By Lenn Robbins
Colts QB Phillip Rivers’ announced his retirement. Saints QB Drew Brees is expected to do the same. The futures of Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger and Washington QB Alex Smith are undecided, prompting us to move a fifth QB, Alabama’s Mac Jones, into the first round.
The status of Houston QB Deshaun Watson also remains unresolved. If the Texans are forced to trade him it could alter the NFL landscape. And although he has another year on his contract, would Tom Brady decide to retire if he wins a seventh Super Bowl? It seems like every year there’s a demand for quarterbacks.
Think a lot has changed since our first mock draft?!
New Jets coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas, as expected, didn’t really help us get clarity on what the team plans to do with the No.2. pick. The Jets could be the biggest mover and shaker in this draft. They have the draft capital and salary cap space to swing a deal for Houston’s disgruntled star quarterback Deshawn Watson.
Or, they could trade back and help expedite the building process, which likely means sticking with QB Sam Darnold. Saleh, the former 49ers defensive coordinator, got a firsthand look at Darnold when the Jets lost 31-13 to San Francisco in MetLife Stadium on September 21st. Although Saleh praised Darnold, his defense smothered the third-year quarterback holding him to 21-of-32 for 179 yards with one touchdown and no picks. The lone touchdown, however, didn’t come until 1:23 was left in the game.
“He’s got unbelievable arm talent,” Saleh said. “There’s a reason why he was the No. 3 pick in the draft. He’s fearless in the pocket. He’s got a natural throwing motion. He’s mobile. He’s extremely intelligent and he’s tough as nails. His reputation in the locker room is unquestioned.
“Just that in general, there’s a reason why he was the third pick in the draft and you can see all those qualities on tape and around the building in the way people speak about him.”
So that means the Jets are not going to pursue Watson, if Houston decides to trade the disgruntled quarterback?
“I can’t get into any discussions about a player that’s not on our team,” Douglas said. “Like [Saleh] alluded to and I’ll say now, our next step in the process is to get together as a staff, go over all the guys that are on our team, really get their perspective from watching the tape and include the perspective of the people that have been here the last few years. It’s going to be a really great meeting that really sets the foundation for our offseason.”
The most important date of that offseason is April 29th, when the NFL Draft is held in Cleveland. The Jets aren’t the only franchise approaching the offseason with a new coach, which makes this year’s draft particularly intriguing. The Chargers, Falcons, Jaguars, Jets, Lions have hired coaches while the Eagles position remains open.
Now that the Division Round of the NFL playoffs is complete and the AFC and NFC titles games are upon us, we bring you our second NFL Mock Draft.
We will update our selections after each round of the playoffs and after the NFL Combine (March 8-11). Because this is our second mock and the order at the bottom of the draft might change as the playoffs progress, there are no trades as of now.
There is hope, however, as each team is looking to find that one under-the-radar prospect. Who will find the next Travis Kelce (3rd round, 63rd pick overall, 2013) or the next Richard Sherman (5th round, 154th overall, 2011) or the next Antonio Brown (6th round, 195th overall, 2010)
- Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson – Every place Urban Meyer has succeeded, he’s developed quarterbacks. Josh Harris was a star at Bowling Green. Utah’s Alex Smith wrote one of the great comeback stories of all time, saved Washington’s season. Tim Tebow won a Heisman at Florida. Braxton Miller and Cardale Jones were terrific QBs at Ohio State. None of them were as heralded as Lawrence.
2. Jets – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon – Saleh comes from the defensive side so he knows how bad the Jets offense was. He also loves physical football. Sewell, and last year’s pick, Mekhi Becton = Bookend tackles, a good place to start.
3. Dolphins – DaVonta Smith, WR, Alabama – In Tua they trust. In their wide receivers, not so much. It’s a ‘Bama reunion. If Lawrence is a generational talent at QB, Smith deserves the same designation at wide receiving.
4. Falcons – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU – The hiring of Titans former offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as head coach points to Atlanta taking a QB. Smith did wonders with Ryan Tannehill. He’d be a great fit for a young QB who can learn from Matt Ryan.
5. Bengals – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern – Did you see the injury suffered by franchise QB Joe Burrow? ‘Nuff said. There is some talent in Cincy but not on the O-Line. Bottom line, Burrow threw for 2,688 yards in just 10 games. Protect the man.
6. Eagles – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU – Rumor has it that Patriots longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is the favorite to replace Doug Peterson. Assuming Hurts is their QB, better get him some help downfield, now.
7. Lions – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama – The more you look at the Lions the more you see just how flawed this roster is. They were last in total defense. Detroit needs to seriously consider trading assets and the No.7 pick is a good place to start.
8. Panthers – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State – So much respect for Teddy Bridgewater but Matt Ruhle is getting paid more than $8.4 million per season to turn things around quickly. Ruhle went heavy on defense last year. He gets his QB this year.
9. Broncos – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State – The Broncos must decide on the option they hold on DE Von Miller. S Justin Simmons played (terrifically) on the franchise tag. Jurrell Casey missed of the season with a biceps tear. Got defense? Not so much.
10. Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama – There is debate about far or close the Cowboys are to being a top contender. It wouldn’t be shocking if Dallas traded down. If so, Surtain II is probably off the board but Jaycee Horn, our favorite DB, might not be.
