The Super Bowl has come and gone with Tom Brady winning his seventh championship ring, this time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Many teams’ seasons ended in heartbreak, whether that be missing the playoffs or losing in the postseason. The NFL is approaching one of the most exciting points of the offseason: the NFL Draft. During draft season, NFL fans witness a new generation of talent enter the league. This year may be different considering the lack of a live draft due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the excitement remains steadfast as fans await their team’s selections to see which rookies could become the next NFL superstars.
What follows is a preliminary mock draft:
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
The Jags lost 15 straight games after winning their opener in 2020, finishing 1-15. This record was bad enough to beat out the Jets, so Duval ended up with the number one pick. Only one guy has solidified himself for #1 pick at this point, and that guy is Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence has proven himself to be a winner, as he won 34 of his 36 college starts, including winning a National Championship in his freshman year. He has tons of big-game experience under his belt and possesses great football IQ, accuracy, and leadership along with the ability to extend and create plays on offense that give defenses headaches. As all prospects go, Lawrence can still develop better consistency, but he has proven that he can be the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback for years to come under new coach Urban Meyer.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
After two straight wins late in the season, the Jets fell to #2 in the draft, officially falling out of the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes. However, losing out on T-Law isn’t as bad as one would think. The Jets have a lot of options at the second pick, but the most reasonable option would be quarterback. Sam Darnold has regressed mightily since arriving in New York, and he may be on his way out to another team very soon. New head coach Robert Saleh could look to take a premier talent at a position of need in this draft, and that option could very well be BYU’s Zach Wilson. Wilson had a Heisman-worthy season for the Cougars, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns compared to just 3 interceptions, showcasing his elite production. He has great athleticism to move around in the pocket, while also possessing the arm strength and accuracy to move the ball downfield and make phenomenal plays. Wilson can be a great asset to Saleh’s offense with a receiving core that includes slot weapon Jamison Crowder and young deep threat Denzel Mims.
3. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
After the fiasco that was the Laremy Tunsil trade, the Houston Texans’ #3 pick now belongs to the Miami Dolphins. Since the ‘Fins are in a great position in the draft, they are considering two options here: a franchise offensive tackle or a play-making wide receiver. Since this offensive tackle class is chock-full of talent and could be an option later on in the draft, I have the Dolphins taking LSU standout Ja’Marr Chase. Before DeVonta Smith lit up the college football world this past season, Chase’s 2019 sophomore season was considered to be the best season by a wide receiver in college football history. And while Smith is still incredible, you can’t take away the versatility and pure talent Chase showcases at the position. He can play anywhere you want him to, whether that be at wideout or in the slot. Chase has got it all: route-running, release, ball skills, hands, playmaking, etc. Chase will be a reliable playmaker for a team in dire need of offensive playmakers to help their young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
4. Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Four years removed from almost winning the Super Bowl, Atlanta spiraled from near world champions to the bottom of the league. Their offense is still solid, but their defense continues to have major issues. However, there are not many reasonable defensive players to take at #4, and new head coach Arthur Smith will have to look to the future in order to set up Atlanta for success. Matt Ryan is 36 and will start to regress, so the future looks to be Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields. Fields transferred from Georgia to Ohio State and lit up the Big Ten, leading the Buckeyes to two straight undefeated regular seasons and a CFP championship game appearance this past season. Fields has good size for an NFL quarterback along with great mobility inside and outside of the pocket. He has a strong arm, is incredibly efficient and accurate as a passer, and is great when rolling out of the pocket. Fields did have his hiccups in the beginning part of the season, most notability the three-interception game against Indiana, but sitting at least a couple years behind an established franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan can help him develop his sky-high potential.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
It’s been known for a long time that the Bengals have a massive issue with offensive line. Top draft pick Jonah Williams has played in only 10 career games in two years, while the rest of the lineman have been downright horrendous. Joe Burrow was sacked over 30 times in just 10 games before going down with a grueling leg injury. The point is that you need to have to protect your young quarterback so that he can succeed, and Cincinnati would love to have Penei Sewell at this spot. Sewell was the best lineman in the country a year ago before opting out of the 2020 season. For a lineman, Sewell is incredibly well-balanced and quick off the snap, while also showcasing his dominance in run blocking and technique in pass blocking.
6. Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Eagles recently traded quarterback Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts, meaning that Philly may want to roll with Jalen Hurts at quarterback. What better way to get Hurts comfortable on offense by taking a versatile weapon in Florida’s Kyle Pitts? New head coach Nick Sirianni’s offense favors two-tight end sets, and with longtime tight end Zach Ertz most likely on his way out of Philadelphia, Pitts is the perfect replacement. Pitts was used in Florida’s offense as the ‘F’ tight end, meaning that he could line up outside the hashes, in the slot, and on the line too. He’s 6’6″, has great athleticism, the ability to go up and make contested catches, and is also a formidable run blocker. Pitts’ versatility can create matchup nightmares at the next level.
7. Detroit Lions: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
New Lions head coach Dan Campbell has made it clear what type of culture he wants to establish in the Motor City, and that is playing tenacious, hustle-every-play type football. No defensive player emphasizes this culture more than Micah Parsons. Although the hazing scandal at Penn State has hindered his draft stock, no one can deny the talent be brings to the table. Parsons’ natural football instinct and explosiveness off the snap is something to marvel at; he is that type of impact player for a defense, the type of player that can get big third-down stops and create takeaways. He has the unnatural ability to see a play develop, being able to beat blockers to the ball and make plays. An aggressive, every-down player like Parsons would be a great way to introduce Campbell’s new tough-nosed culture to Detroit.
8. Carolina Panthers: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
One of the more interesting players in this draft, Trey Lance, is a guy who can develop behind Teddy Bridgewater for a year or two before eventually becoming the starter in Carolina. There are a lot of questions about Lance, considering he only played one season at North Dakota State. However, in his only season for the Bison, Lance was able to showcase his ability to evade pressure in the pocket and create plays using his legs. His mobility is the highlight of his talents, but Lance’s down-field accuracy as a passer has become quite polished. He’ll need time to develop consistency as a passer, but under a coaching staff with Matt Rhule and Joe Brady, Lance could become the Panthers’ future under center.
9. Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Denver’s defense, consistently one of the NFL’s best in past seasons, definitely can use work this offseason. A.J. Bouye was released after a lackluster season. Kareem Jackson is 32, and Justin Simmons’ future as a Bronco is in doubt. Even Von Miller, a stalwart of the Denver Broncos defense for years, has been rumored to possibly be on his way out, too. To build up the secondary, I think it’s best to take a player that can defend the premier wide receivers in the AFC West. That player is Patrick Surtain II. Although Surtain has struggled with keeping up to deep passes downfield, the young cornerback also possesses great length, discipline, and man coverage skills to prove himself as a premier young cornerback for the Mile High City.
10. Dallas Cowboys: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
It was obvious from the early part of the season that Dallas had one of the worst secondaries in football. Losing Byron Jones was a huge hit to the team, as the Cowboys couldn’t stop giving up big play after big play downfield. And there is no better way to prevent those big plays than by taking a player who is one of the purest cornerbacks in the draft: Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. Farley is probably the best man-coverage in the draft to go along with great size, quickness, ball skills, athleticism, and fluidity. Those traits mold him to be an immediate impact player in the Cowboys’ secondary.
11. New York Giants: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has made it clear that the Giants are looking to take a dynamic offensive playmaker in this year’s draft. And it would be crazy to think that Gettleman could pass on a guy who is one of the best playmakers in this year’s draft. Alabama’s DeVonta Smith shows that his frail size means nothing when it comes to pure talent. His hands and ability to go up and get the ball while also maintaining control of his body is astounding considering his build. Smith is also a very good route runner. While he’s not like former teammate Jerry Jeudy, who can use his route-running skills to make defenders miss, Smith’s route-running is unique because his frame allows him to burn past defenders with his long strides. If the Giants want to continue with Daniel Jones as the future, then they’ll have to get Jones a player that can be his security blanket and be a constant producer on offense. Smith proved that he can be that type of player this past season after winning the Heisman Trophy and a National Championship.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Smith’s other wide receiver teammate at Alabama, Jaylen Waddle, also has tons of potential and talent. Waddle is just as explosive a deep-threat playmaker like Smith, but he also possesses a deeper set of route-running that he can use along with his speed to knife through defenses. He plays the game on offense with a nonstop motor, able to use his wide variety of skills to create explosive plays all over their field. Waddle is also very good in terms of getting separation. He has good hands, which, along with his unique skill set, makes him a player that defenses have to account for when on the field. Waddle can be used on the outside in the slot, and even in the backfield. If the 49ers want to keep their trust in Jimmy Garoppolo, then they’ll want to surround him as many weapons as possible to help him succeed. Waddle would be another addition to a team already possessing playmakers such as Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.
13. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
As much as it was evident that the Bengals had an offensive line problem, the Chargers may have been worse in that department. Pro Football Focus ranked their offensive line the worst in football, and even big new additions such as Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga failed to help the issue. Grabbing a versatile offensive lineman like Rashawn Slater would do wonders for Justin Herbert’s long-term protection. Slater primarily played left tackle while at Northwestern, but he has the flexibility to be moved anywhere on the line. His blend of speed, footwork, athleticism, and strength, makes him a versatile lineman that could dominate on the interior. He could also play tackle at the next level if needed, highlighted by his performance against former Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young a couple of years ago. He has the versatile skill set that is rare in most lineman that could make him a perennial starter from Week 1 onward.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
The Vikings recently had one of the worst defenses in head coach Mike Zimmer’s time in Minnesota. Although a key component was injuries, the lack of pass rush didn’t help them all too well. Danielle Hunter missed all of the 2020 season due to surgery on a herniated disc, and there wasn’t much else in terms of outside pressure on the team. Having an NFL-ready pass rusher like Kwity Paye would help alleviate the attention towards Hunter. Paye’s best work comes in tight alignments where he’s able to use his hands and strength to overpower tackles and get to the football. Paye’s incredibly high ceiling can most certainly be attributed to his ability to fit any defensive scheme while also possessing the natural fundamentals of an NFL pass rusher. He also has that fire to succeed for his family, which can translate to the field in his explosive and passionate play and manner.
15. New England Patriots: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
From where they are picking, the Patriots aren’t really in a position to take the heir to Tom Brady’s throne, so their mindset going into this pick could be “best player available.” There have been many rumors that former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore may be leaving New England soon. The most surefire option to fill in that hole is South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. The former Gamecocks cornerback will be able to translate out wide at the next level due to his solid frame. His aggressiveness in coverage allows him to attack the ball at the point of the catch. His biggest issues as of now are inconsistent tackling and getting beaten in off-man or zone coverage. But if Bill Belichick and his staff can patch those issues, Horn could become a top lockdown corner in the NFL in no time.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
The Cardinals pass rush is going to need help soon. Chandler Jones won’t be able to handle the load all by himself and Haason Reddick will probably get a big contract from a team looking for pass-rush potential. The best option to sure up the pass rush is with the young edge rusher from Miami in Gregory Rousseau, who had a monster 2019 campaign with 15.5 sacks. Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season, so that ended up hurting his draft stock due to his minimal time at defensive end. It’s important that the team who drafts him remains patient, as his strength, technique, and processing skills lack the ability to translate to the next level fluidly. Therefore, he will need time to develop the traits of a defensive end to go along with his incredible physical build. If the Cardinals bide their time with Rousseau, he could become a frightening pass rusher in a few years.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The main thing that let down the Raiders last year was the lack of defensive stops. Their linebacker core was quite thin outside of Cory Littleton, so grabbing a sure-fire starter in Owusu-Koramoah would be a good move. Owusu-Koramoah has an incredible football instinct along with the speed and explosiveness that can make him the defensive impact player the Raiders are looking for. Owusu-Koramoah can fit in as a base 4-3 will linebacker. He also has the speed, as mentioned before, and athleticism to move back in coverage as a box safety and go man-to-man with slot receivers.
