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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Way-too-early 2021 NFL Power Rankings

Welcome to the NFL offseason. The Buccaneers put a bow on the 2020 season by steamrolling the Chiefs 31-9 in a lopsided Super Bowl. Now, all 32 teams shift their focus to 2021. After a year like none we have ever seen before, we are heading for an offseason like none before.

There are at least a dozen teams that could make a change at quarterback. The NFL combine will not be taking place as usual either due to COVID-19 restrictions. On top of all of that, the salary cap is set to decrease by close to $15 million. This sets up one of the most interesting and pivotal offseasons in recent memory.

With tons of key players potentially switching teams, there is bound to be a lot of movement in these rankings before we get anywhere close to the start of the 2021 season. As it stands though, this is how each team stacks up following Super Bowl LV, as well as a quick look at each team’s biggest free agents.

Chiefs Logo

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2020 record: 14-2
Key free agents: WR Sammy Watkins, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Charvarius Ward, SS Daniel Sorenson, OLB Damien Wilson
Even coming off a drubbing in the Super Bowl, no team is better positioned to make another run at the Super Bowl than the Chiefs. The core of the team is signed through at least 2021 and Kansas City’s front office has done well in recent years to find solid contributors in the draft. As long as Patrick Mahomes is healthy, it is going to be hard to pick against him and Andy Reid.

Buccaneers logo

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: WR Chris Godwin, OLB Shaquille Barrett, LB Lavonte David, TE Rob Gronkowski, DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches, RB Leonard Fournette, WR Antonio Brown, K Ryan Succop
Tampa Bay will not be going anywhere as long as they have Tom Brady. Yes, Brady will be 44 next season, but this team is built for success all across the roster. There are a number of critical free agents the team will need to lock up, but players like Gronk and AB are likely to stick around to keep chasing rings. There are probably a few other veterans around the league that would do the same thing. Call it the Brady effect, but this team is going to be a front runner to repeat.

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3. Buffalo Bills
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: G Jon Feliciano, OT Darryl Williams, LB Matt Milano, CB Josh Norman, DE Trent Murphy, TE Tyler Kroft
Make no mistake, the Bills are for real. Buffalo has the offensive firepower and defensive grit to be one of the best teams in the league in 2021. Without a ton of crucial free agents, the front office could get aggressive in pursuing another corner across from Tre’Davious White or a more reliable tight end. If Josh Allen can come anywhere close to repeating his performance next year, Buffalo will be back in the postseason.

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4. Green Bay Packers
2020 record: 13-3
Key free agents: RB Aaron Jones, C Corey Lindsley, CB Kevin King, RB Jamaal Williams, WR Allen Lazard, TE Robert Tonyan, DE Montravius Adams
Once again, the Packers found themselves on the doorstep of the Super Bowl, but could not break through. This team is still really close to putting it all together and finally getting Aaron Rodgers his second ring. Green Bay has some key offensive pieces to re-sign in Jones, Lazard, Lindsley and Tonyan, but this roster is pretty solid throughout. With the right additions at cornerback and along the offensive line, this team should be primed for another deep playoff run.

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5. Baltimore Ravens
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: OLB Matt Judon, DE Yannick Ngakoue, OLB Tyus Bowser, C Matt Skura, RB Gus Edwards, WR Willie Snead
It was a rocky start to the year, but what we saw from the Ravens in the second half of the season points to this team’s championship credentials. Baltimore has some clear holes to fill in the front seven on defense with Judon, Bowser and Ngakoue all out of a contract. The offensive line could use a boost and Baltimore is desperate for another receiver, but the foundation is still strong.

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6. Cleveland Browns
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: OLB Olivier Vernon, SS Karl Joseph, DT Larry Ogunjobi, WR Rashad Higgins
I am very bullish on the 2021 Browns. Cleveland has arguably the best offensive line in the league, a deep group of offensive playmakers and a solid front seven. The secondary should be a bit healthier this season, but the Browns also have enough cap space to make a signing or two to bolster the unit. Baker Mayfield does not need to be Superman for Cleveland to take the next step. If he can avoid turnovers, this team should be in the thick of the division title race.

7. Los Angeles Rams
2020 record: 10-6
Key free agents: C Austin Blythe, OLB Leonard Floyd, RB Malcolm Brown, CB Troy Hill, TE Gerald Everett, SS John Johnson, WR Josh Reynolds, LB Sam Ebukam
Los Angeles created themselves a two-year window to go win a championship by acquiring Matthew Stafford. The Rams’ biggest obstacle to accomplishing that goal will be finding a way to supplement the roster with limited draft capital. L.A. is projected to be $25 million over the cap as of right now. They are likely going to lose a lot of their key role players. Stafford is not a mobile quarterback, so if the Rams cannot find a way to protect him, this is going to be a really ugly collapse.

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8. Seattle Seahawks
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: LB K.J. Wright, RB Chris Carson, DE Bruce Irvin, G Mike Iupati, DT Poona Ford, LB Shaquem Griffin, CB Shaquill Griffin, G Ethan Pocic
Seattle played two halves of a great season. The offensive was unstoppable in the first half while the defense looked helpless. In the second half, the offense ground to a halt while the defense found its stride. It all culminated in a disheartening first-round playoff loss. The Seahawks have some critical free agents to re-sign and a number of holes left to fill. Russell Wilson will give them a chance to be great, but the supporting cast is not ideal. Mike Iupati’s retirement is just another sign that this front office needs to invest in the offensive line. If the Texans have taught us anything, it’s that you need to keep your franchise quarterback happy.

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9. Miami Dolphins
2020 record: 10-6
Key free agents: C Ted Karras, LB Elandon Roberts, DT Davon Godchaux, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
It all falls on Tua Tagovailoa now. With a solid amount of cap space, a few premium draft picks and a great coaching staff, Miami seems to have the foundation in place to be successful this year and beyond. The theme of this offseason will be finding Tagovailoa some help. Miami knows it needs to find a No. 1 receiver and to solidify the offensive line. Expect the team to be in the running back market as well. With a strong offseason, the Dolphins could definitely push themselves into the top five.

