Will the defense of the Seattle Seahawks find a way to slow down Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley?
American Football Conference
1. New England Patriots
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Kansas City Chiefs
4. Houston Texans
5. Oakland Raiders
6. Miami Dolphins
AFC Wild Card Round
Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans
These two teams met in last year’s AFC Wild Card Game, but if Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is healthy this time, the results will be much different.
Miami Dolphins vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Dolphins have what it takes to make a good run in the playoffs, but they’ll draw a Chiefs team in the first round that won’t be denied.
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Until the Chiefs find a way to get past the Steelers and Patriots, the second round of the playoffs will be as far as they can go.
Oakland Raiders vs. New England Patriots
The Raiders could be the heir apparent to the Patriots in the AFC, but they still have to wait their turn.
AFC Championship Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots
It might be a new season and a more motivated Steelers team, but the result will be the same as last January.
National Football Conference
1. Green Bay Packers
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Carolina Panthers
5. New York Giants
6. Dallas Cowboys
NFC Wild Card Game
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
There is no love lost between the Cowboys and Eagles which will make this an intense battle.
New York Giants vs. Carolina Panthers
After coming up short in playoffs last season, Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. needs to redeem himself.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
New York Giants vs. Seattle Seahawks
Which Super Bowl winning quarterback will be able to do enough to help his team advance?
Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers
The networks will be salivating over covering this game as it’ll be the Cowboys and Packers meeting in January for the second consecutive year.
NFC Championship Game
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
The Packers have been close, but will this be the year in they are finally able to get back to the Super Bowl?
Super Bowl 52-US Bank Stadium-Minneapolis, Minnesota: Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots
It will be must-see TV to have Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers playing each other in the Super Bowl, but Brady finds a way to win his unprecedented sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.
X-Seattle Seahawks 11-5
Six of the last seven years have seen the Seattle Seahawks make the playoffs, but after they lost the Super Bowl in February 2015, they’ve lacked the ability to be recognized as a strong Super Bowl contender. Since Seattle won the Super Bowl in February 2014, age, injuries, free agency, and the salary cap crunch have caught up to them. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have stuck to their guns which has seen them focus on drafting in the hopes of maintaining depth at each position. And as some players have been harder to replace than others, it has shown up in key regular season losses for Seattle as well as when they were eliminated in the divisional round of the playoffs in each of the last two years. But as a new season is set to begin in the National Football League, will the Seahawks be able to put all of that behind them and make another push at winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy?
Russell Wilson was the starting quarterback for the Seahawks when they won the Super Bowl, but the heart and soul on offense for that championship team was running back Marshawn Lynch. Last year saw Lynch retire from the National Football League and in the process the Seahawks running game suffered. In 2016, the Seahawks were 25th in the NFL in rushing with their leading rusher being Christine Michael with only 469 yards.
In the off-season the Seahawks signed former Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy in the hopes of giving their stagnant running game a boost. Lacy had a strong start to his National Football League career in 2013 with the Packers. That season saw Lacy gain 1,178 yards on the ground and in the process he was named as the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. However weight issues have hampered Lacy ever since which led to him falling out of favor in Green Bay. But I do expect Lacy to have an impact with Seattle this year due to the fact that he has incentives in his contract to keep his weight down.
And a solid season be Lacy should benefit Wilson. In five years as the Seahawks starting quarterback, Wilson’s career record is 56-23-1. Wilson’s passing yardage has increased in each season, however when he has a big passing game the Seahawks generally lose. The Seahawks offense is predicated on balance and as good of a winner the Wilson is, he cannot carry the offense by his lonesome.
Surprisingly the Seahawks traded veteran wide receiver Jermaine Kearse this off-season, but Wilson still has his “BFF” in wide receiver Doug Baldwin while after tight end Jimmy Graham dealt with injuries as well as trying to figure things out in Seattle in 2015 was able to bounce back last year for one of the most productive seasons of his career. And although that Graham is set to become 31-years of age in November, he can still get it down for the Seahawks; especially in the red zone.
Last year the Seahawks were fifth in the National Football League in total defense and this unit is at its best when all 11 players are flying around the football. For the longest time Seattle has had a stout defensive line with pass rushers such as Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, and Michael Bennett set to have an impact this season. But the rich got richer when the Seahawks were able to acquire defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson from the New York Jets this summer.
