Jan 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) celebrates a quarterback sack during the second half against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2015 Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2017 NFL Draft is full of players that can improve a team right away. The Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans will each grab two of them in this 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
If your team needs a defensive player to build around in this draft, there are plenty of them in there. And the Cleveland Browns definitely need to build their defense to start winning. At 0-10 now, it’s pretty safe to say they will pick first in 2017.
And they will absolutely clean up in that draft with all the early picks they have. The Tennessee Titans have two 1st-round picks too but the Browns have the No. 1 overall and another in the top 10. We are only covering the first round now, but they also have the first pick in Round 2.
That 33rd pick is the equivalent of a 1st-round pick, essentially giving the Browns three 1st-round picks. But the No. 1 overall plus another in the Top-10 are enough to them to clean up in Round 1. This is a pretty deep draft so there will be some good player for every team in the first round.
Turn the page to see how the Browns and Titans clean up and what everyone else does.
Nov 12, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) gets away from Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
It does not take a genius to see that Jonathan Allen has taken over as the best prospect of this draft. He will be an immediate impact and soon become one of the NFL’s most dominant players. I have to pick my jaws up off the floor every time I watch this kid play these days.
He has a combination of speed and quickness put together with brute power that’s hard to stop. Recruits like him is what makes Alabama the college dynasty and NFL factory they are today. He’s quick enough to at least be a base DE in a 4-3 and strong enough for 3-4 NT.
And of course he works very well as a 3-technique in the 4-3 but the Browns will make him a 3-4 DE. That’s what he plays right now at Alabama while kicking inside to 3-technique on passing downs. The Browns are wise to invest a No. 1 overall pick in a player like Allen.
He will come in, get after opposing quarterbacks and stuff the run from the day he gets to Cleveland. An interior pass rusher like Allen is important to have when you play against the QBs in the AFC North twice. Allen is the right guy to turn your defense and your team around.
Nov 12, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) attempts to sack Mississippi Rebels quarterback Shea Patterson (20) during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
OLB, Texas A&M
Edge rusher prospect Myles Garrett didn’t fall to No. 2 overall, Allen just took No. 1 overall. He will make his impact on the San Francisco 49ers from the minute he enters the building. Garrett has all the juice you need to become a dynamic edge rusher in the NFL right now.
If he were allowed to come out last year, Garrett would have certainly went somewhere in the top five. At 6’5″, 262 pounds, Garrett has good length, burst and counter moves. His ability to convert speed to power is also right up there with the best of prospects.
There’s nothing that you need an edge rusher to do that he can’t do on the football field. Meanwhile, the 49ers haven’t had a dynamic edge rusher that can also play the run since Aldon Smith. Losing ILB NaVorro Bowman is hurting the 49ers defense badly but so is not having a guy like Smith.
The team has a solid, young interior D-line and a decent secondary plus Bowman will be back. Garrett would come in and give the 49ers the dynamic edge rusher they’ve needed to replace Smith. The defense would then be great again, leaving the 49ers to figure out the offesne.
Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) looks to pass during the first half against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
QB, Notre Dame
I did not change my mind about this being a weak QB class and suggesting DeShone Kizer stay in school. But this being a weak draft class is exactly why he may come out in the 2017 NFL Draft. And he is still the most pro ready QB with all the Spread QBs in this class.
Mitch Trubisky is the latest Spread Offense QB many in the draft world are trying to push. His numbers look lovely but his ability to throw the ball down the field into tight windows isn’t. Both he and DeShaun Watson have been exposed this year as QBs with a long way to go.
Meanwhile, DeShone Kizer comes from Brian Kelly’s pro style offense at Notre Dame. He knows how to check into better plays, change protections and go through his progressions. Plus at 6’5, 235 pounds, he’s a big man with a big arm and he’s as athletic as he needs to be.
There are no QBs worth a pick this high but a team desperate for one will reach for one. And if there is a kid at the QB position worth as selection this high, Kizer is definitely that guy. So the Bears move on from the Jay Cutler era with Kizer as their young gun under center.
Nov 5, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball during the first half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
RB, Florida State
Dalvin Cook has shown this year that his is the best running back prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has great vision like the other top RB prospects but his combination of elusiveness and speed make him special. So he doesn’t take a lot of punishment, which is why he has been healthy throughout his career.
