2017 NFL Mock Draft: Cleveland Browns Get Their Men

Sep 24, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) in game action against the Arkansas Razorbacks at AT&T Stadium. Texas A&M won 45-24. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns are situated well for the 2017 NFL Draft. They have two picks in the Top-10 and they already seem to know who they want.

In late November, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports reported that the Cleveland Browns love QB Mitch Trubisky. Then just last week, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that the Browns have an astronomical grade on EDGE Myles Garrett.

So which one is correct?

They are both reputable NFL reporters that usually have it right when reporting. There is the possibility of Browns executives playing games with the media to fool other NFL teams. But at No. 1 overall, it isn’t necessary to play these games in the media.

As a matter of fact, it looks like they’re going to have two picks in the Top-10 of the 2017 NFL Draft. So the answer to the question is that both reporters could actually be correct. The Browns could end up with the best prospect and a franchise QB in the same round.

The Browns have multiple picks in the second round including the first pick in that round. So the team has a chance to put some building blocks together and get going in the right direction. According to the reports, this is the base of the Browns’ rebuild.

Turn the page to see how they fit and what the rest of the NFL is doing.

Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) is sacked by Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) during the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

1

Myles Garrett

EDGE, Texas A&M

Texas A&M edge-rusher Myles Garrett has been the unanimous top prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft all season long. He’s had some competition from Jonathan Allen and that will continue this offseason. But Garrett is still unanimously the No. 1 prospect and rightfully so.

The Cleveland Browns are painfully earning the No. 1 overall pick, currently at 0-14 right now. But this is one offseason the Browns can look forward to as they have two picks in the top 10 to rebuild with. That makes it easier for them to simply take the best prospect at No. 1 overall.

It’s obvious that the Browns need a quarterback but reaching for with the No.1 overall is foolish. So with this pick, the Browns take edge-rusher Garrett, the best prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft. Of course, he will help the Browns get after the passer much better than they do now.

They will need to do so in order to deal with the quarterbacks they have in the AFC North. The Browns have a young defensive front-seven with a bright future coming along right now. And Garrett will be just the shot in the arm the Browns need to have a much better defense in 2017.

Sep 17, 2016; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) throws the ball over Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Raequan Williams (99) during the second half a game at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

2

DeShone Kizer

QB, Notre Dame

DeShone Kizer thought about staying in school for one more year but has since declared for the draft. That’s because the Draft Advisory Board told him this is the best year for him to go into the draft. The quarterbacks in this draft class stink and he is the most pro ready of them all.

College football is making it hard on the quarterback position with the spread offenses they run. They have no verbiage to the offense, no complex progression to go through and don’t audible or change protections. They also aren’t asked to throw the ball down the field into tight windows often.

They have inflated stats by throwing a bunch of bubble-screens and running the ball. But Kizer comes into this draft out of Brian Kelly’s pro style offense, where he does what pro quarterbacks do. It doesn’t hurt that he has a big arm and he’s 6’5″, 235 pounds with great mobility.

So the San Francisco 49ers take him at No. 2 overall and he is the perfect fit for the situation. No one knows what the 49ers are going to do about head coach Chip Kelly and his spread offense. Kizer runs some spread too so he will be ready for whatever when he gets to San Francisco.

Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) puts the pressure on Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White (14) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

3

Jonathan Allen

DL, Alabama

Quarterback Blake Bortles cost Gus Bradley his job of coaching the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are rumors that they want former head coach John Conklin and the feeling is mutual. He could get Bortles and the rest of the team going in the right direction.

The Jaguars already have a solid defense but they don’t get after the quarterback too well. But a guy like Jonathan Allen can join that D-line and upgrade the pass-rush right away. He can effectively play just about any position on the D-line you want him to.

Conklin usually has a 4-3 coordinator, giving Allen the opportunity to play two positions. He can play base-end then on passing downs, he could kick inside and rush the passer inside. Or he can simply be a penetrating, disruptive three-technique to help that defense.

He will command double-teams and sometimes triple-teams, help others make plays. Edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr., the team’s 2015 first-round pick, would benefit the most. The Jaguars would climb the standings in the AFC South with this pick.

