2017 NFL Mock Draft: Fournette, Peppers land in top 10
After eight weeks of the 2016 NFL regular season, the Cleveland Browns are still looking for their first win. Here is our 2017 NFL Mock Draft heading into Week 9.
For most of the game, the Cleveland Browns looked like they would come away with their first victory of the 2016 season. However, the New York Jets battled back, sending the Browns to 0-8 on the season. With half of their schedule over, the Browns are in the driver’s seat to select first in the 2017 NFL Draft, and odds are they will stay there.
Here is our 2017 NFL Mock Draft heading into Week 9 of the 2016 NFL season.
DE, Texas A&M
The Cleveland Browns came close to winning their first game of the 2016 NFL season on Sunday, as they jumped all over the New York Jets in the first half. However, the Jets came storming back after halftime, and eventually left Cleveland with their third win of the season. Quarterback Josh McCown played very well in his return from injury, giving the organization hope that they may actually be able to put on in the win column this season.
As it stands, the 0-8 Browns would pick first overall in next April’s draft, and they should go defense with that pick. The bottom line is that there is no clear No. 1 quarterback in this draft, so wasting a first overall pick on one could prove catastrophic. Cleveland has made more than their fair share of errors picking a quarterback high, so taking a player like Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett makes perfect sense.
Garrett is about as NFL-ready a prospect as there is in this draft, and he would instantly make the team better his first day in a Browns uniform. Cleveland traded New England for star linebacker Jamie Collins this past week, and if they can get him to sign a long-term deal, he and Garrett would give them a dominating 1-2 punch. Garrett is solid against the run, and at rushing the passer, which is something the Browns have been lacking for a long time.
Colin Kaepernick has replaced Blaine Gabbert as the San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback, but he is definitely not the long-term answer at the position. Kaepernick appears to have the skill set to run a Chip Kelly offense, but he is just not a good NFL quarterback anymore. The 49ers need to nab a quarterback in the first round, and they will do so with Deshaun Watson.
Watson, who has led the Clemson Tigers to national prominence during his time there, is the perfect fit for what Kelly likes to do on offense. He can run the uptempo offense, and has the uncanny ability to make the hard throws on the run. He also is an incredible athlete, which is exactly the kind of player Kelly needs to run his offense smoothly.
San Francisco needs a new face of the franchise, and Watson has the tools to succeed in this league. He shows great composure in the pocket, and can make all the throws. His problem has been that he likes to stare down targets too long, which can lead to costly interceptions. Still, even though he has room for improvement, he is the best quarterback for their system.
QB, North Carolina
If Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler played the way he did on Monday Night Football every week, they would not have to take a quarterback with the third pick in the draft. However, Cutler has proven to be one of the more inconsistent quarterbacks in recent memory, and the team needs to replace him as soon as possible. Mitch Trubisky from the University of North Carolina is a first round talent, and would fit nicely in John Fox’s system.
Trubisky is a classic pocket passer, who can make tough throws look easy. The Bears have some talented players on their offense, including star wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey. With Cutler under center on Monday, Jeffrey finally had a good game, which can happen every week if the team can get somebody to throw it to him on a consistent basis.
Since an opening week dud of a performance, Trubisky has played as good as any quarterback in college football. Despite his rising stock, he has tried to stay level-headed, and just play football. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, he has the size to play the position at the next level, and he appears to have the head to do so as well.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have not lived up to expectations this season, as some experts were predicting them to make it to the playoffs. Blake Bortles seems to have taken a step back in his development, and offensive coordinator Greg Olsen has already been fired. The Jags have way too much talent on offense to be as ineffective as they have been, so maybe the firing of Olsen will light a fire under the players.
If the season ended tomorrow, the Jags would have the fourth overall selection, which they should use on a defensive player. Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen is an incredible prospect, who would immediate inject some life in Jags defensive unit. Jacksonville signed Malik Jackson in the offense to bolster their defensive line, and adding Allen would give the team a solid presence up front.
Jacksonville plays in the weakest division in football, and one good draft could put them in position to fight for a playoff spot next season. They are pretty set on offense, and if they can add a few pieces to their defense, they would be just as good as any team in the AFC South in 2017. The 2016 season may be a lost cause, and it should lead to a nice pick in next April’s draft.
