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2021 NFL Mock Draft by NoHeroes94 - V3 (8 March 2021)
Published at 3/8/2021 10:06:05 AM
My 3rd mock draft in this pre-draft process, with some notable differences and a list of alternatives for each pick. Based on no trades and what teams might do, not what I think they should do. Will add in Round 2 in my V4 mock in early April. WF my main source of information.
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No point wasting too much space on this pick. Trevor Lawrence has been the consensus No. 1 pick of his draft since his 2018 season. How can he not be? Due to his elite athleticism, arm strength, throwing capability, mobility, football IQ, intangibles, and leadership Lawrence is as complete of a quarterback prospect as you will ever see coming up to the pros.
Lawrence is the most converted NFL prospect since Peyton Manning in that regard. He is a bit of a gunslinger, so will be prone to turnovers in the first couple of years, but this is such a minor technicality compared to his immeasurable ceiling. Lawrence is a lock for this pick, even if the NFL Draft ‘Expert’ Chris Simms prefers Zach Wilson for some reason.
None. Nothing is worth trading down for, and there is no chance they will select anyone else.
This is one of the most interesting No. 2 picks for years. The Jets could do one of several things. Obviously, they would be favourites in a hypothetical trade for Deshaun Watson, but it appears more likely there will be a holdout instead. If this occurs, they will likely have to choose between drafting Wilson/Fields or sticking with Sam Darnold. If they stick with Darnold – which isn’t impossible – then they will have a plethora of incredible playmakers to choose from here. However, there are reports the Jets are openly listening to trade calls for Darnold, and new regimes very often equate to new QB’s. Darnold still has all the ability to still become a quality starter, but a fresh start for both parties makes a ton of sense. Even if Watson does end up a Jet, the Texans would take their pick of a QB here anyway.
Zach Wilson and Justin Fields are both top-10 calibre QB’s who are flawed prospects possessing immense upside. Based off his incredible 2020 season and upward trajectory, I think Wilson is the most likely to be the 2nd QB taken over Fields. He is a dynamite passer with superb accuracy, a complete arsenal of NFL passes and good poise. He’s not as good of an athlete as Lawrence or Fields, but he is not a statue in the pocket either and possesses decent poise. On the downside, level of competition is a minor concern – as is the fact Wilson is a 1-year wonder. Perhaps most alarmingly, Wilson has well-documented maturity/character issues entering the NFL, which could scare teams off after the recent failings of players with such knocks (Dwayne Haskins/Josh Rosen). However, I don’t think Wilson’s character report is as damning as either of those two players, and he is physically more talented than both, so Wilson seems a top-5 lock at this point in the process.
Justin Fields (QB) – It’s very feasible they prefer Fields instead.
Ja’Marr Chase (WR) or Kyle Pitts (TE) – These are the two best playmakers in this draft, and behind Lawrence as arguably the best two prospect period. If they do stick with Darnold, I expect one of these picks. Or…
Trade Down – The Broncos, Panthers, 49ers or Falcons could be interested in trading up for Fields or Wilson. If the Jets aren’t convinced by one of these young QB’s, they could look to move down.
The Dolphins were gifted this pick by the Texans’ incompetence. The Dolphins have a couple of key needs, namely at wide receiver and linebacker (arguably still their offensive line, as well). Any linebacker pick would be a huge reach here, and they also possess the No. 18 pick where either Zaven Collins or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah should still be available. However, this is one of the most top-heavy receiving drafts in recent history, so they will have plenty of options. I think Kyle Pitts is the 2nd best player in this draft and could end up being this pick either as a jumbo wide receiver or elite-tier tight end. However, I think Chase might be a better fit for Miami and is one of the better receiver prospects in recent years in his own right.
Ja’Marr Chase was the best wide receiver in 2019. That’s saying a lot, because there were 6 1st round receivers taken. Ignoring Ruggs and Reagor – who appears to be reaches at this juncture – Jefferson, Jeudy, Lamb, Aiyuk, Higgins and Claypool all went in the first 2 rounds in 2020 and appear to be future #1 receivers for their respective teams. Chase is more talented and has better college tape than every single one of them. His elite speed, stellar route running, incredible ball skills and elusiveness against double teams will make him an instant franchise No. 1 receiver for his drafting team. Chase could be a perennial Pro Bowler in the NFL and has incredible potential.
