NFL Futures? - Best Pro Prospects in the 2017 Recruiting Class

May 27 -- They say there are few sure things in recruiting, but a number of top draft choices in the last few years were highly regarded recruits. Who are the members of the 2017 class who have the best opportunities to hear their names called early one day? Scout's panel of recruiting analysts cast their votes...

Trey Smith, OT — Jackson (Tenn.) University School of Jackson 

Smith has separated himself as the No. 1 offensive tackle in the South and those elite prospects at his position are at a premium in the NFL.  Not only does Smith have the size at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, but he has the feet, the reach, the smarts, and the ability to be coached.  There are currently a handful of players out of the South ranked above him, and I would hope all are successful in college, and then get drafted in the NFL, but if I have to single out one prospect right now, it would be Smith.  He is the total package, his position is a premium one, and when you look at the question, he checks all the boxes for the answer. Tennessee, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma and others are battling for Smith still. - Chad Simmons

Najee Harris , RB --- Antioch (Calif.)

Even though the running back position has been devalued when it comes to the NFL Draft, the last couple of years saw Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliot go in the top 10. Harris is arguably the top running back to come out of California in the last decade and has special qualities. He has an NFL body right now at 6-2, 220 pounds, runs very well, can make a defender miss in the open field, is tough and physical between the tackles and has tremendous hands out of the backfield. His combination of size, speed and power is something you don't see very often and his work ethic off the field is extremely high as well. Barring injury, it's tough to see Harris not have a long, successful career at the next level and beyond. Harris is committed to Alabama, but other schools continue to recruit him. - Greg Biggins

Foster Sarell, OT --- Graham (Wash.) Kapowsin

The last time the state of Washington produced a five-star offensive lineman was in 2012 when Joshua Garnett was a five-star from the Evergreen State, and he would go on to win the Outland Trophy, three Pac-12 titles at Stanford and be a first round draft pick in this month’s NFL Draft.  Sarell is a five-star out of Pierce County, like Garnett, and much like his predecessor, we’ve been talking about him since he was a freshman.  But Sarell is an even better prospect at the same stage than Garnett was, which is saying a lot.  He’s a longtime basketball player and he’s got incredible footwork for a big man.  At 6-7, 336, with hardly any bad weight, Sarell is as technically sound a lineman that you’ll find in this class.  And there is a good chance that Sarell, like Garnett before him, could end up at The Farm.  In fact, the last two offensive lineman from Washington that Stanford has signed, Garnett and David DeCastro, were unanimous All-Americans and first round draft picks.  Could Sarell make it a trifecta? - Brandon Huffman

Devon Hunter, ATH --- Chesapeake (Va.) Indian River

Hunter is the No. 4 player in the nation, and the top prospect in the East, so it goes without saying how much I think of his ability. In the NFL, I see him as a safety or outside linebacker, depending on how much he grows, but in projecting, he has the talent and frame to be a top-end safety. He breaks on the ball well, he sees the game in front of him, he is physical in run support and in he has the looseness to cover man-to-man. His burst and change of direction are elite. In recruiting, Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Ohio State are each making strong runs for him. - Brian Dohn

Baron Browning, LB --- Kennedale (Texas)

The five-star linebacker from Kennedale (Texas) has many of the tools that you would look for in a potential NFL prospect. Checking in at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, he has the physical attributes that have college coaches drooling over possibly having the chance to get him on campus. He also has the lineage. His father Barry Browning played his college ball at TCU and his older brother Barry Browning Jr. played his college ball at Stanford. What potential NFL scouts will love about his game is that he combines football smarts with tremendous strength and the ability to run. He boasts an impressive 600-pound deadlift. Alabama, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU and UCLA are among the schools in contention for him. - Greg Powers

A.J. Epenesa, DE --- Edwardsville (Ill.)

There are some really good prospects in the Midwest this year, ones who have a great chance to play at the next level, but Epenesa, an Iowa commit, to me, has the best chance. 6-foot-5, 260-pound kids who can run like him are rare and he easily gets up and dunks basketballs. Add in the intensity he plays with and his work ethic and he has all the boxes checked off as far as physical tools and intangibles. It also doesn't hurt that the Hawkeyes have always done a great job of developing talent, especially on the defensive line, where they've developed a number of guys into pro prospects recently, none of which came in with the recruiting resume Espensa brings. Guys who can get to the quarterback are in high demand in the pros and A.J. can do that and he'll get big enough to play the run as well as rush the passer.  - Allen Trieu

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