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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 NFL Mock Draft: Jaguars land Lawrence, Jets trade down and Patriots find a new quarterback

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the final Monday of the year than with a brand new mock draft!

All the projections for the 2021 NFL draft got turned on their heads after the Jets won a game and lost control of the No. 1 pick. Jacksonville now takes over that coveted spot, leaving New York with a major decision to make: keep Sam Darnold or start over with a rookie that isn’t Trevor Lawrence.

To make the exercise a bit more fun, I made a trade that I think we could see happen if the draft order were to remain like this. Here is trade that went down in this mock draft.

49ers acquire 1.2 and 6.162 from Jets for 1.14, 2.43, 4.107, 2022 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick

San Francisco moves up to draft a franchise quarterback. The Jets continue to rebuild by adding extra picks. New York would now have eight selections in the first four rounds of this draft and three first-round picks in 2022. Talk about a chance to turn over the roster!

The draft order is according to Tankathon and updated through the Sunday Night Football game. Let’s get to drafting.

Jaguars logo

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
The Jaguars are now on track to win the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. Jacksonville has played three different players at quarterback this year, and none of them have been overly successful. Lawrence is an instant starter that comes in as pro-ready as we have seen since Andrew Luck. This is a slam dunk.

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2. San Francisco 49ers via New York Jets (6-9) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
Let’s get wild! For the Jets, trading away Sam Darnold seemed like a no-brainer when it was Trevor Lawrence stepping in. Now, they have to weigh him against Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance. For the 49ers, who sit just outside the top 10 right now, they should be aggressive in finding their quarterback of the future. The best fit is Zach Wilson. His athleticism and decision-making should mesh well with Kyle Shanahan’s system. San Francisco gives up a lot, but this team has a lot of the other pieces in place to compete for a championship.

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3. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-5) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Miami has to like the result of the Laremy Tunsil trade more and more every week. Now they can draft his replacement. Penei Sewell is clearly the top line prospect in this year’s draft. Some even have him as the top overall player. While the Dolphins need a receiver and drafted Austin Jackson in the first round last year, protecting Tua Tagovailoa is essential. This draft is fairly deep at receiver. It is not as deep at offensive tackle. Take Sewell and find Tua a new receiver later in the draft.

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4. Atlanta Falcons (4-11) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
With the Falcons sliding into the top four, it is hard to pass up the opportunity to take a potential franchise quarterback. Justin Fields has struggled a bit this season in big games, but he still has a big arm and plenty of athleticism to be successful at the next level. The pre-draft process will be crucial to where he falls in the pecking order among quarterbacks. Don’t rule out the possibility of him dominating in the College Football Playoffs and jumping back above Zach Wilson.

Bengals Logo

5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Bengals have won their way out of the Penei Sewell sweepstakes. I don’t think there is an offensive tackle worth taking here, so the Bengals opt to help their talent-deprived defense. Micah Parsons is not as hot of a name right now as some other top prospects because he opted out, but he is a difference maker. He is a sure tackler with pass rushing ability and good range. He would be a major upgrade to Cincinnati’s linebacking group.

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6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) – Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama
While it is tempting to draft Ja’Marr Chase, Sunday’s debacle against the Cowboys was a good reminder that the Eagles need to rebuild their secondary. Patrick Surtain is a tall, physical corner with good ball skills. He is not perfect and certainly needs some fine tuning when it comes to his technique, but he would be a great player to line up across from Darius Slay. It is a passing league and Philly has no way to stop opposing passing attacks right now.

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7. Detroit Lions (5-10) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
With Matthew Stafford failing to make it through another season and the Lions already heading for a rebuild after firing the coach and general manager, taking a young quarterback to develop is certainly in play. Trey Lance had a fantastic 2019 season, but struggled a bit in the one game we saw from him in 2020. He has a lot of work to do in the pre-draft process to prove he is worthy of a top-10 pick.

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8. New York Giants (5-10) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Giants fans will be overjoyed to see all of the top receivers still available at their pick. New York desperately needs a go-to playmaker. It is something the team has lacked since trading away Odell Beckham Jr. Ja’Marr Chase has a chance to develop into one of the best receivers in the NFL. He is a great route runner, has displayed good hands and has no problem generating separation. Give Daniel Jones one season throwing to this guy. If he still can’t get it done, then it might be time to look for his replacement.

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9. Carolina Panthers (5-10) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
James Bradberry is gone. The combination of Rasul Douglas and Donte Jackson isn’t really getting the job done. Adding Caleb Farley should bolster this secondary. He is physical and long. He was arguably the ACC’s top corner in 2019. He continues a string of players selected here that opted out of 2020. His tape from a year ago was impressive. If Farley shows out at the combine, he could easily be the first corner selected in 2021.

Denver_Broncos

10. Denver Broncos (5-10) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
For a team that has Bradley Chubb and Von Miller under contract, it might seem odd to see Denver target an edge rusher. Gregory Rousseau can line up as a 3-4 end though and generate pressure on the inside while Miller and Chubb crash the pocket. Miami lined up Rousseau all over last year and he actually looked the most comfortable playing on the interior. The Broncos really need an upgrade along the defensive line, so this feels like a slam dunk.

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11. Dallas Cowboys (6-9) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Injuries decimated the Cowboys offensive line this season, exposing a clear lack of depth. Beyond that, Tyron Smith turned 30 this month, so it might be time for Dallas to look to the future at the position. Christian Darrisaw is a bit raw, but he has all the physical tools you want to see from an offensive tackle. His draft stock has steadily climbed this year. Cracking the top 10 is certainly a possibility.

