a weak class. The Titans then compounded the shock by selecting uber-athlete Adoree’ Jackson to be their new cornerback at No. 18.
Both are good players, but each felt like a reach compared to predraft rankings and expectations.
Davis is still dealing with an ankle injury that was supposed to be cleared up by his pro day, so he wasn’t able to do athletic tests. Taking a receiver—who dominated in the MAC—without athletic testing to reinforce opinions on him is a shocking decision in the top five. That’s especially true when Davis lacked the go-to traits of Clemson’s Mike Williams and Washington’s John Ross.
Jackson’s selection was similarly shocking due to the makeup of the Titans’ cornerback depth chart and how they played last year. Tennessee appeared to need a long, physical corner who could complement both LeShaun Sims and Logan Ryan—especially since the team was so physical at the line of scrimmage in 2016.
Instead it chose Jackson, another sub-6’0″ corner who is tremendously raw as a technician. He may have to play the slot while he learns the position and becomes more consistent in stopping big plays.
Kansas City Chiefs Land Patrick Mahomes
5 of 11
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
The advantage of having a roster with few pressing needs is that the front office can be aggressive when it has conviction on a player and a long-term need. The Kansas City Chiefs perfectly executed their plan by trading selection Nos. 27, 91 and a 2018 first-round pick to the Buffalo Bills to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is now expected to sit behind Alex Smith this season and potentially replace the veteran in 2018.
The Chiefs had shown significant predraft interest in the quarterback class, so the fact they drafted one was not the shock, but the massive trade up in front of the Cleveland Browns’ second selection for Mahomes was.
Mahomes is a riskier pick than Deshaun Watson, but he has a much higher upside and will transform the Chiefs offense when he’s given the keys. The team finally showed some concern that a physically limited, conservative quarterback was holding it back in the playoffs, and Mahomes represents a massive pivot in approach.
The potential payoff for Kansas City is terrific, and it will benefit from giving Mahomes more time than some of his other suitors could have. The Chiefs don’t have many needs at premium positions such as tackle or edge-rusher, and their abundance of youth at cornerback helped them overlook a possible need there.
This was an excellent risk and shocking move for a team that has been viewed as content with its quarterback situation for years.
Arizona Cardinals Select Linebacker Haason Reddick
6 of 11
Matt York/Associated Press
With the Arizona Cardinals picking versatile linebacker Haason Reddick of Temple in the first round, they have now invested three top-45 picks into the inside linebacker position since 2013. On top of that, the Cardinals brought back veteran Karlos Dansby this offseason, while veteran Daryl Washington was finally reinstated—though it’s unknown what he brings to the table at this point. That’s a ton of assets committed to a non-premium position on a roster that needed help elsewhere.
Reddick is an elite athlete in every sense, and his experience as an edge-rusher at Temple boosted his third-down value despite his short frame. He won’t be a full-time rusher since he’s not good enough and doesn’t overcome his 6’1″ stature, making him a position-changer and a projection based on athleticism and limited in-game repetitions.
The selling point for Arizona was his ability to bring dynamic movement on passing downs in combination with Deone Bucannon.
It’s a greater risk than when Arizona selected Bucannon in the first round and moved him to linebacker. Alternatively, the Cardinals could have drafted a game-changing safety in Malik Hooker, a cornerback like Marlon Humphrey or Gareon Conley or even an elite tight end prospect in O.J. Howard. The opportunity cost was too great on this pick considering the other, more valuable, needs on the Cardinals roster.
New Orleans Saints Go Offensive Line over Defense at No. 32 Overall
7 of 11
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Few teams have valued the investment into the offensive line in the last decade like the New Orleans Saints have. They know trench play keeps their offense humming, as quarterback Drew Brees is comfortable behind one of the best units in the NFL. But their decision to draft Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk at No. 32 overall instead of a defensive player was a shocking move.
Ramczyk will enter his rookie season as a backup tackle, barring an injury to starters Terron Armstead and Zach Strief. Strief will be the one Ramczyk will be groomed to replace, as he’s nearing 34 years old and clearly is not in the long-term plans of the Saints. But Strief played well in 2016 despite his age, especially as a pure pass-blocking tackle.
It was expected the Saints would double down in the round on defense after taking cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Edge-rushers such as Jordan Willis of Kansas State and Carl Lawson of Auburn would have made sense, as would’ve defensive tackle Malik McDowell. The Saints continued to bolster the unit with safety Marcus Williams at No. 42 overall, but they missed an opportunity to add a third impact player on that side of the ball.
