Three Potential Landing Spots for Mac Jones

Is this premature? Absolutely. Am I going to do it anyway? You bet.

We haven’t seen quarterback drama like this in New England since at least 2017 when the team traded Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco. At that point, the Patriots still had Tom Brady. Mac Jones seemed to be Brady’s heir after the Pats spent a first round pick on him in 2021. New England reached the playoffs and Jones was in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.

Oh how things have changed.

Jones opened the season as the unquestioned starter, but suffered an ankle injury in Week 3 that forced him to miss the next three games. Brian Hoyer was supposed to be his short-term replacement, but then the veteran quarterback suffered a concussion during his first start against the Packers.

Enter Bailey Zappe.

The rookie fourth-round pick from Western Kentucky was a bit of a surprise pick by the franchise in this draft, but most viewed him as a developmental prospect who could be a quality backup long term. That has not been the case so far. Zappe nearly upset the Packers in Week 4 coming in to replace Hoyer. He led the Patriots to back-to-back wins over the Lions and Browns, completing 41 of 55 passes for 497 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.

Needless to say, fans in New England were ready for Zappe Hour and The Zappening and everything in between. However, Mac Jones was cleared to return for Monday Night Football against the Bears and got the start. Jones didn’t last long though. He attempted just six passes, amassing 13 yards, and was pulled after throwing an interception. Zappe got the offense moving, scoring a pair of touchdowns to take a 14-10 lead. Things went off the rails from there. Chicago went on to win 33-14.

Zappe clearly provided a spark, but it fizzled and it left New England in a tricky spot at quarterback. Belichick dodged questions about who his starting quarterback would be going forward. He said Jones was taken out of the game because he wasn’t healthy. If that was really the case, then why was Jones out there in the first place? This whole situation is a bit bizarre and really casts a shadow over his future with the team.

It certainly appears that Belichick is no longer 100% committed to Jones. He has been underwhelming this season, with just three touchdowns to six interceptions. His passer rating and completion percentage are also down from a year ago.

As I already noted, this is definitely a bit early to talk about Jones no longer being with the Patriots. This would be very early to move on from a first-round pick at quarterback after just two seasons, especially without a change in the front office. Still, stranger things have happened. If Jones does become available, there are a few teams that will definitely be interested.

Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have been searching for a quarterback since Andrew Luck retired. Matt Ryan was the team’s fourth opening day starter in as many years. This team has been searching for a long-term solution, but has only had stop-gap answers. Acquiring Jones could potentially end the carousel at the position.

Now, I can understand why Indianapolis might be hesitant to make this move. The Colts brought in Carson Wentz hoping a change of scenery would bring out the best in a player that looked like an MVP before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2017. That obviously didn’t work out as the Colts shipped him out to Washington after just one season.

The difference here is that Jones is still on his rookie deal. Wentz had already signed a mega extension with a ton of money guaranteed. It makes acquiring Jones a much lower-risk move by comparison. Frank Reich is on the hot seat. I’m not sure he will get another chance with this team, but Chris Ballard has put together a pretty good roster outside of the quarterback spot. Jones could give him a consistent, accurate passer to operate a run-focused offense centered around Jonathan Taylor.

New Orleans Saints
The Jameis Winston experiment in New Orleans has not gone according to plan. His play has been inconsistent, but more importantly, his health has kept him off the field. An ACL injury cost him the remainder of the 2021 season. Now, he is dealing with multiple fractures in his back and a lingering ankle injury. Andy Dalton has fared well in relief, but I can’t imagine that the Saints really believe he could be the long-term answer at quarterback.

Jones has a similar playstyle to Drew Brees and while Sean Payton is no longer the head coach, this is still largely the same staff. Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael had a lot of success with an incredibly accurate quarterback who lacked elite mobility and arm strength. New Orleans has already sunk a lot of draft capital into this team, so I would not be shocked to see them go all in by acquiring an upgrade at quarterback.

Washington Commanders
I already talked about Carson Wentz and how he struggled in Indianapolis. Things have not been much better since he joined the Commanders. His protection was terrible before he suffered a thumb injury that landed him on injured reserve. According to Spotrac, Washington can move on from Wentz this offseason with minimal dead. Releasing him would free up $27 million in cap space. Needless to say, Wentz’s future in D.C. doesn’t look great. I think it is also safe to assume that Washington does not believe in Taylor Heinicke long term. They went out and acquired Wentz despite having Heinicke still on the roster. It feels like this team is poised to look elsewhere this offseason when it comes to the quarterback position.

Jones would certainly need better protection if he were to thrive in Washington, but $27 million would give the Commanders a decent amount to invest in their offensive line. Terry McLaurin would unquestionably be the best receiver Jones has ever worked with and it would be a reunion with his former teammate Brian Robinson. This is another tricky spot with Ron Rivera on the hot seat, but adding a young quarterback on a rookie deal could buy him a bit more time to turn things around in Washington.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

NFL Midseason All-Rookie Team: Mac Jones, Creed Humphrey, Micah Parsons and Nate Hobbs lead first-year standouts

So often, we spent an entire year, if not multiple years, scouting players as they prepare to enter the NFL. Then, we seem to lose track of them unless they are quarterbacks or top-tier performers. I know I am very guilty of this.

This year, I wanted to take a little extra time to appreciate the rookies who have performed well out of the gate. I know we are a bit past the midseason point, but there is still a lot of football left to be played, so this team is bound to look very different by the time we reach early January.

Here is my all-rookie team through 10 weeks of NFL action.

QB – Mac Jones, Patriots
This is a no-brainer. Jones has unquestionably been the best rookie quarterback of the bunch so far. Through 10 games, he has over 2,300 yards and 13 touchdowns. Trevor Lawrence has the second-most touchdown passes with eight. Jones’ completion percentage is significantly higher than all other rookie passers as well. He is in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

RB – Elijah Mitchell, 49ers
While Najee Harris has the gaudy usage numbers, Elijah Mitchell has been much more efficient this year. Perhaps that is because he has a much better line, but Mitchell has been one of the fun surprises from this draft class. He is averaging 90 yards from scrimmage per game on a healthy 4.7 yards per carry. Mitchell is in line for a solid second half.

RB – Najee Harris, Steelers
While Harris has had some ugly games this year, evidenced by his 3.7 yards per carry on the season, he is a workhorse for the Steelers. He leads all rookies in rushing yards and actually ranks second in receptions, trailing only Jaylen Waddle. It would be nice to see him be a bit more efficient as a runner, but much of that comes to running behind a poor offensive line.

WR – Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals
Chase has lit up the NFL so far. He ranks fourth in receiving yards per game and tied fifth for touchdown receptions this season among all receivers. He also has 229 more yards than the next rookie in this class. His big-play ability is unrivaled so far and he has to be the front runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

WR – Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins
While he has not been the deep threat that Chase has proven to be so far, Waddle is the main fixture in Miami’s offense. He has 60 receptions this season, by far the most of any rookie and sixth-most for any player in the league this year. If the Dolphins have some more consistent quarterback play in the second half, Waddle should see some of those yardage totals increase.

