2017 NFL Draft: 10 Biggest Misconceptions About Team Needs
With the 2017 NFL Draft quickly approaching, several narratives are being considered fact. However, these 10 feelings are merely misconceptions.
Every offseason leading up to the NFL Draft there is a lot of talk about what teams need to do to make the necessary improvements for taking their next step. For some teams, that next step means competing for a championship. The goal for others is just to be a viable NFL franchise. Whatever the need, the speculation becomes rampant. Sometimes that speculation even starts to become fact in a lot of minds.
Obviously no one except for the teams themselves know exactly what they consider their biggest need. We also have no clue where they stand as far as need versus best player available. While many believe the best player approach should trump all, that’s not always true. A team with a standout quarterback isn’t taking Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in round one. Just like a team with a franchise rusher in his early 20’s isn’t taking Leonard Fournette out of LSU.
So that means need is a factor, and for some it’s a huge factor. It also becomes the most discussed topic for each team as people try and decide which needs could possibly be met and in which round. Yet not all the talk out there about how a team must address it’s needs is correct. Let’s check out the ten biggest misconceptions about the 2017 NFL Draft.
10. Arizona Cardinals QB Situation is Fine
This offseason serious concern about the quarterback position started to arise in the Valley of the Sun. Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback Carson Palmer had reportedly sold his home in the Phoenix area and pulled his kids from their school.
The worry was put to rest shortly after as Palmer made an announcement that he will not retire. He had this to say via Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk:
“My intent was to take some time after the season to get away and see where I was physically and mentally,” Palmer said. “On both fronts, I can say I’m ready to get back to work and prepare for the 2017 season. This is a phenomenal group with a very special opportunity in front of it.
All is good in the desert then, right? Wrong. Palmer was the first overall pick out of USC way back in 2004 and has had an interesting career to say the least. He threatened to retire from the NFL rather than return to the Cincinnati Bengals back in 2011 and then was traded to the Oakland Raiders. There he struggled through two losing seasons before heading to Arizona where he revitalized his career.
The problem is Palmer will be 38 years old by season’s end and has had some shoulder issues in the past. While he should be the starter as long as he is healthy, there is no guarantee that at his age he will play all 16 games. There’s also no guarantee beyond this season he will play and the backup is the less-than-inspiring Drew Stanton.
A first round selection on a quarterback wouldn’t be the worst idea, especially if someone like Deshaun Watson or Mitch Trubisky was there at No. 13. The Cards could benefit from improving their backup situation and having a young guy in place to take the reins in 2018.
9. New Orleans Has To Address Defense
One thing that is fact about the New Orleans Saints is that their defense isn’t very good. They were 31st in the league in points surrendered and they gave up the most passing yards in the NFL. That means the team absolutely has to go defense in the first round, right?
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Again, this one isn’t totally true. While the Saints would be justified in getting someone to slow down opposing passing games, they could also go offense especially if it’s a position that helps the team as a whole.
The Saints were first in the NFL in passing yardage, but middle of the pack in rushing. They may decided that a new running back would help keep their defense fresh at the end of games as they control the clock. It would also take some of the pressure of veteran quarterback Drew Brees who has had to do a lot on his own as the offensive orchestrator.
With running back Mark Ingram under contract, this may sound like a crazy idea, but anyone who watched New Orleans could see that head coach Sean Payton just never trusted Ingram. He was replaced often for Tim Hightower, despite the fact that Hightower averaged a full yard per carry less than the former first-round pick. Maybe a player like Dalvin Cook out of Florida State could do a better job of earning Payton’s trust, thus staying on the field and helping the Saints win some of their close games.
Another option besides running back could be to bolster their offensive line some more. Brees doesn’t have a lot of time left, and keeping him upright would help maximize that time. Either move would help the team and they could address defense later in the draft.
8. Kansas City Chiefs Need a QB
People despise Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. It’s weird because he seems like a nice guy, so it’s not personal. He’s also the guy who has been under center the past four seasons in K.C. and led them to 11 wins as a starter in three years while going 8-7 in the other.
Usually when a guy wins like that he is praised. While wins and losses shouldn’t be the determining factor for whether or not a quarterback was good, it usually is. All year long we heard it about Trevor Siemian of the Denver Broncos. He looked awful, but the team would win thanks to their defense and we all praised his record as a starter. Then he got exposed near the end of the season and the Broncos missed the playoffs.
For Kansas City, they just keep winning. So what’s the problem? Smith has yet to win the Super Bowl, or even get his team there. This leads to the talk that the Chiefs have to get better at quarterback. Well, that’s not exactly true.
Smith surely isn’t an elite guy; that’s not the debate. The problem is, there isn’t a better replacement out there without mortgaging the future to move up, and even then the Chiefs are too far back in round one to consider that without a quarterback slipping. With where they sit in the draft, it just isn’t feasible to find a better option.
One other rumor has been the interest in Tony Romo once released from Dallas. The problem there is Romo also hasn’t won the Super Bowl and also struggles with health. With Alex Smith you get a guy who just completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 3,502 yards. He did have just 15 touchdowns on the year, but you know he will be suited up each week and ready to go. With Romo, you can’t guarantee that.
