As the Earth begins to thaw after an unexpected invasion of arctic air from the north, a fever is settling in. No no. This has nothing to do with this global pandemic that is still running amok. NFL Draft fever is running rampant. Our current society, craving a sense of normalcy, has all eyes set towards April 29th.
With that being said, the team over at the Unfiltered Sports Network have come together to produce our NFL Mock Draft 1.0 (Picks 1-16):
1) Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
There’s not much to explain here. It’s Trevor Friggin’ Lawrence. The dude is a born winner, a champion, and a generational player who happens to play the far and away, most important position in the league. He makes guys like Zach Wilson and Justin Fields (who both fully deserve to be drafted number one overall in most drafts) look like Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones, no offense… okay, maybe some offense intended.
Urban Meyer himself even said that Trevor Lawrence was “the best quarterback in college football, ever.”, despite being an assistant athletic director for Ohio State during Justin Fields tenure at OSU. Debate it if you’re bored, but this pick is locked in.
— Justin Polasek
2) New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
With the Jets starting over as an organization and bringing in former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to be the new head coach, that signifies a whole new direction for the New York Jets. With new directions typically come quarterback changes and I think that is on the horizon this season for the Jets.
GM Joe Douglas did not draft current QB Sam Darnold and it would be best for both parties to go their separate ways. I think that the pick to replace Darnold will come down to either BYU QB Zach Wilson or Ohio State QB Justin Fields. Saleh brought Mike LaFleur to New York to implement a system similar to Kyle Shanahan‘s in San Francisco and I think the guy that fits that mold the best is Wilson.
LaFleur is going to prioritize running bootlegs and playaction and that fits into Wilson’s strength’s nicely. Wilson operates nicely outside the pocket and this will be the offense to utilize these strengths. Wilson is great at making big plays down the field and improvising and he will bring a new and exciting element to the Jets organization that they have not had in quite some time.
— Jackson Caudill
3) Miami Dolphins – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
As of now, the Miami Dolphins will run with Tua Tagovailoa as their starting quarterback. Surrounding Tua with as much offensive weaponry is an absolute must in order for this team to succeed. While I think that DeVante Parker is a fantastic wide receiver and Mike Gesicki is on the verge of having a breakout year, the Dolphins need more dynamic receiving threats. Preston Williams and Jakeem Grant will just not cut it for Tua and this team.
Taking Ja’Marr Chase here would give the Dolphins that much needed third threat on their offense. It also offers Tua a lot more tools to work with. Chase, in my opinion, is the best wide receiver in the draft currently. An absolutely fantastic player with one of the best college receiver tapes I have seen in a long time. His size, hands, release, and route running are a scout’s dream. Chase could breakout right away for the Dolphins at the wide receiver number two position and, eventually, overtake Parker in the future.
— Jonny Camer
4) Atlanta Falcons – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Falcons have a ton of holes on defense, but there is a question of whether there is a defensive player worth a top four pick in the draft. Patrick Surtain Jr. and Gregory Rousseau are both intriguing possibilities.
This pick is really about one thing: Do you protect Matt Ryan and rebuild around him? Or do you seek his replacement? Ohio State QB, Justin Fields is a superstar, and a local kid to boot but are we sure the Falcons are ready to write off Matt Ryan at 35 after watching Tom Brady win a Super Bowl at 43?
That’s why Sewell is the pick here, he’s easily the best player on my board (probably the best O-Line prospect since 2018) and would help protect a 35-year-old QB that was sacked 46 times last season. Ideally, they could use Sewell at Left Guard until Jake Matthews begins to decline.
— Chris Smith
5) Cincinnati Bengals – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The selection of Smith will be highly debated. It is clear the Bengals need OL help to keep Joe Burrow from suffering further injury and allow for passing plays to develop. However, if Sewell is gone I don’t see the Bengals “reaching” elsewhere at OL and I think Smith has the pedigree, production, and motivation to prove the naysayers wrong.
