NFL DraftNFL Teams That Improved the Most Through the 2017 NFL DraftRichard JanvrinFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2017
NFL Teams That Improved the Most Through the 2017 NFL Draft
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- Sam Craft/Associated Press
This was a fantastic draft across the board for pretty much every single team in the NFL.
Off the top of my head, there were five teams that I thought did poorly: the Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, and New York Giants.
The worst draft? The Chicago Bears. I don't know what they were thinking throughout the event. They started off by trading a ton away to get quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who you hope can be the franchise quarterback, but there are questions with that. Next, they drafted tight end Adam Shaheen in the second round—a big tight end but more of a luxury pick when this team has issues in the secondary and just sort of ignored it outside of fourth-round safety Eddie Jackson.
But hey, we're here to be optimistic. I forced myself to pick the seven teams I think improved the most, but make no mistake: Basically every team improved in this deep draft, especially the entire AFC South.
There are two teams from that division in this slideshow.
In alphabetical order, here are the seven teams that improved the most through the 2017 NFL draft.
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- Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Round 1: DB Marlon Humphrey
Round 2: LB Tyus Bowser
Round 3: DT Chris Wormley, DE Tim Williams
Round 4: G Nico Siragusa
Round 5: OT Jermaine Eluemunor
Round 6: S Chuck Clark
Round 7: None
If you thought the Baltimore Ravens defense was intimidating before the draft, look again: It got a lot more scary.
With their first-round pick, the Ravens took Alabama defensive back Marlon Humphrey. While Humphrey may be a cornerback out of the gate, he might end up being a better safety in the long run, which is a position the Ravens do not need to bolster. However, with Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith, the Ravens have found more depth at the position, making this secondary one of the best in the league.
Baltimore lost defensive end Lawrence Guy this offseason and addressed its pass rush with Houston edge-rusher Tyus Bowser. While he may be a bit of a project, Bowser is one of the most athletic guys you'll find in this entire class. He's still learning a lot of the intricacies of football, but he should be a pretty productive pass-rusher when asked to play this season.
Chris Wormley was a great value in Round 3, and he'll serve as a nice run-stuffer who has drawn comparisons to Guy.
Tim Williams is another project player who didn't play much in college but should develop into at least a pass-rushing specialist.
Their first offensive player was taken in the fourth-round in Nico Siragusa who should start day one at left guard, pushing Alex Lewis over to right tackle, helping out the offensive line some.
While the Ravens didn't exactly draft a ton of impact, opening-day starters, they drafted plenty of great pieces who improved their defense—they could be the best defense in the sport with their new additions in 2017. That alone warrants a spot here.
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- Tony Dejak/Associated Press
Round 1: DE Myles Garrett, DB Jabrill Peppers, TE David Njoku
Round 2: QB DeShone Kizer
Round 3: DLLarry Ogunjobi
Round 4: CB Howard Wilson
Round 5: OL Roderick Johnson
Round 6: DT Caleb Brantley
Round 7: K Zane Gonzalez, RB Matthew Dayes
Being the Cleveland Browns and picking, well, you know, football players helped them make the slideshow here.
With three draft choices in the first round, the Browns landed a blue-chip player in Myles Garrett, an anchor for their secondary in Jabrill Peppers and a nice, young tight end in David Njoku.
In the second round, the Browns took a low-risk, high-reward chance on DeShone Kizer. He is the type of player you'd probably rather have sitting behind a true veteran, but with Hue Jackson as his head coach, Kizer might be on the right team to work with some of the oddities in his game—he possesses all the right tools; it's all about fixing his inconsistencies.
Larry Ogunjobi is a player the Browns can slot along the defensive line who will be a run-stuffer as well as a decent enough pass-rusher that opposing teams will have to take notice.
Beyond those five players, the next-most notable draft choice came in the form of Caleb Brantley—a great player from Florida who didn't play a lot but has off-field issues that could result in his cutting, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.
It's hard to argue the Browns aren't one of the most improved teams coming out of the draft—they went bonkers.
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- David Zalubowski/Associated Press
Round 1: DE Taco Charlton
Round 2: CB Chidobe Awuzie
Round 3: CB Jourdan Lewis
Round 4: WR Ryan Switzer
Round 5: None
Round 6: S Xavier Woods, CB Marquez White
Round 7: DT Joey Ivie, WR Noah Brown, DT Jordan Carrell
This offseason, the Dallas Cowboys lost both their starting cornerbacks in Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne and safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox.
