It’s the moment of truth. A mere 24 hours until one of my favorite days of the year — the First Round of the NFL Draft.
It has been a fun cycle this go around, as this year has been much different in terms of the draft process and discussion. No scouting combine. Limited access to Pro Days. And a handful of top prospects that declined to play the 2020 season due to the fear of COVID-19.
All of these issues have brought added intrigue to this season, as many of us were stuck at home and left to dig into the research ourselves. Now more than ever, this draft is based on true projection and hope, as opposed to concrete, empirical evidence. We have toiled away watching videos, read every NFL Draft guide, and held hours of discussion in the draft community. Now it’s time to see if our projections ring true.
Before I share my mock draft, I’d like to personally thank the crew at Full Press Coverage, The Burgundy Zone Podcast (@TheBurgundyZone), The Backroom Redskins Show (@BackRowRedskins), The Bleeding Burgundy Podcast (@BleedingBurgPod), WhatGibbsFF (@WhatGibbsFF), The Burgundy Network Podcast (@BurgNetworkPod), the Washington War Room (@rod_murray5 and @JHawkChalk_) and The DC Tweet Team (@DCTweetTeam1932) for having me on air this draft cycle. You pushed me further, and I learned a lot from you. If you are reading this, you should give each pod a follow, and hopefully jump on air!
So without further ado, check out my FINAL mock draft before it officially takes place tomorrow in Cleveland, Ohio. This is my third and final attempt at getting the picks right. It’s also my official submission to the Huddle Report competition, that scores the accuracy of draft selections among dozens of media personalities and draft scouts. Wish me luck, and pray that I don’t embarrass myself!
So take a look at my third and final installment of my NFL Mock Draft Series, Hope you Enjoy:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15) : QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Death. Taxes. And Trevor Lawrence being selected first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The former Clemson QB comes into the NFL as the highest graded quarterback prospect since 2012, when Stanford’s Andrew Luck broke onto the scene for the Indianapolis Colts. Lawrence brings prototypical size at 6’6″ 220, and has produced three straight seasons of PFF grades over 90.0. The Urban-Lawrence era begins in DUUUUVAL.
2. New York Jets (2-14): QB Zach Wilson, BYU
The New York Jets planted their flag when they traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers. They will use the second selection on a quarterback, and Zach Wilson is the pick. The Utah native doesn’t have the prototypical size of a franchise QB, but his ability to throw off platform and make great spontaneous decisions provides intrigue. He will bring excited to East Rutherford, and ideally stability for Robert Saleh.
3. San Francisco 49ers (from MIA via 4-12 Hou): QB Mac Jones, Alabama
I’ve avoided this for so long. Every Mock Draft prior to this, I had pegged Justin Fields to the 49ers. But there’s too much smoke to this story. When every media member with their ear to the ground thinks Mac is going to the Bay, you have to start to believe.
Jones links up with Kyle Shanahan and will benefit from one of the most innovate offenses minds in the league. Shanahan will get a QB who fits his system like a glove. A QB that delivers on time and is decisive, a la Kirk Cousins an Matt Ryan. Will the dice roll work? We’ll see.
4. Atlanta Falcons (4-12): TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
The Falcons are on the cusp of a rebuild, and would like nothing else but to trade out of this pick. However, their asking price will be too steep, and teams will balk at the price tag. Therefore Atlanta is placed in a tough situation — choose Kyle Pitts or select Trey Lance?
In this scenario, the Falcons select the best skill position player in the draft in Pitts. The former Gator transcends the tight end position, and is more of an “offensive weapon” over anything else.
5. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1): WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
The Bengals will use this draft to insulate Joe Burrow with talent, but not in the way you may think. Instead of investing in left tackle and selecting Penei Sewell, the team decides to add Ja’Marr Chase and reunite the two LSU tigers from Baton Rouge.
The last time we saw Chase play he was WR1 in one of the most prolific passing offenses in NCAA history. You know who was his quarterback? You guessed it. Burrow.
Chase will add an interesting wrinkle to an already talented Bengals offense, and he will elevate Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon.
6. Miami Dolphins (from 4-11-1 PHI): WR Devonta Smith, Alabama
Miami had hopped for Ja’Marr Chase to fall here, but instead they “have to settle” on the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner. The Dolphins add the 8th overall prospect from PFF’s Big Board, and will add a spark of talent to a Tua Tagovailoa led offense.
Although many will criticize Smith’s 175 pound frame, his production (117 Catches, 1856 yards and 23 Touchdowns in 2020) is undeniable.
7. Detroit Lions (5-11): WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
When your starting Wide Receivers are Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman, you have to do something to improve. Waddle provides Jared Goff an explosive weapon who can take the top off of a defense.
Over his last three years in Tuscaloosa, Waddle has scored no less than 82.6 with his PFF grade, and averaged a staggering 21.1 yards per catch last season (albeit in five games). Nevertheless, Waddle has Will Fuller and Tyreek Hill potential. But can he do it for 17 games?
8. Carolina Panthers (5-11): QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
Things looked bleak for Carolina only a few weeks ago. The 49ers leaped ahead of the pack, and were presumed to take a quarterback at three. With Atlanta in the fourth selection, the Panthers almost certainly knew they would be left out of the QB party.
But fortune seems to be going their way. Justin Fields is on the board, and he’s an infusion of talent, similar to what owner David Tepper envisioned in Deshaun Watson. The former Buckeye has all the tools in the world, and can compete with incumbent Sam Darnold, who isn’t a world beater. You know what else is interesting? Darnold’s fifth year option has yet to be picked up. Making it an “easy out” for Carolina if they want to break up next year — no harm, no foul.
9. Denver Broncos (5-11): QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
Similar to Carolina, the Broncos didn’t know they would be in this situation. They assumed all QB options would be off the board, and had their heart set on Micah Parsons. Yet here we are. Denver gladly accepts Lance into a QB room that consists of Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock. Bridgewater will be the “Bridge” QB for the 2021 season as Lance develops. Lock may be trade bait.
The Broncos budding offense is poised for big things in 2022.
10. Dallas Cowboys (6-10): CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
The Cowboys defense was essentially a sieve last season, ending the year with a -78 point differential and 34 passing touchdowns given up. Jerry’s team needs an influx in talent in the defensive backfield, and Surtain is arguably the best corner out.
Surtain will now join his Alabama running mate Trevon Diggs as boundary corners, and will create a formidable duo in “Big D”. A stark improvement from the incumbent CB2, CJ Goodwin.
11. New York Giants (6-10): MLB Micah Parsons, Penn State
Big Blue put some pieces together near the end of last season. Mostly on the back of their budding defense. With a transcendent star like Parsons, the boys from Gotham will now have a superstar centerpiece to man their front seven. With stars like Jabrill Peppers, Leonard Williams and James Bradberry in tow, New York is starting to feel like Thanos when adding the 4.4, 250 pound talent.
12. Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA via 6-10 SF): CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
Philly is “Big Mad”. They thought for sure they would land one of the top wide receiver prospects in this year’s draft. But as we saw earlier, they flew off the board. As a result, the Eagles settled on arguably the best press-man corner in the draft. Horn is an absolute dog who does not back down from a challenge, and has the mentality of a true CB1. And at 6-foot-1, 205 he has ample size.
Joe Horn’s son will thrive in “Midnight Green” and fits in with that trash talking mentality of that city.
13. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9): OT Penei Sewell, Oregon
Justin Herbert showed out last season. It’s now time to protect your investment. Sewell is regarded as a blue-chip prospect and arguably one of the best players in this class. His PFF grade of 95.8 in 2019, is one of the highest ever for Pro Football Focus.
However, due to this year’s unique QB class, and the fact that he sat out the 2020 season, he is likely due for a fall. What better place to land than sunny Los Angeles with an ascending franchise QB?
14. Minnesota Vikings (7-9): T Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
The Vikings need help on the interior offensive line, safety and EDGE. Vera-Tucker is the best marriage of value and talent at this selection. The 6’4″, 315 pound prospect can play up and down the offensive line. In fact, he started at Left Tackle (2020), Left Guard (2019), and Right Guard (2018) over his three years in Los Angeles.
Vera-Tucker will add versatility to the Vikings offensive line, and supplement one of the more well-rounded teams in the league.
15. New England Patriots (7-9): LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
This may be a bit high for the linebacker, but Zaven Collins is exactly what the Patriots need. Deemed as a “unicorn” in much of this process, the 6’5″ 270 pound prospect can do it all. In addition to being a plus pass rusher, Collins was an excellent coverage linebacker to the tune of a 93.0 coverage grade for PFF.
Collins is throwback in nature, and will give Bill Belichick another tool in the mold of Tedy Bruschi and Willie McGinest. Remember, prior to the Tom Brady/Belichick marriage, the New England head man cut his teeth as an elite defensive coordinator. He maintains that tradition here.
16. Arizona Cardinals (8-8): CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
The value of Farley here is too good pass up. Arizona is content at CB with Malcom Butler and Robert Alford pegged to be cornerback one and two. But they need to find a sustainable option for this year and beyond.
Farley is arguably the most athletic corner in the draft, yet his lower back surgery causes concern. He should be ready by training camp, but at worst he can transition to the league with measured expectations. The Cardinals get a potential steal here.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8): OT Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
Las Vegas has completely decimated their offensive line this offseason with the release of Rodney Hudson, and their trade of Trent Brown to the New England Patriots. Fortunately this is a deep class, and the Raiders can salvage some value.
Depending on who you talk to, Slater is considered anywhere from the best offensive line prospect to the third, but regardless he’s a solid building block. At worst Slater is a guard, at best a left tackle. Regardless, the Raiders begin to right their wrongs.
18. Miami Dolphins (10-6): EDGE Azeez Ojulari, Georgia
Miami is putting together something special in South Beach, and now have rising stars in Tua Tagovailoa and Devonta Smith. They will now turn their attention to their defense, and focus on an edge rusher to compliment Emmanuel Ogbah, and create one of the more well-rounded teams in the league. An added pass rush will continue to let standout cornerbacks Byron Jones and Xavien Howard shine.
19. Washington Football Team (7-9): T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
Coach Ron Rivera has the intention of building something sustainable, and he is somewhat old school in nature. I believe he will continue to build up the trenches, and try to match his formidable defensive line, with an up-and-coming offensive one.
Although a linebacker such as Jamin Davis is appealing, I believe there is more value with an OT at this time. You can always snag a LB on day two.
Darrisaw is a road-grader and posted the second best PFF score in college football last season with a 95.6 grade. He is equally as impressive in run-blocking as he is in passing. At worst he projects as RT, but with good coaching he should be able to find a fit at LT. The added bonus is he played ball in Blacksburg, and the team has a propensity to draft local.
20. Chicago Bears (8-8): T Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State
The Bears have a glaring need at right tackle and attempt to solve this issue by adding Jenkins, a three year starter at OSU who has started up and down the line. His 92.0 PFF grade is one of the highest in class, and his nastiness can’t be overlooked. This guy will bury you.
21. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): T Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame
Carson Wentz is shell-shocked from his experience in Philadelphia. The QB was sacked over 50 times in the 2020 season and is looking for stability. With center Ryan Kelly and guard Quenton Nelson in house, the Colts add Eichenberg to solidify one of the better offensive lines in the league. The former Golden Domer allowed zero sacks last season, and only four QB hits over the last two. He will also reunite with Nelson, forming a South Bend tandem on the left side.
22. Tennessee Titans (11-5): WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
With the departure of Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith, the Titans need an infusion of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Why not AJ Brown’s running mate from college, Elijah Moore? Moore has sky rocketed this draft cycle and has become THE slot man in this year’s class. The 4.3 slot receiver is as tough as they come, and has one of the lowest drop percentages in all of college football. He’ll provide a spark for Nashville.
23. New York Jets (2-14; from 12-4 SEA): EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
The Jets are looking to add to their pass-rush and compliment Quinnen Williams on the other side. Paye provides high upside at 6’4″, 277 pounds. The former Wolverine is considered to have high upside, but needs some refinement and purpose on his pass rush. He will have measured expectations in New York, and head man Robert Saleh can help develop him.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): RB Najee Harris, Alabama
The Steelers have a lot of firepower with their receiving corps, and their defense made strides last season. Some of their areas of weakness include RB, CB and OL. Pittsburgh was one of the most pass-happy programs in the league last season an will strive to achieve balance. Selecting an offensive lineman may be the more prudent move, but Steelers want to push in the chips for one final run under Big Ben.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15; from 10-6 LAR): DL Christian Barmore, Alabama
With Jacksonville investing in Lawrence with the top overall pick, the Jaguars elect to focus on the defensive side with their second selection. Urban Meyer selects the best interior defensive lineman in class, at pick 25. Rounding out a strong haul for AFC South team.
26. Cleveland Browns (11-5): EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
The Browns are looking to add to their pass-rush and compliment Myles Garrett on the other side. Phillips is a versatile EDGE who can thrive in both a 3-4 an 4-3 alignment. He will be lucky to rotate with Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney next season.
27. Baltimore Ravens (11-5): S Trevon Moehrig, Texas Christian
The 6-foot-2, 202 pound safety has the prototype size to play either safety position in the NFL. He also has no problem laying the wood.
Moehrig led all safeties in pass breakups in each of the past two seasons. He had 12 pass break-ups in 2019 and eight in 2020. He would provide tremendous value and would form a nice defensive presence in Charm City.
28. New Orleans Saints (12-4): LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
JOK is one of the most scheme versatile options in this year’s draft class. NOLA needs some help at safety and at linebacker. Koramoah can do both. This seems like a perfect fit for the Saints, as they plug in JOK next to one of the best all around linebackers in the league, in Demario Davis. He also has a standout locker room leader to guide him in Safety Malcolm Jenkins. Together, Davis and Jenkins can help the former Golden Domer in his transition to the league. They can also account for his deficits while he still learns.
29. Green Bay Packers (13-3): WR Terrance Marshall, LSU
Aaron Rodgers wanted an additional wide receiver LAST YEAR, and the Pack decided to draft his successor instead. How did Rodgers respond? By one his best statistical seasons of his career and as league MVP.
As a token of respect, and honestly as a great scheme fit, Green Bay selects Marshall who has an excellent catch radius and great size. His big body is an excellent match for Rodgers and his 50/50 balls.
30. Buffalo Bills (13-3): CB Greg Newsome II, Northwestern
Buffalo proved to be pretty potent on the offensive side of the ball in 2020. They now look to improve on the defensive side and add a compliment to standout corner Tre’Davious White. With the departure of Josh Norman, the team is now at a deficit at CB2 and Newsome has the skillset to jump in
The Bills add Newsome who held opponents to 435 yards and one touchdown last season. QBs rarely targeted the CB, as he has seen only 81 targets over two years. At 6’1″ and 192, with a 4.38 forty, Bills Mafia gets an exciting prospect to build around.
31. Baltimore Ravens (via 14-2 Kansas City): WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
There was a point and time where the Ravens couldn’t buy a wide receiver–literally. They now add Bateman to a receiving corps consisting of Sammy Watkins and Hollywood Brown. Bateman provides Lamar Jackson a sure-handed boundary receiver, and his best collection of receivers since he entered Charm City.
The Baltimore faithful will love Bateman’s consistent route running, and toughness through the catch. He may be Jackson’s “go to” receiver midway this season.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5): RB Travis Etienne, Clemson
With all 22 starters returning for the Super Bowl Champs, the Buccaneers are fully justified in taking a luxury pick here. Etienne is a far superior pass catching back over incumbents Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette. He will also provide Tom Brady a steady presence in the run game. This selection is intended for immediate impact, to maximize Brady’s last few seasons in the league.
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