With the 2021 NFL Draft just around the corner, and rumors swirling around the league, here's my second crack at how Round 1 could play out on Thursday, April 29 in Cleveland.
I know a few teams who actually really liked what Lawrence told Michael Rosenberg in Sports Illustrated last week. It only adds to what we've been hearing about the quarterback for the past three years: He's confident, self-assure and comfortable in his own skin. That's just off the field. He also happens to be unbelievably gifted on it.
The intrigue in this one has lost much of its luster, as just about everyone in my phone agrees it's been Wilson for quite some time -- and that was only further cemented when the Jets traded Sam Darnold earlier this month. Wilson could become a huge star in New York City. We've heard it before, of course.
We're less than two weeks away and I'm still feeling Mac Jones is the guy. I'm told the 49ers still have not made a decision and continue to do their work on all three quarterback prospects who would be available: Jones, Justin Fields and Trey Lance. Jones had one of the greatest college football seasons we've seen in recent years, and pro scouts like him a lot -- even if the pundits do not.
Pitts would sure make sense, given what Atlanta's done this offseason. Matt Ryan can still sling it, and is accounting for plenty of cap space to do so. Remember, Arthur Smith's offense in Tennessee excelled with tight ends Anthony Firkser and Jonnu Smith, and neither has the otherworldly talent that Pitts possesses.
The Dolphins, knowing they don't need a QB, traded back from No. 3 to No. 12, before moving back up the board to No. 6. With QBs going 1-2-3, I'd have to think there are at least three players they're comfortable with taking with the sixth overall pick. If Kyle Pitts and Penei Sewell are both off the board, and Miami opts to stay put, Chase will be the choice here.
The Cardinals continue their uber-aggressive offseason by acquiring yet another weapon for Kyler Murray to help the franchise emerge from the gauntlet that's the NFC West. Waddle, whose ankle has fully healed, is seen as tough as nails and an instant-impact player at both WR and on special teams. In the swap, the Lions pick up No. 16 overall this year, as well as the Cardinals' 2022 first- and third-rounder.
The word linked to Carolina's pick at No. 8 is "optionality," which is what the Sam Darnold trade provided the Panthers at the quarterback position. I'm not convinced the team is settled at the QB spot just yet. Remember, Darnold's fifth-year option still hasn't officially been picked up, and there's been no long-term extension inked yet. Until those things happen, quarterback is still very possible here.
Five quarterbacks go in the top 10 after all. I think the Broncos could look long and hard at Rashawn Slater, but if they're willing to be patient with Lance, the rewards could be far greater. No team wants to take the fifth quarterback in a draft. But not all teams have these QBs ordered alike.
If both Surtain and Rashawn Slater are still on the board at No. 10, this could end up being a really tough decision for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. But after watching Dallas' defense be historically bad in 2020, I could see a Post-it note in the Cowboys' war room that reads, "Defense No Matter What." Surtain's the top defender on my board, and it sure seems like he and Jaycee Horn are valued in a different league than the pass rushers are.
Don't be shocked if the Giants go cornerback here. Yes, they have Adoree' Jackson and James Bradberry on the roster, but you can never have enough top-level CBs. Horn is viewed as just that. Giants fans may bristle at the team taking a corner over a WR, OT or pass rusher -- but I would not be surprised at all if it's Patrick Surtain or Horn.
Everyone seems to think Philadelphia is looking to trade up into the top 10, but I believe the Eagles are a prime team to trade down, looking to squeeze out another first-round pick for next year -- giving them potentially four in 2022 -- or an additional second-rounder in 2021. New England gives up its second-round pick (No. 46) to move up three spots for the Heisman-winning, Nick Saban-endorsed star WR1.
The Chargers have already made two big additions to their offensive line this offseason -- C Corey Linsley and OG Matt Feiler -- but I don't think they're necessarily done. The goal is to protect Justin Herbert at all costs. Slater could go in the top seven. But if he slips this low, and learns from Linsley and Bryan Bulaga, this pick should be a home run.
The Vikings have a bunch of their best pass rushers returning from injury, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't take another in the top 15. I think Phillips could be the guy, and the first pass rusher off the board when it's all said and done.