They needed secondary help.
Well, the Cowboys addressed that and then some in the 2017 draft.
First things first, their first-round draft choice, Taco Charlton, is a huge human being at 6'6" and has great length and natural athleticism that will make him an effective edge-rusher in Dallas' 4-3 defense. The issue with Charlton is that even though he is a freak in terms of measurables, the production at Michigan didn't match up with that—Jason Garrett will need to make sure that Charlton is giving it his all.
Regardless, he joins a unit with Demarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford that should make for quite a decent pass rush for the Cowboys in 2017.
With the front four is dealt with, the Cowboys still needed secondary help.
They kicked it off in the second round, drafting one of my favorite corners in this talent-rich draft in Colorado product Chidobe Awuzie. On tape, Awuzie shows a willingness to tackle, but there are some technique issues with that. He can play both outside and inside and is probably one of the better zone corners in this class. He isn't much of a ball hawk, and his speed when dealing with receivers on long routes might be an issue, but he'll be a nice complement to the second-year and former sixth-round pick Anthony Brown.
Next up, the Cowboys got probably the best pure nickel corner in the draft in Michigan's Jourdan Lewis. Lewis has been one of the best cornerbacks in college football during his career at Michigan and possesses some of the best ball skills you'll find in a defensive back. However, Lewis does tend to hold on to receivers for a bit too long, and he had issues with that in college, being flagged quite a few times.
He fits best in the slot because he's not exactly the best matchup for bigger, stronger and faster receivers in the NFL, but a cornerback trio of Lewis, Brown, and Awuzie is a nice young core moving forward for Dallas.
The addition of Ryan Switzer is a great one and a personal favorite. He won't be much of a factor in the receiving game, but expect to see him make an impact on special teams.
Lastly, safety Xavier Woods out of Louisiana Tech is worth mentioning—he knows how to play the game and was a starter for Louisiana Tech for all three years of his time there. While there are some measurable issues for Woods and he might not succeed well in the NFL if forced to play in man coverage, he is pretty versatile in that he can go to the line of scrimmage and blitz or play deep. They got a nice value in Woods in the sixth round.
Improving the secondary and adding a pass-rusher is what the Cowboys needed to do, and they did just that.
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- Chris O'Meara/Associated Press
Round 1: QB Deshaun Watson
Round 2: LB Zach Cunningham
Round 3: RB D'Onta Foreman
Round 4: OL Julie'n Davenport, DT Carlos Watkins
Round 5: CB Treston Decoud
Round 6: None
Round 7: C Kyle Fuller
Trading up to nab Deshaun Watson was an absolute must for a team that has been hit with the "they're a quarterback away" moniker for some time. While he does have some issues with accuracy, Watson will likely get a chance to start relatively soon and hopefully be the Houston Texans' franchise quarterback.
In Round 2, the Texans got another good one in Zach Cunningham—a linebacker who could be a starter for a team with few concerns. One of those issues is his tackling, as he tends to try to tackle high, leading to some missed ones. However, Cunningham will be great in man coverage against tight ends and has an intense ferocity to just get after the ball. Cunningham was talked about as a possible first-round pick, and the Texans got him in the second—not bad.
D'Onta Foreman came off the board in the third round. Outside of Lamar Miller, the Texans backfield is littered with uninspiring guys like Alfred Blue. Adding Foreman serves as a great power complement to Miller, making for a more dynamic backfield.
Offensive-line woes are something that have plagued the Texans. They addressed those too with Julie'n Davenport in the fourth round. Davenport isn't exactly the type of prospect who will be able to contribute immediately coming out of Bucknell, but he has a lot of traits that mean, once he understands certain blocking techniques, his 6'7" 320-pound frame is going to be tough to handle.
Anytime you draft a potential franchise quarterback, a three-down linebacker, a running back to make your backfield more dynamic and a prospect with a ton of upside, you've improved as a football team.
New Orleans Saints
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- Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
Round 1: CB Marshon Lattimore, OT Ryan Ramczyk
Round 2: S Marcus Williams
Round 3: RB Alvin Kamara, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Trey Hendrickson
Round 4: None
Round 5: None
Round 6: DE Al-Quadin Muhammad
Round 7: None
It's well-documented that the New Orleans Saints secondary has been atrocious for what seems like a lifetime.
