If you blink we'll be at the 2021 NFL Draft. With the festivities fast approaching, all 32 teams are in the thick of putting the finishing touches on their plan of attack for when commissioner Roger Goodell announces that they are on the clock. Of course, this is hardly an easy process and one that many within various organizations have been working on for months if not years. Really, this three-day period is a culmination of all that scouting. What's the goal? It's naturally to bring in blue-clip players to your organization, especially at positions of need. But that's easier said than done, which is why it's super important to have a plan in place for when the madness unfolds.
On top of keeping you up to date with all the latest happenings with the 2021 draft, we here at CBS Sports have put our heads together to try and help out all 32 teams by creating a blueprint on how each team could put together the perfect draft this year (How nice are we?!). Below, you'll find the first step of each of those plans along with the links that'll take you the rest of the way.
Step 1: Take the best-available OL/CB with first two picks
"The Cardinals own the 16th and 49th overall picks in the draft. But they don't have another pick until the 160th pick. And while they could surely trade up into the third and fourth rounds, the Cardinals need to make sure they address their needs at offensive line and cornerback with their first two picks. The general consensus is that they will take former USC tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker with the 15th pick. An extremely good pass protector in college, Vera-Tucker has the versatility to play either tackle or guard at the next level.
"If they take a lineman with their first pick, the Cardinals can use the 49th pick to acquire the top-remaining cornerback prospect. Ideally, the Cardinals would have their choice between South Carolina's Jaycee Horn, Florida State's Asante Samuel Jr. and Northwestern's Greg Newsome II. Even if those players are off the board, UCF's Aaron Robinson and Kentucky's Kevin Joseph may be there for the taking. Whoever they select at cornerback will be asked with helping provide depth after the Cardinals watched Patrick Peterson sign with the Vikings earlier this offseason."
To read the rest of Bryan DeAdrdo's plan for the Cardinals, click here.
Step 1: Answer the phones, consider a trade down
"With the San Francisco 49ers trading up to No. 3 overall, the first three picks of the 2021 NFL Draft are all expected to be quarterbacks. While the Falcons at No. 4 overall could have their chance at the best player in the draft who is not a quarterback, there may be a mad dash inside the top five or top 10 for teams interested in taking the fourth quarterback. Some analysts -- including several of our CBS NFL Draft writers -- believe that the Falcons will surprise the NFL by taking a quarterback at No. 4 overall. I don't think the Falcons should move on from Matt Ryan just yet, but I would put it out there that my franchise is indeed interested in taking a quarterback with my No. 4 overall pick. Let me explain.
"As the 49ers have proven, teams that are considering quarterbacks will be aggressive in trading up for their guy. The Falcons are in a prime spot at No. 4 overall, but it would benefit this rebuilding team to trade down. I would be leaking out information saying that I'm considering taking the fourth quarterback, but also that I would consider trading down for the right offer as well. Then, I would answer those trade calls, negotiate the best offer and pull the trigger.
"Great minds clearly think alike, because in his latest mock draft, my colleague Chris Trapasso has the Falcons sending No. 4 overall and No. 142 (Round 5) to the Denver Broncos for No. 40 overall (Round 2) and No. 192 overall (Round 6) along with pick No. 9 and a 2022 first-round pick. Trapasso then has Atlanta, who is now at No. 9 overall, sending that pick along with No. 68 overall (Round 3) and a 2022 fourth-round pick to the Detroit Lions to move up two spots to No. 7 overall. There, the Falcons select former Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, who a lesser general manager could have taken at No. 4 overall.
"To recap this hypothetical, the Falcons gave up a third-round pick, a fifth-round pick and a future fourth-round pick while gaining a second-round pick and a sixth-round pick along with a future first rounder. The Falcons could work out the details so that they give up future mid-round picks instead of current ones if they want to really hit this draft hard, but acquiring a potential star player while also acquiring a second-round pick and a future first is a decent deal. Again, this was a hypothetical trade. The Falcons could potentially get more in return for trading down. Either way, take a quarterback with a later pick."
To read the rest of Jordan Dajani's plan for the Falcons, click here.
Step 1: Add a dynamic receiver for Lamar Jackson
"This has been a need for Baltimore for quite some time as they have not had a thousand-yard receiver since Mike Wallace in 2016. While the club does have some solid weapons for Jackson -- tight end Mark Andrews, running back J.K. Dobbins, and receiver Marquise Brown -- the Ravens are still lacking that dynamic weapon that can take the passing attack up a notch. They took some swings to try and address the need in free agency but struck out on the likes of Kenny Golladay and JuJu Smith-Schuster. They did bring in Sammy Watkins, but his presence alone likely doesn't get this unit over the hump. Because they couldn't find a No. 1 pass-catcher in free agency, it puts more emphasis on drafting a player with that potential at the draft.
