The impact of each conference championship game on the College Football Playoff

After an exhilarating college football regular season, we have finally reached championship weekend. The SEC, Big 12, AAC and Big Ten championship games all carry a ton of significance with each one featuring at least one team ranked in the College Football Playoff committee’s top six. In the case of the SEC, both teams are in the group.

While it is likely we will see all the higher ranked teams win and a fairly predictable final four, Oklahoma State would probably replace Alabama in the top 4, this season has been anything but predictable. Each game could offer a really interesting wrinkle in determining which teams will compete for a national title. Here is the impact each game from championship weekend will have on the playoff.

SEC Championship Game
No. 1 Georgia vs. No. 3 Alabama
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on CBS

This obviously has the biggest impact of any game this weekend. Georgia is one of just two undefeated D-I teams in the country this season, Cincinnati being the other. Meanwhile, Alabama has struggled a bit defensively in recent weeks, losing to Texas A&M earlier this season. However, the Tide have won six of the past nine SEC titles. The Bulldogs only have one SEC title since 2005. Kirby Smart has also never beaten his former boss, Nick Saban. There is a ton of the line for both sides and definitely some history to be made.

If Georgia wins…
The Bulldogs will stay at No. 1 and cruise into the College Football Playoff at 13-0. Things become tricky on the other side of the matchup. A two-loss team has never made the final four. Alabama would be 11-2 on the season with a loss. That likely eliminates them, but there are scenarios where the Tide could still get in. However, they would need a lot to go their way. Baylor would have to win the Big 12 over Oklahoma State and at least one of Cincinnati or Michigan would have to lose. That would set up a playoff composed of Georgia, Cincinnati or Michigan, Notre Dame and then one more team. Alabama would likely be up against Baylor, Ohio State and potentially Oregon for that final spot. Perhaps the committee would like to avoid a rematch. It is far from a guarantee, but ‘Bama would be in the mix if it is a close game.

The only other scenario I can think of would be if Michigan and Cincinnati both lost their conference championship games. Regardless of who wins the Big 12, Alabama would once again be in the conversation. Notre Dame could move up to No. 2 if Baylor wins while Alabama, Ohio State and Oregon, if it wins the Pac-12, would be in the mix for the final two spots. Would the committee opt for conference champions and pick Baylor and Oregon? Maybe, but it feels more likely that Alabama or Ohio State beats out one of those teams.

If Alabama wins…
The Tide almost assuredly move up to No. 1. Maybe Michigan would, but being the first team to beat Georgia would be a pretty big resume booster. That likely sees two SEC teams in the playoff. Georgia could slide down to No. 3 and face the Wolverines, assuming they beat Iowa. Cincinnati, Oklahoma State and company would all be fighting for the final spot. Georgia is pretty much the only team that could conceivably lose this weekend and comfortably make the playoff. Other teams certainly could if the right results break their way, but I don’t see a scenario where the Bulldogs are left out.

Big Ten Championship Game
No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Iowa
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on FOX

Jim Harbaugh finally got that Ohio State-shaped monkey off his back, but Michigan’s job is not done yet. Beating the Buckeyes is a huge momentum boost and should buy Harbaugh some good will with Wolverines fans, but it would be a disappointment not to see them finish the season with a conference championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff. On the flip side, it was not that long ago that Iowa was in position to reach the playoff, climbing all the way to No. 2 in the AP Poll this season. Now, the Hawkeyes are just hoping to spoil the Wolverines celebrations and win their first conference championship game.

If Michigan wins…
The Wolverines will be in the playoff and Harbaugh will likely be in line for a further extension that his current deal that runs through 2025. Michigan could climb to No. 1 if Alabama knocks off Georgia, but that could also see the Tide surge right past them. For Iowa, there is not a ton that changes. They will probably be one of the top Big Ten teams to receive bowl invitations. The Citrus Bowl seems to be a likely landing spot.

If Iowa wins…
Rose Bowl baby! A win for the Hawkeyes would see them play in the “Granddaddy of them all”, surging into the top 10 of the rankings as well. For the CFP implications, there are many. Michigan would almost definitely be out. A two-loss non-conference champion stands basically no chance of reaching the playoff, but the Wolverines are ranked at No. 2 right now. If Cincinnati, Oklahoma State and Alabama all lose, there could be a way Michigan sneaks in. Unlikely, I know, but would the committee put Ohio State, whom Michigan just beat, in ahead of them? Maybe the playoff ends up being Georgia, Notre Dame, Baylor and Oregon in that scenario.

