2021 NFL Mock Draft: 49ers’ trade shakes up top picks as five quarterbacks go in top eight selections

NFL Free Agency is just about settled, pro days are winding down and a mega trade has made for some massive changes to draft projections. Mock draft season is about to hit a fever pitch!

The 49ers moved up to No. 3, likely positioning themselves to take the top quarterback available. There was apparently significant interest in moving up, as the Eagles reportedly explored the possibility of making the move to No. 3. Miami, not content with moving down, decided to move back into the top 10. With the Eagles realizing they were likely to miss out on the top quarterbacks, they decided to move down. Now the 49ers are at No. 3, the Dolphins are at No. 6 and the Eagles select at No. 12.

That doesn’t even get into any of the major waves caused in free agency. Kenny Golladay heads to New York, New England went on a spending spree and the Bears, well I’m not really sure what the Bears did. Either way, the NFL landscape has drastically changed since my last mock draft.

We are now less than a month away from the start of the 2021 NFL draft. Smokescreens will be popping up everywhere as teams angle to land the players they really want on draft day.

The draft order is according to Tankathon. Here is what I would do based on my scouting as we wrap up March. Let’s dive into this two-round mock!

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1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Despite what Chris Simms might have to say, I just don’t see the Jaguars passing on Trevor Lawrence. He brings elite physical traits, tons of big-game experience and leadership to an organization that desperately lacks it most of the time. There is a chance he immediately becomes the best quarterback in franchise history. Mark Brunell and Byron Leftwich had their moments, but Lawrence has a chance to be special.

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2. New York Jets (2-14) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Possibly the most telling thing about San Francisco trading up to No. 3 is that the Jets were clearly not willing to trade down. Had New York been willing to move down, that likely would have been the deal here. Instead, it seems like the Jets are going to take a new quarterback to replace Sam Darnold. Zach Wilson looked fantastic at his pro day and his film offers a ton to get excited about. If he can stay healthy in the NFL, which is my biggest concern about him at this point, he has Pro Bowl potential.

3. San Francisco 49ers via Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans (6-10) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
We knew there were going to be trades. I don’t think people expected them to be happening this early in the process. Kyle Shanahan gets a chance to draft his quarterback of the future. While some will advocate for Justin Fields, I think Trey Lance has a higher ceiling. He needs to work on his consistency and polish his footwork, but the physical traits he brings to the table are the best of anyone in the class. He is a tough runner and has a huge arm. Sitting for a year behind Jimmy Garoppolo would be a great opportunity to get acclimated with the NFL before taking over in 2022 as the starter.

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4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
The trade attention now shifts to Atlanta. The Falcons could very easily stand pat and take the best player on their board, like Kyle Pitts, Ja’Marr Chase or Penei Sewell. Interest will be high in this pick from teams looking to trade up for a quarterback though. Denver, Chicago, Carolina and New England would all likely jump at the chance to move up to grab Justin Fields. I didn’t mock any trades this time, but even if I did, I don’t know that I would’ve had Atlanta trade down. The opportunity to grab a high-upside quarterback like Fields does not come around too often. He has solid arm strength, good mobility and incredible toughness. He has a long way to go with his reads and overall technique, but there is enough there for Atlanta to stay put.

5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
This is probably the best-case scenario for Cincinnati. Miami moving down likely clears a path to Penei Sewell for the Bengals. There is still a chance the Falcons could grab him, but that is far from likely. I know the team signed Riley Reiff, but that does not inspire a ton of confidence for me. Sewell could develop into a top-five tackle in the NFL, well above Reiff’s current level. Protecting Joe Burrow is the priority. That shouldn’t change.

6. Miami Dolphins via Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
What a masterstroke by Miami. The Dolphins ultimately move down three spots and take the player they likely would’ve grabbed at No. 3. Ja’Marr Chase gives Miami a clear WR1 for the future. It also sets up Tua Tagovailoa with an exciting complement of weapons for 2021 with Chase, DeVante Parker, Will Fuller and Mike Gesicki. With three more picks in the top 50, Miami can continue to add pieces around Tagovailoa and build out their talented defense.

7. Detroit Lions (5-11) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Kenny Golladay is in New York. Marvin Jones is, strangely, in Jacksonville. Someone needs to catch passes other than T.J. Hockenson. Jaylen Waddle has the ability to take a top off any defense. He is one of the most electric receivers in the draft. Whether you believe Jared Goff is the long-term answer at quarterback or not, the front office needs to rebuild this roster. Finding a playmaker like Waddle could prove to be invaluable in a year or two.

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8. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Some people call this a reach. I think this is a great spot for Mac Jones. Carolina is not too far away from competing in the NFC. Mac Jones might be the most pro ready passer in this draft class. He has incredible touch on his throws and at the very least the functional athleticism required to play the position. His arm strength is average, but it is an NFL caliber arm. Matt Rhule seemed to love working with him at the Senior Bowl. I think he would be thrilled to work with him more. I trust Joe Brady to maximize Jones’ skill set.

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9. Denver Broncos (5-11) – Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
Sure, Garrett Bolles finally played like a franchise tackle in 2020, but is that what we expect to see going forward? Him maintaining that level is far from a guarantee. Even if he can sustain it, Denver has no real solution at right tackle at the moment. I believe Rashawn Slater could start at either tackle or guard spot in the NFL and be successful. He has his highest potential at guard, but that position simply does not carry as much value around the league. Starting him off at right tackle would be a good way to introduce him to the NFL.

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10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Dallas already has half of Alabama’s defensive backfield. Why not reunite Trevon Diggs with Patrick Surtain II in Big D? The Cowboys need a corner in the worst way and this defense needs an overhaul after a brutal 2020 season. Surtain brings great size, coverage flexibility and tons of experience to the table. He competed against some great receivers in the SEC and also faced off with DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs in practice in recent years. I would feel very comfortable slotting him in as CB1 across from Diggs.

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11. New York Giants (6-10) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
New York spent big in free agency and as a result, the Giants now have a lot more flexibility heading into the NFL draft. They could target an offensive lineman to bolster Daniel Jones’ protection or grab another offensive weapon, but I think finding a linebacker to revamp that entire unit is the smartest move here. Micah Parsons has great range, bonus pass rush ability and elite size for the position. I know there are some character concerns here, but as a Bill Belichick disciple, I don’t think they will scare off Joe Judge. Parsons would completely change the perception of the Giants’ front seven. He and Leonard Williams would offer two great building blocks up the middle of the defense.

12. Philadelphia Eagles via San Francisco 49ers (4-11-1) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
I promise you, I don’t hate Kyle Pitts. I could definitely see him going before this, but given the run on quarterbacks, he could slide a bit on draft day. This would be a dream scenario for the Eagles to move down and still land one of the top receiving prospects in the draft. Pitts is at his best flexed out like a wide receiver, but he is more than capable of playing inline as well. He has enough blocking ability to be considered a well-rounded tight end. Honestly, his pass catching ability and athleticism alone should probably override any concerns about his blocking. He would be a great fit for Philly’s offense, taking over Zach Ertz’s role across from Dallas Goedert.

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13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
It is tempting to grab an offensive lineman here, but DeVonta Smith is a special talent at receiver. Los Angeles would form one of the best receiver tandems in the league with him and Keenan Allen. Both are elite route runners, but Smith brings a bit more juice to the table. He doesn’t have game-breaking speed, but he will run by you if you are not careful. Given what we saw out of Justin Herbert in Year 1, I think giving him another top receiver is a great way to help him build off his Rookie of the Year campaign.

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14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
Minnesota cut starting left tackle Riley Reiff and has a question mark at left guard as well. Alijah Vera-Tucker could theoretically fill either void. After starting his career as a dominant guard, AVT more than held his own on the outside in 2020 for USC. I believe he best projects as an interior prospect, but he has the potential to be a starting tackle in the NFL. His versatility will only make him more appealing to the Vikings.

15. New England Patriots (7-9) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Rumors continue to swirl that Stephon Gilmore could be traded this year. Even if he stays, Jason McCourty is still a free agent and the Patriots could use someone to play across from Gilmore. Farley lost some traction after sitting out the 2020 season, but he brings impressive length and proven production from his 2019 season with the Hokies. His ability to disrupt opponent’s routes and his strength to break up passes should bode well at the next level.

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16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Patrick Peterson is gone and Arizona has no clear replacement. Byron Murphy is still only 23, but early signs point to him being better suited as a CB2 rather than a top option. Jaycee Horn can slot in across from Murphy and give the Cardinals a talented young duo in the defensive backfield. Horn is comfortable playing in all sorts of coverages from his time with South Carolina. He regularly pressed, played off ball, slid back into quarters or played over the top in three deep all within the same game while playing under Will Muschamp. His versatility gives him a solid floor to work with and his size speaks to his potential ceiling.

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17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
I considered going offensive line here after Las Vegas dismantled its starting unit this offseason, but this secondary desperately needs help. Trevon Moehrig is a well-rounded safety capable of playing in a centerfield role, dropping down into the box or playing one-on-one coverage. He brings great size to the position as well. Considering that the Raiders had arguably the worst starting safety duo in the league in 2020, this represents a huge need and nice value to grabbing the top option in this class.

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18. Miami Dolphins (10-6) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Running backs are luxury picks these days in the first round of the NFL draft. Well, the Dolphins have positioned themselves well to invest in this luxury. Myles Gaskin went through strong stretches, but Miami spent most of the season attempting to find a reliable option in its backfield. Najee Harris was incredibly reliable during his career at Alabama. He played with Tua Tagovailoa as well, so reuniting them makes a ton of sense. Harris’ blend of power, agility and pass catching is rare. I think he will have an immediate impact on this offense.

