2017 NFL Mock Draft: Deep in Defensive Players

Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) and defensive lineman Reggie Chevis (13) celebrate a defensive stop against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs

For NFL teams trying to build on defense, this is the year!

Defense wins championships, it doesn’t matter how many rules they NFL tries to change. All-time QB great Peyton Manning won Super Bowl 50 with just one arm and it wasn’t his throwing arm. That’s because the Broncos had a historically great defense in 2015.

This year, the Broncos defense is still great but they are no longer on that historical level. After a couple of free agent losses, they can no longer stop the run. And they might not get in the playoffs this year because of it despite having a QB with a live arm.

So what might the Broncos do about that?

But the Broncos are far from the only team in the NFL that need a defensive star to change things. And fortunately for those teams, there are a lot of future stars in the 2017 NFL Draft. This draft is deepest at CB but there is something at every defensive position.

There are plenty of EDGEs, interior D-lineman and ILBs that have 1st-round and Top-10 grades. I can’t really say the same thing for the quarterback position because overall, they stink. The spread offense is ruining the position in college football.

This RB class is deep too so this is the draft if you want to run the ball and play defense. And this 2017 NFL Mock draft is a reflection of that with 20 of the 32 picks being defensive players.

Turn the page for a look.

Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) sacks Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) in the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

1

Myles Garrett

OLB, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett is the consensus best prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft and consensus No. 1 overall pick. So there’s no need for draft analysts or even the Cleveland Browns to play with this one. Football analytics company Pro Football Focus has him as the best prospect of this draft as well.

So GM Sashi Brown, who does everything by the analytics book, can’t even mess this one up. And physically, he’s everything you want in an edge-rusher at 6’5″, 265 pounds, long arms and plenty of burst off the edge. He also comes equipped with counter-moves including a nice spin-move.

Garrett has also turned himself into a solid run defender to eliminate that weakness from the past. The Browns have six games against three of the best QBs in the NFL so disrupting them is a priority. Garrett will have to drop in coverage every here and there as a 3-4 OLB in the Browns’ defense.

But he is athletic enough to do so and won’t have to very often as he’s going over there to rush the passer. As they say, “defense wins championships” and also turns a team around the fastest. And Garrett is the guy in this draft that the Browns can build a solid defense around.

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) looks to pass during the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) looks to pass during the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

2

DeShone Kizer

QB, Notre Dame

The San Francisco 49ers are starting over as GM Trent Baalke is expected to be fired soon. That means the team’s fan base will likely happily say goodbye to head coach Chip Kelly. And that means that the head coach will likely start his era off with a new quarterback.

The spread offense is ruining QBs for the NFL and the 2017 NFL Draft class of QBs stinks. However, there is one that checks all the boxes of what you want an NFL QB to be. DeShone Kizer is 6’5″, 235 pounds, has a big arm, accuracy and plenty of mobility.

He’s also tough, able to throw an accurate ball down the field knowing he’s going to get hit. He comes from Brian Kelly’s pro style offense at Notre Dame so he’s the most pro ready QB prospect too. Some are down on him because his 2016 wasn’t as good as his 2015.

But he lost guys like WR Will Fuller and LT Ronnie Stanley to the 2016 NFL Draft. That happened to Jameis Winston when he came up and he turned out just fine so there are no concerns there. So after taking Kizer at No. 2 overall, it’s time to start putting pieces around him.

Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Tyler Ferguson (7) tries to get away from Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Dakota Ball (44) and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide defeated the Hilltoppers 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Tyler Ferguson (7) tries to get away from Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Dakota Ball (44) and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide defeated the Hilltoppers 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

3

Jonathan Allen

DE, Alabama

Any QB prospect left in this draft would be considered a huge reach here at No. 4 overall. Plus DE Jonathan Allen is considered by many to be the No. 2 draft prospect. Head coach John Fox and his Chicago Bears would not be able to turn such a prospect down.

The Bears get after the passer pretty well with edge-rushers Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee. But they’re No. 26 vs. the run with ILBs Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman over there. They also have NT Eddie Goldman and DE Akiem Hicks on the interior of their D-line.

Allen would go to Chicago and shore up the run defense while improving the pass rush right away. He would fit right in as a 3-4 DE as he played at Alabama and kick inside on passing downs. The Monsters of the Midway defense would be back, especially on the front-7.

