One last stab at predictions before the NFL Draft kicks off tonight
I’m not going to waste your time with an elaborate intro, you’ve probably read 100 of these already.
Hypothetical trades are included.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
The Jaguars are going to use the entirety of their time before submitting this pick and it’s going to be hella annoying.
New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, Brigham Young
The Jets are going to use the entirety of their time before submitting this pick and that’s also going to be hella annoying, though slightly less so because there is a marginally greater-than-zero chance they swerve everybody and pick Fields or something.
San Francisco 49ers (via Houston through Miami): Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
The intrigue starts at No. 3, if you’re alive to witness the pick. I’ll believe it’s Mac Jones when Goodell reads the card and gives the Bama product a COVID-defying bear hug on stage.
Lance’s potential in Kyle Shanahan’s system is through the roof as a passer and runner, though he’ll need time to realize it. He’s infinitely more talented than Jimmy Garoppolo or Jones, and that alone makes this a fine pick.
Atlanta Falcons: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
I’ve swayed on this front, and it comes down to a simple matter of reality. The Falcons could try to convince themselves that they can still compete, but an aging QB, the possibility of trading Julio Jones growing more realistic by the day, and a completely disheveled defense make a damning argument for the contrary.
Kyle Pitts would not be a bad pick at all, but the allure of an heir apparent at the game’s most important position might be too strong to ignore. The team is in such an untenable situation in terms of financials and talent, you can poke holes in any decision they make here. Fields is supremely talented, and I’ll believe he falls out of the top 10 when I see it.
Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Louisiana State
It could be a well-executed smokescreen, but a lot of connected people seem confident in this one. It makes sense, as QB Joe Burrow already shares a strong rapport with Chase, who is one of the best receiver prospects in recent memory. Teams seem to be more confident in the offensive line depth over the receiver depth in this draft, so the Bengals will have to roll the dice on the trenches during rounds 2 or 3.
Miami Dolphins (via Philadelphia): Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
The Dolphins are rewarded for their trade-down gambit as arguably the freakiest player in the draft falls into their laps here. An arsenal of Pitts, DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, Mike Geisicki, and Preston Williams is more than enough to get Tua Tagovailoa rolling in his sophomore season.
Los Angeles Chargers (TRADE with Detroit): Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
We see another reunion of college teammates in the top 10 as the Chargers decide to get aggressive and secure the sky-high upside of Penei Sewell to galvanize their offensive line. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has proven to be aggressive in the past, and the Lions seem like a great trade partner as the latter looks to acquire future assets for their rebuild.
Carolina Panthers: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
If the Panthers get Sewell sniped from them, they could go with Rashawn Slater to boost their line. However, I think they might be more interested in defense than most pundits are presuming.
Their secondary was bad last year, and Surtain II would be a perfect fit for what they look to do on defense. In a division full of terrifying receiving threats, from Mike Evans to Mike Thomas, having Surtain would go a long way in keeping divisional games more competitive.
Minnesota Vikings (TRADE with Denver): Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern
The Vikings’ love of the trade down is well-noted, but it’s time for their brass to switch gears and make a move up. The team needs to start winning again or leadership might find itself on the hot seat, and protecting Kirk Cousins and opening holes for Dalvin Cook is the best way to do that.
Slater is a perfect scheme fit and can play either left tackle or guard. His versatility will get him on the field early.
Dallas Cowboys: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
Cowboys want to play more man coverage. Jaycee Horn is a complete alpha in man coverage. This might be a more realistic pick for Dallas even if Surtain is on the board.
New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
The Giants have to do this if they’re comfortable with Parson’s personality question marks. He’s a dynamic, multifaceted weapon who would fit well in Patrick Graham’s versatile defensive deployments. He can blitz, he can play the edge, he has the talent to drop in coverage with more seasoning. Defensive assistant Sean Spencer coached Parsons at PSU and can provide an added layer of insight as well.
Arizona Cardinals (TRADE with Philadelphia): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Last time, I had the Cardinals dropping back, but now I have them trading 2022 compensation to a needy Eagles team to move ahead of teams like Detroit and New England to secure the electric Waddle.
