2017 NFL Mock Draft: First-round projections after CFP Semifinals
With the first round of the College Football Playoff in the rearview mirror, take a look at our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
It’s been an interesting 2016 college football season and the College Football Playoff has reflected that. Four teams entered and only two teams remain as Clemson and Alabama will play for the national title once again. Those two teams also have a number of players in the first round of our latest version of the 2017 NFL mock draft.
Alabama might have about five players drafted in the first round this year, with a majority coming from that elite defensive side of the ball. Most of the bowl games have been completed and players are improving their draft stock by the week.
Who comes in as the No. 1 overall pick this week? I’ve had Myles Garrett in the past, but did Jonathan Allen do enough in the playoff against Washington to hang on to that No. 1 spot?
Take a look at the latest edition of our 2017 NFL mock draft after the third bowl weekend and first round of the College Football Playoff.
Note: The NFL draft order is based off of current records, pick trading and standings from NFL.com as of Jan. 2.
For my second straight mock, I’m projecting Jonathan Allen as the first overall pick. The senior defensive lineman began his career at Alabama as a linebacker and transitioned nicely. He is now widely considered the No. 1 draft prospect and a likely selection by the 1-15 Cleveland Browns.
While it’s not exactly every player’s dream to be picked by Cleveland, Allen knows he can make an instant impact with the league’s worst team. He keeps proving himself as the top prospect in this year’s class, putting up a solid performance against Washington in the Peach Bowl.
The Browns need to address just about every position on the field, but with the top pick in the draft, you go best available 90 percent of the time. Allen is a talent that just can’t be passed up and he will be the easy choice — although there is another lineman who could be selected here as well.
Allen has 62 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in his senior season with the Crimson Tide. He’s strong and projects as a defensive tackle at the next level.
DE, Texas A&M
Chip Kelly has been fired and changes are being made in San Francisco after a terrible 2-14 season and the 49ers will be rewarded with the No. 2 overall pick. With this selection, they will go best available as well.
About a month ago, I would have said that Myles Garrett was the easy No. 1 choice and I even had him first in my original mock draft. However, after watching Jonathan Allen play, I think he’s more of an NFL-ready player and Garrett is more of a raw prospect who could use some molding to be a dominant NFL edge rusher.
Garrett might be the most athletic defensive lineman in the class and he is strong enough to power his way to the quarterback, but he often times beats himself with a lack of polished techniques. That has been one of the biggest knocks against him.
San Francisco could use a raw prospect with endless potential like Garrett who could dominate offensive linemen for years to come, but the 49ers need to be patient when helping him along.
When watching film, it’s easy to point him out because he’s often the first one off the ball on the snap and his size, speed and explosiveness separates him from the rest of the players at the collegiate level. He will develop, but his technique is why he’s No. 2 and not first overall.
QB, North Carolina
Is the Jay Cutler era in Chicago over? If you ran a poll with Bears fans, it would likely be split 50-50 or maybe even 60-40 in favor of Cutler being done. He has struggled to stay healthy in recent years and when he is, Jay just looks like a mediocre quarterback who peaked a few seasons ago.
Cutler has likely worn out his welcome in Chicago and that might mean it’s time for a new quarterback. Matt Barkley has done an alright job in his absence and before that it was Brian Hoyer who played well before an injury knocked him out for the season.
Placing the future of the organization in Barkley’s hands is a little frightening, though, which makes me believe the Bears will go quarterback with their first overall selection. That doesn’t mean they’re giving up on Barkley, just adding insurance just in case he doesn’t pan out.
Mitch Trubisky is the top quarterback in this year’s class, which isn’t saying much. He didn’t help his stock much with a loss to Stanford in the Sun Bowl, but there are scouts who believe he should be the No. 1 overall pick by the Browns.
The first-year starter really broke out for North Carolina this season with his elite ball placement. He has good arm strength, but sometimes struggles with the deep ball and he can also tuck and run when he needs to, showing off athleticism.
Jacksonville was a major disappointment this season. Gus Bradley was fired in the middle of the year after failing to meet expectations. There were struggles on both sides of the ball, but the defense definitely needs to be addressed.