Richardson was able to burst onto the scene with the Jets in 2013 as he was named as the National Football League’s Rookie of the Year, while making the Pro Bowl in 2014. The best way to describe Richardson is that he is a disruptor on the defensive line and when he is on top of his game, he is one of the top defensive tackles in the game. However the downside is that Richardson can take plays off and lose focus. But if there is an organization that can bring out the best in Richardson, it would be the Seahawks.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the National Football League in tackles last year with 167, while outside linebacker K.J. Wright is one of the most underrated players at his position. The Seahawks secondary is still home to some of the top alpha males in the NFL in cornerback Richard Sherman, free safety Earl Thomas, and strong safety Kam Chancellor. Thomas is looking to bounce back after he suffered a broken leg last year and the Seahawks secondary simply wasn’t the same without him. But overall this unit could be ready to once again be dominant this season.
In 2015, Blair Walsh was one of the most accurate kickers in the National Football League as he connected on more than 87% of his kicks as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. But Walsh will only be remembered for missing a 27-yard field goal in the closing seconds of a wild card loss to the Seahawks. Walsh would have a hard time getting over the miss which led to the Vikings releasing him last year. However Walsh has now been presented with the chance to get back on track as a member of the Seahawks, and whereas Carroll has been known to coach his guys up, Walsh could be ready to bounce back in a big way this season.
The beginning and the end of the Seahawks schedule will be the toughest portion as they’ll open on the road against the Packers, while they will finish up with the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals. But when it is all said and done, Seattle should be in line to claim another NFC West Title.
Arizona Cardinals 10-6
At the start of the 2016 National Football League season, the expectations were high for the Arizona Cardinals. The previous season had seen the Cardinals reach the NFC Championship Game for just the second time in franchise history. However the Cardinals would be up and down last season which began in their first game when they lost at home to the eventual Super Bowl Champions in the New England Patriots who didn’t have the services of quarterback Tom Brady. And as the Cards finished with a record of 7-8-1, they have still failed to make the postseason in three consecutive years. But as the Cards finished 2016 by winning their final two games which included knocking off the Seattle Seahawks on the road for the second consecutive year, maybe they can carry that momentum over into the new season.
Since Bruce Arians has been the head coach of the Cardinals, he has relied on Carson Palmer to be his starting quarterback. Palmer is entering his 13th years in the National Football League and as he is set to be 38-years of age in December, it will paramount for Arizona’s offensive line to keep him protected due to the fact that he is not that mobile.
Palmer isn’t the only veteran who is a key component to the Cardinals. The last 13 years have seen wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald morph into one of the best pass catchers that the National Football League has ever seen. And the age of 34, Fitzgerald isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Fitzgerald led the NFL in receptions last season with 107, while he still commands a double team.
But the Cardinals cannot solely rely on Fitzgerald in their passing game which means that wide receiver John Brown needs to have a bounce back season. After Brown gained 1,003 receiving yards in 2015, he struggled at times last year and in the process he fell out of favor with Arians as he was only able to tally 517 yards.
Very rapidly running back David Johnson has emerged as one of the better all-purpose backs in the National Football League and his 1,239 rushing yards were seventh in the league last season. But what set Johnson apart was his ability at the goal line as he had 16 touchdowns on the ground. And if the Cardinals are able to get some consistency from their wide receivers who are not named Fitzgerald, Johnson could be even more dangerous with defenses being unable to solely focus on him.
For Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher, it is all about “organized chaos” with his unit. The Cards defense is all about putting as much pressure as possible on opposing offenses and it also good that the players in Arizona can rely on some former National Football League players as assistant coaches. Kevin Ross played in the NFL for 14 years and now he serves as the Cardinals defensive backs coach. Larry Foote spent 13 years in the NFL which included winning a pair of Super Bowl Championships as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and now he serves as Arizona’s inside linebackers coach. Brenston Buckner spent 12 years in the NFL as a defensive tackle and now he is coaching the defensive line for Arizona.
But even with all of that experience on the sidelines, it is the Cardinals players who have to go out on the field and make it happen, however they have the people to do so. Defensive ends Robert Nkemdiche and Frostee Rucker can provide pressure up front, while the Cardinals could have one of the best linebacking cores in the National Football League. Outside linebackers Chandler Jones and Markus Golden have become one of the bookend pass rushing tandems in the NFL which should compliment rookie inside linebacker Haason Reddick and Karlos Dansby who is set to begin his third stint with the club.
The Cardinals secondary is home to a wealth of play makers as well. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is one of the best in the business in regards to one-on-one coverage, while free safety Tyrann Mathieu has rapidly developed into arguably the top all-around safety in the National Football League due to his ability to play both the run and the pass. The Cards have depth in their secondary which includes strong safety Tyvon Branch and cornerback Tramon Williams. And this depth has allowed the Cardinals to play Deone Bucannon at linebacker as opposed to his natural position of safety.
