This is your obligatory intro sentence where I use the word draft for SEO purposes. Hope you enjoy.
#1 Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
You don’t need me to explain that the Jaguars are going to draft Trevor Lawrence.
#2 New York Jets – QB Zach Wilson, BYU
I’m anticipating the Jets trade Darnold and then draft a quarterback at two. Neither Douglas or Saleh were there when the team took Darnold so there is a high probably they want to hit the reset button with their own guy. They’d also reset the clock on having a starting quarterback on a rookie scale deal, the holy grail in today’s quarterback market.
Why Wilson over Fields? No, I don’t care about the nonsense and noise around Fields “inability” to go through his progressions. We’ll see how Mike LaFleur ends up wanting to run this offense. Will he be McVay, Shanahan, his brother? Wilson makes for a natural fit in a Shanahan bootleg offense which you’d imagine LaFleur will incorporate to some degree.
#3 Atlanta Falcons (F/HOU/MIA/HOU) – QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
Houston Receives: #3, #18, #36, Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Receives: QB Deshaun Watson
Atlanta Receives: #3
Houston Receives: #4, #35, 2022 2nd rounder
Fireworks early on draft night! Let’s focus on the Falcons part in this and do the Dolphins and Texans below.
New regimes mean new quarterbacks and Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot are within simple striking distance of being able to draft the heir to Matt Ryan. But that is not the only factor at play here. Atlanta surely expects a quick turnaround, meaning they don’t anticipate drafting this high again any time soon. As a result, this is their one chance to get a top tier quarterback prospect. It’s similar to the Steelers in 2004 as they knew they weren’t going to get a do-over on a prospect as good as Roethlisberger.
Fontenot has openly talked about how he will “utilize all of the avenues” for adding quarterbacks to the roster, including the draft. He spent time in Green Bay watching Ron Wolf continuously draft quarterbacks despite having Favre entrenched as a starter.
There’s also the math. Ryan’s cap hit in 2022 will be $41.66 million. Given the cap issues teams are having all around the league it will be too difficult to find a taker this offseason. However, next year has better odds for a “viable-starter-away” team to have the flexibility to take on Matt Ryan’s deal, and if Carson Wentz can fetch a 3rd and conditional 2nd then someone will give Atlanta something nice for Ryan.
As for Fields himself, yes, admittedly, he is the last of the three remaining. There is also the local connection, as Fields is from Georgia and, let’s just be honest, coming off a down-revenue season where the team won four games, maximizing jersey sales will at a minimum be a cherry on top to this decision. Football wise, Fontenot spoke of wanting a “tough, competitive football team,” so watching Fields obliterate Clemson in the semi-finals while sustaining a mid-game injury must have caught his attention. Lastly, don’t you just want to see Fields running the Tannehill-Titans offense? I do.
#4 Houston Texans (F/ATL) – WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
Hoo baby. Let’s do the Dolphins first. It really is as straight forward as it seems. They pony up to get Deshaun Watson. You may look at this and think “only two firsts, are you nuts??” Chill. Tua himself should be viewed as a first rounder having gone top-5 last year. As for #36, adding Watson to Miami will likely result in the Dolphins’ 2022 first rounder being ~28. Is there really that much difference between 28 next year and 36 this year? No. So Houston opts for the present value, and second year quarterback, to jump start the rebuild.
In conjunction with the Atlanta trade, Houston turns Watson into #4, #18, #35, #36, a 2022 2nd rounder, and Tua Tagovailoa. Trading Deshaun is going to hurt, but that’s as good a haul as they’re going to get.
Houston’s selection of Chase implies a few things. This means Houston made the calculated decision to take Chase over Sewell. Perhaps with Tunsil they don’t want to draft a tackle this high who would need to switch sides. Maybe they think Tua needs a target like Chase. Maybe they think the value at 18 for tackle will be better than receiver. Whatever the case, no one will be able to fault them for grabbing Chase here, especially if Will Fuller leaves.
