I am thinking about creating an NFL draft blog. Here is the first first-round mock draft. All comments and critiques are welcome!
1. Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson - Even with his struggles in the Sugar Bowl against Ohio State, Lawrence is still the consensus number one quarterback (albeit by a slightly less margin) in this years' draft. His mobility, pocket poise, ability to throw on the run, arm strength and athletic ability make him the perfect player to start Jacksonville's inevitably long rebuild.
2. Jets: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State - Even with the Jets heartrending two late season wins against the Rams and Browns, the Jets will have *good* options with this pick. I know he was not amazing in the national championship but watching Fields tear up Clemson's defense in the Sugar Bowl should assuage some anxiety with this number 2 pick. There will be some talk that the Jets should trade down with this pick and get themselves a haul, but they cannot. Obviously, you all (hopefully) know that Darnold is not the answer at this point. Both Fields and Wilson are both prospects with high ceilings and I think the Jets could go in either direction. It would be a good pick either way. I slightly prefer Wilson but I think many evaluators prefer Fields. Fields is not perfect, sometimes he can hold onto the ball for too long and he has had some struggles this past year, most notably against Indiana and Northwestern, but Fields' talent is undeniable. He has so many positive traits necessary to be a good QB on the next level: his accuracy, arm strength, ability to throw on the run, his unbelievable toughness. The 2019 Heisman finalist showed all those traits on full display against Clemson.
3. Dolphins (From Texans): Ja'marr Chase, WR, LSU - Tua Tagovailoa has not shown the same flashes as fellow rookie QBs, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow have this past year. In my opinion, there is a legitimate and convincing argument they should go QB here. There is a possibility Tua may not pan out and it is unlikely Miami will be picking this high again, but I really think the Dolphins will be inclined to give Tua another year (assuming they do not trade him for Watson). Chase was the most dominant receiver in college football in 2019, and his elite deep ball separation ability would be a perfect complement alongside DeVante Parker and Preston Williams.
4. Falcons: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama - Similarly to Miami, I was tempted to mock Zach Wilson here . With new front office management, are the Falcons ready to get a new face of the franchise? It is certainly a possibility, but ultimately, I think the Falcons have a bare roster at too many other positions, and Matt Ryan is still playing at an effective level. There is a possibility that Atlanta trades down here to a QB needy team, but I am not projecting trades this draft. I decided to mock who I think is the best pure-man coverage corner in this years' draft to match across from last years' first-round pick, A.J. Terrell.
5. Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon - The Bengals have lucked out (in this mock at least). Two meaningless late season wins did not cost them the opportunity to take the best offensive lineman in the draft. This is a slam-dunk pick. The positional value, draft need, and player value all line up perfectly for Cincinnati here.
6. Eagles: Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama - A controversial last-game loss against Washington secures Philadelphia with a top-6 pick. The Eagles could go in multiple directions here. Micah Parsons is a possibility, as their linebacking group severely needs an upgrade. But we know that Howie Roseman loves getting high-value positions in the first round of his draft (EDGE, OT, QB, WR), so I think they will opt with Devonta Smith who is coming off a historically good college season. This also continues to address a need that has been plaguing the Eagles for years.
7. Lions: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU - The Lions are entering the beginning of a massive rebuild after the underwhelming Matt Patricia era. Basically, the entire defense (and a lot of the offense since all their receivers are free agents) needs an overhaul, but if Zach Wilson manages to drop to 7th, I don't see how the Lions can pass him up. With the Matt Stafford era in Detroit seemingly ending, the Lions need to start their rebuild by taking a franchise-QB to replace Stafford.
8. Panthers: Micah Parsons, ILB, Penn State - Like many teams picking before them, I do not think Carolina has the long term-answer at QB with Bridgewater. But Bridgewater is still a solid player and I am not sure they take the risk with Trey Lance, when they can build the roster in many other directions. I think the Panthers go "best player available" in Parsons. His athleticism and explosiveness suggest he will be a guy who will fit perfectly with what Matt Rhule will be looking for.
9. Broncos: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State - With Drew Lock having a very disappointing sophomore season, I think the Broncos will try to go quarterback in the first round. Even though Trey Lance has not played much (especially this past year), I think his talent and ceiling make him worthy of a high end first round pick. He would be a great addition to a likely quarterback competition in Denver next year.
