2017 NFL Mock Draft: Running backs steal spotlight
As the NFL season winds down to the final four teams remaining, here is our 2017 NFL Mock Draft heading into Championship Weekend.
The 2016 NFL regular season saw the Cleveland Browns finish with a 1-15 record. While that is a pitiful mark by any means, it also means they will select first overall in next April’s NFL Draft. While it remains to be seen whether or not they will trade that pick, it is possible, considering they also hold the No. 12 pick thanks to their trade with Philadelphia before last April’s draft.
As we look towards Championship Weekend, here is our latest 2017 NFL Mock Draft.
DE, Texas A&M
The only good part of finishing with the worst record in the league is the fact that you get to select first overall in the next draft. After completing a 1-15 season, the Browns will have their pick of 2017 NFL Draft class, though they may want to trade away the pick. Cleveland also picks No. 12 overall, and with how bad their roster is, they are going to want to stockpile as many picks as possible.
If Cleveland does decide to hang onto their No. 1 pick, the consensus choice has to be Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M. Garrett is one of those prospects who seems to be can’t-miss, as he has been blessed with some freakish athletic ability. He also has shown that he has an incredible I.Q. for the game, and would instantly be the best player on the Browns defense if they take him first overall.
While it was glaringly obvious that the team needs to find their future at the quarterback position, this draft class does not have that franchise-changing signal caller in it. While guys like Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and DeShone Kizer may very well end up being solid players at the position at the next level, the Browns cannot afford to roll the dice at No. 1. They need to play better defense next season, and Garrett is the kind of player who can step in and be a difference maker from day one.
University of North Carolina quarterback has to be watching the Kyle Shanahan to the San Francisco 49ers rumors very carefully. Shanahan has led the Atlanta Falcons to a historic offensive season as their offensive coordinator this season, and will get a chance to earn a spot in Super Bowl 51 this weekend. Trubisky should be the first quarterback off of the board next April, with his most logical destination being San Francisco.
The 49ers had the second-worst record in football this past season thanks to a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons was the play of their quarterbacks, who had some of the worst passer ratings in the league. They have to turn the page on Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert, and Trubisky is one of those players who could step right in and play starting in Week 1.
Trubisky only started one season for the Tar Heels, but his accuracy was on full display throughout the 2016 season. At the next level, being an accurate passer is much more important than being able to throw the ball a mile, though Trubisky has a legitimate NFL arm as well. San Francisco is going to have some bumps next season, but plugging in a rookie quarterback and letting him get used to the NFL, i.e. Derek Carr, is exactly what they need to turn the franchise around.
Throughout the 2016 NFL season, one thing was made perfectly clear in Chicago, that Jay Cutler was no longer the franchise quarterback they were hoping he would be. In fact, the quarterback who played the best for the Bears this past season was Matt Barkley, who in no way should be considered a legitimate starting candidate heading into next season. The Bears need to draft their future at the position, and the starting quarterback for the National Champion Clemson Tigers could be just the player they have been looking for.
Deshaun Watson has proven over the past two seasons that he can put up points against the best defense in college football. The Alabama Crimson Tide is a football factory, and it is possible that six players from their defense could go in the first round next April. That did not stop Watson from shredding them over the past two national championship games, which culminated with the Tigers upsetting the Tide two weeks ago inside Raymond James Stadium.
The fact of the matter is that Watson is a winner, and the Bears need someone who is going to bring that culture inside their locker room. Cutler has looked, and played, like someone who does not want to be an NFL quarterback, which is all Watson wants a chance to prove he is. He is going to hear his name called in the first round next April, and it could be the Bears who take him as high as No. 3 overall.
The 2016 NFL season was a horror show for the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose head coach could not even make it to the end of the season. The team fired Gus Bradley and replaced him with Doug Marrone as their interim coach, who has since become the team’s permanent head coach. Marrone will be tasked with bringing a winning culture to Jacksonville, and will have two-time Super Bowl head coach Tom Coughlin helping him along the way.
