The Jaguars climbed into the top spot after the Jets beat the Rams in Week 15. Jacksonville then clinched the spot with a loss in Week 16 coupled with the Jets managing a win over the Browns. The Jets are locked into the No. 2 spot thanks to the Bengals upset of the Steelers in Week 15. After that, Week 17 will clear up the rest of the non-playoff draft positioning.
Now that we know what the top of the draft board looks like it’s time for a mock draft. We’re taking a look at each of the top ten teams. DK Nation NFL editor Chet Gresham will break down their key needs and college editor Collin Sherwin will offer his thoughts on which player is best suited to fit each team’s needs.
Team needs: The Gardner Minshew era was fun at time, but we knew it wouldn’t last and that sooner or later, Jacksonville would need to find a true franchise quarterback. And as you well know, they and every quarterback evaluator, including my uncle Kevin, see that Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the answer. They have plenty of needs, as their defense was awful in 2020, but you don’t pass on a quarterback of Lawrence’s ability.
The pick: Trevor Lawrence, Quarterback, Clemson
The most sure-fire No. 1 overall since Andrew Luck, Lawrence can literally do everything you’d want out of a 21st century quarterback. He’s accurate, mobile, can make all the throws, and he’s built like a barn. There’s no downside here except your significant other potentially swooning about his flawless hair for the next 15 years.
Team needs: Do the Jets have any faith left in Sam Darnold? His coach, Adam Gase, is all but gone, but with Trevor Lawrence off the board, do the Jets still go with a quarterback? They should. Darnold has shown ability in flashes, but so have plenty of average quarterbacks. This league is a passing league and without a top quarterback, your chances of winning the Super Bowl is extremely thin. Darnold hasn’t had the best shot at showing his ability, but it’s time to move on after three seasons.
The pick: Zach Wilson, Quarterback, BYU
The “Mormon Manziel” might be a smaller but swifter Baker Mayfield, and the question will be can he throw a 15-yard out at the NFL level. He’s listed at 6’3, but the Combine will tell us for sure. He’s absolutely elusive and can make plays to both his left and his right when the pocket breaks down, and his ability to improvise is a strength. But does he have enough raw tools to be a top-three pick?
3. Miami Dolphins (from Houston)
Team needs: The Dolphins will get yet another good draft pick this year, as they have the Texans’ first rounder. Miami’s defense took a big step forward this season, especially in the secondary with Jones and Howard anchoring the group. There is always need in the trenches, but the Dolphins do need to think about scoring and with Tua Tagovailoa already in tow, they could look for a receiver. DeVante Parker and Preston Williams have shown upside, but injuries continue to slow them down and there are options in the draft which are worth taking this early.
The pick: DeVonta Smith, wide receiver, Alabama
Don’t overthink it, get Tua the best receiver prospect available. Going with Ja’Maar Chase is fine as well, but if you want to get better in a hurry (and the playoff-ish Dolphins do) Smith is closer to game-ready. His ability to take the top off also sets up well with Tua’s skill set that’s going to force teams to respect the run game and throw bombs out of play action. Trading down here and still getting Smith might be on the table, especially if the Bengals...
Team needs: The Falcons need help getting to the quarterback and locking down receivers, but if they can get a Top 5 draft pick, they must think about quarterback here. Matt Ryan isn’t done, but he’s fading and is getting extremely close to his “bridge” years for the future Falcons signal caller. IF they believe Ryan has enough left in the tank to continue building around, they might go after an elite EDGE rusher here, but always err on the side of quarterback if needed this early in the draft.
The pick: Justin Fields, Quarterback, Ohio State
There’s some questions about Fields after his performances against Indiana and in the Big Ten Championship Game during the abbreviated 2020 season, but the raw tools are certainly there for the Georgia transfer. He’s got a rocket arm and tremendous mobility and athleticism that can give defenses fits, but his ability to recognize coverages is the issue. When he makes mistakes, they tend to be big ones.