This is a deep CB class so they could also upgrade there at the top of the second round. The Bears also have a great running game with RB Jordan Howard coming back to carry the load. The Bears would then be equipped to compete with QBs in the NFC North.

Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun (89) and Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) during the game in the 2015 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

4

Cam Robinson

OT, Alabama

The Jacksonville Jaguars will reportedly interview Tom Coughlin to possibly coach them again. There are reports that he’s not a fan of QB Blake Bortles but we don’t really know. We won’t find out what he really thinks of him until he becomes the Jaguars’ coach..

But in this mock, we’re going to say the Coughlin does indeed become the Jaguars coach. One thing we know about him is he likes to build both sides of the line of scrimmage. The defense is already done while the offense isn’t so there is where he starts in his first draft.

The Jaguars need to protect Bortles better and open running lanes for the RBs on the team. Conklin is a power-gap scheme type of coach so the offensive line will need changes. And it would start with taking left OT Cam Robinson with the No. 3 overall pick.

Many in the scouting community are down Robinson for whatever their reasons are. But the 6’6″, 330 pounder has performed well against top SEC edge-rushers, namely Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick. So the fit here is natural for Coughlin, who likes his offensive linemen big.

Oct 7, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) catches a pass as Boston College Eagles defensive back Isaac Yiadom (20) defends on the play during the first quarter at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

5

Mike Williams

WR, Clemson

The Tennessee Titans just missed the playoffs this year but took a big step forward. They traded out of the No. 1 overall pick they had last year and still got the player they wanted. They’re reward this year is having the Los Angeles Rams’ No. 5 overall pick.

With this pick, they have a chance to get a difference maker to help them win the AFC South. So they take 6’3″, 225-pound, sure-handed, athletic, fast receiver Mike Williams from Clemson. When you have a young franchise quarterback, you have to get him a No. 1 receiver.

They already have a great O-line to protect him and RBs to keep the defense honest. The Titans are just one solid CB from having a defense that can hold the score down. This draft is deep in CBs so the team can use their other 1st-round pick to get one.

With his speed and catch radius, Williams will make Mariota better at throwing down the field right away. The Titans would then become a more of a complete team and much harder to beat. That puts them in position to win more games and possibly take the AFC South crown in 2017.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) sacks Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

6

Tim Williams

OLB, Alabama

The New York Jets are having a rough year but they have plenty to be grateful about these days. They didn’t sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had a lucky year last year to a big contract. And after seeing Bryce Petty this year, it’s time to see Christian Hackenberg, the future.

The Jets redshirted him this year to straighten out some technical flaws he developed in college. After Bill O’Brien left Penn State, the staff that followed him steered him the wrong way. But Hackenberg has the arm talent and he’s very smart so Jets fans will be happy with him.

Darrelle Revis had his problems this year because of a wrist surgery he had this offseason. That affected his preparation for the season plus he wasn’t able to jam receivers because of it. He will be much better next year but Todd Bowles still doesn’t have a star edge-rusher.

He has a great interior line but no burst off the edge so he takes Tim Williams at No. 5 overall. His get-off and burst is right on par with Kansas City Chiefs legend Derrick Thomas. Bowles will finally get to put heat on opposing QBs and climb up the standings in 2017.

Nov 26, 2016; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) during the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

7

Ryan Ramczyk

OT, Wisconsin

The San Diego Chargers didn’t do too well this year because QB Philip Rivers had to do too much. The defense wasn’t a great help to him this year because they had so many injuries on it. Then his favorite receiver, Keenan Allen, popped his Achilles to make things worse.

One thing the Chargers did to help Rivers was draft RB Melvin Gordon in 2015 to boost the running game. But the team still needs to do something about protecting Rivers better. It’s been a long time since he’s had his blind side protected by a franchise left tackle.

All he’s had since Marcus McNeil retired in 2011 are average to barely feasible guys protecting him. Rivers is getting a little old to not have top-flight protection these days. So here at No. 7 overall, the Chargers take left tackle Ryan Ramczyk from Wisconsin.

Ramczyk is raising up draft boards quickly these days after an exceptional year. At 6’6″, 314 pounds, he has long arms, great feet and keeps his technique tight. When Ramczyk’s protection and a healthy Allen and defense coming back. watch out for the Chargers.

Oct 1, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) hits Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jacob Eason (10) causing a fumble recovered by Tennessee for a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Sanford Stadium. Tennessee defeated Georgia 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

8

Derek Barnett

DE, Tennessee

The Cincinnati Bengals have some talent on their defensive front-7 with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. But they still don’t get after the quarterback or stop the run well as a unit. Atkins and Dunlap usually line up on one side so that’s where the extra protection will be.