Special teams were an issue last year for Arizona as well, but the acquisition of kicker Phil Dawson should remedy that being that he is one of the most accurate kickers in National Football League history. And it will also help the veteran kicker in Dawson that all of Arizona’s home games will be played indoors.
Only one of Arizona’s first nine games will be played against a team that made the playoffs last season. And a fast start for Arians and his team could be just what they need to make it back to the postseason.
Los Angeles Rams 6-10
The 2016 National Football League season saw the Rams return to the City of Los Angeles for the first time since 1994. And although that the Rams were initially welcomed with excitement for their return to Southern California, it waned rather quickly. The Rams went 4-12 last year for their tenth consecutive losing season. In the process the Rams went through two different head coaches as Jeff Fisher was fired after the team’s 4-9 start. The Rams finished with the fifth worst record in the National Football League, but they didn’t have a first-round pick to show for their inefficiency due to a trade in 2016 with the Tennessee Titans. 31-year old Sean McVay has been hired to be the Rams new head coach. And as critics will attempt to use McVay’s age against him, will he be the guy to get things turned around in Los Angeles?
McVay was given the Rams job on the premise that he would be able to develop quarterback Jared Goff into a quality National Football League quarterback. The Rams used the first overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft on Goff and in the process they mortgaged the future by giving up multiple first-round picks in order to obtain him.
Last year Goff began his National Football League career by watching from the sidelines. Goff would go on to start seven games for the Rams, but he was never able to lead them to a victory. As expected Goff struggled as he only completed 54.6% of his passes, while throwing 5 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. Overall the Rams offense was last in the NFL in total offense, but the entire blame cannot be placed on Goff.
After being the National Football League’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015, running back Todd Gurley regressed last season. Gurley only gained 885 yards on the ground last season as he wilted in the Hollywood spotlight. But if the Rams want to have any success on offense this year, Gurley will need to run like he did when the team still called St. Louis home.
The Rams passing game should receive a boost this year as the team acquired wide receiver Sammy Watkins from the Buffalo Bills. After the Bills moved up in the first round of the 2014 National Football League Draft to select Watkins, he was never able to live up to the hype as he has constantly been injured. And it hasn’t helped Watkins that wide receivers who were selected after him such as New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are consistently Pro Bowlers. But now Watkins has the opportunity to wipe the slate clean with the Rams as he needs to get on the same page with the young Goff.
Defensively the Rams were ninth in the National Football League in total defense last year, but at times they were a very undisciplined bunch. The Rams were the fifth most penalized team in the NFL last year with the defense accounting for their fair share. The Rams have talented players on the defensive side of the ball, but they’ve simply been unable to make it all come together consistently.
It has not taken defensive tackle Aaron Donald that long to become one of the best players at his position in the National Football League. In just three years Donald has tallied 28 sacks which is an incredible number for a player who spends the majority of his time on the interior of the defensive line. This off-season has seen Donald attempt to be compensated like one of the top players in the league, but to no avail. And as Donald and the Rams have been unable to come to an agreement on a long-term deal, he sat out for the entire off-season which has cast some doubt over his availability for the regular season.
The Rams defense will look different without Donald on defense, but they still have a strong group of linebackers which includes outside linebacker Robert Quinn, along with inside linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron. Quinn has spent his entire National Football League career as a defensive end, but with Wade Phillips taking over as the Rams defensive coordinator, Quinn’s role has changed. Phillips is a proponent of the 3-4 defense as opposed to the 4-3 as it is all about supplying as much pressure as possible on opposing offenses. However Phillips knows how to get results with his defenses which included his most recent stint as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos which led to a Super Bowl Championship to culminate the 2015 National Football League season.
The Rams are going to need some luck in order to be a playoff team in 2017, and they’ll have to take advantage of the early portion of their schedule which will see them host the Indianapolis Colts who won’t have the services of quarterback Andrew Luck, and the Dallas Cowboys who won’t have running back Ezekiel Elliot.
San Francisco 49ers 1-15
It’s hard to believe, but it was less than five years ago that the San Francisco 49ers were in the Super Bowl and they were one play away from winning it all. Since then the championship caliber team that had been built by former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has been rapidly destroyed with only three players who were on San Francisco’s roster during their Super Bowl run currently still there. And after San Francisco has only been able to win a combined seven games over the last two years, Niners owner Jed York has decided to push the reset button and start over as he has welcomed in a new general manager and head coach to his organization.
York hired John Lynch to be San Francisco’s new general manager. Lynch doesn’t have any prior front office experience in the National Football League, but most notably he was a standout free safety for 15 years which included appearing in nine Pro Bowls and winning a Super Bowl Title as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lynch gave up a cushy job as a color analyst for FOX Sports to join the 49ers, but as he brings the same passion and intensity that he played with to the front office, things could be turned around in San Francisco sooner rather than later.