TE – Kyle Pitts, Falcons
While the scoring plays have not been there, Pitts is still making a large impact. He trails only Ja’Marr Chase for the most receiving yards among rookies. He has unquestionably benefited from increased volume with Calvin Ridley out for the Falcons. It is only a matter of time before Pitts starts to figure things out in the red zone and adds to his one touchdown on the season.

OT – Rashawn Slater, Chargers
Physically dominant barely begins to describe Slater this season. He is the third-highest rated rookie by PFF, posting a dominant 82.2 grade. He has only allowed two sacks this season and continues to shine as a run blocker. He honestly deserves some rookie of the year consideration.

G – Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets
In the midst of a rough season for the Jets, Vera-Tucker has been a bright light. He has only allowed one sack in 617 snaps this season. He is a bit uneven as a run blocker, but has shown flashes of truly dominant play. The upside he has displayed with his movement skills and instincts is impressive.

C – Creed Humphrey, Chiefs
One of my favorite offensive linemen in this past draft, Humphrey has slotted in nicely as a Day 1 starter for the Chiefs. He honestly deserves some consideration for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He is PFF’s top-ranked center through 10 weeks of play. That’s every center in the NFL, not just rookies. Bradley Bozeman is the only center in the league with a higher pass-block win rate at this point. It is obviously early, but it looks like Kansas City landed a steal. 

G – Trey Smith, Chiefs
If Creed Humphrey was a home run, I don’t even know what that makes Smith. A fifth-round pick out of Tennessee, he has taken the league by storm. Ranking sixth in both pass-block and run-block win rate, Smith is proving that he has what it takes to compete in the NFL at a high level. PFF credits him with four sacks allowed, so there is clearly still room for improvement, but he is off to a hot start.

OT – Penei Sewell, Lions
Finding another tackle across from Slater proved to actually be difficult. Had Samuel Cosmi stayed healthy, this likely would have been his spot. Instead, I will go with Sewell. He has been fine so far, definitely a bit uneven in his play, but that should be expected from one of the youngest prospects in the draft. He has now started on both sides of the line with Taylor Decker returning to action, dominating in his first start at right tackle. Sewell is showing the versatility needed to thrive in the NFL.

DL – Osa Odighizuwa, Cowboys
While Micah Parsons has, deservedly, gotten most of the press clippings this year, Odigizuwa has had a solid start to his NFL career. He is providing some interior pass rushing for the Cowboys on a defense that desperately lacked it. With nine QB hits and a pair of sacks so far this season, he is making his presence known. However, he definitely still has room for improvement as a tackler.

DL – Christian Barmore, Patriots
While it is clear Barmore is still finding his footing, there is no question he has been one of the most impactful interior rookie linemen so far this year. He is tough to move and shows the occasional flash of pass rushing prowess. Putting it all together on a more consistent basis is key, but Barmore seems to be getting better as the year rolls on.

DL – Kwity Paye, Colts
If you haven’t watched Paye play much this year and just look at the one sack he has recorded, you might question his inclusion. But if you have watched his explosive play off the edge, particularly in recent weeks, it is clear to see he is going to be a problem in the league. He is clearly still trying to figure out how to excel as a pass rusher at this level, but his physical tools have been on full display and he should continue to be disruptive.

LB – Azeez Ojulari, Giants
In what proved to be a very weak class for edge rushers, it is hard to find too many players that have stood out. While it has been a little bit of feast or famine for Ojulari, he is second in the draft class with 5.5 sacks so far this season. What’s more is he is getting on the field, a lot. He has played at least 50 percent of New York’s defensive snaps in every game this season.

LB – Micah Parsons, Cowboys
The top dog in the race to win Defensive Rookie of the Year, Parsons has done a little bit of everything this year. He has earned the most plaudits for his scary ability as a pass rusher. He leads all rookies with six sacks on the season. What makes Parsons a lock for this list though is his versatility. He can play on the edge with his hand in the dirt, or he can drop back and play as an off-ball linebacker. That makes it really difficult to account for his whereabouts on a play-to-play basis.

LB – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Browns
A surprising slide on draft day saw Owusu-Koramoah slip into the second round. The Browns have greatly benefited from his fall. JOK was ramping up into a large role within Cleveland’s defense before missing a pair of games. Now, it seems the coaching staff wants to work him back in slowly, make no mistake though, when he is on the field, he is a difference maker. 

LB – Odafe Oweh, Ravens
You knew this was going to happen. The supremely athletic edge rusher that everyone knocked for his lack of college production has flourished with the Ravens. He has four sacks already in his rookie season, trailing only Parsons and Ojulari among first-year players. Add in 11 quarterback hits and a steady presence on the field, and you have one of the top rookies in the league.

CB – Nate Hobbs, Raiders
Most of the players on this list are first- or second-round picks that I was very familiar with by draft day. Even Trey Smith and Elijah Mitchell were more widely known because of their participation in the Senior Bowl. Hobbs was notably left off the Senior Bowl roster, and yet has been one of the top cover corners in the league this season. He came back down to Earth a bit when Patrick Mahomes picked on him in Week 10, but has been one of the league’s stingiest corners on a yards allowed per completion basis.

S – Jevon Holland, Dolphins
I remember a time where Jevon Holland was regarded as a lock to be a first-round pick. It is looking more and more like that should have been the case. I know, I know, it is way too early to make those conclusions, but Holland has been one of the most dynamic rookies on the defensive side of the ball this year. He is excellent as a pass rusher and has no problem laying the wood. There is unquestionably room for improvement in coverage, but he is best used down in the box, wreaking havoc on opposing offenses. 

S – Trevon Moehrig, Raiders
Man, the Raiders really hit it out of the park with defensive backs in 2021. Early returns from Moehrig might not be quite on the same level as Hobbs, but he has been a valuable member of Las Vegas’ defensive backfield. He is the opposite of Holland, excelling in coverage, especially as a deep centerfielder. He has only missed a few snaps this whole season and even has an interception to his name.

CB – Patrick Surtain II, Broncos
While he hasn’t quite reached lockdown corner status yet, Surtain is off to a strong start to his career. Opposing teams have gone after him a few times, but Surtain has largely held his own. The three touchdowns given up aren’t great, but he is one of just seven starting corners to allow fewer than 50 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. What’s more is he has seen the eighth-most targets of any defensive player this year. He is under fire a lot, but he has won more than he has lost this season.

Fantasy Football 2021 Waiver Wire Pickups: Mitchell, Shepard popular options heading into Week 2

Fantasy Football is finally back in full swing. If you are like me, you spent much of Sunday swiping through the scoreboard pages of your various teams and questioned why you didn’t start Jalen Hurts over Aaron Rodgers. Seriously, all the reigning MVP needed to do was not have the worst fantasy output of any starter in Week 1 and I would’ve won. I lost that matchup by 0.4 points.

But I digress, because whether you feel like you crushed your draft or really messed it up, you now have a second chance to build your fantasy team. Welcome to the waiver wire. Every year, there are a few great fantasy options that slip through the cracks and wind up going undrafted. Usually, the fantasy managers who scoop those handful of players up tend to be the ones that make deep playoff runs.

Don’t believe me? Alvin Kamara went undrafted in most formats back in 2017. He finished the year as RB3. Perhaps you rode James Robinson or Justin Jefferson to a championship last year after both started the year widely available on the waiver wire. The point is, your season is not over because you had a bad Week 1 or lost a couple players to injury.