Apr 8, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Jalen Tabor (31) looks on during the first quarter of the Orange and Blue game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

4

Jalen Tabor

CB, Florida

It looks like former USC quarterback Matt Barkley is finally starting to get it in his fourth year. Chicago Bears head coach John Fox sounds like he’s tickled pink to have him on the team now. He’s done with fellow quarterback Jay Cutler and there’s nothing in this draft.

Fox, a defensive-minded guy, doesn’t like rookie quarterbacks starting for him anyway. Either way, he and Bears fans can look forward to Barkley throwing it to Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White next year. They also have 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Howard coming back to run the ball.

The arrow is pointing upward for the defense but they aren’t quite there yet. The front-seven will be great when ILBs Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan are back to stuff the run. The team already gets after the quarterback with the best of them with 2016 first-round pick Leonard Floyd.

So at No. 4 overall, the Bears take Jalen Taybor to compliment that pass-rush with good coverage. The Bears need the coverage to support the pass-rush against the NFC North quarterbacks. The Bears are closer than many think and this pick could put the Bears in position to win the North.

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

5

Cordrea Tankersley

CB, Clemson

Legendary CB Darrelle Revis may or may not be as bad as many think he is right now. Remember, he had a wrist injury that may cut into his preparation time for this season. Then he gets into this season while his wrist still hurts so he can’t jam receivers very well.

Revis depends on that jam to cover receivers and when he can’t make it, it’s bombs over Baghdad. And Revis is still their best CB so the New York Jets have a problem at the position. So at No. 6 overall, the team goes ahead and takes CB Cordrea Tankersley.

Tankersley is a big, strong bump-and-run corner that fits what the Jets do on defense. So he can go to New York and make a big impact on that defense as soon as he gets there. And in training camp, the Jets could see how well Revis has bounced back from his injury.

All the while, Tankersley can challenge him for the right to follow opposing No. 1 receivers. Revis just might get back to his old self and hold Tankersley off a year or two. Either way, the Jets will go into the 2017 with two solid corners, which are needed for their scheme.

Nov 26, 2016; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) catches a touchdown pass in front of South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Jamarcus King (7) at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

6

Mike Williams

WR, Clemson

The Tennessee Titans have done a masterful job rebuilding around quarterback Marcus Mariota. They have a great offensive line protecting him and DeMarco Murray running the ball. They even have a solid tight end in Ed Dickson to be his security blanket.

They’re not yet out of the playoff picture but have a Top-5 pick they got from the Los Angeles Rams. The team doesn’t have many weaknesses these days but can get Mariota a down-the-field weapon. That would give the “exotic smash-mouth” team an explosive element to their offense.

The Titans can’t stop everyone on defense and won’t always be ahead in every game that they play. At times, Mariota needs to simply chuck it down the field and he needs that guy to chuck it to. So at No. 5 overall, the Titans take Mike Williams to give the Mariota that guy.

Every franchise quarterback has his No. 1 receiver and Williams will be that right away in the NFL. The Titans would then have an exotic complete offense with a defense that’s coming along. The Titans will then continue to battle it out for the AFC West division title.

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

7

Mitch Trubisky

QB, North Carolina

Here the Cleveland Browns go in the Top-10 again, picking for the Philadelphia Eagles. The trade for the right to pick Carson Wentz suddenly looks a lot better for the Browns now. At No. 1 overall, the Browns got the best player on the board, picking Garrett, the edge-rusher.

That leaves the team needing a QB as they didn’t reach with that pick. So here at No. 7 overall, the Browns select Mitch Trubisky, who’s less of a reach at No. 7 than at No. 1. But when you have two first-round picks, you can afford to reach for that QB.

Trubisky comes from the spread offense so he has a lot to learn when he gets to the NFL, But he does have a big arm, which is needed to cut through the inclement weather in the AFC North. He also has good size at 6’3″, 225 pounds and he is mobile, which will help him in that division.

Jackson is an excellent coach for a quarterback so we can expect trubisky to learn fast. The Browns now have their franchise quarterback to go along with the best player in the draft. And this combination in the first round will take them up the standings sooner than later.

Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) during the Lambeau Field College Classic against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field. Wisconsin won 16-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

8

Ryan Ramczyk

OT, Wisconsin

It’s about time the San Diego Chargers do something to protect quarterback Philip Rivers better. Rivers hasn’t have a franchise left tackle since Marcus McNeil retired back in 2011. He is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL but you don’t want to test that every year.

