Well, this is getting wild.
Since the last projection, a few major trades among the top 10 picks have really shaken up the draft projections. And with the draft less than a week away, it’s hard imagining more trades or surprises not happening as every team fights for positioning.
With all that in mind, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see 4-5 QBs taken in the top 10 picks as teams scramble to find an answer at the most valuable position in sports.
The Pick: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This is the pick. There’s not a lot else to say that hasn’t been saying. Lawrence is the top quarterback prospect since at least Andrew Luck who came out of Stanford in 2012. Before that, Peyton Manning in 1998 and John Elway in 1983 are the only prospects who rival Lawrence’s stature.
So, rather than gush about all the traits that make Lawrence an unbelievable athlete and leader, I recommend looking at the recent Sports Illustrated profile by SI’s Michael Rosenberg that dives deep into the maturity and “burning desire to prove absolutely nothing.”
Well worth the read. Lawrence is going to do great things on the field, but perhaps find even more fulfillment in his life off the field. To dominate such a time-consuming sport and still place his focus on the greater things in life is truly inspiring.
Trevor, I’m rooting for you.
The Pick: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
All signs point to this being the pick.
With last year’s starter Sam Darnold being shipped off to Carolina for a package of picks, this is an all but sure thing at the second slot.
Wilson, who in the period of time since the season’s end has run away as the consensus number two quarterback in the class. Accompanied an impressive Pro-Day boosted his already sky-high stock, and it has become apparent that the league holds him in higher standing than the rest of the first-round quarterback prospects.
Wilson is everything a team wants in a franchise quarterback which is perfect for the modern game. He has great arm talent as well as decision-making ability. However, what is even more captivating about him, is his electrifying play outside of the pocket, or when a play breaks down. Wilson brings a swagger to the position that Darnold and the others before have lacked.
New York is going to love him.
3. SAN FRANCISCO 49ers (from MIA)
The Pick: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
Look, I don’t believe this is the right call either.
Mac Jones is a great quarterback prospect coming off a historically great season that was capped off with a National Championship title. He put up statistical numbers that rival only Joe Burrow’s magical senior year at LSU, and throughout the season he showed elite accuracy and decision-making ability while playing against some of the top teams in the country. He showed poise throughout the entirety of his Heisman-caliber season, and it’s very possible he becomes a good or great NFL quarterback.
I like Mac Jones, and I think that the 49ers are a great landing spot for him. Kyle Shanahan is going to maximize Jones’ strengths in an offense built on quick accurate passing, and with the run game behind him and the stellar offensive line upfront, this is by far the most desirable spot to land in the top 5. Jones should be thrilled if this is the pick.
But from the 49er’s view, I just don’t get it. Because for everything Jones is, Justin Fields is that and more. He’s the better athlete and a far more dynamic player, especially when the line breaks down and the play is broken. Fields might take some more work over the offseason to fit in the 49ers scheme, as the Ohio State offense was a more vertical attack that predicated on the top option being open more often than not. However, the higher ceiling of Fields is well worth the risk, especially after the massive draft haul San Francisco gave up to move to this pick. You don’t give up four first-rounders for a quarterback that may end up being as good as incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo.
Last Note: Teams don’t trade up to the top three picks without knowing who they want. The 49ers knew what prospect they wanted when they executed this deal. And ever since the trade was announced, Mac Jones has been penciled in here, based on a variety of sources.
The Pick: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
Atlanta is reportedly considering trading out of this slot but is demanding a ‘ransom’. I don’t expect a trade to end up happening, but should one go through (looking at you New England), it will be Justin Fields. In this mock draft, Atlanta, after heavily considering possible trades down or Fields as the quarterback of the future, finally settle on Florida tight end Kyle Pitts as the fourth pick in the draft.
This pick is a great fit as Atlanta needs an influx of fresh young talent, and Pitts is as good as they get at the tight end position, or any position. He is regarded by many to be the number two prospect in the entire 2021 draft class and perhaps has the highest floor of them all. Even calling him a tight end feels disrespectful; the guy is quite possibly the best wide receiver in the class. Pitts is an offensive weapon who will be an immediate matchup nightmare, and slotting him between star receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will free up the center of the field for those guys to do damage.
Atlanta fans may want Fields, but Pitts is perhaps the safest player to take in a year full of limited scouting and possibly scared front offices.
The Pick: Penei Sewell, T , Oregon
I’ll keep this one simple: Cincinnati needs to protect Joe Burrow. Just look at that scar.
Yes, Cincinnati has expressed confidence in their incumbent starting tackles, but 2019 first rounder Jonah Williams has suffered season-ending injuries in both of his professional seasons. The team added 10-year vet Riley Reiff to play RT, but he’s on the tail end of his career and has never been an elite performer on the line.