The quality of defensive backs to come out of LSU in recent years has been impressive. First it was Patrick Peterson who was selected by the Cardinals and Tyrann Mathieu, also known as the Honey Badger, found a home with Arizona.
Adams won’t join his fellow Tigers in the desert, but he will fit in quite nicely with a team like the the Jacksonville Jaguars who are in the process of rebuilding. Under the direction of a new head coach in 2017, the Jaguars might actually live up to their potential.
Last year, Jacksonville selected Jalen Ramsey, a cornerback from Florida State, with its first round pick and he has played well this year as a rookie. Adding a guy like Adams to a young secondary would be the best case scenario for Jacksonville long-term.
The 6-foot-1, 211-pound safety isn’t afraid of anyone and is one of the best tacklers in this class. He can match up with just about anyone, but there are questions about his ability to cover the deep ball. I believe Adams will be the first defensive back selected and there’s no way he drops below the 5-7 range.
What a tough end to the season it was for the Tennessee Titans. They closed out the year with a win, but it may as well have been a loss because Marcus Mariota broke his leg in the second-to-last game of the year, his second major injury in the NFL.
Mariota will be back, and when he is, the Titans should have a freshly-wrapped present waiting for him in the form of Mike Williams. The Clemson wide out has been arguably the best receiver in college football this year, outside of Dede Westbrook, and it seems like the Tigers just churn out NFL talent at this position every couple of years.
The Titans are lucky enough to get the Rams’ firs-round pick which was acquired via trade and that means they will get two in the first 20 picks.
Tennessee desperately needs more weapons in the receiving corps for Mariota as it seems like he relied on Delanie Walker, the team’s tight end, way too much this season. Adding a true No. 1 threat like Williams could change the look of the offense in a positive way.
Williams has 90 catches for 1,267 yards and 10 touchdowns this year and he has the perfect combination of size and speed.
Watching the New York Jets this season has been brutal. This team showed little life all year long and that was disappointing especially since Ryan Fitzpatrick was supposed to come back and lead this team to a big year. Could the Jets pick yet another quarterback in the first round?
There are concerns about the health and future of Darrelle Revis who has lost a step this season. His job has been called for numerous times by fans and members of the media, but he could be moved over to safety which could help his case to start. He’s long removed from the days of ‘Revis Island’, though.
That’s what makes the potential addition of a lockdown corner like Quincy Wilson even more important. He has emerged as the best corner on his own team, and that’s with a guy like Teez Tabor playing on the opposite side of the field.
Scouts have been singing the praises of Wilson recently and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t the first cornerback selected in this year’s class. He doesn’t have elite speed, which is a bit of a knock, but he locks down receivers and is athletic enough to stay hip-to-hip with anyone.
New York needs some help on offense, but Wilson would be an immediate upgrade to the cornerback position and could start from day one.
Is it time for the Chargers to look for a replacement for Philip Rivers or do they believe he still has enough left in the tank to lead this team back from the basement of the division? Quarterback might be a later round option for San Diego, leaving its first round pick up for debate. Potentially a cornerback?
Although he would have liked to end his career on a higher note, assuming he leaves early, Sidney Jones did play well in a loss to Alabama. The junior cornerback has been a lockdown performer all season long and is quick enough and pesky enough to stay in opposing receivers’ pockets all the way down the field.
Jones did such a great job against Alabama, in fact, that Jalen Hurts barely targeted his side of the field. I’m not sure why he wasn’t on many radars to start the season, but Jones has gone from underrated prospect to potential top-10 talent.
On the year, he has 39 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and six passes defended. He hasn’t been thrown at all too much, even by some of the best teams in the country. Quarterbacks are smart enough to play keep away with him.
San Diego should be looking at the offensive line, maybe another receiver or a backup quarterback to replace Rivers when he retires, but Jones has improved his stock enough to be considered a ‘best available’ pick here.
It was a tough season for the Carolina Panthers just one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance, but Cam Newton and Co. just couldn’t seem to get things figured out. The defense wasn’t quite the same and Newton didn’t want to run as much to avoid risking an injury.
