Buying or Selling Biggest 2017 Draft-Related Question for Each NFL Team

Sean Tomlinson@@SeanGTomlinsonNFL AnalystMay 10, 2017

Buying or Selling Biggest 2017 Draft-Related Question for Each NFL Team

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The 2017 NFL draft has come and gone, and rookies have been on the field for the first time with their new teams. What follows now is a time for hoping, dreaming and wishing. Or, in some cases, dreading.

    That's right, it's the annual post-draft sizzling hot stove, filled with buzz about the latest rookie class. Who will start Week 1? How will they fit into their new surroundings? And did the Cleveland Browns finally get a draft right this time?

    Those questions and many more were explored as rookies practiced with their new teams during minicamps. Let's take a spin around the league and see what murmurs from each rookie class are worth buying or selling.

Arizona Cardinals' Focus on Defense Early Will Pay Dividends

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The Arizona Cardinals focused on defense early in the draft, using two top-40 picks to select impressively athletic defenders. Linebacker and first-round pick Haason Reddick is understandably garnering plenty of attention now after rising throughout the predraft process.

    But safety Budda Baker, the Cardinals' second-round pick, could be equally dazzling. The Cardinals traded up to grab him at No. 36 overall, sending three picks in 2017 along with a fourth-rounder in 2018 to the Chicago Bears.

    Now the Tyrann Mathieu comparisons have become louder since Baker will be sharing the same sideline with the Honey Badger. Baker's response has been both humble and grateful.

    "It's definitely a blessing because I believe he's one of the best safeties, if not the best safety, in the league," he told 98.7 FM Arizona's Sports Station. "Being able to be versatile, I feel like we need that to play in the NFL.

    "Times have changed. You've got to be able to come down and play man, you've got to be able to blitz off the edge and do all different types of stuff."

    Like Mathieu, Baker can be the complete package, making it an appropriate comparison. He recorded 70 tackles in 2016 during his final year with the Washington Huskies, including 9.5 for a loss. Baker finished that season with three sacks and two interceptions.

    He had the second-highest tackling efficiency among Pac-12 safeties when defending the run, according to Pro Football Focus.

        

    Verdict: Buying

Atlanta Falcons' Continued Pursuit of a Young Defense Will Only Make Them Better

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons added more valuable young pieces to an already youthful defense by taking defenders with three of their first four picks.

    One of those picks was used to select cornerback Damontae Kazee in the fifth round, and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. thinks he can quickly become a midround steal.

    How quickly? Maybe right away, as Kiper highlighted Kazee on his early-impact rookies list.

    "He catches interceptions like a receiver," Kiper wrote, via Kelsey Conway of AtlantaFalcons.com. "I said before the draft that I think he'll have a better career than some of the guys drafted in the second round. I still believe that. He'll be a solid slot corner for the Falcons, who hit a home run in last year's draft with Deion Jones and Keanu Neal and found a hidden gem in undrafted corner Brian Poole, who ended up as the nickelback."

    Kazee recorded 15 interceptions over his final two seasons at San Diego State. In 2015, his eight picks tied for the second most in the FBS.

    He has the ball-hawking skills that can immediately boost the Falcons secondary, which finished tied for 18th in 2016 with 12 interceptions.

        

    Verdict: Buying

Baltimore Ravens Stock Their Defense the Way They Know Best

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Like the Cardinals, the Baltimore Ravens also reinforced their defense when they selected cornerback Marlon Humphrey, along with pass-rushers Tyus Bowser, Chris Wormley and Tim Williams in the first two days of the draft.

    And also like the Cardinals, they have a defensive back who looks and moves like someone already on their roster. That was evident while watching Humphrey during rookie minicamp.

    "First-round cornerback Marlon Humphrey is compared to fellow Raven Jimmy Smith because both can press on the line of scrimmage," Ryan Mink of Ravens.com wrote. "Humphrey is about two inches shorter and more than 10 pounds lighter, however, so they don't look like the same player lining up on the field. Humphrey definitely has a muscular build, though, and it's easy to see how he can be physical on the edge."

    Smith has made a career out of being a physical press corner and doing it while knowing how to use his size (6'2", 210 lbs). Humphrey may be a little smaller as Mink notes (6'0", 197 lbs), but he plays with a similar tenacity. He allowed only half of the targets into his coverage to be completed in 2016, per PFF.

