Oct 22, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) returns a fumble for a touchdown against the Texas A&M Aggies during the third quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
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The 2017 NFL Draft doesn’t look very good when it comes to the quarterback position. But there are some studs coming up on the defensive side that you can build your team around.
The 2017 NFL Draft as a new No. 1 overall pick.
Many an NFL franchise has turned around and-or become a dynasty through drafting and interior D-lineman. In the ’70s, the Pittsburgh Steelers went from laughing-stock to dynasty with “Mean” Joe Green. Warren Sapp turned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers around in the early 2000s.
Richard Seymour was the big building block for the New England Patriots Dynasty in the early 2000s. Ndamukong Suh changed the perception of the Detroit Lions before he left. And there are plenty of other interior D-linemen with huge impacts on teams.
Interior D-linemen are important to stuffing the run and getting after the quarterback. So when you have an interior D-lineman that can do both, you have a chance to win some games. And if that player is a special player, you can build a winner around him quick.
Of course, the quarterback is the most important position in team sports and edge-rushers have the sexy stats. But interior D-lineman are a big building block and there is a special one in this draft. Meanwhile, the 2017 quarterback class isn’t worth a No. 1 overall.
So turn the page to see why I made a change at the top and where the prospects go from there.
Nov 14, 2015; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Dak Prescott (15) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (93) during the third quarter at Davis Wade Stadium. Alabama won 31-6. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Right now Alabama 3-4 DE Jonathan Allen looks like one of those franchise-changing D-lineman. He is completely wrecking the interior of opposing offensive lines ever week. And if your interior is jacked, you’re not going to do much on offense.
That’s a big part of why Alabama is the No. 1 college football team in the nation right now. Allen can line up anywhere on the D-line so you can say he’s more than just an interior D-lineman. He’s powerful enough to play nose tackle and quick enough to play 4-3 end.
But his power and quickness will most likely used at 3-4 end then inside at tackle on passing downs. The Cleveland Browns run that type of system and can use a dominant player like Allen. So they don’t let Allen get past them right here at No. 1 overall.
He will go right in and have a huge, immediate impact and have the Dog Pound barking. The Browns just traded with the New England Patriots for edge-rusher Jamie Collins and it’s already paying dividends. So in 2018, the defense is going to carry the Browns up the NFL standings.
Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils quarterback Mike Bercovici (2) is sacked by Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Myles Garrett (15) during the first quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
OLB, Texas A&M
At 6’5″, 262 pounds with long arms and burst off the edge, Myles Garrett is the perfect edge-rusher specimen. He also comes equipped with a long-running motor, technique and the ability to convert speed to power. And when you add that inside spin move to his game, there’s nothing he can’t do.
Garrett could have been a Top-10 pick last year but wasn’t eligible to come out in the 2016 NFL Draft. He has improved since then and looks ready to go to the NFL and have an immediate impact. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers defense has lost a lot of players off that great 2012 defense.
Young DEs Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner are two 1st-round picks that will be studs soon. And if Navorro Bowman can stay healthy, the ILB position will be solidified and they have an improved secondary. Garrett is the perfect prospect to replace Aldon Smith, as losing him has affected the defense.
It looks like the offense will be okay with QB Colin Kaepernick getting back into the swing of things. The defense just needs a shot in the arm and Garrett is the guy that can give it to them right away. However, Kelly may want to help that defense by slowing down the tempo so they can rest.
Nov 5, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball during the second half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter Finley Stadium. Florida State won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
RB, Florida State
The Jacksonville Jaguars are the most disappointing team in the NFL so far this season. With all of the talent they have acquired recently, this was supposed to be the year they turned it around. But there they are, still in the cellar of the AFC South with a 2-6 record.
What we have to wonder about now is if head coach Gus Bradley will survive the offseason. In this mock draft, he does because he has dramatically improved the Jaguars defense this year. But QB Blake Bortles is holding the team back right now, throwing way too many INTs
Perhaps he is not yet the guy that can put the offense on his back, go out there and win games. He has the outside weapons at WR and TE to do so but he’s not quite that guy yet. So getting a star running back to help him out would go a long way for him and the Jaguars.
I have mocked Leonard Fournette here every time until now but it is possible they go with Dalvin Cook. He’s a better fit for the zone-stretch scheme and has more elusiveness and speed. That elusiveness is the reason why he hasn’t been hurt like Fournette has, which also may be a factor.
