By Lenn Robbins
Finally, the quarterback situation is beginning to stabilize. Or is it?
The Jets traded former 1st-round pick Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a 6th-round pick in this year’s draft and a 2nd-rounder and 4th-rounder next year. The Jets are making a fresh start. So is Darnold.
That’s one team’s QB scenario resolved.
The 49ers paid a steep price to move up to No.3 by trading their 1st-round pick (No.12), a 3rd-round pick this year and their 1st-round picks in 2022 and 2023 to the Dolphins. Assuming the Jets take BYU QB Zach Wilson with the second pick, San Fran will have its choice of Alabama’s Mac Jones, Ohio State’s Justin Fields or North Dakota State’s Trey Lance.
That’s another team’s QB scenario resolved.
The Panthers are hoping they can turn Darnold, the former No.3 pick in 2018, into the star many thought he would be. We’d like to say this is another scenario resolved and maybe it is. Or maybe it isn’t.
What if the Panthers include Darnold in a blockbuster deal should the Texans decide to trade embattled QB Deshaun Watson. He is enmeshed in what has become one of the most unusual situations in NFL history.
Back in January, Watson demanded to be traded after the Texans hired Nick Caserio as their new GM without consulting the team superstar. The trading speculation frenzy was underway, even though Caserio insisted Watson wasn’t going anywhere.
Fast forward a few months. Houston attorney Tony Buzbee filed suit in mid-March alleging that Watson engaged in unspecified misconduct with women. By early April Buzbee had filed suits on behalf of 22 women, alleging sexual assault or misconduct. Watson’s future is in limbo.
That has conspiracy theorists coming out of the woodwork. What if this is some despicable plot by the Texans, or persons affiliated with the team, to make Watson enough of a pariah for trade partners to back away? Or worse, what if this is a way to drive him out of football?
Absurd? Impossible? Probablt. But hey, the Internet is Crazy City. Although Colin Kaepernick was blackballed by an entire league. Hmm. The worst-case scenario, of course, is that one, or any of the accusers was victimized.
The accusations take priority over where Watson will play, if he will play. Watson and his attorney have vociferously and repeatedly asserted his innocence. If he is able to play, consider these scenarios:
The Dolphins now have six 1st-round draft picks over the next three seasons. Meaning they have more than enough draft capital to trade for Watson. That would mean trading Tua Tagovailoa and getting back, perhaps, a 3rd-rounder.
The Texans, of course, would be looking for a quarterback with the sixth pick. The 49ers, having acquired the No.3 pick, clearly are moving on from Jimmy Garoppolo, who has been linked with New England more than clam chowder.
The Bears need an upgrade at quarterback. The Broncos need an upgrade, and just might use the No.9 pick, in the relentless pursuit of the next John Elway. The Patriots, Redskins, Saints, and in one year, the Steelers and Vikings, need a QB.
Yes, some teams seemingly have gained clarity at the most important position in the sport. And some have not.
Welcome to our latest Mock Draft. The real one begins April 29th. We will have two more mock drafts before the fortune of some teams are decided at the end of the month.
- 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, saving 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, who wowed at Clemson’s pro day.
- Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU – Justin Fields has made Joe Douglass’s job a very difficult one. The Ohio State QB (6-3, 228) ran a 4.44 at his pro day and made some terrific throws. In other words, he’s not far off from Derrick Henry (6-3, 238, 4.54 40) with an arm. Where sticking with Wilson. Call it the “It” Factor.
- 49ers – Mac Jones, QB, Ohio State – We’re not convinced that Jones is the third best QB in this draft. But Jones and Lawrence are the two most-ready Day 1 starters. San Fran is in win-now mode and Jones gives them the best chance to win now before all the draft picks it traded away comes back to bite.
- Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida – Atlanta could stand pat and take Trey Lance as their QB of the future but why settle for the 4th QB in this draft when Matt Ryan is still producing at an elite level? Pitts could be a generational talent. Trading down is definitely a possibility.
- Bengals – Penei Sewel, OT, Oregon – Cincy must do everything in its power to keep Joe Burrow healthy. Another major knee injury and all bets are off for the former Heisman Trophy winner. And that would be a shame.
- Dolphins – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU – One has to admire the way the Fish are doing business. They slide down just a few slots, add picks to an already emerging team and still take the best WR in the draft.
- Lions – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State- Can’t believe the Lions think Jared Goff is their QB of the future. Fields gets to sit a year and Detroit, which hopes to never pick this high again in the near future, gets to see if it hit the jackpot.
- Panthers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern – Wouldn’t it be nice to see Darnold flourish in Carolina? One way to make that happen is to protect the kid, who was hit so often you’d think he insulted all his offensive lineman. Slater might turn out to be better than Sewel.
- Broncos – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St. – The QB quandary will hang over the Broncos until they make their pick. Denver has gone heavy on offense the last few drafts, at the expense of the defense. Parsons is the best defensive player in the draft. Then again, Trey Lance is out there…
- Cowboys –– Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama – Lord knows the Cowboys need help at CB and there are three to choose from. Virginia Tech’s Caleb Fairley, South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II. Surtain II is the most polished and will form a Bama cornerback duo with Trevon Diggs.
