*» Brooks' take on the team that could be the best fit for Lamar Jackson
» Three under-the-radar linebackers you should know *
But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Jeremiah's quarterback prospect fits for five teams with aging starters at the position.
While we all expect this year's top quarterback prospects to fly off the board early in the 2018 NFL Draft, there's less certainty -- but plenty of intrigue -- about whether teams with established starters at the position will pick a signal-caller at some point this year. Teams like the Patriots (Tom Brady), Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger), Chargers (Philip Rivers) and Saints (Drew Brees) have QB1s that are playing at a high level despite their age, but each of those clubs is doing its homework on QBs in this year's draft. The Giants (Eli Manning) are in a little bit of a different situation, as they hold the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and have a rare chance to land one of the top talents available at the position without having to trade up to do it.
With that in mind, I thought I'd take a look at which QB prospects would be fits for each of the aforementioned clubs. I've noted the pick where I think the fit would make sense for the player and team.
New York Giants
Fit: USC QB Sam Darnold
Pick: Round 1, No. 2 overall
Analysis: I've consistently stated that Darnold is the best QB in this draft and I have long expected him to go No. 1 overall to the Browns. However, there is a lot of buzz in league circles about Cleveland favoring Josh Allen with the top selection in the draft. It's tough to sort out the truth during this time of year, but I think it's possible Darnold could still be on the board when the Giants are on the clock. If he's still available at No. 2, the Giants should sprint to the podium and turn in the card for Darnold. Manning is 37 years old and the Giants can't pass up the top signal-caller in the draft. Darnold is only 20 years old and letting him sit behind Manning for a year or two would be a perfect scenario for both parties.
New Orleans Saints
Fit: Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
Pick: Round 1, No. 27 overall
Analysis: The Saints seem to be very excited about Brees' current backup, Taysom Hill. However, if they want to address the position in this year's draft, Rudolph is a good match for their system. He has excellent touch and gets the ball out quick. Those are two necessities in New Orleans' offense. He showed tremendous improvement from 2016 to 2017, and I still believe he has room to grow. He's never going to wow you with his pure arm strength, but he can make every throw and would benefit from playing half of his games indoors at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Fit: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
Pick: Round 1, No. 28 overall
Analysis: The Steelers are knocking on the door for another championship and they could be faced with a very difficult decision at the end of the first round. Do they take a position player who could help them win a title next season? Or do they secure their quarterback of the future? I think Jackson would be too tempting to pass up if he's still available at No. 28. He has tremendous upside and you could sprinkle him into the offense this season to gain immediate value. The offense would take on a different look once he eventually takes over for Roethlisberger, but they have time to sort that out.
Los Angeles Chargers
Fit: Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta
Pick: Round 2, No. 48 overall
Analysis: The Chargers need to start thinking about finding Rivers' eventual replacement. I don't see the value for them to pick a QB in the first round. The top four or five players at the position will be off the board by the time their pick comes around at No. 17, and they will be staring at several intriguing players at other positions. However, I like the idea of selecting Lauletta in the second round. He has just enough arm strength to go along with excellent accuracy and anticipation. He also has the mobility to escape pressure and throw on the move. He will need some time to develop, but that shouldn't be an issue because Rivers still has a few good years left.
New England Patriots
Fit: Washington State QB Luke Falk
Pick: Round 3, No. 95 overall
Analysis: There's a lot of speculation about what the Patriots intend to do now that they have two-first round picks following the Brandin Cooks trade, but I expect them to wait until the middle rounds to spend a pick on a player to groom behind Brady. Falk would be a perfect option for the Patriots. When you watch him throw the ball, the mechanical similarities to Brady are very noticeable. They've both spent time training under the same QB guru (Tom House). Falk fits what the Patriots value in the position -- he's extremely accurate and tough. Falk doesn't possess Brady's arm strength, but he will have time to gain strength before he's ever needed on the field in New England. -- Daniel Jeremiah
WHY THE RAVENS COULD BE IDEAL LANDING SPOT FOR LAMAR JACKSON
The pre-draft visit process can be a bit of a shell game, as teams sometimes mask their draft day intentions with a series of visits from top prospects that don't appear to fit their scheme or biggest needs. Despite the deception that takes place during this time of year, general managers and personnel executives will track prospect visits to see if they can connect the dots on a possible draft selection.
