US Sports Veteran
Publish Date: 04/01/2021
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
The 2021 NFL Draft is less than a month away. With pro days littering the schedule, we’re finally getting a clearer picture of how the draft’s top picks could look. Assuming the Miami Dolphins don’t continue ping-ponging around the draft order, it’s time to start writing draft day predictions in pen.
Miami deciding to move all over the top 12 picks quickly ruined my mock draft 4.0. Luckily, Kyle Bazin invited me to do a two-round mock draft. We worked together over the past week to write a comprehensive mock that gives readers insight into each of our thought processes. Hopefully, this article gives you some new perspectives on your team and their best options in the draft.
We formatted this mock where Kyle had all of the odd-numbered picks, and I took the even ones. In the instance of trades, we supplied the trade details and stuck to moving picks instead of players. Kyle’s words appear in italics while mine are normal. Asterisks denote picks altered by trades we created.
Again, I want to thank Kyle for inviting me to do this mock. It was a lot of fun, and we both benefited from hearing each other’s perspectives. Make sure to check out Kyle’s version of the mock and follow him on Twitter @KyleTheCommish. He also has plenty of articles that you can check out for NFL news and other draft content.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars- QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Trevor fun fact No. 5: his brother has even longer hair than him and is nicknamed Sunshine, an ode to the Remember the Titans QB. Sam, two questions. One, what percentage of your readers have already lost respect for me based on my response to the Trevor selection? Two, I haven’t changed this pick the entire way through. Is there a reason to think I should consider another QB? -Kyle
There’s no reason to change the pick now. Urban Meyer looked ready to take Lawrence midway through his pro day. I think some people will try to get fancy with the top selection as the draft gets closer, but we all know who’s going first overall. -Sam
Wilson experienced a breakout season in 2020 that vaulted him up draft boards. While concerns remain about the level of competition he faced, NFL teams see higher upside in Wilson than other available quarterbacks. That combination of mobility and accuracy is too enticing.
Kyle, is it foolish for New York to take Wilson over Justin Fields here? -Sam
I’ve had Wilson going second since the beginning but put Fields there in my last mock to see how it would shake up things. At this point, I think it’s either them staying here and selecting Wilson or them trading back to eight and getting an ungodly amount of picks to build around Darnold. Though, I would put the chances of that happening at about five percent. -Kyle
The 49ers made their move for their QB of the future, trading two future firsts to secure him. I have Lance as their selection over Fields and Jones for a few reasons. I know that Kyle Shanahan succeeded in recent years with QBs like Jimmy Garoppolo, Matt Ryan, and Kirk Cousins, who are more stoic pocket passers. However, there are a few clues that lead me to believe this pick is Lance.
First off, Shanahan lauded Josh Allen when they played him this year because of his threat on the ground. Imagine the confusion a mobile QB like Lance could create in a system that features a ton of outside zone run and play action. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this trade happened before the Ohio St. pro day but after the North Dakota St. pro day. San Francisco LOVES at least three of the QBs, and they had seen Wilson, Lawrence, Lance, and Jones’ pro days before the trade.
Finally, if Mac is really your guy, they didn’t need to go up to three to secure him. This hype around Mac Jones feels so media-driven, and while there are Mac supporters among teams, he doesn’t have the athleticism and tools that the other four QBs have.
Sam, what’re your thoughts, and how pissed are you that we had to basically restart our mock because of this trade? -Kyle
I just wish they could’ve waited another week to wreck the draft order. The 49ers gave up so many first-round picks because they have no intention of finishing with under ten wins in the next few years, but that was probably still too much. I think Lance has a combination of arm strength and mobility that make him a fun fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He’s drawn some comparisons to Josh Allen and Cam Newton when those two came out of college. However, I think he’s the riskiest of the top four quarterbacks in this draft.
Yes, I said the top four quarterbacks, not five. I don’t view Mac Jones in the same realm as Fields, Lance, Lawrence, and Wilson. I’m not worried about his lack of mobility, it’s the lack of pop on some of his throws that makes me shake my head. He also played on a historically stacked offense. I’m not a believer in the Jones-to-San Francisco hype that’s come alive in the past four days. -Sam
While Lawrence is the most talented player in the 2021 NFL Draft, Pitts is a close second. He’s the best tight end prospect from the past decade, possessing a 6-5, 245 lbs. frame. Pitts is perfect for modern offenses with his ability to create mismatches all over the field. He doesn’t even have to line up at tight end either. The 20-year-old can play wide receiver as well and still dominate opponents. That Atlanta offense with Hayden Hurst, Julio Jones, Pitts, and Calvin Ridley is looking pretty scary. -Sam
The underrated factor with this pick is how often Arthur Smith utilized more than one TE in Tennessee. It was very important for what he wanted to do offensively. I say that but also realize that Atlanta’s offense will operate very differently than Tennessee’s has with Derrick Henry. -Kyle
Trade: Carolina sends Cincinnati picks No. 8, 73, and 151 in 2021 and a third-rounder in 2022 for pick No. 5
5. Carolina Panthers (*Via Bengals)- QB Justin Fields, Ohio St.
The Panthers made it clear this offseason that they aren’t satisfied with Teddy Bridgewater. Matt Rhule has a long-term deal, but he probably wants a young quarterback to focus on building around moving forward. Fields had some issues in 2020, but he’s still QB2 on many big boards and is far better than any quarterback projected to enter the 2022 NFL Draft. -Sam
The closer we get to the draft, I feel like Fields isn’t necessarily slipping, but the QBs around him are rising. I know that it’s all narrative and what comes out of the media, but a ton of insiders continually bring up Wilson, Lance, and Jones. There’s less love for Fields than any of the other four.