Oct 29, 2016; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines linebacker Jabrill Peppers (5) during the second half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Okay, maybe it is time for the Chicago Bears to go ahead and move on from QB Jay Cutler. But No. 4 overall in this draft isn’t the pick they want to use on a QB because there isn’t one worth it. The best thing they can do is see what the Cowboys are going to do with Tony Romo.
When you pick this high, you have to make sure you get a star player no matter what you do. Stars make up for weaknesses and are the fastest way to move your team up the standings in the NFL. Plus the Bears can use some help in their secondary, particularly on the back end.
S Jabrill Peppers, with his versatility, is going to be a superstar when he gets to the NFL. He can play in the box, cover anyone from TEs to WRs and has the range to play deep. It’s pretty rare that you find a guy with such speed, agility and physicality at the same time.
Plus he’s a 4-down player that can give you extra value in the punt return and kick return game. He could very well be the best all-around prospect in the draft with all the versatility he has. Peppers can go in and make the Bears defense so dominant, it wins ball games for the team.
Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Danny Etling (16) looks to pass under pressure from Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) during the second quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
As soon as this season is over, the New York Jets need to let QB Ryan Fitzpatrick walk without talking to him. Christian Hackenberg, the future of the position, can do what Fitzpatrick is doing right now. But I’m sure he’ll do a lot better than that when he’s ready next year.
On defense, head coach Todd Bowles likes to blitz a lot but they don’t get to the QB a lot. They have the best 3-4 DE combination in football with Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson. Sheldon Richardson isn’t working out to well for the Jets coming off the edge.
So the best thing the Jets could do to make their defense dominant is to draft an edge rusher early. And Tim Williams is the perfect 3-4 OLB prospect for them to bring in and plug in right away. The kid has a Derrick Thomas-like get-off and burst off the edge with counter moves.
He has also improved immensely in setting the edge in the running game and will only get better. When the Jets get Met-Life Stadium rocking, Williams will draw more than his fair share off false starts. And opposing QB won’t have time to go deep on the Jet’s secondary with this pick.
Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) carries the ball against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the second quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The Carolina Panthers went to the Super Bowl last year running the ball and playing defense. The defense is starting to come back around of late but RB Jonathan Stewart isn’t. And the Panthers don’t need to depend on QB Cam Newton to run the ball.
A great RB can come in and give the Panthers the running game they need to rest the defense. He can also suck eight men into the box and open up the vertical game down the field. The defense could take the Panthers up the standings but this is where they would pick now.
And if they are here at No. 6 overall at the end of the season, they go with RB Leonard Fournette if available. Fournette is elusive, swift and physical and the physicality would inspire the defense. His production would give that defense more of a chance to rest.
It would also set Newton up to go downfield to Kelvin Benjamin, his favorite target, who’s back now. He would also take some of the attention away from Newton in the running game. Drafting a guy like Fournette would help the Panthers move up the standings, on top of the NFC South.
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
The Browns worked the 2016 NFL Draft to set themselves up for the 2017 NFL Draft. They got this pick by trading their No. 1 overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams. And they were still able to get an outstanding player in WR Corey Coleman to help the Browns offense.
Coleman’s rookie season is a wash from breaking his hand early on and how bad the Browns are. But he’ll be back next year to go with emerging star Terrelle Pryor. They’ll catch passes from either Cody Kessler or Robert Griffin III and RB Isiah Crowell will balance the offense..
The Browns need a defense to deal with the QBs in their Division and they got an interior D-lineman at No. 1 overall. So right here at No. 7 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Browns select Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey has size, length, athleticism and he’s about as pro ready as they come.
Those guys coming from Nick Saban’s defense at Alabama usually go into the NFL ready to play. The Browns defense would get much better in 2017 with two guys from Alabama. Behind Allen, Collins and Humphrey, the Browns defense could take them up the standings in 2017.
Oct 1, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett (9) hits Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Jacob Eason (10) causing a fumble recovered by Tennessee for a touchdown during the fourth quarter at Sanford Stadium. Tennessee defeated Georgia 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL and don’t look good right now. It doesn’t get any better than QB Andy Dalton throwing to WR A.J. Green in the passing game. The running game is also there with RBs Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard and the O-line.
