The New England Patriots have some more catching up to do.
Bill Belichick hardly took time to relish the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history when he declared "in all honesty, we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in this league."
After overcoming a 25-point deficit to win their fifth title, the Patriots will pick last in the NFL draft April 27 in Philadelphia. Last year, they were stripped of their first-round pick in the "Deflategate" ruling that included a September suspension for Super Bowl 51 MVP Tom Brady.
Cleveland had the worst record in the league at 1-15 and will pick first, followed by San Francisco, Chicago and Jacksonville. Among the possible top picks is Texas A&M edge rusher Myles Garrett, whom many project will follow in Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller's footsteps.
Between now and draft weekend, prospective rookies will be poked, prodded and peppered by NFL personnel. Some players will get extra scrutiny at the NFL combine in a month or on their pro days in March because of discipline issues or health concerns.
Some have already seen their stock slide based on poor decisions or plain bad luck, and others are steadily climbing all the mock drafts.
Two running backs who are projected high picks — Leonard Fournette of LSU and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford , skipped their bowl game a year after Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith cost himself millions by blowing out his left knee in the Fiesta Bowl.
Smith was projected as a potential top-five pick before his injury, and instead went to the Dallas Cowboys in the second round with the 34th overall pick. The difference in guaranteed contract money is about $19 million.
McCaffrey, the 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up, sat out the Dec. 30 Sun Bowl between Stanford and North Carolina after an injury-marred 2016 season "so I can begin my draft prep immediately." Three days later, Fournette said he would miss LSU's Citrus Bowl matchup with Louisville on Dec. 31 to rest an injured ankle.
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