"At No. 27 overall, the big three at receiver in LSU's Ja'Marr Chase and the Alabama duo of DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are likely unattainable. That said, they could be in the mix for that second-tier of receivers either with that first-round pick or somewhere on Day 2. That's where Purdue's Rondale Moore, Elijah Moore out of Ole Miss, and Minnesota's Rashod Bateman are all projected to come off the board. While they may not be as polished as Chase, Smith, or Waddle, this is still a pretty deep class at receiver with some intriguing talent that can be had outside of the first round. Personally, Moore would be a fascinating pairing in the Ravens system and would immediately add some playmaking ability to this offense. Whoever the pick is, however, they need to have a Dobbins-like impact in 2021."
To read the rest of Tyler Sullivan's plan for the Ravens, click here.
Step 1: Take prospect who makes instant impact at No. 30
"The Bills are in win-now mode. Win-Super Bowl-now mode. Because of that, even though they're picking in the back end of Round 1, they're decidedly in the market for an instant-impact rookie. But after taking a quick glance at the roster, it's challenging to find room for such a first-year player. However, there's no stipulation that an instant-impact rookie needs to be a focal point of the offense or defense. Buffalo has a top-of-the-AFC roster right now. The goal in this draft -- particularly at pick 30 -- is to find someone who can supplement the offense or defense to make it a Super Bowl-champion roster.
"And that could be one of the following: a corner -- preferably long and athletic -- to push Levi Wallace for the starting job opposite Tre'Davious White or a pass-rushing specialist on the outside to add to the group of Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, A.J. Epenesa, Efe Obada, and Darryl Johnson."
To read the rest of Chris Trapasso's plan for the Bills, click here.
Step 1: Add starting OL help by the end of Day Two
"Whether it's Sam Darnold or Teddy Bridgewater or someone else taking snaps for the majority of 2021, the Panthers can't afford to rest easy up front. Yes, they just got done shelling out $23.5 million to Pat Elflein and Cameron Erving, but between the two of us, that overpay (er, investment) only accentuates their need for options in the trenches. A starting-caliber guard or tackle to pair with the ascending Taylor Moton would be arguably the best short- and long-term investment the Panthers could make this offseason.
"Just listen to their projected line for Opening Day: Erving or Greg Little (left tackle), Dennis Daley (left guard), Matt Paradis (center), Elflein (right guard), Moton (right tackle). They want Darnold to feel more comfortable than he did in New York, don't they? Whether it's an instant bookend like Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater at No. 8, a future OT like Samuel Cosmi or Liam Eichenberg in the second or more of a project like D'Ante Smith in the third, they simply need more developmental talent."
To read the rest of Cody Benjamin's plan for the Panthers, click here.
Step 1: Trade up for a franchise QB
"To be clear, this would depend on which QBs are available, and where. In our mind, it would not be smart, for example, to mortgage all kinds of future picks to go as high as No. 4 for Mac Jones. But let's say Justin Fields or Trey Lance slips into the back half of the top 10. There's no reason Chicago shouldn't be on the phone attempting to move up.
"Yes, general manager Ryan Pace is still trying to overcome his biggest personnel blunder, a trade up for a supposed franchise QB. But fear of reliving the Mitchell Trubisky experiment should not stop a desperate front office from doing the thing most likely to revitalize the team (and the current regime's job security): moving up to secure a top QB prospect.
"But they already paid Andy Dalton and assured him a starting job (!), you say. To that, we say: Who cares? And to the Bears, we say: Do you care about winning? If so, the smart thing, regardless of whether Dalton starts and even plays well in 2021, is to take a bigger swing at the most important position. If it means giving up a 2022 first-rounder (or more) to get Fields or Lance in the building, so be it."
To read the rest of Cody Benjamin's plan for the Bears, click here.
Step 1: Add at least two offensive linemen, including a Day One starter
"This seems like a no-brainer at this point, but it can't be emphasized enough. Even if the Bengals' front was just average for Burrow in 2020, there'd still be reason to invest in the trenches. But it was horrendous, and that means that a one-year deal for Riley Reiff to play right tackle is not going to cut it. Reiff may start the year opposite Jonah Williams as a bookend, and he may help, but Cincy's No. 1 goal in the draft should be injecting at least one other new starter into its O-line.
"Notice that this says at least two linemen. If the Bengals end up spending nearly half their picks on blockers, that shouldn't be criticized. Who, among Cincy's current starting line (Williams, Reiff, Michael Jordan, Billy Price, Xavier Su'a-Filo), inspires unblemished confidence in 2021, let alone for years to come? Obviously quality matters as much as quantity here, but if there's one area that can't be overcorrected on this team, it's the unit charged with keeping the star QB upright.
"If it's not Penei Sewell at No. 5 or Rashawn Slater in a slight move down (or, heck, as a surprise at No. 5), then tackle or guard must be addressed in the second round, as well as later."
To read the rest of Cody Benjamin's plan for the Bengals, click here.
