With Super Bowl LI in the rear-view mirror, we take a look ahead to April and the 2017 NFL Draft. Here is our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
The NFL Draft is one of the more exciting days for every franchise, as they look to build up their team for the foreseeable future. The Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans will both pick twice in the first round this April, though there could be plenty of movement via trades before draft day. As the NFL season comes to a close, we take a look ahead, with our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
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DE, Texas A&M
There is no where to go but up for the Cleveland Browns, who have been absolutely terrible since the NFL brought football back to the area. Last season, the Browns flirted with a winless season, which must have weighed very heavy on first year head coach Hue Jackson. The organization has turned the page from last season, and with two first round picks in this draft, they should be able to start building the foundation for the future.
While the quarterback position is obviously an area of weakness, the Browns will likely shy away from selecting one with the first overall pick next April. There is no true franchise quarterback in this draft, and while guys like Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson may eventually be Pro Bowl-caliber players, their development may take a bit. The Browns want to win now, and bolstering their defense has to be the priority at No. 1.
Myles Garrett of Texas A&M is the favorite to be selected first overall, as he grades out as the best player in this draft. He is a physical freak of nature, possessing great speed to go along with being incredibly strong. He would be a solid pick at first overall, and would give the Browns three really good players on their defense next season with Joe Haden and Jamie Collins already on the roster.
Sep 24, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) passes the ball during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
The odds are that Colin Kaepernick is going to opt out of his contract, leaving the San Francisco 49ers with a hole at quarterback. Even with Kaepernick on the roster, the quarterback position is a weakness, so that is the area the team will likely draft in April. The organization has a new head coach and general manager, who will be looking to bring in their own long-term answer at the position.
This past season, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan did a wonderful job with Matt Ryan, which in turn led to Ryan winning his first NFL MVP Award. Shanahan can definitely coach quarterbacks, and he will be expected to do so if the team goes with a first-year starter next season. Both general manager John Lynch and Shanahan have six-year deals, so it would be wise for them to get somebody they can develop into a franchise player.
Mitch Trubisky started only one season for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, but he did enough in that one season to warrant his spot in the first round. He has all the abilities to be a big-time player at the next level, and with the 49ers, he would be given the opportunities to make mistakes early on. Nobody expects this team to be good for at least two years, and by that time, Trubisky should have rounded himself into a legitimate NFL quarterback.
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)
Head coach John Fox suffered through a rough season in 2016, as the Chicago Bears just could not get it going consistently throughout. With plenty of questions up and down their roster heading into 2017, especially at quarterback, the Bears need to make sure they make some solid moves to improve their roster. While Jay Cutler is obviously not the answer at quarterback anymore for the Bears, we do not expect them to select a new one in April, but instead will turn to the defensive side of the ball.
Jonathan Allen of Alabama is a terrific talent, and one who could be an instant playmaker at the next level. He has the ability to play all over the defensive line, and Fox would like nothing more than to have a player of his caliber anchoring the Bears defensive front. Allen has been rumored to be the possible first overall selection, but we believe he will be available to Chicago when they pick at No. 3.
The Bears have some nice young talent on the offensive side of the ball, and the word is that Alshon Jeffrey is likely to sign a long-term deal with the team. Add to the fact that Jordan Howard was a revelation at running back during his rookie season, and Chicago has some pieces in place to be very good offensively in 2017. They do need a quarterback, but there are some veterans available in free agency, and there could also be a supposed-first round guy early in the second round when the Bears pick again.
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 Jacksonville Jaguars did all they could last off-season to ensure that they would take the next step in 2016. They brought in some veteran talent on defense, and everyone in the organization expected quarterback Blake Bortles to take the next step in his development. Well, nothing they had planned worked out, and the Jaguars were once again in the cellar of the AFC South when the season came to a close.
There is no certainty that Bortles will ever reach his potential, as he looks like a guy who racks up most of his statistics during garbage time. The Jags do have two great young talented wide receivers in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, and T.J. Yeldon is a nice, young running back. Jacksonville will only go as far as Bortles takes them next season, but he may have a shorter leash with a new head coach in town.
