The NFL draft is in the books, and now it’s time to get to work putting the selected players in the best position to succeed with their new teams.
Some NFL draft picks were made based on potential. Some picks were made based on need. In some instances, the best possible player fell into the laps of teams that needed them the most. For the purposes of this list, we’re looking at the draft picks that were tailor made for each team. Some of them are easy to identify, being first-round picks. Others were late-round gems who’ll become stars.
These were the smartest selections from the 2018 NFL Draft.
Dallas Cowboys: Connor Williams, guard/tackle
This was a no-brainer. When Dallas was on the clock in the second round and Williams — a homegrown talent who can play either guard or tackle spot — was still available, the Cowboys had to bring him into the fold. The Cowboys lost starting guard Jonathan Cooper in free agency to the San Francisco 49ers. So barring an unexpected turn of events, it looks like Williams, who’s a powerhouse of a run blocker and very athletic, will slide right into the starting lineup from Day 1 to fill that void.
New York Giants: Will Hernandez, guard
We were pretty critical about the decision of general manager Dave Gettleman to chose Saquon Barkley with Sam Darnold still on the board. Selecting Hernandez in Round 2 to play left guard doesn’t wipe away that sin completely, but it sure will make New York’s offensive line a heck of a lot better. This is a player who’ll not only help protect Eli Manning in a big way, but the former UTEP guard is going to open up some mammoth holes for Barkley in the run game, too.
Philadelphia Eagles: Josh Sweat, defensive end
The Eagles, already flush with talent on the defensive line, got one of the bigger steals of the draft when Josh Sweat landed in their laps at the end of Round 4. This is a player who, based on his testing at the combine, was projected as a potential first-round pick by some draft analysts. Obviously teams were concerned about his medical history, which we covered before the draft. But Sweat can ease into the NFL having landed in Philly, and he’ll have a chance to learn from some of the best in the business while he does it.
Washington Redskins: Trey Quinn, wide receiver
It’s pretty crazy that Quinn was the last pick of the draft this year. A high-volume slot specialist, this former LSU transfer hauled in 114 passes for 1,236 yards and 13 touchdowns last year for the Mustangs. He’s not a big receiver but is the perfect fit to thrive with a quarterback like Alex Smith, who loves to pick defenses apart with short, accurate passes that lead to yards after the catch. Don’t be surprised if Quinn is one of Smith’s favorite targets this season. Mr. Irrelevant? I think not.
Buffalo Bills: Tremaine Edmunds, linebacker
I’m not a fan of Buffalo trading up for Josh Allen. But the Bills made a very smart decision to trade up again to No. 16 overall for this talented linebacker out of Virginia Tech. They had a desperate need at the position after Preston Brown left in free agency. And this is a young man who has yet to hit the age of 20 but is already a physical marvel. He’s just starting to reach his full potential and was projected by many to be a top-10 pick. Edmunds will be an immediate impact starter for defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, cornerback
This was a no-brainer that the Dolphins didn’t overthink. Fitzpatrick was one of the safest players in the entire draft and a top-5 overall player. Yet due to the run on quarterbacks and a couple teams making surprising picks early, the Alabama defensive back was still on the board when Miami picked at No. 11 overall. Fitzpatrick can play every single position in the defensive secondary in a pinch. He’ll be an immediate starter for Miami and should be one of the best rookie defenders next season.
New England Patriots: Braxton Berrios, receiver
Of course the Patriots drafted a Danny Amendola clone. Berrios was custom designed to become the next amazing New England slot specialist. He’s quicker than fast. He’s tougher than nails. He catches everything that comes his way and has a knack for coming up big in clutch moments (like this). Even better, the Patriots picked up this Miami product at the end of the sixth round. He’ll probably become a Pro Bowler soon enough, making this one of the most impressive value picks of the entire draft.
New York Jets: Sam Darnold, quarterback
Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan should send Giants general manager Dave Gettleman a gift basket before every draft for the next 10 years for letting Darnold fall to him at No. 3 overall. This was the easiest smart draft pick in the history of the draft. Most people thought the Cleveland Browns were going to take Darnold, and if that didn’t happen there was no way the Giants would pass up the chance to land Eli Manning’s heir apparent, right? Wrong. And now Darnold is going to be the gift that keeps on giving for Gang Green the next decade plus.