Trade Down – The Dolphins have two first round picks and trading down even 6 – 8 spots would likely allow them to still draft Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith – both of whom also being incredible prospects. Depending on the potential offer to move up, they should absolutely consider trading down.
Kyle Pitts (TE) – Pitts is the 2nd best player in this draft. Tight Ends barely ever go in the top-5 but Pitts is the best tight end prospect in recent memory. Even as a wide receiver, his floor is incredibly high.
DeVonta Smith (WR) – Most people prefer Chase to Smith, and some even prefer Jaylen Waddle. However, Smith was incredible in 2020 – winning the Heisman – and has a documented history with Tua Tagovailoa
Penei Sewell (OT) – Despite heavy draft investment into the Offensive Line last year, the Dolphins’ protection was mediocre in 2020. Part of this is inexperience, but with Jackson and Hunt both capable of moving to other positions on the offensive line, Sewell could make sense. I deem him the 3rd best player of this draft class, and the receiving position is stacked both in free agency and the remainder of this draft, so this wouldn’t be a reach.
It’s not impossible the Falcons keep going with Matt Ryan for 2-3 more years, as he’s still playing at a high level. However, the Falcons are in cap hell at the moment (2nd worst in the NFL) and as such, they may be triggered to move on in an unusual top-5 selection for them. Their remaining urgent needs – cornerback and defensive line – have no range-worthy prospects here, so if they don’t trade down, they almost have to take a signal caller. The Falcons are due to start a ground-up rebuild, and with a decent offensive line already, that re-build could start with Justin Fields.
Fields would be a wonderful fit in Arthur Smith’s offense. He is a Deshaun Watson-esque athlete; a big QB with elite physical tools and running ability. I think Fields is a comparable prospect entering the pros the Watson, so if he can get the ‘OSU QB’ monkey off his back, he could be an elite starter at the next level. He has some pocket awareness issues and is still somewhat raw after 1.5 seasons of pure starting experience. However, he has shown ability to play well under pressure, and would be a great future option for Atlanta here.
As a non-serious aside, the No. 4 picks seems to - weirdly - always be a wildcard. In 2018, the Browns took Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb. In 2019, the Raiders reached on Clelin Ferrell. In 2020, the Giants took Thomas over 3 far better OT's. Who knows - the Falcons may reach and take Micah Parsons or Gregory Rousseau!
Zach Wilson – Jets/Falcons selections could easily be flipped.
Trade Down – The other feasible alternative if they would prefer to stick with Matt Ryan and draft a defensive prospect is to trade down to the 8-15 range. Farley, Surtain II and Rousseau would all provide far better value at that spot.
The Bengals are another team with an interesting pick this year. Joe Burrow – despite his injury – seems to be an excellent selection thus far, and due to the number of QB-desperate teams picking ahead of them, they should have the luxury of several blue-chip options falling to them. Two of Ja’Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts and Penei Sewell should be available depending on what Miami do, and with any of these players, the Bengals can’t really go wrong. Chase in particular will be tempting given his documented dominance alongside Joe Burrow so I wouldn’t hate such a selection. However, the wisest decision after such a devastating injury to QB Joe Burrow would be to draft a generational tackle prospect to improve their pathetic offensive line.
Sewell has such a high ceiling. In that regards, Sewell one of the most talented tackle prospects of the past decade. I think Wills Jr. and Becton were more polished entering the NFL than Sewell is, but his ceiling is even higher than both stud tackles. He is so ridiculously talented in pass protection, and his mobility for his size seems almost impossible. He was so dominant as a sophomore that he had a Heisman vote in 2019. He sat out 2020, so some recency bias as the media having Slater as a comparable prospect to Sewell, but the latter is by far the more talented blindside prospect. He had two years of incredible tape, so his opt out shouldn’t impact him as a top-10 draft pick
Ja’Marr Chase (WR) – It could be a coin-flip is both Chase and Sewell were both available. Sewell is a position of bigger need, but Chase + Burrow could be a deadly ‘can’t pass up’ combination.
Kyle Pitts (TE) – The Bengals really need one more receiving weapon, and a tight end weapon could offer more versatility for them. Here is a generational talent at both spots and compares to Kelce, Kittle and Waller in his projection.
