NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Jets, Panthers, Washington and more get new quarterbacks
Dane Brugler Nov 30, 2020 304
We are five months away from the NFL Draft, but with the draft order shaping up and prospects declaring, it is time to start examining different first-round scenarios.
While there isn’t much intrigue at No. 1 right now, there are plenty of interesting dominoes after it, several involving the quarterback position. Who will be the second quarterback drafted? Could four quarterbacks come off the board in the top 10? How many quarterbacks will be drafted in the first round?
This mock also includes a few intriguing prospects who have turbo boosters on their backs, putting themselves in the first-round discussion based on their outstanding play. It is still early, but if the draft happened tomorrow, this is a realistic look at how it could play out. You can also view The Athletic’s NFL draft projections page, where you will find each team’s projected draft order and chance at a top pick, here.
Notes: The draft order is current as of Monday, Nov. 30; An asterisk signals draft-eligible underclassmen who haven’t declared for the draft.
1. New York Jets: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson*
Of all the unknowns the Jets face this offseason, Lawrence at No. 1 doesn’t feel like one of them, assuming New York (0-11) finishes with the top pick. The Clemson star is incredibly impressive as a passer due to his athleticism and arm talent while also boasting the intangibles and toughness required to play at a high level in the NFL. This would mark the first time the organization drafted a quarterback No. 1 since 1965, when it drafted Joe Namath.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU*
The first curveball of this mock draft. In October, I wrote how Wilson had put himself in the conversation to be the second quarterback drafted and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him selected this high. With his natural accuracy and ability to execute off-platform, Wilson’s play translates very well to the next level.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
The Bengals’ offensive line woes have been a consistent theme this season and must be addressed. Luckily for Cincinnati, this draft is shaping up to have a deep offensive line class with a stud at the top. Sewell is far from a perfect prospect, but his big-man balance, mobility and instincts make him worthy of top-five consideration. You can read Bengals beat writer Jay Morrison’s analysis of this pick here.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
If the Cowboys have a chance at Sewell, I don’t think they pass on him. But if he is off the board (like in this scenario), that leaves two options: trade down or take the top defensive player available. This draft class lacks a no-brainer top defender like Chase Young a year ago, but Farley is an ascending cornerback with size, speed and ball skills. You can read Cowboys beat writer Jon Machota’s analysis of this pick here.
5. Los Angeles Chargers: Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama*
Similar to the Cowboys, the Chargers would be wise to invest in the offensive line to protect their quarterback, but it might not be an option this early in the draft if Sewell is off the board. Instead, their focus moves to defense, where cornerback has been a consistent issue for them this season. Surtain isn’t going to run a blazing 40-yard dash time, but he can pattern match from press and find the football downfield.
6. Carolina Panthers: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State*
Teddy Bridgewater is a tough, talented quarterback, but I don’t think anybody expects him to be the long-term answer for Carolina. However, he does give the organization an ideal “bridge” scenario if it drafts a quarterback in the top 10. Fields still requires development with his passing vision and reads, but his size, mobility and accuracy are attractive selling points. You can read Panthers beat writer Joe Person’s analysis of this pick here.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
While much of the blame for Philadelphia’s struggles belong to the quarterback, Carson Wentz has received very little help from his receiving weapons this season. And a talent like Chase, who can create his own separation and boasts elite ball skills, is the jolt of energy the Eagles’ offense needs. Eagles beat writers Zach Berman and Bo Wulf and LSU beat writer Brody Miller analyze this pick here.
8. Washington Football Team: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Lance is an unprecedented evaluation. His production is remarkable (46 touchdowns, three turnovers), but he has only 17 starts on his resume with all 17 against FCS competition. While his evaluation is mostly projection-based, he is well-built with the arm talent and athleticism worth drafting and developing. It doesn’t hurt that Lance’s coaches and teammates call him the hardest worker on the team.
9. Detroit Lions: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
With a new regime arriving soon, the Lions are an organization in flux. Their wide receivers will be wiped out after this season so a playmaker like Jaylen Waddle is an option. But they also need more impact players on defense and Parsons offers the athletic traits to develop into a cornerstone defender in Detroit. You can read Lions writer Nick Baumgardner’s analysis of this pick here.
