5 Draft Prospects Who Fell into the Perfect Situation
One of the downsides for rookies entering the NFL is they don’t usually have a choice about where they’re going to be living or who they’ll be playing for over the next several years.
As such, many talented prospects have been swallowed up by inept organizations, while others watched their game elevate to the highest level thanks in part because they were fortunate enough to land in the perfect spot.
Each rookie mentioned throughout this slideshow was lucky enough to fall in the best possible scenario for their specific needs.
WR Brandin Cooks, Saints
The Mecca for all NFL wide receivers should be in New Orleans, at least while head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees are calling the shots. This talented pair has collaborated for multiple record-breaking passing seasons with their uncanny ability to create mismatches. Not to mention, the indoor accommodations make for prime passing weather all year long.
With speedy rookie Brandin Cooks, mismatches should come easier than most. Cooks ran a blazing sub-4.4-second 40 at the scouting combine, while also showing off impressive change of direction (6.76 seconds) and lateral movement (3.81 seconds), per NFL.com.
When asked about Cooks' role in the Saints' running game Payton replied with this, per Jennifer Hale of Fox Sports.
He would be a candidate if we were running a reverse or behind or a special play. He is someone certainly, with his speed that would be one of the guys we would look to do that with. I think you hope that whenever you add speed to the field, it stretches the defense both in the passing game and the running game. It will just be finding that balance and fitting it into what we are doing.
In college while at Oregon St., spreading defenses is what Cooks excelled at, totaling 3,612 yards from scrimmage in only three years.
Cooks has already impressed his new teammates with his speed and is sure to be a staple in this diverse offense for years to come.
Brees loves to spread the ball around and hit receivers down field. This future Hall of Fame QB has thrown for over 5,000 yards in each of the last three seasons.
Cooks relies on open space in order to take advantage of his world-class speed as he tends to hesitate in traffic. The Saints are well-equipped at creating said space and should provide ample running lanes for their new weapon to exploit.
S Calvin Pryor, Jets
One of the toys Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been longing to have in his defensive scheme is a smart, physical center fielder who can strike fear in the hearts of receivers daring enough to run into his territory.
Not only did Ryan find his big-time hitter with Calvin Pryor, but he is coming to realize that Pryor is also impressing on the mental side of things. During offseason workouts that saw no full contact activity, Pryor was given a chance to flex his other muscle, the brain.
In an aggressive defensive scheme that demands a lot from its safeties to hold the deep center with a lot of man-to-man coverage, Pryor looks to be the perfect complement.
We can also expect significant contributions from Pryor when playing as a box safety. His propensity for contact and verve are one of the primary reasons he was drafted with the 18th pick overall.
Having spent a summer learning Ryan’s defensive philosophy while in Baltimore, I can tell you that he truly understands how to let playmakers do what they do best. For this reason above all others, Pryor should be given every opportunity to maximize his playmaking instincts in a fun, loose environment that treats players like men rather than kids.
Players have famously supported Rex Ryan’s coaching style and trust that he has their back when the going gets tough.
There’s no doubt this is a great environment for defensive players loaded with natural ability and instincts.
RB Carlos Hyde, 49ers
Since the arrival of head coach Jim Harbaugh back in 2011, the 49ers have cemented themselves as the most physical offense in the NFL—all while the rest of the league adapted to the new pass-friendly rules. As a result, this physical, yet creative offense took advantage of ill-equipped defenses that sacrificed size and power for speed and athleticism.
Running back Frank Gore has spearheaded this bulldozing attack since his second year in the league back in 2006. Gore’s modus operandi as a runner has never been sexy or thrilling. Instead, he opts for a consistent, hard-nosed running style that gets the job done and keeps the chains moving.
Now at the age of 31, and with 2,000 carries of mileage, his time is almost up in the NFL.
Enter the rookie running back Carlos Hyde out of Ohio State. At nearly 6'0" and 230 pounds, Hyde is ideally suited for the 49ers’ offense—so much so that he has a great chance of surpassing Gore as the team’s lead back by the midway point of the season, as stated by Bleacher Report's Chris Simms in the video above.
Hyde may be the most talented back in this draft class but slid to the 49ers at 57th overall—in part due to some off-the-field concerns. Hyde was under investigation for assaulting a women at a bar before charges were later dropped. Despite the halt in legal action, Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer followed through with a three-game suspension for “conduct not representative of this football program or this university," via the Associated Press (h/t USA Today).
With the leadership of guys like Gore, Vernon Davis, Joe Staley and Patrick Willis, Hyde should be in a perfect situation to learn how to be a pro and ultimately thrive in an offense designed for his skill set.
WR Jordan Matthews, Eagles
Looking over Chip Kelly’s career as the head coach of Oregon you get a sense that this guy has an affinity for tall receiving options—and rightly so. Big receivers have a decided advantage against smaller cornerbacks.
Now as the Eagles’ head coach, Kelly’s offense has helped guys like Riley Cooper go from a career high of 315 yards to 835. As you can probably imagine, this up-tempo, unique offense is an ideal situation for any receiver looking to contribute. Enter Jordan Matthews.
Let’s also consider the receivers currently on the Eagles roster. After releasing DeSean Jackson in a surprising move this offseason, Philly will now try to spread the ball to a number of receivers.
As of right now, Jeremy Maclin, who returns from a season ending ACL injury, is the starter alongside Riley Cooper. Josh Huff is a fellow rookie who was drafted in the third round, one round after Matthews and Brad Smith, the former QB turned wideout for the Jets, Bills and now the Eagles. They also have Arrelious Benn under contract but there are no guarantees he will make the 53-man roster.
All names beyond those already mentioned range from the obscure to the unknown.
Philly fans shouldn’t be surprised to see a continuation of the impressive play he sampled during offseason workouts along with solid statistics early on. This could especially be the case taking into account Matthews is one of the more experienced rookie receivers seen in a while, having racked up 3,874 yards from scrimmage over the course of his 51-game career at Vanderbilt, which is more yards than any other in SEC history.
Clearly Matthews landed in the perfect situation.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots
In a league known to egregiously lack patience for developing its young quarterbacks, being able to sit and learn behind one of the best to ever play the game should come with many advantages.
Albeit, there are some drawbacks to following in the footsteps of greatness, such as the added pressure of heightened expectations and having to match such a high standard of play. But depending on the point of view, those perceived negatives could actually be a benefit in the long run.
Guys like Steve Young, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck know all too well what it’s like to follow greatness, and you can image that doing so helped fire their competitive spirit to eclipse the men that came before them.
Can a small-school rookie by the name of Jimmy Garoppolo become the next in line to lead and sustain the Patriots' storied dynasty? In order to find out, we’re going to have to wait until Tom Brady either retires or suffers an injury.
In the meantime, Garoppolo is afforded the opportunity to watch and learn from Brady and the entire process of greatness in the making. By the time his chance comes to take over, he should have a chance to fully assimilate to the NFL and acquire the work habits of a great quarterback, all while absorbing as much knowledge as he can from a legendary coach with an ever-expanding coaching tree.
In the end, few organizations, if any, are run better than the New England Patriots. Their ability to stay competitive each and every year despite the parity brought on by free agency has commanded the respect of the entire league.
Any quarterback could do a lot worse than to get one of the finest football educations in the world at the University of the New England Patriots.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player who writes for Bleacher Report.