The 2016 NFL season is entering Week 12, and the Cleveland Browns are still searching for their first win. Here is our 2017 NFL Mock Draft entering Week 12.
The Cleveland Browns lost to division rival Pittsburgh in Week 11, and are still slated to draft first in the 2017 NFL Draft. Picks No. 21 through 32 reflect the playoff seeding if the season ended today, beginning with the slowest seeds.
Here is our latest mock draft with the draft order based on record, and using strength of schedule as a tiebreaker.
Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in action during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kyle Field. The Aggies defeat the Volunteers 45-38 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
DE, Texas A&M
The Cleveland Browns continue to work their way to a winless season, as they were trounced by the Pittsburgh Steelers this past weekend. Quarterback Cody Kessler had to leave the game with an injury once again, as the offense sputtered against a good Steelers defense. There are far too many holes to count on this Browns roster, so drafting smart is going to be key next April.
With the first overall selection, the Browns should look to bolster their defense, and Myles Garrett remains our top pick. The Texas A&M star showed no signs of an injured leg, as he registered 4.5 five sacks against the University of Texas at San Antonio this past weekend. He is an absolute freak of nature, and would immediately be an impact player at the next level.
Cleveland traded with New England to get Jamie Collins during the regular season, and if they can re-sign him, he would be an anchor at the linebacker position. Drafting Garrett first overall would give the team a big-time pass rusher next season, and the team would have three solid players if you include Joe Haden in the secondary. Garrett is only one player, but he would definitely be a building block as the Browns try to claw out of the cellar in the NFL.
Nov 12, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) throws a pass in the second quarter against the Army Black Knights at the Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
QB, Notre Dame
Drafting a quarterback No. 2 overall is a big move, but the San Francisco 49ers need to pull the trigger next April. Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer has all the tools to be a legitimate starting quarterback in the league, and has the skill set to run a Chip Kelly offense. What sets him apart from the rest of the QBs in this draft is his ability to move well in the pocket, while possession the kind of touch on his ball that will be hard to pass up.
Colin Kaepernick was viewed as the team’s franchise quarterback for the next ten years as early as two years ago, but his skills have diminished. Coach Kelly is going to want to bring in his own guy, and Kizer’s mix of athletic ability, with his ability to read a defense, would give the 49ers a fresh face at the position. Kaepernick may not be done in the league, but he is definitely done in San Francisco.
There will be plenty of people who feel that Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson should be the first quarterback off the board, but Kizer is just a better NFL prospect at this point. He is the best quarterback from the pocket in this draft, and has also shown he can move the sticks with his legs. If Kelly does draft a quarterback, he better hope they pan out, and Kizer gives him the best chance to win right away.
Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) returns a fumble for a touchdown against the Texas A&M Aggies during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville needs to find a player that can stuff the middle of the line on the defensive front, and that player could be Jonathan Allen from Alabama. Allen is a big, strong defensive lineman, who has shown the ability to move offensive lineman around with ease. He could easy play in any kind of front needed, shifting from the middle to the outside when need be.
Not only is Allen keen at stopping the run, but he has the speed and strength to get after the quarterback. The Jaguars are really thin up front on the defensive line, and a versatile player like Allen could really make a difference right away. The AFC South is a division that is up for grabs every season, so the Jags need to get this pick right if they want to contend next year.
Despite the rough year, Blake Bortles is going to get another shot to play quarterback next season. The 2018 NFL Draft has some solid arms in it, so the team can always go that route if Bortles struggles again in 2017. Putting some strength and depth up front on defense will go a long way in ensuring that the Jaguars can get offenses off of the field, especially in their division.
Nov 10, 2016; Durham, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) throws to a receiver in the first half of their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Jay Cutler was injured against the New York Giants this past week, and may be done for the season. That could spell the end of his tumultuous run with the team, that yielded more losses than wins. It is time for the franchise to bring in a new starting quarterback, and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky should be that player.
The grades on Trubisky have been all over the place, as some believe he could wind up going outside of the first round. However, I disagree, as he has the physical ability to be a starting quarterback in this league very soon. The Bears need a new signal-caller, and if they bring back Brian Hoyer for another year, they could move Trubisky into the position at their own pace, kind of like what the Giants did with Eli Manning back in 2004.
