After a scouting combine that set some new records, the draft will be here soon and it is time to look forward. It should be interesting to see which teams go to which pro days and which players are brought in for official visits.
In this series we will look at some of the worst teams in the league and figure out a way to turn them around in the next couple of years to make them contenders in the NFL.
The Jets took a big step back from 2015 to 2016. They were a team that looked like they could make a run at the playoffs at the beginning of 2016, but most of their older players regressed and looked bad. Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t nearly as good as he was in 2015, Darrelle Revis is not the shutdown cornerback that he once was, and the Jets had one of the oldest rosters in the NFL. They need to turn the roster and get some fresh good talent to lead this team if they want to be back in playoff contention.
Todd Bowles has been given another season, probably because of the team’s success in 2015, but the team needs to show progress next season or they should consider moving on. That doesn’t mean that they should be back in playoff contention or else, given the state of the roster, but they need at least eight wins to show that the Jets are headed in the right direction. That is possible, but there are some major moves that need to be made in order to do that.
If the three quarterbacks are gone by the time that the Jets select at six, then they should look to improve their defense with the best player available. In this scenario, Jamal Adams, Malik Hooker or Marshon Lattimore should be available and would provide a necessary boost to the Jets poor secondary. They are moving on from Revis, as they should, given his personal situation and the fact that he isn’t nearly the player that he once was. Teams are not afraid to throw his way anymore and there isn’t a lot that he can do to help the Jets. They do the same with their second round pick as well, not necessarily a defensive back, but the best player available, regardless of position. This draft is loaded with defensive talent and the Jets could turn things around quickly with the strength of their defense. The one thing that the Jets shouldn’t do if they can’t get one of the top three quarterbacks with the number six pick is draft a project quarterback. They have done that for each of the last two years in the draft and now they don’t have a quarterback that is capable of starting sixteen games in the NFL. If they can just draft the best players available, then they have a chance to be back in contention within the next few seasons.
The final thing that the Jets should try to do is to trade Sheldon Richardson. He is a talented player, but there is a log jam along the defensive line and Richardson should be able to help a team. One possibility would be to trade him and the Jets second round pick, pick number 39, to get back into the first round. Dallas and Green Bay would both make sense as they could use a little bit of depth along their defensive lines and it would give the Jets a better player than they would get in the second round. He could also be a piece if they decided to trade for someone like Jay Cutler or AJ McCarron to give them an option at quarterback.
It is a long road for the Jets to be relevant again, but if they are smart, then they should be good again in two seasons. They can’t just add old talent for multiple years and hope everything will be ok. They need to build in the draft and make smart signings that don’t hinder them from resigning their own players or adding key pieces in the future.
8. Dallas Cowboys
It has been a dream for Dallas Cowboys fans to see Adrian Peterson with a star on his helmet. Jerry Jones has said in the past that he would love to have Peterson in Dallas, but that was a couple of years ago and the Cowboys roster has changed since then. The reason that it doesn’t make sense is because of the Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott was the leading rusher in the NFL so for them to bring in Adrian Peterson would be redundant, especially given the Cowboys’ cap situation. It would make sense because he wouldn’t have to be the feature running back like he was in Minnesota. If he played every other series or even every third series, then his legs would be fresh, he would prolong his career, and it would take some of the pressure off Elliott. Even though Elliott is young, the Cowboys would probably like to keep his legs fresh and be able to keep some miles off his feet so they can get the most from their investment. It is possible for Peterson to go to Dallas, but it is unlikely.
Chance: 3.0 %
7. Baltimore Ravens
The one thing that the Ravens were missing last season was a good running back. Their defense was one of the better ones in the league, but the had to rely on Joe Flacco too often. Adding someone like Peterson to their arsenal would instantly change their offense and make it more balanced. They only had 1,463 yards throughout the entire season last year and they need to fix that one way or the other. They might be better off drafting a good young back, but adding Peterson would bring them closer to taking the AFC North next season. If he wants to be the feature back in an offense, then this might be his best option. The Ravens leading rusher last season, Terrance West, is a good back, but he shouldn’t be the feature back again. They should be contenders for Peterson, but there will be some better options out there for both Peterson and the Ravens.
