Washington Redskins: Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
The Redskins could use young talent in the middle of their defense with upgrades on the defensive line, at linebacker and at safety. Here is a safety who could help the Redskins defend against Ezekiel Elliott, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
Peppers had a good 2016 season for Michigan with 72 tackles, 16 for a loss, four sacks, one interception, zero pass breakups and one forced fumble. He was electric on special teams and especially phenomenal on punt returns, taking one for a touchdown. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder was excellent as a sophomore in 2015, recording 45 tackles with 10 passes broken up and zero interceptions.
Sources say they see Peppers (5-11, 213) as a hybrid safety/linebacker in the NFL. He has the athletic skill set to play pass coverage, but often can be caught flat-footed. His ball skills aren't special either, as he made just one interception in his collegiate career, which was from catching a tipped pass. Thus, some sources think Peppers would fit best as a safety in the middle of the field. That would allow him to make plays off his instincts, and he could be a weapon in pass coverage on tight ends, blitzing quarterbacks, playing zone, and defending the run. There is no doubt that Peppers has a ton of athletic upside. He could play safety and dime linebacker, similar to Deone Bucannon. Peppers should also be used on special teams as he is a dangerous weapon there.
Tennessee Titans: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
I think this pick is likely to be either John Ross or O.J. Howard. I give the edge to Howard because Ross has injury concerns and Howard is a rarer prospect. The Titans could use a tight end to pair with Delanie Walker, and Howard would give Marcus Mariota a mismatch weapon to work with while also contributing the ground game with his blocking ability.
Howard had 45 catches for 595 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. In 2015, he made 38 catches for 602 yards and two touchdowns. Howard totaled 17 receptions for 260 yards in 2014. The 6-foot-5, 249-pounder flashed big-time potential in 2013. The freshman hauled in 14 passes for 269 yards - 19.2 average - with two touchdowns.
The talented tight end was very under-utilized by Alabama, generally. As he proved with Robert Woods, Marqise Lee, Amari Cooper and then Calvin Ridley, former Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin settles on one receiver and struggles to call plays for anyone else regardless of their talent or mismatch potential. Howard is a fast and dangerous receiving weapon who has the frame to add size. Sources say Howard still needed to improve his route-running and blocking, and was able to show progress in those areas as a senior. His blocking was significantly better to the point that he was making a significant impact as a blocker late in his senior year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
After signing DeSean Jackson, I think it is unlikely that John Ross is headed for Tampa Bay. I think this pick will then come down to McCaffrey, O.J. Howard, and Corey Davis. Via sources, I know the Bucs like all of those players. I don't believe Howard will get to this pick, which leaves Davis and McCaffrey. Running back is a bigger need on the roster given the Doug Martin situation, and there is depth at wide receiver on Day 2 for the Bucs to land an outside No. 2 receiver to pair with Mike Evans and Jackson. Thus, I'm sticking with McCaffrey. McCaffrey's great football character with an outstanding work ethic and pushing his teammates to be better is a perfect fit for Jameis Winston.
In 2016, McCaffrey averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns. He totaled 37 receptions for 310 yards and three touchdowns through the air, too. McCaffrey also was a dangerous punt returner.
In my opinion, McCaffrey should have won the 2015 Heisman Trophy because he carried Stanford all season. McCaffrey was a home-run hitter and a threat to rip off a huge gain every time he touched the ball. McCaffrey has a tremendous burst to break into the open field with vision, cutting ability and elusiveness. In 2015, he averaged six yards per carry for 2,019 yards with eight touchdowns. As a receiver, he had 45 catches for 645 yards and five scores.
McCaffrey (5-11, 202) looks undersized, but he still should be a first or second-rounder. Teams love his work ethic and pushing his teammates to be better.
Denver Broncos: John Ross, WR, Washington
The Broncos could use more offense weapons for Paxton Lynch. John Ross, O.J. Howard and Christian McCaffrey could all be intriguing options to help Lynch. Of the three, only Ross is still on the board. He would give Denver a speedy slot receiver and a play-maker.
Ross (5-11, 188) was a very productive wideout for Washington in 2016 with 81 receptions for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. For the NFL, he will have to fit as a speedy, shifty slot receiver as he is very undersized. If Ross can add some weight, he could be a Brandin Cooks-type receiver. Otherwise, Ross might be more similar to Sterling Shepard or Tavon Austin. Ross has good hands, route-running, and is fast. He could be a mismatch weapon as a slot receiver.
As a sophomore (17-371-4) and freshman (16-208-1) Ross contributed some, but the junior took on a bigger role in 2016.
Detroit Lions: Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
Lions could use a third corner to go with Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson.