        

    Verdict: Buying

Buffalo Bills Might Have Found Their Quarterback of the Future

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    The Buffalo Bills needed to add meaningful competition at quarterback after Tyrod Taylor struggled during much of 2016.

    The problem, of course, is they didn't have a pick high enough to target Mitchell Trubisky. Then they evidently weren't sold on Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes, and they traded back with the Kansas City Chiefs while collecting picks.

    The solution came in the fifth round: Nathan Peterman.

    Peterman could push Taylor, who averaged only 6.9 yards per attempt in 2016. But it's tough to see him ever providing that Tom Brady-esque bargain.

    Kiper didn't imply that Peterman would be a generational talent like Brady. Instead, Kiper thinks Peterman will provide significant value considering the position where he was selected (171st overall).

    "Nate Peterman is cerebral with a great football IQ," Kiper said. "He has big hands, which indicates his arm could get stronger after he's been in the league for a while, as Tom Brady's did."

    Peterman might develop to become a quality NFL starting quarterback. But to be on the level of Brady or even Dak Prescott in terms of draft value, a passer needs to redefine greatness at the position. It's tough to make that leap right now with a quarterback who completed a pedestrian 60.5 percent of his throws in 2016 while playing in the ACC.

        

    Verdict: Selling

Carolina Panthers Think Christian McCaffrey Has Hall of Fame-Caliber Talent

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    A whole lot of player comparisons are going to pop up as we travel around the league after the draft, a time when hopes soar, birds pleasantly chirp around rookie minicamps and everything is just splendid.

    But maybe it's wise to pump the brakes just a touch when you find yourself comparing anyone to Curtis Martin.

    That's what Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman did with running back Christian McCaffrey, his all-purpose first-round pick who piled up 5,128 yards from scrimmage over three years at Stanford.

    "The best tackle-box runner I've ever seen is Curtis Martin out of Pitt," Gettleman told ProFootballTalk. "Christian is right there with him. Running in that tackle box takes unique vision and unique quickness, and he's got it. Curtis Martin had it, and he had a great careera Hall of Fame careerand this kid's got those kind of skills."

    He's not wrong in his description of McCaffrey's skill set, but being compared to Hall of Famer is a daunting reputation to live up to. 

    Martin now owns a Hall of Fame gold jacket and sits fourth all time with 14,101 rushing yards. He ran for 1,487 yards as a rookie in 1995 and did that while getting his workhorse status early with 368 carries.

        

    Verdict: Selling

Chicago Bears Expect Adam Shaheen to Be an Early Contributor

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears likely won't give their second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky many regular-season snaps in 2017.

    Or at least that's what should happen after he started just 13 games in college, and Mike Glennon is in place as a decent bridge option. But losing games has a way of rushing plans and making head coaches fear for their jobs.

    The Bears will, however, give plenty of snaps to second-round pick Adam Shaheen. He needs to shake any small-school stereotypes after emerging from Division II Ashland and prove he's not a developmental project. That shouldn't be too hard for the 6'6", 277-pounder who moves with ease in the open field to collect yards after the catch.

    General manager Ryan Pace doesn't think Shaheen is a project at all. He told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune that Shaheen is "projected to play early," and it's not tough to see why.

    Shaheen set an Ashland record in 2016 with 16 touchdown catches to go along with his 867 receiving yards. Sure, that was at a lower level of competition, but his body type, wide catch radius and speed in the open field should all translate well to the NFL.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Cincinnati Bengals Found Their New Feature Back in Joe Mixon

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    Joe Mixon will be the Cincinnati Bengals' primary running back eventually. It's just a matter of how soon that happens and how quickly he can push aside Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.

    Bernard is recovering from an ACL tear in 2016 and will spend most of the offseason workouts being eased along during that process. He won't put up much of a fight, and Hill is now far removed from his standout 2014 rookie season. That's when he finished with 1,339 yards from scrimmage while scoring nine times. He hasn't topped 900 rushing yards since.

    Meanwhile, Mixon is a multipurpose threat who excels as a pass-catcher, and can also plow his way through while running with authority between the tackles. He needed only two seasons with the Oklahoma Sooners to accumulate 3,450 all-purpose yards and 27 touchdowns.

    That's why Katherine Terrell, the Bengals writer for ESPN.com, projects Mixon will get a "heavy dose" of playing time immediately.

    "He can be used in a variety of ways, whether it's as a traditional running back or as a pass-catcher," Terrell wrote. "He could also be the Bengals' kick returner."