Chance: 5.0 %
6. Green Bay Packers
It is always weird to see a player finish their career with a rival team, but Adrian Peterson to the Packers makes sense. Eddie Lacy is a free agent and their main running back would be Ty Montgomery. Montgomery looked good after he got used to the position, but it wouldn’t hurt to have an All-Pro back there with him. The Packers know Peterson better than just about every team in the league and would be able to create a good offensive environment for him. He would also provide some relief for Aaron Rodgers. Opposing teams can’t focus on only getting to Aaron Rodgers if he has a running back like Peterson behind him. The Packers would be a better team if they could acquire Peterson.
Chance: 9.0 %
5. Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos make a lot of sense for Adrian Peterson. He wants to play for a contender and with their defense, Peterson could be the focal point for the Broncos offense. Trevor Siemian dropped off once CJ Anderson went down with an injury and if the Broncos don’t get someone like Tony Romo in the offseason, then upgrading the running back position would be the next best thing. Anderson still has three years left on his deal, but he is also coming off of an injury to his meniscus that kept him out for the last nine games of the 2016 season. It wouldn’t hurt to add some depth and allow Anderson and Devontae Booker to take a couple of series to keep Peterson fresh throughout the season. The AFC West features some good defenses and the idea of Peterson in the backfield might just help them get back to the top. This would be a good place for Peterson to go if he wants to compete for a Super Bowl.
Chance: 11.0 %
4. Houston Texans
Houston has a really good running back in Lamar Miller, but if he is able to split the load with Adrian Peterson, then the Texans would have two capable backs and would be able to keep their legs fresh. The Texans have a need at quarterback with Osweiler’s troubles, but having Adrian Peterson and Lamar Miller would take the pressure off any quarterback. Peterson also lives outside of Houston so it would make sense from a geographical standpoint to play for the Texans. Playing in the AFC South, Peterson would help the Texans win their division for the third straight season and have them in a better position than they have been previously.
Chance: 13.0 %
3. Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks season ended in the divisional round of the playoffs and the main position that was missing was a legitimate running back. Adrian Peterson is one of the best to ever do it and would help take some of the pressure off Russel Wilson. If Peterson wants to compete for a Super Bowl, then going to Seattle wouldn’t be a bad move. Their division is easier than the Vikings and Seattle’s defense will constantly keep them in games. The only issue that Peterson might have with going to Seattle is the lack of an offensive line. Seattle had one of the worst offensive lines in football last season and might not be enticing to a running back that is coming off of a knee injury. If the Seahawks can repair the line a bit before next season, then it would be a good landing spot for Peterson.
Chance: 15.0 %
2. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings declined the option for Adrian Peterson, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t go back. It is a system that he is familiar with and could have desperately used him last season. He has been the face of the Vikings for so long that it would be odd to see him wearing another uniform. It made sense for the Vikings to decline the option with how much money was owed and his recent health. They have some of the same issues that the Seahawks have though, a really good defense and a poor offensive line. It is something else that the Vikings will have to address, presumably with the money that they are saving from declining Peterson’s option. Peterson has stated that he wants to compete for a Super Bowl and he thinks that the Vikings are capable of doing so. If the Vikings are able to get him for market value, then it makes all the sense in the world for Peterson to end up back in Minnesota.
Chance: 17.0 %
1. New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are really good at getting the most out of older players. Adrian Peterson wants to win a Super Bowl more than anything, the best chance to do that is with Tom Brady in New England, and he would probably take less money to do so. LeGarrette Blount is a free agent and James White and Dion Lewis are better receiving running backs so there is a need for someone like Adrian Peterson. He would be able to take some of the pressure off Brady and would give him a running back that he really hasn’t had throughout his career. The Patriots are already the favorites to win the Super Bowl again next season and adding someone like Peterson would only add to their chances.
