The 2021 NFL Draft is set up to be an all-timer, with a deep quarterback class, a top-heavy group at wide receiver and “generational” prospects like Penei Sewell, Kyle Pitts and Micah Parsons at other positions.
With the 2021 free agency period up first on the NFL calendar, a lot can change in the coming weeks in regard to team targets and needs. But before we get there, I’m going to take stock of the current draft landscape with a brand new two-round mock draft.
Please note that this mock doesn’t predict what I think teams will do. Rather, it represents what I would do if I were in charge of making the picks. So, here is how the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft would look like if I were making the picks for all 32 NFL teams.
Some around the league “allegedly” view Zach Wilson as QB1 over Lawrence, but this decision is as much a no-brainer as the Jaguars will ever get. Lawrence has everything you could want in a franchise quarterback and is the clear-cut best prospect in this class. The Clemson star is the only quarterback in the PFF College era to earn a 90.0-plus grade as a true freshman, sophomore and as a junior.
2. NEW YORK JETS: QB ZACH WILSON, BYU
There is no reason to be concerned about the cupcake schedule Wilson faced in 2020 — the BYU quarterback made NFL-level throws at an incredible rate every time he stepped on the field.
His combination of accuracy, arm talent and ability to make off-platform throws is truly special. Just 13.6% of Wilson’s throws beyond the line of scrimmage were deemed uncatchable this past season, the lowest rate in the FBS. His passing grade on tight-window passes also led all quarterbacks, and it wasn’t particularly close.
Wilson earned a 90.0-plus passing grade in over half of his games in 2020, leading him to the highest single-season passing grade of the PFF College era (95.5). There will likely be a learning curve, as is the case for most rookies, but we have confidence in Wilson being a quality franchise quarterback prospect.
3. ATLANTA FALCONS (VIA MIA): QB JUSTIN FIELDS, OHIO STATE
TRADE! Miami gives the third overall pick to Atlanta in exchange for the fourth overall pick, a 2021 third-rounder, a 2021 fourth-rounder and a 2022 third-rounder.
It's a similar trade to the one we saw in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft when the San Francisco 49ers — who were on the clock at No. 2 overall — traded with the Chicago Bears for the No. 3 overall pick, two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder. The Bears wanted to secure their guy Mitchell Trubisky and ensure no one leapfrogged them. So, they traded up one spot.
We could well see the same thing occur in 2021 with Atlanta and Miami, given the possibility of another team trying to pass the Falcons for Justin Fields.
Atlanta should be thinking seriously about entering the quarterback market now that Matt Ryan is inching toward the end of his career, and securing Fields would drastically lessen the odds of the Falcons entering quarterback purgatory. In his two years starting for the Buckeyes, Fields earned PFF grades of 91.5 and 93.5, both of which ranked in the top five in the entire FBS.
Fields is extremely accurate, takes great care of the football and has unparalleled wheels for the position. He may not come in right away and light up the league as a rookie if Atlanta were to have a change of heart and decide to trade Matt Ryan, but the talent is there for him to be a franchise quarterback.
4. MIAMI DOLPHINS (VIA ATL): WR DEVONTA SMITH, ALABAMA
Ja’Marr Chase is still WR1, but we are really splitting hairs when comparing him to DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle — they are all three elite-level prospects and some of the best we have seen in PFF College’s seven years.
I’d have no qualms with Miami opting to take Smith over Chase here, especially because of the comfortability factor with the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner reuniting with his former college quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa.
Smith may have a thin frame at just 175 pounds, but that didn’t stop him from having the best season we have ever recorded at the position. He is fresh off shattering the record for the highest single-season receiving grade by a wide receiver with a 95.6 mark. Smith has it all, from his releases to his ball skills to his route-running to his after-the-catch ability, and he has been virtually impossible to cover in 2020. Ignore the number on the weight scale and just look at how talented of a player he is. Smith is the real deal.
The city of Cincinnati — the home of PFF HQ — and I have some strong disagreements about taking Penei Sewell with the fifth overall pick no matter what. It's not because I don’t think that Penei Sewell will have success at the next level, but rather because I think that Chase's ceiling is significantly more valuable than that of an offensive tackle. The Bengals have a clear path to fix their offensive line in free agency, and this would reunite one of the best QB-WR connections in college football history.
The former LSU receiver opted out of the 2020 season but was dominant alongside Burrow and Justin Jefferson in 2019. Chase and Burrow teamed up for more deep catches (24) and touchdowns (14) than any other QB-WR connection in the PFF College era in their championship run in 2019. Chase still ranked second among all college wide receivers over the last two seasons in total explosive receptions of 15-plus yards against single coverage despite not even playing this year. He was that good.
Chase’s physicality and release package are NFL-ready, and those two strengths equated to massive success against press coverage. Since 2019, Chase ranks first in total receiving yards against press coverage, with 1,048. Again, he did not play a down this season. He easily has the potential to become one of the best wide receivers in the game.
Waddle missed most of the 2020 season due to a fractured ankle, but the Bama receiver was truly an explosive play waiting to happen in the four games he appeared in. He generated a Power 5-best 4.68 yards per route run, averaged 10.7 yards after the catch, teamed up for a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on his 29 targets and hauled in 329 deep receiving yards. The latter still ranks 13th among all Power 5 receivers despite appearing just four times all year.
The speed he possesses is truly rare and makes him a threat to house it on any given play.