10. Cowboys: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech - Losing Byron Jones in free agency was a huge and obvious blow to Dallas' secondary this past year. Taking another cornerback is necessary to alleviate some of the pressure they put on rookie, Trevon Diggs. There is some inexperience here as Farley is a recent convert to the position (was a receiver in high school) and opted out of the 2020 season, but the position comes incredibly naturally to him. He has shown flashes of excellence in press and man coverage and has a lot of untapped potential.
11. Giants: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan - The Giants missed the playoffs in a disappointing manner, but this past season showed they have some building blocks to work with on their team. The Giants could upgrade at CB opposite James Bradberry, but I think it is slightly too early for Jaycee Horn. Giving them Jaylen Waddle or Kyle Pitts was also intriguing and would help rejuvenate a sluggish offense, but I still went with Paye here. The value is excellent at 11 as Paye has helped his draft stock with real development in his pass-rush skills. On top of that the positional value and need further justify this pick for the Giants
12. 49ers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern - The Niners really struggled on their whole O-line this past year. To make matters worse, Trent Williams is a pending free agent as well. The 49ers really need to really address the line this offseason. Even if Williams is re-signed Slater is a flexible, athletic offensive lineman and San Francisco can start him day one wherever they need him too across the line.
13. Chargers: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas - The Chargers offense really is almost there, and there are a lot of positive signs with Justin Herbert's outstanding rookie year. But Herbert needs better protection at the tackle spot. Cosmi is a bit raw and his frame is not filled out, but he is extraordinarily athletic and has the highest ceiling of the remaining O-linemen.
14. Vikings: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech - The run on offensive linemen continues! The Vikings have had a lot of moving parts on the offensive line this year and have had some disappointments in players such as Pat Elflein (as we know). Even with Ezra Cleveland's strong play this year being a pleasant surprise, they may want to keep him at guard. Riley Reiff is not getting either younger nor cheaper and Darrisaw is a very solid option that can replace him on day one.
15. Patriots: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama - Is there a better fit in this mock than Waddle to the Patriots at 15? Saying Waddle is explosive is an understatement. He is a difference-maker that NFL defensive coordinators will loath scheming for. Waddle's draft stock only took a hit due to an ankle fracture he sustained in October. The Patriots are starved of talent at the playmaking positions, and Waddle will fit that need perfectly.
16. Cardinals: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina - It is possible that Patrick Peterson played his last snap for the Cardinals. Either way he is not getting any younger. Horn is a tall, physical corner who had an excellent 2020 season which helped his draft stock.
17. Raiders: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami - Another year and the Raiders have yet to fix their pass-rush problems. Clelin Ferrell showed some flashes towards the end of this past year after a slow start, but the Raiders still need further upgrades. Rousseau is a bit raw and still needs to develop pass-rushing techniques (opting out of the 2020 season will not help him in that regard), but he is a versatile, and athletic EDGE with a high ceiling that would complement Ferrell quite well.
18. Dolphins: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida - Mike Gesicki is already a solid tight end, but Kyle Pitts is so much more than a standard tight end. He is an all-around playmaker, and the best player left on the board. Miami already took Ja'marr Chase in this mock, so why not double down on a strength to give Tua as many weapons as possible?
19. Washington: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan - Many players that Washington would love are off the board. They are in desperate need of a QB but the top 4 are gone and the rest are not worth the 19th pick. They have a stellar defense, but Washington could also use another playmaker next to McLaurin but Pitts and Waddle are off the board so they would have to go get someone in the next tier (a possibility). Ultimately Washington really needs to improve their offensive line. Mayfield is an extraordinarily strong, athletic player with an extremely high ceiling. He will struggle a bit against speed rushers early in his career, but once he polishes his footwork, Mayfield has the chance to be a pro-bowl level tackle. This is a sufficient, non-glamorous but necessary pick for Washington.
20. Bears: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU - With Allen Robinson likely gone, it is evident that the Bears need to find a replacement. The only possible surprise that you may have is mocking Marshall ahead of Rashod Bateman. I rate Marshall very highly in his own right, and I love the similarities between his game and Robinson's. Marshall like Robinson has the size and speed to win downfield and create matchup mismatches. I think Robinson to Marshall would be a seamless transition, and I would assume the Bears think so as well.
21. Colts: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota - The Colts' biggest need is a new quarterback to replace retiring Phillip Rivers, but any QB would be a bit of a reach here (although that has not stopped many teams in the past, Mac Jones is a real possibility). They are going to do the best thing and take a weapon for whomever their future quarterback will be. Bateman is a strong, but also technically refined receiver who would be high value pick here. He will supplement Michael Pittman Jr. and Paris Campbell: insurance for an unproven receiving corp.
