NFC South Dream 2017 NFL Draft Fits

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.

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.

Atlanta Falcons – O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (Sean Cottrell)

For starters, new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is already familiar with Howard’s game, but that is the smallest factor in this dream fit for the Falcons. The stretch zone scheme that was implemented by Kyle Shanahan and will be carried forward with Sarkisian, is a perfect fit for Howard. He can excel as a blocker on the front and backside of the stretch run then leak into the flat or wreak havoc on intermediate crossing routes in the boot action game. This is very similar to how Howard was used at Alabama which would allow him to contribute early, building confidence in his game as he works to develop more nuance throughout the rest of the route tree. On an offense that includes playmakers like Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman, Howard would lull defenses to sleep blocking the stretch zones and then give them nightmares from the flat.

Carolina Panthers – Obi Melifonwu, S, UCONN (Sharona E)

For many reasons, Christian McCaffrey makes too much sense here. The Panthers weren’t very good in 2016 and running back was a major concern. Jonathan Stewart has talent, but has never played a full season in his career and will become an unrestricted free agent after 2018. Better to bolster the position now and with the Panthers re-signing Lance Taylor, who coached McCaffrey at Stanford, this fit is a dream made in heaven.

For reasons that make sense to the Titans as well, UCONN strong safety Obi Melifonwu is my dream fit here. While running back might be sexier, a versatile strong safety who can contribute early and often is exactly what the Panthers need. One of those rare times where dream fit and interest meet head on, this dream match could assuredly happen.

New Orleans Saints – Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (Joe Ferraiola)

The Saints traded away an explosive athlete in Brandin Cooks earlier this offseason. It’s time to reload and get one back in Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey possesses the traits to be a threat in both the run and pass game with his superb vision, quickness, and change of direction ability. Despite being 5’10”, 202 pounds, McCaffrey can run through tackle attempts and displays the elusiveness to make a man miss on any given play. New Orleans has had some success in the past with these type of players, like Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles. Since trading Sproles to Philadelphia, the Saints haven’t really had that dual threat running back that Drew Brees could throw the checkdown to. McCaffrey offers that ability and he’s an incredibly advanced route-runner for a running back. He’ll also be able to line up out wide as a receiver when the Saints want to run an empty spread set. His ability as a pass catcher and blocking ability allows him to be a three-down back from day one for New Orleans. McCaffrey could also fill the role of kickoff and punt returner.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – David Njoku, TE, Miami (Sean Cottrell)

Njoku may not be on the board at 19 when Tampa Bay is selecting but, if he is, it would be really difficult to leave him for another team. Njoku is a perfect fit for head coach Dirk Koetter’s vertical passing attack that produced several big seasons for Tony Gonzalez, even in the twilight of his career. With Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson manning the outside, Njoku would be the forgotten man for defenses in a pass-heavy attack and an absolute nightmare to match up with down the seam.

For Njoku himself, being surrounded with such elite talent as he enters the league could do wonders for his confidence and career development. Without the pressure of stepping in immediately and becoming the primary weapon for an offense, Njoku will have time to adjust to the speed at the NFL level. Njoku needs to work on adding a little more nuance to his route running and in-line blocking ability, and he could really benefit from being on a team that would split him out into the slot and let him ease into that primary Y-tight end role. In addition, he will have time to develop the nuance on his short and intermediate routes while primarily being asked to attack vertically and be a difference maker down the seams, an area that he is already very comfortable winning in.

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

Sean Cottrell (@PhllyDraft on Twitter), Sharona E (@SportsbySharona), and Joseph Ferraiola contributed to this piece.

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