A Michigan loss opens the door for a number of other teams to get in. There will be a lot of teams rooting for Iowa to pull off the upset. That being said, it is hard to see the Hawkeyes moving all the way from No. 13 into the top four. Iowa can solely play spoiler.

American Athletic Conference Championship Game
No. 4 Cincinnati vs. No. 21 Houston
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET on ABC

Easily the biggest AAC title game ever, Cincinnati hosts this monumental showdown with Houston. It will be the fifth time that the game will consist of two ranked teams, but this time, there are legitimate College Football Playoff implications. That has to matter. In a year where the ACC has no shot and the Pac-12 needs about six different things to break their way, it is pretty interesting to see the AAC’s place in college football’s national hierarchy. Unfortunately, both these teams are heading to the Big 12 in 2024. Enjoy it while it lasts.

If Cincinnati wins…
Then the Bearcats should be in. It is far from a guarantee. The committee has an unrelenting bias against Group of 5 schools. If Cincinnati were to struggle a bit in the victory and Oklahoma State looks strong against Baylor, we could see the Cowboys leapfrog Luke Fickell’s team. If Alabama beats Georgia, then there is a good chance Cincinnati would get frozen out yet again and the nation would go into an uproar over expansion. Houston will likely find itself playing in some meaningless bowl game despite an 11-2 season.

If Houston wins…
Told you so. That’s what the committee will be feeling. They have questioned Cincinnati’s strength of schedule all year long despite the Bearcats owning one of the best wins in the country. A loss would end Cincinnati’s playoff hopes and potentially drop them out of the top 10. The door would unquestionably open for Oklahoma State, Notre Dame and others to move up and maybe even Alabama to stay in the mix even if it loses. Houston would likely vault into a better bowl game, but don’t expect to see them in a New Year’s Six game. They would likely be playing after Christmas though.

Big 12 Championship Game
No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 9 Baylor
Saturday, 12 p.m. ET on ABC

Quietly the only conference outside of the SEC to feature two top-10 teams, the Big 12 is hoping to send a team other than Oklahoma to the playoff for the first time ever. Oklahoma State being ranked above Notre Dame in Tuesday’s rankings definitely opens the door for Cowboys to get in with a win. Baylor could also crash the party, although the committee moved the Bears down a spot after a narrow victory over Texas Tech.

If Oklahoma State wins…
The Cowboys could be in the playoff. Mike Gundy also might be named the mayor of Stillwater. Oklahoma State is going to need just a little bit of help. If Georgia beats Alabama, that likely opens up a spot. As the top ranked team outside the top four, OK State will almost assuredly get the nod. There is even a scenario where the Cowboys could jump Cincinnati, which I touched on earlier. The committee definitely feels Oklahoma State is facing better competition with Baylor at No. 9 and Houston at No. 21. A convincing win could see them get in if Cincinnati struggles. Plus, the Cowboys would have three wins over top-10 opponents.

If Baylor wins…
Things will get really murky. The Bears winning is not enough to get them in. They would certainly need some help. However, beating a top-five team would definitely give their resume a boost and put them in the conversation. If Michigan, Cincinnati and Alabama all lose, unlikely, but possible, Baylor should have a legitimate shot. A Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Baylor playoff could make sense at that stage. If we have learned anything over the years, it is that the committee tends to favor conference champions. Maybe Alabama or Michigan would still get in over Baylor, but it is not out of the question.

However, there is something to be said for the Bears dropping to No. 9. More significantly, they moved behind Ole Miss. The Bears will have a chance to redeem themselves, but that clearly indicates that the committee is not overly impressed by their resume at this point. We have never seen a team jump from this far back into the playoff in the final week of the rankings.

Pac-12 Championship Game
No. 10 Oregon vs. No. 17 Utah
Friday, 8 p.m. ET on ABC

Maybe just leave ABC on all weekend, with four conference championship games airing between Friday and Saturday. I already mentioned that the ACC title game has no bearing on the College Football Playoff. There is a chance that the Pac-12 doesn’t either. Oregon and Utah both have at least two losses entering Friday’s game. There is still plenty to play for with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line, but the implications on the national landscape are more peripheral.

If Oregon wins…
Could the Ducks make the playoff? Probably not, but apparently anything goes in 2021. Let’s say Georgia beats Alabama while both Michigan and Cincinnati lose. The door suddenly opens for Oregon. Notre Dame would be in. The Big 12 champion likely would be, too, even if Baylor wins. Would the committee take Alabama or Michigan fresh off a loss? How about Ohio State, whom Oregon beat earlier this season? It gets a bit unclear. Likely, Alabama would get the nod, but a Power 5 conference champion would certainly be in the conversation. There is also something to be said for the Ducks avenging their most recent loss of the season.