Taking quarterbacks in the first round is always risky business, but Trubisky has the work ethic, and personality to be a very successful NFL quarterback. The only thing about Trubisky is he is very accurate, and he makes good decisions with the ball. The Bears fans have dealt with Cutler long enough, so going quarterback early next April should be the organization’s plan of action.
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
The New York Jets seem to be lost as a franchise, and on Sunday, they will turn back to Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. It seems as if Bryce Petty was given one shot to win over the franchise, which is pretty ridiculous. During the 2016 NFL Draft, the team selected Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, so they will likely give him a shot before drafting another arm.
The Jets defense was supposed to carry the team this season, as it appears loaded in all areas. However, they have struggled as well, and the team needs to bring in a new face on that side of the ball. Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers would be a perfect fit for the team, as the New Jersey native is arguably the most explosive player in college football.
Bringing in Peppers, who grew up in less than a half four from MetLife Stadium, would give the team a new fan favorite on defense. Cornerback Darrelle Revis looks very old this season, and his reign as the top dog on the defense is coming to an end. Peppers can play linebacker, and safety, and he has also been used on offense and special teams this season. He would be a no-brainer if he is available for the Jets.
Nov 19, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) grabs Chattanooga Mocs running back Alex Trotter (24) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Before the season, there is no way one would have considered the Cincinnati Bengals would be drafting early in the 2017 draft. However, they have played some bad football this season, and this past week, lost their star wide receiver for the season. The 2016 season is looking like a lost cause, so the Bengals may be able to add a very good draft pick to a roster that is ready to win now.
One area of need is the linebacking corps, where the team needs to infuse a good young middle linebacker. Reuben Foster of the Alabama Crimson Tide is one of the best prospects in this draft, and he would fit right in to Marvin Lewis’ scheme on defense. He is a hard-nosed player who has been a cornerstone of the Tides’ dynasty over the past few seasons.
Cincinnati is having a bad year, but they have the talent to be back in the playoff hunt in 2017. They do not have a ton of needs, and if A.J. Green comes back healthy next season, they will be right back atop the AFC North. Bringing in a high-octane player like Foster would give them incredible depth on a defensive unit that already boasts players like Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict.
Nov 12, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs during the first quarter of the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
The Carolina Panthers were the darlings of the NFL last season, riding a 15-1 regular season into a berth in the Super Bowl. However, the 2016 season has been quite a disappointment, and the team is slated to pick in the first ten selections of next April’s draft. There are plenty of talented pieces in place on the roster, but one important position is getting very old.
Quarterback Cam Newton needs help in the backfield, as running back Jonathan Stewart is getting up there in age. He has not cracked the 100 yard mark this season, and the team should look to draft his replacement in the first round. That player should be Leonard Fournette, who is the most NFL-ready of all the running backs in this draft.
Fournette is a bruising back, who has the size to be a dominant player from Day one in the NFL. He also has the speed to run by defenders, and would be a perfect complement to Cam in the Panthers offense. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin looks fully healthy from his torn ACL from over a year ago, so adding Fournette would give Carolina three very good, young players at their key positions on offense.
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
Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans are a team on the rise, even though they were drubbed by the Indianapolis Colts this past weekend. While they have enough talent on offense to play with anybody in the league, the team does need help on defense, and that is where they should go with the first of two first round picks in April. Due to the Los Angeles Rams being terrible this season, the Titans will draft very high next year, and strengthening their secondary should be a priority.
Marlon Humphrey of Alabama is a first-rate player, who should be the first defensive back off the board come draft day. The son of a former NFL running back, the younger Humphrey has an incredible football I.Q., and will be an impact player at the next level. Jason McCourty is a solid cornerback, but he does struggle against the opponent’s WR1 at times.
Humphrey grades out to be a CB1 in the NFL, and has the size and speed to matchup against any wide receiver in college football. He also possesses incredible hands for a defensive back, giving him the uncanny ability to go up and grab interceptions. Teams have shied away from him this season, but that still has not minimized his impact on the undefeated Crimson Tide.
