Best Draft Fits For Each Crimson Tide Prospect
If there's anything the NFL Draft is all about for fans, it's speculation.
If there's anything the NFL Draft is all about for teams, it's player fit.
Of course, with meetings, interviews and film scouting, NFL teams have wildly different draft boards than your favorite analysts. Still, based off what we know about teams, the trends, the schemes, the player personality target, speculation on where players will be drafted is half the fun.
But so often it comes down to where players are available rather than where players would truly fit the best. Often times these types of articles aiming to pair player and team in prefect harmony take draft position too seriously.
What if draft position didn't really matter and players could join the teams that truly fit their personality and skill?
Well, let's take a look-see.
Mac Jones's Best Fit: San Francisco 49ers
While I may scream from a lonely Tuscaloosa mountain that the 49ers drafting Mac Jones is nothing more than a smokescreen, it doesn't change that Kyle Shanahan's team isn't the best fit for college football's most accurate quarterback of all time.
Truthfully, as it's been said countless times, Shanahan's offense is extremely quarterback friendly. His offense is as pro style as it gets, while keeping the modern feel well incorporated. In other words, the 49ers rely on a run-first, play action mentality while still making room for motions, RPOs and superb route combinations.
Think Steve Sarkisian with fewer RPOs and way more plays under center.
The team isn't looking for a new leader either, though Jones is certainly capable and willing. San Francisco is stacked on talent, having appeared in Super Bowl 54 just two years ago. Therefor, the pressure wouldn't be on Jones to do anything other than be an intelligent game manager when he is ultimately called upon, which is the meat of his play style.
Whether Jones is the third overall pick or not is the big mystery that drives the top of the draft Thursday night. Maybe he will find the perfect fit.
Najee Harris's Best Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
I'll keep my obvious bias out of this, but it's clear to anyone paying the slightest attention to the NFL Draft this season that there is clear mutual interest between Najee Harris and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Not only is the need great, but Harris's skills are in line with what the Steelers need at running back. The Steelers are one of the few teams that operate best with a work-horse back that can handle all three downs. Harris can do that. The Steelers need a back that can brand the identity of the team in multiple ways, with power, athleticism and dirty work like pass blocking. Harris can do that.
At the end of the day, Harris has traits quite similar to the most recent high-profile running back in Pittsburgh: LeVeon Bell. A rare combination of size and sudden agility with elite patience to find the hole and explode through while bringing an elite presence to the passing game.
On top of the play fit, the Steelers are in a transitional period in leadership. Maurkice Pouncey has retired and Ben Roethlisberger and Cameron Heyward are close behind. Harris comes to the NFL with a veteran mindset that shows a bright and fun personality, but hits as hard on the field as the Steelers are expected to. Sound familiar? JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool and Devin Bush all embody these traits as well.
DeVonta Smith's Best Fit: New England Patriots
DeVonta Smith's ideal situation would see him be the number one option in an offense with established playmakers to draw attention away from him early as he is given routes to get him the ball quickly. The Patriots spent heavy in the off season to give the team a wealth of playmakers for quarterback Cam Newton and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, although relatively straight-forward, knows how to get the most out of great receivers.
The running backs and tight ends are the featured playmakers that can help open up space for Smith, and currently the team has no number one option worth trusting the responsibility to.
As long as Newton is the quarterback, the plan in New England will be to get the ball out of his hands quickly and in unique fashions, something Smith grants full access to do stress free.
New England may need to trade up to grab Smith, but it's not out of the question for the Patriots this year. Bill Belichick didn't like losing in 2020 and isn't looking to do any more of it in 2021
Jaylen Waddle's Best Fit: Los Angeles Rams
The Rams do not have a first round pick, nor the firepower to pull off a trade to draft Jaylen Waddle. It's safe to say with absolute certainty that Waddle will not be a Ram in the near future.
Still, there is no better fit for Waddle. Head coach Sean McVay is a mastermind in route combinations, and his use of receiver motion is unparalleled. Simply put, the Rams would give Waddle ample opportunity to make plays from a variety of spots on the field. Throw in new quarterback Matthew Stafford, who still sports one of the strongest arms in the NFL, Waddle would still have the chance to burn defenses deep in stride.
It won't happen, so imagining Waddle in that offense will have to do.
Alex Leatherwood's Best Fit: Las Vegas Raiders
Alex Leatherwood needs opportunity more than anything. He has potential to be a strong starter at tackle or guard, but he's earned the right to begin his career at right tackle. However, should it not work out, he needs the chance to move inside.
