If the National Football League wants to shorten their overtime period, how about going back to sudden death?
First-Round Pick: (N/A)
Best Pick: Round Two-Malik McDowell-Defensive Tackle-Michigan State
In six of the seven years that general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have been running the show for the Seattle Seahawks, they’ve made the playoffs which can traced back to their strategy at the National Football League Draft. The Seahawks have focused on having depth which has also spawned competition at multiple positions on the team which has kept Seattle on top of their game.
At this year’s draft the Seahawks traded out of the first round after making deals with both the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. The Seahawks would not make a selection until the third pick of the second round as they tabbed Michigan State Spartans defensive tackle Malik McDowell.
Although that nothing stood out about McDowell’s game during his time in college, he had the potential of being a first-round pick. But when McDowell fell to the second round, it gave him an opportunity to go to one of the best possible situations for him in the National Football League. McDowell joins a solid defensive line and he doesn’t have to be the guy as he can simply fall in line as he plays alongside the likes of defensive end Michael Bennett.
Throughout the draft the Seahawks continued to add depth and athleticism which included them selecting North Carolina Tar Heels defensive tackle Nazair Jones in the third round and Cincinnati Bearcats safety Mike Tyson in the sixth round.
Carroll has been one of the best as far as developing his players and within the next two years we should see players from this draft class have a positive impact for the Seahawks.
First-Round Pick: Haason Reddick-Outside Linebacker-Temple
Best Pick: Round Two-Budda Baker-Safety-Washington
2016 saw the Arizona Cardinals take a huge step back in the standings and head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t intend on making their 7-8-1 campaign from last season become a habit which meant him seeking to improve his team at the 2017 National Football League Draft.
In the first round the Cardinals selected Temple Owls outside linebacker Haason Reddick. Last year Reddick led Temple in sacks with 10.5 and now he joins a team in Arizona that tallied 48 sacks last season as Arians knows that the way for his team to get back to the postseason is by putting a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The second round saw the Cards get a steal when they added to their already deep secondary when they selected Washington Huskies safety Budda Baker. Baker was an All-American last year at Washington which included him leading the team in tackles with 71. Baker has tremendous range and he isn’t afraid to mixing it up in the run game, while he could form one of the best safety combos in the National Football League with Tyrann Mathieu.
But for as good as Reddick and Baker can potentially be for Arizona’s defense, the team didn’t properly address their issues in the passing game. Last the Cardinals second leading receiver was running back David Johnson with 879 yards. And with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald set to turn 34 in August, it’s time for the Cardinals to find his heir apparent. Arizona did select Grambling State Tigers wide receiver Chad Williams in the third, but I don’t see him coming to have an immediate impact for the Cards.
However even with the Cardinals failing to properly address their issues on offense, they should be a tough team to score against during the upcoming season.
Los Angeles Rams
First-Round Pick: (N/A)
Best Pick: Round Four-Josh Reynolds-Wide Receiver-Texas A&M
Without a first-round pick in the 2017 National Football League Draft, the Los Angeles Rams had to wait until the second round before they could get active. But even when the Rams began the process of filling out draft cards, it didn’t matter as their draft class for 2017 overall has the makings of being below average. The Rams need more play makers on offense which saw them use three of their first four picks on that side of the football, but will they be able to contribute?
The second round saw the Rams select South Alabama Jaguars tight end Gerald Everett. Last year at South Alabama, Everett had 49 receptions for 727 yards and 4 touchdowns and the Rams will now need him to quickly develop into a security blanket for quarterback Jared Goff.
The fourth round saw the Rams selected Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Josh Reynolds. Reynolds had 61 receptions last year at Texas A&M, while he led the team in receiving yards (1,039), and receiving touchdowns (12). At 6’3″, Reynolds does give Los Angeles size at the wide receiver position. And like Everett, it will be interesting to see how quickly that he’ll be able to get on the same page with Goff.
It the Rams are patient and take their time to properly develop both Everett and Reynolds, they could each turn into solid players within the next two years.
San Francisco 49ers
First-Round Pick: Solomon Thomas-Defensive End-Stanford, Reuben Foster-Inside Linebacker-Alabama
Best Pick: Solomon Thomas
The San Francisco 49ers may have only been victorious in two contests last season, but that didn’t prevent them from being big winners at the 2017 National Football League Draft. John Lynch is only in his first year as the general manager of the 49ers, but he approached the draft in the fashion of someone who has been around the block before.
The Niners entered the draft with the second overall pick, but with the Chicago Bears eager to swap places with San Francisco in order to draft North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Lynch used their desperation to his benefit. The Niners were able to secure extra picks this year as well as for 2018, while they were still able to get the players that they wanted.
With the third overall selection, the 49ers selected Stanford Cardinal defensive end Solomon Thomas. Thomas was one the best pass rushers available in the draft and he is going to be the first piece of the rebuilding process on defense in San Francisco.
Lynch would then trade back into the first round as he struck a deal with the Atlanta Falcons for the 31st overall pick. The Niners would select Alabama Crimson Tide middle linebacker Reuben Foster. The Niners already have NaVorro Bowman at middle linebacker, but as they are attempting to build a strong defense in the mode that they had earlier in this decade, Foster could play the role that former middle linebacker Patrick Willis played for them.
The 49ers continued to upgrade their defense as they drafted Colorado Buffaloes cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon in the third round, while their first offensive pick of the draft was on Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J Beathard in the fourth round.
Beathard more than likely won’t become a franchise quarterback, but it is a credit to Lynch for not reaching for a signal caller as he understands that the 49ers had other pressing needs.
The 49ers still have some work ahead of them in order to become a contender, but players such as Thomas and Foster could be building blocks for them.