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19. Washington Football Team (7-9) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
While Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the long-term answer for Washington, he gives the team a clear starting option for 2021. Taylor Henickie is a fun project and the front office could look to add another developmental option in the later rounds. Washington can now shift its focus to rebuilding its offensive line. Christian Darrisaw would finally give Washington a replacement to Trent Williams. He is a bit raw, but he checks all the boxes from a physical standpoint. Darrisaw should compete for the starting left tackle job from Day 1.

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20. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
He will definitely need a bit of coaching at the pro level, but I think Samuel Cosmi could be a good left tackle in the NFL. His technique is all over the place, but he has a ton of power, incredible size and better than average athleticism for the position. This might not totally fit what the Bears will do on draft day because the front office is in win-now mode, but he would be a wise investment along an offensive line that needs to be turned over.

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21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
Gregory Rousseau is truly one of the biggest mysteries in this draft class. I could see him coming off the board as early as No. 9, but after sitting out 2020, there is just so much unknown about him. He had a fantastic 2019 season, but that is the only college film teams have to look at. His pro day is Monday, March 29, so a strong performance could see him move back up draft boards, but for now, he slides to the 20s. Rousseau would be a great fit as a 4-3 end for the Colts, who lost Denico Autry and Justin Houston (most likely, he hasn’t signed anywhere yet) in free agency.

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22. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
After signing Bud Dupree and losing Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith in free agency, Tennessee’s draft needs look very different than they did a few weeks ago. The Titans already have an elite receiver in A.J. Brown, but Ryan Tannehill needs some more weapons to work with. Kadarius Toney is an incredible route runner with good speed and solid hands. He would be a fun complement to Brown in this Titans offense. His start and stop ability should fit really well Tennessee’s play-action-heavy offense.

23. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (2-14) – Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
The rise of Greg Newsome continues. He has great range and agility, particularly for a player with his size and length. His ability to make plays on the ball stands out in his film. New York desperately needs a starting option at corner. I believe Bryce Hall could develop into a solid second option, but Newsome would give Robert Saleh a No. 1 corner to build his secondary around. Don’t be surprised if the Jets double down and grab another corner later in this draft. Their secondary is depleted.

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24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Liam Eichenburg, OT, Notre Dame
Is this a sexy pick? Far from it. However, landing a player capable of starting from Day 1 at right tackle is a solid investment for the Steelers. Liam Eichenburg will not blow you away with athleticism, but he is a polished prospect with good technique, solid footwork and requisite play strength. He could very easily be Pittsburgh’s right tackle for the next 8 to 10 years. Considering how quickly Ben Roethlisberger’s pass protection deteriorated as the 2020 season went on, this is going to be a top priority come draft time.

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25. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (1-15) – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Tyson Alualu spurned the Jaguars and defensive tackle might be the team’s biggest need outside of quarterback. Taven Bryant has not developed as expected and no one else on this roster has shown the ability to start at the position. Christian Barmore would give Jacksonville a high-upside option capable of playing at least a rotational role from Day 1. He is a handful to contain along the interior and routinely collapsed the pocket for Alabama. In a weaker defensive tackle class, Barmore stands out.

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26. Cleveland Browns (11-5) – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB/S, Notre Dame
Box safety? Coverage linebacker? You decide. Cleveland could probably use both and could start Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in either role. Owusu-Koramoah flew around the field from his linebacker spot at Notre Dame, but with reports that he is closer to 200 pounds than he is to 225 pounds, he might be best suited as a safety at the next level. He could reasonably start alongside newly acquired John Johnson or slide into the slot in sub packages. Either way, he would provide some much needed speed and coverage ability to a defense desperately lacking in those two departments.

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27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Baltimore was involved in contract talks with several receivers during free agency, but came away with just Sammy Watkins when the dust settled. That does not move the needle in 2021. Rashod Bateman would bring some much-needed size to this receiver corps. He can become Lamar Jackson’s go-to possession receiver. Bateman has yards after catch ability as well. He dominated the Big Ten in 2019 before playing in about half of Minnesota’s 2020 season. His numbers were a lot less impressive, but his physical profile and past success makes him an intriguing target at the end of round one.

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28. New Orleans Saints (12-4) – Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
Kwon Alexander is gone. So is Alex Anzalone. Demario Davis is 32. New Orleans needs to rebuild its linebacker room. It would not be a surprise to see the Saints trade out of this spot to acquire more draft picks and rebuild the depth on its roster with rookie contracts given its current cap situation either. If they say put, Jabril Cox is built to play linebacker in the NFL in 2021. He is fast enough to cover tight ends and strong enough to sift through traffic and make tackles around the line of scrimmage. If he runs well at his pro day on March 31, there is a chance he could vault himself into the top 20.

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29. Buffalo Bills (13-3) – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Buffalo took care of its own free agents and set itself up for another deep postseason run in 2021. The biggest hole on the roster right now is a corner to line up across from Tre’Davious White. Eric Stokes ran a blazing sub 4.3-second 40-yard dash at Georgia’s pro day. That backs up the speed you see when you turn on his tape. He brings great athleticism and impressive ball skills. He should be in line to start from Day 1.

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30. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Green Bay got solid production from Kamal Martin and Krys Barnes, but neither one of those players should prevent the Packers from tabbing Zaven Collins. Collins is a bit of a throwback, listed at 260 pounds on Tulsa’s website. He is an off-ball linebacker with a good first step. He is not an elite pass rusher, but he can line up on the outside or on the interior. His ability in space and in coverage makes him an exciting prospect in the NFL. Collins has a lot of room for growth, but his athleticism means his ceiling is incredibly high.

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31. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
The Chiefs spent big to beef up the interior of its offensive line. However, they also cut starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. I fully expect Kansas City to invest in a tackle early in the draft. Jalen Mayfield can start at right tackle early on and has the potential to move to the left side of the line in the future. At 6’5″, 320 pounds, he has the prototypical size for an NFL tackle and moves well for a player of his stature. He will need time to develop with very little time spent playing left tackle in college, but this is worth the investment at this spot for KC.

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32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) – Kwity Paye, DL, Michigan
Tampa did an excellent job keeping its core together, re-signing a number of key players to make another championship run. However, most of those contracts are short-term pacts. The Buccaneers need to start preparing for when players like Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and William Gholston are gone. Kwity Paye is a bit smaller than Gholston, but he has unrivaled athleticism at his size. He is going to need a year or two to really get up to speed in the NFL, but I think Todd Bowles would be able to maximize his abilities. Paye has the potential to be a starter in 2022 and beyond.

33. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Surrounding Trevor Lawrence with more talent is important. Pat Freiermuth is the clear second-best tight end prospect in this draft. He is an inline prospect who can block well and brings plenty of receiving ability. He would be a massive upgrade at the position for Jacksonville.

34. New York Jets (2-14) – Carlos Basham, DL, Wake Forest
Even with the addition of Carl Lawson, the Jets need help along the edge. Carlos Basham has great length to be a 4-3 end in Robert Saleh’s defense. He would round out a suddenly very exciting front four for New York.

35. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Atlanta continues its search for an edge rusher. After spending several premium picks and some cap space in recent years, this could be the end of the line. There are health concerns with Jaelan Phillips, which is why I think he could fall out of the first round, but when he is healthy, he can be very disruptive. His speed off the edge makes him dangerous.

36. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-6) – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Linebacker is one of the few weak spots on Miami’s defense. Jamin Davis could compete with Jerome Baker for the starting job right away. He is a late riser in the draft process, but Davis has the athleticism and size to be a quality starter at inside linebacker.

37. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) – Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky
Back-to-back picks from Kentucky. After grabbing a top-tier offensive weapon, the Eagles need to find a corner opposite Darius Slay. Kelvin Joseph is rather inexperienced as a redshirt sophomore, but Philadelphia is in no hurry. It can allow Joseph to get up to speed as it works to turn over the roster.

38. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) – Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
Cincinnati passed on one of Joe Burrow’s former favorite targets, but they can land another in the second round. Terrace Marshall scored 23 touchdowns in his final two seasons at LSU. He and Tee Higgins would form an exciting tandem on the outside with Tyler Boyd playing out of the slot.

39. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
After grabbing their quarterback of the future, Carolina would be wise to beef up its offensive line to avoid a similar situation to what the Bengals encountered with Joe Burrow. Wyatt Davis would immediately become the favorite to start at left guard in 2021. He is a roadgrader with good athleticism for the position.

40. Denver Broncos (6-10) – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
With a top offensive lineman on board, Denver turns its focus to Vic Fangio’s defense. Nick Bolton feels like a great fit in the middle of that front seven. A.J. Johnson and Josey Jewell are both free agents following the 2021 season. Bolton could ease that blow and provide some quality depth right off the bat.

41. Detroit Lions (6-10) – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
For a few years, Detroit has been searching for an edge rusher. Joe Tryon has above average play strength and a solid set of pass rushing moves. He strikes me as a player with a high floor, but maybe not the highest ceiling. Lining him up across from Romeo Okwara would give the Lions solid pieces to bookend their defensive line.

42. New York Giants (6-10) – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
I don’t anticipate Azeez Ojulari falling this far, but this is around where I think he should go. He has some impressive physical tools, but he lacks polish and only has one pass rush move. Still, his traits are more than enough for the Giants to work with at this stage. Even if he never turns into a 10 sacks per season type player, he can be a solid contributor as a 3-4 linebacker.

43. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Perhaps lost in the hype around Ojulari and Stokes was that Tyson Campbell ran sub 4.4 at 6’1″. He is not the same type of playmaker as Stokes, but he offers good length on the outside and should be capable of developing into a starter very early in his career. With Richard Sherman likely leaving San Francisco, the 49ers will be looking for help in the secondary.

44. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
If I’m Jerry Jones, I am working hard in this draft to retool my defense. Joseph Ossai is an exciting project off the edge with loads of potential. He could very easily be the team’s starting defensive end across from DeMarcus Lawrence in Week 1. He is a bit raw, having played in more of a off-ball linebacker role prior to 2020, but that only underscores his potential to improve as he learns the position.

45. Jacksonville Jaguars via Minnesota Vikings (1-15) – Dillon Radunz, OL, North Dakota State
Jacksonville franchised Cam Robinson for 2021, but that feels more like a band-aid than a desire to keep him around long term. Dillon Radunz has the potential to play tackle or kick inside to guard like he did at the Senior Bowl. Either way, his size and versatility should be more than enough to entice the Jaguars at this spot.

46. New England Patriots (7-9) – James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati
While New England pulled off a great move to bring back Trent Brown, he will be a free agent following the 2021 season. Finding his successor now rather than waiting until next year feels like a Bill Belichick move. James Hudson is an athletic tackle rising up draft boards after a strong season with Cincinnati. He could be the team’s 2022 starter at right tackle or even compete for the left tackle spot, ultimately moving Isaiah Wynn to guard.

47. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) – Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
Los Angeles continues this run on offensive linemen. They pushed the need down the board a bit by signing Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler, but this group is still far from a strength. Alex Leatherwood brings great position versatility, having slide all over Alabama’s line in college. He struggled a bit at the Senior Bowl, which might point to him being better suited to play guard at the next level, but he will provide immediate depth and a projectable starter in 2022 and beyond.

48. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) – Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa
Credit the Raiders front office for landing Yannick Ngakoue, but there is still a massive need in the middle of this defense. Solomon Thomas is a solid stop gap, but Daviyon Nixon could be the long-term solution next to Maurice Hurst. He brings pass-rush ability, good power and impressive agility for a man his size. He was a bit inconsistent at Iowa, but his best plays were special.

49. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
The slide finally stops for Travis Etienne. Arizona let Kenyan Drake walk in free agency and would be happy to add the former Clemson homerun hitter. Pairing Etienne with Kyler Murrary might give the Cardinals the most explosive backfield in the NFL. Both of them are capable of making a house call on any given play. That should give defensive coordinators nightmares.

50. Miami Dolphins (10-6) – Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
Kyle Van Noy only lasted one season with the Dolphins. Miami will be in the market for a pass rusher. Quincy Roche is definitely a bit undersized, but he offers immediate upside as a situational pass rusher. He showed his speed at the Senior Bowl, turning the corner against some of the best linemen in this draft class. Keeping him in Miami would be a good move for the Fins.

51. Washington (7-9) – Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC
The trio of Cole Holcomb, Jon Bostic and Khaleke Hudson falls into the category of solid, but unspectacular. Chazz Surratt is still learning to play linebacker after starting his career at UNC as a quarterback. His upside is clear, but at the age of 24, he probably won’t be working his way into the first round. Still, he could provide some solid depth before taking over a starting spot in 2022.

52. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF
Chicago made the surprising move to release Kyle Fuller, creating a clear hole at corner across from Jaylon Johnson. Aaron Robinson is a physical player who is very comfortable jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. He was one of the standouts during one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl. Expect him to compete for a starting job right away.

53. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – Jevon Holland, DB, Oregon
Tennessee’s secondary is a bit of a work in progress. Signing Janoris Jenkins gives the Titans a capable starter on the outside with Chris Jackson across from him. 2020 second-round pick Krisitan Fulton is still in the mix too. Jevon Holland could play the nickel corner role and generally move around in sub packages for this defense. He has experience at both safety positions and has a nose for the football. Mike Vrabel would enjoy moving him around the field to cause confusion.

54. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
After tons of buzz that the Colts were going to be players in the wide receiver market, Indy walked away with nothing. They do have an exciting young wideout in Michael Pittman Jr. and a bit of an unknown in Parris Campbell, who has missed most of his first two seasons with injury. Elijah Moore would give the Colts an explosive playmaker in the slot. He is an excellent route runner and has impressive short-area quickness.

55. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Javonte Williams, RB, UNC
A running back who plays like a linebacker? That might be the most Steelers thing ever. Javonte Williams is a former high school linebacker who runs angry. His yards after contact ability and willingness to take on blocks makes him an ideal three-down back for the Steelers. He might not have quite as much juice as his counterpart Michael Carter, but he can make some plays in the open field and would give Pittsburgh a much-needed runner to balance this offense.

56. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Russell Wilson is unhappy with his protection. Teven Jenkins is a bit raw and will likely stay on the right side his entire career, but he should compete with Brandon Shell for the starting right tackle job on Day 1. At 6’6″, 320 pounds, he has the requisite size needed to play the position. He will just need to get up to speed.

57. Los Angeles Rams (10-6) – Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
While some have Landon Dickerson much higher on their draft boards, his injury history scares me. When he was healthy, he was a dominant force in the middle of Alabama’s offensive line. He wasn’t healthy often though, suffering four season-ending injuries in five years. At pick 57 though, the Rams are willing to gamble on his long-term health, early reports are that Dickerson is crushing his rehab, to find a starting center.

58. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) – Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
Matt Judon’s exit leaves the Ravens searching for a potential replacement. Jayson Oweh brings the physical tools to fill Judon’s shoes and more, in time. He is an incredible raw prospect with essentially zero sack production. However, the Ravens have a good track record with developing pass rushers. They should be willing to wait on his development, knowing he could turn into a dynamic starter.

59. Cleveland Browns (11-5) – Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
Cleveland took a flier on Tak McKinnley, but that will hardly prevent them from grabbing an edge prospect to develop. Ronnie Perkins finished his Oklahoma career on a tear, posting impressive numbers in his final few games. He is not an elite athlete in NFL terms, but Perkins gets the job done and could be a solid starter across from Myles Garrett.

60. New Orleans Saints (12-4) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
With Emmauel Sanders now in Buffalo and Jared Cook in Los Angeles, the Saints are going to need another pass catcher to take the focus off Michael Thomas. Rondale Moore possesses game-breaking speed and impressive quickness. He burst onto the scene in 2018, but injuries derailed the rest of his college career. He is an undersized receiver, but he could be very effective out of the slot, especially in Sean Payton’s offense.

61. Buffalo Bills (13-3) – Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh
If college production matters to you, Patrick Jones II should be near the top of your prospect list. He 31 sacks over his final three seasons at Pittsburgh. He needs to improve his technique and work on rushing with a plan. Jones got a bit exposed at the Senior Bowl, but there is enough on film for me to think he could go late round two and have an immediate impact in pass rushing situations.

62. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Ifeatu Melinfonwu, CB, Syracuse
If you are looking for a long corner with off-the-charts athleticism, look no further than Ifeatu Melinfonwu. He posted a 41.5-inch vertical at his pro day and ran sub 4.5 in the 40-yard dash. At 6’2″, he has the physical tools to be a disruptive corner at the next level. He has a bit of a ways to go development wise, but Green Bay could view him as a potential 2022 starter and important depth after their secondary fell apart in the NFC Championship game.

63. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – Anthony Schwartz, WR, Auburn
This just makes too much sense. Kansas City loves receivers who can turn on the after burners. Anthony Schwartz reportedly ran a 4.26 40-yard dash at his pro day. That speed is very apparent on film as well. He is a bit wiry at 6’0″ and only 180 pounds, but he can fly in the open field, and that is exactly what the Chiefs are looking for after losing Sammy Watkins.

64. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) – Jay Tufele, DL, USC
Tampa continues to plan for the future. Jay Tufele definitely fits the mold of a 3-4 defensive end. He had a strong 2019 season before opting out of 2020. His draft profile is mostly about projection. He didn’t have a ton of production in college, but after posting 30 reps on the bench and running a sub five-second 40-yard dash at 315 pounds during his pro day, there is more than enough to pique the Bucs interest in him. He could be a potential successor to Ndamukong Suh.

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NCAA Tournament Takeaways: What we learned from women’s round of 64 and men’s round of 32

The best time of year on the sports calendar definitely delivered. With 48 NCAA tournament games played over the course of Sunday and Monday between the men’s and women’s divisions, there was no shortage of basketball action to watch. Hopefully, it made the start of your work week more tolerable. The men’s tournament has whittled its way down to 16 remaining teams and will take the rest of the week off. The women keep rolling on Tuesday with the round of 32.

I don’t know that anything could top what we saw over the first two days of the men’s tournament, but the past two days came pretty close. If you missed anything from the weekend or are just looking to catch up on the big storylines, let me catch you up on what we learned.

Best is yet to come in women’s bracket

After an incredibly boring first day of action, the women’s NCAA tournament started to heat up on Monday. Every single favored seed won on Sunday, with lower seeded teams going 16-0. Georgia Tech did pull off a stunning 17-point second-half comeback to beat upset-minded Stephen F. Austin in overtime. That was about the only real excitement we got on Day 1. Things changed in a big way on Day 2. 11-seed BYU knocked off No. 6 Rutgers for the first upset of the 2021 tournament. Belmont then stunned Gonzaga in a 5-12 seed upset. Wright State took it up a notch, beating 3-seed Arkansas to really shake up the bracket. The best game of the day though was probably the upset that didn’t happen. Troy came agonizingly close to being the first 15-seed to beat a 2-seed. Texas A&M got a little bit of help from the refs to secure its spot in the round of 32, ending what would have been an awesome Cinderella story. You can tell me what you think, but this looks like a backcourt violation to me.

