So let's see...this draft will have encompassed a year long pandemic, players, both professional and collegiate that opted not to play, no NFL combine to evaluate players, several new head coaches and general managers, along with the usual injuries and mishaps that occur in any given year etc... All of that may pale in comparison to the potential upheaval the fourth pick in the draft may instigate. Can't wait!There are no trades in this final mock, but several speculative scenarios in case certain ones occur. Enjoy.
Jacksonville valiantly fought losing battles last season, "winning" the dubious "right" to pick first in this year's NFL draft. Absolutely nothing has changed since the end of the 2018 season, when (then) freshman phenom, Trevor Lawrence won the National Championship for Clemson. Lawrence is prototypical in size (6-6, 220 lbs) and epitomizes what teams desire when looking for a franchise quarterback. He's delivered a championship at every level, so Jaguar fans are hoping that trend continues into his professional career.
Suspiciously, I believe New York takes Justin Fields instead of Zach Wilson. Strange how former quarterback, Sam Darnold was traded less than a week after Fields' first pro day, when he ran a blistering 40 time (4.44 seconds) and threw exceptionally well. Just sayin'...things that make you go... hmmm. Suspicions aside, there's no doubt about Wilson's electrifying arm and how enamored teams are with his promising talent. Conventional wisdom strongly suggests that Wilson makes his professional debut in New York, as a Jet.
Nabbing an athletic, intelligent, strong-armed quarterback like Fields, offers a higher ceiling at the position than an injury plagued Garoppolo represents. Regarding health concerns, recent medical information about Fields' epilepsy became public, casting a potential shadow on his draft stock. According to doctors, it’s a condition others in his family have outgrown and believe Fields will, too. Fields demonstrated his mental and physical toughness playing through injuries, and chances are that determination will impress 49ers' brass enough, to make him the third overall selection.
The biggest offensive mismatch in the draft is Kyle Pitts. Faster than linebackers, taller than safeties and bigger than cornerbacks, this uniquely gifted tight end is a match up nightmare for defenses. It's unlikely Atlanta drafts an unproven, rookie quarterback to displace productive incumbent, and potential Hall of Famer, Matt Ryan. Plus, new head coach, Arthur Smith loves running double tight end offensive sets, just like Ryan used during his MVP season (2016). Barring a trade, taking Pitts makes the most sense.
I've been swayed. Initially, the injury to rookie phenom quarterback, Joe Burrow had me unshakably convinced that Penei Sewell would be a Bengal. However, since acquiring offensive tackle Riley Rieff and projecting growth from 2019 draft pick, Jonah Williams (left tackle), taking Ja'Marr Chase is the right move. The offensive line is weaker on the interior, but there isn't a guard or center worthy of the fifth pick. Chase is arguably pound for pound ( obvious dig at DeVonte Smith's weight) the best receiver in this class and a former teammate of Burrow.
Miami pivots from taking Chase having assumed the Bengals would select Sewell, and instead take the talented blocker from Oregon. Sewell's abilities are undeniable and his potential for greatness borders on limitless. In a draft that touts several "franchise-capable" quarterbacks, Sewell is a franchise, foundational centerpiece for Miami and its young signal caller, Tua Tagovailoa.
Detroit may be tempted by offers from New England and Washington, as both teams try to move up to draft a quarterback. If the Lions decline any offers for their seventh spot, it's likely because they really want Waddle's game changing abilities for themselves. Whether it's a kick return, jet sweep, screen pass or deep throw, defenses will have to seriously regard how they plan to defend against his game breaking talents. Although fellow Tide alum, DeVonta Smith is the more polished receiver, Waddle is more sudden and faster with a thicker physique.
Trading for beleaguered signal caller, Sam Darnold effectively removed Carolina from participating in the rookie quarterback derby of 2021. Drafting Slater is step two in rebuilding the Panthers' offense this, while possibly helping repair Darnold's confidence in the pass pocket. Slater is extremely quick off the snap and waste little motion in setting up a solid base. An intelligent and extremely versatile athlete, Slater can literally play any position across the offensive line.
Micah Parsons is an imposing 6-foot-3, 245 lbs run defender with long arms and impeccable tackling technique. He is an intelligent playmaker with enhanced instincts as evidenced by his 5 sacks, 5 passes defended and 4 forced fumbles in 2019. Parson's ability to cover sideline to sideline helps him neutralize many of today's zone blocked running schemes. An incredible tackling radius, elite level mobility and instinctual intelligence make him an ideal selection for Denver's beleaguered 25th ranked run defense (130 yards per game).
Dallas has an opportunity to rekindle the synergistic tandem between Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain, former college teammates who played together in Alabama's secondary. If the Cowboys take Surtain, they'll be able to start two big cornerbacks with excellent coverage skills and the size to manipulate opposing receivers. Surtain's size and length allow him to defend physically outside the hashmarks, while his high football IQ helps him maintain positioning when facing faster wideouts.