Kansas City Chiefs
First-Round Pick: Patrick Mahomes-Quarterback-Texas Tech
Best Pick: Patrick Mahomes
It didn’t take the Kansas City Chiefs that long to make a splash at the 2017 National Football League Draft when they moved up 17 spots in the first round to select Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. During Andy Reid’s four-year tenure as the Chiefs head coach, Kansas City has made the postseason three times, but they’ve been unable to get past the second round. A big reason for the Chiefs inability to advance has been the fact that quarterback Alex Smith cannot propel this club. Smith has been a solid game manager for the Chiefs, but his lack of arm strength, along with his inability to make the big play in the passing game has hurt the Chiefs. Mahomes gives the Chiefs a quarterback with a big arm, but he is still raw.
At Texas Tech, Mahomes put up jaw dropping statistics in the wide open offense of head coach Kliff Kingsbury, but he must learn how to conform to a pro-style offense. And who better to groom Mahomes for a career in the National Football League than Reid who is one of the better quarterback gurus in the league. The main thing for the Chiefs is to bring Mahomes along slowly and not rush him. However since the Chiefs still have a solid starting quarterback in Smith, Reid can take his time in order to show Mahomes the nuances of the position.
The Chiefs struck it big in drafting Mahomes, but they still missed out on upgrading the wide receiver position. Last season the Chiefs leading wide receiver was Tyreek Hill with just 593 which simply isn’t going to cut in regards to producing a Super Bowl team. The Chiefs also failed to find a replacement for nose tackle Dontari Poe who joined the Atlanta Falcons in free agency as he paved the way for Kansas City’s linebackers.
The Chiefs were able to peg their quarterback of the future in Mahomes, but it takes more than one player to make a team, or in this case a draft class.
First-Round Pick: Gareon Conley-Cornerback-Ohio State
Best Pick: Round Four-David Sharpe-Offensive Tackle
In 2016, the Oakland Raiders went 12-4 for their first playoff appearance since 2002. But when quarterback Derek Carr suffered a fractured fibula late in the regular season, it took the wind out of the sails of the Raiders, while exposing some of the team’s flaws. The Raiders were 26th in total defense last season, and they were 24th versus the pass as Carr and the offense consistently bailed them out. The Raiders issues on defense showed up in the playoffs where the Houston Texans easily got passed them. And with Oakland issues in the secondary, you knew what the plan of attack was going to be for Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie heading into the 2017 National Football League Draft.
Five of Oakland’s first six picks in the draft were used on defense which included the first two focusing on the secondary.
In the first round, the Raiders selected Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Gareon Conley. Conley had the potential to be taken earlier in the first round, but with allegations of rape being hurled in his direction just prior to the draft, it scared teams off. However that was not the case for the Raiders who decided to take a chance on him in the hopes of solidifying their secondary.
The second round would see the Raiders select Connecticut Huskies safety Obi Melifonwu. Last year Melifonwu led Connecticut in tackles (118) as well as interceptions (4), and now he’ll be expected to become an impact player rather quickly in Oakland.
This draft for the Raiders had the fingerprints of McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio written all over it as after the first two picks, Oakland focused on the offensive and defensive lines, as well as linebacker which included selecting Florida Gators guard David Sharpe in the fourth round, and Wake Forest Demon Deacons outside linebacker Marquel Lee in the fifth round. McKenzie enjoyed a career in the National Football League on the offensive line, while Del Rio was a linebacker. And the Raiders need bring in players that have a “lunch pale” mentality in order for them to take that next step.
First-Round Pick: Garett Bolles-Offensive Tackle-Utah
Best Pick: Round Two-DeMarcus Walker-Defensive End-Florida State
The Denver Broncos are in the midst of a transition which means that it is up to the team executive vice president of football operations in John Elway to get this club back to the Super Bowl form that they possessed two years ago. Elway knows where his bread is buttered as when the Broncos won the Super Bowl two years ago they possessed one of the better offensive and defensive lines in football. And the early stages of the 2017 National Football League Draft saw Elway focus on that.
In the first round the Broncos drafted Utah Utes offensive tackle Garett Bolles. Bolles was one of the better offensive linemen that was available at any position coming into the draft and he is a player that the Broncos could plug in as a starter from his first day on the job.
The second round saw the Broncos select Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker and in the process they may have gotten one of the top steals in the draft. Walker enters the National Football League as the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year after he tallied 16 sacks last year. Walker has a good motor and he should be able to thrive in the Broncos defense as he plays alongside players such as outside linebackers Von Miller and Shane Ray.
With the first pick of the fifth round, the Broncos pegged Michigan Wolverines Jake Butt. Last year at Michigan, Butt won the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and he was on pace to be a first-round pick until he suffered a torn ACL in the Orange Bowl. It’s not a guarantee that Butt will be ready when the regular season rolls around, but he is a low risk, potentially high reward for the Broncos. When healthy Butt has the ability to stretch the field, while the Broncos could also use him as an H-back.
It didn’t take Elway that long to make the Broncos a Super Bowl Champion, and this draft class should help to get Denver back on track after they missed the postseason last year.
Los Angeles Chargers
First-Round Pick: Mike Williams-Wide Receiver-Clemson
Best Pick: Round Two-Forrest Lamp-Guard-Western Kentucky
As the Los Angeles Chargers have bid farewell to San Diego after more than 50 years there, it’s all about developing a winner which starts at the draft. Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is still the guy for the Chargers which means that general manager Tom Telesco must put a quality team around him if Los Angeles wants to be a playoff team.
The Chargers typically have one of the better passing offenses with Rivers under center and they gave him another quality wide receiver to get the football to. In the first round the Chargers selected Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams who at 6’4″, 218 lbs., gives Rivers a big target to get the football to in the red zone. The Chargers have Keenan Allen at wide receiver, but he has been bitten by the injury bug throughout his career and Williams gives Los Angeles more depth at the position.
Ironically the second round saw the Chargers select a player whose name fits their franchise. The Chargers selected Western Kentucky Hilltoppers guard Forrest Lamp who should be a starter from his first day with the team, while he will provide the team with versatility on the offensive line.