Without Newton’s usual rushing production, the Panthers struggled. Johnathan Stewart just wasn’t himself and it looked like he was ready to retire by the end of the season. Because of that, Leonard Fournette might just be the best option for the Panthers in the first round.
Does skipping the bowl game affect Fournette’s stock? Doubtful. The LSU running back had a solid career in Baton Rouge and teams understand he’s just trying to protect himself after an injury-riddled junior season. They know what he’s capable of and he showcased that through three seasons.
Fournette can be scary-good and he’s likely to be the first running back chosen based on his potential. While he did prove his worth with a 1,953-yard season in 2015, not many players can have their production cut in half and still remain a top-10 pick.
Stewart struggled this season and looked worn down. With his career nearing an end, Fournette could come in right away and be a rookie sensation — if he can stay healthy.
It only took seven picks between Alabama players selected in the first round. After watching Jonathan Allen go No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns, Reuben Foster might not be too far behind, landing with in-state foe, the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati had a disappointing year. This was supposed to be a playoff season, but the Bengals didn’t get the job done on either side of the ball. A.J. Green and Giovanni Bernard suffered tough injuries and the defense struggled, but now’s the time to regroup and focus on 2017.
The Bengals need an edge rusher and a center, but there’s no way they would ever reach for the latter this early in the draft. Another top need is linebacker and the No. 1 player at that position in this draft might just be available by their pick.
Reuben Foster has been a nightmare for offenses this season and the Alabama linebacker is considered a top-five talent by many draft experts. He could go as high as No. 3 overall, but it’s likely that he will slip to this spot. He’s instinctive, has good size for an inside linebacker and is improving his blitzing techniques.
Foster has 103 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss and four sacks on the season — all of which are career-highs.
The options the Bills have for their first round pick are endless. They could go for an offensive lineman, but with the No. 10 overall pick, that might be a tad early, and they could also be looking at wide receiver.
Tyrod Taylor struggled mightily without a healthy Sammy Watkins this season and the Bills could look to add a wide out early on, given that their guy is still available. However, the only one they might consider worthy of this high of a pick might already be gone — Mike Williams fits that bill.
The defensive backfield also needs to be addressed and an athletic safety like Jabrill Peppers would be a solid option. He would be another ‘best available’ pick and he would bring return skills as well as the ability to play multiple positions to Buffalo.
After the loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl in which Peppers didn’t play due to a hamstring injury, he was getting blasted on social media for sitting out. However, he did say the injury was severe enough that he could barely walk and admitted that he wasn’t sure whether or not he’d come back for his senior season.
For those who know about draft stock, it’s pretty obvious he will be declaring while he’s considered a mid-first round selection. He could help the Bills out in more ways than one with his incredible athleticism.
The New Orleans Saints really fell off the table at the end of the season. After looking like a potential playoff team, the Saints folded and it was mostly due to their lack of defense. Clearly, it’s time to improve that side of the ball.
Tim Williams keeps improving his draft stock by each passing game and this is even after his arrest on gun charges earlier in the year. He may have had some off-field issues, but those have been resolved and teams are beginning to notice his impressive ability to rush the quarterback.
The senior is listed as a linebacker at the collegiate level, but he could be used in blitzing situations at the professional level. He can be an elite edge rusher but he is an extremely raw player. He needs to develop as a complete player against the run and pass instead of being known as a guy who can get to the quarterback and not much else.
On the season, Williams has 29 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Those numbers won’t blow anyone away, but he’s still developing as a prospect and that intrigues some scouts. He’s nowhere near as good as he can be.
If he’s drafted as a linebacker, he needs to improve in coverage as well, but he’d be a dynamite pick by the Saints in the first round — and a project.
Cleveland just isn’t a place where top college stars want to end up. While it usually means they did something right, getting drafted early by one of the perennial bottom-dwellers, it’s not a place where many have gone to succeed — just ask Johnny Manziel.