The Bengals also have plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball with LB Vontaze Burfict and company. But right now, even with DT Geno Atkins and DE Carlos Dunlap, the Bengals don’t get after the passer well. So adding another pass rusher to disrupt the QBs in the AFC North is necessary.
So at No. 8 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bengals go ahead and select DE Derek Barnett. This is a great year for edge rushers and Barnett is one of the top ones in the draft this year. And he definitely has what it takes to come in and ball for the Bengals right away.
Barnett can beat you with his burst off the edge and the counter moves he has to go with it. But he can also beat you with power, which also makes him stout in the running game. His college production reflects his ability to get to the QB and the Bengals will be satisfied.
Oct 22, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams (33) and defensive back Andraez Williams (29) celebrate after a defensive stop against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Mississippi 38-21. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The San Diego Chargers will always put points on the board as long as QB Philip Rivers is there. And 2015 1st-rounder Melvin Gordon is giving him the running game he hasn’t had since LaDainian Tomlinson left. TE Hunter Henry is easing his way into replacing Antonio Gates when he’s done.
WR. 1 Keenan Allen will be back from his torn ACL to go with speedy WR 2 Travis Benjamin next year too. On defense, the front-7 is starting to be rough on opposing teams with 2016 1st-rounder Joey Bosa playing well. All the injuries to the secondary this year have held the defense back as a whole.
Of course, they will all be back with a chance to stay healthy next year and become a good overall defense. But for that to happen as much as it can, a playmaking safety to replace Eric Weddle would be good here. So here at No. 9 overall, the Chargers select superb S prospect Jamal Adams to get that done.
Adams has the awareness, instincts, aggression, physicality, agility and playmaking skills to be a top safety. He can do it all from covering TEs and WRs to playing center field to playing in the box. And he’s ready to make an impact right away so the Chargers would benefit from this pick.
Oct 8, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) catches a touchdown pass during the second quarter in a game against the University of Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Now, we’re finding out that the Green Bay Packers’ passing game isn’t the same without a deep threat. Jordy Nelson can’t just run by guys like he used to just one year after tearing his ACL. He’ll be a good receiver again but there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever run by guys like that again.
QB Aaron Rodgers needs his deep threat to go with his big arm to get the vertical game going. The vertical game will set Nelson, Devante Adams and Randall Cobb up on underneath to intermediate routes. John Ross is the deep threat of all deep threats coming into the 2017 NFL Draft.
No, Ross is not just another speedster that depends on his ability to run by defenders in a straight line. He’s also a good route-runner that has the shakes to break ankles at the line of scrimmage, ask Adoree Jackson. Ross has reliable hands and he runs very well after the catch too.
At 5’11”, 185 pounds, he’s not very big or long but has the rest of the traits of a WR 1 in today’s game. He also comes from pro style offense, making him pro ready and able to make an impact right away. The NFC North would belong to the Packers again if they make this pick here at No. 10.
Nov 5, 2016; Champaign, IL, USA; Michigan State Spartans defensive lineman Malik McDowell (4) hits Illinois Fighting Illini quarterback Jeff George Jr. (3) during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
DE, Michigan State
With QB Andrew Luck getting rid of the ball quicker, the Indianapolis Colts have improved on offense. That offensive line is coming together and old man Frank Gore is on pace to go over 1,000 yards. It’s the No. 30-ranked defense that’s holding them back as a team.
They’re giving up 4.7 yards per carry on the ground and they don’t get after the quarterback very well. DL Malik McDowell is a guy that’s stout against the run and can rush the passer. So he’s a good fit for 3-4 end then kicking inside to rush the passer from a 4-man front.
At 6’6″, 291 pounds, he has the power, length and athleticism that makes him extremely difficult to block. And he uses his arm length and power in his upper body strength in a variety of moves. McDowell often defeats multiple blockers, particularly on his pass rushes.
We’ll see if he is that good but he looks a lot like the Leonard Williams of this draft, he’s so disruptive. But he’s good enough to go in and anchor the Colt’s defensive front-7 right away. And the defense would improve drastically, giving the Colts the AFC South title again.
Oct 7, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) catches a touchdown over the defense of Boston College Eagles defensive back Gabriel McClary (14) during the first quarter at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Williams is another one of those big, 6’3″, 220-pound WRs that can do it all in the passing game. He has good hops and length so his catch radius provides a big strike zone for his quarterback. He also has good speed and can run after the catch to complete his WR 1 skill set.
