To paraphrase Neil Diamond -- I'm only going to do one mock, but I'm gonna do it good. There's a couple key things about this draft you need to understand.
First, I have no idea why this is my first mock draft. I guess be glad you're spared me trading some random veteran quarterback in March.
Second, everyone is understandably spending their time talking about No. 3 (more on that in a second) but this draft takes a swan dive around 12 or 13. This is why Atlanta can't trade out of No. 4. No one will pay the price to move up to get a quarterback. Part of the problem is Atlanta doesn't want to drop below 12 or so. Also, there's no one willing to pay to come up to the fourth pick relative to what Atlanta wants for the pick. They're probably going to stick there and take Kyle Pitts and they're probably going to look like geniuses for doing it. If you're not sure ... just draft Kyle Pitts.
Third, don't be surprised if you see some insane names drafted in the first round this year. If Carlos Basham or Dyami Brown or Alim McNeil go first round, I, as a neutral ACC observer, wouldn't be a bit surprised. I love all those guys and they are very good players. But that's just how this class worked out in conjunction with the pandemic (hopefully) trailing off and the scouting in between. There is less information. Teams are giving more value to next year picks so trading back into the first round won't happen as much, I don't think. Ergo, teams in the back end will take the guys they like and just move on.
Fourth, the DL class is a mess. When you take out elite EDGE guys and interior defensive linemen you're left forcing teams to take cornerbacks and linebackers over offensive players, again, after a year where some people didn't play football. When the pass rushers aren't great it flips the draft board.
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Finally, here are 50,000 words on Kyle/Mac/Third pick. Just kidding. I'm gonna write on that, but man this third overall pick is spicy as hell. It creates a multiple year shift in terms of personnel and quarterbacks and the draft. We've all spent too much time on it, but man it's a big swing.
(Actually) finally -- I'm really curious to see if some teams park in safe harbor this year in the first round. Jaelen Phillips is a monster, but he took a year off (not the Covid year!) because of, presumably, medical issues. He came back and had eight sacks in 10 games with Miami. He's a top-10 pick in a normal year.
But it's not a normal year. Expect insanity. The first 10-12 picks should be fairly uniform. If you have early Unders on the top-shelf guys, I think you're in good shape. But once this draft hits 14 or 15, I think it gets really weird. No name is un-mock-draftable within reason.
Make sure and watch the recap show of me, Ryan Wilson and John Breech breaking all the picks down on YouTube (dot com slash pick six, hit that subscribe button and we're friends for life). And if you're reading on Wednesday or Thursday, check out our podcast best bets show too or just listen to our final mock draft.
At any rate, let's go be a top-10 mock drafter for the second year in a row:
Round 1 - Pick 2
Zach Wilson QB
BYU • 6'3" / 210 lbs
Some Spidey Sense on Justin Fields here, but the Jets are pot committed to Wilson and believe he's the guy after trading Sam Darnold. They're mostly showing their hand and you can't wreck a mock this early on Spidey Sense.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ohio State • 6'3" / 227 lbs
You can, however, give the 49ers the obvious target at QB. Why wouldn't Fields be the pick here? The 49ers are comfortable with five quarterbacks per Kyle Shanahan. Two are going to be gone. Two are rumored to be heavily connected to the 49ers. Give me the guy no one is talking about, because this draft has major shades of 2018 to it. Go read Seth Wickersham's piece on ESPN about Mike Shanahan regretting not going for the truly elite QB and how it cost him Super Bowl(s). You think Mike hasn't passed that along to his son?? Mac Jones is a very good player and a worthy first-round pick. But Fields -- who the Shanahans have worked with since high school -- gives Shanahan the chance to take the top off with his offense. Five weeks of pure smokescreening is a lot to push back against but let's do it anyway.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Kyle Pitts TE
Florida • 6'6" / 239 lbs
Atlanta would love to trade down, but there are two problems. No one in the top 12 wants to trade up this high and anyone who does want to trade up has zero interest in paying the price. The logical move for a new coaching staff fully invested in Matt Ryan -- CAN WE PLEASE talk about Matt Ryan's contract, because he isn't going anywhere for two years -- is to lean into a strength and give him another weapon. Pitts is a probably the "best" prospect in this class if we take out positional value. You can screw up a QB. You can't screw up Kyle Pitts.