10. Atlanta Falcons: Gregory Rousseau, edge, Miami (Fla.)
It feels like the Falcons have been searching for an impact pass rusher for about a decade now — and that hunt continues into this offseason. Rousseau put himself on the NFL radar last season after leading the ACC with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. And even though he is still learning how to be impactful from snap to snap, NFL teams will be ready to bet on his length, athleticism and upside. Falcons beat writer Tori McElhaney and University of Miami writer Manny Navarro analyze this pick here.
11. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama*
Miami invested in the offensive line in last year’s draft and now is the time to add more playmakers for their young quarterback. With his explosive speed, Waddle is dangerous before and after the catch, showing the creativity to stress the defense in different ways. One thing is for sure — you know Tua Tagovailoa will approve of this pick. You can read Dolphins beat writer Josh Tolentino’s analysis of this pick here.
12. Denver Broncos: Derion Kendrick, CB, Clemson*
In a division with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr, the Broncos need to get more athletic at cornerback. Kendrick, who moved to defense from wide receiver prior to the 2019 season, is one of the best athletes in the class and continues to get better. Broncos beat writer Nick Kosmider and Clemson beat writer Grace Raynor analyze this pick here.
13. Minnesota Vikings: Kwity Paye, edge, Michigan
Mike Zimmer prides his defenses on being able to disrupt the pocket and affect the quarterback — something the Vikings haven’t done enough this season. Paye has the athleticism to launch out of his stance and work around roadblocks and plays with the power and energy to go through blockers.
14. Chicago Bears: Rashawn Slater, OT/G, Northwestern
After watching him handle Young last year, I was sold on Slater as a next-level stud. He will be dinged throughout the process for his short arms, but the left tackle offers the smart, technically sound approach to engage quickly and stay connected. It also helps that Slater has the skill set to play all five offensive line positions. Bears beat writers Kevin Fishbain and Adam Jahns analyze this pick here.
15. New England Patriots: Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida*
The Patriots desperately need pass-catching weapons who can get open and create mismatches downfield. Pitts consistently gets open versus SEC linebackers and safeties and he has the athletic ball skills to beat cornerbacks one-on-one. You can read Patriots beat writer Jeff Howe’s analysis of this pick here.
16. San Francisco 49ers: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina
San Francisco has several cornerbacks in the final year of their deals, pushing the position to the top of the offseason needs list. Horn, who is the son of former NFL pro Joe Horn, needs to refine his discipline, but his instincts and competitive mentality are why he is NFL-ready. You can read analysis of this pick from 49ers beat writer Matt Barrows and South Carolina beat writer Josh Kendall here.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame*
The Raiders need more playmakers on defense and with his explosion and versatility, that is what Owusu-Koramoah can provide. A three-down player, he has the play speed to blitz, string out runs or drop in coverage.
18. Baltimore Ravens: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC*
The Ravens could use a boost at wide receiver, edge rusher and a few other positions, but the offensive line needs help, too. Vera-Tucker is an alert, agile mover with physical hands and the position versatility that will boost his draft grade.
19. New York Giants: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
On paper, Smith doesn’t belong in the top-20 conversation due to poor size (175 pounds) and average speed (4.5 seconds in the 40). But on tape, he is one of the more explosive wide receivers in this class with elite ball skills and the feel for the position that leads to production. Smith will make Daniel Jones a better quarterback. You can read Giants beat writer Dan Duggan’s analysis of this pick here.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Azeez Ojulari, edge, Georgia*
Aside from flashes by Haason Reddick, the Cardinals have been desperate for pass-rush help since Chandler Jones went down with an injury. Ojulari is still young and developing, but his talent is outstanding and he ranks second in the SEC with 5.5 sacks and 26 pressures.
21. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Joseph Ossai, edge, Texas*
With Shaquil Barrett a pending free agent and Jason Pierre-Paul about to enter the final year of his deal, the Buccaneers might be looking to add pass-rush depth very soon. Ossai, who ranks in the top five nationally with 14 tackles for loss so far this season, competes with the fiery motor that makes him an easy pass rusher to like.
22. Miami Dolphins: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa*
Few prospects have experienced the type of substantial rise as Collins this season. At 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, he is a versatile athlete with fluidity, speed and impact production (48 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four interceptions in six games this season). And he would be a perfect fit in Brian Flores’ defense.
23. Indianapolis Colts: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
Anthony Castonzo, who left Sunday’s game with an MCL sprain, is still playing at a high level, but the future of the position is a question. Cosmi has starting experience at left and right tackle and does a great job using knee bend and foot quickness to sit in his stance, attacking rushers with leverage. You can read Colts beat writer Zak Keefer’s analysis of this pick here.
