While all eyes will be on the action on Sunday inside NRG Stadium, lets take a look at our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft before Super Bowl Sunday.
The NFL season is down to one game, as the New England Patriots will take on the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. While the world awaits for kickoff inside NRG Stadium, we take a look ahead to April, when the next crop of rookies will be selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the draft under three months away, we take a look at our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
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Edge, Texas A&M
While it would surprise nobody if the Cleveland Browns pulled the trigger on a quarterback with the first overall pick, the odds are they will look to bolster their defense with the top selection. Myles Garrett of Texas A&M is the best defensive prospect in this draft, and he would give the Browns the kind of playmaker they need on the defensive line. He is an explosive talent, and the Browns need all the help they can get on that side of the ball.
The smart move for the Browns would be to trade down with the first pick, as no quarterback in this draft is considered worthy of the top selection overall. However, nearly every scout feels that Garrett is a solid first overall pick, and Cleveland does pick twice in the first 12 selections. They would easily grab an arm at No. 12, so do not expect them to pass on Garrett if they do hang on to the No. 1 pick.
Head coach Hue Jackson is committed to winning, and most believe he is the right person to have manning the ship through these hard times. The organization made a commitment to the defense by locking up Pro Bowl linebacker Jamie Collins, who they got in a trade with the New England Patriots during the season. The Browns are nowhere near being a playoff team, but a good draft could put them in position to win 4-to-5 games next season.
TAMPA, FL – JANUARY 09: Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen #93 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on before taking on the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The San Francisco 49ers made a huge splash on Sunday night, inking former safety John Lynch to a 6-year deal to be the team’s general manager. While Lynch has absolutely no experience in the position, he was an incredible player during his time in the NFL, and is a very good TV analyst. He knows football, and the organization needs to plug a football guy into that position going forward. In addition, the 49ers will name Kyle Shanahan their head coach, also offering a 6-year deal.
Last season, the 49ers were one of the worst teams in football on both sides of the ball, and both Lynch and Shanahan have their work cut out for them if they wish to bring the organization back from the dead. They need to start up front, and Alabama’s Jonathan Allen is one of the best prospects in the draft on the defensive line. He has the ability to play all over up front, and with his skill set, the 49ers would have a cornerstone of their defense in place.
Nobody is expecting the 49ers to turn the ship around in one year, and that is the reason behind the long-term deals for their new GM and head coach. They do have some nice pieces in place, and with the NFC West being pretty weak, they may be able to get back to the top of the division in a few years. Shanahan and Lynch will be working together for a long time, and with their history before coming together in San Francisco, the 49ers should be in good hands.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) calls a play against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The first quarterback off of the board will likely be Deshaun Watson, who put on quite a show during the Clemson Tigers National Championship run. He has proven that he can move the ball against the best defense in college football, and after leading the team to consecutive title games, appears ready to take the next step. His head coach recently stated that passing up on him would be like passing up on Michael Jordan, which the Chicago Bulls did not make the mistake of doing back in 1984.
As for the Chicago Bears, they have had issues at the quarterback position for quite some time. Even back to the last time they were in the Super Bowl, the man behind center was Rex Grossman, which is one of the reasons why they could not defeat the Indianapolis Colts. They need to move on from Jay Cutler, and bringing in a winner like Watson could be just what the organization needs to turn it around.
Watson is one of the more interesting prospects in this draft, as some boards have him No. 1 overall, and some very late in the first round. Remember, Aaron Rodgers fell to the Green Bay Packers late in the first when he came out of Cal, so Watson fans should not be discouraged if he is passed over. That will likely not be the case, as there is way too much buzz around him for a team not to take a shot at him early in the draft.
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
S, Ohio State
The Jacksonville Jaguars made a ton of moves prior to the 2016 season, as many experts believed it would be the year they made it to the top of the AFC South. Quarterback Blake Bortles was coming off a season where he threw for a bunch of yards, and the combination of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns on the outside was one of the best in the AFC. However, the Jags and Bortles took a major step back this past season, and many are questioning whether or not he is still the long-term answer at quarterback.
While the offense appeared set for a run, the Jags defense did not, and the team went out of their way to bring in some veteran talent to that side of the ball. While most of their players did not pan out, it brought to light the fact that this team needs help, especially in the secondary. They will likely address that need next April, and Malik Hooker of the Ohio State Buckeyes could be the top safety in this draft.
