You ready to dream big?
After compiling my latest two-round mock draft this past Monday, I was struck with some of the fits that excited me most (Tennessee, Baltimore — I’m talking to you). I wanted to write a post solely dedicated to some ideal fits: the snug fit of scheme and culture with prospect skills, weaknesses, and temperament.
Think of what Baker Mayfield’s attitude means to the Cleveland franchise; how Alvin Kamara’s pass-catching prowess was built for Sean Payton’s offense in New Orleans; the mold at CB that Seattle used to get production out of later selections like Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane, and Shaquill Griffin.
Needs were kept in mind for these ideal fits, as these would be potential Round 1 selections — but the focus here was on matching the player with the team. There are a lot of moving pieces in terms of draft order and prospect valuation, so none of these picks are too drastic of reaches to possibly consider.
These are the dream Round 1 fits for the NFC teams. If you’re looking for NFC, it’s over here.
New England Patriots – Alabama iDL Raekwon Davis
It’s as tough to find a fit for Raekwon as it is to find a great fit for the New England defensive front — but they work for each other. Davis offers a promising pass-rush profile, even though he hasn’t capitalized on that potential yet — however, given how technically sound a player he is, he profiles nicely as potential 5-tech to 1-tech chess piece.
Buffalo Bills – Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler
Buffalo’s drafting far earlier than Butler will go, but he could be available when Round 2 turns around — and remember, this is less about round position and more about fit. Butler is one of the biggest catch radius players in the draft, and with a current FBS-leading 22 yards per catch, he wins as a downfield threat. Given Josh Allen’s penchant for the deep ball and generally scattershot accuracy, Butler is a perfect complement.
Miami Dolphins – Jerry Tillery, iDL, Notre Dame
Kyle and I were lamenting the difficulty of picking a perfect fit for the Dolphins — there’s a good chance they’ll have a different coaching staff by next year, and they’re also in that weird limbo of not awful, but not good at a lot of spots. If Justin Herbert’s around, go for it — but I don’t think he declares. Tillery is a great option because he offers pass-rush ability from the inside and outside, with the length and power to hold up against the run as well. Pretty scheme-agnostic, I’d say.
New York Jets – Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
Why is Ferrell a good option for the Jets? Because he can actually get around the doggone edge. The Jets’ pass rush is inexcusably poor, and while they have some developmental pieces on the inside (hello, Nathan Shepherd) there’s very little on the outside that’s promising. Ferrell was an NFL-ready prospect last year, and this year he’s only improved on his hand usage and counters. Plug-and-play.
Cincinnati Bengals – Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
If Haskins indeed enters the draft — which everything we’ve been told points to — then I think this is the spot I’d like to see him most. Haskins stays in Ohio and has the opportunity to learn under an established starter who can hold down the fort until Haskins is ready. I think the Ohio State passer needs that time, as his limited starting experience leads to some processing concerns and general game management roughness.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
I don’t think Wilson makes it all the way to Pittsburgh; not even close. A super agile ‘backer who will make some plays reminiscent of Ryan Shazier’s highlight reel impacts, Wilson offers blue-chip leadership traits from the inside as well. Pittsburgh is thirsting for athleticism at the position, and that’s what they’ll get from Wilson.
Baltimore Ravens – Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
You can write this down as the fit I like singularly more than any other one. What with Brown, Crabtree, and Snead currently rostered as the Ravens’ top receivers, they need a big-bodied X-receiver who can win at all three levels of the field. Harmon’s a great technician with plus traits in the size and strength department, and can be paired with QB Lamar Jackson for the next decade.
Cleveland Browns – Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Should the Cleveland Browns probably draft a more traditionally sized WR? Absolutely. But we are dreaming here, and woah Nelly can you imagine hooking Baker back up with Hollywood? Game-breaking speed is always a valuable thing, and Brown’s field-stretching ability should help David Njoku work the intermediate areas of the field. Now who, I wonder, should coordinate that offense…?