I thought he did some good things in his pro day yesterday, and him “falling behind” isn’t indicative of what I think of him as a player, but rather how few teams will view him as fit for their system. It only takes one team though, and Carolina seems like a good match. Also, do you really think four QBs go in the top five picks? -Kyle
I think four in the top five is plausible with all of the trading going on. However, I highly doubt that four quarterbacks come off the board in a row. -Sam
Miami traded up to sixth overall for Chase or Penei Sewell. In this case, Brian Flores’ team gets another weapon for Tua Tagovailoa and further diversifies the wide receiver corps. Chase benefitted from playing with Joe Burrow at LSU, but I’m convinced he’ll perform at a Pro Bowl level soon after entering the NFL. He has an excellent feel for the game and always gives himself an opportunity to catch the ball. Chase’s lack of burning speed and minimal separation didn’t stop him from averaging over 21.0 yards per catch in 2019. -Sam
I disagree that the Dolphins moved back up to six for Chase or Sewell. I think the Dolphins realize that they will be looking at the top three non-QBs. That is Sewell, Chase, and Pitts. But the Dolphins’ invested in the tackle position last year and the solid (not great) play they had means they are happy with either Chase or Pitts. However, I think Chase is the No. 1 player on their board. -Kyle
Chase ran a 4.38 40-time at his pro day while Pitts ran a 4.44 and set the record for longest wingspan by a pass catcher in the past 20 years. -Sam
Trade: Dallas sends Detroit picks No. 10, 75, and 115 in 2021 and a fifth-rounder in 2022 for pick No. 7
7. Dallas Cowboys (*Via Lions)- OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
The Cowboys suffered from injuries last year. Losing Dak Prescott doomed the season, but Dallas was already on the ropes after losing tackles La’el Collins and Tyron Smith for the year. Both players have a history of injuries, and Smith is already showing signs of decline at 30 years old. In this scenario, maybe Sewell starts at guard as a rookie and then moves outside later in his career. It might seem strange, but Dallas needs to get back to dominating up front, by whatever means necessary. -Sam
I’m a big fan of this trade-up and selection, and they can still address the secondary later on. Do they want to kick Connor Williams out of LG already though? Center is the worst spot on the OL, but Sewell can’t play there. Williams vs. Biadasz for the center spot? -Kyle
Sewell has to replace Williams in the lineup initially, but we all know he’ll eventually start a few games at tackle when Smith gets hurt. He hasn’t played in 14 or more games since 2015. -Sam
Maybe not getting Sewell will work out for the Bengals. They can select the versatile Slater who can slot in at guard or tackle depending on how they want to align up front. Reiff signed on to be the RT this year so Slater can move there when he is gone too. -Kyle
You can never have too many good offensive linemen. The Bengals must prioritize protecting Joe Burrow in the draft, meaning they land a blue-chip prospect at eight. Slater can start anywhere along the line. I’m sure the Bengals would love to experiment with him or Jonah Williams spending some time at guard while free agent signee Riley Reiff anchors the right side. -Sam
Denver has added two CBs, Darby and Fuller, this offseason as starters. However, Fuller only signed a one-year deal and will undoubtedly look to free agency next season to get paid big again. Surtain is the pick. So, he is the starter 100% next season, and maybe he can even push Darby this year for snaps. I don’t believe Surtain will be an option at nickel. -Kyle
Denver’s secondary is one of the best in the NFL on paper, but teams can always benefit from adding new cornerbacks. Some people had concerns about Surtain’s speed, but he ran somewhere between a 4.42 and 4.46 40-yard dash at his pro day. For comparison, AJ Terrell ran a 4.42 last year and was the 16th overall pick. Speed isn’t a problem for Surtain. -Sam
I know everyone wants to go WR here, but I think Parsons is exactly the type of player this defense needs. Parsons can start as a SAM and play on instincts by rushing the passer and covering backs and TEs. As he gets his feet under him, he will eventually captain this defense. That is where I think Detroit will rebuild first. -Kyle
The Lions already took a swing on a first-round linebacker in 2017 with Florida’s Jarrad Davis. That didn’t work out. Parsons is head and shoulders above any other linebacker in this class, and he’ll bring the on-field mentality Dan Campbell’s kneecap-biting team needs. -Sam
Gettleman’s biggest obstacle this offseason had to be his defensive line. Even though they kept Leonard Williams, they need to add to this room. Paye is expected to test like a monster, but his production has never matched his expected results. Gettleman isn’t afraid to reach for his guys either, and I think that’s what ends up happening here. -Kyle
David Gettleman arguably just had his best free agency period as New York’s general manager. Adding Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson removed two major needs. I don’t think there’s an edge defender in this class worth a top-15 pick, but I could see the Giants reaching for one here. I think this spot comes down to Paye and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari. -Sam
Some analysts have Waddle as the top wide receiver on their draft boards. Most fans forget that the speedster averaged 139 yards per game last season before suffering an injury against Tennessee. Waddle is far more dynamic than Henry Ruggs III was last year, so I don’t think comparisons between the two are fair. Philadelphia needs help in the secondary, but I can’t see the Eagles walking into Week 1 with Jalen Reagor as their top wide receiver. -Sam
Sam, I say this but also realize that Waddle isn’t the same as Reagor. But do you feel that both of these guys win in too similar of a fashion? I feel like Hurts could use a contested-catch player. Did you just go with the mindset that you just draft the best player and go from there? -Kyle
I think Reagor can be that contested-catch player as crazy as it sounds. We didn’t get to see it much last season, but my notes on Reagor coming out of TCU had him as a receiver who played bigger than his frame. He had plenty of contested grabs in college, and I still expect that to show up in the NFL. Plus, you can add a bigger receiver like Sage Surratt in the mid-rounds. -Sam
I keep going back to this selection for a few reasons. The Chargers should have seen him more than most teams being that he is in their backyard. AVT is also versatile enough to play guard and tackle, which he showed at school. The Chargers could use help at both LT and RG, in my estimation. Finally, I just don’t see them going anywhere else but OL with this pick. Do you see them going with any other position, Sam? -Kyle
The Chargers have to go offensive line here. They hit gold with Justin Herbert. Now they need to protect him, unlike how Cincinnati subjected Joe Burrow to unnecessary punishment last year. Los Angeles can’t have Trey Pipkins starting at left tackle in 2021, which is why I could see Christian Darrisaw going here. I like Vera-Tucker, but I think he’s more attractive as a guard than a tackle. -Sam
Minnesota cut long-time left tackle Riley Reiff this offseason, creating a hole on the offensive line. Brian O’Neill is a solid right tackle, and I like the idea of Ezra Cleveland staying at guard. Darrisaw is a top-15 prospect in this draft. He doesn’t have the versatility to kick inside and play guard, but his combination of balance, mobility, and technique is impossible to ignore. Kyle, do you think offensive line is the play here for Minnesota? -Sam
The Vikings just made a move for Mason Cole to likely play at guard as well. This pick at LT fills out their OL quite nicely. If they wait until the second round to pick up a LT, they may not be as happy with who is available. If I had to pick for Minnesota, I would lean in the same direction. -Kyle
The Patriots have virtually zero needs. They could use some more WR help, but is Cam the long-term guy? I don’t think so based on what I saw in 2020. Mac is a very in-rhythm passer and relied on Alabama’s elite OL and WRs. The Patriots may just be the best possible team for him because of how good their OL is. They haven’t had much success developing WRs, but if they selected one here at 15, the QB well would not be as pretty. Belichick’s potential win record rests on the arm of Mac Jones now. -Kyle
Depending on who you talk to, Jones is a top-three quarterback in this draft class. He was one of the nation’s most accurate passers last year and has great pocket presence. However, Jones benefitted mightily from playing in the country’s best offense. I like Jones more now than I did two months ago, but his ceiling and floor are very murky.