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10. Tennessee Titans
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: WR Corey Davis, TE Jonnu Smith, DT Da’Quon Jones, OLB Jadeveon Clowney, LB Jayon Brown, K Stephen Gostkowski
Tennessee could not take that next step forward after an AFC Championship run in 2019, but the Titans did well to avoid falling apart as well. It is clear the Titans have a formula that works. They just need to reinvest in the front seven on defense to get back on track. Jadeveon Clowney did not work out and you can bet the front office will be looking for some pass rushing help this offseason. Some really interesting free agent decisions exist too in Corey Davis and Jayon Brown.

49ers Logo

11. San Francisco 49ers
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: OT Trent Williams, CB Richard Sherman, FB Kyle Juszczyk, DE Solomon Thomas, CB K’Waun Williams, RB Jerick McKinnon, FS Jaquiski Tartt, RB Tevin Coleman
How does a 6-10 team that lost both its offensive and defensive coordinator end up 11th? Well when pretty much your entire roster is hurt and you still find ways to win football games, that inspires a lot of confidence for when you do get Nick Bosa and company back on the field. This is going to be a crucial offseason for the 49ers, who could be a player in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. Cutting Jimmy Garoppolo would get this team up to roughly $45 million in cap space, so big decisions lie ahead.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)

12. Arizona Cardinals
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: CB Patrick Peterson, WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Kenyan Drake, G J.R. Sweezy, DT Corey Peters, OLB Markus Golden, OLB Hassan Reddick, OT Kelvin Beachum
The future still seems bright in Arizona, even after a rough finish to the season. Kyler Murray is clearly the team’s franchise quarterback. The defense had some bright spots. This team is still a few key pieces away from truly contending and the front office has some tough decisions to make regarding Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald. Finding a new running back will be on the to-do list as well. This offseason is critical for the Cardinals.

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13. Indianapolis Colts
2020 record: 11-5
Key free agents: DE Justin Houston, DE Denico Autry, WR T.Y. Hilton, S Malik Hooker, CB Xavier Rhodes, TE Trey Burton, RB Marlon Mack, WR Zach Pascal, QB Jacoby Brissett
Not included in that list of free agents are Philip Rivers and Anthony Castonzo, both of whom retired. For the third straight year since Andrew Luck retired, the Colts do not have a plan at quarterback. Perhaps Jacob Eason is the answer, but it is hard to feel too strongly about a player who has yet to attempt an NFL pass. Meanwhile, Indy has a bunch of free agents at key positions on defense and several players close to needing extensions. Thankfully, the Colts have nearly $80 million in cap space to reshape this roster.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logo

14. Pittsburgh Steelers
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: WR Juju Smith-Schuster, RB James Conner, OLB Bud Dupree, OT Alejandro Villanueva, DE Tyson Alualu, FS Sean Davis, LB Robert Spillane, CB Mike Hilton, OT Zach Banner
Pittsburgh’s offensive line is in shambles and Ben Roethlisberger is mulling retirement. Big Ben will probably be back, but the Steelers are going to need to rework his contract to avoid a $41 million cap hit. This offense has a number of critical needs and the Steelers have limited cap space to work with. Maurkice Pouncey is gone as well after announcing his retirement. All eyes will be on the draft for Pittsburgh. Don’t be surprised if a couple of big-name players walk away in free agency.

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15. New Orleans Saints
2020 record: 12-4
Key free agents: QB Jameis Winston, DT Sheldon Rankins, FS Marcus Williams, DE Trey Hendrickson, CB P.J. Williams, TE Jared Cook
When you are $70 million over the cap and your future Hall of Fame quarterback is about to retire, you are in for a pretty steep drop. There is still plenty of talent on the roster, but New Orleans has a number of major question marks. With key players on defense headed for free agency and no cap space to re-sign them, the Saints could be headed for a rebuild. I think they will be aggressive in trying to stay competitive, but it is hard to see the path forward right now.

Cowboys logo

16. Dallas Cowboys
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: QB Dak Prescott, DE Tyrone Crawford, LB Sean Lee, C Joe Looney, OLB Aldon Smith, S Xavier Woods
This ranking mostly stems from the belief that the Cowboys will bring back Prescott. Before his injury, Dak Prescott was putting up MVP-type numbers. Dallas’ offensive line was decimated by injuries as well and the defense crumbled. Still, with the offensive firepower at Prescott’s disposal and a number of key players returning from injury, this Cowboys team should be in the mix to win the NFC East.

Vikings logo

17. Minnesota Vikings
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: FS Anthony Harris, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB Eric Wilson, LB Todd Davis
The Vikings have very few free agents to tend to. Anthony Harris and Ifeadi Odenigbo are quality starters, but Eric Wilson and Todd Davis were rotational players this year and could easily be allowed to walk. Minnesota’s defense needs a huge turn around in 2021 after a very disappointing 2020 season. There is room for improvement on the offensive line as well. This is a make-or-break year for Kirk Cousins and potentially Mike Zimmer.

Panthers logo

18. Carolina Panthers
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: OT Russell Okung, G John Miller, RB Mike Davis, LB Tahir Whitehead, WR Curtis Samuel, OT Taylor Morton
Reports have placed the Panthers in the middle of conversations for Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson. It is clear the front office feels it needs to upgrade at quarterback. With a young defense, there is a lot to like in Carolina. One major area for concern is the offensive line. Three of the team’s starting linemen are headed for free agency. Don’t be surprised if the Panthers spend some draft capital to rebuild their offensive front.

Patriots Logo

19. New England Patriots
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: QB Cam Newton, G Joe Thuney, CB Jason McCourty, RB James White, DT Lawrence Guy, C David Andrews, DE Adam Butler, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Damiere Byrd, CB J.C. Jackson, DE Deatrich Wise
New England is primed for a makeover this season with tons of cap space, several key free agents and, potentially, a new quarterback on the way. The Patriots will have a bit more talent, specifically on defense, with several players likely to return after opting out of the 2020 season. Bill Belichick has his work cut out for him to overhaul this roster.

20. Los Angeles Chargers
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: OLB Melvin Ingram, TE Hunter Henry, C Mike Pouncey, LB Denzel Perryman, G Dan Feeney
Los Angeles is headed in the right direction, but this team still has a long way to go before it is ready to compete for a title. The Chargers are breaking in a first-time head coach in Brandon Staley and have a patchwork offensive line. Mike Pouncey definitely won’t be back either after announcing his retirement. Justin Herbert gives this team a bright future, but there is still a ton of work ahead.