Detroit’s defense was brutal across the board in 2020, and adding Parsons — the best off-ball linebacker prospect since Luke Kuechly — would certainly help the team get that side of the ball out of the liability tier.
Parsons opted out of the 2020 season and didn’t play a down all year, but he was the highest-graded player at the position (91.6) the year prior. He shined in nearly every facet with a 94.8 run-defense grade, 26 pressures on 94 rushes and just six missed tackles on 111 attempts. The only knock is the subpar ball production (four pass breakups in two years), but the combination of power, explosiveness and overall athleticism for a human his size, along with the standout tackling, blitzing prowess and instinctual play, makes him a rare prospect.
Jones is one of the biggest wild cards in the 2021 NFL Draft. Some believe he will go in the top 10, while others aren't confident in him going in the first round. All things considered, I view Jones as a top-10 selection, with the demand at the position being the biggest reason why.
The concerns with Jones are all about his physical tools. He may not have a bazooka of an arm like Trevor Lawrence or speed like Trey Lance, but he checks the accuracy and decision-making boxes with ease. The timing and processing he displayed in Alabama’s offense were near perfect, and all of this led Jones to record the best negatively graded throw rate of the PFF College era. To make it all interesting, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule had a lot of positive things to say about the Crimson Tide prospect at the Senior Bowl:
“The guy was just playing two weeks ago and the fact that he's here, I think speaks a lot about who he is. You have a chance to see his intelligence. He makes really quick decisions, he processes information quickly — he's an alpha.”
9. HOUSTON TEXANS (TRADE WITH DEN): QB TREY LANCE, NORTH DAKOTA STATE
TRADE! Houston trades quarterback Deshaun Watson to Denver for the ninth overall pick, a 2021 second-rounder, 2022 first-rounder, 2022 second-rounder, 2023 first-rounder
The Texans' brass may keep insisting that they are not going to trade the star quarterback, but Watson looks as good as gone at this point. In fact, FanDuel now has the Broncos as the favorites to land Watson ahead of the 2021 NFL season.
If Denver were to acquire the star quarterback, it’s going to take a stupid amount of picks despite the quarterback having a no-trade clause getting in the way. And the Broncos reportedly are willing to do just that. After all, Watson was a top-three graded quarterback of the 2020 season and is on the path to Hall of Fame status, according to the research done by PFF’s Kevin Cole.
As for Houston, they’d be focusing on a full rebuild, and it all starts at the quarterback position. Lance is a high-risk but high-reward prospect to commence that rebuild with. Put simply, Lance’s physical tools are bananas. He’s got a rocket for an arm and has elite athleticism that adds a lot of value to the ground game. But at the same time, he is glaringly inaccurate.
Lance played in just one game this year, as COVID-19 caused the FCS to postpone its season. In that showcase game, we saw exactly the same traits from 2019: incredible mobility but glaring inaccuracy. He carried the ball 15 times (13 designed, two scrambles) and put up six explosive runs of 10-plus yards, forcing nine broken tackles along the way. However, just 28.6% of Lance's passes were deemed accurate in the outing.
It’s no secret that Dallas struggled in the secondary in 2020, so taking Caleb Farley here will most certainly help that. Before opting out of the 2020 season, Farley allowed one or fewer catches in seven of his 11 starts in 2019 while intercepting four passes and breaking up nine en route to a 26.8 passer rating allowed and 90.5 coverage grade.
Farley has all the physical tools needed to thrive in the NFL. One of the only issues for me is the lack of press-man he played in Virginia Tech’s defense, but it’s a minor one, and he clearly has the tools to succeed in that department at the NFL level.
First things first, the chances of Sewell actually falling this far are slim. But this mock represents what I would do and not what the NFL would do, so a generational tackle falls right in the lap of New York here at Pick 11.
Sewell recorded a 95.8 PFF grade in 2019, which still stands as the highest-graded season by a Power 5 tackle since 2014. At 6-foot-6, 325-pounds, it’s quite amazing watching Sewell move in space — the overall athleticism is off the charts. He earned a 95.7 grade as a run-blocker in 2019 and was also nearly perfect in pass protection, allowing just seven pressures on 491 snaps.
Pitts generated a 96.2 PFF grade this year, more than five grading points higher than any other tight end and well above the previous record set by former FAU Owl and now-Cleveland Brown Harrison Bryant in 2019 (92.5). The 49ers' receiving corps was one of the worst in the NFL in 2020 — the selection of Pitts goes a long way toward changing that.
The versatile tight end played just shy of 64% of his offensive snaps inline, but he dominated unlike any other tight end we had ever seen when he lined up out wide in single coverage. Pitts went toe-to-toe with press coverage when lined up out wide for 40 receiving snaps this season and came away with seven explosive receptions of 15-plus yards on those opportunities. We have never seen a tight end record more than two of those in a single year before Pitts this season.
The Chargers should strive to find a new player at four of the five starting spots along the offensive line this offseason. There’s a debate as to whether Slater can hold up at tackle and should be played at guard at the next level — he doesn’t have the longest arms and is a bit undersized — but we believe he’ll hold up just fine at tackle.
From a technical and production standpoint, there’s nothing not to like with Slater. He performed at a high level at right tackle as an underclassman in 2017 and 2018, earning PFF grades of 75.0 and 76.6. He then moved over to left tackle for 2019 where he made his name known as one of the most polished tackles in the country, recording a 90.0 PFF grade with just five total pressures allowed across 355 pass-block snaps and 11 games.
