Best NFL rookie fits
Zaven Collins, LB, Arizona Cardinals
Collins is perfect to fill the Hasson Reddick role and may be an even better fit than Reddick was. Collins played both off the ball and on the line of scrimmage in Tulsa’s defense and possesses unique athletic abilities. His 6’5” 270 lb frame would normally say defensive end, but Zaven has displayed coverage skills and has deceptive speed. The fact that he can both cover and rush the passer, when Reddick was really just a pass-rusher, makes him a perfect fit in this 3-4 scheme.
Kyle Pitts, TE/WR, Atlanta Falcons
Pitts was going to be a good fit wherever he went. He is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses with tight end size and the skillset of a wide receiver. He is too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for defensive backs. Add in new head coach Arthur Smith, who unlocked the potential of both Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith in Tennessee, and you have a perfect match. With Julio Jones now gone, Atlanta needs a new star in the passing game, and Pitts can certainly fit the bill.
Rashod Bateman/Tylan Wallace, WR, Baltimore Ravens
Baltimore’s passing game has been near the bottom of the league since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback. That may be a shock to you given the dominance the Ravens have had on offense, but it has mostly been through running the ball and using their tight ends in the redzone. The reality is they just haven’t had that game-changer at receiver. Marquise Brown will outrun people, but you need more. They have tried to add some bigger players like Miles Boykin, but both Wallace and Bateman could quickly surpass him on the depth chart. Bateman can give them a big-play threat, while Wallace gives them versatility and speed with decent size and a good level of physicality. Perfect guys for building this passing attack.
Jaycee Horn, CB, Carolina Panthers
Donte Jackson has been decent, but Horn gives Carolina an immediate upgrade next to recent signing AJ Bouye. Horn might not start because of the rookie learning curve, but his play and bloodlines make him a prime candidate to become a star down the road. The Panthers are building their defense and would benefit from playing their young prospects, putting Horn in a perfect situation.
Terrace Marshall, WR, Carolina Panthers
Carolina needs to rejuvenate its passing game. The acquisition of Sam Darnold began the process, and Marshall can instantly become the team’s No. 2 receiver and eventually supplant Robby Anderson as No.1. The Panthers still do not have a legitimate No.1 at the position, but adding Marshall is a win for both parties. He adds immediate depth for the team and ends up in a spot where he can contribute from day one and make a name for himself.
Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears
Fields becomes the most heralded quarterback in Chicago since Jay Cutler. There has been a ton of debate about who the last great Bears’ QB was, but everyone agrees it has been a long time. Fields could end up starting as a rookie (although the team claims Andy Dalton is QB1) and brings a dual-threat element that others don’t have. His development is crucial as he could become the star the team desperately needs.
Teven Jenkins, OT, Chicago Bears
The Bears have also really struggled on the offensive line and have seen some turnover this offseason. Jenkins is reportedly working at left tackle right now, but I thought he fit better as an RT or even at guard. Either way, he’s a plug-and-play player that immediately improves this group at one of its weaker positions.
Micah Parsons/Jabril Cox, LB, Dallas Cowboys
Linebacker play was suspect for the Cowboys last season. Despite spending early draft picks on elite prospects and getting great play from them a couple of years ago, the unit was a big part of Dallas’s defensive struggles in 2020. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch have speed and can move around well, but their reads on run-fits tended to get them stuck on blocks. Parsons should fill in for the retired Sean Lee from day one, while Cox can immediately help Dallas fix its pass coverage issues.
Derrick Barnes, LB, Detroit Lions
Barnes is the kind of linebacker Detroit has not had in a long time. He started his college career as a DE/OLB hybrid and transitioned to middle linebacker as a senior at Purdue. Just from YouTube videos, you can see how he would improve the defense. Under the previous regime, the Lions’ linebackers were notoriously slow in reacting and abysmal in pass coverage. While pass coverage may still be a work in progress for Barnes, some of his best strengths are tackling and ball pursuit, which will be perfect for this team.
Amari Rodgers, WR, Green Bay Packers
Much is often made of the Packers neglecting to add receiving weapons in the early rounds for Aaron Rodgers, and they finally took one in the third round just as Aaron is threatening to leave the team. Amari has great speed and can play well as a slot receiver and punt returner. He had some injuries early in his career at Clemson but broke out as a senior with 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns. Based on Green Bay’s current depth chart, Amari Rodgers brings an element to the Green Bay offense that has not been there since Randall Cobb and should be considered the best option in the slot.