The Chargers continued to beef up on the offensive line as they selected Indiana Hoosiers guard Dan Feeney in the third round, while their fifth round selection of Iowa Hawkeyes cornerback Desmond King should give them some much needed depth in the secondary.
One way or the other this will be a historic draft class for the Chargers being that it went down with the team now based out of Los Angeles.
Green Bay Packers
First-Round Pick: (N/A)
Best Pick: Round Seven-Malachi Dupre-Wide Receiver-LSU
The Green Bay Packers are hardly ever in contention when it comes to signing the top-tier free agents which means that their focus is always on the National Football League Draft in regards to making roster upgrades. That was once again the case this year as Packers general manager Ted Thompson sought to make things happen for his team at the NFL Draft and maintain their status as the team to beat in the NFC North.
After making a deal with the Cleveland Browns, the Packers traded out of the first round, but they would obtain the first selection of the second round which is where Thompson began to go to work.
After the Packers secondary was torched in their NFC Championship Game loss to the Atlanta Falcons, upgrading the unit became a top priority here in the off-season. The Packers used their first choice of the draft on Washington Huskies cornerback Kevin King which was followed by using their second pick of the round on North Carolina State Wolfpack safety Josh Jones. The Packers would keep the defensive theme going in the third round when they selected Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Montravius Adams, but they may have found a steal in the fourth round when they selected Wisconsin Badgers outside linebacker Vince Biegel.
At Wisconsin, Biegel played opposite of outside linebacker T.J. Watt who went on to be a first-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Biegel has a motor like no other, and that determination should see him crack the Packers linebacker rotation rather quickly.
Later in the fourth round the Packers selected BYU Cougars running back Jamaal Williams who won’t completely solve Green Bay’s issues at running back, but he can provide them with a player who will be good in short yardage situations as he continues to familiarize himself with the nuances of the team.
The Packers got themselves a steal in the seventh round when they selected LSU Tigers wide receiver Malachi Dupre. Dupre entered college as one of the nation’s top prep players, but a stagnant passing game at LSU didn’t allow him to shine. And now it will be interesting to see if Dupre will be able to take his game to the next level in the National Football League in the same fashion that former LSU Tigers wide receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants and Jarvis Landry of the Miami Dolphins are currently doing.
If you want to question how and why the Packers have made the playoffs in each of the last eight years, just look at what Thompson has been able to consistently do at the draft as he goes in with a plan of attack, and more importantly he sticks with it.
First-Round Pick: Jarrad Davis-Linebacker-Florida
Best Pick: Jarrad Davis
It was going to be interesting to see what the Detroit Lions would do to build off of their surprising trip to the postseason last season as all signs pointed to them attempting to fix the defense. But the Lions main issue on defense in 2016 were a lack of sacks as they were only able to tally 26. And when the Lions were ready to make their first choice of the 2017 National Football League Draft, they had both Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris and Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton sitting there for the taking. However Lions general manager Bob Quinn decided to taking Florida Gators inside linebacker Jarrad Davis. Davis does fill a need for the Lions at middle linebacker, but if Davis was their guy they probably could have gotten him in the second round, while still being able to pick up a pass rusher in the first.
Three of the Lions first four picks in the draft were used on defense which included taking Davis’ college teammate in cornerback Teez Tabor in the second round. Tabor had first-round potential, but he slipped to the second and only time will tell if the Lions got themselves a steal.
The Lions didn’t take a pass rusher until the sixth round when they selected Arkansas Razorbacks defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter which is not going to help their issues as far as getting to the quarterback. And until the Lions find a way to consistently put pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, they will continue to play second fiddle to them in the NFC North.
First-Round Pick: (N/A)
Best Pick: Round Two-Dalvin Cook-Running Back-Florida State
After the Minnesota Vikings acquired quarterback Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles last year, they knew that they wouldn’t be picking in the first round of this year’s National Football League Draft. But that didn’t prevent Vikings general manager Rick Spielman from coming out of the draft smelling like a rose. The Vikings watched the first round train pass them by, but they struck it rich in the second round with their selection of Florida State Seminoles running back Dalvin Cook.
Cook enters the National Football League as a two-time All-American, while also being one of the most decorated ball carriers in the history of the Florida State program. The Vikings needed to replace running back Adrian Peterson who joined the New Orleans Saints and their rushing attack shouldn’t skip a beat with Cook as the feature ball carrier.
This draft was all about getting better in the trenches for the Vikings which saw them make a run through Big Ten country as in the third round they would select Ohio State Buckeyes center Pat Elflein, while taking Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson and Michigan Wolverines inside linebacker Ben Gedeon in the fourth round.
In all the Vikies made 11 selections in the draft as they added depth. And whereas that Cook will rightfully grab the headlines of this draft class, there will be other impact players who’ll emerge from this group.
First-Round Pick: Mitchell Trubisky-Quarterback-North Carolina
Best Pick: Round Four-Eddie Jackson-Safety-Alabama
The last three years have seen the Chicago Bears combine to lose 34 games and after their performance at the National Football League Draft, they aren’t any closer to turning things around. This off-season has already seen the Bears sign former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon to a three-year deal that is worth $45 million with $19 million guaranteed. The Bears entered the draft with the third overall pick with all signs pointing to them improving their defense. However Bears general manager Ryan Pace got trigger happy when he made a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to move up one slot to select North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
In making the deal the Bears sent three additional picks to San Francisco this year, while also parting with their third-round pick next year for a player in Trubisky who some people feel might be a one-year wonder. The Bears bet against themselves since there wasn’t going to be another team that was seeking to move up to select Trubisky and have now mortgaged their future in the process.
The Bears failed to address their issues in the secondary until the fourth round when they selected Alabama Crimson Tide free safety Eddie Jackson who missed the majority of the 2016 college football season due to an injury.
