The NFL scouting combine came and went with some exceptional performances like Washington WR John Ross torching the forty with a record breaking time of 4.22. NFL Coaches and scouts have finalized criss-crossing the United States in dotting the “I”, crossing the “T” of Blue players (playmakers and difference-makers) to plug and play, Red players (starters and heavy contributors) to fill in starter roles and Orange players (key back-ups and special team standouts) to build up the back end of the roster and most importantly build a roster that increases competitiveness within the organization and the division.
When heading into the NFL’s new league year, teams first work hard to evaluate and grade their current rosters. Secondly, general managers and capologists search for cap casualties on the roster, players with contracts that can be reworked to create more cap space. The research of possible trade scenarios are always explored as players with high earning projections, character issues both football and off field and extensive injury histories are often sent packing.
Below are the National Football Conference (NFC) 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.
Arizona – DE, WR, QB, DT, CB
Draft Picks: 13, 45, 77, 119, 157, 179, 197, 231
Roster Analysis: The Cardinals have a major hole on defense with the loss of their most versatile player in defensive linemen Calais Campbell. Campbell’s ability to play all positions on the front made him the defensive MVP. Question, is second year DE Robert Nkemdiche the answer? G.M. Steve Kiem will target a disruptive and versatile defensive lineman early in the draft. The future replacement for QB Carson Palmer is a concern and currently not on the roster. Look for the Cardinals brass to address the wide receiver position, despite future Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald still producing from the slot position this draft class is loaded with receivers that possess height, weight, speed and excellent skill set.
Atlanta – DPR, NT, OG, OLB, DT, OT
Draft Picks: 31, 63, 95, 136, 174, 249
Roster Analysis: It was apparent in Super Bowl LI that the Falcons defense faded down the stretch, not because of conditioning but lack of pressure to squeeze the pocket with playmaking ability consistently off the edge. Head Coach Dan Quinn understands the landscape of the NFC, adding defensive difference makers to dominate opponents offensive fronts will help them repeat as NFC South Champions and set their eyes once again on the Lombardi Trophy in the near future. With the addition of newly hired Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian, Falcons my address offensive tackle and receiver in the early to mid-rounds.
Carolina – WR, OT, DE, DPR, OG
Draft Picks: 8, 40, 64, 98, 115, 152, 192, 233
Roster Analysis: With QB Cam Newton coming off season shoulder surgery, protecting the franchise should be G.M. Dave Gettlemen main focus! Addressing the OT position remains critical. OT Michael Oher’s lack of consistent play and medical issues have sparked the Panthers brass to add players in free agency in OT Matt Kalil, also look for that trend to continue in the draft early-mid rounds. WR Ted Ginn Jr has moved on in free agency leaving Benjamin and Funchess as two big body WR outside the numbers, Panthers now lack deep ball speed at the position. Look for the Panthers to address DE despite the return of future Pro Football Hall of Fame DE Julius Peppers, the Panthers lack Blue players at the position and need to build their depth when it comes to rushing the passer.
Chicago – OLB, OT, CB, DB, OG, QB
Draft Picks: 3, 36, 111, 117, 147, 221
Roster Analysis: Coach Fox went into Chicago gutted the defense from a 4-3 scheme to 3-4, while this transformation takes a few years with some growing pains along the way, I feel he has turned the corner but must continue to add corner stone players to gain success and longevity in the tough NFC North division. A lot of the Bears problems have been on the other side of the ball QB, OT and consistent playmaking ability at the WR position. G.M. Ryan Pace has some fire power and a very attractive pick that will get teams calling as the draft nears sitting at #3, strong possibility of the Bears moving back, picking up more picks and drafting the best available player in the first round.
Dallas – DE, CB, QB, DB, DT, OLB
Draft Picks: 28, 60, 92, 133, 211, 228, 246
Roster Analysis: The 2017 NFL Draft is heavily tilted towards defensive prospects throughout. Dallas brass and personnel department will have to make precise decisions throughout with only 7 picks and a lot of defensive needs. I think it’s time to release DE/DPR David Irving from his rotational role and into a full time DE. Irving DNA (film) shows he is active, aggressive, athletic and productive for the time on the field. The Cowboys will still need a DPR but more importantly CB’s. I understand tolerate until you can replace, but losing CB Brandon Carr and CB Morris Claiborne to free agency and your depth is not talented enough to absorb the loss, here comes the stress on the Cowboy offense, it’s called lack of defense. With the retirement of quarterback Tony Romo to the broadcasting booth, finding a back-up somewhere in the draft is key for depth purposes.
Detroit – DE, DT, OLB, DB, CB, WR
Draft Picks: 21, 53, 85, 127, 165, 205, 250
Roster Analysis: The Lions played well last year, but caught themselves in a comeback role most of the season which caught up with them during post season, because the lack of fire power on defense. When you look at the current roster the “Flashing Yellow” light is on the defensive side of the ball. The front seven needs revamping and infused with playmakers via the bloodline of the NFL Draft. With only seven picks, Lions G.M. Bob Quinn will need his Patriots background, knowledge and wisdom to make some moves and acquire picks to fill a list of deficiencies starting with the LB position, a glaring team need. The defensive front is held down by DT Haloti Nagata and DE Ziggy Ansah another DPR and depth at the DT position could be a focal point.
