Hey everyone. I am launching a new NFL draft podcast with the help of my friend James Schiano from RJ Drafts. We are going to aim to do a weekly show discussing all of the top players, prospect movement and NFL team draft needs all year long. While we might all love to dial into the draft from February to April, draft season never really ends. Teams are scouting, evaluating and gathering information on prospects all the time. Preparing for the next draft usually starts about one week after the last one ends. We will still do some fun stuff, like draft grades and favorite fantasy football fits following the draft, but come the fall, we will be diving into next year’s draft class.
You can check out our first episode now, where James and I debut our new show and discuss our top five prospects at each offensive position. Plus, I recap the time I met former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan and James breaks down his draft crush, Stanford quarterback Davis Mills.
You can find every episode on Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your podcasts. As always, we appreciate reviews, feedback and when you hit that subscribe button. Hope you enjoy the first show. Plenty more to come!
Every year, people love to read redrafts and draft grades for draft class before we have really had time to evaluate them. I have been guilty of this as well, but in recent years, I have waited until we hit the five year mark before dishing out draft grades and looking to do redrafts. It takes at least that long to evaluate a draft class. And, as you can see by the 2012 redraft I did back in 2016, five years isn’t always enough. Still, I can’t stay away and I really enjoy looking back on what could have been. Especially with a draft class like this one!
There are a few things I want to clarify before I jump in. I undid every trade that happened on draft day. With the benefit of hindsight, it is much easier to say every team would have just stayed put and taken the best player available. One other thing I want to point out is that just because a team selected a player at a given position does not mean they have to draft the same position. For example, the Jaguars selected Justin Blackmon back in 2012. They are not bound to taking the best receiver from the class (T.Y. Hilton) just because he plays the same position. Hilton was a good player, but there are plenty of other needs Jacksonville could have filled instead. I tried my best to go with the best player available given the roster composition of that team in 2012.
With all of that in mind, let’s revisit this famous 2012 draft class featuring some future Hall of Famers and a number of notable busts.
1. Indianapolis Colts Original selection: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford Redraft pick: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin Andrew Luck was widely viewed as the best college quarterback prospect to come out since Peyton Manning. He had his moments during an injury-riddled career, but Russell Wilson’s continued excellence makes him the clear choice in this redraft. Wilson has a Super Bowl ring, seven Pro Bowl appearances and a fantastic touchdown-to-interception ratio is his career. He earned MVP buzz early in 2020 and continues to play like a top-five quarterback every season. Wilson’s mobility and penchant for making off-schedule throws would work well for the Colts, who struggled to protect Luck throughout the early portion of his career.
2. Washington Original selection: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor Redraft selection: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford Luck’s fall is a short one. Even though he only lasted five full seasons as a starting quarterback, he led the Colts to several playoff appearances and showcased elite arm talent in the process. In each of the four seasons that Luck played all 16 games, Indianapolis reached the playoffs. Perhaps Luck would have fared better in Washington with Trent Williams protecting his blindside. Robert Griffin III had a great rookie season and might have been a solid NFL starter if injuries had not derailed his career. Despite Luck’s own injuries, he offers an upgrade over RGIII.
3. Minnesota Vikings Original selection: Matt Kalil, OT, USC Redraft selection: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College Minnesota traded down one pick on draft night back in 2012 and took Matt Kalil. Kalil was serviceable as a starter in the NFL, even reaching the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2012. Unfortunately, he never built on that debut season. Meanwhile, Luke Kuechly went on to have a Hall of Fame career for the Panthers. He was an incredible tackler with impressive athleticism, which resulted in five first-team All-Pro selections and seven Pro Bowl appearances in eight seasons. Injuries cut his career short, but his leadership and production over those eight years make him worth the pick. Minnesota’s defense would have had a star to build around during those Christian Ponder years.
4. Cleveland Browns Original selection: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama Redraft selection: Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State This was one of the worst draft picks the Browns made during the 2010s, and that’s saying something. Trading up one spot to grab Trent Richardson proved to be a huge mistake, but give Cleveland some credit for cutting ties and recouping a first-round pick for Richardson a year later. With the benefit of hindsight, the Browns would have been much better off selecting Fletcher Cox. Cleveland started sixth-round Billy Wynn at defensive tackle in 2012. Cox would’ve been a massive upgrade. In his career, he has earned six Pro Bowl nods and an All-Pro selection. Cleveland’s defense would have looked very different with Cox and D’Qwell Jackson dominating the middle.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Original selection: Mark Barron, S, Alabama Redraft pick: Bobby Wagner, LB, Utah State Mark Barron went on to have a lengthy career as a box safety and might have been a bit ahead of his time. The NFL in 2021 loves to find those hybrid types, but that movement was still in its earlier stages. At least the Buccaneers slid down two spots before selecting Barron. Instead, the Buccaneers could have grabbed one of the best tackling middle linebackers in NFL history. Bobby Wagner is still at the top of his game nearly 10 years later. He is one of just three players in this draft class to go to seven Pro Bowls. The other two are Russell Wilson and Luke Kuechly. Tampa was in need of a linebacker at this point, too, as they ended up landing Lavonte David in the second round. Filling a huge position of need with a future Hall of Famer feels like a slam dunk.
6. St. Louis Rams Original selection: Michael Brockers, DL, LSU Redraft pick: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina On draft day, the Rams traded back with the Cowboys and landed an extra second-round pick. It was a pretty good move. Dallas selected Morris Claiborne, who never really figured out how to play corner in the NFL. Meanwhile, St. Louis landed a solid interior lineman in Michael Brockers. Passing up on Stephon Gilmore just does not make sense in this redraft. Keep in mind that the Rams started second-round selection Janoris Jenkins at corner that year, so it was definitely a position of need. Gilmore is one of the best cover corners in football. He became the first corner since Charles Woodson to win Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. He can lock down half the field and is one of just five players in this draft class to be named first-team All-Pro more than once.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars Original selection: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State Redraft pick: Chandler Jones, EDGE, Syracuse Justin Blackmon had all the talent in the world, but he only lasted until 2014 in the NFL due to off-the-field issues. To make matters worse, Jacksonville actually traded up two spots to get him. Without a star receiver available in this draft class, the Jaguars tag the best edge rusher in the class to boost their defense. Chandler Jones would be an immediate upgrade over Austen Lane or Jeremy Mincey, Jacksonville’s starting defensive ends at the time. With 97 career sacks, Canton feels well within reach for Jones by the time his career wraps up. His impact probably would not have ended the Jaguars suffering, but it would have given them a talented player at a crucial position to build around.
8. Miami Dolphins Original selection: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M Redraft pick: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State I struggled with this pick a lot. Ryan Tannehill has experienced an incredible resurgence with the Titans, but he struggled a lot for the Dolphins. You could argue that simply not hiring Adam Gase would have solved all of Tannehill’s problems, but I can also understand if fans are hesitant about taking Tannehill again. Believe it or not, Kirk Cousins actually has more touchdowns, fewer interceptions and a better career completion percentage than Tannehill. However, Cousins didn’t truly take over the starting job in Washington until 2015. Would he have been as successful in Miami where he would have needed to start sooner? It’s hard to tell, but there is a chance he would’ve offered better stability than Tannehill did.
9. Carolina Panthers Original selection: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College Redraft pick: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska It’s tough to miss out on Luke Kuechly, but Lavonte David is a solid consolation prize. David has a nose for the football and actually leads this draft class in tackles, ahead of both Kuechly and Bobby Wagner. He has been incredibly reliable as well with just seven missed starts in nine seasons. He has not always received the same level of love as his draftmates with one Pro Bowl selection and one first-team All-Pro honor, but he is still paying dividends for the Buccaneers in 2021. He was a major part of the team’s success in the Super Bowl for his ability in pass coverage. As a bonus for the Panthers, he would no longer be suiting up for their division rival.
10. Buffalo Bills Original selection: Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina Redraft pick: Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina While he has had some rocky moments, at his peak, Josh Norman was one of the best corners in football. While he is definitely a step down from Stephon Gilmore, this is not a bad consolation prize for the Bills. Norman proved in 2020, actually playing for the Bills, that he is still a serviceable corner capable of starting in the NFL. Considering that Buffalo eventually let Gilmore walk in free agency anyway, maybe they would’ve done more to keep Norman around.
11. Kansas City Chiefs Original selection: Dontari Poe, DL, Memphis Redraft pick: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M Dontari Poe has had himself a solid NFL career, but Kansas City cannot pass up on a chance to find a long-term solution at quarterback. Matt Cassell would be gone after the 2012 season and had not done much in 2011 to indicate he deserved to be the unquestioned starter. As we discussed before when debating Tannehill vs. Cousins, Tannehill has really taken off over the past two seasons. Perhaps a chance to work with Andy Reid, who arrived in 2013, would have jumpstarted the version of Tannehill we have seen in Tennessee a few years earlier. Either way, he would’ve given the Chiefs a much better plan going forward at quarterback.
