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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The 2020 college football season has come to a close with the Alabama Crimson Tide once again on top of the college football world. Bama won an exciting, albeit lopsided, national championship game over Ohio State as Nick Saban claimed his seventh title.
As you might expect, this mock is going to feature a lot of soon-to-be former Tide players and a few Buckeyes as well. I have six Alabama players coming off the board in the first round, including quarterback Mac Jones.
Speaking of quarterbacks, there are six that I could see drafted in the first two rounds at this point. There is still a ton of assessing to be done with the Senior Bowl coming up, hopefully, followed by the NFL scouting combine.
There are two trades that occur in the first round of this mock, both involving quarterbacks.
Cincinnati trades 1.5 and 5.133 to San Francisco for 1.12, 2.43 and a 2022 first-round pick Detroit trades 1.7 to New England for 1.15, 2.46 and 2022 first-round pick
The draft order is according to Tankathon and updated through the wildcard weekend. Time to dive in!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson I know there is some buzz about Urban Meyer landing with the Jaguars and taking Justin Fields. I don’t buy it. Trevor Lawrence is one of the best quarterback prospects of all time. His poise, athleticism and arm strength make him a Day 1 starter. He would give Jacksonville it’s most exciting quarterback situation in franchise history.
2. New York Jets (2-14) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU This comes down to Justin Fields vs. Zach Wilson. It’s going to be close. As of right now, I give the edge to Wilson. He has incredible zip on his throws and a lightning quick release. Wilson is a proven runner as well. He will need to take care of his body at the next level, but he looks the part of an NFL quarterback. It is no secret he works hard either. The Jets would find a potential new leader for their offense.
3. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-6) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon There is some buzz about the Dolphins trading this pick back to the Texans in a deal for Deshaun Watson. If that is on the table, Miami should pull the trigger. Otherwise, this team should stand pat and protect Tua. There are plenty of other receivers to take later in this draft. There are not many offensive tackles like Penei Sewell though. He is a polished pass blocker with good functional athleticism and plenty of play strength. He sat out the 2020 season, but he will remind everyone at the combine (assuming it happens) just how talented he is.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama While some will advocate for a quarterback here, Matt Ryan likely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon because of his contract. Instead, the Falcons take a talented player at a huge position of need. Drafting Patrick Surtain II gives Atlanta a tandem of young corners to build the defense around. Surtain has great ball skills and an NFL pedigree. Not to mention he brings plenty of big-game experience coming out of Alabama. This defense allowed the most passing yards per game in 2020. Don’t overthink it. Grab a top-end corner and move forward.
5. San Francisco 49ers via Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State With two of the top four quarterbacks still on the board and Penei Sewell already gone, phones in Cincinnati would be lighting up! The Bengals move down, allowing the 49ers to find their quarterback of the future. Cutting Jimmy Garoppolo saves a ton of cap space. Justin Fields’ ceiling is higher than that of Garoppolo’s too. Fields brings a ton of intangibles to the table with his arm strength and speed. He definitely needs to improve some of his decision making and work on consistently hitting his release. Working with Kyle Shanahan would be a great way to help him reach his full potential.
6. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU If Patrick Surtain was still here, that would have been the pick. However, it is hard to be mad about landing the top receiver in the class. Ja’Marr Chase is a matchup nightmare with a great blend of size and speed. He dominated the SEC in 2019 before opting out in 2020. He would give whomever the Eagles decide to start at quarterback a clear No. 1 receiver. Philly has been looking to fill that void for a long time.
7. New England Patriots via Detroit Lions (5-11) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State Detroit has a ton of holes to fill and a new general manager coming in. I think we could see them trade down come April. The Patriots jump up to find a succession plan to Tom Brady, probably a few years too late. Trey Lance is a bit more raw than the other top quarterback prospects, but he has some special physical tools. If he gets a year to get up to speed in the NFL and improve his deep accuracy, he could be a long-term solution at quarterback for years to come. With his effortless arm strength and impressive mobility, the sky is the limit for Lance.
8. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State Sometimes, things just fall into place perfectly. Carolina needs a new linebacker to roam the field and match wits with opposing quarterbacks. Micah Parsons could step in from Day 1 and provide a huge boost to an exciting young defense. He has the prototypical size teams want for modern day linebackers with some added pass rushing potential. Parsons won’t be Luke Keuchley, but he is probably the team’s best option to attempt to fill the void he left when he retired.
9. Denver Broncos (5-11) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami I’m not forgetting about Bradley Chubb or Von Miller, with the latter hopefully coming back from injury at full strength in 2021. Gregorey Rousseau has the potential to take over at one of the defensive end spots though while Miller and Chubb play on the outside. Rousseau is huge at 6’7″ with room to add some muscle to that frame. He looks most comfortable rushing the passer from the interior in the limited tape I’ve watched so far of him at Miami. Denver needs a jolt in its front three. Rousseau has the potential to become a cornerstone player on this defense.
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech When you allow the most points in franchise history and fire your defensive coordinator after one season, it’s probably a good sign that you need to add some talent to your defense. Caleb Farley is a big, physical corner who can command a spot on the outside for this Cowboys defense. After sitting out the 2020 season, he will get a chance to solidify his draft stock at the combine. Dallas desperately missed Byron Jones this year. While Farley is not a like-for-like fit, he can help fill the void and create an exciting young tandem with Trevon Diggs.
11. New York Giants (6-10) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama If you want to rank the Alabama receivers over the past two years, Jaylen Waddle is second on my list behind Jerry Jeudy. Yes, I would take him over DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs. While Smith, deservedly, won the Heisman, Waddle was in the conversation this year before he got hurt. He was the go-to player in the offense, amassing 557 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his four games before the injury. Waddle is electric in the open field. I like how he projects to the next level just a bit more than Smith. If the Giants are determined to see Daniel Jones succeed, finding a playmaker like Waddle will make a huge difference.
12. Cincinnati Bengals via San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech Slide down seven spots and land an offensive line prospect with tons of potential? Sign every Bengals fan in the world up for that. Probably sign Joe Burrow up for that too. Christian Darrisaw has a bit of developing still to do, but he looks very comfortable playing on the left side of the line. His size and athleticism point to tons of untapped potential. He has room to improve in his footwork and technique, but those are coachable aspects of the game.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas Protecting Justin Herbert should be the top priority for the Chargers this offseason. For a team that seems to be growing into a potential championship window with a rookie quarterback, finding a franchise tackle to grow with it would be a great fit. Samuel Cosmi’s ceiling might be the highest of any offensive tackle in this draft. At 6’7″, 309 lbs, Cosmi is huge, but he moves like a much smaller man. He looks comfortable pulling, blocking in space and anchoring down on the quarterback’s blind side. He is extremely raw and will need some good coaching to perfect his technique, hand usage and footwork to reach his potential. In two years though, he could be one of the top five tackles in the league. There is some risk though that he ends up being a guard if he cannot develop.
