The Schein Nine  

 

Dolphins, Jets, Ravens head up teams on the rise after NFL draft

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Another year, another fantastic draft in the books.

And for many teams, positive draft results on the heels of a productive free agency period equal renewed hope in a league built for turnarounds from one season to the next.

Here are nine NFL squads destined to improve on their respective records from a year ago and generally take it up to the next level.

NOTE: Click on team names to view entire draft hauls.

1) Miami Dolphins (2014 record: 8-8)

The Dolphins are poised to make the playoffs this year. And if they don't, they will find a head coach who will take them there in 2016.

2015 NFL DRAFT

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Yes, I love what Miami has done this offseason.

Ndamukong Suh is a game changer. He makes everyone around him better. On Friday, Mike Tannenbaum joined my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," and the executive vice president of football operations compared Suh to Curtis Martin in that regard. He's right. Suh makes every level of the Miami defense better. He's worth every penny.

Getting rid of malcontent Mike Wallace was addition by subtraction. Trade acquisition Kenny Stills and free-agent signee Greg Jennings improve the receiver position, but the real coup was drafting DeVante Parker with the 14th overall pick.

"He's an interesting player because he is coming in with a lot of production: 156 catches," Tannenbaum told me. "He can high-point the ball and he has really good ball skills and good change-of-direction and can run all the routes. He has good play speed, not just time speed. He's really good in traffic and the red zone. And when the field is compressed, he makes a play on the contested ball -- and that's really important."

Parker dropped right into Miami's lap on Thursday night. The Louisville product will be in play for Offensive Rookie of the Year -- he's that perfect a fit for Ryan Tannehill, who grew at the quarterback position last year and is destined to truly blossom in 2015. Tannenbaum raved about Tannehill's talent, work ethic, love of the game and toughness. He rightly stated, "I'm really excited he's here, and our future is bright, and I'm really comfortable with him as the leader of our football team."

I'm not a big believer in Joe Philbin as an NFL head coach. With all the talent now in South Beach, he's out of excuses. Behind Suh, Tannehill and Parker, among others, Miami should climb into the postseason.

2) New York Jets (2014 record: 4-12)

BREAKING NEWS: The NYPD is looking for Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, who's wanted for stealing talent in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Leonard Williams is the best defensive player -- and quite possibly, the best overall player -- in this draft class. I wrote about his impact Thursday night, pointing out that Todd Bowles' defense could be the best unit in the NFL after adding some dynamic pieces this offseason.

But wait, there's more!

The Jets needed a receiver on Day 2, and they brilliantly picked up Ohio State speedster Devin Smith, an ideal addition. They needed depth at quarterback and snatched Bryce Petty in Round 4. That's value. Lastly, I liked the trade of a seventh-round pick for running back Zac Stacy. Maccagnan, running his first draft, picked with aplomb.

Now, no more excuses for Geno Smith. The Jets will win about eight games this year and be in the mix for a wild-card slot. But like Maccagnan's old team, the Houston Texans, Gang Green will fall a game short of the playoffs.

3) Baltimore Ravens (2014 record: 10-6)

At the beginning of April, I wrote that the Ravens could be serious Super Bowl contenders -- if they were to enjoy a solid draft.

Well, per usual, Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, John Harbaugh and Co. just dominated the draft.

Baltimore replaced receiver Torrey Smith, who left via free agency, by drafting a better version of Torrey Smith: Breshad Perriman. He has the size, speed and sponge-like propensity for learning to be an instant success with Joe Flacco in the vertical passing attack.

Tight end Maxx Williams and defensive lineman Carl Davis were great Day 2 picks. And Ozzie predictably found depth and potential gems on Day 3.

Baltimore will improve by winning the AFC North and by making it to (at least) the AFC title game.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars (2014 record: 3-13)

I think Jacksonville drafted a whopping five players who can contribute right away. Dante Fowler Jr. was the best pure edge rusher in the draft. T.J. Yeldon can start at running back, while A.J. Cann should start in the interior of the O-line. Defensive back James Sample is a perfect fit in Gus Bradley's defense. Receiver Rashad Greene can play and will help Blake Bortles in the passing attack.