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12. Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
You thought Justin Herbert was fun in Year 1? Imagine giving him Jaylen Waddle to work with. Waddle was off to a historic pace, drawing Heisman buzz before an injury ended his season prematurely. He is dynamic in the passing game, has great speed in the open field and brings experience as a special teams returner as well. He would be a great 1-2 punch alongside Keenan Allen.

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13. Minnesota Vikings (6-9) – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
Regardless of what approach the Vikings decide to take offensively, they need to control the trenches. With tons of great skill players, Wyatt Davis would give Kirk Cousins the best chance to properly utilize them. Davis is a powerful run blocker who can hold his own in pass protection. He could be an upgrade from Dakota Dozier or take over if Minnesota moves Ezra Cleveland to tackle.

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14. New York Jets via San Francisco 49ers (2-13) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Well, if the Jets are going to hang onto Sam Darnold, they need to go all in on building a supporting cast for him. No one has had a less proven receiving group this year than Darnold. DeVonta Smith could instantly change that. He has game-changing speed, great hands and incredible vision to make big plays down the field. An infusion of playmaking is exactly what this offense needs.

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15. New England Patriots (6-8) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
I know. I know. Every year, we mock a quarterback to the Patriots and every year they don’t take one. Well Tom Brady is gone and it seems like Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham are not the long-term answers. Mac Jones has had a stellar season with arguably less talent around him than Tua Tagovailoa. His timing and accuracy could make him an excellent fit for Josh McDaniel’s offense.

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16. Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The Raiders are in a downward spiral and while some fans might be dreaming of a quarterback change, this is a bit early for Kyle Trask. Between a lackluster pass rush and an overmatch secondary, defense is where Las Vegas should be focused right now. Jaycee Horn is one of the best man coverage corners in this class. He would give the Raiders an intriguing young defensive backfield with Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnette and Amik Robertson.

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17. Arizona Cardinals (8-7) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Can you imagine how scary the Cardinals offense would be with Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and Kyle Pitts? Arizona could use an upgrade at tight end and Pitts would be a great one. His playmaking ability is like that of a wide receiver. He struggles as a run blocker, but I don’t think he will be asked to do that much in this offensive system.

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18. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
While quarterback of the future is a big concern in Indianapolis, this is too early for Kyle Trask. Instead, the Colts can bolster their offensive line and explore the veteran quarterback market in the offseason. Samuel Cosmi is BIG and projects well as an NFL tackle. He has not faced the best competition playing in the Big 12, but the defenses have been better there this year. He has the physical traits any offensive line coach would want to work with.

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19. Washington Football Team (6-9) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Does Washington pull the trigger on Kyle Trask? I say no at this point. It is likely Haskins will be gone, but maybe the front office rolls dice on a young prospect like Trubisky or aims for a veteran like Jimmy Garoppolo. Either way, I think Washington would be better suited continuing to rebuild the offense around the quarterback position. Rashod Bateman is a proven playmaker from his time at Minnesota. He has a great catch radius, solid run-after-the-catch ability and reliable hands. He would pair very nicely with Terry McLaurin.

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20. Chicago Bears (8-7) – Trey Smith, OT, Tennessee
The Bears seemed to be dead in the water. A late-season surge might just save Mitchell Trubisky’s job. Regardless of what Chicago decides to do at quarterback, it needs to invest more in its offensive line. Trey Smith has had a fantastic year from Tennessee. He has played left guard for the Vols, but he has some experience at left tackle as well. His versatility and size will serve him well no matter what position the Bears want him to play.

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21. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (1-14) – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
It is time to switch the focus to the defensive side of the ball, where the Jaguars have really struggled this year. Adding Shaun Wade would give them a versatile corner with solid coverage skills. He needs to improve his consistency, but at his best, he is one of the best nickel corners in college football. Jacksonville will hope he can grow into a reliable starter.

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22. Cleveland Browns (10-5) – Jeremiah Owusu-Kamorah, LB, Notre Dame
This late-season surge from the Browns has been mostly due to the offense. The defense still seems to be a work in progress. Jeremiah Owusu-Kamorah would immediately provide some speed at linebacker. He has great coverage skills as well. Cleveland could use his skill set regardless of the position, but they are also pretty thin at linebacker.

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23. Miami Dolphins (10-5) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Miami has had success with Myles Gaskin running the ball, but he has struggled with injuries. No one else in this Dolphins backfield has truly stepped up to take the lead role either. Najee Harris would solve that. He brings a unique blend of power and speed. He has solid hands as well out of the backfield. That is too good to pass up, especially with no clear option here at wide receiver. This offense would be scary heading into 2021 with all of these skill players.

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24. Baltimore Ravens (10-5) – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Baltimore could certainly use a few more edge rushers, but with the addition of Yannick Ngakoue, that can wait until sometime on Day 2. Instead, the Ravens can upgrade at center to get this offense back on track. Matt Skura has struggled this year and the offense has had some lulls. Creed Humphrey is about as pro-ready a prospect as you can find. He has started the past three years at Oklahoma, blocking for mobile quarterbacks like Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts. He fits what this Ravens team wants to do and should be a nice plug-and-play option.

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25. Tennessee Titans (10-5) – Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh
Tennessee’s defense took a major step back in 2020. It needs an infusion of talent to regain its 2019 form. Patrick Jones was last seen terrorizing opposing quarterbacks throughout the ACC. He has nine sacks this season, giving him 21 in his career. He has the build of a twitchy, 4-3 edge rusher, which should fit very well into what the Titans want to do. He would be a lot of fun to play across from Harold Landry and alongside Jeffrey Simmons.

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26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5) – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Tampa Bay seems to have the offense figured out for the most part. They are pretty good defensively as well, but Ndamukong Suh is 33 and a free agent after the season is over. Finding his replacement is likely towards the top of the Buccaneers’ to-do list. Christian Barmore has been very impressive over his past two seasons at Alabama. He disengages well and finds ways to be disruptive from the interior. Pairing him with Vita Vea would be a nightmare for opposing teams.

27. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (11-4) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
It is time to go all-in on surrounding Darnold with talent. Between Travis Etienne and DeVonta Smith, this offense would get a whole lot faster. New York has no clear long-term solution at running back. Lamical Perine is a rookie battling through injuries. Frank Gore will play forever, but is not a bell cow. Etienne would end the revolving door and give the Jets a much-needed playmaker at the position. Run him behind Mekhi Becton and just enjoy the results.

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28. Buffalo Bills (11-3) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
Give Josh Allen a tight end! The third-year quarterback has taken a huge step in his development and the Bills seem set at receiver. Adding in Pat Freiermuth would really complete this group of skill position players. He can play inline and block in the running game. He has earned the nickname “Baby Gronk” in his time at Penn State. Buffalo could certainly use someone with that skill set in this offense.

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29. New Orleans Saints (11-4) – Kadarious Toney, WR, Florida
I think the Saints have shown they have a plan at quarterback after Drew Brees. Adding more speed to the offense is a must. New Orleans has lacked playmakers throughout the season due to lack of depth and injuries. Kadarius Toney has shown all season long that he can make plays in clutch moments. Regardless of who is playing QB in 2021, he would be a welcome addition to the offense.

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30. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-3) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
It is pretty clear that the Steelers’ offensive line is crumbling before their eyes. Alex Leatherwood cannot patch every gap, but he could patch any of them. He has played at every position other than center in his college career. He has excelled in the SEC despite facing some great defensive talent. He would provide a much-needed boost to the whole unit.

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31. Green Bay Packers (12-3) – Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC
Green Bay has been searching for someone to take over at middle linebacker. Chazz Surratt can do just that. He has great instincts and sifts through traffic well to make plays. He plays his gap assignments and will only get better as he learns the position more. He would provide a huge boost to a defense that struggles mightily against the run.

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32. Kansas City Chiefs (14-1) – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
The Chiefs need to protect the investment they made at quarterback. Kansas City spent $500 million to keep Patrick Mahomes. Rashawn Slater has been terrific in his career for Northwestern. His size makes him a fit at tackle, but he could even kick inside to guard. Kansas City just needs to focus on keeping Mahomes healthy.

33. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-14) – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Yannick Ngakoue is gone. Josh Allen needs someone to work with. Kwity Paye has all the physical tools and traits you want to see in an edge rusher. He hasn’t quite put it together yet, but he projects well.

34. New York Jets (2-13) – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
New York is in desperate need of some edge rushing help. Ranking in the bottom third in sacks for what feels like the 10th year in a row has to end at some point for the Jets to turn things around.

35. Atlanta Falcons (4-11) – Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina
Atlanta still needs to rebuild on the defensive side of the ball. Israel Mukuamu is huge for the position and could potentially move to safety. However, he has the skills and technique to play on the outside, especially in this Falcons defense.

36. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-5) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Miami finally grabs the receiver fans have been waiting for. Rondale Moore’s production has fallen off significantly from his freshman season, but he still has the speed and vision to be a playmaker for the Dolphins. Line him up anywhere and he can get open.

37. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1) – Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest
It is no secret the Eagles need help at receiver. Sage Surratt can stretch the field and win jump balls all day. He is the type of receiver Jalen Hurts (or Carson Wentz?) can learn to trust in the red zone and in third-and-long situations.

38. Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1) – Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson
This is a little early for Jackson Carman, but the Bengals need to find offensive line help. Carman is certainly experienced as well. He faced down Chase Young a year ago and mostly held his own. He will not shy away from the moment and Cincinnati can feel confident in him protecting Joe Burrow. Carman is used to protecting No. 1 overall pick-caliber players.

39. New York Giants (5-10) – Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami
Defensively, the Giants have played much better in the second half of the year, but they could still use an edge rusher to complement their interior duo. Quincy Roche has not had quite the same success at Miami as he did at Temple, but he still looks like a reliable pass rusher.

40. Carolina Panthers (5-10) – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida
Is Teddy Bridgewater the long-term answer at quarterback? It is unclear at this point. Matt Rhule would likely be excited to work with a polished passer like Kyle Trask. He has great accuracy and anticipation. However, he really lacks mobility and does not have the biggest arm. He could be a bit of a project behind Bridgewater.

41. Denver Broncos (5-10) – Jordan Davis, DL, Georgia
The Broncos continue to rebuild their defensive front. Jordan Davis has loads of potential. At minimum he will serve as a two-down run stopper early in his career. If he can develop as a pass-rusher, Denver would have a steal on their hands.

42. Detroit Lions (5-10) – Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU
Often overshadowed by Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall was an important part of LSU’s championship season a year ago. As the go-to receiver this year, he put up solid numbers again in less playing time. Whether Detroit keeps Kenny Golladay or not, the Lions need someone else for Matt Stafford (or Trey Lance) to look for at receiver.

43. Los Angeles Chargers (6-9) – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia
The Chargers may hope to see Derwin James play again someday, but his return will not fix their secondary woes. Eric Stokes brings a lot of speed to the position and has faced some great competition at Georgia. He would be a nice addition to this defensive backfield.

44. Jacksonville Jaguars via Minnesota Vikings (1-14) – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami
Jacksonville is in desperate need of an upgrade at tight end. Brevin Jordan has not had the fanfare that Kyle Pitts and Pat Freiermuth have, but he plays the position well. He does a lot of the little things right and would give Trevor Lawrence a strong target across the middle.