A quick reminder of how I go about this column. I am looking at players who are available in at least 50 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues as a guide for who will be available. Of course you should pick up star players if they are somehow sitting on the waiver wire, but that won’t be the case for most people.

Going beyond simply looking for players to add to your roster, working the waiver wire requires a bit of strategy. Different leagues have different policies for how waiver claims are awarded. Some have the waiver order reset in reverse order of the standing after every week. Some move teams to the back of the queue after a successful waiver claim. Some have allotted budgets of real or fake money for managers to allocate on players throughout the season. It is important to check which set up your league has and know the best way to work within those parameters.

There is also no chance you will see me advocating for you to use a waiver claim on a defense or a kicker. That does not mean that you should not pick one up if let’s say you have the Panthers defense going up against the Saints this week, but don’t waste a valuable waiver claim on a position that likely will not offer you any long term value.

With all of that in mind, let’s dive into my top additions heading into Week 2. These are listed in no particular order, simply broken up by position.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, DEN
It didn’t take long for Bridgewater to settle in. The former Panthers quarterback carved up the Giants defense for 264 yards and a pair of scores on his way to a QB14 finish. Those aren’t gaudy numbers, but solid nonetheless. On top of that, Bridgewater will face a Jaguars defense that gave up 291 yards and two scores to Tyrod Taylor in Week 1. Even without Jerry Jeudy, the Broncos still have plenty of talented receivers and backs to work with. It doesn’t hurt that Bridgewater can add a bit more value with his legs as well. He rushed for 19 yards this past week and could be in line for more as the season rolls on. I think he is a solid spot starter this week if you are in the market for one.

Mac Jones, QB, NE
I am a lot less sure about this one. Mac Jones looked really good in his NFL debut, but he did not do much from a fantasy perspective. However, he plays a very young Jets defense in Week 2 on the heels of throwing the ball 39 times against the Dolphins. That bodes well for some increased fantasy success against a weaker opponent. Jones is going to be incredibly efficient and will likely avoid turnovers. If you are searching for a fantasy option with a decently high floor, he feels like someone worth a look this week.

Elijah Mitchell, RB, SF
I’m ready to get burned again! I targeted Trey Sermon in a lot of my fantasy drafts this year under the assumption he would start if anything happened to Raheem Mostert. The latter has a lengthy injury history, so it felt pretty likely he would miss some time. Low and behold, Mostert is out of the season, but it is Elijah Mitchell who seems poised to take over the majority of the work in the backfield. He ran the ball 19 times for 104 yards and a touchdown in his NFL debut. The red flag? He did not have a single target in the passing game. Now, Sermon is likely to see some touches this week and Kyle Shanahan is notorious for rotating his running backs. JaMycal Hasty and eventually Jeff Wilson Jr. will definitely see some work. That being said, Mitchell absolutely should be rostered in every fantasy league. He will be my top waiver wire target this week.

Kenny Gainwell, RB, PHI
He didn’t light it up or see anywhere near the same volume as Mitchell, but Gainwell had a solid NFL debut. The rookie out of Memphis had 11 touches for 43 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons. He seems well positioned for about 10-15 touches per game. Normally, I wouldn’t feel great about him facing the 49ers in Week 2, but San Francisco gave up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in Week 1. This definitely has some risk reward potential, but if you are looking for someone to stash with upside, Gainwell is a good pick.

Mark Ingram, RB, HOU
Dare I say it: Mark Ingram looks fantasy relevant again. The former Ravens running back ran the ball a staggering 26 times against the Jaguars. He only averaged 3.3 yards per carry, but if he is going to see that much volume this season, he will be worth tracking. The Texans travel to Cleveland in Week 2. That’s not a great fantasy matchup for Ingram, but he should have a relatively high floor if he is going to see that much usage. I wouldn’t drop anyone you really like for him, but Ingram could be a great injury replacement for Mostert, Rashaad Penny or others.

Sterling Shepard, WR, NYG
We talked all offseason about the big additions to the Giants offense. They signed Kenny Golladay, drafted Kadarius Toney and brought in Kyle Rudolph. That was in addition to Evan Engram and Darius Slayton with Saquon Barkley finally back from injury. Turns out we forgot about Sterling Shepard. After a frustrating and injury-riddled 2020 season, the former Oklahoma receiver reasserted himself in New York’s offense with a seven-catch, 113-yard performance capped off by a touchdown. He scored the ninth most points of any fantasy receiver in Week 1. He might not be a weekly starter, but Shepard will definitely be a matchup-specific flex option.

K.J. Osborn, WR, MIN
Not a name I was overly familiar with heading into Week 1, Osborn showed a lot of promise against Cincinnati. He caught seven of his nine targets for 76 yards. I’m not ready to call him a breakout player yet, but with Minnesota lacking depth at tight end and struggling to run the ball, Osborn could be involved a bit more in the offense than we expected. It is tough for me to start him at this point, especially facing a Cardinals defense that just shut down the Titans, but he might be worth stashing on your bench if you have room.

Tim Patrick, WR, DEN
Injuries are a part of football. Every year players go down and that opens up new opportunities in fantasy. Unfortunately, Jerry Jeudy will miss some time with a high-ankle sprain. That opens the door for Tim Patrick to be fantasy relevant again. He only saw four targets in Week 1, but he turned them into four catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. I think he will see a few more throws his way with Jeudy out. Plus, he faces an abysmal Jaguars secondary in Week 2. Patrick feels like a speculative flex play or WR3 option in PPR formats. If you are in non-PPR leagues, K.J. Hamler is definitely worth a look.

Nelson Agholor, WR, NE
I’m still a little skeptical of Agholor, but he had a solid debut for the Patriots. He caught five of his seven targets for 72 yards and a score. There is a good chance he finishes the year as New England’s top receiver. On top of that, he faces a Jets secondary that struggled to contain the big play and is overall very unproven. Agholor is worth a look as a flex option in Week 2.

Jared Cook, TE, LAC
A change of scenery seems to have worked well for the veteran Cook, at least through one week. He caught five passes for 56 yards in his debut with the Chargers. That was against a talented Washington defense as well. Cook will face a Cowboys defense that gave up eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns to Rob Gronkowski in Week 1. I don’t think you should expect that type of production out of Cook, but he is definitely a streaming option this week and has the potential to be a regular starter in your lineup if you need a tight end.

2021 NFL Award Predictions: Najee Harris, Patrick Mahomes in line for some hardware

The NFL is back! Before the season gets underway in full on Sunday, I wanted to go on record with my predictions for who will win the major awards handed out at the end of the regular season. I am so glad that football finally here again!

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Harris scored 30 touchdowns in his senior year at Alabama.

Winner: Najee Harris, RB, Steelers
I am incredibly way of the Steelers’ offensive line, but this is going to be about volume. No one else in Pittsburgh’s running back room has proven themselves in the NFL. Harris is going to be in line for a 350-touch season. The team seems committed to running the ball and relying on its defense to win games. That sets up a great situation for the former Alabama star to shine and take home the award.