Team needs: Joe Burrow might not be fully ready by Week 1, but the Bengals have their quarterback of the future, so should look to keep him protected in the draft. Cincinnati has battled the Eagles in ineptitude in sacks allowed this season. The Eagles will likely take home that distinction in futility, but the Bengals can’t continue to give up 3-4 sacks a game if they want to keep Burrow healthy and that offense moving. Offensive lineman should be their top pick in this draft.
The pick: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
You’re getting someone to protect Burrow, which after his gruesome injury should be the priority. Sewell is 6’6, 330, and runs like he’s on the track team for the Ducks. He was the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy. He’s a freak of nature, and by all accounts a great kid that shouldn’t give you any problems in the locker room. On talent alone he’s probably the best player in the draft, but you tell the Jags to take a tackle instead of a quarterback.
Team needs: When you look at the statistics, the Eagles weakest link this season has been their offensive line. The thing is, when you look at the skill level when healthy, their linebackers are their weakest position. Would Howie Roseman take a linebacker that early though? Most likely not. In the end, the secondary might be the biggest need, with the cornerback position most worthy of a pick this early.
The pick: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
He opted out of the 2020 season, but the ball-hawking Hokie is still the most talented option available at this position. It’s just a matter of how long it will take him to get back to game-ready in 2021, but Farley can do everything you need from a shutdown corner. He’s got coverage skills and can stay step-for-step with X’s and Z’s in both man or zone schemes.
Team needs: The Lions will have a new head coach next season and there is a chance they move on from Matthew Stafford, but as it is, quarterback isn’t their biggest need at the moment. After not extending Kenny Golladay this off season, there is a chance he leaves in free agency if the team does not use the franchise tag. The Lions will be in a perfect spot to grab a top wide receiver to replace him if they so choose.
The pick: Ja’Maar Chase, WR, LSU
He’s 1 and 1A with DeVonta Smith, and many draft-niks like Chase more on raw ability. Opted out of the 2020 season, and with good reason considering what happened to LSU this year, but his national championship season in 2019 showed he can run all the routes and isn’t afraid to go over the middle as the Y or slot as well. He’s also a nightmare for any DB covering as he adjusts for the ball in the air as well as any human not named Odell Beckham on the planet.
Team needs: The team could easily go after another offensive lineman or defensive star, but this is probably Daniel Jones’ last chance to prove he’s their future at the quarterback position and he needs help at wide receiver. Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are two good pieces at the position, but they proved this season that they aren’t going to get consistent separation. They need someone who can take over a game.
The pick: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
For sure the third-best receiver in a class that might be loaded. Waddle is more of a slot guy than an outside guy, but if he gets behind you it’s six points. The precision of his routes and ability to separate using cuts is what makes him so dangerous.
Team needs: Teddy Bridgewater is a good quarterback, but he isn’t the guy who is going to take your team all the way. The Panthers needed a player like Bridgewater this season, but he likely wasn’t who they envisioned as their long term starter. The question is, do they have a quarterback in this draft they are willing to take this early, especially after a good chunk of them will probably be off the board? The answer is probably and even if they aren’t 100 percent sold on someone, second-year head coach Matt Rhule will get his quarterback.
The pick: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Remember when Carson Wentz was good? He showed a QB can come from the FCS and Fargo and be effective in the NFL right away. Lance has only played one game in 2020, and looked pretty mediocre according to the stats. But Lance has all the tools, and at 6’4, 226 he was the Most Outstanding Player in the FCS Playoffs winning another national championship for the Bison.
2021 has a lot of teams that need a quarterback, but not a lot of talent on the board. Lance at No. 9 seems like a reach.
10. Denver Broncos
Team needs: Do the Broncos need a quarterback? Probably, but it doesn’t look like the team will bail on Drew Lock just yet. They invested heavily in receivers last season and are probably set offensively for the time being. Some late season injuries to their secondary exposed a real problem, especially with them possibly losing A.J. Bouye and Bryce Callahan in the off season.
The pick: Patrick Surtain II, DB, Alabama
He’s not a quick-twitch guy, but if you need someone to cover physical wide receivers on go routes he’s your pick. At 6’2, 200, he’s physical enough to jam and has excellent ball skills. If you can start 12 games at Alabama as a true freshman, you’re probably worthy of a top-10 pick on that alone.