Giants Logo

21. New York Giants
2020 record: 6-10
Key free agents: DT Leonard Williams, OT Cameron Fleming, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, WR Austin Mack, RB Dion Lewis, RB Wayne Gallman
New York had some significant highs in 2020, taking the Bucs to the brink and beating the Seahawks in Seattle. Unfortunately, those were few and far between. Getting Saquon Barkley back will help this offense, but the team is still lacking playmakers. It seems like Joe Judge has reset the culture though and given the team a much brighter outlook. This defense is underrated and is capable of keeping New York in games.

Bears logo

22. Chicago Bears
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: WR Allen Robinson, QB Mitchell Trubisky, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, FS Tashaun Gipson, G Germain Ifedi, DE Mario Edwards
Chicago has a big decision to make this offseason. Consensus seems to be that Trubisky is not the answer at quarterback, but the Bears are not well positioned to find his successor. With Robinson unlikely to return, and an uninspiring offensive line, this is not exactly a prime spot for free agents quarterbacks either. How the Bears answer their quarterback question is going to determine their outlook for 2021.

Washington made up logo

23. Washington
2020 record: 7-9
Key free agents: G Brandon Scherff, DE Ryan Kerrigan, CB Ronald Darby, QB Kyle Allen
Washington’s defense is one of the best in the league. Now it needs to invest its resources in building an offense to match. Alex Smith is one of the league’s best comeback stories ever, but he is not the long-term answer at quarterback. He might not even be the short-term solution. With a sizable amount of cap space, Washington could get aggressive in finding some free agent additions, but everything hinges on the quarterback.

Raiders logo

24. Las Vegas Raiders
2020 record: 8-8
Key free agents: DE Jonathan Hankins, DE Takkarist McKinley, WR Nelson Agholor, LB Raekwon McMillan, OLB Vic Beasley
This franchise has been stuck in neutral for the past five years. Since a short-lived playoff run in 2016, the Raiders have been toiling away in obscurity and mediocrity. Derek Carr likely isn’t the answer at quarterback. Las Vegas’ defense is still one of the worst in the league. This team had it’s moment in the sun after stunning the division rival Chiefs, but it feels 8-8 is the ceiling given who the Raiders currently have on their roster.

Denver_Broncos

25. Denver Broncos
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: OLB Von Miller, FS Justin Simmons, SS Kareem Jackson, DT Shelby Harris, WR Tim Patrick, A.J. Johnson, RB Phillip Lindsay
Denver’ s offseason is going to be dictated largely by the decision the franchise makes at quarterback. There is some buzz about Deshaun Watson being interested in the Broncos. Drew Lock is still developing, but if the club is going to make a move like that, it would accelerate this team’s timeline significantly. They still have some key pieces on defense to lock up and a major decision looming regarding Von Miller. There is plenty of room for upward mobility.

Falcons logo

26. Atlanta Falcons
2020 record: 4-12
Key free agents: C Alex Mack, RB Todd Gurley, SS Keanu Neal, S Damontae Kazee, DE Charles Harris, K Younghoe Koo
Where in the world is this team headed? They still have Matt Ryan under contract through 2023 with a pretty easy out after 2021. The future of the club is going to be determined with what the Falcons decide to do with the fourth overall pick. Atlanta has a ton of options. They could find a successor to Ryan, pick their favorite non-QB prospect, or trade down and restock the roster. It is a tough call for new general manager Terry Fontenot.

Eagles Logo

27. Philadelphia Eagles
2020 record: 4-11-1
Key free agents: OT Jason Peters, WR DeSean Jackson, DE Vinny Curry, S Jalen Mills, RB Corey Clement, WR Greg Ward
Carson Wentz is in Indianapolis. Zach Ertz is likely to follow. The Eagles are in salary cap hell and headed for something of a rebuild. Philly has an intriguing young quarterback to work with in Jalen Hurts, but there are question marks all over this roster. Not to mention, the Eagles have a first-time head coach who is a relative unknown. This team does not have the cap space to replenish this depleted roster right away. It is going to be two years before we see the Eagles competing in the NFC East again?

Bengals Logo

28. Cincinnati Bengals
2020 record: 4-11-1
Key free agents: CB William Jackson, WR A.J. Green, WR John Ross, DE Carl Lawson, DT Mike Daniels, K Randy Bullock, P Kevin Huber
The key to this offseason will be protecting Joe Burrow. After the former Heisman winner spent much of 2020 running for his life, rebuilding the offensive line is the focal point. Expect the Bengals to be aggressive in the draft and free agency looking for ways to upgrade its current unit. Cincinnati has a few key free agents as well with William Jackson and Carl Lawson. There is a good chance that one of them departs, opening up another need on that Bengals defense. Cincy will need to stay patient, finding long-term solutions instead of short-team patches.

Texans logo

29. Houston Texans
2020 record: 4-12
Key free agents: DE J.J. Watt, WR Will Fuller, CB Gareon Conley, CB Vernon Hargreaves, DT P.J. Hall, DE Carlos Watkins
Things look bleak in Houston. Franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson wants out. J.J. Watt is gone. The roster has holes at cornerback, edge rusher, running back and wide receiver, just to name a few. Under normal circumstances, the Texans could be well-positioned to land a top prospect to accelerate this rebuild. Instead, Houston does not have a pick in the first or second round. The organization maintains that it wants to keep Watson and rebuild his trust, but it is looking like this team might be headed for a long rebuild.

Jaguars logo

30. Jacksonville Jaguars
2020 record: 1-15
Key free agents: OT Cam Robinson, CB Tre Herndon, WR Dede Westbrook, WR Keelan Cole, WR Chris Conley, CB D.J. Hayden, TE Tyler Eifert, P Dustin Colquitt
A new era is coming in Jacksonville. Urban Meyer takes over as head coach and presumptive No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence will be the team’s new franchise quarterback. Things are definitely looking up, but the Jaguars have a lot of work to do still. Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson offer exciting building blocks on defense, but the cupboard is pretty bare in the defensive playmaking department. Jacksonville’s secondary was one of the worst in the league in 2020. With a number of receivers headed for free agency, there is a clear need there as well. Lucky for the Jaguars, no one has more cap space this offseason, so Meyer and new general manager Trent Baalke will have every opportunity to reshape the roster.