The Las Vegas Raiders purged its offensive line this offseason and a glaring hole at right tackle remains while veterans hold down the guard position and will soon need to be replaced. This would mean Leatherwood could fill that right tackle spot and bump inside if the team eels like an upgrade is in order in seamless fashion.
On top of that, head coach Jon Gruden employs an old-school power run, west coast offense. This means Leatherwood's struggles with agile defensive linemen can be obscured as the quarterback gets rid of the ball quickly and the run game is man-to-man domination.
Leatherwood is a second-round prospect at best and the Raiders could opt for an offensive tackle in the first round, nullifying the need for Leatherwood. However, if the team opts to go elsewhere round one, Leatherwood could be just the right fit.
Deonte Brown's Best Fit: Tennessee Titans
Surprise, the Tennessee Titans run the football a lot. While the scheme is versatile, and is anything but one-dimensional, it's one that would easily accommodate an easy welcome for Deonte Brown.
The Titans spent its first-round selection last year on Georgia guard Isaiah Wilson, and unfortunately he is already out of the league due to his attitude. Obviously, with Derrick Henry rushing for over 2,000 yards, the offensive line is not hurting for talent.
Nonetheless, it wouldn't be surprising to see Tennessee address the future of the guard position in the middle rounds after filling some defensive holes. That works out pretty well for Brown, as he's expected to be a round three or four pick.
Regardless of the chance he could be selected by the Titans, the fit comes down to what the Titans want from its guards. Rodger Saffold is one of the best guards in football and Wilson was a highly-touted prospect. What both have in common from a purely on-the-field perspective is monstrous size and deceptive athleticism. This gives the Titans versatility in its run calls, but ensures its interior linemen won't meet a foe in the trenches they can't handle, one way or another.
Landon Dickerson's Best Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
I'll go ahead and assure the fact that the Steelers won't draft both Najee Harris and Landon Dickerson. Or at least, the odds are extremely low.
The fact is, the Steelers love both players and for similar reasons. Dickerson is a player that brings immediate leadership qualities as well as plug and play talent at a position of dire need.
His powerhouse approach to executing his technical skill as a linemen is very reminiscent of the Steelers former center, Maurkice Pouncey. After all, the Steelers are a team known for running the football extremely well but in recent years has taken to the air to get the bulk of the work done. Sound familiar?
Christian Barmore's Best Fit: Cleveland Browns
For the first time in a long time, the Cleveland Browns don't have many needs. When it comes to its 26th overall selection, there's no telling where the Browns will look to add depth to a fairly strong roster.
The Browns aren't in dire need of Christian Barmore's services, by any means. Nonetheless, Barmore would fit in with Cleveland's menacing defensive formation quite well. The Browns defense, bolstered by Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, has a strong focus on attacking the passer over stopping the run.
While that's not to say the Browns outright ignore the run, they don't, but the scheme plays to the strengths of Christian Barmore and can ease him in with great coaching. Barmore's top strength is his relentless motor followed by his ravenous pass rush. His biggest questions involve coachability and respecting his run fits.
The talent around the Browns defense can protect him, at least somewhat, as he learns his run fits. As for the coaching, well, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin coached the 2019 San Francisco 49ers pass rushers. He's pretty good.
Dylan Moses's Best Fit: Green Bay Packers
What Dylan Moses needs is a realistic opportunity to prove he can reach his elite potential and that he is healthy. The Green Bay Packers are a 3-4 team that has poured all its focus into great pass-rushers up front and one of the better secondaries in all of football. In the middle lies vastly inferior middle linebackers.
The Packers won't spend top capital on a middle linebacker either, and even if the team does, there's still opportunity in a really thin corp for Moses to get on the field and prove himself.
Patrick Surtain's Best Fit: San Francisco 49ers
We'll end with another fantasy scenario that is simply impossible to take place. Before the 49ers traded up to the third-overall pick, Patrick Surtain could have very well landed in the Bay Area at the 12-overall selection and that's why the thoughts of what could have been permeate around his eventual destination.
As I mentioned before, the 49ers are a great team already that finds itself at the top of the draft because of injuries. The need at cornerback is still great and the 49ers could have had Patrick Surtain had the quarterbacks not been so enticing.
Still, the situation could have been perfect for Surtain. With Jason Verrett still on the team, Surtain could be tested, but always have a reliable comrade to take the pressure of covering the number one receiver. Moreover, the 49ers do all the things Surtain is good at: bump-and-run coverage, tight zones and reliable contain tackling.
While it seems Surtain will undoubtedly find himself in the NFC East, what he could have been up to in the NFC West is far more exciting.