One wrong hit, twist or pull would have Rivers out and they don’t need that, as close as they are. The Chargers don’t have the greatest record this year but they are close to being a contender. They have a great defense now but they have so many guys hurt now, so they aren’t playing like they can.

And on offense, Melvin Gordon is injured but has become what the Chargers want him to be this year. Travis Benjamin has brought the speed element to the team and Hunter Henry is taking over at tight end. No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen will be back from injury so all the Chargers in is some pass-protection.

So at No. 8 overall, the Chargers select Ryan Ramczyk to protect his blind side. Ramczyk has been the most consistent left tackle prospect this year and was up to the challenge against LSU’s edge-rushers. With this pick, the Chargers get up from the bottom of the AFC West standings.

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

9

Derek Barnett

DE, Tennessee

The Cincinnati Bengals have enough to go as far as they want to go on the offense. It’s the defensive side of the ball that’s holding the team back at this time. They have a solid MLB in Vontaze Burfict leading the way for them on that side of the ball.

I wouldn’t say the Bengals’ secondary is exactly the liability of the team either. The team simply doesn’t defend the run or get after the quarterback these days. And that is a direct reflection of the play on the defensive line, particularly on one side.

Defensive end Carlos Dunlap and defensive tackle Geno Atkins are doing what they do. So the Bengals can use an end or a tackle in their 4-3 defensive scheme. The best player on the board when they pick is Derek Barnett, a DE, so they take him at No. 9 overall.

He’s a little shorter and thicker that they look for in an edge-rusher but he gets after the quarterback. He’s also strong against the run so the Bengals kill two birds with one stone here. The Bengals, with what they already have, would then be on the way up in the AFC North.

December 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) defends against Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Kabion Ento (17) during the fourth quarter in the Pac-12 championship at Levi

10

Sidney Jones

CB, USC

Injuries are the main reason why the Arizona Cardinals aren’t in as good a place as they were last year. So when the they get everyone back next year, we’re going to see them get back to where they were in 2015. And with this pick at No. 10 overall, they have a chance to get better than that.

For that, all they would need is a solid CB to go on the other side of stopper Patrick Peterson. Of course, Peterson is a big corner that matches up well will all the big, strong, modern-day receivers. A corner with a little more movement skills for route-runners is what they need on the other side of Peterson

So at No. 10 overall, the Arizona Cardinals take Sidney Jones, one of the most polished CBs in this draft. The NFL has been looking to see if there was another Marcus Peters at Washington and there is. He’s versatile enough to be where he’s supposed to be no matter what coverage scheme he’s in too.

He also comes from a pro style defense so he is ready to ball for the Cardinals immediately. He may get picked on a lot at first but will make opposing offenses pay with his receiver-like hands. And with better health, suddenly, the Cardinals are ready to shoot right back up the NFC West standings.

Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) sprints upfield as Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) pursues during the third quarter at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 30-27 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) sprints upfield as Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) pursues during the third quarter at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won the game 30-27 in double overtime. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

11

Jabrill Peppers

S, Michigan

The Carolina Panthers defense still have a solid front-seven with the No. 3 run defense in the NFL. They’re starting to get after the QB too, now among the league’s leaders in sacks. And with that, the coverage has improved, causing the whole defense to improve.

The offensive line went through a few injuries this year and QB Cam Newton has taken a beating. So for the Panthers to get back in the playoffs next year, they need to stay healthy. Defensive-minded head coach Ron Rivera now has a chance to get gets a star No. 11 overall.

So at No. 11 overall, the Panthers select Jabrill Peppers to put on the chess board. Peppers can play nickel linebacker, play in the box cover TEs, cover the slot and cover backs. Peppers also has the range and instincts to play single-high or deep half.

He also has ball skills so he could consistently break on the ball and get turnovers. Second-round rookie corner James Bradberry is coming around nicely so adding Peppers tightens things up more. The Panthers would then be back in the Super Bowl discussion after the 2016 hangover.

Nov 14, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver Fred Ross (8) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) during the game at Davis Wade Stadium. Alabama won 31-6. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

12

Reuben Foster

ILB, Alabama

All this talk about head coach Sean Payton getting traded makes no sense at all. What the Saints need is a defense to complement the offense and it looks like it’s getting better. Getting 2016 first-round DT Sheldon Rankins healthy and playing has made a difference.

