2017 NFL Draft: Here's the best fit for all 32 teams when they're on the clock
Edge rushers are by far the most popular fit in a draft loaded with defensive talent
Who is the best fit for each team in the NFL Draft, based loosely on where that team is picking, but with little regard to whether that player might logically already be chosen?
That was the assignment for The Sports Xchange insiders who cover each of the NFL's 32 teams. The results of that survey are telling, depending on how one looks at it.
Eight players were chosen by two teams, with four of those being edge players -- and another six pass rushers named by single teams.
So prospective pass rushers, by whatever name -- edge players, defensive ends, outside linebackers -- were by far the most popular fit with a total of 10 teams naming that position.
The so-called return of the running back was acknowledged with four teams picking three ball carriers. Stanford Cardinal 's Christian McCaffrey was named by NFC East rivals Philadelphia (No. 14) and Washington (No. 17).
The survey confirms a hesitance to regard quarterbacks as highly as they are often selected.
Twelve teams list quarterback as a need, six as a top-three need and three as No. 1. But only two teams found quarterbacks as a best fit, and with different quarterbacks.
The Cleveland Browns used their second of two first-round picks, at No. 12, on North Carolina's Mitchell Trubisky. Texas A&M's Myles Garrett was selected as a better fit with the Browns' No. 1 pick. Make of that what you will. The Houston Texans , in the No. 25 spot, named Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the best fit.
Now about those pass rushers. Of the 10 teams who picked one, four shared the same desire. The Browns (No. 1) and San Francisco 49ers (No. 2) saw Garrett as the best fit. Tennessee Volunteers 's Derek Barnett was the best fit for the New Orleans Saints (No. 11) and the Indianapolis Colts (No. 15). Michigan Wolverines 's Taco Charlton was the best fit for the Miami Dolphins (No. 22) and the Dallas Cowboys (No. 28), while Wisconsin Badgers 's T.J. Watt was the best fit for the Green Bay Packers (No. 29) and Atlanta Falcons (No. 31).
The other six pass rushers were Stanford's Solomon Thomas for the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 4), UCLA Bruins 's Takkarist McKinley for the Baltimore Ravens (No. 16), Temple Owls 's Haason Reddick for the Detroit Lions (No. 21), Vanderbilt Commodores 's Zach Cunningham for the Oakland Raiders (No. 24), Auburn Tigers 's Carl Lawson for the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 30) and, in the third round, Florida Atlantic Owls 's Trey Hendrickson for the New England Patriots with their first pick (No. 72).
The run on edge players upstaged the strong cornerback class, where NFLDraftScout.com listed six potential first rounders and 16 within the top 100. Only four cornerbacks were named as initial best fits, and none attracted more than a single team.
Here is a look at the prospects NFLDraftScout.com insiders matched up as best fits on initial picks for each team and an explanation about the fit.
1. Cleveland Browns
Best fit: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
There is no premier quarterback in this draft, so the Browns can get the next best thing -- a premier pass rusher. The Browns were one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season because they had difficulty pressuring the quarterback, ranking 29th in sacks per pass play. Garrett had 31 sacks in three years in college. Garrett is big, fast and strong, and he has the fiery attitude the Browns need to change the defense. There is nothing not to like about him.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Best fit: DE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M
When you get a chance to pick No. 2, you absolutely, positively have to come away with a game-changer. There is no such player out there this year at arguably the club's top four areas of need -- quarterback, wide receiver, cornerback and safety. So if Garrett, the consensus top talent in the draft, were to fall into their laps, the 49ers would be crazy not to take him. Yes, the club used its top pick on a defensive end each of the past two seasons. Last year's choice, DeForest Buckner , might be as good as Garrett. Arik Armstead from 2015 definitely is not.