As for New England, they have plenty of experience with non-mobile quarterbacks. Jones should find a nice fit in Josh McDaniels’ offense. This pick means the Patriots won’t reunite with Jimmy Garoppolo down the road. -Sam
Arizona is paper-thin at cornerback, but the team could replace Patrick Peterson with another perennial Pro Bowl shutdown specialist. Farley has an elite blend of athleticism, length, and speed. He’s already adept in man and press coverage and showed promise in zone as well. Concerns over his recent microdiscectomy are overblown. He’ll be more than ready to go for rookie minicamp. I think Farley is the best corner in this draft, but I get the sense that you stack up the top corners differently, Kyle. -Sam
I still think Farley is a top-two CB in this draft. But at one point, I thought Horn was a distant third and now believe that it is a close race to determine the order of the top three. Newsome isn’t far behind either. Farley will fit better for Arizona than either Surtain or Horn will, so I agree with you for this pick. But I bet you can’t say microdiscectomy five times fast. -Kyle
With the assumption that John Simpson fills in at RG, Mayfield is the last puzzle piece to the Raiders OL rebuild. I think he fits the box of winning-pedigree programs even though Michigan hasn’t won much recently. He has a very limited sample size as a redshirt sophomore, but the Raiders have been known to take chances in the draft for guys they believe in. -Kyle
Mayfield is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft. He played tackle at Michigan, but many analysts project him as a guard or a mid-second-round tackle. I think we all recognize that Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock tend to go against the grain on draft day, which doesn’t make this pick shocking, even with Teven Jenkins still on the board. -Sam
Trade: Cleveland sends Miami picks No. 26 and 91 in 2021 and a sixth-rounder in 2022 for pick No. 18
18. Cleveland Browns (*Via Dolphins)- EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
Phillips is by far the most gifted pass rusher in this class. He’s the former top recruit in the country, and that talent showed in 2020. Phillips has a pass rush arsenal that developing rushers like Paye and Gregory Rousseau can’t hope to match. Lining him up alongside Myles Garrett creates a Pro Bowl duo. The only major concern with Phillips is his well-documented history of concussions. -Sam
I feel like these top three edge rushers each have teams that fit best for them and are rather different. And I agree with Phillips to Cleveland as one of those fits. Do you think either Paye or Rousseau would fit as well in Cleveland? -Kyle
I think Paye would be a better fit than Rousseau in that situation. Paye is probably the more complete player right now, even if he isn’t a tremendous pass rusher. Rousseau needs some rushes from the interior, but Paye can stay outside in Cleveland’s 4-3 defense. Phillips is still better than those two against the pass and run. -Sam
Trade: New York (Jets) send Washington picks No. 23 and 86 in 2021 for picks No. 19 and 163
19. New York Jets (*Via WFT)– CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
I know that you think there is a gap between Farley and Surtain vs. Horn, but I think there are two teams that will covet Horn more than most others. The 49ers and Jets use more zone coverage than most other NFL teams, and Horn’s off-coverage skills should provide him with a platform to succeed early on. Also, the CB market is heating up, so I think teams will be aggressive with them in the draft. Do you agree with that last statement, Sam? -Kyle
I think cornerback will be one of the most interesting positions to watch in the draft because of the remaining veteran free agents. A.J. Bouye, Bashaud Breeland, Quinton Dunbar, Casey Hayward, Steven Nelson, Brian Poole, and Richard Sherman are still on the market. We could see three corners go in the top 15 picks or only three go in the whole first round. -Sam
While I could see the Bears adding Samuel Cosmi or Teven Jenkins to play right tackle, Smith is a bargain pick at this spot. The 22-year-old arguably just had the best season by a receiver in college football history. Yes, he’s thin and wiry, but so was Marvin Harrison coming out of school. Smith is a terrific route runner and had more highlight-reel catches than fans realize. He fits well with a team that could lose Anthony Miller and a disgruntled Allen Robinson in 2022 free agency. -Sam
Our mock is pretty crazy! I don’t imagine DeVonta will be here at 20, but what an addition it would be for Chicago. I’m not even sure if Anthony Miller or Allen Robinson make it through training camp with Miller on the block and Robinson unhappy playing on the tag. DeVonta may not be a top ten pick, but he is an absolute steal at 20. -Kyle
The Colts drafted an offensive lineman in the first round out of Notre Dame a few years ago. Sam, do you remember anything about that? Was he any good? -Kyle
I seem to remember Quenton Nelson turning out alright. -Sam
Yeah, that pick worked out pretty well for the Colts, and to be honest, there haven’t been too many bad OL coming out of Notre Dame recently. At least those that are considered top picks. Eichenberg will fit extremely well with the Colts’ run-first mindset and allow Taylor and Co. to get outside and upfield. -Kyle
I hate this pick, mainly because it means my Steelers can’t get Eichenberg at 24. It’s an excellent move for the Colts though. They recently signed Sam Tevi to start at left tackle, but I find it hard to believe that’ll make life easier for Carson Wentz. While Eichenberg’s ceiling isn’t extremely high, he’s a consistent plug-and-play starter with a reliable floor. Sometimes, that’s all you need. -Sam
Perhaps Tennessee looks at Bateman, a receiver that creates space with his releases, routes, and catch radius, and believes he’s too similar to A.J. Brown or Josh Reynolds. However, the Titans need to target a wide receiver or cornerback here, and Bateman is the best prospect left at either position. After losing Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith, Tennessee adds a receiver who averaged nearly 94 yards per game during his final two collegiate seasons. -Sam
The losses of Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith will be significant if they don’t find a player of Bateman’s caliber in the draft. Bateman will compete as a 1B in this WR room behind Brown because, as you mentioned, they have similar skill sets. I would have high expectations for this passing attack which I know will be fool’s gold because of Derrick Henry. -Kyle
Admittedly, I am not a huge fan of what is available to Washington right now. But I think addressing the left tackle position is important after they have worked on CB and WR in free agency. Radunz protected a top-four selection in this draft, and he shined at the Senior Bowl. I like his motor and how he finishes blocks. Sam, please rip this pick apart. -Kyle
Well, if you insist. I can see the appeal in Radunz as a late-first-rounder, but you have to find someone more valuable at 23. You got stuck with a bad board, but I would rather have added Liam Eichenberg or chased Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah’s high ceiling. Although, if this pick works out, you’ll look like a genius.
I do think some of the concern with Radunz is that he played at the FCS level. There’s much easier competition there, but we’ve seen DIII linemen like Ali Marpet make it big, so I guess it’s a case-by-case basis. -Sam
Pittsburgh has a penchant for taking linebackers in the first-round, and both Ojulari and Oweh are still on the board. I’m terrified the Steelers look for Bud Dupree’s replacement instead of dealing with their top need: the offensive line. Maurkice Pouncey retired while Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva left in free agency. It’s a mess! I’m more than willing to play Jenkins at either left or right tackle, so long as he brings his physical demeanor to the Steel City. He should be a big boost to Pittsburgh’s decrepit running game.
Kyle, am I way off base with this pick? -Sam
Not at all off base. OL is the way to go. My biggest fear with Jenkins is that he played RT in college. I don’t see too many success stories where a RT in college makes the successful jump to LT in the pros. That is why previous teams passed on him. Do you have that similar fear? -Kyle
I think several offensive linemen in this class, including Jenkins and Samuel Cosmi, have experience on both sides and at guard. We don’t know which spot they’ll play at the NFL level until they suit up. As of today, Jenkins could walk in and immediately be Pittsburgh’s best left tackle, right tackle, or left guard. Hopefully, that isn’t the case at the start of the season. -Sam
The Jags have so many picks at the top end of this draft. But I look at their team, and I don’t see many holes. At least the amount I am accustomed to. I think FS is one of the few spots left that needs to be addressed, and one of the top-five players on my board is Moehrig.
The Jags have spent this offseason bringing in Shaq Griffin and drafted C.J. Henderson last year at the cornerback spot. They also brought in Rayshawn Jenkins to fill the box safety role. Moehrig checks the center-fielder spot off the list and one less position that needs to be addressed. -Kyle
Bringing in Shaquill Griffin was huge because it takes Jacksonville out of the cornerback market in the first-round. When the Jaguars were a good football team a few years ago, they had a dominant pass rush and a loaded secondary. The team already invested top-20 picks in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson over the past two years. That leaves the secondary, where Moehrig is by far the best defensive back available. He’s got excellent ball skills and isn’t afraid to come downhill against the run. -Sam
Collins won about every award possible during his final collegiate season because of his incredible productivity. He falls this far because his role in the NFL isn’t entirely clear. Collins needs a creative defensive mind willing to play him in many roles and make adjustments on the fly. Enter Brian Flores. I expect the head coach could use Collins in the Kyle Van Noy role. While I don’t put a lot of stock in player comparisons, it’s encouraging to see Collins held up alongside Anthony Barr, Van Noy, and Leighton Vander Esch in pre-draft discussions.
Was it the right move for Miami to pass on a running back at 26th in favor of Collins? -Sam
I love the fit of Collins in Miami. The Dolphins have aggressively signed LBs this offseason, but most of them have been run stuffers or special teamers. Losing Van Noy was big because he could do everything from dropping into coverage, rushing the passer, and stopping the run. That has to be the vision for Collins as well. It wasn’t a mistake passing on a RB because one should be there at 36. -Kyle
The Ravens don’t need to move up or down to get the best player-team fit combo in this draft. Ojulari was made for a Ravens defense that will allow him to stand up or put a hand in the dirt on the edge. The Ravens continuously churn out edge talent from lesser prospects, but I would love to see what they can turn this uber-athletic prospect into. -Kyle
As a Steelers fan, I hate this pick because it’s exactly what Baltimore needs. After losing Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue in free agency, the Ravens should go with Ojulari or Jayson Oweh here. Of the two, Ojulari is the more complete player with an arsenal of pass rush moves. To be honest, I almost had the Giants trade up here and grab their second edge rusher of the first-round. I think Ojulari is that good. -Sam
I had LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr. penciled in for this spot until the news broke that Marshon Lattimore was arrested on March 26. Lattimore won’t miss time, but his arrest got me thinking. The Pro Bowl cornerback is in the final year of his rookie deal, and the Saints are thin in the secondary after releasing Janoris Jenkins for salary cap relief. Newsome is the only first-round cornerback left on the board, and he could become crucial if New Orleans doesn’t extend Lattimore.