Leonard Fournette is hands-down the best running back prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft, and he is going to go very high in April. Sitting at No. 5 is the Carolina Panthers, who could use some youth in their backfield. Starting running back Jonathan Stewart is getting up there in age, so adding a player like Fournette would give the Panthers a solid nucleus on offense.
Cam Newton has a lot of good football left in him, and Kelvin Benjamin appears fully healed from his knee injury last season. While Carolina has some gaping holes on defense, passing up on Fournette is just not possible this high. He is going to have an immediate impact next season, and while it may not be to the scale of Ezekiel Elliott, it should be very close.
Fournette is NFL-ready, and the 2016 season has not been the kind of year he was hoping for. He has already lost his head coach Les Miles to a firing, and has missed time due to a bone bruise in his ankle. The NFL cannot come soon enough, and whoever gets him, will certainly have a franchise back.
With each passing week, the legend of Jabrill Peppers continues to grow. Since arriving on campus, Peppers has done a little bit of everything for the Wolverines, and has put himself in the Heisman Trophy discussion this year. The undefeated Wolverines may actually play for a national championship this season, and Peppers has played a role in every game.
The best part about Peppers is how versatile he is, as he can make an impact on both sides of the ball. Not only is he one of the better linebackers in college football, he can make things happen in the return game, and has even played some Wildcat for Michigan. He would be a fan favorite for whatever team picks him, but the New York Jets would be the perfect landing spot at No. 6.
Peppers grew up in New Jersey, and played his high school ball at Paramus Catholic High School. Paramus Catholic is a short drive from MetLife Stadium, where the Jets play their home games. The defensive stars for the Jets are getting long in the tooth, and the franchise is in desperate need of their next big star. Peppers would be that guy.
RB, Florida State
The Indianapolis Colts are very one-sided on offense, as star quarterback Andrew Luck has been asked to carry the load for his entire NFL career. Veteran running back Frank Gore has done a nice job at the position since coming over to the Colts, but he is getting up there in age. Indy needs a solid running back to compliment Luck, and they should be able to get one this high in the draft.
Florida State running back Dalvin Cook is one of the best backs in college football, and has had a record-setting career for the Seminoles. This past week, Cook rushed for 169 yards and four touchdowns against undefeated Clemson, cementing his spot as the best back in the ACC. He has the size and speed to be an impact player out of the gate in the NFL, and the Colts would be a perfect spot for him to land.
Like Jacksonville, the Colts play in a very winnable division, and adding Cook could be the final piece they need to get over the hump. They cannot afford to continue to waste good years in Luck’s prime, and adding some support to the offense would take a ton of pressure off of him. Gore has been a pleasant surprise at the position, but it is time to turn the page.
The San Diego Chargers have been hard luck losers this season, as they have really been in every game they have played. If games were only three quarters long, the Bolts would probably be 7-1 on the season. However, games are four quarters long, and their defense has not done a good job of holding leads late.
Marlon Humphrey should be the first cornerback off the board, as he has the size and skills to do big things at the next level. The son of a former NFL running back, Humphrey has an incredible feel for the game, and always seems to be in the right spot. He has soft hands for a defensive back, and would be the kind of game-changer the Chargers secondary has been missing since saying goodbye to Eric Weddle.
Philip Rivers appears to still have some good years left in him, and Melvin Gordon is rounding into an every-down back. Each week, another youngster has a breakout game on the defense side of the ball, and Joey Bosa looks like the real deal. If the Bolts can bolster their secondary, they could be right back in the mix in the AFC West next season.
QB, Notre Dame
Some publications have DeShone Kizer going first overall to the Cleveland Browns, but I feel he is going to fall to the Dolphins if they pick in the top-10. Kizer has the size and arm to be a productive quarterback at the next level, and he just may round into a first overall talent. At this point, he still has some seasoning left, and Miami would be a perfect place for him to land.
The Dolphins have said they are going to continue to go with Ryan Tannehill, but the time has to be coming to a close. He just has not been the kind of talent the organization was expecting him to be, and it is time to go in a new direction. Bringing in Kizer could do two things, either make Tannehill play better, or give the Fins a new franchise quarterback.