Nov 19, 2016; Syracuse, NY, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) carries the ball during the first quarter of a game against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
RB, Florida State
The Green Bay Packers looked very bad on Sunday Night Football, as the Washington Redskins were able to come away with a three-score victory. The issue with the Packers this season has been a lack of a run game, and Aaron Rodgers just has not been able to carry the load. He has looked better in recent weeks, but his years of being able to throw the team to victories may be ended sooner than later.
Dalvin Cook is the kind of running back that can turn around a franchise, and the Packers need to bolster that position. Cook became Florida State’s all-time leading rusher this past weekend, and became the first ACC player to rack up 4,000 yards rushing in only three seasons. He has the kind of game-changing ability the Packers need if they are going to get back to the playoffs.
Rodgers is still one of the better signal-callers in the game, but he needs help. Adding Cook would give him a safety valve he has not had in quite some time, and it is clear that Eddie Lacy’s days as a feature back are over. With Cook’s size and speed, he should be able to step right in and carry the ball 25 times at the NFL level next season. He is only a junior, but the odds are that he is done in Tallahassee.
Nov 5, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) during the first quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
The New Orleans Saints still boast one of the better offenses in the league, as quarterback Drew Brees can still sling it with the best of them. However, their bugaboo this season has been their defense, as opponents have been able to go up and down the field on them with ease at times. They need some fresh, young talent injected into the unit, and Derek Barnett certainly fits the bill.
Barnett is one of the more explosive players in this draft, and has seen his stock rise this season. Playing for the Tennessee Volunteers, Barnett usually draws some double-teams, but he has the size and speed to make blockers disappear. Some believe he is the fastest defensive end off of the ball in this draft, and he would fit right into the culture of the Saints organization.
There may not be many years left in Brees’ arm, and they still have some very solid weapons on their offense. The issue has been not being able to stop teams once they have a need, and adding a pass rusher like Barnett would instantly upgrade them on the defensive line. The Saints are not far away from being a contender once again in the NFC, but they have to upgrade the defense this offseason.
Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) in action during the game against the USC Trojans at AT&T Stadium. Alabama defeats USC 52-6. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Philip Rivers continues to play at a high level, but nobody knows how much longer he is going to be able to carry the San Diego Chargers. Since stepping in as the starter, Rivers has been one of the more consistent signal-callers in the league, though he has usually done it behind a makeshift line. The Bolts need to draft a franchise offensive tackle in this draft, and there are some good ones out there.
Alabama’s Cam Robinson is the best of the bunch, possession the size and strength to be a dominant force right away in the NFL. Robinson has great feet for such a big man, and has played both sides of the line during his time with the Crimson Tide. Rivers need someone to protect his blindside if he is going to continue his career, and the Chargers need to stop settling for just good enough at the tackle positions.
San Diego has some dangerous weapons on offense, and their defense has shown that they have some young stars as well. Joey Bosa has been a great player since getting on the field during his rookie season, and is showing that the Chargers hit a home run with their first round selection last year. They need to make sure they continue to stockpile talent, and grabbing a franchise tackle is definitely the play for them in 2017.
Nov 19, 2016; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) celebrates after a touchdown in the second quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Deshaun Watson is the biggest name in the quarterback class for 2017, though he is not the most NFL ready. While some project him to be a Day Two pick, we think he will be selected in the first round for sure. The Arizona Cardinals need their next franchise quarterback, as Carson Palmer is starting to get a bit long in the tooth.
Watson has struggled with his accuracy this season, and has shown some vulnerability against the pass rush. He needs to do a better job in the pocket if he is going to be successful at the next level, and he has the football I.Q. to do so. He has quarterbacked the Clemson Tigers into national prominence during his time with the school, and is going to be a solid pro once he is ready.
He will likely need a year or two to be ready to command an offense in the NFL, and that is just fine with the Cardinals. There is still a year or two left in Palmer’s arm, and he should serve as a great teacher if the Cards decide to go quarterback next April. Watson is an incredible talent, and could wind up being the best pro of them all five years from now.