He’s already taking double-teams and triple teams in order for his teammates to make plays. And of course Cameron Jordan is doing his thing off the edge for the Saints. Getting Hau’Oli Kikaha back healthy next year to come off the edge will help the defensive front-seven too.

What the Saints need is a leader on that defense the way the offense has quarterback Drew Brees. So here at No. 12 overall, the Saints take ILB Reuben Foster to bring it all together. Foster will establish a physical presence inside as a take on linebacker that sheds blocks well.

But he also has the athleticism to go sideline to sideline and cover backs and tight ends. The Saints would have a much better defensive unit right away with Foster as the leader of it. Then they would make the NFC South a tough division, adding another team with a chance to win it.

Dec 29, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) rushes against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

13

Leonard Fournette

RB, LSU

The Philadelphia Eagles need to give young quarterback Carson Wentz help in order to win more games. Eagles fans thought they had a savior in the beginning of the season because of who they were playing. But as soon as Wentz started seeing tougher defenses, things changed drastically.

However, that’s okay because he is a good, young quarterback with a good offensive line to protect him. Young receivers Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham will be much better with Jordan Matthews too. The Eagles have a strong defense that can shut opposing offenses at times too.

A bell-cow back that can rest that defense and lighten the load of Wentz would be ideal. So here at No. 13 overall, with the pick the got from the Minnesota Vikings, they select Leonard Fournette. Fournette was ready for the NFL last year so the Eagles will not have to wait on him to produce.

Of course, he can run the ball, catch the ball out of the backfield and pass-protect very well. He will set the tone physically, inspiring the defense to go out there and do the same thing. Then they would be ready to compete with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants for the Division title.

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

14

Malik McDowell

DE, Michigan State

The Bills are trying to take on the identity of running the ball and playing defense. And playing defense will be much easier for them when they get all their injured players back. It would also be much easier if the defense had a good interior pass-rusher on it.

Head coach Rex Ryan sends everything including the kitchen sink at opposing QBs. But that doesn’t work on everyone so the Bills need to be able to get there with four sometimes. A good interior pass rusher would take double teams to open up teammates.

QBs have nowhere to step up so edge-rushers would get there and finish. They also get that pressure right up the middle to affect the quarterback’s throws. So at No. 14 overall, the Buffalo Bills select Malik McDowell to come right in and make his impact.

McDowell is in the mold of Leonard Williams and DeForest Buckner at 6’6″, 291 pounds. He has that height, length, strength and athleticism but isn’t quite as good as the other two. But he would help the Bills defense compete with the likes of the New England Patriots better.

Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) celebrates his sack with defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) on Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight (8) during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

15

Tim Williams

OLB, Alabama

The Indianapolis Colts offense is explosive behind QB Andrew Luck, T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett. So it is a must that they build defense a that can protect the leads Luck gives them. The first thing you build in that case is the pass defense so opposing QBs can’t keep up with Luck.

And of course, everything starts up front so putting some kind of heat on the passer is the big priority. Dwight Freeney has been gone a long time and Robert Mathis is on life support. So the Indianapolis Colts would be wise to take an edge-rusher here at No. 15 overall. .

Lucas Oil Stadium was made for explosive edge-rushers with the advantage because of the crowd noise. So the Colts use the No. 15 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, to select Tim Williams. His get-off and burst reminds this writer of legendary OLB Derrick Thomas.

With that kind of get-off mixed with the crowd noise, it will be a nightmare for opposing QBs and OTs there. The Colts have owned the AFC South for years now and it may change hands this year. But with Williams and an improved defense, the Colts would be a threat to take it back in 2017.

Nov 19, 2016; Syracuse, NY, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) scores a rushing touchdown as Syracuse Orange defensive back Daivon Ellison (19) dives in an attempt to make a tackle during the third quarter of a game at the Carrier Dome. Florida State won 45-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

16

Dalvin Cook

RB, Florida State

When you put a good defense in front of him, quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t so good. But he is still young and improving, you just don’t want to put the game in his hands yet. However, the Redskins need to pay him as if he’s already a legitimate franchise quarterback.

