Perhaps I’m falling victim to the recency bias, but this upcoming NFL draft class seems like a particularly special one. However, it’s a tragedy that the most exciting and talented players will end up on the lousiest teams in the league, with two of the top four brightest future careers crashing and burning in Cleveland.
But what if it wasn’t like that. Let’s imagine that the best up-and-coming talents could play on the best teams in the league. If the eight remaining teams playing this weekend were able to draft one future rookie to help them bring home a Lombardi, who would each team select?
- Tennessee Titans: Minkah Fitzpatrick CB
In the latest mock drafts, Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick has not appeared as a projected No. 1 pick. However, I believe that the Titans would be best off addressing their biggest need rather than adding one of the flashier, big-name players. Tennessee, though young, already has promising offensive talent with Marcus Mariota and Derrick Henry.
On the other hand, their defense, specifically the pass defense, could use some improvement. Having allowed the eighth most passing yards in the regular season, adding the top corner in the draft would certainly help the Titans going forward, especially since they will likely have to defeat both Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger in order to advance to the Super Bowl.
- Atlanta Falcons: Calvin Ridley WR
Despite being a Wild Card team, the Falcons are very dangerous. Their roster is full of talent, so which future rookie would help them the most? Alabama’s Calvin Ridley could be the weapon that puts the Atlanta offense over the edge. The Falcons already have Julio Jones, who I believe is the best wide receiver in football today. But Jones has had to carry too much of the Falcon’s offensive burden this season, finishing with more than twice as many receiving yards than his next teammate. Adding Ridley to that receiving corps makes the Falcons passing game a nearly unstoppable force.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Courtland Sutton WR
The Jaguars have a fantastic defense, and boast the best run game in the league. So naturally, it seems they could benefit most by adding a weapon to the passing game. Jacksonville has been banged up at receiver all season, hurting mostly from losing their top target in Allen Robinson to a knee injury. SMU’s Sutton is a 6 foot 4 freak with both the size and speed to make big plays for the Jags.
- New Orleans Saints: Quenton Nelson G
This one is easy. The Saints have performed well all year on both offense and defense, and haven’t had any glaring needs. That was until starting guard Andrus Peat broke his leg in the Wild Card matchup against Carolina. Thankfully (in this hypothetical situation), there is a 6 foot 5 inch, 325 pound guard from Notre Dame who is a top ranked prospect for 2018. Nelson helps New Orleans fill a void, keeping Drew Brees safe in the pocket.
- Minnesota Vikings: Derrius Guice RB
The Vikings already had an electric rookie running back this season in Dalvin Cook, but sadly he suffered a devastating injury back in early October which ended his season. As a result, Minnesota averaged less than four yards per carry in the regular season, putting them in the bottom half of the league. In three years at LSU, Guice averaged 6.5 yards per carry and totaled 29 rushing touchdowns. With Case Keenum exceeding expectations, and Minnesota’s defense dominating opponents, adding a talent like Guice could make the Vikings the most complete team remaining.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Saquon Barkley RB
This one might have you scratching your head. The Steelers already have arguably the best running back in the NFL in Le’Veon Bell, so why do they need to add the top running back in the draft? Well, even with Le’Veon, the Steelers were 25th in the league in yards per carry. Barkley averaged 5.9 yards per carry this year at Penn State, and would turn the Steelers offense into an absolute juggernaut, as it would be nearly impossible for opposing defenses to game plan against both Bell and Barkley.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Baker Mayfield QB
The Eagles are the only team remaining who could still benefit from a quarterback change. Nick Foles has not given fans confidence that he can pick up where Carson Wentz left off before getting injured. So if it’s confidence that Philadelphia needs, Baker Mayfield is definitely the guy. Despite the depth of talent at quarterback in this draft, there does not yet seem to be a consensus top pick. So whether or not Rosen or Darnold is the most complete quarterback in the draft, this year’s confident Heisman winner is the best option to lead this team on a playoff run right now.
- New England Patriots: Roquan Smith LB
Despite their early woes, the Patriots defense has corrected itself and actually performed well in recent weeks. However, New England is still reeling from the loss of veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower. In his tenure at Georgia, Roquan Smith showed the athleticism and leadership needed to help bolster the Patriots defense and help them try to repeat.