There is so much to discuss post-NFL Draft. From which teams “won” the draft to which teams earn a favorable draft grade to which players were the better value picks.
Today, I decide to turn my focus to the teams that improved the most after completion of their draft haul. Some teams on this countdown were already a solid playoff contender and may have drafted their way to a possible Super Bowl appearance. Some took a considerable step as a franchise with their class. Which teams improved the most? Let’s find out.
Houston Texans – (notable picks: QB Deshaun Watson, LB Zach Cunningham, RB D’onta Foreman): This was a team that won their division at 9-7 as well as a Wild Card game while dealing with lackluster play at QB and the absence of their best player overall in DE J.J. Watt due to a season-ending injury. Selecting Watson at 12 may have solved their quarterback issues and gives the team a QB with a winning pedigree. Cunningham adds versatility and athleticism to the league’s #1 ranked defense last season and Foreman compliments the speedy Lamar Miller at running back with his power running and surprising footwork. The Texans were already a good team before the draft. They may have climbed their way to the upper echelon of the AFC with this draft class.
Miami Dolphins – (notable picks: DE Charles Harris, LB Raekwon McMillan, G Issac Asiata): Another playoff team from last season, the Dolphins focused on upgrading their below average defense and the unit may be one of the more improved units in the AFC in 2017. Harris brings quality depth to the Dolphins defensive line and a likely 3rd down pass rusher with veteran Cam Wake. McMillan is the team’s future at linebacker and his talent may earn him a number of starts this season. Asiata fills the hole at left guard and his aggressiveness will help the Dolphins run game. Keep an eye on Davon Godchaux. The fifth round defensive tackle also helps the Dolphins depth and will learn from watching the ferocious Ndamukong Suh.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – (notable picks: TE O.J. Howard, S Justin Evans, WR Chris Godwin, RB Jeremy McNichols): The Bucs were not playoff bound in 2016 but all of that can change this season. Their productive offseason continued during the draft and added more franchise-altering talent. Howard gives the Bucs an elite #1 tight end. Both Godwin and McNichols should be implemented in the offensive gameplan as well even with the amount of weapons already in town. Evans brings athleticism to the safety spot and his talent will make it’s way on to the field quite early.
Baltimore Ravens – (notable picks: CB Marlon Humphrey, OLB Tyus Bowser, OLB Tim Williams): Over the years, the Ravens have developed their tough-minded image behind aggressive defenses. Their draft class this year continues that tradition. Humphrey will be a perfect fit alongside starter Jimmy Smith at CB, while Bowser and Williams are two productive pass rushers with insanely quick first steps. When you factor in key players such as LB CJ Mosley, FS Eric Weddle, and NT Brandon Williams already as proven starters, the Ravens will continue to be a force on defense and the team as a whole may be playoff bound this season.
Arizona Cardinals – (notable picks: OLB Haason Reddick, S Budda Baker, G Dorian Johnson): I wished the Cardinals would have focused on wide receiver a little more, but they did improve considerably on the defensive side of the ball with the athletic Reddick and the ballhawk safety in Baker. Johnson and tackle Will Holden provides depth on an offensive line which they desperately needed last season. The Cardinals do not lack talent at all. With RB David Johnson, CB Patrick Peterson, DB Tyrann Mathieu, LB Deone Bucannon, and QB Carson Palmer, the Cardinals have enough talent to make a deep postseason run. This rookie class helps.
Tennessee Titans – (notable picks: WR Corey Davis, CB Adoree Jackson, TE Jonnu Smith): Entering the draft, the Titans had a pocket of picks thanks to the Rams moving up to take QB Jared Goff last year. This past season, the Titans went 9-7 behind a power run game and a defense that came up big when needed. Third-year quarterback Marcus Mariota now has that power run game and a true #1 receiver in Corey Davis, taken fifth overall. Third round selection Jonnu Smith has a similar skill set to current starter Delanie Walker and allows the Titans to have a skilled two-TE set. Cornerback Adoree Jackson might have been a slight reach at 18th overall but if he can provide the game-changing ability in the return game, the Titans will be well compensated. A playmaker in the slot in third-round pick Taywan Taylor will be a factor as well. The Titans went from barely .500 to a possible 11, 12 win team thanks to this draft.