Putting out mock drafts before free agency starts is always tricky business. Each team has impending free agents, yet we look at each free agent as being on their previous team but not on the team, if that makes any sense. Not to mention it’s impossible to take account for which guys will be joining new teams and how that could potentially change how each front office may approach the draft next month. We may be deep into draft season now but being just under 60 days away, many things are bound to change in the evaluations, for myself and these teams.
Thank you for joining me with my very first mock draft of the season. Usually by now I have dropped a handful of these but knowing this day was coming, hopefully the wait was worth it.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
We all know what we were clamoring for as the Jets went through each and every loss. The Jaguars fans were absolutely doing the same. Unless Urban Meyer goes crazy on us, this will be the pick.
- New York Jets – QB Zach Wilson, BYU
It’s well known all of the different options Joe Douglas and company will have this upcoming draft. While we won’t be able to narrow it down for some time, we see him give Robert Saleh and “Mikey” LaFleur a brand new toy to start their careers in the Big Apple. Zach Wilson had a Baker Mayfield/Kyler Murray/Joe Burrow type rise in the 2020 season. Obviously he is not going first overall like those three, but they would have in this class as well. Wilson looks like the square peg to the Jets square hole. He fits this Shanahan/LaFleur offense extremely well and brings a Mahomes-ish type play style to the team. No, he is not Patrick Mahomes, but he will show those types of vibes with his off-script, off-balanced rockets for bug chunks. His play style fits perfectly into where the NFL is headed and if given the right tools to work with, we could be looking at a future star in New York.
- Miami Dolphins – OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
The Dolphins made out like bandits with their Laremy Tunsil trade. Never would they have thought they would be picking this high with Houston’s selection and not their own. Since there are no trades in 1.0, Sewell allows them to make some moves to this young line, like moving Austin Jackson to the right side and kicking Robert Hunt to the inside.
- Atlanta Falcons – QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
The University of Georgia may have let Fields out of his home state but the Falcons sure won’t. Despite still being a very solid quarterback, Matt Ryan is likely coming down to his last year or two in Atlanta. This allows him to go for it one last time while helping out the future of the franchise. Fields brings an entirely different style to the Falcons offense and parts that we can be sure Arthur Smith will love.
- Cincinnati Bengals – WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
Joe Burrow was given no help last year in this offense. They actually have very solid options at receiver in Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd already, but there is not a tackle worth selecting here. They could go tight end here in Kyle Pitts, but instead they give Burrow his old buddy that may have had the best receiving season ever, before 2020…
- Philadelphia Eagles – WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
No, it is not the Heisman trophy winner, it’s just the other Alabama guy that averaged over 20 yards a catch in his five games, before injury. He could be faster than Henry Ruggs, while being a better route runner and having a better build as well. The Eagles are going to be in a rough spot moving forward, trading Wentz, releasing Alshon and DeSean, in addition to potentially parting ways with Zach Ertz and Jason Peters, as well. You have to give Hurts something if you want this thing to work.
- Detroit Lions – CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
The Lions made a huge statement earlier this offseason trading away their identity in Matthew Stafford. In return they brought in Jared Goff, as well as two future first round picks and a third rounder in this draft. They could go in a few directions here, if Golladay walks in free agency, Devonta Smith becomes the pick here. However, there is no chance they let a guy like him leave without a tag. Take Farley to play opposite of Okudah, who came off a pretty down year as a rookie. Hopefully he turns it around in year two making this one of the more entertaining corner duos in football.
- Carolina Panthers – QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
This new team of David Tepper, Scott Fitterer and Matt Rhule know what they want and that is for Teddy Bridgewater to not be the quarterback of this team. They were aggressive for Stafford, called about Goff and are currently in on DeShaun Watson and you’d have to think Russell Wilson too. Because all options have been exhausted and unsuccessful, Trey Lance becomes the new face for the franchise. One game in 2020 was not great for his stock but he still holds a lot of qualities to make him a top ten selection.
- Denver Broncos – LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
First, somewhat, shock of the mock. There are always a couple of these on the first day and this one looks like a good fit to me. If you’re the Broncos, you know you have to compete with the Chiefs for the foreseeable future. After watching what Devin White and Lavonte David did in their Super Bowl victory, this pick becomes that much more intriguing. JOK can cover tight ends, running backs and even some bigger receivers but is also the type to be able to come downhill and smack you right in the mouth.
- Dallas Cowboys – CB Patrick Surtain Jr., Alabama
One Bama corner on one side, why not add another to the other? Trevon Diggs had a solid year in 2020 for Dallas but they are in desperate need of more help on the back end. Surtain comes from NFL stardom, being the son of the three time Pro Bowler, Patrick Surtain Sr. He was born to play the position and you know he got some solid coaching from Nick Saban as well. He may not be the fastest guy on the boundary but his technique and IQ should be more than enough to get him through as a rookie.
