“It’s Draft Day. – Kevin Costner in the 2014 film, Draft Day.
Whether he actually said that in that movie, I’m not sure, but I do know that I promised another mock draft and I will deliver in the same way that the Giants surely will not tonight. REALLY quick hitters here; just calling the shots as I see them, and I don’t know any more about the teams’ plans than the people reading this. For some spots I’ll just write the mock pick, and I might include a line or two for others where I have not already written about the player this week or if the thought process deserves brief explanation. Please make sure to check out my deeper dives from earlier this week if you have not already:
San Francisco 49ers – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Yes, I heard the reports that San Fran has narrowed their decision to Mac Jones and Trey Lance. How a report like that would leak in the first place is totally beyond me, beyond me to the point that I’m inclined to think that the guy who has been “eliminated as an option” in this “last minute decision” is actually the pick. It definitely could be Lance, but until they read the card I refuse to believe that the 49ers gave up three first round picks for Jones.
Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
I think the rumors that Atlanta would take a QB have been a bluff all along, and I don’t think any team would give up extra draft capital to get to Pick 4 when they can likely take the same QB at Pick 7. So Atlanta stays put for the most common choice as best player available after Trevor Lawrence, and Pitts would fit in nicely into Arthur Smith’s offense.
Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
I expect the Chase vs. Sewell debate to end with Joe Burrow getting his way with his former LSU teammate. The Bengals do need another receiver on the outside, but how the franchise that drafted Anthony Munoz, Willie Anderson and Andrew Whitworth and witnessed Carson Palmer and Burrow suffer devastating knee injuries at the expense of their offensive lines could then pass on line here is tough to understand.
Miami Dolphins – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Miami would probably be pretty devastated in this scenario, because I figure they moved back up from 12 to 6 to land either Chase or Pitts. I fully endorsed the selection of Tua last year, but besides that this Dolphins regime has shown a head-scratching fondness for projects in the draft. Waddle isn’t objectively a project, but at sixth overall he would qualify as one.
*TRADE* New England Patriots – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
I would be pretty stunned if Detroit actually picks in this slot. They are at the earliest stage in a total rebuild and should look to accumulate as many picks as possible. The Patriots are on the other end of the phone, jumping into the same pick where Josh Allen was taken. New England could place their future on Lance having a similar effect by his third season.
Carolina Panthers – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Denver Broncos – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
For how badly the Broncos need a long-term solution at quarterback, I don’t think the new regime in Denver will kick off their tenure by placing their reputation on the fifth QB off the board.
Dallas Cowboys – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
There is just so much buzz around Horn, enough where I think he has supplanted Patrick Surtain II in the home stretch as the first cornerback off the board.
New York Giants – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Please, God. Please.
Philadelphia Eagles – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Eagles fans should hope that someone has communicated to Howie Roseman to do the exact opposite of what he has done in previous drafts. In that case, Surtain would make good sense.
Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Minnesota Vikings – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
*TRADE* Detroit Lions – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Arizona Cardinals – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Las Vegas Raiders – Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
These Raiders love drafting from the blue bloods – Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State – and I think they might go back to the well. After big games in both rounds of the College Football Playoff, Barmore declared for the draft as a true sophomore. Barmore’s stock reminds me of Patrick Queen’s from last year, where in those spotlighted games they looked like can’t-miss prospects but when you look into the microscope for regular season tape you find a much different player. Barmore way too often is driven backwards right off the snap, especially in the run and sometimes against lower competition. Barmore isn’t an exceptional athlete like Quinnen Williams, but he was a productive pass rusher in his one season starting at Alabama with 8 sacks from the interior and has the size and burst to get on guards’ outside shoulders and wreck plays. It’s just that you see it in flashes when you’d like to see it with consistency.
*TRADE* Chicago Bears – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
I am going back and forth on whether Washington would take a QB if one fell to them at 19. My gut is that they would take Lance or Fields, but I’m not sure that Dan Snyder would unilaterally make the call for Jones after the Dwayne Haskins fiasco. I have the Bears jumping them just in case, because they definitely will take a QB if they can.
Washington Football Team – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
*TRADE* Miami Dolphins – Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
I expect Oweh to go in the first round following what literally might have been the greatest pre-draft workout of all time, but of the 150+ players that I have evaluated over the last two years Oweh is my single least favorite relative to expected draft position. I would go nowhere near this guy over the first two rounds of the draft, and I’m not even worried about this aging poorly. There are freakish players without much college production who do figure it out in the NFL, but I saw it too often that Oweh lacks much discipline or competitive drive, and for a guy who ran a 4.37 I have no reason to believe based on tape that he could succeed without a hand in the ground. I was ready to look past the fact that he had no sacks in 7 games as a junior because sacks don’t tell the full story for EDGE, but in this case it basically does tell the story of Oweh’s level of disruption. I am looking for one specific on-field trait to justify taking a beast like Oweh with DK Metcalf’s regrettable draft slide in mind, but I’ve got nothing. Some teams will argue that he just needs more coaching and refinement, but after two full years at Penn State I just don’t think Oweh is a good football player.
Would I recommend drafting a running back without multiple pieces on the offensive line in place in order to reestablish the running game? No, no I would not. But alas, the Steelers are old school, and I can see them using their first pick on a tone setter in the backfield like Harris. I don’t have much to say about Harris besides that I think he’ll be perfectly solid running back? He’s obviously got the size, but he doesn’t run anything like Derrick Henry even if they were doppelgangers in their Alabama jerseys. Harris has good speed and good patience and good tackle-breaking ability – but none of it is great. He doesn’t really ever create something out of nothing, often leaving a few yards on the table either by nature of indecisiveness or a lack of creativity. Harris has reliable hands but I think his ability in the passing game has been overblown. At the end of the day, I think Harris can have a fairly long career of 800-1,000 yard rushing seasons. That’s a fine player, but it’s not a first rounder.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
Tryon was not included in my first mock draft or even my Top 50 board for that matter – I see him as a Round 3 type. His length is his defining trait, with tree trunks for arms that he consistently uses to push offensive tackles off balance. He’s strong too, and there is tape that he can penetrate the backfield against the run and overwhelm interior linemen on inside rushes. Tryon has almost no twitch though and way too many of his pass rush wins came by nature of size mismatches vs. Pac-12 tackles. At the moment, I see Tryon as a rotational pass rusher who requires major development with his hands and plan at attack. Granted, I am projecting a first round pick here, but Tryon really could have boosted his stock by playing in 2020.
Cleveland Browns – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Baltimore Ravens – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
I could be off but I’m getting the sense that Ojulari might slip, and if so then any team that gets him around here is making one of the best picks of the draft.
New Orleans Saints – Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
Green Bay Packers – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Against my better judgment, I actually like Davis a little bit – he cracked my Top 50 board at No. 46. Just on paper, there is a lot not to like here, given that Davis is a one-year wonder inside linebacker who will be drafted highly largely on his tools over his production. If that sounds like an oddly specific player description, there is legitimately one of this type of player drafted highly basically every year and outside of Deion Jones I cannot think of an example of it working out. Still, I really enjoyed watching the juice that Davis plays with. “Sideline to sideline” gets thrown around too much but Davis really does fly all over the field, and he’s a decent tackler. He certainly has the speed to be a plus player in coverage, and his instincts in limited tape seem good too. There is just no getting around how undersized Davis is and how much it does show up taking on blockers. I like the way Davis plays and there is real upside but he is just so novice and it cannot be overstated how often players of his profile flame out in the NFL.
Buffalo Bills – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Baltimore Ravens – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
I almost feel bad for Rousseau, because if he was somehow able to enter the 2020 NFL Draft following his redshirt freshman season then he likely would have been a Top 10 pick. Now, I honestly think I might be too generous projecting him in the first round, even at its final pick. Rousseau was second in the nation with 15.5 sacks that season, only behind Chase Young. If you are wondering if you can fake your way to 15.5 sacks in 13 games – you can. A staggering amount of Rousseau’s sacks and QB hits came by the way of mop up sacks, coverage sacks, or simply being in the right place at the right time. He rarely actually won his pass rush reps, which at 19 years old would have been understandable, but he’s also not a particularly good athlete for the position either. Rousseau isn’t explosive or quick at all, and he’s not too strong yet either. This will sound like a joke but I earnestly mean that his best skill is his height, which at 6’7 is a real strength that he knows how to utilize. Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season and just turned 21 this month so it’s certainly believable that there is projectable growth remaining for him, but that will require a deep roster since I really don’t know if you can put Rousseau on an NFL field as things stand.