Runner Up: Mac Jones, QB, Patriots
Some of this is about Jones’ situation and some of it is due to his talent. He might have been the most pro-ready quarterback in the 2021 draft class. Now, he will play with a revamped Patriots offense behind a good offensive line. He also feels like a great fit for Josh McDaniels’ offense. His ability to make plays from the pocket and take care of the football bodes well for him having an impressive 2021 season. I think there might be too many hiccups for him to win the award. Quarterbacks tend to be dissected more intensely than any other position. I think it is too much to expect him to match Justin Herbert’s numbers from a year ago. He will be in the conversation, but I believe he will ultimately come up short.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Winner: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Broncos
It only took one preseason game for Surtain to flash the potential that made him the No. 9 pick in the 2021 draft. He raced back a 30-yard pick-six against the Vikings in the Broncos’ preseason opener. Now, it was just the preseason, but that is the type of playmaking ability that will win Rookie of the Year. Without an elite edge rusher in this draft class, at least right out of the gate, there is a good chance we see either a corner or linebacker take home the award this year. I’m backing Surtain, who was my top corner prospect in 2021.

Runner Up: Jamin Davis, LB, Washington
Davis flew up draft boards with his speed and instinctive playmaking style. He has the intangibles to become a sideline-to-sideline linebacker at the next level. Washington also has arguably the best defensive line in the NFL, which means Davis should have plenty of clear sight lines to the quarterback and ballcarriers. That front four eating up blocks will free up Davis to diagnose and go make plays. There will be a decent amount of competition for the award this year with Jaelan Phillips and Zaven Collins poised for big roles early in their careers, but I like Davis to stand out.

Offensive Player of the Year

Jones ran for a career-high 1,104 yards in 14 games in 2020.

Winner: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers
Jamal Williams and his 70 receptions over the past two season are in Detroit. A.J. Dillon might still be there, but he is definitely a change of pace back. He will get carries, but I think Jones is in for a monster season. This offensive line will get better when David Bahktiari returns. Until then, Jones can run behind Elgton Jenkins. He will also continue to be involved in the passing game, where he has seen 131 targets over the past two years. This is going to be one of the best offenses in the league again and I expect Jones to be a huge part of that.

Runner Up: Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs
It helps to play with Patrick Mahomes, but Hill is a special talent. After a 1,400-yards-from-scrimmage, 17-total-touchdown season, Hill had a legitimate claim to win the award in 2020. Sammy Watkins is now in Baltimore, so there is potential for Hill’s target share to even increase in 2021. With an improved offensive line, Mahomes will have even more time to drop dimes to Hill deep downfield.

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: T.J. Watt, LB, Steelers
Well part of this was an assumption that Watt would ball out in a contract year, but I still think he is in line for a special season. He has had at least 13 sacks in each of the past three seasons, including his league-leading 15 a season ago. He plays in a dynamic defense with tons of talent around him. Opposing teams will not be able to zero in on him in pass protection, at least not on every down. In addition to leading the league in sacks, Watt also tallied a league-high 23 tackles for loss. He is a disruptive force on a team that will be led by its defense.

Runner Up: Aaron Donald, DL, Rams
Six straight First-Team All-Pros, seven straight Pro Bowls, four straight seasons with at least 11 sacks. It would unwise to predict anything but another stellar season by Donald. He is the best interior pass rusher in the NFL and one of the best ever. He is going to have plenty of pass rushing opportunities as well with the Rams seemingly poised to score a decent number of points on offense. Opposing teams will definitely need to be playing catch up. I think he will come close to securing another Defensive Player of the Year award.

Coach of the Year

The Bills are 23-9 over the past two seasons.

Winner: Sean McDermott, Bills
Expectations are understandably high for the Bills. Following a return to the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1993. Josh Allen led a high-powered Buffalo offense that won the AFC East, however, the defense took a major step back. The front office invested in some young defensive players over the past few drafts. If the Bills can become a more complete team and McDermott gets this defense back to its 2019 form en route to a 13- or 14-win season, I think he will be more than deserving of the award.

Runner Up: Brandon Staley, Chargers
A rookie head coach winning Coach of the Year? I think it could happen. The Chargers retooled their offensive line, get back some major contributors from injury on defense and have a talented, young quarterback to lead the way. Los Angeles likely won’t win the AFC West, that’s the downside to playing in the same division as the Chiefs, but the Chargers are definitely in contention for a wild card spot. I think if L.A. gets to 11 wins this season, which feels attainable given their talent and schedule, Staley should be in consideration for the award.

Comeback Player of the Year

Winner: Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
I had Prescott picked well before I saw his season-opening performance against the Buccaneers. He plays in an offense loaded with weapons and was on a legitimate MVP pace in 2020 prior to his injury. I expect we will see a 5,000-yard season from him, especially with the extra regular season game. After coming off a serious ankle injury, it will be great to see Prescott get back to full strength.

Runner Up: Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers|
If his brief appearances in 2020 were any indication, McCaffrey is still the best running back in the NFL. He is such a difference-maker in Carolina’s offense with his ability as a runner and as a pass catcher. It will be interesting to see how he gels with new Panthers quarterback, but I think his usage and productivity sets him up well to be in the mix for Comeback Player of the Year.

MVP

Mahomes has thrown 114 touchdowns since taking over the starting job in 2018.

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs
What if I told you the most talented quarterback in the NFL is going to play behind the best offensive line he has ever had in 2021? Well that is exactly what is going to happen in Kansas City. Mahomes was in the mix for MVP in 2020, but his production slowed a little bit down the stretch. With more time to pick apart opposing defenses a bevy of talented weapons to throw to, I think 50 touchdowns is within reach for Mahomes again. If he plays in all 17 games, I could definitely see him averaging three scores per game.

Runner Up: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
I’m not totally sold on the Seahawks in 2021, but I still believe in Wilson. He has two reliable receivers on the outside in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. I think new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron will help this offense avoid the second-half fallout it had in 2020. Through the first half of the year, no one could touch Wilson. He was tearing apart secondaries and toss touchdowns like it was no one’s business. Despite a major slowdown in his final eight games, Wilson still tossed 40 touchdowns. I think he can match that total while cutting down on the 13 interceptions he threw to truly challenge for MVP.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

All photos are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Final Top 100 Big Board and positional rankings for the 2021 NFL draft

The countdown has reached one. On the final day before the NFL draft, I decided to have some fun with my player rankings. I am going to dive into my top 100, my positional rankings and even rank the position groups in this class.

This was easily the most difficult year I’ve ever had trying to nail down my final rankings. With no combine, incomplete medical information and the pandemic truly testing my mental fortitude, I certainly struggled. However, as I sit here in late April, I still feel pretty good about the list I have put together. I will dive into more of the specifics for some of these rankings when I get into the positional rankings. I also noted the cut off for where I have players graded by round. Without further ado, here are my top 100 players in this draft.