Newsome has risen up draft boards in the past month. Is 28 too high for the junior out of Northwestern? -Sam
Lattimore’s 2021 season has to have some question marks with that news coming out, so I think being fortunate enough that Newsome is still available is huge for the Saints. I think he will go before 28 on draft night.
I had the Saints going Marshall and Samuel in my two-round mock that dropped today. I think those will ultimately be where they go early in the draft, so I like this. -Kyle
Trade: Philadelphia sends Green Bay picks No. 37 and 84 in 2021 for pick No. 29
29. Philadelphia Eagles (*Via Packers)- LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
Philadelphia is clearly rebuilding with the way they are accumulating future draft picks, but that shouldn’t prevent them from being aggressive when they see a guy they love. JOK is going to be a player that never leaves the field for the Birds. His versatility to line up as a WILL LB, nickel CB, or box safety will hopefully be the missing piece to a defense that has struggled since winning the Super Bowl. -Kyle
I graduated from Clemson, so you can bet I watched the two matchups between the Fighting Irish and Tigers this past season. Owusu-Koramoah was the main reason why Travis Etienne struggled so much in the first game. For a 215 lb. linebacker, JOK isn’t afraid of sticking his nose in the backfield and making a big play. He’s just a playmaker, and I think he’ll play a huge role immediately for Philadelphia. -Sam
Trade: Dallas sends Buffalo picks No. 44 and 99 in 2021 for pick No. 30
30. Dallas Cowboys (*Via Bills)- EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Jerry Jones isn’t afraid of taking risks. He knows that the Cowboys need cornerback help, but there’s a top-three defensive end on the board. While Rousseau still has to fill out his frame and continue learning the position, he was incredibly productive in 2019. He hasn’t developed a pass rushing arsenal yet, but the foundation is there for a disruptive monster that can rush from the outside or the interior.
Dallas envisions Rousseau and DeMarcus Lawrence as one of the NFL’s best pass rushing duos moving forward.
Kyle, do you think Rousseau is worth trading up for? -Sam
One hundred percent. Rousseau is my favorite edge rusher in this class. Yes, there is work still to be done because of the small sample size. But one thing that I thought was important in his sophomore season was how he seemed to get better in every game he played. He was showcasing pass rush moves later in the season that he clearly didn’t have early on. His ceiling is the roof. Plenty of teams are envious that Dallas traded up to select him. -Kyle
You’ve heard from everyone that the Chiefs need OL help. After they cut Eric Fisher, the LT spot is the obvious wart besides center. Let’s throw the 6’7 300 lb. Cosmi in there. Something that I don’t think will be a coincidence. Eric Fisher measured in at…. 6’7, 305 lbs. at the combine in 2013. Cosmi fits nicely with the outside zone running scheme the Chiefs employ. Sam, what am I missing here? This fit feels too perfect. -Kyle
I think 31st overall is a good spot for Cosmi, and his history playing both left tackle and right tackle with Texas adds a level of versatility to his game. Cosmi’s athleticism is his greatest asset. He climbs and pulls better than most 300 lb. behemoths. There are a lot of little things I want to see him improve, like his kick step and use of leverage. Overall, Cosmi is a good value pick for the Chiefs and fills an immediate need. -Sam
It’s extremely tempting to indulge in Tampa Bay’s offense and add Travis Etienne to the Bucs backfield, but it was the defense that carried Tom Brady across the finish line last season. Even with Ndamukong Suh returning on yet another one-year deal, I like the idea of Tampa Bay adding Barmore. If there’s a defensive coordinator that can get the most out of the former Alabama standout, it’s Todd Bowles. What position do you think the Buccaneers should target in the first-round? -Sam
All I know is that every position that I have given Tampa at 32 and said there is no way they could re-sign one of their guys has gone wrong. So, I almost think I shouldn’t give you a position to target. Seriously though, IDL is a good place, but how about cornerback? If there is any position that they don’t have a top-ten player at, it’s there.
As far as Barmore goes, this player is perfect for a team like the Bucs. He has a very high ceiling because of his natural athleticism and talent but hasn’t put it all together with his limited sample size. If he’s a bust, who cares? But if he hits, watch out. -Kyle
33. Jacksonville Jaguars- RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
Maybe I am alone in this… but I think Jacksonville actually has a pretty decent roster. They filled their two biggest needs with the best QB and best FS in the draft. Picking the best player available hasn’t been something the Jags have been able to do for years. But in this scenario, they can select the yin to Trevor’s yang.
I know the Jags have James Robinson, and they signed Carlos Hyde. Neither of those players is a perfect fit for the college-style offense I expect Urban will employ. Travis already has the connection with Trevor, and it should ease both of them into NFL life much easier. -Kyle
I love everything about this pick. Keeping Etienne and Lawrence together is a dream outcome for Clemson football fans, and I think both players could benefit heavily. I wouldn’t rule out Jacksonville trying to upgrade the offensive line at this spot, but Etienne is better than any of the remaining linemen.
While James Robinson had a great story as a breakout rookie undrafted free agent, we’ve seen players like Phillip Lindsay experience similar success before getting marginalized when a new coaching staff arrives. -Sam
New York still has plenty of needs. I took a long look at Pat Freiermuth for this spot. Thoughts of doubling up at corner also came to mind. The offensive line still needs help, but there aren’t any top players left standing. That leaves Harris, who some people view as the top running back in the draft. The Alabama product glides through defenses with excellent vision and possesses enough power to gain yards after contact. Harris doesn’t have home run speed, but he’s incredibly versatile and should become a Day 1 starter for the Jets. -Sam
Stop having the Jets take players I like. It’s unsettling. The Jets have so many needs that it’s tough for me to think they would take a RB early, but because of the fall of the top guys, it makes for good value. I am a big fan of Najee, but I don’t know how well he fits in a Shanahan-style offense. Does the fit bother you at all? -Kyle
I know Mike LaFleur’s Shanahan-style offense often requires fast running backs to get outside, but I think Harris has the quick feet and vision to compensate in that area. I also think he’s such a good pass-catcher that LaFleur can draw up some exciting plays with Harris lined up out wide. He’s a great offensive chess piece. -Sam
The Falcons haven’t had a solid edge player in who knows how long now. Last year they splurged on Dante Fowler in free agency, but he failed in their 4-3 system. With Dean Pees coming in, the expectation is they will return to a 3-4 system, which Fowler and Oweh will fit under. Oweh’s skillset shows me he is more of a pass rusher than an edge setter.
However, Oweh had two very odd statistical years at Penn St. One year, he was outstanding against the run, and another he had a very high pass rush win rate. Funny enough, he was awful in the other years in those same categories, but the tools are there.
Sam, did you see anything from his pro day that might give the Falcons some hope that he is different than the previous EDGE busts? -Kyle
Oweh smashed his pro day. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked in or above the 95th percentile historically for edge rushers in the vertical jump, broad jump, 40-yard dash (4.39), short shuttle, and three-cone. However, he ranked below the 50th percentile in weight and bench press reps.
I think there are some legitimate concerns with how Oweh will measure up against mauling linemen, but we’ve seen T.J. Watt turn into a superstar despite posting similar numbers in the strength and weight tests. I think Oweh is worth a second-round pick considering his upside as a speed rusher. -Sam
Six running backs went in the top two rounds last year, so I think we could see a string of the top backs fly off the board after the first-round. The Dolphins have a powerful offensive line that they wanted Matt Breida and Jordan Howard to dominate behind in 2020. That never happened. Williams broke a tackle nearly every other carry last season, making him a perfect fit for Miami’s roughriders up front. He also flashed an improved role in the passing game as a receiver and excellent pass blocker.
