Published On: Fri, Apr 20th, 2018

Matchmaker: Finding the perfect prospect for every AFC team

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Speculation is ramping up with the 2018 NFL Draft only a week away. While every team brings a different strategy to the table, the perfect scenario is to land the best player available while also plugging a conspicuous roster hole. Let’s play matchmaker for the AFC with one ideal pick for each club.


Baltimore Ravens

Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

At pick No. 16 in the first round, Baltimore can select the best player available and fill a more immediate need on Day 2. Wide receiver is definitely a possibility. The Ravens overhauled their receiving corps this offseason, with Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and first-round bust Breshad Perriman atop the depth chart. In other words, Baltimore could use another pass-catcher. Anthony Miller would fit in well with Joe Flacco as an immediate starter in the slot, offering dependable hands and shifty route breaks.

Buffalo Bills

Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

The Bills could be looking to trade into the top 10, targeting one of the top available quarterbacks, but Nelson is a fantastic fallback option if they stay put. With Richie Incognito’s status up in the air, and an upgrade needed at right guard regardless, Nelson would be a perfect road-grader for LeSean McCoy. The highly graded guard would also help protect a future quarterback investment in Buffalo.

Cincinnati Bengals

Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia

After trading down from pick No. 12 to No. 21 and acquiring left tackle Cordy Glenn, the Bengals could still use their first-round selection to upgrade their offensive line. Isaiah Wynn would instantly improve Cincinnati’s right guard, center, and even right tackle position. Wynn offers potential impact in both the run and pass games, and could be the best player available when the Bengals are on the clock.

Cleveland Browns

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Sam Darnold would make a ton of sense for the Browns, who will be first to the podium on April 26. Cleveland will undoubtedly select a quarterback with the first pick, and Darnold offers franchise-altering potential, something the team desperately needs. The former USC Trojan is also a perfect fit in new offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s offense.

Denver Broncos

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley is one of the top prospects available, and would be an excellent pick in Denver with head coach Vance Joseph and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. The Broncos recently released C.J. Anderson as well, opening a major hole at running back. If John Elway does not target a quarterback in the first round, Barkley would be the perfect runner in this class to pair with Case Keenum.

Houston Texans

Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh

Barring a trade up, the Texans will not be on the clock until pick No. 68 (third round). The team has a glaring weakness at offensive tackle, so Brian O’Neill would make sense as a late Day 2 target. O’Neill needs some coaching, but his athleticism would fit well in an offense run by head coach Bill O’Brien and quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Indianapolis Colts

Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State

The Colts have a number of needs entering the draft, putting them in prime position to select the best prospect available at No. 6. That player could very well be Bradley Chubb. Chubb is a top-five talent that would instantly upgrade an Indianapolis pass-rush that accumulated the second-least sacks in 2017. The edge rusher also profiles as a nice fit in the team’s new 4-3 defense.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Imagine a backfield featuring Leonard Fournette and Lamar Jackson. Even with Blake Bortles under contract, the Jaguars may not be able to resist this combination. Jackson could be the long-term solution at quarterback for a team picking in late in the first round, and would make Nathaniel Hackett’s offense very difficult to defend.

Kansas City Chiefs

Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech

The Chiefs do not have a 2018 first-round selection, but they do posses one second-round pick and two third-rounders. Virginia Tech defensive tackle Tim Settle would be an interesting target with one of Kansas City’s Day 2 picks. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is looking for a replacement for Bennie Logan, who left via free agency, and Settle looks like a plug-and-play NFL nose tackle.

Los Angeles Chargers

Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea would be an outstanding fit in Los Angeles for a number of reasons. Firstly, he could easily be the best player available with the 17th overall pick. Vea also profiles as an ideal defensive tackle in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s 4-3, Cover-3 based scheme. The enormous lineman can two-gap while edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram can let loose with one-on-one matchups.

Miami Dolphins

Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

Miami’s first-round selection (11th overall) may be too early for a tight end, but one could be targeted in the second round. With MarQueis Gray, AJ Derby, and Gavin Escobar currently atop the depth chart, an upgrade at the position is much needed. Adam Gase loves utilizing tight ends in his offense, and Mike Gesicki’s athletic ability and college production make him an ideal fit for the Dolphins.

New England Patriots

Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

With two first-round selections, the Patriots can address multiple needs on Day 1. Even after signing Adrian Clayborn, New England could use a long-term bookend across from Trey Flowers. A team can never have too many pass-rushers, and Landry is well suited for Bill Belichick’s aggressive defense. At No. 23, Landry would be a steal.

New York Jets

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Baker Mayfield is a popular mock draft selection to the Jets, and it would be an ideal match for Mike Maccagnan and Co. Mayfield has the personality to thrive in New York, and is an excellent fit for Jeremy Bates’ hybrid West Coast offense. After re-signing Josh McCown and adding Teddy Bridgewater in free agency, the Jets need a long-term solution at quarterback.

Oakland Raiders

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

If Denzel Ward falls to No. 11 and the Raiders scoop him up, it would be one of the Day 1’s premier selections. Ward can play in any scheme, and under Paul Guenther the cornerback can play off-man coverage and make explosive breaks on the ball. The former Ohio State Buckeye’s lighting-quick feet make him a potential rookie starter in the slot.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

The Steelers’ biggest weakness entering the 2018 season is at inside linebacker. The team needs an immediate upgrade, and Leighton Vander Esch could be their guy. The former Boise State linebacker is an athletic, versatile, and energetic defender that Keith Butler could utilize in an attacking role, playing downhill and with the opposing offense in front of him. Vander Esch is also a realistic target at pick No. 28.

Tennessee Titans

Marcus Davenport, OLB, UTSA

Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are talented edge rushers, but new head coach Mike Vrabel would surely like to inject some youth into the position. Marcus Davenport is a bit of a project, so Tennessee is an ideal landing spot for the athletic defender. Davenport can be a rotational piece in year one, and take over as a full-time edge player for the following season. At pick No. 25, Davenport would present great value for the Titans.


(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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