  1. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
  2. Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
  3. Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
  4. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
  5. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
  6. Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
  7. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
  8. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
  9. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
  10. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
  11. Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
  12. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
  13. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
  14. Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC
  15. Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
  16. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB/S, Notre Dame
  17. Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
  18. Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
  19. Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
  20. Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
  21. Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
  22. Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
  23. Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
  24. Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
  25. Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
  26. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
  27. Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
  28. Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa (First-round cut off)
  29. Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
  30. Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
  31. Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
  32. Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
  33. Liam Eichenburg, OT, Notre Dame
  34. Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
  35. Carlos Basham, DL, Wake Forest
  36. Jabril Cox, LB, LSU
  37. Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
  38. Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan
  39. Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
  40. Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
  41. Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
  42. Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
  43. Javonte Williams, RB, UNC
  44. Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
  45. Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa
  46. Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
  47. Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
  48. Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
  49. Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
  50. Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
  51. Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
  52. Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
  53. Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
  54. Rashad Weaver, EDGE, Pittsburgh
  55. Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
  56. Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh
  57. Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
  58. Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
  59. Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
  60. Kelvin Joseph, CB, Kentucky
  61. Baron Browning, LB, Ohio State
  62. Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
  63. Jay Tufele, DL, USC
  64. Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
  65. Peter Werner, LB, Ohio State
  66. James Hudson III, OT, Cincinnati (Second-round cut off)
  67. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
  68. Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
  69. Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC
  70. Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
  71. Richie Grant, S, UCF
  72. Trey Smith, G, Tennessee
  73. Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma
  74. Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
  75. Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington
  76. Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
  77. Benjamin St-Juste, CB, Minnesota
  78. Walker Little, OT, Stanford
  79. Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina
  80. Spencer Brown, OT, Northern Iowa
  81. Michael Carter, RB, UNC
  82. Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF
  83. Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State
  84. Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
  85. Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
  86. Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State
  87. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
  88. D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan
  89. Dyami Brown, WR, UNC
  90. Payton Turner, EDGE, Houston
  91. Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame (Third-round cut off)
  92. Tyler Shelvin, DL, LSU
  93. Nolan Laufenburg, G, Air Force
  94. Robert Rochell, CB, Central Arkansas
  95. Monty Rice, LB, Georgia
  96. Quinn Meinerz, C, Wisconsin-Whitewater
  97. Cameron McGrone, LB, Michigan
  98. Jackson Carmen, G, Clemson
  99. Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
  100. Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss

Let’s get into the nitty gritty now and take a look at each of the position groups. I tried to get very granular with these. Too often we just use the terms “EDGE” or “Linebacker” for so many front seven players. I wanted to really dive into which players fit into which schemes in my eyes.

Quarterback

  1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
  2. Trey Lance, North Dakota State
  3. Zach Wilson, BYU
  4. Mac Jones, Alabama
  5. Justin Fields, Ohio State
  6. Davis Mills, Stanford
  7. Kyle Trask, Florida
  8. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
  9. Jamie Newman, QB, Wake Forest
  10. Shane Buechele, SMU

I don’t think there should be any surprise at No. 1. Trevor Lawrence checks all the physical boxes and enters the NFL with a wealth of high-level college experience. Meanwhile, my No. 2 quarterback lacks a lot of that polish that teams love about Lawrence. Trey Lance is incredibly physically gifted and has an incredibly high ceiling. I like his size a lot and think he is more likely to hold up at the next level than Zach Wilson. I do believe that Wilson has the best arm in this draft class, but I worry that he will not last long in the NFL. He runs with abandon and we saw that lead to a few injuries in college. Mac Jones is the most pro-ready passer in this class, but lacks the physical traits that wow fans and scouts alike. His ball placement is special though and I think he will be successful in the NFL, even if he is a bit unathletic by today’s standards for the position. Justin Fields is more of a project than I think most people realize. His speed is incredible, but his throwing motion and technique lack refining. I still believe in his potential, but I think his floor is lower than anyone else in the top five. Davis Mills is the biggest question mark in this class. Between injuries and a lack of experience, this is all about projection for him. I think he is a third-round prospect who will come off the board much sooner. Kellen Mond and Kyle Trask have some encouraging traits, but don’t bring enough to the table to make me believe either one of them will be high-end starters. I think both could be successful, but it will be more because of their surrounding talent than their raw skill. Jamie Newman is a wild card. He transferred from Wake Forest to Georgia only to opt out of the 2020 season after losing the starting job to Stetson Bennett. He is an intriguing project, but needs a ton of work. Shane Buchele is one of my favorite late-round quarterbacks. I think he could develop into a low-end starter or a reliable backup at the next level.

Running Back

  1. Najee Harris, Alabama
  2. Travis Etienne, Clemson
  3. Javonte Williams, UNC
  4. Michael Carter, UNC
  5. Rhammondre Stevenson, Oklahoma
  6. Trey Sermon, Ohio State
  7. Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech
  8. Kenny Gainwell, Memphis
  9. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
  10. Kylin Hill, Mississippi State

The top six running backs in this class feel like they could be regular starters in the NFL. Najee Harris is an exciting blend of size and skill. He is a big back with good vision and incredible hands. He will be an asset in the pass game, which is rare for a player his size. Travis Etienne is a home run hitter with reliable hands out of the backfield. He has impressive burst and balance with the ability to turn the corner on just about any play. Javonte Williams runs how you would expect a former linebacker to. He seeks out contact, pushes through arm tackles and keeps his legs churning through the hit. His backfield mate Michael Carter was the lightning to Williams’ thunder. He is elusive and agile with good hands as a receiver. He carries his weight well and seems sturdy enough to survive in the NFL despite being a bit undersized. Rhammondre Stevenson reminds me a lot of LeGarrette Blount. He will probably only be a two-down back in the NFL, but he is a slasher who can pick up good yardage whenever he touches the ball. I believe Trey Sermon’s draft stock would have been much higher if he did not miss the national championship game. He runs with purpose and showed flashes of being an elite back. Those flashes were just a bit too inconsistent to rank him higher. Khalil Herbert wraps up his college career with a fair amount of tread on his tires. He is far from Jonathan Taylor levels, but it is still a concern for me. He was an exciting player to watch in his one year at Virginia Tech and would be a solid addition to just about any backfield in the league. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we haven’t seen Kenny Gainwell take the field since his incredible 2019 season. He has low usage, but can he replicate his success, or will he be a one-season wonder? Chuba Hubbard is closer to the Hebert end of this spectrum. He had an outrageous 351 touches in 2019 before scaling things back in a shorter 2020 season. He definitely waited a year too long to leave school, but if he recreate his 2019 form, he will be a mid-round steal. Kylin Hill feels like a quality No. 2 back, ready to handle 8-to-12 touches per game right away.