Green Bay – DT, DPR, CB, OG, WR
Draft Picks: 29, 61, 93, 134, 172, 182, 212, 247
Roster Analysis: Aaron Rogers is wondering how his team will remain competitive in the NFC North with the mass defections year after year and the lack of aggressiveness to sign and even retain top free agents. Free agent DE Peppers went back the Panthers the club that drafted him #2 overall, so OLB/DPR to replace his role is critical for a defense that was spotty even thou they looked strong late in 2016 season run. Despite some solid players on the defensive front, it doesn’t help that Peppers is gone and NT Letroy Guion is suspended for early part of 2017 for PED’s. OG T.J. Lang considered one of the top three OG in the NFL, may be the biggest causality via 2017 free agency for the Packers. Aaron Rogers canny ability to slide and avoid edge rushers is legendary, but if the pocket is squeezed from the interior as well there is not a lot of wiggle room for him. Defensive Coordination Dom Capers is pulling his hair out over the lack of talent on the backend of his defense. When you look at this roster the secondary has a “Flashing Red” light at the CB position and lack of depth at linebacker position.
Minnesota – RB, DT, OLB, ILB, NT, QB, WR, OT
Draft Picks: 48, 79, 86, 120, 128, 160, 199, 232
Roster Analysis: Adrian “All Day” Peterson is no longer a Viking, the glaring need is running back for GM Rick Spielman, with no first round pick look for the Vikings to get creative to move up into the top of the 2nd round. Defensive side of the ball needs depth in the front at DT and a starter at linebacker to replace retired linebacker Chad Greenway.
New Orleans – DE, OLB, CB, OT, DT, WR
Draft picks: 11, 32, 42, 76, 196, 229
Roster Analysis: Another year and the Saints have the same problem, defense! Defensive Ends is high on the needs list as is linebacker. DPR would be a good addition in a division that has mobile dual threat quarterbacks and the draft is deep in corners with size, speed, length not to mention coverage ability.
NYG – OLB, RB, OT, DT, WR, CB
Draft Picks: 23, 55, 87, 140, 167, 207, 241
Roster Analysis: Linebacker seems to be the sticking point for GM Jerry Reese on defense and drafting a running back to carry the flap on all three downs is critical in slowing down opponents defense that are pinning their ears back to get Eli Manning.
Philadelphia – DPR, DT,TE, RB, WR
Draft Picks: 14, 43, 74, 118, 139, 155, 194, 230
Roster Analysis: Adding a DPR to the roster is critical to replace edge rusher Connor Barwin. The other defensive fixture lost was Bennie Logan, Eagles brass has two big holes on the defense to fill.
San Francisco – QB, DPR, CB, WR
Draft Picks: 2, 34, 66, 109, 143, 146, 161, 198, 202, 219
Roster Analysis: Newly hired tandem in Head Coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch have their hands full on restoring this storied franchise back to a playoff winning team. Despite gathering several back-up quarterbacks to fill roster spots the main focus should be the future at quarterback. With 10 picks a pass rusher is another critical positional need. Don’t be surprised if the 49er brass pulls the trigger on a talented defensive back early.
Seattle – CB, DT, OT, OLB, WR
Draft Picks: 26, 58, 90, 102, 106, 210, 226
Roster Analysis: With the whole off season battle between Seahawks front office and Cornerback Richard Sherman went public like a virus chewing up a computers motherboard, along with the injury to his counterpart opposite in DeShawn Shead who is rehabbing a ACL injury. Losing one or both for an extended amount of time would be a double negative to one of the best defenses in the NFL. The 2017 NFL Draft is CB heavy throughout the first three rounds, drafting a versatile CB that can swing inside or at the safety position would be a cherry on top. An interior defensive lineman to rush the passer on 3rd down would be a bonus. But if the offensive tackle they love is on the board, take him!
Los Angeles Rams – OLB, NT, DE, OT, DB, WR
Draft Picks: 37, 69, 112, 141, 149, 189, 206, 234
Roster Analysis: Rams have a core in place but a defense in transition switching from 4-3 to 3-4 under new Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips. GM Les Snead and Head Coach Sean Mc Vay addressed their needs offensively through Free Agency building talent around running back Todd Gurley and young signal caller Jared Goff. Rams brass will concentrate on defense early in the rounds.
Tampa Bay – OT, DB, DPR, DE
Draft Picks: 19, 50, 84, 125, 162, 204, 237
Roster Analysis: The receiver position was answered during Free Agency when GM Jason Licht secured speedster Desean Jackson. The focus should turn to the quarterback blind side and the ability to rush the passer.
Washington –QB, RB, WR, OG, OLB
Draft Picks: 17, 49, 81, 114, 123, 154, 201, 209, 220, 235,
Roster Analysis: Offensive fire power is needed. A running back and receiver will come off the board early for the Washington front office executives. At some point in this draft the brass will need to invest in the quarterback position, Cousins situation doesn’t seem like a long term is in the cards despite off the chart production through the air as the highest rated passer in the NFL.
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, 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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