    Mixon should make the greatest impact in a Bengals rookie draft class that also included wide receiver John Ross, the new combine 40-yard dash record holder, and pass-rushers Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson.

    He may also challenge Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook for the title of best rookie running back in 2017.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Cleveland Browns Know Exactly How They Want to Use Jabrill Peppers

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    It must be May, because there are lot of good vibes around the Cleveland Browns right now. But for once it feels safe to believe that although there's still a road to be traveled, the Browns are headed in the right direction.

    That began in the draft with sanity prevailing when the Browns selected defensive end Myles Garrett first overall. They also traded up to grab tight end David Njoku later in the round. He's a high-jump champion who averaged 16.6 yards per reception in 2016 for the Miami Hurricanes. And they weren't overly aggressive while pursuing a quarterback, instead opting to take DeShone Kizer in the second round and let him develop.

    But the most intriguing pick may have been Jabrill Peppers, who was selected at 25th overall. Peppers played both linebacker and safety at Michigan. He's an explosive tackler and adequate in coverage. So even post-draft there was some questions about how Peppers would be deployed.

    The answer? He'll be used as a strong safety, as Scott Petrak of the Medina Gazette reported.

    Peppers will still likely become a hybrid defender as a box safety while essentially functioning like another linebacker. His game-changing speed will be used in multiple ways, including on special teams, where his return ability can regularly generate quality field position.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Dallas Cowboys Found an Immediate Pass-Rushing Threat in Taco Charlton

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys had an average pass rush in 2016, making that area of their defense a priority heading into the draft. They selected defensive linemen with three of their nine picks, and first-rounder Taco Charlton should make the earliest impact.

    Charlton recorded 10 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss during his final season at Michigan in 2016. He did that while regularly inserting himself into the opposing backfield and ranking third in pass-rush productivity among all draft-eligible defenders, per PFF.

    He'll be rewarded with a chance to start right away.

    "We want to give him every chance to be a right end for us," Jason Garrett said of Charlton, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. "We feel like he has the traits to do that."

    Charlton has the traits to start immediately, especially for a Cowboys team in need of sacks; Benson Mayowa led the club in 2016 with six.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Denver Broncos' Wishful Thinking on a Healthy Jake Butt Returning Early

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    The Denver Broncos put a check mark in one important box on their draft wish list when they selected Garett Bolles in the first round. Bolles is a quality offensive tackle in a draft with few of them, and he should reinforce an offensive line that allowed 40 sacks in 2016.

    But when we look back on Denver's 2017 draft, the best value pick could end up being an injured tight end selected in the fifth round.

    Jake Butt fell because he's recovering from a torn ACL. He likely would have been at worst a Day 2 pick if questions about his health weren't lingering. Butt was a high-volume target for the Wolverines and caught 97 passes for 1,200 yards over his final two college seasons.

    The general expectation was that Butt would miss roughly half of the 2017 season. But there's some optimism bubbling about that timeline being pushed up by at least a few weeks.

    Broncos general manager John Elway recently told Troy Renck of Denver7 that he expects Butt to be cleared by late August or early September. That fuels hope he could be ready for the start of the season or much closer to it.

    There's evidence Butt is a quick healer. He's suffered two torn ACLs, and the first time he was back on the field in eight months.

    But it might be wise to use some more caution this time around with a high-ceiling prospect with durability issues. Butt is still likely to begin the season on the PUP list.

         

    Verdict: Selling

Detroit Lions Have Their New Defensive Signal-Caller in Jarrad Davis

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    There was initially some question about how the Detroit Lions would use first-round pick Jarrad Davis. He's a ball-swarming linebacker who recorded 94 tackles and 3.5 sacks for the Florida Gators in 2015, his last fully healthy college season.

    Then those questions faded fast.

    "We'll play him at middle linebacker we hope for many years with him calling our defense," general manager Bob Quinn said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

    A hint of uncertainty hovered for a few days after the draft because Quinn spoke of Davis' position flexibility. There was also the presence of Tahir Whitehead, who recorded a career-high 132 tackles in 2016 while playing middle linebacker.

    But Whitehead may be better suited for a role that doesn't expose him in coverage as often. Davis will anchor the middle and should quickly elevate a Lions defense that ranked 18th in 2016.

         

    Verdict: Buying 

Green Bay Packers Have a New Shutdown Starting Corner with Kevin King

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    The Green Bay Packers secondary spent 2016 either mending wounds or still getting roasted when the full unit was healthy.

