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2017 NFL Draft: Maxwell, Bednarik Watchlists Released, Preview ‘17 Draft’s Early Rounds

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With the watchlists released for two of the biggest awards for college football, we have a big board of sorts for the 2017 NFL Draft.

Michigan S Jabrill Peppers

We’ve got just seven weeks until the first week of the 2016 college football season kicks off with a Jared Goff-less Cal taking on Hawaii in Sydney, Australia.

Today, though, in a preview of the early rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, the watchlists for the Maxwell and Bednarik awards have been released.

The Maxwell is awarded to the nation’s top college football player, though every player on this year’s watchlist is on offense. The Bednarik is awarded to the top defensive player.

Combined, they present a good look at the position landscape as we look toward the 2017 NFL Draft next April.

QB

Tommy Armstrong, Jr., QB, Nebraska
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State
C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa
Jake Browning, QB, Washington
Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
Luke Falk, QB, Washington State
Taysom Hill, QB, BYU
Skyler Howard, QB, West Virginia
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss
Gunner Kiel, QB, Cincinnati
DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Trevor Knight, QB, Texas A&M
Mitch Leidner, QB, Minnesota
Wes Lunt, QB, Illinois
Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Nick Mullens, QB, Southern Miss
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan
Seth Russell, QB, Baylor
Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
Thomas Sirk, QB, Duke
Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
Brent Stockstil, QB, Middle Tennessee State
Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech
P.J. Walker, QB, Temple
Greg Ward, Jr., QB, Houston
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Davis Webb, QB, Cal
Malik Zaire, QB, Notre Dame

Watson headlines the group after a spectacular 2015 season that fell just short of a national championship thanks to Alabama.

We’ve also got the new redshirt sophomore crop to keep an eye on led by Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer. He’s one of two Fighting Irish QBs on the list along with Malik Zaire. Zaire beat out Kizer for the starting job a year ago, but an ankle injury ended Z’s season handing the keys to Kizer as a freshman. They’re locked in a starting battle yet again that will define Notre Dame’s early season output as well as potentially having a huge effect on the 2017 NFL Draft (see: Ohio State’s three-way QB battle a year ago and how that played out in the 2016 NFL Draft...)

Rams outlook: With Jared Goff in tow, the Rams are out of the early QB mix. As for a young backup, who knows where this team will be with Case Keenum and Sean Mannion seven months from now.

RB

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Mike Boone, RB, Cincinnati
Joel Bouagnon, RB, Northern Illinois
Matt Breida, RB, Georgia Southern
James Butler, RB, Nevada
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Marcus Cox, RB, Appalachian State
Matt Dayes, RB, N.C. State
Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington
Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming
Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina
Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee
Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP
Shock Linwood, RB, Baylor
Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
Elijah McGuire, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Travon McMillian, RB, Virginia Tech
Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State
Taquan Mizzell, RB, Virginia
Jacobi Owens, RB, Air Force
Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State
Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State
Larry Rose III, RB, New Mexico State
Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss
Jahad Thomas, RB, Temple
Mike Warren, RB, Iowa State
Joseph Yearby, RB, Miami
Marquis Young, RB, Massachusetts

Ah, college running backs. LET THE STATS FLOOD THE BLOCK!

The junior class is stacked with Leonard Fournette, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Jalen Hurd, Royce Freeman, Wayne Gallman and Samaje Perine.

Rams outlook: Like at QB, the Rams are locked in at the top with Just Todd Gurley. And under Head Coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager, the Rams have drafted enough running backs for three teams let alone one...but let’s be honest. The chances that Fisher falls for one of those junior backs on Day 2 is above 0. Maybe well above 0. This is the same admin that drafted Isaiah Pead in the second round followed by Zac Stacy in the fifth followed by Tre Mason in the third followed by JTG in the first in 2015. You already know.

WR

KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
Jehu Chesson, WR, Michigan
Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
Deante' Gray, WR, TCU
Richie James, WR, Middle Tennessee
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
Taywan Taylor, WR, Western Kentucky
KaVontae Turpin, WR, TCU
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

The hometown push for JuJu to stay in LA will be unavoidable.

Worth pointing out you’ve got some true sophomores here like Kirk and Ridley who aren’t draft eligible next year.

Rams outlook: Given the state of the Rams’ receivers (which isn’t a new problem, just one that’s been poorly addressed for a decade), the push for any top talent will be unavoidable as it has been since Fisherball came to the Rams.

TE

Jake Butt, TE, Michigan
O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Howard surprised by going back to school after starring in the National Championship. I’m surprised Ole Miss’ Evan Engram didn’t make the list though.