He will replace AJ Green and provide the Bengals with a WR trio that could prove intimidating and hard to defend. This actually could help negate the “negatives” with Smith (his size). With the bigger Tee Higgins having produced as a rookie he should command the defenses top (or most physical) corner. Tyler Boyd‘s experience and slot work ability may also require priority coverage. Could this lead to Smith facing a teams third best DB and likely less physical one? That is very possible.
Smith has strong hands, a long wingspan, good body control, and enough speed that he will be able to be productive and overcome his size. He produced while surrounded by WR talent at Alabama so Higgins and Boyd shouldn’t prevent his success but enable it. Burrow is being surrounded by weapons and so long as the Bengals address OL later in the draft or through free agency their offense could be potent for quite sometime with this selection.
6) Philadelphia Eagles – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
This one really is a no-brainer. Comparing the values of second round draft capital (Jalen Hurts) vs early first round capital and it really is no contest. The only real question is whether to fill out the draft submission card with blue or black ink.
Standing at 6’3″ and weighing in at 228 pounds, a blend of speed, power, and arm talent is rarely tied together in as neat of a bow. Being relegated to sporadic, mop up duty his freshman year at Georgia, Fields transferred to Ohio State and cemented himself as a Buckeye legend.
Fields displayed his immense talents out the gate with a Heisman worthy season. Had it not been for Joe Burrow‘s record breaking season, Fields likely wins the Heisman in 2019 with the following stat line:
238/354 (67.2% comp.) 3,273 yards and 41 TDs and three picks. More importantly, Fields showcased his ability to glide like a gazelle while running the football. In 2019, Fields ran 137 times for 484 yards and 10 TDs. Fields followed up such a strong first season starting with another rock solid second season, finishing with a stat line of: 158/225 (70.2%) for 22 TDs and six picks.
With a similar rushing skillset to Hurts and a much more lethal passing ability, the transition to Hurts would be seamless. If Fields falls this far and Howie Roseman doesn’t pull the trigger then he should be ran out of town.
— Matt Duckworth
7) Detroit Lions – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
The Detroit Lions will be looking to acquire weapons to surround their newly appointed QB, Jared Goff. With Marvin Jones leaving the team and Kenny Golladay potentially leaving the team as well, the Lions will need to acquire a top WR for their team. Even if the Lions were to re-sign or franchise tag Golladay they will still need a real threat alongside him like they had in Jones.
The Lions have very little cap space going into the 2021 offseason so although there are a lot of top WRs going into free agency I just can’t see them trying to sign one. I believe the Lions will look to the draft for a WR. With both Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith gone the Lions taking Jaylen Waddle at pick seven makes sense.
Waddle adds a whole new level to this Lions offense. He is gifted with scary speed and explosiveness that will open up the whole field and have defenses on edge for the deep ball. Although he was mainly used in the slot Waddle has proven that, if needed, he can also play on the outside. Waddle will make a great addition alongside a physical WR like Golladay or even as the top WR for the team if needed.
— Alan Rosti
8) Carolina Panthers – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
This may not be the most consensus pick here for the Carolina Panthers, but it makes sense the more you think about it. With many of the top QBs off the board previously in this mock draft, I have the Panthers filling another need on offense for whoever their future QB may be. Ever since the departure of Greg Olsen, the Panthers receiving game has lacked a true redzone threat that can go up and get the ball. Kyle Pitts is all of that, and a high dollar bag of chips. At 6’6″ and 240 pounds, Pitts is an absolute monster on the field due to his frame. Outside just the physicals, he checks pretty much every single box you could ever want in a receiving tight end. Pitt’s hands are reliable at all times. Even Pitt’s contested ball skills and his yards after the catch ability are elite.
Pitts had one of the best seasons ever in 2020 for a college tight end, putting up some wild numbers on the stat sheets. Grabbing 43 receptions for 770 yards (17.9 yards per catch) as well as 12 touchdowns. Mind you, this was also only in 8 games, as he spent the other few and the Florida bowl game preparing for the NFL Draft. Had he played all 13 games, this season could have been even more astronomic in terms of stats.
