Wishing an early Merry Christmas to you and your family from everyone at Cover 1. There’s nothing better than the holiday season. Giving, spending family time together, unwrapping presents, and enjoying new gifts is what makes this time of year memorable. With the giving season upon us, let’s put a little twist to this, though. Each team around the league has needs at certain positions. Here’s a breakdown of a pleasant NFL Draft gift that each team would love to receive during the holidays.
EDGE — Nick Bosa — Ohio State
The Cardinals are on track to be the worst team in the league. There are questions surrounding Steve Wilks and if he will be one-and-done as head coach. General manager Steve Keim is also under a lot of heat. While they are a team that has plenty of needs, this article is designed to only give out one gift. Nick Bosa is the most glorious gift under the tree in that he has the chance to be a franchise cornerstone. Patrick Peterson’s days are most likely numbered because of his desire to be with a winner, and there will be a need for a new face of the franchise on defense.
DT — Ed Oliver — Houston
Ed Oliver is amazing. Off the charts explosiveness. pic.twitter.com/Um8AXa236E— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) December 19, 2018
One of the more disappointing teams in the league this season has been the Falcons. A roster that was hit hard with the injury bug, there will be huge expectations heading into 2019. Grady Jarrett is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, and his price won’t be cheap. Regardless of whether he returns, the team has major questions along the defensive line. General manager Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn have shown in years past that they aren’t shy about taking undersized but explosive defensive play-makers. Adding Ed Oliver, and with multiple players returning from injury, this defense could be very scary next year.
EDGE — Rashan Gary — Michigan
The end of an era may be near. The future of Terrell Suggs is unclear, and whether team wants to bring him back remains an unknown. Suggs has been with the team his entire career and already stated that he would love to be back and finish his career with the team that drafted him in the first round of the 2003 draft. Whichever route the franchise decides, it must prepare for life after the veteran. Gary is a similar player to Suggs in that he has enough flexibility to play multiple positions along a three- or four-down defensive front and who has tons of potential, but the question marks about his consistency will follow him.
OT — Jonah Williams — Alabama
Josh Allen has come on strong since returning from an elbow injury. He has given the Bills’ fan base hope going forward that he can be the team’s long-term solution under center for the future. The objective now should be finding protection for their most recent first-round selection. Pairing Williams with Dion Dawkins gives the franchise two young and very talented bookends to protect Allen.
S — Deionte Thompson — Alabama
The Panthers have struggled on the back-end of their defense for a seemingly countless number of seasons. They haven’t had a headliner name in the secondary since the glory days of Josh Norman. The best way to improve your secondary that’s known to have miscommunication and personnel issues is to find a center field safety that can minimize those mistakes and lack of talent. Thompson is a rare talent in that he’s versatile enough to play the box against the run, but also able to stay on the roof of the defense in single-high coverage. His sideline-to-sideline range is an aspect that the Panthers’ defense desperately could use.
CB — Trayvon Mullen — Clemson
After trading multiple picks for Khalil Mack, the Bears rediscovered their Monsters of the Midway identity. General manager Ryan Pace expedited the team’s rebuild process, and the team is now in position to make a deep playoff run after finishing with a disappointing 5-11 record last season. The offense was the focus of the team’s offseason last year, and now Pace may turn his attention back to the defensive side of the ball. Prince Amukamara has had a career season, and nickel corner Bryce Callahan will be one of the hottest free agents on the market if the sides are unable to come to terms on a contract extension. The depth at cornerback remains thin, and adding another talented player on the depth chart should be an option.
LB — Devin White — LSU
It feels like the Bengals have lacked speed in the middle of the defense forever. Vontaze Burfict is unreliable on and off of the field, and Malik Jefferson still remains a work in progress. For a team that seems to have been stuck in the same spot for over a decade, upgrading the second level of the defense should be seen as a necessity. White gives the team a significant upgrade at linebacker and a potential centerpiece for the foreseeable future.
CB — Byron Murphy — Washington
There arguably isn’t a team throughout the league with a brighter future than the Browns. With a projected $85 million in cap space to 11 picks in the upcoming draft, and potentially finding their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, the arrow is finally pointing up for an organization that has witnessed decades of turmoil. Denzel Ward, the team’s other 2018 first-round pick, put together a promising rookie campaign, but the spot opposite of him remains a question mark. Inserting Murphy into that spot opposite Ward gives the defense two potential long-term solutions on the outside.