We will get better matchups going forward. Michigan draws Tennessee on Tuesday. Iowa vs. Kentucky should also be thrilling. Could Syracuse possibly topple UConn without coach Geno Auriemma and starting guard Nika Muhl in doubt due to injury? It’s unlikely, but there should hopefully be a bit more intrigue as we move further along. Don’t just write off the division because we had a lackluster start to the proceedings. You never know when you might get an Arike Ogunbowale moment. That’s what makes it March Madness.

Chaos reigns in the men’s bracket

Speaking of 15 seeds, Oral Roberts continues its unlikely run, becoming just the second 15-seed to ever reach the Sweet 16. Max Abmus and company took down an SEC power this time in Florida and set up a date with another SEC school in Arkansas. While that is all wild and fun, it probably isn’t even the most shocking region in the field. Illinois fell to Loyola Chicago, Oregon State knocked off Oklahoma State and Syracuse toppled West Virginia. Rutgers also came very close to upsetting Houston, ultimately blowing an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. Still, the region is guaranteed to have either an 8-seed or a 12-seed in the Elite Eight. Plus, don’t rule out the Orange taking out the Cougars given how well Buddy Boeheim and company are shooting the rock. In total, there are four double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16.

We could still end up with a very chalky Final Four, but that’s looking less and less likely with every round. It seems like there are a few more upsets on the horizon and we could end up with a very high seed participating in the final weekend of the tournament.

Pac-12 does it again

In both divisions, the self-proclaimed Conference of Champions continues to excel. On the women’s side, that was expected. Pac-12 women’s teams went 6-1, with Washington State the only team to not make it out of the first round. The Cougars were also the only underdog, at least from a seeding perspective. It speaks to the dominance of the conference as a whole.

Meanwhile, the men’s Pac-12 teams are pulling off upsets left and right. I already mentioned Oregon State knocking out Oklahoma State. USC stormed past Kansas, handing the Jayhawks their worst loss in NCAA tournament history. Oregon dropped 95 points on Iowa to end the Hawkeyes’ title hopes. UCLA also cruised into the Sweet 16, taking care of Abilene Christian. Only Colorado came up short, getting blown out by Florida State. Ironically, Colorado was the highest men’s team from the conference this year. In a year where nothing makes sense, at least that still applies to basketball.

What’s wrong with the men from the Big Ten?

All season long, we heard about how great the Big Ten was. The conference was incredibly deep, evidenced by the eight teams from the conference to make the field, including two No. 1 seeds. After two rounds, only Michigan remains, and the Wolverines were definitely tested by LSU. Illinois suffered a shocking upset. Iowa got blitzed in transition by Oregon, despite Luka Garza scoring 36 points. Ohio State didn’t even reach the second round. After I panned the ACC for only having two teams left after the first round, it has more teams in the Sweet 16 than the Big Ten does. Maybe it was just fatigue after a long season of beating up on each other, but this has to go down as a disappointment for the conference after all of its regular-season success.

Why wasn’t Baylor a No. 1 seed again?

The defending champions in the women’s division narrowly missed being on the top line, instead settling for a No. 2 seed. After watching the Lady Bears drop 101 points on Jackson State while NC State struggled early against North Carolina A&T, it is fair to question if the committee got it right. Now, the Wolfpack did lose Kayla Jones to injury, but after one round, it certainly looks like the committee messed up. It happens all the time. On the men’s side, it is clear Loyola Chicago deserved better than a No. 8 seed. If it sounds like I am splitting hairs, consider this: Baylor has to go through UConn to reach the Final Four (assuming both teams make it that far.) NC State would draw Texas A&M, who nearly lost to Troy, if seeding holds the rest of the way. I don’t care how good you are, you would rather be playing Texas A&M with a trip to the Final Four on the line than UConn.

CBS gets creative with its graphics

March Madness has undoubtedly delivered on the hype, particularly after skipping a year, but I don’t think anyone could have anticipated this gem. Greg Gumbel’s face will no doubt be a meme for years to come. This clip has already made its rounds on social media, and I don’t think it will stop any time soon. What makes it even better, is that CBS doubled down and used these weird Mii adjacent dancers, this time supported by their television producers as backup dancers.

The Madness is clearly spreading. I apologize if you cannot unsee this.

Just stop checking your bracket

If you are like me, your bracket is likely toast by now. I picked Illinois to win it all in the men’s division and I picked all the wrong early-round upsets on the women’s side. Only two perfect brackets remain in ESPN’s Women’s Tournament Challenge. I honestly don’t know if anyone successfully predicted the 16 teams left in the men’s bracket. This seems like a good time to mention that ESPN has a Second Chance Bracket. No, it’s not nearly as fun, but I will never get tired of filling these things out.

NCAA Tournament Takeaways: What we learned from men’s first round

The greatest time of year on the sports calendar is finally here. We have all waited a very long time to enjoy March Madness. At long last, our full days of meaningful basketball games have returned! The men’s NCAA tournament is off to a thrilling start and there is still plenty to come with the second round of action on Sunday and the women’s tournament getting underway. With the first 36 games in the books on the men’s side, let’s take a look at what we learned.

We really missed March Madness

Whether it was Oral Roberts stunning Ohio State, Ohio knocking out the defending champs, or complaining about our brackets being busted, it was so good to have the NCAA tournament back. Friday really spoiled us with tons of upsets and three overtime games. Saturday was a bit more tame early on, but we still had plenty to talk about with Virginia losing its first NCAA tournament game since the biggest upset ever against UMBC in 2018, VCU bowing out due to COVID-19 positive tests and Abilene Christian shocking Texas. To put it in perspective, my friend Akshat offers a very sobering comparison.

Needless to say, we all needed March Madness back in our lives. The second round of the men’s tournament starts Sunday, as does the first round of the women’s tournament. There are going to be an absurd number of basketball games on. Savor these moments. As we learned last year, we can’t take it for granted and before we know it, the season will be over and we will be without college basketball once again.

The NCAA still has a long way to go on gender equity

This should come as no surprise, but the women competing in San Antonio were not given the same treatment as their male counterparts in Indianapolis. While the men had a full weight room, the women had one weight rack with a few dumbbells. Thankfully, Oregon’s Sedona Prince was unwilling to stand for this.

The NCAA botched the whole situation. They issued all kinds of excuses and apologies, but that does not erase the very apparent issue. The NCAA does not have the best interests of women’s college sports at heart. I get that the men’s game makes more revenue, but for the governing body of college sports to not only allow, but play a hand in increasing the gap between men’s and women’s sports is disgusting. All signs point to Mark Emmert being unqualified to hold his position. Thankfully, athletes from the NBA, WNBA and men’s college hoops spoke up on social media and Prince’s tweet went viral. It made national news broadcasts across the country and reignited the conversation surrounding a lack of funding and respect for female college athletes. I won’t pretend that this fixes everything, but it is good to put the spotlight on the issue. And, as a result, the NCAA fixed the situation.

It is nice to see that these athletes can use their platform to advocate for themselves, but it is way past time for these things to stop happening. Hopefully, the NCAA actually learns something from this incident and addresses how they prioritize their athletes. I won’t be holding my breath though.

Cinderella is alive and well

Four teams seeded 13 or higher reached the Round of 32 for the first time in tournament history. No. 13 North Texas, No. 13 Ohio, No. 14 Abilene Christian and No. 15 Oral Roberts all booked spots in the second round in stunning fashion. In total, nine double-digit seeds made it through the first round. With Abilene Christian set to face No. 11 UCLA, we are guaranteed to have a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. In a year unlike any other, there was bound to be upsets. I expected that. This level of chaos was not something I saw coming.

Could one of these teams truly be Cinderella and reach the Final Four? Recent history suggests that it is likely. From 2013 to 2018, a team seeded 7th or higher made it to the Final Four. No. 11 Loyola Chicago did in 2018. No. 7 South Carolina made it to the final weekend in 2017. No. 10 Syracuse stunned everyone with a semifinal appearance in 2016. No. 7 Michigan State reached the Final Four in 2015. No. 7 UConn beat No. 8 Kentucky in the National Championship game in 2014. What a wild year that was. No. 9 Wichita State made a semifinal run in 2013. It is far from a guarantee, but all signs point to another unforeseen team making a deep run.

If I had to pick one team from this year’s group, I am looking at UCLA. Michigan is not at full strength without Isaiah Livers. Alabama looked plenty mortal against Iona. Florida State and Colorado have high ceilings, but low floors. Mick Cronin’s group is my pick to play Cinderella this year after watching the first round.

Pac-12 came to play

Only one conference in men’s college hoops emerges from the first round undefeated. The Pac-12 went 5-0 as Colorado, USC, Oregon, UCLA and Oregon State all advanced to the round of 32. Now, that record has an asterisk because Oregon advanced without actually playing, but this is still incredibly impressive. Georgetown was a very trendy upset pick over Colorado, but the Buffaloes blew out the Hoyas by 23. In fact, all four teams that actually played won by double digits, which is just unheard of. None of these teams were seeded a five seed.

Now, the task gets much harder going forward. Florida State, Kansas, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma State await, but after what we have seen so far, it would be a mistake to count this conference out. Remember this next year when you are making your bracket. It’s important to eliminate that East Coast bias.

ACC was as bad as we thought

Speaking of teams on the East Coast, the ACC was downright terrible. And this should not come as a shock. Despite having seven teams in the tournament field, this was a down year for the conference. Virginia and Florida State were the highest-seeded teams, landing on the four-seed line. Much has been made of Duke’s struggles, but they were far from the only blue blood to miss a step this year. UNC was incredibly inconsistent. Georgia Tech was too. Virginia Tech and Clemson faded down the stretch. Louisville, who arguably should’ve been in the field, had some ugly losses. The bottom of the conference was really bad as well. Miami, Notre Dame, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest all finished with losing records. A 2-5 showing in the first round feels like a fair reflection. Syracuse and Florida State advance, but their opponents, West Virginia and Colorado respectively, could very well keep the ACC out of the Sweet 16 all together.