    The Packers pass defense ranked 31st while giving up 269.2 yards through the air per game. Their cornerbacks were exposed, with Damarious Randall allowing a passer rating of 113.4 in coverage and Quinten Rollins coughing up a rating of 133.8.

    The priority early in the draft was clear, which resulted in the Packers calling Kevin King's name with the first pick in the second round.

    King didn't allow a touchdown in coverage while starring in the Washington Huskies' stacked secondary in 2016. Rob Demovsky, the Packers beat writer for ESPN.com, wrote that after the struggles last year, it "wouldn't be a surprise" if King is a day one starter alongside newly acquired Davon House.

    No, that wouldn't be surprising at all. In fact, at the end of training camp, anything less than King starting will be surprising.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Houston Texans Found the Perfect Complement to Lamar Miller

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    The Houston Texans will keep calling Deshaun Watson their backup quarterback all summer long until Tom Savage reveals he's a replacement-level passer at best.

    Savage's leash will surely be short given the quarterback misery the Texans have endured for so long and the amount of talent they risk wasting elsewhere on the roster.

    And about that talent: It now includes a much deeper backfield after the Texans used their third-round pick on running back D'Onta Foreman. The former Texas Longhorn runs with a great blend of speed and power, which resulted in 2,028 rushing yards in 2016.

    Texans head coach Bill O'Brien recently said that although running back Lamar Miller had a great 2016 season (1,073 rushing yards), he was banged up and wore down near the end.

    "I think you know, 30 carries in a couple games, things like that, that's probably a little bit too much," O'Brien told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. "We feel like we have a pretty diverse group of running backs, so I think in order to get him at his best in January, we probably need to cut down early in the year."

    Foreman's short-term role will be to keep Miller fresh. He can do that and also rumble forward for his share of chunk gains.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Indianapolis Colts Have a Day 3 Steal in Marlon Mack as Gore's Heir Apparent

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    A rebuilt defense highlighted by safety and first-round pick Malik Hooker is getting much of the attention as the Indianapolis Colts' draft is digested. But don't sleep on Marlon Mack.

    The running back out of South Florida is a lightning bolt in space, averaging 1,369 yards from scrimmage per year over his three college seasons. As Kevin Bowen from Colts.com recently noted, the fourth-round pick will inject life and options for creativity into the Colts backfield alongside Frank Gore.

    "I do think we will see some specific packages for a guy like Marlon Mack," Bowen wrote. "He brings ability in the open field that the Colts have not really had in recent years. I would think the Colts would simply like to give Mack some touches to see what he can do on extended hand-off plays and other areas out in space."

    Mack will likely assert himself fast and rise to a time share with Gore. He could be the Day 3 gem at his position.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Jacksonville Jaguars Think Cam Robinson Can Help Salvage Blake Bortles' Career

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    The Jacksonville Jaguars gave quarterback Blake Bortles even more support, and even fewer excuses, when they used a top-five pick on running back Leonard Fournette.

    But Bortles still needs quality protection after getting sacked 50-plus times in two of his first three NFL seasons. That should be coming from left tackle Branden Albert, who was acquired in exchange for a seventh-round pick in March.

    However, Albert skipped voluntary workouts in protest of his contract. As NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported in mid-April, Albert is holding out for a new deal and more guaranteed money in 2017. That surely influenced the Jaguars' decision to trade up and get tackle Cam Robinson at 34th overall.

    Now Jaguars general manager David Caldwell is talking about Robinson as potentially the Week 1 starting left tackle.

    "He'll be a left tackle," Caldwell told Hays Carlyon of 1010 XL in Jacksonville.

    Robinson may be a left tackle eventually, but he's likely better off easing into NFL life as either a right tackle or guard. He struggled at times in 2016, and PFF gave him the 90th overall grade among FBS offensive tackles.

    For Bortles' sake, the Jaguars need to make Albert happy and then move Robinson to left tackle down the road.

         

    Verdict: Selling 

Kansas City Chiefs Believe the Sky Is the Limit for Tanoh Kpassagnon

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    Patrick Mahomes may be the quarterback of the future for the Kansas City Chiefs, but Alex Smith is still the quarterback for 2017. And what about Tanoh Kpassagnon, the Chiefs' second-round defensive end who was made in a football lab somewhere?

    He'll be a menace for opposing quarterbacks.

