Safe picks: 10 high-floor, low-ceiling draft options
Analyst Jordan Plocher looks at the draft candidates who might not have superstar ceilings but can be counted on to put up safe production,
Safe picks: 10 high-floor, low-ceiling draft options
Conversations in draft meetings are constantly concerned with the value of a prospect in a best-case scenario of development and production — their ceiling — against the value of prospect in a worst-case scenario of their production and development — their floor. It might be wise at times to just try and draft the players with highest potentials and ceilings trying to maximize the draft capital invested. However, sometimes a team needs to pick a guy they think will be a safer pick, a player with the higher floor that will give the team a better chance of a decent return on the draft capital invested. Here are 10 prospects in the 2017 draft class with high floors but maybe lower ceilings than other top prospects, with some added information from each player’s PFF Draft Pass scouting report.
Barnett was one of the most productive pass-rushers in all of college football over the last three years. He has a wide array of pass-rush moves and can win in different ways. The average pass-rusher in college football can generate pressure approximately 10 percent of the time, but Barnett doubled that and generated pressure on 20 percent of his rushes. Barnett has also graded out well as a run defender for the past three seasons. Barnett’s combination of battle-tested pass-rush production in the SEC with his solid run defense make him arguably the safest pick in the draft.
The team that drafts Lamp will get solid offensive line play out of him and at more than one position. Lamp played left tackle at Western Kentucky and held up well against top pass-rushing teams like Alabama. Lamp did not allow a single sack in 2016 and only surrendered 3 QB hits and 2 hurries on 415 pass-blocking snaps. However, Lamp’s best position might be at guard at the NFL-level but the ability for his new team to be able to play him at multiple spots and get a solid performance makes him one of the safer picks in the draft.
A common narrative about Willis is that he lacks perceived bend around the edge to beat tackles on the outside in the NFL consistently. However, his college career shows he can produce as a pass-rusher in more ways than just a speed rush. Willis can win with a bull rush or a variety of pass-rush moves. In 2016, Willis had 15 sacks, eight QB hits, and 57 hurries on 524 pass-rushing snaps. Willis’s combination of pass-rush production plus the necessary athleticism to perform on the edge of an NFL defense give him a high floor.
Cooper Kupp’s ceiling is somewhat rest due to his age — he’ll turn 24 before the season — and lack of top-end speed. However, Kupp’s floor is high because all he does is get open and he can win both outside and in the slot — as shown by his target map below. Kupp generated 88 receptions and 1,220 receiving yards just in the slot in 2016. Kupp also generated 702 yards after the catch in last season so he isn’t simply a possession receiver. Kupp showed at the Senior Bowl practices that he can hold up and succeed at the highest level by consistently beating the best senior cornerbacks in the country.
Awuzie isn’t quite as athletic as the other top corners in the draft class and he hasn’t made as many plays on the ball as some others, as he only has a combined 3 interceptions over the past two seasons. Awuzie’s value really lies in his versatility which allows him to play outside cornerback, in the slot or at safety. Awuzie’s positional versatility means the team that drafts him can try him at different positions if he is better at one that the other in the NFL. Awuzie is also a highly effective blitzer who has generated 8 sacks, 6 QB hits, and 17 hurries over the past two seasons.
Hunt might not run a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash but he was exceptionally productive at Toledo and very hard for defenders to tackle. Hunt forced 76 missed tackles last season as a runner both by making people miss or by running through them. Hunt averaged 3.5 yards after contact per attempt in 2016, largely due to his outstanding balance which allows him to stay upright after getting hit. Hunt’s ability to make an impact in the passing game as well as just a runner is what gives him such a high floor. In 2016 as a pass-catcher, Hunt forced another 22 missed tackles on his way to picking up 431 yards after the catch.
Nose tackles appear to be a vanishing breed in the NFL which lowers the expected ceiling for a player like Glasgow. In 2016, Glasgow had 17 run stops so his new team will be getting immediate running down value. The common thought about drafting nose tackles is that they have reduced value if they have to leave the field on third downs due to a lack of pass-rush production. Yet, Glasgow offers a different skill-set as his pass-rush productivity rating on third downs was 15.9, which is good enough to rank No. 3 among interior defensive linemen in the class. That type of interior pass-rush production combined with his run-defense ability make Glasgow a high-floor pick.
This is one of the deepest tight end classes in recent memory and loaded with athletes at the top. Butt will likely get pushed down in the draft due to the lack of elite athleticism and the depth of the class. Butt represents a high floor in this draft due to his ability to consistently get open in the passing game. Butt was athletic enough to provide 294 yards after the catch last season and his 1.99 yards per route run ranks No. 8 in the draft class. Butt can be the type of player that his NFL quarterback relies upon to get the necessary yardage in clutch situations. Check out his target map below.
Williams plays with a high football IQ and was the leader of the Utah secondary in 2016. Williams leadership was missing when he was absent with an injury in the middle of the season and the Utes defense didn’t play up to their normal level. When Williams returned his presence was immediately felt as his ability to erase mistakes on the back-end of the defense makes everyone around him better. Over the past two seasons Williams has shown he can consistently make plays on the ball by breaking up two passes and intercepting 10. Williams’s grades and testing numbers indicated his NFL team will be getting a productive, athletic and rangy player for a centerfielder role as a free safety.
Brown isn’t quite 6 feet tall and doesn’t quite weigh 240 pounds, so he will be viewed by some teams as on the small side for a linebacker. However, he is one of the most productive run-stopping linebackers in the draft class because he is adept at diagnosing plays quickly and locating the ball. Brown’s run-stop percentage of 15.5 ranks No. 3 in the class. Brown is also a very reliable tackler and his tackling efficiency of 44.7 ranks No. 1 among all linebackers in the class. Brown’s production on running downs and tackling ability for special teams give him a high floor.