And in the running game, opposing teams can simply run away from the two stars. A stud is needed on the right side of the defense to complete the pass-rush and help against the run. Derek Barnett of Tennessee doesn’t fit the mold of what the Bengals usually like on the edge.

They like guys that are 6’5″ and above with long arms and very athletic at their sizes. Barnett is pretty athletic with plenty of burst off the edge but at 6’3″, 265 pounds, he’s a little short. But with his burst, he has an array of moves and know how to get to opposing QBs.

He’s also a tough customer against the run so the Bengals are helping themselves with this pick. With QB Andy Dalton, WR A.J. Green and a decent running game, the offense is just fine. Barnette could help turn the defense around, thus help turn the team around.

Sep 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball in the second quarter as Mississippi Rebels linebacker Tayler Polk (24) defends at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

9

Dalvin Cook

RB, Florida State

The Carolina Panthers are at their best when they can run the ball and play defense. The Panthers defense got to a slow start this year as they had a few youngsters replacing established players. But it looks like they’re coming on now and it will carry into next year.

QB Cam Newton running along with a good RB really makes the Panthers running game work. And that makes the vertical game they have more effective, creating a complete offense. That’s why the Panthers had such a good total offense last year but this year, not so much.

The Panthers went from the No. 2 rushing team in the NFL to No. 12 with one game left this season. RB Jonathan Stewart is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry so he no longer sets Newton up. A good RB sets up a QB running the ball out of bootlegs and the spread offense.

So the Panthers take RB Dalvin Cook out of Florida State and to get that going again. Those two together could end up like Vince Young and Chris Johnson back in the day, full of breakaway runs. The Panthers should then be a strong competitor for the NFC North in 2017.

Oct 3, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (25) breaks up a pass intended for Notre Dame Fighting Irish wide receiver Chris Brown (2) during the second half at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Tigers won 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

10

Jalen Tabor

CB, Florida

The Browns will rush the passer much better after getting Garrett at No. 1 overall to improve that area. The Browns can also use some help in coverage as Joe Haden doesn’t stay healthy anymore. He can still play when healthy but at this point, you can’t count on that.

Again, the Browns have six games against three the best QBs in the NFL to make it as difficult as possible on. Garrett and 2016 free agent signee Jamie Collins coming off the edges is part of it. Taking CB Jalen Tabor from Florida here at No. 8 overall is another part of it.

The Jamarr Taylor is solid at CB over there so if Haden can stay healthy, the Browns will be deep at CB. If not, Tabor has a the characteristics it takes to be a shutdown CB and he’s been practicing in college. Florida is also where Haden came from so he’s been taught the right way.

So the Browns improve on their No. 20-ranked pass defense drastically with their 1st-round picks. They just need their O-line to stay healthy to see what Robert Griffin III or Cody Kessler can do. Perhaps they add a C at the top of the second round as the rest of these QBs stink.

Oct 8, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) breaks up a pass intended for Oregon Ducks wide receiver Jalen Brown (15) during the third quarter at Autzen Stadium. The Huskies won 70-21. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

11

Sidney Jones

CB, Washington

The Arizona Cardinals showed the Seattle Seahawks Sunday that they can still play some football. Things just didn’t work out for them this year because they had too many injuries. Carson Palmer is still a solid quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald is still and great receiver.

And we can’t forget how RB David Johnson has taken over the running game this year. Next year, with a healthy squad, the Cardinals can come back and be a factor in the NFC. The offensive line will be back healthy too so Palmer shouldn’t walk away from that.

And of course, they have that defense that will get after opposing QBs with Chandler Jones. S Tyrann Mathieu will also be healthy and they have arguably the NFL’s best cover CB in Patrick Peterson. The Cardinals are also solid against the run, allowing just 3.6 yards per carry.

To possibly make that an absolute shutdown defense, the can put another CB on the other side of Peterson. So they do that by picking Sidney Jones, a shutdown corner out of Washington. He will go in and make opposing teams pay for picking on him with INTs right away.

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) tackles Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

12

Reuben Foster

ILB, Alabama

It looks like Rex Ryan won’t be coaching the Buffalo Bills anymore so what’s next is anyone’s guess. But the $30.75 million Tyrod Taylor is due in March if he’s still on the roster doesn’t sound good. He’ll be gone as soon as the Bills can start releasing players this offseason.