TE — Irv Smith, Jr. — Alabama
The Amari Cooper trade completely turned around the season in Big D. After lacking a true threat on the perimeter for Dak Prescott, the team had no worries surrendering a first-round pick for him. The gamble has proven to work out so far. With that in mind, we have to keep the gifts realistic at this spot. There’s not a headliner at the top spot on the depth chart at tight end, and since Jason Witten’s surprise retirement the spot hasn’t been filled with high-end talent. Adding Smith to the current arsenal potentially gives Prescott one of the best supporting casts in the league.
QB — Will Grier — West Virginia
With a huge need at cornerback and offensive tackle, many are still not completely sold on the team drafting a quarterback early. With Case Keenum entering the final year of a two-year, $36 million deal, and knowing that he’s not in the team’s long-term plans, it would be wise to get a signal-caller in place while there’s a reliable bridge option in place. Being that he will be a 24-year-old rookie, Grier is very mature for his age. He has limitations that will most likely keep him out of day one considerations, but if the team is comfortable finding their quarterback of the future on day two, he is one of the better options.
CB — Greedy Williams — LSU
The Lions are a team that took a step back in their first season under head coach Matt Patricia. Outside of the frustrating laundry list of injuries that the team suffered, the most disappointing part about the entire season was the play in the secondary. Littered with talent led by Darius Slay, the production just wasn’t there. Finishing near the bottom of the league in pass defense, there’s a huge need for a counterpart opposite Slay. Williams brings that to the table and more. His presence, technique, and upside would be a huge asset in the Motor City.
Green Bay Packers
TE — Noah Fant — Iowa
Arguably the most appealing head coaching vacancy in the league resides in Green Bay. With a generational talent at quarterback and a team that will have two first-round picks in 2019, there are plenty of positives going into the offseason. After signing a three-year, $30 million deal last year, tight end Jimmy Graham was not worth the investment. Being that he will be 33 years old at the beginning of next season, there needs to be a future plan in place. Fant brings plenty of versatility and flexibility to the table. He can be flexed out or placed in-line as a receiving option. Pairing him with Aaron Rodgers has the makings of a formidable duo.
OT — Greg Little — Ole Miss
Greg Little in a nutshell. Solid athlete/footwork, needs to gain strength, and show a meaner streak through the whistle. Scouts will love his natural traits and upside though. pic.twitter.com/G8MlAKtCNx— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) December 20, 2018
Whenever your quarterback is unable to travel on the team plane and has to ride by bus due to the hits and injuries he’s suffered throughout the season, that’s a huge problem. Luckily, Deshaun Watson is able to create and win with off-script plays. Despite that, the Texans’ offensive line remains one of the worst in the league. With Julien Davenport and Kendall Lamm as their starting offensive tackles, there’s a severe lack of talent at both spots. While still possessing many flaws, Little is better than both previous options from the second he hears his name called on draft night. Little’s athleticism and natural talent will intrigue many teams, and there’s plenty of untapped potential there. Regardless, protection for Watson is desperately needed, and Little immediately provides that.
WR — D.K. Metcalf — Ole Miss
With a projected $118 million in cap space and eight draft picks, general manager Chris Ballard has the most ammo of any team heading into the offseason. Andrew Luck is in the driver’s seat for the Comeback Player of the Year award, and the early returns from the 2018 draft class look stellar. Eric Ebron was a pleasant surprise and T.Y. Hilton has been the team’s top perimeter option for multiple seasons. Outside of that, there really aren’t many weapons for Luck. At 6’3″ and 230 pounds, Metcalf is one of the few receivers in this class that possesses true upside of a top receiver. His big body and playing style complement Hilton’s downfield abilities very well.
QB — Dwayne Haskins — Ohio State
Dwayne Haskins has shown the ability and comfort to make full field reads. The advancement and maturity that he's shown in just 13 collegiate starts has been great.— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) December 6, 2018
Here's a great example. pic.twitter.com/k45JjeWKpw
After a tumultuous fall from grace, the team finally admitted that they made a mistake signing Blake Bortles to a three-year, $54 million extension last February. After Bortles’s benching, the team turned to Cody Kessler, who showed that he’s also incapable of being the answer going forward. That leaves a huge hole at the most important position on the depth chart. Haskins breathes some life into a team that desperately needs it after falling well short of expectations following an appearance in the AFC Championship game just a season ago.
Kansas City Chiefs
CB — Amani Oruwariye — Penn State
The Chiefs, without question, have the most high powered offense in the league, but there are serious questions on the other side of the ball. The defense is ranked near the bottom in most statistical categories, especially against the pass. Orlando Scandrick isn’t a long-term answer, so there needs to be an upgrade at cornerback. With the heavy amount of man-to-man coverage that the team likes to run, Oruwariye fits perfectly. He has the size and length that the franchise will covet but will need to improve his tackling effort in order to become a more well-rounded player.