- New York Giants – LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
This was a tough choice for this Giants team. They need offensive weapons for their quarterback, but looking at the board, they are more likely to get players to help in day two on the offensive end than they are to get a guy like Parsons on the defensive end. Parsons is arguably a top 5 player in this class and only takes a hit because of some of the off field concerns that have been floating around. He has speed for days that could be an asset in coverage, as a blitzer or even used as a rusher off the edge. Plus, we all know Gettleman loves his linebackers.
- San Francisco 49ers – iOL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
Is it a bit early for a guard? Maybe, but Alijah Vera-Tucker is not like most guards. He has experience playing both inside and out, which as we’ve seen from guys like Elgton Jenkins, is a very valuable skill to have. He can get plugged in right next to Trent Williams and set up that left side of the line for whoever is taking snaps for Kyle Shanahan in September.
- Los Angeles Chargers – OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
Not many people thought Justin Herbert was going to play as well as he did in his rookie season. If not for the team doctors messing up Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers may have even missed on this. The offensive line is losing Mike Pouncey and potentially two options at left guard, not to mention Trey Pipkins is currently slated to start at left tackle. Slater can come in and take over either spot on the left side and help start to build a foundation up front for the young quarterback.
- Minnesota Vikings – EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
Minnesota released Everson Griffen, traded for Yannick Ngakoue, traded Ngakoue a couple months later, lost Danielle Hunter for the entire season and Anthony Barr, who would occasionally play off the edge, for 14 games. The edge room was not a hot spot in the year 2020 for Minnesota. Paye would be a natural in this Mike Zimmer defense and if they can get Hunter back healthy, 2021 could be very, very different.
- New England Patriots – WR Devonta Smith, Alabama
It’s not fun to see a Heisman winner go to the Patriots but that’s how the cookie crumbles. There was a list of receivers the Patriots have taken since drafting Julian Edelman back in 2009 and the best one might be a current member of the New York Jets, Braxton Berrios. That Jets-ian list needs a change and what better way to do that than to take a receiver who has commonly been compared to Hall of Famer, Marvin Harrison?
- Arizona Cardinals – CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
When you think of the Arizona Cardinals, the two names that pop up are Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson. Somehow Fitzgerald is still kicking it around in the desert, but it is looking like Peterson could be on his way out. Even if he sticks around, Horn is a selection that the team desperately could use. Byron Murphy and Budda Baker have been extremely vital for the defense lining up inside but they need that physical presence to match up against DK Metcalf for the next however many years and Horn is just that.
- Las Vegas Raiders – EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
From the 2019 draft, it’s been Maxx Crosby, not Clelin Ferrell, to exceed draft expectations. Two years later, they still need help on the outside. Phillips has dealt with a multitude of injuries throughout his college career, causing him to even medically retire a couple years ago. However, if teams can look past the injury and their doctors clear him, this is a great value for the Hurricane.
- Miami Dolphins – LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
The Belichick defense has been known to use their linebackers in a variety of ways. Flores, coming from that system, likes to do the same thing, hence signing Kyle Van Noy last offseason. Zaven Collins fits that same mold. If they want an edge rusher, they got it. If they want an off ball linebacker, they got it. He is a big body who can do a lot of what Flores will ask of him, including spying Josh Allen, if needed.
- Washington – QB Mac Jones, Alabama
You will see Mac Jones go all over the first round in mock drafts. This seems like as good a spot as any. After making to the playoffs with Alex Smith and competing against the champions with Taylor Heinecke, a new quarterback could be what puts this team over the rest in the division for the next few years, considering how well the defense is set up. Jones won’t need to go in right away, which would probably be the best thing off the bat.
- Chicago Bears – OT Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
The Bears, like Washington, have been connected to many different quarterbacks. Trubisky looks like he will be moving onto his second team but whoever does line up under center needs a better offensive line situation than their predecessor. Darrisaw went against some really good edge talent in the ACC and more than held his own. If he can continue to take the next steps, he will be a longtime left tackle for this franchise.
- Indianapolis Colts – TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
Come draft day, Kyle Pitts will not be on the board this late. Some team will have made a move up for him, but not today. Instead, he falls to Indy at 21 and Carson Wentz could not be any happier. He was at his best when working the middle of the field and you won’t find a better option to do that than with the former Gator.
- Tennessee Titans – EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Rousseau was the hot name during the summer. Everybody and their moms said he was a top five-to-ten player (not me, fyi). But after opting out of 2020, he saw his stock drop, despite not playing a single down. Those are concerns on other people’s parts, but that is for another time. Rousseau will be a projection pick because his size and athleticism can be freaky. Mike Vrabel cannot go into the season without getting more help off the edge, considering they only had SIXTEEN sacks from front seven players throughout the ENTIRE season.
