Welcome to the 2021 edition of the annual B.E.S.T. NFL Mock Draft!
Please note the website switch from BigEasySportsTalk.com (where you can find my previous Mock Drafts) to FantasyLawGuy.com.
Last year, thanks to a white hot start (hitting on 9 of the first 11 picks), my 2020 B.E.S.T. NFL Mock Draft once again graded as one of the most accurate mock drafts in the nation, totaling 10 correct picks in total.
Moreover, I mocked 18/32 players either correctly or within 3 picks and correctly listed the right player on their team’s “Short List” for 24/32 picks, meaning only 8 picks were considered “unexpected” if you read and followed my mock draft. On the other hand, I need to do a better job of identifying the players who will be drafted in Round 1; last year, I mocked 8 players who were not selected in Round 1 entirely, which is far from ideal and does not match up with what was otherwise a very accurate mock, relatively speaking of course.
Regardless, I achieved my goals for the 2020 NFL Draft, which due to Covid-19 limiting the draft process, was supposed to be one of the most unpredictable drafts ever (though as it turned out, it was actually relatively uneventful). My 2020 B.E.S.T. Mock Draft tallied 1430 points in NFLMockDraftDatabase.com’s scoring system, which ranked 4th among 300+ mock drafts graded by that site. It’s also worth noting that my 2019 B.E.S.T. NFL Mock Draft finished as the 2nd most accurate mock draft out of 251 entries graded by the site that year. Comparatively, my 2020 B.E.S.T. Mock Draft notched 181 points in FantasyPros.com’s scoring system, which would have ranked T-13th among 212 NFL Draft Experts in FantasyPros.com’s Accuracy Rankings. (For reference, my 2019 B.E.S.T. NFL Mock Draft would have finished T-3rd among 138 mocks, scoring 166 points in this format that year).
Those are just two examples of a number of cool websites recently developed and devoted to compiling mock drafts and scoring them based on accuracy.
For more context and details about MY MOCK DRAFT HISTORY, and to see how my B.E.S.T. Mock Drafts have compared with experts in the industry, and click the link below:
As always, a MAIN GOAL for this exercise is to MINIMIZE THE SURPRISES on draft night for the readers. In other words, the fewer times you say “wow I did not see that coming!” after reading this mock, the better I feel I did my job. After all, the NFL Draft is largely variable (though not as impossibly unpredictable as many think!).
Accordingly, this Mock Draft will be updated and modified almost daily up until the draft on Thursday, April 29th.
(Last Updated: 4/29/2021)
1. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - Trevor Lawrence (QB - Clemson)
Short List: Trevor Lawrence
Team Needs: QB, OT, DL, TE
Considerations: In terms of mocking, this is one of the surest bets in recent NFL Draft history.
2. NEW YORK JETS - Zach Wilson (QB - BYU)
Short List: Zach Wilson
Team Needs: QB, CB, ED, RB
Considerations: All indications are that the Jets have committed to Zach Wilson as their next franchise quarterback.
3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS - Mac Jones (QB - 'Bama)
Short List: Mac Jones, Trey Lance … Justin Fields, Kyle Pitts
Team Needs: QB, CB, iOL, NT
Considerations: Since the moment the 49ers traded up from pick 12, the quarterback they are targeting has been THE story of this NFL Draft cycle. Analysts dissecting every potential lead or context clue, and tons of conflicting reports among the experts, have epitomized what mocking the draft is all about. Among the highlights throughout the process: One day after the team moved up from 12 to 3, GM John Lynch and HC Kyle Shanahan attended the Pro Day of Mac Jones instead of Justin Fields. When asked about it, Shanahan said that when you move up to pick 3, you don’t have to be so secretive. This, among other things, leads several plugged-in experts, including Adam Schefter, to report that Mac Jones is the apple of Shanahan’s eye. Jones “fits Shanahan’s system” and reminds experts of a more accurate Matt Ryan or Kirk Cousins, both of whom Shanahan has had success coaching. Last season, Jones, by many objective accounts and measures, had one of the most accurate seasons of throwing the football in CFB history. However, several insiders – and countless fans – have refused to believe that the 49ers would give up such a substantial trade package for a traditional pocket passer like Jones, as opposed to far more athletic options with higher ceilings like Justin Fields or Trey Lance. One basis of support behind this theory was a press conference following a loss against Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills last season in which Shanahan spoke about the game evolving and how difficult it was to defend a mobile quarterback who was also accurate. Ideally, Shanahan said, you could have dual-threat QB without sacrificing the accuracy. Accordingly, this draws many to conclude that the pick must be Lance or Fields. It is also noteworthy that the big-name experts who initially reported that Mac Jones was likely the target have either back-tracked or decreased their confidence level, failing to double-down. Shanahan himself has appeared more secretive. A few weeks ago, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that the 49ers were still undecided on what they would do with the No. 3 pick. About this time, we begin to hear a drumbeat for Trey Lance as his Pro Day approached. The 49ers were extremely involved in Trey Lance’s second workout; the team had a hand in administering the workout, giving Lance a list of scripted drills and plays that fit the 49ers offense. Lance has reportedly worked closely this month with QB coach John Beck, who played under Shanahan. The 49ers also met with Lance’s parents on a trip to Fargo this week. Importantly, Lance (briefly) became the betting favorite for pick 3. All of this is either a strong indication that the team has not shut the door on taking Lance, or it’s part of an elaborate acting job. Perhaps the NFL stepped in after the Alabama Pro Day and told the team not to leak the pick? Or perhaps the interest in Lance is legitimate. Moreover, maybe the media was wrong, and Lance was always the target. Regardless, at this point it appears that it’s a two-horse race between Trey Lance and Mac Jones. Michael Lombardi, among others, has reported that Justin Fields will NOT be the pick. Throughout the process, there has been a disconnect regarding Fields where the media and fans have valued Fields a lot more highly than NFL teams. Former NFL QB Sage Rosenfels, who works with Shanahan at the QB Collective, stated that Shanahan “ain’t taking Mac, period.” On the other hand, former NFL QB Chris Simms, who is one of Shanahan’s best friends, would be shocked if Mac Jones is not the pick. Peter King and Daniel Jeremiah also believe the 49ers will select Jones, whereas Rich Eisen and Tony Pauline say sources they trust have told them it’s Lance. Todd McShay recently reported that many in the 49ers’ personnel department want to take Lance, but Shanahan is set on Jones. I think it is worth noting that Ian Rappoport stated that the 49ers were in on Sam Darnold before moving up. Dane Brugler suggested that the 49ers may have traded up from 12 to 3 when they heard Carolina (pick 8) was interested in Mac Jones – Benjamin Allbright confirmed the Panthers’ interest in Jones. Carolina traded for Darnold after the 49ers leap-frogged them. I find it telling that in a recent press conference, Shanahan mentioned Drew Brees (who Jones is comparable to, coming out of college) and stated that he and John Lynch are not paying attention to what experts and fans are saying the team should do on social media (“it is so irresponsible to let something like that affect your decision”) … by the way, have I mentioned that 49ers fans are going to riot if Mac Jones is the pick? I’ve never seen a fan base be so patently against a projected pick. So that’s one fun angle here. Furthermore, Shanahan could not commit to Jimmy Garoppolo being on the roster at the start of the season (or even being alive next week). Jones is seen as the most pro-ready QB. Lastly, GM John Lynch said he defers to Shanahan for the quarterback selection. Ultimately, the presser seemed to me like Lynch and Shanahan were bracing the fans for the team selecting Jones. Shanahan values accuracy and pocket presence above all else, and he does not value (and arguably does not want) a QB who creates outside of the confines of his successful system. He trusts his system and his play-calling and simply wants a QB who can go through the progressions and make accurate throws to open receivers, a task that Jimmy Garoppolo consistently made look difficult. I also think that the 49ers are trying to win now, not develop a project. For what it’s worth, Grant Cohn pointed out that Jones is the only one of the “Big 3” available QBs who follows 49ers captains Jimmy Garoppolo and Mike McGlinchey on Twitter. Can you tell how desperate I am to correctly predict this pick?