I’m not saying it is likely, but at that point, the committee would be picking between two-loss Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Ole Miss and Oregon. It becomes an interesting discussion. The fact that Oregon is ranked behind all of them and facing a team outside the top 10 makes it feel unrealistic. Maybe a win by Oregon makes Ohio State’s resume look better? I don’t know. This year has just been so confusing.

If Utah wins…
Go enjoy the Rose Bowl and revel in beating the Ducks twice. Utah will not be in the playoff. This year is weird, but not weird enough for a three-loss team to somehow reach the final four. Mario Cristobal could be headed for Miami though as a result. Food for thought.

2021 NFL Mock Draft: 49ers trade up for Fields, while Jones lands in Washington after CFP final

The 2020 college football season has come to a close with the Alabama Crimson Tide once again on top of the college football world. Bama won an exciting, albeit lopsided, national championship game over Ohio State as Nick Saban claimed his seventh title.

As you might expect, this mock is going to feature a lot of soon-to-be former Tide players and a few Buckeyes as well. I have six Alabama players coming off the board in the first round, including quarterback Mac Jones.

Speaking of quarterbacks, there are six that I could see drafted in the first two rounds at this point. There is still a ton of assessing to be done with the Senior Bowl coming up, hopefully, followed by the NFL scouting combine.

There are two trades that occur in the first round of this mock, both involving quarterbacks.

Cincinnati trades 1.5 and 5.133 to San Francisco for 1.12, 2.43 and a 2022 first-round pick
Detroit trades 1.7 to New England for 1.15, 2.46 and 2022 first-round pick

The draft order is according to Tankathon and updated through the wildcard weekend. Time to dive in!

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1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
I know there is some buzz about Urban Meyer landing with the Jaguars and taking Justin Fields. I don’t buy it. Trevor Lawrence is one of the best quarterback prospects of all time. His poise, athleticism and arm strength make him a Day 1 starter. He would give Jacksonville it’s most exciting quarterback situation in franchise history.

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2. New York Jets (2-14) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
This comes down to Justin Fields vs. Zach Wilson. It’s going to be close. As of right now, I give the edge to Wilson. He has incredible zip on his throws and a lightning quick release. Wilson is a proven runner as well. He will need to take care of his body at the next level, but he looks the part of an NFL quarterback. It is no secret he works hard either. The Jets would find a potential new leader for their offense.

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3. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-6) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
There is some buzz about the Dolphins trading this pick back to the Texans in a deal for Deshaun Watson. If that is on the table, Miami should pull the trigger. Otherwise, this team should stand pat and protect Tua. There are plenty of other receivers to take later in this draft. There are not many offensive tackles like Penei Sewell though. He is a polished pass blocker with good functional athleticism and plenty of play strength. He sat out the 2020 season, but he will remind everyone at the combine (assuming it happens) just how talented he is.

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4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
While some will advocate for a quarterback here, Matt Ryan likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon because of his contract. Instead, the Falcons take a talented player at a huge position of need. Drafting Patrick Surtain II gives Atlanta a tandem of young corners to build the defense around. Surtain has great ball skills and an NFL pedigree. Not to mention he brings plenty of big-game experience coming out of Alabama. This defense allowed the most passing yards per game in 2020. Don’t overthink it. Grab a top-end corner and move forward.

5. San Francisco 49ers via Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
With two of the top four quarterbacks still on the board and Penei Sewell already gone, phones in Cincinnati would be lighting up! The Bengals move down, allowing the 49ers to find their quarterback of the future. Cutting Jimmy Garoppolo saves a ton of cap space. Justin Fields’ ceiling is higher than that of Garoppolo’s too. Fields brings a ton of intangibles to the table with his arm strength and speed. He definitely needs to improve some of his decision making and work on consistently hitting his release. Working with Kyle Shanahan would be a great way to help him reach his full potential.

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6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
If Patrick Surtain was still here, that would have been the pick. However, it is hard to be mad about landing the top receiver in the class. Ja’Marr Chase is a matchup nightmare with a great blend of size and speed. He dominated the SEC in 2019 before opting out in 2020. He would give whomever the Eagles decide to start at quarterback a clear No. 1 receiver. Philly has been looking to fill that void for a long time.