- Giants –– Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama – I’ve always wondered how much more potent Bama’s offense would have been last season with a healthy Waddle to pair with Smith. If Daniel Jones is going to prove he’s a franchise QB, he needs the tools to make game-breaking plays. Giants win by standing pat.
- Eagles –. Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina – Let the Great NFC East Cornerback Debate begin. It seems since the day after the Eagles won the Super Bowl they’ve had major problems in the secondary. Of course, the real question is at QB where Jalen Hurts will be scrutinized.
- Chargers – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech – The Chargers need only look at what happened to Bengals QB Joe Burrow last season to know how to proceed. Justin Herbert was the surprise QB of the 2020 season. He looks and acts the part. Don’t mess with your leading man.
- Vikings – Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami – We expect Phillips to shoot up draft boards after his pro workouts. He pops off the screen. The Vikings have one last season with Kirk Cousins, which could be good or bad. Either way the Vikes slipped to 29th in defense.
- Pats – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State – Wouldn’t this just s$!k? The Pats sit tight and the wild card QB falls to them. Fields played one game last year after playing just one season. Of course, he did throw 28 touchdowns and no interceptions in that one season.
- Cardinals – Caleb Fairley, CB, Virginia Tech – Having opted not to retain Patrick Peterson, cornerback becomes a need. Arizona is competing in the toughest division in the NFL. Too many terrific receivers too leave this unaddressed. Tech has a tradition of putting out great defensive backs.
- Raiders – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC – We had the Raiders going defensive line but they spent heavily in that area in free agency. So we switch to the other side. Vegas traded away C Rodney Hudson and T Trent Brown. Vera-Tucker is a Day One starter.
- Dolphins – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama – We gave Tua a great weapon in Chase. We give him another in Harris. Clemson’s Travis Etienne is an option here. He’s not as strong as Harris but has quicker acceleration and change of pace. Both are excellence receivers. Harris is a beast as a blocker.
- Washington – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame – We had Rondale Moore going here because the offense needs weapons but Washington believes it addressed that with the signing of Curtis Samuels. They lost LB Kevin Pierre-Louis. O-K adds to an elite defense.
- Bears – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State – We still have no idea what the Bears are doing at quarterback. Exit former No.1 pick Mitch Trubisky, enter Andy Dalton. Whoever ends up under center needs protecting.
- Colts – Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan – Indy lost T Anthony Costanzo to retirement. The Colts have to protect Carson Wentz who the confidence beat out of him in Philly. But is there another O-lineman worth a first-rounder? The defense, which was exceptional, lost DE Denico Autry. Enter the raw but gifted Paye.
- Titans – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue – The Titans believe they addressed their pass rush with the signing of Autry and Bud Dupree. The addition of WR Josh Reynolds is nice but not a game changer. Moore can be moved around more than U-Haul trailer.
- Jets – Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky – We believe that when in doubt, Saleh’s Jets will tilt towards defense. Kentucky Mark Stoops knows how to develop defensive players. Remember Josh Allen? Think a smaller version with crazy athleticism.
- Steelers – Azeez Ojulari, LB, Georgia – The retirement of Maurkice Pouncey makes center a priority but we think Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey or Bama’s Landon Dickerson could be available in Round 2. Pittsburgh lost Bud Dupree to free agency and Devin Bush is recovering from an ACL.
- Jaguars – Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama – Urban Meyer targeted secondary and defensive line as two areas that need upgrading The Jags signed CB Shaq Griffin to play opposite C.J. Henderson. DT remains a major weakness. Barmore gives him a DT with pass rush abilities..
- Browns – Jason Oweh, DE, Penn State – The Browns are in a position of luxury. There is no glaring need. Oweh is a little raw but players with his athleticism don’t come along often. He can play opposite Myles Garrett and by the end of the season, quarterbacks won’t want to face this defense.
- Ravens – Gregory Rousseau, Miami, DE – We’ve been heavy on WR for the Ravens but they lost a lot on the edge in free agency. Rousseau would be a real get at 27. He’s exactly the type of Baltimore defensive player who plays with an edge, off the edge.
- Saints – Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida – We’ve had the Saints going defense here and that certainly could be the case. But if New Orleans sticks with Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill at QB, they’ll need another playmaker to open up things for Michael Thomas. Toney can work the slot, return kicks and punts. Think gadget plays.
- Packers – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota – The situation in Green Bay gets more fraught as we get closer to the draft. Last year they didn’t get Aaron Rodgers any help. Bateman perfectly complements Devante Adams and keeps Rodgers from going to Jeopardy. Man, he’s good at that, too
- Bills – Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson – KC remains the team to beat in the AFC, boasting elite talent at QB, TE, WR and a devilish RB in Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Bills have elite talent at QB, WR and now RB. Etienne and Josh Allen in the same backfield? Scary.
- Chiefs – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern – Everyone saw the Super Bowl. The Chiefs O-line needs help. So does the secondary. KC already began rebuilding the line in free agency and with no O-Lineman worth a first-round pick, the Chiefs address cornerback.
- Bucs – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa – Thought long and hard about a CB here but the Bucs front seven is beginning to show some age. Ndamukong Suh is 34, Jason Pierre Paul, 32, Lavonte David 31. Collins is best in space, a terrific defender in the passing game.