Written by: Joseph Yun
The draft process has begun to heat up after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stole the Super Bowl show at home over the Chiefs with Pro Days either taking place on a limited basis or not at all. In case you missed my mid(ish)season mock draft, you can find it here.
After a long and trying 2020 NFL season, the league can set sights on the ongoing quarterback saga (hello DeShaun Watson and Houston), free agency, and the draft. Jacksonville secured the first overall selection thanks to an inept Jets squad who couldn’t even properly do that. Who will get the firework show started? Read on to find out more!
(the draft order is courtesy of tankathon.com)
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)
QB Trevor Lawrence Clemson
- The only thing to note here is that Lawrence recently underwent shoulder surgery so who knows how that will affect his rookie season due to pandemic-related limited offseason workouts.
2. New York Jets (2-14)
QB Zach Wilson BYU
- The Jets take yet another swing at finally exorcising the ghost of Broadway Joe Namath with arguably the hottest quarterback prospect of this cycle. Wilson skyrocketed up the boards with a stellar 2020 campaign and is well-positioned to be the second quarterback taken over their presumptive Justin Fields. As for Sam Darnold’s fate, well reader, read on!
3. Miami Dolphins (8-8) via Houston (4-12)
OT Penei Sewell Oregon
- Sewell is OT1 and it isn’t particularly close despite what some “experts” want to say about the matter. He would allow for some interesting line combinations for the Fish as they can kick either rising sophomores Austin Jackson or Robert Hunt inside (Hunt may be better suited in the interior anyway). At the very least, Tua can’t say that he wasn’t protected even if he is one of the most overly conservative passers we’ve seen since Sam Bradford.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
QB Justin Fields Ohio State
- Fields returns home to taunt fellow Georgia native son Kirby Smart over one of the most catastrophically dumb decisions we’ve seen in some time. The Falcons have some cap issues to sort out and it has been said that longtime veteran Matt Ryan is part of solving the aforementioned issues in the near future. Atlanta is the beneficiary of the Jets passing on Fields so he can sit behind a steady hand and learn Arthur Smith’s offense. It’s not like the Falcons are bereft of weapons either. New general manager Terry Fontenot hits a home run in his first at-bat.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)
WR Ja’Marr Chase LSU
- This could be a prime trade down spot for QB needy teams if things fall right as the Bengals don’t need one. They see no offers worth trading down for and take an elite receiver despite needing heavy investment in the offensive line, which they do in the second round. Cincy does need a receiver to pair with the ascendant Tyler Boyd as veteran stalwart AJ Green is on his way out of town. Why not give Joe Burrow a former teammate that he had great chemistry with?
6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1)
OT Rashawn Slater Northwestern
- The Eagles desperately need to sort out their offensive line woes regardless of what happens to their quarterback situation with Jalen Hurts. They had to resort to bringing back old hand Jason Peters last season due to a litany of line problems. Slater has risen up the boards to challenge for OT2 honors so a top ten selection isn’t too big of a jump in some eyes. Philly gets a franchise blocker to protect whoever the new quarterback is, whether that’s Hurts or someone else.
7. Detroit Lions (5-11)
WR Jaylen Waddle
- Detroit is/was a solid bet to take whichever QB fell to them but with Jared Goff in the fold, it’s likely they see what he has in 2021 before making the call on his Lions stint. In the meantime, the Lions really need receivers as their entire receiver room are free agents or will be including emerging star Kenny Golladay. Waddle is in contention for WR1 honors so he makes logical sense as the latest heir apparent to newly minted Hall of Fame receiver Calvin Johnson’s throne. He would provide a ton of explosiveness for whoever the QB is going forward (in 2022).
8. Houston Texans (4-12)
TRADE: The Panthers trade the eighth overall selection, 2022 first-rounder, QB Teddy Bridgewater, and a 2023 third-rounder for QB DeShaun Watson and a 2021 sixth-round selection
EDGE Kwity Paye Michigan
- Houston pariah Jack Easterby trades one of the premier talents of this generation as the final hammer blow of a calamitous affront to all logic. With that said, the Texans get a bridge QB and replenish their Watt less defense with an all-star EDGE in Kwity Paye. The Panthers meanwhile sit back and join the rest of us to mock the Texans’ unfortunate situation.
9. Denver Broncos (5-11)
CB Patrick Surtain II Alabama
- Denver continually has been tempted to take a more than passing glance at the QB trade market and says no thanks to the exorbitant prices this time around. They will likely bring in a “veteran presents” type to compete with the inconsistent Drew Lock. The Broncos select CB1 and NFL legacy Surtain to add to a young secondary finding their sea legs.
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
LB Micah Parsons Penn State
- Dallas upgrades their linebacker room with the supremely athletic Parsons being able to replace the oft-injured Sean Lee. Could Parsons be a future replacement for the mercurial form of Jaylon Smith? They could also go cornerback here if the right one is available as Chidobe Auwize and Jourdan Lewis haven’t been great shakes. Jerry Jones isn’t crazy enough to let Dak walk, is he?
11. New York Giants (6-10)
WR DeVonta Smith Alabama
- The reigning Heisman winner Smith goes to the Big Apple to help the much-maligned Daniel Jones immediately upgrade his receiver corps. It was a hot mess behind Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard last season. Smith changes that. There would be a small flickering of a solid young QB-WR-RB triplet combo if Jones can get his act together in 2021 and Saquon Barkley returns to pre-injury form.
12. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
QB Trey Lance North Dakota State
- The 49ers and Garoppolo marriage is in couples’ counseling at the moment but with an escape hatch (that features little dead money), the franchise is “assessing its options”. They take that option and take an intriguing candidate to be the next star signal-caller in Kyle Shanahan’s star-making offensive system. Lance has all the prerequisite tools to be a franchise type of passer. 2020 was a bust for him as he played in only one really bad “showcase” game due to the pandemic canceling NDSU’s season.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)
OT Christian Darrisaw Virginia Tech
- What do you get a franchise quarterback blessed with seemingly everything but a competent offensive line? A franchise-altering type of left tackle of course. Darrisaw has a compelling case for being the second tackle off the boards as he had a great 2020 season. He’s an athlete for the position and can move. A chance to go up against Bud Foster’s defenses every day during his career (minus 2020 due to Foster retiring) gave him a ton of development. The perfect fit of team meeting needs with this one.
14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
EDGE Joseph Ossai Texas
- The Vikings could stand to upgrade their EDGE group a bit since there is a dropoff from the outstanding Danielle Hunter and rising sophomore sensation DJ Wonnum. Enter Joseph Ossai from Texas. He has a ton of versatility in that he was used as both defensive end and outside linebacker during his stay in Austin. Coach Zimmer will love using him in whatever role he needs to.
15. New England Patriots (7-9)
CB Caleb Farley Virginia Tech
- Yes, the Patriots have needs elsewhere (i.e. mainly the quarterback position) but a cornerback is needed if the dance-off with star Stephon Gilmore continues. The organization can’t rely on aging veteran Jason McCourty again, can they? Farley is one of the more talented corners in the class who opted out of the 2020 season.
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
EDGE Azeez Ojulari Georgia
- All world pass rusher Chandler Jones isn’t getting any younger so an heir must be found. Ojulari has had a meteoric rise up the boards this past fall and had an outstanding bowl game against Cincinnati. The Cardinals could also look to fill in some cornerback slots with this pick as they need one to help replace the legendary Patrick Peterson.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)
DT Christian Barmore Alabama
- The Raiders are in the muddled waters of the ongoing Derek Carr saga so who knows if they will have additional draft capital so right now, they retool the defense. Vegas has a pair of good EDGE talents in Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby. Why not give them a buddy that could help them in the middle as Barmore can?
18. Miami Dolphins (8-8)
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah Notre Dame
- Miami continues to stack defensive talent with the JOK selection. They really don’t have a ton of talent in the true linebacker department so he’ll be a welcome addition there. Miami adds to a potentially fearsome defensive unit with the athletic product from Notre Dame.
19. New York Jets (2-14) via Washington Football Team (7-9)
TRADE: The Washington FT trades the 19th selection, their 2021 fourth plus a 2022 conditional fifth to the Jets for QB Sam Darnold.
TE Kyle Pitts Florida
- WFT swings a deal with the suddenly QB heavy Jets and lands a possible solution to rectify their Dwayne Haskins error. The Jets add TE1 to grow alongside their newly minted potential franchise QB savior. A win-win deal for both teams.
20. Chicago Bears (8-8)
QB Mac Jones Alabama
- The Bears in their eternal search for a halfway decent passer, land on Jones as the next guy up at the plate. Yes, Jones isn’t a first-round QB talent but he played himself into it with a stellar 2020 and subsequent Senior Bowl process. All things considered, Chicago may pair him with a veteran bridge quarterback.
21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
CB Jaycee Horn South Carolina
- The Colts have acquired Carson Wentz without giving up their first-round selection this year. Xavier Rhodes is a free agent and so is TJ Carrie so corner is a need. Horn has played like one of the best corners in the class and has cemented himself into the first round.
