Every year, fans tune into the NFL Draft to see which players will contribute to their franchise. However, not every draft class is created equal. I have done extensive scouting of the last two classes, so let’s compare them to see which is better. We’ll be asking three questions to determine the victor:

  1. Which class had more stars, or was stronger at the top?
  2. Which class had more talent at each position?
  3. Which class had better depth extending into the second day of the draft?

Let’s start with the first question. To determine which class was better at the top, here are my rankings of the top 15 prospects from the last two classes, combined.

  1. Laremy Tunsil– Tunsil was an absolute freak. He was massive, he had ridiculous footwork, he was technically sound. He was as close to a perfect prospect as I’ve seen. The leaked photos and videos sabotaged him, as teams couldn’t talk to Tunsil about what happened.
  2. Myles Garrett- Garrett is a freak, like Tunsil. He’s explosive and he has all the tools to be an awesome player. However, Ole Miss and Texas A&M played in 2015, with Tunsil and Garrett going 1 on 1 for the majority of the game, and Tunsil won that matchup. So he takes the first spot on the list.
  3. Ezekiel Elliott- Yes, Zeke was a better prospect than Fournette. Elliott had it all. Not only was he a great runner, with long speed, agility, and power, he was also phenomenal in the passing game. He could catch it out of the backfield and he was an A+ blocker in pass protection.
  4. Jamal Adams– Separating Adams, Ramsey, Lattimore, and Hooker was difficult. Adams has (had) the highest floor out of all of them. He was a great leader at LSU and he could do everything as a safety.
  5. Jalen Ramsey– Ramsey was a bit of a boom-or-bust guy. He had crazy athletic numbers and film. It was generally agreed Ramsey would be a playmaker as a corner or a safety, the dispute was over which position he should play. He also didn’t have very good ball skills. But he was absurdly sticky in coverage. Receivers couldn’t get open against him.
  6. Marshon Lattimore– Lattimore would be a better prospect than Ramsey, if not for his history of hamstring injuries. That scares me. Otherwise, he’s a phenomenal prospect with no clear weaknesses.
  7. Malik Hooker– Hooker is the best free safety prospect I’ve ever seen. He’s absolutely perfect for any team needing a deep safety in a Cover 3 scheme, but he can also play in Cover 2 if need be. His range and ball skills are crazy good.
  8. Ronnie Stanley- Stanley got overshadowed by Laremy Tunsil and Jack Conklin in his rookie year. He had excellent footwork at Notre Dame; speed rushers really didn’t bother him. My biggest question was his power. I wasn’t sure he could move people in the run game. However, he looks to be a great young player for the Ravens.
  9. Joey Bosa– I wasn’t as high on Bosa as others. When he came out, it was assumed he would play 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker. I didn’t think he had the lightning first step or edge bend of other guys. I did love his hand usage and effort against the run. The Chargers moving him to 3-4 end was brilliant and he’s been dominant ever since.
  10. Jack Conklin– I loved watching Conklin on tape. He was a physical, beat-you-up tackle who just whipped ass, which was awesome and a rarity in modern college football. I was worried about his feet and his ability to handle speed off the edge. However, he’s played right tackle in Tennessee, which was perfect for him and led him to be an All-Pro as a rookie.
  11. Carson Wentz– I liked Wentz more than Goff last year. Why? Because Wentz came from a pro-style offense where he commanded the huddle, and he had better physical attributes than Goff. Goff played in the “Bear Raid” system and was smaller, thinner, and had a worse arm.
  12. Solomon Thomas- Thomas is a bit of a weird prospect. He’s best rushing the quarterback from the inside, but he’s too small to play defensive tackle full time. He can play end on running downs, then kick inside in passing situations.
  13. Leonard Floyd– Leonard Floyd was like 90% of Myles Garrett, with some minor off the field concerns. He was impressive in his rookie year, but expect a big time breakout in 2017.
  14. Corey Davis- I really, really like Corey Davis. He’s big, he’s fast, and he’s a great route runner. Concerns have been raised about drops and his level of competition, but I don’t buy it. He’s a stud and will be from day one.
  15. OJ Howard– The hands-down best tight end of the last two years. I’m still trying to figure out why Lane Kiffin refused to give him the ball. Howard is an A blocker and an A+ receiver. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t pan out.

So, in my combined top 15, there are seven prospects from the 2017 class, and 8 players from the 2016 class. The 2016 prospects were also ranked slightly higher, so the edge goes to them.

EDGE: 2016 Class

Now, let’s go through every position and decide a winner between the two classes, then we’ll see which class was better at the most positions.

QB:

2016 had Goff and Wentz. Both were better prospects than anyone in the 2017 class. It also had Dak Prescott, a rare hidden gem. The 2017 class has four prospects (Watson, Trubisky, Kizer, Mahomes) fighting to be selected in the first round with some quality mid round guys like Davis Webb and Josh Dobbs. However, 2016 is the clear winner here.

