It’s the question that probably every single NFL team owner outside of the “Show Me State” is asking their General Manager, or the guy in charge of drafting players from college: “How the heck did we miss out on drafting Patrick Mahomes?”
The Kansas City Chiefs trading up to take Patrick Mahomes, combined with the teams that passed on him in the 2017 NFL Draft, had a direct impact on the future of at least five NFL franchises (more on that in a second). But passing on Mahomes wasn’t the only mistake made in that Draft. There were many other teams who took a player at a certain position, which ended up looking a lot worse when you look at other players taken later at the same position. And some other picks were total misses, considering how teams had needs at other positions that could’ve been filled with better drafting.
We dive into all of those mistakes, and the ramifications of them, in our list of the 12 biggest mistakes from the 2017 NFL Draft.
Mistake: Houston Drafted RB D’Onta Foreman
With all due respect to Lamar Miller, running back is a position that the Houston Texans simply have not been able to consistently rely upon since the days of Arian Foster. As such, the Texans probably used the 89th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on running back D’Onta Foreman from the University of Texas, hoping that the 2016 Consensus All-American, who ran for 2,028 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior, would be the answer at the position for the foreseeable future. Instead, Houston watched Foreman struggle with a combination of injuries and maturity issues, forcing them to release him just two years after drafting him.
Should Have Drafted: RB James Connor
Imagine if the Texans instead took James Conner from the University of Pittsburgh, the running back who was selected 16 picks after Foreman?
On top of the fact that Conner ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in his second year in the NFL (and added 497 yards receiving as well), he was considered to be a model citizen from his days at the University of Pittsburgh, and was lauded for his work ethic when overcoming his diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Mistake: Oakland Drafted CB Gareon Conley
The Oakland Raiders were probably hoping the, when they used their first-round pick on a cornerback in the 2017 NFL Draft, they’d get be selecting someone who would be named to the All-Pro team and lead the NFL in interceptions in his first three years. The problem was, the cornerback who accomplished those feats was taken three selections after Oakland made their pick.
The Raiders selected cornerback Gareon Conley from Ohio State University with the 24th overall pick, and traded him less than three years later as part of Jon Gruden’s roster makeover.
Should Have Drafted: CB Tre’Davious White
Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills took cornerback Tre’Davious White with the 27th overall pick – literally just three picks after Conley was taken. Needless to say, one of the two cornerbacks fared better than the other.
White was named a First-Team All-Pro in 2019, and has emerged as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Mistake: Dallas Drafted DE Taco Charlton
Sure, you’d be hard pressed to fault the Dallas Cowboys for selecting Vidauntae “Taco” Charlton with their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. After all, he was a popular prospect in the NFL Draft scouting community, and his nickname was eponymous with one of the greatest dishes on Earth.
But in hindsight, this pick looks terrible, considering the Cowboys were drafting Charlton to bolster their pass rush, and over his first two seasons, he accumulated a grand total of four sacks.
Should Have Drafted: DE TJ Watt
By comparison, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected T.J. Watt, the younger brother of J.J. Watt, just two picks after Charlton. And Watt now looks like the next great pass rushing threat in the storied history of the Steelers’ franchise.
Watt has accumulated 34.5 sacks over his first three years, and was selected to the Pro Bowl after each of the past two seasons.
Mistake: Tennessee Drafted WR Corey Davis
So many NFL Draft evaluators believed that Corey Davis, who set the NCAA Division 1 FBS all-time record in career receiving yards while at Western Michigan University, was an intriguing prospect. Still, the fact that the Tennessee Titans took him with the 5th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft raised at least a few eyebrows.
And given the benefit of hindsight, that reaction of surprise was warranted. Between injury struggles and quarterback troubles, Davis has yet to eclipse 900 yards receiving in any of his first three years, and has a grand total of six touchdown receptions.
Should Have Drafted: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
The selection of Davis, with a top five pick no less, looks even more egregious when you consider that 57 picks later, the Pittsburgh Steelers selected wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.
In addition to making Antonio Brown expendable for the Steelers (and surpassing him on the depth chart), Smith-Schuster became the youngest receiver in NFL history to reach 2,500 receiving yards.
Mistake: Cincinnati Drafted John Ross
It’s like the entire staff of the Cincinnati Bengals’ front office was temporarily possessed by the ghost of Al Davis. After watching John Ross set the NFL Combine record for the 40 yard dash (running it in 4.22 seconds), the Bengals shocked much of the NFL by using the 9th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on Ross, despite the fact that he weighed less than 200lbs, and already had injury concerns heading into the Draft.
Unsurprisingly, those injury problems came with him to the NFL, as he’s missed 24 of 48 possible games over his first three years in the NFL, and as a result, never had more than 506 yards receiving in any season.
Should Have Drafted: WR Kenny Golladay
Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions selected a wide receiver by the name of Kenny Golladay with the 96th pick in the Draft (ie, 87 picks after Ross was taken).
As a result of better drafting, the Lions have enjoyed Golladay’s back-to-back seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons. Suffice to say, Golladay would’ve looked really nice pairing alongside A.J. Green.
Mistake: Buffalo Drafted Zay Jones
There were a lot of NFL scouts and Draft pundits who put wide receiver Isaiah Avery “Zay” Jone among their top five players at the position in the 2017 NFL Draft. The East Carolina receiver was the son of former Dallas Cowboys’ linebacker Robert Jones, and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds while measuring in at 6’2 and 201lbs.
So it wasn’t that big of a surprise when the Buffalo Bills took Jones early in the second round of the Draft that year. But, picks like Jones show you why everyone says the Draft is “more art than science.” Jones simply could never translate his talent and football pedigree into on-field production.
