Draft season is full of evaluating individual prospects. While we look at what these players did in college and what they could be in the NFL, where they land and how those teams use them could be the most important piece of their success at the next level.
With the draft concluded, let’s take a look at some players who landed in a perfect spot for their skill set.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll stay away from quarterbacks and other players we’ve discussed in other post-draft articles.
Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland – New York Giants – First Round
Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale wants to play aggressive man coverage, sometimes to the detriment of the defense.
During his final season with the Baltimore Ravens in 2021, Martindale used the sixth-highest rate of man coverage despite an injury-depleted group of cornerbacks.
With the Giants in 2022, Martindale used the highest rate of man coverage, 40.5% of defensive snaps per TruMedia.
The Giants decreased the use of man coverage after their Week 9 bye but still had the fourth-highest rate over the span (33.8%).
Martindale was able to adjust to a lower quality of cornerback depth as the season went on, but in his bones, he wants to play at one speed.
Banks played as one of the most aggressive cornerbacks in college football in 2022.
At Maryland last season, Banks played press on 45% of his snaps, the second-highest rate among this year’s cornerback class per SIS.
There were a few bigger plays given up in man, but Banks allowed just a 40% success rate in man coverage.
He was an even better zone corner, allowing 0.4 yards per coverage snap, tied for fourth in this class, along with a 25% success rate. Even in the heaviest man defenses, zone will be played more often.
In either coverage, Banks gives the Giants a big, fast, and physical corner that should fit perfectly into what they want to do on defense.
Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah – Buffalo Bills – First Round
At points last season, the Bills tried to get into heavier personnel packages to create some mismatches for the defense.
That typically brought Reggie Gilliam on the field as a fullback in 21 personnel. Buffalo used 21 on 14% of plays but averaged -0.02 EPA per play from that package.
The idea to get heavier to pass worked. The Bills averaged 0.14 EPA per dropback from 21. But they couldn’t run, averaging -0.22 EPA per rush.
With Kincaid in the mix, the Bills can now take that idea and use it with 12 personnel. Buffalo used 12 personnel on just 3.7% of plays in 2022, the lowest rate in the league.
No offense to Gilliam, but Kincaid will offer the Bills more versatility in how they use their heavier personnel packages as a better pass catcher with the ability to spread things out more for the run game.
Last season at Utah, Kincaid played 55.5% of his snaps inline and 37.7% in the slot.
When the Bills used 21 personnel last season, defenses used base personnel 63.1% of the time and nickel 34.5% of the time. On leaguewide 12 personnel snaps in 2022, defenses used base 44.9% of the time and nickel 49.1% of the time.
Kincaid and Dawson Knox could be considered redundant but they also could be interchangeable when one or both are on the field.
Both are legitimate pass catchers, which will help if defenses play the pass in nickel. But also with those bigger bodies, the Bills could have a changeup to attack those lighter defenses on the ground.
Buffalo has struggled to get an effective ground game going in order to take some pressure off of the passing game.
Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati – Chicago Bears – Fourth Round
Justin Fields had the fifth-highest aDOT in the league among quarterbacks in 2022. He had the third-highest rate of throws that went more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.
That’s the way Fields wants to play, especially given his legs can be the check down when he scrambles.
The problem is the Bears offense wasn’t really set up to sustain a downfield passing game.
Chicago’s deep threat was Darnell Mooney, who accounted for 29.8% of Fields’s pass attempts of 11 or more air yards. Without a real deep threat, the Bears didn’t have a typical downfield offense even with the relatively high volume of pass attempts to that area.
Only 29.8% of Fields’s throws of 11 or more air yards went to go routes, which ranked 19th among quarterbacks, and he had the third-lowest rate of deep post routes, per TruMedia.
16.7% of Fields’s attempts of 11-plus air yards went to hitch routes, the highest rate in the league.
Chicago’s offense should open up with the addition of D.J. Moore, who had a league-leading 44.7% target share on targets of 11-plus air yards, but the addition of Scott gives the Bears a deep threat who could both win down the field and open up things underneath for others.
Scott ran a 4.44 forty and showed the ability to get open at Cincinnati. He had a 12.8-yard aDOT last season while just 30% of his routes were run deep, per SIS, so the downfield work could even increase when he slides in with the Bears.
He won’t have to be the top target, so that speed will be used as a complementary piece that just wasn’t available for Chicago last season.
Yasir Abdullah, EDGE, Louisville – Jacksonville Jaguars – Fifth Round
The only player in this draft class with more quarterback hits than Abdullah during the 2022 college football season was Will Anderson Jr.
He’s also one of the more athletic pass rushers in this draft class with a 98th percentile forty (4.47) and 96th percentile broad jump, as well as athletic comps to the likes of Nolan Smith and Haason Reddick.
The knock is he’s undersized — 6-foot-1 and 237 pounds — and he could be considered a bit of a tweener for the NFL level.
Last season at Louisville, Abdullah rushed the passer on 73% of his pass snaps. But being a “tweener” should actually fit well with how the Jaguars want to deploy their pass rushers.
Last season, Josh Allen rushed on 85% of his pass snaps and Travon Walker did so on 85.6%, per TruMedia.
The ability to rush and drop back into coverage will be a celebrated trait for Jacksonville, and it’s less likely Abdullah falls into a role that only sees him as strictly a pass rusher or strictly a linebacker.
The Jaguars also are in desperate need to create meaningful pressure.
Jacksonville was third in pressure rate and eighth in hit rate last season but 27th in sack rate. The team is also without Arden Key and Dawuane Smoot, who accounted for 9.5 of Jacksonville’s 35 sacks in 2022.
Abdullah can fire off the line and be in the backfield so quickly the force knocks the ball out. He had four forced fumbles on pass rushes last season while he had a 19.3% pressure rate that was third in this class.
Over the past three seasons, he had eight forced fumbles and 38 tackles for loss.
It won’t be difficult to imagine Abdullah making his way onto the field as a rotational pass rusher and making an impact on whatever snaps he gets.
Devon Achane, RB, Texas A&M – Miami Dolphins – Third Round
Achane ran a 4.32 forty and had a speed score of 108. That’s getting thrown into what is already the fastest offense in the league with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Raheem Mostert.
In each of the past two seasons, Achane had 18 runs of 15 or more yards.
Achane is an explosive zone runner, which fits right in with the running schemes the Dolphins deploy. Miami used outside zone runs on 36.7% of their running back attempts, the ninth-highest in the league, and inside zone on another 23.9%.
On zone runs last season, Achane had a 13.4% boom rate — the rate of runs that produce over 1.0 EPA — which was the ninth-highest among 53 backs in college football with at least 100 zone attempts per SIS.
The Dolphins ran a ton of plays with two backs on the field, including a league-leading 35.6% of plays in 21 personnel.
Most of those came with fullback Alec Ingold on the field, but there was a small sample of plays with two backs on the field without Ingold.
On those rushing attempts, Miami averaged 0.90 EPA per play. Now those two backs could be Achane and Mostert.
Even in the regular rotation, the Dolphins have backs in Mostert, Achane, and Jeff Wilson with the ability to break a long run at any time.
That’s the overall theme of the Miami offense, a potential touchdown on any given play. The Dolphins were already first in explosive play rate last season.
Ji’Ayir Brown, S, Penn State – San Francisco 49ers – Third Round
Brown is a versatile safety who can bounce around all over the secondary.
Last season, Brown played 50.7% of his snaps deep, 23.1% in the box, and 16% in the slot for Penn State as he took over the Jaquan Brisker role.
He fell to the third round in a relatively weak safety class that did not present a ton of plus athletes.
That was a knock on Brown’s game. His 4.65 forty time is not the type of speed teams are looking for, but Brown’s play speed is much faster than that time would indicate. He’s instinctive and consistently takes the correct angles to be in the play.
He’s going to a defense that should allow him to move around and use those instincts next to another instinctive safety in Talanoa Hufanga.
Those instincts present Brown with the innate ability to find the ball. Over the past two seasons. Brown has 10 interceptions and 19 pass breakups.
The 49ers tied for the league lead in interceptions last season with nine coming from their top two safeties in Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson.
One of Brown’s biggest strengths is his blitzing ability. Brown rushed the passer on 12% of his pass snaps, which led all safeties in this class, and he averaged 1.2 pressures per game per SIS.
New 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is no stranger to defensive back blitzes. Last season, the Panthers had the seventh-most plays with a defensive back as a pass rusher and ranked sixth in EPA per play on those snaps, per TruMedia.
Jordan Addison, WR, USC – Minnesota Vikings – First Round
The Vikings struggled through stretches last season without a legitimate No. 2 option.
Adam Theilen ran the second-most routes in the league behind Justin Jefferson but averaged just 1.07 yards per route run.
After the T.J. Hockenson trade, the Vikings were able to use the tight end as the second option, which opened up more of the field for Jefferson.
From Week 9 on, Jefferson and Hockenson accounted for 50.4% of the Vikings’ targets. In that time, Thielen averaged 0.92 yards per route run and K.J. Obborn averaged 1.27.
With Addison now on board, the Vikings have three real receiving options that can stress the defense all over.
Addison is small but does everything that goes with being a receiver well. He understands releases and how to create leverage to get open.
He’s so smooth in his routes and averaged over 3.0 yards per route run in each of the past two seasons, at two different schools and in wildly different offenses.
Addison is also one of the most reliable receivers in football with a 95% catch rate on catchable targets last season, the best in this class.
He also has inside/outside versatility. He played 80% of his snaps in the slot during his Biletnikoff Award-winning season at Pitt in 2021 but was in the slot for only 29% of his routes last year at USC.
The Vikings like to move their receivers around. Jefferson played 21% of his snaps from the slot from Week 9 on while Theilen was at 28.1% and Osborn was at 60.4%.
Addison can win at every area of the field and could be one of the most dynamic intermediate receivers in the league once he steps on the field. Despite just 16 targets between 11-19 air yards at USC, Addison was 25th in total EPA on those targets among all college receivers.
After Hockenson was acquired, Kirk Cousins had the sixth-highest rate of throws into the intermediate area and had the 10th-best success rate on those throws.
Given his size, asking Addison to step in and immediately be a top target might have been a tough ask. But with the Vikings, he gets to slide in as a plus complementary piece in an offense that needed another option.