In the draft, the Jaguars should look to add some talent to the defense, and Jamal Adams of LSU is a fantastic safety. Adams has all the tools necessary to be a dominant player at the next level, and is someone who can come in and start right away. The Jaguars play in a division that likes to throw the ball, so adding a quality player in the defensive secondary has to be a priority when they send their card in for the fourth overall pick this April.
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
Thanks to their trade with the Los Angeles Rams prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, the Tennessee Titans will draft fifth overall despite the fact that they nearly made the playoffs this past season. Quarterback Marcus Mariota has established himself as one of the best young players at his position, and the tandem of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry at running back was tough to stop this season. They are one or two players away from being a playoff team in 2017, and having two first round draft picks will certainly help.
The Ohio State Buckeyes have been one of the best teams in college football over the past few seasons, and their defense is a big reason why. Safety Malik Hooker has been a standout player for the Buckeyes in the secondary, and his presence in the defensive backfield has made it tough to pass against Ohio State. He is going to be a terrific pro, as his ability to make plays happen is rivaled by few in this draft.
Tennessee is likely to draft an offensive player later in round one, so securing an elite defensive talent is a priority this early. They have the advantage of being able to swing a deal as well, as they are not as desperate as some teams are to get a quarterback. This could be the draft that turns them into a perennial playoff team, so getting it right is of the utmost importance this April.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) throws the ball 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 New York Jets came into the 2016 NFL season as a favprote to make the playoffs after barely missing out on the postseason the year before. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had a standout year for the team, shattering multiple team records. While he wanted to be inked to a long-term deal, the team only gave him a one-year contract, and boy they must be happy they did. Fitz had an awful season, and it appears his turn as the franchise quarterback in New York is over.
During the 2016 NFL Draft, the Jets wasted a second-round pick on Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg. While Hackenberg is not a terrible player, selecting him in the second round was an absolute mistake. He barley saw any time in practice, let alone in games, and it is clear that he is multiple years away from being able to help the team. The Jets need to find their future at the position, and Deshaun Watson from Clemson may be the answer.
Watson most recently led the Clemson Tigers to an upset win over the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship game, proving once again that he can move the ball against anybody. He has all the tools to be a solid player at the next level, and his greatest attribute may be the fact that he shows up big in big time situations. The Jets need someone who is going to come in and bring a winning attitude, and Watson is definitely that guy.
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 off-season, and the 2017 will be their first outside of San Diego in over 55 years. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been the face of the franchise since taking over for Drew Brees as the team’s starting quarterback, and played extremely well in a rough situation this past season. He should have his full compliment of players back next season, but adding a playmaker to the receiving corps has to be a priority.
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
One of the bigger dissapointments of the 2016 NFL season was the Carolina Panthers, who failed to make the playoffs after representing the NFC in the Super Bowl the year before. Quarterback Cam Newton was running for his life most of the season, and despite the fact that the team got Kelvin Benjamin back, they were just not able to play consistent football throughout. Prior to the season, the Panthers let Josh Norman go in free agency, and his departure proved to be costly on the defensive side of the ball.
Jonathan Stewart is still a very good running back, but he is getting up there in age. The Panthers should look to add to their running back depth in the draft, and Leonard Fournette of LSU is a good looking prospect. He has the ability to run over, or around the defense, and his breakaway speed would make him an impact player at the next level.
Carolina is still loaded with talent, and with a couple of moves, they could find themselves back in the playoffs next season. Newton is one of the best quarterback in football, and bringing a player like Fournette would give the team a bit of a safety valve against the blitz. Fournette is a top-10 talent, and if he is available at No. 8, the Panthers need to pounce on him.
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
One incredible fact about the Cincinnati Bengals is the fact that they have never won a playoff game with Marvin Lewis as their head coach. Considering he has been one of the more consistent coaches in football during his tenure with the team, that stat has to be alarming for Bengals fans. The truth is, the Bengals always have enough talent to win in the regular season, but they lack the kind of leadership needed to make the next step.
Quarterback Andy Dalton made the Pro Bowl due to an injury to Derek Carr, and the fact that Tom Brady is playing in the Super Bowl, though he is still a legitimate franchise quarterback. While the Bengals do need help in many areas, they need to get better at the linebacker position. Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster in the best linebacker in this draft, and he would certainly fit in their defensive scheme if the Bengals decide to nab him at nine.