First-year head coach Adam Gase likes Tannehill, and has stated his loyalty to him. However, the NFL is about wins and losses, and Miami plays in a division where a couple of losses could mean the season. Kizer is a difference maker under center, and if he is still on the board at No. 9, Miami has to consider moving the organization in another direction.
The Tennessee Titans have two picks in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, thanks to a trade they made with the Los Angeles Rams prior to the 2016 Draft. With that pick, the Rams selected quarterback Jared Goff, who has yet to take a snap for the team this season. The Titans are a couple of pieces away from being a challenger in the AFC, and they should look to bolster their secondary with their first pick in April.
Florida cornerback Teez Tabor is one of the best defensive backs in the draft class, and he should be off the board early. He is a ball-hawking corner, who teams tend to shy away from on a weekly basis. He and teammate Quincy Wilson have formed arguably the best cornerback tandem in the SEC, and both players should go in the first round.
Tabor has appeared in five games this season for the Gators, collecting interceptions in four of them. He has great hands and speed, and will be an impact corner at the next level. He plays in the best conference in college football, and is widely regarded as an All-SEC player. Tabor was an Honorable Mention All-American as a sophomore last season, and has followed it up with an incredible junior campaign.
The Baltimore Ravens made a big splash this past offseason, signing safety Eric Weddle away from the San Diego Chargers. The deal was for four years, and it ensured that the Ravens would be solid at one of the safety positions for the foreseeable future. Adding a player of Jamal Adams caliber to the secondary would give Baltimore a feared set of safeties in their secondary.
When the Ravens are good, it is because of their defense. If you look back on the last 15 years, the defense has been led by Hall of Fame-caliber players. Whether it is Ray Lewis, or Terrell Suggs, hard-hitting defensive stars have been the reoccurring theme for the Ravens. Adams is one of those safeties who brings the thunder, and he would fit right in with the culture in Baltimore.
Adams was second-team All-SEC last season, after being named a Freshman All-American back in 2014. His father, George Adams, was a first round selection of the New York Giants back in 1985. The 21-year old has football in his blood, and his drive and work ethic will make him a favorite to the fans, and to head coach John Harbaugh.
Cam Robinson is the best offensive lineman in the 2017 draft class, and he should be the first off the board in April. A huge mountain of a man, Robinson has been the anchor of a dynasty at Alabama, and is ready to take his talents to the NFL. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have one of the best young quarterbacks in football, and should spend their first round selection on a player that can protect his blindside for the next ten years.
Robinson is 6-foot-6, and weighs 310 pounds, making him a prototypical left tackle at the next level. He has already played in huge games throughout his career, winning a national title with the Crimson Tide. He has experience on both sides of the line, and has started every game since arriving on campus in 2014.
Tampa Bay’s main asset is Jameis Winston, who has established himself as one of the best young signal callers in the NFL. However, he continuously finds himself picking himself off the ground, so the organization better bolster the offensive line before his career is cut short. Robinson is as good an offensive line prospect as there has been the past few years, and would fit right in with the Bucs.
The New Orleans Saints are still one of the more potent offenses in all of football, scoring at will against some of the best defenses in the league. Their problem is that their defense is extremely sub-par, and struggles to keep anybody out of the end zone. The secondary in New Orleans is atrocious, and needs to be upgraded immediately.
Prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, Iowa cornerback Desmond King could have easily entered the draft and been a high pick. He instead decided to go back to school for his senior year, mostly because some analysts thought he was too slow to be an impact player at the next level. The bottom line is that is just not true, and he would be an instant upgrade to the Saints secondary.
King has been a starter for the Hawkeyes since his true freshman season back in 2013, and was given the Jim Thorpe Award after his junior season. The Thorpe award is given to the best defensive back in college football, and King certainly earned it, picking off eight passes in 2015. He has only one interception this season, but that is only because teams just do not throw his way.
QB, U. of Miami
The Arizona Cardinals have one of the more seasoned veteran quarterbacks in all of football on their roster. Carson Palmer has been one of the better signal-callers in football for a long time, but age is starting to creep up on him. He has battled through a plethora of injuries the past few seasons, and he could be ready to hang them up very soon.
Still, he continues to be productive for the Cards, who many expected to challenge for a Super Bowl this season. At No. 14, the team should look to ink their quarterback of the future, and that player could be Brad Kaaya. Kaaya has been a star since his first day on campus for the Miami Hurricanes, and is one of the more NFL-ready quarterbacks in this draft.