So QB E.J. Manuel gets a 1-game audition to see if the Bills will keep him past his rookie contract. If Manuel could stick around for next year, he would be surrounded by talent on that offense. The defense has a lot of talent on it too but injuries to key players were damaging.

But no matter who the coach will be next year, the Bills have to do something about stopping the run. They were ranked No. 28 in the NFL against the run and gave up 4.6 yards per carry. So here at No. 12 overall, the Bills select Reuben Foster from Alabama to come in and rectify that.

The Bills drafted Reggie Ragland in the second round this year but he tore his ACL and missed the season. Putting those two back together in the NFL would make life for opposing RBs rough. With a healthy secondary and an emerging QB, the Bills would be on their way somewhere.

Sep 17, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Dedrick Mills (26) scores a rushing touchdown against Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) and cornerback Tre Herndon (31) in the third quarter of their game at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Yellow Jackets won 38-7. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

13

Zach Cunningham

ILB, Vanderbilt

QB Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts came alive on offense lately to try to make a run at the playoffs. But that run ended Saturday in Oakland as the loss there officially put them out of the playoffs. If they had a defense, they might not have had to try to make a run.

Speaking of run the Colts don’t seem to be able to stop that at all with Jerrell Freeman now gone. If you can’t stop the run, it’s hard to win football games no matter how good your offense is. Your offense can’t do anything from the sidelines, screaming for the defense to get off the field.

And that’s the position they were in for too much of the season, which is why they missed the playoffs. So at No. 13 overall, the Colts take Zach Cunningham from Vanderbilt to fix it. Cunningham, with his speed, physicality and instincts, is underrated by many but ready for the NFL.

So he will come in and ball, giving the Colts a chance to actually stop the run in 2017. The Colts will have to put more around him but Cunningham will make a big immediate impact. Then perhaps the race for the AFC South will go much better for them.

Oct 17, 2015; Evanston, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) intercepts a pass intended for Northwestern Wildcats wide receiver Christian Jones (14) during the first quarter at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

14

Desmond King

CB, Iowa

The Philadelphia Eagles have a ferocious defensive front-7 that gets after opposing QBs. The would be one of the best defensive teams in the NFL if their coverage were better. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz would be happy to get a CB to fit his zone scheme.

Desmond King is just what the doctor ordered for Schwartz and the Eagles as he can do it all. But he is especially good at reading routes and breaking on the ball in his zone. He’s probably the best CB prospect coming out in the 2017 NFL Draft at playing in a zone defense.

KIng also has great ball skills so when he reads the route and breaks on the ball, it’s an INT. As much pressure as the Eagles put on opposing QBs he will increase the team’s INT total immediately. The Eagles pass defense would likely go from the middle of the NFL to the Top-10

With all the QBs in the NFC East, tightening up the pass defense would help a lot. The Eagles already have a young QB and offense growing around him as we speak. So the Eagles could turn into contenders for the NFC East pretty quick here.

Sep 3, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) against the Bowling Green Falcons at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 77-10. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

15

Raekwon McMillan

ILB, Ohio State

The New Orleans Saints defense is a better than last year with new DC Dennis Allen at the controls. They’ve even gotten better over the year as 2016 1st-round pick has much to do with it. But that defense still has a ways to go before the Saints can call themselves contenders.

The offense is solid because it has had it’s leader in franchise QB Drew Brees all these years. There is no such thing on the other side of the ball as they are often directionless on the field. It’s been a long time since the Saints had a face to associate with the defense.

When you’re the face of a unit, not only do have to play well be you have to hold others accountable. In order to do that, you have to know what everyone on your unit is supposed to do. There is more talent than you think on the Saints defense as it is now.

But a few or even a lot of good individuals can’t get it done in the NFL, it has to be collective. So at No. 15 overall, the Saints select ILB Raekwon McMillan to bring that defense together. Once that defense come together, we’re going to see the Saints start winning again.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) intercepts the ball from Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Josh Reynolds (11) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

16

Marlon Humphrey

CB, Alabama

After getting the No. 1 receiver at No. 5 overall, the Titans have but one real weakness left. That’s the CB position because Cox, who I mentioned before, absolutely did not get it done this year. Of course, he has since been cut and now, they can find that guy.

