By Editor-In-Chief Harris Oates
We are under a month away from the 2021 NFL Draft and the storylines are starting to heat up. Have you taken a break from football to decompress? Found a new hobby in the offseason? Been glued to your chair during march madness and intentionally ignored the football smokescreens? If so, have no fear…we will catch you up on everything you need to know about the 2021 NFL Draft. The draft is a continuous news cycle that is constantly changing narratives, so be sure to check out our weekly Mock Drafts that are posted every Monday.
What does the QB class look like?
The more I look into this class, the more unique it gets. Outside of the unanimous 1st Overall lock Trevor Lawrence, it is pretty much a gamble on the rest of the order. This class reminds me a bit of the 2018 class that was filled with Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Josh Rosen, however, there is a clear number one in this class…something that was a toss up in 2018 until minutes before the pick. Like that class, there will probably be 5 QBs selected in the 1st round and QB2 to QB5 is going to be different on just about every team’s Big Board. In our April Position Rankings we currently have the top 5 QBs ranked as follows:
- Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
- Mac Jones (Alabama)
- Zach Wilson (BYU)
- Justin Fields (Ohio State)
- Trey Lance (North Dakota State)
What Teams will target a QB?
With the Jacksonville Jaguars picking 1st overall, it is a given that they will be taking Trevor Lawrence. The Jets hold the 2nd overall pick and despite taking Sam Darnold in the same spot in 2018, they are heavily interested in spending the pick on a QB and dealing Darnold. The 49ers just traded three 1st round picks to move up from 12 to 3, so it is pretty much a guarantee that they are taking a QB as well. All signs point to the top 3 picks going in that direction, but after that it gets cloudy. The Atlanta Falcons are picking 4th overall and there have been rumors that they could take a guy to learn behind Matt Ryan, but I am a firm believer that they will address a bigger need. The Bengals and Dolphins are picking 5 and 6 and both took QBs last year, so they certainly won’t be taking one. The Lions are picking 7th and just acquired Jared Goff, who at the very least will serve as a bridge guy for a few years, so they will address bigger needs. It gets interesting at 8 and 9 when the Panthers and Broncos are on the clock, which will likely be determined by who is left on the board. The Panthers have been extremely unhappy with the performance of Teddy Bridgewater and have heavily scouted all 5 of the top prospects. The Broncos are in a similar boat with “Small Hands” Drew Lock and always seem to be in the QB talk since John Elway has taken over.
Outside of the top 10 there are a few QB needy teams including the New England Patriots who are picking at 15, the Washington Football Team who are picking at 19 and the Chicago Bears who are picking at 20. All three of these teams signed veteran QBs this offseason, so don’t expect them to pick on a QB unless it is phenomenal value…none of these teams would be wise to reach.
The way we think the QBs will be pick are as follows:
Jacksonville Jaguars (1) – Trevor Lawrence
New York Jets (2) – Zach Wilson
San Francisco 49ers (3) – Mac Jones
Carolina Panthers (4) – Justin Fields
Washington Football Team (5) – Trey Lance
What positions are particularly deep?
We just talked a lot about QBs and I think it is a pretty deep class, especially considering that Kyle Trask (Florida), Davis Mills (Stanford) and Kellen Mond (Texas A&M) will probably all be late Day 2/early Day 3 picks. This is probably is the strongest offensive line class that I have ever evaluated and is headlined by Penei Sewell (Oregon), Rashawn Slater (Northwestern), Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech) and Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC). I could see upwards of 7+ offensive lineman taken in the 1st round. I think the RB and WR class is pretty deep, but not as deep as last year. Look for that position to be over-drafted early to make up for the lack of depth in comparison. There still could be 30 WRs taken in the first 3 rounds, but I think there is a clear drop off after that. Linebacker is another position that is emerging as a major strength.
What positions are weak?
The is an extremely weak defensive line class and I don’t even have an edge rusher or DT rated in my top 17 prospects. There are a handful of guys who could be solid pros, but many of them have at least a couple of major flaws that will keep their value lower than it typically would be. Gregory Rousseau (Miami) dominated college football in 2019 and led the nation with 16 sacks, but has only played in 14 games through his career and just had a weak showing at his pro day. Jaelan Phillips (Miami) had a breakout season and amazing pro day, but also has a scary history with head injuries. Azeez Ojulari (Georgia) blew up at the end of last season, but also is a bit undersized and has limited tape. Jayson Oweh (Penn State) is one of the most dominant players when you watch him on tape, but he had no production last year and tallied a total of 0 sacks. There are some guys who could develop into All Pros, but there aren’t any no brainer Julius Peppers/Myles Garrett type picks. That being said, edge rushers are at a premium in the NFL, so still expect to see a handful go higher than they should. The Defensive Tackle group is just as weak, but expect Christian Barmore (Alabama) to be a 1st round pick.
Have there been any trades? Will there be any more?
As mention above, the San Francisco 49ers traded up to acquire the 3rd overall pick. This was done in a massive 3 team trade, which included Miami moving from 3 to 6 and Philadelphia moving from 6 to 12. This trade further emphasizes the depth in the QB class and signals that the 49ers were fine with any of their top 3 QBs…and whoever falls to them at 3.
