In a normal year, the NFL Combine would be right around the corner. Of course, this isn’t a normal year, and the combine has already been canceled.
That throws yet another wrench into what is expected to be an uncharacteristic offseason on a number of fronts. In terms of the pre-draft process, there’s usually clear stages such as the combine, pro days, etc. Without those benchmarks this spring, it’s harder to pick up on trends and make predictions.
However, that doesn’t mean we can’t try. Making a handful of assumptions about what’s to come in terms of trades and free agency, here’s the first first-round mock draft of the year from Alex Barth and Matt Dolloff.
1. Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Any other selection should be a fireable offense. Lawrence is a generational prospect, with the highest floor and ceiling of any quarterback in the draft. Don’t try to get cute here. -Alex Barth
2. Jets: QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
Easy choice for the Jets, even though they entered the offseason still with Sam Darnold at quarterback. Fields is a next-level dynamic dual-threat QB in the mold of Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson. We’ll see how well he can put everything together at the NFL level. But his tools and his makeup are enough to entrench him as a no-doubt No. 2 pick for whoever ends up in this spot. -Matt Dolloff
3. Texans: QB Zach Wilson, BYU
We didn’t want to jump around with a bunch of first-round trades in this mock, but a Deshaun Watson deal seems inevitable at this point. Miami can ultimately put up the better offer, so they land Watson in this situation.
Even if Tua Tagovailoa is part of the return for Houston, he’s far from a sure thing due to his medical history. Nick Caserio (and Jack Easterby) can’t afford to spin their wheels without a QB, so Wilson is the pick here to make sure they’re taken care of. –AB
4. Falcons: CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama
There’s two directions the Falcons can go with their first overall pick. They can either take a quarterback and prepare for life after Matt Ryan, or bolster their roster for one last run with him.
In this scenario, it’s option two. Offensively, the Falcons are in pretty good shape – it’s the defensive side of the ball they need help with. Surtain is arguably not just the best defensive player in this draft, but the most NFL ready. In a division with Mike Evans, Michael Thomas, and Robby Anderson, a shutdown man corner like Surtain is a must for Atlanta.
All that being said, this spot makes a lot of sense for a team looking to trade up for a QB. –AB
5. Bengals: T Penei Sewell, Oregon
You can’t draft Joe Burrow just to leave him unprotected. Sewell has been described as a generational tackle talent, and the Bengals would be lucky to get him fifth overall. The strength of this year’s quarterback class is probably the only thing allowing that to happen. –AB
6. Eagles: WR Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
Let me take this opportunity to remind people mock drafts are predictions. They’re what the writer thinks the team will do, not should do.
The Eagles need wide receiver help, so the position here isn’t much of a shocker. Why Chase over a guy like DeVonta Smith? In the past, Philly has shown an affinity for big, more physical receivers. That’s what they’d be getting in Chase. –AB
7. Lions: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State
In what’s become a common occurrence, Parsons is worthy of a top-5 pick but drops a bit because of quarterbacks. With three QBs and generational prospects like Penei Sewell going early this year, Parsons has to “settle” for seventh overall. He’s the next in a line of impressive do-it-all linebackers coming into the league. Hopefully the Lions don’t ruin him. -MD
8. Panthers: QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
The Panthers have one year remaining on Teddy Bridgewater’s contract, with no immediate plan at QB after that. They’re in the perfect position to take Lance, then let him develop for a year before becoming the starter. –AB
9. Broncos: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Farley is a football player. He played quarterback in high school and Virginia Tech originally considered converting him to wide receiver. As a result, Farley brings an uncommon mix of size (6-foot-2) and high-end speed to the cornerback position. Known for his aggressiveness making plays on the ball, Farley has a chance to be a real hawk at the NFL level. -MD
10. Cowboys: CB Jaycee Horn, South Carolina
Ready to feel like a fossil? Jaycee is the son of former NFL wideout Joe Horn. Sorry. Anyway, Jaycee projects as a starting outside corner in press-man coverage. Think J.C. Jackson, perhaps a better version. He also has experience playing the slot, which could help his value to teams. -MD
11. Giants: WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama
This is probably a bit of a slide for Smith compared to the current expectations, but so many of the non-QB needy teams in the top-10 recently invested heavily in a wide receiver. With back-to-back strong classes at the position, talented players are going to fall.
The ones benefiting from his slip are the Giants, who get the true number one threat they need to unlock as much of Daniel Jones’ potential as possible. Smith certainly has some Odell Beckham Jr. in his game, and would be a great fit for New York’s offense. –AB
12. 49ers: T Rashawn Slater, Northwestern
The only way San Francisco is going to win with Jimmy Garoppolo is to keep him clean in the pocket. Trent Williams is a free agent, and the team doesn’t have a ton of cap space heading into the offseason.
Instead of paying Williams, they can grab the best offensive tackle available, and use the money they would have paid Williams to grab two or three players to bolster their secondary. –AB
13. Chargers: T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech
The Chargers get their blindside protector for Justin Herbert. Darrisaw showed high-end technique in both the running and passing games at Virginia Tech, and that’s expected to translate well at the NFL level as well. L.A. is in a solid spot of having quarterback sewn up for now and their pick of the best player available at another position. -MD
14. Vikings: EDGE Kwity Paye, Michigan
Paye is a bit of a late bloomer who’s still developing, and it remains to be seen exactly how and where he fits in an NFL defensive front. But he has the kind of athleticism to belong near the top of an NFL roster right away. The Vikings would be getting a prospect with one of the higher ceilings in the draft, but one that still needs a little more molding than others. -MD
15. Patriots: WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
One way to cure Bill Belichick’s ills drafting wide receivers: just get the friggin’ Alabama kid. What do Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, and Calvin Ridley have in common? They’re all Alabama receivers drafted in the first round, and they’re all legit No. 1 receivers. Pretty soon we’ll be adding Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs to that list. This year it’s Devonta Smith and now Waddle, who has legit speed and a surprising catch radius for his 5-foot-10 frame. He also lines up all over the field, so you can’t even rule this pick out for Belichick. If the Patriots draft Waddle and he doesn’t work out, they’re honestly cursed. -MD
16. Cardinals: TE Kyle Pitts, Florida
Yeah, Arizona could probably use some defensive help, but don’t expect Kilff Kingsbury to be interested in that. Instead the Cardinals add yet another weapon for Kyler Murray in Pitts.
Pitts is a big, physical, contested catch receiver whose size and strength make him a challenge to cover one-on-one. Having one pass catcher in that mold is tough enough on a defense. But pairing him with DeAndre Hopkins, who is the standard for that prototype? Look out. –AB
17. Raiders: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
Owusu-Koramoah is a converted safety and still a bit undersized for a linebacker, making him more of a hybrid. But he’s legitimately explosive with the versatility to play three downs. A former “rover” at Notre Dame, Owusu-Koramoah could be used in a variety of ways by Jon Gruden and fit well as a modern NFL defender. -MD
18. Dolphins: WR Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
If you’re going to sell the farm for Deshaun Watson, you’d better get him some help. Bateman is a big, physical, technically sound receiver, and the kind of player Watson always had success throwing to in Houston. –AB
19. Washington: T Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC
A quarterback could be in play for Washington, but with a veteran coach in Ron Rivera and top-ranked defense, it feels like trading for an established veteran is the better play, to capitalize on the roster they currently have.
If that happens, WFT can’t afford as much in-season turnover at the position as they had last year. This pick helps make sure whoever they do end up bringing in stays healthy. –AB
20. Bears: T Alex Leatherwood, Alabama
At the time this mock draft is being put together, the Bears are the favorite to land Carson Wentz. That move would take them out of the QB draft conversation, specifically when it comes to Mac Jones.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Bears need to make sure that after trading for Wentz, they protect their investment. Chicago surrendered 36 sacks last year, and QB injuries derailed a promising start to their season. –AB
21. Colts: QB Mac Jones, Alabama
Oddly enough, the Bears biggest opponent in the Wentz sweepstakes is Indy, who pick right after them in the first round. If the Colts swoop in and flip the tables on the trade, you can also go ahead and flip these last two picks.
The Colts just tried going the veteran QB route, and it ended with a first-round playoff exit. It’s time for them to think long-term at the position. They still have a promising roster, so there’s a good chance they stay competitive as Jones learns the NFL game. –AB
22. Titans: DT Christian Barmore, Alabama
A run of three straight Alabama picks turns to the defensive side of the football. Tennessee was abysmal against the run last year, and desperately need a player with Barmore’s size and strength in the middle of their defensive line. His athleticism will make him a factor as a pass rusher as well. –AB
23. Jets: S Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, TCU
The Jets still have Marcus Maye at safety, but they haven’t come close to replacing Jamal Adams. They may find an ideal replacement in Moehrid-Woodard, a big, physical, aggressive safety who projects as a starter in the NFL. He may not be as dynamic as Adams, but maybe he’d be less of an outspoken pain in the butt off the field? -MD
24. Steelers: QB Kyle Trask, Florida
The Steelers make their first legitimate attempt at a potential successor for Ben Roethlisberger. Mason Rudolph was never going to be it. Put Trask in Big Ben’s place and he’ll have a pretty good situation around him for what he needs, with weapons and a good offensive line in place. Trask has limitations in the arm strength and mobility departments, so naturally he will slip. But he has a chance to be a very good pocket passer in the NFL if he lands in the right spot. Pittsburgh could be it. -MD
25. Jaguars: EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Rousseau is a converted wide receiver/safety and missed most of the 2018 season with an ankle injury, so he’s a bit of a late developer. But he has a chance to be a versatile and disruptive defensive lineman at the highest level. With this pick, the Jags may be getting the defensive complement they need for Trevor Lawrence. -MD
26. Browns: EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami
A former five-star recruit, Phillips has the versatility to fit any scheme in the NFL. He projects as a productive outside linebacker type. Pairing him with Myles Garrett could give the Browns a formidable defensive front to pair with their ascending offense. -MD
27. Ravens: WR Kadarius Toney, Florida
The Ravens need wide receiver help, but they also need a receiver who can play in the context of their very specific offensive style. Enter Kadarius Toney, who was arguably the hardest player to tackle in college football in 2020, and a wizard after the catch. This has the potential to be the best pick in the back half of the first round. –AB
28. Saints: LB Nick Bolton, Missouri
Bolton would add explosiveness and physicality to the middle of the Saints defense. There are questions about his ability to process plays and make the right decisions at the NFL level, but he may just need time to develop that part of his game. Whoever gets him is certainly getting an athlete who can be a disruptive piece for any front-seven. -MD
29. Packers: CB Asante Samuel Jr., Florida State
The NFC Championship Game made it painfully clear that the Packers need to get Jaire Alexander help on the other side of the formation to maximize his effectiveness. In Samuel, they add another potential shutdown corner, who should make decisions tougher for opposing quarterbacks. –AB
30. Bills: LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa
Collins went from three-star recruit to one of the top linebackers in college football after a big 2020 season for Tulsa. He lacks the kind of explosion you’d get in a prospect like Micah Parsons or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, but he should be a very solid player and a good value for whoever lands him at the end of the first round. Here we have the Bills adding Collins to an already-impressive linebacker room. -MD
31. Chiefs: T Samuel Cosmi, Texas
The Chiefs’ injuries at tackle proved costly in Super Bowl LV, and reminded us that having the best quarterback in the world means little if you can’t protect him. So we’ve got the Chiefs shoring up the tackle position with Cosmi, despite having Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz both under contract for 2021. Mitchell Schwartz is considering retirement after suffering a serious back injury in 2020, so it’s best to get someone sooner rather than later. -MD
32. Buccaneers: RB Najee Harris, Alabama
Tom Brady gets yet another weapon, and Felger and Mazz get about eight weeks’ worth of material on the stupid Bucs. But Harris has big-time potential as a hard-to-tackle power back in the Derrick Henry mold, with upside in the passing game. If Brady gets the ability to just hand it off to this moose at the goal line, the Bucs offense has a chance to be even better. -MD