There seems to be more intrigue with this upcoming draft than most in recent memory, with the challenges of the pandemic an obvious reason why. Access to players -- and the most trustworthy medical information -- is not in great supply, and there is significant trepidation.
The climate is starting a little bit like CYA (cover your backside) and I wonder if more teams than usual get risk averse, try to hit singles and doubles and stay safe with their selections and prize productivity and availability above all else. Reaching is always risky; reaching in this circumstance, with less than normal information, comes with additional caveats.
With that in mind, I chatted at length this week with a top exec from a team who is trying to get a handle on what the most likely outcomes will be from the picks in the top 10. He has networked quite a bit and feels like he is starting to get a handle on where the top third of the round is going.
Here is what he would mock today if he had to:
1) Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars: No need to belabor this point.
2) Zach Wilson, Jets: The overwhelming consensus
3) Mac Jones, 49ers: This exec is pretty convinced of it. Others believe that this could be Trey Lance in the end.
4) Trey Lance, somebody: The exec believes the Falcons take a QB all things being equal if they stay here, but they are marketing this selection around the league and seem inclined to move down within reason. Would they go all the way back to New England's pick?
5) Kyle Pitts, Bengals: This is Kyle Pitts or Penei Sewell, and the falloff from Pitts to any other prospect in this draft is higher than the falloff from any offensive lineman.
6) Ja'Marr Chase, Dolphins: Pitts is definitely in the conversation if still on the board
7) Justin Fields, somebody: This evaluator is of the mind that new Lions president Chris Spielman -- an Ohio State guy through and through -- is very involved in this selection. And if the Lions stay here, he says not to discount them going QB. It is also one of many potential trade spots for him in the top 10.
8) Patrick Surtain II, Panthers: CB is an obvious need and this exec is convinced two corners likely go in the top 10. More people I talk to, the more convinced I am as well. Blue chippers.
9) Jaycee Horn, Broncos: Plenty of teams think he is a top-10 talent, and Broncos are trying to win with defense under Vic Fangio.
10) Sewell, Cowboys: In this scenario, the top corners are going, leaving Jerry Jones to tend to an offensive line that all of a sudden has gone from a strength to a problem.
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Insider draft notes
- The corner market is going to be hot, as noted here. The top two won't have to wait long at all, and I hear a growing buzz about both Georgia corners -- Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes. They will go higher than represented in a lot of mock drafts. Concerns about Caleb Foley's medicals are very real, with some execs thinking he now goes in the 20s somewhere. Greg Newsome II also seems likely to go in the first round, so we could see corners, OL and QBs comprising half of the first round on their own.
- I keep hearing all things being relatively equal, the Jets will be going pass-rush potential with the 24th pick, which shouldn't come as a surprise. It's been a need seemingly for a decade and though this draft has few sure things when it comes to that, New York seems ready to bite. If Azeez Ojulari is still on the board, I'd mock him here.
- If the Steelers do take a running back in the first round, and I am still not convinced they will, don't rule out Javonte Williams of UNC. Yeah, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin loves Najee Harris, but the people I trust still see him going to Miami at 18.
- The Cardinals were all over the corner market, but if the top two go as high as many now expect, I continue to hear that Tulsa LB Zaven Collins is very high on their board, and I suspect he ends up being the pick. Makes plays all over the field.
- Giants GM Dave Gettleman's remarks about never being able to trade down are getting a lot of sideways looks and eye rolls around the league. As much as some in that front office believe the board will set up perfectly for the Giants to drop back and still be able to get the defensive lineman of their choosing, there is serious skepticism that he really wants to entertain something he's never done in his career. If he sticks to his default, it will be a lineman of some sort there (OL or DL). Some might say that is a little high -- or a lot high -- for Christian Barmore of Alabama, but he has the highest ceiling of a weak interior DL class.
- If the Eagles move back up, the GMs I have spoken to believe it's for Pitts or a QB. Never rule anything out when it comes to the Eagles and potential trades.
- There is definitely concern among some teams about the medicals regarding Miami EDGE Jalean Phillips. Not enough of the GMs I spoke to thought to knock him out of the first round, but enough to keep him in the back third of it.