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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Race for the No. 1 Pick:
Jacksonville locked up the No.1 overall-pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and the rights to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Now the team needs a new regime in place to take advantage of this opportunity to build around a franchise quarterback. Previous general manager Dave Caldwell’ drafting was terrible, proving he was 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 long ago. Now at least they have a shot to get their choice of general manger, but the Texans, Falcons and Lions all have 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:
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.
New York Giants: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
The Giants got a big win over the Cowboys on Sunday, and they could have been so much better this year if Saquon Barkley hadn’t gotten injured. Adding a No. 1 receiver for Daniel Jones is a critical mission that must be accomplished this offseason. A receiver like Chase would combine with Engram and Saquon Barkley to make the Giants’ offense massively more dangerous in 2021.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Chase was the best receiver in college football in 2019. dominating the SEC in prolific fashion. As a sophomore. he averaged 21.2 yards per reception with 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. Chase showed off game-breaking speed with quality route-running and yards-after-the-catch ability. Team sources have told me that Chase could be a better version of Amari Cooper in the NFL. Chase would be an excellent first-round pick for the Giants if they are picking high enough to land him.
Minnesota Vikings: Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa
The Vikings were able to outscore the Lions, but Detroit had a huge day through the air with Marvin Jones, who caught eight passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Minnesota has some young talent at corner, but the team could use more young pass-rushing talent, especially on the inside of the defensive line. An interior rusher like Nixon could be a dangerous threat next to Danielle Hunter.
Nixon was very good for Iowa in 2020, recording 5.5 sacks, 45 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. He totaled 29 tackles and three sacks in 2019 – his first season of playing time for Iowa. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound junior is quick at the point of attack with an ability to fire his gaps and close on the quarterback. Nixon improved his run defense in 2020 and is a well-rounded defender with upside. He could be a nice fit for the Vikings in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, especially if they are able to trade down.
Cleveland Browns: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The Browns ended their playoff-drought with a win over Pittsburgh, but they hda the fortune to be facing Steelers backup quarterback Mason Rudolph. Olivier Vernon notched one sack, but Cleveland could use more pass-rush talent to go with Myles Garrett. Sheldon Richardson was a signing of the prior regime, and the Browns might need to move on from him to help free up money for contract extensions for Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield.
Barmore has recorded 32 tackles, seven sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes batted in 2020. He has been a dangerous interior pass rusher capable of putting consistent heat on the quarterback. His run defense, however, needs work for the NFL.
Barmore flashed ability as part of Alabama’s rotation in 2019, recording 26 tackles and two sacks. It was only his redshirt freshman season, so he could develop and become more well-rounded as he gains experience.
Some team sources are high on Barmore, while others want to see him become a more well-rounded player and a better run defender before they consider him as a high first-rounder. Hence, he might end up being more of a mid- to late first-round pick. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Barmore has good size with length at the point of attack to go along with quickness and athleticism, so if he works out well he could rise. Barmore could be dynamic interior pass rusher for the Browns next to Garrett.
Tennessee Titans: Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh
Derrick Henry dominated the weak Hoston defense to lead the Titans to an AFC South Division Championship. Tennessee was able to get sacks from Harold Landry and Brooks Reed, but finding some long-term edge rushers is one of the team’s top needs for the offseason. Vic Beasley didn’t pan out. and Jadeveon Clowney is entering free agency. Landing a pass rusher in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft would make a lot of sense for Mike Vrabel.
Weaver flashed his pre-injury form in 2020 and showed the ability to get after the quarterback. He totaled 34 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two passes defended on the year. Weaver had a strong 2018 season to get on the radar for NFL advance scouts, but his redshirt junior year – 2019 – ended before it started with a season-ending injury suffered in training camp. In 2018, he had 47 tackles with 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and four passes broken up. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder has good size to go with speed and athleticism. His versatile size and skill set make him nice fit for Vrabel’s defense.