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 have a huge decision to make about Tyrod Taylor this offseason, as he is scheduled to make a ton of money if they decide to retain him. Despite the fact that his status with the team is up in the air, the fact of the matter is that he played very good football this past season, and there are not too many good quarterbacks left in the league. The Bills need to make sure they hang on to Taylor, and if they do, bring in a big offensive lineman via the draft.
Ryan Ramczyk of Wisconsin is the kind of offensive line prospect that scouts drool over, and the Bills would certainly be lucky to have him. He is the only player in this draft who should stay at left tackle at the next level, and the Bills need all the help they can get up front. LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins are explosive offensive weapons, but if Taylor is running for his life, it is not going to do the team much good.
Buffalo has a new coach this season, as the team bid farewell to Rex Ryan before the end of the regular season. Sean McDermott will be getting his first shot to run a team, so he will probably want to go the safe route and pick up a legitimate offensive lineman. He has a nice canvas to work with in Buffalo, and should be able to get the Bills back to their winning ways before long.
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
The career of Drew Brees has been incredible, as he slowly makes his march towards Canton, Ohio and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, Brees has to be increasingly annoyed with his team’s play on the field, as they have not gotten to .500 in the last three seasons. He still has the ability to put up points in bunches, but it does not really matter when his team is consistently giving up 30-plus points.
One area of need for the Saints is in their defensive secondary, which could be a good thing as they head to the 2017 NFL Draft. This draft is loaded with talent at cornerback, which is a position of need for the Saints. Teez Tabor of the Florida Gators is an incredible talent at the cornerback position, and his skill set would be perfect for the Saints if they were to take him at No. 11.
Tabor has incredible hands for a defensive back, and he has the ability to take away one side of the field. He teamed with Quincy Wilson to form the best cornerback duo in the SEC this past season, and adding him to a weak Saints secondary would instantly upgrade their unit. The Saints play against people like Matt Ryan and Cam Newton twice a year, so bringing in some talent in the defensive backfield has to be a priority.
January 12, 2015: Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore (#2) during the Ohio State Buckeyes game versus the Oregon Ducks in the College Football Playoff National Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Ohio State won the game 42-20. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
CB, Ohio State
While the Cleveland Browns pick No. 1 overall, they also pick at No. 12, thanks to the trade they made with the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the 2016 NFL Draft. That pick became Carson Wentz, who went on to start 16 games as a rookie for the Eagles in what should be considered a solid year for the rookie. The Browns are still looking for their answer at the quarterback position, though it is possible they stick to defense with both of their first round picks in April.
In order to bolster their defensive secondary, they do not have to look far, as the Ohio State Buckeyes have produced an incredible cornerback in Marshon Lattimore. Lattimore looks like a linebacker from his cornerback position, though he has the speed to deal with whoever is placed across from him. He has the kind of talent that is certain to make him a first round pick, and has already been playing in Ohio for quite some time now.
Bringing in a guy like Lattimore would give the Browns two very good cornerbacks for next season. Joe Haden is one of the better cornerbacks in the league, though he struggles sometimes because he does not have much help in the secondary. Lattimore is a very good prospect, and being that he played at Ohio State, he would certainly be a fan favorite for the Browns next season.
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
Coming off a season that saw them make it to the NFC Championship Game, most believed that the Arizona Cardinals would be back in the playoffs this season. However, inconsistent play doomed this team from the start, and they would finish the 2016 NFL regular season on the outside looking in. Heading into next season, there are plenty of question marks on this roster, and one is a but bigger than the others.
While star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has said he is coming back for another year, he may not have his signal-caller throwing it to him. Carson Palmer has reportedly moved out of the state of Arizona, and has pulled his children out of school. That does not bode well for Cardinals fans, who know they have a roster in place that could make it back to the NFC Championship Game next season.
As the team looks towards the draft, they may be able to find their next quarterback there. While some believe that Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer could go early in round one, we believe he should be available to the Cardinals at No. 13. Kizer has all the physical gifts to play at the next level, and if the team decides he is their man heading into the offseason, he just may have enough time to be ready to start for the team in the opener if Palmer does not come back.
