We knew who it was going to be as soon as he declared for the Draft. The most sought after QB since Andrew Luck, and to some the best prospect they’ve ever seen, this is a great start for the Urban Meyer era in Jacksonville. Lawrence is a true potential franchise quarterback in every way – arm strength, accuracy, mobility, leadership on and off the field, starting experience, big moments in big games – and probably one of the big reasons Meyer came out of retirement and back into coaching.
While not the top QB on my board, Wilson is the most likely pick here according to reports. Once the team traded Sam Darnold to Carolina, this pick was locked up. While the level of competition he played against is in question, his pro day was something special, and it just confirmed what the tape showed: he has all the mobility, arm strength, and accuracy new head coach Robert Salah could want in his new franchise quarterback.
Don’t even get me started on this one…this is based only on reports going around this is the QB Shanahan wants outside of the top 2. I’m not buying it, but here we are. It SHOULD be Fields or Lance…Jones is accurate, can make all the throws, and had an amazing year at Alabama in 2020, but the haul the 49ers gave up to move up to the 3rd spot – 12th overall and a 3rd round pick this year, and two future 1st round picks – puts the pressure right away on whichever quarterback this team picks. The clock is ticking for Jimmy G in San Fran.
This is a tough spot. I believe they should take Lance or Fields in anticipation of Matt Ryan’s sooner than later departure, but the team may very well either trade out to another team coveting one of these young signal callers or take a piece to try and make a final run with Ryan/Julio Jones. I go with a piece for Ryan here, and Pitts – being called by some a “poor man’s Calvin Johnson – looks like he should be the next elite tight end in the NFL.
This pick should probably be an offensive lineman (Sewell) to help keep Joe Burrow upright and healthy, but with rumors swirling that Burrow has been pounding the table for the Bengals to add Chase, that ends up being the pick here. Chase sat out 2020, and some people have recency bias when ranking their wide receivers, but Chase is the top WR in what is a deep and talented class. His 2019 tape/season was the stuff of legends, and his pro day solidified his status as a top 5 talent in this year’s NFL Draft.
Miami either takes their highest rated wide receiver, or they trade down. They probably want Chase or Pitts here after trading back up, but you can’t go wrong here with either of the talented Alabama receivers. Smith might be skinny, but with a 6’6 wingspan, he plays like a much bigger player. Elite hands, route running, and a willingness to make tough catches make him a welcomed addition to a young/growing offense. Keeping up with the reunion theme, Tua gets back one of his college weapons.
This is yet another key spot where a trade is very possible. Denver, Washington, and Chicago could all use upgrades at quarterback, and Detroit should badly want to trade down to acquire more draft picks and help speed up this newest rebuild. Since this isn’t a mock with trade projections, the Lions go for maybe the fastest player in this class, and a true difference maker on offense and special teams. Waddle was playing amazing football in 2020 before getting injured, and was electric with the ball in his hands. Losing Golladay and Jones hurts, but this should put a smile on new QB Jared Goff’s face. Sewell or Fields would be solid alternate options if the Lions don’t trade down or go WR here.
Carolina will be a difficult team to project because they can go in so many different directions now that they have QB Sam Darnold (trade, NYJ) in the fold. Corner, offensive line, trade down, or even possibly quarterback if one they like slips are all in play here. I was leaning cornerback here, but with a top 5 talent on the board, Carolina opts to fill a huge hole and add a foundational piece on their offensive line. Sewell will be just 21 years old, and he is an athletic marvel for someone his size. He had a solid pro day, and even though he sat out the 2020 season, his 2019 season and tape was absolutely dominant. Sewell was the best offensive lineman in the country in 2019, and is the top tackle on my board.
If this were to happen during the Draft, Denver’s entire front office might be doing back flips and having the biggest party ever in the war room. Denver is a team primed to trade up for one of the remaining top quarterbacks after Lawrence/Wilson. Denver has been desperate to upgrade at QB this offseason, and they clearly want competition for Drew Lock. Trading up is more likely than Fields and/or Lance being available here, but since I am not projecting trades in this mock, Fields falls here and Denver’s prayers are answered. Wilson has gotten a lot of love over the course of the season, and for good reason, but Fields was and remains my QB2 due to his body of work, accuracy, and elite athleticism. Lawrence is “the chosen one”; Wilson has people seeing flashes of Mahomes; Lance’s physical talent/athleticism has coaches/front office people salivating; it seems everyone forgot about how good Fields has been the last couple years.