Jacksonville made a plethora of moves this past offseason to bolster their defense, though it seemed like none of them panned out. Still, they have a ton of young talent on their roster, and one or two solid moves before next season could put them in the running for the AFC South crown. The biggest question mark was the play of Blake Bortles, so the 2017 season will be a good measuring stick as to whether or not he is going to be the answer moving forward.
Jonathan Allen has been rated by plenty of experts as a top pick in this draft, and some even have him going first overall. However, we think Garrett is the likely choice for the Browns, and with the 49ers and Bears needing an arm, he could be available to the Jags at No. 4. If that is the case, they have to scoop him up, as he has the size and strength to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He is going to be a difference maker at the next level, and the Jags need all the help they can get on the defensive side of the ball.
If you are a Tennessee Titans fan, you have to be happy with where the franchise is heading. The drafting of quarterback Marcus Mariota turned out to be a stroke of genius, and the team utilized their first overall pick in last year’s draft to give themselves two first rounders this year. The trading away of the pick to the Los Angeles Rams means they get the No. 5 overall pick this season, and there is plenty of talent at the top of this draft.
One area of concern for the Titans is in their secondary, where they need another corner to play alongside Jason McCourty. McCourty has been a solid player for the Titans throughout his career, though he is starting to get up there in age. Bringing in some solid depth at the position is the way to go for the Titans this high in the draft, and Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey is the best player at the cornerback position in this draft.
Humphrey is the son of former NFL running back Bobby Humphrey, and he plays like a person who grew up around the game. He has an incredible passion for the game, and has spent the past few seasons as a leader on one of the best defenses in college football history. He is going to be the kind of shutdown corner at the next level that team’s need to survive in this pass-first NFL, and the Titans will instantly be better for selecting him at No. 5 next April.
The New York Jets were a complete joke this past season, and this after finishing the 2015 season one game out of the playoffs. It seems that the Week 17 loss to the Buffalo Bills continued into the 2016 season, where the team did absolutely nothing on both sides of the ball. The only bright spot was the fact that they did not lock up quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a long-term deal, as he proved that the 2015 season was just a fluke.
While the Jets may take a stab at a quarterback in the first round, especially if the Bears pass on Deshaun Watson, we believe they will look to lock up their future at the running back position. Bilal Powell ran very well for the team in 2016, but based on how the coaching staff used him, it is clear he is not their No. 1 choice at the position. LSU running back Leonard Fournette has been rated as the best overall player in this draft, and he would be an instant fan favorite in New York.
Fournette was built for the NFL, and he even sat out his team’s bowl game so he can prepare for the NFL Draft. He is an incredible blend of size and speed, and will be a three-down back at the next level. The Jets needs to find their next quarterback, and while they will likely grab a veteran to play that position next season via free agency, passing up on Fournette at No. 6 would just been an insane move.
Welcome to Los Angeles. The Chargers have played their last game as the San Diego Chargers, and will now head to La La Land for the foreseeable future. While the city of San Diego will miss their beloved Bolts, the move actually gives Los Angeles a team that could battle for a playoff spot next season. The Chargers have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, and new head coach Anthony Lynn should be able to get this team moving in the right direction.
The key to the team is their quarterback, as Philip Rivers is starting to get up there in age. Still, he put together a solid season in 2016 despite the fact that all of his weapons went down to injury at some point during the season. If they can get Keenan Allen back healthy for the 2017 campaign, Rivers will have his WR1 back, and guys like Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams proved they can perform on a consistent basis this season.
Protecting Rivers has to be the route they take in next April’s draft, and Alabama’s Cam Robinson is the best offensive tackle in this draft. For years, the Chargers have been putting the offensive line together with retreads, which means Rivers has taken a ton of hits over the years. Still, he should have a few good seasons left in him, and if the Bolts can bolster their offensive line for the upcoming season, they may be able to make some noise in the very deep AFC West.
RB, Florida State
The Carolina Panthers were the darlings of the 2015 season, as they nearly ran the table to an undefeated season. However, the 2016 season brought more losses than wins, and saw them become just another team to go from a Super Bowl to out of the playoffs in one season. Still, they are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and one good draft pick could bring them back to the playoffs.
