2021 NFL Draft Preview and Predictions (Part I)

Hey everyone, we are just three days away from one of the most anticipated sports events on the calendar each year and that is the NFL Draft. This year feels like a awesome year for the Draft and there are so many household names even beyond the quarterbacks. Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle feel like franchise-altering and generational receivers. Kyle Pitts and Penei Sewell feel like they could be key pieces in a franchise as well for years to come and there are reasons to be optimistic for so many franchises. The smokescreens and deliberate misinformation is always one of the things that makes the NFL Draft fun and we know as always there will be some surprises and reaches and as always to expect the unexpected. This is how I see Thursday going.

#1 Jacksonville Jaguars-Trevor Lawrence has been the likely #1 pick for 2 seasons now. That won’t change before Thursday. Can be a game changer for the Jaguar franchise and had a remarkable career at Clemson, winning a National Championship, going 34-2 and throwing for over 10,000 yards with 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

#2 New York Jets-The Jets made the direction they were going obvious when they traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a 6th round pick this year as well as a 2nd and 4th round pick next year. I believe they will take Zach Wilson out of BYU. Truth be told, the only quarterback I truly love this draft is Lawrence. I can probably be sold on Justin Fields after how he played vs. Clemson, but then again was not great in the Championship vs. Alabama and Ohio State quarterbacks never do anything in the NFL.

I had BYU in a college football wins pool this past season and they did far better than people thought, but this is the bottom line, they did not play anyone I would consider elite. Houston, Boise State and UCF are good teams but they don’t play defense. A ton of BYU’s success this past season was rooted in their incredible defense, in which 26 was the most points they gave up all year, and they gave up in the 20’s just 3 times, with two of those opponents being Houston and UCF. The biggest test they faced all year, they failed at Coastal Carolina. I think that game might be overanalyzed, however, because BYU did pick that game up just a few days ahead and had to travel to Conway for it and it was a close game. If you are a top NFL Draft prospect though, you have to find a way to win that.

Wilson had a great season in 2020 throwing 33 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions and throwing for 3,692 yards. The Jets seem to have had their sights set on him for a couple months now and that was only cemented upon trading Darnold.

#3 San Francisco 49ers-Here’s where things should start to get interesting. Mac Jones is -250 on Fanduel to go here and I am not buying it and think it is just a smokescreen. He was never considered in the mix with Trey Lance and Justin Fields and all of a sudden at the 11th hour, has momentum all of the sudden? It seems fishy. I think Justin Fields +700 to go to San Francisco at some books has a ton of value and is more likely than those odds. I think ultimately though they will go with Trey Lance out of North Dakota State even though Justin Fields to me is the better player. Kyle Shanahan said that he wants a quarterback who is mobile and Lance fits the bill here.

#4 Atlanta Falcons-If Lance is indeed the third pick, this will be a fascinating watch and they have a chance to finally end the Matt Ryan era. To me, he has always been overrated and the Patriots comeback in the Super Bowl will be his lasting legacy. He is going to be 36 upon the 2021 season starting and his best days are behind him and you have reached his ceiling. Drafting Justin Fields here would be a shot in the arm for an Atlanta Falcons franchise that has had a rough time recovering since the 28-3 blown lead debacle. They could go for Kyle Pitts here but already have a good tight end in Hayden Hurst. As long as Justin Fields is available here, I think they take a chance with him and bring the Matt Ryan era in Atlanta to an end and give the Ohio State quarterback a shot with 2 exceptional receivers.

#5 Cincinnati Bengals-I think this is a pretty obvious pick here for the Bengals and this reminds me a lot of the Dolphins last year where you knew they wanted Tua Tagovailoa, then they won some games late and their guy still fell in their lap. Penei Sewell, a couple months back was as high as 2 on some draft boards, then all of a sudden all these teams fell in love with quarterbacks and there was this weird fascination I don’t quite understand in the media with guys like Todd McShay that all the top picks needed to be quarterbacks when their talent doesn’t necessarily merit it. I would take at least 2 receivers and Pitts above at least 2 of the quarterbacks just based on talent set. The Jets and 49ers were in toss-up positions regarding their quarterbacks and you can’t blame the Falcons for wanting to move on from a 36 year old, it just feels like media driven that there needs to be a run on quarterbacks to start this draft when Ja’Marr Chase, Kyle Pitts and DeVonta Smith are great players in their own right and Sewell is a surprising fall too. It’s protection for Joe Burrow and a good piece to build with after how the Bengals concluded last season. Things are finally starting to look up for Cincinnati.

#6 Miami Dolphins-If the Draft goes as I am predicting, my team, the Dolphins could be in a great position having their pick of the litter at all 3 receivers as well as Kyle Pitts. With the Dolphins still having Devante Parker and adding Will Fuller, if Kyle Pitts is available here, I think they take the tight end and with Mike Gesicki, makes for a great duo in that position. They need to see progress from Tua Tagovailoa this season who have many Dolphins fans doubting him based on what they saw last year and seemed to lack confidence and had a limited arm. If he does though, the pieces are in place for the Dolphins to take the step to the next level and make the playoffs, after their hopes were dashed in devastating fashion last year against the Buffalo Bills on the final day of the regular season after their miracle win against the Las Vegas Raiders.

