Kyle Yates’ NFL Mock Draft 4.0
Did you know that we are now under 50 days until the start of the 2021 NFL Draft?
There’s nothing quite like the anticipation and nervous energy that football fans have on that first night of the Draft. It’s one of my favorite things in the world and there’s a strong possibility that the anxiety is cranked up to max levels this year due to all the unknowns.
With no official Combine this year, NFL teams are going to have to rely on Pro Day testing numbers – which tend to be notoriously overinflated – and their film evaluations. On top of that, there are some athletes who didn’t even suit up for their schools in 2020 due to Covid-19 concerns.
We can do our best to sit down and sift through all the noise in an attempt to project these players to their best fits, but there are absolutely going to be some selections in the first round that catch us all off guard. At the end of the day, it’s going to be must-watch television.
This is the last mock draft before NFL Free Agency starts on March 15th, which is going to drastically alter team needs across the league. Our mock drafts could look very different come next week, but there’s still benefit in this exercise and bringing talented players to the forefront of people’s minds.
Below, you’ll find my biggest mock draft yet this off-season! You’ll find three rounds disclosed, which allows for more players to be discussed, but also presents a bigger picture for what a team’s draft haul could look like! I’d love to hear your thoughts on your favorite team’s selections, so feel free to reach out over on Twitter and let me know what you think!
(All trade values were calculated using The Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine)
Urban Meyer didn’t come out of retirement to coach anyone else other than Lawrence. This has been the pick since the start of 2021 mock drafts and it will continue to be the pick through draft day.
NFL talent evaluators appear to be enamored with Wilson and his potential at the next level. He’s got a strong arm, can make unscripted throws off platform, and has great accuracy at all levels of the field. There’s certainly still some projection to his game, but the ceiling is through the roof. The Jets seem ready to take calls for Sam Darnold, which means that they’re unlikely to move out of this pick.
Carolina’s been sniffing around the veteran QB market this off-season as they seek to find an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater. Matt Rhule and company are going to want their long-term answer as they rebuild this franchise from the ground up and they’re going to be aggressive if that’s what it takes. Fields has experienced a bit of a “tumble” in NFL Draft media circles recently, but there’s nothing on his tape to indicate that he should fall out of the top-5 in this draft. He certainly has things to work on to succeed at the next level, but the upside is tremendous.
The Falcons could look to the future and address QB, but they have too many other needs at this point. They’re willing to move back and Denver moves up to go get their QB of the future. Lance is a bit of a mystery this draft cycle due to the weird 2020 CFB season, but the skills and talents are all there to be a high-level QB in the NFL sooner than later. The Broncos need to rework their QB room and Lance is a significant upgrade over Drew Lock. With the receiving corps that Denver has, plus Lance’s high-level abilities, they could be competing with Kansas City for division titles within the next year or two.
The Bengals need to invest in the offensive line this off-season and protect their young QB. Sewell’s still a bit of a projection due to his absence from CFB this past season, but the upside is off the charts. Sewell’s still only 20 years old, which indicates that he can get even better than the ridiculous tape he put together in 2019. The Bengals have their LT of the next decade with this pick at No. 5 overall.
The Eagles appear to be going all-in with Jalen Hurts for next season, which means that they need to surround him with talent. While Kyle Pitts would be a fun addition to this offense, Chase fills a more traditional role for them and he can do it at an extremely high level. Justin Jefferson was ridiculously productive in his rookie season this past year, but when both of these players were at LSU together, Chase outperformed Jefferson. Chase comes with a very high floor, but then has the potential to continue to grow into one of the league’s best receivers.
The Lions would absolutely consider QB if one was still here on the table worth selecting, but instead they turn their attention towards another massive need on this roster. With Kenny Golladay leaving in free agency, Tyrell Williams and Quintez Cephus are the only noteworthy receivers under contract on this team for 2021. Waddle has ridiculous skills and he’s the first step towards getting talented players into the building. The Lions are in this for the long haul and they won’t fix this franchise overnight. Adding talent – versus drafting for specific needs – has to be the priority. Fortunately, Waddle checks off both boxes for this new front office.
The Dolphins moved back from No. 3 overall and they still get to add a talented player at a key position of need. The Dolphins’ objective this off-season should be to surround Tua Tagovailoa with everything he needs to be successful. Reuniting him with one of his best playmakers from college is a fantastic way to do just that. Smith’s coming off of a record-setting season and he has the skillset to fit in nicely with the other receiving weapons that this franchise has in place already. Plug Smith into this offense and let him and Tua get to work.