Quarterback Cam Newton is one of the best in the game, and he has proven that he can do it all on the field. However, he needs help in the backfield, and with a healthy Kelvin Benjamin back on the field, grabbing a starting running back has to be a priority. Jonathan Stewart can still handle his fair share of carries, but the team needs to be looking to the future at the position.
Florida State’s Dalvin Cook has been one of the best backs the ACC has ever seen during his time with the Seminoles, and he has the speed and strength to be an impact player at the next level. He has proven during his time in Tallahassee to be an elite talent, and his game absolutely equates to the NFL. He is going to make an impact immediately at the next level, and the Panthers need someone who is going to take some of the pressure off of Cam Newton going forward.
One look at the Cincinnati Bengals roster and it is clear that they are much better than their record would have indicated this past season. Still, head coach Marvin Jones has not won a playoff game during his time with the team, and the clock may be ticking on his tenure with the organization. The Bengals need to win now, and bringing in someone who is going to make an immediate impact is absolutely necessary at this point.
Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster is one of the best players in this draft, and is by far the best linebacker of the class. He has been an impact player for the Crimson Tide during his years on campus, and has been the anchor of one of the best defenses that college football has ever seen. He is going to be a devastating player at the next level, and would fit in perfectly in Cincinnati if they were to take him at No. 9.
The AFC South is a very winnable division, so there is no reason to believe that the Bengals could be back on top next season. The Steelers have been very good this postseason, but there was a time during the season when it looked like they would not even make the playoffs. Jones is still one of the best coaches in the league, and bringing in a player like Foster is going to make the Bengals defense a scary one next season.
The Buffalo Bills said goodbye to head coach Rex Ryan towards the end of the 2016 NFL season, and will look to usher in a new era with Sean McDermott as their new man in charge. McDermott will be getting his first shot at a head coaching gig with the Bills, as the 42-year-old spend the last few seasons with the Carolina Panthers. His first order of business is going to be finding out who is going to play quarterback for him next season, as Tyrod Taylor just may not be the answer at the position.
Adding a quality offensive weapon for whoever is going to be under center is going to be crucial for the Bills, who have the daunting task of playing in the AFC East. Wide receiver Sammy Watkins is a nice young talent, but he has proven to be a bit injury prone during his time with the team. The Bills need to draft a wide receiver to compliment him next April, and Clemson’s Mike Williams is the best of the bunch.
Williams may be one of the better wide receiver prospects we have seen in a long time, as he has the ability to change games with his skill set. Not only can he burn cornerbacks deep, but he is not afraid to go over the middle, and has proven that he can make the big catch at the big moment. He is going to be an excellent pro, and having Watkins and Williams on the outside will make the Bills offense one to watch next season.
For head coach Sean Payton, the 2016 NFL season was just another seven-win campaign that could be spelling the beginning of the end for him in the Bayou. Payton will always have a special place in the hearts of the people of New Orleans, but the team just is not winning anymore. They still have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and if they can give him some help on the other side of the ball, they could become a playoff team once again.
A huge weakness on this Saints roster is the secondary, where they struggled to stop anybody through the air during the regular season. Next April, the organization needs to bring in some players to bolster the unit, and drafting a big-time safety will instantly make them better. Jamal Adams of LSU is the best safety in this draft class, and if he is there at No. 11, the Saints need to scoop him up quickly.
Bringing in Adams would be a great move for the organization because he played his collegiate football in Louisiana. He would already come with a huge fan base, and it would not take long for him to make an impact at the NFL level. He has all the skills needed to be an elite safety in the NFL, and playing for the Saints would give him the perfect start to his professional career.
QB, Notre Dame
Last season, the Cleveland Browns started a number of players at the quarterback position, though none of them were able to win games on a consistent basis. From Robert Griffin III, to Josh McCown, to Cody Kessler, the starting quarterback spot for the Browns was a revolving door. There are some good quarterback prospects in this draft, and if he is available at No. 12, the Browns should take a shot at Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer.
While most believe that Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson should be the first two quarterbacks off the board, there are some experts out there who feel that Kizer will be the better pro of the three. While his decision making was questioned during his time with the Fighting Irish, he has all the physical tools to be a good player at the next level. He is going to need time to grow in an NFL offense, and the Browns can afford to give him a year on the bench for his development.