Barmore was the unheralded superstar of the Crimson Tide’s CFP run, as the interior defensive lineman feasted on two of the best offensive lines in the country on the game's biggest stage. Against Notre Dame and Ohio State, Barmore picked up a 91.3 pass-rush grade, 12 total pressures and 10 defensive stops. With his build, flexibility and hand usage, Barmore has all the fixings to become a stud at the next level.
We don't know who will be leading the Pats’ offense next season, but that QB is obviously going to need some new receiving weapons.
Rashod Bateman certainly fits the bill. The Minnesota product is another top-notch route-runner with an elite release package. He played predominantly on the outside in 2019 before kicking inside into the slot for most of the shortened 2020 season, but he remained productive regardless of position. Bateman ranked seventh in the FBS in yards per route run in 2019 (3.48) and finished sixth in 2020 (3.45). The Minnesota receiver joined DeVonta Smith as the only receiver to generate more than 3.4 yards per route in each of the last two seasons.
Arizona is in dire need of fresh faces in the cornerback room, and they need players who can play man coverage well at that. That’s Surtain to a T.
Despite being tasked with playing on an island more than any cornerback in the country, Surtain came in at No. 1 at his position in PFF grade this year (89.7). He allowed less than 15 yards in coverage in exactly half of his games played, and he never allowed any more than 60 in one outing. Perhaps the most underappreciated aspect of Surtain's game this past year was his discipline, as didn't draw a single penalty. Surtain has the size, physicality and press skills that teams covet in the NFL.
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS: EDGE KWITY PAYE, MICHIGAN
The Raiders rank dead last in the NFL in team pass-rush grade by a considerable margin since they traded away Khalil Mack before the start of the 2018 season. Depending on what they do in free agency (i.e., improving or ignoring the secondary), using the 17th overall pick to get them out of the lack-of-pressure rut isn’t a bad idea.
Paye only played in four games this past season, but he was still able to rack up 22 pressures to go with an 87.1 pass-rush grade. He is an athletic freak and showed signs of improvement from a technical standpoint in 2020.
Owusu-Koramoah has been a game-changer for Notre Dame over the past couple of seasons, serving as the “rover” in the Fighting Irish defense. He has shined in every single facet of play, but especially so in coverage. In that role, Owusu-Koramoah predominantly manned the slot, where he earned the third-highest coverage grade in the FBS. He allowed only five first downs across 200 slot coverage snaps with an interception, four forced incompletions and four passing stops in 2020.
He’s an explosive and versatile weapon that I’m sure Brian Flores wouldn’t mind having in his defense.
Darrisaw didn’t quite break Penei Sewell's record for the highest single-season PFF grade by a Power 5 tackle (95.8), but he certainly challenged it, and he did so despite going against far stiffer competition. Darrisaw led all Power 5 tackles in both pass- and run-blocking grade this year, culminating in a 95.6 PFF overall grade for the season. The Virginia Tech left tackle logged 293 pass-block snaps across 10 starts in 2020, yet he allowed just six pressures, all of which were hurries. He also notched the highest positively graded run-block rate in the Power 5 for his efforts as a people-mover in the Hokies' zone-rushing attack.
20. CHICAGO BEARS: WR KADARIUS TONEY, FLORIDA
Regardless of whether Allen Robinson II returns or departs this offseason, Chicago has to surround its quarterback — whoever it may be — with more weapons. Look no further than Toney, who is going to be one of the most difficult players to tackle in the NFL from Day 1.
Toney moves in a way that is almost hard to believe. His combination of balance, agility and explosiveness makes him near impossible to tackle. The Florida wideout has touched the ball 187 times in his college career and has broken a whopping 66 tackles while averaging 8.5 yards after the catch.
The one big question mark on him is his route-running. Toney has certainly flashed some high-end reps, but he isn't yet that complete route-runner. While the Florida Gator may be a bit of a risk, he is one worth taking a shot on for a team like the Bears, who have had an anemic offense for years.
21. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: EDGE AZEEZ OJULARI, GEORGIA
Indianapolis’ edge unit ranked 25th in pass-rush grade a season ago and has their two most productive players at the position, Justin Houston and Denico Autry, hitting free agency. Regardless of their future with the team, Indy needs to bolster its lackluster pass-rushing on the edge.
Ojulari is a true speed rusher who can get away with his lack of standout strength and power with his athleticism. He broke out in a big way in 2020, raising his 71.4 pass-rushing grade to 91.7, second in the FBS. Ojulari also forced three strip-sack fumbles and generated a 24.3% pass-rush, ranking top five at his position in the FBS.
22. TENNESSEE TITANS: EDGE JAYSON OWEH, PENN STATE
People of Oweh’s size (6-foot-5, 252 pounds) aren’t supposed to move the way he does. He has reportedly run in the 4.3s and has an incredible get-off. Oweh looked like the elite pass rusher we were expecting this season in Penn State’s first game of the year, racking up 10 pressures. However, he didn't come close to matching that kind of production the rest of the way.
Oweh ended with just 10 total pressures over his final six games after facing Indiana. Still, he improved drastically against the run, bettering his 59.5 run-defense grade in 2019 to 89.8 in 2020. Like PFF lead draft analyst Mike Renner has said on numerous occasions, Oweh is just scratching the surface of what he can become.
