The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting times in the offseason for NFL fans and analysts alike. But while it’s fun for us to pick apart the do’s and don’ts of each teams draft strategy, GM’s are going through one of the most stressful times of the year for those occupying their position. The draft is a great opportunity for teams to stock up on talent and strengthen their weak spots on the roster. As we get closer to the draft we’ll get to know some of the bigger name prospects better and after that, get a clearer picture of where they may and may not end up. But while things are up in the air right now, and anyone can go anywhere with just one phone call, some teams are better fits for certain players than others.
It happens all the time. A player is drafted high by a team and it seems promising at first, but ultimately it doesn’t work out. Why though? You could say it’s a lack of talent, a weak supporting cast or just a really bad fit for these players. But regardless of how you see it later on, in the moment these picks seem like the right call. Be they reaches or solid picks that don’t pan out, it’s bound to happen eventually. Let’s look to the upcoming draft and see the best and worst fits for these 15 NFL draft prospects.
15. Garett Bolles
Best Spot: Cincinatti Bengals
Bolles is one of the drafts feel good stories this year, so people are pulling for him to land on the right team and produce. One potential fit might be the Bengals. Cincy’s pretty much covered on the outside and seeing as Bolles is still something of a raw talent the Bengals would have the luxury of either sitting him and having him learn for a year or plugging him inside and developing him through experience in the trenches. It could turn out to be an ideal scenario for Bolles who would join a high powered offense and become a complimentary piece rather than a young player who ends up being too heavily relied upon.
Worst Spot: Denver Broncos
The Broncos need a tackle bad. In fact they need a whole new offensive line, which is why this makes Bolles a bad fit here. Bolles is a very physically talented player, but he still needs time to work out his kinks. Plugging him in at left tackle from the get go might not be the best way to go about his development. You’ve got a struggling offensive line and two young quarterbacks, which doesn’t make for the best situation. While Bolles’ raw talent might entice the Broncos, they might be better off going for a sure thing rather than a long term project. This year’s draft is weak in regards to tackles though so don’t hold your breath.
14. Charles Harris
Best Spot: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons dominated the Patriots in the first half of Super Bowl LI, making one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks look like a bumbling old man for over thirty minutes. A strong pass rush kept Brady in check and made it so the secondary could really do some damage. However the pass rush waned and the offense eventually found its opening and took charge from there. Atlanta has a strong defense, but the addition of a guy like Harris could be what gets them that Lombardi. He’s a big physical edge rusher who can go around and between offensive linemen. It makes him a perfect fit for a Dan Quinn defense that gets the most out of versatile playmakers.
Worst Spot: Green Bay Packers
The Packers are another team that could use a bit of a hand in the pass rush department. Depending on how free agency goes, they might try and address the issue early on in the draft. Adding a specialist like Harris might seem enticing, but might create some issues early on that Green Bay wouldn’t really feel like dealing with. The glaring problem here is that Harris is more of a 4-3 pass rusher. You could implement him in a 3-4 – which is what the Packers run – as either a stand-up rusher or hope that he can bulk up enough to be a 3-4 end. But really a guy like Harris would need to be swooped up early on. At that point it’s better to just get someone who fits your scheme.
13. Patrick Mahomes
Best Spot: San Francisco 49ers
Patrick Mahomes is one of the most interesting prospects in this draft. He’s projected to be anything from a day two candidate to a surprise to 20 selection in the draft. The quarterback class is weak this year and many experts would rather pass on this year’s prospects and wait for next year’s draft to draft a signal caller. But NFL teams are rarely afforded the luxury of time and patience. The 49ers have some veterans who can hold the fort this year while they develop Mahomes and potentially put him out to bat next year. Of course, this only makes sense as either a day two selection or a pick they trade down or up from, depending on what they give up.
Worst Spot: Houston Texans
The Texans have recently jettisoned their expensive free agency gem in the form of a trade with the Cleveland Browns. You can assume that this is Houston’s way of cutting their losses but the truth is they need to find a suitable replacement soon. That defense is good but it can’t keep shouldering games. A guy like Mahomes later in the first might sound like a good idea, but unlike San Francisco, Houston can’t afford to wait through his development. If something goes wrong at any given point during the season it’s Mahomes who’s going to be thrown to the wolves. That rarely works out for young developmental quarterbacks.