Chance: 22.0 %
There is a surprise team in the NFL every year and it isn’t completely uncommon for a team to go from last place to first place in their own division. The Dallas Cowboys were the most recent example of this. Coming off of a season that they could only win four games, there weren’t a lot of expectations of the team coming into the season, especially with the injury to then starting quarterback, Tony Romo. They then went on to win the most games in the NFC for the first time in nine years. It is unlikely that some of these teams have even a slight chance next season, but there are some that are certainly capable if they have a good offseason.
8. New York Jets
The Jets have a tough road if they want to go from worst to first. The biggest reason that they won’t go from worst to first is because the Super Bowl Champions are still in their division. The Jets are still going don’t have a quarterback going into next season. They are one of the older teams in the NFL and don’t have much cap space compared to other teams on this list so they can’t really improve through free agency. They do have the number six overall pick which should get them a good player, possibly even a quarterback that they like, but it is unlikely to turn them around next season.
7. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers have a new general manager, a new head coach, the number two overall pick and the second most cap space in the NFL, but they are still far off from taking over the NFC West. They need a lot of help on both sides of the ball and there is no way that they will get enough talent in the offseason to fix that. They are also in the same division as the Seahawks, a team that has been to the playoffs for the last five years. They have a chance to build a good core, but they won’t be able to do that in just one offseason.
Chance: 1.0 %
6. Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns won a total of one game last season and they should be able to win more than that next season, but not enough to take the AFC North. They have started to build a good core on their defense with guys like Jamie Collins and Emmanuel Ogbah and they should be able to build more with their eleven picks, five of which are in the top 100. The Browns also have the most cap space in the NFL and should be able to add some key free agents to turn this team around. They still need a quarterback to take this team forward, but even the best quarterback in the NFL needs help. If they are smart, then they will build a team that can sustain success going forward, but they won’t jump to the top next season.
Chance: 1.1 %
5. Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have a chance to go from last to first, but it really depends on what they do in free agency and in the draft and also if they are able to stay healthy next season. Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer both had their share of injuries and Matt Barkley had to stop nearly half of the games last season. Danny Travathan missed eight games, Lamarr Houston missed fourteen games and Kyle Fuller missed the entire season. If they can just stay healthy for the most part, then they will certainly have a better chance than they did last season. It looks like they will probably lose Alshon Jeffrey to free agency so they are going to have to try to find his replacement. They are also going to have to find a new quarterback as Hoyer is a free agent as well and it looks like this team wants to move on from Cutler. They have the third pick in the draft and have a good amount of cap space to make some moves. They should be able to be better next season, but it is hard to imagine that they will catch up to the rest of their division.
Chance: 5.0 %
4. Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers are moving to a new city, but they are going to have to fight to have a different result than they had last season. The one thing that the Chargers still have is Philip Rivers. Rivers is still a top quarterback in the NFL and was productive last season, despite the fact that he was missing a lot of his weapons. Their defense got a shot in the arm from their top draft pick, Joey Bosa, and should be even better with going into his second season because he should participate in training camp. They aren’t going to be able to do a lot in free agency because their cap situation isn’t ideal. They do have eight draft picks, four are in the top 100 and should be able to add some key talent going forward. It is going to be tough for this team to take control of their already difficult division. The Broncos are a year removed from the Super Bowl, and the Raiders and Chiefs each won twelve games last season.
Chance: 6.0 %
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars actually have a good chance of taking over their division because their division is not that good. The Jaguars have a good receiving corps, a young defense that is underrated in the league and is just really missing a good quarterback. Blake Bortles regressed in a big way last season, throwing for 500 less yards and twelve less touchdowns than the season prior. Most of his statistics came when the games were beyond reach and he was unable to get the comeback. This put major strain on the defense and they were one of the worst teams in time of possession. If they could find a way to rely more on their running game and take some of the pressure off of Bortles or get a quarterback that doesn’t make the Jaguars have to play from behind every week, then they will be in a good position. They also have the number four pick in the draft and have the fourth most cap space to make an impact this offseason to add more talent along the offensive line or make their defense better. If they can do that, then they have a chance in the weak AFC South.
