Anything NBA or NFL? Sam is your man!
Anything NBA or NFL? Sam is your man!
While the 2020 NFL Draft injected some needed stardom into the league, this upcoming class is even more talented. We won’t see that same sparks fly from the wide receiver position, but quarterbacks and offensive linemen dominate the 2021 draft. Teams could still select future Pro Bowlers as late as the third-round this year. The draft could make or break several seasons before training camps even get started.
In my first mock, I promised to release a new one roughly every week. That was over 26 days ago. So maybe I haven’t quite matched the pace I set for myself. That’s alright because I’ve had several other interesting articles published in the past few weeks. I ranked the top 100 free agents, picked the best destinations for available quarterbacks, and discussed every team’s biggest needs. Expect another mock in about two weeks.
Without further delay, the 2021 NFL Draft is officially open.
Mock 1.0- Trevor Lawrence, QB Clemson
Two words: generational talent. Lawrence is far from perfect, but no prospect ever is. The former National Champion has the best ball placement in his draft class, fantastic arm strength, and sneaky mobility. Lawrence doesn’t break the pocket too soon, and he can complete off-balance throws under pressure. His biggest flaw is believing he can accomplish too much, which leads to him trying some ill-advised throws and exotic launch angles.
Mock 1.0- Zach Wilson, QB BYU
Sam Darnold isn’t done yet. The USC product still has starting potential with a Pro Bowl ceiling. New York decides to give Darnold another chance by upgrading his protection. After hitting a home run with Mekhi Becton last year, the Jets target another great tackle. Ultimately, New York’s decision at second overall comes down to what head coach Robert Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas think of Darnold.
The 2021 offensive tackle class is the deepest in recent memory, but Sewell isn’t the unanimous top pick from that group. Some analysts favor Christian Darrisaw, while others like Rashawn Slater’s versatility more. Sewell packs incredible power and can maul defenders in the running game, but he’s far from flawless. Speed rushers and edge rushers with diverse moves tend to give him problems. However, Becton also had plenty of critics and supposed shortcomings last year, and he turned out fine.
Trade: 49ers trade 12th pick to the Dolphins for 3rd pick
3. San Francisco 49ers (*Via Dolphins/Texans)- Zach Wilson, QB BYU
Mock 1.0- Ja’Marr Chase, WR LSU
Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t a bad quarterback, but he’s not a game-changer either. If the former Patriot found himself in this quarterback class, he’d go third. Outside of his single 16-game season, Garoppolo has 16 starts in four seasons with starting time. The 29-year-old has a significant injury history and a disposable contract.
Ultimately, this decision is more about Wilson than Garoppolo. The BYU product only has one standout season, which included a loss to the only highly ranked program he faced (Coastal Carolina). However, Wilson has the best pocket control and mobility out of the 2021 quarterbacks. He extends plays excellently and made great decisions this past season. Wilson’s arm strength isn’t as notable compared to other members of this class.
Mock 1.0- Justin Fields, QB OSU
Fields does nothing to help the Falcons win immediately. New general manager Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith face an uphill battle with an aging roster. Frankly, Atlanta doesn’t have the money or the assets to mold into Super Bowl form during Matt Ryan’s remaining prime. That makes the future Atlanta’s top priority.
Defenses shook Fields several times this past season. He dropped his eyes too soon when the pocket began collapsing, and his progressions didn’t go quick enough. However, Fields possesses enough athleticism and power to get out of sticky situations. His arm strength also opens plenty of big plays. Fields just needs to focus on maintaining his poise in the pocket.
Mock 1.0- Penei Sewell, OT Oregon
Cincinnati grabbed Tee Higgins with the 33rd overall pick last year. The Clemson product proceeded to lead his team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Tyler Boyd wasn’t far behind. While Higgins could still develop into a No. 1 option, there isn’t an offensive lineman available at this spot worth a top-five selection. Chase is by far the best player available, and pairing the 20-year-old with his former college quarterback is an attractive proposition.