12. Seattle Seahawks Original selection: Bruce Irvin, EDGE, West Virginia Redraft pick: Mitchell Schwartz, OT, California Seattle really loses out big time in this redraft. Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner are both off the board. The team is also set to go forward with Matt Flynn at quarterback with the next best option available in this draft being Nick Foles. The Seahawks traded down a couple spots on draft day and took Bruce Irvin. Irvin has actually had some bright spots, but he has never quite lived up to this draft slot. Mitchell Schwartz would give Seattle a pair of talented young tackles to bookend their offensive line. Schwartz has spent nine seasons as a quality starting right tackle for the Browns and Chiefs including an All-Pro nod in 2018. He did not miss a game prior to the 2020 season. There are few players as reliable and unheralded as Schwartz has been.
13. Arizona Cardinals Original selection: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame Redraft pick: T.Y. Hilton, WR, Florida International Pretty much Arizona’s entire offense needed an upgrade outside of Larry Fitzgerald heading into the 2012 season. Michael Floyd had his moments, but he only managed 25 touchdowns in his career. Arizona needed a receiver, and T.Y. Hilton would have been a great addition across from Fitzgerald. Hilton has struggled with some injuries in recent years, but he has five 1,000-yard seasons, including 2016, when he led the league in receiving yards.
14. Dallas Cowboys Original selection: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU Redraft pick: Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame Back in 2012, Dallas traded up to select Morris Claiborne. While the Cowboys were right to focus on rebuilding their defense, Claiborne turned out to be a terrible fit. Meanwhile, Harrison Smith is a five-time Pro Bowler with the most interceptions of any player in this draft class. You could make the argument that he was one of, if not the best safety in the league over a solid stretch. He would be a much-needed playmaker in that Cowboys secondary and provide a clear succession plan to Gerald Sensabaugh, whom Dallas cut following the 2012 season before he ultimately retired.
15. Philadelphia Eagles Original selection: Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State Redraft pick: Brandon Brooks, G, Miami (Ohio) Philly misses out on Fletcher Cox this time around, but they land a player who has been integral to their success in recent years. Brandon Brooks was selected in the third round back in 2012, but there is no way he lasts that long this time around. He was a decent player in Houston from 2012 to 2015, but really found his footing with the Eagles. He made three straight Pro Bowls and played a huge part in Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run in 2017.
16. New York Jets Original selection: Quinton Coples, EDGE, UNC Redraft pick: David DeCastro, G, Stanford There are only a handful of players from this draft class who have been named first-team All-Pro more than once. David DeCastro has been a staple of the Steelers offensive line for close to a decade. New York made back-to-back AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010 behind an incredible offensive line. DeCastro would be an upgrade over Matt Slauson, or a potential successor to Brandon Moore. This would be a great value, especially instead of Quinton Coples, who was out of the league by 2015.
17. Cincinnati Bengals via Oakland Raiders Original selection: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama Redraft pick: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama It turns out the Bengals drafted a player at the right position from the right state, just the wrong school. Dre Kirkpatrick took three years to win the starting job and once he did, he never really lived up to his draft spot. Meanwhile, Janoris Jenkins turned out to be a steal for the Rams in the second round. He started his career with a bang in 2012, leading the league with three defensive touchdowns. He reached his peak in 2016 with a Pro Bowl appearance for the Giants. Jenkins has a good track record for making plays with 26 career interceptions. He has had some rough moments for sure, but he turned out to be a much more valuable player than Kirkpatrick.
18. San Diego Chargers Original selection: Melvin Ingram, EDGE, South Carolina Redraft pick: Melvin Ingram, EDGE, South Carolina The then-San Diego Chargers were rewarded for their patience with Melvin Ingram. It took him a few years to get going after injuries derailed the early part of his career, but from 2015 to 2019, Ingram had at least seven sacks each season. He has been a crucial part of the Chargers defense in recent years playing across from Joey Bosa.
19. Chicago Bears Original selection: Shea McClellin, EDGE, Boise State Redraft selection: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin Shea McClellin turned out to be a colossal bust for the Bears. He managed just 8.5 career sacks and was out of the league after 2016. I don’t think there is an edge player worth taking here, and Chicago’s offensive line could have used a boost. Chilo Rachal started eight games at left guard and the front office signed Matt Slauson to take over before 2013. Adding Kevin Zeitler would have been a much better solution at the position. Keep in mind this is also a year before the Bears drafted Kyle Long. Zeitler has started from Day 1, and his consistency and longevity make him well worth going in the first round again, this time, even earlier.
20. Tennessee Titans Original selection: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor Redraft pick: Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas State It turned out to be a pretty rough receiver class with Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and A.J. Jenkins falling well short of expectations. The next best receivers available after T.Y. Hilton would be either Alshon Jeffery or Marvin Jones, and while both have been solid, neither is worth going in the top 20. On the other hand, Demario Davis has turned into one of the best players from this draft class. His career has been a bit odd, with a one-year stint in Cleveland before returning to the Jets, but after years of solid play, he was recognized as a first-team All-Pro in 2019 with the Saints. He has over 900 career tackles and would have fit very nicely in the middle of the Titans defense. If that wasn’t enough, Davis has not missed a game in his nine-year NFL career.
21. Cincinnati Bengals Original selection: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin Redraft pick: Ben Jones, C, Georgia On draft day, the Patriots traded up to this spot to select Chandler Jones. With Jones long gone and trades not allowed in the redraft, Cincinnati stays put and grabs an interior lineman to protect a young Andy Dalton. With Zeitler gone, Ben Jones is the next best interior lineman available. It took a few years for the Texans to determine where his best spot was, starting at both guard spots before finally moving him to center in 2015. Since then, Jones has started every game and become a huge part of the Titans’ sometimes unstoppable run game.
22. Cleveland Browns via Atlanta Falcons Original selection: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State Redraft pick: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama The absurd run on linebackers continues as Dont’a Hightower is now the fifth to come off the board in the first 22 picks. I don’t think I really need to explain why Brandon Weeden is not going here again. I know the Browns desperately needed a quarterback, but reaching for Nick Foles here or either Kirk Cousins or Ryan Tannehill at No. 4 over more talented and impactful defensive players is bad process. Hightower was a fixture for the Patriots defense before opting out in 2020. He has two Pro-Bowl selections to his name as well. Adding him and Fletcher Cox would have made this defense one of the most exciting units in the league alongside 23-year-old Joe Haden.
23. Detroit Lions Original selection: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa Redraft pick: Olivier Vernon, EDGE, Miami Riley Reiff was a fine player for the Lions. He played out his rookie contract in Detroit and has been a starter for the Vikings in recent years. However, Reiff was not the starter in 2012, so the Lions could have waited another year or gone to free agency to find an eventual replacement to Jeff Bakus. Instead, adding Olivier Vernon to start across from Cliff Avril would have given the Lions an elite pass rushing tandem. He could take the year to learn from Kyle Vanden Bosch before launching a career that has accumulated 63.5 sacks, second only to Chandler Jones in this draft class. The only thing that holds Vernon back from going even earlier is his injury history. He hasn’t played a full season since 2016.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers Original selection: David DeCastro, G, Stanford Redraft pick: Damon Harrison, DT, William Penn Pittsburgh nailed its pick the first time around, but with David DeCastro gone, the Steelers must look elsewhere to build their roster. The defense was full of aging stars at the time, including 35-year-old Casey Hampton. Damon Harrison went undrafted back in 2012, but there is no way he makes it out of the first round in this mock draft. He was one of the best run defenders in the league from 2013 to 2017. He has bounced around in recent years, but he is still a quality rotation piece and short-yardage option. He would help soften the blow of missing out on DeCastro.
25. Denver Broncos Original selection: Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati Redraft pick: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis Denver actually traded back twice on draft night and took Derek Wolfe with the 36th overall pick. Instead, the Broncos will stand pat and take Dontari Poe. Poe would have been an instant starter collapsing the pocket with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil on the outside. Poe is a space eater at 346 lbs. He made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014. He might not be a future Hall of Famer, but he has been a solid contributor since he stepped foot in the league and is still worthy of a late first-round selection.
26. Houston Texans Original selection: Whitney Mercilus, EDGE, Illinois Redraft pick: Whitney Mercilus, EDGE, Illinois There were only a few teams that not only took a quality player, but took in him in a realistic draft slot. Whitney Mercilus has been a solid contributor throughout his career. He has missed a decent amount of time due to injuries over the years, but his 54 career sacks and 68 tackles for loss speak for themselves. Taking him off this Texans’ defense would definitely be a detriment, even if he was not a perennial Pro Bowler.
27. New England Patriots via New Orleans Saints Original selection: Chandler Jones, EDGE, Syracuse Redraft pick: Michael Brockers, DL, LSU New England worked some magic on draft night back in 2012, trading up twice to land two solid contributors on defense. Both Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower are long gone by this stage. Brockers has somewhat quietly put together an impressive NFL career. He has not racked up accolades, but he has been a steady presence on the Rams defense since he was drafted. His career totals are not staggering with 28 sacks and 48 tackles for loss, but Brockers is one of just eight players from this draft class who has been a full-time starter every year of his career. As the saying goes, the best ability is availability.