Rashawn Slater (OT/IOL) – I think Rashawn Slater is a wildcard for this pick. This would be a reach for Slater, who ideally would go in the No. 10 -15 range. However, one thing Slater has going for him is extreme versatility to play any spot on the O-line (more on that later). The Bengals have a documented history of selecting such players. They selected Jonah Williams and Billy Price for similar reasons, with the former being lights-out in his de facto rookie season during 2020. If history repeats itself, the Bengals could opt for Slater over Sewell, even though I think personally this would be a mistake.
If the Houston Texans hadn’t been sabotaged by Bill O’Brien, I would have the Eagles as my favourite to ‘win’ the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft. Since winning the Super Bowl 3 years ago, the Eagles have fallen mightily. Their once incredible offensive line is now in jeopardy if Dillard doesn’t take a huge stride in year 3, and they have no weapons at all. What’s more, the future now hinges on the capped Jalen Hurts. Wentz was bad in 2020, make no mistake, but he was a possible top-5 QB in the NFL in the years before this. If he bounces back in 2021 – and I think this is very possible – the Wentz trade could be deemed as a dark day in franchise history. Many in the media think this will be a QB selection, but that would make an already dreadful 2nd round pick even worse. The Eagles also need several key weapons, and with some many available, picking a quality receiver makes the most sense.
Pitts is my 2nd favourite player in this draft class, behind Lawrence, so this pick would be a steal. What’s more, I think it makes complete sense. Zach Ertz is likely on his way out, and Pitts is so ridiculously talented that he can play receiver, tight end or a combination of both. Aside from being an average blocker, Pitts has no other flaws to his game. He is a mismatch nightmare – too smart and athletic for linebacker, too strong and physical for defensive backs. He is also ridiculously polished both with his route running and ball skills. Pitts has every athletic and physical trait you could want from a top-5 receiver/tight end selection and has the intangibles to match – good football IQ, and a superb leader/character by all accounts. Pitts has such a high ceiling at either Tight End (Tony Gonzalez/George Kittle/Travis Kelce) or wide receiver.
Ja’Marr Chase (WR) – If Miami and Cincinatti both happen to pass on Chase, then he could still be available.
DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle (WR) – Despite his frame scaring off some teams, I think DeVonta Smith should be safe to turn into a very good pro. He has been ridiculously sure handed and consistent, with a top-10 skill set. Some also prefer Waddle to Smith. I wouldn’t like this pick as much, as I think Reagor’s pure line speed would make Chase/Smith a better compliment.
Penei Sewell (OT) – Jason Peters is done. Dillard has been disappointing and injury prone. If Sewell fell here, it wouldn’t shock me if they moved Dillard to guard or traded him away for a higher-ceiling player.
The Lions aren’t precluded to taking a quarterback here, but it’s likely that only Trey Lance and Mac Jones would be available outside the top 5. Jared Goff is talented enough to still improve at just 26, and their new GM has impressed early, so I expect the Lions to enter a 2 or 3-year re-build acquiring talent across the board instead. Detroit has a bunch of serious defensive holes, but also are likely to lose Kenny Golladay and/or Marvin Jones in free agency. Given the obvious offensive firepower in the top-10 of this draft, they could have the option of either Alabama receiver at this spot. I personally don’t know why they’d pass on either for an expensive free agent.
I’m almost 50/50 on DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle going here, and it appears to be very fluid which will end up being WR #2. Many people prefer Waddle to Smith, and I think either/or could go before the other as both were excellent in 2020. In my opinion, DeVonta Smith has more momentum to go before Waddle given his Heisman-trophy level play, quality ball skills, multiple years of quality tape and incredible separation from defensive backs. Smith’s biggest red flag is his thin frame, and weighting in the 160-170 range could scare off NFL teams. However, in college he was incredibly durable – unlike Waddle – so I think teams might be comfortable to take him in the top-10, which is where his talent dictates, he should go.
Ja’Marr Chase (WR) – This is Chase’s floor, as this would require Miami, Cincinatti and Philadelphia to all pass on him. There are minor character concerns, but nothing that should result in this occurring. Chase is special.
Jaylen Waddle (WR) – If the Lions go for a WR, it appears to be 50/50 as to whether its Waddle. Both have incredibly high ceilings, so as mentioned, they can’t really go wrong with either decision.
Micah Parsons (LB) – The Lions need a franchise linebacker. From skillset alone, Parsons could easily go in this range. However, he has serious character issues, so top-10 feels optimistic for him now.
Zach Wilson or Justin Fields (QB) – If one of these prospects happens to fall to No. 7, the Lions may not be able to resist a young QB for Goff to mentor.