Dec 30, 2016; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball in the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles-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.
December 2, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) runs against Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Chidobe Awuzie (4) during the third quarter in the Pac-12 championship at Levi’s Stadium. The Huskies defeated the Buffaloes 41-10. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Carson Wentz was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, and many expected he would backup Sam Bradford during his first season with the team. However, after Teddy Bridgewater blew out his knee during the preseason, the Minnesota Vikings swung a trade for Bradford, clearing the way for Wentz to be named the team’s starter. Wentz had his ups and downs during his rookie season, but it is clear that he was a correct selection at No. 2.
While the Eagles were not supposed to have a first round pick in April, the trade with the Vikings for Bradford gave them their first rounder, and the team should select a wide receiver with the pick. The Eagles are never going to see Wentz reach his true potential without a true WR1, so bringing in a player like Washington’s John Ross makes perfect sense. Ross is an elite wide receiver prospect, and bringing him in would enable Jordan Matthews to flourish as the team’s second wideout.
Philadelphia needs to have a good offseason if they hope to stay alive in the NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants both made the playoffs in 2016, and the Washington Redskins won the division a year ago. The Eagles fans are some of the best in football, though it won’t be long before they are calling for Wentz’s head if he cannot bring the team a few more wins.
Oct 8, 2016; College Station, TX, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) in action during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. The Aggies defeat the Volunteers 45-38 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Ravens have made their mark on the NFL by having an incredible defense. In years past, the Ravens have churned out a bunch of future Hall of Fame players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs. However, only Suggs remains an active player, and his window of being an elite star is closing fast. The Ravens need to bring in some youthful players on the defensive side of the ball, and they should use the NFL Draft to do just that.
Derek Barnett had a standout career as a member of the Tennessee Volunteers, where he set the school’s career sack record. That record was held by none other than Hall of Famer Reggie White, who had an incredible impact on the game of football during his time in the NFL. Barnett may never reach the kind of production White did at the next level, but he certainly has enough physical talent to give it a try.
Barnett is as explosive off the edge as any player in this draft, and the Ravens need someone who can fill that role within their defense. The AFC North is a division that is up for grabs nearly every year, and the Ravens have enough talent right now to make a run at it in 2017. Quarterback Joe Flacco is one of the best signal-callers in the AFC, so if they organization can bolster the team’s defense, they could be right back in the thick of things next season.
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
The Washington Redskins nearly made the playoffs for the second straight season in 2016, as they fell just a game short due to their loss in Week 17. Still, they have found their franchise quarterback in Kirk Cousins, who should be the team’s first order of business as they head into the 2017 NFL season. One year removed from an NFC East title, the Redskins are close to being a perennial playoff team, and the 2017 NFL Draft should enable them to bolster a major weakness on their roster.
While the team has no problem airing it out with Cousins and company on offense, they do have a tough time stopping the run on defense. They need to bring in someone who is going to plug up the middle of the line, especially considering they go up against Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys twice a year. Solomon Thomas of the Redskins is as good a defensive lineman as there is in this draft, and he would fit what they do in Washington perfectly.
Washington will need to continue to load up on talent, as the NFC East continues to get better every season. Two teams from the NFC East made the playoffs this past season, and the Philadelphia Eagles have some good young talent on their roster. Bringing in Thomas would help the team fill one of their biggest voids, while making the Skins a bit more feared on defense.
Dec 2, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis (84) runs the ball for a td in the first half against the Ohio Bobcats at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
WR, Western Michigan
Marcus Mariota had an incredible second season as the quarterback in Tennessee, as he nearly led his Titans to a playoff spot. While the season ended with him breaking his leg in Week 16 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, there is not doubt that this franchise is headed in the right direction. Mariota was able to do some incredible things this past season despite the fact that he was a bit weak at wide receiever, so the team should look to add to their depth there in April.
