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Mel Kiper 2017 draft position rankings: Quarterbacks led by Deshaun Watson & Cal transfer

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Yep, ESPN's draft analyst has early 2017 position rankings. We take a look at his top QB prospects.

The 2016 NFL Draft is barely complete, but 2017 draft chatter is already underway. Mel Kiper recently released positional rankings (offensive, defensive) and a big board. He won't be updating these for quite a while, likely not until the season gets going. However, things are right now, and aside from being a fun way to pass the offseason, it gives us some names to have on our radar heading into the 2016 college football season.

Kiper's articles are Insider-protected, so I'll take some time over the next few weeks to go over the notable positions. We can use them to get a better idea of who is out there, while also assessing where things stand on the 49ers depth chart for the given position. We'll get started with the always controversial quarterback position.

Kiper broke down his rankings by seniors and underclassmen. We don't know which underclassmen are going to declare, as every year there are at least a couple surprises among players many think will go pro. Here is how he ranks out his quarterbacks three months before the season starts:

Seniors

  1. Davis Webb, Cal
  2. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota
  3. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
  4. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
  5. Cooper Rush, Central Michigan

Underclassmen

  1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
  2. Brad Kaaya, Miami (Fl.)
  3. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
  4. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
  5. Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech

He sees Watson and Kaaya as the top two players in the class, but thinks Webb "has an NFL skill set and is a player NFL teams will watch closely." He thinks Webb could thrive in the draft process. While players do emerge, that does not exactly inspire a ton of confidence about long-term potential. Webb was unable to win back his job at Texas Tech, and used the NCAA's graduate transfer rule to take over in Berkeley. He'll get to work in a QB-friendly offense at Cal, but will it be enough to climb draft boards?

The quarterback discussion will never end, and in fact, 49ersfan1987 had this discussion about 2017 options in the FanPosts. Chip Kelly is in no rush to name a starter between Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is finishing up his shoulder rehab and then things will pick up steam. Gabbert is only signed through this coming season, while Kaepernick has rolling guarantees that afford the 49ers the opportunity to get out of the contract early in each league year.

The 49ers spent a sixth round pick on Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel. I imagine no team has huge expectations for a sixth round pick, but it gives them someone to work with and develop. I always wondered why the 49ers did not invest more draft capital in the position. Of course, it could be that the Gabbert acquisition was a version of using draft capital on the position. He is young and cheap, so I suppose it's not a ton different than specifically drafting another young option. Next offseason will be an interesting one for this position.