Some NFL teams on draft night in Chicago made many smart moves to benefit and improve their franchises. Only two of these teams made the playoffs last season as most lacked athleticism and talent in certain positions. The top 10 teams in the draft did a superb job making excellent selections to fulfill their weaknesses and possibly rally to make a push for playoff contention next season.
10) New York Giants
The Giants received the ninth pick in the NFL Draft and went with OT from University of Miami Ereck Flowers. Flowers was the catalyst to the offensive line at Miami and blocks defensive linemen with ease. The Giants also have struggled to establish protection for QB Eli Manning and running room for RB Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams. With the Giants last pick, they went with another offensive lineman from Florida State in Bobby Hart. Hart made Jameis Winston’s job less stressful at Florida State with his sensational blocking ability and impeccable strength to push defenses backwards. The Giants were concerned that their defensive line and secondary did not execute well against opposing offenses. To help decrease the frustration in those areas, the Giants selected SS Landon Collins out of Alabama and DE Owa Odighizuwa out of UCLA. Collins was a tremendous DB at Alabama, and the Giants are a great fit for him as he’ll definitely provide his hustle and his ability to make their secondary better. Odighizuwa was an enormous and intimidating player at the defensive end for UCLA.
9) Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys know that they arguably have the best offensive line in the NFL, however, they struggled immensely on defense. They made smart and clever selections to help build on their defense. The Cowboys may have received the steal in the draft with the 27th overall pick in CB Byron Jones from Connecticut. He is insanely athletic, competitive, aggressive and skilled and his position. The Cowboys secondary suffered against opposing offenses, and Adams should definitely decrease the amount of receptions directed toward opposing wide receivers. He is lock on the defensive end. In their next pick, they chose OLB Randy Gregory out of Nebraska, who is needed at the position. The Cowboys don’t know the destiny of their top LB Sean Lee who lacks durability in his legs. If he stays healthy and Gregory plays alongside him, they will both load up on tackles and sacks. These two picks were enormous to help make progress in Dallas’ defensive mentality.
8) San Diego Chargers
The Chargers wanted to get a second running back to improve their rushing game and revitalize their defense by adding someone to their pass rush, so they traded up for Heisman finalist out of Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon for the 15th pick in the first round. He was a speed demon in college and a nightmare for pass rushing defenses as he would fly right past them. Then in the second round, they got a steal pick with ILB Denzel Perryman out the University of Miami. He was a beast in college and led the team in tackles. He will be a good fill-in for Jarrett Johnson, who announced his retirement in the offseason. Perryman should fulfill that role if he lives up to his potential. Those two picks were stellar for the Chargers’ organization and should reel in more energy, youth and talent in San Diego.
7) Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens acquired two tight ends in the draft as they lost Owen Daniels in free agency along with Dennis Pitta being questionable to return to football with multiple hip injuries. Their second draft choice was Maxx Williams out of Minnesota, who is arguably the best tight end in the draft. The Ravens centered their offense around their backs and tight end. Williams will help assist Crockett Gillmore, who is still young but has the most experience in that position on the team. Later in the draft, during the fifth round, they chose Nick Boyle out of Delaware, which is where Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco played in college. There may be a Delaware connection in the future between those two teammates. The Ravens needed someone to fill WR Torrey Smith’s void, who signed with the 49ers in free agency. Their first pick was used on UCF speedy WR Breshad Perriman, who has good upside, like Smith, and he’s known for making spectacular plays. In the fourth round, the Ravens picked up RB Buck Allen out of USC, adding more youth and speed behind their backfield. The Ravens were depleted in their secondary with injuries. After choosing Allen, they selected the athletic and lockdown cornerback out of Texas Southern, Tray Walker, who will contribute and benefit to the Ravens defensive reputation.
6) Oakland Raiders
The Raiders were able to walk away from the draft with arguably the best WR in it, Amari Cooper, who won the award for the best collegiate receiver in the country last season. In the second and third rounds respectively, the Raiders took DE/DT Mario Edwards Jr. and TE Clive Walford. After finishing 3-13 last year with the second-lowest offensive output, Oakland needed a couple of players from the draft to jumpstart their offense. Cooper and Walford should help with that. The Raiders could have done more to help their league-worst defense, but a team can only acquire so many top draft picks.
5) St. Louis Rams
With the 10th pick in the draft, the Rams went with RB Todd Gurley out of Georgia to add more youth and athleticism to their backfield. The next two picks the Rams went with were enormous offensive tackles. They first went with Wisconsin’s Rob Havenstein and then, in the next round, chose Louisville’s Jamon Brown. They are both big athletic blockers that can bulldoze defensive lineman, which is what the Rams want. They will be colossal factors to help improve the run game for RB Tre Mason and Gurley together as a dangerous duo. For their next pick, they chose QB Sean Mannion out of Oregon State, who holds the PAC 12 record for passing yards. Plus the Rams are desperate for a big quarterback. Lastly, in the sixth round, they went with a quick and elusive wide receiver in Bud Sasser out of Missouri who will play alongside Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, who are bound to erupt in their early careers. All in all the Rams are really attempting to make a name for their offense in the future, and it looks extremely good.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay made the right and obvious choice by taking one of the two most talented quarterbacks first overall in Jameis Winston. The Bucs badly needed a franchise QB going forward. Tampa added a pair of wide receivers in Kenny Bell and Kaelin Clay to join Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, giving Winston plenty of offensive weapons. If their draft picks pan out, the Bucs should have a much better offense than the one that finished fourth worst in the league last season.
3) Tennessee Titans
The Titans took the other stud QB second overall, Marcus Mariota, a no-brainer for a team that was in need of a potential franchise playcaller. The Titans were also smart to select WR Dorial Green-Beckham to complement Mariota. Another spot the Titans did not really have was a running back, and they decided to go with underrated RB David Cobb out of Minnesota. The Titans struggle running the ball, and they have not had an answer to improve that aspect of the game. Cobb may be a subsequential answer for Tennessee’s backfield. OL Jeremiah Poutasi and Cobb can challenge for the starting right tackle and running back jobs respectively. Tennessee needed a lot of help to improve their third worst offensive unit in the NFL, and they may have found the solution.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars were smart to pick up DE/LB Dante Fowler third overall—along with stealing DT Michael Bennett in the sixth round—to help improve their mediocre defense. The Jaguars were the worst offensive team in the league last season, and they were able to go a long way in fixing it in the draft. They picked up RB T.J. Yeldon, who will likely slot in as their best on the depth chart. G A.J. Cann will help create space for him. A pair of wide receivers were taken in Rashad Greene and Neal Sterling, along with TE Ben Koyack to help give their starting quarterback a few options.
1) New York Jets
The Jets followed the time-honored mantra of picking the best player available rather than shooting for a need with their sixth overall pick, and they were able to snatch DT Leonard Williams, arguably the best defensive tackle in the draft. Devin Smith is a solid wide receiver, a position the Jets needed to improve upon. DE/OLB Lorenzo Mauldin is also an adequate starter. Add the players they drafted to the Jets and reacquired CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and the Jets will have one of the best defenses in the league after the unit was a disappointment last year. The Jets also added QB Bryce Petty in the fourth round, who can potentially win the starting job from Geno Smith.