14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina Mike Zimmer called this the worst defense he has ever had. Let’s assume they will look to rebuild it then during the 2021 offseason. Jaycee Horn has lockdown corner potential. He is an elite man-to-man corner. South Carolina moved him all over the formation, allowing him to gain some experience in the slot, blitzing off the edge, playing off coverage and playing zone. He should upgrade the secondary right away. This does not mean Minnesota is bailing on Jeff Gladney after a rough rookie season. Adding Horn just creates more depth and potential for a turnaround next season.
15. Detroit Lions via New England Patriots (7-9) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama Cue the “did you even watch the national championship game?” reactions. DeVonta Smith has been the best offensive player in college football this season. The combination of speed, route running and catch radius makes him lethal. Opposing defenses have had no answer. The main concerns are about his size. He has a very slight frame at 175 lbs, which begs questions about his ability to survive in the NFL. He will also face some major better defenses at the next level. After trading down, the Lions can invest in either a replacement for Kenny Golladay or someone to line up across from him in the future.
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida This has become one of my favorite prospect-team pairings in these early mock drafts. Kyle Pitts would thrive in the Cardinals offense. It would hide a number of his shortcomings as a blocker by allowing him to flex out and make plays in space. He would give Kyler Murray a great target over the middle of the field and in the red zone and open up more opportunities for DeAndre Hopkins. The drop off from Hopkins to the next-best receiving option in this offense is steep. Pitts would bridge the gap.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama Las Vegas’ defense was not what many had hoped for after some signs of progress in 2019. The pass rush regressed and the secondary struggled. Enter Christian Barmore. Fresh off a dominant national championship game, he showcased his talent and potential heading into a potential NFL career. His ability as an interior pass rusher would fill a huge need for the Raiders.
18. Miami Dolphins (10-6) – Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia Still not a receiver. I will get there, I promise Dolphins fans. Miami got solid production out of Andrew Van Ginkel and Kyle Van Noy, but neither one is irreplaceable. Azeez Ojulari is a polished pass rusher with an array of moves at his disposal to beat opposing offensive tackles. He would provide the Dolphins with a situational rusher who can develop into a long-term starter at outside linebacker in Brian Flores’ defense.
19. Washington Football Team (7-9) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama Taylor Heinicke and Alex Smith are both great stories, but neither projects as the long-term answer at quarterback for Washington. Mac Jones went from being Tua’s backup to the Davey O’Brien winner and Heisman finalist. He is incredibly accurate, looks comfortable in the pocket and has great touch on his deep ball. He might not be as athletic as the four quarterbacks who went before him, but he can use his legs to extend plays while keeping his eyes downfield. He benefited from a great supporting cast, but he deserves some credit for Alabama’s success this year as well.
20. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota Allen Robinson seems headed for an exit this offseason. With Jones off the board, there are no quarterbacks worth taking here, so receiver becomes the next position of focus. Rashod Bateman has the size and playmaking skills to make Bears fans feel a little better about likely losing Robinson. He had a bit of an off 2020 season, opting out, then opting back in and opting out again after five games. He has the size to be a possession receiver, but flashes good run after the catch ability too. Expect whoever is Chicago’s quarterback in 2021 to benefit from having him in the offense.
21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh The Colts defense was one of the best in the league this year against the run, but pretty average against the pass. The best way to disrupt an opponent’s passing attack is to generate pressure. Patrick Jones II excels in that department. He has 17.5 sacks over the past two seasons. He fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end and would give the Colts a successor to Justin Houston, who turns 32 later this month. Jones is one of my favorite edge rushers in this class and I think this would be a great fit for him.
22. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa It took me a bit, but I think I have figured out my pro comp for Zaven Collins. Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. Both are outside linebackers who can hang in pass coverage but make their biggest impact rushing the passer. Collins is a little bit heavier than Barr, but both fit similar size profiles as well. Tennessee desperately needs a playmaker like that. The Titans had just 19 sacks as a team this season. Collins had 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in eight games. He is the type of disruptive force this defense is lacking.
23. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (2-14) – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State After grabbing Zach Wilson, protecting him needs to be the priority. Wyatt Davis is the best interior lineman in this class. He has great size and lots of experience after starting for the past two years. He would provide a nice boost to the interior of this Jets offensive line and some much needed run blocking. Joe Douglas spent a lot on the offensive line in free agency without much success. Davis and Mekhi Becton would give the Jets two great building blocks to rely on as they reshape the unit.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama Did Pittsburgh throw it more than anyone else strictly by design or because they lost faith in the running game? Hard to know which is true, but either way, the Steelers cannot continue to rely on Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball 50+ times per game. That’s not sustainable. Najee Harris is the top running back in this class and could very well come off the board before this. He is physical, fast and consistent. His blend of quickness and power is pretty impressive. What makes him worthy of a first-round pick is his ability as a pass catcher. Harris caught 65 passes over the past two seasons. A 230-pound back who can get involved in the passing game? That is a special combination.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (1-15) – Liam Eichenburg, OT, Notre Dame Cam Robinson did not have a great 2020 season and it is time that the Jaguars think about moving on from him at left tackle. Protecting Trevor Lawrence is going to be a big priority. Liam Eichenburg is one of the most pro ready tackles in this class. He is incredibly polished and technically sound. His upside is limited by a lack of speed, but he can be the anchor on the left side of the line.
26. Cleveland Browns (11-5) – Jeremiah Owusu-Komaroah, LB, Notre Dame Cleveland’s postseason run is going to continue for a little bit longer, but it is clear where they could use some help on defense. With no clear secondary pick here, the Browns can grab a high-upside linebacker. Jeremiah Owusu-Komaroah is a fantastic cover player with sideline-to-sideline ability. Given the Browns struggles in pass coverage this season, this would be a useful addition to the defense.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan Tampa Bay is in win-now mode with Tom Brady, but they can afford to go with a raw, high-upside edge rusher as they continue to build depth on defense. Kwity Paye has all the physical tools you hope for in an edge rusher at 6’4″ and roughly 270 lbs. He didn’t produce much at Michigan with just 11.5 sacks in 28 career games. However, teams will be betting they can help unlock his potential and turn him into a physically dominant edge rusher.
28. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma Another prospect and team pairing that I really like, Baltimore’s offensive line has not been the dominant unit we have become accustomed to watching in recent years. Ronnie Stanley went down after just seven games. Matt Skura had issues snapping the ball at times this season. Plugging in a pro-ready option like Creed Humphrey at center would be a great move for Baltimore. Humphrey has plenty of experience blocking for mobile quarterbacks, playing with Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Blocking for Lamar Jackson should be a seamless transition.
29. New Orleans Saints (12-4) –Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC The Saints are in for a big offseason as the team figures out its direction after Drew Brees’ career ends. New Orleans has been searching for linebacking help for years now. Finding a high-character and dynamic leader like Chazz Surratt at the end of the first round would be a great addition. Surratt is a former quarterback who is still learning the position. However, he has thrived under Mack Brown over the past two seasons starting for UNC. He could take over for Demario Davis, who just turned 32, when he decides to retire.
