*But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Jeremiah's look at the teams whose plans for the 2018 draft were most affected by the flurry of activity through the first couple waves of free agency. *
With a month to go before the 2018 NFL Draft, there are at least a handful of teams hitting the reset button on their plans for the draft based on the moves they were able to make through the first couple waves of free agency.
In addition, just about every team is recalibrating the forecast for how the draft will play out as they evaluate the needs of their competition and try to get a sense of whom every club will be targeting on draft day.
There could still be a big name or two that changes teams before the draft gets underway on April 26, but the majority of the major moves have already taken place. With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the teams whose draft plans were most affected by free agency. Here's my list.
1. New York Jets
Key additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater, RB Isaiah Crowell, CB Trumaine Johnson, OG Spencer Long, WR Terrelle Pryor, LB Avery Williamson
Key departures: TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Top needs: QB, EDGE, WR
Analysis: The Jets failed in their attempt to sign Kirk Cousins. So, they missed out on their top target, but they used the money they had allotted for him to sign several key free agents. Johnson and Williamson will both play key roles for Todd Bowles' defense this season, while Crowell and Pryor are both high-upside players on the offensive side of the ball. They also made a bold trade, moving up three spots in the first round to the No. 3 overall pick. They re-signed Josh McCown and signed Bridgewater, but they clearly have their sights set on drafting a quarterback at No. 3.
2. Chicago Bears
Key additions: TE Trey Burton, QB Chase Daniel, WR Taylor Gabriel, WR Allen Robinson
Key departures: OG Josh Sitton
Top needs: EDGE, OL, LB
Analysis: The Bears had a very simple offseason goal: Help Mitchell Trubisky. They first set out to land an offensive-minded coach, and did so with the hiring of Matt Nagy. They focused on adding some weapons to the passing game in free agency. They quickly signed the top wide receiver target (Robinson) on the market and sprinkled in two other explosive playmakers (Gabriel and Burton). If they had failed to secure these players, they might've been forced to reach with that top pick (No. 8 overall). Now, they have freed themselves up to take the best available player regardless of position.
3. Los Angeles Rams
Key additions: CB Marcus Peters, DT Ndamukong Suh, CB Aqib Talib
Key departures: CB Trumaine Johnson, LB Alec Ogletree, DE Robert Quinn, WR Sammy Watkins
Top needs: EDGE, LB, OT
Analysis: The Rams are clearly loading up for a Super Bowl push this season. They have been ultra-aggressive in free agency, trading for both Talib and Peters before agreeing to terms on a deal with Suh. Peters and Talib are two of the top cornerbacks in the league and they fit beautifully in the Rams' defensive scheme. It was long assumed the Rams would lose Johnson to free agency, but instead of being forced to find his replacement early in the draft, they took care of it during free agency. In order to gain some salary cap relief, they traded away Quinn and Ogletree. Both players must be replaced in the draft.
4. New York Giants
Key additions: LB Alec Ogletree, OT Nate Solder, RB Jonathan Stewart
Key departures: DE Jason Pierre-Paul, OG Justin Pugh, C Weston Richburg
Top needs: QB, EDGE, interior OL
Analysis: The Giants have been very active in free agency. That's to be expected when an organization has new leadership. They've brought in some key pieces on the offensive side of the ball -- Solder is a major upgrade at offensive tackle, while Stewart adds some size/power to the run game. However, they traded away a very talented edge rusher (Pierre-Paul) and lost two talented interior offensive linemen (Pugh and Richburg). They must decide whether or not to select a potential Eli Manning successor with the second overall pick, but one of their early picks has to address edge rusher or the interior O-line.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Key additions: CB Kendall Fuller, LB Anthony Hitchens, WR Sammy Watkins
Key departures: CB Marcus Peters, QB Alex Smith, WR Albert Wilson
Top needs: CB, DL, OG
Analysis: The Chiefs made the first big move of the offseason when they traded Smith to the Redskins. They followed that trade up with the shocking decision to move Peters for draft picks. Then, they moved quickly to sign Watkins and Hitchens, two of the top free agents at their respective positions. I like some of the young talent they possess at the cornerback position, but that is clearly an area they will address early in the draft. They have done a nice job surrounding Patrick Mahomes with playmakers, but they need to keep adding pieces on the defensive side of the ball. -- Daniel Jeremiah
MINKAH FITZPATRICK: MAN WITHOUT POSITION OR VERSATILE FIT?
Despite being hailed as one of the elite prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft, Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick isn't viewed as a slam dunk to be a blue-chip pro by some defensive coaches around the league. While his versatility has been celebrated by some, there are coaches that believe he could be a man without a position at the next level.
"Fitzpatrick is a good player, but I don't know where he plays on the field as a pro," said an AFC secondary coach. "I don't think he can live on the island as a corner and you never really see him play in the post as a free safety. I like the stuff that he does as a nickel but I don't know if it's enough to justify where you have to take him."
The coach certainly brings up a valid point about Fitzpatrick's versatility potentially making it hard on a team to craft a role for him. Although he has experience playing every position in the back end, he hasn't majored at one spot since arriving as a five-star recruit. When I look at Fitzpatrick's game and Swiss-Army-knife-like flexibility, he reminds me of the Eagles' Malcolm Jenkins as a pro. He's capable of lining up at corner, but he's at his best when playing in the slot or in the post as a hybrid-safety type.
Digging deeper into my scouting archive, I believe the Fitzpatrick evaluation could mirror Antrel Rolle's scouting report. Rolle was the eighth overall pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2005 draft as a corner. After struggling on the island at the start of his career, he moved to free safety and became one of the best in the game, earning three Pro Bowl nods.
With Fitzpatrick showing similar skills, it's important for his future team to put him in a role that allows him to shine as a hybrid playmaker. If he can find the right fit, Fitzpatrick could be the impact player that most expect when evaluating his game. -- Bucky Brooks