    The 6'7", 289-pound pass-rusher posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.83 seconds, blistering at his size. He'll need some time to mature and develop, but when he does Kpassagnon possesses sky-high athletic upside.

    "His ability to get off the football at his size, just because he's such a big guy—you don't see it a lot with those guys," Chiefs scout Matt Donahoe said shortly after the draft, via BJ Kissel of Chiefs.com. "He'll make plays out on the edge; he'll make plays hustling backside. It's just nonstop effort, which you like in those big guys. As long as they have that motor and they're willing to learn, willing to do anything that's asked, they're most likely going to succeed.

    "I also think there's versatility with him, which is nice. Especially now with these offenses in sub-packages so much of the time anyways, guys who can rush from the defensive line at 3-tech are valuable."

    That versatility will be key, and it should get Kpassagnon onto the field in sub-packages. The thought of him chasing after the quarterback alongside outside linebackers Justin Houston and Dee Ford is scary.

         

    Verdict: Buying 

Los Angeles Chargers Trying to Keep Forrest Lamp at Guard

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    The Los Angeles Chargers selected offensive linemen with two of their top three picks. And early indications are both Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney will start their careers at guard.

    That's what general manager Tom Telesco told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL radio, and for Lamp the move inside is at least a mild surprise.

    Lamp fell to the Chargers early in the second round but was widely projected as a possible first-round pick. At just over 32 inches, he lacks the ideal arm length for a tackle. But that's where he excelled for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, allowing only five pressures in 2016, per PFF.

    The Chargers have Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale at tackle, and it might not take long for Lamp to outshine one of them.

         

    Verdict: Selling

Los Angeles Rams Did Enough to Give Jared Goff Help on the Outside

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    Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

    The Los Angeles Rams needed to support quarterback Jared Goff with offensive weapons who can create yards after the catch. Goff hasn't developed enough to have the entire offensive load on his arm yet, so every chunk play matters.

    General manager Les Snead gave him a jittery slot receiver in Cooper Kupp, the draft-season riser who recorded 1,400-plus receiving yards during all four of his seasons at Eastern Washington. And before Kupp came off the board in the third round, tight end Gerald Everett was already a future security blanket for Goff.

    Everett was one of many tight ends in the 2017 class who can jump out of one stadium and land in another. At 239 pounds, he recorded a vertical jump of 37.5 inches. That's what makes him so effective both in the red zone and up the middle amid chaos.

    It's also what has made Rams tight end coach Shane Waldron giddy to get going and work with Everett.

    "He has a unique skill set at the tight end position," Waldron told Rams.com recently. "He's a playmaker with the ball in his hands and can make people miss, break tackles and create yards on his own, which is always important."

    Everett finished his time at South Alabama in 2016 with 49 receptions for 717 yards and four touchdowns.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Miami Dolphins Will Take Their Time Finding a Place for Raekwon McMillan

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    The Miami Dolphins focused on defense, using five of their seven picks on that side of the ball.

    Their 2017 class is led by edge-rusher Charles Harris, who should add teeth to a stagnant Dolphins pass rush that finished with only 33 sacks in 2016. Harris, meanwhile, recorded nine sacks and 12 tackles for a loss during his final year in Missouri.

    But the sparkling star of the Dolphins' defensive haul might end up being second-round linebacker Raekwon McMillan. He's an instinctive middle linebacker with quality vision and speed to the point of attack, finishing with back-to-back 100-plus-yard tackle seasons to end his time at Ohio State. To put a real exclamation point on his college career, McMillan also posted 25 run stops in his final four games with the Buckeyes, per PFF.

    He has the traits to thrive as an NFL middle linebacker. But with Kiko Alonso there right now in Miami, the Dolphins will use him elsewhere, though early in the offseason there's some uncertainty about exactly what position McMillan play.

    Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald he's unsure if McMillan will start at strong-side linebacker. Before long, it'll become clear McMillan is the much better option over Koa Misi.

         

    Verdict: Selling

Minnesota Vikings Need to Keep Pat Elflein at Center

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    The Minnesota Vikings didn't have a first-round pick, but they still addressed their two most important needs right away: a running back and top-end offensive lineman to re-established a sputtering ground attack.

    The Vikings averaged only 3.2 yards per carry in 2016, a spiral that began with running back Adrian Peterson's injury, and the poor run-blocking didn't help matters. Now, Dalvin Cook, the Vikings' second-round pick who ran for 1,765 yards in 2016 for Florida State, is set to rejuvenate the backfield. And he'll do it with the help of Pat Elflein, the fundamentally sound center selected in the third round.