Philadelphia trades back three spots, picks up another Day 2 pick (No. 46 from the Patriots) and still gets one of the top offensive linemen in the draft. The Eagles have so many picks in the next two drafts that they could be in Best Player Available mode, even if they end up staying at No. 12.
The Lions could be a team that trades back not once but multiple times in this draft. With Detroit in re-build mode and with just six draft picks this year, look for GM Brad Holmes to be wheelin' and dealin' during the entire three-day exercise. Darrisaw is a former lightly recruited prospect out of prep school who has been magnificent the past few years with the Hokies.
From what I'm told, the feeling around the league is the Raiders will focus on pass rush or offensive tackle with their first-round pick. Parsons would be a perfect fit for a team that already added Yannick Ngakoue this offseason.
The Dolphins are going to do everything they can to help their second-year QB succeed. Jenkins projects as a big, talented right tackle who could watch Tua Tagovailoa's blind side. Miami spent a first- and a second-round pick on offensive linemen last year. I don't think they're done.
First-round running backs might be a dying breed, but I love this addition to Scott Turner's offense. Etienne is electric between the tackles and in the open field as a ball carrier, but also adds value in the passing game. Washington still needs another playmaker or two on offense to be a threat in the NFC.
I think the Bears are prime candidates to move out of the No. 20 spot to collect some additional picks in the later rounds. They love their young WR, Darnell Mooney, but with Allen Robinson on the franchise tag and Anthony Miller's future unknown, I could see Bateman being the guy if Chicago stays put.
Chris Ballard has hit home runs in every draft since he took the GM gig in Indy. Here, the Colts add a pass rusher in Ojulari who improved every season at Georgia and is sounding like a bona fide first-round prospect as the draft approaches. The loss of Denico Autry could be offset if Ojulari is there at No. 21.
After the disastrous selection of Isaiah Wilson a year ago (currently out of the league due to off-the-field issues), I'd envision the Titans valuing character with this year's first-round pick. Owusu-Koramoah is just 220 pounds, but he flies all over the field. He's also one of the best special teams players in this entire draft and could immediately play that role in the NFL.
The only thing holding Farley back from being a top-15 pick is concern about his back. The early word from the medical staffs around the league with whom I've spoken is that there's an assumption it'll be OK. Other than the back, there are few holes in Farley's draft profile. Great person, perhaps an even better player.
There hasn't been as much press for Stokes as we've seen for some of the other top corners in this draft, but he can definitely play. Perhaps the fastest CB in this class, he can cover a ton of ground. Pittsburgh could address its run game woes in Rounds 2-4.
Urban Meyer knows that building a champion starts from the inside out. Paye could be the first pass rusher off the board; I could also see him being around in the 20s. Solid value, if he is.
Only one year of major college football experience won't cost Rousseau because he has such upside. I think his teammate, Jaelan Phillips, goes before him, but Rousseau will hear his name called on Day 1, as well.
In his only year as a starter, Oweh stood out for the Nittany Lions. The Ravens lost two top pass rushers in free agency, so look for them to add at least one back in the first few rounds of the draft. Oweh is a fit in Wink Martindale's system.
Toney has all the skills and game highlights in the world. He was one of the most charismatic players at the Reese's Senior Bowl, too. He's likely going to need a coach willing to roll the dice a bit on him in the first round. Sean Payton's that guy.
Moore's incredible three-game finish to his college career opened a lot of eyes (39 catches, 602 yards, 5 TDs). He's a late-first-, early-second-round prospect who could find himself making big plays for a Super Bowl competitor as early as next season.
Buffalo has one of the best defensive backfields in the entire league, so this certainly isn't a position of need. But GM Brandon Beane is not one beholden to drafting for need. Samuel can play multiple positions -- corner, safety or nickel -- and is as fiery a competitor as you'll find.
This is a throw-a-dart-at-the-wall pick. The Buccaneers can do anything here. I've had QB, WR and RB penciled in at this spot in working drafts. Moehrig's my top player on the board who hasn't been selected. You can never have enough good DBs in today's pass-happy league.