Chicago Bears: Roquan Smith, linebacker
If you were building a Patrick Willis clone, you’d come up with Smith, the exceptionally talented, exceptionally athletic linebacker out of Georgia. The Bears didn’t overthink this pick, going with the best player on the board while filling a position of need. Best yet, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio just happens to be one of the guys that helped turn Willis into a perennial All-Pro during his days in San Francisco. He’ll have a strong plan in place to do the same with Smith, who’ll be an incredible rookie this year for the Bears.
Detroit Lions: Tyrell Crosby, offensive tackle
Talk about a steal. Crosby, voted the best offensive lineman in the Pac-12 last year by opposing defenders, was somehow still on the board when Detroit picked midway through the fifth round (153 overall). An athletic big man who moves bodies in the run game, Crosby was a four-year starter at Oregon who can play either tackle position or could move inside to play guard. He didn’t give up a single sack last year as a senior and will immediately compete for a starting job on Detroit’s offensive line.
Green Bay Packers: Jaire Alexander, cornerback
We raved about this selection on Thursday night. Not only because Alexander is a tremendous player who fits a need and is a great value at No. 18 overall, but because general manager Brian Gutekunst was an absolute wizard manipulating the board. He ended up gaining a future first-round pick (while losing a third) by trading down with the New Orleans Saints, then moving back up to No. 18. So there’s a lot more value to this pick than Alexander alone. Heck, even if Alexander was the pick without any other factors, it would have been an extremely smart pick.
Minnesota Vikings: Brian O’Neill, offensive tackle
Offensive line was the area we identified as the biggest weakness for Minnesota ahead of the draft. After the surprising selection of UCF cornerback Mike Hughes in Round 1, the Vikings addressed this need in Round 2, selecting O’Neill. He’s a great fit for the team’s zone-blocking scheme and is going to really help the offensive line as a whole. The Vikings can now keep Mike Remmers inside at left guard while O’Neill slides into the starting lineup at right tackle.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson, quarterback
Whether Joe Flacco likes it or not, Baltimore absolutely had to draft his eventual replacement this year. Flacco hasn’t been better than average in three years, and even at his best he was never truly elite. Jackson, a dual-threat Heisman winner, has the kind of natural abilities to become a transformative player for the Ravens. He’s not under any pressure to play right away, as Flacco is undeniably the starter for now. But whenever it’s time for Flacco to take a back seat, you better believe Jackson will be ready for the challenge.
Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield, quarterback
There are a lot of strong opinions about this selection on both sides of the argument. Personally, I think Cleveland absolutely made the right choice here taking Mayfield atop the draft. He has the panache to transform what’s been a perennial loser into a winner. Mayfield also has the necessary skill to play quarterback at the highest level as a pro. He’s not tall, but that never hurt him during his tenure at Oklahoma, where he became the deadliest pure passer in the nation the past two years. Whether he plays this year or not, Mayfield was the right guy for the job in Cleveland, and for what it’s worth I do think he’ll end up starting games in 2018.
Cincinnati Bengals: Malik Jefferson, linebacker
One of the most exceptional athletes in this year’s class, Jefferson isn’t the most instinctive linebacker out there. But put him in a spot where he is simply attacking a specific assignment and he’s going to excel. Right off the bat, he’ll likely start in place of Vontaze Burfict, who’s suspended to open the 2018 season. Once Burfict returns, don’t be surprised if Jefferson ends up starting alongside the veteran. The best part of this selection is that Cincinnati was able to land the former Longhorn in Round 3, making him a great value pick.