Jets logo

31. New York Jets
2020 record: 2-14
Key free agents: FS Marcus Maye, WR Breshad Perriman, CB Brian Poole, LB Jordan Jenkins, S Bradley McDougald, CB Arthur Maulet, LB Tarell Basham
The Adam Gase experiment ended with a resounding thud as the Jets played their way out of contention for the No. 1 pick. New York now has a huge decision to make about Sam Darnold’s future. It is very possible he is traded this offseason to make way for a new rookie quarterback selected with the second overall pick. The Jets are also still in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, but it is seeming less and less likely they are the winners. At least the organization landed Robert Saleh to be the team’s next coach. His arrival should bring some much needed leadership to the locker room, but also means a scheme change and a likely massive roster turnover. New York is going to be busy this offseason.

Lions Logo

32. Detroit Lions
2020 record: 5-11
Key free agents: WR Kenny Golladay, DE Romeo Okwara, WR Marvin Jones, DE Everson Griffin, WR Danny Amendola, LB Jarrad Davis, S Durron Harmon, K Matt Prater
Welcome to the bottom of the pile, Detroit. With Kenny Golladay headed for free agency and Matt Stafford now in SoCal, the outlook for the Lions is not very inspiring. It is hard to get excited about anyone on this roster at the moment. Jared Goff gives new coach Dan Campbell a reclamation project, albeit an expensive one. The defense needs an overhaul after some poor roster building in recent years. With a ton of future draft capital now available, the future is a bit brighter in Detroit, but 2021 is going to be a year where this team bottoms out, sheds veteran contracts and looks to rebuild the foundation of the franchise.

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2021 Senior Bowl Preview: Mac Jones, Kyle Trask headline players to watch, potential sleepers and more

It has been a long two weeks since the college football season ended. Thankfully, the wait is almost over!

The 2021 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama begins in earnest on Monday as players are measured and welcomed to the weeklong festivities. As Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy always says, “the draft starts in Mobile,” and never is that more true than in 2021.

With so much of the normal scouting cycle truncated or adjusted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is one of the few chances scouts will get to evaluate some of the top talent leading up to the 2021 NFL draft. And I mean top talent. The rosters are jam packed with recognizable names and small school stars.

First thing is first, if you want to watch all the action unfold this week, now would be a good time to make sure you have NFL Network or ESPN/ESPNU. Practices will be televised and covered on both networks throughout the week in the build up to the game. The actual Senior Bowl game is on Saturday, January 30 and will air on NFL Network.

The practice week might even be more important than the game itself. Just ask Javon Kinlaw, who suited up for one day of practice last year, dominated the competition, then withdrew from participation.

Practice starts on Tuesday and will be led by the Dolphins’ and Panthers’ coaching staffs. This is a huge opportunity for Brian Flores and Matt Rhule to get to know the players on their respective rosters, especially when you consider that the combine and individual workouts are not happening as they would in normal years. Miami has the No. 3 and No. 18 picks in the first round, while Carolina holds the eighth overall selection. Needless to say, these are teams with premium picks in this upcoming draft.

73 different schools are represented among the 110 players invited to participate. This is a star-studded list as well. Let’s start with the guys you probably already know.

Smith becomes the first Heisman winner to attend the Senior Bowl since Baker Mayfield in 2018. (Wikimedia Commons)

Stars of the show

Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama – Yup, the Heisman winner is going to be in Mobile. Don’t get your hopes up too high though. This is likely just to meet with the coaches and measure in. He is still not medically cleared after suffering an injury in the national championship game.

Mac Jones, QB, Alabama – Smith’s star quarterback will be here as well. He will get a chance to wow scouts outside the loaded Alabama offense and prove he is more than a system quarterback. There is some first round buzz around him, but the general opinion on Jones is very split. This week could go a long way in swaying the scouting community one way or the other.

Najee Harris, RB, Alabama – Let’s round out the Alabama three-headed monster with Najee Harris. Harris is a bruising back with good hands. If he can show enough speed during these practice days, he could solidify himself as the top back in the class.

Kyle Trask, QB, Florida – Another Heisman finalist joins the crew. Trask will have a chance to answer questions about his arm strength and mobility. With Carolina in the market for a quarterback of the future, the chance to impress Rhule and his staff is huge.

Trey Sermon, RB, Ohio State – He entered the national championship game on a tear before exiting early with an injury. Unclear how healthy he is going to be heading into the week. He is a name to watch after a dominant finish to the season.

Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida – A huge part of Florida’s offensive resurgence this season, Toney is a fun playmaker to watch in space. With his name already hovering around the first round, a big week could lock him in as a Day 1 pick.

Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma – With the injury to Landon Dickerson, Humphrey has a chance to earn the mantle of best center in this class. He was rock solid at Oklahoma and should be one of the top interior linemen selected.

Liam Eichenburg, OT, Notre Dame – Eichenburg is one of the top offensive tackles in Mobile for the week. He was great protecting at Ian Book’s blindside throughout the season. In my opinion, he is one of the more polished prospects in this class, but his upside is limited by a lack of elite athleticism.

Ian Book, QB, Notre Dame – Speaking of Ian Book, he might not be highly regarded as a quarterback prospect this year, but he will draw a lot of attention after leading Notre Dame to the College Football Playoff. He is not one of the top prospects in this class, but he is a name a lot of people already know.

Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama – Arguably the top lineman who accepted an invite, Leatherwood is an interesting player to watch. He has played all over the line at Alabama. Where coaches line him up this week could be very telling.

Carlos Basham, DL, Wake Forest – Let’s get over to the defensive side of the ball. Basham enters as one of the top defenders participating on many draft boards. He will have a chance to feast in the one-on-one drills. He was dominant in his time at Wake Forest.

Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami – The former Temple standout impressed in his one season at Miami. The list of edge rushers is fairly short, so Roche will have a chance to stand out. He still feels like a work in progress despite being a grad transfer.

