Tony Softli

My time as a NFL front office Executive were I earned the knowledge and insight on roster build along with the  personnel wheel of fortune when dealing with the cap, free agency and the draft process was my focus and passion for 15 years.  While the ownership philosophies differ from the Carolina Panthers, St. Louis Rams and throughout the NFL, the two avenues to acquire players remained the same, free agents to fill hot spots and the bloodline of every professional sports organization, the yearly draft.

With the dust now settled on the 2017 NFL free agency period, several teams have tagged their top difference-makers.  Most of the 32 teams were aggressive early spending money on players that are scheme fits both on the roster and in locker-room, also in the community.

Each organization has different philosophies, viewpoints or values when going about its business during the offseason. The common denominator among all 32 teams lists; include Musts, Needs and Wants.  This is the starting point for developing a game plan that doesn’t involve X’s & O’s and is directed strictly toward personnel.

Below is the American Football Conference (AFC) teams in alpha order.  Under each team are the team needs as I see them.  The overall draft selection numbers and a roster analysis which include top free agent additions and defections and the possible trade scenarios within the 2017 draft.

 

Baltimore – WR, DPR, OT, DB, CB
Draft Picks:  16, 47, 78, 99, 122, 159, 186
Roster Analysis:  G.M. Ozzie Newsome is the master of finding draft nuggets regardless of round.  The Wizard of OZ will need to work his magic on a depleted offensive line, and the retirement of future Pro Football Hall of Fame WR Steve Smith Sr who made QB Joe Flacco skill set look better than it really is.  His main focus will come on the defensive side of the ball.  With DE Terrell Suggs advancing in age and injury history mounting, the departure of DPR Elvis Dumervil leaves a “Flashing Yellow” light of need at the defensive line position and is TOP Priority!

Buffalo – WR, CB, QB, DB, LB, OT
Draft Picks:  10, 44, 75, 156, 171, 195
Roster Analysis:  As I evaluate the Bills roster it is not hard to see the big hole at the receiver position.  I know they struggle to attract and keep free agents in chilly Buffalo, with the departure of Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods via free agency, the “Flashing Red” light means STOP! Draft not one but two playmakers and difference makers to compete outside the numbers.  This draft is deep at every positional need the Bills currently have WR, CB and QB needs.  It has been reported that G.M. Doug Whaley has lost some juice/power to  rookie Head Coach Sean McDermott, that’s not good news for the a franchise with fairly new ownership, front office and new Head Coach.  The Bills organization should be moving in the same direction in an optimal manner as the bloodline infusion of young talent is nearing.

Cincinnati – WR, OT, DE, OLB, DB
Draft Picks:  9, 41, 73, 116, 138, 153, 176, 193, 217, 227, 251
Roster Analysis:  Head Coach Marvin Lewis needs to push the Bengals ownership and personnel department to change their philosophy on roster building, 14 unrestricted free agents is a lot.  This means two things, 1. Poor evaluating and drafting of players which has not been the case 2. Good drafts and inconsistent management of the cap to sign and retain your core players.  Either way it’s hard to build a Championship team on that merry go round.   With eleven picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bengals personnel brass need Blue players, playmakers and difference makers throughout the draft by drafting players that fit their schemes, instead of drafting players that are NFL Combine workout warriors or media top players.  Top draft picks Ogbuehi and Fisher are still trying to find their way, they lost OT Andrew Whitworth (up in age but still plays at a high level) and OG Kevin Zeitler one of the top guards in the NFL who should have been retained.  The defensive unsung hero is now a Denver Bronco in NT Domata Peko.  He didn’t get a lot of ink but turn on the film and you see a disruptive run stopper and flashed very good pass rush ability, but more importantly he took up space which allowed Bengal linebackers to hunt on the move.

Cleveland – DPR, QB, DT, RB, OG, CB, DB
Draft Picks:  1, 12, 33, 52, 65, 108, 145, 175, 181, 185, 188,
Roster Analysis:  QB Robert Griffin the III is out and newly acquired QB Brock Osweiler is headed to quarterback purgatory to battle QB Cody Kessler for the starting position.  Trading back in 2016 NFL Draft from #2 overall pick and falling down to #15 was an all-time bonehead decision by the Browns brass.  WR Corey Coleman will develop into a Blue player, but you have to have a QB to throw him the ball, while Browns fans are still shouting Carson Wentz…Carson Wentz!  After evaluating the DE’s at the NFL Combine, it is glaring and obvious that former Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett is clearly the #1 overall selection in 2017 NFL Draft.  His movement skills and athletic skill set reminds me of a player I helped draft in DE Julius Peppers #2 overall in Carolina.

Denver – OT, OG, RB, ILB
Draft Picks:  20, 51, 82, 101, 126, 177, 203, 238, 252, 253
Roster Analysis:  First time Head Coach Vance Joseph inherits a rock solid club that just needs some fine tuning  along with leadership and direction.  Broncos G.M. John Elway understands the value of having a good running game that complements the passing game.  The 2017 NFL Draft is loaded with talented runners with speed, skill set and receiving skills early-mid rounds.  OT position is a strong concern as I evaluate the current roster, as is interior offensive linemen as well.  Newly hired Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy has to be excited about his WR group, but can he get the young signal callers to take it to the next level.  Inside linebacker position needs depth and possibly a starter.

Houston – QB, OLB, OT, DB, RB
Draft Picks:  25, 57, 89, 130, 142, 169, 243
Roster Analysis: With the QB experiment called Brock Osweiler now over and G.M. Rick Smith finding him a home and out from under the huge contract, the Texans are back where they started, looking for a QB.  The rumor was Tony Romo will be coming to town via trade with the Cowboys, but that situation took a right turn and he is now retired and a media member.  QB Tom Savage is on the roster but drafting another young gun, and grooming two young quarterbacks would be smart.   While the defense enjoyed a lot of success, adding an OLB with natural pass rush skills or a DPR would make this defense legit.