#7 Detroit Lions-Detroit also looks to be in a great spot to capitalize if the first few picks are quarterbacks. They could always go in that direction, but you have to believe they traded a long-time player in Matthew Stafford, they will at least give Jared Goff a year or two to see what he can do. With Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones gone, you have to think they will look at the receiver position and that will be an easy pick with Ja’Marr Chase still available.

#8 Carolina Panthers-There is a prop on Draftkings right now that I don’t quite understand and that is Justin Fields +300 to go here. First of all, I don’t see Fields slipping that much. Secondly, some team can easily trade up within the top 7 to get him and then Sam Darnold is on Carolina now too, so that would essentially be a wasted pick unless they started him immediately. There are a lot of good receivers in this division for Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. They have a lot of good offensive pieces in place and this feels like where the first defensive player will happen. I predict they will go with Jaycee Horn at the cornerback position to strengthen them at a position that they have been poor at in recent years.

#9 Denver Broncos-I’ve mentioned a couple teams who have been in great positions to get any number of players they would have wanted. With so many quarterbacks likely going so quick though, the Broncos could miss out on all of them, though they will have a solid group of players to choose from, I think they would’ve ultimately wanted a quarterback. Micah Parsons, would certainly not be a bad option though and is a great linebacker out of Penn State. Him and Von Miller together would be a nice linebacking unit and Drew Lock has shown some signs of being the guy, but he needs to prove it on a more consistent basis. Parsons would be a great option in the meantime though.

#10 Dallas Cowboys-I think the Cowboys shore up their offensive line here and take Rashawn Slater. They could take one of the cornerbacks available here–Horn or Surtain II, but I think the offensive line is a more pressing issue as of now. None of the teams in their division receivers are phenomenal and so perhaps that could make the difference in deciding which way they want to go here.

#11 New York Giants-In recent days, there is some signs pointing to DeVonta Smith being the Giants guy and he would be an excellent pick here. His hype has cooled considerably since his incredible 2020 campaign at Alabama which is one of the great seasons of all time for a collegiate receiver, 117 receptions, 23 of them for touchdowns and 1856 yards. He had 12 catches for 3 touchdowns, both records for a national championship game and had 215 yards in their victory over Ohio State. Remarkably, he left in the 3rd quarter of the game with that stat line. He was the first receiver in nearly 30 years to win the Heisman and 4th overall to do so. People have cooled on him because of his size but after Ja’Marr Chase, I do not believe there is a significant difference between him and Jaylen Waddle and coming off his senior campaign, deserves more credit than he has been getting and a team to take a shot on him. The Giants do so here.

#12 Philadelphia Eagles-Living down in South Jersey now, I listen to a lot of local sports radio. It has been apparent for quite a while, most fans want a receiver and could live with Patrick Surtain II. They get their wish here getting the final of the three elite receivers in DeVonta Smith’s teammate Jaylen Waddle. They could always draft Surtain if he is available here but I think fans constantly voicing their annoyance and Eagles drafting staff coming to the realization about what their team could’ve been with either DK Metcalf or Justin Jefferson will keep them on track for a receiver.

#13 Los Angeles Chargers-With the Cowboys and Eagles opting to strengthen other positions, I have Patrick Surtain II falling slightly and the Chargers will be glad to take him here. Justin Herbert looks like he will be a franchise quarterback for years to come and they have solid offensive weapons so I expect them to look to the defensive side here. A talent like Surtain dropping slightly makes the pick even easier.

#14 Minnesota Vikings-Since I have the Cowboys taking Rashawn Slater, the Vikings opt for another top offensive lineman in Alija Vera-Tucker out of USC. Another team loaded with offensive weapons, you’d have to think they get someone to protect Kirk Cousins although their defense was porous down the stretch last season, getting lit up by the Bears, Saints and Lions.

#15 New England Patriots-How weird is it seeing the Patriots picking this high up? They have a lot of issues and the media has more belief in Bill Belichick to rebuild things than I do. This is a tough rebuild this far into his career and after having Tom Brady for so many years. Julian Edelman’s contract was terminated due to a failed physical and soon after retired and he was an important player on the Patriots in recent years and a big part of their identity. A few players did not play last year because of Covid and they will presumably get them back for the 2021 campaign. They certainly are going to be looking for a quarterback with Cam Newton days seemingly numbered. Belichick has the relationship with Nick Saban so Mac Jones could be an option here and there are really so many ways New England could go. I will call for them to take Zaven Collins, a Defensive End and Outside linebacker from Tulsa, one of the good stories in college football last year having an unlikely 6-3 season. To me, he fits well in the mold of a Kyle Van Noy, back on the Patriots after a one year stint with the Dolphins. Collins can serve both on the line and play linebacker and is similarly versatile to Van Noy.

#16 Arizona Cardinals-With Patrick Peterson moving on to the Minnesota Vikings, I’d look for the Cardinals to get a cornerback here. I am expecting Horn and Surtain to long be gone, so the next option on the board at the position is Caleb Farley out of Virginia Tech. I think the Cardinals are in a really nice position right now. They have an offensive identity and know who they are. Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco do not seem as elite as they did this time last year and Arizona upon getting Deandre Hopkins seems to have caught up to them a little bit. They need to take a step forward defensively and with a guy like Farley, they could do that. The future is bright for the Arizona Cardinals.

Check out Part II of my Preview and Predictions coming over the next couple days as we lead up to Thursday’s Draft.

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