The San Diego Chargers made a move that didn’t surprise many as they fired head coach Mike McCoy after 4 seasons with the team. It’s difficult to completely blame McCoy for the 5-11 season that the Chargers had in 2016 as they dealt with numerous injuries. However, the team’s inability to close out games reflected the poor coaching of McCoy. Also, the team just couldn’t seem to get out of their own way as they had too many turnovers on offense. The Chargers made the playoffs in their first season with McCoy in 2013 and they beat the Bengals in the playoffs that year before losing to the Broncos in the divisional round. It has been a struggle in the 3 years since then for San Diego as they haven’t made the playoffs since 2013 despite having a pretty good roster. This was the right move for the Chargers because their offense hasn’t been as good as expected under McCoy despite McCoy being an offensive-minded head coach. San Diego still has plenty of talent especially on offense with quarterback Phillip Rivers and star running back Melvin Gordon. McCoy is a good offensive coordinator probably, but he just wasn’t very successful with the Chargers as he went 27-37 in 4 seasons.
- Kirk Cousins – Quarterback – Washington Redskins
Kirk Cousins has quietly become a really good quarterback, so I’m sure that the Redskins will do anything to keep him around. However, if Cousins does hit free agency then he will surely have tons of interest in him as there are no other good starting quarterback options in free agency. It is really hard to find good quarterbacks these days and if the Redskins let Cousins go then the quarterbacks that Washington could get is very limited. I don’t believe that Cousins and Washington will reach a long-term extension, but I would be shocked if they don’t at least apply the franchise tag to him.
Projected landing spot: Washington Redskins
2. Chandler Jones – Outside Linebacker – Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals gave up a 2nd round pick to get Chandler Jones from the Patriots prior to this season and he has 9.5 sacks to show for it so far. Jones is by far the Cardinals best pass rusher and he has the ability to change a game on his own. There is a chance that Jones and the Cardinals could get a contract extension before March. However, I believe he will stay with Arizona on the franchise tag if they can’t get a long-term deal done.
Projected landing spot: Arizona Cardinals
3. Le’Veon Bell – Running Back – Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is getting old, so the Steelers offense going forward will be basically run by Le’Veon Bell. He has quickly become one of the top running backs in the game and he had a remarkable 1,268 rushing yards this season despite missing 3 games. The Steelers have a great passing game, but it is obvious that the offense revolves around the success of Bell. He seems to want to stay with the Steelers and certainly Pittsburgh wants to keep him around. I think they will probably end up reuniting with a long-term deal this offseason.
Projected landing spot: Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Eric Berry – Safety – Kansas City Chiefs
Eric Berry is a defensive player of the year candidate in 2016 as he has made big plays all season for the Chiefs. There are many teams that would be interested in Berry if he were to test free agency, but ultimately the Chiefs want to keep him. The two sides will likely sign a contract extension soon, although if they don’t then he’ll at least receive the franchise tag to stay with the Chiefs for 2017.
Projected landing spot: Kansas City Chiefs
5. Jamie Collins – Outside Linebacker – Cleveland Browns
Cleveland wanted a playmaker that they can build around on defense which is why they acquired Jamie Collins from the Patriots at the trade deadline. Collins is a great player as he can succeed in coverage and plan the run equally successfully. Collins has said publicly that he wants to get paid a lot of money to remain with the Browns. However, it seems highly likely that the team will give him the franchise tag at least.
Projected landing spot: Cleveland Browns
6. Alshon Jeffery – Wide Receiver – Chicago Bears
It was a down season for Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery as he didn’t even reach 1,000 yards receiving in 2016. Also, Jeffery really hurt his market value as he was suspended 4 games late in the season for using PED’s. I don’t think he has much interest in returning to the Bears next season, but the question is how much money he’ll get from another team. The one team to watch for to sign Jeffery in free agency though is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are in desperate need for a number 2 wide receiver to go along with Mike Evans in the passing game. Jeffery certainly would be a good number 2 receiver for the Buccaneers and they have the cap flexibility in order to pay him a big contract.