30. Buffalo Bills (13-3) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State Another great fit for both prospect and team here. Buffalo could use an upgrade at tight end. What makes this such a great fit is Pat Freiermuth’s ability as both a blocker and inline receiver. He is not the same type of receiving threat as someone like Kyle Pitts, but he is a well-rounded player that fills a huge need. Giving Josh Allen an elite tight end to work with is only going to elevate his game further.
31. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern There is a time and place to grab a receiver, but that is probably later in the draft. Green Bay has David Bahktiari locked up for a while, but he suffered a major injury and Bryan Bulaga left last offseason. Suddenly, this once stout offensive line is starting to deteriorate. Letting Rashawn Slater start his career at right tackle could be great for his development. He has a long way to go when it comes to hand usage and has some flaws in his pass blocking technique, but he shows flashes of being a punishing blocker. Investing in protecting Aaron Rodgers, or eventually Jordan Love, is a good plan.
32. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee Kansas City has not looked quite as sharp over the final few weeks of the season. Part of that has been inconsistent offensive line play. Andrew Wylie has struggled and could be in danger of being replaced in 2021. Trey Smith is a physical specimen at 6’6″, 330 lbs. He started his career at tackle before kicking inside to guard. He played really well for Tennessee in 2020 and could be in line to start on Day 1. Worst-case scenario, he provides some crucial depth for the defending champs at either guard or tackle spot.
33. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) – Carlos Basham Jr., DL, Wake Forest With two exciting edge rushers in Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson, Jacksonville could use an upgrade along the inside of the defensive line. Carlos Basham Jr. is a bit of a tweener, playing snaps at defensive end and defensive tackle. That versatility would be valuable to a Jaguars defense that was one of the worst in football this past year.
34. New York Jets (2-14) – Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas New York is in desperate need of some edge rushing help. Ranking in the bottom third in sacks for what feels like the 10th year in a row has to end at some point for the Jets to turn things around. Joseph Ossai is an intriguing prospect, having played more of an off-ball linebacker role prior to the 2020 season. However, he showed enough promise as an edge rusher for the Jets to add him here.
35. Atlanta Falcons (4-12) – Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami Atlanta continues its search for an edge rusher. After spending several premium picks and some cap space in recent years, this could be the end of the line. Jaelan Phillips flashed tons of speed and potential to produce at the NFL level in his one year at Miami. The Falcons would be banking on that being a sign of things to come and not a one season wonder.
36. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (10-6) – Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State Miami finally grabs the receiver fans have been waiting for. Chris Olave made a huge impact on this Ohio State offense this year. He has good size to compete for pass downfield and has shown flashes of high-level route runner. He might need to bulk up a little bit to survive in the NFL.
37. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1) – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse The direction of this Eagles defense is in flux with Doug Pederson fired and Jim Schwartz taking a year away from football. There is no question that the pass defense needs a boost though. Andre Cisco is a centerfield safety with great ball skills. He had 12 interceptions in his first two seasons before slogging through an injury-riddled 2020. He would help Philly deal with the big plays that plagued the secondary all season long.
38. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1) – Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa Carlos Dunlap is gone. Geno Atkins turns 33 in March. Cincinnati could use an infusion of talent along the defensive line. Daviyon Nixon flashed enough upside that the Bengals would be happy to land him in the second round. He moves incredibly well at 305 pounds, but there is room for improvement when it comes to his technique. If he can get that final layer of polish, he could be a force along the interior of the defense.
39. Carolina Panthers (5-11) – Kyle Trask, QB, Florida Is Teddy Bridgewater the long-term answer at quarterback? It is unclear at this point. Matt Rhule would likely be excited to work with a polished passer like Kyle Trask. He has great accuracy and anticipation. However, he really lacks mobility and does not have the biggest arm. He could be a bit of a project behind Bridgewater.
40. Denver Broncos (6-10) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama Alex Leatherwood has played every position along the offensive line, other than center, in his time at Alabama. In this scenario, I envision him potentially taking over at right tackle after not seeing Ja’Wuan James play much in the past two years. His ability to play left tackle is important too if Garrett Bolles regresses.
41. Detroit Lions (6-10) – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington For a few years, Detroit has been searching for an edge rusher. Joe Tryon has above average play strength and a solid set of pass rushing moves. We didn’t get to see him in 2020 because he opted out, but he has room for improvement and the size to play as a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker.
42. New York Giants (6-10) – Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami The Giants will be disappointed to see Tryon off the board, but Quincy Roche is a nice consolation prize. He did not put up the same eye-popping numbers he did during his time at Temple, but his one year in Miami was productive. New York’s defense made huge strides in 2020 under Patrick Graham, but needs some more pass rushing help to take the next step.
43. Cincinnati Bengals via San Francisco 49ers (6-10) – Alijah Vera-Tucker, G, USC If the Bengals spent every pick in this draft on the offensive line, I don’t think anyone would fault them. That’s probably unnecessary, but investing another premium pick on an offensive lineman is smart roster building here. Alijah Vera-Tucker brings some experience at both guard and tackle. He is a developing player that should make Joe Burrow’s life better when he returns from injury.
44. Dallas Cowboys (6-10) – Jevon Holland, DB, Oregon Dallas’ defense is headed for something of a major rebuild. With a ton of question marks in the secondary, finding a player who can play in multiple roles carries a lot of value. Jevon Holland is disruptive and can line up at either safety spot or play in the slot. The Cowboys just need to find talented players to turn this defense around.
45. Jacksonville Jaguars via Minnesota Vikings (1-15) – Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami Jacksonville is in desperate need of an upgrade at tight end. Brevin Jordan has not had the fanfare that Kyle Pitts and Pat Freiermuth have, but he plays the position well. He does a lot of the little things right and would give Trevor Lawrence a strong target across the middle.
46. Detroit Lions via New England Patriots (7-9) – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU The backend of Detroit’s defense needs a lot of work. Trevon Moehrig is a reliable safety option with plenty of range to make plays. He was one of the best players on a solid TCU defense. His biggest area for improvement is keeping proper positioning. Moehrig got burned deep a few times in 2020.
47. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9) – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida The Chargers might not bring back Mike Williams. Even if they do, there is room for another playmaker on this squad. Kadarius Toney looked incredible as part of Florida’s offensive resurgence this season. He is dynamic in the open field and great at making plays with the ball in his hands. Toney could be uber productive playing with Justin Herbert.
48. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8) – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia Keep rebuilding this defense. The Raiders have swung and missed on a lot of corners in recent years, but Eric Stokes could help steady the unit a bit. He has impeccable speed and solid coverage skills. Stokes showed some signs of being a real difference maker with four interceptions in 2020. His stock could rise a lot if he posts a ridiculous time at the combine.
49. Arizona Cardinals (8-8) – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State Marvin Wilson was a potential first-round selection a year ago, but did not have a great senior year after returning to Tallahassee. I think Wilson could bounce back with some better coaching. There was a lot of animosity at Florida State this offseason and it seemed like Wilson’s heart was not in it this year. If he can reclaim his 2019 form, this would be a steal for a Cardinals team in need of some help along the defensive line.