Trade Down – The Lions could trade down and target a defensive playmaker such as Parsons, Rousseau or Paye, or perhaps even a RT such as Alijah Vera-Tucker. They would need to address playmakers on Day 2, though, as WR is a position of tremendous need for them.
The Panthers have made one thing extremely obvious during this young 2021 off-season – they want to move off Teddy Bridgewater. From taking trade calls, to aggressively pursuing Matt Stafford in a lucrative trade, the Panthers clearly want to upgrade the quarterback position. They still have various needs – such as linebacker and cornerback, and Farley/Surtain II start to make a lot of sense at this spot. However, given the potential ceiling of Lance the Panthers could look to make a slight reach and take him here before the Broncos, 49ers or Patriots do so.
I love Trey Lance’s ability; from a skill-set perspective, I would rank him second only to Trevor Lawrence. As a 49ers fan, he is my dream pick at No. 12 as he has incredible potential. However, this is Lance’s ceiling. He is very raw, with 1-year of college level starting experience at a Division II school. He would be best going to an environment where he can learn behind a quarterback for a year before taking over as a more developed player and is a bit of a project for that reason. I worry that Lance would be rushed onto the field in Carolina and may also not be a schematic fit with Joe Brady, which is reportedly a concern amongst many analysts. Still, given the Panthers’ aggression thus far in the QB market, I think they will be drafting one in the 1st round.
Trade Up – It’s not impossible Fields or Wilson falls to No. 8, but it’s not likely. If the Panthers want either over Lance, they will realistically need to trade up for them. Miami could be open to moving into this range, and likely their only trade option with Atlanta being an inter-divisional rival.
Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain II (CB) – This is probably the best decision if Fields and Wilson are both gone. Both are coming into their range and could be excellent upgrades to their secondaries.
Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater or Alijah Vera-Tucker (OL) – This is Sewell’s floor. They need to continue re-enforcing their OL, as both Taylor Moton and Russell Okung are entering free agency. Keeping both will be very tough. A premium offensive lineman could go here to replace either one of them.
The Broncos have a very talented offense, but their defense – particularly their pass defense – needs a lot of work. Bryce Callahan is a decent CB, and Justin Simmons a terrific safety, but otherwise, their secondary has struggled since Aqib Talib left Denver. This draft is quite top-heavy for good cornerback talent, with 3-5 talented cornerbacks that could go early before a mixed crop of talent becomes available in the mid-rounds. Thus, it would make sense to take one of the two premium CB’s available, and draft elsewhere on the remaining days.
The debate of with Farley or Surtain is the top cornerback is a very, very close call. I personally think Surtain is the safer prospect and played very well in 2020. However, Farley has more athletic upside and is the more productive player, with many teams reportedly still favouring him despite the decision to opt-out of 2020, so I think he’ll go first. Farley is a bit of a one-year wonder, and health is a concern, but he is extremely talented. With good size, ball skills and a superb ability to avoid receivers separating from him, he would give Denver their much-needed upgrade within their secondary.
Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn (CB) – Farley and Surtain II are close currently in their estimations as top-16 cornerbacks. Either one could go here. Horn has been in consecutive 'draft stock up' reports, and is apparently considered ahead of Surtain by some teams.
Trade Up – They need an upgrade from Drew Lock, but their draft positioning could make this difficult. The Broncos put in an aggressive bid for Matthew Stafford, so perhaps they would do the same to move up with Miami or Atlanta to take Wilson/Fields.
Trey Lance (QB) – Very similar situation to the above pick. Lance needs time to work but is a very gifted young QB. I don’t think Denver is an ideal environment for him, but Denver could be tempted to pull the trigger and sign a free agent such as Cam Newton, Andy Dalton or Jameis Winston to bridge the gap whilst he develops.
Micah Parsons (LB) – Parsons would be a superb fit for Denver if Von Miller doesn’t stay in Denver. Parsons, however, has severe character concerns which could cause a slide beyond what the media is currently projecting.
The Cowboys’ pass defense was mediocre at best during 2020. They were fortunate to be in a division with Alex Smith, Daniel Jones and a declining Carson Wentz as their opposing starting quarterbacks last season, as they would have been left for dead in a tougher division. Trevon Diggs was a very solid find in the 2nd round, but elsewhere their secondary is full of free agents who – quite frankly – weren’t very good anyway. Depending on how the top-10 falls both Farley and Surtain II could be gone; however, if one of them is available, the Cowboys would likely jump at the prospect of obtaining one of them.