7. New England Patriots via Detroit Lions (5-11) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Detroit has a ton of holes to fill and a new general manager coming in. I think we could see them trade down come April. The Patriots jump up to find a succession plan to Tom Brady, probably a few years too late. Trey Lance is a bit more raw than the other top quarterback prospects, but he has some special physical tools. If he gets a year to get up to speed in the NFL and improve his deep accuracy, he could be a long-term solution at quarterback for years to come. With his effortless arm strength and impressive mobility, the sky is the limit for Lance.

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8. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Sometimes, things just fall into place perfectly. Carolina needs a new linebacker to roam the field and match wits with opposing quarterbacks. Micah Parsons could step in from Day 1 and provide a huge boost to an exciting young defense. He has the prototypical size teams want for modern day linebackers with some added pass rushing potential. Parsons won’t be Luke Keuchley, but he is probably the team’s best option to attempt to fill the void he left when he retired.

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9. Denver Broncos (5-11) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
I’m not forgetting about Bradley Chubb or Von Miller, with the latter hopefully coming back from injury at full strength in 2021. Gregorey Rousseau has the potential to take over at one of the defensive end spots though while Miller and Chubb play on the outside. Rousseau is huge at 6’7″ with room to add some muscle to that frame. He looks most comfortable rushing the passer from the interior in the limited tape I’ve watched so far of him at Miami. Denver needs a jolt in its front three. Rousseau has the potential to become a cornerstone player on this defense.

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10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
When you allow the most points in franchise history and fire your defensive coordinator after one season, it’s probably a good sign that you need to add some talent to your defense. Caleb Farley is a big, physical corner who can command a spot on the outside for this Cowboys defense. After sitting out the 2020 season, he will get a chance to solidify his draft stock at the combine. Dallas desperately missed Byron Jones this year. While Farley is not a like-for-like fit, he can help fill the void and create an exciting young tandem with Trevon Diggs.

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11. New York Giants (6-10) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
If you want to rank the Alabama receivers over the past two years, Jaylen Waddle is second on my list behind Jerry Jeudy. Yes, I would take him over DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs. While Smith, deservedly, won the Heisman, Waddle was in the conversation this year before he got hurt. He was the go-to player in the offense, amassing 557 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his four games before the injury. Waddle is electric in the open field. I like how he projects to the next level just a bit more than Smith. If the Giants are determined to see Daniel Jones succeed, finding a playmaker like Waddle will make a huge difference.

12. Cincinnati Bengals via San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Slide down seven spots and land an offensive line prospect with tons of potential? Sign every Bengals fan in the world up for that. Probably sign Joe Burrow up for that too. Christian Darrisaw has a bit of developing still to do, but he looks very comfortable playing on the left side of the line. His size and athleticism point to tons of untapped potential. He has room to improve in his footwork and technique, but those are coachable aspects of the game.

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13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Protecting Justin Herbert should be the top priority for the Chargers this offseason. For a team that seems to be growing into a potential championship window with a rookie quarterback, finding a franchise tackle to grow with it would be a great fit. Samuel Cosmi’s ceiling might be the highest of any offensive tackle in this draft. At 6’7″, 309 lbs, Cosmi is huge, but he moves like a much smaller man. He looks comfortable pulling, blocking in space and anchoring down on the quarterback’s blind side. He is extremely raw and will need some good coaching to perfect his technique, hand usage and footwork to reach his potential. In two years though, he could be one of the top five tackles in the league. There is some risk though that he ends up being a guard if he cannot develop.

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14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Mike Zimmer called this the worst defense he has ever had. Let’s assume they will look to rebuild it then during the 2021 offseason. Jaycee Horn has lockdown corner potential. He is an elite man-to-man corner. South Carolina moved him all over the formation, allowing him to gain some experience in the slot, blitzing off the edge, playing off coverage and playing zone. He should upgrade the secondary right away. This does not mean Minnesota is bailing on Jeff Gladney after a rough rookie season. Adding Horn just creates more depth and potential for a turnaround next season.

15. Detroit Lions via New England Patriots (7-9) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Cue the “did you even watch the national championship game?” reactions. DeVonta Smith has been the best offensive player in college football this season. The combination of speed, route running and catch radius makes him lethal. Opposing defenses have had no answer. The main concerns are about his size. He has a very slight frame at 175 lbs, which begs questions about his ability to survive in the NFL. He will also face some major better defenses at the next level. After trading down, the Lions can invest in either a replacement for Kenny Golladay or someone to line up across from him in the future.