The best thing about Kaaya is his touch, as he has the ability to put the ball where he wants to with incredible accuracy. He has played on some mediocre Hurricanes teams during his time at Miami, but always seems to keep his team in games. Palmer may have another year in him, giving Kaaya the opportunity to learn behind a veteran, instead of being thrown right into the first like he was at the U.
LB, Ohio State
The Cincinnati Bengals need help on the defensive side of the ball, as they have struggled this season to stop offenses on a consistent basis. One area of need is at linebacker, where the team struggles against the run game. Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan is a first-round talent, and he just so happens to play in the same state the Bengals do.
McMillan is the unquestioned leader of the Buckeyes’ defense, which ranks in the top-25 against the run and the pass. As the team’s star middle linebacker, he is required to make sure all of his teammates are in position before each play, and he does a damn good job of doing it. He is incredibly tough against the run, but also is great at dropping back into pass coverage to disrupt the offense.
The 2016 season has been an interesting one for McMillan, who sees his stats down, but his impact as high as ever. The Buckeyes suffered a devastating loss against Penn State two weeks ago, which essentially ended their College Football Playoff hopes. Still, McMillan has left a lasting legacy at Ohio State, and it would be very cool to see him stay in state to play ball at the next level.
The head coach of the Buffalo Bills is Rex Ryan, who everybody around football knows is a defensive-minded coach. However, his defense has been suspect at times this season, and he will be looking to upgrade his unit during the 2017 NFL Draft. Derek Barnett is one of the better defensive prospects in college football, and would fit Ryan’s schemes perfectly.
Ryan loves to blitz on nearly every play, mixing his looks to confuse the offense. Barnett is one of the better pass rushers in college football, and mixes a big body with incredible speed. He would be a forceful presence on the edge for the Buffalo Bills, one that could be used to disrupt the unflappable Tom Brady twice a year.
Buffalo has some nice pieces on their offense, and if they can get Sammy Watkins back to 100 percent, they should be a threat to win the AFC East next season. Adding a player like Barnett would be huge for their defense, especially in a division where the Pats have reigned supreme for the last 15 years. Buffalo is not that far off, but they cannot afford to miss on this pick next April.
While the Tennessee Titans should definitely go defense with their first selection in the first round, they should look to the offense with their second pick. Quarterback Marcus Mariota is one of the better young quarterbacks in the AFC, though he does lack star power at the wide receiver position. Adding a game-changing wideout is key to his development, and the team may look to a fellow Pac-12 player to do just that.
JuJu Smith-Schuster came into the 2016 season rated as one of the best wide receivers in college football, but he did not produce early. The main problem was at quarterback, where Max Browne was just not getting him involved in the offense. Since the team has made the move to Sam Darnold, Smith-Schuster has taken off, and will be the first wide receiver taken next April.
USC has a long history of producing quality wideouts, and Smith-Schuster just may be the best of the bunch. He has a rare blend of speed and size, and is not afraid to go over the middle. Tennessee has some solid wideouts who should be considered No. 2, so adding a WR1 like Smith-Schuster should be able to take Mariota to the next level in his production.
DT, Michigan State
The Detroit Lions have been looking for a star defensive tackle since saying goodbye to Ndamukong Suh two years ago. Ziggy Ansah has tried to fill that void, but he has performed a disappearing act this season. The team may be able to look instate for their next big star, as Michigan State has a tremendous defensive lineman on campus.
Malik McDowell was built for the NFL, and with how back the Spartans have been, he may changed his stance on next year’s draft. McDowell has told people that he will only enter the draft if he is going to be a top-5 pick, which may be a long-shot for him. Still, the lure of staying in Michigan to play for the Lions could be enticing.
It has been an up and down season for McDowell, who has battle suspensions and injuries. McDowell was ejected for targeting against Indiana earlier in the year, and had to sit out the first half of the following game. He has accomplished an incredible amount during his time at Michigan State, and it is time to head to the next level, no matter where he is drafted.