Thank you all for reading. Follow along during the draft tonight on Twitter @Real_Peej for pick grades and pro comparisons!
I’m going to share two mock drafts this week leading into the draft. In this version, I am drafting based on what I would do in each spot. I’ll focus more on the players and my evaluations of them here, with the other mock draft flat out guessing what I think will happen based on team fit and expectations.
I really tried hard to go into this scouting cycle with a mentally clean slate, meaning that I watched Trevor Lawrence without the “chosen one” narrative that’s been on display for the last three years in the back of my mind. If anything, my unintentional bias could have been a bit negatively skewed since his last college game against Ohio State was far from his best performance. With all of that said, Lawrence came out of this with just about the highest grade I can give a quarterback. He was excellent for all three years at Clemson, consistently displaying his otherworldly talent and making incremental improvements each year. On top of that, his supporting cast at Clemson got significantly worse each year and I never felt that Clemson built the proper offensive scheme for Lawrence – but he just kept winning anyway. His arm talent is special, he runs well, and his processing is off the charts. Lawrence can trust his arm a little bit too much at times, and it is a scary combination when a skinny QB goes to an unstable situation by nature of the draft, but the hype around Lawrence is totally justified. He’s what you dream of picking first overall.
New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
If Lawrence is the cleanest QB prospect in this draft, then Wilson is the most tantalizing. By my estimation, Wilson was the best quarterback in the country in 2020 with his ability to attack downfield while remaining incredibly efficient. His play style is built for the highlight reel, yet in watching all of his games I was amazed by the frequency Wilson made jaw-dropping throws all over the field. While it is true that Wilson was afforded plenty of time behind BYU’s offensive line and that he faced an inconsistent strength of schedule, that does not provide the explanation on how Wilson truly is able to throw any receiver open (BYU had some slow ones!) anywhere on the field. Wilson shares the same concern as Lawrence with his skinnier frame, and the biggest on-field knock on Wilson is that he can be too quick to break the pocket to play out of structure. Still, I’m not too worried about it. His feet are so quick navigating the pocket and he keeps his head up while doing it. He officially weighed in at 215 pounds; on the smaller side, sure, but not unheard of. Physically, he looks so much like Aaron Rodgers when he came into the league. Speaking of Rodgers, that’s the type of realistic ceiling that we’re talking about with Wilson, and with a floor that I would contend is still a decent starting quarterback.
San Francisco 49ers – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Ok, I’m cheating on the exercise a bit here. Trey Lance is ranked above Fields on my board, and I do prefer Lance as a prospect to Fields. However, Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers present such a specific instance of a particular scheme matched with Super Bowl readiness that I see this as a coin flip decision between the two QBs, so I’ll lean in the direction of the one that I actually see them taking. The biggest selling point for Fields is that he is the most accurate passer in this class, whether standing still in the pocket or on the run. He is absolutely dynamite to the intermediate level of the field, which defines the best passing attacks across the NFL. Fields pairs that up with good arm strength, mobility, and toughness – so why has he become such a polarizing prospect with those traits and elite college production? Ohio State does run an offense with long-developing and receiver-friendly routes that can make Fields’ processing look worse than it is, but the truth of the matter is that Fields has troubling pocket tendencies and has been tripped up by different defensive looks from good opponents. There is no hiding from his performance against Northwestern, which was easily the worst game played among the Big 5 QB prospects in 2020. (The Indiana game wasn’t much better.) Now, there is laziness and some uglier factors at play when pundits chalk up Fields as a quarterback who can’t read the field. While I do have reservations about Fields, he is still a surefire lottery pick talent and potentially much more if he can consistently play like he did against Clemson.
*TRADE* Minnesota Vikings – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Fake trades!!! (This is the only one I will project.) There is a high likelihood that a team will trade into the Top 10 for a quarterback(s) that slips out of the first three picks, and the Falcons should want to move out of this spot with how incongruent their immediate team needs are with the high end of this prospect pool. That said, they should still want to leave this draft with a blue-chip prospect, so they probably would only entertain moving back 10 or so spots. Though not commonly discussed as a trade-up option, I have the Vikings as the winning bidders – and not just because Lance is a Minnesota kid. It has become apparently clear that the Vikings have a harsh limit on their team upside with Kirk Cousins’ contract, so instead of letting it expire and then bottoming out, they proactively nab the QB who could take them to places that Cousins has not and cannot. (If the Vikings situation sounds similar to you to the Falcons situation, I get that, but I personally prefer Matt Ryan to Cousins and think the Falcons could be good with him in the next 1-3 years. Plus they are the ones getting draft capital in this scenario.)
I am all-in on Lance being the real deal. He has the strongest arm in this draft – true “60 yard flick of the wrist” type of stuff. While comparably fast to Fields, Lance is the clear best runner of the QB prospects in this draft too with his bulk and shiftiness. The main thing though is that Lance’s poise is so impressive for his age (20 years old) and so much better than he gets credit for. Outside of Lawrence and maybe Mac Jones, nobody was entrusted to do more pre-play, line of scrimmage stuff than Lance in NDSU’s pro style offense. There is plenty of tape of him calling out coverages and changing protections before the snap, and don’t let anyone fool you that this is somehow less impressive because he played in the FCS. I do agree that Lance could stand to sit a year, but not necessarily because he couldn’t mentally handle starting in the NFL yet. I see it as more of a Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours thing where Lance just literally hasn’t thrown enough footballs yet with his age and NDSU’s run-heavy offense. With more experience, I think his accuracy will improve and Lance could be an All-Pro level quarterback.
Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Sewell is my top non-QB in the entire draft class, and the Bengals should be honored if they have the chance to take him as Joe Burrow’s future blindside protector with the fifth pick in the draft. Sewell opted out of the 2020 season, but he was the best offensive lineman in the country as a true sophomore in 2019 in front of Justin Herbert. What is scarier? The fact that Sewell did not allow a sack the entire season when he was probably even better as a run blocker? The fact that Sewell still has a lot of room for improvement with his technique? Or the fact that he played that entire season at 19 years old? Sewell will STILL be 20 years old by Week 1 of the 2021 regular season, and he should plug in as a good left tackle right away with All-Pro potential while still on his rookie contract.
Miami Dolphins – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Dolphins obviously traded back into the Top 10 to leave this draft with an elite weapon, and in this scenario they leave with Tua Tagovailoa’s favorite college receiver. No, that is not a misprint: Smith was the best receiver on a 2019 Crimson Tide team that included first-round picks Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. Smith is an underrated athlete who thrives on the outside in the X receiver role, consistently working back to the ball as possibly the top “quarterback’s best friend” prospect ever. He also has the best catch radius of the top WR prospects in this draft, catching anything near him and over anybody with an uncanny ability to high-point the ball as if he was a half-foot taller than he actually is. Look, DeVonta weighing 170 pounds isn’t a good thing. It would basically be him and Marvin Harrison as the only #1 receivers to thrive in the NFL at that weight. But guess what? Not a lot of wide receivers won the Heisman Trophy either. Smith constantly mixed it up with bigger defenders and shook off big hits in the SEC, and I haven’t seen any actual evidence to support that he won’t do the same in the NFL.
Detroit Lions – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
I push back on the claims that Chase is in the Calvin Johnson/Julio Jones class of receiver prospects. He quite simply isn’t as big as those guys, and I have slight concern that Chase could be immediately humbled by his “bully ball” style of play not working as well in the NFL. The optimal word there is “slight” though, because Chase is a badass and a freak athlete in his own right. He is a one-year wonder, but in that one year he was arguably better than teammate Justin Jefferson and then he backed up his athleticism by blowing the doors off his Pro Day. Chase is an elite downfield separator who claws for every ball thrown his way, and he should develop into a great YAC guy as he continues to progress with his routes and timing. He just turned 21 last month.