Nobody expects the Browns to be good next season, so drafting Kizer and letting him get used to the grind of playing in the NFL would be the smart play. He has shown during his time at Notre Dame that he can lead men to victories, and while he made a bunch of mistakes this past season, his ability to fit the ball into tight spaces is unrivaled in this draft. He is a first-round talent, and could wind up being the perfect reset button for the quarterback position in Cleveland.
CB, Ohio State
The Arizona Cardinals suffered through a disappointing season in 2016, as they failed to make it back to the NFC Championship Game for the second straight year. Running back David Johnson emerged as one of the best at his position in the game, and quarterback Carson Palmer proved he still has some good football left in him. Star wide receiver Michael Floyd drank his way out of town, but the Cards do have some nice young talent at the position behind him.
One area where the team could use some depth is in the secondary, where Patrick Peterson has been relied upon to shoulder the load on too many occasions. He is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, but the team is lacking depth at the position. Bringing in a cornerback is the way to go next April for the Cardinals, and this draft is loaded when it comes to corner.
Marshon Lattimore of Ohio State is one of the best at the position in this draft, and some boards have him being the first corner taken next April. However, we like him at this spot, where he can learn the game behind one of the best in the business. He was a leader on one of the best defenses in college football the past few seasons, and will be heading to a franchise that is ready to win now.
The drafting of Carson Wentz proved to be a stroke of genius for the Philadelphia Eagles, who implanted him as their starting quarterback from Week 1 on. Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders went through the same bumps that Wentz went through during his rookie season, and you can see where he is at with his development three years later. The Eagles are hoping Wentz will have the same maturation, but first they need to put some talent around him.
One year after drafting Carr, the Raiders went out and selected Amari Cooper from the University of Alabama. Next April, the Eagles should do the same, as Washington’s John Ross has the talent to be an impact player in the NFL next season. Ross can beat a defense in so many ways, and he is coming off a year where he was the best wide receiver in a very deep Pac-12.
Philadelphia has a few holes to fill if they wish to make it to the playoffs, though they are currently playing in one of the deepest divisions in all of football. Both the Giants and Cowboys made it to the playoffs this season, and the Redskins won the division back in 2015. They need to build this thing around Wentz, and it starts with them putting a true WR1 on the outside to team with Jordan Matthews, who is a decent receiver in his own right.
Playing in the AFC South has its advantages, as the Indianapolis Colts nearly made the playoffs despite it being a down year for the franchise. Quarterback Andrew Luck is considered one of the best signal-callers in the game, but the franchise cannot continue to ruin good years of his prime. They need to reload on defense, and bring in some good, young talent to be able to compete in a division that should be very winnable once again in 2017.
Derek Barnett of Tennessee is a freak of nature, and has the kind of ability that can change a game at any time. Recently, Barnett broke Hall of Famer Reggie White’s career sack total for the Volunteers, and while he may not have the same impact as White did in the NFL, he should be a very good pro. Not only is he extremely quick off the ball, but he can play on the inside if needed, as he has shown he can plug up the run game.
The Colts have a bunch of talent on their roster, but the defense is getting pretty old. If they can bring in a guy like Barnett and put him on the edge, they should be able to get after the quarterbacks in their division. Each team in the AFC South is getting better, and while the Colts have the best quarterback of the bunch, their defense has proven to be their downfall in recent years.
The Baltimore Ravens have always been built around their defense, as it has helped them to reach the playoffs more times than not over the past few seasons. However, the current roster is built around their offense, as quarterback Joe Flacco has become the face of the franchise. The Ravens need to get back to their roots, and bringing in an elite defensive talent is the way to go come next April.
Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers is the most versatile player in college football, and he recently earned the Paul Hornung Award, which is given to the player who is just that. He has the ability to be a game changer on offense, and defense, and has also tried his hand in the return game. While he was listed as an outside linebacker during his time with the Wolverines, he has said that he is going to focus on being a safety at the next level.
The Ravens brought in Eric Weddle to be their big-time safety, and he has done a nice job since coming over from San Diego. Still, he needs some help back there, and bringing in someone with Peppers star-power is going to make this defense a feared one. Peppers is going to be a star at the next level, and the Ravens need their next household name on that side of the ball.
