1) Derek Barnett and Jonathan Allen Will Each Have More Sacks than Myles Garrett During the 2017 Season
Many factors go into this, but despite Myles Garrett’s incredible measurables, expect the Eagles’ Derek Barnett and the Redskins’ Jonathan Allen to compete for the crown of top SEC rookie pass rusher. Both are playing on better defensive lines and are farther along in their development.
2) The Steelers Have Drafted Their Next Big Three
With Ben Roethlisberger considering retirement after this past season, clearly, his time is limited. Josh Dobbs has a similar ability to create and could develop into an excellent NFL quarterback. Le’Veon Bell is currently playing on a one-year deal. Bell generally carries the load for the Steelers in their running game. The more we see of James Conner throughout the year, the more it indicates that the Steelers may not feel comfortable with their ability to re-sign Bell. Finally, expect Juju Smith-Schuster to be WR2 by the end of the season. The Steelers have Antonio Brown signed through 2021 but have a potential out after the 2019 season. Depending on the economics and his development, Smith-Schuster could be the top receiver after that.
3) Christian McCaffrey Will Win the NFL Rookie of the Year Award
Christian McCaffrey is the prototype of the modern running back in much the same way that Cam Newton is the prototype of the modern quarterback. McCaffrey is a dynamic player whether you line him up in the backfield or not. Expect him to compete for the all-purpose yards title as a rookie in 2017.
4) The Falcons Will Slump Hard following Their Super Bowl Run
It has been known to happen and the Falcons are in a division where everyone seems to be getting better. In addition to the signing of veteran running back Adrian Peterson, the Saints made drastic defensive improvements through the draft and found a potential starting offensive lineman there as well. The Panthers improved their offense in the draft not only with the addition of Christian McCaffrey but also versatile receiver Curtis Samuel and offensive lineman Taylor Moton. Their offense could be something special next season. In addition to first-round tight end O.J. Howard the Buccaneers added receivers DeSean Jackson in free agency and Chris Godwin in the draft. The Falcons may struggle in the NFC South next season.
5) The Ravens’ Defense is Back
While the Ravens defense wasn’t bad last season, they weren’t up to the elite standard set by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed nearly two decades ago. The addition of cornerback Marlon Humphrey, and pass rushing linebackers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams, and defensive tackle Chris Wormley are sure to raise the Ravens’ level of play on defense.
6) Rookies Will Lead the Bills, Jets, and Lions in Receiving
The Bills have chosen not to exercise Sammy Watkins’ 5th-year option. This means the team will likely look to develop the second rounder Zay Jones into their number one receiver. Jones runs a full route tree and should be receiving a heavy workload. Although Eric Decker is supposed to be good to go in the coming months, look for ArDarius Stewart to make a big splash as a rookie with the Jets. The former Alabama receiver was highly touted by many scouts and brings a toughness to the position that fans will appreciate. Finally, the Lions may have jumped the gun a little selecting Northern Illinois’ Kenny Golladay in the third round, but they did it for a reason. With Anquan Bolden not currently on the roster, they wanted a big receiving threat. The 6’4” 218 Golladay will need to develop his route running, but with his size and speed, he will be a matchup nightmare. Don’t be surprised if he becomes a household name in 2017.