By Owen Turner
Welcome back to the loyal First Down Podcast listeners, or more accurately for today, readers. Yes, it’s one of the rare articles the First Down boys decide to write each year and if it’s anywhere near as successful as last year’s iteration then it is definitely worth a read. Since we last did this mock half the NFL moved to Tampa to help the GOAT win his 7th ring, Bill Belichick paid the other half to go and help replace him in New England and DeShaun Watson… well, we’ll take a pass on that topic for now. This is a light-hearted site after all folks. On the bright side the NFL added a 17th game to the regular season schedule giving us more time to stress over fantasy football. We thankfully don’t have to stress about trying to forecast which third round talent Seattle are going to take in the first round this year thanks to the Jamal Adams deal.
It’s fair to say that the success of last year was…unprecedented. In case you missed it in the title, last year this method correctly projected a total of 11 out of 32 players at the slot they were drafted (although Kenneth Murray was picked at 23 by the Chargers, not the Patriots), absolutely obliterating the overall accuracy of every other mock draft I’ve personally ever done. Needless to say, mistakes were made. The Miami Dolphins pulled off one of the all-time great smoke screens when they selected Tua Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert as many had expected. In hindsight, projecting Tua to fall all the way down to 24 was rather foolish, likewise Henry Ruggs to 20. Mistakes were made by the NFL teams as well. Miami probably would’ve been happier if they had selected now reigning offensive rookie of the year Herbert as we thought they would at 5. The Eagles would certainly like to take a mulligan and pick Justin Jefferson over Jalen Reagor at 21. If there’s only one lesson to take from last year its this: my opinion holds zero weight when it comes to the subtle art of the mock draft, and unfortunately, so does yours.
So, with that sobering thought, lets get to it. A reminder from last year how this works. This mock is based 100% off information provided by media insiders. This means it does not include opinions from draft analysts such as NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and ESPN’s Mel Kiper, but rather focuses on information given by those connected with the inner workings of NFL franchises. Of course, we can’t believe everything we read, and we’re certain to be caught out by at least one smoke screen again this year. With that in mind, here is a brief overview of who to trust and where that pesky smoke is most likely coming from
Gospel Tier: Adam Schefter (ESPN), Ian Rapoport (NFL Network)
True Believer Tier: Albert Breer (Sports Illustrated), Peter King (NBC Sports), Jason La Canfora (CBS), Matt Miller (Draft Network), Tony Pauline (ProFootballNetwork)
Take It with a Grain of Salt Tier: Regional Journalists, Radio Hosts
Smoke Screen Tier: Team Officials, Anyone Anonymous
Before we begin, if you liked to see what the podcast’s rankings for what we would do during the draft check out Reece Mowlem’s top 150 here.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are only the clock!
1. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last year I described Joe Burrow to the Bengals as close “to a certainty since Andrew Luck in 2012”. Well, this year that statement needs no refinement as Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence heading to Duval county is already inked in at the top of the NFL draft board. Its no overstatement to say that Lawrence, the No.1 player in the nation coming out of high school in 2018, has been the favourite for this selection since he was 16 years old.
Lawrence moved up his pro day before his scheduled offseason shoulder surgery at the suggestion of new Jags head coach Urban Meyer. That pro day was essentially a private workout for the Jags. Meyer spent the whole session stood directly in front of Lawrence and next to Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeny. When asked whether the Jags would pick Lawrence by NBC’s Peter King, Meyer confirmed that “that's the direction we're going.”Now, I know that previously I listed information from team officials as likely sources of smoke, but when you hold the No.1 pick in the draft there’s no need to hide your intentions. GM Trent Balkee said that the team found “no negatives” with Lawrence, describing him as a prospect who “the stars aligned” to make available for them. Baalke admitted the team took a few calls for the pick but, unsurprisingly, they intend to stay put. No drama to be had here.
The Pick: Trevor Lawrence
2. New York Jets
Isn’t it just the most Jets move ever to lose the chance of selecting a prospect of Lawrence’s calibre by pulling off an upset against a playoff bound team in a meaningless game? Luckily for them this year’s quarterback class is strong at the top beyond the presumptive No.1 overall pick. New head coach Robert Saleh will have his pick of the four remaining quarterbacks expected to go in the top 10 following the trade of Sam Darnold to Carolina. Jet’s GM Joe Douglas stated that assumption his team will draft a quarterback following the deal as “fair”. Again, Douglas has no reason to lie here so the question becomes who rather than what. Fun fact before we continue: if the Jets do select a QB they will become the first team in the modern draft era (since 1967) to select two quarterbacks in the top 3 within 4 years of each other. Yikes…
So which quarterback will they choose? If Saleh’s appearance on the pro day circuit are any suggestion it could be assumed they have their eyes on Zach Wilson from BYU. Douglas and other members of the Jets brass joined the pro days of the other top QB prospects but Saleh was not among them. Jason La Canfora of CBS wrote that an anonymous (alarm rings) AFC executive is not absolutely certain Wilson is heading to Gang Green, stating that if his team were in the position they would take Fields. If you are looking for an example of a statement that has smoke coming out of every word of it then this is it.