DL, Michigan State
One year removed from winning the NFC East, the Washington Redskins saw themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time in 2016. Quarterback Kirk Cousins proved to the world that the 2015 campaign was not a fluke, and running back Robert Kelley showed that he can carry the load on the offensive side of the ball. The real issue with the Redskins was their play up front on both sides of the ball, and that is the area that needs to be addressed come draft day.
Malik McDowell of Michigan State is an exciting player, as he has the size and speed to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He can get around the edge with the best of them, but he is more known for his ability to plug up holes in run defense. The biggest issues the Redskins had last season was they could not get stops on short-yardage situations, which McDowell could certainly help them to do if they take him in next April’s draft.
McDowell has not stated that he is going to declare for the NFL Draft as yet, and rumors before the season were that he would not declare unless he was a top-5 pick. However, the Michigan State program is in turmoil, and another year on campus may actually hurt his draft status. He needs to turn pro now, and with his physical gifts, he could be one of the better defensive players at the next level in this draft.
WR, Western Michigan
The Tennessee Titans are in good shape, and all eyes are going to be on the recovery of Marcus Mariota heading into next season. The team’s star quarterback broke his ankle during the team’s Week 16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, which would also see their playoff hopes come to an end. Still, they have to be happy with where the franchise is headed, and having two picks in the first round of next April’s draft is only going to make them stronger.
We expect them to draft a cornerback with their pick they received from the Rams, especially considering it is such a high draft choice. Later in the first round, we like them to add to Mariota’s weapons on the outside, selecting a wide receiver who can really come in and be that top receiver that he was missing last season. His receiving corps did a nice job in the passing game, but he needs a legitimate top guy if he is going to take the next step in his progression in 2017.
That receiver could be Corey Davis, who proved during his time at Western Michigan that he is built for the pro game. He helped lead the program to a near perfect record in 2016, and showed that he can beat a defender deep, or catch the short one and take it to the house. He is going to be a terrific player at the NFL level, and while he may be gone by the time the Titans select their second first round pick, he would be a great addition to their offense.
S, Ohio State
Jameis Winston has proven to be well worth the first overall selection the Buccaneers took him with in 2015, as he has helped lead the franchise back to being relevant again. While the team really had no running game to speak of this season, Winston continued to grow in his role as a leader on and off the field, and it appears the franchise is set at quarterback for the foreseeable future.
The combination of Winston to Mike Evans should be a good one for years to come, and hopefully Doug Martin can get his head on straight and return to being one of the better running backs in the league.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bucs need help in their secondary, and that is exactly where they should draft next April. There is a plethora of good defensive backs in this draft, but when it comes to the safety position, Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker are the two best out there. Adams is expected to go earlier in the first round, but if Hooker is available, the Bucs need to pounce on him.
Not only can Hooker defend the pass as well as anybody in this draft, he also is the kind of player who is going to come up and hurt you if you come across the middle. He has the size and strength to be an elite safety at the next level, and he has the speed to make up for mistakes in coverage. The Bucs are only a few players away from being a legitimate contender in the NFC, and this coming offseason is going to be a big one for the franchise.
The Denver Broncos saw themselves on the outside looking in at the playoffs this season, which was only one removed from them hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy as winners of Super Bowl 50. Heading into next season, there is a ton of question marks up and down the roster, and that starts with their head coach. Gary Kubiak had to retire due to health reasons, and the team tabbed Vance Joseph to take over for the 2017 NFL season.
While Joseph has zero head coaching experience at the NFL level, he has already begun to swing his weight around. He let the world know that there will be an open completion for the starting quarterback spot next season, a position that was won by Trevor Siemian prior to the 2016 season. The team did spend a first round pick on Paxton Lynch during last year’s draft, and Joseph is going to give him every opportunity to win the job in camp.
No matter who is playing quarterback next season, the fact of the matter is that the Broncos need a tight end. This past season, they had no tight end, or running game, which led to Siemian having to try to win games on his own. O.J. Howard is an elite tight end prospect, and if he is available at No. 20, the Broncos have to make him their draft pick. He will be a great safety valve for whoever is under center, and will give the Broncos another wrinkle to their offense.
