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Predicting Every First Rounder’s Success in the NFL

by Ryan Wright on May. 5, 2016

After every draft there will be players considered draft busts and draft steals at the end of every season. Yet it can be very difficult to determine what each player will end up turning out to be. In 2008, Bleacher Report did a study on this with the 95'-98' 1st round draft classes and the results may surprise you. A staggering 44% of those first round draft picks were out of the league by the start of the 2005 season, 49% were starters by the 2005 season, and 39% were Pro Bowlers at least once in their career.

Here are my predictions of how each first round draft will pan out in the NFL.

Grading Scale:

  • Elite  -  Top 5 player in the league at his position
  • Quality Starter  -  One of the best players on their team
  • Solid Starter  -  Plays his position well and gets the job done
  • Low-End Starter  -  Starter in the NFL but consistently under-produces
  • Situational Player  -  Doesn't start but comes in the game when his particular skill set is needed
  • Depth Player  -  Rarely ever gets playing time

 

1. Los Angeles Rams - Jared Goff, QB

Prediction: Solid Starter

Jared Goff landed in pretty good situation with the Rams. He has a good defense, an all-star running back, and an experienced coach in Jeff Fisher. However, I don't think Goff has what it takes to be a top tier quarterback in this league. Goff isn't really exceptional at anything (granted he has pretty good pocket presence), and instead has just an average skill set. This leads me to believe he will never truly live up to his number one draft pick status. I can see him having a career like Alex Smith or Mathew Stafford. 

2. Philadelphia Eagles - Carson Wentz, QB

Prediction: Elite

Unlike Goff, Wentz does have certain exceptional traits. He has great size and is very athletic for a quarterback, he has a powerful arm, and is a born leader. The only knock on Wentz is that he's coming from North Dakota State where the level of competition is at a minimal. In my eyes, Wentz will either be really good or really bad, depending on whether or not he can adapt to the NFL. I think he will have a career similar to Ben Roethlisberger but without all the Super bowls. 

3. San Diego Chargers - Joey Bosa, DE/OLB

Prediction: Quality Starter

Most people assumed Bosa would play outside linebacker in San Diego's 3-4 defense and if that were the case my prediction would drop all the way to a "low-end" Starter. However, defensive coordinator John Pagano recently said that Bosa would play defensive end. “We see him as a five-technique in our base defense,” Said Pagano. “He’s a defensive end in our sub defense." This benefits Bosa tremendously as he is a very good block shedder and is a natural run stuffer. Playing as a down lineman will get the most out of Bosa's skill set as opposed to playing as a stand-up edge linebacker. Although I don't think he"ll be the next JJ Watt, I can see him having a career similar to Cameron Jordan’s. 

4. Dallas Cowboys - Ezekiel Elliott, RB

Prediction: Elite

This one's easy for me as Elliott has already been regarded as the next Emmitt Smith, and playing behind 3 pro bowl lineman will certainly help that cause. Elliott may be the most versatile running back to come out of college since LaDainian Tomlinson. And although he may not be as dominant of a runner as Todd Gurley, or Adrian Peterson, he is a better receiver and pass blocker. I see him having the type of success of Curtis Martin.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jalen Ramsey, DB

Prediction: Elite

The Jaguars got a steal in Jalen Ramsey and he could have went earlier based on his upside alone. Although there is a lot of controversy on what position Ramsey should play, I don't think it will matter. Jacksonville's defense is on the up rise and Ramsey could be their Richard Sherman.

6. Baltimore Ravens - Ronnie Stanley, OT

Prediction: Elite

I think this is finally the year that the NFL gets some elite offensive line talent in the draft. Stanley is a Pro Bowl caliber tackle and if he entered the draft last year he would've easily been viewed as the draft's top tackle.

7. San Francisco 49ers - Deforest Buckner, DE

Prediction: Low-End Starter

This was a difficult prediction to make because I love Buckner as a player and he has so much upside. I am really concerned though with how high he plays, as being 6' 7" it can be really hard to lower your pad level and power through thick NFL guards. I think he will be a developmental project for his entire tenure with the 49ers and never live up to his massive potential.

8. Tennessee Titans - Jack Conklin, OT

Prediction: Solid Starter 

I really like Conklin's game but this was definitely a reach by the Titans. He is not nearly as quick or athletic as Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley and will likely be a right tackle his entire career. With that being said, it is rare for a right tackle to be considered elite, but I can see Conklin being a consistent player during his career.

9. Chicago Bears - Leonard Floyd, OLB

Prediction: Quality Starter

I can see why many people think Floyd will be a bust in the NFL. He has a super slim frame standing at 6' 6" 244 lbs and to be honest he doesn't even look that heavy. But I have hope for the Georgia product, when you turn on the tape all you see is an athletic freak torturing defenses. He is a very unique player and I would say there's no one like him in the game today. He's going to bring his new-style of play to the NFL and light it up.