Step 1: Take best player available at No. 26 overall
"Cleveland entered the offseason with a few needs but they have been able to address those through free agency. The Browns are largely in a position to take the best player available at No. 26 overall. The decision-making may be skewed towards a handful of positions such as edge rusher, cornerback, defensive tackle, linebacker and wide receiver, but that leaves EVP and GM Andrew Berry significant room to add a key contributor."
To read the rest of Josh Edwards' plan for the Browns, click here.
Step 1: Do not trade up!
"So, you've heard Jerry Jones is reportedly infatuated with Pitts.
"The spoiler here is -- news flash -- everyone is. That not only includes those who sit at No. 4 through No. 10 in the draft, presuming the top three select quarterbacks as expected, but also the teams directly behind the Cowboys who have a shot at trading up to take him. And while that would make sense for a team like the New York Giants, Washington Football Team or Philadelphia Eagles (who I've noted could still move back into the top 10 after trading with the Dolphins to slide down), the Cowboys must refrain from getting caught in that tornado, Dorothy, because the yellow brick road will inevitably lead them to a handful of primo options if they simply stay put. Additionally, after seeing Lamb go to Dallas in 2020, is it difficult to consider the other three NFC East teams would be juiced to keep Pitts out of North Texas? Only six spots separate the Cowboys from the top three seats, but there are more than six elite players who'll still be on the board. Follow the arithmetic and you'll see the science here, as the variables line up perfectly for Dallas to be anything but antsy when things get underway on April 29."
To read the rest of Patrik Walker's plan for the Cowboys, click here.
Step 1: Don't trade up in the first round
"According to Benjamin Allbright of KOA Colorado, the Broncos have not called the Atlanta Falcons about trading up to No. 4 overall so far. As Allbright notes, this does not mean that Denver is not looking at quarterbacks or don't have interest in moving up, but that's where we stand as of now. There are many different opinions about what the Broncos should do in the first round. They could trade up for a quarterback, hope one falls to them at No. 9 overall or maybe even trade down if they receive a good offer. If you ask me, I say Denver should stay put at No. 9 overall. Do not trade up.
"If Trey Lance or Justin Fields fall to No. 9 overall, this is where things could get interesting for the Broncos. If the front office is set on taking a signal-caller, then go for it. If not, they should have a chance to select a first-day starter like linebacker Micah Parsons or offensive lineman Rashawn Slater -- who appears to be climbing draft boards. Maybe the Broncos even take a cornerback with that first pick. Either way, the Broncos would be wise to see how things play out on draft day instead of making a very aggressive move up the board. "
To read the rest of Jordan Dajani's plan for the Broncos, click here.
Step 1: Trade down from No. 7, get more picks
"Having six picks this year just isn't going to work for the Lions, who need to acquire more assets in order to help Goff out as best they can. Here's the only issue with trading down -- the Lions are in prime position to draft one of the big three wide receivers at No. 7, an impact pass catcher for Goff in year one with his new team.
"There's a good chance the Dolphins will take Ja'Marr Chase at No. 6, but the LSU wide receiver could be waiting at No. 7 if Miami doesn't take him. What does Detroit do in this situation? Take the best wide receiver in the draft and have a game changer for the next decade or listen to trade offers for the pick?
"In a quarterback-needy draft where two of the top-five signal callers could be available at No. 7, the Lions should take the best offer and try to move back and stockpile picks. Quite a few teams will be interested in that real estate, namely the Denver Broncos, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, and Washington Football Team. Detroit should take the best offer possible and load up on draft picks to make some noise later in this draft.
"If Chase is available at No. 7, we can't fault the Lions for taking him and getting Goff his No. 1 wideout either. Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams just aren't going to cut it."
To read the rest of Jeff Kerr's plan for the Lions, click here.
Green Bay Packers
Step 1: Don't mess up the first-round pick
"First things first, the Packers can't mess up their first pick. This "advice" is more than obvious, but we all know what happened last year. The first-round pick of quarterback Jordan Love upset not only fans, but Rodgers as well, and that uneasiness between the franchise and their star quarterback has even carried into the offseason. This first-round pick feels very important for the Packers. It's a decision that could jump-start what could be a very successful 2021 campaign, or leave fans once again wanting more.
"The positions the Packers should probably be looking at with the No. 29 overall pick are interior defensive lineman, linebacker, cornerback, offensive lineman or even wide receiver. In looking at our CBS NFL mock drafts, the Packers should be able to get a steal with their first pick. Former Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley could fall that far due to a recent minor surgery despite once being considered the best corner in the draft. Wide receivers Elijah Moore or Rondale Moore could be solid picks or maybe even linebacker Zaven Collins. Again, hitting on your first-round pick should be an easy goal to meet for the Packers, but it just feels necessary to state the obvious after looking at last year's draft selection."
To read the rest of Jordan Dajani's plan for the Packers, click here.