The Bills have a WR 1 in Sammy Watkins but he is often injured so another WR 1 type is a must. And if Watkins can stay healthy, he and Williams could become one of the top young duos in the NFL. And with QB Tyrod Taylor, they have the explosiveness to go out and get that early lead.
Then the Bills do what they do best and better than everyone else in the NFL, get after opposing QBs. Remember, that defense stands to get better was they come back healthy from all of this year’s injuries. The ground-and-pound running game with LeSean McCoy then takes over to bleed the clock out.
This would give the Bills a balanced team, making them much harder to beat going forward. The Bills have that team in their division (New England Patriots) that likes to take away what a team does best. There won’t be anything the Bills don’t do well if they make this pick so they will be ready in 2017.
Sep 3, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Cam Robinson (74) blocks USC Trojans linebacker Uchenna Nwosu (42) during the game at AT&T Stadium. Alabama defeats USC 52-6. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can obviously have that explosive offense with QB Jameis Winston coming along. He has a long time to play with WR Mike Evans and they will make history together. RB Doug Martin running the ball for them brings the balance that offense needs too.
That big offensive line offensive line can come off the ball and and grade the road for Martin. But they need to improve a whole lot in pass protection if Winston is going to make that history with Evans. There isn’t a QB on planet Earth that can make things happen from his back.
So at No. 13 overall in the 2017 NFL draft, the Buccaneers’ selection is OT Cam Robinson. Robinson is a road-grader himself so the run blocking will be there along with the improved pass protection. Donovan Smith can move to OG and the Buccaneers would have a solid left side of the line.
And Winston would have the protection he needs to be the kind of QB he is capable of being. The defensive side of the ball, will all come together next year around DT Gerald McCoy and the recent draft picks. The Buccaneers would then have a shot at winning the NFC South and more in 2017.
Sep 24, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Delaware State Hornets quarterback Daniel Epperson (11) throws a pass while being pressured by Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris (91) during the first half at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t have to say anything about the New Orleans Saints’ explosive offense featuring QB Drew Brees. But it takes a great defense to win games and the Saints haven’t had one of those in years. It doesn’t do a team much good to get out to a lead if they can’t hold on to it.
Every QB the Saints have in their division is above average and the offenses they drive can score points. DT Sheldon Rankins is paying off now that he’s on the field along with DE Cam Jordan. That defense has a chance to get much better with those two in there together.
But with the QBs they face, there’s no such thing as putting too much pressure on them. So another edge rusher to go along Jordan and the interior to crank up the heat on QBs is the answer. Charles Harris can come in and get that done with the Saints defense right away.
He has the best spin move in college football with strong, quick hands and plenty of burst off the edge. And that brought his 2-year production as a pass-rusher to among the nation’s best. He’s ready to make an impact now so the NFC South would have to watch out.
Nov 5, 2016; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette (7) runs as Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson (54) and linebacker Reuben Foster (10) pursue during the third quarter of a game at Tiger Stadium. Alabama defeated LSU 10-0. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
The offense is good with QB Ben Roethlisberger and company but I don’t recognize this Pittsburgh Steelers team. The Steelers are traditionally known to be one of the most physical teams in the NFL. That means opposing offenses have tough sledding running the ball on them.
And they’ve been gutted in the running game every time they face a team with a decent running game. The Dallas Cowboys are understandable but the New England Patriots aren’t known for running the ball. And Jay Ajayi ran through that defense for over 200 yards and two TDs.
When you have guys getting into the secondary untouched like the Steelers have lately, that’s a problem. The Sun is starting to set on the great career of ILB Lawrence Timmons so a replacement is in order. And when you have a speedy ILB like Ryan Shazier you need a thumper next to him.
So Reuben Foster is who they take here at No. 15 overall to be that physical regulator in the middle. In today’s 3-4 defenses, you usually have at least have one take-one LB and Foster is that. But Foster is a playmaker and he’s good in coverage too so the Steelers are improving the defense here.
Oct 15, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (9) scores a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half at Arizona Stadium. The Trojans won 48-14. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The Titans looked pretty good on the offensive line and the defensive front-7 going into this offseason. And with their first pick in the first round from the Rams, they fortified their secondary with Humphrey. QB Marcus Mariota to come around, he needs a true WR 1 and the Titans don’t have one.
