Match Making: the Perfect Draft Fit AFC Edition

Brady Podloski | April 21st, 2020  

The 2020 NFL Draft is this week and each team has an ideal prospect in mind. For us in the public, all we can do is look at the schemes, the team history, and the offensive and the defensive needs to determine the perfect prospect for each team. I pair each team in the AFC with a player who fits their profile and who is attainable with the pick they have. These perfect fits aren’t just limited to first-round players, but players in any round. With that said, here is the perfect draft fit for each team in the AFC.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills – AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College

At 6’0”, 250 lbs, Dillon is an absolute tank and has the mentality to match. He’s more than just a bruiser, he has excellent contact balance, allowing him to stay on his feet and then fall forward more than the power behind his frame. Dillons has a nose for the endzone in goal line situations, which is exactly what the Bills need to compliment Devin Singletary. The best part is that Dillon will probably be available in the fourth or fifth round.  

Miami Dolphins – Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama

The Dolphins need two components for a player to qualify as a ‘perfect fit’. One, the pick has to be somewhere on the offensive line. Two, the pick should be considered a high floor prospect to ensure that the offensive line gets stability. Wills obviously will play the offensive line but is arguably the prospect with the highest floor due to his functional quickness and effective pass blocking. Wills does not lose in pass protection when going one-on-one against defenders. The only downside is he’s strictly a right tackle and has no experience at left tackle. Overall, he should be considered for the fifth pick in the draft. 

New England Patriots – Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri

‘Albert O’ is a mismatch weapon, with his size at 6’5”, 258 lbs, and with his speed (4.48 forty). The Patriots need a high upside project at tight end, someone who can learn the system as he improves his technique. While Okwuegbunam isn’t a great route runner, nor does he have the blocking ability to be a starter, his development was limited this past year, due to a sprained knee. Okwuegbunam’s ceiling is higher than any other tight end in the class, but the limited experience with route running and blocking is a concern. Overall, getting Okwuegbunam in the third or fourth round would be an excellent value. 

New York Jets – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Jeudy is arguably the best short to intermediate scheme wide receiver. He thrives with slants, short-ins, speed outs, and anything intermediate. Jeudy has traits that translate to the NFL with his elite route running and nuanced separation. The Jets still need another weapon for Sam Darnold to assist in his development, and Jeudy could start day one. He could play every role in the Adam Gase scheme allowing him to be an immediate contributor. 

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens – Kenneth Murray, OLB, Oklahoma

Ravens are still searching for the replacement in C.J. Mosley, and they get one with Murray. He gets everywhere quickly but doesn’t diagnose plays very well due to his lack of experience. As well, Murray can be out of position once in a while, but his tackling makes up for it. Murray, may not be a significant contributor year one but can be a huge improvement over what’s on the current roster.

Cincinnati Bengals – Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan

Peoples-Jones has the potential to replace A.J. Green. Peoples-Jones is a reliable and physically imposing receiver at 6’2”, 212 lbs. What separates him from other receivers is his craftiness in route running as he understands the fine details of route running. The biggest problem with Peoples-Jones is his lack of production over three years, was it a result of underwhelming quarterback Shea Patterson, scheme, or what is Peoples-Jones? Either way, he’s one of the perfect candidates to join the Bengals receiving core as a third-round prospect. 

Cleveland Browns – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

Joe Thomas left a significant void on the left side of the line but it’s difficult to replace a future Hall of Famer. Andrew represents one of the most capable tackles of the top four, and he can slide into left tackle day one. Thomas is arguably the most reliable of the top four when facing an edge due to his balance and technique. He would be able to start day one for the Browns and would significantly assist the protection in the passing game. 

Pittsburgh Steelers – Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri

Elliott’s best trait is rushing the passer from the interior, where he can use his first step explosiveness and quickness to get to the passer. While he doesn’t fulfill the departed Javon Hargrave‘s role, he can contribute right away as an interior pass rusher in a rotational role. If Elliott can learn another pass rushing move, better hand usage, and proper run-stuffing, he can be a great defensive tackle in this league. 