He run hard inside and breaks tackles but what makes him special is what he does in the secondary. If he has a 1-on-1, he is sure to make his man miss, and once he’s past the last line of defense, you can’t catch him. Cook reminds me a lot of a young Chris Johnson, he so fast and silky smooth.
So the Jacksonville Jaguars take him at No. 4 overall because they can use a special player like this. Quarterback Blake Bortles is not yet the guy that can put the team on his shoulders and carry it. He has the weapons around him to do so but he turns the ball over way too much.
Bortles needs help from a good running game, something they don’t have in Jacksonville right now. The the Jaguars already have a good defense and a running game would make it even better. And Bortles could manage the game until he grows into a quarterback that can carry an offense.
Oct 8, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Keon Hatcher (4) catches a pass for a touchdown as Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) defends during the second quarter at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Marlon Humphrey has every trait a cornerback would need to thrive in the NFL today. At 6’0″, 200 pounds, he has the size length and strength to deal with the big receivers of today’s NFL. And at the same time, Humphrey is one of the best overall athletes in all of college football.
In high school, he won the 100 meter and 400 meter hurdles at the World Youth Track and Field Championships. He has also run a little track while at Alabama, contributing to their 4×400 relay team. And yes, that track speed has translates very well to playing football for him.
With that straight-line speed, he has great feet, changes direction well and fluid hips to turn and run. Humphrey also uses his size and strength well in press coverage and is aggressive in the running game. So the New York Jets are happy to draft him here with the No. 5 overall pick.
The Sun is definitely setting on the great career of Darrelle Revis and the Jets are a man coverage team. Revis has too much money left on his contract not to come back for one more year in the NFL. So Humphrey will make an immediate impact and learn from one of the best ever at the same time.
Oct 24, 2015; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jake Coker (14) under pressure from Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) during the second quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
In the past, Derek Barnett was known to be great against the run and okay rushing the passer. But he is now one of the more productive pass rushers in college football. He’s not built like your prototypical edge rusher but he gets to the quarterback with the best of them.
Among all this year’s draft prospects, he is second to only DeMarcus Walker, who has 13 sacks, with 11. And yes, he is still just as great as he always was against the run. As a pass rusher, it all starts with how well he times his get-off with the snap, creating an instant advantage.
From there, he has plenty of burst around the edge and will go back inside if you overset. Barnett is also skilled with his hands as his hand placement keeps pass blockers from latching on. He’s also very powerful, allowing him to kick inside to defensive tackle on occasion.
The Cincinnati Bengals can use a player like that on their front-7 against the run and pass. They especially need to be able to put heat and quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco. The Bengals may get themselves back in the playoffs after drafting a player like Barnette..
Dec 5, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (25) intercepts a ball intended for North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Quinshad Davis (14) during the third quarter in the ACC football championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
In recent years, Clemson has had a number of cornerbacks get drafted and go on to play in the NFL. Mackensie Alexander, Bashaud Breeland, Coty Sensabaugh, Marcus Gilchrist and Byron Maxwell are all there. That tells you Clemson gets good athletes and teach them well.
Cordrea Tankersley looks like he’s going to be the next Clemson cornerback to come down the pike. With the way he’s playing now, he should definitely get drafted earlier than they did. Pro Football Focus has him rated as the second-highest rated cornerback in college football.
At 6’0″, 200 pounds, he has the size and length NFL teams are looking for in cornerbacks these days. And he uses it to disrupt the rhythm and timing between opposing receivers and their quarterbacks. Tankersley is versatile, able to play off-man and zone coverage as well.
The Carolina Panthers still get after the quarterback well but miss Josh Norman covering receivers. So it’s a natural fit to go down the street to get their guy to pick up the coverage for the team. The Panthers defensive will take them right back up the standings with this pick.
Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; USC 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
Many in the scouting world including myself have beat up on left tackle Cam Robinson as a prospect. I’ve had him mocked all over the place but will now say he belongs in the top 10. If you look at his game against Myles Garrett and Texas A&M, you’ll see why.