OT, Florida State
The Florida State Seminoles have done some special things since Roderick Johnson landed on campus, and he appears ready to take his show to the next level. Johnson helped protect the blindside of Jameis Winston during his freshman year on campus, and has played a huge role in making running back Dalvin Cook a star. At 6-foot-7, Johnson has the size to be a dominant figure on the left side of the offense line, which is just what the Washington Redskins need.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Redskins are going to make Kirk Cousins their franchise quarterback, after they signed him to a franchise tender for the 2016 season. He has played well for the team since taking over for Robert Griffin III, leading them to an NFC East title in 2015. However, he also has had his moments that make you scratch your head, which is typical from a young quarterback.
Cousins has all the tools to be a successful quarterback in the NFL, and has put up some big numbers in his two-plus years as a starter. Adding a player of Johnson’s caliber to the offense line would signal to Cousins that the team is ready to build around him. Aside from Cam Robinson, Johnson is the best tackle in this draft, and would be a great grab this late in the first round.
The New York Giants have made some big strides on the defensive side of the ball this season, after being an absolute laughingstock in 2015. Still, they are a couple pieces away from being dominant on the defensive end, and will likely look to bolster their linebacking corps in April. Reuben Foster from Alabama is one of the best pure linebackers in this draft, and would be a perfect fit for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s system.
Foster is one of the hardest hitting players in college football, and is a semifinalist for the Dick Butkus Award this season. He is a leader on an Alabama defense that is regarded as the best in the nation. The junior is also a big-time player in big-time games, after starring for the Crimson Tide during their national championship win against Clemson last season.
When the New York Giants are good, it is because of Eli Manning. When they are winning Super Bowls, it is because of their defense. Despite the rough statistics as of late, Spags is an incredible defensive mind, and has a couple of Super Bowl rings to back that statement up. Foster would certainly look good patrolling MetLife Stadium next season.
It is a testament to how good the Alabama Crimson Tide defense is that we would have two of their linebackers picked back to back next April. The fact of the matter is that it is an incredible unit, which could have as many as five players taken in the first round of the draft. Tim Williams could easily be a top-10 pick, but heading to the Steelers late in the first round could be the best thing that could happen to him.
Pittsburgh is a linebacker factory, as their history is rich in a tradition of excellence at the position. However, they are starting to get a bit old on their defense, and the unit does not bring the kind of fear it used to. James Harrison, who seems to be defying Father Time, is coming to the end of his career, and could prove to be a huge asset to the organization if they bring in a rookie linebacker next season.
To watch Tim Williams play is quite a treat, as he often looks like a man among boys. Against the Tennessee Volunteers, he pushed a Vols lineman to the ground with only one hand, showing the country the kind of strength he possesses. Williams also has the agility to get back in coverage, and defend against the passing game, making him one of the more complete players in the draft.
The Green Bay Packers seem to never know from week to week who their starting running back is going to be. Starter Eddie Lacy spent the offseason getting into better shape, but it still did not help keep him off of the trainer’s table. Backup James Starks has also been bitten by the injury bug, and the team has had to use a wide receiver as their featured back during the season.
Christian McCaffrey had a breakout season in 2015, where it seemed like he was scoring a touchdown every time he touched the ball. The 2016 season has not been as kind, as he has missed time due to injury, and has been a big ineffective carrying the ball. The Stanford Cardinal has been a disappointment as a team, and McCaffrey has seen his draft stock drop a bit.
Still, he is one of the more complete offensive weapons in the draft, and has the skill set to succeed at the NFL level. He is the son of a former NFL wide receiver, and has been used as a runner, receiver, and return man during his time with the Cardinal. He would give the Packers a reliable back for the first time in a while, while taking some of the pressure off of Rodgers.
Patrick Mahomes II
QB, Texas Tech
The Cleveland Browns traded the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft to the Philadelphia Eagles, who spent the pick on North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz. During the 2016 season, Wentz has proven to be more than worth the high draft pick, while the Browns have used six different quarterbacks. With the pick they received from the Eagles, the Browns will likely go quarterback, and Texas Tech signal-caller Patrick Mahomes II would be a nice pick.
Mahomes is lighting up the college football world, and has the skills to succeed at the next level. He can make every throw, and has the ability to get out of the pocket when it collapses. His pocket presence is just as a good as any player in this draft, but he does not get a lot of love because he plays for Texas Tech. Still, it is hard to ignore his statistics, which are as good as any player in college football.