23. NEW YORK JETS (VIA SEA): WR RONDALE MOORE, PURDUE
The Jets have entered a new era after taking BYU quarterback Zach Wilson second overall, and now they need to help him out by improving on a bleak receiving situation.
The 5-foot-9, 180-pound Boilermaker is one of the most impressive athletes in the draft class. Moore's speed, explosiveness and power make him dangerous in an open field. As a true freshman in 2018, Moore set a Power Five record in total broken tackles after the catch (37) that still stands to this day.
There is some risk involved here, as Moore hardly played over the past two seasons (just seven games in 2019 and 2020), and we didn't really see him win consistently with his routes downfield due to Purdue's offense. Still, it’s hard to ignore what he put on tape in 2018.
Pittsburgh is cap-strung this offseason and will likely watch its starting left tackle, Alejandro Villanueva, walk away. Cosmi would be a great candidate to replace him.
He was excellent in his first two years starting at tackle for the Longhorns in 2018 and 2019, earning PFF grades of 79.7 and 83.9, respectively. This year, he took his play to elite status, earning a 90.5 PFF grade in the process. When projecting offensive linemen from college to the NFL, we at PFF like to isolate their performance to true pass sets (i.e., no play action, screens, rollouts, RPOs, quick throws, three-man rushes). On those plays, Cosmi was the sixth-highest-graded tackle in the FBS this season. He has incredible movement skills for the position and should be able to handle NFL quicks a lot better than most prospects.
25. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (VIA LAR): S TREVON MOEHRIG, TCU
Moehrig was one of the best defensive backs in college football over the past two years, racking up 26 combined interceptions and pass breakups since 2019 — six more than any other FBS safety in that span. With his size, length, strength and superb play at the catch point, he is the clear-cut top safety in the class.
26. CLEVELAND BROWNS: LB ZAVEN COLLINS, TULSA
Collins accomplished unprecedented things at the linebacker position this season for Tulsa. His 93.7 coverage grade sits well above the previous PFF record set by former UCLA Bruin and current Minnesota Viking Eric Kendricks in 2014 (92.1).
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound off-ball linebacker tallied four interceptions, three forced incompletions and nine passing stops when dropping into coverage. He was also one of the top blitzing weapons in the country. All told, Collins picked up 16 pressures on 51 rushes and was the only player at his position to record 90.0-plus grades in coverage and as a blitzer.
27. BALTIMORE RAVENS: EDGE GREGORY ROUSSEAU, MIAMI (FL)
Rousseau is one of the several edge prospects in this class who are physically gifted physically but carry some risk due to lackadaisical production in college. Size, length, athleticism, bend and versatility are all boxes the 6-foot-6, 260-pound defensive linemen checks, but consistency and production are not.
Yes, he notched 16 sacks in 2019, but that's a noisy number. Over half of those sacks were charted as either unblocked or cleanup, and Rousseau ranked outside the top 50 in the FBS in pass-rush grade and win rate.
Janoris Jenkins looks set to be a cap casualty this offseason, so New Orleans is dealing with some uncertainty at the cornerback position. Nonetheless, it makes a lot of sense for the team to pursue Jaycee Horn, the son of former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn.
Horn plays bully ball. He is sometimes a bit too physical, but it often helps him shut down his opponent. Across seven games this season, he allowed just eight catches while making nine plays on the ball. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound corner is physical at the line of scrimmage and played the third-most press coverage snaps per catch allowed in the Power Five (23.0) since 2019.
Finally, Aaron Rodgers gets his first-round wide receiver.
Moore is a zone-coverage beater who is completely unafraid to make plays over the middle of the field. He exploited holes in zone looks like clockwork in Lane Kiffin’s offense at Ole Miss. In fact, no FBS receiver generated more plays of 15-plus yards in 2020 via finding a hole in zone than Moore (12). Against such coverages in general, Moore racked up the second-most yards per route run in the Power Five (3.87).
He didn't see much single coverage as a primary slot receiver, but he looked drastically improved this season when he did. Moore won his downfield routes numerous times on those plays with the help of his quicks, ranking ninth in the FBS in receiving grade against single coverage for the year.
For what Samuel lacks in size, he makes up for in quicks. The 5-foot-10 corner is instinctive and was in hip pockets often throughout his time at Florida State. He was an absolute playmaker, as well, with 30 forced incompletions over the past three years (second-most in the Power Five).
Samuel’s read-and-react ability and overall athleticism give us hope that he can handle the outside at the NFL level, but putting him in the slot wouldn’t be the end of the world for Buffalo, either. Regardless, we believe he can play at a high level in the NFL.
Vera-Tucker would be a home-run pick here to help quell any concerns. The USC lineman started at left guard in 2019 and was among the best in the country in pass protection, posting an 87.9 pass-blocking grade while allowing just seven pressures on 590 pass-blocking snaps.
He kicked over to tackle for 2020 and held his own for the first five games before Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux — who you’ll hear a lot about in 2022 — handled him in the Pac-12 Championship game with six quarterback pressures. Despite that, Vera-Tucker still finished the season with an 84.2 pass-blocking grade and a mere eight pressures allowed.
If Tampa Bay manages to bring back all of its key impending free agents, as Bruce Arians and Jason Licht have publicly said they would, then there aren’t many holes on the team's roster. But if the Buccaneers have to let anyone walk, Shaquil Barrett is the most likely. In that case, Phillips would be a quality replacement.