Robinson will see more edge rushers like Garrett on Sundays in 2017 than anything he sees in college. We know about the explosion, edge speed and inside spin moves Garrett possesses. But Robinson got his hands on him and controlled him on his reps against him,
At 6’6″, 327 pounds, he has the size, length and athleticism to succeed at the next level. He just needs to stay focused on his technique like he did when he played against Garrett. He has problems when he lets his head get out past he feet, a definite no-no.
NFL O-line coaches get paid to coach that out of players so Robinson will go in the top 10. And where that should be is the San Diego Chargers, who need to protect QB Philip Rivers, at No. 8. Put Robinson on a healthy Chargers team next year and they have a chance.
Nov 19, 2016; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) runs after a catch in the first quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Williams is back from the small fracture in his neck he sustained while making a leaping TD reception. He would have the No. 1 receiver prospect then and has since worked his way back to that. At 6’4″, 220 pounds, he has the combination of size and speed to make things happen.
He can use it to stretch the field vertically and make contested catches over cornerbacks. He gives his quarterback a large margin for error when throwing the ball down the field to him. He also runs well after the catch, taking those bubble-screens and slants to the house.
Williams does the dirty work too, getting a good pop on his man and staying on him in the run game. The Tennesse Titans, with their running game and quarerback Marcus Mariota, could use him. They also have a solid defense that only needs a cornerback to complete it.
But there are seven rounds in the draft and the Titans have another pick here in the first round. Picking Williams would help take the Titans up the rest of the way in the standings and possibly the playoffs. Williams’ story is amazing and the next chapter starts at No. 9 overall.
Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) warms-up before the start of a game against the Stanford Cardinal at Husky Stadium. Washington won 44-6. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t care if it’s college or the NFL, John Ross is the fastest man playing football right now. If he’s healthy enough and relaxed at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, he will run a 4.2 40. He may even mess around and break Chris Johnson’s record of 4.24 next spring.
But Ross is more that just fast, he runs good routes, runs well after the catch and has great hands. He hangs onto the football when getting hit and he goes up and gets those 50-50 balls. He only 5’11”, 190 pounds, but has the skill set of a No. 1 receiver.
Of course, he’s going to make his living stretching the field vertically but he can be used in so many ways. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers can use a guy like that with his big arm. And he would open up things for Jordy Nelson, who should be back to full speed.
Rodgers and the passing game would then be back and we will no longer ask what happened to him. All the injuries on defense this year will be healed up for the 2017 season as well. Then the Packers take their NFC North division back to Titletown, where it belongs.
Nov 12, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) makes a reception during the first quarter of the game agains the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Running back prospect Leonard Fournette hasn’t looked so great lately so he fell out of the top 10. But his freaky combination of speed and power at 6’1″, 230 pounds, will win out before too long. Fournette has the vision to find creases and hits them with ferocity.
He has excellent lateral quickness and the ability to make the a man miss when he wants to. But Fournette seems to want contact and to run right through a defender that comes up to tackle him. I’m hoping that he chooses to hit the juke button more in the NFL.
Trying to run everyone over usually leads to a short career but there will be times to do that. And however he chooses to make past defenders, there will be no catching him once he gets out ahead. I expect to see something freaky in the 4.3s at the combine next spring.
The New Orleans Saints, who have current RB Brandon Ingram in the doghouse a lot, can use him. The defense will be much better with Sheldon Rankins and Hau’Oli Kikaha coming back. Plus a strong running game is a deodorant for a lot of things in the NFL.
Nov 19, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Daniel McMillian (13) and defensive back Teez Tabor (31) break up a touchdown pass intended for LSU Tigers tight end Caleb Roddy (85) during the second half at Tiger Stadium. The Gators defeat the Tigers 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Tabor has excellent size, he’s versatile and he’s one of the most polished cornerback prospects coming out. He can cover multiple positions, lining up outside, in the slot and occasionally over the tight end. Tabor has also shown that he can play press-man, off-man and zone coverage.
From off or zone coverage, he is quick to diagnose routes, has an impressive closing burst and finds the football. In press-man coverage, he’s physical and when beaten off the line, he has the makeup speed to recover. He is a loose, fluid athlete who can match up with both the smaller, quicker receivers in the slot.