Hooker has proven during his time with the Buckeyes that he is a leader, and the Jaguars need players that are going to come right in and make a difference. Jacksonville plays in a very winnable division, so just a handful of players could bring them to the top of the AFC South in 2017. If Bortles can play up to his potential, they will be fine, but no defense in the world is going to help them if he takes another step back next season.
Dec 31, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) reacts after they they stopped Louisville Cardinals on 4th down during the second half at Camping World Stadium. LSU Tigers defeated the Louisville Cardinals 29-9. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Tennessee Titans are in very good shape as they head into the next few seasons, as second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota proved to be one of the best young arms in the game in 2016. Despite the fact that his season ended with a broken leg, Mariota has his team in position to do some great things going forward, and he has proven to be well worth the No. 2 pick he was selected with in 2015.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Titans need help, and bolstering their secondary has to be a priority heading into the 2017 NFL season. Jamal Adams of LSU is one of the best safety prospects to come a long in a while, and he could absolutely be selected before Malik Hooker next April. However, if he is available, the Titans have to pounce, as he has the talent to turn around a secondary from day one.
Adams is blessed with incredible athletic ability, and his ball-hawking skills really set him apart from the other defensive backs in this draft class. Not only does he have a nose for the ball, but he is a great tackler, and is not afraid to come up and make the big hit. NFL teams need safeties that can do both, and Adams has shown during his time with the Tigers that he can do just that. The Titans are very close to being a playoff team, and picking twice in the first round is going to go a long way in proving that they are ready to make the next step.
Dec 30, 2016; El Paso, TX, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) throws the ball against the Stanford Cardinal defense at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets suffered through an incredibly embarrassing season in 2016, as they got horrid play on both sides of the ball. Prior to the season, the organization had to decide on whether or not they would offer a long-term deal to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was coming off a great season in 2015. Well, for the Jets, it is a good thing they did not give him a multi-year deal, as Fitzpatrick proved that his 2015 season was more of a fluke than anything else.
Heading into the 2017 season, the quarterback position is once again a question mark, and it may be a position they will look to draft in April. Mitch Trubisky of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels only started one season in Chapel Hill, but he looks to have all the tools necessary to be a very good player at the next level. The Jets spent a second-round pick on a quarterback last year, but that will likely not deter them from going quarterback once again in 2017.
Trubisky is rated on most boards as the No. 1 quarterback in this draft, and it is very possible that he could be gone by the time the Jets select at No. 6. However, if he is available, he would be a perfect pick for the Jets, as he would give them a true quarterback of the future. He may have to start right away if the Jets do come calling, and sometimes being thrown into the fire can be a good thing for a young quarterback, as it certainly helped the development of Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, and Derek Carr to name a few.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) catches a touchdown against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) during the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Chargers made the move to Los Angeles this offseason, and will play their games in a soccer stadium for the next few seasons. Quarterback Philip Rivers was named to the Pro Bowl after another solid season, where he had to make do with a roster that was decimated with injuries. Rivers should have all of his weapons back for the 2017 season, and the move to Los Angeles could be just what the organization needs to return to the top of the AFC West.
In Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season, the Chargers lost their best weapon at wide receiver, as Keenan Allen suffered a torn ACL. Throughout his career, Allen has shown a propensity to be bitten by the injury bug, often leaving the Bolts short-handed at the wideout position. The team needs to address their depth at the position in April, and Mike Williams of Clemson looks like a perfect fit for La La Land.
Williams can do it all from the wide receiver position, and is going to instantly be a top option in any offense during his rookie season. He is the kind of receiver that will work perfectly with Rivers, and the Chargers have shown that they love to throw the ball. He is going to be a playmaker from day one in the NFL, and if the Chargers can get healthy, he just may be playing in the postseason in his first season with the team.
Nov 12, 2016; Fayetteville, AR, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs during the first quarter of the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
The Carolina Panthers had an unbelievable season in 2015, as they rode a 15-1 regular season record all the way to Super Bowl 50. While the big game did not turn out the way they would have liked, they still were expected to at least be a playoff team in 2016. Well, that certainly did not happen, and quarterback Cam Newton took way too many hits for someone who is expected to be under center for the next five or more years.
Carolina needs to give him some more weapons on offense, and bringing in a quality running back is the way to go in April. LSU’s Leonard Fournette is a very good-looking running back prospect, as he has the size and speed to be a dominant force at the next level. Current starter Jonathan Stewart still has some gas left in the tank, and if they can bring in Fournette, it would give them a nice tandem like they had when DeAngelo Williams was still with the team.