Best Guess: While it’s possible that evaluating Trey Lance throughout the process has made this decision more difficult, I do not buy that the team is still mulling over the pick. In fact, I believe made the trade with a specific QB target in mind, and in my opinion, that QB is Mac Jones. Certainly, there are indications that the pick could have been Lance all along, and no one should be surprised if it’s Lance. Nevertheless, mocking the NFL Draft is a task of educated uncertainty, and right now, I would guess this pick is: 75% Jones, 20% Lance, 4% Fields, and 1% Pitts.
4. ATLANTA FALCONS - Kyle Pitts (TE - Florida)
Short List: Kyle Pitts, Trey Lance, Mac Jones, Justin Fields, Penei Sewell
Team Needs: S, ED, RB, OL
Considerations: Atlanta is at a crossroads where the new regime has to decide if they want to see if they can be competitive enough in the short term to coax a winning season or two in Matt Ryan’s final years, or whether they should begin the full rebuild now. Ryan’s gigantic contract presents a huge road block and may dictate the path. As it stands, the Falcons cannot realistically get out of Ryan’s deal for another two seasons (though a trade in 2022 is possible). On one hand, it would be perfect to bring in a young QB like Trey Lance, Justin Fields, or Mac Jones and have him groomed and developed under the experienced vet, with no pressure to play for at least one season. Furthermore, Atlanta may feel they are too far deep in salary cap hell to win a Super Bowl in the near future, but they will competitive enough to win games, and thus they won’t be in as good of a position to draft a franchise QB as they are now at pick 4. On the other hand, if the team takes a QB now, he’s going to sit behind Ryan for at least one season, and by the time he is good enough to play and win, the Falcons may be in the midst of a full rebuild. It’s noteworthy that the team has taken calls for star WR Julio Jones. Apparently, the organization was split initially on how to approach this pick, and ultimately their future. Owner Arthur Blank has suggested several times that he’s quite interested in the quarterbacks this year. There have also been rumors that GM Terry Fontenot wants to select Trey Lance. However, new HC Arthur Smith supposedly wants to roll with Ryan for the next two seasons and give him some help on offense – most likely stud TE Kyle Pitts. The idea of defending an offense with Pitts, and WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley may give defenses nightmares. Although Pitts is the unicorn of this draft class, and many teams will have Pitts as the No. 1 overall player on their boards, it’s at least worth mentioning that Atlanta does not exactly have a big need at TE; the team traded for Hayden Hurst last offseason, and he wasn’t exactly cheap. Arthur Smith was a former TE coach, and tight end is an important position in Arthur Smith’s offense… but it’s not nearly as important as quarterback. As tough as passing on a cheat-code like Pitts may be, if I were in Atlanta’s shoes, I would use this opportunity to take and develop a quarterback. My opinion is completely irrelevant, however. Now, the organization is supposedly in agreement of what to do with this pick. Atlanta has reportedly tried to trade down, but the asking price seems too high, so many experts believe will stand pat and make the pick at #4. The vast majority of experts believe that pick will be Pitts. The team has met with Pitts multiple times, and Pitts has stated that the Falcons have shown him a lot of interest, but he recently unfollowed the team on Twitter on 4/21/21. This was around the time that the Falcons sent six different people to Lance and Fields’ Pro Days. In an interview with Andrew Siliciano, Pitts oddly stated that he believes the first four picks of the draft will be quarterbacks… Experts aren’t even considering Penei Sewell as an option here, but I think it’s a non-zero chance that Atlanta shocks the world and takes someone random like Sewell, Rashawn Slater or Patrick Surtain Jr. or trades down to do the same. Atlanta has met with Sewell, and he fits as a player who can start immediately at an important position of need, but has room to develop into one of the league’s best in a few years. The Titans prioritized the offensive line and running game when HC Arthur Smith was in Tennessee. That all said, I’m not quite bold enough to mock Sewell here, yet. In sum, the pick is supposed to be Pitts, but I’m just getting weird vibes here.
Best Guess: If I had to guess (and I do), this pick comes down to Trey Lance and Kyle Pitts, with Penei Sewell being a darkhorse. Every mock draft I’ve seen has Pitts here, though I’m less convinced. This feels more like a coin flip to me. Maybe I’ll wind up agreeing. I’m hoping to get more intel in the days leading up to the draft.
5. CINCINNATI BENGALS - Ja'Marr Chase (WR - LSU)
Short List: Ja’Marr Chase … Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Kyle Pitts
Team Needs: OL, CB, LB, DL, WR
Considerations: Penei Sewell has been popularly mocked here from the moment Cincinnati “earned” this pick. And on the surface, it makes a ton of sense. The Bengals have had one of the worst O-Lines in football for the past half-decade, plus. The team just drafted QB Joe Burrow #1 overall, who was sacked a ton and tore his ACL as a rookie. Why not protect your investment? I’m not here to debate the merits of whether the team SHOULD take an offensive lineman or wide receiver here; my job is to predict who the Bengals WILL take, and I believe that will be Ja’Marr Chase, for several reasons. First, reuniting Joe Burrow with his favorite WR, where the two were an unstoppable duo en route to a National Championship in the greatest college offense of all time, seems like something the franchise QB would want. Normally, your young quarterbacks don’t call the shots. If you recall, however, there was a lot of buzz leading up to the draft last year about whether the Bengals would spend enough or make enough moves to please Burrow. The Bengals had to make some promises in order to get him to play there. That’s a factor here. The Bengals also pursued WR Kenny Golladay in free agency, tipping their hand of interest of a big playmaker at the position. I do not believe the presence of Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins will prevent Cincinnati from drafting a WR this high. The team will be running at least 3 WRs on the field 80+% of snaps. Moreover, Cincinnati signed OT Riley Reiff, who alone is not enough to fix the dreadful O-Line, but as Joe Goodberry pointed out, it gives the team two first round picks on the O-Line already, and the Bengals have spent three first rounders on the O-Line in the last six years. In other words, although the O-Line still stinks, the team has already heavily invested in the group, and it seems as though the interior O-Line is far more vulnerable than at tackle. The Bengals may feel they can address the O-Line in Rounds 2-3, and I’d argue they will be in a good spot to do just that. Duke Tobin alluded to this in his press conference. Certainly, Kyle Pitts being available is a wildcard. But this pick reminds me of when the Bucs took another LSU player at pick 5, Devin White. It was a chalky pick because the connection was obvious, but the pick was never really in doubt. Here, I believe the Bengals legitimately may have Ja’Marr Chase as the #1 overall player on their board and view him as their successor to A.J. Green.
Best Guess: Whereas the media may be estimating this pick is 70% Chase, 30% Sewell, I see this as more of a 90-10 split in favor of Chase.