He would be able to throw the ball down the field more consistently with a WR with a large catch radius. Delanie Walker is a good TE but he’s not one of those that can be a No. 1 target in a good offense. WRs Tajae Sharp and Kendall Wright weren’t quite cut out to be No. 1 targets either.
So at No. 16 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Titans roll with Juju Smith-Schuster, who fits the description. At 6’4″, 220 pounds, he has a huge catch radius to go with speed and route running. He’s also good running after the catch, using his size as well as surprising elusiveness.
And he comes from a pro style offense so he’s ready to come in and ball right away. He and Mariota will make their noise in the NFL for years to come if the Titans make this pick. The Titans will have made out like bandits in 2017 NFL Draft and possibly become favorites to win the AFC South.
Nov 5, 2016; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) throws the ball during the forth quarter against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 48-20. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
QB, North Carolina
DeShone Kizer has more arm talent than any other QB coming up in the 2017 NFL Draft. And coming from Ryan Kelly’s pro style system at Notre Dame, he’s also the most pro ready. But that doesn’t mean he’s that pro ready because this is not a good QB class.
If I were him, I would stay at Notre Dame another year and be the No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. So in this 2017 NFL Mock Draft,, I have him staying in school, giving way to Mitch Trubisky. The middle-to-late rounds to a team with a QB already seems like the right place for him.
That way, he can still develop what needs to be developed to get himself ready to play. Carson Palmer still has a year or two left in him and would be a good guy to learn from. The once this diamond is cut and polished, the Cardinals lose nothing when Palmer retires.
At 6’2″, 220 pounds, he has decent size but his mind is the biggest strength he has. And of course, the accuracy and touch are there plus he’s runs some Spread Offense so he is plenty athletic. If you factor in his mobility, he could end up much better than Palmer down the line.
Sep 3, 2016; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive back Desmond King (14) prepares to defend Miami (Oh) Redhawks wide receiver Sam Shisso (10) during the fourth quarter at Kinnick Stadium. The Hawkeyes won 45-21. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Again, the Titans offensive line and defensive front-7 looks really good right about now. And they went ahead and got a receiver for QB Marcus Mariota to go down the field to earlier. Now, they need a corner to stop opposing teams from going down the field on them.
Perrish Cox is definitely the weak link in that secondary that the Titans need to shore up. Desmond King, a versatile CB, is the perfect fit for all the different coverages the Titans like to run. He can go off-man, press-man or zone and he’ll do all the above under DC Dick LeBeau.
He’s also good at blitzing off the corner and LeBeau will bring that when he feels the need. LeBeau likes to blitz and disguise coverages in order to force turnovers from opposing QBs. And King has excellent ball skills so he will come up with those INTs when he gets the chance.
The return man can also do something with the ball once he gets it, leading to defensive TDs. And as a bonus to what he can do in coverage, King isn’t afraid to tackle in the running game. The Titans would complete themselves as a playoff team as a result of this pick.
Nov 5, 2016; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver Marcus Davis (80) is tackled by by Vanderbilt Commodores linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) during the first quarter at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
QB Carson Wentz turned out to be well worth what the Philadelphia Eagles gave up for him last year. What they did after that was even more brilliant, holding on to Sam Bradord. The Minnesota Vikings came calling when Teddy Bridgewater got hurt and the Eagles got back into the first round.
The Eagles are doing well on offense with Wentz the No. 9-ranked rushing team in the NFL. And on defense, they get after the quarterback with the best of them with their No. 7-ranked pass defense. But they have some trouble against the run, giving up 4.4 yards per carry on the ground.
A good man in the middle (MLB) would make that defense even better than it is right now. And if they want to compete with the Dallas Cowboys, they have to be able to stop the run. So right here at No. 19 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Eagles select (MLB) Zach Cunningham.
This guy has speed and and agility to cover and the instincts and physicality to stuff the run. And he is the surest of tacklers, missing only one of every 9.7 tackle attempts according to Pro Football Focus. If the Eagles get this guy to slow down Ezekiel Elliott, the NFC East could be theirs.
Nov 12, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard (88) carries the ball against Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
It looks like the Miami Dolphins are now on the way up at 5-4 after four wins in a row. They finally gave RB Jay Ajayi a chance to carry the load and they haven’t lost a game since. They couldn’t win with QB Ryan Tannehill trying to do too much because he doesn’t get great pass protection. .
