Let’s take a break from all the free agency humdrum and take a look at what, if we’re being honest, actually floats our proverbial boat: the NFL Draft.
Listed below is not a prediction of what I think will happen, or even what I’d do if I was an actual general manager of an NFL franchise, but merely prospect and organization pairings that I find interesting or fun.
T.J. Hockenson to the Bengals
Hockenson has been projected to land in various NFL cities, so this selection is certainly an interesting one, and it led me to consider several different options. Ultimately it came down to the Falcons and Bengals. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out.
The problem in Cincinnati has always been culture. Andy Dalton is a perfectly adequate starting quarterback and, barring any major issues off the field, Joe Mixon is a stud. A.J. Green is slowing down and John Ross is on his way out of town, or so says the rumor mill.
Why not start off your newly-hired, offensive-minded head coach’s career by adding Hockenson? He will immediately bolster the running game (the guy is a rock-solid blocker) and passing game over the middle, something that has been lacking in Cincinnati ever since the injury bug hit Tyler Eifert.
Noah Fant to the Texans
It’s no secret the Houston Texans need help upfront along the offensive line. Deshaun Watson was the most sacked quarterback last season, so they’ll undoubtedly look at a tackle early in the draft. But where’s the fun in that?
Instead, let’s give them the other Iowa tight end product in Noah Fant, who moved around all over the field for the Hawkeyes; in-line, in the slot, split wide. He’s an explosive athlete who tracks the ball well and can even make things happen after the catch.
He’s not much in terms of a blocker, but with Houston’s offense trending more toward four- and five-receiver sets, Fant’s play-making ability will immediately pay dividends.
Devin White to the Broncos
White was recruited out of high school by LSU to replace Leonard Fournette at running back but is now considered a first-round talent at linebacker. That alone says it all for this guy’s talent.
He checks all the boxes of modern NFL linebacker: run, cover, blitz. He can work sideline to sideline, is a great wrap up tackler, and can cover tight ends and backs easily. He will get lost or fooled on some of his reads, but that’s to be expected of a guy that’s only been playing the position for a few years. Just wait until Denver’s new head coach (and linebacker coaching extraordinaire), Vic Fangio, coaches him up.
Through the years, Fangio has coached some truly great linebackers in Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis (among others), with White being the next to follow in those large footsteps.
Nasir Adderley to the Eagles
Adderley is actually a Philadelphia native and relative of NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley. The Delaware safety made himself into a legit NFL prospect this past year as he displayed great instincts, fluid movement skills, solid play recognition, and impactful bursts to cover large swaths of ground.
Although he’s slightly undersized at 6-feet tall and 195 pounds, he is a reliable tackler. Rodney McLeod is well respected in the Eagles organization, but he’s coming off a torn ACL. Adderley is a pure free safety and the kind of deep field eraser that can allow for more aggressive play calling by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
A.J. Brown to the Seahawks
Brown would fit right in with this locker room and is just as smash-mouth in his play style, at receiver no less, as this offense. He tracks the ball naturally and has sticky hands, and is also able to haul in tough, contested catches by shielding defenders and attacking the ball high, making yards-after-catch look effortless and fluid. Overall, Brown is a chain-moving slot receiver and would complement this down-hill running game in a very positive and impactful way.
Parris Campbell to the Colts
Campbell balled out at the combine and is a fast riser on many teams’ big boards. He displayed precise route running, elite stop-start ability, and tied for the lead among receivers with a 4.31 40-yard dash.
Campbell would bring a new, dangerous element to an already dangerous offensive unit. Fly sweeps, reverses, and wide screens would force defenses to account for more ground horizontally, not to mention his ability to take a five-yard slant the distance. Given time and coaching, Campbell could develop into a high-end, big-play receiver.