45. New York Jets via San Francisco 49ers (2-13) – Jevon Holland, DB, Oregon
New York needs secondary help. After trading away Jamal Adams this year, they could use someone like Jevon Holland to help fill that void. He can play in the slot, move up in the box and hold his own in coverage. His versatility would be invaluable to a defense that has struggled this year.

46. Dallas Cowboys (6-9) – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
While Aldon Smith has been a revelation, Dallas needs someone else to get after the quarterback. Adding Azeez Ojulari would definitely improve the pass rush. He is not a perfect fit, but he could look to add to his frame while serving as a situational rusher out of the gate.

47. New England Patriots (6-8) – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State
New England could use an upgrade along the interior of their defensive line. Marvin Wilson was nothing shy of dominant in 2019. While his 2020 tape has not been quite as impressive, there are still plenty of positive traits here to work with.

48. Las Vegas Raiders (7-8) – Jaylen Twyman, DL, Pittsburgh
The Raiders continue their defensive overhaul with Jaylen Twyman. He opted out of the 2020 season on the heels of a 10.5-sack campaign in 2019. He would help generate some pressure on the interior for a Las Vegas defense with the third-fewest sacks in the league.

59. Arizona Cardinals (8-7) – Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
When you play in a division with Russell Wilson, it is a good thing to have some quality corners. Paulson Adebo opted out of 2020, but was generating some first-round buzz last year before he suffered an injury. He has the size and ball skills to hang in the NFL.

50. Indianapolis Colts (10-5) – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
If Indianapolis is serious about another postseason push, it needs to improve its pass rush. Joe Tryon could step in as a situational rusher right away or take over for Justin Houston, who turns 32 in January. Tryon brings plenty of play-strength to the table and a solid motor. He could have a long career ahead of him.

51. Washington (6-9) – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Washington’s front seven is among the best in the league. However, their secondary could use some work, specifically at free safety. Andre Cisco is the best centerfield safety in this class. He is a ballhawk with good speed and technique to make plays in coverage.

52. Chicago Bears (8-7) – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Khalil Mack cannot do it all. Jaelan Phillips has the potential to develop into an every-down edge player who could play across from Mack. He has great speed and has impressed in his one year at Miami. He has the potential to wow scouts at the combine and move his way into the first round.

53. Los Angeles Rams (9-6) – Cade Mays, OT, Tennessee
Andrew Whitworth cannot play forever and Jared Goff is not mobile enough to compensate for a bad offensive line. Cade Mays, like his teammate Trey Smith, has featured mostly at guard, but has the size to play at tackle. Either way, the Rams could use an upgrade and some long-term options along the offensive line.

54. Miami Dolphins (10-5) – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
Dylan Moses has not been the same player since returning from a torn ACL that cost him all of 2019. He has started to come around in recent weeks, but his draft stock could continue to slide if he does not fully regain his sideline-to-sideline capabilities.

55. Baltimore Ravens (10-5) – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn
If you have watched the Ravens this year, you have seen a lack of vertical passing and a lot of receivers struggling to generate separation. Seth Williams can stretch the field and make contest catches. He has had some costly drops, but those are more concentration errors than anything else.

55. Cleveland Browns (10-5) – Jay Tufele, DL, USC
Cleveland could use a boost along the interior of the defensive line. Jay Tufele racked up 7.5 sacks over his first two years at USC before opting out. He should provide some pass rushing presence early on in his career.

56. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5) – Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Tampa Bay could use some depth along the front seven and Shaquil Barrett is still not signed long-term. Aidan Hutchinson should be in the mix for that spot right away. He only featured in three games this season, but showed flashes of his potential in a complete 2019 campaign. (Editor’s note: Hutchinson announced he is returning to Michigan.)

58. Tennessee Titans (6-3) – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Flying under the radar for most of the year, Zaven Collins has been a major part of Tulsa’s rise into the rankings this year. He has a good blend of size and speed with the ability to get after the quarterback.

59. Seattle Seahawks (10-4) – Rashad Weaver, EDGE, Pittsburgh
Seattle has looked better since Carlos Dunap arrived, but still struggles to get home consistently. Rashad Weaver has had an excellent bounce-back season after missing 2019 with a torn ACL. He has the size to play as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker.

60. Buffalo Bills (11-3) – Derion Kendrick, CB, Clemson
The Bills need someone to line up across from Tre’Davious White. Derion Kendrick has taken on the role of Clemson’s top corner this year and done so successfully. He should be a solid No. 2 corner for years to come.

61. New Orleans Saints (10-4) – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
New Orleans has been searching for linebacking help for a few years now. Nick Bolton could be the answer after leading Missouri on a furious late-season push. He is a bit undersized, but makes enough plays for scouts to overlook that.

62. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-3) – Mohamed Ibrahim, RB, Minnesota
The Steelers have a decision to make regarding James Conner this offseason. If he goes, running back will be a big need. Mohamed Ibrahim fits Pittsburgh’s hard-nosed approach. He hits the hole with authority and keeps driving for extra yardage. These Steelers could use some of that attitude right now. (Editor’s note: Ibrahim announced he is returning to Minnesota.)

63. Green Bay Packers (11-3) – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
Even though Aaron Rodgers has proven that he can win with a limited supporting cast this year, it would still be wise to find some more targets for him. Amon-Ra St. Brown is a capable possession receiver, but he has the size and ball skills to make some plays downfield as well. He would be a welcome addition to this offense.

64. Kansas City Chiefs (13-1) – Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke
Whether planning for the future or just adding depth, Kansas City would do well to add a young edge rusher. He built on a strong sophomore campaign with eight more sacks as a junior. He would need to add to his frame to become a three-down player in the NFL, but at 6’4”, he should be able to bulk up a bit.