Wide Receiver

  1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
  2. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
  3. DeVonta Smith, Alabama
  4. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
  5. Kadarius Toney, Florida
  6. Terrace Marshall, LSU
  7. Nico Collins, Michigan
  8. Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
  9. Rondale Moore, Purdue
  10. Amari Rodgers, Clemson
  11. Shi Smith, South Carolina
  12. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
  13. Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
  14. D’Wyane Eskridge, Western Michigan
  15. Dyami Brown, UNC
  16. Sage Surratt, Wake Forest
  17. Anthony Schwartz, Auburn
  18. Demetric Felton, UCLA
  19. Tomorrion Terry, Florida State
  20. Josh Imatorbhebhe, Illinois

This is another loaded receiver class. The top three are about as good as they come. Ja’Marr Chase might just be the best receiver prospect since Julio Jones. Jaylen Waddle might have been on his way to the Heisman before breaking his ankle. The actual Heisman winner, DeVonta Smith, is a technician with great hands and an impressive catch radius. Rashod Bateman could be a really strong possession receiver in the NFL. Few players are as fun to watch as Kadarius Toney, but he needs a bit more consistency in his play. Terrace Marshall was the third option in LSU’s historic 2019 passing offense, but he still won his matchups and looked sharp as the top guy in 2020. Nico Collins is a big-body receiver with great ability to adjust to the ball in the air. He still has some refining to do, but Michigan receivers have excelled after getting out of Ann Arbor in recent years. If you are looking for a slot machine, Elijah Moore is your best bet in this year’s class. Rondale Moore has first-round level talent, but undrafted levels of experience and injury history. In a year where the medicals are tough to confirm, he could definitely slide. He was rarely the star of the show, but Amari Rodgers deserves a bit more credit for Clemson’s offensive success. Shi Smith is one of my favorite sleepers in this draft. Tylan Wallace seemed like he should not be able to get open as frequently as he did in college. His good technique helps him overcome his lack of elite athleticism. Amon-Ra St. Brown strikes me as a future No. 2 in the right offense with his strength and leaping ability. Small-school star D’Wayne Eskridge could be the latest MAC receiver to take the NFL by storm. Dyami Brown can win downfield, but struggled with drops in his career. His game feels like a great fit for the Chargers offense. I had high expectations for Sage Surratt heading into 2020. He definitely didn’t meet them, capped off by an injury-riddled Senior Bowl week. When healthy, he is a nightmare for undersized corners. Someone is going to take a chance on Anthony Schwartz and his 4.27 speed. Demetric Felton showed out at the Senior Bowl and could be a fun player for offensive coordinators to move around. Tommorrion Terry instant brings value as a vertical threat. Much like Donovan Peoples-Jones, I think Josh Imatorbhebhe’s athleticism is going to translate very well to the NFL.

Tight End

  1. Kyle Pitts, Florida
  2. Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
  3. Brevin Jordan, Miami
  4. Tommy Tremble, Notre Dame
  5. Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss
  6. Hunter Long, Boston College
  7. Tre’ McKitty, Georgia
  8. Quinton Morris, Bowling Green
  9. Noah Gray, Duke
  10. Kylen Granson, SMU

This tight end class is better than last year’s, but that’s not saying much. Kyle Pitts is truly a generational talent at the position. Pat Freiermuth is a borderline first round talent with his physical skill set. I like how Brevin Jordan’s game should translate to the NFL. He fits the mold of these athletic tight ends allowed to operate in space. He is definitely a bit of a throwback, but Tommy Tremble provides immediate value as a blocker. Kenny Yeboah showed impressive ball skills and athleticism at the Senior Bowl. Hunter Long could be a solid second option at the position. Same goes for Quinton Morris and Tre’ McKitty. If you are looking for a late-round flier at the position, Noah Gray and Kylen Granson are my picks.

Offensive Tackle

  1. Penei Sewell, Oregon
  2. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
  3. Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
  4. Samuel Cosmi, Texas
  5. Liam Eichenburg, Notre Dame
  6. Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
  7. Dillon Radunz, North Dakota State
  8. Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
  9. Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
  10. James Hudson III, Cincinnati
  11. Walker Little, Stanford
  12. Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa
  13. Brady Christiansen, BYU
  14. Stone Forsyth, Florida
  15. D’Ante Smith, East Carolina

Unlike the tight end class, the offensive line group brings both sizzle and substance. Penei Sewell is an outstanding athlete with plenty more room for growth in his game. Rashawn Slater could be a rock-solid tackle or an All-Pro guard. That versatility is enticing. Good luck moving Christian Darrisaw once he has anchored down. Getting Samuel Cosmi to an NFL squat rack could see him realize his immense potential. Liam Eichenburg is definitely one of my draft crushes. He just screams unheralded Pro Bowl right tackle for the next eight years to me. He has not developed quite as quickly as many hoped, but Jalen Mayfield still brings plenty to the table and could be a Day 1 starter at right tackle. While Trey Lance deserves the buzz, Dillon Radunz has the makings of a quality starting tackle who can kick inside to guard if the transition from I-AA ball proves to be too difficult. Teven Jenkins has all the necessary athleticism to be a great tackle, but his measurables worry me a little bit. It is unclear if Alex Leatherwood’s future is at tackle, but he has the versatility and experience to be a fit somewhere along the offensive line. James Hudson is still new to the position and would be a great project to work with. When healthy, Walker Little has looked like a first-round talent, but after seeing him play just one game across 2019 and 2020, it is hard to buy into his intangibles. His injury history and lack of experience scare me a bit. Spencer Brown is raw, but few human beings can move the way he does at 6’8″ and 300-plus pounds. Without a doubt, Brady Christiansen is a bit more polished than some of the guys ahead of him, but at 25-years-old, he is one of the oldest prospects in this class. In the later rounds, you look for traits to build upon. Stone Forsyth and D’Ante Smith both bring great size and length to the position.

Interior Offensive Lineman

  1. Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
  2. Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
  3. Wyatt Davis, Ohio State
  4. Landon Dickerson, Alabama
  5. Trey Smith, Tennessee
  6. Nolan Laufenburg, Air Force
  7. Quinn Meinerz, Wisconsin-Whitewater
  8. Jackson Carman, Clemson
  9. Drew Dalman, Stanford
  10. Aaron Banks, Notre Dame
  11. Ben Cleveland, Georgia
  12. Drake Jackson, Kentucky
  13. Jimmy Morrissey, Pittsburgh
  14. Deonte Brown, Alabama
  15. Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame

This is a deep group of starting caliber centers, but the best interior lineman in this draft is definitely Alijah Vera-Tucker. I love Creed Humphrey and the experience he brings after four seasons starting at Oklahoma. I think he is pro-ready with some more potential still to be unlocked. Wyatt Davis is a road grader who will improve any running game. Landon Dickerson’s injury history holds him back after yet another knee injury. He will be a solid starter if he can get back to his pre-injury form. Trey Smith tested very well at Tennessee’s pro day and should be a starter at either guard spot in the NFL. Nolan Laufenburg is not getting much press, but he is a beast as a run blocker and has solid lateral quickness for the position. His crop top drew a lot of attention at the Senior Bowl. Quinn Meinerz backed it up with some solid play and could be a starting center come 2022. Drew Dalman tested incredibly well and could be the latest Stanford lineman to find success at the next level. Similar to Stanford, Notre Dame has a good track record of sending offensive linemen to the pros and I think that trend will continue with Aaron Banks. Ben Cleveland might be a steal in the later rounds of the draft with his combination of size and agility. While a bit undersized, Drake Jackson played really well at the Senior Bowl. Jimmy Morrissey is one of my favorite late round interior linemen. Deonte Brown is massive, but his lack of athleticism showed up in Mobile. Robert Hainsey feels like he will last a long time in the NFL as a swing guard providing depth.