Step 1: Take Dyami Brown with first draft pick
"If the Texans want to find an impact player in this draft, Brown is the guy. The North Carolina wideout averaged more than 20 yards per catch in each of the past two seasons and his speed is what the Texans need to ignite an offense that lost its deep-ball receiver in Will Fuller. Brown would become an instant playmaker on a receiving unit that includes Brandin Cooks on the outside and Randall Cobb in the slot. There's an excellent chance Brown could start in Week 1 on this unit.
Brown's ability with the double move and acceleration to run past defensive backs makes him a big-play threat, as his five catches of 50-plus yards last year suggest. The Texans should do whatever they can to get him with their first pick, even if Houston has to part ways with some of their Day Three picks to trade up.
Brown is a building block for a rebuilding team, a wideout that can stick around for a long time."
To read the rest of Jeff Kerr's plan for the Texans, click here.
Step 1: Target a top-tier offensive tackle and pass rusher
"Rest assured, the Colts will spend the 21st overall pick on either a pass protector or a pass rusher. Given the deep pool of pass rushers, Indianapolis would be wise to use its first pick on an offensive tackle, then use the 54th overall pick on a pass rusher.
The Colts surely expect Oregon's Penei Sewell and Northwestern's Rashawn Slater will likely be off the board by the time they are on the clock. If they hope to get an offensive tackle with the 21st pick, the Colts will likely be keeping their fingers crossed that Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw is still available. And while Oklahoma State's Tevin Jenkins and Michigan's Jalen Mayfield are highly rated, both players play right tackle, and the Colts need someone who can line up on the left side. In the event Darrisaw is off the board, the Colts may have to bank on North Dakota State's Dillon Radunz being available with the 54th overall pick.
If the Colts land their next left tackle in the first round, they can take advantage of what is a deep class at EDGE rusher. While the top-rated pass rushers will be gone by then, the Colts should have several options with their second-round pick. Among the top-remaining pass rushers that may still be on the board include Pittsburgh's Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver, Dukes Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje, UAB's Jordan Smith, Washington's Joe Tron, Florida State's Joshua Kaindoh, and Tulsa's Zaven Collins. There's an outside chance that either Penn State's Jayson Oweh and/or Texas' Joseph Ossai somehow slip to the middle part of the second round. If either player is still available, rest assured that the Colts will quickly move to grab them, assuming they get their new offensive tackle in Round 1."
To read the rest of Bryan DeArdo's plan for the Colts, click here.
Step 1: Let the Trevor Lawrence era begin
"An absolute no-brainer. Trevor Lawrence is considered to be a generational prospect that has the potential to change the trajectory of any franchise. As CBS Sports NFL Draft expert Chris Trapasso recently laid out, the Clemson phenom is the best quarterback prospect of the past 40 years, which includes legends like John Elway and Peyton Manning along with Andrew Luck. This is an easy first step for the Jaguars brass, but the seismic nature of this selection cannot be overstated. Once they officially make Lawrence a Jaguar, they've completed an important step toward relevancy."
To read the rest of Tyler Sullivan's plan for the Jaguars, click here.
Kansas City Chiefs
Step 1: Draft an offensive tackle early
"It was difficult to watch Mahomes try to take on the Buccaneers' pass rush all by himself in the Super Bowl. The former Super Bowl MVP was pressured on 31 of his 56 dropbacks, according to PFF, hit nine times, sacked thrice and threw two interceptions. It was the only time all season in which Mahomes was pressured on over half of his dropbacks. It was also just one of two games all year in which Mahomes threw multiple interceptions, and his 52.3 passer rating was the lowest mark of his career. The Chiefs offensive line was not at full strength for that Super Bowl, and we all know they are a formidable unit when all five are present and accounted for. Unfortunately, this group has seen a good amount of turnover this offseason.
"The Chiefs parted ways with both their starting left tackle Eric Fisher and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, and their starting center Austin Reiter is still in free agency looking for a new deal. Kansas City did sign one of the best guards in the game in Joe Thuney, but who will start at left tackle is a question that's hard to ignore. I don't think the Chiefs' perfect draft hinges on taking an offensive tackle in the first round, but I do think it's a good idea. Jalen Mayfield out of Michigan is a player who has been mocked by many analysts -- including myself -- to the Chiefs, but he's more of a right tackle. A transition over to the other side in the future is probably not impossible, but the Chiefs could also hope someone like Teven Jenkins out of Oklahoma State or Christian Darrisaw out of Virginia Tech falls to them."
To read the rest of Jordan Dajani's plan for the Chiefs, click here.
Las Vegas Raiders:
Step 1: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah at No. 17
"Vegas needs a playmaking linebacker and Owusu-Koramoah can become a dominant force on the Raiders defense for years to come. Owusu-Koramoah is not only productive (24.5 tackles for loss over 25 starts), but he's intelligent and explosive off the snap -- a force opposing coordinators always have to game plan for when he's on the field.