Nico Collins, WR, Houston Texans
When Houston traded DeAndre Hopkins last offseason, it lost its only big-play threat. The remaining roster was filled with smaller, speedier guys who didn’t have the size to win 50-50 battles consistently. Enter Collins. He’s 6’4 and immediately gives the Texans a jump-ball player. He also has the speed to beat DBs consistently. Quarterback play could affect his production as a rookie, but there are not many obstacles to immediate playing time in Houston.
Nick Bolton, LB, Kansas City Chiefs
Bolton’s speed, range, and tackling ability are perfect for today’s NFL. He will hit you as hard as anyone and can cover when needed. The Chiefs have been updating their defense with an infusion of young playmakers in recent years, and Bolton could be a perfect pair with Willie Gay in the middle for years to come.
Creed Humphrey/Trey Smith, OL, Kansas City Chiefs
KC also reshuffled its offensive line after letting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz depart. Humphrey and Smith were both considered 1st round players—and possibly the best prospects at their respective positions—before the season began. Humphrey made a great case for himself, while Smith saw his draft stock fall. Still, both are starting-caliber players and fit well with the Chiefs.
Rashawn Slater, OT, Los Angeles Chargers
Slater, theoretically, fills the final slot on the Chargers offensive line. He’s considered an elite tackle with a high ceiling and plenty of room to improve. Not only is he perfect for the position he needs to fill, but the rest of the roster also has plenty of successful veterans to help him along the way.
Asante Samuel Jr, CB, Los Angeles Chargers
Michael Davis improved last year, but the Chargers are incredibly thin at corner. Samuel instantly becomes the No. 2 CB in this secondary. He may eventually fit better at the nickel, but Chris Harris Jr. already plays there. As with any rookie corner, he may struggle at first—and his size does not help much—but Samuel has an opportunity to make a name for himself, and the Chargers desperately need his skills.
Trevon Moehrig, S, Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders landed a top prospect at safety with Johnathan Abram two years ago, but he has had some health issues and is suspect in coverage. Moehrig is the best coverage safety in this draft and should have an immediate role on the defense. He’s already more well-rounded than both Abram and Karl Joseph, so don’t be surprised if he starts Week 1.
Jalen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
Waddle gives Miami a potential No.1 receiver, who can step in immediately as a No.2 to DeVante Parker and has a good rapport with young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The addition of Waddle deepens a receiving corps that also includes veterans Will Fuller and Albert Wilson. Now, the Dolphins will not have to rely on those inconsistent players to fill prominent roles. The veteran presence should also help Waddle grow quickly as a professional. He ended up in an ideal scenario and can contribute from day one.
Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami Dolphins
While Miami’s defense carried it late in the season, the pass rush was not what it needed to be. Looking at the current roster, there still isn’t much on the edge outside of Emmanuel Ogbah. Phillips was the top pass-rusher in the draft and can start from day one-- giving the rush the juice it has been missing. Plus, he played locally at the University of Miami and should already have plenty of fans in the area already.
Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots
Jones fits the profile of a prototypical Belichick quarterback—not overly athletic but smart and mobile enough to run the offense. He also comes from an Alabama program that has many similarities to New England in how the culture operates. Jones may not start from day one and could be held back by a lack of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but he is a winner and fits exactly what the Patriots want.
Paulson Adebo, CB, New Orleans Saints
With Patrick Robinson reaching his mid-30s and the departure of Janoris Jenkins, the Saints suddenly needed depth at corner. Adebo was once thought to be a first-round talent and fell to the 3rd round in a deep class due to injury. When healthy, Adebo is the prototypical corner for the NFL. He is tall and long and makes plays on the ball—tallying 10 pass breakups and four interceptions for the Cardinal in 2019. The Saints are generally good at developing players, putting Adebo in a great spot to have a successful career.
Kadarius Toney, WR, NY Giants
Are the Giants suddenly an offensive juggernaut? While the jury is still out on young QB Daniel Jones, there are plenty of skill players on this team to indicate “yes.” They signed Kenny Golladay and already had Saquon Barkley, Sterling Sheppard, Darius Slayton, and Evan Engram. You add a versatile player like Toney, and you immediately see points on the board. Toney played mostly receiver and punt returner at Florida but can be used in many ways. He’s electric with the ball in his hands, and having those veterans on the roster will mean he doesn’t have to be the guy right away and can take his time to develop. Any immediate impact from Toney just takes this offense to a new level.