Tabor has been taught well as Joe Haden and Vernon Hargreaves have come out of Florida before him. So the Titans would have a good foundation to work with when they take him at No. 13 overall. With the way their secondary is currently playing, this would be a big boost to the defense.
The front-7 is already solid so tightening up the secondary would help them against the Indianapolis Colts. They haven’t beat them in a long time and need to in order to truly take over the AFC South. That’s two Top-15 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft and these picks should send them up the standings.
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
QB, North Carolina
At 6’3″, 220 pounds, Mitch Trubisky looks the part of an NFL quarterback with his size, build and arm strength. He also has excellent accuracy and touch, particularly on throws in the intermediate portion of the field. And coming out of the Spread Offense, he is a good athlete that can hurt opponents with his legs.
There’s really nothing not to like about Trubisky except he isn’t a pro ready quarterback. Like all Spread Offense quarterbacks, he has to learn the verbiage of calling plays and footwork from starting under center. He will also have to audible, change protections and go through more progressions in the pocket.
So he needs to go to a team that’s stacked and doesn’t need him to play right away. The Arizona Cardinals are such a team as they have Carson Palmer to teach him the ropes before hanging them up. If it weren’t for injuries and a bad year for Palmer, the Cardinals would pick much lower than this.
But this would be the bright side of the Cardinals having a bad year after losing the NFC Championship Game. The Cardinals obviously have to hope for the best next year with health and Palmer. Outside of him and Larry Fitzgerald, this is a young team that can go into the future with Trubisky at the helm.
Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) sacks Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Outside linebacker Tim Williams explodes off the edge a lot like Kansas City Chiefs legend Derrick Thomas. He also has counter moves that includes a spin back inside and can convert speed to power. In 2016, it has amounted to eight sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and a pass batted.
Williams has been very consistent with generating a pass rush and producing sacks off the edge this year. And he is much improved in the running game, setting the edge and maintaining outside leverage. He might have hurt his stock in September with an arrest for carrying a pistol without a permit.
But as long as nothing happens between then and the draft, Cleveland Browns won’t hold that against him. The Browns have some good quarterbacks in their division and badly need to get after them in 2017. When trying to build a winner, starting with the defense will get you there much faster.
They already got the most dominant 3-4 DE in the 2017 NFL Draft when they picked at No. 1 overall. Getting the most explosive 3-4 OLB in this draft to come off the edge with him will build this defense fast. The Browns will have a much improved defense and would be on their way up from there.
Nov 5, 2016; Champaign, IL, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) hits Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Jeff George Jr. (3) during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
DE, Michigan State
Malik McDowell fits perfectly as a 3-4 defensive end but could also excel as a 3-technique in the NFL. He is in the mold of defensive linemen like Leonard Williams and DeForest Buckner. At 6’5″, 290 pounds, he is a freak athlete with long arms and has plenty of power to go with it.
McDowell is also technically sound and has a motor that runs as long as he is on a football field. The sum of his parts usually equals a guy that turns a defense around darn-near by himself. He has been very disruptive, has put a lot of heat on the quarterback and the way he does it translates.
A team like the Indianapolis Colts, who need help on their defensive front-7, can definitely use him. McDowell would help them get after the passer better and bring that No. 23-ranked run defense up. Most importantly, he would change the perception of the Colts being soft on defense.
What he does physically is one thing but the way his passion spreads throughout the defense is another. The Colts would put another stranglehold on the AFC South if they build their defense to match the offense. And picking McDowell would be a huge step toward building that defense.
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
Tight end O.J. Howard has been out of sight and out of mind with most of the NFL scouting media. He just hasn’t put up the numbers or memorable plays to stay on everyone’s mind. It is not his fault that he has a running quarterback and doesn’t get a lot of opportunities.
But at 6’6″, 255 pounds, he’s still way to big for defensive backs and way to fast for linebackers. He will be the ultimate matchup nightmare in the NFL, stealing yards in the passing game. And he has exponentially improved as a blocker in the running game while at Alabama.
He would have huge numbers right now if he weren’t so under-utilized in the passing game. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the Buffalo Bills would make good use of a guy like him right away. They have plenty of speed outside and the ground-and-pound running game Rex Ryan likes.