For now, I have the Panthers sticking it out for a year with Teddy Bridgewater, possibly taking a QB in later rounds. But getting a generational talent of a tight end hybrid receiver will certainly help this team gain offensive momentum.
— Jeremy Trottier
9) Denver Broncos – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Despite getting two of the top Wide Receivers in the 2020 Draft Class Drew Lock simply wasn’t good enough to warrant any form of commitment from the Broncos. No matter how you slice it. Lock has won 8 games in two years and has a career completion percentage of less than 60%. In 2020 he threw 15 Interceptions to only 16 Touchdowns, and had a QBR of 48.8. Say what you will about not having a full off-season, OTAs, etc.. etc… But everyone dealt with that same shortened off-season, even the defenses he played against. Couple his poor play with John Elway‘s historically aggressive approach to the Quarterback position, and its time for a new face to enter the discussion.
Trey Lance opted out of the 2020 season, and that may be the only reason he’s still available this far into the top 10 picks. While he did play against much weaker competition than the likes of Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, he has not thrown a single interception in his career at NDSU despite throwing 28 Touchdowns in 2020, and running for 14 more. His raw arm talent is undeniable. That said, when he’s made his reads, and his receivers are covered, he shows off his legs to burn the defense for their hard work in coverage.
Lock may be able to play placeholder for awhile, but Lance clearly has much more raw talent in the long term.
— J. Polasek
10) Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
The Cowboys defense, and in particular the pass defense, was not very good last season. This should be one of the top areas of improvement for Dallas this offseason. Taking a pass rusher is also an option with this pick, but there are a lack of elite options at that position in this years draft. The Cowboys likely would be better off taking a corner with this pick.
Patrick Surtain II has all the physical attributes that you would want in a top corner and he will have the ability to come in and be an impact player right away in Dan Quinn‘s defense. Surtain is probably best when he is in man coverage due to his size and length, but he will have to play more zone in Quinn’s cover three based scheme that he has run in Seattle and Atlanta.
The Cowboys are hoping for a bounce back season as a franchise next season and getting the best corner in the draft is a good start.
— J. Caudill
11) New York Giants – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The New York Giants can go a number of different ways with this pick. I have them selecting Micah Parsons here, because he is the best player available at this pick and fills a dire position of need. Right now, the Giants best option at linebacker is Blake Martinez. While still young, Lorenzo Carter has not panned out, and the rest of the linebacker core, including Jabaal Sheard, David Mayo, and Tae Crowder, are just not cutting it.
Parsons is one of the best, and most versatile defensive players in this draft and easily the best linebacker in the draft. I think pairing him with an established veteran like Martinez will give the Giants a deadly linebacking duo! With the Giants are in a position to compete this year in a below-average NFC East, bolstering up an already solid defense makes them a lot better. As for Parsons, I love his size, speed, versatility, and potential. I think no matter where he goes, Micah Parsons is going to be a stud.
— J. Camer
12) San Francisco 49ers – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
The 49ers are prime candidates to trade up for one of the top QB’s. If they miss out, they have another glaring need: Cornerback. The good news is Jaycee Horn, son of former Saints standout WR Joe Horn, is still available and more than lives up his father’s lofty name. When you consider that Richard Sherman is likely on his way out, drafting a CB with a similar physical profile, a winning pedigree, and a game to match made in NFL heaven.
— C. Smith
13) Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern
Protect your young QB. That’s the idea with this selection by the Chargers. While Justin Herbert wasn’t the most sacked QB (34 times) he was sacked and hit enough that bolstering the OL should be a major priority. Rashawn Slater played LT for Northwestern and had success, including against Chase Young, when he faced him.
Slater is flexible along the line and there is a belief he may be even better if moved inside. That versatility can prove useful if he struggles at LT or if injuries force the line to shuffle. He has good footwork and is strong enough not to be overpowered in pass protection. This will allow for the Chargers vertical offense to have time for routes to develop with such deep threats in Mike Williams and Jalen Guyton.