Surtain II isn’t a turnover demon, but he is a very disruptive player with a playstyle ironically similar to Byron Jones. He is a very good tackler and an instinctive defensive back who is a prototypical size with nice speed. I think Surtain could have been more productive in college, which is slightly concerning, but his supreme zone coverage skills should make him a safe top-16 prospect in the upcoming draft.
Caleb Farley or Jaycee Horn (CB) – Farley and Surtain II are close currently in their estimations as top-16 cornerbacks. Either one could go here. Horn has been in consecutive 'draft stock up' reports, and is apparently considered ahead of Surtain by some teams.
Alijah Vera Tucker or Rashawn Slater (OT/IOL) – The Cowboys’ offensive line has continuously regressed since 2019. Tyron Smith is still a great tackle, but also very injury prone. He’s coming to the end of a monster contract he signed years ago, so Vera-Tucker could play elsewhere on the line until the time comes for him to succeed him on the blindside. Slater could similarly qualify, but as Charlie Campbell has mentioned, Slater lacks the prototypical size Dallas usually looks for in OL prospects.
After a promising rookie season, Daniel Jones regressed massively in 2020. This wasn’t all his fault, however. Their multiple OL draft picks didn’t pan out – namely Andrew Thomas, who was very disappointing as a rookie. However, their offensive weaponry was the biggest issue. With Saquon Barkley out, their remaining WR corps were completely exposed. They need a premium, #1 option at the position or Daniel Jones will find himself in a similar position to Sam Darnold and the Jets entering the 2022 off-season.
Either Waddle or Smith should be available here. Repeating myself, I’m torn on whether Waddle or Smith will go first. Many people think that Waddle has a higher ceiling than Smith due to his game-breaking speed and play-making ability, but in light of Smith’s stellar 2020, I think Waddle could (very slightly) slide and go as the 3rd WR off the board. The Giants won’t complain if they are able to get either player. Waddle projects very well for the NFL and would be an instant #1 option to finally replace Odell Beckham Jr
DeVonta Smith (WR) –Depending who goes off the board as WR #2, Smith could be the pick instead of Waddle. Both have incredibly high ceilings, so as mentioned, they can’t really go wrong with either decision.
Alijah Vera Tucker or Rashawn Slater (OT/IOL) – Thomas was poor in 2020. He could improve, but it wouldn’t kill them to draft a versatile OL prospect to improve their still weakened OL. Andrew Thomas could easily kick to RT (which I believe was the plan before Nate Solder’s opt out) and Vera-Tucker could replace Solder at LT. Vera-Tucker could also come in at RT, or even play at guard for his first year or two, if Solder is retained, before becoming the long-term replacement. Slater could also be an option, with the projection of Pro Bowler on the interior with the upside to also play on the outside.
The 49ers appear to be trying to move off Jimmy Garoppolo, despite John Lynch's words to the contrary, been connected to enquiring about Teddy Bridgewater and heavily scouting Zach Wilson. Sam Darnold also appears to be a buy-low option given the Saleh-Shanahan connection. However, Wilson will no longer be available outside the top 5, and Darnold/Bridgewater have done nothing of note as pros, so these options don’t appear feasible or desirable. I have to believe the dream option is that Trey Lance is available. That would be a match made in heaven, as they could retain Garoppolo for his remaining 2 years whilst developing the supremely talented – but raw – Lance. However, given how desperate the Panthers have been in trying to move off Teddy Bridgewater, I imagine they’ll take Lance if another QB doesn’t fall to them (or they don’t trade up/acquire a veteran upgrade).
If this happens, there are a ton of directions the 49ers can go in. Given that Farley and Surtain II could both feasibly be gone by this selection, the 49ers may instead prefer to draft a quality offensive line prospect. I believe Slater would be a perfect fit in San Francisco due to his incredible versatility. Slater can play all 5 positions on the line, but in my opinion, Slater projects best as a Center or Guard and he could be an elite interior prospect. The 49ers are desperate for a new center, and Slater could be a perennial Pro Bowler at the position. WF used the comparison of Maurkice Pouncey, and I agree that is a good pro comparison for Slater. He could also be a very good guard across from Laken Tomlinson. Most of the media are slotting Slater at LT, but he could struggle there due to size limitations. The good news is that 49ers could draft him, start him at LT to try and replace Williams, and if he doesn’t succeed, they could just move him inside where he could be exceptional. Even if they retain Trent Williams, this would still be a viable pick given how dominant he could be a center or tackle. Due to the number of options the 49ers would have with Slater, he would be a stellar pick, even if it is a bit high to typically take an interior lineman.
Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn (CB) – The 49ers have virtually nothing at cornerback. They’ll likely re-sign 1 or 2 off their impending free agents but need a new starting CB regardless. Watch out for Horn here, as the 49ers have drafted South Carolina players early in consecutive drafts now (Samuel in '19 and Kinlaw in '20).
Trey Lance (QB) – Lance would be very difficult to pass on if he falls here. He is raw but incredibly talented.
Alijah Vera-Tucker or Christian Darrisaw (OT) – If San Francisco are forced to look for a pure replacement of Trent Williams (i.e. if he leaves in FA), Vera-Tucker or Darrisaw could be other viable alternatives.
Trade Down – The 49ers could look to trade down if Slater/Vera-Tucker go earlier than expected. They typically trade a lot during drafts and given the depth of offensive lineman and cornerbacks. Horn or Darrisaw would provide better value in the mid-teens, and if they aren’t sold on Lance, they would have a ton of suitors.
The Chargers have a very bright future with Justin Herbert. Joe Burrow also played extremely well, but Justin Herbert was the cream of the rookie crop in 2020, and looked like a future top-5 QB at the position. Granted, he has superb weapons, but he also didn’t benefit from good protection. Aside from Bryan Bulaga, the Chargers’ blocking is pedestrian. They need to replace Russell Okung and Mike Pouncey, and Forrest Lamp hasn't worked out either. Herbert could very well regress if their OL remains unchecked.
Vera-Tucker is an extremely athletic offensive lineman. Some think he could be a better fit as an elite guard in the pros, but Vera-Tucker played well at LT for USC in 2020 and possesses great size to develop as a strong blindside starter in the pros. He played better than Austin Jackson did in 2019, who ended up going No. 18 to Miami in last year’s draft. Vera-Tucker is a comparable athlete with better tape and versatility, so I expect him to go in a similar range (if not higher).
Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn (CB) – Farley and Surtain II are unlikely to be available. Horn could be, though, and is looking to be a safe mid-1st round selection based off his quality 2020 season. Despite their OL needs, it could be argued that the Chargers would be better drafting a cornerback here to improve their aging and ailing secondary and instead using a 2nd round selection on a tackle or guard given the depth of this OL draft class.
Rashawn Slater (OT/IOL) – The Chargers are in a very similar position to San Francisco. Given his aforementioned versatility, Slater makes all the sense in the world for the Chargers. He could be a starter in practically any position aside from RT as Bryan Bulaga is a lock there for 2021.
Christian Darrisaw (OT)– If the Chargers are looking for a pure LT, Darrisaw might be the safest pick.
Danielle Hunter is a superb edge rusher but missed 2019 with an injury. Outside of him, the Vikings could really do with another edge rusher. Ngaouke only lasted for half a season before being traded to the Ravens, Michael Pierce on the interior opted out, and their rotational edge rushers were adequate (e.g. D.J. Wonnum) but will likely resolve to being situational pass rushers rather than defensive cornerstones. Given the investments the Vikings put into their secondary in the previous draft, I expect them to focus more on their front-seven early this year.
Jaelen Phillips was tremendous in 2020. Entering the season, people were eyeing Miami transfer Quincy Roche in the wake of Rousseau’s decision to opt out of the season. However, it was Phillips who pushed himself into the fray with 8 sacks and some eye-catching tape. In fact, Charlie Campbell has suggested teams are hotter on Phillips than Rousseau – perhaps because of recency bias. This might be a slight reach for him, so trading down would be preferable, as the gap between Rousseau and Phillips is close (perhaps Chicago or Washington would entertain moving up for Lance if the top-12 pass on him). Still, given DE is a top-3 coveted position in the NFL, I wouldn't be shocked if the Vikings stand pat and just take their guy.
Gregory Rousseau or Kwity Paye (DE) – I don't feel there is a consensus No. 1 edge rusher in this weaker class. Rousseau could still feasibly be the pick here too. Paye is another option. I personally view Kwity Paye as overrated, but due to his physical skill set the consensus is that he’ll go No. 15-25.