28. Green Bay Packers Original selection: Nick Perry, EDGE, USC Redraft pick: Akiem Hicks, DL, Regina The run on defensive linemen and edge rushers continues. Green Bay hoped to find someone to play across from Clay Matthews in Nick Perry. He had a really good two-year stretch in 2016 and 2017 with 18 sacks. His career bizarrely ended after 2018 though and those two seasons are not enough to justify another first-round selection. Instead, Green Bay can grab Akiem Hicks to bolster its defensive line. Hicks was a decent player in New Orleans, but his career really took off after landing in Chicago in 2016. He peaked with a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018. His run stopping and disruptive playmaking would be greatly appreciated.
29. Baltimore Ravens Original selection: Courtney Upshaw, LB, Alabama Redraft pick: Kelechi Osemele, G, Iowa State Baltimore traded out of the first round back in 2012. This roster had very few holes as the Ravens would go on to win the Super Bowl that season. If there was a weak spot, it would have been at right tackle. Believe it or not, Kelechie Osemele started at right tackle during that Super Bowl run. He later found his spot as a starter at guard. That type of versatility is worth the investment, this time in the first round. Osemele was solid in Baltimore, but really found his stride in Oakland. He made back-to-back Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro in 2016.
30. San Francisco 49ers Original selection: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois Redraft pick: Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina A.J. Jenkins lasted one season in San Francisco and just three in the NFL. Needless to say, this was a huge bust for the 49ers. Alshon Jeffery might have been the difference in the 49ers’ Super Bowl run. His huge frame and impressive catch radius would have made him a great red zone target. He reached the Pro Bowl in 2013 with 1,421 yards receiving. His career fell off a bit after a strong 2014 season. He has not topped 1,000 yards since then and has struggled to stay healthy, playing all 16 games just once since that point. Even if he eventually fell off, Jeffery’s short-term impact is well worth a late first-round selection.
31. New England Patriots Original selection: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama Redraft pick: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State If there is a team that found success with players who ran into issues with the NFL or stirred up trouble in the locker room. I think Bill Belichick would be willing to take the talent that Vontaze Burfict brings to the table and deal with the suspensions later. He was a Pro Bowler in 2013 after leading in the league in tackles. There is a good chance he would have become a bit more disciplined playing in New England. Even still, the short-term investment is worth it for the Patriots.
32. New York Giants Original selection: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech Redraft pick: Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt The reigning Super Bowl champs went after a playmaker on offense, but there were no running backs that really deserved to go in the first round of this draft. Instead, New York can tab Casey Hayward to succeed Corey Webster. Even though the Giants drafted Prince Amukamara in the first round the year before, Hayward is too good a talent to pass up and this secondary would have benefited from a top cover corner. He burst out of the gate with six interceptions in his rookie season, but Hayward didn’t really become a full-time starter until 2016. This would be the perfect situation for him to develop into a starting caliber corner.
And just like that, the 2020 NFL season is over. Tom Brady wins his seventh Super Bowl ring as the Buccaneers collect their first title since 2002. With that, the draft order is officially set!
We have a long way to go before we get to the draft and there is a lot that needs to be figured out before we hear Trevor Lawrence’s name called in April. We’ve already had one major quarterback trade with Matthew Stafford swapping places with Jared Goff. We could still see Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Sam Darnold or all three moved at some point before April.
I know it is almost impossible to predict the trades in mock drafts, but we also know that there are going to be a ton that happen, this year more than most. Not predicting a few trades at this point almost makes the mock less realistic at this point. For example, the Jets are not likely to stay at No. 2 without trading Darnold. If they hang onto Darnold, then there is a good chance they trade down from that spot to accumulate more draft capital.
With all of that in mind, here are the trades that I projected in this mock draft.
New York trades 1.2 to San Francisco for 1.12, 2.43, 2022 first-round pick and 2022 second-round pick Cincinnati trades 1.5 and 4.103 to Carolina for 1.8 and 2.39 Minnesota trades 1.14 to Miami for 1.18, 3.81, 7.194 Philadelphia trades Carson Wentz and 2.37 to Indianapolis for 1.21 and 3.84
I think the Jets are going to give Darnold one more year. With a new offensive coordinator coming in, there is a chance he makes some meaningful progress in year four. In this scenario too, New York now has three first-round picks in 2022, which means they can be aggressive in acquiring a new quarterback if Darnold really does not work out. Plus, there is a ton of familiarity with the 49ers after hiring Robert Saleh.
Carolina and Miami don’t want to wait around to grab the players they covet.
This Eagles trade I mulled for a long time. With reports that Wentz will be traded within the week, I think the most likely suitor is the Colts, where Wentz would be reunited with his former offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Wentz had an impressive rookie season working with Reich and likely would have won MVP in 2017 before suffering a torn ACL. If he regains that form playing for his old coach, this is a steal for Indy.
The draft order is according to Tankathon and compensatory picks are projected by Over the Cap. Time to dive in! I went three rounds this time, so here is what I think teams should do over the first 104 selections.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson Vegas Insider has Trevor Lawrence at -2000 to be the first overall pick. This thing is all but set in stone. He is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. Trent Baalke probably already has the pick prepared to send in. Start buying your jerseys now Jaguars fans.
2. San Francisco New York Jets (2-14) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU The assumption has been that the Jets will move on from Sam Darnold, but what if new head coach Robert Saleh is serious about keeping the former USC quarterback? It is certainly possible, as Darnold will not turn 24 until June. In this scenario, the Jets work out a deal with Saleh’s former employer to allow the Jets to stockpile more draft picks. The 49ers now get a chance to cut Jimmy Garoppolo, saving a ton of cap space to re-sign key free agents, and finding a quarterback that perfectly fits Kyle Shanahan’s system.
3. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-6) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon Miami seems pretty determined to give Tua Taogovailoa more time to develop, which is a smart move. He has only played 10 NFL games. There were going to be some rough spots. While receiver is a popular pick here, there is way more depth at receiver in this draft than there is at offensive tackle. This is not a huge need after drafting Austin Jackson last year, but this would give the Dolphins two high-upside tackles to bookend their offensive line. It might take a year or two for the unit to fully gel, but Miami could have one of the league’s best offensive lines by 2022.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State Atlanta is one of the most interesting teams in this draft. The front office says it remains committed to Matt Ryan, but picking in the top four is something teams do not want to do often. I considered a trade back, but I can’t see Carolina and Atlanta making a deal. I also don’t think New England or Washington will be willing to part with the resources it will take to trade into the top four. I am not dead set on this being Fields, only because I think Trey Lance’s upside could make sense for the Falcons long term. For now, this pick remains Fields, because he has the higher floor, but I’ve still got more work to do, so the order of quarterbacks taken could still shake up.
5. Carolina Panthers via Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State Carolina is clearly looking for its quarterback of the future. Reportedly, the Panthers offered the No. 8 pick in a deal to acquire Matt Stafford before he ultimately landed in Los Angeles. I don’t think the Panthers will have any issues being aggressive to move up a few spots to land a quarterback. Trey Lance has all the physical tools you could want in a quarterback. If he gets a season to learn behind Teddy Bridgewater, he could develop into one of the best in the league under Matt Rhule.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama I know there are plenty of Eagles fans who want this to be a receiver, but like I said with the Dolphins, this is another deep receiver class. The same can’t be said for the corner class, which is another huge position of need for the Eagles. Patrick Surtain is ready to be a lockdown corner from Day 1. He has ideal size and length to play on the perimeter and brings the requisite level of physicality needed to excel. Surtain would Philadelphia a solid corner tandem alongside Darius Slay.
7. Detroit Lions (5-11) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU Detroit has clearly entered a rebuild. It is going to take at least two years to turn this franchise around and the team is financially committed to Jared Goff for the next two seasons. Detroit can afford to go with the best player available, which also happens to be at a huge position of need. Ja’Marr Chase dominated college football in 2019 before opting out in 2020. He would give Goff a clear No. 1 option to throw to, providing the Lions with an important building block as they reshape this offense.
8. Cincinnati Bengals via Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech Protecting Joe Burrow is priority number one for the Bengals this offseason. Cincinnati knows it needs to rebuild its offensive line. Sliding down a couple of spots and landing a high-upside tackle in Christian Darrisaw feels like a really solid start to the draft. Darrisaw brings a big frame and impressive power to the position. The biggest knock in his game is agility and foot speed. He has the tools to become a franchise tackle. At worst, he would be an above average starter on the right side.
9. Denver Broncos (5-11) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State Denver is in for an interesting offseason. They have a decision to make regarding Von Miller, who is embroiled in a legal situation. However, the team has few crucial free agents of its own to take care of. Justin Simmons, A.J. Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, Shelby Harris and Tim Patrick are the biggest players on the market. Outside of Simmons, I can’t see many of them commanding top dollar. If Johnson walks, Micah Parsons would be a logical player to target. He has the build of a prototypical linebacker with great speed. He also brings a bit of pass rushing ability as well.