50. Miami Dolphins (10-6) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson I have Travis Etienne ranked at No. 14 on my big board, so don’t go thinking I hate Etienne. However, NFL teams are continuing to devalue this position to the point where only one running back was selected last year in the first round. This is a great fit for the Clemson running back, who would join an exciting offense. His big-play ability could easily see him go sooner than this.
51. Washington (7-9) – Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest Assuming that Washington does opt for Mac Jones, they are going to need to give him some receivers other than Terry McLaurin to throw to. Sage Surratt sat out the 2020 season, but he was last seen torching secondaries in the ACC. He is a big-play threat with great size and ball skills.
52. Chicago Bears (8-8) – Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama We won’t get to see Landon Dickerson workout at the Senior Bowl or combine this year because he suffered a season-ending injury in the SEC title game. He made a brief cameo at the end of Alabama’s championship win, but he might not be ready for the upcoming season. Once he is back to full health though, he could be a steady starter for the Bears. This offense would look a lot better with an improved line and some additional playmakers.
53. Tennessee Titans (11-5) – Jay Tufele, DL, USC This mostly projecting how Jay Tufele could develop as a prospect. He flashed some interior pass rushing ability in his first two seasons before opting out of the 2020 season. The Titans will take pass rushing help however they can get it at this point.
54. Indianapolis Colts (11-5) – Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU T.Y. Hilton had a strong second half and Michael Pittman Jr. showed flashes of his potential to be a No. 1 receiver, but Indy needs more receiving options. Parris Campbell has yet to make an impact and Zach Pascal is better off providing depth. Terrace Marshall got overshadowed by Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase last year, but he made some big plays for a much worse LSU offense this year.
55. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State Pittsburgh’s offensive line struggled a lot between injuries and poor play all season. Dillon Radunz is a bit of an unknown coming out of North Dakota State, but he has some great physical tools and dominated the FCS. He could compete for either tackle spot from Day 1.
56. Seattle Seahawks (11-5) – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan There is no question the Seahawks need an edge rusher, but Russell Wilson also needs time to make plays. Saturday’s loss to the Rams should underline how much the offensive line needs an upgrade. Jalen Mayfield held down the right side of the line for Michigan. He should do the same thing for Seattle, replacing Brandon Shell.
57. Los Angeles Rams (10-6) – Cade Mays, OT, Tennessee Andrew Whitworth cannot play forever and Jared Goff is not mobile enough to compensate for a bad offensive line. Cade Mays, like his teammate Trey Smith, has featured mostly at guard, but has the size to play at tackle. He has played at every position at some point in his college career at Georgia and Tennessee. His versatility would be hugely valuable even if he does not start right away.
58. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5) – Jaylen Twyman, DL, Pittsburgh Building depth along the front seven is pretty much the only clear need this team has, pending any losses in free agency. Jalen Twyman was a disruptive force in 2019 for Pittsburgh. He racked up 10.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in a dominant season. He will need to measure in well at the combine to answer some questions about his size, but he could provide some pass rushing depth right away.
59. Baltimore Ravens (11-5) – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC There is no question the Ravens need another receiver to add to this offense. Amon-Ra St. Brown has the agility and route tree to fit well as a possession receiver in this offense. He can get open in small spaces and has shown the ability to stretch the field as well.
60. Cleveland Browns (11-5) – Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina I’m not totally sure where Israel Mukuamu fits at the next level. He has played both safety and outside corner in his time at South Carolina. He is huge at 6’4″ and shows flashes of being a lockdown corner. He is a step slow in the speed department, but his versatility would be extremely useful for a Browns secondary that has struggled to keep players healthy.
61. New Orleans Saints (12-4) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue Ronadale Moore has looked like a human joystick when at full strength. That type of playmaking could be a huge boost to the Saints offense. It is not totally clear what this team will look like without Drew Brees, but New Orleans has needed a long-term solution across from Michael Thomas for a few years. Moore could be a top candidate if his medicals check out.
62. Buffalo Bills (13-3) – Chris Rumph II, EDGE, Duke Buffalo’s defense took a step back in 2020 after a dominant 2019 season. The Bills can look to reclaim their 2019 form with a couple of fresh faces in the front seven. Chris Rumph II had a great career with Duke, posting 14.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss over his final two seasons.
63. Green Bay Packers (13-3) – Seth Williams, WR, Auburn Seth Williams’ skill set is a bit more limited than some of the receivers that have gone before him, but what he does, he does very well. He has the size at 6’3″ to make plays down the field in traffic. Most importantly, he has good hands, which is something Green Bay desperately needs. The Packers had one of the highest drop percentages in the league this year.
64. Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) – Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri Kansas City can stay close to home with this pick. Nick Bolton was a huge factor in Missouri’s surprising season. He was one of the leaders of the Mizzou defense and made some impact plays with eight tackles for loss this season. Bolton would compete for a starting spot on a defense in need of some improvement in the linebacking corp.
10 weeks into the NFL season, we still have no idea what the draft order is going to look like, but we have a pretty clear sense for what team’s biggest needs are at this point.
The number of teams that feel like they could make a quarterback change this year is outrageous. The Jets, Jaguars, Washington, Cowboys, Giants, Vikings, Falcons, 49ers, Patriots, Bears, and Colts all have question marks at the position beyond this season. The Steelers, Saints and Buccaneers all need to identify the successor to their future Hall of Fame passer nearing the end of his career.
Now this is shaping up to be a great quarterback draft, but not every one of those teams is going to draft a quarterback in the first round. Players like Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, Sam Darnold and Dwayne Haskins could all be starting for different teams next year as well. Trying to predict too much is meaningless at this stage, so I will stick to just mocking draft picks in this one.
This current draft order is from Tankathon before the Vikings and Bears meet on Monday Night Football. Let’s get started!
1. New York Jets (0-9) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson Yes, Sam Darnold was never really given a chance to succeed in New York. I believe he will be successful somewhere else, Pittsburgh perhaps, but there is really not argument to keep him and pass on Trevor Lawrence at this point. Sure, Joe Douglas could probably net a bounty of picks, but with four first-round selections already over the next two years and Lawrence looking like the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, taking the golden boy from Clemson just makes too much sense. Netting a pair of mid-round picks for Darnold should hopefully allow Douglas to set Lawrence up for success in a way that the Jets never could for Darnold.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State It does not look like Jake Luton is the answer at quarterback either. Jacksonville has arguably the least talented roster in the league. This franchise needs to full hit the reset button. Justin Fields is a great player to rebuild around. He tossed 42 touchdowns to just one interception in 2019. He is completing an absurd 86.7% of his passes through three games. It is fun to daydream about Trey Lance’s potential, but Fields looks to be the smarter choice at this stage.
3. Dallas Cowboys (2-7) – Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama Dallas will feel it has hit the lottery here. The Cowboys have a choice to draft a rookie and rebuild, or trade back with a quarterback-needy team and demand a haul to get in front of Washington. I did not allow trades in this mock draft, but the phones in Dallas would be lighting up with offers at this point. With the Cowboys forced to stand pat, they address their struggling secondary. Byron Jones’ departure created a massive hole. Patrick Surtain is the most talented corner in the draft and should be a Day 1 starter.
