Best Draft Fits at Each Position

The NFL Draft is kind of like those questionable reality dating shows that everybody seems to love: it’s all about finding the perfect match. And even though there are no compatibility challenges or poolside bar carts, it’s probably harder to find the right match in the draft than it is on Love Island. There are several factors involved in evaluating prospects, each one more unpredictable than the next. That makes the job of the GMs and head coaches and everyone else involved in the process quite the unenviable position (except for the millions of dollars they are getting paid for being in the position). So I’m going to help out some of those decision-makers by giving them my perfect fits for one prospect at each position. I’m going beyond the top prospects for most of these picks because it’s a little too easy to say Jalen Carter would be a great fit on the Seahawks because he would be a great fit on every team. Some of the guys I’m going to mention might hear their name called in the first round, while some might end up being drafted during a Taco Bell commercial like a certain NBA MVP. It’s also possible that none of these matches end up happening, but I do feel confident that if these players go to these teams, then it will be a successful fit for both sides.

QB Jake Haener: Minnesota Vikings

This year’s crop of quarterbacks is an interesting one. There are four top guys who will all go in the first round, potentially even the top 10, and then a fifth guy in Hendon Hooker that has some buzz and will almost certainly go in round two, if not earlier. Then there is a pretty significant drop-off before the next bunch of guys. But of that group, Haener is my personal favorite and I think a place like Minnesota would be perfect for him. The Vikings seem to be considering the future of the quarterback position since Kirk Cousins will not be around forever. Taking Haener in this draft, likely in the fourth or fifth round, would set up a succession plan that is much better than Waystar Royco’s, although that isn’t a very high bar to clear (also shoutout to all the Succession fans that got that reference). Haener can sit behind Cousins for however long is needed before ultimately taking over the job if he develops. I have a lot of faith that he will develop because he proved in college that he is a baller. He demonstrated an ability to win games and make plays, especially when he needed to make plays. His injury woes last year are one of the reasons he may be sliding under the radar this draft process but if he lands in the right place he can be a starter in the near future.

RB Israel Abanikanda: Philadelphia Eagles

There seem to be very few things that teams all across the league agree on, but the strategy of drafting running backs seems to be pretty consistent from team to team. The decision to wait on running backs has also been reinforced by players drafted in later rounds that prove to be exceptional backs. The best situation for a running back drafted on day two or three to be placed into is a team with an established offensive line and commitment to the running game. That sure sounds like the Philadelphia Eagles, who will be in the market for a running back following the loss of Miles Sanders in free agency. There are some people out there that are creating a dream scenario of Bijan Robinson going to Philly in the first round but the Eagles don’t seem like a team willing to take a shot on a first-round running back. They seem much more likely to grab a guy later, like they did with Sanders, which is where Abanikanda comes in. He’s a versatile runner that can definitely fit in well in the Eagles’ running game next to Jalen Hurts. He’s got a good mix of size and speed and best of all, the dude knows how to find the end zone. He rushed for 20 touchdowns last year and should be able to continue scoring if the Eagles give him the chance.

WR Jalin Hyatt: Kansas City Chiefs

Sometimes, finding the perfect team-prospect match just makes so much sense that it has to happen. That’s the case here with Hyatt and the Chiefs. The short explanation is that Hyatt is the best deep threat in the class and the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes. And while there really isn’t much more that needs to be said, I will elaborate. Hyatt dominated college football with his combination of elite speed and ball skills, leading to his putting up 18.9 yards per catch and scoring 15 touchdowns on his way to winning the Biletnikoff Award given to the best wide receiver. The Chiefs, despite coming off a Super Bowl win, have a need at receiver, specifically a deep threat. They employed Marquez Valdes-Scantling in that role last season to mixed results as he has never truly lived up to his billing as a dangerous downfield threat. Hyatt can be that type of player right away. Even if he doesn’t develop into an all-around receiver that can win in other ways, his ability to win over the top will make him valuable in Kansas City.

TE Darnell Washington: Cincinnati Bengals

Washington is one of the best intriguing prospects in the entire draft. He’s a quasi-lineman that is coming into the league without a ton of pass-catching production, partly because he was on the same team as the best tight end in college football. That leaves a lot of questions about what Washington’s role will ultimately be at the next level. He probably will never be a top option at tight end, which is exactly why he makes so much sense in Cincinnati. The Bengals already have two elite receivers and, assuming they stick around for a while, Washington would be a fantastic complement. His receiving workload would not be too big as a rookie, which would give him time to develop as a pass-catcher, an area where he has a ton of promise. In the meantime, he can chip in right away as a run blocker, helping the Bengals prop up a run game that they love to rely on.

OT Dawand Jones: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Buccaneers are one of the more interesting teams to watch in the draft this year. They are without Tom Brady this year, and even with him last year they were only able to make the playoffs thanks to a very weak NFC South division. Are they going to be able to compete with Baker Mayfield or Kyle Trask at quarterback? Who knows? What we do know is that one of the major holes that the Bucs need to fill in the draft is at tackle. They released left tackle Donovan Smith in the offseason, meaning they’re down one starting tackle. It would make sense for them to move All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs over to the left side, which would then open up a spot on the right. In this scenario, the Bucs fill that hole with Jones. He’s absolutely massive at 6-foot-8 and 370 pounds, which would suggest he is more likely to fit as a right tackle in the league, considering that’s also where he played in college. A perfect landing spot for Jones would be a place that allows him to play right away but doesn’t place too much pressure on him as a blindside blocker. Tampa Bay can provide that experience for him. This would be a great long-term play for the Bucs because they could establish their bookends on the offensive line for years to come if they select Jones.