Are you satisfied, Kyle? -Sam
I think it was something like 45% of his plays for Javonte that he broke a tackle. As a Dolphins fan, watching our RBs go down too easily since the Jay Ajayi year has been disappointing. As good as Etienne and Najee are, I think Javonte is in that category and could be drafted above either or both of them. I am extremely happy, and you can take over the team anytime… as long as you get pick 50 right. -Kyle
Green Bay had so many options in the first-round that they moved back to collect some more picks and still get one of their guys. Bolton is a thumping MIKE LB. One of the areas that the Packers need to improve on is their run defense, and Bolton will provide just that. He explodes into running lanes, and his smaller size allows him to get lower than the ball carriers to wrap them up. He may be a liability in man coverage, but if you ask him to occupy a zone and read the QB, he should have a better time. -Kyle
Most young linebackers struggle with man coverage when they initially enter the NFL. I don’t think Bolton will ever become elite in that facet of the game, but Green Bay wants him for his downhill destruction. He has plenty of pop at the point of attack, an area where the Packers struggled in recent playoff runs. Taking Bolton in the first-round is a little rich, but he’s a good value selection at the top of the second. More importantly, he’s better than all of Green Bay’s current inside backers. -Sam
Freiermuth is a quality in-line blocker, but he shines as a receiving tight end. I don’t envision a Pro Bowl ceiling for Freiermuth, but he’s the perfect security blanket over the middle for Joe Burrow. The Penn St. tight end has soft hands and offers plenty of contested catch ability. Cincinnati hasn’t had a standout tight end since Tyler Eifert’s lone breakout season in 2015. If Freiermuth catches 50 passes for 600 yards and six touchdowns a year, he’s worth the early second-round pick. -Sam
Cincinnati lost a few offensive weapons this offseason, but grabbing Pat here is significant for two reasons: protecting Joe Burrow and catching passes from Joe Burrow. If you can’t do one or the other at an exceptional level, I don’t want you in Cincy. The OL was a colossal liability last offseason, and we gave them Slater and Freiermuth. I’d say we are doing a bang-up job. -Kyle
Trade: Chicago sends Carolina pick No. 52 in 2021 and a third-rounder in 2022 for pick No. 39
39. Chicago Bears (*Via Panthers)- CB Eric Stokes, Georgia
Chicago could toss around the idea of drafting Levi Onwuzurike to be Akiem Hicks’ eventual replacement or Alex Leatherwood to play right tackle. However, there are still some premier cornerbacks on the board. Stokes ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro day, and quarterbacks completed under 55.0% of their passes against him in college.
The Bears could pair Stokes with second-year corner Jaylon Johnson and have a developing duo in the defensive backfield. It’s time to get the cornerback market moving again. -Sam
With Fuller being a late cap casualty, I think CB needs to be a priority for this defense that has been good, not great recently. Johnson had a quiet rookie year and will be stepping into a huge role with Stokes filling his spot. With the Bears striking out in the free agency market and their secondary looking weaker, they may take a step back in 2021. -Kyle
Trade: Washington sends Denver picks No. 51 and 124 in 2021 and a fifth-rounder in 2022 for pick No. 40
40. Washington Football Team (*Via Broncos)- LB Jamin Davis, Kentucky
Washington has successfully turned their offense into a must-watch spectacle. However, their success last year came from their defense. With the addition of William Jackson to their CB spot, their defense is what needs some work. Reuben Foster was going to be a top-ten pick in the 2017 draft but fell to 31 because of off-field issues that haunted him in SF. He eventually made his way to the east coast but never made much of an impact.
Davis’ speed and tenacity as an outside LB allow him to attack ball carriers and recover in pass coverage. He isn’t the strongest guy, but he is quick to identify blocks and maneuver.
Sam, there are a lot of LBs left. What are your thoughts on this class? -Kyle
Davis was fantastic for the Wildcats last season, racking up 102 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and three interceptions. Davis is on the lighter side at 234 lbs., but he, Jabril Cox, and other smaller linebackers have seen their stocks rise as the league searches for coverage linebackers. Davis is long, which benefits him against climbing linemen and in coverage. He’s already one of the best tackling and most physically gifted linebackers in this class. Davis still has many unknowns given his lack of starts in college, but NFL teams should love his room to develop. -Sam
The Lions lost a lot in their WR room this offseason. They added Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, but they aren’t true difference makers to me. If I am the Lions, I prioritize getting a WR that creates a ton of separation like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp did for Jared Goff. Moore has electric feet and has the toughness to go across the middle as a slot receiver. His best trait is his ability to make defenders miss with the ball in his hands. He is one of my favorite players. -Kyle
I’ve spoken to multiple people in the media that have Moore in their top-50 players. He was the offensive engine for the Rebels last year, more than doubling any teammate in receiving yards and tripling the next closest player in receptions. He’s mastered several routes, and that toughness you mentioned just jumps off the tape. Detroit could certainly use someone with that mentality.
I love Moore as a replacement for free agent Danny Amendola, who he should surpass quickly. However, I think UNC’s Dyami Brown will ultimately be a more versatile player than Moore. -Sam
New York needs some help at linebacker and could use depth at corner. Fix it in the second wave of free agency. It’s time to stop screwing around with the offensive line. The Giants always have half of a line in place, and that’s not acceptable in a division with Washington’s defensive front.
New York recently added guard Zach Fulton on a one-year deal. Shane Lemieux was a fifth-round pick last year, and he got bullied as a rookie. Former second-round pick Will Hernandez got benched for Lemieux. The guard depth is a mess. Davis isn’t a future All-Pro, but he’s physically imposing and should drive defenders off the line of scrimmage. New York can finally get a solid, long-term answer at guard. -Sam
I agree the Giants need to do something about the OL early in the draft. You didn’t even mention the tackles the last two years (Solder opted out in 2020, and Thomas was a rookie) haven’t been great either, and they invested heavily in those players. The Giants need someone that is “safe” so they can keep Daniel Jones upright and evaluate him. But hey, at least they paid Kenny Golladay $70M+. -Kyle
San Fran did good work to sign back a lot of their depth CBs this offseason, but they could use an upgrade since Sherman is still a free agent. Melifonwu is related to Obi Melifonwu, who came out of UCONN in 2017 and was drafted to the Raiders. Obi only lasted two seasons in the NFL, but if Ifeatu is drafted into the right system, I expect he will be around longer. He is going to best succeed in a zone or off-man coverage role, which the 49ers famously employ. If he doesn’t fit as a corner, he may switch to safety as his brother did. -Kyle
At 6-3, 213 lbs., Melifonwu has ideal size and length. While the Syracuse product had good reps in press coverage, he’s a better fit for zone schemes. Melifonwu’s length shows up when he contests catches, and he’s great at driving on receivers and breaking up throws. Melifonwu is one of my favorite players in this draft because of his ceiling and toolsy profile. Even if his impact is limited in 2021 because of San Francisco’s veteran re-signings, Melifonwu could step into a full-time starting role in 2022. -Sam
And if he doesn’t fit with the 49ers, he can just stay at school and join the Syracuse basketball team, which has the best zone in the country. -Kyle
Stop watching basketball and get back to work! -Sam
Buffalo lost Josh Norman in free agency but brought back Levi Wallace. Wallace is a solid cornerback, but the Bills could upgrade over him and slot corner Taron Johnson. I wanted Melifonwu here, but Kyle had other ideas. Molden is exclusively a slot corner, and he’s impressive in zone coverage. He sees the game exceptionally well and flashes above-average instincts.