Oct 15, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Marcus Mariota has established himself as one of the better young quarterbacks in the AFC, and it appears he will not be affected by the sophomore jinx in 2016. The Tennessee Titans are very close to being a year-after-year contender in the AFC South, and they are putting up some nice offensive numbers without a true WR1. That could change next April, as Clemson’s Mike Williams is the kind of receiver who can step into that role immediately.
Williams is a fantastic talent, who has some of the best hands we have seen from a collegiate player in a long time. He is one of the main reasons why the Clemson Tigers have been one of the better teams in college football the past two seasons, as he and Deshaun Watson have formed quite a tandem. Mariota needs a receiver like Williams lining up on the outside, as he could be one of the final pieces to their puzzle on offense.
Tajae Sharpe is a nice player, and Rishard Matthews has put up some good games for the Titans this season. However, they are complimentary receivers, lacking the kind of big play ability that draws double coverage on every play. If the Titans go defense with their first selection in round one, they should definitely look to the other side of the ball with their second one.
Nov 12, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers running back Damarea Crockett (16) runs the ball and is tackled by Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) during the second half at Faurot Field. Missouri won 26-17. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The Indianapolis Colts are a fun team to watch play offense, but watching them play defense can be painful at times. They have tried to bring in guys on the defensive side of the ball in recent years, but it still has not done much to improve the unit. Quarterback Andrew Luck is an elite player at his position, and if the Colts can bolster their defense, they could be making a return to the AFC Championship Game sooner than later.
Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham is as dynamic a player as there is in this draft, as his athleticism is matched by very few. He has incredible leaping ability, amazing closing speed, and he hits with a force that is second to none in this draft. He is a franchise changing linebacker, who would be a perfect fit for the Colts next season.
The Colts need a good young player to bring some life into their defense, and Cunningham plays with the kind of excitement that will bring fans to their feet inside the RCA Dome. Cunningham is a phenomenal run defender, whose instincts make him a tough player to block. Indy plays in a very winnable division, so one or two players could make them the class of the AFC South once again.
Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) celebrates after intercepting a pass from Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (not pictured) during the first quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Tampa Bay has played some great defense as of late, and their secondary has been better than advertised. However, they definitely need some help back there, especially at the safety position. There are a handful of good safeties in this draft, but LSU’s Jamal Adams is the best of the bunch, and he would be a nice fit at pick No. 15.
Adams would be a perfect strong safety in the NFL, because he has the ability to play all over the field. Whether he is coming up in run defense, or getting back in coverage, he has incredible instincts at the position. He is not the fastest player on the Tigers roster, but he makes up for it with the uncanny ability to make up ground when he finds himself out of position. Tampa Bay has a good young quarterback, and they may have one of the top-5 wide receivers in the league. If they can get some talent on defense, they may be able to contend in the NFC very soon.
Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey (68) against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
OT, Notre Dame
The Buffalo Bills are coached by a man who loves defense, and is usually drafting defensive players early to bolster that unit. However, the Bills have made a commitment to Tyrod Taylor as their quarterback going forward, and they need to use this draft to get him some protection. There are some phenomenal offensive tackles in this draft, and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey is as good as any of them.
McGlinchey played right tackle last season, as NFL offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley manned the left side. While he is not the best offensive tackle that has come out in years, he is a franchise caliber kid, who has the size and strength to play the left side at the next level. At 6-foot-7, McGlinchey is a dominating force, and though he said he may go back to school and skip the 2017 NFL Draft, the odds are he is coming out.
Buffalo has some nice pieces in place on offense, but the lack of a stellar offensive line is hurting their development as a unit. LeSean McCoy has battled injuries all season long, and Taylor gets hit way too much for someone who is supposed to be there for the long haul. McGlinchey is a nice anchor to put up front on offense, and would fit in perfectly in the Bills organization.
Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) celebrates his sack with defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) on Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Steelers need some help on the defensive side of the ball, which is an area that has always proven to be a strength. Star linebacker James Harrison looks like he will be hanging them up after this season, so the team needs to go out and get a replacement. Alabama’s Tim Williams is an exciting linebacker prospect, who has the ability to play inside or out at the next level.