Outside of this report, across the league this pick seems like a forgone conclusion and likely is, although I wouldn’t decree it set in stone.
The Pick: Zach Wilson
Don’t Be Surprised: Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Mac Jones
3. San Francisco 49ers (from Houston via Miami)
Here comes the drafts first real question mark. Analysts doing their “what I would do” version of a mock draft almost unanimously select Ohio State’s Justin Fields here. As you know those opinions mean nothing to this mock. Not long after striking the deal to trade up, both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch attended the pro day of Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. At that press conference when asked whether the presence of the 49er’s decision makers gave a hint as to who they may be selecting, Shanahan replied “now that you’re up at three, you don’t need to hide as much.” Pretty blatant stuff.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is in on the Jones to San Fran hype, saying with little uncertainty that “it’ll be Mac Jones” selected by San Francisco. Mike Lombardi of The Athletic agreed, challenging anyone believing the contrary to compare their sources against his own (spoiler alert, Lombardi’s are probably better). Interestingly, Lombardi added that if it isn’t Jones, it would be North Dakota State’s Trey Lance selected rather than Fields. To top it all off, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer said some in NFL circles believe Jones to be a “borderline football genius.”
Before his aforementioned statement, Lombardi noted just under a month before the draft that there was some disagreement between Lynch and Shanahan as to which QB to take, with Lynch and the rest of the scouting department believed to prefer Lance (per ESPN’s Todd McShay) as opposed to Shanahan’s choice of Jones. Shanahan and Lynch have also attended and heavily influenced the pro days of Lance and Fields per ESPN’s Dan Graziano. Shanahan has the final decision though, and whilst I understand people are enamoured by the upside of Lance’s arm, the buzz is too intense to suggest San Francisco won’t be going to Tuscaloosa for their next QB. If they don’t they’ll be rivalling the Dolphins last year for the best smoke screen I’ve seen.
The Pick: Mac Jones
Don’t Be Surprised: Justin Fields, Trey Lance
4. Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta would love to move this pick for a haul equivalent to that which Miami received from San Francisco. I think that is unlikely though, as the picks after the Falcons are not expected to be QBs. Assuming Atlanta stay put, the question becomes will they draft the heir apparent to Matt Ryan? Per ESPN’s Chris Mortenson, new head coach Arthur Smith believes incumbent Ryan has “at least two good years left” and would like to maximise their Superbowl chances in the short term. New GM Terry Fontenot would prefer to select a QB. He adds that if this is the case, Trey Lance is probably the guy they’d take over Fields. For what it’s worth, Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank is, per Peter King, “fascinated” by this year’s quarterback class but won’t interfere. Atlanta has been represented at both Field’s and Lance’s pro days.
King also reported that the Falcons will not “force a quarterback” at No.4. If they don’t, the most popular name he has heard mentioned by insiders is University of Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, believed by some to be the top overall player in this draft. Matt Lombardo of Fansided believes the team is “zeroing in on Pitts”, as does ESPN’s Michael Rothstein (who also gives Oregon tackle Penei Sewell as a name to watch.) Pitts himself told Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he believes the Falcons are “high on him” having spoken to them multiple times.
This is one of the hardest and the most important pick in the draft to project. The Falcons can completely change the game for teams looking at the draft’s two biggest strengths. A few weeks ago, I was fairly certain this would be a QB, but the buzz surrounding Pitts is getting too intense to ignore.
The Pick: Kyle Pitts
Don’t Be Surprised: Trey Lance, Justin Fields
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Finally, a team who definitely won’t be selecting a quarterback! This pick is between two players, tackle Penei Sewell and LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Sewell, the near consensus top tackle in this class after opting out of the 2020 season, would protect quarterback Joe Burrow and help prevent any further season ending injuries following the former first overall picks ACL tear. The team did sign left tackle Riley Reiff and have former first round tackle Jonah Williams still on the roster, but neither should detract them from taking a top tier talent at the position like Sewell.