Lynch’s first order of business was to hire Kyle Shanahan as the 21st head coach in 49ers franchise history. Shanahan learned the ins and outs of the coaching profession from his father Mike who won a pair of Super Bowl Championships as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. The younger Shanahan has been the offensive coordinator for several teams in the National Football League with his most recent stint being with the Atlanta Falcons.
However Shanahan’s stint with the 49ers will begin under a cloud of controversy as his last game with the Falcons was Super Bowl 51 where his offense could not maintain a 28-3 lead versus the New England Patriots. And now Shanahan must redeem himself as he looks to make San Francisco a contender.
It’s tough to get overly excited for the Niners this season once you look at their quarterbacking situation. The two quarterbacks who are currently on the 49ers roster are veteran Brian Hoyer and rookie C.J. Beathard. In eight years in the National Football League, Hoyer has a career record of 16-15 with a completion percentage of 59.5%, while Beathard has never attempted a pass in the league.
Overall San Francisco is lacking play makers on the offensive side of the football. Each of the last two years have seen the Niners fail to produce a 1,000-yard running back, while the only bright spot for the offense is left tackle Joe Staley who is a five-time Pro Bowler.
With Lynch leading the way, he is going to attempt to rebuild the defense; more than likely in the variation of the Cover 2 defense that he is most familiar with which is the “Tampa 2”. The strength of the Cover 2 is right up the middle of the defense which is currently a huge weakness for the Niners. And as San Francisco was dead last in the National Football League last year in total defense which included surrendering at least 35 points in a contest five times, there still isn’t that much to get that excited about in regards to this group.
The only two victories that the 49ers were able to attain last year were over the Los Angeles Rams. And as this year appears to be a throw away for the Niners, victories will once again be few and far between.
On February 1, 2015, the Seattle Seahawks took the field at the University of Phoenix Stadium for Super Bowl 49 in what was set to be their crowning moment. The Seahawks were attempting to be the first National Football League team since the New England Patriots in 2004 to win consecutive Super Bowl Championships as it would have been just the seventh time in the Super Bowl era that the champ from the previous year would be able to repeat. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl in the previous season by being a brash and cocky team that could intimidate opponents with their sheer athleticism that was topped off with bravado. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll had constructed his team in the same mode that he had previously done during his time collegiately with the USC Trojans as he employed athletes and depth at nearly every position which made Seattle the envy of the NFL.
The Seahawks entered the Super Bowl needing to get past the Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady who was already a three-time Super Bowl Champion. Because of this the oddsmakers in Las Vegas had the contest as a pick ’em, and they were very accurate in their assessment as the game was a toss up throughout.
The strength of both teams was on display early as Brady was able to lead the Patriots down the field into scoring position. But in the red zone Brady was picked off by Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane. Brady would recover and lead the Pats on a pair of touchdown drives. However each time that New England scored, the Seahawks were able to answer and thus the contest was tied at 14 heading to halftime.
The Seahawks would then take control of the game in the third quarter which saw Brady picked off by Seattle middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks would take a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter and their second consecutive Super Bowl Title seemed to be right around the bend.
But somebody forgot to mention that to Brady who took over in the fourth quarter as he picked apart the best secondary in the National Football League. Brady was as accurate as could be with crisp passes, while the Seahawks pass rush could not get to him. And with just over two minutes left in the game, Brady found wide receiver Julien Edelman for the go-ahead score to give New England the 28-24 lead.
However Seattle was not ready to mail it in, and led by quarterback Russell Wilson, they charged down the field. On the drive Wilson connected with wide receiver Jermaine Kearse on a deflected pass that netted 33 yards and it got Seattle to the New England five-yard line with 65 seconds remaining. But this is where the Seahawks began to outsmart themselves.
From there the Seahawks would give the football to running back Marshawn Lynch who gained four yards on the next play and got down to the Patriots one-yard line.The Seahawks were expected to keep feeding Lynch the football as his nickname is “Beast Mode”. However the Seahawks would allow the clock to tick in order to deprive the Patriots an opportunity to get the football again. But on the next play Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called a pass play that was intended for wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. It was quick slant that was expected to be a simple pitch and catch until Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped the route sealed the win for the Patriots with an interception.
Carroll and Bevell faced intense scrutiny from the media and public alike for the play call as instead of giving the football to Lynch who was one of the better goal line running backs in the National Football League, they decided to pass.