Carolina Panthers – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
I’m not sure what is more bleak: the recent history of first-round tight ends or the recent history of Florida as an NFL pipeline. The fact that Pitts is in the center of that Venn diagram yet still finds himself in the Top 10 of this mock draft speaks to his rare skill set. While he can admirably run routes split outside or in the slot, don’t let all of the pre-draft takes turn him into something that he is not: Kyle Pitts is a tight end. And that’s a good thing! Pitts improved by leaps and bounds as an inline blocker from his sophomore year to his junior year, and also still only 20 years old with around 10-15 pounds to gain, he should only get better in that department. Pitts is excellent at breaking off the line while using his bend – he looks like a defensive end and played the position in high school – to quickly match himself up against linebackers that don’t stand a chance covering him. Pitts has the longest wingspan I have ever seen and uses every inch of it to his advantage. The man vacuums footballs – he made some catches that looked D.O.A. out of the quarterback’s hand. I am not positive what Pitts’ NFL future holds in store, and I don’t necessarily see the non-existence of an accurate player comparison for him as a good thing. I would be surprised if Pitts has a Travis Kelce type of effect; he only averaged 4.5 receptions per game across his two full college seasons. But if healthy, Pitts should block well while routinely converting third downs and scoring 10+ touchdowns per season, and there would be massive value in that.
Owusu-Koramoah might be the most electric prospect in the entire draft. JOK flies around the field with some of the best closing speed you have seen since Troy Polamalu. He is instinctive as hell and can set the tone with his hitting, and he does that while usually aligning in the slot covering tight ends and receivers. JOK is definitely a tweener; he has the strength to hang as an off-ball LB in a traditional base but I think he would be best as a rangy strong safety. His play style can be a little too chaotic at times, but in Vic Fangio’s defense with multiple good defensive staples already in place his playmaking could be on full display.
Dallas Cowboys – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
I am going out on a ledge with this one and my evaluation as Newsome as the best cornerback prospect in this draft. Outside of Trevor Lawrence, there isn’t another prospect where I took note of less flaws. Newsome does have an injury history, though nothing there is recurring. He doesn’t have much tape in press coverage but besides that, like I guess I wish he converted more of his pass breakups into interceptions? Newsome is scheme versatile, extremely quick with good physicality, and is constantly around the ball while traveling with the other teams’ top receivers. There wasn’t any point of his (admittedly limited) 2020 season where he looked overmatched, and get this: he is also 20 years old! Newsome’s Pro Day put people on notice for his natural explosiveness and athleticism. The adjustment curve for rookie cornerbacks can be steep, but I see Newsome as a Pro Bowl caliber pro down the road.
New York Giants – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
I disagree with the narrative that the EDGE class in this draft is subpar, and a big reason behind that is that I see Ojulari as a legit EDGE1 prospect. He had excellent production in the SEC and against some of the best tackles in the country, with 9.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles in 10 games with a ton of pressure not reflected in those stats. And guess how old he was doing that? 20 years old! I’m aware that these below-drinking-age prospects are becoming a running joke in this blog, but in Ojulari’s case I find it especially important. Ojulari’s hand usage and arsenal of pass rush moves would be advanced for a redshirt senior, let alone a redshirt sophomore. He also has already put on 10 pounds from his 2020 playing weight, which at 240 pounds presented his biggest draft concern, and I think he can tack on 5-10 more pounds without losing his burst and bend. Ojulari has freaky arm length and play strength way better than his weight would suggest. Just watch the Alabama game: forget pancakes, those monsters barely even budged him. Ojulari is a pure three-down OLB in a 3-4 scheme, with a predictable future of setting a good edge with respectable flat coverage all while posting 8-12 sacks annually with near league-leading pressure rates.
Philadelphia Eagles – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
After three years of starting in Nick Saban’s defense, including a 2020 season where he might have been the best defensive player in the country, Surtain enters this draft as arguably its safest prospect. He has great size to go along with explosive measurables, on top of having All-Pro cornerback play born and raised into him. In a position that is generally brutal on rookies, Surtain should admirably hold down his side of the field from Week 1. (He can play the slot too.) There is obvious comfort for his drafting team in this level of safety and NFL readiness, but I also interpret that as somewhat of a weakness for Surtain too. He leaves college as only a true junior, but I’m not sure how much room left for growth there is for Surtain. Even his relatively average 40 time in this workout cycle of 4.46 seconds feels generous for Surtain – he doesn’t play all that fast. His level of physicality also too often doesn’t match up with his physical gifts. Still, Surtain is as smooth and technically sound as it gets for a cornerback prospect. Maybe he won’t be a great pro, but he definitely should be a good one.
Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OT/OG, Northwestern
I find myself a tad lower on Slater than most; there might not be a prospect who benefited more from all of us just sitting around the house watching old game tape. Slater had an excellent 2019 season on a bad Northwestern team, even if his performance against Chase Young was pretty comicably overblown. Slater has proven that he can play tackle on both sides of the line with impeccable footwork and timing. He opted out of the 2020 season, and while that decision will likely turn out fine for him, it would have gone a long way to see some more footage of him locking down the blindside again on a better roster. Slater is quick and stout – he resembles Tristan Wirfs – and might mirror pass rushers better than anyone in this draft class. Still, he lacks Wirfs’ raw power and that combined with a real lack of length could be a detrimental combination. For that reason, while I generally hate projecting good offensive tackles to guards until they get a chance to play tackle, Slater really might end up more valuable at guard. I see versatile reliability as Slater’s defining quality over upside at any specific position on the line though, which would be a welcome addition for the Chargers.
*TRADE* Atlanta Falcons – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
This would be a fantastic trade-down outcome for the Falcons, because Phillips has the talent and production to justify going as high as fourth overall yet Atlanta still hypothetically lands him here. Phillips’ concussion history might be the defining red flag of this NFL Draft; they were so severe during his time at UCLA that they forced him into medical retirement. There’s no getting around it being a concern, but I’m not here to pretend to be an online neurosurgeon. If the University of Miami and NFL doctors cleared him, then I am going to treat Phillips as a normal prospect. And as a normal prospect, Phillips – the former top high school recruit in the country – brings plus-plus traits to the edge. He was a terror at the U, dominating right tackles with twitchiness, length and power. Phillips is a pure pass rusher and a bit of a one-year wonder at that, but he has Jevon Kearse levels of potential to pace the league in sacks as a rookie.
New England Patriots – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
A few of the internet’s most famous draft boards have joined the lovefest for Bateman – maybe not as a Top 10 player like mine! – but it’s a welcome sight after feeling like I was missing something for seeing Bateman as a future WR1 when I first watched his tape back in February. Clearly I have other players, including two receivers, ranked in front of Bateman, but his elite production at Minnesota happened by nature of the traits belonging to the current top tier of NFL receivers. Bateman’s releases are intentional and consistently dominant, whether he’s patient breaking inside or blowing past cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage, and he couples up a long reach with excellent hands. Bateman’s Pro Day was…weird. I don’t buy that he’s actually a 4.39 speed guy, but he also plays much taller than 6’0 and much stronger than 190 pounds. However Bateman actually does measure out in the NFL, I’d bet that he amounts to a receiver with 100+ reception/season promise.
Arizona Cardinals – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
Alijah Vera-Tucker played left tackle for USC last year, and for the most part he played it quite well. (Not so much vs. Oregon and future Top 10 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux.) Still, I am directly projecting AVT to guard, and I imagine that most if not all NFL teams will do the same. He was awesome at guard as a sophomore while 2020 first rounder Austin Jackson played tackle – much more awesome than Jackson in fact. AVT isn’t particularly long or fast which is what kicks him inside, but he centers his attack with strong hands and only gets better as he moves forward into the second level of the defense. He can occasionally get knocked backwards right off the snap, but Vera-Tucker is young and has already shown improvement in balance. I foresee him continuing that improvement, possibly all the way up to an All-Pro level at guard.