Molden is only 5-10, 190 lbs., but he’s one of the 50 best players in this draft class. Buffalo’s defensive philosophy revolves around shutting down the passing game, and Molden fits that vision perfectly. -Sam
If I knew that you wouldn’t pick Molden to the Bills, I would’ve let you have Obi-Wan’s brother. The Bills are at such a good place in their roster construction, and nickel corner is one of the few upgradeable positions. Put Molden into this secondary, and I think running the ball for 60 minutes may be the approach for some teams. -Kyle
Jacksonville has an adequate offensive line. Brandon Linder is one of the best centers in the league, and around him there are a bunch of acceptable players, but all could be upgraded. Enter Alex Leatherwood, a starting tackle for the Crimson Tide, but he’s better suited for the guard spot in the NFL. He isn’t quite as athletic in his lower half to cover up speed rushers on the outside. The Jags should try him at tackle in camp, but if they want to get him on the field early, their guard play hasn’t been great recently. In 2022, LT Cam Robinson and LG Andrew Norwell probably won’t be on the team anymore. -Kyle
The Jaguars have to throw a few picks at their offensive line. They can’t have a Joe Burrow situation with Trevor Lawrence. While Leatherwood doesn’t have a defined position in the NFL yet, there are plenty of possibilities for him in Jacksonville.
Former 35th overall pick Jawaan Taylor has allowed 17 sacks from his right tackle spot over the past two years. Guards A.J. Cann and Andrew Norwell haven’t exactly excelled either. Cann, Norwell, and left tackle Cam Robinson are free agents next offseason. Taylor has two years left on his contract. Whether it’s at guard or tackle, Leatherwood should see significant playing time early in his career. -Sam
New England didn’t re-sign cornerback Jason McCourty this offseason. The team still has outside corners Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, but Gilmore’s future with the Patriots remains murky. Opinions remain mixed about Samuel’s ability to play outside, but we’ve seen several corners start their careers in the slot and make that jump later. Jackson began as a slot corner, and so did Denver’s Bryce Callahan. In this scenario, Samuel plays in the slot as a rookie with the chance to move outside in the future.
Samuel is only 5-10, 184 lbs., which contributes to the slot discussion. However, Asante Samuel Sr. played at 5-10, 185, and made four Pro Bowls. Fun fact, Bill Belichick coached the older Samuel for five seasons. -Sam
This is such a Patriots pick that it hurts. I still have mental scars from those Samuel Sr. years as a Dolphins fan. The Patriots have a real opportunity here to make the playoffs with their secondary. J.C. Jackson was huge last year and took over from where Gilmore’s DPOY run ended the previous year. With Jason and Chung gone, the secondary needs some more nickel bodies, and I just hate how much this pick works. -Kyle
Trade: New Orleans sends Los Angeles (Chargers) picks No. 60 and 98 in 2021 for pick No. 47
47. New Orleans Saints (*Via Chargers)- WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
I wanted to send Marshall to New Orleans in the first-round, but the Saints took Greg Newsome II instead. By giving up a third-round pick, Sean Payton gets two first-round-caliber starters. At 6-3, Marshall has a massive catch radius, which comes in handy when you’re catching passes from Jameis Winston. He averaged over 100 receiving yards per game this past season and doubled all other Tigers skill players in touchdowns scored. Marshall also possesses inside-out versatility, meaning he can play anywhere in Payton’s offense. -Sam
The Saints have been involved in several trades in the past few drafts to grab a player that they would’ve selected with their first pick. I agree that Marshall is the kind of player the Saints would covet doing this for. Replacing the catches left by Cook and Sanders will be vital for either Jameis or Taysom in 2021 and beyond. -Kyle
Trade: Cleveland sends Las Vegas picks No. 59, 110, and 169 in 2021 for pick No. 48
48. Cleveland Browns (*Via Raiders)- LB Baron Browning, Ohio St.
Cleveland moving up in Round 1 and Round 2 for defensive players shows how close they think they are to competing for Super Bowls. They have a ton of picks in this draft and won’t be worried about moving a few later selections for their future leader of the LB room. I know Cleveland has holes all over the defense, but I could argue LB is the biggest one.
Browning should be a three-down LB in the NFL because of his range and athleticism in coverage. He also showed he has some ability as a blitzer, which could be deadly with Garrett and rookie Phillips off the EDGE.
Sam, I know you aren’t as high on him. -Kyle
Browning makes me hesitate because he moved around so much at Ohio St. and never turned in that hyper-productive year we usually look for when evaluating linebackers. He’s incredibly athletic, but it feels like you have to buy heavily into his traits at times. Browning ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at his pro day. Because he relies heavily on speed, he is sometimes inconsistent and can over-commit on plays. If Cleveland gives Browning a permanent role, I think he could smooth out with experience. -Sam
I want to start this by saying that I know we’re supposed to make selections that we would make for these teams, but I just can’t find anything I like for Arizona here, and Sam’s attempt at bailing me out of jail was basically just stealing. For shame, Sam, for shame. I am not in love with this pick because it marginalizes both Isabella and Kirk in this offense. I am not afraid of upgrading from either of those players, but Toney is no sure thing. He is ranked very highly among draftniks because of his potential. But as of right now, everyone sees the game-breaking speed, and they HOPE he can put the rest together to become the next Tyreek. There is only one Tyreek. -Kyle
Never say I didn’t try to give you a trade here. Toney broke out in Florida’s offense alongside Kyle Pitts and Kyle Trask last season. Toney does a little bit of everything. He returns kicks and punts, and the Gators lined him up in the backfield several times. Toney’s speed and ability to create separation covers for his developing route running at times. Teams love his dynamic play, and Toney is one of the best players in this draft with the ball in his hands.
My only concern is that Arizona might have to manufacture touches for him early in his career. -Sam
Miami recently reached a one-year deal with former Baltimore center Matt Skura. The contract pays Skura roughly $1.75 million, so drafting Dickerson to start over the free agent addition isn’t invalidating an expensive signing. Dickerson has an extensive injury history, which might scare away teams in the second-round. However, the Consensus All-American is 6-6, 325 lbs. and can bulldoze defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage.
Dickerson played everywhere along offensive lines in college and could move to guard in emergencies. He isn’t athletic enough to play tackle in the NFL. -Sam
Dickerson is the ideal center for Miami. He is one of, if not the, biggest centers in the class and Miami has three OL that weigh over 330 lbs. Miami also hasn’t had an issue with drafting players with injury histories (especially Alabama players), so I don’t think they will shy away from him. His injury may even allow Miami to start him off slowly as a backup to Skura and any of the OGs. A home run first two rounds for Miami getting a starting WR, OLB/EDGE, RB, and now center. -Kyle
There are so many picks that I want to make here, but they just don’t fit. Denver signed right tackle Ja’Wuan James to a big contract in 2019, but the former 19th overall pick suffered a knee injury that limited him to three games that year. He also opted out of the 2020 campaign. Assuming James returns in 2021, Denver doesn’t have to target tackles Spencer Brown and Jackson Carman. Cornerback Tyson Campbell doesn’t fit in Denver’s defensive scheme.
The one spot I feel they can comfortably upgrade here is nose tackle with either McNeill or Tyler Shelvin, which some analysts view as third-round prospects. I’m siding with McNeill because he’s flashed pass rush potential alongside his usual run defense. It’s a reach, but that speaks to how well-rounded Denver’s roster is. -Sam
Denver had DTs Shelby Harris and Jurrell Casey enter free agency but managed to retain Harris. He is one of the best DTs in the business, and if you tell me that McNeill has some good pass rush skills, I believe you. Casey didn’t provide anything for Denver because of his injury early in the season, but he was brought in to pressure the QB from the interior. There are other DTs here, but Harris is under 300 lbs. so they could use a heavier guy. -Kyle
The first safety came off the board at 25, and it took 27 picks for the next one to come off. I don’t think the gap between Holland and Moehrig is that large, but the safety market is always weird in the draft, and we could see these players come off the board later than expected. Last year, the Panthers selected safety Jeremy Chinn in the third-round, but in training camp, Rhule said that Chinn was already the team’s best LB. Pairing a versatile chess piece like Chinn with a deep safety like Holland will give this defense an advantage in how they want to align vs. offenses.