In this deep CB class, Marlon Humphrey is probably the best one for the Titans left on the board. At 6’1″, 200 pounds Humphrey is a long, physical CB with excellent speed and movement skills, So he is versatile, excelling in press-man, off-man, and zone coverage.

He also comes from Alabama, where they run a pro style defense so he’s used to disguising coverages. So DC Dick LeBeau would enjoy having him in coverage behind all the games he plays up front. This would be a good pick and fit right here at No. 16 overall.

Humphrey is pro ready and would go in to contribute to the team in coverage right away. So the Titans would have a huge, immediate upgrade over the recently cut Cox. The Titans would then have no big weaknesses and be ready to compete in the AFC South.

Sep 17, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jacob Eason (10) is sacked by Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) in the first half at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

17

Charles Harris

OLB, Missouri

The Baltimore Ravens still have one of the best defensive units in the NFL. They’ve done a good job of bringing in players to replace the original greats from the past. ILB C.J. Mosley has excelled in the place of Ray Lewis and S Eric Weddle has replaced Ed Reed.

The Ravens also have three big boys up front in the mold of Haloti Ngata and Tony Siragusa. Now, it looks like edge-rusher is what needs a touch-up as Terrell Suggs is close to done. Now is the perfect time for him to play alongside a youngster he can show the way.

And that youngster should be Charles Harris out of Missouri right here at No. 17 overall. They not only find pass-rushing talent at Missouri but they teach those guys how to get after the QB. So Harris will be ready to make a big impact right away while learning from Suggs.

When Suggs, the last original, is ready to retire, he’ll leave pass-rushing in Harris’ capable hands. But first, they have business to handle in the AFC North, trying to win the division. And Harris will have the Ravens much more equipped to do that in 2017.

December 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) runs against Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Chidobe Awuzie (4) during the third quarter in the Pac-12 championship at Levi

18

John Ross

WR, Washington

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is coming around as they are just out of the playoff picture. On offense, QB Jameis Winston is getting it done, lifting his team up to another level. And WR Mike Evans is helping him along with his best season in the NFL.

But the Sun may be setting on the great career of WR Vincent Jackson these days. And opposing defenses will look at this year’s film and do everything they can to take Evans away. Winston needs better protection but there isn’t anything here worth a No. 18 overall.

But the two guys at left OT with 1st-round grades are long gone when the Buccaneers are up to pick. So with that No. 18 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers take WR John Ross out of Washington. He’s not very big but has blazing speed and he’s a smooth route-runner.

He can play in the slot of Jackson if back to his old self or outside with his speed. Winston would then be ready to take the Buccaneers to the playoffs in 2017, his third year. That defense is coming along so there’s no telling how far they would be able to go.

Nov 7, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) and linebacker Antonio Morrison (3) tackle Vanderbilt Commodores running back Dallas Rivers (28) during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 9-7. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

19

Jarrad Davis

ILB, Florida

After losing ILB Danny Trevathan and DL Malik Jackson, the Broncos defense is no longer the same. That defense won a Super Bowl while not getting much from their offense at all. They’re still great in coverage and get after opposing QBs well with Von Miller.

But they absolutely get their butts handed to them when opposing teams decide to run the football. So replacing Jackson and Trevathan would be the fastest way to get that defense back. The 2017 NFL Draft has a few 1st-round candidates that could possibly fill one of the ILB roles.

So the Broncos start at the ILB position when looking to build that defense back to a historic level. Jarrad Davis is the last of those linebackers that are highly graded so they take him at No. 19. Davis is an aggressive, take-on ILB with the instincts to find the ball quickly.

He also has impressive speed and athleticism, giving him excellent potential for pass coverage. But first and foremost, he will help the Broncos stop the run from the time he gets there. It would be interesting to see what the Broncos could then do in the improved AFC West.

Nov 19, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Zander Diamont (12) is sacked by Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) in the second half at Michigan Stadium. Michigan won 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

20

Jabrill Peppers

S, Michigan

The Washington Redskins were right to make QB Kirk Cousins prove last year wasn’t luck last offseason. This offseason, the absolute right thing to do is back up the Brink’s truck and unload the money. He is a legitimate QB that you can win games with in the NFL.

Where the Redskins can use help is on the defensive side of the ball as Cousins has the offense going. They need a playmaker that can make plays in the running game and passing game. A guy that can come up with a crucial turnover to turn a game around for the team.