12. Jabrill Peppers
Best Spot: Chicago Bears
The NFL is constantly changing with its philosophy. Schemes and personnel change over the years and both players and teams have to adapt to it. Jabrill Peppers is kind of a wild card as we enter the draft. Peppers has the ability to play both safety and linebacker in the NFL, but his size makes this difficult to pull off. Te bears could use both secondary and linebacker help, so it could make sense for Peppers to end up there and end up playing the new linebacker/safety hybrid we’ve been seeing more and more of in the NFL. Chicago is certainly in need of some decent building blocks for their rebuild, and adding a versatile talent like Peppers could help cement that defense in the long run.
Worst Spot: New Orleans Saints
The Saints, unlike the Bears have a much more pressing need at safety and could really use a solid young addition in the secondary. The Saints need a pure safety to really strengthen their defense. New Orleans has had one of the worst defenses in the league over the last few years. Swapping defensive coordinators hasn’t made things better so you’ve got to assume that a greater issue lies somewhere with the personnel. New Orleans could probably benefit from a whole tear down and build up of the defensive secondary. Peppers though is better suited for that safety/linebacker hybrid role – so New Orleans might not be the best place for a player of his skill set to end up.
11. Cam Robinson
Best Spot: Denver Broncos
Cam Robinson is one of the few offensive line prospects in the draft that can be a day one starter. Though seeing how weak this year’s class is that isn’t saying all too much about his ability to start but it’s better than most of the guys in this draft. A team like the Broncos who absolutely need to plug in a solid o-lineman would be a great landing spot for Robinson. Depending on how Denver builds their line, Robinson may not have to shoulder the burden of protecting one of two young quarterbacks on his own. Though he will be playing that left side so the pressure is on from the get go.
Worst Spot: New York Jets
The Jets are another team that could use offensive line help. But the difference between the Jets and the Broncos is that they pick in the top ten. That’s a lot of pressure on a prospect who most believe isn’t even a top 15 pick. While the Jets could certainly use some help upfront perhaps it’s not in this draft. Next year’s crop of tackles should be much more up to standard with what we’re used to seeing in the NFL. A guy like Robinson might be ready to start now but ultimately he still needs to work at his technique if he wants to last in the NFL. He might be a day 1 starter but he’s not worth a top 10 pick.
10. O.J. Howard
Best Spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
O.J. Howard is considered by many as the consensus number one tight end prospect in this year’s upcoming draft. Howard has the tools to be a mismatch nightmare in the NFL. His athleticism is something that’s covered at that position. He can maneuver through zone coverage’s and match up well one on one with linebackers and safeties. Tampa has been bolstering their receiving corps in free agency. With the addition of Deseuan Jackson, Tampa now has some versatility on the outside. Howard in the middle solidifies a potentially dangerous trio of receiving targets that can move through every part of the field with ease. It remains to be seen if this’ll actually happen or not, but regardless it makes sense in theory.
Worst Spot: Buffalo Bills
The Bills are reportedly interested in Howard. The draft is still several weeks away and you do see teams throwing out smoke bombs every now and then to hide their true intentions. Of course sometimes these things turn out to be true so you really need to wait till draft day to find out. But should the Bills actually be serious about this Howard might be in some real trouble. The Bills receiving corps is slim right now. Their best player in that group is terribly injury prone and they’ve just restructured Tyrod Taylor’s contract. That team needs help bad, but they’ve failed to address it in free agency so far. If Howard is there when they pick then expect the Bills to pick him up. Unless they’re high on another tight end prospect and the rumor was just a fade.
9. Christian McCaffrey
Best Spot: New England Patriots
Christian McCaffrey looks like one of the most underappreciated runners in the NFL draft. The guy can do it all, run like a power back and catch the ball like a receiver. He’s kind of like a bulkier Theo Riddick. But the nock on him is that he isn’t a three down runner in the pros. He’s more of a third down back is what people are saying. Well then problem solved. If the Patriots somehow manage to snag him then the pressure of being an all purpose workhorse would be lightened. New England rotates their runners regularly and in that system, McCaffrey can either carry the load early on or specialize on third – either way’s good in this scenario.
Worst Spot: Carolina Panthers
Carolina is another team that’s in desperate need of a solid runner. Jonathan Stewart is showing his age and without a competent running game, defenses can focus in on Cam Newton much easier. The draft is deep at running back so the Panthers could very easily fix that problem in the coming months. Why doesn’t McCaffrey fit here? Well we’ve touched up on what his major flaw is seen heading into the draft. THE Panthers need a guy who can stay on the field all three downs, McCaffrey has to prove he’s that guy. For Carolina, a more polished runner like Fournette or Cook would make way more sense.