Alijah Vera Tucker or Rashawn Slater (OT/IOL) – The Vikings need a better option at LT, as Riley Rieiff is pedestrian. They also need an upgrade at center. Either of these prospects could be available still depending on the decisions of teams drafting ahead of them.
Trade Down - The Vikings are prime candidates to move down. In my opinion, the 3 edge rushers listed should be taken in the 18-32 range ideally, and Christian Barmore (DT) makes sense there too as a backup option.
Any one reading mainly media mock drafts would be shocked that I have Micah Parsons being drafted this low. However, as readers of WF will know, a lot of teams are extremely concerned about his character. He seems to be one of the major players involved in the Penn State hazing lawsuit, and also has maturity issues on top of this. Despite these issues, Parsons is extremely talented, and the LB position has mixed depth during this draft. As such, I have a hard time seeing multiple needy teams passing on him. The Patriots have frequently taken fliers on players with questionable character attributes, and aside from Dont’a Hightower – who is aging and coming back from a year away from football – the Patriots have very little at linebacker.
Ignoring the aforementioned concerns, Parsons is an extremely dynamic off-ball linebacker. He can play SAM or WILL in the pros and possesses great size for a linebacker at the next level. He has good instincts and a superb skill set. However, he lacks physicality at times and can be exposed downhill, so I think he could struggle early in run support. Parsons is a very fluid pick, because his skill-set is that of a top-10 player, but his other flaws and character issues could see him slide a fair amount into the teens or even 20’s.
Zaven Collins or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB) – If the Patriots are unsettled on Parsons’ character, they could opt for one of these two alternatives. This is the ceiling for both players, perhaps slightly ahead of their ideal range, but neither would be egregious reaches here in my opinion.
Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn (CB) – If Stephon Gilmore is dealt, they could look to replace him with a premium CB pick.
Gregory Rousseau, Jaelen Phillips or Kwity Paye (DE) – Aside from Chase Winovich, who has a capped ceiling, the Patriots have nothing in terms of a pass rush. These players could be an option in improving this.
Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith (WR) – This is the floor for both Waddle and Smith, most likely. I’d be surprised if either were available, but if they are, the Patriots would surely snatch the player up. Harry is a 1st-round bust, short of an unprecedented career turn-around, and they have the league’s worst WR corps beyond him.
Trade Down/Up – The Patriots nearly always trade down in drafts, but given their need for a QB, it would make logical sense if they traded up also.
The Cardinals’ offense is in tremendous shape, but their pass defense is still heavily lacking. Budda Baker is an elite safety, but at cornerback things are a bit more questionable. Byron Murphy is starting to come along as a pro but doesn’t look anything close to a shut-down corner and seems capped as a No. 2 corner. Former position stalwart Patrick Peterson is now decling rapidly and will likely leave in free agency this off-season. As such, the Cardinals could really do with investing a premium pick into a new cornerback.
Jaycee Horn was incredible in 2020 (arguably better than Surtain II, who also played well). He has some slight speed concerns but didn’t show this in real-time situations. He was sticky to receivers and did a good job in avoiding separation from his opponent. Teams will want to be sure this translates to the pros, but given Horn’s ball skills and intelligence, he is a safe mid-1st round calibre prospect who could become a very solid starter. In fact, Horn is catapulting up draft boards and some prefer him to Farley and Surtain II as very similar prospects. These cornerbacks remind me of the OT's last year where the group could go in any order in the top-16.
Caleb Farley or Patrick Surtain II (CB) – Unless some unsavoury injury/off-field news breaks this seems to be the floor for either player. Multiple teams would have to pass on one of their biggest needs for these prospects to make it here. It’s not impossible, but I don’t see it happening.
Gregory Rousseau, Jaelen Phillips or Kwity Paye (DE) – JJ Watt instantly improves their edge rush, and if they can resign Hasaan Reddick, the trio of Jones/Reddick/Watt could be deadly. If they can’t retain Reddick, they will want to draft a young edge rusher. Jones could be gone next off-season, so its not impossible they do so anyway even with their current adequacy at the position.
Rashawn Slater (OT/IOL) – The Cardinals don’t tend to invest premium picks into their offensive line, however, similar to the 49ers and Chargers, the Cardinals have multiple holes on their OL. If Slater slides to them here, he would be a solid option.