The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft will be held on Thursday, April 29, in Cleveland. As such, I thought it would be wise to cobble together a quick mock of the top 10 picks. Have I watched a lot of tape? No. Would I consider myself to be a college football expert? No. However, I do love a good list. Isn’t that really what’s important here?
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Top 10 Picks
1. Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars)
There really isn’t a lot that needs to be said here. Lawrence has been pegged in this spot for what feels like the better part of two years and the Jaguars pulled off a 15-game losing streak to get their franchise quarterback. A week ago, Lawrence took to Twitter to thank Jacksonville fans for all the wedding gifts they’d sent for his recent nuptials. He also stated he’d be donating $20,000 to a local charity. At this point it’d be a little awkward if he wasn’t the first player off the board.
2. Zach Wilson (New York Jets)
While the 2021 Draft does have the potential to get wild, the consensus seems to be that the drama will start at pick three. That’s because the Jets have found their Sam Darnold replacement in Wilson. The 6’3 pivot is coming off an amazing Junior season at BYU, where he averaged 11.0 yards per pass attempt and finished the year with a 11.0 TD/INT ratio. Maybe he doesn’t have the mobility of some of the other QBs in this class, but Joe Douglas gets a busy week started with Wilson.
3. Mac Jones (San Francisco 49ers)
No team has put up as much of a smokescreen as the 49ers since trading with the Dolphins for this pick, though some would make the case that this is among the most obvious selections on the board. For me, I’ve simply heard too much noise about Kyle Shanahan coveting Jones to ignore the hype. It’s certainly possible that Jones doesn’t possess the raw tools to ever be anything more than a “system QB” at the NFL level, but, if you had to choose a system, you’d almost definitely take Shanahan’s.
4. Kyle Pitts (Atlanta Falcons)
Would the Falcons consider trading down here? Is any team willing to part with the sort of assets it would take to acquire this pick? Would a team like the Broncos even have to trade-up with the way the board has been trending the past few weeks? For the purpose of this exercise, I won’t be guessing trades, but I do think Atlanta stays put Thursday evening. They’ll take the generational talent in Pitts and create a receiving corps that will have fans and fantasy owners drooling throughout the summer and fall. The Falcons actually racked up 7.5 pythagorean wins in 2020, with a little more luck in 2021, they’re competing for a wild card spot.
5. Penei Sewell (Cincinnati Bengals)
Here’s the real tipping-point of the Draft. If the Bengals take Sewell, the consensus no. 1 offensive lineman on the board, I believe the rest of the top 10 gets a little chalky. However, if Cincinnati instead decides to pair Joe Burrow with LSU wideout Ja’Marr Chase, things get complicated really quickly. In my opinion, the Bengals simply need protection more than they need another weapon. Cincinnati ranked 25th in adjusted sack rate (7.6%) and 31st in adjusted line yards (3.9) last year. There’s also the matter of Burrow’s season-ending injury.
6. Ja’Marr Chase (Miami Dolphins)
Following a season where the Dolphins were, at times, starting the likes of Isaiah Ford and Mack Hollins at receiver, the team is quite obviously looking to improve their skill positions. Chase appears to be a stunning prospect, though he is a full-year removed from an amazing sophomore campaign that saw him rack up 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. If he’s still on the board, he’s the pick. That is, unless Miami’s front office gets an enticing offer from the Bears or the Broncos. The Dolphins do love trading draft capital.
7. Jaylen Waddle (Detroit Lions)
The Lions are a real wild card team in these proceedings. That’s sort of what happens when you could use help at literally every position on the field. My head says that new head coach Dan Campbell and the front office plays it relatively safe by selecting offensive lineman Rashawn Slater, yet one look at Detroit’s WR depth chart is all you need to recognize the glaring holes it has at the position. There’s a real possibility the Lions attempt to trade down here to acquire more capital.
8. Rashawn Slater (Carolina Panthers)
Look, trading for Sam Darnold isn’t exactly what I would call settling the QB position for the long-haul. Still, at the end of the day, the Panthers gave up real assets to bring the former first-round pick in this offseason and it would be wise to give him an opportunity to show what he can do for the franchise. It would also be wise to keep him upright. Slater can certainly help with the latter.
9. Trey Lance (Denver Broncos)
I truly believe that Justin Fields has the capacity to be the second-best quarterback in this class, and that his recent fall from grace is unjustified. However, if John Elway and the Broncos have the opportunity to draft a raw QB dripping with potential and tools, they’re going to do it 100 times out of 100. As we all know, Elway has a type. The Josh Allen comparisons are inevitable when it comes to Lance, and while Allen’s path will be difficult to duplicate, Lance’s ceiling is tantalizing.
10. Patrick Surtain II (Dallas Cowboys)
Let’s bookend this mock with another layup. Surtain is -125 on the DraftKings Sportsbook to be the first defensive player off the board and he’s also -200 to be a top 10 pick. Well, let’s cash some tickets, because few players and teams have been as connected throughout this process as Surtain and the Cowboys. Dallas loaded up the skill positions last season when it drafted CeeDee Lamb, now it can fill the void left by Byron Jones last offseason.
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All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests.
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