Las Vegas Raiders – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Cosmi is one of my favorite players in this draft. Even as a major defender of his, I can acknowledge that the linemen in front of him and a few ranked behind him will bring their drafting teams higher levels of technical readiness in Year 1. Cosmi’s rookie year might come with its challenges for that reason, but this kid is tough as nails and freakishly athletic for the position. He showed marked improvement from his sophomore to junior year, and I would bank that he has plenty of room left for growth in the pros too if his team provides him with the proper amount of patience. I don’t even think it will take too long; Cosmi was pretty damn good in 2020 and showed up against his toughest opponents. I’m not too sure what the Raiders are doing but Cosmi could develop into a Pro Bowl tackle for them.
Miami Dolphins – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
I am not particularly high on Parsons, and that’s not even with consideration to his legitimately troubling character and maturity concerns. For the level of hype that Parsons is bringing into this draft, I was really surprised by how raw of a player he still is. Parsons is a great clean-up tackler when he stays patient, but far too often he finds himself overshooting gaps or taking bad angles and diving at the feet of ball carriers. He also is close to entirely untested in coverage, and the recent history of specimen linebacker prospects with coverage questions is…not good. Still, Parsons truly does bring along some of the rarest burst you’ll ever see from a linebacker, and I think Brian Flores would have a few ideas for what to do with it. Whether he’s blitzing off the edge or shooting a gap, you can blink and miss Parsons ending up in the backfield. He’s a playmaker in the mold of Devin White which naturally all front offices will covet now, but just be ready for the real chance that the complexity of the NFL overwhelms Parsons – if he can keep his head on straight enough in the first place.
Washington Football Team – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Despite winning the Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in college football in 2020, Collins won’t be for everyone at a first round value strictly due to how unique of a prospect he is. Collins is a 270 pound linebacker who can hang around the line of scrimmage with his speed and bend but is much better playing off-ball as an inside linebacker. Don’t let Tulsa’s non-Power 5 status fool you; he was utterly dominant against better competition than you might expect. He has the best eyes of any linebacker that you will see coming out of college, naturally moving in step with quarterbacks without missing anything around him. At 6’5, he is constantly disrupting passing lanes too. Collins is pretty stiff and his upright play style can work against him versus the run, but he’s a good tackler with good pursuit. Still, instincts and coverage ability are the story with Collins. The Football Team doesn’t need more help getting after quarterbacks, and Collins would regularly find himself in the right place at the right time to capitalize on pressure-forced QB mistakes.
Chicago Bears – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Waddle will in all likelihood get picked higher than this, yet this is basically the highest that I would consider drafting him. I have a late first-round grade on Waddle, but his speed and acceleration could wake up a Bears offense that has been asleep for years and only addressed so far this offseason by adding…Andy Dalton. Love or hate Waddle as a prospect, there is no doubt that the kid can absolutely fly. You have to respect his speed with deep coverage whenever he is on the field, and once he has the ball in his hands…watch out. That’s the thing, though. I think people are underestimating how difficult it might be to regularly get the ball into Waddle’s hands. He can sell double moves and run underneath routes, but Waddle has a ways to go in understanding the nuances of the receiver position. He is also really undersized, coming off a major injury, and it should not be ignored that he was the odd man out on the 2019 Alabama team with a healthy DeVonta/Jeudy/Ruggs corps – who are all about the same age as Waddle. Using a first round pick on Waddle is a major dice roll, with a floor about as low as it gets and the realistic ceiling of a 1,000 yard deep threat/slot hybrid who can also return kicks and punts.
Indianapolis Colts – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
Ossai probably ends up as a Round 2 player, but I’m a fan of his and he’s the type of player that Indy could covet – and I mean that as a huge compliment. Ossai was very good as a sophomore at Texas as an off-ball linebacker – he intercepted Joe Burrow and his bowl game performance against Utah was the stuff of legend. At 6’4 and 255 pounds with long arms he switched positions to EDGE, and guess what? He was very good there too, as in AP All-American good. Ossai might be the most explosive rusher in this draft, constantly fighting his way into the backfield whether it’s defending the pass or run. He plays with one of the best motors in this draft, and his obsession with the game is apparent just watching his tape. He still has a ways to go towards becoming a consistent pass rusher. He could stand to play with more leverage and develop some moves – Teven Jenkins rudely reminded him of that on a few plays. But Ossai also straight up beat Jenkins, a likely first rounder, on multiple reps too, including a game-icing overtime sack against Oklahoma State. Considering he did that at 20 years old – he just turned 21 this month – and Ossai is one of the first “project” types that I’d bang the table for adding to a good roster with a 2-3 year leash for him to develop into a potential star.
Tennessee Titans – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
This would be a home run for the Titans, and I say that with a grade on Horn lower than the consensus. Horn could go within the Top 10 on the back of his strong true junior season in the SEC followed up by a Pro Day with a 4.39 40 and insane jumping drills. I’m not surprised by Horn’s popularity. He has the size and speed to cover anyone and the on-field evidence to back it up, whether it’s a 6’4 receiver on the outside or a 5’9 receiver in the slot. He is a pure man coverage corner, getting his hands on receivers at the split second that he is legally allowed to. (I would put money on Horn leading the NFL in flags at least once in his career.) Horn is more fast in breaks than quick to flip his hips, and you don’t have to look much past his tape covering DeVonta Smith to worry about how he currently handles NFL caliber releases. And like I mentioned, you would basically be starting from scratch with him in zone schemes. I fear that Horn is going to have real growing pains early on in the league, but if his drafting team is patient enough with him then I have faith that Horn has the competitive streak and skill set to have a long career playing on the outside.
New York Jets – Creed Humphrey, OC, Oklahoma
Ask me if I love the idea of drafting your quarterback and center of the future in tandem? I LOVE the idea of drafting your quarterback and center of the future in tandem. There aren’t five players in this draft that I have more confidence in them blossoming into good pros over Humphrey. He spent each of the past two seasons as one of the best offensive linemen in the Big 12 snapping the ball to Jalen Hurts and Spencer Rattler, with a keen sense of positioning paired up with an appropriately nasty play style. Humphrey also might be the best athlete specific to his position in this entire draft, which his 10.0/10.0 Relative Athletic Score backs up. There is some concern about Humphrey’s susceptibility to letting strong defensive tackles get underneath him, which is possibly the biggest dealbreaker for a center, but personally I find that in the realm of nitpicking. The real question here is if taking a center with the 23rd overall pick is justified, which I would answer with “hell yes” when you are drafting a rookie quarterback and have as dismal of an interior offensive line as the Jets.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
This will probably go down as my least favorite pick of this mock draft, given that Darrisaw is No. 32 on my board with two tackles ranked ahead of him still available. Still, both of those tackles (Liam Eichenberg and Teven Jenkins) have length questions that will likely keep them on the right side or kicked inside to guard. Darrisaw, on the other hand, has the textbook left tackle frame. He was a very good one at that in college, capping off his time at Virginia Tech with a dominant 2020 season from a grading perspective. Still, I’m pretty low on Darrisaw. He shouldn’t have any issue continuing to punch defenders into the dirt at will, but he was more unproven in pass protection than his high snap count would indicate in Virginia Tech’s quick release offense. He typically got by on his sheer size instead of his hands or feet, and his motor is pretty suspect. I don’t typically like drafting for immediate need, but I have never heard of the guy slated to start at left tackle for the Steelers and this aged Big Ben will need all of the time he can get.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
This is another case of a player getting mocked in just about the highest slot that I would be comfortable taking him, but in Moehrig’s case I have more confidence that he’ll at least be a solid contributor. And safety, possibly the Jags’ biggest positional need after quarterback, is a rough draft group this year, with Moehrig as the fairly clear top option in my opinion (not counting Owusu-Koromoah). Moehrig was incredibly productive in his two full seasons in the Horned Frogs defense, raising his play from All- Big 12 as a sophomore to the Thorpe Award winner (nation’s best DB) as a junior. His ball skills are tremendous, consistently taking advantage of quarterbacks staring down receivers with a good knack for timely pass breakups. Moehrig, while projecting as an average athlete for a starting NFL safety, has good length and quickness, even if his habit of baiting QBs into bad decisions won’t work nearly as well in the NFL as it did in the Big 12. I have concerns for Moehrig as a tackler because of his wiry build and inconsistent angles, and he certainly won’t remind anyone of Brian Dawkins with his ferocity or Earl Thomas with his range. But in this new era of safety play where Justin Simmons and Jessie Bates are among the league’s best by being able to play in two-high zone sets or man up near the line of scrimmage, Moehrig fits that bill.