IOL Cody Mauch: Buffalo Bills

I don’t know what exactly it is, but Mauch just seems like such a great fit in Buffalo. It’s not all just because the North Dakota State prospect would be used to the cold weather in Northern New York and he looks like the lineman version of Cole Beasley with his long hair. Mauch does make sense from an on-field standpoint as well. The Bills need some help up front, and Mauch’s versatility would give them the flexibility to figure out their best five guys up front. Mauch played tackle in college but is expected to move to guard at the next level but has also practiced snapping the ball just in case he ever needs to play center. Mauch’s toughness and physicality would fit in perfectly on the Buffalo offense and his play would help the Bills shore up one position on the line for the next handful of years.

EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah: Atlanta Falcons

Stop me if you’ve ever heard this before but the Falcons need pass-rush help. That may sound familiar because that has been the case for a very long time in Atlanta. The Falcons’ recent draft history is full of edge rushers that never panned out (outside of that one season from Vic Beasley). So when it comes to which team could benefit from the presence of Anudike-Uzomah, the Falcons are an easy answer. Of course, the Falcons could take a pass-rusher with the eighth overall pick, but in this scenario, they addressed a different position with that pick. Anudike-Uzomah was elite at getting to the quarterback in college. He had 19.5 sacks combined in his last two seasons, which demonstrates his disruptive ability in the passing game. He almost certainly won’t be a double-digit sack guy right away, but Atlanta can use any amount of juice in the front seven. Anudike-Uzomah may be able to develop into a well-rounded edge-setter in time, but as a situational pass-rusher right out the gate, he is exactly what the Falcons need.

DT Siaki Ika: Los Angeles Chargers

The fit between Ika and the Chargers is what inspired me to write this piece, it’s my favorite one by far. Ika’s ceiling might be a little capped in the NFL because he doesn’t provide a lot of pass-rush support. But what the 335-pound defensive tackle provide is the ability to stop the run, which is an area that the Chargers desperately need help in. The Chargers gave up the most yards per carry last year, in large part because they were vulnerable up the middle. Ika can come in and immediately be a big body up front that helps eat up blockers and clog the running lanes. The Chargers are also in a good spot to take a player like Ika who is essentially specialized in one aspect of the game. They don’t have any glaring needs at important positions and have their hopes set on contending, which would make the selection of Ika fit right in with their current plan.

LB Drew Sanders: Dallas Cowboys

Sanders is one of my favorite prospects in this draft. He’s played both off-ball linebacker and edge-rusher in college, doing well enough at each spot to entice teams looking for linebacker help. He sounds a little bit like Micah Parsons, although Parsons is the best version of what a player like Sanders can become. I don’t think Sanders will reach that same potential, but he could benefit from playing in the same system. The Cowboys clearly already know how to best utilize a player like Sanders and will definitely be able to get the most out of him in their scheme. Adding Sanders will also allow Parsons to spend more time as a pass rusher, where he has developed into one of the best in the entire game. Sanders makes a lot of sense in Dallas, they’ve taken several shots on athletic linebackers in the past and have had mixed results with those picks, but have also had their fair share of success. Sanders seems like a perfect fit in the Dallas defense and could give them another high-quality defender to throw at opposing offenses.

CB Kelee Ringo: Detroit Lions

The Lions had an incredible season last year, putting themselves on the verge of making the playoffs, but they still have some holes to fill before taking that next step toward being a contender. The one area that Detroit definitely needs to address is the secondary, which they already have in some respect through free agency. But adding more talent to that group, especially at corner, is not a bad idea. Ringo is a bit of a polarizing prospect. Once thought to be a top-10 pick, now it isn’t even certain if he’ll go in the first round. But the Lions can afford to take a risk on a guy with the physical skills that could make him a lockdown corner in the league. Ringo is a tall, fast, and physical corner that seems like he would be a great match for Dan Campbell’s team. The Lions have several early picks so using one of them on Ringo wouldn’t prevent them from taking other, safer prospects elsewhere in the first two rounds.

S Jammie Robinson: San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers lost safety Jimmie Ward in the offseason when he followed former defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and signed with Houston. That doesn’t necessarily mean the 49ers will be looking for a Ward replacement in the draft, but if they are, Robinson seems like he would fit. Robinson has a similar build to Ward and has demonstrated the ability to play both over the top and in the slot, where Ward did a ton of his damage. The key for the Niners with this fit is that Robinson isn’t expected to go until later in the draft. The 49ers don’t pick until the 99th overall pick but then have a bunch of picks after that. That means they will have a ton of selections in the range where Robinson is slotted, giving them the opportunity to grab the safety while still addressing some of their other needs as well. The 49ers have proven their ability to find diamonds in the rough on defense through the draft, and Robinson could just be the next guy in that line.