Before DeVonta Smith set a wave of receiving records this past year, Chase smashed SEC standards in 2019. Chase doesn’t have elite speed, which led to some lost foot races and trouble creating separation at LSU. However, the 6-1 receiver creates plenty of room with fluid releases, perfect routes, and eye-popping contested catches. He was better than Justin Jefferson in college.
Mock 1.0- DeVonta Smith, WR Alabama
Philadelphia drafted TCU’s Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson last year. Howie Roseman’s only path to redemption is picking and hitting on a wide receiver this time around. Of course, the team’s draft needs could change if they trade Carson Wentz before the season. Assuming the former Pro Bowler isn’t going anywhere, he’ll need new pass-catchers in 2021.
Smith rewrote the record books during his final season at Alabama. His route running is even crisper than Jerry Jeudy’s was last year. He creates separation through terrific footwork and dominant route running. Smith also contorts his body for all kinds of difficult and contested catches. He doesn’t possess the same speed or athleticism as other top prospects, but he makes up for it with extreme refinement.
Trade: Washington trades 19th pick to the Lions for 7th pick
7. Washington Football Team (*Via Lions)- Trey Lance, QB North Dakota St.
Mock 1.0- Jaylen Waddle, WR Alabama
Alex Smith’s story is fantastic, but he was a below-average quarterback in 2020. The 36-year-old still has two seasons remaining on his contract, but there’s no guarantee he returns to Washington in 2021. Even if he does, Ron Rivera must begin thinking about a succession plan. Smith mentored several quarterbacks in the past, including Patrick Mahomes. Perhaps it’s time for another go.
Lance has ideal arm strength and mobility, but he has more obvious misses on tape than the top three quarterbacks in this class. His tight-window accuracy isn’t always there, but that didn’t hurt Lance during his one season as a full-time starter at NDSU. He threw 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions while only taking 12 sacks in 2019.
Mock 1.0- Micah Parsons, LB PSU
Parsons makes a lot of sense for Carolina here, especially since Tahir Whitehead is hitting free agency. However, both Taylor Moton and Russell Okung are pending free agents. As one of the best right tackles in the NFL, Moton is a prime franchise tag candidate. Meanwhile, Okung is 32 years old and can’t stay healthy for a full season.
Slater is challenging to evaluate because a large part of his value is his versatility. He can play anywhere along the offensive line, but does that inherently make him better than a pure tackle prospect like Christian Darrisaw? Some teams probably view Slater as a guard, but he held his own on the edge for Northwestern. Edge rushers can’t move Slater, and he’s one of the most intelligent linemen in this class.
Mock 1.0- Patrick Surtain II, CB Alabama
Denver can’t continue relying on A.J. Bouye as an outside corner. With Bryce Callahan thriving and Duke Dawson always battling injuries, the Broncos need another corner to complete their secondary. With expensive club options for Kareem Jackson and Von Miller and Justin Simmons needing a new contract, Vic Fangio’s team doesn’t have the money to sign a high-impact corner in free agency.
While I’m far from sold on Surtain as the top corner in the 2021 NFL draft, he is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. The 20-year-old corner is 6-2, 202 lbs., and his length shows on tape. Surtain is excellent at the point of the catch, and he’s good at sticking to wide receivers in man coverage. His zone coverage needs a little work. Surtain’s willingness as a tackler sets him apart from some of the other top corners in this class.
Mock 1.0- Christian Darrisaw, OT Virginia Tech
Injuries along the offensive line decimated the Cowboys in 2020. However, the team’s aging defense proved even more flimsy. The defense finished in the bottom ten for yards allowed and bottom five for points allowed. While some pass rushers could revive Dallas’ defense, the secondary is also a considerable point of need. With Chidobe Awuzie entering free agency, the Cowboys need an outside corner.
Farley opted out of the 2020 season, leaving scouts with two years of tape. The 22-year-old is an athletic freak. At 6-2, 207 lbs., Farley possesses a rare combination of size, speed, and fluidity. He’s excellent in man coverage but thrives when he can press opposing wide receivers out of existence. Farley’s zone coverage is acceptable, and if we project some growth in that area, he could become this draft’s most well-rounded corner.