The Vikings notice that Slater has taken a bit of a slide and they send away some of their extra draft capital that they have in their arsenal to go get the versatile lineman. Slater’s coming off of putting up ridiculous numbers at the Northwestern Pro Day and his tape rivals Penei Sewell‘s, who went No. 5 overall. Slater can be the Riley Reiff replacement or he can start on the interior and bolster the running game. The talent was simply too much for the Vikings to take the risk that he wasn’t going to be there at their draft spot in a few picks. Meanwhile, Atlanta trades back yet again and continues to amass valuable draft capital to help fill their roster.
The Cowboys could look at Offensive Tackle at this spot of the draft – and I believe they would if Slater were still on the board – but instead they focus on shoring up a glaring position of need with an ultra-talented prospect. Farley’s still relatively new to playing the position, but he’s already a skilled player. With even more development, the impact that Farley could have on the football field is simply ridiculous. NFL teams are looking for the next Jalen Ramsey – a CB that they can leave on an island against the league’s best wideouts – and Farley has the potential to fill that type of role.
The Giants need EDGE help in the worst way and Phillips is a perfect way to address that position of need. He’s a technician with his hands as a pass-rusher and brings incredible athletic traits to the table also. New York could look at addressing WR at this spot if one of the top-3 options were still on the board, but they can focus in on that in the later rounds and take advantage of the depth there.
San Francisco desperately needs to add bodies at the CB position this off-season and one of the best in the Draft is still available to them at this spot. Surtain’s a silky-smooth athlete in space and he shows a fantastic ability to stick with nearly any receiver in man coverage. This fills a huge need for the 49ers and helps keep this defense a strength.
The Chargers have allowed Hunter Henry to walk in free agency and they now have a massive hole to fill in this offense. While Donald Parham is an intriguing talent with some upside, he’s not the type of player that would force the Chargers to pass on arguably the most talented player in this entire draft. Los Angeles needs to do everything in their power to surround their star QB with talent. Whether that is through shoring up the offensive line – which they can do later on in this draft – or by giving him elite receiving weapons, that has to be the main priority for them this off-season. Pitts has All-Pro potential written all over him and pairing him with Herbert would be a nightmare to defend.
Atlanta has several needs across their roster, but none might be as glaring as their EDGE group. The new front office has to address the position this off-season and they can do that now by adding a very high-floor player. Paye’s a strong, physical presence off the edge that would fit in nicely in this new scheme under Dean Pees. Armed with multiple draft picks later on in this draft, the Falcons can slowly chip away at solving problems on this roster, while adding a premier talent here in the first round.
Belichick loves to trade back in the NFL Draft and he does just that here at No. 15 overall. While I’m not the biggest Mac Jones supporter out there, the league appears to think very highly of him and his projection to the NFL. Washington needs a QB desperately after moving on from Alex Smith and there are going to be a few other teams looking to move up to secure the former Alabama QB. Washington gets ahead of them and brings in their QB of the future at this spot.
Miami absolutely could still be in the market for an OT, but the trade for Isaiah Wilson pushes that need slightly down the board. Instead, Brian Flores and company get antsy and jump the Las Vegas Raiders for a prospect that is dripping with upside. Parsons comes with incredible versatility and would be able to line up all over the field for this defense. Miami’s building an incredible roster at this point and they still have three second round picks to spend.
After sending away Trent Brown, along with releasing Richie Incognito, this offensive line is going to need some attention. Cosmi fits exactly what the Raiders like in big and physical lineman and he fills a clear need for this roster. Las Vegas has a ton of work to do on the defensive side of the ball, but if they’re going to make it work with Derek Carr, protecting him has to take priority.
Arizona was able to trade back, secure an extra pick, and still get the player that they wanted at a discounted salary too. Horn’s unlikely to ever be a true CB1 in the NFL, but he’s a fantastic CB2 on a roster. If Arizona can resign Patrick Peterson to a short-term deal, this defense is suddenly looking very difficult to deal with game in and game out with the addition of JJ Watt.
The Patriots typically don’t draft WRs in the first round, but they’ve never had a need as glaring as the one they have right now. Whoever is playing QB for this team in 2021 is going to need receiving weapons and Bateman’s a fantastic addition. He’s a smooth route-runner, able to track the ball well deep downfield, and has an excellent ability to go up and highpoint the football. The Patriots swung and missed with N’Keal Harry a couple of years ago, but Bateman has an excellent chance of succeeding in the NFL.