The buzz however is favouring Chase. Per Albert Breer, the Philadelphia Eagles, previously picking at six elected to trade down because they believe Chase to the Bengals is a done deal. Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer and Paul Dehner Jr of The Athletic are two of the many who agree. Florida’s Pitts is another possibility if the Falcons don’t grab him. This pick feels like a luxury for a team who can’t afford them, but for now a Bayeux reunion looks to be on the cards.
The Pick: Ja’Marr Chase
Don’t Be Surprised: Penei Sewell
6. Miami Dolphins (from Philadelphia)
The Dolphins, having traded the third overall pick to San Francisco, jumped back up from 12 to 6. Per NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, the Dolphins may well be looking to trade down again for another haul if a team wants to move up for a quarterback. GM Chris Greer later came out and said he was “comfortable” with picking at 6 if no trade materialises. If they do make another move down the draft board, keep your eye out for Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. Per Matt Miller of the Draft Network, Miami head coach Brain Flores is “in love” with him.
Most believe Miami wanted to get back into position to pick one of the elite skill position players in this draft. Tackle Penei Sewell could also be in play. The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson believes the team “would not mind” picking either Alabama receivers Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith, but Albert Breer believes the team are “higher on Waddle than Smith”. Jackson added that “if Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase” were available the Dolphins would favour them, but with both taken, Tua is reunited with one of his old weapons.
The Pick: Jaylen Waddle
Don’t Be Surprised: DeVonta Smith, Penei Sewell
7. Detroit Lions
The Lions are another team heavily rumoured to be looking to trade down and I think this is the most likely spot we see a deal. Moving to seven would allow a team like the Patriots, Bears and Washington to jump the QB needy Broncos and Panthers. According to Ben Standig of The Athletic, the Lions are “likely out” of the QB market themselves. Receiver is the obvious need following the departures of Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, with Standig citing Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle as players who could “help immediately” but both have been taken by this point. DeVonta Smith is still available but his slight frame doesn’t fit the “bite the kneecaps off” type player new head coach Dan Campbell coverts. Sewell still being on the board is very tempting here, but the only real links out there right now connecting Detroit to a specific player come from Albert Breer. He believes that Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is someone they are very interested in. He has some character concerns and opted out last season, but does fit the profile of player Campbell is looking for. I’m not confident, but he’s who the buzz is suggesting the most.
The Pick: Micah Parsons
Don’t Be Surprised: Penei Sewell, DeVonta Smith
8. Carolina Panthers
According to Albert Breer the Panthers are “still open” to selecting a signal caller here despite the Sam Darnold trade, although the Panthers “are not enthralled” by either Mac Jones or Trey Lance per Joseph Person of The Athletic. I think keeping the possibility of drafting a quarterback is likely smoke to incite a trade as, as per Adam Schefter, the Panthers are looking to move down. Per Pro Football Network’s insider Tony Pauline, this pick is between two players, Sewell and Alabama corner Patrick Surtain II. Sewell would be an upgrade over current incumbent left tackle Greg Little and Surtain would be a great fit here as well. After new head coach Matt Rule selected all defensive players in last years draft, I believe the priority this year must be to surround Darnold with talent and give him the best chance to succeed.
The Pick: Penei Sewell
Don’t Be Surprised: Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Patrick Surtain II
9. Denver Broncos
The Broncos will be fortunate if any of the top 5 QBs reach No.9 on draft night, let alone two of them. Ian Rapoport identified the Broncos along with New England as the most likely candidates to “move up the board for a passer.” As the historically more aggressive team when it comes to moving up the board, I expect Denver to move anywhere between Atlanta at 4 and Detroit at 7 to snag a QB. The buzz backs this up. Albert Breer reports that Denver “isn’t sitting still at the position,” having talked to the Jets about Darnold and the No.2 overall pick. Per Mike Klis of 9News, offensive coordinator Pat Schumer’s attended both Trey Lance’s and Justin Fields’ second workouts, and the team is “sneaky quarterback-hungry” per Breer. Of the two quarterbacks left on the board, one perfectly fits the big, strong armed mould than John Elway has coverts.