Mock 1.0- Kwity Paye, EDGE Michigan
Evan Engram making the Pro Bowl changes nothing for New York here. The Ole Miss product only has one 16-game season under his belt, and drops continue plaguing his game. There’s also the argument that Engram peaked as a rookie, but the Giants don’t need to move on from the former 23rd overall pick to embrace Pitts. New York can play both tight ends since they’re essentially larger wide receivers.
Pitts dominated during his final season at Florida, recording 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games. The 6-6 star weighs 246 lbs., and he’s a good enough athlete to create matchup problems with 99% of his opponents. Pitts can also offer some resistance as a run-blocker if needed. It’s hard to imagine a better security blanket for Daniel Jones than the sure-handed Pitts.
Mock 1.0- Caleb Farley, CB Virginia Tech
Miami already has a top wide receiver in DeVante Parker and a future Pro Bowl tight end in Mike Gesicki. However, those two were the only Dolphins with over 400 receiving yards this past season. Running back Myles Gaskin finished third, followed closely by Jakeem Grant. No matter who starts at quarterback for Miami in 2021, they need more receiving options.
People often forget that Waddle was Alabama’s big-ticket wide receiver entering the season, not Smith. He has the speed and athleticism of a Henry Ruggs with a greater route tree and more versatile package. Waddle is a playmaker with home run speed. He’s a walking highlight in the open field and should have no problem making plays as a rookie.
Mock 1.0- Rashawn Slater, OT Northwestern
Justin Herbert had a phenomenal rookie season. The last thing he and new head coach Brandon Staley need is a sophomore slump. Staley could improve his quarterback’s chances of posting consecutive standout seasons by fixing Los Angeles’ broken offensive line. That means no more starting Sam Tevi at left tackle.
Unlike Sewell or Slater, there’s no chance of Darrisaw moving inside. The sturdy left tackle generally flashes impressive footwork and hand usage, but he has lapses. It’s nothing to scare teams away from viewing him as a top-15 pick. With one of the best combinations of balance, mobility, and technique in the draft, Darrisaw is a plug-and-play left tackle.
Mock 1.0- Gregory Rousseau, EDGE Miami
The Vikings tried to find an elite running mate for Danielle Hunter when they traded for Yannick Ngakoue this past season. Unfortunately, Hunter never played, and Minnesota sent Ngakoue to Baltimore. With Hunter set to return in 2021, Mike Zimmer has another chance to rekindle Minnesota’s pass rush.
Paye is still developing as a defensive end. Despite his 28 appearances in college, there’s plenty of room for improvement, which should excite more than a few teams. With a 6-4, 272 lb. frame, Paye possesses surprising explosiveness and agility. He’s best suited for a role as a team’s second-best pass rusher to start his career, but No. 1 potential is there. Paye battles every snap and showed plenty of self-improvement over the years. He’s also a reliable run defender.
Mock 1.0- Trey Lance, QB North Dakota St.
On tape, Parsons is easily one of the few blue-chip prospects in the 2021 draft. However, he’s recently faced accusations of hazing, and we’re not sure how dedicated he is to the sport. Parsons worked his butt off to get to this point, and having him anywhere below 15th overall is mind-boggling to me. He’s the best off-ball linebacker prospect since Luke Kuechly in 2012.
Parsons opted out of the 2020 season after posting 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and five sacks in 2019. He’s a sideline-to-sideline linebacker with excellent closing speed and explosiveness. Climbing linemen won’t be able to block him cleanly. Parsons is also a threat as a blitzer thanks to his background as a defensive end. He never gives up on a play and wills himself to make stops. We need to see more of him in coverage.
Mock 1.0- Jaycee Horn, CB South Carolina
This year’s cornerback class is far from fleshed out. Horn could be the best corner in this class, or he might be the fourth-best. Regardless of his standing, Horn fits Arizona’s needs perfectly. With Dre Kirkpatrick and Patrick Peterson hitting free agency, the Cardinals need someone to serve as their top cover option.