Should Have Drafted: WR Cooper Kupp
Meanwhile the (then) Los Angeles Rams took wide receiver Cooper Kupp from Eastern Washington, who was almost exactly the same size as Jones (6’2 and 204lbs) but didn’t test nearly as well at the Combine.
Kupp has been enormously productive for the Rams, quickly becoming quarterback Jared Goff’s favorite and most trusted target, evidenced by Kupp’s 94 catches for 1,161 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019.
Mistake: Miami Drafted LB Raekwon McMillan
One of the reasons the Miami Dolphins have been endlessly running on the treadmill of mediocrity for what feels like forever is because of an inconsistent (at best) ability to build their team through the draft. Case in point? Look at the turnover that the Dolphins have had at the running back position.
Miami has had seven different players lead the team in rushing over the last 10 years; in 2019, things got so bad that quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was their leading rusher. In all honesty, most people didn’t scoff when the Dolphins used the 54th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on linebacker Raekwon McMillan from Ohio State University.
Should Have Drafted: RB Alvin Kamara
But, just imagine how different things could’ve been if the Miami Dolphins instead drafted running back Alvin Kamara, who went just 13 picks later to the New Orleans Saints?
Kamara has been one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NFL, accumulating at least 700 yards rushing combined with at least 500 yards receiving in each of his first three years in the league.
Mistake: Cleveland Drafted TE David Njoku
In fairness to the Cleveland Browns, there were eight tight ends taken among the first 145 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft. Little did any of the teams making picks realize that it would be the ninth tight end that would not only emerge as the best among the group, but perhaps one of the two best players at his position in just a few years.
The Browns actually traded back up into the first round of the 2017 draft to go grab super-athletic but raw tight end David Njoku from the University of Miami.
Should Have Drafted: TE George Kittle
In order to make the aforementioned trade, Cleveland traded a second and fourth round pick to the Green Bay Packers to move up.
Had the Browns been any good at drafting, they could’ve used either one of those two picks on tight end George Kittle, who set the NFL record for most receiving yards by a tight end (1,377) in just his second season.
Mistake: Seattle Drafted DT Malik McDowell
Seattle’s first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft turned out to prove the “ripple in time” theory: how one event can affect so many future ones. Everyone thought the Seahawks out-foxed the rest of the league when they selected uber-talented (but equally troubled) defensive tackle Malik McDowell with the 35 pick in the Draft.
But McDowell’s off-the-field activities and troubles resulted in McDowell never playing a single snap for the Seahawks.
Should Have Drafted: RB Dalvin Cook
If Seattle had instead drafted someone like running back Dalvin Cook, taken six picks after McDowell (by the Minnesota Vikings), not only would Seattle have not wasted their top pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, they wouldn’t have had to use a first round pick in the ensuing draft to take another player to address the running back position (Rashad Penny).
As the starting running back of the Vikings, Cook finished with 1,135 yards rushing (7th in the NFL) and 13 rushing touchdowns (3rd in the NFL) in 2019, and was a darkhorse MVP candidate for much of the season.
Mistake: Jacksonville Drafted RB Leonard Fournette
To be clear, it’s not like Leonard Fournette is a bad football player. The bruising battering ram from the Bayou has run for more than 1,000 yards in two of his first three seasons.
He also has just a bit under 4,000 total yards from scrimmage as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who took Fournette with the 4th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Should Have Drafted: RB Christian McCaffrey
But Leonard Fournette’s production in Jacksonville can’t even hold a candle to what Christian McCaffrey has done for the Carolina Panthers, who took McCaffrey four picks later in 2017. McCaffrey has been a one-man offense of his own since the day he arrived in the NFL.
After accumulating over 1,000 combined yards (rushing and receiving) and 7 total touchdowns as a rookie, McCaffrey flirted with over 2,000 combined yards in his second season (and had 13 total touchdowns).
And in his third NFL season? McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to record over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a single season, joining legends at the running back position like Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig.
Mistake: Cleveland Trades Out Of The #12 Pick
If you need any rationale to explain why former Cleveland Browns Executive Vice President Sashi Brown is no longer employed by an NFL team, look no further than his moves in two consecutive NFL Drafts.
Not only did Brown brag about the bounty he received from trading back in the 2016 NFL Draft (and bypassing the chance to take Carson Wentz), but when Cleveland was on the clock with the 12th overall pick in the 2017, Brown helped orchestrate the trade in which the Houston Texans moved up to #12 overall to grab quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Should Have Drafted: QB Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson has made the Pro Bowl in two of his first three years with the Texans, while the Browns used the pick they acquired on safety Jabrill Peppers, who is no longer with the team.
And to make matters worse: Cleveland still has to ask themselves if they have an answer at quarterback, given the significant regression we saw from Baker Mayfield.
Mistake: Chicago Drafted Mitch Trubisky
One of the only time you might have a native Chicagoan throw an entire deep dish pizza at your head is if you mention the track record of Chicago Bears’ General Manager Ryan Pace, when it comes to the NFL Draft. And “Exhibit A” of Pace’s atrocious Draft record would be his decision to make Mitchell Trubisky the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
It’s bad enough that Pace decided to use a top-three pick on Trubisky in said Draft, but to make matters worse, San Francisco 49ers’ General Manager John Lynch spooked Pace into moving up to the #2 overall pick, forcing the Bears to give up an extra third and fourth round selection in order to do so.
Should Have Drafted: QB Patrick Mahomes
Think about how different things would’ve been if Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears’ front office had the foresight to draft Patrick Mahomes, who’s already been selected as a First-Team All-Pro, the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, and the MVP of Super Bowl LIV.
After even just one season of starting in the NFL, Mahomes would’ve been the best quarterback in the history of the Bears’ franchise.