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Bold predictions for the 2017 NFL draft

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Texas A&M v Auburn Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

After months and months of evaluation, speculation and prognostication, the tale of the 2017 NFL draft will be told tonight. Three bold predictions:

  • Zero trades in the top eight

After the Browns select Myles Garrett first overall, the next teams slotted to draft are the 49ers, Bears, Jaguars, Titans, Jets, Chargers and Panthers. Each of these teams would reportedly like to trade down and accumulate extra players. Unfortunately for them, it takes two to tango.

More than a handful of impressive prospects are regarded as top-10 talents, but each has their flaws. Leonard Fournette, O.J. Howard, Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker are supposedly generational prospects; however running back, tight end and safety are not considered premium positions. Jonathan Allen and Marshon Lattimore come with legitimate injury concerns. And Solomon Thomas does not have a clearly defined position at the next level. Thus, most of the clubs in the top ten would prefer to move back to take advantage of the quality in the middle of the first round.

Ordinarily, teams would be jockeying for position at the top of the draft to select their franchise quarterback, as the Rams and Eagles did last year. However, there are no bonafide franchise quarterbacks in this draft class. Some expect Cleveland to trade up for a signal caller using their twelfth overall pick, but their front office relies on an analytical approach to drafting that emphasizes quantity over quality.

Therefore, there will be no trades within the top eight draft slots. The providential trade offers will not materialize for the teams picking early. They will be forced into selecting the top player on their draft board, regardless of expected value.

  • Over 33% of the first round picks will be defensive ends or outside linebackers

Edge rusher is the second most valuable position on the field, behind only quarterback. The franchise tag value of $17 million for defensive end bears this out. After the recent revelations about the character issues and injury status of several defensive backs, edge rusher is also clearly the strongest position of this draft class.

Defensive ends Thomas, Allen and Derek Barnett are first round locks. Taco Charlton, Jordan Willis and Malik McDowell will also come off the board on Thursday night. Each has an aspect of their game that can be nitpicked, but they all possess first round talent at an extremely valuable position.

At outside linebacker, Garrett and Haason Reddick are expected to be taken among the first ten picks. Charles Harris, Takkarist McKinley and T.J. Watt also provide double digit sack potential. The opportunity to add a formidable pass rusher will be too enticing for teams to pass up in the middle and late part of the round.

That makes eleven edge rushers that will go in the first. For comparison, only five defensive ends or outside linebackers were chosen in the first round of the 2016 draft. This year, it is more likely that 12 will be picked on Thursday than 10.

  • More than ten safeties will be selected in the first three rounds

Over the three previous drafts combined, less than six safeties have been chosen in the first three rounds on average. This is not because the safety position is unimportant. With NFL offenses passing more every season, strong safeties who can cover tight ends man-to-man and free safeties who can destroy offensive gameplans by controlling the deep part of the field are invaluable.

Truthfully, the safety classes in the last few drafts have lacked both elite quality and depth. The 2017 crop is not only exceptionally deep with skilled safeties, there is pent-up demand for the position across the league because the last few classes have been underwhelming.

Adams and Hooker are poised to be picked early on. Jabrill Peppers, Obi Melifonwu and Budda Baker comprise a tier of safeties projected to be selected near the beginning of Day 2. The next tier of mid-second round to third round talents is where this safety class truly separates itself from the others. Between Marcus Williams, Josh Jones, Justin Evans, Marcus Maye, Desmond King and Eddie Jackson, at least five early starters will be found.

It would not be surprising if someone from the next tier, possibly John Johnson, Tedric Thompson, Montae Nicholson Delano Hill or Nate Gerry, snuck into the compensatory portion of the third round. A few years from now, we will view the 2017 safety crop with the same reverence we share for the 2014 wide receiver class.