Rams outlook: Drafted rookies Tyler Higbee and Temarrick Hemingway offer legit upside, but a top TE could make sense next spring if Goff lands and the offensive line looks improved in 2016.

OL

N/A

This is just mean.

Rams outlook: Who knows. Will Greg Robinson finally make good on his #2 overall draft position? Do Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown improve on solid if not impressive rookie campaigns? Does Tim Barnes...become a different Tim Barnes? There’s a good chance the Rams are serious players for an early draft prospect on the offensive line. I just have no clue at which position it will be.

DL

Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Josh Carraway, DE, TCU
Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
Kylie Fitts, DE, Utah
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
Daeshon Hall, DE, Texas A&M
Darius Hamilton, DT, Rutgers
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Marquis Haynes, DE, Ole Miss
Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic
Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State
Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
James McFarland, DE, TCU
Noble Nwachukwu, DE, West Virginia
Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte
Ejuan Price, DE, Pittsburgh
Jake Replogle, DT, Purdue
Isaac Rochell, DT, Notre Dame
Ja'Von Rolland-Jones, DE, Arkansas State
Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane
Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State
Charles Walker, DT, Oklahoma
Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson
Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan

Is the 2018 DE or DT class stronger? Right now, they’re looking neck-and-neck as both look really good and that includes potential 2018 NFL Draft #1 overall pick Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett.

One omission to keep an eye on? Tennessee true sophomore DT Khalil Mackenzie, son of former NFL player and current Raiders GM Reggie Mackenzie.

Rams outlook: We know Fisher loves his first-round defensive linemen, but cmon...

LB

Kendell Beckwith, LB, LSU
Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin
Ben Boulware, LB, Clemson
Riley Bullough, LB, Michigan State
Jason Cabinda, LB, Penn State
Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Jordan Evans, LB, Oklahoma
Devonte Fields, LB Louisville
Salamo Fiso, LB, Arizona State
Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Travin Howard, LB, TCU
Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Keith Kelsey, LB, Louisville
Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
Matt Milano, LB, Boston College
Calvin Munson, LB, San Diego State
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee
Steven Taylor, LB, Houston
Austin Valdez, LB, Bowling Green
Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern
Tim Williams, LB, Alabama
Taylor Young, LB, Baylor

Linebacking classes are so tough to predict a year out. The senior MLB class looks strong though with Beckwith and Foster. And keep an eye on Texas true sophomore LB Malik Jefferson.

Rams outlook: The Rams have a lot of unanswered questions at LB this season, the first season they’ll be without MLB James Laurinaitis in nearly a decade. Can Alec Ogletree return from injury and hold down the inside spot in any 4-3 looks? How many are the Rams actually looking to implement? Does Mark Barron continue to perform well with Laurinaitis gone? Is 2016 Akeem Ayers going to match first half or second half 2015 Akeem Ayers? This could be a wild card to be in play for an early pick next April.

CB

Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
Sean Chandler, CB, Temple
Johnathan Ford, DB, Auburn
Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State
Desmond King, CB, Iowa
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
William Likely, CB, Maryland
Deatrick Nichols, CB, South Florida
Jamar Summers, CB, Connecticut
Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma
Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU

It’s shaping up to be a really strong corner class with top prospects of different roles like Jackson, King and White.

Rams outlook: It might be overly simplified to suggest this comes down to E.J. Gaines’ form returning from last year’s preseason Lisfranc injury along with the ability to re-sign Trumaine Johnson. If they form a reliable 1-2 combo this year with Lamarcus Joyner as a third, it’d be tough to justify a top corner. If Gaines looks unable to recapture his 2014 form or Tru follow Janoris Jenkins elsewhere in free agency in a year, this would fit the Fisherball mold.

S

Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Budda Baker, S, Washington
Dante Barnett, S, Kansas State
Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
Chuck Clark, FS, Virginia Tech
Tony Conner, S, Ole Miss
DeVon Edwards, S, Duke
Nate Gerry, S, Nebraska
Nate Holley, S, Kent State
Eddie Jackson, S, Alabama
Derwin James, S, Florida State
Paul Magloire, S, Arizona
Marcus Maye, S, Florida
Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
Dominick Sanders, S, Georgia
Jordan Sterns, S, Oklahoma State
Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M
Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh

Next year’s draft is shaping up to be my favorite safety class in years, ESPECIALLY if Jabrill Peppers explodes this year which he well could.

Rams outlook: And if that explosion takes place? I’d have no problem with the Rams tagging Peppers alongside T.J. McDonald at the back of the Rams’ secondary for years to come.