11. Giants – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida – The Giants will never know if Daniel Jones is a franchise QB if they don’t get him more talent at WR/TE. Evan Engram is an inconsistent talent. Giants can move him or play them both. Both are WRs playing TE.
12. 49ers – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St. – Bill Belichick was correct, again; Jimmy G not the answer. Remember, even without Saleh (new Jets coach), San Fran has a dominating defense. The Niners don’t need to score 35 points to win. But they can’t average 24.7.
13. Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech – The Chargers made 2 curious (dubious) decisions already. They fired coach Anthony Lynn and hired Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. Priority 1 – Protect Justin Herbert.
14. Vikings – Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami – The Vikings have one last season with Kirk Cousins, which could be good or bad. The title window is closing. The Vikes slipped to 29th in defense. Rousseau could be a game changer.
15. Patriots – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue – One wonders if Cam Newton is too beaten up to be an elite QB. Regardless, no QB could succeed with this lack of skill players. Moore is our favorite offensive player, an offensive Swiss Army knife who Belichick can deploy.
16. Cardinals – Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa – Khyler Murray is a magnificent talent but he can’t compensate for his team’s defensive deficiencies like Patrick Mahomes does. Cards need to get a lot more physical to compete with Rams, 49ers and Seahawks.
17. Raiders – Caleb Fairley, CB, Virginia Tech – Always fun trying to predict the most unpredictable franchise in the NFL. Jon Gruden has finished 4th, 3rd and 2nd. It sounds like progress. But this year’s 2nd-place finished came via an 8-8 record, not a great return on a 10-year, $10 million deal. A shutdown corner opposite Trayvon Mullen would help. Or, do the Raiders trade up for a QB. Anything is possible. Maybe they love Darnold?
18. Dolphins – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama – Is Tua Tagovailoa the answer? The best way to find out is to surround him with elite talent. We gave him the best WR in the draft. Now we add the best RB. Harris is a three-down back.
19. Washington – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC – The Redskins have a big decision to make: do they take Mac Jones, who could be off the board with the next pick? Of course, Alex Smith’s decision to return is huge. Regardless, the O-line needs to be bolstered.
20. Bears – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama – Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles? Foles or Trubisky? How about the box where Carol is now standing? Chicago makes its QB room a Three-card Monte, hoping like heck that Jones is the winning card.
21. Colts – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota – Phillip Rivers announced his retirement leaving Indy’s QB depth chart consisting of Jacoby Brissett and Jacob Eason. This is a win-now roster. Carson Wentz? They need another WR opposite Michael Pittman Jr.
22. Titans – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, OLB, Notre Dame– Wide receiver is tempting here but the Titans might like what they saw from former No.1 pick Corey Davis and A.J. Brown, surgery on both knees, should be better. Titans couldn’t find the QB with Waze.
23. Jets – Jaelan Phillips, DE/OLB, Miami – If we know one thing about Saleh it’s that it all starts up front. They used the 13th pick on Javon Kinlaw to bolster an already strong line. Phillips is our favorite defensive player in the draft.
24. Steelers – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa – Devin Bush (ACL) should be back. Bud Dupree (ACL), also should return but he’s a free agent and the cash-strapped Steelers may not be able to keep him. As coach Mike Tomlin said, Pittsburgh died on the vine this season.
25. Jaguars – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina – Urban Meyer had a hand in six Ohio State cornerbacks who were No.1 picks. Horn is his kind of player, a press corner with a physical style. Jacksonville never replaced Jalen Ramsey, the best corner in football.
26. Browns – Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan – No team outside of Buffalo cemented itself more as a team on the rise. Paye would make Myles Garrett more dangerous. They must protect QB Baker Mayfield from himself so it will be interesting to see what they do with OBJ.
27. Ravens – Terrace Marshall, Jr., WR, LSU – For the second straight season the Ravens ended with a terrible passing game performance. Marquise Brown had 87 of the Raven’s 162 receiving yards in the playoff loss. Lamar Jackson, who will never be a pure passer, needs more weapons to compensate for his shortcomings.
28. Saints – Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama – There is talk about the Saints taking Florida’s Kyle Trask here. QB usually gets the nod come draft day. But we think they go with a Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill combo in 2021. And a more dominating defense.
29. Bucs – Wyatt Davis, OG, Ohio State – We have knighted center Ryan Jensen Sir Chirpy. Brady has one year left on his deal. He was only sacked 21 times and threw just 12 picks in 2020 but in the 5 games Tampa lost he was sacked 11 times and picked off 9 times.
30. Bills – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama – Three-fifths of the Bills O line is about to enter free agency. We thought about a stout defensive tackle, such as Washington’s Levi Onwuzurike, but when you have a franchise QB, you protect the man.
31. Packers – Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC – The combination of Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams was not only the best this season but one of the best in any NFL season. This year Rodgers finally gets a counterbalance to Adams. St. Brown is Pittman Jr. redux.
32. Chiefs – Joseph Ossai, DE/LB, Texas – The Chiefs might lose CB Bashaud Breeland to free agency but they might have his replacement in former Giants CB Deandre Baker. Ossai is a three-down backer. QB Patrick Mahomes can’t do everything – well almost.