Patrick Surtain II
Rumors are swirling that Jerry Jones has fallen head over heels for Florida superstar tight end Kyle Pitts, but taking Pitts instead of bolstering that putrid defense or adding reinforcements to a battered offensive line would be absolutely foolish. Not saying adding Pitts would be bad, but taking him would disregard this team’s Achilles heel – the defense. Even with a healthy Dak Prescott and an offense that can score with the best of them, they were still losing games because the defense couldn’t stop a high school team from marching up and down the field. Here, Dallas takes the first step in addressing a hideous and undermanned secondary and add my CB1 in Patrick Surtain. His pro day took care of any potential speed/athleticism concerns, and as a starter at Alabama since his freshman season, he has the tools to be a legit CB1.
The Giants could go a number of directions here, including offensive line or wide receiver (or trade down), but adding to the pass rush is a top priority for the team, and they seek to address that here. Once you get past the top pass rushers in this draft, it falls off a bit, so this would be an excellent shot to add the top pass rusher on their board. Ojulari needs to work on his pass rush moves and improving vs the run, but he would slide in as the Giants top edge rusher from the get, and is the best pure speed rusher in this class. Slater came in a close 2nd here.
Philly misses out on the big 3 at wide receiver and corner is a big need, but since the board fell this way, they go best player available. Slater fills a big need on the offensive line, and would probably start inside in the beginning. He is a tackle, but with Dillard/Johnson starting, they get an elite offensive line piece who can play anywhere on the line and excel. Philly always deals with offensive line injuries so Slater would be very valuable for them.
The Chargers come into the Draft with clear needs on the offensive line and at cornerback. They added a couple of solid pieces to the offensive line during free agency in Lindsey and Feiler, so they may choose to add a starting outside corner to start with Michael Davis and Chris Harris. Horn was one of the best defensive backs in college football in 2020, playing physical man to man coverage and showing a willingness to come up for a big stop. A big, athletic corner like Horn would help a team secondary that must figure out how to stop the vaunted Pat Mahomes led Kansas City offense.
Minnesota would probably like to add a starting left tackle early in the Draft, but there is depth there, and they can likely add a quality player at the position in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. Edge rusher is a huge need – Hunter needs a running mate and has been the subject of offseason trade talks – and doesn’t offer as many quality options later in the Draft. Phillips retired at one point due to concussions, but he transferred from UCLA to Miami (FL) and had a fantastic 2020 season. One of the better pass rushers in this class, Phillips showed off his athleticism at his pro day, and is a likely top 20 pick.
Wide receiver and quarterback are the biggest needs for New England, but Belichick hasn’t drafted well at the WR position over the years, and they brought back Cam Newton for another go at it. The Pats will likely add a QB later (Trask? Mills?) and this class is deep enough at WR to find a starter in the 2nd or 3rd rounds, so Bill adds yet another chess piece to his rebuilt defense. Judon, Godchaux, Anderson, and Van Noy were added in free agency to beef up that side of the ball, but this haul is missing an edge rusher like Paye. Not the best athlete or the most physically imposing, but he improved each year of college and has all the tools to keep growing into a quality starter. Paye is a solid all-around player whose football intelligence, work ethic, coachability, and versatility will endear him to the coaching staff.
Arizona had a solid free agency period, and is a team on the brink of being a legit playoff contender. While they definitely need help in the secondary, bringing back Alford and signing Butler over from Tennessee allows them to explore other needs. Receiver could also be considered here despite adding an aging AJ Green in free agency, but an opportunity to add a versatile offensive line piece like Vera-Tucker can’t be passed up. Vera-Tucker excelled for USC at both guard and tackle the last two seasons, and showed he was a quality pass blocker and more than adequate run blocker. He likely would compete at RT and RG right away here, and help take this Cardinals offense to the next level.
Upgrades at any level on defense would be welcomed, but after an exodus that saw the Raiders get rid of three starters along one of the better offensive lines in the league, right tackle is a huge need to them. Enter Christian Darrisaw, who would slide right in at RT and fit like a glove. He is a bit raw, but had a breakout 2020 season, and offers a good blend of pass/run blocking ability – even if he isn’t going to overpower anyone or wow you with his athleticism. Might go higher than this, with seemingly every team in need of offensive line help, but this is a good range for him.
Parsons may very well be long gone way before this – he could go top ten when it’s all said and done. He “falls” a bit here due to a run on QB and OL, but he is a top defender in this class, and would be an excellent addition to Miami’s defense. Word around the rumor mill is head coach Brian Flores loves Parsons – Parsons may very well be the player selected with Miami’s first pick. He is an elite athlete who put on a show at his pro day running a 4.39 40. Excels as a blitzer from the edge, and looks like a versatile playmaker in today’s NFL. Even though the linebacker position has been downgraded in terms of draft value, I do have concerns with his play diagnosing/looking lost at times and reports of off the field concerns, it isn’t enough to knock him too far down the board.