#5 Cincinnati Bengals – OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
Other than Lawrence to the Jaguars this has to be the most common player, team combo in mock drafts, right? If the first three picks are in fact all quarterbacks the Bengals will likely just have to sit here and take whoever didn’t get drafted at four between Sewell and Chase. The only other option is trading down, but given the Burrow injury and Sewell’s elite athleticism I’d venture to guess only a team desperate for Trey Lance will be willing to pay the asking price.
#6 Carolina Panthers (F/PHI) – QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Carolina Receives: #6
Philadelphia Receives: #8, #39
Speaking of Trey Lance. The Panthers are mentioned in connection with every available quarterback. It’s no secret they want to be aggressive addressing the position this offseason. If they are unable to make a move on the veteran market logic dictates they’re a prime candidate to move up in the draft for one of the top four, sans Lawrence. Carolina figures to be an attractive trade partner as their pick is higher than Denver, New York (Giants), San Francisco, Vegas, Washington, et. all.
This scenario also indicates Teddy Bridgewater will be on the roster for 2021. Bridgewater does make for a perfect bridge (no pun intended) quarterback for Lance to sit on the bench until mid 2021 or 2022. The Lions may view Goff in a similar vein and have an eye on Lance, so Carolina jumps right in front of them.
#7 Detroit Lions – WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
This is as simple as it looks. Golladay, Jones, and Amendola are all free agents. While I expect the Lions to tag Golladay, there will be nothing behind him on the depth chart. Additionally, Smith will potentially be the best player available on the Lions’ board. This is easy math.
#8 Philadephia Eagles (F/CAR) – CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
The Eagles decide to spend 2021 figuring out what they have in Hurts as opposed to bringing in Trey Lance. As such, they move down only two picks, add a second rounder, and still land the best player in the draft at a position of need. “But why not a pass catcher?” Because the team presumably believes Reagor will develop into the guy they drafted and Roseman will feel comfortable grabbing the best corner here and then taking advantage of the receiver depth in this draft.
#9 Denver Broncos – LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
I don’t know what is in Parsons’ off-field background. This is merely Farley going one pick in front of Denver and deciding to go with Parsons in the event they have him as the highest player remaining.
#10 Dallas Cowboys – TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
This just feels like something Jerry Jones would do. He isn’t going to take Waddle, but he doesn’t want to leave New York with a choice between Pitts and Waddle. Surtain is a great fit for the Cowboy’s defense and hits a massive need, but Jones actually displayed value based drafting in 2020 and that continues here. Adding Pitts to this offense with Dak back is absolutely the type of media hype machine maneuver Jones craves, and in this situation it’s actually a good idea.
#11 New York Giants – WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
If the board falls this way for the Giants this is just a no-brainer. Waddle might even be the first receiver off the board but at a minimum is the last of the three tier 1 receivers in this draft.
#12 Los Angeles Chargers (F/SF) – OL Rashawn Slater, Northwester
Los Angeles Receives: #12
San Francisco Receives: #13, #109
The Chargers don’t want to sweat out another 10 minutes hoping the uber versatile Slater reaches them. Herbert needs better protection, although for what seems like 20 years we’ve been saying “the Chargers quarterback needs better protection.” The aforementioned versatility will allow Los Angeles to just get their five best guys on the field.
#13 San Francisco 49ers (F/LAC) – CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
“But why would San Francisco trade down just one spot?” This trade is nearly identical to what the 9ers did last year when they flipped spots with Tampa in order for the Bucs to draft Wirfs.
Anyway, here is a list of the 49ers free agent corners; Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams, Jason Verrett, Ahkello Witherspoon, Dontae Johnson, Jamar Taylor, and Emmanuel Moseley. Surtain projects best in a zone based scheme similar to what San Franscisco runs, assuming they don’t change much from what Saleh was doing.
#14 Minnesota Vikings – Edge Kwity Paye, Michigan
Minnesota needs more reinforcements at edge and they get their pick of the litter with how the board falls. Paye is a good bet to be the first edge off the board given his size, athleticism, and production.
