NFL teams can throw around all the money they want in free agency, but the most effective way to construct a roster will always be through the draft.

Among the many that did so in impressive fashion this year are three that needed it most.

Here’s a look at a trio of clubs now headed back in the right direction after putting together strong 2017 draft classes.

Browns

RD. PLAYER
1 DE Myles Garrett
1 S Jabrill Peppers
1 TE David Njoku
2 QB DeShone Kizer
3 DT Larry Ogunjobi
4 CB Howard Wilson
5 OT Roderick Johnson
6 DT Caleb Brantley
7 K Zane Gonzalez
7 RB Matthew Dayes

This has the potential to be a franchise-altering class for Cleveland. Not only did the Browns correctly opt against reaching for a quarterback to take the best player available at No. 1, but some maneuvering around the draft board thereafter put them in position to get another pair of impact players before opening night was in the books. Call it luck if you want, but the draft then fell perfectly for this club in the second round.

Kizer had as much upside as any quarterback in this draft. If there’s one coach that can get the most out of his abilities, there’s reason to believe it’s Hue Jackson. The Ogunjobi pick rounds out what’s now an incredibly talented group of young defensive linemen, and a near-flawless two days to open the draft. That group, along with the several high-upside picks made on Day 3, makes the Browns the runaway winners of this draft. The needle is pointed directly upward – finally.

49ers

RD. PLAYER
1 DE Solomon Thomas
1 LB Reuben Foster
3 CB Ahkello Witherspoon
3 QB C.J. Beathard
4 RB Joe Williams
5 TE George Kittle
5 WR Trent Taylor
6 DT D.J. Jones
6 LB Pita Taumoepenu
7 CB Adrian Colbert

The majority of the football world couldn’t help but raise their eyebrows when the 49ers brought John Lynch out of the broadcast booth to be their general manager. It was a reasonably reaction given that he joined the team with zero personnel experience, but who’s laughing now? Highlighted by a deal in which he somehow got the Bears to give up a package of picks to move up one spot in the first round, Lynch played his first draft as well as one could reasonably expect.

San Francisco moved back to No. 3 and got a top edge-rush talent in Thomas, then used their influx of picks to get back into the first round and grab a falling Foster. Landing a pair of potential cornerstone defenders is impressive enough, but the important part from Day 2 on was adding as much talent as possible to one of the league’s worst rosters. Mission accomplished. Kyle Shanahan now has some pieces to work with.

Colts

RD. PLAYER
1 S Malik Hooker
2 CB Quincy Wilson
3 DE Tarell Basham
4 OL Zach Banner
4 RB Marlon Mack
4 DL Grover Stewart
5 CB Nate Hairston
5 LB Anthony Walker Jr.

The Colts have done a complete 180 just months after ushering Ryan Grigson out the door. Chris Ballard following up a strong free-agent period with this kind of draft makes it easy to understand why he was such a highly touted general manager candidate before landing the job. The first three picks, scooping up Hooker, Wilson, and Basham, will go a long way toward establishing a defensive foundation that for some reason just wasn’t a priority with Grigson at the controls.

Hooker, most notably, was an absolute steal at No. 15 overall. Mack finally gives the Colts a playmaking running back that fits the offense, and players like Stewart and Walker Jr. should even have the opportunity to compete for starting spots sooner rather than later. It’s early, but all signs indicate Andrew Luck’s prime may not be wasted by front office incompetence, after all.

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