Before the conference championship games, we'll check back with the teams watching the postseason from their sofas in this 2017 NFL mock draft. What's the best draft fit for clubs that just missed the playoff picture?
The Tennessee Titans almost surprised us all with a playoff berth in 2016. However, a Week 16 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars dashed their hopes to unseat the incumbent AFC South champion Houston Texans. With a top-five pick, courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams, the Titans can boost their roster with an impact player. Who's the ideal choice?
Three slots later, the Carolina Panthers fell from a near-perfect regular-season team to 6-10. Despite losing pieces within the secondary, many thought wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin's return from injury would keep the team in Super Bowl contention. For the upcoming draft, Carolina must acquire talent to strengthen its pass defense.
The Baltimore Ravens competed against the Pittsburgh Steelers up until Week 16 before losing to their bitter rivals in a run at the AFC North title. With pending free agents and older defenders within the front seven, should general manager Ozzie Newsome target the defensive line in the first round?
Before matching ideal picks with the three teams above, we'll take a look at projected first-round picks for all 32 clubs.
|2017 NFL Mock Draft|
|1. Cleveland Browns||Deshaun Watson||QB||Clemson|
|2. San Francisco 49ers||Myles Garrett||EDGE||Texas A&M|
|3. Chicago Bears||Jonathan Allen||DE||Alabama|
|4. Jacksonville Jaguars||Cam Robinson||OT||Alabama|
|5. Tennessee Titans||Teez Tabor||CB||Florida|
|6. New York Jets||Jamal Adams||SS||LSU|
|7. Los Angeles Chargers||Malik Hooker||FS||Ohio State|
|8. Carolina Panthers||Derek Barnett||DE||Tennessee|
|9. Cincinnati Bengals||Desmond King||CB||Iowa|
|10. Buffalo Bills||Mitch Trubisky||QB||North Carolina|
|11. New Orleans Saints||Cordrea Tankersley||CB||Clemson|
|12. Cleveland Browns||Reuben Foster||LB||Alabama|
|13. Arizona Cardinals||Zach Cunningham||LB||Vanderbilt|
|14. Philadelphia Eagles||Mike Williams||WR||Clemson|
|15. Indianapolis Colts||Dalvin Cook||RB||Florida State|
|16. Baltimore Ravens||Taco Charlton||DE||Michigan|
|17. Washington Redskins||Tim Williams||LB||Alabama|
|18. Tennessee Titans||Corey Davis||WR||Western Michigan|
|19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers||John Ross||WR||Washington|
|20. Denver Broncos||Ryan Ramczyk||OT||Wisconsin|
|21. Detroit Lions||Leonard Fournette||RB||LSU|
|22. Miami Dolphins||DeMarcus Walker||DE||Florida State|
|23. New York Giants||Malik McDowell||DT||Michigan State|
|24. Oakland Raiders||Raekwon McMillan||LB||Ohio State|
|25. Houston Texans||Chris Wormley||DT||Michigan|
|26. Seattle Seahawks||Roderick Johnson||OT||Florida State|
|27. Kansas City Chiefs||Jarrad Davis||LB||Florida|
|28. Dallas Cowboys||Sidney Jones||CB||Washington|
|29. Green Bay Packers||Solomon Thomas||DE||Ohio State|
|30. Pittsburgh Steelers||Takkarist McKinley||LB||UCLA|
|31. Atlanta Falcons||Gareon Conley||CB||Ohio State|
|32. New England Patriots||Haason Reddick||LB||Temple|
|2017 NFL Mock Draft|
5. Tennessee Titans, Teez Tabor, CB
The Titans pass defense stood out as the team's Achilles' heel this past season. In order to establish a true, hard-nosed approach on both sides of the ball, the front office should add a cornerback who can neutralize the opposition's best receiver. Tennessee allowed seven 300-yard passing performances in 2016.
Within a few games, Florida defensive back Teez Tabor could become the No. 1 cornerback for the Titans. For many scouts and draft gurus, including Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko, Tabor ranks as the top cornerback in this year's class:
As shown above, Tabor can play aggressively on short pass routes, but he's also capable of blanketing deep threats. CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang views him as a smaller version of Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson.
"Though not quite as big as the Cardinals' Pro Bowler (and certainly less reliable off the field), Tabor boasts a similar brand of pure athleticism, seamlessly changing directions and accelerating to shadow receivers in much the same that Peterson has since being selected No. 5 overall back in 2011," Rang wrote.
8. Carolina Panthers, Derek Barnett, DE
Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett should hear his name called within the top 10 selections. NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt agrees with that assessment:
Defensive ends Mario Addison and Charles Johnson have expiring contracts with the Panthers, per Spotrac.
Nonetheless, ESPN.com's David Newton expects the team to re-sign Addison, who racked up 9.5 sacks this season.
"Addison, 29, is far from the outside," Newton said. "He's in position to be one of Carolina's top free-agent priorities, if not the top."
Even with Addison back in the mix, Johnson turns 31 in July and dealt with injuries over the past two seasons. He has accumulated five sacks since the 2014 season. Kony Ealy, who also rushes off the edge, has only started 15 games over the past three years.
Barnett flashed as a pass-rushing wrecking ball during his freshman year in which he logged nine sacks. Pro Football Focus rated him the second-best edge-rusher behind Texas A&M's Myles Garrett among the draftees:
The Panthers have needs at other positions, but Barnett would hold great value at No. 8. Keep in mind, the Panthers drafted two rookies who started 11 or more games in 2016. Next year, an improved pass rush would help coverage on the back end.
16. Baltimore Ravens, Taco Charlton, DE
The creaking noise you hear comes from the Ravens pass rush, led by 34-year-old Terrell Suggs. It seems like just yesterday Ray Lewis turned the reins over to No. 55 after their Super Bowl XLVII victory. Now, it's time to add firepower alongside the veteran outside linebacker.
The top-tier pass-rushers won't be available after the first 12 selections, which leaves the Ravens gauging potential among the second-tier defenders. On a veteran Michigan defense, edge-rusher Taco Charlton left his mark on the 2016 season. He notched 10 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.
With his skill set, Charlton can deliver early results and develop into a key piece within the Ravens front seven as the sun sets on Suggs' career. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller sees the Michigan product as an impact player for the Miami Dolphins six slots later:
If Miller perceives Charlton as a rookie contributor for the Dolphins, he could inject some juice into Baltimore's defensive line. He doesn't have to replace Suggs' leadership skills, but it's important for the Ravens to maintain their rough-and-tumble identity in the trenches.
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