Landing spots plays a huge part in the early and sustained success of any rookie. This year there were definitely some players who ended up in better positions to succeed from the off. If you missed any of the Draft you can read my review of it here.
Players such as Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes and Calvin Ridley are perfect examples of players who landed with teams who were either set up to their skills or were happy to adapt for them. The result has been players who will excite the league and win Championships for years to come. In contrast to this, players such as Hayden Hurst, Eno Benjamin and Jake Fromm can attest that getting drafted is only half the battle. Once on a team the circumstances must be right otherwise its relative obscurity for you.
So who made it to the perfect team this year…
Odafe Oweh (Edge) – Baltimore Ravens
When this pick first came in, I hated it. Of all the edge guys left Oweh was not near the top of my list. Once the pick was made I dug deeper into his film and my opinion has done a 180. Oweh is a newcomer to the sport having only picked it up 5 years ago. That said, his ceiling is ridiculous.
For someone 6’5 tall and 257lbs to run a 4.3 40 yard dash is crazy. The Ravens have a history of turning late round edge rusher into league stars. Za’darius Smith, Matt Judon and Pernell McPhee can all attest to this. Oweh offers versatility which will get him on the field from the off. This ability will, over time as he develops, allow him to remain on the field as a 3 down player. He offers the ability to rush, to set the edge against the run and to drop into coverage if needed.
The ravens cupboard was pretty bare at Edge Rusher prior to the Draft. Whilst they should still sign a veteran to help out the future is Oweh’s should he continue his development at the rate he has to date. There is absolutely no reason, with good coaching and utilisation, that he cannot become a 10-12 sacks a season player. As a Ravens fan I am far more excited about him now than I was at the time of the pick!
Javonte Williams (RB) – Denver Broncos
Yes the Broncos have Melvin Gordon and he is likely to have the bulk of the work this year. This take is based on the fact that you may need to wait a year to see it come to fruition. Gordon’s a Free Agent next year and I fully expect the Broncos to let him walk. I also fully expect them to slide Williams, who is ready to step into the 3 down workload, straight into his place.
At North Carolina Williams showed that he can handle to 3 down work and put up numbers even when splitting a backfield. The Broncos have shown that they are wiling to have a workhorse with a backup if needed in Royce Freeman. As the season wears on we may see Williams start to pick up workload wise (much like Dobbins did last year). They won’t want to burn him out this year when they can run Gordon into the floor.
Trust me, next year as he assumes the RB1 role Williams will top at least 1500 all purpose yards. For all you fantasy guys out there, if you can wait a year, this is your guy. I have taken him in 2 of 2 drafts so far. Williams comes out of college with less mileage on him due to the split work he had there. What could accelerate his ascension is Gordon’s body failing him, as it has often done in the past. Williams is a star in waiting and I look forward to his explosion.
Justin Fields (QB) – Chicago Bears
A rookie QB in Chicago, it didn’t go to well last time. Trubisky had his moments but it is fair to say he underwhelmed for sure. This selection is the last roll of the dice for Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy with the Bears. If Fields fails then they’re out of a job without a doubt. The thing is, he won’t. The Bears moving up was a great move. The rumours are that the Vikings would not have let fields past them.
I have said since day dot of this year’s Draft process that Fields is the number 2 QB of this class. I stand by that and actually think he can challenge for the top spot when we look back on the class. Spoiler alert, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence challenging him for that honour either, more on that in a bit. Fields comes into team with weapons around him ready to help him ascend with the Bears to the top of the NFC North.
Allen Robinson offers a true WR1 to work with and Darnell Mooney, last years 4th round selection is a more than capable WR2. At RB they have David Montgomery, the bruiser along with Tariq Cohen and newly drafted Khalil Herbert to support him. The Bears also selected possibly the meanest Tackle in this draft. Teven Jenkins and Justin Fields will make each other look better all season. This division is up for grabs, especially once Aaron Rodgers is done with it and there is no reason that Fields and Co cannot come out at Number 1.
Alijah Vera-Tucker (Guard) – New York Jets
Joe Douglas is doing something different in New York. He is making sensible decisions. Last year he drafted O-line in the first round and he follows it up by doing it again this year. What better way to protect your rookie QB than to give him proper protection? It seems simple but it apparently wasn’t for Adam Gase and Co. Alijah Vera-Tucker was far and away the best interior O-line prospect this year and trading back up for him was worth the two 3rds it cost.
On Vera-Tucker’s part, he goes to a team where he is an immediate starter and where he can make an impact. Alongside Mekhi Becton he will take the plaudits if Zach Wilson is able to be all he can be. O linemen are often taken with the aim that they start a year or two after they’re drafted. To be able to go to a team where the competition is so low allows Vera-Tucker to become one of the franchise’s most important players from day one.
Vera-Tucker is going to play in a scheme that relies heavily on the outside-zone run scheme. Over the last two years he has earned an 84.1 run blocking grade on outside zone runs and has the highest pure pass blocking grade over that same span. This is definitely a round peg, round hole situation.
Christian Darrisaw (OT) – Minnesota Vikings
Much like Vera-Tucker, Darrisaw is going to a team that needed major upgrading on the O-line. He came into the Draft as one of the only O-line prospects who was expected to be able to stay outside at Tackle at the NFL level and thank god, the Vikings need all the Tackle help they can get.
Ezra Cleveland, last years 2nd round pick played very well last year when he came into the starting lineup and was expected to step over to Let Tackle. With the drafting of Darrisaw the Vikings are free to keep him at either Guard spot where he can be a mauler. Darrisaw brings fantastic pass protection which will allow Cousins more time to sit and pick his passes. If the Vikings can bring Cousins’ interceptions down then they will immediately be a play off team, it is that simple.
