The 2017 NFL Draft is upon us and teams are ready to go through the grueling process of selecting the right players for their future. This year’s draft has some exciting prospects who have the potential to become not only key figures for their chosen franchise, but to emerge as the latest star of the NFL.
The NFL draft is the process of teams selecting eligible college players, who are evaluated and scouted throughout their playing years at their respective universities and colleges. As in all American sports leagues, the lowest seeded teams get to pick the top-ranked players in the draft, in an attempt to improve their struggling teams.
Draft picks may be traded between franchises on the night of the draft, as each team has ten minutes to make their pick for the first round. Time dwindles to seven minutes in the second round, five and four minutes in the later rounds.
Remember, though, being selected high in the draft does not always mean a player will translate that promise onto the next level, these players have put forth a body of work which has catapulted them to the top of their positions.
DESHAUN WATSON / CLEMSON
The two-time Heisman trophy finalist led Clemson to their first national title in 2016. Watson is a mobile quarterback who can gain chunks of yardage with his legs and can perform in the clutch. His upside is tremendous and will likely be drafted within the first ten picks. As for most quarterbacks, picking up the pro-style offense will take some time.
DESHONE KIZER / NOTRE DAME
Kizer had a 63 percent completion percentage for 2,884 yards and 21 touchdowns. He has a big arm, is an all around athletic passer and has been able to overcome his lack of experience as a starting quarterback. The 21-year-old is projected to be drafted in the first round and could be selected by the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns or the Chicago Bears, who are all in desperate need of a quarterback.
LEONARD FOURNETTE / LSU
Fournette is an athletic, powerful runner who has made an impact in the South East Conference. He led the SEC in all-purpose yards as a true freshman and followed up with 1,953-yards rushing and 22 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. Fournette has the physical gifts to be a star in the NFL, his durability may be a concern due to his rough running style down the field.
MIKE WILLIAMS / CLEMSON
A prototypical wide receiver with tremendous leaping ability and catching skills. Williams is a notch above the rest of the class as his game seems best prepared to translate immediately into the NFL. As any rookie receiver, he will need to be coached up on routes and technique, but this type of talent is hard to pass up for any team in need of a receiver.
O.J HOWARD / ALABAMA
Howard had his best season in 2015, catching 38 passes for 602 yards. He also won offensive MVP honors for his contributions in the National Championship game when Alabama beat Clemson. He is a raw talent with size and speed and the 22-year-old has the potential to become an all-purpose tight end in the NFL.
RYAN RAMCZYK / WISCONSIN
At 6 foot 6 inches tall and 310 pounds, Left Tackle Ramczyk is a ground and pound lineman with athleticism and technique. In 2016 he starred for the Badgers and claimed first-team All-Big Ten honors and did not miss a game the entire season. His game is fundamentally sound and could prove to be a solid contributor to an offensive line in the NFL.
MYLES GARRETT / TEXAS A&M
A physical specimen like Myles Garrett will turn heads and any team in need of a defensive lineman will have Garrett on their board. His combine numbers were outstanding, Myles completed his 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds and recorded a 41-inch vertical jump.
He earned first-team All-American and All-SEC as a junior while putting up 15 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 11 games. The Uber-athletic edge rusher has the potential to become an All-pro in the NFL, the only knock on Garrett has been his effort at times, many scouts have stated that he takes plays off during games.
REUBEN FOSTER / ALABAMA
Alabama’s linebacker won the SEC championship MVP as he rocketed to elite status in collegiate football. His ferociousness on defense helped him accumulate a team-leading 115 tackles while becoming a playmaker for Alabama. Scouts see pro-bowl potential in Foster and envision him being able to play inside linebacker as well as weak-side linebacker. The combination of his freakish athleticism and sound fundamentals have given Foster a high grade in the draft.
MARSHON LATTIMORE / OHIO STATE
In his first full season without injury, Lattimore recorded four interceptions with nine pass breakups. His overall impact on the team’s defense was felt throughout the year. His explosive play and anticipation give him an upper hand on other receivers. Lattimore has the potential to be a Pro-bowl cornerback and depleted teams will give him a shot even though his experience is limited.
MALIK HOOKER / OHIO STATE
The Ohio State safety made his first splash in 2016, he made first-team All-American and All-Big Ten after making 74 tackles with seven interceptions. His high impact play and natural instinct make him a threat at the position at all times. Malik lacks experience, however, his ball skills and ability to play within a scheme will help him become a promising NFL player.
