The 2017 NFL draft is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and eventful drafts in history, which is fitting because many consider it to be one of the best in ages for talent. Record-breaking speedsters, multi-position athletes: This draft has it all, and the first round was full of trades and speculation, projection and hope. As always happens, bloggers and media analysts alike give their snap grades to a draft class before they’ve even played a down, an exercise that tells you how the analyst feels more than how the team did. Instead of going that route, we’re going to take a look at the Relative Athletic Scores of every player selected in the first round and what that might mean in terms of it being a good or bad pick based on historical trends.
1st: Myles Garrett (9.98)
25th: Jabrill Peppers (8.87)
29th: David Njoku (9.01)
Nothing to fret here from an athletics standpoint. Myles Garrett is the second-most athletic DE since 1999 for RAS (ahead of Mario Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch) and RAS has a strong correlation with NFL success using both Pro Bowls and sack production as a measurement. Strong safety doesn’t have a strong correlation with RAS and any measure of success, but a team looking to get more athletic on both sides of the ball helps themselves with someone like Peppers. Every first-round TE since 1999 has had a RAS over 5.00 and all but three Pro Bowlers in that span have had a score over average. In fact, half of all Pro Bowl TEs have had a score over 8.00, including Rob Gronkowski, who scored a 8.98. As you’d expect from a team flaunting analytics, the numbers love the Browns picks.
2nd: Mitchell Trubisky (7.94)
The issue with the Bears selection has less to do with Trubisky himself and more to do with the value of the pick. They gave up a ton of picks to nab Trubisky. There is no clear correlation with RAS and QB success, so each QB pick here will basically just be a mention. Trubisky is very nearly an elite athlete at the QB position, a factor that is rarely discussed when talking about his game.
3rd: Solomon Thomas (9.57)
31st: Reuben Foster (N/A)
The 49ers nabbed one of the best pure athletes in this class in Solomon Thomas and got extra picks they eventually flipped to grab Reuben Foster. Foster never measured due to injury, so I can’t speak to his profile. Thomas, on the other hand, measured elite, whether you’re playing him on the edge (9.57) or inside (9.82). His scores bested the likes of Khalil Mack (9.06), Ezekiel Ansah (9.60) and was even better than Ndamukong Suh (9.51) or Aaaron Donald (9.69) on the interior. Athleticism is a premium for both positions, and Thomas has every tool he’d need to succeed.
4th: Leonard Fournette (7.17)
More than 75 percent of Pro Bowl running backs rated above 5.00 for RAS, but more than half rated above 8.00. Fournette falls somewhere in between that average and elite range, where guys like Chris Ivory (7.25), Ray Rice (7.67) and Michael Turner (6.34) lived. More notably, his RAS is higher than a similarly big, fast, powerful player named Marshawn Lynch (5.95) rated. Even better for Fournette, many of the players who measured below average, but still found NFL success, were power runners like Mark Ingram (1.36), Alfred Morris (3.18) and Jordan Howard (4.31).
5th: Corey Davis (N/A)
17th: Adoree’ Jackson (8.27)
Corey Davis did not measure this draft period and thus doesn’t have a RAS. I love him and think he would have done just fine for his score, as I’ve compared him in the past to Dez Bryant (8.67) athletically. Adoree’ Jackson has always been billed as an elite athlete and he didn’t disappoint. Ironically, despite such an elite score, Jackson rated 37th for first round corners with his RAS (since 1999), showing just how much teams have valued elite athleticism at that position.
6th: Jamal Adams (5.70)
After seeing the 8.00 and 9.00 athletes above, you may think Adams is a poor choice in the top ten. As it is, there’s only a very loose correlation with RAS and success for safeties, basically coming down to what type of guy you want rather than if he hits athletic thresholds. If the Jets wanted a guy with range and movement skills in space, they nailed it.
7th: Mike Williams (5.93)
In terms of team fit, this is one of the best in the draft. In terms of how RAS looks at it, it’s just okay. More than 80 percent of WRs taken in round one have an RAS over 5.00, while more than 65 percent of Pro Bowl WRs are in that range. Mike Williams falls somewhere between Jordy Nelson (5.36) and Mike Evans (5.98) with his score, the latter of which is a pretty decent pro comp as well.
