Written by Zach Gartin
Everybody, if you could grab a seat, we are getting started in just a minute! Thank you, thank you. Welcome back, Detroit. Hey Carolina, you look like you’ve lost some weight! I know Dallas, you say every year you are at the wrong meeting…. You almost got there this year Miami, maybe next year. New England, I think you’re in the wrong meeting… wait, really??? Well then, welcome to the Mock Drafts Counseling group. Don’t worry, no one will make fun of you here.
With the NFL Regular Season finally over, the Top-18 draft spots have been finalized. We have some old and familiar faces, along with some brand new teams finally gracing us with their presence after almost 20 years (I’m looking at you New England). This is my first mock draft of the cycle, so here’s a quick disclaimer. It’s only the 18 finalized draft spots, there are no trades (I talk about possible trades though), and I probably don’t know anything about your team.
Take a seat and let’s have a good talk about how to fix your teams.
1.) Jacksonville Jaguars
Oh, Jacksonville. The struggles you went through to achieve this. You won just enough games in 2019 to not get any of the truly great players in the 2020 draft and now have lost every game since winning in Week One to finally achieve your ultimate goal. Trevor Lawrence. How does it feel? Good? That’s fantastic.
You’re still a long way from the Super Bowl, and the former Clemson star may have some struggles early with his processing and the lack of truly great receiving talent, but Lawrence’s natural talent and ability to be a good QB is something Jacksonville hasn’t seen in a long time.
2.) New York Jets
The consolation prize for losing the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes is not that bad, Jets fans. You are getting an all-around talented player, a seemingly natural leader, and one tough SOB. Fields will still carry some of the stigmas of being an OSU QB, but I think his ball placement, arm talent, and ability with his feet all overwhelm that. And he’s even grown as a processor this season.
It won’t be without growing pains, as Fields still struggles a bit when the other team dials up the pressure (look at Northwestern/Indiana) and speed up his process. But Justin Fields can end up a very good QB in New York for a long time, especially since Adam Gase is now out of the building.
3.) Miami Dolphins
Miami is the first Trade Back candidate. I’d expect a QB hungry team (think Carolina or the 49ers) to be asking Miami a lot of questions on draft day. Since there are no trades in this mock, Miami goes with the best player available and picks Penei Sewell. Generational is an over-used term, and Sewell isn’t that. But guys like Sewell only come around every 5 years or so, so if you have a chance to grab them, you have to grab them.
Sewell’s combinations of elite strength, great athleticism, and great technique create a plug-n-play tackle who will immediately protect whichever side of Tua that you would like. He’s just that good.
4.) Atlanta Falcons
So, Atlanta can’t cut Matt Ryan this year. The cap hit is way too large. So why not have the old-timer teach the young guy. With a new coaching staff and GM coming into the picture, they will most likely want to reset the picture going into 2021 or 2022. Might as well get your QB of the future as soon as possible.
Wilson has fantastic ball placement on his deep ball and a sufficient arm to make most of the throws needed in the NFL. He’s got enough athleticism to scramble a bit and is very good on the move, making fantastic improvisational plays. Wilson is a very good investment for a team that is looking to rebuild its offense from the QB up.
5.) Cincinnati Bengals
This may have been the toughest pick in this entire mock draft for me. If Penei is gone, I fully expect Cincinnati to explore every trade back offer available. The value at Cincy’s needs just isn’t there, and when all the players at your needs (CB, OT, WR) would still be there at 8 or 12, there’s no point in standing pat and reaching for a player.
But since there is no trading in this mock, the Bengals head down south and grab one of the most unique offensive weapons in this class. Pitts offers versatility and separation that no one on the Bengals currently offers. If you are going to reach, you might as well reach for the guy that your QB will love more than anyone else on the team.
6.) Philadelphia Eagles
Well, Eagles fans are going to kill me for this one. And yah know what? I still feel like this is the most likely thing to happen. Admit it, your defense (especially those LBs… Yikes….) was downright awful at times. So why not pick the best defensive player on the board and just go from there.