And of course, when you say the name Ryan with an NFL football team, there will be a defense. So Howard would be the chain mover in the passing game on those critical third downs. Then we will see if the Bills can finally compete for the AFC East division title.
Sep 17, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jacob Eason (10) is sacked by Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) in the first half at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
At 6’3″, 255 pounds, Charles Harris would make an excellent outside linebacker in the NFL. He has the athleticism to drop into coverage when needed but he is first and foremost an edge rusher. Harris is a gifted edge rusher with outstanding burst and power but also has instincts and technique.
He has a plethora of pass-rush moves, spinning both inside and outside plus a stutter/bull-rush move. Harris is also good with his hands, possessing a violent slap/rip move to keep pass blockers from latching on. He consistently generates pressure in every game with eight sacks so far this year.
Harris also has 11 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and a pass batted down for good measure. He’s extremely disruptive, coming from a line of pass rushers that includes Aldon Smith and Shane Ray. So to go with all the gifts he has, Harris has been taught well and will translate to the NFL.
The Pittsburgh Steelers could definitely use a guy like him to get after opposing quarterbacks better. We already know about the explosive offense they have with Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. When the Steelers can get after the quarterback better, they can reach the Super Bowl.
Sep 4, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Sam Mustipher (53) and offensive lineman Quenton Nelson (56) and offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey (68) during the game against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
OT, Notre Dame
Mike McGlinchey is coming from a long line of offensive lineman to go into the NFL from Notre Dame lately. He is following the most recent footsteps of guys like Zach Martin and Ronnie Stanley into the league. This is another case of the NFL knowing the kid was taught well in school.
This isn’t to say he’s the next Jonathan Ogden but he is very good with upside to be a very good pro left tackle. McGlinchey doesn’t play like Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer he is on the same level. Neither of them look like they will wear a gold jackets when their respective careers end.
But Veldheer is a solid left tackle that the Cardinals can win with and won’t lose because of. When you find a left tackle like that, you have found a good thing and shouldn’t let him go. Even finding a passable left tackle to get you through an NFL season isn’t easy to do.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston would appreciate a guy like that with what he has now. Otherwise, he leads an explosive offense while the young defense is coming along. Once they get Winston protected, there’s no limit to where he can take the Buccaneers.
Oct 15, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (9) scores a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half at Arizona Stadium. The Trojans won 48-14. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
At 6’3″, 220 pounds, Juju Smith-Schuster is another big, long, fast modern-day receiver. He’s also a solid route runner and has the hops to go up for those 50-50 balls. And to go with all that, Smith-Schuster is dangerous with the ball in his hands after the catch.
Smith-Schuster started this season off slowly with Max Brown as his starting quarterback. But he has picked it up since Sam Darnold was inserted into the starting lineup. He now has 46 receptions for 631 yards and eight scores as we wind down the 2016 season.
The some of all of Smith-Schuster’s parts equals a No. 1 receiver and the Philadelphia Eagles can use him. They just drafted Carson Wentz to be their franchise quarterback and he needs weapons. They protect him well, run the ball well, and have a great defense over there.
If Wentz just had a true No. 1 receiver, he would be able to take the Eagles to the playoffs. When you have a franchise quarterback and you already protect him well, you have to get him a receiver. They would be a big threat to win the NFC East if they drafted Smith-Schuster.
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
Zach Cunningham is a do-it-all-linebacker with instincts, physicality, and plenty of athleticism. With his physicality, he takes on and sheds offensive linemen, jarring them on the way to the ball carrier. He also diagnoses plays well and has the speed to get to the ball with he finds it.
That speed and athleticism also serves him well in the passing game, when he’s in coverage. Right now, Cunningham has 104 tackles with 15.5 for a loss, a pass batted and one forced fumble. If that isn’t a three-down starter in the NFL someone please show me what is.
The Miami Dolphins can use a linebacker like that to boost a run defense that needs a lot of help. He’ll have a slight adjustment to make, going from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme. But that shouldn’t be a problem as he can go sideline to sideline with no problems.
