Is anyone else counting down the seconds until NFL OTAs? Sure, the NHL and NBA playoffs are great, but there’s just one problem: it’s not football! (And competitive games don’t exist in the NBA, apparently.) We’ve had nearly a week now to analyze the NFL Draft, and I’m sure I speak for many when I say, get these kids on the field!
While some teams opened their rookie minicamps today, we won’t see full teams report for at least another week. While we (or is it just “I”?) anxiously await the return of football, we can kill some time by speculating on the impact some of the 2017 draft class will have. Since I already covered the QBs here, we’ll be focusing on non-pivots today.
Without further ado, here’s how I see 2017 playing out for the NFL’s newcomers.
O/U total rushing yards in 2017
Leonard Fournette, Jaguars: 950.5
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers: 850.5
Dalvin Cook, Vikings: 500.5
Alvin Kamara, Saints: 200.5
Fournette is gearing up to be a workhorse for the Jags this season, as both Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon squandered their opportunities last year. The addition of tackle Branden Albert will boost the offensive line, and moving rookie Cam Robinson inside should shore up the interior. But it’s still not an overly impressive unit. Hitting the 1,000-yard plateau will be tough for Fournette.
McCaffrey walks into the best situation of the rookie RB group. Carolina wants to get back to power football, but Jonathan Stewart has never been able to handle lead-back duties. He’s only hit 1,000 yards once and that was all the way back in 2009. McCaffrey is extremely explosive and versatile. Be ready for Mike Shula to use him in a variety of ways.
The Vikings have a bit of a smash-and-dash duo in their backfield, after acquiring Latavius Murray via free agency, and then selecting Dalvin Cook in the second-round of the NFL Draft. But I don’t believe the “smash” part will be very effective, so look for Cook to get the bulk of the carries once he gets comfortable in the offense.
O/U total yards from scrimmage for Christian McCaffrey in 2017: 1,300.5
Getting McCaffrey the ball in space will be Shula’s top priority.
O/U average yards per carry for Dalvin Cook in 2017: 3.7
The Vikings averaged a league-low 3.2 yards per carry in 2016. Riley Reiff will improve the pass protection, but I still don’t see the interior getting much of a push.
O/U total touches for Alvin Kamara in 2017: 35.5
Kamara currently sits behind Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson in the Saints backfield. There’s also no guarantee he sees third-down work with Travaris Cadet in the mix.
O/U total receiving yards in 2017
Mike Williams, Chargers: 850.5
John Ross, Bengals: 800.5
Corey Davis, Titans: 775.5
Evan Engram, Giants: 750.5
David Njoku, Browns: 625.5
OJ Howard, Buccaneers: 550.5
Williams enters a great situation with an experienced quarterback on a pass-first team. The Chargers possessed the league’s eighth-ranked passing offense last season, and that was without top-receiver Keenan Allen for 15 games. Anthony Lynn will ensure
San Diego Los Angeles (it still sounds wrong) doesn’t get too pass-happy, but Williams will be a key target for Philip Rivers, especially if Allen does go down again.
Mr. 4.22 (John Ross) will be nipping at Williams’ heels. With AJ Green drawing all the attention on the outside, Ross will have a lot of space to work with underneath and occasionally get loose deep down the field. A healthy Tyler Eifert will prevent the rookie from getting too many targets, though.
Corey Davis will walk into the no. 1 receiver spot in Tennessee. His projection is a little lower because the Titans will remain a run-first team.
Among the tight ends, Engram comes into the best situation. Not only is he in a pass-heavy offense, the former Ole Miss Rebel also has little competition for playing time. Njoku can tick off the latter point, but certainly not the first. Howard will have to battle Cameron Brate for snaps this season, but his athleticism could make him a quick favorite for Jameis Winston.
O/U total touchdown receptions in 2017
Evan Engram, Giants: 9.5
Mike Williams, Chargers: 7.5
OJ Howard, Buccaneers: 6.5
Corey Davis, Titans: 5.5
John Ross, Bengals: 5.5
David Njoku, Browns: 3.5
The Giants did very little to improve their rushing attack, which had just six TDs last year, so I expect the bulk of their majors to come through the air again. With Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall attracting a lot of attention in the red zone, Engram will consistently draw weaker defenders. His 6’3″ frame and 36″ vertical make him lethal in jump-ball scenarios.
Even if Howard falls behind Brate on the depth chart, his massive frame (6’6″) and superior run-blocking skills will ensure he’ll be on the field in goal-line scenarios.
O/U total 40-yard receptions for John Ross in 2017: 3.5
O/U total sacks in 2017
Myles Garrett, Browns: 9.5
Solomon Thomas, 49ers: 5.5
Takkarist McKinley, Falcons: 4.5
Charles Harris, Dolphins: 3.5
Derek Barnett, Eagles: 3.5
TJ Watt, Steelers: 3.5
Taco Charlton, Cowboys: 2.5
Of the group, only Garrett and Thomas project to be starters as rookies. The rest will likely serve as situational pass-rushers. Garrett is going to be a force in his rookie season, but he’s the Browns only real threat to get to the QB, so expect him to receive a lot of attention.
With the 49ers moving to a 4-3, they’ll likely use Solomon Thomas at DE on early downs before moving him inside in passing situations. His impact will be felt more against the run.
O/U total interceptions in 2017
Malik Hooker, Colts: 4.5
Jamal Adams, Jets: 3.5
Gareon Conley, Raiders: 2.5
Marshon Lattimore, Saints: 2.5
Adoree’ Jackson, Titans: 1.5
Jabrill Peppers, Browns: 1.5
Tre’Davious White, Bills: 1.5
Marlon Humphrey, Ravens: 0.5
As long as the Colts have Andrew Luck, they’re going to put points on the board. This means their defense will face an inflated number of pass attempts, leading to more opportunities for Malik Hooker to showcase those ball-hawking skills.
Jamal Adams is going to benefit from the Jets having a fierce defensive front. So long as the Jets’ offense is remotely competitive (no sure thing), opposing teams will be forced to put the ball in the air.
Conley’s total would be a little higher if we were certain he’ll be in the lineup Week 1.
O/U total touchdowns surrendered in 2017
Marshon Lattimore, Saints: 9.5
Marlon Humphrey, Ravens: 4.5
The Saints may choose to protect their rookie a little in his first season, but having Lattimore on the opposing team’s best receiver will be best for the team. Unfortunately, that receiver will be Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Kelvin Benjamin in six games.
Humphrey proved in the national championship game that he struggles to play the ball in the air. Look for teams to test the Bama product often, especially in goal-line situations. Humphrey’s saving grace is that he may be relegated to a nickel role with the Ravens.
O/U total touchdowns in 2017
Jabrill Peppers, Browns: 2.5
Adoree’ Jackson, Titans: 1.5
Both players will get a chance to return kicks/punts, and Peppers is expected to see some snaps on offense, too.
Photo Credit: Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire.