Since bowl season has already begun and we’ve got a pretty good idea of the relative tiers of the draft order, it’s time to break out a mock draft.
The order here is based on the current standings after Week 15, with the playoff teams included. Early mock drafts like this are designed to be thought exercises in the potential of what may be, not gospel as to what will actually happen when the NFL holds the draft in late April.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson. Lawrence is No. 1 with a bullet, locked and loaded to be the No. 1 pick. He’s widely seen as a generational-type talent. The Jaguars would be crazy to not select Lawrence if they do wind up with the No. 1 pick. Even if it eventually fails, Lawrence is the only correct decision here.
2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, QB, BYU. The buzz around Wilson has been growing. A great athlete with excellent footwork, Wilson’s improved downfield accuracy and decision-making in 2020 lift him into contention to be the next Jets top-10 QB.
3. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon. Sewell seems as much of a lock to be the Bengals selection as Lawrence does going No. 1 overall. It’s hard to find any mainstream mock draft that doesn’t have the powerful, technically savvy Sewell to Cincinnati. He’s a great starting block for an offensive line that needs to upgrade four starters overnight.
4. Carolina Panthers: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State. Fields makes throwing the ball all over the field look easy with his fantastic mechanics. He’s also a good runner and can handle RPOs. He’d be a nice fit for coach Matt Rhule’s offense and team, even if QB isn’t their biggest need. If they eschew QB, I’d expect Penn State LB Micah Parsons at this juncture.
5. Atlanta Falcons: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama. Hard to know where a new regime will place their value, but in general a cornerback with ball skills like Surtain is more important to a defense than an off-ball LB like Micah Parsons, who is certainly in play here as well.
6. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama. The Dolphins reunite QB Tua Tagovailoa with Waddle, his top downfield target at Alabama. Waddle has electrifying speed, polish to his routes and explosive ability after the catch and on jet sweeps and returns. Adding dynamic weapons is the best way for the Dolphins to maximize Tua’s skills, and a familiar one makes sense.
7. Philadelphia Eagles: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU. There are few more obvious team needs than the Eagles and a playmaking wide receiver. Chase didn’t play in 2020 but the NFL definitely knows about his high-end potential and the production he posted in 2019 with Joe Burrow. Chase has a lot of Keenan Allen to his game but might be a higher-end talent on plays where the ball doesn’t go his direction.
8. Dallas Cowboys: Greg Rousseau, EDGE, Miami FL. Rousseau is a twitchy, high-energy pass rusher with outstanding physical traits. It’s been some time since we’ve seen them with Rousseau not playing in 2020. He’s a high risk/reward talent, something that the Cowboys are perennially attracted to in draft season. They sure could use an infusion of impact talent on D.
9. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern. Another player who opted-out, Slater left a lasting impression with how well he handled Chase Young in 2019. He can play guard or tackle and is the kind of high floor/high ceiling prospect the Chargers need to help build around Justin Herbert.
10. New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State. It’s tough to not give the Giants offense a playmaker here, but the relative depth at WR gives me hope the G-men can land that on Day 2. Parsons is a do-it-all LB who can play the queen of the chessboard in coordinator Patrick Graham’s edition of the Romeo Crennel/Bill Belichick defense, one that requires playmaking LBs to work properly.
11. Detroit Lions: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State. If the new regime wants to hedge their bets away from Matthew Stafford long-term, taking a developmental project like Lance here makes sense. Lance has arm strength to spare but his accuracy and ability to read the field need ample work before he’s ready to play in the NFL.
12. San Francisco 49ers: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech. Farley has size and quickness, as well as the instincts for the passing game that comes from being a converted WR. He’s better in press-man but can handle zone coverage schemes like the one Robert Saleh--or his successor--deploy for the 49ers.
13. Denver Broncos: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame. If you liked Isaiah Simmons in the draft process a year ago, you probably like “JOK”, a three-down LB who can handle playing the hybrid S/LB role. Very impressive athlete to help aid the defensive rebuild in Denver.
14. Minnesota Vikings: Joseph Ossai, EDGE, Texas. Ossai wins with quickness and the ability to flatten around the edge. He’s fantastic going forward and chasing down runs from the backside, playing every rep like it’s the deciding play of the Super Bowl. Ossai would offer the Vikings more pass-rush juice and high-end athletic potential.
15. New England Patriots: Kyle Pitts, TE/WR, Florida. Pitts lit up the SEC with his size, speed and strength. He was listed as a TE in college but his game is more akin to WRs Mike Evans and D.K. Metcalf, but deployed from the slot or flex alignment. The Patriots need three of him but getting the real one is a great start for their underwhelming offense.
16. Chicago Bears: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama. The most electrifying receiver in college football, Smith runs great routes and secures catches quickly at all levels. He’s got playmaking ability after the catch and a sophisticated development as a receiver. Smith would go much higher if he weighed more than 175 pounds soaking wet, and his frame appears maxed out. The Bears can take the chance to help whoever might be throwing the ball.
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State. Olave has an outstanding all-around game as a playmaking receiver. His separation skills and contested-catch ability are ready to roll, and he’s very good after the catch--something that should endear him to Jon Gruden and Derek Carr in the Raiders’ offense.
18. Baltimore Ravens: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota. Bateman can win at any level of the defense and adapts well to QB improvisation, a key attribute to pair with Lamar Jackson. His size and ability to catch balls away from his body would make a very welcome addition to a current receiving corps that doesn’t offer enough of either attribute.
19. Washington Football Team: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State. Walker doesn’t get enough buzz for his smooth athleticism at his size. He’s the kind of tackle Ron Rivera has always liked to feature: smart, fluid, tough, able to play right or left. At this point it’s hard to see them not addressing the offense with this pick.
20. Arizona Cardinals: Wyatt Davis, OL, Ohio State. Davis has power, he has technique and he has pedigree--his grandfather is Hall of Famer Willie Davis. He looks like a ready-made starter at either guard spot, an area where the Cardinals can certainly stand to upgrade.
21. Miami Dolphins: Kwity Paye, EDGE, Michigan. Paye has the size and strength to play the flex EDGE role in Brian Flores’ defense, and his ability to use his hands to shed blocks stands out. His production was very streaky but Paye is still growing and learning how to attack the offenses.
22. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech. The length and hand usage for Darrisaw says he’s a ready-made left tackle. The footwork and snarl say he’s a left guard. The Buccaneers can figure that out once they get the big Hokie into the OL room, where they need the most help.
23. Indianapolis Colts: Azeez Olujari, EDGE, Georgia. Oluljari is on the smaller side but his great burst off the snap and quick feet make him very effective as a pass-rush presence who knows how to finish. He’d make a nice addition to a defensive front that needs young reinforcements. They have the talent at LB to live with Olujari being a pass-rush specialist early on.
24. Cleveland Browns: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina. With Greedy Williams uncertain to return and no real depth around Denzel Ward locked up, Horn makes a lot of sense. Horn’s an aggressive playmaker, albeit a streaky one, with the size and speed to play outside opposite Ward.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State. The most NFL-ready actual tight end in the draft, Freiermuth would make a nice pairing with Lawrence (or another QB). This pick could and probably should morph to OT if Cam Robinson leaves in free agency.
26. New York Jets (from Seattle Seahawks): Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson. A home-run hitter with receiving ability out of the backfield, Etienne is a great potential fit for a Jets offense that must surround the QB with better weapons.
27. Tennessee Titans: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami FL. The Titans pass rush is the worst in the league, and Phillips can help fix that. There are warts to his game (power, durability) but Phillips brings the sizzle off either side and has some ability to play in space, too.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama. Harris is a big, no-nonsense type of running back. He’s bigger (6-2/230) than many LBs and he’s going to go through them, not around them. For a relatively stiff runner, Harris is also a pretty good receiver. He’s a Pittsburgh kind of runner for a Steelers team that needs more runners.
29. New Orleans Saints: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa. Collins has the size and skill set to play as a pass-rushing OLB but also the fluidity to turn and run with most TEs in man coverage. His range and versatility help him fit in a defense that needs both in New Orleans. High floor prospect that might never be more than a “good player”, but that’s not a negative in this range of the draft.
30. Buffalo Bills: Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State. Radunz has a lot of athletic tools but they aren’t quite organized in an NFL box just yet. His ability to seal an edge and steer speed rushers high and outside is a nice fit for a mobile QB like Josh Allen. More of a long-term pick here than immediate impact.
31. Green Bay Packers: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri. A physical seek-and-destroy type of backer who sets a tone with his power and through-the-whistle demeanor. He can play inside in Green Bay’s scheme but can also hang on the outside for defenses that don’t mind him being just 6 feet tall with shorter range.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: Jevon Holland, DB, Oregon. He might be a free safety, he might be a slot corner, but in either place, Holland brings coverage grit and some ball skills. He’s smart, versatile and tackles well, checking all the boxes the Chiefs need in the secondary.