HC Adam Gase has given the Dolphins a new identity and that’s running the ball and playing defense. The offensive line has improved in pass protection and will be even better next year. WR weapons like Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills will be back next year too.
The only thing this offense won’t have is a good TE as Cameron Jordan had one concussion too many. Alabama isn’t using TE O.J. Howard too much because they have a running QB. But he is phenomenally talented with a skill set that not too many TEs have in the NFL.
The New England Patriots like to take away what you do best on offense but you can’t take everyone away. The running game, the weapons at WR and a TE on that offense is too much to take away. The Dolphins would become a tough out for the Patriots after making this pick.
Nov 28, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (93) lines up for a play during the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah won 20-14. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Redskins have been looking for a NT for years and always strike out in free agency. Albert Haynesworth to his massive contract and gave the Redskins nothing in return. They tried again with Terrance Knighton and that experiment was a fail as well.
And right now, they’re giving up 4.6 yards per carry on the ground because they still don’t have one. So now, they need to draft one because they need to stop the run to beat the Cowboys. And there will be a good one right here for them when the Redskins pick.
Carolina Panthers NT Star Lotulelei admitted that his little brother Lowell Lotulelei is a better player than he is. And he is a solid run stuffer himself that the Panthers are happy they have. Big brothers don’t usually admit that their little brother is better at anything.
Lowell Lotulelei is a good run stuffer that actually gets a pretty good push in the QB’s face as well. Kirk Cousins is earning the big money on offense and the Redskins have a solid pass defense. So drafting Lotulelei could give them a shot at winning the NFC East next year.
Oct 8, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes (47) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The days of the Denver Broncos being guaranteed to win the AFC West are no longer. They got their manhood taken from them in Week 9 by the Oakland Raiders. They rushed for 218 yards and three TDs and the Broncos are now ranked No. 28 against the run.
The “No-Fly Zone” is great but if you can’t stop the run, there’s no need for opposing teams to fly. And when you can run on a team, it suddenly makes flying a lot easier. And the Raiders aren’t the only team in the AFC West that runs the ball well.
The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers will also have solid running games next year. The loss of Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan hurt their run defense a lot. But a big, nasty NT like Eddie Vanderdoes could change that for them in 2017.
So that’s who GM John Elway and his Broncos draft right here with the No. 22 overall pick. Vanderdoes will come in with the strength and power to play the run already. With this pick, the Broncos won’t get gutted in the run game by running teams.
Sep 3, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) during the Lambeau Field College Classic against the LSU Tigers at Lambeau Field. Wisconsin won 16-14. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Giants defense is coming around and making things rough on opposing offenses. They are stuffing the run and putting all kinds of pressure on opposing QBs these days. CB and 2016 1st-round pick Eli Apple started off slow but is starting to come around too.
But on offense, the Giants are forced to play small ball these days because of their issues in pass protection. That holds QB Eli Manning and vertical threats like Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz back. They already have a hard time running the ball so this will make things worse.
The Cowboys are starting to get after the QB with Lawrence back in the lineup. And if the Giants don’t have time to throw deep on the Cowboys, they won’t win the division this year. In the offseason, in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Giants have a chance to straighten things up.
And Ryan Ramczyk, Profootballfocus.com’s highest graded left OT prospect, is a guy they can straighten things up with. Right OT Marshall Newhouse can move to OG and left OT Ereck Flowers can move to right OT. The Giants could then have the pass protection to throw the ball down the field with.
Even though Ross cooked him, I actually liked Adoree Jackson’s game against him and Washington. Early on, he ran right with him on a deep post and defended the pass intended for him. Then on the very next play, Jackson slipped and fell, giving up a 70-yard TD to Ross.
But that’s teachable and Jackson showed that he still has phenomenal, superstar ability. Jackson had one play where he baited to QB to throw the ball deep on him he caught up to it for an INT. And to show his short memory after Ross beat him, he clinched the game with an INT.
So even on a bad day when he slipped, Jackson made to play big plays to help his team win. I love his ability to play off-man and press-man as he can break on the ball with the best of them. And when he maintains his eye discipline, which can be coached, he won’t get beat deep.