Parsons gives the new Eagles DC something fun to play with. He’s still a little raw when it comes to playing linebacker, but his athleticism more than makes up most of the time, especially in coverage. And even if he is a bit raw as a linebacker, at times he looked like the best pass rusher on the field, adding another dimension to his game that any DC would love. Philadelphia gets a monster from Penn State’s lab to add wherever they want to their front seven.
7.) Detroit Lions
Ok. I’ll admit this pick is a little bit selfish. If Trey Lance was on the board, Detroit would probably pick him and start fresh at QB. But hear me out for a second and imagine this. Matthew Stafford drops back to pass with 35 seconds left, scrambles to his right, looks downfield, and throws a 55-yard laser to JAYLEN WADDLE!! Who subsequently scores while boat-racing everyone else on the field. The final score is 45-21, Lions lose. You have to admit that all the “Why is ESPN not talking about this?” tweets would be hilarious.
Ok, ok. I’ll stop with the jokes. In reality, the Lions would get a truly dynamic playmaker in the mold of Tyreek Hill. The special teams’ value alone is immense before we even get into what Waddle brings to an offense in terms of field-stretching ability. Waddle has elite speed, is becoming even more polished as a route runner, and is not afraid to go up and get the ball. Detroit will be getting my WR1 and a very, very good football player.
8.) Carolina Panthers
If this team has any of the top four QB’s fall to them at 8, Matt Rhule and Tepper better race to the podium to see who can say Trey Lance’s name first. This first season under Rhule had its ups and downs, as many would expect, but the Panthers should have learned that Bridgewater is not your long-term answer at QB. But since you can’t cut him this season (you know, $20 Million guaranteed will do that), you might as well pay him to mentor your next QB.
Trey Lance is a raw, ultra-talented QB prospect with a cannon on his right arm and pistons on his legs. Lance comes as close to Cam Newton’s running ability as any I’ve seen, and his arm talent is also absurd. Lance, however, will need a year or two to figure out how to make full-field reads and to fix his footwork issues that lead to the intermediate and short accuracy concerns. I’d expect him to sit a year or two behind Bridgewater before being named the starter.
9.) Denver Broncos
Patrick Surtain II
This fit makes way too much sense for PS2 (what I call Patrick Surtain II). Denver has a need at CB and the Broncos system requires a disciplined, press-man corner who can tackle at a high level. And would you look at that, I just described PS2. The Alabama corner isn’t the greatest athlete on the planet and I do have some minor concerns about his ball skills, but you will not find a more consistently good corner in this draft. The Broncos get an immediate contributor and my CB1.
10.) Dallas Cowboys
There are two things that the Dallas Secondary lacks. Good players (Sorry Trevon Diggs, you still have time) and the dawg mentality. Jaycee Horn brings both of those in spades. Horn is quite possibly the most confident CB in this class and it shows at the line of scrimmage, where Horn is at his best.
Getting whoever the Dallas Cowboys DC is (Hopefully not Nolan) a CB with a true lockdown mentality is the first step in rebuilding that defense. Horn could do to improve his tackling and presence in zone coverage, but as an overall man corner, you won’t find a better one in this class.
11.) New York Giants
Patrick Graham did a hell of a job with this Giants defense, and if he’s still there, he would love this pick. New York has very little talent in that front seven, especially at EDGE. So getting them one of the most athletic EDGE players in this class who is finally learning to put it together as a pass-rusher is a no brainer. Paye can be used anywhere from a 3-tech to a 9-tech, but he’s probably at his best from that 5-7-tech range. His quick first step and lighting-fast redirection allow him to work OTs from tighter alignments. The Michigan EDGE is still adding to his pass-rushing profile, but his ceiling will be enticing to the Giants front office.
12.) San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are another trade up candidate to me. They could easily mortgage their future draft picks to jump the Panthers or the Falcons and get their QB of the future right then and there. But, as I’ve said before, there are no trades in this mock (I know, I’m no fun). Since they are staying at 12, I decided to give the 49ers quite possibly the most athletic CB in this draft.