Signing wideout superstar, Kenny Golladay, effectively transformed New York's stock of offensive weaponry. Consequently, the G-Men turn their attention to defense and take Paye, the best run defending edge player with tremendous pass rushing upside. A power player who sets the edge well against the run, he flashes enough burst and wiggle to flex around blockers and explode into the backfield. Paye is an athletic marvel who moves far more explosively than a man his size should. For context, he recorded a three-cone drill faster than Von Miller (6.37 seconds to 6.7).
Horn is a press/cover corner, whose size (6-0, 205 lbs), length and tenacity make him extremely difficult to separate from at the line of scrimmage. He's a versatile defensive back who has played in slot coverage as well as outside the hashmarks. Displaying an adept ability to sink his hips and turn fluidly, Horn is able to shadow and maintain a "stickiness" to his tactile coverage skills. Considering the receivers in the NFC East division, especially those in Dallas, the Eagles need immediate coverage corner help.
The Chargers should do whatever they can to provide protection for 2020's AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert. Because of his above average hip flexibility, Darrisaw resets his base quickly and smoothly adjusts to counter moves from skilled edge rushers. Taking Darrisaw will not only secure the left perimeter of the offensive line, it'll compliment a running attack that needs a little power to its push. Darrisaw definitely plays with a nasty streak and will enjoy road grading defenders in the NFL.
Losing Riley Rieff (cap casualty) really placed an emphasis on Minnesota needing to refortify its offensive line. Addressing a feeble pass rush is still of importance, but without a better offensive line, Minnesota's entire offense will horribly stagnate. Vera-Tucker's versatility instantly improves the integrity of Minnesota's offensive line. Having played guard and left tackle in college, Vera-Tucker is a day one plug and play asset. Pass rushers will be pushed further down this draft because of the abundance of offensive talent, so the Vikings may be able to acquire a undervalued edge specialist in later rounds.
Even if New England trades up in this draft, I still envision them taking Lance over Jones. Sure, Alabama head coach, Nick Saban and Belichick (Pats head coach) go way back, but that doesn't mean Mac Jones gets the keys to the Patriots' kingdom. Belichick has been frustrated lately, by offenses with uber, athletic quarterbacks like Mahomes, Jackson, Watson and even Herbert). He may view Lance, an extremely athletic, dual threat quarterback, as a means to ultimately prove Brady wasn't the only reason New England won Super Bowls.
Having signed cornerback Malcolm Butler in the off-season, Arizona can turn its attention to the defensive interior and possibly take Barmore. Drafting the disruptive Barmore would immediately improve the run defense, while helping linebackers and the secondary become less compromised in pass coverage. Less of a pass rusher and more of a disruptive force, his ability to control and reset the line of scrimmage could prove invaluable to Arizona.
The Raiders will face at least two franchise quarterbacks (Mahomes, Herbert) twice a year for the next 10 seasons, so being able to blitz and cover impacts their ability to pressure these talented passers. Las Vegas lacks a linebacker with the agility to drop into coverage, but, Koramoah provides the athleticism and intelligence to do so on pass plays. A lean athlete with excellent closing speed, once his football awareness matches his athleticism, he may be a top 10 NFL outside linebacker. Koramoah is a player with massive upside and star potential.
The Dolphins are truly living right if they manage to navigate the draft and are able to take Smith with the 18th overall pick. Smith lasting this long, or falling this far depending on one's perspective, would likely be tied to his narrow frame and listed weight of 166 pounds. Regardless, he's a top 10 talent that could be reunited with Tagovailoa, his college quarterback and national champion teammate. Smith in the slot would be difficult to contain and help leverage his athleticism against defenders.
I wouldn't be surprised if New England and Washington have Lance and Jones flip-flopped from how I have them slated. Ironically, we're unaccustomed to seeing Belichick win consistently with mobile quarterbacks, or Rivera (Washington's head coach) have sustained success with pocket passers. Yet, Jones to Washington makes sense because they have a sound offensive line with talented skill players, and the defense is playoff caliber and improving. In college, Jones proved when the pieces around him are in place he can lead a team to greatness.
Who are the Chicago Bears? A team predicated by stifling defenses and a relentless running attack? Or are the Bears a team in search of an identity that's unrecognizable to fans and a storied legacy? This 20th pick almost feels like a pivotal choice that may define the Bears going forward, and no one, not even the front office seems absolute about the direction. Pace (general manager) has never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round, but he has taken a wide receiver. Chicago takes Bateman to play opposite Robinson, and possibly replace him next season.
