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2018 NFL Draft: One senior prospect fit for every AFC team


As we approach the halfway point of the 2017 NFL season, teams are starting to show their strengths and weaknesses. My colleague Lance Zierlein has already unveiled his initial look at the top 3 needs for each NFL team.

College football is well into the second half of its schedule, and most of the nation's top-rated senior prospects are performing at the high level NFL scouts expect from them.

With that in mind, I'm marrying these two universes by identifying the perfect first- or second-round fit between an NFL team and a senior prospect in a two-part series (AFC this week, NFC next week). Consideration was given to impending free agents for each professional squad, because if they are unable to replace former starters with other veterans looking for a new home, rookies might be asked to plug a roster hole sooner than later.

Note that underclassmen have until mid-January to make a decision about the 2018 NFL Draft. We won't speculate about who might apply for early draft eligibility, so this list is limited to seniors.

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Team fit: Baltimore Ravens
2017 stats: 107 carries for 688 yards (6.4 average), 8 TDs.
Chubb presents a combination of the best traits of each of the backs the Ravens currently have on the roster. If he's available in the second round, he would be a steal as a potential bellcow back to complement Joe Flacco.

Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

Team fit: Buffalo Bills
2017 stats: 68 carries for 492 yards (7.2 average), 6 TDs.
Two Georgia backs on this list? Yep. Michel's a dual threat in the backfield, much like LeSean McCoy, who will turn 30 years old in the summer.

Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State

Team fit: Cincinnati Bengals
2017 stats: 24 catches for 228 yards (9.5 average), 4 TDs.
Tyler Eifert is due to become a free agent, and his injury-riddled career could be in jeopardy as he's out for the season after undergoing back surgery. Gesicki is an excellent athlete and receiver who could earn looks in the first round.

Anthony Averett, CB, Alabama

Team fit: Cleveland Browns
2017 stats: 27 tackles (2 for loss), 1 INT, 4 pass breakups.
I won't be surprised if the Browns find a solid outside cornerback like Averett to bolster the secondary in the second round.

Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin

Team fit: Denver Broncos
2017 stats: 25 catches for 350 yards (14 average), 3 TDs.
No matter whom the Broncos choose to be their quarterback in 2018, he will need another weapon. Virgil Green is due to become a free agent, so picking up a tough, sure-handed tight end like Fumagalli in the second round would seem appropriate.

Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State

Team fit: Houston Texans
The Texans do not have a first-round pick in next year's draft right now (they gave up that pick to trade up for Deshaun Watson this year), but it looks as though Watson might be worth the investment. In the second round, they might look to replenish their talent at tackle. Jones has great potential as a starter on either side of the line.

Duke Dawson, CB, Florida

Team fit: Indianapolis Colts
2017 stats: 24 tackles (2 for loss), 2 INTs, 7 pass breakups.
Starter Vontae Davis is among the Colts CBs due to hit free agency after the season. Dawson's looking to follow his former Gator teammates, Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor, to the NFL and could be a second-round pick.

James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

Team fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
2017 stats: 38 catches for 914 yards (24 average), 6 TDs.
If the Jaguars keep winning, perhaps Blake Bortles will keep the starting job heading into next season. He might need to find some new receivers, though, because Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson both have contracts that will expire after the season. Washington is one of the best and most productive receivers in the game.

Deatrick Nichols, CB, South Florida

Team fit: Kansas City Chiefs
2017 stats: 28 tackles (2 for loss), 2 INTs, 7 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble.
The secondary could be the biggest question mark for Kansas City heading into 2018. Each year, a small but tough and athletic corner is selected in the second round -- Nichols fits that description.

Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State

Team fit: Los Angeles Chargers
2017 stats: 27 tackles, 5.5 for loss (1 sack), 1 forced fumble.
The Chargers have one of the worst run defenses in the league, so finding the active Nnadi available in the middle of the first round would make for an easy choice.

Marcus Allen, S, Penn State

Team fit: Miami Dolphins
2017 stats: 41 tackles, 4 for loss (1 sack), 1 INT, 4 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles.

Nate Allen is due to hit free agency, and selecting another Allen (no relation) would make sense. Marcus Allen's ability to play the run and pass make him worthy of a first-round selection.

Lorenzo Carter, LB, Georgia

Team fit: New England Patriots
2017 stats: 21 tackles, 4.5 for loss (3 sacks), 3 fumbles recovered, 2 forced fumbles.

Carter has real value as a pass-rush prospect, but also has the athleticism to handle other duties at the linebacker spot. If he works out well at the NFL Scouting Combine, teams will view him as at least a late first-round talent.

College Football 24/7 Hot Topics:

Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan

Team fit: New York Jets
Whoever is playing QB for the Jets next season will need to be protected, and the sturdy Okorafor fits the bill as a potential second-rounder.

Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

Team fit: Oakland Raiders
Improving the offensive line would make Derek Carr and his receivers even more dangerous. Rankin would improve the stability of the pocket and also create running lanes.

Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia

Team fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
2017 stats: 72 tackles, 6 for loss (5 sacks), 3 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovered.
Pittsburgh has selected a linebacker early in the draft in four of the last five years. Kiser is one of the most productive players in the country, and could play inside or outside for the Steelers.

Da'Shawn Hand, DE, Alabama

Team fit: Tennessee Titans
2017 stats: 11 tackles, 1.5 for loss (1 sack), 1 fumble recovered.
Starting DE DaQuan Jones is due to become a free agent. Hand's size and power will remind Titans fans of Jones, so this would be a natural fit in the second round if the veteran moves on.



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