Chance: 9.0 %
2. Carolina Panthers
Last year was a disaster for the Panthers, but they were in the Super Bowl two seasons ago and came on strong at the end of last season. They still have the 2015 MVP, Cam Newton, on their team and he should be able to bounce back from his poor 2016 campaign. The biggest differences in the two seasons were his completion percentage and his touchdown passes. He completed nearly seven percent more of his passes in 2015 than in 2016 and had sixteen more touchdowns. He is going to have to revert back to his 2015 form if the Panthers want to get back to the top of the NFC South. Although the Falcons were the representatives in this year’s Super Bowl, it is feasible for the Panthers to take back their throne. If they can get some help in their secondary via the draft or free agency and possible add another weapon on offense the Panthers could easily be back on top.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have a good chance to go from worst to first next season. They were in contention for the NFC East for most of the season, but just didn’t have the firepower on offense to keep up down the stretch. Carson Wentz was good last season and should only improve next season. The Eagles really just need to add some receivers and probably another running back, but other than that the Eagles have a good team. Their defense was really good last season and they should only get better as they have more experience in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. The biggest reason that they won’t take first place is that they are in a tough division. The NFC East was one of the stronger divisions last season and it will be even more competitive next season.
Chance: 20.0 %
In this series, we will look at some of the worst teams in the league and figure out a way to turn them around in the next couple of years to make them contenders in the NFL.
The San Francisco 49ers are on their second general manager and third head coach in the two seasons since Jim Harbaugh was fired and they have not looked good. They have only won seven games and have regressed each of the last three season. They haven’t had a lot of talent because of a lot of departures on both sides of the ball and need to replenish their talent if they have any hope of getting better anytime soon.
The 49ers are fortunate to have the second overall pick and should be able to chose whichever quarterback that they desire, especially if the Browns decide to take Myles Garrett as everyone expects. There are three top quarterbacks in this class, Mitch Trubisky out of North Carolina, DeShone Kizer out of Notre Dame and Deshaun Watson out of Clemson. The most likely fit for a Kyle Shanahan run offense would be Trubisky. He has all of the tools to become a good quarterback in the NFL and is the best pure passer in this year’s draft class. He doesn’t have the mobility of Watson or Kizer, but is able to make moves with his legs if he has to.
If they are able to get their quarterback in free agency, then they should look to get an impact player like a Jonathan Allen, Malik Hooker or Jamal Adams to help boost their defense. They could also consider a deal to trade down and acquire more picks, as they need a lot of help on both sides of the ball. They should only trade down if a good deal is presented and they don’t go too far down. Their second round pick should be pretty valuable as well because this draft class has a lot of solid pass rushers and cornerbacks, both could help this defense out. If someone like a Tim Williams falls out of the first round due to character issues, then maybe the 49ers can pounce and get a really good player at that time.
Finally, they can try to improve their secondary. There are a few good cornerbacks set to hit free agency including AJ Bouye and Trumaine Johnson, both of which would give this team a big boost. The 49ers only had ten interceptions last season and had a negative five turnover ratio last season, that needs to improve if they want to compete into January again. With their current cap space and the possible loss of Kaepernick, the 49ers are in a good position to make a big splash this offseason.
The 49ers have a lot of holes that need to be filled, but they have the resources to turn this around with a really good coach. Shanahan needs to be given time to work this team out, giving a coach only one season to turn a team around is just unrealistic. He has a proven track record in the NFL and should be given at least three seasons to get this team headed in the right direction. If that time is granted, then this team should be competing at a high level again soon.