In man coverage, Horn does his best work when he can press receivers, but the 21-year-old shines on zone coverage. He isn’t going to come down in run support and make game-changing plays. Horn has excellent ball skills and can play in the slot or outside. He’ll have to make strides in man coverage to become an elite corner.
Mock 1.0- Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB Notre Dame
Phillips suffered numerous concussions while with UCLA, which could lead to him falling out of the first-round. Phillips retired after the 2018 season because of issues with concussions. He returned in 2020 with the Miami Hurricanes to amass 45 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and eight sacks in ten games.
The Raiders finished 29th in the NFL this past season with 21 sacks. Only Maxx Crosby recorded more than three sacks. Phillips has the explosiveness and pass rush arsenal to rip through linemen. His hand placement and timing still need some work, but the basic pass rush moves are all there with the potential for more advanced sets in the future. It’s a bonus that Phillips is a highly productive run defender.
Mock 1.0- Zaven Collins, LB Tulsa
Miami’s defense led the NFL with 29 takeaways this past season and finished sixth in points allowed. However, the team’s linebacking corps could use an upgrade. Outside of Jerome Baker and the versatile Kyle Van Noy, Brian Flores shouldn’t fear replacing some of his starters. The pairing of Owusu-Koramoah and Van Noy is intriguing.
At 6-1, 215 lbs., Owusu-Koramoah is smaller and lighter than Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, who entered last year’s draft as a linebacker-safety hybrid. That small stature might scare away some teams. However, Owusu-Koramoah didn’t struggle making tackles in college, and his range is phenomenal. His agility and burst make him lethal when coming downhill unabated.
While Owusu-Koramoah will struggle with climbing linemen or blocking tight ends, he makes up for those shortcomings by providing excellent coverage on running backs and solid reps covering slot weapons.
Mock 1.0- Jalen Mayfield, OT Michigan
The Lions traded their way out of a top-three receiver, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a legitimate top option. Whether it’s Toney or Rashod Bateman, another talented receiver should remain on the board at 19th. Detroit faces the prospect of losing Danny Amendola, Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu this offseason, leaving T.J. Hockenson as the only proven pass-catcher.
Toney isn’t a finished product, and he only became a college star this past season. While his route running and wide receiver mechanics need more fine-tuning, Toney has the fluidity, speed, and twitch to make an immediate impact in the NFL. He saw snaps as a return man, wide receiver, and running back at Florida, meaning he’s a creative offensive coordinator’s dream. Toney played quarterback in high school, which could open the door to some trick plays.
Mock 1.0- Wyatt Davis, OL OSU
The Bears need to do something about their offensive line. Mayfield didn’t post many starts in college, but he’s a plug-and-play right tackle with enough potential to maybe shift to left tackle in emergency situations. Head coach Matt Nagy is on a short leash, so he might go for a flashy pick here, but securing the offensive line should take priority.
Mayfield is one of the best moving offensive tackles in the draft. His mobility is through the roof, but he had fewer than 20 starts at Michigan. That means Mayfield is still learning the advanced aspects of his position. However, his hands, length, mobility, and strength make him a high-upside prospect. We haven’t discovered Mayfield’s ceiling yet, which is either a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it.
Mock 1.0- Kadarius Toney, WR Florida
Frank Reich and the Colts made the playoffs this past season because of their offensive line. Philip Rivers played extremely well for his age, but the line gave the former Pro Bowler and rookie Jonathan Taylor lots of room to operate. With long-time left tackle Anthony Castonzo retiring, Indianapolis should move quickly to fill that void.
Cosmi played more games at left tackle in college than right tackle, but many analysts view him as a right tackle in the NFL. The Colts already have an outstanding right tackle in Braden Smith, so this pick hinges on their opinion of Cosmi’s ideal position. Cosmi needs to build more functional strength, improve his hand placement, and develop a better kick step. However, he has more than ideal length and flashed tremendous mobility with the Longhorns.
It might make sense to swap Cosmi and Mayfield in future mocks.