6. MIAMI DOLPHINS - DeVonta Smith (WR - 'Bama)
Short List: Ja’Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts … DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater
Team Needs: ED, OL, WR, RB, S
Considerations: When Miami initially traded down from 3 to 12, and then back up from 12 to 6, I believe they wanted to be in a spot where they could grab either Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase, ideally. As it turns out, the Dolphins may have miscalculated; both elite prospects could be taken at picks 4-5, respectively. Consequently, the attention has turned to the two ‘Bama WRs, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. Smith was initially the favorite, according to local beat writers. Miami got to coach Smith at the Senior Bowl, which is quite a luxury in the Covid-shortened draft process. However, despite Smith’s success in college (he won the Heisman), it is unclear whether the Dolphins would spend a top-6 pick on a receiver who weighed in at 166 pounds. Like it or not, some teams will be very concerned about Smith’s size. Now, HC Brian Flores has defended Smith in public appearances, dismissing any concerns about size, though others familiar with the organization and Flores’ background disagree. Perhaps the Dolphins prefer Waddle more, but I would also not be surprised if they like both WRs enough to try to trade down a few spots to add a pick or two before selecting one. The goal, clearly, is to get the young Tua some help. And it’s pretty cool that both Smith and Waddle played with Tua in college. Or, it would be, I suppose, if both WRs did not publicly state that they preferred Mac Jones over Tua when asked directly. Awkward. Lastly, there is some late buzz that Miami could be interested in Penei Sewell. The pick would make sense, as Miami’s offensive line, like pass catcher, is a glaring need. I wouldn’t rule out Rashawn Slater either. If we know the Dolphins love Ja’Marr Chase and/or Kyle Pitts, would they consider trading up with Atlanta to steal Chase from Cincy?
Best Guess: If Pitts is available, I’ll be surprised if he is not the pick. Otherwise, I could see an Alabama WR (Smith / Waddle) or a top-rated O-Lineman (Sewell / Slater).
7. DETROIT LIONS - Penei Sewell (OT - Oregon)
Short List: Ja’Marr Chase, Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater … Trade Down: Micah Parsons, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith
Team Needs: WR, CB, LB, OL, S
Considerations: The Lions have a ton of holes and are not expected to be contenders this season. I believe the new regime is rebuilding, and Jared Goff is nothing more than a stop-gap QB. That said, I do not think Detroit is in a position where they must take a quarterback with this pick. I see the plan being more like: let’s rebuild the trenches, let Goff tread water for a bit, and let’s take a franchise QB next year (when the team could have a higher pick and be in better position to take one of their choosing, as opposed to drafting whichever QB falls to them, be it the fourth or fifth QB taken in the draft class). Like Matt Ryan, Goff carries a substantial cap hit if the team releases him before the end of the 2022 season. There is a HUGE trade-down scenario here, and the Lions will be one of the teams who will likely willingly move down to the 9-20 range to acquire more picks for their rebuild. Perhaps a QB-needy team like Denver, New England, Washington, or Chicago wants to move up to draft a sliding Trey Lance, Justin Fields, or Mac Jones. If the Lions can pull off a trade down, I’ve heard the target may be Micah Parsons, who has some connections in the building (re: Chris Spielman). If Detroit stays at 7 or moves down just a few spots, I’m projecting them to take an offensive linemen such as Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater. This is at least in part because of new HC Dan Campbell, the classic tough guy, who I believe will want to send a message of toughness, strength, and passion with his first pick to set the tone for his new regime. There are other holes to fill, such as wide receiver, so Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith must be mentioned, especially in a trade-down scenario. And though I believe the team is not actively seeking a QB, I would not blame them for taking one here. Albert Breer noted that the Lions sent OC Anthony Lynn to Oregon for Sewell’s Pro Day. Speaking of Lynn, I wonder if his old team, the Chargers, would move up to take Sewell here.
Best Guess: I believe it’s more likely than not that the Lions either trade down or take a tackle, or both.
8. CAROLINA PANTHERS - Patrick Surtain, Jr. (CB - 'Bama)
Short List: Mac Jones, Kyle Pitts … Trade Down … Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Patrick Surtain Jr., Jaycee Horn, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, Justin Fields
Team Needs: CB, OL, QB, TE
Considerations: It must first be stated how aggressive the Panthers have been in pursuit of a legitimate quarterback. Carolina likely would have landed Deshaun Watson had the legal issues not arisen, and they were also very close to acquiring Matt Stafford before the Rams swooped in. As stated, Carolina had rumored interest in Mac Jones for this pick before San Francisco moved up to pick 3, and Carolina opted to take a chance on reviving Sam Darnold’s career thereafter. Although many experts – particularly as the draft nears – assume Carolina will take a QB like Trey Lance or Justin Fields if they fall here, and despite the team’s desperation to answer the QB question, I do not think the team is that high on Lance or Fields. We shouldn’t rule them out, of course, but I think we would know if they liked one of those QBs, because they would be jockeying to get in position to draft one. Instead, we’ve been hearing constant rumors about Carolina trying to trade down, outside of the top 10. That’s not the type of news you typically hear from a team that wants to take their franchise QB. Todd McShay recently reported that Carolina may take Justin Fields, but being this late in the process, this feels like a smokescreen. As a result, I’m expecting Carolina to either trade down (LAC, PHI, NE, WAS, CHI) or take the best player available, regardless of position. This assumes Kyle Pitts is off the board, of course (if he is not, I believe the Panthers would sprint to the podium). Cornerback and offensive tackle are the biggest needs, making Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Patrick Surtain Jr., and Jaycee Horn primary targets. It would not surprise me if Carolina had Slater higher on its board than Sewell. Wide receiver is less of a need, but Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith should at least be on the radar, particularly Waddle.
Best Guess: As the draft approaches, more and more experts are projecting Justin Fields to Carolina. I could see it, but assuming Mac Jones and Kyle Pitts are long gone, I’m expecting Carolina to wind up with their top-rated available player among Rashawn Slater, Penei Sewell, Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain Jr., or Jaylen Waddle, possibly after moving down a few spots.
9. DENVER BRONCOS - Trey Lance (QB - N.D. State)
Short List: Trey Lance … Patrick Surtain Jr., Jaycee Horn, Rashawn Slater, Penei Sewell … Trade Down: Micah Parsons, Zaven Collins
Team Needs: QB, RT, DE, LB, OL
Considerations: Most pundits are going to mock either Trey Lance or Justin Fields here, as Denver’s team is well-rounded on paper, when excluding quarterback. Based on what I’ve read, Denver seems high on Trey Lance, but not so much Justin Fields. Even if that’s true, it does not seem like Denver wants Lance so badly that they would move up to get him. Perhaps they are smartly waiting to see if Atlanta takes Lance. Even if not, I do not think Denver would move up any higher than pick 6, if at all. That being said, I fully expect Lance to be Denver’s pick if he’s sitting there at 9. I think that would be Denver’s best-case scenario. If Denver cannot get Lance, I’m not betting on them taking a QB early in the draft. Instead, I envision a scenario where they swap some later picks with Carolina and take Teddy Bridgewater off their hands. Bridgewater can be a fail-safe if Drew Lock does not progress in year 3. Denver-based insider Benjamin Allbright has consistently reported that some teams have a higher grade on Rashawn Slater than Penei Sewell, and that Sewell is ranked a little lower in NFL circles than where most experts have him. Reading between the lines, I believe he’s trying to tell us that Denver is one of those teams. Slater is certainly an option here, as is a cornerback such as Patrick Surtain Jr. or Jaycee Horn. I’d lean toward the former there. Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, and Kareem Jackson are all free agents after 2021. In a trade-down scenario, it’s worth noting HC Vic Fangio’s obsession with linebackers; the Broncos have been linked with Micah Parsons and Zaven Collins, accordingly. Both starting inside linebackers, A.J. Johnson and Josey Jewell, are also entering the final years of their contracts.
Best Guess: Denver would love it if Trey Lance slid, but they won’t force a QB if not. Patrick Surtain Jr. or Rashawn Slater make up Plan B. Micah Parsons in a Trade Down scenario could be Plan C.