    Elflein played guard at Ohio State for four years before moving to center during his redshirt senior year. He graded out positively in each of the past three seasons as a run-blocker, per PFF, but his deeper experience at guard could lead to thoughts about an NFL position switch.

    For now, though, he'll stay at center, as Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said shortly after the draft.

    "We'll probably start [with] him at center," Zimmer told Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "He played guard the year before, but he's a very, very good center."

    Starting Elflein out at center makes sense since he was progressing nicely while adjusting to the position in 2016, and that work can now carry over throughout the offseason and into training camp.

         

    Verdict: Buying

New England Patriots Got a Steal in Edge-Rusher Derek Rivers

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots used their draft picks to pull off a handful of trades and collect players who can contribute immediately. They ended up making just four picks during the draft, with the first not coming until the third round and No. 83 overall.

    But of course that pick might end up rising to become an example of draft robbery.

    The Patriots selected defensive end Derek Rivers with their first pick in 2017. He was frequently listed among the possible small-school studs prior to the draft. He starred for Youngstown State and in 2016 erupted for 14 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss.

    "He's a smart football player," Bo Pelini, Rivers' head coach at Youngstown State, told Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal. "The kid's intelligent. I think he can do a lot of different things to help them. I know that [the Patriots] put a big premium on that because that's a very multiple defense that they play. They grilled him on his visit and found him to be a very good fit for what they want him to do."

    Rivers may need some time to develop, but Pelini isn't wrong. He has the tools key for NFL success with his acceleration and ability to convert speed to power. And he can be used both as a defensive end or outside linebacker.

         

    Verdict: Buying

New Orleans Saints Have a Perfect Weapon for Their Offense in Alvin Kamara

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    The New Orleans Saints did what any team should do when its secondary is a pit of flames. They added Marshon Lattimore and Marcus Williams over the first two rounds. The Saints grabbed arguably the best cornerback in the draft and one of the top safeties too.

    Those two should raise the Saints' pass defense up from its current rock-bottom status after the unit allowed 273.8 passing yards per game in 2016. As for the other side of the ball, it should stay fireworks-filled thanks in part to running back Alvin Kamara.

    The Tennessee Volunteer was a multipurpose weapon who's comfortable in space as a pass-catcher. That's why he'll now try to do his best Darren Sproles or Reggie Bush impersonation. He recorded 683 receiving yards over his two seasons at Tennessee.

    "Kamara should help the Saints offense become a little more diverse than we've seen the past couple of years," Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune wrote.

    That's an easy future to see after C.J. Spiller flamed out in the Bush/Sproles roll, leaving the Saiints without the staple pass-catching back in their offense.

         

    Verdict: Buying

New York Giants Not Sold on Davis Webb as the Successor to Eli Manning

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    Maybe we should chill out a little bit before shoveling dirt on the grave of Eli Manning's career? New York Giants CEO John Mara would like that, please.

    The Giants selected quarterback Davis Webb with their third-round pick. When your starting quarterback is 36 years old and an early pick is used on a new, fresh arm, eyes turn to the young stud, and to the future.

    But the Giants have been there before when they used a fourth-round pick on Ryan Nassib in 2013, and he's now a free agent. Mara said he'd like to see Webb, you know, on the field before putting any crown on him.

    "I think it's a little too premature to be anointing this guy as the heir apparent to Eli," Mara said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show. "Webb hasn't set foot on the field yet. But he has a lot of talent and we're looking forward to seeing what we've got when he gets here. But let's not, as Bill Parcells used to say, let's not get his bust ready for Canton just yet."

    It is factually correct that Webb hasn't taken even a semi-meaningful preseason snap yet. He's a Day 2 prospect who needs to watch and learn, just as most quarterbacks not named Dak Prescott do early in their careers.

    Maybe in a few years he'll be ready. Or maybe he'll still be the guy who averaged a modest 6.9 yards per attempt in 2016 for the California Golden Bears.

         

    Verdict: Buying

New York Jets Already Have a Superstar in the Making with Jamal Adams

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    The New York Jets pass defense didn't put up much resistance in and around the red zone in 2016. They allowed 30 passing touchdowns, tied for the league's sixth-worst total.

    They needed some punch, some aggression and some speed. And they found it all in the same player.