- New York Jets – EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
Defense in the first round, you ask? Yes and for good reason. First off, they still have the 34th pick with only four offensive linemen, three receivers, one tight end and zero running backs off the board. Second, by taking Wilson earlier, Sam Darnold would be traded and most likely bring back a second round pick, in this hypothetical. So over their next three selections, in the following 43 picks, they can go all out on offense. Getting back to Ojulari, he would likely become their best edge rusher on the team from day one. The John Abraham joke has been going on for far too long, so it’s time to put that behind us. Ojulari plays with a high motor, good blend of strength and athleticism, as well as some sound technique, with his hands in particular. His size could potentially turn some evaluators off being listed at 6’3 240, which is a little smaller for an end in a four man front but that should not be the deciding factor. Would think the worst case scenario, he spends year one as a third down specialist, which is still vital for a Robert Saleh defense.
- Pittsburgh Steelers – OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
Let me be the one to tell you that Teven Jenkins needs a lot more talk. He is not the flashiest of linemen nor is he the most technically sound lineman. What he is, is just a good offensive tackle. He doesn’t do anything poor or really anything below average, for that matter. His versatility will make him more interesting and to a team like the Steelers who could be losing both linemen on their left side, Jenkins becomes that much more appealing.
- Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
After selecting Trevor Lawrence, they decide to do what it takes to help him. Having DJ Chark and Laviska Shenault is a very good start, but adding Bateman brings in the perfect blend between the three of them. Chark being the speedy intermediate, deep threat. Shenault being the gadgety/slot receiver who creates big plays with the ball in his hands. Bateman has a good combination of route running, toughness and ball skills, while not being the biggest burner.
- Cleveland Browns – LB Jabril Cox, LSU
Very similarly to what the Broncos did with taking Koramoah, the Browns take Cox. The Ravens will be a pest to them as long as Lamar Jackson keep running around. Not only can Cox help prevent that, but can also help take parts of the middle of the field away with his quickness, while also being able to man up on tight ends and running backs. When you get to a certain point, you need to take good players that match up well against your competitors and the Browns are at that point here.
- Baltimore Ravens – iOL Landon Dickerson, Alabama
I would love to give them an edge rusher seeing as Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue could both be gone in the next month but nothing here screams out to me, as there are still some edge players to watch in depth. Same goes for receiver but Toney does not exactly fit what Baltimore needs. Instead, they beef up the offensive line with the heart and soul of the Rolling Tide offensive line. He will likely not go this high due to his long injury history, but his competitive toughness and play on the field absolutely warrant this selection.
- New Orleans Saints – WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
Toney came onto the scene this year after finally being allowed to show off his skill set as a receiver and not just a gadget. The way his body contorts is beyond what physics can explain and he uses that as a route runner and as a ball carrier. He will extend many drives with how he plays the game and with Drew Brees most likely not returning in 2021, they will need the help they can get from anybody outside Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas.
- Green Bay Packers – OT Jalen Mayfield, Michigan
This unit of Green Bay’s has taken a few hits, causing Elgton Jenkins to be moved around to literally every position on the offensive line. They should have Bakhtiari and Jenkins back in their normal spots come September, but they still need to potentially replace Lane Taylor, Corey LInsley and upgrade from Billy Turner at left guard, center and right tackle, respectively. Mayfield, while a bit raw, could be a big payout for LaFleur as they try to sure up the front for the aging, yet still spectacular Aaron Rodgers.
- Buffalo Bills – HB Najee Harris, Alabama
Buffalo’s run came to a screeching halt in the championship game. A large part was the fact their defense could not stop the Chiefs offense, but another was because when Josh Allen was struggling, they could not go to the run game to break the funk. Harris changes that immediately. He’s 6’3 230 who moves like he is three inches and 30 pounds smaller, but isn’t afraid to get dirty either. Not to mention the impact he makes as a receiver, well beyond the line of scrimmage too. We see what Derrick Henry does for Tannehill in Tennessee, Harris can do the same thing for Allen.
- Kansas City Chiefs – OL Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
The lead story from the Super Bowl was that the offensive line could not block if their lives depended on it. Mahomes ran around for a touch under 500 yards before attempting the pass on the play. Leatherwood can move around the line if needed. They seem set at tackle, for now, so in the meantime throw him in at a guard position, where his size and average mobility can be covered up.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – EDGE Joseph Ossai, Texas
Surprisingly enough, the Super Bowl Champions do not have a lot of holes on their roster. With many guys stepping up this season, the roster looks very well rounded. You’d like to think Shaq Barrett returns but he’s going to demand a pretty penny on the market. Regardless of whether or not Barrett comes back, Ossai can still give this team another option off the edge. Jason Pierre-Paul can’t be viewed as the long term option, plus we should all know how important these guys are for Todd Bowles’ system.