8. Jonathan Allen
Best Spot: Arizona Cardinals
Jonathan Allen is considered by most to be one of the best overall prospects in the draft. Allen has the size and power to be dominant on the defensive line and instantly helps boost a team’s run defense along with compiling some extra pressures as well. While he’s a top 5 prospect and most teams would love to have him, one team that could definitely use and nurture his talents are the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona has an elite defensive unit and could use some help on the defensive line. Allen would be able to come in day 1 and make an immediate impact. He’s got all the tools to be dominant in this scheme for a long time.
Worst Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have tons of money and not all that much talent overall. Between them and the Browns, Jacksonville’s locker room can seem like a place where promising young careers go to die. Though there’s a good chance that he’s available at 4, the Jags should pass on Jonathan Allen. They’re already stacked on the defensive line as it is, adding Allen would be more of a luxury pick than anything. Nothing wrong with that but you don’t typically use a top 5 pick in that way. Allen would probably see limited snaps early on in his Jags career and be used mostly as a rotational player. It makes more sense for him to land somewhere that needs him now.
7. Reuben Foster
Best Spot: New York Giants
There have been some recent non-football related concerns hovering around Reuben Foster. If the situation persists up until the draft then there’s a good chance that he might slip to the Giants. In that situation New York should snatch up the young linebacker. The Giants need a leader in the middle and Foster could very well develop into that kind of player. As of right now the G-men have some pretty strong voices in the locker room, with most of them being on defense. Foster would have the opportunity to learn from guys like Jason Pierre-Paul, Landon Collins and Jonathan Casilas while he matured and offers the Giants a versatile defender who can make an impact on that already strong defense of theirs.
Worst Spot: Cleveland Browns
The Browns are currently going through their annual round of repairs. It seems as though Cleveland is stuck in this perpetual state of rebuilding and it’s this inability to string together a competent roster of players that leaves them as the butt of the joke among NFL fans. Cleveland could use some strong players on either side of the ball. Offense and defense are both candidates for this kind of treatment but their linebackers could use some work. Picking Foster though wouldn’t be great for the team. Apart from their selection of Myles Garrett with the first overall pick, the Browns should be looking towards beefing up their offense in a very defensively loaded draft.
6. John Ross
Best Spot: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens receiving corps is one area that the team could definitely improve upon this offseason. After losing Steve Smith, Joe Flacco could use a viable target outside. John Ross has been gaining some traction after his insane 40 time. But the young receiver is more than just a burner. Aside from his ability to beat defenders deep and create separation, Ross runs good routs and has a solid set of hands. He would essentially replace Steve Smith as the team’s deep threat and big play target. Of course, the Ravens have other issues – particularly on the defense that they have to address. But giving their offense and homerun hitter on the outside that can move around in the slot as well is a great start to getting back to the playoffs in 2017.
Worst Spot: Philadelphia Eagles
The shortest way to explain this decision is this; the Eagles – who suffered from a need at receiver last year – don’t necessarily have that much of a need at the position anymore after snagging up Alshon Jeffery in free agency. With Jeffery, Mathews, Agholor and Green-Beckham occupying the same film room Philadelphia is pretty much set at receiver. Spending a first round choice on the position would be ill advised and would essential ignore some of the team’s more pressing concerns as we get closer to the start of OTA’s. While Ross would make the Eagles’ passing attack dangerous, it’s unsure what role he’d play or if he’d even start in his first year and beyond.
5. David Njoku
Best Spot: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are fresh off of the move to Los Angeles and as the team begins their new era in a new city, they must also arm themselves for what’s looking like an upcoming series of win-or-nothing campaigns with Philip Rivers at the helm. Luckily for Rivers he’s still got Antonio Gates on the roster which provides a good deal of familiarity. Hunter Henry is a young stud at the position as well. So here’s why David Njoku makes sense here. Njoku is a raw talent that needs time to develop. He can sit in a contributor role behind Gates and Henry and eventually see more playtime alongside Henry in two TE sets as he matures. It would be a very dangerous tandem for the next several years.
Worst Spot: Los Angeles Rams
As stated above, Njoku is a very raw talent that will need time to develop in the NFL. It makes sense for him to go to a team like the Chargers as they’d be able to nurture and develop his skills until he was ready to be a consistent contributor in the league. The Rams are another LA team in need of some offensive weapons. But unlike the Chargers, the Rams wouldn’t be an ideal fit for a young prospect like Njoku. The Rams need a guy who can contribute now. Thrusting Njoku in the starting line up might hurt his development rather than help it. That baptism by fire kind of technique doesn’t work for everyone and projects like Njoku often digress rather than improve in those situations.