Phillips was the No. 1-rated recruit of the 2017 class and committed to UCLA. During his true sophomore campaign, a car hit him and he decided to retire after the subsequent injuries and another concussion after the fact. But Phillips opted to come out of retirement, transferring to Miami, where he had one of the biggest breakout years in the country this past season.
Over the course of his final six games, Phillips looked like that top-rated recruit from years ago with a 90.0 PFF grade and a whopping 30 pressures. His injury history is obviously of some concern, but with a clean bill of health, he’s clearly one of the best pass rushers in this class.
Since the start of 2019, Radunz recorded an 88.7 pass-blocking grade for North Dakota State. Relative to the FBS, that would have been a top-three mark among left tackles. Obviously, the level of competition is drastically different, which made his performance at the Senior Bowl an important one.
And the Bison tackle made himself a lot of money that week.
There were some concerns about Radunz's anchor, but he put that to rest with how dominant he was in one-on-ones. He left the week as the highest-graded tackle in practices. That, paired with his explosiveness off the line and movement skills, makes him one of the several tackles in the class in first-round conversation.
34. NEW YORK JETS: EDGE RONNIE PERKINS, OKLAHOMA
Perkins was the only edge defender in the FBS to record a 90.0-plus grade as both a run defender and a pass rusher in 2020. He was a constant threat all year thanks to his flexibility, explosiveness and overall athleticism. The only question is: Will he have the strength to hold up against NFL tackles? The 6-foot-3, 247-pound edge rusher may not come into the league and light it up right away, but he is worth taking a swing on.
Molden was in an exclusive relationship with the slot throughout his college career at Washington, and he’s likely not playing anywhere else at the next level. That being said, one NFL team will get an absolute steal for three reasons: 1) Slot defenders are the most undervalued players in football, (2) he was one of the best slot defenders we have ever seen in the PFF College era and (3) he has all the traits to make us believe he will have similar success in the NFL.
Of all the Power Five defensive backs to log at least 500 snaps in the slot in the PFF College era (since 2014), no one recorded a higher slot coverage grade, more forced incompletions or more passing stops than Molden. At 5-foot-10, 190-pounds, he is one of the most physical tacklers in the class. And he pairs that with short-area quickness and fantastic eyes in coverage. There’s no reason to think Molden won't be a quality slot corner at the next level.
Nickel is the new base. Molden may be pigeonholed to the slot, but that doesn’t mean his value is any less than that of the guy covering the outside beside him. This would be a massive get for a poor Falcons secondary.
36. MIAMI DOLPHINS (VIA HOU): C LANDON DICKERSON, ALABAMA
Miami is in the market for a center with their 2020 starter Ted Karras, who ranked 20th of 38 players at the position in PFF grade last year, hitting free agency this March. In turn, the Dolphins make it an Alabama reunion by taking Smith in Round 1 and selecting Tua Tagovailoa’s old center in Round 2.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pounder has the requisite play strength to hold up in the NFL right away. Dickerson gives it his all on every play. He’s a nasty run blocker, as his 92.8 grade in that facet in 2020 can attest to, and a consistent pass blocker, with just five pressures allowed on 385 such snaps. The only downside with Dickerson is that he suffered a torn ACL in the SEC title game, but he should bounce back in no time.
The best word to describe Bolton as a prospect? Instinctive. His physical tools are going to scare some NFL teams away, but his coverage ability should reel them back in. Over the past two years, Bolton led all Power Five off-ball linebackers in coverage grade and total plays made on the ball. The Eagles’ linebacker room gave up an NFL-high 10 touchdowns in 2020 and produced a bottom-five unit coverage grade. This would be a home-run pick for Philly.
The ideal scenario for the Bengals’ offensive line this offseason would be the following: 1) Bring guard Joe Thuney back home in free agency, 2) sign a low-cost right tackle in free agency, such as Matt Feiler or Kelvin Beachum, to a one- or two-year deal and 3) draft a right tackle with the 38th overall pick. Burrow will be protected and prospering when he returns from injury if Cincy obliges.
Jenkins was a mainstay on the Pokes’ offensive line over the past three years and performed at a high level in each campaign. The lack of true pass sets Oklahoma State tasked him with is a bit of a concern. Just 128 of his 946 snaps in the past three years were a true pass set. That said, Jenkins posted an elite 90.0 pass-blocking grade on those snaps, which would have been the best at the position had he played enough snaps to qualify.
On top of that, Jenkins also posted the second-best run-block grade among right tackles over the course of that span. He has the upper-body strength to handle NFL edge rushers. The only concern is Jenkins' shorter arm length, which — as PFF lead draft analyst Mike Renner detailed in his tackle rankings — could move him inside at the next level. Either way, the Bengals could use a guy like Jenkins.
Both of Carolina's starting tackles from 2020, Russell Okung and Taylor Moton, are hitting free agency, and each will command a big payday. I expect Carolina to re-sign Moton but let Okung, who is aging and battling injury issues as of late, walk. The team will need a new left tackle as a result, as 2019 second-round pick Greg Little has shown very little to be excited about.
From a physical standpoint, Leatherwood has everything a team could possibly want at left tackle. The 6-foot-6, 322-pounder doesn't cede much ground in a phone booth and boasts nightmarish length and strength.
His athleticism, however, is suspect. Speed rushers got to Leatherwood in college, and that will probably be no different in the NFL. Consequently, he might be forced to kick inside at the next level, but that’s also a great need for Carolina. They can’t go wrong with him here.