8 teams that should sign Colin Kaepernick

If the 2019 NFL season taught us anything, it’s that there are a lot of teams who have neglected the backup quarterback position. The teams that sufficiently addressed it (Kansas City, Tennessee) weathered the storm when their starter was ineffective or hurt. Meanwhile, teams that clearly had no real succession plan (Detroit, New York Jets) saw their seasons unravel with sudden, er, absences at the position. Does mononucleosis count as an injury?

 

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Kaepernick has been out of the NFL since 2016 after he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality in America. (Wikimedia Commons)

Finding a backup quarterback is important and there aren’t many players more qualified for the job than Colin Kaepernick. With the NFL admitting it mishandled the national anthem protests in 2016 and commissioner Roger Goodell even going as far as encouraging teams to sign Kaepernick, the door finally seems to be for the former 49ers quarterback to return to the league. Sure, he has been out of the league for a few years, but Kaepernick has the experience and talent to be a spot starter.

Don’t believe me? Let’s compare Kapernick to the league’s average backup quarterback. I compiled every backup quarterback’s stats into this Google Sheet.

On average, the NFL backup completes around 61.1 percent of his passes and averages roughly 6.95 yards per attempt. Additionally, they throw a touchdown on 3.8 percent of their throws while 2.7 percent of their attempts result in an interception. The average backup also has a career winning percentage of 46 percent in the regular season. These numbers look much worse if you remove some of the long-time former starters currently in backup roles like Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub. 

Kaepernick by comparison completed 59.8 percent of his passes for an average of 7.3 yards per attempt. He threw a touchdown on 4.3 percent of his passes and an interception on just 1.8 percent of them. His career regular season win percentage sits at 48 percent. Additionally, Kaepernick has playoff experience, including a Super Bowl appearance. Flacco and Nick Foles are the only current backup quarterbacks who have started a Super Bowl.

The biggest knock anyone could possibly have on Kaepernick is his ability to hold onto the ball. He averaged almost eight fumbles per season over his five years as a mostly full-time starter.

If you want to put a label on what Kaepernick represents to the NFL right now in terms of position value, it is a high-end backup. Those averages, which he mostly matches or beats, don’t factor in his running ability either. His mobility is a plus for any team evaluating him. 

Without a doubt, Kap could still cut it in the NFL. Let me make this clear though. I don’t think Kaepernick has what it takes to be a starter in this league anymore. He is 32 and has some mechanical flaws he is not going to fix now. However, he is still good enough to win a game if his number is called. From his workout in 2019, he clearly still has the arm strength and the zip on his throws to make plays. Kaepernick should be no team’s first option, but there are much worse plan B’s. Here are the eight teams that should consider signing Kaepernick for the 2020 season.

Denver_BroncosDenver Broncos
With Drew Lock sufficiently entrenched as the starter for the Broncos, this could be an ideal situation for Kaepernick to work his way back into the league. Denver’s current quarterback room outside of Lock includes Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien and Neal Riley. Driskel is far from a reliable backup having struggled in stints filling in for Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford over the past two seasons. He is 1-7 as a starter and has completed under 60 percent of his passes in his career. It helps that Denver’s current running backs coach Curtis Modkins was the 49ers offensive coordinator during Kaepernick’s final season in San Francisco.

Titans logoTennessee Titans
Few teams had a better quarterback situation last year than the Titans. When Marcus Mariota proved to be ineffective as the starter, Ryan Tannehill came in and worked wonders all the way to the AFC Championship game. With Mariota now in Las Vegas, Tennessee is left with Logan Woodside and undrafted rookie Cole McDonald on the roster. Neither one of them has attempted an NFL pass. The front office made a wise move last year to find a stable backup plan. Kaepernick would give the Titans the same assurances that Tannehill provided for them last year.

Bengals LogoCincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow is undoubtedly the future in Cincinnati, but with Andy Dalton now in Dallas, the solution to a Burrow injury is unclear. Ryan Finley tanked in two appearances last season. Jake Dolegala is a fellow second year player who did attempt a pass last season. If Burrow were to go down, there is no one reliable to step in for the Bengals at quarterback. My biggest hang up with Kaepernick joining Cincinnati is I think they need someone who can start this season to ease Burrow into the NFL. I’m not sure Kaepernick quite fits the bill after so much time off.

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New England Patriots
The Patriots have clearly latched their wagon to the Jarrett Stidham train. I’m not sold on him as the long term answer after only four career passes, but the rest of the quarterback situation in New England is nothing to trust either. Brian Hoyer is back for another stint, but the Pats actually cut Hoyer last season after the preseason, and he struggled in relief of Jacoby Brissett after signing with the Colts. New England’s other two options at the position are Brian Lewerke and J’Mar Smith, two undrafted free agents from the 2020 class. Rumor has it the team is interested Cam Newton, but Kaepernick could also make a ton of sense.

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Arizona Cardinals
No one will be replacing Kyler Murray any time soon. However, when you have a mobile quarterback, particularly one with as slight of a build as Murray, there is always the risk of an injury arising. Arizona’s current backup plan is Brett Hundley. He has more interceptions than touchdowns in his career and a completion percentage south of 60. The only other options on the roster include Drew Anderson and Chris Streveler, both of whom have never attempted an NFL pass. Kaepernick has a similar play style to Murray, even if he cannot replicate the level of production. I could see him being a good fit in Kliff Kingsbury’s modified Air Raid system.

Los Angeles Rams logoLos Angeles Rams
Who is currently backing up Jared Goff? John Wolford, Bryce Perkins and Josh Love are all undrafted free agents L.A. signed over the past two years. None of them have taken an NFL snap. Goff might be one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the league, but the Rams certainly need a better replacement plan if he were to get hurt. Kaepernick might not be the most seamless fit in the Rams system given his struggles as a play-action passer, but I trust Sean McVay to find some creative uses for his arm and legs. Even four years removed from football, he would provide a much more reliable solution if Goff were to suffer an injury. 

