By Shan Reddy
It’s hard to believe that the draft is finally here! As we count down the days, here is my final mock draft of the offseason, outlining where I think teams will go on draft day. I’m taking into account all of the hints, rumors and leaks that we’ve heard up until this point on Wednesday before Thursday’s draft.
Enjoy this, and enjoy draft week!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This one’s a no-brainer, and has been written in ink for nearly three years now. New Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer begins a multi-year transformation in Jacksonville with Lawrence at the helm for the next decade.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Jets land a franchise quarterback here that hopefully ends a fatefully long streak of failed signal callers for Gang Green. Wilson has been compared to every one of the top strong-armed gunslinger QB’s the NFL has seen in recent decades, from Brett Favre to Patrick Mahomes to Aaron Rodgers. If he gets anywhere close to those guys, he’ll have been a slam dunk.
3. San Francisco 49ers: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
In my opinion, Fields is the second-best quarterback in this class. He’s a special athlete that put up bonkers numbers in 2019 for the Buckeyes. He’s never lost in the Big 10, gets rave reviews from the OSU staff and most teams would be ecstatic to take him at No. 1 overall in any other year. He’ll add a dimension to the 49ers offense that Jimmy G has never been able to.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Falcons don’t seem to have much leverage to trade back, though that would be the most prudent move at this point. With picks five through seven unlikely to be QBs, the Falcons will likely have to stay put if they want to grab their guy. And just about every word coming out of front offices and scouting departments league-wide over the past few weeks has been that Florida’s Kyle Pitts is everyone’s guy. The Falcons offense instantly becomes just about impossible to defensively gameplan for.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OL, Oregon
The Bengals nab, in my opinion, the best player in the draft not named Trevor Lawrence. They could go wideout here, but this year’s class is deep at wideout, and Sewell’s upside is just too high to pass up. And hey, the last time Cincinnati took a swing on a hyper-athletic left tackle out of the Pac-12 at the top of the draft, it turned out pretty well (see 1980 NFL Draft).
6. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Here the Dolphins add a long-term No. 1 receiver to take their offense to the next level and pair with an already strong defense. They have a chance to make a playoff push next year and are in a key window while Tua Tagovailoa remains on a rookie contract.
7. New England Patriots: Trey Lance, QB, NDSU
New England sends their 2021 1st (No. 15), 2021 2nd (No. 46), 2021 4th (120), and 2022 2nd for Detroit’s 2021 1st (No. 7) and their 2022 5th.
This offseason, Bill Belichick proved he’s willing to pay big to get the player he wants. He swaps picks with his assistant Matt Patricia’s former team and hands over some serious draft capital, but lands a huge-upside future franchise quarterback in Trey Lance. Meanwhile, newly minted Lions GM Brad Holmes adds picks that will come in handy for a team in need of improvement at a variety of positions.
8. Carolina Panthers: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
The Panthers can’t expect to get good quarterback play out of Sam Darnold with Cam Erving and Pat Elflein starting on their offensive line. They grab a versatile and technically sound lineman who could start at left tackle on day one.
9. Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
As much as it pains me to steal him from LB-needy teams like the Giants and Lions, Parsons makes too much sense in Vic Fangio’s defense.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
All of the best players on the board right now are from the Crimson Tide! The Cowboys grab arguably the best defensive player in the draft and fill a hole at corner that’s been glaring for years.
11. New York Giants: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
I hate to bash a former Cardinal, but Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is everything Blake Martinez ’16 is not. He’s fast, athletic, rangey and most of all, has impressive coverage ability. He’s the modern-day NFL linebacker, and he’ll add dynamism and versatility to a defense that struggled last season.
12. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Horn has sparked a lot of buzz over the past few weeks since putting up impressive numbers at his pro day. New Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was formerly a defensive back coach, and will relish Horn’s strong technique, high energy and competitiveness.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Christian Darrisaw, OL, Virginia Tech
Darrisaw’s combination of size and movement skills are rare; he has unrealized All-Pro potential. The Chargers need improvement at every position on their offensive line except for center; with this pick, Justin Herbert’s blindside will be protected for years to come.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC
The Vikings could seriously benefit from taking their pick of all of the edges sitting on the board right now. Unfortunately, their offensive line is simply too thin for them to have the luxury of looking any other way. In my opinion, Vera-Tucker is a top-ten talent in this draft, and will be a day-one Pro Bowl-caliber guard; he can also start at left tackle in a pinch and has versatility to move all over the line. He’s an easy pick for the Vikings at this spot.
15. Detroit Lions: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Lions drop back eight spots and still manage to land their guy in DeVonta Smith. New offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn will enjoy having a route-running specialist that will remind him of Keenan Allen from his time in Los Angeles. Smith comes in and instantly becomes WR1 in arguably the league’s worst receiving corps.
16. Indianapolis Colts: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Arizona sends their 2021 1st (No. 16) and a 2021 7th (No. 243) to Indianapolis in exchange for the Colts’ 2021 1st (No. 21) and 2022 3rd.
The Colts jump up here to grab a juiced-up T.Y. Hilton in Jaylen Waddle, who very well could go as many as ten spots higher than No. 16 on draft day. If he drops, it will be injury concerns that do it; he’s a field-stretching playmaker that will add to arguably the best receiving corps quarterback Carson Wentz has ever had.
17. Washington Football Team: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Las Vegas sends their 2021 1st (No. 17) to Washington in exchange for the WFT’s 2021 1st (No. 19) and 2022 2nd.
The WFT jumps up a few picks to secure Mac Jones as their future QB. Jones probably won’t be a high-end starter at the next level, but has the potential to evolve into a Kirk Cousins-caliber player. He’s a good decision maker but won’t wow you with arm talent or athleticism. He could take over for Ryan Fitzpatrick by the season’s halfway mark.
18. Miami Dolphins: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Zaven Collins is long, explosive, versatile and reminiscent of Miami HC Brian Flores’ former starting middle linebacker in New England, Dont’a Hightower. Collins can play multiple roles in Flores’ defense and will be impactful from sideline to sideline for the Dolphins.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Teven Jenkins, OL, Oklahoma State
Jenkins just feels like a Gruden guy. He buries his opponents and punishes defenders at the second level. He will start immediately in Trent Brown’s stead at right tackle.
20. Chicago Bears: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Bears front office will likely be cleared out by the end of this season if the team doesn’t make the playoffs; so, they take a player to increase their chances of that happening sooner rather than later. Even though Chicago will have Andy Dalton at the helm, this pick will round out a dynamic receiving corps that should give the team a chance to make a push for a Wild Card berth this coming season.
21. Arizona Cardinals: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Injury history aside, Caleb Farley is a top-ten talent, and arguably the top defensive player in the class. He has all of the requisite size and athleticism to be a high-level starter for any secondary, and if he can stay healthy, the Cardinals will have a Pro Bowl-caliber replacement for Patrick Peterson sooner than they anticipated.
22. Tennessee Titans: Christian Barmore, IDL, Alabama
Though Tennessee’s receiving corps could definitely use some improvement, they have a solid starting duo in A.J. Brown and Josh Reynolds. Meanwhile, they’re thin along the defensive line. The Titans newly signed defensive end Bud Dupree and fourth-year edge rusher Harold Landry III will greatly benefit from an interior defensive line capable of generating some pressure; Christian Barmore could start at either nose tackle or the 3-4 defensive end spot and constitute a formidable duo alongside Jeffery Simmons.
23. New York Jets: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
Though the Jets could really use an upgrade at pass rusher, their cornerback room is incredibly thin. Their current starting duo of Bryce Hall and Bless Austin is simply not going to cut it; Newsome II gives them a developmental starter with fluidity and quickness that should make him a stud by year two.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
This is one of the more popular picks right now, and one that makes a lot of sense for where the Pittsburgh offense stands today. Big Ben is not getting any younger, and the loss of running back James Conner means that the backfield needs some improvement to take the load off of the passing game. Harris is a bell-cow, three-down back with the ability to help out as a pass-catcher. He’ll give the Pittsburgh offense some much-needed juice.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
The secondary was a priority for the Jaguars this offseason; it will continue to be a point of focus for them in the draft. Moehrig is a combo safety who can blitz, cover in man responsibilities and play single high in deep coverage. He’s versatile and dependable, and should lock down the free safety spot for many years to come.
26. Cleveland Browns: Levi Onwuzurike, IDL, Washington
After losing both Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson this offseason, the Browns are in dire need of a new 3-tech to hold it down in the middle of their defensive line. They’re forced to take a reach pick in Levi Onwuzurike out of Washington, who has the size, length and hand strength to develop into a high-level starter for an already stacked Cleveland defensive line.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami (FL)
Phillips will likely fit better into a traditional 4-3 scheme, but has shown the ability to be a stand-up outside rusher in the past. He’s simply too athletically gifted and technically skilled to not get snagged by an edge-needy team at this point in the draft.
28. New Orleans Saints: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
One of the SEC’s most productive defenders last season, Bolton is undersized but highly instinctive. He boasts athleticism and an elite football IQ that will allow him to start on day one in the middle of a Saints defense in need of a run-and-chase guy to pair up with an aging Demario Davis.
29. Green Bay Packers: Landon Dickerson, C, Alabama
The Packers could use upgrades at center, right guard and right tackle. Here, they grab a replacement for Corey Linsley that looks to be a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber player in Dickerson if he can stay healthy. Dickerson’s a top-notch talent with a throwback style of play; he’ll fit in perfectly in Green Bay.
30. Buffalo Bills: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Though he didn’t put up wild numbers in college, Kwity Paye’s tape is impressive; the Bills would be lucky to get him at this spot. Paye’s athleticism and strength indicate that he could develop into a highly productive rusher sooner rather than later; he could start immediately as a strong-side end in Sean McDermott’s base 4-3 system.
31. Baltimore Ravens: Gregory Rousseau, DL, Miami (FL)
At this point in his development, it doesn’t make much sense to peg Rousseau as a specialist; a creative defensive coordinator will be able to leverage his ability to rush from anywhere, from the 3-tech to the 6-tech. He’ll be a rotational guy to start, and will learn from veterans Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Ojulari could easily go twenty picks higher than this spot; the Bucs would be ecstatic to get him here. Tampa Bay is razor thin at edge; JPP’s contract is expiring at the end of this season, and if either he or Shaq Barrett miss time for whatever reason this year, Tampa has Anthony Nelson and not much else to back them up. Ojulari would come in rotationally, learn from Tampa’s veteran edges and take over as a high-impact starter in year two.