Newton is an incredible playmaker, and his status as a star in the NFL cannot be questioned. However, you have to wonder how much longer he will be able to play at this level if he continues to get rocked every game. Carolina has some very good talent on both sides of the ball, and with a solid offseason, they should once again be back in the playoffs.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) reacts after bring brought down by Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) during the second quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Lewis has been one of the more consistent head coaches in the NFL for quite some time now. The only issue with Lewis’ tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals has been the fact that he has never won a playoff game. There have been seasons where the Bengals have had one of the best rosters in the NFL, but they just have not been able to put together the kind of season most fans in Cincinnati have expected.
There may not be many more years left for Lewis in Cincy, so he has to make sure this offseason puts his team in position to make serious run in 2017. Andy Dalton is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback, and wide receiver A.J. Green is one of the best in the entire league at his position. The Bengals need to upgrade on the defensive side of the ball, and Alabama’s Reuben Foster is the best linebacker in this draft class.
Foster is one of those prospects who can do it all at his position, as he can play on the inside, as well as out. He has been a leader for the Crimson Tide during his time on campus, and has proven in the biggest of games that he can be the best player on the field. Foster is going to go very high in the 2017 NFL Draft, and if he does make his way to No. 9, the Bengals need to add him to their linebacking corps immediately.
Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) blocks Western Michigan Broncos defensive end Keion Adams (1) in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers won 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The Buffalo Bills said goodbye to Rex Ryan during the 2016 NFL season, as he and his brother Rob were given their walking papers prior to Week 17. While the Bills have a bunch of work to do before being a legitimate contender in the AFC East, they do have some exciting players on the offensive side of the ball. While Tyrod Taylor does not appear to be the long-term answer in Buffalo, he did put up solid numbers in 2016, and is deserving of another shot at being the team’s quarterback next season.
Putting some quality players in front of him has to be a priority for the Bills, who have some weaknesses up and down the offensive line. Ryan Ramczyk of Wisconsin is the best offensive line prospect in this draft, and he would be a perfect fit in Buffalo. Ramczyk has been a dominant force along the offensive line for the Badgers during his time in college, and the Bills need that kind of presence on their roster for 2017.
LeSean McCoy is one of the best running backs in the AFC, and when healthy, wide receiver Sammy Watkins is an exciting talent. The AFC East produced two playoff teams in 2016, and if the Bills can upgrade along their offensive line, they could have an offensive unit that could win them a bunch of games in 2017. Ramczyk is a very nice player, and if the Bills decide to roll with Taylor once again in 2017, they will certainly be happy they upgrade his offensive line via the draft.
Nov 26, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Michigan Wolverines tight end Jake Butt (88) is tackled by Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (2) in the second quarter at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
CB, Ohio State
The New Orleans Saints were an exciting team to watch this past season, as Drew Brees continued his assault on the passing record books. While the Saints finished 7-9 once again, it certainly was not for a lack of effort by their offense. Michael Thomas proved to be a great weapon at wideout during his rookie season, giving New Orleans another dangerous playmaker on the outside in the passing game.
While the offense was fun to watch, the defense must have been fun to play against, as they just could not stop anybody this season. In the secondary, they struggled big time, allowing NFL teams to rack up over 450 points against them over the 16 game season. They have a lot of work to do on that side of the ball, and bringing in a shutdown cornerback has to be a priority next April.
Marcus Lattimore of Ohio State is an incredible talent at the cornerback position, and could be the first corner off the board in the draft. He has incredible ball-hawking skills, and his ability to shut down one side of the field is rivaled by few others in college football. He has been a key for one of the best defenses in college football over the past few seasons, and the Saints could certainly use the help in their secondary moving forward.
Nov 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) throws a pass against the Southern California Trojans during a NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
QB, Notre Dame
With their second pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns need to address arguably the biggest hole on their roster. For years, the quarterback position has been a turnstile for the team, as it seems like they trot out a new signal-caller every week. They need to draft their future at the position, and having the luxury of having two first round picks may be just what they need to pull the trigger on a quarterback in April.
DeShone Kizer of the University of Notre Dame certainly has the physical ability to be a good quarterback at the next level. He can make all the throws, and while his decision making has come under question, his physical talents should make him a first round pick in 2017. While some believe he should have stayed in school for one more year, Kizer decided to make the jump, and only time will tell if it was a good decision.