Los Angeles Rams
EDGE — Brian Burns — Florida State
After trading a 2019 third-round and 2020 fifth-round pick to the Jaguars for Dante Fowler, it was clear what the Rams’ biggest needs were. With Fowler scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason and the team having limited cap flexibility, it will be in the same situation they found themselves in prior to the trade deadline. Luckily, this draft class is filled with edge rushers, but the team will have a limited selection due to their pick being later in the round. Burns is a realistic option because his slight frame (6-4, 235) may scare teams away from selecting him. With the help that the team needs on the edge, the former Seminole would fill a huge need along the defensive front.
Los Angeles Chargers
DT — Jeffery Simmons — Mississippi State
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are two stalwarts along their defensive line, but there are huge questions marks along the interior front. Brandon Mebane turns 34 years old in January and is entering the final year of his current contract. Simmons provides an immediate answer to the team’s struggles up the middle, and he has the position versatility similar to many others along the defensive front. Adding him to an already impressive mixture of defensive talent improves a run defense that has been inconsistent.
EDGE — Clelin Ferrell— Clemson
The Dolphins desperately need help along the defensive line. Charles Harris, the team’s 2017 first-round selection, has had trouble staying healthy and only recorded 2.0 sacks in as many seasons. Cameron Wake will be 37 years old at the start of next season, and William Hayes will be 34 and coming back from an ACL tear. Robert Quinn seems to be the team’s only long-term solution, but he has recorded only 5.5 sacks this season, and he’s entering the final year of his deal in 2019. With talented quarterbacks throughout the division, the defensive line and youth at the position need to be replenished.
OT — Dalton Risner— Kansas State
Kansas State RT Dalton Risner hasn’t surrendered a sack since 2016. He’s started every game of his collegiate career (50) – with 37 starts at RT and 13 at center.— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) December 22, 2018
He’s a 3-time team captain as well, one of just five players in school history to do so.
The organization will face backlash and the fanbase will riot if the team doesn’t somehow address the offensive line situation. Rookie RT Brian O’Neill has been a pleasant surprise and has the makings of eventually sliding over to the left side to replace Riley Reiff down the road. Risner started all 50 games during his collegiate career. He hasn’t surrendered a sack since 2016, and he’s a three-time team captain, which has only been accomplished five times in program history. The type of character, technique, and mean streak that he possesses are exactly what the franchise needs protecting their $84 million investment in Kirk Cousins going forward.
New England Patriots
TE — T.J. Hockenson— Iowa
On track to suffer their worst record in years, many believe that the Patriots are finally falling from grace. After being the model franchise throughout the league over the past two decades, there are many areas in which the team has declined. Earning MVP just a season ago, Tom Brady is on pace to have his worst season since 2013. Tight end Rob Gronkowski doesn’t look like his normal self — his back injuries finally look like they are starting to take a toll on him. Hockenson provides an immediate presence as a devastating blocker and a reliable option as a pass catcher.
New Orleans Saints
TE — Dawson Knox— Ole Miss
The team doesn’t own a first-round pick in 2019, but that shouldn’t keep them from addressing their biggest weaknesses. Linebacker, receiver, and tight end seem to be the team’s three biggest needs, and with this draft class being strong at tight end, the team should look to add a versatile weapon to an already explosive offense. Knox was very underrated and rarely utilized at Ole Miss, but in the limited touches he did receive, his traits stood out. In Sean Payton’s high octane offense, his skill set could shine brightly.
New York Giants
QB — Justin Herbert— Oregon
No one knows if Herbert will actually declare for the NFL Draft. He’s not telling anyone anything, and rightfully so. His younger brother is an incoming freshman, and rumors are swirling that he really wants to play with him. On the other hand, is it really worth it to turn down being a potential top-10 selection? Those are the questions that he will have to answer. Herbert is a near perfect fit in Pat Shurmur’s offense. With a surrounding cast of Odell Beckham, Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram, Herbert would be walking into an ideal situation if the team could continue to add pieces to the offensive line.
New York Jets
EDGE — Jachai Polite— Florida
The Jets have plenty of defensive talent, headlined by safety Jamal Adams, but they don’t have a consistent threat off of the edge. The team hasn’t had a feared pass rusher since the glory days of John Abraham during the early 2000s. With the NFL being such a pass-heavy league, it’s time for the franchise to find that next great threat at edge rusher. Polite is the type of pass rusher that the team has sorely lacked. Already possessing elite bend, he is a true pocket destroyer and would be a welcome addition to a team that has lacked true pass rushers for quite some time.