The Pick: Trey Lance
Don’t Be Surprised: Justin Fields
10. Dallas Cowboys
Per Chris Mortenson, Cowboys’ owner and general manager Jerry Jones is “infatuated” by tight end Kyle Pitts, but accepts that he is highly unlikely to be available at ten and a trade up is unlikely. Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones appeared on 105.3 The Fan to discuss the team’s plan for the pick, suggesting they have begun to receive offers and that the team needs to focus on “upgrading its defence.” Per Tony Pauline, if the Cowboys don’t trade out of this spot tackle Penei Sewell and corners Patrick Surtain II of Alabama and Jaycee Horn of South Carolina are the most likely options. Sewell was identified as the preferred option but in the likely event that he isn’t available, Surtain “does not make it past” them. With Sewell off the board, consensus No.2 tackle Rashawn Slater from Northwestern may also be in play here. If the team does move down, Pauline also believes Virginia Tech’s offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw and Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins are names to watch.
The Pick: Patrick Surtain II
Don’t Be Surprised: Jaycee Horn, Rashawn Slater
11. New York Giants
Ian Rapoport believes the Giants are another team in this year’s draft who are open to moving down despite general manager Dave Gettleman not once trading down in any round during his eight drafts as a GM. Receiver has been a popular pick mocked here, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post writes that the offseason acquisition of Kenny Golladay “does not preclude the Giants from taking a wide receiver in the first round of this draft.” According to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano, the team “have done a lot of work” on this year’s crop of edge rushers despite there being no elite prospects commonly mocked inside the top 15. Giant’s director of college scouting Chriss Pettit however believes that 11 isn’t “too rich” for a pass rusher. Vacchiano suggests “the current sense” is that an edge will be the selection, citing Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari as the names to watch. Trading down and then picking one of these players may provide more appropriate value, but given Gettlemen is known for building his teams from the trenches and using high draft capital on both offensive and defensive lineman, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a reach.
The Pick: Kwity Paye
Don’t Be Surprised: DeVonta Smith, Azeez Ojulari
12. Philadelphia Eagles (From San Francisco via Miami)
In a recent mock, Reece and I sent Justin Fields to the Eagles at this spot after he slid out of the top 10. According to James Palmer of NFL Network, head coach Nick Sirianni is not convinced by current starter Jalen Hurts and wants a quarterback competition this offseason. Ian Rapoport believed earlier in the offseason that the Eagles were looking to trade to No.3 but only if it meant selecting expected No.2 pick Zach Wilson. Its clear the Eagles are interested in adding a QB but are unlikely to be aggressive in their pursuit. The other option here would be Heisman winning receiver DeVonta Smith. Roseman relieved concerns about Smith’s weight issues declaring “good players come in all shapes and sizes.” Corner Jaycee Horn would also be a great fit. But if Fields, who’s first pro day the team attended, falls into their laps at 12, I don’t think they pass it up (although I think if he falls this far, a team probably moves up to grab him.)
The Pick: Justin Fields
Don’t Be Surprised: DeVonta Smith, Jaycee Horn
13. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers main priority this offseason has been adding protection for quarterback Justin Herbert and it will continue into the draft. The Athletic’s Daniel Popper believes the Chargers are targeting either the top two tackles or the top two corners in this year’s draft. That means Penei Sewell, Patrick Surtain II, Jaycee Horn and tackle Rashawn Slater are the names the watch here. Receiver has been a popular choice in mock drafts for LA, but Popper doesn’t believe this to be feasible. He expects the Chargers to trade down if the aforementioned players have all been taken. That won’t be the case here though as two of those four players remain. Whilst corner is a need following the release of Casey Hayward, a franchise cornerstone tackle to protect Justin Herbert for the next decade is too valuable to pass up.
The Pick: Rashawn Slater
Don’t Be Surprised: Jaycee Horn, Christian Darrisaw
14. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are another team who want to protect their franchise QB. Tony Pauline believes the team “love” tackle Christian Darrisaw but are “unsure” he makes it past the Chargers. Pauline adds the Vikings have also done “extensive”’ work on USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. Adam Schefter and Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio both believe the Vikings are focusing on improving either their offensive or defensive line play with their first-round pick. Defensive end is definitely a need for this team opposite Danielle Hunter but the value doesn’t stack up like it does at tackle. I can certainly see Vera-Tucker being the pick here, but both of the top two offensive tackles slipping has left Darrisaw remaining on the board. I don’t see the Vikings going any other way.
The Pick: Christian Darrisaw
Don’t Be Surprised: Alijah Vera-Tucker
15. New England Patriots
If there is any team likely to spread false rumours about its draft plans its Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. So when you here per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero say that teams around the league think the Patriots are trading up for Justin Fields, you can pretty much rule that out as a possibility.
