Where a prospect is drafted can make or break a career. Some talented players fall victim to poor scheme fit that derails their career before it even gets started. Here are a few best/worst case scenario for some top prospects:
Joe Burrow, QB LSU
Best: Miami Dolphins
Rumor has it that the Dolphins view Burrow as their top quarterback and trying to find a way to move up and get the LSU product. Burrow would have the chance to learn from a veteran quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick and would be with a rebuilding team that will allow him to be patient in his development. With several high picks this year and next year’s draft, Burrow could be surrounded by a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. Also, Brian Flores seems to be a promising head coach in a division with no clear-cut favorite anymore.
Worst: Cincinnati Bengals
Yes, the most likely scenario for Burrow is absolutely the worst-case scenario for him. It makes for a good story that the Ohio native is returning home to try and lead a struggling franchise to the top. But, in reality, that’s where the positivity ends. The Bengals might be the NFL’s least talented team, especially on the offensive line, and historically are unwilling to spend money in free agency. Add in the fact that you’re playing in the AFC North which is stacked now and the first few seasons will be tough for Burrow and the Bengals.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama
Best: Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers are a franchise in need of an identity (and fans) and need a quarterback after longtime face of the franchise Phillip Rivers joined the Colts. Also, the Chargers have one of the more talented rosters in the league and aren’t too far off from being a playoff team. Tua would have plenty of targets and a strong running game to help him and the AFC West lacks an elite defense. A team trying to establish itself in a big market and a new stadium needs a player of Tua’s caliber and Tua would fit best with a team as talented as the Chargers.
Worst: Cincinnati Bengals
I swear, I’m not picking on the Bengals on purpose. They’re just a poorly run franchise and would destroy a quarterback’s chance to thrive. Most of the reasons I listed why it’s a bad fit for Burrow applies for Tua as well, but another reason would be Tua’s lack of arm strength. Playing in a cold weathered city like Cincinnati and with the lack of supporting cast around him, Tua would struggle with the Bengals.
AJ Epenesa, DL Iowa
Best: Seattle Seahawks
Once a top-ten pick, Epenesa just hopes to go in the first round now and the best way to show his value is by playing in a defense that will allow him to line up at multiple spots across the line. The Seahawks run a hybrid 4-3 scheme that would ideally line up Epenesa as a big end in a base formation and then inside on passing downs, almost how Michael Bennett lined up for them during the legion of boom era. Also, being drafted at the end of the first round might help Epenesa as the more talent that surrounds him, the less double teams he’ll face.
Worst: New York Giants
While the Giants won’t draft him at four, there’s a good chance that they’ll target an edge rusher at the top of the second. While Epenesa would immediately be one of the best defensive linemen for the team, he’s not what they need. They need a speed edge rusher crashing in off the edge, which is not what Epenesa is best at. He will line up on the edge, he will do his best pass rushing off of stunts and playing inside. Giants already have Leonard Williams who they just franchise tagged that already does that for them.
Laviska Shenault, WR Colorado
Best: Chicago Bears
As the weeks go by, the more it looks like Shenault is going to drop out of the first round. However, this might just work out best for him as the best fit is the Bears who own the 43rd and 50th pick and need a receiver. Whoever is the quarterback for them this year needs a target besides Alson Jeffrey and a versatile one like Shenault can go a long way. He’ll line up best in the slot but if you utilize him like how the 49ers do with Deebo Samuel, you might see some similar results. A creative play-caller like Matt Nagy can make a player like Shenault a star.
Worst: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins need another receiver, no doubt about that but they would do best with a speed threat that can attack you on short routes and also take the top off of the defense. Shenault is not a deep threat, he’s used best when the ball is in his hands early on slants and screens. There’s just not a fit there in my eyes as Dolphins should target a player like KJ Hamler in the second, a speed demon who can open things up for Devante Parker.
Justin Herbert, QB Oregon
Best: Los Angeles Chargers
Many of the reasons that the Chargers are a great fit for Tua make it also a great fit for Herbert. Good roster, good coaching, and the chance to be a star in a big market. However, there’s another reason why Herbert would fit best with the Dolphins and that’s Tyrod Taylor. While no one will ever mistake Taylor as a franchise quarterback, he’s a solid option to start for a season. Because of this, Herbert does not need to be rushed into the starting lineup and can spend time developing the mental aspect of the game while having a veteran ahead of him teaching him the ropes.
Worst: Miami Dolphins
While they are a team on the rise, they are more inclined to draft a quarterback and have them play early. Herbert needs at least a season to sit and learn and Dolphins would be pressured to play him early. They do have Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen, but both of those guys are so streaky and are always a quarter away from being benched. The Dolphins also have a poor offensive line which means that whoever is behind center will have to diagnose the defense much quicker and at this point, Herbert needs to refine the mental aspect of his game.
Jordan Love, QB Utah State
Best: Green Bay Packers
This might seem like an unlikely landing spot for Love, but listening to Colin Cowherd’s show the past few weeks, he brings up a lot of strong points as to why the Packers might draft a quarterback early. Rodgers isn’t getting any younger and showed some regression for the first time this past season. He has also has missed multiple games in his career to injury and a smart organization like the Packers always think ahead. Sit Love for two seasons, at which Rodgers will be 38, then give him the keys to the franchise. LaFleur is a young, bright offensive mind who can tutor Love and turn him into a star.
