Every team theoretically improves during the NFL draft. The league’s present and future is built on all 32 teams using the draft to build up rosters and find the next generation of stars.
But not all improvement is made equal.
Here are six teams that improved the most during the 2016 NFL draft:
It’s hard to find a draft pundit who didn’t love the Jaguars draft. Not only did Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey fall into their laps at No. 5 overall, but Jacksonville also took the draft’s most athletically gifted linebacker (Myles Jack), two explosive pass-rushers (Yannick Ngakoue, Tyrone Holmes), a penetrating defensive tackle (Sheldon Day) and a developmental backup quarterback (Brandon Allen).
Ramsey and Jack—maybe the two best players in the draft—have All-Pro potential, while the rest of Jacksonville’s draft provided talent and depth at need positions. We could look back at this haul of players as the group that finally got the Jaguars over the hump.
The Bears hit home run after home run in this draft. And while trading up for Leonard Floyd in the first round didn’t receive glowing reviews from everyone, no one will care about the deal or draft slot if the Georgia pass-rusher turns into the next Aldon Smith for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
After Floyd, the Bears found likely starters on both sides of the line, with guard Cody Whitehair in the second round and defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard in the third. The end of the draft provided more potential starters in the form of running back Jordan Howard, safety DeAndre Houston-Carson and receiver Daniel Braverman. General manager Ryan Pace found a hoard of contributors for a team he’s rebuilt mostly from scratch.
Brock Osweiler is sure glad he signed in Houston. After signing running back Lamar Miller and offensive line Jeff Allen in free agency, the Texans added receivers Will Fuller and Braxton Miller, offensive lineman Nick Martin and running back Tyler Ervin during the first four rounds of the draft. Fuller, Miller and Ervin bring major quantities of speed, while Martin looks like an immediate starter up front.
Houston didn’t ignore the defense, however. Safety K.J. Dillon and nose tackle D.J. Reader were nice finds on the draft’s third day. Osweiler and the offense benefitted the most from the draft, but the Texans found good players on both sides of the ball.
The Ravens made eight picks in the first four rounds, giving general manager Ozzie Newsome a perfect opportunity to restock his roster. He did just that.
Baltimore found Joe Flacco’s new left tackle in Ronnie Stanley and the future at pass-rusher in Kamalei Correa during the first two rounds, before snagging productive defensive linemen Bronson Kaufusi and Willie Henry, nickel cornerback Tavon Young, deep-threat receiver Chris Jones, developmental tackle Alex Lewis and do-it-all running back Kenneth Dixon before the start of Round 5. And who is betting against Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds finding a way to contribute at the next level? Baltimore’s 11 picks should help the franchise recover from its worst finish since 2007.
The rebuilding Browns just kept trading and stockpiling draft picks. The franchise ended up making an NFL-high 14 picks, and with Cleveland’s roster gutted before the draft, it’ll be impossible for this class not to improve the Browns by leaps and bounds.
Quantity doesn’t always equal quality, but the Browns found plenty of quality in their 14 picks. Corey Coleman, Ricardo Lewis, Jordan Payton and Rashard Higgins could transform the team’s barren receiving corps, while Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib and Joe Schobert bring disruption and production to the team’s front seven. Throw in an offensive tackle (Shon Coleman) and a late-round steal (Scooby Wright), and the Browns started strong in building the team’s foundation during the draft’s three days.
Unsatisfied with the defense last season, Rex Ryan and the Bills attacked the front seven early and often in the draft. Shaq Lawson, Reggie Ragland and Adolphus Washington should bring an influx of size, talent and physicality to Ryan’s defense. The three will be tasked with helping improve a unit that produced 21 sacks and gave up 4.4 yards per carry last season.
Quarterback Cardale Jones could really bump up this class if he develops into a starting level player, while Jonathan Williams, Kolby Listenbee and Kevon Seymour have high upsides despite being taken after pick 150.
– Dallas Cowboys: If Jaylon Smith’s knee recovers, the Cowboys could have two All-Pros (including Ezekiel Elliott) coming from this class. After the top two, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and running back Darius Jackson were strong picks, and everyone will be watching to see if tight end Rico Gathers can make the transition to football.
– Washington Redskins: It’s hard not to like Washington’s first four picks, and seventh-round running back Keith Marshall has starting-level potential. Josh Doctson, Su’a Cravens, Kendall Fuller and Matt Ioannidis all look like future starters.
– Los Angeles Rams: The Rams added a franchise quarterback and a number of pass-catchers. If Jared Goff is for real, no team will have improved more in this draft.
– San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers made five picks along the offensive and defensive lines, including the team’s first two picks. DeForest Buckner and Josh Garnett were the best two players at their positions, while the rest of San Francisco’s draft provided high upside, development types.
– Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals can put their first five picks up against anyone. In fact, it would be surprising if all five—William Jackson, Tyler Boyd, Nick Vigil, Andrew Billings and Christian Westerman—turned out to be starters for Cincinnati at some point.