Sam, what do you think about this safety class? -Kyle
I think this year’s safety class is being highly undervalued. You’ve got three legitimate top-60 picks in Moehrig, Holland, and Richie Grant, plus potential mid-round starters like Andre Cisco, Paris Ford, Talanoa Hufanga, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Ar’Darius Washington, and James Wiggins. Holland, in particular, stands out because of his high-volume college production and ability to play in the slot. In two seasons at Oregon, he amassed 108 tackles, nine interceptions, and ten passes defensed. He’s a great addition to Matt Rhule’s rebuilding defense. -Sam
The best scouting report for Carman will come from the Clemson grad, so I’ll save that for you, Sam. Tennessee recently got spurned by first-round RT Isaiah Wilson through no fault of their own. They need to replace him, and they also cut the RT that started for them last year, so this is a position of need.
The one thing that is interesting here are the similarities between Carman and Wilson. Both are 340+ lbs. Both struggled with outside speed rushers. Both might be better guards than tackles. There may be some hesitation to draft such a similar guy in Tennessee to their worst pick in franchise history, but this position must be addressed. -Kyle
Carman is a powerful man. Heaven better help the linebacker or defensive back he meets at the second level. Carman is a good athlete for his size. The concern isn’t so much with his speed as it is his feet. He can’t always keep up with speed rushers in short spaces and sometimes gives up leverage with his pad level.
Luckily, Carman has good hands and a powerful anchor that can stonewall edge rushers, and he plays like a man possessed in the running game. Titans fans can embrace the image of Carman leading the way for Derrick Henry. -Sam
Expect a lot of teams to have Brown on their boards entering Day 2. The 6-1, 185 lbs. receiver stretched the field for the Tar Heels. He averaged 20.0 or more yards per reception over the past two seasons on his way to 106 receptions, 2,133 yards, and 20 touchdowns. I think Brown could start his career in the slot, considering he struggled against press coverage occasionally in college, but he could eventually move outside full-time.
Despite running a simplified route tree, Brown flashed great route running skills when given the chance. He should immediately supplant Parris Campbell in Frank Reich’s offense. -Sam
When I gave Toney to the Cards, I was upset that the Colts weren’t going to get him. Dyami Brown is the same type of threat. Carson Wentz didn’t have many speed and deep threats in Philly besides DeSean Jackson, but we know that Wentz had some success with him when both were healthy. I like what he will add to the offense opposite T.Y. (not as spry as he once was) and Pittman. I know he has great yards per catch, but I believe that Indy might want to use Dyami’s speed on shorter receptions and have him work after the catch. -Kyle
55. Pittsburgh Steelers- IOL Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
The Steelers had a string of absolute dominant play at the center position for 11 seasons because of first-round selection Maurkice Pouncey. With his retirement, the position is left vacant for one of these top centers in the draft to come in and have their own run of dominance. If Humphrey or Dickerson fall to the bottom of the second-round, the Steelers should be happy as a clam.
Humphrey is slimmer than Dickerson and checks in right about where Maurkice was when he was leaving college. Humphrey is a pretty clean prospect, from my understanding, and doesn’t have many holes in his game. He is left-handed though, which could be somewhat confusing for some quarterbacks. -Kyle
Humphrey isn’t on the same level athletically as Pouncey, but the Steelers can’t afford to pass on a center this year. Maybe they look for one later in the draft, but I’m more than happy to see Humphrey in the black and gold. He started plenty of games in college and doesn’t have a massive injury history like Dickerson.
Overall, Humphrey is powerful and experienced enough to hold down Pittsburgh’s center job for the next decade. I’m happy as long as the Steelers keep adding starters and rebuilding the offensive line. -Sam
The Seahawks recently parted ways with Jarran Reed, creating a significant hole in their defensive line. While Reed never came close to matching his 10.5-sack 2018 season over the past two years, the former second-round pick still led all Seahawks linemen with 6.5 sacks in 2020.
Instead of promoting from within, Seattle can add Onwuzurike in the late second-round. The Washington product is explosive and a fantastic athlete. He has excellent length and should make an immediate impact in the running game, but he’s still inconsistent as a pass rusher.
Kyle, do you think Onwuzurike provides a significant upgrade for Seattle’s defense? -Sam
I don’t know if I would say significant upgrade because to me, that means he has to not only replace but go above the 6.5 sacks that Reed had in 2020. I like Levi and think this is a good spot for him to see some production. The Seahawks brought back nose tackle Poona Ford, which should allow Levi to operate as a three-tech and focus on getting to the passer. I think the most significant position they need to upgrade is cornerback. -Kyle
The Rams have been one of the best teams in the league at drafting and developing talent from their middle-round selections. They have been able to continue their studs and duds ideology because of all of the cheap labor they get from these picks, and McGrone may be the next in the long line of contributors.
McGrone played in a very blitz-heavy defense at Michigan, and the Rams blitz on 25% of their plays. There is some meat on the bone when it comes to his coverage skills, but he wasn’t asked to cover too often in college. He should be a three-down MIKE starter right away for this Rams defense where the positional need was too strong, and they couldn’t pass him up. -Kyle
McGrone only started 15 games at Michigan, but he’s entering the NFL at a time where teams want to upgrade their linebacker play. McGrone has a lot of physical tools that should translate well to the NFL. This coming season might be a learning experience for him since he’s relatively inexperienced. However, the Rams can hope that McGrone picks up pass coverage abilities to complement his already strong run defense. McGrone should help Los Angeles’ defensive front clamp down on big running plays while the secondary eliminates threats over the top. -Sam
Someone has to take the muscled spark plug from Purdue. The Boilermakers force-fed Moore the ball during his freshman year (2018), and he wound up with 114 of David Blough’s 305 completions and 1,258 of his 3,705 passing yards. Unfortunately, Purdue’s offense didn’t involve Moore running anything close to an NFL route tree, and he suffered injuries in 2019 and 2020.
It’s easy to see why some people fall in love with Moore’s potential. He’s only 5-7 but is well-built at 180 lbs. and ran a 4.29 40-yard dash at his pro day. Moore also posted 42.5 inches in the vertical jump. He’s the closest player to Tyreek Hill in terms of stature and speed/strength combination in this year’s draft.
The Ravens have several receivers that are threats with the ball in their hands, but none are as dynamic as Moore. In time, he could become even more successful playing with Lamar Jackson than former first-round pick Marquise Brown.
Am I crazy for targeting a receiver here? -Sam
I think the need at WR persists for the Ravens even after signing Sammy Watkins. They need players exactly like this. Guys that can get the ball short of the sticks and make plays. Andrews is the only player I trust in that offense to get first downs. My biggest question is, what will happen at RT with Orlando Brown Jr. likely to be traded? I assume they will at least get one Day 2 pick back from that trade. Do you have a guy that you think fits at RT for them, whether he has been drafted already or not? -Kyle
I’m not convinced the Ravens will trade Brown. If the compensation isn’t a mid-first-round pick, they should hold onto him. If Baltimore could pick from every tackle prospect after Darrisaw, Sewell, and Slater, I think they’d take a long look at Teven Jenkins. He’d give them a lot in the running game. They could also look at a robust tackle packing over 330 lbs. like Jackson Carman in the second-round. Among the remaining tackles in this mock, I think Brady Christensen is the obvious choice. -Sam
New Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley runs a cover three defense, which isn’t a perfect fit for Grant. However, playing him as a deep free safety while Johnathan Abram stays in the box could prove profitable for Las Vegas. Grant made big-time plays during his final three collegiate seasons, intercepting ten passes and recording 258 tackles.