22. Titans: Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas - With Corey Davis an impending free agent, the Titans could really stand to replace him here with a Kadarius Toney or Rondale Moore, but ultimately the biggest problem with the 2020 Titans was not their offense. I have the Titans going to the edge hear with a high motor, powerful player in Ossai. Ossai is relatively new to the position, as he spent time in the past in a more off-ball linebacker role, so he has some room to develop, but the tools are there.
23. Jets (From Seahawks): Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia - As much as I wanted to give incoming new quarterback, Justin Fields, some new weapons on the offense, I could not justify the Jets taking any of the remaining skill position players here at 27. I think the Jets need more of a possession receiver to complement Denzel Mims, and Rondale Moore and Kadarius Toney do not really fit that profile. Secondly, with so many other needs, I cannot give the Jets a running back in the first round (I really was tempted to give us Najee). I have the Jets taking Ojulari, to fix the edge position that has long been a problem for the Jets. Especially, with Robert Saleh coming in, the necessity for a speed rusher becomes even greater. I am extremely high on Ojulari becoming an excellent NFL player, with his elite combination of bend and explosiveness. 23 may seem like a bit of a reach this point, but this is a guy who I see shooting up draft boards as the draft process continues. He capped off his Georgia career in an outstanding three sack game against Cincinnati, and I really think he is a high ceiling player worthy of a first-round pick.
24. Steelers: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama - The Steelers are going to take the plunge here. They are going to try to find the long-term answer at QB with Mac Jones. It's clear that the Steelers need to figure out a post-Ben Roethlisberger plan at QB and I doubt it's going to be Mason Rudolph nor Dwayne Haskins. Mac Jones may not have the athletic ability or arm strength that the guys ahead of him too, but he has had an incredible 2020 season for the Tide, and has enough positive traits with his accuracy, anticipation, and poise under pressure that indicate he can at least be an adequate NFL starter.
25. Jaguars (From Rams): Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame - The Jaguars have a plethora of needs at many positions, and really could go many different directions here. But since they take their future franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, here they are going to find him some protection. Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor have struggled this year, and Eichenberg is a solid, technically sound tackle who could start day one.
26. Browns: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, ILB, Notre Dame - Getting an edge across Myles Garrett is probably a bigger need for the Browns, but in reality, the Browns could really gain from improving their whole linebacker unit. The value here at 26 is too great to pass up Owusu-Koramoah here. Coming from Notre Dame, known to produce good linebackers, Owusu-Koramoah is a downhill, physical, versatile and highly instinctive player who really could be a superstar on the next level.
27. Ravens: Alijah Vera-Tucker, IOL, USC - The Ravens' offense needs help both on it is line and in the skill positions to ease the burden off Lamar Jackson. The Ravens could go with Kadarius Toney, but Baltimore needs a possession receiver who can be a security blanket on those intermediate routes to put across Marquise Brown (who is more of a one-trick pony deep threat), and the best fit for that role (Rashod Bateman is off the board). The Ravens offensive line was not nearly as strong as in 2019 after facing some free agent departures, and injuries. Vera-Tucker has fallen down the board a lot during this mock. He is a phenomenal athlete who gets to the point of attack quickly and could provide a much needed injection of youth to the Ravens' offensive line.
28. Saints: Zaven Collins, ILB, Tulsa - With Drew Brees' impending retirement, one might speculate that the Saints would go for a QB here. But I do think they like Taysom Hill as Brees' replacement (additionally I don't think there are many good quarterback options here at 29). Linebacker is not the biggest need for the Saints, but they could stand to improve the defense. Collins is a good all-around prospect.
29. Bills: Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia - The Bills' secondary has not been great this year, basically their only achilleas' heel. If Stokes is still on the board this is a slam-dunk pick for them. His length, coverage ability and instincts make Stokes a solid option on the next level.
30. Packers: Nick Bolton, ILB, Missouri - The Packers do not have many weaknesses, and Bolton would stand as a luxury pick. Nevertheless, the Packers could improve their run-defense, and Bolton was a standout run defender in college.
31. Buccaneers: Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama - The Bucs do not have many needs, but it would not hurt them to upgrade the tackle spot opposite outstanding rookie, Tristan Wirfs. Leatherwood is a versatile and experienced starter in an incredible Alabama offensive line that should help Tampa Bay challenge for a Super Bowl in the limited time Tom Brady has left in his career.
32. Chiefs: Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida - Toney is a dynamic receiver. Would he fit on the Chiefs? That is not even a question. The NFL will have to watch out.