10. DALLAS COWBOYS - Jaycee Horn (CB - S.C.)
Short List: Kyle Pitts, Patrick Surtain Jr., Jaycee Horn, Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Micah Parsons
Team Needs: DT, CB, DE, LB, OL
Considerations: Jerry Jones has made clear his infatuation with Kyle Pitts, and shoring up an aging offensive line with either Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater has to be a strong consideration if either last to pick 10, but defense is expected to rule the day here. Teams and experts alike fully anticipate the Cowboys taking one of the top two cornerbacks here, either Patrick Surtain Jr. or Jaycee Horn. The Cowboys have been heavily linked to both players. Surtain Jr. to Dallas will probably be one of the most popularly mocked picks after the top-5. Though, it’s possible that Carolina or Denver spoil the party by taking Surtain Jr. beforehand. Horn is a fantastic consolation prize, assuming that Dallas does not prefer Horn outright, which I believe is closer to 50/50 than others. The coaching staff has some connections to Horn. Jane Slater pointed out that Cowboys HC Mike McCarthy coached Horn’s father in New Orleans, and DC Dan Quinn also has a strong relationship with Horn’s coach at South Carolina. Yet, Dan Quinn discussed using Patrick Surtain Jr. in the Richard Sherman role “or even better.”
Best Guess: Although Dallas will be tempted to take Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater in order to protect Dak Prescott, the focus should be on improving the defense with either Patrick Surtain Jr. or Jaycee Horn. The chalk is Surtain Jr.
11. NEW YORK GIANTS - Jaylen Waddle (WR - 'Bama)
Short List: Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, Micah Parsons, Kwity Paye … Patrick Surtain Jr., Jaycee Horn … Trade Down: Jaelen Phillips, Azeez Ojulari
Team Needs: ED, LB, OL, CB
Considerations: The Giants signed WR Kenny Golladay and TE Kyle Rudolph in attempt to surround Daniel Jones with weapons in a prove-it year. Initially, many experts did not think New York was done; DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle were often slotted here in early mocks. Some have stood their ground. Peter King reported that HC Joe Judge loves Smith, though I have a tough time envisioning old school GM Dave Gettleman getting over Smith’s lack of size (but maybe he’s simple-minded enough to think winning the Heisman automatically translates to success at the next level, I don’t know). Regardless, Gettleman has always placed an emphasis on athleticism and high-ceilings / potential. Interestingly, the Giants sit in a perfect position to get one of the remaining stud prospects at cornerback – Patrick Surtain Jr. or Jaycee Horn – or offensive linemen – Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater. It is likely that one of those guys will fall to pick 11. Moreover, if I’ve learned anything from analyzing team needs, CB and O-Line are needs for almost every team in the NFL. However, there is a surprising lack of noise connecting the Giants to the tackles or corners. Instead, several trusted beat writers who cover the Giants are mocking a pass rusher or linebacker to the Giants. This makes sense from a needs-based perspective, but it does not exactly mesh with what is expected to be available on the board (the top-rated LB and DEs are not expected to be taken until the mid-to-late teens). Perhaps that’s why we’ve heard rumors about the Giants wanting to trade down for the first time in Gettleman’s life. No, seriously, Gettleman has never traded down once. Further support for the defensive front-seven theory is Gettleman’s pre-draft press conference, where he emphasized the need for adding linebackers with versatility and pass rushers. This brings DEs Kwity Paye and Jaelen Phillips into play, and this is their ceiling. LB Micah Parsons is another option. It’s possible, but improbable that Denver could take Parsons. More likely, however, the Giants could afford to move down a few spots and still grab him. I believe Gettleman wants Parsons. Lastly, the team has been linked to pass rusher Azeez Olujari, though recent reports concerning his medical evaluations may cause him to slide, perhaps to the Giants in Round 2. Albert Breer noted that HC Joe Judge has some connections with the staff that Paye played under. He probably wants Paye. Plugged in beat writer Jordan Raanan believes the Giants are targeting DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle here.
Best Guess: The Giants may opt for an Alabama WR (Smith / Waddle). But be on the look out for a semi-surprise pick such as Micah Parsons, Kwity Paye, or Jaelen Phillips. It sounds like the team wants to tackle its weakness at defensive end and/or linebacker with this pick, at the expense of on-board value.
12. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - Kwity Paye (DE - Michigan)
Short List: Jaylen Waddle, Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain Jr., Rashawn Slater, Kwity Paye, DeVonta Smith
Team Needs: CB, WR, LB, OL, DE
Considerations: The Eagles are also in a great spot with this pick. A few of the top-rated players expected to be available for this pick, by most accounts at least, play positions that the Eagles need to address. For example, how can the team not jump all over CB Patrick Surtain Jr. or Jaycee Horn if one slides? I bet the Eagles love Horn. Taking Rashawn Slater seems like a no-brainer here as well. In addition, it’s possible that DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle falls to 12. Good thing the Eagles have a huge hole at WR. Interestingly, Smith and Waddle have both been teammates with QB Jalen Hurts. I would expect the Eagles prefer Waddle, if given the choice. Philadelphia has been reportedly active in trade talks, to move both up and down. One trade down target could be DE Kwity Paye, seeing as DEs Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett are entering contract years, and Paye profiles similarly to Graham.
Best Guess: Jaycee Horn, the Alabama WRs, Rashawn Slater are all nice options that could fall into Philly’s lap. Kwity Paye is sleeper for this pick.
13. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS - Rashawn Slater (OT - Northwestern)
Short List: Trade Up: Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater … Christian Darrisaw, Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain Jr., Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith
Team Needs: OT, CB, ED
Considerations: The Chargers are all-in on upgrading the O-Line for Justin Herbert’s protection. The team has been linked to Penei Sewell, partly because he seems like a player GM Tom Telesco would love, and partly because Sewell blocked for Herbert at Oregon. The Chargers may be desperate enough to move up 7-8 spots to acquire his services and reunite the two. If Sewell goes too soon, the team may also have to trade up for Rashawn Slater, though it’s possible Slater slides to 13, in which case the Chargers would sprint to the podium. Many around the league believe the Chargers will take an offensive linemen no matter what; Christian Darrisaw and Alijah Vera-Tucker should be both available at 13. The team probably has Darrisaw higher on its board. New HC Brandon Staley stated that two positions teams must have are tackles and corners. The Chargers let Casey Hayward walk and could look to Patrick Surtain Jr. or Jaycee Horn, to fill his shoes. A wide receiver like DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle are fall backs.
Best Guess: Think O-Line. Rashawn Slater is ideal, but Penei Sewell is the dream. If they are gone, the team could either reach for Christian Darrisaw or Alijah Vera-Tucker, or they could opt to address O-Line in Round 2 after selecting a CB like Surtain Jr. or Horn, or an Alabama WR here.
14. MINNESOTA VIKINGS - Alijah Vera-Tucker (OG - USC)
Short List: Christian Darrisaw, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Kwity Paye, Jaelan Phillips
Team Needs: DE, OL, CB
Considerations: Although you can never rule out cornerback with Mike Zimmer, I’ve narrowed this pick down to four players: two offensive linemen, and two pass rushers. These are Minnesota’s two greatest deficiencies on the roster. Zimmer was heated coming out of the 2020 season, claiming this was the worst defense he’s ever coached. “A priority for me is that we continue to get more pass rushers.” He also said he likes his offense where is at. Yet, the Vikings have not taken a pass rusher in Round 1 in over 15 years. In fact, the only defensive lineman that GM Rick Spielman has taken in the first two rounds of the draft was Shariff Floyd, a top-10 prospect who fell to the Vikings in the 20s when the team had three first round picks. Floyd also flopped. It’s possible that Zimmer trusts his ability to find gems later in the draft and coach them up, like he did with Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, and others. Still, Kwity Paye (who seems like Zimmer’s type) and Jaelen Phillips have to be considered here. Christian Darrisaw and Alijah Vera-Tucker would improve a subpar O-Line.