Mock 1.0- Joseph Ossai, EDGE Texas
Rousseau opted out of the 2020 college season, leaving scouts with one year of dominant tape to digest. In 2019, Rousseau ripped through offensive lines for 54 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 15.5 sacks in 13 games. Mike Vrabel’s team desperately needs that production, considering that Tennessee finished 30th in the NFL with 19 sacks. No Titan reached six sacks this season.
Standing at 6-7, 265 lbs. with long arms, Rousseau looks like he came out of a comic book. The 20-year-old still needs to add some extra muscle and is too new to playing defensive end to play at a high level in the NFL immediately. Opting out of the 2020 season didn’t help his development either. However, Rousseau has all of the physical tools to dominate in the NFL once he learns the position’s nuisances.
Mock 1.0- Najee Harris, RB Alabama
The Jets must transform their offense this offseason. Saleh is a defensive-minded coach, but there’s a lot more potential on that side for the Jets already. After taking Sewell with the second pick, New York can snag the top running back in the draft. After rocking with 37-year-old Frank Gore this past season, the Jets deserve some youth in the backfield.
Harris glides around the field with surgical precision that freezes defenders. He isn’t going to win footraces against 4.2 40-time defensive backs, but Harris possesses the power and will to drag defenders for extra yards. While Travis Etienne posted better receiving totals, Harris is the more natural receiver. The Jets can find a wide receiver in free agency. Passing on Harris isn’t wise.
Mock 1.0- Liam Eichenberg, OT Notre Dame
Pittsburgh faces an uphill battle this offseason. Starting left guard Matt Feiler and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva are free agents, and center Maurkice Pouncey is contemplating retirement. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is old, and the unit’s age began showing in the running game this season. The Steelers need to pick at least two new starters along the line in this draft.
Jenkins played both tackle positions and right guard in college. With that Matt Feiler-esque package of experience, Jenkins could fill any one of several holes the Steelers have. While the 22-year-old still needs to work on his patience and not over-extending on blocks, he has a fierce mentality and great upper body strength. His athleticism and mobility are capped, but he’s good enough to go in the first-round.
Mock 1.0- Kyle Pitts, TE Florida
TCU’s Trevon Moehrig is a tempting fit here. The Jaguars need safety help, but it’s in the franchise’s best interest to protect its rookie quarterback. Jacksonville invested the 35th pick in Florida’s Jawaan Taylor two years ago and the 34th pick in Alabama’s Cam Robinson in 2017. It’s possible neither of those SEC products receive contract extensions.
Eichenberg was a Consensus All-American this past season. Standing at 6-6, 305 lbs., he has the length and strength to hold his own in the NFL. Eichenberg is destructive as a run blocker at the point of attack and improved in pass protection last season. He doesn’t possess the same speed or athleticism as other tackles in this class. It’s possible his fit as a run blocking tackle makes him undesirable for Jacksonville.
Mock 1.0- Eric Stokes, CB Georgia
While the Browns could use some help in their secondary, Kevin Stefanski is counting on the return and development of former LSU standouts Grant Delpit and Greedy Williams. Cleveland’s linebacking corps consists of low-round selections and veteran journeymen. Collins could instantly transform this defense’s character and give Myles Garret someone to rely on in the second level.
There’s a chance that Collins finishes his career as the best linebacker from the 2021 NFL Draft. He possesses the ideal combination of athleticism, physical traits, and college production. In eight games this past season, Collins recorded 54 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, four interceptions, and two defensive touchdowns. He can rush the passer, drop into zone coverage, or clamp down on running backs. Limited snaps in man coverage are my only concern about Collins.
Mock 1.0- Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL USC
Baltimore built one of the NFL’s most-talented defenses this past season. Unfortunately, Don Martindale’s unit is about to take several hits. Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue are both free agents. Fellow pass rushers Pernell McPhee, Jihad Ward, and Derek Wolfe also need new deals. With four of Baltimore’s top six sack artists from 2020 hitting the open market, Oweh has some big shoes to fill.
Oweh is a project player. He didn’t have great production at Penn St., but the build and drive are there. Oweh’s flexibility and movement outclass the athleticism of offensive linemen he faces, but at 252 lbs. there’s only so much he’s capable of in certain defenses. Baltimore could peg him as Matt Judon’s replacement.