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Seattle Seahawks
Don’t even begin to argue with me that Kaepernick would not be an upgrade over Geno Smith as a backup quarterback. As a Jets fan, I watched him struggle wildly to perform on a consistent basis and regularly commit back-breaking errors in important moments. Luckily for Seattle, Russell Wilson is one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league. Still, finding a better replacement than Smith would be smart. Pete Carroll has been open in his support of Kaepernick, admitting he regrets not signing him previously. The team met with Kap prior to the 2017 season. His ability to extend plays with his legs is not on the same level as Wilson, but he could help Seattle avoid a massive fall off if Wilson were to go down injured. 

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Baltimore Ravens
This last one is less about the team’s need at the position and more about the offensive scheme. Baltimore has the league’s reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson. Though Jackson has proven to be durable and smart about avoiding unnecessary hits, they have a clear backup plan in Robert Griffin III. They even have two young, dual-threat college quarterbacks on the roster behind RGIII. Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley are definitely both project players, but this has the feel of a very sound quarterback room. However, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman was the offensive coordinator for the 49ers while Kaepernick dazzled the football world with two deep playoff runs. I’m not saying Roman would be able rekindle that kind of magic, but given what Jackson has been able to do in this system, I think Kaepernick could find some level of success in a backup role. 

2020 NFL Draft takeaways: Who crushed it and who missed out?

Draft weekend has officially come to a close. It will go down as the most memorable in history for a laundry list of reasons, starting with Roger Goodell’s ever-changing wardrobe and incredibly comfy chair. 255 players heard their names called and 50 or more so players have signed on as undrafted free agents. I think it way too early to start handing out grades on draft classes. It takes about five years to be able to begin appropriately evaluating how teams did.

That being said, I think we can start handing out some winners and losers tags. Balancing filling team needs with taking the best player available. Some teams did that really well. Others, not so much. Here are the teams that crushed the draft and the teams that could have fared better.

Winners:

Cowboys logoDallas Cowboys
Biggest impact: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma (17th overall)
Best value: Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah (179th overall)
I think it would be hard to qualify the Cowboys as anything other than the winners of this draft. They landed a top-10 talent in CeeDee Lamb at 17, then filled a major need at great value with Trevon Diggs in the second round. Dallas filled another need with Neville Gallimore, who slid into the third. Reggie Robinson is an interesting smaller school prospect to develop with decent size and speed. Tyler Biadasz has the potential to be a starter this season, which is great to find at the end of the fourth round. Travis Fredrick retired this offseason, so that was a huge hole to fill. I had a second-round grade on Bradlee Anae as well, who fell into the fifth. Taking a flier on a developmental quarterback in the seventh is never a bad idea either. Everyone other than Ben DiNucci has the potential to contribute this year. I think the Cowboys scored a really good core to develop.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Arizona Cardinals
Biggest impact: Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson (8th overall)
Best value: Josh Jones, OT, Houston (72nd overall)
Arizona didn’t overthink things with Isaiah Simmons on the board. It definitely wasn’t their biggest need, but he is an incredible defensive playmaker. The Cardinals had no second-round pick because of the DeAndre Hopkins trade. However, all 32 teams would take Hopkins in the second round in a heartbeat. Josh Jones was one of the biggest steals of the draft. His drop to the third round was stunning. Leki Fotu and Rashad Lawrence help beef up the interior of the defensive line. Evan Weaver will contribute on special teams right away and provides solid depth at linebacker. Nabbing local kid Eno Benjamin in the seventh round was another impressive move to work into the backfield rotation. In two years, this roster has been thoroughly turned over.

Bengals LogoCincinnati Bengals
Biggest impact: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (1st overall)
Best value: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson (33rd overall)
Sure they had it easy picking up Joe Burrow, but the Bengals filled some big needs and found solid value down the line. Tee Higgins probably should have gone in the first round and gives Burrow a huge target to grow with. Logan Wilson is quick cover linebacker and no team in the league needed help at the position more than Cincinnati. Akeem Davis-Gaither is a similar player to Wilson, but that isn’t bad thing given how much talent the group lacked. Khalid Kareem should be a rotational player up front capable of eating up plenty of defensive snaps. Hakeem Adeniji is a developmental tackle to work with and Markus Bailey is worth a flier in the seventh. He has some major history, but when healthy, he could be a starting caliber NFL player. There will be a learning curve as the Bengals continue to rebuild, but they have some solid pieces in place now.

Vikings logoMinnesota Vikings
Biggest impact: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU (31st overall)
Best value: Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State (255 overall)
Minnesota let the board come to them, traded back well and reloaded at some key positions. Having Justin Jefferson fall to them was a bit of luck, but trading back and still taking Jeff Gladney was a very skillful move. Ezra Cleveland is a tackle prospect worth developing. He might not be totally pro ready, but he is a future starter. Cameron Dantzler, D.J. Wonnum, James Lynch and Troy Dye are all high-upside players who can provide depth right away. Harrison Hand is an intriguing option on the back end as well. I thought K.J. Osborn was a reach, especially given the other receivers on the board. Kenny Willekes and Josh Metellus were very productive starters in college and well worth kicking the tires on in the later rounds. It wasn’t a very sexy draft for the Vikings, but this sets them up well for this season and beyond.