    The Jets happily pounced on Jamal Adams with their sixth overall pick. He was one of four defensive backs selected by general manager Mike Maccagnan during a draft centered around improving a glaring defensive hole.

    Adams is a quick-twitch defender who plays the run well as a thumping hitter. He's also skilled in coverage, recording five interceptions and 10 passes defensed over his last two seasons at LSU.

    "It was near impossible to watch rookie minicamp and not notice Adams," Connor Hughes of NJ Advance Media wrote. "He was the best player on the field, and it wasn't close. He made a tremendous play on a pass to tight end Jordan Leggett on Friday. Leggett broke towards the sideline. Once Adams saw Leggett commit, he fired and broke underneath the route to bat the pass away. It was very impressive."

    There's a good chance Adams becomes the best defender in the 2017 draft not named Myles Garrett. And he'll power the Jets' turnaround, whenever it happens.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Oakland Raiders Have a Legitimate Safety in Obi Melifonwu

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    D. ROSS CAMERON/Associated Press

    The Oakland Raiders also turned their draft attention toward stopping the sight of long, damaging completions against their defense.

    They did that first by taking a character risk on Gareon Conley, a talented cornerback who fell to the back half of the first round due to an ongoing rape investigation. Then in typical Raiders fashion, they secured the services of safety Obi Melifonwu, an athletic dynamo.

    Melifonwu is a 6'4", 224-pounder who elevated that massive body 44 inches in the vertical jump. On the field, his athleticism translates to a defensive back who can blast off quickly downfield to be an effective run defender.

    "He has a good head on his shoulders," Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio told CSN Bay Area's Scott Bair. "He comes in, and he's just trying to soak up our system right now. Athletically, he's very blessed. He has height, weight and speed that you look for. Athleticism, changing direction and then he'll come up and hit you. We like the tape. We think he's a good football player, and we're happy to start working with him."

    The problem is, Melifonwu is still more of an athlete than a sound defender in coverage. He allowed 12 touchdowns over the past three seasons at Connecticut, per PFF. He's better suited playing closer to the line of scrimmage until those coverage skills develop.

         

    Verdict: Selling

Philadelphia Eagles Will Have a Shutdown Corner in Sidney Jones When Healthy

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles were yet another team that dipped heavily into the defensive backfield prospect pool.

    They did that after grabbing defensive end Derek Barnett in the first round. He recorded 13 sacks for the Tennessee Volunteers in 2016. And they did it by getting a potential injury-induced steal in cornerback Sidney Jones during the second round.

    Jones tore his Achilles tendon during a pro-day workout in March. Prior to that, he was a likely first-round pick after his eight interceptions and 21 passes defensed over three seasons with the Washington Huskies.

    "He's a No. 1 corner," Eagles director of player personnel Andy Weidl told Dave Spadaro of Eagles.com. "We feel he's a guy who can cover all levels of the field. Excellent ball skills, doesn't panic when the ball is in the air, a lot of production, a real student of the game, and a guy we feel is going to fit our program here."

    Jones will likely start the 2017 season on the PUP list, which will obviously slow his rookie-season progression. But in 2018 and beyond, he can be the centerpiece of a rebuilt Eagles secondary.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Pittsburgh Steelers Have an Immediate Contributor in JuJu Smith-Schuster

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    Leon Bennett/Getty Images

    The Pittsburgh Steelers now have a versatile linebacker corps with T.J. Watt added to a unit that already included Ryan Shazier. And they also built on a strength by selecting wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster in the second round.

    If Martavis Bryant returns and remains problem-free, Smith-Schuster's presence cranks up the throttle even further on an offense that already had plenty of weapons. The Steelers averaged 262.6 passing yards per game in 2016, and Smith-Schuster's ability to high-point the ball in coverage will keep the chains moving. 

    Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley praised Smith-Schuster's "combative" catches when speaking to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com: "50-50 balls as we call them, and he usually comes down with them. He's a really exciting guy, and we are excited to get him here to work on. He plays with a great passion."

    Smith-Schuster's production dropped off a bit at USC in 2016. But in 2015 he finished with 89 receptions for 1,454 yards. The roster spot he eventually occupies might signal the end of Sammie Coates in Pittsburgh.

         

    Verdict: Buying

San Francisco 49ers Made the Right Call Drafting Reuben Foster

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers took a significant draft risk by trading back into the first round to halt linebacker Reuben Foster's fall.