Best Guess: I’m fully expecting this pick to be an edge rusher or offensive lineman. It will likely come down to four players: Christian Darrisaw, Alijah-Vera Tucker, Kwity Paye, and Jaelen Phillips.
15. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - Micah Parsons (LB - Penn. St.)
Short List: Trade Up: Mac Jones, Trey Lance, Justin Fields … Jaycee Horn, Patrick Surtain Jr., Micah Parsons, Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith … Trade Down: Zaven Collins, Davis Mills
Team Needs: QB, WR, RB, LB, CB
Considerations: I’m buying the idea that the Patriots are interested in trading up for a quarterback, be it Mac Jones, Trey Lance or Justin Fields. New England just went on a free agency spending spree, something completely out of character for Bill Belichick, unless of course he knows he is planning to draft a QB on a cheap rookie deal. Furthermore, the Patriots may feel that they won’t have the opportunity of picking inside the top 15 again, so now is the time to take action. Beat writer Jeff Howe reported in March that the Patriots were “aggressively” scouting the top quarterbacks from the 2021 NFL Draft. If a quarterback slides, New England should bite. Justin Fields makes a ton of sense because the Pats re-signed Cam Newton to a 1-year deal, and Newton is Fields’ mentor. The offense could be tailored around QBs with similar skill-sets. Tom Pelissero reported that New England has been calling teams inside the top 10. I believe they are preparing for a scenario for someone like Fields to fall to pick 7, and I could see them calling Detroit to jump ahead of QB-needy teams. Another reason QB makes sense is because there could be a talent drop-off around (or before) pick 15. Of course, negotiating a deal with Jimmy Garoppolo would throw a wrinkle into all of this. One player I think the Pats would LOVE to fall to 15 is Jaycee Horn. Another is Micah Parsons. CB Stephon Gilmore may be traded during the draft, and Horn excels in the press-man scheme New England runs. Gilmore and CB J.C. Jackson are entering contract years as well. Dont’a Hightower also enters the final year of his contract, and New England is pretty thin at linebacker. The Alabama WRs are options, seeing as New England WRs scored an unbelievable 4 TDs last season, obviously a league-low mark. Based on history, the Pats probably view Jaylen Waddle more favorably than DeVonta Smith (again, size concerns). If one of the aforementioned prospects is not available at 15, I expect New England to trade back, as they so often do. Zaven Collins could come into play there.
Best Guess: Trading up for a QB is a very realistic scenario. New England is a good bet to end a possible Fields slide. Belichick would love Jaycee Horn or Micah Parsons to fall. An Alabama WR makes sense.
16. ARIZONA CARDINALS - Zaven Collins (LB - Tulsa)
Short List: Trade Up: Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, Patrick Surtain Jr., Jaycee Horn … Zaven Collins, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Kwity Paye, Christian Darrisaw … Trade Down: Najee Harris, Trevon Moehrig
Team Needs: CB, OG, RB, WR, S
Considerations: The focus seems to be CB, O-Line, and WR, though the team does not appear to be in a good spot to address CB and O-Line with this pick. Patrick Surtain Jr. and Jaycee Horn should be gone, and I think Arizona wants to get Kyler Murray another weapon more than reach for a cornerback here. Peter Schrager has been relentless in his “speculation” that Arizona could move up for WR Jaylen Waddle. I’m buying that. Perhaps Arizona will move up a few spots to ensure an Alabama WR. Again, rumor has it they prefer Waddle over DeVonta Smith, but I bet they would be thrilled with Smith at 16. Three players I’ve also seen tied to the Cardinals are OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, LB Zaven Collins and RB Najee Harris. All three make sense, though I believe they only come into play if Arizona trades down. This is about the range that DE Kwity Paye and OT Christian Darrisaw will go, so I’ll throw them into the ring too.
Best Guess: Arizona tries to move up for an Alabama WR, preferably Jaylen Waddle. DeVonta Smith is a great consolation prize. Zaven Colins, Kwity Paye, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Christian Darrisaw, and Najee Harris are the contenders at 16.
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS - Christian Darrisaw (OT - V. Tech)
Short List: Micah Parsons, Christian Darrisaw, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Kwity Paye, Teven Jenkins, Jamin Davis, Caleb Farley, Trevon Moehrig
Team Needs: OL, DL, S, CB, LB
Considerations: Mike Mayock said in January:”We’ve gotta get way, way better on defense.” That, coupled with Gus Bradley taking over as defensive coordinator, means changes are coming to the defense. Bradley has been pretty consistent schematically over the years; he’ll value athleticism at the LB spot and want his Bobby Wagner. That could be Micah Parsons, who the Raiders supposedly “love,” or it could be Jamin Davis, who has been linked here late in the process. Bradley will also want a secondary fully of lengthy corners and safeties who like to hit. If Caleb Farley did not have so many medical red flags, I think he would be the pick here (if he made it passed Arizona). It’s possible the Raiders gamble on Farley, who they have spent a lot of time with, but it seems too early for someone with that lengthy of an injury history, though admittedly, that has not stopped the Raiders current regime from taking CBs earlier than they should have gone in the recent past. Assuming that Jon Abraham is the Kam Chancellor, perhaps Trevon Moehrig can be the Earl Thomas. DEs Kwity Paye (who I imagine Jon Gruden and Mayock will love because of his motor) and Jaelen Phillips are enticing, but the Raiders have invested in DE. The argument can be made they have invested in cornerback and wide receiver too. On offense, Vegas gutted its O-Line, and I think Gruden will appreciate the nastiness that a guy like Teven Jenkins would bring. Jenkins played right tackle in college, which is a positive here. Christian Darrisaw and Alijah Vera-Tucker have to at least enter the conversation.
Best Bet: Micah Parsons and Jamin Davis are key targets at linebacker for a club that needs a defensive captain. Caleb Farley and Trevon Moehrig have peaked their interest. Kwity Paye makes sense. Christian Darrisaw, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Teven Jenkins also are possible matches.
18. MIAMI DOLPHINS - Jaelen Phillips (ED - Miami)
Short List: DeVonta Smith, Micah Parsons, Christian Darrisaw, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Teven Jenkins, Zaven Collins, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Jamin Davis, Najee Harris, Jaelen Phillips
Team Needs: ED, OL, WR, RB, S
Considerations: Miami would love for Micah Parsons to fall here. He’s a beautiful scheme fit for this defense. I would not be surprised if Miami took DeVonta Smith with its first selection in Round 1, but if he somehow slides near here, the Dolphins would make a play. Recall, HC Brian Flores coached Smith at the Senior Bowl and has made several public comments disregarding Smith’s size as an issue (though some speculate there is internal concern). The team has been linked to Najee Harris, but I expect the ‘Fins to address RB later in the draft. Most likely, this pick will be a front-seven defender (linebacker or edge rusher) or an offensive lineman, assuming they don’t take a tackle at 6. Christian Darrisaw, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Teven Jenkins should all land in any order between picks 14-23, so all three are possible picks. As for defense, although Parsons is the prize, LB Zaven Collins has been linked here as a great scheme-fit. Flores may appreciate the versatility of Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah is in a contract year and Dolphins have little behind him, so with the extra picks, they could opt to gamble on a high-ceiling guy like Jaelen Phillips.
Best Guess: Micah Parsons or DeVonta Smith would be coveted. Otherwise expect O-Line or a front-seven defender (linebacker or edge rusher). Miami is high on Micah Parsons and Zaven Collins.
19. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM - Jamin Davis (LB - Kentucky)
Short List: Trade Up: Trey Lance … Justin Fields, Christian Darrisaw, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jamin Davis, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Zaven Collins, Trevon Moehrig … Trade Down: Davis Mills
Team Needs: QB, LT, LB, S
Considerations: Early in the process, a few insiders put out the notion that Washington was extremely high on Trey Lance, and they were willing to spend a huge package to move up for him. That talk has since died down, but the need for a franchise quarterback remains. The clear areas Washington needs to improve are at left tackle and linebacker. Linebacker is interesting because of Ron Rivera’s successful history of drafting linebackers highly. They have come in all shapes and sizes, from Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, and Luke Kuechly (think Jamin Davis, Zaven Collins) to Thomas Davis (Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah). In particular, I absolutely believe Jamin Davis is on the WFT radar. Christian Darrisaw is a local product who would start immediately at left tackle. Although not a tackle, we can’t rule out Alijah Vera-Tucker because Ron Rivera values high-character prospects and OG Brandon Scherff is entering a contract year. One more piece of the secondary – think CB Caleb Farley or S Trevon Moehrig – would be nice, too.
Best Guess: This pick mainly comes down to LT Christian Darrisaw and LB Jamin Davis for me. It’s difficult to know who will be available and who the team prefers.
20. CHICAGO BEARS - Justin Fields (QB - OSU)
Short List: Trade Up: Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Mac Jones … Kadarius Toney, Rashod Bateman, Elijah Moore, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Teven Jenkins … Trade Down: Davis Mills
Team Needs: QB, WR, CB, OL, S
Considerations: The Bears have a ton of needs, but none are as pressing as quarterback and wide receiver, so that’s where my focus is. The seat is getting scorching hot for GM Ryan Pace and HC Matt Nagy. A soft schedule down the stretch masked a team that has sprung several leaks over the last two seasons. Pace needs to make a splash before the bottom falls out. Nobody, including the Bears front office, genuinely believes Andy Dalton is a legitimate, or even average, NFL QB. But Dalton can serve as veteran hold-over who can help groom a young rookie. In my opinion, everything adds up for Chicago to make a huge move, regardless of whether it’s Mac Jones, Trey Lance, or Justin Fields. Most pundits believe that Fields will be the odd-man out of the top 7, and if that’s the case, it could create a bidding war between New England and Chicago. Whereas Belichick is more calculated, Pace has nothing to lose (any future draft capital he mortgages to move up will likely be at another GM’s expense), so be on the look out for Chicago to make a strong play here. The one obstacle could be Detroit holding pick 7. It seems impossible that Detroit would execute a trade with a division rival, especially one that netted them a quarterback like Justin Fields. In that respect, New England has an advantage. Of course, there could be two QBs that fall passed pick 6. Chicago will take whoever they can get, whether Jones, Lance, or Fields … If they are beaten to the punch and miss out on the top-5 QBs, I still expect Chicago to grab a QB in Round 2 (maybe a trade for Davis Mills?). In that case, wide receiver is by far the most likely position the Bears address in Round 1. Allen Robinson is in a contract year and is unlikely to re-sign next offseason, and the team is trying to dump Anthony Miller, leaving the receiver room essentially empty in the future. Whether it’s Elijah Moore, Rashod Bateman, or Kadarius Toney is anyone’s guess. The team has met with Moore, but Bateman and definitely Toney have traits the Bears like. If not QB or WR, O-Line (think Alijah Vera-Tucker or Teven Jenkins) would be my next assumption.
Best Guess: A desperate Ryan Pace forces the Bears to trade up for a franchise QB. If Chicago misses out, WR is the priority. I would guess Elijah Moore, Kadarius Toney, and Rashod Bateman, in that order. Teven Jenkins and Alijah Vera-Tucker are appealing as well.
21. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - Liam Eichenberg (OT - Notre Dame)
Short List: Christian Darrisaw, Kwity Paye, Jaelen Phillips, Azeez Ojulari, Liam Eichenberg, Sam Cosmi, Alex Leatherwood
Team Needs: ED, LT, CB, LB
Considerations: For some tight-lipped teams, especially as we enter the 20s, predicting the draft becomes more about identifying players that fill needs, rather than what you hear. I honestly have no clue who the Colts like, so my confidence level is lower on this pick than most. Nevertheless, it’s easy to pinpoint two positions that Indianapolis should be desperate to upgrade: pass rusher and left tackle. Possible candidates for the LT vacancy caused by Anthony Castonzo’s retirement include Liam Eichenberg, Sam Cosmi, and Alex Leatherwood. All three are seen by most experts as second round picks. If I had to pick one, I’d role with Eichenberg because GM Chris Ballard and HC Frank Reich attended the Notre Dame Pro Day to watch him work out. However, because the Colts may best served to address this need in Round 2, it may be wiser to mock a pass rusher here. Jaelen Phillips has a concussion history and dark past that may scare off some teams, so he’s been difficult to project. Azeez Ojulari is also flagged medically by some teams but has been mocked to Indy by a few in the know. Both players would be sure-fire top-20 picks if not for medical concerns. Both players could wind up in the teens or fail to be taken in Round 1 altogether. Because of the Colts’ needs, my limited knowledge of who the Colts like, and the difficulty in slotting Ojulari and Phillips due to unknown medical evaluations, I believe the best strategy is to slot one here or go with an Eichenberg dart throw on the Pro Day connection, perhaps in a trade down situation.
Best Guess: The Colts could reach or trade down for a left tackle (Liam Eichenberg, Alex Leatherwood, Sam Cosmi) or gamble on a talented pass rusher with shaky medical history (Jaelen Phillips, Azeez Ojulari).
22. TENNESSEE TITANS - Elijah Moore (WR - Ole Miss)
Short List: Teven Jenkins, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Elijah Moore, Trevon Moehrig, Caleb Farley, Zaven Collins, Greg Newsome Jr., Jaelen Phillips, Asante Samuel Jr., Joe Tryon
Team Needs: RT, CB, LB, WR, DT
Considerations: The Titans have met with Teven Jenkins several times and have shown him some serious interest. He fills a hole need at right tackle, a spot last year’s first round bust Isaiah Wilson was supposed to fill. The other position on offense that needs bodies is wide receiver. This is the range for Elijah Moore, Rashod Bateman, and Kadarius Toney. I would rank them in that order for Tennessee. Defensively, the Titans could stand to upgrade at every position; no defensive position is off the table. Many inside league circles believe the Titans like CB Caleb Farley a lot. Versatile LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and S Trevon Moehrig have been linked to Tennessee by some as well. The team has visited with Zaven Collins, Greg Newsome Jr., Asante Samuel Jr. (whose father played with Vrabel in New England), and pass rusher Joe Tryon. One of the UGA cornerbacks would not surprise here either. From a mocking strategy perspective, it’s easier to plug in Moore or Jenkins here, where the offensive needs and potential picks are more clear, rather than throwing a dart at literally any defensive player.
Best Bet: Teven Jenkins, Elijah Moore, Trevon Moehrig, and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are among the many who are in play.
23. NEW YORK JETS - Travis Etienne (RB - Clemson)
Short List: Kwity Paye, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Teven Jenkins, Travis Etienne, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Greg Newsome Jr., Caleb Farley, Jamin Davis, Zaven Collins
Team Needs: QB, CB, ED, RB
Considerations: The Jets love Kwity Paye and Alijah Vera-Tucker, and like Teven Jenkins. New HC Robert Saleh is a defensive guru who values and prioritizes a talented, deep defensive line, as we saw in San Francisco (5 first round D-Lineman taken in the last 6 drafts). Saleh can never have enough edge guys. I think this puts Jaelen Phillips, Azeez Ojulari, Jayson Oweh, and even Joe Tryon in play. If the team is going to trade LB C.J. Moseley, a linebacker replacement is needed. The Jets have been linked to Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome, primarily because they have one of the worst CB groups in the NFL. Finally, running back has been tossed around in the days leading up to the draft, seeing the need to provide a spark to the offense run b a rookie QB, as well as the drop off after the top 3 RBs – Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, and Javonte Williams. New York showed interest in Harris back in March, but Etienne is getting recent first round buzz.