7. Houston Texans Need a Tackle in Round 1
Many mocks have the Houston Texans taking an offensive tackle in the first round of the NFL Draft. Like most of the theories out there this makes a ton of sense. They currently have Duane Brown set in the left tackle spot, but the right tackle is up in the air.
Houston’s starter at the position is Derek Newton, but he suffered a serious injury in which he tore the patellar tendon in both of his knees. The hope is he will eventually return but the road won’t be easy. News about his recovery has been quiet, which begs the question of whether or not he will be ready by the time the season starts.
It’s worth keeping an eye on and could sway what Houston does in round one. It doesn’t mean they have to address it then, even if Newton isn’t returning.
Houston has holes in other spots, which they may be able to fill with better value with the 25th pick. It looks as though nose tackle Vince Wilfork will retire, though he’s not certain yet. There’s also a need for a better coverage middle linebacker, and a tight end upgrade would be nice as well. Still, the biggest question mark comes at quarterback. Brock Osweiler was really bad last year and drafting a potential replacement could trump everything.
6. Miami Dolphins are Set at QB
After a sluggish 1-4 start to the 2016 NFL season the Miami Dolphins looked like a team about to implode. They had no running game, their defense had given up at least 30-points two times and their head coach had his abilities being questioned. Then they rattled off six-straight wins and finished with a record of 10-6. Miami earned a playoff berth for their season, but lost badly to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
At the end of their 9-2 run to close out the year they lost quarterback Ryan Tannehill to injury and he was unable to play in their post season game against Pittsburgh. While obviously having to turn to a backup in the playoffs is never ideal, it doesn’t guarantee that they would have won with Tannehill.
Despite a winning record the Dolphins are not solid at the quarterback position. In the 13 games their fifth-year quarterback did play he finished with a respectable quarterback rating of 93.5, the highest of his career. He also had a career high in completion percentage at 67.1 percent.
While he has made huge leaps in his career, Tannehill still isn’t one of the elite quarterbacks and Miami may not want to go into the draft thinking all their offensive woes are fixed. Their resurgence after the terrible start could be attributed to the break out of running back Jay Ajayi, who burst onto the scene in a Week 6 game against the same Steelers who knocked Miami out of the tournament. In that game, Ajayi went over 200 yards rushing for the first of what ended up being three times last season. His play opened up the offense and was a large part of what made the veteran quarterback look as good as he did.
Until the emergence of Ajayi, Tannehill had six touchdowns and seven interceptions, with half of those touchdowns coming against the 1-15 Cleveland Browns. From that point on he played much better as teams had to respect the run and focus on stopping Ajayi. Miami needs to remember what Tannehill looked like before the running game was a factor and would be wise to consider all options, including quarterback.
5. San Francisco 49ers Need a QB Second Overall
While it would make sense to draft a quarterback second overall, especially if Cleveland doesn’t take one with their first pick, it isn’t a necessity for the San Francisco 49ers. This team has way more holes than just at the quarterback position, so maybe it makes more sense to try and get the best player available regardless of position.
One reason such a strategy would work is the history of new head coach Kyle Shanahan. The nearly-Super Bowl winning offensive coordinator has had success with quarterbacks where ever he goes. With the Texans, he did a good job with Matt Schaub. His final season calling plays in Houston, Schaub led the NFL with 4,770 yards and had a career high 98.6 quarterback rating.
From there he went on to work with his father, Mike Shanahan, in Washington. Kyle’s play-calling led them to the NFC East title with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Shanahan’s were ousted by the Redskins regime and RG3 never looked the same without their play calling. Shanahan then spent a season in Cleveland where journeyman Brian Hoyer did enough to earn a starting job the following year in Houston.
His latest feat was taking Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan from being questioned as the starter to league MVP in two seasons. Obviously Shanahan hasn’t taken just anyone off the streets and turned them into stars, but he does know how to maximize the talent his players do have.
For that reason alone, the Niners can get themselves a great player and allow Shanahan to work with a veteran quarterback. Rumors are he is interested in bringing in both Schaub and Hoyer to San Francisco. These moves would be great as Hoyer would be capable of being a placer holder and at 35 years old, Schaub is still able to be a veteran backup who can play in a pinch. Both also would know the system well enough that they can help others on the offense get up to speed, especially Schaub who spent last season in Atlanta with Shanahan.
4. New York Giants Can Fix Run Game in Free Agency
Before the 2016 season the New York Giants went all-in on free agency. They signed defensive tackle Damon Harrison, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and defensive end Olivier Vernon. The result was a much improved defense and an 11-5 record. What it didn’t fix was an inconsistent offense and a terrible running game.
In the past the Giants also tried to use free agency to fix this mess. First it was Rashad Jennings formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars and then the Oakland Raiders. They also brought in Shane Vereen from the New England Patriots. The goal was to use Jennings as a runner and Vereen would take care of third down duties. Vereen did well as a receiver in 2015, but spent most of this past season on injured reserve. Jennings on the other hand never really became the runner they hoped and recently was cut.