But Cousins can benefit from a strong running game so this offseason, the Redskins should give it to him. Playing with a star running back would have opposing defenses load the box. Then Cousins and his receivers have more room to operate to make those big plays down the field.

Dalvin Cook is ready to come into the NFL and be as star running back in it as soon as he gets there. Therefore, it is a great selection for the Redskins to make right here at No. 16 overall. The Redskins would then be able to turn the running game the Cowboys unleashed on them back on the Cowboys.

The NFC East is a pretty tough division that either one of the four teams could win in 2017. And with a strong running game to go with Cousins and his receivers a good chance. The O-line over there good too so he and Fournette will fight it out for NFL Rookie of the Year.

Sep 3, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) prepares to defend Miami (Oh) Redhawks wide receiver Sam Shisso (10) during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes won 45-21. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

17

Desmond King

CB, Iowa

The Titans are rebuilt now and just made a good at No. 5 overall pick, thanks to the Los Angeles Rams. The offense is complete now and the defense is just one pick away from being complete too. They get after the quarterback well and stuff the run but aren’t very good in coverage.

The team cut CB Perrish Cox because he was killing them when he was starting for them this year. So in the 2017 NFL Draft, the team should look to upgrade the cornerback position altogether. And they have a chance to do that in the 2017 NFL Draft with the perfect pick for them.

What makes a perfect pick is how good the player is, need and how he fits into a team’s scheme. That’s why the Titans tackle Desmond King at No. 5 is perfect for them. King is known as one of the best cornerbacks in this draft and his value is somewhere in the middle of the first round.

And of course, the Titans have a need at CB as the right one could make this a great defense. King is the best zone-corner in this this draft, making him the perfect CB for Dick LeBeau’s scheme. This completes a bountiful first round and puts the Titans in contention for the AFC South title.

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

18

Carl Lawson

OLB, Alabama

Terrell Suggs can’t play forever and Elvis Dumervil’s body is starting to break down with injuries. Suggs still looks like he has a couple of years left and can use those years to pass his knowledge down. So it’s time to bring in a young, dynamic edge-rusher to learn from him and eventually take over.

So the Baltimore Ravens can’t turn down the get-off and burst off the edge Carl Lawson has. He has more than his get-off and burst too, he has counter-moves and bulldozing power. Lawson is so physical, he often lined up as a defensive tackle at Auburn and held his ground vs the run.

He played with Dee Ford, who has 10 sacks in the NFL right now as a freshman in 2013. And to a man, his coaching staff saw Lawson as the best edge-rusher on the team over Ford. He’s going this low in the first round because of the knee injuries he’s had in college but he looks to be recovered.

So the Ravens will end up with a steal falling right into their laps right here at No. 18 overall. And they will continue on with their tradition of great defensives as edge-rusher remains a position of strength. With Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton in that division, the Ravens will need that.

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

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

19

Zach Cunningham

ILB, Vanderbilt

The historically great defense of the Denver Broncos is no more here in 2016. They’re still great in coverage and get after the passer but they get their manhood taken against the run. Losing Danny Trevathan to the Chicago Bears is having a profound affect on the defense.

The Broncos are about to miss the playoffs this year and the fastest way back is through the defense. Quarterback Trevor Siemian, running back Devontae Booker and the offense will improve. But the Broncos can’t win the AFC West or win in the playoffs if they can’t stop the run.

So right here at No. 19 overall, the Broncos select ILB Zach Cunningham out of Vanderbilt. Cunningham is a tough customer as a take-on LB that can shed blocks without wasting time. He is also quick to diagnose plays so once he sheds that block, he knows where to find the ball.

And he has the speed and athleticism to get there before opposing running backs gain too much ground. Cunningham also has the ability to cover the TEs and RBs, which is why he’s first-round prospect. So the Broncos take him here knowing their defense can be what it was in 2015.

Oct 8, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) catches a touchdown pass during the second quarter in a game against the University of Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

20

John Ross

WR, Washington

Quarterback Jameis Winston has the Tampa Bay Buccaneers going in the right direction. The team needs to protect him better but there’s nothing worth their while here. Plus that offensive line is young for the most part and could be better next year.