Indianapolis – DPR, OLB, ILB, DT, DB,WR
Draft Picks:  15, 46, 80, 121, 137, 144, 158
Roster Analysis:  The Colts for several years now have said they have the best young QB in the NFL, in Andrew Luck and very few disputed that.  Fans and media alike followed that up with Indianapolis has one of the worst defenses in the NFL, and it was true.  With the 2017 NFL Draft loaded with defensive playmakers from top to bottom and several positions across the draft board, this should be the year newly hired G.M. Chris Ballard puts his thumb print on the roster.  Colts need a true pass rusher and will get a good one at #15, despite the free agent signing of Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard, but don’t be surprised if a linebacker is taken at that spot.  DEFENSE!

Jacksonville – OT, TE, CB, OG, WR, QB
Draft Picks:  4, 35, 68, 110, 148, 187, 222, 240
Roster Analysis:  Former New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin now Executive V.P. of Football Operations is working hard in changing the losing culture in Jacksonville.  The Jaguars have been aggressive early in free agency spending money and acquiring some very talented veterans on the defensive side of the ball in CB A.J. Boue, DB Barry Church and versatile DE Calais Campbell.  With the draft only three days away, Coughlin, GM Dave Caldwell and Head Coach Doug Marrone will get the ball rolling early with the #4 pick in the draft  the Jaguars have options to sit and pick or trade back a few spots and receive more picks to help build their new vision, can you say best available player?

Kansas City – QB, MLB, OLB, CB, DT, WR
Draft Picks:  27, 59, 91, 104, 132, 170, 180, 216, 245
Roster Analysis:  GM John Dorsey understands that his club missed out on their quarterback in the 2016 Draft, but he won’t make the same mistake twice, the Chiefs will draft a quarterback this year!   Building depth is critical as front line starters are getting long in the tooth on defense, the time to secure their replacements is now.

Miami – OG, OLB, DE, DPR, OT, WR
Draft Picks:  22, 54, 97, 166, 178, 184, 223
Roster Analysis:  Interior offensive linemen is a major need for the Dolphins.  Linebackers are active to the point of attack, but age is creeping into the conversation and depth is needed. Despite adding some veteran defensive linemen through Free Agency, if the right defensive end or DPR is on the board during their pick don’t be surprised if the Dolphins brass makes that selection.

New England – ILB, DPR, DE, WR TE
Draft Picks:  72, 96, 131, 163, 183, 200, 239
Roster Analysis:  Keep an eye on Coach Belichick prior to the draft with possible trades for a Quarterback and remember they don’t have a pick until #72 in the third round, he will not sit and watch during day one of the draft.  New England needs pass rushers in a draft that is plentiful.  Patriots always make it very interesting when it comes to acquiring scheme fit talent in the mid to later rounds.

NYJ – DPR, WR, CB, DB, OG
Draft Picks:  6, 39, 70, 107, 150, 191, 224
Roster Analysis:  GM Mike Maccagnan can you say Defense, Defense and Defense!  Quarterback is still a question mark but the lack of pass rush on the front end and lack of a shutdown cornerback or two should be their focus on the backend.  Its time for Mccagnan to step up and deliver several Blue players NOW!

Oakland – QB, TE, RB, DT, WR, OT
Draft Picks:  24, 56, 88, 129, 168, 208, 242
Roster Analysis:  While GM Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Jack Del Rio wait for veteran running back Marshawn Lynch to say “lets do it” their game plan has to be offensive fire power with or without “Beast Mode”.  2016 lesson learned, that a back-up quarterback is only a play away and your only as good as your depth.  Adding a Tight End and a young hungry Running Back will give Derek Carr more weapons.

Pittsburgh – OLB, ILB, OT, DB, CB
Draft Picks:  30, 62, 94, 105, 135, 173, 213, 248
Roster Analysis: GM Kevin Colbert will focus on defense early and often in the 2017 Draft. Steelers need a 3-4 OLB to replace Harrison when he retires.  Also a CB is a major need and they have not replaced Troy Polamalu production on the back and as a box safety while searching the last few years.

Los Angeles Chargers – DB, OT, QB, CB, RB
Draft Picks:  7, 38, 71, 113, 151, 190, 225
Roster Analysis:  An organization in transition with the move north to the land of the stars and newly hired Head Coach Anthony Lynn will work to quickly put his thumb print on a team roster that has a solid core to build on.  Gus Bradley’s experience will help Lynn defensively while GM Tom Telesco is on a hot seat if this draft class doesn’t secure Blue players and productive depth.

Tennessee – WR, DE, OLB, DPR, CB, RB
Draft Picks:  5, 18, 83, 100, 124, 164, 214, 236
Roster Analysis:  Quarterback Marcus Mariota would benefit from a play maker or two outside the numbers with speed to create space and production.  A 3-4 DE is another major need not to mention DPR or outside rush linebacker to up their sack production.

Key: QB = Quarterback, RB = Running Back, FB = Fullback, TE = Tight End, WR = Wide Receiver, OC = Center, OG = Guard, OT = Offensive Tackle, CB = Corner Back, DB = Safeties, OLB = Outside Linebacker, ILB = Inside Linebacker, MLB = Middle Linebacker, DPR = Designated Pass Rusher, DT = Defensive Tackle, DE = Defensive End, PT = Punter, PK = Place Kicker, SNP = Snapper, RS = Return Specialist, ATH = Athlete

 

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