When mocking the NFL draft, it is essential to evaluate not only the player talent and the draft position, but also the players’ fits within the teams they project to. That includes both fit within the roster and fit within the system. As such, we have evaluated who best slots in to each NFC team’s roster going forward.
Keep in mind, this is not necessarily evaluating a player’s likely destination, nor does it only involve first-rounders. This is a summation of who feels like the ideal match with each team.
iOL Chris Lindstrom, Boston College
Whether the Cardinals go into next season with Kyler Murray or Josh Rosen at quarterback is too be seen. Signs point to Murray, but will he be a great fit for Kliff Kingsbury’s air raid system? He certainly has the arm talent for it, but there are some questions as to whether or not his frame could hold up to such a heavy volume of use.
Well, there is no better way to help the undersized quarterback than to establish a solid line in front of him. Outside of maybe second-year center Mason Cole, there is not much to like on the Arizona line. Chris Lindstrom is a day two draft prospect with day one starter written all over him. He is big, strong and athletic, perfect for any sort of blocking scheme one could ask of him. Granted, taking a guard in round two still leaves a hole on the blind side, but the Cardinals have to build this line from the ground up, so starting inside out is a reasonable move.
DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
When Atlanta made the Super Bowl a couple seasons ago, they had a defense, and especially a front line, that stressed speed and movability above all else. Since then, they have struggled to recreate that identity. Pairing Wilkins with Grady Jarrett would make for a quick interior line that Dan Quinn could mix and match.
DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Carolina’s lack of top shelf defensive end talent is one of their biggest barriers between excellence and mediocrity. They went from one of the most-feared teams in football to one of the weaker defenses in the game in a matter of weeks last season, all the while finishing 27th in sacks. Ferrell is a do-it-all end who has prototypical size and length. He can bolster the pass rush from day one, while also being a force in the run game on the edge.
RB Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska
Ryan Pace has done wonders finding impactful running backs in the middle rounds. With one of those backs in Jordan Howard now elsewhere, it is time for Pace to replicate that success. Ozigbo has some Howard-esque qualities in his thick, low frame that creates downhill power. But he also has more shiftiness and receiving potential that Howard lacked.
LB/Edge Justin Hollins, Oregon
Is there anything the Cowboys do better than make studs out of long, athletic linebacker prospects? Most recently, they did it with Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. Granted, those two were much more refined coming out, and they had well-defined positions. Hollins is more of a tweener, and significantly more raw. That said, his athleticism is through the roof, and he is a movable piece with pass rushing upside. As a project, he fits in exactly with the Cowboys’ specialty.
TE Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Detroit should probably go after one of the top pass rushers with their eight overall pick, but they also need to give Matthew Stafford some weapons to work with for the back nine of his career. Sternberger has been a late riser, going from a mid-round prospect to likely a second-rounder in a matter of a few months. He would provide Detroit with a consistent option who gets open a lot between the 20s, but can also stretch the field and work the red zone. That is something Stafford tried to find with Eric Ebron, but fell a bit short.
Green Bay Packers
TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
Sticking with the tight ends in the NFC North. The 2018 Packer offense can best be summarized as Aaron Rodgers looking, looking, looking around before finally passing to Davante Adams. There was no rhythm and little consistency to their passing offense, despite having an all-time quarterback, a top-three left tackle and a top-10 receiver. Now, imagine those pieces with one of the most complete tight ends to emerge in several years. Hockenson is a sharp route runner and an excellent athlete, so he could provide Rodgers with a consistent target over the middle, something he has lacked since Jermichael Finley.