The Seahawks left the field that night as a dejected team and rightfully so as the game was there for the taking. But instead of the Seahawks losing the game because they weren’t good enough to defeat the Patriots, they had to deal with the notion that their demise came as the result of one of, if not the worst play calls in Super Bowl history. And that public scrutiny only paled in comparison to the issues that the Seahawks have had to deal with ever since.
Whereas the Seahawks are an outspoken team when things are going well, the same can be said when things aren’t going according to plan for them. The following off-season saw Wilson seeking more money and he got it when he and the Seahawks came to an agreement on a four-year deal for $87.6 million with him. But the way that the cookie crumbles in the National Football League is that if the franchise quarterback wants to be handsomely compensated, then he must also expect to see the talent around him decimate.
With the Seahawks paying Wilson, the talent around him on offense regressed as players began to be released, while others were allowed to walk in free agency. During that off-season Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor was seeking more money which saw him sit out the first two games of the 2015 National Football League season. The Seahawks would then subsequently lose those two games. And after Seattle began the season with a record of 0-2, it put them in a hole as they would rebound to make the playoffs, but they couldn’t win the NFC West and get a much needed first-round bye. Subsequently the Seahawks would fall to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. The loss to the Panthers would be more than just a simple defeat as Lynch who wasn’t the same running back in 2015, decided to retire from the NFL at the age of 29.
Without the services of Lynch, the Seahawks would make it back to the playoffs this past season for the fifth consecutive year. However in the NFC Divisional Playoffs they were unceremoniously shown the door by the Atlanta Falcons by the score of 36-20 as the magic simply wasn’t there.
Since then Lynch expressed interest in returning to the National Football after a year away. Lynch didn’t have any desire to play for the Seahawks anymore, but since he was still under contract with them, his next employer had to find a way to work out a deal with Seattle. Lynch would be traded to the Oakland Raiders who worked out a deal with the Seahawks that would send a sixth-round pick to Seattle in 2018, while Oakland would receive a fifth-round pick.
This off-season saw the Seahawks put cornerback Richard Sherman on the trading block. Sherman is a four-time Pro Bowl selection while he is also one of the top cornerbacks currently in the National Football League. But Sherman is never afraid to speak his mind and there are reports that he is still upset with Carroll and Wilson over the Super Bowl. Wilson has denied those reports, but where there is smoke, there is fire.
Greed cost the Seahawks a chance to repeat as Super Bowl Champions as Carroll forgot what made him successful in the first place. When the Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl 48, it was a total team effort as they cruised to a 43-8 win. On the first play of the game Seattle scored on a safety after the Broncos botched a snap that went out of the end zone. The Seahawks got a kickoff return from Percy Harvin, while linebacker Malcolm Smith returned an interception for a touchdown. Wilson will go down as the winning quarterback for that game,but he was simply a cog in the wheel.
Wilson’s career regular season record is 56-23-1, while he is 8-4 in the playoffs. But the Seahawks are a team in the truest form of the word.
During the Seahawks championship run, they ran the football effectively with Lynch, while they got timely and accurate passing from Wilson. And when Carroll turned things over to his defense, it was a matter of picking your poison with the likes of Sherman, Chancellor, free safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Michael Bennett, and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks put Wilson in the unique position of not needing to win the game as it more about him not losing it. And going back to Super Bowl 49, it was the latter that happened.
So now as Lynch is with the Raiders, the other key players that remain with the Seahawks following that eventful night in 2015 only can sit back and ask what could have been? Championship windows close very quickly in the National Football League as you must strike while the iron is hot. Since then Thomas and Sherman have had to deal with injuries while they are also getting older. And as teams are always attempting to upgrade to enhance their chances of winning, other teams have caught up to the Seahawks, while in some cases they have passed them altogether.
A few years ago the Seahawks were as close to invincible as a team could be in the National Football League. Opposing teams feared going to CenturyLink Field as their chances of winning were slim at best. But now that isn’t the case as the Seahawks have lost four games at home over the last two seasons as compared to just two in the previous two campaigns. And whereas the Seahawks still have a team which is capable of making the postseason, they aren’t good enough to once again hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions.
This smells of Carroll’s time at USC where after blowing a 12-point lead against the Texas Longhorns in the 2006 Rose Bowl for the national championship, his teams there continued to be good, but never good enough to win another national title. But whereas Carroll’s guys would graduate after four years at USC, he still has to look the likes of Sherman in the face after blowing a chance to be mentioned amongst the greatest teams in National Football League history.
Time has already proven that the Seahawks will never be the same that they once were as this team of alpha males can only sit back and merely ask what could have been if Lynch had gotten the football on the one-yard line on that fateful night in February.
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.