24. Cleveland Browns: Jayson Oweh, edge, Penn State*
Myles Garrett has proven himself as one of the best defensive players in the NFL, but he needs help to take attention away from his side of the formation. A basketball player in high school, Oweh is a freaky athlete at 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds with his best days ahead of him. You can read Browns beat writer Zac Jackson’s analysis of this pick here.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): Christian Darrisaw, OT/G, Virginia Tech*
The Jaguars have plenty of needs, but investing in offensive line depth always makes sense — especially after drafting a quarterback earlier in the first round. Darrisaw is a bulldozer of a blocker with the power and balanced athleticism to overwhelm defenders, either at tackle or guard.
26. New York Jets (from Seattle): Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan*
It appears the Jets hit a home run with left tackle Mekhi Becton in last year’s first round and adding a talent like Mayfield would give the organization one of the better young tackle tandems in the NFL. Mayfield moves well for his size and has shown better power and discipline.
27. Tennessee Titans: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri*
With Jayon Brown on injured reserve and in the final year of his rookie deal, this projection is if he doesn’t return to Tennessee next season. Bolton is a hammer looking for a nail, showing the instincts, toughness and range that will appeal to Mike Vrabel, Jon Robinson and the Titans’ decision-makers.
28. Buffalo Bills: Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State*
The future of the Bills’ interior offensive line is unsettled so it wouldn’t be a shock to see Buffalo address the position early on draft weekend. Davis might not have any elite traits, but he doesn’t have many weaknesses either, checking boxes for athleticism, power and awareness. You can read Bills beat writer Matthew Fairburn’s analysis of this pick here.
29. Green Bay Packers: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
The Packers haven’t drafted a wide receiver in the first round since Javon Walker in 2002, but they have to break that streak at some point, right? Aaron Rodgers can hope. Although not a burner, Bateman is a savvy route-runner who does a great job leveraging coverage and creating separation at various depths of the field. You can read Packers beat writer Matt Schneidman’s analysis of this pick here.
30. Kansas City Chiefs: Landon Dickerson, OG/C, Alabama
The Chiefs surprised many when they drafted Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the late first round last year, but they believed in the fit — and that is the thinking with this pick. One of the more underrated interior blockers in the country, Dickerson boasts the toughness, smarts and guard/center flexibility to make an immediate impact in Kansas City. While this might seem high for him, many around the league think the late first round is possible if his medicals check out.
31. New Orleans Saints: Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
With above-average receivers, running backs, blockers and play calling at Alabama, Jones is a tough quarterback to separate from the situation. But he makes smart decisions, moves well in the pocket and is very accurate. Jones won’t be an ideal fit for everyone, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sneak into Round 1 in the right situation. You can read Saints beat writer Katherine Terrell’s analysis of this pick here.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Could we see back-to-back years where the first running back is drafted at No. 32? With James Conner in the final year of his deal, I don’t think Benny Snell or Anthony McFarland would stop the Steelers from drafting a talent like Etienne, who would add another dynamic element to Pittsburgh’s offense. You can read Steelers writer Sean Gentille’s analysis of this pick here.
Three NFL teams currently do not have a 2021 first-round pick: the Seahawks, Rams and Texans.
Seattle Seahawks: Rashad Weaver, edge, Pittsburgh
The Seahawks have struggled to get backfield production from their edge rushers (safety Jamal Adams leads them in sacks and pressures) and newly acquired Carlos Dunlap might be a short-term rental. Although not a dynamic athlete by NFL standards, Weaver is stout and long with efficient stack-and-shed skills to be reliable versus the pass and the run.
Los Angeles Rams: Tyler Linderbaum, OC, Iowa
The Rams will be looking to address several questions on the offensive line this offseason, including possibly at center if Austin Blythe departs in free agency. Only a redshirt sophomore, Linderbaum has put himself in the top-50 conversation as an NFL prospect due to his quickness and smarts. He will have a tough decision to make after this season.
Houston Texans: Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
Will Fuller is a pending free agent. Kenny Stills is gone. Brandin Cooks has no guaranteed money left on his deal. Randall Cobb and Keke Coutee are complementary weapons. The Texans will be in the market for receivers this offseason and would be wise to add size to help out Deshaun Watson. Collins is in the N’Keal Harry mold — a good-sized athlete with smooth routes and reliable hands