Round 1 - Pick 5
LSU • 6'1" / 200 lbs
Sewell vs. Chase has to be annoying in Cincy at this point. The calculus for the Bengals is pretty simple (and at the same time pretty complex): does a Sewell/2nd round WR combo beat out a Chase/2nd round OL combo? You can't know the answer, but most of the second-round offensive lineman are capable of kicking inside (Cincy will likely ask that of said pick in 2021) and most of the second-round wideouts are slot guys (Cincy has Tyler Boyd on an extension). To me it's easy unless Pitts is there.
From Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1 - Pick 6
Alabama • 5'10" / 182 lbs
Did the Dolphins screw up by making their trade with the Eagles? I think they wanted Pitts/Chase and assumed the Bengals were taking Sewell. This isn't a settle move, though, because Waddle is an absolute burner of a menace who plays bigger than his frame. I think he has an argument for WR1 honestly. Load up on weapons for Tua and see if he can make it happen, captain.
Mock Trade from Detroit Lions
Round 1 - Pick 7
Penei Sewell OL
Oregon • 6'5" / 331 lbs
The team who reaps the rewards? The Chargers, with a very eager Tom Telesco, package a third and a fourth to move up here. If you think that's short, fine. Detroit doesn't have any suitors flying up and is desperate for additional picks. They're willing to move down for cheap, especially if it's in the top 13. Telesco wants to reunite Justin Herbert and his old Oregon left tackle. He left us a clue with his depth chart last year and I think he's doing it again this draft.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Alabama • 6'2" / 202 lbs
The cornerback smoke with the Panthers is real and you can bet it at like 7-1. Go bet that! If Sewell is here I think they go that direction. And if I'm wrong about No. 3, they will definitely consider Fields with this pick. And Lance too. But I believe Surtain is the best player on their board and Matt Rhule says he's taking best player. The Panthers rebuild was accelerated -- artificially -- with their pursuit of veteran quarterbacks this offseason. They still have plenty of holes. And corner is one of them.
Round 1 - Pick 9
Jaycee Horn CB
South Carolina • 6'1" / 200 lbs
Again, another good spot for a QB or to trade out. I would get either move. But the Broncos aren't brimming with young, elite, physical, press coverage corners right now and Horn has major upside, especially under Vic Fangio's tutelage. I would be willing to bet that Denver acquires Teddy Bridgewater before the draft is over. You can get Broncos taking a CB for like +600 as well, by the by, should you be so inclined.
Round 1 - Pick 10
Northwestern • 6'3" / 305 lbs
Kind of a dagger for the Cowboys, because everyone assumes they want a cornerback? Or maybe they're thrilled. They've drafted Byron Jones and Mo Claiborne in the last 10 years at corner with first-round picks. Neither made it to a second contract, albeit for different reasons. Their first-round picks on the offensive line? Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick. You tell me which unit the Cowboys are better at identifying in the draft.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Alabama • 6'0" / 175 lbs
I mocked and deleted Devonta Smith here like six times -- it's too easy to imagine Dave Gettleman standing up in a post-draft press conference and explaining that, in that grandfatherly condescending raspy way that only Dave Gettleman can, "sometimes football is easy" and you "just draft the best player" before pointing out he "got the Heisman Trophy winner at 11, guys, what do you want me to say" or something like that. This move widely appeases the fanbase and ownership and gives Daniel Jones a weapon plus the post-draft crowing, which is very important to some GMs. Also: Sterling Shepard is quietly old/drafted by the previous regime, there's a Darius Slayton decision coming, Evan Engram can't be long and Devonta Smith is awesome, so ... good pick? Good pick!