4. Washington Football Team (2-7) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State Conversely, this might be worst-case scenario for Washington. Needing a quarterback in a draft that feels like it has a clear top three prospects and needing to make a trade with a division rival to secure one is an unenviable situation. Some will point to Zach Wilson as a potential option if Lance is gone, but I think there is a clear gap between the two right now. Lance has one of the prettiest deep balls I’ve seen in awhile. There is no quarterback that missed out on a chance to cement his draft stock more than Lance after a matchup with Oregon was canceled and his school’s season was moved to the spring. It will be interesting to see how teams view him after just one season as a starter in the FCS.
5. Los Angeles Chargers (2-7) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon Things have been rough for Chargers fans as the team continues to lose in agonizingly close fashion. Still, the future is bright in L.A. with the quarterback of the future in Justin Herbert. And if all these close losses result in the Chargers landing Penei Sewell, I think it will be worth the suffering. Sewell is the clear top lineman prospect in this draft and could go sooner if not for the clear need at quarterback. At 6’6″, 330 lbs, Sewell certainly looks the part of a NFL left tackle. We won’t see him again until the predraft process, but he should be going in the top 10 of every mock draft.
6. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (2-7) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU The future is now! Tua Time is off to a great start in Miami. What makes it more exciting is having the Texans’ first-round pick this year to help bolster this roster no matter how much success the Dolphins continue to have. The clear need on this team is for a receiver. DeVante Parker has had his moments, but has never established himself as a true No. 1 target. Injuries and opt outs have decimated Miami at the position as well. Ja’Marr Chase would change all of that. Coming off one of the best statistical seasons in college football history, Chase opted out of 2020 and declared for the draft. His playmaking ability would take this offense to the next level.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (2-6-1) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami Cincinnati is still clearly a rebuilding team. They have needs across the board, but grabbing the top edge rusher in the class is a good way to bolster the defense. The Bengals have struggled to get to the quarterback all season. Cincinnati ranked 29th in pass rush win rate heading into Sunday and have registered just 11 sacks in nine games this season. Gregory Rousseau can lineup outside or inside and press the pocket. He dominated college football as a redshirt freshman before opting out of 2020. Rousseau could just have been a one-season wonder, but his measurables make it easy to project him having success at the next level as well.
8. New York Giants (3-7) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State When you think about some of the greatest defenses in Giants history, they were routinely led by great linebackers. The Giants of the 80s and 90s featured stars such as Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks, Harry Carson and Pepper Johnson. While not quite at the same level, even the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl winning teams had good linebacker play. It is something this franchise has lacked for way too long. Micah Parsons should help restore this defense to its former glory. New York has actually taken huge strides as the year has rolled on, but could still use a dynamic playmaker like Parsons at the center. His sideline-to-sideline ability and potential as a three-down player makes him a great value here.
9. Carolina Panthers (3-7) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech James Bradberry is gone. The combination of Rasul Douglas and Donte Jackson isn’t really getting the job done. Adding Caleb Farley should bolster this secondary. He is physical and long. He was arguably the ACC’s top corner in 2019. He continues a string of players selected here that opted out of 2020. His tape from a year ago was impressive. If Farley shows out at the combine, he could easily be the first corner selected in 2021.
10. Atlanta Falcons (3-6) – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State Atlanta spent a first-round pick on A.J. Terrell last year, but still needs all kinds of help in the secondary. Shaun Wade spent much of 2019 as Ohio State’s nickel corner, but has moved outside for 2020. He has the size at 6’1″ to play on the outside, but his experience in the slot only increases his value. He would be a a welcome addition to the Falcons’ cornerback group regardless of who is the head coach next year.
11. Denver Broncos (3-6) – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas Has Garett Bolles finally figured it out? He has yet to allow a sack this season, but he has still committed five penalties according to Pro Football Focus. He is also 28 and his contract is up at the end of the year. I don’t see Bolles earning a long-term deal, but perhaps he will take a one-year prove it type offer. Regardless, Denver could use some help on the offensive line. Samuel Cosmi looks the part of an NFL tackle. At 6’7″, 309 lbs, he is not someone you want to mess with. He moves well and should be able to hold up on the perimeter at the next level. Consider him the potential long-term solution at left tackle once Ja’Wuan James returns to play on the right side.
12. Minnesota Vikings (3-5) – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State Minnesota seems to finally be leaning into this ball control, run-focused offense. It has worked extremely well for the Vikings in recent weeks. So why not open some more running lanes for Dalvin Cook? Wyatt Davis is exactly the type of nasty player you want on the interior of your offensive line. He finishes plays and can move well in space. He would be a welcome addition to a unit that has lacked consistency this year.
13. San Francisco 49ers (4-6) – Israel Mukuamu, CB, South Carolina Could San Francisco move on from Jimmy Garoppolo? It is certainly possible, but I think they will give him one more year with a, hopefully, healthy supporting cast. The 49ers are just one year removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Garoppolo is not the reason they are winning, but they know they can win with him. I think bolstering the roster around him is the best bet for 2021. They can still move on from him for next to no dead money after the 2021 season. Adding a player with Israel Mukuamu’s unique skill set could make the difference. Richard Sherman can’t play forever and Mukuamu has even been taking some snaps at safety this year. His size allows him to match up with tight ends or receivers and his potential is through the roof. He needs to clean up things like footwork and hand placement, but those are coachable aspects of his game.
14. Detroit Lions (4-5) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola are all free agents after the season. It is unlikely all three return. It is possible none of them return. Even if Golladay is back, he will need someone to play across from him. Jaylen Waddle was in the midst of a Heisman-type year before suffering a season-ending injury. His electric speed, playmaking ability and route-running skill make him a player ready to contribute on Day 1 and capable of adjusting to whatever is needed of him in a given week. He also brings the added bonus of special teams play. Matt Stafford would have a lot of fun in this offense with Golladay and Waddle.
15. New England Patriots (4-5) – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU Is it too soon to kill the Cam Newton experiment? New England’s offense has been far from reliable this year, but Newton does not have much around him. His receivers are among the least proven in the league. He gets essentially zero production out of the tight end. His running backs have been banged up. It is easy to make excuses for Newton’s occasional poor play, but he will need to keep winning games to keep his job. I think the Patriots will look to find the long-term solution in the draft. Zach Wilson has come from off the radar to generating top-five hype. He seems to have put the struggles of 2019 behind him. If he can perform like this down the stretch, it should be enough to make people overlook his lackluster first two seasons of college ball.
16. Chicago Bears (5-4) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama Chicago is in free fall right now. Another loss could see them enter the Zach Wilson sweepstakes as well. With Wilson off the board, Chicago gets aggressive in taking Mac Jones. Much like Wilson, Jones seems to have turned the corner in his development, improving his numbers significantly from the year before. He is playing really high-level football right now, airing it out all over. He has a chance to go even higher if he can maintain this level of production.