Overall, Slater may not be a flashy pick but he fills a need for the Chargers and provides versatility along the offensive line. We have learned is still, arguably the second most important aspect to team’s success besides a franchise QB. Early on, it looks like the Chargers likely have that in Herbert.
14) Minnesota Vikings – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
With the Chargers having a greater need in the trenches than the Vikings, it’s no surprise that the Vikings are looking elsewhere with the 14th pick. In fact, a legitimate argument could be made that addressing the secondary is the Vikings’ most glaring need in the draft.
Last season, the Vikings finished with a mediocre 7-9 record, but started 1-5. It’s safe to say that stubbed toes were abundant. The Vikings lost a 31-30 heartbreaker to the Titans in week three and another gut wrenching 27-26 loss in week five to the Seahawks. The Vikings secondary last season underperformed, ranking 25th in passing yards allowed, 23rd in passing TDs allowed, and 30th in net yards per attempt (NY/A). Coincidentally, this translated to many close losses on the season.
Adding a cornerback like Caleb Farley could be just the move to help the Vikings win those close games in the future. Allowing 2.67 points per drive (28th in the league) without a superstar quarterback piloting the offense isn’t conducive to a winning strategy.
At 6’2″ 197 pounds, Farley fits the bill of a long, athletic corner that possesses elite coverage skills. Initially starting his career as a college wide receiver, Farley made a seemingly seamless transition to the cornerback position and, on film, doesn’t look like a guy still learning a new position. While there is still some polishing that needs to be done to his skills in zone coverage, Farley thrives as a man/press coverage corner. Farley’s tireless work ethic and physical play should make him a perfect fit for a Mike Zimmer lead organization.
— M. Duckworth
15) New England Patriots – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
The New England Patriots had a disappointing 2020 season after the departure of Tom Brady. New England brought in Cam Newton on a one-year “prove-it” deal and that did not pay off for them. Newton threw for only 2,657 yards with 8 TDs, and 10 INT’s. Now the Patriots will likely be moving on from Newton and will be searching for their next franchise QB.
With the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, I believe the New England Patriots will take Mac Jones to be that franchise QB they are looking for. Jones is a perfect fit for Bill Belichick’s system. Jones excels as a pocket passer. At Alabama, Jones thrived by completing short, accurate passes, and pushing the ball down field when it’s there. Jones has demonstrated the ability to consistently go through his progressions and get rid of the ball quickly. He’s also a very accurate and consistent QB and maybe one of the most NFL-ready QBs.
Jones is coming out of the SEC where he’s gone up against some of the hardest competition and players in college. His transition shouldn’t be too difficult. Jones is also only 22 years of age so if needed the Patriots could bring in a veteran so that Jones sits behind him for a year to learn from him. The Patriots will still need to bring in weapons to surround Jones to help ease his transition into the NFL.
I think Mac Jones and the Patriots are almost a match made in Heaven.
— A. Rosti
16) Arizona Cardinals – Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Kwity Paye falling down to 16 almost makes it so that I have to take him 99 times out of 100. With the top 3 consensus CBs (Caleb Farley, Patrick Surtain, and Jaycee Horn) off the board, Arizona’s next biggest need is in play. Running Back is obviously another need the Cardinals have outside CB and Edge but I feel that taking one here is a little unnecessary.
Paye would be a fantastic addition to this somewhat lackluster at times Cardinals front four. While they still have Chandler Jones at Edge/OLB, there are rumblings that Arizona may cut, waive, or trade him at some point this offseason. Even if Arizona doesn’t, they could still run him at the other edge spot or OLB.
Paye is rather raw as a prospect, and banks mainly upon his physical and athletic abilities as a pass rusher. He will have quite a bit to learn to translate well at the NFL level, but with the Cardinals coaching staff I have no doubt he could learn quickly. His speed and power outweigh his finesse and movements, as he is much more reliant on his physical traits than anything else.
In 2020 he had 16 total tackles, including four tackles for a loss, and two sacks. Paye should be a fantastic building block to a somewhat aging defensive unit with many players getting into their 30s soon.
— J. Trottier