Rumored to run in the 4.3s at 6’3 and 200+ lbs, Farley is a naturally explosive athlete who is elite in off-man coverage. The rest of his game? Somehow raw. Farley has bad footwork in press coverage and bad eyes in zone coverage. But hey, is there any better player to teach him these things than Richard Sherman?? Probably Not.
13.) Los Angeles Chargers
The concept of this pick was very, very easy. Protect your new star. Now, who to pick was a little more difficult for me. I ended up with one name that’s quickly been rising up a lot of people’s boards. Christian Darrisaw.
A smooth athlete who moves very well despite being huge (6’5”, 315 lbs), Darrisaw can help at either tackle spot. The former Hokie is a dynamic finisher and mauler in the run game, constantly moving and redirecting people. His pass pro needs a bit of work, as his punches can be a bit inaccurate and his pass sets are unpolished at times. But if he gets his hands on you, you aren’t going anywhere. Just ask Quincy Roche.
14.) Minnesota Vikings
Would I pick Rousseau here?? No, I wouldn’t. Would a team needing an injection of talent along their defensive line take a shot on his upside? They 100% would. Hence the Vikings selecting Rousseau at this spot.
Rousseau would bring unique length, play strength, and versatility to this Vikings defensive line. He would take time, and a lot of it, to become a truly effective defensive lineman since almost all of his sacks were hustle plays and redirections. He lacks any real go-to pass rush moves and gets stalemated too often. I’d expect Rousseau to become effective against the run long before he becomes a good pass-rusher, but that’s only if he adds the needed wait.
15.) New England Patriots
Ok, I get it. The Patriots need lots of weapons to catch the ball. But there are 6 other rounds for that, especially since this is a deep WR draft. My gut tells me they go full Belichick in the top-15 and pick an extremely talented and versatile linebacker from Tulsa.
Collins is an extremely athletic tackling machine who shoots gaps and covers well, especially for his size. He is quick to diagnose things and attacks downfield well. There are some concerns with how he handles blocks, but overall the Tulsa product is very, very talented. Put him behind D’onta Hightower for a year and see him grow and thrive in the Patriots system.
16.) Arizona Cardinals
Kliff Kingsbury should have two objectives in the draft. Protect Kyler Murray and find ways to stop other teams. Since the value at corner has dropped, The Cardinals go for a talented OT/G from Northwestern who can play both spots well and help keep Kyler Murray on his feet.
Slater has strong hands and is a natural athlete who gets to the second level with ease. His strong base and anchor allows him to handle even the most violent bull rush (turn on the Chase Young tape), and his great feet make it easy for him to reset. He can struggle with length and bend at times, which makes a move inside seem a bit more likely.
17.) Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders need a ton of help defensively at all three levels. The backend can’t help but miss assignments and the front seven hasn’t stopped the run all year. So why not grab an athletic linebacker/safety combo who can impact both of those phases? Enter JOK.
The athleticism and ranginess will get you interested, but his nastiness and willingness to stick his nose into anything will keep you around. One of my favorite games of JOK to watch is him consistently lining up (and playing well) across from Amon-Ra St. Brown, a very good WR, in coverage. He has some size concerns and nobody is sure where you put him just yet, but JOK has the tools to be a very intriguing piece in the NFL.
18.) Miami Dolphins
Welcome back to the Tua party, DeVonta! Miami finally gets Tua a WR who can separate from DBs. It is quite possibly their biggest need going into the offseason and addressing it should, quite honestly, be their top priority.
And address it they will. DeVonta Smith is about as natural of a mover and separator as I’ve ever seen coming out of college. I honestly can’t think of one thing that DeVonta Smith doesn’t do well. He can run any route you ask of him, he has superb body control while in the air, and he can make plays after the catch. The only thing he can’t seem to figure out is how to put on a little weight, which will cause him to fall to the Dolphins.