"The Raiders could play Owusu-Koramoah in a variety of positions, helpful for a defense that has a lot of needs. Owusu-Koramoah can play the "jack of all trades" role, from nickelback to linebacker to safety -- showcasing his value all over the field. His speed is an asset in coverage, important for a defensive unit that allowed the third most points per game and had the third fewest takeaways.
"If the Raiders don't like the offensive line options at No. 17, they shouldn't think twice about selecting Owusu-Koramoah here. There are many options the Raiders can use with their first-round pick, but they (literally) cover a lot of holes on defense with Owusu-Koramoah on the unit."
To read the rest of Jeff Kerr's plan for the Raiders, click here.
Los Angeles Chargers
Step 1: Grab the best available OL/CB with their first two picks
"Rest assured that Los Angeles will address offensive line and cornerback with the 13th and 47th overall picks. While they may use the pick on a cornerback (especially if Jaycee Horn is still on the board), the safe bet is that the Chargers will use the pick to help bolster their offensive line. It will likely come down to either Rashawn Slater or Christian Darrisaw. One of college football's best linemen over the past several years, Slater has the versatility to play either tackle (his natural position) or guard at the next level. A three-year starter at Virginia Tech, Darrisaw should flourish in the Chargers' zone blocking scheme. Either player would be an ideal pick at No. 13.
"There should still be several strong cornerback options with the 47th pick. Those options may include Kentucky's Kelvin Joseph and Florida State's Asante Samuel Jr. An aggressive defender, Joseph picked off four passes in just nine games in 2020. Samuel, despite being a tad undersized, excelled in man coverage during his time at Florida State. During his final two years with the Seminoles, Samuel picked off four passes (including three during the 2020 season) to go with 20 passes defended."
To read the rest of Bryan DeArdo's plan for the Chargers, click here.
Los Angeles Rams
Step 1: Address the offensive line, secondary on Day 2
"Los Angles is devoid of a first-round pick, but the Rams have three picks on Day 2 of the draft: one second round pick (57 overall) and two third-round picks (88 and 103 overall). The Rams should use their first Day 2 pick on either a center or an offensive tackle. Los Angeles lost starter center Austin Blythe to the Chiefs in free agency, and will need to start looking for Andrew Whitworth's eventual replacement at left tackle. Former Alabama center Landon Dickerson would be an ideal pick if he somehow fell to the back end of the second round. Another option here could be Dickerson's college teammate, Alex Leatherwood, who recently said that he is open to playing either tackle or guard at the next level.
"Former Cincinnati offensive tackle James Hudson III would be a great addition with the 103rd overall pick if he is still on the board. A former defensive lineman who started his college career at Michigan, Hudson elevated his draft stock following his impressive Senior Bowl performance. Former Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis could also be on the Rams' radar with their final Day 2 pick. An athletic lineman with very effective hands, Davis helped protect Justin Fields while also providing clear running lanes for Trey Sermon and J.K. Dobbins during his time in Columbus, Ohio.
"The Rams should spend at least one of their Day 2 picks on rebuilding a secondary that lost cornerback Troy Hill and safety John Johnson in free agency. Florida's Asante Samuel Jr. would be a nice replacement for Hill. In just eight games last season, Samuel picked off three passes and broke up three more. He also recovered two fumbles while forcing another. A possible candidate to replace Johnson is former Oregon free safety Jevon Holland, who made nine interceptions during his two seasons in Eugene. Holland has already begun building a rapport with Ramsey, who has been working out with several prospects leading up to the draft.
"Given their needs on the line and in the secondary, expect the Rams to spend one or two Day 3 picks on those positions. Speaking of that, one intriguing Day 3 prospect is former TCU safety Ar'Darius Washington. If he can overcome his small stature (he's listed at 5-foot-8 and 179 pounds), Washington has the toughness, athleticism and high motor could make him a Day 3 steal."
To read the rest of Bryan DeArdo's plan for the Rams, click here.
Step 1: Ja'Marr Chase or bust
"Miami was in prime position to select Chase with the No. 3 overall pick, but it didn't need to select Chase that high. The Dolphins traded down to No. 12 and added two first-round picks from the San Francisco 49ers, then used one of them to trade back up No. 6 in the hopes of selecting Chase (basically adding a first-round pick to move down three spots).
"Grier read the draft board. The top three picks are going to be quarterbacks and if the Atlanta Falcons trade out of No. 4, there's an excellent chance the fourth pick will be a quarterback as well (even if Atlanta stays at No. 4, a wide receiver shouldn't be in the cards for the Falcons). That leaves the Cincinnati Bengals as the only team standing in the way of the Dolphins' pursuit of Chase. Cincinnati could draft Chase and pair him with franchise quarterback Joe Burrow again, but the Bengals need to protect their asset and improve the offensive line (tight end Kyle Pitts is also a potential play there).