C.J. Beathard Goes in Round 3
8 of 11
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press
After the top five quarterbacks were selected, the next players at the position expected to go consisted of Miami’s Brad Kaaya, Pittsburgh’s Nathan Peterman and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs in some order. Instead, the San Francisco 49ers made the jaw-dropping decision to select Iowa’s C.J. Beathard with the 104th overall pick. Beathard was CBS Sports‘ 215th-ranked prospect and ninth quarterback.
There was no doubt the 49ers would invest in a quarterback at some point in the draft. They stockpiled extra picks to make a move just like this. The team taking a flier at the position, even on a backup, was a decision that doesn’t have to be defended, as the 49ers had only Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the roster.
But it was shocking that Beathard went before better prospects in Kaaya and Peterman. Beathard’s a limited passer and struggles to push the ball past the first-down marker with consistent velocity. The pick was reminiscent of the Cleveland Browns’ reach on Cody Kessler in the third round last year despite his limitations.
Dede Westbrook Goes in the Fourth Round
9 of 11
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press
The third day of the NFL draft is often where players with character concerns land, unless they have so much talent that teams are more willing to overlook past transgressions. With the 110th overall pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars shocked the social media world by selecting a player who may have gone undrafted in Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook. The explosive Heisman finalist was a terrific collegiate player, but several character flags arose during the draft process.
Westbrook was arrested twice on domestic violence complaints, per Tulsa World reporter Cody Stavenhagen. The accusations were horrifying. He was accused of throwing his children’s mother to the ground in 2012, and then in 2013 accused of biting her arm and punching her in the face. He was never convicted, but he failed to show self-awareness and maturity when asked about the events later.
According to USA Today‘s Tom Pelissero, Westbrook said, “I got in some trouble and I did some things as well, but I was never convicted of anything. Like, I’ve been to jail, but all the charges [were] dropped. I have no pending charges or anything. So, I think I’m just like you.”
That same attitude apparently continued at the 2017 NFL combine when a team couldn’t even complete its 15-minute interview with him because of his responses, per ESPN’s Todd McShay (via The MMQB’s Albert Breer):
So @McShay13 just said new Jags WR Dede Westbrook is the only player he’s ever heard of being kicked out of a 15-minute combine interview.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 29, 2017
The NFL only cares about character when it is convenient, as seen again with the selection of Westbrook in the fourth round. The pick would have made more sense had Westbrook shown remorse consistently in public like Joe Mixon has throughout the draft process. Instead this was a disappointing, surprising decision from the Jaguars.
Detroit Lions Take Quarterback Brad Kaaya 215th Overall
10 of 11
Chuck Burton/Associated Press
The quarterback run in the middle rounds never began as expected, and the Detroit Lions grabbed a solid steal in the sixth round because of it.
Miami junior quarterback Brad Kaaya is a perfect backup to Matthew Stafford, but his being available in the late sixth round was completely unexpected, even though I was lower on Kaaya’s skill set than most. He offers a West Coast system background, and his experience is a nice bonus for his NFL transition.
Last week, I predicted Kaaya would be a third-round pick because of his relative polish. Kaaya lasted much longer, making him too much of a value pick for the Lions to pass. He’ll immediately challenge for the No. 2 job there.
Kaaya was once considered a potential first-round talent when Mark Richt was hired at Miami because of Richt’s history with quarterbacks. That jump in play never came for Kaaya, and now he will reunite with former Miami head coach Al Golden, who is the tight ends coach with the Lions. The Richt-Stafford-Kaaya-Golden connection is an interesting one that may have played a role in the pick.
Los Angeles Chargers Rebuild Their Offensive Line
11 of 11
HANS PENNINK/Associated Press
The results of the NFL draft always highlight the importance of self-scouting the roster and coaching staff. The best front offices correctly identify short- and long-term needs on a consistent basis. The Los Angeles Chargers were a huge Day 2 winner because they did just that, injecting value and talent into the offensive guard position.
Guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney were my top two players at the position, with Lamp projecting to left guard or center and Feeney a natural right guard for a zone-blocking scheme. This is perfect for the Chargers, who already upgraded their left tackle spot with the addition of Russell Okung in free agency. Lamp’s selection could lead to the release of disappointing veteran signing Orlando Franklin, and Feeney should easily win the right guard job.
Quarterback Philip Rivers and running back Melvin Gordon should love these selections. Lamp’s a dynamic athlete at the position, and his experience at left tackle should ease his transition to the NFL. Feeney’s a better pass-blocker, but he’s no slouch in the run game, winning with power and finishing ability.
It’s impressive the Chargers could land two impact linemen in a weak class.