The Schein Nine  

 

NFL's most impactful offseason moves headed by Brandin Cooks

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Offseason roster reconstruction's largely in the bank, with the bulk of free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror. Forget about winners and losers -- which developments from the past few months are going to most positively affect the NFL this fall?

Let's take a look, Schein Nine style, at the offseason happenings that'll have the biggest impact on the 2017 season, week in and week out:

1) Patriots trade the last pick of Round 1 for a No. 1 wide receiver

That's what happened here. The move that will have the most significant impact of any -- from the offseason to the gridiron -- is the Patriots stealing Brandin Cooks in exchange for the 32nd pick in the draft. It was an absolute heist. Highway robbery. A trade that allows Patriots fans to get a head start on booking travel to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII.

Cooks is a legit No. 1 receiver who brings explosive catch-and-run ability and also possesses the deep speed to stretch a defense. He has eclipsed 1,100 yards in each of the past two seasons while racking up a total of 17 touchdowns and 11 receptions of 40-plus yards. Still just 23 years old, Cooks will be a sensational weapon for Tom Brady, making this New England offense impossible to stop. Seriously, how will anyone contain this aerial attack? Rob Gronkowski's coming back, Dwayne Allen's joining the party and the receiving corps already features Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola. Oh, and I haven't even mentioned Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead as pass-catching threats out of the backfield. Good luck, NFL.

2) Vikings draft electric RB Dalvin Cook to replace Adrian Peterson

One of the most talented pure football players in this class, Cook fell out of the first round because of character concerns. But Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," that he is very comfortable with the running back as a person, lauding his football focus. Spielman said the Vikes talked to Cook many times, from the NFL Scouting Combine up to the Friday morning of the draft's second day, hours before the running back was selected. And Spielman claims Cook would've been in play had Minnesota possessed a first-round pick. In the second round, the Vikings tossed Cincinnati a fourth-rounder to move up seven slots and take Cook at No. 41 overall.

Wise move. Cook represents a major upgrade over the aging Adrian Peterson we (briefly) saw last year. In three years at Florida State, Cook posted some staggering numbers: 4,464 rushing yards, 935 receiving yards and 48 total touchdowns. Given his all-around game -- and penchant for playmaking -- Cook easily could be right in the mix for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

3) Seahawks don't trade Richard Sherman

Back in March, rumors started swirling that Sherman could be on the block. At first, neither Seahawks GM John Schneider nor head coach Pete Carroll did much to tamp down the chatter. And Sherman didn't seem too offended by it, either.

But nothing came to fruition, and it appears nothing will. Last week, Carroll placed the likelihood of a trade at "zero percent." Good. Because the face of the "Legion of Boom" is still a very good football player. Sherman is still a team leader. And he's still extremely useful to this franchise. The beauty of these Seahawks is they have the expectation, every year, to make a Super Bowl run. That's why this potential trade never made any sense -- Sherman helps you get to the promised land.

The Seahawks' identity remains their ferocious defense. Nothing has changed. The Seahawks' identity remains Richard Sherman. That's a great thing.

4) Buccaneers pluck O.J. Howard and DeSean Jackson for Jameis Winston

Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht owned the offseason, putting the finishing touches on what should be a playoff roster. Chris Baker and J.J. Wilcox were fine acquisitions on defense, but real stars were added on the other side of the ball.

First, Licht signed Jackson in free agency, giving Tampa Bay the perfect, field-stretching complement to beastly WR1 Mike Evans. The Bucs didn't have a single pass play over 50 yards last season. That will not be the case in 2017. Then, in the draft, Licht got a steal in Round 1 with Howard. The general manager told me on SiriusXM Radio how euphoric he was when Howard inexplicably fell into Tampa's lap at No. 19. Licht said the Alabama tight end was one of the top 10 players on the Bucs' board -- and one of the three "cleanest" players in the draft. Howard's gonna be a weapon over the middle for Winston -- and he's also a solid in-line blocker.

Huge things lie ahead this year for the Bucs -- and specifically, their third-year quarterback.

5) Texans move up to draft Deshaun Watson

A legit quarterback in Houston! Finally!! In his 12th year as Texans GM, Rick Smith used a pick in the first three rounds on a quarterback for the very first time. In fact, he traded up 13 slots -- sacrificing next year's first-round pick in the process -- to nab Watson. I'm sure Bill O'Brien wasn't opposed.

Obviously, there's a learning curve for rookie signal callers, but Watson's a quick study with a great work ethic. And as we saw at Clemson -- where Watson led the Tigers to back-to-back national championship games -- he's supremely clutch. This cat plays his best when the lights are the brightest. (Just ask Nick Saban.) Also, he's not Tom Savage or Brock Osweiler. That means he's an upgrade already for an otherwise-loaded AFC roster.

6) Tom Coughlin adds toughness to the Jaguars

Four months into his new gig as executive vice president of football operations, Coughlin is swiftly changing the culture in Jacksonville. And I love the Coughlin-Doug Marrone combination. Their image is reflected in this offseason's roster-building.

In free agency, Jacksonville added a true pro's pro in Calais Campbell. He's a fine leader and a highly versatile defensive lineman. The Jags also filled a big need at corner by pilfering A.J. Bouye from the rival Texans. Then, in the draft, Jacksonville took the best offensive player in the class, hard-charging running back Leonard Fournette, at No. 4 overall. And in Round 2, the Jaguars shored up the offensive line with Alabama behemoth Cam Robinson. I love all of this.

Toughness. Defense. Run game. Attitude. Accountability. Jaguars football.

7) Marshawn Lynch chooses Raiders over riding camels

What a move for the Raiders, bringing in the native son. It's a great olive branch to the fans in Oakland, who are crushed over the franchise's impending move to Las Vegas. But I don't think this is just a PR stunt -- I really believe Lynch can still play.

Full Beast Mode? Nope. Lynch is 31 years old, after all. But he doesn't have to be the full-time bell-cow back on a Raiders squad that has two capable second-year runners in DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Lynch will score touchdowns and provide balance for Derek Carr. And this Super Bowl champ doesn't get enough credit for his leadership. Don't let the mumbles to the press fool you: Lynch is a winner. He's been where the Raiders want to go -- and he can show them the way back.

8) Todd Gurley gets a coach who'll resuscitate his game

Sean McVay is a young, innovative offensive mind, which means he is the opposite of Jeff Fisher. The former Rams coach had this amazing knack for taking the spectacularly gifted Gurley and turning him into an afterthought in 2016. As Gurley said following one of the Rams' 12 losses last season, "We looked like a middle school offense out there."

No longer.

McVay instantly upgrades the Los Angeles attack. He'll get Gurley back to Year 1 form -- you know, when he rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games, taking home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. McVay turned undrafted rookie "Fat Rob" Kelley into a productive runner last year. Think what he'll do with the immensely talented Gurley.

9) Bills gain discipline

Are the Bills going to be good this year? Here's a hot take: I don't know. The roster is still leaky, thanks to the faux pas of former general manager Doug Whaley. But with Rex Ryan out and Sean McDermott in, there will be toughness and accountability. The Bills won't shoot themselves in the foot with mind-numbing penalties. Buffalo will resemble a football team that the long-suffering fans in lovely Western New York will be proud of.

The longest playoff drought in the NFL might not end in 2017 -- but this franchise is in much better hands than it used to be.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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