Prior to the 2016 NFL season, nobody really knew what to make of the Detroit Lions. A perennial loser, the Lions would have to go into the season without their best player, as star wide receiver Calvin Johnson retired after the 2015 campaign. That did not stop quarterback Matthew Stafford from putting together the best season of his career, as he led the Lions to a Wild Card berth in their first year without Johnson.
Once in the playoffs, the Lions were quickly disposed of, as the Seattle Seahawks dominated them in a 26-6 victory. The Seahawks were able to expose the fact that outside of the Lions defensive front, they are pretty weak on that side of the ball, and that is the area they need to draft next April. Alabama linebacker Tim Williams is going to be a very good player at the next level, and he would instantly upgrade the Lions linebacking corps from day one.
Williams is high-energy player who has had some issues with his character off the field. However, he has seemed to put that behind him, and was a catalyst on an Alabama defense that was one of the best in the history of college football. He has the size and strength to play inside or out, and has the speed to make all the plays from sideline to sideline. He would be a perfect fit in Detroit, where the fans love players that wear their heart on their sleeves.
One of the bigger surprises of the NFL season was the play of the Miami Dolphins, who earned a Wild Card spot in the AFC Playoffs. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had one of his best seasons as a pro, and he was missed during the team’s blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round. Still, this franchise appears to be trending upward, and with a couple of solid pickups before next season, they should be a playoff contender once again.
On the defensive line, the Dolphins have some of the best players in the game. Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh are elite players at their position, but the team missed not having Olivier Vernon in the lineup this past season. Bringing in some more talent at defensive end has to be a priority next season, and this draft class is full of talent at that position.
Takkarist McKinley of UCLA is an underrated prospect, and could wind up being one of the better players in this draft. He is an explosive player off the ball, and gets the edge just as good as any player in this draft. The talented defensive end recently stated that he was going to post a 4.4 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, which would certainly make his draft stock shoot up. If he is available this late in the first round, the Dolphins could once again solidify their defensive line for the 2017 season.
The New York Giants rode a stellar defense into the playoffs this season, as they reached postseason play for the first time in five years. However, their weak offense proved to be their undoing in the Wild Card round, as they could not keep up with the high-powered offense of the Green Bay Packers. They have some solid pieces in place for the next couple of years, but they need to add to a very vanilla offense this coming offseason.
One area that needs help is at running back, where they really got nothing from any of their backs this season. Quarterback Eli Manning is beginning to get up there in age, and if the Giants cannot get a running back behind him, the team is going to be very limited as to what they can do with the ball. There are some really good backs in next April’s draft, and D’Onta Foreman is definitely one of them.
Foreman is a rare blend of size and speed, and he looks like he was built to play at the NFL level. He has the kind of running ability that is going to equate well at the next level, and has incredible vision when it comes to finding his holes. He would be a perfect fit for the Giants offense, which needs to change things up next season if they are going to battle for a playoff spot once again.
What a sad way to end a season. The Oakland Raiders looked like a team that could challenge for a Super Bowl berth in 2016, but saw their dreams go out the window when Derek Carr broke his leg in the team’s Week 16 victory against the Indianapolis Colts. Playing with Matt McGloin and Connor Cook under center, the Raiders would lose in Week 17 and in the Wild Card round, seeing their once promising season go up in flames.
While it was evident that the team cannot win without Carr under center, it was also evident that the team needs to get better on the defensive side of the ball. All of the pieces are in place for this to be an elite offense once again in 2017, but their defense has shown too many holes the past two years. They need to upgrade on all levels, and bringing in a solid linebacker is a good place to start.
Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham is one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft, as he has the ability to play in any defensive scheme. He is a very long player, who can cause disruption with his incredible reach. He is also a punishing hitter, who can make plays in the run game, and also take out receivers going over the middle. His bruising style of play would play well with Raider Nation if the team can grab him this late in the first round.
