2017 NFL Draft Expectations

With the Final Four set for this Saturday, it marks the soon-to-be closing of the NCAA basketball tournament, and brings along the ever-exciting Opening Day of the MLB and the heated up tension of the NBA going into the playoffs. It’s a never-ending cycle of major sports events that come and go every year.

At the end of the month of April, however, essentially starts the NFL season with the 82nd annual draft on the 27th, held in front of the stoic Philadelphia Museum of Art. Being one of my favorite events of the month, I enjoy seeing which players will go where and whether they’ll make a positive impact on whatever team they land on. Unfortunately, some players will end up being labeled busts within two years of playing.

Despite all the animosity, there are many things I look to see: how much Roger Goodell is booed, how uncomfortable the draftees get when Goodell tries to embrace them on stage, how loud Mel Kiper will get on the panel, and what draftees are waiting on the edge of their seat to have their named called surrounded by their families. With that said, here are my notable picks of the 2017 NFL Draft (note: this is not the order of the draft. They are simply the specific picks that I believe will have the most impact within the respective franchise).

  1. Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett (DE), Texas A&M

For the Browns to draft another quarterback would only add to the list of problems they already have, especially since Brock Osweiler is practically fighting for the starting spot. With Garrett posting astronomical numbers for a player his size at the Combine, he’s what Cleveland needs as a pass-rusher, upgrading their defense. Cleveland often focuses on their offense too much when they need to simultaneously focus their attention on improving their defense. That’s where Garrett fits the mold.

2. Chicago Bears – Jonathan Allen (DE/DT), Alabama

The Bears were projected to pick a quarterback with this selection. However, after signing Mike Glennon to an absurd contract and kicking Jay Cutler out, the QB spot has been filled. Allen is the best player available at his position and would fill a huge gap on the defensive line across from Akiem Hicks. Despite the concerns with his shoulder, Chicago cannot pass up on talent like Allen’s.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Leonard Fournette (RB), LSU

Adding talent around Blake Bortles would very much improve their offense. I’ve said before that the Jaguars could very well be a dark horse one season and become a contender. After signing defensive keys in Jalen Ramsey and Dante Fowler, Jr., Fournette is best running back prospect available since Adrian Peterson. Although his 2016 season was lackluster due to an injury, his tape from the 2015 season showcases some of the best talent ever displayed. For Jacksonville to select him would add to a budding backfield alongside Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon.

4. New York Jets – OJ Howard (TE), Alabama

Alabama keeps cranking out “first rounders” left and right every year, and Howard is one that is very unique. He didn’t get the ball in his hands nearly enough this past season. But when he does, he is explosive and makes big plays. If Fournette is not available by the time the Jets get to select, I can see them going in this direction. They’ve been trying to sign tight ends during this offseason, so it is seen as a need, and Howard could provide the team with some much needed play-making ability.

5. Cincinnati Bengals – Dalvin Cook (RB), Florida State

He posted poor numbers at the combine… big whoop. That shouldn’t take away from his excellent vision of the field and his high-level production. Jeremy Hill has posted disappointing numbers these past two seasons while Giovanni Bernard cannot handle the full-time responsibility as the main running back. If the Bengals like Cook enough, I see them taking him.

6. Cleveland Browns – Mitch Trubisky (QB), North Carolina

Oh wait,… sorry, it’s Mitchell. Mitchell Trubisky. Because, apparently, that’s a very important thing to factor into this player’s ability. My fault. Anyways, if the Browns go defensively with Garrett for the first pick in the draft, this selection could possibly happen for the 12th overall pick. He does fit Hue Jackson’s scheme well, and could very well still be available come time for Cleveland’s second pick in the first round.

7. Indianapolis Colts – Reuben Foster (LB), Alabama

Yet another Alabama “first rounder”. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Colts’ linebackers suck. There’s no other way to put it. They haven’t been able to cover tight ends and pass-catching running backs out of the backfield, so Foster will be a much-needed upgrade. Although he made some news after yelling at a hospital employee, this debacle isn’t expected to affect his draft status that much. And it shouldn’t; if you want to see how much he wreaks havoc on the field, go to YouTube and you’ll see why.

8. Tennessee Titans – John Ross (WR), Washington

Okay, yes, the Titans did acquire a wide receiver during this offseason, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough. Tennessee made great strides last year posting a 9-7 record, placing second in the AFC South. They fell short, however, when their main asset, Marcus Mariota, ended the season on the injured reserve. When he comes back, he will need some weapons, and Ross will be the playmaker. After breaking the combine 40-time record, he’ll be able to go the distance every time he touches the ball.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Christian McCaffrey (RB/WR), Stanford

He predictably stood out at the combine by not only posting good numbers, but also showing a passion for the game. That’s what Tampa Bay has been looking for in their players as of late. They desperately need a running back, and McCaffrey fits that description. I did see him going lower in the draft after he skipped out on the historic Sun Bowl, but the combine turned that around.

10. Miami Dolphins – Jabrill Peppers (S/LB), Michigan

He played a total of nine positions last year, both offensively and defensively. I repeat, nine. Any position you put him in, he will do the job that he is expected to do. After a tremendous combine, I see Peppers adjusting well to a professional environment with the fortitude to succeed and help whatever team he lands on. For Miami, in order to compete against New England, they need all the help they can get.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers – Deshaun Watson (QB), Clemson

It seems like a longshot, but there’s a lot to take into consideration when it comes to this pick. Big Ben has been hinting at retirement quite a bit during the offseason. He will play this upcoming season, but after suffering from injuries from time to time, the end of the Roethlisberger era in Pittsburgh may be closer than you think. The last time a team had future Hall of Fame quarterback retirement drama was Green Bay. Remember that? Out with Favre, in with Rodgers. Something similar could very well happen again, especially since Landry Jones isn’t the ideal quarterback you want leading your team. Watson has to go somewhere within the first round, given his ability and “wow” factor at his position. This move could potentially be a huge storyline for the NFL, and for the Pittsburgh franchise.

This upcoming NFL Draft flaunts big names; some that could possibly leave a long-lasting impact on a team. Like I said, these were the points that I think could make a difference in the progression of certain teams. I’d like to see all of my predictions come true, but even that is a longshot, especially after last year with the Laremy Tunsil scandal shaking up the entire projected order of the draft. Either way, it looks to be an exciting time for football and these young players’ futures.

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