That Dolphins defense is coming together against the pass as they get after quarterbacks very well. Fixing that No. 28-ranked run defense would have them competing for the NFC East title. And putting Foster in the middle of that defense would do just that.
Nov 19, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (93) sacks Oregon Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert (10) during the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Oregon won 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
You usually take nose tackles in around the third round because it takes a while to develop that strength. But Lowell Lotulelei is a different breed of animal, already possessing NFL-ready strength. He earned First Team All-Pac-12 honors as a true freshman in 2014.
That shows you just how strong and advanced he was as a teenager when he started at Utah. So it should be of no surprise to anyone that he’s strong enough for the NFL at his position now. Lotulelei is a bull that takes on and anchors against double and triple-teams.
And uses that brute strength to simply bully his way to the quarterback, to rush the passer. The Washington Redskins already get after the quarterback well and he won’t be in on passing downs. But they need a run stuffer as they give up 4.6 yards per carry right now.
The Redskins have struck out with nose tackles in recent years, so drafting one here is a good idea. They have to stop Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot if the want to win the AFC East. And picking Lotulelei would go a long way toward that for the team.
Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers running back Anthony Wales (20) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Reuben Foster comes from a long line of inside linebackers and defensive players from Alabama. Reggie Ragland is the latest of the inside linebackers, going No. 41 overall in 2016 NFL Draft. Head coach Nick Saban did his time in the NFL and brought his defense down with him.
So his defensive players know what’s going on when they get to the NFL and Foster is no different. He is a film junkie that quickly diagnoses plays and finds the football darn-near right away. And when he gets to the ball, watch out because he is about as big a hitter as there is.
But this 6’1″, 240-pounder isn’t just a thumper in the run game, he also excels in pass coverage. Another thing Foster does well is get after the quarterback up the middle or off the edge. He’s your classic do it all inside linebacker that doesn’t come off the field and wears the green dot.
The Denver Broncos and their No. 29-ranked run defense can definitely use a guy like this. Drafting Foster would effectively replace the loss of ILB Danny Trevathan, who’s in Chicago now. Once they can stop the run again, the Broncos would be just like they were back in 2015.
Sep 24, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) blocks Michigan State defensive end Evan Jones (85) during the second quarter of their game at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Ramczyk has top left tackle talent with impressive balance, agility and patience in pass protection. He gets off the snap and into his kick-slide quickly and waits for the defender to come to him. Ramczyk’s long arms usually enable him to touch the defender before he gets touched too.
He has quick, powerful hands he uses to jam defenders and stops them once he gets his hands on them. Ramczyk is also a good run blocker that shows good power pad level and leg drive to move the pile. His athleticism is also good to go up to the second round to make blocks.
When beaten, he doesn’t panic often, recovering to keep matters from getting worse on the play. He keeps his technique tight, which will get him high marks from offensive line coaches as well as scouts. There is absolutely nothing not to like about him except for his lack of experience.
When the New York Giants protect Eli Manning, they don’t just go to the playoffs, they go to Super Bowls. But he has rarely had a great offensive line, which contributes to his inconsistencies over the years. So they get Manning a solid blind-side protector to get Manning going.
Dec 5, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry (2) carries the ball between Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) and Caleb Brantley (57) during the first quarter in the 2015 SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Jarrad Davis can play inside linebacker in the 3-4 and all three spots in the 4-3 in the NFL. He has the instincts to read plays quickly and follow his keys all the way to the ball. Davis is always around the ball and is rarely fooled to where he gets himself out of position.
He is also a fast defender that explodes into the backfield to stop a running play before it starts. His tremendous closing speed allows him to make plays from sideline to sideline on outside runs as well. And opposing quarterbacks can forget about it when he blitzes.
In pass coverage, Davis has the athleticism and ball skills to pick up receivers in the short to intermediate zones. The Kansas City Chiefs can use a guy like that to line up next to Derrick Johnson. Right now, the Chiefs are ranked No. 27 against the run, giving up 4.5 yards per carry.
Giving up that kind of yardage on the ground is not the recipe to do well in the playoffs. So this offseason, the Chiefs get to work on stopping the run in the 2017 season. And getting Davis at No. 24 overall in the draft is a good way to get the results they want.