North Dakota State
There is almost 0% chance Lance drops all the way down here for Washington, but as mentioned before, this mock is not projecting trades (maybe next one will!). Washington is in dire need of a quarterback – no disrespect to Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he isn’t the franchise QB this team needs. Washington needs help along the offensive line and at linebacker, but QB is by far this team’s biggest need. They almost HAVE to trade up for one of the top five quarterbacks in this Draft. Lance reminds some of Cam Newton coming out of college, and with his elite arm strength, size, and running ability, I can definitely see the comparisons – Riverboat Ron might agree with that thought. Lance is raw, but the talent is undeniable despite the lack of starts and a rough three game patch to close out his college career. He could go as high as three to San Francisco or four to Atlanta.
Greg Newsome II
The Mitchell Trubisky era has finally ended, and Chicago is one of the QB needy teams in the league. Adding Andy Dalton in free agency was a very solid move, but neither he nor Nick Foles is the answer at the position. Chicago has seemingly been looking for competent quarterback play forever, and they could be aggressive in a move up for one of the big five. Unfortunately, none of them are available here, and while the team could shore up the offensive line or add a WR2, they opt to address a hole in their secondary. Jaylon Johnson was a great pick in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but he is in desperate need of a running mate after the team released Kyle Fuller. Adding Trufant from Detroit in free agency was a good start, but Newsome would be a plug and play starter in nickel sets while offering depth should Trufant battle injuries again like he did in Atlanta and Detroit. Newsome impressed in 2020 allowing 12 catches on 387 defensive snaps played, and has the speed/quickness you look for at the position.
The retirement of longtime starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo was less than ideal, but not totally a surprise – he almost retired last offseason. It did leave a massive hole there, and that makes LT the top need for the Colts ahead of beefing up the pass rush or adding depth at corner and tight end. Philip Rivers retired and the team traded for Carson Wentz to see if they can rebuild the former top two pick after injuries to his supporting cast and a fall out with former head coach Doug Pederson soured his stay in Philly. They need to make sure he can stay upright, and Jenkins is a big, physical tackle with all the makings of a quality left tackle who can help right away. He is a pancake machine who allowed only four pressures all season, and will fit nicely next to fellow bully Quenton Nelson. His pro day silenced any questions about his athleticism.
Tennessee would likely covet a right tackle here, but may be shell shocked after their Wilson selection in last year’s NFL Draft was such a massive failure before his eventual trade. Needs at cornerback, wide receiver, and tight end following losses in free agency this offseason will also be considered. With the board falling the way it has, Barmore is not a bad consolation prize. He is a lengthy interior disruptor on the defensive line, and would make this one of the better front sevens in the league. Edge rusher Bud Dupree was the big fish reeled in during free agency, but an inside push is worth its weight in gold; DaQuan Jones has not been re-signed and the team lost Clowney in free agency. Barmore showed potential to be a dominant interior presence this past season, and dominated elite competition in the college football playoffs.
With needs all over the field on both sides of the ball, the Jets could go any number of directions here. While the temptation to add a game-breaking running back to pair with new franchise QB Zach Wilson will be there, and adding an edge rusher is always a need for this team, adding a talent like Farley will help new head coach Robert Salah solidify a lackluster secondary. Farley ended the 2019 season as one of the best corners in the nation, and sat out 2020. He is big, fast, smooth, played very well in both man and zone, and has everything physically you look for in an upper-echelon outside corner. The biggest downside (and cause for his slide) lies with his health – he had back surgery this offseason and has had multiple back issues and a past ACL tear in the past. Otherwise, we are talking about a top 15 pick.
The worst unkept secret of the 2021 NFL Draft is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ interest in beefing up their ground game and adding one of the top backs in this class to bring some balance to this offense. They likely will be targeting one in the first couple of rounds, and seeing as no running backs have been taken yet here, they have the pick of the litter. Harris is coming off a fantastic season for the Crimson Tide and is my top RB this year – though it was very close. His vision, patience, and burst stand out on tape, and he has improved in pass protection and as an outlet out of the backfield. A true bell-cow and three-down back, he should fit in nicely, make Big Ben’s life a lot easier, and bring balance to a pass-heavy offense.