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech Few teams struggled more to stop opposing passing attacks than the Cowboys. Even before Dak Prescott’s injury, Dallas was winning games in shootouts. Caleb Farley would help turn things around. He is a big corner with good length. He was one of the top corners in the ACC in 2019 before opting out of the 2020 season. Adding Farley across from Trevon Diggs would give the Cowboys an exciting young tandem to rely on going forward.
11. New York Giants (6-10) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami New York’s defense was a pleasant surprise over the second half of the season. However, with both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson headed for free agency, finding another talented disruptor up front is going to be essential. If Gregory Rousseau is still on the board, I think he would be a great fit. He is a bit raw, but he has the size and length to develop into a dominant 3-4 end. New York could even stand him up on some passing downs, but from what I have seen on film, Rousseau looks most comfortable with his hand in the dirt.
12. New York Jets via San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama If the Jets decide to stick with Darnold, they will need to invest in getting him some weapons. Jaylen Waddle is one of the best open field players in this year’s class. He was nearly unstoppable before suffering a major ankle injury. He showed his grit, too, returning before he was truly ready to play in the national title game. He is the type of playmaker the Jets have been lacking for so long. With a few extra picks as well, New York can continue to fill out this roster.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern Justin Herbert looked the part of a franchise quarterback in 2020. Now the Chargers need to invest in protecting him. Rashawn Slater looks the part of a starting left tackle in the NFL. There is some room for improvement on the technical side of his game, but he showed enough in 2019 to warrant first-round consideration, even after opting out for 2020. His floor is a starting-caliber guard.
14. Miami Dolphins via Minnesota Vikings (7-9) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama Giving Tua Tagovailoa the tools to succeed is going to be the theme of this offseason. After finding a new personal body guard for him, the Dolphins can get aggressive in grabbing one of his favorite college targets. DeVonta Smith was incredible during his final season, putting up mind-boggling stats. He has good hands and versatility to line up in the slot or on the perimeter. The only knock on him is regarding his frame. He is listed at 175 lbs on Alabama’s roster. If he can show the ability to bulk up even a little bit before his pro day without sacrificing too much of his explosiveness, he will check every box for what teams look for in an elite receiver.
15. New England Patriots (7-9) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama Who is the long-term answer at quarterback in New England? For that matter, who is the short-term answer? There is no question this is the biggest question mark the Patriots need to answer this offseason. Perhaps they could go after Jimmy Garoppolo if he is cut by the 49ers. Until that happens, quarterback will remain the team’s biggest need and Mac Jones could be the perfect candidate to fill it. He is pro ready and brings a lot of the physical tools teams look for. He does not have an elite arm, but he has enough zip on his throws and possesses a very pretty deep ball. New England will need to find him some receivers, but he has the potential to be the long-term solution for whatever team takes a chance on him.
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida I am pretty sure I have been mocking this one since November. Kyle Pitts teaming up with Kyler Murray in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is a scary thought for the rest of the NFC West. Arizona has not had much production from the position in recent years and Pitts would offer an immediate upgrade. He was a matchup nightmare this season at Florida and I could see Kingsbury using him in a similar way.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina The Raiders are desperate for corner help, which is why they drafted Damon Arnette in the first round last year. After one season, that seems to be a reach, but he could still be part of the solution if Las Vegas moves him into the slot. Jaycee Horn could take his place on the outside. He has good size and speed for the position. He is also a scheme fit pretty much anywhere given that he has played zone, press and off-man coverage in his time at South Carolina.
18. Minnesota Vikings via Miami Dolphins (10-6) – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State Minnesota slides back a few spots and still lands the top interior lineman in this class. The Vikings’ offensive line was a liability down the stretch and needs some new talent. Wyatt Davis put the finishing touches on a great career at Ohio State with an appearance in the national championship game. He was a big part of the success of J.K Dobbins and Trey Sermon during their time in Columbus. Dalvin Cook would definitely benefit from this selection.
19. Washington Football Team (7-9) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota Washington still has a major opening at quarterback to solve this offseason, but this team has more holes to fill than just that, so I can’t see them getting aggressive to trade up for one of these rookies. The cost would be too high from their current draft slot. Instead, Washington can find someone to take some pressure off Terry McLaurin. Rashod Bateman was the top receiver on the team during Minnesota’s breakout 2019 season. He played sparingly in 2020, but still showed the physical attributes that catch scouts’ attention. He plays a bit like Michael Thomas, but it remains to be seen if he can truly reach that lofty standard.
20. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas It is unclear what the Bears’ plan forward is at the quarterback position, but much like Washington, this roster has other holes to fill. Samuel Cosmi would give the Bears a prospect to develop into a franchise tackle. He moves incredibly well for a player his size, which bodes well for his ability to handle the speed of NFL pass rushers. There is some room for improvement when it comes to his technique and footwork. He might struggle out of the gate, but he has the potential to be the best tackle in this class when all is said and done.
21. Philadelphia Eagles via Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida After taking a top-tier corner, the Eagles can find a new receiver to help turn this offense around. Jalen Hurts showed enough flashes to make the team believe in him as a long-term solution. Kadarius Toney is one of the best players in this draft at uncovering down field. That is a really useful skill in any offense, but especially when you have a quarterback that can extend the play with his legs. Toney was unguardable during Senior Bowl practices and looked the part of a No. 1 receiver. He still has some work to do in his route running and he had a couple of bad drops, but those don’t show up on his film.
22. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami Rejoice Titans fans. Tennessee has plenty of options to find a pass rusher in this situation. Jaelan Phillips fits the profile of a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. He has great speed off the edge and plenty of promise as a pass rusher. The biggest concern for me is how much he struggled at UCLA. He had a rash of injuries, including a concussion that caused him to retire from football. He instead opted to transfer to Miami and put together a great year. Is he a one-season wonder though and will he struggle to stay healthy in the NFL? Those are the questions that hold him back from going even earlier in this draft.
23. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (2-14) – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan With Jaylen Waddle already on board, the Jets can turn their focus to the defense side of the ball. This franchise has needed a pass rusher for a long time. They struck out on players like Sheldon Richardson, Quinten Coples and Leonard Williams just to name a few. Kwity Paye could finally end the search. He is definitely raw, but he is one of the most athletically gifted players in this draft class. He would be a great fit to be a defensive end in Robert Saleh’s 4-3 system.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame Pittsburgh seems set to make another run with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. If that is going to work, this team needs an overhaul on the offensive line. Liam Eichenburg is one of the most pro ready linemen in this class. He lacks elite athleticism, which may end up with him starting on the right side of the line, but he would provide an instant upgrade at a huge position of need for the Steelers.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (1-15) – Carlos Basham, DL, Wake Forest The interior of Jacksonville’s defense line is not what it used to be. With two exciting edge rushers already in place, the Jaguars need a disruptor on the interior. Carlos Basham is one of the most physically dominant defenders in this draft. He had a “down” year after racking up some impressive stats in 2019, but he was also double teamed on seemingly every play in 2020. He showed at the Senior Bowl that he can still be a problem for opposing lineman when left one on one. He has the size to play defensive end in the team’s new 3-4 defensive scheme.
26. Cleveland Browns (11-5) – Jeremiah Owusu Komaroah, LB, Notre Dame Browns fans love Jeremiah Owusu-Komaroah and for good reason. He is a rangy linebacker who at times looks like a safety dropped down into the box. He is a little bit undersized listed at just 215 lbs, but the NFL is trending more and more towards these hybrid type players. He could be an important chess piece in this Browns defense covering tight ends, spying quarterbacks and tracking running backs on passing downs.
27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma There were way too many games this season where the Ravens offensive line struggled with execution. The biggest culprit for much of the year was Matt Skura. Creed Humphrey would bring a ton of stability to the position and has plenty of experience blocking for mobile quarterbacks. He feels like a great fit for Baltimore.
28. New Orleans Saints (12-4) –Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa What the Saints do here is largely going to depend on how the front office resolves its salary cap issues this offseason. The team is projected to be $70.7 million over the cap, according to Spotrac. As of right now, supplementing this defense feels like the way to go. Zaven Collins is an excellent cover linebacker with some pass rushing ability. He was a big part of Tulsa’s strong 2020 season. He has a ways to go when it comes to reading his keys, as he is sometimes a little too aggressive, but there is a lot to like about his game.
29. Buffalo Bills (13-3) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State Buffalo had a great 2020 season and this roster is very close to being a Super Bowl contender. There are still a few holes though, notably at tight end. The combination of Dawson Knox, Lee Smith and Tyler Kroft is solid, but unspectacular. Pat Freiermuth offers an upgrade at the position and a well-rounded skill set. He is a reliable receiver over the middle and a willing blocker. He fits the mold of the prototypical inline tight end. Finding someone to occupy safeties and linebackers will only make life easier on the outside for Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley.
30. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC David Bahktiari will be back, but Green Bay should not count on his return solving all their offensive line woes. Billy Turner and Rick Wagner both struggled this season. Alijah Vera-Tucker could take over on the right side of the line to provide a bit more stability for Aaron Rodgers. He has also experience at guard, which only increases his value. Finding a versatile lineman who can start at multiple positions feels like a win for the Packers after watching how much they struggled to block during the NFC Championship game.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee When you make a large investment, you buy insurance. Think of Trey Smith as Patrick Mahomes insurance. Mahomes did run for almost 500 yards in the Super Bowl trying to avoid Buccaneers defenders. Smith spent time at both tackle and guard while at Tennessee. He also brings a ton of power to the position. He looked pretty sharp at the Senior Bowl and could be a Day 1 starter. With tons of experience and physical upside, this feels like a slam dunk for the Chiefs.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama There is a good chance that Tampa Bay will not retain Shaquille Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Chris Godwin, Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Lavonte David this offseason. Restocking the front seven will be the priority and Christian Barmore will help soften the blow for any potential losses. He flashed his potential to be a game-changing player in the national championship game. His ceiling is enticing and he should be ready to contribute in some role right away.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia After giving up 8.1 yards per pass this season, the second-worst mark in the league, Jacksonville needs some new blood in its secondary. Eric Stokes has plenty of speed and above average size to the table. After trading away Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, the Jaguars need to reinvest at the position.
34. New York Jets (2-14) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama I know running backs are a luxury pick, but with a receiver and a pass rusher already on board and Stokes coming off the board, passing on Najee Harris is hard to do. Harris is a complete back. He lacks top end speed, but has impressive agility, patience and power. Don’t sleep on his ability as a receiver either. New York is in desperate need of a new running back. This offseason is all about taking pressure off Sam Darnold. Drafting Harris would do that.
35. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami With Dean Pees taking over as defensive coordinator, he has said the Falcons are going to run multiple fronts. Quincy Roche feels like a good fit for that type of versatile front. He played as a 4-3 end at Miami, but he has the build and speed to be a standup outside linebacker in a 3-4. Either way, he will be a much-needed pass rushing presence on this Atlanta defense.
36. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-6) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson Miami misses out on completing the 2019 Alabama backfield, but Travis Etienne is about as good of a consolation prize as you could ask for. Etienne showed solid development as a pass catch over his final two seasons. He is a home run hitter, using incredible speed and elusiveness to break off big plays. My biggest concern is his vision. He misses the hole on occasion, but that is something that can be ironed out with some good coaching. Either way, he and DeVonta Smith would make this offense infinitely more explosive.
37. Indianapolis Colts via Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) – Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State Trading for a potential franchise quarterback and still finding a solid offensive tackle prospect is a solid draft for the Colts. Carson Wentz is going to need some protecting, especially with Anthony Costanzo retiring. Dillon Radunz has the size and length to become a franchise left tackle. He needs to add a bit to his frame and get up to the NFL speed, but he held his own at the Senior Bowl, which bodes well. I believe in his long-term potential as an NFL starter.
38. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) – Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU It’s not Ja’Marr Chase, but Joe Burrow had a pretty good connection with Terrace Marshall in college as well. Tee Higgins had a strong rookie season, but with A.J. Green likely leaving, Cincinnati could use another receiver on the outside. Marshall, at 6’3″, brings plenty of size and playmaking ability to an offense that should continue to be exciting.
39. Cincinnati Bengals via Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa Cincinnati continues to build in the trenches. With Carlos Dunlap gone and Geno Atkins turning 33, this team needs an infusion of young talent on the defensive line. Daviyon Nixon flashed the potential to be a difference maker this year at Iowa. He registered 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in a stellar junior season. He could create a nice tandem in the middle with 2020 free agent signing D.J. Reader, who should be back from injury.
40. Denver Broncos (6-10) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama If Denver is serious about seeing what it has in Drew Lock, it needs to surround him with the right supporting cast to help succeed. That starts up front with the offensive line. Lock struggled with injuries in part because he kept getting hit. Dillon Radunz could start on the right side of the line across from Garrett Bolles or eventually replace Bolles if he regresses from a breakout 2020 season. Radunz also showed at the Senior Bowl that he has the strength to kick inside and play guard.
41. Detroit Lions (6-10) – Jabril Cox, LB, LSU The Lions’ rebuild continues by grabbing an athletic linebacker. Jabril Cox has the ability to step out into the slot and be a true middle linebacker for this defense. His range, experience and leadership make him a great value in the second round. Don’t overthink making this team LSU north.
42. New York Giants (6-10) – Nico Collins, WR, Michigan The Giants were the second-worst red zone team in the league in 2020. Only the Jets had a worse rate at converting red zone appearances to touchdowns than the Giants. Nico Collins won’t solve all of that, but at 6’4″ with an impressive catch radius, he should provide a big-body target for Daniel Jones to work with. His role will not be limited to that either. Collins showed at the Senior Bowl that he can work open over the middle as well. He would provide New York with some much needed size on the outside.
43. New York Jets via San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Spencer Brown, OT, UNI One year after selecting mountain man Mekhi Becton, why not continue the trend by drafting the 6’8″ Spencer Brown. He might not be a very recognizable name after playing his college ball at Northern Iowa, but he looked the part of a future franchise tackle at the Senior Bowl. He still has some room to add some muscle to his frame.
44. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas After nabbing a potential lockdown corner, Dallas can get its hands on another edge rusher to continue to reshape their defense. Joseph Ossai stepped out of his typical linebacker role and played more on the edge in 2020. The results were impressive as he racked up 15.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
45. Jacksonville Jaguars via Minnesota Vikings (1-15) – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami Jacksonville is in desperate need of an upgrade at tight end. With a solid group of wide receivers, Brevin Jordan would add another reliable pass-catching option to the roster for Trevor Lawrence to work with. He is a problem in the open field and does a lot of the little things right to get himself open.
46. New England Patriots (7-9) – Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss Slot receiver probably isn’t New England’s biggest need, but this team is just interested in finding playmakers at this point. Moore is never going to fit that X receiver role on the outside, standing just 5’9″, but he is difficult to cover in open space. He has good quickness and a clear understanding for how to set up defensive backs and safeties with his route running. Whoever is at quarterback next year will benefit from his playmaking ability.
47. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) – Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford Los Angeles is hurting at cornerback. They have been getting by with an aging collection of veterans up to this point. Pauslon Adebo is a long corner with a solid track record for intercepting passes. At 6’1″, he should have no problem lining up on the outside and contending with the top receivers in the NFL. He is not the fastest, but he uses his physicality to make up for it.
48. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) – Jay Tufele, DL, USC After watching the Raiders get torched by opposing teams in the second half of the season, it is clear the front office needs to continue investing on the defensive side of the ball. Jay Tufele has tons of potential, and if Las Vegas can help him unlock it, this will be a steal. He flashed his upside in two seasons for USC before opting out. He brings the optimal size needed to contend at the position and fills a clear need on this defense.
49. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Jevon Holland, DB, Oregon After selecting Isaiah Simmons last year, I don’t think Arizona will shy away from Jevon Holland. He is a hybrid safety and corner. If the Cardinals want to continue to play position-less football, Holland would be a logical fit. He would bring some playmaking ability to the defensive backfield with nine interceptions in two seasons at Oregon.
50. Miami Dolphins (10-6) – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia Miami has already hit on a number of needs up to this point and now can afford to grab a high-motor pass rusher who holds his own against the run. Azeez Ojulari is a physically dominant player, but he has shown effort, craftiness and a high IQ when it comes to beating blocks. In this situation, he would get a year to develop before likely taking over for Kyle Van Noy in 2022.
51. Washington (7-9) – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan Washington needs to revamp its offensive line. They are a year removed from trading away Trent Williams, and Brandon Scherff is a free agent. Jalen Mayfield spent his career at Michigan playing right tackle, but he has the length and athleticism to develop into a starter on the left side. Either way, this gives Washington a high-upside option.
52. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Jaylen Twyman, DL, Pittsburgh Akiem Hicks is heading into the final season of his contract and could be a potential cap casualty for Chicago. Jaylen Twyman could help fill the void if Hicks is let go. He opted out of the 2020 season, but he was a difference maker on a dynamic Pittsburgh defense in 2019. With 12.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks, he has shown the ability to be a reliable pass rusher on the interior.
53. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC There is no doubt Tennessee needs some help in the middle of its defense. After selecting Jaelan Phillips in the first, tabbing Chazz Surratt to take over for pending free agent Jayon Brown could be a wise move. Surratt is still learning the position after starting his career at UNC as a quarterback. Through two seasons though, he has shown great instinct and athleticism that should allow him to develop even further at the NFL level.
54. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington With Justin Houston headed for free agency, Indianapolis will be in search of a new defensive end. Joe Tryon would be a great fit for this defense. He brings fantastic play strength and the length needed to be a 4-3 defensive end. Slot him into this defense and reap the rewards.
55. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Cade Mays, G, Tennessee Continue to overhaul this offensive line. It’s not a bad plan, whether this is setting up Ben Roethlisberger for one last run or laying the foundation for the future. Cade Mays can slot into either guard slot and start right away. He also has experience playing at tackle from early in his college career. This is a smart investment for Pittsburgh.
56. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh Seattle desperately needs to find some pass rushers. Patrick Jones excelled at getting after the quarterback in college. He racked up 21.5 sacks in his career at Pittsburgh. He did not have the best Senior Bowl week, but there is still enough talent there to work with. Expect him to contribute right away on third down.
57. Los Angeles Rams (10-6) – Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama Los Angeles made a major gamble to bring in Matthew Stafford. Now they need to ensure he has the right players around him to succeed. With him not being a particularly mobile quarterback, providing a solid offensive line is essential. Landon Dickson suffered a serious injury to end his college career a bit early, but if he recovers in time to begin next season, he could be the Rams center on opening day. He looked dominant at times for Alabama and would replace Austin Blythe, who is headed to free agency.
58. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue After investing in their offensive line, Baltimore can tab another playmaker for Lamar Jackson to work with. Rondale Moore has struggled each of the past two seasons with injuries, so his medicals are going to play a huge role in where he gets drafted. When healthy though, he is a dynamic playmaker in the open field with incredible run after the catch ability.
59. Cleveland Browns (11-5) – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU Cleveland’s secondary has been decimated by injuries in recent years. Finding a way to bring in new starters and create more depth is going to be a huge priority this offseason. Trevon Moehrig is a solid contributor and an all-around safety. While he does not possess a ton of elite traits, he is a well rounded prospect with the ability to contribute right away.
60. New Orleans Saints (12-4) – Richie Grant, S, UCF Marcus Williams is a pending free agent and Malcolm Jenkins will likely be gone after 2021 for cap purposes. The team would be wise to invest in the position now before the proverbial cupboard is bare. Richie Grant showed great ball skills at the Senior Bowl and has some solid tape to back up his play. If Williams does not return, he could be starting for this defense as early as next year.
61. Buffalo Bills (13-3) – Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia Buffalo needs to find a long-term solution at cornerback across from Tre’Davious White. Tyson Campbell would be a really nice complement to White given his size. He has a ton of high-level experience coming out of the pass-happy SEC. This becomes even more of a need if Josh Norman is not back in 2021.
62. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson The Packers are stocked with big-body perimeter receivers with the ability to stretch the field. Amari Rodgers would give them an offensive weapon who can take short passes and turn them into big plays. He showed at the Senior Bowl that he can be dangerous in space and backs that up on film. It’s hard to be mad about a potential Rodgers-to-Rodgers connection.
63. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – Shi Smith, WR, South Carolina Shi Smith had a good season in his chance to star for South Carolina. He showed a good ability to create separation at the Senior Bowl as well. With Sammy Watkins likely gone, Smith could step in as a reliable possession receiver for this team.
64. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) – Rashad Weaver, EDGE, Pittsburgh Shaquille Barrett is headed for free agency again. Jason Pierre-Paul could be a cap casualty as the Bucs look for space to re-sign him and some other players. Grabbing a potential replacement in the draft would be a lot more cost effective. Rashad Weaver had a great senior season after returning from a torn ACL. He looked sharp at the Senior Bowl as well, showing impressive play strength in one-on-one and team drills.
65. Jacksonville Jaguars – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State It’s time for the Jaguars to find some competition for Cam Robinson after a rough season. Teven Jenkins checks every box when it comes to size at the position. He needs some work when it comes to his technique, but the potential is there for him to be a starter.
66. New York Jets – Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern New York needs help on the outside and Robert Saleh’s defensive system requires long corners. Greg Newsome brings that at 6’1″. He is physical and a willing tackler. I have more work to do on him. He could be gone well before this spot by April.
67. Houston Texans – Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State The Texans seem determined to hang onto Deshaun Watson. Unfortunately, this team needs a massive overhaul on both sides of the ball. Right now, taking the best player available is a good approach. Jayson Oweh is a bit raw, but he has some special physical traits.
68. Atlanta Falcons – Javonte Williams, RB, UNC The Todd Gurley experiment did not work out. Atlanta needs to find someone to help resuscitate this ground game. Javonte Williams brings a ton of power to the position and showed he can be an explosive playmaker at UNC this year. He has feature back potential even if he lacks elite top end speed.
69. Cincinnati Bengals – Jimmy Morrissey, C, Pittsburgh Cincinnati does not have the biggest need at center, but Jimmy Morrissey showed at the Senior Bowl he is capable of playing guard as well. Finding building blocks to completely turn this offensive line around is vital.
70. Philadelphia Eagles – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse Philly’s secondary was one of the worst in the league. Finding an upgrade in the secondary would be great, especially in the third round. Andre Cisco has plenty of range and playmaking ability. His 13 career interceptions underline his ball-hawking tendencies. Pairing him with Patrick Surtain greatly increases this unit’s ability in coverage.
71. Denver Broncos – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State The interior of this defensive line has deteriorated in recent years. Marvin Wilson did not have the senior season he would have hoped for. Even with his draft stock falling, there is still talent there. If he can reclaim his 2019 form, this would be a steal for the Broncos.
72. Detroit Lions – Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson For Lions fans would maybe haven’t watched too many games featuring Jared Goff, he is a statue. He needs to be protected. Jackson Carman has plenty of experience having protected Trevor Lawrence’s blindside for the past two seasons. He has fantastic size, but has a bit of a ways to go before he is ready to be a starter in the NFL.
73. Carolina Panthers – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri Luke Keuchley is not coming back and Carolina needs to find someone to anchor the middle of their defense. Nick Bolton might just be up for the task. He was a huge part of Missouri’s defensive resurgence this season.
74. Washington via San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida The future at quarterback is pretty murky for Washington right now. They would need to make a pretty serious offer to trade up to get one of the top quarterbacks in this draft. Washington has more needs than just at quarterback, so waiting for Kyle Trask to fall is not a bad plan. Trask had a great season at Florida, but his physical limitations could keep him out of the first two rounds. He reminds me a bit of Kirk Cousins. Take that for what you will.
75. Dallas Cowboys – Richard LeCounte III, S, Georgia Reminder, the Cowboys gave up the most points in franchise history in 2020. I don’t know if they should go full 2020 Panthers draft strategy, but they should not shy away from drafting defense early and often. Richard LeCounte will have a few medical questions to answer after missing much of the late stages of the season. If he can answer them, he will likely move up at least a few spots.
76. New York Giants – Nolan Laufenberg, G, Air Force Dave Gettleman loves his Hog Mollies. Nolan Laufenberg is a 6’3″, 315 lbs people mover. He comes out of a run heavy system at Air Force. Let’s just say Saquon Barkley will not be mad about having Laufenberg blocking for him next season.
77. Los Angeles Chargers – Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State Mike Williams is a pending free agent and Justin Herbert needs some more targets to work with. Tylan Waddle had a fantastic senior season in Stillwater. His biggest drawback is creating separation. Even without a ton of agility, he still finds ways to make plays.
78. Minnesota Vikings – Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State Minnesota has invested a lot at the cornerback position, but those investments have yet to pay off. Asante Samuel Jr. has the potential to be a useful piece in that secondary. I don’t know if he will ever develop into a true lockdown player on the outside, but there is no question he can carve out a role.
79. Arizona Cardinals – Michael Carter, RB, UNC Arizona has a few running backs of intrigue on the roster, but with Kenyan Drake headed to free agency, Michael Carter could become an integral part of this backfield. He has the speed to break off some big plays, but he is much more than just a third-down back.
80. Las Vegas Raiders – Walker Little, OT, Stanford The Raiders offensive line is in need of some depth and a few players to challenge for starting spots. Walker Little does not project well as a Day 1 starter, but he has the length and agility to be a future starter. He has some clear areas of improvement when it comes to hand usage and pass blocking, but he has some physical traits to work with.
81. Minnesota Vikings via Miami Dolphins – Levi Onwuzurike, DL, Washington With the pick they acquired from the Dolphins, the Vikings can build some depth along their defensive line. Levi Onwuzurike has a chance to challenge for a starting spot and would be a solid fit in a 4-3 front.
82. Washington – Israel Mukuamu, DB, South Carolina Washington can build depth at both safety and corner with this move. Israel Mukuamu is a massive player at 6’4″ and has experience at both cornerback and safety. His length makes him a potential eraser of tight ends and taller receivers.
83. Chicago Bears – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC Allen Robinson likely isn’t coming back. Even if he does, finding another receiver makes sense for this offense. Amon-Ra St. Brown was Kedon Slovis’ favorite this year and put up some big numbers. He and Darnell Mooney would give the Bears an exciting playmaking tandem.
84. Philadelphia Eagles via Indianapolis Colts – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama It was a rough season for Dylan Moses. Once considered a potential top-15 pick, Moses struggled in his return from a torn ACL. If he can regain his form prior to the injury, he has sideline-to-sideline potential. Philly should be willing to gamble on that in the third round.
85. Tennessee Titans – James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati Tennessee’s investment in Isaiah Wilson might yet pay off, but that shouldn’t stop the Titans from adding to tis line. James Hudson is a bit raw, but he has tremendous upside. There is a chance he could take over at right tackle and Wilson could kick inside.
86. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks – Jonathan Cooper, EDGE, Ohio State Even after drafting Kwity Paye, the Jets still could use some pass rushing help. Jonathan Cooper had a great Senior Bowl week. He found himself in the opponent’s backfield during a lot of team drills. The 49ers found a ton of success with a dominant defensive line. Cooper is not at the same level of Nick Bosa and company, but he would help turn the unit into a strength in New York.
87. Pittsburgh Steelers – Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma When I think of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I think of smash mouth football. That is something this often would benefit from getting back to. After grabbing a pair of lineman, the Steelers can find a bruising running back to take over in their backfield. Rhamondre Stevenson has limited as a pass catcher, but his talent as a runner is undeniable.
88. Detroit Lions via Los Angeles Rams – Tyler Shelvin, DL, LSU With Detroit staring down a rebuild, they can afford to take a swing on a high-upside defensive lineman. Tyler Shelvin had some hype coming into the season because of the dominant physical play he flashed in limited playing time in 2019. He opted out for 2020 and did not get a chance to build on those traits. I am going to have to revisit his 2019 tape again, but with so little production, his NFL outlook is all projection right now.
89. Cleveland Browns – Shaun Wade, DB, Ohio State Cleveland’s secondary was ravaged by injuries in 2020. Finding a player with some versatility and experience in multiple positions would be invaluable to this unit. Shaun Wade struggled a lot playing outside corner this season, but he looked promising at safety. He also has a solid year of film in the slot from 2019. He could line up in a couple of places for the Browns next year.
90. Minnesota Vikings via Baltimore Ravens – D’Wayne Eskridge, WR, Western Michigan Minnesota already has one home run hitter in Justin Jefferson. That shouldn’t stop them from adding another. D’Wayne Eskridge does a lot of his damage from the slot, but he drew rave reviews at the Senior Bowl for his ability to get open downfield. If Kirk Cousins fails with additional talent at receiver and revamped offensive line, he will be gone in 2022.
91. Cleveland Browns via New Orleans Saints – Ronnie Perkins, EDGE, Oklahoma The Browns have needed someone across from Myles Garrett for the past few years. Ronnie Perkins likely doesn’t fill that role right away, but he should provide some crucial depth. Expect him to be a solid role player right out of the gate as well.
92. Green Bay Packers – Derion Kendrick, CB, Clemson Green Bay has one of the better secondaries in the league with Jaire Alexander, Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos. Unfortunately, they are still lacking depth at corner. Derion Kendrick has a ton of big-game experience. He likely won’t be a lockdown corner, but he could develop into a potential starter across from Alexander.
93. Buffalo Bills – Thayer Munford, OT, Ohio State Jon Feliciano and Darryl Williams are free agents this year. Even if the Bills bring them both back, building some depth and finding a potential future starter would be smart at this stage. Thayer Munford is an athlete still figuring out the finer points of the tackle position. He could take over for Williams in a year or two on the right side of this Bills line.
94. Kansas City Chiefs – Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah It was a rough game for the Chiefs across the board, but they really struggled to contain Tampa’s short passing game and had no answer for the run. Rob Gronkowski feasted and Leonard Fournette was actually the team’s second-leading receiver. Devin Lloyd is a dynamic player with a clear history of making disruptive plays for Utah. He had 21 tackles for loss in 19 games over the past two seasons. He lacks elite physical traits, but he could be a solid role player for this Chiefs defense.
95. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis Ronald Jones has shown he can shoulder a significant load, but he still needs some help. Leonard Fournette likely won’t be back, so Kenneth Gainwell could step in and fill that secondary back role. As we saw in the Super Bowl and throughout Tom Brady’s time with the Patriots, this offense likes to have multiple running backs at its disposal.
96. New England Patriots – Shaka Toney, EDGE, Penn State Shaka Toney feels like a New England Patriots player. Not the most physically gifted player ever, Toney is reliable on the edge and has the potential to be a meaningful contributor on this defense from Day 1. His size could have him as a 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker, which fits well into the Patriots multiple fronts scheme.
97. Los Angeles Chargers – Drake Jackson, C, Kentucky Maybe Mike Pouncey is back in 2021, maybe he isn’t. Either way, the Chargers should be thinking about the future of the position. Drake Jackson had a good Senior Bowl week and should compete for the starting job right away. Protecting Justin Herbert is going to be a big focus this offseason.
98. New Orleans Saints – Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest New Orleans needs a receiver who can consistently stretch the field. Sage Surratt was much higher on my board prior to the Senior Bowl, but he still has some phenomenal 2019 tape to fall back on. He is a specialist at making contested catches downfield. Whoever is playing quarterback next season would benefit from that skill set.
99. Dallas Cowboys – Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota Tyron Smith still has a few good years left in him, but as Dallas learned in 2020, it is good to have both a backup and a succession plan along the offensive line. Daniel Faalele needs a lot of refining, but he is listed at 6’9″ and 400 lbs! That type of size is rare and any offensive line coach would be happy to work with those intangibles.
100. Tennessee Titans – Demetric Felton, RB/WR, UCLA With Corey Davis headed for free agency, the Titans could be in the market for some help at receiver. Demetric Felton is not your typical receiver, having just made the transition to the position from running back at the Senior Bowl. He looked sharp though with his route running and ability to generate separation. He could be a useful part of this offense and will allow new offensive coordinator Todd Downing to get creative.
101. San Francisco 49ers – Benjamin St-Juste, CB, Minnesota San Francisco loves to draft long, physical corners. Benjamin St-Juste definitely fits that description. He showed at the Senior Bowl that he can use his 6’3″ frame well to jam opposing receivers and play in tight coverage. He would provide some much-needed depth right away.
102. Baltimore Ravens – Hamilcar Rashed Jr., EDGE, Oregon State If Matthew Judon does not re-sign, the Ravens could be looking for edge help much earlier than this. As it stands, adding a productive edge rusher like Hamilcar Rashed Jr. should give this defense an immediate boost. He had an incredible 2019 season with 22 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. His 2020 numbers are worrisome, but it is clear he has the potential to generate pressure.
103. Los Angeles Rams – Elijah Molden, CB, Washington Troy Hill could be gone and the Rams need to think about finding a replacement for him. Elijah Molden had a respectable career at Washington and a solid week at the Senior Bowl. He does not really wow you with his physical traits, but he is a steady contributor.
104. New Orleans Saints – Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State This Saints secondary could be headed for a major overhaul. Adding Chase Lucas to the mix with the already drafted Richie Grant would make a ton of sense. Lucas has some room to add to his frame, but he learned the position well from a former NFL defensive back in Herm Edwards over the past three seasons.
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The NFL draft is officially underway! Events in Mobile, Alabama have officially concluded, capped by another exciting Senior Bowl game on Saturday. Without the combine and limited attendance at pro days, all eyes were truly on the Senior Bowl.
One of my favorite things about this whole week is the opportunity to see players outside of their usual system. From Mac Jones to Nico Collins, there were several players who got a chance to step outside their college roles and showcase their ability to learn and adapt.
If all of that wasn’t enough, we had some great moments of coaching captured by ESPN during their broadcast of the practices during the week. Both the Panthers’ and the Dolphins’ coaching staffs were mic’d up to provide some excellent sound bites. The best by far came from Matt Rhule explaining what it meant to be coachable to all of the prospects.
I did my best to take notes throughout the week watching practice and the game from home. Some of the following is just a running stream of consciousness. To make it a little easier to follow though, I am going position by position. Consider this my notebook recapping the week of action down in Mobile.
Lackluster quarterback group
While the quarterback position was not loaded with talent as it has been in recent years. That should not diminish the display Mac Jones put on throughout the week. He was head and shoulders above the rest of the quarterbacks in attendance. Jones looked sharp, accurate and poised. His accuracy continues to wow scouts and he easily had the best touch on deep passes of any of the six quarterbacks in attendance. Jones has locked himself in as a top-five quarterback. There is a chance he comes off the board before Trey Lance.
Nowhere near the level that Jones played at, Ian Book still had a solid week. He was the second-best quarterback in Mobile, showing his mobility and an increased willingness to hit receivers in tight windows. He is probably nothing more than a mid-round project at this point, but I think he has pushed himself above the likes of Jamie Newman, who had an uneven week, and Sam Ehlinger, who struggled with consistency and ball placement.
Kellen Mond will draw some intrigue as a late-round flier. His upside is clear and there were moments of brilliance mixed into his play. He was by far the best quarterback in the game on Saturday. Felipe Franks unfortunately looked close to undraftable. He struggled with everything from waiting too long in the pocket to taking snaps under center.
Running backs get left out
Neither team had much success running the ball. The two squads combined for just 121 yards on the ground. Some of it can be chalked up to poor run blocking. Some of it points to an underwhelming running back group and an inability for the teams to establish the run.
Despite the disappointing showing, UNC’s Michael Carter still found a way to stand out. He looked great catching passes out of the backfield and showed more power than I would have expected for a player his size. I don’t know if I would call him a franchise back, but he is closer to that designation than I originally thought.
Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert had a couple of moments of brilliance, but they were few and far between. Larry Roundtree looked powerful coming out of Missouri, but had some mental lapses. Rhamondre Stevenson left a bit to be desired after finishing his Oklahoma career on a hot streak. At this point, Carter is the only back from this group I could see going before Day 3.