One thing he can certainly use is another big-time target to throw the ball down the field to. Mike Evans is having a great year but Winston will need more than just him. It’s hard to get a receiver the ball once an opposing defense rolls coverage toward him.

And we don’t know if Vincent Jackson will be back and if so, we don’t know how he’ll be. So at No. 21 overall, the Buccaneers select John Ross from Washington to give Winston another option. Ross isn’t very big but his blazing speed enables him to play outside.

If Jackson comes back from his injury effectively, Ross’s small size and shiftiness will make him great in the slot. He’s also great after the catch, giving him another way to make big plays. And with the improvement of the defense, the Buccaneers could become contenders.

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) runs the ball against Clemson Tigers safety T.J. Green (15) during the fourth quarter in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

21

O.J. Howard

TE, Alabama

The Green Bay Packers got their passing game going lately behind QB Aaron Rodgers. WR Jordy Nelson looks like he’s all of the way back from his knee surgery now. Davante Adams is becoming a bigger part of the offense and Randall Cobb is doing his thing.

One thing Rodgers can certainly use as a comfort is a TE that can create mismatches. And being way too big for secondary players and way too fast for linebackers is the way. That makes O.J. Howard of Alabama the man for the job here at No. 20 overall.

This gives Rodgers a No. 1 receiver, a strong No. 2 receiver a slot-receiver and a solid tight end. Ty Montgomery’s move to running back even gives Rodgers a good option out of the backfield. Speaking of which, Montgomery is on his way to absolute stardom at the position.

And Howard was the best run-blocking tight in college football this year so he’ll help there too. And with the healthy defense, the Packers are already a tough out for anyone. So taking Howard in the first round next year will make them an even tougher out.

Sep 19, 2015; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) reacts after dropping an interception against the Auburn Tigers during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

22

Jamal Adams

S, LSU

The Miami Dolphins have come a long way since the beginning of the season and are right there. Running back Jay Ajayi has emerged as one of the best ball-carriers in the NFL. And of course, quarterback Ryan Tannehill is starting to play up to the big contract he signed.

And he has weapons in receivers DaVante Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills to throw to. The offensive line is still a work in progress but the arrow is pointing upward for them. And the defense is about as strong as a defense can be on the front-seven.

However, the Dolphins can use some help in the secondary, particularly at strong safety. So at No. 22 overall, the Dolphins select do-it-all safety Jamal Adams from LSU. Adams can do everything from playing in the box to covering opposing slot-receivers.

And if needed, he has the instincts and range to play deep half or single-high. The Dolphins can use all of his skills at strong safety right away and Adams is ready for the challenge. The Dolphins would then be a challenge for the mighty Patriots.

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

23

Cam Robinson

OT, Alabama

When the New York Giants protect QB Eli Manning and play defense, they win Super Bowls. This year, one outta two and bad and that is usually the case with the Giants. The offensive line is actually solid in the middle but the edges are costing them.

Eric Flowers, the team’s No. 9 overall in 2015, should move from left OT to right OT. And right OT Bobby Hart should move to the the bench somewhere. Of course, that would be making room for the Giants to try again at left OT.

The Giants rarely draft high enough to pick a franchise OT and when they did in 2015 they missed. So they need to take a chance on one later in the first round. This writer happens to think Cam Robinson is worthy of a Top-10 pick on the field.

But he does have some off-the-field to look into that probably has him projected this late. He has some impressive tape against top edge-rusher prospects like Garrett. The Giants could end up with a steal here and go further in the playoffs in 2017.

Dec 5, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jake Coker (14) is tackled by Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) during the third quarter of the 2015 SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

24

Jarrad Davis

ILB, Alabama

The Kansas City Chiefs are about as stacked as they’ve been since the Dick Vermeil era. They’ll have to wait until next year but they have running back Jamaal Charles coming back at full strength. And my bad for calling QB Alex Smith a dink-and-dunk game manager.

Perhaps the reason why he always threw short passes is because of who he was throwing to. He’s never had speed like he has now with Tyreek Hill, Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley. Teams will have to chose between stopping the run and the deep threats.

TE Travis Kelce will also be available off play action, underneath or down the seam. That is a pretty scary offense led by head coach Andy Reid but that’s not all. The Chiefs have a ferocious pass-rush with Ford and Fellow OLB Justin Houston too.

