When you’re doing your first mock draft of the year, and you know you’re going to do a lot more of them, it’s good to take different approaches for each one. There will be the “What I would do” mock, the “What I think teams will do” mock, the “Some team trades for Deshaun Watson for 12 first-rounders and completely upsets the draft order” mock… you get the idea.
For my first mock of 2021, I wanted to keep the teams static without any blockbuster trades, and get a sense of team fit, team needs, and where I align the 32 players in this mock in the big board in my head. So, this mock is about half what I think teams should or would do, and half where I think each player stacks up from the top, with positional value an obvious constraint.
As far as surprises — you may notice that there are no running backs in my first round. This is primarily because I’m conflicted between what I consider to be the two top backs in this class — Alabama’s Najee Harris, and North Carolina’s Javonte Williams. Harris may be the more well-rounded player, but Williams runs with an effective violence I haven’t seen since peak Marshawn Lynch.
The question is: Would you take either guy in the first round? I often see Harris mocked to the Dolphins in the late first round. But if I’m running the Miami front office, and I have the choice between a great running back, and a receiver like Florida’s Kadarius Toney, who could immediately help Tua Tagovailoa with the timing and rhythm aspects of his game, I know where I’m going. I’m on Team Kadarius. And if I did take a running back in the first round, it would be Williams over Harris.
You may also notice that I have a “linebacker” — Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah — taken with the seventh overall pick. That may seem like an overdraft if you haven’t watched Owusu-Koramoah’s tape and you just go by the linebacker designation. After all, NFL teams played more dime than base in 2020, per Sports Info Solutions. But as was the case for Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons in 2020, Owusu-Koramoah transcends any positional designation. He is the very model of the modern versatile defender. Simmons was taken eighth overall by the Cardinals, and I think Owusu-Koramoah could be similarly coveted.
I also haven’t seen TCU safety Trevon Moehrig mocked as high as I have him (12th overall to the 49ers), but the more I watched his tape, the more I came away believing that this is a do-it-all guy as a crucial position. I am not concerned with dings about his deep-third coverage ability; I think if you want him back there, he’ll be just fine. But that he can also roll up to linebacker depth and shred the living daylights out of whoever has the ball? That’s what you want in a modern defensive back.
With all that said, here’s my first mock of 2021. As always, any criticism should be structured in ad hominem form and misspelled as often as possible.
(All advanced metrics courtesy of Pro Football Focus and Sports Info Solutions).
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
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Lawrence is the best player in the 2021 class, and he has that high floor/high ceiling combination every team wants at every position, but especially at quarterback. Over three seasons with the Tigers, Lawrence completed 758 of 1,138 passes for 10,098 yards, 90 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, and a passer rating of 164.3. He increased his completion percentage, his yards per attempt, and his adjusted yards per attempt in each of those three seasons, and there really isn't anything that confounds him. When under pressure in 2020, he completed 28 of 69 passes for 449 yards, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions. Lawrence also ran 68 times last season for 208 yards and eight touchdowns, so there should be no question about his effective mobility. The future is now in Jacksonville, and its name is Trevor Lawrence. https://twitter.com/Nate_Tice/status/1364651369622245378
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
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Sam Darnold deserves the chance to show his athletic potential outside the nightmare that is an Adam Gase offense, but new Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur also deserves the opportunity to get his quarterback and work from there. While I do believe that Darnold could work decently in a LaFleur offense, there are going to be a lot of Kyle Shanahan/Matt LaFleur characteristics in the Jets' new system, and Darnold isn't the first guy who comes to mind when you think about a quarterback who excels in boot-action and the other staples. Wilson, on the other hand, has the perfect profile to bring the most out of that type of scheme. An easy thrower on the move, Wilson also has the demonstrated ability to make consistently accurate second-reaction throws. He was especially devastating when using play-action, completing 89 of 123 passes for 1,548 yards, 20 touchdowns, and no interceptions. https://twitter.com/RealD_Jackson/status/1364803109873139715
3. Miami Dolphins (via Houston Texans): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
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In his rookie season, Tua Tagovailoa was pressured on 95 of his 326 dropbacks, completing 29 of 66 passes for 310 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions under pressure. Tua was responsible for some of those pressures, but Miami's offensive tackles combined to allow eight sacks, 20 quarterback hits, and 95 quarterback hurries last season. Sewell would put half of that to rest in a big hurry; the only question is whether the Dolphins would move him from left to right tackle to protect the lefty's blind side. He opted out of the 2020 season, but in a year and a half as a starter at Oregon, Sewell gave up just one sack, three quarterback hits, and 11 quarterback hurries in 670 pass-blocking snaps. His combination of movement skills and raw power is unmatched in this class, and he's one of the best tackle prospects of the last decade. https://twitter.com/NFL_DougFarrar/status/1359325654584590336
4. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
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The recent canard about Fields being a "one-read" quarterback is just that; our colleague Steven Ruiz over at For The Win demolished that myth with an outstanding tape piece. However, there is a hesitancy to Fields' overall processing that gives me pause; it showed up particularly heavy in Ohio State's 22-10 win over Northwestern on December 19 when Fields completed 12 of 27 passes for 114 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. Too often, Fields looks slow when he's deciphering what's going on out there, and that doesn't bode well for his professional future. But if new Falcons head coach Arthur Smith turned Ryan Tannehill into a top-shelf quarterback as the Titans' offensive coordinator (Spoiler: he did), perhaps Smith can also speed up Fields' clock while maximizing his attributes -- accuracy, mobility, and a great downfield touch. Last season, Fields completed 19 of 32 passes of 20 or more air yards for 709 yards, nine touchdowns, and two interceptions.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Yes, Cincinnati's offensive line was a disasterbacle in 2020, and if Penei Sewell and Ja'Marr Chase are both still on the board with the fifth overall pick, I wouldn't blame the Bengals at all if they took Sewell to keep Joe Burrow out of the fire. You're not going to get very far offensively if your quarterback is pressured on 146 of his 453 dropbacks despite a predominantly quick passing game, as Burrow was last season before he suffered ACL and LCL injuries in Week 10. But if the choice is Chase, Cincinnati's offense gets a jet-pack right off the bat. Last we saw of Chase, who opted out of the 2020 season, he was taking in 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns from Burrow himself, and nuking every defense LSU faced in 2019. Chase is as clean a player as you'll find in this draft class. He doesn't have any discernible flaws, and the things that stand out -- ridiculous strength and determination from the line of scrimmage to the catch point to after the catch, outstanding route awareness, and sudden acceleration at the second level -- really stand out. I recently wrote an entire article about how Chase has been able to dominate defenses with simple slant routes, and he reminds me of Green Bay's Davante Adams in his refusal to be denied the football.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Pitts, TE/WR, Florida
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New Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni has quite the challenge as his new team rebuilds on both sides of the ball, and the obvious issue is getting whoever replaces Carson Wentz past all the problems Wentz faced that were not of his own making. An uncertain receiver corps is certainly among the primary issues, so let's give Coach an easy answer in Pitts, perhaps the most obvious matchup nightmare in this draft class. https://twitter.com/kylepitts__/status/1356419527395799040 Pardon his reach, indeed. Watching Pitts body defenders, display a ridiculous catch radius, and create when the play has broken down brings to mind how Travis Kelce completes the Chiefs' offense, and Pitts could have an immediate similar impact in any offense -- even an offense that is very much under construction. And if you need a deep threat? Pitts caught 10 passes on 17 targets of 20 or more air yards last season for 335 yards and five touchdowns. He's the kind of player you can build a passing game around from Day 1.
7. Detroit Lions: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Defense, Notre Dame
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A linebacker with the seventh overall pick to the Lions, who need all kinds of roster help? It sounds ridiculous until you watch Owusu-Koramoah's tape and realize that linebacking, albeit at a very high level, is only part of the story. Last season, Owusu-Koramoah played 212 snaps in the box, 331 snaps in the slot, 88 snaps on the defensive line, 14 snaps at outside cornerback, and two snaps at free safety (!). Just as Clemson's Isaiah Simmons broke the mold in 2019 with his multi-positional acumen, Owusu-Koramoah has all the tools to define a defense with his speed to the ballcarrier, agility in coverage, and ability to move past blocks to create pressure. And as proved to be true for Simmons, Owusu-Koramoah will have to be in the right scheme with the right defensive coordinator to make this work. The Cardinals seemed confused by Simmons' versatility; perhaps new Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn -- who just spent five seasons as the Saints' secondary coach -- would have a better sense of how to make the best home for a truly unique player. https://twitter.com/collegegameday/status/1345063589544161280?lang=en
8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
(Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Those who are compelled to give Lance's tenure with the Bison an "incomplete" will point to his 18 games, and strength of competition that topped out at Illinois State or Butler. That's one way to look at it, but when you isolate Lance as a player, it's clear that he has what it takes to succeed in the NFL -- especially an NFL in which quarterbacks are asked more than ever to use their mobility to create outside of structure and make second-reaction throws. Lance finds it almost impossible to make turnover throws -- he totaled 28 touchdowns and no interceptions in his collegiate career -- and that's not because he's risk-averse. In 2019, Lance also completed 17 of 44 passes of 20 or more air yards for 10 touchdowns. Oh, he also ran 169 times for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. You'd think Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady would love to take a player with Lance's attributes and fill in the blanks, and odds are, it wouldn't take too long. https://twitter.com/Nate_Tice/status/1365033949165064194
9. Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
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While Bryce Callahan was perhaps the NFL's best slot cornerback in 2020, the Broncos didn't have much else going on at the position. A.J. Bouye is an impending free agent, and Denver's outside cornerbacks in total allowed eight touchdowns to just one interception last season. While quarterback is the primary question on Denver's roster (which year is it again?), the Broncos aren't going anywhere near an AFC West title until and unless they shore up the cornerback position. Surtain, the son of the cornerback who played for the Dolphins and Chiefs from 1998 through 2008 and grabbed 37 interceptions in his NFL career, comes into the league with a lot of the same characteristics. If you want to understand how advanced Surtain's game is, consider that he was starting for Nick Saban as a true freshman. https://twitter.com/CrockerReport/status/1361687859128897544 Perhaps the only ding on Surtain's game is his deep speed -- the only two touchdowns he allowed last season came on passes of 20 or more air yards, but those touchdowns were the only completions he allowed on such passes last season, and he was able to use his technique and acumen to force five deep incompletions. Surtain is as immediate a starter at the position as you'll find in this class, which is precisely what the Broncos need.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
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It was primarily the fault of former defensive coordinator Mike Nolan that Dallas' defense experienced an epic faceplant in 2020 -- a pass defense that had allowed 21 touchdowns and picked off seven passes in 2019 (pre-Nolan) gave up 34 touchdowns to nine picks in 2020, and Dallas' cornerbacks were directly responsible for 16 of those scores. So, the combination of bad play and bad scheme was... well, bad. Rookie Trevon Diggs showed some potential when he was able, but other than that, the need for improvement is obvious. Enter Caleb Farley, who chose to stay in school for the 2020 season before opting out. It's pretty certain he would have been a high first-round pick a year ago, and he'll certainly be one now based on the tape teams have. https://twitter.com/Jordan_Reid/status/1341477462136504324 In 2019, Farley was a pain to target no matter the range of the throw -- he gave up eight receptions on 12 targets of 0-9 air yards, one completion on 12 targets of 10-19 air yards, and four completions on 15 targets of 20 or more air yards. All told through two seasons, Farley allowed 50 catches on 104 targets for 720 yards, 244 yards after the catch, five touchdowns (four in 2018), six interceptions (four in 2019) and an opponent passer rating of 63.0. Farley is primed to succeed in the NFL right away, and goodness knows the Cowboys could use that.
11. New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
(Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports)
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said in January that it's his goal to surround quarterback Daniel Jones with more playmakers, and if this is the way the draft falls, Gettleman could do far worse than selecting Waddle with the eleventh overall pick. https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/1317659249556680706 Yeah, one wrong move with this guy, and you'll be eating his dust. Waddle played just six games in 2020 due to an ankle injury, but he still posted 28 catches for 591 yards and four touchdowns. A ridiculously explosive player on everything from sweep handoffs to deep posts, Waddle caught five of six targets of 20 or more air yards for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The only question here would be whether Daniel Jones could hit those deep posts (especially under pressure), but any offensive coordinator should be able to find ways for Waddle to blow opposing defenses up.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
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Change is coming to the 49ers' secondary in a major, major way. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, and K'Waun Williams are all impending free agents, as is safety/do-it-all guy Jaquiski Tartt. That leaves Tarvarius Moore, Jimmie Ward, and Marcell Harris as San Francisco's safeties, and those three guys allowed a total of seven touchdowns and had no interceptions last season. Few NFL executives understand the value of a field-tilting safety better than 49ers GM John Lynch, as Lynch was one for a number of years. And at this point, with the two best cornerbacks in this class gone, the 49ers might want to avail themselves of the best safety in the 2021 class. That would be Trevon Moehrig, the most recent winner of the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in college football every year. https://twitter.com/Paycom/status/1347355632593035268 Moehrig spent equal time in the box, in the slot, and at free safety last season in TCU's split-field coverage, and he was an eraser wherever he lined up. In three seasons with the Horned Frogs, Moehrig allowed 49 catches on 96 targets for 533 yards, 253 yards after the catch, five touchdowns, seven interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 54.7. Moehrig can do everything from stopping run fits to rolling to the deep third with ease, and there's Defensive Rookie of the Year potential here in the right scheme.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
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That Justin Herbert was able to have such an incredible rookie campaign with such a broken offensive line speaks volumes about his athletic potential, but the Chargers should be looking to fix that problem with a quickness. Last season, that offensive line allowed 201 total pressures, tied with the Eagles behind only the Jets as the league's worst. Slater, who opted out of the 2020 season, had quite the 2019 campaign. Not only did he allow no sacks and just five total pressures on 355 pass-blocking snaps, he held up better than just about any other collegiate offensive tackle when facing Ohio State's Chase Young. The reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year was limited to no sacks, no quarterback hits, and two quarterback hurries with Slater as his primary opponent. https://twitter.com/KyleYNFL/status/1347603469067317249 Slater has an ideal combination of technique and nastiness, and because of his 6-foot-4, 305-pound frame, there are those who believe he'd be better suited to guard at the next level. I can see that. but I also think he'd be just fine outside. Regardless, if Slater is available with this pick, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco should turn his name in as quickly as he possibly can.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
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Last season, the Vikings had just 23 sacks and 186 total pressures -- both numbers ranked in the NFL's bottom five. A precipitous drop from the 48 sacks and 263 pressures Minnesota had in 2019, and given head coach Mike Zimmer's defensive acumen, you'd assume he'd want to do something about that. At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Rousseau is built like a very pissed-off power forward, and his positional versatility is a big plus. Though he projects obviously as an edge defender with his athleticism, he's also more than capable of kicking inside and providing quarterback disruption between the tackles. He also has the range to cover tight ends and slot receivers on zone drops. Rousseau will need to work on his array of hand moves and counters -- like most top-level collegiate defensive linemen, he was able to skate by to a degree on his freakish physical gifts. Give him a year and a whole lot of coaching, and you could see his 2019 numbers (15.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, 24 quarterback hurries, and 21 run stops) start to transfer to the NFL.
15. New England Patriots: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
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There's an obvious need for a starting-level quarterback in Foxboro, but let's be honest -- if Tom Brady couldn't crack the Patriots' anemic receiver corps in 2019, what chance does anybody else have? It's time for Bill Belichick to go whole hog to fix his worst position group, and if Smith falls this far (perhaps due to concerns about his 175-pound frame?), the Pats should jump all over this one, put Smith in the slot so he doesn't have to get beaten up in press coverage, and let him do what he does in New England's multi-faceted option-heavy passing game. Smith had 46 slot receptions for 863 yards in 2020, and the skill set is easily transferable. Yes, he can play the X-iso role as well, and his getaway speed is ridiculous, so he'd be a perfect addition to a group in desperate need.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
(AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
In Kliff Kingsbury's two seasons as the Cardinals' head coach, Arizona's defense has allowed 64 passing touchdowns, and picked off just 17 passes. Patrick Peterson, the longtime legend of Arizona's secondary, is set to become a free agent, and allowed five touchdowns to three picks in 2020. 2019 second-round cornerback Byron Murphy has allowed 12 touchdowns to just one interception in his brief career. Veteran Dre Kirkpatrick was the only cornerback on the roster who put up a credible performance, and until that changes, it doesn't matter how dynamic Kingsbury's offense is -- he's going to be scheming from behind more often than not. So, maybe they need this guy. https://twitter.com/NFLMaliik/status/1362815102613925892 Not only did Horn do that, he'd be a perfect complement to a defense that played the second-most pass defense snaps in man coverage last season (250, behind only New Orleans' 277). At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Horn has the size, aggressive mentality, and man/match traits to excel in such a defense.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
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Last season, the Raiders ranked 28th in Defensive DVOA, which led to the firing of defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, and the hire of Gus Bradley to replace him. Historically, Bradley has preferred fairly static four-man fronts with a ton of zone coverage, and if that's going to work in Las Vegas, the Raiders are going to have to add pass-rushers who can win without schematic help. In 2020, the Raiders had just 21 sacks and 255 pressures, which did not get the job done. Paye is still a bit rough from a technique standpoint, but you can't teach his athleticism, and he can win from every gap. Throughout his three-year stint with the Wolverines, he has been tasked to line up everywhere from the edge to nose shade, and his 22 total pressures in just 138 pass-rushing snaps in 2020 prove the potential.
18. Miami Dolphins: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
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Do the Dolphins need a premier running back? Given that Myles Gaskin led the team in 2020 with 584 yards and three touchdowns on 142 carries, sure. Do the Dolphins need a complementary receiver to help Tua Tagovailoa round out his game? I think that's a more pressing concern. DeVante Parker is the obvious WR1, and tight end Mike Gesicki is a fine red-zone target, but outside of that... Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford, and Preston Williams are decent options, but for a timing-and-rhythm passer like Tagovailoa, the more receivers you can get open in space, the better your passing game is going to be. Few receivers in this class are better able to present a favorable target to the receiver than Toney, despite his somewhat raw route-running abilities. At any point, he's able to take a simple slant or screen to the house with his short-area speed and ridiculous elusiveness, which tends to take the sting out of the whole route tree thing in the short term. And over time, Toney could become an elite NFL weapon with an expanded route understanding. All the tools are there for him to become Tua Tagovailoa's new best buddy. https://twitter.com/bleacherreport/status/1312461700365340672?lang=en
19. Washington Football Team: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
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To be clear: This is what I think the Washington Football Team might do with its 19th overall pick, given their need for a quarterback after the failed Dwayne Haskins experiment. This is not what I would do, given Jones' severe movement limitations and (at least to date) inability to do anything of note outside the pocket on everything from boot-action throws to scramble drills. In today's NFL, when quarterbacks are asked more than ever to make things happen with movement, having a stationary field general is a big risk. Still, it's tough to ignore Jones' 2020 stats, buttressed as they were by marvelous targets and an dominant offensive line. Last season, Jones completed 311 of 402 passes for 4.500 yards, 41 touchdowns, and four interceptions. When under pressure, Jones completed 56 of 88 passes for 976 yards, 556 air yards, 13 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 131.4. No quarterback in a major program had more touchdown passes or had a higher quarterback rating under pressure. On throws of 20 or more air yards, Jones completed 33 of 56 passes for 1.355 yards, 17 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 128.0. No other quarterback had more deep touchdown passes than Jones. Play-action or not? It didn’t matter. Jones threw 19 touchdown passes to two interceptions with play-action, and 22 touchdown passes to two interceptions without. If Jones can get to the point where he can be at least functional outside the pocket, perhaps he'll be worth the first-round draft capital some team is going to spend for him. Until then, caveat emptor.
20. Chicago Bears: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
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The Bears have, as always, an undefined quarterback situation, and a receiver group that is almost certainly going to lose the (mostly wasted) talents of Allen Robinson in free agency. So, whoever the Bears do trot out there at quarterback this season will need an WR1 to throw to, such as those throws may be. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Bateman fits the profile. He caught 36 passes for 472 yards and two touchdowns in just five 2020 games, and amassed 147 catches for 2,395 yards and 19 touchdowns over three seasons. Bateman won't blow you away with his downfield speed (he caught just two of five passes of 20 or more air yards last season), but if you want a guy who can beat physical cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage, and win at the catch point with a crazy catch radius, Bateman is absolutely that player. In the same way Keenan Allen has carved out an outstanding NFL career without breakaway acceleration, Bateman can be a valuable and reliable target in the league for a number of years. https://twitter.com/andygreder/status/1185663040743727104
21. Indianapolis Colts: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
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Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo's retirement has some people thinking that it's time to move guard Quenton Nelson to left tackle. Instead of negating the best guard in football, how about the Colts just get a new guy to replace Castonzo, and leave the Ultimate Mauler where he is? Sounds like a better plan. Last season, Darrisaw allowed no pressures of any kind -- no sacks, no quarterback hits, and no quarterback hurries -- on 293 pass-blocking snaps. That was a big jump from the three sacks, four hits, and 10 hurries he allowed in 2019. Darrisaw has done work to refine his turn around the arc and kick-slide in pass protection, and let's just say he'd be an ideal complement to an offensive line that prefers to play with a physical nature. You can ask North Carolina pass-rusher Chazz Surratt about that, if Darrisaw has stopped blocking him downfield yet. You think Carson Wentz would like this guy lining up next to Quenton Nelson in 2021 and beyond? I do. https://twitter.com/BenFennell_NFL/status/1315354410151804930
22. Tennessee Titans: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
The failure of 2020 first-round right tackle Isaiah Wilson to get with the program in any sense leaves the Titans with obvious issues up front, but the real and obvious problem for Mike Vrabel's team is a pass rush that accomplished little to nothing last season. Only the Bengals and Jaguars had fewer sacks than Tennessee's 19, their 119 pressures ranked fifth-worst in the NFL, and only the Lions had a lower pressure rate than the Titans' 17.6%. There should be several highly qualified edge-rushers in the bottom half of the first round to help Vrabel and his staff solve that problem, but in this case, I like the fit of Ojulari, who brings a dynamite combination of speed to the pocket, flexibility to dip and rip, and an advanced sense of hand use you don't often see in collegiate defensive linemen. He whipped his way through opposing SEC lines last season with 9.5 sacks, eight quarterback hits, and 20 quarterback hurries... in just 193 pass-rushing snaps. Tennessee needs a quick, easy, and obvious solution to its pass-rush problem, and Ojulari might just be the ticket. https://twitter.com/dlinevids1/status/1345165074537742336
23. New York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks): Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
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Since we've given the Jets a new quarterback in Zach Wilson, let's give Wilson a new table-setting receiver, as the combination of Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, and Breshad Perriman didn't quite measure up. (Kudus to the Jets for allowing Robhy Anderson to leave for Carolina, feast on a more expansive route tree, and become a star. Alas). Now that Mike LaFleur has replaced Adam Gase as the shot-caller in Gang Green's offense, you can expect hallmarks of the Kyle Shanahan passing game, as LaFleur was Shanahan's passing game coordinator in 2019 and 2020, and has been working with Shanahan since 2014. So, expect schemed-open receivers, a ton of motion and backfield movement, and the maximization of targets who can move in space. There are few players in this class more inclined to meet that last qualification than Ole Miss's Elijah Moore. https://twitter.com/CBSSportsNet/status/1337553327106777093 Eli has a point, to a point, about his near-namesake. Last season, Moore caught a preposterous 86 catches for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns in just eight games. Whether from the slot or outside, he consistently proved to be one of the most elusive and toughest receivers to bring down in the country, as his 5.9 yards after catch per reception and 18 forced missed tackles proved. If Moore were 6-0 and 200 pounds putting up those numbers, that would be one thing -- but at 5-foot-11 and 184 pounds, he just packs a wallop you don't often see from receivers his size, and he does so without sacrificing a bit of his game-breaking ability.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
The Steelers aren't just dealing with Ben Roethlisberger's future and the financial ramifications thereof right now -- they also must address an offensive line that will look very different in 2021, due to center Maurkice Pouncey's retirement and left tackle Alejandro Villanueva's impending free agency. Pittsburgh's dire cap situation probably leaves Villanueva as the odd man out, so it's time for reinforcements. Factor in the team's uncertain prospects at left guard (Matt Feiler was decent in that role last season), and the need becomes even more pressing. Vera-Tucker played right and left guard for the Trojans in 2018 and 2019, and was a revelation in 2020 when he kicked out to left tackle. Outside of a very unfortunate series of reps against Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux in his collegiate finale (two sacks and six total pressures allowed), Vera-Tucker shows the kind of inexpensive functional versatility the Steelers could really use right about now. What stands out on first view about Vera-Tucker is that he's extremely aggressive and exact with his hands -- while many blockers even at the NFL level refuse to create a boundary with their hands, he's got that on lock. Many project Vera-Tucker at guard at the next level, but I think that in a power-based offense with a lot of quick passing (hellooo, Pittsburgh), he could be an asset outside if he gets his footwork and kick-slide together. In any event, he's plug-and-play in a lot of ways.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
(Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports)
There's absolutely no question about Parsons' value on the field -- based on that alone, I'd address him as a top-10 talent in this class. But serious off-field issues, including a fight involving Parsons and defensive back Isaiah Humphries that Penn State head coach James Franklin allegedly told Humphries not to report to police, will -- or at least should -- raise the hackles of NFL teams. Humphries sued the school in 2020. There are also allegations of sexual assault related to hazing that must be considered when evaluating the entire Micah Parsons picture. Well the Jaguars need help on a formerly great defense that Tom Coughlin blew apart over the last few years with his "get off my lawn" approach, and to say the least, Urban Meyer has always been... lenient when considering off-field issues. So, with all that said, Parsons is a great defensive player who could add a ton to any defense as an off-ball linebacker, as a slot defender, and as a blitzer on or near the defensive line. At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, he hits like a 260-pound linebacker and moves like a 220-pound safety. There isn't an NFL team that couldn't use his skill set; this process will be far more about culture fit and how Parsons explains himself. The football stuff all checks out at an exceedingly high level. https://twitter.com/PackChalkTalk/status/1359594658851139592
26. Cleveland Browns: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
(Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports)
The Browns proved last season that they're legitimate contenders with talent all over the roster. Where they fall short, however, is at the linebacker position. The combination of Malcolm Smith, Sione Takitaki, B.J. Goodson, and Mack Wilson left the team a bit short at that position, and in the interest of taking Cleveland's defense a step forward, Collins would be a major upgrade. Why? Because Collins has old-school dimensions for the position (6-foot-4, 260 pounds in an era when the average linebacker weighs at least 30 pounds less) with new-school speed, agility, and versatility. Collins did well throughout his collegiate career in the box, on the defensive line, and even in the slot. Last season, he had 16 total pressures, 29 stops, and he allowed 11 receptions on 15 targets in coverage for 59 yards, 43 yards after the catch, one touchdown, four interceptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns, and an opponent passer rating of 62.2. There isn't another linebacker in this class (or in most classes these days) with this particular skill set, and Collins profiles well as everything from a thumper in base defense to a sideline-to-sideline defender in nickel or dime. This game-winning pick-six against Tulane tells you all you need to know.
Of course, there's this, too. Sorry, Broncos. https://twitter.com/JoRo_NFL/status/1355968879055556615
27. Baltimore Ravens: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
(Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
The Ravens got great interior run-stopping and quarterback pressure last season from Derek Wolfe, Brandon Williams, and Calais Campbell (when Campbell kicked inside), but as Campbell will be 35 when the new season begins, and Wolfe turned 31 in February, it might be time for Baltimore to accentuate its top-shelf defense with more power up the middle -- and elsewhere. Barmore, who played in every gap in Nick Saban's defensive line in 2020, would be an immediate do-it-all option for a team that values positional versatility up front. He aligned as an edge-rusher on 15 snaps, over the tackles on 82 snaps, in the B-gap on 298 snaps, and in the A-gap on 82 snaps. Wherever he was, Barmore was a headache for enemy blockers, amassing eight sacks, four quarterback hits, 27 quarterback hurries, and 20 run stops. At 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, Barmore can do everything from crushing guards and centers to blow up run fits to screaming through to the pocket to create pressure. He saved his best for last with seven total pressures and six stops against Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl, and five total pressures (including two sacks) and four stops against Ohio State in the College Football Championship. https://twitter.com/PFF_College/status/1348843537803128838
28. New Orleans Saints: Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
(Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports)
Just as interceptions aren't always a reliable performance barometer for defensive backs, sacks rarely tell the whole story when it comes to edge-rushers. So when we mention that Oweh didn't have a single sack in his 2020 season, you may think he had a down year from his five-sack season in 2019. But he did have 20 total pressures and 21 run stops in just 347 snaps in 2020, and the tape shows a lot more than the stat sheet does. If you want to know what Oweh's opponents thought of him, ask Ohio State, who double-teamed him more often than not, and tended to regret it in the run game when they didn't. Oweh didn't have a single pressure of any kind in that game, but again, the tape showed an impact player in the ways the Buckeyes made him a focal point. https://twitter.com/BenFennell_NFL/status/1320472577693913089 The Saints could lose Trey Hendrickson in free agency, and though Oweh's football experience is relatively limited -- he didn't start playing the game until his junior year of high school, though he received scholarship offers from Ohio State and Michigan before deciding on the Nittany Lions -- he shows all the natural attributes to be a plus-level pass-rusher in the NFL.
29. Green Bay Packers: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
(Nikos Frazier | Journal & Courier-Imagn Content Services, LLC)
Aaron Rodgers wanted new offensive weapons last season, and though the Packers' offense performed well without them, there were issues. In the 2020 season, Davante Adams led the NFL with 14 touchdowns when facing single-high coverage. When facing two-high coverage, he scored just one touchdown. Opposing defenses were able to double Adams with impunity with deep safeties because there was nobody to force those defenders into the box as underneath weapons in the passing game. The addition of Rondale Moore would be huge for Matt LaFleur's offense because Moore is so dynamic on screens, slants, and other quick routes. Combined with Green Bay's pre-snap motion concepts and play-action game, having a weapon of Moore's caliber, especially after the catch, would give the Packers an entirely different (and much-needed) dimension. https://twitter.com/BoilerFootball/status/1261058889388298241
30. Buffalo Bills: Asante Samuel Jr., CB, Florida State
(Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports)
Last season, the Bills had two defenses: The one where cornerback Tre'Davious White was healthy (quite good) and the one where he wasn't (not so good at all). Though White is a top-three player when healthy and Buffalo may have the NFL's best safety duo in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, it's been tough for the franchise to find the ideal bookend for White. Taron Johnson established himself as a presence in the slot last season, but Levi Wallace hasn't become that guy on the outside. If the Bills are to finally grab that elusive Lombardi Trophy, it's time for new blood out there. The son of the former Patriots, Eagles, and Falcons defensive back who played in the NFL from 2003 through 2013 (in case you want to feel old), Samuel was especially effective in zone coverage last season -- in those instances, he allowed nine receptions on 19 targets for 97 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. He's a perfect fit for Buffalo's aggressive, zone-heavy defense, either from the slot or outside. Just don't think he can't hold up outside on a regular basis because of his size -- the tape, as they say, don't lie. https://twitter.com/BSonnone/status/1064247411114168321
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Landon Dickerson, OL, Alabama
(Gary Cosby Jr-Imagn Content Services, LLC)
If there's one thing the Chiefs learned on the way to try and defend their Super Bowl title in the 2020 season, it's that offensive line depth is good. Of course, it's a horrible liability to be down both of your left tackles when you're facing a Buccaneers team in Super Bowl LV that put together the defensive game plan of the year, but Todd Bowles got a lot of help from that decimated Kansas City front five. Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz should be back for the 2021 season, and that's great -- the Chiefs especially missed Schwartz, who's the best right tackle in the NFL -- but there's every reason to believe Andy Reid's team could be in the next Super Bowl, and they'll want to avoid bringing a knife to that particular gunfight. At 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, Alabama's Landon Dickerson didn't just establish himself with authority as the Crimson Tide's center over three seasons; he also has experience at every position along the offensive line. Not that he'd do it at a Schwartz level, but Dickerson played 59 snaps at left tackle and 51 at right tackle in 2018, and had 216 snaps at right guard in 2019, along with 32 snaps at left guard in 2020. Of course, you want Dickerson on that wall as a center, and he's a damned good one. Over three seasons in total, he allowed just one sack, four quarterback hits, and eight quarterback hurries, and he's a total road-grader in the run game. Dickerson is recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in the SEC title game, but when he's recovered from that, he'd be a huge upgrade in the middle for a team that will likely shore up its O-line issues with a vengeance this offseason. https://twitter.com/BenFennell_NFL/status/1334314433330483207
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
(Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports)
Bucs edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett, who had a legitimate case to be Super Bowl LV's Most Valuable Player, recently said that he's ready to cash in as a free agent. “I’m most definitely looking forward to getting a long-term deal done…” Barrett recently told Adam Schein of SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio. “I feel like it’s time for me to break the bank now, and I most definitely want to do that to be able to set my family up better and most definitely going to keep producing, so it’s not like anything is going to fall off. I still think I got a lot left in the tank." So with that in mind, it might be time for Tampa Bay to consider Barrett's replacement. Phillips started his collegiate career at UCLA, but medically retired from the game in 2018 after he was hit by a car while riding a scooter. He suffered wrist and head injuries in that accident and hung up his cleats after suffering another concussion. After a year away from the game, he returned with the Hurricanes in 2020, and showed absolutely no ill effects, with eight sacks, four quarterback hits, 29 quarterback hurries, and 18 run stops in 542 snaps. Teams will want to go over that injury history of course, but Phillips has everything you want in a pass-rusher, from advanced hand movement to a wicked inside counter. https://twitter.com/JRodNFLDraft/status/1364783286824935424