If Deshaun Watson didn’t throw so many interceptions, I don’t think there’s any doubt he’d be a top-five draft pick and the first quarterback chosen. However, he has been known to throw the ball into opponents’ hands at a high rate, even tossing two to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl win on New Year’s Eve.
Watson still played well enough to get the win, passing for 259 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 57 yards and two more scores. He has a knack for finding the end zone with his arm and his legs, which causes his draft stock to remain high.
Cleveland has been a graveyard for quarterbacks, so Watson is probably hoping his name isn’t called by the Browns’ front office, but it’s an opportunity for him to potentially start right away and lead an organization from day one. Every young star likes a challenge and his would be making the Browns relevant again.
Cody Kessler was selected last year and looked decent, but he likely isn’t the future. Robert Griffin III is a walking injury report, so I wouldn’t expect him to last too long, either. Could Watson change the Browns’ quarterback luck?
QB, Notre Dame
There has been chatter around the Arizona Cardinals organization that Carson Palmer might not be around too much longer as the starting quarterback. He had a down year for the Cardinals in a season which people believed Arizona had the talent to make a deep playoff run.
Arizona missed the playoffs, however, and are fringing on a top-10 pick. It’s hard to believe a team with Patrick Peterson, Palmer, Tyrann Mathieu, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson missed out on the postseason, but injuries and inconsistent play from the quarterback position did it in.
DeShone Kizer would likely be available with the Cardinals’ first-round selection and getting him as a future replacement for Palmer wouldn’t be the worst idea. While Drew Stanton has been a capable backup to Palmer for the last few years, it’s clear that he’s just going to remain a second-stringer.
Scouts have knocked Kizer’s decision making which could drop him to the second round, but I think his size, mobility and feathery touch on passes make him a first-round talent. He won’t start right away wherever he goes, which makes his selection by the Cardinals make that much more sense.
Draft him, let him learn behind Palmer for a year or two and then see what he can do after that.
RB, Florida State
Honestly, I’m still debating on whether Dalvin Cook should be the first running back selected in this year’s draft, but I just think that teams are going to draft Fournette first because of his immense potential. That’s not to say Cook doesn’t have the potential to be great, but Fournette is one of the most elusive backs in recent memory.
Cook might not drop very far, though, as the Indianapolis Colts might be looking to add a running back of the future in the first round. Andrew Luck needs to be handed some quality pieces around him and with Frank Gore getting up there in age, it might be time for a running back replacement.
Indianapolis could use upgrades along the offensive line, but Cook could be a must-get at No. 13 overall if he’s still available. Teams are now looking for ‘the next Ezekiel Elliott’ as it’s been well-documented that first-round running backs can become true NFL MVP candidates as rookies.
The Florida State running back improved his draft stock against Michigan in the Orange Bowl, putting on a show in front of a big audience. People who have yet to see him play watched him rush for 145 yards, including a crucial late touchdown, against Michigan’s elite run defense.
The Colts could use Cook who averaged 6.1 yards per carry and finished with a career-best 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield.
Only one receiver on the Eagles broke the 400-yard mark this season and that was Jordan Matthews. Even though he finished the year with 804 yards and three touchdowns on 76 receptions, it was considered a poor season for the young wide out who is trying to make a name for himself as the No. 1 receiver.
However, the Eagles clearly need to add some depth at the position. While Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham are solid second and third options, neither one can step in and contend for the No. 1 job when Matthews struggles.
Zach Ertz was the second-leading receiver on the team as a tight end, but he may have been used far too much as a check down option when the wide outs failed to get open for rookie gunslinger Carson Wentz. John Ross could be that deep-threat that the Eagles have been desperately missing since DeSean Jackson left.
Heck, Ross even resembles a young Jackson. He’s not the biggest guy, standing 5-foot-11, but he has blazing speed and good hands. He broke out as a junior for Washington, catching 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. He would be a welcomed addition to an offense that deteriorated throughout the year.
WR, Western Michigan
The Baltimore Ravens failed to reach their goals this season which included a division title, Super Bowl or, heck, even a playoff appearance. It was a tough season for the Ravens, but they will bounce back in 2017, led by a tough defense.