Ravens logoBaltimore Ravens
Biggest impact: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU (28th overall)
Best value: James Proche, WR, SMU (201st overall)
Very few teams draft as consistently well as the Ravens. Patrick Queen is a perfect fit in a massive position of need and J.K. Dobbins adds another dynamic player to potentially the scariest backfield in football. Devin Duvernay and James Proche are instant impact players at receivers that should work well with Lamar Jackson. Justin Mandubuike is a solid prospect to work with on the defensive line and could eventually take over for the 31-year-old Brandon Williams. Malik Harrison plays downhill and could become an extremely disruptive player in a few years. Tyree Phillips and Ben Bredeson offer offensive line depth too. Geno Stone isn’t a flashy player, but he was really good value in the seventh round. Give Eric DeCosta a lot of credit. This has the makings of a very good class that sets them up really well for the future.

Buccaneers logoTampa Bay Buccaneers
Biggest impact: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa (13th overall)
Best value: Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota (161st overall)
When filling needs meets finding great value, you tend to have a solid draft. Tristan Wirfs is the perfect player to anchor the right side of the line for Tom Brady. Antoine Winfield Jr. is a ballhawking playmaker who should add some explosiveness to an underrated secondary. Ke’Shawn Vaughn provides another dimension to a Buccaneers backfield that has really struggled in recent years. Tyler Johnson provides great depth at receiver after a stellar career at Minnesota. This team got better at important positions and positioned themselves well to compete this year. I don’t need to explain how important that is with a 44-year-old quarterback.

Losers: 

Eagles LogoPhiladelphia Eagles
Biggest surprise: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (53rd overall)
Biggest reach: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU (21st overall)
Now some of this is personal preference, bordering on being a premature grade, but I was not a huge fan of the decisions the Eagles made in this draft. Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson drew a lot of scrutiny and rightfully so. That was one of the biggest surprises of the first round. Philadelphia then had the biggest surprise of round two by taking Jalen Hurts. Carson Wentz has an injury history, but this team was desperate for receivers, corners and linebackers. Finding a sub-package quarterback given the other holes on this roster is questionable at best. Davion Taylor and K’Von Wallace are solid mid-round picks. The Eagles did eventually find receiver depth in John Hightower and Quez Watkins in addition to trading for Marquise Goodwin. They might have also found a steal in Prince Tega Wanogho. Not taking a corner was a big miss though and waiting until the late third round to take a defensive player could cost Philly in the short term.

Packers logoGreen Bay Packers
Biggest surprise: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State (26th overall)
Biggest reach: A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College (62nd overall)
No team’s draft confused me more than the Packers. Coming off an NFC championship appearance, it was clear Green Bay needed some more reliable receivers and an injection of talent at linebacker. Instead, the Packers traded up to take a project quarterback, despite having one of the best passers in the league. Then they drafted a running back in the second round despite having Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams already on the roster. Josiah Deguara and Kamal Martin finally hit on some needs and Green Bay built a lot of offensive line depth in the later rounds. The fact that the front office didn’t draft a single receiver is shocking. In what was the deepest receiver draft in at least a decade, not finding more options for Aaron Rodgers to work with borders on malpractice in football. This was a perplexing approaching by Brian Gutekunst.

Seahawks logoSeattle Seahawks
Biggest surprise: Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech (27th overall)
Biggest reach: Damien Lewis, G, LSU (69th overall)
Seattle stayed true to form, reaching in the first round before taking some high-upside prospects to develop later in the draft. Jordyn Brooks is an enticing player, but I had an early third-round grade on him. I think Darrell Taylor could be a good get for the Seahawks, but they reached on Damien Lewis in the third in an attempt to find some more protection for Russell Wilson. I like Alton Robinson in the fifth round, but Freddie Swain came from off the radar with much better prospects on the board. At least Colby Parkinson and DeeJay Dallas should be solid roll players as rookies.

Bears logoChicago Bears
Biggest surprise: Darnell Mooney, WR, Tulane (173rd overall)
Biggest reach: Mooney
It is amazing how different the league feels about the Khalil Mack trade two years later. Given the amount of cap space he takes up and draft capital it took to acquire him, Chicago probably would’ve been better off without the pass rusher. Given that the Bears were already down a first round draft pick, the team decided to take their 10th tight end. Their second pick of the round was much better in Jaylon Johnson at a big position of need. Darnell Mooney was another example of a team passing on better prospects at the position. Kindle Vildor is a really solid add in the fifth, but I can’t get behind waiting to find offensive line help until the seventh round. Chicago just does not seem like it had a great plan in place entering the draft.

Washington made up logoWashington
Biggest surprise: Antonio Gibson, RB, Memphis (66th overall)
Biggest reach: Gibson
It is hard to put Washington in this category after landing a star edge player in Chase Young. However, they didn’t have a great draft after that. With Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love, Derrius Guice and Peyton Barber on the roster, taking a third-down back is a questionable move alone. I didn’t think Antonio Gibson was worth going before the fifth round either. Josh Jones was on the board there, which would have been a great get after not getting a ton in return for Trent Williams. I don’t think Saadiq Charles will be able to fill that void in year one either. There took a couple of fliers on players from big-name programs that often got lost in the shuffle at their respective school. Ron Rivera is a great coach, but I don’t think this set him up super well for success in his first season.

Patriots LogoNew England Patriots
Biggest surprise: Dalton Keene, TE, Virginia Tech (101st overall)
Biggest impact: Justin Rohrwasser, K, Marshall (159th overall)
Dare I put them in this category??? New England is often playing chess while the rest of the league is playing checkers. This year, it felt like the Patriots were trying too hard to out think the rest of the league. Kyle Dugger is raw, but if anyone can get the most of out his skills, it will be Bill Belichick. Josh Uche should also be a solid situational rusher as well. The Pats overdrafted two tight ends and then spent a fifth-round pick on a kicker that it seemed like no one else was even thinking about drafting. Failing to select a quarterback to develop as part of this class is a little surprising as well. I never thought Belichick would be aggressive in finding a passer, but ignoring the position all together seems like a mistake. You know that Dustin Woodard will be a Pro Bowler within two years though undrafted free agent will turn into Jarrett Stidham’s equivalent of Julian Edelman making me look like a fool for ever suggesting they had a bad draft.

