10 Perfect Team-Player Fits of the 2020 NFL Draft Right Now
For some fans in the NFL, the 2019 season is already lost. For others, the postseason may still be a potential reality, but they're already looking ahead to much-needed reinforcements coming through the 2020 NFL draft. Whether you're a fan of a winning or losing team as we head into the middle of the season, you might already be looking ahead. And for that, we're pairing up players with team fits.
Team fits can be flexible and can quickly change, of course. The Washington Redskins might have been an option for West Coast offense fits at wide receiver and offensive tackle before firing Jay Gruden, but the new head coach could completely overhaul that system. This makes a late-October list tough in terms of evergreen content, but the team fits and team needs are based on right now—and in some cases, players transcend scheme. There are a few of those in the 2020 class.
Best Fit: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
The Falcons seem destined for a change at head coach following this season, with Dan Quinn struggling to get his team playing with any effort or energy. Whomever the new head coach is, they'll inherit a team loaded with former first-rounders on the offensive line and front seven defensively, but with a huge need at cornerback.
Veteran Desmond Trufant is no longer the impact he once was, and the team doesn't have a lot of youth at the position to move forward without additions. Ohio State's fantastic Jeff Okudah—a player I have graded higher than Marshon Lattimore or Denzel Ward coming out of school—has the body type (6'1", 200 lbs), speed and toughness to project well in any defensive scheme.
No matter who is running the defense next season, Okudah and his Jalen Ramsey-type playing will be a perfect fit at the team's biggest position of need.
Best Fit: LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
The Ravens have missed C.J. Mosley patrolling the middle of the defense even as the team's record improves each week and a playoff berth looks like a lock. Still, the front office led by general manager Eric DeCosta must go into the offseason with a plan to address the middle of the field on defense.
Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray is exactly what head coach John Harbaugh needs at the middle linebacker position. Murray is fast, athletic, instinctive and, maybe most importantly, can stay on the field in passing situations. Watching him run sideline-to-sideline to track down the ball is a sight—as is his ability to drop into zone coverage or blitz and spy quarterbacks.
Murray doesn't have the versatility of Clemson's Isaiah Simmons (a former safety), but he's exactly what modern NFL defensive coordinators are longing for at MIKE linebacker.
Best Fit: QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
The Chicago Bears have a quarterback problem. They also have a shortage of draft picks after sending their 2020 first-rounder to the Oakland Raiders as part of the Khalil Mack package. The good news is the Bears do have two selections in the second round as part of that trade. This could allow the team to move up in the draft or sit tight and hope a quarterback falls to them.
If Round 2 is where the Bears will draft competition and/or a replacement for Mitchell Trubisky, they can hope Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts doesn't follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and hear his name called No. 1 overall; but head coach Lincoln Riley has a way of making that happen with Oklahoma quarterbacks.
Hurts isn't your traditional quarterback prospect, which is what the Bears need after going the ultra-traditional route with Trubisky. Hurts—a fiery leader and electric dual-threat—is the anti-Trubisky in many ways. He has his warts as a one-year wonder in the passing game, but going back to his starts at Alabama, he's always been able to take over games with his football IQ and athleticism.
If teams believe his passing mechanics and decisions have improved under Riley, the Bears might have to package both second-rounders in order to acquire him; but right now, Hurts looks like the best realistic option for the Bears to cure their quarterback troubles.
Best Fit: LT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
Heading into the season, it was fairly obvious on paper that the Cleveland Browns had a hole on the offensive line, notably at left tackle. The thinking was the weapons on the outside of the offense and the quick thinking of quarterback Baker Mayfield could compensate for offensive shortcomings on the line. That has not been the case. The Browns will head into the offseason with general manager John Dorsey having a clear mandate to draft or sign a left tackle.
Andrew Thomas is a hulk at tackle with his 6'5", 320-pound frame. He's light and agile with the foot quickness and balance to be an asset in the passing game but also strong enough to put his pads down and push the pile in the run game. Whether it's Freddie Kitchens' offense next season or someone else's, Thomas is a natural fit at left tackle.
Thomas is the unquestioned best fit for what the Browns need; the real question is whether they'll win too many games to play out of his top-10 draft pick range.
Best Fits: LT Austin Jackson, USC; CB Kristian Fulton, LSU
Jalen Ramsey is gone, but in his place, the Jacksonville Jaguars have a second first-round pick in the next two drafts. With the 2020 class lining up well to meet the team's projected needs, the Jaguars can grab two ideal fits in Round 1 and also look to build on a much less expensive roster that needs an injection of talent.
The two key areas that need to be addressed in Jacksonville are at left tackle and cornerback. Left tackle Cam Robinson has not played well since being drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft and may benefit from a move to the inside where his lack of quickness can't be as exploited. USC's Austin Jackson is a 6'6", 310-pound athlete with a mean streak to finish plays. He's a plug-and-play blindside option for Gardner Minshew II.
Defensively, the Jaguars weren't in great shape to replace Ramsey when he forced his way out of town. A.J. Bouye is really solid on one side, but the team will miss Ramsey's ability to travel with the opposing team's best receiver. That's where LSU's Kristian Fulton is a natural fit given his duties in LSU's man-heavy scheme.