Cleveland Browns – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Paye is a good player, but a misunderstood one at that. He is commonly discussed as this raw and versatile edge rusher, but I’m pretty sure we already have a good sense of his skill set and that he is clearly a 4-3 defensive end. Paye is incredibly gifted: he placed in the top spot of Bruce Feldman’s freak list, and he made a play against Minnesota when he tackled a running back from the opposite side of the field behind the line of scrimmage on a simple outside zone run that was one of the most absurd that I witnessed in this entire film process. But if I’m being honest, I don’t think anyone would be talking about him as a project if he had a typical football backstory. The guy has been starting at Michigan since 2018, and that program has since graduated Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary into the NFL. Quite frankly, I just don’t think Paye is a very good pass rusher. He shows flashes of excellence, but too often he doesn’t have a plan off the line. Still, I have Paye as the best run defending edge in this class, and that’s not exactly a consolation prize. Paye shouldn’t ever have to come off the field, and playing on a line opposite a rusher like Myles Garrett would be perfect for a player like Paye who sets a hard edge and is never knocked over.
Baltimore Ravens – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
As the best run blocker – non-Sewell division – in this draft, Jenkins going to Baltimore with one of their now two late first-round picks would be an awesome fit if he makes it that far. Jenkins is freaking mean, playing well beyond the whistle and injecting a real sense of attitude whenever he is on the field. Naturally there is concern when a college player has his true breakout season as a redshirt senior, but Jenkins has gotten out ahead of proving the naysayers wrong with an incredibly athletic display at his Pro Day. Jenkins is so strong and generates a lot of power with his legs – don’t be surprised when he flattens a nose tackle. But for a player of his size and strength, he ends up on the ground himself quite a bit, and his lack of length showed up as a problem at times. Maybe Jenkins could be a decent right tackle anywhere, but his best chance to reach his ceiling is clearly in a power run-heavy offense.
New Orleans Saints – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Alright, here we go. The boy wonder of the draft cycle, the hype train himself: McCorkle Jones. Let’s start with the good. Jones isn’t in the conversation for the third overall pick because he won the national championship with some of the best single-season QB stats ever; it’s because he follows instruction on what to do and where to go with the football every down. He always gets the ball out on time, even when his first read isn’t immediately open or when he has to move around the pocket or take a hit. His one year leading the Tide offense lends at least some credence to the talking point that he’s the smartest QB prospect in this draft, even if I wholeheartedly reject how we ended up there and how we use certain adjectives to describe certain QB prospects. Jones displayed good short and intermediate accuracy as well.
Yeah, I’m going two paragraphs, because we really need to talk about Mac Jones. To put it bluntly with his traits, he is straight up a bad athlete with a bad body and a bad arm. It didn’t happen often in Alabama’s perfect surroundings, but the few times when something broke down and Jones had to make an athletic adjustment, he looked completely undraftable. Now, I know some of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks thrived playing in structure, but you want to take a guy in the first round who can do something outside of it. Do we have any reason to believe Jones can throw on the run, like at all? I need to drop at least one more line on his arm too, because it is astonishing how much talk there is around Jones and how little talk there is about his noodle. He’s really gotta load it up to throw with even NFL-average zip, and his good-on-paper deep ball stats are as fluky as it gets. He’s not going to have guys having already won their go routes at 10-15 yards in the NFL, and not being able to reach the sideline won’t work in the NFL either without first round receivers bailing him out against Mississippi State and Missouri on balls underthrown by 5+ yards inside. I’ll acknowledge that Jones was a 22 year old one-year wonder and that his “unreplicable” stats were basically repeated identically by Tua in 2019, and then I’ll stop there. Clearly I have major doubts on Jones, and I don’t buy for a second that he has a high floor. It is certainly the lowest of the five likely first round QBs to me – I’m talking (on-field) Dwayne Haskins level. But still, if he makes it this far to an offensive guru like Sean Payton, then yeah I’m fine with this pick with the first paragraph here in mind.
Green Bay Packers – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
Not to oversimplify or be overdramatic here, but I genuinely do think the Packers would be at Pick 32 if they took a wide receiver in the first round last year instead of a backup quarterback. Sorry, I am focusing on the players here, but I just had to sneak that in. Anyway, Eichenberg isn’t a receiver either, but this would be an excellent pick for the Packers. Notre Dame’s offensive line has led to probably the best positional NFL pipeline over the last decade, producing Quenton Nelson, Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley and Mike McGlinchey. While Eichenberg might not reach that echelon, I would bet that he has a good enough career at least warrant mention. As a redshirt senior who has probably played more snaps and in more big games – in which he played well – than any other top tackle in this class, Eichenberg knows who he is as an offensive tackle. He makes up for his short arms and slighter frame by quickly attacking in space and locking into edge rushers. He’s deceptively strong, and while the length issue is probably too real to ignore at left tackle I think he can prove people wrong by surviving at right tackle. He might not wow you, but Eichenberg is also the type of player that you don’t think about once all game, which is probably what you’re looking for with a late first-round offensive lineman.
Buffalo Bills – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
So, I hate running backs, and I REALLY hate first-round running backs…but man I love Travis Etienne. His acceleration is good enough to get you to stop what you are doing to watch Etienne run the football. If there is a window of daylight between the tackles, Etienne is going 0-to-60 through it in a flash. He is a willing north/south runner with home run ability, and he has already bulked up enough to assuage fears that he couldn’t take the NFL beating. Etienne’s legs are so strong, allowing him to do that thing that Alvin Kamara does where he doesn’t really make a move but defenders just bounce off him anyway. Etienne has also grown from a non-factor in the passing game (12 receptions in 15 games as a sophomore) to arguably the best receiver (588 yards in 12 games as a senior) among the backs near the top of this class. He doesn’t pack Saquon Barkley’s raw athleticism and people might notice that his yards/carry dwindled from 8.1 to 7.8 to 5.4 over his three starting seasons at Clemson, but he became a more complete running back over that time as Clemson lost its offensive mojo around him and Trevor Lawrence. So yeah, I really like Etienne – I am recommending that a team takes a running back in the first round for god’s sake.
Baltimore Ravens – Terrace Marshall Jr, WR, LSU
I have a pretty firm second round grade on Marshall, but I also have watched 2+ years of Ravens games where Lamar Jackson doesn’t have any receiver over 6’0 to target so this would work! Marshall was a five-star recruit out of high school who posted two productive seasons at LSU, as the third option on the 2019 national championship team then as the go-to receiver last year before opting out. At 6’3, Marshall is the only tall receiver that will receive attention in the first two rounds of this draft. Marshall is only 20 years old but he already knows how to use his height to his advantage and has real spectacular catch ability. He has legit inside/outside versatility too, but I’m skeptical on how ball dominant he can be at the next level. Marshall is skinny and really does not play strong, so while he can certainly create mismatches the NFL’s best cover guys might eat him alive. Still, at a minimum I like Marshall as a gangly deep threat, and maybe with some more muscle in the right system he can evolve into a higher-volume version of one in the mold of Kenny Golladay.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
If not for concerns over a recent back surgery – not the first for Farley – then there would be zero chance of him slipping this far. It might not happen anyway, given that outside of maybe Kyle Pitts there isn’t a better size/speed combo guy with first round production in this entire draft. Farley has the look of Richard Sherman and could have actually clocked a 4.3 40 at the combine in a normal year. He is at his best when the ball is in the air, with incredible closing speed followed by a natural feel for ball tracking. Back injury aside, I didn’t see Farley as the clear-cut CB1 on tape though. Farley can too often rely on his physical gifts and get nonchalant, either losing sight of his man or letting guys get behind him to where even he can’t catch up – Chase Claypool made him pay for both. He is good in press when he gets his hands on receivers at the line, but it doesn’t happen as much as you’d like. I’m not sure what scheme fit would be best for Farley’s NFL future. He feels too gifted to not play in man, but with his back, inconsistent physicality, and a pre-play stance where he looks more like a safety than corner, maybe something zone heavy could end up better for his long-term prospects. Regardless, the Bucs have the secondary depth and roster strength to pick Farley’s upside and figure that out later.