It's a big year for Bradley and Dave Caldwell. The coach and general manager both need to show progress. I believe in the combo and believe the Jags, who enjoyed a strong free agency period, will surprise some folks with the arrow pointing up.

5) Oakland Raiders (2014 record: 3-13)

I raved about Oakland plucking receiver Amari Cooper in Round 1 -- the Raiders won the opening night.

Oakland suddenly has a good young core and an energetic new coach in Jack Del Rio.

The Raiders are on track to win eight games and perhaps avoid the basement in the AFC West. That's progress.

6) Minnesota Vikings (2014 record: 7-9)

Minnesota did the right thing -- the only thing -- when it came to Adrian Peterson. Though Peterson tried to drive the bus out of town, GM Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer smartly held their ground. Why? Because Adrian Peterson remains one of the best running backs in the NFL. He will thrive in coordinator Norv Turner's offense and significantly help in the development of second-year pro Teddy Bridgewater, who enjoyed a solid rookie year despite not having Peterson beyond the season opener, at quarterback.

I loved the Trae Waynes pick at No. 11. The Michigan State product is a legit lockdown corner prospect, perfect for Zimmer's defense. Also, I thought the Vikes stole linebacker Eric Kendricks in Round 2 and offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings in Round 4 -- the latter would've gone much higher if he didn't have some health concerns.

7) Atlanta Falcons (2014 record: 6-10)

I thought Vic Beasley was a reach on Thursday night -- the Falcons should've nabbed Todd Gurley instead -- but Atlanta made up for it as the draft progressed.

I loved the Jalen Collins pick in the second round. The big LSU product is a Dan Quinn kind of corner.

And the Falcons got tremendous value in Round 3, drafting running back Tevin Coleman. I thought he was a second-rounder. He should start for Atlanta.

Truthfully, though, the biggest offseason pickup for Atlanta was Quinn himself. With his coaching style and infectious personality, the Falcons' defense will be vastly improved -- and the team's win total will spike, thanks to improved toughness and general play.

8) St. Louis Rams (2014 record: 6-10)

The Rams have long been an offseason media darling, with many annually picking them to surprise and make the playoffs. With the Seahawks and Cardinals firmly entrenched as the class of the NFC West, I'm not quite ready to make that exact proclamation. But I do think the Rams will be much better than last year and compete for a wild-card slot.

Nick Foles is a legit starting quarterback. And the Rams backed him up in savvy fashion by drafting Sean Mannion late in Round 3. This represents a vastly improved and more reliable quarterback depth chart than the one St. Louis rolled out in 2014.

What really stands out, though, is the selection of Todd Gurley. Appearing on my SiriusXM Radio show Friday morning, Rams GM Les Snead appropriately called Gurley, "A once-in-a-while special talent." And the Rams, according to Snead, have a smart plan with the running back, who is coming off ACL surgery. They want him to pace himself -- there's no rush or time frame for him to be game ready.

On Day 2, Snead and coach Jeff Fisher addressed a major area of need -- the offensive line -- taking Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown. They'll help Foles and Gurley.

9) Philadelphia Eagles (2014 record: 10-6)

I've written many times this offseason how I love what Chip Kelly has done (with the exception being his actions at the quarterback position, as the injury-riddled Sam Bradford and overmatched Mark Sanchez don't inspire much confidence). And I thought Chip acted responsibly when he refrained from overpaying Jeremy Maclin in free agency. Not surprisingly, the Eagles drafted Maclin's replacement, scooping up Nelson Agholor with the 20th overall pick. He's a legit WR1, one of the best route-runners in a loaded receiver class. Then Philly loaded up with defensive reinforcements the rest of the draft.

The new-look Eagles are poised to win the NFC East for the second time in Kelly's first three years at the helm.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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