Mock 1.0- Nick Bolton, LB Missouri
The Saints have an immediate need at linebacker with Alex Anzalone hitting free agency. Backups Kwon Alexander and Craig Robertson probably won’t return in 2021 either. New Orleans already has All-Pro Demario Davis serving as middle linebacker, but Sean Payton won’t find another linebacker with Bolton’s ceiling later on in the draft.
The biggest concern with Bolton is his lack of experience with man coverage. He’s more comfortable in zone defenses but thrives as a downhill linebacker. With a head of steam, Bolton can flatten ball carriers. Despite his power, Bolton doesn’t always succeed at breaking away from blocks or climbing offensive linemen. This pick could come down to how Payton feels Bolton fits next to Davis and Zack Baun.
Mock 1.0- Terrace Marshall Jr., WR LSU
It’s almost impossible to predict what the Packers will do with the 29th pick considering they drafted Jordan Love at 26th overall last year. Green Bay’s 2020 draft class also featured AJ Dillon in the second round and Josiah Deguara in the third round. Neither of them made significant contributions as rookies. In need of someone to replace free agent Kevin King, Green Bay can’t screw up this pick.
Listed at 5-10, 184 lbs. in college, Samuel immediately faces a physical uphill battle in the NFL. However, his proficiency in man coverage creates real first-round interest. Some teams might view Samuel as a bona fide slot corner, but he flashed on an island in college. While he still has a long way to go in zone coverage, Samuel is already a top-five man coverage corner in this class.
Mock 1.0- Alex Leatherwood, OT Alabama
If Buffalo’s offense had one weakness this past season, it was the running game. After a promising rookie season, Devin Singletary saw a significant reduction in yards per attempt. Rookie Zack Moss brought a new dynamic to the backfield, but he didn’t fare much better. Buffalo’s interior offensive line could use a boost.
Vera-Tucker played left tackle at USC, but many analysts view him as a guard. Either way, he can help the Bills immediately. With right tackle Daryl Williams hitting free agency, there’s a slim possibility that AVT could slide into that position at some point in 2021. Vera-Tucker’s athleticism, bend, footwork, and general mobility make him one of the most promising offensive line prospects in this class.
Mock 1.0- Samuel Cosmi, OT Texas
The Chiefs are one of the few teams in the NFL that can afford to turn a blind eye to their defensive deficiencies when selecting in the first round. Andy Reid’s team lives and dies with its offense. That’s the identity and the culture Kansas City has fully embraced. With Demarcus Robinson and Sammy Watkins entering free agency, the Chiefs reload with arguably the draft’s fourth-best wide receiver.
Bateman has enough talent to go in the middle of the first-round. It comes down to how teams feel about him compared to Toney. In this case, Bateman falls a decent number of spots. The Minnesota product is a fantastic route runner, which creates plenty of space for catches. He can play outside or inside and rarely drops passes. While Bateman isn’t as athletically dominant as other wide receiver prospects in this class, he’s a well-rounded immediate-impact player.
Mock 1.0- Travis Etienne, RB Clemson
The Buccaneers have a free agent problem. While Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski are free agents on offense, the defense faces a mass exodus. Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, and Ndamukong Suh all need new contracts. With Barrett and David taking priority, Suh could find himself on the outside looking in.
Suh played a crucial role in Vita Vea’s development in 2019 before amassing 44 tackles, six sacks, and 29 quarterback pressures this season. Technically he lines up as a defensive end in Tampa Bay’s system, but Barmore could make that jump as well. Barmore has NFL-caliber strength and speed off the line of scrimmage. While he was productive at Alabama, the 6-5 lineman remains more potential than polish.
Wyatt Davis, IOL Ohio St.
Travis Etienne, RB. Clemson
Pat Freiermuth, TE Penn St.
Mac Jones, QB Alabama
Alex Leatherwood, OT Alabama
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR LSU
Trevon Moehrig, S TCU
Azeez Ojulari, EDGE Georgia
Joseph Ossai, EDGE Texas
Javonte Williams, RB UNC