Time for the final mock draft, and it’s the big one. Here is what I think will happen on the first night of the NFL Draft. Trades will obviously go down, but I’m keeping each team in their assigned spot. Read until the end for five specific trade scenarios that I’m calling my shot on.
I’m adding a fun wrinkle: using the below scoring system, I’m going to make a donation to COVID-19 Relief through DRAFT-A-THON for each pick that I hit in some capacity. I don’t anticipate I reach it but I’ll do this up to $50. Follow along, cheer against my wallet, and if you are feeling generous feel free to match!
$2 – Correct Pick Number
$2 – Correct Team
$5 – Correct Trade Prediction
Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Washington Redskins – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Detroit Lions – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
New York Giants – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
Miami Dolphins – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Los Angeles Chargers – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
I’ve always been hooked on the NFL Draft, but with the current pandemic situation, let’s just say that my attention towards it has multiplied by about 19 times. I don’t pretend to be a scout or watch a ton of college football, but I do my research and like to think that I know quite a bit about NFL rosters. I also think a lot of experts who do this kind of stuff year-round can get lost in the process, so I like to keep it simple:
That’s basically it, with a quick blurb for each pick included. I’m not exactly trying to snipe what will happen on draft night, more so a mix of what I think could and should happen.
Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
A dream scenario for the Bengals. No need to expand upon this; Burrow is the best QB prospect in years and this pick is 100% going to happen. I will say…the Bengals might not suck next season. They shouldn’t make the playoffs or anything, but I’d expect way better than 2-14 after Burrow puts the cherry on top of a good offseason.
Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
(TRADE: Miami receives Pick 1/2, Washington receives Picks 1/5, 1/18, 2021 First Round Pick from Houston)
BLOCKBUSTER! This is what Miami has been stocking up for with their roster teardown, and the Redskins get their first round picks back from the RG3 trade all these years later. This might seem insane from Miami’s perspective, and it definitely could be, but history tell us this is about what it would take to move up these three picks. And that is before you consider that Washington would be saying goodbye to Chase Young and the Dolphins would be landing a prospect who would be QB1 in most years. The best the Chargers can do to move up for Tua is likely the third pick, so Miami does what they need to do to land him.
I’m not as wild about Tua as most. The scary injury history speaks for itself, and I have doubts about how he’ll hold up without surroundings as cushy as Alabama’s were for him. With that, I see some Matt Leinart here. But at the same time, he has accuracy you can’t teach and exudes inspiration and confidence, so I don’t fault a struggling team like Miami one bit who see him as the guy who’s going to turn everything around.
Detroit Lions – Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Home run pick for the Lions, landing the top player on most boards who also fits perfectly into this defense and fills a big need. Let’s just hope that Young only has to spend one year under Matt Patricia.
New York Giants – Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
I’ll go a bit longer here, because I imagine a lot of people reading this care as much about the Giants as the person writing it. This pick is also one of the hardest to peg and will set the course for the rest of the first round. My gut is that the Giants are leaning Simmons, and I would be absolutely ecstatic with the selection. He’s a unicorn of a prospect with some of the most impressive college tape you will ever see. The Giants struggled on both sides of the ball last year, but defense was the bigger liability. Despite already spending big on defense in free agency, there is nobody with even close to the star power that Simmons would immediately bring. He would make everyone around him better while singlehandedly patching up a lot of the team weaknesses. It’s a poorly kept secret that Dave Gettleman’s seat is on fire, and if he thinks that Simmons is the best play towards fielding a competitive team in 2020 and thereby saving his job, I wouldn’t blame him.
Although I’m rooting for the Giants to take Simmons and don’t see any way for this team to truly contend in 2020, I do think the best course towards a playoff push next season would drafting a right tackle. If the Giants committed to the 2016 Dallas model of playing defense through controlling the ball and clock on offense with Jason Garrett calling the shots, then I could see a best-case scenario where this team goes 9-7 or 10-6. That would require a major upgrade on the offensive line though, where the Giants currently have one of the worst tackle situations in the league. This draft class is excellent at the position, including two stud right tackles near the top of big boards in Jedrick Wills and Tristan Wirfs. I think Wirfs makes a ton of sense, given that he could plug and play on the right side next year, then smoothly slide over to the blindside once Nate Solder is finally sent out to pasture. Gettleman is definitely drooling over his combine performance and workout videos too. But for all of the talk of “hog mollies,” guess how many offensive linemen Gettleman has drafted with his nine first round picks in his time as a GM? That would be zero. And while a lot of Giants fans see the Cam Fleming signing as a depth move, we thought the same thing about Mike Remmers last year, and then he went on to start 14 games at right tackle. I’m sure the Giants will do their best to make an outrageous selection at the top of the draft for the third year in a row, but I do feel good about Simmons being their guy.
Washington Redskins – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Not only do the Redskins pick up two extra first rounders in this hypothetical trade down, they now can address a much greater need than they would have by taking Chase Young. This pick has to be on offense, where the Skins just have a total dearth of skill and need to put more effort into either validating or moving on from Dwayne Haskins. Jerry Jeudy dominates in space and would play to Haskins’ strength of getting the ball out quickly, and he would form arguably the league’s best young receiver duo with Terry McLaurin. This pick could absolutely be a left tackle since Trent Williams will never suit up for them again, but with 4-5 top tier tackles on the board and only 2-3 top tier receivers, Washington can address that position with their newly acquired first rounder later.
Los Angeles Chargers – Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
The Chargers have had an excellent offseason and now have a roster that’s pretty elite in terms of overall talent. Their only big holes are at left tackle and quarterback, and at least 95% of mock drafts have them going QB with this pick. But with their ready-to-win roster, I think there’s a better chance than advertised that the Bolts address QB in free agency – likely Cam Newton – as opposed to drafting Justin Herbert…in this spot. I have major doubts that Herbert would come out of the gate hot, and that’s without even considering how weird this offseason will be for rookies in light of COVID-19. They also have no fan support at the moment and a brand-new stadium to fill, which is another reason to go the household name route for the short term. With Cam and Wirfs, who could step right into the blindside and has the versality to move around the line in the event of injury as well, this team could be drafting in the Bottom 6 instead of the Top 6 in the 2021 Draft.
Carolina Panthers – Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
This pick needs to be on defense, where the Panthers are set up to have arguably the league’s worst unit. They need help at every level, and Jeff Okudah could certainly be the guy here, but I see them taking Brown. He is absurdly strong and pops on tape even from the defensive interior – just watch his highlights from the Iron Bowl. Despite playing a less valuable position than cornerback and a rough Combine showing, Brown could go a long way in cleaning up Carolina’s god-awful run defense while still pushing the pocket. Matt Rhule is definitely smitten by him too.
Las Vegas Raiders – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
(TRADE: Las Vegas receives Pick 1/8, Arizona receives Picks 1/12, 3/81, 2021 Second Round Pick)
ANOTHER TRADE! Jeff Okudah is one of the best cornerback prospects in years; there are really no holes in his game. If he does make it past Carolina at 7, Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden will be licking their lips. The Raiders have been active this offseason to address their defense, bringing in at least four new starters. But their cornerbacks are still terrible, and it’s becoming less and less possible to contend without production from that position. With another first round pick in this draft, Las Vegas (that’s weird to type) is in a position to be aggressive here, while Arizona with just 6 total picks – including none in the second round – could be looking to pick up extra draft capital after the DeAndre Hopkins robbery trade.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina
Kinlaw is a classic NFL Draft case study. He has freakish measurables and was the single biggest standout from the Senior Bowl, and only then did we start to acknowledge that he also happened to be an AP First Team All-American playing in the SEC. He checks all of the boxes, and as an interior player who can pressure the quarterback at a similar rate to good edge rushers, multiple teams will view him as their version of Chris Jones or DeForest Buckner. (I’m fairly sure a big reason the Colts traded for Buckner is because they knew they couldn’t get Kinlaw at Pick 13.) The Jags definitely could be the worst team in football in 2020, so they have to be thinking total rebuild with this pick. Pairing Kinlaw with Josh Allen is a good place to start.