Indianapolis Colts: Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State
Mike Glennon kept the Jaguars in it against the Colts by fidsing Laviska Shenault twice for touchdowns, and Indianapolis has had some issues in coverage at times this season. In the 2021 NFL Draft, the Colts could stand to add more cornerback talent to go across from Rock Ya-Sin, and Williams would be a good scheme fit for them.
Sources from multiple teams call Williams’ play this season massively improved and think that he will be no worse than a second-day pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Williams did not produce a huge stat line in 2020, collecting 18 tackles and seven passes broken up, but scouts love the coverage ability he displayed. The 6-foot, 195-pound Williams has quality size and will enter the NFL with significant experience after playing all four years for the Cowboys. His draft stock could continue to rise with good workouts.
Green Bay Packers: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
The Packers took care of business in Chicago in clinch the No.1 seed in the NFC with a first-round bye and home field advantage through the post-season. Green Bay’s offensive line rallied after left tackle David Bakhtiari went out for the season with an injury sustained in practice. With Bakhtiari coming off an injury next year and right tackle Ricky Wagner just being a short-term answer, it would make sense for Green Bay to add some young talent to their offensive line. Late in the first round, a pick like Eichenberg would make sense in the long-term as well for helping Jordan Love when he replaces Aaron Rodgers.
Eichenberg has turned in three good years for the Fighting Irish as their starting left tackle. The 6-foot-6, 305-pound Eichenberg 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 late first-round pick that turns into a quality pro.
Las Vegas Raiders: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan
The Raiders finished 8-8 and will pick 17th in the 2021 NFL Draft. They badly need to improve their pass rush on the inside and on the edge. There may not be a defensive tackle available worthy of going that high, but Las Vegas could land an edge rusher to go with Maxx Crosby. A defender like Paye would make sense for the Raider due to his versatile size and ability to rush from tackle in the sub package.
Paye totaled 16 tackles and two sacks in 2020 while also dealing with an injury. The 6-foot-4, 277-pounder put together an impressive 2019 season as a well-balanced defender at the point of attack. The junior notched 50 tackles with 6.5 sacks on the year. With his developed strength, Paye can set the edge and hold his ground. He also shows some pass-rush ability and upside to be better as he gains experience. In his limited action of 2020, Paye showed improvement with his pass-rushing moves and in his ability to get after the quarterback. He has a lot of upside to develop in the NFL.
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.
New England Patriots:
The Patriots are a team at a crossroads. Without Tom Brady, New England failed to make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, and the organization is facing an uncertain future at the quarterback position. Cam Newton wasn’t the answer, and obviously, the coaches don’t believe that Jarrett Stidham is the future. If the Patriots can revitalize their passing attack, however, they could make a quick turnaround and return to the postseason in 2021.
It looks at the moment like the Patriots will not be picking high enough to land one the first-round quarterbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft. Perhaps BYU’s Zach Wilson, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance could slide to the Patriots, but that might be tough to bank on because there could be a run on quarterbacks high in the 2021 NFL Draft. If the Patriots do not get a first-round quarterback, they could consider target on Day 2 like Florida’s Kyle Trask, Alabama’s Mac Jones and Georgia’s Jamie Newman.
It would not be asurprise if head coach Bill Belichick targets a veteran like the Falcons’ Matt Ryan or Lions’ Matthew Stafford. At this point in Belichick’s career, one has to question whether he would want to go through the development process of a first- or second-round selection. New England might be able to get one of those veterans without surrendering its first-round pick, and of the two suggested veterans, I could see Belichick being more inclined to Ryan. The former Boston College quarterback has a better health track record than Stafford, and Ryan’s history with Kyle Shanahan could make Belichick more inclined to go with Ryan given Belichick’s relationship with the Shanahan family. Trading for Ryan and adding talent around him via the 2021 NFL Draft could make the most sense for New England.
In my latest mock 2021 NFL Draft I have the Patriots taking Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, and he would be a great addition for New England. Waddle could be a Tyreek Hill-type receiver to go across from Damiere Byrd. The Patriots could target LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Waddle in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, but there is a chance none of them will get to their pick. They could consider LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr. in that case, but fortunately the 2021 NFL Draft draft is deep at wide receiver. Some good second-day wideouts for New England to consider 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.