Another loaded receiver class
This time last year is when the draft community started to gush about K.J. Hill, Collin Johnson, Devin Duvernay, Van Jefferson, Chase Claypool and Brandon Aiyuk. We will have a whole new list of draft favorites after this week.
Michigan’s Nico Collins and Florida’s Kadarius Toney stole the show. Collins showed a real comfort making contested catches and finding pockets of space in the red zone. Toney flashed an incredible ability to generate separation and clear speed to make opponents pay in the open field. Both have room for improvement. Collins’ technique is still a bit raw while Toney struggled with some uncharacteristic drops.
They were not alone in grabbing attention though. Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge widely drew praise for his route running and agility. A few corners called him the toughest player to cover all week. Amari Rodgers from Clemson dominated the game, highlighted by a touchdown catch. He is really tough and showcased great speed and agility. Arizona State’s Frank Darby also stood out. He got open a lot and showed good awareness for where he was on the field. Both should climb up draft boards following the weeks they turned in.
South Carolina’s Shi Smith turned in a strong week as well. He and Louisville’s Dez Fitzpatrick were two of the most productive receivers in space. Fitzpatrick made one of the best plays of the game with an incredible catch over the head of North Carolina Central’s Bryan Mills.
Quick shout out is needed too for Tennessee’s Josh Palmer. He has the size and speed to stretch the field. He still has a bit of a ways to go with his route running and catching though.
Lots to like from the offensive line
No one is going to make an Eric Fisher-type jump, but there were plenty of linemen that improved their stock after the week. It was the interior linemen that drew the most attention. Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey came into the week as one of the top players suiting up. He did nothing to jeopardize that status with a solid week.
Let’s talk about the player getting the most hype from this group. Quinn Meinerz stole the show and set Twitter ablaze with crop top jersey and farm boy workout videos. He also played pretty well. This is going to send a lot of people back to his 2019 film at Wisconsin-Whitewater, but he got on everyone’s radar after his performance.
He was far from the only small-school player to turn heads. UNI’s Spencer Brown was much more on the radar than Meinerz, but watching him tower over fellow top linemen really put his size into perspective. He measured in at 6’8″ with 34-inch arms. There is still a bit of refining to do technique wise, but some scouting department is going to fall in love with his intangibles and take him early with the hopes of developing him into a franchise tackle.
Elsewhere, Cincinnati’s James Hudson flashed an enticing blend of size and speed. He is a former defensive lineman. He reminds me a bit of Josh Jones. The athleticism is clear but the technique is a bit raw still. Hudson should be solidly in the Day 2 conversation now. I was also impressed by the play of Robert Hainsey from Notre Dame. He has a good motor and a solid base that translates well to impressive play strength. He is still a late-round prospect, but I liked what I saw on game day.
There were a few players that could have had better weeks. While it was out of his control, Jack Anderson definitely dropped on many draft boards after measuring in with 31 5/8-inch arms. He had a solid week of play, but that number alone will scare teams away. Alex Leatherwood also struggled a bit more than most in one-on-one drills. The long-time Alabama starter failed to cement his status as a first-round pick and likely dropped out of the Day 1 conversation.
Deonte Brown scares me as well. After weighing in at 364 pounds, he got beat a few times in pass protection. I worry that he is not quick enough at his size to contend with the speed of NFL defenders.
Top defensive linemen fall flat, tons of depth emerges
I was really excited to see how Florida State’s Marvin Wilson, Pittsburgh’s Patrick Jones II, Miami’s Quincy Roche and Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham Jr. would fair with all eyes on them. Roche and Basham excelled, but Wilson and Jones left a lot to be desired. Wilson needed a big week to erase the concerns about his lackluster senior season. He showed flashes of his 2019 form, but did not dominate as he should have in Mobile. Same can be said for Jones. He had a great moment when he registered a sack in the actual game, but he had an uninspiring week of practice.
Roche was nearly unstoppable. He showed impeccable speed off the edge and an explosive first step. Few opposing linemen were able to stop him during the week’s one-on-one drills or during Saturday’s game. He will definitely be in the mix to go late on Day 1 or early on Day 2. Basham should be in the same boat following a strong week. He looked comfortable with his hand in the ground playing along the defensive line. He showcased versatility and pass rushing prowess.
Game day turned out to be a field day for the defensive linemen. Osa Odighizuwa of UCLA blew past Deonte Brown and nearly forced a strip sack of Kellen Mond. That capped off a pretty solid week from him. Jonathan Cooper of Ohio State had a great practice week and showed up on Saturday as well with a couple of disruptive plays. Pittsburgh’s Rashad Weaver dominated along the interior of the line. I viewed him as more of a standup edge rusher heading into the week given his size, but he stuffed the run consistently and made life hell for some interior offensive linemen.
Don’t be surprised if Cameron Sample and Janarious Robinson hear their names called before the end of Day 2. They both had stellar weeks and will definitely be sending scouts back to the tape. Notre Dame’s duo of Daelin Hayes and Ade Ogundeji both impressed as well. The top of this draft might lack an elite prospect, but there seems to be some solid depth.
Linebackers came to play
This year’s group of linebackers stood out in a big way, making tons of plays throughout the practice week and into the weekend. Jabril Cox, a grad transfer from North Dakota State who played for LSU in 2020, was everywhere. He looked comfortable lining up in the slot, covering running backs out of the backfield and making sure tackles against the run. He has three-down linebacker potential and received nothing but glowing remarks from his teammates.
He was not alone. K.J. Britt was one of the most surprising players of the week for me. I was not very familiar with him coming into the week, but he dominated practice and made a big impact during the game. The former Auburn linebacker looks instinctive and confident in the middle of the field. He has the makings of a true middle linebacker. Additionally, South Alabama’s Riley Cole showed out in his home stadium. He flew to the football and dropped the hammer in a couple of situations.
It was not an incredibly deep group, but the top guys made a difference. Ohio State’s Baron Browning and Justin Hilliard did nothing to hurt their stock either. Both are athletic backers with a nose for the football.
Defensive backs ensure rough day for quarterbacks
This was not the most star-studded group of defensive backs to ever attend the Senior Bowl, but they sure showed up on game day. Minnesota’s Benjamin St. Juste stood head and shoulders above the rest. His length was put to good use as he consistently disrupted passes downfield. He has some versatility to play at safety as well, but I think he could be a starting corner in the right system.
Not to be outdone, Richie Grant and Aaron Robinson improved their draft stocks. Both former UCF defensive backs fared very well in one-on-ones. Grant, who typically lines up at safety, showed his versatility by playing on the boundary. He made a number of plays throughout the week and could genuinely be the first safety to come off the board in a class that lacks a clear cut No. 1 option. Robinson won the week with physicality. He does not have all the measurables you would like to see from a starting corner, but there were a lot of receivers who struggled to get off the line of scrimmage when facing him.
I came into the week excited to see Elijah Molden take the field. He did nothing to hurt his stock, but it was his former Washington teammate that caught my eye more. Keith Taylor Jr. showed flashes of being a shutdown corner. He was incredibly sticky in man coverage and made more than his fair share of pass breakups.
Another corner that I think made himself some money is Tre Brown from Oklahoma. He is a bit undersized at 5’9″, but he flew around the field and had multiple interceptions in practice. His upside might be limited by his size, but his effort and ball skills still make him a valuable mid-round commodity.
On the flip side, I don’t know that any player’s stock dropped more than Thomas Graham Jr.’s. The former Oregon corner struggled more than most in one-on-one drills. He got absolutely torched by Demetric Felton biting on a double move. He is not physical enough at the point of attack and he has poor discipline with his eyes. He has the traits to develop into a good corner, but he looks like a project rather than a pro-ready option.
It was a similar week for Mark Webb from Georgia. He could not keep up with some of the speedy receivers on the field. I would not be surprised if he ends up being an undrafted free agent.
A couple of intriguing position changes
One of the great things about the Senior Bowl is that coaches will ask players to spend some time in positions they maybe didn’t play in college, but could in the pros. Dillon Radunz got kicked inside to guard despite measuring in well. He had mixed success with the switch. I think he can still be an NFL tackle, but I suppose this would increase his value by giving teams some more versatility.
Another notable offensive line position switch was Jimmy Morrissey moving to guard. He started 47 games for Pittsburgh at center. Much like Radunz, playing another position isn’t a bad thing for his versatility, but I think he fits best at center and it worries me he could not beat out Drake Jackson for the starting reps.
The buzziest position change of all was definitely Demetric Felton shifting to wide receiver after spending his career at UCLA as a running back. He played a bit of both positions in practice and the game. He is simply an offensive weapon at this point. He reminds of a player like Curtis Samuel. He will carve out a role on an NFL offense.
And that will do it. It feels very weird to have the calendar turn to February and not be getting excited for the combine. In the meantime, it will be back to film study trying to learn whatever I can before the draft rolls around in April. Be on the lookout for a new mock draft coming Monday after the Super Bowl when the draft order will officially be set.
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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.
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.
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.
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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