"The Dolphins just need to sit at No. 6 and dwell on the excellent odds Chase is going to be there. Pairing Chase with Devante Parker, Will Fuller, and Preston Williams gives Miami one of the top wide receiver units in the NFL -- including a No. 1 in Chase that can make Tagovailoa a star for a decade.
"Chase is the best wide receiver in this draft with the potential to change a game every time he comes down with a catch. He is just what the Dolphins need."
To read the rest of Jeff Kerr's plan for the Dolphins, click here.
Step 1: Add a QB early (and consider getting aggressive to do it)
"The Vikings have made it clear they stand by Kirk Cousins entering 2021, especially after extending him prior to 2020 and then witnessing a solid rebound from the veteran down the stretch. But let's be honest: Who, in or outside that building, believes with conviction that Cousins is the guy to get this team over the hump in the next two years?
"Cousins is not a bad QB, but he's also representative of who the Vikings have been for a while: Steady enough to avoid bottoming out, good enough to make playoff runs, but rarely special enough to go the distance. If general manager Rick Spielman got a solid offer for him right now, and could save $46 million ($11M now, $35M in 2022) by dealing him, he'd almost assuredly think about it.
"That's where the rubber meets the road: With or without Cousins, either in 2021 or beyond, the Vikings have to be thinking about their future at QB. With a top 15 pick (No. 14) and six (!) third- or fourth-round picks this year, they're well positioned to make either a small or big jump up the board if a top prospect is within reach. And there's no doubt that sacrificing some mid-rounders -- and, heck, even a future first to go with them -- would be worth it if it meant putting a talent like Trey Lance or Justin Fields in purple.
"The Vikings already have other long-term building blocks in place: Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Irv Smith Jr. make a rock-solid trio of weapons. On defense, guys like Tomlinson, Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks can still contribute for the long haul. The biggest missing X factor is a game-changing signal-caller -- a true, dynamic face of the franchise. A lower-risk swing would be acceptable (Davis Mills or Kellen Mond in a move back into the second?). But a first-round splash would bring the most juice, not to mention hope for 2022 and beyond."
To read the rest of Cody Benjamin's plan for the Vikings, click here.
New England Patriots
Step 1: Find the next franchise quarterback
"This is the need for the New England Patriots, but they can attack this in a multitude of ways. So long as they come away with some potential of having a quarterback that can lead the franchise for the foreseeable future, there really should be no qualms about how they go about it.
"If the San Francisco 49ers are willing to lower their asking price for Jimmy Garoppolo after taking a prospect at No. 3, that could be an avenue worth exploring for Bill Belichick. If the Patriots are bullish enough and like a prospect enough that they want to leap into the top 10, that's another option, albeit the most expensive one. The team could also check in on the likes of Teddy Bridgewater or simply hold at No. 15 overall and see what falls to them at that spot. Another -- and likely less popular -- option could be to wait until Day 2 and target that next tier of signal-callers like Texas A&M's Kellen Mond or Florida's Kyle Trask and develop them over the 2021 season with Cam Newton at the helm in preparations of either one of them possibly taking the baton in 2022. As I said, there are multiple roads that can lead New England to a quarterback, and as long as it's successful it shouldn't matter which route they take."
To read the rest of Tyler Sullivan's plan for the Patriots, click here.
New Orleans Saints
Step 1: Grab a cornerback with one of their first picks
"The Saints have a star corner in Marshon Lattimore, but who is going to start across from him? Janoris Jenkins, who started in all 13 games he played in last year, signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency, and Patrick Robinson and P.J. Williams started in just seven combined games in 2020. New Orleans should draft a cornerback with one of its first picks, and it could happen in the first round. Two of our CBS NFL Draft writers have the Saints selecting former Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley -- who is certainly a prospect they should consider if he falls all the way to No. 28 overall. Farley opted out of the 2020 season, but his health is also a perceived issue. He missed his pro day due to what was reported to be a minor procedure done on his back, and that coupled with the rising stocks of the other top cornerbacks in this class could cause him to fall in the first round.
"Recently, Farley said that not only would a team be making a mistake by taking another corner over him, but that he would make it his mission to have other teams kicking themselves for passing on his talent. I want a player like that, but it's not a given he will fall all the way to the end of the first round. If Farley is not available, New Orleans could be in the running for Asante Samuel Jr. out of Florida State, Greg Newsome II out of Northwestern, Georgia's Tyson Campbell or Ifeatu Melifonwu out of Syracuse. Most of these names are considered late first-round or early second-round prospects, so maybe New Orleans should lean toward using that first selection on a top corner."
To read the rest of Jordan Dajani's plan for the Saints, click here.