Head coach Hue Jackson cannot afford another one-win season, and the collection of arms they put out there this past season was a joke. Robert Griffin III is no longer a serious option at the position, and guys like Cody Kessler and Josh McCown are career backups. Kizer is going to be given an opportunity be someone in April, and while it may not be the best case scenario for his development, he could start right away for the Browns if he is taken at No. 12.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against the Clemson Tigers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In 2015, the Arizona Cardinals proved why many believed they were one of the best teams in the NFL. The Cardinals made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game, but ran into a buzzsaw in the Carolina Panthers. Heading into the 2016 season, many believed they would once again challenge for a spot in the Super Bowl, but inconsistent play relegated them to being a non-playoff team once again.
Running back David Johnson is one of the best in the game, and quarterback Carson Palmer looks like he may have at least one more good season in him. While Patrick Peterson is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, he needs help in the secondary, and the team should consider drafting a corner in April. Marlon Humphrey is one of the best cornerbacks in this draft, and after a stellar career at Alabama, he is definitely ready to make an impact at the NFL level.
Humphrey is the son of a former NFL running back, so he knows what it takes to be successful at the next level. He has also played for legendary college coach Nick Saban during his time with the Crimson Tide, so he knows what dedication to a team means. He has been a leader for the Tide during his years at the school, and if his college career is any indication, he will be a great pro.
Nov 26, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball for a touchdown past Florida Gators defensive back Chauncey Gardner Jr. (23) during the first quarter at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
RB, Florida State
Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and it would be amazing to see what he could do with a solid offensive line in front of him. Despite the fact that he is always running for his life, Luck has been pretty successful during his time with the Indianapolis Colts, leading the team deep into the playoffs on a few occasions. However, if he continues to take hits the way he has, his career is going to be shortened, so the team needs to bring in someone to take the pressure off of him.
Dalvin Cook has had a record-breaking career at Florida State, as he has erased Warrick Dunn from the record books. Not only is he an incredible back out of the backfield, but he also is a very good pass-catcher, and would give the Colts the kind of weapon they need to stop teams from pinning their ears back and coming after Luck. There are some solid offensive linemen available in free agency, and if the Colts can grab one or two of them, they should be able to compete in 2017.
Incredibly, the Colts were able to make a serious run towards the playoffs in 2016, and should once again be in the mix next season. With a new general manager in place, expect the Colts to try and make a splash this offseason, as they should be very active in free agency. Cook would be a great place to start, as he could team with Frank Gore next season to give the Colts an incredible tandem in the backfield behind Luck.
Nov 5, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) runs for a touchdown as wide receiver Dante Pettis (8) celebrates behind him during the first quarter against the California Golden Bears at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Carson Wentz was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, as he followed fellow quarterback Jared Goff at the top of the board. While Goff struggled to find the field in his rookie season, Wentz was inserted as the team’s starter from Week 1 on, and showed that he definitely going to stay there for a long time. The Eagles struggled throughout the 2016 NFL season, but the experience Wentz got will be invaluable, and should make the Birds competitive for years to come.
While Wentz was cutting his teeth under center, the offense kind of lacked an identity throughout the season. Running back Darren Sproles proved to be ageless, and Ryan Mathews showed flashes of brilliance when he was not on the shelf. The biggest issue was the fact that there was not true No. 1 option at the wide receiver position, where Jordan Matthews tried his best to fill that role for the Eagles.
Heading into the 2017 NFL season, the Eagles need to make sure they give Wentz a top option on the outside. John Ross of Washington proved to be the best wideout in the Pac-12 this past season, which is saying something considering the amount of talent the conference produced. The Huskies made it all the way to the College Football Playoff, and the combination of Jake Browning to John Ross was the main reason why.
Nov 5, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) during the first quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Ravens have long been synonymous with having a great defense, as that side of the ball has led them to plenty of wins over the past 15 seasons. However, their stars on that side of the ball are getting long in the tooth, and it is time for the next big star to make himself known for the purple and black. While Terrell Suggs will likely be headed towards retirement soon, bringing in his replacement has to be a priority, and there is certainly plenty of defensive talent in this draft class.
Derek Barnett of Tennessee is one of the more explosive players in this draft, and his worth to a team cannot be understated. Barnett broke Hall of Famer Reggie White’s career sack record with the Volunteers, and is easily one of the quickest defenders off the ball in this draft class. He would be perfect in Baltimore, as he has the ability to play tough against the run, while also being one of the best in this draft class at getting the edge.
