Continuing with my list of top fits for each team, here are draft targets for every AFC unit.
Read the NFC edition here.
WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State
The Lamar Jackson Era is in full effect, and he has remarkably few receivers to work with. Baltimore helped him out by restocking the tight end arsenal in last year’s draft, but they are still bereft of versatile downfield receiving threats. Not only does Campbell provide that burner track speed, he can help Jackson get into his rhythm as a dynamic screen target and an underneath guy. His burst off the line should get him ample room off the line of scrimmage, creating easy pitch and catch situations.
DT Ed Oliver, Houston
Oliver is arguably a top-three defensive player in the draft, hurt mostly by his lack of size. Buffalo has some nice pieces to work with on the defense, but they lack strong pass rushers in general outside of Jerry Hughes, and they especially lack that impact inside. Oliver is one of the more explosive, athletic defensive tackles to come out in the past few years, and figures to step in and produce right out of the gate.
LB Devin Bush, LSU
Cincinnati’s linebacker cupboard is pretty bare following Vontaze Burfict’s release. Their once-feared defense has devolved into a slow, ineffective one that struggles in every capacity. A good start to rebuilding this unit is with a fast, do-it-all linebacker who can play sideline to sideline. Bush has burner speed to cover any tight end and most slot receivers, he plays downhill and aggressive in the run game and is dangerous as a blitzer.
S Darnell Savage, Maryland
Most would sacrifice Jabrill Peppers if it meant getting Odell Beckham Jr., but that move still left a hole in the Browns’ defensive backfield. Savage has many of the tools to fill in that gap. He has track speed, explosiveness and excellent hip flexibility, allowing him to cover man, play deep or break on the ball in mid zone. While a bit undersized, Savage seems like a movable day one contributor.
iOL Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State
Offensively, Denver has several gaps. They could use a quarterback of the future, some more receiver depth, perhaps an impact tight end. But they also just lost starting center Matt Paradis to free agency. He was the anchor of their line, and now with a new high-priced quarterback in Joe Flacco, they may have problems protecting him up the middle. Jenkins would bring a steadying presence inside. He operates with exquisite balance and lateral quickness, and should be an early starter at either center or guard.
OL Cody Ford, Oklahoma
Nothing like helping out your young quarterback by forcing him to run for his life. Houston’s offensive line may have been their greatest barrier between being a good team and a great one. They have the playmaker under center. They have one of the best receivers in the game. But the protection and run game suffered tremendously from the lack of consistent push up front. Ford is raw to be sure, but he is massive, athletic for his size and plays mean. He probably would start his career at guard, but his frame screams right tackle down the road.
S Amani Hooker, Iowa
This has nothing to do with the fact that the Colts’ starting free safety is also named Hooker. Rather, this is about how he and Amani Hooker could play off each other. Malik Hooker is a true ball hawk center fielder. Amani Hooker is similarly a ball hawk, but he excels more in short-to-mid zones. They both have excellent vision, instincts and aggressiveness to break on the ball. Together, they could have the potential to form one of the more takeaway-heavy defensive backfields in the league.
WR Andy Isabella, Massachusetts
Like Baltimore, Jacksonville is moving forward with a bit of a wild card at quarterback and a complete dearth of top end receiving talent. While opinion on Isabella is mixed, one thing is certain: he knows how to get open a lot. The track speed and burst off the line scream outside receiver, but the short area quickness and size suggest slot nightmare. Either way, he has early upside as a security blanket to help ease Nick Foles back into full-time franchise quarterback.
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Kansas City Chiefs
CB Isaiah Johnson, Houston
If there was a fatal flaw that kept the Chiefs from the Super Bowl, it was their defensive backfield. They addressed it in part with the addition of Tyrann Mathieu, but corner is still a question. Johnson brings something Kansas City has lacked as a long press corner that knows how to break on and play the ball. The biggest question with him will be how much development time he needs, given he has only played corner at a high level for a couple of years.
Los Angeles Chargers
OL Dalton Risner, Kansas State
Yes, Risner was my best fit for the other team in Los Angeles, as well. But the skill set he brings works perfectly for both teams, and both have to fill their line right now to remain among the league’s elite. The Chargers have holes all along the line, particularly at guard and right tackle. They drafted Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp to fix the problem a few years back, and neither has resembled the answer they hoped for. Risner can bump inside to shore up the interior, or he can remain at tackle, where he excelled as the anchor of the line at Kansas State.
OT Jawaan Taylor
The Dolphins do not have their long-term answer at quarterback, but it is no certainty that this is the year to find him. Instead, the better option could be to continue the overhaul of the offensive line that they have been working on the last few years. It was interrupted this offseason by the departure of Ja’Wuan James, so slotting in Taylor as an athletic right tackle is a good restart. Taylor also should be a better run blocker right away that James was, given his quicker feet and nasty streak.
New England Patriots
WR Riley Ridley, Georgia
New England’s receiver room has consistently been filled more with technical route runners with good hands than with freakish athletes. They have also generally stayed away from taking receivers in the first round. Ridley fits in with both of those descriptions. He can play through contact, works stems and head fakes well and knows how to use his full catch radius. He also will not burn downfield or excel in jump ball situations, but New England has never looked for that type of receiver though the draft. And since they have five picks on day two, there is ample opportunity to grab Ridley.
New York Jets
DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Williams is probably the most dominant force in the class, and presumably the Jets will have their pick of everyone outside of Kyler Murray and Nick Bosa. Edge is a bigger need than tackle, but the Jets’ tackle group has not been exceptional either. Williams is one of the surest things there is this year, and has the potential to overhaul a defensive line by himself.
Edge Chase Winovich, Michigan
Pass rusher is the Raiders’ greatest need following Khalil Mack’s departure and few players controlled the edge the last two years like Winovich. He answered some questions about his athletic limitations with a strong combine, and his combination of physicality, quickness and relentless motor should make him a multi-faceted edge player. Plus, the Raiders have three picks between 24 and 35, right in Winovich’s projected range.
WR A.J. Brown, Mississippi
The Steelers have shown time and time again that they can get a lot out of receivers with good, not great athletic traits. Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster both had questions about their physical makeup, yet both turned into Pro Bowl-caliber receivers thanks to their ability to do the little things to get separation. A.J. Brown shares those same characteristics. And now, with Antonio Brown in Oakland, the Steelers have a hole that they must fill and fill soon.
TE Noah Fant, Iowa
Delanie Walker is not getting any younger and missed almost all of last season due to injury. Pairing that with the general lack of receiving options for Marcus Mariota and finding a guy to stretch the field should be a priority in this draft. Fant is a bit of a boom-or-bust prospect, thanks to his elite athleticism but general rawness. However, that boom could be as high as any tight end in the league. Fant should, at the very least, be a reliable red zone threat from the day he steps on the NFL field.
–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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