Arizona’s offense became dreadfully stale down the stretch, and that was largely due to underperformance from receivers not named DeAndre Hopkins. Waddle will breathe new life into Kliff Kingsbury’s wide-open scheme. In the short or long game, Kyler Murray could wreak havoc with Waddle at his disposal.
Detroit Lions (TRADE with Los Angeles): Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama
The Lions just need good football players, and Smith fits the bill. Like I said in the previous version, Jared Goff is going to struggle immensely without someone who consistently separates in the short and intermediate parts of the field. The Lions have no one like that now, but Smith gives them that option.
Denver Broncos (TRADE with Minnesota): Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The Broncos have built a well-rounded roster that seems like a QB away, but the decision makers seem content with giving Drew Lock another chance while possibly acquiring veteran insurance. That seems ill-advised, but if that’s what they choose to do, they might as well bolster the defense with a versatile chess piece like Owusu-Koramoah. If anyone can maximize a player who can play linebacker, safety, slot defender, it’s probably Vic Fangio.
New England Patriots: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
If the Pats miss out on the chance to get Justin Fields, I don’t think their aspirations for a QB completely fade away. Belichick might want to modernize at the position, but the chances are he’ll still admire someone like Jones, who brings that easily likable combination of accuracy, anticipation, whiteboard prowess.
It’s been easy to lose sight of it in this year’s draft discourse because of the top 5 speculation, but Jones is a good prospect. He has the talent to be a plus starter, but it will be a matter of how well he’s able to maximize his average physical tools.
Philadelphia Eagles (TRADE with Arizona): Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan
Confidence in GM Howie Roseman to man the helm of this rebuild should be, and likely is, tenuous at best. He has struggled immensely in recent years to put together consistent drafts, but his patterns are pretty clear: he loves super athletic prospects who play in the trenches.
I could easily see him going that route again this year, which will likely ruffle feathers. Paye has been compared to longtime veteran Brandon Graham when he was coming out of Michigan, so it’d be fitting if Paye came in as the latter’s eventual replacement.
Las Vegas Raiders: Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
The Raiders just cut their best defensive tackle, Maurice Hurst, with no proven replacement on the roster. Barmore repeatedly comes up as a name that will go higher than most media/fans project. He comes from a Power 5 factory, which the Raiders have pilfered from consistently since Mike Mayock took over as GM.
This one seems meant to be.
Miami Dolphins: Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
The Dolphins seem open to adopting freaky athletes who might not have the technical aspects ironed out quite yet, as evidenced by them picking Noah Igbinoghene and Austin Jackson last year.
If anyone like that is worth a swing this year, it’s probably Oweh, who blew away everyone with his wild Pro Day performance – highlighted by his sub 4.4 40-yard dash at 6-foot-5 and 257 pounds. It might take some time for him to figure it all out, but the Dolphins can afford to be patient. They are still building their foundation despite being ahead of schedule last year.
Washington Football Team: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
The Washington Football team is building a special defensive unit in the Nation’ Capital. However, they’re lacking a true do-it-all linebacker like Ron Rivera had in Carolina with Thomas Davis and Luke Keuchly.
Those would be lofty expectations for Collins, but there’s no doubt he’s a unicorn with absurd size (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) and movement skills. He’s good value in the middle of the first.
Chicago Bears: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech
The Bears are sitting in no man’s land and ownership likely isn’t going to sign off any big trade that mortgages future draft capital, so they might as well work on improving their suboptimal offensive line with the 20th overall pick.
Darrisaw might profile as a better right tackle in the long run, but he certainly has the athletic acumen to at least give left tackle an honest try. He needs to work on technique and block finishing, but the talent is hard to pass up on at this stage.
Indianapolis Colts: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, Southern California
The Colts need to address the blind side to protect new franchise QB Carson Wentz, and Vera-Tucker has the chops to handle the role. The talk constantly revolves around Vera-Tucker moving to guard because of his shorter arms, but that hasn’t dissuaded Indy in the past (see Braden Smith).
AVT well plays with exceptional balance, technique, and awareness. He’s built to be an NFL tackle, though he could easily excel at guard if a move becomes necessary.