Barnett is a fiery competitor, and his love for the game will certainly make him a fan favorite in Baltimore. Ravens fans love their defense, and with a solid quarterback in place, they can afford to focus on the defense this offseason. If Suggs is nearing the end of his career, Barnett would be a perfect player to take the torch from the future Hall of Famers.
Dec 30, 2016; El Paso, TX, USA; Stanford Cardinal defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (90) celebrates with head coach David Shaw (L) after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 25-23 at Sun Bowl Stadium. Thomas was named MVP of the game. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
For the Washington Redskins, the task is simple heading into the offseason. They need to accomplish two things, with the first being locking up quarterback Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal. Cousins has proven during his time as the starter that he is a legitimate franchise quarterback, and has already led the organization to a division title. This past season, his play kept the Redskins playoff chances alive until late in the season, and the team appears in good hands with him moving forward.
The second task is going to be upgrading on the offensive and defensive line, where the team was pushed around in 2016. The NFC East is loaded with talented running backs, so improving their defensive front has to be a priority. Solomon Thomas of Stanford is one of the more exciting defensive line prospects in this draft, and he would be a perfect fit for the Redskins.
Washington is loaded with weapons on the offensive side of the ball, and they made a huge signing with cornerback Josh Norman prior to the 2016 NFL season. If they can bolster their defensive line for the 2017 season, they should be able to slow down divisional backs like Ezekiel Elliott, who ran all over the NFL during his rookie season. The Redskins are very close to being a perennial playoff team, but they cannot afford to slip back to mediocrity in 2017.
Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers defensive end Chikwe Obasih (34) and Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis (84) in action in the 2017 Cotton Bowl game at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers defeat the Broncos 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
WR, Western Michigan
Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans showed great growth during the 2016 season, as he proved that you do not have to play in an NFL offense in college to be a good NFL quarterback. His progress from Year 1 to Year 2 was impressive, as was the play of the entire roster, as the Titans fought for a playoff spot throughout the entire season. They just may make the next step in 2017, but one glaring weakness has to be addressed.
While the tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry were impressive at running back, the lack of a true WR1 on the roster has a bit concerning. The Titans need to upgrade the position if they want Mariota to continue his growth, and this draft class has three legitimate first round wideouts. While John Ross and Mike Williams will likely go as the first two off the board, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis could be just as impactful at the next level.
Davis led the Western Michigan Broncos from obscurity this season, as they early finished the regular season undefeated. While the season ended in disappointment, there was no question that Davis established himself as a true first round talent. If Davis is still available at No. 18, the Titans need to scoop him up, as he has the ability to be a true playmaker in the NFL.
Nov 12, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) carries the ball as Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) defends during the first half at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers also took a huge step forward in 2016, as like the Tennessee Titans, they rode their second-year quarterback to a potential playoff spot. Both the Titans and Bucs fell a bit short of their ultimate goal, but one thing is clear, they have set the groundwork to be a perennial playoff contender for years to come. The Bucs have some serious question marks on offense, as running back Doug Martin may not return next season, but it is the defense that needs an immediate upgrade at a certain position.
That position is safety, where the tandem of Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald just are not consistent enough. The Bucs play in a very pass-happy division, so bringing in some reinforcements back there is imperative. Jabrill Peppers of Michigan is one of the more versatile players in this draft, and he would be a nice fit for the Bucs in 2017.
Peppers can do it all, as he has shown the ability to make an impact on both sides of the ball. He played all over the field for the Wolverines, but will make the permanent switch to safety at the next level. The Bucs need a player who is going to be a playmaker in their secondary, and Peppers has the ability to turn a game on its head on every play.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) scores a touchdown against the Clemson Tigers in the third quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
For the Denver Broncos, the 2016 NFL season was quite a disappointment. Coming off a Super Bowl win the year before, the Broncos were hoping to ride their defense to a potential repeat. However, they came into the year with an unknown at quarterback, as second-year man Trevor Siemian beat out rookie Paxton Lynch and veteran Mark Sanchez in the offseason. In the end, the defense could only do so much, as a lack of running game proved to be the death nail for the Broncos.
Heading into the 2017 season, the Broncos will have a new head coach, as Gary Kubiak has to retire for health reasons. No matter who is under center this season, the need for a quality tight end has to be at the top of the team’s offseason wish list. O.J. Howard of Alabama is a game-changer at the position, and many believe he is the best tight end in this draft.