AFC South

Houston Texans – Leki Fotu, NT, Utah

Texans need a replacement at nose tackle for D.J. Reader. The Texans need someone who can stop the run but has an upside to pass-rush, and that man is Fotu. He is a mammoth of a man, weighing in at 337 lbs, and measuring in height at 6’5”, with the power to move guards and centers. He’s limited when rushing the passer largely due to inconsistent play and leverage. However, once he fixes his leverage issues, he will be able to two-gap effectively and utilize a counter pass-rushing move. Fotu in the third or fourth round represents a high upside development project, who can be a starter in year two or three. 

Indianapolis Colts – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

The Colts need a viable receiver to alleviate the pressure T.Y. Hilton faces. More than anything right now, they need more weapons on the offense, as Paris Campbell is more of a gadget player than a receiver. Mims is the perfect compliment to Hilton, as he’s a larger target at 6’3”, 207 lbs, and has phenomenal body control and reliable hands. He has excellent situational awareness allowing him to make toe-tapping sideline grabs. Arguably, his best comparison is a divisional rival, DJ Chark as they have similar speed, size, and traits. He will be there early in the second round for the Colts to draft. 

Jacksonville Jaguars – Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame

Okwara has everything the Jaguars look for in an edge rusher – length, power, and quickness. He also has an effective bull-rush move, but needs to refine his hand usage in order to become a viable three-down starter. He reminds me of Yannick Ngakoue coming out of college. He’s got a deadly bull rush, with bend and length to take the edge, but struggles with leverage and can be inconsistent at times. He should be the target with the 42nd overall pick and can be a value if he reaches his potential. 

Tennessee Titans – Lucas Niang, RT, TCU

The departure of Jack Conklin leaves a void on the right side. Niang has the perfect mentality and size to fit on the Titans offensive line. He’s a nasty tackle at 6’7”, 328 lbs, and has had success playing at a high level before a significant hip injury sidelined him for the year. Niang’s high-level play includes a game against Ohio State where he held his own against Chase Young back in 2018. If he can get back to this level of play, he’s a steal with the Titan’s first-round pick and would be an immediate starting tackle at a huge discount. 

AFC West

Denver Broncos – Cesar Ruiz, iOL, Michigan

The departure of Connor McGovern left a hole in the offensive line. Ruiz would improve the run games and be an excellent replacement for McGovern. He has the agility to pull and get side-to-side, but also the skills to hold up against powerful defensive tackles. He isn’t an elite center or guard but will be a capable starter in a system that can get him going side to side. 

Kansas City Chiefs – Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU 

Edwards-Helaire is half receiver, half running back, and can always force missed tackles with his jump cuts and shiftiness. He was built for Chief’s offenses, with their use of the run-pass-option. He would be one of the most threatening players with his ability to split out wide, run routes, and catch screens. His lateral agility and jump cuts are one of a kind and mixed with his vision, he is a threat to always pick up yardage. 

Las Vegas Raiders – Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado 

The Raiders need a receiver who can make plays and be the focal point for the offense. Shenault is arguably one of the highest ceilings prospects in the draft due to his size (6’1″, 227 lbs), run after the catch ability, and versatility. Although Shenault lacks route runner ability and suddenness, he has the athletic tools to be a successful receiver in the NFL. In his first year, Shenault would offer versatility with gadget plays, screens, and being a dump-off option for Derek Carr. He will be around when the Raiders make their second first-round pick and would be a key contributor for the offense. 

Los Angeles Chargers – Cam Akers, RB, Florida State 

The Chargers need someone to split the workload with Austin Ekeler since Melvin Gordon wasn’t re-signed. Akers is a well rounded running back, offering some elusiveness, power, shiftiness, and vision in his runs. Florida State misused Akers and didn’t provide him the space to flourish, which is illustrated in his lack of production. If Akers is given space to make a decision and use his vision, he’ll be a dynamic running back in the league. 

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