However, the news that veteran wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. is planning to retire put a damper on the offseason and it’s clear that Baltimore needs to consider adding a wide out.
Breshad Perriman was the Ravens’ first round pick in 2015 but he has been fighting injuries over the past couple of years to try and break the rotation. Mike Wallace was added this year to provide a deep threat and Kamar Aiken was supposed to break out, but never truly did.
Enter, Corey Davis. The Western Michigan wide out could be an even better option than the two wide outs who I have projected to go before him and his size, strength and route-running ability make him a rare prospect.
Saturday Blitz’s own Tyler Brooke has compared him to a Brandon Marshall-type receiver who is big and aggressive and can go up and get the 50/50 ball. Davis will have an opportunity to make a case for an even higher pick against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.
Washington just missed out on the playoffs thanks to a loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night and that will bring the Redskins back to the drawing board. There are some people who don’t believe Kirk Cousins deserves a huge contract because of his inability to lead this team to the postseason, but he can’t play defense, too.
The offense has struggled at times, but that’s not the issue with Washington. The defense has been a disappointment for a good chunk of the season and that starts with a guy like Josh Norman failing to live up to expectations.
Still, Washington has the pieces in place to be successful in the future, but the defense needs some major improvements. With the Redskins going receiver (Josh Doctson) in the first round last year, expect them to focus on the other side of the ball and if it’s not a defensive back, it’ll likely be a lineman.
A few weeks ago, I would have been shocked to see Derek Barnett fall to No. 20 overall (or potentially No. 16 where the Redskins will likely pick), but crazier things have happened with teams drafting on needs instead of best available.
Some people actually believe he’s a better edge rusher than Myles Garrett, but that remains to be seen. Barnett is strong, powerful and he has yet to reach his full potential. Washington could use a leader like him on defense.
We should change the name of the 2017 NFL Draft to ‘The Alabama Selection Show’ as Marlon Humphrey is the fifth member of the Crimson Tide to be selected in the first 16 picks of my mock. The redshirt sophomore is one of the more underrated prospects in this year’s class, but I could see him sneaking into the middle of the first round, especially if he plays well in the national title game.
Tennessee will get two picks in the first round and the Titans are likely to go defensive back with one of them. I have the Titans picking Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams with their first pick and then Humphrey would be next.
It’s not often that you see two first-rounders who could potentially be selected by the same team square off against each other in the final game of the season for all the marbles. We could see Humphrey matched up with Williams in the national title game and both could be in for a dog fight.
Humphrey has decent size, standing 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, and is a physical cornerback in man coverage and is an excellent tackler. It will be interesting to see how he matches up with Williams. He is a first-round talent in my book, but some are hesitant to position him this high.
DL, Michigan State
If you’re Tampa Bay, you’re disappointed to have missed out on the playoffs this year because of the opportunity to get in, but you have to feel the future is unbelievably bright. Jameis Winston has done a terrific job under center and Mike Evans might just be a top-three receiver in the league.
Doug Martin can be a top-tier running back if he stays healthy, but there’s a possibility that they look at adding another backup late in the draft despite Jacquizz Rodgers stepping up. Also, the need for a second receiver is there, but that might be addressed in the second round with a guy like Dede Westbrook.
The defensive line does need to be addressed, though. While I feel like there’s no way Malik McDowell will fall all the way to this point in the first round, there’s a good chance teams will pass on him because they’re worried about his “motor” and work ethic.
Unfortunately, he’s being unfairly criticized already because of the fact that he sat out for Michigan State’s final few games, but he had suffered injuries all season long and it was likely for his best interest. The junior defensive lineman can play end or tackle and is a monster in the trenches.
Often times, he just overpowered opposing linemen with his long arms, quick jump on the ball and athleticism. He’s a nightmare to block and Tampa could use a guy like that to go along with the young athletic front it already has.
The fall from grace in the NFL can be quite harsh — just ask the Carolina Panthers. Well, the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl a season ago and are now facing a long offseason without a playoff appearance.