I’ve been bullish all offseason that the Patriots are going to get aggressive and move up into the top 10 for a quarterback. They’ve certainly done their research, sending their top brass to the pro days of Mac Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance. Since the 49ers trade to 3, I’ve cooled on that a little bit as I thought Jones would be the player they would target (he is the only of the top 5 QB’s head coach Bill Belichick attended the pro day of.) I believe Belichick would target Jones because he coverts two traits when it comes to quarterbacks: accuracy and decision making. Accuracy is pretty self-explanatory, but decision making includes ball protection, football IQ and the ability to progress quickly and effectively through reads. As unfashionable an opinion as it has become, Mac Jones is the best at all those things in this draft. Whilst media heads love to talk about mobility, size and arm strength as the primary factors as to what makes a great QB, we have seen the Patriots win consistently with the traditional pocket passer. With all that said, I don’t see Fields being a fit in New England. Lance I can see as a possibility if he gets to Detroit at seven, but otherwise I expect the Patriots to stay put and select the best player on their board.
Side note, if anyone believes the Patriots aren’t in the QB game because “they haven’t draft a first round QB in 20 years” you need to give yourself a good hard slap in the face. They had some dude named Brady playing quarterback for them that whole time. Just wanted to get that off my chest.
If the team don’t move up for a QB there are two players available here who will certainly be high on their board and another I could see as a typical Belichick development pick. Those players are corner Jaycee Horn, receiver Devonta Smith and lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. Horn is from the same alma mater as current Patriot’s star Stephon Gilmore and there is a lot similar about their games. The Pats covert aggressive corners who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and Horn fits that mould perfectly. I’m reluctant to mock Smith here as, per Tom Curran on his recent podcast, Belichick often sneers at the thought of drafting underweight players at any position (note under-weight, not size. Short players work fine.). I see Tucker as the developmental pick, spending a season behind Isiah Wynn and Trent Brown before taking over on either the left or right side (both are currently out of contract after this year.) Based on the team’s offseason moves, the trade rumours around both Gilmore and fellow corner JC Jackson and the signings made at receiver, I can see Bill wanting to hit reset on a key position and take the best player on his board.
The Pick: Jaycee Horn
Don’t Be Surprised: DeVonta Smith, Alijah Vera-Tucker
16. Arizona Cardinals
There is a lot of buzz out there about this pick. NFL Media’s Peter Schrager, who is always clued in with the organisation, believes they will trade up to select an offensive weapon. Matt Miller has also heard the team is looking to move up for a wideout. Devonta Smith is the last of the top three wideouts left on the board, a player GM Steve Keim recently compared to former Colts great Marvin Harrison. Tony Pauline believes the Cardinals are targeting Smtih and Waddle along with the top corners in the class. Jason La Confora agrees, naming Jaycee Horn as the most likely target. All these players may well be gone by pick sixteen on draft night so watch out for the Cardinals as a team to trade up. Pauline and La Confora believe that linebacker Zaven Collins is being lined up as a contingency. I’d be surprised to see him fall this far on the night, but as for this mock the pick makes itself.
The Pick: DeVonta Smith
Don’t Be Surprised: Zaven Collins
17. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are challenging the Seahawks as the worst team to mock for. I get the feeling this Mayock/Gruden regime like to play games with us, leaking CeeDee Lamb as their pick last year before taking Henry Ruggs, spreading QB rumours the week before this draft and, per Ian Rapoport, sending all of their scouts home days before the draft in 2019. With that in mind lets take everything we hear with a significant helping of salt.
The first report to note is from The Athletic’s Vic Tafur, who believes the team will exclude anyone who opted out of the 2020 college football season. That takes players like Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley, Miami’s Gregory Rousseau and Penn State’s Micah Parsons (if he were to fall this far) off the board. The names out there at the moment are offensive lineman Christian Darrisaw and Alijah Vera-Tucker per Sports Illustrated‘s Hondo Carpender. Ian Rapoport also believes the Raiders are yet another team in the QB market this year and could look to move up if one of the top 5 fall out of the top 10. Still, after trading more than half of their offensive line this off-season this pick is surely a no brainer. Even for the Raiders?
The Pick: Alijah Vera-Tucker
18. Miami Dolphins
Contrasting rumours for the Dolphins second pick in the first round. As mentioned at the previous slot, Brian Flores “loves” Micah Parsons and would surely snap him up here. Bama running back Najee Harris is the centre of “strong buzz” at 18 per Jason La Confora. The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino adds that the team are still looking to improve the position through the draft despite Malcolm Brown having joined in free agency. Tony Pauline disagrees. His sources indicated that “it’s probably not going to be Najee Harris at No.18.” Instead, he believes the Dolphins will take a pass rusher in the form of either Kwity Paye or Azeez Ojulari. I’ll throw Penn State defensive end Jason Oweh into the mix here as well, as per Ian Rapoport he is a name who is flying up draft boards despite registering 0 sacks last season. No, that isn’t a typo, apparently 0 sacks is worth a first round pick if you’re big and fast enough. Overall though the buzz is too strong around another potential Bama reunion in Miami.