Cleveland Browns – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Andrew Thomas is a prime example of why I hate draft season sometimes. He was a high school All-American with extraordinary length, started for three years at Georgia with improvement each season, was the highest graded Power-5 tackle at PFF in 2019, and then had a great showing at the Combine. At his size he posted the fourth best 3 Cone Drill time among all offensive linemen, which if you ask me should be a bigger deal than Mekhi Bechton running a 5.1 40. And yet, you commonly see Thomas as the fourth tackle on big boards and in mocks. I swear, the logic is “we know Thomas is going to be a 5 Pro Bowl type of player, but we’d rather roll the dice on a 10 Pro Bowl type of player!” Well, not in my mock. With this pick, Baker Mayfield would have a strong supporting cast on all levels of the offense and could only point fingers at himself if they struggle again in 2020.
Philadelphia Eagles – CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
(TRADE: Philadelphia receives Picks 1/11 and 3/68, New York Jets receive Pick 1/21, 2021 First Round Pick, and Alshon Jeffrey)
LET’S GET NUTS. The Eagles push their chips into the middle of the table to grab the superstar out of Oklahoma, whose explosiveness you almost have to see to believe. Philly’s receiving corps might be the single greatest roster flaw among contenders across the league; it’s a certainty that they address it early in this draft. Yes, this draft is absurdly deep at receiver, but Lamb is on another level as whomever the Eagles could draft at Pick 21. The price is steep, but this is likely around what it would take to move up 10 spots in the first round to grab a player of Lamb’s caliber. The Eagles also pick up the high third round pick that the Jets stole from the Giants in the Leonard Williams trade, and the plug is pulled on the suddenly sour relationship with Alshon Jeffrey. Moving Alshon would place a financial burden on the Eagles for 2020, but as Howie Roseman’s creative accounting has started to catch up with him, ripping off the Band-Aid of his contract and replacing it with Lamb on a rookie deal would give Philly some much needed flexibility for 2021 and beyond.
As for Jets fans – and Sam Darnold – I know this would suck. The Jets could badly use Lamb or Jedrick Wills in this spot. But the lack of talent on that roster is just so palpable that they couldn’t turn down an additional first rounder. And without owing Alshon any guaranteed money by picking him up via trade, it’s a low-risk move for a guy who if healthy would absolutely be the best target that Sam Darnold has had in New York.
Arizona Cardinals – Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
(Via Las Vegas)
Talk about a win for the Cardinals. They pick up two extra good picks and still land the guy who they probably would have taken in their original slot. Wills and his mobility would be an ideal fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s up-tempo offense. I think Kyler Murray has more left to prove than most, but if he does take the next step with Wills anchoring the right side of the line, this offense could be tough to stop.
Denver Broncos – Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
(TRADE: Denver receives Pick 1/13, San Francisco receives Picks 1/15 and 3/77)
The above trades are mostly pipe dreams, but I could really see this one playing out. Henry Ruggs to Denver is probably the most commonly mocked pick outside of Joe Burrow to the Bengals, but I’m not confident that Ruggs and his 4.27 speed make it to Pick 15. The Broncos desperately need to bring in another receiver across from Courtland Sutton, and that offense could use an infusion of speed too. Denver has three third round picks in this draft, so they are willing to depart with their top one to get the fourth Crimson Tide offensive player off the board.
As for the 49ers, while they could definitely take Ruggs themselves in this spot, they currently have no picks between Rounds 2-4, so this is a fairly easy decision to move back only two spots.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mekhi Bechton, OT, Louisville
While I think it’s ridiculous that Bechton in reality will likely go ahead of at least one player from the Wirfs/Thomas/Wills trio, you can’t teach 6’7” and 364 pounds with his athleticism. With Tampa’s need for an upgrade at right tackle, this is the furthest that Bechton would fall. He is viewed as a work in progress at his natural left tackle position, so Bucs fans should temper expectations in this event that he’s drafted to immediately hold down the right side. Still, with the combination of his sheer size and Tom Brady’s quick release, this would be an ideal destination for Bechton.
San Francisco 49ers – Cesar Ruiz, C/OG, Michigan
While this wouldn’t be the sexiest of picks, one of the few areas of the Niners roster where they could stand to improve is the interior of the offensive line. Their guards stink and center Weston Richburg is coming off a serious injury, so the versatile Ruiz would start somewhere from day one and would insert nicely into Kyle Shanahan’s zone-heavy offense. In theory it would make more sense for San Fran to address this position with their later first round pick, but Ruiz is the clear top player in a weak interior offensive linemen class, so he might not be available at Pick 31.
Atlanta Falcons – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
If Henderson is still available for the Falcons, then you can write this pick in Sharpie. Atlanta’s current cornerback situation is abysmal, and Henderson is insanely athletic and plays with a ton of physicality. Totally perfect fit for a Dan Quinn defense.
Dallas Cowboys – K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
The Cowboys could address a few different positions on defense with this pick, so I’ll roll with the guy who would likely be the top player on a lot of teams’ boards at this point. Personally I’m skeptical of the raw, bendy edge rusher types like Chaisson, and I think he’d be a better fit in a 3-4 base defense. Still, his athleticism is indisputable and he finished the season really strong. Dallas needs someone opposite DeMarcus Lawrence now that Robert Quinn is gone, and let’s just say that I don’t think Aldon Smith is the answer.
Washington Redskins – Josh Jones, OT, Houston
Redskins fans haven’t had a lot to cheer about this century, but a draft class led by Jerry Jeudy and Josh Jones would be one of those things. Jones might not be the specimen that the offensive tackles ahead of him in this mock are, but he was the highest graded tackle at PFF in 2019 and erased any concerns of the level of competition that he faced at Houston with a dominant performance at the Senior Bowl.
Los Angeles Chargers – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
(TRADE: Los Angeles receives Pick 1/19, Las Vegas receives Picks 2/37, 3/71 and 2021 Second Round Pick)
Despite everything I wrote earlier about how I think the Chargers could pass on Herbert at Pick 6 and sign a veteran QB, they make a play to get back into the first round in front of Jacksonville after watching the kid tumble! Even if LA does sign someone like Cam, that should by no means stop them from addressing QB in this draft. Herbert would be stepping into an extremely talented offense with no expectations to immediately start in this scenario, which would be perfect given his failure to rise to the occasion in some big games at Oregon and all of the reports on his apparent lack of edge.
As for the Raiders, they scoop back up a third rounder in this draft and a 2021 second rounder after trading them away in the hypothetical Okudah trade. And at Pick 37, the caliber of wide receiver that they’d likely take wouldn’t be much different than whomever they would have targeted here.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
Now, would I make this pick as the GM of the Jaguars? Absolutely not, despite the fact that nobody would be feeling confident about Gardner Minshew as a Week 1 starter if he was a normal looking guy with a cleanly shaven face. While I do endorse the strategy of bringing in QBs via the draft until you find your guy – hence this mock draft placement – I certainly do not endorse using first round picks on deeply flawed and largely unproductive prospects, regardless of how much more valuable quarterback is than any other position. Love is toolsy and started to earn first round chatter after his sophomore season, but he couldn’t take care of the ball or consistently find his receivers in the Mountain West Conference. The logical best-case projection here is Josh Allen (Bills QB). That should give you pause when Allen is the best possible outcome, but regardless of your thoughts on Allen – mine aren’t high – just about anyone would take him with the 20th overall pick in a draft today.
New York Jets – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
There are so many different directions the Jets could go with this pick. EDGE and offensive tackle are more glaring needs (and wide receiver in reality, but they addressed that with the Alshon Jeffrey trade in this mock), but there isn’t necessarily anyone on the board at those positions who would justify a selection here. The Jets roll with Fulton instead, the battle-tested senior cornerback from LSU. The tier of cornerbacks after Jeff Okudah is deep, and Fulton isn’t recognized as the most athletic of that bunch. But his production in the SEC was off the charts, and concerns regarding his athleticism are a bit unfounded in my opinion. He was a five-star high school recruit and he performed well at the Combine in every drill outside of the 20 Yard Shuttle. For how much of a revolving door the cornerback position has been for the Jets since Darrelle Revis’ departure, they could use someone with Fulton’s stability.