Peyton Manning’s retirement had a bigger impact on the Broncos than they could have imagined and Denver’s quarterback situation looked to be solved early on with the drafting of Paxton Lynch in the first round last year as well as the emergence of Trevor Siemian.
However, the quarterback situation was not great. Siemian didn’t play like the quarterback of the future and Lynch barely saw the field. The run game was also poor, but the Broncos do have some good pieces in the backfield as it’s the offensive line that could use some improvements.
Defensively, there are few issues, so going defense in round one might not be an option — only to add maybe some linebacker depth.
Cam Robinson would be a good pick here. The Alabama offensive tackle is my favorite lineman in this year’s draft and he could help the Broncos out instantly. He’s best suited at right tackle and his gigantic frame has been great against the run and is developing as a pass blocker.
How great of a story would it be if Jourdan Lewis, a Cass Tech (Detroit) High School alum, came back to play for the city he grew up in? Last year during the draft, he made it clear he was a Lions fan still, tweeting that he wished Detroit would have drafted someone other than an Ohio State player in Taylor Decker.
That would be another storyline to follow as he’d be joining Decker on the Lions as the 2016 first round pick.
It’s no secret that the Lions need some help in the secondary. Glover Quinn and Darius Slay can only do so much and it might be time to add a potentially elite corner on the other side of the field. Slay is one of the league’s best lockdown defenders and Lewis could learn a ton behind him for a year or two and then join him.
Heck, Lewis is talented enough that he could crack the rotation in his first season and contribute — the Lions desperately need a cornerback. Offensive line is always a need for Detroit as well as running back with one of the worst run games in football, but that was a result of injuries to Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah.
Lockdown Lewis might be headed home to Detroit, although he did play college ball just down the road.
The Dolphins have made the playoffs. You read that right. Even without Ryan Tannehill who has been out for the past couple of weeks with a leg injury, the Dolphins have found a way to sneak into the postseason and they will do so with Matt Moore leading the way.
A couple of weeks ago, I would have said that Miami needs to look at some offensive line depth, potentially a guard, or even a tight end in the first round, but with the rise of Dion Sims, I say this team should be targeting a defensive end instead.
You don’t normally think of Miami’s defensive line needing all that much, especially with Ndamukong Suh up front, but if Mario Williams leaves, the Dolphins could afford to add a defensive end like Solomon Thomas.
Thomas has played just a couple of years with the Cardinal and the impression that he has made cannot be overlooked. He’s not the biggest defensive line prospect in this year’s draft, but he is strong and has violent hands that help him create pressure. He finished the 2016 regular season at Stanford with 61 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
If there has been a team that has progressively improved on the defensive side of the ball all season long and exceeded expectations, it’s been the Giants. New York, in its first year with a new coach, has made the postseason and it didn’t look like that would be the case early in the season, but the offense and defense both came together at the right time.
In my last mock draft, I had the Giants picking D’Onta Foreman, a bruising running back out of Texas, but after watching Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings play against Washington, it’s clear that those two can carry the load — no pun intended.
Linebacker might just be the Giants’ biggest need this year and maybe a pass rusher as well, but addressing the middle of the defense is key. Last year, the Giants picked Eli Apple, a cornerback from Ohio State, in the first round and that was the first step toward fixing the defense.
This year, they should go after a guy like Zach Cunningham who is rising up draft boards and beginning to look like a guy who could be the first linebacker chosen — or at the very least, second or third.
Although his biggest knock is that he is bad as an open-field tackler, he is aggressive, sheds blockers and can defend against the pass. Cunningham should be extremely high on New York’s draft board.
Jalen Tabor, or ‘Teez’ as he’s better known as, was considered a potential top-10 pick before the 2016 season began, but as you can tell by this mock, he might not even be the best cornerback on his own team. I have Quincy Wilson going No. 6 overall to the Jets as the first cornerback taken, but it won’t take long for Tabor to follow his teammates’ lead.
Scouts are intrigued by his size and athleticism, but he needs to work on his play against the run. He is a good open-field tackler, but he sometimes guesses too much. The junior cornerback already has the size to match up well with NFL receivers, but can he be a lockdown corner at the next level? It’s possible.