Williams has been a catalyst for a Crimson Tide squad that just does not lose. Even when the offense struggles, Williams and company keep them in every game. Williams is a fast edge rusher, who has a nose for getting after the quarterback. At the next level, he is going to have to grow the other parts of his game if he wants to be a three-down player.
The youngster may have hurt his draft status in September, when he was arrested for carrying a pistol without a permit. However, he really is a good kid, and the Steelers have the kind of tools in place to help him along if he ever gets into trouble again. He is an extremely talented player, and would be the next in a long line of fantastic linebackers to don the yellow and black.
January 12, 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (#2) during the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Oregon Ducks in the College Football Playoff National Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Ohio State won the game 42-20. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
CB, Ohio State
While the quarterback position is definitely a need for the Cleveland Browns, we feel they will take two defenders with their multiple first round selections next April. There just is not that franchise-changing quarterback in this draft, but the 2018 version should boast some players who can have an immediate impact. The Browns need some serious help in the secondary, and luckily for them, this draft is loaded with stellar cornerbacks.
Marshon Lattimore of the Ohio State Buckeyes is an NFL-ready player who plays with incredible energy. He is one of the better cover corners in the nation, and has been a key reason why the Buckeyes are considered one of the best teams in the country. Lattimore may return to Ohio State for his redshirt junior season, but scouts feel that he will definitely be a top-20 pick if he comes out in 2017.
Ohio State is loaded with talent, and Lattimore is the best they have to offer in the secondary. His size and speed make him an incredible cover corner, and he has tremendous hands for a defensive back. Possessing a great nose for the ball, Lattimore often plays above his age in the secondary. He has emerged as a team leader on the defense since fall camp, and would be wise to make the jump to NFL while the iron is hot.
PISCATAWAY, NJ – NOVEMBER 05: Indiana Hoosiers offensive lineman Dan Feeney (67) warms up prior to the NCAA BIG 10 football game between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Indiana Hoosiers on November 05, 2016, at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, NJ. The Indiana Hoosiers defeat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 33-27. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
It appears the Miami Dolphins are going to roll with Ryan Tannehill, as he has shown the ability to be just good enough to win some games lately. The real reason for the team’s success has been the emergence of running back Jay Ajayi, who has been putting together some impressive efforts as of late. If head coach Adam Gase really thinks that Tannehill is his guy moving forward, he needs to bolster the offensive line in front of him.
Indiana’s Dan Feeney is the best offensive guard in this draft class, and would slide right into the starting lineup in Miami. Feeney has gotten better each year at Indiana, although this season has been marred with injuries. He suffered a concussion against Ball State, and has missed five games for the Hoosiers.
Still, Feeney is an absolute bully when he is in the game, and was rated as a First-Team All-American last season. Miami needs to continue to put pieces around Tannehill and Ajayi, and with Feeney, they will be adding a player who is exceptionally skilled in the run game. The Dolphins play in a very tough division, so they cannot afford to miss with their pick next April.
Nov 5, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) runs for a touchdown as wide receiver Dante Pettis (8) celebrates behind him during the first quarter against the California Golden Bears at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Carson Wentz has played very well in his rookie season, as he was given the keys to the car since Week 1. There have been plenty of bumps in the road, which is to be expected from a player who was playing for North Dakota State a year ago. The Philadelphia Eagles have been staying alive in the NFC playoff race, though they may find themselves on the outside looking in this year.
The main issue has been the inconsistency at the wide receiver position, where Jordan Matthews is really the only threat they have. They have tried to make it work, bringing in guys like Dorial Green-Beckham, but they have not produced the way head coach Doug Pedersen would have liked. The organization would be wise to take a wide receiver in the first round, and Washington’s John Ross could be the best of the bunch.
Ross has been an unbelievable option for Huskies quarterback Jake Browning this season, and there has been no defense in the Pac-12 that can stop him. He can go over the middle, burn people on the deep ball, and can make people miss once he has the ball in his hands. The Eagles need to keep putting weapons around Wentz, and Ross would be a nice grab this late in the first round.