New York Giants
Step 1: Take a blue-chip prospect at No. 11
"If I were at the helm, I'd take a BPA-adjusted approach with my draft picks. While I'd be searching for the best player available, I would put a priority on concepts such as positional scarcity and positional value (namely, will this player be able to make a big impact on what actually matters -- moving the ball via the pass and stopping the pass). This means running backs and interior defensive linemen who can't rush the passer would be out of the first-round conversation for me. In the 2021 class, the likelihood of anywhere from three to five quarterbacks being selected before No. 11 increases the likelihood of a blue-chip player who fits the criteria above being available when they're on the clock.
"The position most likely to have a blue chip available at No. 11 is wide receiver and it helps that a pair of teams (Cowboys, Broncos) picking ahead of the Giants are less likely to draft a receiver given the draft capital they've recently invested in the position."
To read the rest of Dan Schneier's plan for the Giants, click here.
New York Jets
Step 1: Get your quarterback
"No decision that Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh will make during their respective tenures with the Jets is more important than this one. New York knows Trevor Lawrence will be off the board after the Jaguars make him the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. That means the Jets can choose Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones to be their quarterback of the future.
"Nearly every recent media report indicates Wilson will be their choice. He's the No. 2 overall prospect in our rankings here at CBS Sports, and the No. 2 quarterback (and No. 4 overall player) at both ESPN and The Athletic.
"As a player, his skill set makes sense for new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur's offense. Wilson has the mobility to make the play-action, bootleg system work at a high level, and he has the requisite accuracy on intermediate throws to take advantage of the openings the system creates. His improvisation ability will serve him well in the event the Jets don't use the draft to upgrade the offensive line in front of him, which still needs quite a bit of work to get to the point where it is a strength. And as they surround him with more and more playmakers, Wilson will be able to take advantage of that gift to create big plays rather than escape negative ones.
"(While Wilson seems the likely pick, the Jets should be sure to do their requisite diligence on Fields, Lance, and Jones. They each have their own merits, and just because reports indicate one guy is the guy, doesn't mean he'll end up being the guy on draft day.)"
To read the rest of Jared Dubin's plan for the Jets, click here.
Step 1: Draft one of the big three wide receivers at No. 12
"This isn't difficult. If the Eagles have the opportunity to draft Ja'Marr Chase (who likely won't be there), DeVonta Smith, or Jaylen Waddle with the No. 12 pick, they should rush to the podium to select that game-changing wide receiver they desperately need.
"Philadelphia could actually be in a position to select Smith or Waddle. The Eagles can't go wrong with either player. Both wideouts would automatically become the top pass-catching option in Sirianni's offense, opening up opportunities for Jalen Reagor to shine in his second season. Waddle can stretch the field and give the Eagles a dimension to their offense the franchise hasn't seen since DeSean Jackson was scoring long touchdowns in his first stint with the team. Smith's speed is also an asset many teams covet, as he can separate from defenders at a whim.
"The Eagles don't have many proven options at wide receiver. Adding Smith or Waddle makes this offense instantly better -- and gives Hurts a chance to shine in his prove-it year as the team's starting quarterback."
To read the rest of Jeff Kerr's plan for the Eagles, click here.
Step 1: Get a featured back
"While no team solely relies on one running back anymore, it's no secret that Mike Tomlin likes having a featured running back who can close out a game. Tomlin had the luxury of having Le'Veon Bell on his team during the 2010s, and the result was four consecutive playoff berths that included a trip to the AFC title game in 2016.
"The Steelers are expected to find their next featured running back in either the first or the second round. With the 24th overall pick, Pittsburgh should be in position to draft either Alabama's Najee Harris, Clemson's Travis Etienne, or North Carolina's Javonte Williams. Harris and Williams are bruisers, while the versatile Etienne would be a more natural fit inside new offensive coordinator Matt Canada's offense. Depending on what the Dolphins and Jets (owners of the 18th and 23rd selections, respectively) do with their picks, the Steelers could possibly have their choice of all three backs when they are on the clock.
"The Steelers will also have several good options if they choose to wait until the second round to take a running back. Oklahoma's Rhamondre Stevenson, North Carolina's Michael Carter and Memphis' Kenneth Gainwell are among the top running back prospects who may still be available when the Steelers are on the clock with the 55th pick. And if Pittsburgh wants until the third round, Ohio State's Trey Sermon and Jaret Patterson might be available with the 87th overall pick. But given how big of a need this is, don't expect the Steelers to wait too long to solidify their running back position."
To read the rest of Bryan DeArdo's plan for the Steelers, click here.
San Francisco 49ers
Step 1: Draft Justin Fields
"The Jacksonville Jaguars are taking Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 and there's a very good chance the New York Jets are taking Zach Wilson at No. 2 overall. Once the Jets select Wilson, the 49ers should run to the podium and select Justin Fields. This shouldn't even be a conversation.
"Fields is the ideal quarterback for Shanahan's zone-read scheme. He can make the throws on the run and thrives on the intermediate passes. Not only does Fields have a strong arm, but his timing is excellent for a player his age. Fields does need work seeing the field, but he can get out of trouble with his running ability -- which he doesn't use nearly enough. He can instantly start Week 1 in the 49ers offense, a system that focuses on running the ball. Fields can get comfortable as a game manager before developing into the game changer he has the potential to be.