With Jennings gone, there are rumors current Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson is interested in joining New York. This would be a terrible idea. The Giants need to realize that free agency isn’t the best way to build a team and just because 2016’s class worked doesn’t change that fact.
They would be better served going for a young guy in the draft to compliment second year runner Paul Perkins. The UCLA kid averaged 4.1 yards per rush in his rookie season and could potentially be a starter. If not the lead guy, he would be a great compliment in a committee backfield. While the Giants aren’t drafting early enough to get Leonard Fournette or possibly Dalvin Cook, they could target Alvin Kamara of Tennessee or Christian McCaffrey of Stanford.
3. Cleveland Browns Should Take Myles Garrett First Overall
There’s not much debate that Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett is the best player available in the 2017 NFL Draft. Due to his status as the top guy, coupled with the Cleveland Browns also owning the 12th overall pick, he is often mocked as the number one pick despite the Browns dire need for a quarterback. Popular belief is Garrett can go first overall and maybe a quarterback will be there 11 picks later.
This is not the best approach. The Browns have been awful for all but a couple seasons since returning to the NFL in 1999. They have drafted the best running back available, the best offensive tackle, the best cornerback, but never the best quarterback. Using this approach has led them to using a carousel of options at the position including (but not limited to) Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Seneca Wallace, Brian Hoyer, Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, and Robert Griffin III. It’s time to put this to an end.
While Garrett would immediately make Cleveland better on defense, it won’t matter if they continue to be terrible at moving the ball on offense. The long-suffering fans also deserve better. Cleveland owns one of the most loyal fan bases and while they would be happy to root for Garrett, they would be even more thrilled to finally have a signal caller they could believe in. Rather than take the pass rusher first, the Brown should take Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson or North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Then with the 12th pick, in a strong pass rushing class, they can grab a guy to get after quarterbacks if they so choose.
2. The Patriots Don’t Need a WR
There’s this belief that the New England Patriots can just plug anyone in at wide receiver and they will be okay. Such a belief seems logical because that’s pretty much what they do. They use guys like Julian Edelman (a seventh-round selection who played quarterback in college), Chris Hogan (a relative unknown in Buffalo and former lacrosse player, if you hadn’t heard), and Danny Amendola.
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Another reason they don’t seem to need a true No. 1 receiver is the fact they have tight end Rob Gronkowski in that role. Gronk is as good as they come in the passing game, but injuries are a huge factor. He missed their most recent Super Bowl win thanks to being on the IR (although he was there to drink beer in the parade, of course) and is never a safe bet to play 16 games.
Again the need for a big receiver is mitigated by them winning the championship even without Gronk. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have been easier to win with a big wide out. As it stands now, Hogan (6-1) is their largest non-tight end target, and he is more of a deep threat than a guy who uses his size. The Patriots could truly benefit from selecting a guy with great size to give quarterback Tom Brady one more weapon as the soon-to-be 40-year old gears up for a sixth-Super Bowl ring.
Remember how good he was when they gave him such a target in 2007? That was the year New England picked up former Minnesota Vikings receiver Randy Moss. The Pats went 16-0 that year and Brady and Moss both broke touchdown records. They may have lost in the big game that season, but it was still a lot of fun watching Brady with a legitimate wide receiver. Someone like JuJu Smith-Schuster of USC seems like he would be a great fit and could excel with Brady throwing him the ball.
1. Dallas Cowboys Must Select Pass Rusher at No. 28
With the 28th pick the Dallas Cowboys select defensive end…it doesn’t matter how that ends as long as it starts that way. The fans of this team, and even owner Jerry Jones are clamoring for a pass rusher with that selection. The demand is understandable because Dallas has tried in vain to fix their ailing pass rush with second round picks and it hasn’t solved anything.
However, fans don’t call the shots, and really Jones hasn’t either in recent drafts. He is still talking like it and most believe it, but his anger over the team not drafting Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in 2014 was proof that he isn’t. For more proof, he again got mad when the Cowboys didn’t trade up for Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch.
Remember, many clamored for both. Had the Cowboys taken Manziel as Jones wanted, they wouldn’t have Pro-Bowl guard Zack Martin. They also would have traded away the picks they used on linebacker Jaylon Smith and defensive tackle Maliek Collins for Lynch if Jones was still gun slinging away. They also would have passed on Dak Prescott in the fourth round.
All that points to this front office (led by Jerry’s son, Stephen Jones) making patient, smart decisions. Need is a factor, but not the only factor. That means a pass rusher in Round 1 isn’t as dire as some may believe for the Cowboys. This is a pass rush heavy class, so maybe when they’re filling out their card they see better value somewhere else. Maybe they like a corner like Jalen “Teez” Tabor from Florida, Sidney Jones from Washington, or tight end David Njoku from Miami.
Should they have these guys rated much higher than any pass rusher left they may very well pull the trigger on one of them and hope to strike gold later in the draft. Guys like Demarcus Walker from Florida State could be available in Round 2 and another option could even be Louisville’s Devonte Fields, who is extremely talented but needs to be pushed hard for results. The options are there to keep from being backed into a corner. Patience worked last season when they needed a quarterback. If they didn’t panic then, they won’t panic now.