18. Miami Dolphins: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
Selecting Christian Darrisaw at #18 may very well be a steal. Darrisaw has started a game all four years he’s been at Virginia Tech, and has improved drastically ever year. Darrisaw checks all the boxes you could ask for in a starting left tackle: strength, size, length, and technique. He shows excellent poise and the ability to excel in zone runs and. pass protection. Darrisaw also showcases his athleticism in the way that he can pull and block downfield. Darrisaw should start at left tackle for Miami, allowing Austin Jackson to move to right tackle and Robert Hunt to move to guard.
19. Washington Football Team: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Although there are other needs that Washington could go for here, such as wide receiver or offensive line, this draft class is deep enough to where they can spend Draft Day Two and Three picks on those positions. A great option at 19 would be a Heisman runner-up in Alabama’s Mac Jones. He possesses solid arm strength and had the ability to get the ball downfield on deep passes. Jones is very well-balanced in the pocket and is able to find windows to get the ball to receivers. The main thing with Jones is that, as a team, you have to surround him with playmakers, protection, and good coaching to where he can succeed as a top starting quarterback in the NFL.
20. Chicago Bears: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
There has been talk about a new quarterback for the Bears, but it seems as if Chicago wants to continue with the Mitch Trubisky project. If the Bears want to see him succeed, they’ll need to surround him with players that can help his ailing abilities. Kadarius Toney has great versatility at wide receiver where he can line up anywhere, but he works his magic in the slot. Toney is another one of those players that defenses have to know where he is at all times because his speed and the package he is able to run allows Toney to be a dynamic playmaker all over the field.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
The Colts recently traded for Carson Wentz, who reunites with former offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Due to Anthony Castonzo’s retirement, Colts general manager Chris Ballard will want to take an offensive tackle to ensure Wentz will be able to remain safe in the pocket. Texas’ Sam Cosmi has great size and solid athleticism that he uses to his advantage in blocking. Although he has shown issues in both leverage and strength, Indianapolis has a good coaching staff to where Cosmi could develop into a premier starting tackle for the Colts.
22. Tennessee Titans: Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas
Everyone knows of the pass rushing issues the Titans had this past season, and it rubbed off on the entire defense. Free agents brought in, such as Vic Beasley and Jadeveon Clowney provided almost no pass rush. The best fit for Mike Vrabel’s 3-4 defense is the highly talented Joseph Ossai. There’s a lot to like about Ossai; his frame, athleticism, hands, explosiveness, and nonstop motor are all key contributors to his sky-high potential. Every rep he takes, he’s able to improve his game even more and can be exactly what the Titans are looking for in pass rush.
23. New York Jets: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
Frank Gore is nearing the tail end of his career and most of the other running backs for New York aren’t that impressive. Giving Zach Wilson a versatile, uber-talented running back like Najee Harris will give the young quarterback a lot of comfort when molding into an NFL offense. Harris is a physical, downhill rusher that can work runs to outside the numbers and in between the tackles. He’s also made consistent strides in the passing game, so a powerful, Swiss-army-knife running back in Najee Harris is the perfect fit to get Zach Wilson comfortable in his starting quarterback role.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC
No issue was bigger for the Pittsburgh Steelers than the run game. Pittsburgh was always known to be one of the consistently best rushing teams in the league, but they finished dead last in rushing offense in 2020. With Maurkice Pouncey retiring and Alejandro Villanueva possibly leaving in free agency, it’s a priority that the Steelers will want to fix their offensive line to protect their quarterback and get back to their signature rushing game. Alijah Vera-Tucker is a lineman who has the ability to work at tackle and on the interior. His athleticism, balance, and body control allow him to adapt to any offensive scheme, but he could find success as a premier interior lineman for the Steel City.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Cam Robinson is an impending free agent, and the Jaguars want to ensure that Trevor Lawrence has as much time in the pocket as he needs. Grabbing Teven Jenkins would be able to protect Lawrence’s blindside. Jenkins showcases great size and technique, being able to use his hands to control defenders at the point of contact. Jenkins is also a great finisher, not being afraid to get the opposing player in the ground even after the whistle. If his athleticism prevents him from staying at tackle, he still has the remaining skill set to move to guard if needed.