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 12
Trey Lance QB
North Dakota State • 6'4" / 226 lbs
I went through 14 different iterations of this mock draft just because this outcome is SO implausible. This team wants to give Jalen Hurts a year and draft a North Dakota State quarterback to potentially steal his spot? The upside is huge here and Howie Roseman loves to talk about Philly being a "quarterback factory." He would need to be right here or else he's hurtling towards "quarterback landfill."
Mock Trade from Detroit Lions
Round 1 - Pick 13
Mac Jones QB
Alabama • 6'3" / 214 lbs
That's right, baby. We've got a team mock trading down TWICE in this draft. I think Detroit knows their lot in life right now (the roster is a mess, Jared Goff is locked for two years) and they want as many picks as they can. New England can jump Minnesota, who might want a QB as well, for the 96th pick. Cheap price to get your man and New England is running out of quarterbacks. I would have to think they're comfy with Mac Jones here unless we all fooled ourselves about Mac Jones.
Round 1 - Pick 14
USC • 6'4" / 315 lbs
Typically they like to go defense because the front office and coaching staff spot guys, but this is a great spot to snag an offensive lineman who shouldn't be this low. Add another versatile guy to a better than you think group and suddenly the Vikings might have a group for Dalvin Cook to really get loose behind.
Mock Trade from New England Patriots
Round 1 - Pick 15
Virginia Tech • 6'5" / 323 lbs
I really think this is what Detroit wants to do. Keep trading down -- maybe multiple times -- and land a prospect who slips. They can't think they're competing next year. You get that vibe coming out of their transactions. Pick up several mid-round picks while adding a potential top prospect in the middle of the first round? Maybe I'm giving the Lions too much credit (again). Vera-Tucker can play inside next year, improve the line and develop into their LT of the future (Taylor Decker is sneaky older for a rebuild). This regime feels like a Hog Molly Party.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Northwestern • 6'1" / 190 lbs
Patrick Peterson is gone and cornerback is a bit of a weakness here. If an elite receiver dropped I think they pull the trigger but this is a team that wants to win now. Newsome is ready to play right away and makes a ton of sense for Arizona's current setup, especially if Byron Murphy takes a leap forward in his third year.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Jamin Davis LB
Kentucky • 6'3" / 234 lbs
This is me, holder of Davis 65-1 first linebacker off the board, wishcasting a pick. The Raiders need a lot of stuff, kind of quietly. Ruggs/Waller are a nice pass-catching duo, but they blew up the OL this offseason, the defense hasn't managed to take a step forward and they have to love the idea of getting a quick-movement LB to step in and help (it might even be them regretting passing on Devin White and pulling the trigger here).
Round 1 - Pick 18
Oklahoma State • 6'6" / 320 lbs
The first Dolphins pick really dictates everything here, obviously. If they go Sewell, they're not going tackle here. And if they go Waddle they're either going offensive lineman, best defensive player or running back, which is the popular pick for them. Why would Flores/Grier suddenly invest a massive resource in the RB position? It hasn't happened yet. WR/OL is a dream for them with these picks. Just depends on the combo. Also I think this Flowers trade and noise about needing a tackle smells like a smokescreen. That's me.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Notre Dame • 6'1" / 216 lbs
If they end up with Davis that's fine. I think they want him here and he fits the profile of a Ron/Marty first rounder in terms of linebackers mattering massively to the scheme. He's not available, so they go with Owusu-Koramoah. This is a team playing to win in 2021 and people don't see it that way. The D-line is deep and *does double Catholic cross thing* Ryan Fitzpatrick is an upgrade at QB. Receiver would make sense but there's too many defensive options available.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Penn State • 6'3" / 245 lbs
Good luck guessing what the Bears will do. If you need to, I would recommend they draft a defensive player, a tight end or make an obscene trade up for a QB. Just kidding. They have Andy Dalton, guys. Everything is fine. Grab the stud defensive player dropping for unknown reasons.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Carlos Basham Jr. EDGE
Wake Forest • 6'5" / 275 lbs
