By Seth Rivello
The past couple of NFL drafts have had some big-name talent, but for the most part it’s been consistent with a lot of flash-in-the-pan players. What I mean by that is that many of the rookies put up good numbers that first year and after that, you never hear about them again. Either they struggle with injury or are just flat out unproductive. The 2017 class is different; these guys are different.
In a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, Spencer Ware, starting running back for the Kansas City Chiefs at the time, got gang-tackled and tore his MCL and PCL. With him missing for the rest of the season, it put the ball in Kareem Hunt’s hands, the rookie running back from the University of Toledo.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, it was said Hunt had “average explosive traits” and “could struggle to find chunk runs at the next level,” which may have been a reason he was picked over and taken in the third round.
Hunt now leads the league with 609 rushing yards, yards per rush attempt with 6.3 (minimum 90 carries), rushes of 20 yards plus with seven, and yards per game with 121.8. It’s early in the season, but the Chiefs are 5-0 with the help of Hunt. Kansas City has one of the best offenses in the league. Hunt was definitely a steal and a number one back of the future.
Deshaun Watson was a winner in college with the Clemson Tigers, but he was always picked over during the Heisman voting. It always seemed like Watson was the little brother to someone. In this year’s draft, Patrick Mahomes II and Mitchell Trubisky were the more talked about quarterbacks, leaving Watson last.
Watson was selected twelfth by the Houston Texans, Trubisky was second and Mahomes was chosen tenth. Houston always has talent but never a quarterback, but they have found their man. Watson through five games has the Texans at 2-3, but is second behind Aaron Rodgers in passing touchdowns with 12. Watson has over 1,000 yards passing and a passer rating of 100.7.
He can move, too, as he has close to 200 yards rushing with a couple touchdowns. Most recently, he threw five touchdowns against a stout Kansas City defense. Watson looks like the real deal, a Brett Favre-like player. Hopefully he can carry the Texans farther than a Wild Card loss.
The Jacksonville Jaguars haven’t had a spark since the 2015 season where it had two receivers over 1,000 yards and 10-plus touchdowns apiece. The Jags still finished 5-11 that season and a big reason was because it lacked a running game. 2016 was even worse with the offense at an all-time low. With the fourth pick in the draft, Jacksonville selected the running back from Louisiana State University, Leonard Fournette. The Jags haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2011 and are looking for Fournette to break that drought. He is currently first in the league with 109 rushing attempts and second in the league with 466 rushing yards, which puts him 143 behind Hunt. Fournette is tied for first with five rushing touchdowns.
Fournette’s breakout performance came recently against the Pittsburgh Steelers where he carried the ball 28 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns. One touchdown was a practically untouched 90-yard scamper.
With all these guys in the spotlight, we forget about Christian McCaffrey, recently injured Dalvin Cook and Corey Davis. This draft class is very deep and could compare to 2014, one of the deepest the NFL has ever seen.