Sep 17, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; North Texas Mean Green running back Jeffrey Wilson (26) runs with the ball as Florida Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley (57) defends during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the North Texas Mean Green 32-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Florida always produces NFL-ready lineman as Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley and Jonathan Bullard are most recent. There is always a next guy and Caleb Brantley will be it for Florida in 2017. At 6’2″, 300 pounds, he disrupts opposing offenses with his quickness off the ball.
So in the NFL, Brantley’s best fit would come as a 3-technique, gap-shooting defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. If you listen to the coaches in the SEC, Brantley is more disruptive than Bullard was. His stats won’t impress you because his scheme calls for him make plays for others.
But if you watch him on tape, he is a dominant player and he’s close to unblockable one on one. In the running game, Brantley has the strength to shed blocks and burst to close on ball carriers. And as an interior pass-rusher, he requires extra attention, creating sacks for his teammates.
Brantley is a 1st-round talent that’s starting to get 1st-round grades and he’s good for the Detroit Lions. The Lions miss Ndamukong Suh on the interior of that defensive front-7. And with this pick they can ease that a little as their current front-7 is a weakness.
Nov 12, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Montravius Adams (1) and defensive lineman Carl Lawson (55) sack Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jacob Eason (10) during the second quarter at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dee Ford of the Kansas City Chiefs is the latest of Auburn edge rushers to rip up the NFL. Carl Lawson looks like he will be the next follow that blazed trail from Auburn to the NFL. And Lawson actually figures to have a much more immediate impact that Ford.
Remember, Lawson was considered the best edge rusher at Auburn as a freshman while Ford was a senior. But two years filled with injuries did damage to him as a draft prospect. He had to show that he can stay healthy and that he still has what it takes.
Lawson isn’t built like a typical edge-rusher but explodes off the snap to get opposing linemen off balance. He also has violent hands to jar them and his shorter 6’2″ height helps him bend around the corner. Lawson also counters what offensive linemen do with his own handwork.
Meanwhile, Elvis Dumerville is fading while the Terrell Suggs has a couple of more good years left. So the Baltimore Ravens bring Lawson in to disrupt quarterbacks and learn from Suggs. And when Suggs is gone, they have someone to take over for the last of the Ravens’ OGs.
Oct 8, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) breaks up a pass intended for Oregon Ducks wide receiver Jalen Brown (15) during the third quarter at Autzen Stadium. The Huskies won 70-21. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Washington has a run of cornerbacks going to the NFL with Desmond Trufant and Marcus Peters. They are doing quite well in the NFL to so you know they are being taught well. Sidney Jones now looks like the next Washington cornerback to have his turn.
Jones is arguably the most polished cornerback coming out in the 2017 NFL Draft next spring. He has the physical tools, competitiveness and instincts to be a “shutdown” corner in the NFL. He plays in press-man, off-man, zone and he is rarely out of position when the ball comes his way.
His instincts along with his explosiveness allows him to break on short and intermediate routes. Put that together with his outstanding ball skills and hands and you got turnovers. The Atlanta Falcons have a scheme that calls for him to play all off his different styles.
So he would be an excellent fit with the Falcons on the other side of Trufant, also from Washington. The Falcons get after the quarterback pretty well these days and some coverage would help. If they had a little bit of defense to go with that offense, the Falcons would go far.
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 team that drafts Jabrill Peppers knows that they are going to get a good, versatile football player. Call him a linebacker, safety, whatever you want to call him, he as talents for so many different things. I’m not so sure linebacker and safety is a big enough box to try to put him in.
He’s a physical player, strong in the run game, which is why many choose to list him as a linebacker. So he fits well as strong safety in a single-high scheme where he can work close to the line of scrimmage. He has the athleticism and coverage ability to stick with tight ends as well.
And speaking of athleticism, Peppers has the loose hips, speed and footwork to cover receivers. And if you need him at deep half or single-high, he has the instincts to do that at a high level. Peppers is one of the best movable chess pieces on the defensive side of the ball in this draft.
I’m sure Belichick disciple Romeo Crennel, once his defensive coordinator, can do something with him. Movable chess pieces are the Patriot way and the Houston Texans are trying to copy that. The Texans defense would be special with this pick and could carry the team to the playoffs.