Pittsburgh Steelers: James Washington and Mason Rudolph, receiver and quarterback
There’s a lot going on here. First Pittsburgh traded away Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders. Then they drafted his replacement, Washington, in the second round. Then in Round 3, they traded up to land Washington’s teammate at Oklahoma State, quarterback Mason Rudolph. So, they upgraded at receiver, taking out a malcontent in the process, and swung a deal to bring in the eventual replacement for Ben Roethlisberger. As an added bonus, they keep Rudolph and Washington — a couple of guys who consistently made huge plays in college — together for the long haul. It was a brilliant sequence of moves that keeps Pittsburgh strong offensively for a long time.
Atlanta Falcons: Isaiah Oliver, cornerback
Having Calvin Ridley land in their laps was pretty sweet. But it was sweeter still when Atlanta was able to nab Oliver at the tail end of the second round. This is a long-armed, big cornerback who is a natural ball hawk and will be an ideal replacement for Jalen Collins, who’s suspended once again for failing another drug test. Oliver was seen by many draft analysts as a player who could have been selected at the end of Round 1. Landing here was a big value pick, and one that will pay off immediately.
Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore, receiver
The Panthers filled an immediate need and landed my favorite receiver in the 2018 draft when they selected Moore 24th overall. This Maryland product is a freak after the catch. He’s not the biggest guy but has the rare ability to turn five-yard gains into 80-yard touchdowns. You know you’ve got some juice when Steve Smith says the Panthers have never been able to replace him, until they drafted you. That’s how good this young man is. He’s going to be a lighting rod for Carolina’s offense from Day 1.
New Orleans Saints: Tre’Quan Smith, receiver
It was pretty stunning when New Orleans traded up in the first round for Marcus Davenport, rather than a quarterback. We weren’t fans of that move, nor were many others. So, that wasn’t a smart move. But using a late third-round pick to select Smith out of UCF? That was very smart. He’s going to be an immediate deep threat for the Saints, and we know Drew Brees is an expert at getting young receivers involved in the offense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ronald Jones II, running back
One of the most glaring needs for any team outside of those that needed franchise quarterbacks was Tampa Bay’s need for a dynamic running back. After cutting Doug Martin earlier this year, the Bucs went into the draft with Jacquizz Rodgers penciled in as the starter. That’s not going to cut it, so it wasn’t surprising when they selected Jones in the second round. He’s really a great fit for the team’s offense, possessing both the ability to run between the tackles and stretch defenses laterally. Jones should open the season as the No. 1 back on the team.
Houston Texans: Justin Reid, safety
Talk about adding strength to strength. First of all, what a coup landing Reid at the top of Round 3. He was a player some thought could be a fringe first-round pick to New England. Now he’ll join a talented Houston secondary and will likely challenge Andre Hal for the starting free safety spot playing with Tyrann Mathieu. At the least, he’ll be a rotational defender and key special teamer right out of the gate, though I’d be shocked if he didn’t end up starting Week 1.
Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, guard
If this year’s draft went according to merit, Nelson would have been the No. 1 pick. He was the best player coming into the league at any position, and the Colts were able to land him at No. 6 overall. This was the smartest thing general manager Chris Ballard could have possibly done. Not only will Nelson significantly improve the team’s pass-protecting unit (thus keeping Andrew Luck safe), but he’ll also upgrade the run game in a major way. Nelson was an absolute home run pick for Indy.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Ronnie Harrison, safety
It was tough to pick one player out when examining Jacksonville’s draft, which was exceptional from top to bottom. We ended up going with Harrison because of where the Jags were able to land him. Selecting the Alabama safety at the end of the third round was highway robbery in terms of value. Jacksonville loves to attack defensively, which just so happens to be Harrison’s forte. It’ll take work for him to crack the starting lineup this year, but don’t count this rookie out.
Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, defensive end
If he can stay healthy, Landry is going to be a double-digit sack artist from Year 1 in the NFL. He’s an explosive pass rusher who has Von Miller-type bend around the edge. Landry racked up 18 sacks in 2016, only to fall off last year due to injuries. It was pretty stunning when the entire first round went by and Landry’s name hadn’t been called yet. So it came as no surprise when the Titans traded up in the second round to land him with the 41st overall pick of the draft.
