With the 2021 NFL Draft less than one month away, here are my thoughts on the teams currently in the top 10.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jags are going to draft Trevor Lawrence. We have known since early 2019 that whichever team picked #1 in 2021 was going to draft him and considering the Jaguars have 2 QBs under contract (Gardner Minshew and Jake Luton), they are drafting Trevor Lawrence. No debate, no discussion.
2. New York Jets
Hot take – I personally would stick with Sam Darnold. I would give Darnold one more shot with an upgraded offense and a new coaching staff.
The counter argument is – will the Jets be in a position to pick a guy like Zack Wilson again? (it’s the Jets, so honestly the answer is probably yes…)
Regardless, I understand that this pick is going to be Wilson. It resets the QB contract clock for the Jets and gives the new coaching staff “their” guy. My concern with Wilson or Darnold or prime Joe Namath – is Corey Davis and Tevin Coleman a big enough upgrade over what Darnold has had? Can they build a proper team for Wilson to be successful?
Also, I would take Justin Fields over Zach Wilson. Fight me.
3. San Francisco 49ers
Well, they traded up with the intent to draft a QB. Will it be Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones? Reports are all over the place.
Many people have scoffed at the idea that the Niners would trade up, and trade a treasure trove of picks, to take Jones. But the truth is, if you think he’s your guy, it makes all the sense in the world. This team is built to win now, but could use an upgrade at QB and could certainly benefit from the luxary of a rookie QB contract, as opposed to Garoppolo’s dead that is worth over $25 million in cap space.
Again, I would take Fields here if I was SF. But if the plan is truly for Jimmy Garoppolo start in 2021, then Jones or Lance make the most sense to sit behind him to start the season.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Here’s where the fun starts. We know picks 1-3 are QBs, even if there’s questions as to which QB goes 3rd. But at #4, the Falcons can swing the draft in a number of different directions.
They could go with whichever QB is left in preparation for life after Matt Ryan in 2022. Same question as the Jets – will the Falcons be in this position in the future, to draft a QB in the top 5? Justin Fields is a local guy, who would fit perfectly in Arthur Smith’s new offense.
They could also try to add a win now piece and draft the best player available, which would be OT Penei Sewell or TE Kyle Pitts.
The other option, of course, would be to trade the pick to a QB-needy team. Panthers, Broncos, Patriots would all love to move up and willingly trade future first round picks to do so.
The draft really starts with the Falcons.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Penei Sewell. Done.
Assuming the Falcons do not take the Oregon LT, this pick should already be written in sharpie on the Bengals draft card. While it may be tempting to add a weapon for Joe Burrow, rule #1 in the NFL is you MUST protect your QB. Especially, a recent #1 overall pick coming off a major injury.
TE Kyle Pitts or Burrow’s old LSU teammate WR J’Marr Chase will be tempting, but the Bengals need to make the common sense, logical, obvious pick. I used those words purposefully, knowing they hardly ever describe the Bengals’ thought process or actions.
6. Miami Dolphins
I can see another trade here depending on who is available between Fields/Lance/Jones. Perhaps Carolina wants to jump Detroit (or jump in case New England trades with Detroit), or perhaps Denver wants to jump ahead of Carolina. Miami already moved down from 3 and up from 12 and seem to enjoy hoarding future picks as assets so I sense they’d be more than willing to trade back a few spots and gather more future picks.
If they stay at 6, they’ll likely have their choice of WRs – J’Marr Chase or 2 former Tua Tagovailoa teammates, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. If the Dolphins move down, they still likely will have a choice, but it’s possible 1 or more of the 3 are gone.
7. Detroit Lions
I don’t think they go QB here. I think it’s worth seeing what Jared Goff can do.
Detroit lost Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay and their top two WRs right now are Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams. That sort of makes this pick obvious, no?
While WR is the obvious need, I wouldn’t be surprised if Detroit considered Pitts here. New head coach Dan Campbell was a TE in the NFL for over 10 years and a longtime TE coach. If anyone can find a way to creatively utilize Pitts and 2019 top 10 pick TJ Hockenson, it would be him.
8. Carolina Panthers
QB is their biggest need – will Lance/Jones/Fields be on the board here? Do they trade this pick for a QB like Sam Darnold, Jimmy G? Can they pull off a mega dream blockbuster for Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson?
Last year, Carolina used all of their 7 draft picks on defense. Will they continue to focus on defense (Micah Parsons)?. Will they draft OL to protect their future QB (Slater)?. Panthers certainly have options and trading up to get one of this year’s top QB prospects seems like their best move.
9. Denver Broncos
It’s possible none of the 5 QBs will be available at 9, so Broncos may need to move up to get one if that’s the goal.
Might #9 be the first time a defensive player is drafted? Von Miller is likely entering his last season in Denver. Micah Parsons, Kwity Paye or Gregory Rousseau may all fit Denver’s scheme here. It’s also possible they got OL, with Rashawn Slater having the ability to play all 5 offensive line positions.
10. Dallas Cowboys
Patrick Surtain II. That’s the pick. Surtain is the best CB of the 2021 group and Dallas has done nothing to improve this position in FA.
Cowboys have addressed some holes on the DL and have enough playmakers on offense. OL is a need for Dallas and if Sewell somehow falls to 10, Cowboys would likely snatch him up. If Slater falls, I still think CB has to be the pick. While Slater would starter, they do have 5 capable starting OL, whereas Dallas has just 1 capable outside CB (Jourdan Lewis is a slot CB)