Richard LeCounte III, S, Georgia – After a great career at Georgia, LeCounte will have a chance to follow in the long line of Bulldogs defenders who have gone early in the NFL draft. It is a deep safety class and this week will give him a chance to separate from the pack.

Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh – One of the top pass rushers in the country each of the past two years, Jones will have a chance to show off his speed. Teams are desperate for pass rushers this year. I could see him sneaking into the top half of the first round if he has a big enough week. This edge rusher class is still wide open.

Small school stars who could shine

Without a doubt, these rosters are loaded with talent. And those are just some of the big-name players that will feature prominently in practice this week. One of the great things about the Senior Bowl though is the chance for small school stars to jump off the page and send their draft stock soaring. Recent examples include Kyle Dugger from Lenoir Rhyne and Jeremy Chinn from Southern Illinois. Here are some of the best unheralded standouts that could be big risers by the end of the week.

Tarron Jackson, EDGE, Coastal Carolina – Coastal Carolina was obviously the Cinderella story of the 2020 college football season, but the Chanticleers still didn’t get the respect they deserved. He had a strong statistical year and will get a chance to make a bigger name for himself in Mobile.

Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State – You’ve probably heard this one already. Radunz was getting some first-round buzz before the start of the 2020 season. We haven’t seen him play this year because he opted out after the FCS moved its season to the spring. Needless to say, huge week for him.

Spencer Brown, OT, UNI – I don’t think he has gotten the same hype as Radunz, but he probably should. Brown is a mammoth. He is listed at 6’9″, 320 lbs and reported benches 500 lbs. That should speak for itself. Prepare for some scouts to fall in love with Brown similar to how they did last year with Mekhi Becton.

D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan – If you are looking for a big-play threat, Eskridge might be the guy for you. He averaged 23.3 yards per reception this season and scored eight touchdowns for the Broncos. His size is a concern, but he will get a chance to show he belongs with the top prospects.

Robert Jones, G, Middle Tennessee State – One of the top offensive linemen in Conference USA, was one of the bright spots in a tough season for the Blue Raiders. He has the size to impress coaches this week. Without a ton of high profile interior linemen in this year’s class, this is a massive opportunity for Jones.

Christian Uphoff, S, Illinois State – Hard not to pick a fellow safety from an FCS school in Illinois after what Jeremy Chinn did last year. More of a traditional safety than Chinn, who was built like a hybrid linebacker, Uphoff has not played since 2019 due to the pandemic. For every FCS star, this week is crucial as they get their first reps in a long time.

Riley Cole, LB, South Alabama – Cole was one of the top tacklers in the country in 2020. He led the Jaguars with 96 stops, including 54 solo tackles. He is a bit undersized, but coaches could be willing to overlook that given his productivity.

Quintin Morris, TE, Bowling Green – It was a terrible season for Bowling Green. Morris now gets a chance to showcase his talent outside of the team’s dysfunctional offense. He has the build to be a productive move tight end in the right system.

Newman will see his first action since December 27, 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Who needs a big week?

Senior Bowl week is important for all of the players looking to improve their draft stock. However, there are a few that really need a strong week to bolster their standing among their peers. Here are the players under the most pressure to perform.

Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia/Wake Forest – Newman transferred after an exciting season with Wake Forest. He never took a snap for Georgia. With a ton of question marks, Newman needs to produce some answers in Mobile. Will he look sharp after months of preparation or rusty after not playing a game in over a year? At the same time, there is a clear drop off in this quarterback class after the top four prospects. A strong week could position Newman as one of the top mid-round options at the position.

Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State – Wilson was generating first-round consideration last year before deciding to return to school. It turned out to be a poor decision. The season was tough for everyone, but Wilson had a new coaching staff take over and then had a public dispute with his new coach before the year even began. He checks all the physical boxes, so if he can show that potential we all saw on film in 2019, he could salvage his draft stock.

Tuf Borland, LB, Ohio State – Unfortunately for Borland, the last thing a lot of people are going to remember about his college career is him getting toasted by DeVonta Smith on a terrible mismatch. He has to work to erase that image and give scouts something else to talk about. Perhaps this is a bit unfair, but as the saying goes, you are only as good as your last game.

Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest – Surratt was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster, but a good one. He tore up the ACC in 2019 before going down with an injury. He then opted out of the 2020 season, which means the last snaps we saw him play came over 14 months ago. That’s a long time to be out of the eye of scouts and coaches. He has a chance to be one of the best receivers suited up this week.

Jacoby Stevens, LB/S, LSU – Stevens was a top recruit out of high school, but has definitely not parlayed that into immense draft buzz. Given his size and success in the box, I will be curious to see if coaches want to work him out as a linebacker. This could be a massive week in determining how NFL teams view him as a prospect.

Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech – As it seems to be every year, this running back class is deep. Herbert was a human highlight reel this season for the Hokies. He needs to prove that he can sustain this success though. He spent the first four years of his college career at Kansas and came nowhere close to reaching the heights he did in 2020. A limited resume as a pass catcher could hurt his stock as well. If he shows off some soft hands in drills and scrimmages, we could see Herbert come off the board some time on Day 2. If not, he has an uphill climb heading into the rest of the draft process.

Hill opted out of the 2020 season after just three games, but had 1,350 rushing yards in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Breakout candidates

Every year, there are a few players who arrive from notable schools who maybe did not get the best chance to showcase their skill set in their college system. Van Jefferson showed off some incredible route running last year that we had not seen at Florida. Josh Uche flashed tons of speed that boosted his draft stock. So did Troy Pride Jr., who would run routes for the opposing receiver at times. Those three went to major schools, Florida, Michigan and Notre Dame, but didn’t really start to earn more draft buzz until the Senior Bowl. Here are some candidates that could do the same this year.

Michael Carter, RB, UNC – The lightning to Javonte Williams’ thunder, Carter actually led the Tar Heels in rushing, but took a back seat to Williams, who finished the year with 22 touchdowns. Carter will get a chance to remind scouts that he is more than just a change of pace back and can be relied on at the next level.

Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina – After spending two years behind Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards, Smith got his turn as the top receiver. South Carolina might have had a rough year, but Smith actually played pretty well in his go-to playmaker role. I think he has a chance to shine and move himself into the Day 2 conversation.

