A scheme fit is when a player’s traits and abilities line up with a certain coach’s style and scheme. Imagine if every NFL team could draft a player that fit perfectly into their scheme. That would benefit both the teams and the players simultaneously, as general managers and coaches wouldn’t be putting a square peg in a round hole. And players could maximize their value on the field with their abilities each Sunday. Sadly, that doesn’t always happen in the NFL despite countless hours preparing for the NFL Draft. Some players are misused and wind up failing which often results in firings near the top of the organizational ladder.
For that reason alone we thought it would a fun exercise to pair players and teams up with their ideal fit or “dream fit.” The basic concept is to figure out where a player can best succeed in terms of scheme, style, or coaching staff. This is not to be confused with a mock draft, as some fits are not realistic in terms of draft position. In fact, all 32 teams are involved in this despite not every one of them having a 1st round pick.
Here is the soft set of rules we used to outline the project.
Have suggestions or other team fits you’d like to see in the NFL Draft? Let us know on twitter and make sure to tag the @ITPylon account!
Rules (Feel free to break them if you’d like):
- While it will be similar, this is not intended to be a mock draft, all 32 teams will be represented even though all 32 don’t possess a 1st round pick. Also, each team only gets one player regardless of the # of picks they have
- Players can be used more than once (but within reason, can’t have everyone taking Myles Garrett)
- Players also don’t have to be 1st rounders. Know of a 2nd rounder that would be a great fit? Put them in there. (Again, within reason, matching a team up with some random UDFA isn’t very fun)
- Try to ignore team needs as much as possible and focus solely on who would be a dream fit from a scheme / coaching perspective
- Lastly, it doesn’t have to be totally realistic. If say, Jamal Adams would be a great fit with a team drafting in the teens, go for it.
Buffalo needs a cornerback with Stephon Gilmore departing, and Tabor projects well to the zone-heavy scheme new head coach Sean McDermott employed as defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. Tabor played a variety of coverages for the Gators and displayed very good click-and-close to attack action in front of him, playmaking instincts in Cover 2, and pattern recognition to know when to stay in his zone and when to stick with his man. Few college cornerbacks have his zone awareness and playmaking instincts. His seven interceptions and 20 pass breakups in the past two seasons are fine numbers. Ideally, McDermott would want Tabor to tackle more reliably, but the junior’s understanding of zone concepts, competitiveness, and ball skills will play well in Orchard Park.
A few weeks ago, Tabor looked like he might be a first-round pick. But after running a disappointing 4.62 40-yard-dash at the Combine, and failing to improve on that mark at his pro day, Tabor will be off several team’s boards. There’s aren’t many cornerbacks who’ve had success running the 4.6s, but one team that hasn’t shied away is McDermott’s old team, the Carolina Panthers, who employed Daryl Worley (4.64), Bene Benwikere (4.63), and Leonard Johnson (4.62) in 2016, and made a star out of Josh Norman (4.61) in 2015. The Bills may see Tabor’s 40 time as a chance to snag a first-round value in the middle rounds.
Miami Dolphins – David Njoku, TE, Miami (Joseph Ferraiola)
With this fit, Njoku won’t have to travel far to his new team. The University of Miami tight end would fit nicely in Adam Gase’s offensive scheme. Gase was known for being able to create mismatches with his tight ends in his previous coaching jobs as an offensive coordinator in Denver and Chicago. Gase wants a complete tight end that can be split out wide and also block in-line. Njoku can perform the former right away, but the latter will take refining. Overall, Njoku displays a willingness to block.
Njoku’s athletic ability combined with his size makes him a mismatch for opposing defenses when he’s lined up on the outside or from the slot. His speed and explosiveness will be difficult for a linebacker or safety to cover. This makes him a great Y receiver in Gase’s Y-Iso formation. Njoku is still only 20 years old and is dripping with potential further adding to his appeal. The Dolphins traded for TE Julius Thomas in the offseason from Jacksonville. Thomas has worked with Gase before when Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver. With Thomas familiar with the offense he could help Njoku learn alongside him and make a dynamic tight end duo in Miami.
New England Patriots – Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova (Jessica Brand)
With New England holding an embarrassment of riches at nearly every other position, its most pressing need comes from the ability to rush the passer. In 2016, according to Football Outsiders, their Adjusted Sack Rate was 5.1%, tied (with Kansas City) for only 26th in the NFL. While Kony Ealy was acquired, he is a free agent at the end of the season, and the Patriots may find his asking price too high.
The diligent, intelligent Kpassagnon, while not the most polished prospect, comes in at a massive 6’7″. Historically, New England has taken an end (well, hybrid) with similar height, 23 years ago, with the 6’5″, fan favorite Willie McGinest, if precedent is any key to the mysterious drafting mindset of Bill Belichick. Even with his height, Kpassagnon comes with a potentially higher ceiling as a 5 technique defensive lineman in New England’s Fairbanks-Bullough (3-4) defense, meaning he would line up on an offensive tackle’s outside shoulder. He finished the 2016 season with 21.5 tackles for a loss, and 11 sacks. However, he is a bit on the small side at 289 pounds, as the typical weight for this position is over 300 pounds. Kpassagnon’s 40 yard dash of 4.83 seconds, while not incredibly fast for his position, is not necessary to succeed, but compares similarly to probable first-round picks in Tennessee’s Derek Barnett and Missouri’s Charles Harris. Despite this, his combine was impressive in many other respects, as his 128″ broad jump tied for the highest among defensive linemen, along with Texas A&M‘s Myles Garrett and Northwestern‘s Ifeadi Odenigbo. Likewise, his arm length of 35 5/8″ tied for the best among defensive linemen, along with Arkansas‘s Deatrich Wise and Texas A&M’s Daeshon Hall.
In terms of actual size, and possible potential to succeed at the next level? In this regard, he is much like the 6’6”, 295 pound Malik McDowell, although with a lesser school pedigree than McDowell’s Michigan State, and is also considerably more raw, as a result. His success will be found if coached properly for technique, especially as it pertains to getting to the quarterback, and more specifically getting his hips to sink as well as finding ways to overcome his inability to bend around the corner.
New York Jets – Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado (Matty Brown)
Head coach Todd Bowles likes to blitz his defensive backs or leave them on an island. Awuzie can do both. He fits Bowles’s predominantly man-coverage, heavy-blitzing defensive scheme perfectly. Awuzie is at his best lined up in a press alignment, jamming receivers at the line and playing them in trail technique downfield. Although he lacks length, he has very good ball skills, with his vertical leap being the most impressive aspect. He blitzed excellently from the nickel cornerback position in college, displaying subtlety and the ability to disguise his intent before the snap on his way to nine career sacks.
Awuzie is a versatile cornerback, with the ability to play either inside or outside, be effective in press or off coverage, and be left one-on-one. The NFL is more and more becoming a matchup league, and Awuzie is a player who you would feel comfortable in moving around. With the departure of Darrelle Revis, cornerback is a major need for the Jets. Awuzie can come into the defense and be a big upgrade over existing pieces.
This article was inspired by scouting work done for the Inside the Pylon Draft Guide. Order your copy today at ITPdraftguide.com.