Kansas City needs to focus on the defensive side of the ball, like many teams, in this draft. Linebacker, defensive line and cornerback are the three needs, but with a guy like Tabor likely to be there at this point in the draft, why pass?
Teams love big cornerbacks and a 6-foot-0, 200-pound potential lockdown threat could be a dream addition for the Chiefs’ front office. Tabor has a chance to improve his draft stock against Iowa in Monday’s Citrus Bowl.
Houston doesn’t exactly have much of a prized possession to protect under center, but Brock Osweiler is worth so much money, the Texans may just want to invest in keeping him healthy as a potential trade option. The fans are growing restless in Houston because of that quarterback position, but it’s not enough to draft one in the first round.
It’s hard to believe the Texans made the playoffs with how bad Osweiler played and his benching in favor of Tom Savage a couple weeks ago. However, this team has one of the best defenses in football and that’s even without J.J. Watt.
Fixing that lethargic offense of their is clearly a priority. Houston needs to bolster its offensive line and Ryan Ramczyk of Wisconsin would do just that. He’s one of the more reliable offensive linemen in this draft. This is a year when offensive linemen aren’t exactly blowing up the first round, but Ramczyk could be one of just a couple taken early this year.
The Texans’ run game struggled later on in the season and Ramczyk is a great run blocker and also protects the quarterback at a high level. He rarely gives up pressure in the pocket and has great technique, but he’d be a slight risk in the first round. It is a need for Houston, though.
CB, Ohio State
Surprise, surprise. After a rough start to the year and when it looked like this team was dead in the water, in terms of an NFC North title, the Green Bay Packers found a way to win the division and make the playoffs for the eighth straight season.
Aaron Rodgers is playing at a ridiculously high level and the offensive struggles that were evident a few weeks ago no longer exist. The run game, receivers and offensive line have all improved and now it’s time for the Packers to address the defense, although that’s also playing better, in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Green Bay could use help at linebacker and on the defensive line, but the cornerbacks have struggled a bit this season, mainly due to injuries, and could use some depth. Ohio State’s Gareon Conley may have had a forgettable finish to his 2016 season with a 31-0 loss to Clemson, but if he does decide to turn pro, he’d be a solid choice by Green Bay.
Conley has some impressive ball skills and can shadow receivers with his speed and athleticism. However, the only thing working against him is his size. If he can add some weight this offseason, he could be a potential shutdown corner at the next level.
After last season, I would have thought Desmond King was the best cornerback in the country and, heck, even the best defensive back in the college football. He was the recipient of the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation’s best defensive back in 2015 and decided to return for his senior season at Iowa.
The 2016 season may have hurt his stock a bit, but the senior cornerback has already shown that he can be a lockdown guy. His numbers are down and the Hawkeyes’ defense isn’t as stifling as it was last year, but King is still one of those guys who should be a first-rounder.
Seattle isn’t exactly a team that you think of when you hear the word ‘need’ referred to its defensive backfield, but the Seahawks of today aren’t exactly the same as the ones who won the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. In fact, Seattle’s defense could use a little more help in the secondary, especially with recent injuries.
No, King probably wouldn’t start right away, nor would he see the field much, but learning behind guys like Richard Sherman and the ‘Legion of Boom’ would do wonders for his future. King could be the future of this secondary and he has the quick hips and lockdown ability to be such.
There’s chatter that the Pittsburgh Steelers might look to add a running back to complement Le’Veon Bell as a solid backup with DeAngelo Williams getting up there in age, but that’s just not the smartest way to utilize a first round selection.
Bell is arguably the best running back in the league, although there’s not much of an argument for those who have seen him play, and the Steelers would be better off adding some depth on the defensive side of the ball or even a tight end. Ben Roethlisberger loves passing to tight ends and without Heath Miller, he has had to rely on receivers more.
However, if Jarrad Davis is still available at No. 28, Pittsburgh needs to jump at the opportunity to select him. The Florida linebacker is as aggressive as they come and can disrupt the game if he remains disciplined. He has the habit of trying to blow up a play and then opening up a running lane because of it.