In all the Bears only had five picks as they failed to properly address their needs on the offensive and defensive line, as well as in the secondary. And thus it could be another long season in Chicago for the Bears and their fan base.
First-Round Pick: Takkarist McKinley-Outside Linebacker-UCLA
Best Pick: Takkarist McKinley
The sting of the Super Bowl loss is still fresh for the Atlanta Falcons, but nobody is going to feel sorry for them in the National Football League. The Falcons have been attempting to put it all together this off-season in regards to getting back to the Super Bowl and this year’s draft saw them find an impact player early on.
The Falcons traded up in the first round of the draft with the Seattle Seahawks to select UCLA Bruins outside linebacker Takkarist McKinley. We all know about McKinley’s passionate speech that he gave following being drafted, but he plays with that same desire on the football field.
Last year McKinley led UCLA in sacks with 10 and he joins a Falcons team that needs a bookend edge rusher to offset outside linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. who led the National Football League in sacks last year with 15.5.
Other than getting McKinley, the draft process was rather pedestrian for the Falcons. But if McKinley can come in and have a strong impact for the Falcons defense, it will be a big positive.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
First-Round Pick: O.J. Howard-Tight End-Alabama
Best Pick: Round Five-Jeremy McNichols-Running Back-Boise State
After barely missing out on making the playoffs last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to build off of that, and a solid showing at the 2017 National Football League Draft was just what the doctor ordered for them.
In the first round I expected the Buccaneers to focus on either the offensive line or defensive line. However Tampa Bay instead opted to give quarterback Jameis Winston another play maker to get the football to.
The Bucs drafted Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard who over the last two years emerged as a solid pass catching tight end. Howard has the ability to stretch the field from the tight end position and his presence in Tampa will mean less double teams on wide receivers Mike Evans and the recently acquired DeSean Jackson.
It’s too bad that the City of Tampa does not have an NBA franchise due to the fact that some of the Bucs players could suit up for them. The Buccaneers continued to bring more big and physical play makers in the third round of the draft when they selected Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver Chris Godwin who will give Winston another solid option to get the football to in the red zone.
Tampa Bay has needed a leader on the defensive side of the football for some time now and they may have found one with a compensatory pick in the third round when they selected LSU Tigers middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith. Beckwith was LSU’s second leading tackler last year with 91, and he will provide the Bucs with knowledge and athleticism.
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht continued to add talent in the fifth round when he selected Boise State Broncos running back Jeremy McNichols. All McNichols did last year was to rush for 1,709 yards and score 23 rushing touchdowns. At 5’9″, McNichols gives the Bucs another undersized running running back to team with Doug Martin in their backfield, and he should be able to have an immediate impact.
The Bucs will enter next season as a trendy pick to make the playoffs and this draft class should be able to provide solid production for them.
New Orleans Saints
First-Round Pick: Marshon Lattimore-Cornerback-Ohio State, Ryan Ramczyk-Offensive Tackle-Wisconsin
Best Pick: Marshon Lattimore
With a pair of first round picks heading into the 2017 National Football League Draft, the New Orleans Saints had a solid chance to upgrade their roster, but unfortunately for the folks on the bayou, they missed the boat.
The Saints need all the help that they can get on the defense as they were 27th in the National Football League last season in total defense, while they were last in the league versus the pass. The Saints would use the 11th overall selection on Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Marshon Lattimore. And although that Lattimore’s arrival in New Orleans does fill a need, the Saints had other pressing issues which they failed to address.
The Saints need players that can rush the quarterback as defensive end Cameron Jordan led the team in sacks last season with just 7.5. The Saints would have been better served drafting Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett who ended up being taken by the Philadelphia Eagles a few spots later.
The selection of Lattimore could have also been used on Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard as Saints quarterback Drew Bress has missed having a reliable go-to-guy in the passing game since tight end Jimmy Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks.
And when the run on cornerbacks began later in the first round, the Saints had already selected one as they would use their second pick of the round on Wisconsin Badgers offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk who might be better served playing the right tackle position as opposed to the left.
The Saints would draft a defensive end, but not until their compensatory pick in the third round when they selected Florida Atlantic Owls defensive end Trey Hendrickson. And when it is all said and done, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis will look back and see an opportunity that was missed as in a division with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston, and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, New Orleans needs players that can rush the passer and put consistent pressure on these Pro Bowl caliber quarterbacks.
First-Round Pick: Christian McCaffrey-Running Back-Stanford
Best Pick: Christian McCaffrey
When the Carolina Panthers went 15-1 during the 2015 National Football League season en route to winning the NFC Championship, they were the bullies of the league. The Panthers were a very physical team on both sides of the football which showed up in their record. But when the Panthers sputtered last season as they went 6-10, they got away from their formula for success which started with a power rushing attack. But hope springs eternal and this off-season the Panthers are getting back to their bread and butter.
I expected the Panthers to select a running back early during the 2017 National Football League Draft, and with LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette off of the board, Carolina set their sights on Stanford Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey comes to the Panthers as a very talented athlete which included him being named as the Pac-12 Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 when he set a Football Bowl Subdivision record with 3,864 all-purpose yards. McCaffrey can do it all as he can be a running back, wide receiver, and kick/punt returner as he should have an immediate impact on the Panthers offense.
The second round saw the Panthers select Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Curtis Samuel who has breakout performer written all over him. Samuel led the Buckeyes in receptions (74) and receiving yards (865) last season in an offense that wasn’t pass oriented. And now with Samuel on the receiving end of passes from a former National Football League MVP in Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, along with playing alongside wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen, Samuel could be ready to make a big contribution in Charlotte.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman would use the rest of the draft to add depth which included taking Texas A&M Aggies defensive end Daeshon Hall in the third round. And after finishing last in the NFC South in 2016, this draft class could help the Panthers get back to the postseason this year.