Due to the fact that the Crimson Tide like to run first, Howard’s skills were not often utilized during his time on campus. However, he proved his worth in big games, earning MVP of the Tides’ National Championship Game two years ago. He is going to be a terrific pro, and whether or not it is Lynch or Siemian under center, either quarterback is going to benefit from having an option like him in the passing game.
October 1, 2016; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Takkarist McKinley (98) brings down Arizona Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate (14) during the second half at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Out of nowhere, the Detroit Lions made it to the NFL Playoffs this past season, despite the fact they lost their best playmaker to retirement the year before. Playing without Calvin Johnson at wide receiver proved to be no problem for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had one of the best seasons of his career. While the Lions look to be pretty stacked on offense heading into the 2017 season, the team does need help on the defensive side of the ball, and that is where they should look to pick from in April.
The problems with the Lions defense were on full display the last two games of the season, as they were shredded by the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. The team needs to add some depth to their defensive line, and Takkarist McKinley from UCLA is one of the more exciting edge players in this draft. The Lions do have some quality talent up front, so if they can add McKinley, it should give them a chance against the likes of Aaron Rodgers moving forward.
Not only can McKinley get the edge, but he is also quite the playmaker in the run game. During his time with the Bruins, McKinley has proven to be a menace in the Pac-12, and his skill set actually equates better at the pro level. He can be used in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, so not matter where he goes in April, he should make an immediate impact during his rookie season.
Dec 28, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku (86) dives for the end zone to score a touchdown against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second half at Camping World Stadium. The Miami Hurricanes defeat the West Virginia Mountaineers 31-14. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
The Miami Dolphins were one of the surprise teams in the NFL this past season, as they went on an incredible winning streak during the second half of the season. The run led to them making the playoffs, where they were quickly beaten by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Heading into the 2017 season, questions still exist about quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s knee, but all signs point to him being ready to go for training camp.
In the backfield, Jay Ajayi established himself as one of the better backs in the league. Add to the fact that Jarvis Landry put together a Pro Bowl season, and it is clear to see why the Dolphins were so successful in head coach Adam Gase’s first season at the helm. The Fins need to add a quality tight end in the NFL Draft, and they may not have to look far to find him.
David Njoku of the University of Miami is an absolute stud at the tight end spot, and he should definitely hear his name called in the first round this April. He has incredible hands for someone who plays his position, and once the ball is in his hands, he can make people miss. He is going to be a terrific pro, and will give Tannehill the kind of security blanket he is currently lacking in the passing game.
Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) in action against the Clemson Tigers in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Giants had one of the worst defenses in football back in 2015, and it was clear the team needed wholesale changes all over the roster. The organization went out and got some great talent for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and he was able to turn around the units fortunes in one season. Heading into 2017, the defense can be seen as a strength, but there is still reason to draft on that side of the ball come April.
Tim Williams of the Alabama Crimson Tide is an exciting prospect, who has the kind of motor that NFL coaches dream about. He is as solid a tackler as there is in college football, and his ability to play in coverage really sets him apart from other linebackers in this draft. He is going to be a difference maker at the next level, and the Giants made need another elite pass rusher as they try to make it back to the playoffs.
Jason Pierre-Paul is reportedly requesting Olivier Vernon money, so the Giants will likely not be able to retain him. That would leave them with a big hole in their pass rush, which Williams could definitely help fill from an outside linebacker position. If JPP does leave, the Giants will need help on the defensive line, but Williams should be able to keep the defensive unit elite even as a rookie.
Oct 22, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Sidney Jones (26) in action against the Oregon State Beavers during the first quarter at Husky Stadium. Washington won 41-17. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
If there was a worse way to end a season, I have never seen one in my 30-plus years of watching football. The Oakland Raiders looked like a Super Bowl contender during the first 16 weeks of the NFL season, only to see their dreams dashed in the fourth quarter during their Week 16 win against the Indianapolis Colts. Star quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg with the team up by three scores, and eventually the Raiders would lose their grip on the division title a week later.
The loss in Week 17 would make them enter the playoffs as a Wild Card, and force them to hit the road for their first playoff game since 2002. The Houston Texans were able to easily defeat a Raiders team led by Connor Cook, who was making his first NFL start. Carr should be ready to go for training camp, but one big question is still lingering over the franchise as they head to 2017.