10. New York Giants - Eli Apple, CB

Prediction: Solid Starter

There's a lot to like about Eli Apple. He is a long, fast corner back who played against some top talent in college. I just don't see him living up to top 10 pick expectations. In my final mock draft I had him going number 28 to the Chiefs as the fourth corner taken. He is very raw and may take up to four years to fully grasp the position in the NFL. When he does however, he has all the traits to be a solid starter in the NFL.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Vernon Hargreaves, CB 

Prediction: Quality Starter

Hargreaves slipped a bit because of his size and 40 time, but I still think he's going to have a tremendous NFL career. His cover skills and instincts are on par with some of the best, and his great ball skills were put on display by his four interceptions in 2015. Although he will always be limited physically, Hargraves is the type of player that will succeed despite of it.

12. New Orleans Saints - Sheldon Rankins, DT

Prediction: Elite

My first predicted "steal" of the draft, as players picked outside of the top 10 aren't typically expected to be elite. The Saints landed a gem with Rankins and he is exactly what they needed in their defense. Rankins is a unique prospect as he's a bit undersized at 6' 1" 299 lbs but is extremely quick and has the body type to be an excellent interior pass-rusher in the NFL. I love the comparisons to Aaron Donald and I think he could have similar success.

13. Miami Dolphins - Laremy Tunsil, OT

Prediction: Elite  

As I said before with Ronnie Stanley, this offensive tackle class is the best we've seen in a while, and Tunsil is at the top of it. Despite falling all the way to 13 and being the third offensive tackle taken, there is little debate that Tunsil is the best offensive lineman in the draft and possibly the best player overall. His skill set at the position is very rare and he will soon show the teams who passed on him that they made a big mistake. His success in the league could be equivalent to that of Tyron Smith.

14. Oakland Raiders - Karl Joseph, S

Prediction: Solid Starter

Karl Joseph is the type of all-around safety that teams look for these days. He is great in coverage and will punish you if you come into his zone. Joseph led the nation with five interceptions in just the first four games of the 2015 season before he went down with an injury that most thought would push him out of the first round. He can play both safety spots and should be a Solid Starter throughout his career with potential to be even better.

15. Cleveland Browns - Corey Coleman, WR

Prediction: Low-End Starter

If Coleman went to another team this prediction would be different. Not only because of the poor quarterback situation in Cleveland but because I thought Coleman would have been better off going to a team with an already established number one receiver. I say this because Coleman is not a good route runner and as of right now he's the only real threat the Browns have on the outside, so he will draw the team’s number one corner. I just don't know if he's going to be able to separate. I can see him having a career like Percy Harvin did before he retired. He might break out and show promise but ultimately he's just a catch and run guy. 

16. Detroit Lions - Taylor Decker, OT

Prediction: Depth Player

I'm not as big of a fan of Decker as some people are and thought this was a bit of a reach. Decker just isn't a good enough pass blocker to be a starter in the NFL as he struggled mightily in college against speed rushers. It won't take long for the Lions to figure this out and bench him before he gets Mathew Stafford killed. You may be thinking that "depth player" may be a bit of an exaggeration for the 16th overall pick in the draft, but as I noted in the intro, you'd be surprised by how big of busts a lot of these 1st rounder's turn out to be. 

17. Atlanta Falcons - Keanu Neal, S

Prediction: Quality Starter

Keanu Neal may turn into Dan Quinn's next Kam Chancellor. He's very raw and still needs to refine both his tackling and coverage. But I have faith that Quinn will mold Neal into a punisher in the back of their secondary. 

18. Indianapolis Colts - Ryan Kelly, C

Prediction: Elite

Kelly is big and tough in the middle of the offense. He is an exceptional run blocker as he opened holes all year for Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. He is athletic enough and has the size to turn into a top 5 center in the league in as soon as a couple of years.

19. Buffalo Bills - Shaq Lawson, OLB/DE

Prediction - Solid Starter

Shaq Lawson has a ton of upside but he isn't your typical edge rusher. He wins with speed and power, however he isn't very quick. This cautions me in calling him the next great pass rusher as quickness is one of the most vital traits in the art of getting after quarterback. He could however turn out to be like Tamba Hali, someone who plays with a very similar style. Pass rushing aside, Lawson is an extremely effective run defender. He has great instincts in the backfield and very rarely misses a tackle. I can see him being a guy who may only get 7 sacks a year but can set an edge like the best of them.

20. New York Jets - Darron Lee, LB

Prediction: Quality Starter

Darron Lee is one of my favorite players in the draft. He has the speed and athleticism to lock up receivers and chase down even the fastest backs. He's the type of player that is going to accumulate a lot of tackles and interceptions. I can see his success in the NFL being very comparable to Lavonte David's.