Fulton, who graded out better than 2019 second-rounder Greedy Williams, is a physical technician at cornerback and would have been my top-rated corner in last year's very deep class.
Best Fits: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama; WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama; RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
The Dolphins are light on talent and wins but loaded with draft capital when it comes to the offseason. That's good news, but the front office led by Chris Grier has to hit on the three first-round picks they've hoarded. What does a dream first round look like in Miami?
With the projected No. 1 overall pick, the Dolphins are widely expected by NFL insiders to draft quarterback Tua Tagovailoa from Alabama. It's impossible to get a clear picture of what the Miami offense would look like next season given the lack of talent on the offensive line, but Tua's touch, accuracy, anticipation and athleticism would fit in the wide-open schemes coming to the NFL.
The Pittsburgh Steelers acquired safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins and sent their 2020 first-rounder to Miami. That selection should be used to bolster a passing attack that is sorely lacking in talent. DeVante Parker can be chalked up as a draft bust, and Kenny Stills is now a Houston Texan. Drafting a game-changing receiver must be a priority. Henry Ruggs III has elite, legendary speed and is showing it off weekly as a playmaker for the Crimson Tide. His ability to take any pass to the house and his familiarity with Tua make Ruggs a perfect fit.
With the third and final first-rounder, the Dolphins can use the selection added from the Houston Texans as part of the Laremy Tunsil trade to add a featured running back. A huge need in Miami is a running back who can handle the job of running and receiving to open up the offense—something Kenyan Drake never became. Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor is among the most productive college running backs in the last 20 years and has added more responsibility in the passing game as a junior. He's ready to roll from Wisconsin right into an NFL starting running back job.
Best Fits: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson; WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
The Raiders are owners of two first-round selections thanks to the Khalil Mack trade from before the 2018 season. If last year's draft with Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden together is any indication of what the Raiders will do in the 2020 class, they'll be aiming for high-character, high-producing players from major college programs. These two players fit that brand perfectly.
Isaiah Simmons is the cure for what ails the Raiders in the middle of the defense. A former safety, Simmons has moved down to linebacker full-time and looks like an eraser for defensive coordinators. He's able to match up against slot receivers, tight ends, running backs or simply wreck ball-carriers. The Raiders have been lacking an impact at middle linebacker for the last decade. Simmons fixes that.
With a second choice that now looks like it could be in the middle of Round 1, the Raiders have to address the hole created when Antonio Brown forced his way out. Brown's playmaking ability is missed but can be replaced. Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb looks to be on pace for a Biletnikoff Award and a top-10 draft grade. Lamb doesn't have the kind of speed that would have excited Al Davis, but his ability to make big plays after the catch and his toughness as a route-runner are eye-opening.
Best Fit: WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
Wide receiver or cornerback? That will be the biggest debate for general manager Howie Roseman this offseason as the Eagles prepare to reload a roster that feels dangerously close to falling apart. Making the right decision could be the difference between another Super Bowl run and another year missing the playoffs.
In a draft that's loaded at wide receiver in the first round, the Eagles have to consider the option to replace Nelson Agholor and potentially Alshon Jeffery in the draft. Clemson's Tee Higgins has size (6'4", 200 lbs) and jump-ball ability that Agholor doesn't, and he has more playmaking speed in the open field than the current version of Jeffery. That has to be tempting for Doug Pederson's offensive philosophy.
Higgins currently projects as a mid-Round 1 talent, which is where the Eagles are slotted currently. A second-half run could push them out of his range, but the Clemson star should be high on the Eagles' scouting watch list.
Best Fit: OC Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
With no first-round selection after trading for Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in a position of having major needs and little capital to fill them. This means general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin must be accurate in their evaluations this draft cycle.
When looking for starting-caliber players outside of the first round, the Steelers should be aware of Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey. He's tough, agile, smart and has anchored an offensive line that lost four starters before the 2019 season and might actually be better this year.
Humphrey is an ideal fit for the Steelers' scheme thanks to his mobility in the run game, but he's also a draft value fit with an early Round 2 grade at this stage. He's an ideal replacement for Maurkice Pouncey if on the board.
San Francisco 49ers
Best Fit: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama
The San Francisco 49ers' defensive scheme, led by red-hot head coaching candidate Robert Saleh, is not known for drafting cornerbacks early, but this might be the time to break from the tradition set forth by the Seattle Seahawks, who made the scheme famous.
Saleh wants size at cornerback and Alabama's Trevon Diggs has that at 6'2" and 200 pounds. He also has playmaking skills—as seen Saturday night against Tennessee when he picked up a loose ball at the goal line and took off for a 100-yard fumble return touchdown. Diggs can also cover with refined technique in off-ball coverage and has the size to play in press man should the 49ers' defensive scheme change if Saleh gets a head coaching job.
It's possible the 49ers look to draft a wide receiver early, but with a pick that is currently projected to be No. 31 overall, John Lynch can add a very talented cornerback with Day 1 starter skills.