#15 Jacksonville Jaguars (F/NE) – WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
Jacksonville Receives: #15
New England Receives: #25, #45
I don’t know what the power dynamic is going to be between Meyer and Baalke. I’m also not going to definitively declare Meyer will strongly favor BIG10 prospects. I do think it’s possible, though, and that even despite the depth at receiver in this draft he wants to go and lock up Bateman.
You can make the same argument for Kadarius Toney, but the point to Bateman is he brings complimentary talents to Chark and Shenault, where as Toney is a smaller (yet faster) Shenault. Bateman would give Lawrence a big target while Chark stretches the field and Meyer uses Shenault as the gadget.
Plus, with Bateman reportedly running a 4.39, that alleviates his biggest concern.
Per Source: Bateman ran a 4.37 hand time and a 4.39 laser at the Exos combine.
*Rashod Bateman is not slow 😎
— Rashod Bateman (@R_bateman2) February 27, 2021
#16 Arizona Cardinals – CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
The Cardinals need to improve their corner play. Horn is an aggressive, supremely confident corner that will hopefully be able to make an immediate impact.
#17 Las Vegas Raiders – IDL Christian Barmore, Alabama
This just feels like a Gruden/Mayock pick. They address needs and just take their favorite guy. The Raiders’ run defense last year was atrocious, and Barmore is by far and away the best defensive tackle in this class.
#18 Houston Texans (F/MIA) – OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
Here’s the follow up to the Texans betting on the tackle value being greater at 18 than the receiver value. They won the bet.
#19 Washington – QB Mac Jones – Alabama
Ron Rivera strikes me as the kind of guy that will have no problem trying to win with outstanding defense and a game manager quarterback. Maybe Jones ends up better than a game manager and well, hey, then Washington is cooking.
#20 Chicago Bears – WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
Do you really think Matt Nagy is going to be able to resist Toney? Like, honestly, you believe there’s any chance he’s not going to twist Ryan Pace’s arm into this pick?
#21 Indianapolis Colts – Edge Gregory Rousseau, Miami
The Colts shoot for the moon in an attempt to address the edge position. Had Rousseau played in 2020 and repeated his 2019 production he’d be a lock for the top 10.
#22 Tennessee Titans – Edge Jaelan Phillips, Miami
Back to back freak edge athletes out of Miami going to the AFC South. Phillips finally lived up to his recruiting hype this year after a weird start to his career. He allegedly ran with the skill position players at practice in Miami. He’s an edge defender.
#23 New York Jets (F/SEA) – WR Rondale Moore, Purdue
As with the Jaguars, the Jets are following up drafting a new quarterback with giving him help, a common strategy among teams. Rondale Moore is a dynamic athlete that was fed the ball in the quick game during his time at Purdue. He figures to be a good fit for whatever it is LaFleur has in mind.
#24 Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
I understand the Steelers defense is already their strength but I love this fit and believe there is room for improvement at corner. Besides, if anyone knows you don’t need a first round running back it’s Pittsburgh, and if anyone has proven they can reliably draft receivers outside the first round it is also Pittsburgh.
#25 New England Patriots (F/JAX/LAR) – WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
Belichick orchestrates a trade down with his old buddy Urban Meyer. I think Marshall will end up going in the first round as teams become enamored with his ceiling. If he gets down the mechanics and nuances the sky’s the limit. There just aren’t many guys that can move how he does at his size.
#26 Cleveland Browns – Edge Jayson Oweh, Penn State
Olivier Vernon is a free agent the team may easily let walk.
#27 Baltimore Ravens – Edge Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
Matt Judon is a free agent the team may easily let walk.
#28 New Orleans Saints – OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
Not how I’d kickstart a rebuild but I do believe either Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, or both, will be the quarterback in 2021, and given the Saints’ cap nightmare someone among Terron Armstead, Ryan Ramczyk, and Andrus Peat may not be on this roster opening day.
#29 Green Bay Packers – LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
This is really just plugging a need with good value.
#30 Buffalo Bills – RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
I don’t agree with this pick, but I’m not projecting what I’d do. Buffalo gets their choice of any running back.
#31 Kansas City Chiefs – G Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
If you watched the Super Bowl you understand this.