They have but one problem on that defense and that’s stopping the run. So at No. 24 overall, the Chiefs select Jarrad Davis, a physical, smash-mouth, take-on inside backer. The AFC West is tough and you just don’t know who the winner will be now.

Nov 28, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley (57) pressures Florida State Seminoles quarterback Sean Maguire (10) during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida State Seminoles defeated the Florida Gators 27-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

25

Caleb Brantley

DT, Florida

QB Matthew Stafford is playing the best football of his career with mercurial WR Calvin Johnson retired. He doesn’t miss Johnson at all as he now throws to Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. He’s getting much better protection with 2016 first-round pick Taylor Decker at left OT too.

On defense, they’re okay as they’re average against the run and have solid CBs in Nevin Lawson and Darius Slay. The Lions’ problem on defense is that they don’t have much of a pass-rush. Part of it are the injuries DE Ezekiel Ansah has had to go through this year.

The other part of it is they don’t have much of an interior pass-rush with Ndamukong Suh gone. Suh is the one guy no longer with the Lions that is badly missed to this day. So here at No. 27 overall, the Lions select Caleb Brantley to be that disruptive presence inside.

He is very disruptive with serious quickness and strength to shed blocks at the point of attack. Brantley also has a burst to close in a hurry once he beats his man. He is just the guy to come as a three-technique, gap-shooting defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense.

Nov 3, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley (98) and linebacker Jayon Brown (12) tackle the scramble of Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau (13) in the first half at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

26

Takkarist McKinley

OLB, UCLA

Originally, this writer thought the Houston Texans were stuck with quarterback Brock Osweiler, the owner’s boy. This team is way too good for that but head coach Bill O’Brien just pulled Tom Savage out of the closet. He is the starter now and it will be interesting to see what he can do.

He has the weapons outside in WRs DeAndre Hopkins Will Fuller to throw the ball down the field to. He also has a good running game led by RB Lamar Miller, who just went over from the Dolphins. They have an average run defense but the are very good at stopping the pass.

However, they don’t have the greatest pass-rush when defensive end J.J. Watt is out. Watt is the only one that gets to the QB when he’s healthy so we can expect much from them when he is out. Jadeveon Clowney is a high-picked run stuffer, dominating there to avoid being a bust.

So the Texans need to draft an edge-rusher that and actually get to the quarterback. So right here at No. 26 overall, the Texans select Takkarist McKinley from UCLA to come in and get it done. With the coverage over there, the Texans would be near impossible to pass on with a good edge-rusher.

Sep 17, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) and Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Damore

27

Marlon Humphrey

CB, Alabama

We all know how explosive the Atlanta Falcons are on the offensive side of the ball. And on defense, they are starting to get after the quarterback pretty well these days. But their inability to stop the run and lack of coverage are the two things stopping them.

The latter of the two is probably most urgent because teams have to keep up with the offense. QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones and company put points on the board quick. So opposing teams will be throwing to keep the game within reach.

The Falcons do have Desmond Trufant, who’s as solid as they get as a CB in coverage. But the Falcons don’t have anyone to defend passes on the other side so it gets picked on. So here at No. 25 overall, the Falcons select Marlon Humphrey from Alabama.

At 6’1″, 200 pounds, Humphrey is a good fit here as head coach, Dan Quinn likes big CBs. It’s also helpful that Humphrey is versatile in that he can play press-man, off-man and zone. This pick would have the Falcons looking good to contend in the NFC.

Nov 25, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen (8) drops back to pass and is pressured by Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) during the first half at Faurot Field. Missouri won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

28

Charles Harris

OLB, Missouri

The Pittsburgh Steelers are easy to watch with their offense being so explosive these days. QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing to WR Antonio Brown down the field never gets old. And of course RB Le’Veon Bell is the best in the business at what he does.

And the offensive line does the job in front of them so they can do the things they do. TE Ladarius Green, who just came off an injury not long ago, is starting to find his way. Speaking of injuries, the defense was a mess because of them to start the season.

DE Cameron is out for the season and 2015 first-round pick Bud Dupree is back now. And the Steelers pass-rush has come on, since he’s been back. But he’s going to need help of the edge next year, especially if James Harrison rides off into the Sunset.