Worst: Las Vegas Raiders
Gruden loooooooooooves a quarterback like Love. Athletically he can do it all and is the closest thing to Mahomes in this class. That being said, he needs time to develop and a creative offensive scheme. Gruden likes to run the ball and use that to take deep shots on play-action which should help a strong-armed quarterback like Love, right? People said the same thing about Jamarcus Russell and we know how that turned out. Early in his career, Love will need schemes that rely on getting receivers open with space to run. I don’t think the Raiders will do that for him. With Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota both on the team with uncertainty, I could see Gruden rushing a new face at quarterback to play to usher in a new era of football in Las Vegas.
Henry Ruggs, WR Alabama
Best: Denver Broncos
The Broncos have a good running game, good possession receiving targets and a promising young quarterback with a strong arm. The missing piece? A speedy deep threat. There’s no better speed demon in the draft that Ruggs, who I project with being a DeSean Jackson type player. Also, Drew Lock has a strong arm and in a division that lacks top cornerbacks for the most part, he can let it rip and target a guy like Ruggs down the field for a splash play. Broncos also need offensive line help, but if Ruggs is on the board there’s no way they can pass on him.
Worst: New York Jets
Adam Gase’s offense is more predicated on intermediate routes, which is not Ruggs’ strength. He’ll work best on go routes and quick screens that will use his speed best. Also, while I’m a huge fan of Sam Darnold’s game, at this point he doesn’t throw the best deep ball. The Jets would be best to target CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy at 11 as both of those receivers are tailored for this offense.
Justin Jefferson, WR LSU
Best: New Orleans Saints
While the Saints signed Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, they still need to desperately find another pass-catching target to take advantage of their current super bowl window. Jefferson, who went to school not too far away from the Superdome, has good size and quickness that can allow him to attack on slants and dig routes while also being able to attack down the field on deep routes. Another key aspect of his game are his strong hands, something that is imperative in an offense that has no problem spreading things out. Since he is shooting up draft boards, I’m not sure he will last long enough for the Saints to sit back and wait so they might need to be aggressive to get a player who compares favorably to their current star receiver, Michael Thomas.
Worst: Denver Broncos
I fully expect there to be a run on receivers with all three of the top receivers (Jeudy, Lamb, and Ruggs) to be gone by 13, which leaves the Broncos at 15 in a tough situation. They really need a receiver but could probably get a pretty good one in the second round. However, if they stay put, they could target a player like Jefferson. This wouldn’t be wise as he’s mainly a possession receiver, something that they already have with Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant. Not so much that Jefferson won’t be a successful pro, but rather this would limit his potential surrounded by players with the same skillset.
JK Dobbins, RB Ohio State
Best: Miami Dolphins
While there is much dispute over who’s the top running back in this class, I think Dobbins will be the most productive early and possibly have the best career. The Dolphins current depth chart has Jordan Howard at the top, who at this point is considered a below-average starter, and then not much behind that. They could use a game-changer like Dobbins who has exceptional vision and at any point can break out a big play. Also, the Dolphins new offensive coordinator in Chan Gailey, one of the innovators of the spread offense in the NFL. Dobbins comes from a spread scheme in college and was at his best running out of the shotgun in a 5-6 man box where all he has to do is make one guy miss. Whoever is taking the snaps for the Dolphins next year will welcome a rusher of Dobbins talent.
Worst: Washington Redskins
Redskins are a mess and are a team that has several experienced running backs yet none that you can count on. With new coach Ron Rivera who historically likes to run the ball, you can bet that they will target a running back early but Dobbins isn’t the fit for them. They’ll want to run a more physical and traditional offense which makes a player like Jonathan Taylor a better option. Also, Dobbins in college seemed to be a rhythm runner which means the more touches he got, the more productive he became. With a crowded running back room, Dobbins might be a guy next year limited to ten touches a game only.
Kenneth Murray, LB Oklahoma
Best: Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs need to draft defense, that much is tough to dispute. Their defensive line seems to be in great shape, but have massive holes at linebacker and cornerback. While they can’t go wrong with either, drafting Kenneth Murray would make the most sense. Murray is an aggressive sideline to sideline linebacker and would be able to track down ball carriers in a division that has some promising running backs. Murray fits best in a 4-3 scheme, which is something the Chiefs run and can help in the passing game guarding tight ends which would allow Tyrann Mathieu to help more in the slot.
Worst: Detroit Lions
The Lions need help on defense and Matt Patricia is a defensive coach so this would make sense in the early second round. However, I don’t think Patricia will be patient as he’s on the hot seat and will want a more refined player. Murray is a player who plays very aggressively, which means he’s prone to mistakes and missing tackles. The Lions have a few veteran linebackers (Jarrad Davis, Jamie Collins, and Reggie Ragland) which means Murray might not see the field too much. A player like him will do best playing early and learning every game on how to improve. Won’t be a bust here, just will be limited by scheme and coaching.