What home state advantage?

Purdue was the only school from the state of Indiana to go dancing his year. The Boilermakers earned a top-four seed and seemed poised for a potential Sweet 16 run playing in front of a largely pro-Purdue crowd. North Texas had other ideas. Until arenas are back to full capacity, it might be hard to count on location making much of a difference in the outcome of games. These limited capacity crowds are really fun. Grand Canyon students gave us some memorable moments, but it is clear crowd noise and energy is still not too much of a factor.

All or nothing for Virginia

This time around, it is a bit more understandable why the Cavaliers were upset. The team was not able to practice all week due to COVID-19 protocols and the rust was clear on offense. UVa scored its fewest points of the season as they shot 35 percent from the field and 25.8 percent from behind the arc. 

It is easy to forget, but Virginia was actually the defending champion, having won the tournament in 2019. That means UVa’s last loss in the NCAA tournament came in 2018, which just so happens to be the infamous UMBC game. Looking at how this all played out over the past three tournaments, I think the Cavaliers would do it all again if given the chance. Those first-round upsets sting, but those national championship banners hang in the rafters forever. (Well most of the time. Sorry, Louisville.)

Buddy Buckets is for real

For those wondering, Buddy Boeheim is more than just the coach’s son. In the month of March, Boeheim is averaging 26.7 points per game. He went off for 30 in Syracuse’s first-round win against San Diego State, including a torrid stretch where he scored 16 straight points. He is joined by Kevin Obanor of Oral Roberts and Miles McBride from West Virginia as the only players to reach the 30-point mark in the Round of 64 this year. Boeheim and McBride will face off on Sunday as well, so prepare for some major fireworks. As a Syracuse alum, I don’t think I could have written this column without mentioning Jim Boeheim’s youngest son.

Making a perfect bracket is impossible

We didn’t even get through the first round before everyone’s brackets were busted. ESPN and Bleacher Report both announced that no users on their site had a perfect bracket after Ohio upset Virginia and Maryland knocked off UConn. I didn’t even come close to making it that far. I had UNC facing Ohio State in the Elite Eight with the Buckeyes advancing to the Final Four. That didn’t quite pan out, with both teams suffering first-round losses. Texas was also in my Final Four. Trying to predict the outcome of 63 games is inherently difficult as it is. Add in the wild range of possible outcomes from college athletes and you have what makes the tournament so entertaining. The single-elimination format makes it truly unpredictable. So while your bracket may not be perfect, you can take solace in knowing that no one else managed to predict all these results either. And maybe now there is still hope you could win your bracket pool.

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Team fits for the top 25 NFL free agents, including Bud Dupree to Atlanta and Trent Williams in Indianapolis

In an NFL offseason that has already produced plenty of fireworks, more are on the way as free agency looms large. Teams are working hard to create cap space after COVID-19 impacted league revenue streams and led to a sizable drop in the salary cap for the 2021 season. While the general buzz around the NFL is that top players will still see big-money deals, it is the next tier of players likely to get squeezed by the financial shortcomings for each franchise.

With the league’s legal tampering window opening Monday and free agency officially kicking off Wednesday, I decided to rank the top 25 free agents and work out a logical landing spot for each of them. Players who received the franchise tag were not included and this list is updated through Sunday night. There is still a possibility teams could announce a deal to bring back a player before they ever hit the open market, much like the Packers recently did with Aaron Jones.

Keep in mind, these are not necessarily predictions for where each player will land, rather a look at good fits for team and athlete to find success. I took into account each team’s cap space and the financial figures I reference throughout are pulled from Spotrac and updated through Sunday night. Without further ado, here are my top 25 free agents for the 2021 NFL offseason.

Barrett spent the first five years of his career in Denver.

1. Shaquil Barrett, EDGE, TB – Broncos
Shaq Barrett proved he was much more than a one-season wonder. He did not come anywhere close to replicating his outrageous 19.5-sack 2019 season, but he racked up eight sacks in the regular season and four more in the playoffs. While the Buccaneers seem determined to keep him, a return to Denver could be in the cards. With Von Miller in flux and the Broncos needing a pass rusher to play across from Bradley Chubb, Barrett could be a logical fit. He fits the prototypical build of a 3-4 outside linebacker for Vic Fangio. With an estimated $32.6 in projected cap space, the Broncos will be able to make Barrett one of the top-paid edge players in the league. Editor’s note: Barrett has re-signed with the Buccaneers.

2. Trent Williams, OT, SF – Colts
I expect San Francisco to make a big push to re-sign Trent Williams, but the Colts have $48 million in cap space after acquiring Carson Wentz and a major hole at left tackle with Anthony Costanzo’s retirement. Williams turns 33 in July, so he is not willing to wait around for a team to grow into a championship window. Indianapolis wants to run the ball and Williams is still one of the better run blocking tackles in the league. This would allow Chris Ballard to target an edge rusher or receiver in the draft while locking up a premier player at a huge position of need.

3. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, BAL – Bills
There was plenty of buzz about Buffalo being a logical landing spot for J.J. Watt, but with the former Texan headed for the desert, the Bills should be in play for another top edge defender. While Buffalo does not have a ton of cap space, it can move on from John Brown and Mario Addison to free up some space. After a run to the AFC Championship game, I expect Brandon Beane to be active in looking for ways to improve the roster. Yannick Ngakoue is still one of the best defensive ends in football. He could play across from Jerry Hughes and eventually A.J. Epenesa. He has had at least eight sacks in each of his five seasons so far. This would be a slam dunk move for Buffalo.

4. Bud Dupree, EDGE, PIT – Falcons
It took him a few years, but Bud Dupree is now the pass rusher the Steelers envisioned when they drafted him in the first round back in 2015. He has 19.5 sacks over his past 27 games, including eight in just 11 games in 2020. He was on pace for a monster season before suffering a season-ending ACL injury. Atlanta has been looking for an answer at pass rusher for years now. They have to resolve some cap issues, but Dupree could transform this defense. The Falcons also have the No. 4 pick to find a potential pass rusher to play across from him. New defensive coordinator Dean Pees is known for his ability to scheme pressure, which would only bode well for Dupree’s future success.

5. Kenny Golladay, WR, DET – Patriots
With Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson both receiving the franchise tag, the top of the wide receiver market took a major hit. Golladay is clearly the best option available now. His 2020 season was cut short by injury, but he showed in 2019 that he can be a team’s top target. He had nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in a Pro Bowl season. There is no team in the league that has a greater need at receiver than the New England Patriots. It just so happens, the Pats have roughly $65 million in cap space. Spending a chunk of that to grab a reliable outside receiver for Cam Newton, and whoever the quarterback of the future is, would be a great move to rejuvenate the offense.

6. Joe Thuney, G, NE – Jets
Whether Sam Darnold is the quarterback in 2021 or not, the Jets need to improve the offensive line. New York finished in the top 10 in sacks allowed in 2020 and both of their starting guards, Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten, can be released with little cap implications. It would actually open up more space for a franchise already projected to have just shy of $70 million in signing power. Targeting Joe Thuney would make a ton of sense to help bolster the interior of the line. He played the 2020 season on the franchise tag and Joe Douglas seems willing to spend money to build an offensive line. If Thuney is looking for a lucrative long-term deal, the Jets could be more than willing to give it to him.

7. Corey Linsley, C, GB – Ravens
The Packers would love to bring back Corey Linsley, but Green Bay lacks a ton of cap space and could have more pressing needs. Elgton Jenkins played center in college and spent some time there this season when injuries cropped up. As a result, I could see Linsley finding his way to Baltimore to protect Lamar Jackson. The Ravens had issues at center all season long and Linsley would bring some much needed stability to the position. It does not solve all of Baltimore’s problems, but it would be a smart move to bolster their interior offensive line.

8. Mitchell Schwartz, OT, KC – Seahawks
While there are certainly injury concerns here to monitor, Mitchell Schwartz is one of the best right tackles in football. He made All-Pro in 2018 and has been a large part of why the Chiefs have been so successful offensively in recent seasons. Just go back and rewatch the Super Bowl to understand the impact of not having him on the field. Meanwhile, in Seattle, Russell Wilson went public with his concerns over Seattle’s offensive line. With $21 million in cap space, and Schwartz possibly coming at a discount due to the injury, this could be a great move for the front office to show Wilson it is listening to him. Schwartz would be a massive upgrade over Brandon Shell.

9. Will Fuller, WR, HOU – Chargers
Justin Herbert had a stunning rookie season and the Chargers seem poised for a jump in 2020. In order to see Herbert’s success continue, L.A. needs to surround him with talent at receiver. Will Fuller had a phenomenal year in his own right, but did get tagged with a PED suspension, which carries over to Week 1 in 2021. With Deshaun Watson intent on forcing his way out of Houston, Fuller should consider linking up with another young quarterback. Herbert has a strong arm and Fuller would give him a consistent deep threat that the offense lacked for much of the year. Herbert’s average depth of target was 24th in the league among qualified passers. Fuller would be a perfect complement across from Keenan Allen.

10. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, TEN – Cowboys
Dallas’ defense was one of the worst in the NFL this past season. The Cowboys surrendered five yards per carry in 2020, the third-worst mark in the league. Tyrone Crawford is headed for free agency and the front office needs to devote some resources to reshaping the defense. A great move would be landing Jadeveon Clowney. He is not the elite pass rusher many hoped he would develop into, but the former No. 1 pick is an elite run defender. Playing across from DeMarcus Lawrence likely wouldn’t hurt either. Tennessee signed him to a one-year, $13 million deal in 2020. Another short-term, “prove it” deal could be in play for Clowney, especially after an injury-derailed season.

Lawson will be 26 at the start of the 2021 season and appears to have his best football ahead of him.

11. Carl Lawson, EDGE, CIN – Bengals
On the surface, Carl Lawson’s numbers might not jump off the page. He had 5.5 sacks in 2020, his most since his rookie season in 2017. Dive a little deeper and you will see that Lawson had 44 pressures this past season, which was the fourth most in the NFL. One fewer than Aaron Donald and Joey Bosa. That grabs your attention. How about him leading the league in quarterback knockdowns with 27? Lawson is clearly a top-tier pass rusher, even if his sack numbers don’t show it yet. With a solid amount of cap space, the Bengals would be wise to bring him back. If he does hit the open market, expect the Jets, Patriots, Titans and Raiders to all be interested in securing his services.

12. Dalvin Tomlinson, DL, NYG – Jaguars
I think the Giants will make a strong push to keep him, but without much cap space and other needs on the defense, there is a good chance they won’t be able to afford bringing Dalvin Tomlinson back. The former Alabama defensive tackle is the best interior run stopper in this free agent class. He has 15 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. Tomlinson chips in as a pass rusher as well, with 3.5 sacks in 2019 and 2020. Jacksonville’s run defense was horrendous this past season, allowing the third-most yards per game and sixth most yards per carry. Adding Tomlinson to plug up the middle would only increase the effectiveness of Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson on the outside.

13. John Johnson, S, LAR – Raiders
Safety has been a sore spot for the Raiders in recent years. Johnathan Abrams and Erik Harris struggled as starters in 2020 and Las Vegas does not have much in the way of proven depth behind them. John Johnson could be a reliable long-term answer. Outside of an injury-shortened 2019 season, Johnson has been a fixture for the Rams. He is a willing tackler and can more than hold his own in coverage. He is not the flashiest player available, but there is no question he would be a major upgrade over what the Raiders have been working with in previous seasons. Los Angeles will be sad to see him go, but is currently a projected $32 million over the cap.

14. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT – Giants
Is Daniel Jones a franchise quarterback? For now, the Giants are acting under the assumption that he is. In order to truly evaluate Jones, he needs more consistent talent around him. Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Evan Engram have all struggled with injuries over the past few seasons. Finding Jones a reliable target like JuJu Smith-Schuster could make a world of difference. While he has been able to repeat his incredible 2018 season, Smith-Schuster has become one of the best possession receivers in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger actually had a slightly better passer rating this past season when targeting JuJu than he did in 2018. Finding a security blanket for Jones is a huge priority. Signing Smith-Schuster will be expensive, but probably not at the top of the receiver market.

15. Matt Judon, EDGE, BAL – Buccaneers
If Shaquil Barrett leaves in free agency, bringing in Matt Judon would be a really solid consolation prize. He excelled in Baltimore’s blitz-happy defensive scheme, which should translate well to Todd Bowles’ blitz-happy scheme in Tampa. Judon would give the Buccaneers another productive pass rusher to lineup across from Jason Pierre-Paul and will probably cost a little bit less to sign than Barrett. He might not be quite as prolific, but with at least six sacks in each of his past four seasons, he would be a great chess piece for Bowles to unleash.

16. Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, NO – Lions
Much like Leonard Floyd, Trey Hendrickson had a breakout 2020 season and had a position coach with his team take a head-coaching job elsewhere. Not only does Hendrickson have familiarity with Dan Campbell, he would fill a position of need for the Lions defense. Detroit has been desperately searching for an edge rusher for years. I don’t know that Hendrickson will be the answer to all their prayers, but he would represent a nice start to rebuilding Detroit’s defense.

Henry has struggled with injuries in his career, missing 25 of a possible 90 games since he entered the league in 2016.

17. Hunter Henry, TE, LAC – Chargers
This move would mostly be about keeping some continuity around Justin Herbert. It is clear the reigning Rookie of the Year has talent, but with a new head coach and new system being installed, finding some familiarity for him to fall back on is important. Plus, Henry has quietly been a very productive tight end over the past two seasons. He still struggles with injuries, but he has mostly been available, posting back-to-back 600-yard seasons. He is not as sexy or talented as Travis Kelce or Darren Waller, but Henry gets the job done. With $51 million in cap space, the Chargers should have the room necessary to bring him back on a reasonable deal. Something in line with Austin Hooper’s four-year, $42 million deal from last season feels like a good template.

18. Romeo Okwara, EDGE, DET – Browns
Cleveland desperately needs an edge rusher across from Myles Garrett. Romeo Okwara is coming off a 10-sack season and feels like a clean fit in the Browns’ 4-3 scheme. He would benefit from not being the center of attention as well, as he often had little help rushing the passer in Detroit. It is not as big a move as landing J.J. Watt or Shaquil Barrett, but Okwara would be a solid starter. This move would also free the front office up to target some help in the secondary or at linebacker in the NFL Draft.

19. Jonnu Smith, TE, TEN – Jaguars
The Jaguars have not had good production at the tight end position since Marcedes Lewis left town, and that was in 2018. The presumption is Trevor Lawrence will be the new quarterback in Jacksonville and the Titans need to build out his supporting cast. With plenty of money to spend, Jonnu Smith would be a logical target. The Jags are plenty familiar with him having played against him for the past four years. He is a dominant presence in the red zone. He and Collin Johnson could be a problem for opposing defenses close to the goal line.

20. William Jackson, CB, CIN – Bengals
Flying under the radar a bit, William Jackson is coming off a career year where he finally seemed to live up to his first-round pick status. He has steadily improved in coverage and should be one of the top corners available on the market. Quality cornerbacks are hard to come by as well. Cincinnati would be smart to bring him back before anyone else gets a chance to poach him. With over $44 million in cap space, the Bengals should have no problem finding the money to make a deal.

21. Anthony Harris, S, MIN – Browns
With the offense mostly set in Cleveland, the Browns feel very close to being a win-now team. With a couple of savvy free agent additions to the defense, this team should be well-positioned to build off its 2020 success. Safety was a weak spot for the Browns this past year. Andrew Sendejo failed miserably while Ronnie Harrison felt like a band-aid solution. Grant Delpit also missed the whole year due to injury. Anthony Harris would help stabilize things. He did not have quite as strong of a season as he did in 2019, but he is still difficult to beat in coverage and has a nose for the football. With experience at both safety spots, he could start alongside Delpit or another draft pick and turn the position into a strength for the defense.

22. Leonard Floyd, EDGE, LAR – Chargers
Sometimes, the NFL is very simple. Leonard Floyd had a breakout year in Los Angeles, racking up 10.5 sacks in his first year with the Rams. While Les Snead would undoubtedly love to bring him back, L.A. is a projected $32.1 million over the cap. So where will Floyd land? How about in the same city? His defensive coordinator just became the new head coach of the other team in town. The Chargers are in the market for someone to play across from Joey Bosa. Assuming that Brandon Staley brings his 3-4 system with him from the Rams, Floyd would be a logical fit in one of those outside linebacker spots.

23. Corey Davis, WR, TEN – Colts
T.Y. Hilton is headed for free agency, as is Zach Pascal. Even so, the Colts still would need wide receiver help. Indianapolis already acquired one top-five selection this offseason, why not add another? Corey Davis broke out in a big way in 2020. He still has not lived up to his original draft slot, but posting nearly 1,000 yards receiving in 14 games is bound to earn him another contract somewhere. At 6’3″, he would give the Colts some much-needed size at the position and a potential big-play threat.

24. David Andrews, C, NE – Patriots
New England seems set to let Joe Thuney walk after not franchise tagging him, but the Patriots must make some moves to keep its offensive line intact. They already brought back Trent Brown via trade on a restructured deal. After missing 2019 with blood clots in his lungs, David Andrews returned and played well in 2020. New England has plenty of other question marks on offense. Bringing back Andrews prevents one more from popping up.

Sherman might not be the lockdown corner he used to be anymore, but he can still hold his own as a starter in the NFL.

25. Richard Sherman, CB, SF – Raiders
While many predict Richard Sherman will follow Robert Saleh to New York, I think he could stay a little closer to home. Sherman is from Compton, went to Stanford and has spent his entire NFL career in Seattle or San Francisco. I’m not saying he couldn’t switch coasts, but I think he would be very happy to stick in the Pacific time zone. Las Vegas is also in desperate need of corner help. The Raiders have to make a few moves to open up some cap space, but signing Sherman to a modest deal should be feasible. Add in that Las Vegas’ new defensive coordinator is Gus Bradley, architect of the Legion of Boom, and I think this is a perfect fit.

2012 NFL Redraft: Colts take Russell Wilson at No. 1 over Andrew Luck

Every year, people love to read redrafts and draft grades for draft class before we have really had time to evaluate them. I have been guilty of this as well, but in recent years, I have waited until we hit the five year mark before dishing out draft grades and looking to do redrafts. It takes at least that long to evaluate a draft class. And, as you can see by the 2012 redraft I did back in 2016, five years isn’t always enough. Still, I can’t stay away and I really enjoy looking back on what could have been. Especially with a draft class like this one!