Best Guess: If Kwity Paye, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Teven Jenkins are not available, I’m expecting a defensive linemen here.
24. PITTSBURGH STEELERS - Najee Harris (RB - 'Bama)
Short List: Trade Up: Trey Lance, Justin Fields … Teven Jenkins, Najee Harris, Caleb Farley, Jamin Davis, Landon Dickerson, Javonte Williams, Creed Humphrey … Asante Samuel Jr., Jayson Oweh, Nick Bolton
Team Needs: QB, RB, OL, CB, LB
Considerations: Pittsburgh is in a lot worse shape than the public perceives. The O-Line needs serious work, especially with presumptive starters David DeCastro, B.J. Finney, and Chuke Okorafor entering contract years. The Steelers want to address a non-existent running game in Round 1, whether it’s O-Line (the team is high on RT Teven Jenkins, and centers Landon Dickerson and Creed Humphrey to replace the retired Maurkice Pouncey), or running back by taking Najee Harris. Harris to the Steelers is one of the most popularly mocked matches. Their interest in Harris has not been made a secret, to put it mildly. And Harris himself has confirmed the Steelers as major suitors. It seems like it will be an upset if he’s not the pick. We have to acknowledge Javonte Williams and Travis Etienne in case Harris is taken beforehand or if the perceived Harris interest is part of an elaborate smokescreen. On defense, Jamin Davis and Caleb Farley have spent some time with the team. Interestingly, LB Nick Bolton has visited with the Steelers three times, that we know of. He’s more of a Round 2 target. Finally, I would not rule out Pittsburgh being the team that aggressively trades up for a QB like Justin Fields or Trey Lance.
Best Guess: Pittsburgh will keep an eye on the QBs, but will likely seek to revive its running game, either by taking a RB (most likely Najee Harris) or an O-Lineman, possibly Teven Jenkins or centers Landon Dickerson or Creed Humprhey.
25. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - Jayson Oweh (ED - Penn. St.)
Short List: Teven Jenkins, Jayson Oweh, Christian Barmore, Azeez Ojulari, Kadarius Toney, Travis Etienne … Pat Freiermuth, Alex Leatherwood
Team Needs: QB, OT, DL, TE
Considerations: Urban Meyer emphasized the importance of a strong defensive line in conference call. Christian Barmore is seen as the best defensive tackle in a horrible DT class. The Jaguars tried to sign Tyson Alualu in the offseason, but the deal fell through. In order to predict this pick, many insiders are trying to connect the dots from past relationships that Meyer had on the college level. For example, DE Jayson Oweh was recruited by Meyer out of high school and fits a position of need. Meyer tried to recruit LT Alex Leatherwood hard as well. TE Pat Freiermuth’s old position coach is now with the Jaguars, and the team has a massive need at the position. Freiermuth and Leatherwood are most likely going to be available when the Jaguars pick at 33, however, so they are nothing more than deep sleepers for this pick. Could the Jaguars want to pair Trevor Lawrence with his backfield mate at Clemson, Travis Etienne? Meyer emphasized speed in college. I could see it manfesting with Kadarius Toney as well.
Best Guess: Defensive line appears to be the priority. Jayson Oweh, Joe Tryon, and Christian Barmore come to mind. Travis Etienne and Kadarius Toney are is a sneaky picks here, but not as bold as Alex Leatherwood or Pat Freiermuth.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS - Greg Newsome Jr. (CB - Northwestern)
Short List: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Greg Newsome Jr., Christian Barmore, Jayson Oweh, Azeez Ojulari, Joe Tryon, Gregory Rousseau, Eric Stokes, Tyson Campbell, Zaven Collins
Team Needs: DT, ED, LB, CB
Considerations: The Browns return 11/11 starters on offense, so the attention turns to the porous defense. Fixing the pass defense is priority No. 1. The team recently signed Jadeveon Clowney, but I don’t think it rules out pass rusher here completely. Joe Tryon, Azeez Ojulari, Jayson Oweh, and Gregory Rousseau should all go around this pick. Though, I believe cornerback is a bigger need. Injuries struck the Cleveland secondary pretty hard last year, so they could use another body or two at cornerback. Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome Jr. are options, though but that’s counterintuitive because they have an injury histories of their own. One of the UGA cornerbacks – Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes – are in play. Asante Samuel is another one. An injection of athleticism at linebacker (think Jamin Davis, Zaven Collins, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah) would be very beneficial too.
Best Guess: I’m looking for the best available defender here. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Joe Tryon, Gregory Rousseau, and Greg Newsome Jr. are some names that may pop up. The team showed some interest in Newsome Jr. early in the process.
27. BALTIMORE RAVENS - Trevon Moehrig (S - TCU)
Short List: Teven Jenkins, Jayson Oweh, Gregory Rousseau, Trevon Moehrig, Christian Barmore, Kadarius Toney, Rashod Bateman, Landon Dickerson, Creed Humphrey
Team Needs: C, ED, LB, WR
Considerations: The Ravens also pick at 31 after trading RT Orlando Brown to the Chiefs. I’ll start with some wildcards: Landon Dickerson and Creed Humphrey. I evaluate center as the team’s biggest hole on paper as of now. It would make sense to use one of their two first rounders on a lineman after shipping Brown out (I believe the Ravens will address right tackle in free agency by adding Alejandro Villanueva or Dennis Kelly). GM Eric DeCosta said early in the offseason that the team was happy with how its wide receivers played in 2020 and he harped on improving the offensive line, specifically pass protection, as a way to upgrade Baltimore’s struggling passing attack. Thus, all things being equal, I believe the Ravens would be more likely to go O-Line early instead of WR. All things are not equal, however, and the prospects at wide receiver are likely going to be much more attractive than who’s available along the O-Line at this point in the draft. For instance, some combination of Rashod Bateman, Kadarius Toney, and Elijah Moore may be there at 27. Perhaps the Ravens want to take a WR here with their first selection, before the Saints and Packers pick. On defense, the team can go in a number of different directions. Beat writers have connected S Trevon Moehrig to Baltimore. National guys believe the Ravens will take a hard look at DT Christian Barmore. The Ravens lost their top two pass rushers in free agency, making many consider mocking an edge defender like Gregory Rousseau, Jayson Oweh, or Joe Tryon. I bet they love Oweh.
Best Guess: I like the fit of safety Trevon Moehrig to Baltimore. A pass rusher (Rousseau, Oweh) and wide receiver (Bateman, Toney) are needed. Watch out for a darkhorse center selection.
28. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB - Notre Dame)
Short List: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Caleb Farley, Elijah Moore, Greg Newsome Jr., Asante Samuel Jr., Tyson Campbell, Jamin Davis, Zaven Collins … Davis Mills
Team Needs: CB, WR, LB, QB
Considerations: Sean Payton has stated that the Saints “have to address” cornerback before the start of the season. Considering the recent legal troubles for Marshon Lattimore, the departure of Janoris Jenkins, and the fact that Lattimore, P.J. Williams, and Patrick Robinson are entering contract years, cornerback is a “must” position for New Orleans. Accordingly, Charles Robinson reported that the Saints are high enough on Caleb Farley to trade up for him, which would be an extremely risky move considering his lengthy injury history. I think it’s possible Farley falls to 28 anyway. Kat Terrell and Peter King have mocked UGA CB Tyson Campbell to the Saints, a player who the Saints and the league in general seem higher on than the media consensus. Greg Newsome Jr. and Asante Samuel Jr. are two corners that should go around this pick… Linebacker is probably considered a “want,” rather than a “must.” The defense was much better when Kwon Alexander was healthy, but the team should be expecting more from Zack Baun in year 2. Plus, linebacker is not nearly as important as the cornerback position. Still, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Zaven Collins, and Jamin Davis would be immediate starters and nice fits. Nick Underhill has mocked Davis to the Saints… Offensively, the Saints could use another wide receiver. Aside from Alvin Kamara, no pass catcher really stepped up when Michael Thomas went down last season. Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris are entering the final year of their contracts. I think the Saints will try to add someone like Rondale Moore in Round 2, but if they are not confident in what the board presents them at cornerback in Round 1, I could certainly see the Saints liking someone like Elijah Moore, Rashod Bateman, or Kadarius Toney. I prefer Moore, as a cleaner complement to Michael Thomas. However, I have mocked the Saints a WR in the last two drafts in which the team had a first round pick (Calvin Ridley, Jalen Reagor), and they went in other directions. This year, I’m tempted to mock wide receiver (Elijah Moore) once again. Third time’s a charm, right? Leading up to the draft, Jay Glazer is reporting that the Saints are trying to move up into the top 10. This could be for a quarterback or a cornerback. It’s likely that the Saints don’t love any of the cornerbacks in this class behind the top two studs, Patrick Surtain Jr. and Jaycee Horn. As stated, Caleb Farley is too much of a risk, medically. New Orleans would need to get to picks 7-10 to secure one of the corners, as other teams like Philadelphia have been rumored to be jockeying for position ahead of Dallas to grab one too. The Saints moved up to pick 10 a few years ago to acquire Marcus Davenport, so the huge play is not unprecedented. It would cost at least our first rounder this year and next year, as well as some other mid-round picks to get this done. I’m just going to mock the best available defender here, as we don’t know for sure if the Saints will stay at 28.
Best Guess: New Orleans will most likely take a cornerback here. Caleb Farley, Greg Newsome Jr., Asante Samuel Jr., and Tyson Campbell should go between picks 22-40. I think the Saints would rank wide receivers in this area as followed: Elijjah Moore > Kadarius Toney > Rashod Bateman. Lastly, Jamin Davis and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah make a ton of sense if they slide.
29. GREEN BAY PACKERS - Rashod Bateman (WR - Minnesota)
Short List: Greg Newsome Jr., Rashod Bateman, Elijah Moore, Asante Samuel Jr. … Zaven Collins, Eric Stokes
Team Needs: CB, WR, LB, RT, DL
Considerations: The prime objective must be upgrading at cornerback opposite of Jaire Alexander. The Packers have shown a ton of pre-draft interest in Greg Newsome Jr. and Asante Samuel Jr. Samuel Jr. is the cleaner prospect, but he does not fit the measurable athletic thresholds in which the Packers typically target. More so than most teams, Green Bay is stringent about athletic testing. The UGA cornerbacks – Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes – also should not surprise. Heck, any player in this draft who plays the cornerback position is an option. I suppose this is true with New Orleans as well. Similar to New Orleans, the Packers’ second greatest need is at wide receiver. Recent reports have leaked the team’s interest in Rashod Bateman, though this connection could have been made a while ago considering the club met with him months ago. Bateman is absolutely in play, as is Elijah Moore. From what I understand, the team is more confident in the current state of its O-Line than fans or the media.
Best Guess: This should come down to a cornerback, namely Greg Newsome Jr. and Asante Samuel Jr., vs. a wide receiver, specifically Rashod Bateman and Elijah Moore.
30. BUFFALO BILLS - Asante Samuel Jr. (CB - FSU)
Short List: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Christian Barmore, Jayson Oweh, Azeez Ojulari, Travis Etienne, Zaven Collins, Asante Samuel Jr.
Team Needs: ED, DT, CB, OG, TE
Considerations: Perhaps it’s all smoke, but the Bills have been pegged by many experts to be interested in Travis Etienne. Their interest in Etienne would gel with GM Brandon Beane’s comments a few weeks ago, when he stated that if the team takes a running back, they want someone that gives them a different dynamic than the RBs they already have, such as being a homerun threat. The Bills’ running game was non-existent last season, and the team may be looking to take some pressure (and hits) off Josh Allen. This screams Etienne. Bills beat writer and mock draft expert Joe Marino emphasizes CB2 and DE as the Bills’ biggest needs. Beane prefers bigger pass rushers. It should be noted that the Bills’ starting DEs Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes are 34 and 33 years old, respectively. Furthermore, both enter contract years, as well as DTs Vernon Butler and Harrison Phillips. CB2 Taron Johnson and CB3 Levi Wallace are also in the final year of their deals. So yeah, CB and D-Line are grave concerns. That’s absolutely the direction I would go if not for the recent rumored interest in Etienne, but now that is a factor that must be weighed appropriately.
Best Guess: Recent rumors suggest Travis Etienne, but the team has far more pressing concerns along the D-Line (Azeez Ojulari, Joe Tryon, Jayson Oweh, Gregory Rousseau, Christian Barmore) and at cornerback.
31. BALTIMORE RAVENS - Landon Dickerson (C - 'Bama)
Short List: Teven Jenkins, Jayson Oweh, Trevon Moehrig, Christian Barmore, Kadarius Toney, Rashod Bateman, Landon Dickerson, Creed Humphrey
Team Needs: C, ED, LB, WR
Considerations: See Pick 27, above.
32. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - Joe Tryon (ED - Washington)
Short List: Trevon Moehrig, Kadarius Toney, Landon Dickerson, Christian Barmore, Joe Tryon, Davis Mills
Team Needs: iOL, SS, RB, QB
Considerations: This could be a free square for the champs, who remain all-around stacked and have very few immediate concerns. With guard Alex Cappa coming off a serious injury he sustained in the playoffs and both he and center Ryan Jenson entering a contract year, interior offensive line has to be hit at some point. Ideally, I think Tampa Bay would like to limit Jason Pierre Paul’s and Ndamukong Suh’s snap counts. Both players are getting up there in age and are also on 1-year deals. A D-Lineman like Joe Tryon or Christian Barmore would fit in nicely. Pewter Report has stated that the Bucs have shown interest in Kadarius Toney. I could see that, knowing Chris Godwin is likely walking after this season. Jon Ledyard, who has studied Bucs’ draft tendencies, identifies C Landon Dickerson as a player Tampa will be high on. He’s coming off a torn ACL but as stated, there’s a future iOL need, and Tampa Bay may consider this a luxury pick. Is it time to consider life after Tom Brady? Davis Mills is generating some late first round hype. Perhaps a team like Tampa Bay can trade down for a team that wants to move back into Round 1 to secure Mills and that fifth year option.
Best Guess: Joe Tryon, Christian Barmore, Greg Newsome Jr., Kadarius Toney, Landon Dickerson, and Trevon Moehrig are my dart throws at 32 for a team that needs little right now.
Other First Round Considerations:
- Teven Jenkins (OT – O.K. St.)
- Gregory Rousseau (ED – Miami)
- Tyson Campbell (CB – UGA)
- Azeez Ojulari (ED – UGA)
- Caleb Farley (CB – V. Tech)
- Kadarius Toney (WR – Florida)
- Christian Barmore (DT – ‘Bama)
- Eric Stokes (CB – UGA)
- Levi Onwuzurike (DT – Washington)
- Davis Mills (QB – Stanford)
- Creed Humphrey (C – Oklahoma)
- Dillon Radunz (OT – N.D. St.)
- Alex Leatherwood (OT – ‘Bama)
- Sam Cosmi (OT – Texas)
- Nick Bolton (LB – Missou)
- Kelvin Joseph (CB – Kentucky)
- Javonte Williams (RB – UNC)
- – Nick Guarisco (@FantasyLawGuy)