Tennessee Titans: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Three offensive tackles in a row! The stink of Isaiah Wilson can be quickly erased with Jenkins, who might be the most ferocious offensive lineman in the draft. The dude lives to make his opponents miserable, and he’s stout enough and athletic enough to carve out a long career as a right tackle.
New York Jets (via Seattle): Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Farley’s injury history might be a deal breaker this year when franchises seem to be especially cautious, but his talent is so overwhelming it might not matter to some decision makers. I’m betting on the Jets being relatively unbothered, as they’re deep in a rebuild, have a terrible cornerback room, and have the leeway to take a swing on a player of Farley’s caliber. If he didn’t have the medical red flags, he’d be a bonafide top 12 pick.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
There is an unusually strong assurance of this pick so far down the board, which probably means it won’t happen, but it makes sense if it does. Steelers would be better off taking a center or tackle, but there’s no denying that their running back room is devoid of game-changing playmakers. Harris is a complete runner who would fill the Le’Veon Bell void admirably.
New Orleans Saints (TRADE with Jacksonville): Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
The Saints should trade back due to their recent roster purge, but that’s not really their style. And given their dire need at cornerback, a small trade up to secure the best available prospect is not out of the question. Newsome II is an excellent fit for this scheme, and he’ll likely be tasked as a starter from the get-go.
Cleveland Browns: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami
Signing Jadeveon Clowney shouldn’t dissuade the Browns from loading up on quarterback hunters opposite Myles Garrett. They’ll make the hometown crowd roar with the selection of Phillips, who might be EDGE No. 1 off the board if it wasn’t for injury concerns. With improved functional strength and hand usage, the Miami product could easily be a top 20 edge rusher.
Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Ravens need more dependability from their receiving corps if they hope to consistently get the best out of Lamar Jackson, and Rashod Bateman would bring some much-needed reinforcement. Bateman is a nuanced route runner who can beat press and consistently secure the ball while even contributing some yards after the catch. Baltimore might want to make a more aggressive move for one of the top 3 wideouts or wait to deal for Julio Jones, but Bateman is good value if they stay put.
Jacksonville Jaguars (TRADE with New Orleans): Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington
The Jaguars seem adamant in building up the trenches, and they currently lack a promising three-technique on the roster. Enter Onwuzurike, whose flashes at Washington were enticing but inconsistent. He’s got the length, strength and first-step quickness to be an interior force if he can learn how to effectively disrupt on a more regular basis.
Green Bay Packers: Creed Humphrey, OC, Oklahoma
This pick is another one I feel pretty good about from the first version. You have to protect Aaron Rodgers, and the current interior line of Jon Runyan and Lucas Patrick isn’t exactly elite. Drafting Humphrey would allow for a smooth transition from Corey Linsley while permitting Elgton Jenkins to do his best work at guard. I could also see a trade up for a cornerback like Newsome.
Buffalo Bills: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
The Bills are on the cusp of championship contention and a dynamic running back might be what they need. Whether it was apathy or lack of faith in available options, the Bills neglected the run game too much last year and it definitely hurt them at times.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss are nice options, but Etienne provides a completely new dimension. A player who is content with blowing past you or running you over, Etienne has three-down potential.
Baltimore Ravens (via Kansas City): Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
The Ravens lost a pair of edge rushers to free agency, so looking at the position here is likely if they decide to keep both first-round picks. Tryon needs more seasoning, but I’ve seen him in too many mock drafts from well-connected people to leave him out of Round 1. His athletic profile, first-step quickness, and strong motor scream complete edge player at the next level if he can put it all together.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
The moment you’ve all waited for! I sought a good trade partner, but no spot called out to me and Ojulari kept falling, so I decided that a move wasn’t really necessary in this scenario. Ojulari reportedly has a knee condition that might unfortunately nudge him down boards, but it’s hard to know the severity. As discussed earlier, that might scare some teams off.
However, if it’s not dire, Tampa shouldn’t really hesitate to make this selection. A player with reportedly high character, relentless play demeanor, excellent play strength and booming first-step quickness, Ojulari ravaged SEC competition. His production largely came off his athletic traits, rather than a full toolbox of rush moves, so refining his approach will be crucial.