New England Patriots
First-Round Pick: (N/A)
Best Pick: (N/A)
It was very difficult to give the New England Patriots a quality grade for the 2017 National Football League Draft due to the fact that they were not that active. The Patriots only had four selections in the draft as the result of trades or punishment by the NFL. The Patriots upgrades to their team came via trades and free agency as they acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints and tight end Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts, while also signing former Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
But of the Patriots four draft picks in 2017 which includes Youngstown State Penguins outside linebacker Derek Rivers and Troy Trojans offensive tackle Antonio Garcia who were each selected in the third round, they will be developmental players. And before you know it they could become key cogs in the wheel of the Patriots machinery.
First-Round Pick: Charles Harris-Defensive End-Missouri
Best Pick: Charles Harris
After the Miami Dolphins were able to break through last season for their first playoff appearance since 2008, the last thing that they want to do is to take a step backwards. And the best way for the Dolphins to keep building was for them to have a solid draft.
The Dolphins already have a solid pass rush, but if they are going to be able to give the Patriots a real run for their money in the AFC East, then they will need to stock pile as many quality pass rushers as possible. And with several quality pass rusher available in the first round of the 2017 National Football League Draft, the Fins zeroed in on Missouri Tigers defensive end Charles Harris.
Five of Miami’s first six selections in the draft came on the defensive side of the football which included taking Ohio State Buckeyes inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan in the second round and Clemson Tigers cornerback Cordrea Tankersley in the third round.
The only way to get past the Patriots is to slow them down, and the Dolphins are hopeful that they’ve plugged up all of their holes on defense in order to do so.
First-Round Pick: Tre’Davious White-Cornerback-LSU
Best Pick: Round Five-Nathan Peterman-Quarterback-Pittsburgh
The 2017 National Football League Draft turned out to be a train wreck for the Buffalo Bills in more ways than one. The Bills traded down from the tenth overall selection to the 27th as they made a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bills would then select LSU Tigers cornerback Tre’Davious White to offset the loss of cornerback Stephon Gilmore who signed as a free agent with the Patriots. And aside from trading down, the Bills failed to find themselves an impact player in the draft which is bad news for a franchise that needs one since they have failed to make the postseason since 1999.
But things got wacky this past Sunday when general manager Doug Whaley and his entire scouting team were fired. Now this draft class doesn’t have a leg to stand on which gives you an idea as to why the Bills have the longest current playoff drought in the National Football League.
New York Jets
First-Round Pick: Jamal Adams-Safety-LSU
Best Pick: Jamal Adams
The New York Jets entered the 2017 National Football League Draft with several needs to fill on both sides of the football, but credit to general manager Mike Maccagnan for sticking to his guns and not overreaching at any point during the draft.
After coming off of a 5-11 season, along with possessing the sixth overall pick in the draft, it would have been really easy for the Jets to get caught up in the moment and select a quarterback. However Maccagnan stuck to his draft board and selected LSU Tigers safety Jamal Adams.
Adams fell slightly in the draft once the Chicago Bears decided to draft quarterback Mitch Trubisky, but he fills a need in the Jets secondary as they could be ready to move on from safety Calvin Pryor.
The Jets continued to find athletes from the Southeastern Conference as they took Florida Gators safety Marcus Maye in the second round and Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver ArDarius Stewart in the third which helps this organization being that they need more depth.
This draft class may not produce superstars for the Jets, but they might be able to get some quality role players out of it.
First-Round Pick: Deshaun Watson-Quarterback-Clemson
Best Pick: Deshaun Watson
Each of the last two years has seen the Houston Texans with the AFC South, and their productivity at the 2017 National Football League Draft could make them the team to beat in this division for years to come. In a bold move the Texans moved up 13 spots in the first round in order to select Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The Texans made a trade with the Cleveland Browns in order to move up to select Watson and it could be well worth it. Watson’s record as a starter in college was 32-3 which included leading Clemson to the national championship last year. And that ability to win games caught the eye of the Texans who may have found their franchise quarterback.
In the second round the Texans got a steal when they drafted Vanderbilt Commodores outside linebacker Zach Cunningham. Cunningham had the potential to be a mid first-round selection, but surprisingly he fell to the second round and he is going into a great situation. At Vanderbilt, Cunningham tackled everything that moved as he led the team in tackles last year with 125. Now Cunningham will join an already strong linebacking core where he can learn from the likes of outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and inside linebacker Brian Cushing.
Last year the Texans were eighth in the National Football League in rushing and that trend should continue after drafting Texas Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman in the third round. Foreman was a workhorse for the Longhorns as he carried the football 323 times last year for 2,208 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns to earn the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. The Texans already had plenty of talent in their backfield which features Lamar Miller, but now the addition of Foreman will allow head coach Bill O’Brien to keep fresh tailbacks throughout the season.
The Texans would then beef up in the trenches as they pegged Bucknell Bison offensive tackle Julien Davenport and Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Carlos Watkins in the fourth round, while nabbing Baylor Bears center Kyle Fuller in the seventh.
Of the coaches who have worked under New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, O’Brien probably possesses the best pedigree of knowing how to put a quality team together as this draft illustrated that.
First-Round Pick: Corey Davis-Wide Receiver-Western Michigan, Adoree’ Jackson-Cornerback-USC
Best Pick: Adoree’ Jackson
The Tennessee Titans had a solid showing at the 2017 National Football League Draft, but things could have been much better for them. Last year the Titans traded the first overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams with part of their compensation seeing them receive an additional first round pick this year. The Titans entered this year’s draft with the fifth as well 18th overall selections, and instead of hitting home runs, they reached with their choices.
First, the Titans would select Western Michigan Broncos wide receiver Corey Davis who was a lock to go in the first round, but if Tennessee was that focused on him, they could’ve traded down a little bit and still gotten him. Davis does fill a hole for the Titans who need a presence at the wide receiver position to off-set their power running game, but the pressure will be on him to live up to the expectations as far as where he was drafted.
