The NFL Draft is kind of like a blind date. Teams have an idea of the player they are getting but won’t truly know who that guy is until they get him in the building and see exactly who he is. It’s part of the reason why teams miss on draft picks all the time, especially in the first round. There are no perfect fits between teams and players. Or are there? Sometimes there is a prospective match between prospect and organization that is way too good to be true, kind of like a glistening lake in the middle of the desert. But unlike a mirage brought upon by extreme dehydration, these players won’t disappear if they get drafted to those teams. The question is simply whether the team will have the chance to select them. There are a few of those matches in play for the 2022 NFL Draft so I present to you my top five perfect pairings of this year’s draft.
Malik Willis and the Pittsburgh Steelers
The odds that Willis makes it to the Steelers at pick 20 looks more and more unlikely each day but if he did fall that far it would be incredible. He is the ultimate upside pick at quarterback so going to a franchise with the level of stability the Pittsburgh has would be extremely helpful. It would also help Willis to end up in an offense with some established pieces around him instead of a team that is still building. Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth would be a perfect supporting cast for the rookie. He could work on learning the offense and the ropes of the NFL while his playmakers around him do most of the heavy lifting. Then when he is ready to start taking over he can take those steps toward being the leader of the team. Another reason a lot of rookie quarterbacks fail early on is that they aren’t able to reach the massive expectations placed upon them at the start. Willis wouldn’t have any of those expectations in Pittsburgh. It is a franchise that has experienced a ton of success so even if he isn’t a superstar right away, he will be given the benefit of the doubt as long as he shows improvement early on in his career.
Jameson Williams and the Kansas City Chiefs
Back in December, this pairing was nothing but a pipe dream. Williams was sure to go in the top half of the draft and the Chiefs had Tyreek Hill and wouldn’t need to spend premium draft capital on the same position. But a lot has changed since then. Williams suffered a very unfortunate torn ACL in the College Football Playoffs and the Chiefs traded away Hill, netting them an extra first-round pick. It seems like the universe has done everything in its power to will these two parties together. If Williams wasn’t hurt he would have a very strong case to be the first wide receiver off the board in this draft. Although the injury is a negative at the moment, he will likely return to full health, at which point he will still have the talent of an early first-rounder. Slotting a guy that talented into an Andy Reid offense helmed by Patrick Mahomes is a dream come true (or a nightmare if you are a fan of any of the other 31 teams). Williams was one of the best deep threats in all of college football in 2021 and figures to bring that same ability to the pros. He also has much more to his game than just running deep so he would be a perfect replacement for Hill. If Kansas City does end up getting Williams (whether it is in the late first round or if they trade up), he could make Chiefs fans forget all about Hill very quickly.
Jordan Davis to the Philadelphia Eagles
Some teams seem to have a knack for certain positions. And even though no team is 100 percent at developing talent at a given position, the Eagles are pretty good when it comes to defensive tackles. Fletcher Cox is obviously the poster child for that but Philly also got much better production than expected out of acquisitions such as Timmy Jernigan and Javon Hargrave. Davis has been a polarizing player throughout the draft process. He was clearly one of the most dominant players in college football last season but there have been concerns raised about if he can translate that to the NFL. Even after producing a mind-blowing combine for a guy of his size, a lot of people still aren’t convinced that he can be impactful enough as a pro. I understand some of those concerns (limited snap count and lack of pass rush production) but I think he is the perfect type of player for the Eagles. They are starting to transition into the next era and part of that will be moving on from Cox, who they cut and resigned this offseason. Davis could come in as one of Philly’s two first-round draft picks and learn from Cox before eventually taking over. The Eagles should be able to develop him like they did with fellow freak of nature Jordan Mailata on the other side of the ball. Davis strikes me as one of those players that will succeed wherever he goes but if he goes to Philadelphia, he could turn into something special.
Tyler Linderbaum to the Cincinnati Bengals
The worst kept secret in the NFL is that the Bengals needed to upgrade their offensive line this offseason. They signed three linemen in free agency but that does not mean they are through adding pieces to that group. Drafting a center in the first round is a bit of a risk because the position value is much lower than other spots on the field but Cincy has the luxury to take that risk. Most of the other positions groups are strong enough to at least until the later rounds to address in the draft so the Bengals can opt to go with a center this early. Just based on talent Linderbaum is one of the top players in this year’s crop of draftees but he will likely still be on the board this late because of the position he plays. He has the potential to be one of the top centers in the league this year. Do you know what team could really use that? The Cincinnati Bengals. Nobody will be criticizing the Bengals for taking a center this high if it means more protection for Joe Burrow, which is just great for the league.
Breece Hall to the Buffalo Bills
Running backs don’t really go in the first round anymore. And even though I think Hall and Buffalo would be a perfect fit I doubt the Bills would make this selection in the first round. But if any team were to go with a running back on day one it should be the Bills. I can’t find a single hole on their roster other than maybe running back. They are the Super Bowl favorites because they have one of the most complete offenses and defenses. Frankly, they are just a damn good team. Running back is the one spot they could use a big upgrade at because Devin Singletary and Zack Moss just aren’t playing at the same level as the rest of the roster. Hall would beat out both of those guys and be a three-down back from day one. He was one of the most productive running backs in the nation the past few years and has proven that he can do everything needed from the position. The Bills run the ball a ton, and even if they do it is with Josh Allen a lot, but Hall could be a massive weapon when they do hand the ball off. He would also be extremely competent in the passing game so he would fit right into the backfield with Allen. This is probably the least likely of all my pairing to actually happen in the draft but it would probably be the most fun if it did come to fruition.