NoleGameday

An Early Look at the 2017 NFL Draft

Photo by Logan Stanford

Despite the fact that only two Florida State players were selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, it was a successful draft for FSU for many reasons. Jalen Ramsey was a Top-5 pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Roberto Aguayo became the first kicker since 2005 to be selected in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and several other undrafted seniors signed free agent contracts. But looking ahead, Florida State is primed to return to producing double digit draft picks as early as 2017. Highlighted by a Heisman trophy contending running back, Florida State could once again be the talk of draft town next year. Let’s take a look at the departing seniors as well as the draft-eligible juniors and sophomores.

The Seniors

DeMarcus Walker, DE: One of the most productive pass rushers in the ACC last season, Walker led all Florida State players with 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. The 6-3, 273-pound defensive end has NFL-ready size and showed last season that he has taken a step forward as a pass rusher. He plays with power more so than speed and dominates offensive tackles by driving through them rather than around them. Walker spurned the draft this year to return to Florida State and will likely push for All-American honors if he continues to develop as a pass rusher.

Early Draft Projection: 2-3 Round

Marquez White, CB: Jalen Ramsey got all of the hype last year, but Marquez White was quietly one of the better cover corners in the country last year. The 6-0, 181-pound cornerback finishes last season with 25 tackles, two pass breakups and an interception, but the stats don’t tell the whole story. Much like Ramsey, teams often refused to throw at White due to his great coverage abilities. The former basketball player has good size, range and has good ball skills as well. With the league infatuated with taller cornerbacks at the moment, it would not be a stretch to see White’s name being called early next year.

Early Draft Projection: 2-3 Round

Kareem Are, OG: A former junior college recruit, Kareem Are earned the starting job at left guard to begin the season, but missed some time due to injuries. At 6-6, 334-pounds, Are has great size and moves more fluidly than most interior offensive linemen. His run blocking was a great part of Dalvin Cook’s success last season as well. However, he still needs to work on several aspects of his game, including strength and balance. If he continues to develop, he could hear his name called late in the draft next year.

Early Draft Projection: 4-5 Round

Kermit Whitfield, WRWhile the diminutive speedster is best known for his work in the return game, Kermit Whitfield showed in 2015 that he has developed quite a bit as a receiver. He played in all 13 games and caught 57 passes for 798 yards and six touchdowns. While Kermit certainly isn’t a receiver that will win contested balls in the air, he will beat you with pure speed. He flourished as a slot receiver last year, catching a quick screen or slant and burning defenders with his natural athleticism. If there’s one thing NFL teams love, it’s receivers with game-breaking speed.

Early Draft Projection: 5-6 Round

Bobo Wilson, WRUnfortunately for Bobo, there isn’t a lot that he does that separates him from other receivers in the league. At 5-10, 186-pounds, he is limited to strictly a slot role in the NFL and does not catch the ball consistently. Unless he has a breakout season in 2016, the likelihood that Bobo is drafted is slim.

Early Draft Projection: UDFA

Nate Andrews, S: Throughout his three-year career at Florida State, Nate Andrews has been highly productive. He led the team in interceptions as a freshman and sophomore and was a key contributor for the squads that won the back-to-back ACC Championships. However, this past year showed that Andrews’ ability to contribute is somewhat limited. He struggles in coverage and was limited to the dime role last year, or the sixth defensive back on the field. He works best with his eyes to the quarterback, but cannot be asked to play man to man coverage. The role of an in-the-box safety is a limited one and NFL teams will usually not spend a draft pick on a defensive player that can’t help in all facets of the game.

Early Draft Projection: UDFA

Freddie Stevenson, FB: Unfortunately for Freddie, he plays a position that is not highly valued in the league. Only three fullbacks were drafted this year, all in the sixth round. He progressed nicely as a blocker last year and has shown the ability to be a pass catcher out of the back field, but if he makes a roster, it will be as a free agent.

Early Draft Projection: UDFA

Sean Maguire, QB: At this point, Sean Maguire isn’t even guaranteed to start next year. The fifth-year senior has good size at 6-3, 223-pounds and has a cannon for an arm, but struggles with reading coverages and does not have that much game experience. Maguire needs to have an incredible senior season to even warrant a draftable grade.