Phillips offers a fantastic blend of power, length, quickness and scheme versatility that many of his peers in this draft class don't.. Nagging injuries dogged him earlier in his career at UCLA, until he revitalized his abilities this past season at Miami (FL). Phillips is strong against the run, especially with backside containment. He's a diverse defender who can compete as a 4-3 defensive end, or standing as an edge rusher in a 3-4 alignment. The Colts gain a balanced player should they choose Phillips this far into the first round
Farley had top 15, possibly top ten draft aspirations within his grasp before undergoing microdiscectomy surgery several weeks ago. When healthy, Farley moves like a gazelle with speed and a twitchy quickness, that makes him nearly impossible to shake in coverage. Excellent size (6'2", 197 lbs) and agility enhance his ability to mirror wideouts with natural ease and suffocating attachment. Tennessee is making a high risk / high reward selection if they take Farley, so easing him back to complete health is a necessity.
Ojulari is the electric type of player a team and city like New York needs to reinvigorate its football culture. The "Big Apple" has seen some impressive edge rushers over the years, like Mark Gastineau (Jets), Lawrence Taylor and Michael Strahan (Giants). Ojulari is a twitchy, athletic player who showcases a reactive quickness that puts blockers on their heels, and stresses the perimeter protection of an offensive line. He plays with the same tenacity as those aforementioned greats, the Jets just need to draft him if he lasts to the 23rd spot.
The loss of Bud Dupree to injury last season hampered the Steelers' defense down the stretch. Now that Dupree is no longer on the roster (via free agency) it's imperative Pittsburgh find his replacement. Collins is differently skilled than Dupree, but every bit as disruptive and varied in how he affects offenses. Collins' playmaking skills hit a different level this past season, intercepting four passes and returning two for scores. If he falls to Pittsburgh, there is zero chance Collins gets past the 24th pick in the draft.
Jacksonville is in an advantageous position to take the first (arguably best) safety in the draft. Should the Jaguars choose Moehrig, they'll be acquiring a player who is always around the "action" due in part to his ability to diagnose plays and position himself accordingly. Moehrig is a secure tackler in space and true ballhawk, who dispels the notion that defensive backs are "failed" receivers that can't catch.
After acquiring Jadeveon Clowney via free agency, Cleveland has positioned themselves to be a dominating defense for the next several years. Adding Davis to the roster would solidify my assertion and quite possibly exceed my lofty expectations for the Browns' defense. Davis may be the best coverage linebacker in this draft class and his ability to run fluidly, flip his hips while shadowing receivers is second to none.
Trading away right tackle Orlando Brown may affect the continuity of Baltimore's run-heavy offense, but drafting Jenkins ensures that the adjustment would be temporary. Making the trade allows Baltimore to address two "need" areas with first round talent. Selecting Jenkins provides the Ravens with a player who doesn't relinquish any engaged block until he's either pancaked his opponent, or removed him completely from the play. The Ravens stay consistent with their identity as a football organization built on toughness if they take Jenkins.
Newsome has quickly and almost quietly risen up many draft boards, due in part to his size (6-1, 190 lbs), speed (4.38 seconds in the 40 yard dash) and overall consistency as a corner defender. He led the Big Ten conference in pass breakups (11) during the 2019 season, and his highlight, one-handed interception against Ohio State (Big Ten Championship game) was amazing. Newsome moves on from the Windy City to the Big Easy where he'll make life difficult for Saints' opponents.
Green Bay has some serious issues within the center of its run defense. The Packers' returning two inside linebackers combined for just 119 tackles. There were 15 defensemen, who individually made more tackles than Green Bay's combined inside linebackers. If the "Cheeseheads" draft Bolton, they'll be acquiring a premier run-stopper who strikes ballcarriers with explosive, bone-jarring hits. Bolton is an impact run defender and exactly the presence Green Bay needs on its second level of defense.
Buffalo, like most AFC teams, lacks enough speedy gamebreakers on offense to keep up with the Chiefs high-octane scoring capability. Enter Kadarius Toney, a quicker than thought receiver, who is nearly impossible to contain and dynamic with or without the ball. His ability is so threatening to opposing teams, when he's used as a decoy it dramatically shifts the defense's attention in his direction. Toney is a virtual mismatch where ever he lines up on the offense. The Bills finally acquire a Tyreek Hill (all-pro wideout) like weapon for their pro bowl quarterback, Josh Allen.
Baltimore wants a dependable receiver that can beat press coverage, run routes efficiently and catch contested passes consistently. Marshall can do all of that and more from any receiver position on the field. His lean, slender frame showcases a significant catching radius that allows him to snatch passes away from defensive backs. Marshall also possesses elite level long speed that will ultimately be his "money making" skill set in the NFL. He can be a feature receiver or slide seamlessly into an offense's wide open passing schemes.
Tampa Bay can basically select any position, even place kicker or punter and it wouldn't matter for this season. Even though Tom Brady ( age: eternal) may be playing year-to-year, the organization must always have an eye toward the future. Drafting Onwuzurike provides depth for this year's championship drive, while simultaneously preparing for any one of several defensive linemen's depature, via free agency. Blessed with great size, strength and length, Onwuzurike possesses that "special burst" which puts offensive linemen instantly on the defensive.