Tabor totaled 33 tackles with four interceptions and six passes broken up in 2016. Because of getting in a fight with a teammate, Tabor was suspended for the 2016 opener, but he covered really well after that and was a ballhawk. Tabor turned in a mixed game against Tennessee as he had an impressive interception, but also fell down in coverage to allow a 67-yard touchdown.
As a sophomore, Tabor recorded 40 tackles, 14 passes broken up and four interceptions, two of them being pick-sixes. Tabor did hurt his draft stock with a suspension during his sophomore season as well. Tabor (6-0, 199) had an excellent freshman season in 2014, totaling 31 tackles with an interception and eight passes broken up that year.
Some team sources say that Tabor's best role might be as a big nickel corner in the NFL. Tabor is lacking long speed and can give up plays downfield. He is great underneath with very good feel and awareness, though he is a gambler and has great instincts. Tabor is good when plays are in front of him, but gets in trouble with plays behind or over him. Multiple team sources like other first-round corner prospects more than Tabor, but Tabor still projects to Thursday night.
Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, DE/3-4OLB/OLB, Missouri
The Dolphins could use some youth at defensive end considering the ages of Cameron Wake and Mario Williams.
Harris started off the 2016 season with underwhelming performances against West Virginia and Eastern Michigan, totaling five tackles in those games. However, he exploded versus Georgia with three sacks and seven tackles. In November, Harris grew red hot, racking up 4.5 sacks over two games. He totaled 61 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, two passes batted and two forced fumbles on the year.
Harris is a speedy edge rusher who broke out in 2015 with 56 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and two forced fumbles. He was a backup as a redshirt freshman in 2014 and notched two sacks. The 6-foot-3, 253-pound Harris is a fast edge rusher who puts a lot of heat on the quarterback. He is very similar to Vic Beasley and Shane Ray.
New York Giants: Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
The Giants could use a tackle upgrade and a bookend to go with Ereck Flowers. I think they could prefer Bolles to Ryan Ramczyk because Bolles is more athletic with a better skill set.
In his one season at Utah, Bolles (6-5, 297) showed that he is really talented with quick feet and athleticism on the edge. He also is tough in the ground game and plays with a physical mean streak. Bolles had a rough upbringing and some off-the-field issues, but teams say he interviewed well at the combine and they feel he has matured. Bolles will need to work on pass protection for NFL speed rushers. He will also be significantly older than most rookies as he turns 25 a few weeks after the 2017 NFL Draft.
Oakland Raiders: Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt
The Raiders could use an upgrade at middle linebacker. Here's a plug-and-play solution.
In 2016, Cunningham totaled 125 tackles with 16.5 for a loss, three passes batted and one forced fumble. The 6-foot-3, 234-pounder is a quick, instinctive linebacker who is a reliable tackler. He is a versatile player with the skill set to be a three-down starter in the NFL. There has been buzz about Cunningham in scouting circles, and teams are giving him late first-round/early second-round grades.
In 2015, Cunningham totaled 103 tackles with 16.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes batted and four forced fumbles on the year. He was only a redshirt sophomore that season and has upside to develop.
Houston Texans: Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
I think the Texans will sign Tony Romo. While they still need a long-term quarterback, I think Houston will be inclined to protect the brittle Romo with an improved offensive line. The Texans have a huge hole at right tackle and haven't addressed it in free agency.
Ramczyk had a strong 2016 season blocking for the Badgers in his debut as their starting left tackle. In 2013 and 2014, he was the starting left tackle at UW-Stevens Point where he earned a lot of accolades before sitting out the 2015 season with a redshirt after transferring to Wisconsin. Ramczyk was one of the better left tackles in college football during 2016.
Ramczyk (6-6, 310) has a lot of good qualities that could lead to him being a starting left tackle in the NFL. He is quick out his stance, fast to hit blocks in the second level, and is able to get in position for blocks in space. In pass protection, Ramczyk can play the type writer with his feet and shuffle with rushers. He gets depth in his drop as well. On some plays, Ramczyk can be slow to react and adjust to counter pass-rush moves, but that will change as he gains more experience. Ramczyk also needs to add more strength. He can get bull rushed and pushed back by rushers. His frame doesn't look maxed out though, and he should get stronger in an NFL strength and conditioning program.
Seattle Seahawks: Forrest Lamp, OT/G, Western Kentucky
The biggest need on the Seahawks' roster is more talent on the offensive line, and they know that Lamp won't get to their second-round pick.