17. Cleveland Browns (6-3) – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State Myles Garrett needs some help along that defensive line and Marvin Wilson is the best player available to give it to him. Wilson has not been quite as dominant this season as he was in 2019 before an injury ended his season. While the disruptive plays might not be happening quite as frequently, Wilson is still capable of making them. His athleticism is apparent on film and he could be a contributor early on for this Browns defense.
18. Tennessee Titans (6-3) – Rondale Moore, WR Purdue With Corey Davis set to be a free agent at the end of the year, wide receiver could be a big need for the Titans this offseason. While Tennessee already has A.J. Brown, adding a playmaker like Rondale Moore could really change the offense. Moore’s electric speed and incredible playmaking ability would force the defense to be more honest in pass coverage, opening even more running room for Derek Henry. Surrounding Ryan Tannehill with talent feels like an appropriate focus given how much money the Titans are paying him now.
19. Philadelphia Eagles (3-5-1) – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina This has been a season to forget for the Eagles. Injuries, bad secondary play and an overtaxed Carson Wentz have decimated Philadelphia this season. Despite all their clear flaws, the Eagles still hold a playoff spot at the moment by virtue of winning the hapless NFC East. With them picking at the end of the teens, Philly misses out on some of the top-end talent in this draft. I should not be throwing that much shade at Jaycee Horn. He excels in man coverage, possesses NFL pedigree and seems to look, dare I say it, pro ready.
20. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (6-3) – Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh When was the last time the Jets had a reliable pass rusher? It has been a long time. New York definitely needs to surround Trevor Lawrence with more talent, but it would also be good if he didn’t have to score 30 points every game in order to win. Patrick Jones II has dominated the ACC over the past two years with 16.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in his past 19 games. He has the size to be a 3-4 outside linebacker, or he could bulk up a little bit and be a 4-3 end if the Jets change schemes after this season. Either way, he would provide a huge boost to a terrible defense.
21. Arizona Cardinals (6-3) – Quincy Roche, EDGE, Miami Chandler Jones cannot play forever. He will be 31 next season coming off a torn bicep injury. Arizona has been solid getting after opposing quarterbacks even without Jones this season, but adding another edge rusher would be wise. Hasson Reddick is a free agent after the season. Enter Quincy Roche, starring at Miami this year after three seasons with Temple. His sack numbers are down in 2020, but he still has racked up 50.5 tackles for loss in his collegiate career, including 11 this year. He is disruptive and would benefit from playing exclusively on the outside. Miami has taken to kicking him inside this year a little too often.
22. Miami Dolphins (6-3) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama Let’s just make Tua Tagovailoa as comfortable as possible in Miami and give him his old backfield mate Najee Harris to play with. Miles Gaskin has been a nice revelation this year, but he is not a feature back. Harris brings a great blend of power, agility and pass catching ability to an offense that could use a proven playmaker. Surrounding Tagovailoa with Harris and Ja’Marr Chase would make this a very exciting offense to watch.
23. Indianapolis Colts (6-3) – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse It is a passing league and that also means you have to defend the pass. The Colts have done that really well in 2020, but Malik Hooker is a free agent and Indy will have a need at safety next year. Grabbing the best ball-hawking defender in this class is a nice way to fill that spot. Andre Cisco had a ridiculous 13 interceptions in 24 career games at Syracuse. He has some work to do as a tackler, but he has the range to play single-high safety. His playmaking ability makes him a great value towards the end of Round 1.
24. Baltimore Ravens (6-3) – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma Baltimore could certainly use a few more edge rushers, but with the addition of Yannick Ngakoue, that can wait until sometime on Day 2. Instead, the Ravens can upgrade at center to get this offense back on track. Matt Skura has struggled this year and the offense is suffering as a result. Creed Humphrey is about as pro ready of a prospect as you can find. He has started the past three years at Oklahoma. He has blocked for mobile quarterbacks like Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts. He is mean and powerful in trenches. He fits what this Ravens team wants to do and should be a nice plug-and-play option along this offensive line.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (6-3) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State If you are going to set your rookie quarterback up for success, it is important to give him the tools to grow. Pat Freiermuth is a matchup nightmare. He does not put up gaudy numbers in Penn State’s run heavy attack, but it has allowed him to showcase his blocking skills. When he does get a chance to run some routes, he has showcased great athleticism and speed for a player his size. The Jaguars have a good group of young wide receivers already, so adding a top-tier tight end is a logical next step.
26. Las Vegas Raiders (6-3) – Carlos Basham, DL, Wake Forest Las Vegas needs pass rushing help. However, they seem to like the combo of Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell on the outside, so let’s find an interior pass rusher for them. Carlos “Boogie” Basham burst onto the scene in 2019 with 10 sacks. He has been solid this season again with five sacks in six games for the Demon Deacons. He would be an easy fit as a three technique tackle who can collapse the pocket. Don’t overlook his disruptive skills as well. He has seven forced fumbles over the past two years. Finding someone who generates turnovers is crucial for the Raiders this offseason.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) – Jalen Twyman, DL, Pittsburgh Tampa Bay has one of the deeper, more complete rosters in the NFL, but Ndamukong Suh is a 33 and a free agent after the season is over. Finding his replacement is likely towards the top of the Buccaneers’ to-do list. Jalen Twyman is not a like-for-like replacement, but he could be a difference maker in this defense. He had an outstanding sophomore season with 12 tackles for loss and 10 sacks before opting out of 2020. He is built very much like another former Pittsburgh interior lineman named Aaron Donald. I don’t expect Twyman to live up to those standards, but he can fill that pass rushing role along Tampa’s defensive line.
27. Buffalo Bills (7-2) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida Stefon Diggs has been a welcome addition to the Bills’ offense. As a result, Josh Allen is having his best season so far. Giving Allen more weapons to work with should be the priority. Kyle Pitts is a tight end, wide receiver hybrid at 6’6″, 240 lbs. He can line up all over the formation and brings with him big-play ability. Buffalo would definitely need to bring him along as a blocker, but his upside as a receiver makes him more than worthy of a first-round selection.
29. Green Bay Packers (7-2) – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama Green Bay is horrible against the run. The Packers are giving up 4.6 yards per carry and have allowed 11 rushing touchdowns so far this season. If it wasn’t for the fact that Aaron Rodgers almost always has the Packers ahead, this team could be giving up way more yards per game than they already do. Adding Dylan Moses won’t fix that, but it should make a dent. After missing all of 2019 with a torn ACL, Moses has not yet returned to his 2018 form. He is still productive with 46 tackles, including five behind the line, so far this year, but his testing at the combine and medical checks could be the difference for him come draft day.
30. Kansas City Chiefs (8-1) – Trey Smith, OT, Tennessee If you spent $500 million on something, you would definitely have a protection plan on it. That’s what the Chiefs can do here for Patrick Mahomes by drafting Trey Smith. Mitchell Schwartz and Mike Remmers have held down the left side of the Chiefs offensive line so far, but Smith would give Kansas City a long-term solution. He has dominated in the SEC since finally returning after dealing with blood clots in his lungs. That is definitely a medical red flag for every team, but if he checks out, he could be gone well before the Chiefs are picking in Round 1.