Elijah Moore, WR, NY Jets
Moore adds a speed receiver the Jets haven’t had and becomes a potential future WR1 who can develop along with rookie QB Zach Wilson. Moore’s ability to stretch the field should be a welcome addition to this roster and open up the field much more.
DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Smith immediately becomes WR1 in Philadelphia. He is a great rout-runner and has speed for days. Going to Philadelphia also reunites him with former teammate Jalen Hurts at quarterback. While they did not play much together, there should still be some chemistry, allowing Smith to hit the ground running in the pros. It is really the best spot he could’ve landed.
Landon Dickerson, OL, Philadelphia Eagles
Philly really needed some help up front and landed perhaps the best offensive lineman in the draft. Not only is he tough, but he has a personality that is easy to root for. This is a perfect situation for Dickerson because he can plug in immediately at guard to get his feet wet and eventually take over the center spot when Jason Kelce decides to call it a career.
Najee Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Harris just screamed Steelers running back to me during this whole process. He is a big runner like they favor and can catch out of the backfield. He should bring offensive elements that Pittsburgh has not had since Le’Veon Bell. With all the uncertainty on offense going forward, the Steelers needed a guy like Harris.
Isaiahh Loudermilk, DL, Pittsburgh Steelers
Loudermilk also screamed Steelers for me. He is long and stout at 6’7” and over 300lbs and can play both DT and DE in the 3-4. The Wisconsin defense is pretty similar to Pittsburgh’s, and the players seem to translate really well. Also, having a leader like TJ Watt on the team should help his growth. Great fit for the d-line rotation.
Quincy Roche, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
With Bud Dupree gone, this seems like a perfect developmental pass-rusher for the Steelers. Roche played an undersized defensive end role at Miami last year but was a stand-up pass-rusher at Temple previously. In 2019, he had 13 sacks in the role for the Owls. He should not be viewed as an immediate starter, but he fits the defense well for the future.
Trey Lance, QB, San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan has never really had a mobile quarterback in his offense, but that is what makes this such a great fit. Whenever Lance gets on the field, he will bring a new element to an offense that is already difficult to defend. It is also a great fit because Lance can lean on some of the veteran stars on the offense and will not necessarily have to play immediately. Any time you can get a rookie QB to sit for a year and learn the ropes without hurting the team’s on-field performance is a good fit.
D'Wayne Eskridge, WR, Seattle Seahawks
DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, D’Wayne Eskridge. Good luck keeping up, defenses. Although Seattle needed to address the offensive line, Russell Wilson has no shortage of weapons with speed. The trio of receivers is one of the fastest in the league and will be difficult to stop. With the current roster, Eskridge should see immediate playing time at WR3.
Kyle Trask, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It can never be a bad fit when you get drafted to back up Tom Brady. Brady has been notoriously secretive when it comes to giving his young backups tips in the past, but it sounds like he is a little more open to the teaching aspect as his career nears the end. Head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich have been known to develop quarterbacks, so Trask is in a position where—if he fails—it will be because of work ethic or lack of talent; not coaching.
Dillon Radunz, OT, Tennessee Titans
After losing Jack Conklin in free agency a year ago, the Titans thought they had their next right tackle in Isaiah Wilson, on whom they use a 2020 1st round draft pick. Fast forward a year, and Wilson has been traded and may even be done with football. Radunz fell to the second round and has been considered more of a left tackle in the future, however, he seems like a plug-and-play guy and will battle veteran Dennis Kelly for the starting spot. I think the board fell perfectly for Tennessee in this case.
Jamin Davis, LB, Washington Football Team
Washington’s defense carried the team while the offense was finding its footing in 2020. The defensive front was loaded, yet the unit did not have a true leader in the middle. Davis is an instant upgrade over Jon Bostic and should start from the get-go. He should also be in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Dyami Brown, WR, Washington Football Team
Brown enters the league immediately as WR2/WR3 in Washington—depending on how they deploy free agent signing Curtis Samuel. Washington does not have a deep receiving room and starting spots are there for the taking. Brown’s senior year was not as great as his junior year, but he is a perfect complementary player to take pressure off Terry McLaurin.