Prior to a high ankle sprain that ended his practice week, Lamp (6-3, 305) performed well at the Senior Bowl after an excellent collegiate career. He made 39 straight starts and was a tough lineman at the point of attack. Lamp is a tough blocker who is well-rounded as a run blocker and pass protector. He lacks length, however, and should move inside to guard in the NFL. Similar to Cody Whitehair last year, Lamp's best position could be center. Team sources have said they could see Lamp going in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Kansas City Chiefs: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
The Chiefs grab a third play-maker to pair with Jeremy Maclin and Tyreek Hill.
As a senior, Davis amassed 97 receptions for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. Sources say the 6-foot-3, 209-pounder is long and athletic. He has impressed evaluators with good route-running, hands and deceptive speed. They like his run-after-the-catch skills and size.
Davis was banged up somewhat in 2015, but still produced, totaling 90 receptions for 1,436 yards with 12 touchdowns. In 2014, Davis was excellent with 78 catches for 1,408 yards and 15 touchdowns. He had quality production as a freshman as well (67-941-6).
Dallas Cowboys: Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
The Cowboys need a cornerback upgrade, and Jackson also offers returning skills.
Jackson notched 55 tackles with 11 passes broken up and five interceptions in 2016. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, returned two punts for touchdowns, and made a 52-yard touchdown catch. Jackson had an awesome game against Alabama as he shut down star wide receiver Calvin Ridley. He held Ridley to only two receptions for nine yards on the night. Jackson has given the NFL proof that he is a serious cover corner prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Jackson played on offense and defense in 2015. He had 35 tackles with eight passes broken up and one interception at corner. As a wide receiver, Jackson had 27 receptions for 414 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore also returned punts and kicks.
Jackson became a starter in 2014 and was a sensation who also contributed as a wide receiver and returner/coverage defender on special teams. Defensively, the freshman had 49 tackles with 10 passes deflected. He also caught 10 receptions for 138 yards with three touchdowns on offense. On special teams, Jackson returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 30 yards per kick return. For the NFL, the 5-foot-10, 186-pounder fits best as a cover cornerback. He is a fast corner to prevent separation, but can struggle with size and defenders making receptions over him.
Green Bay Packers: Kevin King, CB, Washington
The Packers could look for some help at cornerback, and fortunately for them, this is a great cornerback draft.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder King has the length and size to matchup against big wideouts while showing excellent speed at the combine. Sources from multiple teams think that King could go late in the first round. King was part of a good tandem of Huskies cornerbacks with Sidney Jones. In 2016, King notched 44 tackles with 13 passes broken up and two interceptions. He also had quality production as a junior with 39 tackles, five passes broken up and three interceptions. King totaled 65 tackles as a sophomore.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
The Steelers could use a cornerback to pair with Artie Burns.
White produced some huge plays early in 2016 on his way to totaling 35 tackles with 14 passes broken up and two interceptions on the year. The 5-foot-11, 191-pounder is fast with the ability to prevent separation, but he can struggle with big receivers. Some team sources have said they graded White in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
White totaled 44 tackles with seven passes broken up and a punt returned for a touchdown in 2015. He had some struggles with big receivers in Mississippi State's De'Runnya Wilson and Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell that season. White played well in 2013 and 2014 with two picks in each year and solid run support. He had 55 tackles as a freshman and 33 stops as a sophomore. White showed steady ball skills over his career, batting away seven passes in 2013 and six as a sophomore.
Atlanta Falcons: T.J. Watt, 3-4OLB/OLB/ILB, Wisconsin
Atlanta grabs a pass-rusher to go on the other side from Vic Beasley.
Watt was one of the breakout players of the 2016 season. He is good at setting the edge in run defense and also is a terror in the pass rush off the edge. Watt recorded 63 tackles with 15.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, four passes batted and two forced fumbles in 2016. The 6-foot-4, 252-pounder could be even better as he gains experience. T.J. Watt is the younger brother of the Texans' J.J. Watt and the Chargers' Derek Watt.
New Orleans Saints: Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
The Saints cut Jairus Byrd, and this pick makes a ton of sense for what Melifonwu can do for their defense. With his size, speed, and ability to cover, Melifonwu can match up in man on Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin or Greg Olsen. Melifonwu also would be helpful in double-teaming Julio Jones.
Melifonwu has ideal size with length to help defend receivers. The 6-foot-4, 219-pounder had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl to ignite a buzz about him that he carried over into a tremendous performance at the combine. Melifonwu has a great combination of size and speed. He has the cover skills to play corner on big receivers, can be the deep free safety, and also is able to come down in the tackle box. In a matchup league, Melifonwu gives his defensive coordinator the solution to a lot of problems.
In 2016, Melifonwu totaled 118 tackles with three passes broken up and four interceptions. With his skill set, he could have a steady rise in the leadup to the 2017 NFL Draft.