Ho ho ho! It’s that wonderful time of year when we give gifts to those we love and those we mildly tolerate. I am going to play the role of Santa this year and hand out some NFL Draft gifts to each AFC team (don’t worry NFC, you’ll get some belated gifts next week).
Now, the players each team is getting aren’t necessarily a first round pick or maybe not even addressing a need, but players that would fit the mentality and approach of a team, coaching staff, and/or city. After all, some gifts are luxuries while some fill a need.
Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M
A stocking stuffer of a workhorse RB for the Bills would go a long way. The slight flashes of Devin Singletary, Zach Moss, and Matt Brieda are not enough week to week to sustain a top running game. Having a big bodied RB who can catch and combine the best parts of their current group would make this Bills offense even more dangerous.
Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia
The Dolphins have lacked a physical LB for a long time, so Santa will finally grant South Beach a perfect fit. Tindall is such a downhill physical tackler that he would bring a swagger to a Dolphins defense that desperately needs it. Santa’s sleigh may not even be able to run through Tindall, and that is something the Dolphins could use.
New England Patriots
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
We are happy to give Bill Belichick a gift so he doesn’t have to try and pick out a WR of his own. Wilson gives Belichick the type of WR he likes but one who can actually separate and run routes to make big plays. Quicker than children on Christmas morning, Mac Jones would get a safety blanket and a gift to allow the Patriots to compete when behind.
New York Jets
Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina
With a big box under the tree tagged to Zach Wilson, the Jets could open up an offensive playmaker that can add a playmaking threat. Likely has flashed big play ability this season and has some great foot speed. The Jets getting more pass catching gifts for their young QB would make for a good season.
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
Press man corners are the gift that keeps on giving for the Ravens defense. “Sauce” is such a sticky physical CB, he screams Ravens defender. The days of the vaunted Ravens defense is over, but Gardner has some of those old Chris McAllister vibes to bring back to Charm City. Pour that sauce all over the turkey for the Ravens.
Marcus Jones, CB, Houston
Mike Hilton has shown the Bengals how important the nickel position is. So, why not give them a future at the position as well as one of the best return men in the draft? Jones is small, but big things come in small packages. He is tough, physical, and fast. The return game for the Bengals also needs a little holiday magic, which Jones can improve in a hurry. A gift that helps on two of the three phases of the game? Yes please.
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are the backbone of the Browns offense. So, Santa will just add to the strength with a super athletic, hard nosed interior lineman. Linderbaum was blowing open holes at Iowa this year and can play Guard for Cleveland. They are unlikely to be in a position to draft him, but it would be fun. Instead of sugar plums, the Dawg Pound would have visions of Linderbaum pancakes dancing in their head.
Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
The Steelers might be singing “Auld Lang Syne” reflecting on the Steel Curtain of the past. But sometimes, the best gift is rekindling that old flame. Their 2001 1st round pick Casey Hampton was a game changer for the run defense, and Davis gives off those type of vibes. The leader of the Georgia Bulldogs defense, Davis’ two-gap run stuffing would change the game and bring back the Steelers D of auld.
Jermaine Johnson II, EDGE, Florida State
If you put the elves in the workshop to mold a pass rusher, they may very well get Johnson II. After sitting at Georgia for awhile, he finally got his shot and shined for the Seminoles. Johnson has equal parts pass rush ability and setting the edge to make RBs pay for going outside. The Texans could take this gift to start a rebuild on defense.
Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
Sometimes the season means out with the old and in with the new. The Colts young toys of Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman have helped put them in contention, but a field stretching WR to replace TY Hilton could be a massive upgrade. Shakir is faster than a sleigh ride in the North Pole. He effortlessly glides on the 9 route to get behind WRs while giving a nice Screen option in the pass game too to expand this offense.
David Bell, WR, Purdue
Imagine if Santa’s reindeer all were unable to go on Christmas and he had a pack of inattentive donkeys ready to pull the sleigh. That is what the Jaguars WR group was like this year. DJ Chark and Travis Etienne went down. Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault haven’t been effective. Unknowns like Jamal Agnew had a role then went on IR. And now old first round pick Laquon Treadwell is leading the team. Gifting Trevor Lawerence a 50/50 ball WR like Bell who has been super productive might actually turn this passing offense around.
Jamaree Salyer, OL, Georgia
Salyer is the Ultimate Irish Peeler of offensive lineman (sometimes I buy my family “As Seen on TV” stuff for Christmas, sorry). He slices, he dices, and can julienne fries. Being able to play all 5 positions on an offensive line is rare, and even more rare is doing it for one of the best teams in college football. Salyer could add another push blocker for Derrick Henry while adding some protection for Ryan Tannehill.
Ikem Ekwonu, OL, NC State
Ekwonu throws guys around like the Bumble out there. The Tackle who could be a monster guard has been so fun to watch this season. I’m sure Broncos fans want a QB gift, but Santa loves Javonte Williams, so the best run blocker in the draft would be fun to add to the squad.
Kansas City Chiefs
Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati
The Chiefs have some great weapons, but as Travis Kelce gets older and Mecole Hardman fails to gain traction, it is time for a big contested catcher to help Patrick Mahomes with short yardage. Enter the Bearcat. Pierce’s long arms and box out ability have been huge for undefeated Cincinnati this year. He is no lump of coal though because he can move on slants and crosses to give quick easy targets for Kansas City.
Las Vegas Raiders
Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State
We will see how the Raiders change their defensive system this offseason, but Emerson would be a gift to help on the boundary. He is a press man cover player who had an excellent game against Alabama and is more physical than those reindeer games we hear so much about. With Damon Arnette flaming out, Emerson could fill in and be an instant starter.
Los Angeles Chargers
Jalen Wydermyer, TE, Texas A&M
Putting more gifts under the tree for Justin Herbert is never a bad thing. Though “older than Santa Clause” Jared Cook and big man Donald Parham flashed some ability, Wydermyer’s two-way play would be a perfect fit for this offense. He is a nasty blocker and can seal the edge for Austin Ekeler as well as be a great red zone target with a high football IQ.