Corey Davis was a breakout star of the 2016 college football season, as he nearly led his Western Michigan Broncos to an undefeated season. While the season ended with a loss to Wisconsin in the BRoncos bowl game, Davis showed that he can produce against one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. He is going to be a great player at the next level, and the Titans need a true WR1 if Mariota is going to take the next step.
The AFC South is a very winnable division, and the Titans have the talent on both sides of the ball to make a serious run next season. Mariota is expected to be back healthy in time for the preseason, so it is very important they get him the kind of weapons he needs during the draft. The Titans are set at tight end and running back, so one more solid wideout will make them a very dangerous team on offense next season.
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 Buccanners made Jameis Winston the first overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, selecting the star quarterback out of Florida State University. Winston came into the league with plenty of question marks, as most scouts felt he was not mature enough to lead an NFL team. Well, Winston has silenced his critics since day one, and he currently has his Tampa Bay team a couple of players away from being a perennial playoff team.
While the Bucs made some big strides on offense this season, their defense was a bit of a problem for most of the year. They failed to stop teams in bunches during the 2016 regular season, and the offense was not able to match their opponents score for score. The Bucs need to make some improvements in their defensive backfield, and bringing in Jabrill Peppers would be a perfect pick.
Peppers is the most versatile player in college football, as he has the ability to impact a game in all three areas of play. Not only is he a good return man, he was also play some running back, and was the Michigan Wolverines best linebacker in 2016. He is making a permanent switch to safety at the NFL level, and the Buccaneers can certainly use someone who can come in and make that a strength in 2017.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) runs the ball while guarded by Clemson Tigers safety Jadar Johnson (18) during the fourth quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Broncos have a new head coach for next season, after Gary Kubiak had to retire due to health issues. The Broncos will head into next season with question marks all over roster, as there is no clear favorite to start at quarterback. While Trevor Siemian should get a shot to retain his role as the starter, the team did spend a first round pick on Paxton Lynch last year, which means new head coach Vance Joseph may decide to put him in as the team’s No. 1.
This is Joseph’s first year as a head coach, so expect there to be plenty of mistakes. However, the Broncos do come into next season with an elite defense, and if they can get anything going on the ground, they should be able to challenge in a very tough AFC West. Whether Siemian or Lynch are under center in Week 1, one thing is for sure, they need a quality tight end.
O.J. Howard is the best tight end in college football, and he is certain to be even better at the next level. Playing for the Alabama Crimson Tide, Howard did not get many opportunities to showcase his abilities, as the Tide likes to run the ball down the other team’s throat. Howard is an explosive playmaker, and if he can get in the right offense, he could have an elite impact in the NFL.
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
The Detroit Lions were a nice surprise this season, as they really came out of nowhere to become a playoff team. Heading into the 2016 season, the team was faced with the daunting task of playing without Calvin Johnson, their star wide receiver who is possibly ticketed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While many expected quarterback Matthew Stafford to take a step back, he actually played some of the best football of his career, nearly leading the Lions to the NFC North title.
Heading into 2017, the Lions do have a lot of work to do if they want to make it past the first round next season. They struggled to keep their running backs off the shelf, and in the playoffs, proved they need help on the defensive line. While they do have some talented players up front, the lack of a consistent pass rush really hurt them.
Takkarist McKinley of UCLA is a very good looking prospect, who seems to have the talent to be even better at the next level. He is a rare blend of size and speed, and could actually be used all over the field. The Lions need his athletic ability on the defensive side of the ball, and if he is available at No. 21, he would instantly make them a better team defensibly next season.
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
Just like the Detroit Lions, the Miami Dolphins came out of nowhere to make it to the playoffs this past season. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill played some of the best football of his career, leading the Dolphins to a Wild Card spot. In fact, Miami was one of the hottest teams in the league the last 12 weeks of the season, and who knows what they could have done if Tannehill did not hurt his knee late in the year.
Heading into next season, the Dolphins need to add some depth to their offensive line. Running back Jay Ajayi emerged as breakout star this past season, and Jarvis Landry appears to be one of the best young wide receivers in the AFC. The Dolphins need to continue to take steps forward, and as long as Tom Brady is playing in their division, they are likely going to need to win a Wild Card spot.