26. Cleveland Browns: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
Edge rusher will become a big issue for Cleveland if Olivier Vernon ends up departing in free agency. However, another big issue with the Browns’ defense was their linebacker corps, who will need more than just Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson to stop the high-powered offenses in the AFC North. Zaven Collins was a tremendous athlete for the Golden Hurricane this past year, proving himself as one of the best defensive players in the nation. His versatility of rushing the passer and getting pressure while also showcasing solid coverage ability is extremely rare for a linebacker with his size. Collins can fit any scheme used because his athleticism at the position allows him to be an explosive playmaker all over the field.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Ravens struggled on the interior of the offensive line following Marshal Yanda’s retirement. Wide receiver is also a big need for the Ravens, as Lamar Jackson didn’t have much consistently reliable options outside of Hollywood Brown. Rashod Bateman has a great frame plus the ball skills and route-running to succeed as a terrifying deep threat and slot receiver for the Ravens. Bateman also has incredible release and separation at the position, making up for his lack of ability to burn defenders downfield. Instead, he possesses great ability to find open spots in the defense and make plays. With Lamar Jackson at quarterback, Bateman has the potential to become a multiple-time Pro Bowl wide receiver.
28. New Orleans Saints: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Trey Hendrickson had his breakout season for the Saints, racking up 13.5 sacks in 2020. However, due to New Orleans’ horrendous salary cap situation, they will probably be unable to resign him. Drafting another dominant 4-3 edge rusher in Ojulari can help New Orleans remain a top defense in the NFL. Ojulari has a good motor along with the quickness, hands, and leverage to succeed as a 4-3 outside linebacker in Dennis Allen’s defense. Ojulari’s technique is an issue, but his athleticism projects himto be an impact edge rusher in the NFL.
29. Green Bay Packers: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
The Packers may only have one last chance to get Aaron Rodgers back to the Super Bowl, so they’ll have to go all in to get Rodgers the best team possible to succeed. Drafting another Randall Cobb-type wide receiver like Rondale Moore to help out A-Rod could do wonders for this offense. Moore has great ability to work both outside the hashes and in the slot. He can do anything Matt LaFleur asks him to do, but Moore’s biggest issue is his longterm durability. Moore has played in only seven games the past two years for the Boilermakers, and that could be a red flag to many teams. But for the Packers, they’ll want to take the best player on the board to ensure they can get Aaron Rodgers another Super Bowl ring.
30. Buffalo Bills: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Linebacker Matt Milano is set to hit free agency this offseason, so the Bills could look to find a replacement in Nick Bolton. Bolton has great build for a starting middle linebacker and showcases his explosiveness to be a difference maker for a defense. He is also really good in zone coverage, being able to prevent shallow routes from developing and punishing recievers in his point of attack. Bolton is a physical Mike linebacker that has the ability to make plays in the backfield while also causing disruptions in the passing game.
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee
After the Super Bowl, it was intensely obvious that the Chiefs need offensive line help in the interior, or else Patrick Mahomes will become Deshaun Watson and start running for his life when under pressure. Trey Smith is a great player to plug in at one of the guard spots for Kansas City. Smith contains incredible power at guard, with the ability to punish defenders in the run game while also controlling interior defensive lineman on pass sets. If Smith gets you on the ground, he will not eat you get back up. He’s a terror when he pulls and gets to the second level, as his size and power allow him to bury linebackers and defensive backs. When Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz return from their injuries, those two, alongside Trey Smith, will provide tons of protection to allow Patrick Mahomes to work his magic.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
The defending Super Bowl champions have many free agents, and they will want to fill in those holes through the draft. Tampa Bay will look for interior defensive lineman, considering Ndamukong Suh will be an impending free agent. Alabama’s Christian Barmore has good size for a three-technique that makes it difficult for opposing lineman to get their hands on him. Barmore is also incredibly strong before and after contact and has great hands to force pressure. He has a great swim and rip move that he uses to get to the quarterback. Although only a redshirt sophomore, he played a dominant game in the National Championship against Ohio State that can raise his draft stock. Barmore would create a fantastic one-two punch alongside Vita Vea for the Bucs.