40. HOUSTON TEXANS (VIA DEN): CB GREG NEWSOME II, NORTHWESTERN
Newsome is fresh off a monster breakout campaign where he legitimately locked up the opposition each week. He posted the seventh-best coverage grade in the Power Five in 2020 (83.8) and allowed only 93 yards and five first downs on 223 coverage snaps while making eight plays on the ball.
Newsome played almost exclusively zone coverage at Northwestern and showed incredible awareness on every play. He was hardly caught off guard, evidenced by his lockdown numbers.
Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme will be a lot different than what Newsome was groomed to play at Northwestern (i.e., more man coverage and Tampa 2), but the corner has the skill set to perform in any system.
Detroit needs more playmakers in its secondary, and that’s precisely what Washington will provide. Look past his 5-foot-8 stature; there isn’t a more instinctual safety in this entire class than him. Washington also possesses elite change-of-direction ability and strength that is almost hard to believe.
Weighing in at under 180 pounds, he can still bench 370 pounds and squat 640 pounds. That landed him on Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks” list last summer. With the help of his many top-notch traits, Washington generated a top-three coverage grade among FBS safeties in each of the past two years.
Brown was a sole vertical threat at UNC over the past two seasons. He racked up 1,087 yards on vertical targets in that span, edging out Alabama's DeVonta Smith for the most in the FBS (was over 400 yards more than the third-best in the Power Five). While Brown’s route tree was incredibly limited with the Tar Heels, he easily showed he will have no issue with taking on a more diverse set in the NFL.
San Francisco is low-key kind of screwed this offseason when it comes to their secondary. They will have little to no cap space after re-signing tackle Trent Williams, and all but one key defensive back from last year’s squad is set to be a free agent. They’ll have to make a move for at least one defensive back within the first few rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, and Campbell in Round 2 would be a great fit.
Campbell is the classic corner prospect story: He has the physical tools but little to no ball production to show for it. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound corner has the length desired on the outside and is a fluid mover who won’t get burnt deep. Despite that, he was far from a playmaker and looked more like a reactor out there. Campbell produced a middling 13.6% forced incompletion rate in his final two years at Georgia.
44. DALLAS COWBOYS: DI ALIM MCNEILL, NC STATE
McNeill came to NC State as a four-star defensive tackle recruit who played linebacker and running back in high school. Yes, running back, and he was damn good carrying the rock with how explosive he is.
The 6-foot-2, 320-pound interior defensive linemen has a ridiculous get-off that few interior offensive linemen could handle. McNeill moved to 0-technique in 2019 where he produced a 79.4 PFF grade and then broke out to elite status in 2020 with a 90.7 grade in the same role. He was a constant force against the run, earning a 92.1 grade in that facet. While we will give him the benefit of the doubt that playing almost exclusively heads-up nose like he did explains his good but not great pass-rush production, he still has a long way to go from a technical standpoint in that regard. That's why he comes in here in the middle of the second-round. If he can improve his pass-rush toolbox, the sky’s the limit for McNeill.
45. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (VIA MIN): WR TYLAN WALLACE, OKLAHOMA STATE
Despite not being a nuanced route-runner at Oklahoma State, Wallace still found a way to be one of the most productive receivers in the country. He earned a receiving grade above 82.0 in each of his final three years of collegiate action. Wallace made his cheddar on vertical routes and screens thanks to his explosiveness, and he also made his name known as one of the best receivers in contested scenarios in the country. Since 2018, Wallace racked up 43 contested catches, 11 more than anyone in the Power 5. On underneath targets, he racked up 14 broken tackles on 45 receptions and averaged 11.6 yards after catch per reception on those plays.
Wallace isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea with question marks surrounding his route-running and how he will handle the physicality NFL corners will bring along the route. He’s a bit of a high-risk, high-reward pick here in Round 2.
This pick couldn’t be more fitting, as PFF’s Mike Renner dubbed Freiermuth a “poor man’s Rob Gronkowski” in the 2021 PFF NFL Draft Guide. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Freiermuth is going to be a great inline blocker and is like a bowling ball bouncing off the bumpers down a lane after the catch. Over the last two years, he broke 12 tackles on 66 catches and averaged over six yards after the catch.
“Why on earth would the Chargers take a tackle in Round 1 and 2!? This mock is terrible!” R-E-L-A-X, Chargers fans. Depending on what L.A. does in free agency, the team may have no choice to do this and move one of Slater or Carman inside to guard.
Carman is an absolute unit at 6-foot-5, 335 pounds and has rare movement skills for a human of his size. A big reason why he is a clear notch below other tackles in this class is his inconsistency. For example, Carman was dominant in Clemson’s first outing against Notre Dame’s stout defensive front in 2020 with an 88.0 PFF grade, but he was pushed around in Round 2 in the ACC title game with a 62.4 PFF grade. This has been the story of his collegiate career due to his pass sets. They are a work in progress with his biggest issue getting depth, but he has the upside to be a quality offensive lineman at the next level.
Las Vegas has to keep swinging the bat to improve the secondary until they find the right guys. I would expect them to pursue a cornerback like Richard Sherman to man an outside spot in Gus Bradley’s Cover-3 defense and a single-high safety like Marcus Williams in free agency. Even then, they have to keep taking swings in the draft — specifically on a player to challenge Johnathan Abram, as the 2019 first-round pick was the lowest-graded safety in the league when in coverage in 2020.