22. Tennessee Titans (11-5)
EDGE Gregory Rousseau Miami
- If you've seen the Titans pass rush, please contact General Manager Jon Robinson. Despite sinking tens of millions of dollars into EDGE last year, it was a bust. Rousseau is a talented athlete that needs some refinement. He would fit seamlessly next to Jeffery Simmons and Harold Landry. The team could also elect to take a right tackle after rookie Isaiah Wilson went a bit sideways and didn't play but all of five snaps.
23. New York Jets (2-14) via Seattle (12-4)
LB Jabril Cox LSU / NDSU
- Big-ticket signing CJ Mosley didn’t pan out due to injuries so it's time to replenish the Gang Green defense once again. Cox played well for a depleted Tigers defense after transferring in from perennial FCS contenders NDSU. It remains to be seen if the team lets go of Jordan Jenkins so Cox could move outside too.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)
OL Alijah Vera-Tucker USC
- The Steelers are in a bad way along the offensive line as tackle Alejandro Villanueva is a free agent along with nominal AV replacement Zach Banner. Veteran tackle Kelvin Beachum is a free agent as well and longtime center Maurkice Pouncey recently retired. So AVT can fit at both tackle and guard spots to help fill in the gaps for an extremely cap-tied team. The former Trojan will look to repeat teammate Austin Jackson’s feat by becoming a first-round pick himself.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) via Los Angeles Rams (10-6)
OT Jalen Mayfield Michigan
- The Jaguars need to get a tackle to help protect the aforementioned Trevor Lawrence as current left tackle Cam Robinson is scheduled to be a free agent. Assuming that Robinson returns (the Jags have a ton of cap room), Mayfield can slot in at right tackle and form a formidable pairing to keep defenders off the golden child.
26. Cleveland Browns (11-5)
LB Zaven Collins Tulsa
- Linebacker isn’t a huge need but it can be one if free agency doesn’t turn out as planned for the Browns. Cleveland’s linebackers were a bit of a question mark for them outside of the big names so some depth is nice. Collins made a name for himself in 2020 after a great campaign for the Golden Hurricane. He can fit anywhere due to his athleticism and versatility.
27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5)
WR Rashod Bateman Minnesota
- Lamar Jackson needs more than one receiver that he can throw to reliably. Bateman would be an ideal candidate to play Robin to Hollywood Brown’s Batman in the stagnating Ravens passing attack. Bateman gave it a go once Minnesota returned to football but he opted out afterward. The team needs that dominant my ball WR1 dude in the worst way. A number of their free agents are on the defensive side of the ball so it won’t be unexpected if they go that route too.
28. New Orleans Saints (12-4)
EDGE Jaelen Phillips Miami
- Short of the NFL announcing unprecedented levels of income somewhere to increase the cap from its projected slot, even then, the Saints would still be in a world of hurt. That’s how serious their cap problems are. They need an EDGE to help fill the gaps left by Trey Hendrickson and the meager contributions from former first-round pick Marcus Davenport. New Orleans needs a running mate for star Cameron Jordan. Phillips would help immensely in that regard. The former five-star recruit made a brief pit stop in Miami but was impactful enough to merit first-round consideration.
29. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
OT Liam Eichenberg Notre Dame
- Yet another draft for the Packers to annoy Aaron Rodgers but at least this selection provides them some OL help. David Bakhtiari is coming off a serious injury suffered late in the year so tackle is a need. Green Bay has been aggressive in moving up for its guy in the past so could we see something here? We all know the Packers have a seemingly terminal mandate to refuse to take a receiver in the first round for whatever reason.
30. Buffalo Bills (13-3)
LB Nick Bolton Missouri
- Matt Milano is a free agent and might be priced out of a return to Buffalo so Bolton fits a need there. #BillsMafia will need to retool their offensive line as several starters are free agents with limited cap space so either a guard or tackle might be in consideration as well here.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2)
OL Wyatt Davis Ohio State
- We all saw the Super Bowl, right? The supremely impressive superstar Patrick Mahomes was reduced to being a mere mortal behind a massively injured offensive line. The Chiefs rectify that issue by taking one of the best interior options available in Davis.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
DT Levi Onwuzurike Washington
- The Super Bowl champions have several key free agents that need paying for including one Ndamukong Suh. They will be forced into making some uncomfortable decisions as the cap has gone down and the aftereffects of paying contributors of a championship team. In turn, to replace Suh, they select Onwuzurike to line up beside star tackle Vita Vea in Todd Bowles’ impressive stop unit. This pick could go several ways as a replacement for Lavonte David or even Shaq Barrett may be needed depending on how those negotiations go.