The Pick: Najee Harris
Don’t Be Surprised: Azeez Ojulari, Jayson Oweh
19. Washington Football Team
Did you think we’d moved past the teams strongly linked with a quarterback? According to Ian Rapoport the Football Team is “not out of the quarterback market.” Washington is believed to “love” Trey Lance according to Mike Lombardi and will “be willing to part with considerable assets to acquire him.” Tony Pauline agrees, but adds the team in not willing to give up a “mountain of draft capital to climb from No.19 to No.4.” Keep an eye on them to jump up to 7 in a trade with Detroit. Both head coach Ron Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew came out and said they were “very confident and comfortable” with their current QB room. This is likely just trying to cool any rumours about a big trade up but certainly doesn’t rule it out.
John Keim of ESPN believes the Football Team could also move up for either a top offensive tackle or linebacker prospect. Looking at the two positions Keim mentions leaves three names to look for: Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins, Notre Dame linebacker-safety hybrid Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins. This is somewhat of a shot in the dark, but one of these players has been rumoured to go much higher than the media think and has come up as an option a few times already.
The Pick: Zaven Collins
Don’t Be Surprised: Teven Jenkins, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
20. Chicago Bears
I could pretty much copy and paste the first paragraph from the Washington pick and use it for the Bears as well. Per Albert Breer they are another team who could potentially look to move up for a quarterback but haven’t been “burning the phone lines” as of yet. Tony Pauline thinks a player like Davis Mills from Stanford in the second round could be someone they really like.
There isn’t much else to go on beyond the QB rumours. Looking back at GM Ryan Pace’s previous drafts don’t offer much insight either as the team hasn’t draft in the first round since 2018. The team tends to draft to meet needs, making tackle, corner and receiver the most likely choices. Wide out doesn’t provide great value here, with Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman the most likely option. At tackle Teven Jenkins is the name to watch, while at corner Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley has slid due to a back injury but was viewed as a potential top 10 pick. Northwestern corner Greg Newsome could be an option here as well. Pace and head coach Matt Nagy need to win now with anointed QB1 Andy Dalton to save their jobs. The best way to do that is ensure he is protected.
The Pick: Teven Jenkins
Don’t Be Surprised: Caleb Farley, Greg Newsome, Rashod Bateman
21. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts would’ve loved Jenkins to fall one more spot according to NFL Network’s former GM Charlie Casserly. Zak Keefer of The Athletic reports that the Colts are interested in the position, identifying Christian Darrisaw as a player they like although they’d likely have to trade up to grab him. Owner Jim Irsay also talked confirmed tackle as a need along with corner. GM Chris Ballard though is a known proprietor of drafting the best player available and won’t select a player purely on need. There isn’t much buzz to go on, but with no consensus first-round graded lineman available, the players who represent value whilst filling a need are corners Caleb Farley and Greg Newsome, Miami edge rushers Jaelan Philips and Gregory Rousseau, as well as Georgia edge Azeez Ojulari. Ballard is a shrewd operator when it comes to draft night, and I expect the chance to select a player with top 10 upside at a position of need sliding until the early 20s will be too good for the Colts to pass up.
The Pick: Caleb Farley
Don’t Be Surprised: Greg Newsome, Edge rushers
22. Tennessee Titans
The Titan’s partially filled their biggest need from last year with the free agent signing of edge rusher Bud Dupree, but adding another shouldn’t be discounted here. Tackle could be in player too, with Charley Casserly mentioning the Titans as another team with a strong interest in Teven Jenkins. The buzz is mostly focused on the Titans addressing their pass catching corps following the departure of Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith. Rashod Bateman is the name most commonly thrown around in this range, but per The Athletic’s Joe Rexrode, the name to watch is Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore. Rexrode adds that the team may look to trade down to acquire him. If player pressure does have any sway over the decision makers (see Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase or DeShaun Watson to the opposite effect) then current star receiver A.J. Brown and former teammate of Moore recently tweeted pictures of Moore at his pro day with the caption “@Titans don’t mess this up.” I’m not confident at all with this one, but staying true to the buzz Moore looks like a surprisingly likely option.