Early Draft Projection: UDFA

The Juniors

Dalvin Cook, RB: This one is an easy one. Dalvin Cook, after contending for the Heisman trophy in 2015 with 1,691 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, is almost certainly a lock to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. The running back position is such a fragile position, with players seeing their careers cut shorter and shorter due to injuries and continued hits that they take. Cook suffered from hamstring injuries last year, but will certainly be a Top-15 pick next year.

Likelihood he enters the Draft: 99.99%

Early Draft Projection: 1st Round

Roderick Johnson, OT: A two-year starter at left tackle, “Big Rod” Johnson has developed into one of the better offensive tackles in college football. He has great size at 6-7, 307-pounds and has shown that he is capable of shutting down some of the best pass rushers in the ACC on one-on-one assignments. Left tackle is one of the most important positions in football and he’s only 20 years old with lots of room for growth and improvement. Big Rod is only going to get better from here on out.

Likelihood he enters the Draft: 80%

Early Draft Projection: 1st Round

Derrick Nnadi, DT: One of the most underrated players on defense last year, Derrick Nnadi quietly had an impressive sophomore campaign. He started all 13 games and made 45 tackles and two sacks. He’s not going to wow anyone with amazing sack numbers, but is very productive against the run and plays with great strength and leverage. If he can develop as a pass rusher in 2016, the sky is the limit for his potential.

Likelihood he enters the Draft: 50%

Early Draft Projection: 2-3 Round

Travis Rudolph, WR: After a slow start to the year, Travis Rudolph flourished when Sean Maguire took over at quarterback. He showed the ability to be a deep ball threat and was consistent in catching the ball to end the year. However, he’s not going to burn most defensive backs with his speed and needs to work on catching the ball in traffic. Early reports from spring practice are saying that Rudolph is on pace to have a very impressive junior season.

Likelihood he enters the Draft: 35%

Early Draft Projection: 4-5 Round

Matthew Thomas, LB: Matthew Thomas has been mostly an unknown at Florida State for many reasons. A five-star recruit out of high school, he was suspended as a redshirt freshman for half of the season due to NCAA violations and struggled to stay healthy when he was on the field. Before the 2015 season, it was again announced that he was suspended for the entire year due to NCAA violations. If he’s healthy and eligible, Thomas is the best linebacker on the team. Spring practice showed that he is both of those things (so far) and Thomas could be in line for a breakout junior campaign.

Likelihood he enters the Draft: 15%

Early Draft Projection: 5-6 Round

Ro’Derrick Hoskins, LB: Hoskins benefited from poor linebacker play and injuries last season, which allowed him to start six games. He showed a knack for finding the ball in traffic, but struggled against coverage. It is likely that he returns for his senior year.

Likelihood he enters the Draft: 5%

Early Draft Projection: 6-7 Round

Rick Leonard, OL: Rick Leonard impressed a lot of people in the spring game, but is going into his first year as an offensive lineman and isn’t even guaranteed a starting job. He will likely be back for his senior year.

Likelihood he enters the Draft: 5%

Early Draft Projection: UDFA

Jacob Pugh, DE/LB: Pugh has mostly been relegated to the BUCK linebacker role behind Josh Sweat. He has shown flashes of talent as a pass rusher, but was wildly inconsistent at times and needs to play with better discipline against the run. He will likely be back for his senior year.

Likelihood he enters the Draft: 5%

Early Draft Projection: UDFA

The Sophomores

Ryan Izzo, TE: Izzo earned the starting tight end job as a redshirt freshman, but still has a long way to go in his development. While he did improve as a run blocker throughout the season, he still has to improve as a pass catcher. However, NFL teams love young, athletic tight ends and Izzo has great size for the position at 6-5, 243-pounds. Baring some sort of breakout year from Izzo, it is likely that he will return for his junior year.

Likelihood he enters the Draft: 10%

Early Draft Projection: 6-7

Dakota Moyer

Florida State student and writer for NoleGameday.



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