Cam Robinson from Alabama is a nice offensive line prospect, who has good feet for somebody his size. Robinson played left and right tackle during his time with the Tide, though many believe he is more suited for the right side of the line at the next level. Still, he is an elite talent in this draft class, and the Dolphins need to keep their good, young stars protected going forward.
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
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.
Jason Pierre-Paul may not return to the team, as he has said he is not going to sign another one-year deal. He proved during the 2016 season that he is once again an elite talent at defensive end, and he is going to want to get paid like one. The Giants already spent a ton of money on Olivier Vernon, so JPP’s tenure in New York will likely come to an end.
Taco Charlton is an exciting defnesive end prospect who could hear his name called by the Giants on draft night. Charlton has the size and speed to play on the inside, or outside of the defensive line, and some believe he could also play outside linebacker. He is exactly the kind of player the Giants need to bring in to make sure they do not take a step back defensively.
Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Marlon Humphrey (26) intercepts the ball from Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Josh Reynolds (11) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-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 was once again an area of weakness, despite the fact that the team brought in Sean Smith from Kansas City to help bolster their cornerback position. In April, the Raiders need to look for help at the cornerback spot, and Marlon Humphrey would be a great grab at this point in the draft. Humphrey is the son of a former NFL running back, and with his ballhawking ability, the Raiders could turn a weakness into a strength in 2017.
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
What an incredible year it was for the Houston Texans. Heading into the season, the Texans were expected to challenge for a playoff spot. However, when they lost NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt early in the season, most believed their season was over. All they ended up doing was being ranked as the top defense in the NFL, and they even were able to win a playoff game.
Anybody with a pulse knows that the Texans have a serious issue at the quarterback position. The organization spent a ton of money bringing in Brock Osweiler to be their franchise quarterback for at least the next four years, but that did not work out the way they would have liked. Osweiler was a complete bust, and the team will have to go into the offseason wondering if they need to bring in someone like Tony Romo to play quarterback next season.
While the defense is the obvious strength of this team, they do need a linebacker who can play in the middle and provide good coverage. Zach Cunningham of Vanderbilt is a very special talent, having incredible length from his linebacker position. He is going to be an excellent pro, and if the Texans decide to grab him at No. 25, he will be a great addition to an already great defense.
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
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.
In April, the Seahawks should look to bring in some reinforcements in the secondary, and Quincy Wilson of Florida would be a perfect fit. Wilson teamed with Teez Tabor to give the Gators an incredible duo at cornerback in the SEC, and he has played in some big games before. He may be the best cover cornerback in this draft, and he would team with Sherman to give the Seahawks arguably the best cornerback duo in the NFC.
Seattle is not going anywhere, as Wilson is one of the best quarterback in the league. The Legion of Boom is still very much alive, and the team has to look past their loss to the Packers this postseason. This is not an organization that is going to take a step backward, and with how pass-heavy the NFC is becoming, they need to make sure they always have the advantage against the pass.
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 played some tough football all season long, as they and the Oakland Raiders went back and forth as the leaders in the AFC West. The Raiders ended up losing to the Denver Broncos in Week 17 to give the Chiefs the division, and rightfully so. The Chiefs beat the Raiders both times they played in 2016, as their defense proved to be too much for the high-powered Oakland offense.
Though they did win a bunch of games, and have won a lot with Alex Smith as their quarterback, the Chiefs need to make a decision about the future of that position. Smith has not shown the ability to win the big game during his time in the NFL, and Chiefs fans are tired of settling for being just really good. The AFC is a very tough conference to navigate, but you have to think the Chiefs have the talent to make it to the Super Bowl if they can get someone under center who can win big games.
While Patrick Mahomes II is not on everybody’s first round board, we like him here at No. 27. When it comes to arm strength, he has the talent to make every throw, and has an incredible football I.Q. Mahomes needs to work on his footwork if he is going to be successful at the next level, but we believe has the talent to be a Pro Bowl quarterback down the road.
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
The Dallas Cowboys were one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season, as it looked like their season was over when their star quarterback got hurt in the preseason. Tony Romo broke his back against the Seattle Seahawks, and while he was expected back late in the year, there was no way a rookie quarterback would able to navigate a very tough schedule. Well, Dak Prescott did just that, leading the Cowboys to the best record in the NFC over the 16 game regular season.