Sep 26, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Kevin Wilson talks with offensive lineman Dan Feeney (67) during the first quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Dan Feeney is a guard but he’s the best offensive lineman in the 2017 NFL Draft. That’s why he’s projected to go in the first round on draft boards around the scouting community. At 6’4″, 304 pounds, he is a do-it-all, zone blocking offensive lineman.
He is a great run blocker, a mauler that get’s after his man to open holes for his running backs. So he gets a good push on defensive linemen, cmoving the line of scrimmage. He is also very athletic at his size and that helps him make blocks at the second level.
He’s good in pass protection too, rarely, giving up pressure while giving his QB enough time to find open receivers. Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson can use better pass protection while the running game improves. The team is committed to rookie left tackle George Fant.
They’re offensive line has gotten better of late but adding Feeney to Fant will help. The Seahawks’ Legion of Boom defense is still intact and C.J. Prosise is a winner at the RB position. The downfield weapons are there too so Wilson can keep the team on top with this pick.
Sep 4, 2015; Kalamazoo, MI, USA; Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis (84) makes a catch for a touchdown against Michigan State Spartans cornerback Arjen Colquhoun (36) during the 2nd half of a game at Waldo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
WR, Western Michigan
The best receiver prospects don’t always from schools that play in the Power-5 Conferences. Just look at Antonio Brown, (Central Michigan) Brandon Marshall, (Central Florida) and Emmanuel Sanders (SMU). Many didn’t even know who they were unti they emerged as stars in the NFL,
And I’m telling you right now that Corey Davis is the next receiver along that line. At 6’3″, 215 pounds, Davis has wheels to get deep and strong route-running skills to get separation from corners. He also has body control to adjust and the vertical leap to go up and get one.
When catching the short ball, Davis has the ability to run after the catch and turn it into a big play. He is the definition of a No. 1 receiver and the New England Patriots haven’t had one since Randy Moss. The Patriots have two big-time tight ends, a slot receiver, a scat-back and a power-back.
So quarterback Tom Brady would be able to beat NFL defenses any way he feels like. On defense, they lost a couple of edge rushers but they liked the guys they had behind them already. So they will do the job while Brady has another weapon to punish defenses with.
Nov 19, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) carries the ball against the California Golden Bears during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium. The Stanford Cardinal defeated the California Golden Bears 45-31. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
I had Christian McCaffrey fall out of the first round for a while because he didn’t look too good. But with 787 yards and nine TDs in the last four games, he ran his way back in. McCaffrey is a Swiss Army Knife that can do it all for an offense.
He’s a running back that can catch the ball out of the backfield as well as out wide or in the slot. And as a runner he has great vision, burst threw the hole and will make you miss. McCaffrey can also break tackles but what makes him special is what he does out in space.
And with the offensive line the Raiders have, McCaffrey would be out in space a lot. I like Latavius Murray but it looks like they’re phasing him out with his contract ending. McCaffrey would give the Raiders their fourth star in a row in the first round.
He would give the Raiders the most versatile running back they’ve had since Marcus Allen in the ’80s too. The Raiders could easily put 5-10 pounds to help McCaffrey take the punishment of a bell cow. Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and McCaffrey would make a dynastic set of triplets.
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
Jamal Adams is the son of former New York Giants’ 1985 No. 19 overall RB George Adams. So the game of football is in his makeup and he looks just like a natural football player. He clearly knows the game with all the awareness and instincts to diagnose plays.
He doesn’t overreact to anything and he’s never out of place, choosing to play with a controlled rage. Oh yeah, that rage is there as he is extremely physical, letting ball carriers have it. And at the same time, he has the coverage skills to play slot corner ala Tyrann Mathieu.
When the Dallas Cowboys are back from their injuries and suspensions next year, the won’t need much. They just took linebacker Jaylon Smith off the Non Football Injury list as he progresses well. But they don’t have a potential star strong safety the caliber of Adams.
So he will walk into that building ready to start and shine with that star on his helmet from Day 1. The Cowboys wouldn’t have a weakness on that defense and you know about the offense. Quarterback Dak Prescott could be the winningest QB in Cowboys history with all that talent.