WAYS TO WATCH
You can watch the complete NFL draft on the NFL Network and ESPN. Round one of the draft starts Thursday night at 4 AM UAE time.
Rounds two and three will commence on Friday night at 3 AM UAE time. Saturday night will be the final day with rounds 4-7 of the draft at 8 PM UAE time.
Keep up with all the latest from the NFL draft:
Dubai Little League’s 12th annual Baseball and Softball Tournament afforded young players in the emirate a platform to showcase their talent against fellow Middle East nations for college and professional scouts.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia took part in the three-day tournament, held this past weekend, which featured 60 games across five baseball divisions and two softball groups, from ages seven to 18.
Dubai impressively topped the table in Under-8, U14 and U18 baseball, while the U14 and U18 softball squads also captured first.
The overall success for Dubai was promising, but just as encouraging was the presence of scouts to check out potential prospects.
Dubai teenager Sean Fekete was one of the players to put his skills on display, with the 17-year-old pitcher doing his best to catch the eye of scouts.
“Every year we hold this tournament, the level of play increase and the games get more competitive as we go on,” Fekete said.
“I think Dubai, our leagues, gets better every year and there’s more talent every year we hold. You can just see our level increasing exponentially while other countries and cities might not be increasing as fast as ours.”
“As we get better players here, it gives more chance to the young guys who are good. They get more exposure because the coaches in the states realise there’s more talent here than they think. It gives them a second look at Dubai.”
One of the talent evaluators in attendance was Steve Fish, who scouts for Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox. The former collegiate and minor leaguer player has built a close relationship with Dubai Little League and Fekete has taken full advantage of his advice.
“He always gives me pointers and tells me what I can do better because ideally I’m always looking to improve,” Fekete said.
“It helps him letting me know mechanically what I can do to throw harder and be more accurate with my pitches.”
Like his peers, Fekete has aspirations of playing baseball at the next level in college, whether on scholarship or not.
He’s in the process of sending emails and videos of him pitching to potential coaches in the United States. Fekete certainly has talent colleges would covet, with the right-hander standing 6-foot-3 and armed with a fastball that can reach up to 87 miles per hour on the radar.
Fekete is eyeing colleges like Notre Dame, University of Ohio and University of Tampa, among others, but his top choice would likely be the alma mater of his sisters, Michigan State. “If I have the chance I’d love to play there,” he said.
While Dubai Little League is done for the season, Fekete and other standouts will begin training next week in preparation of summer ball in the US.
Dubai could host an NBA game within two to three years as part of the league’s Global Games series, according to NBA senior vice president and managing director of Europe, Middle East and Africa.
While the NBA has travelled to 20 different countries as part of Global Games since the first overseas contest back in 1978, the MENA region has yet to feature one.
That could change in the coming years with Dubai specifically singled out as a potential destination for either a preseason or regular season game.
“It would be great to do that in the next two or three years,” Morel said at a media gathering on Tuesday. “In terms of our calendar it’s pretty compact, but we’re looking at pre-season, in October.”
One of the biggest hurdles standing in the way of bringing an NBA game to the UAE is a suitable venue.
While Morel acknowledged Hamdan Sports Complex and its history of hosting basketball, most notably the FIBA Under-17 World Championships in 2014, he believes the arena would need some altering to truly fit the mould.
Instead, a potential landing spot could be one that hasn’t even been fully constructed yet.
“We are actively looking at the opportunities,” Morel said. “We do need some arena standards. There’s a lot of ongoing projects, so we’re carefully monitoring the situation to be able to do that in the near future.
“I think It’s something where basketball belongs, rather than giving it a size restriction. We can be flexible. The NBA is beyond basketball, it’s a show. You’d want to do a game justice and make sure for one night, the people from the region can actually experience what an NBA game is. So we want to make sure we’ve got somewhat the capability to reproduce it.”
Though basketball may not be the most popular sport in the UAE, Morel believes the potential in the region extends beyond the game.
“There’s a tremendous appetite for the NBA here,” he said. “Obviously there’s a sports angle, there are global sports icons, but the NBA entertainment is a type of entertainment that will resonate well in the region. Especially bringing something that’s never been done before will attract a lot of interest.”