8th: Christian McCaffrey (8.08)
As mentioned with Fournette, more than half of Pro Bowl RBs measured above 8.00 RAS and that’s the range McCaffrey landed in. Such a versatile tool in an offense with Cam Newton (10.00) should pose problems for defenses in the NFC South.
9th: John Ross (9.33)
Roughly a third of Pro Bowl WRs have a RAS over 8.00, and around two-thirds have a score at least above average. It’s a strong indicator of success in the NFL and if John Ross can keep healthy, that’s a great sign for the Bengals. Ross measured just ahead of Roddy White (9.31) but well below the upper tier with Julio Jones (9.90), Andre Johnson (9.96) and Calvin Johnson (10.00).
10th: Patrick Mahomes (7.49)
As with Trubisky, there isn’t much to say about QBs and RAS. Everyone knew Patrick Mahomes was a good athlete and he measured like one. No surprises. I guess it’s worth noting that Mahomes measured slightly better than 2016’s Dak Prescott (7.47) and just behind Derek Carr (7.62).
11th: Marshon Lattimore (10.00)
32nd: Ryan Ramczyk (N/A)
Marshon Lattimore posted the highest RAS since 1999, beating out fellow 2017 draft mate Fabian Moreau (9.99) and future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis (9.99). Around 75 percent of Pro Bowl CBs have a RAS over 5.00 and nearly half of Pro Bowlers scored above 8.00. In addition to Revis, Lattimore beat out Patrick Peterson (9.86), Desmond Trufant (9.77) and Stephon Gilmore (9.63). I guess, though, with the best score, that you can just name anybody that has played corner since 1999. Ryan Ramczyk didn’t measure due to a hip injury, so I can’t compare his score to anything. OT is a heavily athletic ability dependant position, however, with more than 57 percent of Pro Bowl OTs rating 8.00 RAS or above and all but a handful rating above 5.00.
12th: Deshaun Watson (8.75)
A lot of noise around Deshaun Watson this offseason, but nobody ever questioned his athleticism. He rated higher than Russell Wilson (8.52) and below Tyrod Taylor (9.60).
13th: Haason Reddick (9.02)
Nearly 70 percent of linebackers that made the Pro Bowl have had a RAS of 5.00 or higher, while just under 40 percent have had a RAS over 8.00. Reddick came into that elite range scoring just better than Justin Houston (8.88) and just behind Jamie Collins (9.10), so he has very good company.
14th: Derek Barnett (3.63)
Our first sub 5.00 RAS of the draft went to former Tennessee pass rusher Derek Barnett. Only around 21 percent of first-round DEs rate below average and only 23 percent of Pro Bowl DEs rated in that range. Generally you want your pass rushers to be elite athletes and Barnett didn’t measure that way. Barnett measured while very ill at the combine, but a hamstring injury prevented him from posting better numbers at his pro day. While not promising in a bubble, there have been successful players with low RAS in the NFL including Chiefs pass rusher Tamba Hali (2.59). On the other end of the spectrum, Barnett also measured quite similarly to Bjoern Werner (4.43) who wasn’t as successful.
15th: Malik Hooker (N/A)
Malik Hooker didn’t measure pre draft due to injury, so we don’t know where he would have landed. Safety doesn’t have a clear correlation with RAS and NFL success, and the comps I’ve seen for Hooker span the spectrum of Eric Berry (9.29) to Tashaun Gipson (5.03) and Earl Thomas (2.97).
16th: Marlon Humphrey (9.38)
Marlon Humphrey didn’t post the craziness Marshon Lattimore did, but like Lattimore he is in elite company. Humphrey’s score rated above Pro Bowler Vontae Davis (9.35) and just a bit below Aqib Talib (9.47), who he shares some traits with. What a great team fit for Humphrey, whose bruising style fits well in the AFC North.
17th: Jonathan Allen (7.19)
Jonathan Allen projects very well inside as a DT, notching a strong 7.19 RAS. Like DEs, athleticism usually wins inside and a large amount of Pro Bowl DTs are elite athletes, over 8.00 RAS. Still, Allen posted a score comparable to Bills DT Marcell Dareus (7.08) and Darnell Dockett (7.14) who’ve carved out their own strong careers.