While the Cowboys lost to the Green Bay Packers in the Division Round, it is clear their work in the 2016 NFL Draft paved the way for them to be very good for a long time. The selection of Ezekiel Elliott in the first round was golden, as he led the league in rushing yards. The team took Prescott in round four, and he wound up being the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Not bad for one draft.
In 2017, the team should look to add depth to their defensive line, and Malik McDowell of Michigan State is a good looking prospect. McDowell has the size and speed to play all over the defensive line, and the Cowboys need players who can get after the quarterback. Rodgers was just given too much time during their playoff matchup, and it eventually led to another early exit in the playoffs for America’s Team.
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
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 51.
The Packers would win up getting blown out by the Falcons, but in the process, two things were made clear. The first was that Aaron Rodgers is still one of the best quarterback in the NFL, and the second was that they need some serious help in their secondary. The Packers need to bring in some good talent in the defensive backfield before next season, and they are lucky that this draft is full of talent back there.
Adoree’ Jackson might be the most exciting player in this draft, as he has the ability to impact games in so many ways. Jackson is USC’s all-time leading return man, and as a cornerback, he has the physical gifts need to shut down one side of the field at the next level. The Packers need playmakers in their secondary, and during his career as a Trojan, Jackson proved to be just that.
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 Pittsburgh Steelers once again proved to be an elite team in the AFC, making it all the way to the AFC Championship Game. In fact, had Le’Veon Bell not gotten hurt early in the team’s thrashing at the hands of the New England Patriots, they may have been able to give the Pats a run for their money. Heading into next season, the Steelers need to lock up Bell to a long-term deal, and both sides have said that an agreement is a priority.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers are set, especially is Ben Roethlisberger does not decide to retire. Big Ben has said that his time may be coming to a close, which would be a horrible blow to the Steelers. While he is getting up there in age, there is no way he does not come back for another run, so the priority is building up their defense during the draft.
The Steelers need help at linebacker, and Tim William of Alabama is an incredible prospect. While he did have some off-the-field issues during his time at Alabama, he appears to have put all of that in the past, and should be a terrific pro. He has the ability to play all over the field, and his passion for the game is rivaled by very few in this draft class. He would be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.
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 Atlanta Falcons had an incredible 2016 NFL regular season, as their offense performed at a historic level. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw for nearly 5,000 yards, leading the Falcons to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
Ryan not only led his team to the Super Bowl, but he also won his first NFL MVP Award, edging out New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Ryan had the luxury of throwing to arguably the best wide receiver in football in Julio Jones, while guys like Mohamed Sanu Sr. and Taylor Gabriel also had great seasons. The Falcons also have two very good running backs, so bringing in a quality pass-catching tight end would make this team even more dangerous.
David Njoku of Miami is an incredible talent, and he is one of two elite tight ends in this draft. While we expect O.J. Howard to be the first tight end selected, Njoku has the kind of athletic ability that could put him in the top-20. If he is available this late in round one, he would give the Falcons another incredible playmaker for Ryan to throw to next season.
Nov 19, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Florida Gators defensive lineman Caleb Brantley (57) celebrates after a stop during the second half against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. The Gators defeat the Tigers 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Patriots won their fifth Super Bowl title with Tom Brady as their starting quarterback on Sunday. While his run has been extremely impressive, the fact that he has been able to do it without many offensive stars around him has been even more incredible. The Patriots seem to be able to plug in receivers and running backs every year and continue to win, which is very hard to do in the current NFL.
In April, the Patriots should look to continue to add players to their defense, and Florida star defensive tackle could be available at No. 32. Brantley is a fantastic defensive line prospect, who has shown the ability to get after the quarterback during his time on campus. He would be a great addition to a Patriots defense that really stepped up during their Super Bowl run in 2016.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is a defensive guru, and he could do so much with a talent like Brantley. Brantley has the size and strength to play all over the defensive line, and the Pats are known for putting players all over the field to gain an advantage. This Patriots team should be back in the playoffs once again next season, and Brantley could play a huge role if they take him with their first round pick in April.