Later on in the first round the Titans would peg USC Trojans cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. And like Davis, Jackson can come in and have an impact for the Titans; it’s just that it was a reach to select him where they did. Jackson’s initial impact with the Titans could come on special teams where they need a play maker, and don’t be surprised to see Titans head coach Mike Mularkey implement some plays for him on offense.
After the first round the Titans would add seven more players in the draft. But with none of those players showing the ability to stand out, Tennessee missed a golden opportunity to load up on impact players in the draft.
First-Round Pick: Malik Hooker-Safety-Ohio State
Best Pick: Malik Hooker
After quarterback Andrew Luck helped the Indianapolis Colts reach the AFC Championship Game during the 2014 National Football League season, he has taken a football beating. In each of the last two years the Colts have gone 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. A big reason for the Colts struggles is that the team has failed to put talent around Luck which begins with their inability at the draft. The Colts have a new general manager in Chris Ballard, but his first draft with the Colts wasn’t be a memorable one.
The Colts entered the 2017 National Football League Draft with multiple needs on both sides of the football. In the first round the Colts selected Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker whom they are hopeful can solve some of their coverage issues. The second round would see the Colts select Florida Gators cornerback Quincy Wilson, but I am not sure if either he or Hooker will be able to come in an have an immediate impact in Indianapolis.
In Luck’s last 22 games he has been sacked 56 times, but the Colts only used one draft pick on an offensive lineman in the fourth round when they selected USC Trojans offensive tackle Zach Banner. The Colts were 23rd last year in rushing which saw them use another fourth-round selection on South Florida Bulls running back Marlon Mack, but with their issues on the offensive line who is going to block for him?
The Colts also needed to improve the wide receiver position, but in failing to do so this could be a very long season in Indianapolis for Luck and Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
First-Round Pick: Leonard Fournette-Running Back-LSU
Best Pick: Round Two-Cam Robinson-Offensive Tackle-Alabama
It’s been ten years since the Jacksonville Jaguars had a winning record or made the playoffs which can be traced back to their inability to find and develop talent in the first round of the National Football League Draft. But with former Jaguars and New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin now as the executive vice president of football operations in Jacksonville, there may finally be some law and order there.
The Jags have let it be known that they are committed to Blake Bortles as their franchise quarterback. And since that is the case it means that Jacksonville must put more talent around Bortles.
Coughlin attended Syracuse University as a running back which saw him in the same backfield with Hall of Fame running backs Larry Csonka and Floyd Little. Coughlin’s dedication to the run followed him throughout his head coaching career in the National Football League and he has brought that same game plan with him to the Jaguars front office.
The first round of the draft saw the Jags select LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette. At 6’1″, 235 lbs., Fournette can be like a runaway freight train with the football in his possession and he will have every opportunity to have an impact in Jacksonville. And if you want to run the football while also protecting Bortles, why not select a proven offensive tackle early which is what the Jaguars did.
With the second pick of the second round Jacksonville selected Alabama Crimson Tide offensive tackle Cam Robinson. Robinson has the potential to be a solid player for the Jaguars and the fact that he slipped to the second round could mean that he’ll be extra motivated when he puts the pads on.
The fourth round saw the Jags select Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Dede Westbrook who despite the baggage that he brings due to his off-the-field issues while in college, he could add to an already talented receiving unit in Jacksonville. Westbrook could be a very valuable slot receiver; especially on third down which will be important for a Jaguars team that is seeking to not get lost in the shuffle in the AFC South.
We’ve heard this before, but things appear to be finally turning around in Jacksonville.
First-Round Pick: Taco Charlton-Defensive End-Michigan
Best Pick: Taco Charlton
The 2016 National Football League season saw the Dallas Cowboys go 13-3 en route to winning the NFC East Championship. However the Cowboys have still been unable to advance past the second round of the playoffs since winning the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 1995 season. Last year showed that the Cowboys have the offensive firepower to win the Super Bowl, but their defense lags behind.
Focusing of fixing their defense was the plan of attack for the Cowboys heading into the 2017 National Football League Draft and they made sure to stick to their guns. The first round saw the Cowboys select Michigan Wolverines defensive end Taco Charlton. In four years at Michigan, Charlton continued to improve as an edge rusher, and although that he might not be the next DeMarcus Ware, he is definitely a breath of fresh air for a Dallas team that needs to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The Cowboys were 26th in the National Football League in pass defense last season, and after drafting Charlton, four of their next five picks in the draft would see them focus on the secondary which was highlighted by them selecting Colorado Buffaloes cornerback Chidobe Awuzie in the second round.
This draft class might not produce immediate impact players for the Cowboys, but it is definitely a step in the right direction for them on the defensive side of the football.
New York Giants
First-Round Pick: Evan Engram-Tight End-Ole Miss
Best Pick: Evan Engram
In spite of the fact that the New York Giants were a playoff team last year, they still entered the 2017 National Football League Draft needing to address several holes on both sides of the ball. The Giants have spent this off-season attempting to give quarterback Eli Manning bigger targets to get the football to in the red zone. And in the first round of the draft, New York selected Ole Miss Rebels tight end Evan Engram.
At 6’3″, 234 lbs., Engram could be viewed as a big wide receiver or a small tight end. But what Engram gives the Giants is a presence. The past few years have seen the Giants rely on smaller wide receivers such as Odell Beckham Jr. But as good as Beckham is, he is not going to win that many jump ball situations in the red zone which is where Engram comes into play. With defenses focused on Beckham, Engram can work the seams, while also keeping linebackers honest as he should help to improve Manning’s efficiency.