    When healthy, Foster is undoubtedly one of the best middle linebackers in his draft class after starring at Alabama. He recorded 115 tackles in 2016 with five sacks.

    But his health could be a major issue going forward.

    Foster needed surgery to repair his right rotator cuff. That contributed to his draft slide, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported teams were worried about Foster's medical report and decided to take a pass. Yahoo's Charles Robinson echoed that report, saying Foster was "medically rejected" by some teams.

    If his shoulder stays in one piece, the 49ers have the core of their defense in place between Foster and fellow first-round pick Solomon Thomas. If it doesn't, John Lynch has made his first major misstep as a rookie general manager.

         

    Verdict: Selling

Seattle Seahawks Have a Week 1 Starter in Rookie Ethan Pocic

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks took another step toward fixing their annual offensive line problem when they selected center Ethan Pocic in the second round. With quarterback Russell Wilson's sack count rising steadily (he's taken 205 regular-season sacks in five years), Pocic should get a chance to start as a rookie.

    Sheil Kapadia, who covers the Seahawks for ESPN.com, connected those dots as well.

    "Whether it's at right guard or right tackle, Pocic will have an opportunity to win a starting job as a rookie," he wrote.

    Guard is the more likely fit because 2016 first-round pick Germain Ifedi will be given a chance to forget his awful rookie season and win the right tackle job. Either way, Pocic will be next in line as Seattle desperately tires to plug its offensive line holes.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Have Doug Martin's Replacement in Jeremy McNichols

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Doug Martin is an oft-injured 28-year-old running back who averaged only 2.9 yards per carry in 2016 and will miss the first four games of 2017 due to a suspension.

    That's why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed depth at the running back position after gladly stopping tight end O.J. Howard's fall in the first round and also adding speed threat Chris Godwin at wide receiver. So they waited during a strong running back draft class and then waited some more.

    When the Bucs finally selected Jeremy McNichols in the fifth round, they found a slashing runner who's also skilled as a pass-catcher. And even better, he's a willing blocker.

    "What strikes us the most or what jumps out at you the most is his ability on third down and in the receiving game," general manager Jason Licht told Jenna Laine of ESPN.com.

    "He's a really good pass protector too. He was one of the best pass protectors in the draft from that position."

    In the short term, McNichols will provide quality depth as the Bucs spend a quarter of their 2017 schedule without Martin. And long term, a dual treat who finished his final season at Boise State with 1,709 rushing yards and 474 receiving yards could grow into a starting role.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Tennessee Titans Gave Marcus Mariota the Weapons Necessary to Shine in 2017

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Marcus Mariota needed deep options, and the Tennessee titans supplied their blossoming quarterback with two of them.

    The Titans selected wide receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor with two of their first three picks. Davis posted three straight seasons with 1,400-plus receiving yards at Western Michigan, and Taylor can fly up the seam as a slot receiver. He scored 34 times over the past two seasons at Western Kentucky and finished 2016 with 1,730 receiving yards.

    Recently, Pro Football Focus shed light on why those two are about to ignite the Titans offense when paired with Mariota. Even without them, Mariota's deep-ball accuracy was already improving dramatically. His passer rating increased by 68.4 points from 2015 to 2016 on balls that traveled 20-plus yards through the air.

    Toss in a juggernaut rushing attack, and the Titans offense is about to make the leap.

         

    Verdict: Buying

Washington Redskins Successfully Gave Their Defense the Boost It Needs

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins faced a void in their pass rush with outside linebacker Trent Murphy suspended for four games in 2017. He accounted for nine of the defense's 38 sacks during the 2016 season. 

    So they loaded up on pass-rushing talent by selecting Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson in the first two rounds. Allen piled up 22.5 sacks over his last two years at Alabama, and Anderson went off for 8.5 sacks of his own in 2016.

    Anderson is a high-energy player whose motor could influence those around him, as CSN Mid Atlantic's Rich Tandler noted.

    "Anderson's presence could have the side benefit of motivating Preston Smith to a new level," Tandler wrote. "Perhaps [Jay] Gruden wants Anderson to rub off on Smith, who is physically talented but somewhat laid back. The coaches have tried to fire him up for the last two years and it hasn't worked. Maybe having the high-intensity Anderson in the building can get Smith rolling, which would create a true nightmare for opposing offenses."

    Some fresh competitive juices flowing around a defense that ranked 28th while giving up 377.9 yards per game surely won't hurt.

         

    Verdict: Buying

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