4. Corey Davis
Best Spot: San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers don’t look like they’re going to be getting Kirk Cousins this offseason. Perhaps they won’t get him next offseason either. As it stands the 49ers have to work on bettering their offense with the tools available. The receiver position is one that could use a lot of work. Corey Davis would provide an injection of talent and size to the position group. Regardless of who’s throwing the ball for San Fran this year, Davis is a big bodied target who can make tough catches in traffic. At second overall, it might be a bit of a reach for San Francisco is they take him there. But trading down lower in the top the wouldn’t be a bad way to gain picks and a talented young pass catcher.
Worst Spot: Kansas City Chiefs
Andy Reid is a fantastic head coach in the NFL. But his Kansas City offense isn’t what you’d call receiver friendly. Jeremy Maclin just had one of the worst years of his career. But it’s well known that the Chiefs prefer consistency and low risk plays in the passing game opposed to the eye opening vertical passing game most of the league is moving towards. Davis would either be the number 1 or 2 receiver going into his rookie year – depending on how the Chiefs feel about Maclin at this point. If he’s a number one then he’s a low ceiling starter. If he’s a number 2 then he’s not going to see many targets and he’ll have limited opportunities in an offense that likes to run first and get rid of the ball with short, consistent routes.
3. Deshaun Watson
Best Spot: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are in do or die mode right now. They’ve got some aging veterans on the roster whose windows are getting smaller in terms of winning a championship. At most, the Chards have another year or two before we see some familiar faces – namely Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald – turn away from the game. While it might seem early, the Cardinals could get themselves their heir apparent at QB with Deshaun Watson this April. In a generally weak quarterback class, Watson is considered to be one of the bright spots, though he still has his kinks to work out. Sitting him behind Palmer gives him the time to learn and grow for a couple of seasons. Even after the Cardinals loose two of their biggest stars they’d have Watson in there to help keep the train rolling.
Worst Spot: Chicago Bears
As is with most of the developmental players in this draft, going to a team that needs immediate help and can’t afford to sit players and have them learn from veterans is a bad situation to be in. We’ve seen it countless of times before in the past and some teams are bound to repeat that mistake. With no Jake Cutler, the Bears could look to a young replacement. The Matt Glennon project is in full swing in Chicago. But if we’re going to take anything away from his time in Tampa it’s that he’s just as big a project as Watson is. Who here is willing to bet that Watson to Chicago is going to end up in Glennon getting benched midway through and Watson having to fend off the wolves himself?
2. Myles Garrett
Best Spot: Dallas Cowboys
Considered by many to be the best player in the draft, Myles Garrett is a punishing defensive end who can beat trough offensive lines and cause havoc behind the line of scrimmage. The soon to be first overall pick can’t possible escape his fate with the Browns unless the pick is either traded or the Browns surprisingly pass on him for one of the drafts unproven quarterbacks. But as Garrett himself has suggested, the Cowboys would make a great choice for the young edge rusher. Dallas needs pass rush help. Rather than finding it in an older free agent, Dallas could benefit greatly from getting a younger – dominant player in the draft. With Garrett, the Cowboys are Super Bowl favourites.
Worst Spot: Jacksonville Jaguars
We’ve talked about the Jaguars as being the bad fit for many players in this list – especially on the defensive side of the ball. While it might sound like we’re hating on the Jags at this point, the thing with Jacksonville is that they’ve got so much depth at certain positions on defense already that some of these guys just seem like they’d be caught in rotation hell. Garrett would certainly be a great pick from a fans point of view, seeing as he’s a talented defender. But where would he start? He’s more of a 4-3 guy anyways so maybe going to the Jaguars wouldn’t be the best idea given there are other teams where his talents are better suited to succeed.
1. Leonard Fournette
Best Spot: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings just lost Adrian Peterson and as much of a long shot as it is, replacing him with a young stud like Leonard Fournette would be a dream come true. Fournette is another big physical runner that offers versatility as a runner and who can carry the rock 20+ times in a game. That kind of workhorse production is rare in the NFL. Of course durability might be a concern. But any time a guy’s getting hit two dozen times a week then his body is going to wear down over the course of time. Fournette is still very young, but can be a great player and make the transition from one great player to another seamless.
Worst Spot: New York Jets
The Jets are one of the possible teams Fournette can actually land on this April. While they’ve still got Matt Forte under contract, the Jets could look to the future and take the talented LSU runner to beef up their backfield. But here’s where that could pose some sort of problem. Having both Fournette and Forte on the same roster sounds like a great idea but eventually you have to address the issue of carries. Who carries it more, who gets the rotational role, who comes in on third down – that kind of stuff. Both of these guys are better suited for a leading role though Forte is getting older and could be spared the dirty work on third. This wouldn’t be terrible had it been last offseason but at this point why spend such a high pick when you’ve got competent players at that position already?