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) gestures to the sidelines during the first half of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
DT, Michigan State
The Washington Redskins just continue to find ways to win, and on Sunday night, they made easy work of perennial NFC favorite Green Bay. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is proving to the organization that he needs a long-term contract, as he has followed up an NFC East winning season with another solid showing in 2016. The offense has not been the problem this season, but the defense could use some more pieces if they want to keep pace with the teams in their division.
The main problem for the Skins has been stopping people up front, and there are some good defensive tackles in this draft. One name we really like is Malik McDowell, who has been a star for Michigan State in recent years. He has had some trouble staying out of the training room this season, but he is defininety a first round talent.
The issue with McDowell is he expects to go very high in the draft, so he may not come out if he is projected to go in the 20s. However, is the Skins are able to grab him this late in round one, they would be adding a player who is fantastic against the run, and the pass. McDowell needs to get out of Michigan State as soon as possible, as the program looks to be on the decline. He would be a top-2 DT in the 2017 NFL Draft class, so now is the time to make the move.
Nov 5, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles tackle Roderick Johnson (77) blocks against North Carolina State Wolfpack defensive end Bradley Chubb (9) during the second half at Carter Finley Stadium. Florida State won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
OT, Florida State
The Denver Broncos have a huge matchup this week against the Kansas City Chiefs, who have looked very beatable in recent weeks. The Broncos have done a nice job of winning games mostly due to their defense, as they continue to try to get development from first-year starter Trevor Siemian. The defense has held up their end of the bargain, but the team is going to have to draft some depth on the offensive side of the ball if they want to stay in contention in the AFC West going forward.
Protecting the quarterback has to be priority one next April, and Florida State offensive tackle Roderick Johnson would be a nice fit in Denver. Siemian has played well for a guy who has never started a game in the NFL entering the season, and rookie Paxton Lynch could unseat him next season. Having the best possible offensive line in front of either quarterback is going to be key if the Broncos hope to stay atop the AFC West going forward.
The biggest knock on Johnson is his feet, as he is relying on brute strength to move people around at the college level. In the NFL, he is going to have to block some fast pass rushers on the outside, so working on his technique is going to be huge for him once he gets to camp. At 6-foot-7, Johnson has the size to play tackle at the next level, and he has the work ethic to make sure he is ready when his number is called.
Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) against the Missouri Tigers during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City is right up there with Oakland and Denver in the AFC West, despite the fact they have had trouble moving the ball lately. Quarterback Alex Smith has struggled a bit recently, and the loss of Jamaal Charles is starting to look bigger as the season wears on. However, they have battled some devastating injuries this season, and they should have their full complement of players come playoff time.
Next April, the Chiefs should look to bolster their linebacking corps, as star Derrick Johnson is starting to get up there in age. He should have a couple of good seasons left, but bringing in a talented young rookie to learn from him would be key for the Chiefs moving forward. Florida’s Jarrad Davis is the kind of project that would be perfect for Kansas City, as he has the talent to be an impact player at the next level.
Davis has battled some injuries this season, but when he is on the field, he is one of the hardest players in the SEC to block. He has a motor that just won’t quit, and hits as hard as any player in the conference. He is going to be a good pro, but the key will be him going to an organization that can harness his natural talent and turn him into an elite football player.
Sep 10, 2016; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot (91) tackles North Carolina Tar Heels running back Elijah Hood (34) in the endzone for a safety during the 2nd quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Giants defense is playing as well as any in the NFC East this season, which is an incredible turnaround from where they were last year. The Giants defense was arguably the worst in the league in 2015, but a combination of draft picks and free agent signings have turned the unit around. The Giants look like a playoff team once again, and just like in their Super Bowl years, it is the defense that has led the way.
Adding to that defense would be the way to go for the Giants, as they have some pretty special weapons on offense. The drafting of Eli Apple in the secondary was gold for the organization last April, as he has turned into a leader in the secondary. Adding a defensive end in the 2017 NFL Draft would be the way to go, and Illinois’ Dawuane Smoot is one of the better ones out there.
Smoot has had the luxury of playing for former NFL head coach Lovie Smith this season, and Smith has been incredible in Smoot’s development. Both men made it their goal to make Smoot a first round pick in 2017, and it looks like that may become a reality. He is extremely explosive off of the ball, and tackles in the run game as good as another other defensive end in this draft class.