EDGE: 2016 Class

RB:

Zeke Elliott was better than anyone in this year’s class. However, Derrick Henry was the next best back and there are at least four runners in the 2017 class who are better (Fournette, Cook, McCaffrey, Kamara, Mixon?). 2016 may have had better depth, but the elite talent at the position this year is too much.

EDGE: 2017 Class

WR:

This is the closest of all the positions I’m reviewing. 2017 has three guys who are better than the first receiver taken in 2016. Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross are all clearly better than Corey Coleman. However, 2016 also had Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, Sterling Sheppard, and Michael Thomas. It’s tough, but I’ll go with the elite talent over the depth.

EDGE: 2017 Class

TE:

This is easy. The 2017 tight end class could be the best since 2010, when Jermaine Gresham, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Dennis Pitta, and Jimmy Graham were selected.

EDGE: 2017 Class

OT:

While 2017 could be the worst offensive tackle class ever, 2016 may have been the best. Laremy Tunsil, Ronnie Stanley, Jack Conklin, and Taylor Decker were all excellent starters as rookies.

EDGE: 2016 Class

Guard/Center

Ryan Kelly and Cody Whitehair have been really good at center, but 2017 has great talent at guard with Forrest Lamp and Cam Robinson. I also think guys like Dan Feeney, Dion Dawkins, and Dorian Johnson could be quality starters.

EDGE: 2017 Class

Defensive Line:

Jon Allen and Solomon Thomas are both really good prospects…. But 2016 was stupid. Andrew Billings was a 4th round pick. I had a late first round grade on him. After Allen and Thomas the 2017 talent dries up like California in July.

EDGE: 2016 Class

Edge Rushers:

2016 was loaded at defensive tackle, but had few edge guys. 2017 has loads of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if 4-5 pro bowl pass rushers come out of this draft, including #1 prospect Myles Garrett.

EDGE: 2017 Class

Linebackers:

Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack were both fantastic prospects, but they had huge injury questions. Reuben Foster and Haason Reddick are talented, but they’re nowhere near the Smith/Jack level.

EDGE: 2016 Class

Cornerbacks:

If your team needs a corner in this draft, odds are you’ll get one. There could be 15+ corners drafted in the first three rounds.

EDGE: 2017 Class

Safety:

I have first or second round grades on eight safety prospects this year. Last year I had three.

EDGE: 2017 Class

2017 wins the positional matchups 7-4. In fairness, the positions 2016 won were mostly blowouts, but the overall victory still goes to 2017.

Finally, let’s consider depth. To do this, I’ll be comparing prospects picked in the late first/ early second round of 2016 to players in the 2017 draft, and seeing where I have them on my big board.

2016 Prospect: Artie Burns

2017 Comparison: Fabian Moreau

Both guys are really raw but have incredible traits. They have the speed and the size, but their technique clearly needs refining. Burns was drafted 25th. I have Moreau at 50th on my board, and I’d be very surprised if he cracked the top 40. (Part of that is due to the better depth at corner in this year’s class).

2016 Prospect: Robert Nkemdiche

2017 Comparison: Malik McDowell

Both guys were athletic freaks capable of dominating a game (Nkemdiche vs Alabama, McDowell vs Notre Dame. However, both had significant character concerns stemming from marijuana usage and coachability. McDowell is 48th on my board, Nkemdiche was the 29th pick.

2016 Prospect: Noah Spence

2017 Comparison: Tim Williams

Spence was a monster while at Ohio State. However, a drug problem forced him to transfer to Eastern Kentucky. He stayed clean while he was there, but questions still remained. Williams was never kicked off the team, but he does have multiple off-the-field questions. Both prospects were explosive edge rushers who could bend the edge and sack the quarterback. Spence was drafted 39th. I have Williams 42nd.

EDGE: 2017

In my opinion, 2017 is the (slightly) better class. 2016 had better stars, but the strength of the 2017 class is its depth. The prospects that will fall into the 40s all have first round grades. That’s rare.

Author Details
Grant Baker is an Arkansas native and fan of the Oakland Raiders. He covers the NFL and the NBA, but predominantly covers the NFL Draft. Grant belongs to the rare breed of people who love poring over game film of prospects from directional Missouri schools. He serves takes ranging in temperature from Steph Curry in Madison Square Garden to Lambeau Field in the playoffs.
×
Grant Baker is an Arkansas native and fan of the Oakland Raiders. He covers the NFL and the NBA, but predominantly covers the NFL Draft. Grant belongs to the rare breed of people who love poring over game film of prospects from directional Missouri schools. He serves takes ranging in temperature from Steph Curry in Madison Square Garden to Lambeau Field in the playoffs.
Latest Posts

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.