What a joke of a contract Brock Osweiler turned out to be. Despite losing Defensive MVP J.J. Watt for nearly the entire season, the Houston Texans still put together the No. 1 ranked defense in the league. The only problem for Texans fans is their organization gave $72 million dollars to a quarterback who cannot seem to make the simplest of reads. The Texans front office have got to be thinking about how they can unload Osweiler before the 2017 season.
While the defense is loaded, the offense also has some incredible talent as well. Running back Lamar Miller is a very solid back, and DeAndre Hopkins is an elite receiver if he can get somebody to throw him the ball. Despite his huge drop in the Divisional Round, Will Fuller is a solid rookie receiver as well, and tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz showed he can be effective in the passing game, as well as a good blocking tight end.
Houston will have to do something with Osweiler, but come draft day, they may want to shore up their offensive line. Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk is one of the best lineman prospects in this draft, and he has the size and strength to be a left tackle at the next level. Whoever the organization decided to put under center is definitely going to benefit if the team spends their first round pick on Ramczyk next April.
It was another decent run for the Seattle Seahawks this season, as they were able to make it back to the Divisional Round. While they were not able to punch their ticket to a third Super Bowl in four years, they did show that they are still a team to beat in the NFC. Losing star safety Earl Thomas proved to be the death nail for the team, who was exploited by Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons this past weekend.
Thomas has said he is going to return next season, and that is good news for a Seahawks secondary that looked very beatable on Saturday. Cornerback Richard Sherman was exposed by a Falcons offense that has put up historic numbers this season. The Seahawks need to bring in reinforcements for next season, and Florida’s Quincy Wilson could be just what the doctor ordered.
Wilson is a shutdown cornerback who helped the Gators have one of the best pass defenses in the SEC. He and fellow corner Teez Tabor terrorized opposing quarterbacks, and they both should have the same impact at the next level. He has an incredible football I.Q., and because he is an elite athlete, has the ability to make up for his mistakes by getting back into coverage. His whole demeanor screams Seattle, and the Seahawks are in a position where they need the help.
The Kansas City Chiefs had an incredible season in 2016, winning the AFC West title, and locking up the No. 2 seed in the AFC Playoffs. However, their offense did them in on Sunday night, as quarterback Alex Smith showed why he is probably never going to win a Super Bowl as a starting quarterback. Anytime you hold the Pittsburgh Steelers to six field goals you should win the game, but that was not the case in the Divisional Round.
Moving forward, the organization has to wonder what they are going to do with Smith, who does enough to win, but not enough to win the big games. While they just may trade up to grab a Deshaun Watson or DeShone Kizer, the odds are they are going to roll with Smith for another season in 2017. While that may not be the smartest thing to do, this team is built to win now, and they may not want to spend the time grooming their next quarterback.
On draft day, the Chiefs should look to continue to bolster their defense. Stanford’s Solomon Thomas is a very good defensive lineman prospect who can play in any scheme. He has the size and strength to play inside, but he also has the athletic ability to get around the edge if he has to. He would be a nice fit for the Chiefs, who it looks like are going to have to win with their defense if they hope to make it to the next round.
What a sorry end to the season for the Dallas Cowboys. All season long, the Cowboys have been rated as the best team in football, but that all came to crashing halt on Sunday. The Green Bay Packers went into AT&T Stadium and put up 34 points against the Cowboys, as Aaron Rodgers showed his magic once again. This team is loaded on the offensive side of the ball, and if they can bolster their defense this offseason, they could once again be in the running for the No. 1 seed in the NFC in 2017.
Pressuring the quarterback as to be a concern for the Cowboys, who let Rodgers throw all over them on Sunday. They need to do something to add depth to their defensive front, and Michigan’s Taco Charlton is one of the best players in the draft at doing just that. He is an athletic freak, and his skills were on full display during the Wolverines’ loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes a month ago.
Charlton would be a nice fit because he can play all over the defensive line. He also has enough athletic ability to play outside linebacker if needed, and has shown that he can run down running backs from across the field. He would be a great addition to a Cowboys defense that showed on Sunday that they will have to make adjustments if they want to make it a Championship Game next season.
What an incredible run it has been for the Green Bay Packers. At one point during the 2016 NFL season, the Packers sat at 4-6, and many people felt that Aaron Rodgers may be looking towards the end of his career. Well, he Rodgers put all that talk to rest, and the team has now won eight straight games with their upset win against the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday.