Nico Collins, WR, Michigan – After opting out of the 2020 season, Collins has a chance to reassert himself in the wide receiver conversation. He has the size to turn heads and it will be really fun to see him compete in one-on-one drills. He will benefit from some better quarterback play than what he has dealt with at Michigan, too.

Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma – For teams looking for a powerful back, Stevenson should be on their radar. He returned from a drug suspension in late October and looked great in the Sooners’ final six games, including a 186-yard performance against Florida.

James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati – Wiggins had an interesting career at Cincinnati. He tore his ACL before the 2019 season after a fantastic 2018 showing. Injuries again slowed him down the stretch of 2020. If he is fully healthy, this will be a great opportunity to remind scouts of his athleticism.

Jabril Cox, LB, LSU – The former North Dakota State standout tried to help LSU pick up the pieces after losing so much talent from 2019’s national title team. Cox has great size and speed for the position. I think he got lost in the focus on LSU’s offensive struggles, but he could really make a statement in what feels like a wide-open linebacker class.

Desmond Fitzpatrick, WR, Louisville – He might not be as much of a household name as his teammate Tutu Atwell, but Fitzpatrick is a big-play threat in his own right. He showed flashes during the 2020 season. I think he will have the physical tools to win one-on-one matchups and turn some heads.

Richie Grant, S, UCF – Grant has a nose for the football and a talent for making big plays. He turned in a great 2020 campaign and has a chance to build off that in Mobile. This is a deep safety class, so Grant needs to stand out.

Hunter Long, TE, Boston College – Long took a big step in his development in 2020, doubling his yardage per game and hauling in more than five passes per contest. He has ideal size for the position and could wow in a solid tight end group competing in Mobile.

Kenny Yeboah, TE, Ole Miss – While Long is more your typical possession receiver, Yeboah is the big-play threat. He averaged closed to 20 yards per reception in 2020. Despite that, he can still be a factor in the red zone. He has the size and speed combo to be a mismatch for defenders.

Kylin Hill, RB, Mississippi State – Hill made waves in the offseason for sparking meaningful change in Mississippi State. After threatening to boycott the season, the state agreed to remove its current flag, which featured the symbol of the Confederacy, and design a new one. Unfortunately, Hill did end up missing most of the 2020 season anyway. He only appeared in three games, totally just 15 carries. He has plenty of previous experience to lean on and impressively tallied 23 catches in those three games as well. If he can continue to flash that pass catching ability, he will be rising up draft board.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot break down every player attending this year’s Senior Bowl. Hopefully, this will give you a pretty good introduction to this year’s rosters. As always, you can check out the full list of attendees on the Senior Bowl website. It is time to officially get draft season underway. Happy scouting!

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2020 NFL Awards: Picking the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and more

The NFL regular season is officially over! It was a wild year with elements that no other NFL season has ever faced. Between social justice initiatives (that have very noticeably faded as the year has gone on), COVID-19 and no offseason, there is no question that this season will be remembered forever.

Now that we are headed for the playoffs, it is time to hand out some end of the season awards. This has been one of the most fascinating MVP races in recent memory. Defensive Player of the Year is crazy competitive as well. There could be some history made with the Offensive Player of the Year award as well.

Let’s make this clear, I am not predicting who will win these awards, simply deciding who I would vote for if I had a vote in these types of situations. There were some really tough decisions to make, so I did my best to break down why I chose these players (or coaches) to win in each category. Let’s (hypothetically) hand out some hardware!

Coach of the Year

3. Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns
When you end an 18-year playoff drought, you end up getting some love for Coach of the Year. Kevin Stefanski has turned the Browns around very quickly. A year ago, the Browns were a 6-10 team without much leadership. Now, Cleveland is headed to the playoffs at 11-5 and there is stability in the locker room. Stefanksi deserves a ton of credit for finally getting this team over the hump. The five-game jump they made this year is tied for the biggest turnaround in the league. This team still has some major shortcomings and has gotten blownout a few too many times, but Stefanski has really pushed them further than any coach in recent memory has.

2. Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills
While they did not make the same level of a jump as some of the other teams in the league this past season, it was hard to improve a whole lot from a 10-6 record a year ago. Buffalo still won three more games this year, locking up the No. 2 seed in the AFC and looking incredibly consistent in the process. There were some hiccups in the form of an early-season blowout against the Titans. The defense also unquestionably took a step backwards, but the Bills still competed with some of the top teams in the league and won their first division title since 1995. Sean McDermott did an excellent job leading this group and this team is poised to win its first playoff game in 25 years.

1. Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins
No team outperformed expectations more than the Dolphins this year. Brian Flores deserves so much credit for turning this team around in such a short time. Miami’s roster is full of unheralded names, players looking for a second chance and young players still learning how to acclimate with the NFL. Flores got the most out of that talent, handling a complicated quarterback situation in the process. While the regular-season finale leaves a sour taste in the mouth of Dolphins fans, finishing 10-6, one game out of the playoffs is a massive accomplishment. It bodes well for the future of the franchise and it is clear Miami has a leader in place to build behind.

Offensive Rookie of the Year

3. James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
My third spot came down to James Robinson and Jonathan Taylor. I gave the edge to Robinson in the end for being a more consistent presence on the Jaguars offense throughout the season. Keep in mind, this was a 1-15 team. Jacksonville started three different quarterbacks and none of them were good. His offensive line is not a great one either. Yet, Robinson still finished tied for fifth in rushing yards and scored ten total touchdowns. He provided a ton of stability on an offense that had very little. Is Taylor more talented? Absolutely. But, I think Robinson had a better overall season, where Taylor essentially just got hot in the final six games of the year.

2. Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings
When you are breaking Randy Moss’ records, you are doing something right. Justin Jefferson had an unbelievable rookie year. He finished with 1,400 receiving yards, fourth-most in the league and most by a rookie receiver in the Super Bowl era, and punched in seven touchdowns. Jefferson showed a great ability to stretch the field as well, averaging the ninth-most yards per reception this season. As if that wasn’t enough, Jefferson dropped just two passes on 125 targets this season. In just about any other year, he likely would have won this award. In 2020 though, there was another guy named Justin who broke a bunch of rookie records this year.

1. Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
This is just what we all expected, right? The third quarterback taken in the 2020 draft and the guy who couldn’t beat out Tyrod Taylor to start the season wins Rookie of the Year. That’s how it goes down in my book this year. Justin Herbert shocked everyone with the level of dominance he displayed this year. He set tons of records for rookie quarterbacks, including most passing touchdowns (31) in a season and most pass completions (396) in a season. He finished 38 yards shy of Andrew Luck’s record for passing yards by a rookie, becoming just the fourth rookie to pass for over 4,000 yards. Herbert actually averaged the most passing yards per game in NFL history, but didn’t start the first game of the season. He also posted the second-best completion percentage by a rookie ever, trailing Dak Prescott. Give Herbert the award. He has earned it.

Defensive Rookie of the Year

3. Trevon Diggs, CB, Dallas Cowboys
This ended up being a less-than-stellar race for Defensive Rookie of the Year, but there have still been some impressive performances. Trevon Diggs had some rough moments, as you would expect most rookie cornerbacks to when they are thrown into a starting job without an offseason or a preseason. Still, Diggs took his lumps and improved over the course of the season. He finished with a top-20 completion percentage allowed at 54.2 percent. He did give up five touchdowns, but also came up with three interceptions. He missed four games in the middle of the year, which knocks him down a bit, but still put together a solid first year.

2. Jeremy Chinn, S, Carolina Panthers
Is a safety, is he a linebacker? I don’t really have the answer to that one, but he is a damn good football player. Jeremy Chinn burst onto the scene for this young Carolina defense. He led the team in tackles this year and made a big impact with his playmaking. He had two forced fumbles, an interception and two defensive touchdowns. He did struggle in pass coverage, which holds him back from ultimately winning this award, but he feels like a Budda Baker or Jordan Poyer-type asset to this Panthers defense.

1. Chase Young, DE, Washington
This was not the forgone conclusion I think many expected coming into the year. Yet, there is no doubt in my mind that Chase Young should win this award. He is a dynamic player on a super talented defensive line. Young finished the year with 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He didn’t just get home either, he knocked the ball loose, tallying four forced fumbles on the season. Young also recovered three fumbles and scored a defensive touchdown. There are few players who have been such a focal point of opponent’s offensive game plans than Young. I think he comfortably wins this award.

Offensive Player of the Year

3. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
In one of my power rankings a few weeks ago, I noted that we probably take Davante Adams for granted way too often. This is me doing my best to not make that same mistake. In 14 games this season, Adams had an NFL-leading 18 touchdown catches to go along with 115 catches, which is tied for second-most and 1,374 receiving yards, which is tied for fifth. Imagine the numbers he could have put up in two additional games! What I think people overlook is Adams’ ability after the catch, where he put up the second most yards in the league, trailing only Alvin Kamara. Adams is a complete receiver and one of, if not the best one in the game right now.

2. Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans
Whenever you run for over 2,000 yards in a single season, you end up getting consideration for the top offensive player in the league. Derrick Henry, has continued to show that he is the most difficult running back to stop in the league. He had his fair share of ineffective games this season, but his usage is also one of the most impressive in league history. What limits Henry’s claim to the award is his role as a pass-catcher in the Titans’ offense. He finished the season with just 19 receptions. Henry deserves credit for how dominant he can be on any given week, but I don’t think he managed to outshine the next player on this list.

1. Travis Kelce, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
This award was first handed out in 1972, and never in its history has it been won by a tight end. That should change. Travis Kelce has, almost quietly, put together the most dominant season by a tight end in NFL history. With 1,416 receiving yards, he broke George Kittle’s record for the most by a tight end in a single season and ranked second in the NFL among all players. He finished tied for fifth in receiving yards and receptions among all receivers as well. What shocks me most about Kelce’s season is that he is third in the league in yards after the catch. As if that wasn’t enough, he has only two drops, one of the best marks in the league. Kelce deserves this award after the season he has put together.

Defensive Player of the Year

3. Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
By far the most difficult award for me to figure out, Aaron Donald narrowly edges out Myles Garrett for the third spot on the list. A fixture in the Defensive Player of the Year by now, Donald put together another stellar year, racking up 13.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Both rank among the top six in the league. He once again dominated along the interior of every offensive line he faced. Donald is the best interior pass rusher in NFL history and he has shown no signs of slowing down yet.

2. Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins
Sure, interceptions are a sexy stat. That only tells half the story for Xavien Howard. He has been targeted a ton this year, and I can’t seem to figure out why. Howard has allowed just 51.5 percent of passes thrown his way to be completed. While Howard did allow four touchdown passes this season, he was still one of the best lockdown corners in the league. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 48.3 when he was in coverage, trailing only Bryce Callahan for the best mark in the league. Between leading the league in interceptions and pass break ups, it is easy to see why he is in the running for the award.

1. T.J. Watt, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
No player in the NFL has been more disruptive for opposing offenses this season than T.J. Watt. He led the NFL in sacks with 15 this season in 15 games and racked up 23 tackles for loss, also the best mark in the league. He also was tops in quarterback pressures and quarterback hits. Simply stated, Watt is the hardest player to stop in the league right now. That is evidenced even more so by him having the best pass-rush win rate in the league. ESPN detailed earlier this year how Watt has the fastest pass-rush get off in the league. Teams have had all year to try to figure out how to stop him, and right now, no one has an answer for Watt.

MVP

3. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
A few weeks ago, it seemed like Patrick Mahomes was running away with the award. Then he just kind of slowed down. He still put together a fantastic season. Mahomes finished with an impressive 38 touchdowns to just six interceptions. His 4,740 passing yards ranked second in the NFL, behind his draft mate Deshaun Watson. The biggest knock on Mahomes is his completion percentage, which is still solid at 66 percent. However, that ranks 16th in the league overall. Mahomes absolutely deserves to be an MVP finalist, but I don’t think he did enough to win the award again.

2. Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills
If you asked me at the beginning of the year, I would never have believed Josh Allen would be in the MVP conversation. Yet, here we are. Allen scored 45 total touchdowns in 2020, 37 through the air and eight on the ground. What has really jumped him from fringe starter to elite quarterback though has been his improved accuracy. Allen has always had a rocket for an arm, but he polished his technique. His completion percentage jumped up to 69.2 this year, the fourth-best mark in the league. As a result of all of this, he has the fourth-best passer rating and third-best QBR in the NFL. He has led this Bills offense that is solid, but lacks elite playmakers to a 13-3 record and put together a season that in most years would be enough to win this award. Unfortunately, he had to come up against this next guy.

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
It took me a while to recognize just how great Aaron Rodgers has been this year, but I’m not missing it now. With 48 touchdowns, only five interceptions and a passer rating over 120, Rodgers put together one of the greatest seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. His QBR and completion percentage were the best in the league as well. What is even more impressive than any of that though is Rodgers throwing a touchdown on 9.1 percent of his passes this year. Russell Wilson had the second-best mark at 7.2 percent. Only Peyton Manning in 2004 and Ken Stabler in 1976 had better marks in the Super Bowl era. Without a doubt, Rodgers is deserving of the award this year.

2020 NFL Draft: First-Round Surprises and Best Players Available

That was exactly what everyone in the sports world needed. A nice dose of excitement, chaos and entertainment. Cincinnati, Washington and Detroit kicked the draft off with some predictable picks. After that, nothing was guaranteed. Trades started coming fast and furious in the 20s. Miami and Los Angeles stayed put and took franchise quarterbacks. Tons of wide receivers and corners came off the board, maybe not in the order most expected.

I think it is way too early to start handing out grades for the first round. We can do that a few years from now. (I should really go back and regrade the 2015 draft class.) Instead, let’s discuss the biggest surprises of the first round. There are plenty to discuss, but I think the first one is pretty obvious.

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Rodgers turned 36 in December. (Wikimedia Commons)

Packers trade up for Aaron Rodgers’ successor
Of all the teams to take a chance on Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, I did not have Green Bay anywhere in the conversation. Thinking about it though, this is exactly what the franchise did with Brett Favre towards the end of his career. They saw a talented quarterback sliding and pounced to find their next franchise passer. What makes this so shocking is that Aaron Rodgers has shown no signs of slowing down. This offense is in desperate need of more playmakers. In a draft stocked with them, it felt like a great chance for the Packers to find Rodgers more weapons. Instead, they found the man who will potentially replace him. After being just a game away from the Super Bowl last year, this feels like an odd move. Credit the Green Bay for being forward thinking, but I definitely did not expect this.

Josh Jones’ slide
I had Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones pegged to go at 18 to the Dolphins. He was my 21st overall prospect and my highest remaining offensive lineman. Miami decided to take USC product Austin Jackson. When the Chargers traded back into the first round, I assumed it was for Jones. They opted for Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. Tennessee had a chance to take Jones as well, but chose a different tackle in Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson. I was just about convinced the Jones would find a home in the first round. He is a bit older at 23, but he is a physical player with solid technique. It would not be a shock to see the Bengals take Jones at 33, but it is unclear when his slide might end at this point.

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Okudah was the highest drafted corner since 1997. (Wikimedia Commons)

Corner craze in round one
I did not think we were going to see six cornerbacks go in the first round. A.J. Terrell at 16 to the Falcons felt like a bit of a reach to me, but I had seen some first-round buzz around him. Damon Arnette to the Raiders 19th overall was truly a stunner. Then, Noah Igbinoghene went to Miami at pick 30. Teams felt like they were reaching a bit at the position, especially given some of the other players available. K’Lavon Chaisson felt like a great fit for Atlanta. Las Vegas passed on a lot of talented corners to take Arnette, who I had 11th at the position. Miami has spent tons of money locking up Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Igbinoghene is definitely a luxury pick for the Dolphins, who have a ton of draft picks. Pass rusher felt like a bigger need though with some solid players available. I thought there was depth at the position in this draft, but the league went all in much early than expected. Three felt like a safe number to peg with Jeff Okudah, CJ Henderson and Jeff Gladney in the mix. I didn’t expect that number to double. I think there are some really good options still available too with Bryce Hall, Kristian Fulton and Jaylon Johnson still on the board, so this trend might continue.

Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson
I think TCU receiver Jalen Reagor will end up having a solid NFL career, but I think the Eagles missed big time on LSU’s Justin Jefferson, who went a pick later to the Vikings. Reagor plays a bit like former Philadelphia standout DeSean Jackson. He had an uneven 2019 season, but his game speed is impressive. Reagor is definitely a bit undersized, but he posted an outrageous 42-inch vertical at the combine. However, Jefferson is coming off a monster year and is a much better prospect in my opinion. He is really just a bigger, more physical version of Reagor. Jefferson ran a better 40 time, posted better stats and played against much better competition. I think Jefferson would have fit Philly’s system as well. This one left me scratching my head.

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Edwards-Helaire had over 1,800 total yards and 17 TD in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Clyde Edwards-Helaire as RB1
Between D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor, I thought Clyde Edwards-Helaire would be at least the second back drafted. I had him as my third running back behind Dobbins and Swift. CEH is a physical runner with the ability to be a receiver out of the backfield as well, even if he doesn’t have blazing speed. He reminds me a lot of Maurice Jones-Drew and feels like a good fit for the Kansas City offense, but I don’t think many people expected him to be the first running back off the board. There is also something to be said for Andy Reid drafting a running back for the first time in his 21-year career as a head coach. Very happy for him after he turned in a great season, but I definitely did not see this coming.

Not really enough to warrant it’s own subhead, but I was very confused by Seattle’s pick of Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks. He is a solid player, but I thought he would go middle of day two and that was definitely not the biggest need for this Seahawks defense.

Best Players Available

Those were the biggest talking points of the night for me. As teams turn their attention to rounds two and three tomorrow, here are my top remaining prospects:

18. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
20. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
21. Josh Jones, OT, Houston
23. A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
24. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
26. Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
28. D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
29. Zach Baun, LB, Wisconsin
30. Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU
31. Grant Delpit, S, LSU
33. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
35. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
38. Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma
41. Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
42. Matt Hennessy, OL, Temple
43. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
45. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
46. Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
47. Lloyd Cushenberry, OL, LSU
48. Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
49. Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir Rhyne
50. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah