Monday Morning Draft is back! This is a column that delves into the past weekend’s action from an NFL Draft perspective. As the season goes on, the draft picture and slotting will become more clear, but every Sunday will provide a few hints for next April.
By Charlie Campbell.
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Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.
Race for the No. 1 Pick:
For the second straight week, Jacksonville had an amazing Sunday that could change the course of franchise and NFL history. Thanks to the Jets beating the Browns after the Jaguars were blown out by the Bears, the Jaguars locked up the No. 1-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and the rights to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Jacksonville would never be among the elite teams in the AFC as long as Dave Caldwell was the organization’s general manager, and he was fired after their loss to the Browns. Thanks to Caldwell’s terrible drafting, the Jaguars are in rebuilding mode. Caldwell blew top-five picks on Luke Joeckel (2013), Blake Bortles (2014), and Dante Fowler (2015). Joeckel and Brotles were so bad, they are out of the NFL at one point this year.
Jacksonville is paying the price for those blown picks right now, and to make matters worse, the Jaguars passed on Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson because they made the mistake of drafting Bortles and sticking with him. Caldwell’s terrible drafting gave proof how he is one of the worst general managers in the NFL and how one draft mistake leads to another. The Jaguars were wise to fire Caldwell and should have done it months ago. Now at least, they have a shot to get their choice of general manger, but they will have move quickly with the Texans, Falcons and Lions having varying degrees of a head start on the process.
There are some excellent general manager candidates available, including former Texans general manager Rick Smith. Smith had a 10-year stretch in which he did not have a first-round pick go bust while landing J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson, Duane Brown, Brian Cushing, Whitney Mercilus and more good picks. Other good general manager candidates include:
New York Jets:
The Jets won their second straight game, which let the Jaguars lock up the No. 1 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. With the second-overall pick, the Jets will have a much tougher decision to make. They could look to trade down and build around Sam Darnold, or they could replace him with a quarterback prospect like Ohio State’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, or BYU’s Zach Wilson. All of those quarterback prospects have flaws, as does Darnold, so it will be a more difficult path to chose after losing out on a slam-dunk decision like drafting Trevor Lawrence.
Let’s Play Matchmaker:
This section will look at some of the top talent in college football and match those prospects up with teams that have a dire need at the position.
Los Angeles Chargers: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Chargers jumped out to a big lead before holding on as the Broncos mounted a comeback that ultimately fell short. Denver’s receivers combined to have a nice game, and Los Angeles has some age at cornerback. Chris Harris and Casey Hayward can’t play forever, and to go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs in 2021 and beyond, Los Angeles could use some young talent at cornerback.
Surtain has 32 tackles, one pick-six and 10 passes batted in 2020 and has been sound in coverage for Alabama. The 6-foot-2, 203-pounder is a big corner who brings speed and athleticism to go with his size. In the NFL, he could be an outside corner who is a weapon to mitigate big receivers.
Surtain was the rare freshman defensive back to see the field under Nick Saban, and in 2018, Surtain contributed 28 tackles with an interception and seven passes defended. As a sophomore in 2019, Surtain had 42 tackles with two interceptions, three forced fumbles and eight passes broken up. Surtain is the son of former Miami Dolphins corner and three-time Pro Bowler Patrick Surtain.
Landing Surtain in the first round could be a quality value for the Chargers.
Carolina Panthers: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
Carolina hurt its draft positioning with its win over the Redskins on Sunday. If the Panthers had lost to Washington and in Week 17, they would have had the third-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. As it stands, Carolina could be lower and in a more difficult position to land an upgrade for Teddy Bridgewater, and the team will almost certainly miss out on Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell. The Panthers need a left tackle of the future, as Chase Young caused two turnovers on Sunday, and they cannot rely on Russell Okung to stay healthy. Assuming their first-round pick is used on a quarterback or a defensive upgrade like Penn State’s Micah Parsons, the Panthers could target a left tackle in the second round.
Eichenberg has turned in three good years for the Fighting Irish as their starting left tackle. The 6-foot-6, 305-pounder is a solid and safe player to become a dependable NFL starter. He has quality size and is an effective run blocker while being steady in pass protection. Eichenberg does not have elite quickness, athleticism, or agility to be a shutdown edge protector, and he is not overly strong or overwhelming in the ground game. Thus, he is more of a second-round talent. Overall though, Eichenberg is well-rounded and steady blocker. He could be a safe second-round pick who turns into a quality pro.
New York Jets: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Jets have a big decision to make regarding Sam Darnold and whether to take a new quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. Regardless of whether they stick with Darnold or replace him, the Jets need a feature back to help their quarterback. Frank Gore is nearing the end of his great career, and the team needs some young legs in the backfield. Late in the first round or early in the second round, New York could land its running back of the future.
Harris has been a power runne for years, but as a senior, he has really evolved into being a valuable receiving weapon. Against Florida, Harris showed good route-running, soft hands, an ability to find the soft spot in zone coverage, and dangerous yards-after-the-catch skills while recording three touchdown catches in the SEC Championship. On top of the receiving ability, Harris has run hard all season, picking up lots of yards after contact while showing his power, quickness, knee bend, contact balance, and ability to behind his pads. He could be bell-cow back who is an effective three-down starter in the NFL. Harris could be a great value for the Jets with their second-round pick.
Cincinnati Bengals: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
The Bengals managed to beat the Texans in a shootout to get their second straight victory. These wins mean the Bengals could miss out on Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell, and if they do, they could target more edge-rush talent. Cincinnati has struggled to get after the quarterback all year, and that was the case again on Sunday. Adding a young edge rusher to lead their defense is a necessity for the Bengals.
Rousseau (6-6, 260) was one of the best edge defenders in college football during his redshirt freshman season. For his breakout 2019, he notched 15.5 sacks with two forced fumbles and 54 tackles. Rousseau has an excellent skill set with upside to improve, but his development could be slowed down by his decision to opt out of the 2020 season. There is no substitute for experience and a year of refining pass-rushing moves, getting off blocks, and improving technique. Thus, Rousseau will enter the NFL as a 1-year wonder who could require more developmental time. He might still be a top-10 pick, but he will be more raw and underdeveloped compared to other recent high first-round defensive ends like Jadeveon Clowney, Myles Garret, Bradley Chubb and the Bosa brothers. Rousseau could be a good replacement for Carlos Dunlap.
Baltimore Ravens: Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
The Ravens took care of business against the Giants, taking home a much-needed win to remain in the AFC playoff race. New York had some success with slot receiver Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram. Earl Thomas was cut in the preseason, and Baltimore could use a replacement to help cover up opponents’ passing weapons in the middle of the field. Fortunately for Baltimore, the 2021 NFL Draft is strong at safety, so the team could have a number of good options in the early rounds.
Cisco (6-0, 203) was a pure ball hawk for Syracuse over his first two seasons in college football. In 2019, he recorded 65 tackles with five interceptions and five passes broken up. Cisco had a huge 2018 season with seven interceptions, 18 passes broken up, one forced fumble and 60 tackles. He has good instincts, covers a lot of ground, and has phenomenal ball skills. With his ability to pick off passes, Cisco could remind Ravens fans of the days when Ed Reed locked down the middle of the field. Cisco could be a great fit for Baltimore in the first or second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
New Orleans Saints: Paris Ford, S, Pittsburgh
Alvin Kamara bailed out the Saints’ defense with his amazing performance on Christmas Day. Surprisingly, the New Orleans defense gave up 33 points to Minnesota despite Dalvin Cook not producing a huge game. Malcolm Jenkins is aging and has been picked on some this season, so adding a young safety who can lock down the the deep middle of the field and help out in a variety of ways makes sense for the Saints.
Ford is a great weapon for a defense, as he makes a lot of tackles in the ground game, can cover slot receivers, tight ends, play strong safety, or play the deep free safety. He is a fast and instinctive defender that can be weapon to neutralize mismatches. Ford totaled 41 tackles, three passes broken up and three interceptions in 2020 before opting out for the remainder of the season. As a redshirt sophomore, Ford broke out for the Panthers, leading them in tackles with 97 while also showing impressive ball production in the form of three interceptions and 11 passes broken up. He also provided three forced fumbles. Ford (6-0, 190) was all over the field in both phases, and team sources said he really jumped out to them when scouting other players.
Late in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Ford would be a great fit for the Saints.
San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The 49ers won on Saturday night, dealing a huge blow to Arizona’s playoff hopes as Jeff Wilson ran wild. San Francisco has a strong roster with talent on both sides of the ball, but the team will need improved quarterback play in order to get back into Super Bowl contention in 2021. Jimmy Garoppolo has gradually been exposed, leaving the 49ers in need of an upgrade. In the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, San Francisco could target a high-upside quarterback like Lance for Kyle Shanahan.
The 2019 season was Lance’s first year of playing time, and he produced a huge year, completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,786 yards with 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Lance is listed at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, and he has a powerful arm to go with dynamic running ability. In the spring of 2020, scouts told me they needed to see more from Lance and were wary of a 1-year-wonder situation, but North Dakota State had its football season canceled, other than one game, making Lance a tougher and more risky evaluation for the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, he has great physical talent, and with good development, he could be a star quarterback. Going to Shanahan would be a dream come true for Lance.
Team Draft Report:
In this section, we take a deeper look at specific teams and where they stand in regards to the 2020 NFL Draft.
The Redskins will be a fascinating team to watch this offseason. Washington will probably have more front office changes as head coach Ron Rivera remakes the organization. The organization has some critical decisions to make at the quarterback position, plus there are other important needs on the defensive line. Under Rivera’s direction, the Redskins have the makings of a great defense, and they have some players to build around on offense. If Redskins can get a difference-maker at quarterback, the franchise could take off.
At the end of the 2020 season, the Redskins might not be picking high enough to land one the first-round quarterbacks. Perhaps BYU’s Zach Wilson or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance slides within range, but that could be tough to bank on as there could be a run on quarterbacks high in the 2021 NFL Draft. If Washington does not get a first-round quarterback, the team could consider second-day targets like Florida’s Kyle Trask, Alabama’s Mac Jones and Georgia’s Jamie Newman. It would not surprise me, however, if Rivera brings back Alex Smith and adds some veteran competition. Dwayne Haskins could be let go this offseason, so adding quarterbacks looks very likely to happen in Washington this offseason.
In my latest mock 2021 NFL Draft, I have Washington missing out on the quarterbacks and taking Texas left tackle Sam Cosmi. The Redskins need a replacement for Trent Williams, and they could have some good tackle options available to them in the first round. Other first-round options could include USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood, Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. There is a wide variety in grades with a number of these prospects, as some teams have Leatherwood, Darrisaw, and Slater graded on Day 2 while some teams have them in the first round. Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg could get late first-round or early second-round consideration.
Washington also needs more help at wide receiver to go with Terry McLaurin. In the first round, the Redskins could consider Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle, but those two probably will not get to their pick. They could consider LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr., but this is a deep receiver draft, so it might make more sense to address the offensive line in the first round and target receiver help on Day 2. Some good second-day receivers to target could include Florida’s Kadarius Toney, Minnesota’s Rashad Bateman, Purdue’s Rondale Moore, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, Houston’s Marquez Stevenson, Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry or Texas Tech’s T.J. Vasher.
If I were running draft for Washington, I think my ideal combination could be a tackle like Cosmi in the first round and a wide receiver like Toney in the second while targeting a veteran quarterback in free agency. Perhaps Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan or Carson Wentz will be available.
This is going to be a very interesting offseason for the Redskins as Rivera continues to remake the organization. The big decision will be what to do at quarterback, but if Rivera gets that right, the franchise could ascend rapidly behind its excellent young defense.
Aside from the 2017 season, the Jaguars have not been a good football team for a long time. Over coaches like Jack Del Rio, Mike Mularkey, Gus Bardley and Doug Marrone, the Jaguars have not had success. Del Rio managed to last eight years with a sub-.500 record and never winning a division title. Jaguars owner Shad Khan made the right decision to fire general manager Dave Caldwell, and if Khan makes a good general manager hire, the organization could be the cusp of a renaissance. Landing Trevor Lawrence with the first-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft is a no-brainer decision for any general manager, but if they get their other early-round picks right and spend wisely in free agency, Jacksonville has the potential to become a special team and Super Bowl contender during Lawrence’s first contract.
Lawrence would be a dream come true as Jacksonville’s future franchise quarterback, and this will be the easiest draft pick for a franchise since the Colts took Andrew Luck. After that selection, the new general manger needs to make some wise choices so Jacksonville can surround Lawrence with enough talent for for the team to win. In my latest mock 2021 NFL Draft, I have the Jaguars taking Pittsburgh safety Paris Ford late in the first round. The Jacksonville secondary has been terrible this year, and the team could use a difference maker at safety to help solidify the back end. Late in the first round, the Jagaurs could have good options like Ford, Syracuse’s Andre Cisco, Oregon’s Jevon Holland, or TCU’s Trevon Moehrig. Options in Round 2 could include one of those safeties who slide along with Georgia’s Richard LeCounte.
Aside from safety, Jacksonville could use more talent in the secondary, such as some help at cornerback to go with C.J. Henderson. Potential first-round corners to consider include South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. On the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft, some good cornerbacks to consider could include Ohio State’s Shaun Wade, Georgia’s Tyson Campbell, Georgia’s Eric Stokes, Alabama’s Josh Jobe, Clemson’s Derion Kendrick and Stanford’s Paulson Adebo.
Interior defensive line help is another area the Jaguars could consider late in the first round and in the second round. Taven Bryan was another Caldwell bust who is hurting the team, and Jacksonville needs more interior line help to go between Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson. Iowa’s Daviyon Nixon, Alabama’s Christian Barmore and USC’s Jay Tufele could be late first-round or second-round options to consider. Nixon is the most balanced; Barmore is the best pass rusher; and Tufele is more risky after sitting out this season. If the Jaguars have a new coaching staff that switches them to a 3-4 defense, Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson would be a good candidate to give them a five-technique end to build around.
The Jaguars need help on the offensive line as well. Left tackle Cam Robinson is entering free agency and may not be worth re-signing. There could be other worthwhile first-round tackles like Texas’ Sam Cosmi, USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood, Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw and Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. There is a wide variety in grades with a number of these prospects, as some teams have Leatherwood, Darrisaw and Slater graded on Day 2 while some teams have them in the first round. Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg could get late first-round or early second-round consideration. A nice strategy for Jacksonville could be to target a tackle with its pick from the Seahawks or early in the second round, as some of those prospects could slide into Round 2.
Perhaps the best route for the Jaguars would be to sign a veteran cornerback like the Patriots’ J.C. Jackson, draft an interior lineman like Barmore or Hutchinson late in the first round, use their high second-round pick on an offensive tackle like Eichenberg, and their mid-second-round pick from Minnesota for a safety like LeCounte.
The Jaguars have a great opportunity to finally turn their franchise into a consistent winner. Winning the lottery with Lawrence is a great start, but Shad Khan must get the general manager hire correct along with an upgrade at head coach over the abysmal Doug Marrone. The Colts’ Super Bowl window and years with Andrew Luck were wasted by general manager Ryan Grigson, and the Jaguars have to get these hires correct to avoid that happening with Lawrence. If Khan gets these hires right, Jacksonville could become one of the top teams in the NFL
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