How do you improve it with essentially one pick in a draft? You draft the top cornerback in the entire thing—that's how.
The Saints did just that in getting Marshon Lattimore, who will be the team's top cornerback from day one. There's really not a whole lot of bad things to say about Lattimore.
The Saints' other Round 1 pick, offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk, wasn't bad, either. A bit of a luxury pick? Sure. New Orleans' offensive line is already pretty good, but Ramczyk will have opportunities to play this year. It is a bit of a weird pick with the clock ticking on quarterback Drew Brees, but it's not terrible.
Adding Marcus Williams to their secondary is also another quality addition. Williams is probably a safety I'd play with two deep safeties as he does have a tendency to be faked out by some quarterbacks, but he should be fine if asked to be by himself. He is a heck of a playmaker with great ball skills. While he doesn't deliver any crushing blows, he does get the job done tackling.
With three picks in the third round, the Saints invested in some linebacking help with Alex Anzalone and Trey Hendrickson—a position the Saints definitely needed more depth to.
Alvin Kamara was an interesting pick and will add to a three-headed monster in the backfield consisting of himself, Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram, though he'll likely be primarily used in a pass-catching role.
Al-Quadin Muhammad has some off-field baggage, including an arrest, but he should serve as a decent part-time, pure pass-rusher for the Saints—a position they definitely needed to improve via the draft.
Beefing up the defense and making the offense a bit more dynamic were things the Saints needed to do, and they did so with six picks in the first three rounds.
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- Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
Round 1: WR Corey Davis, CB Adoree' Jackson
Round 2: None
Round 3: WR Taywan Taylor, TE Jonnu Smith
Round 4: None
Round 5: LB Jayon Brown
Round 6: G Corey Levin
Round 7: LB Josh Carraway, OT Brad Seaton, RB Khalfani Muhammad
All offseason, we've been saying that the Tennessee Titans needed to get a No. 1 wide receiving option.
When wide receiver Alshon Jeffery initially hit the free-agent market, he was a highly touted possibility, but he ended up with the Philadelphia Eagles.
With the fifth overall pick, the Titans got their man in Corey Davis. He is truly a No. 1 option who is going to make life much easier for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Titans had another first-round draft pick and used it on Adoree' Jackson—an extremely versatile cornerback and football player who possesses great ball skills, can hold his own against the run, has solid speed and can tackle. He was used on offense quite a bit at USC, so that may have hurt him in terms of being a pure cornerback. He could have issues on shorter routes against bigger receivers, but overall, Jackson is a solid addition in the wake of the team letting go of Jason McCourty earlier this offseason.
Wide receiver help didn't stop at Davis—they also scooped up Taywan Taylor from Western Kentucky. He has some issues with body catches and may not be the best with contest catches, but other than that, Taylor is a rock-solid wide receiver who should compete out of the gate with fellow wide receiver Tajae Sharpe. A wide receiving trio of Davis, Rishard Matthews and Taylor sounds incredibly appealing.
The Titans' main issues were wide receiver and helping out the secondary a bit more. They accomplished that by selecting Davis, Jackson and Taylor.
San Francisco 49ers
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- Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
Round 1: DE Solomon Thomas, LB Reuben Foster
Round 2: None
Round 3: CB Ahkello Witherspoon, CB C.J. Beathard
Round 4: RB Joe Williams
Round 5: TE George Kittle, WR Trent Taylor
Round 6: DT D.J. Jones, DE Pita Taumoepenu
Round 7: CB Adrian Colbert
If we're being honest here, the San Francisco 49ers' two first-round draft picks were enough for me.
The 49ers got a little weird in trading up for C.J. Beathard, but when I look at the draft choices of Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster, the 49ers, in John Lynch's first year as a general manager, got two absolute studs in the first round.
In Thomas, San Francisco drafted another Michael Bennett. In Foster, the 49ers drafted a Patrick Willis clone—if that doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will.
Drafting Ahkello Witherspoon out of Colorado is another choice worth mentioning. Standing at 6'3" and running a mid-4.40 40 are two things you don't see every day. Based on his ability and length, the 49ers will be tempted to get him on the field, but Witherspoon will probably even tell you this himself—he does not care for tackling.
With that said, he'll serve as a nice press cornerback. Witherspoon is another example of a player who is a victim of a deep cornerback class. He should push Dontae Johnson for playing time immediately.