The Pick: Elijah Moore
Don’t Be Surprised: Rashod Bateman, Edge rushers
23. New York Jets (from Seattle)
GM Joe Douglas has said the Jets have begun the “groundwork” on trading up in the draft. They aren’t going from No.2 to No.1, so we can assume he is referring to this slot. Connor Hughes of The Athletic believes this would be for an offensive lineman, either Rashawn Slater or Alijah Vera-Tucker. Hughes added he doesn’t see the Jets moving as far as the top 15 though. Another player the Jets like is Najee Harris per Tony Pauline, but adds Harris is “likely gone” by this point. Brian Costello of the New York Post also believes the Jets are targeting either Harris or fellow running back Travis Etienne from Clemson. Surprisingly, there is no mention of the Jets selecting a corner here despite it being a glaring need and with Greg Newsome still on the board. Edge rusher would also fill a hole as well. But as stated from the offset my opinion hold no weight, leaving only one option from the reports for the Jets to pick here.
The Pick: Travis Etienne
Don’t Be Surprised: Greg Newsome, Edge rushers
24. Pittsburgh Steelers
According to Tony Pauline, the Steelers are “locked in” on three players in this year’s first round. Alabama running back Najee Harris, Bama centre Landon Dickerson and Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins. Once again edge rusher is another need, but there isn’t any buzz that the team is looking to replace Bud Dupree early. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the team is in the market for a “dynamic feature back” after letting James Conner leave for Arizona. Travis Etienne and North Carolina’s Javonte Williams also represent the value according to NFL Network’s Lance Zierline, who also believes Pittsburgh will attack the position early. With Harris and Etienne off the board, Pittsburgh can likely find better value in the second or third round. Jenkins is gone as well, having been selected by the Bears four picks before Pittsburgh. That leaves Alabama centre Landon Dickerson as the only remaining player from the shortlist. Steelers fans shouldn’t be disappointed by the selection of a centre in the first, as previous first-round centre and ten-year starter Maurkice Pouncey turned out pretty well.
The Pick: Landon Dickerson
Don’t Be Surprised: Javonte Williams, Edge rushers
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams)
As if grabbing Trevor Lawrence wasn’t enough, the Jags are back on the clock thanks to the trade that took Jalen Ramsey to LA. Absolutely no buzz around this pick though as all the Jags talk is aimed at Trevor Lawrence. Urban Meyer only took the Jags job because he knew he would have the capital to turn the franchise around with the No.1 overall pick, this pick, the first pick in the second round, as well as No.45 and No. 65. This is going to be a bandwagon, putting two and two together type selection here. TCU safety Trevon Moehrig is the best and likely only first round safety in this class and fills a huge position of need in the Jacksonville secondary. You’ll see him mocked here in most other analyst mocks. The tumbling Greg Newsome is another good option to pair opposite last year’s top 10 pick CJ Henderson, as is Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore.
The Pick: Trevon Moehrig
Don’t Be Surprised: Greg Newsome, Christian Barmore
26. Cleveland Browns
The aforementioned Barmore has been described as the draft’s “biggest curveball” by insiders and one of the most likely players to be over drafted. Matt Miller believes he will be the “2nd or 3rd defender off the board.” This is due to an anonymous GM describing this year’s crop of defensive tackles as “awful, just awful.” It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Barmore go higher than this despite The Athletic’s Bob McGinn writing “several teams” are concerned by Barmore’s “resistance to coaching.” The Browns seem like the first logical spot for him to land following the release of Sheldon Richardson according to Brownszone.com’s Scott Petrak. Edge rusher was another popular choice here prior to the signing of Jadaveon Clowney. It’s a sign of the times that not much else is coming out of Cleveland, though GM Andrew Berry did take to the podium to not rule out the selection of a linebacker or corner. There isn’t much to really read into there though, so as it stands we’ll be taking the big man from Bama.
The Pick: Christian Barmore
Don’t Be Surprised: Greg Newsome, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
27. Baltimore Ravens
Receiver has been the popular pick here, with head coach John Harbaugh confirming the team is looking to add pass catchers who play “hard.” According to Todd McShay they are “definitely targeting a wide receiver” with one of their first two picks. Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic was told the team are particularly high on Rashod Bateman and LSU’s Terrance Marshall. Jonas Schaffer of the Baltimore Sun reports the team are looking to add a safety, but that is unlikely here with Trevon Moehrig off the board. Jason La Confora believes the team will look to trade down and provides Landon Dickerson as a name to watch. Receiver looks to be a slam dunk pick here though.