2020 NFL Draft: Day 2 surprises and best players available

We are two days in, but still not even halfway through the NFL draft. This class is loaded with talented players that found their NFL homes on Friday. While the first round gets the biggest billing, this is where teams make their money. If you can find value in the middle rounds of the draft, you are going to be a very successful franchise. The teams that do this best (Seattle, New England, Baltimore) seem to always have players ready to step in when injuries strike or players leave in free agency. That’s because they find the diamonds in the rough.

I will talk about my favorite prospects still on the board, but first, let’s talk about some of the most shocking developments from rounds two and three. Check out day one’s biggest surprises here.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma vs UCLA, Sept 14, 2019, Pasadena, CA
Hurts was the runner-up for the Heisman in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Eagles take Jalen Hurts
Wait … what??? Philadelphia signed Carson Wentz to a mega-extension worth north of $100 million prior to the 2019 season. So logically, at pick 53, the Eagles selected Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Sure, the team could use a reliable passer to backup Wentz, who has a history of injuries. However, drafting a quarterback in the second round feels like a very odd decision given the cirumstances. Philly needs help at corner, linebacker and wide receiver, even after taking Jalen Reagor in round one. Howie Roseman has often been one of the general managers capable of finding talent in the later rounds, but his draft plan in 2020 is a mysterious to most outsiders. On back-to-back days, the Eagles made headlines for who they decided to draft, but not for ideal reasons.

Josh Jones slides … again
Well I definitely overestimated how much the NFL would like Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones. I had him going 18th overall to the Dolphins. Instead, he stayed on the board all the way until pick 72 for the Cardinals (who have had a great draft so far if you ask me). He is definitely a little raw, but he is a solid offensive tackle and there are tons of teams who were rumored to be interested in help at the position. He was my fourth-ranked player at the position, but was the eighth selected. This is just one fan’s opinion, but I was shocked to see Jones fall so far. Maybe that’s less of a reflection on him as well. After six offensive tackles went in the first round, only Ezra Cleveland went in round two and Jones was the first one off the board in the third.

ga_vs_lsu_e101318_11
Swift went 35th overall to the Lions on Friday night. (Wikimedia Commons)

Teams reaching on running back
After Clyde Edwards-Helaire went with the last pick of the first round, there was some buzz that we could see a run on running backs. Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift and J.K. Dobbins all went as expected in round two, along with Cam Akers. What was surprising was to see A.J. Dillon and Antonio Gibson come off the board soon after. I like Dillon a lot, but I thought the Packers, once again, had bigger needs at receiver and linebacker. Dillon was still a bit of a ways down my board as well. Gibson was a stunner. I didn’t have him in my top 150 prospects and as my 12th running back overall. I wasn’t alone in the skepticism on Gibson either, Bleacher Report had him 164th overall, 98 spots later than he was selected by Washington. Green Bay’s decision is a bit more forgivable. Washington’s follow up to Chase Young was definitely a bit underwhelming.

Broncos double up on receivers
I applaud Denver for waiting and landing the best receiver in this draft. Getting Drew Lock a receiver to pair with Courtland Sutton made a ton of sense. I think Jerry Jeudy will have a great career in Denver. The surprise here was that then the Broncos dipped back into the position group to take Penn State’s KJ Hamler. Hamler is a speedster out of the slot with tons of big-play ability. I am not a huge fan of him as a prospect given his size and issues with drops. I was surprised to see the Broncos passing on either a corner or offensive lineman (although they did fill both positions later.) I didn’t think Denver really needed another receiver with Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton already in the fold prior to the draft, but they clearly want depth at the position.

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Prior to 2019, the Jets were the only team with which Bill Belichick had never traded. (Wikimedia Commons)

Jets and Patriots make a trade
This definitely caught me by surprise. Very rarely do these franchise negotiate trades, but maybe it really is the sign of a new era in New England. The Jets and Pats actually brokered a trade early in the 2019 season that sent Demaryius Thomas to New York in exchange for a 2021 6th round pick. This latest trade between the two teams that saw the Patriots acquire the 101st pick, which they spent on Virginia Tech tight end Dalton Keene. As part of the deal, the Jets landed two fourth rounders this year and New England’s 2021 sixth-round pick. Believe it or not, the two teams have now just swapped 2021 sixth rounders. If you are still reading at this point, know that I appreciate your love for football and quirky draft nuggets.

Through three rounds, there is a lot of talent still on the board. I actually see a ton of prospects in my top 100 available, 21 to be exact. Considering there have already been 106 selections, I am really positive about the players still on the board. Some quality defensive options, a bunch of lanky receivers and a pair of former Georgia quarterbacks highlight the group. Here are my favorite remaining prospects:

24. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
52. Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
55. Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State
56. John Simpson, G, Clemson
59. Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah
62. Ben Bartch, OT, St. John (Minn.)
65. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
66. Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
67. Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
73. Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
80. Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
81. Leki Fotu, DL, Utah
84. Larrell Murchison, DL, NC State
86. Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
87. Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
88. K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson
89. Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
91. Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
92. Ben Bredeson, G, Michigan
93. K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
100. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
101. Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
102. Collin Johnson, WR, Texas
104. Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
105. James Lynch, DL, Baylor
106. Logan Stenberg, G, Kentucky
109. Solomon Kindley, G, Georgia
110. Trevon Hill, EDGE, Miami
113. Evan Weaver, LB, California
114. Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF
116. Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
117. Jason Strowbridge, DL, UNC
123. Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin
124. A.J. Green, CB, Oklahoma State
125. Francis Bernard, LB, Utah