31. New Orleans Saints (7-2) –DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama It is tempting to take a quarterback here, but I think the Saints will ride it out with Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill next season. What the Saints desperately need is a long-term answer across from Michael Thomas. DeVonta Smith has been the top receiver at Alabama production wise each of the past two seasons. When you consider he played alongside Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle, that is really impressive. What drops him to the end of the first round is his size. He has not had any injury issues so far, but at 175 lbs, you worry about his durability at the next level. He is going to have to add some mass to his frame to survive in the NFL.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-0) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama The dream season continues for the Steelers. They have a gritty defense with tons of playmakers. The offense is deep at every skill position. Ben Roethlisberger is nearing the end of his playing career, but I would expect this team to go all in on surrounding him with talent in his final few years rather than find his successor in the draft right now. Alex Leatherwood is a jack-of-all-trades lineman, having played every position other than center at Alabama. Injuries have hurt the Steelers’ offensive line this year, making it clear that some depth and maybe a new starter at right tackle is necessary. Leatherwood could compete for that job right away and provide crucial depth if he is not ready to start on Day 1.
33. New York Jets (0-9) – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
34. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
35. Washington (2-7) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
36. Los Angeles Chargers (2-7) – Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
Chris is finally back recording the show! He breaks down the decisions of Caleb Farley, Rashod Bateman, Rondale Moore, Gregory Rousseau and Micah Parsons to opt out of the 2020 season. He also discusses the impact of the Pac-12’s player demands and how the Big Ten followed suit. Plus, catch up on the latest regarding the Power 5 conference schedules for the upcoming season. Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. https://anchor.fm/theaftermath
Welcome to Year 5 of the NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings! The more things change, the more things stay the same at the top. Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Florida are all still part of the top five. However, we are starting to see the on-the-field struggles for Florida State and Stanford catch up to them. Both have fallen outside the top 20 and could potentially drop out of the rankings altogether if things don’t get turned around.
I love doing these rankings every year because it shows you which schools are the best at preparing players for the NFL draft. Obviously, it should be taken into account that usually these schools are also the ones that excel in recruiting, but there is a lot more to it than that. Receiving the right exposure, playing in a specific system or especially competing against the best talent all play a role in shaping a prospects draft stock as well. This is not a predictive measurement of how well players from these schools will do in the pros. For high school prospects with dreams of playing on Sundays, these are the best programs to get you there.
The scoring system is as follows:
1st round-10 points
2nd round-7 points
3rd round-5 points
4th round-4 points
5th round- 3 points
6th round- 2 points
7th round- 1 points
1. Alabama Crimson Tide- 315 points
Previous: 1 (281 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Quinnen Williams, 3rd Overall, 2019
This is just unbelievable. The Crimson Tide have led these rankings every single year I have made them. Their point total has reached a staggering 315, becoming the first school to eclipse the 300-mark. For the fourth straight year, Alabama had four players selected in the first round. That doesn’t include the countless players selected in the second round, third round and beyond. Ohio State closed the gap significantly, but ‘Bama is still the king.
2. Ohio State Buckeyes- 285 points Previous: 2 (229 points) Highest Drafted Player- Nick Bosa/Chase Young, 2nd Overall, 2019/2020
While Alabama is clearly the best football factory in the country, there is no question Ohio State belongs in the conversation. Ryan Day sent a huge batch of players to the NFL in 2020, including two players in the top three picks. And as if you haven’t heard already, Joe Burrow started his college career in Columbus as well. There is still a long ways to go to catch the Tide, but for the first time ever, it feels possible for the Buckeyes to take the top spot in the future.
3. LSU Tigers- 202 points
Previous: 6 (132 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Joe Burrow, 1st Overall, 2020
This will go down as one of the greatest draft classes in NFL history. Five first-rounders and 14 players drafted in total, the latter of which was a record. Joe Burrow became just the second LSU player to go first overall in program history. I am a little skeptical that the Tigers will continue to dominate like this in the draft with so much turnover, but they became the only school other than Ohio State and Alabama to eclipse the 200-point threshold.
4. Clemson Tigers- 171 points
Previous: 4 (158 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Clelin Ferrell, 4th Overall, 2019
Another team regularly producing NFL talent, it feels like Clemson is just ramping up for a special run in these rankings. The Tigers had two more first rounders this year from a draft class of seven players selected in total. Given the expectations surrounding the Tigers in 2020 and the continued pipeline of elite recruits, Clemson should be a regular in the top five and make a real run at climbing higher.
5. Florida Gators- 161 points
Previous: 3 (166 points)
Highest Drafted Player- CJ Henderson, 9th overall, 2020
The on-field success is steadily building and the draft success is staying steady. Florida is consistently turning out players going in the first three rounds. With the Gators seemingly on the verge of breaking into college football elite, it would be a surprise to see them drop much further than this. If they could get a few more players going in the first round, they should solidify their spot in the top 5.
6. Michigan Wolverines- 144 points
Previous: 8 (127 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Devin Bush, 10th Overall, 2019
Jim Harbaugh might not be able to knock off Ohio State, but he is still ending boatloads of players to the NFL. For the second time in four years, Michigan saw its number of players drafted reach double digits. They have been a little streaky, with two years with just two players drafted in the past five drafts. While there are plenty of questions surrounding Harbaugh, he continues to prepare players for the next level.
7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- 136 points
Previous: 14 (110 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Ronnie Stanley, 6th Overall, 2016
Tied for the biggest riser in these rankings this season, it was a nice bounce back for the Fighting Irish. Even though they didn’t reach the College Football Playoff this season, Notre Dame still put together another really impressive draft class. With six players taken in the 2020 draft, including three in the first three rounds, the Irish continue to make waves. Brian Kelly continues to do a great job putting players in position to make the jump to the pros.
8. Oklahoma Sooners- 133 points
Previous: 9 (125 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Baker Mayfield/Kyler Murray, 1st Overall, 2018/2019
With two more first-round picks, Oklahoma continues to rise up the rankings under Lincoln Riley. The Sooners seem to be on verge of becoming a football factory once again. However, after a three-year run of transfer quarterbacks either winning the Heisman or finishing as the runner up from OU, there is some uncertainty at the position. Now that won’t diminish any of the talent still existing elsewhere on this roster, but it could rob a number of players of the same big stage to showcase that talent.
9. Georgia Bulldogs- 131 points
Previous: 10 (122 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Roquon Smith, 8th Overall, 2018
Another strong year for Georgia turned into another great draft class. What is impressive is that this class could have been even deeper if a few defensive stars had entered the draft and not returned to school. That sets up the Bulldogs well for continued success next year. I don’t expect them to leave the top 10 any time soon. Count on Kirby Smart to continue cultivating NFL talent.
10. Washington Huskies- 110 points
Previous: 5 (140 points)
Highest Drafted Player- John Ross, 9th Overall, 2017
After years of dominating the draft, the Huskies took a massive hit. Dropping 30 points of value is pretty steep. Washington only had two players selected in 2020 this was definitely a down year. It doesn’t help either that Jacob Eason was the first Husky taken this year in the fourth round. With a very small 2016 draft class, Washington should not fall much next year, but could be in danger in the future.