After losing defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins in free agency to the Indianapolis Colts, I expected New York to find his replacement early on in the draft. The Giants used a second-round choice on Alabama Crimson Tide defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson who could be another project on New York’s defensive line. Tomlinson was surrounded by nothing but talent at Alabama, and he is now joining one of the top defenses in the National Football League.
There is a possibility that the Giants may have found Manning’s heir apparent in the third round of the draft when they selected California Golden Bears quarterback Davis Webb. Webb played in two prolific offenses during his collegiate days which saw him start off with the Texas Tech Red Raiders before he transferred to Berkley. Now Webb must convert from the air-raid offense to a more conventional pro-style, and who better for him to learn from than a two-time Super Bowl MVP.
The main problem for the Giants is that they had too many holes, without having multiple picks in the early rounds to fill all of those needs. The Giants still have issues on the offensive line and at linebacker as it is going to be paramount for them to develop players such as their sixth-round in guard Adam Bisnowaty in order to keep up with the top teams in the NFC.
First-Round Pick: Jonathan Allen-Defensive Tackle-Alabama
Best Pick: Round Four-Samaje Perine-Running Back-Oklahoma
The Washington Redskins entered the 2017 National Football League Draft with some glaring needs on the offensive side of the ball and they did not address those issues. This off-season has seen the Redskins allow their top two wide receivers from last season in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to each leave in free agency. This didn’t make quarterback Kirk Cousins a happy camper as he already wasn’t thrilled about the fact that Washington slapped the franchise tag on him for the second consecutive year.
There was a run on wide receivers early in the draft which saw all of the pass catchers who had first round grades attached to them come off of the board by the time that the Redskins would make their selection. Instead of trading up get a wide receiver, the ‘Skins selected Alabama Crimson Tide defensive end Jonathan Allen.
The Redskins did have issues on defense last year as well as they were 28th in the National Football League in total defense and the drafting of Allen gives them a versatile body on their defensive line. Washington was able to keep the defensive theme going in the second round when they selected Allen’s Alabama teammate in outside linebacker Ryan Anderson which was followed by taking UCLA Bruins cornerback Fabian Moreau in the third round.
Washington would find themselves a road grader in the fourth round when they selected Oklahoma Sooners running back Semaje Perine. At 5’11”, 233 lbs., Perine is very difficult to tackle due to his thick lower body as he has tree trunks for legs. Perine’s 4,122 rushing yards at Oklahoma are the most in the history of the program which says a ton with the likes of Billy Sims and Adrian Peterson having played there. And now Perine could become very valuable in the Washington’s backfield.
The Redskins didn’t select a wide receiver until the sixth round when they picked Georgia State Panthers wide receiver Robert Davis who will probably be a special teams player initially. And this inability for the Redskins to address their issues at the wide receiver position could hinder their chances of making the postseason here in 2017.
First-Round Pick: Derek Barnett-Defensive End-Florida State
Best Pick: Derek Barnett
The Philadelphia Eagles finished in last place of the NFC East in 2016, but this is a team that isn’t too far off from being a playoff contender. The Eagles went 7-9 which included posting victories over the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys who were each playoff teams. The Eagles have already had a strong off-season as they signed wide Alshon Jeffery, along with defensive end Chris Long who helped the New England Patriots will the Super Bowl last year. And a strong showing by Philadelphia at the National Football League Draft could be the icing on the cake for what has been a productive off-season for them.
The Eagles needed to continue to process of beefing up their pass rush which they did in the first round of the draft by selecting Tennessee Volunteers defensive end Derek Barnett. In three years at Tennessee, Barnett amassed 33 sacks and in the process he broke the school record of former Eagles defensive end Reggie White. Barnett can be as good as advertised and playing alongside the likes of Long and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox in Philadelphia could make him a logical candidate to be National Football League’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The Eagles would then turn their focus to the secondary as their next two selections would be used on Washington Huskies cornerback Sindey Jones and West Virginia Mountaineers cornerback Rasul Douglas. In the fourth round Philadelphia would select San Diego State Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey who enters the National Football League as the Football Bowl Subdivision’s all-time leading rusher with 6,290 yards. Pumphrey is in the mold of current Eagles running back Darren Sproles as he is a short and shifty back coming out of the backfield who can be dangerous in space.
The rich get richer and this draft class could springboard the Eagles to their first postseason appearance since 2013.
First-Round Pick: T.J. Watt-Outside Linebacker-Wisconsin
Best Pick: T.J. Watt
No team in the history of the National Football League has won more Super Bowl Titles than the six in which the Pittsburgh Steelers possess, and the most recent edition of the NFL Draft illustrated why.
While some teams entered the National Football League Draft playing the guessing game as far as what they needed to do in order to improve their respective rosters, the Steelers stuck to their plan of bringing more talent to Western Pennsylvania while capitalizing on the mistakes of others.
The first round saw the Steelers have to wait until the 30th pick, but there they selected Wisconsin Badgers outside linebacker T.J. Watt. Watt is the younger brother of Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and Los Angeles Chargers fullback Derek Watt. Just like his big brother who suits up for the Texans, T.J. is a freak of nature. Watt fills a need for the Steelers who have to improve their pass rush. Last year at Wisconsin, Watt recorded 11.5 sacks as a member of one of the stingiest defenses in college football, and his workman like attitude will be a welcome sight in Western Pennsylvania.
In the second round the Steelers were able to land USC Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. At 6’1″, 215 lbs., Smith-Schuster gives the Steelers another red zone target for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and their prolific offense.
The Steelers had two selections in the third round with one of those choices being used on Pittsburgh Panthers running back James Conner. The Steelers got a close look at Conner in college and they know all about his story. Conner was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, while he would also overcome Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during his time at Pitt. Conner never gave up and his mental toughness fits the mold of being a Steeler.
The Steelers were close to getting to the Super Bowl last season, and this draft class can help to possibly make it a reality come February.
First-Round Pick: Marlon Humphrey-Cornerback-Alabama
Best Pick: Round Three-Tim Williams-Defensive End-Alabama
It’s hard to believe, but three of the last four years have seen the Baltimore Ravens fail to make the playoffs. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome has been attempting to get the Ravens back to being a consistent playoff contender as this draft could help to get Baltimore closer to that.
This draft saw the Ravens focus on getting back to their identity. In the first round the Ravens selected Alabama Crimson Tide cornerback Marlon Humphrey. With the Steelers currently being the team to beat in the AFC North, the Ravens need all of the help that they can get in their secondary in order to hang with Pittsburgh’s explosive offensive players.
After trading defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens had a pair of third round picks and they quickly found a replacement for Jernigan in Michigan Wolverines defensive tackle Chris Wormley. At 6’5″, Wormley should fit in to the Ravens scheme on their defensive line as they run the 3-4. Later in the third round Baltimore would peg one of Humphrey’s collegiate teammates in outside linebacker Tim Williams. Williams is an outside linebacker by trade, but he is extremely versatile which includes playing the run and pass well. And that versatility could make Williams a starter early on for the Ravens.
The fourth round saw the Ravens select San Diego State Aztecs guard Nico Siragusa. Siragusa is coming off of an All-American selection at San Diego State which included him opening holes for record setting running back Donnel Pumphrey. And after the Ravens were 28th in the National Football League last season in rushing, they need all of the help that they can get on the offensive line.
This draft class might not show up immediately for the Ravens, but they will be effective players.
First-Round Pick: John Ross-Wide Receiver-Washington
Best Pick: Round Three-Jordan Willis-Defensive End-Kansas State
After the Cincinnati Bengals failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 2010, it was time for them to retool. The Bengals entered the National Football League Draft needing more speed at the wide receiver position and they got their money’s worth.
In the first round the Bengals selected Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross who set a record by running the fastest 40-yard dash time in the history of the National Football League Scouting Combine. Ross ran a 4.22 40-yard dash and his speed will now see him test the arm strength of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
In the second round the Bengals would put themselves under the microscope by drafting Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon. Mixon entered this draft as one of the best play makers at the running back position; however most people have not been focused on that due to his past off-the-field issues. In 2014, Mixon was suspended by Oklahoma after he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly hitting a woman. In 2015, Mixon would return to Oklahoma and become a key contributor to the Sooners winning 22 games over the last two college football seasons. But when video surfaced late in 2016 of Mixon hitting the woman during the 2014 incident, he was immediately taken off of some team’s draft boards. Now the Bengals must face the public backlash and if they and Mixon are able to get past that, he could be a very productive player for them.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has always believed in stock piling pass rushers, and in a division with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, you can never have enough players who can put pressure on the quarterback. The third round saw Cincinnati select Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Jordan Willis. Willis comes to the Bengals as a very polished edge rusher. In 2016, Willis was the Big 12 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year as he recorded 11.5 sacks. The Bengals didn’t stop there as in the fourth round they selected Auburn Tigers defensive end Carl Lawson. Lawson had the potential to be taken late in the first round, but questions about his durability saw his stock fall. Now Willis and Lawson can learn from veteran Bengals defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson while also contributing on the field.
If the Bengals can stay healthy in 2017, they should once again be able to contend for a playoff spot.
First-Round Pick: Myles Garrett-Defensive End-Texas A&M, Jabril Peppers-Safety-Michigan, David Njoku-Tight End-Miami
Best Pick: Myles Garrett
The Cleveland Browns had a real opportunity to reverse the fortunes of their franchise at the 2017 National Football League Draft. But it typical Browns fashion, they let that opportunity go by the wayside.
The Browns entered the draft in possession of the first overall pick which was almost impossible for even them to mess up. The Browns used that selection on Texas A&M Aggies defensive end Myles Garrett who has freakish pass rushing ability. But the biggest issue for Garrett is whether or not that he’ll get sucked into the Bermuda Triangle in which so many first-round picks of the Browns have gotten lost in. And after the selection of Garrett, it was completely downhill from there for the Browns.
The Browns owned the 12th overall pick and they were in need of a quarterback. However with North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky having been drafted by the Chicago Bears, Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson was sitting there waiting for a phone call with area code 440 attached to it. Instead of taking Watson, the Browns made a trade with the Houston Texans who were poised to take Watson and make him their franchise quarterback. And as I’ve said before, the Browns will rue the day in which they passed on Watson as he is a proven winner which is what they need in their locker room.
Cleveland would make take two more selections in the first round as they pegged Michigan Wolverines strong safety Jabril Peppers 25th overall and Miami Hurricanes tight end David Njoku 29th overall. Peppers saw his draft stock fall as the result of a diluted sample at the Scouting Combine, while teams weren’t sure if he is a safety or an outside linebacker. Njoku was arguably the best athlete at the tight end position coming into the draft, but how much of an impact that he can with Cleveland remains to be seen.
After passing up on Watson, the Browns would then take Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer in the second round. Kizer had more uncertainty as far as his ability to be a professional quarterback than the three signal callers who were selected in the first round. Kizer is still very raw a passer which includes questions about his pocket awareness and ability to break down pro-style defenses as it appears to be simply another case of goofing up by the Browns.
In the sixth round Cleveland would select Florida Gators defensive tackle Caleb Brantley who saw his draft stock diminish after he was accused of punching a woman last month to the point that the alleged victim required dental work. Brantley had second round potential, but most teams weren’t willing to touch him with a 10-foot pole after the allegations came out against him. The Browns contend that they can still release him based off of potential legal ramifications, but why put your franchise in that position in the first place?
Since the Browns re-entered the National Football League in 1999, they’ve only had two winning seasons. And after the Browns went 1-15 last season, they laid a complete egg at the draft as they will continue to be the whipping boys of the AFC North, along with being the laughing stock of the NFL.