The Oakland Raiders can use a guy with such speed and movement skills with Travis Benjamin in the division. He can go into the NFL and cover WR 3s and slot receivers with no problems. D.J. Hayden has big problems so replacing him with Jackson would improve the defense.
Oct 29, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Northwestern Wildcats fullback Garrett Dickerson (9) is tackled by Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Raekwon McMillan (5) at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
MLB, Ohio State
I’m shocked to see that Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford is better in his first year without Calvin Johnson. I thought it would take a while for him to adjust to losing his WR 1 for so many years. But he’s doing just fine with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones as his main targets.
They get after the QB pretty well when DE Ziggy Ansah is healthy and in the lineup. And of course, the coverage in the secondary is much better when CB Darius Slay is playing. But the Lions can’t go very far in the playoffs if they get there if they can’t stop the run.
A physical MLB with great instincts and coverage skills would be good to lead that Lions defense. And Raekwon McMillan, from right down the way at Ohio State, is a player that fits the bill. The 6’2″, 240-pounder with good speed checks off all the boxes for the Lions.
MLBs with the speed and movement skills with the size and physicality at the same time are rare. McMillan is that so when he gets to the Lions, they will be much harder to run on at that point. They’ll be much better equipped to handle Vikings RB Adrian Peterson twice a year.
Nov 12, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey (5) runs past Oregon Ducks defensive lineman Gary Baker (51) and Oregon Ducks linebacker Troy Dye (35) at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Christian McCaffrey isn’t a bell-cow RB because he’s not who you want carrying the ball in short yardage. But he is a great football player that has so many other things to offer his football team. He has great vision too see the hole between the tackles and elusiveness to make you miss in space.
McCaffrey is also a great receiver out of the backfield, lined up in the slot or even out wide. He also has extra value in the return game with the ability to change games with punt and kick returns. He’s 6’0″, 200 pounds now and 10 more pounds might have made him a Top-5 pick in this draft.
But the Ravens (see Ray Rice) are okay with smaller RBs, loving the ones that can catch the ball. McCaffrey is a good fit for the Ravens as they run the zone-blocking scheme and have a guy for short yardage. So they will take the Swiss Army Knife with the No. 26 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft
He will come right in and boost the running game for the Ravens right away. He’ll draw eight defenders into the box at times, leaving room for QB Joe Flacco to go deep with his big arm. The defense is already there so the Ravens would be much improved with this pick.
Nov 21, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Jalen Tabor (31) breaks up Florida Atlantic Owls wide receiver Darius James (89) pass in the endzone during second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls 20-14. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The at Atlanta Falcons are as explosive as the come in the NFL on the offensive side of the ball. QB Matt Ryan is having a career year throwing to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu every week. And when it’s time to slow it down, Devonta Freeman can get it done on the ground.
Of course, the Falcons’ offensive line allows all this production with their pass protection and run blocking. But while the offense is good enough to take the team to he Super Bowl, the defense isn’t. As a matter of fact, that defense will stop the Falcons from reaching the Super Bowl.
The Falcons are average against the run and they get after opposing QBs pretty well these days. However, they give up big plays in the passing game just like they make them on the offense. So a CB for the other side of Desmond Trufant would be a good idea here at No. 27 overall.
Jalen Tabor is the pick here, as the Falcons are believers what Florida is teaching their CBs. Names like Joe Haden and Vernon Hargreaves are two Florida products that are doing well in the NFL. The Falcons could be ready for a deep playoff run with Tabor there to help the defense.
Sep 3, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Chris Laviano (5) looses the football after getting hit by Washington Huskies defensive lineman Vita Vea (50) during the first quarter at Husky Stadium. The play was called back on defensive holding. Washington won 48-13. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Nose Tackle Vince Wilfork is approaching the end of the line on a great football career. His contract is up at the end of the year and it’s hard to imagine him getting another big contract. He’s 35 years old and the Houston Texans are No. 26 against the run right now.
They’re already wasting a lot of money on QB Brock Osweiler so they have to be careful with the rest. Drafting a NT to help the Texans stuff the run up the middle would be ideal here. At 6’5″, 330 pounds,Vita Vea is definitely big enough to fill the slot left by Wilfork.
The redshirt sophomore is a huge load inside that consistently holds his ground on double teams. And after he lost a good 40 pounds since his arrival at Washington, his movement skills are surprising. He can catch the chicken in the barn pretty quickly for a man his size.