4-3 Defensive End

  1. Gregory Rousseau, Miami
  2. Kwity Paye, Michigan
  3. Jaelan Phillips, Miami
  4. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest
  5. Joe Tryon, Washington
  6. Jayson Oweh, Penn State
  7. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
  8. Joseph Ossai, Texas
  9. Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh
  10. Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
  11. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
  12. Payton Turner, Houston
  13. Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbilt
  14. Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
  15. Shaka Toney, Penn State

Time to really break things down. Gregory Rousseau is definitely raw and unrefined, but his tape makes me believe he can find success as a down lineman. Kwity Paye’s athleticism will likely see him drafted in the first round, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Without the injury concerns, Jaelan Phillips would be the top edge rusher in this class, but they are too big to ignore. Carlos Basham is quietly one of the best defensive linemen in this draft class. He got double-teamed a lot at Wake Forest. With his size and length, Joe Tyron can add or drop from his frame to fit what scheme he is drafted to play in. Jayson Oweh raw athleticism definitely points to him being more successful in the pros than he was in college. Azeez Ojulari only does one thing as a speed rusher, but he does it really well. Joseph Ossai is still learning how to play on the edge after starting his career as an off-ball linebacker. After missing 2019 with a torn ACL, Rashad Weaver impressed me in 2020. I’m willing to bet he looks even better another year removed from his injury. His teammate, Patrick Jones II, fell a bit in the draft process, but was incredibly productive and consistent throughout his college career. He missed part of the season due to a suspension, but Ronnie Perkins was nearly unstoppable down the stretch for Oklahoma. Both Payton Turner and Dayo Odeyingbo bring elite length to the position. Even if they are not the most refined prospects, those intangibles are worth targeting in the middle rounds. Hamilcar Rashed Jr. took a major step back production wise in 2020, leaving scouts to wonder if his 2019 breakout was actually an anomaly. While not quite as athletic as his former Penn State teammate, Shaka Toney is still an intriguing project.

3-4 Defensive End

  1. Gregory Rousseau, Miami
  2. Christian Barmore, Alabama
  3. Kwity Paye, Michigan
  4. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest
  5. Joe Tryon, Washington
  6. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
  7. Rashad Weaver, Pittsburgh
  8. Jay Tufele, USC
  9. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
  10. Marvin Wilson, Florida State
  11. Payton Turner, Houston
  12. Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech
  13. Dayo Odeyingbo, Vanderbilt
  14. Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA
  15. Alim McNeil, NC State

I won’t belabor the point with players I already talked about. Christian Barmore has tons of exciting traits, but rumors that he is resistant to coaching could cause him to slide. Daviyon Nixon has some incredible moments on film at Iowa. If he can find some consistency, he will be a star in the NFL. Jay Tufele lost a lot of his traction after opting out, but he projects as a future starter in the league. As the league trends towards finding interior pass rushing, Levi Onwuzurike fits the profile of a disruptive interior player. No player likely hurt their draft stock worse than Marvin Wilson. Still, I’m willing to bet on him rediscovering his 2019 form with a change of scenery. Milton Williams turned some heads with the testing numbers he posted. His athleticism will be something teams covet. Osa Odighizuwa is longer than he is tall, which bodes well for him at the next level. It seems like every year NC State produces another NFL defensive lineman. I expect Alim McNeil to do his part as a rotational player.

4-3 Defensive Tackle

  1. Gregory Rousseau, Miami
  2. Christian Barmore, Alabama
  3. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest
  4. Joe Tryon, Washington
  5. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
  6. Jay Tufele, USC
  7. Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
  8. Marvin Wilson, Florida State
  9. Payton Turner, Houston
  10. Tyler Shelvin, LSU
  11. Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech
  12. Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA
  13. Alim McNeil, NC State
  14. Darius Stills, West Virginia
  15. Marlon Tuipulotu, USC

Believe it or not, I think this is Gregory Rousseau’s best fit in the NFL. At 6’7″, he has room to add to his frame. He dominated interior linemen while at Miami. If he can bulk up a bit, I think he could be an elite 3-tech. Tyler Shelvin enters the conversation here. He is definitely best suited as a nose tackle, but I think he could survive as a run-stuffer paired with an interior pass rusher in a 4-3 scheme. Darius Stills and Marlon Tuipulotu both bring a lot of experience, which could serve them well as potential backups in the league.

3-4 Defensive Tackle

  1. Christian Barmore, Alabama
  2. Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
  3. Jay Tufele, USC
  4. Marvin Wilson, Florida State
  5. Tyler Shelvin, LSU
  6. Alim McNeil, NC State
  7. Marlon Tuipulotu, USC
  8. Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
  9. Tedarrel Slaton, Florida
  10. Bobby Brown, Texas A&M

This is not a good draft to need a nose tackle. Tommy Togiai plays bigger than he really is, which is good because he is a bit undersized in this spot. Tedarrel Slaton and Bobby Brown are space eaters who can contribute as two-down players and goal line defenders at the next level.

3-4 Outside Linebacker

  1. Zaven Collins, Tulsa
  2. Jaelan Phillips, Miami
  3. Joe Tyron, Washington
  4. Jayson Oweh, Penn State
  5. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
  6. Joseph Ossai, Texas
  7. Quincy Roche, Miami
  8. Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
  9. Baron Browning, Ohio State
  10. Ronnie Perkins, Oklahoma
  11. Payton Turner, Houston
  12. Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State
  13. Shaka Toney, Penn State
  14. Malcolm Koonce, Buffalo
  15. Chris Rumph II, Duke

While I believe he is best suited to play off the ball, Zaven Collins is a solid pass rusher with great size. For the record, this is where I think Ojulari, Ossai, Perkins and Rashed Jr. fit best. Quincy Roche had a great week in Mobile, but he lacks the size to play in a 4-3 scheme. He could be a great situational pass rusher right out of the gate. Much like Collins, I like Baron Browning as an off-ball linebacker, but he has the athleticism to play on the outside. Malcolm Koonce and Chris Rumph II are lean edge rushers who could contribute in a rotational role.

4-3 Outside Linebacker

  1. Micah Parsons, Penn State
  2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
  3. Zaven Collins, Tulsa
  4. Jabril Cox, LSU
  5. Jamin Davis, Kentucky
  6. Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
  7. Joseph Ossai, Texas
  8. Baron Browning, Ohio State
  9. Pete Werner, Ohio State
  10. Nick Bolton, Missouri
  11. Chazz Surratt, UNC
  12. Dylan Moses, Alabama
  13. Monty Rice, Georgia
  14. Cameron McGrone, Michigan
  15. K.J. Britt, Auburn

I considered putting Micah Parsons in the 3-4 group as well, but I think he does his best work when he is allowed to attack downhill and react without having players put their hands on him at the snap. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah won’t last long on draft night because of his ability to cover players in space. I also have him listed as my top strong safety. That’s the type of ability we are talking about here. Jabril Cox is not quite as fast as JOK, but he can still flex out and match up tight ends and slot receivers on occasion. Jamin Davis tested off the charts and his potential is as one of the best all-around linebackers in the game. Pete Werner seems like the next great undersized linebacker to start racking up 150-plus tackles at the next level. While he has great straight-line speed, I worry Nick Bolton is going to struggle given his lack of agility. Chazz Surratt is still learning the position, which points to untapped potential. However, he is also already 24 years old. A year ago, Dylan Moses seemed like a lock to go in the first round, even coming off a torn ACL. Now, he will be lucky to go in the first three rounds after a rocky season in his return from injury. Cameron McGrone is a bit undersized, but has a nose for the football. Monty Rice and K.J. Britt would be solid cover linebackers capable of coming in on third downs.

