After the monumentous ending to the 2016 college football season, and with the Super Bowl ending this past week, we officially are beginning the countdown to the overload of NFL Draft conversations. This year it appears more evident what some teams need, while others it might be hard to see. In this piece, we will quickly look at each team and go over what they need going into the draft, and how it will help them become a playoff team. This is the Way Too Early 2017 NFL Draft Tools for Success.
We are going to tackle this by division, then by team.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: While there isn’t much the Steel City needs in terms of offensive firepower, they will need to begin the process of making the defense better. But by better I don’t mean in the sense of its crumbling apart, I mean in the sense that eventually the front seven is going to have members of it retire, and your backfield isn’t the strongest either. In my opinion, Pittsburgh needs to go into this draft looking for a linebacker or a nickel corner, someone who can pressure the offense or make sure that the receivers are covered to give the front seven time to get to the quarterback.
2.Baltimore Ravens: A running back and wide receiver, and this is not to say that 2016 draft pick Kenneth Dixon is a bad running back, but they need more of a solid 1-2 punch in order to not rely on Joe Flacco to throw it more than 50 times a game. Speaking of throwing, a wide receiver is a need this year as Steve Smith has officially retired and you are going to need to replace that void. Sure, you can say the Ravens have wideouts capable of doing that already on the team, but you need a vertical deep threat kind of wideout that can match Mike Wallace on the opposite side.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: A wide receiver and health. This one might seem the easiest of the division because it was so obvious from the 1st snap of the Bengals season as to what they needed. While the combination of Aj Green and Tyler Boyd is great, it isn’t enough on the team from a passing perspective. The Bengals need a new receiver that can not only play in the slot, but can block for short passes/ screen passes. They also need to focus on building up a roster that will fill in holes just in case they get situations like they have in the past, with Dalton going down two years ago, and Aj being bugged with injuries all season.
4. Cleveland Browns: A QB for the future. Look as good as RG3 could be, we have to be honest with ourselves and realize he is not the answer for the Browns this or next year. Simply put, the Browns need to seriously look at this draft and free agency and try to get someone who will be able to last for many moons to come. Now, Cleveland has firepower at the playmaker positions, and if they do keep Josh Gordon, then that is definitely something to build on, but right now, the Browns needs rely purely on the offensive side of the ball. Atleast then they will be able to compete.
1. New England Patriots: A solid Linebacker. Even though they won the Super Bowl, Atlanta showed that the Patriots need another Linebacker that can bounce to the outside and stop the run. For the most part in the Super Bowl, the Falcons were running at will against the Pats and it was only until they decided to blitz did they have a chance to stop it. If New England wants to repeat, they are going to need to shore up the one hole in their battleship.
2.Miami Dolphins: An offensive tackle or guard. Look, I could point out how they need help on the defensive side of the ball, but the fins have no excuse going into this year. You now have a great duo on the outside with Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker, and a bellcow in Jay Ayaji. You need to fix the O-Line because your success greatly depends on it. If Ayaji in his second season, averages 85 yards an attempt and breaks records in the process over the span of 11 games, get him all the help he can get. Miami, with the right moves, could move closer to being dangerous to New England’s crown but they wont do so if the Dolphins don’t get their offensive line ducks in a row.
3.Buffalo Bills: A solid Quarterback. I don’t know if it’s who they have now, someone in free agency, or someone in the draft, but the Bills need a quarterback that can be a franchise guy for the next ten years. Tyrod Taylor, Ej Manuel and Cardale Jones are great backups, with Cardale probably being the one that could be a great franchise QB but the Bills front office’s need to decide if they are going to ride with one of them for the long haul or if they are going to grab someone to be that guy.
4. New York Jets: A solid backup QB and a defensive backfield. I hate to be the one to let New York know about this, but the Jets will not get it done with ANY of the QB’s currently on the roster. They have some great pieces on offense but they don’t have a good play caller. Simply put, Id drop all three QB’s and start all over. Not only do they need that, but they need a defensive backfield that can actually compete with the rest of the division and not blow leads the way they did all season long. Simply put, the Jets need to change course before they crash and burn for another season.