Grant has a lackluster physical profile, but he makes up for it with his read-react ability. Over the last three years, no college safety has logged more snaps than Grant, and he made the most of them all over the field. His 25 combined pass breakups plus interceptions are among the three most at the position over that span. Grant held up extremely well when playing down in the box against the run, too. His run-defense grade in the box since 2018 is the highest in the FBS among safeties.
Kyler Murray has dropped some subtle hints on Twitter that he would be in favor of the Cardinals bolstering the offensive line via the draft early in 2021. Right tackle Kelvin Beachum is set to hit the open market in March, and Arizona could try to slide 2019 third-rounder Josh Jones at guard for 2021. If that’s the case, then this pick should be dedicated to Eichenberg, who has an extremely high floor.
From a technical standpoint, Eichenberg is as polished as they come — that's the key reason why he logged an 89.9 PFF grade in 2020. If we take out his Week 6 performance against Florida State when he played with a swollen-shut left eye, and Eichenberg is one of the few tackles to earn a grade above 87.0 as both a pass- and run-blocker. He'll be available in Round 2 because the athleticism is nowhere near some of the other tackles in this class, but he is bound to have NFL success thanks to how advanced he is.
50. MIAMI DOLPHINS: EDGE CARLOS BASHAM JR., WAKE FOREST
Basham was among the group of prospects that hurt their stock more than helping it in 2020. He was one of the top pass-rushers in the country in 2019 with an elite 90.6 grade in that facet, but his production took a steep hit this past season. His pass-rush grade swung double digits down to 77.2. He has so much potential to be a force at the next level with how much power he possesses at 6-foot-5 and 285-pounds, we just didn’t see him utilize that as much as he should have at Wake Forest.
Regardless of whether Washington makes a move for a standout wide receiver to pair with Terry McLaurin in free agency, taking another receiver threat in Round 1 or 2 would be a wise move considering their wide receiver and tight end units ranked dead last in PFF grade in 2020.
Marshall has a ton of potential but is a project at this point. The former five-star recruit is only 20 years old, needs to add more to his 6-foot-3 frame and has some ways to go as a route-runner. The box score production can be misleading, as a lot of it was schemed, but the physical tools are there. He has sneaky speed and a massive catch radius that allows him to snag off-target throws with ease. Marshall impressed in contested scenarios throughout his time at LSU, hauling in nine of his 11 such targets in 2020.
With the retirement of Chuck Pagano, the Bears opted to promote Sean Desai to defensive coordinator after he spent six years as a quality control assistant and two years as their safeties coach. He says he isn’t going to use the same exact concepts as past coaches he has worked under but that there will be some Vic Fangio influence. There will likely be a multitude of disguised coverages in 2021, meaning they need a safety who processes at an elite level and can make plays in safety rotations along with Eddie Jackson. Holland truly could not be a better option for that job.
He will likely land in this area of the draft due to his non-elite athleticism, but he makes up for it with his instincts and how well he sees the field. In his final two years at Oregon in 2018 and 2019 (he opted out in 2020), Holland racked up the second-most combined pass breakups and interceptions in the FBS with 20.
53. TENNESSEE TITANS: LB JABRIL COX, LSU
Tennessee will likely need to replace Jayon Brown, as he will likely be out of their price range in free agency. Cox has some concerns with his strength, or lack thereof, and middling performance against the run, but the coverage ability is clearly there. It was the backbone of his success at North Dakota State in 2018 and 2019 with coverage grades of 87.4 and 85.2, and the story remained the same at LSU in 2020. This past year, Cox notched an 83.5 coverage grade with seven combined pass breakups and interceptions and zero touchdowns allowed.
With just 72 snaps over the last two years, Little is one of the riskiest prospects in the class. The 6-foot-7, 309-pound tackle was in the running to be one of the best tackles in the entire 2020 class, but he was hurt that year and then Covid-19 got in the way this year. The Colts are in dire need of a left tackle after Anthony Castonzo’s retirement, and Little has the upside worth rolling the dice on here.
Little essentially looked like a brick wall in pass-protection the last time we saw him, earning an 81.2 pass-block grade in 2018. And he reached that mark playing the second-most true pass sets of any Power 5 left tackle that year.
With the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh is in the market for a new center and Humphrey would be a great fit. Humphrey displayed great hand usage throughout his time at Oklahoma and clearly has the strength to hold up at the next level. But he does come with some baggage, like any prospect at this point in the draft. As PFF’s Mike Renner indicated in his interior offensive linemen prospect rankings, Humphrey has a hard time playing with leverage. And his performance against stud interior defenders in the past like Bravvion Roy in the 2019-20 Big 12 Championship does him no favors.
It’s no secret that Russell Wilson is upset with Seattle’s brass for giving him a below-average offensive line year after year. While some of the hits and sacks he takes are on him, there are improvements to be made up front — specifically along the interior offensive line. Davis is a high-risk, high-reward type of pick. He has a knee issue that caused him to go down several times in 2020, but Davis was clearly one of the best pass-protecting interior offensive linemen in college football the year prior. He logged 459 pass-block snaps in 2019 and did not allow a single sack or hit on the quarterback. The physical skill set is there. The only question is, can he stay healthy?