Inside Linebacker

  1. Micah Parsons, Penn State
  2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
  3. Zaven Collins, Tulsa
  4. Jabril Cox, LSU
  5. Jamin Davis, Kentucky
  6. Baron Browning, Ohio State
  7. Pete Werner, Ohio State
  8. Nick Bolton, Missouri
  9. Chazz Surratt, UNC
  10. Dylan Moses, Alabama
  11. Monty Rice, Georgia
  12. Cameron McGrone, Michigan
  13. K.J. Britt, Auburn
  14. Riley Cole, South Alabama
  15. Charles Snowden, Virginia

Much of this list is the same, but we lose a few of the more natural pass rushers here. Riley Cole got his name on the radar at the Senior Bowl coming off a strong redshirt-senior season. Look for him in the later rounds. Same goes for Charles Snowden, whose size for the position will grab the attention of teams right away.

Cornerback

  1. Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
  2. Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
  3. Greg Newsome, Northwestern
  4. Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
  5. Eric Stokes, Georgia
  6. Tyson Campbell, Georgia
  7. Paulson Adebo, Stanford
  8. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
  9. Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky
  10. Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
  11. Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota
  12. Aaron Robinson, UCF
  13. Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas
  14. Shaun Wade, Ohio State
  15. Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
  16. Elijah Molden, Washington
  17. Marco Wilson, Florida
  18. Tay Gowan, UCF
  19. Keith Taylor Jr., Washington
  20. Shakur Brown, Michigan State

This is a solid corner class that starts to drop off around the 13 or 14 mark. Patrick Surtain II could fit into any defensive scheme. His size and top end speed make him my top corner. Jaycee Horn and Greg Newsome move ahead of Caleb Farley as reports of his back issues seem to keep getting worse. Eric Stokes ran a 4.31 40-yard at his pro day, which ranks in the 97th percentile. Finding that type of speed in a 6’0″ corner is rare. His former Georgia teammate, Tyson Campbell, also ran well and is a bit taller, but he lacks the same fluidity as Stokes. Paulson Adebo fell off the radar after missing the end of 2019 with an injury and opting out of 2020. He tested great and his film makes me believe he could be a starter early in his career. If you are looking for long, toolsy corners, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Kelvin Joseph and Benjamin St-Juste deserve your attention. Asante Samuel Jr.’s tape is better than being the 10th corner in this draft, but his lack of size and length caps his upside. He would be a great nickel corner though. Aaron Robinson showed he has the physicality to be a good press corner at the Senior Bowl. Robert Rochell is a bit untested coming out of Central Arkansas, but his length and speed make him an interesting project. Shaun Wade and Israel Mukuamu are both long and physical, but have struggled in man coverage in their career on the outside. Those traits could be very useful in the right scheme though or at safety, if teams want them to switch positions. Elijah Molden and Marco Wilson could both be solid nickel corners. Tay Gowan is a bit of an unknown with only 13 career appearances, but could be worthy of a late flier. I came away very impressed by Keith Taylor Jr. at the Senior Bowl. He did not win every rep, but he was not afraid to compete with the top receivers in attendance. Shakur Brown has a nose for the football and could carve out a role for himself in the slot.

Strong Safety

  1. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
  2. Trevon Moehrig, TCU
  3. Jevon Holland, Oregon
  4. Richie Grant, UCF
  5. Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech
  6. Hamsah Nasirildeen, Florida State
  7. Talanoa Hufanga, USC
  8. Tyree Gillespie, Missouri
  9. Caden Sterns, Texas
  10. Shawn Davis, Florida

I already talked about it, but it’s worth repeating. Owusu-Koramoah is a true hybrid player. However, the best all-around safety in this draft is Trevon Moehrig. Jevon Holland brings tons of versatility. He can play in either safety spot and even line up in the slot. Richie Grant had an impressive career at UCF and backed that up with a strong week at the Senior Bowl. Don’t sleep on Divine Deablo. In addition to having a great name, he can be a heat-seeking missile. Hamsah Nasirildeen is a bit of a conundrum. I’m still not sure if he is a big safety or an undersized linebacker. While he lacks elite speed, Talanoa Hufanga is a playmaker and a leader. Tyree Gillespie has good long speed, but his lack of short-area quickness limits his upside. Shawn Davis and Caden Sterns are both long, hard-hitting safeties. Sterns has a bit more speed those, which gives him the edge.

Free Safety

  1. Trevon Moehrig, TCU
  2. Jevon Holland, Oregon
  3. Andre Cisco, Syracuse
  4. Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
  5. Richie Grant, UCF
  6. Jamar Johnson, Indiana
  7. Shaun Wade, Ohio State
  8. Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
  9. Christian Uphoff, Illinois State
  10. Ar’Darius Washington, TCU

I’ve already praised Moehrig and Holland. I also love Andre Cisco. He was a ballhawk at Syracuse, but needs to improve as a tackler to really be a quality starter. Melifonwu has the size and range to be a potential centerfielder. Jamar Johnson sees the field well, but he does not bring any elite traits to the table. Christian Uphoff could be the latest D-III star to make the NFL jump. He lacks elite top speed, but his size and first step could see him hang around in the NFL. Ar’Darius Washington on the other hand is very undersized, but makes up for that with consistent effort and impressive initial quickness.

Ranking the position groups

  1. Wide Receiver – Top-end talent is among the best we’ve ever seen. There are plenty of good receivers that will slide into the later rounds.
  2. Offensive Tackle – With a few elite prospects and a good amount of depth, this offensive tackle class should produce a good number of starters.
  3. Quarterback – While extremely top heavy, this might be one of the best groups we’ve seen come out in a long time. All five quarterbacks could legitimately go in the top 10 picks. There just isn’t much depth in this year’s class.
  4. Cornerback – Without a standout prospect, this group is a bit more about volume. I have a ton of corners with second-round grades. I think we will see a decent group of starting corners come out of this class, even if they aren’t stars.
  5. Linebacker – There are a handful of really good players that could come off the board in the first three rounds. The quality of this group fades quickly after you make it through the first 11 or 12 players though.
  6. Running Back – There is no Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott in this class. Nor is there a ton of late-round backs that I feel confident in. I do have three running backs in my top 50, but only four in my top 100.
  7. Safety – Perhaps I am underrating this group a little. There are a number of fun and interesting safeties as you move down the board. There just aren’t many that you feel like are slam dunks.
  8. Interior Offensive Line – No Quenton Nelsons or Zach Martins to be found in this class. If you add Rashawn Slater to the mix, that does tip the scales a bit, but I think teams view him as a tackle.
  9. Edge Rushers – No elite prospects and not a ton of depth. This is a tough year to need a pass rusher. When only two players earn first-round grades, which is what I have, it’s an underwhelming class.
  10. Interior Defensive Line – Somehow, this group is even worse. It was difficult to come up with 10 potential nose tackles from this draft. Several of those players are better suited playing elsewhere. Overall, this interior line class stinks.