With the 2019 NFL Draft fast approaching, mock drafts and prospect rankings are flying fast and furious. Let's take a moment to view this class through a slightly different prism: by finding the best NFL team fits for some of the top prospects at four key positions. The below list does not necessarily take into account where these teams are drafting and how many picks they hold; rather, this is about identifying the best match between prospect and team. Let's take a look below at where some of the top pass rushing prospects would fit best (they are ranked in order).
NOTE: While I stuck to five prospects at each of the other positions in this series, I decided to go with six pass rushers in this defense-heavy draft.
In 2018, the Niners recorded just two interceptions and seven total takeaways, both record lows for an NFL team in a 16-game season. Not coincidentally, they also posted just 37 sacks (tied for 22nd overall). One method for improving the performance of a secondary is boosting one's pass rush. The trade for former ChiefDee Ford should help in that area, but unless San Francisco wants to move down in the 2019 NFL Draft, it wouldn't hurt to use the second overall pick on a premium quarterback hunter, even with the presence of pretty good defensive linemen already on the roster. Bosa is a very disruptive player with great quickness and power; he knows how to use his hands. He is similar to (though not as big as) his brother Joey, who has performed at an elite level since the Chargers took him third overall in 2016. Nick Bosa is an excellent athlete who will make an impact both with his ability to rush the passer and stop the run. The Ohio State product will play for a long time at the NFL level and should be a double-digit sack guy starting in 2019.
The Jets managed to generate a decent amount of pressure under former head coach Todd Bowles last season (39 sacks, tied for 16th overall). But there is no one currently on the roster who strikes fear in the guys lining up across from him. In fact, only one Jets player has posted double-digit sacks in a season over the past five seasons, and that was current Packer Muhammad Wilkerson in 2015 (12.0). This team, which holds the third overall pick in the draft, is in prime position to upgrade its defensive front under new coordinator Gregg Williams. Quinnen Williams explodes off the ball as a pass rusher from the defensive tackle spot, as evidenced by his 8.0 sacks in 2018 with Alabama. He plays with a low pad level and is an outstanding athlete with power and a great feel for his position. He will start in Year 1 and have a good chance of making the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
The Raidersmade a litany of signings in free agency in an attempt to upgrade what was one of the weakest rosters in the NFL in 2018, but the defensive end position remains barren. In the wake of Khalil Mack's trade to Chicago last September, Oakland generated a mere 13 sacks, which was the worst single-season total by any team since Kansas City posted 10 in 2008. Allen boosted his draft stock significantly by staying at Kentucky for his senior year, putting up 17.0 sacks. In addition to rushing the passer, he can stop the run and cover downfield -- he's a very versatile athlete. He'll start in Year 1 and should reach many Pro Bowls over the course of his career. Provided the Raiders don't have their heart set on drafting QB Kyler Murray, they should be able to land an elite pass rusher like Allen, whether one falls to them at No. 4 overall or they use their draft capital (which includes the 24th and 27th overall picks) to trade up for one.
2018 team sacks-leader Mario Addison (9.0) needs help in Carolina, where Julius Peppers retired and veteran signee Bruce Irvin projects as more of a stop-gap solution than anything. It would also make sense for the Panthers to draft a tackle, seeing as how Kawann Short is coming off a 3.0-sack season, while veteran Dontari Poe had a disappointing first year with the team. Oliver primarily lines up over the center, and while he's not as powerful as Aaron Donald, he has an explosive first step and brought excellent effort on the field for Houston.
The trade of Olivier Vernon to the Browns left a void at pass rusher on the Giants' roster. The team did sign Markus Golden, who collected 12.5 sacks for Arizona in 2016, but he has yet to return to his pre-injury form after tearing his ACL in 2017, registering just 2.5 sacks last season. The Giants and the Patriots were tied for the second-lowest sack total in 2018 (30), and I think New York would love to bolster this position. Sweat has an unbelievable first-step burst and an 85-inch wingspan. He collected 22.5 sacks over the past two seasons at Mississippi State. Sweat also is excellent at dropping into the flat. He needs to play at a lower pad level, and whichever team drafts him would have to be comfortable with his health after a heart issue was revealed at the combine, but he has the ability to start in Year 1 and projects as a perennial Pro Bowl player.
After something of an exodus of pass-rushing talent (Cameron Wake signed with the Titans, Andre Branch was cut and Robert Quinn was traded to the Cowboys), the Dolphins could seriously use some help in this department, especially with former first-round pick Charles Harris totaling a meager 3.0 sacks in two seasons. Consider that the returning defensive linemen with the highest 2018 sack totals are Akeem Spence and Vincent Taylor, who each had 2.0. Burns is a tall (6-foot-4 3/4), thin (250 pounds) pass rusher with length. He needs to add strength, but the Florida State product has very explosive get-off as a pass rusher and is extremely athletic, having posted an unbelievable time of 7.01 seconds in the three-cone drill. Burns needs to get better against the run, but he has tremendous upside.