That's why I'm paying close attention to the Baltimore Ravens after their recent announcement that they agreed to a one-year deal with Robert Griffin III and scheduled Jackson for a pre-draft visit. Although the visit from the former Heisman Trophy winner could be a case of the team simply kicking the tires on an ultra-athletic quarterback with a unique skill set, the acquisition of the Griffin, the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year, would create an interesting situation in the quarterback room if the Ravens followed up that move by selecting Jackson with their top pick (No. 16 overall) to give the team a pair of mobile playmakers with similar playing styles.
Now, I'm fully aware that RG3 will be competing for a QB2 spot with Baltimore, but the potential to add a young, athletic quarterback to a roster that already features a mobile playmaker in Griffin could allow the Ravens to eventually build an offense that caters to a dual-threat QB without worrying about scrapping their system if one of their quarterbacks suffered an injury.
Keep in mind, the Ravens can jettison Joe Flacco after the 2018 season to create $18.5 million in salary cap space if they designate him a post-June 1 cut. Given his struggles since leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl title five seasons ago, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Ravens to move on without him if he has another sub-par season in 2018. With RG3 waiting in the wings as a potential long-term backup, the Ravens could be sending up smoke signals to a potential philosophical shift on offense.
Think about it this way: The Ravens already have a staff in place with experience crafting offenses around dual-threat playmakers. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has worked with the likes of Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Steve Young and Brett Favre, with each earning Pro Bowl honors under his tutelage. Assistant head coach/tight ends Greg Roman crafted offenses around Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo as an offensive coordinator. Thus, he understands how to incorporate run-pass options, options and designed QB runs into the game plan.
With a veteran QB who possesses mobile playmaking ability already in place as the QB2 and a coaching staff with experience building an offense around a dual-threat quarterback, the Ravens could be the perfect spot for Jackson to grow into a dynamic QB1 down the line. The Louisville standout could spend 2018 serving a redshirt season behind Flacco and RG3 before assuming the QB1 role in 2019 or 2020. For an ultra-athletic quarterback who needs a little time to grow, Baltimore could be the right fit for the former Heisman Trophy winner. -- Bucky Brooks
DON'T SLEEP ON THESE LINEBACKERS
I spent this past weekend finishing up my study of the linebackers in this year's draft. Overall, this is a good group. I love Tremaine Edmunds and Roquan Smith -- both guys are top-10 players in this draft class. However, there are also some very intriguing middle-round players at the position. Here are three guys I recently studied that jumped off the tape.
Western Kentucky's Joel Iyiegbuniwe: Iyiegbuniwe is an undersized player with exceptional quickness and range. He makes plays sideline to sideline and explodes through the hips on contact. He has the agility to match up in man coverage with tight ends and running backs. He's worthy of a late second- or early third-round selection.
Wisconsin's Jack Cichy: Cichy has missed all of last season due to injury, but his 2015 and 2016 tape is very impressive. He is ultra-instinctive. He's already moving toward the correct hole before the ball is snapped. He isn't quite as explosive or athletic as the Cowboys' Sean Lee, but they do possess a similar understanding of the game. He will probably fall in the draft due to durability concerns, but he could end up being a late-round gem.
Wisconsin's Leon Jacobs: Cichy isn't the only impressive linebacker from Wisconsin in this draft class. Jacobs is very twitched-up and he has shown the ability to convert speed to power as an edge rusher. He has some stiffness issues that emerge when he's in space, but when he can stay on a single path, he closes in a hurry. He's a better version of Arthur Moats when he was coming out of James Madison. Moats landed in the sixth round. I expect Jacobs to come off the board at some point in Round 3 or 4 to a team that runs a 3-4 scheme. -- Daniel Jeremiah