Projected landing spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Dont’a Hightower – Outside Linebacker – New England Patriots
The last time that Dont’a Hightower left the Patriots in free agency it didn’t work out well as he signed with Buffalo and didn’t do much there. I don’t believe that he’ll make the same mistake this time and he’ll just remain with the Patriots. Hightower is a really good run stopper and he is a key part of the Patriots defense. New England probably won’t franchise tag him, although they should be able to reach a long-term deal before March.
Projected landing spot: New England Patriots
8. Melvin Ingram – Outside Linebacker – San Diego Chargers
Melvin Ingram kind of looked like a bust not too long ago as he dealt with tons of injuries, but now he has become an effective pass rusher for the Chargers. Ingram had 8 sacks in 2016 and if San Diego keeps him then they could have a really good pass rush duo along with 2016 1st round pick Joey Bosa. San Diego has the cap space to get a deal done and I’m sure they will since he is one of their only playmakers on defense.
Projected landing spot: San Diego Chargers
9. Kawann Short – Defensive Tackle – Carolina Panthers
Carolina’s defense is built to be successful based on their front 7 and Kawann Short is the key to that success as he is their best defensive lineman. Kawann Short stops the run well and he gets after the quarterback with interior pass rush as he had 6 sacks last season. Carolina will make it a priority to keep Short because their defense will be a lot worse without him. I don’t see him leaving the Panthers as they’ll either franchise tag him or reach a long-term deal.
Projected landing spot: Carolina Panthers
10. Kevin Zeitler – Guard – Cincinnati Bengals
Zeitler has quietly become one of the best players at the guard position in the NFL and it is hard to find quality interior offensive linemen like him these days. Cincinnati has a history of trying to retain their key free agents and draft well in order to be successful. Therefore, I’d be shocked if Cincinnati doesn’t try to bring him back by reaching a long-term contract extension with him.
Projected landing spot: Cincinnati Bengals
- Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett – Defensive End – Texas A&M
The Browns could go in any direction here as they have so many needs, but Garrett is the best prospect in the draft and that is who they’ll likely draft with the 1st pick. Cleveland already has rookie Emmanuel Ogbah at one defensive end spot. However, the other defensive end spot is up for grabs so look for Garrett to make an impact right away.
2. San Francisco 49ers – Mitch Trubisky – Quarterback – North Carolina
Trubisky came out of nowhere to be possibly the top quarterback in the draft despite only being a starter at North Carolina for 1 season. Trubisky makes good decisions for the most part and he is an accurate passer, so he has all of the traits of an NFL quarterback. Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert have proven that they don’t have a future as the starting QB for the 49ers. However, Trubisky would be a solid upgrade for the 49ers, although they likely won’t have much to help him out.
3. Chicago Bears – DeShone Kizer – Quarterback – Notre Dame
It appears that the Bears are ready to move on from Jay Cutler which means that the team will need to find a new quarterback this offseason. The Bears are in prime position to either draft Trubisky or Kizer, but it will probably be Kizer who falls to Chicago. Kizer has more upside than Trubisky and Kizer also has the ability to make plays with his mobility. Kizer might not be ready to be an impact player right away, but Chicago would have the pieces around him to make him successful.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jonathan Allen – Defensive End – Alabama
The Jaguars already have some talented pass rushers with Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue, but it will be hard for them to pass on a talented defensive lineman like Jonathan Allen. He likely won’t be used as pass rushing defensive end by the Jaguars, but rather he could be moved inside to the defensive tackle position. Jacksonville has a need at defensive tackle and Allen could provide a solid interior pass rush and thus make their defensive line great.
5. Tennessee Titans(From Los Angeles) – Marlon Humphrey – Cornerback – Alabama
Tennessee’s defense has the ability to stop the run and get after the quarterback, yet the Titans secondary was a major issue last season. Humphrey is an excellent cover man that has tremendous speed as well. Jason McCourty is a good cornerback for Tennessee, but besides him they don’t have much. Humphrey would replace Brice McCain as a starting cornerback for the Titans immediately and he would greatly improve their pass coverage.
6. New York Jets – Leonard Fournette – Running Back – LSU
Matt Forte had a good year for the Jets at running back, but he is 31 years old and he could be slowing down soon. It is time for the Jets to get a younger and more explosive running back and Leonard Fournette certainly fits that goal. Fournette reminds me a lot of Adrian Peterson as they both are elusive running backs that have breakaway speed. Fournette would instantly provide the Jets with an explosive offensive player and the Jets would have a really good backfield with Fournette and Bilal Powell.
