NFL Draft News & Analysis

NFL Week 17 Mailbag: The best-case scenario for the New York Jets, the 49ers trading up, thoughts on Offensive Rookie of the Year and more

Dec 17, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We are almost in full swing of NFL draft season, and one topic continues to dominate the discussion: the quarterback class.

How do they rank, and where will they go? At this stage, only one thing is for certain: this is a special class. If you’re a team on the fence about taking one of these guys, I suggest you pull the trigger. Let’s get to the questions.

We have three fairly similar questions to kick us off. The first…

The second…

And to finish…

These questions are getting to the core of the same argument. My answer to all of them is that it depends on the quarterbacks.

The Cleveland Browns famously passed on Carson Wentz in 2016 and then Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in 2017 before selecting Baker in 2018. That said, it’s important to remember that 2016 was the first year in the life cycle of the complete teardown, and 2017 was seen by many at the time not to have a sure-fire QB1 for the first overall pick (which has obviously been proven dead wrong).

If a team is really going for a rebuild, I’m all for building some semblance of infrastructure around them before taking that quarterback (kind of what the Dolphins also tried to do) so that you’re not David Carr-ing them. So, I have no problem with how the Browns went about it. Just because you have a top pick doesn’t mean swing the bat. If there’s a guy worthy of that top pick, that’s when I advocate swinging the bat.

The Jets' teardown year was this past year, though, and now they have a ton of draft capital as well as cap space to start making big-boy plays. If this were 2019, where the options were Daniel Jones, Drew Lock and Dwayne Haskins after Kyler Murray, I’d be all in on trading down. However, as stated in the intro, this class is different — it's even better than the 2018 class.

The only way I’d advocate for them trading down is if they have similar grades on a few quarterbacks and can get the same kind of Colts-esque haul that they ironically gave up for Sam Darnold.

From a pure tools perspective, there’s a massive gap. Those top four guys really have it all — it’s why they’ll go quickly. That being said, I think Jones, especially, could succeed, but he’s not opening up Kyle Shanahan’s playbook in any meaningful way. That’s why…

…the 49ers make oh so much sense to be this team. Shanahan and John Lynch have to be frustrated by seeing one of the most talented rosters in the NFL sputter out to a losing season. They have to be frustrated about being one fairly easy throw away from a Super Bowl.

Shanahan has had a true “guy” at quarterback twice in his tenure as a playcaller. One was pre-injury RG3, and he put up one of the best rookie seasons ever. The other was Matt Ryan, and he won an MVP Award and nearly brought home the Super Bowl. You can’t tell me he isn’t chomping at the bit seeing Justin Fields and Zach Wilson this season.

It’s actually the opposite for me. I think opt-outs will be underrated come draft time. Twenty-year-olds can physically develop by leaps and bounds in a short period. The vast, vast majority of athletic freaks only improve over their college careers. We won’t have gotten to see prime years from athletic freaks like Micah Parsons, Gregory Rousseau and Caleb Farley. Our last impression of them won’t be for a year and a half. If they’ve stayed dedicated to training over the fall, I’ve got no worries about taking one.

Now, the last high-profile time we saw this obviously doesn’t bode well for my argument above. Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett and USC wide receiver Mike Williams challenged the NFL’s three-year rule back in 2004 before being told they weren’t eligible for the draft and subsequently weren’t eligible to return to school. No need to tell you how their careers turned out.

More recently, former West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson Jr. was ruled ineligible for the 2019 season before turning to the XFL for a few games. He fell to the fifth round to the Panthers and has yet to play a snap.

Yes, unless Andrew Luck comes out of retirement.

You can put together some pretty darn good lines from Alabama, Wisconsin and Iowa as you laid out, but this one still ain’t close. And the crazy thing is, four of them were actually on the same line back in 2015. Notre Dame sends out this front five:

LT Ronnie Stanley
LG Quenton Nelson
C Nick Martin
RG Zack Martin
RT Mike McGlinchey

There we have three elite starters who are in the conversation for the best at their respective positions, along with two more quality starters. That's tough to beat.