The NFC East is tough with offenses that run and throw the ball so a multipurpose player would be good. Here at No 20 overall, the Redskins go ahead and get that in S Jabrill Peppers. Peppers is a hitter, can play in the box, can cover 1-on-1, and can go single-high.

He has excellent instincts to read routes, range and the ball skills to capitalize on it as well. The Redskins would be smart to move Su’a Cravens to other safety to upgrade both spots. The Redskins would then be better equipped to compete with those explosive offenses.

Nov 28, 2015; East Lansing, MI, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg (14) is sacked by Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) during the 1st half game of a game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

21

Malik McDowell

DT, Michigan State

The Detroit Lions surprised many this year and are almost there as a contender out of the NFC. One thing that will definitely help is having CB Darius Slay back healthy next year. A pass rush to go along with him would be even better for the Lions.

Ezekiel Ansah had a down year this year off the edge because he’s been banged up. So while getting him back healthy next year would help, adding an interior pass-rusher would help more. And there’s a player right down the street that can help in that area.

Malik McDowell of Michigan State is in the mold of Leonard Williams and Deforest Buckner. At 6’6″, 290 pounds, he has long arms and is an athletic freak at his size. With his quickness, he would help that defense as a disruptive, penetrating 3-technique.

That would give the Lions the pass rush to compete with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. This year is not luck, people don’t realize how close Lions are from taking NFC North away from them. And this pick would close the gap between the two teams even more.

Nov 26, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) pulls in a pass against the Auburn Tigers during the second quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

22

O.J. Howard

TE, Alabama

The Miami Dolphins are on and coming as they look like they’re going to get in the playoffs now. QB Ryan Tannehill just started to get things going for himself before his injury. And Matt Moore has come in and not caused the offense to miss a beat.

Well, the offense doesn’t have to miss a beat because of a QB change when the RB is the beat of the offense. Jay Ajayi, whom like liked since before the 2015 NFL Draft, has caught on. Opposing defensive coordinators will have to think of ways to stop him from now on.

Again, the passing game off of it is coming along with Tannehill throwing to a solid corps of WRs. DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry are the up-and-coming WR corps. A TE to work the middle of the field and off play action would make the offense unstoppable.

So here at No. 22 overall, the Dolphins pick TE O.J. Howard to complete the Dolphins passing game. Howard is the best run blocking TE in college football now so he won’t hurt Ajayi. The Dolphins would get that much closer to taking the AFC East from the New England Patriots with this pick.

Dec 3, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Carlos Watkins (94) sacks Virginia Tech Hokies quarterback Jerod Evans (4) in the second half during the ACC Championship college football game at Camping World Stadium. Clemson Tigers won 42-35. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

23

Carlos Watkins

DT, Clemson

There are no left tackles for the New York Giants to take here so QB Eli Manning is out of luck. Perhaps they give Will Beatty another shot in 2017 if Ereck Flowers still can’t handle it. But the Giants can make their front-7 more dominant than it is.

They already have two top-notch DEs in Oliver Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, who should be back. A penetrating 3-technique would help the Giants put that much more pressure on opposing QBs. The Giants can use that with the QBs they have to play twice a year.

They can especially use that to keep beating young QB Dak Prescott who will only get better. So at No. 23 overall, the Giants select Carlos Watkins from Clemson to be that disruptive 3-technique. At 6’3″, 300 pounds, he has an excellent combination of power and quickness.

Opposing QBs will have nowhere to step up with Vernon and Pierre-Paul coming off the edge. Watkins is also tough against the run so the Giants will lose nothing there. This could be the move that leads to the Giants taking the NFC East for the Dallas Cowboys.

Oct 29, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Clemson defensive back Cordrea Tankersley (25) prevents Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Travis Rudolph (15) from making a second quarter catch at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

24

Cordrea Tankersley

CB, Clemson

He’s been beaten at times but Kansas City Chiefs CB Marcus Peters picks off a lot of passes. It will get to the point where the possible TD won’t be worth the possible INT. So opposing teams are already throwing at him less now and will throw at him even less by next year.

So there needs to be a guy on the other side that can handle getting picked on. Peters was the one that got picked on last year but Sean Smith’s departure led to less throws his way. Cordrea Tankersley of Clemson has shown that he has the talent of a shutdown CB.

He looks like the best pure press-man CB coming out in the 2017 NFL Draft. So he would go to Kansas City, walk right in and play well on the other side of Peters. Opposing QBs would then have a dilemma on their hands as for which side to throw the ball to.