An incredible athlete, Mahomes actually was a member of the Red Raiders baseball team as well. However, he has strictly focused on football the past two years, and it is showing in his preparation, and his play. He has become a student of the game, and has the kind of talent, and mental fortitude to be able to survive as the quarterback of the Browns.
The Washington Huskies are one of the best teams in college football this season, and while quarterback Jake Browning gets most of the love, the secondary has also played at an elite level. Cornerback Sidney Jones is the unquestioned leader of that secondary, and he has turned himself into a first round talent. A nice mix of speed and size, Jones will be an impact defensive back from day one in the NFL.
The Atlanta Falcons have played extremely well this season, and may be able to bolster their defense late in the first round. Armed with one of the better offensive units in all of football, the Falcons have had to rely on putting up points in bunches, due to the defenses inability to stop people at times. The secondary is by far the weakest link on the team, and it is an area that needs to be addressed via the draft.
Jones can go toe-to-toe with any receiver in the country, and has been as effective a defensive back as any player in the nation. At 6-foot, Jones has the height and athleticism to cover anybody, and his stats show just how good he is. After collecting a total of six interceptions his first two seasons, he has none this year, and that is because nobody has the gall to throw his way.
The Houston Texans are in first place in the AFC South, despite the fact that their high-money quarterback has been wildy ineffective this season. In addition, star defensive end J.J. Watt is likely out for the season, after requiring another back surgery early in the season. Linebacker Brian Cushing has also missed time due to injury this season, and he is starting to get long in the tooth as well.
Houston has horses on offense, as DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller are solid weapons. They are fully invested in Brock Osweiler under center, even though he often looks like he never played the position in his life. Where they need the most help is at linebacker, where one really good draft pick could completely turn around the unit.
Aside from Watt, the Texans also have an incredibly talented defensive end in Jadeveon Clowney. If Watt comes back 100 percent, and they can add a player like Zach Cunningham from Vanderbilt into their linebacking corps, they could have the most dominant defense in the division. Cunningham is as good a linebacker as their is in this draft, and his blend of size and speed would fit perfectly into the Texans system on defense.
DT, Notre Dame
Jarron Jones’ talent has never been in question, as he is one of the more athletic defensive lineman in the upcoming draft. His issue is that he is extremely inconsistent, looking like a first round talent one week, and a non-starter the following. However, during the team’s huge matchup against Miami this past weekend, Jones was a one-man wrecking crew, showing the kind of game that should vault him into the first round.
Against the Hurricanes, Jones racked up seven tackles, including six that went for losses. Jones also picked up a sack, had a pass breakup, and complete blew up the Hurricanes offensive line. He is extremely explosive, and has good movement that enables him to make stops along the line. At 6-foot-5, Jones has the size to be a dominant force at the next level, he just needs to put it all together.
If Jones finishes the year playing the way he did against Miami, he will not be available this late in the first round. The Seattle Seahawks need help on the defensive line, especially in the middle where Jones plays. The Seahawks defense is always going to carry the team, and they boast arguably the best secondary in the NFC. If they can continue to add pieces up front, they could be headed towards another title.
The Philadelphia Eagles went into the last week of the preseason without a first round pick in next April’s draft. The Birds lost their pick when they traded with the Cleveland Browns for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but picked up a selection when they traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings. There is a ton of talent in this draft, so getting back into the first round could prove to be a huge move for Philly.
With that No. 2 pick, the team found their franchise quarterback, as they drafted Carson Wentz. The rookie out of North Dakota State has put his stamp on the team in 2016, leading the Eagles to a 4-3 record early on. Aside from Jordan Matthews, Wentz does not have many options at the wide receiver position, often relying on running back Darren Sproles to play a huge role in the passing game.
Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams would be a perfect fit for Doug Pederson’s system, as he has the ability to make any catch. He can go over the middle, can beat a defensive back deep, and has the kind of swagger you need to be productive at the next level. He would instantly become the team’s top option on the outside, while allowing Matthews to go into a WR2 role that he better suited for.
When it comes to offensive guards, there is no better prospect than Dan Feeney in this draft class. The big guy from Indiana is a punishing offensive lineman, who seems to move defensive tackles with ease. He is going to be a good one at the next level, and if he is still available late in the first round, the Kansas City Chiefs should grab him.