The defensive secondary has been a cause for concern for years, and despite the fact the team finished at 12-4, it was still an issue in 2016. The Raiders need to add a quality cornerback, and Sidney Jones of Washington is a terrific playmaker on the outside. He would team with Sean Smith to give the Raiders a solid tandem at corner, while enabling David Amerson to play in Nickel situations.
Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; 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
The Houston Texans made it to the playoffs in 2016, as they finished the regular season atop the AFC South. The real issue with this franchise is that they spent way too much money on Brock Osweiler, who absolutely flopped in the first season of his $72 million dollar contract. They may never make it further than the first round with him under center, which is a shame considering how elite their defense is.
As the team heads to the 2017 NFL Draft, they should look to bolster their offensive line. While Osweiler is definitely not the answer at quarterback, having a solid offense line should enable however is under center to get the ball to the team’s playmakers. Cam Robinson from Alabama is one of the best offensive line prospects in this draft, and would instantly give the Texans a solid offensive tackle for next season.
Houston has some incredible players on their offense, as Lamar Miller is one of the better backs in the AFC. DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller are solid options on the outside, and even with Osweiler at quarterback, the Texans will win a bunch of games next season. Robinson can play on both sides of the line, and if their defense stays intact, the Texans have to be considered the favorite in the AFC South once again in 2017.
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) points to the sidelines during the first half of a game against the Michigan Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
DT, Michigan State
Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks proved once again that they are one of the best teams in the NFC, even if their season ended with an embarrassing loss at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. Wilson did everything he could to get his team back to their third Super Bowl in the four years, but eventually the losses on defense proved to be too much. Earl Thomas is expected back next season, and Richard Sherman should be back to 100 percent, as it was announced he was playing with a bad MCL for most of the season.
One area of need for Seattle moving forward has to be their defensive line, and the team needs to bring in another player who can make an impact up front. Michael Bennett is one of the best defensive players in the league, but he needs help, and Malik McDowell of Michigan State would be able to fill a few roles for the team. McDowell can play in the middle, and on the edge, and would be a welcome addition to the Legion of Boom.
Seattle is going to be good for a long time, as head coach Pete Carroll has built a solid roster from top to bottom. However, they showed serious weakness without Thomas in the lineup, so adding to the secondary depth will be a priority in 2017 as well. Still, this team is built to be in the playoffs for the next few years at least, and McDowell could definitely do his part in helping the Seahawks make it back to the Super Bowl.
Oct 24, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes (5) looks to pass the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners during the fourth quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Patrick Mahomes II
QB, Texas Tech
The Kansas City Chiefs showed in 2016 that they have one of the more well-rounded rosters in all of football, as they installed a next man up mentality all season long. Despite the fact that they lost their franchise running back for nearly the entire season, the Chiefs were able to win the AFC West, clinching a spot in the Divisional Round against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Chiefs would take a bad loss at home against the Steelers, they made it clear that this roster is built to make a run for the foreseeable future.
One area of need for Chiefs fans has to be at quarterback, where Alex Smith’s time with the team may be coming to an end. Smith has been a solid quarterback throughout his career, but he lacks the ability to win big games. It is time for the organization to start looking for his replacement, and Patrick Mahomes II of Texas Tech could be the answer.
Mahomes has an incredible arm, which has been rated as the best in this draft. His issue has been his footwork, which he is going to have to work on if he wants to succeed at the next level. Smith could easily come back for another run in 2017, and if the Chiefs pick Mahomes to be a project, he would have a consummate pro to learn behind before he is ready to take the wheel in 2018.
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton (33) rushes the passer against the Michigan State Spartans during the second half at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
During the 2016 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys made Ezekiel Elliott the No. 4 overall pick in round one. While many believed Elliott would be good, no one could have predicted he would lead the entire league in rushing. In round 4, the team selected Dak Prescott from Mississippi State, and all he did was take over for an injured Tony Romo in the preseason and earn a Pro Bowl spot as the team’s quarterback.
While the 2017 NFL Draft will likely not yield that kind of bounty, there is plenty of talent to be had in the first round. Taco Charlton seems like a perfect fit for the Cowboys, as he would give them an incredible presence up front. Charlton has the athletic ability to chase down running backs all over the field, while being explosive enough to get the edge and get to the quarterback.