Minnesota Vikings – Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
The Vikings roster has pretty quietly taken a beating this offseason, but with two of the next four picks, they should be able to quickly rebound and remain competitive in 2020. They aren’t fooling anyone with Tajae Sharpe currently listed as WR2 on their depth chart, so the first of their two picks is spent on Higgins. There are plenty of good receivers still on the board for Minnesota to choose from here, but Higgins is the best fit for their style of offense and has become an overlooked prospect in my opinion. With his 6’4” frame and excellent catch radius, Vikings fans wouldn’t be longing for Stefon Diggs’ contested catch ability with Higgins taking his place.
New England Patriots – AJ Epenesa, DL, Iowa
This is simultaneously one of my favorite and more frustrating picks of this mock, because in a couple of years we’ll all be like, “why did we let Bill Belichick get this guy at the back of the first round?” Epenesa is a monster who physically stood out even in the Big 10. He opened draft season as a consistent Top 10 pick with well-known speed concerns, and yet we have all overreacted to his slow showing at the Combine. I’m of the outspoken opinion that the Pats are going to suck next year and might be tanking before our eyes. I’d be really shocked if they draft a quarterback in the first round – Belichick certainly isn’t going to trade up – so I have them taking the best player available. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Epenesa could become New England’s next Richard Seymour.
New Orleans Saints – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
What do you draft when you have everything? The Saints are somehow running back another revamped roster for what feels like the fifth season in a row, and it’s really tough to find any areas of weakness. I suppose they could look to trade back or an argument could be made for off-ball linebacker, but I have them keeping the bendy slot receiver out of LSU in state. The Saints simply have to be doing everything they can at this point to beef up the offense as much as possible for Drew Brees, and Jefferson would be a unique weapon. I know they already signed Emmanuel Sanders, but he’s a constant health risk and is probably in decline anyways.
Minnesota Vikings – Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah
Now that the Vikings have addressed receiver, the other area where they need an immediate rookie impact is cornerback. Jaylon Johnson has the experience and instincts to step into a starting role right away, and Mike Zimmer would love his physicality.
Miami Dolphins – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Despite their spending spree this offseason, the Dolphins could still use help at just about every position. The priority should be offensive line, especially if they draft Tua. Ereck Flowers is the most high profile player currently on their line, which tells you all that you need to know. Still, there aren’t any offensive linemen on the board I’m comfortable mocking to Miami this early, and they have plenty of picks later in the draft to address it. So I have them taking the Swiss Army Knife out of Alabama, who ironically enough for the Dolphins profiles similarly to Minkah Fitzpatrick. With a pair of stud corners in Byron Jones and Xavien Howard already locked up long term, Brian Flores could look to build his team through secondary like the Patriots have done recently.
Seattle Seahawks – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
The Seahawks are the least predictable drafters in the league so this is a fool’s errand, but I’ll try my best. They could use help on the offensive line, but that’s been the case for Seattle for years and they never seem to take it too seriously in the draft. They could use another pass rusher too, but I’d guess they solve that by bringing back Jadaveon Clowney or another veteran free agent. While Seattle has already traded for Quinton Dunbar this offseason, Pete Carroll prioritizes the secondary and they could use depth at cornerback. Bryce Hall was on his way to being a first round pick in last year’s draft, but then he returned for his senior year and seriously injured his ankle. He should be fully recovered by the preseason, and a potentially delayed start to the season would be beneficial for Hall. You don’t find him ranked highly on big boards or some Top 50 lists altogether, but Hall is long, physical and built for a zone-heavy scheme like Seattle’s.
Baltimore Ravens – Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
The Ravens front office is as good as it gets, so they find themselves in a situation where the roster doesn’t have many gaps and yet they still have three picks within the first two rounds. Part of the reason the Ravens are so good year after year is that they emphasize versatility and find value where other teams don’t. Zack Baun isn’t exactly a diamond in the rough after his huge senior year at Wisconsin and a Top 20 draft grade on NFL.com, but most teams would overlook him in this spot for a more traditional linebacker on the board like Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray. But I’d bet the Ravens roll with Baun, who could predominately play off-ball as a rookie but still occasionally rush off the edge. The only proven edge rusher on Baltimore is Matthew Judon and he’s on the franchise tag, so this could be a two-birds-one-stone pick.
Indianapolis Colts – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
(TRADE: Indianapolis receives Picks 1/29 and 7/224, Tennessee receives Picks 2/34, 4/122 and 2021 Third Round Pick)
The Colts have been extremely aggressive this offseason, signing Philip Rivers to a one-year deal and trading their first round pick for DeForest Buckner then signing him to a long-term extension. Chris Ballard doesn’t stop there, as he trades back into the first round to stop the unexpected slide of the sideline-to-sideline linebacker out of LSU. Queen is undersized and a bit unproven, and Indy doesn’t necessarily have a need at linebacker, but this value is too good to pass up. Queen has rare speed for a linebacker and has good instincts to go along with it. You don’t see three linebackers on the field at once as much as you used to, but the trio of Darius Leonard/Bobby Okereke/Queen is athletic enough to hold their own over the middle of the field with Malik Hooker as the single-high safety. A simple trade value chart will tell you that the Colts are overpaying in this scenario, but there are three teams between Picks 30-33 with glaring needs at inside linebacker, and Ballard understands the value of the fifth-year option on first rounders as well as anyone. This version of the Colts defense could be great.
As for the Titans, I doubt they want to move out of the first round – let alone to allow their division rivals to sneak in – but they have only four picks in the Top 6 rounds this year. Picking up two solid picks to move back five spots is a good haul. I also figure they’re seeking a cornerback with their first selection, and a good one should still be available at the top of the second round.
Green Bay Packers – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
It’s definitely possible that the Packers could go defense with this pick, especially with memories of getting gashed by the 49ers rushing attack in the NFC Championship Game fresh in mind. Kenneth Murray or Justin Madubuike would make a lot of sense. Still, this is my mock draft, and I will not allow the Packers to go into another season with some bum WR2. Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger, so no more of Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, or Allen Lazard. Green Bay needs someone who can step in and immediately become the home run hitter of the offense. Aiyuk was a YAC machine at Arizona State, posting an absurd 18.3 yards per reception. For as deep as this receiver class is, they are going to fly off the board in the second round, so the Packers get their guy here.
San Francisco 49ers – Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Kyle Shanahan got the 49ers first pick on his side of the ball, so now Robert Saleh gets his. Grant Delpit’s pedigree suggests that he should go much higher than Pick 31, being a two-time All-American and the leader of a National Championship-winning defense. But his 2019 was filled with nagging injuries and missed tackles, so he now finds himself as a borderline first rounder. John Lynch and Co. are smart enough to scoop him up here, despite Delpit being a true free safety when the 49ers just locked up Jimmie Ward at the position. Still, Delpit (and Ward for that matter) is versatile and talented enough to find his way onto the field. His ball skills and playmaking ability are second to none among defensive backs in this class, so he should thrive in a defense with Nick Bosa terrorizing quarterbacks.
Kansas City Chiefs – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
For being the defending Super Bowl champs, the Chiefs roster really isn’t well rounded at all. They have major concerns at the following positions: guard, center, edge rusher, linebacker, and cornerback. Package that with a current path towards their salary cap being in the red, and Brett Veach has his work cut out for him. But you know what? Kansas City had most of these roster issues last year too and still won it all, which speaks to what Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes are capable of together. So I say, screw it. The Chiefs are unlikely to land a major impact rookie at one of those positions listed above, and they still have Mahomes on the books for about 10% of what he’s actually worth. Upgrade at running back and try to score 40 points per game in the immediate future. I’m riding shotgun in the “running backs don’t matter” car – notice how I haven’t mentioned one until now despite this being a pretty good class. But Jonathan Taylor is incredible, and I seriously cannot believe that traditional draft experts aren’t gushing about him more. He averaged over 2,000 yards per season over three years at Wisconsin, and then he went out and ran the fastest 40 among running backs at the Combine. And speed isn’t even really his game! Andy Reid deceptively likes to run the ball a lot, and he’s smart enough to avoid second contracts for running backs. With Taylor under control for five years, Reid would run him into the ground and maybe into another Super Bowl or two along the way.
Don’t like who I mocked for your team? Any other thoughts? Let me know on Twitter @Real_Peej