11. USC Trojans- 104 points
Previous: 13 (114 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Sam Darnold, 3rd Overall, 2018
This is not your grandfather’s or even your father’s USC. The Trojans have fallen from college football’s elite, but still seem capable of sending some top-tier talent to the NFL. Having two players drafted in the first 33 selection is a really nice start, but Austin Jackson and Michael Pittman ended up being the only Trojans taken. More depth would be nice going forward considering USC dropped points, but still moved up.
12. Auburn Tigers- 101 points
Previous: 19 (82 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Derrick Brown, 7th Overall, 2020
Derrick Brown and Noah Igbinoghene were Auburn’s first first-round selections since 2014. This class had depth beyond those two as well, which led to a nice jump up this list. The Tigers have not been at the same level as they were at the beginning of last decade, but these are the type of years that make you believe Auburn still has it when it comes to producing NFL prospects.
13. Penn State Nittany Lions- 100 points
Previous: 17 (93 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Saquon Barkley, 2nd Overall, 2018
Saquon Barkley still stands alone as the only Penn State player selected in the first round since 2010. However, a pair of second rounders and a few late-round selections still created a solid class. James Franklin is still a step behind Ohio State and Michigan, both on the field and in these rankings. Given that the Nittany Lions have clawed their way into the top 15, I think its fair to say they are trending in the right direction when it comes to preparing players for the next level.
14. UCLA Bruins- 98 points
Previous: 15 (100 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Josh Rosen, 10th Overall, 2018
The on-field product has been rocky so far in the Chip Kelly era, but Oregon became a pipeline to the NFL under his tutelage. The Bruins have been a constant in these rankings, even in some of their leaner years. If Kelly can put his stamp on the program, I have a feeling that will continue and we could possibly see UCLA climb back up the ranks.
15. Ole Miss Rebels- 93 points
Previous: 15 (100 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Laremy Tunsil, 13th Overall, 2016
Trouble is on the horizon. While Ole Miss didn’t slide, this team is trending in the wrong direction. Not a single player from the program heard his name called in the 2020 draft. The Rebels produced a monster class in 2016, featuring three first-round picks. With this being the last year that class will be included in these rankings, I think it is fair to expect a huge drop off in the 2021 rankings. However, Lane Kiffin is in charge now and could very well turn this around. While a dip is coming, Kiffin is the type of recruiter that could have Ole Miss surging back soon after.
16. Mississippi State Bulldogs- 91 points
Previous: 18 (86 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Jeffery Simmons, 19th Overall, 2019
It might not be a star-studded group, but the 2020 draft class looks pretty solid for Mississippi State. On one side of things, the Bulldogs continue to send players to the NFL with consistency. However, there are a number of players who have slipped into the middle rounds of the draft that have had a lot of success. It begs questions about Mississippi State ability to elevate their player’s stock the same way other top programs have. It will be really interesting to see how this develops with Mike Leach taking over in Starkville.
17. Texas A&M Aggies- 90 points
Previous: 16 (95 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Myles Garrett, 1st Overall, 2017
Jimbo Fisher has yet to reach the same heights he hit at Florida State. He hasn’t quite hit the same level at producing NFL talent yet since taking over at Texas A&M either. However, we could see that change pretty soon. Fisher’s first full recruiting class will be draft eligible this year, which could see them start to climb in these rankings. They are a team to watch with interest over the next few seasons.
17. Utah Utes- 90 points
Previous: 20 (81 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Garrett Bolles, 20th Overall, 2017
For the third time in four years, Utah has filled the middle rounds of the NFL draft. 2018 was a bit of a dud, with only one player taken. Outside of that, the Utes have sent eight, five and now seven players respectively to league. Utah has been knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff. If they can break through, we could start to see a few of these players start to go in the big money rounds.
19. Iowa Hawkeyes – 86 points
Previous: 20 (81 points)
Highest Drafted Player- T.J. Hockenson, 8th Overall, 2019
When you think of old-school NFL factories, Iowa definitely comes to mind. While the Hawkeyes might not be the best, they certainly have a knack for sending at least a few players to the next level. Iowa has had at least three players taken in each of the past four drafts. Given that the team’s 2016 group consisted of just one seventh-round pick, there is plenty of potential for a rise in next year’s rankings with another good class.
19. Miami Hurricanes- 86 points
Previous: 11 (117 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Artie Burns, 25th Overall, 2016
The U isn’t quite back yet. They are definitely getting close though. Miami had a respectable four players selected, but none went before the fourth round. With a few potential first-round prospects for 2021, the Hurricanes could be in line for a quick bounce back, but this has been a disappointing stretch for Miami’s NFL production.
21. Stanford Cardinal- 85 points
Previous: 12 (116 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Solomon Thomas, 3rd Overall, 2017
When I started these rankings back in 2016, Stanford ranked seventh and was still riding the Andrew Luck years. While there have been a handful of top prospects to emerge since then, this has to be a disappointment to fall outside the top 20. The Cardinal had only two players selected in 2020, one in the fourth and one in the seventh. David Shaw has his work cut out for him to get Stanford back to national relevance and seeing more players take the next step in their football careers.
22. North Carolina State Wolfpack- 83 points
Previous: 22 (79 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Bradley Chubb, 5th Overall, 2018
It was a quiet year for the Wolfpack, but they are mostly surviving off a great 2018 draft class. They did have Garrett Bradbury go in the 2019 first round as well. Just two draft picks in 2020, one in the fifth and one in the seventh, isn’t too impressive though. It will be interesting to see which direction NC State is heading by next year.
23. Florida State Seminoles- 80 points
Previous: 6 (132 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Jalen Ramsey, 5th Overall, 2016
Talk about the bottom falling out. Florida State started out at No. 2 in these rankings back in 2016. The program has been a mess in recent years and it was only a matter of time before these rankings began to reflect that. With just a single player selected in 2020, the fall might not be over for the Seminoles.
24. TCU Horned Frogs- 79 points
Previous: Not ranked (55 points)
Highest Draft Player- Jalen Reagor, 21st Overall, 2020
For the first time in school history, TCU had two players selected in the first round as both Jalen Reagor and Jeff Gladney heard their names called. This is also the first time the Horned Frogs have entered these rankings. With five draft picks in 2020 and at least three players selected in four of the past five drafts, TCU has potential to stick around. Hopefully, Gary Patterson is up to the task.
25. Wisconsin Badgers- 73 points
Previous: 25 (74 points)
Highest Drafted Player- T.J. Watt, 30th Overall, 2017
The Badgers had a solid if unspectacular 2020 draft class. They failed to land a player in the first round, but they did have four players come off the board and all before the sixth round. Wisconsin debuted in these rankings at 15 back in 2016 so dropping to the edge is definitely disappointing. That being said, you can count on a few Badgers being selected in the middle rounds of the draft just about every year like clockwork.
Others Receiving Votes: West Virginia (63 points), Boston College (56 points), Temple (56 points)