3. Chicago Bears
Best fit: S Jamal Adams , LSU Tigers
Adams is the most logical choice for the Chicago Bears ' long-standing need at safety with their third pick in the draft. A young play-maker with great hitting ability, Adams can play in the box or cover a slot receiver. Traditionally, teams do not select safeties this early, but the truly elite safeties are taken there and Adams gives an indication he could be this type of player. At 6-feet and 214 pounds, he runs a 4.56 40-yard dash but defends against the run like a linebacker. Teaming a physical safety like Adams with veteran play-maker Quintin Demps in the deep secondary would be a good blend. And in Adams, the Bears wouldn't be taking an injury risk like they might have if they select defensive lineman Jonathan Allen , whose past shoulder injuries have raised red flags.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Best fit: DE Solomon Thomas, Stanford
Thomas has outstanding athleticism with both power and quickness. At 6-3 and 275 pounds, he could add another 10 pounds to make it even tougher for opposing linemen to block him. He is relentless when it comes to the run or the pass and has the skill set to fight off blockers. He has all the athletic traits to become a high-impact player and could be a standout for the next decade. Some say the downside is that his size makes him a "tweener" where he might struggle to keep weight on to play inside and that he doesn't have the length to hold his own on the outside. But the arrow appears to be decisively pointing up for Thomas and how his skills would fit in with the Jaguars' 4-3 scheme. Jonathan Allen might be the better overall player, but there are concerns about his past with injuries. Thomas thus gets the nod over Allen if the Jaguars have their choice of the two defensive standouts.
5. Tennessee Titans
Best fit: CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State Buckeyes
The Tennessee Titans are armed with two first-round picks, thanks to last year's trade of the No. 1 pick to the Los Angeles Rams . Having just released Jason McCourty and his $7 million base salary, the Titans have a need in the secondary, even after adding Logan Ryan in free agency. Lattimore is regarded as potentially the best cornerback available in this draft. The biggest question about him has been injuries. The talent, however, seems to be in abundance. The Titans, however, might try and trade down a few slots if there is a pool of players to be chosen from that they like and there's no consensus at No. 5.
6. New York Jets
Best fit: S Jamal Adams, LSU
The New York Jets need talent everywhere, but going with secondary help in Adams is a safer bet than rolling the dice on North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who started just one season with the Tar Heels, or Alabama Crimson Tide tight end O.J. Howard , whose impact would be minimized by the league's worst quarterback situation. As an experienced prospect with a well-rounded game, Adams would provide an immediate upgrade on hard-hitting but inconsistent Calvin Pryor while helping jump-start a long-needed rebuild of the back end of the secondary for the Jets, who have ignored or overlooked safety going back to the Rex Ryan days.
7. Los Angeles Chargers
Best fit: S Malik Hooker , Ohio State
The San Diego Chargers hit their bull's eye by drafting the right Buckeye in last year's first round in selecting Joey Bosa , the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The team could grab Hooker, Bosa's former teammate, and solidify a secondary that is still overcoming the loss of All-Pro Eric Weddle . Hooker is a ball-hawking All-American who had eight interceptions last season. Considering the AFC West teams' outside threats, having Hooker in the middle of the defense on its back end could cause havoc, with Bosa doing likewise.
8. Carolina Panthers
Best fit: RB Leonard Fournette , LSU
The Carolina Panthers , who head into the draft with eight choices, have made it no secret they'll be coming out of the weekend with a running back or two. They've been in love with Fournette's power and potential the entire pre-draft process and the big back is their ideal choice at No. 8. The thought of Fournette in the same backfield as quarterback Cam Newton and running back Jonathan Stewart makes Carolina coaches salivate and would make opposing coaches very nervous.
9. Cincinnati Bengals
Best fit: LB Reuben Foster , Alabama
Cincinnati's defense got old fast, which tends to happen in the NFL. With Foster, the Cincinnati Bengals would add an athletic but fierce linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed and run-stopping ability. His dismissal from the combine due to an altercation doesn't play in his favor. Neither does a rather lengthy injury history. However, the Butkus Award winner could help fill a void left by the release of veteran Rey Maualuga , who also was adept in stifling the running game, and the loss of Karlos Dansby to free agency. The Bengals also have needs on the defensive line, but Foster teaming with Vontaze Burfict and newcomer Kevin Minter would give the Bengals' defense a ferocious tandem at linebacker.
10. Buffalo Bills
Best fit: WR Corey Davis , Western Michigan Broncos
The Buffalo Bills are painfully thin at wide receiver and they need to find a viable starting option to play opposite Sammy Watkins . Davis, or Clemson Tigers 's Mike Williams , would fit the bill. At 6-3 and 209 pounds, Davis would give the Bills a play-maker with good size and speed.