The Panthers were a team that was rumored to trade up, but there is no chance that division rival Atlanta Falcons move the 4th pick to them. If Atlanta does move the pick, it’ll likely be to Denver or New England…two teams they will never have to face in the playoffs. Carolina’s best bet to trade up would be with Cincinnati at 5, but that doesn’t seem too likely given that there really isn’t a QB needy team from 4-7th overall along with the fact that the Bengals need to land Penei Sewell or Kyle Pitts (Florida).
The Dallas Cowboys are drafting at 10 and could easily move back and not lose too much value. The Patriots could trade up, but does that seem like a Belichick-ian move?
The Saints have been rumored to be looking to unload Marshon Lattimore for a 1st round pick, but given the fact that he was just arrested last week likely lowers his trade value significantly.
Who are your favorite Prospects?
Jamin Davis | Kentucky, LB
I’ve been high on Davis since watching him play in the fall, but he is just now starting to gain the national attention. Mel Kiper ranked him as his 14th overall prospect this week, which is astonishing for a guy who wasn’t on many mock drafts since very recently. I had him going to the Dolphins at 18 in my last mock draft.
Elijah Moore | Ole Miss, WR
Moore is another guy we have loved for some time now, but also has gained a following likely due to his incredible pro day. I have had Moore as a staple of all 4 of my mock drafts thus far and believe he is the 4th best receiver in the class. He may be a bit small, but is amongst the most agile receivers I have seen in a long time.
Greg Newsome II | Northwestern, CB
Greg Newsome II is a guy who wow’d me in big situation, especially in the Big 10 championship. He has some of the best ball skills in the draft and has the length to make for an amazing shadow corner in the NFL. He is our CB2 right now, but likely could be the first one picked.
Javonte Williams | North Carolina, RB
Javonte Williams had a breakout season in 2020 where he accounted for 1,440 yards and 19 TDs. He also just has 366 career carries, which is minuscule when compared to Travis Etienne (686) and Najee Harris (638).
Dyami Brown | North Carolina, WR
Dyami Brown has been one of the most consistent and underrated receivers in the past two seasons and I have him graded as a 1st rounder. He is a rare do-it-all receiver that has the potential to take over an offense as a WR1, which is rare towards the backend of the 1st round.
Pat Freiermuth | Penn State, TE
Freiermuth has been nicknamed “Baby Gronk” because of his monstrous size on the field, but he is also similar due to his combination of blocking and receiving. The 6’5″ 260 lb tight end caught 16 TDs in his college career, which is a lot considering that Sean Clifford was his QB for 2 of those years. TEs don’t usually go very high, but we think he won’t last past the start of the second round.
Amari Rodgers | Clemson, WR
When Justyn Ross was ruled out there were many questions towards how the Tigers would respond. Amari Rodgers took over as the top receiving threat with ease and torched defenders all over the country. He finished the season with over 1,000 yards, 77 receptions and 7 TDs and capped off his career with a strong week at the Senior Bowl. We have Rodgers rated as our 10th best receiver, but have no doubt that he will find his way onto the field at the NFL.
Who are the most overrated prospects?
Kadarius Toney | Florida, WR
The media and fans love Kadarius Toney due to his flashy play and big season, but we aren’t nearly as high on him as a prospect. He is super fast and did clock a 4.39u 40 yard dash, but I am more concerned with his ability to create separation. He is an unpolished route runner who generated a lot of production from screen routes and across the middle from the slot. I don’t hate Toney as a prospect, but I’ve seen him going in the top 15 picks, which is a major reach in a class where there are much better receivers there like Rashod Bateman and Elijah Moore. Toney is an early second round grade from us.
Richie Grant | UCF, S
Grant is another guy who has flown up draft boards, but I have hated his tape. He is one of the worst movers and weakest athletes in the secondary class, yet is getting 1st round hype. We have Grant rated as a 3rd rounder.
Kwity Paye | Michigan, Edge
As mentioned above, this is a weak edge class, but one name in particular that has emerged towards the top of the list is Kwity Paye. We like Paye fine, but he is a bit more of an old school edge rusher due to his powerful build and I am unsure if he has the length to play on the outside in many defenses. Paye is a first rounder, but he could likely be pigeonholed into specific defenses and cause his stock to fall a bit on draft night.
Tyson Campbell | Georgia, CB
Campbell was always pinned as the stronger, bigger and more atheltic corner coming out of Georgia, but has been outshined by teammate Eric Stokes this offseason. The two came in at nearly identical sizes and Stokes dominated in all athletic testing at their pro day. Stokes is also the much more accomplished and technically sound prospect of the two. Campbell is a late 2nd round grade from us.
What is a storyline I can follow over the next month?
The QB rankings will be frequently changing with interviews occurring and smokescreens being sent out. As of now it seems that the consensus has the top 3 being Lawrence, Wilson and Jones/Lance, but don’t be surprised if that significantly changes. As of now, it seems like RB Najee Harris is drawing a lot of media attention due to his dominant season and flashy play style, but it will be interesting to see if NFL teams are as high on him. He has touched the ball a lot and will already be 24 next season…that would take a lot of courage to spend a 1st round pick on. I really love the elite group of the WR class, so it will be awesome to see how many go in the first round. Be on the lookout for trades and check in with out weekly Mock Drafts that are posted every Monday.