Edge rusher is another position New England could consider in Round 1, especially if the team misses out on Chase, Waddle and Smith. The Patriots struggled to produce sacks in 2020, and a dangerous quarterback hunter could make a big impact there. Some defenders to think about in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft could include Miami’s Gregory Rousseau, Miami’s Jaelen Phillips, Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham. A receiver, however, is a more pressing need, and perhaps New England could add a veteran pass rusher like Jadeveon Clowney, Bud Dupree, Matt Judon, or Yannick Ngakoue in free agency. Later on Day 2 and in the mid-rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Patriots may want to add some cornerback depth, particularly if J.C. Jackson leaves in free agency.
The Patriots are facing a very interesting offseason, and it will be fascinating to see what Belichick does at quarterback. Tom Brady covered up that Belichick has had some bad drafts, but Belichick has also been drafting late year after year. Having a top-16 pick this year is a change of pace, and if Belichick drafts well while fixing the quarterback position, New England could be right back in the playoffs and threatening to win the AFC next season.
The Bills’ excellent front office and coaching staff have built a talented team, putting them in position to displace the Patriots – after a generation – as the top team in the AFC East. Led by Josh Allen, the best quarterback in the division and supported by the talented young roster around him, Buffalo is only another good draft or two from driving for a return to the Super Bowl.
The Bills have the advantage of being able to take the best player available in the 2021 NFL Draft. They have a talented roster without emergency needs, so they can build up talent on either side of the ball. In my latest mock 2021 NFL Draft, I have the Bills taking Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore. Barmore is a tremendous interior pass rusher, and he would help Buffalo to close out games as a rusher to pair with Ed Oliver. Vernon Butler is a short-term stop-gap, while Harrison Phillips is a backup-quality player. Iowa’s Daviyon Nixon could be another first-round candidate for the Bills, but he may not get to their pick.
Buffalo also could use some youth at edge rusher. Jerry Hughes is aging, and Mario Addison is more of a short-term contributor as well. Late in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bills could consider Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham, Pittsburgh’s Rashad Weaver or Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo. Basham may not get to Buffalo’s first-round pick, but the team has the good forutner that either Weaver or Odeyinbgo would be a good fit in its 4-3 scheme.
Also on defense, the Bills could potentially add more talent at cornerback, as Josh Norman was only signed to a 1-year contract. They who could address their need in the first round by targeting players like South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. Either one would be a nice cover corner to pair with Tre’Davious White, but Buffalo may not see fall to their choice. Therefore, the organization could add defensive line or offensive line talent in the first round and target some defensive back help on Day 2. Some good cornerbacks for the Bills to consider on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft 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.
The Bills could consider some help on the offensive line as well. Adding talent to protect your quarterback is never a bad idea, and improving the offensive line could yield a more consistent Buffalo rushing attack in 2021. Bills right tackle Daryl Williams is just a stop-gap contributor at this point of his career as well. The list of offensive tackles who are worth first-round choices and could fall to the Bills includes Texas’ Sam Cosmi, USC’s Alijah Vera-Tucker, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood, Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater and Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg. There is a large variety in grades on Leatherwood, Darrisaw and Slater, with some teams haveing them graded for Day 2 and some teams having them in the first round. Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg could get late first-round or early second-round consideration as well. Given the depth and amount of offensive tackles, Buffalo should have some good options at the position on the opening night of the 2021 NFL Draft.
An optimal path for the Bills would be something like signing a veteran edge rusher in free agency, say Jadeveon Clowney, Bud Dupree, Matt Judon or Yannick Ngakoue before selecting their future right tackle, perhaps Eichenberg late in the first round. They could then use their second-round pick on a cornerback like Campbell and then take the best player available over the rest of the draft.
Brandon Beane has assembled an all-star front office – see the list of general manager candidates above – and Buffalo should continue to be one of the best drafting teams in the NFL. A few more good drafts and free agency signings could put the Bills in position to be Super Bowl champions.
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