Vea actually has similar traits to what Wilfork had when he was younger so he is indeed a good replacement. And with J.J. Watt back next year, the Texans will stop the run without problems. The only problem the Texans will have then is with Osweiler so stay tuned for that.
Jan 1, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey (68) against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the 2016 Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
OT, Notre Dame
The “Legion of Boom” defense is what it is and they will keep the Seattle Seahawks in games. We got a chance to see what QB Russell Wilson can do when healthy on Sunday too. Not that I ever questioned that but I do question how long he’ll stay healthy behind that line.
Wilson is nifty and can escape but all it takes is once to get broke off (injured) in a game. The Seahawks don’t want to see life without Wilson so they can’t expose him to too many hits. So this offseason, they work on their offensive line and left tackle is a good place to start.
Mike McGlinchey is right there at No. 29 overall and could be the answer to the Seahawks’ problems. McGlinchey is from a long line of offensive lineman from Notre Dame so he knows the drill. To go with being tought well, at 6’7″, 310 pounds he has length and athleticism.
He returned to school to prove he can play left OT after playing right OT with Ronnie Stanley there. McGlichey is proving it and then some but his lack of career time at left OT will hurt him in the draft. So the Seahawks would be glad to land him here and improved with him.
Nov 7, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Jarrad Davis (40) and linebacker Antonio Morrison (3) tackle Vanderbilt Commodores running back Dallas Rivers (28) during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 9-7. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Kansas City Chiefs don’t do anything particularly well on offense without Jamaal Charles. But I believe he’ll be back to full speed next year so they will run the ball well. And QB Alex Smith, the ultimate game manager, will be careful with the football as usual.
On defense, they get after the passer well as OLB Dee Ford has emerged as a sack master. Fellow OLB Justin Houston, one of the best sack masters in the NFL, will be back any day. And of course, you have S Eric Berry and CB Marcus Peters in that secondary.
They’re the ones that win games for the Chiefs, leading the NFL in INTs, keeping the turnover differential high. But they will be in trouble as soon as a team runs the ball on them again. The Chiefs are ranked No. 27 in the NFL in run defense, giving up 4.7 yards per carry.
An ILB to go along with Derrick Johnson would help and Jarrad Davis is the guy here at No. 30 overall. Davis is a physical, take-on LB that has great instincts and can cover well. The Chiefs defense will be among the more formidable units in the NFL once they can stop the run.
Oct 29, 2016; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Clemson defensive back Cordrea Tankersley (25) prevents Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Travis Rudolph (15) from making a second quarter catch at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports
The Patriots secondary got exposed by QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in Week 10. And not having an air tight secondary in the NFL playoffs will cost them. They were as solid as can be at the CB position in the Super Bowl run they made in 2014
So when the offseason comes, the Patriots look for a corner to play opposite Malcolm Butler. And here at No. 30 overall, Cordrea Tankersley is available and just what they need. At 6’1″, 200 pounds, Tankersley is one of those long CBs that can disrupt WRs in press coverage.
But at the same time, he has the movement skills to play off and still stick with his man in coverage. Tankersley also has the instincts and route recognition to break on the ball when in zone coverages. No one switches coverages and game plans more than HC Bill Belichick.
So he will appreciate a CB with the versatility to play in different coverages at any given moment. We’ll see how the Patriots get after the QB after trading Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins away. But solidifying the CB position puts them in position to make another run for it.
The Dallas Cowboys have done a nice job in the draft the last few years and had some luck. When I say luck, I mean OL La’el Collins going to the team as an undrafted free agent. It looks like RB Ezekiel Elliott, QB Dak Prescott and that offensive line aren’t going anywhere.
Neither is WR Dez Bryant and TE Jason Witten will probably hang out for a few more years. So the offense will remain one of the top units in the NFL with all the weapons they have. Meanwhile, DC Rod Marinelli is doing an amazing job with all the injuries and suspensions on that defense.
He just got DeMarcus Lawrence back from suspension and he’s getting after the quarterback again. They’re obviously making it through this year just fine but they have a chance to be even better next year. LB Jaylon Smith, who’s starting to get regeneration in the nerve in his knee, will be back.
But I just don’t trust the CB position because someone always comes up with an untimely injury. So with the last pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys select Tre’Davious White. He is ready to ball now so he could start or give the Cowboys depth at the position.