The Colts are one of the easiest teams to mock, because Chris Ballard is just a smart football guy. I think he would highly prefer to trade out of this spot and grab extra picks. The problem here is there isn't anyone to trade with, because the prospect group becomes a maw at this point. So he just takes a Charlie Hustle pass rusher with more upside than people are giving him credit for, mostly because he went to Wake Forest. Yada yada yada, Basham has 10+ sacks as a rookie.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Minnesota • 6'2" / 210 lbs
Some tough, AHEM, picks and decisions have locked the Titans into a tough spot. They have defensive needs but their offensive needs might be worse. Bateman gives them that without the fifth-year option anxiety Jon Robinson is feeling right now.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 23
Elijah Moore WR
Ole Miss • 5'8" / 185 lbs
This is a freebie for Joe Douglas. Draft the quarterback and then immediately draft him help. It doesn't have to be Moore, obviously. Go Toney or Moore (if not taken above, obviously) but it sends a signal of confidence to your quarterback when you use your second first-round pick on your first first-round pick's pal.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Jaelan Phillips EDGE
Miami (FL) • 6'5" / 266 lbs
A bunch of extremely respected Steelers beat writers have them taking a running back in the first, which is totally plausible until you consider the only RB the Steelers have taken in the first round in the last 30 years is Rashaad Mendenhall back in 2008. It was cool for a minute but it didn't work out. I'm not sure the Steelers transform their roster with a running back. But I am pretty sure they don't think that. Give me a post-Dupree edge rush project who could maul early on with some upside and some risk. That's a lot more like Kevin Colbert here.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 25
Alabama • 6'5" / 310 lbs
There's a good chance Urban Meyer leans on elite P5 draft prospects for his first few years (think Gruden). Lot of needs for Jax but adding an interior mauler who flashed in the playoffs against -- *checks notes* -- Ohio State could make sense.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Gregory Rousseau EDGE
Miami (FL) • 6'7" / 265 lbs
For a hot minute I had a galaxy brain thing where the Browns take a wide receiver, but Rousseau makes more sense here especially from a depth/upside perspective. The Browns can grab him and use him in a rotational spot with the idea of letting him replace Clowney next year.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Round 1 - Pick 28
Florida State • 5'10" / 184 lbs
I want to lock this pick in. Asante Samuel Jr. -- aka Pick Six Jr. -- playing aggressively on the other side of Marshon Lattimore for 5-10 years, assuming the Saints can finagle the salary cap enough for an extension, he he he.
Round 1 - Pick 29
Eric Stokes CB
Georgia • 6'0" / 194 lbs
They're not taking a wide receiver, guys. Stop asking. Aaron Rodgers doesn't want that. He really doesn't. What he wants is them to do something other than draft another quarterback, but he doesn't want them to draft a rookie wide receiver he has no secondary route/break connection with. Draft good players. Win football games.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Florida • 6'0" / 193 lbs
Penciling in the Bills for a first-round running back seems crazy. Look at their depth chart -- they made a massive move to get Diggs for Josh Allen, but they should completely supplement that by adding another wideout, not another running back.
From Kansas City Chiefs
Round 1 - Pick 31
Alim McNeill DL
NC State • 6'2" / 317 lbs
I don't think the Ravens will take "Steam Alim" at 31 but I also don't think they'll be able to get him in the next round. This dude is great against the run and can get after the quarterback, but wasn't really asked to pressure last year. Barmore is more explosive but I'd bet a finger McNeil has a better pro career. Go watch his pick six. Athletic as hell.
Round 1 - Pick 32
Purdue • 5'7" / 180 lbs
No chance we go RB here. People need to put some damn respect on Jason Licht's name when it comes to drafting. Pulling Tom Brady is huge, but they don't win the Lombardi without some high-end drafting. Wirfs/Winfield last year. Devin White/Vita Vea ... and the man who discovered Ali Marpet. Their cap is actually too good. They could trade up here for someone they like or, more likely, trade down from 32, get some picks and try to run it back. If not, grab another weapon for Tom Brady. Double down. Always double down.