11. New Orleans Saints
Best fit: DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
With only 30 sacks last season, the Saints desperately need some power and speed on the edge to line up opposite Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan . The 6-3, 259-pound Barnett would fit the bill. Barnett is the next-best defensive end on the draft board behind Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas and his 33 sacks and 52 tackles for loss in just three seasons at Tennessee have to make him an attractive target for the Saints.
12. Cleveland Browns
Best fit: QB Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina
The Browns can take a quarterback with the 12th pick. The question is whether they'll be able to get the one they want. Head coach Hue Jackson demands accuracy, and that would give Trubisky the edge over Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer . Trubisky completed 68 percent of his passes last fall while throwing 30 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. Trubisky won't be ready to start immediately, but the Browns are willing to give him time to develop.
13. Arizona Cardinals
Best fit: LB Reuben Foster, Alabama
The Arizona Cardinals replaced departed free agent Kevin Minter with 35-year-old veteran Karlos Dansby, who turns 36 in November. But they need a younger, meaner version of Dansby to man the middle long-term and Foster represents everything the franchise likes in a hungry, angry middle linebacker. He can help set the tone for the entire defense moving forward.
14. Philadelphia Eagles
Best fit: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
The Philadelphia Eagles have an unsettled running back situation. Darren Sproles is 34 and is calling it quits after next season. Ryan Mathews probably isn't expected to be back. The versatile McCaffrey would be a perfect fit for head coach Doug Pederson's West Coast hybrid. He is a three-down back who can line up anywhere in the formation, including as a slot receiver, and be a big part of the Carson Wentz-led passing game.
15. Indianapolis Colts
Best fit: OLB/DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee
The Colts need immediate help at rush outside linebacker. While trying to add help through free agency to the rest of the defense during this offseason, Indianapolis is in dire need of a young, athletic outside pass rusher who can also handle the responsibilities in pass coverage. The Colts pick 15th overall in the first round and Barnett is expected to still be available at that point of the draft.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Best fit: OLB Takkarist McKinley, UCLA
McKinley is one of the top pass rushers in the draft and would fit perfectly in the Ravens' defense. Baltimore is in desperate need of another player who can attack the quarterback after cutting ties with Elvis Dumervil at the end of the season. McKinley could serve as the heir to Terrell Suggs , who is the franchise's all-time sacks leader but turns 35 in October. McKinley has the motor to thrive in the AFC North. Baltimore might be able to move back to get him and acquire an additional pick.
17. Washington Redskins
Best fit: RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
The Washington Redskins need more defensive players. But so what? They have 10 picks in this draft and could trade down for more. They still need help at running back and McCaffrey is lauded for his pass-catching abilities and his explosiveness. He wouldn't have to be used as an every-down back as Washington has Rob Kelley for the tough up-the-middle runs and Chris Thompson as a true third-down back. Add McCaffrey to that mix and the Redskins' offense can again be explosive even after the loss of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon in free agency. Tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis , slot receiver Jamison Crowder , free-agent signing Terrelle Pryor and 2016 first-round draft pick Josh Doctson provide plenty of other weapons for head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins to work with.
18. Tennessee Titans
Best fit: TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
Rankings for Howard have been all over the first round, depending on which mock draft you look at. It is possible that Howard might be a Titans target, even if they have to move down from No. 5 or up from No. 18. He has the size and athletic skills to be a weapon in the NFL, and Tennessee having lost Anthony Fasano in free agency needs a second tight end to pair with Delanie Walker , and to eventually be the heir apparent to the 32-year-old Pro Bowl selection.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Best fit: RB Dalvin Cook , Florida State Seminoles
The Bucs refuse to commit to Doug Martin , who will miss the first three games of 2017 serving a suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. His salary is no longer guaranteed. The team also re-signed Jacquizz Rodgers . But Cook would guarantee a needed component for the Bucs and quarterback Jameis Winston , his former Seminoles teammate. Cook is a three-down back, the bell cow the Bucs really lack with explosive speed, power and the ability to make plays in the passing game. Kicker Roberto Aguayo might have been a miss in the second round a year ago, but Winston will lobby hard for Cook.
20. Denver Broncos
Best fit: T Cam Robinson , Alabama
Although fellow tackles Ryan Ramczyk and Garett Bolles might have higher ceilings, Robinson is the most ready to step in and start immediately. With a gaping hole at left tackle, the Denver Broncos need to find a starter, one way or another. Robinson's stellar performance against Texas A&M's Myles Garrett last year offers evidence that he can handle edge rushers; he held the likely No. 1 overall pick without a sack.