While the Packers offense is no doubt playing at a high level, the team has to be concerned with the Cowboys hanging 31 points on them in the Divisional Round. The team looked so good against the New York Giants the week before, but playing against a rookie quarterback, the Packers looked very soft in the passing game. They are going to need to bring in depth in the secondary heading into next season, and grabbing Teez Tabor in the first round would instantly upgrade them at the cornerback position.
Tabor and Quincy Wilson formed the best 1-2 tandem at the cornerback position in college football this season, as they helped lead a very weak Florida Gators team to an SEC Championship Game. Tabor has incredible cover skills, and he has the kind of hands you do not usually see in a defensive back. Add to the fact that he has elite speed, and you have a player who is ready to contribute at the next level right now.
The train that is the Pittsburgh Steelers keeps rolling, as they were able to go into Arrowhead Stadium and take out the AFC’s No. 2 seed this past weekend. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has put his team back into the AFC Championship Game, and he finally has a healthy Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell around him. While Brown may be in head coach Mike Tomlin’s doghouse today, be certain that he will be on the field in a big way when the team takes on the New England Patriots this Sunday.
While it is too early for this team to be looking at next April’s draft, the only certain thing is they will be picking very late in the first round. The Steelers have a pretty solid roster from top to bottom, but every team can get better. Pittsburgh’s James Harrison is still the best player on their defense, but he is 39-years old, and Father Time waits for no man. The organization needs to find his replacement now, and Carl Lawson of Auburn could be the answer.
The odds are Harrison will strap them up once again in 2017, so bringing in a talent like Lawson would be a perfect move at this juncture. Lawson would be able to learn from Harrison, not only on the field, but the kind of work ethic it takes off of it to succeed. Lawson is an incredibly talented player, and his combination of strength and speed will give the Steelers the kind of pass rusher they are going to need if they are going to stay atop the AFC in the coming years.
What a season it has been for the Atlanta Falcons. Not only are they playing in the NFC Championship Game, but their quarterback just may win the NFL MVP this season. Matt Ryan has played incredible football all season long, and on Saturday, he absolutely shredded the Seattle Seahawks secondary. This has been a historic offense this year, and while their offensive coordinator is likely to bolt for a head coaching gig after the season, they still have two huge games left to play.
Looking ahead to next April’s draft, we like the Falcons to select Adoree’ Jackson from USC. Jackson is one of the more exciting players in this draft, and has the ability to make an impact on the game from all over the field. While he is an elite cornerback, he is also the most decorated return man in the history of the USC program, and has even been used on offense. The Falcons faithful certainly remember a certain player who could do all those things when he played for the team back in the 1990s.
While Jackson will likely not have the kind of career Deion Sanders had, he certainly has the skill set to come close. He has a flair for the dramatic, and loves to play up to the crowd. He was beloved during his time with USC, and if he can have the kind of impact in Atlanta that he did for the Trojans, he will be a fan favorite for a Falcons franchise that is definitely trending up.
The New England Patriots were forced to play without star quarterback Tom Brady for the first four games of the season due to his alleged role in Deflategate. However, that did not stop the team from getting out to a 3-1 record, which was pretty impressive considering the circumstances. Since returning, Brady has played at an MVP level, and will be looking to secure his seventh AFC Championship this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite the fact that Brady looks like a player 15 years his junior, he is 39 years old, and will be 40 by the time the 2017 NFL season kicks off. The biggest thing the Patriots need to do is continue to put good offensive lineman in front of him, as he has said that he wants to play well into his 40s. There are a handful of good offensive tackles in this draft, and Garret Bolles of Utah is definitely one of them.
At 6-foot-5, Bolles certainly has the size to be a starting left tackle at the next level. A first-team All-Pac 12 selection, Bolles has incredible strength, and did a nice job protecting Troy Williams this past season for the Utes. Keeping Brady upright is the most important priority for the Pats, and as seen against the Houston Texans, this current line can struggle to protect him against an elite pass rush. Bringing in Bolles would add incredible depth to their line, and help keep Mr. Brady in pads for the next few season.
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