As has been discussed at length, he’ll be in a position to sit and learn from established veterans in Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, so he can serve as a spark plug off the bench in Year 1. It might be a dream come true for Ojulari, who even said that he models his game off Barrett.
And now for the rest of Tampa’s picks…
Round 2, Pick 57 (TRADE with Rams) – Quinn Meinerz, OC, Wisconsin-Whitewater
As mentioned in our draft roundtable, it’s hard to envision the Buccaneers making all eight of their current draft selections. If they see an opportunity to hop forward for a player they like, they absolutely should. I’ve outlined such a scenario here, where the Bucs swap second-round picks with the Rams to move up seven spots while forfeiting their fourth rounder.
With the pick, they secure yet another small-school lineman in Meinerz to solidify their interior line depth. Meinerz’s rise is impressive, with NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein actually comparing his play style to Bucs center Ryan Jensen. Given the pending free agency of Jensen and guard Alex Cappa, the Bucs would be wise to secure a future starter when one of them likely departs in 2022.
Round 3, Pick 95 – Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, Southern California
We stick in the trenches for Round 3, as the Bucs upgrade their defensive tackle rotation with Tuipulotu. Ultimately, the age of Tampa’s current group is going to become a factor sooner rather than later, so it’d be wise to spend a top 100 pick on a youth injection.
Tuipulotu’s improvement from 2019 to 2020 is widely applauded, as he transformed himself into a legitimate 3-down defender who showcased improved hand usage, twitch, and block recognition. He’s a little undersized, but he’s bulky and displays good play strength. If he can add a little more weight, improve his anchor and diversify his pass rushing moves, he could become a very solid starter.
Round 5, Pick 176 – James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
The Bucs will likely keep an eye on the safety class due to the impending free agency of Jordan Whitehead and the loss of Andrew Adams as depth. Finding value in the middle rounds will definitely be possible, and Wiggins would be a great fit here.
He turned heads in 2018 before tearing his ACL and meniscus, which put a damper on the remainder of his college tenure as he could never replicate his high point. That said, he’s an explosive athlete with plus range and physicality even though he’s on the smaller side.
Tampa selected Jamel Dean despite repeated knee injuries, so they’re likely comfortable with taking a shot at this point. Wiggins will have another year to get healthy while improving his pursuit angles and overall play recognition.
Round 6, Pick 212 (TRADE with New England) – Isaiah McDuffie, LB, Boston College
One more trade up in the final stretch here, as the Bucs give up one of their seventh rounders to New England so they can secure a developmental linebacker and special teamer.
Bucs fans have likely seen McDuffie in other mock drafts, and I can’t deny the fit here. He’s a high-intensity, heady linebacker who loves the chase and pursuit life. He’s on the small side at 6-foot-1 and 227 pounds, so he might have issues with getting off blocks in the pros. His coverage abilities are especially undercooked, so he needs work in that area as well.
All in all, you could do a lot worse in the sixth round. McDuffie works hard, shows football smarts, and will give you his full effort in any role.
Round 7, Pick 259 – James Smith, P, Cincinnati
I’m still all aboard the punter train for Mr. Irrelevant. Every dollar is precious at this point, and Bradley Pinion is making too many of them to remain on the roster at his current salary unless he improves from his mediocre 2020.
Bring in James Smith, let the two kick it out in camp, and see where it goes. The expectation should be that Smith wins out and saves Tampa more than $2 million while providing at least similar production.
Alright, Bucs Nation, let us know what you think of this haul by voting in the poll and commenting below. A quick summary:
Round 1, Pick 32: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Round 2, Pick 57 (trade with LAR): Quinn Meinerz, C, Wisconsin-Whitewater
Round 3, Pick 95: Marlon Tuipulotu, DT, Southern California
Round 5, Pick 176: James Wiggins, S, Cincinnati
Round 6, Pick 212 (trade with NE): Isaiah McDuffie, LB, Boston College
Round 7, Pick 259: James Smith, P, Cincinnati