"Get the best quarterback on the board and win football games for the next decade. That's what the 49ers are drafting in Justin Fields."
To read the rest of Jeff Kerr's plan for the 49ers, click here.
Step 1: Grab added protection for Russell Wilson
"Stop me if you've heard this before: Russell Wilson was/is a tad miffed with the Seahawks. Maybe that's now behind them with Carlos Dunlap noting Wilson's proclamation of remaining in Seattle, and maybe it's simply cooled for now and Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon will be proven correct in his prediction the two sides divorce in the near future. One thing is certain, though, and that's the fact Wilson is still in a Seahawks uniform and in order to keep it that way -- the organization is going to have to make roster moves that extend his Hall of Fame caliber career. Bravo to general manager John Schneider for getting on that ball with the trade for Gabe Jackson, followed by awarding him a three-year deal worth $22.75 million, but there's more work to be done on the offensive line. Using one of their only three picks on an offensive lineman, preferably their first pick, would go that much further in both keeping Wilson upright and as elated as he was when his No. 1 weapon -- All-Pro receiver Tyler Lockett -- was awarded a four-year, $69.2 million deal in March."
To read the rest of Patrik Walker's plan for the Seahawks, click here.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Step 1: Get ahead of looming free agents along the front-seven
"The defensive line and outside linebacker are two spots that are positions of strength for the Bucs in 2021, but the floor could fall out from under them a bit in 2022. While the team has star defensive tackle Vita Vea under team control for the foreseeable future, Ndamukong Suh and Steve McLendon are both signed through only 2021 while Rakeem Nunez-Roches is under contract through 2022. The Bucs could go down a similar route with Suh next offseason and hand him another one-year deal. It'd be wise for the club to also inject some youth at the position during a time where it won't be asked to immediately carry the load. The 2021 season could be used for the team to develop a defensive tackle behind Suh before giving way in the years to come.
"To a lesser degree thanks to the Shaq Barrett extension, the same can be said at outside linebacker. Jason Pierre-Paul is signed through this coming season and the 32-year-old will then be looking at free agency. If an edge defender falls to No. 32, this could be a savvy selection for the Buccaneers in hopes of maintaining that elite pass rush that was vital in their Super Bowl victory. Similar to defensive tackle, addressing it now gives the club a bit of a cushion to develop a player slowly thanks to a stacked depth chart."
To read the rest of Tyler Sullivan's plan for the Buccaneers, click here.
Step 1: Make cornerback a priority
"The Titans have needs at wide receiver, offensive tackle and tight end, but cornerback is the most important to me. Tennessee released Malcolm Butler and Adoree' Jackson this offseason, which means second-year corner Kristian Fulton is slated to be the new No. 1. I like the addition of the veteran Janoris Jenkins, but that doesn't exactly solve the problems in the secondary. Tennessee's pass defense took a noticeable dip in 2020. The Titans ranked fourth-worst in passing yards allowed per game and also had the worst third-down defense in the league. In my hypothetical Titans seven-round mock draft, I selected former Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II with the No. 22 overall pick. He or Caleb Farley -- if he falls that far -- would be a solid pick in my opinion. Taking a cornerback early in the 2021 NFL Draft is not a cure-all for the secondary, but it puts the Titans on the right track for the future and could pay dividends early on."
To read the rest of Jordan Dajani's plan for the Titans, click here.
Washington Football Team
Step 1: Don't reach for a quarterback
"Realistically, Fitzpatrick, Allen and Heinicke are not the future under center for Washington, but that doesn't mean this team has to mortgage the future to move up in the first round or take a quarterback at No. 19 overall. The San Francisco 49ers made a big decision by trading up to No. 3 overall, which has to make the other teams considering quarterbacks in the first round feel antsy. The Atlanta Falcons at No. 4 overall could trade down, but it would take a king's ransom for them to do so. At least five quarterbacks are expected to go in the first round, and it's very possible the first four picks of the draft could all be signal-callers. Washington should not throw its hat into the ring with teams like potentially the Denver Broncos or New England Patriots to trade up into that top five range. This means that Washington likely won't take a quarterback with their first-round pick -- and that's completely fine. Washington should do their due diligence on players like Davis Mills out of Stanford, Kellen Mond from Texas A&M and Jamie Newman out of Georgia, but I do wonder where that rookie quarterback would immediately fit in with Rivera. He has his two former Carolina Panthers quarterbacks who both earned extensions this offseason. Allen was clearly Rivera's favorite before he was injured, and then Heinicke quickly became a fan favorite by proving he could be competitive in the playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The success of Washington's 2021 NFL Draft does not hinge on the team taking a quarterback or not, but making an aggressive move in the first round is not the play this year."
To read the rest of Jordan Dajani's plan for Washington, click here.