21. Detroit Lions
Best fit: LB Haason Reddick, Temple
Reddick's stock has skyrocketed since the end of the college season to the point that he might sneak into the top half of the first round. If he makes it to 21, though, the Lions would be wise to snap him up. Reddick played defensive end at Temple, but should transition to linebacker in the NFL. The Lions have a huge need at the position, with Tahir Whitehead , Paul Worrilow and Antwione Williams their projected starters, and Reddick's athletic profile fits what they want in linebackers. In sub packages, the Lions could even use Reddick as a pass rusher to help their thin crop of defensive ends.
22. Miami Dolphins
Best fit: DE Taco Charlton, Michigan
His speed and explosiveness off the edge would be a perfect complement to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Pro Bowl defensive end Cam Wake. Charlton, who has been called inconsistent, had 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for losses in 2016, and had a good showing in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. While Miami returns defensive ends Andre Branch and Terrence Fede , among others, Charlton is a different type of pass rusher than anyone in the group except for Wake. And the Dolphins badly need defensive line help.
23. New York Giants
Best fit: LB Jarrad Davis , Florida Gators
Despite having glaring needs on offense, the New York Giants will probably look to add pieces to their defense. One such area where the defense, although showing some improvement, could get even better is in covering running backs and tight ends. Davis, at 6-2 and 225 pounds, could be that guy who can help contribute to the run defense with his instincts and tackling ability. Davis had 201 total tackles over his four-year career, 20 tackles for a loss. Lest anyone think he's a one-trick pony, Davis can also bring the heat on the blitz. Davis generated 22 pass-rush pressures on 49 pass rushes in 2015, his last full season.
24. Oakland Raiders
Best fit: LB Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt
The Raiders have been looking for a fast, athletic and play-making linebacker in the Bobby Wagner mode and Cunningham could be a plug-and-play starter to join Bruce Irvin as a second active player on the second line of defense. Cunningham probably translates to an outside linebacker in a 4-3 and inside in a 3-4, but the Raiders do a little of both and often have only two linebackers on the field anyway.
25. Houston Texans
Best fit: QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
The Texans have a glaring need at quarterback after trading away Brock Osweiler to the Browns and Tony Romo opting to go to CBS as an analyst rather than play for them. They currently have Tom Savage , who is prone to injuries, atop the depth chart. They need to identify a quarterback for the future and Mahomes fits the bill. He has a strong arm and is instinctive, but needs polish and time to develop.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Best fit: CB Kevin King , Washington
The Seattle Seahawks have not drafted a player from the local Division I school since taking tight end Jerramy Stevens in the first round of the 2002 draft. With the Seahawks lacking cornerback depth and an apparent fraying of the relationship with star cornerback Richard Sherman , King would fill a significant need for Seattle. He has the textbook size Seattle prefers in its cornerbacks and had perhaps the best workouts of any player at the NFL combine. While King is still a bit raw as a prospect, the Seahawks have proven capable of developing cornerbacks through head coach Pete Carroll's tenure.
27. Kansas City Chiefs
Best fit: CB Marlon Humphrey , Alabama
In today's NFL, a defense never has enough defensive backs; even though the Kansas City Chiefs have taken five cornerbacks in the past four drafts, they are still looking for a consistent and talented cover corner to match with 2014 first-round choice Marcus Peters . Humphrey has the obvious physical tools in size and speed, and the tape of two seasons as a starter for the Crimson Tide. Coming out of Nick Saban's program, he should be advanced in fundamentals and understanding of coverages and how he fits into a defensive scheme
28. Dallas Cowboys
Best fit: DE Taco Charlton, Michigan
The Cowboys are looking for a war daddy pass rusher and Charlton has the upside to develop into one. He is a guy who should be there at No. 28 when it's the Cowboys turn to pick. The Cowboys brought Charlton in for a pre-draft visit.
29. Green Bay Packers
Best fit: OLB T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
An entire state of Packers and Badgers fans is clamoring for this selection to be made toward the end of the opening night of the draft. General manager Ted Thompson has held the successful Wisconsin program in high regard for a long time. Interestingly, however, the Packers have taken only one player from the state's only Division I team on Thompson's watch since 2005, and that was wide receiver Jared Abbrederis in the fifth round in 2014. What's more, the last time Green Bay selected a player from Wisconsin in Round 1 happened in 1948 with back Earl "Jug" Girard. The emergence of Watt as a viable first-round pick would address a top need for the Packers.