Feeney has incredible feet, and has the upper body strength that equates to the NFL level. He has battled injuries this season, but he is an incredible leader for the Hoosiers football team. He is a hard-nosed player, who has enjoyed an All-American career at Indiana during his four years as a starter. The Chiefs preached a team-first approach, and Feeney fits that mold perfectly.
Kansas City is one of the more well-rounded teams in football, with solid players on both sides of the ball. You could argue that aside from the New England Patriots, they are the best all-around team in the conference. They do not need many pieces, so adding a solid offensive guard that can step in right away is a low-risk play this late in the first round.
The Oakland Raiders are enjoying their best season since 2002, when they represented the AFC in the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Quarterback Derek Carr has become an elite player at his position since being drafted in the second round back in 2014, and has led the team to a 6-2 record this season. Drafted in the first round of that draft was Khalil Mack, who has become one of the better defensive players in the NFL during his three seasons with the team.
In 2017, the team should also go defense, but this time, they need to bolster their secondary. Despite making a ton of offseason moves to improve the defensive unit, the Raiders defense has been a leaky faucet at times, and they need defensive back help desperately. They drafted safety Karl Joseph in the first round in 2016, and should grab a corner back in 2017.
Hopefully for the Raiders, Florida corner Quincy Wilson will still be available this late in the first round. Wilson and teammate Teez Tabor have formed the best 1-2 cornerback punch in the SEC, and some have said he is actually the better of the two. While that remains to be seen, they should both go in the first round, and Oakland would be a nice landing spot for him.
Denver continues to be one of the best teams in the AFC, as they have started the 2016 season with a 6-2 record through their first eight games. Quarterback Trevor Siemian, who had never started an NFL game heading into the season, has done a nice job under center, though he has not been asked to do much. The team is led by their defense, which is once again the best unit in football.
The Broncos have incredible wide receivers, and running back Devontae Booker appears to be a workhorse back in his first season in the league. One area where they are lacking on the offensive side of the ball is at tight end, and there is a very good one in this draft class. Alabama tight end O.J. Howard is the kind of hybrid that NFL teams drool over, and he should give Siemian a nice security blanket going forward.
Having a solid tight end is a must in the NFL nowadays, as having someone like Rob Gronkowski can be the missing link to a title. While I am in no way saying Howard will be the next Gronk, the Broncos need to at least have a productive player at the position. He would be able to come in and start right away, and has the size and hands to be productive from day one.
The Dallas Cowboys struck gold during the 2016 NFL Draft, as their fourth-round quarterback selection has turned out to be one of the better rookie signal-callers we have seen in a long time. Their first round pick wasn’t too shabby either, as Ezekiel Elliott is having a record-breaking first season in Dallas. Dak Prescott and Elliott have turned the Cowboys organization around, and they are currently the class of the NFC.
One area the team needs help is at defensive end, where they have gambled on low-character players in the past and lost. Auburn DE Carl Lawson is an explosive pass-rusher, and despite issues with durability, he is definitely a first-round talent. Dallas has a non-existent pass rush, so adding a solid edge guy is a priority at this point.
All eyes will be on Dallas when starting quarterback Tony Romo comes back from injury, though he may not have a position to go back to. Prescott has put his stamp on this team, and upsetting the apple cart could prove to be deadly for the Boys. When all is said and done, Dallas may not be drafting this low, but they are one NFC team that is moving in the right direction.
The New England Patriots are once again the best team in the NFL, which seems to be the case every year. Despite the fact that star quarterback Tom Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season, the Pats are currently in line to pick last in round one. Head coach Bill Belichick loves versatile players, and a certain cornerback from USC fits that mold perfectly.
Adoree’ Jackson does a little bit of everything for the Trojans, who are one of the hottest teams in college football. Aside from being one of the better cornerbacks in the nation, Jackson is also one of the best return men in the game, making him a valuable asset for USC. A mastermind like Belichick could find so many ways to use Jackson, who is as explosive as they come.
During his career, Jackson has also played some offense, though he has not done that this season. However, he did become the program’s all-time leader in return yards this past week, which is something he will definitely be called upon to do at the next level. The Pats reload every year, and Jackson has the talent, and work ethic to fit right in in New England.
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