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16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
This has become one of my favorite prospect-team pairings in these early mock drafts. Kyle Pitts would thrive in the Cardinals offense. It would hide a number of his shortcomings as a blocker by allowing him to flex out and make plays in space. He would give Kyler Murray a great target over the middle of the field and in the red zone and open up more opportunities for DeAndre Hopkins. The drop off from Hopkins to the next-best receiving option in this offense is steep. Pitts would bridge the gap.

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17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Las Vegas’ defense was not what many had hoped for after some signs of progress in 2019. The pass rush regressed and the secondary struggled. Enter Christian Barmore. Fresh off a dominant national championship game, he showcased his talent and potential heading into a potential NFL career. His ability as an interior pass rusher would fill a huge need for the Raiders.

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18. Miami Dolphins (10-6) – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Still not a receiver. I will get there, I promise Dolphins fans. Miami got solid production out of Andrew Van Ginkel and Kyle Van Noy, but neither one is irreplaceable. Azeez Ojulari is a polished pass rusher with an array of moves at his disposal to beat opposing offensive tackles. He would provide the Dolphins with a situational rusher who can develop into a long-term starter at outside linebacker in Brian Flores’ defense.

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19. Washington Football Team (7-9) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Taylor Heinicke and Alex Smith are both great stories, but neither projects as the long-term answer at quarterback for Washington. Mac Jones went from being Tua’s backup to the Davey O’Brien winner and Heisman finalist. He is incredibly accurate, looks comfortable in the pocket and has great touch on his deep ball. He might not be as athletic as the four quarterbacks who went before him, but he can use his legs to extend plays while keeping his eyes downfield. He benefited from a great supporting cast, but he deserves some credit for Alabama’s success this year as well.

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20. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Allen Robinson seems headed for an exit this offseason. With Jones off the board, there are no quarterbacks worth taking here, so receiver becomes the next position of focus. Rashod Bateman has the size and playmaking skills to make Bears fans feel a little better about likely losing Robinson. He had a bit of an off 2020 season, opting out, then opting back in and opting out again after five games. He has the size to be a possession receiver, but flashes good run after the catch ability too. Expect whoever is Chicago’s quarterback in 2021 to benefit from having him in the offense.

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21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh
The Colts defense was one of the best in the league this year against the run, but pretty average against the pass. The best way to disrupt an opponent’s passing attack is to generate pressure. Patrick Jones II excels in that department. He has 17.5 sacks over the past two seasons. He fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end and would give the Colts a successor to Justin Houston, who turns 32 later this month. Jones is one of my favorite edge rushers in this class and I think this would be a great fit for him.

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22. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
It took me a bit, but I think I have figured out my pro comp for Zaven Collins. Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. Both are outside linebackers who can hang in pass coverage but make their biggest impact rushing the passer. Collins is a little bit heavier than Barr, but both fit similar size profiles as well. Tennessee desperately needs a playmaker like that. The Titans had just 19 sacks as a team this season. Collins had 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in eight games. He is the type of disruptive force this defense is lacking.

23. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (2-14) – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
After grabbing Zach Wilson, protecting him needs to be the priority. Wyatt Davis is the best interior lineman in this class. He has great size and lots of experience after starting for the past two years. He would provide a nice boost to the interior of this Jets offensive line and some much needed run blocking. Joe Douglas spent a lot on the offensive line in free agency without much success. Davis and Mekhi Becton would give the Jets two great building blocks to rely on as they reshape the unit.

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24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Did Pittsburgh throw it more than anyone else strictly by design or because they lost faith in the running game? Hard to know which is true, but either way, the Steelers cannot continue to rely on Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball 50+ times per game. That’s not sustainable. Najee Harris is the top running back in this class and could very well come off the board before this. He is physical, fast and consistent. His blend of quickness and power is pretty impressive. What makes him worthy of a first-round pick is his ability as a pass catcher. Harris caught 65 passes over the past two seasons. A 230-pound back who can get involved in the passing game? That is a special combination.

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25. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (1-15) – Liam Eichenburg, OT, Notre Dame
Cam Robinson did not have a great 2020 season and it is time that the Jaguars think about moving on from him at left tackle. Protecting Trevor Lawrence is going to be a big priority. Liam Eichenburg is one of the most pro ready tackles in this class. He is incredibly polished and technically sound. His upside is limited by a lack of speed, but he can be the anchor on the left side of the line.

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26. Cleveland Browns (11-5) – Jeremiah Owusu-Komaroah, LB, Notre Dame
Cleveland’s postseason run is going to continue for a little bit longer, but it is clear where they could use some help on defense. With no clear secondary pick here, the Browns can grab a high-upside linebacker. Jeremiah Owusu-Komaroah is a fantastic cover player with sideline-to-sideline ability. Given the Browns struggles in pass coverage this season, this would be a useful addition to the defense.

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27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Tampa Bay is in win-now mode with Tom Brady, but they can afford to go with a raw, high-upside edge rusher as they continue to build depth on defense. Kwity Paye has all the physical tools you hope for in an edge rusher at 6’4″ and roughly 270 lbs. He didn’t produce much at Michigan with just 11.5 sacks in 28 career games. However, teams will be betting they can help unlock his potential and turn him into a physically dominant edge rusher.

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28. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Another prospect and team pairing that I really like, Baltimore’s offensive line has not been the dominant unit we have become accustomed to watching in recent years. Ronnie Stanley went down after just seven games. Matt Skura had issues snapping the ball at times this season. Plugging in a pro-ready option like Creed Humphrey at center would be a great move for Baltimore. Humphrey has plenty of experience blocking for mobile quarterbacks, playing with Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Blocking for Lamar Jackson should be a seamless transition.

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29. New Orleans Saints (12-4) – Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC
The Saints are in for a big offseason as the team figures out its direction after Drew Brees’ career ends. New Orleans has been searching for linebacking help for years now. Finding a high-character and dynamic leader like Chazz Surratt at the end of the first round would be a great addition. Surratt is a former quarterback who is still learning the position. However, he has thrived under Mack Brown over the past two seasons starting for UNC. He could take over for Demario Davis, who just turned 32, when he decides to retire.

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30. Buffalo Bills (13-3) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Another great fit for both prospect and team here. Buffalo could use an upgrade at tight end. What makes this such a great fit is Pat Freiermuth’s ability as both a blocker and inline receiver. He is not the same type of receiving threat as someone like Kyle Pitts, but he is a well-rounded player that fills a huge need. Giving Josh Allen an elite tight end to work with is only going to elevate his game further.

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31. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
There is a time and place to grab a receiver, but that is probably later in the draft. Green Bay has David Bahktiari locked up for a while, but he suffered a major injury and Bryan Bulaga left last offseason. Suddenly, this once stout offensive line is starting to deteriorate. Letting Rashawn Slater start his career at right tackle could be great for his development. He has a long way to go when it comes to hand usage and has some flaws in his pass blocking technique, but he shows flashes of being a punishing blocker. Investing in protecting Aaron Rodgers, or eventually Jordan Love, is a good plan.

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32. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee
Kansas City has not looked quite as sharp over the final few weeks of the season. Part of that has been inconsistent offensive line play. Andrew Wylie has struggled and could be in danger of being replaced in 2021. Trey Smith is a physical specimen at 6’6″, 330 lbs. He started his career at tackle before kicking inside to guard. He played really well for Tennessee in 2020 and could be in line to start on Day 1. Worst-case scenario, he provides some crucial depth for the defending champs at either guard or tackle spot.

33. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Carlos Basham Jr., DL, Wake Forest
With two exciting edge rushers in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson, Jacksonville could use an upgrade along the inside of the defensive line. Carlos Basham Jr. is a bit of a tweener, playing snaps at defensive end and defensive tackle. That versatility would be valuable to a Jaguars defense that was one of the worst in football this past year.

34. New York Jets (2-14) – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
New York is in desperate need of some edge rushing help. Ranking in the bottom third in sacks for what feels like the 10th year in a row has to end at some point for the Jets to turn things around. Joseph Ossai is an intriguing prospect, having played more of an off-ball linebacker role prior to the 2020 season. However, he showed enough promise as an edge rusher for the Jets to add him here.

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. Jaelan Phillips flashed tons of speed and potential to produce at the NFL level in his one year at Miami. The Falcons would be banking on that being a sign of things to come and not a one season wonder.

36. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-6) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
Miami finally grabs the receiver fans have been waiting for. Chris Olave made a huge impact on this Ohio State offense this year. He has good size to compete for pass downfield and has shown flashes of high-level route runner. He might need to bulk up a little bit to survive in the NFL.

37. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
The direction of this Eagles defense is in flux with Doug Pederson fired and Jim Schwartz taking a year away from football. There is no question that the pass defense needs a boost though. Andre Cisco is a centerfield safety with great ball skills. He had 12 interceptions in his first two seasons before slogging through an injury-riddled 2020. He would help Philly deal with the big plays that plagued the secondary all season long.

38. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) – Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa
Carlos Dunlap is gone. Geno Atkins turns 33 in March. Cincinnati could use an infusion of talent along the defensive line. Daviyon Nixon flashed enough upside that the Bengals would be happy to land him in the second round. He moves incredibly well at 305 pounds, but there is room for improvement when it comes to his technique. If he can get that final layer of polish, he could be a force along the interior of the defense.

39. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Is Teddy Bridgewater the long-term answer at quarterback? It is unclear at this point. Matt Rhule would likely be excited to work with a polished passer like Kyle Trask. He has great accuracy and anticipation. However, he really lacks mobility and does not have the biggest arm. He could be a bit of a project behind Bridgewater.

40. Denver Broncos (6-10) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
Alex Leatherwood has played every position along the offensive line, other than center, in his time at Alabama. In this scenario, I envision him potentially taking over at right tackle after not seeing Ja’Wuan James play much in the past two years. His ability to play left tackle is important too if Garrett Bolles regresses.

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. We didn’t get to see him in 2020 because he opted out, but he has room for improvement and the size to play as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker.

42. New York Giants (6-10) – Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
The Giants will be disappointed to see Tryon off the board, but Quincy Roche is a nice consolation prize. He did not put up the same eye-popping numbers he did during his time at Temple, but his one year in Miami was productive. New York’s defense made huge strides in 2020 under Patrick Graham, but needs some more pass rushing help to take the next step.

43. Cincinnati Bengals via San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC
If the Bengals spent every pick in this draft on the offensive line, I don’t think anyone would fault them. That’s probably unnecessary, but investing another premium pick on an offensive lineman is smart roster building here. Alijah Vera-Tucker brings some experience at both guard and tackle. He is a developing player that should make Joe Burrow’s life better when he returns from injury.

44. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Jevon Holland, DB, Oregon
Dallas’ defense is headed for something of a major rebuild. With a ton of question marks in the secondary, finding a player who can play in multiple roles carries a lot of value. Jevon Holland is disruptive and can line up at either safety spot or play in the slot. The Cowboys just need to find talented players to turn this defense around.

45. Jacksonville Jaguars via Minnesota Vikings (1-15) – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
Jacksonville is in desperate need of an upgrade at tight end. Brevin Jordan has not had the fanfare that Kyle Pitts and Pat Freiermuth have, but he plays the position well. He does a lot of the little things right and would give Trevor Lawrence a strong target across the middle.

46. Detroit Lions via New England Patriots (7-9) – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
The backend of Detroit’s defense needs a lot of work. Trevon Moehrig is a reliable safety option with plenty of range to make plays. He was one of the best players on a solid TCU defense. His biggest area for improvement is keeping proper positioning. Moehrig got burned deep a few times in 2020.

47. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
The Chargers might not bring back Mike Williams. Even if they do, there is room for another playmaker on this squad. Kadarius Toney looked incredible as part of Florida’s offensive resurgence this season. He is dynamic in the open field and great at making plays with the ball in his hands. Toney could be uber productive playing with Justin Herbert.

48. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
Keep rebuilding this defense. The Raiders have swung and missed on a lot of corners in recent years, but Eric Stokes could help steady the unit a bit. He has impeccable speed and solid coverage skills. Stokes showed some signs of being a real difference maker with four interceptions in 2020. His stock could rise a lot if he posts a ridiculous time at the combine.

49. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State
Marvin Wilson was a potential first-round selection a year ago, but did not have a great senior year after returning to Tallahassee. I think Wilson could bounce back with some better coaching. There was a lot of animosity at Florida State this offseason and it seemed like Wilson’s heart was not in it this year. If he can reclaim his 2019 form, this would be a steal for a Cardinals team in need of some help along the defensive line.

50. Miami Dolphins (10-6) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
I have Travis Etienne ranked at No. 14 on my big board, so don’t go thinking I hate Etienne. However, NFL teams are continuing to devalue this position to the point where only one running back was selected last year in the first round. This is a great fit for the Clemson running back, who would join an exciting offense. His big-play ability could easily see him go sooner than this.

51. Washington (7-9) – Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest
Assuming that Washington does opt for Mac Jones, they are going to need to give him some receivers other than Terry McLaurin to throw to. Sage Surratt sat out the 2020 season, but he was last seen torching secondaries in the ACC. He is a big-play threat with great size and ball skills.

52. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
We won’t get to see Landon Dickerson workout at the Senior Bowl or combine this year because he suffered a season-ending injury in the SEC title game. He made a brief cameo at the end of Alabama’s championship win, but he might not be ready for the upcoming season. Once he is back to full health though, he could be a steady starter for the Bears. This offense would look a lot better with an improved line and some additional playmakers.

53. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – Jay Tufele, DL, USC
This mostly projecting how Jay Tufele could develop as a prospect. He flashed some interior pass rushing ability in his first two seasons before opting out of the 2020 season. The Titans will take pass rushing help however they can get it at this point.

54. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
T.Y. Hilton had a strong second half and Michael Pittman Jr. showed flashes of his potential to be a No. 1 receiver, but Indy needs more receiving options. Parris Campbell has yet to make an impact and Zach Pascal is better off providing depth. Terrace Marshall got overshadowed by Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase last year, but he made some big plays for a much worse LSU offense this year.

55. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
Pittsburgh’s offensive line struggled a lot between injuries and poor play all season. Dillon Radunz is a bit of an unknown coming out of North Dakota State, but he has some great physical tools and dominated the FCS. He could compete for either tackle spot from Day 1.

56. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
There is no question the Seahawks need an edge rusher, but Russell Wilson also needs time to make plays. Saturday’s loss to the Rams should underline how much the offensive line needs an upgrade. Jalen Mayfield held down the right side of the line for Michigan. He should do the same thing for Seattle, replacing Brandon Shell.

57. Los Angeles Rams (10-6) – Cade Mays, OT, Tennessee
Andrew Whitworth cannot play forever and Jared Goff is not mobile enough to compensate for a bad offensive line. Cade Mays, like his teammate Trey Smith, has featured mostly at guard, but has the size to play at tackle. He has played at every position at some point in his college career at Georgia and Tennessee. His versatility would be hugely valuable even if he does not start right away.

58. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) – Jaylen Twyman, DL, Pittsburgh
Building depth along the front seven is pretty much the only clear need this team has, pending any losses in free agency. Jalen Twyman was a disruptive force in 2019 for Pittsburgh. He racked up 10.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in a dominant season. He will need to measure in well at the combine to answer some questions about his size, but he could provide some pass rushing depth right away.

59. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
There is no question the Ravens need another receiver to add to this offense. Amon-Ra St. Brown has the agility and route tree to fit well as a possession receiver in this offense. He can get open in small spaces and has shown the ability to stretch the field as well.

60. Cleveland Browns (11-5) – Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
I’m not totally sure where Israel Mukuamu fits at the next level. He has played both safety and outside corner in his time at South Carolina. He is huge at 6’4″ and shows flashes of being a lockdown corner. He is a step slow in the speed department, but his versatility would be extremely useful for a Browns secondary that has struggled to keep players healthy.

61. New Orleans Saints (12-4) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Ronadale Moore has looked like a human joystick when at full strength. That type of playmaking could be a huge boost to the Saints offense. It is not totally clear what this team will look like without Drew Brees, but New Orleans has needed a long-term solution across from Michael Thomas for a few years. Moore could be a top candidate if his medicals check out.

62. Buffalo Bills (13-3) – Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke
Buffalo’s defense took a step back in 2020 after a dominant 2019 season. The Bills can look to reclaim their 2019 form with a couple of fresh faces in the front seven. Chris Rumph II had a great career with Duke, posting 14.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss over his final two seasons.

63. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn
Seth Williams’ skill set is a bit more limited than some of the receivers that have gone before him, but what he does, he does very well. He has the size at 6’3″ to make plays down the field in traffic. Most importantly, he has good hands, which is something Green Bay desperately needs. The Packers had one of the highest drop percentages in the league this year.

64. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Kansas City can stay close to home with this pick. Nick Bolton was a huge factor in Missouri’s surprising season. He was one of the leaders of the Mizzou defense and made some impact plays with eight tackles for loss this season. Bolton would compete for a starting spot on a defense in need of some improvement in the linebacking corp.

NFL Draft Podcast – CFP review and East-West Shrine Bowl preview

College football season wrapped up on Monday night and now it’s time to focus on the NFL draft. I am breaking down the best and worst performances from the CFP final and discussing the latest draft prospect decisions. Plus, find out which players you should be watching during the upcoming East-West Shrine Bowl. Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

NFL Draft Podcast – Tua, Fromm and CFP Final Preview

Tua Tagovailoa is headed for the NFL draft, as is Jake Fromm. With player declarations coming fast and furious, it’s time to catch up on how these announcements are effecting this draft class as a whole. Plus, figure out which matchups to watch in the College Football Playoff championship game. Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

NFL Draft Podcast Episode 7

I’m finally back behind the mic! Glad to have the podcast up and running again because there is tons to talk about. I break down Tua Tagovailoa’s draft decision, discuss the head coaching vacancies in the NFL and review the best performances from the College Football Playoff semifinals. Check out the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.