7. San Diego Chargers – Cam Robinson – Offensive Tackle – Alabama
King Dunlap will be 32 years old once next season starts and he regressed this past season as the starting left tackle for the Chargers. Cam Robinson comes with some character issues as he got into some legal trouble while in college. However, he is 6 foot 6 and 326 pounds, so he has the size of an NFL offensive lineman. Robinson is a great run blocker which should help running back Melvin Gordon to improve upon a terrific 2016 season. The goal for the Chargers is to protect quarterback Philip Rivers so that he’ll last at least a few more years and they would have their left tackle of the future with Robinson.
8. Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Barnett – Defensive End – Tennessee
Cincinnati already has a really good defensive end with Carlos Dunlap as he has 7 sacks this season, but there is a big need for another defensive end on the opposite side. Derek Barnett is a player that can disrupt opposing offenses. Barnett is consistently sacking the quarterback and he can make a big difference in a game as he proved in Tennessee’s bowl game against Nebraska. Barnett finished 2016 with 13 sacks for the Volunteers and he is a quick defensive end that would make a major impact for Cincinnati right away.
9. Carolina Panthers – Dalvin Cook – Running Back – Florida State
Jonathan Stewart has been a productive running back for the Panthers for many years, but he turns 30 years old soon and he has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. The Panthers need a star running back for the future and Dalvin Cook could be that guy. Cook has everything that an NFL team is looking for in a run back. He has tremendous speed to make big plays in the running game. However, he also can catch the ball out of the backfield and he is a solid pass protector. If Carolina drafts Cook then the Panthers offense could be really good for many years with Newton and Cook as a dynamic quarterback and running back duo.
10. Cleveland Browns(From Philadelphia) – Teez Tabor – Cornerback – Florida
Joe Haden was once a dominant cornerback for the Browns, but recently he has been injured often and inconsistent when he does play. Also, Jamar Taylor isn’t a quality starting cornerback for Cleveland, so it makes sense for the team to invest in a cornerback early on. Teez Tabor is a tremendous athlete that has good ball skills and he would provide some much needed young talent to the Browns secondary.
11. Arizona Cardinals – Reuben Foster – Inside Linebacker – Alabama
The Arizona Cardinals have a weakness at the middle linebacker position which isn’t good considering that they are a 3-4 defense. However, if they draft Reuben Foster then their problems would certainly be solved. Foster is great against the run just like pretty much any linebacker that has been drafted out of linebacker. He is also good in coverage which is what makes him a complete linebacker. Foster is an NFL-ready linebacker that could make some big plays for Arizona in 2017.
12. Buffalo Bills – Mike Williams – Wide Receiver – Clemson
Buffalo is desperate for a playmaker in the passing game, so expect the Bills to draft a wide receiver very early on in the draft. Sammy Watkins is a dynamic wide receiver with his speed, but he is often injured which makes him basically useless. Also, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin are free agents this offseason which makes Buffalo really thin at wide receiver. Mike Williams has tremendous size and he is a possession receiver that makes tough catches. Williams would be the perfect complement to the speedy Sammy Watkins for the Bills.
13. Indianapolis Colts – Jabrill Peppers – Safety – Michigan
The Colts defense is awful in just about every area and they are in need of a playmaker on defense especially at the safety position. Jabrill Peppers is the type of player that could provide a spark for the Colts defense. He has great size and speed, but he just finds ways to impact games on his own by making big plays. The Colts are looking to replace Mike Adams at strong safety and drafting Peppers would provide the Colts with a young safety duo to go along with T.J. Green.
14. Philadelphia Eagles(From Minnesota) – John Ross – Wide Receiver – Washington
The Eagles offense never reached its potential because they constantly had dropped passes from wide receivers like Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor. Philadelphia needs a true threat in the passing game for young quarterback Carson Wentz and John Ross would provide that. Ross is a deep threat as he has the speed to make big plays down the field in the passing game. I would like to see him go up and make tough catches and become a better route runner. However, he would provide the Eagles with an explosive wide receiver as they already have a possession receiver with Jordan Matthews.