DT— Quinnen Williams— Alabama
Quinnen Williams is the real deal. A rare combo of power and speed, which leads to constant disruption, and he's extremely stout as a run defender. pic.twitter.com/yixNmwbt8o— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) November 27, 2018
Rookies Maurice Hurst and P.J. Hall have played very well early, but neither has the upside that Williams so apparently has. In his first season as a starter, he proved to be a game-wrecker week in and week out in the SEC. A rare feat, Williams’s upside is limitless in that he could one day develop into an elite NFL talent. It’s perfectly fine for teams to make a current strength even stronger, especially when the players already on the roster aren’t necessarily better than the talent that you potentially could add to the group.
OT — Yodny Cajuste — West Virginia
The reigning Super Bowl champions suffered a huge hangover and have had a topsy-turvy season this year. There are plenty of variables and blame to go around that caused this to happen, but the injury bug seems to be the most popular. The secondary needs lots of help, but there are some intriguing pieces already in place that could turn into better players with a bit more patience and another season of development. The offensive tackle situation needs somewhat of a makeover. Jason Peters has been a staple of the front for nearly a decade, but injuries and a dip in production seem to slowly be taking a toll on his body. It’s unclear if the team will part ways with him this offseason, but an heir apparent needs to be in place due to his injury history. Cajuste is a very solid option to fill that void.
CB— Deandre Baker— Georgia
It feels like we say this every year, but the Steelers need lots of help in the secondary. Terrell Edmunds hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing to this point, Artie Burns is a lost cause, and Joe Haden is inconsistent. Baker would arguably be the most talented cornerback on the roster early on. His hips, technique, and ball skills will give him an edge over much of the current talent on the roster. Long speed will continue to be the huge question mark with Baker, but for what he will be asked to do in the Steelers’ scheme, it would allow him to contribute early on as a rookie.
San Francisco 49ers
EDGE— Josh Allen— Kentucky
The 49ers have been decimated by the injury bug this season, and it has shown in their record. As a result, they are in prime position to acquire a top-five pick. Despite spending multiple high first-round selections in previous years on the defensive line, they could just do it again. DeForest Buckner is a player who has shown promise. Arik Armstead has been injured, and after being the third-overall pick in 2017, Solomon Thomas’s career is off to a slow start. The team lacks a feared presence off of the edge. Allen could certainly be the pass rusher off of the edge that the team lacks.
EDGE— Dre’Mont Jones— Ohio State
After doing what seems like a roster rebuild on the fly, the Seahawks have been one of the biggest surprises in the league. Moving on from most of the “Legion of Boom” and heavily relying upon one of the youngest rosters in the league, the early returns have been a huge success. There are some glaring holes along the interior defensive front, and the need for a true three-technique is evident. Jones is a bit raw, but his natural athleticism is clear. He has some refinements that he needs to make to his overall approach, but he would be an ideal fit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
OT— Cody Ford— Oklahoma
The direction of the organization remains cloudy as upper management seems to be on the fence about whether head coach Dirk Koetter will return in 2019. The quarterback spot has been a two-man game of musical chairs between Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the team seems comfortable letting their former No. 1 overall pick play out his fifth-year option ($20.92 million) next season. Regardless of the direction in which the team is headed, addressing the offensive line should be the top priority. Ford is massive (6-3, 340 pounds), but he’s a tremendous athlete for his size. He has an undeniable mean streak, the positional versatility to play guard or tackle, and lots of physical tools that are easily translatable.
EDGE— Montez Sweat— Mississippi State
General manager Jon Robinson struck gold in the second-round drafting Harold Landry last year. Adding Sweat opposite him could prove to be a dynamic one-two punch off of the edge. With Brian Orakpo getting a bit long in the tooth and scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, the team should continue to build upon the youth at edge rusher.
QB— Drew Lock— Missouri
It’s not a secret that the team needs a quarterback. Alex Smith’s injury timetable remains an unknown, and the team has somehow still found a way to win games with Josh Johnson under center. With Smith’s future in doubt, it would be very wise for the team to protect themselves and select their signal-caller of the future. Lock is far from being ready to step onto an NFL field as a starter, but he is a nice young project to have in-house, which is something the team doesn’t have currently.
For more NFL Draft news and analysis, follow Jordan on Twitter @JReidNFL