Arizona Cardinals: Josh Rosen, quarterback
Josh Rosen is not the fourth-best quarterback in this year’s draft class. Heck, he might just be the best when it’s all said and done, and he’s easily the best natural passer of the bunch. The Bills made an error taking Josh Allen over Rosen, but that error opened the door for a match made in heaven with the Cardinals, who finally made a bold move in the draft to land their man. Sam Braford will almost certainly start the season under center for Arizona. But don’t be surprised if Rosen ends up getting called into duty early, and don’t be surprised when he starts shredding opposing defenses, either.
Los Angeles Rams: Micah Kiser, linebacker
Given his incredible production at Virginia, it was surprising to see Kiser fall all the way to the fifth round. Okay, so he’s a bit undersized, at 6-foot and 238 pounds. But all this kid did was make plays for the Cavaliers, racking up 393 tackles, 33.5 for a loss, 19 sacks, one interception and eight forced fumbles the past three seasons. The Rams didn’t have a ton of needs this year, but linebacker was one of them. They ended up landing a player in Kiser late in the draft who could potentially see the field early and often as a rookie.
San Francisco 49ers: Fred Warner, linebacker
I almost highlighted Dante Pettis here, just because I love his fit so much in Kyle Shanahan’s system. That said, the 49ers traded up for him, whereas they simply waited for Fred Warner to fall into their laps in the third round. If the Reuben Foster situation requires the team to either release him or play without him on suspension, Warner will step into the starting lineup and make plays from Day 1. Heck, he might still do that even if Foster does play. He’s incredibly intelligent, instinctive, athletic and doesn’t miss many tackles.
Seattle Seahawks: Shaquem Griffin, linebacker
This was an easy call. Not only did the Seahawks add a player in Griffin who can bring pressure off the edge in certain situations, they landed a special teams demon at the very least. Additionally, he joins his twin brother Shaquill Griffin, and will instantly inject energy into an organization that lost some juice this offseason due to cuts and trades. He’s automatically going to be a fan favorite, and you know he’ll show up for work every single day. Every way you look at this pick (a fifth-rounder, no less), it’s a huge win for the Seahawks.
Denver Broncos: Bradley Chubb, EDGE
Much like the Jets (with Darnold), the Broncos didn’t have to think much about taking Chubb with the No. 5 overall pick. The premier pass rusher in this year’s draft, Chubb gives Denver a pass-rushing duo with Von Miller that’s unmatched around the NFL. He can play with his hand in the dirt. He can play in space if need be. But wherever he lines up, Chubb is going to make his way into the backfield and disrupt opposing offenses, both against the run and the pass. This was a home run pick in every sense.
Kansas City Chiefs: Derrick Nnadi, defensive tackle
Kansas City’s defense has been a veritable sieve against the run the past few years, ranking as one of the league’s worst in between the tackles from 2014-17. Interestingly enough, I like Nnadi, who was selected in the third round, better than I like Breeland Speaks, whom the Chiefs selected in Round 2. Nnadi is built like a fire hydrant. He’s short and squat, but he’s also an immovable object who should significantly improve the team’s run defense right away.
Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James, safety
How James fell all the way to No. 17 overall is beyond me. Heck, it was a huge surprise to general manager Tom Telesco, too, who said, “we did not expect (James) to be there at our pick. We were prepared to take him if he was, but we did not think he would be there. So, suffice to say we were very excited to bring him in.” James was, to many, a top-five player in this draft. He’s a new breed safety in that he can do things you’d expect from a linebacker while also possessing the athleticism, speed and instincts to excel on the back end, too. Adding him to Los Angeles’ already potent defense really just wasn’t fair.
Oakland Raiders: Maurice Hurst, defensive tackle
Oakland’s draft befuddled me, along with almost everyone else who covers the NFL for a living. There wasn’t much to like about what the Raiders did, barring their decision to take a gamble on Hurst, who was a first-round talent before a heart condition dropped him into Day 3. Oakland scooped him up in the fifth round, and if he can stay healthy this is a kid who should start from Day 1 inside for the Raiders. He’s a disruptive player who can bring interior pressure, which is something the Raiders have lacked in a big way recently.