With the conclusion of the 2016 regular season this past weekend many teams and their fans have started to gear up for the 2017 NFL Draft. While the complete and final draft order will not be finalized till after a Super Bowl Champion has been crowned the top-ten of the first round has been cemented, with the Cleveland Browns securing the top overall selection.
With College all-star games starting next week, followed by the scouting combine, and pro days a lot will change from now till draft day. Having said that here is a quick stab at what the teams selecting in the top-ten may do come April:
1. Cleveland – Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
The Browns number crunching front office sees no clear-cut franchise quarterback sitting atop of the draft and decide to go with a potential game changing pass rusher to improve their defense.
Garrett numbers were a bit down this season (8.5 sacks) as he dealt with a couple of lower-body injuries throughout the season. However, when healthy Garrett possesses the length and first step quickness off the edge, along with natural bend, that most dominant pass rushers must have.
Adding a talent like Garrett to a young defensive core that includes the likes of Jaime Collins (assuming he is resigned), Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib, and Danny Shelton will provide the Browns a good foundation to build on that side of the ball.
2. San Francisco – DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
With a new GM and head coach tandem being hired this off-season the Niners decide to also usher in a new era at quarterback going with Notre Dames talented DeShone Kizer.
While North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky appears to be the darling of the QB class early in the process, I feel like Kizers size, arm strength, and overall upside will shine above all others come draft time and he will be the first QB taken in this class.
While he had a up and down junior campaign in South Bend this past season (58.7 completion percentage) the tools and football makeup is there with Kizer. Despite the fact he may not be ready to start opening weekend of next season he does have a high ceiling, and is a prospect at a need position that San Francisco just can’t pass up.
3. Chicago – Jamal Adams, LSU
Another slot where the consensus pick will have a QB going is the bears at number three. However, with head coach John Fox entering a pivotal season, one in which he needs to win more games, Chicago looks to shore-up a safety position that has been a major need since Mike Brown left the team back in 2008.
In LSU safety Jamal Adams, the Bears get a physical player who will come down support the run and provide a presence in the Chicago secondary. Adams can also cover tight ends and offer over-the-top support on the defenses back-half.
Improving the secondary to go along with an underrated, and improving front seven will go a long way in helping the Bears get more wins next season.
4. Jacksonville – Jonathan Allen, Alabama
The Jaguars continue to add more talent to their defense as Alabama’s Jonathan Allen falls into their laps with the fourth pick.
Allen, considered by many one of the safest picks in this draft class, brings production and versatility from one of college football’s best defensive units. He can play multiple positions along a defensive front, and can provide pressure as both a 4-3 defensive end or inside tackle. Allen is also able to play end as a 5-technique if the Jaguars new coaching staff decides to switch to a 3-man front.
He is strong and athletic at the point-of-attack and could turn out to be a better pro than some of his highly-regarded Crimson Tide defensive predecessors.
5. Tennessee – Malik Hooker, Ohio State
The Titans get this selection from the Rams as part of the trade compensation they received from Los Angeles for the right to draft Jared Goff. With the selection, the Titans give defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau something he has been seeking since leaving the Steelers, and that is a ball hawking safety.
Hooker announced on Monday that he would be entering the draft even though he had two years of eligibility remaining and only one full season as a starter under his belt.
Hooker possesses good speed and displays tremendous range in coverage. He is also seemingly always around the football as he led the Big-Ten with seven interceptions (three of which he returned for touchdowns) last season to go along with four passes defensed and 74 tackles.
6. New York Jets – Leonard Fournette, LSU
Coming off a disappointing season, one in which many had them pegged to make the playoffs, the Jets are hoping to rebound next year and could look to build their team around a good defense and solid running game.
LSU Fournette is a workhorse back possessing the power, speed, and vision that can carry an offense. He can power through between the tackle runs, while also possessing the foot quickness and speed to bounce a run outside and take the edge on a defender.
With Fournette carrying the ball 25 times the Jets can help alleviate some of the deficiencies they will most likely have at the QB position next season.
7. San Diego – DeShaun Watson – Clemson
With the organizations exact location still up in the air and their future at quarterback, behind an aging Phillip Rivers, also uncertain the Chargers select Clemson’s Watson. Watson would be able to sit and learn behind Rivers, for a season or two, while providing the Chargers a future face of the franchise to sell and market to the new fan base.
Watson came into the season as a consensus top of the top QB. However, after a season in which he led the ACC with 17 interceptions some of the luster has worn off the junior signal caller. Meanwhile all he has done this season is once again lead his Clemson team back to the College Football National Championship game next week.
Watson’s dual-threat ability as both a passer and runner will add a new dimension to the Chargers offense. While also supplying the new coaching staff a talented centerpiece to build the offense around once Rivers time with the Chargers is up.
8. Carolina – Derek Barnett – Tennessee
The Panthers biggest need is along the offensive line, but without an offensive line prospect worthy of being selected in the top-ten Carolina looks to revamp an aging defensive line particularly at the end position.
Barnett could help supplant veteran Charles Johnson as he is set to be an unrestricted free agent as of this post. Barnett has posted 52 tackles for loss and 32 sacks over the last three seasons as a Volunteer. He displays the athleticism and ability to bend the corner off the edge that teams look for in pass rushers. Barnett is also a ferocious competitor who is constantly hustling all over the field.
9. Cincinnati – Reuben Foster, Alabama
With veteran Rey Maualuga getting up there in years and succumbing to injuries the last couple of season the Bengals select his heir apparent for the middle of their defense with Alabama’s Reuben Foster.
Foster is a highly aggressive, athletic, big-hitting middle linebacker with instincts for the position who can quickly diagnose, locate, and flow to the football. He has developed into a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine who can be a leader and cornerstone player for the Bengals defense for years to come.
10. Buffalo – Jabril Peppers, Michigan
The Bills select the third safety in the top ten and one many might be surprised lasted this long. Coming into the season the Wolverines do-it-all hybrid defender, and Heisman Trophy finalist, was touted as a sure-fire top-five selection. However, with some questions surrounding a positional fit for Peppers in the NFL, along with coverage limitations Peppers could find himself possibly sliding out of the top ten completely.
What he will supply the Bills, or any team selecting him, is a versatile defender who can line up in multiple spots for a defensive unit. While also providing a boost to the return game on special teams.
Whether it is at linebacker, free safety, returner, or even on offense Peppers can provide an immediate impact as a rookie next season. The key will be placing him with a coaching staff that will be creative in utilizing his abilities in a multitude of different ways.