CBS Sports writer John Breech summed the likely scenario up, saying:
“Although it might be tempting to take an offensive weapon here like Chase or Pitts, the fact of the matter is that those weapons can’t really help you if your quarterback doesn’t have any time to throw the ball. The Bengals’ 2020 season was marred by Joe Burrow’s season-ending ACL injury and because of that, you have to think the front office will do everything in its power to put more protection around Burrow, which is why I think they’ll take Sewell in this spot.”
Ja’Marr Chase is a trendy pick here. He’s the top receiver in the class and was Burrow’s favorite target on that incredible 2019 LSU team. But if there’s one thing teams have learned in the past few years, it’s that protecting your QB has to come first.
Sorry for cancelling the reunion Joe, but you’re gonna love not being flat on your back every play.
The Pick: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Miami is coming off a near-playoff season, while also building a contending roster centered around youngster QB Tua Tagovailoa. They have prioritized this offseason to add more weapons to the offense, including the addition of speedy Will Fuller V and bringing back rookie stud Preston Williams from a lost season due to injury.
A dynamic wideout here to grow with Tua would cap off a successful offseason.
Devonta Smith was an option here for a while, but after the signing of Fuller, the team moves to LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and his more prototypical wide receiver build. Chase has the higher ceiling and could grow behind Devante Parker and Fuller while functioning as a pseudo-top option in the offense.
ESPN’s Todd McShay agrees, saying,” Chase is my No. 1 wide receiver, and Miami absolutely has to get another weapon for Tua Tagovailoa. Suddenly he’d have Chase, Will Fuller V, and DeVante Parker. You can win with that trio.”
7. TRADE: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (from DET)
The Pick: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Call it a hunch.
Mel Kiper of ESPN explained this trade, saying:
“Trades for quarterbacks happen every year. This deal sees the Patriots jump eight spots to get their guy, while the Lions add the Patriots’ second-round pick (No. 46), plus future selections, maybe even their first-rounder in next year’s draft. It’s a lot to give up, but Bill Belichick & Co. need a long-term solution at the game’s most important position.”
Fields is too talented to fall this far, and while there will be plenty of teams scrambling to take him here, one offer is going to rise above the rest and land one of the fan favorites in the class.
Sorry to disappoint, NFL fans, but Bill Belichick and the Patriots are making this happen.
The Patriots struggled with Cam Newton running the offense last year, and despite re-signing him to a one-year deal, should not be counted out of the quarterback sweepstakes. Fields isn’t a perfect prospect, but he will thrive under Belichick’s tutelage.
The Pick: Rashawn Slater, T, Northwestern
The Carolina Panthers, after failing to land Matthew Stafford and then avoiding a Deshaun Watson deal, finally landed their new quarterback when they traded for former New York Jet Sam Darnold last month. Darnold, 23, is young enough to turn his career around after three brutal years in football hell that is the Jets. With Darnold expected to take the reins for the upcoming year (and hopefully many more), the team can now look at building a roster around him.
With DJ Moore and Robby Anderson on the perimeter, the team may look to add a wideout later and instead look at reinforcing the offensive line with this pick. That leads us to Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater, a versatile piece that can really aid in Darnold’s development.
ESPN’s Todd McShay said it best. “The Panthers have to protect Sam Darnold for their trade for him to work out. They franchise-tagged Taylor Moton, but Slater can start opposite him at left tackle or slide inside to guard for a year.”
The Pick: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Trey Lance just feels like a John Elway quarterback.
While he isn’t as tall as his Bronco predecessors (Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch all were 6’5 or taller), he more than makes up for it with his truly elite athleticism. He has shades of a mini turbocharger Josh Allen to his game, and he plays bigger than his 6’1 size would indicate. Elway loves his gunslingers, and Lance fits that description.
Now, Denver doesn’t necessarily have to take a quarterback here. There are a few holes worth filling on the defense, and incumbent QB Drew Lock is still young enough to justify another year at the helm for the team to see what they’ve got with him. But Lance is a pretty great prospect falling all the way down to pick 9, and I can’t imagine Elway and the rest of the front office letting him fall past them.
10. DALLAS COWBOYS
The Pick: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Patrick Surtain II, the son of three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Surtain Sr., is the top-ranked cornerback by numerous experts, and for good reason. Todd McShay of ESPN explained the fit for him in his recent mock draft. He stated,
“Dallas gets the first choice of the defensive pool of players, and I’m reuniting Surtain with his former Alabama teammate Trevon Diggs in this CB room. Surtain is a true shutdown corner.”
It is believed that Surtain could step in immediately and contribute to a defense that sorely needs help.
All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com
Media by Isaiah Atkins.