The senior linebacker didn’t have the stats this year that he would have liked, but he only played nine games, recording 60 tackles, six for loss and two sacks. He is excellent in pass coverage and would be a nice addition to a Steelers defense that might just be losing a couple of outside linebackers.
DE, Florida State
Atlanta is one of those organizations that exceeded expectations in 2016 and will be granted a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Matt Ryan has been playing incredible football all year long and there’s talk of him being the league’s MVP with a breakout season.
I’ll admit it, I wasn’t a believer of this team for the longest time, but Ryan’s annual meltdown under center never took place this year and he closed out the season on a high note. With this down time until the first playoff contest, it’s a great opportunity to scout needs.
The offense isn’t an issue for Atlanta, but the defense could use some work. The defensive backfield is improving, but adding cornerback depth is important. However, edge rushers are a major need and the Florida State stud has improved his stock recently.
DeMarcus Walker was a monster in the Orange Bowl against Michigan, wreaking havoc with his big frame and quick hands in the backfield. He seemed to be in on almost every play and finished with four tackles and a sack.
The explosive defensive end finished the season with 67 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. He might not be a top-20 pick only because he’s a tweener, but not fast enough to be a linebacker.
The Oakland Raiders are one of the best up-and-coming teams in the NFL and they just lost out on the division title Sunday with a loss to Denver, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a bright future ahead.
Many people are concerned with the injury to Derek Carr, but it’s likely only to keep him out 6-8 weeks and he will be healed up for the 2017 season. The quarterback position and the platoon of running backs with Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper in the receiving corps must mean that the needs are on the defensive side of the ball.
Oakland could use some linebacker help as well as a defensive back, but why not add some pass rushing help if a guy like Carl Lawson is there late in the first round? Lawson is a powerful down lineman and can cause some havoc up front. He has strong arms and can make his way into the backfield with ease.
There are some concerns about previous injuries that caused him to miss an entire year as well as half a season. However, he shut down some of those worrisome scouts with an impressive 2016 season. He finished the regular season with 28 tackles, 13 for loss and 9.5 sacks.
The New England Patriots are selecting near the bottom of the first round of the NFL draft for yet another season and it doesn’t matter to them. They seem to churn out Pro Bowl talent no matter where they pick and playoffs are almost a guarantee when the season begins.
Concerns have been raised about the health of Rob Gronkowski, but Martellus Bennett has been solid in his absence and those calling for the Patriots to draft a tight end early on might be easing off that notion a bit.
New England could use an offensive lineman or even a linebacker after trading Jamie Collins to the Browns, but if Christian McCaffrey is available at No. 31, there’s no way a team like the Patriots could pass him up.
Just look at what they have done with guys like Julian Edelman and Wes Welker. Those quick slot receivers seem to thrive in this offense and although McCaffrey is listed as a running back, he might be better suited as a slot guy.
Not only is McCaffrey a great runner, but he’s been one of the most dynamic receiving backs in the country over the past couple of years. Tom Brady would be one happy man with a weapon like McCaffrey.
If you were to look at O.J. Howard, you’d think he was a wide receiver and somewhat resembles Devin Funchess who came out of Michigan a couple of years ago. He was a tight end at the collegiate level but protected better as a receiver in the NFL.
The Dallas Cowboys are in need of a tight end as Jason Witten is likely nearing the end of his career. The veteran tight end has been one of the best in NFL history and it’s going to be extremely difficult to replace him, but Howard would be the same type of pass-catching threat that Witten was but with even more athleticism.
Sure, he needs to add some weight, but it might be worth it for him to just remain with his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame to create mismatch problems at the next level. He has great hands, speed and elusiveness and he’s a great blocker.
What do the Cowboys really need? Some would argue a defensive end, cornerback or just strictly a pass rusher, but a tight end is near the top. Adding another weapon for Dak Prescott is a scary thought for the rest of the league. Imagine an offense with an elite, athletic tight end, the best offensive line in the league, a top-three running back and Dez Bryant.
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