Los Angeles Rams
OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State
For all the needs the Rams have on defense, their 2018 NFC Championship campaign proved one big thing: they largely go as Jared Goff goes, and Jared Goff goes as far as his protection takes him. For much of the season, the protection was solid. But towards the end, Goff saw more pressure and made more mistakes and the Rams offense went from unstoppable to sputtering. Then their weaknesses along the interior worsened when they lost Rodger Saffold. So now, the Rams need replacements. Risner is a back end of the first round prospect who could start day one at four line positions, excel in pass pro and bring a mauling style in the run game to help Todd Gurley.
iOL Erik McCoy, Texas A&M
The Vikings’ line has spent much of the offseason as the scapegoat for their lost 2018. Given the amount of money Kirk Cousins received, and the subsequent lack of protection, fixing the line long-term should be priority number one in the draft. McCoy and Garrett Bradbury are the two guys in this class who would fit the Vikings’ plan with their line perfectly. However, Bradbury appears to be a fringe first round pick, whereas McCoy is a near lock to go day two. As such, McCoy is a better fit than Bradbury in terms of the Vikings’ draft position. He is a strong, quick center prospect who excels in zone and in open space. He could probably flip to guard if need be, but the Vikings have some position flexibility with their line, so McCoy could also be their day one center.
New Orleans Saints
WR Hunter Renfrow, Clemson
Drew Brees has his ace in Michael Thomas. For however long Brees is around, we know that Thomas will be that do-it-all, top-five receiver for him. That said, New Orleans’ number two wide receiver last year was rookie Tre’Quan Smith, who had 44 targets and 427 yards. Brees could use a guy like Renfrow out of the slot who is a reliable underneath target that simply knows how to get open. And given Renfrow’s combine numbers, there is no reason to think that his quick-twitch style will not translate to NFL offense.
New York Giants
Edge Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
With Olivier Vernon in Cleveland, the Giants are starved for pass rushing. True, they need to replace Eli Manning sooner or later, but the talent pool at the top for edge rushers is too great to pass up. Sweat provides an elite combination of length, bend and speed off the edge. While they would still have a lot of work to do in rebuilding the defense, beginning with a freakish athlete like Sweat on the defensive line is a good start.
DT Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
Simmons has previously been mocked much higher than 25, but a recent knee injury has hurt his stock somewhat. And what may be a detriment to Simmons’ position may ultimately be a dream scenario for Philadelphia. Simmons fits the Eagles’ greatest identity: big, athletic defensive linemen who dominate the line of scrimmage. This would not be so much a matter of filling a position of need as it would be adding a body to an area of strength. Simmons would fit perfectly next to Fletcher Cox
San Francisco 49ers
Edge Nick Bosa, Ohio State
If the Cardinals do what many expect and go with Murray at one, that leaves the 49ers with the consensus top player in the draft. Why mess around? Bosa on that line with DeForest Buckner should be a dangerous duo for years to come. And then imagine what could happen if Solomon Thomas even begins to approach his high potential in year three.
OL Nate Davis, Charlotte
Thanks to great quarterbacking, Seattle made the playoffs with a fairly pedestrian roster. They have needs in a number of places, so they should be pretty flexible with their first round pick. However, they probably need to more thoroughly address the offensive line sooner or later, and Nate Davis is a potential day one starter available on day two, or maybe early day three.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LB Devin White, LSU
Everyone seems convinced the Buccaneers are going with White at five. And the fit makes a lot of sense. Tampa Bay’s defense has issues, and White is a uniquely talented linebacker who can anchor a defense in both run and pass coverage. Plus, with Lavonte David still in his prime, it gives White some development time, and theoretically, the opportunity for tutelage.
WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
Whether Washington goes into 2019 with Case Keenum at quarterback or goes through with the rumored Josh Rosen trade, they will be working with one of the weakest receiving corps in football. They especially lack for red zone targets, save for Jordan Reed. And even Reed is unreliable at this point, given his struggles to stay healthy. Arecega-Whiteside is one of the top red zone receivers in this class, and should be available day two. He is an excellent leaper who uses his full catch radius to high point the ball. Plus, he tested better than expected with his speed numbers, so he could also be a strong option between the 20s.
Agree or Disagree? Who do you think are some of the best fits for your favorite team? Tweet at us @FPC_NFL!
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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