Everybody has a theory about where the top prospects will go in the 2014 NFL draft. So instead, which teams are simply the best fits?
Jadeveon Clowney – DE – Best Fit: Oakland Raiders
Finding the best fit for a player has nothing to do with which teams want him and mostly to do with scheme fit. The Oakland Raiders run a defensive scheme tailor-made for Jadeveon Clowney, who much prefers to put his hand in the dirt and rush the passer. Dennis Allen is a defensive coach, so unlike Steve Spurrier he should be able to reach Clowney on a more personal level. Oakland hasn’t had a young centerpiece on defense for over a decade. Everything makes sense for this union.
Khalil Mack – OLB – Best Fit: Houston Texans
While Clowney is the more talented rusher, Khalil Mack is the better fit for the Houston Texans scheme. Under Romeo Crennel they will run a 3-4 system where outside linebackers who can rush but also play coverage are preferred. The position is rather thin for the Texans and in need of help to take some pressure off superstar J.J. Watt. Mack can do all of that and more if selected by the team.
Johnny Manziel – QB – Best Fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
It really is a match in every sense of the word. Johnny Manziel goes to play for coach in Gus Bradley familiar with handling smaller quarterbacks (see Russell Wilson). He gets to use his flamboyant personality and charisma to invigorate a fanbase mired in years of bad to mediocre football and hopefully help sell tickets. Best of all Manziel wouldn’t have to deal with near the media attention he would receive playing in a more established market.
Jake Matthews – OT – Best Fit: St. Louis Rams
Jeff Fisher knows all about what it’s like having a Matthews manning the offensive line. He coached Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews back in the 1990s, a man who helped Fisher reach the Super Bowl in 1999. So given the St. Louis Rams needs on the offensive line, it’s only reasonable to think he’d see similar promise in Jake Matthews, Bruce’s son. The second generation star can play on the left or right sides, is a prove pass protector and good run blocker as well.
Sammy Watkins – WR – Best Fit: Detroit Lions
The latest 2014 NFL draft rumors are not an accident. There is a reason Sammy Watkins continues to get linked with the Detroit Lions. Calvin Johnson has gone years carrying their passing attack on his superhuman shoulders but last year he finally showed signs of wearing down. Detroit knows he needs help. The signing of Golden Tate was a start, but Watkins is so much a better fit. Where Johnson brings the size, he would bring the speed. Their skill sets compliment each other. Best of all Watkins would be playing with Matthew Stafford, a quarterback with the arm to take advantage of that speed.
Greg Robinson – OT – Best Fit: Buffalo Bills
E.J. Manuel and the other quarterbacks for the Buffalo Bills were sacked 48 times in 2013. That is unacceptable. Winning teams don’t allow that. It’s no wondering why the team is in hot pursuit of another quality tackle to pair with Cordy Glenn. Greg Robinson is their golden goose. The Auburn standpoint has the length, power and drive to man the right side, where help is needed the most but he also has the versatility to play on the left like he did for the Tigers. The solutions he offers all line up for the Bills and their needs.
Blake Bortles – QB – Best Fit: Minnesota Vikings
Few offensive coaches have had better success with big quarterbacks than Norv Turner. He helped Troy Aikman (6’4″) win his first Super Bowl in 1992 then turned Philip Rivers (6’5″) into a perennial Pro Bowler. Blake Bortles (6’5″) has a very similar body type and skill set to those two outstanding players and the Minnesota Vikings have never really had one like him. Their need for a quarterback is well-documented. Giving Bortles to Turner just seems logical.
Anthony Barr – OLB – Best Fit: Tennessee Titans
Ray Horton has produced good defenses wherever he goes and they all emulate the greatness of the Pittsburgh Steelers and their “Blitzburg” style. That means a 3-4 alignment loaded up on pass rushing outside linebackers. At present the Tennessee Titans have nobody of note on their roster who fit with that style. Anthony Barr meanwhile might be the most physically gifted outside linebacker in the 2014 NFL draft. He fits like a glove in the 3-4 scheme given his athleticism and length. Horton could build the rest of the unit around him.
Mike Evans – WR – Best Fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In this case everything fits together from the need of the team to the best destination for the player. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers their receiver requirements rose considerably when they traded Mike Williams to Buffalo, leaving just the 31-year old Vincent Jackson as their only receiver of note. Like him, Mike Evans is known best for his size-speed combination. At 6’5″ he can outfight defenders in the air for the ball but still has enough acceleration to beat them down the field. Evans could easily learn from Jackson. On top of that he would inherit a quarterback in Josh McCown who gained great experience throwing to big receivers a year ago in Chicago with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Justin Gilbert – CB – Best Fit: Cleveland Browns
First impressions would likely raise eyebrows. How in the world could one think OklahomaState cornerback Justin Gilbert is a top fit for the Cleveland Browns? Then a little time to examine would reveal the truth. Gilbert is the most athletically gifted corner in the 2014 class. He has the length, agility and speed to match up with any receiver he faces and shut them down. A true cover corner in the making. Cleveland already has one shutdown type in Pro Bowler Joe Haden. Anybody with brains will say the only thing better than a shutdown corner is two shutdown corners. Putting Gilbert and Haden together presents so many possibilities for the Browns and could provide the foundation for great defenses in the future.
Tags: 2014 Nfl Draft Anthony Barr Blake Bortles Buffalo Bills Cleveland Browns Detroit Lions Greg Robinson Houston Texans Jacksonville Jaguars Jadeveon Clowney Jake Matthews Johnny Manziel Justin Gilbert Khalil Mack Mike Evans Minnesota Vikings Oakland Raiders Sammy Watkins St. Louis Rams Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tennessee Titans