The vision of the All-Juice team is simple. In preparation for this year’s NFL Draft, I’ve watched hours of tape, and during that time, some guys are bound to stand out. This team is meant to recognize 22 prospects I like for various reasons, whether it be their effort, feistiness or performance.
Why the name "All-Juice?" Juice is a phrase that, in football terms, means having energy, or having the goods. To better understand it, watch Warren Sapp and Jon Gruden explain it in the short clip below.
By the way, I’ve also released all-juice teams the previous two years. Each year, the Chiefs have drafted somebody from the team. In 2015, they took Steven Nelson. In 2016, they took Eric Murray.
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Also, one more thing: this year, I introduced a new system for picking the team that not only made it more fun, but also introduced a strategical element to it. First, take a look at my grading scale for grading prospects:
7.5-7.1: Top 10 pick
7.0: picks 11-20
6.8: Top half of the second round
6.7: Bottom half of the second
6.6: Top half of the third
6.5: Bottom half of the third
6.4: Fourth-round pick
6.3: Fifth-round pick
6.2: Sixth-round pick
6.1: Seventh-round pick
6.0: Priority free agent
So this year, I basically forced myself to only take two players from each grade. Made for some painful omissions, but was also a lot of fun. My general strategy was to essentially punt on the offensive line, since this class is historically bad, and get a bunch of alphas, athletes and edgy players who love football. Would love to see some of your “all-juice teams” before or after the draft, too! Just send them to my email firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter or something.
So without further ado, let’s get to it — the 2017 All-Juice Team:
QB PATRICK MAHOMES II, Texas Tech: Tough choice here between Deshaun Watson and Mahomes, and for a long time, I was going to pick Watson. But I thought back to my extended one-on-one interview with Mahomes, and I thought about all the people I talked to that raved about him, and I thought about his tape, which is so much fun to watch — bonehead throws and all — and I didn’t have much of a choice here. He’s got some Favre in him, with a little Manziel and a dash of Stafford. If Andy Reid gets his hands on him, sits him for a year — and I mean, not one snap — and gives him the reigns in 2018 or 2019, this dude could make multiple Pro Bowls. I hope, for his sake, he doesn’t go to a team that throws him to the wolves early. He’ll need some time to get comfortable with NFL verbiage.
RB SAMAJE PERINE, Oklahoma: Love this dude. Love him, love him, love him. Old-school, tough guy back who runs hard, catches the ball and blocks his tail off. The kind of guy you put on the field and trust with the rock immediately. The only thing he doesn’t do it run away from people, but he’s somehow broken off a long run every season. Joe Mixon is a stud, but it says a lot about Perine that Mixon couldn’t command the lion’s share of carries the last two years.
RB JAMES CONNER, Pittsburgh: Here’s all you need to know about Conner: He beat cancer in a year, just like Eric Berry, and his nickname is “The Hammer” because of his — and you’re never going to believe this — physical running style. He catches the ball well, runs over dudes and is so tough Pitt’s coaches seriously considered playing him on defense earlier in his career. You just know he’s going to go to a team like Pittsburgh or something and have some moments in a reserve role.
WR JOHN ROSS III, Washington: Look, Ross is somewhat slight (5-11, 188) and there are some injury concerns. I don’t care. No one can cover him. He’s the fastest guy on the field, always, and he has a lot of DeSean Jackson in him, with the route-running ability to work underneath, too. His long-ball touchdown on Adoree’ Jackson — another member of the all-juice team — was eye-opening.
WR CHAD HANSEN, California: One of the most pleasant surprises of my draft preparation. Hansen was Davis Webb’s go-to guy at Cal, and when I was watching Webb’s tape, I kept seeing No. 6 make catches, beat people after the catch and generally play his tail off. He’s productive, competitive and he even blocks. He needs to get stronger but I could see him being a mid-round steal.
TE GEORGE KITTLE, Iowa: Here’s the thing, guys; tight ends don’t block anymore. None of them block anymore. But Kittle does. He’s big (6-4, 247), he’s strong and he’s a nasty run blocker. First game I saw of him, he put a defender in the dirt within, like, one minute. When I saw that, plus his 4.5 40, I was sold. I’ve got a fourth-round grade on him but I wouldn’t be surprised if he went in the third.
T CONOR McDERMOTT, UCLA: I love big offensive tackles, and McDermott (6-8, 307) fits the bill. He’s also got long levers (34 3/4 inches) and big hands (11 inches) to control defenders, and tested well in the agility drills. He’s top-heavy and struggles to overpower d-linemen at the point of attack, but I like him as a developmental swing tackle in a zone running scheme like the Chiefs’. Maybe an NFL training program will help him preportion his body.
G ADAM BISNOWATY, Pittsburgh: Any man that blocked for James “The Hammer” Conner is going to get a long look for me, and I came away like Bisnowaty’s tough-guy approach to the game. He’s a limited athlete but again, all you need from guards for them to be functional is intelligence, toughness and durability. The latter is a question with Adam — he’s missed games with injuries the last four years — but in this case, it works in my favor as I find a way to get an experienced four-year starter in the sixth round, about a round later than he should go.