The Pick: Rashod Bateman
Don’t Be Surprised: Terrace Marshall, Edge rushers
28. New Orleans Saints
Yet another team linked to quarterbacks! This time Jeremy Fowler believes Kyle Trask could be a “sneaky” first round target. Tony Pauline reports they are very high on Western Michigan receiver Dwayne Eskridge but see him as a second round player. Sean Payton has said they “must address” the cornerback position before the season begins following the release of Janoris Jenkins and arrest of Marshon Lattimore. Thankfully for the Saints one of the draft’s top corners has fallen into their laps.
The Pick: Greg Newsome
Don’t Be Surprised: Edge rushers
29. Green Bay Packers
By now I think we’ve learned to stop expecting the Packers to draft a first round receiver. Pauline mentioned the Packers as another team “high” on Dwayne Eskridge, but that is likely again in the second round. This may be the case as the Packers have been speculated as a team likely to trade out of the first round altogether. There is little to no buzz out there for the team beyond that. With that being the case, we’ll turn to Reece Mowlem’s top 150. The board lines up nicely with the top talent remaining also filling a need at linebacker for the Packers.
The Pick: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
Don’t Be Surprised: Edge rushers
30. Buffalo Bills
Bills GM Brandon Beane assured reporters that the team if “thinking more long-term than short” with the 30th overall pick. In direct contrast to that statement, all the talk around the Bills is focused on taking a running back. Beane is “open” to drafting a running back in the first round if the player has a different skill set to current backs Zack Moss and Devin Singletary, stating the current group “lacks home run hitters.” According to Albert Breer that player is Travis Etienne, taken by the Jets at 23 in this mock. I can definitely see Etienne making it to this pick and the Bills selecting him, but with him gone the top back available is Javonte Williams, a bruiser who does have “home run” hitting ability. Given Williams is a different skill set to the Bills current backs and the huge buzz around the position, I’m reluctantly going to predict he’s the pick. For the record, I think if they make it this far pass rushers Azeez Ojulari, Jaelan Phillips and Jason Oweh are more likely picks, but we’re going with the buzz.
The Pick: Javonte Williams
Don’t Be Surprised: Edge rushers
31. Baltimore Ravens (from Kansas City)
Baltimore acquired this pick in the Orlando Brown trade to Kansas City. Former Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva is expected to fill Brown’s role making tackle unlikely here. The trade happened just a few days before the draft so there hasn’t been time to generate much buzz about who the Ravens will take here. Connecting the dots, I think an edge rushing linebacker to replace Matt Judon is highly likely, especially since the player I’m selecting has been linked with teams as high as the Giants at 11.
The Pick: Azeez Ojulari
Don’t Be Surprised: Jaelan Phillips, Jayson Oweh
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Superbowl champs are loaded at every position. The one weakness from last year may have been the team’s run defence when Vita Vea was out of the line-up, but GM Jason Licht recently described this defensive line class as “weak” when justifying his decision to bring back Ndamukong Suh amongst others. Head coach Bruce Arians said he “wouldn’t be against” selecting a quarterback in round one. Players like Davis Mills and Kyle Trask have received some buzz as potential late first rounders. I don’t see the Bucs going that way though, and with little else to go on I’ll project the team to build on the strength that lead them to the title last year (other than the GOAT.) An edge rusher to develop behind Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett makes sense, especially as both Jayson Oweh and Jaelan Phillips are expected to be taken in the first round. I’ll give Tampa the more developmental of the two.
The Pick: Jayson Oweh
Don’t Be Surprised: Jaelan Phillips, Gregory Rousseau
And there you have it folks! This year’s Buzz Mock based entirely on what I’ve heard and not seen. If you'd like to listen to the breakdown of this mock draft on the First Down Podcast, click here. Also, if you would like to see a “What We Would Do” mock draft, check out Reece’s here. A reminder that no matter the sources, mock drafting remains a fool’s gambit and a result of 5/32 correct should be looked upon very favourably. I hope but highly doubt we’ll ever get near last year’s mark of 11 again.
Keep your eye on the news all the way until the commissioner takes the podium, as news will continue to leak from now until pick at 32. Let’s face it, chances are pretty high a large piece of news will break right after this is published. Anyway, enjoy the draft and have fun doing your own mock, or just sit back and watch the chaos unfold.
See you next time!
Mowlem is a young sports writer from Reading, United Kingdom. All articles are written by Reece Mowlem (unless stated otherwise).