Of course, Chiefs fans are hoping they get RB Jamaal Charles back healthy next year. He would serve the Chiefs well along with the passing game developing over there. And if the Chiefs can stop the run in 2017, they would have a good chance to win the tough AFC West.

Sep 12, 2015; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Quenton Nelson (56) blocks against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

25

Quenton Nelson

QB, Notre Dame

The Seattle Seahawks’ offensive line is the only reason why they’re not the Super Bowl favorite right now. QB Russell Wilson has no protection from either OG spot or either OT spot. They like athletic rookie left OT George Fant anyway but didn’t wish to start him this soon.

So they won’t mind drafting an OG right here at No. 27 overall and there is one that matches in value. Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame is a road-grader of a run blocker and he’s great in pass protection. He has such a high grade and is projected into the first round for a reason.

Notre Dame has a lot of zone blocking too so that makes Nelson an excellent fit on top of everything. So the Seahawks waste no time in making Nelson the guy they use that No. 27 overall on. Nelson will come right in and become a dominant OG as soon as he gets to Seattle.

Wilson would then have some protection inside and hope to get it from Germain Ifedi, the other OG. Fant is already making strides so the team will see where he is when the 2017 season comes. And if a right tackle is drafted or emerges, the Seahawks are on their way to the Super Bowl.

Sep 3, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) looks to pass during the 2016 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Georgia Dome. Georgia won 33-24. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

26

Mitch Trubisky

QB, North Carolina

I hope for all Houston Texans fans that owner Bob McNair learned his lesson this offseason. His team was just a quarterback away from being a legitimate contender this season. So McNair threw his weight around and had his team sign Brock Osweiler.

And this offseason, the Texans will still be just a QB away from being a legitimate contender. That’s a lot of money they paid Osweiler for the team to still be in that predicament. So the Texans have to do something about the position while this team is still together.

There are WRs to throw the ball down the field to and a RB to lean on for a ground game. Then they have a great defense without J.J. Watt this year so imagine what they will be with him back. So just needing a quarterback, the Texans select Mitch Trubisky from North Carolina.

I’m not too sure he’s ready to roll immediately because his accuracy down the field still a work in progress. But he has a ton of upside where Osweiler doesn’t look like he’ll ever be that guy. So maybe after a year of Tom Savage, Trubisky will be ready to take the Texans somewhere.

Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) defends Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Amara Darboh (82) during the third quarter at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

27

Marshon Lattimore

CB, Ohio State

The Green Bay Packers have come around just in time to make the playoffs after this season. WR Jordy Nelson is up to full speed while fellow WR Davante Adams his stepping up. The Packers even have a new all-purpose back with Ty Montgomery changing positions.

I can’t wait to see what he does with a different number and a full offseason at RB. He gives the Packers back a that catches the ball well and threat to take on to the house (4.38 40). And at 5’11”, 221 pounds he has the strength to drag tacklers as well.

So the offense is a machine now and the team needs the defense to come around. They have a lot of injuries and some bad play in the secondary this year. That’s their weak area now so in the 2017 NFL Draft, they select CB Marshon Lattimore from Ohio State.

Lattimore will be a man-to-man, shutdown CB, which is what the Packers like to play. So he is a natural fit to come in and do well right away for the team. Lattimore would also make the Packers deeper at CB so they can better absorb the injuries better.

Nov 21, 2015; Auburn, AL, USA; Idaho Vandals quarterback Matt Linehan (10) runs the ball while defended by Auburn Tigers defensive lineman Carl Lawson (55) during the second quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

28

Carl Lawson

OLB, Auburn

The Pittsburgh Steelers have improved on defense since 2015 OLB Bud Dupree got healthy. Now, they look like the biggest threat to the New England Patriots AFC throne. We already knew they had the offensive firepower to threaten anyone in the NFL.

That young Steelers defensive front-7 will be much better when they get Cameron Heyward back next year. But an OLB on the other side of Dupree would make the unit scarry. James Harrison is great but his career has to end at some point so he needs replacing.

And Carl Lawson is the perfect guy to replace Harrison as the image of the Steelers defense. He has plenty of burst off the edge with counter-moves and knows how to get to the QB. But what makes him the perfect replacement is his extreme physicality.

He just might be more physical than Harrison as he has played some DT while at Auburn. They only reason why Lawson isn’t projected higher at this point is because he had some injuries. But the Steelers will be happy he fell this far and have a championship defense because of it.