21. Houston Texans - Will Fuller, WR

Prediction: Situational Player 

I'm not a big fan of Fuller as I see his upside being limited to a DeSean Jackson type player, and I don't even think he'll reach that. He doesn't have the hands to be a consistent starter in the league and doesn't even run good routes. I will give him this though, he landed in a fantastic place that will maximize his skill set. I think he'll end up being just like the countless other one-dimensional deep threats in the game, a situational player who bounces from team to team. A good comparison for his career success could be Ted Gin Jr.

22. Washington Redskins - Josh Doctson, WR

Prediction: Quality Starter

Finally! A legitimate wide receiver one. Doctson Is my favorite receiver in this class and has potential to be elite. His ability to track the ball in the air and snag it over defenders is incredible. Listed at 6' 2", he plays like he's 6' 5" and showed it at the combine by jumping a 41" vertical. He has work to do with his routes but has the hands and athletic ability to put on a show at the next level.

23. Minnesota Vikings - Laquan Treadwell, WR

Prediction: Solid Starter

The Vikings are a perfect fit for Treadwell. People are hating on him so much for being slow that they forgot about how good he was at Ole Miss. I don't see his lack of speed being an indicator that he won't produce in the NFL. He still has top-notch hands and is a crisp route runner. The thing that sets him apart from others though is his aggressive mentality. Being 221 lbs, Treadwell is going to have the best of smaller corner backs in the league and should be a great red-zone target. Look for Treadwell to be a key part in that Vikings offense early and create a dynamic duo with second year wide out Stefan Diggs.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - William Jackson III, CB

Prediction: Solid Starter

I think there's a good chance Jackson busts in the NFL as he's more of a play-making prototype than cover man. With that being said, he should get plenty of love from fans and coaches because of his ability to play the ball in the air. I can see him being an inconsistent corner in the league, but with his interceptions making up for it. I like the career comparison to Tramon Williams.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers - Artie Burns, CB

Prediction: Depth Player

I said William Jackson III was raw, well this guy's is even more so. Very similar to Jackson, he's a play-making prototype which teams covet, and that's what put him in the first round. I don't think he'll be able to translate to the NFL though, as he just doesn't have the natural cover skills needed to play corner at the next level. I'm predicting his career will go something like Justin Gilbert's, Dee Milliner's, or even Morris Claiborne's.

26. Denver Broncos - Paxton Lynch, QB

Prediction: Quality Starter

I think Lynch is a way better prospect than his draft spot indicates. Quarterbacks are so over-valued in today's game and for good reason. Denver made a great move trading up to ensure they got the guy that may be the future of their franchise. Obviously he got put in a perfect scenario to succeed with the Broncos and whether he starts right away or not, he should prove his worth quickly. Think about how Joe Flacco's career has fared over the years, and I could see similar results with Lynch.

27. Green Bay Packers - Kenny Clark, DT

Prediction: Solid Starter

This was a bit of a surprise as there were still higher rated prospects at his position on the board. I still like the pick though as he's one of the better nose tackles in the draft. I think he could quickly make a name for himself as one of the quicker, more athletic nose tackles in the NFL. I can see his NFL career turn out to be very similar to Bennie Logan's for the Philadelphia Eagles.

28. San Francisco 49ers - Joshua Garnett 

Prediction: Low-End Starter

I'm shaking my head right now looking at this selection. It's one thing to reach for a guard you really like late in the first round, I'd be okay with that. However, it's a completely different situation if you trade up to get him, especially when there's loads of first round talent still available. This guy better turn out to be great because any guard taken in the first round has high expectations. I have him being a low-end starter in the league because he's playing for the 49ers, a franchise "revitalized" by Chip Kelly and closing in on what’s going to be a dreadful season.

29. Arizona Cardinals - Robert Nkemdiche, DE/DT

Prediction: Quality Starter

I considered putting Nkemdiche in the elite category. I'm really pulling for this kid in the NFL, and as long as he doesn't get in trouble (fingers crossed) he should be a monster on the D-line. He is such a unique player who has prototypical build and strength that will scare offensive lineman for years to come. As I said before, if he stays out of trouble he has potential to be elite in this league.

30. Carolina Panther - Vernon Butler, DT

Prediction: Quality Starter

I was really bummed to see Butler go to the Panthers as they already have two stud defensive tackles on their roster. I love Butler's game and he has the size and quickness to be a really talented nose tackle in this league, as he kind of reminds me of a very raw Marcell Dareus. It may take a while but I think Butler will eventually turn into a quality starter in the NFL.

31. Seattle Seahawks - Germain Ifedi, OL

Prediction: Quality Starter

This was one of my favorite picks in the draft, the Seahawks traded back and still got the guy they've always wanted. Ifedi is a very safe prospect as his position versatility brings a lot of insurance, because if he doesn't pan out at tackle you can always move him inside and he will still produce. The Seahawks have a terrible line and whether it’s at tackle or guard, Ifedi is a huge upgrade.