Oct 8, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) returns the interception during the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 38-17. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
S, Ohio State
The Baltimore Ravens are playing good football this season, as wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. has found the Fountain of Youth. While initially stating he would retire after this season, Smith may have a change of heart, as he and Joe Flacco have formed a nice tandem in the passing game. The Ravens do need help on the other side of the ball, and adding a safety next April could be their biggest priority.
There are a handful of NFL prospects in this draft that should be good safeties at the next level, but Ohio State’s Malik Hooker could be a great one. Hooker is a devastating hitter from the safety position for the Buckeyes, and is tough to fool in the passing game. The Buckeyes have had one of the best defenses in the country during his time with the school, and he is a big reason why.
Eric Weddle was signed to a long-term deal this past offseason, and he still should have some good football left in him. Bringing in Hooker to play alongside of him would give the team arguably the best safety tandem in the league. Hooker has drawn rave reviews from scouts, who believe he may be the best safety prospect since Eric Berry, who has gone on to be a Pro Bowler at the position for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nov 19, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans defensive back Adoree’ Jackson (2) runs the ball past the UCLA Bruins defense in the second quarter of the game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta is extremely fun to watch, as they have been one of the better stories of the 2016 NFL season. Quarterback Matt Ryan is having an MVP-caliber season, and Julio Jones has staked his claim as the best wide reciver in the league. The offense is not short on playmakers, but there is a cornerback in this draft that could fill that role on the defensive side of the ball.
Adoree’ Jackson does a little bit of everything for the USC Trojans, who have catapulted themselves back into the national spotlight with their seven-game winning streak. While he does not play offense anymore, Jackson has played a key role for the team in the return game, and is actually the program’s all-time leader in return yards. He is also an incredible cornerback, who just may be the best at the position in the Pac-12.
The Falcons used to have a cornerback who was very good in the return game back in the 1990s, as Deion Sanders captivated fans with his ability to make big play, after big play. While Jackson is not the athlete Sanders was, he would be able to provide Falcons fans with some of that “Primetime” feeling once again. Atlanta is very close to being a Super Bowl team, and Jackson appears to be a perfect fit for the red and black.
Nov 12, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; IIowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) celebrates with the fans during their game against the Michigan Wolverines at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Stafford is having an incredible season for the Detroit Lions, and some people feel he could be up for the MVP if he continues to produce at the level he has so far. Despite the retirement of Calvin Johnson, the Lions offense has not skipped a beat, and Detroit is in the driver’s seat in the NFC North. They are still missing a few pieces on defense, and grabbing a solid cornerback next April could be the way to go.
Desmond King from Iowa has been one of the best cornerbacks in college football for the past few seasons, and he could have easily been a first round selection last year. However, he decided to head back to the Hawkeyes for one more season, and played a huge part in one of the biggest wins in recent memory for the program. The Hawkeyes knocked off No. 2 Michigan at home, giving King a signature win for his Iowa career.
Iowa plays in the big ten, which boasts two very good schools in the state of Michigan. Lions’ fans have probably seen him battle the Spartans or the Wolverines during his collegiate career, so they should know how good of a player he is. King does not have elite size, or speed, but he is an elite prospect, who could be a solid slot cornerback at the next level.
Nov 12, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) carries the ball against Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Brock Osweiler looked better under center for the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football, though he still struggled to show consistency for four quarters. He is going to be a work in progress, and luckily for him, they have some solid weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The Texans went out and got Lamar Miller to play running back, and DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best wide receivers in football.
One area where they need help on offense is at tight end, where the players they have at the position now are more suited to be a No. 2 at the position. Alabama’s O.J. Howard is by far the best at the position in this draft class, and he has the athleticism to be a game-changer for the Texans. He has the speed to spread the defense, and his run blocking skills have come a long way this season.
Osweiler needs that check down player if he is going to continue to develop, and right now, he seems to be throwing the ball into the turf or out of bounds when things get rough. Having a player like Howard would give him the kind of pass-catching option that would extend drives. Houston is currently in first place in the AFC South despite Osweiler’s struggles, and adding a solid tight end should keep them there.