Maybe even by the time that you read this, the Bears might not be the owners of this selection. While QB remains the biggest question mark for Chicago, the options at this point of the draft aren’t worth considering. After releasing Bobby Massie though, the Bears have a clear need at RT and they can fill it with an insanely talented player out of Oklahoma State. Jenkins is pro-ready and gives this unit a much-needed boost on the outside of the line. Whoever is playing QB for Chicago in 2021 is going to be well-protected now.
The Colts saw Anthony Costanzo retire earlier this off-season, which leaves a major hole at LT. The Colts keep a strength a strength in this scenario and add a high-upside prospect out of Virginia Tech. Darrisaw still has room to grow, but the traits are all there to be molded into one of the league’s best LTs in a few years time. Carson Wentz needs a solid offensive line in front of him to be successful and the Colts are working to give him every opportunity to succeed.
The Titans have plenty of needs when you look at their roster, so taking the Best Player Available approach might be the best strategy this year. Barmore still has plenty of areas to improve and develop in, but the upside is out of this world. Putting Barmore next to Jeffery Simmons would simply be unfair for opposing offensive lines.
Rousseau is far from a polished prospect, but the Jets are in no hurry to try and turn this roster around. Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas can afford to take their time and allow these young players that they’re bringing in to develop. The Jets might not get much out of Rousseau in year one – or maybe even year two – but the long-term projection for Rousseau is one that’s worth taking at this spot of the draft.
The Steelers absolutely need offensive line help, but the top players at the position are all off the board at this spot. Instead of reaching for a player, the Steelers soak up value and bring in another clear position of need for this roster. Pittsburgh has to take pressure off of Big Ben in one way or another and Harris has the ability to handle a significant workload for this offense. The depth of this offensive line class could allow Pittsburgh to address their line need later on and Harris makes too much sense to pass up on here.
Jacksonville has plenty of work ahead of them this off-season to fix this roster, but the secondary is a clear position that needs an upgrade. CJ Henderson is a solid building block and adding Newsome as CB2 on this roster can help put this secondary in position to get back to dominance quickly.
The Browns have a few needs on their defense that they need to address. Once they do, there’s no telling what this team can do next season with how well they performed in 2020. One of those positions of need though is absolutely middle linebacker. Collins is a perfect fit to take on this role for this defense at his size. He’s able to come down and be a force against the run, but he also shows great instincts in pass coverage. He’s unlikely to ever push to be a top-5 LB in the NFL, but he fits exactly what this defense needs.
Tryon’s a fun evaluation. He shows good athleticism, active hands, and has a knack for getting home to the QB. The Ravens need to address EDGE in a big way this off-season and Tryon’s an excellent way to do just that. I fully expect to see Tryon climb up draft boards by the time we get to late April.
The Bengals aren’t done attempting to protect Burrow as they overhaul this offensive line. The Saints desperately need cap relief and they’re willing to move back, which allows the Bengals to come up and snag an extremely talented and versatile offensive line prospect. Vera-Tucker shouldn’t still be on the board this late in the first round, but other team needs have left him in a free fall. The Bengals can put Vera-Tucker on the opposite tackle spot from Sewell or they can kick him inside to guard, which may be his best fit at the next level. Either way, this is a massive step in the right direction towards protecting their young QB.
When it’s all said and done, it’s likely that we see Owusu-Koramoah used primarily as a Safety. While he does come with obvious versatility, this should be how he’s viewed at the next level. Jacksonville has a clear need at Safety, which is why they move up a few spots to secure the fifth-year option on Owusu-Koramoah in an attempt to overhaul this secondary quickly. Meanwhile, Green Bay assessed the draft board and none of the available players lined up with their clear positions of need, which frees them up to move down a few spots and accumulate more draft capital.
The Bills have a need at LB next to Tremaine Edmunds, particularly in pass coverage. Davis is a fast-riser in draft circles right now and he has the potential to sneak into the back end of the first round by the end of April. He has great size for the position and shows great instincts dropping into coverage.
The Chiefs need to invest in the offensive line one way or another this off-season. While Mayfield played Tackle at Michigan, I believe his best fit may be kicking inside to Guard. Regardless, he brings much-needed versatility to this offense and the line. The Chiefs can start him on the outside now that Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz have been released or they can start him immediately on the interior to provide some protection for Patrick Mahomes.
With Shaq Barrett seemingly heading towards free agency, the Bucs need to address the EDGE position. Ojulari’s a speedster around the corner that has a nose for getting to the QB on obvious passing downs. He still needs some refinement and will need to progress immensely to make the type of impact that Barrett had for this defense, but he’s got all the tools in his arsenal to get there one day.
75. Dallas Cowboys – Marlon Tuipuloto (iDL – USC)