The Jaguars are another team with a bevy of needs, so everything is in play here. It sounds like they are interested in adding a tight end early in this Draft, but with so much other talent on the board, they can wait for their top pick in the 2nd round to add a player like Pat Freiermuth. Safety is a huge need for this defense, and even though adding underrated Rayshawn Jenkins in free agency was a good start, Moehrig would bring a solid all-around game to the secondary. He led all safeties in pass breakups over the last two years according to PFF, and while not elite at any one thing, he has the production and physical talent to project as a quality starter.
The Cleveland Browns are trying to build on this past seasons success and added some quality veteran pieces via free agency this offseason, beefing up the secondary and defensive line. Adding Anthony Walker from Indy was a solid get, but the linebacking crew can stand to add some more talent. Jamin Davis came into this season as a relative unknown, but he displayed elite athleticism and rock-solid tackling all year, but needs some work in coverage. His 40/Vertical Jump/Broad Jump at the Kentucky pro day confirmed his athletic ability.
Collins or Rousseau would be great additions to a defense that lost key veterans in the front seven, but the Ravens absolutely need to give Lamar Jackson some help on the outside. Hollywood Brown is a good start, but Jackson needs more to help out in the passing game. Marshall and Toney are quality prospects at the receiver position, but Bateman has the potential to be something special. Bateman could very well go higher than this; he is an elite route runner and has the size/shiftiness/potential to be a true WR1.
A new era of football is coming to New Orleans. Drew Brees retired, and the team unloaded a slew of key vets to get under the salary cap. They lost a lot of talent on defense, and will either look to trade down or take the best player available at this spot. CB and WR are in play, but in this scenario, they may decide to add a swiss army knife like Collins. He is very solid in zone coverage and displayed legit sideline to sideline range on tape. Made a bunch of plays for Tulsa, and his game translates very well to the NFL. Can play inside or outside, and will be a factor when blitzing.
The Packers could go a couple directions by addressing the defense or offensive line, but at some point they gotta help A-a-ron and Adams out. I know they want to run the ball and play defense to help take some pressure off of Rodgers, but when a talent like Marshall is on the board at this point, you have to consider taking him. Not quite the prospect Justin Jefferson/Chase are, but still a legit potential 1st rounder in his own right. Elite size and deep speed, he needs to work on his route running, but Rodgers will love having a deep threat like Marshall and it would open things up more in the middle of the field for Adams.
Buffalo is on the doorstep of greatness. They had an amazing 2020 season despite falling just short of a Super Bowl appearance, but they’ve had a great offseason thus far and will look to keep adding to a deep talent well. They will likely look at adding reinforcements at corner and to beef up their pass rush, but a game breaker at runningback should be high on their list of needs. Etienne might be the best RB in this class, and is the definition of explosive. He finished 2nd at his position in division one in receiving yards and got better each year in that aspect. A home run threat who has more 20 yard runs than any back in this draft. Gives Josh Allen another weapon.
Everyone saw what happened at the Super Bowl – Mahomes getting pressured on damn near every single drop back – and Andy Reid has to make sure his superstar QB has all the protection he needs. Kansas City was without both of their starting offensive tackles in the Super Bowl vs Tampa Bay and it was a disaster. Now both of those tackles are no longer on the team, and while they added Thuney and Long in free agency to help shore up the interior of the offensive line, they still need at least one tackle to go along with last year’s 3rd round pick Lucas Niang – Mike Remmers should not be starting. There are a few good options here, but Cosmi would be a great addition. He is a three-year starter who has improved every season in college. He allowed only eight pressures this past season, and while needs to work on his consistency and footwork, Cosmi had an excellent pro day, showed very well on tape, and has starter potential immediately at left tackle.
Tom Brady does it again. An impressive post-season run capped off with a Super Bowl victory was followed up by maybe the best offseason any defending Super Bowl-winning team has had. Most offseasons, the Super Bowl winner gets raided of talent as teams around the league try to replicate the champs’ success, but Tampa Bay has been able to bring almost every key piece from last year’s team and will be the first Super Bowl winner to bring back every single starter. That makes this pick a little more difficult, but the Bucs are not a team without needs. Depth on the defensive and offensive lines is needed, as is depth at WR and LB, but they will likely go ‘best player available. If he is on the board, Rousseau would be an amazing addition to the defense and fill a key need as a 3rd edge rusher. Rousseau’s size/length stands out right away on tape, and while physically he has everything you look for, he is a bit raw. Started only one year in college then sat out the 2020 season, his stats were impressive, but a lot of his production came when he rushed from the inside. Needs help to develop his pass rush moves and while I love his effort, I want to see him get better in the run game and shedding blocks. Learning from upper-echelon players in JPP, Barrett, and Suh will only help his development.