Playing Grant deep removes some of the value he offers as a run defender, but it allows him time to read and react to plays. Grant’s range is his best asset, and he can maximize its potential by giving himself space to operate and read the quarterback. -Sam
The Raiders moved on from FS Lamarcus Joyner this offseason, but he played a lot of slot for them, and it showed. They were one of the worst defenses against the pass and got burned over the top a bunch. Getting a true deep safety in Grant should help correct some of those issues. However, Grant also did play nickel and other roles for the Knights, and he may play a similar role to what Joyner did for this defense. -Kyle
As the lone Demon Deacon fan in the world, I watched Boogie do his thing the last few years, and I think the league is down on him compared to what he will become. Basham had over 20+ consecutive games with a TFL at Wake. He is an old-fashioned EDGE at over 280 lbs. at just 6-3. He creates a lot of power and runs through opposition instead of around them. The Chargers usually like larger EDGE players at over 260 lbs., but Basham may also slide in and play some interior at the NFL level. -Kyle
Basham was highly productive during his final two collegiate seasons, amassing 85 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, and 15 sacks in only 19 games. He’s one of the largest members of this edge class, which works for and against him. There’s some extra power and outside-in versatility to Basham’s game, but he lacks NFL speed and isn’t overly athletic. I think you could see him push pockets more than collapse them, but there’s value in having someone like that on the roster. I had Basham in the top-60 prospects on my first big board this year for a reason. -Sam
The other half of the dynamic duo in the Tar Heels backfield goes to Buffalo. The team just signed Matt Breida to fill a role that Carter would succeed in, but Breida didn’t do enough in Miami to earn snaps, and I don’t think he will here. Carter is incredibly shifty and has incredible vision. He won’t be the 1A for Buffalo regardless of if Singletary and Moss stick around. Carter just doesn’t have the body type to handle 60% of the snaps. In his first year, I see him filling a Chase Edmonds-type role with the bulk of his work being catches out of the backfield. -Kyle
This running back class is relatively light in the middle compared to last year’s group. Carter ran for over 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons at UNC and flashed impressive skills out of the backfield as a receiver, but he’s not an every-down player. At his pro day, Carter came in at 5-8, 201 lbs. He also ran a 4.50 40-yard dash which was a slight disappointment. Luckily, he showed off his twitchy feet and short-space versatility by placing at or above the 90th percentile in the short shuttle and three-cone.
The Bills are building a backfield-by-committee, and Carter can be the team’s best receiving back since LeSean McCoy. -Sam
Green Bay still needs help at center and depth along the offensive line, but it’s about time that Matt LaFleur’s team stops struggling against the run. The Packers had a top-16 run defense last season and put up a good fight in the playoffs, but I’d like to bury the hatchet officially. Williams isn’t supplanting nose tackle Kenny Clark, but he could line up as a 3-4 right defensive end.
Williams came in at 6-3, 284 lbs. on his pro day and scored in at least the 91st percentile on the vertical jump, broad jump, bench press, 40-yard dash (4.62), short shuttle, and three-cone. Other options at this spot include slot corner Aaron Robinson and center Josh Myers. -Sam
I like how we both have the same idea for the Packers to get a better front seven. We have seen great individual performances from guys like Kenny Clark, the Smith Bros, and others, but none of them are focused on the run. I like the versatility that Milton will bring them on the DL, and he is no slouch as a pass rusher either. The DT group may not be super loaded with talent, but there will be some gems. -Kyle
The Chiefs have told Austin Reiter that they will not be re-signing him. Obviously, that could change if his price plummets, but as of now, I believe they will look to the draft for their OL as they need to get cheaper up front. Myers is bigger than Reiter, but he is still athletic enough to get up field and fit in this zone running scheme. At school, he almost exclusively snapped in the shotgun, so there won’t be much of a learning curve here with the Chiefs. On passing downs (which is most of them for the Chiefs), he has the ideal frame to keep rushers at bay with good lateral quickness. -Kyle
Myers could become one of Patrick Mahomes’ best friends in Kansas City. He was the quarterback of OSU’s offensive line last year while primarily working in the shotgun with Justin Fields. While Myers is stiff and not a tremendous athlete, he’s got active feet and has no problem climbing to the second level. The second-round is a bit rich for Myers, but the Chiefs desperately need to fix their offensive line after the Super Bowl fiasco. -Sam
The Buccaneers made this pick as difficult as possible by retaining almost everyone from their Super Bowl run. Is there even a chance for a rookie outside of the first-round to earn a starting role? Maybe. Of the remaining prospects, Tyson Campbell has the best chance to go in and win starting snaps. Walker Little has a high ceiling too. Every other player enters the process at a massive disadvantage.
So, let’s look toward the future. What might a cap-strapped Bucs team need in 2022? Well, Jason Pierre-Paul happens to hit free agency next spring at age 33. Bingo, that’s where we need to go. This pick came down to Joseph Ossai and Tryon. I sided with Tryon because his frame is filled out more, and there’s some rough tape of Ossai getting tossed around in the running game. Tryon should benefit significantly from a year of tutelage under JPP. -Sam
I like the Tryon pick here because of value and that future need that you mentioned. The Bucs have both Shaq Barrett and JPP, who are larger on the EDGE than most guys in this class. However, Tryon fits in the Bucs size prototype for the position, and you can never have enough edge rushers.
I actually think Tryon will get more playing time than we think earlier in the season as the Bucs could give JPP and Shaq some lighter loads in terms of snap counts in preparation for another deep playoff run. Those two saved their best for last during the postseason. -Kyle
Kyle, what are your thoughts on how the mock draft wrapped up? We left some talented guys like Jabril Cox and Kenneth Gainwell on the board. -Sam
There are always some guys left after the first or second-round that are surprising. Unfortunately, there are plenty of team needs, and some positions like DT, LB, RB, TE, etc., get moved down because of the importance of that position compared to others. We saw some players at tackle and corner that got drafted a little earlier than expected, but because teams highly value those foundational positions it will continue to happen.
On top of Jabril, there are a few others that I would consider among the best available. To me, those are CBs Kelvin Joseph, Tyson Campbell, and Aaron Robinson, EDGEs Ronnie Perkins, Quincy Roche, and Joseph Ossai, WRs Amon-Ra St. Brown, Amari Rodgers, and Nico Collins, DTs Daviyon Nixon and Tyler Shelvin, TEs Brevin Jordan and Tommy Tremble, and OTs Spencer Brown and Brady Christensen.
Do you have any guys you think should be included on this list that I didn’t mention? Also, I’m curious about what you think my best team fit and my best value selections were? I really liked that you grabbed Gregory Rousseau for the Cowboys in a trade-up at the end of the first-round as a value. And Terrace Marshall Jr. staying in Louisiana makes so much sense for the Saints. No team should know him as much as they do, and his skillset is exactly what the Saints need opposite Michael Thomas. -Kyle
The San Francisco Ifeatu Melifonwu pick in the second-round stands out to me as one of the best fits. Months after losing 6-3 Richard Sherman, who wins with technique more than speed, the 49ers grab a 6-2 corner with long arms and an abundance of upside.
As far as value goes, I’m torn between Travis Etienne at 33 to Jacksonville and Azeez Ojulari at 27 to Baltimore. Etienne is a top-20 prospect, so landing him at the top of the second-round with Jacksonville’s third overall pick is a steal. On the other hand, Ojulari is everything Baltimore needs after losing guys in free agency. I’ve seen him mocked as high as 11 to the Giants, so getting him at 27 is a massive plus for John Harbaugh.
As far as other players I’d highly consider toward the bottom of the second-round or the top of the third, Trill Williams from Syracuse has similar size to Melifonwu, but he’s faster and stronger. I think we could see teams push for Walker Little or Quinn Meinerz as well. Little has an extensive injury history, but he was trending toward a first-round projection before missing most of the past two years. -Sam
Best Available- Tyson Campbell, Jabril Cox, Kenneth Gainwell, Brevin Jordan, Kelvin Joseph, Walker Little, Quinn Meinerz, Joseph Ossai, Ronnie Perkins, Aaron Robinson, Amari Rodgers, Tyler Shelvin, Trill Williams