There are a few things I want to clarify before I jump in. I undid every trade that happened on draft day. With the benefit of hindsight, it is much easier to say every team would have just stayed put and taken the best player available. One other thing I want to point out is that just because a team selected a player at a given position does not mean they have to draft the same position. For example, the Jaguars selected Justin Blackmon back in 2012. They are not bound to taking the best receiver from the class (T.Y. Hilton) just because he plays the same position. Hilton was a good player, but there are plenty of other needs Jacksonville could have filled instead. I tried my best to go with the best player available given the roster composition of that team in 2012.

With all of that in mind, let’s revisit this famous 2012 draft class featuring some future Hall of Famers and a number of notable busts.

1. Indianapolis Colts
Original selection: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
Redraft pick: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin

Andrew Luck was widely viewed as the best college quarterback prospect to come out since Peyton Manning. He had his moments during an injury-riddled career, but Russell Wilson’s continued excellence makes him the clear choice in this redraft. Wilson has a Super Bowl ring, seven Pro Bowl appearances and a fantastic touchdown-to-interception ratio is his career. He earned MVP buzz early in 2020 and continues to play like a top-five quarterback every season. Wilson’s mobility and penchant for making off-schedule throws would work well for the Colts, who struggled to protect Luck throughout the early portion of his career.

2. Washington
Original selection: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
Redraft selection: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Luck’s fall is a short one. Even though he only lasted five full seasons as a starting quarterback, he led the Colts to several playoff appearances and showcased elite arm talent in the process. In each of the four seasons that Luck played all 16 games, Indianapolis reached the playoffs. Perhaps Luck would have fared better in Washington with Trent Williams protecting his blindside. Robert Griffin III had a great rookie season and might have been a solid NFL starter if injuries had not derailed his career. Despite Luck’s own injuries, he offers an upgrade over RGIII.

3. Minnesota Vikings
Original selection: Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Redraft selection: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Minnesota traded down one pick on draft night back in 2012 and took Matt Kalil. Kalil was serviceable as a starter in the NFL, even reaching the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2012. Unfortunately, he never built on that debut season. Meanwhile, Luke Kuechly went on to have a Hall of Fame career for the Panthers. He was an incredible tackler with impressive athleticism, which resulted in five first-team All-Pro selections and seven Pro Bowl appearances in eight seasons. Injuries cut his career short, but his leadership and production over those eight years make him worth the pick. Minnesota’s defense would have had a star to build around during those Christian Ponder years.

4. Cleveland Browns
Original selection: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Redraft selection: Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State

This was one of the worst draft picks the Browns made during the 2010s, and that’s saying something. Trading up one spot to grab Trent Richardson proved to be a huge mistake, but give Cleveland some credit for cutting ties and recouping a first-round pick for Richardson a year later. With the benefit of hindsight, the Browns would have been much better off selecting Fletcher Cox. Cleveland started sixth-round Billy Wynn at defensive tackle in 2012. Cox would’ve been a massive upgrade. In his career, he has earned six Pro Bowl nods and an All-Pro selection. Cleveland’s defense would have looked very different with Cox and D’Qwell Jackson dominating the middle.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Original selection: Mark Barron, S, Alabama
Redraft pick: Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State

Mark Barron went on to have a lengthy career as a box safety and might have been a bit ahead of his time. The NFL in 2021 loves to find those hybrid types, but that movement was still in its earlier stages. At least the Buccaneers slid down two spots before selecting Barron. Instead, the Buccaneers could have grabbed one of the best tackling middle linebackers in NFL history. Bobby Wagner is still at the top of his game nearly 10 years later. He is one of just three players in this draft class to go to seven Pro Bowls. The other two are Russell Wilson and Luke Kuechly. Tampa was in need of a linebacker at this point, too, as they ended up landing Lavonte David in the second round. Filling a huge position of need with a future Hall of Famer feels like a slam dunk.

6. St. Louis Rams
Original selection: Michael Brockers, DL, LSU
Redraft pick: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

On draft day, the Rams traded back with the Cowboys and landed an extra second-round pick. It was a pretty good move. Dallas selected Morris Claiborne, who never really figured out how to play corner in the NFL. Meanwhile, St. Louis landed a solid interior lineman in Michael Brockers. Passing up on Stephon Gilmore just does not make sense in this redraft. Keep in mind that the Rams started second-round selection Janoris Jenkins at corner that year, so it was definitely a position of need. Gilmore is one of the best cover corners in football. He became the first corner since Charles Woodson to win Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. He can lock down half the field and is one of just five players in this draft class to be named first-team All-Pro more than once.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars
Original selection: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Redraft pick: Chandler Jones, EDGE, Syracuse

Justin Blackmon had all the talent in the world, but he only lasted until 2014 in the NFL due to off-the-field issues. To make matters worse, Jacksonville actually traded up two spots to get him. Without a star receiver available in this draft class, the Jaguars tag the best edge rusher in the class to boost their defense. Chandler Jones would be an immediate upgrade over Austen Lane or Jeremy Mincey, Jacksonville’s starting defensive ends at the time. With 97 career sacks, Canton feels well within reach for Jones by the time his career wraps up. His impact probably would not have ended the Jaguars suffering, but it would have given them a talented player at a crucial position to build around.

8. Miami Dolphins
Original selection: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Redraft pick: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State

I struggled with this pick a lot. Ryan Tannehill has experienced an incredible resurgence with the Titans, but he struggled a lot for the Dolphins. You could argue that simply not hiring Adam Gase would have solved all of Tannehill’s problems, but I can also understand if fans are hesitant about taking Tannehill again. Believe it or not, Kirk Cousins actually has more touchdowns, fewer interceptions and a better career completion percentage than Tannehill. However, Cousins didn’t truly take over the starting job in Washington until 2015. Would he have been as successful in Miami where he would have needed to start sooner? It’s hard to tell, but there is a chance he would’ve offered better stability than Tannehill did.

9. Carolina Panthers
Original selection: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Redraft pick: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska

It’s tough to miss out on Luke Kuechly, but Lavonte David is a solid consolation prize. David has a nose for the football and actually leads this draft class in tackles, ahead of both Kuechly and Bobby Wagner. He has been incredibly reliable as well with just seven missed starts in nine seasons. He has not always received the same level of love as his draftmates with one Pro Bowl selection and one first-team All-Pro honor, but he is still paying dividends for the Buccaneers in 2021. He was a major part of the team’s success in the Super Bowl for his ability in pass coverage. As a bonus for the Panthers, he would no longer be suiting up for their division rival.

10. Buffalo Bills
Original selection: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Redraft pick: Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina

While he has had some rocky moments, at his peak, Josh Norman was one of the best corners in football. While he is definitely a step down from Stephon Gilmore, this is not a bad consolation prize for the Bills. Norman proved in 2020, actually playing for the Bills, that he is still a serviceable corner capable of starting in the NFL. Considering that Buffalo eventually let Gilmore walk in free agency anyway, maybe they would’ve done more to keep Norman around.

11. Kansas City Chiefs
Original selection: Dontari Poe, DL, Memphis
Redraft pick: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

Dontari Poe has had himself a solid NFL career, but Kansas City cannot pass up on a chance to find a long-term solution at quarterback. Matt Cassell would be gone after the 2012 season and had not done much in 2011 to indicate he deserved to be the unquestioned starter. As we discussed before when debating Tannehill vs. Cousins, Tannehill has really taken off over the past two seasons. Perhaps a chance to work with Andy Reid, who arrived in 2013, would have jumpstarted the version of Tannehill we have seen in Tennessee a few years earlier. Either way, he would’ve given the Chiefs a much better plan going forward at quarterback.

12. Seattle Seahawks
Original selection: Bruce Irvin, EDGE, West Virginia
Redraft pick: Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California

Seattle really loses out big time in this redraft. Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner are both off the board. The team is also set to go forward with Matt Flynn at quarterback with the next best option available in this draft being Nick Foles. The Seahawks traded down a couple spots on draft day and took Bruce Irvin. Irvin has actually had some bright spots, but he has never quite lived up to this draft slot. Mitchell Schwartz would give Seattle a pair of talented young tackles to bookend their offensive line. Schwartz has spent nine seasons as a quality starting right tackle for the Browns and Chiefs including an All-Pro nod in 2018. He did not miss a game prior to the 2020 season. There are few players as reliable and unheralded as Schwartz has been.

13. Arizona Cardinals
Original selection: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
Redraft pick: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International

Pretty much Arizona’s entire offense needed an upgrade outside of Larry Fitzgerald heading into the 2012 season. Michael Floyd had his moments, but he only managed 25 touchdowns in his career. Arizona needed a receiver, and T.Y. Hilton would have been a great addition across from Fitzgerald. Hilton has struggled with some injuries in recent years, but he has five 1,000-yard seasons, including 2016, when he led the league in receiving yards.

14. Dallas Cowboys
Original selection: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Redraft pick: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

Back in 2012, Dallas traded up to select Morris Claiborne. While the Cowboys were right to focus on rebuilding their defense, Claiborne turned out to be a terrible fit. Meanwhile, Harrison Smith is a five-time Pro Bowler with the most interceptions of any player in this draft class. You could make the argument that he was one of, if not the best safety in the league over a solid stretch. He would be a much-needed playmaker in that Cowboys secondary and provide a clear succession plan to Gerald Sensabaugh, whom Dallas cut following the 2012 season before he ultimately retired.

15. Philadelphia Eagles
Original selection: Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State
Redraft pick: Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (Ohio)

Philly misses out on Fletcher Cox this time around, but they land a player who has been integral to their success in recent years. Brandon Brooks was selected in the third round back in 2012, but there is no way he lasts that long this time around. He was a decent player in Houston from 2012 to 2015, but really found his footing with the Eagles. He made three straight Pro Bowls and played a huge part in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run in 2017.

16. New York Jets
Original selection: Quinton Coples, EDGE, UNC
Redraft pick: David DeCastro, G, Stanford

There are only a handful of players from this draft class who have been named first-team All-Pro more than once. David DeCastro has been a staple of the Steelers offensive line for close to a decade. New York made back-to-back AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010 behind an incredible offensive line. DeCastro would be an upgrade over Matt Slauson, or a potential successor to Brandon Moore. This would be a great value, especially instead of Quinton Coples, who was out of the league by 2015.

17. Cincinnati Bengals via Oakland Raiders
Original selection: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Redraft pick: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama

It turns out the Bengals drafted a player at the right position from the right state, just the wrong school. Dre Kirkpatrick took three years to win the starting job and once he did, he never really lived up to his draft spot. Meanwhile, Janoris Jenkins turned out to be a steal for the Rams in the second round. He started his career with a bang in 2012, leading the league with three defensive touchdowns. He reached his peak in 2016 with a Pro Bowl appearance for the Giants. Jenkins has a good track record for making plays with 26 career interceptions. He has had some rough moments for sure, but he turned out to be a much more valuable player than Kirkpatrick.

18. San Diego Chargers
Original selection: Melvin Ingram, EDGE, South Carolina
Redraft pick: Melvin Ingram, EDGE, South Carolina

The then-San Diego Chargers were rewarded for their patience with Melvin Ingram. It took him a few years to get going after injuries derailed the early part of his career, but from 2015 to 2019, Ingram had at least seven sacks each season. He has been a crucial part of the Chargers defense in recent years playing across from Joey Bosa.

19. Chicago Bears
Original selection: Shea McClellin, EDGE, Boise State
Redraft selection: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin

Shea McClellin turned out to be a colossal bust for the Bears. He managed just 8.5 career sacks and was out of the league after 2016. I don’t think there is an edge player worth taking here, and Chicago’s offensive line could have used a boost. Chilo Rachal started eight games at left guard and the front office signed Matt Slauson to take over before 2013. Adding Kevin Zeitler would have been a much better solution at the position. Keep in mind this is also a year before the Bears drafted Kyle Long. Zeitler has started from Day 1, and his consistency and longevity make him well worth going in the first round again, this time, even earlier.

20. Tennessee Titans
Original selection: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Redraft pick: Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas State

It turned out to be a pretty rough receiver class with Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and A.J. Jenkins falling well short of expectations. The next best receivers available after T.Y. Hilton would be either Alshon Jeffery or Marvin Jones, and while both have been solid, neither is worth going in the top 20. On the other hand, Demario Davis has turned into one of the best players from this draft class. His career has been a bit odd, with a one-year stint in Cleveland before returning to the Jets, but after years of solid play, he was recognized as a first-team All-Pro in 2019 with the Saints. He has over 900 career tackles and would have fit very nicely in the middle of the Titans defense. If that wasn’t enough, Davis has not missed a game in his nine-year NFL career.

21. Cincinnati Bengals
Original selection: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
Redraft pick: Ben Jones, C, Georgia

On draft day, the Patriots traded up to this spot to select Chandler Jones. With Jones long gone and trades not allowed in the redraft, Cincinnati stays put and grabs an interior lineman to protect a young Andy Dalton. With Zeitler gone, Ben Jones is the next best interior lineman available. It took a few years for the Texans to determine where his best spot was, starting at both guard spots before finally moving him to center in 2015. Since then, Jones has started every game and become a huge part of the Titans’ sometimes unstoppable run game.

22. Cleveland Browns via Atlanta Falcons
Original selection: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
Redraft pick: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama

The absurd run on linebackers continues as Dont’a Hightower is now the fifth to come off the board in the first 22 picks. I don’t think I really need to explain why Brandon Weeden is not going here again. I know the Browns desperately needed a quarterback, but reaching for Nick Foles here or either Kirk Cousins or Ryan Tannehill at No. 4 over more talented and impactful defensive players is bad process. Hightower was a fixture for the Patriots defense before opting out in 2020. He has two Pro-Bowl selections to his name as well. Adding him and Fletcher Cox would have made this defense one of the most exciting units in the league alongside 23-year-old Joe Haden.

23. Detroit Lions
Original selection: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Redraft pick: Olivier Vernon, EDGE, Miami

Riley Reiff was a fine player for the Lions. He played out his rookie contract in Detroit and has been a starter for the Vikings in recent years. However, Reiff was not the starter in 2012, so the Lions could have waited another year or gone to free agency to find an eventual replacement to Jeff Bakus. Instead, adding Olivier Vernon to start across from Cliff Avril would have given the Lions an elite pass rushing tandem. He could take the year to learn from Kyle Vanden Bosch before launching a career that has accumulated 63.5 sacks, second only to Chandler Jones in this draft class. The only thing that holds Vernon back from going even earlier is his injury history. He hasn’t played a full season since 2016.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers
Original selection: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Redraft pick: Damon Harrison, DT, William Penn

Pittsburgh nailed its pick the first time around, but with David DeCastro gone, the Steelers must look elsewhere to build their roster. The defense was full of aging stars at the time, including 35-year-old Casey Hampton. Damon Harrison went undrafted back in 2012, but there is no way he makes it out of the first round in this mock draft. He was one of the best run defenders in the league from 2013 to 2017. He has bounced around in recent years, but he is still a quality rotation piece and short-yardage option. He would help soften the blow of missing out on DeCastro.

25. Denver Broncos
Original selection: Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati
Redraft pick: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Denver actually traded back twice on draft night and took Derek Wolfe with the 36th overall pick. Instead, the Broncos will stand pat and take Dontari Poe. Poe would have been an instant starter collapsing the pocket with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil on the outside. Poe is a space eater at 346 lbs. He made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014. He might not be a future Hall of Famer, but he has been a solid contributor since he stepped foot in the league and is still worthy of a late first-round selection.

26. Houston Texans
Original selection: Whitney Mercilus, EDGE, Illinois
Redraft pick: Whitney Mercilus, EDGE, Illinois

There were only a few teams that not only took a quality player, but took in him in a realistic draft slot. Whitney Mercilus has been a solid contributor throughout his career. He has missed a decent amount of time due to injuries over the years, but his 54 career sacks and 68 tackles for loss speak for themselves. Taking him off this Texans’ defense would definitely be a detriment, even if he was not a perennial Pro Bowler.

27. New England Patriots via New Orleans Saints
Original selection: Chandler Jones, EDGE, Syracuse
Redraft pick: Michael Brockers, DL, LSU

New England worked some magic on draft night back in 2012, trading up twice to land two solid contributors on defense. Both Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower are long gone by this stage. Brockers has somewhat quietly put together an impressive NFL career. He has not racked up accolades, but he has been a steady presence on the Rams defense since he was drafted. His career totals are not staggering with 28 sacks and 48 tackles for loss, but Brockers is one of just eight players from this draft class who has been a full-time starter every year of his career. As the saying goes, the best ability is availability.

28. Green Bay Packers
Original selection: Nick Perry, EDGE, USC
Redraft pick: Akiem Hicks, DL, Regina

The run on defensive linemen and edge rushers continues. Green Bay hoped to find someone to play across from Clay Matthews in Nick Perry. He had a really good two-year stretch in 2016 and 2017 with 18 sacks. His career bizarrely ended after 2018 though and those two seasons are not enough to justify another first-round selection. Instead, Green Bay can grab Akiem Hicks to bolster its defensive line. Hicks was a decent player in New Orleans, but his career really took off after landing in Chicago in 2016. He peaked with a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018. His run stopping and disruptive playmaking would be greatly appreciated.

29. Baltimore Ravens
Original selection: Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama
Redraft pick: Kelechi Osemele, G, Iowa State

Baltimore traded out of the first round back in 2012. This roster had very few holes as the Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl that season. If there was a weak spot, it would have been at right tackle. Believe it or not, Kelechie Osemele started at right tackle during that Super Bowl run. He later found his spot as a starter at guard. That type of versatility is worth the investment, this time in the first round. Osemele was solid in Baltimore, but really found his stride in Oakland. He made back-to-back Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro in 2016.

30. San Francisco 49ers
Original selection: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
Redraft pick: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

A.J. Jenkins lasted one season in San Francisco and just three in the NFL. Needless to say, this was a huge bust for the 49ers. Alshon Jeffery might have been the difference in the 49ers’ Super Bowl run. His huge frame and impressive catch radius would have made him a great red zone target. He reached the Pro Bowl in 2013 with 1,421 yards receiving. His career fell off a bit after a strong 2014 season. He has not topped 1,000 yards since then and has struggled to stay healthy, playing all 16 games just once since that point. Even if he eventually fell off, Jeffery’s short-term impact is well worth a late first-round selection.

31. New England Patriots
Original selection: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
Redraft pick: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State

If there is a team that found success with players who ran into issues with the NFL or stirred up trouble in the locker room. I think Bill Belichick would be willing to take the talent that Vontaze Burfict brings to the table and deal with the suspensions later. He was a Pro Bowler in 2013 after leading in the league in tackles. There is a good chance he would have become a bit more disciplined playing in New England. Even still, the short-term investment is worth it for the Patriots.

32. New York Giants
Original selection: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Redraft pick: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt

The reigning Super Bowl champs went after a playmaker on offense, but there were no running backs that really deserved to go in the first round of this draft. Instead, New York can tab Casey Hayward to succeed Corey Webster. Even though the Giants drafted Prince Amukamara in the first round the year before, Hayward is too good a talent to pass up and this secondary would have benefited from a top cover corner. He burst out of the gate with six interceptions in his rookie season, but Hayward didn’t really become a full-time starter until 2016. This would be the perfect situation for him to develop into a starting caliber corner.