15. New Orleans Saints – Tim Williams – Outside Linebacker – Alabama
New Orleans is still struggling to build a good defense and one of their biggest problems has been their lack of a pass rush. Tim Williams would help solve that as he is an explosive outside linebacker that has 8.5 sacks this season and he knows how to get after the quarterback. Williams is inconsistent against the run, but if the Saints draft him then they could have a really good outside linebacker duo along with Stephone Anthony.
16. Tennessee Titans – Jamal Adams – Safety – LSU
The Titans secondary is a major problem for their team and I already have them projected to draft a cornerback earlier in the 1st round. Now, I think that the Titans will address the safety position by drafting the very talented Jamal Adams. He is a very hard-hitting safety that isn’t afraid to make tackles in the running game. Adams is a tremendous athlete and he would be a good playmaker at safety for the Titans right away.
17. Baltimore Ravens – Adoree Jackson – Cornerback – USC
Baltimore has a good cornerback with Jimmy Smith, but on the opposite side they don’t have a very talented cornerback. Adoree Jackson would help solve that as he is one of the fastest players that I have ever seen and he has a tendency to make big plays. Jackson is a small cornerback, but because of his speed he almost never gets burned for big plays. Also, he could be an impact player for the Ravens on special teams as he is an outstanding returner.
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Corey Davis – Wide Receiver – Western Michigan
Tampa Bay has one of the best wide receivers in the NFL with Mike Evans, but the issue is that quarterback Jameis Winston doesn’t have another trustworthy wide receiver. Vincent Jackson is almost certainly going to leave after this season and the depth at receiver isn’t good behind him. Corey Davis is an explosive receiver that has the ability to make big plays after the catch because of his speed. Also, he is a good route-runner and he relies on his size to make tough catches as needed. Davis is a complete wide receiver already and he would give the Buccaneers a much needed 2nd option in the passing game.
19. Denver Broncos – Zach Cunningham – Inside Linebacker – Vanderbilt
The Denver Broncos already have a good inside linebacker with Brandon Marshall, but they do have a need at the other inside linebacker position. Cunningham brings ideal size as a linebacker and he flies to the football with tremendous speed. Also, he brings the physicality necessary to be a good tackler at the NFL level. Cunningham would be a good upgrade over Todd Davis at inside linebacker for the Broncos and he would add yet another playmaker to an already great defense.
20. Washington Redskins – Malik McDowell – Defensive Tackle – Michigan State
The Redskins don’t have much at the defensive tackle position as their current starter is Ziggy Hood who turns 30 years old soon. McDowell would provide some more youth and talent to the position and he would be an instant upgrade over Hood. McDowell is solid against the run with his solid size. However, he also has really good quickness for the position and he could provide a good interior pass rush for Washington. Also, he has the versatility to possibly be a defensive end in the Redskins 3-4 defensive scheme if needed.
21. Detroit Lions – Caleb Brantley – Defensive Tackle – Florida
Detroit has never been the same at defensive tackle after the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, so it is about time to fix the position. Brantley has the ability to disrupt plays in the backfield with his athleticism. Also, the Lions need a younger option than Haloti Ngata who has regressed a little bit at defensive tackle.
22. Houston Texans – Raekwon McMillan – Inside Linebacker – Ohio State
Brian Cushing is a pro-bowl caliber inside linebacker for the Texans, but he is about to be 30 years old and he always seems to be injured. The Texans need a more reliable inside linebacker and that’s why I’m projecting that they should draft McMillan. He isn’t an explosive linebacker, but he has good instincts in order to make plays. McMillan is a solid tackler and he would provide the Texans with a much younger and more consistent option than Cushing.
23. Green Bay Packers – O.J. Howard – Tight End – Alabama
The Packers have been looking for quality production out of the tight end position for years. Green Bay’s starting tight end Jared Cook will be a free agent after the season which means that the Packers will likely look to the draft to find their tight end for the future. O.J. Howard is a very good option for Green Bay as he projects as a good receiving tight end because of his size and speed. Howard doesn’t block very well, but he could be useful as a receiving threat in the slot for the Packers and it would provide Aaron Rodgers with another option in the passing game.