Nov 12, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Teez Tabor (31) works out prior to the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Seattle Seahawks look like they are going to challenge the Dallas Cowboys for the best record in the NFC this season, and it is thanks to a defense that continues to get better each week. Quarterback Russell Wilson is doing a nice job moving the ball, but it is the defense that is putting him in position to succeed. Richard Sherman is still one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but adding another corner next April would be a smart move for the franchise.
Florida’s Teez Tabor is one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC, and watching him play is really boring. Teams just do not throw his way, as he was an interception machine last season for the Gators. He and teammate Quincy Wilson have formed the best 1-2 cornerback tandem in the conference, and are a big reason why a mediocre Florida team is ranked in the top-25.
Seattle has a ton of playmakers on defense, but that does not mean they should not continue to add to the mix. Eventually the organization is going to have to pay their players what they are worth, and some of their key secondary players are going to have to walk. Tabor could absolutely go higher in this draft, but if he is available late, the Seahawks have to jump on him.
Nov 19, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) points to the sky in celebration after a touchdown against the California Golden Bears during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. Stanford defeated California 45-31. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
After a midseason slump that saw him struggle to find the end zone, Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is once again dominating college football. This past weekend, McCaffrey rushed for a school-record 284 yards, shattering his own mark set last season. In his last four games, McCaffrey has rushed for 787 yards and ten touchdowns, while staking his claim as the best all-around player in college football.
The New England Patriots continue to roll, and Tom Brady looks like he may be able to play another five or so years. However, he needs help in the backfield, and McCaffrey is a perfect fit for New England. The son of a former NFL wide receiver, McCaffrey has an incredible football I.Q., and would be an asset to the Pats in the pass, run, and return game.
There is no saying how long the Pats run will last, but it does not look like it is going to end anytime soon. Adding a player of McCaffrey’s ability would give the team another playmaker, and he would certainly be a fan favorite amongst New England fans. He has the kind of work ethic and will to win that is needed to play for Bill Belichick, and he just may be available this last in round one.
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
LB, Ohio State
The Oakland Raiders were 0-10 at this point in the season two years ago, and are now the No. 1 seed in the AFC. That is mostly due to their 2014 NFL Draft class, in which the team selected quarterback Derek Carr, and defensive star Khalil Mack. At 8-2, the Raiders appear poised to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and they should be a fixture in the postseason for years to come.
To watch the Raiders is to know they still need help on defense, as the Houston Texans were able to move the ball fairly easily against them on Monday night. The team is being bailed out by Carr’s ability to win games late, but that is not going to work against teams like the New England Patriots. The organization needs to continue to bring in quality defensive players, and adding to their depth at linebacker is a priority at this point.
Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan is one of the top middle linebackers in this class, and he has been a dominant force for head coach Urban Meyer with the Buckeyes. He does a nice job working across the field, and is very solid in pass coverage. He is also a beast when it comes to laying the lumber, which would fit right in with the mean attitude of the Silver and Black. He would be a great pick this late in the first round.
Sep 17, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) celebrates after a sack against the Georgia Bulldogs in the first half at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Incredibly, the Dallas Cowboys would pick last in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft if the season ended tomorrow, thanks mostly to two guys they selected in the 2016 draft. Quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott have led the Cowboys to a 9-1 record this season, and they have reeled off nine straight since losing the opener. They look to be the class of the NFC, and could actually be playing for a Super Bowl despite the fact that their starting quarterback broke his back in the preseason.
The Cowboys are pretty set at their skill positions on offense, and their offensive line is one of the better units we have seen in recent memory. The team does need some help on the defensive line, specifically getting to the passer on a regular basis. Charles Harris from Missouri is a nice looking prospect, who could be used as defensive end or linebacker at the next level.
Dallas has a really good opportunity to be a great team for a long time if they can continue to add quality draft picks. Obviously adding talent like they did last year is a fluke, but they should be able to score a nice player in the first round next April. Harris is great at getting after the quarterback, and his first step cannot be rivaled in this class. He may be long gone by the time Dallas picks, but he is the kind of player team owner Jerry Jones would love to add to his arsenal.