I think that hits the nail on the head for Pitts' floor. I don’t know how the Ravens can see what he brings to the table and not sprint their card in if he’s on the clock for them. Obviously, the Patriots will be a popular mock landing spot for him, but the one team I’d love to see him end up on is the Cardinals.

The Cards are already throwing out a 220-pound tight end. Pitts' flexibility would be perfect in that offense, and it would take the pressure off feeding DeAndre Hopkins.

If you go through the award history, there’s a fairly strong bias towards any quarterback who looks halfway decent as a rookie. Considering Justin Herbert set the rookie touchdown pass record, I’d imagine he’s a shoo-in.

The Football Team has one of the most fascinating offseasons of any franchise in the league lying ahead of them. The biggest reason for that is obvious: their name. Are they going to stick with Football Team? I hope so. Get an unofficial mascot or something and keep those minimalist jerseys.

The other reason is that they desperately need a quarterback yet are in no position whatsoever to draft one of the top guys. With the fifth-most cap space already for 2021, according to overthecap.com, and a defense built to win now, they have to be players in the trade/free-agent quarterback market.

It’s too early to shake down exactly who will be available, but that’s where they have to start. If they like a Mac Jones or Kyle Trask, I’d advocate double-dipping at the position with a draft pick, as well.

As for Cisco, he absolutely has to land with a strong defensive coordinator (or defensive-minded head coach). He is the single worst freelancer at the safety position in the draft class. He’s also a 6-foot, 209-pound lightning rod that runs in the 4.3’s and has made more plays on the ball than any safety in college football. He simply needs to be reeled in.

I’d love Washington because Ron Rivera quite obviously can coach up a disciplined defense. Cisco might not be the answer right away after an ACL tear, but in time he’d be a difference-maker.

I think whatever you do, you have to avoid hard lines that accentuate it. That means nothing real short. Also, nothing so long that you have a part down one of the “M” angles and have it look like a wave crashing off the side of your head. Good luck!

You get a new coach and GM? Sorry, buddy. They really are in that no man's land as a roster. The Lions are in NFL purgatory at the moment.

I still have to think so if they get the No. 1 seed. Playing one fewer game is a massive leg up for pure odds purposes.

While A.J. Dillon can catch traditional screens or swings, he’s not going to be able to replicate any of the vertical routes or wide screens Aaron Jones has run for the Packers. Some of my favorite backs in the draft that can fill that kind of role:

  • Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
  • Michael Carter, North Carolina
  • Demetric Felton, UCLA

I think it’s important to remember in this conversation that Ja’Marr Chase was 19 years old when he was physically dominating the SEC (and now NFL corners in A.J. Terrell and Trevon Diggs). When Smith was 19, he had 42 catches for 690 yards. This is what I’m driving at when I’m saying opt-out guys could very well get undervalued. Give me Chase.

No.

Sadly, they won’t be drafting in a great range for true immediate-impact edge-rusher. I think Wake Forest’s Carlos Basham would be a great complement stylistically to Harold Landry, though. He’s a much larger base end and pocket-pusher who could force quarterbacks into Landry’s speed rushes. Basham had a down year by his standards, but I would love to see what his explosiveness at 285 pounds could do with some NFL coaching.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
Sponsor

NFL Draft Featured Tools

  • 250+ three-page scouting profiles - advanced stats, 3-year grades, player comps, combine data and Senior Bowl grades - for the 2022 draft class.

    Available with

    Edge
  • PFF’s CFB preview magazine provides an advanced overview every FBS team entering the 2021 season, including PFF-exclusive advanced stats, player grades, scheme analysis and more.

    Available with

    CFB Grades+
  • PFF's Big Board for the 2022 NFL Draft offers three-year player grades, combine measurables, position rankings, and in-depth player analysis for all of the top draft prospects.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Our latest 2020 NFL mock drafts.

  • Our exclusive database, featuring the most in-depth collection of NCAA player performance data.

    Available with

    CFB Prem Stats+
Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr
College Subscriptions

Unlock College Player Grades and Preview Magazine

$7.99 / mo
$27.99 / yr

Unlock NCAA Premium Stats & PFF Greenline NCAA

$29.99 / mo
$119.99 / yr