By Cyril Penn
The NFL draft isn’t always about the best players. It’s about the best fits for players with the teams that drafted them. Here are the five best fits from Day 1:
No. 1: Kyle Pitts, TE, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons opted to stand pat at No. 4 and draft Kyle Pitts rather than draft a QB or trade back, and that speaks to how dominant Pitts can be on this Falcons offense. With an already potent group of weapons surrounding Matt Ryan, Atlanta may field the best offense in the NFL in 2021 with the addition of Pitts.
Pitts is a dominant mismatch player who can line up in-line, in the slot or our wide. He’s too fast for linebackers and too physically imposing for most defensive backs to handle. Plus, he’ll be a reliable red-zone threat. However, the main reason he’s such a great fit in Atlanta is the presence of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley at wide receiver. No defense will be able to bring extra attention his way, at risk of getting burned by one of Atlanta’s other options.
No. 2: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts came into the draft with a lackluster defensive end rotation, looking to upgrade their pass rush. They held firm at No. 21 and left the first round with the highest-graded 4-3 defensive end prospect on the 33rd Team’s Big Board, and an ideal fit for their defense.
Paye brings elite change of direction, high-end hand usage, and the toughness that Colts’ GM Chris Ballard covets on his defense. With DeForest Buckner tearing up the interior and drawing a lot of double teams, Paye will be put in an optimal position to rush the passer from the 5-technique spot.
No. 3: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Denver Broncos
Patrick Surtain’s size, discipline, and press coverage ability makes him the ideal fit on the boundary for Vic Fangio’s defense. After coming to Denver from Mike Zimmer’s Vikings, new GM George Paton absolutely knows that a defense can never have too many good cornerbacks.
Surtain is the most pro-ready of all the defenders in this class, and his pedigree as the son of a former Pro Bowler is evident on tape. Grabbing the 33rd Team’s top-ranked cornerback and No. 9 overall player in the 9 slot is an ideal fit for the Broncos.
No. 4: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings came into the draft with a big hole at the left tackle position, and left Day 1 with one of the premier pass protectors in the class. Darrisaw is an excellent fit in Minnesota’s outside zone-heavy running scheme, with the athleticism to make blocks in open space or execute cutoff blocks when necessary.
Not only did the Vikings nab an ideal fit for their offensive line, they managed to trade back from No. 14 to No. 23 to secure two additional third-round picks while still getting a player they likely would’ve been happy taking at 14. This is a massive win for the Vikings on Day 1, as they strengthened their roster with an ideal fit, and bolstered their Day 2 draft capital along the way.
No. 5: Payton Turner, EDGE, New Orleans Saints
After losing Trey Hendrickson in free agency, the Saints may have upgraded here by grabbing an enticing prospect with elite upside. In taking Houston prospect Payton Turner at No. 28, New Orleans is getting a player with outstanding length, hand usage, and motor who can play multiple positions along the DL.
Turner struggled a bit with instincts and discipline on tape, but he’s in the perfect position to come in as the third banana on the edge behind Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. Under Jordan’s tutelage, there’s a high chance that Turner is able to reach his ceiling as a high-end pass rusher with alignment versatility.