Darrisaw has gone to a team where he can find a place as a franchise Left Tackle for the next 10 years should he wish. He is on a roster that is not far from playoff caliber and he can be a big part of getting them over the hump. No sitting on a bench waiting for his time here, from Day 1 he is an upgrade on the blindside that the Vikings sorely needed.
Amari Rodgers (WR) – Green Bay Packers
The Packers have needed a solid WR2 for a long time. Yes Allen Lazard played ok in spurts last year but they need someone opposite Davante Adams who will demand proper attention. Rodgers should see the field relatively early in his rookie season, as long as he beats out Lazard. Valdes-Scantling is a deep threat which I would not immediately peg Rodgers for.
The Packers traded up for Rodgers in the 3rd as they see him as the dynamic play making slot receiver they have been searching for. Built like a Running Back but with Receiver speed Rodgers should have no trouble finding a role on this offence
Comparisons to Randell Cobb have been floated around. Whilst he has not been amazing the last few years, Cobb was extremely important to what the Packers did a few years back in the pass game. Rodgers brings a versatility that will allow Matt LaFleur to run all sorts of routes with him. He is big enough to man the slot whilst speedy enough to be used on Jet Sweep packages and other inventive play calls.
Trey Lance (QB) – San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Shanahan loves to cal inventive run plays and use all aspects of his players skill set. In Trey Lance he has drafted the most inexperienced Quarterback of the class but the one with the most upside. Lance is a player who is capable of creeping close to 1,000 rushing yards from the QB position. In todays game that is an aspect that cannot be ignored. For evidence of this just see how the Ravens have done since Lamar joined.
Lance also joins a team ready to win now and in the future. There is not a ore perfect landing spot for a young QB. To top this off he does not need to start immediately. Jimmy Garoppolo when healthy, is a good starting level QB and this means the 49ers have the luxury of bringing Lance along slowly. With such a lack of experience time to sit on the bench and learn the game, and the NFL, will be good for Lance.
Look how Mahomes spent his first year in Kansas, I expect the same for Lance in San Francisco. What this means is that when the 49ers do move on from Jimmy G, Lance will be ready to step seamlessly in, there will be no awkward adaption period. The 49ers were able to pick up wins with C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullins, with Trey Lance they could win it all.
Nick Bolton (LB) – Kansas City Chiefs
Bolton played MIKE linebacker in college and on the All-SEC team as a starter. I expect that is where he will stay in Kansas, although not as an immediate starter. Anthony Hitchins has played well for the Chiefs over the past few seasons but his contract is up next year. Bolton can use this year to polish up some aspects of his play that need it, mostly in pass coverage.
What he does do well is shoot gaps and play extremely good run protection. As he acclimatises to the league I expect to see him get more and more playing time and would expect that he takes over the MIKE spot next year. Once he does this it is going to be hard for anyone to shift him. He has the skills and attitude to become the centrepiece of the Defence, much as we are seeing Devin White do in Tampa.
Whilst this choice may not seem as immediate as some of the other players here, getting drafted by a team like the Chiefs is a win. They are very well coached and give players a chance to be everything they can be. Bolton was a Round 1 pick in some peoples eyes this year, he could become an All-Pro with the kind of coaching he is going to receive with the Chiefs. He also gets to challenge regularly for rings.
Kyle Pitts (TE) – Atlanta Falcons
Why would you not want to put the biggest weapon to come out of the 2021 Draft on a team that loves to throw the ball. On a team who has a Defence so poor that they will be playing catch up in high scoring games regularly. Kyle Pitts may be the biggest personal winner of the draft. Yes he may not be challenging for the Super Bowl this year but he is going to announce himself in a BIG way.
Matt Ryan loves to pass a ball to a Tight End, remember when he made Austin Hooper look good enough to become this highest paid TE in the league? Compared to what Ryan is going to do for Pitts that is child’s play. Kyle Pitts is immediately going to step in as Receiver 3 on this team and make an impact. To see him surpass 1,000 yards would not surprise me. HE is a legitimate contender for both Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Kyle Pitts will be looked back on as the prototype for a new kind of Tight End/Wide Receiver hybrid that every team will be searching for. He is going to do more for the position that anyone since Peak Gronk and before that, Tony Gonzalez. This is a new type of player who is going to give Defensive Coordinators nightmares.
Terrace Marshall Jr (WR) – Carolina Panthers
Another player who was mentioned as a 1st round talent, Marshall fell due to injury concerns. I was very high on him pre-Draft and the Panthers have done well to get him. The risk is of course the injury to his ankle which dates all the way back to high school. What the Panthers get in return for taking the risk is a receiver built to be a number 1.
With Curtis Samuel moving to Washington, Marshall will see the field early and often. He projects as an outside guy, as do Anderson and Moore, so it will be interesting to see who moves inside. I expect that it will be Robby Anderson. Marshall is coming to a team where he is reunited with his old college coach, Joe Brady who had this to say about him:
“He’s a good fit. All I can say is, we have a great vision for him as a Carolina Panther. The skill set he has is going to be a great asset to our offense”.Joe Brady – Panters Offensive Coordinator
Marshall has the skills to be a WR1 in this league and the Panthers therefore have two of these guys. Sam Darnold is going to have a lot of fun with a Panthers Offence that is more than good. Marshall can finally show out on a team where he is not competing with superstar in the making Ja’Marr Chase and that is going to be fun to watch.
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