57. LOS ANGELES RAMS: EDGE JOSEPH OSSAI, TEXAS
The Rams are unlikely to retain edge rusher Leonard Floyd due to their current cap situation and the price tag he will command in free agency. In turn, they get a prospect in Ossai who is similar to Floyd. Ossai is not in the same tier athletically, but he has the movement skills, flexibility and high-motor that allows him to win. At the same time, he’s going to struggle with the strength of NFL tackles. Ossai was still productive in his first full year as an edge rusher in 2020 after playing off-ball, recording an 80.5 pass-rush grade.
Adding a dynamic slot receiver like Darden to this Baltimore offense would be dangerous. Darden finished the season as the fourth-highest-graded wide receiver in all of college football. The 5-foot-9, 174-pound wide receiver has been among the most elusive in the game, breaking an FBS-high 23 tackles and averaging 7.7 yards after the catch. Darden was clearly a threat on screens, but he was even more so on vertical routes with his deep speed. His receiving grade on such routes was the fourth-best in the FBS, and his 11 receiving touchdowns were two more than anyone else.
Cisco was one of the biggest boom-or-bust players we have seen in our seven years of grading college football, and he's going to be in that same category as a prospect. He was the definition of a playmaker at Syracuse, notching 26 combined pass breakups plus interceptions in his three years. That’s the second-most at the position over that span, and Cisco only played two games in 2020 due to a torn ACL. At the same time, he gave up 48 catches for 692 yards and eight touchdowns.
He’s going to be a coaching project. Cisco has the potential to be one of the best safeties in the class if he can fix the way he sees the game in real time.
Some people are not going to like Newman being the sixth quarterback off the board over others, but if you're taking a passer at Pick 60, you are doing it solely based on potential. Yes, every pick is based on potential, but there are higher ceilings and lower floors at this point. Of the remaining quarterbacks, Newman has the highest ceiling.
After playing in an up-tempo, RPO-heavy offense at Wake Forest, Newman decided to transfer to Georgia for the 2020 season to play in Todd Monken’s pro-style offense. But he ended up opting out due to Covid-19 concerns. We thought he would have immense success in that kind of offense considering his traits, but obviously Newman remains a big question mark since he opted out. His performance after the first couple of days at the Senior Bowl did him no favors.
In his 16 starts at Wake from 2018 through 2019, Newman was the fifth-highest-graded passer in college football with an 88.4 passing grade. And he had to throw into more tight or closing windows than anyone in the country due to the offense and a lack of separators within the receiving unit. In fact, over 53% of his passes in 2019 were to a tight or closing window — that’s over 20% higher than any other quarterback in the class in their final collegiate season. Newman’s deep ball was also among the best in the country, as he ranked second to only Joe Burrow in passing grade on throws of 20-plus yards in 2019.
With his arm strength, size, mobility, accuracy and touch, Newman has all the tools desired at the next level. Newman could end up the biggest steal of the draft or end up a waste of a second-round pick. Considering that QB is the most important position on the field, he’s worth taking a shot on.
61. BUFFALO BILLS: T/G JALEN MAYFIELD, MICHIGAN
Mayfield is likely a tackle-to-guard convert at the next level and is a bit of a project, but he is young and has the physical makeup that gives him a lot of upside. Prior to playing in a couple of games in 2020, Mayfield was a bit of a roller coaster at Michigan. He was inconsistent throughout his 2019 campaign, flashing high-end reps but also constantly showing how unrefined he is technically. That year, he gave up 27 pressures en route to a 70.2 PFF grade.
Looking at him on the sideline, one would think Melifonwu was an absolute dog to face on the field. He has truly rare athleticism and looks like he would be menacing to face at 6-foot-3, 213-pounds, but we just didn’t seem him utilize that physicality. He was routinely at the catch point and made a multitude of plays thanks to his length. Melifonwu forced an incompletion 55.6% of the time on contested targets over the last couple of years. That led to a grade on contested targets that ranked fourth in the Power 5. Still, he's not going to have that kind of ball production at the next level without playing far more physical.
63. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: CB TAY GOWAN, UCF
After a couple years at Miami of Ohio and playing only six snaps in 2016 and 2017, Gowan transferred to community college for the 2018 season before returning to the FBS ranks in 2019 to play for UCF. He was nothing short of exceptional that year with an 80.1 coverage grade, 12 total plays on the ball and just 13 first downs or touchdowns allowed in 12 starts. He subsequently opted out of the 2020 season due to Covid-19. Gowan has the combination of size, length and speed desired for the position, but the lack of experience is a bit scary and quite easily the biggest knock on him as a prospect.
Wilson has an incredibly high ceiling but an extremely low floor. The reigning Super Bowl champions — who have no massive holes on their roster — can afford to take on this kind of risk.
Wilson is a former five-star recruit who ranked sixth nationally in the 2017 class, according to 247Sports. He emerged onto the scene in 2018 and established himself as one of the best defensive tackles in the country, posting a 90.1 PFF grade that year and following it up in 2020 with another elite season with a 90.7 grade. In 2020, everything fell apart. Wilson was limited to only six games due to injury and performed poorly with just a 67.7 PFF grade.
Wilson never won with explosiveness — he won with his brute strength. He regularly bullied offensive linemen in his first two seasons in a significant role, but that player was nowhere to be found in 2020. Tampa will be making this pick with the hope of unleashing the old Wilson.
Courtesy of PFF’s 2021 NFL Draft Guide, find PFF's top draft prospect, biggest riser and wild card to watch at each position here: