Now that just a few short weeks separate us from the coming 2018 NFL Draft, teams are really starting to hone in on the annual event in Dallas. We can read the tea leaves somewhat based on the numerous visits being announced and reported. Following free agency, it’s also a bit easier to understand where teams might go in the draft itself.
Whether it’s the Denver Broncos or Cleveland Browns in need of a quarterback, specific players have to be seen as better fits for those squads. The same can be said for those in need of help along the offensive line. Where does guard Will Hernandez fit in best? Mike McGlinchey might not be a great fit for one team, but the former Notre Dame tackle will fit in well elsewhere. The same can be said about top prospects on the defensive side of the ball.
Here’s a look at one perfect NFL draft fit for each team.
Kansas City Chiefs: Braden Smith, guard, Auburn
It goes without saying that left guard is a major need for these Chiefs. The team simply cannot rely on Parker Ehinger or Bryan Witzmann to hold down that fort next to Eric Fisher. It proved to be futile last year. In Smith, Kansas City would be nabbing a surprisingly athletic guard that fits in well with the team’s blocking scheme. His ability to pull to the outside would work wonders for young running back Kareem Hunt. A likely second-round pick, the Chiefs would check both the value and need boxes with Smith.
Los Angeles Chargers: Rashaan Evans, linebacker, Alabama
The middle linebacker spot is one weakness for an ascending Chargers squad. As of right now, Hayes Pullard and Nick Dzubnar would likely be battling for the job in training camp. The two have started 12 games in a combined six seasons with 10 of them coming via Pullard in a less-than-stellar performance for Los Angeles last season. At 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, Evans is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker with range that would make an already elite Chargers pass defense that much better. He’ll likely be available when the team selects in Round 1 later this month.
Oakland Raiders: Derwin James, safety, Florida State
James is an intriguing prospect in that he can play both safety roles as well as linebacker at the next level. Some might want to fit him into a role similar to what we see with Telvin Smith in Jacksonville. That could work. Though, we view the former Seminole standout more as a cover (single-high) safety in the NFL. Despite re-signing Reggie Nelson and picking up veteran Marcus Gilchrist in free agency, that’s still a need for what was an anemic pass defense in Oakland last season. James teaming up with 2016 first-round pick Karl Joseph in Oakland would be ideal long term. He could even play linebacker in sub packages with youngster Obi Melifonwu in the mix.
Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma
Denver coached Mayfield during the Senior Bowl. John Elway and Co. have met with the reigning Heisman winner since then. If this isn’t necessarily a logical scheme fit, we’re not too sure what is. Mayfield is everything that 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch has proven not to be. He has the athleticism to break from the pocket, displays better-than-expected intermediate accuracy and has showed himself to be a team leader. Despite adding free agent Case Keenum to the mix, Mayfield could very well be the pick at No. 5 overall. In fact, allowing the Sooner legend to sit for a year or two could prove to be vital in his progression to long-term franchise quarterback status. It makes too much sense.
Philadelphia Eagles: Malik Jefferson, linebacker, Texas
Experts are split on what they’ve seen from Jefferson on tape. He showed flashes of dominance in Austin prior to proving himself to be a bit more consistent last season. What we do know is that the 6-foot-3, 236-pound Jefferson has the ability to play the weak-side linebacker position at the next level primarily due to his elite-level athletic traits. With Philadelphia potentially looking to trade or release Mychal Kendricks, there’s a need here. Even if that doesn’t happen Jefferson could stand to sit for a year before taking over three-down duties. There’s also a possibility this former Longhorn will be available late in Round 2 for Philadelphia, which would make him a value selection.
Dallas Cowboys: Ronnie Harrison, safety, Alabama
Dallas hit a home run in the 2017 NFL Draft with cornerbackers Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie. This has significantly helped the Cowboys rebuild what had been a disastrous secondary in recent seasons. The focus now has to be on adding safeties to the mix. Whether former first-round pick Byron Jones is viewed as a safety or corner moving forward isn’t material to this conversation. Due to his physicality, some will see Harrison more as an in-the-box safety. But he’s not scheme dependent and has the talent to play cover safety. That’s the role Dallas should draft Harrison to play should he be available at 19.
Washington Redskins: Courtland Sutton, wide receiver, SMU
Not only did Washington exhaust a third-round pick and Kendall Fuller for Alex Smith, it gave the veteran a whopping $70 million in guaranteed cash. There’s no reason to believe the team then won’t double down to provide him with the necessary weapons to be successful. And as of right now, the Skins simply don’t have that. The 6-foot-3 Sutton would provide that and a whole lot more. He has a huge catch radius, something that’s big for a guy in Smith who doesn’t boast the strongest of arms. Sutton also does a great job making the contested catch and should be an immediate contributor. Even if it’s seen as a reach at No. 13 overall, Sutton is a perfect fit for the Smith-led Redskins offense.
New York Giants: Josh Rosen, quarterback, UCLA
A lot has been made about the Giants potentially moving down from No. 2 overall in hopes that a quarterback-needy team provides them a king’s ransom in return. Think Indianapolis’ return when it moved down with the Jets. For a team that’s unlikely to be selecting this high moving forward, that doesn’t make a ton of sense. New York needs to get that heir apparent to Eli Manning, and Rosen should be that guy. His game mirrors what Manning brought to the table when he entered the NFL out of Mississippi. Rosen can sit behind Manning for a year or two, creating a line of succession few in the NFL have seen. It’s the most perfect of fits.
Los Angeles Rams: Deon Cain, wide receiver, Clemson
Los Angeles may have moved its first-round pick to New England for Brandin Cooks. In no way does that mean the defending NFC West champs are set at wide receiver. Both Cooks and young receiver Cooper Kupp play more of the slot receiver role. Neither is going to win on the outside with physicality or by playing bully ball. Robert Woods isn’t of that ilk either. At 6-foot-2 and with imposing physicality, Cain brings all of that and more to the table. He’s of the Sammy Watkins variety and a potential No. 1 outside receiver at the next level. Should Cain fall to the Rams in Round 2, it would be a tremendous fit.
Seattle Seahawks: Derrius Guice, running back, LSU
It’s rather obvious that Seattle will go nowhere fast next season without a decent rushing attack. After all, quarterback Russell Wilson led the team in rushing with less than 600 yards on the ground last season. That’s just not sustainable, especially now that Seattle has moved on from a good portion of its Legion of Boom defense. In Guice, the Seahawks would be adding a 5-foot-10, 212-pound three-down back. He’d make a world of difference in this offense, forcing defenses to zero in players outside of Wilson. The balance and workload Guice would bring to the table is something Seattle has been missing since the Marshawn Lynch days. It’s the ideal fit.
Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen, quarterback, Wyoming
It’s readily apparent that Arizona is going to look quarterback in Round 1. Baring a trade-up, it’s unfortunate that the team will have to check in on second-tier prospects at this position. It’s possible that could include Baker Mayfield, but we still envision him going in the top 10. If that’s the case, Allen is the logical option with pick No. 15. He’s a project. There’s still a lot of flaws in his game. But there’s little doubting the Wyoming product’s arm strength and ability to succeed after a couple seasons riding the pine. With Sam Bradford on board, Arizona can afford to draft and stash Allen for a year or two. It’s the perfect pick here.
San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, guard, Notre Dame
Given that as many as four quarterbacks might go within the top-five picks, some of the best overall prospects will be left on the board later in the top 10. That includes a player in Nelson who might actually be the best in the draft. He’s a Year 1 Pro Bowler and an absolute game-changer along the offensive line. Even after adding Weston Richburg and Jonathan Cooper to the interior of their line, these 49ers need yet another guard to help build up a foundation in front of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. If Nelson is available with the ninth pick, GM John Lynch and Co. have to jump on it. He’ll change the entire dynamic of this offense for the good out of the gate.
New England Patriots: Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville
Rumors have heated up that New England might now be looking to move up for Josh Rosen following the Brandin Cooks trade. Flush with two picks in each of the first two rounds, that’s certainly a possibility. Though, after exhausting a ton of capital in last year’s draft, New England has holes it needs to fill with young players. It’s part of the process that’s kept this team in contention for nearly the past 20 years. Why not use the pick acquired from Los Angeles for Cooks on a talented, but raw Lamar Jackson? With Tom Brady still slated to play for the foreseeable future, Jackson can play the part of the recently traded Jimmy Garoppolo in New England.
Buffalo Bills: Vita Vea, defensive tackle, Washington
Following the trade of Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville, Buffalo yielded 160-plus rushing yards five times in nine games. What was once a strength became a major weakness. Even after adding free agent Star Lotulelei to the mix, defensive tackle is still a major need. In Vea, the Bills would be adding a 347-pound immovable object to their defensive line. Team him up with Lotulelei, and we’re talking about one of the best run-stopping defenses in the game.
Miami Dolphins: Roquan Smith, linebacker, Georgia
Right up there with Reuben Foster as one of the best play-making linebackers to enter the NFL in some time, Smith proved to be a game-changer in the ultra competitive SEC. Last season alone, Smith recorded 137 tackles and 6.5 sacks for the Bulldogs en route to being bandied about as a potential Heisman candidate. He would bring sideline-to-sideline ability to a Dolphins team that is now razor thin at linebacker and lacks play-making ability from the second tier of their defense. It’s the perfect fit just outside of the top 10 of this year’s draft.
New York Jets: Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State
Sure the Jets moved up to potentially add a franchise quarterback. Why else would they give up three second-round picks in just jumping two teams? That’s common logic. The issue here is New York finds itself still picking No. 3 overall. So if Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold are the first two quarterbacks off the board, this team will be reaching for a signal caller. After re-signing Josh McCown and adding Teddy Bridgewater in free agency, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why not go with a generational back in Barkley would could change the entire dynamic of New York’s offense? Adding someone that will make an impact at the level we’ve seen from Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley recently should be too hard for the Jets to pass up on.
Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, guard, UTEP
As of right now, Minnesota has Nick Easton and Tom Compton slated to start at guard next season. That’s a major weak link on a roster that already seems to be destined for Super Bowl contention. Adding Hernandez late in the first round would give these Vikings an absolute mauler at guard. At 6-foot-2 and 327 pounds, Hernandez is as physical as they come. He’ll open up massive running lanes for Delvin Cook and has the surprising athleticism to be an elite-level pass protector. This just makes too much sense.
Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, cornerback, Ohio State
While Green Bay definitely proved to be more active in free agency than in the past, the team still failed to add anyone of real substance to a secondary that has been torched at an alarmingly high clip over the past few seasons. This makes it a necessity for the Packers to go out there and add multiple viable defensive backs in the 2018 NFL Draft, especially if young safety Josh Jones is going to make a transition to linebacker in sub packages. Ward is a bit of a project having only starred for the Buckeyes for one season. He fits what Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine likes to do in man coverage and can start his career playing the nickel. If Ward is there at 14, he would be a perfect fit for a rebuilt Packers defense.
Detroit Lions: Sony Michel, running back, Georgia
Having not had a 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving of 2013, the Lions have failed to address a growing need on the offensive side of the ball. Sure LeGarrette Blount might be a nice short-term solution, but he’s not going to play a role in the team’s long-term plans. In order to get Matthew Stafford the balance he needs on offense, these Lions simply must bite the bullet and add a running back early in the draft. Unless Derrius Guice is somehow there at 20, the pick should be the up-and-coming Michel. More impressive than Nick Chubb last season, Michel has the frame to become a three-down back at the next level. That’s the fit right there. Detroit needs to stop experimenting with the change-of-pace backs such as Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah. In drafting Michel, the team would have an immediate starter to go with Blount as a short-yardage back.
Chicago Bears: Mike McGlinchey, offensive tackle, Notre Dame
Chicago may have just recently signed Charles Leno to a four-year, $37 million extension, but he has to be seen more as a long-term fixture at right tackle. It’s now time for the Bears to actually go out there and get young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky that franchise blindside protector. A four-year starter at Notre Dame, McGlinchey was overshadowed last season by Quenton Nelson. In no way does that mean he’s not capable of being a 10-year starter. This dude was consistently good during his time in South Bend and could slot in as an immediate starter. Even if No. 8 might seem like a bit of a reach here, it’s the perfect fit.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mason Rudolph, quarterback, Oklahoma State
Here’s a little tidbit. Ben Roethelisberger stands at 6-foot-5 and weighs 240 pounds. Rudolph came in at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds during the NFL Scouting Combine. Outside of Josh Allen, he boasts the strongest arm in the draft. Big Ben also had the strongest arm heading into the 2004 draft. Needless to say, there’s a lot of comparisons to be drawn here. With no one really knowing how long Big Ben is going to play, it’s time for the Steelers to select his heir apparent. It’s something general manager Kevin Colbert has addressed recently. Heck, Big Ben has as well. Pick Rudolph at 28th overall and let him sit behind the future Hall of Fame quarterback until Roethlisberger ultimately decides to hang them up.
Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Alabama
Adding Michael Crabtree to a talent-depleted wide receiver group was a nice initial start for Baltimore. But the work is nowhere near done here. More so than any other team outside of Cleveland, the Ravens have a specific need heading into this month’s draft. That includes getting a future No. 1 wide receiver for Joe Flacco or Robert Griffin III to rely on moving forward. Flying under the radar for the most part during the pre-draft process, Ridley is the most NFL-ready receiver of the class. He plays bigger than his 6-foot-1 frame suggests, boasts tremendous hands and is already an elite-level route runner.
Cincinnati Bengals: James Daniels, guard/center, Iowa
With an ability to play both guard and center, Daniels is now almost guaranteed to be a first-round pick. He dominated during the NFL Scouting Combine and doesn’t seem to be scheme specific. Whether it’s to play guard or center, he’d be a perfect fit for the Bengals. Though, this selection would be to immediately replace Trey Hopkins at right guard. It’s in this that the Bengals would be able to add a Day 1 starter with the pick they received in a deal that brought the team starting left tackle Cordy Glenn from Buffalo.
Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC
It’s a no-brainer, right? We’ve read the reports that Cleveland might prefer Josh Allen over all the other quarterbacks. Heck, the Browns have not even ruled out selecting running back Saquon Barkley as of yet. Even then, there’s no reason to believe this team will pass up on the most-talented arm in the draft. Darnold is a project. His erratic and inconsistent performance with USC proved that last season. But by adding veteran Tyrod Taylor to the mix, Cleveland wouldn’t be making the same mistake it made with DeShone Kizer last season. Darnold will sit for a year or two and be ready to hit the ground running when the starting job is ultimately handed to him.
New Orleans Saints: Trenton Thompson, defensive tackle, Georgia
One area of weakness for New Orleans last season was its run defense. The team yielded 100-plus rushing yards in 11 of its 16 regular season games. It was 6-5 in those 11 games. When the Saints gave up less than 100 yards, they boasted a perfect 5-0 mark. At 310 pounds and with tremendous strength at the point of contact, Thompson would immediately become a game-changing run stuffer for the Saints. He could also likely be had in Round 3.
Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore, wide receiver, Maryland
Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright aren’t exactly the difference makers Cam Newton was looking for his Panthers to add in March. Sure both should contribute this coming season, but Cam needs to have more reliable receiving targets outside of running back Christian McCaffrey and tight end Greg Olsen. That’s where a player in Moore who shined during his Maryland days comes into play. The comparisons to Stefon Diggs aren’t simply because both suited up for Maryland. Instead, Moore has the same elusiveness at the line and can provide the necessary separation for Newton to hit on the intermediate routes at a greater clip. Even if in the first round, this is seemingly a perfect fit.
Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, defensive tackle, Florida
Having lost Dontari Poe to the division-rival Panthers, these Falcons have a major hole to fill on the defensive line. Seen by some as a top 20 pick and others as a Day 2 selection, Bryan has been somewhat of an enigmatic figure around the draft community. What we do know is that he packs a 6-foot-4, 291-pound frame that helps him anchor the defensive line against less athletic interior offensive linemen. That’s precisely what Atlanta needs to replace Poe.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Nick Chubb, running back, Georgia
Teams are going to grab a ton of value at running back outside of the first round this month. It’s an absolutely loaded draft at this position, and some players are simply going to fall much further than they normally would. Having dealt with knee injuries at Georgia, Chubb is a likely candidate to go much lower than most of us anticipate. But he is a true three-down back in every sense of the word and already boasts plus-level pass-protecting ability. That’s a key component for a Buccaneers squad that needs to give Jameis Winston all the help he can get. Should Chubb be there in Round 4, these Buccaneers must pounce.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Shaquem Griffin, linebacker, Central Florida
Why not? Sure the Jaguars might look to add more playmakers on offense. Given that they’re dominant on defense, that makes sense. But that’s something Jacksonville can do earlier in the draft. Instead, we focus on an intriguing prospect in Griffin who lit up the NFL Scouting Combine and has tape that’s worthy of first-round consideration. Unfortunately, he’ll go a bit later due to a handicap that has the talented defender playing with one arm. Either way, Griffin can perform as a pass-rush option, playing inside at linebacker and even as an in-the-box safety. It’s this type of versatility the Jags have proven they covet.
Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
The pass-rush tandem of Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo took a step back this past season, recoding a combined 14.5 sacks after the two combined for 19.5 sacks in 2016. At 31 years old, Orakpo is now past his prime. And with the Titans adding corner Malcolm Butler in free agency, they can afford to look for a long-term replacement at end. That’s where the underrated Landry comes into play. He can have success as a both a 4-3 defensive end and from a stand-up rush linebacker position. The Boston College product has both the explosiveness and strength to dominate early at the next level. Put him in sub packages as a rookie, and the Titans’ defense will improve dramatically.
Houston Texans: Ronald Jones, running back, USC
Is Lamar Miller the long-term solution in Houston? If not, second-year back D’Onta Foreman has the goods to be a three-down back for the Texans. Though, adding a change-of-pace back to create even more balance for Deshaun Watson should be the focus for a Texans squad that doesn’t have a single pick in the first two rounds of the draft. While Jones didn’t put up the receiving numbers indicative of success in that area at USC, his explosiveness and plus-level hands would work wonders in Houston’s offense. He’d act as another weapon for Watson and someone who could make the quarterback even more explosive, both in the pocket and when running the ball.
Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, North Carolina State
Now that the Colts have traded down outside of the top five, they’re going to be able to go best player available with the sixth selection. That’s what happens when a team picks up three second-round picks in a trade down just a few spots. Chubb must be the guy for Indy should he fall to the team here. Potentially even more dominant of a college pass rusher than 2017 No. 1 pick Myles Garrett, Chubb would immediately become the best edge rusher on a Colts squad that recorded a total of 25 sacks last season.