So at No. 28 overall, the Steelers select Charles Harris to give Dupree that help off the edge. Harris is from Missouri, where they make edge-rushers to go into the NFL. So he will come in and make the kind of impact that keeps the Steelers on top. .

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

29

Quenton Nelson

OG, Notre Dame

The Seattle Seahawks still have their Legion of Boom defense intact but Earl Thomas is injured. Thomas Rawls is no Marshawn Lynch, who’s retired but they have a good running game with him. And QB Russell Wilson can throw it around the yard to WR Doug Baldwin and company.

But if the Seahawks are going to make it back to the Super Bow,l they need to protect Wilson. He’s starting to play well now as he is finally healthy after playing through his injuries. But Seahawks fans have to wonder how long this will last with the lack of protection he plays with.

Most of the teams in the playoffs get after the QB well so that will be their undoing. Then comes the offseason, when the Seahawks can address the one weakness on their team. O-line coach Tom Cable loves the athleticism of college basketball player and now left OT George Fant.

He’s also working with youngster Germain Ifedi at right OG and C Justin Britt is solid. So at No. 29 overall, the Seahawks take dominant run-blocking and pass-blocking OG in Quenton Nelson. He will come in and solve the Seahawks’ problems at left OG the day he gets there.

Sep 30, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) rushes the ball against the Washington Huskies during the second half at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

30

Christian McCaffrey

RB, Stanford

When the Oakland Raiders pick here at No. 30 overall, Christian McCaffrey will be the best player on the board. And he can upgrade the team in a multitude of ways with his versatility. He’s a better RB than Latavius Murray, who will be a free agent at year’s end.

He’s a much better slot receiver than Seth Roberts, who drops way too many passes. He’s a much better 3rd-down back than Jalen Richard, who also drops too many passes. And if you want him out there, he’s a better return man the anyone the Raiders have.

McCaffrey would give Raiders that third superstar triplet as an RB they can do so much more with. At 6’0″, 202 pounds, he’s a little small but he’s a hard worker that easily can get to 210. McCaffrey would also fit well in the locker room, playing for God, his family and teammates.

That’s another personality like QB Derek Carr and OLB Khalil Mack with the talent for his positions. The Raiders defense is arriving at No. 7 in the NFL over the last eight games and don’t have everyone yet. The Raiders could get to and win the Super Bowl after making this pick.

Oct 15, 2016; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook (11) catches a pass against the Kansas State Wildcats during the third quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

31

Dede Westbrook

WR, Oklahoma

The Cowboys are stacked on both sides to the ball with very talented players. On offense, they have the best O-line in football with QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott. On defense, they’re getting it done and they don’t even have all their players.

But they will get DE Randy Gregory Gregory back this week to help their pass-rush. Fellow DE DeMarcus Lawrence is also due to come back from an injury he suffered. But barring another incident, the two should be in there for the whole season next year.

ILB Jaylon Smith won’t play this year but he has made a lot of progress so he should debut next year. With a shutdown defense over there now, the Cowboys get more explosive on offense. They select speedy WR Dede Westbrook out of Oklahoma at No. 31 overall.

Now, the single-high safety can’t cheat over on No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant so he has action. If the defense plays cover-2, they die a slow death by Elliott and the running game. And when they pay too much attention to that, Westbrook beats them deep to make the Cowboys unstoppable.

32

Tre’davious White

CB, LSU

The Patriots traded away two edge-rushers and still get after the QB when they want to. They also stuff the run well as they are No. 4 in the NFL against the run. Then they have CB Malcolm Butler, who we can now say is an elite CB in the NFL.

Their No. 2 CB is okay but their No. 3 CB is a bit of a weakness that could be upgraded this offseason. And the Patriots do that right here with the last pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. They take Tre’Davious White, another great CB prospect in a deep CB class.

He could come in and take that No. 2 CB spot and bump Logan Ryan over to strictly slot duty. With three guys that can stick to their men in coverage, Bill Belichick could do what he wants up front. And the solid Patriots defense gets even better, harder to score on.

On offense, waiver pickup WR Michael Floyd would be stupid to mess up catching passes from Tom Brady. Then there’s RB LeGarrette Blount along with TEs Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski. Man, they’re starting to build super teams in the NFL these days!

This article originally appeared on