1. Houston Texans: Get rid of Brock or fix his system. I’m sorry, but there is no way a guy like Brock can have all those weapons around him and come up empty. Getting to the second round is great, but the Texans shouldnt have to fight and claw for a divisional title in this division of all divisions. If they don’t fix his QB mechanics, expect the Texans to make the playoffs, but don’t expect a title any time soon.
2.Indianapolis Colts: An entire new defense, an offensive line and a running game: Indy is quite literally wasting Andrew Luck’s time if they think they can skate on by with the same personnel they had this past season. The Colts have good pieces but they cant use them if Luck is getting plastered to the dirt on every play. While it does help them if they use 2-3 picks on the O-line, they need a bellcow in the backfield to actually keep Luck from getting injured every game. By doing so, the offense picks up momentum and allows Luck to use play action more to win games. And don’t even get me started on that putrid defense.
3. Tennessee Titans: A solid corner or safety. A lot of people could make the argument that the Titans were vying to win the division if they only had help on the defensive side of the ball. And they would be absolutely correct, because from what I can tell, the Titans are a very good team, well at least good enough to win their division. If Tennessee can add some depth on the linebacker, corner or safety position, expect them to win the divisional crown.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: An anchor on the defensive line. Jacksonville has a DAMN good squad, just no direction. With new management coming in, they need to set the tone by bringing in a brute force to give the Jags defense some fangs. If they could get a defensive juggernaut, particularly on the interior line, I can’t think of an any reason why this team isn’t vying for either an 8-8 record or a wild card spot.
1. The San Diego, im sorry, The Los Angeles Chargers: depth at safety. The Chargers biggest issue isn’t their offense, unless Phillip Rivers decides to actual hold true to his “Not in LA” proclamation. In fact, the Chargers biggest issue is their defense. They can’t stop anyone, particularly when it comes to the passing game. If the Chargers hope to make it work and reclaim the division, they need to restock on this and in a hurry.
2. Kansas City Chiefs: a backup quarterback and a safety, just in case. The Chiefs pretty much have everything they need to succeed in the AFC, even to win a title if they could stay out of the Pats and Steelers way. The thing they do need to focus on in this upcoming draft is a successor to Alex Smith, as he isn’t a spring chicken anymore. On the defensive side, however, they do have a small problem brewing and that if they can’t resign Eric Berry. If they lose Berry, they essentially lose a key piece of the defense who is the heart and soul of how they play: rough, fast and athletic. If they lose, then getting a high value safety should be the top concern of the Chiefs.
3. Oakland Raiders: quarterback and linebacker: Before you begin to curse me out, hear me out. Oakland needs a backup quarterback, as Matt McGloin will more than likely be let go for Connor Cook, who showed he needs some time, but will progress along nicely for Oakland. The Raiders need young qbs who can play that system to its finest and if Derek Carr, god forbid, goes down again this upcoming season, you need someone behind Cook who can win you a football game. Secondly, they need a linebacker to be the QB of the defense. For the longest time, this great defense has been playing without a leader of defense and even with Khalil Mack as the star of it, he isn’t a leader of the defense the way Charles Woodson was two years ago. If Oakland can get this right, expect them to be Super Bowl Bound.
4. Denver Broncos: Either pick a starter or draft one. I wont waste time on Denver because they have a great team and a great defense, but they need to either pick someone who will be the starter for 5 years or shut up and draft a stud. Look, you have in the Broncos, a Trevor Siemian who is great but needs to put on 30 pounds due to his small frame, and a Paxton Lynch who needs Elway to get off his high horse, literally, and show him how to be an All-Pro pocket passer. If neither of these things happen, draft a game manager and let the necessary occur.
Well those are my tools for success in the upcoming draft for the AFC, come back later this week to see my tools for success on the NFC side.