Sep 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) sacks Mississippi Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly (10) during the second half at Camping World Stadium. Florida State Seminoles defeated the Mississippi Rebels 45-34. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

29

DeMarcus Walker

DL, Florida State

The Atlanta Falcons are as explosive as they need to be on the offensive side of the ball. They just need a defense that doesn’t allow opposing teams to keep up with them. A better pass rush would go a long way toward getting the Falcons’ defense there.

Vic Beasley, the team’s 2015 1st-round pick, has gotten there as he leads the league in sacks. But as a team, the falcons are in the middle of the pack because they need an interior presence. DeMarcus Lawrence is the perfect pick for the Falcons here at No. 29 overall.

Lawrence draws comparisons to Michael Bennett, who head coach Dan Quinn coached in Seattle. At around 6’3″, 285 pounds, he’s a power rusher at DE and a speed rusher when lined up at DT. He tied for the FBS lead in sacks this year so that’s something in knows how to do.

Like Bennett, Quinn could line Lawrence up at base DE in regular packages and DT in sub packages. Lawrence is also tough against the run so he will help the team there too. He would be a difference-maker immediately and help the Falcons become contenders.

November 5, 2016; Stanford, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) runs with the football against the Oregon State Beavers during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

30

Christian McCaffrey

RB, Stanford

Don’t look now but the Oakland Raiders have drastically improved on the defensive side of the ball. That’s because once Perry Riley Jr. joined the team, personnel wasn’t the problem. DC Ken Norton is in over his head and HC Jack Del Rio is fixing things.

Mario Edwards Jr.’s presence will bless the Raiders defense and Aldon Smith’s will too next year. With Menelik Watson now in the lineup, the already great offensive line will be even better. And of course, we will have the return of elite QB Derek Carr.

WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are on of the best WR duos in the NFL. But after catching a few game-winners, slot-receiver Seth Roberts is no longer reliable. Then the RBs show up against inferior run defenses and disappear when defenses tighten up.

So the Raiders get better in both areas by selecting RB/WR Christian McCaffrey from Stanford. McCaffrey would give the Raiders a 2,000 total yards combined threat. Players like that make offenses unstoppable no matter what defense they play against.

Dec 2, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis (84) rushes in the first half against the Ohio Bobcats at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

31

Corey Davis

WR, Eastern Michigan

The Cowboys are back as they have a young nucleus that will carry them for years to come. Rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott and QB Dak Prescott have already ascended to MVP candidates. And the defense has morphed into a solid unit under DC Rod Marinelli.

The bad news for Cowboys’ opponents is Prescott is starting to get the ball down the field to Dez Bryant. The NFC East should be cursing the day that started to happen because that is dangerous. Now that Prescott is getting that down, opponents will start to look to take that away.

So the Cowboys can use a good receiver on the other side to take the extra coverage off of him. He would also take the eighth man out of the box so Elliott can keep running. Corey Davis is 6’2″, 200 pounds with good speed, great hands and excellent route running skills.

He also very elusive after the catch with the ability to create even more big plays. The the Cowboys take him at No. 31 overall and their offense becomes unstoppable. And with the defense improving and getting Jaylon Smith, Super Bowls are in the future for the Cowboys.

Oct 17, 2015; South Bend, IN, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster (9) catches a pass against Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell (6) at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

32

Juju Smith-Schuster

WR, USC

The Patriots got themselves a nice rental in Michael Floyd for the rest of the season. Then this offseason, when they find out how much trouble he’s in, the they’ll be done with him. But Brady will like having a tall, athletic, No. 1 receiver to throw the ball down the field to.

A large catch radius with some speed and route running would be a welcome addition to the Patriots. I know Rob Gronkowski is injured now but I’m not buying him being done or not the same anymore. But he would be nice to not to have to use him as much so he’s harder to gameplan for.

So with the last pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Patriots select Juju Smith-Schuster. His combination of speed, route running, and catch radius would give Brady a true No. 1 receiver again. In 2007, the Patriots had a true No. 1 receiver in Randy Moss, a No. 2 and a slot receiver.

In 2011, they had two TEs, a good slot receiver, and didn’t have a true No. 1 receiver. In 2014, they won a Super Bowl with a slot receiver, TE and RB LeGarrette Blount. And this pick would give them the No. 1 receiver, the No. 2 receiver the slot receiver, two TE’s and the RB to hoist another Lombardi.

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