Dallas suffered a terrible end to the season, losing at home in the Divisional Round against the Green Bay Packers. They do have a few holes in roster, and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was able to sit back and pick them apart in the playoffs. Charlton would instantly upgrade the Cowboys front, and with the rest of the young talent on the roster, they should be very good for a long time.
Oct 15, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) intercepted the ball and ran it back for a touchdown against the Missouri Tigers eduring the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sitting at 4-6, the Green Bay Packers knew they would have to run the table if they wanted to make it to the playoffs. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers let Packer Nation know that would be the case, and he went out and did just that, winning the NFC North on the final day of the regular season. After two great wins in the Wild Card and Divisional Round, the Packers headed to Atlanta to take on the Falcons for a spot in Super Bowl LI.
While they would eventually lose to the Falcons, there was no denying that this was an incredible season. There was also no denying that they need help in the secondary, and that is where they should target in the 2017 NFL Draft. There is a plethora of good cornerbacks in this draft, with Quincy Wilson of Florida being a first round talent.
Wilson has teamed with Teez Tabor to give the Gators the best cornerback tandem in the SEC, and both will likely hear their name called in the first round in April. Wilson has incredible skills at the position, as he has the ability to shut down one half of the field. He is going to be a good one at the cornerback position at the next level, and it will be interesting to see if he or Tabor are the better pro.
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
While their loss in the AFC Championship Game was pretty embarrassing, the Pittsburgh Steelers have to be happy with their 2016 NFL season. They were able to shake off a handful of injuries, and suspensions, and eventually brought home another AFC North title. While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has not committed to coming back in 2017, he is likely going to do so, giving the Steelers a dominant offensive unit once again.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Steelers are getting older, and they need to inject some young talent into their unit. Zach Cunningham of Vanderbilt is a nice looking prospect, who has the size and strength to play any of the linebacker positions. He is one of the best inside linebackers in this draft, and that is exactly a position the team needs to upgrade heading into the 2017 season.
Some experts have Cunningham going earlier in the first round, so he may very well be gone by the time the Steelers pick this late in round one. However, if he is available, he would give the Steelers their next dominating middle linebacker in their storied history. Mike Tomlin loves players like Cunningham, and the Steelers faithful will love him too once they see the way he attacks a game on the field.
Nov 19, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Teez Tabor (31) celebrates the win over the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. The Gators defeat the Tigers 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
There are only two teams standing as we write this mock draft, and one happens to be the Atlanta Falcons. During the 2016 NFL season, the Falcons have been breathtaking on offense, as Matt Ryan has put together an MVP-caliber season under center. Things will be a lot different next year, as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan heads to San Francisco to take over at the team’s head coach, so the time is now for Ryan to capture his first ring.
While nobody in the organization is looking past Sunday, their scouts most definitely are getting ready for the NFL Draft in April. Once the clock strikes zero on Super Sunday, the scouts will be going crazy getting their lists together for the draft. One area of need has to be at cornerback, where a certain Florida Gator would fit perfectly in the red and black.
Teez Tabor is an incredible athlete at the cornerback position for the Gators, and has helped the team make it to the SEC Finals despite having little talent on the offensive side of the ball. He is going to be a playmaker at the next level, and he has the innate ability to make the correct jump on the ball. Tabor also has very good hands for defensive back, and the Falcons could certainly use the help in a secondary that has shown itself to be beatable on occasion this season.
Nov 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive back Adoree Jackson (2) scores on a 52-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter during a NCAA football game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Despite the fact that star quarterback Tom Brady had to miss the first four games of the season due to suspension, the New England Patriots are once again representing the AFC in the Super Bowl this Sunday. Brady and his Pats teammates rode a 14-2 regular season record to home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs, and they quickly dispatched of the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers. With one win standing between Brady and being the winningest quarterback in Super Bowl history, fans are certainly in for a good one on Sunday.
While the Patriots are pretty loaded across their roster, one area they could use some depth is in the defensive secondary. While they have their share of Pro Bowl players back there, bringing in some talent at cornerback looks to be a priority in April. Adoree’ Jackson of USC is one of the more electric players in this draft, and he would be a nice fit with Bill Belichick in New England.
Not only is Jackson a premier cornerback, but he does so much more, which is the kind of player Belichick likes. He can return kicks, where he is the all-time leading return man in USC history, and he also can play some wideout. There is no doubt that if he falls to New England at No. 32, Belichick would love to get his hands on a player who can impact a game in so many different ways.