19th: O.J. Howard (9.76)
Every tight end drafted in the first round since 1999 has had a RAS over 5.00 and of them O.J. Howard was nearly the best. He rated third for first-round TEs, behind only Anthony Becht (10.00) from 2000 and Vernon Davis (9.96), but ahead of superstars like Jimmy Graham (9.68) and Rob Gronkowski (8.98).
20th: Garett Bolles (9.15)
Our first tackle is off the board and Garett Bolles is one of the most athletic players in this draft class. At 20th overall, Bolles is actually the lowest drafted first OT taken in quite some time (at least as far back as RAS goes in 1999). Of the 28 Pro Bowl OTs who qualified for RAS, 24 rated above average and 16 (57 percent) rated above 8.00. Tackles face off against pass rushers, and you’d expect elite athleticism to be needed to stop elite athletes. Bolles rated in just behind former Saints Pro Bowler John Stinchcomb (9.22) and ahead of former Packer Chad Clifton (8.90).
21st: Jarrad Davis (8.74)
Detroit general manager Bob Quinn makes it a point to target athletic players and he got one in Florida’s Jarrad Davis. Davis’ 8.74 rated ahead of Jonathan Vilma (8.61) and Patrick Willis (7.49), and with nearly 70 percent of Pro Bowl linebackers rating above average that is a good sign. 17 of the 44 Pro Bowl linebackers who qualified had a RAS over 8.00, so it’s good company to keep.
22nd: Charles Harris (2.73)
The second—and last—player drafted in the first round of this year’s draft to have an RAS under 5.00 is new Dolphins DE Charles Harris. Unlike Barnett, Harris was able to improve his numbers somewhat at his pro day, pushing him just north of average if we use those numbers. Former Panthers DE Greg Hardy (3.16) and Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs (3.01) offer some reason for optimism if Harris can harness that beastly spin move in the NFL.
23rd: Evan Engram (8.94)
Another elite athlete at tight end comes off the board to the Giants, but this one comes with a unique caveat. Most often, when you measure a TE as a WR, their RAS goes down significantly due to speed and relative explosiveness limiting them at that position. Engram actually has a higher score when compared to receivers, pulling in an impressive 9.57 in that group.
24th: Gareon Conley (8.90)
Gareon Conley’s slide stopped with the (still) Oakland Raiders. Though not the phenom his teammate is athletically, Conley is an elite athlete in his own right and measured above Pro Bowlers Johnathan Joseph (8.53) and former Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha (8.25), coming just shy of Champ Bailey and his 9.07 RAS.
26th: Takkarist McKinley (6.10)
The Falcons have targeted top-tier athletes in the recent past with Vic Beasley (9.89) and Desmond Trufant (9.77). Takkarist McKinley didn’t land in elite range due to coming in undersized and with poor agility drills, but his score remained in a healthy range due to incredible speed for a pass rusher. His RAS ended just ahead of Trent Cole (6.83) and a ways behind Rams DE Robert Quinn (7.07).
27th: Tre’Davious White (5.25)
This was an interesting pick. On the one hand, Tre’Davious White posted an above-average RAS, which is always a good thing. On the other hand, it was one of the lowest by a first-round CB since 1999. Teams put a premium on athleticism at the cornerback position and White posted only average numbers overall. White measured just ahead of Pro Bowlers Brandon Flowers (4.47) and Chris Harris Jr. (3.55), and also ahead of Josh Norman (2.96), so there is plenty of room to expect big things.
28th: Taco Charlton (7.09)
The former Michigan pass rusher finds himself with the Cowboys and while his RAS didn’t end up in elite territory, it’s a fine score landing him above Robert Quinn (7.07) and behind Chandler Jones (7.41). Charlton’s score was brought down from elite range mostly by his poor speed scores all around, but posted excellent explosion and agility numbers for his size.
30th: T.J. Watt (9.83)
T.J. Watt has a very strong Steelers comp in Ryan Shazier (9.88), but also measured just behind Brian Urlacher (9.85) and ahead of Connor Barwin (9.65) and DeMarcus Ware (9.60).