24. Seattle Seahawks – Ryan Ramczyk – Offensive Tackle – Wisconsin
The Offensive line for the Seahawks has been a disaster this season as they have started many inexperienced players. Ryan Ramczyk would provide a big upgrade at left tackle over George Fant who has been terrible for Seattle in 2016. Ramczyk is quite the athlete for his size and he is a good run blocker. However, it remains to be seen how effective he will be in pass protection which is what the Seahawks really need at this point.
25. Miami Dolphins – Marshon Lattimore – Cornerback – Ohio State
Byron Maxwell and Xavien Howard are decent cornerbacks for the Dolphins, but they still could use some help at the position. Lattimore would provide that as he has great size and length to be able to disrupt passes. Also, he has good speed to be able to keep up with wide receivers and he is the complete shutdown cornerback that Miami wants.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Dawuane Smoot – Defensive End – Illinois
The Falcons have found a great pass rusher with outside linebacker Vic Beasley, but the pass rush from Atlanta’s defensive ends has been less than ideal. Dawuane Smoot isn’t a great pass rusher, although he has a tendency to make a lot of tackles for loss. Atlanta’s defense is starting to get better and if they draft Smoot then it could improve even more with another pass rusher.
27. New York Giants – Taco Charlton – Defensive End – Michigan
Jason Pierre-Paul is going to be a free agent this offseason so the Giants could have a vacancy at defensive end heading into 2017. Charlton had 8.5 sacks to lead Michigan this season, so it is obvious that he knows how to get after the quarterback. New York needs to find a younger pass rusher to replace Pierre-Paul and Charlton would be a great option to do that.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Charles Harris – Defensive End – Missouri
Pittsburgh is a team that is in desperate need of a pass rushing defensive end. Stephon Tuitt is a decent defensive end, but the other starting defensive end Ricardo Matthews shouldn’t be a starter on any NFL team. Charles Harris is a pure pass rusher as he relies upon his speed to sack the quarterback. Harris could still use some work on his run defense, although the Steelers would only be drafting him for his great pass rush abilities.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – Dan Feeney – Guard – Indiana
The Chiefs could use some help at the guard position especially at left guard as Zach Fulton isn’t a very good starter for Kansas City. Dan Feeney is by far the best guard available for the Chiefs to draft in the 1st round. Feeney has good strength which should allow him to be a good run blocker in the Chiefs offense. Also, he has good footwork and technique overall which makes him a complete player. If Kansas City drafts Feeney then they could be getting a player that will be an immediate upgrade at guard.
30. Oakland Raiders – Jarrad Davis – Inside Linebacker – Florida
Oakland already has good outside linebackers led by Bruce Irvin, but the Raiders could really use an impact middle linebacker. Jarrad Davis is exactly that type of player as he is always flying all over the field making plays. Davis is decent in pass coverage as he has the speed to cover fast running backs and tight ends. The Raiders already have some good young playmakers on defense and Davis would certainly add to that.
31. New England Patriots – Christian McCaffrey – Running Back – Stanford
This is a perfect draft pick for the New England Patriots since they are looking for a running back that they can use as a receiver out of the backfield. New England already has LeGarrette Blount as their power back, but the problem is that he doesn’t catch the ball well. McCaffrey is explosive with the ball in his hands and he is one of the best pass catching running backs that I have ever seen. I don’t believe McCaffrey is an every down back in the NFL, but the good news is that he won’t have to be with New England. The Patriots will only use him as a pass catcher and he could add another threat to their offense.
32. Dallas Cowboys – Sidney Jones – Cornerback – Washington
Morris Claiborne is set to be a free agent after the season and the Cowboys don’t seem to be willing to re-sign him anyway. Brandon Carr is aging and he has been an inconsistent starting cornerback. Also, Orlando Scandrick has struggled to stay healthy during his time with the Cowboys. That leaves a need to draft a cornerback and Sidney Jones could be a good fit for Dallas. Jones has decent size for a cornerback, but it is his ball skills that makes him an intriguing player. He has the ability to create a turnover at any moment which could be useful for a Cowboys team that doesn’t create many turnovers.