AFC North Dream 2017 NFL Draft Fits

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Series Introduction:

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.

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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.

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Baltimore Ravens – John Ross, WR, Washington (Joseph Ferraiola)

With Steve Smith retiring, Baltimore could stand to add a receiver in this draft. The team is seemingly always picking up veteran receivers in free agency rather than hitting on their WR picks. While the jury is still out on 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, the Ravens still need an infusion of talent to the receiving corps. With that being said, Ross would be an excellent fit for Baltimore. Ross brings speed and athleticism along with some unexpected toughness for a player of his size and style. He has the ability to play the slot as well as the Z position on the outside. It makes further sense because of how Ross can test a defense vertically and track the deep ball over his shoulder. Joe Flacco would love having a receiver like Ross to throw 9 routes to. I debated Ross to Arizona due to their vertical passing game, but Baltimore probably has a more stable QB situation moving forward, making the fit work better for both Ross and the team.

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Cincinnati Bengals – Solomon Thomas, EDGE, Stanford (Michael Nuttle)

Solomon Thomas may be one of the most interesting prospects in this draft. He is very unrefined, but his raw ability is very intriguing. Despite playing on the interior of the defensive line at Stanford, he weighed in at only 273 pounds at the combine this year, which suggests he is more fit for an edge role than a DT spot. Many are projecting him to be an edge at the next level despite not a lot of time in that position, but again, the traits are there to support it. The Bengals run a base 4-3 scheme which would allow them to use Thomas at defensive end and he comes into a defensive front that would not need to rely on him to be their top pass rusher right away, giving him time to be developed. With the personnel they have, he will be able to learn from the likes of very good pros such as Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. With his experience playing on the interior defensive line, Thomas offers some variability in his use and could play inside and be effective on obvious passing downs. A four-man front of Johnson, Dunlap, Geno Atkins, and Thomas could wreak a lot of havoc on 3rd and longs. From Cincinnati’s perspective, they are able to infuse their talented defensive front with some youth. Atkins and Dunlap are still only 29 and 28, respectively, but Johnson is 30 and the Bengals just re-signed Wallace Gilberry at the age of 33. There may be bigger needs elsewhere for the Bengals, but Thomas offers an opportunity to continue their defensive line dominance for many more years.

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Cleveland Browns – Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State (Michael Nuttle)

Obviously, the ultimate dream fit for the Browns is Myles Garrett, but I am making Malik the dream fit for the Browns under the assumption he is being added to the team in addition to Myles Garrett. With Gregg Williams taking over DC duties, the Browns are expected to employ a consistent dosage of four-man fronts in 2017, whether that is in base or nickel sub packages. Looking at what the Browns have for the defensive line before the draft, there is a question at the 3 technique position and Malik McDowell can answer that. McDowell played all over the defensive line in his time at Michigan State and that versatility is something that Williams would value, as he will move his defensive linemen around and ask them to take on different responsibilities. At the core of the 3 tech position, though, is a need for a one-gap penetrator and I think that fits directly into McDowell’s strength. McDowell is athletic, which the Browns value, and was able to make plenty of plays in the backfield. He is by no means a polished pass rusher, but with his burst and strength mixed with the one-gap responsibility, he can put consistent pressure on the offensive line. He will need to continue to build his pass rushing plan, but the tools are there. There are obvious concerns about his work ethic and effort (which I do think would be an issue for the Browns), but looking at the tools he possesses on the football field, McDowell would be a great fit on Cleveland’s defensive line. He, along with Garrett, Danny Shelton, and Emmanuel Ogbah offer a young, talented group along the defensive line that still has the likes of Carl Nassib and Tyrone Holmes available to rotate in.

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Pittsburgh Steelers – Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn (Nick Falato)

When I think of Lawson, I think of a Pittsburgh Steeler. A tough, physical leader that is very strong and can strike fear in the hearts of offensive players. The ageless wonder, James Harrison, has been doing this for years, but how much longer can he last? The linebackers of this team are the cornerstone of the defense and the Steelers usually roll out four LBs in certain sub-packages (2-4 Nickel). With Arthur Moats just turning 29 and set to be a free agent in 2018, Jarvis Jones signing with Arizona, and ILB Lawrence Timmons leaving for Miami, the Steelers will need to replenish the talent at the position, most notably edge. Lawson fits this bill. He is technically sound, mature, and he will have an instant impact as a run defender, while displaying good burst and balance to produce double-digit sack seasons in the future. He has dealt with his share of injuries, including a torn left ACL in 2014, but he came back to play in 12 games his junior season and have an impact, recording 9.5 sacks. Lawson can be an edge setter in defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s feared defensive front that should include a healthy Bud Dupree. If the Steelers go in this direction, Dupree, Shazier, and Lawson would make for an incredibly formidable, yet young, trio of linebackers for years to come in Blitzburgh.   

This article was inspired by scouting work done for the Inside the Pylon Draft Guide. Order your copy today at

Michael Nuttle (@MPN_21 on Twitter), Joseph Ferraiola, and Nick Falato (@nickfalato) contributed to this piece.

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