As I said — we’re dreaming!
Oakland Raiders – Devin White, LB, LSU
While I personally think Wilson is the better player, it’s tough to deny the fit with White. His junkyard dog attitude has a decidedly Oakland/Gruden tinge, and his athleticism as the MIKE backer will allow him to use Gruden similarly to how he once deployed Derrick Brooks. Oakland can snag defensive help anywhere in this draft, and if they are picking early, Quinnen Williams is a stellar fit next to Maurice Hurst as well. White just feels like a Raider.
Denver Broncos – David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
Broncos fans will likely be a bit nervous regarding another high-athlete tackle product, given the inauspicious beginnings of Garret Bolles’ career to this point. I think Edwards is more technically sound coming out of Wisconsin as compared to Bolles, and he offers starting ability on the right side immediately for the Broncos. Given the newfangled identity of the Phillip Lindsay-powered Broncos, I think a heavy pouring of resources into the offensive line makes sense.
Los Angeles Chargers – DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia
I waffle on my evaluation of Baker, as well as my opinion on the Chargers’ biggest need — in other words, I might have a different opinion on this tomorrow. Baker’s a smaller corner (5-foot-11, 180 pounds), but that’s never deterred the Chargers; he offers good physicality in the contact window and has great instincts when reading downhill. That all profiles to off-corner coverage, which works for Los Angeles’ deployment. I’m sold (and again, I may not be tomorrow).
Kansas City Chiefs – Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
The best fit for the Chiefs’ defense is probably the best defensive back on the board, bar none. I think Deionte Thompson could be a high-impact player playing in tandem with Eric Berry, but I elected Oruwariye because he has excellent potential as an outside corner. He has the ability to shut down a third of the field, either as a strictly press-man or Cover 3 corner, though it will likely take him a couple NFL years to get there. KC’s defense will need that time, anyway — they’re weak everywhere that isn’t named ‘Chris Jones.’
Tennessee Titans – Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
Montez made it to Tennessee in my mock, and he’s a great fit for the Titans in need of a Year 1 producer at EDGE. Sweat isn’t necessarily a high-ceiling EDGE, but he brings good rush plans and counter moves to the table, as well as nice length and power to contrast last year’s selection in Harold Landry. Tennessee may have to answer a tricky QB question this offseason, but they’re an outside rush away from having a truly stifling defense.
Houston Texans – Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
You see that wicked quick No. 82 hustling around for Alabama against Georgia this past weekend? Yeah, Irv Smith looks like a first-rounder to me. I love his long speed in Houston, who doesn’t have a great pass-catching threat at tight end right now. What with Will Fuller and Keke Coutee burning down the field, the Texans can really spread ’em and shred ’em down the field. That defense is championship ready — let’s load up on weapons and make a run, shall we?
Jacksonville Jaguars – N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
I was inches away from sending one of Will Grier or Brett Rypien here, but I didn’t, because I’m a yellow-bellied coward. Jacksonville just may go for that early QB, hoping to land on a Year 1 starter who can return them to competitive play. Those guys are rare in the draft though, and I’m not sure we have a single one. I landed on N’Keal because he offers exciting potential with the ball in his hands — regardless of who plays QB, you can scheme him touches, just as Arizona State does. His downfield profile? Also unmatched on the current Jacksonville roster.
Indianapolis Colts – Taylor Rapp, SAF, Washington
Rapp is such a fun player, man — high effort, fantastic tackler, great hitter. I’m not sure he’ll make a Round 1 grade on my board, but he will for some teams, and as a box safety, he offers starting potential for sure. Playing underneath Malik Hooker, a player known for his ball production, Rapp’s issues generating PBUs and INTs perhaps won’t stand out so starkly. You hope to see Indianapolis invest heavily in the defense this offseason, even though their WR corps needs work — you can get good wideouts on the cheap, especially in this class.