They need to replenish some of their edge-rushing depth after Julius Peppers returned to his original team by signing with the Carolina Panthers, while former first-round pick Datone Jones moved over to the rival Minnesota Vikings . Thompson certainly has to take into account Watt's pedigree as the youngest of three brothers who will play in the NFL simultaneously. The 6-4, 252-pound Watt's breakout season of 63 tackles and 11.5 sacks with Wisconsin last season has left many a general manager and defensive coordinator wondering whether he's capable of putting up those numbers on a consistent basis at the next level, a la big brother J.J., the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers
Best fit: OLB Carl Lawson, Auburn
The Steelers need an eventual replacement for James Harrison as well as a player who is capable of spelling the soon-to-be 39-year-old veteran next season. Lawson can help on both fronts. Injuries are a concern as he missed significant time at Auburn with knee and hip injuries. But when he was healthy last season, Lawson registered 9.5 sacks and was a dominant force in the SEC. Lawson won't be under pressure to start as a rookie, but the Steelers can find ways to make him a part of their pass rush in passing situations.
31. Atlanta Falcons
Best fit: DE T.J. Watt, Wisconsin
The younger brother of NFL players J.J. Watt (three-time Defensive Player of the Year) and Derek Watt (Chargers fullback) will be available when the Falcons select with the 31st overall pick in the draft. At first glance Watt, a converted tight end, appears to be a first-round reach. He thrived for one season in Wisconsin's 3-4 defense when he finished with 63 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles last season. Watt needs to get stronger and has an injury history the Falcons must investigate. He has the frame to add the weight and a huge upside as a potentially sturdy and versatile pass rusher.
He went to Wisconsin from suburban Milwaukee in 2013 and red-shirted as a tight end. In 2014, he missed the season with a right knee injury. He then injured the left knee in the spring of 2015. In the summer of 2015, he was moved to outside linebacker and gradually became comfortable at his new position. While some scouts believe that Watt would have benefited from returning to school for another year, others like his upside as a potential game-wrecking pass rusher.
32. New Orleans Saints
Best fit: CB Tre'Davious White, LSU
In head coach Sean Payton's first 11 drafts, the Saints have taken only one player ( Al Woods in 2010) from right up the road in Baton Rouge. But if they stay in the 32nd spot, they might not be able to resist grabbing White, a sturdy, physical 5-11, 192-pounder who can cover with his 4.47 speed. He has played mostly outside during his four-year career, but also got some experience as the nickel back this past season.
37. Los Angeles Rams
Best fit: WR Corey Davis, Western Michigan
The Rams need to improve the infrastructure around young quarterback Jared Goff , and desperately need a big, fast, dependable receiver who can put fear into opposing defenses. Davis fits that bill, and if he is available at 37 the Rams should jump at the chance to bring him in. Davis is a four-year starter and one of the most productive players in the draft, having capped his impressive career with 97 catches, 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016.
48. Minnesota Vikings
Best fit: G Dion Dawkins , Temple
The Vikings need a right guard and have been burned too many times with the philosophy of drafting Day 3 guards and trying to mold them into serviceable players down the road. They need to invest more in the offensive line, which has been a weakness for too long. No first-round pick and a weak pool of linemen to sift through make it difficult to bolster the line this year. But the 6-4, 314-pound Dawkins could be a good addition. He's not the top guard available, but he's a physical player with a nasty side similar to what the Vikings like about left guard Alex Boone . Dawkins also is experienced, having started 43 games at left tackle. He played guard at the Senior Bowl and has the skill set to move to the right side.
72. New England Patriots
Best fit: Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic
Bill Belichick enters the draft without a first- or second-round pick thanks to offseason trades. But the defensive-minded coach has been working the scouting trail hard, seemingly with a focus on front-seven defenders. Hendrickson could still be available at No. 72. He fits the mold Belichick likes in edge players at 6-4 and 266 pounds with a 4.6 40. The Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year had 23 sacks the past two seasons, blocks kicks on special teams and even saw action as a blocker on offense, the type of versatility in a mid-round pick that New England eats up. Hendrickson would be a nice developmental prospect at a spot of need on the edge of the Patriots defense.
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