C PAT ELFLEIN, Ohio State: All I need from my interior guys are for them to be smart, tough and durable. Elflein, a two-time captain, checks all those boxes and has the look of a player who will outperform his draft status and anchor a line for years.
G BEN BRADEN, Michigan: I enjoyed watching Michigan play football this year, and while Braden isn’t a great athlete, he’s a classic Michigan offensive lineman — big (6-7, 329), tough and nasty. He’s also been coached by Jim Harbaugh, so I know he’s been coached well. Maybe he can start as a backup swing guard in the league and work his way up.
T DAN SKIPPER, Arkansas: Skipper is a massive tackle (6-9, 309) who plays with an attitude. He’s also a team captain and someone who has been well-coached at Arkansas. Playing o-line in the NFL is about guts and want-to, so while I’m concerned about all the penalties he racked up for the Razorbacks, in a bad o-line draft you can find a worse guy to take a late-round flier on. Maybe he can add strength and improve his technique in the NFL.
DE DeMARCUS WALKER, Florida State: Walker didn’t test great, which is what ultimately make him a second-day (and not a first-day) pick. But he has a great feel for the game — he has natural pass-rush instincts — and was very productive, racking up 26 1/2 sacks the last two years. He also is a high-effort player and a two-time team captain. My kind of guy.
NT DALVIN TOMLINSON, Alabama: Tomlinson is a big, strong dude (6-3, 310) who isn’t going to give you much as a pass rusher but is field-aware and very difficult to move. I love powerful nose tackles, and Tomlinson fits the bill for my defense.
DE TANOH KPASSAGNON, Villanova: Kpassagnon is a huge dude (6-7, 289) who has the look of a five-technique in 3-4. I was impressed by his athleticism and length. He explodes off the snap, he plays hard and was a team captain. I’m in.
OLB CHARLES HARRIS, Missouri: Y’all can go ahead and bet against the next torch-bearer for D-Line Zou if you want to. Harris, a Lincoln Prep grad, is a supremely confident local kid with an assortment of pass-rush moves. His stats would have been better in 2016 if he wasn’t asked to two-gap for half of 2016. Don’t get me started.
ILB JARRAD DAVIS, Florida: Davis’ eye discipline can be a mess, and his LSU tape from 2015 was rough. But the more I watched of him, the more his non-stop motor and enthusiasm continually stood out. He even has a fun little half-skip he does after any big play that won me over. I spoke to him at the Combine and came away feeling like he was an alpha dog. I think he’ll smooth out the rough spots in his game and be a good player in this league.
ILB CONNOR HARRIS, Lindenwood: Look, I know his arms are short. I know NFL teams are going to pick apart all sorts of things about him. But all Harris, a Blue Springs South grad, has ever done since high school is perform a Jim Thorpe impression every week for the teams he’s played on. At the very least, I have confidence he’ll be an effective special teamer in the NFL, with the potential to work his way up to a bigger role. I believe in Connor Harris and you should, too.
DE/OLB JORDAN WILLIS, Kansas State: How about that? Three local kids on the all-juice team! I’m not being a homer or anything, either; all three of these guys can really play. Willis, a Rockhurst grad, is a worker bee with a chip on his shoulder who is going to outwork anyone. I believe he is going to be a good pro. By the way, I know I have three 6.9-graded guys on the team (Mahomes, Harris and Willis). However, I only have one 7.0 guy on the team to even it out. That’s called cap management, friends.
CB MARSHON LATTIMORE, Ohio State: Lattimore has hamstring issues, but that’s the only real knock on his game I could find. He has quick feet, ball skills, he’s competitive; if he checks out medically, I see him as a legit top-four pick. Love the passion he plays with. His testing numbers match what’s on tape, too.
S JABRILL PEPPERS, Michigan: I love players who play both sides of the ball; it’s almost always a surefire indication that the guy is a surefire football player. In addition to making plays with the ball in his hands — I might have written him up as a running back, if I was a scout — Peppers carries himself like an alpha, just super-confident, and it’s genuine. I’m sold.
S JUSTIN EVANS, Texas A&M: Evans lacks bulk (6-0, 199) at safety but he basically did a Sean Taylor impression every week in 2016. He’s aggressive, he has plus ball skills and he plays the game with his eyes. Love this dude’s game and wonder what he’d look like as a corner.
CB ADOREE’ JACKSON, USC: Again, I love two-way players. Jackson was a threat as an offensive player and returner at USC, and that — plus the way he throws his body around as a corner despite being 5 feet 10 and 186 pounds — would have been enough to make the team on its own. But then I saw him live at the Rose Bowl, and after a teammate intercepted a pass in the first quarter, I watched Jackson sprint 100 yards to the corner of the end zone, where he proceeded to fire up the USC fans section. Awesome.
THE STAR’S 2017 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW
OL: Pro day performance caps fun two days for Missouri Western’s Travis Anderson | rankings, to come
EDGE: K-State’s Jordan Willis has worked his way into first-round discussion | rankings, to come
S: Pitt State’s Deron Washington carries on NFL dream for family | rankings, to come
Terez A. Paylor, email@example.com